Tuesday, September 02, 2003


"My name is Michael and I dog ear books."

Our kids freaked out when they first saw me bending pages of newly purchased books. I never use bookmarks. I keep track of my place by folding the tops of pages, and I will often mark poignant passages which I think I may want to return to, by bending the bottom of pages.

For the record, I don't mar the sheeted sanctity of books that I have borrowed - my mother was a librarian and 30+ years after her death her stare can still haunt the back of my neck. Nonetheless, I've always felt books should be manhandled. We should chew on the writer's words and consume their meanings to our lives. To me that type of devouring should leave a messy trail. We should savor and swallow, spit out crumbs, and I find no offense at the occasional droppings of the wisdom we have digested.

I do draw the line at writing in books though. With the exception of the Bible, I find it distracting to pick up someone's book and find scribblings in the margins or words underlined.

The other day I purchased a book of some of the writings of Thomas Merton. It was on sale in the "next to nothing section" of Barnes and Noble. By the way, if you aspire to write for the Christian community don't ever go into Barnes and Noble, it's depressing.

Anyway, for the under-educated like me, Merton was many things: A Catholic priest, a monk, a highly influential writer, and a peace advocate. He died in some freak accident, electrocuted in a bathtub, which has nothing to with anything, but I like little facts like that.

I'm sure there are many things I will disagree with or not understand in Merton's writings, but one thing he wrote literally stunned me by its simplistic reality.

"The discovery of Christ is never genuine if it is nothing but a flight from ourselves...it cannot be an escape. It must be a fulfillment."

When I read that I grabbed a pen and underlined it. I folded the page too.