I wandered through the stacks today. There’s something profoundly different between a public library full of fiction, (of sci-fi stories, murder mysteries and graphic novels) and Memorial Library here in Madison, which holds 78.5 miles of shelving and books in over 300 languages.
Staring at title upon title in language upon language that I do not understand, I have but one thought. I wish I could read Russian. Or Hebrew. Or Greek. Anything else. I wish I knew what these said.
My fingers graze spines of books so old, they were written before my grandfather was born. Some of them, before my grandfather’s grandfather. I love the smell of this place. It reminds me of my grandparents’ basement, of pavement after a rainstorm – it’s that musty smell that I somehow am completely in love with. I honestly don’t know when that happened.
Walking through these halls, filled with these tomes, I feel small. It’s like staring into the sky at night and seeing the stars – there are too many to count, too many to even see. I start to wonder how many books are in here, and how many have never been read.
It reminds me of a museum, actually. As a history major, this of course thrills me. It makes me want to discover, search, explore. I want to spend hours here; I know it would entertain me for my entire life. Or so it seems.
What’s it like to spend an entire lifetime researching something, to proudly get your findings published, and see them getting dusty on a shelf? Your heart, your passion, your energy, for decades – sitting there. Ignored. Just another in a sea of books about things that no one seems to care about any longer.
I get overwhelmed by the sheer volume. By the amount of information stored in these pages. My mind could never store all of this, I couldn’t even read all of this. If I read for every moment of every day for my entire life…would I even get through a floor of this 8-story monstrosity? I really really doubt it.
The small feeling gives me a calm. It doesn’t frighten me like I thought it would, doesn’t make me feel insignificant or purposeless. It fills me with a peace; I sit down on the floor and stare at the books, still unable to decipher what they say.
I realize that my God is huge. And so, so creative. My God? He knows exactly how many books are in this building, and how many pages. He knows the titles, the subjects, the punctuation errors of every written work stored here. He knows the men and women who devoted their lives to writing. He knows the stories within the books, and of the books. Why they’re so tattered and worn. Who has read them, smudged them, underlined and doodled in them. He knows it all. Every single person that has walked these halls, my God loves. Every single author, every college student that checked the book out and never bothered to read it, he knows intimately.
God is so far beyond me.
I will praise him for that. For being so much more than I ever could’ve dreamed up. So much bigger than I could ever have imagined. He deserves my praise for that, he deserves everything I am, everything I have. What could I do to show that I am willing to give it all to him? If here in the stacks is where I find him, and can hear him? Then, it’s actually pretty simple…
I’ll go back tomorrow.