Books

Books are to read, but that is by no means the end of it.

The way they are bound, the paper they are printed on, the smell of them (especially if they are either very new or very old), the way the words are fitted to the page, the look of them in the bookcasesometimes lined up straight as West Point cadets, sometimes leaning against each other for support or lying flat so you have to tip your head sideways to see them properly. Bede's Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation, the plays of Beaumont and Fletcher, the Pleiade edition of Saint Simon, Chesterfield's letters, the Qur'an. Even though you suspect you will probably never get around to them, it is an honor just to have them on your shelves.

Something of what they contains gets into the air you breathe. They are like money in the bank, which is a comfort even though you never spend it. They are prepared to give you all they've got at a moment's notice, but are in no special hurry about it. In the meanwhile they are holding their tongues, even the most loquacious of them, even the most passionate.

They are giving you their eloquent and inexhaustible silence. They are giving you time to find your way to them. Maybe they are giving you time, with or without them, just to find your way.