Library Dust

I sat down in a comfortable, if threadbare, chair and cracked open yet another methodology text. The words skimmed by, registering briefly against my distraction. The smell. Dusty. Dust. Not just on the shelves, not just on the tables, in the books. Not on the books, or in between the pages, but in between the lines. The ideas were dusty. A paragraph about phenomenology draws me back to the smell of my front porch on an October afternoon my first year in grad school, where I had my first (and one of only a few) encounters with Heidegger. Another page of the text has swum by now, and I have not registered a word of it. Just the smell of it, drawing me back to a moment of change. The dust on the library shelf is more than an eyesore. It is the mark of a book wearing down, leaving its trace, its author’s trace on the shelf. It is the presence of each reader passing through, bringing the world in with them. It is the mixture of ideas, a communion of thought. The cellulose of the page is dead, as are the cells we leave behind. But as we read we see the author’s world come to life, we are animated by their ideas, intermingling and being changed by the encounter. The smell of the library, breathing in those who have left the room, both author and reader. Quite literally sensing our place in the trajectory of human experience. I love a dusty library.

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