This was a bookshelf

Diary date: 20th March, 1986Bookshelf

This was a bookshelf. It contained books, in which individual pieces of paper were bound together into a coherent whole. As a visitor to my house, my bookshelves told you a little about me, and what I thought was important and worthwhile. They gave you something to look at and to talk about. They helped you guess whether we were likely to get on, or had interests in common. Their arrangement gave you a sense of how I thought. Their coloured spines brought the room to life.

Today, my Kindle e-reader holds more books than all the bookshelves I’ve ever owned. But when you see it sitting on my kitchen table, it tells you nothing about me, my life, how I think, or what I might believe. It speaks only to me.

On the wall of my home, I used to keep silver discs piled one on top of the other, filled with songs and stories. Without you asking, they told you what lifted my spirit and spoke to my heart. Their covers brightened the room. Their number and nature told you part of my story.

Today, my iPod music player holds more songs than seems logically possible – you have one of your own that looks almost the same. But when you enter my house, my iPod tells you nothing about me. My music is a closed book unless we decide to open it together.

Next to my bookshelves, I kept jumbled stacks of films I’d enjoyed enough to want to own. When you looked at them, you guessed what made me laugh or cry, what thrilled or excited me. You compared my collection to yours, and made a note of films you thought you might like.

Today, the films I love are hidden from view, neatly stored and hermetically sealed in the cloud. Tours are available only on request.

Technology has created new spaces and new ways for you to learn about me through my likes and dislikes, and through what I keep, buy, show and share online. But in its headlong forward rush, it’s forgotten to take care of the world much closer to home. If I invite you to visit, I’d like you to know a little of me without either of us having to try.

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4 thoughts on “This was a bookshelf

  1. dakegra

    I was thinking along these lines just the other day. Music especially these days tends to be a very personal affair but back when I was growing up, having the radio on or putting a CD (or even an LP) on and having the room filled with music was a joy.

    I know exactly what my dad’s taste in music and books were, because they were there on the shelves. My kids are ok with books as we still have a ton of dead-tree copies and they share my Kindle, but when it comes to music, it tends to only be communal when on in the car. Other than that I’m certainly plugged into my iPod. I wonder if the kids realise just what a wealth of music there is lurking on the hard drive attached to my computer…

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  2. dakegra

    Reblogged this on espresso coco and commented:
    The latest Hum looks at how much a bookshelf tells you (or used to tell you) about a person. Interesting stuff, and oddly I was thinking along these lines just the other day. Music especially these days tends to be a very personal affair but back when I was growing up, having the radio on or putting a CD (or even an LP) on and having the room filled with music was a joy.

    I know exactly what my dad’s taste in music and books were, because they were there on the shelves. My kids are ok with books as we still have a ton of dead-tree copies and they share my Kindle, but when it comes to music, it tends to only be communal when on in the car. Other than that I’m certainly plugged into my iPod. I wonder if the kids realise just what a wealth of music there is lurking on the hard drive attached to my computer…

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    1. dakegra

      That said, I’m sat here with my big headphones on, music cranked up as the kids are in bed. Umphrey’s McGee doing a cover of Pink Floyd’s Another Brick in the Wall. Introduced Lily to it earlier. 🙂

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