Of books and burnings and hurt feelings

Well, the most controversial subject currently in the news - by which I can get maximum irritation at my writings, it seems my compulsion - is the Florida's pastor & Co. burning of a religious book, a copy of the Koran, apparently the equivalent to the Christian Bible except of a different religion; and subsequent riots overseas and murdering of dozens of "outsiders" in the midst of those people.

My first angry thought about those who deliberately block the peace process, was that of suggesting putting parachutes on that Florida pastor and his henchmen, and dropping them by plane over Afghanistan or Pakistan, since it is those people the pastor wants to tangle with, so let them do it in person, instead of causing the deaths of lots of innocent bystanders due to the instigations. Then in a few seconds I came to my senses and realized that is not the way of love, that is supposed to be the Christian mode of life.

Of course, the ritualistic burning of a copy of a treasured book of some of our neighbors on this planet, does not seem like an act of love to me; but that leads elsewhere than what my point is attempting to be in this post.

That the inflamatory sermons in those distant other-religion places of worship were similar to our own Fla. pastor's stuff, is not too surprising; we do have a history of "hellfire and brimstone" sermons spouting from some church leaders in our own country. But that leading to lethal violence against unarmed bystanders, UN staff, by lots of people, suggests to me that those people over there have a tendency to be more dangerously violent than our own people, in general, and that was an eye-opener to me. But, at the moment we here in America do not have compounds of foreign nationals stashed around in our midst, either.

That said, my real point here is to compare the activity of public condemnation of a book and then burning it, reminds me first of Ray Bradbury's sci fi classic "Fahrenheit 451," which I vaguely remember reading over half a century ago, with this real-life recent "book burning." In the sci fi story, if I recall correctly, it was the political power regime gathering up all books from everybody's homes, putting them out in the street and setting fire to them, and when the temperature of the pile got to be 451º Fahrenheit, they were considered destroyed; the reason for destroying all books was so that only the "political leaders" could tell people what was knowledge, so there could be no shared dissent about things.

Enough of the background. The burning of the religious book belonging to a rival religion was itself of little effect since at the push of a button, a million more copies of the identical book could be easily printed; the loss of one of them essentially of no effect. So something else was primarily involved in this fracas. Nowadays there are digital copies of the Bible and surely of those other religion's foundational books. So is the "burning" of a religious book different from, say, the destruction of some handheld reader containing an electronic copy of that religious book? Or even of pushing the delete key on that document? And of subsequent loading of another copy of the digital book into that handheld reader or laptop computer? This is my question of this post.

An electronic copy of a book, an e-book, is a file. And files come and go. The anguish arising from a computer malfunction or some mistake causing the loss of a file oneself has labored for many hours to create, is familiar to most everybody, most likely - by that happening, we learn to do frequent backups, so that not all gets lost - so even computer files can have a measure of being "treasured" by the writer. Having put much of my life's efforts into my writings and records, the hard drive's contents of my computer increasingly becomes a major part of my life, and when a computer goes belly-up suddenly and the files cannot be recovered, it can wreck my existence for weeks and months as I strive to find some bits and pieces to do a best-possible re-creation of my digital treasure that is almost a stand-in for my life, the older I get - and am 74 now, so it is getting up there, most of me is on that hard drive, it seems to me at times. A good woman in my life would probably say the computer is not me at all, but there is no good woman in my life nowadays, they are all off snubbing me, if they know of me at all, lots of rival males with tricky tongues defaming me, just in case any woman might look my direction. So, the computer version of my creative effort life is of more concern to others instead of my flesh-and-blood version. Disposing of the files or computer with its files, would therefore destroy a big chunk of "me," particularly if there were no readily available replacements.

Related also, as I strive to comprehend the ongoing book-burning fracas, is that my personality is the type that considers some of my possessions as to be my "treasures" and are essentially parts of myself, of who I am. Particularly relevant to the subject, is that I have been frustrated by the apparent loss of my pocket bible, which I carried in my hip pocket for probably a decade, and had on my bookshelf after that, and when there was to be a bible study at the church I currently attend, a search in depth could not turn up that bible. Nor of a more recent bought nice Book of Common Prayer that I had treated myself to about a decade ago, also gone from my bookshelf. Other of my abundant books had been stashed in their place on my special book shelf for religious topics, so it was not obvious in my packrat-cluttered existence that they were missing. In fact, I have had lots of my special books mysteriously vanished in recent years, along with other small items, apparently by clever intruders who know when I am not at home. Also batches of my favorite clothes and even shoes will vanish for months, then some of them re-appear in my closet, in a bunch and professionally cleaned, unlike my own laundry efforts, and the brought-back clothes are not put in the order I keep my clothes, someone had just stuffed them back in my closet. Weird, and maybe it all is connected. Who would want to pretend to be me, and why? Living below the poverty level, disdained by the womenfolk and ridiculed by the menfolk, why copy me? The returned clothing items do not even feel like "me" anymore; it is like someone had sucked the life-energy out of my clothing, and put some strange energy in its place.

And similarly my treasured pocket bible I had carried daily for the first decade or so of my life after the wife ditched me, a book that in counseling group session, I had once identified as my most precious possession, back circa 1973. The counselor then asked me what if someone were to steal my bible, my most precious possession? I thought a moment and replied that probably they needed it more than I did. So I need to remember that response now, although the "what for" is a bit different. In the past I have had a rival take something of mine and use it to cause harm to others, and were it not for friends who saw it happening and told about it, people would have thought it was me that had done the harm.

So a physical copy of a treasured book one owns, can have value to a person in ways other than the information the writings and graphics can communicate.

The specific copy of that religious book that the Fla. pastor denigrated and burned might have belonged to someone in particular, and thus have special value to that person. But the rioting folks over in Afghanistan seemed to act as if it had been their own copy of the book that had been despoiled. And if they each individual felt that that book was part of themselves, then the Fla. pastor's group's burning of the book was like personal destruction to the rioting crowd, thus the freaking out violence they were doing. Now that I think of it, it could be that all those folks over there might not have their own copy of that religious book, and only hear of its content when the priesthood reads it to them in their religious dwellings. If so, that might make the writing's in the book seem more ephemeral to the listeners and thus the image of such writings being deliberately burned could seem closer to their heart, justifying rancor.

One news article said someone in the initial crowd going over to rage fists at the UN building, shouted that it was not just one book but a hundred books that were burned, and that triggered the extreme violence. So, there apparently was deliberate effort by some to cause rioting and killing; thus, another factor. It was not just the Florida pastor's effort to hurt people's feelings, there was wider malice going on.

It all seems a bit too complicated to my Asperger's mind, right now, despite all this effort to clarify it. It is about physical books and equivalent electronic files, of possession and theft and destruction of one's treasures, of derision of one's treasures in effort to manipulate people's impressions of things they do not know adequately themselves. Even politics can get to denigrating the opponent, instead of displaying one's own merits and stances. We humans can indeed do some unconstructive things at times, it seems to me right now.

But if I back off a bit, look at the amazing things we have done constructively despite all that other monkeybusiness going on at times, as I admire my amazingly designed and crafted and programmed computer, the images and writing on screen, of some nearby treasured books that teach me bits of wonderous knowledge, physical books of paper, made carefully and somehow gotten into my hands.

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