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It's not about the doing
5 May 2020 . 3min read

I love visiting the British Museum. Specifically, I love walking into the Enlightenment room. It's a place that is all about the Discovery that took place during the 18th century. It's got all sorts of wonderful stuff in there, including a copy of the Rosetta Stone.

As well as all the prime exhibits, there are stacks of books around the edge of the room. Giant books; old books; textured books; books. You'll find them on dark wooden bookcases with glass doors. I once asked where the books had come from, and if there was a catalogue of all of them. Apparently, they are an overflow from the British Library, and that there is probably a catalogue somewhere. I got the distinct impression I was the first person to inquire for quite some time.

I love how the books seem to encase all the knowledge on display.

I love books. I love them as wonderful objects. I love the way they filled books with knowledge, the possibility of adventure, and the beauty of written imagination.

I'm actually writing a novel at the moment. It's an action thriller. Once published, a single copy will also live in the British Library.

With my love of books, you would expect that I am an avid reader. That I consume books like a packet of biscuits.

I am not.

I just love books.

Now, I already know that I am a little odd, but it reassured me the other day on discovering that I am not alone. At least regarding my view of books.

Tsundoku is the art / skill / obsession / complication of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them.

I had, at last, found my group-calling. I wasn't an outcast in the book world. I had friends, or perhaps inmates, who had the same passion as me.

The Japanese word originated in the Meiji era (1868 - 1912) as slang. It now has a wider recognition, and indeed, an avid following. It's a real thing. I can cast off my guilt. I'm part of a movement now, or is that a cult? Anyway, begone reading guilt; hello the warm embrace of Tsundoku.

Flushed with the success of finding an additional calling, I pondered if the same essence could be extracted and then applied to other things.

I am an avid collector of information, of data, of factoids, of brain content-enhancing matter, of brain-food.

I know the quickest time you can sharpen 10 pencils down to nothing by hand (around 40 minutes). I know how to cut a cake for 3 people in a way that everyone is equally happy with their slice. I know what happens when you take a Kalashnikov AK-47 & fire 700 rounds through it continuously. I know what happens when you add up 1+2+3+4+5+ ... to infinity.

I have no intention of using these pieces of knowledge. They just sit inside my brain. Occasionally I will pick one of them up, wonder at it a little, then carefully put it back.

There is often a social pressure to acquire things so that you can do something with them. You are told to acquire books, so that you can read them. You are told to learn how to speak another language, so you can use it. You are told to acquire knowledge about something, so you can learn something.

How about just enjoying the acquisition and ignoring the application?

How about acquiring books or knowledge, with no intention of reading or using?

Wouldn't that remove a certain amount of pressure? It does for me.

So, as soon as is practical, I'm going to go out and get some books that I just like the look of. In the meantime, I'm going to look at the notion that there are different infinities and that some are larger than others.

It really is relaxing and, I have to say, somewhat refreshing for the mind.

I have no idea what this is, what it's used for, or anything about it (other than it's location when I took that photo). It does, though, have that certain difficult-to-describe appeal.


Profile photo of Nigel Derbyshire

I'm a carbon-unit who writes; a Carbon Writer. Life & culture are my default topics, mixed with a little English wit & sarcasm. Full of mostly true stories, I occasionally remember to write them down. Found in a crowd, or contemplating in a corner. Habit of talking to anyone. Author.
- Nigel Derbyshire