You may recall, if you’ve been hanging out for a while, that I went to Hungary in the winter of 1989. Six students and one of our professors from Columbia Theological Seminary in an Eastern bloc nation where none of us spoke the language, eating pig jello and waiting for our toes to actually freeze.
Mine very nearly did!
The memories and the things I learned that I never imagined on that trip tend to bubble up for me when things are shifting in my world.
This is one of those times.
I don’t recall seeing any Legos in Hungary but I think my current adventure with making new things out of old and shifting bits and pieces of what is into what is about to be have had me wandering, in my imagination, through those days again.
Today, I was sorting bookshelves.
This is a monumental undertaking in my family.
I started with two of the six-foot tall IKEA variety in the room formerly known as the living room.
Mostly foodie stuff and professional things… worship and counseling.
And writing books. Lots of those.
A couple of boxes for things that can be stashed in the basement and things that can be passed onto other homes. More than a bit of dust.
Suddenly, there I was in Hungary. I didn’t remember exactly where we were, except that, by pushing a couple of buttons on my phone, I found out!
The University of Jewish Studies is in Budapest and was established in 1877.
What I did remember was that it was the only rabbinical seminary in the Eastern bloc to survive World War II.
Also that it was cold.
We could still see damage from bombs to the building.
All the students were men, which made restroom issues a challenge for the three women in our group. Let’s just say there was a moment when I feared I had broken every ritual purity law ever written!
The thing I’ll never forget, though, is the library.
We weren’t allowed to enter but I stood in the hall for a couple of hours, awed by the experience.
Our guide explained that they had no books printed since the war, which made a bit more sense when I realized that this was part of the reason we’d all packed as many bibles as we could fit into our luggage. (We might have forgotten to bring some of them home.)
The students removed their shoes before entering the library.
Removed their shoes in a building with no heat to stand, as it were, on holy ground.
And the silence that seeped out of that place literally vibrated with the wisdom of the ages.
So it is, I suspect, no real surprise that I didn’t get rid of too many books today.
Miracles of marks on paper, spreading stories and questions from hand to hand around more and more of the world.
Shoes off, though probably for other reasons as well.
There are a few diet books, cloaked in misplaced optimism, and a few more dusty but really sexy volumes full of bread and pasta we rarely eat these days.
(I’m still working on the food thing but those are pretty clearly on the list of things somebody else can use more than I will.)
Anne Lamott stays, of course. And SARK. Buechner and Brueggemann. Jean Houston. Kaffe Fasset. Alice Waters and Alice Walker. Shiloh Sophia. The guy from The French Laundry whose name I can never remember. A very cool book of symbols compiled by somebody named Taschen.
And four new friends, pictured above.
I’ll keep you posted.
In the meantime, make yourself a cup of tea and spend some time with paper and ink.
And a small child or two if you have any handy.
It is a holy thing.