In My Library (aka On My Bedside Table)

There's one more thing to be said for the Kindle, it makes the piles of books on my bedside table smaller and smaller as I read through those old-fashioned paper books and start to do more e-reading. I just finished Stuff: Compulsive Hoarding and the Meaning of Things. It was inspiring; its influence making me spend part of this weekend pulling more clothes, coats, hats and scarves out of my closet for the Salvation Army. Now I know that I am genuinely not nearly the hoarder Jason accuses me of being. There are far, far worse cases. The enormity of the problem evidenced by the rental of self-storage units having increased 90% since 1995! Many of them being for long-term storage, not just temporary space for a move. Clearing out my own storage unit last year gave me a remarkably liberating and lighter feeling. I like the Kindle too in that it keeps me from bringing in more and more books to our house. When I'm done, I delete!

Now I'm reading Rick Steve's Travel as a Political Act, promoted during a recent public television pledge drive. The book is timely in light of all the buzz about the "Ground Zero mosque." Rick's premise is that travel connects us to the world and the people who might have different backgrounds, beliefs, and cultures...but who may be as interested in us as we are in them. Isolation only creates more fear.

The more I think about the Islamic center issue, the more bizarre and backwards it seems. After George Bush schooled us that we were attacked because "they hate our freedom" the public voice seeks to squash that very freedom that's signature to our Constitution. Freedom of religion. It seems like we're fostering and perpetuating the divide rather than learning and understanding. It's tough, for sure. You don't have to like it, but I'd argue we should try to respect it. (A very good NYT article puts this is further perspective, noting that the imam who's building the center was hired by the State Department to travel the Middle East and promote understanding!) During the pledge drive Rick shared a story of sitting in traffic in Iran when his driver grumbled, "Ugh, I hate traffic! Death to traffic!" Rick chuckled as the driver explained that this is apparently a common phrase, like how some Americans say something is "da bomb" - when it's not literally something that will explode. Although it doesn't erase the real challenges behind the statement we hear so often, "Death to America!" it certainly softened the interpretation. And he learned something from that travel, which is detailed further here.

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