A woman in my Jung study group defines herself as “an Episcopalian Buddhist,” a term to which I can relate. Zazen is not my thing; if I’m going to sit for any length of time, give me a chair with a back. But for a while I, an agnostic Anglican, fell in with a Buddhist sangha where you could lie down to meditate! I loved lying around on a soft carpet beneath the all-knowing eyes of a gigantic Buddha. Listening to myself breathe is tortuously boring so I never did come close to meditation, but nonetheless picked up a sort-of-Buddhist perspective that surfaces at times like this.
I have managed to get one book up on Amazon for Kindle!
It’s my first mystery, Child of Silence, long out of print but editions of it are all over the place since it went into several printings and was a book club selection. (Plus five foreign translations and a TV movie in France.) So its reincarnation as an eBook with a fantastic new cover (by DeronLeeAssociates@gmail.com) is exciting, but almost beside the point. The point is a peculiar sense of luminous calm that seems to accrue to the process. I have, with the usually-patient assistance of eBook producer Kimberly Hitchens, channeled a book into an existence that’s both insurmountably transient (As in- What happens when the entire Internet crashes?) and eerily permanent. It’s Change personified, ambiguous and hypnotic. And the Buddhist Third Noble Truth, in my proto-understanding, is that an ability to go with change is really cool.
So I’ve set my first book in Change, and will do the same for the others to which I hold the rights. Those already-published books, and new ones, will become electronic zeros and ones in a realm about which I know nothing. And so what? All I need to know is that doing this feels expansive and right. Child of Silence is now a cyber-pulse anybody can pull from the ether and transform into a familiar alphabet, its story available. Wow.
There is much discussion about real (meaning paper) books vs. e-books, these discussions involving a need to declare one’s deep attachment to real books. I admit an attachment to my grandmother’s 1890 edition of James Whitcomb Riley’s Rhymes of Childhood that is always in my bedside bookcase. Along with a hundred equally indispensable volumes. Then there’s the other upstairs bookcase and many more in the living room and my office, all double-shelved with books. I’m at the library weekly. To me, voicing a fondness for books is the equivalent of insisting that really, I do like, and am loyal to, water. “I” would not exist in the absence of either.
But unlike water, books are not physically (as in physics) definable. Books are experiential – mentally, emotionally, spiritually, all that. Riley’s words, “Aroint him the wraithest of wraithly things!” lie silently upstairs on century-old pages thick as grade-school construction paper. But those wraithest of wraithly things are no less so in Arial 12 on my pc screen, or carved in marble or written in sand. They are in my mind. And so I’m okay with any vector between words and minds.
The process necessary to the channeling of words into eBooks is, however, not very Buddhist. The process may be the antithesis of enlightenment, insisting as it does on close attention to HTML codes and Kindle’s renowned aversion to italics in headers. But this is the skeleton without which the magic would just swarm, amoebic and indecipherable, in a sloppy puddle of letters. So for the first time in my life I eagerly read techie stuff I loathed until two months ago. I learn a new vocabulary. “Metadata. Ping. Stray page breaks.” Who knew the placing of letters in space was so complicated? But it is and I’m in awe at the work of centuries of printers, typesetters, bookbinders, everybody who made books real. I guess attention to The Ten Thousand Things is necessary in order to get out of The Ten Thousand Things, as in reading a book. I’m not sure if this is a neat insight or just something everyone else has always known.
But in the end, when the metadata is hidden and the page breaks corralled, there is something that wasn’t there before – an eBook. This one is mine, but there are thousands of them, each some soul’s attempt to tell a story. I don’t know what there is, except stories. So I think maybe the doing of this, the intent of it if not necessarily its reception, is a slice of Nirvana. At least I think that today.