Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The Burden of Books

The Burden of Books

At 7.30am this morning I delivered my final lecture to my class and by 3.10pm, I was on board MH720 flying back to KL. I'm finally home for Imlek (Indonesian for the Chinese Lunar New Year) but will have to be back in Jakarta next week for a few more days for I still have unfinished business there.

I arrive home to find myself preceded by four boxes of books that had I sent through TNT last week from Jakarta. These are books I had kept in the office for two years--books I had acquired during my four years in Singapore and had travelled together with me to Jakarta. They have never been home before, but they finally are now. This is but just a portion of my mobile library--I still have a few big bags containing books stored temporarily at a friend's place in Pondok Indah.

Packing is a tedious task. Over the years I have tried my best to minimize my personal belongings, bringing unnecessary things back to KL whenever I can. But somehow things accumulate very easily: in my case, it is books--which makes it worst because they are among the heaviest objects that one could own. Until e-books become more practical and user-friendly, I suppose we'll still have to suffer the inconvenience of lugging pieces of dead tree with us. Knowledge is a huge burden.

Despite my strenuous attempts to control my book-buying sprees, it looks like I have not been that successful in curbing this chronic bibliophilia of mine. Well, I guess there's a price for everything: Now I have to suffer the tedious process of packing and shipping these books back to KL (not to mention the stiff cost involved); and when they arrive safely home, I have to figure out where to store them. I have long run out of bookshelves. Instead of lining up my books nicely so that they can be randomly accessed, I have to resort to archiving them in boxes and shoving them under my bed.

I vow not to buy any books for the next couple of months for I have enough reading materials with me to last me for a while. The good thing about being home for me is that my brain's "secondary storage" is no longer remote--I can now easily refer to particular passages that I sometimes want to quote in my blog but vaguely remember or reread subjects that happen to strike my fancy.

Since I arrived home, I was able to pull out Tim Severin's The Spice Islands Voyage to reread passages about Alfred Russel Wallace: I had on many occassions mentioned that I would blog about this eminent naturalist who co-discovered the theory of evolution and natural selection together with Darwin. Wallace did most of his research in the spice islands of Indonesia and his book The Malay Archipelago has been my regular travel companion over the years. But unfortunately my copy of The Malay Archipelago is still lying somewhere in my friend's garage in Pondok Indah right now.

Soon, all my books will be reunited in one location. And perhaps then, with my scattered memories restored in its proper place, I will finally feel like a complete person!

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