Books Can Be Dangerous

The city where I live is blessed with a huge used book store that now occupies the majority of a strip center.  Gardner’s is a funky throw-back to another time.  The store has earthy feelings like something from the late 60’s or early 70’s.  A part of the fun is finding things in the cluttered and barely organized manner of the store.   

One of the great things about a used good book store is I become interested in books I might never have noticed in a mainstream retail establishment.  I can’t even begin to list the number of books that came into my life through Gardner’s, but half or more of my favorites were discovered at the store.   

One example is “The Search for Serenity and How to Achieve it” by Lewis F. Presnall.  When I first looked at the plain light blue soft back book, I found it was published in 1959.  My initial impression was I would get little from a 50-year-old book written primarily for alcoholic recovery.  After thumbing through the pages and reading parts highlighted by a previous owner I realized I had incorrectly judged the book by its cover. 

Here are some of the jewels of wisdom I found in the first two chapters of Presnall: 

No one can learn to be at home in his own heaven until he has learned to be at home in his own hell.  

The search for serenity begins with a willingness to discover and honestly recognize the areas in our own lives where we did not quite grow up. 

Crisis brings… a choice:  Emotional growth and survival, or continued stagnation and eventual death.  As long as we continue in a series of unbroken successes we are not apt to obtain the humility necessary to recognize our own conspicuous immaturities.    

Any type of living, any philosophy of life, which adds to inner conflict, is incorrect for the individual who harbors it.   

Every one of us indulges occasionally in self-pity, but no one likes to admit it.  Self-pity is the emotion of covering up.  It is a method we often use to cover up our feelings of aggression and our feelings of guilt.  It is our excuse for failing to face life objectively – an alibi for inaction.  …In the isolation of aloneness, self-pity becomes an easy antidote or compensation for both insecurity and guilt feelings. 

We sometimes confuse niceness for goodness.  

Happiness is not achieved by a frantic search.  Peace of mind eludes us when we pursue it with struggle and tension.  The art of graceful living, the art of mature living, is largely that of learning to utilize both the good and the bad in a positive way.  

From the time of birth… the human organism it subjected to emotional pressure.  Awareness of the external world begins to affect the functioning of the body.  If physical, mental and emotional growth progress together harmoniously, the individual will retain the innate ability to maintain physical health.  It is when the mind and the emotions fail to keep pace with physical development that the body’s functions are deranged or disturbed by a lack of harmony. 

As I look around my office were I sit writing this morning I see books on my desk to the left and right of me, books on my credenza, books in the shelves behind me and across the hall is my library filled with hundreds of other books. Many of them came from my favorite used book store: Gardner’s.  Their prices are downright cheap on most books and many a piece of wisdom has been gained through my purchases there.  I have much gratitude for the store and the staff who run Gardner’s.  To an even greater degree I am thankful for the large amounts of knowledge I have gained and will yet gain through the books I find there. 

Books can be dangerous.  The best ones should be labeled “This could change your life.”  Helen Exley

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