Cole Webber

7620 — Now, for Ray Bradbury

Ray Bradbury said that books smell like Ancient Egypt. He was right, and that was right and true to him then, seventy years ago. I smelled some of my old books again tonight. Those are the best ones. The new ones won’t do. Perhaps that smell has always been part of the appeal. We have an obsession today with ‘now’ — with all the social media and things, but of course even with our antidotes to those problems. Our mantra is being present, which is a good goal at times but still it is all still: now now now now. When most people are being ‘mindful’ today they are taking it as a Buzzfeed pill, and it’s just the same as saving a picture of a plant. Just to do it. I like to feel lost sometimes. No, most times. It is only when I feel lost outside that I feel found inside. To be alert now is not to be lost. And, you can get lost in now — by noticing all the things around in true mindfulness — but you get lost in the past, too, in old books and old thoughts and memories, and you get lost in the future as well in your imagination. Books do smell like Ancient Egypt — and they can let you connect to the person who wrote them in that Ancient Time, and they can be your friend, your model; and most importantly make you feel that your now problems today aren’t so important or so big. That there have been, no matter how alone you seem, other people to go through the same at many other times. The feeling of ‘now’ is not what most people think of it, and what I thought of it before. It can be the instant, the /instant/, right right now, or the very distant past, or the very far and speculative future — both so far you realize this little small sliver of toast and teeth brushing and setting alarms doesn’t matter. That’s what most people think of as ‘now’, but it’s the only thing that isn’t: that is just the dreadful padding around the real now you always are in, and the vast unknown places — past and future — your mind can think and feel your way into. Now is wherever you lose your mind.

— cole