Ah, spring cleaning.
In Always Coming Home, Ursula Le Guin’s narrator, Pandora, is horrified to discover that the Kesh clean out their libraries every few years. “You destroy valuable books,” she asks. “Oh yes,” the archivist replies. “Who wants to be buried under them?”
And so. I ran through my shelves. Enjoyable but silly werewolf novels I probably won’t reread? On the donate pile, along with CDs, videos, a belly-dancing DVD I’ve never used. Things that I thought I should read — the compendium of ancient Greek philosophers, for example — but probably wouldn’t unless I was locked in a prison cell with no other reading material.
Out with the shoulds. Out with things I once loved but no longer resonated with. Out with the past. Who wants to be buried by it?
But one thing I made sure to donate: all of my Z Budapest books. I’ve kept a few Goddess-oriented texts, although not many. Yes, it forms part of my spiritual history, although my path is a Druidic one rather than Wiccan, Wicce or Witch.
There was a bit more to it in Z’s case, however. In part, it’s solidarity with transgender people; her recent statements were mocking, hateful. I thought of that when I saw her books on the shelf.
I think it’s possible to have a healing, gender-exclusionary space, but whenever you posit an in-group and an Other, there’s always the opportunity for objectification and demonization. In Dianic space the Other is, of course, men. Among some few — albeit a vocal few — the “otherization” is extended to all those associated with men: transgender people, heterosexual women.
Maleness is not a disease or a curse; it’s a simple biological fact. To assume that all men or all women have a particular set of shared qualities (and never the twain shall meet) is essentialism, and that’s not something I believe in. Culture makes us what we are, along with the rhythms and quirks of our particular — not general — bodies.
Library cleaning is a good practice. It forces you to examine realistically who you are and what you’re about. What will you read again, or refer to? What do you truly use? Just as our bodies and minds change with the weight of time and experience, so should our possessions. The past should not be a collection of items weighing down our homes like a ship anchor.
Best to release them into the wild, where they may sing to another reader somewhere, sometime.
To quote Le Guin’s archivist again: “Books no one reads go; books people read go after a while. But they all go. Books are mortal. They die. A book is an act; it takes place in time, not just in space. It is not information, but relation.”