Sunday, February 26, 2012

Monastery Book Shop

Monastic "Book & Gift Shop"

I've often wondered and speculated about the role of the "book & gift shop" partnership. Somehow, at some level there is a relationship between the "book" and its 'artifactual' colleague, the gift. Of course, a book can be a gift. But the question is whether a "gift" somehow dilutes or enhances the role of the book by being in the same space and having the same relevance or worth. I'm not sure I actually have an answer.
What is clear is that both gifts and books are coveted items, seen as having some axiological importance for people. On a drive a few months back, along some old country roads, I passed by a monastery that I'd visited nearly two decades ago, and decided to stop again. I hadn't been there since the early 1990s, but it brought back memories of meetings and meals with the brothers there. The monastic quarters are located just south of Kingston, NY--and is an Episcopal monastic house, overlooking the river. When I first visited the place, I had a very interesting time--meeting with a diverse group of individuals, both living there and visiting, including some retirees who'd been participating in Elderhostel. I'd shared a dinner one evening, I recall with some of the brothers, who'd spoken to me about their faith and living in the community.

This time, it was a quieter visit. There was only one vehicle around and a couple of folks sitting around reading. I went in briefly and saw that the book shop was closed. So I decided to walk back outside and around a bit, taking in a view of the river nearby, before leaving. I'd promise myself to come back another time.

It may come as surprising that a monastic community would also have a place to sell books, having some external business, but this is nothing new--as in medieval times, monastic communities often served as producers of more than just books, but agricultural and farming commodities. So such was not uncommon at all. And it serves as a good interface with the public. So books or gifts or both... I'd say that if it offers a good connection to the monastic community, then onward!

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