Friday, March 8, 2013

Books on a Chinatown Street

When Books Accompany a "Theological" Message

It happens ever so often that I'll be walking down the street--usually in NYC--and there, all of a sudden, I come upon a display of books.  They could be on a table, they could be on the ground, on a tarp, on a box, on the ground, in a row..., what have you.  It is certainly always a curious sight, and for most of us bibliophiles, an attraction.  But I think there comes a time, when you just pass such biblio-expressions by, because they are frequent, or because the books look tattered, or old, or just plain uninteresting.  Sometimes, we're just too busy.  I reflected on this recently, on this thought that I've become a bit more apathetic to passing such book displays.  I'm not sure what it is, though it may be one of this aforementioned reasons.

Nonetheless, I'm usually more intrigued when I see some "signage" accompanying books on display or for sale.  I'm more apt to stop, even momentarily, to look at what's going on.  In this case, I was walking in Chinatown on a recent evening, and nearly stumbled over this regiment of books, set in a line along the wall of a building (I think it was either a convenient store or a bank!).  And there, right in the middle, was this sign.  It took a little maneuvering to actually see this, because the streets were filled with busy people, rushing by the books, and me!  But I was able to snap a few shots to share with you today.  Now looking at the actual sign in more depth, and some of the books on display, I'm more aware of the message, though it is perhaps an unclear and distorted "hamartiological" (i.e. relating to sin) cry, from a religious person on the street--the street, being a key stage for promoting one's agendas. Yet, despite any of these sin-laced proclamations, it is an interesting expression of the human desire to be heard, especially as we consider which item accompanies the other:  do the books accompany the sign, or does the sign accompany the books?  Or are the really more unrelated than the owner of this set-up intended?  I'm not sure we'll really know, as I didn't see anyone in that mad rush, passing by these books in the crowd; I didn't see anyone overseeing this display.  And yet, by a fateful and paradoxical chance, my own curiosity to examine this person's display and thoughts will go to a far wider audience than he or she ever intended, while remaining imprinted on a blog, cast around the globe, for a digital eternity.

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