Intellectual Cannibalism

May 26th, 2008

This book was published in 1774. As I turn pages, they crumble at the edges. There’s a miniscule but growing pile of dust just below the bottom margin of volume II and I wait, slightly hunched, for a librarian to notice. Meanwhile, I breathe; in, out, in, out. Deep research breaths, forcing the lonely air of the cloistered inside to satisfy the demands of my outside-yearning lungs. The pile of dust doesn’t really change in size, though I turn pages and create dust for hours at a time… At the end of the day my lungs feel ever so slightly congested and I want to cough. I realize that I’ve inhaled the book. Just the margins so far, so no real harm has been done. But will I inhale a word tomorrow? Which word will it be? The one I’m looking for? Where will it go? Will microscopic fragments of paper ride on oxygen molecules, to take up residence inside my cells? I imagine birds collecting bits of tin foil, gum wrappers and unraveled fabric to piece together the nests where they will raise their children. Can I say I’ve done my research if I’ve made it part of my body? How many books have I inhaled over my academic life? Are they lodged in my cellular crevices, holding things up, holding things together?

Entry Filed under: Musing