When I read about Borders declaring bankruptcy this week, my first thought was (naturally) about myself. Sorry — I know it would be nice if I immediately thought of all the independent booksellers put out of business by the big chains, and then reflected on the irony of a big chain vanishing. But instead I thought of my $5 gift card.
Borders sent it to me this Christmas when they bolluxed up delivery of my ereader. Even my Patient Husband had grown imPatient waiting for the thing to arrive, and when it finally came, they’d included this as a “please forget all about our incompetency” gift.
I remember from the closing of another big chain that after they declare bankruptcy, they may decide that gift-card holders are just another creditor needing to be repaid, making your gift cards worthless until after the courts decide who gets paid first, second and never. So I went to the Borders ebooks store and browsed around for something I could pick up at under five dollars.
Saint Teresa of Avila wrote a great spiritual treatise which has helped guide the contemplative prayer lives of both laymen and religious for the past two hundred years. It’s called The Interior Castle (sounds nicer than a shack!) and it was only $3.87.
As it downloaded, I imagined Saint Teresa’s reaction if she were to hear what had just taken place at my kitchen table. I’ve read her autobiography, and I was so impressed by how she made connections between the ordinary and the extraordinary, how unimpressed she was by the wonders of the world at the time, and how she always seemed to see through to what was important.
I’d explain to her about being able to make a book come to my computer from another computer. I’d have to explain gift cards. I’d have to show her my ereader. All of this would leave her impressed by what God had done with the world. Then she’d probably say, “You paid for a book you can’t touch — with invisible money — from a dying bookstore — to read on a device where the book isn’t really present?” And I’d agree, to which she’d nod, saying, “All illusory. That’s Earthly life in a nutshell.”
Then she’d tell me, “Read the book, dear. You need it.”