Packing My Library

I was reading Alberto Manguel’s Packing My Library on the train back to SF the other day and the moment I read this passage I hurriedly underlined it over and over again:

There exists, perhaps, in all human imagination, an unspoken expectation of losing what has been achieved. You build, of course, because you want a family, a house, a business. If you can, you create something out of sounds and colors and words. You compose a song, you paint a picture, you write a book. But underlying all you do is the secret knowledge that everything will one day be swept away: the song will no longer be sung, the picture will fade, the book will go up in flames until the day yet to come (as Isaiah says) when we shall be given beauty for ashes.

But to lose one must first find. If loss (or its possibility) is inherent in every intent, in every hope, then that intent, that hope, that desire to build something that comes to life from the ashes is correspondingly a part of everything we lose. Even though history has taught us that nothing lasts for long, the impulse to create in the face of impending destruction, to resettle in foreign lands and reproduce ancestral models, to build new libraries is a powerful and unquenchable impulse.