Sheddings books reflect new outlook

I recently spent about a week cleaning my house and rearranging things in my closets and on my shelves to be more convenient to reach. It was a time to not merely clean house, but to rid myself of a few reminders of how I used to see the world.

I decided to donate some old books that I no longer wanted. I couldn?t bring myself to just throw them away, because I dearly love books. I boxed them up and took them with me when I left for work.

Since shortly after I dropped the box off, I?ve felt a small twinge of guilt about putting some of its contents back out in the public, almost as if I?d left containers of highly corrosive acid within reach of young kids. Not quite that bad of course, but close.

What were these books that I might feel this way? They included a few of which I was unfortunately too fond in my early to middle 20s?both of Rush Limbaugh?s books, a book by Robert Bork, one by Newt Gingrich, and one by Bill Bennett. That?s right, I used to be a raging conservative, believe it or not.

I still consider myself fiscally conservative in terms of how I want my taxes spent, and remain a registered Republican. I?d say, though, that today I consider myself socially much more liberal.

I wholeheartedly agreed with Washington Post columnist Kathleen Parker who recently said the Republican party needs to distance itself from the ?oogedy boogedy? crowd, meaning those whose socially conservative views are deeply rooted in their religious beliefs, particularly Christian fundamentalism.

When considering who belongs in the crowd that Parker described, I immediately think of those who?at least by their words and deeds?seem to be 100 percent certain of their beliefs, and who act as if it?s their God-given duty in life to impose their worldview on everyone else.

Their zealotry causes folks like me to shudder in horror at the thought that people at the highest levels of power in our government actually believe similar things, and have the power to cause mass destruction.

It?s unfortunate that the loud, outspoken ones?who are often the most dogmatic, proudly ignorant and intolerant?tend to drown out the voices of those believers who are educated, reasonable, tolerant, progressive and kind.

I consider myself extremely fortunate to have not been indoctrinated in a religion as I was growing up. I attended church with my grandparents a few times?partly, I think, because they insisted on going and there was nowhere else for me to go. But as soon as I was old enough to avoid that tedium, I stayed at the house and usually read something I actually considered interesting.

Several years ago, I finally shed the remaining vestiges of the superstition that had, over the years, clung to me like little stick-tight seeds. I finally understood, in a way that I previously had not, that it was perfectly fine to not believe. Through the Internet, I was happy to discover just how far I was from being alone in thinking that way.

That box also contained a few books by a Buddhist monk named Thich Nhat Hanh. I don?t have the same feeling of poisonous guilt about them as I do with those others. I remember that when I bought them, I was hoping they might provide some answers that I wasn?t getting elsewhere.

It didn?t take me long to realize that I wasn?t going to find such answers in their pages any more than I would in any other similar book.

While cleaning, I also sorted through my CDs and boxed up about 30 or so?mostly countr?that I no longer particularly want. Some weekend soon, I?ll take them to a place that buys used CDs. I now have a much better use in mind for that money.

Overall, it was a good week and I feel like I got a lot done. It didn?t require any help from above. I just used my own two hands and my brain. And a step stool, because I?m a little bit short.

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