A Man of Many Books by Linda JohnsonHe was still strong, standing straight, eyes clear, thoughts clear. As always, he lived in his head. Awriter, a philosopher, maybe even a genius, his thoughts kept him occupied. Sometimes he didn't evennotice the piles of books around him. Sometimes a concept or insight would reveal itself to him in sucha flash of revelation he would plop the dishes in thekitchenand push aside a pile of papers to grab a pen and write it down. A dreamer, a poet, a thinker, a gentle man. Getting on in years, yes, but also inwisdom. His wife, the one to whom he dedicated every book he ever published, regarded all the clutter and the thousands of books as necessary for the man she loved. She didn't fuss about it.When sudden illness came to her, he called an ambulance, praying they would arrive in time to save her life. They did, but she didn't last long after that. So there he was in the big old house where they hadlived for 33 years, with only his books to keep him company. Somehow the books piled higher, and theclutter multiplied. The one consolation in those silent, solitary days was the heightened activity in hismind, the sense of increased discovery, intensified revelation. The beautiful, heart wrenching poetrythat seemed to pour from his pen. The soaring prayer to the God he had loved for 72 years. Prayer tohelp him see a blessing in the bone-aching depth of his aloneness in his house, in his bed, at his table.Time passed, and he was beginning to feel alive again, to know he had more to do in his life, more tothink, to write, to give.But the men who had carried his wife out for that final time had decided to do the old man a serviceand turn him in to the authorities. After all, weren't the books a fire hazard? Might he not trip over astack? Mightn't he leave the stove on, burn the house down and die in the fire? No wife now, and nochildren. Why, it was up to the government to intervene, wasn't it? To step in and save him fromhimself?So began the inspections. The attacks on his dignity. This man with the brilliant mind, the degrees andmultiple doctorates, who saw so much, suddenly at the mercy of people who could not see one inch.Couldn't see past the white hair, the piles of paper, the scattered, often read books. They said "Toomany books! Not enough shelves! There must be nothing on the stairs! And no books on thekitchencounter or table!" How did they have the right to decide such things on the man's behalf? It was up tothem, they felt, to say how long he should take to comply with their dictates, how soon the nextinspection should be to make sure he was following orders.OR else. Or else they would take his house, the big ten room house he had paid for over the years andnow owned outright, simply take away the biggest part of his net worth. Oh, and take the books too,destroying an irreplaceable, valuable treasure of collections, a potential source of knowledge for others.And if he continued to be what they considered a human hazard, take him as well. Force him out andinto some kind of institution. It was his choice, he could buckle under to their demands, or go to courtand defend himself. Which he did. The judge gave him one week to comply or lose everything.He hadn't wanted to trouble anybody, but finally, he told his pastor the situation. About his problemswith the County, and the power they seemed to have over him, his life, his possessions. The wise pastor, and the little church he faithfully attended, came up with a plan. To simply turn the contents of the house over to the church. To have his lawyer draw up legal documents proving it. Unemployedchurch members earned money for packing up the books and moving them to a library created in hishonor.