The unready

In his unending wisdom, author Umberto Eco reminds us that there is wisdom in what is not done, wisdom in what is not finished.

Eco is allegedly the owner of a large personal library of 30,000 books, and separates visitors to his library into two categories: 1) the large majority who visit asking “how many of these have you read!?” — the impressed — and 2) those — a very small minority — who get that books are not for show, but for research. And that unread books are far more valuable to us than read ones.

As such, our personal libraries should contain as much of what we don’t know as what we do. They should contain the possible. The aspirational. They should contain the future.

In other words, the unfinished is far more valuable than the finished. The un-figured out far more valuable than the figured out.

Eco called this concept the anti-library.

People don’t walk around calling themselves anti-entrepreneurs or promoting their anti-CVs. We don’t promote our anti-knowledge and our anti-degrees. But maybe we should.

The love of books is much celebrated; the love of reading too. Yet the love of not reading — the letting of books pile up around us — is a quiet pursuit.

This post was the introduction to a Facebook panel, “99% Unfinished,” at Brooklyn Beta. Thanks Russ for inviting me. Thanks Maria for the title.

Let’s celebrate the stories of people we thought we’d once be; stories of languages we thought we’d once learn; places we thought we’d once visit; hobbies never learned; pursuits never pursued. These need not be stories of what wasn’t, but stories of what was instead.

Let’s celebrate books owned, but never read. Pages unfolded. Chapters unfinished. Marginalia unwritten.

And celebrate lives lived.