Among the many nice gifts I received for my birthday and Christmas was the 50th anniversary edition of a favorite book, John Cage's Silence. For decades I have kept an older, beaten-up, heavily thumbed copy, typically in a slot on my desk. When the new hardback edition arrived, I had more trouble parting with my old, beat-up, heavily thumbed copy than I anticipated. I almost felt bad browsing the new edition; I didn't want to mess it up. My banged-up edition, with tape on its spine and the edges of its covers, felt more like something that deserved to be held and read.
We all know something like this. It takes a while before we're willing to place our brand-new airplane-aluminum case laptop on anything but a pillow-top surface. We hardly want to even drive a brand-new car, or live in a brand-new house. Or we look in the mirror and fret about that wrinkle at the corner of the eye, or that gray hair. Decrepitude of any stripe dismays us.
I have a clutch of books I call the "forever shelf", all of which sit in some spot within arm's reach of where I type this. For a while I planned to have used copies of each book, the better to not feel quite so bad about thumbing them to death. Silence, which I'd bought used many years ago, was one such book. But in the end all the others I added -- The Zen Doctrine Of Huang Po, Telling Writing, Letters To A Young Poet (the new translation with the lost correspondence!), etc. — all ended up being brand spankin' new. Once I installed the books in their rightful places and began using them, I found myself worrying about their decrepitude not at all. Let them get weathered in their own time, and lovingly so.