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Books and a Parable

By Staff | May 19, 2021

Last Saturday, I stopped in at the “every Saturday book sale” that a guy in doing in Manti. Maybe you’ve heard the ads on the radio. As I understand it, Nate Christensen essentially bought out a used book store in Provo. He now has 75,000 books in several metal containers in his back yard.

He can only display a few thousand at a time. I gather that there are many plastic covered pallets of books that haven’t even been unwrapped yet. According to the radio ad, Nate loves books; but his wife says they have to go. So, they’re on sale, for a dollar apiece every Saturday.

The sale is done on the honor system. The customer browses, selects books, and deposits money in a lock box or uses Venmo to pay.

Usually when I get books at a yard sale, I have to sneak them into the house so my wife doesn’t see them. This time, my wife was with me. I came away with five books. She got one – Joan of Arc. Her college degree is French, so she has a soft spot for Joan.

An interesting find I made was the 1977 edition of The Banyan, BYU’s yearbook. That was the year I graduated as a Cougar. So, 44 years later, I got my yearbook.

I often get a new book or two or three for Christmas each year. Books are great gifts, “in my book.” Some years ago, on a memorable Christmas, I received five books.

My youngest son gave me the first two books from the “The Hunger Games” series. Those books were popular among young adults (like me ha ha). In case you don’t know, it is kind of a sci-fi/fantasy story set in the future of North America. The story is disturbing in a way – but entertaining.

My son may not have known that I had already read the first volume of the three book series. I think he pulled them off of his shelf and wrapped them for me as an act of last minute gift giving desperation.

I don’t have a problem with that. In fact, he may have learned the strategy from me. It’s not uncommon for me to give away a book I’ve read or a used book otherwise.

The other three books I received that Christmas were: “To The Rescue” (Thomas S. Monson biography), “Jane Austen’s Little Advice Book” and “The Book of Totally Useless Information.”

It may or may not surprise you to know that out of the five books I got, the book which I was most drawn to was the “useless information” one. I wonder what that says about me? Let’s not explore that now.

From that book, I learned about the history of kilts and why the score of zero in tennis is called “love.” “Love” is a distortion of the French word oeuf, which means egg – as in goose egg. Most of us are familiar with zero sometimes being referred to as a goose egg in sports.

Here’s a couple of bits of advice from the Jane Austen advice book. 1) On why surprise parties never work: “Surprises are foolish things. The pleasure is not enhanced, and the inconvenience is often considerable.” 2) On the Necessity of Complaining: “Those who do not complain are never pitied.”

We went to the Hale Center Theater in Orem a week ago and saw the musical version of the Jane Austen story “Emma.” It exceeded our expectations and I recommend it. (runs through June 5th)

Let me shift gears here and change the subject now. We’ll talk books more another time. There’s no end to book stories.

I was reminded last Sunday of a story my sister in law told me of an experience which she called a parable. This experience was evidently a significant event that she was attempting to draw meaning from.

Here’s the short version. She and her grandson were working under a tree. They were suddenly aware that they were invading the personal space of a hummingbird nest. The “father and mother” hummingbird showed their unhappiness that their privacy and security was being compromised.

Some days later, it seemed that the birds had gone and the nest appeared to be abandoned. The grandson was sent up the tree to cut the branch so the nest could be used – for a decoration, presumably. Lo and behold, when the branch was handed down – there were a couple of tiny, withered, ugly, seemingly dead birdies in the nest. But they weren’t dead. When touched they opened their mouths and were expecting dinner.

For lack of a better idea, the little branch was duct taped back up in the tree. The end of the story is good. The baby birds ultimately lived.

So at the end of the story, I wanted to know what the moral or lesson was – since the story was “advertised” as a “parable.” My sister in law said she didn’t know. She wanted me to tell her what I learned from the story.

Here are some of the possible lessons to be learned that I came up with: 1) Be careful when you deal with the withered, ugly, and seemingly dead 2) Duct tape is, in fact, all it’s cracked up to be 3) If hummingbirds want their nests to be part of an arts and crafts project, they will build them on top of your mailbox 4) Good deeds aren’t always punished 5) Count your chickens and hummingbirds after they’ve hatched — and before you saw any limbs off a tree.

If you have any unsolved parables in your life, feel free to send them to me. As you can see, I have rare interpretive powers. — Merrill

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