Thursday, June 9, 2016

Secret Project—Background

 Would you love me if I was anything but what I am? 
There’s an old saw which says, “Everybody has a gris-gris.”  A gris-gris is a charm or talisman (even a belief) that we maintain without any support of its abilities.  The original term means a device for warding off evil or creating good luck, and generally only coincidence supports a gris-gris’ ability to do anything.

But, we humans, we’re desperate to make order out of the chaos.  We like connections that signify intention.  We look from one coincidence to another trying to draw lines of meaning.

This was really driven home to me when I lost my own. Easily 30 years ago my best friend gave me a bookmark. It was a simple thing of paper with a green yarn tassel and featured with a hobbit-like gentleman carrying a book and a walking stick with a small quote that read, "Lengthen your stride and quicken your pace." The tassel had been retied at least three times in an attempt to preserve the strands, and the top had been folded over so many times it was in danger of falling apart just from age.  Near the end, I decided to put the entire thing in a plastic sheath, lest it finally give up the ghost.

I used it for every book that I'd read for nearly 25 years.

Get some gris-gris today!
For the first ten or fifteen years, it was simply convenient.  I didn’t attribute any special powers or luck to it.  Certainly my record can indicate it didn’t ward off evil.  As time passed, and the trappings of my youth were lost, worn out, broken, or discarded, I managed to hold onto the bookmark.

It had started as simply functional, but with the passage of years it became a sentimental favorite.

I thought I lost it once at a fast food restaurant where, instead of inserting the bookmark in the back of the book as I usually do, I set it on the table.  There was genuine fear at the thought it had been taken or, worse, casually thrown away.  Luckily, it was right where I’d left it.

Unfortunately, several years later it would be lost.  I bought my first Kindle ereader, and a fancy cover that looked like a leather-bound book.  I wanted to maintain my reading companion, and inserted the bookmark behind the Kindle where it was as tightly held as any paperbook could.

Alas, in a moment of distraction, I left the kindle—bookmark and all—on the top of my truck and drove away.  A few hours later, when I realized my error, the kindle was nowhere to be found.  Many, many, many internet searches for a replacement returned nothing.

Like much of the analog age, the bookmark was lost.

I actually mourned the loss, and still feel it today.  Sure, it was an inanimate object which had served well beyond its years.  It couldn’t talk to me, comfort me when various relationships ended or when emotions were confused and depressed.  At best, it represented the numerous books I’d read over the years, the journeys in both my head and in reality where stories had entertained me and helped pass the hours.

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