Because I am a lover of books, I have my favorite “local” book stores wherever I end up at the end of a day’s travel. Between Cannon Beach on the coast of Oregon and Rockland on the coast of Maine, I have walked many miles without leaving their crowded aisles whose shelves are well-known to me, but also ever-changing. It’s not just books that fascinate me, but the people who like me gravitate to such places, and from whom I often learn as much as from the inviting pages through which I roam. I have especially come to appreciate the practice of my Oregon haunt to label books which have earned the personal recommendation of a store employee or two with a few words of commentary noted on a tag taped on the front of the shelf.
On such a recent visit, I mentioned to a young store employee my interest in a particular subject. Within minutes I was confronted by a growing stack of volumes she had gathered for my appraisal, and among which was a “gem” which answered all my questions, and which traveled home with me. (It is a book on TIDES exploring the Science and Spirit of oceans from which I will draw hours of pleasure and a wealth of seldom-visited knowledge; in short it has the promise of adding something to my everyday life.
In the course of a one week visit, I may end up purchasing only two or three selected volumes, but chances are I will have pages of notes and observations; new ideas and a plethora of words and quotations, and often new story ideas which will find their way onto my desktop and onto future pages.
With all of this I yet face a regular dilemma, wondering whether a particular idea deserves to become a story, and even more importantly whether the story should be shared with others or “treasured up” for self or sequestered fearing perhaps it will not seem relevant or worthwhile or interesting to others. Pondering this troublesome quandary, I ran into a reference to an ancient but still valid point of law known as theft by finding.
In its earliest form in Medieval times it posited the idea that if one finds something of value the owner of which cannot be determined, it is alright to keep it as long as its value is shared with others in some way, and not hoarded by the finder alone. The idea really struck me: theft by finding! Is this a concept worth exploring? Might it not apply to a story-teller who develops or happens upon a story of value and then fails to share it with others by its very telling!
Taped to the wall over the top of my keyboard where my eyes can’t miss them are the four Japanese symbols for the word ikigai, the meaning of which in English would read the reason for which I rise each day. For me personally it asks the question “with the skills, talents, devotions and passions which have been given to me as gifts, am I being faithful; am I rising each day determined to share with others something of value in what I do?” In a broader context, am I doing everything within my power to nurture those talents, and in finding new ways to put them to use in a world which continues to need every bit of person-to-person service within reach?
Even on a personal level I find relevance in the law of theft by finding, and wonder whether I need to make room for one more sign on my wall!