Just when I was thinking I had successfully switched to a comfort zone with e-books, an extraordinary event changed my mind again. The most beautiful book in the world to me is gone. It was a small hand-held edition of The Pearl by an unknown 14th century author and poet known as “The Gawain Poet” because he also wrote Gawain and the Green Knight which was a favourite of J.R.R. Tolkien. I first came across it when reading through the Middle English shelf at my university library. From the start the lovely volume captured my heart. It was unique—small, diamond textured leather, with a simple yet elegant title. Inside were notes from the Victorian era in perfect spindly handwriting. From the frontpiece I knew the last person to check it out was from the 1930s and that connection across time was very special to me.
The poem itself I had not read before and it captured me immediately with a quiet emotional style. It was not overt, it spoke through images and beautiful words, yet brought me to tears. It is about a father whose young daughter died—his pearl who was lost. It is a stunning poem that I would recommend in any form, yet in this it became very special to me. Whenever I was stressed out and upset over my huge classload I would trot over to the shelf where the book resided and pull it out for a bit. I must have read the opening pages hundreds of times. Even after I left university, I would picture the book in my head and think through some of its images when I was upset. That book was the closest friend I had back in school at first. It came just at a time when my old friends had moved away for college, and I was a studious quiet sort and was in the library most of the time. That edition of the Pearl I loved more than anything in the world. Sometimes I would daydream that I owned it, but alas always had to return it.
In my graduating year I realized I would have to bid farewell to that book, save for occasionally requesting it via my alumni card. As I held it I thought about how I would give anything to own it. I considered going to reference and offering $1,000 for that book I loved it so much. After all, there were other copies of the poem in the library. But I never got up the courage.
This week I had been feeling particularly stressed out by a paper I was writing. After three or four hours of reading through Mark Exegesis scholarly manuscripts I desperately needed a break. I went to the shelf where the Pearl should have been, and it was there no longer. At first I thought someone had checked it out, but a few other books were missing and it just didn’t feel right. I had a cold feeling in my stomache, and a sense of terror. I went to the library catalog and it was no longer listed. Frantic now, and nearly in tears I went to reference. The book is gone. Like I had realized before there were duplicate copies in the library. My pearl was redundant. My pearl, like that in the poem itself, was gone. I felt like crying in earnest then.
In the Bible there is a story of a pearl without price that a man sells everything he owns to buy. Now I know what he would have felt like had he passed the opportunity and regretted it the rest of his life. Don’t make my mistake—if there is something or someone you love and you know action is needed to keep that person or that treasure then go now and do what you need to do. Is there someone you love and have not told? Go tell them right now. Is there something that has great meaning that you could lose forever? Don’t daydream about it—do something about it.