A college professor lent me a copy of Herman Hesse’s Siddartha. I read it transfixed, giving it back a week after. A couple days later I receive an email from the same professor - he had something for me. I go to my campus mailbox and see the same copy of Siddartha I had read earlier with a note inside from the professor. He felt wrong keeping a book after it had been “lovingly read,” so he decided to let me keep it. The note is gone, but all I can remember is that phrase - “lovingly read”.
The book is gone too. After all those years, I gave that book away to someone who I worked with at a coffee shop, someone who wanted to get back into reading. Siddartha jumped out to me as a recommendation, so I decided to lend her the copy my professor gave me. It’s been years since I gave that book away, years since I saw her again.
Part of me regrets giving it away. Why? Because of what the book meant to me: not the story in the book but the story about how I got the book. Wait. Did I lend that story away when I lent the book? No. That story remains in my mind, materializing as words that form senetences that form paragraphs that form this piece that forms but one of many possibilities of intepreting this story of a professor’s kind gesture. Nothing is lost. And besides, perhaps you lent the book in the same spirt that the professor gave you the book in the first place; an act of kindness inspiring an act of kindness, like the book being a physical manifestation of kindness.
Still, I wonder whether she read the book, read it with love.