“Do Not Forget the Best”

“A man of my acquaintance was at his most well-organized at the unhappiest period in his life. He forgot nothing. He registered his current activities down to the last detail, and if he had an appointment — and he never forgot them — he was punctuality itself. His life’s way seemed to have been smoothly paved, and there was not even the smallest crack for time to run out of control. And so matters rested for a while. Then circumstances brought about a change in his life. It began with his getting rid of his watch. He practiced arriving late, and if the person he was going to meet had already left, he sat down to wait. If he had to do something with an object close at hand, he managed to mislay it, and if he was supposed to clear something up somewhere, the confusion elsewhere increased. When he sat down at his desk, it looked as if someone had been living in it. But it was he himself who was building his nest in the ruins. Whatever he did, he made a little house for himself out of it, as children do when they play. Similarly, just as children keep coming across things they have hidden away and then forgotten — in their pockets, in the sand, in a drawer — so it was with his mind, with his entire life. Friends visited him when he least expected them but needed them most, and the gifts he sent, which were not sumptuous, arrived as punctually as if he had the paths of heaven in his hands. Around this time, he liked to recall the tale of the shepherd who one Sunday was given permission to enter the mountain with his treasures, but who also received the mysterious instruction, ‘Do not forget the best.’ At this period of his life, he felt quite well. He settled few things and thought of nothing as settled.” [2, 591 — published in the Frankfurter Zeitung, June 1932]