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A Keeper’s World

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If the finder does not know whose it is, he takes it to the baron who is called Bularguchi, which is as much to say ‘keeper of lost property.” For, I would have you know that, if anyone finds a horse or a sword or a hawk or anything else and cannot discover the owner, it is immediately brought to this baron, and he takes charge of it. If the finder does not hand it over forthwith, he is reckoned a thief. And the losers apply to this baron, and if he has received their property he promptly returns it. He always has this official residence, with his flag flying, at the highest point in the whole camp, so as to be readily seen by those who have lost anything. By this means nothing can be lost without being found and returned.– The Travels of Marco Polo 

Which is better? To lose nothing or to always find what is lost?  Without loss, life would be cluttered. And since stories are made out of loss, a would without loss would be unimaginative. It would be a world of boredom and litter. It would be loveless also. What is love that is incapable of being lost? There would be neither a past nor longing for a past. There would only be a present too content with itself to seek the future. Or if there were a past, it would stick around and vie with the present for every little space of time, which would itself eventually become a rather monstrous anachronism. If everything remained, there would be way too many things in the world. And what happens when one cannot even lose oneself? One becomes a thing.  And if the dead were not lost…

Marco’s world is different. It is a finders and not a keeper’s world. The world of loss and finding, where things that wander always return, is a much simpler world. There is romance. There is adventure. Most of all, there is home.

Photo: Arrolynn’s Blog

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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