“Ah, so, little grasshopper,” wrote Confucius in one of his long-ago moments of enlightenment, “you treasure only what you cannot possess.”

That’s the quote that showed up in my friend’s fortune cookie, but I’m not buying it. Call me nervy to be questioning the all-knowingness of an Oriental guru, but Alice and I have been friends more than 40 years. Believe me, she has always — and in myriad ways — taken the art of treasuring possessions beyond the highest level.

Alice possesses a great many things, and she treasures them all, displaying them in and on a variety of shelves and cabinets purchased for that purpose, and hanging the spillover on the walls and from the ceiling of every room in her house. That woman does love bric-a-brac, as her 98-year-old mother did and still does to this day.

No garage sale sign ever escaped her mother’s detection, and Hallmark rolls out the red carpet when Alice pulls up at the curb. She treasures everything in the place both before and after she possesses it, and I barely exaggerate when I say she either already possesses most of it or else she intends to.

So, no, I can’t say that her fortune cookie speaks truth. Treasuring of possessions is in her genes. The all-knowing Confucius should have known that when he volunteered to tell her fortune. Spiteful old thing! It made me wonder why he would write such a dismal, judgmental fortune, so I Googled him and came up with a clue.

I never before thought of Confucius as a man capable of being smitten by love, but now I’m rethinking the possibility. It could be that he treasured the anticipation, but not the reality of possessing, the affections of the sweet young thing he married at age 19 and divorced four years later, after which he spent the rest of his 72 years regretting even that momentary possession.

Confucius died in 479 B.C., bitter to the end, leaving behind fortune cookie warnings expounding the futility of treasuring and possessing ... but he wasn’t the last man to suffer in that way. Voltaire’s Candide treasured his pursuit of the fair Cunegund until he possessed her, after which he endured her; and Cervantes’ Don Quixote was still pursuing the ephemeral Dulcinea on his deathbed.

My own personal treasuring/possessing story takes an entirely different tack. I’ve slogged my way through several nine-month periods of gestation and have never not treasured the product I eventually possessed — though I must say that whoever claimed it’s the journey, not the destination that’s best, never endured the backaches, swollen feet, awkwardness, cravings and general discomfort required to produce the treasure at the end of the most incredible fireworks display known to womankind. I can’t say I treasured the process, but each product was priceless.

My own mother would have been a more appropriate recipient of my friend’s fortune cookie message, maybe more worthy than Alice, her mother or me. Mom had no faith in the possibility of my ever possessing a treasure at all, but she did what she could to shield me from the disappointment.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” she would call out as I left the house to join a teen party in progress. “You might not have a good time.”

Such a send off might have blighted my evening, but it never did. I rarely came home disappointed — maybe because of Mom’s warning, but I’d rather believe the fortune inside my own cookie: “Wheresoever you go, you go with all your heart.”

Yeah, well, not exactly. But I do try.



MARJORIE ANDERSON is an Edmond resident.

Recommended for you