Sometimes when I really like something, I keep it a secret. Do you ever do that?
It’s always tempting to brag when you find the newest great thing – the new shop with delicious bread, the new book that I just finished, the cutest pair of new sandals. Part of me just wants to share, with everyone in my path, how excited I am, how lucky I feel. Sometimes I want to spark an interesting conversation, sometimes I just want to feel generous.
But here’s the thing. Once you share the greatest new thing, once you make your opinion known, people will take your advice. They will check out that new shop. They will download the book on their Kindles. And in a week or two, you will hear from some other acquaintance that they just LOVE this new shop around the corner. You will overhear on the train that so-and-so can’t tear herself away from your favorite book.
Will you feel glad to brighten someone’s day? Maybe. If you are a saint.
Me? I feel a little disappointed. A lot less special. My secret is out. The thing is, I really like having a secret. I like to know without a doubt that I see something in a special way. While everyone else runs into the grocery store to grab a loaf of bread before dinner, I know that the best baguette is on offer at that little shop around the corner from the Y. If I just run in with the boys after swim class, we can pick up our bread while we grab some donuts for a snack. Two birds with one stone. And there will still be time to wander by the rose garden on the way home.
Why does keeping things a secret make them more special to me? Am I weird that way? Perhaps. But I just read this article in The Wall Street Journal, about the Hong Kong rubber duck installation. In case you haven’t heard about it, a 50-foot yellow duck is calling Victoria Harbor home for a while. Hundred of thousands of visitors have flocked to see the bird. Is the artist proud? Well, yes. And no. “On one hand,” the artist, Florentijn Hofman, commented, “I felt very happy, and thought, wow, so many people are coming to see it. But on the other hand, I thought, how can you really see the duck now? Can you really get it?”
It’s true. If your view of the duck is so obscured by the back of other people’s heads, by their iPhones up in the air, blocking your view of its beak, can you ever truly experience the duck? To experience something authentically, you need to sneak up on it, early in the morning or last thing at night. Perhaps during the day while everyone else is too busy to notice. You need to be alone, unencumbered by friends or children. You must be stealthy and silent. You approach on tiptoe, hiding behind the closest building or bench. You peer out over the water and get the clearest view of the huge yellow duck, its orange beak, its cheerful eyes. You notice how it juxtaposes itself against the staid buildings, how it bobs and floats happily in the bay, how the sun streams off of its yellow back and air-filled wings. You know it’s just a toy, a silly thing, but for one instant you see it as it really is, and you are filled with happiness.