The Rare Time

In the early 20th century, Honus Wagner was everywhere.

The Pittsburgh Pirate shortstop -nicknamed the Flying Dutchman by fans- was a heavy hitting, base stealing, crowd pleasing powerhouse. His square face was on Gillette Safety Razors, Colgan’s Chip Gum, and Hermes Ice Cream.

But when the American Tobacco Company put Mr. Wagner’s face on a card in Piedmont cigarette packs, the Flying Dutchman insisted it be discontinued.

The reason is unclear: Mr. Wagner didn’t want to promote cigarettes to kids or he wanted more compensation for the card. Theories abound.

The result, though, was clear: fewer than 60 Honus Wagner baseball cards were ever made. So, Mr. Wagner, who was everywhere, was on a baseball card that was almost nowhere.

In 2013, an anonymous buyer paid $2.1 million for the rarity at a New Jersey auction, making the Flying Dutchman the most valuable baseball card of all time.

Because rare is valuable.

And yet, I am surrounded by rarity all the time. The moment that I wrote this is already gone. The minutes I ate oatmeal at breakfast won’t come back. I couldn’t tell you what I did while waiting a half hour for the train.

Perhaps if I could stack up all the days I’ve got like Honus Wagner baseball cards, perhaps if I could see how few I – you, anyone – have got, I might treat them more reverently.

But I can’t. And then I forget. I forget that this is my $2.1 million moment.

So, I made Honus Wagner my desktop background. In hopes that his square face will remind me how rare, how valuable this is. And I made Honus Wagner an adjective: How Honus Wagner the silence.

It may work. It may not. But any effort we make to handle our time with care is valuable. Time is everywhere. But it deserves to be treated like it’s almost nowhere.

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