The Man Who Buried his Treasure in a Poem

Forrest Fenn, an art dealer told he was dying of cancer, has decided to leave a unique legacy: a fortune in antiquities hidden in the Rockies, and a cryptic poem that may lead right to it. But will his treasure be found? Dozens of people have searched so far, all in vain. Some think the entire thing is a hoax. The Telegraph has a fascinating piece on the subject:

The title of Fenn’s book is significant. He insists that, for him, it isn’t really about finding the treasure at all. It’s about the “thrill of the chase” – encouraging families out of the house and into the mountains; getting children away from their computer games or television shows and experiencing the wilderness. “I have thousands of emails from people, most of them thanking me for getting their family out of the game room.”

The bulk of Fenn’s wealth will be passed down to his daughters and grandchildren. But what really was the purpose of giving away part of his fortune? In his book, Fenn ponders the nature of death. He describes experiences of his tour in Vietnam, stumbling upon the unmarked graves of French soldiers. “What about those whose bones are rotting under the headstones of a thousand wars?” he writes. “Is it fair that no one recalls where those brave French soldiers fell?”

On paper at least, Fenn seems concerned about the fact that most of us will be “nothing but the leftovers of history or an asterisk in a book that was never written”. And so I ask whether this is the real reason for the memoir and the hidden treasure: that as he approaches his 84th year, he wants to ensure his legacy – make certain that history will remember him.

Dated to about AD 1150, the chest is said to contain in the region of $3 million worth of treasure: gold coins, pre-Columbian gold animal figures, Chinese jade carvings, a 17th-century Spanish ring with an inset emerald, rubies, sapphires, and diamonds.

I, for one, believe Fenn is for real. I endorse his motivation for hiding the treasure:

What Fenn wants is for people to experience history, not just read about it in dusty books. When he was an art dealer he used to raise eyebrows by letting schoolchildren touch the canvases of 200-year-old paintings. One of those was of George Washington, produced when the first President of the United States was sitting just a few feet away from the artist. By letting those schoolchildren touch the actual paint, they could, Fenn says, connect with what this really was and what it meant. “You can become part of that episode,” he says. “And that’s exciting to me.” When somebody finds his treasure and reads his memoir (a tiny copy of it, together with a magnifying glass, is included in the treasure chest), he says “they’ll be amazed at what things were like back then.”

Interesting in its entirety.

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(via @longreads)

On Discovering and Treasuring New Music

Mike Spies, writing in The New Yorker, remembers the days of going to the flea market or a record shop and carefully selecting the one item he would take home:

I’m trying to describe an intricate process, crucial to forming a lasting, meaningful relationship with a piece of art. Because if I was going to buy a CD, back when I bought them, I had to eke out some time, and even pray for a little luck, as I could spend hours in a dimly lit store, and leave with nothing.

But with the advent of Spotify and other online music listening stations, we are living in a different world. It doesn’t require much curation on our part: we just hit next. Here is Spies:

We seem to have created an environment in which wonderful music, newly discovered, is difficult to treasure. For treasures, as the fugitive salesman in the flea market was implying, are hard to come by—you have to work to find them. And the function of fugitive salesmen is to slow the endless deluge, drawing our attention to one album at a time, creating demand not for what we need to survive but for what we yearn for. Because how else can you form a relationship with a record when you’re cursed with the knowledge that, just an easy click away, there might be something better, something crucial and cataclysmic? The tyranny of selection is the opposite of freedom. And the more you click, the more you enhance the disposability of your endeavor.

How many of you echo this sentiment? I know I do.