There are these various insanities that I get into. One of them is “Looking for something.” Today it’s the “thought I knew where it was” version of the “Looking for Something” insanity. I won’t go into all the boring details about why I was looking for what I call a “thumb drive” except to say that it is a continuing part of the prepublication saga.

Whether “thumb drive” is the proper name anymore for the little buggers, it’s at least descriptive. When something the size of a thumb goes missing, there are lots of places to look.

Where is your thumb drive – for instance from 2011? Or how about from 2001 or before? Oh right, there wasn’t any such thing at the time. There were 2X2 disks and desktop computers, and computer towers.

It’s 2014 and I’m searching for a thumb drive. I search my office, where I really do have a half a dozen thumb drives wrapped in paper with things like Pictures 06 written on them. They’re right there in eye-view in an old suede zippered pouch about the size and shape of a makeup bag. The pouch is sitting on a desk shelf, right where I can keep my eye on it. As I unwrapped the paper I thought, This is pretty good that I’ve got these; that I know where they are. Fifteen minutes later:

But where the hell is the one I NEED???

I stick my hands in the pockets of my computer carry bag, I search every corner of my office that seems remotely likely to have been chosen for such storage. Then I go to the cabin to do the same.

I find, in my desk drawer, along with one half-eaten peanut butter cracker pack and another packet of cookies, an editorial page circa 2008. It has my two favorite editorialists, Leonard Pitts Jr., and David Brooks, on it. Pitts is talking of the drama that stirred over a scarf Rachel Ray wore in a Dunkin Donuts ad that some blogosphere pundit thought resembled the kaffiyeh—the Arab headdress. He shakes his head in his writer way and muses that seven years after 9/11 we had awakened into the 1950’s.

David Brooks was looking for a “Mature president.” I’m thinking, “Wow, this is from before Obama.”

By now, of course, the hunt for the thumb drive has paled. I’m at my computer. I’m drinking coffee.

Brooks is talking history, as he often does with his editorialist freedom to look beyond the immediate. He begins his editorial with Abraham Lincoln in 1841, saying the young Lincoln “had been encouraged by the culture around him to identify his own flaws.” You can guess where’s he’s going with that.

Republishing books is like finding stuff that you’d forgotten about in a drawer you never pull out any farther than to grab a pencil. Sometimes it is like identifying your flaws. At other times it identifies fine qualities you rarely see, insights you’d forgotten, or reveals new ways of looking at the past or present. When you republish, you’re not creating any longer. You’re just checking things out, looking for what was missed the last time. It’s like looking back at editorials from 2008. It’s not just reading the words but literally looking back at a former decade, a former self. You start out looking for typos and misuses of grammar and you end up finding yourself deeply affected by what you’ve come across, by who you were, by who you are.

It got me musing on what you find when you seek, and what you find while looking for something else. Generally, in my own life, the accidental finding tends to surpass what was sought after by intentional seeking. How about you?