Imagine you're sitting down with a new book, eagerly anticipating the resultant pleasure and satisfaction that will no doubt accompany its consumption. You check out the front cover, mentally approve or dismiss the image, consider the title, check the back cover and the inside jacket for a brief synopsis or publisher's review, and then you jump in...
If the old adage, "first in intention, last in execution" can be applied to any undertaking one may embark upon in life, than it's true that the end is in sight from the beginning; but is that truly why we begin in the first place? I for one have never settled down with the latest Harry Potter in order to triumphantly proclaim (17 hours and 8 cups of coffee later...) "it is finished!" (Though this undoubtedly occurs, generally accompanied by fist-pumping and cheering) Rather, the primary context for the enjoyment of said literary wonder is in the sweet anticipation of its arrival, the longing and the desire for consummation (which is not exclusively sexual terminology) and eventual possession.
I do not want to use and be done with this thing I have patiently waited for, nor do I wish to be already on the far side of the experience, looking back in fond nostalgic wonder. Rather, I want to be living in the precious present, embracing the experience as it unfolds.
How often do we live our lives this way? Desperate for completion, for finality, for closure... But we forget that closure implies a stopping point, the end of a journey, the completion of something undertaken. One of life's chief bittersweet experiences is, for me, the last page of a book. Turning to that final bit of print and seeing the expanse of white space beneath a single paragraph or two, that's the unknown, the unfamiliar. The familiarity of the characters, the lived imagination of the setting, the flow of the plot and the tone of the tale, it all comes to an end here; and while I am happy, there is still a certain ache which accompanies this small realization of the transitory nature of earthly pleasure.
The book is finished, and that is cause enough for joy, but the experience, even if reread a thousand times over, can never truly be replicated. So when you're reading something for the first time, slow down and savor every syllable. Things will never look quite the same, and you'll never be here again.