He had casually conferred on me the freedom of the neighborhood.
Newly settled in at West Egg, Nick feels lonely until another man, more lost than he, asks for directions and Nick answers easily. And that’s it, that’s all it takes not to be the new guy anymore. This is a powerful idea, that you are lost until you can provide guidance to one more lost than you. I don’t think Fitzgerald meant it in a particularly spiritual or compassionate way, but it’s always struck me as something that’s important to remember in this light: the helplessness of others is an unintended gift to you, and you fail to avail yourself of this bounty if you do not give the best of what you have.
The only other phrase on this page that comes close for me is the way Nick’s new books on finance “stood on my shelf in red and gold like new money from the mint.” I often think of the books on my shelf the same way, not just the ones on finance, but all of them – treasures that flash and gleam underneath their dusty spines, needing only their covers to be opened to reveal their endless reward.