Tattooed on the arm of the girl in the store was this: "You don't have a soul. You are a soul."
This tickled old chimes in my memory, way down in the dungeons of the abyss. Long ago, covered with dangling cobwebs, smelling of must and muffled, an echo quivered. "I know you."
Yes. That was it. From a book that I loved. Ideas that grew and formed my outlook on life.
Forty-five years ago I read a book for my English class, Canticle for Leibowitz,
by Walter Miller. I had to write a book report on it. I got carried away and wrote 5 or 6 pages worth of meandering thematic thoughts. Science, philosophy, human nature, theology, history, society and culture.
The first three pages of my graded paper were marked with some red lines and scribbles correcting some grammar or sentence structure. Then a sentence in red pencil in the left margin: "I give up. I have to read this book. What do you do on weekends? Tell me you at least go out and play."
I did. I still do. But reading and books have been more than just words on paper, or on a screen. They are the voices of thousands of souls. Human, non-human, physical, spiritual, past, present, future, fantastic, mythical, astronomical, microscopic, universal.
A thread ties us, everything, together. In and out, around, under and over. When I see a hill, I see a mountain that was, the rocks that it begat, and the sand that it eventually becomes. I see and smell the musty soil that it feeds, the plants that it nourishes, the animals that feed on them. I hear the rain and lightening which hastens its transitions and feel the hooves and claws that walk on it. And me, you, we, are no different than this mountain. We came, we are, we were.
We as humans are terraforming this earth. This mountain is now a hill and its soil is being consumed. We, too, will pass. And it will probably start all over again. Just like it has before. Perhaps this is what Miller had in mind. And I wonder if this is what dove him to suicide.
It's been many decades since I read the book. He wrote a sequel shortly before his death in 1997. Perhaps I need to read that one, too. After all, it was Miller, Steinbeck, Tolstoy, Asimov, Moorcock, Kipling, London, Poe, and even Robert E. Howard -all authors of my youth- that spoke to me and inspired me to write. And to think.