Many years ago, driven by ambition or called to a vocation, I set out to be a writer. Taken as an ambition it was noble enough; taken as a vocation it was more daunting, more frightening, than I then understood. However taken, its fundamental dictum was the same: write what you know.
And in those earliest years it was clear that I knew nothing, that an education was in order; and so one began. There were books, many books: at first the usual primers, later more elevated, more complex texts, and for a while it seemed that these might suffice, that I might find traced in the confluence of all those bound pages an arc of thought certain enough to permit my scripting of it. The path to knowledge seemed clear.
Things intervene. Another dictum, life's own no doubt. There was a war, domestic turmoil, intellectual carnage, a confusion of loves, a crisis of loyalties, friendships formed and friendships lost, illnesses and healings, a marriage, a wife and child and the imperative to provide, the drudgery and sometimes the exhilaration of work, the monthly web of budgets, taxes, grocery bills, the reluctant submersion in the world's larger thought...perhaps what Cioran calls The Fall Into Time. A dizzying fall, precipitous and disorienting. Now and then, along the way, I managed to take notes. It was as much as I could do.
Through it all there has been doubt. Doubt is corrosive, self doubt the most corrosive of all. The story is well enough known: uncertain even of his senses, my namesake needed first to slip his hand into the wound in his risen master's side to still his doubt. A terrible enough doubt, a terrible enough state of mind, so painfully solitary, to need such reassurance. What then of the need to slip one's hand into the wound in one's own side, the gash in one's own consciousness, in order to confirm one's existence, one's materiality, one's soul?
We are born into an age as though by lottery and pass through that into another and through that into another and through that another. You may call this process education, you may call it history, you may simply call it life. It is the same and it is true for all human societies, all congregations large and small. It is equally true for each individual, standing as each must, naked and steadfast, in the absolute uniqueness and liberty of his own soul.
Absolute uniqueness and absolute liberty...the only acceptable definition of self. Still, there are consequences to our nature as social beings, to our participation, willed or otherwise, in a larger consciousness, a consciousness not truly our own. Duties are imposed, as inescapable as gravity.
Once, some long time ago, a friend sent me a greeting card: "Be patient," it read. "Someday your ship will come in..." (and inside) "...But by then your pier will have collapsed." It may well be that I have been blessed with many prescient friends.
I am left standing then precisely where I was all those years ago, essentially knowing nothing. Nothing, that is, but the journey of my own soul, the convoluted elaboration of my own consciousness, at once fragmented and reassembled by the age into which it was born and the ages it has passed through. Some of those fragments I will collect here, whether to appease a narcissism or to complete a therapy I could not say. The conflict between two imperial dicta, the literary and the delphic, remains unresolved, but its unresolved state no longer provides a refuge from the promptings of the soul.
As it turns out, in the end, I must, after all, write something.