Elliott Baker takes over my blog today with a discussion of language and how we use it to view our journeys through the world.
We live in a thought generated universe. The universe that I live in has less stars that the one Neil deGrasse Tyson inhabits because I have never counted them, and he has.
|Photo by Jeremy Thomas on Unsplash|
As a writer, I find it instructive to allow my thoughts to wander. No one may ever see this, and that’s the magic of it. We are a sharing species. When you watch toddlers playing amongst the pebbles in a stream, they’re showing each other the wonderful variety of the shapes and the colors of the pebbles. There is obvious joy in doing that. All you have to do is see the look on one’s face when they pick up one more shiny than the last.
I am. I heard an article on NPR the other day about the last ship to bring enslaved people here to America from Africa in 1868. I cannot even make a comment on the institution of slavery. That it still thrives in the world is so demeaning to us all my mind balks. In truth, I’ve written a novel about our predilection for enslaving our fellow humans. On the program, a woman talked about the transference of language from Africa to here and she said something that I would share. When a language crosses over to another language, its first form is a pigeon version incorporating the lexicon and grammar of both, and that the African languages at that time did not use the verb to be, I am, I was, I will be. When speaking to someone before the advent of all of the communication advances we enjoy, it was self-evident that you were standing there and therefor, to communicate that fact was unnecessary.
I am not a scientist and will offer my usual disclaimer. My intent here is not to convince or illuminate. It is merely to share my understanding of a pebble I’ve just picked up. Pebbles are fascinating and if you find interest, find the pebble and look at it closer.
I’ve also heard that language is key to creating, and some might say warping our view of ourselves and through that view, the larger world. I would postulate, that enlarging your vocabulary does more than helping you craft a lyric line. Every star Neil deGrasse Tyson counts and describes, becomes a figment in his cosmos. We think in symbols and the more and more complex symbols we add, I would argue, the greater and more complex our world becomes. Which begs the question: Why aren’t we out there every day enlarging our worlds?
This damn place is frightening enough without adding more doors behind which could be monsters and things. Enter the ego. What’s funny is that I can feel my resistance increasing by just writing the word, ‘ego.’ There, I wrote it again. (I am getting tired of writing, of this line of thought which I probably won’t show to anyone anyway.) And this feeling alone is a good reason to keep writing.
I love reading stories. Other people managing to deal with the opposition of life, of heroes and villains. In the best stories, I’m there, close enough to not be here, at least enough not here to be distracted from the litany of daily stresses that must be dealt with, or else (these last two words are definitely an ego addition). What I benefit from is that by trying on the cloth of other people’s stories, I am able to broaden the reach of my own. Given the number of people who experience resistance reading, I wonder if the ego has a hand in that. The ego likes black and white. Yes and no. Good and evil. Adolescents like either-or choices, not so much adults with greater life experience.
So perhaps, the ego wants me to stop with ‘I am’ rather than adding the words ‘what,’ or ‘why.’ Seems reasonable to me that education would not be high on the list of things the ego would vote for. This is simplistic, but perhaps the ego is the toddler within us. It is determined to drive. Anything or anyone who challenges its right to drive must be diminished or removed. (an aphorism for killed.) So anything that offers alternate possibilities (like other people’s lives in stories) are considered too time consuming, too energy consuming, too hard. In Steven Pressfield’s book, The Art of War, he speaks of the resistance artists encounter. To be honest, I’m experiencing it right now. Instead of working on the book I’m writing, I am sitting here writing this train of thought which will probably not be reflected on anyone’s eyeballs but mine.
I believe that the ego wants us to exist in a state of mild misery. Every moment we entertain thoughts of less or threat, we use energy that could be put to much better use. The ego, desperate to maintain its control in a rapidly maturing world, continues to show us monsters external to us terrified that we might have a moment of reflection. We might actually stop and look at the monster within, turn that flashlight on and sweep it under the bed. Should we find the courage to do that, I think we’d find an angry, frightened, powerless toddler.
The reason names are so powerful is that they add reality with every use. I have named ‘the toddler’ and my continued naming of this insecure focus of fear within lessens its power to disguise the majesty of the world around me. Can our world really be limited to the frightening images that the news programs use to claim your attention? Get out there and count some stars.
Here is a little from my latest novel. I hope you enjoy it.
For three thousand years a hatred burns. In seventeenth century France two souls incarnate, one born the child of a prosperous merchant, the other, determined to continue an incarnation begun long ago.
In ancient Egypt, there were two brothers, disciples of the pharaoh, Akhenaten. When the pharaoh died, the physician took the knowledge given and went to Greece to begin the mystery school. The general made a deal with the priests and became pharaoh. One remembers, one does not.
The year is 1671. René Gilbert’s destiny glints from the blade of a slashing rapier. The only way he can protect those he loves is to regain the power and knowledge of an ancient lifetime. From Bordeaux to Spain to Morocco, René is tested and with each turn of fate he gathers enemies and allies, slowly reclaiming the knowledge and power earned centuries ago. For three thousand years a secret sect has waited in Morocco.
After ages in darkness, Horemheb screams, “I am.” Using every dark art, he manages to maintain the life of the body he has bartered for. Only one life force in the world is powerful enough to allow him to remain within embodiment, perhaps forever. Determined to continue a reign of terror that once made the Nile run red, he grows stronger with each life taken.
Three men bled out into the dirt.
René stared at the hand that held the bloody rapier. His hand. Tremors shuddered through his body and down his arm. Droplets of blood sprayed the air and joined the carmine puddles that seeped into the sun-baked earth. He closed his eyes and commanded the muscles that grasped the rapier to release their tension and allow the sword to drop.
Years of daily practice and pain refused his mind’s order much as they had refused to spare the lives of three men. The heady exultation that filled him during the seconds of the fight drained away and left him empty, a vessel devoid of meaning. He staggered toward an old oak and leaned against its rough bark. Bent over, with one hand braced on the tree, he retched. And again. Still, the sword remained in his hand.
A cloud shuttered the sun. Distant thunder brushed his awareness and then faded. Rain. The mundane thought coasted through his mind. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and glanced down hoping to see a different tableau. No, death remained death, the only movement, that of flies attracted to a new ocean of sustenance.
The summer heat lifted the acrid blood-rust smell and forced him to turn his head away. Before him stretched a different world from the one in which he had awakened. No compass points. No maps. No tomorrow.
The mere thought of his fencing master filled him with both reassurance and dread. René slid the rapier into the one place his training permitted, its scabbard. He walked over to where the huge black stallion stamped his impatience, and pulled himself into the saddle.
Some impulse caused him to turn his head one last time. The sunlight that surrounded the men flickered like a candle in the wind, and the air was filled with a loud buzzing sound. Although still posed in identical postures of death, three different men now stared sightless.
Their skin was darker than the leather tanned sailors. Each wore a short linen kilt of some kind that left their upper bodies naked. As strange as the men appeared, their weapons were what drew René’s eye. The swords were archaic; sickle shaped and appeared to be forged of bronze. These men wore different faces and yet their eyes—somehow he knew they were the same sailors he had just killed. René blinked and there before him the original three men lay unmoved. Dead.
For an instant his mind balked, darkness encircled the edges of his vision.
Do not anticipate meaning. The Maestro’s voice echoed in his head. Meaning may be ignored, but it cannot be hurried.
The darkness receded, and he reined the stallion’s head toward home.
René approached the linden shaded lane to the château. The stately trees, their clasped hands steepled over the gravel drive, had always welcomed him. Now they were just a faded backdrop that moved past the corners of his eyes. Could it have been only hours ago that the anniversary of his sixteenth year had presented itself like a gaily wrapped gift waiting for his excited appreciation? The day had dawned as grand as any he had yet experienced, and he had awakened early, eager for the morning’s light.
“Henri,” he yelled, as he charged down the marble staircase and into the dining room. Breakfast was set and steaming on the polished mahogany table. Burnished silver platters and cream colored porcelain bowls held a variety of eggs, sausages, fruits, and breads. How Henri always seemed to anticipate his entry amazed René.
“Oui, Master René.” Serene as always, the middle-aged major domo entered the dining room. Henri walked over to the table and poured a cup of tea for René. “ S’il vous plaît, be seated, sir.”
“I cannot. Maybe a roll and a link of sausage. Henri, do you know what today is?”
Henri paused as if deep in thought. “Thursday. Oui, I am quite sure ’tis Thursday.”
René took a still sizzling sausage from a tray and did his best to fold it within a baguette.
“Non, ’tis my birth date,” he managed around a mouthful of sausage and roll.
“Which one is that, sir?”
“How do you not know? You were there.”
“Well, I remember ’twas after the end of the war. Let me see. The war was over in…”
“Very droll, Henri. Your memory works fine, ’tis your humor that leaves room for improvement. Today is… so… I cannot explain, it feels like anything is possible today.”
“Given that there is still plenty of day left, perhaps you might sit down and eat. I expect you will need all your strength for a day so filled with possibility.”
“I cannot be late.” René gulped his tea and shoved the rest of the roll and sausage into his mouth.
“Happy anniversary, Master René.”
“Merci, Henri.” René checked his appearance in one of the grand foyer mirrors, and then strode toward the courtyard. The time had come to present himself to the Maestro.
René vibrated with excitement. He paused just inside the entrance to the training area. This was no way to face the Maestro. He sucked in a deep breath, exhaled, and reached for that quiet center. The torrent of chaotic thought stilled and that unique calm of intense focus settled around him. His friends Marc and Anatole sported their weapons in public. René had yet to earn that privilege. Disarming the Maestro was the only way, and since that possibility seemed as remote as the ability to fly, it generated a great deal of frustration.
Today, however, might be the day.
Award winning, international playwright Elliott B. Baker grew up in Jacksonville, Florida. With four musicals and one play published and done throughout the United States, New Zealand, Portugal, England, and Canada, Elliott is pleased to offer his first novel, Return, book one of The Sun God’s Heir trilogy.
A member of the Authors Guild and the Dramatists Guild, Elliott lives in New Hampshire with his beautiful wife Sally Ann.