Saturday, 29 November 2003
Topic: from the soapbox
So, I was in a car accident last Sunday. I remember it was just starting to snow, that kinda half-snow, half-rain that makes the roads such a joy to drive on. Besides that and the fact that I was probably going too fast in the first place, I came to a red light and hit my brakes. Nothing, The car kept moving ahead, and hydroplaned right into the car in front of me. The fact that I saw it coming and stiffened up in anticipation, instead of letting by body go slack, that probably made it worse, but that’s another story for another time…
I can’t work or drive for now, doctors orders. I have bumps and bruises all over, and a bandage over my eye. Apparently I hit my head on the steering wheel. It took twelve stitches to close me up, and they told me I am lucky I didn’t lose my right eye.
So I decided I would take this time to catch up on some reading, and to get some writing done. I found an old battered copy of “Valis” by Philip K. Dick, who is, and anyone who knows me knows this, my literary hero. A mentor of sorts, a lot of my writing, not just stylistically but idealistically, has been inspired by him. I have read everything I could get my hands on written by Dick, back even before a lot of it was put back into print.
“Valis” deals with a lot of metaphysical themes, a lot of which are based on ideas that were only unearthed recently in the caves of Qumran and in the manuscripts found at Nag Hammadi. These ‘lost’ religious articles, suddenly appearing after sleeping in the desert for two thousand years, have always intrigued me.
One thing about having all this time off work, is I have way too much time to think. Not just about the life of a mad genius sci-fi philosopher who died poor and unrecognized, and would not garner any real fame or respect until twenty years past his death. Not about the strange coincidence that I have been interested in the Dead Sea Scrolls since I first heard of them, and just happen to pick up this book where my favorite author of all times is talking at length about them. And what exactly does that mean, what does that imply if anything? That these two fascinations of mine would merge here together as I lay bed-ridden and broken. Coincidence? Synchronicity? Fate? Quantum Holistics?
Or is it merely that my mind being as it is, is attracted to the writing of Phil Dick, and as such is also attracted to the long buried manuscripts of an ancient secret society. Not necessarily an eerie similarity, but a matter of “well, naturally I like his writing, because he is interested in the same, weird, whacked out things that I am”.
When my mind isn’t playing this metaphysical game of chicken and the egg, it is trying to weigh me down, drag me into depression, based on the accident and the consequences there-of.
I nearly lost my eye, half my head is covered in bandage, the area just below my eyebrow has been repaired with stitches, it is black and ugly like a caterpillar resting on my eyelid. “Right Peri-orbital Laceration” is what they call it. My face is no longer symmetrical. The right side of my face is swollen, puffy and a sickly bruised yellow in color. Half of my head is sore and in almost constant pain, the other half is still numb- completely without feeling, like Novocaine has been shot into my skull. The pain or the numbness, I’m not sure which is scarier.
My shoulders are sore to move, my knees are wounded and scraped. I have random bumps and cuts about my body. My sides hurt when I laugh or bend the wrong way- ribs or internal organs or just superficial bruises? Its a lot to think about when you have nothing but time to sit and think. No wonder I’ve been trying to occupy my mind with such heavy subjects as the Gnostic Gospels.
Never mind the fact that my car is gone. And I don’t know when they will let me drive again anyway. Transportation, work, money- they are all trivial things in the light of health- but they are issues which weigh on me late at night when sleep will not come.
Why did this have to happen? Why now? Just when things were beginning to fall into place. A job I could bare to go to everyday, a nice little routine I was falling into where I would be content. There were some things to look forward to, a book I was planning on publishing once the funds were there. A girl I wanted to fall in love with once the time was right.
And then suddenly, in literally an instant, it was all turned upside down. Everything seems to be up in the air at this time. One step forward then two staggering steps back. And the work it will take to get back to where I was has just seemed so overwhelming. I can do it I know, but in my darker moments I wonder if I should bother, whats the point?
And once the darkness of depression splinters into my brain, it clouds over all else and turns it to black. All hope, all dreams, black. And the lingering question of “Why?”
So last night I was searching around the Internet for information of the Nag Hammadi texts, the Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Gnostic Gospels. I found a few good sites and read as much as I could before the weary gloom would creep its way into my thoughts.
I tried a different search then, on Philip K Dick. I have read most of his work, but don’t know that much about him; only what they put at the end of the books in the About the Author Section, and from the seemingly form-lettered publicity profile: Born in Chicago, lived in California, wrote 110 short stories and 36 novels, ate dog food in the grips of poverty, was addicted to amphetamines to keep his prolific writing pace, was married and divorced 5 times and died of heart failure in 1982. I was hoping some web site out there could help me glean a little closer into the actual man behind these words.
I found one site, where they had clips of Dick actually speaking. Actually speaking. In the fifteen years I have been reading his work, I had never heard his voice before. I listened to the first clip; an hour long tape Dick had recorded as a synopses for a novel he was working on, he recorded it on tape rather than type it because of a broken arm at the time.
His voice came through my stereo, a kind voice but obviously roughened by cigarettes and booze, and that slur that only comes from years off drug abuse, the “acid accent” I call it- and the fact that his words would sometimes meld together as he spoke a mile a minute trying to keep pace with his racing mind.
Once I adjusted my brain to hear his odd way of speaking, I lay in bed and felt like he was there in the room, telling this idea he had for his next book directly to me, in confidence. Bouncing the idea off me in private discourse.
The next clip was an hour long interview. By interview it meant that the host of the radio show would ask a simple question, and Dick would veer off on several tangents and cover as many and as few topics as he cared to before he would allow another question.
Somewhere in the middle of a rant, Philip K Dick somehow came upon the subject of God, this didn’t phase me all that much. It was obvious that the Great Beyond was a matter of deep thought for him and for me as well. I sat an listened as his low-flying form of conversation strafed over many religious, spiritual and metaphysical hot-points. Touching for a second, a moment of lucid, profound thought swirling out of a tornado of jumbled words and thoughts, and moving on quickly to the next target.
He got on the subject of Gods Will and his Ways. The mysterious ways in which he works. How he makes things come to be.
Sometimes, he was saying, (I am paraphrasing here) God has to take measures to bring people to their destiny. People get stuck in routines and will stay in those routines unless physically removed. So God will take action to put people where they need to be, to meet people they need to meet. And he will do this by the simplest means possible.
Such means as, say, a car accident. ( My brain nearly jumped out of my head at hearing this.) Sometimes the easiest way for God to put you where you need to be is in such a tragedy. You wonder, why did this happen to me? It messed up all my plans. Only in retrospect do you realize, if I hadn’t been in that car crash, I would never have met so-and-so. That car crash was the best thing that ever happened to me, and such and such. Fate comes, he closed the topic, like a firecracker being dropped down the back of your pants by invisible hands. You are walking along minding your own business, and then BANG!!!
Well, hearing this, the talk of a fateful car accident, coming from a twenty-five year old tape of an interview with my literary mentor, it shook some things up in my head. Maybe the lack of real sleep, the pain medication and the long hours of solitary thought contributed to the significance it had taken. But it seemed to bring about some answers in me, and at the same time it also asked a whole new round of questions. Neither can be fully explained here.
The answers deal with fate and with life in general and the random curves it seems to throw at us sometimes. The questions tend to wonder about the same, and about the seemingly innocent paths we choose which invariably lead us to where we were bound to wind up anyway, and the harder we think we are fighting against our destiny, the more we are only hastening it; about random decisions and utterly meaningless moments that only make sense when we look back upon them; about time and space and synchronicity, and how a genius mad man returned twenty years after his death to tell me that all would be okay.