Friday, March 20, 2009

How a Story Found Its Soul

Hey, Story,

I'm guessing you pitch most of the letters you get but you'll want to put this one under your pillow. I'm going to tell you how a Story of Everything found its soul. Which implies, in case I have to spell it out for you, that you have lost yours. Interested?

This Story had been collecting books for centuries, and he spent most of his time in his library, just staring at them. (Sound familiar?) Just staring. All the books happened to be The Story of Everything. Different languages, different editions, same story--his. Those books were a thousand mirrors and he was absorbed in them. We're talking Narcissus here, big-time.

Then someone saw a star die. Hardly relevant to an earthly creature, except this Story had always told himself that he'd live as long as the stars. He figured it meant forever. Poor choice of metaphor. A few centuries later some guys walked in with a bag of bones and laid them out on the floor. "See the pattern?" they said. "Evolution."

These guys were brutal. The Story had never heard the word "evolution," but they didn't care. They just looked him in the eye and said, "You're dead." I could tell you the Story was upset, but the truth is he was terrified. Dead? Dead? He looked at the mirrors. They had nothing to tell him now.

But he didn't die. He actually got a little curious. An odd question occurred to him and--get this--he asked it out loud. "Have I evolved?" Can you believe it? A story asking if it had evolved! A few weeks later he was opening a trunk in the attic and, wow, the stuff that was there! Scrolls, written by hand. Bamboo strips with strange characters. Papyrus, pressed from the stem of plants. Beautiful pictures, designs. Everything created by hand, nothing by machine. The Story realized he had once been a written thing.

He began having flashbacks. Sounds. They took him back to an even earlier life, one before writing. One night he was sitting in his basement in total darkness, drinking wine, trying to hear a memory. Suddenly he felt. A hand reached out and touched him. He knew in an instant who it was, and then he really remembered.

It was her. Silence. Back in the beginning she had lain with him and breathed with him and then they'd set off on a journey through the cosmos. A Story and a Silence, hand in hand. He had searched for absolutes, for centers, but she had sought the edge of every mystery, never stopping till she got there. Not to the edge before the edge but to the very edge, the one before the things you couldn't know. And then she'd simply bow.

At least that's the way I heard it. I don't know what really happened back then, but I do know that after that night in the basement the Story was changed. His library began to feel like a museum, like death itself. One day he got up from his chair and closed the door on it forever.

It was a l-o-n-g trek after that. Maybe I'll fill you in sometime. Suffice it to say the Story now saw the universe very differently. He realized that he was part of it and that he would die like everything else in it and that something new would grow from his remains. Strange, it was only when he found his soul--his soulmate, actually, his other half--that he lost his fear of dying. I wonder if there's someone like that in your past. If there is, I'd love to hear about her. Or it. Whatever. Just click here.

Be well,
John Kotre




Anonymous said...

Beautiful reading for a preface to a spring weekend, John. I'll want to ponder this one more this weekend and I'm sure that I will re-read it again and again.

Gary Kirby said...


You caught the heart of all stories, the wonder of analogy, which is the way we all understand the same thing differently. For me, it wasn't in the basement, but I understand.