It was April 15 one year ago today, in 2015, that I picked up this journal and snapped.
I had purchased the book full of blank pages at Hobby Lobby on clearance for $3.59 and started occasionally scribbling in it on Oct. 26, 2011. Through April 14, 2015, I had filled roughly two-thirds of the book.
Then I sat down on the morning of April 15 and wrote four pages. The next day I wrote two more. The day after, another two. Suddenly I was writing in the journal every day. The morning wasn’t complete until I’d scribbled something down in the book.
I got to the bottom of the last page on June 16, then opened the blank journal Red had given me for Christmas 2014 and started writing. It had taken me three and a half years to finish the first journal. It took me six and a half months to finish the second.
The point was not to set down finished thoughts but just to write, to clear out my brain by the physical act of applying words to paper. Writers write, a wise man once told me. And so I wrote. And wrote. And didn’t care if anyone would ever see the words or what they would think when they saw them.
Inevitably I wanted to share them. This blog has become a repository for some of that writing, but I never before shared any of that first explosion, until now. It wasn’t the best writing I’ve ever done, or the worst. But in the act of doing it, I became free to keep going.
Here it is:
You see it now, don’t you? He said, his eyes burning with the light from the glowing screen, the screen that was not as bright as a moment before but would never be this bright again. When all the screens are shut off and all the networks are disintegrated, there will be no words in the ether and all these electrons will be scattered to the winds. And all that remains will be the words committed to parchment and paper with ink and carbon.
Yes, fire will burn the words if you burn long enough, but not as quickly and efficiently as turning off the power. That is why we have kept the printing presses running, why we keep scratching into our journals, every strike of the pen a revolution, every turn of the press a declaration of war against you who would silence the poetry and prose of the ages.
You can’t shut every mind away from every other mind, not as long as we have words to share across time and space. The hieroglyphics mean something. The cursive represents an era. Those who can unlock the key of the written language are a time machine.
This pen you see as a weapon is a life giver. When the battery is dead, the words to cure the illness will still be on the page. When the battery is dead, the Lord thy God will still command you to Love One Another. Why the battery is dead will not matter, because the words will fight on.
Oh, the tyrant will triumph for a few days or years, but the words will be found, the books will sit and wait for the tyrant to die – here, in this quiet and peaceful library, the words will wait, and one day a child will find them and learn to read them and discover that we are all alike, the lot of us, and our uniqueness is our strength – all alike in desiring to be someone, all unique in a way that no other of us can quite be – the words in the books show us, and the books with their fragile fluttering pages will outlive the electrons.
Hello, Dickens, you look as young as the day is long. Hey Bradbury, my father, I found Charles D in your hair and spilling out of your ears. Did you know when Oliver walked the streets that he was sending Spender to Mars? Have you seen my Wildflower Man? He walked the fields with Ebeneezer.
He turned the page and smoothed it over. Two more blank pages shone in the dim light of predawn.
“Not blank for long,” he whispered. “Fly, pen, set more cascading words across the white and spill these thoughts into eternity. Hello, years from now! I with this pen strike down mortality and hail you from your distant past. What was I thinking when I gazed into the distance and saw death approaching and surrendered. Fie, death, fie! As long as my white plume waves, you shall never defeat me. My words speak to children yet unimagined. Scatter the electrons and I will write them down with a pen. Take my pen or run out of ink, and I will find a pencil. Take my paper – oh, then there may be a quandary. But the words already printed, already scratched, they will linger. They will sit on the shelf for years, waiting to be pulled into a new time and explode all over again.
I am the only free man in this room, for I have committed words to parchment. Centuries from now the parchment will be frail and crumble to the careless touch, but the electrons will be long gone.
All stories are the same, you say? One needs only learn the formula, the skeleton to build flesh over, and one can live forever as a master storyteller? Perhaps. It is true that all of our stories are the same, and yet all of our stories are different. We tumble bawling and naked into this world, we live a life, and we give up the ghost in the end. Thousands of days and millions of seconds to fill the pages of our time machine, to offer up our hours as a suggestion of how one life was lived.
Perhaps a phrase or a page or a story or a book will be melded into another heart, another life, and turn the direction of that life another way.
Or perhaps this life will serve as a cautionary tale – Don’t live as I did, find another way! – but we each have meant something different – each passing is an immeasurable loss. No one like this will pass this way again – this soul in this vessel is gone forever.
Except for the words left by the vessel on the immortal page.