Why write this book?
"I wrote the book because I needed it in order to live. It was not something I wanted to do. I had to drag it out of myself. It was an often brutal and painful process, but I knew that it had to be done or I would die the sort of death that kills most other men slowly, and without them even knowing it."
Note: This essay includes some material that may be distracting to a reader who has not yet read the book. It delves into some of my thoughts regarding the bookís meaning and might affect your own interpretations. Reading groups may find fodder for further discussion here. Some of these ideas surface in other essays and I preserve them here in order to maintain the flow and cohesion of my thoughts.
I had, before I began the journey of Serpent Box, lost my way and lost myself. I was, at the time, what most people call drifting and what I would call dying. I no longer believed in me. I had no personal cause. I had no dream. I had my family, my wife and my children of course, and they were what kept me from going mad. They were my anchors. But I had just lost my job, my company and what I had thought was my purpose. But what had defined me to that point was entirely external.
I felt inside me an elusive and unpredictable source of raw energy. It was a ball of fire, a sense of a being, a sense of connection that would manifest itself in the morning, when my mind was clear and unfocused, and it was often triggered by very small, seemingly insignificant things. The sunlight on the trunk of a certain tree. An old man whistling an old song. A certain stone lying at my feet. A star. A gentle smile from a stranger Ė small things, small moments, it was as if the universe was speaking to me, and it was in these moments I felt most alive. Later on I realized that feeling was joy.
I began to think about life in a whole new way, not as a narrative or a series of big events, chapters, but as a collection of very small moments, most of which are so brief and so insignificant that they fly below the radar of my memory. I began to see and understand that those moments were more powerful and had greater effect on me than all the big events, the Kodak moments, all the other occurrences and milestones that I had previously used to define myself and my life. I saw connections between them, and, more importantly, between people, so many people, all the people that had touched, however briefly, my life, all the connections, all the contact, all the words, the touches, the smiles, the glances, the kindness, the love that I had received exactly when I needed them, and I began to see the world and the human lifetime differently. Little did I know that through this revelation I began to believe in something. I was beginning to believe in something big and great and wonderful, and though I did not know it at the time (and it took years to come this realization) I was uncovering, for the first time, the foundation for the meaning of life.
Iíve sat here before the page and Iíve asked myself a hundred times why I wrote the book. Writing Serpent Box was like climbing a mountain, and when you climb a mountain it does not suffice to say that you climbed it simply because it was there. Maybe the book was there, in me all the time. Maybe I wrote it because it was there, but unlike Sir Edmund Hillary I could not look out at it, up at it, and I had no Tanzing Norgay to guide me, no false starts, no failures to study. I climbed an invisible Everest, mostly alone, which, when you think of it that way is insane, so itís perfectly logical to ask why. Why do that to yourself?
I wrote Serpent Box because I wanted to know the meaning of life, not just my own but all others before me and those to come. I wanted to know my purpose and I wanted to know how to live. Writing Serpent Box taught me how to live. Do you want to know how to live? Write a book. But not just any book, write a book you have no business writing. Write about something you donít know. Write a book about a life. Put yourself into the heart of every man, woman and child in that world. Summon them out of the depths of your own heart. Break yourself into a thousand pieces and put them all back together again. Writing a novel is a process of fragmentation and reassembly. Sometimes you have to break something open and examine the parts before you can know how it works.
Those people, my people, Serpent Boxís people - Charles and Rebecca. Jacob. Baxter and Sylus. Magdalena and Daniel and Hosea. Theyíre a kaliedascopic me. I make no bones about that.
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