One Unsettled Question

One question that remains unsettled about my possible identification as Philip K. Dick in my most recent past life is a simple but fundamental one: Where was Dick’s Englishness?

I’m as English as Blackpool Rock, marked “Made in England” through and through.  I get asked all the time if I’m British because I have an RP cadence to my inflection.  Those who have read my books are even more surprised when they see me at conventions in America as I write with a distinctly British voice that Phil didn’t have.  While I was living in the UK, I experimented briefly with dropping my American accent around the locals and I was able to fit in perfectly; I had planned, for a while, to lose my American accent entirely and settle in England before a lack of money and a chance for love brought me back to the States.  Truth be told, I’ve been a devoted Anglophile since childhood; I seem to have a much stronger emotional impression of England as a “home,” and my memories of my last life in England are actually clearer and more complete than my memories of Phil’s life.

Phil, on the other hand, seems to have been a much stronger Francophile than an Anglophile.  Granted, I am in the odd position of being quite fond of France myself, and in my English lives I often spent significant amounts of time in France, but his admiration of the French seemed more of a literary obsession than one driven  by past lives.

I have several theories on why I have this essential and anomalous Englishness after having had an earlier past life in the US.

The first and most obvious theory is that I’m wrong about having been Phil.  In fact, my initial impression was that I had lived multiple lives in England in the 20th century with one life as an adult in the 1960s, though no specific memories came up.  Phil’s memories were a bit of a wild card that I hadn’t been expecting, since I first turned to his works and bio as a pattern for what to do with my own experiences.

The second theory is a simple matter of activation.  Perhaps Phil never had an experience that activated that Englishness in him.  The problem is, I find it difficult to nail down any such experience in my current life, since I was an anglophile from a very young age but never actually visited the UK until 2001.  It is possible that one of the numerous films and TV shows set or produced in the UK I watched as a child may have been the trigger, but which one?  There were so many!  What I do know is that by 2005 after living in the UK for a year and a half (with a hiatus of a few months in 2004), clear and present past life memories were lurking just below the surface, influencing my decisions and tearing at my heart strings in profound ways.  However, the exact point it rose to that level is still a mystery to me.

The third theory is perhaps the most unusual and the most problematic: that this progression is evidence of non-linear time.  If I were to go by how clearly I remember things, I would rate John’s life as the most recent, followed by Phil’s, followed by Count William, followed by all the others.  But does that mean that they were out of sequence or, indeed, that these are really past lives per se?  Could some or all of them be future lives?  And if I’m Philip K. Dick’s past life, strange as it might sound, is his destiny fixed or can I choose to live his life differently if I find myself born as him?

I’m rather partial to the second theory right now.  The first theory has some problems in that it doesn’t fully account for confirmed memories and an astonishing number of preferences, beliefs, and character traits that have carried over from Phil, and the third theory is harder to falsify than the first two because I can’t know if I’m destined to be reborn in Chicago in 1928 until I actually arrive there.

I suppose this Englishness is a good thing in that it has distinguished my current life’s writing from Phil’s.  For me to sincerely “copy” his style I have to drop all of the literary idiosyncrasies of a British author and it comes off forced and contrived, so I don’t do it.  I let it roll and embrace it as a part of my unique style.  Still, it does seem strange and I wish I understood it better, since it seems to be one of the most prominent features of my being.

Well…

It seems not only has my writing gotten a small but noticeable spike in interest with fans of my previous life’s work, but it’s also attracted the attention of someone I knew in that life.

I should be glad I suppose, and to some measure I am.  But I’m also terrified because the fact that I think I might have been Phil isn’t exactly a well-guarded secret, and the fact that my writing isn’t- nor can it ever be- quite the same as I have another 30 years of living as a completely different person behind it now.  I have to tread very lightly or I’ll risk immense ridicule.  I find that keeping my public persona divorced from my past life claims was a very good decision but I worry that it won’t be enough.

Nonetheless, I take some solace in knowing I can still write things that my previous life’s fans enjoy.  Even if they don’t know it’s me, if I can make them happy then I’ve done what I set out to do.

I’m entering new and uncharted territory here.  There is nothing in my experience- in past lives or in my current one- to prepare me for the extreme positive and negative possibilities that present themselves.

At least I’ve still got the I Ching.  That hasn’t changed, nor will it change in another thousand years I imagine.  I do my readings with three silver half-dollars from the 40s and 50s (two “Walking Liberty” type and one “Ben Franklin” type) and it seems to bring me some direction and stability through that link to an earlier time, even if I’m just tapping into the answers I already knew and engaging in superstitious sympathetic magic.

I’m due for another reading on my current condition tonight, I think.

Memory From A While Ago

I had a memory from a week or two ago that I only now feel emotionally prepared to talk about.

I remember seeing my own autopsy as Phil.  Specifically, I remember seeing my own brain and feeling a profound sense of despair as it was prodded, a very large blackish-red clot was found (in the right hemisphere if memory serves me), the brain was weighed (slightly below average weight, I seem to recall), and that was it.  The brain that had been my conduit to the divine was just a lump of useless medical waste; there was nothing special about it.

The doctors performing the autopsy had never read my work and knew nothing about me, as far as I could tell.  To them I was some old man  who had died the way so many old men before had died, of a massive blood clot that had triggered a chain reaction and ultimately, heart failure.

And I think at that moment I was in such despair that I began to forget everything I had ever done or been, because it no longer mattered.  I felt I had been cheated, I thought I would be whisked away to paradise when I died and I had welcomed the end… I had even opened the door of my apartment and staggered to the sofa so they’d find me just like the vision I had a few years earlier, slumped between the sofa and the coffee table.  I thought my destiny was set and I let it happen on purpose.  For what?  Such hubris!  Barry told me to get to a hospital, didn’t he?

I suspect neglect to injury is a kind of self-harm that has real consequences, in hindsight.  I could have survived that stroke if I’d gotten to a doctor in time.  I know this because I was well enough to drive home, open my front door, and get in position to make a grand gesture.  I could have lived, but I decided to act out my visions instead and all I got in return was a front row seat to my own autopsy.  No Valis.  No palm tree garden.  Just death, then another life where I spent 29 years wondering what the hell was wrong with me.

Next time, so long as I’m conscious enough to get help and medical assistance is an option, I guess I’ll follow what amounts to “due diligence” in the ontological sense.  Once we are alive, we have an ontological duty to remain alive per se; Kant, you smug bastard, you were right after all.

*   *   *

A stroke is a medical emergency that requires immediate attention.  Don’t wait.

A Lasting Effect

I find that my response to body horror is still intensely strong almost 2 years after my last graphic memories of the war broke.

I can say for an absolute certainty that I was jaded about body horror before.  I think if anything, I found it uninteresting because it moved me so little.  Now I find myself avoidant of it because my response is too strong.

I wish I could get those images out of my head.  You can look at photographs from WWI and it doesn’t do it justice; you can’t, for instance, see the sickly purple color of a bloated corpse or smell the odor of death.  It can’t give you the feeling of accidentally touching cold, dead skin and it can’t give you the immense emotional shock of seeing men you’ve trained with become red stains on the earth.

I feel nauseated now just thinking of it.  This wouldn’t have even come up if I hadn’t come across some body horror-themed artwork today which, though stylized and unrealistic, still drew me into an unwelcome place mentally.

I think this has a lot to do with why I became a vegetarian.

New Discovery

So I found a biography of William Longespee on Wikisource, copied from “Dictionary of National Biography 1885-1900.”  It confirms that I was a bit of a yes-man in those days and did some regrettable things, but it also seems to be full of useful facts.

I’m still going over it but one interesting fact stands out: Count William did hold a possession in France, the castle of Pontorson in Normandy.

Pontorson, incidentally, is VERY close to Mont St. Michel, which now gives me a valid excuse to go there when I can get to France, though I have wanted a reason to go there for many years now  Sadly, I can find no mention of the castle so it seems it is no longer standing.

So I did own land in France… but only a castle on the very edges, which I no doubt had lost by 1215.

Latest Reading

After a blitz of promotion for my new book, I did another reading to get a bearing on my current condition.

I got hexagram 58 changing to hexagram 39, which long story short I interpreted to very clearly mean “Well done, now that’s far enough.  Anything more would be too much and would be counter-productive.  Wait a while and watch it grow.”  In particular, the changes in lines 1-4 told of good progress and auspicious circumstances that would be stymied by too much additional effort.

Fair enough.  I can take a hint.  If nothing else the oracle has become a helpful companion for making decisions I’m not sure of, and seems to err on the side of caution while still giving prompts to take risks when the time is right.

I’m still going to print up some business cards and promote my work whenever the chance comes up but the initial rush of “BUY MY BOOK!” promoting and risky decisions is over for now.  I took a big risk, it seems to have had at least a modest payoff, and I’m not about to kill the goose before it even has a chance to lay golden eggs.

So This I Ching thing…

I disregarded my initial interpretation of my reading on the topic of promoting my new book, but made sure to at least adhere to the idea of staying on the side of correctness (both by following rules on the board where I posted and by not stating that I was Phil’s reincarnation) while still taking the risk to move forward and get the attention of those who might appreciate my latest work.

I was initially met with an angry exchange of comments, but it was from someone I had exchanged rash comments with before.  I kept my comments measured and reserved, and refrained from gloating when someone agreed with me.  Soon, the angry exchange from this person actually backfired on them and worked strongly to my favor!

In a roundabout way, I guess the oracle did help since it advised me that I could potentially take some light abuse and still end up better for that.  Still, I can’t say it did anything other than give me a little encouragement to make a bold move when a bold move was needed.

So is there anything special about the I Ching?  I don’t know yet.  I think I’ll keep playing with it for a while though.  This result is intriguing.

Edit: The curmudgeon who gave me a hard time got under the skin of the moderators on this particular board so much that he got himself banned.  Apparently they were none too thrilled about him trashing a book he hadn’t even read and then complaining to them about the content of my post.  I LOL’d.