Terrible News

My cat might have cancer.

He’s got growths in his ear.  I know he’d been looked over less than a year ago and they didn’t find such a thing.

He’s an old cat so maybe it’s just age; I don’t attribute this to anything related to Phil’s experiences. I just hope it’s not cancer, or that it’s still treatable at this stage if it is.

I don’t know what losing him at this time in my life would do to me.  I’m still not right from everything I’ve had to deal with over the last 3 years (and this includes my memories of John’s life).  He seems so healthy otherwise, still eating like a pig and not slowing down much despite his age (I still have trouble catching him).  But I know he could go downhill fast.  I’m going to try to get this taken care of while he still seems more or less healthy and maybe I can keep my friend a few more years.  

I still feel bad for abandoning him to go to England when I was trying to find people and places that no longer existed or were no longer mine to return to, then abandoning him again when I lived six months in Las Vegas under my mother’s thumb making friends with the wrong kind of people and living recklessly.  I’m done moving around and having my fun… I just want to settle down in a stable home here in Oregon, and I want my cat to be there when I’m finally set and I’ve made something of my life.  I want an actual yard I can bury him in when we have to say goodbye… I don’t even know where I’d bury him if I lost him now, and I’d probably have to just let the vets incinerate him and I don’t want to do that!  I feel like I owe it to him to keep him in the best health I can until the day we can all spend the rest of our lives somewhere comfortable.

I’ve been keeping this to myself for so long but this blog is my confessional…  dammit, I’m sad and I’m scared.  I’m not ready to lose my friend.

Auspicious Timing

It seems 2015 will be a very interesting year to make my trip to see past life sites.  The Second Battle of Ypres won’t be the only anniversary being marked next year.

It turns out the Magna Carta will be marking its 800th anniversary in 2015, and William Longespee’s personal copy happens to be in the collection of Salisbury Cathedral: http://magnacarta800th.com/events/salisbury/
 
The few hazy impressions I have of that affair are of simply trying to get everyone to settle their problems without cutting any more throats.  It was meant to be an immediate solution to an immediate problem, not a legacy of social progress that has lasted the better part of a thousand years.  It really makes me wonder what makes the difference between solutions that stick and solutions that get forgotten and how I can apply that distinction here and now.
 
When I look back, I think I always wanted to do big things.  Maybe this is why.  Maybe I’ve always wanted to be more than a “one hit wonder” when it comes to big solutions to big problems.  It would explain what John wanted by going to war as much as it would explain what Phil wanted by writing works of philosophy in the guise of sci-fi novels.  The approach is always different but the goal, it seems, is always the same: I just want to fix things.

An Observation

Hotels in Ypres are actually really cheap.  I’m seeing prices in the $100-200 range for some really plush looking hotels in the heart of the downtown district.  For Europe, that’s pretty good.  I would venture a guess that a cultural and business hub like Brussels would probably have similar hotel rooms in the $300-400 range and a similar hotel in London would cost you $400-1000 a night depending on what neighborhood it’s in.

That being said, with centenaries looming hotels may be in short supply, though I’ll probably miss the anniversary of the Second Battle of Ypres by a month or two since I need to consider my schedule.  But this year’s centenary doesn’t seem to be affecting things too badly so that’s very promising (part of the reason Dad and I decided not to do it this year is because we expected the centenary of the first battle to cause crowds to swell year-round).  It seems that even if it does get difficult to reserve a room and prices go up during this summer, there will be a clearly-defined “off season” that will give me more options.  I’d rather not travel there during the fall or winter since Flanders is a pretty bleak place in Winter, but if that’s more doable that way, I’m open to it.

Whoa

I was working on another post when I had a really interesting memory fragment of looking at an illuminated page of what at first looked to be a manuscript in Greek; but the letters weren’t Greek per se, they looked different.  The thought flashed in my head that this was Coptic script so I looked up images of Coptic manuscripts.

It was a gorgeously illuminated page that started with a letter that I have identified as the Coptic letter Khei.  It was done in a dark red with ornate gold trimmings.  Looking at images of Coptic manuscripts on Google, while it has certainly told me that this was indeed a Coptic manuscript I was looking at, has not yielded that specific page.

Wish I could remember more.  This memory was from right out of nowhere and was completely unexpected.

THIS.

My current life, summed up in a single song:

What’s my name?  What’s my station?

Oh just tell me what I should do

I don’t need to be kind to the armies of night

That would do such injustice to you

Or bow down and be grateful

And say “sure, take all that you see,”

To the men who move only in dimly lit halls

And determine my future for me.

Another One…

Another weird coincidence involving Buddhism and a possible past life of mine has surfaced.

There was my discovery of the Wild Fox Koan (with the potentially useful admonition “don’t forget about cause and effect”) after recalling a possible past life as a fox near a Zen temple.  Then there was the group of Buddhist monks who made sand mandalas at Salisbury Cathedral around the time I had a flash of insight that my experiences following John’s death were actually compatible with what was taught in the Bardo Thodol.

Here’s another one.  It seems that very close to Philip K. Dick’s former high school, Berkeley High School in Berkeley, CA, there’s an institution called the Dharma College, a sort of Buddhist think tank apparently.  And the street it’s on, Harold Way, was very nearly re-named “Dharma Way.”

So Phil went to school near, but not on, a street nearly called Dharma Way…  and when you consider Phil’s erudite but troubled life and the double meanings of the phrase “Dharma Way,” well, it seems downright fitting.  You could say he spent his whole life “near Dharma Way,” but not on it.

File this under “interesting.”

Plans

I’ve begun discussing plans for next year’s trip to Ypres in earnest.

Currently, the plan is to visit not just Flanders, but to re-trace both John Harris and William Longespee’s steps.  This will not be particularly difficult to do because the two lived and were active in the same regions of the world for the most part.

Still trying to finalize exactly how many places I’m going to see.  Ypres, Houplines, Salisbury, Shrewsbury, and Hereford are at the top of my list, obviously.  My trip to Ypres will definitely include stops at Bellewaerde/Railway Wood, Hill 60, and Tyne Cot though I may also go to Langemarck as well… I did put a few men in there after all and I feel I owe them more respect than I gave them.

Then of course, I feel I have to go see John’s grave though I have to say the thought of being there brings a lump to my throat.  I still don’t know what I’ll do or say or if I’ll even say anything.  I may just ask for a moment alone under that willow tree and meditate for a bit since that seems the only really honest thing to do.  

Since it’s so close, a trip to Bouvines is also likely.  Those wounds have healed long ago, but the extreme coincidence of being captured and then killed in battle about 700 years and a few kilometers apart has not escaped me.

I would like to go to Ile de Re simply because my memories of Longespee’s twilight days at the abbey there, though sparse, aren’t unpleasant.  I’m also very eager to go to Fontrevaud Abbey to pay my respects to Henry II, Eleanor of Aquitaine, and above all Richard I (wish I knew what became of him in his later lives).  

Ideally, I would like to leave France via ferry from Le Havre since that’s where John disembarked for Flanders.  I guess this is more a matter of ritual than anything and it brings the whole thing full circle.  If time doesn’t allow for that, I may have to make a concession to 21st century realities and catch the Eurostar from Brussels or Paris, but that will give me more time in England.

As for spots in England, I’m not sure if I want to go back to Dover Castle since English Heritage have gone a bit Disneyland on the place but if I do go, I’m probably going to stop in Canterbury since there’s a good chance I had been there as William; after all, as the son of Henry II, it would have been politically adroit to make a pilgrimage to the shrine of Thomas A Beckett.  A lot of this will depend on if I go ferry or Eurostar back to England.

Shrewsbury Castle is an absolute must, since it’s one of several spots relevant to more than one past life.  As Longespee, I was Sheriff of Shropshire and the castellan of Shrewsbury Castle, and it just so happens that the Shropshire Regimental Museum (which houses the archives of John’s regiment, the KSLI) is also there. 

If time allows, I’d like to also see some people and places from my current life that I haven’t seen in nearly a decade.  I’ve got loads of friends in and around London who would be very glad to see me.  I’ve also got a close friend some miles outside of Bristol who I’m very anxious to see again, and another in (I think) Banbury whom I’ve only spoken to online; both of them know about John, incidentally.  

Make no mistake, though, this is mainly a pilgrimage in the truest sense of the word and I can’t say I will be entirely comfortable going back to Ypres and Houplines; I’m going there first so that I can finally let go.  I guess I’ll always be sad for what happened to John and I’ll always have lingering questions as to whether I could have possibly been the same person, but I’ve become so involved in the story and uncovered so many twists that it hardly matters any more.

The Man In The High Castle

I’m about halfway through this one and I’ve been generally impressed by it.  It’s a dizzying, fast-paced story full of twists and turns and a plot that takes you places you hadn’t thought to go.

I was particularly impressed by the fact that one of the main characters is a very credibly-written antique dealer.

What I haven’t found so far is anything that confirms any of my memories.

I’m starting to feel like there’s a certain je ne sais quoi in the story that carried over into my current life’s style, but I have serious doubts about my ability to judge that objectively.

There were moments when I saw a bit of John coming through (like in his use of the anglicism “barmy” and a Victorian literary sensibility that seems to poke through here and there), and moments where a characters’ actions were described in an eerily similar way to how I would describe them, but nothing really jumps out as an “aha!” moment; just a whole lot of je ne sais quoi.

The day I can write something like this in my current life is the day I can really say I’ve surpassed the level of mere competence.

Next up on my reading list once I finish this one is “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldridtch.”  I look forward to reading that one.

AW HELL NO!!! (Writers Beware)

I went to apply for Amtrak’s writer’s residencies, but since they require you to submit a sample of your work I decided to read the fine print because I like to know what kind of rights I’m agreeing to when I submit my writing somewhere.

I came across this clause in the contract that was a deal-breaker for me (emphasis mine):

Applicant understands and agrees that Sponsor has wide access to ideas, stories and other literary, artistic and creative materials submitted to it from outside sources or developed by its own employees and agents (together, “Sponsor Creative”); and, such Sponsor Creative may be competitive with, similar to (or even identical to) the writing sample/answers to questions created and submitted by Applicants; and, Sponsor shall have no liability to Applicant or any third party in respect to or in connection with the development, use, sale and/or commercial exploitation of all or any portion of Sponsor Creative by Sponsor and/or its designees and licensees, all of which liability, if any, Applicant hereby expressly and irrevocably waives, releases and discharges.

Let me translate the Legalese here so nobody falls into the trap of thinking this is just boiler plate: what they’re saying is basically “Hey, we get a lot of stuff from our creative team, so if we copy your submission word for word and don’t give you credit, you have to sign a waiver saying you agree that it’s our copy writers’ work and not yours.”

That’s the catch. Amtrak’s residencies for writers will go to 24 schmucks and the thousands of writers who are submitting their work run the risk of giving them tens of thousands of dollars of free advertising copy.

I saw that and immediately closed the tab with my application without submitting it. I will NOT agree to terms like these under any circumstances, ever.

Spread the word.  This needs to get out.

File That Under “Maybe”

I hadn’t really expected to come across anything I’d be struck by in this documentary about Genghis Khan.  

I usually don’t get much of a tingle of the familiar from anything to do with Asian history.  It just isn’t something I feel drawn to for the most part.  So when I started getting that feeling watching this, I was a bit astonished.

Let me be clear: I do not think for a moment that I was Genghis Khan; he was a contemporary of William Longespee so that’s ruled out.  But something about his life and times, the places he lived, the way he lived, the look and sound of it, gave me shivers of familiarity.  I was also struck by some small but inconclusive similarities between my first novel and his life story, as if I had been familiar with his biography.  However, nothing stands out as an “Aha!” moment and it’s entirely possible I could have simply remembered something from a documentary when I was writing my work.

I have a strong sense that I lived in Mongolia some time in the 12th or 13th century, either right before or right after the time of Genghis Khan, but definitely not as Genghis Khan or, I presume, anyone who rode with him.