“If anyone should ask me what God is, I should answer: God is love, and so altogether lovely that creatures all with one accord essay to love his loveliness, whether they do so knowingly or unbeknownst, in joy and sorrow”.
A couple of months ago, the revision of my novel ‘Flint and Feather’ completely stalled. I had no resources to fix it. My well of images was stone dry! So I’ve been writing other things, painting, singing, getting qualified to teach English as a foreign language and whingeing to God. I’ve also been digging out last year’s summer wardrobe now that spring is here and sprucing up what I can still get into, which this year amounts to ... er, some scarves.
One of these is a small silk square my husband brought back with him from a trip to Taiwan a few years back. It’s bordered with sets of fighting figures in colourful costumes and ornate head dresses. I remembered the shock I got when I first set eyes on it, because I’d awoken that morning directly from a dream – of battling oriental warriors – in fact, the characters depicted in my scarf had already appeared to me in my dream. It would seem that I’d ‘seen’ the scarf in advance of receiving it.
I’ve had sufficient experiences of this and similar phenomena to have researched, on and off, what is commonly referred to as ‘extra sensory perception’. Now, as I looked down at the scarf in my hands, the ‘edgling’ project came to mind. I don’t say I believe in it and I’m not going to write here about ‘ESP’. There’s still a web site online about the project (with an interesting article debunking the Theory of Evolution), for anyone interested.
The word ‘edgling’ brought me to ‘edge’. I’ve always been drawn to edges, extremities, including physically. My life view seems to be: “What’s the point of having an edge if you can’t jump off it?” Reckless, sometimes! But edges are also frightening, the proximity of unknowns. In pondering edges, however, it came to me that my novel is about ‘edges’ and about people on edges: of conscience, desire, reason and so forth and how they deal with these. And I realised that I’d stalled on my novel because I’d let my characters drift away from their respective edges.
There was something more, still related to edges, to ‘read’ in my scarf. My attention drifted from the illustrations of those scrapping warriors, to the centre, which is made up of a square of solid red. And this reminded me of another dream, in which I handed someone a gift, a gift of a square of red cloth. This was in 1997. It was a time of personal crisis – I’d just lost a second younger brother and both my parents, in less than a year.
The dream of the red square is one dream I’d never been able to fathom. At the time, all I knew was that it had to do with Love. As I stared down at the red square on the scarf, the significance of this dream became clear. As I looked at the red square at the centre of all the fighting on this scarf, I also remembered that somewhere along the line, I knew that my novel was to be an exploration of Love. I also feel I’ve been directed to explore this theme on my own behalf. If I describe the red square I offered in my dream as a red I associate with shallowness and the material as synthetic, I am saying that in the dream and in life, I needed then and still need now, to approach the terrifying precipice of Love.
The square of solid red on my scarf is right at the centre of warring figures. I interpret this square as the ‘Constant Heart’. There is no war going on within its boundaries, just ‘solid’ Love. Beyond its edges is the wasteland of humanity at perpetual war with itself – in perpetual suffering. A definition for ‘square’ is defined as being ‘completely fair, honest and direct’. A good definition of ‘love’ and something to strive to become. I can barely imagine the horror of an existence without a ‘Constant Heart’ at its centre, without the state of Absolute Love to strive towards. If there is no ‘Constant Heart’, no Love, then there’s just perpetual suffering ad infinitum. Thanks, but no thanks! It doesn't make sense.
Love is the epicentre of Jesus' teachings. It is central to Christianity and this seems to single it out from other religions: 1 Corinthians 13: "So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love".
If I think about ‘square’ as a verb, ‘to square’ something also means to ‘set something straight’. I think this means I am also trying, in my novel, to set something straight about the issue of Love, certainly for myself.
Curiously, by chance, I just came across a magazine I let drop a few years back and its current issue is devoted to the theme of Love. It’s full of essays and art on the subject.
So it’s forward into battle again with ‘Flint and Feather’. I’m armed with a new level of consciousness, a magazine full of Love (and a copy of Donald Maass' Writing the Breakout Novel Workshop').