Are you already wondering what I mean by “the veil”? Whether you’ve read my essays before or not, you likely have a suspicion. Do I have a ghost of a chance at keeping you reading if I admit that the answer is a bit metaphysical? At least till I’ve made my case? That’s the spirit!
It’s really not such strange talk for us, is it? We writers attach the numinous to the act of writing all of the time, even if it’s tongue-in-cheek. We speak of being touched by the muse, or hearing our characters speak to us, or capturing an idea before it gets away.
I’m not really going to ask you to take too great a leap from there. Rather, we’ll just be going one. Step. Beyond! (Any Madness fans? No? Ahem. Sorry.)
Déjà Vu, Too?
“At first the beauty of the melodies and the interwoven words in the Elven-tongue, though he understood them little, held him in a spell. Almost it seemed that the words took shape, and visions of far lands and bright things that he had never yet imagined opened out before him; and the firelit hall became like a golden mist above seas of foam that sighed upon the margins of the world.” –Frodo Baggins, experiencing Elven singing in Rivendell (from The Fellowship of the Ring, by J.R.R. Tolkien)
My wife and I recently attended a one-man show called The History of Ireland Through Music, by Colm Keegan. During one of the more mesmerizing songs I glanced at my wife. She looked entranced. The lyrics were in Gaelic, a language neither of us knows. At the song’s end we made eye contact, and she whispered, “Had a bit of déjà vu, there.” I’d sensed something spooky-cool about it, too.
The moment reminded me of Frodo’s experience in Rivendell. So during the ride home I asked her about it. She told me it was a fleeting dreamlike feeling, almost like a glimpse at a past life experience.
I’m guessing most of us have these incidents. Some are more powerful than others, but not everyone is interested in examining them. They can be easily dismissed as simple trick of the brain, or synapses misfiring.
I, on the other hand, am fascinated by them. Because those moments of déjà vu—particularly the ones that feel like glimpses into a past life—are as close as I can come to describing my initial encounters with my story world. I hadn’t written fiction in many years, but day after day, session after session, this historical world opened before my waking eyes in a very dreamlike fashion. Characters came to me fully-formed, as if I’d known them all my life. The landscape was as familiar as my neighborhood, but I knew I’d never been there. The story unfolded for me as if I’d become its cosmically assigned scribe. Again and again I found myself asking, “Where is this stuff coming from?” [Read more…]