Photo exclusive property of Christine Thomas
Literary Lotus is taking a wee vacation–that’s why in the post below I’ve left you something to do: contribute your favorite saying. This way I’ll have something new to which to return when I get back early next week.
Here’s one to start you off, a Hawaiian proverb from ‘Olelo No’eau : Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings by Mary Kawena Pukui.
[Photo Exclusive property of and viewable at One Moment More]
…Sid could no longer drive, and even with his weakness for the supernatural Arlan loved his grandfather. But that wasn’t why he’d willingly positioned himself to accompany Sid to the seance that night, supporting something as illogical and impossible as communing with the dead. Arlan’s predilection for gambling on matters of wit and knowledge had got the better of him, and just as Sid said—Sid who’d long been trying to cure Arlan of his blind reliance on the corporeal—a bet’s a bet.
So in one corner was Sid—who proudly called himself a spiritualist, even listing that as his religion on a recent hospital visit, much to the colonel’s embarrassment—and in the other, Arlan—who was an Episcopal in name only (even joking that it was Catholic-light) and believed strictly in what could be perceived with the physical senses. Either Sid would prove to his grandson that the physical was often mere illusion, or Arlan would forever remain close-minded (Sid’s words) and his grandfather would never mention magic to him again.
But magic is our real history Arlan, Sid told him the day of the bet. It is more ancient that even the most entrenched religious systems, which have long admitted the existence of spirits. My own study of early ecclesiastical literature reveals accounts of plain psychic manifestations. Even the Bible there are demonic possessions, prophetic visions, spirits returning to warn of impending death and betrayal, and myriad angelic visitations—think of the many miracles Moses alone performed! Even in contemporary times I entreat you to think of Joan of Arc, the talismans worn by clergy and heathen alike, saintly—
When Arlan interrupted, insisting that they too were simply charlatans who preyed on the desperate, then puffed on his pipe and rattled the stem on his teeth with a sort of glee, Sid held his breath for a good pause, then continued undeterred.
Consider this then: think of the most conservative, uptight Englishman you know, and even he—or someone like him—would have no hesitation speaking of a ghost in the upstairs bedroom of his manor house, believing it to be completely real. At funerals, priests and mourners equally talk of the deceased hovering nearby to comfort those who live on—yet you still reject the very idea of spirits? Faith, philosophy, and even psychical research are based on the sincere belief in the veridical evidence that physical death is but the gateway to continued life.
It’s as impossible as perpetual motion, said Arlan his smirk disappearing. We are our minds and our bodies. When they die, we die, and that’s that. Puff puff.
Yes and we were once convinced the world was flat, said Sid. Allowing for the existence of life after death makes our time on earth richer than you give it credit for. One who loves life as much as you do should think about how much you are missing.
Rattle, rattle, went the pipe, and Arlan stood to leave.
And thus Sid proposed the bet, knowing it to be a sure way of regaining his grandson’s attention, and Arlan joined in with the terms. If he couldn’t convince his own grandson to open his mind to the possibilities of a world beyond the physical then his illusions, meant in part to reconcile the physical and the psychical, were truly for naught.
After all, a magician wants to amaze, yes, but his tricks do not invent something from nothing. No, like the writer’s stories, they instead reveal something that may not have before been visible, but was nonetheless present all along.
[Excerpt from “The True Believer,” a short story, © Christine Thomas]
1868. It is on the fourth day after my vision—that the fourth numeral signifies death does not escape me—when I hear the rumor snaking through the streets. I walk the crowded market followed by talk of a boat, said to be seated like a goose in the waters of Yokohama and set to take those willing to travel the seas to islands beyond the rising of the sun. They say the American in charge has not yet received the official seal of the emperor, but the boat will depart in just seven days. …
Once the SS Scioto comes into view my steps are arrested, and the farmer falls away. No wonder talk of it continues to inhabit the town. I have never seen one like it, no sails to glide upon the wind, no timbers reaching to the sky. This ship puts ours to shame, puffing out a grand tree of smoke and stretched out long and wide like a cat, lapping up the surface of the sea. Captain or no, I must board her at least once to behold the horizon from such easy height. …
A vision of another island captivates me. Another kind of floating ship anchored to the sea, but unlike Japan where I might one day have the opportunity to be free. After a time, to tend my own plot, eat a bounty of fruits and tubers coaxed by my own hand, feel the sun’s rays fall at my feet before disappearing behind the sea. To greet the world as I did in my youth, to feel my heart become whole once more, those missing spaces I cut out when my father died, when Sumiko left, finally filled. Able to breathe, to feel, and be. A place where I am not the samurai Asakura, but me. The very fragility of my faith frightens and reinvigorates me.
–an excerpt from “To Lose Is To Win”, my short fiction collection-in-progress. Find out the real story behind this photograph, and the photographer, at One Moment More. Photograph exclusive property of One Moment More
In the last ten or so years that I’ve been a freelance writer, I’ve been accustomed to living far from the venues in which my work has been published. This has meant a kind of comfortable anonymity in that for many years I never ran into someone I knew who had read one of my articles. Perhaps that was because I was always moving around, from Hawaii to Montana to London to Philadelphia to New York, and “someone I knew” was a pretty small group. Even in London, only a few other reviewers or authors saw my pieces in the The TLS.
Since I’ve been back in Hawai`i, even before I began writing regularly for the Honolulu Advertiser, that has all changed (as I’ve discovered before, but certainly during the 2nd Annual Hawaii Book & Music Festival last weekend). Former colleagues have told me they saw something I wrote for Hemispheres when flying to the mainland; hula sisters and friends told me they saw my reviews and column in the paper; former students and even my childhood dentist told me they saw my article in Spirit of Aloha when they were flying to an outer island. Anonymity? Not here.
Don’t ever think that people don’t read in-flight magazines, an editor told me, and it’s true. But I do hope they’re reading the latest issue of Spirit of Aloha, a gorgeous all-photography issue featuring a collection of startling, surreal and captivating shots from Hawaii-based photographers who aren’t unknown but aren’t the best know either: Sergio Goes, Ken Briner, Linda Ching, Scott Tylor (his website needs a good editor), and more.
I wrote the centerpiece, The Image Within, about the power of the Hawaiian image in particular. Here’s a taste, but click on the link above or the title of the post to read it in its entirety. (Then, of course, you can view the photos) :
“Over the years, the image the world holds of Hawai‘i has been shaped more by the intense gravity of photographs than any other communications source. Even though millions have visited in those years—some 200 million since the end of World War II—it is the many photographs of the place—beautiful, poetic—that make people feel connected and inspire the way visitors who haven’t yet arrived think about the state’s character and landscape. Like writing, the photographic image becomes a conversation between two distinct imaginations: The viewer anticipates and expects, the photographer presents. … “
Photo linked to Spirit of Aloha Magazine, with thanks!