read this thing I wrote for Burlesque Press
# of literary mags submitted to: 4
writing progress made: wrote a short story and am in the process of revising an old short story
Currently I’m re-reading Sophie’s World by Jostein Gaarder. It’s about a fourteen-year-old Norwegian girl who begins a correspondence course with a mysterious philosopher. Since the book includes all of her “course” readings, it’s basically the history of philosophy in novel form. I’ve been dog-earing pages as I go along, marking ideas that I want to come back to.
This morning, I flipped to my first dog-eared page, but I couldn’t figure out why I’d marked it. What was it that I had thought was important? Do I not think it’s important anymore? Am I not the same person I was when I read the page a few days before?
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When I visited my friend Chris in New York last weekend, he gave me a nonfiction book to read: Occult America by Mitch Horowitz. I have been reading snatches of it in between chapters of Sophie’s World. The best part so far (besides the fascinating history of Mormonism) is about a young woman named Jemima Wilkinson, who was born in Rhode Island in 1752.
When she was twenty-four, Jemima became terribly ill and eventually fell into a coma. When she awoke thirty-six hours later from a motionless and near-death state, she told her family that the girl they knew as Jemima was dead and that her body had been “reanimated by a spirit” to “deliver the oracles of God.” She told them to call her Publik Universal Friend, and from then on she traveled the country, preaching and forming her own little religious sect of which she was the leader (Horowitz 19).
Being a Psychology major, this fascinates me. What exactly was going on in Jemima’s brain? Did she truly believe that she had become a divine spirit of God? Had this alternate personality been inside her for years and the sickness shook it out of hiding? How would she have been diagnosed if DSM-IV was around back then? Could it be that she was simply tired of her boring life on the farm and that this was her elaborate plan of escape? Or, maybe she truly was a spirit delivering oracles from God. Who am I to say?
In one sense, at least, Jemima truly was gone. She was not the same person when she woke up as she had been only a few days before.
I’m still in the ancient Greeks section of Sophie’s World, so I recently read about Heraclitus, who famously said that you cannot step twice into the same river. When you step into a river for the second time, both the river and you have changed.
This is the sort of thing that gives me goosebumps. The idea that every year, every day, every second, I am a different person. Who was that girl who marked the page in Sophie’s World yesterday? She’s not the same girl who is reading it today.
Nikki says that sometimes she imagines going back in time and talking to her younger self – giving her advice and comfort. Telling her, hey Nikki, it’s okay. Things get better later on.
Nikki (the Nikki of the Present) and I were talking about this the other day and wondering if maybe our future selves were trying to send us messages. I wonder what my future self would tell me.
If I sometimes can’t figure out what I was thinking just the other day, how can I figure out what I might thinking many days from now?
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When I was visiting DC, my friend Allyson said to me, “you’re so sure of who you are.”
It was one of the nicest and most perplexing things I’ve ever heard.
“Really?” I asked. “Does it seem that way?”
Because every day, I wake up as someone different.
1. Write a letter to your younger self. Give advice and comfort, but leave some things as a surprise.
2. Since you probably can’t ask your future self for advice, call your mom/dad/grandma/grandpa/Aunt Gertie, etc. and ask them. They would love to hear from you!