Have we met before?

“You meet the one you meet amongst thousands and tens of thousands of people, amidst thousands and tens of thousands of years, in the boundless wilderness of time, not a step sooner, not a step later. You chance upon each other, not saying much, only asking softly, ‘Oh, you are here, also?’”

–“Love,” by Eileen Chang, translated by Qiaomei Tang

Countless times, I’ve wanted to say, “Oh, you are here, also?”

But I usually don’t because I don’t want to argue or freak people out. I want to say, “The world is vaster than we know and so are we,” but again, that scares people even though it speaks of a wondrous, seemingly infinite unity and breadth of the soul to me.

Some early Christians believed in reincarnation, but that belief–like many others–ended up on the cutting room floor. During my more volatile youth, I said that I thought the church where I grew up was–without malice–leaving out most of the big picture. This caused me no end of trouble. Outside my fiction, it has, more often than not, been better to keep silent since then.

In the old days, there was a fair amount of malice and politics destined to police what people thought and felt. I’ve read a lot of historical accounts of this, but frankly, I’ve never understood the uproar about differences in beliefs and interpretations. Such feelings have come around again in today’s political arena in left vs. right debates. So I understand how mob mentality works, but I don’t understand how one’s fear can be so great they need to join the political or religious mob.

But, I digress.

It seems likely to me that the people who are important in my life now might well have been important in another lifetime many years or centuries ago. If so, this would make us a timeless extended family whether we recognize each other or not. I think a lot of people ponder this, though many of them discount it because they don’t consider the idea might be true.

Knowing whether it’s true or not probably isn’t required for us to live spiritual, highly moral lives. If I knew you in ancient Rome, I’ll still treat you fairly today even if I’m consciously ignorant of our previous friendship or previous discord. Our decisions are based on who we are right now. Or, at least, that’s how I see it. However, I think people tend to communicate with each other at an unconscious level or even in their dreams and that this impacts many of their “real world” decisions and ideals.

But maybe not. It has always seemed better to me to believe that what I don’t know about the true workings of the universe will always be greater than what I know about them. I don’t like the word “impossible” because it doesn’t seem true to me even though I don’t know why it isn’t true to me. Have we met before?

Maybe so, but I don’t know where or when. Perhaps we can say, ““We’ll always have Paris.” We might have had something, somewhere. Odds are we did.

Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell writes magical realism novels (are you surprised?), the next one of which (“Lena”) will be released August 1 by Thomas-Jacob Publishing.

 

 

 

 

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Vietnam

Wikipedia photo

Some said we were killing commies for Christ, some said we were killing babies, some said we were killing civilians in a Sherman-takes-war-to-the-people style, some said collateral damage was to be expected, and some said we should be proud of what we were doing while others said we were supporting the wrong side.

Vietnam was the first war brought into our living rooms. Ken Burn’s Vietnam documentary has brought it back though some people say the war never left us even if we were born years after the April 29, 1975 photo was taken of an American helicopter at 22 Gia Long Street in Saigon evacuating civilians as the North Vietnamese advanced on the city. Some say we killed those we left behind.

Pro-Vietnam war and anti-Vietnam war Americans saw in this evacuation photograph a sad and sobering epitaph for the two million civilians, 1.1 million North Vietnamese and Viet Cong soldiers, 250,000 South Vietnamese soldiers, and 58,200 Americans who were killed during the war. The picture smacks of defeat, though the U.S. was not defeated: it left Vietnam based on the 1973 peace settlement. Nonetheless, what happened in Vietnam seemed like defeat because our political and military objectives were not met and, in fact, were impossible to achieve. Much of the anti-war anger comes from the fact that as the United States sent in more and more troops, its leaders knew that losing the war (by whatever definition one chose) was a foregone conclusion.

My wife and I see our reflections in the Vietnam War memorial this past summer as I find the name of a high school classmate two died there.

Those of us who were against the war wondered, with singer Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the Wind,”. . . “how many deaths will it take till he knows that too many people have died?”

There’s no point in rehashing the arguments here about whether we should have been there or not. I served two years and three months in the navy before leaving as a conscientious objector. The summer before joining the navy under the threat of being drafted into the army, I was in the Netherlands with one foot on the gangplank of a ferry that would take me to the safe haven of Sweden when I changed my mind and came back to the U.S. I regretted that for a long time. Burns’ documentary, which seems balanced to me, has brought back all the images and doubts and regrets and angers of those days of war and protest.

I’ve never felt comfortable saying I am a veteran, much less taking advantage of any prospective veterans’ benefits, because, while a pacifist, I still experience survivor’s by suggesting that I “fought” in the Vietnam War. I was on a aircraft carrier one hundred miles off the coast, a far cry from the terror and danger of those who served in-country. I was in Da Nang for only 24 hours as I flew back to the states for a change of duty assignment. I feel this guilt all over again as I watch Burns’ series.

Burns takes us back many years prior to the United States’ involvement, background which I think is necessary. He tells us that the U. S. initially supported Ho Chi Minh via covert ops in his fight against the French. I don’t think we knew that during the 1960s. He shows us images we want to forget. He makes us (well, some of us, I guess) wonder just what the hell we were thinking or if going there was really the right thing to do. Either way, we paid for it with a lot of blood.

Personally, I don’t think we’re past Vietnam as a country because we’re doing the same things again in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. I know I might be wrong about all this, but I don’t see the point of it. Ken Burns’ series has added a lot to the discussion about military intervention and national policy even though I could have done without the memories becoming energized again.

–Malcolm

Malcolm R. Campbell is the author of “At Sea” based on his experiences aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ranger during the Vietnam War. His novel “Eulalie and Washerwoman” was nominated for a Readers Choice Award in the fantasy category. Click here to vote.

 

 

 

 

STRAT

“I’m a boyfriend, father, musician, server, scientist, engineer, martial artist, carpenter and friend. When I feel like I don’t have anyone to turn to, I don’t. I just sit down, listen to the best music I can possibly find and I write. I write so much that I wanna fall in love with adjectives while twisting concepts in the sound of church bells accompanied by a metaphor. I write for me and you. Hopefully you get that I’m trying to give.” – David R. Campbell (STRAT) March 17, 1982 – August 5, 2008

Today, I celebrate my nephew’s memory and the power of his slam poetry and his rap.

He was, some said, at his articulate best with freestyle poems, poems that took off from the springboard of a word or a thought shouted out by somebody in the audience. It’s hard to capture such spontaneity on the printed page or even in a CD or DVD. The place and the moment were all wrapped up in what was being created and what was being given. It was, as we said in the 1960s “a happening.”

He was a rare talent and a continuous happening, gone much too soon, but never forgotten.

Malcolm

Other posts…

On Writer’s Notebook: Keeping the Place in the Story

On Eyeblink Fiction: a tempting snippet from Jock Stewart and the Missing Sea of Fire

On Sun Singer’s Travels: Waiting for Jock Stewart