Did the past really happen?

If you read deeply into the libraries of esoteric books, sooner or later you’ll discover the theory that the past, present, and future are all happening at once. Being mischievous, I gave this belief to the cat (Lena) in my novel Conjure Woman’s Cat who believes this theory is true. I think Lena might be right.

If you watch enough episodes of Laurence Fishburne’s “Histories Greatest Mysteries”¬†on the History Channel, it’s easy to start wondering if anything was what it seemed. Okay, so maybe John Wilkes Booth wasn’t shot in the barn when federal troops arrived. There’s a persistent amount of lore that he was sighted in numerous places in subsequent years.

For years, eyewitness testimony that the Titanic broke into two sections before it sank was discounted until 1985 when Robert Ballard found the wreck and proved that the eyewitness accounts were correct. I wonder if we will ever see the end of the various theories surrounding the Kennedy assassination. Heck, we can’t even be sure what’s true and what’s not true when it comes to the machinations of the federal government.

I’m thinking of all this because–with no fresh reading material in the house–I’m re-reading Holy Blood, Holy Grail, the nonfiction book from which Dan Brown drew information he used in The Da Vinci Code. One thing you notice in Holy Blood, Holy Grail is that a lot of important information has been suppressed or destroyed over the years by powerful people and institutions.

I’m not an aficionado of conspiracy theories. I tend to see them as misdirection away from the actual truth. On the other hand, over time, many of those theories were finally discounted by people who said they made it all up; it was a hoax from the beginning. When I see that, I tend to think the recantation is the real hoax.

Maybe yesterday is a computer simulation. Maybe the past is controlled by the powerful, similar to the idea that after a war the victors write the history. Maybe we’re all too busy earning a living and looking after our families to see the signs and portents that would help us tell the difference between what we think we know and what actually happened.

As an author, I love this chaos. It provides so many loopholes in reality that we can write alternative histories in which readers think, “Hmm, what if that’s what really happened?” If your intuition is above average, you might have a sense of what is real history vs. what is sanitized history.

Speculation about “the real story” seems to be a national pastime that’s bigger than baseball. We love hearing “the straight skinny” and the gossip behind the headlines. Everyone wants to be “in the know” even if they are, in reality, quite clueless. Ah, this situation is a trickster’s paradise.

Malcolm

When writing novels, I believe the author’s first duty is to conceal rather than reveal. You’ll see how this plays out in such books as Fate’s Arrows and “Conjure Woman’s Cat.”