The Lives of the Dead

Some of the most interesting people I meet are dead…

Archive for the day “June 26, 2014”

Lord of the Dance



I was Lord of the Dance. No. Not that one. I’m talking about the emotional dance that pulls people together in a tight embrace then sends them flying out, attached only by the clasp of a hand. Then back into a tango across the floor. Never too close for too long; never too far.

I knew how to lead, and the ladies followed, thrilled to the feeling of my arms safely around them; then momentarily frightened by the apparent loss of guidance. But I never lost control. They were always right where I wanted them; where I needed them to be.

Sometimes, I met a woman who tried to lead. It was an interesting challenge for a short time but I could never spend much time with her. For me, a good partner always trusted my moves, even if I sent her in a new direction, unprepared. A good partner went with the flow, the rhythm of the music. She never tried to turn a hustle into a waltz.

I had a few great partners in my time. You really have to hold on to them when you find them.




I feel a connection with each narrator. It’s as if I’m feeling their feelings and seeing the world through their eyes, while taking dictation. When I don’t know where to go next in a narrative, I just “go in” and ask for more information, and it comes immediately, and almost always as a surprise. I probably wouldn’t have chosen to be friends with of any of these narrators had I met them while they were alive, but I welcome them in now to tell me their stories.  

I’m noticing that I often get a few stories over the course of a day or two, all with the same kind of emotion or similar life situation or cause of death. A skeptic might claim this proves that the stories are coming from me – I’m thinking about a subject, and so I’m tapping that creative vein within myself. I can’t argue with that.

On the other hand, that’s not what it feels like.   It feels more as if I am inviting certain kinds of narrators to tell their stories because I find a subject interesting.

A skeptic might say, “She gets no specific details which could verify that any of these stories could be true. They’re too general. It proves nothing.” Can’t argue with that, either.

How it feels: I specifically ask for little or no identifying information.   This “project” is not about proving life after death. I believe, regardless of where these narrators are coming from, they having something worthwhile to say.   I want the focus to be on their messages, not on where the stories are coming from. (The narrators seem to agree, because they are playing by the rules.)   It does not feel as if I am making these up out of my own head, but if I am, they’re not coming from my conscious mind. It feels as if they were written by someone else.

I will say this: I am a very vain writer. I polish and take pride in every word. I love being quoted (as I am all over the place). I would never (and have never) claim another’s words as my own. It’s a matter of pride, not morals.   If I pass the words and ideas of others off as my own, eventually people will notice. That will cast doubt on the originality of my own words and ideas.    Furthermore, I write them exactly as they come to me. I don’t edit; I don’t polish; I don’t change. Occasionally, in rereading I will tweak a small word here or there or move a phrase, just to make things more clear, but they are pretty much verbatim.

I do think these stories are beautifully expressed so if I felt they were in my own words, I would be thrilled to take credit for them. But I feel absolutely no pride of ownership. I don’t feel as if I am creating these narrators. It feels very much as if they are coming to me. Claiming these stories as my own work feels like lying and plagiarism. I imagine if I did that, the narrators would get annoyed at me and stop coming.

 It feels as if I am merely a conduit. Perhaps they have chosen me because a) I made myself open to it, and b) as a writer with a profound life-long interest in human emotion, I am able to express their stories in a more compelling way than perhaps a non-writer could.

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