For those who’ve read The Book of Paul, you know that Paul loves to wax philosophical from time to time, especially when he’s trying to convince William to DO HIS DUTY for Clan and King. Billy, our faithful narrator, is highly motivated by Paul’s blackmail threats and promises of power, riches and glory, but his ambivalence continues to infuriate Paul throughout the story. William chronicles their encounters in his journal entries which inform the reader of Paul’s true motives as each layer of the onion is peeled away.
This excerpt below is from one of William’s journal entries, entitled DUST! One of my favorites, it gives Paul the bully pulpit for a sermon about death that should give you some good shivers and plenty to contemplate. It also ends with my favorite Paul quote in the book. SPOILER ALERT: this chapter takes place well after the halfway point of the novel, so if you haven’t read the book and intend to, BE WARNED, there are revelations that will dampen the suspense. But for fans of the book, I’d love to hear your comments on Paul’s provocative monologue. Enjoy!
“DUST!” Paul shouted so loudly I thought the ceiling might crack.
“The Bible says God made Adam out of dust and breathed His life inside him. He made him born to die. All things turn to dust in time, they say. All except a few. My children died so I could live, and earn the wisdom of their sacrifice. Now I’ll pass it on to you. All of us are killers. Each and every one. We live by eating life. Time has robbed us of this knowing. Time and our shame of the truth. We let others do our killing. We pretend goodness is better than hunger. We fear death and the pain that accompanies it. We pretend they don’t exist.”
He paused and looked at me. “There once was a spiritual seeker who found a guru on the mountaintop. He couldn’t believe his good fortune and so he asked the question that had been burning in his heart: ‘Master,’ he asked, ‘What is the greatest mystery in life?’
“The wise man said, ‘The greatest mystery in life is that we see death all around us and we still can’t believe it will ever happen to us.’”
“I can see you found that amusing,” Paul said, smiling back at me, “but here’s a little twist. The wise man wasn’t so wise after all. It’s no mystery why we hide from death. We hide because we fear it. The greatest mystery of life is death. What force engineered this necessity? What is this thing we call ‘food’? We eat life, William. We eat life! And we eat it every single day!”
He stopped for a moment, then walked to the lectern and put his hands on a giant codex. It looked like it might have been made in the fifth century or even earlier. “When this book was made, people didn’t pretend they were above the occasional murder,” he intoned, rubbing the thick leather binding like Aladdin rubbing the genie’s lamp. “They didn’t put their noses up in the air each time someone lost their head. It was all out in the open. People would fill the public squares for a beheading. Torture was a science. An art! The bravest saints would know the rapture that awaited them when their final breath was torn away. There wasn’t the slightest pretense we were any better than that. Now we have marches and rock concerts, and petitions to stop it. And slaughterhouses and food factories that hide it. Wrap it up on a Styrofoam dish. Microwave it. We pretend death is everywhere except here.” Then he got very quiet. I had to strain my ears to listen. “But death is here. Now. In this very room, watching us. And death has many secrets to share.”
I felt the hairs on my neck tickle at my shirt collar. “What secrets?”Read More