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Suspiria De Profundis

A most troubling dream last night. I’m on the beach of Citera,
here on Isola d’ Ischia. Suddenly I see Leila Hadley Luce,
walking slowly on the sand. She recognizes me, but says nothing,
because we had a serious falling out. She furiously condemned me
as a vulgar, horrid betrayer—precisely as she did in real life
a few years ago.

Then in the dream I’m in a publisher’s office and he’s flipping through a heavy three-ring binder full of the images that made up two volumes of my imagenovel trilogy, VITTORIA’S ISLAND. He tells me that Leila just gave him the collection and is passing it off as her own. She’s stealing my work, pretending to be its author.

After our silent beach encounter Leila goes up some steps, and disappears into an apartment she’s rented for a week or two. I know she was surprised to see me there on the island. She never imagined that I would ever be able to visit—much less live in—this exclusive Mediterranean paradise, available only to bluebloods like her.

In the pre-dawn darkness this morning I thought about our first encounter nearly half a century ago, in her office at Diplomat Magazine. At the time I was a copywriter in the syndicate department of Doubleday Publishers on Park Avenue in New York, and I was there to deliver a book excerpt she wanted to run. She immediately put me at ease, and after a lengthy back and forth on language and word usage, I casually gave her a pitch for an article I was working on, about Shakespeare and the bible.

“Tell me more,” she said.

“All right. As you may know, King James I of England in 1607 appointed nearly fifty scholars to work on a new translation of the popular Geneva Bible, which James felt had too much of a Calvinist influence. Shakespeare may have been among the court's translators, and, given his wicked sense of humor, he might have left his mark.

“If you go to the 46th Psalm and count 46 words from the beginning, and then 46 words up from the end, you’ll find the words “shake” and “spear.”

“And in 1610, a year before the translation was completed, Shakespeare was 46 years old.”

To my great delight Leila’s eyes got wide. She said excuse me, and left the room. I imagined that she was in Diplomat’s library, flipping the pages of the James bible and carefully counting words:

Ten minutes later Leila returned, with a dazzling smile.

“How much do you want for it?”

“The going rate will be fine,” I said.

I wondered what path my life would have taken if instead of accepting my article she’d told me, “Sorry, not for us.”

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I've been seeing so many "33"s lately; this both pleases and concerns me.

Thanks for sharing this. I desperately would like to publish something in my time here on Earth; not for me but to help anyone that I can about the angle that I've seen on life. Of course, not sure I have anything worth saying. But, I would like to try.

What is the piece of writing you've done that you feel is most worthwhile? And, I still owe you an e-mail, and I'm sorry for my delay. So many things I'm trying to get done, so little understanding of how much time I have. I hope--many many years. I just have so much uncertainty right now that it's hard to focus on any one thing. But, I do want to write you back about this. I feel we have an important conversation that we've started, and I do not want to give up on it, for my sake or yours.

I hope you're well today, John.

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I, too, rarely feel fulfilled through my accomplishments. Hmm.

Part of this may be like the "imposter complex" that afflicts recent med and law school grads. Yes, they passed all the courses with good grades, yes, they have their framed diplomas hanging on the wall, but by God they have the feeling that somehow they don't deserve or are not qualified to be where they are.

Maybe the whole thing is not about what we "do" but rather about loving, being loved.

Perhaps. For me, this is sometimes true. I do my very best to take care of those I love and like, always. (And I really do mean Always, here.) However, I have experienced promised Love ripped away many times, and so I know I can't lean on it or rely on it too hard, even though when I say it, I mean it, and I love Forever, even if kindly and silently from a distance, after a breakup, say.

I don't really know, J. For me, I am here to try to Do Good. Not talk about doing good works, not Be Seen doing good works, but actually doing them. In fact, I do them so stealthily that almost no one besides that person ever knows. In my brokest moments here, teetering on bankruptcy, I have found out about friends who needed food to get them to their next paycheck and I have shared from my meager frozen/dry foods stockpile that I've gathered through rock bottom sales. I've used coupons to get extra free items for donation to homeless shelters, hundreds of dollars worth of donations, while I lived on less than $5,000 for 9 months...in LA.

I do it because that is Me, not becuase I want anyone to applaud me. In fact, I feel a bit weird telling you about it right now, but I am doing it because I hear you asking, and I am an honest person, so I want to tell you the truth.

Giving and sharing has filled the void in my heart like nothing else ever has. I realize that being selfless is selfish in this way, and I am further humbled by that reality. I acknowledge that I am doing it for me, not just for others, and I am slightly saddened that I Need that affirmation that I Mean Something on This Planet, but I do it also for others.

I do love, deeply. I do work hard to accomplish what I can. I do assist others whenever possible. I do take in the beautiful experiences of life around me whenever I can. I am a Bon Vivant, but with an epic conscience.

Does that answer your question?

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