The Banquo At Your Banquet

Théodore Chassériau (1819–1856), Macbeth seein...
Macbeth Seeing the Ghost of Banquo

Do you believe in spirits?

Have you ever suffered an indefinable disquiet in the still of the night, ears straining as you pull the covers tight about your shoulders?

I have. I’ve heard the whispers.

They echo. They reverberate down the years.

I didn’t understand their murmurings at first, but in my youth I don’t think I needed to. To hear was enough – comprehension would come later.

And eventually it did. It took time to decrypt and collate, but I heeded the message.

We all have ghosts, each and every one of us: they trail us like shadows, invisible to outsiders yet insistent nonetheless. A misplaced word is enough to conjure them, so too a deed. Casual cruelties evoke a host, even if the original victim has long since passed from memory.

The spirits remind us of ourselves. They keep us human (and what’s the point of writing if we lose sight of what we are and where we’re going?) We can all benefit from a mouthful of dirt at some point in our lives, and the revenants conjured by memory are only too eager to provide a shovel with which should continue our excavations.

And so we accede. We dig.

Sometimes the bones we unearth provoke laughter, sometimes tears. Still we labour. For deep in our hearts we know that gold awaits. We may not recognise it on a conscious level, but some part of us understands that such delving feeds a hunger.

And how we hunger! As writers, published or not, we each require experience, pleasant or otherwise, to power our inner engines.

We’re haunted, that’s the thing. Harsh words we wish we could retract, mute disinterest we wish we could convert into vocal involvement, they’re all grist to the mill, votive offerings to gods we don’t even believe in. This is the curse of all those who feel compelled to commit words to paper, what sets us apart. We gnaw the bones, hopefully gleaning something of worth from the marrow.

We see ghosts.

What’s worse, we listen to them. We learn from them.

While Macbeth shied from Banquo in Shakespeare’s tragic tale of hubris and regicide, we welcome such spirits to our table. That’s because writers are fearless. That’s because writers are special. The wars we fight in our imaginations may not harm us physically, but they’re no less important for all that. Humanity relies on us. We are its hopes. We are its fears. We are its conscience. Remove the writer, the dreamer, the listener, and the whole house of cards collapses.

This is why, as a member of Mythic Scribes, you should feel proud. The last skald is dead. The druids have been torn from history, replaced by pale imitations in silly robes. Yet the writer remains. Whatever barriers humanity may face, there will always be someone prepared to chip away at the edifice. What better profession would you choose?

What better life could there be?

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10 years ago

I am a writer. I am not insulting, only speculating. This is a beautiful thing you’ve written.

Does a writer see beauty that the rest of the world doesn’t so readily see… or does the writer embellish it for a subtle entertainment and/or relief from, well, reality? Isn’t it both a crutch and a talent and couldn’t that be said for any art? Could we say that the beauty IS in our world if for only the fact that it came from inside us which came from this world? A revolving conundrum at best. One thing holds true, though. That the world does not rely upon the writer. Each of us has our own sets of dreams, nightmares… ghosts. We all hold our own beauties. To think that you, as a writer, should be held upon some pedestal is nauseating. The only thing that separates a writer from the rest of the world is the time and patience to look inside and write it down. Kudos. But not the glue that holds the house of cards.

To view our past memories and experiences as ghosts is pretty. But what of the person who has nothing ill following him around? What of the person who actually has a pretty clear conscious either from naivety or just being an actual good person? To declare a person’s experiences as ghosts is to imply them as haunting. To view the world as such is, in my humble opinion, a pathetically sheltered view. Most of us have the writer, dreamer, and listener inside our own hearts.

Writers make it easier. They paint pictures so that the rest of the world doesn’t have too. They spread and keep knowledge so that it never gets lost. They hold an eloquence, a talent. Just like any other art, written pieces should be shared because they are each unique and as complex as everything embodied in what’s… human. But let’s not be an egotist.

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