Esse Quam Videri

Esse quam videri is North Carolina’s state motto, translated as “To be, rather than to seem.” (I guess the translation of the motto into “Southern-speak” would be something along the lines of, “Don’t y’all be two-faced now, ya hear!”) I never really knew what it meant when I was learning about the state’s history in school, and I never bothered to seriously think about it until just recently, when it popped into my head for no apparent reason.

I was also thinking of utility, and how in today’s society, people are often valued for what they can do rather than for who they are (e.g., elderly people no longer being valued because they can no longer “do” anything of value to society). At the same time, the world admires people who are “themselves” and countless self-help books encourage people to be the “best version of themselves.” It is about being rather than doing or seeming.

One can do every great thing in the world and still not know how to just be or to appreciate himself for who he is rather than for what he has done. One can seem to be a good person, but his being or doing may show a different side of him that he may not wish others to see. Or one can just be and not worry about how one’s being may be interpreted.

Poetry Time: Take Out the Sun

Memories are stairs that don’t go up or down,
more like stumbling blocks.
Ankles grow weak, legs lose muscle,
eyes can no longer see.

Memories infest the deep parts,
rising from the ground
at the worst moments,
attempting to watch the fall.

The moon is a lost memory.
Traffic, lights, manmade consumption
dim the moon into a fragile petal
of opaque obscurity.

Soon man will take out the sun,
stairs will never raise us up,
doors won’t open or close, and walls
will crumble and fall to bits.

Whichever memory is hardest to forget
wins the grand prize, comes out dirty,
muddy, and emaciated on top, but it
is still forgotten.

Excerpt from XIII: Strophe

Sometimes it’s fun to open the proverbial drawer and take a look at old writing, even when you don’t think you’ll ever revisit it again. About two years ago, I got the crazy idea that I might revise XIII, my old series and one of my favorite things I’ve written. I’m still bothered by the fact that XIII remains completely finished but mostly unedited; I suppose I have a hard time letting go, which is why I return to it at times. My mind wants to “complete the circuit.” Upon looking through the most recent revisions, I found that my writing is passable but still needs work. There’s something about it that’s “missing,” but I can’t quite put my finger on what it is.

This excerpt is from the September 2015 revision of Chapter 11 of the first book in the series, STROPHE,* which introduces the main characters who remain in play for most of the series and hints at the upcoming supernatural conflict (related to demigods and Greek mythology).

Low, murmuring voices broke into her thoughts. Gavin was speaking to his mother, but Naomi couldn’t hear a word they were saying, and from where she stood on the stairs, she could see only the gray streaks in Gavin’s mother’s hair as the light from the television flickered over them.

“Naomi,” Gavin said, and she followed his voice until she joined him on the couch opposite the plush recliner in which his mother rested.

Ms. Dufford was a squat mushroom of a woman; she had a smooth, youngish face that betrayed little emotion, and as Naomi moved closer and stretched out her hand for her to shake, she caught the scent of mold on the air, as though the woman were releasing spores. “Hi,” Naomi said. She put on her best school spirit smile and waited for Ms. Dufford to take her hand.

She did not. “I heard my stepdaughter admiring your outfit,” she said.

Naomi dropped her hand and slipped it into her other, which she hid behind her back. “She said she liked it,” she said.

As Sylvia had done, Ms. Dufford glanced at Naomi, who shivered involuntarily, like the woman’s gaze itself emitted dust that tickled her skin.

“Naomi and I are going back up to my room,” Gavin said. He took Naomi’s hand and threaded his fingers in hers. His hand felt clammy, like he was feverish. The entire house seemed to have taken on a dismal cast that not even the bright, smiley commercials on the television could lift.

“You do that. I hope you will remember what I told you,” Ms. Dufford said.

Feedback is welcome.

*strophe [n]: (1) the movement of the classical Greek chorus while turning from one side to the other of the orchestra; (2) the part of a Greek choral ode sung during the strophe of the dance.