I see a vast divide between the world as I experience it directly and the world as others experience it and write about it. Yet I was trained to read, to look stuff up, to weigh sources and follow footnotes. While I would not give this up, it holds me back.
When I read, I see the world second hand and then, typically, I make decisions based on others’ experience and their opinions about what their experiences meant. This is especially dangerous when it comes to spiritual matters.
I thought of such things as I read John Atkinson’s exceptional novel Timekeeper. Atkinson’s illiterate, fourteen-year-old protagonist leaves home to escape an abusive father and, ultimately, to discover who he is. He’s a quick study, can fix anything that breaks, finds odd jobs easily, and lives very close to the land with a dog that becomes both his traveling companion and his protector.
When it comes to “spiritual business,” Johnnyboy dives right in, following the advice of a man named Chief whom he meets in Oklahoma, and seeks a vision quest. Along the way, he fortuituously meets those whose help and advice he needs at that moment.
I do not, cannot, and would never consider taking some magic potion in order to lose my books and my civilization, much less my literacy, even though all of this has been a tight snare. I celebrate the purity of the Johnnyboys out there who pull their knowledge directly out of their own experience and learn to trust it.
My Amazon Review
Johnnyboy leaves an abusive, highly disfunctional home at fourteen to survive and to discover who he is. He isn’t too far from home when he concludes that “like to many people I met along the way, I took bits and pieces of advice from those who offered. Some advice was good and some was not. In order to survive, I became street smart in a hurry.”
After meeting Chief in Oklahoma, Johnnyboy–now known as Timekeeper–becomes a pure seeker on a wondrous path of “spiritual business.” With Check, his four-legged companion, he travels close-in to the realm of instinct, simple trust, and an ethusiastic determination to connect with the sights and spirits and good people along the road.
As a seeker, Johnnyboy is pure, for he learns by first-hand experience (rather than by reading about what other people’s journeys were like) and the almost-destined assistance of those on the road who offer to help.
While it’s tempting to say John Atkinson’s “Timekeeper” is like this book and that book, I’m convinced such comparisons as apt and flattering as they may be, are the very opposite of what this book is about and would only dilute the originality and magic of this luminous novel.