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No topic is or has been the subject of more reflection than religion, but the problem is that God is a spirit and exists in a dimension that is beyond our reach. How can we picture a God who is both infinite and at the same time unextended because that’s what a spirit is. A Spirit occupies no physical space and it’s not subject to the restraints of time.
I have written this novel to try to catch a glimpse of the Spirit in a very local habitation. According to Mahomet, God is closer to us than our jugular vein and we’ve been introduced to the concept of the Spirit within us in the bible. There’s a suggestion there that the Spirit resembles fire or a wind and there’s an assertion that it bears fruit, but that’s about as far as we get.
Because Melody Beaucello is a novel that tolerates the operation of this other dimension in our physical world, it should be read with the same suspension of disbelief that you would apply when reading and enjoying fantasy or science fiction. If you are able to accept Melody Beaucello as she is, a young woman with a free spirit, you’ll be free to contemplate, among other things, the possibility of a world where everybody respects what other people believe and at the same time find elements in the beliefs of others that support and strengthen their own.
If you have the poetry for it, you might even capture the nature and substance of the Creator and consider the possibility of a non-material and unextended part of you that you could let guide the complex machinery of your grey matter as it drives your body and your life.
When Melody Beaucello was born she came trailing clouds of Glory from God. All babies do according to Wordsworth. Unlike all babies, however, Melody Beaucello didn’t relinquish the Glory clouds, she retained them and they found space to develop.
As Melody grew, nobody suspected that she was a miracle child. In a world where prose dominates nobody looks for features or qualities or states of being that can only make sense through the medium of poetry. When a particular state hasn’t been experienced before it can only be understood through comparisons with states that are known and if no poet is around to supply the metaphors, the new state or dimension slips by unnoticed.
It must be recorded then, and it’s sad to have to do it, that nobody expected to find anything special in Melody. Even her name, which should have suggested the quiet serenity of a single cello playing, was the stuff of comedy among the pupils of the little one-teacher school she attended. They ridiculed her and her name because she looked different. Nobody else at the school was all over freckles and nobody else had eyes that didn’t seem to know where they were looking or hair as red as a hot setting sun.
The children couldn’t see the inner beauty of Melody, the winning charm of her unfettered spirit, free as the air itself. Children see the world as physical only, or if they have the imagination to enter the metaphysical realm they don’t relate that experience to the real world outside their own head.
So it was that because of her physical difference from all of them, they took every opportunity to be cruel and rude to her often chanting an obnoxious little rhyme that Cedric Danvers had made up.
Melody Cello’s really dumb.
Her eyes are turning
and her hair is burning
and freckles cover her stick out bum.
It is little wonder that Melody kept to herself, closing her ears to insults and losing herself in her own thoughts and the real poetry that her spirit produced to begin shaping for her the meaning of life.
Her teacher didn’t know what to do with Melody. He promised severe retribution for anyone maligning her with the repugnant rhyme that had been brought to his attention by a parent, but he knew that the chanting would continue when he was out of earshot. He even tried once to seat another student at the same desk as Melody so that they could collaborate on a project, but he was met with a particularly defiant refusal from the girl he tried to move and a general uproar from the rest of the school.
‘I’m not going to sit near her!’
‘Melody’s got to sit by herself.’
‘No one can sit near her, sir.’
‘Yeh, she stinks,’ Cedric Danvers called out with malicious glee.
Cedric Danvers was made to stand in the corner by the irate teacher, but the teacher knew that his show of anger was as much directed at himself as at the boy. He knew that he couldn’t do much about the unpleasant odour that hung around the unfortunate girl.
Melody’s father kept pigs, many pigs. He was a diligent pig farmer and each morning early he made the trip into Karlsberg to transfer the scraps from the bins behind the cafés and hotels into the battered but commodious receptacles on the tray of his truck.
Children would hold their noses when the Beaucello truck passed, but the smell of his bins was nothing compared to the smell of the pigs that wallowed in the mud of their pens and slobbered and grunted deep into the mess in the troughs.
To the refuse from the town was added a quantity of skimmed milk from the little dairy that Mrs Beaucello looked after. The skimmed milk left the old Alpha cream separator to flow down a wooden drain to the pig troughs and by the time it completed the journey it was well and truly soured by the residue of all the milk that had flowed down that drain before. The pigs didn’t seem to mind slurping up the disagreeable slurry or even lying in the trough to cover themselves with the sorry malodorous blend, and the three human inhabitants of the pig farm didn’t seem to notice the smell. They were used to the odour impregnating hair and clothes and penetrating the epidermis of each to reach the dermis below.
The teacher saw Melody as a problem to be solved. Far from being alienated as the children were by her freckles, her unusual eyes, her flaming hair, the shape of her bottom and even the ubiquitous pigsty odour his compassion was aroused by her hermetic state at school and he was determined that her education would not suffer because she was rejected by her peers.
The teacher had been surprised by the way she took to reading and he’d kept up the supply of books so that now she was reading well beyond her classified reading age. The compositions she wrote never ceased to surprise him. They were imaginative in a way that he couldn’t believe. At first he thought that her imagination was fed by what she read, but he perused all her reading material and there didn’t seem to be any correlation. He knew that there was no computer or TV in the Beaucello household which cut off two more sources of material for her. What she wrote seemed to focus on what people were thinking and feeling rather than what they were doing. Children of her age usually wrote in the monotonous format of we did this then we did that and then we did something else, but not Melody. She presented thoughts and recorded conversations, and not just conversations with local people. She seemed to have contacts all over the world. How could a little girl who didn’t leave her father’s pig farm except to go to school dream up conversations with people from the four corners of the earth, conversations like that last one with the boy from the little village of Bielenberg near Hamburg in Germany. And there was a place called Bielenberg. He’d looked it up on a roadmap of Germany.
I went to talk with Wilhelm last night. He was so happy, bubbling over with happiness like a well-fed brook. He’d decided to be happy he said because there was so much to be sad about.
‘When you visit me,’ Wilhelm said to me, ‘nothing else matters, nothing else exists.’
He said that he told his mother that there was a voice in his head and she freaked out. Wilhelm told me that his aunty used to hear voices and they ruined her life.
I told Wilhelm that I wasn’t a voice in his head. How could I be? He doesn’t speak English and I don’t speak German. Spirit can speak to spirit without the need of language. I told him that languages are made up by men and like the physical things in the world they won’t last.
What strange stuff from a little girl the teacher thought. He wasn’t a religious man and his world view never strayed an inch beyond the pronouncements of the scientists and he would have rejected most of what Melody wrote as fanciful rubbish had it come from an adult pen, but where does this child miles from anywhere with no TV and no Web get her ideas from?
There was something strange too about her Mathematics. She presented herself as both a Mathematical brain and as a person with no mental stamina at all in that subject. What puzzled the teacher was that Melody just couldn’t work out how to set out and arrive at answers to the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division questions and the problems that involved these processes set out on the arithmetic cards he distributed. The other children seemed to enjoy finishing a card and going on with the next one, but not Melody. No amount of coaching and drilling in the processes got her on the right track.
The teacher was quite prepared to accept that a student brilliant in English could be struggling in Mathematics, but what bewildered him was that when it came to Mental Arithmetic her mental stamina surged to the very mountain top. She never failed to record the right answer. She could apparently, without the aid of pencil and paper, add, subtract, multiply and divide with ease and work out the solution to a problem as quickly as he could himself. He knew this because the procedure in Mental Arithmetic was for him to give the question, the students would work out their answers in their heads and when they had them, they would put their hands on their heads. At his signal they would all pick up their pencils and write their answers in their exercise books.
The teacher noticed that Melody was always the first to put her hands on her head, soon after he’d worked out the answer himself. He enjoyed maths and always did the calculations with the children to keep his brain active. He tried a trick question with them once giving them only ten seconds to record the answer. ‘What is the number that comes one before the one after seven’ he asked them. Melody was the only one to write down seven, the correct answer.
Cedric Danvers was particularly riled by Melody’s performance in Mental Arithmetic. He was the top maths student in the school and he just couldn’t accept that the ugly freckled-faced girl could beat him in Mental Arithmetic. He suspected that there was something clandestine going on between her and the teacher, like the teacher giving her all the answers before school. The thought put a fair-sized chip on his shoulder and raised his persecution of Melody a notch or two. The teacher was often puzzled by his lack of co-operation in the classroom. He had everything going for him. He was very bright, yet his behaviour was standing in the way of him reaching his full potential.
Melody didn’t suspect that she was different from the rest of the human race. She knew that her appearance was different, the other children made sure that she knew that, but what she didn’t realise was that her spirit was unusually dominant. She assumed that everybody’s spirit was free and everybody had access to the minds of everybody else.
It wasn’t pleasant to drop in on a hostile mind that dominated the spirit so she stayed clear of the other children, but she knew what her parents were thinking and she always read the mind of her teacher. If she’d known that it was cheating to get an answer in the way she did she wouldn’t have done it, but of course if other people had known that she was reading the teacher’s mind they would have been so overawed by such a miracle that they wouldn’t have noticed the cheating.
And so Melody progressed through primary school doing her best to understand an alien world. Her world, the world of the spirit, was no mystery to her. That it was infinite, but at the same time un-extended because it wasn’t material in any way, was just a given that she accepted, as others accepted the air that they breathed. The spirit has no length or breadth nor any space and time. It has no need of addition or subtraction, multiplication or division. She knew instinctively that there is only one spirit of which she is an elemental part. She is part of her father and her mother and the teacher and the boy in Bielenberg and everybody else in the world and they are all part of the one infinite spirit. Melody knew though that she was a very humble and limited part and that she differed from the universal spirit in perception. The perception of the universal spirit is infinite and no bars blocked the unfolding of its infinite powers.
Melody explored her world through the medium of poetry using images of the physical world to capture the reality of her spirit. She perceived herself as a leaf in a forest, a forest that couldn’t be extended because it is everything that there is. It took her a few years of her childhood to conclude that because of the bars limiting their perception other people were hardly aware of the leaves around them.
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