In nature I discovered a place where I felt, for the first time, that I belonged. I felt meaning there and I felt peace. I understood myself out there, I was humbled by nature, and it equalized everything that frightened me. The woods. I felt alive and connected within them. I was in harmony with living things. I felt part of something and more importantly, I felt called by something. I felt a calling.

What was that calling? Was it similar to how people in the photographs felt? Did they hear what I heard? It sure looked that way. Those faces spoke of deep devotion and great passion. One look at those photographs told me that they were not faking. Those people felt something. They saw something. They were part of something real that seemed connected to that elusive higher power and it defied logic and explanation, what they did. That they could survive lethal poisons in pursuit to a connection with God Ė a real physical connection with God. Can you imagine? Have you ever imagined? Do you get the implications of that? This is what I was asking myself. I wanted to discover what they discovered. To see if it could be real, because if it was, if I could believe it, it would be as if I had taken a picture of a UFO or Sasquatch. It would be as if I had captured a ghost. And I did. I captured that greatest of ghosts. The one they call holy.

The question I began with was, Who is this boy? And it became, who are these people? What is this religion? And then, Is God real? Is there a God? But what I was really after was a different question altogether, yet a related one. Is the soul real? And that question can be distilled into yet another more personal and relevant one that seems silly and obvious, yet which has everything to do with why I wrote Serpent Box. It explains why I had to write this book, why, if I hadnít, it would not have been simple a matter of dying, but a matter of already being dead. The question that I sought to answer was, am I real? Do I exist?

And this is basically Jacobís question. Who am I? What defines me? What is my purpose? Do I have a purpose? That is the great question of our lives, our species. That drives everything we do. It is the only question worth answering, not just in literature, but in life, in fact that is life and that is the meaning of life yet it cannot be answered within the scope of itself. It canít be answered within the life that asks it.

Serpent Box is a step toward an answer to that one question for me. The writing of it, the telling of it and the narrative events themselves are about the search for the self and the meaning of a life, and itís about how God does not need to be sought, found, won over, maintained, paid tribute to, sacrificed for or proven with miracles. God is not only already there, living inside us in all his raging glory, but God is us.

I was always told that I could write but I did not write as a child. I read. So I was not always a writer. I was not a born writer. But now that I am a writer, I understand that word, that skill, that calling and that discipline to be much more complex than I had ever imagined. It does not simply mean one who literally writes. Nor does it mean one who writes consistently or with a particular goal in mind. Nor does it mean one who seeks to have his words and thoughts read by others Ė although those are all part of the definition as we understand it. But that definition is missing a crucial element. Wonder.

I was a writer long before I ever recorded a single thought on paper, for I believe that an essential part of what a writer is, is a burning curiosity, an almost painful longing to know about the human life, and your own life, your own feelings and observations about the world channeled through an honest desire to learn and grow and make sense of things we have no right to expect to make sense of. Gnosis. The desire to know.

I wrote Serpent Box to know.

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