On the Bookshelf: Deception Past by Franki deMerle


May 1886

Amherst, Massachusetts

Emily Dickinson burned with the desire to be loved. She felt somehow that her feverishness was merely a manifestation of her yearning to be freely accepted for who she was.

To be free …

She craved acceptance after so much rejection, indifference, and isolation. Everywhere there were judgments. Always other people had their judgments. Emily was too unconventional. She didn’t follow social protocol. She longed to be accepted in the same way she had opened her heart and warmly accepted Nature just as she found it. No man-made conception of “perfection” was required. No judgments or changes were necessary when you truly loved. But she hadn’t found that love from any male human being. The true love of her life had rejected her for someone more appropriate for his status in life. Yes, she had loved deeply in this life, but only Nature reciprocated that love.

Judgments were a way of life for “civilized” humans. How could a person be judged by the relative shade of their skin pigments? Yet masses of humanity had spilled rivers of blood over just such a concept—as if it actually made any sense. Emily had seen it split her country in half and still, two decades later, she could make no sense of it.

Humanity was delirious with judgments and burning with rage to fight over any difference. Yet all of physical creation and all of life were made of the same stuff, and each creature was uniquely different from all the rest. How could life be property? And yet, even after the slaves had been freed, women were still the property of men.

She had lost her stomach for the insanity long ago. She had tried to share her perceptions, insights, and sense of wonder at the true innate perfection of all creatures just as they are, but most people thought she was daft.

She could no longer keep food in her stomach. The bedclothes were soaked with her sweat. Emily didn’t fear death. Death was the lover who would finally accept her just as she was. In death she was free to be herself, knowing that death wouldn’t judge her. She laughed to herself, maybe even laughed out loud, remembering how the good Christians who had tried so hard to save her from her natural self had feared the judgment of death.

But death is natural, she thought to herself, and Nature does not judge. If anything, death is the great liberator who frees us from the shackles and prisons we let others talk us into. She had tried many times to express the thought poetically. No need to try again.

She smiled quietly with closed eyes knowing she had not been talked into being anyone else’s idea of who she should be. She had paid a price in heartaches for her liberty as she found how many would not love her if she would not be someone else. She would not belong to any man, because any man who claimed to love her but wanted to own her instead did not know the real meaning of love. The man who, in recent years, had finally accepted her as herself had already been liberated by death. The wounds were deep and invisible, but she had found a far greater truth. All those Bible stories other people taught as “the word of God” were written by men wanting to play at being God. The burning bush may well have had some divine insight to impart, but some mere human male wrote down the interpretive story with prejudice.

Next time around, I’ll try again to get more involved with people, she thought to herself as she reveled in her delirium, but I won’t conform to their judgments. They can burn me at the stake if they want, but I’ll be free. I’ll do things my own natural way. I’ll make music, and I’ll write, and they will judge me. I don’t care about their judgments. I’ll be myself. I’ll be free. They’ll reject me, and I’ll die fighting for liberty from stupid judgments. There is a rage in me to fight against that insanity of man that judges people for the color of their skin and their gender. They can burn me alive for that if they choose, and they probably will. I know death will come and liberate me. I will play my music and publish my stories even though I’m a woman or have dark skin or refuse to be dictated to or dominated by the Christians or any other religion. This river of sweat has freed my soul. Death is here to liberate me.

The black carriage arrived in her upstairs bedroom and parked parallel to her sleigh bed. “You have come for me,” she said to Death, “and I will not reject you, judge you, or keep you waiting.”

The door to the carriage stood wide open, beckoning to her with fully open and accepting arms. She accepted the embrace and felt neither weight nor pain as she floated into its total acceptance. She would live and fight freely for her liberty and never accept the judgments of others until at least some of them had accepted her thoughts and writings just as she presented them. This would be her liberation.

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