As a young lad I was fascinated by the supernatural. This may explain, but in no wise excuses, my choice of a career in religion. As I grew in years and skepticism, this interest began to feel like a security blanket in a college dormitory — an embarrassment to be jettisoned as quickly as possible. Along the way, of course, I’d given away what I thought to be the detritus of childish fantasy, including my collection of cheap, pulp fiction, tending toward the Gothic.
As I grow more ancient, and more observant, I see that sometimes the impetuousness of youth cradles a profound wisdom. Sometimes we do get it right the first time. I still haven’t figured out if that’s the case with me, but it seems to be a hypothesis worth the exploration. Part of my current search for reality is the reassessment of my childhood learning in the school of classical Gothic fiction. The books are no longer as cheap as they used to be, and when I take them out in public I hide them inside a larger, more academic book so that no one really knows what I’m reading. As a friend once observed, people think that those of us who hang out in the religion sections of Borders are immediately suspect. More so the adult toting a beaten-up paperback written for a teen readership a number of decades ago.
One of my lost memories was a juvenilized version of Rod Serling’s Stories from the Twilight Zone. I had shoveled my copy off to Goodwill along with many other shards of my childhood when I “grew up.” The memories of the angst that the very cover generated in me led to a frantic online used book hunt a few years back. Inside the stories seemed flatter than I’d recalled, but the larger ideas they generated were still worth paying attention to. Perhaps the real lesson is that childhood should not be dismissed as wasted time playing and indulging in carefree amusements. Our childhood proclivities, it now seems, preset the trajectories for our lives. So I still have a quasi-career in a religion department, and I have a copy of a book that started me asking the bigger questions.