I am a fitful keeper of secrets.

On the one hand, notions of loyalty and obligation are deeply rooted in who I am--their roots intertwine indistinguishably with my own--the roots of my world-tree are gnawed upon not by earth-shaking dragons, but by anachronistic principles.

Perhaps precisely because of this, when it comes to Knowing a Thing, I must be as liberal as an indulgent grandfather. This is not necessarily about secrets of the heart, or of conscience--I do not know enough of those to speak with any authority. (Or perhaps, in fact, I do, and I release those so much more cunningly that I've succeeded in deceiving myself.) This is usually about knowing what is About to Happen, or knowing Why This Is the Way It Is. Secrets of Explanation. Secrets of two steps ahead, or of two steps back. Secrets I do not know whether I am entitled even to know to begin with.

I gloss and polish such secrets, accenting and refining their meanings and valences, changing the cadence, rearranging the meter. And, more often than you would think, the alloyed substance that results from my subtle alchemizing is a True Substance, more than plausible, so seamlessly slotting into the panoply of the real all around us that I almost forget the fact of my interventions.

I have seen entire tables of uncles and aunts and even grandparents turn to me to reveal secrets of life and death--the mechanics of chemotherapy, the intricacies of metastasizing cancer, the swelling treachery of pulmonary disease. I've initiated generations of close friends in the mysteries I observed on the Hopi Reservation, or in the ambulances with paramedics, or in the sacristies of cathedrals. The secrets I've revealed may not have been uncovered with strict legitimacy--I have never been, in any way, strictly legitimate--but they've always been true. By the faithful and conscientious manner in which I reveal my secrets, I've always brought clarity and insight where none existed before.

The long experience of example and exposure to so many similar masters of secrets has almost eclipsed my self-awareness of this secret craft, this secret appetite. On the one hand, to inform those I love is to serve them, thus abiding by those same dragons of Loyalty and Obligation nestling in my roots. But by giving Secrets their own lives, I am releasing them from a kind of imprisonment, abetting an escape from those same dragons who would rather devour secrets than see them illuminating others.

I take great pleasure in this.


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