Thursday, May 26, 2011


    My daughter is two and a half and her imagination knows no bounds.  And it has got me thinking.  Do we all start off with this ability to create fantasy worlds?  Are some of us better at it than others?  Does the imagination morph into different forms from one original rendering, or do we all start off with different imaginary worlds?
    As a fiction writer and a songwriter, I am pretty used to imagining different worlds and characters and predicaments.  Some people might assume this means that I retained more of my ability to imagine, but there are also people who imagine new buildings, new machines, new innovations.  There are cooks who imagine new dishes.  There are financial experts who imagine what the trends in the stock market will be.  So, we all imagine to some extent and in different ways.  I think.
    What is interesting to me is that my daughter has a very ‘storytelling’ imagination.  She likes to recreate scenes from Disney movies.  She likes to pretend.  And what is fiction but pretending on a more pretentious scale?  Will this mean she will grow up and want to write?  Does it translate like that?  Are our future engineers locked to their Lego sets?  Are our future chefs mixing imaginary dishes with tiny plastic cookware?  I would have to say yes and no.
    My daughter likes to pretend to cook.  She likes to build things with Legos.  She likes to draw and paint.  And I think we all start out this way.  We all start out with imaginations that can be pulled and tweaked in many directions.  It is interesting, then, that as time goes by, we corral our imaginations.  I may write stories and songs, but I don’t design bridges.  I have a friend who is a mechanical engineer, but he doesn’t write stories. 
    When does this happen?  Granted, there are those folks who do design buildings and paint and write symphonies.  But it seems most of us narrow our focus.  Is this because we don’t have as much time and we have to choose?  Or do we gravitate towards what we are better at?
    I suppose there are people who don’t spend much time imagining one way or another.  I feel really bad for those people.  Creation…creativity…in all its forms seems to me to be one of the more interesting things that human beings are capable of.  The ability to make something out of nothing is a pretty wonderful thing. 
    Right now, I am quite enjoying watching my daughter explore the different corners of her imagination.  Someday, she will probably narrow her focus like the rest of us, but right now I can imagine her writing novels, building new types of houses, finding a new way to make pastries.  The possibilities are endless and that is fine with me.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hunting and Fishing

    I have fished for as long as I can remember, but I have never hunted.  It occurred to me the other day, while fishing, why I don’t have much desire to look down the sights at a deer and pull a trigger.  For one thing, I have no desire to kill a large mammal, but there is more to it. 
    I have caught fish by sighting on them and then ‘aiming at them’, but the vast majority of fish that I have caught, I have caught by assuming there would be a fish in a certain place and fishing that place in hopes that my assumption was correct.  There is an important distinction there.
    When you aim at something and shoot it, you have already made the connection.  You have seen the animal.   It may have seen you.  When you find a deep, shady spot where you assume a fish will be and catch one there, there are several things at play.  One, you guessed right.  But perhaps more importantly, you are connected, in a split second, to another world. 
    There is something to this.  When you feel the fish strike and set the hook, the line goes tight and, all of a sudden, you are bound to a world you cannot see and know very little about.  Through the fishing line, you are connected to a fish, who is, in turn, connected to a human who lives in a dry world that the fish knows very little about.  It is a strange bond to say the least. 
    Actually fighting the fish is fun.  But there is nothing like that first burst of adrenaline.  And I think a lot of it has to do with the notion that one second you are floating a lure/bait/etc and the next second there is a live, flopping creature there instead of (or in addition to) said bait or lure. 
    Fishing by sight is hard because you have to get close enough to see them, and that usually means they can see you, too.  There are no fish blinds where you can sit and sip coffee and wait for a big trout to swim by and then shoot a line at it relatively certain that you might be successful. 
    No, fishing by sight is an art of quiet and deception.  All fishing is deception, and I enjoy it all.  But I think I particularly enjoy it when I don’t expect it.  When I am standing with all my attention focused on the line and where it enters the water and the feel of it in my hands and then...BAM…suddenly, I am attached to a creature from the deep. 
    I am not saying that you need to agree with me, and I am not making a play at disparaging hunters.  I am merely trying to convey to you something that I thought about recently, standing thigh deep in water, waiting to see if I’d guessed right or not.  Waiting to see if that connection was about to be made and if, for a brief moment, I might get to attach myself to the world underneath the water.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Blood Lust and Patriotism

            Osama Bin Laden is dead.  I watched the news coverage just like everyone else.  And then I watched as many of my fellow countrymen celebrated…made crude jokes…mocked Islam and people who had nothing to do with Osama Bin Laden.  I watched my fellow Americans engage in vitriolic hate speech and I could practically see the blood dripping from their fangs.  I listened to their propaganda.  And do you know what?  They sounded a lot like the “extremists” we are supposed to be fighting. 
            We ask soldiers to do something very unfair, it seems to me.  I recently read a book about mercenaries in Mexico.  They did terrible things.  Wore human ears for jewelry.  Tortured people.  Raped women.  Killed innocents.  It was hard for me to read.  But it was easy for me to see how those lines can get blurry pretty quickly when you are in the heat of battle.  When you are afraid of dying.  When you are killing people and bloodshed becomes a commonplace thing.  We ask our soldiers to be killing machines with a conscience…and I am not sure it is possible.  And if it is, it is a huge favor to ask. 
I am not excusing atrocities committed by soldiers.  I am not justifying the guards who took staged pictures demeaning their captives.  But I can understand that there is a darkness in the human spirit that allows for these things.  What I cannot understand is the mockery, sickness, and verbal violence spewed by construction workers, dentists, mailmen…people who are afforded the luxury of having other people fight for them.  The way I see it, unless you want to sit in a bunker while people are shooting at you…unless you want to spill someone’s blood, you don’t deserve the right to make ‘funny comments’ about a dead man’s life.
            And this is not a question of whether Osama Bin Laden was a good or a bad man.  I didn’t know him.  I didn’t approve of his actions, but I don’t approve of some of the actions Americans are taking either.  Did he need to die?  Probably.  But we do not need to lower ourselves to the level of barbarians in ‘celebration’ of his death.  He was a man, and whether or not he was a good or a bad man means little to me.  I do not celebrate the deaths of murderers or rapists either.  Death should never be a cause for celebration.
            The only concession I can see is if you are fighting the fight or if you lost a loved one in the WTC explosion.  If you are just a regular Joe like me, then your delight in the death of a man you never met, your tittering around the water cooler, your gory jokes about what we should have done with the body…well, they tell me a hell of a lot more about you than they do about war, terrorism, or Osama Bin Laden.