The Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge is about a two hour drive south from Albuquerque, New Mexico. You drive to Socorro, and then another 11 miles to San Antonio, where there is a 8 mile loop road that follows the Rio Grande river and the refuge.
"Woods of the Apache" is what "The Bosque Del Apache" means. "Bosque" a word that is borrowed from Spanish, meaning the forest or woods, referring to the habitat found on both sides of the Rio Grande River.
Over 350 different bird species have been observed in the Bosque del Apache, where huge flocks of wintering cranes and geese are the refuge's most interesting feature.
The Sand Hill Cranes are large tall birds with long legs and necks. They pair up for life and usually have one or two chicks. These birds migrate from Canada, Montana and Utah in the winter and they will fly a chick South for the winter, to teach them the way, and encourage the offspring to be independent.
November to late February is the best time to see large numbers of birds in the Bosque del Apache when typically over 10,000 Sandhill Cranes and 20,000 Ross's and Snow Geese can be seen. Sunrise and sunset is the best time to see the bird while they roost in the refuge before leaving in the morning to feed or after returning from the fields in the evening.
We spent a couple of days at this refuge a few years ago in the late fall. We had been told by a friend to just watch the birds in the morning after sitting overnight roosting on the water and to wait for when the first ones takes off. When the rest then all at once follow the sky fills and that is the time for the best pictures.
We were excited and hoped to really see them all get up into the air at once but it turned out that the birds flew in several groups not just one. .
The road edge near the roosting birds was lined with people holding big cameras with huge, expensive, telescopic lenses. Plenty of tripods topped with Nikon and Cannon camera where the lens alone can cost between $2500 and $12,000 and even more line the nearby road with professional bird watchers. Som had camouflage pants and jackets.
Just like the birds, the people would move up and down the road in groups. One guy would break first from the group and then it seemed like all the others would follow.
We did see some people, amateurs and first timers, just watching, like we were doing, so we found our way into their little groups. Us folks with the smaller lens, and even just with I-Phones, just didn't fit in and some walked around by themselves, so as to not be embarrassed.
It was mostly the men that had the "big" lens with extensions, and tripods. It also seemed like the women showed up a lot later and were standing in their own groups.
We were one of the first on site at "The Bosque Del Apache" that special fall day, arriving early morning before the sun rose. When the light broke it was amazing to see how many birds were actually there.
The birds, the professional photographers, and all those watching were a treat to see.
I have had 5 trips to the hospital for a heart attack between 2009 and 2016. Two trips were false alarms, but I made it to the operating table 4 times. The first trip was a complete surprise. The surprise started with 8 EMT’s in my bedroom and continued in the back of the ambulance. I just couldn’t stop thinking about how surprising it was and I looked up at the lady EMT taking king care of me and said, “I just don’t understand why this is happening, I have run 13 marathons in my lifetime?” She looked down at me and said, “Maybe it is just your time.” I didn’t laugh at the time.
Being wheeled into an operating room is frightening. They slide you over to a cold stainless-steel table and you lay almost naked in the middle of the table. The room has a lot of people in it and they all seem to be doing something important. At first it is hard to figure out who the doctor is. On the first occasion I met my heart doctor at the hospital. On the second trip, about a year later, I had the same doctor but other times I just got whoever was available.
My last trip to the cold steel table was memorable, as they all have been. I first noticed the music and then I noticed that the doctor that was probably young enough to be my grandson. I laid waiting for a drip anesthesia to be set up and everyone was busy. All those young folks walking around must have enjoyed the music background and at least they weren’t staring at my naked and cold body. A young man came over and said he would get the anesthesia set up soon but wondered if I had some favorite music and he said he would find it and play it. Well I still had my thoughts in place, so I figured I would offer a suggestion I knew wouldn’t work. I suggested Leonard Cohen. Not one person in the room had heard of him, nor could they find any of his music. They actually made an effort to find him however. I might have chuckled, but I was out soon after that.
My last trip to the hospital was one where they again picked me up with the ambulance. For some reason we sat in our driveway in front of the house. A fire engine crew and a support car team were there. Several paramedics were checking the back of the ambulance, and they each would greet me and ask how I was doing. One of these guys seemed to have paused and so I looked up at him and told him I still remembered getting help like this the first time and I told him about my question and the reply I got from the EMT nurse about it “being my time”. Neither of the two paramedics said a word or even changed facial expressions. They just seemed like they had kicked into gear and was about some important business. I noticed that the one paramedic left the back door ajar as he left, I saw him go over to a group standing by the fire engine where they seemed to huddle and laugh, and then he went to a different group. I figure this was a good sign. The last event had a connection to the first.
As a boy in the late 1950’s I walked barefoot on the banks of a river, built rafts each summer, caught snakes and fished, but it was only a small part of growing up for me. I don’t think the experience would compete with Huckleberry Finn’s story.
One difference would be my own version of bottle fishing. Getting a pint or quart glass mason jar was not a problem. My mom had plenty and each year bottled raspberries, peaches and other items by sealing them in the bottles and heating them up in a pressure cooker or water bath. The raspberries were especially good.
An empty bottle, strong string, bottle lids, a knife and some bread, was all that was needed. I would tie the string around the lid ring. The actual flat lid went on the bottle and then was sealed with the ring. A knife could be pressed in the middle of the flat lid creating a punctured x and it would then be easy to press the x to open and you would see 4 sections of the lid depressed into the bottle. At this point a few bread pieces would be put in the bottom of the bottle. They needed to be big enough to when the bottle was filled with water that they wouldn’t float up through the opening now in the lid.
With the bottle secured by the long string, sometimes doubled up, strong enough to hold the bottle full of water with some pressure, the bottle was then just tossed off shore. Under some overhanging branches was a good place, or even by a large rock. At this point nothing was left to do but wait. Ten minutes, maybe an hour. When the bottle was pulled back in it usually had several minnows in it. This was fishing and how it worked in my back yard, in the Portneuf River. Bigger fish could be caught with a pole and hook, but it wasn’t always a sure thing like bottle fishing was.
The small fish could be used for bait, if a trip to the Snake River was coming up, but that was a rare occasion. Maybe the fish could have been sold as bait with some worms, if I had thought about it back then, but I didn’t. What to do with these little fish was a question that had only a few answers. Letting them go happened occasionally. Building on the banks of the river a special little pool was often an interesting approach. Rocks and mud could be formed and arranged to create a little pool. Sometimes a special waterway could be built from upstream to feed the pool, but it wasn’t a big deal to just fill the little pond with water.
Once the fish pool was loaded up with fish then the next step was to move back away and just hide or even leave and come back in an hour. Sooner or later a snake would find this little pool and go in and eat the fish. With good timing the snake could then be caught.
What to do with a live snake was a little more of a challenge. Several attempts to keep them in a cardboard box under the front porch failed. They just disappeared? From this location they could have gone into the deep basement of the house we lived in. It had once been an old power plant and the basement was something I never saw the bottom of. Figuring out what to do with the snakes was always a challenge.
Rust is a passionate color, rich with warm-orange, brick-red, mustard-yellow and the combinations seem to be endless as ones emotions are stimulated when fond memories come front and center. Rust let's us know that an old and perhaps otherwise worthless car, has a history and a story to share if your willing to listen.
When a really great restored old car is found you may find yourself thinking, "Wow, That car is so cool, that era was so cool." As you caress the car with your eyes the remembering "back in the days" floods your memories and sends you back in time. When you see the same type of car all rusted out you still may think of the time and place, but your thoughts will be deeper and perhaps longing with nostalgia .
The car seems to be still be alive, if only in the remembering. Will a rusted 55 Chevy take you back in to that time any faster than a restored one? The restored one may take you back to a particular car and time but perhaps the rusted version leaves your mind open to looking deeper.
The rusted out car doesn't smell new. The doors (if they work at all) sound different if they close. The surface of rust may break and crumble if you rub your hands over it. Is it really a car or is it a spirit of a car?
The spirit of the car brings back feelings, memories and emotions and allows for that moment in time to transfer to the "now."
Rust is beautiful. Rust is the color of timelessness.
See Review of The Crucible: by Arthur Miller in Review Section
Arthur Miller wrote The Crucible in 1952. World War II, had just ended in 1945 and it was during a time in which the United States was becoming increasingly concerned about the rising power of the Soviet Union. Parania was growing inside the government worries that the Soviet Union's communist ways would infiltrate the United States led to a significant amount of paranoia within the American government and Hollywood was becoming a target for Joe McCarthy. This article in The New Yorker, appeared on October 21, 1996 P. 158.
"LIFE AND LETTERS about the inspiration for and influence of Miller's play, "The Crucible," a reflection of the Communist witchhunts of its time. Miller recalled the source of his creation while watching the filming of the new movie of "The Crucible." When he wrote it, Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Un- American Activities were prosecuting alleged Communists from the State Department to Hollywood; the Red hunt was becoming the dominant fixation of the American psyche. Miller did not know how to deal with the enormities of the situation in a play. "The Crucible" was an act of desperation; Miller was fearful of being identified as a covert Communist if he should protest too strongly. He could not find a point of moral reference in contemporary society. Miller found his subject while reading Charles W. Upham's 1867 two-volume study of the 1692 Salem witch trials, which shed light on the personal relationships behind the trials. Miller went to Salem in 1952 and read transcripts. He began to reconstruct the relationship between John and Elizabeth Proctor and Abigail Williams, who would become the central characters in "The Crucible." He related to John Proctor, who, in spite of an imperfect character, was able to fight the madness around him. The Salem court had moved to admit "spectral evidence" as proof of guilt; as in 1952, the question was not the acts of an accused but his thoughts and intentions."
Having more information on what Miller was thinking and what inspired him answers some questions as we look back over so many years at this play and try to answer the question, "why this play" at that time.
Does loving what you do, or what your working on, attract creativity? Does it feed your soul? Something has to happen, that adds to what you have, for creativity begin. Whatever it is that feeds your soul, opens the door to creativity, and when it is added, it becomes a "link in a chain' that the next artist will be able to build on .
What is it that we love is the key question? Another important question is why is it that we love it? What does that love feed within us?
The story of the good wolf and the bad wolf is a good beginning to find this out. There are two wolves in this story, one good and one bad. The good wolf is patient, kind, unselfish, loving, loyal, honest, and all those good things we know are good.
The bad wolf is just the opposite, not patient, hateful, jealous, dishonest, mean, and all those things we know are bad.
Each of us go through life influenced by one of these wolves. Whichever one we choose will live with us, and influence all we do. So the important question is, which one, and how is it that we are the one that makes the choice. The answer is that the wolf that stays with you is the one you feed.
The bad wolf wants hateful things, not good. This wolf isn't patient or kind. The bad wolf is not interested in new things and won't attract creativity and doesn't want you to succeed.
The good wolf wants to learn and is hungry for knowledge. He wants to see new things and to read and learn new things. He loves books and especially likes to read your daily journal and to do list. The good wolf attracts more good, and new ideas are attracted to what you already know.
In the book, "A Life You Love by Amy Tangerine", the book starts out discussing how to “craft a life and soul that you love”. Amy asks “what is it that we love?”
A writer may love the characters in a story. A painter may love the object being painted. When something new is added creativity happens. A non fiction story can be come fiction, when even just one of the characters becomes a product of the writers imagination. Then when that new character interacts with the others the writer will have to listen to find out what happens next in the plot, and creativity takes place.
Sometimes it is the writers emotions and feelings about the current characters that become the motivation to find a new character. The bad wolf doesn't want to let you look inside your subconscious for ideas, and instead teaches you to look instead for who to blame and hate.
The artist who only sees things as not good enough will never listen close enough to have the art inform of what may not be seen at first. The good wolf will teach you to look deeper than the surface and to listen
When we connect all that we have learned to our experiences, and then listen, the doors open.
"Nighthawks, a 1942 oil on canvas painting, was inspired by Hemingway's short story 'The Killers,' which Hopper read in Scribner's magazine. Edward Hopper is considered by some as the most important realist painter in the 20th century in America. Even so is vision was selective and reflected his temperament
The painting, Nighthawks, tells it's own story of lonliness.
The diner is a stand-alone building with long front windows with rounded corners on the glass itself that gives the glass a thicker and more confining look. It is late at night and the streets and other buildings look empty with their darkened windows, even more than just closed.
Silence seems to be part of the painting's message and is reflected inside and out of the diner. The diner has no visible doors and thick glass which suggest that those inside are trapped. Unsettling are the yellow, faded and peeling walls. The use of green outside on the reflected walk and around the window suggest unnatural light. Pale green fades to dark green near the buildings and confirms that the building is alone and that the people are isolated. The people inside the diner are not talking and they are not looking at each other.
Most of Hoppers paintings are about how loneliness feels. Loneliness connects to depression and anxiety, both things that Hopper suffered from. Just being alone is not loneliness but having no connection with others is.
Hopper, a tall lonely man, said that he declared himself in his paintings. In the diner tall men in suits bend over, but still look tall.
Being alone in a city is something we all can relate to. Those feelings are captured and used by the author of this book, "The Lonely City, Adventures in the Art of Being Alone, by Olivia Laing" (see review).
The book starts out saying: "Imagine standing by a window at night, on the sixth or seventeenth or forty-third floor of a building". The book also mentions this painting and author to explain the feeling.
I have experienced that feeling 30 floors up, at night in a hotel room. When I looked out the window I could see all the other tall buildings and the lights in their windows and could see people in the closer windows. You knew you were surrounded with people but you had no connection with any of them. You were alone.
I was asked recently if I had read all the books listed on the books reviewed and books read section on my blog? Yes, I have read them, some several times. I didn't include political books, many on religion, success books, and many that I had read prior to 1998. So yes, I have read a lot of books, but compared to a lot of people, maybe not so many.
What happened in 1998? Well a friend told me the best book he had read was Louis L amour's, "Education of a Wandering Man". Prior to that I had never read any of his books, and had sort of looked down on western novels. I read the book and was really surprised. It was his autobiography and told of his travels as a young man, and about all the books he had read during that time. Wow! He read the deepest books, and it just really surprised me. In fact it inspired me - I decided from that day forward I would keep closer tabs on what I was reading and I started a list. I should add here that I have read some of his western novels since then and really like them.
Einstein said that if you want your kids to be smart when they grow up read them fairy tales. Pondering that, opened another door in reading for me. I had not read a lot off fantasy or fiction.
I have to admit I now love reading Stephen King. He scares me at times but I keep going back. With all of the fiction he has written it is a little surprise that his book, "On Writing" is one of the best I have read on the subject. This book changed the way I saw his books. The writing skill of this author just jumps out at you in his books.
So can I remember what is in all of the books in that section? I find that they come back just looking at them, and thinking about one, brings several others back.
Some authors are so familiar that they become labels. Darwinian, Shakespearean, or Orwellian imply things that most understand. Harold Bloom is a literary critic that knows all the older authors that well and likely could imply labels of influence for them all. A goal I have is to be able to do the same and to in that way have them come alive and even talk to me.
C.S. Lewis said “The good of literature is that we want to become more than ourselves, we want to see with others eyes, to imagine with others imaginations, to feel with others hearts, as well as our own.” He sad we become a thousand men and yet remain ourselves. When it happens you will feel renewed and reinvented.
Street art has become common and the walls of buildings may be a new venue for modern art. The same photographers that capture street art often include in their pictures the street people. Art and photography can inform us and tell us what is being felt. If the homeless have blended into and become part of the art have they lost their humanness? Did the photographer take it from them?
Colette Brooks wrote the book, “In the City: Random Acts of Awareness”, She said, “that a city person is one who doesn't feel the need to finish a jigsaw puzzle, who relishes jagged edges and orphaned curves, stray bits of data, stories parsed from sentences half overheard on the streets”. She likely just meant those folks walking the sidewalks going and coming to work. Surrounded with people but no real connections.
Is this homeless man less important as a human now captured as part of the painting above? Is he still real and an individual? Was his presence just a way for the photographer to tell us what he saw? Did we take his "humanness" away from him by making him part of the picture? Do we see the homeless? Maybe this is the overall message?
I am not saying the answers are easy but the questions are important.
If you were, or are, a liberal arts major does that mean your politics have to be liberal? No, of course not.
Liberal arts refer to academic subjects such as literature, philosophy, and social and physical sciences, as distinct from professional and technical subjects. As far back as Ancient Greece liberal arts subjects were felt necessary to enable a person to take an active part in civic life.
J.Paul Getty, the billionaire from the mid 1900’s, said it well when he said that he could teach a new hire accounting but he couldn’t teach them how to talk to people.
This blog is liberal arts focused intended to help get away from looking at daily routine in only technical terms but to consider thoughts and connections to enable further pondering.
The Dean of the Business School at Wake Forest recently said. “We have become so myopic in solving business problems that we don’t think about those problems from the perspective of other disciplines”.
Boston University’s assistant dean at their school of business said, "businesses want workers who have the ability to think, the ability to write, the ability to understand the cultural or historical context of whatever business decision they’re making”.
Liberal arts can help you get out of where you are to somewhere new. C.S. Lewis said “The good of literature is that we want to become more than ourselves, we want to see with others eyes, to imagine with others imaginations, to feel with others hearts, as well as our own.”
So whether your personally conservative or liberal, the good news is that more liberal arts will help you renew and reinvent yourself.
What happens when the music runs out? Do musicians retire when that happens? Louis Armstrong said that musicians don't retire, they only stop when there is no more music left in them.
Music is a connection between our physical self and our very souls. We feel the music. It reflects our heart. Music with scriptures are hymns. We worship through hymns. The feelings of our heart are conveyed in verbal prayer. Our bodies and faces reflect the images of happiness and sadness, with music opening those feelings. Singing makes us better. Sometimes we sing for what we long for. We use music to help us get by without things wanted.
Louis Armstrong also said that “What we play is life”.
What is that music? How did that music get to be inside the musician, or others? Is it a song yearning for something, or is it a song celebrating something?
Did the music ever leave Louis Armstrong? Did it ever run out? He never retired, so that answers that. What would leave each of us, and then result in our retiring? Would what we have longed for have gone away, or would we have given up on our passion? It does seem very clear that Louis Armstrong loved the music and for him it never went away. He had a passion for it.
What do we have a passion for? Love, kindness, and passion are what focuses us. They drive us. We lose ourselves in those feelings. They fill our minds, and we have little place for worrying about ourselves.
In the play, Cat’s, which is being released again, the cats all audition for the opportunity to go back and have another life. They feel that it would be good to do that because, as one of the cats said so well in the song "Memory". They had the experience but missed the meaning. They had lived once and wanted another shot. Had the music for life run out in the cats?
Is there any chance that Louis Armstrong would want to come back and have another life. Would he have looked back and felt like he missed the meaning? Of course, not. That one is so easy to answer. We knew his passion. He told us that “what we play is our life”. His playing moved us. We felt it. For him the music was Jazz. For us, what we play can be just what we love. It can be anything we chose, but then we need to feel passionate about it. If your lucky enough to love knowledge and learning, then your indeed blessed. That, like the music for Louis, just never stops being an option.
If your passion is your family, then that too is a blessing. You will always be an example to them. You can always show love and concern.
Many of the liberal arts offer areas that you can find passion for. If you love art, then there is always more. If you love poetry, then you will not reach the end. If you love reading you will never finish.
To love, you need to be comfortable with yourself. You need to forgive yourself. Your life story needs to be well thought through.
What about Louis? Do you think he had a perfect personal life? Do you think he spent his time worrying about missing the meaning in his life? He dropped out of school at 11 and had rough years ahead of him. His mother didn’t have an inspiring occupation. Later he said of himself, that he hardly looked back at his youth as the worst of times, but drew inspiration from those times instead. He said that "Every time I close my eyes blowing that trumpet of mine—I look right in the heart of good old New Orleans... It has given me something to live for.”
What we have a passion for matters. Yes. musicians don’t retire, as long as they have music in them. Find the music.
Stephen King on Writing. George Orwell, Why I Write. Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir. Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See.
“Writing in the moment” is a term that seems to have several uses. I can be just a focus of attention on things happening right now. The idea of even trying to capture the details, like a slow-motion camera’s input, gives focus to the way you approach the moment. If not being a directive at the “here and now” it still can be a map to where to look.
The idea that some moments might stand out and that you can sort of sense them, almost breathing them in, and then using the senses to direct your thoughts at the details is just more of what the moment can be about.
A life story can be a reference to moments in our life, but those moments change. Seldom do you hear a person tell their own life story the same way over and over. As they look back and recall events, they see those events differently. The conclusions as to why things happened in the past change when the events are seen over again looking back.
Stephen King on Writing. George Orwell, Why I Write. Mary Karr, The Art of Memoir. Making A Literary Life, Carolyn See.
Four Good Books on Writing
Click the books to link to the Reviews
Social media can be harmful. I don't think as many people get addicted to blogs as social media. Real "face to face personal relationships" with people are hands down better than either blogs or social media. I don't think that would be disputed.
A University did a study last year on social media's effect on self esteem and anxiety and reported that 50% of the 298 participants said "that their use of social networks, like Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, made their lives worse". Research shows that they had a false sense of belonging and connecting that wasn't real world based. One big reason for this is that all those "assumed connections" that people are checking in on out of habit, several times a day, look like they are having the perfect life. It just often isn't real and if your life isn't perfect it can be depressing. People can be whoever they want to be on those sites. Whatever they are doing, it can be a staged situation, not a shared life. Our lives can look boring in comparison. As said it can lead to a lot of stress and anxiety. Not good things. Other peoples passions can be polarizing.
Depression, in part, is a state of not caring. The world turns "black and cold" all around us when were depressed. Things just don't matter. Anxiety may be the other end of this same spectrum. On that side you care "far to much about everything" and there is no way to accomplish all that you care about.
Connecting with people can help for either problem. Getting "out of ourselves" helps. People, books, art, poetry, service, our ancestors, and music can all help us get out of ourselves. If it is people that are going to pull us out they need to be pulling us into the real world not a made up fantasy on line reality show.
Having said this I have to acknowledge the real world. I may wind up using these same social media sites as places to offer some very short encouragement and to try to pull people to this site. I don't think I originated any of this so I hope you don't want to hang the messenger
With the new year facing us, a question is what to read next? "Fiction is the gateway drug to reading” according to Neil Gaiman, a successful fiction and fantasy writer. He added that fiction drives us to want to know what happens next. It becomes exciting, and it satisfies the excitement, as we turn the pages.
When we read fiction, it increases our imagination and results in our finding something new of interest. The new things we find may lead us in a direction such as science, history or art? Maybe we look for a biography of a person with an area of similar interest to our own.
Often the path to the next book, or even choosing one to re read, is built on past choices. Years ago I watched the movie “Apocalypse Now”. That lead me to reread Joseph Conrad’s book, “Heart of Darkness” set in Africa with very much the same basic plot. The book was considered one of Conrad’s best.
Conrad's book was critised by some for have a white mans perspective of life in Africa. I wanted to find another perspective. I wondered if there were good African writers that I could read? At that point in my life I had never looked for African writers. I looked and found many good ones who were respected for their work. I found several authors of interest. Chinua Achebe, was at the time emerging as a well known African author for his book, “Things Fall Apart”.
It seemed to be the perfect “other point of view” I was looking for. This book is indeed something that should be read by anyone who reads “Heart of Darkness”, and wonder if they have seen Africa correctly.
SEE "PAST REVIEWS TAB" TO FIND
REVIEW OF "THINGS FALL APART, by CHINA ACHEBE
HEART OF DARKNESS BY JOSEPH CONRAD
Each time I think back over my own life story I see it differently. I re-think what happened and draw different conclusions. This story below seems to have stuck with me throughout my life.
When I was about 11 years old I had the unfortunate experience of being chased home each day after school by a kid who was much bigger than me. One day my mother met me as I was running into the yard. She probably had planned to do this and must have been aware of the fact that I was running hard on arrival at home each day. That day she asked why I was running so hard? I told her this big kid was chasing me. I guess I could have said "I was running to avoid getting pounded". That would have been an honest answer.
We lived by a river and crossing the bridge in front of our house meant that I was home. The next day she was out front waiting for my arrival as I came across the bridge. She stopped me there and when shortly the big kid came across she called him over and announced to us both that the next day we would meet right there in the park across the street from my house and fight. It surprised me? It surprised me, perhaps even more, that my mother was setting this up. In looking back it also surprises me that I didn’t try to get out of it, or worry a lot about it. I just figured that was what I had to do. I had to fight him.
The next day at school word got out. I was asked by some of the kids if I was really going to fight him? I said yes I was. The next day after school the big kid, and a lot of kids from the school, arrived at the park, some even before I arrived. My mother was there. She had all the kids form a big circle in the park. The big kid, his name was Alan, and I went into the circle with fists up ready to start swinging, and mom was the referee. We fought. I danced around with my fists up and tried to land some punches and avoid getting punched. I hit him as hard as I could and did land a few. He wasn't very good at boxing and preferred to just push and shove. He probably felt he had to try and box with the audience. Several times he just pushed me to the ground and then would beat on me. I would hit back even from laying on the ground. Each time this happened my mother had us get up and have us continue boxing. It wasn't a fight I had a chance of winning. Finally, my mother held up his hand and said there you go Alan, you won!
What has always surprised me most then, and ever since looking back, is that I wasn’t scared. I felt like I did the best I could and I didn’t hurt too bad. I lost my fear of failing. Life went on. I did get into a fight or two in later years at school but I'd lost my fear.
When I tell this story, as part of my life story it seems to connect with the future challenges I had in life. I have pondered and rethought a lot about this story. It does seem different with time, but it is still part of the narrative of my overall life story. I have not been afraid of failures and have worked through them. Somehow challenges and changes in my life connects for me in various ways with what happened that day in front of my house. When you get knocked down you get up. You keep fighting and when it is over life goes on.
By the way, a side note. I have always loved boxing. "Watching it", in particular. Muhammad Ali's my favorite. This quote of his has relevance for me.
"Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even."
I was not good at art and had never taken a class in it, until the 9th grade. Many in the class were talented and I wondered if I had made a mistake. Our teacher was Mr. Lampson. He was passionate about art. Early in the year he mentioned a phrase that just drove him crazy. He explained that when he heard someone say, “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like”, that he just wanted to yell. It offended him and he took it very personally.
He said it wasn’t really our decision if “Art was art”, adding that, "We don't inform art, that art informs us". I am sure he had a lot more to say and I do recall that it often came up.
Even though this class did not set me on the path of greatness in art, it did get me thinking, and over the years many things I learned told me that Mr. Lampson was right. Art does have its own role and purpose, but the question of whether art is a reflection of the artist’s feelings, or if art created those feelings, is still unclear. Maybe it is both?
Oscar Wilde, in his 1889 essay, "The Decay of Lying" said that: “Life imitates Art, more than Art imitates Life, and what is found in life and nature is not what is really there, but is that which artists taught people to find there, through art”.
Do we really see what is there, or what an artist taught us to see? It has been found that people do see what they are conditioned to see. When people are hypnotized and asked about what they saw when they walked through a room they have very different answers than when not hypnotized. They can remember the number of tiles on the ceiling, or even the faces on the magazines on the tables and they can’t remember those things otherwise. Their conscious mind was not interested in them. Those who believe that the artists taught us to see will like this.
Mr. Lampson also showed us how a lump of clay, spinning on a pottery wheel, grasped by an artists hands worked. It seemed magical as he created some beautiful bowls and vases. He wanted us to understand that the clay could talk to us and that what we finished with would be different from what we intended when we started. Learning how to listen seemed exciting.
Writers and artists reveal much about themselves in what they do but they also find a great deal waiting to be expressed.
New Mexico holds a real mystic for writers and they mention their time there often in their stories. Tony Hillerman, a well known New Mexico author, wrote a great deal about the cultures reflected in the art of its people, especially the Navajo. The stories were told as he saw it or perhaps as other artists taught him to see it.
Art is a path to connections, that can help us see ourselves differently. We can become better than we are by re-looking at the connections.
Fiction is a way to explore the parts of being human that we would never otherwise experience. All your beliefs can be set aside and you can step inside a new reality. You will meet people who will inspire you and some who will terrify you. You will have experiences you would never have in your own life. Things will happen that you previously couldn’t have even imagined.
Will these fictional characters and experiences have an influence on your self-identity? I think they will. Do they have in role in the narrative of how you see your life story? Again, I think they do. Does fiction have any redeeming value? Will it’s influence raise or lower intelligence? There is plenty of evidence that it raises it.
There are lots of suggestions on how to increase intelligence, but one that is common is to associate with intelligent educated people. The reason for this is that you can talk to them about a broad range of subjects. New ideas can be discussed. Different perspectives can be found. It sounds a lot like opening up a book of fiction.
The first time I read Faulkner’s fictional story, “As I Lay Dying” it took me by surprise. I expected to step into a story line and learn about the people in a part of the country that I had never experienced. That did happen, but it was the language and the tone and sound of the conversations, that was the surprise. The way the characters talked to each other was so very different than anything I would ever have known. I knew I was in a different place, but the way the characters interacted let me see differently.
I read the book, “Still Alice” by Lisa Genova, because I wanted to learn more about what it was like to have Alzheimer’s disease. I hoped to never know for myself and saw this story as a way to have an experience with it. The story did much more than I expected. When Alice, a linguistics professor, began to lose words and thoughts I felt how hard it was for her.
Some fiction will just take you to a place you haven’t been with people that are different, like in Faulkner’s story. Some approaches let you feel things that just wouldn’t happen to you.
Einstein suggested, “If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Neil Gaiman in his book "View from the Cheap Seats" talked about fiction. He is a writer of fiction for young readers and he went to a world-wide meeting for fiction writers held in China. He knew that over the prior years China didn't even allow fairy tales and fiction in their schools, so he was surprised that this event had been invited to China. He asked an official what had happened and was told, off the record, that they had toured all the big companies they did outsourcing work for in the United States and they asked those they met what they read and they all said science fiction. The saw the connection of fiction with creativity.
Even in fiction, fairy tales, and horror stories, good guys win and bad guys are bad. The force in the Star Wars, for some, might be the goodness in the universe, but then what about that goodness? Will it reaffirm our beliefs seeing it in a fictional plot? Hopefully it will.
Dr. Einstein also said that creative imagination is the essential element in the intellectual equipment of the true scientist, and that fairy tales are the childhood stimulus to this quality.
Fiction is a literary influence that helps us shape our lives. Of course the really good thing is that it lets us step out of our own world for a while.