What will your life’s art add up to? A fancy, but disposable, commodity? Or a perpetuating garden of flowers?
In the previous two posts, I have been analyzing Robert Silvers’ great composite portrait of The Titanic, which I bought eight years ago as an object lesson to my, then-toddler, grandchildren. If you haven’t read my last two posts, please take a minute to do so, or this might sound quite confusing. Robert Silvers is an amazing photographer who has fashioned many large photomosaics, some of them copies of the Great Masters’ Works, by positioning tiny pictures together using their color values to create the bigger scene. I compare his technique to the way each human being creates their own master work made up of a mosaic of all of their own life’s smallest moments.
Now, to continue my imaginary analysis about the person, who upon examination after their death, learns that this rendering of The Titanic is the accumulation of the life they have just lived. The Analyzer is now making assumptions about the person, based upon the evidence contained in the tiny pictures making up the whole:
“1) Obviously, they were wealthy. Very wealthy, to have lived such a glamorous life. Their wealth allowed them to travel and they did do so, but, strangely, they limited themselves severely to only places of water.
2) People were not important to this person. There are many more fish in the photos, than there are people… more boats and ships, than people. Though we can safely assume that people occupy those boats and ships, they are simply not important to the person living this particular life. Where are the family shots? The babies? The best friends? I find a beautiful girl or two, and a few men and women indulging in water sports, but they seem to be in passing, as a fellow tourist would be.
3) All of these photos represent an easy life. There are no storms, no bad weather, no discomfort, no ugliness. Nothing but pleasure. So, this person whom we are analyzing had protected himself from anything unhappy or difficult. Life’s path had been greased by the ability to buy one’s way along and the person hadn’t been toughened up by the “College of Hard Knocks.”
So, to look at our big picture of the Titanic, we see how the wealth and luxury fits in; the disregard for human life, except as it can adorn or enhance an object; and the egotistical assumption on the part of the Titanic designers that their creation couldn’t be touched by disaster. Hard Knocks were not taken into consideration because those designers must never have been humbled by diversity.
Now we can see how life’s yin and yang fit together. The yin, being the tiny pictures or those snapshots which have been made by our own life’s hidden security camera. The yang, being the huge mosaic that they combine to form, all unbeknown to us. That huge picture is completely impossible to discern while one is still alive, shooting their own picture collection. But, it might be guessed at, if we ever thought about what makes up our life.
Script-writing is something like this mosaic too. I’m particularly aware of this now, when I’m trying to dream up the right little chips of scenes to stick in the scripts I’m actually working on these days. How do you build meaning and depth, beauty and significance into a movie and not distract from the main story? At this point in my writing, the story is still so fluid that I could come up with just about anything. I could take it so many ways. What I decide will ultimately affect the whole mood of the movie.
That is also easily true of any young life. Which direction are we going to send it? What little scenes do we fill it with? And how do those affect the overall mood of the movie we are creating…or that Bigger Picture we will have to look at with The Analyzer, once we leave this world below? Let’s just be careful not to put together a big hollow fantasy like that highly-touted ship that sank on its first time out the gate.
I’d rather you build a good strong rowboat and use it for many years. Or plant fields of pretty flowers that come back strong every single year. Pay close attention to the little photographs and the big one will take care of itself.”
What are the underpinnings of a picture? Of a human life? Last post, I started a commentary on the famous poster created by Robert Silvers of The Titanic. Eight years ago tomorrow, when I first saw this marvelous work consisting of a photomosaic with hundreds of tiny photos combined to make one large portrait, I was inspired to write a long, philosophical piece for the erudition of my two grandchildren who were mere toddlers at the time. Now, I’ll continue that line of thinking, but it will clarify things for you to go back and read the last post if you’re not familiar with it:
Assuming that the portrait of the Titanic is the unwitting creation of someone whose life had added up to this scene, and assuming that we are taking part in a life review using this picture to figure out the direction of a life, we might hear The Analyzer say:
“Notice that an overwhelming percentage of the photos that make up the blackness of the Titanic’s hull are underwater scenes of the deep, dark floor of the ocean. Most consist of marine life and reef creatures, as well as the darkness that they live in. The sunken hull of the Titanic has now been discovered and photographed in its watery grave on the deep, night black ocean floor. So, even within the mosaic of a fine proud ocean liner, one can find clues to its destiny.”
How would you feel now if you were the one under review? Not so hot! And, you’d be wondering how you could change the fate of the picture that you had, unknowingly, painted with your life. How could you, at this late date, stop the Titanic from sinking? How could you divert the horror that you had created and had amassed with all of the millions and jillions of little life decisions you had made along the way? Maybe, if you had learned to laugh for all of those times that you chose to curse. Or, if you had forgiven, instead of holding onto a grudge. Or had had a different ambition instead of power.
Maybe now that you have left life and are staring at the clear picture of where you were going with it, is there any way to divert the ultimate tragedy that is readable in the cards? It’s certainly a lot harder to do, once you are in that Analysis Room In The Sky; when your billions of freezeframe snapshots have been put in the developing solution and collected up as finalized. If you had only spent your living days analyzing your moves and decisions. “Where is all this going?” “What am I all about?” “How do I become spiritual instead of material?” Then your picture surely wouldn’t have come together as one of the most materialistic symbols imaginable, steaming confidently towards its own destruction.
It would be something lovely, with a forward-moving future, such as a lovely flowering plant, full of luscious buds ready to burst into stunning blooms (see Princess Diana) in the next stage of existence. That pending future is just as easy to read in its mosaic/life photograph as this one of the Titanic is. Which one would you rather see in that data-gathering of life’s sum total, as you take the analysis of what you did on Earth? There’s the whole thing! Even the lowliest flower is much more desirable than the most powerful accident waiting to happen.
To continue studying this composite picture of Robert Silvers’ Titanic as if it’s a human life that we are totaling up:
Appropriately, every small picture making up the composite whole is ocean-related. There are many sorts of ships represented: tall ships, cruise ships, sailboats, yachts; plus many beach scenes, diving scenes, swimming scenes. We also find appropriate underwater scenes, such as scuba pictures of reefs and creatures of the deep. So, this individual was true to themselves to the core. Consistent.
All pictures were happy and pleasure-filled. I don’t see one to be ashamed of. However, I also don’t see even one shot that portrays “work” in any way, unless the person was a pleasure boat captain, or a marine photographer, or a travel channel host. Even so, they were obviously having a whole lot of fun. Which is what life is all about….right?
There are no indoor shots…no studious shots…so this is a very focused collection that features the oceans of the world. No wonder, that it is expressed in one very powerful image of a great ocean liner. So, what conclusions do we draw, if these were the personal memories of one person? If they were a printout of somebody’s memory banks?
To Be Continued…
Exactly eight years ago this week, I wrote a journal entry which I’d like to share in the next few posts. It’s a long piece but it is good philosophy, which still holds up, as it surely will the next time I come across it in my notes, ten or twenty years from now, perhaps. Assuming I’m still around.
Because I have grandchildren, I’m always looking for opportunities to slip in a few eternal truths about life and how to live it. On July 25, 2001, I came across a large poster – a picture of the Titanic. You’ve probably seen this very poster, as it’s a popular one; but I’ll leave the description to the quote from my journal. Before I framed this, I conceived and wrote out a long personal philosophy to tape to the back of it for my grandchildren’s future enlightenment. The framed picture is still around somewhere in their house, perhaps in the basement, but I doubt if they’ve read it, since the moment passed so long ago. At the time, Riley was three and Molly was one. That didn’t stop me! My poor daughter has had to weather and store many of my Great Educational Intentions over the years. Well, here it is:
(Oh, by the way, the world is sort of doing this very thing right now due to the death of Michael Jackson. Let’s see if we can find the same sort of pattern. And hmmmm, couldn’t this same analogy be applied to certain financial affairs, which even in 2001, were beginning to indicate a massive and “surprising” sinking somewhere up ahead…but which failed to tip anyone off to the huge dangers we faced? When did Enron go under? )
“Yesterday, I bought a poster for Riley and Molly. I couldn’t resist, because it’s a real lesson in life. I think I’ll write this truth on a sheet of paper and affix it to the back of the poster so they will rehearse it when they look at the picture. Robert Silvers specializes in making these. He has taken hundreds of photographic scenes, each a complete picture in itself, mostly outdoor travel shots, and then reduced them to less than a half an inch square. Using their color values alone, he has formed the shape and details of The Titanic. When you back up, you can see the black hull and all the details, even to the ship’s name. Yet, it’s only done with the arrangement of random photos and the colors within them. It’s most amazing.
Life is this way, being made up of millions of moments, which are so varied and set in so many locations, filled with so many different people. Yet, from an ultimate distance, seen only when you die and review your life, it is possible to make out the mosaic that you were working on during your whole life when you were painting some greater picture, though you had no idea what it was. You could never have discerned the whole vision while you were inside of life, running around, taking your individual shots.
We can look further ahead, into a moment which is yet in the future for the object of this poster. Perhaps, we can discern, more or less, what its impending fate will be. Or, in human terms, where this soul is heading, ultimately.
Imagine that we stand in some great Decoding Room In The Sky, analyzing the life of the person who has just died. We are looking at this particular inner mosaic with them…sort of as a coroner might examine a body to see what was there from the beginning and what had evolved since then.
We could say to the person who had unexpectedly created such a poster: ” Oh well, look at that. You did create a very coherent picture here. Some people’s lives are so scattered and helter-skelter, that no image forms, but yours is actually a very strong statement. In fact, it’s the mighty-impressive, Greatest Ship Ever Built By Man, as seen in its most imposing position, from water level looking up at the beautiful bow, towering overhead. It is sailing on calm seas, with all three stacks belching black smoke. We can guess that it is loaded with many wealthy passengers, the high society of that time, and we can further assume that they are having the time of their lives in the ship’s fancy ballrooms. What we know of history tells us that this is the Titanic’s maiden voyage. At that very moment, it is the greatest ship in all the world, as the name implies.”
Now, up to this point, the newly-dead-one would be feeling quite good about himself, or herself. This all sounds pretty positive and very powerful. They might think: “Wow! I must really be Somebody, to have done such an accurate picture portrayal, just by living my life the way that I did; not knowing anything about the bigger scene that I was designing; yet to have created, each day of my life, one brush stroke, very accurately, of a great painting that actually makes sense and represents something on a Higher Plane. Wow! Hey, it really works. I must be somebody important!”
But then, The Analyzer goes on: “Now, we must consider what the figure of The Titanic represents. It is Man’s Ultimate Folly. This is a symbol of overweening ego and of a great disregard of the Laws of God. The Titanic was called the “Unsinkable Ship,” and yet it sank on its maiden voyage, in 1912, taking thousands of lives with it. It was excessive in every way imaginable. This ship represented the apex of wealth and glamor; and a belief in its invulnerability caused its architects to overstep the bounds of moderation and sensibility. Because it was never expected to be in the position of sinking, the designers left the interior bulkheads open at the top; so that when it did go down, water was free to flow to all of the compartments instead of being contained only in the breached one.”
Also, this egotistical blindness caused the builders to spur the captain on to excessive speeds in order to break the current sailing record between Europe and America. Additionally, it caused the crew and captain to overlook the warnings received in advance about icebergs spotted in the area. Consequently, the ship hit one of those icebergs and sank very rapidly, never even completing its maiden voyage. The Titanic could have been a great triumph of nautical engineering, serving long and well, giving pleasure to millions. But instead, it failed on a grand scale and now lives on in memory as an example of massive braggadocio and its flaming consequences. In fact, without even knowing the story of the Titanic, a skilled interpreter could discern its ultimate end simply by carefully studying the intimate details of this picture.”
July 21, 2009 – And here I will break this heavy-handed life’s lesson to those little toddlers, who may not even see those yellowed pages taped to the back of a familiar picture until they are teenagers or even adults. Next time, I’ll post the continuing analysis. In the meantime, go to Robert Silvers/portfolio/memorabilia and see all of his amazing work created with little bits and slices of life. Small moments that make up a significant whole.
Three months ago, I was staying at the Freestyle Hostel in Ushuaia, Argentina, down there at the End of The World…Tierra del Fuego…Patagonia. All that fresh air and gorgeous mountain view was very memorable and I wrote about it in my journal. But, not so lyrical was my last night there when a snoring woman became my roommate. That memory returned in all its horror today when I came across the following account in the journal I’m typing up for my next book.
Please Travelers, if the shoe fits, at least pay a little more for a private room. Walls may only serve to muffle your sound, but at least, the rest of us won’t know who to blame in the morning and we might, possibly, get a little sleep, to boot.
“What a long and hard night it was…with a snorer in the room! Some time after dark, while I was in the shower, a new roommate checked in. I had shared the dorm room with only one person the night before – a nice guy from Washington State and Hawaii. He was a very good roommate and a silent sleeper, as all but one of my previous roommates have been. Just one, on my first night in Bogota, was a snorer, and he had some plug-in, oxygen device that fitted over his mouth and nose when he slept, which actually worked very well. He was a young guy who knew he had a problem, but wanted to live the backpacking hostel life, so he invested in this machine and dealt with its bulk, out of consideration to us….and who knows, maybe not wanting to die of sleep apnea, as well.
My new roommate, from France, did not. She’s an older woman; a bit heavy, with a steel-grey, pageboy hairdo. She speaks English and we conversed pleasantly while getting ready for bed. In fact, she was complaining about the noise in the hostel which was running very high. The young man at the front desk had the stereo on full blast and everyone sitting around the tables had to shout above it. Doors were slamming; footsteps were pounding; pool balls were clacking. There was more nervous energy in the air than I had noticed before.
So, Dominique says that she’s paid up for two nights. “If it’s too noisy, I’ll just go somewhere else tomorrow!” and she made the defiant gesture of smacking her right hand into the crook of her left elbow, raising that lower part of her arm. It must be a French or European signal that probably means, “Up Yours!” But, I did approve of the fact that she obviously valued peace and quiet. However, she wound up creating more disturbance than the revelers in the lounge, who finally went to bed at midnight. Dominique sawed away, all night long, and I could tell that my fellow-sufferer roommate couldn’t sleep either, by his restless stirring. I’ll be up most of tonight, flying to Buenos Aires, and it would have been so nice to get some rest last night.
Instead, I lay there for hours, analyzing things about snorers. How utterly wretched it would be to marry someone, after having carefully observed the moralities and proprieties and “saved yourself” for your wedding night, and then learned what you had gotten yourself into. How many women (or men) have passed the nights of their lives in lonely desperation, with nowhere at all to escape to? Many don’t have the luxury of spare bedrooms, or unused recreation vehicles stored in their backyard, a solution a friend of mine was once driven to. That’s a desperate measure and not always comfortable, either.
I thought of my dark, silent bedroom at home, which I will again occupy a week from tonight. What a true luxury that is, without even anybody, ever, sawing logs inside my really quiet house. But what about people sleeping near a snorer in an adjoining apartment or hotel room, or a house built close next door. What do you do then? Snoring is noise pollution but you can’t call the cops to complain about it. And, the perpetrator isn’t doing this on purpose and can’t fathom why you are so resentful and unfriendly in the morning.
What they are guilty of, however, is “Domination.” They dominate every second, and every square inch of that darkened room, or sometimes, every square inch of a whole house, with their SOUND EFFECTS. “Whoownk! Whooosh! The poor victim’s attention and focus gets stuck squarely upon that sleeping tyrannical individual who has stolen their sleep so completely, and who simply won‘t/can‘t give it back.
I have been sleeping in hostel dorms with silent strangers for four months now, so I’m an expert on the differences between silent sleepers and “Those Others.” When someone is quietly sleeping, you pay no attention to them, other than to try to be considerate not to make noise yourself: like not rattling a plastic bag when you dig out your toothbrush; or not bumping into something on the way to the bathroom. Those quiet roommates are, essentially, only sleeping lumps in a bunk bed, like you plan soon to be. They don’t impinge, one way or the other, upon your consciousness.
But, a snorer! They take a center stage position and carry on a performance all the night long. Once in awhile, they tease you with a blessed silence and you start to drift off into grateful sleep. Then, they pull that motorboat cord and roar back into another dreadful animal imitation of a bear, a wolf, or a very big dog. Your mind plays with that for awhile, and then returns to performing psychic operations on the offender’s head. A pillow pushed down? Nope! I’ll try that on myself. Doesn’t work! Neither do earplugs.
The imagined measures grow more desperate; the dreamed up inventions for a cure, more complex…until finally, you realize with a start that she is silent. Oh Joy! Forget it. Now, it’s morning and she is simply awake….and snagging the bathroom first, after having had herself a long and sound night’s sleep.
Later that morning, I talked to my poor, dragged-out roommate. His sentiments matched mine, exactly. We both check out today, but he agreed that he would change rooms if he had to stay there another night. That was BAAAAAD! I asked him, cautiously, if I snore, since we had already weathered three nights together before the Log-Sawer checked in. “No, you do not!” he said. I commented that this is the very best argument for sleeping with somebody before you marry them, that I had ever heard.
Since he’s still single, he heartily agreed.
Just before I left for the airport, I saw the baggage of several strangers on the bunks around Miss Chainsaw’s bed. I tried so hard to find out who those unsuspecting roommates were, so that I could whisper a warning and allow them to request another room – far away. But, my good deed went nowhere because I never identified those who were innocently heading straight for sleeper’s hell.”
Several months ago, as I was just beginning my backpacking travels throughout South America, I met a wonderful InterGalactic Friend, Luis, in the hostel, Casa Kiwi, in Medellin, Colombia. I even wrote a few blogs about that time, way back in January, 2009, about the ghost of Juan Valdez, who occupied that hostel, if you’re interested in looking back that far in this blogsite.
Anyway, Luis, who is a great guy in his twenties, is back in his home country of Mexico by now, and I’m in Florida, but we write emails back and forth about our mutual interest in spiritual matters. I sent him, recently, a box containing some of my own writings and a sketch I made once to figure out the marvelous written teachings on the Wingmakers.com website. As I answered his last email today, actually copying a journal entry that his comments inspired, I thought that it would make a crackerjack blog posting, as well. So, here it is:
“Dear Luis sent another long and wonderful email. He has now finished reading everything I sent him and was speaking of Questions & Answers, as well as the Wingmaker’s.com teaching illustrations that I’d sketched out to make their whole, confusing written material much more understandable. He gets it all. Comprehends and applies it, and can write clearly in expressing himself on the subject – in English, his second language. He also speaks of his new condition of quietness that he is exploring. When I first met him he was like a Roman Candle. Now, he says he’s becoming comfortable with silence and he never thought that possible. All of these changes he attributes to me. Now, I know what a guru, or Master, feels like.
From the Wingmaker’s material, he understands the importance of freedom and independence from the Hierarchy. I’m sure he realizes that it is freedom of mind that is meant. Some hierarchies, such as the particular government we live under, or the police forces within them, must be obeyed. But it’s the brainwashing factor we can remain free of.
It helps me to remember the two basic Questions that The Great Creator posed initially, when He populated creation with little, bitty bits of His Own Consciousness, residing in all sizes and shapes of containers – the living beings within existence: we humans as well as everything else. He asked Himself and then began to watch in order to find out:
1.) How would I behave under any given circumstance?
2.) Would I… could I… recognize Myself? (Himself as God by himself as man)
Everything going on “down here in the soup” is simply an answer to either of those Questions, played out in behavior. Our individual job is to behave as we know He would want to see Himself behaving under our particular circumstance of the moment. The Christians have it right in saying “What would Jesus do?”
On Question #2, we human bits need to focus on the highest impression that we can muster about God, or The Great Creator, or The Great Creative Force, or whatever we might call Him, or It. It’s His Consciousness that we carry around, thinking that it’s ours. We need to try to peer through the veils of matter (the stuff of the soup) to catch a glimpse of His Presence, right there, all along, probably peeking down at us and wondering what we are going to do next…how “He/we” is/are going to answer Question #1, in the process of addressing Question #2.
It’s possible to find traces of Him, and hints of His Reality, within the religions…all of them,…but not exclusively and not automatically. You can find these traces everywhere: in nature, friends, books, movies, in solitude, in crowds, in beauty, in a smile….just everywhere. He makes it easy/hard for us to answer Question #2 with a YES! So, life can be a lot of fun, just searching for these glimpses of His Face. He knows how elusive that is – because that’s how He set it up. You don’t have to latch onto any one glimpse and get a card for your wallet, proving that you have a firm grasp on it. No! He saw you recognize Him, and He’s probably put lots of checkmarks in the yes column of #2 because of you and is keenly watching you do your life; eager to see you bump into more of His living clues and reminders, results and hints, down here in this fine material existence that He has constructed. If you don’t pick up any Glimpses for awhile, no problem. You have your heart-connection to Him. Now that you have seen the sun, it doesn’t bother you to have a lot of rain, in between. Heck no! Rain is good too.
You know how things work and you know the Major Questions (1&2) and you can enjoy watching that Great Experiment play out down here in this material realm. You are not compelled to join in on everyone’s activities, but you can observe and feel sympathetic or understanding. We sort of lose the Evil vs Good attitude, because we see that evil is merely selfishness, perhaps played out to ridiculous degrees; but at-base, simply ego-driven, self-centeredness and so, we loose our old boogey-man fear of it. It is simply a choice on Question #1, gone horribly wrong.
You have figured out that there is no Devil. No rival to God. Even the bad ones, even the really, really bad ones, are equipped with His Own Consciousness, just like the rest of us. They simply got detoured into selfishness, and to get their way, they have to become very loud and scary and make spooky claims. They simply didn’t do Him proud on Question #1. They have no Satanic Equivalent of God to turn to and to get any energy from. They only have such powerful human emotions as we are capable of, down here. Which can be pretty negatively impressive. So, on Question #2, the “evil” ones answer “No!” to that one, as they keep their heads firmly in the muck. Okey-dokey! Not smart, but not scary either.
As you begin to appreciate solitude, you simply realize that you want it in order to have these thinking-sessions with Him. No matter, if you can’t quite “hear” Him in sentences. You can talk easily to Him with your voice alone. Chat about stuff, figure out great equations of philosophy, as you climb or hike. Get the privacy that allows you to speak out loud (to no one…talking to yourself… “Uh oh! He’s crazy. Lock him up!” …is why you need solitude.)…because thinking goes better when you can emote. And, you will register His Reply without even knowing it, because it comes without sound, into your brain. Have you ever danced alone in an empty room to great music? It’s easy to imagine a partner – sort of – and it’s fun just to feel the music and get lost in the moment. That’s what this sort of solitary chatting feels like.
You know, sometimes I have these lengthy, out-loud conversations in the most natural way. Say, in my kitchen, just waking up and getting coffee, I might continue on a theme started in my sleep; or might catch myself during the day, speaking to some personality (doesn’t have to be the Central Figure), who might as well be in the next sound room, but invisible to me. Imagine a recording studio with a mike connection. This event continues until it runs out. It’s like dancing until the music stops. Often, if there’s no music on, you never even think to dance or move to it. Sometimes, if there’s no other mind trying to engage with yours, you don’t talk, innerly. It’s a very two-way street. The freedom to respond to these moments of spirit is enhanced when you are on your own. But, it’s all natural. That’s why you don’t mind it when a quieter you attracts less-stimulating people or environments. It’s not something you need to engineer. It’s just that you are becoming more in tune with an Inner Life.
Thinking about these two basic Original Questions…you are exactly right when you say that “Questioning” is the main thing here in our life on earth, as it was expressed in those last two pages of Questions & Answers. Not questioning done in a confrontative “I don’t want to play any more” mood, but in an inquisitive, eternal mystery way. But, having figured out those two main questions (1&2), which the Great Creative Force must have asked Himself just before putting all this created matter out into myriad universes, that helps me to sort things out. Naturally, I’m not thinking of them all the time, but when a basic wonderment pops into my mind, I find it eventually leading to one or the other, or both, of them.
“Oh, okay!” say I, when puzzling over somebody’s behavior or belief. “I think I’ll watch too.”….possibly, gossiping a bit about it with You Know Who, Whom I realize is just that moment, peeking down here into the Stadium of Life to see an interesting sports play. It’s easy to feel detachment then. Do we have to jump out of the bleachers and carry the ball for the poor dolt who is running backwards, in the wrong direction? No! You can yell your head off, and maybe if enough folks in the stands do that, he’ll figure it out. But, maybe not. Oh well! You’ll probably boo along with the rest, but by now, the player feels bad enough.
Plus, on the other sort of play, you can cheer for the champions and copy their moves when you are on the field. Because you are just a witness, maybe a team fan, you can evaluate other people’s moves very clearly. But, it’s harder when you yourself are down there in the game. So, give them all a break. It’s not our job to play the game for them or to read them the rule book while they are in the thick of it. But, we can try to be champions at following that two-point Rule Book (Questions 1&2) and maybe someone will want to know how you do it. That’s the time to share.
All this relieves such pressure on us because there is no Question #3 that reads: “I wonder if I can force Myself to behave well and to turn around and recognize Myself, while I’m down there in the soup?”
He didn’t ask that, because it would nullify the first two questions. And, if The Great Creative Force can’t force anyone, then we can’t either. So we can relax on that score.
If only the Hierarchies, the missionaries, the salespeople, or politicians, would understand that point. There can be no “forcing” because there is no Question #3. Or, if there is, that question isn’t it.”
I’m beginning to catch sight of my next book now that I’ve transcribed five out of the six journals I wrote on my last trip, backpacking throughout six countries of South America earlier this year. My title has already changed three or four times, so I know that things are developing very normally for me.
So much steady typing can be a pain in the hind end, quite literally, and exercise usually suffers in the name of art. Well, pre-art, to be honest. What I’ll have on my table when I finish carving out the story narration from all the other material in these rather well-documented fragments of life, will be an entire cow. My last book taught me this. The totality of my report is a whole cow that would not fit into anybody’s oven. As a writer, I must get out the carving knives and start isolating the roasts and the steaks. The challenge will be to make lively and interesting chapters out of a trip that didn’t have any desperate and dangerous scenes.
But, maybe I wouldn’t have survived to write another day…if I had, say… been flying through a thunderstorm between Brazil and France during that journey. Hey, if I’d been going around the world on that trip, it could have happened!
So, what do I do with the scenes I did wind up with?
Well, the other day I read a published article by a woman who had spent a mere week and a day in four wildlife locations of Belize with the express purpose of sighting a wild jaguar in the jungle. I’ve never been to Belize, but I have been to Central American jungles in Panama, Costa Rica, and Nicaragua; as well as in the Peruvian Amazon, and I’m here to tell you that actual jungles are not quite as exciting as our celluloid medium would have us believe. In fact, they can look like my Florida front yard did when I first moved here…only the plants are ten times larger and much more tangled. But still, more or less, familiar.
This woman wanted to escape the asphalt jungle where stocks were crashing like falling coconuts and everybody was going bananas, so she decided that the cure would be to lay eyes on a very elusive prize – a big cat, specifically a jaguar, in its natural environment. It didn’t happen. She did see some jaguar poop on the trail, and she did get to pet a jaguar in a local zoo. But it had been raised in captivity.
Did she go home without a story? Heck no! She had a lot of great photos; she could write really well, and she put a clever spin on the story so that we didn’t feel cheated at all. In fact, we had to agree that “Life is just like that…and there will always be a tomorrow…when you least expect it.” Maybe the jaguar will come to her. Maybe one day when she’s jogging in Central Park…..
Anyway, I’m kidding around, because as I work on all this good stuff, written and half-forgotten, I can’t wait until I get to the real book-writing stages which are coming up next. I, optimistically, expect that portion of the work to whiz by. But then, I always do. Can I live with the fact that I didn’t even set foot into Chile, when that is such an important chunk of the Andean Spinal Column which I went down there to investigate? I’m not sure that I can, but perhaps that will turn out to be my elusive jaguar.
Plus, I took a great leap of faith last Sunday. I signed on with Outskirts Press (http://www.outskirtspress.com) to publish this new print-On-demand book of mine. I signed up at such an early point in the game because they offered 20% off to anybody willing to take the plunge during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. This decision wasn’t actually all that sudden because I’ve been considering going with them for many, many months and have long been studying their website and pondering the possibilities. They will now become my middleman publishing house because they offer lots of services which I farmed out the last time when I formed my own publishing house and dealt directly with the printer. I loved my experience then, and could, happily, do it again, but I particularly like the ease of formatting and of cover design that I’ll have with Outskirts, as well as a whole lot of marketing and distribution services, which I don’t have going for me now.
As I did before, throughout all the stages of book production, I’ll be sharing the adventure with you. Some authors might want you to believe that they’re being published by a big New York Publishing House. That’s so 1950’s! Self-publishing is the wave of the future, as far as producing books in any form – printed, digital, and who knows what else to come. This is not vanity press, and it never will be, but for a long time that’s the only alternative we writers had. I never got in on that; but I didn’t do the big boys either. Let’s just say my hands were tied and my words were stifled, until now. Plus, this is really fun! It’s a bandwagon, folks, and I’m sitting high up there on top of it, chronicalling my progress in this blog as I go. The view is fine!
I produce my books just like I backpack. Put it on and try it out! Get in the game and see where you wind up! Since I have a whole stable of manuscripts waiting to shoot through the starting gate, this experiment will show me which method works best for me. I plan to be doing this for years, so I’ve gotta get this business figured out. Okay! It’s off to the races!
Ohmigosh! This will never, never do! Since returning home, I have become a junkie and I’m having trouble getting things done…..such as this blog. I was much more faithful when I was out on the road and simply HAD to find an internet computer the very first thing in a new town and then get there at least once a day to blog….or check my emails and stay in touch with friends and family. Now that I’m home, my kids and I don’t email each other any more. They know I’m alive. And as for writing exciting stories here on my blog sites, I was so much better about doing that when I was traveling. Of course, there was always an exciting new story to share with you then.
Now that I have been back for two months, I’m soooo busy that I don’t have as much time for you. Do you know why? Because I’m a junkie – a news junkie – all of a sudden. You, who have wall-to-wall television would simply scoff to learn of my pitiful trickle of news sources which, even so, eat up vast stretches of my time-landscape. I have this little computer, which dishes up headlines on all the breaking crash-and-burn scandals lately; as well as the interesting straight-faced stuff about the crashing/burning economy.
My other trickling source is last Sunday’s newspaper, bought at the grocery store mid-week. Today is Friday and the dang thing has had me reading every single line in it, except sports, classifieds, and pesky advertising. If I had a daily subscription, people would think I was agoraphobic, but the truth would be my inability to fold up the newspaper long enough to leave the house. Even in this downturn time when the daily rag has become so skinny, I can still spend hours over it, getting snagged on everybody’s details.
When I first returned home, one of my blogs mentioned this seeming tendency to disappear into reading material, using the excuse of English-language-word-starvation. Now, I’m thinking that there might be a medical condition called Readitis. I must go on a news diet!
But why can’t Governor Sanford just stay home? I didn’t find Buenos Aires all that exciting? Why should he?
And Ruth Madoff might be homeless now. Is she going to become best friends with Leona Helmsly? Maybe room with her? Oh, I think Leona died. There goes that suggestion.
Reality shows are showing up in print nowadays and it means nothing that I stay away from them on television. I get hooked on all the late-breaking Falls From Greatness. So many…so far….so fast….so hard the landing. Who can stop reading at this exciting time in history?
So, that’s my excuse. What’s yours?
I do have another blog all ready to write. The notes are here in front of me, and I will…tomorrow, or the next day. I’m going to be getting off of this one-sided-gossip-merry-go-round any minute now. Going to un-junk my life. Yessirree!