Sunday, March 11, 2012

Chocolate Ribs

A letter to my son, Justin
Chocolate Ribs
Sunday, 11 March
C L I C K     T O     E N L A R G E

We all seem to be born with flaws that we can't seem to shake.  Some obviously are more inconvenient to us than others.  I think there's a strategy for putting our weaknesses to good use.  It's about finding the positive aspect of an otherwise negative characteristic.  An anti-social nature may be the biggest challenge for finding reward.  As a child I used to dream of living in Big Ben, the giant clock over London.  I had no need to come out.  Somehow everything I needed in life - food, books - was delivered to me.  I could watch the world go by unperturbed from inside the clock.  

I thought about the tool of imagination because I remember you having such great stories to tell.  Your drawings weren't about reproducing things but about depicting events.  It was all very exciting.  Things came out of the sky.  People were running around.  It was the drama of human survival.  You hadn't experienced any of it but you depicted it from the imaginings of your mind.  You were so intent, so absorbed in the moment you'd created.  Your mind was both theater and audience.  If we could only hold on to that capacity to create worlds, what possibilities would open for us as adults?  It depends upon the dream, doesn't it, and what we do with it.

What is it about ourselves we capture when we use our imagination?  What are we looking for and what is it we find?  What is the pleasure of our search?  If we have to imagine something it is because we can’t find it any other way.  It isn’t available for thought without the twist of our mind.  The imagination leads us outside the realm of our every day, things are always as they are, experience.  Our thoughts take us beyond the use of a furrow for planting into a world of suggestion.  They look like long, straight mountain valleys.  What if I made them less symmetrical?  I could vary their heights.  I could pool water here and have a long, gradual slope leading away from its shore.  How steep can I make the plummet from the top of this range here?  I’m thinking of making my own Shangri-la when I probably would be better off just planting the seed.  Such thoughts lead to the ancient farmer’s starvation.  Today I buy my food from the store and allow myself to think what I may. 

Dreamers don’t get their work done.  They aren’t reliable.  Much of what they think to say seems inappropriate for the moment, causing frustration and angry retorts to bring them back to the chore at hand.  We have got to get this done today and you’ve hardly started.  Keep your mind on your work.  We’re probably all dreamers to one degree or another.  Our own personal nature and circumstance determines what we tolerate in ourselves.  Can we muse about the egg yolk in the pan becoming the sun overhead in a long, arduous desert journey… getting boxed on the ear when the sun crinkles to a hard crisp.  Yes!  Sorry, I won’t let it happen again.  Mmm, where was I?  The light through the steamed window reminds me of feathers.  What other things remind me of feathers?  Burned toast?  What?  No, sorry again.  I was redoing the egg and I forgot. 

It’s said Abe Lincoln got in trouble for putting his muddy footprints on the ceiling.  His dad didn’t appreciate the joke.  Fathers can be so intolerant of life’s whimsy.  Whimsy doesn’t put food on the table.  Life is a hard taskmaster.  It’s time you figured that out.  I’m trying.  Life has changed since the days of the ancient cave painters but it is still mostly about the business of earning a living.  If you want to dabble in fantasy and paint, play with the poetry of words and reflect upon the nature of human love then accept the frugality of your means because your contribution doesn’t keep the train moving.  Occasionally, though, the right combination of intellect, inclination and personality come along to produce the dreamer as taskmaster and society is rewarded with ventures like Apple Computer.  It’s about imaginings that can be manufactured for everyone’s appreciation.  Imagine a computer that fits easily in your pocket.  By the way, it’s also your phone.  It takes great pictures – videos, too.  You can share them instantly because it’s linked to the Internet.  Oh, here’s something else.  You know how when you call someone you have to go through the hellos and good byes and niceties of conversation, even when you just want to remind someone about time for dinner?  What if the phone converted your verbal message to printed words and just sent it along as text to be viewed.  It could even clean up your phrasing and suggest simpler wording.  How about that?  Now, that’s using your imagination.  Actually that’s using the imagination of people paid to use their imagination.  If you’re on the assembly line making these phones – keep your mind on your work.

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