Prophecies come in many forms; often subtle tremors within our psyche we don’t notice, until they come to be expressed within the pain they cause. Many come to feel that pain is something to avoid, something to shy away from as a warning of danger. Others would say it is something to be challenged, resisted, a physiological Haiku that breeds the emotion of something wrong, not quite right within the world of our body we are locked within.
A mother screams in pain as they beget to the world another soul; another life to which our innocence comes to be added to the beauty of things. A child cries from a skinned knee, a soldier bleeds, his bloodless tears beseeching the reasons to the world of why he comes to be who he is.
Yet the question; like so many we find no answer to, comes to exist within the words we claim. They are Words from birth, a harmonic, a force bombarding our home within the womb, smothering us at times in the confusion they render within us. A dyslexic tone seeing but not seeing the nature of what others can see.
I came to see the power of words when they were lost to my mind’s eye as a child. Wanting to read, watching others who were much faster than I, the letters crooked and broken, shuffled and torn, habits, pauses, thoughtful meanderings while others waited, waited for my mind’s eye to find the key to the confusion I found in every word, every book, and every sign that surrounded me throughout my life.
“He’s Imaginative; but slow, they said. “He’s stupid, obstinate, and lazy, so don’t waste your time,” others said. Yet my mind reigned free from their words, the challenge taken, memorizing exercises before class to appear less clueless. Hours spent daydreaming in front of books pretending to read. I think my mother knew at times, yet remained quiet, protecting my self-esteem with a cookie, a hug or just a smile saying, “you’ll get there.”
My mother read to me often, and I loved to hear her voice so much that it didn’t really matter what she read to me. Sometimes I’m sure; looking back as I can now; my mother read to me the stories of her mind rather than the words printed on the page in front of her. Replacing character names with my own, changing the story line at times to push some point she wished me to learn or at times for no other reason than to make me laugh or smile at her words.
I have memories of the book ‘One Hundred and One Dalmatians.’ It was the book that I cut my teeth on; literally at times, when learning how to read. I carried it everywhere with me, reading it so often that eventually the book fell apart. I listened to her so often that I could quote whole chapters of it or so I thought at the time. Years later I came to read it again as an adult, enjoying the memories, reading it for my own grand-children; saying to myself, ‘but there is something greatly wrong here.’ I thought, ‘where is the part where Pongo did this, and where is the part where he did that.’ Coming to understand after some time that it was my own imagination and that of my mother’s many extended stories, which had so imprinted the universe of the novel to my life, rather than just the words of the book itself.
My mother and father both had such vibrant and challenged souls, creating in me and my brothers and sisters the love of the written word. I wonder now looking back how much of it was lost to them, as they sacrificed their dreams for ours, their life for the sometimes hunger that came our way.
I never went hungry, though when food was scare, I can see the pattern bright within the hindsight of my memories, those days my parents were starving to eat; but didn’t. Going hungry, doing without in many thousands of ways so that we stayed well fed, happy and oblivious to the reality of it all. Seeing now my dad losing weight working sixteen-hour days, my mom as well, never complaining, and never whining about life, just always at the end of the day, my mom and dad being the sanctuary by which I came to be.
I suppose for me the written word is the rendered essence I find in life of who my parents were and are. Not perfect of course, yet perfect for me. My mother read to me the most; her voice always resonating within my mind as I listened to her stories, that for some time I could not read myself. The habits of escaping into the adventures I listened to, and for a time, settling my soul.
Yet the adventures of my mind cried out: “What words doth man use to sooth the savage beast?” Lonely voices throbbing to the savage heart of a world that uses and abuses at times, the shades and cries of shadows within our mind driven to speak, driven to use the words that tame the world around us. For what is life without the words as tools that we use to paint the world within our dreams. Words, the intellectual coins we spend for every thought, spend for every vision we come to see.
Words are a coinage my parents knew would be important to my future, yet never having enough for their own needs, their own wants or their own desires. Yet it was enough for them to see such gifts given to me, my brothers and sisters.
My mother told of others; orators, scientists, artists, wordsmiths of every kind, honing their skills through the challenges of wanting to be normal; whatever that tends to be. For a time words became my passion, understanding them, learning what each one came to mean over time. Big words to use against those who saw me less than others of my kind, driving my need to fight the word of lazy, with thriftiness, the word stupid, with bright, the word ignorant or foolish with knowing and carefree.
Looking back at those times, I now know the nature and depth of the greatness my father and mother innately came to have. My father learned to read by looking at signs on the road as he grew up out of the Great Depression. A brilliant mind, teaching himself to read and write well enough to pass an engineering exam and become more than what any before him had ever come to be. Challenging the intellectual world who believe that genius only lays within the ivory towers of old.
Through him I came to understand the limits of the intellectual rationalist, using the words in a reductionist world, a label here, a tag there, often spouting words and phrases much like the street corner bible-thumper, using the words of the bible to push their needs; but having long forgotten the essence of the whole of what the bible means.
Along the way I came across many minds, some long dead, some still alive. Their writings pouring into my mind, breaking through the barrier of the individual word, pushing me to understand the ideas they were trying to convey.
For much of my youth, I came to understand enough words in the books I read to see the imagery the author was attempting to plant within my mind. The weaker the writing the less my understanding; the stronger the writing the more I came to understand. I started to see the patterns; the nuances of form and flow of great writers, drawing me in, becoming the gravitational force by which I started to grow.
Through Asimov I learned the ideas and beauty of physics, chemistry and mathematics. From Clark I wandered through the universe, seeing the nature of the ‘beautiful mind,’ casting into the darkness lines of thought by which they came to change the world.
I learned about other dimensions from Dr. Abbot of Flatland, the precursor for much of what Einstein came to see within his theories of time. I learned that the intellectual coin is but a word, meaning nothing and everything welded as it sometimes is through the lens of Damocles sword, two edges that come to cut through the dogma of a world gone mad at times.
My parents inspired me to see the written word, books, and an education as a path to success. They like many in the world were challenged more often by those things taken away from them, rather than those things given freely or to easily. It is the nature of pain I saw in my dad’s eyes, the brilliant mind relegated to mediocrity by the lack of paper to prove he was good enough to exist within the worlds he so longed for.
The parable of Aesop talks of those who fall away from the challenges of the sweet grapes hanging above, the fox jumping for a time to capture what he desires, giving up to soon, too often, rationalizing “they’re probably sour anyway.”
My parents like so many of the “greatest generation” understood the nature of what a challenge is. They knew that the Darwinian Cage the lowly defensive prey and predator are locked within, does not have to be the path we walk. They knew that any man, woman or child only has to make the choice to be different rather than stay within the herd they shuffle along in.
In a world where being different is an act of conformity to the surface fads of life and society, my parents came to show me that being different; truly different, is the art of wisdom, by which we slowly start to understand what so many great writers of the past came to know.
Hilaire Belloc (1870-1957), in his book ‘The habour in the North,’ came to eloquently say what most of us understand, that:
“The voyage which I was born to make in the end, and to which my desire has driven me, is towards a place in which everything we have known is forgotten, except those things which as we knew them, reminded us of an original joy.”
My father showed me that the only failure in life is one where we quit or when we rationalize ourselves into being less than we need be. From my mother I came to see the original joy of her voice, her words, the love she gave so freely in the stories she read.
In a world of intellectual rationalizations, where words are so often things to be used to destroy rather than create, I’ve come to understand that quitting isn’t just about the ‘grapes being sour anyway.’ It’s about the fear to even look up long enough to see what intellectual sustenance passes you by. It’s the media hype and rationalizations to push thoughts into your mind even before you know what is there to begin with.
Being different isn’t the newest tattoo, the newest tech-zombie mobile you are plugged into. Being different is thinking and seeing the depth of the world you come to walk through every day. The question is: “Will you look away?” Will you take the path of rationalizations that give you what you want? Or will you take the path that gives you what you need?
Some say that love is the only thing in life that the more you give it away, the greater it becomes, the more it feeds your soul to the nature of who you want to be. If love is the essence of life; then dreams are the innate expression of that love.
All you have to do is make the choice, sing the song, read the book, be more than you were yesterday, and less than you will be tomorrow.