Dandelions again

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I am “reading” Dandelion Wine again, this time while flying down the highway, with tears in my eyes loving the images and the words and the turns of phrase of my yes-I-have-a-favorite favorite book.

I realize I don’t want exactly to share the book with you – although I do – as much as I want you to experience the feeling this book gives me. I hope, if not this book – and probably not because the effect Dandelion Wine has on me is as much a product of my life I have lived and the words can never strike you quite the way they struck me – I hope that somewhere in your experience you find a book that touches you to the core the way Dandelion Wine touches me, because oh, what a joy it is, and I would be a callous and selfish man indeed to hold this feeling close to my heart and never share it.

I hope there is a book somewhere that will bring you to joyous tears as this book does so often to me.

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“Because I am alive”

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Quite a few famous people have died in 2016. Quite a few famous people die every year; one of the regular features of the Academy Awards is a review of all the great actors and filmmakers who have passed in the previous year, and it’s always overwhelming how long the list is.

Somehow people seem to be taking it harder this year. The sad and sudden deaths of George Michael and Carrie Fisher in recent days provoked an outpouring of grief not only for those two fine talents but for all of the people who passed this year – David Bowie, Prince, George Martin, Muhammed Ali, Leonard Cohen … Continue reading

Look around you! See the amazing!

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Why am I writing this down? To share my awe.

Every object in this cluttered room is an end product of a person’s vision, of collaborators’ efforts, of painstaking hours and years. Here in this room are centuries of human achievement – and this is a modest-sized room. Multiply by billions and see what we have made, what we have done – what you and I are capable of, should we choose to do so.

A fine cabinet that houses a miraculous device that pulls voices from the air – why did we stop encasing our electronic devices in fine furniture? A handle that pulls water from under the ground to sustain or clean us. A machine that cools or freezes the air to preserve perishable food – a machine that heats the air to preserve perishable living beings.

A tube that fits in my hand and discharges ink evenly so I can share these thoughts and ramblings. Devices and gadgets that allow me to attach related pieces of paper to one another. A well pump or a paper clip – works of genius.

Perhaps that is why I write – why Bradbury writes – why writers write – to share amazement. To wake you up. To shake your soul and say, “Look around you! See the amazing!”

In the palm of your hand is a passport to the universe, a portal to collections of all human knowledge and achievement – all right there for your convenience. Of course now I’m specifically talking about a smartphone, but in a real sense every object made by human hands is such a portal.

Every shoe, every bottle, every souvenir knickknack – all are souvenirs from a moment of time, from centuries of learning and achievement, every cardboard box a solution to a problem – what an amazing pack of creators we are, and how sad that we waste so much time tearing things down.

“I made this!” cries the child. See what she has made. Cherish her creation and her creativity. Celebrate the builder – and understand that we are all builders. We are here to create, to reach across rivers and plains and mountains and oceans, to create a bridge to the stars.

We can do these things. We can find the path to understanding it all. What shall we create today: harmony or dissonance?

Choose the awesome.

When I tap my inner Bradbury

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I am not coy and make no apologies about the influence of Ray Bradbury on my writing. Obviously I am no Bradbury, but he is the kind of writer I aspire to be. His phrases sing, his joy and enthusiasm are infectious, and at his best he transports me to another place.

When I tap my inner Bradbury, I fly across fields – tramp through ravines and deep woods – jump on rickety old summer porches that creak underfoot but are somehow rock solid – I launch into space feeling the pressure of G-forces, or I watch with hands clenched tight to chain link as the rocket sparkles into the night with a roar – I land on a distant shore and plant the flag of Tomorrowland – I hear the whisper of the long dead (or recently dead) just beyond my range of hearing – I jam with words as my notes and the pen as my musical instrument, a symphony of syllables, a ballad old as life – a butterfly’s wings beat down a lighthouse thousands of miles and millions of years away.

Do I still know who you are today, after I go back in time and comb my hair the other way on a certain day? Does yesterday happen if I change the day before?

Turn around, turn around, turn around and it’s 60 years later, and who would ever guess this is what would have become of that child? Flash and it’s 50 years later, and the stories I was reading on paper are up on the big screen. Boom and it’s 40 years later, and the arrogant young man finally understands why he was alone for so long.

Thirty years gone and the colleagues have been scattered but still love those times and each other. Twenty years ago I was in this same place, not knowing how much better it would become after a few wrong steps. Ten years ago I knew I would do what I was doing forever, never guessing exactly when forever would arrive.

And now, here and now, sitting in a place called Crossroads, I stare into the blue sky and look around at the trees, and hear the traffic of cars and trucks not far away on their way to myriad destinations, and I feel a spark of fear over what may come next – but it turns into a grin.

Life – it’s life that comes next. Where there’s life there’s hope, Samwise Gamgee once said – a statement that has resonated and buoyed me through the years.

Birthday sprint

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What is this process, anyway, this download of words and random thoughts from my mind – any mind – what are we really sharing? Will I even think the same way in 5 minutes – 5 months – 5 years? Maybe, maybe not.

This is just a snapshot of where my mind was one warmish morning in March, nearly 63 years after my birth. Hello, future self! Hello, someone I never realized would read this! What is it I did by running this pen over this paper, then typing these words over onto a computer screen and shipping it out to the world?

Did I step on a butterfly 60 million years ago? Or am I just a tree that was going to rot, fall over and kill a T-rex about now anyway?

What is it about stories/novels/movies that touch us, and why do we go back to hear/read/see the stories again and be touched in a new and different way?

The difference between the first reading and the latest is a measure of where we have gone in the meantime. What we are now is not who we were. But it is, too.

My personal top 10 of 2015

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Our view at the Ryman for the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band’s 50th anniversary concert, my favorite pop culture experience of 2015. Click “Read more” for the full list.

Top 10 lists are all the rage this time of year, and it’s fun to go back and remember what happened over the past 12 months before embarking on a new year. Herewith – and in a particular order for a change of pace – is the last semi-regular list of my top 10 pop culture experiences of the year. They’re not necessarily things that were released in 2015 (as you’ll see in the first entry) but my favorite moments that happened this year. The full countdown list follows this artificial break: Continue reading

There are two wolves

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There are two wolves who are always fighting. One is darkness and despair. The other is light and hope.

The question is: Which one wins?

 

The one you feed.

 

Saturday I happened to see two movies that in many ways told the same story: A determined and resourceful young woman saves the future.

One movie poured on the darkness and the despair of a bleak future. The other – the one that contained our opening quote – poured on the light and hope of creating an alternative to that bleak future.

Which one wins?

The one that left me inspired. The one that made me want to live in that future that she saved.

The young woman is triumphant, after much trial and tribulation, in both The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 and Tomorrowland. Both films succeed tremendously, and both films have their flaws.

In one film, the fight for the future takes a terrible toll. Our plucky heroine, who never gave up until the war was won (granted, she had to keep fighting through four films), lives happily ever after in a well-deserved retirement.

In the other film, our plucky heroine, who never gave up until the battle was won, lives happily ever after looking for others who can join her in making the future a better place.

Which one wins?

Tomorrowland – like its brother The Martian, another 2015 film that imagines we can overcome the scariest challenges that face us – is hands down my favorite of the two, the film I will add to the list of movies I want to watch over and over again to celebrate its triumphant message.

The Hunger Games films are important and should be seen and shared, as an allegory about The Powers That Be who pit young people against young people, citizen against citizen, for no other reason but to preserve their power – and how determined people, working together, can overcome the horrors those powers create.

“We have no fight except the one The Capitol gave us,” our heroine says in convincing a combatant not to kill her.

In Tomorrowland the same message is there, and the heroine’s determination is there, but the emphasis is on the optimism that keeps her from ever giving up. In a key early scene, the young woman goes to school and is seen holding her hand in the air as teachers bombard her with the facts about how the world is heading to hell in a handbasket.

Finally, after the English teacher explains how Huxley’s Brave New World, Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 and Orwell’s 1984, visions of a bleak and unpleasant future, are all coming true, he calls on the girl.

She asks, “So how can we fix it?”

There are two movies about saving the future. One emphasizes the darkness and despair that lead to the triumph. The other keeps its spirit focused on the light and hope of a better tomorrow. One leaves you exhausted and thinking, “Was all of that worth it?” The other leaves you inspired and thinking, “That was worth it!”

Which one wins?