Commentary and Philosophy Non-Fiction posted October 12, 2017

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Is there a reason for it? Am I crazy?

Keeping An Open Mind

by Ideasaregems-Dawn

Snobs of any kind amuse me, and society is full of them. They like to fit things into little boxes with labels--in my mind, it's because that's the only way they have of feeling superior to others. They invent rules, or follow, sheep-like, rules that other snobs created for them. There's a 'right' way to do things, and a 'wrong' way, rules for how to live life (as far as they are concerned). But the irony is that history inevitably proves them wrong.

Let's examine some of society's biggest misconceptions, shall we? We'll start with the Flat Earth Society: "The flat Earth model is an archaic conception of Earth's shape as a plane or disk. Many ancient cultures subscribed to a flat Earth cosmography, including Greece until the classical period, the Bronze Age and Iron Age civilizations of the Near East until the Hellenistic period, India until the Gupta period (early centuries AD), and China until the 17th century. That paradigm was also typically held in the aboriginal cultures of the Americas, and the notion of a flat Earth domed by the firmament in the shape of an inverted bowl was common in pre-scientific societies." Source--Wikipedia.

According to those folk, sail too far to the west and you'd fall off the earth. I wonder how North Americans would feel about that--for that matter, any aboriginal tribes that were later 'discovered'. Kind of makes you stop and think for a moment, doesn't it?

Fast forward a few years--okay, a lot of years--to the Wright brothers. Neil Armstrong sure would have held some fascination for them. But he wasn't born when they made their first successful flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Neil A. Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, was born on August 5, 1930. But it was only thirty-nine years later he took that 'one small step for Man, one giant leap for mankind.'

Wow, hard to believe that happened in my lifetime. And now there are flights all over the world, too. Imagine if the Wright brothers had obeyed the naysayers (and those pesky gravity 'rules' held them back. Instead they used those rules to reach for the stars.)

Let's backtrack to Thomas Edison: I know you know who he was, but did you know you wouldn't be going to the movies on a Saturday night if he hadn't invented electric light and power utilities, sound recording and motion pictures? Don't believe me? Well, Wikipedia is a pretty reliable source, so once again, I'll let that website do the talking:

"Thomas Alva Edison (February 11, 1847--October 18, 1931) was an American inventor and businessman, who has been described as America's greatest inventor. He developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera, and the long-lasting, practical electric light bulb. Dubbed "The Wizard of Menlo Park", he was one of the first inventors to apply the principles of mass production and large-scale teamwork to the process of invention, and because of that, he is often credited with the creation of the first industrial research laboratory."

The man was a dynamo--talk about being prolific! As an inventor, he held 1,093 U.S. patents in his name, as well as many patents in the United Kingdom, France, and Germany. But hells bells, who can possibly produce quality when mass producing?

Okay, alright, my sarcasm isn't appreciated. But let's get back to the principle I strongly believe, and maybe you will agree: closing one's mind to possibilities is akin to refusing to believe there's such a thing as a sky. The human spirit is a marvel, capable of things beyond our wildest imaginings. Yet there are always those few who have to feel in control, to hold onto whatever dust-ridden, stuffy idea makes them right, as if allowing any kind of creative thought would threaten their very existence.

Well, in fact, it might, might it not? We wouldn't need judges for things like contests, would we, if freedom of expression or original thought was truly appreciated-- 'Stifle that notion! This is how it's done, and if you don't do it the way I think you should, no one will know you exist!' I mean, I could understand sticking to rules to learn, but once we know the basics... Oh dear, I feel a cliche coming on. There goes any chance of winning this contest.

Favoritism, pure and simple, is what governs when it comes to creativity, especially in the arts. It's personal taste. Poetry is a good example. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: poets invent forms, not the other way around. Are there established ways of writing, poetic formats that we can recognize and appreciate? Of course there are, but that should not mean we don't acknowledge something different.

Prose, too, has restrictions: spelling, grammar, and punctuation are all equally vital. But why? That is the question our 'judges' need to ask themselves, because even those rules are broken by the best-selling authors occasionally. There was a time one never began a sentence with "and" or "but", for example. Now it's done all the time. (I just did it.  Did you notice? 'How dare I presume to use such poor grammar! I'm not a famous writer!')

What matters is if we can understand what's written; if it makes sense. Is it exciting, does it make the reader want to read more--do we feel as if we are part of the plot?

"Killing our darlings" *, anchoring our scenes*; these are the things that should be understood by anyone calling him or herself a writer. They are really intermediate writing skills. If you don't have those, you didn't pay a lot of attention in school, or you had some pretty careless teachers. And let's not forget the all-important character development--is your protagonist believable?  Pacing and the so-important continuity are often overlooked too. As your reader, if I'm feeling you're rushing me to 'get it all in', I'll hate your story. Likewise, bog me down with what the hero had for lunch before he saved the planet, or skip around in time to fit in some backstory, and I'll see if the dentist can fit me in for a root canal before I will read another word. 

As for continuity? If 'Jacob' had red hair in the first chapter, he better not show up in the last one as tall, dark and handsome, unless he had a dye-job.

But enough about writing. I didn't begin this essay to denigrate anyone, or try to teach anyone how to write. Far be it from me to stick my nose in the air. (No, my purpose was even loftier: I hope to open some minds to possibilities, to broaden horizons, to fly to the moon and maybe walk on it. Too many times, in many different ways, I've watched eagles plucked until they resemble something I'd cook for dinner.)

Here are just a few examples of people who lived and died with bare recognition, whose lives were empty of accolades, awards, and the riches they so deserved:

Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675)
Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer (1685-1750)
Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)
Herman Melville (1819-1891)
Gregor Mendel (1822-1884)
Emily Dickinson (1830-1886)
Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Franz Kafka (1883-1924)

Count me in! But please do it before I die.

I hope I always think beyond what is established 'norm'. Now that's real snobbery!

Non-Fiction Writing Contest contest entry


(Photo above taken by Neil Armstrong of the Lunar Module at Tranquility Base)

"kill your darlings" - get rid of the extraneous stuff - don't let your ego dictate what should be included in your writing (No, it's not my saying, but there's much controversy over who said it first. I like to think it was Thoreau, but I KNOW Stephen King has said it. *smile*)

"anchoring our scenes - (Now to explain this one, I'll quote our own Jay Squires: we don't want "talking heads") - in other words, ensure your character's dialogue is accompanied by some form of action = she tapped on the counter nervously/he stepped up to the plate, bat in hand...

1) Johannes Vermeer (1632-1675) - Dutch painter, known only locally
2) Johann Sebastian Bach, the composer (1685-1750) - known for his talent as an organist, but few of his works were ever published during his lifetime. Posthumously, he is known as one of the greatest composers of all time
3) Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) - earned his living by working in a pencil factory
4) Herman Melville (1819-1891) - had some success with his first book, but his second took a nosedive; all told, he earned a mere $10,000 for his writing
5) Gregor Mendel (1822-1884) - discovered the basic principles of heredity, but was mostly misunderstood by the scientific community
6) Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) - had a mere 10 poems published while she was alive, though a prolific poet
7) Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) - remained poor throughout his lifetime, yet the single painting he sold is now worth approximately $82.5 million
8) Franz Kafka (1883-1924) - never knew of the huge impact his work would have on future generations of writers and scholars...

Thank you for reading!

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