Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When I was about fourteen years of age I had a number of ambitions. One of the strongest was to be a writer – not only a writer, but a poet. Needless to say, this ambition was not one that was encouraged by my family. About that time there did occur something that gave me some cause for hope. I heard of a national contest being held for the writing of poems by school students. I determined to enter that contest. I remember laboring at the desk in my room, trying to write something meaningful, something inspirational, something profound. I tried very hard, but each effort I made ended in frustration and disappointment. Nothing I wrote was, in my estimation, good enough. The deadline for the contest drew closer and then, finally, passed. I never sent in an entry.
Recently I heard on the news about a person who, at age fourteen, decided that he wanted to be a poet. He persevered at that ambition. His name is Donald Hall and he achieved the status of Poet Laureate of the United States.
This is not to say that had I entered the poetry contest at age fourteen, I would have gone on to achieve the success of Donald Hall. But how often in our lives do we, through acquiescence to the pressure of society and our own uncertainties, manage to defeat ourselves?

Monday, April 16, 2012

A few days ago I received a notice in the mail about a polo match being played in Ligonier. This particular match is a benefit for the YMCA and is being held on September 15th of this year. When I received the card I read it with particular interest. I was reminded of the polo I knew and the matches I saw when I was growing up in Wexford, PA.

In the 1930’s, there were polo matches played at a field not too distant from my home. I saw a few of them and I’m sorry to say I remember very little about them. I was young at the time and understood very little of polo. I imagine my parents didn’t really understand the game to any great extent and I don’t recall their being fans. I’m sure they took me to the games only to increase my knowledge of the world.

Polo has a reputation of being a sport of the more affluent citizens of society and I suppose it has always been that way but that wasn’t the case in Wexford. At least I don’t recall it being that way. Wexford in those days was a farming community and horses were common on the farms. Most were work horses but there were a number of riding horses and I assumed that the young men on those farms played polo because it seemed to be a good idea. I remember one farm fronting on Route 19 that had a small cage-like building constructed mostly of screening sitting in front of the barn. There was a wood facsimile of a horse installed in the structure. Many times as my family passed in our car I saw young men or boys seated on that “horse” swinging mallets to send polo balls against a screen off which they bounced to be struck again by the mallet.

I envied those boys and entertained the thought that I might one day practice there and play at the sport of polo. Those dreams ended in 1941, the year I turned nine, with the advent of World War II. Polo, like many other things, became less important to the country. The young polo players went off to the war or to other jobs and the games at the polo field were suspended. Like so many things of the era of the 30’s, they never returned to the little town of Wexford.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Writing things down has become a habit with me. All sorts of things. For many years I’ve carried a small note book in my shirt pocket in which I keep notes to myself—shopping lists, things to do, things to remember. It’s gotten so that I don’t want to do without those little books. When, on occasion, I misplace one of them I feel very lost myself until I find it.

One might look upon this as a bad habit or at least as a crutch. It would be better, some would say, to train one’s mind to not need such a synthetic means for remembering things. Perhaps that’s so. Perhaps with diligent practice I could remember everything very well and eventually do away with all the little books. Perhaps, but I don’t think so. Besides, how long would that take and in the process how many things, some important, would I forget?

Closely related to the little books is the pad and pen I keep on my bedside table. Many of my best thoughts and ideas come when I am in or close to a sleep state. If I don’t remember them and write them down when I awake they are gone forever. I am not alone in this. I remember hearing of people in other fields, engineering or science for instance, who find such sleep-related thoughts valuable in their work and write them down as a matter of course. Which brings on an interesting subject—where do such thoughts come from? Why do they come into being while we are in or close to a sleep state? As far as that goes, where do any ideas originate?

We seem to assume that all ideas are products of our minds, that there are no sources of intelligence other that that which is within our own heads and that there is no communication between those sources. That belief seems to be the basis of the concept of intellectual property that is in use in our society today. This concept, it seems to me, is predicated on the belief that humans are the ultimate intellectual force in the universe. If one entertains the possibility that there is a source of intelligence above and beyond ours, then how can any one of us claim ownership of any idea? How then, is intellectual property justified in terms of religion?

Of course, if I understand intellectual property correctly, it is not a question of who thought of a concept or an idea, but who controls it that makes the difference. It is a matter of power, monetary or otherwise. That concept is probably much easier to rationalize in terms of religion.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Nostalgia is usually a pleasant pastime of thinking fondly about past times. Normally the thinking is pleasant because we choose to be nostalgic about good times rather than bad times. But were those good times really as good as we remember them? Closely related to that (at least in my mind) is the writing of memoirs. I have heard memoirs described as “creative history”—that being due to the vagaries of memory plus a good measure of describing the subject days more as being what one would have liked them to be than what they were.

I have my own set of memories from former times and I have written a good bit about them in short pieces but so far I have resisted the writing of a memoir. There are a number of reasons for that. Except for a few amusing or more interesting incidents, my life was rather dull and ordinary. I cannot see a best seller emerging out of it. Then, too, my fondest memories are of peaceful times, quiet days of childhood in another era that I, at that time in my life, thought would last forever. Peaceful, quiet days don’t make good reading. Another reason is my reluctance to relate all the incidents of my life that, for one reason or another, are embarrassing to me. Those probably would make better stories but I ain’t gonna write ‘em.

So, for the present, I’m stuck with writing fiction, fantasy and a few essays. Inside those are hidden a lot of my personal experiences and relationships but that’s just the way I’d like them to stay—hidden. Perhaps one day that will change and, because of changing times or a change of mood, I will be motivated to write my memoirs. At that time I shall reveal to the world the details of my life and the secrets of my soul. At that time I shall go about creating the story of my life as I feel it really should have been.