Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Don't Follow Me

Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the men of old, seek what they sought.

Matsuo Basho
From hand to hand the greeting flows,
From eye to eye the signals run,
From heart to heart the bright hope glows;
The seekers of the light are one.

Did the prophet Nahum, who wrote somewhere around 615 BCE, know that he was writing for Jews and others of the 21st Century CE? Did Nahum, whose name means "comfort," even know there would be a 21st Century? Did Nahum, who wrote "The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him," even think about it? Doubtful. And yet there he is with his three chapters in the modern Bible to be read and considered by enquiring minds.

When read literally it prophesies the destruction of the Assyrian city of Nineveh. But an enlightened reader who can set aside the literal meaning and know Nineveh as only a metaphor will find a richly poetic prophesy of the destruction of evil in all its colorful forms and the eventual salvation of the human race from it.

I love to read. The better the writer the greater the pleasure. I enjoy it even more now since I write every day. And I'm learning an important lesson.

I have two books on the care and feeding of birds. They are both filled with interesting and useful information. One is well written, the other is not. What's wrong with it is that the author writes like me. I winced at the page I read yesterday and when I looked back over some of the journal entries I made in '08 and '09 I winced again. Now I'm timorous about rereading what I wrote last week or two days ago.

Great writers, many of whose books are piled up in the next room, are a source of inspiration and enlightenment but I doubt that any of them, or any good author who manages to get published is really thinking about what effect their words are going to have centuries down the line.

I'm learning a lesson I learned years ago as an actor. You don't go on the stage to impress the audience with your looks, voice, stage presence, charisma or acting ability. You go on the stage to tell a story. It's the story, the metaphor of the drama that affects people, or should, if it's done right.

Good actors watch other good actors for the same reason good writers read great literature. Not to copy but to take up the torch and pass it on just as Nahum did, just as Longfellow did.

So I promise myself, and I promise you, if I find myself not telling the story but trying to impress a reader with my vocabulary, diction, syntax or shrewd and splashy turn of phrase I will smack myself across the knuckles soundly with something that doesn't do much damage.

Thank you for reading my journal.

DB - The Vagabond
Never give up.
It's Summer. Time to give over the answers to the SPRING QUESTION.

(This is not a contest)

NASA has planned to send a two man mission on an 18 month trip to the planet Mars. It would take 6 months for the astronauts to get there and after 6 months of exploration another 6 months to return.

Should they do it and why, and if not, why not?
12 diverse and interesting answers.
Do I think that NASA should send a two person mission to Mars. Absolutely not. It would serve no useful purpose and it would put the lives of those two people in unnecessary jeopardy.

I would think that a mission like this would cost many millions of dollars and at a time when many states are going broke, there are deep cuts to infrastructure, education, health, and community programs. The taxpayers are already on the hook to the tune of about 250 million dollars a day to fund the war in Iraq. All of that money has been siphoned away from funds that might have been available to create jobs, house and feed the homeless, stabilize towns and cities across America and provide a better future for both young and old.

We are not good stewards of our own earth and we have caused more problems here than we have fixed. There is absolutely no need to be spending money we don’t have in order to be exploring other planets. We need to get our priorities back in order.


When it comes to Mars, I think that it is innate for man to explore and want to extend his reach. I am all in favor of the project and they could get the money by stopping the useless wars and invest in NASA.


Good question! Since a year on Mars is nearly twice ours --and
elliptical-- the two planets get within 7-month's journey only every 2
Earth-years. So our astronauts would have to stay a year longer on
Mars. On top of this protraction, they would run out of food and have
to eat each other up, which would probably strain their relationship
afterward. I don't think they should do it.

An unpopular view I'm sure.
Trip to Mars is wrong on so many levels, even, perhaps immoral.
We need the expertise, money, dedication, time, here on Earth. Fix things here, make Earth a better place. Don't go chasing waterfalls.
Sure! Why not?
The travel time will reek havoc in their lives but the six months there will give them a ton of information to share..and perhaps experiments can be performed! :)
I have heard that people accomplish a lot in scientific experiments out in space!thanks! Interesting topic DB!
I think man has screwed up earth enough that he should leave the other planets alone and use the time and money spent going to Mars fixing all the damage he's done here on earth.
Yes, because the highest mountain in the solar system is THERE.
why go to mars when you can grow squash in your back yard, or at least
some chives in a window pot. All you can plant on mars is a flag.
Unless to go from Mars to `=7,./[]}#2 where all will be virgin

The human race, if it wants to continue to exist, has to solve its housing problem. In several million years our sun will go supernova and incinerate, during its expansion, the planet Earth. Then, when it cools down to a grey dwarf, what was planet Earth will be a cold rock of ice. Not a good place to live or vacation. We have to start flying around the Universe a la Star Trek and find other inhabitable planets if we wish to continue our future existence as a race. They better find a better propulsion system and more sophisticated means to harness energy, hopefully without hardware and make use of Warp Space (which are only time tunnels or Worms) for getting around more easily. It’s all in Star Trek, we’re just catching up.


Spring Question: Yes. Our greatest advances have come from pure science and discovery missions. We need to keep the ball rolling.


I'm going to respond to this purely from a "seems right" standpoint; that is, I know nothing more about the situation than what you've told me.

Anyway, I suppose traveling to Mars could be an utter waste of resources--time, money and energy that could be channeled toward solving some of our own planets problems instead of involving another. But, to be honest, even if we relocated the time, money and energy it may take to send two men to Mars, I can't bring myself to believe that it would certainly go to something like, for example, improving hospitals in Dhaka. So with all of that aside, every part of my being is screaming, "Why the hell not?! Go to Mars!"

But none of that is what I've really wanted to say to you. What truthfully came to mind when I read your question was this whole concept of mystery and wonderment, and all of these cliche ideas that still make me feel brave and strange and beautiful, regardless of their tendency to be overused in cheap literary settings. Visiting a different planet entirely, a place that authors and dreamers and children have fantasized about; a place that's so unknown, sometimes I feel as though its mass is more daydream than it is anything else.

Given not only the ability but the willingness and eagerness to explore, it would be a grand opportunity to waste. And not just for the intellectual gain either, which is, of course, very important... but for the experiences of the astronauts, the engineers and the planners, the people tracking the progress the whole year and a half it's happening, and for the people who tune in right at the end. These could be the kind of experiences, I think, that lead to understanding, empathy, introspection and perspective... not that experiences like that are necessarily farther away than the backyard garden, but they're valuable nonetheless, and, I think, are well worth a trip to Mars.

The potential there, the possibility, all of it reminds me quite a bit of how I felt when I finished reading A Wrinkle In Time in third grade. Childishly excited, maybe, but sincerely so.
Thank you all. Take a breath. SUMMER QUESTION is coming.


Big Mark 243 said...

It has been said that if one wants to be a good writer than one should read good writing. Seems like it goes hand in had with how a person establishes a good reputation... they keep the company of people with good reps themselves.

Fight the good fight D.B.!

Beth said...

I loved your last line..."something that doesn't do much damage." haha

I think reading good writers (or even mediocre ones) really helps us with the way we string things together, or try to convey things in our own writing. I also think that constant writing helps you improve. I look at stuff I wrote a few years ago and I wonder what I was thinking to write it that way, or use those words, or try to make that lame joke.

It's exercising the mind.