I write, take photographs and travel for the same reason —
to witness the world within and without, to pay attention to the details of my life,
and to reflect back the truth of my own experience.
Then came the word …
I love to read good writing of all sorts — fiction, poetry, philosophy, essays, travel writing, history (in the rarest of instances when it can be found free of willful or regurgitated propaganda) — and I love to write across various forms.
I eschew facile categorization but know, too, that every single word we pen or utter is a concept, a generalization, and that I must use language if I am to express, wholly, my thoughts. And I love words in and of themselves, the texture of their physical sounds, and the way they can carry a world of meaning from one person to another, as well as how there’s something in the tone, the pitch, the phrasing which we can register as bearing wholehearted truth, a possible truth or untruth awaiting further evidence, or a pack of lies.
I grew up on the South Shore of Massachusetts basking in the light of the American Revolution, amidst the whole “don’t shoot ’til you see the whites of their eyes” and the “one if by land, two if by sea” business. One of my favorite books as a child was Silver for General Washington. An America as fictional, that is, as the one which long ago fell by the wayside to make room for the global bankster ideal which alone rises above the infamous false dichotomy — Capitalism vs. Communism — created to keep the world divided and, thus, conquered, and all the while arrogating to themselves a total monopoly on the creation of money, and power, out of thin air. The phony wars waged for centuries were meant to plunder the treasuries and enslave the peoples of all nations.
Anyway, after moving from my boyhood home to northeast Texas when I was twelve — and discovering that my new middle school library had a copy of this long-lost book, I stole it with a clean conscience. I was certain no one could possibly appreciate it as I did. The only other book I recall ever having stolen — my 7th-grade American history book — occurred just a few months before. I couldn’t imagine life without it when parental sovereignty dictated that I leave my New England home, my older brother and sister, and all my friends 1,800 miles behind.
How many kids, I wonder, dabble in a life of crime in pursuit of bugle-blowing pulp fiction?
I also loved Beverly Cleary’s Henry Huggins books. There was something about the quality of life shared by Henry and his faithful dog Ribsy that made me all warm inside. That reflects one side of me. Another is my love of collecting as a boy various figures of that irreverent, smart-ass dog, Joe Cool. His and Woodstock’s adventures fulfilled another childhood need.
My tastes have since evolved.
Deng Ming-Dao recently wrote in response to an interview question I posed to him, that Taoism has “always been for the nonconformists, the free thinkers, the creative people, and the outsiders.” This statement likewise reflects the writers I treasure, both as a reader and writer: Thoreau, Rilke, Hume, Hesse, Dostoevsky, Chekhov and Tolstoy, Orwell, Basho, Chuang Tzu and Deng Ming-Dao himself, amongst others, of course.
In a nutshell, I much prefer truthful fiction over fictional history, education considered as the drawing out of one’s self rather than the cramming in of facts and false notions, and words which challenge rather than those which, in their political correctness, are designed to cripple. There’s a lovely film which came out in 2008 called Dean Spanley — written by Alan Sharp, the grandfather of my partner Mufidah’s fully fledged daughter — in which a swami (and ex-cricketer) states that dogs elevate man’s estimation of himself, while cats diminish.
I’m both a cat and dog lover, but suggest the same is true of words — those of dogged truth, often difficult to utter, versus those which purr to our sensibilities but rot us from within.
Prior to leaving England in May 2012 to slow travel in Europe with Mufidah, I earned my living teaching a wide-assortment of creative writing, literature and mindful living courses and workshops in the South East of England. You can learn more via my Mindful Living Guide website.