Thursday, February 3, 2011

Opening Velocity on a Quiet Evening in February

Opening velocity is a term you use to describe those fraught, inviting moments when a story you are reading races into life, its beginning luring you inside to continue.  The term is also relevant for describing the moments when the elements of curiosity and mischief collide somewhere in the inner reaches of your sensitivity, alerting you to the imminent birth of a new story or essay of your own.

Either scenario, reading or writing, portends joy and much work; you are launched into discovery, which is always exciting, drawing you to greater awareness of individuals and circumstances in cases where you already have been inoculated with an array of feelings.

The concept of opening velocity works with other aspects of life experiences--if you allow it, if you do not step toward the routine or anticipated experiences with a measure of dread or distaste.  Mere enthusiasm helps, but, as in story, it is not enough; it becomes the equivalent of passivity, exerting influence on your choice of verbs and the way you employ them vis a vis subject and object.  This kind of sloppy choice paves the way for you to be borne along by events rather than approaching them with agenda, an aspect of behavior that may work well enough were you to follow the detachment/non-attachment approach of some Eastern philosophies, but if you chose to live story, to make your life as much your story as you have been able to render some of your concoctions, it is not enough to allow yourself to be wind-tossed, as the old Western song of your youth had it, "Lonely but free I'll be found/Drifting along with the tumbling tumble weeds."

The chemistry of attraction is less a mystery to you than it once was, only because you have allowed yourself to be drawn to persons, places, and things for the most idiosyncratic reasons.  You have a history from which to draw.  That history has inflicted loss, gain, growth, frustration,impatience, glut, and discovery upon you in ways that leave you now, at this moment, believing you've led a happy life, with an opportunity to turn in as your final draft a positive narrative rather than one laden with cynicism or misanthropy.  As much as things could change for the worse, so too could they change for the better.  In his magisterial poem, William Carlos Williams observed:

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow
glazed with rain
water
beside the white
chickens.

When you first read that poem, many years back, you were stunned into the meditative silence poetry can and does evoke, unable to think or feel beyond it because of its evocative pull into its own world and its own evocation of an entire universe.  You were a boy then who spent his time building model airplanes, wondering if you would ever have the gumption to approach girls, not certain at all where to find the doorway to enter the world you'd wanted to enter when you discovered Huckleberry Finn.  Model airplanes have long since disappeared from your red wheel barrow, but these things of opening velocity take you again and again and again into the story you are drawn to discover.



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