Saturday, December 14, 2013


Discovery transforms reality for the person making the discovery.  The more profound and significant the discovery, the greater the transformation of reality.  Yesterday, getting out of your car in front of the Summerland Post Office, you discovered a dime in repose on the gritty pavement.  In a way you had not anticipated, because after all, what's a dime these days, even to a homeless person, you were shoved back into the part of your youth where much of your time was building model airplanes.

This was a time when you were aware of the potentials of puberty on your life; you'd even begun to experience some of them, and although the onward progression of puberty suggested yet other ways in which you felt unprepared, you were nevertheless eager to get on with it.  And so you did, using an amalgam of speculation, locker room gossip, reading appropriate articles in magazines, and in one improbable venture, attempted to learn Latin, the better to understand certain books by the English writer, Henry Havelock Ellis, a physician who became preoccupied with human sexual behavior.  What better source, you wondered, to satisfy your urgent needs for discovery?

Even though you spent a respectable amount of time in your head, speculating, wondering, trying to explain your way around the unknown that lay before you, those years were times when you were as  far out of your emotional and intellectual neighborhoods as you were capable, or perhaps you should say comfortable.  Building model airplanes and listening to music gave you the equivalents of stability if not comfort.  

The dime was important at the time because you could buy model airplane assembly kits for a dime.  You could also hold out with some degree of impatience until you had twenty-five cents with which to buy an even more sophisticated model, on which you focused for the immediate comforts of cutting out parts from sheets of balsa wood on which they'd been stamped, covering your mother's bread board with Cut-Rite wax paper that in its turn sandwiched not your lunch offerings but the plans and schematic drawings for the models you would bring to life.  At that stage of your life, your hands were mottled with the dried splotches of Tester's cement, your badges of membership in the model-builders' fraternity.

Your patience paid off in a sense, although you had to show even more focus with writing than you'd exerted on model airplanes.  Sometime in your late twenties, you found yourself in a professional relationship with a man whose name lives on well beyond his death in 1981.

Few today would refer to the works of Henry Havelock Ellis, from whom you learned such Latin words as titilationes testibus or, O, be still, my heart, mons veneris.  Only a special few today would know of a muscle known by its Latin name, the pubococcxygeis, but upwards of millions would at least refer to the man whose name became a synonym for that muscle, Arnold H. Kegel, M.D.

For some time , you wrote speeches for Dr. Kagle, which he gave to medical students and the general public, describing how a few exercises to curtail impending urinary stress incontinence had remarkable side effects.

In its way, Dr. Kegel's discovery was momentous.  Your own discovery of the dime was provocative of a revisit to the times before the fullness of puberty was all over you, like a hand-me-down suit, before you realized you would, with proper patience, grow into it.

Discovery in story often leads to dramatic change, filled with the potential for motive.  Discovery ranges from finding coins in parking lots or behind cushions of sofas to the awareness of information about the planet you live on, its many features, the persons who have lived on it, entire species of non-human entities who have passed into extinction, and of course the flora and fauna.

The act of reading is in its way a departure on a journey where in a worst-case scenario, you can discover your irritation at the tone of the narrative voice, the predictability of the story, and your utter lack of concern for the outcome.  You are also a potential passenger to one or more discoveries that will send you into a near manic binge of research and subsequent synthesis, ingesting and changing your personality around facts and the discoveries these facts nudge you toward.

Your favorite among the many potential ways of discovery is the kinds of discovery you encounter when you are in a composing mode.  You cannot tell if these discoveries have made you a better person.  Perhaps that is a judgment of which you can never be capable.  You do know for a certainty that discoveries from writing have made you in various combinations and singularities, grouchier, sadder, optimistic, enthusiastic, stunned, and a word you do not use often enough, flabbergasted.

Some time back, you made the discovery that composition was more apt to satisfy you if you kept at it until you discovered from the act of doing it a connection or series of facts you'd not been aware of before. This discovery seemed to you at the time to ratify your sense of enjoying composition sessions in which you led yourself to a discovery.

The only way you could do that, in fiction and essay, is working yourself to the edge, then taking that one step where you could no longer be sure if your foot would come down on anything at all.

No comments: