Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Past as History and Present

The past holds a strange fascination for all of us, even persons who have no ambitions to behave in a strange fashion or who are apt to get their priorities tangled. Such persons are often individuals who in real life do not do remarkable things nor, in consequence, do they find their way into stories. 

Such persons may be said to have different relationships with the past than those of us who are drawn to it as though we are archaeologists, digging for some buried artifacts of our earlier self. In such ways, memories become potsherds and possibly even meaningful mementos such as letters, dried flowers, photographs, outgrown toys, and let's not forget clothes once worn at some event of personal importance.

 There is a good deal to be learned about an actual person or an invented one through events in which they were involved in earlier times.  This knowledge or awareness is almost as though the past were some kind of code we all carry, wanting only to be unraveled. The conventional wisdom says the true nature of a person can be read if the code can be broken.  Some cultures regard the self as a mask, hiding the truer, inner self.

You are interested in codes as well as the past, but from as far back as you can recall, coded messages were disappointments.  Even though your sister taught you ingenious ways of inventing progressively more elaborate codes, you were simply too young to have any secrets worth encryption.

One of the most exciting aspects of coding became such artificial languages as Pig Latin, where syllables were transposed.  There was also the coded language of inserting a nonsense syllable such as "aup" between syllables of words.  The "Aup Language" allowed you and your sister to gain a kind of evening of the playing field whereby you could say things in front of your parents that they could not understand in defense of saying things in other languages they believed you could not understand. 

At one point in your past,just before you moved from Los Angeles to a slew of other cities, you were a member of a club. Each week, you received mail from headquarters, addressed to you as Shaupelaupely Laupowaupenkaupf.  Only once did a letter arrive with a question mark next to your name. 

When you had enough of a past to draw upon, you began to admire radio serials, featuring the exploits of individuals you identified with because they seemed as curious as you were, you had opportunities to send for various coding devices that were presented as secure platforms for your confidential data.  As you recall, you had to invent fictions that would necessitate your use of coded communication, but even then, you could see no reason to send sensitive information because you hadn't any.  

Various of your then heroes, Captain Midnight, The Green Hornet, The Lone Ranger, and even Little Orphan Annie provided their fans various decoders.  They even broadcast messages which you could decode on your badge or decoder ring.  The messages angered you.  They spoke to such things as helping out around the house, drinking eight glasses of water every day, suggesting to your mother that she buy Langendorf bread,  These were not secret messages a young boy wished to hear.

Because of the amount of time you spend in the past, you often  find yourself in the company of those for whom the past has a strange fascination.  This is because you are writers, storytellers who are  active in the creation of pasts for individuals who are not real.

This ability to create a past for others excited you, left you with a sense of power as you began to see how much one's past, even if invented, had an effect on the way a character reacted in dramatic situations.  The next step was to see how successful you could be at inventing pasts for yourself that were in many ways as fanciful as the life you wished to lead.

The past and your manipulations of it became key factors in you turning a corner in the stories you created, all character based, and your growing sense of the importance characters had in the imaginary worlds you created.  You needed considerable time yet to make the connection between the way setting and circumstance took on greater presence as seen through the eyes of these imaginary creations of yours.  At first, you were merely describing, but now, you believe you're past that stage.

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