Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Imperative Post

I tried for about twenty minutes to find the definition of a word this morning. Of course I googled it and then searched five or six results. I got two pop-ups and had to deal with that and then I tried to cut and paste the definition into the text document, which of course imported all the hyper links and I had to edit that out, I had to adjust the font, some italics issues and a couple of other stupidly vexing little problems. I finally had it done and was about to start writing to you and...

...the power surged and the computer restarted and I lost it all.

This took me less than five minutes, including travel time upstairs:

absolutely necessary or required.”

So, what?, a half hour later I still don't understand the word. The word “absolutely” there in the definition is pretty inarguable. 
I wrote something on the thing we call Face Book (remember boys, a dinosaur from the early days of social media, I told you about it) the other day. Brian, from this beautiful blog called The Cheek of God, asked me to name the books that had influenced me over the course of my life.  It seemed like a thoughtful assignment, so I did it.

Now you've got to remember that nothing, nothing, no singular thing, is important on Face Book.

So, clearly it was not imperative that I show this to you here. However, it is the kind of thing a son might like to know about his father someday, so it is imperative that you, dear sons, see this someday.  Get it? Nor do I...

Here is that post:
I was tagged by Brian to share the ten books that have influenced my life. It was difficult and this is profoundly inadequate and... I owe him a big thanks. In giving time to this I was reminded how beautiful and quiet and deeply, deeply meaningful reading and writing has been for me.

When I was maybe nine or ten I was reading my brother's SciFi collection pretty much straight through, Asimov, Heinlein and that gang. At the end of the shelf was a collection of Sherlock Holmes Mysteries by Conan Doyle. That really changed things for me, I loved the whodunnit nature of them and I loved the flaws and quirks of Sherlock himself.

A few years later I was goofing off in my freshman geometry because I was smart and a smartass and got it all fast and the other kids didn't. The teacher, in his wisdom, sent me to the library instead of the principal. I was a bit of a WWII buff back then and the librarian, a big influencer in those years, gave me a copy of Herman Wouk's The Winds of War and I fell in love with Natalie one of the main characters. It was the first time I felt the emotional power of reading.

My childhood pastor was a great orator and a very smart man. I remember the cadence and inflection he gave that good old King James Bible, and as I grew older I realized how those same words shaped the style and rhythm of so many great authors. At the same time I poured over an equally great and influential work, A Peanuts Treasury by Charles Shultz so I will lump those two together because the are oddly and forever connected in my mind.

In college I struggled to find my voice and the same copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White still sits on my desk right now. The plot of it sucks but, it sure helped me understand the diversity and utility of the words we line up.

Two books by the writer John Irving changed everything for me. First Cider House Rules because it showed me the depth and power of metaphor and the art of quiet, passionate narrative. When I finished crying at the end of A Prayer for Owen Meany, I flipped to the beginning and started that implausible journey over again. The power of plot and the indescribable cleverness of the foreshadowing in that book has stayed with me always. I have a signed copy of it.

To Kill A Mockingbird gave me a lifetime hero in Atticus Finch and showed me how beautiful was grace and how ugly was racism. That book still haunts me.

Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men not only blew me away in its simple and direct prose but, man, who can write with that sharpness and sureness. I read it again recently and remember wondering how could I ever write again.

Recently, I read a book called The Night Circus By Erin Morgenstern and it reminded me why I read, why I give the words so much respect. I loved it.

I was given the opportunity, and I gave myself the time, as a young man to read all the great novels and of course, en masse, they influenced me, got into my very soul, made me who I am. I could keep adding and adding, Twain, Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky, Stegner, so many. However, my last pick is a little book by Richard Rohr called Falling Upward: A Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life. It helped immensely in my struggle with aging and the busyness and shallowness of this world we live in.

I would say this prototype sketch of Mustard Man is imperative:

As is this epic mustard/ketchup battle yin-yang:

And this skull-shirted, screaming cafeteria bully:

Yes, but it is now imperative that I add The Musterd (sic) Chronicles in full for context.  Book One introduces the characters and explains their super-powers:

There is an amusing cryptogram on the final page:

Book Two, Raining Relish, introduces their arch-nemesis, Relish Boy:

That's the only two issues out so far, but...

... the next book is Toxic Hummus.

You know what, I wrote all the above yesterday, and today it doesn't seem imperative at all - in fact it doesn't even seem very good.

Not my point.

I was going to end this yesterday with a flourishy finish, when I had to stop because the sun had come out making it imperative that I mow the lawn.  And then I got a call from the school, on the tractor, mind you, that it was imperative I go to the school and pick up my son who had a fever of one-hundred-and-one.  And, once he and the other boy were home - it was imperative that I bring them home together - it became an imperative that I tell their soccer coach that they were ill and, though they'd like to play, they may have a limited amount of energy.  And then I had to retrieve the tractor from the yard, before the storm.  And then...

I don't think I understand this word.  We live this life moment-to-moment.  Everything can shift on a thought, slip on a dream, stop on playing field or carpet.

I don't think I know what's important.

Is the memory of a nearly forgotten dictionary, a New Edition Webster in 1991, gifted to me by my parents, even worth mentioning?

Is this, the coolest guy ever important, even relative, right now?  Even though a boy made it in full concentration and delight?  I mean, it seemed really important to him at the time.

You know what?  This post by Brian on Cheek of God, called "My Daughter Told Me To Write This..." seems like a very important thing for you to do right now.  I'll wait...

Clearly and simply, I do not know what is imperative.

I know I must hit publish after I write a post because, if I don't, I'll keeping adding and adding to it.  I know, without a doubt, that having these boys has changed everything forever and I that I must keep doing this because, deep down, it seems so very important.

And, I know I must go make lunch...


  1. I have found the dictionary is only useful if you can spell the word. So could i say spelling the word is imperative to the use of the dictionary?

    1. Carroll Peebles just won the Internet.

  2. I love words... Impero/imperare. To command (in Latin). Can't help myself...

    Astetix. Asterix has cast a shadow on my life that cannot be overstated. Because of Asterix it was imperative that I take up Latin. Through many twists and turns it meant I met my wife....