I wish I could draw.
(I suspect that fact is obvious to victims...er, viewers...of the Gheorgheniplex cartoons. I do not apologise for my forays into the visual arts, because it is all TonsilRevenge's fault for encouraging me in the first place.)
I never could handle a pencil very well – I must be the only kid in Memphis who ever got a 'D' (barely passing) in handwriting in first grade – but years of typing up to 14 hours a day on a keyboard have left me barely able to fill out a cheque. I write the letter after the one I meant to write. There is something wrong with my brain. (Quiet in the back.) If I could ever make a line on a paper that was either straight or at least where I intended it to be, I'd try to learn, but I recognise my limitations and thank technology for the Paint program, and resolve to stick to photography most of the time. But that doesn't stop me from wishing I could draw.
I have often visualised an image and thought, "Now, if I could only draw, I'd make that picture." This is frustrating, but these days I have some compensation – I get to do storyboarding. Storyboarding is where you tell somebody else – somebody talented and clever who can draw and maybe write flash – just what it is you are seeing in your mind, and then wait until they draw it for you. My sister used to do that for me before she grew up and had more important things to do, like raise kids and grandkids and be one of the world's great science teachers.
The fact that my latest storyboard involved a Ferris wheel, a belly-dancer and that song about the place in France where the alligators dance is totally irrelevant to my pleasure in anticipating a visual experience that I had something to do with. Besides, Little Egypt is making an educational point, so there.
The reason I bring this all unnecessary biography up is that it leads to the thought that the way our brains are wired means we can see things that aren't there. Okay, all I can do is describe them with words. Geniuses like our friend Willem can make them come alive on canvas. But all of us can see things and hear things and imagine things that aren't there. And that doesn't make us crazy.
It makes us human.
" The sweetest sounds I'll ever hear
Are still inside my head
The kindest words I'll ever know
Are waiting to be said..."
— Oscar Hammerstein
...and the most startling, powerful image of all is still somewhere in the back of the mind of some artist somewhere. At least, I think so.
Why do we have words for the impossible? Quite a while ago, a writer I admire named William Peter Blatty, in a wonderful book he called Twinkle, Twinkle, Killer Kane, had two characters discussing proofs for the existence of an afterlife. Since the characters were working in an insane asylum at the time, the discussion was better than usual. One character said that for him, the proof that there was an afterlife lay in the fact that human beings could desire so many good things that they couldn't accomplish yet. He said that ambition was proof that there had to be another world – one in which those things would be possible. I thought it was an elegant way to put it.
"You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'" – George Bernard Shaw
There's a whole school of philosophy, called the Analytical School. These fellows can entertain the most fantastic notions, usually associated with those of us who perpetrate science fiction – such as the idea that we might not be here at all, merely brains-inna-vat. They worry about why it is that we have words for things that don't exist, such as unicorns and Pan-Galactic Gargle Blasters. I find them highly entertaining, though it doesn't worry me about the unicorns. I think I know why we do this.
If we didn't imagine Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, how would we come up with the recipe? Or the smiley?
It's all a matter of seeing things in perspective, I think. Which we can't do without our inside view-screens, and our inside music-makers, and all the other software the hardware folks can't find.
I have a sneaking suspicion that is why we write. I know it's why I write. Maybe if I describe it well enough, somebody cleverer than I will come along and make it happen. Maybe an angel is watching. Or reading.
Anyway, all power to the people with the pencils, and all power to those of us who just see it in our heads. We'll keep dreaming it, and the words and pictures will do until the real thing comes along. Maybe in one of those future worlds, who knows?
Maybe it will even be one we made up.