Monday, November 4, 2013

"It's why you did it."

Today is a fall day.  There are only a few each year and they are very special.  The temperature is just above freezing, the sun is blindingly brilliant, little wind, and the smell - a woodsy smell, the scent of the forest creeping into civilization.  And everywhere there are the leaves.

I grew up in the woods and fall was always my favorite.

While I was growing up I had extended family with an overwhelming need to provide me with books.  All sorts of books (“Flatland” to “Dragon Riders of Pern” with “Johnny Tremain” and “Farmer Boy” tossed in for good measure).  I read most of them, and to my family's credit, enjoyed nearly all.  One that specifically stood out from the crowd was "Ender's Game" by Orson Scott Card.  I still have my well-worn copy.  It's one of the only books I ever recommend to anyone and the only book I ever kept track of who borrowed it.

The backstory of the book is very interesting, if you are interested in that sort of thing, and for authors of any stripe, the anonymity to superstardom magic of "Ender's Game" for Mr. Card should be an encouragement to keep typing.  But I learned all of that after Ender Wiggin changed my life.

I have made life decisions based on the book – no other work of fiction has had that sort of impact.  I have actually been faced with a situation and, twenty years after reading the book, said, "Ender would do X."  I never wanted to participate in his world - no fantastic daydreaming about zero-g freeze tag or preparing for battle against a foe set to destroy everyone.  There was no desire to write more - Ender didn't get a "last chapter" like Guy Montag did.

I described the story as "universal" this weekend.  I think that's true.  Nobody has ever complained about what a stupid book it is.  A friend of mine (the one who has admitted to never seeing "Casablanca") told me it's on the Marine Corps. reading list.  That's a good thing.  Our soldiers can learn from a commander like Wiggin.  Avoid battle.  When forced to fight, chose your battlefield for best advantage.  Seek to end the war in every battle.  It's sound strategy, distilled from a riveting narrative that, remarkably, does not glorify combat.  The bibliography of reference materials is impressive, Mr. Card wrote with authority.

When I first read the book nearly thirty years ago I wanted to see the movie.  This weekend it came out.  I don't like hype around films because they can never live up to it.  I will say, instead, that this film is the movie I've always wanted to see.  My entire family went and enjoyed every minute.  I saw a brilliant adaptation of, perhaps, my favorite book.

Consider your words carefully.  You will never know who is inspired by them, what choices they will make for themselves and others because of your portrayal.  Be responsible, be thorough, and above all, be inspiring.

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