Some Essay's I Have Written:

January 2008 update: I finally realized I should mention that I have been so busy this past 10 years traveling and working as a web programmer that I have not had time to do any casual writing. That is not to say I haven't been writing. I have. Lots of web page content such as my travel blog and the content for numerous other web sites esprcially travel and Navy related and of course my many business related web sites.

The Sixth Dimension: Memories

We write for many reasons. The "we" I refer to are writers who have taken the time to reflect on why? Before I can discuss why others write, I must explain why I write. I write to preserve my experiences and memories. I have asked myself what and who am I? In the end what remains of us that has true value? For me it is my memories and experiences. Take everything away, strip away all earthly possessions, friends and loved ones will come and go, yet what remains? Our essence. This essential quality comes from what we learned from our life's experiences. What do we have left of these experiences, but our memories?

Virginia Wolf said it best in her essay A Sketch of the Past. "If life has a base that it stands upon, if it is a bowl that one fills and fills and fills-then my bowl without a doubt stands upon this memory." The memory she refers to is her first memory. I see life the same way. Over the years I have poured and poured tens of thousands of memories into this bowl. Together they have created my core, my very being.

Since my memories are the basis for defining "me," I feel compelled to record them. At first I wanted to record them for myself, but I have come to realize that if they end with me where is my legacy? When my time here on Earth ends, will I disappear as if I never existed. Can I gain some form of an afterlife by recording my memories? Perhaps if I can write well enough I can possibly capture that essence on paper and give myself a form of immortality? That is the nucleus of the reason I feel I must write.

I enjoy the luxury of reminiscing and exploring that Sixth Dimension I call memories (the sixth because the first five are already used). I have found that the Sixth Dimension is almost endless, for every memory I recall it leads me onto many others. It is like striking the pack on a billiard table, with one cue ball, and the balls go flying in every direction. Then all I need to do is put the balls in my corner pocket, with my pen and my journal, and their mine to keep.

Virginia Woolf describes her days as consisting of "being" and "non-being." Where a good day is made up of more "being" than "non-being." By this, I believe she means that "being" is doing something that is good, constructive, enjoyable, or satisfying. "Non-being," on the other hand is the opposite and are those moments that we want to forget. I like this analogy because my writing aids me in rediscovering these "being" moments. This rediscovery is like uncovering a lost treasure-trove of "jewels." These "jewels" have led me to believe that I have lived a very interesting life. To use Virginia Woolf's expression, I believe I have a "being" life. The beauty of it is, I am still young enough for many more "being" days.

Other writers have written about why they write and from a comparison of why I write to what they have written I have found one common thread. It is to express the self, ones Id, or as Joan Didion said it in her essay Why I Write:

Why I Write. There you have three short unambiguous words that share a sound, and the sound they share is this:




In many ways writing is the act of saying I, of imposing oneself upon other people, of saying listen to me, see it my way, change your mind.

Ms. Didion uses her "I" a little differently than I do. She uses it to persuade others to accept some belief or opinion she has that she wants the reader to believe. This is in contrast with my I, which is to describe myself to the reader.

Like Ms. Didion, the author George Orwell writes to persuade. From his essay Why I Write he says: "I write it (he is speaking of writing a book) because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing."

George Orwell wrote that there are four reasons for writing. The first is sheer egoism, which has been aptly described here. His second reason is aesthetic enthusiasm or the process of writing of the essence of the external world or to share in an experience. His third reason is the historical impulse. The method of recounting what has happened. Finally, his primary purpose for writing was, at least after he fought in the Spanish Civil War, to write with a Political purpose.These "four great motives for writing" probably apply in one degree or another to every writer. As for me, I primarily write for sheer egoism and aesthetic enthusiasm.

The late British novelist and playwright Enid Bagnold came closest to having a reason similar to mine when he said. "Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To 'Why am I here?' . . . It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create . . . to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus."

Each author I have discussed had other reasons for writing and that is true for me as well. The need to write is not a simple answer that can be summed up in a short essay. This essay on Why I Write will receive constant revision as I refine my reasons and as I mature and grow as a writer.

By reflecting on what I have written I would like to impart a little twist to what Virginia Woolf said. "In many ways writing is the act of saying I." My variation would be to say; In many ways writing is the art of saying I. From that I can say that my goal as a writer is to make "saying I" an art form.

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A Boy Named Sew

Have you ever had your name misspelled, mispronounced or changed in some funny way? Well, I have had mine mutilated so bad that it has allowed me many humorous retelling's of the event.

While serving in the Navy during the sixties in Japan, I bought a new uniform work jacket. More than the uniform regulation required, sailors at the time had their names embroidered on the left breast of their jackets. In those days in Japan the Navy base tailor had a mobile tailor shop in the back of a small truck. This truck would come on the pier next to the ship twice a week.

With my new jacket in hand I went out to the tailors' truck and filled out a ticket for tailoring service. On this ticket I wrote "Sew name on left breast PLUMLEE." The little old Japanese lady took my ticket and jacket and said come back Thursday.

When Thursday came I went out to get my jacket from the tailor and to my surprise my new jacket had a word embroidered that stretched from the zipper to the left arm pit. At first I could not recognize the word. Then suddenly I understood. It said "SEWNAMEONLEFTBREASTPLUMLEE."

At first I was abhorred. I cannot wear this with my uniform. Then the humor of it all finally hit me. I do not think I have ever had a bigger laugh. Whenever I wore that jacket, all eyes went to my name.

Soon after the ship left port I was standing watches on the bridge. The bridge is the eyes, ears and brains of the ship and is where the Captain spends most of his time. As fate would have it, the Captain saw this string of letters across my left breast and signaled me over to him. He said "son is that your name?" Somewhat embarrassed and a little worried that I might be in trouble, I told him the story. At first he said nothing then a big grin broke out on his face and he said "son that is the funniest story I've heard in years."

As the years went by I had nearly forgotten this story. Then, twenty years later, I was attending a Naval Shipyard conference in Norfolk, Virginia when a gentleman in civilian clothes came up to me and said Commander Plumlee are you "SEWNAMEONLEFTBREASTPLUMLEE?" He was a retired Chief Petty Officer who had worked in the shop next to mine.

So have you ever had your name mutilated as badly as I have or had as much fun with it?

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