Know how your best ideas, your strokes of genius, never come when hailed, but when you’re doing something else? Well there’s an interesting new book about that phenomenon titled Imagine – How Creativity Works by Jonah Leher. And no surprise, to me anyway, that it brought to mind something, uh, weird.
In the book Leher recounts the random events that led to the coining of the Nike slogan “Just Do It” and you’ll not find it surprising that the story hasn’t joined waffle irons in the annals of Nike lore. It has more to do with a scythe than a swoosh.
Turns out that the dude tasked with the development of a crisp and pithy turn of phrase had earlier in the day been discussing a new book by Norman Mailer – The Executioner’s Song – about the tortured and torturing life of Gary Gilmore which ended with death by firing squad. Gilmore’s last words were: “Let’s do it.” See?
OK. Not long ago, but long enough, wife and I were in the throes of a heated unpleasant argument. Can’t remember what it concerned, but do that it had been protracted and had accompanied us through the evening news and into bed. We’d not yet perfected that don’t go to bed mad thing.
Anyway, we paused for a moment as our eyes adjusted to the moonlight beaming in through a window. At the exact moment we reengaged, a bat that had somehow found its way in and flown up the steps rounded the corner into our room. Gave the phrase “sound of wings” a whole new meaning.
We both went silent and looked at each other for a moment. There was no question in either of our minds that rectification of that sort of situation was more part of my job description than hers, but we both got up. Not though without considerable trepidation.
It flew back down the stairs and we followed. I located a couple tennis racquets while wife kept track of the creepy creature. It flew into oldest daughter’s empty bedroom. I followed and wife closed the door behind us. Thing hung upside down from short curtains at the top of the window.
After a quick flick to the floor, I trapped it on the carpet. Wife slid a piece of construction paper underneath which I hoped wouldn’t tear as I applied pressure with my hand. Hard against the strings, it writhed an awful dance macabre while squealing just within the range of perception. Released at the front door it disappeared into the night.
Shaken by what we’d conjured up, we looked at each other and spoke not one word more that night. Tossed and turned for quite a while before falling off and into an incredible dream with a Bergman flic – The Seventh Seal – as the setting. Max Von Sydow playing knight Antonius Block challenges Death to a game of chess and a chance at a reprieve. Block jostles the chessboard prompting death to say “You won’t get off that easily”.
Death replaced the pieces as they’d been and they played on to his victory, but Block’s real purpose had been to distract Death and prevent him from spotting husband Jof (me) who had seen Death and wife Mia (my roommate) who thinks Jof is nuts. At the film’s end Jof watches Death lead Block and others away.
I see them, Mia! I see them! Over there against
the dark, stormy sky. They are all there. The
smith and Lisa and the knight and Raval and
Jons and Skat. And Death, the severe master,
invites them to dance. He tells them to hold
each other's hands and then they must tread the
dance in a long row. And first goes the master
with his scythe and hourglass, but Skat dangles
at the end with his lyre. They dance away from
the dawn and it's a solemn dance towards the
dark lands, while the rain washes their faces
and cleans the salt of the tears from their
He is silent. He lowers his hand. His son, MIKAEL
(played by our dog Sauger), has listened to his words.
Now, he crawls up to MIA and sits down in her lap.
You with your visions and dreams.
How could I make this up?