Beginner’s Luck

When you’re new at something, you’re standing at the base of a mountain and there’s only one place to go – up.

If I picked up a saxophone today, my improvement from Day 1 to Day 30 would be astronomical. My improvement from Day 30 – 60 would be great, but not quite as drastic. By the time I’m performing in the saxophone olympics, I’m only improving in very small increments from year to year. Why? Because now I’m the straight-laced superman of symphony.

When you’re new it’s easy to improve. So easy that it looks like magic and we have to make up a name for it, we call it “beginner’s luck.”

Newborn babies know all about beginner’s luck. Newborn babies couldn’t be dumber. They have ALL the knowledge of the universe in front of them, none behind.

Yesterday the little guy couldn’t talk, but today he’s yelling “cookies!” From words to sentences, from crawling to running, he’s smashing past those life milestones at 100 miles per. Little kids don’t bother with rear view mirrors. They just think, “What’s next man?” First bicycle? First kiss? First job? Bring it yo!

Then we get older and the mountaintop levels off. Now we’re walking a level ridge. Looking into the void on either side causes our knees to start knocking, so instead we look ahead, eyes on the prize. As adults, a few or our skills have now been sharpened into money-making skills; so… just keep doing what got you to the dance.

But…

But man it’s fun to be a kid. In any small way you can swing it. It’s fun to suck at something and get better fast. You impress with your progress. And if you screw up? Who cares, you’re only a newbie! It’s fun to stretch your legs again. Your legs miss the feeling of storming that mountain at a 45 degree angle. It’s good because it’s fun, that’s all.

And who among us dares to pretend, “I’ve got more than enough fun in my life, thank you.” I love you but I don’t believe you.

The Distance of the Moon: Thursday, May 14th.

Writers are too serious. I’m certainly guilty of this. Especially when we are young and impressionable, we think that we have something important to say. We think we are going to change the world.

Lately I’ve been appreciating the value of good entertainment. Life is hard enough. People don’t necessarily need to be reminded of pain and suffering during their Books and TV Shows and Movies.

Entertainment is important. If you want to change the world, make somebody laugh. Ease their mind for a while. Life is serious enough.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. Why, when I have the freedom to circumnavigate the world in a hot air balloon, or turn myself invisible and walk unimpeded into the White House, or play hockey on the moon with a team of Blue Wizards – why would I want to write about my desk job, on a Monday morning, when I’m late for work and the car is low on gas?

A blank page is a treasure trove of untold possibilities. I’m thankful for all the fun stories I read when I was a kid. I’m thankful for those writers who stuck a helium nozzle in my ear and blew up my imagination like a latex glove until it took on the shape of a cow’s udder.

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The Distance of the Moon is a short story by Italo Calvino. It was published in 1965 as part of a collection called the “Cosmicomics.”

I listened to it on audio this week, and it inspired me to think of all the fun possibilities in the writing universe.

Here is a sample…

[…] “the rest of you can’t remember, but I can. We had her on top of us all the time, that enormous Moon: when she was full – nights as bright as day, but with the butter-coloured light – it looked as if she were going to crush us […] Climb up on the Moon? Of course we did. All you had to do was row out to it in a boat and, when you were underneath it, prop a ladder against her and scramble up. […] This is how we did the job: in the boat we had a ladder: one of us held it, another climbed to the top, and a third, at the oars, rowed until we were right under the Moon; […] The man at the top of the ladder, as the boat approached the Moon, would become scared and start shouting: ‘Stop! Stop! I’m going to bang my head!’”

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Don’t you want to know what happens next? Don’t you want to hang out in that universe for a little while, if only to poke around and see what you can see? Go ahead and  try it out. Nobody is watching.