What Happened?

“DID THAT REALLY happen?  Was he a real person?”

“What you wrote, that was fiction, right?”

“Is this nonfiction or what?   It starts out I know it’s real because there’s a picture of you and the airplane, but then…”

Instead of turning Socratic, those moments: “What is Truth, my child?” I frowned.

Who was the first person with the idea to class books, to class experience, to class life itself into two categories: Fiction or Nonfiction?   Looking into the past, I see a forest of hands, “I did!”

Everybody perceives differently.  One witness in court sworn to tell the truth, testifies that the defendant’s auto was travelling at high speed through a red traffic light, no attempt to stop.  The defendant swears of course she didn’t stop because the light was green as Go!  Who’s lying?  Nobody.  Different perceptions, caught in the strobe of a half-second drama.  Colors become mind-stuff.

I heard a voice in my head once long ago, while I was landing my biplane, an old machine that a pilot couldn’t much see ahead.  It had no radio, so the voice didn’t come electrically.  I was landing, concentrated on that task, enjoying it.

The voice said, “Move to the right.”  No emotion, just a suggestion.

Voices we hear, are they fiction?  Imaginations in the mind?  Not willing to debate this I moved, and one second after I stomped on the rudder and slammed my airplane to the right, another airplane shot by on the left side, landing in the opposite direction.  (This story is true, by the way.)

There could have been no voice.  The instant I slid to the right, the blurring flash of the other airplane, the event was done.  Did the other pilot even see me?  Don’t know, it doesn’t matter.  I thought about that for years afterward.

Was that event fiction (a voice that couldn’t exist) or non-fiction (a collision, for certain, set by physics, to happen).

My non-fiction belief, I thought, was that I perceived a voice that day, it seemed like a voice in the summer of 1970, landing at Red Oak, Iowa.  Thus, acting on the fiction of a voice that could not have happened, I did not become a flaming ball of wreckage collided on the grass.

What’s fiction?  Some say, “The whole world’s fiction!  Made-up scenes, beliefs, electrical signals that we see with our brain!”

Others smile indulgently.  “You can’t touch ‘er, she ain’t real.”

I like to think that meaning, is “Whatever changes our thought and therefore our lives.”

Fiction can change our thought — how many deer-hunters-to-be never aimed a rifle at a deer after they read Bambi, pure fiction; or saw the movie, nothing but a cartoon on the screen?  I’m one.  Never shot at a deer, or at any animal, in my life.  Thanks to Felix Salten.

Fact can change our thought, too, whether or not we can define what fact is.  So can dreams, data, research, beliefs, carbon analysis, illusions, ice-core samples, telepathy, errors, ghosts, hard-copy printouts, miracles, photographs, alien abductors, someone’s fiction that we thought was fact, a collision on an old grass runway.

We are creatures of our perceptions.  Even the walls we build to stop us from our beliefs are walls of perception, subject to Earth’s perfect solvent, imagination.

So come these stories, my own history, which I believe once happened in my life.  Each story moves our lives one step forward.  I thought they were disconnected, scattered memories.  But now, watching them all, I think that they’re beautifully connected, as though they were the coins of destiny, each had to happen before the next one could exist.

Your own life may be the same way, the stories you’ve remembered, one after another.  Are they thrown into your life by the gods, or are they footsteps that you’ve decided to hammer yourself, from the false recollections, from the true perceptions of memory?

5 thoughts on “What Happened?

  1. A big fan of your writing Mr. Bach! Now I have decided to take the first steps towards my private pilots licence. I look forward to reading your blog posts.

  2. Richard, is this only a one way question? You write about events that ‘happened’ (Past tense)

    What about the future? What about events, or things, that our mundane perspective labels ‘hasn’t happened yet’?

    When if, for example, I intend for something to happen, (do all that visualization requires, clamp my eyes shut, visualize it, see it happening around me, etc.), … what if it happens?

    At the moment I first visualize it, long _before_ it appears, is it true?

  3. My dream, even as a very young child, was always to fly – up, with the birds and whatever lies beyond. I did fly, at nighttime when I was supposed to be sleeping. I would leave my body and do it, knowing I had to keep it short and return to my body before someone found me – because, failing that reunion before discovery, my body would be found dead. Eventually, I stopped flying this way. I was too afraid. Instead, I spent those hours when I used to fly staring out my bedroom window, chin on the windowsill, at an empty sky – limiting myself by an imagined fear.

    One day, I ventured into the sky in a machine. For absolute real. I began my training in VN, during the war. I finished up my training years later, having raised a family. I became free. Truly free. In the skies. Prefer being alone up there – the lack of distractions, me and my airplane – alone – showed me the beauty and freedom I craved.

    I can’t think of a better way to know yourself, and find yourself, than this.

    Thank you, Richard Bach, for all your books. I learned about flying “free” through your writings – and at the same time I learned how to spread my own wings and the wings of the machine I would take with me.

  4. It’s kind of odd and scary, this whole creative process. I never know when something random is going to pop out of my mind into a book. Case in point: years ago, a favorite singer did a television special during which he sang the old Hank Williams song, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”. Recently, I thought about that song for some reason and had to look it up on youtube to watch it again, done by several different artists.
    Today, I was writing a scene in the new book in which one of the characters is playing his guitar for the MC. The song he chose to play just appeared underneath my typing fingers. Of course, it was “I’m So Lonesome.” It fit the scene perfectly, and led the two characters down a path I had not scripted or anticipated.
    It makes me wonder…was the scene preplanned before I started writing? Is that why I was drawn back to the song? Did my characters know before I did what was going to happen?
    So much happens when you let your muse, or subconscious, or whatever, do the writing.

  5. What a fantastic, thought provoking, piece of Philosophy!

    Perspective is everything when one tries to understand our personal “story-lines”.

    I reckon most of us are puzzled with how future events materialise or how or why extraordinary coincidences come to be…

    Perhaps we should consider that Time is one of the main dimensions of the Universe we happen to share? Perhaps this dimension is there to facilitate somehow our understanding of events (by sequencing)? Perhaps this dimension is not applicable outside of this Universe?

    Personally, I find the concepts of past, present and future as quite useful to understand my own reality. But may be, as I grow in my understanding, I could eventually start removing those concepts from thinking while analysing events?

    What do you think Richard? Have you tried that? Life without timelines?

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