To record or to experience.

My wife planned a special day for me in celebration of my birthday. She took me to Tanganyika Wildlife Park in Goddard, KS. It’s a privately run facility that is designed to educate the public on endangered species. It is truly an amazing facility.

About a third of the way into our day, my camera battery died and I was aghast to realize that I forgot to bring a back-up. I was almost sick, considering this was a special day that my wife had planned and now I screwed it up. Even more so, my attitude was potentially affecting hers.

And then, I stopped. I was not going to let anything ruin the day. I was going to experience the place and enjoy it and stop worrying so much about recording the event. It dawned on me that I have spent an inordinate amount of time in my life recording the events of my life and perhaps not enough time experiencing them. Whether it’s old analog photos or Super 8 or video or digital format now, we all have countless images that we hardly ever go back and review. Yes, we have captured the image and neglected the live version. And now we don’t even take the time to remember by looking at them.

This is bad for a writer. It is vitally important to allow the senses to be bathed in experience, almost drowned. This is how we capture the nuances and details of life that are then imbued into our works. The act of transcribing feelings and emotions in so-called ‘real time’ almost negates the passion inherent in them. As Wordsworth said “Poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquility.” After the fact, the emotion comes through. The real feelings, the ones that the experience has morphed into.

I suppose that if you are a documentarian or a non-fiction writer, it is different. But how long can we go on capturing the image and ignoring the experience?

All things being equal, I would have liked to have captured more images of those rare and beautiful animals. But there was absolute joy in sharing an amazing afternoon with my beloved wife while celebrating my birthday. No photo can replace how I feel.



  1. myrickeaton said,

    June 30, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    H. B.
    It is for this very reason that I have decided to stop writing after I finish my current novel. I feel I never ‘experienced’ the joy of living, always mentally recording my file of memories saved for that next novel I planned to write. I missed the joy, the experience. The time spent with loved ones, friends, or the strangers that touched my life in some meaningful way, are like a vapor, never to be recovered.Your blog said it all.


    • H.B. Berlow said,

      June 30, 2013 at 9:39 pm

      It’s a long journey. It doesn’t matter when we learn but THAT we learn.


  2. Nancy Sturm said,

    July 1, 2013 at 2:57 pm

    How true this is, and well said, too. So happy you allowed yourself to enjoy the day!


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