The Influence of One

“Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.”
–George Eliot

“We don’t make a photograph just with a camera, we bring to the act of photography all the books we have read, the movies we have seen, the music we have heard, the people we have loved.”

– Ansel Adams

Influence. Who influences us and who do we influence, perhaps unknowingly? A recent blog post by Laurie Buchanan on her Tuesdays with Laurie blog made me ponder these questions.

We’re all influenced by the times in which we live. Perhaps a Neolithic storyteller imagined worlds beyond ours, a place filled with fantastic creatures that swooped down from the sky. It’s possible. But it’s unlikely that he or she imagined televisions or the Internet. Perhaps though that storyteller inspired others to create new tales or paint, or think of worlds beyond. Entirely possible, and a scene I like to imagine. Still, although a rare genius such as Leonardo da Vinci can imagine or predict objects far beyond the imaginations of his or her contemporaries (see for example, his moveable cart, “the world first self-propelled vehicle” ), most of us are constrained by our times and knowledge.

As a historian, I study the past and past influences. In turn, I’m influenced by the words and actions of those who lived long ago. As a writer, I’m influenced by everything around me. But who knows for sure where that creative spark comes from? I have some way of seeing things that others perhaps do not, some odd synaptic firing that allows me to put images into words on a page. But I am still influenced by what I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, music I’ve heard, art I’ve admired. I’m influenced by the sound of the crows outside my window engaged in their “Marco Polo” calls to one other, the sunlight reflected and glimmering on the butterfly bush gently swaying in the faint summer breeze, and the cat sleeping next to me, lost in his feline dreams.

As a writer, I hope that my words influence my readers, and make them think, laugh, or cry. As a human being, a parent, wife, and friend, I also hope that I’ve influenced others, as they’ve influenced me.

Last week all of these various worlds—history, creativity, family, and influence came together in one wonderful example.

Those who read my last post, know that in my house the Mandelbrot cookies I bake are known as “Mommy Cookies,” and that I baked them for my daughter’s wedding rehearsal dinner. Two days after the wedding, while visiting a historic site, my newly married daughter and her wife encountered a historical interpreter portraying an early twentieth-century Jewish immigrant making Mandelbrot in her New England kitchen. My daughter’s reaction was to get a bit teary-eyed (as I did when she told me the story), as she thought of how I make those cookies, our Mommy Cookies. A traditional recipe that I’ve updated became a family tradition that has influenced and affected my daughter and me. The reenactor, however, will never know how her portrayal in that historic site resonated and influenced my daughter.

And now that I’ve told you, the influence of that portrayal has expanded.

 

“We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5

 

 

 

 

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6 thoughts on “The Influence of One

  1. You influence me to read your blog posts because I know I will be treated to words that make me think, laugh, and/or cry. This time you brewed da Vinci, Mommy Cookies and Shakespeare and more into your savory stew.

    I’ve also been fascinated with da Vinci, who experimented with air conditioning systems and flight machines early on. Years ago Cliff made a rudimentary animation of some of his inventions for school assembly programs. I didn’t know about the moveable cart and clicked on your link. Thanks, Merril.

  2. Thank so much, Marian, for your very kind words!
    Do you (or Cliff) still have the animated program of da Vinci’s inventions? Will we see it in a future blog post?
    (Have you see the animated Bayeux Tapestry? I’m picturing Cliff’s animation like that.)

  3. Merril … Your post is inspiring. You spark my interests in art, inventions and literature just in this very post. Leonard di Vinci was a true Renaissance man. That one of his inventions could have inspired folks to create the Rover on Mars … Wow!

    I also love Shakespeare’s quote from “Hamlet:” “We know what we are, but know not what we may be.”

    We should never doubt what we can become. Thank you.

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