Monday, May 25, 2015

Experiencing controversial things

Last summer I was getting out of my old habits and experiencing electronic music on a brand new level. It led me to some insights on how humans achieve transcendent states without chemical assistance, and I saw parallels between two-day EDM festivals and the vision-inducing rigors that ancient hermits inflicted on themselves.

Let's take that in a different direction. If you haven't heard it yet, any author who wants to write about guns ought to take an opportunity to handle them in person. I recently spent a weekend with the Appleseed program, a .22 rifle, and some paper silhouettes.

I don't have any interest in guns outside of their practical details. The Second Amendment is not something I'm interested in arguing about in this blog. However, guns exist, they are tools which can be used for good or for evil, and personal experience will always give one more insights than reading somebody else's account of a thing.

I spent sixteen hours, over two days, loading magazines, making my rifle safe, and shooting at increasingly small silhouettes on paper. A .22 has very little kick, but a sore spot developed on my right collarbone. I've never been so glad that Cobra Pose in yoga comes easily to me, or that I've learned to hold a position for a long time while breathing slowly and steadily.

There were frustrations. I couldn't get a cheek weld with the stock. None of the seated firing positions work for me. My eye had a lot of trouble focusing on the targets. Actually, you're not supposed to --you focus on the front sight -- but it meant I was firing all but blind sometimes.

For some, shooting is about becoming absolutely still, like a statue. Stillness is absolutely a part of it, I agree, but aiming is also about knowing the rhythms of your own breath and muscles. I was finding the right moment in the natural movement of my gun's sights to strike.

There's an instinct there. Humans are predators, after all.

Guns can be controversial, more so than EDM festivals... and there are more controversial, unorthodox or outrightly dangerous experiences one can have than firing a rifle. We can't go out and try everything that might give us a completely accurate picture of what our characters experience (I've never experienced zero gravity, though if I had the chance I'd jump at it) but if it can be done safely then I don't see why a writer shouldn't.

Safely, ethically, legally, that is. If I were writing Dexter I wouldn't take up serial killing.

Have you done something new just for research purposes?


Wm. L. Hahn said...

Fabulous idea, Louise! Did you take up the shooting just for research, or was there also some practical purpose?
I can't say it's quite the same but I always enjoyed LARPing as a single guy- it reinforced my inner geek about things like marching order, sighting distances, surprise; elements of combat and tactics. And just yesterday, we treated my high-school graduating daughter with her first trip to Medieval Times. Man, that's the job for me.!

blankenship.louise said...

Partly for research, partly because I'd always meant to do it, partly because the opportunity presented itself in a friend who could loan me a rifle. I don't own one, can't really afford one, so no there wasn't really a practical reason.

Medieval Times -- now there's some hands-on research, if you're brave enough to get on a horse and pick up a lance!

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