June 6, 2011 3:38:00 PM
I have a friend who is in love with Bonsai trees. John Weathers probably has about 100 of the tiny trees scattered around his yard. Bonsais are adult trees that have been artificially dwarfed. Some can be very old; the diminutive height has nothing to do with age. Every time they produce a normal-sized leaf, it is carefully pruned. Eventually, the trees stop producing large leaves, growing only miniature ones.
John travels to Bonsai conventions, Bonsai weekends, Bonsai workshops. He is truly passionate about his "hobby" (dare I say, "obsession"?). His yard is a landscape of windswept pines and maples, most rooted in Asian-inspired planters. It looks like a movie-set for "Wuthering Fairies."
I have another friend, also named John, who is passionate about writing. He never stops. John Dorroh pens poems, letters-to-the-editor, and contributions to teaching manuals. He has a book of "very" short stories coming out this summer. Each is a complete tale told in exactly 99 words.
There are many things that I love -- chocolate, the moon, small animals. This could become a very long list. But, "passion," now that''s an entirely different beast.
One thing that inspires my fervor is first amendment rights, especially the ones about free speech and freedom of the press. These can be a bit tricky, raising the question about how far this freedom can go. The answer is: to the extreme, to infinity.
I am repulsed by pornography. Dirty jokes do not amuse me. However, many people are fond of these things. They have the right to that sort of entertainment. I have the right to refrain from laughing.
A problem comes when censorship intrudes. Vulgarity is like art, in the sense that most of us might say, "I don''t know what art/smut is, but, I know it when I see it." That is the arrogance of small minds. No one is truly qualified to control or limit speech. It is a right, guaranteed since 1789.
Lately, it seems that anything, printed or expressed verbally, that we do not like is deemed inappropriate. Truthfully, nothing is unacceptable, if it is someone''s opinion. It may be tactless, or even tasteless; however, it is the view of someone who took the time to express it and, therefore, has value. No matter if you agree or disagree.
Occasionally, I get some mean emails, perhaps even a few phone calls. Certainly, they can sting. Since I continue to write an "opinion" column each week, I have set myself up for critics and their comments, whether deserved or completely without merit. It is all part of the game.
I don''t know if the Columbus experience is unique. But this town is so small that even whispered disapprovals somehow get back to me. I shrug them off. And so should everyone else. None of us are so perfect that everyone adores us.
I am amazed at those in very public arenas who feel that they must respond and return punches. It is foolish to choose a life on the stage, then act surprised when the rotten tomatoes start flying from the audience.
John D. and John W. have huge passions about small things. Dwarf trees or "short" stories, both take up big spaces in the minds of two very intelligent men. They see a larger world, and are not influenced by lesser intellects. That is a good way to view the entire world, or Columbus, Mississippi.
Adele Elliott, a New Orleans native, moved to Columbus after Hurricane Katrina.
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