When I was a child I was a big Tarzan fan. When I was very young my mother was kind enough to take me to Baldwin Gardens where the early Johnny Weissmuller, Tarzan movies were filmed, so I could play there and enjoy what was left of the Tarzan movie set, up close.
I also have a very clear memory of my mother driving up to the edge of the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate, getting out of the car and pointing out the house to me. Of course Edgar Rice Burroughs wasn’t home. He passed away many years earlier, but the house was still in the family. I don’t actually remember seeing the house. I believe it was hidden behind many trees, including (in my memory) quite a few large Spanish oaks. My mother said Burroughs had written Tarzan while nearly homebound and invalid. He looked out his windows at the dense trees surrounding his ranch-style home and dreamed of being free.
I was too little to realize at the time that my mother was very ill and slipping toward her own early death, but when I look back I’m so grateful she took the time to impress a few really important lessons on me before she left.
If you asked me, which was the most important lesson, I’d have a different story to tell you on any given day. Today I’m going to say she showed me and told me that when you have freedom of imagination you’re free. She insisted a free, creative mind could go anywhere and I try to live that truth today.
Edgar Rice Burroughs was a beautiful example of a free mind. Early in his life he was broke and working as a pencil-sharpener-wholesaler with a young family to support when he decided he could write a story at least as good as the pulp fiction magazines he was reading:
"...if people were paid for writing rot such as I read in some of those magazines, that I could write stories just as rotten. As a matter of fact, although I had never written a story, I knew absolutely that I could write stories just as entertaining and probably a whole lot more so than any I chanced to read in those magazines." ERB.
Burroughs wrote the John Carter, Princess of Mars “Barsoom” series and it was an instant hit. The Tarzan books followed a few years later.
As an adult I delved deeper into the Burroughs lore and was disillusioned to find a few controversial things about the man.
No one’s perfect and I had to let childish ideals go and simply look at Burroughs’ body of work that I must say overall is highly creative and “free minded”.
Recently, I was very happy to see that next spring Disney pictures will be reintroducing the John Carter Princess of Mars, “Barsoom” series to a new generation on the book’s 100th birthday.
(Please see the video above.) I also think its of special interest, at least to me that Disney chose Peter Gabriel’s moody cover of “My Body is a Cage” as the music for this trailer.
I have to say I liked Burroughs’ can-do attitude. It gave me the freedom, quite late in life to start writing my own "rotten" stories and I thank him for that.
What bit of freedom will allow your mind to embrace today?