A Blink

by Bob Hazlett

This essay is not a “Blink”, but it is about the “Blink” format.

A Blink is an extremely short bit of writing, usually taken to be less than 100 words. It is a snapshot, not the movie.

I find it to be a means to capture powerful ideas succinctly with no extraneous trappings. I love Blinks, I seek them out, and I try to write them.

This summer (2019) my travels took me back to a location I have visited before, long ago. Now it is a historic site managed by the National Park Service. Battle Road National Historic Park preserves the history of the events of 18 and 19 April 1775 that began the American Revolution. Your recollections of American history may include an inaccurate memory of the “midnight ride of Paul Revere” and “… fired the shot heard round the world.”

My visit put flesh onto those bones and browsing the gift shop led me to Charles Bradford’s book. In the evenings following my visit, I read the book, and gained a deep understanding of what really happened in that twenty-four-hour period — both the events and the human story.

Part way through the book (page 50 to be exact) I hit this paragraph. I read it at least ten times.

“Today, thousands of tourists pause at this grave as they visit the battlefield. Each year, on the 19th of April, a fresh wreath is mounted here, recalling that every scene of heroic action leaves its victims of heroic sacrifice. Death frees them from the allegiances they adhered to, right or wrong. No longer are they Rebel or Redcoat; no longer, Loyalist or Patriot. They are part of the price civilization has paid, stumbling forward in search of a better world.”

The Battle Road by Charles H. Bradford

Charles Bradford captured in eighty words a message that can apply to many places and times throughout the course of human history. Eighty words that stopped my reading and caused me to reflect, then reproduce them here to pass them on to you. That is the power of the Blink.

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