Chitty Chitty Bang Bang changed my life

A long, long time ago, there was a little boy that sought an escape from the world he lived in.

He found his escape not through the gentle auspices of cinema, computerized virtual worlds or drugs, but instead by slipping into the universe of L-space, the infinitude of possibilities and worlds to be found by browsing through the stacks of books in any good library.

Books, for me, were an escape from reality, and I freely admit it.

I consider myself blessed that books were my shield and armor, because it was through the examples of countless heroes, heroines and ordinary folk overcoming adversity far worse than any I faced that I found role models to guide me, teach me and inspire me to never give up, and to know that even if you can’t see it at first, a way can usually be found if you think. Failing that, the least you can do is carry on and bide your time.

When you’re a child, escaping into books chosen on your own, without external guidance and direction, the lessons you take away can be very different from what your parents or teachers expect.

As an example, one of the earliest books I can remember was Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

At first glance, would you expect that book to have a subversive impact on a young mind? After all, Disney made a movie of it starring Dick VanDyke, and that doesn’t usually scream “subversive” to most parents of the 70’s.

To me, though, it had a profound impact, indeed, it’s had a life-long inflence.

Early on in the book, it introduces the roads of the European countryside as being filled, bumper to bumper, with black sedans, plain, utilitarian, boring, each one just like the one before. This is the modern world.

Into this world comes an anachronistic throwback, an antique car with strange lines, vibrant colors, unusual noises and hidden depths, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

The obvious message wasn’t lost on me, the metaphor for a world of people struggling to conform to some boring, faceless, colorless ‘normal’ for the sake of efficiency.

But there was a deeper message in the story for me. The point of the car Chitty Chitty Bang Bang wasn’t to be different so that it would stand out and be noticed. It wasn’t get the attention of others, to cry out, “Here, look at me!”

The point was that the car was different and colorful because it pleased the car and it’s owners from a personal aesthetic.

The goal was not to stand out just to stand out or be different from the herd. It wasn’t about being noticed.

It was about finding an inner life and an outward appearance that you found pleasing to yourself. To find what you like, and embrace it, irrespective of what you’re told by others that you should like or be or do.

Everyone looked at Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and thought it was silly, laughed at it, made fun of it, and it hurt. But the owners and car did not react by changing to try to fit in, or by acting outrageous to spite them. The reaction was to be even more true to itself, and be as superb at what it truly was and loved as possible, and screw what others thought, or even if they noticed.

Shakespeare can have a torrent of advice to young people pour forth in Hamlet, “To thine own self be true”, but that didn’t reach me the way Chitty Chitty Bang Bang did.

The point is to find what you love, to think, to be, to do, to look, and then embrace it. Live it.

Not to stand out, to be looked at, to act a role and draw attention, to live a life on stage.

No, it’s to be yourself, and the best damn self you can be, because no one else can know who you really are or choose for you.

The ideal then, is that everyone, everywhere, does the same. That we ALL embrace our loves and life, and nobody stands out as silly or crazy in a soulless, faceless world, because everyone looks and acts as unique and individualistic as they really are.

In fact, true freedom of personal expression includes the freedom to seem as ‘normal’ as you’d like, if that is how you reaaly wish to be.

I suppose if you really crave attention, if you want other people to fade into the background so you shine all the brighter, this doesn’t sound like a good thing.

But from where I’m standing right now, in the main gathering area of the North American Discworld Convention, what I’m seeing are people, hundreds of people, all being themselves, all being the kinds of folks I feel comfortable hanging out with, and having a great time doing it.

Not all of them are outwardly flamboyant, but all of them are clearly damn glad to be here. It’s a wonderful thing.

11 thoughts on “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang changed my life

  1. This is exactly what I love about real hip hop (not the label-manufactured variety that is unfortunately more prevalent on the radio). Do what you do, and do it with every ounce of your being. Do it so well that even the haters have to respect the skill you’ve aquired. If spinning on your head, or stamp collecting, or video games, or quilting is your thing – DO it. And when somebody gives you shit for being a quilter you can look them straight in the face and say “this is a badass quilt, and I’m a badass for having made such a badass quilt. What have YOU done lately?”

    TL;DR: Own your passion, and excel, and you will be satisfied, no matter what the rest of the world thinks.


  2. …and once more I am feeling so much like missing out, far far away from any place that hosts fun conventions like that one. when it comes to my passions, I live in the completely wrong corner of the world. 😦
    I spent my childhood in fairy tales and hero stories (classic fantasy literature later on) and its changed everything for me. so I hear you very much in this post.
    I had the most peculiar philosophy teacher in college, a merlin I should say (he looked that way too), and one lesson he told us how the best thing we could ever do for our own children one day was to “feed them stories”. because that kind of imagination you build as a kid, those stories will impress you so much that they will never quite leave you. to me, the world’s a better place with fairies in it.

    random spontaneous thought at this point: check the ‘fairy reel’ (short poem) by Neil Gaiman sometime, it’s fantastic. 🙂


  3. I do love the CCBB car, and it’s even a pretty good movie. The book is much better, though.

    …so yeah, great post, BBB. 🙂


      • Yes, I just checked the books’ entry and Wikipedia, and it all comes flooding back to me. The book, written by Ian Fleming, yes, the author of James Bond Ian Fleming, was kept in my Uncle’s library next to his copies of all the original Bond books. I was reading my way through his library at the age of 7 or 8, and I found Chitty Chitty Bang Bang next to the Bond books.

        I think I’ve written about my Uncle before, I never knew him well, but his library had a profound impact on me. He had all these classics, like the Bond books, and the HG Wells novels, and Jules Verne, and collections of true classic mysteries, suspense and thirllers, like The Most Dangerous Game, and The Gold Bug, and stuff like that.

        I recall he had a book, alongside the other Jules Verne novels, that might have been a novelisation of a short story, that was by Jules Verne but centered around a mysterious force of speed destroying anything on the roads of early America, and it turned out to be an automobile of such incredible speed, over a hundred miles and hour, that nobody could see what it was through the dust and the blur. It was simply too fast at that speed to know what it was, it had the mysterious allure to the public as of an intentionally controlled tornado. Yes, basicall a land-based version of the Nautilus concept, something that was familiar in concept, but so advanced that modern man could not recognise it for what it was.

        The idea of something moving so fast that it was effectively invible, sounding like a great idea, coupled with the reality that the speed he pegged for this was 100 mph, something already achieved and known and not quite as spectacular to us 20th century folks, stuck with me all these years.


  4. hmmm your post lead me down a line of thinking of that wonderful story as an example of ‘open world’ imaginings where you do not have to be constrained by the route and look given to you.

    Thank you for the reminder 🙂


  5. I have to say that it is such a warm feeling to know that there are people in out there in the world that think along the same lines as me. I read this post and I feel a little less like a misplaced alien. 🙂


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