Significant, Worthy, and Safe

“Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”                                                    ~ Mark Twain, from “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”

Remember the commercial comparing thick and thin with a close up image of a pearl dropping through two comparative liquid shampoos?  Do you know what makes shampoo (and all liquid soaps and detergents) thick instead of watery thin? Solids–the cheapest of which is SALT.  It was also the biggest trick when the janitorial industry started measuring the percent of solids instead of just buying by the gallon.

Need more gallons?  Add more water.  Need more solids?  Add more salt.  All you have to do is keep an eye out for that mere 5% of the population that’s even borderline scientifically literate.  The other 95% will (and do) buy almost anything if you make the commercial sexy enough.

Consider how these three concepts can become primary illusions that will convince most people to buy.  And while you are thinking about it, also imagine a corollary to the delusional motivation behind mass murderers and serial killers as well.  To some degree, they feel their actions, or their acquisition(s) of product(s) will somehow help them to become:

1.) Significant;

2.) Worthy,

3.) Safe.

The intent of all advertising (also true for all propaganda) is perception management.  To accomplish that, the message must allude to the hope that the (product or behavior) will not only make them so, but also make them appear to be so in the eyes of others as well (therefore, “cool”, or especially so not to be “uncool”).

So, there is that subtle hook to be aware of–not just what a person wants, but particularly mindful of what they don’t want.  And that is done by planting the idea that buying the competitor’s product can cause you to become (or remain) insignificant, unworthy, or that something important to you might be or become unsafe.

I think it fair to point out that “safe” is often just as important (in some cases, much more so) to people about their ideologies and beliefs as it is about themselves or their loved ones’ personal safety.  If a person doesn’t feel their beliefs to be secure and correct, a self perception of “significant and worthy” would be difficult to maintain.  People will kill thinking they are protecting what they believe.

We may very well be hard wired somehow to be drawn to this kind of thinking–perhaps some evolutionary pattern of survival being threatened by becoming insignificant, unworthy, and of course, unsafe.  If ideologies and beliefs were not tied to these values, think about how difficult it might be to convince human beings to participate in wars.  By war, I’m not talking about an individually dominant person standing in the face of adversity, I’m talking about armies organized to march against other armies–navies against navies.

(Some dialogue taken from the movie “Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World”)

Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “Do you want to see a guillotine in Piccadilly?”
Crew:  “No!”
Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “Want to call that raggedy-ass Napoleon your king?”
Crew:  “No!”
Capt. Jack Aubrey:  “You want your children to sing the ‘La Marseillaise?’
Crew:  “No!”

Imagine a study of some people watching the following commercial message.  Do you think the initial responses of all the observers would very favorable towards the product?  If you say yes, you would most likely be correct.  But consider a possible interesting twist in the way men and women might respond differently:

How many of you believe women leaned toward the idea of being safe?  How many think men would be cognizant of a desire to not be unworthy–thus risking some significant reward for being worthy?

In other words, how might the female passenger in the car behave later towards the man who avoided running over the squirrel?  Without this possible difference being pointed out, how many women would think there is nothing sexy about this commercial?

It’s a sporty car (of course).  The desired effect for being seen driving a sporty car is to be seen as having sex appeal. Look at the headlights and grill of this (and practically all cars)–see the “death’s head” or skull face?  Most people cannot begin to verbalize the subtle erotic sensations associated with it, as they are usually very suppressed.  And finally, listen to the closing words:
“…or nothing.”

…Began the Day She Was Born

“There are often at least two sides to an argument, and it is not so unusual that all of them are wrong.” ~ Things I’ve Said Before

Once upon a time, a girl lived to become 18 years old.  By then, she had come to believe many things, most of which she had been taught by somebody else.  Were any of her demands based on things she believed?  Probably so.  What about the demands her parents had made prior to her moving out?  Do you think they were based on things they believed?  Probably so.  So it is possible then, to suggest that a conflict and controversy exists between people because of the differences in what they believe?  Probably so.

My opinion is that the court should not award the young lady any of the things she has sued for.  From other  comments heard, others feel the same way.  Yet all the condemnation is on the girl without any consideration given for the cause of her belief disorders.  To her mom and dad I would ask:  “Who raised this child?”  Who is accountable for the messed up belief system in her head?  Did she leave home because of her own inability to postpone gratification?  Or were there other character flaws, perhaps even some of her parent’s flaws that lead to the division in their family unit?

I cannot help but have suspicions that a lot of things were handled in less than desirable ways for perhaps a long time.  And I also suspect that towards the end, there were lots of angry and hateful words used–so hard to reel back in sometimes, by both sides.  And might part of the reason they were used likely to be the result of them not knowing what else to do?  Both sides failed, didn’t they?  None of them seemed able to find a peaceful way to resolve their conflict, because the conflict was not resolved without anger.  But in the end, they both held on to their beliefs, didn’t they.  So now they go to court to show the rest of the world what a dysfunctional family looks like, not that we need more examples of it at all.

At least they went to court.  Some families move to much more violent measures.  The court case will have been an event in a series of events.  But learning is not about events unless they are traumas; learning is a process.  Whatever the girl has learned that has lead up to what she believes is the result of a process that began the day she was born.

The Magic Age Is Ten: Part Two

Perhaps the most emotionally committed ally you can ever have is your own ten year old child, even if they are afraid of you.   They sit in the middle of infancy and adulthood balanced in the world you have shown them.  They are wanting to be just like something, though perhaps not everything you are showing them, and possibly without either you or them realizing how powerful that influence is.

Children see.  Children hear.  Children follow their parents around and mimic them.  This isn’t new, as we are all hardwired that way.  Hominids have been doing this for over four million years as far as we know.  Since most children will develop behavior patterns from how their parents teach them to deal with the world around them, being the parent of a ten year old makes who you have been for the last decade, and who you are now, a powerful influence.

Teachers also influence the children, don’t they?  Of course they do, and they can also be powerful forces, either positively or negatively.  But the parents are the ones with the strongest, and therefore most likely to be the longest lasting overall influence.  Because of this, and the huge difference in the amount of time and control parents can have more than any individual teacher, few teachers will ever have enough time to overcome all that the children have already “picked up” from Mom and/or Dad.   And it’s also important to remember going forward from age ten, a child’s eagerness to begin to assert themselves as individuals, and even rebel against parental authority, is likely to accelerate–far more so now than at any earlier time.

By the time a child is ten years old, whether the mix of parental influence be predominantly good or bad, a human child is arguably at a most critical pivotal point for the formation of the principal parts of their belief and value systems.  And whether any recognition is given to a pivotal age, societies tend to place a high degree of importance on believing the child-rearing process has a lot to do with, not just what the child learns to value, but also how society values that child when it reaches adulthood.

I’ll bet you’ve heard someone say to another person some kind and uplifting or generally positive remark about the way the other person was probably raised.  Our culture centers around family units.  So to speak respectfully to most of us about our families is usually taken, as well as intended to be, a compliment.  The opposite is also true.

Just because a parent or a grandparent was an ethical person does not mean the child will always grow up to act ethically all the time.  But on the other hand, if we are raised to believe it’s okay to be unethical, the handicap of what we believe, no matter how true or untrue those beliefs may be, could cause them to be most difficult, and for many, unlikely to ever overcome.  Why?  Because by the age of ten, our perceptions of the world around us are very well established.  And they are so to the extent of determining what we will value, as well as some of the things we don’t want (to have or to happen to us) for the rest of our lives.

So as a parent, how long do you have?  Psychologists tell us early childhood will determine a lot about what a child will want to learn, and become capable of learning.  When children are very young, they are dependent on their parents.  But it’s also true for the most part, that they actually do want to be with their parents.   And that is true even when parents, unconsciously or not, are giving the child good reason to want to be away from them.

By the time puberty kicks in, their following and mimicking days are over .  More and more, they’ll want to make their own decisions.  They may not always fully understand why they feel that way, but they might think they do.  And when that occurs, there is little point in expecting them to want mom or dad to show them how to do anything.   Sometimes, their parents don’t understand all of what’s going on, either, because…they have forgotten.

Learning is a process.  That means it takes time.  Well, unless the learning is due to trauma, and when learning is the result of that kind of experience, it ceases to be a process, and becomes an event.  How you help your child get to age ten is largely up to you as far as dealing with processes, or allowing (or causing) trauma.

By ten, a child has a pretty good idea how mommy and daddy resolve problems, disagreements and conflict.  Some children are quite accustomed to yelling, screaming, and physical violence by the time they are ten years old.  And they may well believe, consciously or not, that aggressiveness and force is not only an acceptable way, but the quickest way to get them what they want.  In other words, if they’ve leaned by trauma, they will be likely to teach by trauma.  That’s what they’ve learned; that’s what they know.

A sad addendum to that is, while some children learn to commit violence, quite a few also learn to accept it.  Some who were abused as children continue to allow themselves to be abused as adults, often finding something strangely addictive to what they’ve grown up believing was normal–or at least what they believe they deserve.

Whatever it is that you will teach them about who you are, what you do, and what you stand for and not stand for, will pretty much be well established in their minds by the time they are ten years old.  If you wait ’til then to get started, you may have waited too late.

But even if you haven’t, you’ve wasted a whole decade that will never come again, and the time you have left will pass quickly.  And during most of that time, they might not listen to you the way they had been willing to earlier.  Be sure that for whatever it is they’ve learned, you were far and above all others their principal teacher whether you realized it or not.

I saw a Youtube you may find interesting.  The title of it is:  “This will change you in 60 seconds.”  Will it?  I don’t know.  That is their claim; not mine.  I do expect it will have some impact on you, even if temporary.  But whether or not just seeing it is enough to cause you to make lasting changes about anything you are doing, or that you would even need to, is not for me to decide.

Strike While The Iron Is…Still Plugged In?

“If it’s in quotation marks, it means it has to be true, and that somebody very important must have said it.”                                                                                                                                                                                                    ~ some important person

How often do we see posted on social media some banal remark or statement, seldom original, but presumed to be significant, that is immediately followed by comments saying: “So true…yes, absolutely true…I agree…OMG, I’m sharing this one…”, and so forth, when in fact you have your doubts about it being true at all?  What is it about putting quotation marks around a phrase or sentence that would make them any more believable?  The only thing that makes a statement any truer would be…bold type?

Do you ever get the impression that believability is more the intent of using the quotation marks than it is to give credit to the source?  And when credit is given, although often not factual, is the name used just intended to give the platitude some authority?  Another thing that helps people to believe almost anything is to attach a photograph of a celebrity, even though that celebrity did not say, or have anything else whatsoever to do with the quote.  While it’s a good idea not to believe everything you see on the internet, Abraham Lincoln never declared it, and neither did Thomas Jefferson.  And it is also correct not to give either credit for saying:

“Haste Makes Waste.”

I’ve seen it attributed to John Ray, Benjamin Franklin, and Sinclair Lewis, but I think it is much older.  It could’ve been something Noah was saying to the animals he noticed eating their rations too quickly.  However good of a caution it might be for those who tend to be careless, it can be tragic if taken too seriously by firemen, ambulance drivers, and athletes in most sporting events.

The frequency of hijacking names and images of celebrities is that sometimes the quotes would not have any impact if only you or I said them.  In fact, if I said some of them that are circulating right now, you would be able to see through it right away.  And the point is to not have you see through it. So, if the intent is to motivate the masses, they will use a popular figure.  And if the intent is to draw disfavor, they use a despicable one.  For example, Niccolo Machiavelli never said:

“The ends justify the means.”

What he actually said was:  “One must consider the final result.”   I think it reasonable to want to predict the outcome, or to “look before you leap”, so to speak.  But to add justification for anything believing the end result might be to your benefit, is perhaps the root of all bandit decisions.

I’m sure you’ve noticed some of these fake postings want to encourage some ideology or other, occasionally including something intended to sound like highly moral instruction.  But most seem to hover around religion and politics, as well as other kinds of things that might be considered inappropriate at the dinner table.  The reason for such taboos may have to do with the difficulty of getting anyone to pass the biscuits around due to concerns about who among those seated might be worthy of having one.  Some of you would have starved to death years ago, were it not for this measure of etiquette.

Now, not all of these fake quotes and misguided philosophies are so full of deceptive intent, nor are they all mean-spirited.  Some are just incomplete, and the person posting it is unaware of what might be missing, such as the logic of it that might benefit a sane person.  Some are not intending to mislead anybody, but instead are meant to comfort all who might read it.  But even that does not guarantee their validity. for example (I’ve said it myself):

“Time heals all wounds.”

It is reasonable to notice some wounds do heal over time, and to the extent that the harm or hurt originally felt by the wound is no longer a problem.  But that time would heal all wounds is not true.  In fact, scientists in the sub-discipline of anthropology that deals exclusively with mummies have found empirical evidence that would suggest this isn’t true, or at least is not true all the time.  As a youth, I broke a few bones.  They healed for a while, but now that I’m getting older, time is no longer a benefit, as they all seem to get more aggravating as the  years roll by.  I think it better to say:

  “Wounds that heal usually take time to do so.” and,                                                                       “Old wounds that have completely healed hurt a lot less than they did at first, until you get old.”

Or, we could say:  “Time wounds all heels,”  but it doesn’t.  And because some wounds do seem to heal in time, a corollary that’s right up there with it is:

“What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Oh, really?  Well, no.  Some injuries and diseases can leave a person forever weaker than they would have been otherwise.  And weaker is not the same as stronger, or at least it wasn’t back at Park Hills Elementary School.  No, I think there are much better ways to build up strength than just surviving a close call with the Grim Reaper.

But this does not mean we cannot rise above some adversities.  In many cases, we can become aware of, or even develop a new passion that leads to our attempting things we would never have thought about trying before.  Yes, we can learn from trauma, but not everybody learns something positive from it every time.  Living through a collision with a train does not in and of itself improve your chances of future survivals if you continue a habit of running into trains.  But even if the statement were some kind of axiom, what else would we learn from it?

“What makes you stronger won’t kill you?”                                                                                 “What does kill you will not make you stronger, and could even weaken you?”                 “What makes you weaker could be hazardous to your health?”                                              “Is any of this the secret behind Superman’s amazing strength?” 

Maybe it would just be better if we were to say:

“What doesn’t kill you, doesn’t kill you.”  and,

“What makes you stronger, makes you stronger.”  or,

“Hey!  Watch me cook on that stove without setting my clothes on fire this time!”

In a world where we are effected by experiences determined by strengths and weaknesses, we learn to temper our impulses.  If a seasoned lioness detects a herd of gazelles, she instinctively knows not to run after the first gazelle she sees, but looks to see which one will most likely result in a successful kill.  It is natural for her to use strengths and abilities to take advantage of some recognized weakness.  And as she moves to improve her position, she has learned that the hunger she feels will best be served if she doesn’t leap out prematurely.  So, from that, and from other lessons, we’ve been taught to accept that:

“Good things come to those who wait.”

I’ve known some waiters that said they got good tips.  So, Sometimes good things do come to those who wait.  But when they do, the cause of it may not always have anything to do with the act of being patient.  If “those who wait” were the genuine target of good things, you’d expect them to occur more frequently at bus stops, wouldn’t you?  That being the case, we could substitute “Buses” for “Good things”, and it should read:

“Buses come to those who wait at the proper bus stop, and have arrived in a timely manner according to the bus schedule, assuming the bus does not break down or become delayed for some other reason.”

More often than not, I suspect a lot of good things happen because folks took action to make them happen.  Perhaps it would be better to say some things of value evade those with the character flaw defined as the inability to postpone gratification.  That’s why baited traps work.  But even that is not always true.  Some decisions made in haste do not result in waste:  impulses fueled with adrenalin have often saved lives.  That being said, good things, then, can also come to those who hurry up a little bit, too.

Often, the encouragement to expect something good if we wait for it comes on the heels of a disappointment.  When young couples break up, one or the other might expect to hear:  “There are plenty of fish in the sea.”  And there may be, but it’s still a good idea to use the right kind of bait and hook, or at least have a good net if you want to catch one.

Patience may be a virtue, but let’s not confuse it with procrastination.  We might wait for a good thing, but it is possible to do so beyond the point of diminishing return.  That was a point made of Ebenezer Scrooge’s postponing a commitment to the girl that would have been the love of his life to a time when the window of opportunity was not just closed, it was boarded up.  So, might it be more honest of us to declare:

“Things happen; some good, and others not so good.  They happen while we are doing things, and also while we are just waiting to see what will happen next.  And whether it be good or bad, will not be necessarily improved or even determined by the time spent waiting for it to happen.”

While some are on standby in anticipation of a good thing happening along, others accept the call to do quite the opposite, and:

“Strike while the iron is hot.”  

In fairness, the intent of that one is to urge us to recognize when an opportunity has reached its greatest potential, and to take advantage of it right then.  It’s an old proverb.  Some think it was something cowboys said while branding cattle, but that’s not true.  Instead, it comes from the idea of a blacksmith working at his forge.  If you’re shaping horseshoes, that may be wise.  And even so if you’re pounding a piece of steel into the shape of a sword or an ax.  But if you want to cut down a tree with that ax, you might wanna let it cool off a bit before striking the tree with it.  So can we mix this proverb with the one before it to get some kind of double wisdom out of it?

“Strike while the iron is hot…as long as you wait for the good stuff.”

No, that doesn’t make any sense.  I suppose if your business with the iron is some pressing matter, you’ll want to make sure it’s plugged in properly, or if not an electric one, has had ample time on the stove to be ready for service.  And for goodness sakes (after all, what are we waiting for?) don’t be late, because:

“The Early Bird Gets The Worm.”

A thing to keep in mind, is that today, competitive compensation packages often include a lot more enticements than worms, and that is true for all kinds of creatures, not just birds.  The early cheetah may get the impala, but the hyenas that show up a few minutes later might take it away from her.

I’m not suggesting you not come in early and get started.  There are lots of sensible reinforcements for being prompt.  I’ve never used them personally, but I’m sure they are out there.  Just remember that while Benjamin Franklin was noted for saying: “Early to bed and early to rise…”, he found himself doing business in a French court that got started about mid-day, and carried their business into the wee hours.  But if we scroll through our list of platitudes and proverbs with hammer and nails to connect them all together, we might find some weaknesses in our structure:

“The early bird might get the worm, but not necessarily the good worms.  Those come to the more patient birds; the ones who wait.  Now, the early worms can make you strong if they don’t kill you later.  But even if they do, you’ll get over it…in time”

Then comes the promises we’ve made to ourselves and others that there will be some additional leverage to be expected quite above and beyond nature itself, if our intent is selfish enough.  For, you see:

“God helps those who help themselves.”

Seems I’ve read somewhere that over 80% of the American people surveyed in one study actually believed this to be a quote from The Bible, although it isn’t.  In a conversation I had on that very subject recently, a man did tell me he thought that “…it used to be”, which I found…interesting.  Perhaps there was some misunderstanding, and that it should have said:  “God helps those who help others?”  If that had been the saying, you might be able to find some liturgy to support it.

Observations of the activities leading up to the arrest of some criminals, who “helped themselves” to other people’s property, found no evidence the Deity was cooperating with, or having any complicity to their crimes. This could of course be argued by those who do not believe in free will, but if we’re going after that can of worms, we’ll need a much bigger bird, or at least a bigger can opener than the one I brought with me here, no matter how early we start.  But please keep in mind many books have been written giving various deities credit for saying this or that, on the presumption that their authority will carry some weight with those who listen.

But the encouragement to take the initiative in anticipation of help from outside our own strength, is often in harness with another saying that urges us to think positively, and not be held back by the fear of failure.  I support that kind of encouragement and for having a positive attitude, as long as it is used with an awareness of what is attainable,  and is also realistic.  Now, here is an actual quote:

“When there is harmony between mind, heart and resolution, then nothing is impossible.”                                           ~ Ritu Ghatourey

I think it may be a bit unfair to the laws of physics and chemistry to say “nothing is impossible”, unless you are of the opinion alchemists gave up to soon on the prospects of turning lead into gold.  But in matters of human endeavors:

“Impossible is a concept.  It cannot exist in you as an idea unless you believe something to be impossible.  While it may be impossibility in fact, it will not be the fact, but the thinking it is that will keep you from trying.” ~ (things I’ve said before)

More commonly, you more likely have heard people say:

“You can do anything you put your mind to.”

That may be true if you’re very sleepy, and put your mind to a nice enough pillow intending to go to sleep.  Still, I would add there are some points that have to be qualified.  One of them is that you have to have the ability to do what is required.  You can stand on the top of a skyscraper putting your whole mind into believing you can fly like a bird.  And with only the use of your naked body, you might jump and flap your arms, but you would be acting on what I believe would be a delusional concept.  But if you scramble around, I’m sure you can find a quote to justify your thinking:

“Might as well jump. Jump!  Go ahead, jump. Jump! ”  ~ Van Halen

The prospects of the results of such an action may be less than satisfactory.  I’m sure you can think of other examples of things that would be more than just foolish to attempt under any realistic circumstances.  And I’m fairly certain the not knowing you cannot fly like a bird, is not going to result in any long lasting pleasure and joyfulness if you jump from the top of The Empire State Building.  So with that, consider that people have often also said:

“Ignorance is bliss.”

Now, it is true that finding out about some truth or reality can take away some previous sense of happiness, if the information proves to be in contrast with some of our sense of well-being, or wishful thinking.  For that reason some would prefer to not accept anything as true if it would refute or challenge the way they are hoping things are.

But can we presume it to be an equation?  If ignorance is bliss, then bliss is ignorance?  If that were true, it would take all the joy out of discovery, wouldn’t it?  It would also require that learning anything whatsoever will bring about unhappiness, and that just isn’t true at all, is it?  If the Spanish Inquisition had known that what Galileo was telling them was true about the planets orbiting the sun, then the knowledge, and not the prevailing ignorance, might have made for a much happier ending to the story.  As it was, he was convicted of heresy, and sentenced to life imprisonment–but only after openly claiming things he knew to be true, were lies.

Bliss is synonymous with joy and happiness.  It is not usually considered an insult to say someone is happy, but it regularly is received as such if you call them “ignorant”, even when some other words are used that mean the same thing.  You may have said something similar about someone else in the past without for a minute thinking you meant they were “happy”.  

Happiness is a by-product of getting something you want, or having something you want to happen occur, isn’t it?  And to some degree, it can be keeping something at bay that you don’t want to happen.  Even if we allow it to mean “contentment”, and associate it with a state of mind that exists not knowing a tree is about to fall on us, or that a large predator is about to pounce.  The tree nor the predator, or our awareness or lack of awareness of them can take credit for any pre-existing happy state we may have been in.

We could have been sitting there completely sad about something, just the same.  In fact, a person could be sitting there completely ignorant they had just purchased the winning lottery ticket.  A state of being happy or sad could be changed by becoming aware of some pending boon or doom, but the previously held attitude existed because of other things entirely.

No, ignorance in such a sense is at best hapless, or even stupid.  The not knowing might leave us still momentarily blissful, but the happiness is being felt due to some other circumstances that had already made us feel happy; some vision, some sound, or smell perhaps.  It will not be the ignorance that caused the happiness, but rather we are happy (for some reason) in spite of what we do not know.  Also, ignorance is not a quality that would normally lead to being able to accomplish much of anything that you would need to know how to do, that would lead to you being happy about it.  Your state of mind could be sad while being ignorant of some pending wonderful thing.  But that does not mean ignorance is sadness, does it?  Maybe we should say:

“Ignorance is not knowing something, that if you knew, might leave you feeling happy, sad, or just indifferent.  The lack of knowledge about anything does not change what it is.  And the ignorance of it does not improve the chances that you will deal with whatever it is in any beneficial way.  It just means you don’t know any better.”

Or, shall we even consider shuffling the deck again?  If we did, might we come up with:

“Blissful we are to Strike without knowing whether the iron is hot or not.  For as long as we put our mind to it, God will give us the boost we need every time, assuming our motive is a selfish one.  But if not, we should act quickly to be patient, though not too hastily, knowing the best is yet to come, and that we will eventually heal over time, as long as we are the first in line for the worms.  And when we feel strengthened by this, we will know with a degree of certainty, that something did not kill us.  Amen.”

So just because something is in quotes does not mean it is always true.  And if a credit is given after the quote, it does not always mean that person actually said it.  Think I’m overstating it, and that you are above being tripped up by such measures?  If you participate in social media, I’m sure you’ve seen:

“I am not what happened to me.  I am what I choose to become.”                                                                                        ~ Carl G. Jung, “MemoriesDreamsReflections”

However, that statement is nowhere to be found in that book, nor can I find evidence that Jung ever even said such a thing at any time.  In fact, I personally doubt he ever did, as it would seem so out of character for him, but I could be wrong.  Also, consider this famous statement:

“You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time.”

Most people will be absolutely certain they know who said this.  In books, speeches, sermons, conversations all over the planet, these words are used and attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  Some of you are right now saying:  “But he did say it.  I know he did.”  You think so?  You will not find it in any collections of Lincoln’s speeches, nor was it even mentioned by the newspaper covering his speech at the time he was supposed to have said it.  In fact, there is no real evidence that he ever said it, though you’ll find credit given to him for it all over the internet.

And before go off trying to find it, you might also want to see if you can find where Thomas Jefferson actually said:

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

You won’t.

The Magic Age Is Ten: Part One

“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for
authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place
of exercise.  Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their
households.  They no longer rise when elders enter the room.  They
contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties
at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”
~ attributed to Plato quoting Socrates from the 5th century, BC.

I recently listened to a series of rants about the awful trend of immorality, slothfulness, and rude behavior on the part of our youth.  In particular, the angst seemed directed at a recent trend in music popular among young people.  Though they didn’t mention any specific song or singer, several of the adults seemed to have a common judgement about the subject.  Hmmm.  I remember some of that kind of talk about teen culture and pop music when I was a kid.

Several mentioned how sweet their son, their daughter, or their grandchild used to be, but how it had become so difficult to even talk to them anymore.  Further, in spite of their own rebelliousness as teenagers, they expressed a complete bewilderment as to how it has come about.  In their confusion, the blame was placed on a number of factors, none of which have any logical basis in fact, anymore than pimples are caused by looking at pictures of pimples.

Due to memories, many of us have different ideas about when the “good old days” were, and what was the best age of our lives.  Sometimes just hearing a familiar tune, or receiving a glance from a stranger can cause us to travel back in our minds to some magic moment.  And those moments will have been at various ages if any significant group of us were to be surveyed.

Some think of rights of passage:  A first date, getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, turning twenty-one, going to or getting out of college, some wonderful celebration with friends, and some think of more private and intimate moments.  But is there a magic age common to all of us?

If there is one, the magic age would have to be ten.  It is a pivotal time, halfway between five and fifteen.  For most of us, at ten, we’re fairly dependent on our families, and what they are able to provide, along with what they consider problems and how they face them has a huge impact on our values.  Perhaps more than at any other age, a person’s understanding of the world around them at that time shapes a lot of what they will become for the rest of their lives.

Think about when you were ten.  What were the circumstances then that you considered normal?  Were you content and comfortable?  Were you hungry and afraid?  Fairly sure of yourself?  Confused?  Either way, whatever circumstances that faced your parents at the time would have a lot of influence about what you would want to do when you “grew up”, and what security issues would become important to you.  And at ten, most of us felt being grown up was still some time away.  But by fifteen, we could taste it.

My parents grew up during The Great Depression.  When my dad was ten years old, times were lean, and to be wasteful of limited food and resources was easily understood as a terrible thing to do.  That sense of needing to be frugal shaped a lot of how my father would behave as an adult.  And it was during a time when my parents were being creative with almost everything we had that might be thrown away by those who had more than enough, I reached the age of ten.  But at no time, at five, ten, or fifteen, did I ever have to deal with the austerities my parents faced at those ages.

By the age of ten, my parents were probably aware of the mistakes their parent’s generation had made by taking risks that lead to economic disaster.  It effected them for the rest of their lives.  By the time I was ten, I’d heard about it, but had not lived through it.  So in a real sense, I had no memory of the crash of 1929 and all that followed.

When I turned ten, the economy that had been booming since the end of World War Two went into a temporary recession, causing my parents to “tighten the belt” for a while, so to speak.  There were layoffs where my father worked, but things never got so difficult for us as it had been for him as a boy.

As things got better, I saw my father back off from investment opportunities with great caution, as he felt opposed to any chance of a loss he could not afford.  Although he was offered opportunities in industry with lucrative territories and “a piece of the action”, anything remotely resembling a straight commission income sounded very frightening.   He had a wife, and children to raise.

Somewhere along the way, I began to form the thinking I might be willing to take more risks, with a hope of being able to get ahead.  The irony is, that while I did not remember the negative effects of my grandparent’s generation buying on the margin in the 20′s, I was unable to see the comparisons (because of what I could not remember) when my generation began leveraged buyouts in the 80′s.

How many of you remember being five years old?  I barely do, but I’m sure at that age I had little concept of the way the world was outside my little family and community, and very little of that.  At five, a child needs help crossing the street, and often cannot even tie its shoes.  Most five year olds cannot prepare meals for themselves, much less know how to trade or barter for food, nutritional or otherwise.

By ten, children are still willing to follow their parents and learn from them.  But throughout most of history, by fifteen, a person would be less willing to follow, and want to be seeking their own way.  Until fairly recent history, fifteen year olds were pretty much ready to break away from being treated as children, and fit into the community or tribe with the other adults.  With human lifespans seldom going much past thirty or forty for many thousands of years, this is understandable.

During those thousands of years, a person of fifteen would have learned which plants and animals to look for and which ones to avoid; how to build and manage a fire, to make clothing and tools, how to defend themselves, how to hunt, fish, gather fruits, nuts, roots and vegetables, how to plant and harvest certain kinds of crops, cut down trees, thatch a roof, build a lean-to, and by that age even today, they are biologically quite capable of becoming parents themselves.

And since they would know these things, it makes sense that they might lose interest in wanting to continue listening to instructions from those they thought could not teach them much more than they already knew.  While there might still be things to learn from the sage and wise, their eagerness to assert their own manhood or womanhood would make them a bit deaf to it.

So even now, by the time most people reach their mid-teens, they will naturally begin to assert some independence from their elders. But today, our society is not yet ready to allow fifteen year olds to be treated as adults.  So it’s a stressful time, and how both the adults and teenagers express themselves towards each other during that time shows a lot of that stress.

As children become eager to reject the controls over them, they often adopt methods of behavior and styles that are certain to not sit well with those they see as controlling authorities:  Parents, teachers, ministers, and even police officers.  We see the results of this attitude in clothes, grooming, new ritual dances, and in the questioning of some of the traditions of their elders.

And adults are often just as irrationally reactionary to these changes as are the children.  Some of the reactions against the clamor for independence gets as ugly as the clamor for it.  Sometimes by action and force; sometimes with words.  But that it tends to get ugly with each generation seems to go unrecognized as a trend that could be managed in a better way if people would just have a better understanding of what is happening to them.

So, in each generation, there are adults who just throw up their hands and give up, and those who become autocratic to the extent of bullying to insist their old way was the only right way.  Yet neither my father’s generation’s liking for the songs of Hank Williams, nor mine liking the ones of Jimi Hendrix proved to be any kind of carryover in the way of moral instruction that might set any kind of permanent standard in a traditional sense.

The first time my father came into the house and heard “Purple Haze” playing on my stereo, I’m sure he thought the end of time had come.  Later on, as each of my sons reached ten, they found that their mom and I still enjoyed some (though not all) of the same music they did.  But each one of them did try to find ways to push it when they thought we didn’t.  By the time they were fifteen, it was clear, at least in their own minds, they were ready to take charge of their own lives.  All of them approached puberty wide open without slowing down for speed bumps.

For those who remember, after the seventies, a noticeable target market of pre-adolescents emerged, showing affection for what became referred to as “bubble gum” music.  This forced even a bigger wedge between them and older siblings than had been noticed before.  It wasn’t just the kids versus the parents; music had taken on stages to go through, with twelve year olds and their sixteen year old siblings not even listening to the same radio stations.  And somewhere along with that transition in our society came the popularity of holding beauty pageants for girls at younger and younger ages.  Such as that is no complement to our society.

While some would claim otherwise, this is an example of the influence of perception management through marketing strategies to sway and move social trends and acceptances of the masses, far beyond their ability to realize it is being done to them.  And as with all of these trends, cultural confrontations will occur not just between leaders of ethnic and religious groups anxious to hold to their traditions and values, but also between teens and their parents, about what is acceptable dress, language, and music, and what isn’t.

Each generation, varying from culture to culture, wants to censor the next one to some degree.  And with that comes clashes often over what is considered decent, rude, nasty or obscene.  A lot of youthful behavior that becomes controversial is seen as rebellious, and to some significant degree, it is.

It is often the choice of words more than the meaning of them that prompts some righteous indignation from the point of view of flappers, zoot suiters, beatniks, hippies, rappers, and a new age seemingly somewhere between fusion and nondescript throwback mimickers that don’t quite signify anything in particular.

While some generation disputes get ugly and even violent, the human race for the most part has had much bigger problems through the ages than just generation gap.  But within that gap, each new generation has disparities with their elders about vocabulary.  That would be especially regarding sensual vocabulary at a time when young humans start taking a serious interest in the opposite sex.  What’s hip, what’s cool, what is to be allowed, and what isn’t gets all tangled up with the various fads that do seem to change rather quickly, and others not quickly enough.

But regardless of age, folks do all kinds of nasty and obscene things to each other far worse than words, I reckon.  As for whatever specific piece of music had prompted the rants I referred to at the top of this letter, I probably didn’t hear it.  And even if I had, I doubt my opinion of it would make a bit of difference to any of the youth who would want to dance to it.

The Majestic Snipe Hunt

As the mercury began to drop, I realized that if we’d had a longer thermometer, all of us would have frozen to death.  Grateful as I was to many layers of clothing, I wished that I could secure their closures with buttons and zippers, but due to a recent gain in stature, that was not possible.

A year or so before, I had joined a gym.  They had a workout room, card tables, pool tables, and an indoor heated salt water swimming pool.  They also had a cafeteria.  In less than four months, I had gained nine pounds.  None of my belts would make the trip all the way around my waist, and I was sure to be needing an entirely new wardrobe.  Lunch, as it turned out, was my favorite feature attraction at the gymnasium, then straightway home to take a snooze.

I had not been hunting in a while, so I’d forgotten about the probable fitting issues likely to occur with the designated hunting attire.  All of the previously purchased items were intended for a slimmer figure of a boy whose habits included exercise somewhat beyond regular naps.

After packing enough gear for a month’s safari, I headed into the Southern zone where deer season remains open into mid-January.  There I met up with my host and hunting guide, J. B.  He and his wife took me into their home, and I was made to feel welcome.  Before we began to suit up for the afternoon hunt, my host and guide felt it proper to advise me of the weather conditions:

“It’s going to get cold this afternoon–very cold.  Water will have to warm up to reach the freezing point.  Are you sure you want to do this?”

I assured him I was ready, and even bragged on the certainty I felt about my protective clothing.  So, we started getting ready.  I soon discovered very little of my stuff would fit me anymore, certainly none of the pants would come close to fastening.  Since it was expected to be well below freezing, I intended to wear multiple layers anyway, but for the sake of modesty, I kept adding garments to cover this ‘n that gaping situation.

Were it not for the multiple layers I attempted, dignity would have been at risk, as nothing seemed to want to button, zip or snap.  This proved to be of no benefit when nature called while fumbling in sub-freezing temperatures hoping to find appropriate appendices with fingers numbed by the cold, and not knowing a piece of elastic or a shirttail from a belly button.

The first afternoon was uneventful, as J. B. and I were the only living things that appeared to be alive anywhere within the thousand acre hunting preserve.  Considering the polar vortex phenomenon, there was little reason anything not native to arctic or antarctic regions should’ve wanted to venture out anyway.

I could inhale air, but whenever I exhaled, it condensed to water vapor which quickly frosted over my entire mustache.  As I sat there thinking I must have lost my mind to be there, I chambered a round.  It was the same bullet I’d been chambering for three years in some wild hope of needing it to be chambered.

After the sun went down, J. B. came to pick me up from my stand with his four-wheeler, and told me the ice sickles hanging below my nose were…interesting.  Neither of us had seen deer, feral hogs, or even a squirrel.  We joked about not luring the elusive snipe, even though we boasted of having burlap sacks and baseball bats handy.

The joke of a snipe hunt is to find a person, usually a child, gullible enough to “hunt” for an imaginary creature in the silly way of trying to call it into a bag or a pillow case.  Descriptions vary, but by “snipe”, I do not mean any of the relatives  of the sandpiper, but the difficult-to-find cousin that is more likely to be an associate of “Big Foot”, or perhaps related to the kinds of space aliens that like to capture earthlings and probe them with water bottle attachments you can buy at WalMart.

In other words, it’s all completely hoogy-moogy.  I’ve heard snipes described as lame as looking a lot like the extinct do-do bird, to a cross of something between a platypus and a goat.  But since it is all make believe, you can have it look like anything you want.

The next morning it was even colder than the evening before.  No sane person would venture out to go hunting, and only the barely sane would even go out to get the mail.  Well, we went hunting just the same, taking a huge risk of being declared at least incompetent, if not psychotic.  J. B. would ask me frequently, perhaps as often as every six or seven minutes as if there might be some stay of execution:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

He is a most accommodating host, and had I relented, he would’ve gladly gone back into the comfort of his warm house, and stayed there until Boreas and all other gods of winter retreated enough to allow for defrosting.  This time with even more layers of clothing than the night before, we challenged certain death and went out into the cold.  I think I tried to put on more clothing than some department stores have in stock, but it was still not enough.

So as you can imagine, the breakfast group at a local diner recognized me right away as a slave to fashion from the very moment we walked in.  Though we wore camouflage, our voices gave away our location, so the server was able to bring us our coffee, and ask the questions you often hear when you go out into public places wearing camo:

“So, y’all goin’ huntin’?  Whatchy’all gonna hunt?”

J. B. studied her face, and replied:

“I’m taking him snipe hunting.  He’s never been…”

“Snipe hunting?” she interrupted, “Lawd, you gonna take him…”

She looked right at me, and I smiled like a happy and eager child full of anticipation would do on a Christmas morning.  Then, she just shook her head, and trailed off with a muffled giggle.  She came back momentarily to take our order, but held the order pad so it covered her mouth to conceal her grin.

J. B. ordered the “Some of Everything” special, which was served on a large platter with some of everything on it.  I had the “Not Quite Everything” special, telling the server that I didn’t want to over-eat so that it would interfere with being able to move about quickly enough to bag the snipes.  Again, she turned and walked away, but I could see she was laughing, and shaking her head.

After breakfast, we prepared to head down to the hunt club where, according to what we’d told the server, the hunt club manager had gone ahead to release enough snipes to insure a good hunt.  The server ran off to hide, hoping not to allow her laughter to give away the joke she was certain J. B. was playing on me.  At no time did she seem to understand that the leg being pulled was hers.

Once outside, we realized the temperature was continuing to drop.  It became reasonable to question our combined intelligence for making the decision to even be out of bed at that hour, much less heading to the woods to succumb to frostbite.  So once again, J. B. asked:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

After we got onto the hunt club property, the plan was again to drop me off at a stand to await my chance of seeing any kind of prey that might be stupid enough to venture out in this weather.  Although we knew area schools had been closed, we didn’t know at the time most of the deer had also taken the day off, and possibly the week.

It was c-c-c-c-c-cold.  J. B. cranked the Polaris so he could back it off the trailer.  The engine started up right away, but no matter how much the accelerator pedal was pressed, it did not go: “Arrooom room room room.”  It did not go: “Bood’n  Bood’n Bood’n”, either.  No, it went : “Peddle dump, peddle dump, peddle dump”.  It was frozen in idle.  Putting it in forward or reverse made no difference, though he tried both several times.

We decided to let it sit awhile, which it was going to do anyway.  We scratched our heads, and asked each other wondering what it could be, and both of us declaring we did not know, though we had suspicions that it was due to the air being colder than the heart of a tax auditor.  About then, J. B. looked at me as if pleading:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Our gaze returned to the Polaris, as the prospects of having to hike a few miles encouraged a retry.  This time, J. B. pumped the accelerator pedal multiple times before ignition.  This time when it cranked, the throttle was stuck wide open.  The last position of the gearshift had been in reverse, or else J. B. would’ve ridden the thing quickly over the short trailer railing  and onto the back of his pickup truck.

Instead, he flew backwards off the trailer heading towards the woods at full speed.  Looking a lot like a rodeo event, he jumped up and down on the brake pedal causing his bucking four-wheeler to mimic a carnival ride.  He made noises as if he were about to sing a hymn.  Grasping desperately for the key in the ignition switch while at the same time trying to hang on, he was finally able to shut it down just before disappearing into the underbrush at the edge of a thicket of pine trees.

I stood there in the quiet for a moment trying to think of what I would tell his wife, and also wondering if I could remember which one of a dozen or so dirt paths to take to get off the property.  I was halfway wondering if I should try to retrieve his body or just have someone else come back for it, when he walked out of the woods, obviously shaken up, but alive.

J. B. surprised me by telling me there was a second four-wheeler available.  It was in a shed just a short walk from where we stood.  This one was designed for racing, and would go from zero to sixty-five faster than I wanted it to.  At high speeds, the wind chill factor on that thing must have been a thousand degrees below zero.

I finally got to my stand where I would again load my rifle with a bullet that was beginning to show signs of wear on the brass.  Within minutes, I settled into a routine of shivering for the next four or five hours before any hope of being rescued would come by way of another bone chilling ride back to the camp.

Luckily, the tree stand had shade, so at least I was not exposed to the broiling sun all morning, though I prayed for it.  Just when I was certain it couldn’t get any colder, a nice breeze came up causing several of the trees including the one I was sitting in to blaspheme.  Until then, I’d always considered such behavior to be in the domaine of animals, particularly the human kind.

I saw no animals that morning other than three or four crows.  They did not seem happy.  One of them called out:

“C-c-c-c-caw!  C-c-c-c-caw!”

I think one tried to answer, but its vowels were frozen, so all it could say was:


After a few attempts to crow, they flew off probably in search of any place that might be warmer.  I wanted to go with them.  About then, the insulation in my boots announced they had reached the limit of thermal protection.  Once your toes get cold, you cannot be expected to find a comfortable position, or a single thought that deserves to be said out loud in mixed company.

We did this for three days, and each trip to the woods was preceded with the sincere inquiry:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

When we got to the club on the morning of the last day, a buck was leaving as we were going in.  He was no doubt off duty, and headed home to go to bed.  We should have done the same thing, but we didn’t.  Instead, we mounted the rocket powered four-wheeler and went back out onto the frozen tundra.  Once again, I loaded my rifle thinking the bullet was going to be worn out before I would ever get a chance to spend it.

It was still very cold as the morning hunt came to a close, so we headed back to town with thoughts of some hot soup, and possibly sitting in a fire somewhere.  Once out on the road, we saw a bald eagle who was already having lunch.  Seems an armadillo had picked a bad day to cross the road, and had possibly spun out on some black ice and flipped over allowing the eagle to have what appeared to be ‘possum on the half-shell.  The bird was majestic, and had it not been for his unappetizing entrée, I would’ve been on the verge of feeling patriotic.

We went to lunch and I had a loaf of soup.  If you’ve not had one before, imagine a loaf of farmer’s bread hollowed out into the shape of a bowl, and soup poured into it so it becomes soggy.  After you scoop out a few mouthfuls of soup, there’s enough soggy bread left over to feed a family of five.

After lunch, we went by a hardware store to take inventory of things they no longer carry, and to comment on the prices of the things they do.  Then, it was back to the hunt club.  This time, we were greeted by an owl who sat patiently by a pile of tree limbs waiting for springtime to come and thaw out some mice and lizards.  J. B. noted this to be a nocturnal bird, and I felt the sign of nocturnal animals might be a good indication the deer might come back to work, but I was wrong.

Back at the stand, I once again took the bullet out of my pocket and let the bolt of the rifle seat it in its periodic and temporary resting place.  I remember thinking that if no deer or feral hogs came by to interrupt the calmness, I would get to take that bullet back home with me.  Well, call me Nostradamus, because that is exactly what happened.

The bullet is resting quietly in the gun safe where it can be at leisure ’til next season.  The deer, the boars, and the snipes can all go about their routines with no concern whatsoever of me interrupting their fun until quite some months from now.  Perhaps late next fall during some dark early morning hour, silence will be broken with the words:

“Are you sure you want to do this?”

Happy New Year?

It appears the calendar has turned over again.  Some folks have complex ones divided into fifteen minute compartments where they can pigeonhole all kinds of stressful things.  A few years back, I found one set up by the hour worked fine.  More and more, just naming the day is sufficient, and occasionally I’m satisfied to just know which month we are currently spending.  I’ve also found no habit or practice that will slow it down except a strong desire to be finished with something.  For example, a sermon cannot be hurried enough to make it pleasurable.  But a few things can cause the time to move quickly.  It has been said that having fun will do it.  And it will, but also pay attention to circumstances surrounding some dismal or unpleasant tasks:  If the deadline for its completion is unreasonable, the dismalness may linger, but the amount of time assigned to it will have become a contraction.

Before cellular telephones became available to the general public, there was a brief time of the “beeper”, which some called a “pager.”  But whenever those confounded things went off, I noticed the person saddled with its safe-keeping often seemed unable to turn the page fast enough.  In the early days, the only persons in polite society to have them were doctors.  In time, prostitutes and members of the legislature carried them, and for the same reason.  But in the beginning, only the doctor was allowed to be excused, and could get up quickly to leave the opera or a revival meeting with complete immunity from prosecution.  And whenever such an event occurred, the doctor would be the envy of all others present.  It was during this brief period in history that medical school enrollments rose sharply, though graduations didn’t keep pace.

One of the advantages we can have as 2014 begins, is having seen what happened during 2013 take place.  Without that information available, though we were to know everything up to and including the year before it, we would be left short, and certain to have our decision making suffer.  But only a few will take advantage of knowing what all has happened in the recent past unless there is a splinter in a finger because of it.  And since that is so, some will still be likely to grab the rough and unfinished lumber without gloves, and will not see any need of gloves until some new splinter presents itself.  Splinters have to be personal.  If another person has a splinter that is not inconveniencing us, we probably won’t notice it unless they complain.

I suppose some will be made aware of splinters in the hands of others, and conclude it is none of their concern.  Some may take note and feel sorry for the person who suffers.  A few might stop what they are doing otherwise, and help remove the splinter.  Some might be thinking of the splinter metaphorically.  If you would otherwise become the splinter, there might be justification for such reflection.  But not me.  I have resolved to not be a splinter this year, because they seldom show up unless some work is being done.  No, by habit and education, I will continue to be either a thorn in the side, or the burr under a saddle.  I am versatile that way.

At other times, I’ll make no effort to generate painfulness at all, and will look around to see if some pain can be avoided, especially if I am the person to benefit from such an avoidance.  But for others I see coming, if I notice a bridge is out, I’ll take pleasure in letting them know.  But looking back on the history of 2013 and many of its predecessors, offering such notification is often likely to be received the same as is the thorn, the burr, and even the splinter.  Happy New Year.


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