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The Teacher Appears

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “An Extreme Tale,”  in which we are asked to describe when the last time “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times” accurately described our life.

Today.

To get the tedious discussion of “worst” out of the way as rapidly as possible, suffice to say that I have not been under as much pressure at work since 1980 (that year being a horrendous story for another day).  There, that should do it…  On the plus side, it is sometimes the smallest gain that is the greatest.  Today, I made a huge move in the right direction regarding “clarity of purpose.”  My aha moment suddenly opened possibilities not just at work, but in every aspect of my life.  THAT is when you know you’ve just gotten it right.

The revelation was this:  almost every religion of the world has a concept roughly equivalent to “seven deadly sins.”  Rounding up and carrying the two, I suffer from approximately seven of these at any given moment.  My personal favorites are Sloth, Wrath (sometimes called the more melodic Avarice), and Envy.  I would put more effort into Avarice and Envy, but then that would make me unavailable for Sloth.  So I’m more of an armchair A/E practitioner.

At any rate, what I learned today is that when we take the other vices off the table, Sloth disappears.  Sloth is a byproduct of the other vices!  In retrospect Sloth seems to be an unconscious effort to be available for any other vice, at the expense of more “worthy” (not “more altruistic,” which is not always that motivating…but perhaps “more enriching,” “more enjoyable,” “more memorable,” or simply “more who I wish to be”) activities.

I have been making better decisions, finding more energy, and not only accepting reality–but actually enjoying keeping it real–all day now.

I know all of this must be trivial to the folks who knew it already, much sooner than the 58 years it has taken me to arrive.

But at least I have arrived.

Today.

Two Fronts

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Under the Snow,” we must survive an avalanche, and consider the thoughts that get us safely through the night towards rescue.

I realize of course that the prompt is aimed at the abstract thoughts that make one “Remain Calm and Carry On.”  But I cannot get past the immediate mental exercise of “physically surviving the avalanche” and getting that out of the way first…

I suppose the first order of business might be determining which way is UP, in that unfamiliar nightmare.  Perhaps hollowing out just enough space between face and hands, and dropping something to “see” (or at least feel) which way it fell DOWN would do the trick.  Then, without expending too much effort, losing too many of the dual-meaning calories, slowing moving handfuls of snow from overhead to underfoot.  Slow and steady gets it…

At which time we turn to the abstract.  What positive thoughts might there be in all of this?  Well, the universe has provided us with the biggest safety blanket we can have.  One is now cocooned IN a giant igloo, OUT of the elements.  I must continually remind myself that, just as there is a thin line between genius and insanity, there is a thin line between claustrophobia and…safety.  Having already experienced the worst havoc, there shall at least not be freezing to death or being hit by falling trees at this point.

What motivating thoughts occur that were undoubtedly the actual target of the prompt?  Well, I’m just not sure.  I suspect that it is not necessarily the stoic, pioneer spirit or being there for the kids that gets survival done.  It is more likely taking the right incremental steps, at each step, that lets one survive that night.  When we see who survives catastrophes of war and nature, it is so often those individuals already living on the fringe, seemingly with the least to lose.

Could it be the plodding habit of survival, rather than some inspired act of motivation?  Could it be the Puritan work ethic, and not the Puritan catechism?  When we look at the religions that have survived the millennia, they had some pretty sage guidance regarding food, for example (no pun intended with “sage” just now…well, maybe a little intentional…).  Such things as the Kosher laws, and guidance of the various faiths regarding which species to avoid, probably kept many a faithful follower alive in growing numbers, in questionable environments.  I would not tend to bet on the trend of growing numbers of Snake Handlers, in my own home state, for instance.

I  could go on and on; but my hand has just grabbed daylight, and a charming helicopter circles lazily overhead…

Temp Pas

I know within the first two or three sentences whether or not to read the entire blog/article/book.  Following a hundred or so blogs makes reading each an impossibility.  But it is far easier to judge storytellers than to BE a good storyteller…

One thing I have learned is that the story is not for the benefit of the author, but for the benefit of the audience.  I have not unleashed the juiciest, most incredible stories from my actual past, because their time has not yet come–there is not yet the lead up in anyone’s hands that would deliver the wildest segments as a valued gift.  We’re all just having conversations leading up to that day…or that year.

The second component of good storytelling is that the value to the audience’s benefit cannot simply be for them to say “wow.”  They must ideally learn something as well.  The one exception I use to this rule is humor for its own, silly sake.  That benefit may stand alone as worthy enough.

If the hook is good enough, and the teller puts us on a beneficial trail, we will gladly invest the time to enjoy extravagant descriptions and well crafted sidetracks, trusting that the package will be tied together neatly enough as the final embers spit their last flames.

A minor Christmas miracle

As a kid, we had a lot of lean Christmases.  We had a couple of millionaire Christmases in the middle there, so it all evened out to “normal” in the end.  When I was fourteen, it was one of the leaner holidays.  As I opened my single gift, I saw what appeared to be three or four gym towels liberated straight from our loathsome junior high school locker room.

“Thanks Mom and Dad,” I mumbled with all the enthusiasm I could muster.

“Honey,” Mom gushed, “you’re missing the best part!  Unfold them!!”

As I pulled them from the box, they shook out to reveal that each towel had four black and red cartoon turtle patches (not Ninja Turtles, which had not been invented yet, mind you…just generic cartoon turtles such as the “Draw Me” ads used to feature) sewn along one edge.

“I remembered how much you liked those pet turtles you used to have,” she continued, “and I sewed these patches on some towels for you!”

“Goddam Mom, JoAnn Fabrics must have been relieved to unload THIS combination of shit,” I said, spoiling Christmas.

No wait…what I really said was “Mom, thanks so much–now I’ll remember those turtles every time I take a shower!  The best gifts really are the ones made by hand.”

“Of course dear,” she said, adding “just don’t make that same mistake you made last month, thinking the toilet brush is a back scrubber.”

Top THAT story, holiday nostalgianados!

The most dangerous weapon

Life is too short to be talking smack about others.  Anyone in their right mind will come to their senses and waste many more moments repairing damage their mouth has wreaked.  Even someone in their wrong mind, with no conscience, will waste many more moments dealing with the side effects of a mouth run amok.  I have a sincere goal of not hurting anyone, for the rest of my life.  Oh, don’t get me wrong–I’ll gladly kill someone who would, say, threaten a family member.  But other than that, I wish to do no harm.  Ever again.  When I look back on anyone I have hurt in the past, it has typically been with my mouth.  If conversations would not be so difficult, it would be nice to have a five minute delay, to give an ounce more of thought to what we say next.  I notice that those clever people I most admire, and most enjoy the company of, build in a delay anyway, and do it so gracefully.  I need to practice that habit.

Why simply admire, when one can emulate?

And anyone who disagrees can just talk to the hand!

I came, I saw….

I used to visit the website Absolute Write a few years ago, and we were once asked to each contribute an original poem to be written about a western gunfighter….unusual topic for poetry, to be sure.  These were then assembled into a book.  I was honored to later see that my entry was chosen as the front piece.  Here it is, as nearly as I can recall by heart:

“I came, I saw…”

Cities?  I’ve seen cities…no slicker than a herd,

Kept my wits and pieces close, not drawn nor worth the word.

The fools, dandy and Knickerbock…far ruder than the range,

Would soon as fallen be replaced, by equally as strange.

I came, I saw, I turned my tail…and caught the first rail west,

To where my single, well-aimed shot…marks staggering the test.

The Bowery giants yank and dodge, and on their own decline.

The towns whose few see me arrive, will feel change caused…all mine!

Space Case

Charged with creating a new zodiac sign, I must replace my own, obsolete sign:  Gemini.  What a two-faced madman I am though…   How to build on that strength….    How.  Indeed.

Okay, here it is:  Legion.  I replace my duplicity with infinite dimensions of the same.  Every other astrological sign is based on a constellation of a half dozen or so recognizable stars.  That’s fine for the other eleven signs.  For my new sign, I rely on and hereby claim ALL of the remaining stars, in whose numbers you should be able to discern the clone army bolstering the actual Gemini nature, that only we know:  Megalomaniac.

Yeah, nothing can stop me n–

Wait….my wife and family aren’t going to see this blog, are they?!