Automatic

Automatic: (adj) a device or process working by itself with little or no direct human control.dictionary with letter A

Racing to escape the wilderness of political correctness and stumbling into the jungle of free speech, let me state clearly for all time:  Being kind is not automatic.

Human beings are neither innately good or evil, but rather, born to be lazy. (I know this will disappoint Steppenwolf, who contended that we were “Born to be Wild,” but let the chips fall where they may.)

So if we’re going to pursue a quality life which frees us of the need to retaliate because we haven’t instigated an attack against anyone else, we must practice what is automatic. And what makes things automatic? They slip out without our permission.

If we had more time to think about them, we certainly would have picked a different approach. But because the abundance of our heart carried a certain venom, the mouth spit it out like a cobra.

So I am going to tell you what I think the three greatest virtues are in a human being:

  1. Kindness
  2. Good cheer
  3. Perseverance

So if you want to tap these virtues and make them become more automatic in your reactions, understand that kindness finds a resting place in our souls because we finally come to the conclusion that we don’t want to be treated like crap.

Yes, it’s true. I am not kind to people because I am so overflowing with heavenly goodness. I just don’t want others messing with me, so I don’t mess with them. Then I sweeten it a little bit with some gentleness, hoping to get some sugar back my way.

Secondly, serious people are always seriously in trouble. Because they are searching for a problem, they will quickly find one and then be overwhelmed by its dimensions.

This makes them a pain in the ass.

If you can’t add some humor to the situation, then basically…shut up.

And finally, perseverance is not something you can muster in the midst of the struggle. Rather, it’s the extra canteen of water you brought along because someone mentioned a trek through the desert.

In other words, you troubleshoot–considering some of the more unpleasant options and then simply prepare yourself aforehand for said trial. Then if these complexities do arrive, you are prepared to endure.

I am trying to get kindness, good cheer and perseverance to be automatic in my life in order to acquire two tremendous blessings:

I did my part.

So please leave me alone.

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Automated Teller Machine

Automated teller machine: (n) a machine that automatically provides cash and performs other banking services on insertion of a special card by the account holder.

I was alive when the first ATM was put into use–September 2nd, 1969, in New York.dictionary with letter A

Now, I was not present for the initial transaction, but it did not take long before these monstrosities popped up everywhere across the nation.

From the time I was 19 years of age until 30, I was at constant war with them. For after all, I never had enough money in my account to withdraw $20. And this was before the gracious era of being able to take out $10, so solvency was defined by whether you had that precious Andrew Jackson in your account.

God, there were times I was close.

  • $17.83.
  • $15.42.
  • Once, $19.89 was my balance.

But no–no deal with the automated teller.

But strange as it may seem, on the night that my third son was born, I found myself in Westerville, Ohio, when my wife called, said that she was in labor and on her way to Mt. Vernon to have the baby.

I hopped in my car and realized that I did not have enough gas to drive the forty miles to the hospital.

It was late and I didn’t have anybody to contact who would have the money.

So I sat in my car, fuming over being such a damn loser, and not having the cash to fulfill my fatherly duties.

I grabbed my card, started my car and drove to the ATM machine, which so many times in the past had rejected me–so much so that I had the sensation that it saw me coming and heaved a mechanical sigh.

As I walked toward the apparatus with my card extended, I looked around to make sure no one was listening and spoke directly to my metal foe:

“Listen, fella. I know I only have $12.38 in the account. But I have to get to Mt. Vernon to see the birth of my son. I realize you haven’t fathered anything during your time on earth, but try to understand. As I gently slide my card into your slot, just this one time…give me $20.”

I hadn’t even finished my little speech when suddenly–without my card inserted–the machine made a grumble, a rumble, a spit and a flick.

Out popped $20.

I looked around to make sure there was nobody who was the true owner of the blessing, and then grabbed it, went to put gas in my car, and then traveled to see the birth of my boy.

The $20 never registered as a deduction from my account, and to this day I do not know how I retrieved it from this uncaring machine.

Was it my words?

Was it luck?

Or did I somehow get past its buttons...to its heart?

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Autograph

Autograph: (n) a signature, especially that of a celebrity written as a memento for an admirer.

Life is an elevator.dictionary with letter A

The same blessing that takes you up is the shaft that brings you down. It all depends on the buttons you push.

I learn this all the time.

Having authored a number of books, I often have people asking for my autograph. It is a very kind gesture.

I never get tired of the jolt of joy that comes into my soul, realizing that someone has first of all treasured my writings enough to purchase them, but also wants me to put my name on them.

It’s exciting.

I even practiced my signature to make sure that it looked “authorian” and had a certain flair that exuded eccentricity.

So one day, having some time on my hands, I perused the Internet, seeking out information on my name and the books I had written.

I was drawn to this website where used books were offered at reduced rates. I discovered that many of my volumes were available–and almost every one of them advertised that it was “signed by the author,” supposedly thus giving it some extra clout.

But to my great dismay, many of these copies I had signed had been discounted even from their original reduced rate–down so low that one of my books was being offered for 59 cents.

So not only was my original work and inspiration diminished in value, but apparently by adding my signature to the equation, no greater wealth was calculated.

It made me realize that I had better enjoy the elevator of autographing when it’s going up.

Because eventually it will come back down…into the bargain bin.

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Autocrat

Autocrat: (n) a ruler who has absolute power.dictionary with letter A

I enjoy attempting to understand, even though unfortunately, I feel the possibility for comprehension is sometimes snatched away from me by the ambiguity of our times.

Let’s see if I can piece this together:

  • It’s good to have friends. Am I right?
  • Friends are supposed to be friendly. Got it.
  • Friends should encourage us.
  • But friends are also intended to awaken us to our mistakes.

Yet we live in a time when friends dare not contradict us, or they become classified as “haters.”

For you see, in a quest to make everyone more self-confident, we’ve actually succeeded in insulating ourselves from any form of criticism or input that might improve our status. We therefore find ourselves on a bumpy road, incapable of achieving comfort or ease because we’re always bouncing up and down or tossing from side to side.

Yes, the word autocrat used to refer to some sort of dictator who lorded over an entire province of helpless victims. But now I must extend the definition to a mindset which causes too many of us to contend that we rule a domain which needs to be revered, but never scrutinized.

That domain is our personal ego.

So what has transpired in politics, with nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom, is now equally being acted out in individuals–building personal little forts of protection for their idiosyncracies, refusing to let anyone offer a counter-view.

Here’s a question I must ask myself: am I prepared to make choices which can be challenged, both for authenticity and practicality? In other words, am I truly sincere and do I understand the end results of my actions?

Without this kind of submission to the common good, we will end up with a planet of billions of little dictators declaring war on the latest person to cross their border without permission.

There are three things necessary to maintain a quality human life:

  1. I find what I want to do.
  2. I do it.
  3. I learn from the blow-back.

If there is no learning from what we do, merely a stubborn determination to continue to do that which is ridiculous, we will bring our earth to a crumbling mass of rubble … by simply refusing to admit our need for repentance.

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Autobiography

Autobiography: (n) an account of a person’s life written by that person.

Every one of us exaggerates our toleration.dictionary with letter A

In an attempt to come off open-minded, generous or even willing, we put forth the idea that we are much more free in our thinking than we actually are.

This is true of autobiographies.

If I were to be honest, I would have to tell you that any sentence that begins with “I” which does not contain some shape or form of self-deprecation will be viewed by the listener or the reader as vain.

Even “I went to the store” reeks of self-involvement or threatens the inception of a boring tale.

I don’t know how the autobiography got started–because unless you’re confessing your sins, shortcomings or warning others of the dangers of poorly pursued habits, books that begin with “I” always end up feeling like a poke in the eye.

Matter of fact, I have begun to ration the number of times I allow myself to use the words “I” or “me.”

It’s not because I’m noble. It’s because there is no possibility that anyone else will find my “I” storyline nearly as fascinating as I conceived it.

But if you do not write your autobiography, you’re at the mercy of someone in the future who actually finds you interesting enough to pen a biography concerning your life and deeds.

That could be risky. After all, maybe after you’re dead, your rendition of life may not be nearly as interesting as you thought it was. And a neutral party may choose to be a bit more clinical than you.

But still, all in all, it’s much safer to stay away from “I” when it comes to reciting your deeds. Because even though we insist that confidence is a good thing, it really is more like the three wishes from the genie in the bottle:

Choose and use wisely.

 

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Auto

dictionary with letter AAuto: (n) an automobile.

About two years ago, for fun, I decided to take a series of obsolete words and use them over and over again for a 24-hour period.

The reason for my little ploy was to find out what people would think if they heard words being used that had either been buried in the past or were associated with a pseudo-intellectual form of speak.

It was great fun.

And of course, one of those words was “auto.”

You would be surprised if, for just one day, every time you referred to your car you refrained from using “wheels” or “transportation,” and just told people you were “on your way out to your auto.”

One fellow thought I was British. Mind you, I had no accent–just apparently came across very Queenly.

But the general consensus was that in using words like “auto,” which have long since been buried in our history, I was generally deemed to be very intelligent–but not particularly appealing.

Isn’t it interesting that even though we tout the importance of education, when individuals express the fruits of that experience through their vernacular (the way they talk), we are somewhat put off by them and wonder why they don’t just “say it plain.”

So when I exclaimed to a group of teenagers that I was “off in my auto to motor to the general store to pick up some sundries,” the blank looks were priceless.

Yet they did get out of my way … and make room for my verbal ego.

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Autism

Autism: (n) a mental condition, present from early childhood, characterized by difficulty in communicating and forming relationships

I sit here this morning wondering if it is worse to be ignorant or stupid.dictionary with letter A

For I will tell you of a certainty that history is not a book. It is a look.

History is the expression on the face of the future generation peering back on our actions, wondering why we were either so ignorant, or pursued such stupidity.

With that in mind I approach the subject of autism.

Let’s start with a question: do I believe there are more autistic children today than when I was growing up?

I would have to say no. What would be the basis for it? Why would there be more autism today than in my youth?

So why didn’t I hear about autism as a kid? Why was it handled differently? And was the way it was handled in the past better than how we handle it today?

I’m happy to report, I don’t have any answers. But I will tell you this–merely having information about a problem and elaborating on it in great detail rarely solves the situation.

Likewise, ignoring a dilemma and pretending it doesn’t exist certainly does not cause it to vanish.

My contention would be that most things in our present health-conscious society are over-diagnosed. I do not know if the average American, if he or she were given a blood panel once a month, would be considered healthy when the work was analyzed, or whether they would be put on so much medication that they would get sick from the treatment.

Somewhere along the line you have to deal with the word “manageable.”

When I read the definition and the symptoms of autism, I can certainly remember kids in my class who would have fallen within the spectrum of this malady.

  • But we did not call them autistic.
  • We did not medicate them.
  • Instead, we attempted to draw them out of their shells and include them–and rebuke those who ridiculed them for being dead-heads.

I’m not saying this was a good practice. I’m just saying that continuing to diagnose more people with autism does not give us the solution to autism.

Somewhere along the line we have to come up with a way of dealing with this problem that is manageable–which has enough science to be helpful, but also enough human commonsense to be practical.

Otherwise, future generations will deem us ignorant because we refused to deal with the problem, or stupid because we made too much of it.

Where’s the balance?

I think the balance is always achieved by giving our fellow human beings as much room to feel normal as possible. In doing so, we open the door to a more enriching life … instead of having our comrades identified by their ailment.

 

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