Czerny

Czerny, Carl (Proper Noun): Austrian composer, especially of exercises in piano technique.

Although it is insistently repeated, I question the premise.

Is there anyone who is honored just to be nominated?

It is a gracious way of losing–and every human being should have that speech—a humble reaction ready to go for those occasions when it’s applicable.

But I am not so sure Mr. Czerny envisioned himself being the well-known composer of piano exercises for students grumbling their way through the keyboard.

Didn’t he listen to the music of Johann, Amadeus and Ludwig and think “I can do that?”

And then, perched at his piano, in the throes of a creative tornado, he writes a musical composition–and those who are deemed learned and astute decide it is worthy of being dexterity studies for tiny, childish fingers.

What does that feel like?

We all know the situation—let’s not be insincere.

No one who ended up getting fifth place in the “Homemade Apple Butter Contest” cleared a spaced on their wall for the lavender ribbon. No—it was prepared for the blue.

None of us sign up for a race, train for it, stretch, exercise and eat good food just to end up clumped in a pack of seven or eight people at the end, who are just grateful to have crossed the line.

Aspiration is a good thing.

But we must realize that inspiration is needed as much on the ground floor as it is in the penthouse.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia (Prop Noun): a former republic in central Europe formed after World War I

It was usually right before lunch in our fifth-grade class that the teacher asked us to open up our geography books.

I grew up in a small town.

In our tiny burg, the state capital, which was only twenty miles away, seemed a world apart from us in culture, problems and of course, interaction.

So when my teacher talked about places like Mississippi, Switzerland, Utah and Czechoslovakia, the names began to mingle. The relevance gradually disappeared.

I didn’t know anything about the countries.

Sometimes I confused the states of the Union with places far, far away—in Europe and Asia.

(It was a different time, filled with much prejudice—so we rarely talked about Africa. I knew there were jungles there. There were whisperings about cannibals, and my understanding of the lion was that it was man-eating.)

I didn’t feel ignorant.

I just didn’t think all of these nations and names and locales were of any value to me.

I didn’t see anybody from England coming over to try to understand me—so why was I sitting, opening a book, looking at flat maps representing a round world?

Then I grew up and took my first trip to Mississippi. Although some of its landscape was different from my home, most trees carry a family resemblance, no matter where you go. What opened up Mississippi to me was meeting someone and putting a face to a place.

As I traveled more, learned more, wrote more and created, I met more faces. They were tied to places.

One day I received an email from a young man from Czechoslovakia. He had read one of my books. I was astounded. How did it get there? Apparently, my books were not nearly as timid as I. They felt free to journey and be handled; they welcomed the inspection by people from all cultures.

By the way, his note to me was so nice.

He was so intelligent.

He was so appreciative.

It made me like Czechoslovakia.

It could be a short-sighted way of looking at life, but if I can put a face to a place, then the place begins to mean so much more to me.

For instance, I no longer think that Africa is filled with cannibals or that the lions wish to munch on human flesh.

I don’t think all people from California are “fruits and nuts,” like my Uncle Raymond claimed.

And I no longer believe that all French folk wear berets and do nothing but eat croissants and kiss with their tongues.

I guess the best way to learn geography is to first travel the width and breadth of your own heart, and make sure that you’re prepared to receive what you will discover.

The world is only twenty-six thousand miles—all the way around. Not very much. And within that twenty-six thousand miles are nearly eight billion people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us all to believe that we would really like most of them?

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Czar

Czar: (n) the former emperor of Russia

I keep anticipating an outbreak of acne.

I haven’t heard Russia discussed this much since I was thirteen years of age, with oily skin.

I know that everything that comes around goes around, to reappear not that much different than it was on opening night.

For the life of me, I do not understand why Russia is regaining such interest, except for the fact that they willed themselves back into prominence.

When you live in a world where a threat has more thrust than a gift, you have to be careful not to be drawn away by false advertising–Chicken Little reprising his role as the proclaimer of falling skies.

At one time, Russia had a czar.

More or less, their rendition of a monarch. Tired of monarchy, they overthrew the czar and instituted communism.

Communism lasted from 1918 until just around 1989—seventy-one years.

During those seven decades, wars were prevalent, poverty was the normal status of the Russian citizen and those who objected to government programs were toted away to Siberia, never to be heard from again.

It was a continual Reign of Terror—from Lenin to Stalin to Khrushchev—until Gorbachev grew weary of leading an impoverished nation—only rich in nuclear weapons.

So from 1989 to approximately 2014, the Russians did their best impersonation of democracy, adding their personal touches of felony murder, graft, money laundering and drug smuggling.

Now, sporting a whole new tyrannical leader named Putin, they are beginning to believe they should be back in the game again. (Back, back, back in the USSR…)

For some reason, the United States has chosen to take them seriously instead of mocking their ever-lengthening bread lines.

Sometimes the best cure is to refuse medication to the dying patient.

There is no Russia without the United States.

If the United States were suddenly eliminated, Russia would not be able to springboard off our country’s prominence and spit in the eye of our more powerful nation.

Contrary to popular belief, the best way to handle a bully is not to stand toe-to-toe, giving him credence and making him believe that he is worthy of attention.

Sometimes the best way to handle a bully is to run away with all your friends—leaving him all alone to complain about his isolation.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cyst

Cyst: (n) a closed sac formed within the body tissues containing fluid or pus

What is truly magnificent about the human body is its ability to not only perform necessary and intricate functions, but also to warn us of pending difficulty by sending off signals that are nearly impossible to misinterpret.

It’s like a sense of dread.

I’ve had this happen a few times in my life.

Once I was stung by a jellyfish down in Guaymas, Mexico, on the ocean, and my whole network of nerves and cells sounded a signal to my brain:

“This is serious shit.”

Now, I’ve had times when I believed I was in serious trouble, and my mind decided to imitate the warning message, but by morning I usually found out it was just a big bag of gas.

About fifteen years ago, I got a cyst.

I did not know it was a cyst. It was located in a place where the sun doesn’t shine, and visitation was problematic.

I immediately knew it was serious but went through four or five days of denial. I was convinced I could weather the discomfort, the soreness and the swelling. I even went outside and tried to “walk it off.” Yes, I walked about a mile, as fast as I could, until my body circulated so much blood flow that I convinced myself the pain was gone and I was all well.

But about thirty minutes later, I was not only engulfed in discomfort, but suspected I had made my situation worse.

I finally broke down and went to the doctor. He was unimpressed. He was convinced I had some sort of cellulitis. He was one of those medical professionals who thinks that all illness befalls patients because of their laziness, diet or lack of hygiene.

So the only treatment he offered was to place a heating pad under my backside near my ever-increasing soreness.

Much to the surprise of the doctors and nurses, about an hour later, my cyst burst and gave birth to a mess.

Suddenly, the diagnosis changed.

Because it was an unknown wound with unclear determinations, my room was quarantined, and nurses had to come in dressed like Muslim women going to Ramadan.

Twenty-four hours later they operated on me. I was warned that if the cyst had spread deeper into my body tissues, they might have to cut out parts of my bowels and even some other fond portions of my manly being.

This was unacceptable to me.

But blessed as I occasionally am, I came out of the operation minus my cysts (turned out there were two of them) and with all my vitals intact.

If you’re looking for a guideline for health, realize that how you feel tells you much more than how you look, or sometimes even more than what a medical professional might presume.

Listen to those voices.

If you’re really in trouble, there are little “town criers” inside you that start screaming, “All is not well! All is not well!”

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cyrene

Cyrene: (n) an ancient Greek city and colony in N Africa

He was desperately trying to remain invisible.

If not invisible, at least unnoticed.

Although he had arrived in Jerusalem to be part of the Passover celebration, driven there by his deep, abiding faith, he was a black man.

Some people believed he was the offspring of Cain, the punished murderer of his brother, Abel.

Others seemed blind to his dark complexion.

It was confusing to know what to do.

Should he be apologetic for his skin color?

Bold, assuming equality? Or defiant, to scare away the bigoted and cynical?

It was constantly on his mind. Would there be more scrutiny from the religious Jews or the self-important Roman soldiers?

Beyond his will, interrupting his progress, he was swept away by a crowd moving swiftly along the Via Dolorosa, forcing him to change his direction and move with the will of the throng.

It was a procession—a death march to the crucifixion of condemned men, heading up the long hill to die. One was struggling. He was carrying his crossbeam on his back yet finding it impossible to stand under its weight.

He fell and they beat him. He stood and they beat him.

The black man had a spontaneous urge to step forward and do something. He regretted it immediately, because one of the nearby soldiers grabbed him by the arm, asking him who he was and what the hell he thought he was doing.

“I am Simon, the Cyrene, and I was just being foolish.”

The soldier pushed him toward the beaten stranger lying in the street. “Since you give a damn, why don’t you carry his fuckin’ cross?” spat the legionnaire.

At that moment, the man, who had been lying flat down in the street, rose on his haunches and turned to look at Simon. His face was grotesque, bruised and bloody, but his eyes maintained a focus. A warmth, a purpose.

Not wanting to be crucified himself, Simon chose to heed the command. He picked up the broad beam and put it on his back as the soldier helped the weakened victim to his feet.

Trying to regain his balance, the beaten-up stranger hooked his arm with Simon’s. They were linked.

Together they made the journey the rest of the way, to the “Place of The Skull.” It seemed right to all those standing around, staring at the scene, that this black man, condemned by his color, should perform such a duty for the wicked traveler on his way to death.

Simon was stilled in his confusion. He had been black all his life. He rarely left his home in Cyrene because he never knew what level of bigotry awaited him in the outside world.

He covered the distance to the top of the hill, breaking a sweat but still able to support the battered frame of the convict. Before he knew it, they lifted the beam off of him and busied themselves nailing the man to the cross.

Simon had an instinct to stand and watch, but his better sense told him that he could easily be mistaken for one of the criminals and end up slain.

He quietly left.

As he was coming down the hill, a young man, no more than twenty years of age, approached him. “Thank you for carrying the Master’s cross,” he said.

Simon nodded. The young man continued. “His name is Jesus and we believe him to be the Son of God.”

Simon smiled. He felt pity. Or was it respect to a childish dream? He didn’t know.

Matter of fact, for almost five years, he never thought about it again. He never heard the name—until one day, back in his home of Cyrene, a young preacher—an itinerant man bronzed by the heat of the sun—said the name again.

“Jesus.”

He told a story. He filled in details that Simon could not possibly have known. He burst into tears.

“What is wrong?” the messenger asked him.

Simon shook his head. “I know that man. I carried his cross. I just didn’t know that it was the cross he was carrying for me.”

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cypher

Cypher: (v) to calculate numerically; figure

We live in a generation that touts its tolerance while simultaneously maintaining a tiny regional dialect.

Nowadays, folks are not only ignorant of words and terms, but proud that they were born long after said phrase was uttered.

I suppose I felt that way when I was younger, too.

I was guilty of looking for words and slogans from former decades so I could make fun of them.

Yet in the process of this alienation, a lot of good words get crucified on the “cross of cool.”

So today when I saw our word—cypher—it brought back one single memory.

When I was in high school, there was a young guy who moved to our town from Bowtown, West Virginia. We thought he talked funny. He certainly dressed poorly. He was shy. And he always told us when he was discussing his algebra homework that he was “workin’ on his cypherin’.”

We just stared at him, having no idea what he meant. Exasperated, he explained that all reasoning, all math problems, all puzzles and all dilemmas back where he grew up had to be “cyphered.”

He described the process—you study the problem, look off in the distance seeking an answer, and then lick your pencil and “get to figurin’.”

We called him a hillbilly.

It was not a compliment.

It was our way of saying that we were better than him because he had a weird word for mathematics.

Whatever his terminology may have been, his test scores were excellent. Matter of fact, he was so good at cyphering that he ended up with a scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he studied to be an engineer and ended up traveling the world, building stuff and benefitting poorer countries with better ideas.

I suppose one might consider that in these journeys he gained a certain amount of sophistication—and didn’t cypher anymore.

But I can still envision this alien to our community standing over a set of blueprints, looking off in the distance before licking his pencil…

And solving the present problem.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cynosure

Cynosure: (n) something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.:

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had a meeting with a fellow who dubbed himself “Bundy Boy.”

I don’t know why he selected this handle since it was nowhere near his name. But he was young, energetic, and full of what the old folks used to call “piss and vinegar.”

He agreed to have a meeting with me because he was thinking about promoting our little music group and taking over management of us—thereby assisting us in getting national attention, a recording contract and, well, just something far away from our poverty.

I remember it so well because he had a spiel. He called it “The Five Thingalings.”

I wanted to laugh, but after all, I was in a subordinate position, sitting in the office of a guy who might be able to throw some light in the direction of my shade.

It was the first time I ever heard this word: cynosure.

He asked me if I knew what it meant. I didn’t. So he explained, “It’s about what’s bright and shiny. Humans are human, but they’re also beings—and as beings, they’re attracted to… are you ready?” he asked me.

I was. He continued, “They’re attracted to sex, silliness, a sad story, beauty and money.”

I thought about it, had no reason to disagree, and so I nodded my head.

Confident that I was on his wavelength, he proceeded. “Cynosure is when you turn the lights up so people can see more clearly what you have to offer. That’s why you’ve got to be sexy. Everybody likes sexy. Even religious people like sexy. They don’t talk about it—but they think about it. And everybody likes to be silly. They pretend to be serious, but after a short time, they’re ready for a good giggle.”

“But,” he went on, “we do like a sad story. It cleans us out—makes us feel we’re really sensitive because we care about what happened to somebody on the rocky road of life. And that story—that story I’m telling you about—it’s much more powerful if it’s being shared from a beautiful package. Just as people like sexy, they like pretty. In their minds, sexy and pretty go together. Nobody feels sexy if they don’t feel pretty, or handsome. And of course, money. Even the Bible says that money answers everything. If you think about it, any problem that comes up in your mind—well, a nice stack of cash will go a long way to solving it.”

After Bundy Boy finished his speech, he sat and looked at me.

It was time for him to offer his evaluation of my “package.”

He was kind, merciful, but truthful.

“My friend,” he said, “you aren’t sexy. Now you might be silly, but if you’re silly and not sexy, it comes off goofy. I suppose you do have a sad story, but when you’re not sexy and not silly, and you have a sad story, people think to themselves, ‘well, of course. He’s a loser.’ And if you’re not sexy, the chance that you’re beautiful is small. And even though we pretend we like beauty on the inside, it’s only something your mother actually feels. And,” he concluded, “by looking at your clothes—especially your shoes—I can tell. You’ve got no money.”

He concluded, “So even though I like your music and I do like you, I can’t work with you. I can’t bring the magic. I can’t cynosure you.”

He stood to his feet and walked toward the door, which I assumed meant that I was also to stand and depart. He patted me on the back and offered a lame, “If there’s anything I can ever do, let me know.”

So I have gone through the majority of my life with no cynosure.

It’s been painful—but I have managed to eke out an existence.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C