Criteria

Criteria: (n) rules or principles for evaluating or testing something.

That’s it.

Call off the dogs, close up the investigation and give all the researchers a lunch break.

We have stumbled upon something.

Perhaps the problem with all of our dealings on Earth is that we have never universally established criteria for what it means to be a human being.

Everybody has their opinion.

There are those who insist we are saints, and certainly those in the clergy who feel it’s necessary to get us to admit that we’re sinners.

Sometimes we make bold statements and talk about human achievement—and follow it up immediately with a sheepish, pouty, “Well, we’re only human.”

Which is it?

Are we dastardly folk who cannot be trusted, who think only of ourselves and lie at the drop of a hat, and therefore need constant supervision in the simplest affairs of our lives?

Or are we truly created in the image of God, therefore capable of great works of art, and deeds of valor and courage?

Since we can’t make up our minds on this particular issue, we use being human as a way of decrying the need for God, but also as an excuse for leaving the toilet seat up all the time.

So I humbly but firmly offer these three criteria for being human:

  1. We don’t have a big brain so we can act stupid. Smarten up and learn something today.
  2. We are remarkably all the same, so stop looking for subtle differences or shades of color.
  3. We can make magnificent things as long as we admit they need to be made and we have not yet achieved all that we must do.

Could we actually agree on these three things?

Could these become the criteria for being human, so when some fall short, they can do a quick repenting job, and when others feel like gods, we can lure them down from Olympus?

Without criteria, we make up excuses right on the spot—like a little kid with chocolate stains on his shirt, who’s trying to decide if it would be better to admit the candy-eating, or insist he pooped himself.

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Constructive

Constructive: (adj) serving a useful purpose; tending to build up

Unfortunately, the word “criticism” seems to have been welded onto “constructive.”

Matter of fact, people frequently talk to me about constructive criticism–how powerful it was for them in honing up their project or beefing up their efforts.

I am not convinced.

So let me be the first one to say that these two words need to be disconnected from each other once and for all.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

There are things that are constructive and there are things that are critical. There is no such thing as constructive criticism.

If you’re trying to be constructive, there is no need to be critical.

And if the intention is to establish your value to another person by criticizing, be prepared: it is unlikely that this will have a constructive result.

You can feel free to have constructive remarks, constructive questions, constructive concerns–but once you enter the cave of criticism, you’ve already darkened yourself as an authority to whom others need to bow.

If you really want to be constructive, here are the three questions you should ask someone if you think what he or she is pursuing needs another point of view:

  1. What is it you are trying to achieve?
  2. This is what I got off of it. Is that all right?
  3. Is this what you were looking for?

You can ask these three questions any time, and unless someone is dealing with severe anger management issues, they will be responsive and listen.

But if you change this to “constructive criticism,” which, by the way, is merely altering the questions into statements–(for instance, “I don’t know what you’re trying to achieve,” “I didn’t get it” and “I don’t think other people will comprehend your message either”)–these statements are bruising.

You do not need to agree with me on this, but I contend that merely switching the statements to questions does not take away your power of input.

It merely removes your position of superiority.

 

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Bothersome

Bothersome: (adj) troublesome

When I was eighteen years old, I got my girlfriend pregnant. So by the time I was nineteen, I was a daddy. Perhaps better stated, a father in name only.Dictionary B

Being unprepared, unaware and barely beyond the scope of a child myself, I had no idea what to do. Matter of fact, from the time I was nineteen until I turned fifty-six, I parented seven young men–four of my own and three I adopted.

Can I tell you how I would describe the experience?

Bothersome.

Why?

Because children do not come into the world to confirm our intelligence and prowess, but rather, to challenge it.

Yet anyone who questions my personal authority and space is annoying. If they happen to live in my house, eat the food I provide and nag me for money, it is even more treacherous.

But in the process of realizing that parenting is bothersome, you come to an understanding that living is not about finding a sense of well-being, but instead, taking the chaos, calming yourself and stilling the storm.

In doing this, you find your sense of satisfaction, purpose and achievement.

Life always arrives at eighty-five miles an hour.

It is up to you to be the traffic cop to slow it down.

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Arduous

dictionary with letter A

Arduous: (adj) involving or requiring strenuous effort.

Are you ready?

I’m gonna pitch you a movie idea.

Fade in:

Man wakes up in the morning, discovers he doesn’t have a razor to shave his beard. Rather than complain to his wife or go out into the world unshorn, he gingerly reaches into the shower, removing his wife’s Lady Bic, peering around the room cautiously to make sure he’s not observed.

He slathers his face with shaving cream and carefully runs the precious object across his face, freeing himself of jungle fuzz. He rinses the borrowed object with great intensity, placing it back into the shower, smiling into the mirror as he splashes his face with his favorite cologne, turning and heading out the door with a smile.

What do you think? Are you ready to invest?

Of course not.

No one would make this movie, because it is a tale of a human being finding a way to work things out without becoming exasperated, frenzied or completely debilitated by circumstance.

Somewhere along the line we’ve convinced ourselves that if our lives are not filled with arduous tasks, then we’re really not grown-up and we haven’t proven our mettle. With that desire to appear mature, we’ve taken things that should be simple and made them as painful as possible, whether politics, business, family life or religion. The more hot coals we can walk over, the more we are convinced of achievement.

If there is a line being formed by those who are looking for less arduous ways to approach life, I would like to get into it.

I’m never proud of myself when I become exasperated. I don’t feel manly swearing at traffic or frustrated because my hammer decided to hit my thumb instead of the nail. Cursing doesn’t strike me as a sign of strength, but rather, evidence of the little child that failed to die sometime after puberty.

There may be arduous tasks. Most of them are not what we perceive them to be.

The greatest gift you can give to yourself, or anyone else, is having a mechanism in your soul which sucks up problems that seem insurmountable … and spits out simplicity.

 

 

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Achilles

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Achilles: a hero of the Trojan War. During his infancy his mother plunged him into the Styx, making his body invulnerable except for the heel by which she held him. During the Trojan War, Achilles killed Hector but was later wounded in the heel by an arrow shot by Paris, and died.

Since I saw the movie, Troy, Achilles will always be Brad Pitt to me. Or maybe it’s that Brad Pitt will always be Achilles. Whichever floats your boat. And speaking of floating your boat … Supposedly Helen of Troy had an affair with Paris, which started a war and launched a thousand ships.

If you watch the movie, you see the portrayal of a very arrogant, self-sufficient, mean-spirited, dark, quizzical and I suppose to the average woman between the ages of fourteen and twenty-five, sexy Achilles.

He liked killing people.

That should be one of the classic turn-offs, but it seemed to be very exciting to his fellow-fighters and all the women who met him. He was rather ruthless, which the Greeks, who touted themselves to be such a scholarly bunch, still extolled as noble. He considered himself to be invincible, which lends itself to a bit of foolishness and certainly makes one obnoxious.

What did I learn about Achilles? I relearned the very valuable lesson that half of what I believe about myself is only true because it hasn’t been tested, and the other half, that has been tested, I do not believe, for some reason or another, to be sufficient to my needs.

We are all foolish when we think that because we haven’t yet met an enemy who can take us down, that we are beyond conquering. And we’re also quite silly when we downplay the TRUE virtues of our soul and talent, deeming them insignificant.

If Achilles had just been a good soldier, treated people better, and had not run into battle believing he was made of titanium, he probably could have lived to a ripe old age, had children and been deeply respected by the world around him. Instead, he let his ego drive his mission rather than using common sense and restraint.

It’s doubtful that dipping him in the River Styx actually achieved the purpose of making him supernatural. It sure did give him a lot of confidence, though–that is, until somebody shot an arrow in just the right place.

Interesting. Since we talk about Achilles, I wonder if that’s where we got the phrase, “that person’s a real heel.”

 

Ace

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Ace: (n.)1. a playing card ranked as the highest card in its suit in most card games 2. a person who excels at a particular sport or other activity 3. (in tennis and similar games) a service that an opponent is unable to return and thus wins a point.

Do you like to play blackjack? Some people call it “Twenty-One.”

I’ve never been a great card advocate, but I do enjoy an occasional game of blackjack.

It’s the reason I admire an ace. When an ace pops up in a blackjack game, you have a choice. Isn’t that great?? No other card in the deck gives you an option. You can count your ace as an eleven, or if for some reason it’s needed, you can tally it as a one. (I hope those are universal rules–that’s the way I’ve always played it.)

So as I read the definition, I realized that’s what an ace is. Once you’ve taken yourself to a place where you’ve been an eleven, you’re not afraid to perch yourself in a lower seat, as a one. If you’ve always been a one, you probably resent the hell out of being a one, and constantly wish you were an eleven.

This is why it’s impossible to build self-esteem in people without first teaching them self-awareness and giving them an opportunity for personal achievement.

I like the ace. It has been an eleven often enough–the top card in the deck–so that it doesn’t feel diminished when it needs to be a one.

That’s the way I want to live my life. I want to be an ace but I don’t want to be afraid to sometimes play the single note that’s part of a chord.