Dayton

Dayton: (n) a city in SW Ohio

Growing up in Central Ohio, Dayton was eighty miles away—just far enough that you felt going there was “taking a trip.”

I’ve always liked Dayton.

When I first started as a musician—impoverished and therefore ridiculed by friends and relatives as being irresponsible—I had a little place I went to in Dayton to perform my songs, where they treated me like I was on the top forty—and also, in some way, like I was a long-lost relative from Yugoslavia.

They loved me.

Therefore I loved them.

That’s when I learned the system. It is so much easier to love people when you know they’ve already made the leap to love you. It is certainly possible to love people when they’re considering loving you so you can share those feelings back with them in a considerate way.

Yet it is nearly implausible to love someone who has decided that you are not pleasing.

Loving those who don’t love you.

There’s really not any nobility in it—even though for centuries we have touted that true spirituality is ignoring one’s feelings in an attempt to aspire to more god-like actions.

But since we’re not supposed to be gods—we’re human—it seems forgivable to go ahead and feel at least “iffy” about those who place us in the reject pile.

I felt rejected in my hometown.

I wasn’t perfect, or even close to it.

It wasn’t that I didn’t do things that were worthy of critique.

It’s just how quickly those around me were ready to criticize.

In Dayton, I felt human.

I felt that my presence brought a smile.

I believed they even looked forward to seeing me.

I heard applause.

I received edification.

And because I did, I grew. I experimented. I took some chances.

I found out that my right hand and my left hand could do much more on the piano than I had imagined.

My voice could go higher.

I could actually sing on pitch.

My music gained emotion.

I was willing to listen to those who favored one tune over another without sensing an attack.

Somewhere on the eighty miles over to Dayton, my visit there and the journey back, I always healed.

The process was faithful—every time. I left home despondent, curious if the evening would make it better. I took a deep breath, put together a show, played it the best I could and expanded in the appreciation.

My heart grew, and I drove home—a little less defensive.

It was heavenly.

It was an experience I grew to cherish—and named “The Dayton Effect.”

 

Criminal

Criminal: (n) a person guilty or convicted of a crime

If my recollection holds any accuracy of memory, I believe it happened right after my twenty-eighth birthday. I was in a room with a bunch of friends—and some strangers—and a question was posed.

“What was your first job?”

Well, I let three or four people go before me so that I could understand if I was on point, what the question really meant and the best way to answer it.

After the fourth teller finished his story about being a bag boy at a grocery store, I raised my hand and explained, “The summer between my junior and senior year, I joined some sort of national work program for teenagers sponsored by the government, which offered opportunities for local jobs at minimum wage. After volunteering, I discovered that the possibility afforded to me was working at the cemetery, cutting the grass and taking care of the gravestones.

“I was torn between being grossed out and wondering whether anything could be any more boring. But the only other thing available was with a farmer, bailing hay. I did not like hay. I didn’t like heat. I didn’t favor sweating and knew the farmer would be there the whole time, and I’d have to really work hard. I thought that the keeper of the graves might actually trust me to do the job without peeking over my shoulder.”

“I was right. Matter of fact, after about four or five days, I discovered he never showed up to confirm my work. So I started coming to the graveyard, signing in, and then leaving. I was able to continue this practice for about two weeks, collecting my check—until I finally got caught.”

At this point I stopped speaking, thinking I was going to get some laughter and maybe even a round of applause for my tale. But instead, a young woman sitting across the room gasped and said:

“Geez…that was criminal.”

Looking into all the faces around me, I waited for someone to speak up and offer at least some support for my ingenuity.

No one did.

I was angry.

Although I did not stomp out of the room, I made my exit from the party as quickly as possible without drawing attention to my frustration.

I fumed. How dare anyone accuse me of being a criminal? I knew what a criminal was. It’s someone who commits crimes, right? An individual who breaks the law and is tracked down by the police and thrown in jail, to stay there until they learn their lesson or complete their sentence.

Then a horrible thing happened.

My conscience showed up.

For some reason, my conscience was in a mood to talk, in a most accusing way.

Mr. Conscience reminded me that three years ago, I had skipped out on rent that was due.

He also brought up the fact that I copped some money from a drawer when I was at a friend’s house.

There were four or five examples that my goddamned nosy conscience decided to dredge up. Each one could be individually explained away—and had been, by my glib nature.

But collectively, they showcased an individual who felt he was superior to everybody else—certainly high and lifted above the rules—and therefore could do what he wanted.

The conclusion was simple. I was a criminal because I committed a crime by breaking the law, which was really a rule set by those who have the uncomfortable job of trying to make things run smoothly by seeking common ground among diverse people.

I was thoroughly ashamed.

Since that day I have not lived a faultless life, but I’ve never been a criminal again. Because even though I don’t always agree, I always know that agreeable is necessary.

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Couch

Couch: (n) a piece of furniture for seating

Although I am just as guilty as the next man or woman of what we shall call “greedy” prayers—those wishes and supplications we make to God and the universe to improve our bank accounts—I am also fully aware that some of the best times of my life transpired when I was funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
unencumbered with the desire for finance, and found great joy in simply trying to survive.

There were many aspects of that process. Let me boil them down to three categories:

  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • Escape

When you’re poor, every day there is the need to find something to eat and also a safe place to sleep and something that is more comfortable than a cardboard box to rest your bones upon, and then, to have the intuition to escape creditors, family members, critics and anybody else who would try to “guilt” you into a lifestyle that mirrors their own.

Now right there, friends, is a full-time job.

If you do not have money, finding enough to eat, a place to sleep, and a way to escape the scrutiny of your adversaries will keep every child of God busy until morning’s light.

I learned the simplicity of finding change and turning it into a couple of dollars which would buy enough bologna and bread to make a meal—if I slipped out into the woods and picked myself some wild blackberries.

And I certainly knew how to circle a neighborhood and find a discarded couch which was heading for the dumpster and had nothing wrong with it except some dirt and recent rain that fell while it sat awaiting its execution.

That couch was fair game. It was rejected, left alone and on a public sidewalk. If I could jump out of my beat-up van, lift it in, and take it back to my location of rest, I could have a place to sit and sleep. There were times I broke out in tears over discovering a particular sofa that was so comfortable that it literally “couched” my aching muscles for many weeks.

I was amazed at what people will give away, throw away or discard because in their opinion, it got old too fast.

I was also astounded at how many doughnut places took their mistakes and day-old product and dumped them out every morning at 8:16 A. M.

And I was careful to swoop in at just the right moment, taking as little time as possible to procure a couch or a beat-up box of rejected doughnuts.

Poverty is an adventure in exhaustion which receives no applause for ingenuity.


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Boast

Boast: (v) to talk with excessive pride and self-satisfaction

Dictionary B

If doing it doesn’t give you an adequate boost of joyful satisfaction, then stop.

If you believe you need recognition, appreciation, applause or even space to perform your due diligence, you are destined to a life of sour despair.

There has to be joy in the doing, or the doing will become the burdensome chore of the malcontent.

I find that I’m only tempted to boast when I’m doing a job that really does not suit my taste and therefore needs to be bolstered by the admiration of others.

For instance, I was a writer long before I was read.

If I didn’t enjoy being a writer, I would have been absolutely miserable and would have made everyone around me fidgety as I complained about the arduous task of putting words on a screen.

I enjoyed it so I continued. If others end up finding purpose or pleasure in my phrasing and placement of notions, it’s just a magnificent manifestation.

If you find a boastful human, you will discover a soul who is not only insecure, but fearful that what they’re doing is a heap of meaningless.

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Amass

dictionary with letter A

Amass: (v.) to gather together or accumulate a large amount or number

Oh, cautious soul that I truly am, I am always suspicious of the majority.

When human beings amass in large quantities, stuffing themselves into arenas, large sanctuaries or convention halls, I become a bit disconcerted.

Because to gain applause you have to get the approval of many people at the same time. Already that connotes a great degree of compromise. It also encourages demagogues, who espouse the present popular stumping, screaming from the podium until the listeners become frenzied.

Every time I become concerned about my level of popularity or fame I go on the Internet and watch a news reel of Adolph Hitler circa 1932 in Germany. No one could have had more charisma. If you read his speeches in English, they are filled with nationalism, pride and a great sense of “Yay us.” So of course, people amassed behind such encouraging themes.

But here is the startling fact: human beings are just better when we’re not kissing our own ass (or nearby asses).

Certainly we require a certain amount of appreciation, but mingled in with that should be adequate doses of challenges, questioning and even the occasional on-the-spot review.

Although I realize that I am in the minority in my lack of acceptance for the majority, I will tell you that the best decisions I have made in my life, the most amazing transitions and the most valuable conclusions arrived at in my soul, were accomplished in moments of reflection, and punctuated by seasons of repentance.

  • So those who amass wealth are prodded in their spirits to give it away. If they aren’t, we call them “stingy butt-holes.”
  • Those who amass friends are in need of sharing that friendship with the entire world instead of swallowing it whole. Otherwise we think of them as glory-hounds, flitting from one party to another.
  • And those who amass respect are obligated to share it with “the least of the brethren” around them, so as not to convince the gathered horde that superiority has been achieved, and therefore the inferior ones should be trekked to the gas chamber.

I don’t believe in a lonely life. But I do believe that the “road less traveled” is not only quieter, but gives you a chance to look deep inside and discover the need for improvement.

 

Agenda

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAgenda: (n) 1. a list of items or subjects to be considered at a meeting 2. determination of a program of action

  • Republicans want less government.
  • Democrats want more government.
  • Conservatives want to conserve.
  • Liberals want to be more liberal in their choices.
  • Baptists want to baptize.
  • Catholics want to take care of their religious obligation.
  • Buddhists want to meditate.
  • Bankers want to make money.
  • Wall Street wants to make money and also take it away from others.
  • Women want equal rights.
  • Men want sex rights.
  • Children want to play.
  • Drug dealers want to sell their product.
  • Politicians want your vote.
  • Actors want a job and praise.
  • Singers want applause and to sing.
  • Old people want more health care.
  • Young people want more fun.
  • Sailors want a boat.
  • Pilots want a plane.
  • Soldiers want action and their pay.
  • Hippies want peace.
  • Jews want Jerusalem.
  • Muslims want Jerusalem–without Jews.
  • Terrorists want their demands.
  • Dogs want a bone.
  • Cats want to do whatever they want to do.
  • Football players want a touchdown.
  • Baseball players want a homer.
  • A hockey player wants his teeth.

In a world where everybody has an agenda, we must understand that we are at the mercy of the ploys of society–UNLESS we are aware of the aspirations of others and try our best to arrive on the scene without too many pre-conceived ideas.

Is it possible to have an agenda to not have an agenda?

Doesn’t that just make you a contradiction in terms?