Austrian

Austrian: (noun) a citizen of a republic in central Europe

I often laugh out loud at my American sense of intelligence.dictionary with letter A

Here is how I would describe the average American’s assessment of the entire world: it’s like a huge coffee-table book full of colored pictures with one-line captions.

In other words, we have a picture in our minds of what everything in the world consists of, and then only one line of explanation to reinforce the vision.

I am completely confident that Austria is a country filled with normal people, computers, vice and virtue and typical human behavior.

But my personal caption to this Austrian tableau would be: “The Sound of Music” meets “Strauss waltz.”

So I would imagine a country filled with people walking around singing all the time or on their way to a rehearsal with Mozart.

Of course, nothing could be further from the truth, but since I’ve only allowed myself a one-line caption for the picture, I’m afraid they’ll just have to live with my assessment.

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Archaeology

dictionary with letter A

Archaeology: (n) the study of human history and prehistory through the excavation of sites and the analysis of artifacts

I am susceptible.

I am a product of my times and therefore the word “archaeology” conjures images of Indiana Jones and his whip.

I am ready to freely admit how shallow I am before you decide to dive in.

But also, I have found the subject of archaeology to be fascinating–that digging up objects from a former culture can tell us about their lifestyle and choices. Honestly, it more illuminates our study on what they were presently using when they went bye-bye and what that substance was made of, which enabled it to survive the span of time.

It caused me to think about the things that surround me.

Obviously, the elements in my life that would push through to another era are mostly made of plastic. So anyone studying me or my culture eons from now would contend that we were a generation that was obsessed with containers, bottles and all sorts of paraphernalia. For all of our papers would turn to dust; glass would be crushed and not survive.

Yes, in a thousand years, if they dug up our defunct civilization, they would ascertain that we really liked plastic and that most of it was formed into gadgets.

So comically, an alarm clock might survive, which would lead the archaeologist to conclude that we were a very efficient society, living off the clock, and probably extraordinarily productive.

If they found one of our computers, which survived the press, they would report that we were an intellectual culture, always chasing down the truth.

Gone would be:

  • The wrappers from our fast food
  • The pages from our silly magazines
  • And the most recent creams and salves we favor to prevent oldness, baldness and impotency.

So I have to admit I’m a little suspicious of archaeology. Just because something survives being buried does not mean it was predominant in the social structure of the time.

For after all, in a thousand years … what will be left of reality shows and the Kardashians?

 

 

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Angst

dictionary with letter A

Angst: (n) a feeling of deep anxiety or dread, typically unfocused, about the human condition or the state of the world in general.

I don’t want to be one of those people who pursue so much optimistic hopefulness that I fail to recognize what is necessary in order to maintain our present integrity.

Yet I have to wonder if it’s possible for the human race, in this season, to acquire both of the necessary portions that make us worthy of continuation.

For I feel it takes progress and process.

Yes, I think technology is wonderful, and I do not want to go back to a time when we had no computers, racism was extolled as normal, and antibiotics were not available for sickness.

I am not nostalgic for backward times.

However, by the same token, making progress without honoring the process of human character which honors the feelings of others, makes the world a dangerous place and certainly volatile.

It produces angst.

We become afraid that we will lose our progress if we honor the process. Or we preach the process and become “anti-progress,” making ourselves appear Neanderthal.

Is it possible to be a human being who realizes that progress needs to be made emotionally, mentally, spiritually and physically, without ignoring the values which make the process of living so much sweeter, and ripe with goodness?

We always attach the word “angst” to teenagers, but I am not convinced that a fourteen-year-old riding in a Conestoga Wagon with his parents, crossing the Great Plains in 1850, had much time to reflect on his or her misgivings.

If progress gives us too much free time to bitch and complain, robbing from the process of busying ourselves about becoming better people, then are we really moving forward?

Yet if the process of maintaining civility causes us to be suspicious of every facet of progress, then the foolishness we maintain makes our belief system appear to be shortsighted.

What would it take to mingle progress with process?

  1. I will put to use anything at all that makes life easier, as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
  2. I will acknowledge that there is no replacement for personal contact, love and gentleness with my fellow-travelers.
  3. I am ready to go forward if it doesn’t push someone else backward.

I think in considering this trio of principles, we can merge progress and process, to generate a climate of mutual benefit, drenched in compassion.

 

 

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Adversity

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Adversity: (n) difficulties, misfortune: e.g. resilience in the face of adversity

Excuses.

Matter of fact, you could stack adversity up with other made-up concepts, like trials, tribulations, difficulty, hassle and even temptation.

These are not real words. They’re lamentations moaned into the darkness by people who have run away, scared of the reality of this thing called life.

  • If things did not get edgy, we would never change.
  • If there were no challenge to our ideas, we would refuse to evolve.
  • And if life only threw softballs, we could never get into the big leagues.

Adversity is one of those words which is used to explain why we fail to show up for the gig. It is a whiny screech from the soul who has lost confidence in his or her own ability or faith.

Now, I am not unsympathetic to the condition–I frequently visit that defeated profile. But I never get OUT of the dismal dunes by being accommodated or having someone express empathy for my plight. That just doesn’t help.

In case you didn’t know, here’s the way it works:

  1. We decide to be creative and change our lives.
  2. Those around us are uncomfortable with change so they discourage us.
  3. We persevere.
  4. A society that despises perseverance attempts to throw roadblocks in our way to keep us from moving ahead of the crowd.
  5. We inch our way forward.
  6. Bigger bears come out of the woods, attempting to scare us away from our own joy and prosperity.
  7. We stare the bears down.

Look at that process carefully. This is how every piece of excellence has been achieved throughout the history of humankind, whether you’re talking about the introduction of fire into the caveman’s life, civil rights, light bulbs, computers or adding cheese to macaroni to create a new side dish.

Adversity is what small-minded people do to stop big ideas. It has many names, but the mantra is always the same: why don’t we just leave well enough alone?

If you object and want to try to revive hope, faith and love … brace yourself for adversity.

Abrahams, Harold

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Abrahams, Harold (Maurice):(1899-1978) English athlete. In 1924 he became the first Englishman to win the 100 meter race in the Olympic games. His story was retold in the movie, Chariots of Fire.

I was traveling in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, when I went out with two friends and saw the movie, Chariots of Fire. Although it was a bit maudlin for my taste, I was still captured by the story and moved by the message–so much so that when I arrived back in my motel room, I slipped on a pair of sandals, and even though it was nearly midnight I went down to the beach by myself, determined to duplicate the running along by the sea I had just witnessed in the flick.

It was a beautiful night–one which the Chamber of Commerce would love to have bottled and sold at orange juice stands as evidence of the beauty of the community. There was a fine mist in the air from the waves hitting the shore, and I was tingling all over with the anticipation of duplicating the emotion of the movie.

I looked off in the distance and set a marker in my mind of where I wanted to end up at the conclusion of my sprint. I was Abrahams. I was the great English racer. Even though I had quite a few more pounds than he did, in that moment, they were shed from my mind by the sheer awesome wonder of being transformed into the realm of Olympic training.

I started to run.

I got about four paces when my sandal stuck in the wet sand. I tripped and fell on my face, burying my nose deep within the beach. Determined, I got up and tried it again. I repeated the same process with great proficiency.

I do not know whether the terrain on Jacksonville Beach is so much different from England, or if it was perhaps because I was not quite as light of feet as Abrahams–but I just I sank deeper into the dampness. Or perhaps running on sand is just the stupidest thing that anybody ever came up with on earth.

But try as I might, I was only able to run about twenty feet before my heart was racing much quicker than my legs. I fell down, exhausted, and stared at the ocean.

I stayed there for a long time–because my legs ached, my knees were sore and my nose was full of algae. Gradually I worked my way to my feet and walked back to my motel room. In the process of that brief stroll, I recreated my story. Upon arriving, I told my traveling companions that I had duplicated the scene from the movie–and had run at least one mile down the beach and back.

Their eyes gleamed with admiration.

I went to sleep that night a liar. But I felt very little shame. After all, Hollywood and movies are just fairy tales. And fairy tales can come true.

It can happen to you.

About-face

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

About-face: 1. (n.) {chiefly in the military} a turn made so as to face the opposite direction 2.(v.): a command to make an about-face.

I don’t like to be ordered around.

Of course, if you say that out loud, people think you’re too spunky or too touchy. I’m not saying that I WON’T be ordered around. There are people who have the right to do so, and I respect their position.

I guess what I really mean is, I don’t like to be ordered around simply because someone has run out of things to do, so they come up with a new command to bark at me so they will still feel in control.

It reminds me of when I was a kid and would occasionally make the mistake of acting like I was bored. Before I could correct my error, my mother or father would always find something for me to do to fill my time in the most unpleasant way possible–a meaningless chore like cleaning out the attic, which no one ever visited anyway.

I do think there are things in life which demand an about-face. I would hope we would be intelligent enough to figure them out on our own, though, without someone having to scream at us to get our attention.

I think it would be wonderful if the President of the United States made an about-face and quit the Democratic Party, becoming an Independent, to communicate to the nation that he was no longer President of a club, but instead, the leader of all the people.

I would love to see the Catholic Church do an about-face on its traditions, which have generated sub-par human beings who abuse children out of their frustration over the lack in their own lives.

I would love to see the corporations in America do an about-face and realize they will not be able to make lavish profits if they continue to destroy the confidence of the consumer, raping them of money for often-inferior products.

I would like to see the entertainment industry do an about-face and add a little bit of conscience in with the effort to make a dollar at the box-office.

I would like to see the nation make an about-face on the issue of anything that kills people and put our freedom above the Second Amendment.

I would like to see myself do an about-face on believing there is a short list of things that I cannot overcome because I’m either too old or too stubborn.

About-face is a good idea–especially when you’re not waiting for a drill sergeant to give the order.

Yes, I guess I am much more pliable when the commands come from my own heart, through my soul and register in my brain.

Abound

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Abound: (v.) Exist in large numbers or amounts.

I abound in pounds.

That nearly rhymes.

I was trying to think about all the things I abound in. For a brief season in my life, I abounded in money. Without sounding like an absolute nerd or a ditz, I didn’t particularly find the experience to be any different from having just enough money to meet your needs–because unless you plan to do excessive things that you really don’t require, like order in Red Lobster every night to be delivered by a valet service, let’s be honest: clothes are clothes, food is food and a place to sleep is all about your pillow.

The fun I had with money when I abounded in it was giving it away–which is why I no longer abound. Some folks think I should have thought ahead and kept some  money on balance, so that I would always be well-to-do instead of just temporarily well-to-do, and now mere mortal.

But if you remember, in Superman II, Clark Kent was willing to give up all the powers of Krypton to get a peek at Lois Lane‘s byline. So even if you’re a superhero, you might be willing to forfeit your abounding for something more important.

People are always talking about America abounding in wealth, education and freedom. I suppose so–but abounding isn’t nearly as much fun if you can’t share with others. And I never met a selfish person who really thought he or she WAS abounding–even when it was obvious they had much more than they needed.

So what IS abounding?

I guess abounding is the day that you feel comfortable in your own skin, and everything you really need … is inside there.

Aborning

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Aborning: (adv.) While being born or produced: The idea died aborning (adj.) Being born or produced: In the 1960’s hippidom was aborning.
You must be “aborn again.”

Well, I don’t know about you, but I need it.

Sometimes I find myself stupidly trying to live within the confines of this tiny little cultural moment that I am squeezed into by the pressure of my society. I am tempted to abandon all of my previous experience and knowledge, and somehow recreate myself as some sort of seed which has recently fallen out of a pod to the earth below.

But that’s NOT me. That is the “me” who walks around frustrated because I feel out of step with a world that wants me to be in step before I dare step out–or else, get stepped on.

Hogwash.

I want to be aborn again. Here’s the life I desire:

  • I want to have the rebellion of the ’60’s deep in my soul–so every time I see an injustice I speak out against it instead of just rolling my eyes and waiting on the world to change.
  • I want to have the joy and revelry of the 1970’s, when we had the common sense to believe that even our suits should be leisurely.
  • Simultaneously, I want to be a family man of the ’80’s, where I treasure the beauty of those close to me and appreciate the opportunity to be part of something nuclear which doesn’t blow up.
  • I am not afraid to take on the technology of the ’90’s, which transformed us from a generation that was “lost in space,” walking around mumbling, “Does not compute,” to full-blown technicians, adept at computers.
  • And I want to carry the true patriotism of the 2000’s, when we regained a sense of what it was to be an American–because American soil was tainted with blood.

I want it all. I don’t want to be some narrow-minded individual, even if that tiny path takes me to a conservative conclusion or a more liberal vista. I want to be a rebellious, joyous family man, hip to technology, who loves my country.
Is that too much to ask? Is that too much to believe? Or are we all just afraid … of too much?

I must be aborn again. Amen.