Decoder

Decode: (v) to translate data or a message from a code into the original language or form.

There actually was something called a “decoder ring.”

It was a little plastic ornament put into Cracker Jacks, for kids to place on a finger to make them believe they were decoding.

Candidly, I had no idea what “decoding” was.

But possessing the ring was still important.

As I become an adult (mainly confirmed by the number of my birthday parties), I realize that the whole Earth and everything around it and in it has a code. If you do not know how to decode it, you will begin to believe things at face value, or try to put faces on faceless values.

May I assist you with what I have garnered from having once owned a decoder ring?

Religion

When it comes to religion, if it doesn’t help people, make people better, make people think, make people feel or make people more generous, it is nothing but superstition or witchcraft.

Politics

In the realm of politics, if it doesn’t make people better, make them think, make them care for each other, improve their status and create equality, it is a really bad party, which will only make you drunk on your own ego.

Science

If you’re talking about science, there’s only one thing to remember: every living thing will do whatever is necessary to continue to be living. A second thing could be added: every mystery to continue living is hidden somewhere in the rocks.

Business

Customers are the little devils that make the business world work. Calling them little devils does not help. Treating them like little devils is even worse. Becoming a little devil to battle with them yourself could put you in jail.

And even though there are many subjects I could address, let me conclude with:

Romance

Romance ultimately is not about feelings, but instead, orgasms. To achieve orgasms, people have to cooperate with each other, which only makes the world a better place anyway.

I present this today just in case you did not get your decoder ring in your Cracker Jacks box.

If you did, I apologize for my presumption.

 

Clientele

Clientele: (n) the customers

Long ago in a universe that was far-out, but not far away, there existed a gathering of human souls called “church.”

Like every idea which is acted out by human beings, it was flawed from inception.

But at the root was a watering hole, where people could get together, rub up against each other, feel uncomfortable and blessed at the same
time, and walk out at the end of an hour inspired and also entertained because the children’s choir broke rank and failed to deliver the perfect performance that the young director from college had envisioned.

It was elegantly imperfect–which made it adorable.

The laughing was equal to the crying.

The “amens” were matched by groans of conviction.

It might have continued in that format as a great, uplifting experience had the accountants and the fanatics stayed away.

The church treasurers became very concerned that all bills be paid and money set aside for the carpet that would need to be purchased three years from now.

And then there were the fanatics–those who discovered that if they could get people to be afraid or nervous, they could stimulate attendance and keep people “fired up.”

Somewhere along the line, this organism called “the church” welcomed in nasty clientele.

These individuals were pious, knowing more about Bible verses than life, caring more about the vestibule than the hungry and homeless in the community, and were determined to maintain purity instead of welcoming the stained.

The innocent were targeted.

Races were rejected.

Preferences were labeled “abominable.”

The church became a repellent to anyone who wanted to find a location for a soul-stirring, emotional rejuvenation–a penitentiary full of guards with nobody willing to be prisoners.

Procedure became more important than salvation.

So the more humble folk, who knew they were sinners but prayed for God’s grace, gradually slipped out the front door, to never return again, leaving behind a quorum of quasi-religious critics.

Is it possible that the clientele could be changed and we could return to an assembly that was meant for humans instead of one that tries to gear its programming only to an Almighty God?

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Bottle

Bottle: (n) a container with a narrow neck, used for storing drinks or other liquids.

Kids like money.Dictionary B

I suppose you can try to change that.  Good luck.

Actually, the best you can do–so as not to become a personal ATM for your offspring–is to instruct them on various methods they can use to earn small sums of cash.

When my seven-year-old son came to me complaining that he didn’t have funds to buy a toy, I suggested that he go out and collect bottles. This was a time when such an adventure was plausible, and paid off with two cents per container.

He became extraordinarily industrious. In no time at all, he had collected 268 bottles. He was so proud.

So I drove him down to the local grocery store, which had promised to pay the deposit, and let him go in with a  cart, completely packed to the brim.

He was gone a long time. I almost decided to go in and check up on him, but felt he might consider that interfering.

He finally returned to the car with a little money in his hand and tears in his eyes. He didn’t say a word. So I finally asked him why he was so upset.

He shared that the store manager told him that today they would only give one penny for each bottle. He didn’t want to argue with a grown-up, so he accepted his half payment.

We just sat there for a moment in silence. Finally I asked him, “So what do you feel about that?”

The tears avalanched down his cheeks.

“I think it stinks,” he said.

I explained to him that since he felt that way, he should probably go in and make a stand. He nervously agreed.

Being a proud father, I couldn’t miss this. I made sure he didn’t see me sneak in behind him, but I was bound and determined to catch the discussion.

My little fellow was very respectful, but he challenged the manager and said that he had worked very hard to collect the bottles because he had been promised two cents.

Amazingly, the manager decided to stonewall. But as my boy made his case, a few customers came around, listening in on the exchange. One of them took my son’s side, and before you knew it, there were four or five people frowning at the store manager.

He realized he was going to lose more business than the $2.68 he was withholding. So he reached into the drawer, handed the money to my son and told him to be about his business.

I quickly scurried to the car to be there before he arrived. When he opened the door, he had a big, beaming smile.

He learned to stand up for himself–even though there was the risk that nothing would change. The truth of the matter is, if you’re being cheated by a penny on your bottles, you’d better pipe up.

Because bottling up your feelings can leave some nasty deposits.

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Berry

Berry: (n) a small roundish juicy fruit without a stone.

Dictionary B

I find it mentally erotic to allow each of the words that I write about every day to leap into my memory and drag out the stories.

The word “berry” has two significant meanings to me.

First of all, I love berries. They are something I can eat without guilt, even though they tell me it is possible to consume too many.

I don’t know if I’ve ever eaten a berry I did not like. Some berries do grumble my stomach a bit, but that doesn’t keep me from enduring the growl.

But I also have a memory of berries which is less satisfying–maybe just a little bit frustrating.

When I first got married, my wife and I were very poor. To complicate our poverty, we were also lazy. The two don’t work well together, for when they arrive at the same time, they can leave you really hungering and thirsting.

My parents had a small parcel of land outside of town–a farm which had some blackberry bushes. (I think they’re called bushes. Maybe they’re vines, but I’m too lazy to look it up.)

My wife and I had the brilliant idea of going out, picking blackberries, and selling them door to door. It was not going to guarantee us a lot of money, but it would definitely succeed in buying a loaf of bread, some bologna or even the more coveted peanut butter and jelly.

It was an arduous task.

The berries are small, so it takes a lot of them to fill up a container. We got hot, stung by bugs and poked by thorns. It was not what I would call pleasant, even though we rejoiced in the opportunity and turned it into a lark.

We picked for about three hours and got seven little baskets, which we sold for fifty cents apiece. It was a long time ago, but that still was a good deal.

We were so overjoyed over the process that we decided to do it again two or three days later, but when we went back to the houses to sell our berries, the customers began to complain about twigs in the baskets, and the fact that some of the berries weren’t quite ripe.

Suddenly we had become a $3.50 corporation, which apparently needed a customer relations department. It took a lot of joy out of the experience. One lady even demanded that we return a quarter as a refund.

So as I sit and enjoy my berries topped with a little Cool Whip, I am grateful for those souls who have to pick them … being careful never to complain if I discover a twig.

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Thank you for enjoying Words from Dic(tionary) —  J.R. Practix