Debrief

Debrief: (v) to interrogate on return from a mission 

If we knew for sure that we were paranoid, we could consider stifling our fear. But the power of paranoia is that it permeates our thinking with just enough factual information that we’re never quite able to dispel the myth from the truth.

I felt this when I was a father working with my small children.

I had two goals:

  1. I wanted to see them educated.
  2. I did not want that education to make them heartless and stupid.

You might think that receiving learning from a school would naturally remove all cynicism or indifference. You might even consider that sending them to a Sunday School class at a church could do nothing but enhance their potential for generosity.

Unfortunately, I think you would be wrong.

And here’s where the paranoia comes in.

I found that my sons often returned from school or church with a bit of twisted thinking, which they were convinced was true because someone with an education or a grease board had told them.

I could have left it alone.

I could have hoped they would annul such falsehoods out of the basic training they received in our home.

But their lives were too important, their minds too valuable to the planet, and their spirits too powerful to be left to chance.

So I did.

I often debriefed my children after they returned from school or church.

I am willing to take criticism for such a maneuver, and you can feel free to condemn the practice.

But I demanded that when they arrived at adulthood, they were aware that the Civil War was a struggle over slavery, not a misunderstanding concerning states’ rights.

I wanted them to understand that the theory of evolution was happening all around us, and it was all right to question it—as long as you didn’t insist that God created everything in six twenty-four-hour periods.

And I wanted them to know that there are no “chosen people,” no third-world countries, and no races and cultures that are beyond our understanding and affection, but instead, that we are eight billion people with more in common than difference.

I debriefed my children—and I would do it again.

Because their lives are more valuable than wearing matching uniforms and marching in step with their class.

 

Currier and Ives

Currier and Ives: (n) the lithography firm of Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives, which produced prints of American history, life, and manners.

Why is it necessary to advertise our depletion by criticizing what once brought us completion?

Why are we so sarcastic about elements that at one time brought comfort and joy to our souls?

After all, is cynicism really a belief system?

Is negativity a plan of action? Is sneering the equivalent of smiling?

Does denying have the energy of accepting?

I grew up in America. The country that surrounds me today is still my home—it’s just dirty.

Fortunately, we don’t throw away our bathroom because it needs cleaning, nor do we cast our clothes aside because they’re sullied with dirt.

Clean.

I need visions of where we are to go.

I need to see the best to achieve better.

I require encouragement.

I find it impossible to gain breath and sustenance on a diet of despair.

Currier and Ives once represented the simple life we now sarcastically proclaim ridiculous, and even sometimes insist is insensitive to all cultures.

Does this mean we contend joy, family, warm fires and beautiful pastoral scenes are “white” things?

Is it necessary to express the plight of the poor by having pictures of starving children? Must we alarm others to sickness by offering snapshots of bedsores?

My eyes are thirsty for hope.

I could stand a little Currier and Ives.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Convince

Convince: (v) to persuade; cajole

That would be terrific.

if we could actually persuade or cajole someone to be convinced of a great idea, the human race could leap ahead by several yardsticks of improvement.

But stubbornness prohibits us from persuasion and cynicism causes us to reject being cajoled.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Unfortunately, our human family is mainly convinced by being alarmed or threatened.

This opens the door to all sorts of nasty characters, who invent ridiculous scenarios of danger, and manipulate brothers and sisters to turn into enemies.

Therefore, I have to ask myself: rather than criticizing this weakness in humanity, which makes us afraid of almost anything, how can I transform my own life into a situation where I can be persuaded or cajoled?

Can I stay loose enough in my opinions that the insertion of knowledge and common sense can sway me to better paths? Can I realize that being angry has very little to do with being productive, and that nice guys don’t finish last—they just finish so early that they’re in the locker room, having already taken their shower.


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Contain

Contain: (v) to control

This will be over-simplistic.

I know this.

Often, in an attempt to take away the complications of life, there are individuals who will rise up in horror and accuse those who are trying to break down life into funny wisdom on words that begin with a Cnuts and bolts, and attack them for such a foolish endeavor.

With that in mind, I offer this silly premise:

Great life is about avoiding frustration.

Frustration is caused by trying to do something that doesn’t want to be done. Maybe it rejects your efforts now, or it’s containment is denied to anyone, at any time.

But further effort will only produce frustration, which eventually promotes cynicism, leading to the emotional desert of faithlessness.

I do not know what I can contain.

I try to contain myself within a diet. Even when I’m successful at following a regimen, sometimes my body feels affronted and refuses to shed pounds, in order to protect me from starvation.

I try to contain my belief into a quaint explanation of my hopes only to discover that when inspiration wants to crack through the atmosphere of Earth, it will often contradict my theories.

I try to contain prejudice and racism from permeating the society in which I live, only to discover that my best chance is to focus solely on my own quirk.

We become boggled because we begin to believe we have enough answers accumulated to solve all the equations. We are soon frustrated. And frustration is what brings us our worst…

Oh, I already said that.

 

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Confound

Confound: (v) to cause surprise or confusion

Sometimes people wonder why I have chosen to be a person of faith.

It isn’t because I enjoy church music. I can snooze through an excellent Bach Prelude just like the next person.

It isn’t because I like praise and worship services. Looking at young people playing instruments, staring up at the sky with ecstatic gleams on their faces invitesfunny wisdom on words that begin with a C
cynicism into my tender heart.

I don’t favor prayer, Bible study or even consider a communion service to be particularly moving.

I’ve always been a great admirer of common sense, delivered with great humor and a background of intelligent reasoning.

Jesus, in describing his message, said it was a discourse which could be appreciated by those with a childlike perception, and therefore ends up confounding the wise.

Smart people think things need to be complicated. Education leads them to believe the more verbose they are, the greater the possibility of demonstrating the depth of their intellect.

When a reasonable simplicity is presented, which has great a great understanding of human nature and the functions of Planet Earth, it does confound the wise.

And honest to God–or Jesus–that always tickles my spirit.

 

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Blink

Blink: (v) to shut and open the eyes quickly.

Dictionary B

“Don’t blink or you’ll miss it!”

The standard comedic line to describe a tiny town with only one stoplight. By now, the joke has been worn out, but obviously, the inner-office memo has not reached every outpost.

It’s amazing: a practice which is essential to our well-being and extremely frequent–that of blinking–is considered to be a sign of weakness, lack of attention or cowardice.

“Don’t blink!”

“Don’t be the first to blink!”

So I would like to step in and say, “I blink.”

Yes, there are things that shock me.

I do not want to become so worldly and road-weary that I pretend that my cynicism has freed me from the instinct to blink.

I do blink:

  • I’m still appalled at lying.
  • I find pornography to be a safari into a human zoo.
  • Hearing profanity in public makes me wince along with my blink.

I’m not a prude, but I’m not proud of exaggerating my level of tolerance.

I like gentleness, I like kindness and I blink when I see people abuse each other or curse at one another because the traffic light turned green and no one moved.

I think to be alive, caring and willing to embrace humankind, the natural blinking that the eyes perform numerous times in a minute … should also be duplicated in our souls.

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Birthright

Birthright: (n) a particular right of possession or privilege one has from birth

I hate idealism.Dictionary B

It is an idea that we have relegated to the realm of impossibility which we voice anyway, even though we’ve lined up all the excuses in our minds as to why it won’t work.

Tom Jefferson said that “all men are created equal.”

A lovely piece of belligerent idealism–belligerent because our arrogance will not allow us to accept others as our equals without some sort of struggle or cynicism.

Ironically, Mr. Jefferson was probably being served tea and crumpets by one of his slaves as he penned these words about equality. Thus the damn hypocrisy of honoring principles without first finding a way to live them out.

Americans are obsessed with birthright.

We believe in our “manifest destiny” to occupy, control and manipulate. Sometimes we forget that other human souls, also created in the likeness of God, are tempted to feel the same way.

Sooner or later, it is necessary for the human race to surrender to the obvious conclusion that we are barely out of the jungle … and nowhere near Mount Olympus.

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Au gratin

Au gratin (adj): sprinkled with breadcrumbs or grated cheese, or both, and browned.

dictionary with letter A“That’s cheesy.”

We use that phrase whenever we want to insult something by portraying that it’s maudlin or overly sentimental.

Yet I’ve never heard anyone take a bite of a delicious lasagna and proclaim it “cheesy” and have it mean anything negative. Matter of fact, I have often used cheese to save a dish that seems to have lost all of its personality in the baking.

Cheese has some wonderful attributes:

  1. It melts.

I don’t really trust anything that isn’t willing to melt. If I’m with a woman and my touch or kiss does not melt her, it would not matter how attractive she appears, she has lost her appeal.

I trust that my ice will melt and give over some of its cold to chill my drink.

Melting is what we do when we decide to allow ourselves to become heated and pliable.

  1. It’s gooey.

Even though people around me don’t want to be gooey and gentle and silly, I find that when you actually pull it off, the room is not only energized, but tenderized against the hostility of cynicism.

  1. It stirs in.

When you finally have discovered that your cheese has melted, you will find that it is now willing to be stirred into the available concoction. While maintaining its own flavor, it glues the entire mixture together.

I like cheesy.

And I will continue to be cheesy, insisting on becoming au gratin to the blandness of the dishes around me, so that we can make sure to remember how wonderful it is … to feel.

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Amoral

dictionary with letter A

Amoral: (n)  lacking a moral sense of right and wrong.

What is morality?

It has changed so many times in my lifespan that if I did not have a sense of humor, I would risk becoming jaded.

I have watched the Moral Majority peak and decline, becoming the minority.

I desire some stability. I think morality orbits a single shining sun of promise:

Don’t kill.

  • Don’t kill yourself.
  • Don’t kill others.
  • Don ‘t kill faith.
  • Don’t kill hope.
  • Don’t kill love.

There you go.

What kills me is dependence and addiction.

What kills others is alienation and gossip.

What kills faith is cynicism.

What kills hope is a lack of support.

And what kills love is fear.

So morality, to me, is living a life free of addiction, without judging others, refusing to become cynical, lending a hand to those who are hopeful, and casting out my fear.

Perhaps that will last longer than the latest critical attack against some hapless minority.

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Alcott, Louisa May

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alcott, Louisa May (1832-1888): U. S. novelist. Her novel, Little Women, was based on her New England childhood and written for adolescent girls. She was involved in women’s sufferage and served as a nurse during the Civil War.

Little Women.

Sounds like an episode on Law and Order: SVU. Matter of fact, a grown man such as myself might be held in great suspicion if I said I was interested in Little Women, since Ms. Alcott is not on the top of most people’s Google searches.

There is something significant about her work. Without embarrassment, I will tell you that as a boy I read it, thinking I might find some salacious details or insights into the female mind. What I discovered was a simplicity and purity that probably would be ridiculed by today’s jaded thinking. Yet it offered the hope that it is completely possible to live a life of pursuing excellence and discovery rejecting selfishness and despair.

For after all, these little ladies did not have lives free of difficulty, but fell back on principles and friendships to guide them through the difficult times.

I think it is dangerous to equate the term “old-fashioned” to certain attitudes and attributes, leaving no alternative to the particular precepts, just a vacancy brought about by cynicism.

Some values gain virtue because they bring victory. They never go out of style. They are never without obvious power–but they do require that we escape coldness, fear and disdain, in respect to a passion for a bit of goodness.

To me, goodness is not as complicated as it is often proclaimed to be:

  1. Find out how you love yourself, and love everybody else the same way.
  2. Lying is anti-human instead of natural.
  3. Don’t give up simply because you haven’t gotten your way.
  4. Don’t look on everybody around you as competition, but instead, as examples and friends.

Some people would consider this to be old-fashioned, but until some new fashion comes along that provides equal satisfaction and excitement, I will cling to many of the attributes and attitudes given to us by Louisa May Alcott in Little Women.