Cypher

Cypher: (v) to calculate numerically; figure

We live in a generation that touts its tolerance while simultaneously maintaining a tiny regional dialect.

Nowadays, folks are not only ignorant of words and terms, but proud that they were born long after said phrase was uttered.

I suppose I felt that way when I was younger, too.

I was guilty of looking for words and slogans from former decades so I could make fun of them.

Yet in the process of this alienation, a lot of good words get crucified on the “cross of cool.”

So today when I saw our word—cypher—it brought back one single memory.

When I was in high school, there was a young guy who moved to our town from Bowtown, West Virginia. We thought he talked funny. He certainly dressed poorly. He was shy. And he always told us when he was discussing his algebra homework that he was “workin’ on his cypherin’.”

We just stared at him, having no idea what he meant. Exasperated, he explained that all reasoning, all math problems, all puzzles and all dilemmas back where he grew up had to be “cyphered.”

He described the process—you study the problem, look off in the distance seeking an answer, and then lick your pencil and “get to figurin’.”

We called him a hillbilly.

It was not a compliment.

It was our way of saying that we were better than him because he had a weird word for mathematics.

Whatever his terminology may have been, his test scores were excellent. Matter of fact, he was so good at cyphering that he ended up with a scholarship to The Ohio State University, where he studied to be an engineer and ended up traveling the world, building stuff and benefitting poorer countries with better ideas.

I suppose one might consider that in these journeys he gained a certain amount of sophistication—and didn’t cypher anymore.

But I can still envision this alien to our community standing over a set of blueprints, looking off in the distance before licking his pencil…

And solving the present problem.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Blues

Blues: (n) a melancholic music of black American folk origin

Dictionary B

For a very, very–and dare I say, very–brief time, I ran the sound and light system for a blues club.

I was offered the opportunity because one of my sons was the chief engineer, and he needed a couple of nights off, so he generously afforded me the doorway to pick up a few extra bucks.

I had two nights of training, and even though I have a nearly passable understanding of electronic equipment, it was immediately obvious to me that I was out of my league. Not only was I an anachronism to the atmosphere of the institution, but the inadequacies of my working knowledge of the sound and the lights soon became apparent to everyone.

Also, listening to blues music two nights a week for four hours certainly does not leave you “in the pink.”

Blues music is a constant lament that “life is not fair” and “women need to find their place” and realize that men are superior. It is also self-indulgent in the use of the instrumental solo, trying to simulate anything from tooth extraction to orgasm.

After a while, the mingling of my disdain for the repertoire and my ineptness behind the board made it necessary for the head of the band to reluctantly approach my son and ask him to courteously and gently fire me as quickly as possible.

Although my fine offspring tried to be consoling, I was so relieved by being relieved that I’m afraid I showed my relief.

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Annotate

dictionary with letter A

Annotate: (v) to add notes of explanation to a text or diagram

It is my contention that education is knowledge followed by experience. It can even be experience that gradually garners knowledge.

But the idea that the more information imparted to us, with a variety of opinions, insights, notes, complete with bibliography, will make us smarter, is a bit erroneous.

I’m not so sure we learn until we take something that we kind of basically understand–and then try it ourselves.

Does anyone really become an engineer when they graduate from college, or does that actually occur some Thursday morning three years later, while working on the job?

I think this is particularly annoying in the fields of business and religion. So many books, commentaries, opinions and guides for the novice are penned in these categories, with the aspiration that an insight from someone other than ourselves will give us an edge.

Of course, we need to know what we’re talking about, and have a basic understanding of what we’re doing. But candidly, it is in the handling of circumstance and difficulty that we discover the true wisdom of each and every endeavor.

I grow weary of a culture that creates a learning class, which receives more finance than a working class that actually pulls the load. And not only finance–but status.

Case in point:

  • I studied music. It didn’t make me a musician. Somewhere in my third set, playing keyboard in a dive, discovering a new bridge chord, I gained the confidence to have the music in me.
  • I studied the Bible. It didn’t make me a Christian. It was a series of encounters, where I chose to think for myself and selected to bless instead of curse, when the mind of Christ actually inhabited my cranium.
  • I even studied sex in an attempt to become a better lover, but it was on the 121st attempt to please my partner through sensitivity that I actually had the words “Don Juan” whispered in my ear.

Notes are good. Testimonies are interesting.

But none of us are saved by someone else’s experience. The salvation of our lives … is the word of our own testimony.

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