# Dandelion

Dandelion: (n) a weedy plant, having golden-yellow flowers

### It’s a very simple test—you can do it with anybody.

If you’re curious about the bent of someone’s character or the passion that drives them, just simply bring up dandelions.

You don’t have to offer your opinion—matter of fact, it’s better if you withhold.

You can say something like:

### “Well, look over there. I think we’re entering dandelion season.”

Then let them go.

I’ve yet to meet a person who doesn’t have a strong opinion on dandelions.

I’m sure you are aware of the diversity of ideas that might “crop up” with this little crop.

Some folks were taught that dandelions were nature’s little flowers. As children, they picked them or brought them to Mother, or decorated their room or pressed them into books.

For other folks, the dandelion is a weed which takes away from the beauty of the green grass they have fastidiously planted, making sure their lawn looks like a glorious carpet.

Every once in a while, you run across somebody who lands in the middle. These are the people who don’t prefer dandelions, but sure think they’re lovely.

I did run across one fellow who was very philosophical. He explained that the dandelion is on Earth as a foretelling of the human experience: It arrives, sprouts its best bloom, it is treasured by some and condemned by others. But in the end, it dies, loses all its beauty and is blown away by the wind.

# Conjecture

Conjecture: (n) an opinion or conclusion formed on the basis of incomplete information

The young man disagreed with me.

I gave a college concert years ago, opening it up to a Q & A with the audience afterwards. One of the male students asked me, “Since you’re a
Christian, when did ‘turn the other cheek’ actually ever work?”

I think he expected some sort of conjecture on my part–about the value of pursuing lost causes, even though it might not seem that they possessed immediate merit.

Maybe he just wanted to justify his passion for revenge–or his girlfriend, sitting next to him, might be greatly impressed by him challenging the guest artist.

Wanting to make sure the audience understood his question, I asked him to repeat it. He rolled his eyes to communicate that I was apparently old and deaf, and posed the question again.

“What I asked you,” he said, “was, when did ‘turn the other cheek’ ever work in history?”

“I see,” I responded. “So let me ask you a question. When did gouging out eyes, pulling teeth and counterpunching ever exactly work in history?”

He stood tall and patriotic and replied, “Well, at least we went to war and beat the shit out of them.”

A small piddling of applause.

“Well,” I objected, “apparently we left some shit in them–because they’re back again. You see, my friend, turning the other cheek is not an attempt to bring flowers to a gun fight, but rather, to buy some time to see what can be done to change the fight from guns to conversation. And that, historically, has proven, over and over again, to be effective.”

Feeling the need to be justified, he spat, “Well, that’s just your opinion.”

“That it is,” I replied. “Actually, it’s my conjecture–a conviction I hold because pursuing anything else leaves blood all over my hands.”

(click the elephant to see what he’s reading!)

# Clinic

Clinic: (n) a hospital department where outpatients are given medical treatment

Old Marion Webster always tends to leave out a detail or two in presenting definitions.

Clinics are not only places where people go to get medical assistance, but often find themselves frequenting due to poverty.

I’ve been to a clinic. It wasn’t because I doing research for one of my essays. No–I was busted.

Broke. Without bucks. Dollarless.

I found the experience to be humiliating–not because I thought I was better than all the other clientele. It was humiliating by design.

All the furniture was old, scarred, some pieces broken. The magazines were dated at least four years earlier, and had articles which had already proven to be incorrect. The candy machine was empty except for peanuts and Cheese-it crackers. The Coke machine was out of order and the coffee maker had a crack in it, so they could only make one cup at a time.

The nurses were volunteers who attempted to be cheery, but still conveyed a sense of yearning to get over their stint quickly and return to their normal lives.

The people around me were sick–some very sick. It made them look and act dreary.

I sat there and thought to myself, how easy it would be for people of substance and finance to just donate new magazines.

How about that church down the road which recently bought new furniture for their parlor–giving that old plush couch and chairs to this clinic so people would feel just a bit more comfortable as they sat for hours, waiting for a three-minute visit?

Would it kill the vendors to make sure that the candy machine was adequately stocked, and price it just a bit more reasonably for those who have to search longer for quarters?

How about giving them a new coffee pot, or taking up a donation to make the Cokes reappear?

I wasn’t angry over the indifference–just perplexed by the ignorance.

Now that prosperity has crept my way, I have a little extra money every once in a while that might seem like a gold mine for a clinic.

Maybe just buying flowers for the attendants to wear every day. Or if you worry that the patients might be allergic, purchase more colorful scrubs.

For some reason or another, rich people do not feel it’s enough to insult the less fortunate with mere poverty. They want to make sure the experience leaves a bitter taste in their mouths.

# Busy

Busy: (adj) having a great deal to do.

“Busy as a bee.”

Are bees really busy? We attribute this to them because they fly, buzz and appear to be accomplished.

But if you think about the normal day of a bee, it’s more the life of a hippie at a commune.

They fly off, check out the flowers, and while there, they pick up some nectar–and then they fly back to their hive, buzzing and maybe taking the long way home.

They contribute their nectar to the general well-being–the ongoing project, the commune’s goal. They spend a little while enjoying their time with the other drones, dreaming of a day when they might have their moment with the queen.

And then they’re off again, at a respectable, but not break-neck pace, to enjoy more flowers, bring back more nectar and come into the hive with that age-old joke that most bees hate: what’s the buzz?

After this procedure is repeated a number of times at an enjoyable clip, the bee can proudly step back and say, “I made honey. I made the world a sweeter place. I have taken something that was in the flowers and created a substance that transfers that glorious juice into the tastebuds of human beings.”

Most of the people I see who say they’re busy are just frantic.

They don’t visit the flowers.

They don’t take the long way home.

And they sure as hell don’t make honey.

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

# Becoming

Becoming: (n) the process of coming to be something

She was pretty sure of herself. Matter of fact, she stated it as a fact: “Young people get more conservative as they get older.”

I guess this can be stacked up with other definitive phrases like, women belong in the kitchen, Asians can’t drive and baked beans create farts.

We certainly do love our categories.

But if I were to stop and think about it for a moment, I would have to contend that the true power of longevity and surviving near-disaster is to come out of the experience more compliant, less sure of oneself and granting grace to others.

My life has not made me more conservative or more liberal. But it has taught me to be more merciful.

I have only one function left to me in breathing air, moving about and meeting others: Becoming merciful.

It is the only becoming that truly makes me becoming to others.

Without it, I am a cranky plant, growing without flowers and sprouting ever-increasing, ugly leaves.

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

# Barrel

Barrel: (n) a cylindrical container bulging out in the middle, traditionally made of wooden staves

Imagine my surprise when I first discovered that monkeys didn’t actually come in barrels.

I don’t even know where that saying came from. I’m a little surprised that PETA has not lodged a formal objection to the whole concept.

It astounds me how certain words evoke images in my mind, often without rhyme or reason. When I hear the word “barrel” I think of the hard candies I used to eat, called Root Beer Barrels, which seemed to last four days in your mouth.

I also think about the rustic planters I put in my front yard for a season, which were called “half-barrels,” and held soil for showcasing pretty flowers.

But the “barrel of monkeys” thing keeps popping back to my brain and annoying my sensibility. Because if you think about it, a barrel of monkeys would be much more frustrating than fun.

Could it be that somewhere along the line someone actually had a whole barrel of monkeys, and they were desperately trying to get rid of them, so they put out an ad in the local circular, trying to get somebody to purchase the damn things so they wouldn’t have to deal with a bunch of wiggling and squiggling primates?

Yes, maybe that’s where all the erroneous ideas have come from–some hapless individual is desperately trying to get out from under a bad investment and comes up with an advertising spin to market a fiasco.

Maybe that’s why we still call it a “Presidential campaign.”

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

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# Arrange

Arrange: (v) organize or make plans for (a future event).

The first thing that pops to my mind when I see the word “arrange” (other than thinking it is how a seven-year-old boy from Alabama might pronounce “orange” upon first seeing it) is the idea of how many cultures arrange marriages.

Of course, as a good American, I join the huddled masses yearning to be free by rolling my eyes and insisting how unromantic and ridiculous this sounds. After all, just look at the success rate of the American culture in organizing marriages based on courting, long engagements and numerous therapy sessions.

Yet in countries where they arrange marriages, divorce is an anomaly.

Would we be smarter to arrange more things in our lives instead of leaving them to the whim of a destiny that actually only exists in the minds of our authors?

What is the power of an arranged marriage?

Well, first and foremost, you actually have a reason for being together other than lust. Somebody has arranged the details, deciding that the union has possibilities beyond merely extending a one-night stand into a six-month, uncomfortable relationship.

Secondly, during the time that you would be getting to know the other person after you were married, the excitement of touch, sound and smell would be within the bonds of matrimony instead of being taken for granted after dating too long.

And finally, I believe that marriage would be put in perspective. Rather than being this “holy union ordained by God,” to accentuate and define the meaning of the universe through the procreation of other human beings, it would become a beautifully negotiated deal between two individuals who know each other enough to challenge each other and love each other enough to survive the challenge.

Yet I certainly will persist in my Anglo-Saxon, American ideal of falling in love. But I will not rule out the power and beauty of having things arranged.

It certainly works for flowers. Otherwise, they clump together in one color … and never receive the benefit of becoming a bouquet.

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

# Aphorism

Aphorism: (n.) a short, witty remark containing a general truth.

The definition is filled with redundancies.

For I will tell you that after years of writing articles and even speaking in front of audiences, if something is not short, it will never be viewed as witty. And honestly, it is virtually impossible to be witty without revealing some sort of abiding truth.,

So what is missing today? In an age of Twitter and Tweets, when we’re trying to limit ourselves to 140 characters, we should be uncovering the secret to communication–and a great doorway for sharing abiding precepts.

But remembering that it is out of the abundance of human emotions that we speak, when we are devoid of emotional purity, entangled in webs of our own deceit and selfishness, what emerges from our speech and our writing is the drivel of nonsense, as we attempt to be clever, often ending up crude.

• Is it possible to be pointed without stabbing everyone with your jaded attitude?
• How about using comedy minus vulgarity?
• Can you challenge without becoming a critic?
• Can you question while leaving out all the brattiness?

You can awaken the senses without slapping the face. It takes a willingness to improve the human situation without trying to degrade humanity.

Will there be a cycle which will take us back to a time when “short,” “witty” and “truth” mingled with each other to hatch delight?

I certainly think so.

But I do believe we’ll have to learn how to tip-toe through the pasture, avoiding all the bullshit, to make sure we can get to where the flowers grow.

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

# Ambience

Ambience: (n) the character and atmosphere of a place

I guess some vibes are normal.

For instance, at a funeral home, there is usually organ music, the sickening smell of flowers and people whispering tearful regrets.

At a rock concert, there’s screaming, with people pumping their fists, patting each other on the back and yelling lyrics at a stage which is too far away to hear.

In Washington, D.C., ladies and gentlemen dress up in their parents’ clothes and follow the rules of a Parliament they fought an eight-year war to escape.

And in church … well, sometimes it’s a somber climate with worshipful silence, and in other places, it’s tambourines, drums and modern interpretations of songs written by shepherd boys on a lute.

How important is ambience?

If I walk into a restaurant and the waiters are wearing tuxedos, the food is not necessarily going to be better–just expensive.

I think the aura or overall feeling that best exemplifies our country, though, is a beach on a Saturday afternoon at about 2:30. It is the oddest collage of beauty, beast, coolers, umbrellas, tanning lotion, tossed balls, screaming children, strutting studs and prancing babes.

It is America:  we boldly worship the sun while knowing that it’s slowly killing us with skin cancer, convinced that we have every right to occupy the available space on the sand, which is the width and length of our blanket and also, completely and arrogantly confident that we are just as good as the next bathing suit nearby.

Ambience is a tricky thing.

It’s used to telegraph propriety in a world that no longer knows what a telegraph is.

It’s a bit old-fashioned, it’s a bit presumptuous, and it certainly is often misleading.

Yet each one of us does generate an individual glow around us, which is either inviting or repelling.

And determining what that beam of self turns out to be … will decide our happiness.