Czechoslovakia (Prop Noun): a former republic in central Europe formed after World War I

It was usually right before lunch in our fifth-grade class that the teacher asked us to open up our geography books.

I grew up in a small town.

In our tiny burg, the state capital, which was only twenty miles away, seemed a world apart from us in culture, problems and of course, interaction.

So when my teacher talked about places like Mississippi, Switzerland, Utah and Czechoslovakia, the names began to mingle. The relevance gradually disappeared.

I didn’t know anything about the countries.

Sometimes I confused the states of the Union with places far, far away—in Europe and Asia.

(It was a different time, filled with much prejudice—so we rarely talked about Africa. I knew there were jungles there. There were whisperings about cannibals, and my understanding of the lion was that it was man-eating.)

I didn’t feel ignorant.

I just didn’t think all of these nations and names and locales were of any value to me.

I didn’t see anybody from England coming over to try to understand me—so why was I sitting, opening a book, looking at flat maps representing a round world?

Then I grew up and took my first trip to Mississippi. Although some of its landscape was different from my home, most trees carry a family resemblance, no matter where you go. What opened up Mississippi to me was meeting someone and putting a face to a place.

As I traveled more, learned more, wrote more and created, I met more faces. They were tied to places.

One day I received an email from a young man from Czechoslovakia. He had read one of my books. I was astounded. How did it get there? Apparently, my books were not nearly as timid as I. They felt free to journey and be handled; they welcomed the inspection by people from all cultures.

By the way, his note to me was so nice.

He was so intelligent.

He was so appreciative.

It made me like Czechoslovakia.

It could be a short-sighted way of looking at life, but if I can put a face to a place, then the place begins to mean so much more to me.

For instance, I no longer think that Africa is filled with cannibals or that the lions wish to munch on human flesh.

I don’t think all people from California are “fruits and nuts,” like my Uncle Raymond claimed.

And I no longer believe that all French folk wear berets and do nothing but eat croissants and kiss with their tongues.

I guess the best way to learn geography is to first travel the width and breadth of your own heart, and make sure that you’re prepared to receive what you will discover.

The world is only twenty-six thousand miles—all the way around. Not very much. And within that twenty-six thousand miles are nearly eight billion people.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful for us all to believe that we would really like most of them?


funny wisdom on words that begin with a C


Coast: (n) the part of the land near the sea; the edge of the land.

It was a Thursday afternoon. (Actually it probably wasn’t a Thursday afternoon, but I needed someplace to start this essay.)

I was twenty years old, had a music group and was gradually starving my way to success. The definition of that process, by the way, is that there may be visible signs of progress in your career, but you’re also about ready to be evicted.

I had spent all of my youth and the beginnings of my adult life living in the midwest and visiting the mid-south. I had no complaints about the region–just felt deprived of the opportunity to go to the coast and see the ocean. Any coast would have been fine, although I did not favor Northern Canada and the Arctic Ocean.

No opportunity came my way to go and view the glorious blue. So finally I just decided to make an opportunity. I scheduled a little coffee-house gig for us in Sarasota, Florida. Matter of fact, I ended up being able to procure three such opportunities on our way down there. This trifecta of bookings was certainly not going to be enough to cover expenses. I didn’t care. I was going to the coast to see the ocean.

Our vehicle was in terrible shape, so on the way there we broke down–once mechanically and twice from bald tires, which finally exhaled all air.

Yet we finally arrived in Sarasota. Breathlessly, with my hand shaking on the steering wheel, I headed off to see the beauty of the ocean, the waves crashing onto the shore.

It was mind-altering, as all new experiences should be. I just sat there with the members of my group, and we stared at it for two hours. I was so excited that I went to a nearby cafe to order some lunch, which considering our budget, consisted of sharing a muffin, a hot dog and a cup of coffee among three people.

All of us were bubbling over with enthusiasm, as we shared with our waitress that we had come all the way from Ohio to Sarasota to see the ocean. Each one of us had a brief testimonial of how much the experience had impacted our life.

The waitress stood and listened patiently, and when we finally fell silent, having completed all of our praise, she quietly deadpanned, “That’s not the ocean. That’s the Gulf of Mexico.”

She walked away, confident of her geography.

I looked at my two comrades. They were just as distressed as I.

Staring out in the distance at the waves, it suddenly seemed meaningless.

Me wept.

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Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Addendum: (n.) an item of additional material, typically omissions, added at the end of a book or other publication.

At the risk of offending those who worship religion instead of finding a gospel that loves people, let me say that I find it difficult to believe that a book that had its last chapter written nearly two thousand years ago and was compiled fifteen hundred years ago is not in need of so me addendums.

After all, we do it with everything else.

Yes, we call it the Bible and just to make sure nobody messes with it, we add the adjective “Holy” to its title.

But there are things within the confines of that book, or series of books, that tell us that the discovery of God and humanity is meant to continue through the workings of the Holy Spirit. There are strong indications that there should be further insights and perhaps additions as mankind progresses, constantly putting the whole concept of Christianity to a test drive.

Without this, we have the conviction that the Model T Ford is the culmination of all automobiles. We would never have gotten the Corvette Stingray.

Should the world be viewed in the light of the Biblical prose? Or should the Biblical prose be discerned in the light of discoveries made in our world?

Now there’s a great question.

  • For instance, since we found out that the earth is round, is it all right for us to go into the Holy Scriptures and find references to “the circle of the earth” and applaud those notations, setting aside any verse that’s “flat-headed?”
  • Since now we know more about shrimp, is it now all right for us to eat them?
  • Since we’ve abolished slavery, might we put in an addendum that all previous references to it in the Holy Book were erroneous “tippings of the turban” to the powers that were?

After all, the Apostle Paul said that only three things would ultimately abide: faith, hope and love.

So anything that increases our faith in one another and God, makes us more hopeful, and generates love is certainly worthy to be touted from one generation to another. Yet anything that poses that the Amorites needed to be slain by the Israelis, or that all men require circumcision in order to “trim up for heaven” might benefit from an addendum.

My feeling is that great ideas are not afraid of revision when that interpretation brings forth an even more stupendous transformation.

I believe the Bible because I believe in faith, hope and love. But I’m not afraid to allow science, wisdom, technology, archeology, geography, and just my own experience to enhance the pages … with greater and greater magnification.