Declare

Declare: (v) to make known or state clearly

Rolling up to the border crossing in Detroit, between Canada and the United States, the agent behind the glass window said:

“Anything to declare?”

I didn’t know what he meant.

I was twenty-one years old, driving a beat-up brown van, with long hair laying on my shoulders. I felt completely normal. I think he feared I was less-than-average.

I said, “What do you mean?”

The simple asking of that question caused him to leave his booth, come out and demand that I open the rear end of my van.

I did.

I innocently thought, “What’s the big deal?”

But what he saw, as a Canadian official, were two young girls, resting in sleeping bags, some electronic equipment, and brown boxes. He was suspicious.

I think he thought I was hauling the trifecta: kidnapping women, stealing stereos, and shipping drugs.

We were required to open everything.

When it was discovered there was nothing of interest, he found a reason to object. You see, in the boxes were the record albums we sold at our gigs. I was ignorant of the fact that Canada wanted to put a surcharge on any record album coming across their border, that was going to be sold at a live concert.

Worse was the fact that the surcharge for each album was $2.85.

Not only did we not have the money for the surcharge, but none of us had seen that sum of money for a long time.

I begged.

I gave my full lineage and testimony.

I even tried to declare things he didn’t ask me to declare.

He was not interested.

We were rejected at the Canadian border.

Yet we were supposed to do a Canadian tour.

Leaving that station, we stopped at a coffee shop about two miles down the road, still itchy and bitchy from our encounter. Our waiter explained that the Detroit crossing was very difficult—asking you to declare every little thing. But if we drove up the road about eighty miles, there was a crossing that was much easier.

I thanked him.

We got in the van and decided to take the chance that our food-getter knew what he was talking about.

Arriving at the gate, we pulled up slowly. There was nobody around. It was just a little building—big enough to hold ten toy soldiers.

When we stopped the van, though, a man came running up from a nearby grove of trees with his dog in tow.

“Ay!” he said. “Sorry I wasn’t at my post. Had to go take a piss.”

He looked at me. I looked at him.

I was waiting for him to ask me to declare.

He didn’t.

I got out, petted his dog, told him I was a musician—and he said he was a budding songwriter himself.

He patted me on the shoulder, I got back in the van, he waved his hand, and said, “Go on through—hope you enjoy us.”

Now, I have two thoughts about this story:

Sometimes a music group is just a music group and you should leave them the hell alone.

But sometimes people in vans in the middle of the night need to do more than just pet your dog.

 

Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama: (n) formerly the ruler and chief monk of Tibet

Religion reminds me of taking a machine gun to battle house flies, the premise being that the more bullets you have to destroy the varmints, the greater your chance for success.

The problem?

Unfortunately, you destroy everything in sight with your machine gun, just to dispel some annoying fly-bys.

As a human being, I am fully aware what qualities I appreciate in other human beings—and what I do not.

For instance:

I don’t like to be cussed out.

I don’t want to grovel for attention.

I like to be able to speak my opinion and have it heard, if not honored.

I can survive a bit of grumpiness as long as it’s followed by a season of smiles.

I like to be right.

I like to feel healthy.

I like someone to notice when I’ve done good work.

And I like people to forgive me when I’ve stunk up the joint.

What I’ve just shared with you is a summary of the true value found in religion. Everything else is legalism, prejudice, ritual, outlandish oversight, and rules and regulation—frequently about issues that have not been pertinent since the fifteenth century.

They say there is a man in Tibet called the Dalai Lama who is full of wisdom.

I don’t doubt that.

If you climb into my van, I’ll drive you down the street to the nursing home, where we will walk through holy ground and meet many such men and women.

These are the traveling souls who have worn human skin and discovered much foolishness and settled on simple things, like a small squirt of whipped cream on top of their tapioca pudding.

The Dalai Lama may be just fine.

I don’t disfavor him because he is not of my faith.

But I do not believe that his mere lineage from some dude grants him the license for a holy genetic order.

I think we should listen to the Dalai Lama just as intensely and feverishly as we do the Dolly Parton.

Cousin

Cousin: (n) a child of one’s uncle or aunt.

Family setups and things like lineage always confuse the hell out of me.

After mother, father, sister and brother, it all gets a little blurry.

It begins with aunts and uncles. And then, when we start talking about “aunt on your mother’s side” or “uncle on your father’s side,” honest to God, I need to take out paper and pencil and draw a map.

Or should it be a graph? Because then, the children of those aunts and uncles become my cousins.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

So in a weird way, I am kind of related to them, which makes it very strange that when I was a child, over summer vacation, we often played doctor.

That means I was touching family members—experimenting and discovering my sexuality—with people who would be my brothers and sisters if they weren’t separated by one other person.

I’m not even going to talk about second cousins. I honestly don’t even know what that is. I never admit I don’t know, because there is always someone ready to explain it, and then I must pretend to comprehend so as to get him or her to shut up.

I must stop and think about these family arrangements because they don’t come naturally to me.

Maybe they’re not supposed to.

Perhaps the hippie philosophy is the best one for us as human beings. You know—where we’re all brothers and sisters.

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Begat

Dictionary B

Begat: (v) past-tense of beget: to procreate or generate

A genealogy.

A lineage.

One day, in a fit of boredom, I opened up the Gospel of Matthew in the Good Book and began to read the names of men who lived their lives only to be given a footnote in history in reference to a child they procreated.

I was overcome with a deep sense of meaninglessness.

There has to be more to life than spawning.

I certainly love my sons, but I don’t want to be known merely as the father of offspring instead of the instigator of springing off a new idea.

Is that wrong?

Should I be more focused on the by-product of my genitalia? It annoys me because it seems to have a cave-man quality of “obsession with possession.”

And especially when I realized, upon finishing up with that lineage of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew, that the whole process was interrupted by a supernal notion from a heavenly Father–to insert a woman as the mother of Jesus and the matron of salvation.

Fascinating.

Maybe it was necessary for God to establish the lineage to emphasize its futility.

Similar to playing 24 games of tic-tac-toe before you realize that no one ever wins.

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Ancestor

dictionary with letter A

Ancestor: (n) — a person, typically one more remote than a grandparent, from whom one is descended.

I certainly am glad that all my ancestors decided to have sex, so they would set in motion the possibility of my existence.

After all, it’s pretty miraculous. After working twelve-hour days in the fields, planting, cultivating and harvesting, they were exhausted after sunset, and must have had pretty good libidos to have worked up the energy to culminate the day with hanky-panky.

So for that I am grateful.

I know there are people who are very sentimental about their lineage and pay good money to acquire information on their family tree. But honestly, if I had known my ancestors, I would be very disappointed because they probably wouldn’t like me.

  • Their work ethic was stronger than mine–mainly because they had to survive. And I talk about words like “success.”
  • They died much younger than me from exhaustion and lack of healthy choices and medical care. During that shortened life span, they probably suffered more pain due to overexertion.
  • They had bigotries and prejudices which I would have found annoying or ignorant, which they might have misinterpreted as rude behavior.
  • Their spirituality was peppered with superstition instead of salted with knowledge and faith.
  • They controlled their lives through morality, which was regionally defined, and also locally monitored and enforced.
  • They weren’t in favor of new-fangled gadgets, often resisting them until such discoveries were forced on them by city councils or national laws.
  • My ancestors revered ignorance as a badge of honor and the symbol of their faithfulness to a God they truly did not understand.

There was much good about them. Their hard-headed, strong-willed and determined natures made it possible for them to survive the wilderness, which I now call a freeway.

But the disregard for the progress of history and the rights of people would have rendered me a radical and a renegade in their midst.

I believe it’s possible to be grateful and at the same time, fully aware that I was born in the right time and the right place to do the right thing–so that my descendants will not have to look back and giggle too much … at my stupidity. 

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Amerasian

dictionary with letter A

Amerasian: (n) a person having one American and one Asian parent

It’s time for a moratorium. At least, I’m declaring one.

I refuse to indulge anymore in the constant creation of new names to segregate people off into smaller and smaller clumps based upon minute cultural differences, separating us from a greater understanding of one another.

I am especially averse to this word, “Amerasian.”

I have a beautiful grandson named Wyeth, whose mother is from China and whose father is from Louisiana. I suppose that would make him Amerasian if I was so dumbfounded by the culture that I participated in such nonsense.

  • There are no African-Americans because none of them could actually live in Africa.
  • I am not a German-American because seven generations ago my family came over on a ship to get away from that country.
  • There are no gay-Americans.
  • There are no female-Americans.

We’re just human beings, and the more we try to promote our culture, maintaining the traditions passed down from a lineage we don’t even understand anymore, the more we will confound our own personal journey with the clutter of clatter.

I even laugh at my own children, who worry that little Wyeth won’t get enough of China–or Louisiana–to enrich the mix of his life.

Let me give you a clue: Wyeth is a person, so as long as he has purpose, food, clothing and love, he’s not going to give a crap about whether it comes from China or Louisiana.

Can we get over the childishness of “cultural integrity?”

I want to possess a philosophy that would allow me to live anywhere with anyone at any time. If I don’t have that in my possession, I will fine-tune my thinking until I acquire it.

Wyeth is not Amerasian. He is my grandson. And by the grace of God, if he continues to grow and use his talents, someday he’ll be a blessing to the whole earth.

 

Adam

Words from Dic(tionary)

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Adam: (in the Bible) the first man. According to the Book of Genesis, Adam was created by God as the progenitor of the human race, and lived with Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Ape or dust? Darwin or Genesis?

This appears to be our choice.

Would I prefer to incorporate into my thinking that I am a highly evolved primate, who sometime back in my distant history became the offspring of a smart monkey, who decided to walk out from among the trees and mate with another smart monkey, who eventually, over generations, created smarter and smarter monkeys?

Or would I rather believe in fairy dust, formed by the hands of a Spirit which rules the universe, to create the flesh and blood of a human being, completely intact, needing no evolution, and arriving on the scene adult, intelligent and whole?

Wow.

So here’s what I came up with: I have decided to look at the progress of the human race instead of studying its lineage. This is what I see–we are better off believing, pursuing and walking in a philosophy that tells us we came from a garden instead of a jungle.

If we follow the contentions of our dear brother, Darwin, we will justify our irrational, selfish and even destructive behavior–which wants to kill to eat.

If we hold sacred the notion of God being “breathed” into human beings, we will need to follow through on that idea by understanding that we are a people geared to planting and harvesting.

You would have to agree–there IS a massive difference.

Perhaps in a more jaded frame of mind, I would point to historical facts which might make us temporarily believe that we are more similar to our ancestors who hunted down game for survival without mercy. But there are too many examples of times when the human spirit has triumphed and snatched defeat out of the jaws of insanity for us to ignore the creative spark of generosity and holiness that seems inbred.

I think it’s really that simple. The success you will have in your life, your relationships, your family, your business and in all of your interactions with the creatures on the planet we share will be determined by whether you roam this earth as a jungle or till it as a garden.

Do I believe the entire Genesis account? I believe that we are better as gardeners than we are as high-minded, angry monkeys.

And I think somewhere along the line, whether either account is completely true or false, or a blending of one another, when it comes to pushing forward the ideals of humanity, we would do better to present ourselves as Old McDonald instead of King Kong.