Crescendo

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Crescendo: (n) a gradual, steady increase in loudness or force.

I do realize there’s a danger in over-analyzing things. It can become tedious, if not obnoxious. Yet I will tell you—life becomes much simpler when you first realize it’s supposed to be simple, and then you start looking for the parallels that dwell behind every experience and lurk beneath each rock.

Over the years I have played my share of music.

Some people have even accused me of being a musician.

I’ve written songs and I’ve composed about eight symphonies (though Mozart and Beethoven shouldn’t be worried about their day jobs.)

Music has taught me a lot.

That’s not a very profound statement, but once again—simple.

Music knows what the key is meant to be in every situation.

It finds a melody, so some sensibility can be mustered for the hearer.

It certainly acknowledges the need for harmony.

And it has a great desire to strike a chord of commonality among us.

But never does music teach us anything more than it does with the crescendo.

Some people live their lives full out, loud, always punctuating their crescendo to the maximum. Then when they need to say something essential or shout out a truth, no one listens because they are always blaring and trumpeting their feelings.

The wisdom of music is to start your piece quietly and build.

Let’s be honest—if the audience doesn’t want to hear the song or doesn’t prefer the tunefulness of it, playing it more loudly does not achieve much of anything. But if you can acquaint all those around you with a theme they really embrace, by the time you get to the finale, you can generate a crescendo that triumphs the message and the music to the climax.

I used to be of a mindset that the louder I said something, the more emphatic and powerful it became. But I just ended up in a room with a bunch of fellow bellowers, shouting over the top of one another.

I shall never forget the night I was playing a concert, and the band that was on right before our troupe closed out with a screaming anthem, leaving the audience leaping to its feet, applauding wildly.

I realized there was no way to top that, so I looked for a bottom. I took the stage with just my guitarist and sang our sweetest, most childlike ballad. By the time I finished, the attention was mine. If I had desired, I could have manufactured my own crescendo. There was no hurry. It wasn’t a competition.

Turn down the noise.

First in your own mind—your own twitter—and then patiently let it all tone down around you.

Take a deep breath, pick your moment, make sure it’s timely…

CRESCENDO.

 


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Covet

Covet: (v) to desire wrongfully, inordinately, or without due regard for the rights of others

I don’t think I would ever earn a dollar if I didn’t covet money.

I certainly would never go on a diet if I didn’t covet the physique of someone boldly handsome.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I would never practice my music if I didn’t covet the style, grace and ease of those who have mastered instrument and voice.

I don’t know whether I would be interested in my spiritual life if I didn’t covet something beyond the mundane drivel of thoughts my brain often considers to be adequately enlightening.

I don’t think I would mow my grass if my neighbor didn’t make me covet a manicured lawn.

I’m not so sure I would do much of anything in my life if I didn’t covet a more gleaming path.

We must remember that the removal of evil is certainly a high-minded—and high-handed—pursuit. Because if you take away the lust, the coveting, the curiosity and the yearning of the human being, you might end up with a self-righteous, religious fanatic who is completely intolerant about why anyone would covet anything, since life is so sinful and unfulfilling.

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Country and Western

Country and western: (n) another name for country music

When I was a pukey little kid filled with pimples and promise, we called it hillbilly music. It was another thing we were permitted to “be better than” in an environment where our white skin gave us free pass to nearly every privilege.

It was particularly humorous because I lived in a state of the Union in which the hillbillies who made that music were not more than a “state of mind away.”

I grew up with gospel music, which was hillbilly music sung on Sunday, including a Wurlitzer organ. I didn’t care. It was the gospel.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

And the gospel, to me at that point, meant four-part singin’, clappin’ and words about my unworthiness but soon inexplicable admission to heavenly bliss.

After I escaped the educational system (when we both breathed a sigh of relief) I ended up in Nashville, Tennessee, surrounded by people who were not hillbillies, but just favored a twinge of “twang to their “thang.”

My opinion soon changed because they liked the music I was writing and offered me opportunities to record it, and even some open doors to perform it.

I never became a huge follower of country and western music, and to this day only enjoy it in small doses.

But the same could be said of Pepto-Bismol. Every once in a while, you need a little to calm your innards.


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Correctional Facility

Correctional facility: (n) a prison, especially for long-term confinement.

I think it’s safe to say that a plurality, if not a majority, of people think about prisons just about as much as they do the city dump or changing the batteries in their smoke detectors.

It’s not that we’re uncaring. It’s just that sometimes we are at such a loss as to know what to do that rather than taunting ourselves with the frustration of considering something, we pretend it vanished into thin air. (Kind of like when you pick your nose and pull one of those crusty funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
things out and rub it between your fingers until there’s no further evidence…)

Early on in my career in music and the arts, our musical group was invited to come and perform at the State Prison. I was traveling with two girls, and most folks thought it was a very bad idea for us to go to such a dangerous and potentially violent arena.

But if you think about it, as long as you’re not sleeping in, a prison is one of the safest places on earth. Everyone is restrained, threatened and guarded. (Perhaps we should consider this profile for Washington, D. C.  I digress.)

We did not take the gig because we wanted to bring hope or good cheer to the prisoners. No—it was because we were just starting out, and anyone who wanted us to play was our next best opportunity. (After all, you get tired of performing at nursing homes or church pot luck dinners.)

We arrived at the prison and discovered that the entire population was not invited to the concert. Matter of fact, only 150 inmates would be present—these being members of a Bible study held twice a week in the rec hall.

Well, I was young and impetuous, so I objected. I said that if I’d wanted to come and play my music for a bunch of Christians, I could have gone down to the Baptist Church, which “may or may not have just as many felons.”

Both the warden and chaplain were patient with me. They realized that I was immature and did not understand that I was carrying along with me two delicious “human treats,” which these men had not partaken of in some time.

They explained that even though they could protect the girls in our group from attack, they certainly could not shelter them from the trauma of being accosted with foul language.

I grumbled.

Well, we did our first show in front of the Bible Club, and it went so well that the warden asked me if we would do another show in front of about 200 of the inmates who were presently on “good behavior status.”

I immediately agreed.

Boy—did I learn a lesson. If those 200 prisoners were the “good behavior boys,” I shudder to think what would have happened if they had released the lions on us young Christians.

It was loud, overbearing, and it was difficult to get the inmates quiet enough to listen to the music—and only when the beat reached a certain level of intensity did they clap their hands and participate in the event.

Afterwards I felt humbled. I told the warden and the chaplain that I was sorry for being such a jerk.

They corrected me. The warden said, “Don’t you ever give up on the idea of trying to help someone—especially if it looks hopeless.”

I nearly cried.

Even though there’s a reason they call them correctional facilities—because most of the time, correction is the name of the game instead of rehabilitation—it is not our right to ever give up on those that God decided to create in His image.


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Cornhusker

Cornhusker: (n) a Nebraskan

It would be much easier to claim that you’re a cow if you’re able to chew your cud and moo. Producing milk would also be a positive.

When I graduated from high school and opted not to go to college because my wife and I were pregnant with possibilities, I realized that I did funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
not want to be the kind of guy who didn’t go to college and worked at the kind of job this kind of guy is forced to take.

I liked music. I thought I had some talent.

No one ever actually sat down with me and made suggestions on how to use my ability or guided me in a direction of turning my existing efforts into some sort of cash flow.

I was told that I was not allowed to do anything but get a job and take care of my family.

I didn’t want to do that.

Now, I’m not asking you to side with me on this issue, nor am I desiring your cultural rebuke. I’m just explaining that if I were claiming to be a singer and a musician, I needed to go “music” somewhere.

So discovering in a very obscure newspaper a notice that there was a coffeehouse opening up in Kearney, Nebraska, I contacted the fellow beginning it on the phone, told him about my little group, and said that we would love to come and share at his new venue. He was thrilled (since we were from Ohio and he was all the way in Nebraska.)

It didn’t even cross my mind to look at a map. Before I knew it, the gentleman invited us to come and sing at the coffeehouse with the promise that he would “help out with gas.”

At that point in my life I had a van which creaked and squeaked just driving around town, threatening to break down at a moment’s notice. I didn’t care. Nor did my three other comrades.

We set out for Kearney, Nebraska. Matter of fact, when I began this essay today, I had to look up how far it was from Columbus, Ohio, to Kearney, Nebraska. I am so glad I didn’t have the Internet back then, because the distance one way is 968.4 miles.

We packed in some soft drinks, made some sandwiches, gathered as much money as we could borrow and pull out of couch cushions, and took off. We joked about “touring to the Cornhusker State,” never realizing that it would be many, many hours—twelve to be exact—before we would be anywhere near those who were traditionally proclaimed “huskers of corn.”

I’m happy to report that we actually made it there.

As is often the case, the opportunity was even smaller than I could have imagined. But the fourteen people who showed up said they were really impressed with our songs and happy we had made the trip. They gave us thirty dollars for our gasoline, a bushel of sweet corn and a peck of apples.

It was my first payday.

The round trip, as you can imagine, ended up being nearly two thousand miles.

But I was young, looking for an adventure, and especially trying to find a way to escape—for one week—from hearing all the town cronies telling me what a deadbeat I was.


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Copernicus

Copernicus: (n) Polish astronomer

I wonder what people would say about Ludwig von Beethoven if he’d never written music.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Absent being able to consider his art, any relatives who passed along an impression of him would be offering trivial details:

“He belched a lot—he always had a problem with gas.”

“I think he heard better than he pretended.”

“He had a bad temper.”

“He disrespected women.”

“He was kind of crazy.”

“But overall, a nice guy.”

You see, if you don’t create an entity separate from your everyday life that can be set apart as evidence that you thought about something other than yourself, then the memories of you end up being whether those who knew you were inconvenienced by your personality.

Beethoven wrote symphonies—so people don’t talk much about how grumpy he was.

Abraham Lincoln helped free the slaves, so if he ended up being a little bit gay, who in the hell cares?

John Kennedy helped us come through the Cuban Missile Crisis, preventing World War III. We will allow him a couple of boinks with Marilyn Monroe.

Copernicus pissed people off because he told them that if you looked through a telescope, you would discover that the Earth and planets in our solar system actually revolve around the sun, instead of everything circling the Earth.

It made people angry.

Was it because they wanted the Earth to be important?

Was it because they hated the sun?

Or were they aggravated because they couldn’t afford a telescope?

We may never know—but Copernicus was right. And even though he may have made an amazing goulash, we will never know—because he will forever be known as one of the first dudes to tell us the truth about our little Universe.


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Clergyman

Clergyman: (n) a male priest, minister, or religious leader, especially a Christian one

All the mistakes I’ve made in my life were caused by me thinking that what I had to offer was not enough.

Whenever I calmed down and realized that the stash in my duffel bag was the total subsistence of my life and journey, I was fine.

But when I allowed myself to be intimidated by forces around me which deemed my offering to be meager because it lacked some
certification, I always ended up either a fool or a liar.

I wanted to help people.

I wanted to use my art to do so.

I wanted to share a message that had humor, hope and heft.

But I also once was very young, and contended that I needed some title to punctuate my adequacy.

Since I did not go to college, I wasn’t allowed to be called “a Reverend.” Therefore I could not be a clergyman.

I don’t know why I wanted to pursue such a position–I guess I just wanted folks to be impressed when they heard the full extent of my resume spoken in a word: “minister.”

So I lied. I manufactured higher learning. And eventually I just called myself a “Reverend” even though I didn’t have any pedigree to bark out spirituality.

It took me many years to escape the foolishness of my insecurity. As soon as I did, I realized that being a clergyman was actually to my disadvantage, because my music, writing, dramatic pursuits and screenplays were much more effective tools for reaching my brothers and sisters than climbing into a pulpit and emoting.

I often think, what is it I’m doing today that’s equally as stupid as my pursuit of being a false cleric?

I don’t know. But I keep looking.

Because if I catch it early, maybe I can avoid some of the embarrassment that occurs when people finally find out the truth.

And…

They always do.

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