Decoder

Decode: (v) to translate data or a message from a code into the original language or form.

There actually was something called a “decoder ring.”

It was a little plastic ornament put into Cracker Jacks, for kids to place on a finger to make them believe they were decoding.

Candidly, I had no idea what “decoding” was.

But possessing the ring was still important.

As I become an adult (mainly confirmed by the number of my birthday parties), I realize that the whole Earth and everything around it and in it has a code. If you do not know how to decode it, you will begin to believe things at face value, or try to put faces on faceless values.

May I assist you with what I have garnered from having once owned a decoder ring?

Religion

When it comes to religion, if it doesn’t help people, make people better, make people think, make people feel or make people more generous, it is nothing but superstition or witchcraft.

Politics

In the realm of politics, if it doesn’t make people better, make them think, make them care for each other, improve their status and create equality, it is a really bad party, which will only make you drunk on your own ego.

Science

If you’re talking about science, there’s only one thing to remember: every living thing will do whatever is necessary to continue to be living. A second thing could be added: every mystery to continue living is hidden somewhere in the rocks.

Business

Customers are the little devils that make the business world work. Calling them little devils does not help. Treating them like little devils is even worse. Becoming a little devil to battle with them yourself could put you in jail.

And even though there are many subjects I could address, let me conclude with:

Romance

Romance ultimately is not about feelings, but instead, orgasms. To achieve orgasms, people have to cooperate with each other, which only makes the world a better place anyway.

I present this today just in case you did not get your decoder ring in your Cracker Jacks box.

If you did, I apologize for my presumption.

 

Convenient

Convenient: (adj) at hand; easily accessible:

Although in the annals of literary history, he is considered to be one of the greatest villains of all time, Ebenezer Scrooge has a classic response to Bob Cratchit when his worker asks if it’s convenient to take Christmas Day off. In all candor, Scrooge spits back, “No, it’s not convenient to pick a man’s pocket.”

I, for one, have tip-toed my way around friends and family for years when asked if something was convenient or not, fearing I would come funny wisdom on words that begin with a Cacross Scrooge-like if I voiced my real opinion.

So this morning I will tell you five things that are not convenient:

  1. It is never convenient to be lied to, even if an apology follows. Mistrust lingers.
  2. It is never convenient for someone else to make an appointment for you simply because he or she thought it was “in your best interest.”
  3. It is not convenient to assume that as a Grandpa, you will attend every event at the school pertaining to your grandchildren, just because “you better, or you suck.”
  4. It is not convenient for the restaurant to run out of straws and napkins, but “they hope you’ll understand.”
  5. And finally, it is not convenient to be honked at in traffic simply because someone views him or herself as an aggressive driver on the way to an important meeting.

I shall add a sixth:

It is not convenient to listen to talking heads on television tell us that politicians just naturally run by different rules than us normal human beings.


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Chart

Chart: (n) a sheet of information which is a diagram

My brain sometimes pauses, not yet convinced of the validity of any particular opinion. In other words, I could argue it either way.

In my personal life, I’m very organized. At least, I think I am. Yet there is a vanity to even stating such a mercurial thought as a fact. Am I
organized? Or just more organized than the person next to me?

Yet I do get around human travelers who insist on living a totally spontaneous life, and to some degree it works for them. They’re always looking for surprises, luck, miracles and good fortune to blow their way, but there is a certain charm to their presumption.

It begs the question: can organisms be organized?

The classic line of defining futility by comparing it to herding cats is true with almost every creature. No living, breathing animal on the face of the Earth likes to be told what to do. Yet each one, in some strange way, finds a plan of action that keeps them from being cold in the winter and too hot in the summer.

So what is the power of charting our lives to such a degree that there is little awareness of the element of chaos (which certainly will arrive)?

I think it may just be as simple as realizing that a line item which appears on our “Things to Do Today” list may very well still be there next week.

 

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Brigadier

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Brigadier: (n) a rank of officer in the army, above colonel and below major general.

Sometimes foolishness gets a pass, but it has to be legitimate foolishness. Dictionary BI’m talking about that fresh kind that just slipped out of your stupid brain because of your ignorance. If you’ve done foolishness before, you can’t claim that it’s “innocent foolishness.”

I did a foolish thing.

I was so young, self-inspired and full of false confidence that life decided not to punish me for my presumption.

My younger brother decided to join the army. Considering he had never even played with army men and walked with the sensitivity of a marshmallow, the idea was ludicrous. But it was in full swing before any of us realized that he had sauntered off to be a soldier.

The first we knew of it was upon receiving a call from basic training, where he pleaded for us to “get him out of there”–or he was going to commit suicide.

Now, I can discuss with you the unfairness of him placing me in that situation, but instead, I will tell you that in an attempt to be a good big brother, I called the army base where he was doing his imitation of G.I. Joe, and talked to a Brigadier General. Now, I don’t know exactly what a Brigadier General is, but it sounds a whole lot more important than me.

For some reason, he took my call. I don’t know why. Maybe he was just a nice guy. Maybe he couldn’t believe that someone was asking for his younger brother to be released from basic training.

His first inclination was to laugh at me. After all, you can’t maintain a volunteer army while promising a money-back guarantee. If everyone who was displeased with the accommodations at “Fort Kick Your Ass” was released immediately, we wouldn’t have enough soldiers to march in a small-town parade.

So on the first call he chuckled.

On my second call, he took the fatherly approach, explaining how the military works.

On the third call he appealed to my patriotism.

On call 54, he asked me if I knew how powerful he was.

But somewhere along the line, on the 93rd call, he paused. This is what the Brigadier asked me:

“You’re going to keep calling me until we release him, aren’t you?”

I replied, “You can just stop taking my calls.”

“Then I would have a suicidal assistant to deal with,” he presented.

I really don’t know what happened.

I don’t know if what I said made any difference at all.

But this fine Brigadier General realized that I was sincere and that my brother was not even suited to the rigors of being a back-up in the chorus line.

They released him.

It was a miracle.

But actually, it was an expansive piece of grace … granted by a man who was trained to be ruthless.

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Antithesis

dictionary with letter A

Antithesis: (n) something or someone who is the direct opposite of something or someone else. i.e. Selfishiness is the antithesis of love.

It’s all about the word “as.”

Even though I may be criticized for arguing with Webster’s Dictionary, since it is considered to be the ultimate authority on wording and meaning, I must tell you that calling selfishness the antithesis of love is a bit old-fashioned, uninspired and lacks practical application.

Sometimes we just say stuff because we think it sounds noble. Things like, “selfishness is the antithesis of love.”

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

I suppose if people were diagramming that sentence or looking for focus words they would choose love, neighbor or yourself, but actually, the key word is “as.” For after all, we actually do love other people in complete proportion to how we view and embrace “us.”

  • If we are plagued by too much insecurity, we tend to be suspicious of others.
  • If we’re too boastful and self-indulgent, we make the dangerous assumption that other people are the same as us, so we end up suspicious.

What truly is the antithesis of love is fear–and the worst fear in the world is to be afraid to honestly accept who we are.

Until fear is addressed, love is a theory.

Until anxiety is ministered to, we will have a tendency to fret and fume, allowing opportunity to slip away.

So if you take the big three–faith, hope and love–and look for the antithesis to each, I believe you will end up with a trio of human “nasties” which plague us all.

For I would say the antithesis of faith is presumption–people who assume that everything will be taken care of because they are special.

And the antithesis of hope is lying. Yes, nothing is more frustrating to our hope than when we are lied to by those who feel they can manipulate us.

And as I have already said, I believe the antithesis of love is fear.

What would happen if we just took one week of our lives and addressed the presumption, lying and fear which haunt our efforts, and reveal them for the charlatans they truly are?

At the very least … we might just begin to believe in faith, hope and love again.

 

 

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Aghast

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAghast: (adj.) filled with horror or shock: e.g. when the news came out they were aghast

I was trying to figure out what horrifies me.

Like most human beings, I think I’m horrified by violence, destruction, death and mayhem. That’s good. (I mean, it’s bad. But it’s good that I think it’s bad.)

But there are other things that horrify me. I’m talking about that shock that startles your heart and makes your bowels tingle.

  • As I’ve gotten older, I’ve become horrified by the notion of performing activities I am not presently suited for in any way, shape or form.
  • I’m a little bit horrified when I watch television and realize that we have sunk to an era of fantasy, presumption, silliness and self-involvement.
  • I’m horrified by killing. I think I already said that.
  • I’m horrified by pornography. I think what horrifies me about that subject is the notion that women, who consist of half of the population on the planet, can so easily be trivialized and brutalized through a medium which is gaining more acceptance every day.
  • I’m aghast at prejudice–so much so that I’m willing to root it out in myself.
  • I’m aghast when I get around people who are overly confident in their abilities because it shows that improvement is so far from their minds.
  • I don’t think I’ve ever been horrified by a horror movie. That’s rather bizarre.
  • Yet I am truly horrified by death–my own in particular. I know as a person of faith, I should welcome the experience, or at least not be terrified of the journey, but that isn’t really my sensation. I enjoy life and I’m just not relishing the idea of seeing it end, especially since I am fully cognizant that things will be able to continue without me.

I guess what leaves me aghast is the notion of how easy it would be for us to be kinder to one another, yet we make the more difficult choice to conjure evil.

The thing I know above all else is that human beings don’t need any help from the dark regions of hell in order to come up with a way to destroy one another. Yes, I guess that makes me aghast.

For the truly horrifying part of life is realizing how easy it would be to create peace … as we blithely purchase more weapons for war.

Afterlife

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter AAfterlife: (prep) 1. life after death 2. later life e.g. they spent most of their afterlife trying to forget the fire.

There is a certain presumption to the idea of heaven which often makes me uncomfortable. It’s this notorious notion that we can live a meager existence, fraught with fault, indecision and selfishness, and because God in heaven has granted us salvation, we will suddenly be translated into eternal, enlightened creatures.

I always wonder what people would think if heaven ended up just being their life–except maybe moving it to Hawaii. In other words, just a little better surroundings, but you bring your furniture.

What if heaven is not a relief of our pain, but instead, an individualized celebration of our discoveries on Earth? What if the misery we have claimed as our own is not alleviated, but instead, continued–just surrounded by hula girls and beaches?

Would the change in surroundings be enough to make us enjoy our choices better?

It’s confounding–because everything on earth works with a delicate balance of effort, patience and grace.

  • Effort in the sense that I actually show up and do my best
  • Patience because good things sometimes take a while
  • And grace because God, in His mercy, grants it to those who are truly humble

How can there be an afterlife if there wasn’t first a life?

If we offer a meager resume to the heavenly corporation, why do we think we are up for a promotion?

Well, you can believe what you want to believe. I think there’s a four-step process to making a life which would make any kind of afterlife absolutely delectable:

  1. Find what you can do.
  2. Do it well.
  3. Get better
  4. Help somebody.

This is the life I choose–and if I were asked to continue it in another place … I would be overjoyed to do so.

 

Access Road

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Access road: (n) a road giving access to a place or to another road.

About ten years ago I purchased a home perched on top of a hill.

It was very beautiful–but quite difficult to climb when it was time to settle in for the night. It was more suited for a mountain goat than an out-of-shape Pillsbury dough-boy such as myself.

So almost immediately I noticed that there was a space between the tree and the bushes in the front yard where my car could fit through, propelling me up the grade to the front door of the house, where I could walk in like a normal person. Understand–there was no actual driveway there, and I’m sure when the next-door-neighbors saw that I was driving across the front lawn to acquire entrance to my home, and were a bit perplexed, if not amused.

But I didn’t care.  I required access so I made a road.

As I travel, I often find an exit on the freeway preceded by a series of tire tracks, where someone has discovered that it was unnecessary to go all the way to the exit, because a quicker journey could be made across the median to the awaiting highway. They had created their own access road.

We have access roads for everything. In a sense, we even have access roads in life for the truth. If we can find a better exit from our dilemma other a total revelation of the facts, we will certainly hasten to escape the main drag and scurry off to safety.

So I’m not quite sure what access roads possess in the way of righteousness. They are more or less short cuts that human beings take to get from one place to another, often with little regard for maps and signs.

To try to eliminate them totally, or legislate them out of existence, would prove to be unfruitful.

Yet to believe that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line that I create may be the definition of pride and presumption.