Decibel

Decibel: (n) a unit used to express the intensity of a sound wave

Crossing all generations, cultures, genders, sexual orientations, kingdoms, all religious affiliations, pizza topping preferences, and conjoining into common ground is the international and universal pickiness about sound.

As a musician I’ve dealt with it all my life.

Let me start with three immutable facts.

  1. Music should be heard and not seen.
  2. As volume increases, so does passion.
  3. No composition was ever put together for the sole purpose of remaining in the background.

Even if it was written for a movie scene, the composer dreams that someone will single it out for an Oscar nod.

Yet after years and decades of traveling and performing, I will tell you—there is no setting on a PA system that is low enough to satisfy the tender ears of everyone in the room. Matter of fact, I finally had to forbid sponsors and audience members sensitive to decibels to be anywhere near my sound check—otherwise, all the amateur auditory engineers would be in my ear, telling me how my music was too much for their ears.

Yes, it pissed me off.

If I were a bigger man, it might be better, but also, it means I might have to buy a new wardrobe.

Simply, I like to hear my singing full-throated and my band, full throttle.

Debatable

Debatable: (adj) open to question; in dispute; doubtful

Feeling in a particularly generous mood, I decided to give you a gift of five things that are debatable and five things which, in my simple-minded way, seem to be non-debatable.

Where to begin?

Let us start with the debatable topics

  1. The American election system.

Since it is broken, it is well worth a healthy discussion.

  1. The educational system.

We love to stir up dust about lackings here and there, but still maintain a segregated and impoverished endeavor.

  1. The purpose for religious services

Since faith without works is dead, maybe works could survive without a building—and an organ.

  1. Racial forgiveness

Instead of denying the misdeeds found within all races of humanity, perhaps we require a massive group hug and teary-eyed apologies to one another.

  1. The institution of marriage

Is it divine? Or simply a man-made way of guaranteeing family units to sustain the tax burden?

Now, as to non-debatable issues:

  1. Is there any power in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth?”

Just open a history book and let the blood pour out.

  1. Is there a God?

Since no one knows, discussion either way is theory, and for that matter, often nasty.

  1. Are men and women equal?

Since we have to live in equality, it would be ridiculous to introduce restrictions.

  1. How, or even when, will the world end?

Go back, clean your room and do your homework, you little brat.

  1. Is there a hell and is there a heaven? It is possible to have a heaven without a hell, so the insistence on including eternal damnation is rather vindictive, don’t you think?

These are just my opinions. You can either revel in them or rebel against them.

 

Death Wish

Death wish: (n) having a desire for one’s own death

Life is the opportunity to live.

More life is what we get for solving our problems.

But I have to be honest with you—continued life is not very interesting if it doesn’t possess purpose.

I’d rather be dead than bitchy.

I’d rather be dead than bigoted.

I’d rather be dead than poked and probed for the rest of my days by young doctors who are trying to make their reputation by discovering something wrong with me.

I’d rather be dead than harm a little one.

I’d rather be dead than remain silent as the world flirts with annihilation—simply lacking the common sense of cordiality.

I’d rather be dead than live without knowing if another human being finds me hopelessly attractive.

I’d rather be dead than be religious.

I’d rather be dead than be an atheist—although that’s problematic.

I’d rather be dead than continue to curse after I’m blessed.

I’d rather be dead than live in a country whose people believe they’re better than everyone else.

I’d rather be dead than find myself buying into the idea that lying is just a human thing we do.

I’d rather be dead than sit around all the time, wondering how and when I’m going to die.

Dying doesn’t look very complicated.

But once its accomplished, it does alter your social calendar.

So having a death wish is really wanting a decent burial for what is already dying inside.

Dazzling

Dazzling: (adj) something or someone who impresses deeply; astonishes with delight:

Imagine there are two meters.

One meter measures evil; another, good.

With me so far?

As you look at these meters, you notice there are settings.

On the Evil Meter, there is a top range of really, really bad—and a bottom range of “forgivable.”

On the Good Meter, there’s a top range which is “miraculous,” and on the bottom, “considerate.”

Now.

Is it possible for you and I to understand that how we set these meters depends on how well we get along with other people, and also our outlook about life on Earth?

If I set my Evil Meter too hot, I will find many things distasteful and ungodly, and end up coming across like a judgmental fool.

And if I set my Good Meter to only accept miracles that come from the Throne of God as being the definition of good, I will ignore many kindnesses that pop up in front of my eyes.

It is important that at the end of the day, if asked by our friends and relatives, “And how did you fare?” that we come back with that glorious word:

Dazzling.

To find our journey dazzling, we must calm down our Evil Meter and turn up our Good Meter.

We must be much more likely to find possibilities and blessings than we are to dig up fire and brimstone.

Of course, we’ll be accused by those who are very religious of being liberal, foolish or too easy to satisfy—but these are not the folks we’re out to impress.

We are working and discovering how to find a life that pleases us, pleases others …

And therefore pleases God, Himself.

David

David: (n) a king of Israel.

Faith might occasionally be interesting if it weren’t so damn religious.

Rather than being a state of spirit, where we seek to know ourselves better and understand God by loving other people, it is turned into a mortuary, where we sit and perform all sorts of religious exercises that make yoga appear to be not such a stretch.

One of the more interesting characters in the Bible is David.

He’s not interesting because he prays, and he’s not fascinating because he wanted to build God’s temple.

He’s intriguing because any time, day or night, when he removes his human will from religious pursuit, he goes to town—just a’sinnin’ away.

David knew how to repent. That’s how he pleased God.

I understand David. When he saw a naked woman bathing, he immediately conjured a plan to get inside her.

You see—that’s human.

I am not impressed with people who only sin and am completely terrified of those who claim to refrain from it.

David has a good story even without the Bible.

Why? Because David was human and didn’t try to pretend he wasn’t.

He was a rotten father yet never touted his children as being anything but the renegades they were.

He had a huge ego, which created problems with the King of Israel before him.

Early on, he had a really good day when he accurately tossed a stone and killed a really bad giant.

It doesn’t happen again.

But I guess if you do it once, it can last for a lifetime.

He is called “the apple of God’s eye.”

It isn’t because he was very religious.

It isn’t because he never sinned.

It isn’t because he went throughout Israel, trying to get everybody to be judgmental and mean.

David found a gear.

He knew exactly how far to go before he drove himself off the cliff.

Short of that disaster, he stopped and got himself right.

It’s a great talent.

Because he understood sin, he didn’t judge the sinner.

And because he understood grace, he did not advertise the sin.

Darrow, Clarence

Darrow, Clarence: (N) a lawyer and author of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, he was known as the defense attorney in the Scopes trial.

There are two ways to err:  (1) making a mistake because you’re being too cautious, and (2) the predicament in which your forward thinking causes you to be too radical.

Let us take a historical journey to consider both.

How often have people from our past been wrong because they followed the party line or continued to promote old ideas that were desperately in need of revision?

And how often were some found guilty of being too progressive or too open-minded?

Seriously—think about it.

The man most religious people follow as being the Savior of the world was declared guilty and crucified for sedition.

What is the definition of sedition? It is conduct or speech inciting people to rebel against authority.

So who, really, was Jesus? Was he a religious icon, martyred for the sins of the world? Or did he come to rebel against the religious tyranny which left people ignorant and was brutally judgmental?

In Tennessee there was a court case which has become known as “the Scopes trial.” A science teacher in a high school was arrested and charged with teaching evolution in his classroom. This was forbidden.

Two attorneys showed up for the confrontation:

  • William Jennings Bryan, who was a Biblical scholar and aspiring politician.
  • And Clarence Darrow, an East Coast attorney who was always looking for a case to challenge the hypocrisies he felt existed in the law.

If you lived in Dayton, Tennessee, at the time of the trial, you would have been convinced that Attorney Bryan was representing the will of God, making a stand against a satanic effort to steal Creation from our Maker, placing it with the evolving monkeys. But if you live today, you are fully aware that William Jennings Bryan was misled and ended up ignorant—on the wrong side of history.

Clarence Darrow, ridiculed by the hometown folks, is now deemed, in our times, to be a hero.

Nothing good happens when people are aware of injustice and remain silent.

But we always must remember:

To be a saint in the future, you must be prepared to be considered a sinner in the present.

 

Damage

Damage: (n) injury or harm that reduces value or usefulness

Hello, stranger.

Pardon me, I don’t know your name.

I’m not really trying to introduce myself. More or less, I just want you to understand my position.

I’m not sure if I would be gregarious even if the option were available to me. Since you are unfamiliar to my world, I feel compelled to go slowly—perhaps stop.

It’s nothing personal.

I see you’re a little put off and perhaps don’t understand my misgivings, but that’s because you haven’t lived in my world or my time, surrounded by a topsy-turvy environment, nurturing terror.

There are blessings.

But as people, both religious and secular, will concur, the trials and difficulties greatly outweigh the payoffs.

It may seem like a negative way of looking at one’s lifespan, but still, all in all, it is safer to embrace caution and to ignore any temptation to take a risk by pursuing new relationships, new friends, ethnicities or environments.

Understand?

Haven’t you been hurt?

Healed of the wound, the scar and internal blistering is still sensitive.

Is it not nature’s way—to give us a constant reminder of our foolishness, our sins and our naivete by leaving behind bruises and discoloration?

Perhaps you’re a fine person.

Let me rephrase that. I don’t know you’re a fine person. That’s why I must treat you as if you’re not. I simply can’t afford to take on any new conflicts.

I have damage.

It has been addressed, discussed and I suppose might seem covered by the grace of the Divine. But still, it quietly lies within me, warning me of the many troubles of those who wander too far from reclusion.

Perhaps there will be a day when you will be better known to me or my damage will once and for all be contained.

Perhaps not.

Here is what I see:

After meeting thousands of people, we eliminate all the comers to two or three we claim to hold dear, but still maintain our intimacy at arm’s length.

Da Nang

Da Nang (Prop N): a seaport in central Vietnam.

In my mind’s eye, it is the responsibility of a writer to share what he or she feels, not just what is known to be true.

I don’t personally know anything about Da Nang.

Although the Vietnam War was ending as my viability for soldiering was nearing, I followed it like every other American—quietly and reverently watching the body bags of our young men return from a conflict we were realizing more and more had been birthed in lunacy.

Actually, there’s only one specific memory I have of Da Nang.

Da Nang was and ever will be associated with a fellow named Bobby.

Bobby was a nineteen-year-old Gospel-quartet-singing acquaintance who, because he was nineteen, had great fervor for the music and not so much reverence for the rules and regulations of the religious kingdom of the day.

He drank a little bit, he cussed a lot, he laughed more than he cried, and he chased girls until he finally caught a few.

He was delightful to be around and might have been considered a hypocrite had it not been for the fact that when he sang the tunes of the cross and the anthems of the resurrection of Jesus, he expressed the sincerity of an angel.

He was a believer.

He not only believed in God and shaped notes from a Gospel song, but he also believed in America.

It would never have crossed his mind to duck his responsibility to his country, even when that burden landed in his mailbox as a draft notice, to serve the nation in a bloody police action worlds away.

Bobby received his notice in March.

He was off to basic training in late April.

He was home for a short leave in early June.

He was shipped to Da Nang in Vietnam by July 4th.

And he came home in a box by Halloween.

That’s how I remember Da Nang—Bobby, with his chubby, silly grin, wearing a cheap, bright-colored polyester suit, singing Wouldn’t Take Nothin’ for my Journey, Now with a tear running down his cheek.

The history books cite the progress of nations by wars and innovation.

But as human beings, we reminisce the passing of time by those who have warmed our hearts.

 

Cynosure

Cynosure: (n) something that strongly attracts attention by its brilliance, interest, etc.:

I remember it like it was yesterday.

I had a meeting with a fellow who dubbed himself “Bundy Boy.”

I don’t know why he selected this handle since it was nowhere near his name. But he was young, energetic, and full of what the old folks used to call “piss and vinegar.”

He agreed to have a meeting with me because he was thinking about promoting our little music group and taking over management of us—thereby assisting us in getting national attention, a recording contract and, well, just something far away from our poverty.

I remember it so well because he had a spiel. He called it “The Five Thingalings.”

I wanted to laugh, but after all, I was in a subordinate position, sitting in the office of a guy who might be able to throw some light in the direction of my shade.

It was the first time I ever heard this word: cynosure.

He asked me if I knew what it meant. I didn’t. So he explained, “It’s about what’s bright and shiny. Humans are human, but they’re also beings—and as beings, they’re attracted to… are you ready?” he asked me.

I was. He continued, “They’re attracted to sex, silliness, a sad story, beauty and money.”

I thought about it, had no reason to disagree, and so I nodded my head.

Confident that I was on his wavelength, he proceeded. “Cynosure is when you turn the lights up so people can see more clearly what you have to offer. That’s why you’ve got to be sexy. Everybody likes sexy. Even religious people like sexy. They don’t talk about it—but they think about it. And everybody likes to be silly. They pretend to be serious, but after a short time, they’re ready for a good giggle.”

“But,” he went on, “we do like a sad story. It cleans us out—makes us feel we’re really sensitive because we care about what happened to somebody on the rocky road of life. And that story—that story I’m telling you about—it’s much more powerful if it’s being shared from a beautiful package. Just as people like sexy, they like pretty. In their minds, sexy and pretty go together. Nobody feels sexy if they don’t feel pretty, or handsome. And of course, money. Even the Bible says that money answers everything. If you think about it, any problem that comes up in your mind—well, a nice stack of cash will go a long way to solving it.”

After Bundy Boy finished his speech, he sat and looked at me.

It was time for him to offer his evaluation of my “package.”

He was kind, merciful, but truthful.

“My friend,” he said, “you aren’t sexy. Now you might be silly, but if you’re silly and not sexy, it comes off goofy. I suppose you do have a sad story, but when you’re not sexy and not silly, and you have a sad story, people think to themselves, ‘well, of course. He’s a loser.’ And if you’re not sexy, the chance that you’re beautiful is small. And even though we pretend we like beauty on the inside, it’s only something your mother actually feels. And,” he concluded, “by looking at your clothes—especially your shoes—I can tell. You’ve got no money.”

He concluded, “So even though I like your music and I do like you, I can’t work with you. I can’t bring the magic. I can’t cynosure you.”

He stood to his feet and walked toward the door, which I assumed meant that I was also to stand and depart. He patted me on the back and offered a lame, “If there’s anything I can ever do, let me know.”

So I have gone through the majority of my life with no cynosure.

It’s been painful—but I have managed to eke out an existence.

 

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

Cultivate

Cultivate: (v) to promote or improve growth by labor and attention.

It is unfortunate that most religious individuals are so busy toeing the line—seeking God, criticizing sin and thinking of heaven—that they miss out on much of the beautiful poetry and insight contained in the Bible.

The Bible is like every other book I’ve read: there are parts I like, characters I enjoy, story lines I follow and truths I garner.

Within the Good Book, there is the parable of the farmer who plants seed in the ground. Then he sleeps—but he rises night and day to discover that the seeds have grown, but he does not really know how.

In the midst of that parable, this line appears:

“The Earth produces by itself.”

It’s so true.

We, as humans, actually rebel against the obvious, which steers us toward being kind and generous.

We have to be bratty to not see that the Earth itself teaches us to recognize one another in fairness and justice.

And we have to be total ignoramuses to resist the inclination to love rather than kill and destroy.

Our job is to plant seed.

After this, the Earth itself will show us how these efforts need to be cultivated:

  • What needs to be done to become an entrepreneur
  • What is required to be an excellent parent.
  • And the next steps needed to cultivate any venture and take it to a new level of growth.

Sometimes in America we forget to cultivate the way the Earth tells us. Then the weeds start showing up, and we begin believing that the weeds are in control.

Too bad. It’s a simple little system.

Plant your seeds.

Rise up and be astounded over the growth.

Then let the Earth itself tell you what to do next.

funny wisdom on words that begin with a C