Criminal

Criminal: (n) a person guilty or convicted of a crime

If my recollection holds any accuracy of memory, I believe it happened right after my twenty-eighth birthday. I was in a room with a bunch of friends—and some strangers—and a question was posed.

“What was your first job?”

Well, I let three or four people go before me so that I could understand if I was on point, what the question really meant and the best way to answer it.

After the fourth teller finished his story about being a bag boy at a grocery store, I raised my hand and explained, “The summer between my junior and senior year, I joined some sort of national work program for teenagers sponsored by the government, which offered opportunities for local jobs at minimum wage. After volunteering, I discovered that the possibility afforded to me was working at the cemetery, cutting the grass and taking care of the gravestones.

“I was torn between being grossed out and wondering whether anything could be any more boring. But the only other thing available was with a farmer, bailing hay. I did not like hay. I didn’t like heat. I didn’t favor sweating and knew the farmer would be there the whole time, and I’d have to really work hard. I thought that the keeper of the graves might actually trust me to do the job without peeking over my shoulder.”

“I was right. Matter of fact, after about four or five days, I discovered he never showed up to confirm my work. So I started coming to the graveyard, signing in, and then leaving. I was able to continue this practice for about two weeks, collecting my check—until I finally got caught.”

At this point I stopped speaking, thinking I was going to get some laughter and maybe even a round of applause for my tale. But instead, a young woman sitting across the room gasped and said:

“Geez…that was criminal.”

Looking into all the faces around me, I waited for someone to speak up and offer at least some support for my ingenuity.

No one did.

I was angry.

Although I did not stomp out of the room, I made my exit from the party as quickly as possible without drawing attention to my frustration.

I fumed. How dare anyone accuse me of being a criminal? I knew what a criminal was. It’s someone who commits crimes, right? An individual who breaks the law and is tracked down by the police and thrown in jail, to stay there until they learn their lesson or complete their sentence.

Then a horrible thing happened.

My conscience showed up.

For some reason, my conscience was in a mood to talk, in a most accusing way.

Mr. Conscience reminded me that three years ago, I had skipped out on rent that was due.

He also brought up the fact that I copped some money from a drawer when I was at a friend’s house.

There were four or five examples that my goddamned nosy conscience decided to dredge up. Each one could be individually explained away—and had been, by my glib nature.

But collectively, they showcased an individual who felt he was superior to everybody else—certainly high and lifted above the rules—and therefore could do what he wanted.

The conclusion was simple. I was a criminal because I committed a crime by breaking the law, which was really a rule set by those who have the uncomfortable job of trying to make things run smoothly by seeking common ground among diverse people.

I was thoroughly ashamed.

Since that day I have not lived a faultless life, but I’ve never been a criminal again. Because even though I don’t always agree, I always know that agreeable is necessary.

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Copy-edit

Copy-edit: (v) to edit for publication

Although classically it is portrayed that writers suffer “blockage” and are unable to come up with ideas—or even the next line—the truth is,  when a writer is inspired with a good story, the characters often become so verbose, and dare I say overbearing, that the end result is an overabundance of syllables, paragraphs and even chapters.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

There is actually only one rule in writing, and since there’s only one, we shall not call it a rule, but rather, refer to it as a smiling opportunity.

That would be: “Don’t do anything to interrupt or impede your own story.”

This is why it’s important to copy-edit a book, a story or even an article (such as the one I’m writing to you).

It is not fair to the reader, to get him or her all tied up in useless information about the entwined colors in a particularly plush davenport—when what is happening on the couch is the real gig.

Some writers become fussy and sentimental about one particular thought or character’s involvement. But as you age and mature, you realize that the reader is what you’re writing for—not the approval of other writers or publishers who would jump up and down in great glee if they got the chance to reject a submission from Ernest Hemingway.


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Clerk

Clerk: (n) a person employed to take care of routine activities

I am not completely ignorant.

I do understand that rules are necessary. Without established guidelines, we have many people trying to dictate on the fly, ending up with restrictions which are much more nasty than if they had been thought of before the project began.

But I have just never wanted to be a clerk.

I’m talking about the kind of people who are thrilled there are rules so they can stand with a stony face, reciting them to you as you try to argue, and they sport a
slight smirk over the control they have achieved.

It happens every day.

Some people are destined to be clerks. They learn the routine and find satisfaction in their lives–sensations of importance–by using the regulations to dash the hopes of those who might walk just a little bit different path.

They quote.

It doesn’t matter if they’re using Shakespeare, the Bible or the company manual–they can give you the exact wording to reinforce their decision to treat you like shit.

Every function in life, every job and every position needs to be tempered by common sense and mercy.

Even the Good Book itself started off with Ten Commandments, shrank to four during the Sermon on the Mount, two later on, and finally ended up with one commandment: love your neighbor as yourself.

For after all, if you do that one, you’re doing the other ten.

When you remove common sense and mercy from your dealings with human beings, you become the catalyst for an unnecessary argument, which can lead to a war.

I don’t want to be a clerk. It’s probably why that position is never offered to me.

Some Big Boss Billy looks me in the eyes and thinks to himself, “I can’t trust that one to be an asshole.”

 

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Board Game

Board game: (n) any game played on a board

Dictionary B

If you ever reach a point in your life when you want to terminate a friendship, and do so based upon a mutual agreement of misunderstanding, sit down and play a game of Monopoly with the person with whom you wish to sever relationship.

Monopoly is more than a board game–it is a basic study of the subtlety of human depravity.

First–no one agrees on the rules. If you insist on reading them aloud, you become the common enemy of everyone else playing the game, as they explain–or dare I say, interpret–the instructions using their prism of prejudice.

Secondly–passive, loving and kind people become aggressive, mean, sinister land barons in pursuit of receiving more and more confirmation of their superiority through “funny money.”

Third–additional addendums and amendments, if you will, of the original regulations will be introduced during the game as players negotiate deals, loans or even the transferral of properties without legitimate title and deed.

Fourth–some people just don’t give up.

And of course, Number Five–after all is said and done, there really is no winner, just someone who still has money, surrounded by vanquished losers who are plotting revenge.

The problem with board games is that we usually play them when we’re bored… only to unleash the true depths of our inner demons.

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Behave

Behave: (v) to act or conduct oneself in a specified way, especially toward others.

Dictionary B

  • Read the rules.
  • Study the room.

Over the years, I’ve learned the power of these two profiles. Every situation you find yourself in has rules and also has a climate for activity.

If you enter the situation and decide to be ignorant of the rules and the climate, you will quickly break one of their commandments, and end up looking like a fool–especially if you try to defend yourself.

I have never been a great fan of rules, nor do I find trying to maintain a specific atmosphere to be fulfilling. But even more, I hate being on the outside looking in because it has been proven that I broke the rules. If I don’t like the rules, more than likely I will not be able to change the game.

I have to smile when I see idealistic younger folk who contend that they can enter the world of politics and transform it. Politics enjoys being ambiguously evil.

Likewise, the notion that you can go to a church, a corporation, a club or even a family reunion and insert your notions and have meaningful input is extraordinarily naive.

Make sure wherever you go–so that you will behave well–that you learn the rules and understand the climate.

If you’re going to vacation in Miami, Florida, in the middle of July, understand that there will be a lot of ethnic food and tons of heat, humidity and surprise rain storms. If you are prepared for that, you will not break the rules by complaining to the locals about the situation, which makes you come off as a tourist instead of a participant.

I do not participate without knowing the rules, and I do not leap into any activity without comprehending the climate in which business is conducted.

That way I behave myself and am considered a solid citizen … instead of an intruding jerk.

 

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Abstruse

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Abstruse: (adj.) difficult to understand; obscure.

I’ve never been a great fan of rules.

I certainly understand the importance of having guidelines and restrictions. It’s just that people who enjoy enforcing rules are also intrigued with making more and more of them until they tighten a rope around the neck of all possible thinking. So it becomes obvious to me that when you live in a society which is more interested in establishing rules and regulations than in making progress, you are freely admitting that creativity has been abandoned in favor of critique.

There are things that are obtuse–and, as I discovered today, abstruse. They continue on by the sheer will of accountants of the human heart, who want to tally each and every emotion, to make sure it has not become overwrought or flamboyant. They desire a world of calmness, with the concept of peace and quiet superseding the natural violence of human evolution. Although it is impossible to achieve such a status, they continue to propagate the notion that decent and normal people require an environment of tranquility in order to be happy and free.

The truth of the matter is, nothing is really like that. Every time I step in front of a group of people and share my opinion, I have to be ready for the fact that my ideas will either be viewed as radical or outdated, depending on the temperament of the hearer. Everyone in the world needs to be prepared to be abstruse–otherwise we start believing that wisdom begins at the tip of our nose and ends at the back of our hairline.

It doesn’t.

So what IS abstruse?

  • How about spending billions of dollars fo elect a President who more or less, because of  political gridlock in our country, becomes window dressing for a parade instead of being a leader of the people?
  • How about continuing violence on television–especially towards women and children–under the guise of producing entertainment, and pridefully insisting it’s not as bad as including human sexuality?
  • How about religion that maintains a stronghold of superstition instead of encouraging us to become better human beings and more loving to one another?
  • How about a 24-hour news cycle that barely has 24 minutes of actual news, but has to pay 24 reporters to cover 24 stories which really boil down to 2 worthwhile projects?
  • How about reality shows which demonstrate the darker part of our nature so we can vicariously view wickedness while simultaneously patting ourselves ont the back for being better than the worst villain?
  • How about agnosticism which plays itself up to be intellectually superior because it is absent the dogma of faith?
  • How about the fact that we claim to be a free country, while periodically forbidding human rights to one another based upon whim?

You see, if we want to find things that are abstruse, we could construct a very good list which could be addressed to give us fruitful conclusions. Of course, we probably won’t. Most of the things I listed make immense amounts of money for a few, so they will never be rejected.

But it doesn’t keep me … from ignoring them.