Counterclockwise

Counterclockwise: (adj) in a direction opposite to that of the normal rotation of the hands of a clock

At the risk of admitting that I am the Duke of Doofus, I will tell you that if someone asks me to do something “counterclockwise,” I must stop, close my eyes, see a clock in my mind and reverse my path.

It’s one of those directions you often see on paper or hear given by an instructor which seems to be no problem whatsoever to some folks—and leaves me funny wisdom on words that begin with a Creeling.

I have the same sensation when I’m told to go east or west, north or south. If the sun is obviously in its morning or late afternoon position, I can occasionally pull it off but if it has snuck over my head, I am lost.

It reminds me of the time I was in the hospital, had just returned to my room after an operation and needed to go to the bathroom. I was supposed to keep my weight off my left leg, so I asked the nurse how I would be able to travel to the bathroom without injuring myself.

Her response was, “Can you hop?”

I froze.

I had not hopped since I was a small child and felt pretty certain that I would never be ‘hoppy’ again—or that if I tried, it would be a very “un-hoppy” ending.

Please forgive me for this. If you must have a laugh at my expense, just place it on my account. We will need such a running tab, for there will be more to come.


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Center

Center: (v) to place in the middle

It’s an old joke, but since there are so many young folks around, I will venture to share it, with the aspiration that it might fall on fresh ears.

The story is that a gentleman from Kentucky found himself in a quandary when the Civil War broke out. He did not want to choose sides. He
discovered that the Union Army was clad in blue and those from Dixie had selected gray. Thinking himself a genius and desiring to place himself in the center, free of conflict, he put on blue pants for the Union, and a gray jacket as a tribute to the South.

When the two armies converged at his doorstep to determine his allegiance, the Union Army shot him in the shoulder and the Confederates shot him in the leg.

There is a belief that a center–a compromise or moderation–can be found in everything. It is an interesting theory which over the years has proven to be flawed.

There are some issues that cannot be mollified. They’re just too important.

  • There can be no “Great Compromise” when it comes to slavery.
  • There cannot be a “don’t ask, don’t tell” in the military for the gay servicemen and women.

Sometimes we have to come down on one side or another.

Because sometimes a center is not a solution, but rather, an attempt to avoid one.

 

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Beverage

Beverage: (n) a drink, especially other than water

Dictionary BPerhaps one of the more valuable parts of my mission of writing this daily essay using the language that Webster offers to us is that I can occasionally warn you about words that should never be used.

I’m not going to make a comprehensive list right now, but instead, will use today’s choice as an example of such a misstep.

May it be declared from the Heavens and enacted upon the Earth that the word “beverage” should never be spoken aloud, at least in the Continental United States.

It is one of those words that makes it appear that you’re either very insecure about your education, or you are determined to pick obscure terms in order to make yourself look like the long-lost noble son of the Russian throne.

Beverage is not a word.

It is what we shall call an anti-word.

An anti-word is something that comes out of our mouths which we thought would communicate our sophistication, but instead leaves the room bewildered, perplexed or pissed off because we are acting superior.

You can feel free to say, “Do you want a Coke?” (That works really well in the South.)

I suppose it’s tolerable to say, “Would you like a soda?” (Even though in the North, “pop” is preferred.)

But the safest thing to ask is, “Would you like something to drink?”

So if we’re beginning a list of forbidden terms, let us start off with the word “beverage.”

Because quite honestly, anyone who asks me if “I want a beverage”… just might be training to be a serial killer.

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Antietam

dictionary with letter AAntietam: historic site in northwestern Maryland, known as Antietam Creek, the scene of a major Civil War battle in September of 1862.

It was a lost cause.

Unless you’re a careful student of history, you may fail to realize that Abraham Lincoln was probably the most hated man in America.

Not only had he been elected President, causing the South to secede from the Union, but he had also made a decision to surround himself, in his cabinet, with competitors and critics.

When the war began, it was a fiasco. At the First Battle of Bull Run, the South nearly ended the entire conflict with one day’s murder and mayhem. But Lincoln continued, searching for a means to keep the country together, and possibly in the process, heal some old wounds and atone for the sins of slavery.

The problem was, the North couldn’t win a battle. Not even close.

So rather than being considered a great leader or a man of vision, he was viewed by his contemporaries as a clumsy goofball, ill-prepared for the challenge of repairing the breach.

He kept replacing generals in charge of the Army of the Potomac, hoping that someone might grow a backbone or at least field an army.

Lincoln had two goals:

Primary was to keep the Union together, for a reason which he almost singularly held within his breast. Everyone else had varying degrees of indifference on the issue.

But secondly, he realized that emancipating the slaves was not only an important step of contrition, but also would keep England and France out of the war,siding with the Confederacy. But it was certainly difficult to issue any kind of Proclamation in the midst of defeat.

The Battle of Antietam was a standoff, with more soldiers killed on the field than in any war in history, and Lincoln seized on that result, deeming it a moral victory, and set in motion to free the slaves.

Even though the Union became more proficient at war and eventually wore down their Southern brothers, it was the Battle of Antietam that gave Lincoln the doorway to make the Civil War about something other than states’ rights. In doing so, he robbed the countrymen clad in gray of the possibility of gaining international acceptance, therefore stifling their resources to those found within their own borders.

It was enough.

It’s why we still honor Abraham Lincoln today instead of shaking our heads in sadness over another failed Presidency.

Antietam was a bloodbath which ended with no conclusion–except permission for a President to change the rules and certainly, change the world. 

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Anthropology

dictionary with letter A

Anthropology: (n) the comparative study of human societies and cultures

There is an abiding, if not persistent, inclination to believe that intelligence invokes individuality.

In other words, because the human race possesses greater brain power than, let’s say, the duck, we are segregated into a multitude of clumps that not only differentiate us from one another, creating chasms of separation, sprouting suspicion.

Anthropology would do a great service to humankind if it pursued the premise that we are much more like the duck. No one sits around and discusses how ducks from the south are different from ducks from the north. (Maybe it’s because they fly south for the winter and north for the summer. Of course, most of our aging human population has similar travel plans.)

It is ironic to me that a scientific community which fastidiously places us within the animal kingdom as brother and sister to our jungle family suddenly decides to separate us from that kingdom when it comes to matters of race and culture.

Is it possible that we would be better off if we punctuated our similarities instead of showcasing our differences?

  • For instance, does someone born in Siberia who is transplanted right after birth to Southern California still prefer to wear parkas?
  • Would a native of Africa, born in the Serengeti, if translated to London-town, constantly find him or herself pining to hunt with a spear?

Can we really continue to take the attributes that are engrained and nearly beaten into us by our families and pretend that they’re a part of our natural desire?

Very few people ever consider the personality profile of an individual chimpanzee. Yet in some sort of “Homo sapien silliness,” we think that each and every one of us is a snowflake falling from the heavens, with our own particular jagged edges.

Yes, I believe anthropology would provide a salvation to humans if the science explained how much we share in common.

We would certainly be more like the duck, and realize that our particular quack … is not that special. 

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Alabama

Words from Dic(tionary)

dictionary with letter A

Alabama: (n) a state in the southeastern U.S. on the Gulf of Mexico, capital Montgomery, statehood, Dec. 14, 1819.

A state of mind.

Even though I must tell you, having traveled all over this country, that there are nests of belief, custom, culture and theology that persist or flourish in their particular homeland, the hatchet job that has been done to our fifty states to promote causes, newspaper articles and political agendas is abominable.

Nowhere is this more evident to me than in the perception of Alabama.

I would be amiss if I merely portrayed the “sweet home” aspects of this particular state. Like every other principality which has ever existed on earth, it is riddled with mishaps, bad judgments and incoherent ideas being fostered as “normal.”

But to personify Alabama–or any part of the south–as the hotbed for bigotry, ignorance and inequality is not only short-sighted, but comes from a place of arrogance and a desire to limit the qualities that these dear folks can offer to our country in faith and hospitality.

Some of the worst memories I have of my journeys have been in the south–especially Alabama–and also some of the golden treasures of people and discovery have also been found within its borders.

Here’s the truth: people live where they were hatched, take the best parts of their surroundings and mingle them with tolerance and love to form a workable way of being. No matter where they abide, if they accept the portions of their culture which alienate them from the rest of the world, they have gone down a foolish path. But if they set aside childishness, they gain eternal perspective.

Prejudice was not born in the south. Long before slaves were brought to this country, there were slaves in Rome, Greece, Egypt, China and every corner of our globe. Those who were intelligent, historical and also spiritual learn to recognize the limitations of their upbringing in deference to the mercy that the God of our creation requires of His children.

I love Alabama. I love Massachusetts. I love California–not because of the history book or the spouting of their individual Chambers of Commerce. No, it’s because I have met people in each of these locations–and many others–who have overcome their ancestors to be born again … to newness of life.

 

Acephalous

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter A

Acephalous: (adj.) 1. no longer having a head: e.g. an acephalous skeleton 2. having no leader or chief: e.g. an acephalous society.

Sometimes the ancient philosophers put together some really interesting ideas. For instance, the notion that human emotions are located in the heart is kind of perfect. Because after all, the emotions are often caught between the head–where the brain is–and the body and genitals, where we live only a physical existence.

I think it’s also significant that the spirit of man is a breath. That’s what the Bible says–that God breathed into man the breath of life. So I guess spirituality is like our lungs.

So you can see what happens if you have a mindless society. People who are unwilling to think things through, and the emotions not having any breath from the lungs of spirituality, pump blood directly from the heart down to the genitals. After all, there’s no path north. Why not go south?

Of course, I realize this is all speculation and none of it is actual physiology, but the human heart is where we live. It is where we keep our treasure. Yet that brain sitting up there is where we make new decisions based on renewed concepts to use our bodies more effectively.

So if the heart doesn’t get breath from the lungs, sending that oxygen up to the brain to fill it with greater promise, then the body and genitals pretty much run the show on their whim. This is why we are ridiculously more upset with “sins of the flesh” than we are with “sins of the heart.”  Yet every sin of the flesh found its beginning in the human emotions.

We are a mindless society–headless, if you will–because we refuse to deal with our emotions and do not pump them through the breath of our spirituality to give some fresh air to our brains. So often we end up dictating the decisions of our lives based on regions below.

Unfortunately, attempts to use JUST the brain without accessing the heart and lungs make us light-headed and we pass out. (You can see, the analogy seems to keep going on and on, and you can probably find greater examples than I have in this small essay.)

Do not extol the value of education if you refuse to deal with the human emotions, and if you do deal with emotions, you should allow for the breath of spirit. Otherwise, we will be walking around as a self-fulfilling prophesy, with the little head ruling from below … and the big head completely decapitated.

Abate

by J. R. Practix

dictionary with letter AAbate: v. 1. become less intense or widespread: the storm suddenly abated. 2. cause to become smaller or less intense: nothing abated his crusading zeal

My parents certainly wanted to abate long hair and rock and roll. Facts are, they are dead and the Stones keep rolling–and the world is a’Gaga.

And the North wanted to abate slavery in the Southern plantations. It took a bloody Civil War but now black folks are allowed to vote at large instead of “tote that barge.”

It seems like every day of the week somebody wants to abate something. But here’s a clue: if you don’t have the right “a-bate,” you’re not going to get what you’re fishin’ for.

After having traveled this planet for some time, I have boiled it down to discover that if you want to be on the right side of history and end up looking smart later on instead of like a dumb old fogey, there are only two things you need to stand against and abate: killing and judging.

My experience is that everyone who has encouraged the death of anything has ended up looking like they brought chips and dip to a formal dinner party. Likewise, every individual who has tried to alienate one group, or place their clique above another, has gone down in the history books as foolish and bull-headed.

So I will tell you that I am for abating killing and judging. And because that’s too general, I will get more specific and talk to you about the promoters that put these two nasty boogers into business.

  • What causes killing is weapons.
  • And what promotes judging is prejudice.

Now, I don’t care if the weapon is an assault rifle or a scalpel held by a doctor in an abortion clinic. It could be a lethal injection on death row or people who just don’t have any sense of humor and murder all the good cheer in a room. It is the responsible use of weapons that causes us to put killing in a position where it is not only the last resort but even at that ugly hour, is reconsidered one more time in the pursuit of mercy.

And it is the removal of any notion that one human being is better than another that cripples judging–stifling prejudice.

You’ve got to be careful what you abate. You can lose an awful lot of good music and eliminate a whole race of people. But if you abate killing and judging, you’ll find yourself with an excellent mention in the history books and I believe, a pat on the head from the Almighty.

Let’s get sensible about weapons and let’s curtail our prejudice.