Compassion

Compassion: (n) sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.

There has to be some suffering brought on by misfortune before concern is expressed–otherwise, there’s a danger of casting your pearls before pigs.

What we often refer to as compassion is really pity. And pity is an emotion that does no good for either side.

Those who are pitied are weakened, and those who pity feel too much superiority for it to be of much personal good.

It reminds me of a snowy day when I saw a little boy trying to climb a hill with a bag full of groceries. He looked to be about eleven years old, and try as he might,funny wisdom on words that begin with a C every time he climbed the hill, he slipped, and slid back down, spilling the groceries. He patiently put the items back into the bag and tried to ascend again.

This happened four–no, five times.

It was on the fourth time that I noted his determination, even though there were the beginning signs of exasperation, as he punched his fist into the snow upon rising.

I did not intervene at first. I waited to see if he would persevere. I paused to give him a chance to succeed.

I let him struggle.

Then I went out and assisted him, and we made it up the hill together, slipping and sliding.

I’ve made many mistakes in my life by thinking I was being compassionate to people who just did not feel it was necessary for them to put forth effort. I was always left holding the bag, feeling great disappointment.

Compassion occurs when you realize people have tried almost everything they could think of to solve their problem, are still pursuing it and could sure use encouragement and a helping hand.

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Compare

Compare: (v) to estimate, measure, or note the similarity or dissimilarity between.

During a very brief stint of working in the motelier industry, I ran across a gentleman who owned an establishment, and took me on a journey of his array of available rooms.

Every time he entered one of the bathrooms, he took a deep, long, sniffing breath. I decided to ask him what he was trying to smell.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

He turned to me sternly, peering into my eyes, and said, “The beginnings of mold.”

Yes, this fellow was completely convinced that long before the mold showed up in the bathroom tile, it could be sniffed out, tracked down and destroyed.

I had no reason to argue with the man–even if he was wrong, a good dousing of the tiles in bleach every once in a while is a capital idea.

But I must be honest with you–even though I can’t tell mold from gold, I do have a nose for the beginnings of bigotry.

And long before it becomes prejudice which has lost control, it pops its little head up with the word “compare.”

As human beings, once we allow ourselves to compare what we do to what other people do, it is safe to say that we will rarely consider their approach to be better than ours.

So in attempting to establish our refinement–or should the word be “superiority?”–we somehow or another have to sully or taint other renditions.

As people sit on panels and compare one race to another, one country to another, one gender to another or one religion to another, they feel so goddamn intelligent–never realizing they often have the sniff of social mold.

 

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Common Sense

Common sense: (n) good sense and sound judgment in practical matters

Many years ago I wrote a book called “The Gospel According to Common Sense.”

I was very young.

I did a radio talk show, and the fellow asked me, “How would you define common sense?”

Now, one would think I would be prepared for that question, since I wrote a book with “common sense” in the title. But I think I was expecting “what is your favorite color?” much more than a legitimate question that had meaning.

But fortunately for me, I did not freak out.

I paused. Then I said, “To me, common sense is where Father God and Mother Nature sit down and agree.”

God might be a little idealistic, and the Natural Order does tend to be gruff and unforgiving.

But common sense is where mercy and Mother Earth embrace one another, and come up with ways to make things function–ways that don’t hurt anyone, have a bit of genius to them, and are so simple that everybody can do them.

We don’t talk much about common sense nowadays because we like to alienate ourselves off from others by proving our superiority–be it intellectually, spiritually or racially.

Common sense is looking for a logical solution that also happens to be common to us all.

If you’re determined to be better than the people around you, you might find common sense insulting.

If you’re depressed and think the whole world is out to get you, you might avoid common sense because it robs you of your vacation into self-pity.

There is no real power in life unless you can get God and Mother Nature to work together–His will being done on Earth as it is in heaven.

Yeah. There you’ve got it.

Common sense: heavenly answers that still work on Earth.

 

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Code

Code: (n) a system of symbols substituted for other words for the purpose of secrecy

When we’re finally convinced that we cannot establish our superiority over other human beings by clearly stating it out loud, we develop a code.

It is a code we only teach to certain people–the ones we feel are worthy of our intelligence, depth, maturity and spirituality.

We sneer when others try to understand but fail due to either their weakness of character or lack of brain power.

This is why doctors choose to use medical terms instead of practical ones.

It’s why ministers refer to oblique verses of Holy Book, in order to communicate the idea that only they, a few others and God are privy to the translation.

It’s why politicians have a stump speech, and then have a real code of behavior which they enact with their staff and subordinates.

This is one of the reasons Samuel Morse developed a code–so ideas could be quickly passed from one party to another without having to wait for the arrival of a letter by stage coach.

There’s nothing innately wrong with a code.

It would be extraordinarily paranoid to assume that not being familiar with a code of one group or another was a purposeful snub.

But I do think it is the responsibility of kind human beings everywhere to dispel codes and find language, emotions and gestures which have a more universal appeal.

 

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Club

Club: (n) an organization dedicated to a particular interest or activity.

It reminds me of Dickie. He was a friend of mine.

Dickie had one thing he was very proud of–he loved to dupe adults. He explained this to me one day. He said the key to tricking grown-ups
was finding out what they wanted, and then discovering a way to do it which was more fun.

For instance, Dickie had a lot of dirt clods in his back yard. We used them to throw at each other, playing war and anticipating what it might be like to be hit with a hand grenade.

Dickie’s mother came out in horror and told us to stop throwing them, saying that we would certainly destroy an eye–or at least sully our pretty shirts.

Dickie waited about thirty minutes, then went in and said to his mother, “Mom, maybe it would be a good idea if we got rid of all that dirt and those dirt clods, and dumped them in the nearby woods.”

She thought it was a grand idea, and even offered some bushel baskets that had recently held apples. So Dickie and I went out, collected dirt clods in the bushel baskets, escaped into the trees–and continued our game.

God, we felt smart.

We had our own little club which we had formed, and was built around the notion that since we were the honorary members, it confirmed that we were more intelligent than others.

From that point on, I have wondered if it is possible to separate oneself off from the mass of humanity into smaller and smaller units and clubs without promoting a sense of superiority and propagating a cloud of bigotry.

Does the Methodist feel superior to the Baptist as he drives by on the way to his church?

Does the white man feel empowered when he passes through the black neighborhood and sticks his nose up at the urban blight, touting that he’s part of the Caucasian Club?

Here’s a frightening and perhaps intimidating thought–we’re all part of one club, and that’s human beings.

Breaking us down any further and insisting that the differences are imperative and unique makes us just about as dumb as a bushel basket of dirt clods.

 

 

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Chopsticks

Chopsticks: (n) a pair of small sticks used as eating utensils, especially by the Chinese

I’ve taken the precaution of donning my suit of armor, which, by the way, already has quite a few dents. I’ve also calmed my spirit and satisfied my soul that all is well.

I must do this every time I launch into the cultural “holy of holies” and begin to make fun of sacrificial lambs.

Chopsticks are stupid. Worse than stupid, they’re pretentious.

Unless you were born in China and have never heard of a spoon or fork, using chopsticks is your way of establishing your superiority over those around you, who
insist on eating the cuisine of another country while using God-fearing American utensils.

I will be honest. I haven’t even tried chopsticks. What I have done is watch other people attempt to consume a meal while balancing the food on tiny wooden surfaces. Eventually what happens is, the bowl is picked up, brought close to the mouth, and the sticks are used as a shovel, to thrust the delicacy onto the tongue. So to use chopsticks, one has to break every other universal law of table etiquette. Once again, fine if you live in China, but not really required at the Main Street Chinese Buffet.

Pretension is bigotry done with a smile, and offered with over-explanation.

I don’t like chopsticks. Chinese people are fine. Chinese food is okay.

But chopsticks are Step Three in a process of ten in learning how to consume food more effectively. In other words, it began with fingers, went to hands, moved to chopsticks…

By the time you get to ten, there should be a damn fork.

 

 

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Bouncer

Bouncer: (n) a person employed by a nightclub or similar establishment to prevent troublemakers from entering

Big Mike.Dictionary B

That really was his name.

I know it sounds kind of silly, but if you’re going to be a bouncer in a club, your tag should have a certain amount of intimidation. In other words, if the owner was dealing with a problem, asking “Lawrence” to come and help would not be nearly as frightening.

I got to know Big Mike a little bit. He was a nice guy. I suppose he might even fall into the category of “sensitive.”

But whenever the proprietor of the institution called his name, Mike suddenly turned into an attack dog. It was almost like watching the transformation of the Incredible Hulk (except he never tore his shirt.) His face became stern, furrowing his eyebrows. He lost all the joy in his eyes as he rapped his knuckles on the table and stomped off to deal with some ne’er-do-well.

At first I found it funny. Then I realized Mike was playing a dangerous game.

Because the truth is, a prize fighter can’t go into a bar without all the drunken patrons thinking they can take him on. And Big Mike was going to eventually run across someone who felt it was his duty to clean his clock–leaving him unable to tell time.

It gave me pause.

How often am I tempted to muster a nasty disposition to warn people of my superiority and prowess, setting myself up to be brought down by the thunder of a greater storm?

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