Cooperate

Cooperate: (v) to work or act together or jointly for a common purpose or benefit.

Life sent me a text.

It asked me if I had a few minutes to sit down and discuss some things. Normally I would have been responsive, but it was a busy day.

Sometimes I intend to return messages to people but then I get absorbed in happenings and my very, very good intentions are set to the side. These people are often offended. They don’t understand how much I really wanted to get back to them.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

So Life texted me again. This time the request came with four exclamation points. I hate it when people overuse punctuation on the Internet, don’t you? It’s so ignorant. Do they really think that’s going to get my attention?

So this time, I refused to respond on principle—surely it must be some sort of scam.

The following week Life texted me again, and insisted that something needed to be done very soon, or else.

I despise it when people threaten me. Don’t you? Because if you follow up, trying to find out what it’s about, you discover they just played you to get your attention.

Honest to God, if I chased every person warning me about something, or informing me about another thing, I wouldn’t get anything else done.

So I came up with an emoji which I sent back to life. A cute one. I think it was a creature sticking out its tongue.

That kind of summed up my feelings about Life’s interference in my daily activity—especially the pushiness I was feeling from the unwanted messages.

Then all of a sudden, I died.

I arrived at some sort of place that seemed to have an atmosphere, but was completely suspended in time. Standing there waiting for me was Life.

Not seeing anybody else to talk to, I stepped up to Life and said, “What happened? I was too young for this.”

Life looked at me smugly and said, “Did you get my texts?”

“Yes,” I replied, wondering what in the heck that had to do with anything under the sun.

Life took a deep breath. “I texted you because I wanted to let you know that several alarms had gone off in your body which you were ignoring, and you needed to go get yourself checked out.”

I frowned. “Why didn’t you tell me it was important?”

Life groaned, then spoke slowly. “You see, that’s the problem with human beings. You think anything that you don’t know about is an interference, never realizing that most problems can be avoided if you will just stop, listen, receive the message, and cooperate.”


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Coop

Coop: (n) an enclosure, cage, or pen

When you’re six years old, life boils down to magical castles, super heroes and fire-breathing dragons.

So when my dad took me out to the little farm we maintained (so we wouldn’t appear to be city folks living high on the hog in a village of fifteen hundred people) we went for a walk through the chicken coop.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

I was unimpressed.

It was not a magical castle, nor did I see much potential for a hero named Super Chicken and there were no fire-breathing dragons.

That is . . .

Until the next morning, when my dad came into the little farm cottage, ranting and raving about the fox which had slit the throats of three chickens.

Keep in mind—I was six years old and did not know what a fox was, nor had I ever seen a creature with its throat slit. All I knew was that this fox had figured out a way to burrow underneath the fence to get the chickens.

Not lacking creativity, I envisioned a creature in a black cape with huge eyes darting from side to side, who was able through mystical powers, to lower his body frame to ground level, to wiggle underneath wire, only to rise up again and run through the chicken coop with his black cape, placing some sort of elaborate necklace on the hens’ throats.

Obviously, this had nothing whatsoever to do with what my father described, and much later in life, when I realized what a fox was and how dangerous it was to have one loose in the henhouse, I grasped the literal comprehension of the situation.

But I want to tell you—my six-year-old rendition was so much better.


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Concert

Concert: (n) a musical performance given in public

At a very early age I convinced myself I could sing. Growing up in a small village, there was not much competition–and since I was willing to intone and offer my voice as a possibility, folks around my community had no reason to doubt my prowess.

So when I graduated from high school, rather than heading off to college and finding out if anyone outside of Delaware County thought I funny wisdom on words that begin with a C
could sing, I put together a music group, started writing some of my own songs and planned concerts.

I immediately learned the difficulty in concert promotion.

  1. Just because you think you can sing does not mean anybody wants to hear you.
  2. And if you can convince them to come to your concert, it may require that you offer some other stimulus, like refreshments. Or prizes.
  3. If anything else comes up before the concert, or even on concert day, which is more alluring, chances are that promise to attend, even by your friends, is quickly forsaken.
  4. People’s patience in hearing you sing is based upon how well you can take them to a happier (or sad) place and make them glad they went there.
  5. Just because you can sing doesn’t mean anybody wants to buy a recording of you doing it, so they can play it in their free time.

These were tough lessons.

So ferocious was my training during this period that I often found it difficult to supply food for my family and was only able to lodge as long as I could dodge coming face-to-face with the landlord.

It was actually many years before anyone, of their own volition, walked up to me and said, “Hey! When’s your next concert?”

I froze the moment in my mind… and replay it frequently.

 

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Community

Community: (n) a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.

Our little village was filled with community pride.

It was cute–a little bigger than a postage stamp, yet you could walk around the entire downtown area in less than ten minutes.

Growing up there, I was taught that community is not so much sharing a location, but rather, absorbing a basic ideology.

I’m not sure who came up with the standards or the principles which were passed down among the locals and inhaled like air, but generally speaking, you could do well in my community if you understood the mindset and the dress code.

If for some reason, you wanted to vary from the common universal brain, or clothe yourself in such a way as to gain too much attention, then you were initially viewed as comical.

If you persisted, you went from comical to being deemed confused.

And if confusion was maintained, then you would be considered dangerous and need to be dealt with by the negative approaches established by our community.

It was a very successful system.

We were able, through this system, to keep all blacks, Hispanics, gays, lesbians and long-haired rock and rollers far from our borders–without ever firing a shot.

The teeny tiny handful of those who remained were simply ostracized–or maybe just received really poor mail service.

None of the people in our community considered themselves prejudiced–just enamored by a preference. After all, if you wanted varying behaviors, you could drive twenty miles down the road to the Big City, where there were all sorts of options available, complete with rape, murder and a variety of other crimes. We were thoroughly frightened of the outside world, without ever being officially indoctrinated into a cult.

But our community was a cult.

I found this out when I wanted to stray from the daily routine and pursue my own ideas. No one struck me, no one physically attacked me, and no one even openly rebuked me. They just left me out of everything.

The system works to this day. All across America little towns have a network of gossipers who warn of suspicious arrivals, allowing the community a chance to provide the inconsideration to drive good folks away.

 

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Clean-cut

Clean-cut: (adj) giving the appearance of neatness and respectability.

He was Mr. Wintermute.

I did not know his first name since I was a young boy and was not allowed to speak it, or for that matter, hear it. He was our village barber.
He cut hair.

I didn’t like to have my hair cut. I didn’t have any reason. Mr. Wintermute was a nice enough fellow. I suppose in today’s culture, we might accuse him of having “soft hands,” but such things were not considered when I was a young’un growing up.

He offered two possibilities in his shop. The first was called “regular,” and the second was called “butch.”

A butch haircut was one that was combed to the top and then clipped down to look like grass on a putting green.

A regular haircut was a little splash of hair left on the top and white walls on the sides.

Mr. Wintermute did not take special orders.

He had a little speech he delivered every time I went into his chair. “Yes, it’s good that you came. You’re looking a little shaggy, like the dog in the Disney movie. Let’s see what we can do to make you look clean-cut again.”

By clean-cut, Wintermute meant shaving everything in sight, leaving unattractive stubble around the ears, and a clump of what appeared to be crab grass on top. Of course, that clump needed to be clean-cut also, so he offered Brylcreem to smooth it down. And even though “a little dab’ll do you,” Mr. Wintermute was much more generous.

I would actually walk out of the barber shop feeling chilly–because suddenly my ears were on their own, to stay warm. My chubby face now just looked fat–and all the adults around me, who were advocates of clean-cut, “o-o-h-ed and a-h-h-ed” to maintain the belief that how one cut one’s hair actually had something to do with character.

Mr. Wintermute has long ago passed away. I think he would be very pleased that I wrote this essay about him, highlighting a time in American history when how we looked was the essence of who we were.

 

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City

City: (n) a large town.

The fear of the unknown is the beginning of bigotry. (I just came up with that. What do you think??)

This was clearly expressed to me growing up as a boy. (I started out as a lad and decided to stick with it.)

I lived in a Village of 1,500 people. This is the crowd size for a medium-famous rock band.

It’s small enough that you can eyeball everybody, size them up and make ridiculously quick decisions on who they are and who they aren’t. It’s not so much that everybody knows everybody–it’s the fact that nobody really knows anybody, but because we’re so close together, we draw conclusions anyway.

You had to drive ten miles to get to the Town. We hated them. They were our arch-rivals–because they had about 25,000 people. They beat our high school teams in every sport, and we were convinced they were all brats, strutting around their houses smirking at each other and sneering at our little Village.

Sometimes the boys from our Village would go down to the Dairy Queen and pick fights with the Town guys. We always lost. But at least we tried, right?

Now–another twelve miles from the Town was the City. Even though the Village was only twenty miles away, the City was the “Dark Side of the Moon.”

There were only certain reasons to go there.

Movies. There was only one theater in the Town, and it usually just showed Disney flicks. If you wanted to see a movie, you had to go to the City, which meant you had to listen to a fifteen-minute lecture from your mom and dad about the dangers lurking in the metropolis, which had several hundred thousand folks.

They also had restaurants instead of “Mom and Pop food.” When I went to the City, I always thought I was going to be robbed, raped or killed–maybe all three.

As a youngster, it caused me to believe that the smaller things are, the more pure they stay–that it was impossible to live in the Town and do good works, and certainly beyond imagination to dwell in the City and find favor with God.

The fear of big things caused the young people of our Village to pick up on the vices of the City without ever receiving the benefits of culture, convenience and camaraderie.

It took me years to overcome the little box that lived in my head, which was supposed to contain everything I needed–yes, a long time to go into the City, bringing what I had learned in the Town, while maintaining the heart and soul of my Village.

 

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Barn

Barn: (n) a large farm building used for storing grain, hay, straw or for housing livestock.Dictionary B

I grew up in a small town of 1,500 people.

One of the nice things about living in a village is that if you own one thing that others don’t, you are cool–and if by some miracle you have two, then you are rich.

I was on the junior high school basketball team.

A friend of mine lived right outside town and had a barn adjacent to his house. His parents had built, in the hayloft, a basketball court, complete with two hoops and a lovely wood floor.

It was magnificent.

I’m sure if I saw it today, it would appear rustic and dank. But to us, born in a little burg, it was Madison Square Haygarden.

My friend had never invited me up to play basketball. Other members of the team had been numerous times, but I was never included.

It hurt my feelings.

So one day when I was at his house, I just popped off with the question. “Hey, why don’t we go out to the barn and play some basketball?”

My friend was nervous but agreed. So we climbed up the steps, onto the court, and were bouncing and shooting away, when suddenly the floor just beneath my feet broke through and I fell straight down through the hole, catching myself by my armpits.

There I was, legs dangling to the floor beneath, wedged into a small opening, unable to get myself out.

Finally my friend was able to gather three or four other guys, along with his dad, to pull me out of the crevice and set me back onto firm lumber.

My friend then explained that this was why he had never invited me to the basketball court–he knew I was too heavy and might break through, but kept praying the whole time that everything would be okay.

It wasn’t.

I learned two valuable lessons that day:

  1. If you’re going to be fat, sometimes you’ll be left out of the skinny games.
  2. Prayer doesn’t always keep you from falling through the cracks…and dangling by your pits.

 

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