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Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

The human body is really quite remarkable, you know. It appears to go through some type of metamorphosis as we age. In the male of the species, that with which I am intimately knowledgeable, and rather, genetically speaking, prepared to discuss…and will do so ad nauseum.

The world seems to have done a 180 degree turn in terms of the weight of all children, male and female. Whereas today’s problem appears to be one of obesity among the young (and others), at the time I was in my prepubescent state, the situation appeared to be exactly the opposite, i.e., “How the hell do we put some meat on those goddamned bones. I found him/her hiding behind a sapling for Christ’s sake!” or words to that effect. Oh sure, there were a few of us – not me – who experienced being called “Fatso” or some other derogatory term. I would add that those so christened did not immediately disappear into their sanctum sanctorum only to emerge with bandoliers of ammunition, an AK-47 in one hand and twin .45s on his hips and take out half the school. If he or she in some cases was really pissed, they might deck the skinny kid with the run-off mouth or perhaps throw him to the ground and sit on him to test his breathing skills, but retaliation was rarely violent and never as drastic as the shit that’s going down today.

Through puberty, high school, and even perhaps college, many of us continued to appear much as we had in our formative years. Others stayed as they were by joining the armed forces or immediately entering the work force but, by and large, we remained as we were. For many of us male-types, college meant finding “her.” We’d probably had our hearts shattered, figuratively speaking, many times along the road of life, but “she” was the one we had all been seeking. In my own case, it was somewhat serendipitous, in that it was the accident of college that led me to “her.” While I was not preparing to become a teacher, it was my second minor concentration and I had the opportunity to teach at my old high school. I was struck by cupid’s arrow the minute I saw her sitting in the teacher’s room, cigarette in hand. By the following summer we were marching down the aisle, all six feet, three inches, 145 pounds of me standing next to the woman of my dreams.

I don’t really know if it’s marriage or parenthood or whatever, but suddenly and in a subtle manner, my physiognomy began to change. My waistline, once in the teens, immediately expanded to late twenties, early thirties. My hairline began to create runways on either side of center. Small aches and pains began to become more prevalent and with an increase in intensity…hmm, is this what adulthood is all about?

A daughter and a son and now we’re done became something of an error when four years after we thought our family was complete, another daughter came into our lives. I really don’t believe our lives were complete, and I must give thanks to the Lord above for blessing us with this crazy bundle of joy. Raising kids is, I swear, an additional cause for the waistline to swell; the hair to further recede, and the heart to pound its way into myocardial infarction. Having lived through three of these episodes and with five stents now assisting blood flow, I do speak with authority on this subject.

Let no one throw at you that old saw that goes, “With age comes wisdom;” I am a great believer that with age comes oldness…wisdom may come along for the ride but trust me, old is old. I am now two inches shorter than when I was married. I am also better than 100 pound heavier; my head is shaved, and getting into bed at night and out in the morning is an effort 365 days a year…oh, except in a leap year when it’s 366 days. Both knees have been surgically repaired; rotator cuffs in each shoulder have been ‘fixed;’ three back operations have resulted in five self-fused lumbar vertebrae, and I have had surgery to hands, feet, and just about everything else in my body.

Today, however, I am facing the trial of my life. I must, once more, at the age of 81, subject myself to the surgeon’s scalpel. It is permissible to quote, “If you don’t use it, you’ll lose it here,” but that would be rather tacky. You see, although circumcision took place at an early age, it would appear that the foreskin of the penis has grown over the poor little fella making it both difficult and painful to discard sugar, et al, though the process of urination. I know; I know, we’re getting a bit personal here, but there is a certain humor in this entire chapter of my life. Whereas doctors have terms for damn near every surgical procedure under the sun, nothing has been put forth for this particular operation. My surgeon has informed me that it’s not uncommon at all for this to happen in older people – good luck to all you kids in your 60s and 70s; something else you may have to look forward to – and it’s a rather simple procedure. Not wanting to go into this thing blind, I have been pondering appropriate nomenclature for this particular ‘snip.’ To date, I have come up with “circum,” since it isn’t another complete circumcision; penisectomy, which sounds much too technical and is not in keeping with the manner in which I’m viewing this ‘cut.’ I have decided that it has come down to a choice between “dickectomy” which is appealing because it incorporates my name with what others have been calling me for years, or “peckerectomy,” which I must admit has a certain degree of flair.  Should you feel that I have yet to hit on the correct term for my upcoming (hmmm) in by 9; out  by 5 event, please feel free to comment.

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Okay, Jihadi, John, any plans you may have had for terrorizing the United States can now be put on hold. You’ve won, baby, and you didn’t even have to drive a tank down Pennsylvania Avenue or march around the Lincoln Memorial – that would have really fucked up DC traffic if you did it at rush hour. See, here’s the way this is going to work…you send a couple of guys into Congress; one goes to the office of the Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and the other goes into the office of House Speaker John Boehner. Each delivers a bill that relates to the Department of Homeland Security. The one to McConnell will be falsely authored by Boehner and will include nothing on immigration. The bill to the House Leader will be a fake, supposedly written by McConnell that will include a section that would nullify the Presidential executive order. By the time they determine the fraud, both houses of Congress will be so confused, they’ll be shooting at each other. Just stand back and wait, Johnny-Boy, and our own legislative branch of government will implode.

On a more serious note, I am so sick and tired of the Congress of the United States that I’d almost be willing to move to Canada. The only thing preventing that is that the Canadians are beginning to sound almost as idiotic as the Americans. Excuse me, but if you’re a Canadian citizen and you wish to buy an airline ticket for Turkey, the answer is a resounding “No.” If all of you took classes in Islamic studies from a known Islamist, (a) double “No” and (b) the government will buy the ticket for the known Islamist and fly his ass directly to Syria.

If, as has been publicly said, the United States is conducting terror investigations in each of the 50 states, why hasn’t some action been taken? If we are already aware of whom the catalysts in our prisons are, why hasn’t some action been taken to weed them out, isolate them, or martyr them? If we know, and I’m quite certain that our intelligence agencies know – oh, god, I hope I’m not wrong about this – the mosques and imams who are radicalizing our citizenry, why the hell hasn’t action been taken to close the mosques and ship these people back from whence they came? Have we become so politically correct that we are willing to turn the other cheek until the jihadists decide that slitting our throats is easier?

The time has long since past when America should tolerate extreme Islamists. Whoever they are; wherever they are, they should be shut down now. “Oh, but if we do that, it’s a violation of the First Amendment to the Constitution!” Bullshit! When a sect or cult begins to threaten the rights of the people who built this country, their First Amendment rights no long pertain or exist. Lincoln suspended the right of habeas corpus during the civil war. We are currently engaged in another, undeclared civil war right now against a group of foreign invaders who, if not dealt with as soon as humanly possible, will be flying the black and white over cities, towns, and hamlets all across America.

Do I sound paranoid? I’m too old to be paranoid. I am not yet old enough, however, to stop loving my country or to see that it is being eaten away from the inside out. The “new” Congress, controlled by a single party, was elected by the people because they promised to break gridlock and “govern.” Since that time, they have passed one major piece of legislation and that was vetoed by the President, as they knew it would be. Now, the houses cannot agree on a piece of legislation, which if not passed, will leave the security of our nation, closed for business. If that is what the Congress calls “governing,” then many of them have stuck their heads in the sand or somewhere else where the sun doesn’t shine.

The problems that we face cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the Legislative Branch of the United States government any more than they can be fully blamed on the Executive Branch. More than ever before, I blame the American people for electing the same political hacks who promise everything and deliver nothing, for creating the fix in which we now find ourselves. Google the number of criminals who are serving in the United States Congress; you’ll find that most of the investigations and arrests involve money. Income tax evasion, illegal campaign funding, illegal use of campaign funds…and you think that these people give a good goddamn about the people who voted for them? The answer to that depends entirely on how much which voters contributed to get them elected.

Ross Perot said it years ago; “Wake Up America.” From infiltration by jihadist terrorists to an inept legislative branch of government that can’t agree on anything, we are, to use an old saw, “up to our collective asses in alligators,” and the swamp remains undrained.

I propose that before any candidate for national public office is allowed to run, the same type of background investigation be conducted as is done for members of the military to be granted a Top Secret Code Word clearance. That would include a polygraph examination as well as random drug testing.  Given sufficient time, I’m quite certain that other requirements could be developed that would separate the wheat from the chaff.

Think about this for a moment: We are a nation of 320 million people, ninety-five percent of whom don’t give a damn as long as they have a roof over their head, a meal on the table three times a day, a new car in the garage or carport every six or seven years, and shoes without holes. On the other hand, you have the one percent who wants more than their fair share. You also have about 46 million children going to bed hungry every night. According to a UNICEF study, the United States has one of the highest rates of childhood poverty in the world. Is it any wonder that ISIS is able to recruit young people to its cause?

There you have it…from Jihad John to an inept and a somewhat corrupt government to a castigation of the American public and the way it treats its poorest, we have a great deal to overcome. Lordy, Lord, how I don’t envy the generation charged with pulling us out of this shit pile!

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“That the future may learn from the past.”

It’s on the bottom of the letterhead used by The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation. I happen to believe that statement, but unfortunately, there seem to be a whole passel of people who do not. We haven’t learned that liberty and justice for all means what it says. It shouldn’t matter what your race, color, sexual, or religious beliefs happen to be, you have a right to justice. We have elected – yep, we elected ‘em – elected officials who are supposed to ensure that justice is yours. These elected officials are our delegates to ensure (a) that justice is served and (b) that equality is meant as everyone; that we are all equal under the law.

Let me remind you of something: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.

“But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate — we can not consecrate — we can not hallow — this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us — that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion — that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain — that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom — and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

Abraham Lincoln’s words ring just as true today as they did a few months over 150 years ago. Us the living were, according to Lincoln, to move bravely into the future in order to preserve the nation; that we should learn from the past as we attempt to build a better future for all people. In that lesson I fear that we have failed; we have failed those who so valiantly fought to unite a young nation; who died at places like Gettysburg,, Shiloh, Antietam, and so many other towns, villages, streams, and rivers right here on our own soil. We have failed because we have failed to accept the burden of responsibility that has been thrust upon us.

I have tried my damndest to get into the heads of people who refuse to accept the concept of an elected government to serve the needs of its people. I have tried my damndest to get into the heads of those people who have been elected to learn why so many of them feel the need to put themselves ahead of those who elected them; who are supposed to be representing them; who do not really know what is happening in their own districts, much less their state or the union itself. I have failed miserably. What is going through the mind of a person who takes it upon him or herself to pick up a gun, go into a school, and shoot innocent people? Please, don’t give them an excuse by saying that they are mentally deficient. If that’s the case, why wasn’t the deficiency caught earlier? I don’t understand people who will riot for the sake of rioting; who will travel hundreds of miles just to burn buildings and loot stores. “Oh, well that’s just the mentality of those people.” What a crock of bullshit. It would appear that there are people in America who don’t wish to see our nation advance; who don’t want us to even have a future. I’m not talking about immigrants, legal or illegal. I’m talking about people who, by their very place of birth, should be doing their damndest to advance themselves and advance the future of our country; this place we call America.

Do we have problems? You bet your ass we do. We have problems of poverty, unemployment, and yes, even inequality. The ways in which to address these problems, however, is not to scream and shout, burn buildings, and attack those who serve our justice system. That only serves to exacerbate the problems we face. It is at such times that we expose our own ignorance. America is far from a perfect place; our republican form of government is far from a utopian ideal. In fact, it was 1947, when Sir Winston Churchill told the House of Commons, “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”

Is there another country in the world where I would be allowed to say some of the things that I have said on this blog? The true answer is, “No, I would not.” You and I have freedoms so far beyond what people in many other countries have, that we cannot even understand how great we have it. As I said earlier, yes, we have many problems to be solved. We cannot solve them if we go to the ballot box and elect the same type of person we have been electing for the past few decades.  Leaders need to step up to the plate and prove their leadership. They will be put under a microscope and condemned for having been a bully in kindergarten or for having had pre-marital sex, or whatever. It doesn’t matter. America is searching for genuine leadership to bring us out of our morass and moving us forward to create “a more perfect union.”

I’m over 80 years of age. I wish I was younger. I don’t consider myself one of those leaders by any stretch of the imagination, but I do picture myself as part of the rabble that will fight to make our nation better for all people.

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“Aortic root enlargement in octogenarian patients allows for insertion of larger aortic valve prostheses without any apparent increase in operative morbidity or mortality. The larger prostheses demonstrate better hemodynamic performance and less patient prosthesis mismatch, but no apparent functional or survival advantage.”

“Percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) in octogenarian patients has been associated with increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. This study aimed to assess acute and intermediate-term clinical outcomes among octogenarians undergoing PCI . These results show that clinically stable octogenarian patients undergoing PCI have favorable procedural and intermediate-term prognosis. In contrast, cardiogenic shock has a profound negative prognostic impact on octogenarians despite ‘aggressive’ PCI attempts.”

This is the kind of shit you look at when you pass 80 – that’s an octogenarian for the uninformed – and it’s the kind of shit you read about when you’ve survived three heart attacks, have five stents in your heart, lived through a blood clot in the lung, an aortic aneurism in your abdomen, and a bunch of other nasty crap you’d rather not re-experience (if there is such a word). The above two paragraphs are from the NIH US National Library of Medicine. If you have any tendency toward hypochondria, researching the web for your supposed illnesses could put you in the grave faster than any real illness that might kill you.

I remember reading over a decade ago that more than 100,000 pages per day were being added to this thing we call the Internet. If that was true then and Net content is being added exponentially, can you imagine how much information is being added daily a decade or so later. There was a coffee ad a few years ago where the husband comes staggering into the kitchen in a ragged bathrobe. His wife is sitting at the kitchen table, and he begins the process of pouring himself a ‘cuppa’ with a shaky hand. “I thought you were surfing the Internet?” she queries. Pausing before he takes a sip, he answers, “I finished!” He then adds some inane remark about how such-and-such coffee will revive him.

Today, if you began your research with “Association amicale des amateurs d’andouillette authentique» and ended with Zzzzz Mattress, you’d probably be bone dust in your casket by the time your descendants finished the project.

As unfortunate as it may be, we live in an age that is obsessed by youth. When Apple announced its new I-phone VI or whatever the hell it was, you didn’t see an octogenarians camping out a week ahead of time to ensure that they were among the first in line. There are several reasons for that: First, we enjoy our own beds too much; not hotel beds; not resort beds; not beds on some Caribbean island (unless it’s a really cold New England winter); and most assuredly not some friggin’ sidewalk covered with cigarette butts, old chewing gum or dried spit. There might have been a couple of septuagenarians in the crowd, but you know how those youngsters behave. I have learned that the greatest gift of all at this age is breathing, exercising, eating pretty much what I wish, and sleeping in comfort in my own bed beside a woman I love. Are there limitations to turning 80? Of course there are. Unlike one of the linemen on the Florida State University football team, I can no longer bench press 600 pounds…what am I saying? I could never bench press anything close to 600 pounds…ever! The loss of muscle mass begins at 40, so I guess at my age, I should be thankful that I can bench 50 pounds plus the bar!

“Age is only a number. You’re only as old as you feel. Life begins at 80.”  It’s all a bunch of jargon bullshit. As my friend, David Ellis, was so fond of saying, “It is what it is.” That is so true. There are days when I believe I can take on the world and win; then, there are other days when I feel as though the world has decided it’s payback time…and I’m in real trouble!

Life is life. There is no dress rehearsal. We can do things at 20 that we can’t do at 80. However, at 80, we generally have the common sense to realize we can’t do what we did at 20. One of my favorite Mark Twain quotes is, “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly, and I did. I said I didn’t know.” That is one thing that I’ve learned over the past several decades. However, it’s not until one ages and either doesn’t give a damn or is sufficiently honest to be able to say it. Of course, Twain also said, “Life would be infinitely happier if we could only be born at the age of eighty and gradually approach eighteen.” I’m not as certain of this one as I am of the former. Somehow, I get the feeling that, despite our accumulated wisdom from eighty on backwards, we would still find a way to experience the ignorance of the things we did at fifty, forty, thirty, and twenty…not to mention the agonies of those last two teenage years.

I leave you with the best advice that our friend, Mr. Twain, could possibly give, “Don’t part with your illusions. When they are gone, you may still exist, but you have ceased to live.

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“The world is divided into ‘givers’ and ‘takers.’ If you’ve never heard the expression, invite me over to your cave sometime, and we can discuss philosophy 101. However, I never heard the rest of the statement until today. It goes, “The takers eat well, but the givers sleep well. What a wonderful expression when combined. I wonder if it’s true. I began to do a bit of research on the subject of givers and takers, only to learn that there is a third category, “matchers.”  The takers take with no thought of how it might affect others, rather like, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine…and if I want it, screw you, I’m going to get it.” The givers just give without thought other than it will help the team, organization, or whatever. The matchers, however, are those who will give but expect to receive something from their giving…a favor later or some kind of quid pro quo that will benefit them.

I never realized the amount of study that has gone into this subject of givers and takers…and even matchers. I also never realized that this entire thing could be turned into book after book after book. It made me realize that no matter how obscure, shadowy, vague, or downright weird, there is always some smartass who is able to take advantage of it and turn it into a profitable book, workshop, or lecture tour.  In addition, if one is really good, it can be turned into an entire semester-long course for guinea pigs who will supply an endless amount of raw data so that more books can be published and more money can wind up in the author’s pockets.

As an undergraduate, I was forced to take a course entitled Advertising Production. It was a required course. This was in the 1950s when textbooks were relatively inexpensive. Therefore, when I learned that this text was going to set me back nearly a hundred bucks, I was really pissed. The man who taught the course was still living in the 1930s. The course was as dull as dishwater; the book a piece of crap, and if you turned in a smoke and mirrors project and did well on the tests, you were pretty much guaranteed an ‘A.’ Several years after I graduated, this same faculty member was taking a year-long sabbatical, and I was asked if I’d be interested in teaching the Ad Production course for a year. Hey, what an opportunity to put a few bucks in my pocket, so I said, “Yes.” I was given something that was supposed to be a syllabus, told the name of the book that had been ordered, an “atta boy,” and left to my own devices. The book was the same one that I had as an undergraduate. It had not changed…one iota. On the first day of class, I asked how many had purchased the book. The answer was zero. They were waiting to see what the instructor was going to do; how would he teach; would the book be required, etc., etc., etc. I told them not to buy the book. I’d be damned if I was going to put royalties in the pocket of some lazy son-of-a-bitch who hadn’t bothered to change his book in nearly 20 years.

You have to understand something clearly. Advertising Production entails many things. There is the creative process, the production process, budgeting, and a whole pile of other ‘stuff’ that goes into what you may read in Time or U.S. News, listen to on your favorite radio station, or watch between segments of NCIS or Grimm. The classroom is great but not for this particular course. Back then, you took students to an ad agency for the creative process as well as cost figures. You took them to a commercial printer if you wanted them to see the complexities of a print advertisement. You took them where things were actually happening, let professionals spend an hour – I had a lot of friends in the business – telling them the facts of life [as you took notes to make up exam questions], and showed them firsthand what they might be facing after graduation. From the owner of a commercial printing company, the students received a spiral-bound printer’s handbook. In class they were told that this was their Bible and to be prepared to be tested on what it contained [I had probably ten different editions of the same book and had found it to be invaluable in producing bulletins, brochures, and catalogs]. They learned early on that their projects would be judged by real world standards and not by how much BS they could shovel.  Of the money I received from teaching that class, nearly half went into transportation, publications, and ‘honoraria’ for speakers. I’m not that giving a person, but I would be damned if those kids were going to suffer through the bullshit through which I suffered. Funny thing is that several stayed in touch for years; one stays in touch to this day. I’m not certain who the giver was and who was the taker. I probably learned as much from them as they learned from me and the people to whom they were introduced.

Frankly, I don’t think we should go through life as takers or givers or matchers, or whatever. According to some of the data I’ve seen, the three categories aren’t necessarily a measure of success. Oh, boy, there’s another word that’s worthy of an entire essay! Some givers achieve greatness as do the other two. Other givers, takers, and matchers are at the bottom of the achievement list. Perhaps this is why I question the idea of trying to make so much psychological gobbledygook out of who is what in this world in which we live. When I started this piece, I had no idea where it would take me; no idea that it would rekindle my very first college lectureship experience; no idea that it would begin to make me think about my own family and who were the givers, and who were the takers.

I’m reminded of a quote by the philosopher,  Kahlil Gibran,“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” Certainly, it would be great to win a big lottery jackpot and give much of it to your favorite charities, but it is when you give of your knowledge, freely and without reservation; when you give of your time to help others without concern for yourself, then you will begin to realize just how good giving can feel.

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What is wrong with being bald? Where is the problem with having gray in one’s hair? Have you ever seen a man or woman with snow white hair? It’s singularly beautiful. I’m not talking about the dirty gray that you see on some, but if the genes are right – mine don’t happen to be, but what the hell – it seems to enhance the beauty or at least detract from the ugliness of the person so blessed. In terms of being bald, I guess the classic actors were or are Telly Savalas, Yul Brynner, Stanley Tucci, John Malkovich, and several others, none of whom appeared to be concerned about the fact that their heads were shaved because they were mostly bald.

The ads on television that push hair restoration for “that younger look,” or adding coloring to hair or beards in order to ‘score’ with women are embarrassingly simplistic and downright insulting. What, you think that by going through a process that puts hair on your head or color in your beard, you’re going to be more attract6ive to the opposite sex? My guess would be that you’re trying to look younger in order to think younger, act younger, and make a damned fool of yourself.

You are what you are, and while hair coloring works well for most women – except for the purple-headed grande dames – I’m not all that certain the same can be said for men. Unless a man has his hair colored professionally, it usually comes out as five shades of brown as opposed to fifty shades of gray.

After Joan died of cancer, I did two things to honor her memory. First, I had my wedding ring made into a heart and attached to the cross I wear around my neck. The second thing I did and will continue to do until I die, is to shave my head. Did she undergo chemo and lose her hair? No, she refused chemo because (a) it was too late, and (b) she preferred quality of life over quantity of life. So no, I didn’t shave my head because Joan had lost all of her hair. I did it as a tribute to her memory. Was I going bald anyway? That’s a tough call. I had a small tonsure on the back of my head and a couple of runways on the front, but by and large, I still had to get to a barber every couple of weeks to look presentable. Today, while I still haven’t mastered the art of shaving my head with a straight razor – I admit to crazy; not to stupid – I keep the old scalp as bare as possible. Let me put it this way: After I’ve shaved my head, it glints. That’s enough for me.

People do all sorts of crazy things to make themselves what…more attractive to the opposite gender? That seems rather shallow to me because it would appear that the person is starting out with a deception. If that’s what floats someone’s boat, beautiful, go for it, but understand something very clearly; you are a victim of the advertising community. You also probably have insecurities about how you look, and the advertisers are doing nothing but pandering to those insecurities. My personal insecurity about my looks took place when I was in high school. During the summer, between my freshman and sophomore years, I grew nearly a foot in height, all the way up to six feet, three inches. The only problem was that my weight didn’t grow with me. At 145 pounds, I could stand sideways to a sapling and disappear. I wasn’t the tallest kid in the class; I was the tallest person in the school. The most polite of the nicknames was probably “Bones,” but those days are gone forever. Looking back, I can chuckle about how insecure I was over my height as well as my weight. Today, at six, one, and 250, I’m still somewhat insecure about my weight…no I’m not; it is what is, and at 80, I just don’t give a damn any more.

The exterior of a person is really quite meaningless. When Robin Williams committed suicide, all the gory details were part of the police announcement. Zelda Williams, his daughter, shut down her twitter account because of some of the nasty comments she was receiving. Now time has passed, and the public is learning about the real Robin Williams; not Williams the comedian; not Williams the actor; not Williams who constantly battled depression. People are learning about Robin Williams, the generous man who entertained troops in Iraq and Afghanistan without promoting his tours; who taped a ‘take care’ message to a woman in New Zealand who is dying of cancer; who regularly did fund raising for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital; who was one of the kindest and most generous people in Hollywood; who was probably haunted by the onset of Parkinson’s disease. Outside, he was…talented and strange. Inside, his heart was filled with kindness and generosity.

You don’t have to add hair or shave your head. You don’t have to Botox your face or use a particular brand of skin softener. You just have to be the best you that you can be. As one quotation goes, “When you were born, you cried and all of those around you smiled. Live your life so that when you die, you are smiling and all around you are crying.” I can think of no finer tribute.

 

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A gentleman with whom I am acquainted – well, I assume he’s a gentleman; never know these days – teaches philosophy at a local private school. For a number of years he was the headmaster of said school, but then he decided to get a real job – as I have been told on too many occasions to count by teaching faculty from here to hell and gone – and became an “educator.” Since I went neither through a liberal arts curriculum nor did I attend a Jesuit institution…the only two collegiate programs where philosophy seems to be a mandatory requirement…I was never exposed to philosophical thought. After several conversations with said gentleman, I began to realize just how sadly lacking my education has been. Were this to happen today, I could probably turn around and sue my undergraduate institution for not providing a compendious educational program, but to attempt this after having been absent the classroom for more – well more – than half a century, I would doubtless be throwing good money after bad. That is not philosophical thought; just common sense.

All of the above having been said, I am going back to school! “So what?” you ask, to which I respond, “When you stop learning, formally or informally, you’re dead and just too ignorant to lie down.” It’s never too late to learn. There are several reasons I believe this, the first of which is that I would like to be able to discuss philosophy on a more intellectual level with my acquaintance. Another reason is that, as was said earlier, without philosophy, my education is lacking and incomplete. I plan to take the same approach with journalism at some point, sadly having been denied the opportunity to pursue any formal training in that area. There may well be other subjects available through the Internet, but right now I’m settling on those two. A third reason for doing this is that I find of late, television programming is (a) idiotic; (b) idiotic; (c) idiotic; or (d) all of the above. It is with a certain degree of guilt that I must also admit that my reading list has begun to lapse into the mystery/murder/thriller genre, and it would be nice to get away from that for a while.

I will not pontificate on what I have learned to date. To do so would be to prove the adage, “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” Abraham Lincoln appears to have a quote for every occasion; that is another of his great ones. Let me just say that now that school has adjourned for the summer, I will have a few months to study philosophy and perhaps be able to carry on a reasonably less pompous conversation with my acquaintance when he returns to school and to the gym next year. Oh, that’s right, I didn’t tell you; we met at a gym. You meet the most interesting people in some of the strangest of places. Think about it…talking philosophy in a gym; discussing labor law…in a gym; conversing about politics without coming to blows…in a gym; I have even managed to get my utility company to bill me electronically…by speaking to someone at the gym,  thus proving that nearly all things are possible given the proper environment.

One of the things that I find truly amazing about the Internet is the amount of course work in various field that I can study without having to enroll or pay money, that last being perhaps the primary reason I do not hold a terminal degree from Grand Canyon, Southern New Hampshire, or one of the many online programs that are available; well, that and the fact that I’m on a fixed income. However, I’m not certain I wish to take online courses that are going to tax me beyond my limited abilities. To gain the basics of understanding of a subject with which I have no familiarity may well be as far as I wish to go, but go I will because, in this case anyway, I know someone who is an authority on the subject…and I’m a brain picker!

Think about this for a moment: You have died and on your first whatever in Heaven; I will assume you have gone to Heaven and not any of those other places, but on your first night, you are given the opportunity to dine with five other people of your choosing…and…there will be plenty of time for questions and discussion following dinner. Yes, I know, if you’re dead you probably won’t eat, yadda, yadda, yadda…give me a break, will you please? Who would you choose? Remember Mitch Albom’s book, The Five People You Meet in Heaven? This isn’t like that. You pick five people; they may be people you have admired because of their contributions to the world…Mohandas Gandhi, Budda, or Confucius. It might be you’ve admired great warriors like Genghis Khan, Hannibal, or Alexander. I have to tell you that I would be very hard pressed to pick just five people with whom I’d like to exchange ideas. Recently, I watched – yes, back to television again, but this was Netflix or Amazon or one of those – a piece on Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Their fight for the rights of women might have put one of them at my table, but then I watched a piece on Jefferson and…well, you know what follows. Our world has been filled with those who could rightfully demand a place at your table or mine. What about our own ancestors; would they be a choice? If you have an interest in philosophy, would you have Epicurus, Aristotle, John Locke, or Plato at your table?

I can [and will…as always] offer a bit of advice on how to choose your dinner companions. Years ago, I taught a course in creative problem solving. The first step in what was known as the problem-solving wheel, was to identify all of the “messes” that required your attention. From that, your job was to identify the problem that first required your attention; which of the messes had to be cleaned up first before you could move on. In selecting that problem as the most important, I asked students and teams of students to answer one question when they felt they had identified the problem that they would attack. The question was, “Why?” If you can answer the question, why, five times in a row and receive a satisfactory answer each time, chances are you have the correct problem to attack. Perhaps that’s the question you should ask about your dinner partners. Why do you want Abraham Lincoln, for example? After you have given your complete answer, ask the question again and again and again, and one more time. If he stands the Five Why question, then he probably belongs at your table.

I leave you with this advice…use the Internet wisely; find out who attends your gym; and stay tuned for more about my foray into philosophy.

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