Ramblings of Charles Prier – Writer-Insomniac-General Know-it-All

Archive for the ‘Human Nature’ Category

Free Kittens for Sale

Not really, I only have one cat and he is part-time. He comes here on weekends and sometimes evenings, when the office next door is closed. That office is occupied, during business hours, by my son and my animal-loving daughter-in-law.

The title is more of a philosophical statement than an advertisement. You may have to think about that for a moment. To me it’s reminiscent of everyday adages and familiar clichés such as: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Thinking further you can even conjure up other saws that are applicable to everyday situations, e.g., the purchase price is only a down payment. That’s particularly true of pets. A blank check is limited by the amount in the account. And even unconditional love ultimately has conditions.

To me it’s an important reminder that I should diligently think through all the circumstances before I invest money or, more importantly, life energy in exceptional situations whether these are perceived as opportunities or problems.

When considering opportunities I find that I tend to not only rationalize the expenditure but sometimes do a lot of wishful thinking about the expected results. For example, I might forget a kitten too soon becomes a cat who, depending on gender, either odorously marks his (and my) territory and prowls or periodically generates numerous other cats.

 Problems are a different matter because there are so many different kinds. I often think of obstacles that prevent me from being right or having my own way as problems. I know that my moral compass should rule in these cases but its bezel is often clouded with stubborn selfishness and pride. The clouds usually go away with time, a little pouting and giving or pretending to get an apology.

Sometimes fate deals us a hand we can’t see beyond. The problem attacks us on several fronts, questions worthless to even think about, spring up. Why? What did I do to cause this? I could’ve. I, we, they should’ve. Thinking through requires the realization that answering these questions and mulling over possible missteps will not change the situation one iota and will drain away valuable energy that should be directed toward finding solutions, carrying out those that are possible and living hopefully.

There are two things I sometimes forget when I’m thinking things through. The first is that I’m not alone and my reactions to opportunities and problems will impact, to some extent, my friends and loved ones. These deserve consideration. And the other is: Everything in life, good or bad is temporary. –CP

Stumpset’n

Claude Parker, a Navy comrade of many years ago once told me that he could just sit around and think and learn stuff. He said he tapped into the universe for new knowledge and could assimilate facts from his memory. I thought the idea was preposterous.

I was wrong. Through this process he noted that elements of fundamental truths among unrelated things often correspond. For example: while thinking about questions on an intelligence test, he noted as fact that Paper is to pen as chalkboard is to chalk ;therefore, many of the characteristics of paper might apply to chalkboards and the same for pen and chalk – new facts to consider and assimilate.

A simple example yes, but it illustrates the underlying process of Stump Sitting (pronounced Stumpset’n). Stumpset’n involves clearing out those ingrained notions, attitudes, and prejudices that are queues for the repetitious sequence of everyday thoughts. Once the sequence is broken new facts can be observed.

Why is so much effort involved in solving everyday problems?

We don’t usually carry around problems looking for solutions but we carry a bag of solutions with us at all times. When a problem is encountered we reach into our bag for the solution. If we can’t find a solution that fits the problem, we lapse into a quandary and launch a sequence of thought to redefine the problem to match a solution in our bag. The path is set, redefinition follows redefinition and is not likely to lead to an effective solution.

Frustration is added as a new ingredient to the process. Further mental effort is demanded, intensifying the repetitious sequence. Our thoughts diverge further and further from the needed solution. It’s not until the sequence is broken that an optimum solution is reached.

Stumpset’n is not for solving specific problems but for practice in clearing the obstacles to unencumbered thought. It adds to your bag of solutions by creating new solutions, variations of old solutions, adding options, smoothing out and filling in details.

Find a stump in a quiet spot (physical or mental) where there is just you and God. Relax to the point your shoulders are no longer touching your ears. Observe nature, relive happy and triumphant events, savor the moment, and follow the threads of random thoughts until they become obscure or excite you to the point of action. Now you’re Stumpset’n.    –CP

 

Ol’ Vernon

Some believed Vernon to be a good Christian man. Others believed the goodness might just be camouflage for his vitiated character. This contrast is varied among those who knew him. I believe there is clear evidence for both conditions. I knew him when I was a young teenager. My spiritual consciousness had not been awakened at the time so I was able to observe, probably with prejudice, evidence favoring camouflage.

He was a distant cousin of my mother and, as my dad used to say, from the halfassed side of the family. Me and his son, Elvin, who was a couple of years older than me, ran around together some in those days.  I can remember spending nights at his house. On those nights, after dark we would sit around the living room chatting, playing a board game or working on a jigsaw puzzle, Vernon would abruptly stop everything and read a chapter or a passage, out loud, from the Bible. He spoke with a dry monotone voice and thankfully added no commentary. After the Bible reading, he would insist that all the lights be turned out and we sat silently in the dark for a period of time. He held a flashlight and would randomly click it on for a second or two. I reasoned that it was to check that no one was asleep. Near the end of the dark time he would creep to the front door and appear to listen intently for anything he might hear outside. I wanted to ask why but didn’t.

Sitting there in the dark was awkward for me. I didn’t know what to do. Usually I would just fantasize about stuff I don’t wish to discuss here. . . Okay, just this one thing. His daughter, Joann, who was a little younger than me, frequently sat on the porch up at the store and ate ice cream. It was rumored that if you would buy her an ice cream cone, she would let you look up her dress while she ate it. I don’t know if that’s true since I never had the money to buy her an ice cream cone. My fantasy was more about having a nickel than buying her an Ice cream. Thinking back, Joann gained a lot of weight that summer.

Vernon used to ask questions that lacked grace. If I wore a new shirt he would ask, “How much did it cost?” I always answered with a lie. He often asked how much money my dad made. I always said I don’t know. His facial expression told me that he didn’t believe me, but actually I didn’t know.

Vernon used to take up collections for people. This was in the days before abundant welfare programs, and whenever someone was down sick and couldn’t work, the custom was to take up a collection for them, a love offering so to speak. Vernon was the first to begin taking up a collection. I wondered how much of the collection made it to its intended recipient and how much of it went into Vernon’s pocket.

Vernon was able to spin elaborate stories of those ailing and needing a collection. “Ol’ Ted Atkins  ’as been laid up for a while,” he would say. “You know he had appendicitis and an infection set in after that. He ain’t been able to do a lick of work in more than a month. It’s good that they don’t have no rent to pay but he and his family has to eat. They’ve already eaten a bunch of their chickens. Only have a few left, just enough for a few eggs. And them hens don’t lay very much since they only eat what they can scratch out of the ground. The kids are doing the chores around the house and keeping wood pile up. And Nellie, she takes care of him, cooks and keeps the house up, though some say not so good. She’s never worked outside the house. So, anything you could give would sure help them out and we’ll see they are taken care of as best as we can,” he’d conclude.

Vernon died in 1995. I hear someone took up a collection to help pay for his cremation.  –CP

Lifting or Leaning

From many years back I remember the gist of a little poem about Lifting and Leaning. The author’s premise is that there are only two types of people in the world “those who Lift and those who Lean.” Although I can’t remember many of the words or the author’s name, the little piece made an impression on me.
When I was young and inexperienced I believed that I was certainly a Lifter and that Leaners were of lesser character and should learn to lean upon themselves instead of us Lifters. I found it easy to dislike someone if they appeared to be leaning in any manner and felt that lifting out of love was surely a commitment to endure a heavy burden.
Later in life I began to evaluate my own actions in terms of Lifting or Leaning. I was horrified to observe that much of my own behavior was the leaning type; these, at first, were in mundane and unimportant areas of life, of course.
Time and experience have taught me that people sometimes lift though often they lean. I have learned that Leaners frequently believe they are Lifters and Lifters who complain about having to lift are really leaning. I believe that true Lifters enjoy lifting, and often seek opportunities to Lift almost as frequently as Leaners look for help.
It’s my carefully considered conclusion that there is really only one type of people in the world, “those who Lift, AND Lean.”

A moment too small

The crowd aimlessly paraded about whispering gossip and chatting meaninglessly; acquaintances, troubled by personal flaws, smiled, commented sweetly on the scene and then moved on. I held the innocent infant. Although aware of his illegitimacy, aware of the contempt silently adjudged to his father and aware of the pain and deeply disquieting sentiments haunting his maternal grandfather, I was content with my fleeting role. The young mother, unconcerned and perhaps unaware of the potential problems lurking in her future, sat next to me.

Suddenly in the stillness of time, the glowing face of the maternal grandfather appeared. Our eyes met and in that moment our minds exchanged an explosion of pure knowledge more detailed than can be achieved with words, images or thoughts. Jointly we acknowledged his grandson’s humanity and demanded the entire world accept his autonomy; wordlessly expressed therein was our common realization that his potential for success, even greatness, was not encumbered by the choices of others and the certainty that his birth was right with God.

Every child begins the world again.” – Henry David Thoreau

The Next House

A man researching his family history was looking for a distant uncle. He stopped by a house where a man was resting on a front porch swing. He approached the man and said, “I’m looking for Mister Daniels and I hear he lives somewhere here on this road; do you happen to know where he lives?”

The man looked him in the eye and answered, “Mister Daniels has passed on.” Then pointing to the next house, which was perhaps a quarter of a mile up the road, said, “He used to live right up there… His son lives there now.”

This little story reminds me that my father also set standards, I couldn’t meet, for human kindness and respect for the beliefs treasured by others.

Where Are You Young Jeffery?

It has been more than fifteen years since that day. Jeffery would be about twenty-five today.
I was deep in thought that summer morning when the desperate cries for help from my front yard penetrated the stillness of my small study.
I opened the door to see a youngster, I later learned was Jeffery, running up the street toward our house screaming for help at the top of his lungs. I grabbed the portable telephone and stepped to the porch prepared to call 911. A couple was running a short distance behind calling to him. The sobbing youngster quickly moved behind positioning me between him and the couple; all the while, crying that they were going to kill him.
Everyone seemed to start talking at once. Sorting through the confusion, I learned that Jeffery was the couple’s nephew; that they were contractors working on a job down the street; and there had been a minor altercation to which Jeffery overreacted. The Boy’s mother had allegedly placed him with his uncle because of behavior problems she couldn’t handle.
I realized I had become the mediator in a family dispute for which my qualifications to resolve had been inaccurately assumed. The only thing I was sure of was that Jeffery believed he was in danger.
“I’m sorry to put you in this situation”, said the uncle. “If you’ll just call his mother, she will tell you what I said is true.”
Jeffery said, “I don’t want to stay with them, I want to talk to my mom. I want to go home.”
“Calm down Jeffery, let him call your mom. Let’s get this mess straightened out so this man can go back to his business.” The uncle said.
I handed the phone to the uncle and asked him to dial her number. He dialed and handed it back. The boy’s mother repeated the uncle’s story to me adding that she had even called the police on occasion.
The thought, is this really his mom, went through my head. I said to her     “Jeffery wants to talk to you” and handed the phone to Jeffery.
“Momma please, I want to come home,” he said. “I’m scared. They say I am evil, there’s a demon in me.” His voice was loud and whiney. “Last night they took me to this place where all these people held me down and prayed over me. I’m scared; I think they want to kill me. Please… can I come home? I’ll be good. I promise.”
I don’t know what his mom said to him but after a few minutes, a glass of water, and promises from his uncle that he wasn’t in trouble Jeffery calmed down and they returned to their jobsite.
Through these years I catch myself watching half hoping to see him or his uncle; I haven’t seen either. Today I wonder about young Jeffery. Was he just a spoiled  young man with growing pains or a victim being traumatized by a cult or group of otherwise well-intentioned individuals. CP

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