I think everyone who can read should be required to work crossword puzzles. Thoughtful puzzle workers will discover something about their thought processes that carries over into everyday life and decisions they make, be they religious, social, or political.
The puzzle I worked today required a word for maxims. I considered adages, axioms, aphorisms, and related thesaurus meanings until, coming at it from a different angle, I realized the correct answer was the simplest: sayings! And I remembered the old joke about the little boy who asked his mother where he came from. Mom goes into great detail with the birds-and-bees talk when the boy pipes up, “No, Mommy. I mean David comes from Atlanta. Where do I come from?” The simplest answer is best.
And that got me thinking what we need right now is leaders who can take the puzzling world in hand, view it from differing perspectives, and make things better. Not perfect. Nothing will ever be perfect. Ask any writer whose work has been pecked apart by voracious error-eating vultures in critique groups and editorial services. Let’s strive for a simple betterment of the standard of life for all sides. That will take willingness to see issues from another’s point of view. And for today’s students it could begin with all high school curricula requiring students to enroll in at least one semester of debate.
We full-grown bodies (adult assumes having attained a matured age of reason) can begin by flushing from our hearts and minds the poisons of accrued dogmas. Those my-way-or-the-highway lines of thought permeating politics, religion, and social interaction. And for some, a step like that is scary. Like stepping out of a plane without a parachute. Think differently from what authority figures have drummed into us all our lives? That sends lightning bolts of terror rushing through and numbing minds further.
Once we take that step, then we can demand more altruistic leaders as devoid (as possible) of greed and self-aggrandizement; leaders with impeccable (as possible) qualifications. Candidates who see beyond the winner-take-all mentality.
Team spirit is fine for games. It’s great fun to see grownups paint their faces or wear weird outfits in honor and support of their favorite sports teams. But in the real world, when your team does something awful, will you have the courage to speak out?
Beyond games, doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, was meant to be lived, to be the creed of all people, not to lie dormant in the Bible and be given lip service and a wink-wink-nod. Puzzled as to how you get someone to listen to you? Step One: Listen to them. The more you listen, the greater your chances of understanding their point of view. Not accepting it totally, just understanding how they feel. That leads to Step Two: You’ll be better able to find points of agreement to build on. Step Three: You’ll be on the way to forging a compromise that will benefit both of you! Puzzle solved!
And that’s my monologue on Dialog on Dialogue for this time.
Go. Do unto others. Listen. Dialogue.
Last time I promised to explain the difference between Rhupunt and RuPaul. I think I was pretty clear on RuPaul. If not, and you can find my archives, you can catch up.
Now, meet Rhupunt, poetic form. Wait! Wait! Don’t go yet. Seriously, you, too, can Rhupunt. It can be fun. Yes, even for you. It just takes a theme, and maybe some time, but soon, I am sure, you’ll be able to rhyme! (See how easy?)
How else can I sell this? O-o-oh. Got it. Like Big Pharma!
“No need to check with your doctor before trying Rhupunt. It is completely safe for all ages in any dosages. When you’ve tried it for a while, you’ll see it work like endorphins to relieve depression and improve your mental acuity.
“Unlike some forms of poetry, Rhupunt will not decrease bodily functions, cause PTSD, agitation, frustration, compulsion, irritation, or collusion leading to litigation. Use as directed below.”
1) must be four stanzas
2) each stanza has four lines.
3) each line has four syllables
4) first three lines in each stanza rhyme
5) the fourth lines rhyme
The repeated rhymes and terse form are particularly suited to humor.
So, are you ready?
Here’s my sample, and how about sending me one of your own?
WHEN I HATE MY CATS
by Virginia Nygard
My cats sure make
one huge mistake
to think I wake
to their command.
A plaintiff howl
a dog-like growl
make me feel foul
and loathe to stand.
I twist in bed
cover my head
try to play dead
while they demand.
Heeding their cries
at last I rise
and fetch their prize:
King Kat Food Grand!
In fact, they are not even twin brothers, or brothers at all. One is a thing, and the other is a—well—let’s put it in his words from his autobiography: “You can call me he. You can call me she. You can call me Regis and Kathie Lee; I don’t care! Just as long as you call me.”
Need a bit more clarification? Maybe this will help. Rhupunt is just—Rhupunt. More about him—uh—that later. RuPaul is a whole different thing—um—person. His full name is RuPaul Andre Charles. When born in November of 1960, his mom, a native of Louisiana, gave him the unusual first name, I guess, as a sort of remember your roots name. She took Ru from roux, which is a mixture of fat and flour used to blend the flavors and thicken stews, bringing separate ingredients into one cohesive unit.
I wonder if she was prescient in giving him this name, because RuPaul is considered the most successful drag queen in the United States. And in my view, in doing so he has brought spices isolated in closets back into the American melting pot where they can add to the amazing national flavor of this country. Everyone has the right to be included!
As such, he has also blended the male and female elements of his personality. Perhaps his being comfortable and open with his nature, and finding success in doing so, led to Time magazine’s including RuPaul in 2017’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world. I think that shows that not only can anyone become president, as we have seen, but anyone—good, bad, or just different—has the potential to make Time’s“100” list! It’s just that I’d prefer the 100 who have attained more than fame and money—humility, gratitude, and understanding that, to whom much is given, much will be required, or in today’s parlance, pay it forward!
And before I go on to Rhupunt, I want to point out that RuPaul is also an author, actor, model, singer, songwriter, and television personality. Put that in your prejudice pipe and smoke it!
RuPaul (1995). Lettin’ It All Hang Out: An Autobiography. Hyperion Books. ISBN 0-7868-6156-8.
Okay, maybe there are a few TV programs and channels left that have not been bought out or sold out to sensationalism-for-profit. But they are becoming endangered species.
I’ve heard “You are what you eat” for as long as I’ve been on this planet, and that has been a fairly lo-o-o-ng time. So listen up, you whipper-snappers! If you disagree, stop reading. You have hundreds of mind-mucking dishes to binge on. Bon appetit!
Am I alone in decrying the dumbing down of content, and the ratcheting up of violence in programming? And what does watching that stuff say about us? We settle for less than the best? Uh—yeah. Look at the state our country is in. It’s been turned into one of those base fake-wrestling, fake-reality shows. And the rest of the world is NOT laughing.
With the power of our buying habits, we can demand more programs that promote ideals, add to one’s knowledge, and can change life for the better.
We need to laugh with comedy based on the human condition, humor that helps us see ourselves through other eyes, humor that’s not an in-your-face reflection of the negative influences in society. Humor that may even, yes, inspire compassion. Not comedy learned in colleges, but on the streets of life, like some of the best performers from the past.
We need to be able to laugh at ourselves and our mistakes and learn from it all. We deserve shows based on ideals by which this country was built strong and proud and set on a pedestal of respect. The rest is mind mush intended to keep the masses controlled with the aid of a multiplicity of sales pitches and food commercials that push us to mindless consumerism and mindless eating.
I recently watched a 2018 TV drama series The Terror, based on the novel of the same name by author Dan Simmons. The series is a fictionalized account of Captain Sir John Franklin’s 1845-1848 expedition to find the Northwest Passage through the Arctic. The two ships, Erebus and Terror, became frozen in the ice and their crews lost in agonizing conditions of body and mind and through the actions of a supernatural creature that haunts the crew. A second season is planned for 2019. You can judge its merits for yourself.
But here’s what I learned from watching it. If we learn from the history of prior expeditions, if we are willing to heed lessons from the experiences of others on such voyages, if we put the good of all involved ahead of our personal ambitions, we may live to try again.
And what has this got to do with writing?
Writers must continue to learn so we can write with authority and confidence about that which fires us up.
What we write can educate, entertain, lighten spirits, and enlighten minds.
In the darkest tale, we can write in a way that elevates and ignites the best not the basest in people, as divisive forces splintering this country have so skillfully done.
Stand up for what’s right.
I have this should-be achievable monthly blog about writing, how I do it or don’t—as in the recent nonexistent May post! So, here’s my excuse. I was on sabbatical. Brain recharge leave.
The last week in March, we started out on a road trip to Vermont and stayed through most of April. During that time we had a handful of peeks at the sun, including two entirely clear days. The rest were as seen here.
My sister’s driveway during Spring in Vermont – which the natives call Mud Season. But Mud season seemed to also have taken a mini-sabbatical.
To paraphrase Shel Silverstein, this is “Where the Sidewalk DOESN’T End.” It continues…as did the snow.
But it’s prettier from the inside looking out–
–As she soon discovered, having brought a windbreaker and a see-through sweater as outer wear because, “It’s SPRING in Vermont. I don’t need anything heavy.” Some days with single digits proved otherwise.
The car suffered, but not nearly as much as the day we left, when it had to be chipped out of a block of ice. Okay, a very slight exaggeration. But we did learn to appreciate the heated seats we laughed at in Florida. Still, fair is fair. Auto makers need to install a seat cooling option as well.
So what did I learn from all this?
Patience: A little bit more than I started with. Playing cards and drinking wine could be fun. Having no cell phone service wasn’t the end of the world. Sharing memories and reliving the events was better than junk on TV.
Gratitude: A family as warm as Florida. Meeting new friends. A wedding to celebrate. A roof over our heads in a cozy house with every comfort provided as if we were visiting royalty. No writing deadlines. Being able to walk the aisles in the food Co-op, in the or in Walmart across the line in New Hampshire was healthy exercise–for me, if not the budget.
On our return to Florida, we dumped out the dirty laundry and repacked for a trip to Pensacola for Walt’s Navy Reunion into May. This was payback to my husband for all the times he lost me in Beall’s (are they still called department stores?) in Florida. (During which HE learned patience.) Actually, I dodged him up and down the aisles to be sure he got his exercise, too.
And here we are in Pensacola:
I expressed the opinion that perhaps “Anytime, Anywhere” might be misconstrued when applied to a group of Navy men. Then again, it may only be my view, having married one.
We watched a practice for the Blue Angels, and toured the Pensacola Naval Air Museum, where we observed a retirement assembly. And my honey posed in full dress uniform aboard the USS Alabama in–of all places–Alabama!
And that’s where I’ve been. Now, it’s back to work. My deadlines loom in the distance. I’m beginning to miss that Little House in the Big Wood! (Apologies to Laura Ingalls Wilder.)
Once home from communion with kindred spirits at Unity, I emptied the dishwasher. Classical ‘meditation’ music lifted my thoughts above lifting dinnerware and flatware from the racks, to how they move on with their jobs. That’s when (1) as a writer my abilities with similes and metaphors sprang into action, or (2) my Muse said, “Hey, look at it this way…” or, (3) God said, “There’s a lesson here.” Whereupon I said, “Yeah, but nobody will listen to me.” Whereupon He said, as He often does through My Husband, “Never assume!”
Dismiss my writing abilities if you will, grimace at the thought of my Muse, but you’d better think twice about ignoring Him and My Husband. There IS a lesson here. And you do well to never assume! You see, each piece in that dishwasher had cooperated with the others to serve tasty meals and desserts. How great that they supplied our needs!
Had forks, knives, and spoons rebelled and shut down the kitchen, we would have resorted to fingers, or drinking lumpy soup from a cup. (Nasty, potentially hazardous.) Had the crockery cracked and shut down the works, flatware would have been chasing food all over the tabletop. (Not pretty. Not sanitary.) And drinks? Well, hot coffee in my cupped hands is not my first choice. With or without cream and sugar.
So, when they get nasty, what do we do? We put them all in one little shower room and lock them in until the crap is washed away, and they are ready to get back to business. And, voila! They become our servants again.
Now, this little creative marble rolling around in my spacious cranium (think pinball machine) bumped into another idea. Hey, Genius! That’s sort of like politics, isn’t it?
Wow! Yeah! But where do we get a dishwasher big enough for Washington? And we’ll need one for voters. They’re all covered with that crap called ‘baggage.’
Details, Genius, details. We’ll figure it out.
No moss gathers on my marbles! The next one kept rolling until it hit on still another subject that carries a lot of baggage. Hey, Genius! That’s sort of like religion, isn’t it?
Well, that just set all the pinball machine’s bells ringing and lights flashing, didn’t it? Like politics, religion has had its share of quacks and fakers, abusers and misusers, hasn’t it? Thanks a lot for that idea! I can see condemnation—not commendation—excommunication, shunning, and fatwas flying my way now.
Details, Genius. Mere details. You’ll have it all figured out by the time your next post rolls around. Remember that little short story you wrote? The one that could apply equally to politics and religion? You might want to share that.
Oh, sure. Not that anyone will listen.