by Eric Wharton
Just some random everyday thoughts.
Comments that follow represent my views alone. I reserve the right to be wrong and welcome any response with an opposing viewpoint. As Evelyn Beatrice Hall once penned, paraphrasing noted French philosopher Francois Voltaire in The Friends of Voltaire:
I disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.
2016 Quill Award 2018 Quill Nominee
for Best Short Story for Best Short Story
I'll admit it—I really hate when people drop in unannounced. Not that there has to be long-term calendar to schedule an appropriate time. That would be silly to me. However, I would certainly prefer they give me a heads up, and that means more than five minutes ahead of time. Those "I'm almost at your house, mind if I stop in" kind of calls don't really succeed in dampening my annoyance. If someone calls and says they'd like to stop in and ask about a good time ... well, I'm all over that. I like to have visitors, but my wife and I need a chance to clean up a little.
Not that we keep a messy house, but it may get that way on occasion. Plus, we babysit our twin, two-year-old grandsons everyday and those two will destroy a house in a matter of minutes. So, we would always like a little advance notice to pick up a few toys. Most people that drop in say its okay, they understand. What they don't understand is that we are not okay with it.
And by they way, hardly ever at lunch unless absolutely necessary and never ever at dinnertime. Lunches are far to busy trying to feed the boys and dinnertime is my wife's and I time. Any other time during the day or after dinner is fine, as long as it isn't after 9:00. I don't even call people after 9:00, so why would I want to play host?
"Do or Do Not, There is no try" may arguably be the most famous line from the Star Wars movies, spoken by that good ol' Jedi master himself, Yoda. And yeah, I get it. We should remove the word "try" from our vocabulary as much as possible. But let's move on now, it's starting to get old.
I recall one time, I was in a leadership training class. The teacher put a magic marker on a footstool and told someone to come up and try to pick it up. Of course the first poor person walked up and immediately picked it up. "No, no," said the teacher, "I said try ... you succeeded." Ha, ha ... funny. The second poor person walked up and just stood there. "You're not even trying, you're just standing there," said the teacher. Ha, ha, ha ... hilarious. What was truly funny was the third person who walked up to the stool and began to go through all kinds of crazy antics with his hand wrapped around the magic marker but acting like it weighed a thousand pounds. He nearly flipped himself on his head "trying" to pick it up. "Not funny," said the teacher, "You're still not picking it up." Well, I thought it was funny.
To me, it just sounded like semantics, but like I said, I get it. If a boss (insert wife if you feel so inclined) asks me to do something, I should say, "Yes, I'll do that" instead of "I'll try." It takes out the wishy-washy nature of our commitment to the task. However, I believe there are limits to that, just like there are limits to our ability. If I'm on an small airplane with just the pilot, me, and someone else ... and the pilot has a heart attack, and the other person says, "I'm not going to fly the plane, will you?" I assure you I'm going to say, "I'll try" rather than, "sure, no problem."
Now, let me try and finish this entry.
Did I succeed?
My favorite holiday scents are cookies baking in the oven and the smell of a cut Christmas tree.
My mom was the best cook (whose mom wasn't or isn't) and the weeks proceeding Christmas found her in front of the oven sliding tray after tray of home-made cookies in to be baked. She made them for us, of course, but also for our extended family and a host of friends ... with several strangers thrown in just because she thought they might like them. The smell would permeate the entire house: toll house, peanut butter, sand tarts, molasses, oatmeal raisin ... I can't even remember all the different kinds she baked. I have most of her old recipes and follow them to the letter when I bake them, but it's funny how they never seem to taste the same. The missing ingredient must be mother's love.
We always had a cut tree at Christmas and there is nothing like the sweet scent of a balsam fir to me. When I was young, the whole family would trek out to a local Christmas tree farm, traipse around until we found just the right one, then us kids would jump in and cut it down. That is, until my father got so annoyed at the rising prices that he decided to start his own Christmas tree farm. He had a small field laying fallow, so he planted it in Scotch Pine trees—a nice Christmas tree, but doesn't have the permeating scent that a fir tree does. When I started my own family, one of the first traditions I instituted was a family Christmas tree cutting. The other day, my son posted a video of his family at a Christmas tree farm where my grandsons were cutting down a tree, so the tradition continues.
Discuss this quote in your blog entry.....
“December's wintery breath is already clouding the pond,
frosting the pane, obscuring summer's memory...”
― John Geddes, A Familiar Rain
That's a beautiful way to describe a cold wintry day. While the general tone of it seems to suggest a certain bleakness, or at least sadness, over the passing of summer, I have always felt differently about winter. Perhaps it stems from my chosen profession.
As a forester I knew, at least biologically, what was going on with plant growth during winter—that it was a time not of death, but slumber. Extrapolated to the spiritual plane, it meant to me that life was taking a much needed respite from the business of summer, from fecund productivity—a much deserved nap as it were. After all, who amongst us doesn't like a little nap now and then? It makes me wonder if the time for family vacations should be in winter and not in summer.
That's what winter always meant to me. It was a chance to stay inside, warm up the fire, read a book, or snuggle with a loved one. After all, how much fun and sun can we all take before it begins to wear thin. Maybe memories are all we have of a summer gone, but that should be enough.
Much as I try to avoid quoting from popular culture, the words of Bill Murray as a weatherman in Groundhog Day sums it up perfectly:
When Chekhov saw the long winter, he saw a winter bleak and dark and bereft of hope. Yet we know that winter is just another step in the cycle of life. But standing here among the people of Punxsutawney and basking in the warmth of their hearths and hearts, I couldn't imagine a better fate than a long and lustrous winter.
So here's to a long and lustrous winter, but check back with me in February to see if that groundhog predicts another six weeks of winter. I might be whining and lamenting for spring by then.
In your life time how many Presidents have passed? Which man affected you the most? If you don't live here in the States, which leader]s passing affected you the most.? Why? Can you remember what you were doing when you heard the news?
Nine Presidents have died during my lifetime. Two of them—Truman and Eisenhower—I don't remember their time as President. The first one I remember being President was John Kennedy. As with many others, his death affected me, but I was only in 6th grade at the time so I'm not sure how much was actual memory at the time or the result of a lifetime of understanding his impact. With so many articles, news stories, television programs, interviews, and books over the years, its hard to separate out what was actual experience.
However, like many others, I do recall exactly what I was doing at the time. I was standing along a wall in a lunch line, discussing with several friends what the impact of slipping a dime into a wall socket would have. Someone ran up and told us and the hush was palatable. Later, I remember sitting with my family in front of the television watching as a caisson carried his coffin down Pennsylvania Avenue. I was a drummer in the school band at the time and one lasting memory was learning the cadence that was played. I don't recall particular instances like that with any other American President, but then that could be only because I was an impressionable youth.
There was one particular leader, not a President but running for President, whose death affected me deepest of all. That was Robert Kennedy. By 1968, I was a junior in High School and getting deeply interested in politics. His appeal to the young was remarkable, and I was one of them. Of course, I couldn't vote yet, but that didn't stop me and other school students from campaigning for him. I too recall when I heard the news that he was killed and it had a devastating affect on me. I was stunned, saddened, and angry all at once.
I have had great respect for the office of the Presidency and honor each of these men who have died, regardless if I voted for them or not.
Use on of these seasonal quotes in your blog.
!. “A good conscience is a continual Christmas.” ―Benjamin Franklin
2. “Christmas isn’t a season. It’s a feeling.” ―Edna Ferber
3. “Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today’s Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday.” ―Gladys Taber
Perhaps its time to take Christ out of Christmas and turn it into a secular winter Holiday.
There, I said it. That's a pretty inflammatory statement to some people these days, but I'm about to that point—and that's coming from a bible-believing Christian. The thing is, I despise the way this special day celebrating Christ's birth has become so corrupted by crass commercialism as to totally wipe away its significance. I'm not saying to do away completely with a celebration of Christ's birth, just separate it from this particular day and leave Christmas to become the gross, bloated, idol to profiteering it strives to be. Let rudeness and selfishness rule, but please don't associate it with my savior.
The idea of Christians not celebrating Christmas is not a new one. It's not a sacrament like baptism or communion, which have scriptural basis, and so was never a part of early Christianity. In fact, birthdays in general were not celebrated by either Jewish or Christian communities since that was related to the study of the stars and specifically forbidden. For the first 300 years of Christianity, Christmas was not celebrated. Then, in 336, the first Christ's Mass was held by the Roman Catholic Church during the reign of Roman Emperor Constantine who did much to legitimize (read politicize) Christianity.
In the original thirteen colonies that would become America, Christmas was not celebrated by most people. It was actually banned in Puritan Massachusetts, called "Foolstide" by some. That's because it experienced similar problems as does our Christmas today—there was just way too much revelry and rowdy celebrating. The fact it had too many ties to several pagan holidays didn't help.
Hugh Latimer, a 16th century Protestant reformer and martyr, wrote, "Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas than in all the 12 months besides." That could easily apply to our current celebration of Christmas. A common sentiment among Christian theologians in the 1700s was a core belief that ... "They for whom all days are holy can have no holiday." I would amend that to say, "they would NEED no holiday." Benjamin Franklin said the same thing from the opposite perspective when he wrote:
Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no ambition corrupt thee, no example sway thee, no persuasion move thee, to do any thing which thou knows to be evil, so that thou always live jollily, for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.
SIDE NOTE: I didn't know jollily was a word. Maybe Franklin likes to make up words like I do sometimes.
While unsure of the deity of Christ, Franklin declined to be dogmatic about that fact and most certainly believed in God, often noting God's influence and intercession in the affairs of mankind. He was essentially saying that by accepting the precepts of an God-ordained moral standard, everyday should be like a holy day—every day a celebration of God's love for mankind.
I don't go a single day without thanking God for sending His son to us. Many of my fellow Christians do the same thing. So we are essentially doing what Franklin suggested, celebrating the coming of Christ into this world every day.
Let me say, finally, that I understand the draw of Christmas, especially where children are involved. The joy written on their faces is priceless—something I don't really want to see disappear. But let's not be hypocritical about it. Let the day stand as a day for holiday cheer, for family and fellowship, for presents under the tree, candy canes and jolly St. Nick, but let's just go ahead and remove Christ from it. I'm fairly certain He wouldn't approve of it as it now stands anyway, and besides, everyday is a celebration of Christ for Christians and we need no holiday for that.
That should get me in a little bit of trouble, but "... let no persuasion move thee, to do any thing which thou knows to be evil." Let the jollilillity begin.
Do you prefer homemade gifts or store bought?
Do you exchange food gifts? Clothing? Or Gift cards?
All of the above. I don't make a lot of homemade gifts anymore. I used to make pine cone wreaths, but after I gave them as gifts over the years, all the people I know that would like one already have one. Regardless, I enjoy getting homemade gifts from people. However, I don't know how to make electronic stuff, tools, or such things that friends and family like (the Wharton manufacturing plant closed down years ago), so I have to buy some things.
Shopping for gifts is okay, as long as you approach it with the right attitude. If I go to a store, it's with the understanding that it's not going to be a quick in and out. Yes, the traffic is horrendous and the people rude, but if I take my time and just let everything else roll off my shoulders, it's not so bad. If I do get stressed out, I can always just go online. But for some reason, I like to hold things in my hand and inspect them before I buy them.
I recall one time I was buying a walkman for someone (yes, they once existed). It was in a case and I asked the salesman if he could get it out for me to look at. He refused and said, "There it is, do you want it or not?" I replied, "Evidently not" and walked out of the store. I just like to hold things first.
Food? Yes, I will give food like cookies and such, but that's more of a enjoy these for Christmas rather than an exchange of food. I gave a wine-of-the month to my son years ago, but the "Fruit-of-the-Month" episode from Everybody Loves Raymond still haunts me and wakes me at night in a cold sweat, so no more of that.
I only give clothing to my wife, because I'm just no good with sizing people other than her. And yes, I will give gift cards to friends or family far away. I will even give money to my grandkids who live 1,000 miles away. I wasn't real sure about that at first, but when my son called on Christmas Day when I first did that and told me of my grandkids running through the house, waving their money, and yelling, "We got the money, we got the money," I figured it was okay.
Certainly store-bought gifts are nice, but when you live so far away, I don't think it a sin to give money. I remember when I was younger, we would always get a crisp $20 bill from my aunt and my brother and sister always looked forward to it. We would gather up our Christmas money a week after Christmas and my Mom would take us shopping. It was fun buying what we wanted and looking back, it was an early lesson in money management—always a good thing.
Seneca said, “A great fortune is a great slavery.”
What might such a great fortune be and do you agree with Seneca’s claim?
I absolutely agree. Seneca could have meant a lot of things by this quote, but in this case, I think he was talking about money (notice he said "a great fortune" rather than simply "great fortune"). So let's talk about money.
The first thing that comes to mind is what people presume the Bible says—"money is the root of all evil." However, the actual verse from 1 Timothy 6:10 reads "For the LOVE of money is a root of all kinds of evil." (emphasis mine). Clearly, we all need money to survive, but it's what is in our hearts and how we perceive the value of money where the real problem rests. Amassing a larger amount of it in a sudden windfall can suddenly change how we feel about it. We might begin to love it too much, to begin to worry about it, stress out about how to spend it, begin to take all kind of safeguards to protect it ... become a slave to it.
It's interesting to note that the rest of that verse in 1 Timothy reads, "Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs." Is there any better way to save that eagerness for money produces slavery than to say say it pierces us with many griefs? Money should always be put in its proper perspective, because one fact remains irrefutable—we can't take it with us.
Of course, Seneca wrote in Latin and the translation may have actually been fortune in the sense of foretelling the future like ... say ... a fortune cookie, which is a whole other thing.
What's your favorite holiday movie? Is it a tradition like one you watch every year or something that you've recently discovered?
Hands down, A Christmas Story. Its been my favorite for many years, long before some channel began broadcasting on a continuous loop. I think its been around for some 35 years or more now and I never fail to watch it at Christmas. My kids (now in their early 40s) and I still trade lines every now and then. Our favorite lines are fra-GEE-lay, Bumpases!, and "deck the hall wi' bow of horry, far rar rar rar rar rar rar rar rar" (If you don't know the reference, you need to watch the movie).
A little off topic, but of the same nature, is my favorite Christmas music video. I have many favorites—Happy Christmas (War is Over) by John Lennon and Do They Know It's Christmas by Bob Geldof and Midge Ure are certainly in the running. But way out in front leading the pack is a very unusual duet by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. The pairing of those two is so surreal, but the result is absolutely stunning. The mixture of their voices singing Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy is spellbinding. Below is a link to it if you've never seen it.
Words of the Year: The Oxford Dictionaries Word 2018 is 'toxic' and 'misinformation' is Dictionary.com's 2018 word of the year.
Use these words in your blog entry.
I can't think of two more appropriate words for 2018. If we were to consider the American society an organism, which in many ways it is, then misinformation has become so toxic that it is killing the organism. As a matter of fact, there are many who believe it's already dead, but I'm not a pessimist—I still believe there is hope.
Certainly misinformation, some of which we've labelled fake news (from both sides of the aisle), is like a deadly virus which unchecked will destroy the host organism. What we need is to strengthen our immune system. How? Stop the rancor and get back to healthy debate.