Author Archives: The JEFFWORKS

About The JEFFWORKS

I'm a writer, artist, designer, illustrator, musician, videomaker, observer and participant. I treasure music, laughter and popcorn - not necessarily in that order. It's all about thinking and then doing something with those tasty thoughts. Peace.

Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 5

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…white people.

Dammit, white people, what is your problem?

Hold on. Maybe I jumped the gate there a bit. Let me back up a step.

I’m an American. I’m a white guy. This was not my choice of course. It was just the universal flow of things ordained by whatever cosmic dust gathered the moment I was conceived and born into this world…and here in America.

Despite the current state of things, I’m generally proud to be an American and whatever comes with that. I’m also good with being a white guy. What’s my option? I can’t change the facts of my existence, nor do I disavow what or who I am. I suppose, if I felt awful enough about it, I could move or I could go about appropriating someone else’s culture, but that seems like a lot of work considering I will always be found out to be a white American male. Anything else is just…phony.

Let me say too, that I feel I work hard, that I have my struggles and challenges the same as anyone else and that I am a good person at my core. It has never been a goal of mine to hold power over, or oppress another for any reason, personal gain or otherwise. I feel we are all just trying to get through it the best we can.

However, the recent flare-ups of truly awful behavior from people whom I’m categorized with, causes me great distress and great embarrassment, forcing me to ask what’s up with the white people.

You’re calling the police on others who are doing nothing wrong at all beyond being different than you. You’re calling people out or physically attacking them for expressing something related to their personal heritage or whatever because what…they stepped on your delicate sensibilities?

There are real crimes being committed in this country that require the focused efforts of dedicated police forces everywhere. A family having a cookout, a kid cutting grass, an elderly man taking a walk, a women wearing a t-shirt that shows the name of some other country on it and the like are not crimes. These aren’t even things that should draw your attention. If they are, you should take a moment to determine what sort of jacked-up thinking is going on in your head to make you so mad and irrational.

And…as if that weren’t enough when you aren’t calling the police, you’re attacking these people (verbally and otherwise) yourselves… in public… because I don’t even know why. Some sort of superiority complex? Some sort of inferiority complex? Plain old numb-butt ignorance?

This is just dumb. I thought we were all better than this.

Now, of course, this does not apply to all white people, so don’t lose focus and spin-off on that. But as you lump, so you will be lumped and there are enough white people doing enough dumb things to make us all look bad and that should be generating a sense of grave concern among us.

You see, what I have learned over the years, is that while I may not recognize it or feel as though I propagated it, or have in some way seen a direct profit from it, I am likely the beneficiary of what people call the “white privilege”. We all are.

Get clear on this. The notion of white privilege, or anything that serves to put one person or group over another, is not a good thing. It doesn’t make you superior to anything or anyone. And should you decide to act as though it means something, the only thing that “white privilege” has done is make you an asshole.

If you judge someone else to be so different from you that you are compelled to call the police, or try to impose your will on them, or are going out of your way to tell them, whom you don’t even know, that they are bad, or don’t belong, or are destroying the fiber of whatever and should go back to their own country and whatnot, you are not being a good person. And you pretty much miss the point of whatever they taught you in Kindergarten and the very essence of what America is supposed to be about…entirely. And you should shut up. Because your ignorance is showing. Hell, it’s not just showing. It has crawled into the tiny driver’s seat of your consciousness and has taken over to make you do stupid things.

It makes the rest of us feel like we have to apologize for a drunk uncle who shows up to a wedding with no pants on, who then tries to make out with the bride and finishes with a face plant into the cake…every day.

There is no good reason for this behavior. We are supposed to be an evolving species that strives to be better. You are not helping. And if you can’t help, seriously, at least try to do no harm. Try to use any privilege you may have, perceived or otherwise, to lift someone up, not tear them down. Think before your act. Take some deep breaths. Count to ten or one hundred and ten or whatever it takes for you to chill out a bit. Everyone has a camera these days. We know who you are. We see you and you reveal the truth of your ugly self to everyone. Is that what you want? I hope not.

We all come from somewhere. Remember that.

If you can’t, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Something to Ponder – 12

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Milo Krench of Garden City, Kansas.

“Hey Banaba,” Milo writes. “I don’t get a strong Christian vibe from you, so let me ask you, what would Jesus do?”

To my new friend Milo, I say simply, “I am not sure so I will ask him the next time I see him.”

But of course, that is me making a small joke for you.

Milo, you present an interesting question that requires a bit of interpretation on my part to get to what I think you might be looking for…or not.

It is possible that by referencing a “Christian vibe” you are looking for me to make some sort of declarative statement regarding the level of my association with Christianity.

Should I make such a statement, it is reasonable for me to guess that based on how you process my statement, you may make a determination, for yourself, about the value of my response, or the worthiness of my counsel here, depending on how much our philosophical paths align.

Another possibility is that you assume I have no real link to Christianity, so I would not be able to aptly consider how your interpretation of Jesus may react in any one of a number of dicey scenarios.

I can tell you that my life path has taught me that there is little value in making assumptions about others based on what we see, what we think we see, and how we interpret what we see when stacked against our individual belief systems.

Humans seek out commonalities. It is a survival instinct. There is safety in numbers. We look for like-minded people to enhance our tribe so that, at the very least, our common belief systems bind us together and make us stronger than we might be on our own. We have very little patience for those who don’t believe as we do or act as we think they should, even to the point where we feel they don’t belong in our tribe – philosophically of course.

In our case, between you and I, I move forward thinking that your question was an honest attempt to generate an interesting dialogue and not so much a “gotcha” question that seeks to identify me or what I do with some sort of religious or non-religious label and then to exalt or disparage me accordingly.

So, what would Jesus do?

Truthfully, I do not believe it matters.

The question itself became popular in the 1990s and flourished through the use of W.W.J.D. bracelets and associated merchandise as a way to remind people to check their morality and walk in the path of Jesus who is often defined in religion as the son of a particular God.

It is a physical reminder for the people who embrace the mindset that they can be their better self when working through the challenges of their daily lives. To some it is inspiring, to others, it is a crutch.

The fact of the matter is, one cannot really know Jesus or what he would actually do in any situation.

One can know of him. One can study the materials that explore the man he was supposed to be as he existed in his time. One can know the dogma that surrounds the essence of his teachings. One can assume to know and one can believe to know, in earnest, but that is really just a manifestation of one’s individual belief systems, biases, and their understanding of that source material. A lot of interpretation, edits, rewrites, reductions and such fed the evolution and development of the materials we access for religious clarity and guidance. That does not mean the interpretations are wrong, but it is certainly a factor to consider in how the material is absorbed and each interpretation alters the story.

People tend to function in the day-to-day based on the whole of their experiences. Negative experiences shift them one way. Positive experiences shift them another. Some days are more difficult than others and if a simple prompt such as asking what would Jesus do helps them be more successful in their journey, I am all for it.

Still, it seems there are people who are more interested in the brand than the morality itself. Are you a Christian? What kind? What denomination? What branch? If you’re not a Christian, what are you? Do you know God? Do you walk in the path of God? Are you moral? Are you penitent? Do you care for yourself and your fellow-man? The questions are limitless. And we ask them to find out who we should associate with and who we should avoid. Who will nurture us? Who will tempt us or lead us astray? Who do we invite into our tribe and who do we repel?

This is not to offend, but the teachings of Jesus are just not that complex. Be good. Be kind. Don’t do bad things. If you do bad things, make amends, learn from your experiences and go on. Try to be a good person.

I wonder how it is that with centuries of such devotion, such energy, and such emotion behind us that we still have yet to master these very simple lessons. People who say they walk in the path of Jesus are often least representative of what he taught or the example others hold him up to be.

To answer your question Milo, I do not know what Jesus would do.

If I could guess, if he were to show up today, I imagine that he would be less than pleased by what he would find here. With all of our technological advancements, we seem to have evolved very little. I imagine he would spend less time in super churches and giant cathedrals talking to televangelist and more time in hospitals, homeless shelters, and recovery centers talking to the downtrodden. I imagine he would be less about theory and more about action. I suppose he would have much to say about people who speak in his name, but who don’t live by the same values they espouse to others.

I wonder if anyone would recognize him at all, or appreciate the work he may do and the way he may do it.

I imagine he would like to see fewer and fewer people waste the energy on what it is to be him, or like him so that they might focus their energy on finding a special goodness within themselves and allowing that to flourish.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Emory Crisp’s Tales From an Expanded Universe – 2

Emory-Crisp-Title

EC – Personal Log – 0120053118 – The Flaxtor Carrier Pigeons of Death – Part 2

For the record, some history.

Flaxtor was a nice quiet planet on the far edge of the Katakan Nebula. Even after hole-jumps started to boom, Flaxtor was not on the list of places to go. It was a simple, basic planet that filled a hole in space.

That is until Textr Crimm happened to make a jump into Simmaer, he says on purpose, but others say not so much. There he “discovered” a population of peaceful, trusting inhabitants who were also – a pushover. They were adept at making miniature electronics, mostly for the creation of music, art and furthering ideas through advanced artistic expression – almost like what they might call “high functioning hippies” on Earth back in the day.

Crimm also “discovered” the Flaxtorian invention we now call “Pops”,  a super-advanced nano-technology that induces mental euphoria with hallucinogenic properties that not only make the artificial seem more real than real, but it also taps into and feeds the pleasure centers of the brain heightening imagination for what is described simply as the highest of highs.

Crimm went to work exploiting his new finds immediately and in short order, Flaxtor devolved from a quiet oasis into one of the six most accessible, and officially Union ordained, public pleasure planets within several universes. Or, as one might better refer to as one of six supremely universal shit holes.

I’m not sure what it is about artificially altered mind-states, or the ability to induce artificially altered mind-states that makes people crazy. Maybe the question is its own answer. Either way, once somebody knows there is a new way to escape from what they carry around in their heads all day, they get hell-bent on trying it. Once they try it, most can’t forget it and have to get it again. Once there is a stable demand, there’s always someone like Crimm working to control the supply – or at least monetizing it. And as history shows, that generally leads to all kinds of unsavory behavior.

That brings me to the Shags. There wasn’t much of a law enforcement function on Flaxtor because, for the most part, it wasn’t needed. Flaxtorians lived in some near Utopian, peaceful mindset where everything was all good all of the time. Even now, the Shags aren’t really for the Flaxtorians as they are to better control the off-world elements. That’s where all the big trouble comes from.

And for beings that lived in harmony most of their lives, those drafted into the Shag corps seemed to take right to the military-grade training they got from humanity, and other more militant civilizations, making them a force to reckon with – at least when one was outnumbered.

As I struggled to get my eyes adjusted to the beaming light, without making any sudden moves, I counted five Shags total. Five was a lot. That was about four more than you’d see on a routine investigation of any kind and about five more than you’d see anywhere during sleep hours. Certainly, more than you’d see in a fairly non-descript alley where no crime was taking place. At least as far as I knew. So, what’s the give?

The incredible light, made brighter by the dimness of the alley came courtesy of cell drones. One of the Shags pulled radial blasters, one in each hand, and trained one on me and one on Strom. Two shags stepped into the light with the shade shields down on their helmets and grabbed Strom while two stepped out of the darkness behind me, seizing my arms and pushing us closer together.

Having a radial blaster pointed at you is deterrent enough to avoid any sort of resistance. Best case scenario, if and when it works like it’s supposed to, it stuns the assailant to the point of temporary paralysis. As you recover and the feeling moves back into your body, you get one hell of a headache as a reminder not get yourself into situations where you might get blasted again. That’s a fresh weapon mind you, straight out of the box.

Most of the time, however, someone gets to tinkering with them. Quite often the safety sticks on them so that’s the first thing to get hacked away. Then there’s the aiming beacon, the power regulation, blast recovery cycle time… the long and the short of it is you never really know what you’re gonna get when one of those things goes off. Depending on the settings, if those are still operational at all, and depending on who’s using it, at it’s worst, I’ve seen it basically gut a man in seconds from the inside out, leaving little more than a smoking husk to sweep up after the party’s over.

“YOU GIVE ANSWERS!” the voice repeated.

“Of course, of course,” Strom warbled. “We are more than happy to help!”

“STATE THE NATURE OF THIS BUSINESS!”

Now, I don’t know a whole lot about Flaxtorian anatomy, but I think Strom was sweating.
And my intent was straight enough, I’m just here to pick up the thing and tap out of here. But before I could open my mouth, Strom changed the whole dynamic.

“There is no business here, sirs,” forcing his mouth to smile as he spoke. “I came out for some air after a long day, and this man is passerby.”

“YOU HAD BUSINESS. STATE NATURE OF BUSINESS.”

“Business? There was no busi…,” Strom’s voice stopped quick as a muffled, scratchy recording of his own words filled the air.

“BE CAREFUL DIS, YES? HOT. HOT. HOT.”

Then it was official, small streams of sweat limped across Strom’s course features.

“Oh that,” he said in a more high-pitched warble. “That was nothing. Just me commenting to a passerby on how it is such a warm evening.”

“Look,” I said as plainly as possible. “Nobody did anything here. I’m just here to…”

“He was lost!” Strom blurted out. “I was gived him directions.”

“PROVIDED INFORMATION IS FALSIFIED.”

“No,” Strom said, “This is all the true. This man was lost, looking for his tap-out. I was gived him directions and he was on to go.”

“PROVIDED INFORMATION IS FALSIFIED. TAP IS CANCELLED. AWAIT TRANSPORT OT CENTRAL.”

My mind flew. Central?! We need to go to Central for this? I ran through all the things I could recall about this job from the moment Bodie Marcum contacted me at the start.

Blah, blah, blah, Flaxtor, blah, blah, blah, get turbo-drive, blah, blah, blah, in and out quick and easy, blah, blah, blah, fast money.

Nope. I wasn’t missing anything. Bodie’s not much of a talker, but he was always one to give me a head’s up if he thought things would go sideways on a job. There were no clues about Shags getting involved and certainly no information about ending up in Central. I’m a good boy. At least, I’ve been a good boy on this trip. Straight business.

Where Flaxtor was seen as a pleasure planet, Central, the primary criminal holding, and processing center was anything but. Outside of the Shags who did the footwork, the real peacekeeping effort was all outsourced to Cankton-Ho. This giant off-world conglomerate provided criminal handling and prison resources to multiple systems. They prided themselves on incredible success with rehabilitating the damaged members of many societies. That was the print anyhow. The fact is Central, formally known as the Cankton-Ho Criminal Restoration Corporation, was as reliable at prisoner reform as a hacked radial blaster. You knew what the intent was, but the end result was anybody’s guess. Many people who ended up in Central, even for small and seemingly trivial infractions, were often never heard from again.

I never signed up for a trip to Central and since I accomplished my objective and had the drive tucked neatly away in my pocket, it was clear to me that my business here was done. True, it sounded like the Shags had eliminated my current tap-out, but that was a temporary problem The bigger problem was staying upright, whole and free long enough to find a new tap-out and get the hell out of here.

The mention of Central caused Strom’s breathing to hitch and wherever the heart of that creature resided within that bulbous mass, I was certain it just hit-skipped up a few notches to where – for whatever reason – full panic was about to take over. The broad, artificial smile he worked so hard on faded to nothing as his eye grew wide. He started to shake.

“AAAAAAAYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!”

Damned if I ever heard such a thing in my whole life before or since, and I’ve heard and seen some shit, but the noise that tore out of Strom in that moment, that ear-piercing, head-splitting scream, threw us all out of whack.

Strom’s body pulsed and recoiled. His hands shot to his ears, and while I don’t think he had any intention of resisting or escape, an eye in the moment could see it as such and it did. The Shag with the blasters turned both on Strom and fired.

“AAAAAAAYYYYYEEEEEEEEE!”

The intensity of the scream began anew as Strom’s body jerked in response to the blast. He was on fire. The two Shags holding him must have been newer for they forgot that much like electricity, the pulse of a radial blaster runs through whatever, or whomever the target is in contact with. They forgot to let go in time and in seconds, their screams joined him.

The Shag who fired quickly held the guns up before him as if what happened was so disconnected from what expected that he needed to see if the guns were in fact what he thought they were. In any other instance, the gaze would have been comical.

In the same instance, the tight grips on my arms loosened and the Shags holding me dropped my arms to shield their faces from the spectacle before them, even though they came in with face shields down.

Chance is a fickle mistress. For as ugly as things got as fast as we got there, I learned enough in my travels to know that when a chance comes along – you take it. I stood there watching, trying to process everything that was going on until that moment when a single word flashed across my mind.

Run!

turned *Editor’s note:
To read other fantastic tales, search for Emory Crisp at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 4

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…all the rage over comedy.

Go ahead. Pour yourself a fresh one, grab a bowl of pretzels and get settled in. This nut takes a hot minute to crack, but I’ll try to get at it as simply as possible.

Lately, there seems to a lot of uproar over the things we hear from comedians and their related comedy.

Over the course of human history, leagues of comedians have been labeled offensive. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Sarah Silverman, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais and more have all been labeled offensive or worse at one time or another. As some would have you believe, they are dangerous to all that is good and holy in our delicate society. While that is some serious bullshit, the ultimate point is that offensive comedy is nothing new. Technically speaking, neither is our love/hate relationship with offensive material. While a lot of it seems like bravado, we seem very easy to offend. But, come on…really? I can think of about a hundred things that upset me way more than the comedy stylings of the offensive.

Now, I want to be extra careful about saying what is offensive, because ultimately, the definition of offensive is subjective.

I don’t know a good definition of comedy off the top of my head. I can’t tell you, from a textbook point of view, what the value of comedy is to our society, but I’m pretty sure we need it.

Comedy is a reflection of who we are in our moment in time, presented to us in often disruptive, outrageous, inflated and absurd ways. It needs to cut through our common sense defenses to get to our more primal selves in order to elicit a response. The desired primary response is laughter and levity. The secondary desired response is some level of awareness, a chance to reflect on who we are or what the message is and why certain things are funny to us.

While we may think the times we live in are the very darkest and most troubling, so did our fathers and our father’s fathers and so on. Everyone lives through the worst of times depending on how they see it. Through all that struggle, there is a human need and desire to laugh, if for no other reason than to forget for a moment about how freakin’ miserable things are and the need to just blow some steam.

As times change, our sensitivities change. What we laughed at years ago, may be unacceptable material today and that is OK. There is plenty out there to make fun of. It’s a live and learn thing. The challenge we face now is that virtually everyone in the world has access to everyone else in the world and we all have the ability to label something we experience as “offensive” – based on our own biases – and can propagate that belief, incite rage and all kinds of things – globally – in an instant.

So what’s offensive? I laugh at a lot of stuff because funny is funny and I’m not that easily offended by comedy because I believe I understand the intent.

My friend Jeggs says everything – e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g – is funny, all the time…until it isn’t. I think I understand that, but it’s probably more complex than I imagine.

What we sometimes get caught up on, is the difference between the comedic message and the messenger. That, and this herd-level, bandwagon mentality where we demand instant “justice” for things that upset us without really doing the work to define intent.

Like I said, comedy is supposed to make us see how ridiculous we can be. Our common understanding of how silly we are as a species is what makes comedy work. So the message of comedy – the content – is the social commentary, the mirror we hold before ourselves so that we may better understand our shortcomings and learn not to take ourselves so seriously as we try to work through them.

Comedians, and their associated vehicles, like TV sitcoms or a live performances, are the delivery systems for that social commentary.

Let me be clear that I’m not advocating or approving hateful, inflammatory material that has the intent of shredding the moral fiber of our existence, intentionally causing pain or intentionally causing damage. That is not comedy. And there are plenty of tone-deaf jokes which can be found offensive, or at the least insensitive, and miss the mark on delivery. But while the intent may be to shock, it is rarely to do harm. Comedians feed off laughter. There’s no value in your ire.

Like an actor, or a singer or whatever, there should be a clear delineation between what a person does as a person and what that person does in a profession. I mean, we don’t consider an actor to be a Nazi, or hold them accountable for Nazi beliefs or hate crimes, just because he is cast somewhere in the role of Hitler. It is a representation of information with the intent of getting some kind of awareness into the social consciousness.

We need that. We need different ways to learn about what we do as we trip through our daily lives. We need to know when we are doing something stupid, dangerous, insensitive and needs to be changed and we need to be able to celebrate when we discover we might be doing something right. That is the beauty of art in all its forms, whether it pokes at your delicate sensibilities or not.

Now, if that actor who played Hitler goes home after work and in his own time and space, and in the skin of being regular old John B. Actor, hits the couch to start spewing his personal beliefs which are racist, hateful, divisive, threatening, harmful and more on social media or wherever, there is a problem.

That person can’t hide under the loose protections that comes with being a social commentator because instead of making a point through content, it is a reflection of that being’s personal belief system which they need to be responsible for. They still have the right to say whatever stupid, vile garbage they want. That is the right we get for living here. But they can’t expect that others will not want to respond in some way or that there could not be repercussions, like being called out on it or being fired from the company or group that they may represent or be associated with.

It is definitely a very fine line and the shades of gray that shift between dark and light can turn on an instant depending on who seems to be defining what is offensive in that moment. Generally, if you give it a moment, it will change.

Correction is good. We make course corrections in our lives every day, probably subconsciously, to make sure we continue going in what we perceive to be the right direction. But waging an all out assault on the notion that making fun or providing social insights through comedy with a coating of laughter to soothe the delivery are dangerous waters to tread.

Ultimately, comedy is like music. Some of it is offensive. To you. Or me. I have my preferences and you have yours. Who is to say which is correct? If you don’t like it, turn it off. Don’t listen to it. But you can’t make that judgement for everyone. Nor should you.

These are delicate times for everybody. Personally, I want to laugh as much as possible because it gives me hope that we aren’t as far gone as I fear. The moment we start taking ourselves too seriously, we are truly doomed. I hope we figure that out.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old, same old – more dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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On any given day… 1

Any-given-day

“She could be a professional smiler, ” Barton thought. “If there was such a thing.”

He stood at his register mindlessly passing the goods from Mrs. Fromeyer’s cart, one at a time, across the scanner. He waved each item back and forth over the single, red-flashing laser eyeball of the machine that logged the purchases until it noted success with a short, innocuous beep.

April, who stood at lane number 7, just two registers away, did the same work, but with more…

Words flashed across his mind as he sought out just the right one. Style? Flair? Zest?

Panache.

Yes, panache was it to a T. It felt like an old word. Like something his grandmother might say, but it fit April and what she was doing in this moment perfectly. While he scanned by rote, April talked to people. She was genuine. She cared. She gave little tidbits of information about the products the people were buying and asked them about their day.

Even though she had a scrunchy at the ready on her wrist, she kept her hair down most of the time. It constantly fell across her face, which required that she constantly pull it back and tuck it behind her ear. An exercise in futility for the hair, but for him each pull back revealed that amazing smile. It hit him like a kid watching a magician pulling his cape back to reveal the end of an amazing illusion.

Barton looked around the store. Most people don’t smile. Mrs. Fromeyer wasn’t smiling. He wasn’t smiling. They were all capable of smiling, sure, but everyone seemed to dole them out as if they were a precious and limited resource best used exclusively for special occasions.

Not April though. If smiling was a precious and limited commodity that should be tightly managed, nobody told her. She had smiles for everyone. She had smiles for no one. She looked as though she could have been born with a smile on her face. She could have been the hardest birth known to humanity and Barton could only imagine the new infant April lying in a small hospital crib and struggling to “make it” – all while smiling.

It was a sweet smile, natural and full. It fit her face perfectly. It never faded. If it ever went away, and he was pressed to think of a time when that happened, you could rest assured that a new fresh smile was coming up to take its place any second.

When some people smile, it looks forced, fake, off-putting in some cases and foreign in others, as if gracing the face it sat on was a mistake. It’s not that these people are unhappy, but more that they are not properly gifted with adequate smile features.

April’s face was made for smiling. Whatever bone structure and musculature nature set up for her provided the optimum conditions for maximum smile efficiency. She had more than a mouth smile. Her whole head was symmetrical and balanced. The trigger of the smile caused her eyes to widen just so to add that extra gleam to them and a subtle, soft blush would grace her cheeks with just the right amount of color. It was art. She was smile incarnate.

He could imagine her face on magazines, billboards, giant animated screens and on TV, not hawking cars and overpriced, sludge-creating, high-speed juicing machines, no. That did not suit her. Instead, she would represent ideals, assurances and lofty aspirations, inspiring  those seeking help or who search for a pathway to a better existence to take those steps needed to be who they want to be in this life. Quit smoking. Read books. Meditate. Recycle. Save puppies. Feed the homeless. Use energy efficient LED light bulbs. Retire at Shady Oaks. Consider Tyler Funeral Home the best option for your loved ones as they head to the great unknown. And more.

He knew he was staring. He tried not to, but still he found himself looking without looking, gauging her movements to make sure that if she were to look up, he could effectively shift his gaze off to some other direction without getting caught with his eyes on her like some distant, creepy, stalker.

He was not proud, but it could not be helped. In his 19 and three-quarter years of life, he had never encountered such a force. It knocked him off balance. Yet, in 19 and three-quarters years of life, he still he knew well the notions of fate and impermanence. His best friend “for life” David Berkingham moved away that fateful day in June the year they both turned eight and look how that turned out. It was like David never existed. Nothing lasts forever. So if the universe saw fit to align his path with that of April Timmons and the smile that could generate universal peace and harmony, who was he to argue?

*Editor’s note:
To read other story entries, just search for On any given day at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Dumb Stuff with Tommy McGee – 3

Dumb-Stuff

Hi. Welcome to Dumb Stuff.

I’m Tommy, and this is what I think about stuff that’s mostly dumb.

Today…political zealots.

Let’s get at it.

My friend Louis says there are basically two things that guide him along his path and they have never let him down. They are common sense and beer.

If something doesn’t make sense to him, he works on it until it does. If it’s something doesn’t make sense and it’s beyond his control, he finds the best way in his mind to cope with it. It’s sort of a zen-like “let it go” philosophy because basically, it doesn’t make sense to him to waste energy grinding on it, especially if he can’t do anything about it.

He sees common sense as anything that can be figured out in a hot minute and that under the same circumstances, and with the same set of considerations, anyone else (in their right mind, as he puts it) would come to the same logical conclusion.

If you take a bite off a slice of pizza that just came out of the oven you are bound to torch the roof of your mouth. Anyone knows that. It’s common sense. If you know that and you do it anyway, Louis would say you are probably not right in your mind, because again, it’s common sense.

What stumps Louis these days, and me, and several of the others I speak to or hear from regularly is what seems to be a large step away from common sense. It’s evident in a  lot of things but most clearly illustrated by the latest wave of political vitriol generated from hardcore, short-sighted, mean-spirited, uninformed, under-informed, pig-headed, irrational, party loyalists who spew venom and ignorance as if it were their right, ordained to do so by God.

Now, we crawled around on that for a bit, because we all believe people have the right, at least as outlined by the constitution, to speak their piece, no matter how ignorant others may deem them to be. Intelligence, perceived or otherwise, is apparently not a condition for gaining the right to speak freely.

However, Louis will tell you that an ignorant man’s desire to speak his truth is like having the desire to dress a rhino in a tuxedo. While you may have the right and the notion to do it, it makes no sense and no good comes from it – for him, for the tuxedo or for the rhino. Louis is a Class A bar stool philosopher for sure.

Of course, all this comes at the risk of judging others. Which we know we should try to avoid. Then again, somebody has to say something.

I don’t really care much about what people have to say. As crazy as it gets, most of the time if you let them say it, they get it out of their system and go away. I don’t have to agree with them and if they say things that are offensive to me or to my people, I have the choice to go away myself, or handle it in a way that diffuses my frustrations.

What I care about is when actions overpower conversations. My granddad will tell you that a bad conversation is better than no conversation at all, because at least you are talking. And if you’re talking, and listening, there is a pretty good chance that the conversation will turn into something positive. Eventually.

What we are seeing in our politics today is actions overpowering conversations. Don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of words being said, but few actual conversations are taking place. The intent of the words are less about achieving anything and more about spewing anger, ignorance, self-righteous ideology and negativity. That all spoils the ground for fertile conversation.

Everyone is dug in and polarized. These hard-charging nubs seem so embedded and invested in their political rhetoric, and I mean dug in deep, that the opportunity for consideration, cooperation and rational, productive discussion is being extinguished like a lit match trapped under an inverted bar glass.

There is a clear “us versus them” mentality coming from both sides. Louis calls them Demi-don’ts and Republi-can’ts because they each blame the other for all the bad going on, promise the stars and moon in the spirit of change and accomplish absolutely zero. It makes no sense and it’s just dumb.

I liken this widespread, communally ignorant behavior to that of the Zax in the story by Dr. Seuss. Look it up. Two creatures intent on going to their destinations and getting their way in doing it without giving a single thought about the other. They end up blocking each other’s path. They are stubborn, unwilling to learn or change or even make a small adjustment to their mindset or process because of the entitlement they feel to self-actualize. It’s just blind, dumb ignorance for the purpose of principle.

And this is where the problem is. We can’t seem to suss it out. Common sense dictates this is an unhealthy and ultimately, self-destructive behavior. It’s behavior we would admonish our children for and yet these folks see no problems with it, or are at the very least, aggressively comfortable with settling into their ignorance and sharing it broadly.

Common sense dictates that someone along the line is gonna have to blink. They will have to set pride aside and suggest there may be a better way to achieve resolution beyond demanding everything go a certain way – because that’s the way they want it –  and undermining everything that may crimp the pure crazy.

America was built on compromise and cooperation. There are good people here who work hard to get through the day to day they best they can and would rather not have to deal with the philosophical zealotry that ultimately makes their jobs harder and provides fewer rewards. It’s frustrating and it’s soul-crushing to know that there are people out there, people with power and influence that would rather serve an ideology than to put the energy into honestly working for the common good. If everyone could see that and maybe try blinking, just a little bit, and take a little step back toward common sense, we might be able to see the bigger picture and paint it properly.

Till then, it’s just gonna more of the same old same old. More dumb stuff.

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Dumb Stuff” entries, search for Dumb Stuff at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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Something to Ponder – 11

banaba 1a

Sage advice from an elderly gentleman perched atop a lonely mountain.

Hello friends! Today our question comes from Donnie Mershon of Beaufort, South Carolina.

“Dear Banaba,” Donnie writes. “I don’t think people like me. In fact, I think some people may hate me.”

To my new friend Donnie, I say simply, “After the overwhelming mountain of questions, I’m not sure I like you either!”

But that is me having a delicate joke at your expense. Apologies. Clearly, you asked no question at all, but I think I know what you may be looking for just the same.

Consider first that the human species is a complex and emotional animal. The simple determining factors of like and dislike are the root logic we use for virtually every decision we make.

Now consider that every person on the planet is wired with a unique mindset, a unique moral code, a unique capacity for understanding, learning, forgiveness, anger, mistrust and so on. And while clusters of us may have thoughts and feelings that are similar to other’s, what we bring to that commonality is less about how much we may be the same and more about what we need in our lives and what we are willing to do to get it so that we may better self-actualize. In other words, it is a reflection of how willing we are to reach out, tolerate, empathize, understand, forgive, give and more, according to what we need, to make our relationships work.

Clearly, not all of us are destined to get along, but not feeling liked, or feeling hated is a different dynamic than not getting along. Basically, humans have two emotional pathways that help guide our decisions and ultimately, our lives.

Our passive emotional pathway allows us to make effective like/dislike decisions with great efficiency and with little residual refection or consideration. Some refer to these as “no-brainers”. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. I like ice cream so I will eat it. I dislike dark alleyways because I feel they may be unsafe so I will avoid them. It is quite efficient until something disrupts our pathway and presents us with new factors to consider.

That is when our active emotional pathway kicks in. This allows us to further consider the circumstances we find ourselves in so that we might try and respond effectively, in our time and space at that moment, to resolve the conflict. It is an aggressive and reactive pathway which often creates new actions and counteractions that we must respond to that often fall well beyond the initial issue and often with assumed facts or notions of what we may believe to be true. I dislike the cold, so I wear a coat. But, my coat is not warm enough, so I need to buy a warmer coat. Even more so, I’m sick the cold and I should move to a warmer place. San Diego is warmer I bet. I should just move to San Diego. I’ll be happier there. And so on.

Despite our individuality and each person’s unique perspective. I like to think that we are all generally predisposed to liking something, in this case, people, over disliking it – or them. At a minimum, we should be able to ignore others without the least bit of disruption to our lives. We do this every day. If you do not know anyone in Billings, Montana, you are not likely to care much about them, even though they exist. I feel it is doubtful that you would hate them.

But, to not like, or to hate is an active, aggressive and emotional decision we make based on some level of bias that falls outside our level of tolerance or willingness to make the needed adjustments to turn the dislike into something more positive.

It takes energy, and there is a cost to our emotional currency to hate. And while it is frequently abused or at a minimum, misplaced, it is still a useful and sometimes necessary emotion because it defines for us the farthest boundary of our willingness to bend. I like ice cream, but I hate pistachio ice cream, therefore I will eat many, many ice cream flavors before I even consider eating pistachio.

Finally, know that hate comes with the weight of what it is. When someone hates, they carry the burden of that emotion with them. Even if they feel they deserve to hate. Perhaps they feel they have been wronged in some way or something dear has been taken from them. They feed it regularly. Small things can churn into rage which only serves to reinforce the hate. They cannot move beyond it, or resolve it so it festers as hate is prone to do.

So, what comes from this all analysis you ask? Well, people may dislike you. They may even hate you. It is also entirely possible that people don’t hate you but, they experience a level of frustration while interacting with you that they find upsetting enough for them to react the way they do to you, which you may define as hate. We are bad communicators to begin with. We are worse when feelings like hate are involved.

Your job is to understand what role you play in this particular circumstance. Ask the hard questions, but be willing to answer honestly. Are you kind? Are you rude? Are you understanding? Are you hateful yourself? Do you strive to hurt others? And so on.

Nobody is perfect. We all deserve the benefit of the doubt from others if we can honestly say that our general objective is to be the best people we can be. I’m certain the people whom you say may hate you, would want the same considerations should the tables be turned.

Lastly, you must understand that whatever hate another carries, even if directed at you, is not your responsibility to resolve. If you have taken responsibility for your own actions to the extent of your awareness, then you have done your part. The hate of another is something he or she will have to resolve on their own. It may be that they will find no way to resolve it besides extinguishing any association they have with you. That may not be ideal, but it may also be the reality. It is sad. You will likely wonder what you could have done that was so offensive to them that they chose to cut you away like that, but that is their choice. And if they hate you for no reason at all beyond the mere fact that you exist then they have many larger problems and you are better off for the distance.

Either way, in a way, such a choice is freeing in that it allows you to focus more on the things in your life that deserve your positive energy and proper attention. Should the day come that a resolution is possible, you must decide if you are open to re-establishing that relationship. If so, you must also be willing, and able, to set the past aside and move forward fresh and new.

By the way, I like you just fine.

Peace to you  – Banaba

*Editor’s note:
To read other “Something to Ponder” entries, search for Banaba at the top of the page.

Copyright © 2018 – The JEFFWORKS

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