Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know a few people like that.
Human salvation lies in the hands of the creatively maladjusted.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
I know a few people like that.
When we met and fell in love, I had no idea how much my wife had been sought after. But not by Don Juans bearing roses in clenched teeth. No, the people who had stalked her, and who had clamored for a few minutes of her time, were the lovelorn, the desperate, and the distraught.
After we’d been together for awhile, Kay revealed to me that at one time she had worked as a psychic. Not only that, but she’d had such a reputation for accuracy, people would flock to her from miles around to pay for a reading.
I wished I could say that I knew that, but I couldn’t. I’d never been psychic.
She charged $20 for individual readings, and $25 for group readings, and this was back in the 1970s, when the minimum wage was around two bucks an hour. So she made some decent money on the side, exploiting her psychic powers for profit.
But Kay says the work was mentally draining. She’d have to spend the day before a reading, in a meditative state. Visions, and other revelations would come to her at this time, but the deep meditation required for this would leave her feeling exhausted.
But did she really have psychic powers? I’m a skeptic and told her so, right from the start. To my surprise, she said she felt relieved. Now I wouldn’t be hounding her to read my fortune, and to tell me all the terrible things that might be in store for me.
Bushwa! I thought. But then again, who knows? Since I believe nobody can read minds, how am I supposed to get into her mind and know that she can, or cannot, read minds?
Another reason she felt relieved is because she claimed she had turned her preternatural powers off. Kay says that you can get in a mental place where your powers become stronger. But you can also let go of your powers and they will become weaker. One day, Kay decided to allow her powers to weaken and fade away. These days, she says it’s very rare for something psychic to occur to her.
She claims she was born with these powers. When she was a small child, she claims to have had the premonition that her brother would die young. But she kept it a secret, because she didn’t want her mother getting upset. Sure enough, when her brother was 33 years old, he was killed by a drunk driver while jogging by the side of a highway.
In fact, the day she decided to stop being psychic was the day her brother died. She knew it was coming, and she didn’t like knowing such things. But there were other reasons. She had also grown tired of hearing people’s problems, and feeling their pain, and being liked only for her psychic powers, rather than people getting to know her as a person. Especially because it wasn’t just strangers who treated her this way, but also coworkers, friends, and even family. Plus, the Bible says it’s a sin to be psychic, and Kay is superstitious about the Bible.
And then there were those times when she’d read someone’s fortune, and dread telling it. For instance, how do you tell someone who has cancer that they aren’t going make it? Kay hated being the bearer of bad news.
When she was 24, she worked at a nursing home. She kept sensing something about the charge nurse who worked at the home. One day she had all the nerve to walk up to her and tell her that she knew something about her past. That she’d had a baby girl who had died. The nurse felt shocked. It was true, she confessed, and it was something she had not told anyone about, because she didn’t like talking about it.
Kay also told this nurse something else that had been weighing on her mind for several days. She informed the nurse that soon there was going to be a mass killing or mass suicide somewhere in the world, and that a lot of people were going to die. About a week later, the Jonestown Massacre in Guyana occurred.
After this the nurse was so impressed, she started hounding Kay for readings. This left her feeling irritated. Then another nurse began hounding her for a reading. But she refused. She was tired of being pressured to provide psychic services.
But one day she changed her mind. She suddenly got the urge to do a reading for the nurse. So she went to her house and sat in front of her. But then her mind drew a blank. Nothing came. It was an awkward moment, and Kay felt embarrassed.
Then the lady’s daughter walked in, whom Kay had never met before. Kay looked at her, then looked back at her coworker, and warned her, “Don’t let your daughter get into any red sports cars this summer.”
The mother freaked out. It so happened her daughter had a friend who drove a red sports car. She absolutely forbade her daughter from riding in it. And that summer, the daughter’s friend got into a terrible wreck that destroyed the passenger side of the car. Kay’s advice had possibly saved the girl’s life.
When Kay gave an individual reading, only about one or two things about a client would come to her. But her clients would press for more. She could have embellished, like many so-called psychics do, but she chose not to take advantage of her clients.
There were only three main areas of interest for her clients: They wanted to know about their future love life. Or, they were going through a difficult time, and wanted to know how things would turn out. Or, they were distraught over the loss of a loved one, and wanted to hear some news from the departed soul.
In group readings, Kay would ask for a piece of jewelry from every member of the group. She would hold it, rub it, and do readings from what she picked up off the jewelry. Kay could also feel their physical pain, such as back pain, or any other pain they were currently experiencing in their body.
The information she got only applied to the owner of the jewelry, so it wasn’t the way fake psychics work, where they say something aloud that’s vague, and almost guaranteed to apply to at least one person in the group.
One day Kay was shopping, appropriately enough, in K-Mart. An employee walked up and told her that he’d heard of her, and that he didn’t believe she was psychic. He challenged her to prove it to him. Kay had never met him before, and knew nothing about this guy. But she said, “Okay. You can’t wait to get off of work. You have a brother who’s in the military, who is visiting, and he’s at your home right now.” The guy turned pale. He looked like he’d been stricken. He admitted, “You’re right,” and turned around and walked away.
Sometimes a skeptic would accompany a client to a reading, and would scoff and jeer in the background. Kay always found this funny, because she always shocked these skeptics with her accuracy.
I’m a skeptic, myself. And even as I write this, I too am scoffing and jeering. Yet with a wary mind.
I worry that if what Kay has told me is true, she may secretly harbor psychic powers, even now. That’s a little unnerving. How the hell can I get away with anything?
And so, as I go about my day, I try to think random thoughts to throw her off. I’ve gotten very good at this, and can sometimes get away with being sneaky. Now, what the hell was I doing? Oh yes, I’m writing a post. I’ll admit that I get distracted easily, using this strategy, but it’s worth it.
Kay will never be able to read my mind.
I can’t imagine how anyone can say: “I’m weak,” and then remain so. After all, if you know it, why not fight against it, why not try to train your character?
Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl, 7/6/44
Or if you’re too lazy to train your character, just don’t admit to being weak.
I’ve had five different stepparents. Two I liked and three I didn’t. One of those that I didn’t like, was married and divorced to my mother twice. He raised me through most of my childhood years.
He was abusive. But not very often physical. Mostly it was mental and verbal abuse. My mother, my siblings and I were frequently the targets of his inner, unresolved conflicts and anger.
He also molested my sisters. He lived to the ripe old age of 82, but my mother divorced him for the final time, some 20 years before he died. But the divorce occurred long after her children were raised and the damage to us had been done.
If you are a parent, married to or preparing to marry an abusive person, you might want to be wary of what lies in store for you and your children down the line. I’m not sure what that will be, exactly, but I can relate what happened in my own family.
All of my sisters married and eventually divorced abusive men. One of my sisters developed multiple personalities. Sometimes she goes into fugue states, wandering away from home and reemerging somewhere, a thousand miles away, with no memory of where she’s been or how she got there. Sometimes she’s locked away in mental hospitals for her own protection. She’s neglected her health, and is now a mental and physical wreck.
Another sister had her nose and jaw broken by an abusive husband, requiring major surgery to her face. She emerged from her last divorce with little money, and had to restart her life at the age of 45. She came close to serving time in prison one evening, as she stood over this husband while he slept, holding a baseball bat over his head. But she resisted temptation and divorced him instead. Finally, after three failed marriages, she found a good man.
My brother has been happily married most of his adult life, and has been fairly successful. But before he set out on the strait and narrow, he was doing hard drugs. He joined the Army on his 18th birthday, but had a problem with fighting and going off into drug-induced rampages. On one occasion he trashed the barracks. This led to a court-martial and discharge. He had to work very hard to rebuild his life after the military, but in the end all has turned out well for him.
I too emerged from childhood with a messed up mind. I was depressed, confused, and poorly equipped for survival in this wild world we live in. And that was compounded by poor physical health. I dropped out of college. I failed to notice, or failed to care about, one golden opportunity for success after another. I came close to suicide on several occasions. But eventually I developed the insight needed to turn my life around and build a successful marriage and career.
My mother has ended up an odd old duck. She’s poor, but spends her money like water. Then she begs for more from her children. She has a nervous talking habit that never quits. It drives everyone nuts. She remembers our childhood very differently from the way we remember, and sometimes speaks wistfully of that ex-husband who molested her daughters. We kind of avoid her, and she lives alone.
This is no sob story. I don’t have much to cry about. For the most part, I feel happy and fulfilled, no thanks to my ex-stepfather. This is a warning. Think of your children when deciding who to bring into your life. Abusive spouses come and go, but your children will always be your children. You want them to always love you, don’t you?
The human spirit is very resilient. But it’s most vulnerable during the tender years of youth. Abusive parenting doesn’t toughen children up. It weakens them. But when or if they restrengthen as adults, their strong spirits will never forget what they endured. And they will do their best to avoid any further abuse. Even if that means avoiding those who raised them.
Life is the art of drawing without an eraser.
John W. Gardner, former president, Carnegie Corp.
But at least we’re able to scribble things out.
I decided I wanted to become more proficient with my camera. So I hired a professional photographer to give me some one-on-one training. His name is Jay Pegger. Jay took me out into the field so he could give me some pointers on how to shoot.
We came upon a beautiful Joshua tree that Jay thought would make an excellent photographic subject. So he told me to frame up a picture.
Jay: Frame up a picture. But before you do, you’re going to want to increase your focal ratio. (I creased my forehead) You know, your f/stop.
Oh, that seemed easy. I already knew the control for adjusting f/stop. So I made the tweak as instructed.
Jay: Before you shoot, let me check your adjustment.
He took the camera.
Jay: What the f___? I thought you knew how to adjust f/stop!
Me: I do. You told me to increase it, so I took it up to f/22. That’s as high as it can go. It was at f/11.
Jay: No, no, when you increase f/stop, that means you decrease the number.
Me: Come again? You mean more is less?
Jay: No, not at all. And I thought you told me you’d studied all this. I didn’t realize you were such an amateur! Listen carefully. F/stop gets bigger the smaller the number, because it’s a ratio of the size of the diaphragm that controls the size of the aperture. More f/stop means more light.
Me: Before I got fixed, I always stopped my f-ing if I knew she wasn’t wearing a diaphragm. I know what that aperture can do to a man.
Jay: That’s not funny. I’ve heard all those stupid jokes many times before. That’s why I try to limit my students to more advanced photographers. Now listen! Wrong diaphragm, wrong aperture. There’s a diaphragm in the lens of your camera.
Me: So tell me, Jay, what does the “f” stand for, in f/stop?
Jay: Focal! Focal! Got it?! Focal!!
Me: I rest my case.
Jay: Oh, Jesus! Look . . . just remember, you increase f/stop by reducing the number. But if it will make things easier, let’s just talk about aperture. Now, increase the aperture in your camera.
I took the camera back and fiddled with the controls. This would be easier if I wasn’t already at the highest f/stop. Or was that the lowest f/stop?
Me: Hey Jay, I’m already at f/22. How can I possibly increase the aperture any further?
Jay swiped the camera out of my hands.
Jay: Listen! You increase aperture by increasing f/stop! You increase f/stop by reducing the number! This isn’t brain surgery!!
Me: Alright, alright! I just wanted to make sure, that’s all. I suspected it all along. Just checking, that’s all.
I didn’t really suspect that, but I didn’t like Jay being mad at me. It hurts my feelings to pay someone by the hour to yell at me. I took the camera back, and reduced the f/stop number down to f/8.
Me: I’m at f/8. Is that good, or do you want me to reduce the f/stop further?
Jay: Reduce?! Reduce?! No damnit! I want you to INCREASE the f/stop further!!! INCREASE it to f/6!
His temper-tantrum was leaving me feeling panicked. And when I feel panicked I have a hard time thinking straight. With shaky fingers, I fiddled with the controls.
Me: Okay, okay, calm down. There, no, wait. Oh goshdarnit! I increased the f/stop to f/10!
Jay: Goshdarnit?! GodDAMNit!! Don’t you fucking listen?! It’s motherfucking impossible to increase an f/stop from f/8 to f/10! Motherfucking impossible! Understand?!!
I stood there tremulous. My eyes darted around for any weapon I might use to defend myself. There was a stick about 10 yards away.
Me: Jay, Jay, I’m sorry. I’m just a little nervous. It would help if you’d stop yelling at me.
Jay’s pupils visibly dilated, as if there were out-of-control f/stops whirring about in his eye sockets. But after a long minute they receded. He actually started to calm down.
Jay: You’re right. I’m sorry. But this whole f/stop issue really bugs me. Every new photography student seems to have a learning curve when it comes to f/stop. And wanna know something? I’m sick of it! It really isn’t that hard to get. But I’ll try to be a little more patient.
Me: Thank you, Jay. Now, could you tell me why you wanted me to increase the aperture?
Jay: Oh, well that’s to reduce your depth of field. We want the Joshua tree to be in focus, with the background being slightly out-of-focus. It makes for a striking effect.
Me: So you increase aperture to reduce your depth of field?
Jay: Yeah, yeah, that’s right. (Breathing more deeply and calmly) Now just go ahead and increase your aperture, and let’s take this picture.
I fiddled with the camera’s controls.
Me: Jay, do you think f/22 would give me a big enough aperture? I mean, when I look through the viewfinder the depth of field doesn’t seem to have gone down much.
Jay: You son-of-a-bitch!!!
I ran for the stick.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty. ~ George Washington, from his Farewell Address
Or in other words, endless partisan bickering leads to dictatorships. Maybe this is why our presidents are so powerful, these days.
Wit is a dangerous weapon, even to the possessor, if he knows not how to use it discreetly.
Michel de Montaigne, French Renaissance author
In fact, witty puns have been known to trigger head-smacking.
I’ve given up on my grammar checker. It puts annoying, squiggly lines beneath my sentences, which distract me from being able to read and understand what I’ve written. So I went online, looking for better grammar checking software.
After much searching I finally found something affordable. It’s a program called, “You Well Write.” I believe the low, $15.00 price was due to the fact that it was produced in China, by slave labor. Thanks, Uyghurs!
After the quick download, I was eager to learn how to operate this exciting new auditor of my written word. And just reading the Help file opened my eyes to highly sophisticated usages of the English language. Here’s an excerpt:
“Welcome too You Well Write! You soon no sorry this product you purchase. It many times used in China country years on. Corporations all that products America for made always this product use when manuals they write. It’s style familiar to you must be. How times many you purchase from our country product with manual? Reading hard it is, no? But now not. Now familiarize we you with language structure better so now you not just able understand manual but write you such manual you to.
“Guarantee we, or back money give we if no complain. You find better then no product ever. Help file read you, than program start you too use. Their no time now like it is for learn. So its now time start for you.”
I’m very excited about this new program. How nice it will be to learn the language structure used in every manual that comes with products made in China. And not only that, but I’ll be able to write like these Chinese pros, also.
Their is nothing better then that, and already its as if I be learning much of new thing’s.
Success can make you go one of two ways. It can make you a primadonna – or it can smooth the edges, take away the insecurities, let the nice things come out. ~ Barbara Walters
That’s nice. But with a giant income, who cares?
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