Category: Inspiration

Pine Cones

We have a bombing range in our front yard. The bombers are two large pine trees, and the bombs are pine cones. Luckily, no one has yet been conked over the head by any coniferous ordnance that has dropped from the towering heights of these trees. But it’s only a matter of time.

Meanwhile, dozens of cones per week are shed, populating the grounds with ankle turners for those who perambulate in the dark. So once in awhile some poor schlub is tasked with the chore of raking up these invading cones.

It occurred to me one day, as I rested while leaning against the rake, that these damned trees must have already produced tens of thousands of pine cones over the course of their lives. And what do they have to show for it? Nothing. The hundreds of thousands of seeds of the tens of thousands of cones that have dropped from these evergreens have yet to produce a single new pine tree.

And that’s because schlemiels like me religiously rake the cones up, before the seeds get a chance to fall out. Then again, I must also give credit to the squirrels and birds and such, that harvest the pine nuts before I show up with my gardening tools.

But I’m not perfect, and neither are squirrels and birds. One of these days we’re gonna screw up. And then one of those pine nuts will get its chance. It will take root and sprout a brand new pine tree. And then, finally, it will be mission accomplished for our mammoth pine trees. They’ll have something to show for their efforts.

It only takes one success for a pine tree to complete its job at reproduction.

I think it’s the same with humans and their opinions. Opinions come from opining, so I think it’s safe to compare an opinion to a pine cone. Some humans try to be helpful, and are full of all kinds of opinions and advice. We are constantly bombarded, every single day, with messages of persuasion from each other. Sometimes it’s all we can do to rake through the muck of all this information, and uncover a grounded sense of reality.

We usually mean well with all our opinions. But so often they’re only half-regarded, if not ignored altogether. Rare is the occasion when something we say makes a real difference in someone else’s life.

But like the pine trees, it only takes once. If only one time in your life an opinion, or observation, or piece of advice helps change a life for the better for some ignominious, benighted person wallowing in the mire of a life run poorly, then you will have done your job. You will have fulfilled your mission at helping life to go on.

DISCLAIMER: If you’ve ever given bad advice, you may have to help more than one person, to countervail the harm you’ve inflicted on others. Past performance may not be a reliable indicator of future returns. Consult physician before using internally.

Fast Road to Fame

The Hollywood Walk of Fame, where many young people dream of immortality, while stumbling flat on their face.

Back when I was a young naif, burning with ambition, I imagined that the world was my oyster. Because that’s what all the adults told me, and I was stupid enough to believe them. I wanted to pry open that oyster, and find a fast road to fame.

But for some reason, none of my crowbars worked. They just bent when I stomped on them. And that damned oyster kept its mouth tightly sealed. It clammed up, so to speak.

I’ve never been a big fan of seafood anyway, so viewing the world as my oyster was probably not the wisest thing to do. It left a bad taste in my mouth, and was a disgusting concept to swallow. But I was a young idiot. Naive to the ways of the world. I was grabbling about in the dark, heeding the advice of other idiots, like the proverbial blind man following the blind.

Nowadays I like to assume that all my decades of sparring with this world has wised me up. And if I could go back in time and give that stupid young man I was, some advice on how to quickly achieve fame, here’s what I’d tell him:

“So you want to be famous, eh? Well young man, I’ve learned that there is no faster road to fame than ordinary work. Just do what needs to be done. Do it carefully. Be effective at what you do. This is rare enough to catch the attention of others, even when it seems ordinary to yourself.

“The movers of the Earth will first take notice. They’ll recognize a bird of their own feather. And when they’re convinced you belong to their flock, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief. It’s hard work to move the Earth. It’s nice when a reinforcement arrives.

“The free-riders will notice that you’re keeping company with these movers and shakers. Blessed with charm and imperious demands, they’ll soon throw their qualified moral support behind you. They’ll award you with a poisoned chalice brimming with praises and honor. They’ll thank you profusely for all you do for them. And they’ll grumble behind your back whenever you take a rest break.

“After the free-riders contribute to your popularity, the paper tigers will be roused from their slumber. They’ll see you as a threat to their power over the free-riders. Their hearts will tremble with fear, but their throats will roar with ferocity. They will lop off your head if you don’t lower it, and skewer your guts if you drop your shield. But if you maintain your wits and courage, you will successfully defeat them, for they are made of paper. They thrive on witlessness and panic.

“The sheer noise the paper tigers make over you will raise your popularity to the level of fame. Perhaps it won’t be worldwide fame, or national fame, or even regional fame. But you will at least become famous within the circles you frequent. And yet, what will you have done to become so famous? Just ordinary work, that’s all. Ordinary work, with no ulterior motive. Work that somebody had to do, or it wouldn’t get done. And work carried out with love in your heart, a passion for perfection, and a resolve to succeed against all threats.

“So carry on. Do what needs to be done. Travel the road that is open to all, but used by few.

“And fame will soon follow.”

Speck of Dust

There’s a lot of self-important people running for office these days. Lest we think they’re better than us, or we, them, here’s a little poem to contemplate:

Speck of Dust

I’m just a speck of dust in the wind,

Blowing about and mixing in;

Sometimes part of the hard red clay,

Sometimes lifting and blowing away.

I’m one in a million

Trillion quadrillion,

To the power of sextillion

Octillion nonillion.

Compared to the whole, there ain’t much of me.

But that means I have lots of company.

We swirl in a cloud on a blustery day.

We come together and we ebb away.

I follow the breeze, this stream of air,

As it carries me hither, thither and there.

I can shine in the sun or hide in the gray,

But I can’t prevent being carried away.

Wherever I go, and whatever I see,

Will pass as I blast through eternity.

There’s never a place that I’ve blown through twice,

And never a breeze that didn’t feel nice.

So if some dust ever lands near your eye,

Please brush it away and allow it to fly.

For a speck of dust loves to roam.

With the wind as its path and the sky as its home.

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