Connective tissue is as essential to running around with a football as nuts and bolts are to keeping a swing set upright.
Language is no different. But medical jargon is messy. So witness the advent of what we upright hominids now call conjunctions. The evidence of conjunction’s power is everywhere.
Sweet and Sour; Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness; Nuts-and-Bolts.
A recent television commercial confirms what has been my experience all along. Not all conjunctions are created equal. Don’t believe me? Try running the same sequence again.
Sweet or Sour; Life, Liberty or the pursuit of Happiness; Nuts or Bolts?
See what I mean? Chaos is only as far away as the conjunction you use. As you’ve probably guessed by now, my personal favorite is the humble ‘and’.
‘And’ is more than humble. ‘And’ is versatile. It shines as a one word question.
One of the ignominious contradictions that is me has to do with questions. I secretly suspect one of the reasons I am such a passionate geek when it comes to statistics has as much to do with uncovering the right questions as much as it does with delivering the right answers.
In direct contrast, my experience as a child was learning the act of questioning was somehow viewed by some to be tantamount to treason. Faith was taught in terms of simply accepting and not asking why along the way. Though I now find such a definition faulty, what I learned back then was it was dangerous to challenge the status quo. As the years of such conditioning began to lay up over the top of the muddy year before, the less I was able to move. And the less I moved, the less I questioned out loud. But as you, my esteemed reader already know, that doesn’t mean the questions don’t keep rolling. We’re not wired that way. Like a horse with no name, they simply move below.
“The ocean is a desert with it’s life underground
And a perfect disguise above
Under the cities lies a heart made of ground
But the humans will give no love…”
And since my urge to question wasn’t really gone, I felt the necessity to camouflage the existence of them in ever more sophisticated and elaborate ways. To make a long story short, such tactics did little to encourage a green and growing curiosity about the world around me and my place in it.
Another contradiction that is part and parcel of the ‘glory that is me’ [sic] is with all the time and effort I’ve since put into stripping away all those layers of mud that so complicated my life, there are even now, still times when I will ask the right questions…but not all of them. I hold back.
There were several times this week when I felt the rise of that familiar childhood fear of asking one more question. It’s like running the football all the way down the field and then, stopping at the 1-yard line. What happened to me next was as predictable as a marching band at half-time. I got tackled. I missed the opportunity to score an easier go of things because I had stopped short of asking the one more question that would have made scoring a touchdown easy. Yes, I eventually scored, but it took (and will take) so much more time and effort to make it into the end zone than would have been the case had I simply kept going. So I’ve been asking myself all week, “Why?”.
For all my over-thinking, the right question came to me as quietly as a knock on the door. I was afraid of the answer I might get.
Fresh from my epiphany and weary of listening to all the reasons bouncing around inside my head as to why I shouldn’t push on, I called on my old friend Conjunction. I worked up my courage and simply asked myself a different question,“And?”.
Yes, there was the predictable bluster and blow-back I’d known since childhood in response to my simple act of asking just one more question. But this time, the louder the tantrums raged, the more I realized all the noise was actually a tacit acknowledgment of the quiet power behind my simple one-word question – And? Fear was scared of ‘and?’!
I marvel at the magnetic attraction Truth has for the right question. It still surprises me how simple and uncomplicated the answers can be once they are coaxed out from the accidental randomness of my Life. But here’s the thing. The answers don’t end up being destinations. Rather, they become the point of departure from which the real work of being Human begins.
What do you do with the answer to the question you were afraid to ask?
Do you find somewhere else to live or work? Do you put down that vice that keeps you encased in the mud of your past? Do you finally learn to open up and trust it when someone shows you they love you? Do you risk it all by having that heart-to-heart with the best friend or family member who seems hellbent on making the same bad decisions over and over again? Or scarier still, do you finally have that look-yourself-in-the-eye conversation with yourself in the bathroom mirror?
I don’t know what any of this may mean for you, but I know what conjunctions are teaching me. When in doubt, ask one more question. If I’m scared and want to run the other way, than that’s the time when I owe it to myself to reach down and find the courage to ask one more question.
If the Earth were flat, scientists estimate the human eye could see a single candle burning some 30-miles away…that’s 528 football fields.
Each of us is only one Light. But when we open up to each other, we become ‘and’. I’m thankful to have been reminded that one of the principal reasons I can ‘keep on keepin on’ is my time on this earth isn’t just me anymore. I’m not alone. It’s you and me. It’s you and someone else. It’s someone else and the person they love. And so it goes. Turns out we always have more running room than we’re tricked into believing. And all any of us has to do to find it is ask that one more question – And?
Glorious, ain’t it? I thought you might like it.
Not sure? Feeling queasy about all this? That’s OK. Same rules apply. Keep asking your questions to the point where there’s only one more. Then ask it.
Touchdown! Conjunction scores and you win. And…
December 7, 1941
“Maj. Hank Heim had never seen death before the morning of Dec. 7, 1941.
Heim, then a 20 year old stationed at Hickam Field adjacent to Pearl Harbor, was in his barracks writing a letter to his brother when he heard airplanes overhead.
Then an explosion. Heim ran to a window. He spotted planes flying all over, some dropping bombs. As one went by his window, he spotted the Japanese aircraft’s “red ball.”
Within two hours, the damage done by the Japanese attack was “terrible,” Heim, 92, of New Cumberland said.
“Fire, exploding shells, people screaming,” Heim said. “It was as close to hell as you can get or ever imagine.”
- The attack lasted 110 minutes, from 7:55 a.m. until 9:45 a.m.
- A total of 2,335 U.S. servicemen were killed and 1,143 were wounded.
- Sixty-eight civilians were also killed and 35 were wounded.
- The Japanese lost 65 men, with an additional soldier being captured.
Sources: http://www.pennlive.com/midstate/index.ssf/2013/12/pearl_harbor_survivor_wwii_vet.html and Pearl Harbor bullet points from: http://history1900s.about.com/od/Pearl-Harbor/a/Pearl-Harbor-Facts.htm
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela
July, 18th, 1918 – December 5th, 2013
(Xhosa pronunciation: [xoˈliːɬaɬa manˈdeːla];)
Nelson Mandela, South Africa’s Liberator as Prisoner and President, Dies at 95
“Nelson Mandela, who led the emancipation of South Africa from white minority rule and served as his country’s first black president, becoming an international emblem of dignity and forbearance, died Thursday night. He was 95.”
Mr. Mandela. I did not know you, but somehow, I do…many of us do. Your life was so much more than black and white. Thank you for teaching us what you came to know about the power of ‘and’. Rest well fellow traveler.
We’ll take it from here…
For an interesting read on the book and a look into the guiding principles of Mandela’s life, go to: http://www.oprah.com/spirit/Mandelas-Way-Fifteen-Lessons-on-Life-Love-and-Courage
SOURCES, PHOTO CREDITS and ATTRIBUTIONS:
Banner Coastal Redwood Forest by Eric E Photography is used with permission.
Gridiron guys (Alex Garcia, Tribune / March 17, 2011) The 2007 “Football Gladiators” specimens from Chicago’s Museum Science and Industry exhibit “Body Worlds & The Cycle of Life”: http://www.chicagotribune.com/entertainment/chi-110317-body-worlds-pictures,0,3640472.photogallery; “A Horse with No Name” is a song written by Dewey Bunnell, and originally recorded by the band America. It was the band’s first and most successful single, released in early 1972, topping the charts in several countries: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Horse_With_No_Name Image: America Horse With No Name Album Cover: http://farm5.static.flickr.com/4043/4502571464_eb8cca755f.jpg; How far away can the human eye see a candle?: http://www.livescience.com/33895-human-eye.html; The Departure Platform, Victoria Station – by James Tissot Completion Date: c.1880 (Source): http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/james-tissot/the-departure-platform-victoria-station; Simple Flame: http://answers.unity3d.com/questions/291812/particle-following-emitter-problem.html; Pearl Harbor Attack, 7 December 1941. Sailor killed by Japanese air attack at Naval Air Station Kanoehe Bay. Photographed on 7 December 1941. Note PBY aircraft wreckage in the right distance. Official U.S. Navy Photograph, National Archives Collection.Image: g32858: http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/g30000/g32858.jpg; Mandela-NY Times articleLarge: http://graphics8.nytimes.com/images/2013/12/06/world/Mandela/Mandela-articleLarge.jpg; Eyeball: http://i.livescience.com/images/i/000/049/612/i02/eyeball.jpg?1336435855
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