Sep 232009

Dr. Earl R. Smith II


Doggerel you say? Incoherent mutterings. Nothing much to pay attention to. Foolish person – there is all of life – the whole deep meaning of it – in the fart of a flea. You just have to learn how to listen!


There is no freedom like being able to say what you truly mean – not what others want you appear to mean – nor what you might say in the throes of an adolescent tantrum – but to clearly say in a measured fashion exactly what you mean. Here’s the rabbit hole – down we go.

Alice: If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?

My experience has been that very few people actually get to enjoy that freedom. It used to upset me a lot more than it does now. I have come to realize that most of humanity will live their life without uttering more than a handful of personally meaningful statements. That this is a tragedy – particularly given our increasing lifespan – might be widely agreed on – even with objections to my choice of the word ‘few’. But I have lately spent time thinking about the why of it all. So far, I have considered a few what I call syndromes.

Alice: I can’t explain myself, I’m afraid, Sir, because I’m not myself you see.

I am what I’m told to be: There are actually two versions of this one. The first – and probably the one you thought of – turns on the relationship between a child and parents. There are children who never break out of that dynamic. Their lives are extensions of what their parents wanted them to be – how their parents insisted that they be. The result is an unthinking acceptance of ‘who I am’. The self-image tends to be relatively static. People in their late 60s behave like adolescents because that is all they ever learned how to do. I call this one daddy’s meaning.

The Hatter: Why is a raven like a writing desk?

A second version of this syndrome turns around the evolving question of identify in a highly fluid social context. Examples are easy to find – particularly in the political realm.

Alice: But then, shall I never get any older than I am now? That’ll be a comfort, one way — never to be an old woman — but then — always to have lessons to learn!

Pollsters have taken to calling these people ‘information light’ voters. Followers of one or another talking head get their ‘talking points’ every day and spend the rest of that day parroting. I call this ‘borrowed meaning’.

Alice: If it had grown up, it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig, I think.

The spoiled child syndrome: “If you don’t let me win, I’m going to take my ball and go home.” Heard that – or a close variation – recently? I did – and the child was in his 60s. This seems to be a reaction out of pure frustration with a reality which refuses to conform to the person’s expectations. Always lurking just below the surface and ready to break out, the spoiled child ends up saying things for effect – not because they are meaningful within the context. I call this one a ‘child’s meaning’.

The Mock Turtle: Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic — Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

Expediency is My Co-Pilot: ‘It seemed like the thing to say at the time’. That is one version of the syndrome – people who just say what comes to their mind without the intervening filter of thought. But the more insidious are the opportunists. These are people who will say anything that advances their interests. Other than every politician on the planet, there are lots of these people around. I recently watched one cover up her failure by making up a story about one of her co-workers. The sad part was that everybody in the room knew that she was fabricating the whole thing.

The Duchess: If everybody minded their own business, the world would go around a great deal faster than it does.

The Mouth is Quicker Than the Mind: Humans – particularly well educated ones – can usually talk faster than they can think – and this gets some into real trouble.

The Duchess: There’s a large mustard-mine near here. And the moral of that is — The more there is of mine, the less there is of yours.

For people with what I call the ‘Chris Matthews complex’ – these are people who seem to believe that the only time another person should be talking is when you are taking a breath – the game is monopolizing the channel – getting the lion’s share of the ‘air time’. But if you take the time to shuck out all the ‘filler’, you quickly realize that a less ego-involved person could have said the same thing in a fifth of the time.

The Duchess: Take care of the sense, and the sounds will take care of themselves.

People who talk first and think later – if at all – tend to leave us confused until we realize that not listening at all is the safest way to keep from wasting time.

The Duchess: Tut, tut, child! Everything’s got a moral, if only you can find it.

Stop – Consider: How often do you think about something you recently said and ask yourself ‘is that really true for me’? – ‘was that what I really meant to say’? – ‘does that reflect the meaning of my life’? What does it say about how you lived a day if the answers are ‘no’?

The Queen: Sentence first — verdict afterwards.

Try thinking about it this way – you can live your life authentically and find your truths – and say them. Or, you can live your life inauthentically and spend it living out the patterns that others have impressed on you.

Alice: Well! I’ve often seen a cat without a grin; but a grin without a cat! It’s the most curious thing I ever say in my life!

Cut to the Chase: You’re dead and we’re at your funeral. There are mourners gathered – maybe not as many as you would like I suppose – but what does that matter? And they are reminiscing about your life. What do you think they are saying?

  • He sure was Rush’s dummy – never missed a line – read them just like they were written.
  • He sure was Olbermann’s parrot – never missed a chance to repeat something from the prior night’s program.
  • I spent the whole time with his parents. I would have like to have met the person in there.
  • You know, I never really knew her – she was always behind those walls – well, she’s dead not – too late for any of that.
  • I never heard him say anything that was truly him. He was always a conduit for somebody else.

The King: Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.

I’ll bet you would say – ‘well, there are some people that I can say what I mean to – but with most, I can’t’. I wonder what Alice would say to that. Probably “It is better to have lived and died than never to have lived at all”.

Eaglet: Speak English! I don’t know the meaning of half those long words, and I don’t believe you do either!

© Dr. Earl R. Smith II



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