Touching A Land Mine With A Barge Pole

Also known as ignoring the warning bells and the voices in your head.

We have all done it at some stage of our lives, but I address myself to those who have not quite reached that stage. Unlike Wells Fargo, this stage doesn’t have a guard with a shotgun on the front seat.

We will all encounter situations where there is a little internal voice – or a faint hint – that tells us to back away. To avoid engaging. To be quiet and do it quickly. If we are intelligent, we listen to those voices. There may also be tiny silver bells, or submarine diving klaxons. In any case they invite us to heed and hold off. And how often have we ignored them…and ploughed ahead to disaster.

I can think of a dozen times when discretion would have been the better part of valour and disinterest the better part of friendship. Yet I only acceded to the call of wisdom in half of the cases – and got 6 bruises for the other half. I’ve lost money, friends, reputation, goods, and self-esteem by barging wildly into situations that needed me to be somewhere else.

This was bad news for me over the years, but fortunately each mental scar has the decency to throb in wet weather and remind me of itself – and I have gotten old enough to take lessons from my own past. I may not remember dates of battles won, but I do remember defeats. Each one has helped me far more than the victories.

I recently had an opportunity to step into the breach and ” do the right thing ” and cover myself with self-love…and I looked at the ceiling and walked on by. I also deliberately avoided doing bad things to good people and/or becoming a living saint. And I think I shall be much happier in all cases for it. I know how quickly good works can turn into bad times.

Land mines blast far further than barge poles can reach.

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Cynical? Naw – Don’t Trust Myself That Much…

I have been accused of cynicism and irony.

The persons who said this were probably hoping I’d offer them a bribe to change their minds. I would be happy to send them a bouquet of roses and a box of chocolates for their opinion – It has opened my eyes to the value of mistrust and suspicion.

Of course there are others who see this philosophy as detrimental – who cry that all men are brothers and all women are sisters. Take a look at a family that is composed of brothers and sisters and count the bruises, scars, and other souvenirs. You don’t get that as an only child. if you want to be savage you have to go away from the cozy hearth and the bosom of the family. Strangers are your only legitimate targets and the world only has 9 billion of them left.

As far as the irony, I do think I may have been a little indiscrete with that. I have laughed where I should have cried and pointed out follies that others wished to be hidden. It has made me enemies, though not the sort of quality fiends that I really want. Mostly just people who snarl at me in passing. Some, of course, adopt the sensible course of putting on stern disapproving looks or blank RBF looks. There is little one can say to them, though there is a great deal that can be written about them. I tend to do this on the doors of lavatory stalls. With pictures.

Cynicism has saved me a great deal of money in the past, and as internet promotions ramp up, I’m looking to it as a real shield. Of course I disbelieve anything that comes over the telephone these days, particularly if it is spoken in a Peter Sellers accent…but I am also binning any number of contacts that urge me to do things on email or Facebook. When you close down the latter the air clears remarkably.

 

The Childhood Friend

Are you a child? Do you have friends? Are you aware that one of them will become a famous scientist, one a renowned entertainer, and one a serial killer? That’ll dispose of three, and all the rest will be insurance salesmen, cocktail waitresses, and dry-goods clerks. In your case you’ll be lucky to get out of the neighbourhood ahead of the mob armed with the torches and pitchforks.

Childhood friends are a little like childhood cousins. You get to interact with them and have a sort of a family connection for awhile without being required to save them when they fall down the old well. That’s Lassie’s job. You can watch with interest their future progress and you never have to claim any debit for it – only credit. If they make good, you knew ’em when…if not, you didn’t. And you need not worry about what they think of you because chances are they don’t.

Childhood enemies are similar – but you are not required to be pleased for them when they make good nor grieve for them when they finally end up just like you said they would. Being from the long past, anything they do wrong cannot be sheeted home to you – unlike present work colleagues or acquaintances. There is a bigger circle of blast around people you have interacted with as an adult compared to the ones of childhood.

If you meet an old childhood friend on the road take the Buddha advice. If they claim friendship, run away from them. Remember that when you were young it was no great honour to know you and it hasn’t gotten any better.

Plead The Fifth

Every time a US senate enquiry tried to pin mobsters and communists down about their activities in the 1950’s the parties being grilled recited a prepared statement that they respectfully declined to answer the question on grounds that it might tend to incriminate them*. The amendment is worth reading in total, but the small part they were using applies to testifying against yourself. ie don’t admit nuthin’, Salvatore. Make ’em prove it.

I respectfully suggest that whenever Facebook asks you any question at all – however innocent it may seem – that you take the Fifth. Any information you give about yourself – your history, your family, your likes and dislikes – can, may, and probably will be used, sold, traded, abused, and otherwise bandied about. You will do yourself no good whatsoever by responding to any of the questions, quizzes, games, or provocative statements.

This also applies to posts and shared memes put out by the trolls within your Facebook friends list. And we’ve all got ’em. Those of you who insist that all your friends are innocent may have two or three of mine, free…

*   A wonderful red flag, if red flag be needed, to alert the authorities that more investigation would be fruitful.

The Courage To Correct A Mistake

Please note that I am not writing about the mistakes of others. I am writing about my own blunders.

For blunders there are, in every day I live. I’m not in practice anymore or employed behind a shop counter, so my errors are of less consequence than before. But I am still driving on the roads and living in my own house – and pursuing several hobbies and arts – and being wrong about something, somewhere, is a daily occurrence.

Lord, save me from the road error – there is too little margin for it in today’s high speed world and too few people willing to make allowances for me. Just get me there and back safely, please.

I would also like the occasional helping hand in the kitchen and the Little Workshop. I am ashamed when I burn a dinner or spoil a paint job and I know it is somewhat of a moral failing that I get angry at myself when this happens.

Please calm me down, and get me started clearing up the mess and correcting the error. It’s the only way that I feel I can claw back traction in the day. I realise that the substitute dinner may be less fancy, but please make it at least as nourishing. I know I’ll always look askance at the model airplane with the re-done finish, but please let it be a reasonably decent repair. I’ve seen enough real aircraft that looked battered.

Also please let me have the moral courage to see when something needs to stop or start, and the fortitude to actually do either thing.

The Morality Machine – Part Two – My Favourite Vice

My absolutely favourite vice is a 3″ Record located in my Little Workshop. I inherited it from my father’s workshop some 36 years ago and there isn’t a week goes by that it doesn’t make my life easier.

As far as moral failings go, I treasure some of these too. I am not religious and so am rather denied the pleasures of sinning, but I can still have flaws – and some of these can be considered vices. This is by people who don’t want to do them or who do rather fancy them but have never succeeded. There is a great deal of jealousy in the assignment of terms like vice and virtue and whenever anyone essays to do it, they reveal more about themselves than those they judge.

I’m happy to say that none of my vices seem to do much harm. No-one has fallen ill or dead from mine and the occasional bruise or loss of skin is no more than you would get from an ice hockey match. I do not frequent dens of iniquity – but equally I do not enter bastions of righteousness. I have to be satisfied with small vices and limited consequences.

As far as eradicating vice, I am all for it – provided it is someone else’s and major enough to be worth the outrage. I look closely at the causes I am asked to espouse and the height of the moral horse I am expected to ride. I’ve been known to choose the Shetland rather than the Percheron. Do not expect me to be much of a knight in shining armour for any but the foulest of dragons or fairest of maiden. The middling ones can get on with it between themselves and good luck to ’em.

Will I be a BETTER PERSON if I eliminate vice from my life? Possibly, but who could tell – they don’t know from what horrid depths I spring. Drenched in blood, stark naked, and chasing the Lord Mayor up the High Street with an tomahawk may indeed be a vast improvement from what I was a week ago, and thereby deserve your praise. Likewise my appearing in vestments singing a prayer may be the sign of a drop into deep depravity. You need some accurate foreknowledge to calibrate your judgement.

And I’m not going to give you a chance to form one – I’m vicious that way.

Atttention To Details

It’s attention to details that makes the difference between success and disaster.

a. Did you remember to put the pin back in the hand grenade before you put it in your handbag? We’ll see in four seconds.

b. Spelling. ” Public  Exposure ” is good advertising. Leave out one letter and you’re in the Magistrate’s Court in the morning.

c. Punctuation. Benny Hill used to get a laugh out of a sign that put a space between the “e” and the “r” in “therapist”. That was a long time and a lot of Benny ago. If a successor tried it now they would be crucified on social media and the networks.

d. You cannot leave film out of your camera anymore because you don’t use it. You can, however, leave a memory card out…and if you have been incautious enough to disable the warning klaxon and freeze mechanism, your digital camera will take an entire vacation on one internal frame.

The makers know what you’re like and have made the safety mechanism to prevent you from self-harm. If you are clever you circumvent it and harm yourself.

e. Tom Cruise once spoke a line in a movie that told us to ” Show me the money “. He might be an idiot, but thankfully just a small one…and the advice is still good. When the cryptocurrency crap hits your screen, have them show you the money – in government cash – in your hand, and then close your fist tight.

This will never happen, because it is crypto and if you try to see it, it is Schroedingers Cash…

f. Popular Culture is a good phrase – it can be made to cover everything, like tomato sauce. Unpopular Culture is harder to sell., involving work and thinking. Popular Un-culture is similar to the first category and may, indeed, be indistinguishable from it. Unpopular Un-culture is basically free-to-air reality television in monochrome.

Think of a closed-circuit monitor in the hallway of a Russian tower-block apartment and you’ll get the idea. You could watch it but no-one ever does.