Sticks Stones Scones

“Years from now when you talk about this—and you will—be kind,” Laura was saying, softly.
— from the movie, “Tea and Sympathy”, 1956.

Or: When you talk; be kind.

[NOTE: A shout out to Jay Heinrichs for prompting this dialog I’ve been having in my head and heart the past few weeks. I’ve been re-reading Jay’s book, “Thank You For Arguing”.]

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DECORUM: There’s something you don’t hear much anymore. Maybe it’s because there isn’t much of it anymore—the thing, not the word. Let’s break it down a bit, and to do that, it’s probably better to start one step back and consider the word: decorus.

Decorous Got Its Start With Etiquette

The current meaning of decorous dates from the mid-17th century. One of the word's earliest recorded uses appears in a book titled The Rules of Civility (1673): "It is not decorous to look in the Glass, to comb, brush, or do any thing of that nature to ourselves, whilst the said person be in the Room." Decorous for a time had another meaning as well—"fitting or appropriate"—but that now-obsolete sense seems to have existed for only a few decades in the 17th century. Decorous derives from the Latin word decorus, an adjective created from the noun decor, meaning "beauty" or "grace." Decor is akin to the Latin verb decēre ("to be fitting"), which is the source of our adjective decent. It is only fitting, then, that decent can be a synonym of decorous. —Merriam-Webster Dictionary

So let’s go with that: to have decorum requires decency, a willingness to adjust, to fit in, understanding and being appropriate. Here’s an example of this kind of decorum: Audi alteram partem; which means, let the other side be heard.

This idea has been a part of ethical conduct since The Beginning: man, woman and Creator. Adam and Eve engage in original sin, and what does God do? Audi alteram partem. He gives them an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

GOD said, “Who told you you were naked? Did you eat from that tree I told you not to eat from?”

The Man said, “The Woman you gave me as a companion, she gave me fruit from the tree, and, yes, I ate it.”

GOD said to the Woman, “What is this that you’ve done?”

“The serpent seduced me,” she said, “and I ate.” —Genesis 3:11-13


The US Supreme Court gave the idea this endorsement:

"Audi alteram partem - hear the other side! - a demand made insistently through the centuries, is now a command, spoken with the voice of the due process clause of the 14th Amendment, against state governments, and every branch of them - executive, legislative, and judicial - whenever any individual, however lowly and unfortunate, asserts a legal claim.”

Why is it so hard to audi alteram partem? Why must we have the final word? Why are we so defensive? Why are we so offensive? Why are we so sure we are right and therefore ‘they’ are wrong?

Is it politics that has damaged civility; or are politics the result of damaged civility? Maybe it’s TV “news” and talk radio. Is there hope for decorum, for civil discourse, for conversation that doesn’t end up dividing?

The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know.
— Blaise Pascal

I’m not looking for tea and sympathy—i.e., pity, but rather an exchange of empathy along with a scone and a nice cup of tea, or better yet; a strong coffee and hearty discussion sounds good, or a pint and pizza and good honest conversation.

HOW ABOUT MEETING UP? Not for something all fancy like Afternoon Tea, although that is civilized, but something earthier; but decorus. ARE YOU IN? Let me know at hey.pops.hey@gmail.com and I’ll let you know the when and the where of the next get together.

Coifing It Up

DOES SHE OR DOESN’T SHE? That was the mystery in the 60s marketing campaign for a hair dye product. The answer: “Only her hairdresser knows for sure.”

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That’s not the only mystery of the beauty shop that eludes me; my mental images are largely stereotypes from old sitcoms, movies and pop culture. One of those stereotypes is that women always take in a page they’ve ripped from a magazine of someone with a hairstyle they like and want to have as their own.

I don’t know why I imagine that. I can’t remember my mom ever doing that. Pretty much the most vivid childhood memory I have, related to hair-dos, was the smell of Aqua Net hairspray. Every Sunday, I remember arriving in our Ford Fairlane at the church parking lot in a cloud of the stuff, as mom would have given her do one last coat before stepping out into the Oklahoma wind. Speaking of Sundays, church and hair-dos, you’ve got to hand it to the preachers and their pompadours for style and impact. I guess they hoped that a combo of Elvis and Billy Graham would give them a winning and charismatic persona.

I can never remember my Amazing-Missus taking a photo of a particular hairstyle to her hairdresser and I’ve certainly never taken one to the barbershop, although as a teenager I wanted Paul McCartney hair.


There’s many a man has more hair than wit.
— William Shakespeare

Today, my hairstyle options are somewhat limited. The good news is it’s low maintenance and cheap. I cut it myself although I probably shouldn’t.


Too bad that all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxicabs and cutting hair.
— George Burns

But what if you could opt for a different style, say something currently being rocked by a world “leader”. Here are three options and one not-even-close-to-a-world-leader, sporting what I call the “Pops”. Which of these photos would you take to your barber and say, “Yeah. This one!”

ALPHA & OMEGA

YOU KNOW HOW WHEN YOU’RE BORN, everything that happens is your FIRST? First smile, first word, first tooth, first step…

Malachi (as in it’s Me Against The Grand-Girls; that Malachi) just had his first haircut. It’s one of those FIRSTS that seems to cause a giant step in Growing Up. Like the first day of school, first sleepover, first dance, first kiss…

All of this is a part of what I understand to be a “coming-of-age”. Some say that coming-of-age means reaching a certain milestone like getting a driver’s license, graduating from high school, being able to vote, etc. Some say it defines the process of maturity, particularly emotional maturity.

When does it end? Is there a point where we can say, “I’ve come of age!” I don’t know. Some seem to remain eternally toddler-like, spoiled brats—you know the ones that people judge as needing to grow up. Some just seem to be blessed with a youthful curiosity, and sense of wonder.

Could it be that at some point our LASTS outnumber our FIRSTS? Is that a sign that we have come-of-age? Our last day of school, our last child to leave the nest, our last day on the job, our last time to drive a car… Stopping now. This could get morbid in a hurry. But, maybe not.

Several years ago, September 2013, to be exact, I started this blog called About Pops . It was a part of a process in my life that I came to call my “second-coming-of-age”, because I’ve discovered this life is loaded with opportunities for FIRSTS and do-overs.

My Amazing-Missus and I have taken adventures in our Airstream Travel Trailer I never thought we would have. Being a Pops is fraught with FIRSTS, because we get to celebrate all of those with each of our grands. I was able to reconnect with a friend from high school days, which may not sound like a big deal, but it was for me. Somehow I found myself becoming a part of a group of young artists in New York City and then around the world—a group called International Arts Movement. I even got to serve on their board which meant making numerous trips to NYC, and then helping cultivate seeds of that arts movement back here in OKC.

So, I’m seeking FIRSTS and finding new joy in the repetitive things of life: road trips to Shawnee and Alva, Seinfeld reruns, eating “Chinese” food with Mom & Dad, going to work. When I kiss my Amazing-Missus goodnight when I go to bed and she settles in to watch the ten o’clock news, I want to do it with the passion of my 20 year-old self. Well… maybe not that passionate (there was a good deal of lust in that passion). You get the idea.

Pretend your opening a fortune cookie and inside the little paper says, “Go do something you’ve done a thousand times and enjoy it like it was the FIRST.”

Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, ‘Do it again’; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we. – G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

DISTURBED

WE HAVE A GENERATION GAP. The first time I reckoned with that cultural reality, I was 15ish and wanted long hair. My parents, the Jenks Schools Board of Education, and most other “adults” in my sphere said, “No! And tuck in your shirttail.”

Today the Gap still exists, but I’m on the other side of it.

A few years ago, my youngest son, Kyle said, “Hey Dad. There’s a heavy metal band called, ‘Disturbed’. They’ve done a cover of one of your favorite songs, “The Sound of Silence”.

GRAPHIC BY COREY LEE FULLER

GRAPHIC BY COREY LEE FULLER

Isn’t it interesting that the generation gap often shows up in musical tastes. No doubt, adults back in the day found Elvis to be disturbing, as did parents of my day with The Beatles.

Now I am proud of my sons on many many levels, one of those being their breadth of musical appreciation and understanding. I’m especially grateful that they know that I hold the writing of Paul Simon and the music of Simon & Garfunkel in high regard, reverence even, so much so, that when Kyle used the words heavy, metal, cover, the, sound, of, and silence in the same sentence, I was disturbed, and he knew I would be—until I listened to it.

(I can picture right now, my old writing professor, Dr. Spears, writing “DISJOINTED” across the face of this essay in red pencil.)

(Stay with me.)

A friend recently sent me a link to a video of a person watching the video of Disturbed’s cover of the song. Believe it or not, it is a YouTube thing for people to video themselves reacting to music videos. In fact there are numerous reaction videos to the “Disturbed” cover. I have watched several of them and have drawn two conclusions:

1.) It’s scary how many young people have never heard of Simon & Garfunkel or heard their music. That pesky generation gap.

2.) People seemed to be totally flummoxed by the lyrics of the song. Or, worse yet, they don’t seem to be interested in a closer look.

I certainly don’t claim to know the “meaning” of the lyrics of the song, but I’ve had about 50 years to ponder them, and I have. If you have time, let’s see if we can peek inside Paul Simon’s mind:


VERSE ONE:

Hello darkness, my old friend

I've come to talk with you again

Because a vision softly creeping

Left its seeds while I was sleeping

And the vision that was planted in my brain

Still remains

Within the sound of silence


THOUGHTS:

There has been speculation that Paul Simon wrote these lyrics in reaction to the assination of John F. Kennedy. The problem with that theory is that he wrote the song before that event.

Why the “sound” of “silence”? Isn’t that an oxymoron? I like to think of it as being lonely in a huge crowd. In this midst of the cacophony of life there is no discernable Word, so it might as well be silence.


VERSE TWO:

In restless dreams I walked alone

Narrow streets of cobblestone

'Neath the halo of a street lamp

I turned my collar to the cold and damp

When my eyes were stabbed by the flash of a neon light

That split the night

And touched the sound of silence


THOUGHTS:

I listened to commentary about the song on a website. The analysis was that this could be someone overwhelmed by social media, email, and blogs like this one, etc. Then something happens that breaks through all of that. Seems reasonable—except the song was written in the 60s, before any of that.

There is a jolt, like an awakening or enlightenment. It cuts through. You have to take a moment to picture this guy, in the dim glow of a street lamp, with his collar turned up and all of a sudden: BOOM. A flash. “About noon as I came near Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven flashed around me.” —Acts 22:6. That kind of flash.


VERSE THREE:

And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people, maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never share

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence


THOUGHTS:

Sound familiar? A mass of humanity, lots of words but no one “speaking” or “listening”. Are there sage voices today? Is there a “song” written worth sharing. I’m talking song in a metaphorical sense. For my generation that “song”-writer, that voice would be Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He spoke so powerfully, so relevantly, so prophetically. How did people respond? “No one dared disturb the sound of silence.”


VERSE FOUR:

"Fools" said I, "You do not know

Silence like a cancer grows

Hear my words that I might teach you

Take my arms that I might reach you"

But my words like silent raindrops fell

And echoed in the wells of silence


THOUGHTS:

There is the word and there is the messenger, but too often there is no one willing to receive the words and they fall like “silent raindrops”.

“In the beginning was the Word… He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” —from John 1, The Message


VERSE FIVE:

And the people bowed and prayed

To the neon god they made

And the sign flashed out its warning

In the words that it was forming

And the sign said, "The words of the prophets

Are written on the subway walls

And tenement halls"

And whispered in the sounds of silence


THOUGHTS:

So many times we look in all the wrong places and listen to all the wrong people. Sometimes we think it must be in the cockiness of contemporary culture, or in the arrogant shriek of politics. Sometimes though the message is in a still, small voice, or the words of a child. Sometimes the real truth is right in front of us but not seen or heard.

Simon & Garfunkel’s version of the song, in my opinion, is styled in the voice of a 60s era poet. It is sung, as sort of a lament. Disturbed’s version to me is more the voice of a prophet. It has an urgency to it.

In the 50 years between the two versions culture has drifted and decayed to the point that both versions are relevant for their time.

Here is a link to Simon & Garfunkel doing the song live. Listen to it first because it is the version of the songwriter himself, Paul Simon. It is done with only an acoustic guitar; again, as a poetic lament.

Then listen to Disturbed’s take. It’s almost as if he is saying, “You didn’t listen to this 50 years ago, so let me be a little more emphatic.”

CLICK HERE FOR THE SIMON & GARFUNKEL VERSION

CLICK HERE FOR THE DISTURBED COVER


“Poets, prophets and reformers are all picture-makers -- and this ability is the secret of their power and of their achievements. They see what ought to be by the reflection of what is, and endeavor to remove the contradiction.” ― Frederick Douglass