Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Life Lessons, Ambrose Bierce Style

Cover of edition by Dark Moon Prees
Last year I used the definition of Politics supplied by Amrose Bierce in his classic work, The Devil's Dictionary. (And in a fabulous introspect, A.B. vindicates his own contribution, ie., DICTIONARY, n. A malevolent literary device for cramping the growth of a language and making it hard and inelastic. This dictionary, however is a most useful work.) It is time again to turn to Mr. Bierce and his elastic dictionary, rather than Mr. Webster's tablets of stone, to interpret the events of the past few years, chronicled in the foregoing 300+ blog posts.

PAST, n. That part of Eternity with some small fraction of which we have a slight and regrettable acquaintance. A moving line called The Present parts it from an imaginary period known as the future. These two grand division of Eternity, of which the one is continually effacing the other, are entirely unlike. The one is dark with sorrow and disappointment, the other bright with prosperity and joy.
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Note: In direct contrast to a blasted four-year PAST, there is a bright FUTURE ahead...
Future, n. That period of time in which our affairs prosper, our friends are true and our happiness is assured [and our quiet undisturbed].
... at least, undying hope for that FUTURE.
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Yes, indeed, "sorrow and disappointment" were the scanty gleanings of the PAST, scratched from the tainted rocks of 810 Fishback Street and the barren fields of 1001 W Center Street in Manteca, California. Those street addresses are/were, respectively, the gravel business yard of scofflaw neighbors and the even more detestible makers, but non-upholders, of local ordinances at City Hall.

Ah, a neighbor! A most interesting, complex, ephemeral, amorphous, necessary, inescapable concept. Our featured lexicographer elaborates thusly:
NEIGHBOR, n. One whom we are commanded to love as ourselves, and who does all she knows how to make us disobedient.
In the present case, all the neighbor problems stem from Lyin' Lynda's lies and deceptions. Of course, she and they will deny that and cop to no more than a fib.
Fib, n. A lie that has not cut its teeth. An habitual liar's nearest approach to truth.
Yes, everyone who intersects our existence is our neighbor, but it should be obvious that a contemporaneous, yet unmet and unknown, inhabitant on the far side of the globe receives far less of our expenditures of emotion, time, thought, or money than one who lives just opposite a surveyed property line.

  • Great Neighbors - those with whom you seek to associate; followers of the Mosaic Ten Commandments, the two Great Laws of Christ's Gospel, and the twelve points of the Boy Scout Law; friends, confidants, family by choice rather than birth, and so forth.
  • Good Neighbors - those who demonstrate restraint and accomodation, and otherwise mind their own business, not making their business yours, nor yours theirs.
  • Bad Neighbors - those who lack maturity or judgment; whose thoughtless actions and gossipy intrusions, though disturbing on occasion, are generally without malice.
  • Neighbors From Hell - those for whom the word "Hell" was invented in the first place to describe their effect on anyone who intersects their individual-sized worlds.
While the Devil's Dictionary does not have an entry for HELL, it does have entries for HEAVEN and HADES, so we can figure out what those places are, leaving all other exigencies as a working picture of HELL.
HEAVEN, n. A place where the wicked cease from troubling you with talk of their personal affairs, and the good listen with attention while you expound your own.
HADES, n. The lower world; the residence of departed spirits; the place where the dead live.

Among the ancients the idea of Hades was not synonymous with our Hell, many of the most respectable men of antiquity residing there in a very comfortable kind of way. Indeed, the Elysian Fields themselves were a part of Hades, though they have since been removed to Paris.

When the Jacobean version of the New Testament was in process of evolution the pious and learned men engaged in the work insisted by a majority vote on translating the Greek word "Aides" as "Hell"; but a conscientious minority member secretly possessed himself of the record and struck out the objectional word wherever he could find it. At the next meeting, the Bishop of Salisbury, looking over the work, suddenly sprang to his feet and said with considerable excitement: "Gentlemen, somebody has been razing 'Hell' here!"

Years afterward the good prelate's death was made sweet by the reflection that he had been the means (under Providence) of making an important, serviceable and immortal addition to the phraseology of the English tongue.
Having reviewed the attributes of various sorts of neighbors and their abilities to "raze Hell," we now turn our attention to the municipal corporation (such as the City of Manteca) charged with enforcing the laws which support the lofty goals of securing our persons, properties and rights, and enabling our pursuits of happiness. The devilishly exquisite entry for such a governmental entity is:

COMMONWEALTH, n. An administrative entity operated by an incalculable multitude of political parasites, logically active but fortuitously efficient.
This commonwealth's capitol's corridors view,
So thronged with a hungry and indolent crew
Of clerks, pages, porters and all attaches
Whom rascals appoint and the populace pays
That a cat cannot slip through the thicket of shins
Nor hear its own shriek for the noise of their chins.
On clerks and on pages, and porters, and all,
Misfortune attend and disaster befall!
May life be to them a succession of hurts;
May fleas by the bushel inhabit their shirts;
May aches and disease encamp in their bones,
Their lungs full of tubercles, bladders of stones;
May microbes, bacilli, their tissues infest,
And tapeworms securely their bowels digest;
May corn-cobs be snared without hope in their hair,
And frequent impalement their pleasure impair.
Disturbed be their dreams by the awful discourse
Of audible sofas sepulchrally hoarse,
By chairs acrobatic and wavering floors-
The mattress that kicks and the pillow that snores!
Sons of cupidity, cradled in sin!
Your criminal ranks may the death angel thin,
Avenging a friend whom I couldn't work in.

The references to sleep disturbing "audible sofas", "acrobatics", "kicks", and "snores" could just as well be stand-ins for a 24/7 cycling commercial icemaker; hours of manually scooped ice crashing into plastic buckets; rusty, squeaky wheelbarrows of those ice-filled buckets; slamming freezers, garbage bins, doors; and shouts of, "Where ya' at?!", all of which - and more! - were part and parcel of the open illegality known as TLC Catering operating during midnight hours on property not zoned for it.

Of course, the poetic intimations of psychedelic hallucinations may refer to the vast amounts of marijuana consumed by these hellish business owners. Which also explains their absolute absence of thought regarding anyone else in the world trying to sleep during their early morning bumbulations.

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Living next to these hellions in this backwater cow town brought a few life lessons home.

#1 - Shoot first, ask questions later. (Hey, easy there, trigger-happy MPD! Just kidding...)

O.K. ...

#1 - Noise, n. A stench in the ear. Undomesticated music. The chief product and authenticating sign of civilization. (Closer, but still not quite the life lessons referred to.)

Alright, already! Please, have:

#1 - Patience, n. A minor form of despair, disguised as virtue.

#2 - Experience, n. The wisdom that enables us to recognize as an undesirable old acquaintance the folly that we have already embraced.
To one who, journeying through night and fog,
Is mired neck-deep in an unwholesome bog,
Experience, like the rising of dawn,
Reveals the path that he should not have gone.
..................Joel Frad Bink

#3 - Existence, n.
A transient, horrible, fantastic dream,
Wherein is nothing, yet all things do seem:
From which we're wakened by a friendly nudge
Of our bedfellow Death, and cry: "O fudge!"

#4 - The law is a[n] ass. (Charles Dickens, Oliver Twist, Chapter 51)
Lawyer, n. One skilled in circumvention of the law.
Justice, n. A commodity which, in a more or less adulterated condition, the State sells to the citizen as a reward for his allegiance, taxes and personal service.
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My sincerest wish for the Barefoot Dirty Girls, Yellow, Red and Green, is that they hastily and forever enter into:

Oblivion, n. The state or condition in which the wicked cease from struggling and the dreary are at rest. Fame's eternal dumping ground. Cold storage for high hopes. A place where ambitious authors meet their works without pride and their betters without envy. A dormitory without an alarm clock.


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