386. BEWARE: Killer Wanna Bees

Years ago we were supposed to be invaded by swarms of Africanized honey bees, known as Killer Bees. Saturday Night Live did skits on the Killer Bees. These bad mannered bees eventually did find their way into the Southwestern states where they have killed some outdoorsman types, rock climbers and landscapers, a hog here,  a dog there, and have attacked many a baseball player with aromatic hair gel. The swarm will sting a body  over 1,000 times, injecting more venom than a human body can tolerate. Victims swell up and die, unable to breathe.

And how did these stinking thugbees get loose, you ask?  Human intervention and accident. In the 1950’s Biologist Warwick E. Kerr interbred honey bees from Europe and southern Africa in an attempt to increase honey production in Brazil.(I am not making this up. I am paraphrasing Wikipedia here.) Great idea, right? What could possibly go wrong?  But, you guessed it– these hybrid bees were very defensive and swarmed aggressively. They had to be kept in containment as the research progressed. But in 1957 a visiting beekeeper not named Bill Buckner thought he’d take the lid off the bees’ hives. Twenty six swarms of Tanganyikan bees escaped through the wickets and into the wilds of Brazil. The rest of the tale is history, stupid history of man playing God and screwing up nature’s balance yet again.

Image result for attention addicts picturesI’m not writing about Killer Bees, however. I merely mentioned them to funnel you ala the old bait and switch technique into my topic–>> Wanna Bees. These are not insects but humans who buzz about.  Hungry and strangely defensive? Yes, but not for pollen or nectar. Nosirreee. They seek attention and any supplemental benefits that come from attention. Fame is the ultimate goal for Wanna Bees. This may come from performing or politics (really, what’s the difference?) or writing (doubtful, not enough face time) or the other arts. Sports has its share of wannabees, hot dogs who not only seek but create drama… because that’s where the cameras go, and bored American audiences crane their necks to see what’s gonna happen next. But the largest swarm ever released comes from the Hydra Headed, Medusa like beast known as Social Media, which inadvertently spawned and released the pathological Wanna Bees into the world about 15 years ago. This correlates roughly with the rise of the celebrity, noun, a useless but attractive Wanna Bee, see Kardashian/Jenner. Synonym, weasel-pede. Primarily American usage.

Andy Warhol was prophetic when he declared, “In the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes.” That was in 1968, Blogabillies.  Since then the world and its pool of potentially famous humans has grown substantially. Basically it’s doubled from 3.5 billion to 7 billion people. If each person gets his/her 15 minutes of fame, you and I are going to have to wait a long, long time till Zylpada Zyabrowski finishes her turn, assuming we go in alphabetical order.  I’m sure a math geek can calculate the number of hours required, and an engineer can rig up a system to broadcast each famous person, and a political delegate hunter can measure by polls how famous a person is for the allotted time… However, this 15 minutes of fame thing is really getting old. All these “famous” people aren’t all that interesting. Nonetheless we continue hoisting another Baby Bieber up the flagpole of popular appeal until everyone salutes. We step back and yawn, “Wow, that dude is famous. Could you pass me the salt?”

About the time the Killer Bees were released, a new way of parenting was being practiced– indulgence. My buddy Clark once told me that indulgence was the worst form of child abuse ever. When I prodded him for his justification, he told me this.

“You know if a kid gets beaten or sexually abused, he/she can eventually get over  it through counseling and medication, right? But the thing with indulgence is this: THE KID DOESN’T EVEN KNOW HE’S BEEN ABUSED. Instead, he’s been sold a script that he is so very precious and entitled to special treatment by everyone, all the time, everywhere. He’s screwed for life cuz he’s totally unprepared for unfiltered reality. It’s so awful.”

I could not disagree. He’s usually brilliant anyway, an anthracite diamond from Cambria County.

For myriad reasons, parents in upwardly mobile segments of America wanted more for themselves… perhaps because they worked themselves silly and were told by voices on television and radio that they deserved more of everything, all the time, everywhere. At the same time the American economy was booming at such a force that the dollar’s buying power increased, causing a unique problem known as deflation. Suddenly in the late 1950’s the dollar magically bought more. Prices dropped. All signs pointed to success, world domination, and the righteousness of the American Way.

Those parents came to adulthood during the Great Depression and World War II. They did not know what surplus meant since the excess of the Roaring Twenties fueled the near total collapse of the stock market and banking system in the U.S. over a generation previously. Here was a new opportunity to get it wrong again. Those parents might have suffered through bleak decades of war and deprivation, but their little ones would not want for anything if they could help it. Free time, sports, entertainment, convenience foods, miracle drugs, and other indulgences exploded as if to confirm that America had found Nirvana. The kids of that era were given more than any previous generation had dreamed of along with a  system that would keep the dream alive. Television became the opiate of the masses, hypnotically calling them onto the treadmills of consumerism, pulling them deep into the vortex of unending debt.

Voila!! There is the recipe for today’s indulged children no matter their age.

Today’s Wanna Bees sting with cyberwords and emojis, thousands in a minute. They Twitterpate their adversaries with 180 cc’s of deadly venom at a time. All for the sake of more honey. They don’t even know they’ve been abused, honey junkies one and all.

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320. Humility

“Practice humility”, said the Wise Man.

“Why?”, said the Whys Guy.

“Wisdom encompasses humility. Without it you cannot become wise.”

“I guess I was absent the week that lesson was taught.”

“No, you were present. It’s a lesson taught everyday; you’ve just chosen not to learn it.”

“Ouch!! That stings, Wise Man.”

“Antiseptics usually do sting as they cleanse the filth in your wounds. Be grateful for the sting.”

“So, you are saying four things here:  I am wounded. My wounds are filthy. Your truth serum stings as it cleans my wounds. I should be glad of the pain.”

“Correct.”

“So why don’t I  feel these wounds instead of just your stinging antiseptic?”

“You have chosen to defend the wounds and guard against any more. Your vigilance makes you numb to the spirit but keen to the flesh.”

“I thought a spirit needed to be vigilant.”

“Your vigil is defensive, actually keeping the spirit outside you. Be vigilant in pursuit of the spirit.”

“I  can see I’m going to lose this debate.”

“You lost it a long time ago, Whys Guy.”

“When was that?”

“The day you mistook cocky for confident, swagger for faith. They are not even close to the same.”

“There’s that sting again. Sigh! So, what do I have to do?”

“Surrender your false pride to find your true worth.”

“Man oh Man!! Just stop being who I am, huh?”

“No, again Whys Guy, you have mistaken who you are for what you do. You have mistaken the actor for the role he plays.”

“I’ve been a smart alex all my life, Wise Man. Jokes, puns, funny stories, impersonations, word play, outrageous booty dances…”

“I know. I’ve seen the act.”

“Oh yeah, you are the Wise Man.”

“The act is not who you are, Whys Guy.”

“This is gonna suck.”

“Sting. It’s the reverse of novacaine. You will need to increase your pain reception and build tolerance.”

“Pain will set me free?”

“Honest suffering will lead to deeper understanding of who you are.”

“So who am I? It seems so silly to be asking this question after forty years of adult life.”

“You are creative and compassionate and funny and connective to your fellow man.”

“Okay, but this isn’t cutting it with my closest loved ones. They know the actor and see the void between me and the act. It hurts to see the sparks and know all that static shock spirals out of my choices.”

“Stay true and humble to the who.”

“That’s like telling the guy without a compass to keep on walking to True North.”

“You have a moral compass for everyone else, don’t you, Whys Guy? You don’t hesitate to judge others and point out where they are wrong. You’ll figure it out.”

“So the beginning of wisdom is shutting up?”

“Yes, a wise man once said… nothing.”

“Let’s see– my life should be blank white space, the polar bear in a blizzard?”

“No. Baring your soul should be a silent, private exercise. Purifying oneself is not sexy or entertaining. It is bloodless surgery of the putrid soul.”

“Amen to all that, Wise Man. Uh, I’m hearing Bob Dylan in the alleyway…”

When the rain is blowin’ in your face
And the whole world is on your case
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear
And there is no one there to dry your tears
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love.

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet
But I would never do you wrong
I’ve known it from the moment that we met
No doubt in my mind where you belong.

I’d go hungry, I’d go black and blue
I’d go crawlin’ down the avenue
No, there’s nothin’ that I wouldn’t do
To make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the rollin’ sea
And on the highway of regrets
The winds of change are blowing wild and free
You ain’t seen nothin’ like me yet.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true
There’s nothing that I would not do
Go to the ends of the Earth for you
To make you feel my love.

“That’s nice sentiment, Whys Guy, but it amounts to nothing more than an emotional breath mint.”

“Wow, Wise Man, I thought it was powerful and meaty. At least a strong appetizer if not a full meal.”

“It’s all promises, nothing more. Glorious potential sacrifices, nothing more. Don’t you see?”

“I guess so. This is hard.”

“Yes, hard like a diamond. Because it’s so hard, it can be cleft and cut into a hundred brilliant facets. And through each facet God’s light can penetrate and dance prismatically, reflecting His beauty and glory in you, His creation. You must be like that, Whys Guy.”

“I can hardly breathe. I feel like a soggy sponge not a diamond.”

“This is how we’ll know God visited you. Your sponginess will firm up as God squeezes the mess out of you. You were, after all, made in His image and likeness. You sucked up all the nastiness  by traveling your spineless ways along the mucky seabed of sin.”

“Wise Man, you are killing me.”

“Just your stupid pride, Whys Guy. It needs to die at your own hand, though. If I kill your pride, it will only grow back as shame avoidant narcissism. Ten times worse.”

“So I have to stand naked and wash my underwear in the town square fountain at noon?”

“Strangling one’s pride is a private, daily affair. It grows back overnight, you know. The process is more like a daily shower with God’s word washing over you, you know?”

“I don’t know anything, Wise Man.”

“Good. That is the beginning of wisdom.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

219. He’s not me; I’m not him; are you you?

So a month or so back I received a voicemail on a Friday afternoon from a national radio station person. Not NPR but close. The message giver said, “This is so and so from blank of blank radio network. My boss is interested in talking to you about doing a weekly radio show. If you are interested, call him at ….”  Well, of course I wondered what was up with such a message. I tried to figure out what sort of scam it might be. Maybe if you call the number mentioned, they would sign you up for a Master Card or some charity or other. Maybe it was a sting operation by the IRS to snag tax deadbeats who were grandiosely narcissistic.  I deleted it.

Then a week ago the same guy called with the same message. I decided to investigate a bit, so I Googled the entity and sure enough the two names I was given were both represented in the website. It seemed legitimate, but who in his right mind would want me on a radio show? Did someone stumble across my blog and find it exotically interesting? Or ridiculously stupid? If so, why not just comment on-line?  I  mentioned it to my daughters who assumed that someone somewhere somehow found me interesting, and that I should at least call back. So I did. I left a generally vague response that I’d be glad to talk to him, the network director.

The next day I missed his return phone call from Phoenix. “Well, this is getting interesting”, I thought. Again I tried to piece together some reason why anyone would want to listen to me? Could one of my former clients have recommended me? Perhaps a former student? In this world wide web generation anything is possible.

Yesterday afternoon I was sitting in full lassitude, full of indolent indifference, with my family admiring my granddaughter when my phone vibrated in my left pocket. It was the radio guy. I took the call in the next room, not knowing what to expect. The program director introduced himself and I did the same.  He asked me if I was familiar with his operation. I mentioned that I’d Googled the website. “Good, good”, he replied. I asked him bluntly why he was interested in me?  Scott (his real name) asked if I’d be interested in doing a one hour weekly radio show, as in hosting one.

I was confused and told him so. “How did you get hold of me and why would you want me to host a national/international radio show?” He told me that his research assistants had recommended me to him. “For what?” I inquired. “Public speaking,  interviewing folks in your field, you know, stuff like that.” I pushed for sanity one more time, ” I live in Turtle Town, USA. I do private practice counseling. I’m a retired teacher. What would the market be for that?”   We had reached the tipping point of our brief conversation.

“You are _____________ G. __________________, aren’t you?”

“Uh, no. I am _____________________ F. _______________________.”

“Oh, well, have you ever thought about doing a weekly radio show?”

“No, I’m pretty content with my life as it is. I think the guy you’re looking for lives in Michigan. He writes books with his wife. I’ve been confused with him before. I do write a blog, though.”

“Okay, then, thanks for your time and good luck. Bye.”

“Bye.”

Was I relieved or crushed?

My daughter and wife asked, “So what’s the deal?”

“Misidentification. My celebrity was prematurely birthed and died on delivery. I feel like Joel’s mule…unrequited.”

“Oh, that’s okay. You still have… um, I mean, you can still work in the public when you retire… or something. You could be a crossing guard for your grandkids like Uncle Steve.”

“Yes, there’s that. But my FM dj voice, my Bob Dylan impersonation, my Barry White solos, my puns. All gone forever. My Lou Rawls, “You’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss, you’re gonna miss my lovin'”.

“Dad, you’re being dramatic.”

“So?  I could have been a contender. A measly initial kept me out of the big time.”

“Why don’t you call him back and audition?”

“Nah, this is like my class ring that I lost in England in 1974. It makes a better story than if I’d ever worn the thing.”

“Seriously, what would you have talked about? No, wait. Talking about things that don’t exist, like the missing letters of the Cyrillic alphabet, has never been a problem for you. It’s better this way, Dad.”

“You’re right. Let us never speak of this again.”