‘The Song On The Wind’

Short - Holiday - Fiction

A moment in time as told by a grandmother to her granddaughter that highlights the heightened feelings of first love and her discovery of the true meaning of Christmas. Song on the Wind (a link to the story is also further below) was my 2016 Christmas story. On 12/8/2018 I’ll re-share my 2017 Christmas Story WHITE […]

Those Were the Days

A Vignette

As you get older, your experiences… the paths you’ve walked in life… all you know and have become (and what or who made you that way) rest in your memories. They sleep… but they’re there, yes they are and sometimes they’re lively and churn around. A sound, a smell, a picture; some little thing shakes […]

Of Regrets and Reunions…

A Vignette of an Important Life Lesson Learned

Sometimes creation is spurred by a plan, a predetermined action. I’ve found it’s also triggered often by something random. A sound, smell… a picture or image… sometimes a place or setting. All of them have an effect. Music is intense for me. It, sometimes a specific song, transports me into a vivid memory. Songs figure […]

Old Songs | New Meaning

Short Nonfiction

As I write this—from my Pandora random station shuffle—Joan Baez is singing, ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.’ A song written by Robbie Robertson and originally recorded by the Canadian-American roots rock group The Band in 1969. It’s a first-person narrative relating the economic and social distress experienced by a poor white Southerner during […]

The Sign of Fools & Sages

An Alpha & Beta Story

“How do you learn from Fools, dad?”
I turned the volume down (sorry, Steven Tyler). “Well,” I sat at the end of the table. “It’s important to pay attention to all kinds of people around you. But mostly those close to you that you might listen to or think you can learn from. You have to watch to see how they act and interact—what they say and do, especially the impression they give you. And then compare that to reality.”

The Sign of Fools and Sages - An Alpha and Beta Story from Dennis Lowery

The Sign of Fools & Sages (NONFICTION, FREE SHORT STORY)

‘Dream On’ started playing. I was at the kitchen counter making sandwiches.

“Do you like this song?” I asked my two youngest—twin—daughters. Alpha and Beta [not their real names] nodded at the same time; Beta with her spoon still in her mouth.

“Do you know the words?” Beta asked wiping milk from her chin.

“I do, it’s one of my favorite songs to sing.”

It’s a thing with me—to sing at times—especially as they eat breakfast while I make their lunches for school. It’s also good talk time (with topics ranging from silly to serious). We discuss school, what they’re studying, they ask me about stories I’m working on… and we talk about travel, places we’ve been and where we want to go. And I find ways to talk about life (often my stories are a good segue for that).

I had my Kindle Fire HDX, sitting on the kitchen table Bluetoothed to our home music system. [I really enjoy the rich sound from the speakers set in the high ceilings and bass thrum from the subwoofer on the floor in the corner.] We enjoy new music but do play a lot of oldies: 60s and 70s (era of my youth) mostly with some from the 50s to take it way, way, back. My twins are probably the only kids in their grade that know all the words to Zager & Evans ‘In The Year 2525.’ And a whole slew of songs from The Temptations (you should hear them sing ‘Ball of Confusion’), Johnny Rivers and Bad Company and other greats from back then. We were recently on a Styx kick, pre-Mr. Roboto songs).

I walked over and turned the Kindle so Alpha and Beta could see the lyrics scroll. A favorite line was coming up, and I sang along. “… live and learn from fools and from sages.” Beta stopped me with a question—I hate to stop when rolling—but it was a good one. The kind of question a parent needs to consider and answer thoughtfully.

“How do you learn from fools, dad?”

I turned the volume down (sorry, Steven Tyler). “Well,” I sat at the end of the table. “It’s important to pay attention to all kinds of people around you. But mostly those close to you that you might listen to or think you can learn from. You have to watch to see how they act and interact; what they say and do, especially the impression they give you. And then compare that to reality.”

Alpha’s bagel kicked up in the toaster. I got it for her and brought it and the not-really-butter spread she likes to the table. [I’m a butter believer so look down on such pretenders, but she loves it.] I explained what I meant. “Does what they say and do make sense.”

Alpha raised her hand and looked at Beta before speaking—it seems twins do that; I think its telepathy—and at the same time, they said, “Martin.” [Name changed to protect the not so innocent. I’ve heard tales about Martin; heaven help his parents.]

I nodded and continued. “You see, really odd and unusual people are easy to spot. You learn to avoid them and not take them seriously. But Fools can be hard to identify. They often sound like they know what they’re talking about.”

Alpha had not-really-buttered her fingers, and I handed her a napkin. She asked, “How can you tell?”

“If they tell you about things they can do… but they never do them. Or when they do, it never works out like they said and they always want to blame someone else… they never take responsibility. People like that and those full of excuses are not the ones you should listen to… chances are they are Fools or delusional.”

“Does delusional mean crazy?” Alpha asked.

“No.” Though in my mind I thought of people I’d met and known who seemed at odds with reality and could qualify as bughouse bizarre. “Not exactly. It means the world inside their head is not the same world normal, rational, people live in. No matter what reality shows them, they still believe in their own version of things. Stay far away from people like that… they’re Fools.”

Beta looked at me. “But Sages are wise; smart people. Right?”

Back at the counter gathering their lunch stuff, I sipped my coffee, nodding. “Supposed to be.” I took another drink.

I didn’t (don’t) want to make my daughters grow up paranoid or suspicious of things and people in the world, now and in the future. But I think it’s crucial to learn to not automatically place faith in anyone or anything because of a label, position, a title, or perception that they are an authority. And certainly not because the media covers them extensively. That does not confirm, nor is it evidence of, their value. My girls need to know to verify and validate that for themselves. I told them. “People who get things done and are right more times than wrong… who have real experience and produce actual results aligned with doing what’s right. People who when they talk, make sense and show intelligence and compassion… and you can match it to accomplishments and action. They are the ones worth listening to.”

I gave them the line again from the song. Yes, I sang it. “Live and learn from fools and from sages…” I want them to learn to acknowledge labels or reputations but—and this is a big but and I cannot lie—I want them to define people and assess situations based on their own relevant criteria. I continued. “Something to understand that’s important in life.” That’s not the first or hundredth time they’ve heard me say that. I got a bit of eye-roll from them but kept going. “You can learn from both types of people. The way to do that is judge by actions… results, and not words. Listen to what people say but… it’s more important to see what they do. If a person proves to be a Sage; an intelligent person with good, moral, ethical, judgment… then their words have weight.”

Beta raised her hand. “What does weight mean—you know—how you just said it?”

“It means to take them seriously and listen. They have value and merit attention.” I went to the pantry for napkins and came out with their allotment. [I tend to harp a bit on being wasteful… my ‘don’t use more than you really need’ thing. I know if they have five they’ll use five… if they have one… they know that’s it… and will use it wisely. On pudding or fruit cup days, they get an extra napkin. I’m not unsympathetic on this issue.] “But don’t give people’s words power over you. Only you can—rationally, logically and contextually—decide what’s right and wrong for you.”

Alpha poured more milk; adding some to Beta’s glass, too. “But what can you learn from fools?” She brought me back around to the original question.

“Simply, what not to do… and how not to be. We don’t live in a perfect world, and humans are imperfect, too. We all have flaws. The thing to do is to not just understand our own flaws but also see them in others because that can be a factor in gauging the value of what they’re telling you and more importantly any advice they give you.” I put a drink-box, chocolate milk today, snack bag of carrots, fudge brownie and their sandwiches (Alpha’s turkey with mayonnaise and Beta’s peanut butter—not spread too thick—with grape jelly) into their lunch bags.

I made my ‘wind it up’ motion, twirling my index finger and hand clockwise to speed them up; an eat-your-cereal signal. “So, Fools can talk a lot and have very little, if anything, worth listening to. Sages may not say much but when they do… you listen. And the most important thing is to think about what they say and decide what it means to you. That’s called giving it context.”

It was time to finish so they could read a while before walking to the bus stop. They brought their bowls to the sink. Murphy—our Irish Terrier, my only boy—had discovered a couple of Cheerios under Alpha’s chair and was underfoot exploring for more. While they wiped down the kitchen table and counters, another song came to mind; another favorite of mine. I switched my Kindle from Pandora to my music library; found ‘Simple Man’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd and pressed play. It got to the line I wanted before they finished cleaning up. I put my hand on their shoulders, and they looked up at me. I sang a slightly changed version of a line from that song:

“Your father’s telling you… while you’re young. Come sit beside me my lovely ones. And listen closely to what I say. If you do this… It will help you in many ways.”

They smiled at me—used to this sort of thing—and gave me a hug. As they headed to their bathroom to brush teeth and hair, I told them, “We’ll talk more about this….”

And we will….

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SONGS MENTIONED:

Dream On – Aerosmith

http://youtu.be/yyfNHlqymP8

In The Year 2525 – Zager and Evans

http://youtu.be/izQB2-Kmiic

Ball of Confusion – The Temptations

http://youtu.be/-9poCAuYT-s

Simple Man – Lynyrd Skynyrad

http://youtu.be/sMmTkKz60W8

Along with the sunshine…

I remember when this song was a hit and coming into or leaving the house, seeing mom in the kitchen. Often cooking and cleaning, but sometimes she was sitting at the table with a cup of coffee and the ever-present cigarette trickling smoke—pooling with vestiges from those that came before—that climbed and formed a cloud […]

You Sure You’re a White Boy from Arkansas? [M]

Rated Mature for Some Language

Around the first of August 1978, at Recruit Training Command, Great Lakes Naval Training Center, I got into a bit of trouble. Two weeks in the Navy and the shock of it—bootcamp—had begun to turn into routine. Which meant you finally looked up and around —stopped thinking maybe you made a mistake—to interact more deeply […]