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Musin’s and Thinkin’s – November/December 2010

by Jack Pendarvis
Illustration by Jason Polan

Musin’s and Thinkin’s – November/December 2010

Jack Pendarvis
17 Snaps

The question I get more often than any other is “How did you become such a puckish, impish sprite, seemingly not born so much as deposited on Earth via moonbeam?” The second most frequent question is “Do you wash your face in a tiny basin made from the cup of an acorn?”

That one’s easy. I just say, “I’ll tell, but you have to catch me first!” And I whisk myself away, leaving behind a spray of effervescent stardust and an echo of lilting laughter.

The former question is more complicated. Short answer: Mental outlook. The outcomes of so many challenges are determined by the attitude with which we choose to face them.

Allow me to elucidate, using events from my own life. Once I thought I would be a renowned artiste in the world of letters. Such was my pretension! I spent seven years working on my epic bildungsroman, Someone Is Murdering the World’s Great Pornographers, still unpublished. In those days, I was dark and brooding and nothing could make me happy. Perhaps my folksy good humor existed, but I had done my best to bury it deep inside. The world had told me that such feelings were improper and shameful. Better by far to be a skulking existentialist in a black turtleneck than an easygoing schlub in suspenders and a checkered shirt just shooting the breeze, or so circumstances conspired to have me believe. Also the existentialist smokes one of those thin little cheroots and the schlub needs a straw hat and work boots.

Failure to achieve recognition took its inevitable toll. Each dismissive telegram from an ivory tower struck like a poniard in my bitter soul! As the rejection slips mounted, however, they ironically helped me discover the sunny side of every scribbler’s life. Some call it “liquid happiness.” Others prefer “the poet’s inspiration” or “the evening dew.” I am referring, of course, to formaldehyde, which can be imbibed in small quantities.

Now you know what puts the twinkle in my eye! Now you know what lubricates my pen! No doubt many aspirants to my crown of “hillbilly Socrates” will think that I have handed them a magical key to success. Not so.

But it is true that you must loosen the shackles of dull conformity by whatever means you can, preferably formaldehyde. I am sure you have seen that commercial where the pinched-faced professor can’t understand the crazy new gum all the hip kids in striped kneesocks are chewing. Now think of that gum as formaldehyde. Beginning to get the picture?

Here is something Immanuel Kant said: “Conceptions may be logically compared without the trouble of inquiring to what faculty their objects belong.” I am guessing he said it at a party. Do you think he went home with a special lady that night? Fat chance! That lady went home with the life of the party, the guy who was drinking formaldehyde.

Then Immanuel Kant died, in 1804, after a long illness.

When we think back on the great achievements of history, it is not the sad sacks and eggheads who leap to mind. It is guys like George Washington, who liked to put on a gorilla suit and mess with people, or Mme Curie, who lived underwater and rode everywhere on a gigantic seahorse. We think of Frederick Douglass, who came down from Venus with a laser gun blasting away in either hand. We celebrate Helen Keller, who could turn invisible and fly.

Remember when Mao Tse-tung got a job at a chocolate factory with his friend Ethel but the conveyer belt started going too fast so he had to start stuffing the chocolates into his mouth? Hilarious! From his humble origins as a prank-calling morning DJ, Mao has grown into the most respected of Fox News pundits, and it’s all thanks to his willingness to loosen up and have fun and cry a lot.

The question that every would-be wry cracker-barrel philosopher has to ask himself sooner or later is “Do I want to be an Immanuel Kant or do I want to be a Mao Tse-tung?”

Pretty heavy stuff, right? Sounds like somebody needs another slug of formaldehyde! See? I don’t mind poking fun at myself. That’s another great thing about me.

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