As any of our four daughters and 11 grandchildren would surely testify, my primary philosophical observation about life in general and any subject in particular, all comes down to this: "It's all in how you look at it. All in how you study it." For me, this really does seem to say it all.
I herein pay tribute to my original source for such a deceptively simple and powerfully influential and inspirational saying, that being from "Brother Dave Gardner."
"Brother Dave" was a singer/comedian from Jackson, Tenn. After a one-semester term as a Southern Baptist ministerial student at Union University, he began a musical career as a drummer and vocalist. He started filling time between songs with stream-of-conscious commentary and was surprised when he discovered his audiences came to see his "comedic routines" rather than music, even though Dave had a Top 20 hit in 1957 with an instrumental called, "White Silver Sands."
Legendary RCA artist Chet Atkins was amazed with "Brother Dave" and produced a comedy album in 1959 that catapulted Gardner into national prominence. "Rejoice, Dear Hearts!" sold a million copies. Numerous appearances on "The Tonight Show" continued his ascent into the entertainment stratosphere, but arrest for marijuana possession in 1962 brought his career to a screeching halt. This was seven years before Woodstock. He died of a heart attack in 1983 at the age of 57.
Many folks considered Dave Gardner to be blatantly Conservative. In the early 1980s, Texas Oilman H. L. Hunt moved Brother Dave and his wife to Dallas, but soon became disenchanted with Gardner's alcohol and drug abuse. Simultaneously, Gardner was often quoted in the Liberal press for "telling it like it is," particularly his strong opposition to American involvement in Vietnam.
Referencing his own experiences, Gardner would say, "I was in World War II and I saw lots of blood spilled, but it never sent anyone to Heaven."
Those who knew him report it was impossible pinning Gardner down on anything given his amazing proclivity to verbally dance between subjects, positions and ideas with lightning rapidity, juxtaposing all elements at every turn. The universal consensus was: Brother Dave Gardner made you think.
I'm sure that's why I took to him so quickly. Brother Dave Gardner was like a Jesuit!
I was particularly blessed in my youth receiving the benefit of a four-year Jesuit education at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. I still often tell friends, "The sisters at Cathedral School taught me what to think, but the Jesuits at Le Moyne taught me how to think."
The essence of Jesuit instruction is to present as many sides of a given topic as possible, then insist you make up your own mind without claiming absolute certitude. The Jesuits are often said to be "the intellectual vanguard of the Catholic Church" -- a distinction historically supported by being booted out or suppressed individually and as a group by The Vatican more than once.
A doctor of philosophy from Syracuse University who taught one senior class in theology at Le Moyne was an atheist.
So I delight in talking with everyone about everything.
I just finished communicating with John Pero, Central Valley Tea Party coordinator, about a "Gun Control" meeting scheduled for Oakhurst. I enjoy my conversations with John and have applauded his dedication to civic involvement in print as well as in person, even though we hold widely disparate views on many national issues.
I look forward to hosting Madera County Sheriff John Anderson, a fine Republican, at our March 2 meeting of the Democratic Club of Oakhurst.
With the Ol' Kettle gone, we've moved to Sweetwater Steakhouse for a while. Sheriff Anderson will be bringing us all up to date on various local law enforcement fronts and will be glad to answer any questions.
I remain continually impressed by District Five Supervisor Tom Wheeler's Town Meetings at our community center and again urge everyone to be at the next one here or in Ahwahnee, Coarsegold, North Fork or Raymond. Tom does more shows than Elvis in his prime.
And I wish that our Congressional representatives in Washington in both the Senate and House could put us first in their thoughts and learn to listen to -- rather than talk at each other. They might just find out they share much more in common than not, and that hard work and cooperative effort over time can bring brilliant consequences. I haven't given up yet.
"Don't cha know a diamond ain't nothin' but a piece of coal that's stuck with it?" -- Brother Dave Gardner (1959).