Thursday, April 13, 2017

Remembering "Four-Letter Words"...



ANOTHER TRIP DOWN MEMORY LANE
More than a dozen years ago I wrote the following epistle as a commentary which the editors of the Daily Pilot very kindly published on their pages.  I thought it might be time to reprise this.  A couple of the references show their - and my - age, but the core message remains.  Enjoy...

LETTER TO THE EDITOR

And now, a few words ...

By Geoff West

August 24, 2004

I've been thinking about four-letter words lately. Now, don't get all excited, I'm not talking about those four-letter words, the ones that seem to have saturated casual public discourse more and more in the last decade or so. I'm talking about some others.

Four years ago, as we ramped up for the last presidential election, there was a little joke going around: "No matter who wins the 2000 election, we're going to end up with a four-letter word for a president." I smiled then, and I'm smiling now. Among the four-letter words I've been contemplating lately is "work." It's one of the few four-letter words many of our kids don't seem to use these days, especially when combined with another four-letter word, "hard."

Seems to me that too many of our young folks just kind of skate by, willing to drift with the tide rather than work hard to accomplish their goals — academic and otherwise. Of course, not all of them are set on cruise control. There are many outstanding overachievers in this neck of the woods. There seem to be many on the other side of the equation, though, and it's a problem.

I don't know why. Maybe it's because the levels of academic achievement have been so ratcheted out of reason to avoid damaging self-esteem that even accomplishing a straight-A average seems not to be enough. How can we expect our kids to keep their eye on the ball, when we keep changing the target?

A couple other four-letter words I've thought about recently are "love" and "hate." Both of these seem to have gotten diluted. Hate is a word that has gotten watered down by overuse. People will say they hate someone when what they actually mean is, "I don't like your opinion," or "You're different, and I don't understand you." They hate the dress, when they actually mean, "I don't like that color much." Heck, I use the word — among others — when I'm tied up in traffic. It's an easy word to use, although not always accurately. I do know what real hate is, though. Hate is what I felt as I watched the airplanes hit the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11, 2001 and viewed the aftermath later. I hated the cowards who conceived the plan and those who fulfilled it. Almost three years later, that feeling has not subsided, and I still find myself contemplating appropriate punishment for those responsible.

Drawing and quartering is one of the more mild solutions I've considered. That is hate.

"Love," on the other hand, seems to have gotten confused with another four-letter word: "lust." Believe it or not, I was actually a teenager once — a long time ago — so I still remember lust. It was easy to confuse the words back then. Today, the difference is quite clear to me. Lust is seeing Halle Berry in a black cat suit and Sharon Stone in a white pants suit, frolicking together on the silver screen. Love is what I feel for my sweet wife of 37 years every hour of every day; it brings a smile to my face and makes my heart skip a beat when she walks into the room. Love makes me ache when we are apart.

"Fear" is another four-letter word I've thought about, usually in close proximity to "hate" in my thought process. Fear is what the Sept. 11 terrorists have given to this country. I guess I do hate them for that. Fear exists in our community for other reasons, too — fear of the new, the different, the unknown. There are those who use that fear to fan the flames of hate and try to convince us that their way is better. Sadly, sometimes that plan seems to have worked. I think we all need to do a better job of overcoming that fear and douse those flames.

Another four-letter word rattling around in my skull lately is "best." You know, as in "be the best." Lance Armstrong's recent win at the Tour de France has made me think about this word. Can there be any doubt that he is the very best at what he does? Even if you ignore his successful battle with cancer, his accomplishment is without equal in sport.

In this Olympic year, we are seeing young people from around the world become the very best and marvel at their accomplishments. We sometimes let "be the best" overshadow "do your best." In the Olympics, for every winner there will be others who will not stand on the top step of the podium and hear their national anthem played. Many of those individuals will have done their very best and still not win the gold.

Being the best is an admirable goal, achieved by very few. Doing your best can be attained every time you compete and in everything you do. In my mind, it's OK if you are not "the best" as long as you do your best.

The last four-letter word on my mind a lot in recent months is "life." There are many aphorisms that describe views of life, but I've discovered one thing at my rapidly advancing age: Life is usually not what you anticipated. This message was driven home to me, loud and clear, last winter when I spent 45 days at the bedside of a man who had been my best friend since we were 5 years old. He didn't expect that he would crash his motorcycle, but he did. I certainly didn't expect to be the one to tell the doctors to stop trying to bring him back at the end of his life, but I was.

So, I leave you with these thoughts: It is hard work to lead a good, happy, productive life, but it's worth the effort. A little lust is OK, but not at the expense of deeper feelings. Don't let fear of the unknown overcome you. Don't let others turn it into hate. If you do your very best, that's good enough.

Finally, learn what true love is — and share it.

•  GEOFF WEST is a resident of Costa Mesa.


Oh, yes... In case you're wondering, we'll get to the loaded City Council meeting in our next post... I have to pound myself on my shoulder pads and get pumped up for that one...

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4 Comments:

Blogger Gitane said...

I can think of some different four letter words to describe Lance Armstrong. Some longer ones too. :)

4/14/2017 09:42:00 AM  
Anonymous Tom Egan said...

Pot Stirrer, when I think of you, a particular four-letter word comes to mind. The word starts with the letter "G."

You're a GOOD man!

4/14/2017 10:32:00 AM  
Blogger The Pot Stirrer said...

Gitane, I said it was a little out of date. Back in 2004 Armstrong was a virtual God in athletics... sometimes Gods fall from grace.

Tom, you're very kind... thanks. Best to "our" girl. :-)

4/14/2017 12:10:00 PM  
Blogger Gitane said...

I know. I was never a fan of Armstrong, but he was a force to be reckoned with back in the day.

4/14/2017 02:13:00 PM  

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