Life-changing Chocolate

A chocolate bar can change your life.

Yeah, you read right: a chocolate bar. And I don’t mean the way it changed MacGyver’s life when he was trapped in that room with the leaky vat of acid. That’s when he had nothing but his Swiss Army knife and a Hershey bar. Remember that one? The episode where he used chocolate to seal the leak because the chemical reaction with the metal sealed it tighter than any commercial polymer.

I really miss that show. But that’s not my point.

A chocolate bar can change your life because it equips you with a simple set of rules:

  1. Chocolate Tastes Good
  2. Sharing Makes it Taste Better

I know there isn’t much to it; but it sure makes life easier. Regardless of the fads of pop philosophy, the older I get the more I truly begin to believe that I learned everything I need to know in kindergarten.

It really hit home for me when I was having a stressful day at work. I plopped down in my boss’s office to discuss some software glitch or layout detail, I don’t remember, to be honest. He was just opening a Hershey’s Special Dark bar.

“You like chocolate, right?” He said. And he handed me half the bar. We sat there and talked about the problem as we enjoyed our chocolate. Like I said, I don’t remember the conversation now, but I sure do remember the chocolate.

It’s the simple pleasures in life that really make the difference. I can live without prime rib, but I’d miss cheeseburgers hot off the grill. Truffles and petit-fors are okay, but I have trouble sleeping without my Fig Newtons before bed.

The list could go on. I’d rather wear my old Doc Martens than break in a new pair of shoes. T-shirts feel better than the starched formality of collar and tie. And who doesn’t have an old pair of jeans they’d wear every day if they could? And there are some who do.

It doesn’t take heroic effort to make a difference in the world around us. Sharing really does make chocolate taste better; the simplest kindnesses make life worth living. “Random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty” is more than a catch phrase. Kindness is truth in it’s truest form; and, as the great poet John Keats said, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”

I don’t want to live in an ugly world; and though sometimes we humans revel and wallow in the ugliness we bring upon ourselves, we are capable of creating a great deal of beauty too. In the end, cynicism and bitterness must surrender to the kindness of a stranger’s smile, an unexpected helping hand at the grocery or a surprise offer to share a chocolate bar.

Make Friends, Not Money

It’s funny how we use words without really thinking about it. We all pretty much know what we’re trying to say to each other, so we rarely notice when we stop making sense.

I got to thinking about this the other day when I saw an advertisement inviting me to purchase information on how I could “make money from home.” Every now and then I get real muleheaded about taking things literally; and I was in that kind of mood as I deleted this particular spam offender.

“Make money,” I said to myself. “Make money. Hmm. Is this a course in counterfeiting?”

I know that’s how we always say it. “I need to make some money” was a mantra for me during my college years. And everyone always wants to “make a little more money” doing something, right?

But what does that really mean?

If I have my economic facts straight, only governments can “make” money. And even that sometimes isn’t the best idea. As a matter of fact the current disparity between the dollar and some other well known currencies is all because there are just two many (American) dollars out there. Money only works when there is a finite supply.

So, I know I can never really “make” any money, as much as I wish I could. All I can do is keep selling my knowledge and talent for a share of the money that already exists. Hopefully my employers keep buying.

There was another phrase that I used constantly in college, especially early on, when I was just getting used to being on my own. “I need to make some friends,” I’d used to say.

Now friends, unlike money, can be made, as long as you have the patience, good will and selflessness to take a mere human and make that person a part of who you are. Humans are plentiful; friends are in short supply, but infinite in possibility. A friend is someone who has truly accepted you, taking all your best into them and offering you their best in return.

In the end, I’d rather make friends than money any day.

I walked grimly

I walked grimly,
bile rising to burn my throat,
the rage of nations pounding
my head.

I walked slowly, staring at the ground;
feeling each step: foot, ankle, knee;
the thud of my joints, the methodical
plod of life.

I passed a field.
A mare and her colts grazed
A midnight snack.
Their hooves struck the earth
with a solid thump;
they snorted in content
as they chewed mouthfuls
of grass.

I walked on.
My pace quickened;
I gulped air;
the rage of nations
subsided before
the joy of life.

Abbey Vineyard

After a rain, blood drips from the vines
Onto upturned clover tongues.

Or so it seems to the old monk
Who tends the abbey grapes.

As he walks slowly
Down the glistening rows of fruit,
He stops and stoops
To lift a fallen branch,
Cradle it in his arms,
Return it to its proper place.

The harvest is a bitter blessing.
Grapes are crushed.
They become
The wine of eternal life.

A lover’s vision

Like the sun’s unfailing journey
from east to west through the azure sky:
I will come to you and you to me
and flocks of inky ravens will fly
above the stubbled fields of wheat
which sprawl to the edge of the earth.

The wind will run with child’s feet
and dissonantly sing the birth
of winter. Rusty brown loam
will perfume the air and I will be
satisfied. A pilgrim come home,
rewarded for his piety.

My dream fades, leaves mist in my eyes.
This fool’s solace never satisfies.

If ever my love grows cold

If ever my love grows cold; should snow encrust
my heart, remind me then on that winter day
of this tulip-filled afternoon. If rust
collects on my thirsty throat, then you may
wash it clean with singing and good wine.

If my taste ever turns to things less sweet
than your kiss, touch your lips softly to mine
like the golden whisper of wind on wheat.

If my senses fail and your beauty
can no longer light my days, do not fear.
For I’ve fixed you in mind; and my duty:
to nurture you in my inmost eye an ear.

Though chance and change bend all men to their will,
love stands outside them; they do us no ill.

Rhein-​Main Airfield, December, 1944

The three of them stood, waiting, at dawn;
pilot, cryptographer, guard,
watching cloudy, dull-red fingers extend
over earth. Each was wrapped in a drab
green coat and cloaked in his thoughts.
Breath hung from their mouths and nostrils.

The pilot stared at the bloody sun,
uncomfortable with feet on ground.
The cryptographer leaned on a doorframe
cooly; his eyes half-hooded but wary.
The guard shifted from foot to foot, searched
his coat for a cigarette.

As he pulled out the pack his hand brushed
the page that lay heavy against his chest:
Make sure the code-man gets on the plane.
If attacked, do not let him be taken alive.

After a Storm

The sky is television gray today.
City streets are slick and shiny;
buildings drenched with soot coughed from clouds.
No rainbows break the drudge today; instead
I found one fetal,
dying
splashed in black puddles inside
this parking garage.
The sky is television gray today; halogen
light throws skylines into harsh black and white
relief.
Another rerun.

I feel the world

I feel the world passing away.
It slips like sand through a child’s hand,
as she sits on the beach building castles.

She sits, building castles; the sea roars
behind her; she lends it no ear,
intent on her work.

We learn to fight chaos when we are young;
to build sand castles, and pretend not to notice
the ocean, sitting, waiting.