Stuff My Dad Said/Says (Father’s Day)

As an adolescent you tend to de value the wisdom of older folk. As the old story goes about fathers:

“When I was fourteen years old my father was so ignorant I could barely stand to be around him. When I turned twenty-one I was astonished at how much the old man had learned in just seven years.”

In honor of Father’s Day, I want to share some gems of wisdom from my father, Larry Daniels. This is the type of instruction you roll your teenage eyes at in the moment, and then years later look back and appreciate. The old man with red socks and a bald head maybe did know a thing or two:

Lazy folks always work the hardest.

As a naturally chubby lazy kid, this one was quoted ad nauseam to me. I took advantage of plenty of opportunities to prove its truth. In other words: Do it right the first time and you won’t have to redo it. I once remember pulling weeds out of our side ditches. Instead of hauling them off and throwing them in the backyard I threw them back down into the ditch near the drain. Clogged neighborhood drains usually aren’t up to code or satisfactory work for a dad. So naturally I had to go back down into the ditch, fish them out of the drain, and then haul them into the backyard anyways, all adding to my workload exponentially.

Boom: Lazy folks always work the hardest. Especially chubby punk kids with awkward bowl hair cuts.

Whatever you do, be the best you can be.

For this one, my usual sarcastic tongue in cheek response was: “I want to be a garbage truck man. You know, the one that rides on the back!”

My dad would respond without missing a beat: “Well, then be the best garbage truck man you can be!”

When I endeavored to play team sports, from T-Ball all the way up to HS football, dad’s common refrain was, “Don’t forget the three H’s: Hustle, Hustle, Hustle.” My best effort was always expected from me, and as current a father of two young sons I now expect the same from them.

It’ll make a turd

This is one of my favorites. My dad’s a barbecuing King. I’d match his hickory slow smoked ribs against anyone’s in the world. But in the circumstance we weren’t eating his perfectly smoked and seasoned dead animal, his common response was a shrug and:

“Well, it’ll make a turd”

This Big Mac may taste like a fart sandwich, but maybe we’ll get some nutritional value out of it at least.

Those three stand out, but there are plenty more nuggets of down home common sense I could share. The man is a virtual endless reservoir of American history and political knowledge. But I’ll stop there and say thanks pops for your consistent, strong, hardworking spirit. As the patriarch of our family, I appreciate everything you’ve done to lead and love us (especially those grandkids).

Bryan Daniels.

What are some gems from your father you would like to share?

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I Hope Your Dreams Never Come True

Call me Captain anti-motivation and the King of Killed Esteem, but in a genuine sense, I hope my dreams never come true.

I hope your dreams never come true too.

dreams

CS Lewis’s wild eyed sea wanderer of “The Dawn Treader” gives a cautionary story to Caspian and his crew. They must turn back from the track they are on, the “Dark Island” awaits them beyond the fog:

“Fly! Fly! About with your ship and fly! Row, row, row for your lives away from this accursed shore.”

“Compose yourself,” said Reepicheep, “and tell us what the danger is. We are not used to flying.”

The stranger started horribly at the voice of the Mouse, which he had not noticed before. “Nevertheless you will fly from here,” he gasped. “This is the Island where Dreams come true.”

“That’s the island I’ve been looking for this long time,” said one of the sailors. “I reckoned I’d find I was married to Nancy if we landed here.”

“And I’d find Tom alive again,” said another.

“Fools!” said the man, stamping his foot with rage. “That is the sort of talk that brought me here, and I’d better have been drowned or never born. Do you hear what I say? This is where dreams -dreams, do you understand, come to life, come real. Not daydreams: dreams.”

After a short moment of thought, the crew scrambles to turn back the ship in manicked desperation. Why? Because it only took a few seconds for them to recall, “certain dreams they had had – dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again – and to realize what it would mean to land on a country where dreams come true.”

Terror by night

As a child, I used to get night terrors. These are like nightmares on acid and steroids. I only vaguely remember them. I’d bolt upright in bed eyes wide open and crippled by an insane fear. I was inconsolable. Cold feverish sweats. Squirming. I seemed there, but wasn’t. Mom would take me outside on the front porch to look at the moon and stars and coax me out of this nocturnal horror.

I never could remember the exact plotline of those dreams, but I did know that something harrowing, unnatural and inevitable was coming after me. Running in quicksand would give way to terrified acceptance. To be “got” by such a brooding dark force was the hell of a six year old.

For my four-year old, Josiah, it’s spider nightmares. Big nasty black ones knee-high. Crawling up his leg in droves. This may be why his favorite superhero is SpiderMan. His greatest fear has become a force for good, a character he can adorn himself with without worry of poisonous bites. SpiderMan helps take the fangs out of spiders.

Spider Man Dreams

But Spiderman still needs to sleep in daddy and momma’s bed from time to time.

Studies show a healthy majority of dreams are nightmares. We romanticize good dreams, where we fly like an eagle over a disco beach party, or reunite with old family and friends over Merlot and T-Bone. But those are few and far between. Most dreams promote a tinge of foreboding and uneasiness. They aren’t just comedies, they are comedy-tragedies, where the other shoe drops on us and jars us awake.

The Deadly Daydream

Nevertheless, to “dream” holds a positive connotation in modern culture. Walt Disney World is a delightful kingdom where “All Your Dreams Come True.” “If you can dream it, you can achieve it,” says the motivational movers and shakers of Self Help fame. From a young age kids are indoctrinated to fearlessly follow their hearts and pursue their dreams into the great future abyss.

Selling the “American Dream” has become a multi billion dollar industry. Coats and boats, vacation homes and 2.3 kids, all have become synonymous with self actualization. Our dreams are filled with stuff and affirmation from people we don’t even like. We live vicariously through the beer commercial, like hot tubbing on a mountaintop or playing volleyball on a beachhead will cure our soul ills. This utopic nationalistic fantasy is just that:  fantasy.

When used in Hallmark Card terms these are daydreams, not dreams in the nocturnal sense. Even these fantasy daydreams have some unspoken darker themes. We dream up a land where we’re the King, where all manner of pleasures bow before our whims, where our closest family and friends would be marginalized and forgotten. If we’re honest, there are certain aspects to our daydreams we would never dream of sharing with our most intimate confidants.

If such recesses of our imagination came to flesh it would shipwreck our life.

We should hope and pray all of our dreams never come true.

That’s why Christ appeals to a Kingdom outside of us as a King over us. All while gently placing His Kingdom reign within us through the Holy Spirit (Luke 17:21). No man can know his own heart fully (Jeremiah 17:9). That sickly hollow muscle must be remade. A world where individual fallen man’s dreams all came true would be a literal hell indeed.

So we chase not after our dreams.

But after a King and a Kingdom.

Where all HIS dreams will come true for us. And nothing but His ultimate glory and our ultimate good will be the standard for our future. Our fantasies. Our sleep.

Bryan Daniels

To Be Ugly and Strong Like John Wayne

John Wayne

He didn’t walk, he ambled.

He had “swag” before the stupid word was invented.

For over thirty years in Hollywood film, John Wayne was the American icon of rugged masculinity and the consummate good guy. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin ordered Wayne’s assassination as a result of his frequently-espoused anti-communist politics.

Awesome.

Before dying of stomach cancer Wayne requested his tombstone read “Feo, Fuerte y Formal”, a Spanish epitaph for “ugly, strong, and dignified.”

Awesome.

My dad, a roughneck country boy in his own right, has an obvious man crush on John Wayne. Growing up, whenever a John Wayne movie was found on the old movie channels, pops was transfixed instantly like a moth to a flame. He’d seen every one of the Duke’s movies 23 times…at least.

The modern movie stud is a little more metro sexual and sanitized. You wouldn’t want them to have your back in a bar fight anymore than you’d want SpongeBob Squarepants to cater your dinner party. Bradley Cooper is a good actor, but don’t tell me you see him taking on Iran’s Ahmadinejad in a heated war of words.

To be sure, there were always the more domesticated winky eyed Cary Grant’s and James Stewart’s on the scene. But they were nicely balanced by the rough and tumble Rooster Cogburn. That leather face and razor wit. If you were the bad guy, he felt just as comfortable cracking a joke at you as shooting you.

Your choice.

So here’s to a simpler time. Where the line between good and evil was drawn with thick black paint. Simpler is not synonymous with dumber. We like our heroes to be a little more twisted and torn nowadays.  Like the modern Christopher Nolan protagonists, Batman and SpiderMan wrestle with their darker tendencies while fighting for good.

But maybe we need a straight shooting straight talking Cowboy who will open up a can on society’s evil degenerates and restore order and justice for the victims.

I believe one day we’ll get that. 

But here’s to the late John Wayne and the era of manliness that died with him. Where real men protected women with strong hands, fought injustice with a fierce chivalry, and rode into the sunset of uncertainty with boldness.

When I grow up, I want to be “ugly”, “strong”, and “dignified” like that.

Bryan Daniels