WISDOM FROM THE WOODS: LIFE LESSONS LEARNED FROM BEING AROUND CREATIVE PEOPLE. BY JIM SHOCK

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I‘m the least lonely loner in the world. I find solitude freeing. I have nothing to leave anyone except the memory of me. Eventually that will die. I’ll leave my imprint through words. If I don’t, what do I care? I’ll be dead.

That’s why I admire Dolly Parton. Rather than get entangled in struggles or sadness, she soared like a songbird above poverty, cruelty and envy with dogged determination. Whenever someone clipped her wings, she fluttered (and sometimes flopped) insolently upward, compelled by talent and unflinching confidence.

She recites her life lyrically in songs. What an amazing role model for dreamers everywhere. Like Dolly, I find rural life inspiring. I discovered A LOT living in West Virginia. The lessons weren’t always good, but all were necessary. Mostly, I learned to dream bigger.

I always say, “Life is a classroom so pay attention, before it’s over there WILL be a test.” Here’s a cheat sheet of what I’ve learned so far from my experience:

* If you’re truly “cool”, don’t brag about it. People know. That’s kind of the essence of being cool. It’s decidedly dorky to tell people how groovy you think you are, especially if you’re not.

* If safeguarding a populace with nearly no crime generates revenue, it’s essential to create citizen criminals to bankroll business. More grants exist to arrest our citizens than free them from the shackles of scarcity in West Virginia.

* Bullies brutalize in both obvious and subversive ways. Whether it’s a silver-haired sycophant or uncivilized city servant, the beat down from a baton, in the wrong hands, hurts all the same.

* If you want to uncork a bottle of wine and enjoy a jam session by locals in a city park, it’s criminalized. If you throw back a few and sway wildly to reggae beats at a free concert funded by a nonprofit organization on the lawn of a state college it’s, well, unlawful too. (Actually more so). It’s just overlooked because “cool” kids are doing it.

* Rich people are no better than the rest of us. They’re just sneakier.

* When your days are darkest, pinholes of light on the horizon become blindingly bright. Genuine friends are looking for you. Let their shining light guide you home.

At times, it’s difficult to dream big in a small town. When your imagination grows bigger than your roots, transplant it where it can grow wild. Dolly Rebecca Parton, and to a lesser degree, Jim Shock, are both proof you can achieve anything imaginable if you dare to dream bigger.

-Jim Shock, LBSPY #54 (June 2-30, 2014)

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