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Taking The Hint

“How many apples fell on Newton’s head before he took the hint? Nature is always hinting at us. It hints over and over again. And suddenly we take the hint.” — Robert Frost

Hints are a good thing, especially if you are patient enough to get the point. Apples are a good thing too; but like hints, they can cause you problems if you don’t deal with them thoughtfully and appropriately. To help with your management of hints and apples, consider this; but be patient. Its value will gradually come clear.

A good-old-boy was at the county fair getting hustled by a city type trying to sell him a gunny sack full of pigs. “What I have here for you today and only today is not just pigs. It’s an opportunity, a chance of a lifetime, the best deal at the fair. You don’t get just one pig but the entire bag of pigs for the price of one: a mere $10. I can tell that you are a shrewd businessman, a sophisticated fellow who….” Just as the hustler was building to his powerful close, the bag ripped and out popped a half dozen cats with nary a pig in the bunch, prompting the good-old-boy to offer this advice: “If you want to sell me a pig in a poke, you shouldn’t let the cat out of the bag.” “Far fetched,” you say? You think the county fair was a figment of an overactive imagination? You are saying, “When pigs fly?” Well, maybe so; but then again, it’s like the good-old-boy himself says, “Don’t discount flying pigs unless you have a good air defense.”

You may have heard that the road to hell is paved with good intentions; and it is certainly true. Knowing this, you should seriously evaluate your intentions; and if they actually are good, consider making it a point to pay the devil his dues. This way, you’ll be pre-paid whatever happens. It will also be nice not to have to worry about any out-of-pocket expenses the next time someone tells you to go to hell and you decide to take them up on their suggestion. Lest you become too enthused about the chance to get away from the rat race for an eternity or two, though, you need to know that if you do business with the devil, you shouldn’t be surprised when you get burned.

This getting burned thing also comes up if you use your bare hand to strike while the iron is hot or if you ignore the admonition to avoid jumping from the frying pan into the fire. The point that might be easily overlooked, though, is that where there is smoke, there is fire and you fight fire with fire; but if you play with fire, you are going to get burned and once burned, twice shy. Knowing this helps you see that the real risk isn’t getting burned, then. It’s suddenly becoming irrationally shy. You start shying away from this and then from that; and the first thing you know, you are afraid of your own shadow, are a bundle of nerves, can’t think straight, are at loose ends, and are beside yourself. Picture that: you beside yourself. It’s a split personality kind of thing. There you go. Too much emphasis on good intentions can drive you crazy. Knowing this, it will help to also keep in mind that you shouldn’t let people drive you crazy when you know you are already in walking distance. There is likely a grain of truth in there somewhere about blue smoke and mirrors too; but you can reflect on that yourself.

Of course, an apple a day keeps the doctor away; but why might you want to know that other than the obvious advantage it could give you when planning a secret liaison with the doctor’s wife? Aside from that, it’s a good thing to know if you don’t want to take a shot in the dark or be caught with your pants down, so to speak. OK, you’re right. The doctor’s wife thing was sexist. Change it to the doctor’s lover or some such. Having said that and knowing that water and words are easy to pour and impossible to recover, you better know a bit about apples before you start a one-a-day plan, whatever its potential benefits.

Start with the fact that the apple never falls far from the tree and the harsh reality that there is small choice in rotten apples; and as you well know, the rotten apple spoils the barrel. This lets you know to look for the apple close to the tree, being sure to avoid all things rotten, anywhere you find them. Best is to only go with those that are ripe for the picking, avoiding those little green ones, since they can give you pause to think about the wisdom of anything that keeps the doctor away.

Okay, so much for assuring a quality supply of ripe, red apples, with a yellow one now and then just for a change of pace; but you still need a plan for the day when you feel like the last living organism in a dead horse, when you would have to feel better to have enough energy to die. What will you do the next time you ask, “Is there a doctor in the house?” and the answer is, “No,” because of your eating all those damn apples? You are now struck full in the face, like a bolt out of the blue, with a simple fact of life: the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry; and it’s all because of that apple-a-day thing. Fortunately, it was Newton’s head that got clunked and not yours. At least you don’t have to be hit over the head to get the hint.

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