(Note: The good Lord willin’ and the crick’ don’t rise, we’ll return soon enough to my little meditations on the Song of Solomon. Until then, consider this a light palate cleanser. I also just realized that this is the closest thing to writing an “Ask Andy” since that weekly column of sarcasm was published a few years ago. Yes, some of this – mainly the introductory paragraphs – are a joke and a bad one at that. But you knew that, didn’t you?)

As of last April, I have been alive for a quarter of a century. Some have speculated that I am actually older than this, assuming I came out of the womb wearing a sweater-vest, with strong opinions about Gustav Mahler and giving advice about the different ways to clean your palate before an entree at a fancy dinner party (just use sorbet). I can assure you that only half of those assumptions are true! While there has been some discussion on whether I am emotionally a sexagenarian or a septuagenarian, all are in agreement that I am thoroughly within range of AARP.

There is also still some disagreement on whether I am actually pretentious or just ostentatious. There is such a delicately fine line between the two as to go mostly unnoticed by today’s unwashed pleb! Is it so bad that I think mint juleps are only properly served in pewter cups? Or is it pretentious that I think Lady Gaga’s name should be seldom spoken and when mentioned out of necessity, it should be pronounced, “guh-GA” like unto the mating call of some wingèd creature in the heavens? Is it ostentatious that I think a virtuous verbosity and calm erudition as a sign of good breeding in the lettered man? As for such discussions, I am in firm agreement with St. Paul, who once wrote, δι’ ὃν τὰ πάντα ἐζημιώθην, καὶ ἡγοῦμαι σκύβαλα. (Philippians 3:8) Well said, sir, well said.

Anyway, where was I?

Oh yes, I have been on this earth for one score and five years. While this is certainly not a respectable amount of time from which to write one’s memoirs and such, it is certainly enough time to glean a few tidbits of wisdom. Here’s a few pieces of advice to you, from my twenty five years:

  1. Beware a person who doesn’t like food. Even if you disagree with someone’s favorite food because they do not have as exalted taste as you or I, you can still respect a man because he likes something. But, if someone can’t tell you what is their favorite piece of food or cannot describe to the most minute detail what their last meal would be, run away. This person is a ruffian who most likely will be very materialistic and all about appearances (that is to say, true pretension). They will have such hatred for the redeemed flesh as to make you feel guilty whenever you enjoy homemade bread slathered in butter or cream-of-whatever-based casseroles just for the sheer bliss of a carbohydrate-induced coma afterwords. You have enough guilt in your life than to deal with these celery-loving haters of humankind.
  2. Know who your friends are. Close your eyes and imagine there was no Facebook. Now, think of the people that you actually stay in contact with on a face-to-face basis or through emails, phone calls or by post. Now of those, close your eyes and think of the people who you listen to and who equally listen to you. These are your friends. Know them well and treat them accordingly: drop things in your schedule for them, listen to them and cherish them; know that they will do the same for you.
  3. Drive an old car. It adds to your mystique and there’s nothing quite like the feeling that your car might die, fall of its wheels from rust or explode at any minute. I don’t know about you but I could use some of that kind of excitement in my life. Beware nice cars and do not enjoy the feeling that you get from what you perceive other people are thinking about you while driving it. They’re not checking you out — they are looking disgusted because they just think your daddy bought it for you (and he probably did, didn’t he)?  In fact, if you’re under retirement age, never drive a really nice car.
  4. Be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem. Or, as Philo of Alexandria famously put it, “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a great battle”. Everyone you come in contact with during your day is usually just looking for someone to see themselves for who they truly are. Not only to see but also to see and embrace them still. Never forget that one of the most powerful ministries is being an audience member who claps accordingly. Clap in gratitude, therefore, whenever someone reveals their true selves to you, even if you find that true self to be hideous. And do your part to help make it beautiful again.