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Wednesday, March 30, 2011 • Posted March 30, 2011

Upon Further Reinvention…

Uncle Mort, staring down the gun barrel at his 99th birthday come July, has been on a tear lately about "reinventing himself."

Aunt Maude claims that his history of "inventions and reinventions" covers thousands of adventures and misadventures, mostly brief episodes with the lasting power of 49-cent Roman candles.

"Looks to me like the rest of the world is trying to catch up with me," my uncle laughed. "Government, institutions and our culture in general are gasping for breath, crying out for ‘reinvention.’"…

* * * * *

Mort is convinced that life today is strained to the limit, too long held together by rope, baling wire and duct tape.

In my youth, he’d offer life lessons, using rope, wire and tape for illustrations.

"This piece of rope is history," he’d say. "And this one in my other hand represents hope for tomorrow." Then, he’d tie the two pieces together, saying, "This knot is ‘today,’ helping us get from yesterday to tomorrow as best we can."

Then, he’d stress that rope frays, baling wire rusts and duct tape finally gives way….

* * * * *

"We’ve had a ‘pie in the sky’ attitude, top to bottom, for way too long," Mort opines. "Seems like we’re swimming in debt at national, state, local and personal levels, with loan extension requests denied. Much is coming due at once."

Mort claims that he’s "plumb wore out" looking for good news in newspapers. He accesses the publications left behind on the whittlers’ bench at the general store not far from his place down in the thicket.

"Last week, the only good news I found was ‘partly cloudy" in the weather forecast."…

* * * * *

His latest "reinventions" seem as far apart as horn points on a Texas steer.

He has taken note of numerous Texas restaurants which have struck catfish from menus and groups of all stripes marching on the state legislature in Austin.

"I’m going to fish instead of cutting bait," Mort asserts, hoping to prosper when commercial catfish farms are foundering. When he’s not fishing, he plans to sell t-shirts to protesters headed for Austin. Bold-face messages on each will be "DON’T GORE MY ______," leaving the blank to be completed with magic markers….

* * * * *

"My catfish bait never fails, and we can eat what we don’t sell," Mort claims, thinking that he’ll have a hard time keeping t-shirts stocked.

Mort may be right. When state monies shrink, ripple effects run wide….

* * * * *

Uncle Mort cites a quote by Texas House Speaker Joe Straus, who earlier this year vowed that the legislature would remain "steeped in civility."

Remain? Steeped? Mort swears he’s keeping score on this promise, and that civility is NOT winning.

"I’m keeping a close tally," Mort claims. "Each time I note a civil act, I drop a tennis ball into a five-gallon bucket; for incivility, I deposit a BB in another bucket. The BB bucket is overflowing, and there aren’t enough tennis balls to cover the bottom of the other."…

* * * * *

My uncle yearns for civility, as determined by informed, well-intentioned, unbiased, clear-thinking people. He has a long list of concerns relative to the current legislature, including consideration of authorizing concealed handguns on Texas public college and university campuses. He doesn’t think such legislation enhances civility.

The house member who authored this bill says the action would "apply to a ‘miniscule’ number of people—mostly faculty, staff and older, non-traditional students." He’s light years off on his stats. Data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, 2010, suggest that students age 21 and older at public two-year institutions greatly out-number enrollees who are under age 21. THECB has enough stats to choke computers, but consider this: Among the two-year schools, students age 22-34 out-number younger collegians, 527,329 to 460,830. It’s almost a toss-up at the four-year schools—there are 251,696 students who are ages 18-21, with 236,943 in the 22-34 age range. (Keep in mind that among both "younger" groups, no figures are available for the exact number of 21 year-olds, the minimum age for proposed concealed gun licensure.)

College presidents have voiced strong objections to authorization of handguns on campuses. Maybe their t-shirts could read: "DON’T GORE OUR CIVILITY."…

* * * * *

Mort has it right on the final point. We’d do well to apply the admonition in Isaiah 1:18 calling for us to "reason together."

This might get us back on track toward civility.

It may well be that other R’s other than "readin’, ‘ritin’ and ‘rithmetic." For starters, "reduce, reuse, recycle, restore, rethink, repay and repent" come to mind…..

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: Phone: 817-447-3872. Web site:

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