Questions that Keep Me Up at Night

Fifth Friday Footnotes, Follow-ups and Far-Flung Fripperies:

• If you’ve lost your astonishment about this place and its people, I have an exercise for you. Stop in at Coastal Farm and Ranch on 6th Avenue. Wander down the aisles and recognize that you have neighbors buying everything they sell. If that doesn’t renew your wonder, then go to Trader Joe’s and do the same thing.

• Track meets remind me of a three-ring circus, but without a visible ringmaster.

• I wonder what the first question ever asked was. Probably something like “Can I eat this?” or “Will this kill me?” Or maybe it was “How did you do that?”

• I always forget how perfect California is. Every time I visit, I fear I’m bringing down the average.

• Could somebody please combine the warmth and trust of a small town with the ambition and opportunity of a big city?

• It’s unsettling to see other nations raising middle classes that study and work harder than we do.

• I recently met an improvised explosive technician — a real live “Hurt Locker” veteran. He told me the most dangerous situations are when the possibility of peril is small but the fear of that peril is large. I’m still pondering his insight.

• What better gauges the health of a free society than redistribution of wealth? Who would you rather see get richer — the good or the rich?

• People who wear sunglasses in the rain are fooling themselves, but nobody else.

• Is there really such a thing as beauty, completely apart from any beholder? If a tree falls in the forest but no one sees it, can its remnants splinter into a perfect proportion?

• People around me wondered if the Dalai Lama was unkind when he dismissed one question as foolish. But maybe it was. When it comes to foolish questions, I consider myself something of an expert.

• If you’ve ever quashed something, were you tempted to just go ahead and squash it?

• How long before the Susans of the world unite and demand that we eliminate or rename lazy susans?

• Shame is the dark matter of human motivation. It cannot be named, but it exerts enormous power.

• Is that talent of yours a skill or a knack? How hard did you work to master it?

• I’m not proud of this, but I have no good friends named Roger.

• Intimacy is losing ground to infatuation.

• I asked a neighbor, “How are you?” I loved his reply: “Today I feel like six of the seven dwarfs.”

• My new rain jacket feels more like a wet suit. I feel silly wearing it without a snorkel. If I ever step into a waist-deep puddle, I’ll be all set — if I’m walking on my hands.

• Travel light. Take the “lug” out of luxury.

• Precision matters less than concision. Who has time any more for the whole story?

• Law and order must be understood as sequential. Order is the end; law is the means.

• Gross Domestic Product is a lousy measure of a society’s health and it’s getting worse. If you bother measuring wealth created, you must also measure how evenly that wealth is distributed.

• Holidays were called Public Days until the 1850s. Victorians moved celebrations indoors, shifting the entertainment center from community to family. By 1900, more American homes had pianos than toilets. It’s true.

• Until we can be in two places at once, being in two time zones at once is almost as good. I enjoy thinking about my faraway friends eating lunch while I’m having breakfast.

• Intent strengthens impulse control.

• I sat behind Ashton Eaton on a commercial flight last month. He really is different than the rest of us. When the flight attendant reminded us to locate the nearest exit in case of an emergency, he did.

• Why is there a “sting” in the middle of “distinguished”?

• I think any redesign of Willamette Street will be better if it’s asymmetrical.

• After covering a floor with 59,206 pennies, I can report this. There are few greater thrills than watching adults willingly get on their hands and knees in front of you.

• Disney’s theme parks must have inspired a generation of urban planners, filled with an unhealthy dose of utopianism.

• Ironically, people don’t burn out when they feel lit up.

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Don Kahle (fridays@dksez.com) writes a column each Friday for The Register-Guard and blogs