Jeff Patton: A Moon Among Stars
My favorite superlative in distancing great humans from better than average human beings is a comparison of bright stars to a full bright moon. In my life, I have had a succession of bright moons who have offered a guiding light when life was dark. My great grandmother, Alice, was a person who shaped me. My Aunt Ruth and Cousin Roberta were among the women who shaped my character. This includes two wonderful wives, the first was a victim of my ignorance and the second repaid me in kind. (In 2010, my life took a wonderful twist with a great reward for doing what was right--see It was the right thing to do .)
There are great men in my life. Maybe not great on the stage of history but great on the dance floor of my life in helping me find a higher level of problem-solving to know freedom and happiness. Krekel, Leonardo and David were friends that added not only to my life but to the lives of many.
While all my moons can be credited with shining light on the path that led to timism, none was more pivotal than Jeff Patton. I met Jeff on the USS Wright where we were both electronic technicians. Like the two happiest people I knew before the Navy, Ruthie and Bertie, always-happy Jeff had a college degree. Not only did fellow enlisted men respect Jeff but so did most officers.
Jeff consistently had the right phrase for the moment. This included the clarifying cutting phrase that pinned the donkey ass ribbon on both enlisted and officer pudendas. (When I was a wooze, Jeff called me a pudenda.) The amazing thing was how, like Winston Churchill honed in text and in box, the castrating sarcasm was non-citable, that is, the offending officer could not cite Jeff for disrespect. Enlisted men could do nothing but accept and learn, for while Jeff might be considered an egghead in some ways there was a silent, undecipherable threat in Jeff demeanors. You just had the feeling that if Jeff wanted to kill you, he would. You also had the conclusion that no one would suspect let alone prove Jeff's role.
On the fringe of the small group that composed the intellectual members of a most intelligent division (electronic technicians), I listened mostly. On occasion when I thought I had something to say, my batting average would have kept me out of the minor leagues--I was a pudenda. It was on one occasion when Jeff told me that my heart was in the right place but my knowledge did not match my potential. He laughed, saying that I was such a pudenda. All things considered, it is funny to think that I decided to buy a dictionary to find out what he said I was, that is, "What is a pudenda?"
As time went along, the need to match my intellectual potential became self-evident. I, like Jeff's repartee buddies (Ratner, Poitner, and Danner/Wackenfuss), decided to start reading, not technical books but human books. I had gone into the Navy to become a rich nuclear engineer. To tell anyone of my new goal to become more human would have been embarassing. While I have had three mystical experiences, none rival the moment of my standing alone in a Norfolk bookstore looking at long rows of book offerings. I was trying to figure out which book with which to start a journey without any known path or target. As I stood perplexed, numbed and immobile by the plethora of possibilities, a hand came over my shoulder and picked up one--End of Road, John Barth. The hand was accompanied by a voice, "Start with this one." It was Jeff. How odd that I knew I was beginning a journey and, yet, the first step was ironically titled the opposite. A series of random improbabilities that beget a mystical moment.
In general, Jeff was the catalyst to my wanting to be a human being, a mentalist not a materialist. More specifically, it was Jeff who first expressed what I have echoed to hundreds of teenagers: Go to college for an education, not job-training. Get a liberal education as a major or minor around the question "What is the meaning of life?"
It will be your education on understanding life that enriches your life after the false hope of money happiness wears off. Your friends and freedom will reflect your education, not your job. Anyone who thinks their job and money defines their value will attract flies, not friends. With an education, one will enjoy more days of one's single life than the person who went to college for job-training and money. In effect, one is a cog in a machine that merely launders money.
Jeff has been lost in the "mystic chords of memory," a sonnet that soothes in troubled times. Perhaps he died young and early. Perhaps he never stimulated another as he motivated me. But if Timism is of great value to humanity, while many have given more perspiration to my trying to be a good being none can claim the mantle of inspiration like Jeff.
Amusing things about Jeff:
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