He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.
That which does not kill us makes us stronger.
He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster. And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.Nietzsche
LIFE’S STRENGTHENING *
Hey, I was supposed to spend my life on the Riviera drinking wine. So what am I doing in front of you reciting this rhyme about Life’s strengthening, BIG TIME; and living to tell about it, line by line?
Nietzsche said what doesn’t kill us,
Strengthens us in time;
I should be mighty strong, then,
And doin’ fine!
Samples of my strengthening came in 1953. When I was seven, the small, polygamist enclave, Short Creek, Arizona, where my family lived, was raided by lawmen: an attempt to rid their borders of the growing menace of polygamy and its lawlessness.
During this police action, everyone in Short Creek’s/AKA: Colorado City’s reclusive cult was taken into captivity. The men were incarcerated, along with their self-proclaimed Prophet LeRoy Johnson. During that jail time, Daddy saw “Uncle Roy” do things “no prophet would ever do!”
So, when we were freed in 1956, Daddy took his family to live in the nearby mainstream Mormon town, Hurricane, Utah — a small agrarian place where no “Plyg Kid”/Mormon fundamentalist should ever have lived — due to the mainline Mormon church’s intolerance for Mormon fundies.
But we lived there five years, anyway, experiencing painful persecution perpetrated by many mainline Mormon teachers and classmates alike — so-called “Latter-Day Saints”/LDS who gave up polygamy in 1890 with the signing of “The Manifesto.”
But Mormon Fundy Pa’s stance on the “Mormon Manifesto” was:
“The Prophet Joseph Smith said we’d be damned if we didn’t live polygamy! So I’ll be damned if I’ll be damned for giving it up!”
So he didn’t. So his kids were damned to suffer for it. So we did!
So the following is an example of what we endured due to my fanatic parents’ decisions; and the small LDS town’s general attitude, ostracism, and bigotry toward “Plygs.” All and all, it was clashing religions combined with modern social mores and more:
In 8th grade, in a wild attempt to displace me, a Plyg/Mormon Fundy, with a mainstream Mormon kid, so I wouldn’t end up, again, in the town’s paper as top student, my “Latter-Day-Saint” English teacher Ms. Naegley told us, four days before the end of the school year:
“Your homework this week is to memorize the whole 105 English prepositions! Anyone who doesn’t memorize them … in order … from A to Z … BY FRIDAY … WILL get an ‘F’ as their final grade in my class!!”
She was so sure nobody could do this maniacal assignment, she figured it would surely get me, Miss Plyggy, out of position as “Best Student.”
She was almost right: Nobody but me did it!
I pert-near met my Maker; but succeeded in memorizing that list of nonsense words — on top of homework from my other five classes; and after-school chores.
Come Friday, I was fit to be tied!
My brain was fried!
But I recited the whole 105
Without a glitch.
It didn’t please the old witch;
She almost died
When her students cried:
“Nobody but Steph memorized
Those prepositions as categorized;”
She didn’t succumb to suicide;
Instead, Steph survived!
So I — a little devil, in their eyes —
Again beat all the little Saints,
Avoided an “F” as my “prize;”
And lived to thrive …
And tell about it,
As long as I’m alive!
Although I won the competition, the “Latter Day Saint” teacher didn’t acknowledge me; didn’t give an “F” to her eighty-three LDS students (though they failed the assignment miserably); didn’t even let on she could’ve given us such horrid homework!
Since then, the only thing memorizing those prepositions has been good for is mesmerizing captive audiences.
So here goes “The 105 Prepositions” —
the world’s longest, albeit irrational, cuss-word:
At-about-above-aboard-across-according to-along-alongside-against-among-amongst-amid-amidst-around-after-before-behind-below-beneath-beside-besides-between-betwixt-beyond-but-because of-by-by way of-by means of-by reason of-by virtue of-concerning-considerin-down-during-despite-due to-‘ere-except-excepting-for-from-in-into-instead of-in care of-in case of-in front of-in place of-in spite of-in accordance with-in reference to-in preference to-in regard to-in regards to-in respect to-in addition to-like-‘mid-‘midst-near-‘neath-notwithstanding-of-off-on-onto-on account of-on top of-over-o’er-out-outside-past-‘round-respecting-regarding-since-save-sans-to-towards-through-throughout-’till-unless-until-up-upon-unto-under-underneath-via-versus-Vs.-with-within-without-with respect to or for-without respect to or for-with reference to-without reference to-with preference to-without preference for!
*This concludes the 105-Prepositions-homework assignment.
For more mesmerizing essays on my life’s edification/ education, check out my web logs; ie, blogs/essays at StephanySpencer.com—that’s Stephany with a “Y.”
Comments on my Preposition recitation and story thereof:
God does things for a reason. He does have a wonderfully foolproof sense of humor… as do you. You made me laugh Thursday at Open Mic like I haven’t laughed in oh so long!
Your rendition was a perfect little piece of genius … and your recitation at the end was brilliant. It did nothing but add to the piece.
I have done loads of theatre, film and literary reviews; but your amazing preposition rendition was unusual, exhilarating new stuff; and literally brought me back to life.
It may have and probably did save my life…your leaning over my shoulder at the end of the reading and telling me that I “ought to be one of the poet laureates” really made me feel good — I mean better than I have felt for a long, long time. This morning I feel like myself for the first time in many years. ~Rad
Cont. in “Pt 38-A: Esther LeBaron & Floyd Spencer: Fights, Plights, and Physical Punishment”
*A fuller version of the above essay exists at:
Memoir: I won and I Lost … Or How More Is Less