The World Is My Stage

Autobiography of John Thomas Cripps

Preface: Nothing is Impossible, Only Mathematically Improbable

Why does one write an autobiography? If I were a king, a prime minister, or a president it would make sense. It would be expected, whether or not I ever did anything noteworthy. If I were an important military leader, I could delineate strategies and clarify tactics. If I were a highly-successful corporate CEO, I could impart wisdom on how to climb to the top. Or, if I were a serial killer, I could rip the veil off my evil and shoot for the New York Times Best Seller list. Alas, John Thomas Cripps is nary of these, and I’m good with that.

The Odd Tree

My life has been eventful to say the least. In hindsight, I find very little that can be described as normal. For most of my life, I have been referred to as extraordinary. I think a better word would be restless. I acknowledge my disparate makeup from the average American male. I sometimes feel like a Kal-El sent away from another planet to be raised here on Earth. At the very least, I am cut from a different stock. In a forest of tall pine trees, I am the lone oak in the midst. Pines like to grow tall and gather close together. They all look alike. The oak enjoys solitude and reaching out, craving elbow room to flex his arms. Each one looks uniquely different.

John Cripps is a Gordian KnotOh, but even my indifference is different, a Gordian Knot as it were. I cannot easily be pigeon-holed, or placed in a box, like the other anti-pines of the world. If you look up the definition of enigma in the dictionary, it is quite possible to find my name there. For example, I am one who greatly feels born out of time. I prefer ye olde ways. I love the grit, chivalry, and ethics of days long gone. I relish the simple, old-fashioned, non-materialistic, agrarian worldview. Why is it then I have worked nearly all my adult life in cutting-edge technology? Paradoxical?

My quest for knowledge and truth has led to owning a very large library, 90% of which was written prior to the 20th Century. On one side of the library sits my workstation, very likely the most advanced computer setup in my entire county. On the other side of my library is a stage containing electric guitars, amplifiers, PA systems and cutting-edge electronics. Incongruous?

As an ordained minister I pastored a church for 18 years, yet I’ve been known to cuss and listen only to rock and roll music. I find no contradiction there, but many people do. I hate politics, but ran for governor. Go figure! My paying gig has almost always been white collar, yet I am skilled at, and greatly enjoy, blue collar work. Two years after quitting my job as a corporate executive in Houston, I worked as cook in a fine seafood restaurant. Why? I wanted to learn from a master chef how to best cook fish and shrimp! Conundrum?

You see, I am somewhat a rebel at core. A favorite citation is from the epigraph of Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, “If they give you ruled paper, write the other way.” The only problem is I am not a cognizant rebel. I don’t rebel for rebellion sake. It could be a proclivity for being different. Take clothing for instance. I dress quite different than other men, particularly those my age. I loathe the whole idea of “what’s in fashion this year.” I believe it is utter nonsense to wear something just because it is popular. I once bought a pair of jeans which were very comfortable. When someone pointed out how surprised they were to see me in “designer jeans,” I cut the label off the waist. It seemed people were more interested in buying labels than jeans and I didn’t want to be a member of that club. Divergent?

In short, my internal metronome somehow restrains me from marching to the prescribed meter of society’s drummer. Enigmatic?

The Branches of The Odd Tree

How does one write an autobiography? In my opinion, a successful memoir is not a mere chronological telling of events, but rather the discovery of a person. Over the course of writing about one’s experiences, the true person should emerge. Through the when, you should discover the who, the what and the why. Since I am cut from a different cloth and march to the beat of a different drummer, folks have always been inquisitive as to what makes me tick. There is no short answer. In fact, I’m not sure there’s a long one. Through my lens I see myself as a simple man, yet I’ve always been told I’m a very complex man.

As I’m writing this, much of who I am is a product of God’s grace and Biblical wisdom. I have a strong faith in historical Christianity. I’m not perfect, and I take full responsibility for my shortcomings…but I give God all credit for the many gifts I’ve been blessed with. While divine influence has made me a much better person, it did not alter the aforementioned proclivity for my disparate, and sometimes discordant, character. One might suggest it is genetic, or perhaps a product of upbringing. An honest review of both, leaves the question tabled. However, it is possible, over the course of writing this memoir, some clues will emerge.

John Cripps Autobiography - World TravelerI have traveled a lot, and lived in numerous places around the country…and the world. Growing up, our family lived in Michigan, Alabama, California, Illinois and all over the state of Mississippi. As a teenager I worked in Iran and Indonesia. Later I worked in California, Colorado, Texas and Florida, before returning home to Mississippi. I always loved geography as a child, and I eventually got to see most of this country and a good bit of the world. From living on a cruising sailboat with my oldest son, to camel riding in Iran…from hiking in Alaska and Colorado, to motorcycling the mountains of Indonesia…from scuba diving in the Bahamas to exploring Mayan temples with my wife at Dzibilchaltun…I’m drawn to adventure. Though I will always remain a dyed-in-the-wool Southerner, I believe some branches of my being were influenced by my travels.

Brain research in the last century by Nobel Prize winner, Dr.  Roger Sperry, led to the theory of brain dominance. Ned Herrmann postulated the idea that everybody has a dominant brain side. Even though modern cranial research appears to render it a myth, I still believe there is value to be found in the terminology. This mind dichotomy is supposed to make you logical, analytical, and objective or intuitive, creative and subjective. Personally, I favor the ancient Greek theory of quadchotomy temperament, but I did take a 28 question test. The results were supposed to indicate my dominant brain side. My results were 14 left-brain and 14 right-brain. Hmmm, typically a person can be either a writer (left-brain) or an artist (right-brain). Obviously, I am both. You are not supposed to be a man of math and science, and a man of the arts. Yet here I am, both an accountant and a graphic designer. I not only work technically on computers, but I am also a musician and songwriter. Maybe I have a brain defect, but not tending to one laterality over the other may have had some effect on why my trunk has so many branches.

While most people are right-handed, leaving southpaws a minority, I am very ambidextrous. From writing left and right-handed to batting left and right-handed, I show a preference for the right but am comfortable with both. A lot of things a typical right-handed person would do, I tend to the left-hand…from holding a coffee cup to operating a calculator. What this has to do with the price of tea in China, I haven’t a clue. Nonetheless, it further showcases my departure from societal norms.

Continuing to avoid the Big Tent placement, I also show a dissonant makeup in how I learn. There are supposedly three learning styles: audio learner, visual learner, and kinesthetic. Since the kinesthetics comprise only 5% of the population, you can quickly guess which group I fall under. Audio learners take in information by hearing, they don’t even have to be looking at the teacher. Visual learners, on the other hand, have to observe to comprehend. Kinesthetic learners are tactile, they are hands-on. They learn by sight, sound and touch. They don’t want an instruction manual, they want to tear things apart and see how they tick. I believe this to be an important part of my complexities, perhaps moreso than some of the other points.

In 2003, while running for Governor, I discovered something else peculiar about me. My campaign manager, Vince Thornton, and I were sitting at a cafe in Hattiesburg, Mississippi discussing strategy. He made the off-comment that I was an Alpha Male. I had never heard of humans being labeled as such, and believed it applied to gorillas in Africa with lots of gray hair on their back. I didn’t think anything of it until 2011 when I was sent an anonymous email with this link. The message simply said, “You are an Alpha Male.” My wife, Jennifer and I, read it together and got a big laugh. However, over the last three years she has spoken much about the Alpha Male characteristics, and how they are rapidly disappearing. A current internet study of the subject comes off as a joke. Since they are in short supply, and since women prefer Alpha Males, there are courses on how to become one. Good luck with that…

A few years back when I was writing regularly for my old blog, I received a nice letter which referred to me as a true warrior poet. I remembered hearing the phrase at the close of the Braveheart movie, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant. I liked the sound of it and thought it somehow defined Christian manhood. It sounded like a warrior with a heart, a fighter with a pen, a tough exterior with a soft interior…well, you get the picture. To hear my wife attempt to make sense of my complexities, this may be the closest definition of them all.

Before moving on, I reluctantly address my physiological anomalies. I don’t want to come across bragadocious, so remember where the credit lies for my gifts. To quote once more from the movie Braveheart, Wallace states, “God makes men what they are.” With that in mind, I am truly blessed with great health and a quick mind. As addressed in my recent article, The Secret Fountain of Youth I am often asked to prove my age by pulling out my drivers license. Almost everyone puts my age at 12-16 years younger than what is recorded on my birth certificate. Even my doctor has made numerous comments. My lab results come back textbook perfect, doc’s word, not mine. As for mental acuity and intelligence quotient, I will just note that I passed the Mensa test, but I chose not to join the society. I see no benefit in paying annual dues to be in an organization made up of the upper 2% IQ of the population. Finally, even my blood type is the most uncommon. Type “O” is 48%, Type “A” is 31%, Type “B” is 16%, and Type “AB” is 4%. Yep, you guessed it, I’m an AB. I am fortunate to be a universal blood recipient, but I am also a  universal plasma donor.

These are a few more of the differences that bring uniqueness to John Cripps. I believe they have contributed to the number of branches this tree bears.

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