The Roots & Trunk of The Odd Tree

Who and what comprises an autobiography? The Bible teaches in Proverbs, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” If character is the complete sum of thoughts, one should take great care to filter the data fueling the thoughts. Fortunately for me, providence has guided me to a greater treasure than even Coronado could imagine. He searched for the fabled wealth of the Seven Cities of Cibola, while I was divining their libraries. He sought after gold; I was digging for truth. He died in poverty; I will die a wealthy man.

There have been numerous influences in my life. I have stood on many great shoulders, to obtain the view of life I now possess. Most are voices from the past, others are family, and some were just brief encounters which left a profound effect. My youngest, and one of the most powerful, of the influences was my paternal grandfather. In my teens, my mother and father were the determining factors. After 1984, it was the Bible and my great cloud of heroes, mostly Christian leaders of strong faith: Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, Patrick Henry, Robert Lewis Dabney, George Patton, William Wallace, and Nathan Bedford Forrest. They taught me to grow balls. They taught me to fight. They taught me to win.

John Cripps draws inspiration from the roots and fatness of the ancient treeAs mentioned, the Bible was the guiding force from my late-20s onward. In fact, it has been the main influence in my life. All other influences pale in comparison. I do owe a large debt to men wiser than me who helped shape my weltanschauung, or worldview. Theologically, it was John Calvin and Robert Lewis Dabney. Politically, it was Patrick Henry and John C. Calhoun. On the subject of economics I favor the Austrian School of Thought, and its proponents Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard have instructed me much. On the matters of law, I am an advocate of Common Law as advanced by Magna Carta, codified by Sir William Blackstone, and brought back to the Bible by my late friend, Dr. Francis Nigel Lee.

When it comes to education, I favor the system known as Classical Education composed of Trivium, Quadrivium and Apprenticeship. In addition to this system of education, two men in particular have had an influence on my homeschool format: Noah Webster and Samuel Blumenfeld. Since I am a partisan of agrarianism over industrialism, I must acknowledge my debt to the group known as the “Twelve Southerners.” In particular, I favor the writings of Andrew Nelson Lytle, and to a lesser extent, Donald Davidson. On the theme of leadership and manhood, the absolute role model for me is the epitome of Christian gentlemen, Robert E. Lee. However, this is where my list begins to grow a bit. There are qualities in the lives of Thomas Jonathan Jackson, Nathan Bedford Forrest, George S. Patton, Theodore Roosevelt, et al, that have had a big impact on my thinking.

Lastly, honorable mention must go to two individuals: George Calhoun and Dr. Richard Furr. The late Mr. Calhoun was the man who introduced me to several of the old voices listed above. The consequence of this indirect influence cannot be overstated. The late Dr. Furr was a one of a kind doctor who saved my life during my late-30s. The presumably extinct uber-dedication to his job, and my well-being, left a lasting impression.

It should also be noted my wife, Jennifer, is my very best friend. As I write this, we have been together for less than four years. Yet, she has been a big influence on me, and will continue to be as additional chapters of my life unfold in the future. Shunning Alexander’s approach, she has helped immensely with the loosening of my Gordian Knot, or unraveling my complexities. Writing this memoir would be more difficult without her.

The Fruits of The Odd Tree

When does one write an autobiography? Thankfully, the hour of our death is hid from us, though it could come in handy for memoir planning. The truth is, some of us will live to a ripe old age, while others will die suddenly without notice. An increasing number will grow older with bodies more fit than their brains, as Alzheimer’s and Dementia becomes more and more pandemic. A couple of years back I was discussing, with MGCCC English Professor Marcus Weekly, my desire to one day write an autobiography. He replied with an energetic, “What are you waiting for…just do it!!!” While I appreciated the much needed prod, it wasn’t until recently that I received my true motivation.

Last month my daughter, Dixie, started junior college, and is living on campus. My son, Pätrick, left this past weekend for Marine Boot Camp. His older brother, Nathaniel, recently graduated with the first two degrees in his thermometer and, not having much success on the job front, has signed up for the Air Force. Out of my six children, only one remains at home as I write. Of course, I also have a step-daughter, Becca, who will be around for a while longer. This all happened in a relatively short period of time, and the realization hit home that my children are leaving home. I have not been without a child in the home since I was 16 years old. That’s 4x* out of of 5x* years! In a sense, my life has been dedicated to raising these children. I’ve always been there to nurture and teach them. Now I have to let them go and make their own way in the world. This realization was the goad I needed to begin writing again.

— YES THIS MEMOIR IS FOR MY CHILDREN —

All the Worlds A StageThe title, “The World is My Stage” is meant as a message to my children. I have learned much, and accomplished many things, by sheer perseverance. I have lived an adventurous life because I dared to act. No, I am not normal, nor do I expect my children to be. They have the added benefit of being raised with a didactic form of instruction, and a challenging nurture, I didn’t even receive as a youth. They have the tools to achieve greater things than me, if they set their mind to it. May the world be their stage as well. It is my hope they will rise high above the din, and I want them to know the world is wide open. All they have to do is step forward and embrace it. My exhortation to them is, “There it is, take it by the balls and make it yours.” And they know what I mean by this. Obviously, I ‘m not exhorting them to bulldoze over people, or achieve things by ill-gotten means. I taught them to set their sight on something special, and take that scary first step toward it. Then persevere against any and all odds, til the prize is in hand. If you fail along the way, pull up your bootstraps, and keep plowing forward. If a huge roadblock obstructs your path, climb over it, or blow it to hell with dynamite. Giving up and turning around is not the Cripps Way. Final defeat is not an option.

I have always taught my children that to accomplish much, you must attempt much. To be afraid, or over-cautious, is slavery. You will be doomed to a life of blah. The more you chase your dreams, the tougher you become, and your resolve strengthens accordingly. Remember, the trees growing on the mountaintops are much stronger than the trees growing in the valleys. The wood grain confirms the fact that winds and storms on the mountaintop produce a toughness the less protected valley trees will never know of. So, shun fear of the tempest, and always climb the heights. It begins with the first step. When you reach my age you, too, will have something to write about.

If you ever find difficulty along the way, always have faith. Matthew 19:26 reads, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” It is important to believe this….to really believe it. This is the reason I titled this preface: “Nothing is Impossible, only Mathematically Improbable.” My life story is full of mathematical improbabilities…and I’m good with that.

 

John Thomas Cripps
09.18.14
700th Anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn

* Note: All dates and places in this autobiography that can be used for identity theft have been blocked out.