Searching for Answers: A Journey to the Center of the Mind

 May 9, 2019

One of the best job description duties of a Professional Life and Career Coach is not having all the answers.  That may seem an odd foundation for an occupation, however, for my clients it is a critical component for owning the development of their own goals and responses to challenges. 


The search for answers spurs inquisitiveness for me at least, fostering an intrigue in why things are the way they are and how they came to be that way.  Years ago The Amboy Dukes sang about a “Journey to the Center of the Mind.”  Today we call that mindfulness or being in the present.  Where’s the center of your mind.  For me it often starts with a gentle prompt…such as when someone steps in front of you and excuses himself how and why you often respond with, “that’s ok.”


A friend asked me about “OK” the other day.  How did the expression enter our lexicon?  The bait was too intriguing not to bite.


The 1840 Presidential campaign pitted our incumbent 8th President, Martin Van Buren, Democrat, vs. Whig, William Henry Harrison.  In those days, nearly 180 years ago, campaigning was primitive compared to current tactics.  Pamphlets, brochures, and newspaper advertising were the norm, occasionally there was a “rally.”  At one such gathering Van Buren gave a stump speech.  Born in Kinderhook, NY, Van Buren carried the nickname, “Old Kinderhook.”  Even then the masses sought efficiency of word.  The cheering partisan crowd abbreviated Van Buren’s birthplace to “OK,” thus launching a colloquialism.  What other American city of less than 10,000 residents is muttered and referred to daily by millions?


Other English speaking regions of the world have established their own expressions that have since been adopted.  In earlier times a declaration of morbidity was made with less certainty than today.  The story goes that at burial a lain body was placed in a coffin with bell attached, such that if by some chance there was arousal, they might ring it and hence be “saved by the bell.”  Those who remained unresponsive were “dead ringers.”


In actuality a more accurate account dates back to the late 19th century emanating from the sport of boxing.  A Massachusetts newspaper account of a fight in 1893 shared,


“Martin Flaherty defeated Bobby Burns in 32 rounds by a complete

knockout.  Half a dozen times Flaherty was saved by the bell in the earlier rounds.” 


Dead ringer also had a genesis in the late 1800’s in sports as well.  In horse racing at that time it was not uncommon for substitute horses to participate in events in an effort to defraud bookies.  Therefore a horse that was taken through the country and trotted under a false name and pedigree is called a ‘ringer.’”  Ringer was a word meant to denote substitute or usually illegal replacement.   Dead came to mean “exact” or “precise” as in “dead center” or “dead heat.” 


Down pours of precipitation where an inch or more of rain occurs often causes flooding.  It is not uncommon to opine it’s “raining cats and dogs.” 


In medieval Europe, commoners dwelled in spartan accommodations, fortunate to have a roof overhead protected from intruders and wild animals.  In a chilly climate domestic creatures and their owners sought relief in the upper berths of their habitats, knowing that the warmest air rose.  Legend thus has it that when torrential storms occurred, water would seep through the porous thatched rafters and people, along with their “cats and dogs” would descend to lower levels thus “raining cats and dogs.”


The truth is, no one is quite sure of the feline/canine phrase’s origin.  In 1653 Richard Brome’s comedy “The City Wit,” referred to stormy weather with the line, “It shall raine…Dogs and Polecats.”  Eighty five years later Jonathan Swift presents a more modernized version in “A Complete Collection of Polite and Ingenious Conversation:”  “I know Sir John will go, though he was sure it would rain cats and dogs.”   


There’s your momentary glimpse into my mind.  Random thoughts for sure, yet perhaps serving as a base for something more significant.  At worst a response to a friend’s question.  OK?


In coaching its a privilege to listen to others.  Hearing their thoughts.  Their dreams and visions.  Ideas and goals.  And deep within the recesses of their thoughts and Spiritual prompts they really do find answers.  For them and for me those are breakthrough moments.  The bonus is that along the way I learn some things too. 


The more I think about it Yogi Berra really was right.  “You can observe a lot by just watching.”


The Seed Sower