What if the hokey pokey IS what it's all about

by Lorin Michel Friday, September 23, 2011 10:48 PM

Every once in awhile, I start to feel philosophical. I don’t know what causes it but I generally welcome it because of its ability to make me think. My friends are very philosophical as well and we’ve had many a philosophical conversation while sitting around the table after a good meal and too many glasses of wine. If you’re going to get existential, that’s often the best time.

Philosophy is the study of both general and fundamental problems, especially as connected to existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind and language. It’s very rational, which I like; it’s systematic, and I’m a big fan of systems. It’s probably the control freak part of me. In fact, the word philosophy is taken from the Greek philosophia, meaning love of wisdom. I’m a big fan of wisdom probably because I have a near pathological need to know what’s going on. Some people, like my husband, think I may have control issues. Secretly I may think they’re right, but philosophically speaking, is it controlling to simply want to know?

Philosophically I’ve always wondered about true and lasting happiness. Bobbi and I have had this conversation many times and it’s one I never get tired of because it’s a subject that is everlasting. I like being happy; I think I like being content more. I like enjoying my life best of all. Most days that has nothing to do with work (though I enjoy having a good, productive day) or how much money I have (though it makes it much easier to enjoy my life when I don’t have to worry about money). It has to do with the hokey pokey.

This odd song is credited to Al Tabor, a British bandleader in the 1920s. He wrote what he considered a party song, inspired by an ice cream vendor he had heard as a boy. The vendor used to call: “Hokey pokey penny a lump. Have a lick make you jump.” It has also been attributed to two Canterbury sisters who visited Bridgewater, New Hampshire in 1857. In 1949, Roland LaPrise, Charles Macak and Tafit Baker of the musical group the Ram Trio recorded the song and created a novelty dance to entertain the ski crowd in Sun Valley, Idaho. It’s been making funny history ever since. I remember it as a kid.

Today, as I think of it, I’m wondering where it is that I’m putting my right foot in and where I’m pulling it out? And why right first and then left? And why feet first and hands next? And what in dog’s name is all that shaking and turning all about?

Here’s my today philosophy: I think the hokey pokey is a metaphor for life. It’s about reaching a hand out to those we love, on all sides, right and left. I think when you put your feet into something, you’re all in. You’re beginning a journey, placing one foot in front of the other and where it takes you is entirely up to you. When you turn yourself around you see everything there is to see and when you shake it all about… well, I’m not sure what that means exactly but maybe it has to do with relaxing, not taking everything so seriously, having fun and letting loose. Maybe it’s about taking risks and embracing what happens; letting it all hang out.

Philosophy dictates that to truly understand the wisdom of the hokey pokey, we must ask ourselves the fundamental question: what is hokey pokey? Italian ice cream vendors were once known as hokey-pokey men. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a similar phrase, hokey cokey, as coming from hocus pocus. Magic. There’s no definitive explanation and for that reason alone, it answers its own question. It isn’t anything so therefore it can be everything and anything.

I’ve never liked the hokey pokey as a song or a dance but I think I might be warming up to it as a way to live life. I like its magic. Of course, if I have to actually listen to the song again, all bets are off.


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live out loud

The keys to

by Lorin Michel Tuesday, July 26, 2011 8:24 PM

I find keys fascinating. They have such incredible shapes, mostly round and inviting at the top and then jagged and craggy toward the ends. They’re sort of like people that way. We all start out as rolly babies, squirming and soft, full of rounded angles and curves, and then we become adults. Our heads stay round but everything else becomes sharp edges, especially our personalities. I blame curiosity. If we weren’t hopelessly curious about everything from why the sky is blue to how come Brussel sprouts make your mouth squinch up to if there’s a heaven, we wouldn’t find things out and we could stay hopelessly naïve and round. In other words, not keyed in.

In so many ways, the key to how we live can be found in the keys we carry. Kevin and I have a key rack in the shape of a motorcycle mounted just outside the garage door.  It has five hooks on it, all holding single keys on appropriate key chains. There is one for the car, one for the truck, one for the motorcycle; one with the house key and one with the key to Kevin’s studio. We don’t have a lot of locked up ideals in our lives.

Single keys work to lock something up or to unlock something else. But they are really the keys to release. Keys to the city give the recipient special access to something entirely nebulous but it sure sounds important. The keys to success seemingly provide a solution to what had otherwise seemed unattainable. I think I’ve had my hands on those keys a time or two. Sometimes they’ve fit into the keyhole; sometimes not.

The keys to my heart were first given away a long time ago, when I was in high school. I was a junior and his name was Jeff Peterson. He played football; I don’t remember what position. He had been dating a friend of mine but they broke up right around the time I broke up with my boyfriend. We commiserated, spending countless afternoons after school, hanging around the lockers. Before I knew it we were dating, and I was hopelessly in love. I don’t remember when but somehow I got the keys back and locked up my heart again until Tim, my first husband. I picked him up hitchhiking, and fell stupidly in love, but I was 18. What did I know about love? By the time I took those keys back, I was in my early 30s, though if I’m being honest, I took them back much earlier than that.

Then came my favorite husband, my beloved Kevin. I gave him the keys and I don’t want them back.

Keys, like just about everything else in history, probably originated in Egypt. Clay tablets from ancient Babylonia, some 4000 years ago, depict key-like structures, probably made of wood or stone. Then the Greeks stepped in and began using keys to lock and unlock temples, with women usually carrying large, angular bronze keys on one shoulder. Homer even speaks of the key to Odysseus’s storeroom in his literary masterpiece The Odyssey. Roman keys were technically more proficient, with finesse and elegance, becoming status symbols for those who had something to protect. They also invented the finger key, worn and used by women to lock and unlock jewelry boxes. During the 6th thru 9th centuries, Merovingian keys and Carolingian keys, shaped like religious symbols were in vogue. Keys have been a symbol of power in the United States since William Penn, the English real estate entrepreneur and eventual founder of Pennsylvania, arrived in Delaware in 1682. By this time and to this day, keys were made of various forms of metal.

There are master keys, control keys, transponder keys, double-sided and four-sided keys, paracentric keys, internal cut, Abloy, Dimple, Skeleton, Tubular and Zeiss keys, DO NOT DUPLICATE keys, restricted keys, magnetic keys and Alicia Keys. There’s also the very popular keycard, the keyboard, and the Francis Scott Key key used in a West Wing episode.


Here’s the thing about keys, they can often be used to keep people out and lock things up. But I like to think they also open doors and unlock new possibilities. Step inside and find what you may. Perhaps a treasure, perhaps just another door, and always a way forward. That’s the key to my future. What’s the key to yours?

In which I write about nothing at all

by Lorin Michel Thursday, March 3, 2011 10:49 PM

I'm a big fan of Winnie the Pooh. I freely admit it. In fact, I'm proud of it. The genius of A.A. Milne was that he could take the simplest philosophy, the simplest ideal of life and make it profound.

"Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them."

"If the person you are talking to doesn't appear to be listening, be patient. It may simply be that he has a small piece of fluff in his ear."

"The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking."

"When you wake up in the morning, Pooh," said Piglet at last, "what's the first thing you say to yourself?"

"What's for breakfast?" said Pooh. "What do you say, Piglet?"

"I say, I wonder what's going to happen exciting today?" said Piglet.

Pooh nodded thoughtfully. "It's the same thing," he said.


"Think it over, think it under."

Oh, and "Bother."

Bother to celebrate Pooh and Piglet and something today.

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live out loud

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