Adolph’s… May 15, 2012


Doing a cursory piece of research right before I began writing this essay, I was somewhat surprised to discover that it was still in existence.

Adolph’s meat tenderizer.

When I was introduced to this product several decades ago, I was immediately amused at the name selection. I couldn’t decide if it was gutsy or absolutely foolish to call your product “Adolph’s,” using the first name of the world’s most infamous dictator. Wouldn’t you love to have been at that meeting? Certainly somebody must have raised the question: “Do you think that anyone will buy a meat tenderizer called Adolph’s?”

Even the fact that it’s a meat tenderizer has a bit of a macabre overtone, don’t you think? How did that ever get past a board meeting? And how did it ever survive the scrutiny of the advertising department? And how good would the product have to be for the public to request it from their local grocer? “Do you carry Adolph’s?”

Somewhere in the story, there is a gentleman named Adolph who decided that he was not going to allow Hitler to monopolize the name. He concluded that he had invented a great product and he wasn’t going to let it sit on the shelf without bearing the proud banner of his signature. He survived all the debate, conquered all the critics and ended up with a product called Adoph’s Meat Tenderizer, which still exists today—although you certainly do not hear it advertised over the airwaves of our overly sensitive marketplace.

Can you imagine—if such a notion was flung into the ring for consideration during our time? Every anti-defamation league and any group that wanted to make some publicity hay would be on television, objecting to the impropriety and bringing back memories of the holocaust.

But when you remove “gutsy” and “foolish” from life, all the geniuses are shipped away to concentration camps. That’s the danger. Everything that is a gift to humanity was once viewed as gutsy or foolish.

So I must warn you about the five questions that lead to nothing. They permeate our society. They have turned us into frightened little chicks, scurrying around the barnyard looking for a way to hide under our mama’s backside. If you’re ready, here they come:

1. “What about God?” We are the most non-religious society that discusses religion in the history of mankind. We don’t really have any desire to become more virtuous with our faith—just louder. The question “what about God?” is similar to you grabbing your ten favorite Bible verses and me grabbing my favorite ten, and heading out into the wilderness of oblivion, where we play futile games of spiritual tic-tac-toe until we’re ready to blow our brains out. I will tell you of a certainty, my friend, that often the pursuit of God is the leap into insanity.

So what should we do about God? Learn the two things He likes and know that when they exist, He is not far away. Yes—honor what He holds dear and He will always be near. And those two things are free will and mercy. If you grant your fellow-humans free will to make their own choices and extend mercy to those who require that gift in the moment of their need, God will always be standing behind you with His hand on your shoulder.

2. “What will people think?” Be careful there. We might have an oxymoron in “people think.” Are you sure? Or do people just react? I am convinced that people flit their eyes about the room, looking for the opinions of others and then suddenly adopt them as their own. If you’re going to judge your efforts on what people think, you will not only fail to accomplish anything, you will be kicking yourself in the butt because someone else will ignore the masses and beat you to the punch. If I considered what people think in what I share, I would spend most of my time editing instead of writing. They are not the same, you know.

3. “What if I’m wrong?” Count on it. There is no such thing as a pure idea—only a pure motive. It takes us too long to get our motivations pure to ever expect us to come up with a revelation that is pure within itself. The three stages of success are: (a) suggestion, (b) idea, and (c) evolution. A suggestion is when we begin to wonder whether something could be better. An idea is the means by which we decide to make it better. And an evolution is what is left after life has shown us some of the stupidity of our idea.

4. “Is there a way to escape making a decision?” Yes. It’s called politics. But keep in mind that politicians may be the only group of people that the masses hate more than lawyers. And if you happen to be a politician who’s also a lawyer, God help you. What is necessary in the process of making a decision is a good old-fashioned dose of humility. Humility is not walking around prepared to be a failure. Humility is knowing that you’ve been successful in the past, but failure is always an option. So you keep in mind that there may be a need for adaptation.

The problem with the political system in this country is that we don’t have enough parties. Since we only have two, it means that we can have a fifty-fifty split in our Congress, which creates gridlock. If we were a country that had eight parties with eight different platforms, well-defined for public purview, then no particular party could gain the ability to completely block progress. It’s a simple principle and we are a big enough country that we should have more choices instead of limited possibilities.

5. And finally, “Can I please everyone?” After traveling for nearly forty years, I can tell you for sure that there is a certain portion of the population that takes pride in the fact that they refuse to be pleased. It is their badge of honor. You can bring the most delicious meal, offer the greatest prize and perform the most beautiful oratorio and they will tell you it is tasteless, not enough or too loud, respectively. You need another measuring stick for your accomplishments other than the applause of the masses. Jesus referred to it as “the second mile.” Once you discover the level of acceptability in your particular adventure, then set your own standard a little bit higher than that, and continue to pursue your own concept of excellence. If you are rejected at that point, it’s out of stubbornness, and not because of your lack of quality.

So those are the five questions that lead to nothing, which seem to be dictating the agenda of our present social calendar. I think we need more “Adolphs” in the world, who rather than lamenting their parents naming them so poorly, decide to change the historical meaning of the word to, in this case, referring to really, really tender steaks.

Thank you, Adolph. I never thought I would write those words, but you see, I never thought I would run across someone who was brave enough to stand up for himself in a world filled with critics.


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