A Ni¢kell’s Worth

February 20, 2013

Some musings from one who is now well into his fifth decade as a skeptic, humanist, and paranormal investigator:

• When I was a boy, I would visit my hometown’s five- and ten-cent store and ask for “a nickel’s worth” of my favorite candy, scooped from a big glass jar and weighed accordingly. Today, that little bag would cost much more, since a nickel is not worth what it used to be. Neither, I suppose, is this Nickell, for sometimes I can scarcely find, hardly recognize, that little boy.

• Growing up, I wanted to be many things—artist, museum curator, magician, detective—and I did grow up to become many of them, as well as many, many more. Thoreau said to “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams” and “live the life you’ve imagined.” I’ve explored—investigated—life this way, realizing that labels like poet and philosopher are just other names for investigator.

• I have learned that notoriety is like money: if you don’t have any, it’s hard to get some; if you have a lot, you can get much more; and if you have too much, watch that you don’t abuse the privilege.

• As to success, it is rather like a snowfall. A little can be attractive, but a very great amount, coming all at once, could be disastrous.

• I have never wanted anyone else’s success, only wanting that which I have earned. I began early to try to gain knowledge, skills, and experience and to parlay them into something more. Too many, I think, look for the easy route—eschewing a hard climb and grasping for coattails. Let me suggest to young persons: put effort into the work itself, not into cheap stunts to gain notoriety, and the quality of the work will more likely lead to success; any notoriety, for what it is worth, will take care of itself.