Thomas Wictor

Use your gift, or it will be taken away from you

Use your gift, or it will be taken away from you

Why do some stories get to us in ways that others don’t? I shouldn’t be as upset as I am about the death of Cody Bolesta. Maybe it’s because I hit rock bottom two days ago and began making the necessary changes. I know I’ll be all right now, while Cody Bolesta is as dead as Osama bin Laden. Bolesta reminds me of what Reverend Elton Pointer told his daughters June, Bonnie, and Anita: “Use your gift, or it will be taken away from you.”

The Pointer Sisters used their gift.

I’m not religious; I don’t believe that anything is taken from us as punishment. Instead, we make decisions that result in us squandering our gifts. Free will is paramount, so we’re allowed to make very bad choices.

Life is a gift. Cody Bolesta decided to not use his gift. As Reverend Pointer warned would happen, it was therefore taken away.

One of two men attempting to rob a Tampa liquor store was shot to death in an exchange of gunfire with the clerk late Sunday, police said. Cody Bolesta, 20, was found fatally shot on the sidewalk near Cut Rate Liquors, at 3312 N. 15th St., in the V.M. Ybor neighborhood, police said.

Detectives are working to track down the other suspect, who fled the scene. The store employee, 57-year-old Willie Morris, was not injured.

Bolesta and the other intruder entered the store at 10:49 p.m. wearing ski masks and hoodies, and they pointed guns at the clerk while demanding money, police said. Morris pulled out a gun, and at least one of the intruders fired at him, police said. Morris also fired, striking Bolesta.

Eerily, Bolesta’s Facebook page is still up.

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He was a gangsta with a long arrest record.

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Both sides of my family have multiple career criminals. These people can’t be helped. Or rather, they refuse to be helped. They could change, if they wanted to. But they don’t. I guess that’s why Cody Bolesta’s death bothers me so much. I’m surrounded by people skidding downhill, and even though they’re miserable about it, they won’t change.

Three years after my parents’ terrible deaths, we’re really no closer to taking care of the giant messes they left behind. Cody Bolesta’s Facebook page is like my parents’ possessions. You look at these remnants and find it impossible to believe that a person was once there.

I use it, so I won’t lose it

As I said before, I hit rock bottom two days ago. Sitting here at my desk, I looked around my house and decided that I’d let things go long enough. So I cleaned for two days. Then I got back on my Meniere’s disease diet. Finally, I resumed working on the military book I’d begun in 2012. It’s actually going to be twenty-four books: one for each combatant and neutral nation of World War I. The books will cover only specialized assault units: shock, flame, and gas troops.

At fifty-three, with Meniere’s disease, PTSD, arthritis, depression, and chronic nightmares, I’m willing to use my gift. It revolts me to see wastage like this.

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“Thug life.” No, thug death. Shot like a rabid dog. This celebration of ugliness, failure, and destruction is poisoning our culture. For over twenty years, the violent-crime rate in the US declined dramatically. Now it’s going up again. This is because we’ve decided that it’s wrong to punish criminals. In Los Angeles, violent crime went up 21 percent in 2015, while property crimes went up 11 percent.

That tells you that they’re letting out more violent than nonviolent offenders. We love the “thug life.”

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It’s not a life. The entities in the photo above aren’t alive. They’re collections of mannerisms. The problem is that they do incredible damage, and they always breed. Always. In my neighborhood, men older than me get into fights, hold up liquor stores, and go to jail. They’re hopeless because they choose to be.

Use the old excuse

This song is thirty-six years old.

Even though I hate criminals, I still feel sick that Cody Bolesta forced someone to kill him. Those of you who read my blog may be surprised to learn that I feel sick over the fact that thousands of terrorists have to be killed. But they give us no choice. They’re better off dead, and the world is a better place without them in it.

I always find myself thinking of what might’ve been. What if people refrained, the way I do? I’m armed. My neighbors are belligerent tubs of lard who fire off skyrockets and let their dogs bark eternally. My life has been an unbroken series of traumas that left me with a hair-trigger temper.

So why do I choose to not be destructive?

I don’t know. My brother Tim and I marvel that we’re still alive, we never went to jail, and we kicked the booze and drugs. And even though I’m almost totally isolated from the world, I enjoy watching things get better. I’m very excited about the changes sweeping the Middle East.

What use is it?

Life, I mean. Well, I think the point is to improve. Too many of us are thanatoid. In our denial of death, we embrace it. Yesterday I rediscovered the song “And You and I” by the progressive-rock band Yes. Prog isn’t for everyone. I wasn’t much of a Yes fan in my youth, but now I can appreciate it. This is my favorite part of “And You and I,” in the section called “The Cord of Life.”

They did something really weird and clever: They sang two sets of lyrics simultaneously. You wouldn’t know it unless you read the album liner notes. Here’s Jon Anderson’s lead vocals.

Coins and crosses never
Know their fruitless worth
Cords are broken
Locked inside the mother earth
They won’t hide, hold
They won’t tell you
Watching the world
Watching all of the world
Watching us go by

Anderson is saying that people don’t perceive genuine value. We reduce everything to symbols—money, religion—that don’t help us. Our connection to the here is tenuous but real; we have to face our circumstances and find out for ourselves what life means. We’re all in this together, sharing this ephemeral existence, and yet we separate ourselves from each other.

As Anderson sings, guitarist Steve Howe and bassist Chris Squire have a different set of lyrics.

Turn round tailor, assaulting
All t
he mornings of the interest shown
Presenting one another to the cord
A
ll left dying, rediscovered
Of the door that turned around
To close t
he cover, all the interest shown
To t
urn to one another
To the sign a
t the time
Float your climb

With our selfish demands, we destroy real connection to each other. What we think is the answer is actually a barrier, keeping us out and locking others in. To perceive truth, we have to slow down and be quietly receptive. The answer will come.

I’m sad for Cody Bolesta, even though he was a shallow, nihilistic thug with no imagination.

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The world is about to become exponentially better. I’m going to be here as long as I can, to witness as much of it as I can.

I’m sorry, Cody. You blew it.


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