Ninety-nine point forty-four percent pure

I learned the truly “pure of heart” are rare birds. I’m not one of them but I know one when I see one. If one should happen to meet a person pure of heart…one should keep that person. No matter how much they may try to do otherwise, the pure of heart can only speak and act on what they truly believe. They don’t know how to dance around the truth, pull punches or hem and haw … let alone lie. They make great councilors and lousy diplomats.

Now, there is a vast difference between one who is pure of heart and one who just speaks his mind. Saying, “I’m just a person who speaks my mind.” is just another way of saying “I know no restraint. I’m just thoughtless, offensive, crude and crass.” The pure of heart, if what they believe will hurt, avoids saying anything at all.

I married the pure of heart and I have learned when one is married to the pure of heart one should never fish for compliments! Ever!

This is how it works out. So I say to my wife, “Sweetheart, didn’t you marry the most handsome man in the history of the earth? You lucky girl.”

She stares at me …. I wait … she stares some more … I ask again, “Don’t you think you married the most handsome man in the history of the world?”

She sighs, “Habebe …” which is translated ‘one I love’ ” … please don’t ask me this.”

Even though I know better, I press on. “Sweetheart, who is more handsome than your husband?” Wrong question.

It pains her but she answers. “Haaaa beeeebeeee! My father was the most handsome man I have ever known.”

OK! Can’t compete with that. “Then I am the second most handsome man you have ever known…right?” because I’m a glutton for punishment.

Long, frustrated pause, “Oh Haaabeebe! My younger brothers are very handsome men.”

So I ask, “What’s for dinner?” because I know there are also two older brothers, about three dozen cousins, umpteen uncles and second cousins, just about every male on the sub-continent, every Bollywood star, most every Hollywood star, and about half the men in the United States she would need to go through before she finally said…“You are this handsome.” and my self-esteem simply would not survive such a wound…because she is pure of heart and does not have the skills to expeditiously or conveniently dance around the truth.

I, on the other hand, am a different sort of animal. I can tell whoppers. Don’t judge me too harshly. Most of us can. What man among us has not at one time or another been faced with the notorious question, “Honey! Do these pants make my butt look big?” or “Sir, do you know how fast you were going? or “Did you enjoy that fruitcake I sent you?” Sometimes lies just seem such civil things.

The pure of heart are very rare as Dan Ariely, a researcher at Duke University proved. He set up a vending machine with two signs. One said, “All candy .75 cents.” The other said that if this machine is broken to please call such and such a number…the researcher’s number. The machine was set up to drop 5 bags of candy and spit back out all the money deposited into the coin return. Almost universally, people retrieved their money and took several bags of candy. No one called the number. In post experiment interviews, the lying thieves justified their actions by attributing them to the concept of vending machine karma … I took the extra bags of candy and my money to even up the score with all the other vending machines in the world that have ripped me off. Also noted was that hardly anyone took all five bags of candy. Most took only four…because taking all five would be stealing.

Ariely ran another experiment. He gave over 40,000 test subjects a sheet of paper with 10 simple math problems and said he would pay $1 for every problem solved within an allotted time … which was about half as much time required to complete all the problems. At the end of the allotted time the test subjects were told to put down their pencils and feed their test into a shredder then write on a separate sheet of paper how many they completed. The thing is, the shredder was rigged to look and sound like it was shredding but it wasn’t. Out of 40,000 people … 70 percent cheated. On average, people solved four problems but reported solving six. Pretty sad. But on a more positive note only 20 out of 40,000 claimed to have solved all the problems. We are only … so … dishonest.

Had my wife been an unwitting participant in the candy machine experiment, she would likely still be standing there waiting for the vending machine repairperson so she could return the extra four bags of candy. She is pure of heart. On the second floor of this newspaper, there is a vending machine. Last week I stuck a dollar in that machine and not one but two bags of Peanut M&Ms dropped. There is also on that machine a label with a number to call in the event of a malfunction. I gloated over my boon and did not even think about calling that number, mostly because of the vending machine karma thingy. But also because the business of pure of heartness … it’s not for everybody. This is all I have learned today.

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James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at whatjimhaslearnedtoday@yahoo.com