Song Guy … July 28, 2012

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I didn’t know what an ordination was. Probably worse is–I didn’t care. It’s just that this guy I knew was going to be ordained and he asked our fledgling group, Soul Purpose, to sing a tune at his ordination service.

He was probably only twenty-seven years old, but because I was only twenty, I thought he was ancient. (Twenty is that age when anyone nineteen or under is a punk and anyone over twenty-three is heading for social security.

I am sure when this guy asked me to have our group sing, he was thinking about something like Amazing Grace or How Great Thou Art. That was not the way I thought. Even though I was only twenty years old, I had already written two songs, recorded them, put them on a 45 RPM record and had begun to travel around to small coffeehouses and area churches in order to convince all those willing to listen that I was worth hearing. So the invitation to sing a tune at the ordination prompted me to write another song. Now, I lived in a small town, where song-writing was normally relegated to Francis Scott Key or George Gershwin. Young men from the community–especially those who had not gone to college–were not permitted to participate in such a flamboyant activity. So the mention of writing a song was usually greeted with a frown or a snicker. It just wasn’t done.

So when I announced to my friend that I was going to write a special song just for his ordination, he was rather nervous. Matter of fact, he discouraged me from doing so in the nicest way possible. I didn’t care. You see, I wanted to be a Song Guy. One of those people who writes “the songs the whole world sings” and “wants to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.”

So I sat down and wrote a song, fittingly entitled To Be Ordained, taught it to our group and performed it at the ordination, to surprised appreciation. I had now written three songs and was convinced that Bob Dylan was in danger.

Shortly after that I was inspired again and wrote a fourth song, called The Blood of the Son Makes Us One. About two or three months after writing that song, I attended a concert by a well-known gospel group called The Rambos, and through a series of near-mishaps and unbelievable events, got them to listen to my song. They ended up liking it. They signed it and decided to record it. I was amazed at how easy this was. I had only written four songs and I was already poised to become the next great Song Guy.

And then … I learned what I probably should have known (but of course, I wouldn’t have known it because there was no place for me to have learned it).

I arrived in Nashville to present my song in front of the music publishers, and they, being good business people, wanted to hear my “entire catalogue.” You may not know this, but those picky folks in Nashville don’t consider four songs to be a catalogue. I was in a room with a captive audience of very influential and prosperous men and women, who were anxious to hear the entire body of my work, and I didn’t even have a thumb.

It was embarrassing. It was debilitating. They wanted more … and I had nothing.

You see, I realized in that moment that I didn’t want to be a Song Guy. I wanted to be a guy who wrote A song that made lots of money and then everybody just kept giving him money because he wrote THAT song. I became aware that I had been trained to work on what I wanted to BE instead of actually practicing and performing what I could DO.

It is one of the flaws in the American dream. AFter all, the hypocrisy and presumption is in the title itself. It is a dream–a fantasy of where we want to end up, with no comprehension about what it takes to get there and even less passion for the actual labor itself.

I walked out of that office in Nashville that day resolute. I would never put myself in that position again. I realized that I DID want to be a Song Guy, but not because I wanted to be recorded, make a lot of money and be famous. It was because I really had something to say. And whether anyone ever heard it or not, it needed to escape my body–or it would possess my soul.

Within two years, I wrote an album’s worth of material, which ended up being recorded and played nationally. I then turned around and wrote a fifteen-song musical based on the Sermon on the Mount which toured across the country. When I got together with my family, I wrote at least three albums of songs, which we never actually recorded, and even today, I feel compelled to compose enough music for at least one album per year.

I actually have less attention to my work than I did when I had my four little songs at age twenty, but it doesn’t matter. I don’t write music, books or even this jonathots because I am secretly awaiting the arrival of fame and fortune. I write music because deep in my heart I want to be the Song Guy. I have to allow the music to escape.

The greatest lesson you can teach any young person (or even yourself if you missed it on the way to older) is: Don’t think about what you want to be. Just start working on what you can do. It may be the flaw in our higher educational system. We ask people what they want to be when they grow up instead of giving them a chance to do it and finding out if it wears well on their everyday bodies.

I am a Song Guy. I don’t worry about whether I’m great. I’m not concerned about sitting in rooms with the upper crust of the music industry, seeking their approval. I write songs because they’re in me, I have something to say … and God seems to enjoy listening to them.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

Chasing Hippos … February 21, 2012

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There are five things I just don’t like. (Actually, there are probably more, but it’s only Tuesday. No need to get over-eager.)
 
1. Honking horns. I don’t like it when I pull out into traffic, finally finding a slot that seems acceptable, only to be honked at by someone who apparently feels that under no circumstances whatsoever should I be in front of them.
2. Bratty attitudes. Here’s a clue–just because you spent twenty dollars at a restaurant does not mean you have purchased the waitress. He or she is a busy person doing a difficult job and could certainly use a bit of your patience and a lot of your appreciation. Honestly, if you were born a king or a queen, someone certainly would have let you know by now.
3. Suspicious minds. Sometimes I actually giggle when I see the facial expressions on people when they meet me for the first time. Maybe it’s because they’ve seen one too many shows with serial killers, watched too many programs about terrorism or they really have gas and it’s being released through their facial features. I’m not sure. But I will guarantee you this–no mugger or murderer is deterred by your sour expression.
4. Bible quoters. That would also go for people who choose to borrow the inspiration from Shakespeare, Bob Dylan or even recite to you their favorite Doonesbury cartoon. It’s just important to know that you don’t become smarter because you can quote smart people. You aren’t more clever because you know two or three sentences uttered by a clever individual. And you don’t gain depth of spirituality by memorizing Bible verses.
5. Cynics. You know why I don’t like cynics? It’s too easy. There’s nothing simpler in life than to be cynical about everything. After all, it takes a few minutes to start a fire but only a second to douse it. There are people who feel it is their mission to discourage any attempt at progress, happiness, intuition, gentleness or even success. They are cynics and they are not limited to those who are unbelievers. No–many who claim to have a devotion towards God are convinced that He must be on some sort of permanent vacation.
 
But as aggravating as these five things may be to my soul, there is one devilish doodler worse than all five put together: complaining. Specifically, ME complaining. I realize that there is nothing that is more of a sexual, psychological, emotional or spiritual turnoff than citing all of the things that I find unfavorable. So instead of becoming angry at those who honk, are bratty, suspicious, quoting quotables and cynical, I spend most of my time … chasing hippos.
 
Now, I spelled  the word h-i-p-p-o-s for ease of recognition, but actually it should be  h-y-p-o-s–because it is the abbreviation for hypocrisy.
 
Of all the creatures who walk the face of the earth, the hypocrite is ultimately the only one that is never allowed a moment’s peace. Those who know him or her are aware of the hypocrisy, and unfortunately, when he or she is left in their private moments, a guilty conscience allows no rest for the weary. Hypocrisy is what we do when what we really want to accomplish is complaining and we feel no energy towards self-inspection at all.
 
So BECAUSE I don’t like honking horns, I will often sit at a light behind a car driven by a daydreamer in front of me who fails to notice that we have arrived at “green.” Out of principle, I refuse to honk. (I really don’t need to worry about it, because there is always someone behind me that bypasses my discretion and lays on the horn. But I, myself, will not do it.) I honk my horn only to let people know I love Jesus if I happen to see that bumper sticker–“Honk if you love Jesus”–or if I think somebody has gone to sleep at the wheel and requires a quick awakening.
 
I also chase my hippos–or hypo–by refusing to be a brat. Even though I have reached a certain age that perhaps gives me a bit of clout, and have a background to reinforce it, I will not demand ANYTHING. If people do not want to provide me general hospitality, I will settle into the atmosphere and cuisine available and make it work. Am I resentful? No. Because inconvenience doesn’t last very long.  Sometimes it just seems longer because we fuss and fret about it. And for every person who is inconsiderate to me, there are ten who will step into the gap and replenish my experience.
 
I also will not be suspicious. Yes, I lead with a smile. Does it make people think that I am a pigeon, or a mark for their devious scheme? I think that’s foolish. I believe if folks are out to hurt me, they actually might be less likely to do it if they think I have an open heart than if I look like their frowning uncle who molested them.
 
I also don’t quote–especially the Bible. The Bible should be consumed, enjoyed and then regurgitated in your own words. You do not impress anyone by adding King James language to your thoughts. And it might be nice to give people your rendition of the truth–what the Bible refers to as a testimony. It is what has saved us and it is really what is of interest to others.
 
And finally, God forbid that I ever allow a cynical bone in my body. In many ways I view myself as a walking miracle, although occasionally at the end of a long day, it may look like a hobbling mishap. Either way, I am still going forward. I’m not so sure there are many of people my size who have journeyed as much as I have who are still kickin’ and living. So if you don’t mind, I am not going to be cynical even if part of me believes that the things being done might be a bit redundant, if not ridiculous.
 
There is nothing we can do about what other people do. Such a simple statement. But we forget. So then we turn around and perform a worse atrocity than what we’ve just seen by complaining about it.
 
I can recommend to you dear friends that ones great mission in life is chasing your hypos. Find what you don’t like, don’t complain, but instead, extract all versions of your aversions from your human practice. It’s fun. It keeps things interesting. And you don’t have to bend someone’s ear with your nastiness.
 
Chasing hippos (hypos)–finding little pieces in myself of the big problems that make life really stink.
   
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Sitting One

 I died today. 

I didn’t expect it to happen.  Then again, I did—well, not really.

No, I certainly didn’t expect it.

I’ve had moments of clarity in my life.  Amazingly enough, many of them were in the midst of a dream. For a brief second I would know the meaning of life or the missing treatment to cure cancer.  And then as quickly as it popped into my mind it was gone. I really don’t recollect dying.  Just this unbelievable sense of clear headedness—like walking into a room newly painted and knowing by the odor and brightness that the color on the wall is so splattering new that you should be careful not to touch it for fear of smearing the design. The greatest revelation of all? 

Twenty-five miles in the sky time ceases to exist.

The planet Pluto takes two hundred and forty-eight years to circle the sun. It doesn’t give a damn. 

The day of my death was the day I became free of the only burden I really ever had.  TIME.

Useless.

Time is fussy.  Time is worry. 

Time is fear.  Time is the culprit causing human-types to recoil from pending generosity. 

There just was never enough time. 

Time would not allow it.  Remember—“if time permits …”

Why if time permits?  Why not if I permit?  Why not if I dream?  Why not if I want?  Why does time get to dictate to me my passage? 

It was time that robbed me of my soulful nature.    It was time that convinced me that my selfishness was needed. 

I didn’t die. The clock in me died, leaving spirit to tick on.  

So why don’t we see the farce of time?  Why do we allow ourselves to fall under the power of the cruel despot?  Yes, time is a relentless master—very little wage for much demand.

I died today. 

Actually … a piece of time named after me was cast away.

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