Terkel… February 23, 2013

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On the third day I decided to stop.

Sprawled on the gravel near the dumpster behind the convenience store, sitting out in front of my motel, was a man who certainly conveyed that he had lots of time on his hands and not too many places to go. I guess that’s a quaint way of saying–homeless.

I passed by him in my van the first two days, waving and smiling. On my first passage, he seemed a bit bewildered by my friendliness but on the second day he returned my greeting with the vigor of a long-lost friend watching his confidante fly off to Siberia on a secret mission.

But on the third day I decided to stop. I rolled up, eased my window down and said, “How ya’ doin’?”

Stumbling to his feet, staring into the distance and refusing eye contact, he replied, “Zeus has given me the light.”

I paused, recollecting my Greek mythology. Zeus was the top-dog god on Mount Olympus. I continued. “Zeus, huh? How’d you get an appointment with him?”

The question obviously baffled him so he continued his runaway train of thought. “Mercury gave me wings,” he proclaimed, still staring off into the distance.

It seemed we were going to run the entire roster of Hellenistic deities.

“What’s your name?” I asked.

There was a long pause. I decided not to repeat my question. I felt it would seem as if I were insensitive or impertinent. I just waited. At length, he responded.

“Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” Each letter grew in pitch of volume and intensity.

“I would have guessed Brian or Kenneth based on your age,” I replied.

For the first time the trance was broken and he glanced at me with a crinkled brow. Noting his coherency, I asked, “So what are you doing out here behind the convenience store?”

He yelled, ‘The policeman said I could be here as long as I didn’t lean against the building and sat on the gravel. It’s public property.”

I obviously had struck a nerve.

“You misunderstood my question,” I explained. “What I’m asking you is, what’s your story?”

“Zeus gave me…” he began.

I interrupted. “Listen, Terkel. I don’t know whether you believe in Zeus or not, but let’s just pretend for a second that you don’t. If you’d like me to stop bothering you, I get it. But really, it’s quite simple. I have passed by you for two days and waved, and I thought i would stop this time–just to see if there was anything human that could happen between us.”

This time he paused, recollecting human manners. “Do you have any money?” he asked.

“You know I do,” I replied. “You see, they don’t let you leave the back end of the convenience store and roam around if you don’t have it.”

I think he smiled, which led me to believe there was a little bit more inside of him than just a supernal messenger from Zeus.

“Do you have any money you can give me?” he asked more pointedly.

I reached for my wallet, pulled out two one dollar bills, and as I was beginning to hand them to him he added, eyeing the cash, “Breakfast tacos are three dollars.”

“You  mean Zeus left you out here without breakfast?” I probed with a smile.

He smiled back, as if mirroring my image. I reached into my wallet and added an additional one to my offering. “Breakfast tacos it is, then.”

He took the money and inquired, “What’s your name?”

“This is gonna be weird,” I said. “My name is also Terkel. T-e-r-k-e-l.” I mimicked his previous bravado.

He chuckled in spite of himself. “You’re not Terkel,” he said.

“Neither are you.”

He chuckled again.

“You see, this wasn’t so bad. We talked for a minute, we got past the lineage of the Greek gods and you ended up with money for breakfast tacos.”

I reached down to close my window, finishing up the conversation. He stepped forward, and for the first time, looked me in the eyes.

“Thank you, Terkel,” he said. Then he stepped back and stared in the distance as if perched on the deck of the Santa Maria, peering for the north star. He mumbled something about Zeuss and collapsed onto the gravel in a giant heap.

I drove away. I do not know if I did a good thing or a bad thing. Such determinations, in my mind, are deliberated by foolish souls who pursue levels of divinity instead of acquiring the true depths of their humanity.

What I did was something different. And without difference, we are stuck with what and who we are … believing that nothing can change.

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

Sympathizer … February 20, 2013

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Black Jon

Two Johns.

Two men living at the same time.

John Brown.

John Booth.

Two men with B names.

Two men with nine letters in their names.

Two sympathizers.

One a sympathizer for the cause of halting slavery.

The other, a sympathizer for maintaining the dignity of the south, states’ rights and  slavery

Both men took up the gun.

Both men ended up dying in Virginia.

Both men made the history books.

Both men took lives.

But one of these sympathizers, John Brown–although viewed by some to be a domestic terrorist–is revered as a forward thinking abolitionist and even a prophet, who foretold of a bloody struggle to rid our nation of the scourge of slavery.

The other, John Booth, a well-respected actor, took a small hand gun and walked into a theater and killed the President of the United States, thinking he would be known as a hero, and ending up arguably the most notorious man in US history.

In the season of their lives, they were viewed quite differently.

John Brown was hated, tried, convicted and hung–with John Booth in the gallery.

John Booth was considered by many to be one of the greatest actors of his time, and had at least half the nation believing in his cause of maintaining the integrity of the hinter lands and the necessity of slavery.

Move ahead in time.

John Brown was right.

John Booth was wrong.

*****

What did you think of my picture? I think I make a fairly striking black man, don’t you? Some people would think such a photograph is tasteless. I understand their sentiment. Many people are frightened of any semblance of controversy for fear it might lead to a discussion that demands transformation.

Some folks might think it’s clever–but only from an artistic angle, not realizing the significance of the timing of the artwork. For I am trying to learn to be a good sympathizer. I am studying what history, God, common sense, liberty and free will tell us are the landmark issues that cannot be restrained and must be allowed to play out with full bravado.

I am attempting to navigate course across a sea of confusion and land in a safe port, where in the future they will look at my dealings and say, “Jonathan Richard Cring made some good choices.”

I want to be a sympathizer. To do this, I must occasionally abandon my own predilections, sensations and even the tenets of my faith to allow free will to have its holy moment–because to remove liberty is to chase away the spirit of God.

I want to become a sympathizer. I want to find myself erring on the side of liberty instead of faltering in the fables of my youth. How can I know that I am sympathizing with the right causes? The truth is, I will never be a black man. How can I sympathize with my brothers and sisters and still demand of each one of us that we be conscious of goodness and mercy?

After much thought, I came up with a simple conclusion. I will allow you to muse over its deeper meaning:

You can’t build up any idea, organization, doctrine, faith or political movement that tears down other people. If you do, you will be John Booth instead of John Brown.

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

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