Ask Jonathots … October 29th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2737)

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Are you supposed to like your siblings? I’m twelve and my sister is fifteen. She always acts like she’s better than me and I can’t stand her. My mom says that will change but I don’t see it happening anytime soon, if ever. How does this work? Nobody I know likes their brother or sister. I feel bad saying it, but it’s the truth.

There is an old saying which is basically true: “Familiarity breeds contempt.”

And as you probably know, the word “family” is at the root of familiarity.

There is absolutely no reason to believe that because people share certain aspects of DNA, they have natural emotional linkings to one another.

There is also historical fact that the heroes of our past had many problems dealing with their families, often having to go against those ties to achieve their purposes.

You don’t have to go any further than Jesus of Nazareth to discover squabbling among siblings. The Gospels make it clear that his family did not believe in him.

That being said, I contend that the purpose of family is to place us in a boot camp.

It’s a chance for us to find ways to get along with adversaries who live in our midst, eat at the same dinner table, share in grief and celebration, and acquire the ability to be merciful, gracious and forgiving, so that when we get in the real world, we are prepared to do so.

For this to work, we must be willing to admit that our families are not perfect, nor were they designed to be naturally connected.

In other words, if you were able to look at your sister as just another human being that you needed to deal with rather than some sacred creature born within your lineage, then you would have a much better chance to put your relationship in perspective, and maybe even understand her ways.

Brothers and sisters within a household fight with each other because we tell them they need to get along–simply because they’re related. It sets a horrible precedent, and we begin to believe that in the outside world we can avoid the people who disagree with us, and only hang around with those individuals who seem to be perfectly agreeable to our ideas.

What is your best procedure in dealing with your sister since you’re twelve years old? Do exactly what you’ll need to do when you’re 22, 32 or 72 years old: find common ground.

Don’t ever try to go beyond common ground. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself trying to change people, or worse, judge them because they don’t meet your standards.

If for some reason you cannot find common ground, then retreat to a position where peace can be achieved.

This is real life.

Forcing people to think they should love each other only leads to pent-up resentment, and worse, explosions of anger later on.

  • What do you like about your sister?
  • Is there anything you appreciate?
  • How is she valuable to you?

Try to pursue those areas, and avoid the parts that upset you.

This is called growing up.

The overemphasis on family in our culture has not created more loving people.

It is the promotion of loyalty–often without affection.

 

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Untotaled: Stepping 47 (April 20th, 1969) Demise… December 27, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

(2456)

(Transcript)

Even though I only lived a few blocks from the high school, I drove my car there–because I could.

I also went home for lunch even though it was basically against policy. Once again, because I could.

On April 20th, I decided to drive to my abode to raid the refrigerator, avoiding the cafeteria surprises. On my way I stopped off at my mom and dad’s little loan company and there was a note on the door. It read:

Closed. Family Emergency.

I knew what that meant.

My dad was in failing health. More accurately stated, he was dying. Forty-five years of cigarette smoking had caught up with him, riddling his body with cancer. So desperate was his situation that there was a quiet celebration among the family when it was discovered that the disease had spread to his brain and in doing so, had closed off the pain centers, making him less of the suffering soul.

I didn’t want to go to the house but I knew it was expected. I pulled up in the driveway and was climbing the steps to the porch when I first heard it: from the upstairs, through the walls, was the hideous volume of my dad gasping for air.

It was a death rattle.

I could not bring myself to go in. I turned around, headed back to school and was so angry–at my dad and at myself–that I skipped the next two classes.

I was furious at myself for being so cowardly, and a rotten person because I didn’t want to be near my father in his last moments.

And I was infuriated with him for destroying his body with smoke instead of dealing with his inadequacies.

I arrived back at school for the last hour of classes. After the session was over for the day I headed to a friend’s house and hung out for the rest of the evening.

Nobody knew where I was. I liked it that way.

I arrived home at ten o’clock. My older brother was waiting for me. He told me that our dad had passed away a couple of hours earlier.

I didn’t feel much, barely even noticing how pissed off my brother was that I hadn’t been there for the death-bed.

He was my dad–but I never knew him. And in like manner, he didn’t know that much about me.

Now he was dead. His ashes of ashes would turn to dust.

I cried.

Honestly, it was not for my lost parent. I cried, feeling sorry for myself.

He deserved a better son. But he should have been wise enough to realize that teenage sons don’t get better.

That is the duty and the mission … of a father.

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Surprise … April 7, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

(2197)

car van grillMy itinerary and the front end of my van took me this morning to a time of fellowship and celebration in Surprise, Arizona.

They were lovely folk.

I suppose if you’re a continual, or even occasional, reader of my column, you may get a little weary of the general application of the word “lovely” that I use in describing human beings. I should clarify. When I say I met lovely folk, I mean that they surprised me.

Some of them surprised me with how clinging they are. Others surprised me with their reaching aspect. Both groups are intriguing.

Those who are clinging often find that my simple sharing and homespun ideas fail to confirm their ongoing desire for complexity.

They would much rather cling to their tradition, which I would classify as religion minus a true understanding of humanity. (I don’t know what good it does to believe in a God who doesn’t know crap about people.) Yet some people cling to aspects of practice and precepts that bring very little satisfaction to either body or soul.

They are also clinging to fear. Following suit, I would define fear as replacing understanding with a purposeful choice to remain ignorant.

And finally, they seem to be completely fulfilled with inadequacy. If they don’t have enough money it’s “God’s will” or “the devil’s doing.” If they’re sick, it’s “the Lord testing them” or “the devil chasing them.”

Clinging is not a very attractive attribute. So I’m surprised when I run across those people who continue to pursue such an unfulfilling path–and will project their disapproval of my liberty by snubbing any of my thoughts.

But likewise, I’m surprised when I run across people who are reaching. They’re reaching for a message. It will be difficult to propel a spiritual awakening in this country by using symbolism instead of hardcore ideas. The cross may be an emblem of our faith, but it is the Sermon on the Mount that truly personifies the heart of Jesus.

They’re also reaching for a chance:

  • A chance to become something.
  • A chance to do something.
  • A chance to use their talent instead of complaining about absence or rustiness.

AND FINALLY

They’re reaching for repentance. Nothing happens on earth if you’re not willing to evolve towards the source of greater wisdom. This requires that we admit our frailty and embrace our solution.

Clinging is the opposite of reaching, which is the process for discovering a better use for your hands.

So Surprise, Arizona, was like every other place I am so blessed to infiltrate during my pilgrimage. There were clinging people and reaching people.

And both of them I find lovely–simply because those who are reaching benefit from my philosophy and those who are clinging are blessed by my mercy. 

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G-5: Night or Light… January 3, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2110)

brighter lightIn the Good Book, it states, “Work while it’s day, for the night comes when no man works.”

One might have a tendency to become cynical since that statement was written in a time where the world ran on “candle power.” Since then, we’ve become more advanced in the ability to light up the night incandescent. But the idea is not solely based on whether the night hours can be illuminated by bulbs. There is a night that has nothing to do with a light show.

I once told my children that nothing good happens after 10:00 P.M. They gave me the obligatory stare of disapproval, since all of them deeply enjoyed staying up late, attempting to be grown-up and independent.

There is a power to light.

There is an energy infused into our beings when the daily sunshine offers encouragement for the possibility of our scheme.

The absence of that particular brightness robs us of the chemicals to our brain which induce true creativity and welcome transparency.

I believe that.

During a very brief stint, I ran sound at a Blues Bar. Everything was dark–only partially revealed through colored lights, smoke hanging in the room. Eight o’clock at night at the Blues Bar was festive, exciting and filled with celebration. By ten o’clock, a new element was in the room, which brought less jubilation and more confrontation. By the time the bar closed, a darkness, misery and dismal cloud hung over the room, festering the occupants and making people irritable and fussy.

We need light.

We have convinced ourselves that the study of darkness is the evidence of our maturity and the scope of our receptivity. Hogwash.

Dark is dark and light is light, and when all is said and done, you will be remembered by how much light you brought into the world and how much darkness you dispelled.

Here are three things I know–a trio of ideas that I incorporate into my daily life and message which comfort me in knowing that I am becoming “the light of the world” instead of encouraging bleakness. I tell people:

  1. We can be honest. Yes, darkness requires deceit in order to function.
  2. We can do better. When we begin to accept the mediocre, what we actually achieve is destitution.
  3. We are not alone. To preach the absence of God, love or even a cosmic karma which returns our actions back to us is to turn the light off in the human soul, making us all blind.

There is a night that falls on our society, and it’s best to be tucked away in your home, safe and sound.

For truly, any New Yorker will tell you that Central Park is a beautiful place … until the sun goes down. 

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G-2: Big and Small … December 13, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2093)

ballsIn the midst of my great jubilation over the findings in my pursuit of who I am and what I can do, I still feel compelled to stop and ask myself, when does conceit begin and gratitude end?

What opinion rules? Is it mine, or the misgivings of others?

Am I trapped in a game of guessing God‘s will, or placing upon the Divine Father attitudes that are comfortable to me, but not necessarily in the spectrum of His vision?

Is is possible that my “big” is really “small?”

Or maybe that I’ve underestimated my “small” and it’s truly “big?”

Am I stuck in a quicksand that has me sinking with indecision instead of escaping to walk on firm ground?

Can I salve my ego with platitudes or rationalization?

Oh, please God, let me avoid the obvious pitfall of comparing my efforts to those around me, for that is truly planting the rose-colored glasses upon my blinded eyes.

Yet somehow there has to be a standard. Isn’t there girth in accomplishment which should be obvious?

Is the fact that someone else would be overjoyed with my accumulation evidence of my prowess?

What power is there in just being alive? Is a tree that bears no fruit really a tree? Or just a huge stick in the mud?

Who do I compare myself to without becoming lazy or crazy?

May I present three thoughts:

  1. Big is always small without the inclusion of faith.
  2. Small is big if the feelings, dreams and needs of others are honored.
  3. Yet it doesn’t really matter if I am using up what is available instead of saving it for a rainy day.

I will create … even if it’s not perfect.

 

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Unconditional Growth… July 18, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1946)

couchI remember it vividly.

A mother came to me for counsel with her nineteen-year-old daughter, She explained that her parenting principle had always been “unconditional love.” All at once, in the middle of the mother’s speech, the girl interrupted, screeching, “Yes, mom! You gave met unconditional love, but you didn’t teach me how to make myself lovable!”

Perhaps that’s why we need two–a pair of parents, that is–one to maintain the standard while the other assures the child that there is no condemnation.

The Good Book tells us that God “disciplines those He loves”–and the truth of the matter is, a heaven with no hell is an invitation to mediocrity. And a hell with no benefit of a heaven is a plunge into dark despair.

In our generation, unconditional love has just become another “feel good” lie. We have several of them:

  • Everyone is unique.
  • Everyone deserves an equal chance
  • There is no prejudice in our society.
  •  And unconditional love is what we should offer one another.

But this is not the way human beings work. Certainly we need the reassurance that our inadequacies will not result in exclusion, but each one of us also needs to know that there IS a point of excellence which is required of us in order to be included in the circle of the celebration.

After God created man and woman, He told them to be fruitful–to multiply and replenish the earth. You can either believe that this was a message of mere exhortation, or realize that it was the yardstick set by the Divine for human development.

Be fruitful: don’t settle for what you’re doing if there’s a possibility of pursuing just a little further.

Multiply: take what you have and use it instead of hiding it, deriding it or explaining away your indecision through fear.

Replenish: stop being a taker. Give something back before you demand your next shipment.

When we finally arrive at the concept that unconditional love is really a belief in unconditional growth–a balance between maintaining a standard and making sure that those around us feel free of condemnation–yes, if we don’t start instituting that practice, we will have an ambiguous mission for our generation, which will leave people crying “foul” simply because they are challenged to do their jobs.

So if God isn’t always patting us on the head, telling us how cute we are, but instead, demanding that we repent and revise our deeds, why would we think that child-rearing should be any different?

Unconditional growth–the amazing mixture of maintaining the standard while providing the gentle reassurance of no condemnation.

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He’s All Right … July 16, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(1945)

richardRichard is dead.

For six years he has lain low in a grave, in a town not his home or even his casual acquaintance, purchased by a younger brother who selected the plot based upon a reasonable fare.

I have not thought much about him.

Alive, he was my friend–perhaps more honestly presented, I was his friend. He was a man without family, sporting a hair-do that would have been popular during the 1950’s, a bit cranky, with a tender heart which had crusted over through the years, leaving him occasionally willing but more often than not, at the wrong times.

So when he suddenly, inexplicably and nearly intrusively appeared in my dreams last night, I was a bit alarmed. But as I allowed myself to participate in what truly could have been more an apparition or night vision than a simple sleepy-time mirage, I found myself completely engorged in the emotion and revelation of the idea.

It was Richard but it was NOT Richard. He was younger, stronger. The ashen, pale-yellow pallor of his skin was replaced with a bronzed, glowing countenance. Although he still sported his pompadour, it was golden, well-kempt and seemingly free of the need of intrusive creams and sprays.

He was happy.

Perhaps that was the greatest shock of all. I never really saw Richard happy. God knows he tried. He even developed an impersonation of the emotion.

But this was different. He was aglow. He was excited. He was bubbling over with new ideas.

He was running across the top of a high building, breathlessly explaining to me that he believed the concert “needed to be held up here, and required tons and tons of sound and lights.”

He was sharing his ideas with such energy–when I noticed there were actual biceps in his arms instead of dangling flesh, barely disguising skeletal confines.

I looked over, and suddenly, standing next to me, was my friend, Janet. She had ambled up during my focus on the dazzling sight before me. She kept looking at me instead of at the top of the building and our cavorting comrade.

And then suddenly Richard did something completely out of his well-known human character. He pulled money from his pants and held it out to me, explaining that I would need lots of money–an abundance of money–to pull this concert off.

I motioned to Janet to take the money from him and she looked at me, perplexed, but still reached up, and when she pulled her hand down, all that was in it was a receipt for the meal we had just enjoyed.

“Here,” she said, handing it to me. “We should keep this for tax time.”

I was a bit aggravated that she was unable to see our resurrected buddy, who had obviously gone through a transformation beyond all earthly comprehension.

As I turned back to look at him, suddenly he was not more than four inches from my face–and he had translated himself into a litte four-year-old Chicano toddler. Rather than being startled, I found myself giggling. Before I could ask him what had happened, he spoke in a child’s tenor.

“We are all children here.”

I trembled.

I turned and ran away, hid in a room. I was followed by the memory of my young son, Jerrod, circa eight years old. He wanted me to play with him but I was too traumatized by my vision.

“Give Daddy a moment,” I said. “Just give me a moment.”

I closed the door and wept. No, I mean I really cried. And I realized that I had never mourned my friend on his passing. Too many details. Too much pain. And too much disappointment over the seeming meaninglessness of his journey.

But now I cried and I cried.

All at once, he was standing in the room next to me and he placed his hand on my shoulder, although I never felt it, and he simply said, “I’m all right.”

I awakened with tears in my eyes.

I don’t know why I had this visitation. Maybe wherever he is, he had graduated from one status to another and I was invited to the celebration. Maybe I just needed to feel something about his life since I was so vacant of emotion during his death.

Or maybe it’s a message that is important to me and to all of us: He’s all right.

And you know what?

Bless the Lord above:  we’re gonna be all right.

 

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