Things I Learned from R. B. (June 21st, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 20

I don’t really enjoy playing chess.

I have an understanding of the game, minus passion.

There are those who are thrilled with the prospects of a match. They refer to it as “the pastime of the royals.”

I don’t quite understand how it gained such a following. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that early on, it was associated with intelligence.

Yes, when I first learned how to play, I was told that I “should be very good at the game” because I was smart.

Well, I don’t know about that, but if interest has any bearing, chess stupefied me. I rarely played it and when I did, I often regretted choosing to do so—because my opponent was often grumpy and unwilling to lose even one piece from the board.

When I discovered that R. B. was an ardent player, I avoided ever mentioning that I, too, knew how to move the pieces. He explained to me that I needed to participate because he believed I would be excellent at it, and then we could play together. For many years I was able to subdue his advances by pleading my “chess virginity.”

Then a young man moved into my household—actually, three young men. Their father was struggling with anger and was beginning to take it out on them, so I was afforded the opportunity to become their godfather and welcome them into a safer haven.

One of the boys was very good at chess.

To preserve his innocence, we shall refer to him as Justin.

Justin was precocious. You see, precocious means whatever any adult wants it to mean. That adult can use it to describe a child he or she either likes or believes to be headed for reform school.

Being precocious, Justin immediately struck up a conversation with R. B. about chess. R. B. felt he had arrived in some sort of circle of heaven—where he could be the teacher and finally have a budding student.

The only difficulty came when Justin beat R. B.

And not just once.

Regularly.

Even though R. B. had studied the board and had even mastered some moves of the champions, Justin always found a way to get through his defenses, steal his queen and leave his king flailing in some corner, surrounded by a bishop and a knight.

At first, R. B. attributed it to “beginner’s luck.” But after many visits and many matches, it became clear to everyone that Justin was a superior prodigy. Everyone, that is, but R. B.

One night, after having lost two games, R. B. was surrounded by Justin, who was prepared to pronounce the “checkmate,” when R. B. brought his fist down hard on the table, knocking over all the pieces, scaring young Justin all the way down to his X-men underwear.

You see, Justin was accustomed to hearing an angry voice. He was well acquainted with a man whose temper was out of control—and he knew it usually meant that he was going to be in trouble.

Sensing Justin’s fear, R. B. tried to turn it into a joke and give the young man a hug, but when Justin nervously pulled away, R. B. was even more angry. He yelled at him. Some curse words flew through the air and young Justin was trapped, with no place to go.

R. B. screamed at him, claiming that it was a draw and they would play again on another night—and then left.

I was not in the house at the time, but when I returned, I immediately noticed the red in the corners of Justin’s eyes. He was reluctant to talk to me. Already in his young life, he had learned it was better to shut up and not have to face painful consequences.

But you see, Justin was also a young man with a good heart that was growing blossoms. He didn’t lie. After about an hour, he told me the whole story. I was infuriated.

He asked me to promise that I wouldn’t say anything to R. B. Justin asked me if he should play chess again with the irate fellow. I told him yes, but to wait a few weeks until I had a chance to do some maneuvers.

Perplexed, he smiled, gave me a hug and went upstairs.

Word of R. B.’s losing streak to Justin spread quickly through our family. The jokes piled up and were nearly ready to break R. B.’s spirit and release his bad temper. I had one plan—what you might call an ace in the hole if we were talking about poker, but since it’s chess, we shall say that I pulled out an extra queen.

One night while he was being teased, I stepped in and said, “Maybe R. B. just had a bad night. We could find out. R. B., why don’t you play me?”

R. B. was nearly beside himself. I had refused so many times, and now here was his opportunity, in front of our family, to redeem himself.

He was so nervous that his hands were shaking as he took his white pieces and set them up on the board. He didn’t need to be nervous. I had decided to play him a good game—but lose.

I figured a victory over me would quell his spirit, and once he had come to his senses, he might apologize to Justin.

Everybody was shocked when R. B. won.

And right after the game, he turned to me and said, “Would it be alright if I talked to Justin?”

Now, I suppose the story needs to end with me telling you that R. B. apologized to the boy and they lived happily ever after. But that’s a Hollywood ending—we lived in Nashville.

R. B. continued to play Justin and Justin grew up and became more tolerant of R. B.’s idiosyncrasies. Yet R. B. never hit his fist on the table again—but did manage to color the air every once in a while with his language.

I suppose I should have stepped in and stopped the tournaments, but R. B. needed to learn how to be civil to young ones and the young one needed to learn how to survive an R. B.—even when you know you can checkmate him every time.

 

G-Poppers… December 26, 2014

  Jonathots Daily Blog

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G-Popper

 

After the presents were opened, the children quickly disappeared to gather all their treasures for deep consideration of play-status preference.

An hour passes. The little ones begin to dribble back into the room. One of them asks G-Pop, “Are you sad Christmas is over?”

G-Pop: It’s not over until we say so. It doesn’t stop unless we cease to give. The songs are not silenced, waiting for another year. Bits and pieces of them are contained in every tune we sing. “Peace on earth” awaits champions. “Good will toward men” is the needed mission of every soul who chooses sanity.

The baby born stirs the child within us. The shepherds remind us that God is alive in our work. The angels recruit giddy believers, summoning the willing. The wise men keep us all chasing our dreams.

Christmas is ours and ours alone, if we will take rightful ownership and refuse to relinquish our deed.

It is a lifestyle, not a holiday.

It is yours and mine to possess … and release. 

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Are We Supposed to Do Better? … February 25, 2012

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“By grace you are saved through faith.”
“Do your best.”
“Be yourself.”
 
Behold … verbal marijuana. Yes, these are statements that tend to turn people who could be highly motivated, productive, intuitive and fruitful into folks lounging around letting life pass them by, relying on outside forces to determine the quality of their existence.
 
You can certainly understand how the statements listed above have slipped into the lingo. All of us get weary of trying–especially when those efforts are not greeted with some immediate evidence of success. The action of “trying” very quickly does become trying to our psyche and feelings.
 
It begins as early as elementary school. We are introduced to a grading system–A,B,C,D and F.  Unfortunately, that means of evaluation does not carry over to real adult life. There may be individuals who are C and D plumbers, waitresses, doctors or lawyers–but in the world of competition, they are quickly eliminated. Here’s the truth of the matter–if you’re not an A or a B in something, you will probably end up being an F. There are no C and D positions garnering you the peace of mind, prosperity and placement you desire in the human family. We actually allow students to go through the entire educational process learning very little, squeaking by with C’s and D’s, graduating and entering a marketplace where unless the find a niche where they can do A or B work, they will end up F-ired. It is a ludicrous application of capitalism.
 
You cannot propagate a system which advocates excellence while drugging the participants on the downers of “grace” and “self-esteem.” Let’s just blend the two because they are equally as harmful to human sensibility. Therefore, let us dub it “grace-esteem.” My definition of grace-esteem is: “God loves me in my inadequacy and if you’re really a nice person, you will love me in my clumsiness, too.”
 
Unfortunately, whether I love you or even God loves you does not secure you a position or placement in the workings of earth.  We need to be valuable. In order to be valuable, we must find something in our lives that we can do at an A or B quality–or prepare ourselves for a failing grade. I suppose there are folks who will read this and think it is too harsh–though privately they, themselves, pursue the tennets and objectives of the concept. I just don’t think there’s anything more cruel than telling somebody they can continue to fail and everything will be all right. It isn’t like people don’t know they’re in trouble. It’s not like they’re unaware of the absence of evidence for their claims of adequacy. But we play this big charade of acceptance, when everybody is actually fully cognizant that without the pursuit of excellence, we all fall short of our own personal image.
 
So religion and society join together here to form “grace-esteem,” which renders the public high on the notion of inclusion, but when the stupor wears off, folks are stuck being less than what they really want to be. It’s not so much that we refuse to accept someone in his or her present condition. It’s more that in a land of democracy and capitalism, we are all competing to promote the philosophy by seeking out better ways. Herein lie the difficulties:
 
  • Grace-esteem robs the human emotions of a sense of being welcome.
  • Grace-esteem steals away from the spirit the adventure of asking, seeking and knocking.
  • Grace-esteem blocks the renewing of the mind, trapping us in our genetic pre-dispositions and provincial upbringing.
  • And grace-esteem causes us to pull our heads into the turtle shell, ignoring our physical inadequacies and failing to evolve.
So what are humans supposed to do to maintain a balance of sanity along with the pursuit of the best?
 
1. Don’t evaluate anything but today. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or what you’re attempting to accomplish. Make sure your determination of your intelligence, growth and progress (the I.G.P) is based upon this 24-hour period. Don’t look back and don’t project into the future.
2. Don’t be ashamed of what you can’t . This is merely a classroom to find your A+ work. Since God is no respecter of persons, everybody has an ability and an apptitude to do something at an A-student quality that will provide them purpose and wage. That also means that all of us have things we do that make us look stupid along the way.
3. Don’t become medicated over the jargon of a society that instructs in the “beauty of equality” while extoling those who go the second mile. America is a trickster. The nation appears to be sympathetic to lesser fellows while regaling the champions who go for the gold.
 
Don’t allow yourself to be sucked up into grace-esteem, because for every verse of the Bible that tells us that we are “saved by grace,” there are three that inform us that we will give an account of every deed at the Day of Judgment. And for every soft-spoken motivational teacher who tells you that “you’re fine the way you are,” there are a thousand friends, relatives and co-workers cheering for you to do much better.
 
You cannot create a generation of healthy human beings by whispering in their ear that “they’re just fine.” You also cannot generate a horde of nervous ninnies who are afraid to do any work because they might fail. The balance lies in knowing that “if God loves me, there is something I can do and do so well that I don’t have to apologize for the work or who I am, and I can hold my head high as I complete my task, take my money and live a good life.”
 
Are we supposed to do better? Yes–because without improvement, we deteriorate. We are no different than the apple on the tree. Connected to the branch, we are nourished, but after we fall to earth, there is a season when we are ripe and ready, and if we are not used in that space of time, we rot and become an annoyance. If our country is going to improve its I.G.P.–intelligence, growth and progress–we will have to cease to intoxicate the populace with false dreams of self-worth and value, bestowed simply by birth.
 
In closing:  “I become valuable as I value my life and find things of value within myself that I can accomplish–to bring greater value to the brotherhood of man.”  That’s how simple it is.
 
So we’ve had our three question.
 
How about tomorrow we give a grade card on the present I.G.P.?
 
 
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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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