PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … January 11th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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pohymn-come-and-hear

Come and Hear

Louder and louder the voices raise

Full of anger, absent praise

Once a plea for human reason

A desire for peace in its season

Has become a nasty mumble

A growl, grimace, rumble

Truth is lost in fiery debate

Souls are raw, feelings irate

Infected with the need to be right

Well prepared for a lingering fight

Twisting the logic to meet the need

Parsing the words of what we read

Gathering around our common fire

Warming comrades feeding our desire

Lost in defense, unable to repent

Ignoring the prophets mercy has sent

Self-assured in what we know

Stubbornly negating the way to grow

Ignorance is always much too sure

Promoting a promise but tainting the cure

It’s time for souls to sit and learn

Calm the rage, soothe the burn

Come and hear, you have an ear

And stay ’til love casts out all fear.

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Three Ways to Win an Argument… October 30, 2014

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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arguing woman

Arguments are like hamburgers in the sense that most people agree that they’re not very good for us, but on the other hand, few are able to resist them. Unlike hamburgers, they end up being a part of our diet whether we like it or not, so we should learn how to ingest and digest them better.

First of all, we need to stop mingling the words “discussion,” “debate” and “argument,” as if they are the same species.

A discussion is when people come together, admitting they do not have enough knowledge on a subject and engage in an exchange of information for enlightenment.

A debate is when two people of differing opinions share their ideas with the aspiration that one of the presentations will come to the forefront as having more common sense.

An argument occurs when folks are certain they have discovered a truth which they believe has been tested, and they are unwilling to give in to any other insight because they feel they have found the correct path.

So an argument seems doomed to elicit frayed feelings and even digress to some violence if we do not know how to conduct ourselves and become the winners.

And by winning an argument, I do not mean usurping authority over other people, to bend them to our will. Winning an argument is to control the atmosphere and make sure that rage does not enter in.

So what should we do?

1. Ask lots of questions.

Arguments always turn volatile when people literally spit their opinions at one another, rather than challenging the source of the other person’s position. It’s difficult to become overwrought when someone is asking you a question and you’re having to provide evidence instead of just passion.

Some time ago I was arguing with a friend about a project he was working on and I stopped in the middle of the back-and-forth and asked, “Do you feel this project is up to the calibre and integrity of what you’ve done in the past?”

It brought him to a complete halt. In the midst of that stall, he calmed down, thinking more deeply.

To win an argument, always have more questions than comments.

2. Somewhere early on in the argument, concede a point or two which will not alter the quality of your conviction.

Anytime you argue with folks, they will make a good point, and usually pride will prevent you from admitting it. If you stop to acknowledge the truth, you disarm your competitor and also create a more gentle environment for the ongoing experience.

If it’s true, it’s true. And if it’s true, say so quickly. You don’t lose points and in the end you will actually gain respect.

3. Summarize as you go.

Every few seconds, repeat these words: “So what you’re saying is…”

It gives the person a chance to hear back what you heard, and confirm whether it’s true, or if some mis-speaking occurred. It also slows the progression of arrogance, permitting simplicity to have its day.

I guarantee you that if you do these three things, you will win every argument, because the true goal is to arrive at a way for both of you to continue to work together and be friends, even though this rift has occurred.

The key to life is realizing that you can give up some turf and still have enough room to stand.

arguing man

 

 

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G-14: Jungle or Garden?… March 7, 2014

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jungleI think most people have found themselves in the embarrassing situation of arriving late to an appointment, being held up by traffic, and requiring an ice-breaker to share when entering the room of awaiting friends.

One of the favorites quips is the gasping exclamation, “It’s a jungle out there!”

It usually evokes some laughter–partly due to its corniness–but mostly because we have all become a bit convinced by society, entertainment and even religion that human beings are depraved animals.

So rather than looking at life and our potentials with optimism, we find ourselves desperately trying to avoid the human representations of silly monkeys, ravenous lions and venomous snakes.

Somewhere along the line we have forgotten the beautiful explanation that man and woman were spawned in a garden. Maybe it’s too idealistic. Perhaps the world around us will not permit us to believe that such beauty is attainable and such blessing within our grasp.

I just don’t know what we ever gain by allowing the underbrush of weeds and human mediocrity to surround us, causing us to retreat to our caves in fear. Yes, I think there’s a choice. Am I going to continue to live in a jungle or am I going to do my best, before I leave here, to turn the earth–or at least my portion of it–into a garden?

cultivated gardenTwo things are necessary to transform a jungle into a garden:

1. You’ve got to cool things down.

Jungles are steamy and hot, breeding all sorts of creeping, crawling vermin which welcome such a searing climate. Sometimes the greatest thing we can do in any situation is to refuse to participate in frenetic energy and heated debate, find a quiet place, sit down and wait for things to cool off. I do think it’s what Jesus meant when he suggested that the “meek inherit the earth.” As long as you’re struggling, punching and fighting with everyone for the dead carcass in the middle of the Serengeti, you are exhausting yourself–not to mention casting your lot with the more unseemly actions of the beasts.

Cool things down.

Occasionally I find myself in an argument and realize that the flame is rising and the intelligence is leaving. The situation requires that somebody shut up. When I actually am wise enough to do so, things cool down.

2. Clear things out.

I have been focusing this year on eliminating the scrub brush that suffocates my life, making me feel paranoid and claustrophobic. There are things I just don’t need, require or even desire anymore. Maybe they were once status symbols or security blankets, but now they’ve just become all-encompassing. If you’re going to grow something, you often have to remove what is occupying space but is useless.

Clear things out.

When you cool things down, all the hot-headed animals and the plant life that is tropical disappear. When you clear things out, you find soil underneath the tangled mess of weeds. Then you’re prepared to plant a garden.

And what is a garden? A glorious three-step process. A garden give me the chance to:

A. Seed what I need.

Yes, to actually get specific instead of hoping for the best or praying for miracles because I failed to do my job.

B.  Grow what I know.

I realized last week that I don’t lack wisdom. I lack frequent flyer miles using it. There is so much I can do, say, share, perform and be that I squander in pursuit of things unknown or beyond my capability.

C. And finally, receive what I believe.

Having come to peace with myself and my own gifts in the garden I have cleared off, and knowing that things have cooled down, I can be a good farmer. Yes:

  • Seed what you need.
  • Grow what you know.
  • Receive what you believe.

You can think whatever you want–I believe we were born in a garden … and have settled for a jungle.

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Melvyn’s Clock … February 6, 2014

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Melvyn's CloskI would characterize an adventure as being a disaster that swerves to safety just short of crashing into the brick wall, where all occupants walk away, relieved.

Such was the decision on my part, to take three of my sons, my daughter-in-law, my partner, Janet and myself to Phoenix, Arizona, back in 2008, to make a movie called Melvyn’s Clock.

What can I tell you about Melvyn’s Clock? It was a screenplay I wrote: Hitchcock collides with M. Knight Shyamalan, who surprises Stephen King on a dark road to pitch Death of a Salesman, culminating with some “blades” from Saw. More easily explained, it was an exhilarating mystery.

What was equally as mysterious was the concept of renting a three-bedroom condo for the amazingly low price of $1000 a month, and sticking my adult children in an enclosed area with their former father, caretaker and disciplinarian.

I thought it was amazing.

What made it amazing was that we arrived in town not knowing anybody, needing to make connections using only our talent, art, amiability and generosity. At the end of two months, we not only had a movie, but also held a premiere in Tempe that was packed. And even though the gentleman who played the part of Melvyn–the old man who walked through his town each day, interacting with people–yes, even though our actor regularly explained to folks that he was not really old enough to play the part, because he was still young and virile–the results were quite dazzling. Press coverage, television interviews, and after the premiere, there were even a couple of parodies made and released on the Internet–one called Melvyn’s Mock and an X-rated version called Melvyn’s Cock. (You’re not really successful until somebody makes fun of you…)

So when I arrived back in Phoenix just a couple of days ago, I thought about that adventure. I wondered if the same connection could be made through creativity. Is it possible, in a society which has become more jaded, to arrive in a community and generate the kind of empathy and faith among people which causes magnificent things to be produced?

I don’t know. But I think to merely have the debate–to discourage oneself without trying–is even worse than failing at the attempt.

So I’m back in Phoenix, to see what spark can be made to light a fire of possibility. This time I don’t have Melvyn’s Clock; nor do I have my sons and daughter-in-law with me.

But I do believe if we start attempting what others insist is impossible, we will open the door once again to the idea that faith with works is very much alive.

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I’m Proud … December 30, 2012

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GE DIGITAL CAMERA

I’m proud of my country. I haven’t seen folks handle so much crap since Ben from the fertilizer store moved his family, complete with inventory, from Sunbury to Galena.

It’s been a tough year. I guess we aren’t supposed to say that. If you’re a Democrat, they’ll tell you that you don’t believe in the President. The Republicans will snipe at you and suggest you should have voted for their paraded puppet. The optimistic sort believes we should always look on the bright side of life. The pessimist will leap in, explaining that you “don’t know the half of it…”

Just like any other year–too many dead people, not enough explanations. Too much debate, not enough progress. Too much self-esteem and not enough true esteem over self.

It was a horrible election year. Maybe I should use a different word than “horrible.” How about “yucky-puckey?” No, that’s too cute.

We’re very good in America at assessing blame and being satisfied with discovering who is responsible for the crime, without ever making attempts to satisfy the victims or assure ourselves that it needn’t happen again.

But you see, I was out there all year in the midst of what we refer to as “everyday people,” who are really the people who make sure that one way or another, we have an every day.

They are a brave lot. You would barely be able to tell that they were in a hailstorm of adversity–if you didn’t look closely and see the dents in their armor.

We don’t smile enough. We clap instead of laugh. We need to be entertained to relax. Conversation is limited to tiny bites of half-words, quickly typed on miniscule machines in an attempt to eliminate the need for either confrontation or communication.

But I’m still proud of us. We’ve reached the end of another year and have not imploded with the sheer lunacy of intoxication from reality shows. We have actually listened to the best of Fox News, MSNBC, CNN and a host of others–and have mercifully not run en mass and burned down their stations.

We were given a choice of two men, neither of whom knew what they were doing, and we intelligently selected the one still living in the house–so as to avoid paying moving expenses. We didn’t like either one. We didn’t favor their views and we certainly didn’t approve of their lifestyle–that being a politician.

I’m proud of this country. I’m proud to be an American because after we get over our fits of arrogance, we do actually settle down, look at our history and realize that we’ve got a long way to go on our way to celebrate how far we’ve come.

There were a couple of times this year when I wasn’t sure if we were going to make it. After all, movie theaters and elementary schools were never meant to be shooting galleries. But we will keep our guns because no one has the ability to make amends. We will stubbornly continue to believe it’s someone else’s fault because catching a glimpse of our true selves in the mirror is much too frightening.

But there will always be the folks I met on my journey. They start off cranky, fussy and unwilling–but after a few brief moments of levity, silliness and honesty, they begin to unpack the soul they’ve kept hidden behind false memories.

I was proud to be in front of them. Doggone it, I’d be proud to be behind them. I’m proud of this country and I’m hoping that in the coming year, we can do something we’re really proud of… something more eternal than survival.

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Taxing the World… December 17, 2012

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Jon Signing

Let’s assume the story is true. For the sake of today’s essay, let’s agree to believe that the tale told by Matthew and Luke in their gospels is factual.

Caesar decided to tax the world. There’s always someone trying to do that. We live on a globe that is continually bombarded by frustrated individuals who feel that one more annoyance, one more trial, one more war, one more evil or one more excess isn’t going to make any difference one way or another. They are deliverers of straw for the backs of camels–never quite sure if this present shipment is going to break all of our backs.

They are just people who tax the world. They don’t bring anything to the party–they just fuss. They extol the virtue of “debate” and perfect it to the greatest levels of dissension, all in the name of a cause which rarely is developed because there is no time left over for progress. That part of the story makes sense to me–Caesar taxing the world.

Then there are people. Good-hearted, yet not good-natured folks, who end up spending all of their time bitching about the taxes. They try to free themselves of the bondage to the latest Caesar but because they are always complaining about the actions of the government or the mis-deeds of the disenfranchised, they openly admit they’re at the mercy of these merciless politicians and ne’er-do-wells. So Caesar bewitches and the mass of humanity…well, “we bitches.”

It is a nasty, immovable gridlock of meaningless conversation lending itself to deadly delay, opening the door for tragedy to slip into the back windows of our lives because we are too busy discerning the unchangeable. Yes, there are those who tax the world and there are those who bitch about the taxes.

So it was over two thousand years ago in Bethlehem, Judea. It seemed that the most important thing going on was the present affliction being levied on the masses by the Romans, who were trying to raise money to pay for a war in Britannia against the Angles and the Saxons.

And then there was a handful.

In the moment, they seemed meager–a carpenter and his pregnant, besmirched wife, arriving too late into town, not having made preparations for lodging and ending up stalled in the stable; shepherds who certainly wanted to complain about taxes, but found themselves interrupted by more angelic possibilities and needing to make a choice, and wise ones from the East, who were probably mocked by their neighbors as star-gazers with their heads in the clouds, who evidently were completely oblivious to Caesar’s latest imposition.wisemen under star

Yes, there were a few people who decided to birth a new idea.

It is a lesson for all of us. For I will tell you bluntly–CNN and FOX News don’t care one whittle that I write a daily column on the Internet, that I was able to reach tens of thousands of people this year through my travels or that I am recording a new album of music. They are following the latest story of “whoever is taxing the world.” They are also quite interested in those who want to bitch and complain about how over-taxed the world is by problems and difficulties. If you want to send in a tweet or email lamenting some evil in our world, you might get your twelve seconds of fame flashed across the bottom of the screen.

But just as it was in our original story back in Bethlehem, those who are trying to birth a new idea are relegated to obscurity and stuck in a barn somewhere.

But also, just like those so many centuries ago, you have to decide whether you want to be there for the birth, whether you want to worship or whether you want to be one of the wise people.

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The Final Pollster… October 17, 2012

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Live from October 1st filming

Having survived last night’s Presidential debate, not to mention the incessant racket of pounding pundits that followed the encounter, I awaken this morning a bit befuddled, somewhat disappointed and slightly alarmed.

I have never considered myself to be one of the more intelligent people in the world. Even though God has given me talent, I feel that my greatest asset is in how well I have multiplied those gifts to foster fresh possibilities.

But when I listened to the message of the two men that America has decided are the cream of our crop for potential leadership, I was greatly dismayed–mainly because all of the processes, approaches and procedures that go into this fiasco called the American election system are completely contrary to the desires of my heart and the tenets of my lifestyle.

I have shared with you over the past several weeks the seven things that God hates. And last night, I suddenly realized that the entire collage of Divine dislikes were being acted out right before my eyes.

A proud look–yes, it seems that both the Republicans and the Democrats feel that “acting tough,” being overly confident and aggressive is the best way to convey dominating leadership.

I disagree. I serve a principle which says that to become master, you must go through the schooling of servanthood. I am looking to work with people who believe that NoOne is better than anyone else, and discard the jutted jaw, the stiff neck and the prideful glance of the arrogant.

How about a lying tongue? Yes, God hates that one. It seems that our friends who strutted across the stage last night in manly magnificence have no particular predilection to be honest or honor veracity. The lies flew like water balloons at a fraternity party.

I yearn for human beings who will admit their weakness but also acknowledge that NoOne is better than the truth.

The writer of Proverbs tells us that God hates those who shed innocent blood. Yet our two candidates running for the President of the United States feel that they prove their testosterone level by saber-rattling, discussing more destruction, additional war, ongoing conflict and careless loss of life. The only problem with saber-rattling is that somebody eventually screams, “Engarde!”

NoOne is better than life–whether it’s a poverty-stricken child, helpless animals in the forest, human beings in the Middle East or the unborn child. Until we learn to respect the value of the breath inside the vessel that God has placed on this planet, we are not worthy to be caretakers of it.

Did I see and hear any wicked imaginations? It seemed to me that the only goal pursued was attempting to prove that the world was going to hell in a handbasket and that each one of these men supposedly has the remedy for removing us from being toted away. When the only thing available to you is the desperation of ignoring beauty and goodness in order to frighten people with devastation, you have become a hateful thing to God.

NoOne is better than happiness. When you see unhappiness, the answer is not to finger-point and blame others for the unsettling condition. Find your own portion and change things for the better.

Feet swift to mischief. I kept thinking that Governor Romney and President Obama were playing to a very small audience while pretending to vie for the position of the leader of the free world. For after all, the voters and the human beings in that amphitheater were pawns in a chess game to establish dominance. Their concern was with their own little collection of cronies who had trained them for the evening’s joust and would be joining them for dinner afterwards, to discuss in glee particular points of mastery. That’s not leadership. I don’t think either man understands his mission, and when you don’t understand your mission, your feet will tend to run in the direction of favorability and mob mania. God hates that.

If you don’t know why you are doing what you’re doing, then stop doing it until you can find out why you did it in the first place. Once you establish your mission, then you have the means to know that everything else is secondary to it. The mission of being President of the United States is simple–liberty and justice for all. Anything that impinges on those two holy ideals must be deemed unnecessary or even evil. Likewise, the mission of God is to bless people, yet give them free will. When you stop blessing people or insinuate that you intend to remove their free will, you lose the heart of God. Our political parties are ALWAYS running towards mischief because they have forgotten why they have been honored with the privilege to serve America.

I had to think about #6–a false witness. Time and time again, I listened to Mitt and Barack twist the facts, turn the tables and knock over reality to allow for their particular rendition of understanding to be presented as supreme.

NoOne is better than good news, and if you don’t have good news, do yourself a favor and help those around you by being forthcoming and admitting the lack. Here’s the truth: we have gotten ourselves into an economic pickle which is now worldwide and does not seem to have an easy solution. So unless we go back to hard work, generosity and personal responsibility, we will never be able to get out of this mess. But neither one of these gentlemen is willing to tell the American people that there is hard work ahead, that we will need to be more generous with each other, and that the buck does not stop in Washington or with tax cuts, but rather, at our own doorsteps.

A false witness is someone who purposely tries to hide the bad news by pretending like there was never supposed to be any good news.

And finally, as I finished up watching the debate last night, I felt empty inside. I am overjoyed to be an American, but in that moment I felt raped of my patriotism and deprived of a national treasure. I sensed that our entire nation was being robbed of its dignity as these two men sowed discord among the brethren in an attempt to win an office which, if done successfully, requires unity, not division.

Don’t talk to me about gridlock. Don’t criticize the attack ads of the other party as you continue attack ads of your own. Don’t sow discord among the brethren of this country and think you’re going to reap anything that resembles cooperation. NoOne is better than peace.

I realized that before my eyes–acted out in some sort of sophomoric play–were the seven things that God hates. Here is what is required for our country to gain back its spirit and receive the favorable nod of the real Final Pollster–Almighty God:

1. NoOne is better than anyone else.

2. NoOne is better than the truth.

3. NoOne is better than life in all of its forms.

4. NoOne is better than happiness.

5. NoOne is better than our mission of liberty and justice for all.

6. NoOne is better than the need for good news.

7. And finally, NoOne is better than peace.

Maybe the vote we need to hold on November 6 is to decide once and for all if we really believe in each other anymore–or have we just become a permanent house divided, pretending to enjoy one another at holiday get-togethers.

God hates seven things. I take that seriously. I take that to heart.

And I, for one, am going to try to distance myself from His displeasure.

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