The I Word … April 2nd, 2019

Jonathots Daily Blog

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The I Word is Ignorance

I am reminded of the passage in “A Christmas Carol,” where the second of the Three Spirits warns Ebenezer Scrooge, when unveiling the two children of humankind beneath his robes.

He says, “Beware them both in all of their degree, but most of all, beware this boy—for on his brow I see that which is written, which is Doom, unless the writing be ceased.”

And the boy’s name was Ignorance.

Ignorance may be one of the few words in the English language which is used both as a taunt of criticism and a badge of pride. It evokes a situation in which we choose to ignore that which is obvious, that which is blessed, that which is praise-worthy and that which is true, in favor of a mythical tale often of our own making.

It is dangerous—especially when flaunted by those who seem to be totally content with their lack of knowledge and education and have begun to wear their misinterpretation as proof of simplicity instead of simply lacking proof.

Ignorance says, “I will ignore any opinion that differs from mine.”

Ignorance also proclaims, “I will call those who disagree with me ignorant.”

And most notorious of all, Ignorance closes out its rampage with, “I will lie to maintain my ignorance.”

It is a word we must cease using, because it has no power as an excuse and becomes a vicious attack when pointing the finger at another, rendering the accuser the villain.

 

Donate ButtonThe producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly donation for this inspirational opportunity

 

 

The NoOne Caper … September 24, 2012

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I had a dream.

It was in late October, 2011. As far as I know, I wasn’t thinking about anything particularly philosophical or even considering what I might be sharing in the coming year, 2012. But I had a vivid vision, filled with emotion, anxiety, joy and energy, about conveying a specific mission in that coming year. It was a typical dream in the sense that the images had significance in the moment and were difficult to explain later, when sleep had disappeared.

But there is one thing that came out of the experience that is as clear as a bell–it was six words. They were to become my central theme as I journeyed across the country in 2012: NoOne is better than anyone else.

Two immediate problems presented themselves.

First, Janet pointed out to me that “no one” was not a compound word, and that it should be dubbed the Seven Word Tour. I normally try not to be stubborn, but I really felt impressed from my nighttime visitation, that the theme was to be six words. So we went on the Internet, checked with grammar sources, and found what one often does when seeking an answer concerning the English language–it could be this, it could be that. Some sources said that “no one” was two separate words. Others insisted it was a normal compound word, separated because it was thought that the two o’s placed together looked rather odd. (Honestly, that’s why I like it. Two o’s look like a pair of eyeballs staring at you, checking out your reaction.) So even though I have great respect for English grammar, I decided that since I was given license, I would pursue my own path. (However, even though I validated the choice, I still occasionally have folks come up to me, thinking they are clever by pointing out that it’s really seven words. I just smile.)

The second problem was a little bit more deeply ingrained within our culture. After all, we live in a society that holds conventions in which discussions ensue on how important it is to not mistreat cows while simultaneously serving fillet mignon at the banquet. In other words, some notions have become high-sounding ideals instead of practical pursuits. Unfortunately, that’s kind of what has happened with “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” We have basically decided that this principle is completely implausible, and even though we allow it to be spoken in public, everyone quietly retreats from its purity because of its difficulty and seemingly inhuman feasibility.

So I knew when I stood in front of an audience and said, “NoOne is better than anyone else,” I would receive mixed reviews–at best a nod of assent followed by a quiet grunt of disapproval.

But I came to the conclusion that everything evil that has ever happened in our world was forged in the fires of supremacy. When we believe that we are to live our lives by the rules of the jungle, using domination as the settling ground for all conflict, we are admitting that possessing a larger brain and an eternal spirit is useless to us.

This is not the surrender that we should accept without a fight. Let me repeat it: everything born of darkness in the human experience begins with the notion that “i am better than you.”

  • Six million skeleton, slain, Jewish innocents were thrown into mass graves because one man was able to propel a message of the supremacy of his supposed Super Race.
  • Over three hundred denominations of churches met yesterday in America, not simply because they favor one style of worship over another, but because at some point, doctrinally, the forefathers of their faith believed they had found a more enlightened path which made them better than their brothers and sisters.
  • The Republican Party believes it is better than the Democrat Party.
  • The Democrats believe they are better–more high-minded–than the Republicans.
  • A white man, even though enlightened by his experience and journey, will still sprout nervous energy when in the presence of a black man–not quite sure how to carry on a conversation because the whole climate of his world has screamed his preeminence over his darker-skinned brother.

This pervasive philosophy not only creates an impasse, but an obstinate, disguised anger that pouts in the corner, refusing to participate in détente.

When I looked at those six words–NoOne is better than anyone else–I realized I was headed for an experience rife with blessing and froth with controversy. So if you will allow me, over the next several days I will give you the ten objections I have received to my dream message from October 2011–NoOne is better than anyone else.

These assertions tickled me but also gave me pause to find the reasoning, both spiritually and intellectually, to prop up this valuable axiom.

So tomorrow I will start with what I call The California Consideration–the two objections presented to me while I was in the Golden State. I hope you will come along. It will be great fun, and like all good things that are entertaining, will certainly have its moments of inspiration.

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

A Simple Moment — September 27, 2011

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Papers can lie on my desk for weeks, silently screaming for my attention, but never receive one moment’s notice from me unless there is some sort of threat or intimidation to grant them their due.  (Sometimes they even lay on my desk when they’re feeling properly English…)

I, like maybe some of you, have a long list of requirements, which I have even put into an order of importance, yet relegated to the realm of “never to be thought of again.”  I do insist that I am a highly motivated human being who is caring and wants to do excellent work.  Simultaneously, I am either lazy enough or frightened enough that I will avoid labor until it comes pounding on my front door. 

Last night I woke up in the middle of a great sleep feeling a little sick–and maybe with what I thought was some tightness in my chest.  Being a fifty-nine-year-old hypochondriacal, overweight male, I considered that perhaps this was the “big one”–a pending heart attack. I had no real reason to think in that direction and the minute I shifted around, sat up in bed and belched a couple of times, I realized that what I was feeling was just some late-night overuse of peanut butter and crackers.

But in that simple moment–when I was considering my own demise–all sorts of pledges, promises, dietary considerations and reforms came rushing to my brain–a prayer to God that He grant me one more chance to overcome my obesity before exploding my chest. Here’s the funny part: the minute I was free of the notion of my looming doom, I was also relieved of any sensation of repentance.

You see, we want to live a life of our own choice, where WE motivate the world around us to our betterment and to the betterment of itself.  We want to believe that if God would just give us excellent circumstances, we would produce phenomenal results.  But the truth of the matter is, very few of us will actually move to do much of anything until we are confronted by tribulation, trial, temptation, disaster, inconvenience, frustration, red tape or just general nit-picking, aggravating duty. Candidly, we probably won’t even clean the gutters on our houses unless a tree crashes in on our roofs.

Yes, our good work shows up when we are forced to pull out our better china and place our best recipe on the plate for consideration. Until then, we are people who promise instead of a people of promise.  You do recognize the difference, right?

So just think how tough it is to be God.  You love your children but You know they are innately lazy and unmotivated without some sort of rod accompanying the guiding staff.  You don’t want to be a grouch, but You also don’t want to leave them perplexed over their lack of progress, wondering why life has passed by so quickly. 

 The source of trials and tribulations is that someone else has failed to do his job, dropping the problem on your doorstep. God doesn’t tempt anyone, nor does He hassle us. The hassle that comes into my life is because somebody else somewhere along the line passed on the responsibility–and I ended up picking #1 in line at Baskin Robbins. Yes. Someone else’s duty has become my responsibility.

It’s what happened in our society with the financial crunch; it’s what has happened with the test scores in our schools. We let an opportunity pass that could have been handled in the moment and now it is still here, refusing to go away–except it’s uglier–because now it falls in our jurisdiction.

So is there an answer? Is there any way that we can simulate problems in our lives without coming across as pessimists and being rejected by others because we always bring up the negative possibilities? Probably not.  

But I would make one suggestion: limit your load to five. 

Don’t lie to yourself and insist that you are so proficient that you can multi-task and do many, many things during a day and accomplish them well. Those people don’t really exist, and if they did we would all basically hate them. Find out five things that need to be done on any given day,write them down, and check them off when they are completed. Don’t be tempted to replace them with things that appear to be more urgent. After all, urgent things have waited a while and can wait a while longer. The only way to live a good human life is to be focused on a few things at a time and perform them to the best of your daily ability.

You will, of course, miss some opportunities and some individuals will criticize you for not being “on point.”  But don’t try to do more than five things in a day. That gives you 35 tasks in a week and 150 in a month.  That should do it, don’t you think? So you can either try to do 373 things poorly, or admit that you’re human and must focus on a simple moment and attempt 150 with a bit more style and deliberation. It’s not a perfect system.  If it were, you and I would be ill-qualified for the position. It’s just our way of admitting that until the pile of debris in front of us gets large enough, we usually don’t grab a garbage bag.

A simple moment–when we realize that the problem has become a trial and the trial is threatening disaster and we step into it, reluctantly trying to fix it, while complaining about how we wish our lives were easier. 

If you really want to take authority over your journey, choose five “fussers” a day, take them out of the status of being “trials” and just make them desirable choices in achieving your daily bread.

Will it work? I’m sorry.  I wasn’t listening.  What did you ask? (I think you get my drift…)

Like everything else in the realm of human beings, distraction makes it a “sometimes affair.”

Pencil Practice — September 19, 2011

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I love Mondays.

It is my day to pack up my belongings, get in my car and roll on down the road to the next community, where I will be headquartering for a week to share my thoughts, dreams and little dab of talent.

I also use Monday for another purpose. Monday reminds me of when I was a kid and knew I had an important paper that had to be turned in for school, and the teacher wanted that assignment to be written in pen–my best cursive writing.  Terrified that I was going to have to start over and over again to avoid mistakes, I chose to practice writing the assigned paper in pencil first.

Pencil is wonderful. It glides nicely–and also erases when you screw up. But I do believe that as people we need “pencil practices” in preparing for our dealings with one another.  Otherwise, when it comes time to “pen” ourselves down, we will not be ready and will have a bunch of scratch-offs.

So I use Monday for that purpose. Having the success of a good week, meeting good folks and sharing good things, I allow myself a few moments to think about how I can do it better. It’s a good day to practice being a real human being instead of a jerk going through the motions. Here are three things I do:

1. Come up with a greeting. Do you realize that if you stop saying “hello,” “good morning” or “howdy,” you will eventually stifle that reflex to be friendly, and pass by that fellow-man or woman without comment.  And how is that supposed to be interpreted by them? Believe me, there are enough crazy people in the world that if you decide to snub the wrong one, you might regret your choice. I think greeting one another in a civil way is a talent that if you stop using, just may depart, leaving you sullen and without remark.

So I have fun trying out different ways of saluting my fellow-travelers. One of my favorites is, “Hi, y’all.” Southern accents can be quite endearing. Greet one another–we do need a starting place, you know.

Much to the chagrin of one of my brothers, I call everyone “my friend.” It aggravates him. He thinks it’s pretentious. If by pretentious, he means that I do it on purpose, then he’s right. If by pretentious, he assumes I’m insincere, he’s wrong. I call people “my friend” because it’s the way to tell them that I believe we still have a chance to do some really great things.

2. Go for the second question. Our conversations with people are very short, usually revolving around the weather or some ill-defined answer to “how are you?” Just a few minutes ago, I said to this dude, “Good morning.” He said, “Good morning to you.” I responded, “Do you have a good day planned?” It kind of shocked him. It was fun. He paused and responded, “I sure hope so!” As I was walking away, he called out, “How about you?” I replied, “Much better now that I met you!”

I know some of you may think it’s corny.  Good. If the worst thing ever said about me is that I’m corny, I will not only survive it, but I will be able to produce a very stable crop of ideas.

3. Once every hour, look in the mirror. Sometimes we forget how we look. Sometimes I forget that I’m getting older, because my mind is still popping at about a 22-year-old level. Look in the mirror. Do you see a grimace? A growl? Or some glee? That’s what folks are looking at, you know. When we forget what we look like and what countenance has etched its way across our face, we do a disservice to ourselves and everyone else. Work on your facial expression. It won’t kill you, although contrary to popular opinion–our looks CAN kill.

That’s about it. It’s not difficult; it won’t change the world. But I’m really not out to change the world. I just want to make sure that when I greet my Maker, I’m ready with a second question and I pretty well know what I look like.

And since who I am is going to be written in down permanent ink in the Book of Life–if you don’t mind, I think I’ll just use my Mondays to “pencil practice”–right here and now.

The Lessen Lesson — September 18th, 2011

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You know the joke–a man walks into the doctor’s office, moving his arm up and down.  He says, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.”  The doctor replies, “Well, stop doing that.”

Exactly.

I am not quite sure at what age we begin to equate maturity with the accumulation of stress and pain as a symbol of our growth and adulthood, but whenever it happens, we seem to puncture a hole in our spirits–where all the joy drains out. If the human countenance is any sign of what’s going on inside the human heart, then the folks in the United States of America appears to be continually constipated.

We should have learned through the falsehood of the statement “No pain, no gain” that life is not meant to produce discomfort in order to generate progress.  Because as you well know, if you are in the midst of exercising, and pain is the result, you are no longer producing benefit, but instead, just fostering aggravation to your physical being. Muscles can stretch–that’s good.  Sweat on the brow never hurt anyone.  Heart rate raised? Excellent for the cardiovascular system. But pain is not a good sign.

And that goes across the board.  We think we should have an “all nighter” to prepare for the test instead of taking notes all along and learning as we go. Emotionally, we feel the need to worry over “what might be” instead of taking on the problems one at a time and absorbing them into our being, using the wisdom we have and applying the principles we know to be true. Spiritually, we are preoccupied with pleasing a God who at times we insist is already pleased with us so that we can be found pleasing by occasionally being displeased with the actions of others.

It’s a mess. And if you think you have the backing of Jesus and Christian theology in this pathetic process, you are sadly wrong. Because when the Pharisees were trying to corner Jesus, they asked him why his disciples didn’t fast.  In other words, “Why aren’t your followers as miserable as us?”

Jesus’ response, paraphrased, was, “I’m here, things are going great, we’re having fun–there’s no need to fast.”

He constantly told us not to worry or take thought about things that were not happening now–that tomorrow would take care of itself. And he told the multitudes to come to him with all their weariness and burdens–and he would give them rest.

Here are two questions you must ask yourself:  Is life about doing a project or achieving a goal at all costs, or is life about considering the cost and finding a better way to achieve your goal?

Your answer to those two questions will determine your sense of well-being and happiness.

Yes, it is important, if you’re going to be a successful human being, to put in practice “The Lessen Lesson.”  Lessen your fear, lessen your struggle, lessen your apprehension, lessen your worry, lessen your responsibility whenever possible and most important–lessen your expectation. How can we begin?

1. Stop the pain. When you feel pain, just take even five minutes–and stop. Whether it’s emotional pain, mental “insane” or physical strain–just refrain. Because remember, Jesus told us to “take up our cross and follow him.”  He never suggested we climb up on it and get nailed down. He merely wants us to learn how to handle responsibility, shifting the weight onto our shoulders in the correct proportion.

2. Confront the weariness. Weariness happens when we begin to believe that the work is more important than the product. So even though we’ve lost our enthusiasm, passion and even are beginning to sacrifice our skill and intelligence, we continue to trudge on–putting brick and mortar together, often constructing a crooked wall. It’s why the American worker has lost an edge in the world–weariness is no motivator for excellence. How do I know I’m weary? When my sense of dread about what I have to do is not given a chance to be relieved by a better idea.

3. And finally, lift the burden. Many years ago for a brief season, I taught at a small Bible college in Louisiana. The dean of the college was an austere fellow who believed in hard work and hard knocks. He had two young men on his staff who were janitors and he always found the most difficult way for them to perform a task. One day he asked them to move sheets of plywood about 150 yards, from one building to another. They were supposed to carry it by hand. It was arduous–and ridiculous. I backed up my old station wagon and we put all the plywood on top of my luggage rack and hauled it over in one load. We laughed, joked and sang all during the procedure. The dean came out, infuriated because I had suggested a simpler way to achieve the goal. I was perplexed. The work was done, it was done well, and he had two employees who still had energy for the rest of the day. He was angry because it was not painful. So I will tell you, the main thing to remember is to stay away from people who think life is hard and want to make sure that they provide your portion. Find a way to lift the burden from yourself and others, and thus prove the heart of Christ.

So–The Lessen Lesson is to stop the pain, confront the weariness and lift the burden.

Because when life is through, people will not remember what you did as much as how you did it.

6:30

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Remarkable, pathetic or mediocre? Those are the broad-stroked headings available to me as the writer of a daily essay such as this in conveying concepts and feelings.  In other words, I can talk about remarkable things, I can share something I deem pathetic, or I can joke with you about how some selection was made which proved to be mediocre.

Honestly, I don’t mind sharing with you my more pathetic or mediocre moments. Making fun of myself is the only sure source of material that never fails me and guarantees a good laugh.  But I generally do not choose to talk to you about pathetic things I see in the world around me, nor the mediocre that crosses my path. Candidly, I think you get enough of that from other sources. It’s not that I am some sort of Pollyanna penman, incapable of seeing the darker side of life. It’s just that I believe a certain amount of light is necessary to illuminate the even the darkness for review. I also contend that well-placed exhortation is fuel to the human tank and would rather do that instead of drilling a hole in the gas line, leaving us drained.

So last night I was overjoyed to meet a dear woman and her lovely young daughter. It was not a large crowd that gathered for our presentation in Oxford, Pennsylvania. It is often difficult for our sponsors to explain to the potential audiences exactly what we are going to do when we arrive–and when you add in a little apathy, a touch of disgust, frustration and a big dose of “I don’t know who they are,” sometimes the size of the gathering can be a bit lean.

So as I put on my show last night, the sparseness of the spectacle before me did allow for me to notice this woman and her daughter sitting in the array.  The mother had her arm around the daughter, and they exchanged smiles and rib pokes all during the show. It almost brought tears to my eyes to see two people from different generations enjoying one thing at the same time. And then, when the fine lady and her offspring came to the table, I discovered that they had driven by the church at 6:30 that evening, spotted the announcement on the marquee about the concert and had decided to run home, clean up quickly and come back for the show. I don’t even know whether they had ever been in that church before.

They were alive. They were beautiful. They were remarkable.

Now you must understand, in the presence of every remarkable story, there is also a mediocre tale and a pathetic one. Because nothing is truly remarkable unless it exceeds expectation and rises out of the pit of pathetic and mediocre. I could tell you about the pathetic folk who might have had much more information than this lady, but decided to stay home because they “didn’t know enough about it'” or were too tired or too busy. I could even tell you about some who did show up for the performance, but instead of letting it in, viewed it as if they were watching television or perusing the Internet–barely a passing glance.

But I don’t think that makes a good story. We spend too much time in this country discussing what doesn’t work, why it doesn’t work and who’s to blame. As the genius once said, “I, for one, am sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

I’m going to walk around with a little spotlight in my hand, shining it on every remarkable thing I see and every remarkable person I meet–until we finally get the idea that “remarkable” is the only way to live. I just looked at that beautiful young daughter and knew she was going to be all right–because she had a mother who was spontaneous and moved out to do something good with her that they both could enjoy–and put her arm around her the whole time to let her know that she loved her.

Now, that’s just candy bars and cupcakes in a world filled with fast-food-greasy-grub.

So you can feel free to commiserate over all the pathetic things in our world if you want to. You can shake your head in disgust over the mediocre manner in which politics, government, corporations and religion handle their business.

Not for me. I would rather find one remarkable woman who reaches out to touch the hem of life’s garment, believing she will receive a miracle.

Remarkable means it’s worthy of receiving our attention–and remarks.

So, my dear lady and your sweet daughter, you now have been shone upon by the light of revelation of words–and read by tens of thousands of people. For after all, if we actually begin to believe that remarkable has more benefit to our life than being pathetic and mediocre, well … who knows?

We might actually go home, change clothes and make it to the show.

Peculiar — September 15, 2011

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Words are not that different from birds–in the sense that they are quite capable of flying away and becoming extinct.  Such is the case with “peculiar.

I don’t think anyone anywhere would consider the word “peculiar” to be a positive term.  How about some examples?  “He joined the football team–he was a peculiar player.”  “I really like my new girlfriend–she’s so peculiar.” “I would like another serving of that lasagna–it has such a peculiar taste.”

See what I mean?  But when those King James boys were translating the Bible into English from the Greek, they inserted the word “peculiar” to describe a people who were followers of the philosophy of Jesus.  Future translators rejected the choice, favoring inserting “special” instead of “peculiar.”  (But I’m not so sure that “special people” flies in our society either…)

If I’m not the first to say so, let me at least be the second.  Without some peculiar people in our generation, we’re all going to lump into a great, big, hairball tumbling down the hill towards our own mediocre demise.  Peculiar people do unusual things, which through trial and tribulation, are decided to be outstanding and eventually garner the reward of being termed “normal.”

It was a peculiar notion that a man could fly–so peculiar that certain individuals who believed they could soar like eagles either ended up at the bottom of a cavern, smashed on the rocks, or were committed to sanitariums by their overly protective relatives.

It was a peculiar thing in 1861 to contend that black people were actually equals to white people and at least should have the right to be free.  Today it’s beyond our comprehension that anybody ever believed anything else. But at least 90% of the populous–both North and South–had some ongoing sense that the black race was inferior.

And I am constantly reminded by good Christian folks that I am doing a peculiar thing by traveling across the country and sharing my message of simplicity with a musical soundtrack for thousands of hearers, in hopes of dawning a better day.  Yes, I am peculiar–and you do not need to call me special.

I was just wondering today how willing YOU are–to transform your personal life into potential instead of a problem, and risk changing our society from its doldrums of dreariness, into a flowing river of possibility?  Here are four things I suspect will make you peculiar–but also potent:

1. Lead with “nice.”  I know this will give some people the creeps.  But I meet hundreds and hundreds of human beings every week, and the common profile seems to be suspicion and caution, which quite bluntly, only makes them look ignorant and vulnerable.  After all, if I were a murderer, I would not kill someone who was smiling and confident, but rather, that nasty individual who grimaced at me, standing in the shadows, afraid to make contact.  Okay–maybe some people don’t deserve “nice.”  Then you can quietly cool down and walk away.  But if you are rude to a child of God’s making who needed your encouragement, and instead you offered nothing more than your flat response, then you might have missed an opportunity to “entertain an angel unaware.”

2. Step forward.  Such a simple thought!  Don’t stand back and wait for things to happen. I have not seen less failure in those who are reticent than I have in those who are aggressive. Step into life instead of waiting for someone to draw you out and bring you into the mix. Intelligent, successful, prosperous folks are ALWAYS moving their feet forward instead of stumbling backwards.  I even notice it in the body language of people I meet for the first time.  They often stand several feet back, making me cover the distance.  Really?  I don’t think this profile will get anyone very far.  Step forward and take the chance that what you feel, believe and sense in yourself is worth sharing with someone else.

3.  Know what you want, but more importantly, want to know. I do meet people who are positive about their agenda–-but they become obnoxious when some point they made is proven to be useless.  I always know what I want.  Without knowing what you want, you walk into every discussion and frustrate your fellow-travelers with your lack of commitment to a cause.  Yes, I always know what I want–BUT it is more important to me to learn what is better.  Then I can quickly change that to my new want. The best way to become a viable and usable human being is to balance “dedicated” and “flexible.”  I am dedicated to what I want, but I am also aware that everything on this planet evolves, and I will always choose to move towards the better way. We are so afraid of “flip-flopping.”  But I will tell you this–you can’t cook a pancake on both sides without flipping it.  Maybe that’s why we have so many half-baked politicians.

4.  And finally, honor freedom.  Freedom is supreme.  I have told you before in these essays that freedom is above love.  God so loved the world that He gave us the freedom to stupidly kill His son, without destroying us for it, but instead, turning it into a symbol of his salvation.  That’s huge.  The best way to get on the right side of history is to always be the ally of freedom.  Freedom does not mean that I agree with you.  Freedom does not even mean that I give my unconditional support.  Freedom means that I will not interfere with your right to pursue your dreams.

Now THERE is peculiarity.  If you choose to lead with “nice”–stepping towards humanity and knowing what you want, but more importantly, wanting to know, while believing in freedom for yourself and everyone else without question–you WILL be peculiar.  But you will also find yourself in the favor of God and man.

Peculiar–an old-fashioned word, disdained by the masses, but embraced by this particular, overweight, traveling troubadour.

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