The Rule of Croak … March 31, 2014

Jonathots Daily Blog  

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bullfrogIf you want to be effective, start affecting what you can affect–or become a freak by freaking out about what you consider freaky.

The rule of croak–it’s very simple:

If it goes on after I die, I will stop worrying about it while I live.

I have sons with wives and I have grandchildren. They have lives of their own and will do just fine after I escape this mortal portal. All that will be left of me is a memory, so I should be about the business of making memories.

I know it is popular to believe that life is hard. I suppose if you decide to complicate it by involving yourself in matters that do not directly pertain to your field of activity and scope of influence…well, perhaps it becomes twisted.

But it is elementary when you school yourself on your field of expertise and you know exactly what makes you unique to life as we know it.

  • My family will go on without me.
  • The Dow Jones will not lose a point upon hearing of my death.
  • CNN and FOX News will have no controversy concerning my demise.

What will be affected are my writings, my music, my traveling, my heart, my humor, my ideas, my wit, my whimsy, and probably my business partner, who’s been working with me for eighteen years and may notice for a season that the “oom-pah” of her life has lost some “oom.”

So since this is directly in my field of play, it is what I will pursue.

It reminds me of the time when someone asked me if I wanted to play hardball or softball. When I examined the two balls, I saw that both would be rather hard if they hit you. What makes softball more pleasing is that it is pitched your way underhanded, it’s slower and it’s bigger, and therefore easier to hit.

There you go.

The rule of croak is like the game of softball–finding the pitches that come your way, keeping your eye on that big ball and doing your best to hit it out of the park.

True pride and vanity is any notion that we have power, influence or even consideration in any matters other than those directly linked to us.

I reject that vanity.

So to my children, friends, the US government and the rest of Planet Earth, let me tell you that I will give you a blessing–and myself one as well:

I will stay out of your business unless I know I have something that will help, and I will focus on what I can do and keep doing it better and better … until I’m no longer allowed to hop around.

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The Family Way… July 19, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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angy kitchenAt first consideration, one would not think that Jerry Springer, the PTL Club, MSNBC and Fox News have much of anything in common.

But having great fun in the middle of the night, awakening from sleep, and doing a little channel surfing on the old TV, I found that all four of them, in the process of a few moments, espoused an identical declaration:

“It’s all about family.”

Even though the words came out of the mouth of a former crack-addicted mother, a black preacher, a liberal lesbian newscaster and a blond bimbo, they were still exactly the same wording and rhetoric.

Matter of fact, I would say that those words are what you would call a “safe haven” for anyone to speak if they wanted to evoke applause.

But doing a little figuring, assuming that there are eight billion people in the world and growing, if each little family consists of about four to eight individuals, then we would have one billion non-connecting units on planet earth, who are mainly concerned about their clump of four to eight people.

Does that frighten you? Does the notion of one billion renegade troupes of human souls, focused only on their own well-being, put a chill down your spine?family studio

But once again, ironically, we refuse to reference Jesus’ feelings and attitudes on this issue, even though we claim to be a Christian nation. So let me refresh you:

  • When Jesus was informed that his family had arrived “to see him,” he turned, pointed to the crowd and said, “These are my family. Anyone who does the will of my Father is my mother, sister and brother.”
  • During his Sermon on the Mount, he warned us that if you only love those who love you, you are no better than the heathen.
  • He gave another stern admonition to his disciples, warning that often our worst enemies are those of our own households.
  • He selected twelve disciples with not a brother, sister or cousin among them, mainly because his family members had rejected him.
  • And he closed out his philosophical insights on this subject by saying, “If you don’t hate your mother and father, you are not worthy of the Kingdom.”

Now I do understand that these are all subject to interpretation. Some folks would even say I am taking them out of context. But the sheer glut of evidence lets us know that Jesus wanted us to expand our vision of family to include the entire brotherhood and sisterhood of humankind.

I have an absolutely fabulous family. I would not use the word “proud” in describing my sentiments about them–their lives are their own and I should not garner kudos for their accomplishments. Christmas jassBut I will tell you this–I have often upset those immediate kin of mine by including more people into my circle as family than they deemed necessary.

I have three sons who were born of my seed and three others that I took into my home and adopted.

I have young people all over the country I have supported with prayer and encouragement, who I feel close to because I include them in my family.

The notion that we can continue to shrink our vision of fellowship and treat the rest of human beings as either peripheral OR superfluous will cause us to become a more closed society, wracked with indifference.

Here are my three suggestions:

1. Love your family by finding other people who remind you of your family and love them equally.

2. Don’t cut more slack to your family than you do to other people; otherwise, you are on a dangerous road to hypocrisy.

3. Teach your children to love people because they are God’s creation instead of the fact that they’re “your creation.”

The “family way” of doing things in this country is a sly trick, designed to keep us insulated from feeling the pain of others.

If we don’t increase our vision, don’t be surprised if we become blind to the need.

 

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Neutral … January 16, 2013

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Jon SigningIn the often-comical pursuit of trying to create  dialogue and social interaction that does not offend anyone, we have actually ended up being one of the most offensive generations that has ever walked the face of the earth. By the time the commentators finish parsing words, studying body language and playing video tape which has been edited to reinforce their points, they are able to turn almost any conversation, speech or private moment into the abomination of desolation or an obvious affrontation to some beleaguered and misunderstood portion of our society.

So everybody is heading for the low ground.

There was a time when we actually did try to climb the mountain of wisdom in order to find the high ground where we could see better. But now it seems more prudent to those in control to find the lowest point of disagreement and camp there, hoping never to be challenged or questioned.

It happened to me yesterday. Some dear soul who had caught my show requested that I come to present my ideas, music and creativity in front of another audience of her organizing. The lady was thrilled with what she had seen, and wanted to make sure she could include all of her friends in the experience. I told her I was more than willing to go anywhere and for her to let me know how I could be of assistance.

Well, less than twenty-four-hours later she called me and said that she had talked to the “powers that be.” They were more than willing to invite me to come to their auditorium to perform–if I would comply with a few simple rules. (Honestly, friends, I don’t know how the words “simple” and “rules” ever got hooked up. It is not a good marriage–because rules are never simple and simple rarely demands many rules.)

Basically, the main concern by her  fellow-workers was that they wanted to be assured that I would come in and offer a “neutral” program. Many of the people in their constituency are of different political persuasions, faiths, ethnic backgrounds and general dispositions. They needed some guarantee that what I would share would not be offensive, but “in the wheelhouse” of everyone’s comfort zone.

Let me tell you something about neutral. Neutral by definition is a decision not to get involved and neither go forward or backwards. It is not exactly where anyone desires to be, but rather, a profile thrust upon us by fear of being overly passionate or too advanced.

I don’t mind being neutral. I just don’t know whether I can offer the same package of potential and emotional explosion by carefully removing all the meat from my offering, only to display the remaining skeleton.

But as I said, it’s not hard to do. The United Methodist minister, for instance, is more than willing to sacrifice miracles, supernatural events and any controversial subject that might have been brought up by Jesus, in an attempt to create a faith which can be intellectually absorbed through the pores from the hymn book.

On the other hand, the Southern Baptist will gladly and almost reverently take away any of the compassion, open-mindedness and non-judgmental approach of Jesus in favor of the bleeding savior who died for the world’s sins because “we’re all so very rotten, you know.”

It seems to me that the problem with religion is that it chooses to either be weak or to be mean.

So what I told the lady I would do for her gathering is simple. I’ve already found a neutral message. It’s not, however,  neutral in its energy and impact. It’s neutral because it is the only message that cross-sects all of humanity–simultaneously making sense and also convicting the hell out of all of our souls.

That message is “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

It is not obtuse to the atheist OR the pentecostal, yet individuals within those groups may find it humorous or implausible. I am willing to work with any philosophy, political party or clump of clods who will accept that the only way we’re going to get along on this planet together is when we stop feeling either superior or inferior to each other.

It’s not so much a neutral message as it is the only message.

So if my Buddhist friends have trouble with it, I offer them the platform to give me a more concise and on-point directive.

If the agnostics think it is irrelevant, I’m all ears to their findings.

And if the Muslims, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, atheists and “whoevers” wish to banter with me about the specifics of this holy sound bite, I am prepared to be instructed and informed–just not deterred.

So there is my neutral message: NoOne is better than anyone else.

I’m sure someone on MSNBC or Fox News could find fault with it, and if they couldn’t decimate the content, they could certainly delve into my character and find reasons why I am unworthy to front the notion. I don’t care. I will not play the game.

I learned a long time ago–the only way to become a fool is by participating in foolishness.

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I’m Proud … December 30, 2012

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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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With All Your Getting … September 17, 2012

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Welcome, ladies and gentlemen, to the news media’s overly simplistic, goofy representation of life in these United States. Travel with CNN, MSNBC and Fox News as they journey us around the country to break us apart into little bits and pieces of quirks, which they then amplify to represent the majority popular opinion.

First stop for our tour bus?

  • Alabama. Guns, God and grits.
  • Then we journey down to Florida. Medication, Middle East and Medicare.
  • Cruising on, we arrive in Texas, with faith, football and fried…everything.
  • In no time at all, we enter the state of California, with television, tarot cards and tofu.
  • I think we have time for a bathroom break in Minnesota. Stoic, Scandinavian, and St. Lutheran.
  • Our tour bus now takes us to the state of Indiana, where …

Hold on a second. Please allow me to interrupt this cavalcade of comedic conclusions. I just spent the weekend in Indiana. What I found there was the same thing I uncovered in Alabama, Florida, Texas, California and even Minnesota. They’re called folks. And by the way, some get it and some don’t.

It’s really that simple. Some people burst out of the borders of their training and provincial surroundings and realize more universal truths of human behavior and how to get along with other individuals. Others cling to the bad habits of their ancestors, getting the same results of inadequacy, poverty and prejudice.

It all boils down to three be’s. If you learn these, you can go anywhere in the world and co-exist with any culture, religion and even form of government. If you don’t, you make yourself cranky, and therefore, a target for criticism by neurotic folks around you, who are looking for a reason to be offended.

1. Be friendly. Really, it won’t kill you. Suspicious, careful, backward, frowning, reserved, reticent and distant leave to the public their opinion on who you are and what you are. Friendliness is required to create the image of who we wish to be and how we wish to be viewed. I do not know when people decided it was their God-given right to be unfriendly, but all it does is make them look arrogant and causes other humans to want to hurt them.

2. Be there. Please do not come to a meeting talking about the your next meeting. Don’t have a conversation with me about how busy you are and how lucky I am that you’re even taking the time to speak with me. We owe one thing to everyone we meet–give them the time they deserve and our attention, or just don’t show up. The most aggravating attitude you can present to another person is to lead them to believe that your mind is on something else other than being with them. Great people do great things by focusing on small details. Be there.

3. Be changing. My brain is not presently manufacturing enough truth to sustain me for the rest of my life. I need more information. In the process of receiving that input, I will also have to deal with challenges to things that I already hold dear. If I am prepared to change my mind, I am a candidate for prosperity.

Let us realize that not everything can be voted on. America is presently obsessed with the notion of popular opinion. If popular opinion had been allowed, slavery would never have been abolished. Segregation would still be in place. Rock and roll would have been banned. The right for women to vote would have been a joke. And even smallpox, by this time, would be bigpox. Sometime the people DON’T know best. It requires us to have the kind of leaders who are willing to change their minds–in a  direction that will benefit the common good.

And if you are willing to be friendly, be there and be changing, you will be on the cutting edge of the three things that make life on earth prosper, and therefore, fulfill the will of God.

People need liberty. And here is my definition of liberty: Liberty is when health, happiness and honesty are thrust to the forefront.

People have a right to be healthy. They certainly have the right to pursue happiness as long as it doesn’t exclude others, and the presence of honesty allows us to keep a pureness of heart that makes the viewing of God so much easier.

Please do not fall victim to the news media, which tries to divide this nation into smaller and smaller units of conflict. What I saw in Indiana yesterday was very simple. I met some absolutely inspiring human beings, who had decided to be friendly, be there and be changing. What remained were those lost sheep, who think that by avoiding others, avoiding their surroundings and avoiding change, they can actually keep life the way it is. They can’t.

So with all your “getting,” get understanding–and the greatest understanding is that where the spirit of God is, there is liberty–the pursuit of health, happiness and honesty.

Happy Monday to you. Be friendly, be there and be changing.

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If I Were a Democrat… May 11, 2012

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Politics may be the quickest way to remove purity and passion from any aspiration. Once we require a majority to proceed, we oust intelligence and creativity out the door.

My opinion.

Yet– in the spirit of MSNBC and Fox News, to present all things “fair and balanced,” since I have given time to ruminate on what I would do if I were a Republican, I will now tell you what I would do as a Democrat. (Once again, as in the case of the Republicans, I am not a member of the donkey cult…)

1. If I were a Democrat, since I do have a social agenda, it would be a good idea to stop apologizing for it.  Many of the successful projects of the twentieth century were achieved by people who had a social agenda, discovering an injustice and exposing it, much to the chagrin of those who preferred the status quo. If government does not have a social conscience that produces some sort of agenda, we will constantly be burdened with a sense of inequity which has to be explained away by erroneous research. For instance, I grew up believing that black people were good in sports, Asians were the crack aces at math, American Indians knew the best way to climb rocks and Hispanics, generally speaking, should always be hired for your gardening. It seemed innocent at the time. Of course, we now know that all of that is racist. Without a social agenda, we are delinquent in arriving at good conclusions.

2. Governing should be an issue of equality or legality. When you remove preference, emotion, bigotry, religiosity and politics from governing a nation like the United States, you are left with two criteria:  (A) Is it legal? If the answer to that is yes, then  (B) it should be equally distributed amongst the populous. Otherwise we end up with inequity and prejudice. If it is deemed to be illegal, then inequality is acceptable because the particular activity has been judged by the general public  to be detrimental to the community. Do you see? In other words, if you believe that abortion is not only immoral, but should be illegal, then work to pass a law in that direction instead of trying to make it more difficult for CERTAIN groups to have this opportunity over others. That’s un-American. If it is your contention that homosexuality is both immoral and of great danger to our society, then pass a law to return sodomy to the books, making it illegal. Therefore, inequality is acceptable because the action is against the law. Case in point: we determined that cigarettes cause cancer and second-hand smoke is dangerous. So laws were passed. We levy upon smokers an atmosphere of inequality by forbidding them to smoke in public places and charging heavy taxes onto their habit. It is righteous, because of the illegalities and unnaturalness of the activity. But on the other hand, if I were a Democrat, I would point out that if you are NOT willing to make abortion and homosexuality illegal, then according to our Constitution, equality for all American citizens must be the same. If it’s illegal, it can be unequal. But if it’s legal, then equality needs to be given to everyone.

3. If I were a Democrat, I would make sure that the country understands that we need to have a world view. Isolationism is what gets us into wars. I would ask the following questions: is there a chance that by understanding more about Islam we could address terrorism more effectively? Would having some empathy for the European banking crisis help us prevent some of the same problems in our own country? Would it be beneficial for us to understand the mind-set of the Chinese people? The way we handle countries like Iran, Pakistan, China and even Russia reminds me of a man who thinks he can pet his neighbor’s pit bull because they live on the same street. The pit bull will bite you, because you do not have any familiarity with it. If I were a Democrat, I would make it clear that this is a world we live in and not just a country.

4. If I were a Democrat, I would extol the virtues of ALL energy. I think we should go ahead and use coal–as cleanly as possible–and oil, as long as we are also aware that we are going to run out of these things. It reminds me of how I handle my sugar-free popsicles. I use them as snacks, late at night. So the first couple of days after I purchase them, I lavish myself with blessing by eating many. But by the end of the week, looking in my box and realizing they are depleting, I slow up my consumption, yet without forbidding benefit completely. The same is true with coal and oil. And we should find a way to use nuclear energy–and what would be the harm of harnessing the wind? It is ridiculous to think that this country is going to go “green.” If I were a Democrat, I would just suggest light brown–a combination of green and the nearly black of coal and oil.

5. If I were a Democrat, I would talk about spirituality instead of religion. There is perhaps no other subject in the world that has as little resolution than discussing theology, God and the practice of worship. Yet–spirituality is an intricate part of every human being. It unleashes both mercy and really, the willingness to pursue new ideas. As you may know, this year I have summed up spirituality into one sentence: NoOne is better than anyone else. If I were a Democrat, I would make that my thesis for faith.

So there you go. That’s what I would do if I were a Democrat. Rather than trying to make my position sound as Republican as possible, I would take the essence of government and the practice of making laws and insert as much humanity as feasible in order to achieve equality.

That’s it. They call Democrats donkeys because supposedly the animal is quite stubborn and has a big kick. But if the Democrats really want to be stubborn about something, they should start with staying faithful to their own pursuits. And if they want to place a “big kick” into society, they should extol the virtue of Lincoln’s expression–a government of the people, for the people, and by the people.

Two days in a row I have given you what I would do–if I were a Republican and if I were a Democrat. But since I am actually apolitical, let me tell you tomorrow how I choose to approach the issues of our time.

  

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