Catchy (Sitting 33) Too Many Meetings … January 28th, 2018

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Prophet Morgan was dead.

But he was not a victim of his own hand by suicide. He was killed.

While the medical examiner was studying the body during the autopsy, she discovered a pinprick under his right armpit. A needle mark. It prompted her to investigate further. She found evidence of potassium chloride. Somebody wanted Morgan dead, and used a lethal cocktail to stop his heart.

It also became obvious that the suicide note, though written by Morgan’s hand, did not contain his thoughts. Checking his groin, they found that electrodes had been attached to his body to generate severe pain, causing him to submit to his assailant’s will.

For Morgan, character that he was, had purposely misspelled some words and used bad punctuation to let all of his friends know that the note did not come from him. Everyone in the organization knew that even though Prophet talked like a hillbilly, he was actually a grammar Nazi, and went off into fits of rage over a misplaced comma.

Matthew sat quietly during the Inquest as four or five dozen people listened to the medical examiner explain how a beautiful young man had landed in an untimely grave. It was too much.

In the midst of the Q & A with reporters, Matthew rose, left the building, climbed into his car and drove to the Sahara Casino, punching the elevator button for the ninth floor, where a suite of offices had been provided by the owners as a courtesy to Jubal Carlos and the movement.

Matthew was alone. He was quiet. He had some time to think. But it was one of those nasty occasions when having an opportunity to contemplate was a punishment, not a relief. There was just too much shit in the stall to appreciate the horse.

Matthew knew good things were going on–that the rallies were meeting great emotional and spiritual needs in the populace. Matter of fact, his partner in business, Landy, had recently attended a session in Las Vegas and had accepted Jesus as her personal savior. At least that’s how she phrased it.

She was a different person. She now hopped the plane, going from city to city to be part of the Gospel caravan. She sat for hours talking to the prostitutes who were new members of the staff, interviewing them about what it was like to be whores–and how the change in their lives had saved them from eradication.

Matthew envied her. It couldn’t be that easy. Mumbling a few words and a prayer, and promising allegiance to a two-thousand-year-old creed did not seem to have the energy for explaining away the hell that went on in the world, nor the power to curb the appetites in his own being, which often left him vanquished instead of victor.

As he sat in his office listening to the hum of the flourescent lights, sorting through the everyday process of his existence, he was suddenly interrupted by Soos, who raced through the door, shutting it quickly behind her.

She didn’t waste a moment. “Listen, Matthew, I don’t have much time. Here’s what I need you to know…” She glanced at her arm for a watch, but there was none there. “In a few minutes a man is going to come here. I want you to be cool. I want you to ignore me. I’m going to go over and hide in this closet. For God’s sake, don’t tell him I am here. Just carry on your conversation, listen to what he has to say, and please… be cool.” She paused. “Oh, I already said that.”

She didn’t wait for a reply, but opened the closet door, slithered in and shut it quietly behind her.

As soon as the closet door closed, the buzzer on Matthew’s desk sounded. Since there was no secretary, some visitor had discovered the large, red button on the reception wall and was asking entrance. Matthew strolled to the door and opened it.

Standing there was a man in his mid-thirties, about six-feet seven-inches tall, broad shoulders, long blond hair which fluttered down his back, a deep brown tan, and with the physique of a defensive lineman from the National Football League. Matthew was startled at his appearance. He was looking at a Viking in a suit.

The guest, aware of the reaction, stepped forward and held out his hand, which more resembled a southern smoked ham. “You must be Matthew. My name is Jackson Priestly, but my friends call me Joshua.”

A chill went down Matthew’s spine. The name Joshua had some special significance. He tried to remember. What was it? Yes–it was Jo-Jay’s warning. “Beware Joshua…”

Matthew placed his small hand inside the monster mitt, shook it and said, “Well, what can I do for you, Jackson?”

Jackson motioned to the office, inquiring, “Could we go in and sit down?”

Matthew nervously held his hand out, gesturing toward the door. “Sure. I can sit down.”

It was only a few steps from the reception area to the office, but it was awkward, with Matthew not knowing whether to let the giant go first, or whether he should precede him. He stalled at the doorway, deciding to go in first, so they both ended up trying to enter at the same time, bumping into one another.

Matthew made his way to his desk, glancing at the closet door, knowing that Soos was listening, and therefore, if there was going to be a murder, she would be a witness. Horrible thought. But keep in mind, he had just come from an inquest.

“So what can I do for you, Jackson?” Matthew repeated, trying to upload some of his business decorum.

“I’m a spokesman,” Jackson began, “for the CLO. Our organization is very simple. Our slogan is ‘Maintaining the faith, faithfully.'”

Matthew nodded without responding.

“I’m going to be honest with you, Matthew,” Jackson continued. “We’re concerned.”

Matthew didn’t even blink an eye.

Realizing he was being given space, Jackson explained, “We’re concerned about this campaign you’re conducting about Jesus Christ.”

He paused. Again, no response. He pushed on.

“What has us bothered is the trivializing of an age-old message with eternal values being marginalized to become a street-vendor philosophy. Yes, complete with hot dogs and hamburgers, pennants and hats.”

Matthew said nothing.

“It’s a mistake,” declared Jackson. “I know you may consider this a bit of short-sightedness–for us to critique any contribution that would bring focus to the Christ. But the Master needs more than focus. He needs honor. He needs glory. He needs respect. He needs position. And even though you may not agree, he needs to be showcased as ‘Lord of Lords and King of Kings.'”

Matthew took the moment to insert some shock value. “Well, then, you’ve got a helluva fuckin’ problem, don’t you?”

Jackson was visibly startled at the profanity. Matthew smiled internally, overjoyed that he had struck a blow against the armor of this pious knight of religion.

“What do you mean?” challenged Jackson.

“Well, Jackson, my man,” Matthew said, “all your attempts to elevate the resume of Jesus of Nazareth have only succeeded in making him inaccessible to the masses, and gradually turning him into a religious icon, which I think even you might agree, is contrary to his druthers.”

Jackson shook his head. “I would not presume to know the druthers of the only begotten Son of God…”

Matthew interrupted. “Honestly, big fellow, I’m just working off of his material. You see, people who talk like you were frightened by Jesus, so they ended up killing him. Isn’t that amazing? People who are spiritual think they do service to God by killing someone…”

Matthew probed into Jackson’s eyes, looking for a flit of weakness, but he stared straight ahead.

“Let me give you a little lesson,” Jackson said. “I will keep it brief because I know this school of thought is not necessarily to your liking. It’s about the Feast of Tabernacles.”

Matthew squinted.

Jackson chuckled. “It was a turning point in the ministry of Jesus. He was working in Galilee, he was blessing the people, he was healing. He spent an afternoon with his family, and they began to chide him, asking him why he didn’t go to Jerusalem for the Feast of Tabernacles, where the market would be larger for his message and he would have a chance to be more popular. Now let me explain this–we’re not sure what the family’s motivation was. Some theologians think there was a plot to kill Jesus, which was going to be executed on the road to Jerusalem, with his brothers being privy to the plan. But that’s neither here nor there. Jesus sees right through their pressure and decides not to go to the Feast of Tabernacles–but then later changes his mind. Arriving at the feast, he realizes it was not Galilee. It was not sitting around Peter’s house waiting for someone sick to arrive to get help. Even though Jesus was the Son of God, he found himself like a little ant, running around a huge Temple.”

Jackson went on. “He stood in the middle of the square and screamed, ‘If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink!’ He got attention. He created a stir. He became popular. But that popularity ended up jeopardizing his freedom to speak his mind and to save souls. It actually put him at the mercy of the Romans, who had no toleration for variety. So you see, a little trip to Jerusalem to gain popularity hastened his demise.”

Jackson paused.

Matthew sat, leery of him. This was a well-educated, intelligent, intuitive, well-rehearsed creature of knowledge. He was scary. He was dangerous. Matthew chose to play innocent.

“Honestly, Jackson,” he said, “I don’t know anything about the Bible. I wouldn’t even know how to spell it if it weren’t for that little Sunday School song about the B-I-B-L-E.”

Matthew laughed alone at his joke. “So let me ask you to take thirty seconds and sum up what you’re trying to communicate to me.”

Jackson stood to his feet, ready to exit after his closing comment. “You have lost a dynamic young man–Prophet Morgan. Now is an excellent time to reflect. How about ten days of mourning? Shut down the rallies, and take that time to realize the heat of the fire you’re trying to handle. You look smart enough. Use your brain to discover a better way.”

Jackson nodded, turned, walked to the door, and disappeared.

Matthew, in his chair, was shaking. He felt handled, out of his league and threatened.

Suddenly Soos burst out of the closet door, nearly scaring Matthew to death.

“Who was that? Who was that?” she questioned breathlessly.

Matthew sat, trying to gather his thoughts. “I don’t know, Soos. You heard the same thing I did.”

“I heard it,” said Soos, “but I didn’t really see him. What was he like? Was he a monster? Jo-Jay says he’s dangerous. He is Joshua, right?”

Matthew shook his head.

There had just been too many meetings.

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Ask Jonathots …December 3rd, 2015

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I’m a high school creative writing teacher. At the start of every year I identify a few really talented students, and more often than not, they end the year under-achieving–or even tanking–while students with average abilities work hard and rise to the top. I’m beginning to question my definition of talent. What’s yours? And how can I inspire these so-called stars to reach their potential?

Talent is a capacity for success.

Nothing more, nothing less.

We make two major mistakes when we discuss talent.

  1. It is God-given or we’re born with it.
  2. Talent, by itself, contains an engine to propel it forward.

Neither is true.

The major talent that all human beings are given is life.

The deterrent to talent is always perspective.

For example, if your mom and dad gave you life and also refrained from teaching you that life sucks, you have a chance to take that life, discover ability and then turn it into prosperity.

I do not want to evaluate your choices as a teacher. You certainly have a fine education and your own way of doing things.

Yet writers are not hatched nor are they coddled into production.

A writer is someone who has a story and is always looking for better and more concise ways to tell it.

Simply because someone has sentence structure or a comprehension of syntax does not make him or her a writer. As with every occupation or calling, the impetus comes from passion, not from the accumulation of knowledge.

If I found myself in your position, I suppose I would pick out the assignments that stimulate that inner anxiety to express, and then let those missions isolate the writers from those who merely have a grasp of grammar.

Yes, it is the work that defines the talent, not the talent that dictates the work.

Just as there are many athletes in the world but very few who actually can be counted on for performances on demand, the same is true with everything–including writing.

I don’t write unless I have something to share that burns so deeply inside me that I have no choice but to try to translate it into words.

I guess my definition of a good teacher is someone who allows people to find their own talent … without suggesting where it might be hiding.

 

 

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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.

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