Things I Learned from R. B.


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Episode 2

There is definitely a reason that patrons of literature over the centuries have sincerely warned those who put pen to paper (or in our time, fingers to keys) that it is never wise to write something in the first person. Just too many I’s for the “eyes” which will read it.

Yes, it’s safer to let your tale be told by a he, a she, a they or even an it.

Then, if your character ends up being a scoundrel—even temporarily—you don’t have to personally wear the orange D on your chest—for Dumbass.

But when I talk to you about R. B., I must speak in the first person. These are lessons I had to learn which you perhaps already knew, or will decide to ignore.

I will simply have to own the good with the bad, the silly with the serious and the righteous with the sinister.

Let me begin by saying that I wrote a musical. Fifteen songs plus little interludes sprinkled among them which I referred to as “widgets.”

I was very proud.

Actually, most of the musical was written in less than three months—with a song or two trailing off to coincide with the calendar year.

I got my band together and we recorded the music on a reel-to-reel tape system, overdubbed through a cassette machine, until we had something that sounded like an entire cast performing the tunes.

I had no idea what I was going to do with this collection of lyrics, notes and melodies.

I played it for an old buddy of mine in Columbus, Ohio, who immediately fell in love with the whole idea surrounding the project—so much so that he decided to make it his pet purpose. Before I knew it, he went out and secured fifteen people to invest in this endeavor, giving us a whopping ten thousand dollars to do something with what we had.

I was young. I probably should have taken it slow. But honestly, those two words—“young and slow”—rarely appear together in Earth’s environment.

Therefore I went into a professional studio and hired musicians to record the soundtrack and decided to put together a cast of nine characters for a twenty-five-city tour of the United States of America. This would be a daunting task for someone who knew what he was doing, let alone for a sheep in the woods, unfamiliar with the ravenous wolves.

My first step was to hold auditions.

I thought people would flock to have an opportunity to travel for two months across the great American plain—to sing, dance and act in front of audiences in hometown theaters from Pennsylvania to Texas.

I was wrong.

About twenty-five people signed up for the audition, and they all came with three questions:

  1. What am I going to make?
  2. How much does it pay?
  3. What will be my remuneration?

On the night of the audition, they all came in having much less talent than ego. Also, they were more greedy than giving and critical than appreciative.

Chief among them was a fellow named R. B. He was a sweet enough guy, but his New England upbringing had led him to believe that he was one of the Sons of the American Revolution.

He had exacting demands:

He didn’t want to audition the way everyone else did. He wanted to set up his guitar amp and sing his own songs instead take a crack at mine.

Also, he was so nervous to audition in front of the rest of the contestants that he demanded a private room. He sang a hair off-key, breathless from nervous energy. Yet, he still had just enough of a voice to be considered.

I was young, too eager, and uncertain whether I would be able to fill all the positions from the handful of souls who came out for the trials.

I gave in too much to R. B.’s requests.

I just didn’t know if I would ever find other people to staff our show, so I was careful not to close a door to anyone. Through that experience, I learned that sometimes if you don’t close the door, all the flies come in.

Four days after the auditions, still having three spaces to fill, I hired R. B. to be in my musical and travel with the cast. I made the decision after about three hours of a back-and-forth conversation with myself that went like this:

“Sure, he doesn’t have…”

“But then again, maybe…”

I learned, from this first encounter with R. B., that when you base your future on maybe, you always end up with what will be—wishing for what could be.

Sit Down Comedy … January 31st, 2020

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Sit Down Comedy

At the Olympics, there is no award given for completing the training and earning the right to appear in the games.

There is no recognition for the person who displays the best marching during the opening ceremonies or who has the brightest costume for the closing cavalcade.

There are three medals—a gold, a silver and a bronze.

And even though there are changes continually going on in our world, when it comes to the human race and our emotional, spiritual, mental and physical well-being, the same three distinctions have been available since the very dawn of time.

The only worrisome thing comes when we begin to believe that these three “medals” can be altered, or the rules can be changed to apply different criteria.

Many imposters have come along, attempting to replace the gold, silver and bronze of human expression.

  • Greed
  • Patriotism
  • Revivalism
  • Politics
  • Open-mindedness.
  • Traditionalism.
  • Self-centeredness.
  • And sloth.

Although these have been touted by certain generations, each one has failed to bring about any betterment.

There are still just three medals.

They’re the same three I had to learn, my grandfather had to learn—and Adam failed to learn because he got tied up in his own interpretation and ended up “west of Eden.”

The gold: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Nothing in this world works until we learn how to love ourselves, and become emphatic that every human being is granted the same respect and honor.

The silver medal: Give and it shall be given unto you.

Thinking that anything can grow without seed or that we can prosper minus investing ourselves, our time and our fortunes may be the breeding ground for evil.

The bronze medal: Choose and be faithful.

There are innumerable things we can choose to do that are full of kindness, prosperity and wisdom which only require our faithfulness.

There is power in faithfulness.

So you can see:

At no point are we to lose our love for self.

Nor should we ever anticipate that goodness will fail to come back to us.

And our power of choice endures as long as we remain faithful.

The Olympics of human determination continue today.

You will need to do more than train. You will need to compete.

And if we actually start stretching for gold, silver and bronze, the world will be affected.

Then we can all raise a jubilant cheer.

 

 

The K Word … April 16th, 2019

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WORD


I lived in Nashville, Tennessee for nearly twenty years. Overall, I found it a very pleasant experience.

Yet seventy-four miles south of my home, on Interstate 65, was a town called Pulaski. It is the community where the Ku Klux Klan began. So most assuredly, confidently and sadly, I will tell you today’s word that should never be used again—the “K” that should not be spoken—is the Ku Klux Klan.

The K Word is the Ku Klux Klan

It’s not so much their views. I don’t agree with anything they say. Yet if they were coming from a position of personal experience, I might need to consider their perspective. But no member of the KKK has spent fifteen years playing in the National Football League, surrounded by black men. If they had done this and come out with a negative insight, then I would have to conclude that they had a right to their opinion.

Or if some of the members had lived in Israel for ten years and after the visitation, had stated that Jews were greedy and less than human, I might question their premise but certainly would have to acknowledge that they had been involved in a live-in experiment.

But there’s no member of the Ku Klux Klan who has spent any time with members of the black race or the Jews. They are not well-traveled individuals who, after careful research, developed a doctrine of the division among the races, with the hypothesis being that “white people are better.”

These are little boys and girls who were never allowed to formulate their own thinking but instead, absorbed the prejudice, anger and fallacious notions of their ancestors.

Unfortunately, these ancestors came to the conclusion that keeping their cotton crop in the black was much more important than the blacks who made it possible for them to have a cotton crop in the first place.

They are childishly ignorant—ignorant because the philosophy they cling to was long ago abandoned by people of reason, science and emotional well-being; childish because they’re still trying to please parental figures, aunts, uncles, grandfathers and ancient kin who held to a belief system that found its only power by leaving others powerless.

There is a school of thought that if you want to do away with the Ku Klux Klan, then let them speak their mind, let them be heard, and they will be revealed for who and what they are.

Unfortunately, unfoldings in our country over the past ten years tell us that giving breath to a murderer is granting license to murder.

This is why I’m saying the KKK should never be mentioned. It should not be discussed. It should not evoke either anger or apathy.

We should pretend that it does not exist until it’s so small that evolution can swallow it back into the earth—where it will finally die—with the graves of those who were once so presumptuous.


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G-Poppers … April 6th, 2018

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“GEE-WHIZ,” said G-Pop with an emphatic sigh.

There seems to be a series of “G” words tumbling off of people’s lips, going a bit haywire.

It starts with “GOD.”

G-Pop sat back last week and watched the more ceremonial, Druid aspects of the Christian faith take over in an attempt to temporarily get us to believe in a God who manipulates circumstances, destroys lives and “tunes” fate to produce human sacrifice, which is supposed to be an atonement for our horrific sins. The New Testament refers to Him as “God the Father,” but apparently, for a brief period, Daddy became “God the Executioner,” who went against His own abhorrence for animal sacrifice and laid a big, fat, bloody, smeary death on Jesus of Nazareth.

Then there’s “GAY.”

G-Pop wants the gay community to have all the rights, privileges and benefits as beautiful American citizens. But is it necessary for everything to suddenly be gay? There’s a sniff in the air that we should all become a little gay ourselves, to confirm that we’re open-minded enough to accept the full alphabet of the gay community, which grows by a consonant every day. LGBTQ(RSUV).

“GUNS.”

Is there anything that we, as human beings, own and admire and do not eventually use? G-Pop has been around guns in his life, and every time he did so, he wanted to shoot one. We shouldn’t be questioning whether people should have guns–but it might be good to ask what they plan on doing with them. Because guns may not kill people, but bullets do, and it is very difficult to own a gun without eventually wanting to put a bullet in it and find out how it works.

“GREED.”

G-Pop wonders if the only way to make America great again is money. Is it possible that we could be great in compassion? Was Ronald Reagan correct when he envisioned us as a city set on a hill, to be a beacon-light to the world? Or should we just present our P&L statement at the end of the year, and as long as we’re in the black, “God is good.”

“GRUMBLING.”

When did we start believing that something we despise in other people–complaining–is permissible for us to do? If you don’t want to hear G-Pop spout his grievances, then please don’t establish a lifestyle of grumbling, thinking it makes you sound grown-up, mature and thoughtful.

And finally, “GOODNESS.”

When did goodness become a joke–something to be avoided because it is naive and doesn’t understand how life really functions?

Gee-whiz. G-Pop would like to sum it up:

God is a Father, not a murderer.

Welcome, gays, to America, where you are free to love whomever you want to.

I hope you will enjoy your gun, as long as you help me keep them out of the hands of people who are bent on killing.

Would you consider joining G-Pop in being greedy for generosity?

And while you’re at it, can you set aside your grumbling and take five minutes to see if you can’t balance it with your blessings?

And finally, why don’t each and every one of us make “Oh, my goodness” a reality instead of an exclamation of bewilderment?

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Jesonian–Troubling (Part 9)… August 26th, 2017

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Troubling.

Yes, it’s troubling to me that the American and the European church feel they can do what Jesus said was impossible to achieve.

When Jesus was confronted by a man with a complaint concerning a brother of his, who would not share the inheritance, the Nazarene refused to weigh in. He replied, “Who has made me a judge over such matters?”

He then offered a discourse on the dangers of greed.

So it is troubling that the present Christian movement believes it can negotiate the problems between the Jews and the Muslims–brothers–instead of declaring the feud to be exactly what it is.

Greed:

  • Greed over dominance.
  • Greed over money.
  • Greed over Jerusalem.
  • Greed over favor with Father Abraham.

Nothing can ever be accomplished unless we understand that Judaism and Islam are not religions–they are two different tellings of a mutual history. The feast days, rituals and story lines that are thrown in are established to add credence to a family squabble.

Christianity was never intended to be a religion either, but rather, a lifestyle.

The Jesonian–the life of Jesus, the teachings of Jesus and the heart of Jesus–is a lifestyle. It is an abundant life that was offered to counteract a historical squabble. When Christians side one way or another on this dispute, they err, failing to honor the mission of Jesus, who said that he was not a judge over such things–because the conflict was and is grounded in greed.

The Jews are my brothers and sisters by creation, but they are not my relatives in faith. The Muslims, likewise, are my brothers and sisters by genesis, but not my fellow-laborers in the matters of spirit and truth.

It is my job as a Christian to love these two factions into understanding that there are things more important in life than trying to possess control.

God favors neither Jew nor Muslim. The message of Jesus is “whosoever will may come.”

But they do need to come–instead of standing at a distance, screaming at one another.

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Catchy (Sitting Three) And Then There Were Three … June 25th, 2017

 

Randall Caron and Landy Loren were Matthew’s partners in S.E.E.D.S.

Randall was Matthew’s junior, a gentleman in his thirties–skinny, with the energy level of a mosquito, and the greed to match. Matthew always lamented that Randall seemed to lack sufficient conscience to balance his ego. But it was hard to argue with his productivity and the ruthlessness he employed to plump the bottom line.

Landy was a woman in her forties, which she coyly referred to as “fortyish.” She was short and pudgy enough to disguise a fading attractiveness which had once dazzled young men and now left the same suitors satisfied with conversation.

The three partners met every morning at 9:30 to discuss upcoming projects and share a cheese Danish, an English muffin and an Irish coffee—a personal nod to continental cuisine.

On this morning, Matthew wasted no time, feeling idle chatter should not trump a two hundred and fifty million dollar proposal.

“I got a call.”

“And…?” said Randall, with a crumb or two of muffin creeping out the corner of his lips.

“It was a lawyer,” Matthew continued.

“Uh-oh,” inserted Landy.

Matthew interrupted. “No. A good lawyer, if such is possible.”

“A good lawyer?” questioned Randall. “What would that be?”

“Good in the sense of. . . well, good in the sense of money.”

“A lawyer offering money instead of demanding payment?” questioned Landy.

“Freak show, huh?” Matthew smiled.

“Where did you ever get that saying, ‘freak show’?” Randall asked, irritated.

“College.”

“Well, it’s weird,” said Randall. “Kind of gives me the willies.”

“The willies?” Matthew chuckled. “Now, that’s weird.”

“Sorry–works for me,” Randall responded.

“Anyway,” continued Matthew. “It seems that old man Harts—you know, the billionaire that died a couple of weeks ago?—left two hundred and fifty million dollars for some advertising agency…”

Randall almost spilled his Irish coffee on his gray gabardine slacks. “You’re shittin’ me.”

“What do you mean? Who? You mean us?” Landy could not contain her excitement.

“Maybe…” Matthew said tentatively.

“Maybe?” Randall leaped to his feet. “I’d do anything for two hundred and fifty million dollars.”

“Sit down. Now, tell me what you’re talking about,” Landy demanded.

Matthew leaned back in his chair and dropped the remaining portion of a Danish into his mouth. “Here’s the catch,” he said as he brushed his hands to dispel morsels of sticky crumbs.

“There’s always a goddam catch,” said Randall, sitting back down.

“For two hundred and fifty million dollars I might put up with a hundred catches,” said Landy.

“The old fart wants some agency to take two hundred and fifty million dollars to promote—are you ready for this?”

“Stop stalling and tell us,” interrupted Randall.

“…to make Jesus popular again.”

“What?” Landy gasped.

“Popular with who, or is it whom?” asked Randall.

“I don’t know. I didn’t ask. I guess popular with everybody,” said Matthew.

There was a sudden stillness—not reverential, but more a stomach-aching quiet that ensues upon seeing two hundred and fifty million dollars tumble into a bottomless cavern.

“What a crock.” Randall finally broke the silence.

“Who could do that?” Landy asked.

“You mean make Jesus popular?” Matthew smirked.

“Yeah,” replied Landy. “I mean, Jesus is Jesus, right?”

“Well, there’s our slogan,” said Randall with a grin.

“No, I’m serious,” said Landy. “I mean, if you’re looking at him like a product…you know what I’m saying? There are only certain things you can do with it.”

“New and improved…” ticked Randall.

“Misunderstood and now finally revealed…” added Matthew.

“Under new management,” concluded Landy.

“Okay, I’ll grant you, it’s bonkers,” said Matthew. “But it is two hundred and fifty million dollars.”

“I don’t care if it’s two hundred and fifty billion dollars,” said Randall. “It’s impossible, therefore it’s immoral to take the money.”

“Ahh. Suddenly a man of principle,” said Matthew.

“The main principle I’m interested in is the principle in my bank account,” said Randall. “But…”

“Can we get back to the proposal?” Landy broke in.

“You’re not taking this seriously, are you?” Matthew was shocked.

“I can think of two hundred and fifty million reasons to be very serious,” said Randall.

Matthew got up and walked across the room. “I was just making conversation. I mean, obviously, I told the guy we weren’t interested.”

Randall leaped to his feet. “You what?”

“Without asking us?” Landy challenged.

Matthew sighed. “Come on, guys. It’s ridiculous. You said it. Jesus is Jesus. The product is worn out. I mean, for instance, what could you do with Quaker Oatmeal?”

“Lace it with grass. I don’t really care. For two hundred and fifty million dollars we could at least try,” said Randall. “I mean, someone’s going to get that money. Why not us? We can fail at this just as well as anyone else, and have a few dinners and a new swimming pool at the same time.”

“I want a Lexus LE,” said Landy.

Matthew strolled across the room and sat back down. “Don’t you think it’s kind of creepy—I mean, weird—to take money that you know you’re just spending because the project you’re working on is—well, it’s non-promotable.”

Randall sat down beside him and patted him on the leg. “Maybe not. What do we know? I mean, are we theologians? Why don’t we do this–why don’t we express an interest? Why don’t we ask for, say, a hundred thousand dollars in advance to do a feasibility study?”

Landy crossed the room.  “A feasibility study? Go on.”

“Yeah, you know,” said Randall. “Subcontract. Ask for a few ideas. Take some surveys. Who knows? It might be fun.”

“Fun?” asked Matthew flatly. “And you’re not worried about your immortal soul?”

“Hell, I sold that years ago for stock options in Microsoft.” Randall downed the last bit of his Irish coffee and winked.

So it was decided.

Randall called up the lawyer, Mr. Tomlinson, who readily agreed to release a hundred thousand dollars for a study on the feasibility of making Jesus more popular.

Contacts were made for slogans, surveys were passed out to testing groups and a panel of theologians was invited. The date was set a month in the future when all the participants would gather and share their ideas.

Hopefully, divine ideas on how to promote the founder of Christianity.

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … May 31st, 2017

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A Stinky Job

I am not God

You are not God

Who would want to be God?

It’s a stinky job

You have to tell the truth.

Even though it eventually sets people free

In the meantime it makes them pissy

So those who worship you are also constantly a little angry

Because you are God but won’t be just their God

And their God alone

When you are God, you say,

“All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of me.”

“There is none righteous–no, not one.”

“Except you repent, you will perish.”

“Your righteousness is like filthy rags.”

Filthy rags??

Please lighten up

How about just a dirty t-shirt?

So God says He loves people

Then we sing, “You are an awesome God!”

Yet we privately wonder why He doesn’t kill some people to help us out

Couldn’t God be nicer–just to us?

We come to church

We’re in the praise band

We once memorized two whole chapters of the Gospel of John

What does He want?

Maybe if He just phrased things more gently

Changed “sinners” to “winners in training”

Instead of “damnation,” call it “escaping the oops zone”

God, why don’t you just say “mistakes?”

And since we all make them, let’s call these little flubs “journey-markers”

Listen, God, I could love you so much more if you wouldn’t lord it over me

I need encouragement

I’m a kitten that requires exaggerated petting

But since you won’t do your God job

With some tenderness

Then I look for tenderness to become my God

Are you feeling lonely?

And you wonder why you have grumpy praisers

Even though I am not God

I could give you some pointers

Would you listen?

Or–because you are all-knowing–do you have to be a know-it-all?

But where can I go?

Movies don’t move me

Drinking makes me drunk

Weed creates need

Which will only feed my greed

And poli-ticks me off

I got nowhere to roost

Of course, you know that

STOP SMIRKING AT ME

Go ahead

Tell me the truth

But stay a little while–sweetly

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