Things I Learned from R. B. (June 21st, 2020)

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Episode 20

I don’t really enjoy playing chess.

I have an understanding of the game, minus passion.

There are those who are thrilled with the prospects of a match. They refer to it as “the pastime of the royals.”

I don’t quite understand how it gained such a following. I suppose it has something to do with the fact that early on, it was associated with intelligence.

Yes, when I first learned how to play, I was told that I “should be very good at the game” because I was smart.

Well, I don’t know about that, but if interest has any bearing, chess stupefied me. I rarely played it and when I did, I often regretted choosing to do so—because my opponent was often grumpy and unwilling to lose even one piece from the board.

When I discovered that R. B. was an ardent player, I avoided ever mentioning that I, too, knew how to move the pieces. He explained to me that I needed to participate because he believed I would be excellent at it, and then we could play together. For many years I was able to subdue his advances by pleading my “chess virginity.”

Then a young man moved into my household—actually, three young men. Their father was struggling with anger and was beginning to take it out on them, so I was afforded the opportunity to become their godfather and welcome them into a safer haven.

One of the boys was very good at chess.

To preserve his innocence, we shall refer to him as Justin.

Justin was precocious. You see, precocious means whatever any adult wants it to mean. That adult can use it to describe a child he or she either likes or believes to be headed for reform school.

Being precocious, Justin immediately struck up a conversation with R. B. about chess. R. B. felt he had arrived in some sort of circle of heaven—where he could be the teacher and finally have a budding student.

The only difficulty came when Justin beat R. B.

And not just once.

Regularly.

Even though R. B. had studied the board and had even mastered some moves of the champions, Justin always found a way to get through his defenses, steal his queen and leave his king flailing in some corner, surrounded by a bishop and a knight.

At first, R. B. attributed it to “beginner’s luck.” But after many visits and many matches, it became clear to everyone that Justin was a superior prodigy. Everyone, that is, but R. B.

One night, after having lost two games, R. B. was surrounded by Justin, who was prepared to pronounce the “checkmate,” when R. B. brought his fist down hard on the table, knocking over all the pieces, scaring young Justin all the way down to his X-men underwear.

You see, Justin was accustomed to hearing an angry voice. He was well acquainted with a man whose temper was out of control—and he knew it usually meant that he was going to be in trouble.

Sensing Justin’s fear, R. B. tried to turn it into a joke and give the young man a hug, but when Justin nervously pulled away, R. B. was even more angry. He yelled at him. Some curse words flew through the air and young Justin was trapped, with no place to go.

R. B. screamed at him, claiming that it was a draw and they would play again on another night—and then left.

I was not in the house at the time, but when I returned, I immediately noticed the red in the corners of Justin’s eyes. He was reluctant to talk to me. Already in his young life, he had learned it was better to shut up and not have to face painful consequences.

But you see, Justin was also a young man with a good heart that was growing blossoms. He didn’t lie. After about an hour, he told me the whole story. I was infuriated.

He asked me to promise that I wouldn’t say anything to R. B. Justin asked me if he should play chess again with the irate fellow. I told him yes, but to wait a few weeks until I had a chance to do some maneuvers.

Perplexed, he smiled, gave me a hug and went upstairs.

Word of R. B.’s losing streak to Justin spread quickly through our family. The jokes piled up and were nearly ready to break R. B.’s spirit and release his bad temper. I had one plan—what you might call an ace in the hole if we were talking about poker, but since it’s chess, we shall say that I pulled out an extra queen.

One night while he was being teased, I stepped in and said, “Maybe R. B. just had a bad night. We could find out. R. B., why don’t you play me?”

R. B. was nearly beside himself. I had refused so many times, and now here was his opportunity, in front of our family, to redeem himself.

He was so nervous that his hands were shaking as he took his white pieces and set them up on the board. He didn’t need to be nervous. I had decided to play him a good game—but lose.

I figured a victory over me would quell his spirit, and once he had come to his senses, he might apologize to Justin.

Everybody was shocked when R. B. won.

And right after the game, he turned to me and said, “Would it be alright if I talked to Justin?”

Now, I suppose the story needs to end with me telling you that R. B. apologized to the boy and they lived happily ever after. But that’s a Hollywood ending—we lived in Nashville.

R. B. continued to play Justin and Justin grew up and became more tolerant of R. B.’s idiosyncrasies. Yet R. B. never hit his fist on the table again—but did manage to color the air every once in a while with his language.

I suppose I should have stepped in and stopped the tournaments, but R. B. needed to learn how to be civil to young ones and the young one needed to learn how to survive an R. B.—even when you know you can checkmate him every time.

 

1 Thing You Can Do This Week to Be in the Know

 

Attractive Without Attraction Does Not Attract Anybody

I freely admit that being handsome or gorgeous is an immediate plus for gaining attention in the human family. Matter of fact, it may give you one or two free cracks at the prize without having to suffer too much critique from admirers.

We like pretty people.

We, ourselves, either believe we are pretty, or certainly have a comprehensive plan and are working to get there.

But if “attractive” cannot produce an attraction, people will scurry away, not only disappointed, but vindictive that they so easily swooned over dimples and smiles. At this point, attractive has failed to deliver, through evident beauty, any promise of beautiful things forthcoming.

I don’t think I need to discuss with you what attractive is. But I have readily prepared myself to explain what the attraction is that can take unattractive people and attract them to everybody.

There are three links that form a chain.

If you’re able to grasp how these units are meant to combine to generate an attraction, then you won’t have to worry nearly as much about being universally considered attractive. There are even many actors in Hollywood who might, on the surface, be considered homely, but because of their work, character, longevity and quality, are now able to attract anybody.

So what are the three links that form the chain of attraction?

It begins with confidence.

Confidence is characterized through the statement, “I have some experience.” Confidence does not say that you have all experience, or that your experience will solve the entire breadth of problems or that there isn’t something that could come up that you would not be able to handle. Confidence is just stating, “I have some experience.”

You take that link and fasten it to “humble.”

Humble is an admission necessary for all of us:  “I have some weaknesses.”

These two attributes connected create a ying and yang that let people know that you’re safe for consideration.

Confidence: I have some experience.

Humble: I have some weakness.

The final link is mercy: I have some forgiveness.

If you are a leader and you’re starting a job managing a group of people and you don’t have mercy, you unfortunately will soon turn into a tyrant.

But when you take the three links—confidence, humble and mercy—they form a chain of attraction.

No matter where you go across the world, they will attract you to anybody.

Too much confidence? You’d better be attractive, too.

Too much humble? You may just look like you’re playing it safe.

And too much mercy? You can be taken advantage of.

So if you can ignore whether you are deemed physically attractive, but instead, confidently, humbly and mercifully pursue your goals, then that will build the attraction which will attract you to anybody you meet.

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The D Word … February 26th, 2019

THE

WORD


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The D word—the word that is so obtuse, unusable and meaningless that it should stop being in everyday use. For me this one was easy:

Devil

Devil is the word evil with a D.

Whenever I hear people mention the devil, I immediately fight off the instinct to consider them superstitious, ignorant, backwoods, prejudiced and, to some extent, angry with the world around them.

The theological approach to the subject is that we “can’t believe in God” if we don’t “believe in the devil,” because the devil is the counterpunch to the Almighty.

I find that ignorance gets started because people are too nervous to ask the obvious question before the stupidity gets spread around.

God is the only Spirit

Even if you follow the story of Adam and Eve, the serpent mentioned in the tale ends up being cast down to Earth. It is an earth-bound misery.

Human beings produce all the evil that is necessary to make the world shitty. They need no assistance. And personifying darkness in a creature called “the Devil” is the best way to allow human evil to continue without being challenged.

  • The Devil did not make anybody do anything.
  • The Devil did not possess little girls or little boys.
  • The Devil did not command a whole brood of witches.

Perhaps the reason the word “devil” makes me conjure images of incest is that poor people, unlearned individuals and those who feel superior because of their color or religion often use the word “devil” to describe all the forces they find to be unacceptable.

“The devil is rock and roll.”

“The devil is Hollywood.”

“The devil is a political party.”

“The devil is some race.”

“The devil is a woman seeking equality.”

And once they place the D word onto you, all of your actions will have the sniff of fire and brimstone.

Why don’t we consider a world where there is no Devil and human beings are responsible for their actions?

We are not tempted by God and we are not tempted by the Devil.

We are drawn away by our own lusts to do foolish things.

I don’t care if you’re conservative or liberal—as long as you don’t blame the Devil for your objections to the world around you. It is a sign of immaturity, irrelevance, and a lack of understanding of how evil human beings can be…without ever adding the D onto the word.

 

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Catchy (Sitting 58) Sand Building…. July 22nd, 2018

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Shifting.

A gradual erosion of confidence among the populace about the once-favored “Jesus movement.”

It was difficult to know where it started. Perhaps this loss of faith was just a trait of the human race–just no longer able to tolerate goodness.

Although folks insist they are in pursuit of “peace on Earth, goodwill toward men,” they still continue to huddle around the television set to hear of wars and brood over body counts.

A movie–a parody–was released by Hollywood, entitled “Dullsbury.” It was supposed to be a gentle poking of fun at the Soulsbury experience. The premise was that the government and the elite of New York decided to isolate all of the “stupid people” and place them in a huge camp in Upper State, telling them they had won the lottery. For some reason, it didn’t occur to the “winners” why the settlement was called “Dullsbury” and had streets named “Retard Lane” and “Brain-Dead Boulevard.” Yet attempting to maintain some sort of evenness, the Hollywood ending to the motion picture was that many of the people who deemed themselves to be intelligent packed up their belongings to go live in the simplicity of Dullsbury.

But the message was clear: good is cool, but bad is hot–and the majority of the American people like their burritos caliente.

Things were further complicated when Michael Hinston was indicted on suspicion of breaking campaign finance laws and taking a bribe.

Jasper also ran into problems on his comedy tour. In trying to explain the evils of racism, he used nasty words like “nigger, chink and wetback,” causing an uprising leading to cancellations. Liberals everywhere denounced his offensive terminology.

Not to be outdone, Jubal was recorded at a rally in Egypt saying that “it was up to the Israelis to come to the peace table in good faith, and compromise.”

He was immediately dubbed anti-Semitic. He refused to retract his statement, and so became the subject of great debate on talk shows.

It wasn’t an uprising–it was a deterioration.

Like so many things that happen in life, it simply took the steam out of a heated movement and turned it lukewarm.

The two surviving graces were Jo-Jay and Carlin. Both stayed faithful to the cause. Jo-Jay kept marching in the same direction with her boots on the right feet. And Carlin continued to counter the cynicism and scandal with humor and humility.

But pretty much single-handedly, he took on the brunt of communicating the mission with little reinforcement coming from anywhere–especially Las Vegas.

Matthew completely checked out–whatever interest or intrigue he once had for the project was gone.

He pursued a love affair with an oboist. He studied her. He played her. He leaned his feelings in her direction.

Day and night he thought of new ways to pleasure her in the bedroom, and when he wasn’t thinking of sexual techniques, he was remembering the ecstasy he felt when he was in her arms.

He was smitten.

He was old enough and smart enough to know it wasn’t love. He certainly could have called it by that name, but he knew it was actually an advanced dose of infatuation, mingled with personal affection.

But it was all about the sex.

Over the past year, Matthew had indulged in so much intercourse that he had forgotten what it was like to be sexually entwined–what it meant when someone kissed you deeply without fulfilling a checklist, racing toward orgasm.

The relationship between Matthew and Leonora would have been perfect if they never had to leave the bedroom. But even though the joy between the sheets was exhilarating, both of them struggled during their conversational times to make it seem purposeful, or perhaps, meaningful.

Interaction was awkward–especially since Jasper and Soos had dropped in, and it was obvious that Leonora possessed a hostile profile toward all things divine.

Matthew was not so inclined. He didn’t hate God–he just wished that God would move to the other side of town, and not frequent the neighborhood shops. He didn’t want a world without God, but he wanted no God in his world.

Unfortunately, he felt compelled to follow the energy of Leonora’s atheism. To compromise, he stopped taking all phone calls from his cohorts on the front lines of the Jesus campaign. It was his way of tipping his hat to Leonora’s aggression, without shaking his fist at the sky.

Carlin, realizing he needed to have contact with Matthew, flew into Las Vegas. But even though they found themselves in the same building, Matthew was careful to avoid placing them in the same room.

There was no meeting. There was no agreement.

Carlin felt that the weight of the calling shifted to his shoulders, and he was ill-prepared to play the part of “Chief.”

In despair, frustrated and angry, Carlin headed back to the airport to return to Washington, D. C., to meet up with Jo-Jay and try to find a way to still “go into all the world” and share the Gospel.

As Carlin stood in the security line at the airport, two gentlemen in black suits, white shirts and black ties approached him on his right and left sides.

Lefty whispered in his ear, “Would you please come with us?”

Carlin looked to his right and then back to his left and realized he was wedged between two mountains of male humanity. He thought it best not to make a scene. He was led down the thoroughfare, through a door. A private jet stood ready.

Safely out of the airport, Carlin began to struggle with his captors. They were too strong. He shouted, but the roar of the jet engines covered his screams. In no time at all, the two hooligans physically lifted Carlin and carried him up the air steps and into the Learjet.

They dumped him into a large, comfortable seat.

Carlin quipped, “I sure hope this flight has a meal. So far the service sucks.”

 

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G-Poppers … September 22nd, 2017

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She wanted to make sure G-Pop knew the story.

Even though she had messed up her life to the extent that most of her friends had abandoned her, leaving her to her own explanations and tales of woe, she still needed confirmation from G-Pop that he found some good in her bad.

Always looking for a way to find some good in our bad.

It’s why we come up with a story, a rendition, a plot line, and worst of all, an explanation.

When she started to offer excuses about what happened, G-Pop stopped her. She was a bit surprised and thought he was being judgmental. She immediately became defensive and challenged his Christianity and his charity. He explained that he had no judgment for her whatsoever–just some sage advice:

A story is useless.

When ignorance, stupidity or carelessness invade our lives with some form of mishap, what we need to give is a report. Not a story. A simple report.

It’s not that different from what we did in high school, when we stood in front of the class to cite our discoveries upon reading a book. We weren’t allowed to elaborate on the tale, or make up things the author might have chosen to do. Rather, we were told to showcase the actual events and offer some feelings on what they meant to us.

Here is a powerful thought–our story will not take away our responsibility, even if we enhance it into a Hollywood production with props and special effects. What garners the attention of our fellow-humans is when we have the audacity and tenacity to give a factual report. Here’s how it should go:

  1. This is what I did.
  2. This is why it was wrong.
  3. This is what I could have done.
  4. This is what I would like to do to make things better.
  5. What do you think? I value your opinion.

This five-step process places us within the ranks of human beings trying to move forward through change, instead of merely sporting a nasty attitude.

Give a report.

It’s a little piece of wisdom G-Pop offers to his children on this Friday.

 

 

 

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PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant … July 20th, 2016

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PoHymn Message

A Message

A message to religion:

Only friendly gods are welcome

A message to women and men:

How about just be human?

A message to politicians:

You don’t build my confidence by tearing down others

A message to business:

Make a good product

A message to Hollywood:

Every once in a while, give us what we need

A message to teachers:

Hone your ideas, trust your skill

A message to lovers:

Linger

A message to bigots:

History is cruel

A message to terrorists:

You can’t kill enough to win

A message to arrogance:

There is always someone more accomplished

A message to the suicidal:

Death may not take away the pain

A message to parents:

Your kids aren’t human until you make them human

A message to kids:

Learn how to repent quickly

A message to animals:

Thank you

A message to Earth:

We will treat you like we want to get our deposit back

A message for all time:

No one is better than anyone else

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Jonathan’s Latest Book Release!

PoHymn: A Rustling in the Stagnant

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Good News and Better News … February 1st, 2016

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Good news Better News hats

Many hats.

Pictured above is a stack of my hats. I have six in all–five in the shot and one on my head.

It’s not really many hats. I used to have a whole lot of them. But the odd thing about accumulating all that head-gear was that most of it spent its time in a closet, never worn. It was almost sad.

Yesterday morning, I went to Goose Creek to get a gander.

Goose Creek, South Carolina.

Gosh, I enjoyed myself. I suppose you might get tired of reading my Monday morning report because it’s always so upbeat and hopeful. The reason for that is simple–I don’t show up with many hats, so my message is easily accessible and whosoever has an ear hears it and the rest of them go out the door, avoiding me, possibly to grumble in the parking lot.

The good news is that the people in Goose Creek, South Carolina, which is a suburb of Charleston, are no different from the people in Panama City, from the week before.

They are beautiful people of God, created in His image, who are somewhat baffled and dumbfounded by too many ideas and way too much information.

Let’s just take the fact that the church begins with the idea of Ten Commandments.

Ten. Are you kidding me?? I go into the grocery store and try to remember two items and forget one.

  • There is just too much to recall.
  • There’s too much to do.
  • And there’s too much required of the normal person for success to be attainable.

The best thing we could do for our fellow humans and ourselves is come to the conclusion that our greatest gift to those around us and our own soul is to just be honest.

If it’s boring, don’t be afraid to say it’s boring.

If you don’t understand, say so.

If it seems mean, call it what it is.

Politics is boring. It’s not an acquired taste. It’s not for the select few who want to rule and reign over us. It’s boring in order to scare us away from finding the truth.

The movies extolled in Hollywood are also boring. They are not cinematic wonders made by a handful of individuals who have studied the art form. They are made to be purposefully over-complicated so some people can feel they are smarter than someone else.

And church is boring. We make sure it is even more boring by setting aside times for quiet, meditation, and refraining from too many spontaneous outbursts.

My message to Goose Creek was very compact. Give away some hats. They don’t have anything to do with faith. More than half of the things we do are absent purpose.

Doggone it, I have never read 66 books that agree with each other on anything. Why would the Bible be any different?

So don’t reject the Word of God, but don’t show up with glue and tape, and try to piece it together so you can claim that you “follow it all.”

I have six hats. They are different colors and shapes. They fulfill a purpose when I need them. I don’t need any more hats.

And when it comes to my spirituality, loving my neighbor as myself, going the second mile, being the light of the world, and using my talents is plenty to keep me busy.

If you want to insist on additional doctrines to prove that you’re going to heaven…well, God bless you and good luck.

So the good news is, if you ever get a chance to go to Goose Creek and encounter Pastor Debra and the fine congregation, you grab on and get there.

And the better news is that I hope those beautiful brethren will throw away some of the useless hats that never get worn, and settle in on a simple message that changes lives.

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