Catchy (Sitting 42) Head Hunter… April 1st, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Moving stealthily across the room, Matthew eased his way into a large, brown, shiny leather chair with golden buttons. Crossing his legs, he wiggled his nose as if dispelling a fly and inquired, “You are an atheist, aren’t you?”

She replied, “I am a psychiatrist and a graduate of the University of…”

He interrupted her. “I know all about your degrees and all your studies. I’m a professional. I check things out. What struck me was that you advertised that your therapy was non-religious.”

She paused. “Yes. That particular line from my promotion is a hold-over from my days of working in Gadsden, Alabama, where they still believe that peters can walk on the water.”

Matthew laughed. “That’s very good. I just wanted to make sure that you’ll be able to listen to me with an objective mind, neither judging me critically because you’re faith-based, or over-evaluating me intellectually from some throne of godless superiority.”

She shifted in her chair and said, “Why don’t we just order in sushi and forget about the whole thing?”

Matthew liked her. Her name was Dr. Sherry Lynn Montgomery. He had carefully sought out her services because Matthew was convinced that another week of being the sole proprietor of his own brain might end him up in a sanitarium.

He needed to talk. He was tired of listening. So many opinions, so much rhetoric, so much danger, so much assurance. He just wanted to say “one, two, three” with the hope that someone would counter with “four, five.”

The doctor jumped in to fill a quiet space. “I grew up in Alabama,” she said. “My father was an evangelist for the Church of God. He was the kind of man who believed everything that came his way was true as long as it could be confirmed that a prophet, savior or apostle said it. He was not a horrible human being, but there were folks he hated. To use his colorful language, he explained to me many times that he despised ‘sinners and niggers’ and not necessarily in that order. He would jokingly tell me that ‘the niggers should be glad he made the distinction.’ I use the language for your ears, not to be flamboyant or cavalier, but to let you know that there was a cave I had to climb out of before I could reach even ground. I am familiar with that process. I have led many other religious spelunkers from their darkness to an understanding of the simplicity of this life.”

Matthew shook his head. “Damn, you talk pretty. I bet you’ve used that speech before.”

Dr. Sherry smiled. “I have. It’s a good speech–mainly because it’s true.”

“All right,” said Matthew. “Let me tell you a little bit about myself.”

This time, Dr. Sherry interrupted. “You are the young man who owns his own advertising agency, and decided to take on the task of making Jesus popular again. I also investigate my possible patients.”

Matthew scrunched up his face. “Well, not exactly. I’m not personally trying to do it. I just could not figure out how in the hell to turn down two hundred and fifty million dollars…”

“So what you’re saying,” continued the doctor, “is that you are not a religious fanatic–just willing to become one for the right price.”

Matthew stood to his feet and clapped his hands. “You got it! You really do know your stuff. Excuse me, Doctor Piety. Would you turn down two hundred and fifty million dollars if they offered it to you, to make Jesus popular again?”

“It seems to me that Jesus’ popularity has already cost the human race much more than two hundred and fifty million dollars,” she said tersely.

“Oh, I see,” said Matthew slowly. “We’re going to be serious.”

Dr. Sherry Lynn Montgomery leaned forward and pointed her finger at him. “Since you’ve taken over this little enterprise, there have been rumors of miracles, healings and even some fellow raised from the dead.”

Matthew inserted, “That one was temporary. He croaked, you know.”

She shook her head. “We don’t need more religion in this world. We need more reasonable people who will take the time to use their common sense and available knowledge to access real solutions.”

“Hell, you got no complaint from me on that one,” responded Matthew. “Except the parts of what you’re looking for don’t seem to be available. Are there such people in the world? Isn’t everybody waiting for the magic lamp they can rub so they can get the three wishes? I have to be honest–there’s a part of me that wants some sort of God, to take all the shit out of my life and leave behind promises. I don’t even care if He breaks the promises. I just can’t believe that my life is limited to what I know or even to what I can learn.”

“Why?” asked the doctor. “You’re not a stupid man.”

Matthew interrupted. “You can call me Matthew.”

“Actually, I won’t call you anything,” she said, “until I can determine if we’re going to have some sort of ongoing conversation.”

Matthew held his hand up to stop her. “What I want to know is, why do Christians always seem so sure about God and atheists always seem so mad?”

“I’m not mad,” said Dr. Montgomery. “I am just not titillated by fairy tales about eternal life, and I refuse to waste the one life I’ve got trying to measure up for the one that does not exist.”

“Are you sure it doesn’t exist?” asked Matthew. “Damn–if someone would just guarantee me that there’s nothing else but here and now, I think I could make it work. And if I couldn’t, at least I would know I was just another miserable son-of-a-bitch, waiting to expire. But I’m not sure. I’m not sure there is a God. I’m not sure there isn’t. Which means I’m not sure I know what the hell I’m doing.”

“I’m sure,” she replied. “Take my word for it. Listen to a young girl who said her prayers every night until she was eighteen years old and was able to sneak out at the end of the revival meeting, escaping into the darkness to start a new life.”

“You mean you ran away?” asked Matthew.

“Yes. And that was twenty-five years ago. And no one tried to follow me. I was told they declared it was God’s will–that my flesh had to be turned over to Satan for purification.”

Matthew just stared at her. “I know you don’t believe in any of this. At least that’s what you say. But I’ve been there for the meetings. I’ve listened to my friend, Jubal, talk about the joy of the Lord. I sat and spoke with a man who was electrocuted and was alive again. I saw my friends from college, with dismal outlooks on life, who now are coming to some kind of awareness. Pink returning to their cheeks and peace to their minds.”

“Fine,” the doctor said curtly. “Why don’t you just join them?”

“That’s easy,” said Matthew. “There’s too many of them. I’ve never been a soul who followed the mob mentality. I wore my leisure suits a full three years longer than the fashion snobs permitted. I still occasionally look in the Farmer’s Almanac for weather information. And I’ve never ordered anything but a pepperoni pizza any time in my life. I like things steady. I like the taste of my own efforts on my tongue. I don’t want a God to take control of my life. But I don’t want a devil to haunt my efforts.”

Dr. Sherry Lynn Montgomery just shook her head. “You’re very confused, Matthew. You neither have the bliss of ignorance nor the refreshment of enlightenment. What is it you think you have?”

“Jack and Coke,” Matthew said quickly. “I have Jack and Coke. It is the cocktail of rock stars. It’s what the Beatles drank, and it is what the next rock and roll band who offends some fearful mother in America will be guzzling down.”

He grinned. “Do you know why the rock bands started drinking Jack and Coke? When rock and roll began, the cities where the bands performed would not allow alcohol backstage. Many of the tours were sponsored by Coca-Cola, so there would be tons and tons of cans of Coke backstage. So the bands found it very simple to smuggle in bottles of Jack Daniels in their road cases, and even when the liquor was added to the cola, at first sight to any innocent producer, it just looked like a soft drink. Isn’t that amazing? It’s another example of humans adapting and evolving to meet the need.”

“Are you an alcoholic?” asked the doctor.

“No, no,” said Matthew. “That would be much too easy. I can go five days without drinking, and then follow it up with three days of doing nothing else. I never feel the need to drink, I usually just feel compelled to waste some time so I don’t have to think about this shit I’m talking to you about today.”

Matthew held up a finger. “Here’s what I know. If God doesn’t leave me the hell alone, He’d better be prepared to pay for my rehab. And I’m not talkin’ about some little state-sponsored place in the woods. I’m talkin’ about Malibu–with lobster for breakfast.”

“So it’s God’s fault?” questioned the doctor.

Matthew stood up and ambled toward the door. He turned the knob, opened it and was about to walk out, but then decided to conclude his speech.

“No, actually, good doc… Now it’s your fault. I occasionally like to include new people in my life so I can have someone fresh to blame.”

 

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Good News and Better News … March 26th, 2018

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3623)

I was honored to spend a week high in the mountains of Colorado with friends. It was many years ago, when I was traveling all over the country, pretending I was significant and well-known.

Although I was grateful for the invitation, within the first 48 hours I realized that the altitude was making me uneasy. It was a weird sensation.

I was breathing but it seemed I wasn’t getting enough oxygen. It made my backbone tingle with apprehension. I couldn’t sleep because I was a bit frightened that I was breathless, even though there was no evidence of that fact.

The air was too thin–at least, for me.

When I finished the visit and descended, I immediately lost all my symptoms and felt like I was actually getting air into my body. It was markedly different.

Emotionally and spiritually, I feel much the same way in our country today. I am still getting some respiration to my heart and spirit but it is not a sensation of breathing. It’s more like suffocating. The climate is too thin with substance to sustain any of us.

Human beings are not complicated–if you think they are, you should go back to the drawing board and view their inception.

Humans require two distinct pieces of input:

1. To be inspired

That means the things that come into our lives should enrich us. Even if we find them challenging, we should be fully aware that our experiences are lifting us up on the shoulders of new possibilities. There is no replacement for this.

What we are given in our culture is a warped representation of reality, which we are supposed to accept as inevitable evidence that human beings are nothing more than animals. It is demeaning. It leaves us gasping for hope.

2. To be entertained.

By entertainment I am referring to finding joy in what we do instead of trudging along in an “adult life” which is predetermined to be problematic.

It is the joy of the Lord that’s our strength. Even though weeping may come into our lives, it should not endure. There should be an awakening every morning, to fresh ideas.

We are not allowed to be entertained anymore, but instead, overwhelmed. The powers that be tout that we are in the “information age,” but the data provided is rarely uplifting, but instead, debilitates us with the wickedness of the world around us.

Just as I had to escape the thin air to be able to breathe again, it is the responsibility of sane men and women everywhere to refuse the inadequate sniff of experience being proffered as truth.

The good news is that we are human beings, and therefore we need to be inspired and entertained.

The better news is, the God who created us sent His son to tell us to “rejoice and be exceedingly glad.”

 

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Wicked Imaginations … September 12, 2012

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She had heard it was a cut-throat business. It didn’t matter. Sandra Collier was determined to be a writer.

She’d possessed the aspiration ever since she was a small child and read her first Dr. Seuss book. She gained impetus pouring through the pages of Black Beauty, Red Badge of Courage, Moby Dick and even to some extent, the works of Faulkner. She loved to put pen to paper and ideas to stories.

She had one. A story, that is. She’d even taken it further than that–she had turned it into a manuscript, perhaps a novella. It was the tale of a young girl seeking love, who gave up on her hometown possibilities and flew to Paris to find romance and adventure, falling in love with a man who ended up being from her home town and grew up just two blocks away.

She let all of her friends and family read the story and everyone raved about the beauty, tenderness and joy of the unfoldings. There was one professor at a local community college who told her that the idea and concept seemed “generic.” Or maybe he said “derivative.” But she chalked his comments up to the disgruntled mumblings of a frustrated artist who ended up in academia.

Sandra Collier was determined to be a famous writer. So she sent her manuscript off to five different publishers, and approximately six weeks later received five rejection slips, only two containing personal notes, which cited that her offering was naive, childish and non-marketable. She was discouraged. Even though she didn’t expect immediate acceptance, she required it.

In one note, the publisher suggested that she pursue finding an agent to help her proliferate her talent in the New York publishing field, so she decided to take the advice, and in the process came across an agent who expressed some interest in her story. He invited her to come to his cabin in the woods in the upper peninsula of Michigan, to discuss possibilities on presenting her “prose to the pros.”

She was a bit hesitant. Her mother warned her of “wolves in sheep’s clothing.” Not certain what that meant in the modern-day world of business, Sandra decided she was old enough to handle herself and set off to meet with her new comrade in arms.

Things went well. He made suggestions and they punched the story up a little bit while having great conversations about angles, advertising and even photo shoots. She was enamored. She began to feel like the heroine in her own story, who had gone off seeking romance–and found it.

So after a couple of days, when the agent made a slight advance her way, she put up no resistance. A love affair ensued.

Even though Sandra was not inexperienced, she was certainly ill-prepared. She fell head over heels, deep with infatuation for this knight in shining armor who was going to help her become the fair maiden of the book selling world. They left each other with a tender kiss and a promise that soon he would contact her with the first fruits of his labors in seeking out publication.

Two months passed. She placed calls. At first he cautioned her to be patient, but eventually he stopped returning her overtures. It was on the third Tuesday of the third month that she received a note in the mail. It was from him.  She was so excited. She opened up and read the words:

“Good-bye. Now that you’re disappointed, go write something true.”

Sandra couldn’t believe it. Literally, she felt that somebody was playing a joke on her, so she tried to call him. The number was changed and unlisted.

Sandra stopped pursuing writing. She decided that it was a childish dream of such unrealistic proportions that she was embarrassed to even admit she had ever pursued it. She met a man, she got married, she had two children. She took a job. Every once in a while, people would bring up a movie or book they had seen or read. She made a practice of leaving the room, refusing to participate in such creative nonsense.

She felt she was healed from her previous novice error. She felt mature. She felt wise. She thought the true essence of gaining knowledge was admitting that dreams were best kept in our nighttime beds. She was an advocate of realism. She was a person who refused to take risks and embrace any new idea that might offer the option of disappointment. She took the profile of a human being who had swallowed up life as it is, while rejecting happiness. After all, she mused, happiness is what we decide it should be.

Sandra Collier never became a writer. The world will survive. The problem is that Sandra never became happy.

In our time there is much talk about good and evil–a back and forth, see-saw discussion, rife with contradictions, accusations and half-truths. But identifying evil is not as difficult as it is made out to be in the movies, with priests chasing the demon-possessed through the darkened halls of castles. Evil is much simpler. Evil has only one goal–to convince disbelievers of its importance and equality, because it is much more realistic. Once the populace has nodded and assented, evil triumphs.

It is the essence of the fourth thing that God hates–a heart that devises wicked imaginations. When we feel that life has only having dismal possibilities, dark corners ormorose conclusions, we become useless to ourselves and a stumbling block to anyone who would love to progress a great idea.

God hates this particular surrender to the inevitability of failure, because it is a proclamation thatI am better than happy.” Evil is the proud stomping ground for the earth native who wants to pound the drum and scream that life is devoid of meaning. Evil is giving up before we even have considered whether any option might be fruitful. Evil is allowing our hearts to be filled with despair, and therefore our jaded consciousness determining our passion.

In the quest for realism, we have locked ourselves into a tomb of doom, where we nervously scratch our arms, stare off into the distance and lament the fate of humanity.

Sandra gave up. She didn’t kill herself, she didn’t become an alcoholic, she didn’t put the heroin needle in her arm, and she didn’t climb into a 1962 Chevy Impala and go around the country indiscriminately killing people. She didn’t even curse God.

She continued to be a mother, a wife, a church-goer, a worker and a member of her community–who just didn’t believe anymore. She became a victim, with a heart continually devising wicked imaginations. She believed she was better than happy. And because of that, she never found the stamina to succeed.

For it is the joy of the Lord that is our primal source of strength.

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