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

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4433)

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.

 

G-Poppers … August 10th, 2018

The young woman seemed quite certain that because she had an ancient ancestor who was a queen in Africa, that somehow that energy, authority and ability had been transfused into her through DNA.

She had no basis for this conviction–just, shall we say, a hope.

But the difficulty with such thinking is that if blessings can be passed along through genetic code, then so can cursings–and G-Pop does not believe we’re all prepared to go back to a time when we insisted that certain people, families and whole cultures were condemned and alienated by the heavens.

G-Pop has noticed that even some of his own children are being swayed by the commercials for ancestry identification, somehow thinking that finding someone who lived centuries ago, who is linked by family, might grant credibility to them in this present hour.

There are only two things that affect us, and two things alone–and it is not our DNA. For after all, people overcome and work with their genes all the time.

We are actually guided by two forces:

1. What have I learned?

2. What do I fear?

And often when one is able to track down one’s fears, a path can be traced to something which was learned and is found to be errant–and can therefore be discarded, allowing for a new enlightening idea.

When a study is made on what we have learned, we can often see when and where our fears crept in, and we can highlight those things that might trigger anxiety and timidity.

All of G-Pop’s children want to be independent–until something goes wrong. Then they want to explain why their fears kept them from success, as they attempt to conjure the spirits of the past that might energize them through their “double helix.”

It is foolish–a sign of a generation that has lost sight of the joy of taking responsibility for one’s own life.

G-Pop does care what his ancestors did. They’re not here.

G-Pop looks at the world they left, ridiculous notions they tolerated, and warns his soul to function off the impetus of his own talents and faith.

G-Pop offers this piece of advice:

God gave you a life.

It is yours.

Do something with it.

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Catchy (Sitting 36) An Audience with No Audience … February 18th, 2018

Jonathots Daily Blog

(3587)

The highway leading to Heathrow Airport was completely jammed. Gridlock. For twelve kilometers, cars were lined up, unable to move, creating the worst traffic backup London had seen in years.

This fiasco was brought about by a rumor that the Pope was flying in from Rome to meet with the Queen, to discuss the uniting of the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church again.

The rumor was false–but that didn’t keep people from chasing it, causing a frustrating day of travel through the Old City.

This was just the latest of a series of stories being reported about the Pope and the Catholic Church, put out by a new website: “Popedope.com.”

It was started a few weeks earlier with an article in the Sun Newspaper from the United Kingdom, touting an exclusive on an alleged meeting between the Pope and Jubal Carlos.

Supposedly, after his noontime rally in the blistering heat of Rome, a black town car from the Vatican rolled up, and representatives of His Holiness asked Mr. Carlos if he was willing to come and have an audience with the Holy Father.

Dressed in jogging shorts, a tank top, with tennis shoes and a baseball cap, Jubal climbed into the vehicle and headed off for this strange new opportunity. According to insiders, upon arriving at the Vatican, he was asked by the public relations liaison if he would be willing to have the interview videotaped, so it could be shown to a congress of Cardinals due in Rome soon.

Jubal refused. He explained that it was common knowledge that he did no interviews–and certainly none which could be edited.

The audience with the Pope was granted anyway, and the two met face-to-face. There was only one other person in the room–a young man studying for the priesthood, who was chosen to serve refreshments. (Therefore it was assumed that all the information leaked must have come from this newbie.)

In the Sun article, detail after detail was reported about the conclave of the two unlikely men, both preachers. The Pope arrived in a simple gray tunic, wearing sandals. He wasted no time posing a question to Jubal:

“Where do you find disfavor with the Catholic Church?”

Jubal took the moment to share his heart. “When something is stuck, the instinct is to make an effort to move it–whether it’s mud, ice or snow, people join together, put their shoulders and backs into it to escape the rut. The Catholic Church today looks like the Catholic Church of the sixth century. Right there you can see there’s something wrong. Life has evolved. Generosity is growing. Tolerance is expanding. Yet the Catholic Church allows androgynous men to parade around with incense, believing in magical potions. If the Gospel is not about people, then at least it should be about ideas. If not ideas, then generosity. If not generosity, then hope. The Gospel cannot be about maintaining a religious practice which was not even begun by its founder.

“For Your Holiness, I will tell you–if there was a First Pope, his name was Jesus, not Peter. And as the First Pope, his lifestyle, goals, wishes, humor and direction would preclude him from ever wearing a crown and glorifying himself.”

At this point, the writer of the article stated that the Pope remained completely silent. At length, the Holy Father asked Jubal to come forward, laid hands on him, blessed him and gave him a hug. He left Carlos with one closing thought.

“I don’t know,” he said. “If I were younger and foolish, I might be you.”

When this piece was published in The Sun, the English people were ablaze with conversation about true spirituality, a living God and the possibility of purpose coming from heaven. It had been decades since the British had made room in their daily thoughts for the Divine.

After that, story after story after story popped up everywhere. One announcement from Popedope.com suggested that the Pope was on his way to America to ordain some women to be priests. The next pronouncement alleged the Pope would stop off in San Francisco to hold mass for the gay community. Of course, all the stories ended up being erroneous but nevertheless, a door had opened for great conversation.

Instead of people looking at the Church with sleepy eyes, challenges were hurled through the air.

“Why don’t we join together?”

“Why aren’t women priests?”

“What is the function of the Church?”

“Why do we have all this ceremony?”

When Jubal Carlos was asked if such an audience with the Pope had actually occurred, he responded, “You know I don’t take interviews. Why are you asking me for an interview?”

This further fanned the flames, as each news organization interpreted the answer to their favored direction.

But there was one sure thing–people were not antagonistic against God. People were not bored with God. People were just very weary of being given the same answers over and over again.

Matthew watched all the bewildering unfoldings and thought to himself, “What a damn good idea. Take the news media and use it as a counter-culture, or maybe even a counter-irritant to existing religious practices, to get people stirred up. Would a comprehensive look at the life of Jesus favor the Catholic Church, or introduce fresher insights?”

In the midst of his musings, he made a few phone calls to friends who were in the know and were able to check out Internet matters which would normally be forbidden due to privacy laws. He was able to discover the founder of Popedope.com.

A single user with a one-word name: Susannah.

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Dear Man/Dear Woman: A Noteworthy Conversation … September 10th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3060)

Dear Man Dear Woman

Dear Man: Where have you been? I’ve been trying to get hold of you all morning.

 

Dear Woman: I can see that. Six missed calls. What can I do for you?

 

Dear Man: Listen, I didn’t believe it, but I heard through the grapevine that you went to a Donald Trump rally.

 

Dear Woman: You heard correctly.

 

Dear Man: Why would you do that?

 

Dear Woman: I was curious. I wanted to hear for myself what all the fuss was about.

 

Dear Man: Curious? How can you escape the fuss? It’s on the television twenty-four hours a day.

 

Dear Woman: But that’s their opinions. I wanted to draw my own conclusion.

 

Dear Man: Okay, I guess. Did you learn anything?

 

Dear Woman: I did. What I learned is that Mr. Trump answers a need.

 

Dear Man: A need?

 

Dear Woman: Yes. There are times when things are moving so fast that I just need everything to slow down a bit so my head can catch up. Gay rights, gay marriage, transgender, immigration, Black Lives Matter… It just crowds my brain. It’s not that I want to prevent these people from having a voice. I could just use some time to get accustomed to it.

 

Dear Man: Well, you need to realize, all these people have been waiting decades–sometimes centuries–for the basic rights that you take for granted.

 

Dear Woman: I don’t need your sermon. I get that. But it doesn’t change how I feel. The world seems dangerous, and when you see something dangerous, you want a weapon. You want to protect yourself. I’m sorry. Hillary Clinton just doesn’t seem like a weapon to me.

 

Dear Man: She’s got so much experience! Why can’t you see that? Donald Trump doesn’t know anything about the world.

 

Dear Woman: I agree. But it’s not a geography test. It’s not a civics exam. It’s about leadership. And I just don’t know if Hillary has it.

 

Dear Man: Why do you say that?

 

Dear Woman: Well, first, she can’t even manage her own email.

 

Dear Man: Not that old story! She’s answered that a thousand times.

 

Dear Woman: Yes, but it’s the same answer. “I made a mistake but I didn’t know it was a mistake.” Is that what she’ll do as President? Constantly making mistakes but apologizing to us for fouling up? And speaking of that, the main thing that bothers me is having Bill Clinton in the White House again.

 

Dear Man: He won’t be President.

 

Dear Woman: I got that. But he’ll be back. And the things he did the last time he was there to defile the Oval Office with his immorality were nasty. And the fact that Hillary stuck with him makes me believe she’s kind of … girly.

 

Dear Man: You mean you’re mad at her because she forgave her husband?

 

Dear Woman: I guess so. I would just find it easier to vote for Hillary Rodham than Hillary Clinton.

 

Dear Man: I get it. It’s because she’s a women Answer me three questions, without thinking too much. Number 1, do you think women are weak? Number 2, do you think women are more emotional? Number 3, are men smarter?

 

Dear Woman: Wow. I don’t want to do this.

 

Dear Man: Come on. Be honest.

 

Dear Woman: Okay. Are women weak? They don’t have the same muscle mass as men. Concerning the second question, I was always told women are more emotional, even by women. And concerning men being smarter, well..they do win more often on Jeopardy!

 

Dear Man: What?

 

Dear Woman: I was just kidding about the Jeopardy! thing. I suppose you’re going to say my answers prove I’m a male chauvinist.

 

Dear Man: No, they just prove that you would vote against Hillary because she’s a woman instead of based on her qualifications.

 

Dear Woman: I just don’t want any more Orlandos or San Bernardino terrorist attacks. I would like to scare the shit out of them–the terrorists, I mean. Hillary is more like a queen. She’s stately, polite, on-point, courteous. But here’s the problem–the world is filled with pirates. Pirates take down queens.

 

Dear Man: So what is Donald Trump?

 

Dear Woman: He’s a pirate. So it’s a pirate fighting pirates. See what I mean?

 

Dear Man: No, I don’t. Because with a pirate you get thievery, treachery and the danger that he’s going to make everybody walk the plank.

 

Dear Woman: Well, anyway. Do you remember that story of the man who came across two doors, and behind one was a lady and behind the other was a tiger?

 

Dear Man: I think so.

 

Dear Woman: You see, that’s our choice this time. A lady or a tiger. I just don’t know if the lady can get it done.

 

Dear Man: You know that’s very prejudiced.

 

Dear Woman: Yes. But I don’t think I’ll be the only one thinking about that when I walk into the voting booth.

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King Jesus … November 23, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

(2076)

crownI don’t like kings.

They give me the creeps. Too much pomp for the circumstance.

On the other hand, I like Jesus.

So imagine my surprise when I discover that the church wants me to call him a king.

Yes.  Christ the King. Here’s my problem:

Kings live in castles. Jesus said, “Foxes have holes but the son of man has no place to lay his head.”

Kings always possess land. Jesus told us that “his kingdom was not of this world” and therefore couldn’t be measured in acres.

Generally speaking, being a king comes with a certain gaggle of servants. Yet Jesus told his disciples that he didn’t come to be served, but to be of service.

How about a lavish throne? For Jesus, that was the back side of a baby donkey, bouncing his way into Jerusalem.

Then there’s fine clothes and a royal family. Yet Jesus’ philosophy was to “take no thought for what ye shall wear” and his mother was a peasant woman.

Here’s a question: can you be a king without an army or a treasure chest to fund that force? If I recall, Jesus said “we shouldn’t lay up treasure on earth, but in heaven.”  And concerning the military, he warned us that “they that live by the sword shall die by the sword.”

Even though Jesus was surrounded by devoted women, he possessed none of them as his queen.

And at his coronation, he was crowned … with thorns.

Christ the King Sunday.

He was a king. But he was a king because he came to testify to the truth: the truth that faith is the part of belief that we use, like a mustard seed. Hope is the desire we pursue. And love is the God we give to others.

All hail, King Jesus, who taught us that the only way to be a master … is to become a servant.

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