Getting in Character … July 27th, 2015

 Jonathots Daily Blog

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Siskell and Ebert

From Act II, Scene VII of As You Like It, Shakespeare asserts that “all the world is a stage and all the men and women, merely players.”

A good performance does not guarantee a good response.

Learning this may be the secret to both contentment and success.

Somewhere along the line, we have acquired the idea that good things eventually receive acclaim. Nothing could be further from the truth.

There are factors at work in the marketplace of humanity that are often geared to eliminate competition by thrusting good ideas, good sensations and even good performances to the rear. Otherwise, mediocrity would have no chance of surviving–and we all know that the mediocre is often hoisted on the shoulders of the masses and proclaimed to be excellent.

So the first thing we must do is establish a standard for ourselves that is higher than present expectation.

There’s a simple reason for this:

If we do receive rave reviews, then we know that it was brought about by concerted effort rather than luck. And if we don’t, we can have confidence that any persecution or retribution that comes our way is more than likely being spawned from some pit of prejudice or jackal of jealousy.

So if we’re not going to always receive what we’re due for our performance, what is the purpose of trying to excel, or stepping out on the stage of life to display our hearts in the first place?

Every real performance which is practiced and perfected affords us four delightful conclusions:

1. We can stop lying.

That in itself should be enough to encourage us toward developing the glorious rendition of our part.

2. Every good performance exposes our insecurities.

Isn’t it fascinating that rehearsal always brings the faults to the forefront, and then we can decide whether we are secure enough to improve them?

3. Performance eliminates conceit.

There is no need to be conceited about something that is obviously good. Conceit is generally birthed in a person who privately fears that what he or she has to share is insufficient. So they try to cover it up with pomp and circumstance.

4. And finally, the pursuit of a great performance, whether regaled with honors or not, gives us a huge opportunity to overcome our fears:

  • Fear of failing
  • Fear of obscurity
  • Fear of being critiqued
  • And fear of suffering injustice while knowing deep in our hearts that we’re doing something of great quality

The truth of the matter is, great does not always rate. It doesn’t come with a guaranteed award.

But it does reward us with a true sense of confidence… that we have stepped out and found our best.

 

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“Crown Thy Good…” July 4, 2012

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America, America,

God shed His grace on thee,

And crown thy good …

On this auspicious occasion of the 236th birthday of our nation, may I stop for a moment and find out what is good about us and also what crowning achievement we should place upon that particular piece of endeavor? America is not exceptional in every way–what is? But there are important ways that this country is unique and beneficial to the human family, which fosters not only a need for its existence, but also a true mission for its statement.

So please allow me, on this Independence Day, to tell you what I think is really good about this country–and what I think we could do to “crown” that particular piece of righteousness to make it even better. What is good about America?

1. There is an extraordinarily uncomfortable amount of liberty available. It is what makes us great. Theology and pornography have to occupy the same town. They are not allowed to expel each other from the region because of a preference for one over the other. They must coexist. What do people do with liberty? The Bible says that what everyone first does with liberty is “use it as an occasion for the flesh.” Bluntly, every human being first goes too far before doubling back to find a more realistic position. Great. America is tremendous because we have no moral police, no social schoolmarm to insist upon correct etiquette, and no border patrol for liberty. Whenever we try to legislate morality, we turn into a bunch of obnoxious Puritans who are soon apologizing for their short-sightedness.

2. America is good because we always keep the melting pot boiling. If you don’t keep the heat going on the stove, things stop melting and just begin to congeal in globs of fatty grease. What makes this country good is the fact that we insist on equality, conversation, respect and inclusion of all races, no matter how hot the controversy may get, keeping the pot melted and eventually, giving the appearance that we’re all really all the same. Whenever we try to break apart into sections of the country, racial voting blocks or ethnic preferences, we become the nastiest group of people who ever walked the face of the earth.

3. Another good thing about America is that when we are chasing the dream in the right way, we encourage excellence while simultaneously showing compassion to those who can’t measure up. I have no problem with being generous to weaker brothers and sisters, as long as we continue to admit what is really excellent, and refuse to drop the bar so as to include more of the populace. For example, I have no problem with you calling me obese– because I am. I don’t need you to raise the weight standards in order to make the terminology for my condition seem more pleasant. Excellence is excellence, and when it is not accomplished, we should give grace, while continuing to revere the standard.

4. And the final thing I think makes this country good is that at our heart, when we are free of social mediocrity, we do ask people to take personal responsibility for their lives. I do not care if you’re an atheist, gay, Republican, Democrat, man or woman. I want to know that if you run into the back of my car, you going to get out and hand me your insurance card, and own your mistake. If not, then you become a jerk who happens to be gay. Or a loser who is a woman. Or a cheater with male parts. Or a cop-out who is a Republican. Or a shirker who is a Democrat. Or an atheist–who is God-awful. Personal responsibility is what makes us valuable to ourselves. When we establish that worth, we are enlightening to others.

Now, these are the things that are good–but what crown would I place on them during this July 4th coronation? Here are the crowing achievements I think would not be terribly difficult, unrealistic or beyond the pale. As a matter of fact, to me, they just make sense:

1. Since we are a land of good liberty, let’s go ahead and denounce all aspects of our “gossip society.” Let’s stop living our lives through other people. Let’s stop targeting folks who are going through a hard time just so we can feel better about our own inadequacies. I have placed a moratorium on watching anything that attacks other people or gossips about them. If they are not interviewing the person directly involved in the situation or altercation, I will not  listen to other folks pontificate on the dilemma. If we are going to have a crown on our goodness, we have to stop gossiping.

2. Secondly, the crown I would add to the melting pot is to make sure that once and for all, we get rid of any word before claiming our brothers and sisters as Americans. I will never, ever again say “African American.” There isn’t a black person in this country who would last one single morning in Africa without being eaten by a lion. There isn’t one Asian in this country who would survive the hustle, bustle and crowded conditions of the east without ferociously complaining and running to buy a ticket back to Albuquerque. We are Americans–both generous and spoiled, both inventive and lazy. But one thing is certain–we are all the same.

3. The crowning achievement I would put on the encouragement of excellence is to begin to encourage innovation–with money. I don’t think we should ever fail to provide for the common need of those who are disabled or without resource. But I do think we need to make it clear that this is a country that rewards those who go the second mile. And by reward, I’m talking moolah. Instead of giving finance to those who have failed, let’s begin to give more capital to the true capitalists–those who have once again discovered America.

4. And to put a crown on personal responsibility–honor hard work. We live in a nation where the people who work the hardest make the least amount of money. I think we should continue to extol the value of education, but simply possessing a diploma does not guarantee anyone in a free market a ride to the penthouse. Work needs to be honored. As you sit on the highway, stalled by construction, angry at being delayed–make sure you take two minutes to thank God for those hardworking individuals who are out in the beating heat, trying to make your life ultimately easier. When we begin to honor work in this country instead of just flashing credentials, we will put a crown on responsibility and people will be proud once again to come home tired, with a paycheck that is growing instead of shrinking.

I am a patriot because I continue to fight for freedom instead of settling for the latest compromise. There is so much good in this country, but it is time for us to step up to the plate and crown that good … with brotherhood. And what would be the first step towards achieving brotherhood? I believe we could make an initial movement in that direction by stopping the emphasis on political parties and uplifting people with the courage to pursue any idea that includes everyone.

God bless America–but maybe we need to learn how to bless ourselves by crowning all of our good with a new burst of brotherhood.

   

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