Things I Learned from R. B. (July 5th, 2020)

Jonathots Daily Blog

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Episode 22

And then we got rich.

My wife’s mother passed away, leaving behind a sizeable inheritance that mingled with Grandma’s money—protected through years of a widow’s frugal living.

The number hung high in the six figures.

Now, before this bonanza, we didn’t feel poor. We were solvent, with plenty left over for charitable adventures. But after all the assets were counted, the sudden influx of finance was dazzling.

I quickly learned that money will not hang around unless it’s treated well. It doesn’t want you to continue to rent a small house in Old Hickory but thinks that you—and it—should have a house of your own, suitable to your status.

I spent too much time sitting around with my family and friends, thinking about items we might want to purchase. But first, we made donations to a whole cavalcade of travelers we knew.

One of them was R. B.

I was inclined to give him a thousand dollars. Since he was jobless, living off unemployment insurance, a thousand dollars was a lot of money. Hell—a thousand dollars is a lot of money.

R. B. was probably my most enthused onlooker. He patted me on the back a lot, smiled whenever he was in my presence and desperately wanted to ask me questions about the extent of my good fortune, but was prohibited by his New England upbringing.

Everything went along pretty well until we moved into our five-bedroom house on top of the hill near the lake. We built a pool, placed a gazebo in the front yard, and made all sorts of nifty little additions that landowners often do when they are convinced their money will last forever.

Then R. B. stopped coming around. His visits hadn’t been frequent to begin with, but now he “planned” to attend dinners and events and called at the last moment to cancel.

I thought I knew what the problem was. Matter of fact, I called my entire family together and told them that I believed R. B. needed a wife. Since he seemed unwilling to pursue such a relationship, I told my family that I was considering buying him one.

A wife, that is.

I had no basis whatsoever for knowing anything about such an endeavor—or whether it was even legal—but I had read a pamphlet about women in Eastern Europe and Russia who wanted to come to the United States, and were willing, on a temporary visa, to meet up with a man to see if they could make an “international connection.”

I went deep into the process, but gradually I began to feel like I was in an episode of “Law and Order”—and I was the one breaking the law and creating disorder.

A bit terrified, I backed out of the idea and instead came up with the possibility of sending R. B. on a cruise. (This was back when cruises were cool and didn’t kill people.)

I was trying to figure out how to approach him on the matter when my daughter-in-law piped up during an evening meal when he was in attendance and spurted out the possibility right in front of him. To my surprise, he lit up, smiling, and started asking questions.

The next day I bought him a seven-day cruise in the Bahamas, complete with air fare and extra money to buy clothes that weren’t made out of wool.

I kept waiting for him to back out.

But he didn’t.

On the day he was supposed to leave, he went to the airport, boarded the plane, landed in Miami, Florida and got on the ship.

He stayed for the entire cruise and when he returned, he was different.

He did not consummate a romance on the excursion, but there were two women on the boat with whom he enjoyed talking, sharing supper, and even listening to music.

He came back with both of their telephone numbers.

He was so transformed from the reticent fellow we put on the plane that I was moved to tears. To this day I will tell you—it was some of the best money I ever spent.

But it didn’t last long.

He tried to call the women a couple of times, but of course, they lived far away, and soon it was impossible to recapture the memories.

Painfully and slowly, he dismantled the happier soul he had temporarily become.

It made me realize three things:

1. Men do a lot of boasting, but deep in their hearts don’t believe themselves.

2. Men need a companion to confirm the boasts that are valid and boost the areas where they’re not.

3. Without this, men just feel like undiscovered liars.

The “Ants” That Make Us Cry “Uncle” — October 1, 2011

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1912. The world was erupting with innovation and invention.

  • A canal had been constructed across the Isthmus of Panama, connecting the east and west, making both commerce and communication more plausible.
  • In a twenty year span, we had gone from horses to cars, from trains to airplanes and from mere boats to … the Titanic.

The Titanic was the greatest ship that had ever been built. It was huge, luxurious, modern and seemingly impenetrable and unsinkable.  Everyone believed this–even her captain. But it is very important in the process of creating a righteous environment that those who lead us maintain enough of an inquisitive nature that they permit learning to occur instead of settling in to ignorance. The public could believe anything it wanted to. The manufacturer could tout that the Titanic was incapable of being harmed in any way. But the captain had responsibility to not only know his ship, but more importantly, be aware of the ocean where he traveled. After all, being a captain is not merely steering a ship. Being a captain is steering a ship safely through the unknown waters. Maybe that’s where we get the word “leader-ship”–because to lead, you must be able to understand everything about your ship, but also everything that your ship will be going through en route to its safe destination.

If you don’t, the end result is ignorant: I ignore the world around me. It is the doorway to foolishness.

*In religion, we have no awareness of what other people believe and whether those contentions parallel anything of our thought patterns–or even are contrary to human success.

*In politics, a party line is passed along and spoken aloud as the objection against the platform of the other side without any real understanding of either source or motivation.

*And in corporations, our product is just better because…well, we made it.

A captain got on a ship in 1912 and because he was told that it was unsinkable and he felt he was well-prepared in learning all of its ins and outs, he ended up killing himself and fifteen hundred other people–because he lacked knowledge of the world around him  He was ignorant.

And this caused him to be arrogant.  Here’s my definition of arrogant: arrogant occurs when I am positive of my beliefs. Most people would disagree with me and call that conviction.  But all in all, we are just too fragile and human to allow ourselves to possess convictions. We must preface everything we believe–and even put forth in conversation very careful disclaimers of “this is what I think, but I’m willing to listen to other ideas.”

How about this? I realized the other day that 99% of the time I am an atheist. So are you. Because more than likely, if you’re reading this, you believe in one God. That means the other 99 gods out there touted by other religions you insist are mythical or even comical. 1% of the time you are God-fearing, and to the rest of the world, 99% of the time you are Godless.  It’s a different perspective–see what I mean?

But it begins by being ignorant.  “I ignore the world around me.”

Even though God made the world and has placed a system within it for us to learn, for some reason I have chosen to ignore the world because I feel I have garnered enough data to be successful without learning anything else. And this leads to arrogant“I am positive of my beliefs.”

The captain of the Titanic was so sure that his ship was in great shape that he didn’t even have binoculars for his crew to spot icebergs with. They didn’t even provide an adequate number of  life boats for the entire passenger list. Why would you? If you were positive in your belief that the Titanic was unsinkable and you had chosen to ignore the world around you–what would be the problem?

But ignorant and arrogant often leads to a third “ant”–intolerant. Quite frequently, the ocean around you will rise up with ice, strike your ship and find its weakness–and you will have to decide whether to be broken in repentance or angry over the results. Intolerant is the notion that “I will stubbornly cling to my truth.”  And of course, “my truth” consists of those beliefs I am positive about because I have ignored the world around me.

That night in 1912, a literal perfect storm of stupidity linked together to kill off human beings for no particularly good reason. It is because “ignorant” led to “arrogant” and ended with “intolerant.”

I’m going to give you a statistic and I want you to think about it. It is an important one. And before you accept OR reject it, I want you to try it out.  There is nothing I write to you in jonathots that is sacred as it lies on the paper.  (Or screen, in this case.)  It becomes valuable as it is able to bless human beings.  Here is what I want you to consider:

 70% of the anger and frustration that plagues our existence can disappear if we will admit that we’re just not sure.

Think about that. Most of the arguments, fussing, divorces, wars, splits and even bodily harm that occur amongst our species is caused by people who are ignorant of the world around them, arrogant about their beliefs, and intolerant because they feel it is necessary to defend their truth. God and nature are always trying to teach us something new.  Most of us just don’t show up for class.  If we took five minutes to ask ourselves one simple question–“what if I”m wrong?”–that solitary inquiry could resolve the majority of our dilemmas.

What would have happened if a captain in 1912, when asked about the danger of icebergs by his crew, instead of saying, “Don’t worry about it,” would have said, “Tell you what let’s do.  Let’s play it safe and put a double watch on it, just to protect our friends on board.” But to do that, he would have had to overcome being ignorantignoring the world around him; arrogantbeing positive about his belief in his ship,  and finally, intolerantclinging to his decisions in spite of the objections of his crew.

Fifteen hundred people could have walked off a ship in New York City, safe and sound, because one man avoided the “ants.” 

Yes, the “ants” that always end up making us cry “uncle.”

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Jonathan Sings “Spent This Time”

Jonathan Sings “Harvest Time”

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