Neutral … January 16, 2013

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Jon SigningIn the often-comical pursuit of trying to create  dialogue and social interaction that does not offend anyone, we have actually ended up being one of the most offensive generations that has ever walked the face of the earth. By the time the commentators finish parsing words, studying body language and playing video tape which has been edited to reinforce their points, they are able to turn almost any conversation, speech or private moment into the abomination of desolation or an obvious affrontation to some beleaguered and misunderstood portion of our society.

So everybody is heading for the low ground.

There was a time when we actually did try to climb the mountain of wisdom in order to find the high ground where we could see better. But now it seems more prudent to those in control to find the lowest point of disagreement and camp there, hoping never to be challenged or questioned.

It happened to me yesterday. Some dear soul who had caught my show requested that I come to present my ideas, music and creativity in front of another audience of her organizing. The lady was thrilled with what she had seen, and wanted to make sure she could include all of her friends in the experience. I told her I was more than willing to go anywhere and for her to let me know how I could be of assistance.

Well, less than twenty-four-hours later she called me and said that she had talked to the “powers that be.” They were more than willing to invite me to come to their auditorium to perform–if I would comply with a few simple rules. (Honestly, friends, I don’t know how the words “simple” and “rules” ever got hooked up. It is not a good marriage–because rules are never simple and simple rarely demands many rules.)

Basically, the main concern by her  fellow-workers was that they wanted to be assured that I would come in and offer a “neutral” program. Many of the people in their constituency are of different political persuasions, faiths, ethnic backgrounds and general dispositions. They needed some guarantee that what I would share would not be offensive, but “in the wheelhouse” of everyone’s comfort zone.

Let me tell you something about neutral. Neutral by definition is a decision not to get involved and neither go forward or backwards. It is not exactly where anyone desires to be, but rather, a profile thrust upon us by fear of being overly passionate or too advanced.

I don’t mind being neutral. I just don’t know whether I can offer the same package of potential and emotional explosion by carefully removing all the meat from my offering, only to display the remaining skeleton.

But as I said, it’s not hard to do. The United Methodist minister, for instance, is more than willing to sacrifice miracles, supernatural events and any controversial subject that might have been brought up by Jesus, in an attempt to create a faith which can be intellectually absorbed through the pores from the hymn book.

On the other hand, the Southern Baptist will gladly and almost reverently take away any of the compassion, open-mindedness and non-judgmental approach of Jesus in favor of the bleeding savior who died for the world’s sins because “we’re all so very rotten, you know.”

It seems to me that the problem with religion is that it chooses to either be weak or to be mean.

So what I told the lady I would do for her gathering is simple. I’ve already found a neutral message. It’s not, however,  neutral in its energy and impact. It’s neutral because it is the only message that cross-sects all of humanity–simultaneously making sense and also convicting the hell out of all of our souls.

That message is “NoOne is better than anyone else.”

It is not obtuse to the atheist OR the pentecostal, yet individuals within those groups may find it humorous or implausible. I am willing to work with any philosophy, political party or clump of clods who will accept that the only way we’re going to get along on this planet together is when we stop feeling either superior or inferior to each other.

It’s not so much a neutral message as it is the only message.

So if my Buddhist friends have trouble with it, I offer them the platform to give me a more concise and on-point directive.

If the agnostics think it is irrelevant, I’m all ears to their findings.

And if the Muslims, Jews, Republicans, Democrats, atheists and “whoevers” wish to banter with me about the specifics of this holy sound bite, I am prepared to be instructed and informed–just not deterred.

So there is my neutral message: NoOne is better than anyone else.

I’m sure someone on MSNBC or Fox News could find fault with it, and if they couldn’t decimate the content, they could certainly delve into my character and find reasons why I am unworthy to front the notion. I don’t care. I will not play the game.

I learned a long time ago–the only way to become a fool is by participating in foolishness.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

There’s Got To Be a Morning After… October 2, 2012

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Three words: humble, humility, humiliation.

I think I have spent a lifetime learning the difference among that trio of offerings. For after all, I’ve met many people who have suggested that “humble” is the path to take in attempting to please God and make your life spiritually in order. Here’s the problem–acting like you’re not capable of much is quickly proven to be true when your efforts fall short of adequate, and rather than being viewed as humble, you are deemed inept.

Then there are people who take the other route. They decide to lead with their talents, accomplishments, dreams, aspirations and fleeting acclaim. They think a little piece of pride is necessary to grease the wheels of the train of success. The only problem is, there’s going to be a morning after. Eventually you have to display your wares in the marketplace of life and be evaluated by the existing forces on the qualities of who you are and what you do. If you’ve spent too much time bragging about your potential, the end result will be humiliation–and others will get the chance to tell you how rotten and unfulfilling you really are.

The third choice is humility. Humility is when you have a private counsel in your soul with all your faculties and the spirit of God, and through that meeting you decide on a course of action and quietly set it in motion without fanfare, planning it meticulously, rehearsing your portion faithfully and believing God to be able beyond measure.  When prosperity is brought about through that effort, you then have the power to receive the praise and deflect it in any direction you desire.

I am astounded, as I travel this country, at the arrogance displayed from both the conservatives and the liberals, and the phony, humble attitudes manufactured under the guise of coming across like “just one of the people.” Humility can not be faked. It is a delicious blend of effort with faith. It is a concoction where we understand the importance of excellence, while also comprehending that perfect things are often nailed to a cross.

As I sat onstage last night in Conneaut, Ohio, at New Leaf United Methodist Church, in front of some of the sweetest human beings you would ever want to meet, and the cameras were rolling, filming my show, I was temporarily overcome by the beauty of a simple word: opportunity.

Some folks spend their whole lives trying to achieve a station, a stage, or a format they deem to be worthy of their abilities instead of grabbing any soapbox available and standing in humility and delivering. As I watched my partner, Janet, display all of her years of rehearsing and excellence in front of the audience, I was moved with great admiration that this dear lady was absolutely delighted to be sharing her portion of God’s gift in this small, Ohio town.

Afterwards, I interfaced, embraced, chatted, laughed and cried with these kind folks who had come out to see me shake my reed in the wind. It was beautiful.

But as I lay down to sleep last night, I felt a burning, incendiary anger in my soul. Yes, I am furious with Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, liberals, religious, secular, fundamentalist and scientific folk who have squared off against each other and created an atmosphere of tension and inflexibility instead of building pathways to understanding.

I even saw it yesterday.There was a conservative contingency in Conneaut which collided with a liberal element, which was introduced by the presence of my film crew. They never were quite able to make connection. I am sure both would be enraged that I suggest that such an impasse exists. But the truth is, when you believe there is a distance between your belief and that of another, you will just naturally try to maintain the distance.

So I would like to introduce you to three other words: collision, congealing and cohesion.

All we have succeeded doing in this country is creating a collision of ideas, coyly referring to it as “debate.” It isn’t debate because there is never resolution–just an agonizing, gnawing needling about one group’s superiority over another. I, for one, am so tired of it that I not only refuse to participate, but fully intend to dismantle the intransigent, selfish attitudes of both sides, until they are exposed for the charlatans they truly are.

You conservatives, it doesn’t do any good to tell the world they are going to hell in a handbasket unless you also tell them that Jesus has given us the keys to the kingdom and that the gates of hell will not prevail against us.

Liberals, it doesn’t do any good to put your faith in science and technology, when the very nature that you acclaim was created, fostered and implemented by the will of God.

We are in the midst of an ongoing collision which is doing much more damage than we can imagine, even though we insist that it’s just two big tanks, hitting each other. Somewhere along the line, we have to congeal.

Here’s a start–you can’t have art in the church and think it’s going to conform to your doctrines and theology. Art by definition is expansive and is set in motion to challenge ideas rather than confirm them.

On the other hand, how can you build a mutual respect for human beings when you’re constructing your Tower of Babel based solely on personal self-worth and the aqcuisition of money and worldly goods? How can you expect to keep the earth well-rounded when you square off the corners in foolish controversy?

Congeal. Find a reason to mingle what you believe with the feelings of other human beings without compromising the depths of your spirit, but expanding the borders of your heart.

I agree with about half of what my conservative friends in Conneaut have to say and about half of what my film crew thinks. This doesn’t make me better. It makes me usable. I can work with any conservative as long as he or she tells me that God does not have a vendetta to hurt human beings. I can work with any liberal as long as he or she does not try to express their superiority by showing God the back door.

If we would begin to congeal, we could set in motion the possibility of the final phase, which is cohesion. Yes, we would begin to cling to each other in respect, love, admiration, and also a bit of wonder–because our lack of comprehension about the other party’s views would keep us on our toes, learning and growing.

When I walked off the stage last night in Conneaut, I was so grateful and felt such humility–to be part of the process moving us towards cohesion instead of destroying us in perpetual collision.

My journey has just begun. Right now I am introducing the notion of congealing. Conservatives are not my enemies. They remind me of little children who are afraid to play with the toys because the gifts are still in the boxes and they’re not sure they have the right to tear into them and launch into great joy. I love my liberal friends–because they have torn into the boxes and they are playing, but the toys are broken. And because they do not know the manufacturer very well, they do not know how to fix them.

Could I be more of a blessed man than to have interacted with the salt of the earth from Conneaut, Ohio, and delivered the only true, eternal message–NoOne is better than anyone else.

There’s got to be a morning after–and on this particular morning, I feel great humility, because I didn’t try to be humble or prideful, ending up in humiliation. I feel a giddy leap in my soul because I’m walking away from the collision and asking my brothers and sisters to congeal so that one day, in the sight of God and man, we can create a cohesion of fellowship with a bond that cannot be broken.

Would you join me? Forget about me, for I, too, will pass away. Would you do what’s right for yourself? Stop being part of the problem and at least make an attempt at the solution?.

The producers of jonathots would humbly request a yearly subscription donation of $10 for this wonderful, inspirational opportunity

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