Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4105)

Sitting Twenty-Eight

All at once, Karin was chilled by a startling realization. She considered herself to be an intelligent, astute, and even clever discerner of human emotions, especially being able to separate the false from the true, with some regularity. Now she found herself completely overwhelmed by the common sense of two twelve-year-old boys, whose argument not only left her perplexed, but nearly breathless with its sincerity.

Was she going crazy? Had she spent too much time in the desert with these two youngsters? Or perhaps it was just her own internal questioning about the hypocrisy of the society surrounding her, surfacing and finding voice in the two adolescent rabble-rousers.

But there was no doubt about it—Karin Koulyea, newspaper woman extraordinaire, was stymied. She realized that Iz and Pal could not be coaxed back to their former lives through the presentation of treats or the sum token of receiving a little more freedom.

She took a deep breath and then growled at them with the most gravitas she could muster. “You see, here’s the problem. They are grown-ups. They have earned the right to be stupid. The years that have passed, that have grayed their hair, have also given them the privilege to do stupid things. I’m not telling you I agree, but I am telling you that nobody cares what my opinion may be on the matter. Guys, they don’t have to make sense. Of course hate is stupid! But hate is what they always do when they run out of ideas. And if you ask me, government is what people do when they feel they’ve lost control. If you’ll just hear me for a second, I, Karin, your friend, am just telling you that they are not going to let you continue to be your own little country out here in the sand.”

Iz interrupted. “I suppose you’re talking about the rally.”

Karin was taken aback. “Iz, how did you find out about the rally?”

He just shook his head. “They wrap some of our food in newspaper, so as we sit and eat the cheese and bread, we read the local news. We understand that next Thursday, they plan on coming out here and taking us away.”

Karin sat for a moment. Pal started to speak but Iz reached over and put a hand on his leg, encouraging his silence.

Finally Karin asked, “So what are you going to do?”

Iz lifted his hand, motioning toward Pal, giving him the moment. “You just don’t get it, lady. What do you mean, ‘what are we gonna do?’ We’re gonna stay. They’re the ones who are going to cause trouble. So as long as we don’t fight, they’ll end up looking like the troublers.”

Iz interrupted, “And we will end up looking like the heroes.” The two boys exchanged a high five.

Karin didn’t know what she felt about their statements. There was an optimism that might have a grain or two of truth, but deep in her heart, she was aware that the staunch purveyors of religion and culture would never be satisfied without dominating.

She reached out and took each boy by the hand. “They won’t let you be what you want to be—mainly because they all want to be something else but have convinced themselves that their God is mad at anyone who is truly happy.”

There was a moment of stillness, almost resembling understanding. Suddenly, Iz crawled away on all fours, across the desert sand, stumbling to his feet, and walked a few paces away. Turning, he said, with tears in his voice, “What good is it if we start something out here and don’t finish it? How are we any different from them? They make peace treaties, and the first time it becomes hard to follow, they drop it. They make promises to love and care, and then they just forget.”  He stepped toward Karin. “We will not forget. And we will never give up.”

Karin struggled to her feet, stood and pointed at Iz. “Yes, you will. Because they will make you give up. They will defeat you and humiliate you and make you seem even younger and smaller than you really are.”

Karin turned to include Pal in her words. “Maybe when you’re men someday, you can change the world. But nobody changes the world with a child’s hand.”

Pal leaped to his feet and pointed to Iz and back to himself. “Doesn’t the Bible say, ‘a little child shall lead them?’” he asked defiantly.

“The Bible says a helluva lot of things,” Karin scoffed, “but the Bible always gets shouted down by folks with money and power.”

The three stood in the desert, exchanging glances. Slowly, Iz stepped over and sat back down. He looked off in the distance as if speaking to the universe. “I don’t care about that. We have a plan.”

He quickly glanced over at Pal, who widened his eye sockets to well back the tears. Pal nodded and added, “Yes. A plan.”

Karin pivoted and turned to them, a little bit shaken by their tone of voice. “Well, come on. You can tell me what the plan is.”

As if on cue, Iz and Pal stood and began to kick the soccer ball back and forth, running in circles around Karin, bouncing the ball against her legs, off her hips and then, her head, closing in nearer and nearer to her.

“Quit it!” she screamed, angry and frightened. But they didn’t. They kept kicking the ball, dancing in a circle around her. She stumbled, nearly falling, and tried to push back at them, but they kept kicking the ball, encircling her. They were laughing.

“All right, you little jerks!” she screamed. “I’m out of here!”

Gaining her balance, she rushed past them and stomped away, but as she left, she turned and said, “This doesn’t change anything. You can chase me away, but you can’t chase the goddamn world away.”

The two boys continued their kicking and playing, ignoring her words. When they were sure that she was far down the hill and would not return, Iz stopped, wiping the sweat from his brow. He turned to Pal, panting, and said, “She’s just like all the rest. She doesn’t understand. No one understands.”

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Iz and Pal (Bedouin Buddies)


Iz and Pal

Jonathots Daily Blog

(4098)

Sitting Twenty-Seven

Karin caught wind of it and told her editor about the planned rally. He didn’t respond—just sprouted a tiny smile.

She was not comforted. She didn’t know what to do. She wanted to press her editor to gain more involvement from him, but it seemed he was more cynical than she was—and she knew that her negativity was beyond salvation.

So Karin decided to go see the boys. She sat down and shared a hamburger with them, asking a few idle questions. When she felt relaxed enough to broach the subject, she inquired, “What are you guys gonna do?”

“About what?” asked Pal.

Karin was perturbed. She was fully aware that they knew much more than they let on. “Do you really think this can go on?” she challenged.

Iz responded. “You mean us staying here in the desert?” He had that pesky little smile on his face, warning of his cunning.

“Yes,” said Karin in exasperation.

Pal spoke up. “We’ve talked about it.” He glanced over at Iz, carefully.

Karin leaned forward. “Well, I figured you had. I mean, you must be aware that people will not allow you to continue to do this.”

Iz objected. “Not allow us?”

Karin tossed her hamburger to the side. “Yes, Iz. To most people this is just foolishness.  You know—silliness? Boys at play?”

Iz stood, throwing his hamburger on the ground. “I see,” he began. “We’re silly. They have fought wars for thousands of years and we’re silly. They hate each other, and we’re silly. They blow up buses—and we’re silly. They try to keep us apart from each other, and we’re silly. They kill over oil and little tiny pieces of desert—and we’re silly.”

Pal leaped to his feet. “I don’t think we’re silly, lady. We may not have a plan, but who does? Are you trying to tell me that the Israelis or the Palestinians or even Americans have some sort of plan? Haven’t they just all run away, and found their own space to pout? Just like us—they’re over there in a corner, playing, hoping everything works out. How, tell me, are they any different from us? We’re just boys. We do boy things. Okay—we do them in a boy way. But they’re supposed to be men, and some of them women. You want us to take the blame for their stupid.”

Iz interrupted. “Yeah, lady newspaper. How are they different from us?”

 

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G-Poppers … May 5th, 2017

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(3298)

Jon close up

Old people don’t like to change.

Perhaps better stated, older folks think they’ve done all the changing they need to do.

It fascinates G-Pop that we spend so much time trying to appease the tastes, mentality and standards of individuals who have basically retired their dispositions, and use much of their gray matter considering longevity.

Perhaps it’s the fact that once we’re given our first prescription for high blood pressure and cholesterol, we are forever lost to discussing our treatments. Is it because older folks accumulated all the savings bonds and property, and seem to be in power?

The wealth of our nation actually lies in the elasticity of young minds–the flexibility of those who have not yet determined what color they would like their den to be painted.

It’s why Jesus said that the message of the Gospel is geared to the child-like mind, and only those who are willing to acquire such thinking can truly comprehend it. It is also why Jesus said you can’t put new wine into old wineskins. When the fermentation produces expansion, the old skins literally explode.

Yet children are relegated to a status of property, propaganda and proof of our prowess and parenting. So we ask:

  • What are your grades?
  • What do you like about school?
  • What do you want to be when you grow up?
  • What do you think of your teachers?

We trap our offspring into a prison of education and tell them not to contact us until they’ve graduated reformed. So they mimic us. It’s what they’re taught to do.

So rather than having a cultural and social revolution with every generation, causing us to grow in intelligence and openness to one another, we implant the prejudice and bigotry of the former generation firmly into the minds of those who are haplessly controlled by us because they live in our homes and feast at our tables.

We’re missing an opportunity. And because we’re ignoring it, we are condemning ourselves to more wars in the same areas of the world–just with new names.

Teach your children. Teach them well.

Otherwise they’ll end up with their father’s hell.

And here’s what G-Pop thinks we should teach them:

1. Love people.

There is no better species due to arrive. You can live with the monkeys or dine with the lions, but you will eventually find that their habits are even worse than your brothers and sisters living next door. People are the best that God offers us. If you’re upset about it, contact the Creator. He has not made a more magnificent contraption, and there is no sign that He’s upgrading the model. Love people or die complaining.

2. Respect people.

Get rid of your color charts. Get rid of your expectations. Keep your moral code to yourself. If you have a plan of salvation, enjoy it, but don’t force feed it to anyone else. Every human being is given three square feet of influence, and once you step out of your own, realize you are trespassing. Don’t be surprised if you get shot.

3. Work with people.

Working with people is easy. You listen, then you try. Just make sure that the trying is a test and not selling out completely. In other words, if you’re going to dye a piece of cloth, it’s a good idea to cut off a small unit and try the dye on it first, to see how it takes. As long as we’re willing to be wrong, working with people can be quite fun. But when we insist that we “have to be right” because we’re invested in the project and therefore need to make excuses for the failure–then we become obnoxious paper clip counters.

It’s rather doubtful that you can take anyone over the age of forty-five on a journey to love people, respect people and work with people.

Pick your target market. It will be the children of the Earth who still don’t have enough assets to sit on their asses.

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Good News and Better News … April 25th, 2016

 Jonathots Daily Blog

(2915)

Salem composite

Salem United Methodist Church in Blountville, Tennessee.

It was my pleasure to be with the dear citizens yesterday morning.

“Salem” means “a peaceful completion.” Ironic, since it’s contained in the name of the city, “Jerusalem,” which is hardly peaceful or completed.

But as I looked out at my new friends yesterday morning, I asked myself, what is peace?

Because Jesus told us that we are certainly meant to be peacemakers. As in most things in life, I think we get confused as to where to start.

The more religious among us believe we should make our peace with God first and foremost.

Those who are more secular-minded contend we should make our peace with ourselves–find our inner sanctum of tranquility. Then we would be in a position to make peace with others.

Even though these two schools of thought are very popular, they have not brought peace to the world.

Often when we feel we’ve made our peace with God, it makes us prideful of our salvation and therefore critical of others.

On the other hand, when we make peace with ourselves, we tend to get a bit pompous over our own satisfaction, feel no need for God, and pity the weaker humans around us.

Yesterday, while sharing with the Salem gathered, I realized that our job is to make peace with others.

Jesus made this clear in the Sermon on the Mount. He said if you get to church and you remember that somebody has something against you–maybe a grudge–you should leave church and work that out first. Otherwise, nothing good will happen.

Conventional thinking is that going to church would soften our hearts to be more forgiving, or that the solitude of prayer would prepare our souls for a peaceful resolution.

But Jesus said nothing is really achieved until we make peace with the offended. (By the way, that doesn’t mean we have a bone to pick with them, but instead, we recall that they want to pick our bones.)

I’ve got to be honest with you–sometimes those around me get miffed at something I’ve done and I couldn’t give a hoot owl’s “who-who” over it. But that’s because I think I can have peace of mind and peace with my God without having peace with my brothers and sisters.

That kind of attitude is the formula for conflict, feuds and even wars.

God has peace with me. He knows who I am. He still hangs around.

Generally speaking, under normal circumstances, I find a way to love myself–even if it’s the “ooey-gooey” of self-pity.

But true peace is when I become passionately concerned over trying to understand the situation of the individuals around me.

I can’t get peace with God or really have legitimate peace with myself until I attempt to make peace with others.

That’s the good news. Here’s the better news:

If we believe this to be true, we can get a jump on the situation … before misunderstandings become lasting conflicts.

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Christmas Council … December 25, 2013

Jonathots Daily Blog

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council in heaven

God was angry–more with Himself than anything else. The connection He had once made in a Garden had failed to bloom.

So he called a Council together–of a heavenly sort.

Yes, the God of heaven and earth called the best of the sky and the land together to discuss a problem: what shall we do with humankind?

The noble notion of creating a fleshy creature in His image had deteriorated to wars, fear, anger, lust and mainly, most appalling of all, perpetual indecision.

  • The angels were invited to this Council.
  • Philosophers throughout history who had passed on to reward.
  • Lovers
  • Writers
  • Musicians
  • Craftsmen
  • Architects
  • And even the handful of professional religionists who had actually made it to the other side in spite of their predilection for “straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel.”

It was a lively discussion.

The angels were completely perplexed by why creatures who had been endowed with such insight spent all of their time using their wits to destroy one another.

One of the angelic messengers inserted, partly tongue-in-cheek, “If they want to destroy each other, why not give them an assist?”

The philosophers insisted that the problem was poverty and ignorance, some earthly travelers plagued by one, others cursed by both.

The lovers insisted on romance and the poets proclaimed the satisfaction of deeper thought.

One brave former priest challenged the Almighty by suggesting that human beings might be more spirited if the conversation with the heavens was not so one-sided.

On and on the debate raged.

God quickly realized that certain words were leaping from the discussion–repeated constantly:

“King.”

Jew.”

“Priest.”

“Philosopher.”

“Man.”

“Woman.”

“Politician.”

“Savior.”

After the passage of time (though being in a supernal location, such tick-tocking never actually occurs) God announced His decision.

“Human life is a theory. At least, that’s the way humans are approaching it. And I believe they’ve come to the conclusion that success at such an endeavor is completely impossible. I believe they require a picture–an example, as it were. Yet I know some of you think it would take a king. But actually, what we need is a kingdom that can live inside the emotions and soul of every son or daughter of Eden.”

“Some of you think he should be a Jew, born of the House of David. But I’ve grown weary of relegating a special position to one race of people.”

“A philosopher? Perhaps…but with a simple idea: Love your neighbor as yourself.

“A man? A woman? The better parts of that union: a child.”

“A politician? Truly, wise as a servant, but may I add, harmless as a dove.

God paused for a minute before He continued.

“Members of this august Council, what we need is a human who gets it. A human being who understands his own limitations while believing that limitations don’t really exist.”

God stopped his speech and looked into the faces of the assembled. They were puzzled.

“You see? Now you all look human.”

There was a laugh in heaven, as there always should be. Now the key was to bring the laugh to earth.

So one night God joined His spirit with a woman, to birth a baby who became a child and never lost the glee for living, teaching us that we, too, must become as little children.

God called the experience Christmas.

We called it Jesus.

 

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Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Click for details on the SpirTed 2014 presentation

Please contact Jonathan’s agent, Jackie Barnett, at (615) 481-1474, for information about scheduling SpiriTed in 2014.

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

click to hear music from Spirited 2014

Is It Still There? … May 6, 2013

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flagHave you ever listened closely to the lyrics? (Actually, since it was originally a poem, maybe I should say “the stanzas.”)

I’m talking about The Star Spangled Banner, penned by Francis Scott Key. After all, the emotion of the song is a yearning curiosity about whether the defenders of Ft. McHenry had survived the all-night battle–if the flag was still waving, proclaiming victory.

We’ve grown so accustomed to hearing the song sung by young, spoiled, famous pop artists, who are more concerned about the pitch range than they are about the emotional range, that we somehow have lost the significance of the message.

That night in Baltimore Harbor, Mr. Key was frantic about whether the United States would be able to continue its mission, initiated 36 years earlier with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

He was nervous. He was anxious for a little light to be shone on the day so he could determine the future of our nation.

For this I know–after all the scandals, ill-advised wars, foolish clinging to bigotry, financial disasters and even the broaching of civil rights which have peppered our history, we still remain a country which insists on pursuing the simple concept of personal freedom.

But like Francis Scott Key, I sometimes wonder whether The Star Spangled Banner is still there in the midst of all the partisanship and vendettas put out by less-than-scrupulous leaders in this country, who have more of a vested interest in their own personal wealth and position than they do in the deeper treasures of liberty.

But I am not cynical. I still believe I live in a magnificent country.

It all came to bear on me the other day when I received an email from my daughter-in-law, who was born and raised in China. She sent an attachment of a file, with her singing a song she will be auditioning tomorrow, to possibly perform for the UCLA graduation. It was The Star Spangled Banner.

First, I was astonished that she was a singer. She had never shared that talent with me in all of our varied conversations. She had listened to me croon away many times without piping a note herself. But when I listened to her gentle, sweet voice intone our national anthem, I was brought to tears–especially when I heard her share the phrase, “Oh, say does that Star Spangled Banner yet wave–o’er the land of the free …?”

When she hit that high note, a chill went down my spine. Not because it was loud or intense. No–because I realized that here was a Chinese girl raised in among an intelligent and intuitive people, who had used her abilities to arrive on the shores of America to expand her education, and was now singing the praises of the “land of the free.”

You see–that’s America.

America isn’t about listening to a bunch of old codgers, sitting around in over-stuffed leather chairs discussing the subtleties of politics. America is a beautiful young girl from China, who still honors her country of origin, but comes to harvest the benefits from the freedom and opportunities provided by this republic.

It was beautiful. It struck a patriotic chord in me that still resounds this morning.

So you can feel free to continue to be part of the pervasive attitude that is trying to  preserve an America long gone or initiate an America yet unrevealed.

As for me, I will celebrate the power of the immigrant–that soul who has traveled to our shores to find the missing pieces of his or her life.

So here’s to my daughter-in-law and her beautiful spirit. I don’t know if she’ll win the audition or not–but she’s already proven that The Star Spangled Banner is still there.

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*****

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Sackcloth and Ashes … February 13, 2013

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ashesLong ago, when fire-breathing dragons stomped across the earth and a gallon of gasoline cost less than milk, prophets would occasionally ramble into town, condemning the deeds of the wicked, speaking forth the chilling but effective sound bite, “Repent or die.” Even more disconcerting was how little the prophet actually cared about whether his message was received in a positive light, and often actually would have preferred it if death was the result of his invitation. I suppose there were those cities which would resist the opportunity to save their lives–we wouldn’t be that familiar with them because they are no longer on the landscape. But often the ruler of the nation would comprehend the seriousness of the situation and repent, ordering all of his subjects to do so, demonstrating their regret by adorning themselves in sackcloth and smearing ashes all over their bodies.

Time marches on. (Or does it creep? I’m not sure.)

We now have advanced in our self-esteem to the extent that we would never consider lowering ourselves to wear sackcloth and display bacteria-ridden ashes on our faces. Yet it doesn’t change the fact that we are still doing many of the same ridiculous practices that should require a bit of reflection, if not repentance brought on by the threat of doom.

I’m not a prophet. (I guess that would make me a non-prophet organization. But I digress.) Yet, to me there are three obvious things that need focus in this country as primal objectives, allowing for a discussion about the implementation of how to achieve them, but not whether they are righteous and necessary.

1. Let’s stop killing. There you go.  I’m not picky. Let’s stop killing babies so much. Let’s stop killing people with capital punishment. And let’s stop starting wars because we have a big military and they get out of practice if they hang around the base too much with no real combat experience. I think it’s a good start. Every time you stop something in life, two things happen: you cease a few things and you start up other things. Stopping killing would probably take away some of our rights in this country. But it would give us a sense that we were trying to address a murderous history of rampage that seems to be threatening to infest our national DNA. Yes–stop killing. Then have the debate about how to actually make it a practical or legal application.

2. Stop stealing. Let’s not ask people to do jobs that we don’t want to do and then continue to insist that they live in squalor and poverty in order to serve us. Let’s stop taking away from people their praise-worthy actions and pretending they’re lesser fellows. Let’s greatly discourage corporations from becoming so greedy to feather their nest that they kill off all competing birds. Let’s stop stealing. That would be good, right? We could decide that refusing to steal is a good thing and then have a healthy debate on ways to initiate integrity.

3. Why don’t we stop destroying? If there is any chance at all that we are party to affecting the climate on this earth, why don’t we just grin and bear it? Why don’t we find out what we can do and instead of arguing about whether it is pleasant or within our wheelhouse of understanding, and just stop the destruction. Why don’t we become the nation that makes it “uncool” to be unfeeling? Why don’t we stop destroying our own psyche by peppering our young people with violence and encouraging them to use technology incessantly–which is gradually fostering an epidemic of indifference?

Why don’t we stop destroying our bodies? Why can’t we encourage farmers to raise more vegetables so you can get a tomato at the grocery store for less money than a greasy eight-hundred-calorie hamburger at McDonald’s?

Certainly it would demand that we abandon hypocrisy. It would require that we forfeit some of our abstract definitions of freedom to provide for the common good. The same people who extol the beauty of marriage–which is the setting aside of sexual freedom, the possibility of many partners to cling to one–feel grieved over the notion of making it more difficult to get a gun for themselves in order to possibly save the lives of those on the perimeter of their understanding.

I don’t think we’ll ever get our nation to sport sackcloth and ashes. But I do think we could sit down and agree that killing, stealing and destroying are really bad things, and even though we may have varying definitions, in the long run, we could come up with a FEW ideas limiting death, thievery and destruction.

Ash Wednesday–a religious holiday when people commiserate for an hour or so about whether they treat those friends around them with enough respect and if they should eat less chocolate.

Maybe it’s time for some real repentance. In the absence of a prophet who isn’t afraid of the king, queen and parliament, let me proclaim, stop killing, stop stealing, stop destroying.

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