Jack's Car: A Story

Jack from Key West … and his remarkable car

This is the first in a new series of blogs written for our website by Humanity Project Founder, Bob Knotts, a playwright, poet and author of the book “Beyond Me: Dissecting Ego To Find The Innate Love At Humanity’s Core.” These blogs offer a more personal perspective on the goodness and inherent value of humanity, ideas that are the foundation of the Humanity Project’s work.

I’d like to introduce you to Jack. I never did catch his last name. Really didn’t matter at the time we met – to him or to me.

What did matter at the time, to him and to me, was Jack’s car. You see it in these photos I snapped earlier this month while on vacation in Key West. When I first spotted him, Jack was working intently to attach the latest additions to that extraordinary vehicle, only stopping once to scatter some food across the ground for a passel of local chickens.

As you know if you’ve ever visited in recent years, Key West is full of chickens roaming the streets and yards all around that small island. Mother hens, baby chicks as well as the many roosters that crow whenever they feel inspired, day or night. As you also likely recall if you’ve ever set foot in Key West, it’s a place full of … let’s call them local characters. Eccentric folks who are as much part of the funky laidback vibe as Mallory Square and Duval Street. The old-timers who never seem to wear more than a bathing suit and flipflops, bearded men typically standing around with a beer in one hand. The ample couples squeezed tight atop compact motor scooters that dart among the tourists. The would-be writers and artists and craftspeople who arrived temporarily in Key West long long ago but never could quite leave, most of them forced to survive on waiter tips or minimum retail wages.

So to me, Jack was just one more. Another Key West character demonstrating his independence from everyone around him – and making sure everyone noticed.

Then I decided to chat with Jack. “Quite the car you have,” I said. He replied in a thick Eastern European accent, “It’s my car … and my wife.” Or that’s what I thought he said anyway. But as we continued talking I finally understood what Jack really was struggling to express. I looked at him, puzzled now: “The car … it’s a tribute to your wife?” I asked.

“Yes,” he said, nodding. “She passed away 20 years ago.”

This most peculiar car and its most eccentric creator were much more than I’d imagined. From a distance I could easily dismiss his existence with a condescending smile, adding Jack to my mind’s catalogue of Key West oddities. But looking more closely I soon could recognize something deeper about both car and creator. This automobile was Jack’s Taj Mahal, a monument to his undying devotion to one long dead woman. And everything on that automobile had some meaning about her. The mermaids were beauty and love. The dolphins represented freedom. And above it all, the image of his wife forever riding on the rooftop over Jack’s head.

“We were very close,” Jack told me softly.

How quickly we judge others in our world, judge them without the slimmest strip of knowledge to justify our instant conclusions. In our certainty we laugh at them, ridicule them, avoid them. The truth of those strange characters we sometimes see in passing through our busy day is obvious, afterall. Except that it isn’t. After a conversation of less than 10 minutes, my concepts of both Jack and his car were transformed. And I was forced to learn all over again an old lesson I should have remembered by now: People are rarely what they appear on the surface – and everyone, everyone has an important story that’s all their own.

"Beyond Me" - Finding Love At Humanity's Core

A Personal Blog

by Bob Knotts, Founder of the Humanity Project

This is highly unusual, to say the least. The Humanity Project does not exist to promote the work of me or any other individual. It exists to help others, especially to instill our three core values of respect for the equal value of every individual along with an appreciation of diversity and the need for self-worth. But we’re making an exception here — for a good reason. My new book deals directly with those very topics and others that relate to the Humanity Project’s work as well as my reasons for founding this nonprofit in the first place.

So we hope you may want to read my 25th and latest book: “Beyond Me: Dissecting Ego To Find The Innate Love At Humanity’s Core (A New Psychology As Philosophy).” Here’s a link to the Amazon book page offering “Beyond Me”: Visit the Amazon page for “Beyond Me.”

Let me give you a small sample of this highly unconventional and lengthy book. This is a short section from Chapter 1:

“ … Over the years I noticed that my self-doubts caused me many many many problems in the world. You will read about some of those too. Unhealthy relationships, destructive reactions, irrational judgments that bubbled up from my relentless confusions about Bob, the who and the what of me. I also observed that my problems frequently twisted themselves into problems for other people, from family to friends to colleagues to strangers. Things I said or didn’t say to them, things I did or didn’t do. My obsession with me created most of the damage that I inflicted upon both myself and my fellow human beings. The older I got, the clearer this became to me.

And over the years I noticed that you suffered precisely the same misery, whoever you were. The details didn’t matter much. As best I could surmise after travels on six continents, every other you on the planet also suffered from it. In this way you each were pretty much like me. Meaning it was all ‘me’ nearly all the time for everyone of us. The daily pursuit of immediate self-interest, the anxieties and fears and angers that emerged from our individual doubts, the desperation for outside appreciation, the harm to ourselves and others when the appreciation didn’t come. Every individual at the center of their personal universe.

Oh yes, I concluded, this is human nature. Clearly just the way we are.

Except that it isn’t.”

In a nutshell, this is the essence of “Beyond Me.” Over the course of 600 pages, the book argues that our destructive self-centered ways, our egocentrism, isn’t natural but rather learned — and can be unlearned. And untaught to our children. Instead, “Beyond Me” says, there is an innate core of love in human beings … but not the kind of love most people think about when they hear that word. The book explains in empirically based detail the what, why and how of all this. If you read it, you’ll see what I mean.

You can find another sample to read at this link, something a bit longer: Read the opening pages of “Beyond Me.”

Ultimately, “Beyond Me” is an enormously hopeful view of our humanity, offering new perspectives and new solutions to many of our problems. And much like the Humanity Project itself, the book stresses that each individual is equally valuable — and the human species is uniquely significant. By the time you read the whole book, I feel sure, you are likely to have a different, more optimistic view of yourself, others and our world.