Saturday, December 23, 2006

Jeremy Enigk

Last night I experienced one of the most beautiful live performances I have ever attended. Jeremy Enigk(Sunny Day Real Estate, Fire Theft) played at the Trubadour in LA. It really impacted me in such a powerful way. I know I mentioned how this CD has definately fit this period in my life, but I have to say that last night took it to the next level. Why is it that hope screams so loud when the darkness is all around? As the song "Been Here Before" states:

been here before
though there's something in the air this time
now i wanna give away what i'd taken back
run away with you toward the night

a thousand names
though there's something in me cannot smile
don't wanna spend the day retracing steps
run away with you toward the light

Here's a live performance of "Damien Dreams" to give you an idea of what it was like:

Christmas Carol

He brushes the dusty grave with his hand to reveal words worn with the weathers of the seasons. The words are faded but their engraving still sits among the granite stone: "Theodore Ted Byyny 1920-1986, beloved husband and father...Faith was his Victory" He presses his fingers into the words as he carefully nudges tiny windmills, candy-canes, and Christmas presents to the edges of the headstone. A single wind-mill twists to the breeze of a brisk winter afternoon. After 10 years they still visit the grave and decorate it every year. To the sides are other graves with unheard of names. They sit vacant in a stark comparison to this grave covered with its stuffed animals, christmas stockings, and a single bottle of Knotts Berry Farm Blueberry jam. Many of the graves have been forgotten long before. Not far away stands another family decorating a fresh grave. A single mother with two little children gathers the distracted youth together to concentrate their attention on the grave in front of them. They scatter tinsel across the grave and assemble a small fake Christmas tree. As she tries to bring some element of a family together during the holidays, she puts her arms around them both and attempts to withhold a single tear as it escapes and creeps painstakingly down her face. She thinks, "If only he could be with us right now."
My top ten Christmas songs
10. Every single song on the Chipmunks Christmas album. Grandma used to play it for me...
9. Fiona Apple "Frosty the Snowman" Only Fiona could take a song about an innocent little snowman and make me feel like I've ruined her life.
8. Dave Matthews "Christmas Song" just because this one will always hold a special place in my heart.
7. Louis Armstrong "Winter Wonderland" Louis, please sing me to sleep with your frog-like voice.
6. Jimmy Eat World "12.23.95" Like wrapping yourself in Christmas lights plugging them in and then doing the dance of sugarplumb fairies in the middle of a snowfield.
5. John Lennon "Happy X-mas" because this song will always apply to wars and peace.
4. Anathallo "Celebrate" Favorite line: "Redemption Ringing in his lonely ears...Celebrate our imperfections"
3. Death Cab for Cutie "Christmas(Baby please come home)" Death Cab cover of a U2 song? Does it get any better?
2. Dean Martin and Doris Day "Baby it's cold outside" It makes us all feel elegant and slutty at the same time.
1. Sufjan Stevens "That was the worst Christmas ever" Come on, I mean the guy KNOWS Christmas. After so many Christmas albums and bells he should.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

St. Francis of Assisi

When I read the story of St.Francis, I feel like going out and buying a crucifix, attending convocation, and becoming a catholic. Today I sat with a student during their study skills class and worked with him one-on-one. He was catholic and for his convocation his priest had asked him to choose a Saint name and to write an essay on why it relates to him. He had chosen St.Francis because this past summer he had visited St.Francis grave in Assisi. We sat reading St.Francis' story together at the table. St.Francis had grown up in the richest of the rich. In a short period in life he had an encounter with his friends where a begger asked him for money. His friends completely ignored the begger and Francis' heart was clenched with hurt for the begger. Almost overnight he was overwhelmed with a transformational experience in which he gave all that he had to the poor. In one fell swoop he lost most of his friends, his parents became unaccepting of his behavior, and he became deathly ill. After a miraculous healing Francis devoted his life to the poor and desparaged of the world.
I sat down to lunch with a student who was searching through a highschool dispute that their peers had been consumed in. In an Asian dominated community, the white students sometimes feel alienated on campus. As a response to this emotion they had started to use a hand gesture between white students as a joke to ease the discomfort of their alienation. Soon a few non-white students caught on to this and felt alienated by this new race-driven group gesture. They felt awkward about talking about it and addressed the issue on a web-page because they wanted to address the issue not necessarily start a race war. When the other group caught on to this, they became defensive, angered by the websites attacks, and did not agree. Now, the two sides seem to be at odds and divided where there had not been much division before over something that neither side meant for it to be.
How do these two situations coinside. Well, in reading about Thomas' life I read this prayer and it almost adressed this situation specifically:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy;

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love.

For it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Power and love, how do these two concepts so often butt heads. Injustice and hatred seem to creep into every corner of life. How pleasing this world would be if we could learn to, as Ghandhi proposed, stand truthfully against a wrong without seeking vengence; and even to pardon the injuries others have incurred against us. What if we could learn to speak honest truth in love when we are oppressed and speak constructive humility when we are the oppressors. That we could bring light to the dark, and in such, bring joy to sadness.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Family Love

I just came home tonight to find my little sister sleeping in her old bed. I whispered quietly to see if she was awake. She was and so we sat and talked for awhile. My sister and I have always had a rocky relationship. We never quite seemed to get each other. I was the quirky weird kid who listened to music and she was the hard-core volleyball player. Tonight I got really excited that her and her boyfriend were back again. When they come home we have been going and working out together. It has been really fun and actually some of the best memories I have ever had with my sister have been in these past two months. If there's only one reason I am glad to be back at home, it's the chance to maybe rebuild the relationship we have destroyed over the years. I just want to be friends with my little sister and maybe reclaim some of the time we have lost...

Monday, December 18, 2006

30 Rock

I know alot of people aren't too into this show but come one, Tracy Morgan chasing Conan O'brien around with forks saying "I am killer robot" is funny stuff no matter how much of a Stiffly Stifferson you are. I love it...and I know they are going to end up cancelling it.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Aliens and Gandhi

"When I look at the greatest civilizations of man, the way of truth and love has always prevailed throughout time" As I was sitting in a World History class subbing this week these words clung to my mind again as they passed through the dry cracked lips of Ben Kingsley in the roll of a hunger striking Ghandi G. What is it about that that feels so true? Why is it that I feel so much anger towards Christianity, towards my own life experiences, and towards the people in my life that have hurt me, and yet when I hear such words of truth, love, hope, justice, mercy, and kindness my heart sinks?
The meaningless of man can so often be so overwhelming. I walked down Rodeo drive yesterday with my friend from Australia who came to visit and listened to prideful no named faces speak to one another as they shopped for over-priced goods made from the sweat and toil of exploited workers. Each person was trying so hard to impress one another with their fame. One parking attendant dressed in Christmas attire proclaimed to another man, "I believe that I am the most photographed person on this street." I couldn't help to think to myself that all these people are just walking around like little monkeys sniffing one another's privates and beating their chest with their greatness. I was reading Arthur Clark's "Childhood's End" last week. It's a futuristic alien tale, and ask Casey and Tim, I am the first to make fun of Scifi Trekkie, space cylons. This book really deals with some interesting concepts, however. Without spoiling the whole thing, I will say that extraterestrial life comes to earth and man comes to realize that all the beliefs they had held to, all the things they had hoped for in the future, all the wars that had been fought, were all in vain. There was no point at all. Humanity becomes meaningless. Just another planet that believed they were something more than they really were.
Yet, when I think of the concepts of truth and love, for some reason I can move past that empty feeling. Why does my heart fill with the same overwhelming power that filled a small Indian man who lived on the other side of the world? When I think that caring for one another's needs is one of the primary responsibilities that we as human beings are entitled to fullfill, life seems less complicated. Dr.King, Jeremiah, Mother Teresa, Jesus, Bonhoffer, Isaiah, and Gandhi maybe saw something. We have so simplified these things with our labels and our acculturated rituals that we cannot see a universal perspective of the supernatural. This is a presence that passes beyond all explainable words. It fills the cosmos with an unnatural and uncomprehendable force that we can only dumb down into stupid songs with childish words. Ghandi had it right, "Truth and Love" must always prevail, for without them, humanity is meaningless.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The machine

In the Land of Monrovia the American dream is as much alive within the antique glass-eyed dolls lining the empty small stores of its 1950s modelled down-town as it is in the young boys and girls who stagger down the streets with long hair that shelters their eyes from the light of the moon. They giggle and cuddle together as the white wires from their ears non-challantly swing beneath their chins. Not far away the crunching of massive rocks can be heard from the gravel pits that spew dark brown chocolate clowds into the night air. The long conveyer belts push and pull the boulders up into monsterous looking machinery. The metal framework towers above the huge valley of decay as a prehistoric reminder of nature's process. Push and Pull...Push and Pull...create and destroy.
The humm of a small dirt-bike tinkers outside the window of a small house. Behind the curtains a few feet from a neglected bed with sheets sprawled in every direction sits a 24 year old individual, too old to be a boy, to young to be a man. He knows that the only thing loud enough to dround out the voice of nature and its harsh repetitiveness is the humm that streams from his small 6 inch computer speakers. He lets the music play...
So I decided that for my songs of the week I will choose a specific dynamic, idea, or picture that they line up with for my life in that week. This week the theme was the machine:
5. We are Scientists "It's a Hit"- "And I still don't understand understand...what this whole things about..."
For those who like: Wolf Parade, Bloc Party, The Whitest Boy Alive
4. Mason Jennings "United States Global Empire"- I love this artist and his perspective on life. Definately captures the emotion of "The Machine"
For those who like: Bob Marley, Ben Harper, Sufjan Stevens
3. Beck "Guess I'm Doing Fine"- May I just say that I am not the biggest Beck fan but "SeaChange" is by far one of the most brilliant CDs ever made.
For those who like: Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, Neil Young
2. The Most Serene Republic "Content was always my favorite color" This song makes me feel like the world revolves around me.
For those who like: Broken Social Scene, Stars, Air
1. Jeremy Enigk "World Waits"- "World will wait for ever, ever, take the time, don't break my heart...been running" If I could sum up this period in my life in one song this would be it.
For those who like: pure Beauty....The Fire Theft, Mewithoutyou

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Music to my tears

I love music. I decided that I want you to love music, too. I think every week we can love music together with my top 5. Here is what got me through my week:
5. The Dears "Ticket to Immortality"
4. Neko Case "Maybe Sparrow"
3. Brand New "The Archers Bows are Broken"
2. Tom Waits "Day after Tomorrow"
1. Randy Newman "I think it's going to rain today"...I cried to this one

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Dissapointment is....

...When you watch a whole episode of SNL with a great host: Matt Fox
With a great musical performance: Tenacious D
and... an opening monologue with a guy who does a terrible Bush impression
...have to see the stupid idiot from Kennan and Kel 12 times(can you not smile for once and say something of ANY comedic value?)
...wait a whole hour and a half to laugh and finally don't
...and realize that they have the worst writers of any period that SNL has ever had

And then you realize: I might as well have made good use of my time and watched Stewart and Colbert.

Reflections on Forgiveness, Duty, Choice, and Love

Looking back at my 1 month travels to Europe I remember experiencing a wilderness period. In Europe I finally learned to let go. I stopped being who I thought I was supposed to be and found myself searching for the person that I truly am at this venture in my life. One of the landmarks of that experience happened to me near Lucerne, Switzerland at a two-day stint at a conference center called L'abri. For those of you not familiar with L'abri, it was started by Francis Shaeffer as a place for spiritual journeyers to go and explore their faith. Many different people with different perspectives gather at various campuses throughout the world for sometimes as long as 6 months and some times as short as two days(which just happened to be my time there) to study, work, and dialogue in community with others who are also searching in their faith, theological, and philosophical beliefs. I came with a few different questions about faith but one of my top priorities was to explore the issue of forgiveness. I find that often times I believe forgiveness to be a submissive dismissal of the way that I feel about a situation or others rather than a healing process in which I am able to genuinly relieve a debt that another owes to me. There have been many experiences in my life in which I believe that I have forgiven someone according to MY OWN DEFINITION OF FORGIVENESS. The result of this is an unending process of pain and open-wounds that are not able to heal because of an unhealthy perspective towards what forgiveness actually is.
I was able to find a few various resources about forgiveness, however, the most helpful to me was a workshop on tape that a speaker named Dick Keyes gave(those of you from APU may remember him from numerous chapel visits). Mr. Keyes was able to very clearly not only map out a biblical perspective of forgiveness but in addition, give a much healthier emotional perspective as well. For anyone who is interested in this subject matter I would suggest listening to these messages. Today, however, I would like to focus on one specific thing that he said that impacted me.
After giving a clear definition of what forgiveness is, Mr. Keyes stated, "Many believe that forgiveness comes from a realization that because WE ARE SO BAD, and GOD HAS FORGIVEN US, we SHOULD DO THE SAME FOR OTHERS. They take this from Colossians 3 which states: 'Forgive others as God has forgiven you.' This perspective is not necessarily most true. Forgiveness comes from the realization that BECAUSE GOD IS GOOD, HE FORGAVE US, and it is NATURAL THAT WE WILL DO THE SAME FOR OTHERS. In other words, to truly forgive, you must realize the GOODNESS OF GOD."
Then it hit I believe God is good? I have been told that so many times by church, family, APU, books, the bible, other people. That phrase is so meaningless to me that I just have rattled it off as if it was a cultural cliche. In my own life, I do not see the goodness of God overwhelming me. I see pain, undending and adding on as time passes. If this is true, how can I forgive? How can I say that a GOOD God cares for me, when he seems so absent in the dark periods of my life. I greatly dislike the poem "Footprints" for this reason. The ending of the poem in which Jesus says to the man in response to such enending pain is "I was there the whole time stupid." How can I say God is good? I cannot. It is not until I reach a place where I experience that goodness that I can find forgiveness for myself and for others. Thus enters the biggest question of all which I spent a long conversation with Casey Terrazas talking about two nights ago.
The predicament that I find myself in, and one in which I believe many of our generation face, is a values clash between two very important virtues: duty and choice.
Our generation is no longer satisfied with a lifestyle in which we solely do things OUT OF DUTY. The baby-boomer generation taught us the meaning of duty through their "tough as nails" dedicated work ethic. Though a admirable quality when dedicated to a specific purpose, duty often becomes a misconstrued word that we frown upon. We want to love what we do, and do it because we DESIRE to do it, not because we HAVE to do it. Look at the response to the war in Iraq. Is duty purposeful in any situation in which there is not a foundation of virtue upon which it is acted? Duty can be a good thing, but if an action is performed ONLY out of duty, clearly it is meaningless.
On the other side of the chasm stands CHOICE. What if I have to choose for me to experience God's goodness? What if I wait for an experience to happen in which I am amazed at God's goodness when in reality I could have CHOSEN to experience His goodness long before? Many people spend their whole lives waiting for something to happen. In addition some of the worst things in life happen from an ABSENSE OF ACTION. As the great saying goes, "The only thing necessary for evil to prevail is for GOOD MEN to do NOTHING."
Two of my greatest fears collide. On one side I only do things because they have been taught to me. I am a tool of evangelical Christianity useless to the world in any practical way and boxed in by fear and brainwashing. On the other side I don't do anything out of the excuse of waiting for life to happen to me. I am reckless, slothful, and again useless to the world but this time because I am wasting my time.
It is in this chasm that I stand, clawing my way out, looking for a rescue, seeking the truth. At least for now I am content with seeking perspectives rather than answers and allowing my heart to open to new alternatives to this great dilemma.