Gerbils in Our Wheels

So I wrote this post early this morning in a fit of unsleepyness at the end of a discouragingly long span of time since my last. And I figured that the middle of a "fulfilling requirements" class in between work and work was a fitting time to publish it.

Got sick of the marching band and lost my head I am the straw that broke the camel's back Sometimes you gotta let it all out

I see you talking but I don't hear words I'm just a gerbil in the wheel, caught

Sometimes you gotta let it all out

-Lovedrug

I finally got to see Lovedrug a while ago in the dingy basement of a record shop in Nashville. Michael Shepard and I spoke for brief moments next to their merch table (which he was manning) where I told him that he and his band inspired me and that he should keep fighting the good fight and that I would buy and have bought all of his cd's from eternity to eternity and all of that cliché nonsense that he has surely heard a hundred times before.

Phase 1: Inspiration Riding Triumphantly on her White Horse I watched and listened that night to songs I'd memorized as if they were new; I was inspired all over again. I wanted a James and a Thomas and a Jeremy to be equally as passionate about the things I am and to be pumped to play in a basement half full of 50 people who knew every word to our songs and to realize that's more special than an arena full of people who had just heard them on the radio before. I wrote and prayed and began looking for these people who could get excited with me about nerdy things like tone and music for the love of it and songs that were songs, not regurgitated formulas for a twisted commercial version of success (look at how hipster I sound right now).

Phase 2: The 100m Hurdles Nights like those are beautifully dangerous. They create a little bubble in the passing of time where you neither become tired nor regain awareness of the still-turning world outside of it until it pops. It lingers like remnants of a dream in the recesses of your chest so that you remember specific feelings rather than actual events that took place.

It takes a minute to readjust your mind's eye to reality. As it refocuses, people for a minute seem horrific like trees because they did not exist for the hour and half previously. Work reappears from the happy fog. The night air loses its shine and becomes humid and closes its gentle hands around your neck so slowly you can't feel it until it is too late and already choking you. You still have all of those papers to write.

However, the dream is still fresh in your muscle memory. It has embedded itself in that place where you won't and can't forget it, for it is all that tethers you to the moment that was suspended before you set out on your drive back to the desert of the real. But all of the sudden, upon arriving back home, the music will just have to wait until you turn in that portfolio and change that projector bulb and write those chord charts and collect that paycheck and run that mile a day in the spinning tire in your cage next to the water bowl and food bucket atop the bed of pencil shavings.

Phase 3: The Gerbil in the Wheel Months go by and you can't even so much as type words on the internet or scratch them out with a dying pen on paper. You can only hum other people's melodies. You never even pretended that yours were better or even good but they were yours. Stephen Crane captured the feeling perhaps better than anybody:

"In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said, 'Is it good, friend?' It is bitter -- bitter,' he answered, But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart."

But eventually you can't even partake of it, for all of your running on the wheel. For all of your changing of projector bulbs and fetching coffee grounds and showing up at class not to learn but to be counted present and your checking your pockets for the words that used to flow through you but now dangle like the carrot in front of a donkey tied to a mill.

And all the while your legs, and your heart, pump furiously.

Phase 4: Dawn A thought occurs to you: the wheel only keeps spinning because you keep running.  Your schedule is full but you take a chance anyway and all of the sudden you get new music (still not your own, but it's a step) and new people with whom to play it. People playing who love to play and people listening who love to listen. Your cage still functions without your constant treading on the rungs of the wheel and plus, now that rhythmic squeak from the joint is gone. You realize there is more to be attained.

The wildest notion appears as well: you don't even need that wheel in your cage. You just ran on it because it was there and now you question that decision in the first place. Don't get caught up with jogging on the treadmill if you want to run a marathon. If you were created to color, don't be content with the 12-pack of crayons. Don't even be content when you get the 200-pack with 12 shades of purple and twin sharpeners in the back. Don't be happy just because you get a bigger wheel - for it is still a wheel.

Horribly overused by teenage girls on Tumblr but relevant nonetheless:

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

We were created by a creative God to be creative, not complacent. Complacency is a slap in His face. You were given something that you love to do, so for the love of Him who gave it to you, do it. Don't write because you crave fame, write because unless you write you feel incomplete. The same goes for crunching numbers and hugging strangers and feeding orphans and smiling and teaching dogs how to jump rope.

If we focused half of our attention on the things we were created to do than we do on comparing ourselves to everybody and everything around us, think of what we could accomplish. Beauty cannot be found in magazines, it must be pursued. Beauty is felt, not seen, and anybody who tries to say anything else is sadly lost to a generation full of people trying to be something that they are not.

I have heard people who claim to love the same God I do tell me they are not good at anything because they can't draw pictures or play the piano or make a really really good milkshake like somebody else they've seen. They are envious not of possessions but of love. They have fallen into the trap that says unless people are listening they are not successful... even though the people they envy couldn't care less if people are listening or reading or tasting or not. We must stop treading our squeaky wheels in our cages and being content with it and we must start doing what we love because we love doing it, and we can feel the Almighty smile when we get it done. Play your guitar not so people can hear you, but because you must play it.

I can't help but think that God would feel closer to us if we'd quit running our individual acts of worship by people first.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>A Clever Title Like The Title Of A FallOut Boy Song That Has Nothing To Do With The Content Presented Below With The First Letter Of Every Word Capitalized

>I have noticed a disturbing pattern since the beginning of the year... I have been doing an exorbitantly little amount of writing.

No, that is not right. I've been writing more than ever. I have taken up a feverish sort of journaling as of late, scribbling with fury almost in a stream-of-consciousness sort of way about things I have been reading. I have collected around fifteen pages shy of a composition book's worth of thoughts on Genesis and Exodus alone.

I think that I have started about 15 new posts in the past week. I'll get ten words in and then lose motivation, focus, realize that I have nothing I feel like sharing
click "exit"
"don't save"
"command+q".

Move on with my day.

So I was trying to read today, on my single most unproductive "Study Day Saturday" in recent memory, including the ones over break when it consisted of me sitting on the couch staring generally at nothing for extended periods of time and feeling the build-up from school draining out of the pores of my skin, and I successfully read NOTHING.

Allow me to clarify: when I say "nothing," what I mean is that I did not finish a page of anything. I tried reading my grammar textbook and instead ended up thinking about why LED lights don't burn out. I tried reading The Turn of the Screw and instead thought of a list of things I needed and then thought about how I didn't really need "candles" and "books of matches" and "leather," I really just needed to read this story. But then I tried reading it again and realized I had lost myself in the story and was going to have to start back at the beginning.

And the thing is, I knew why. Because this is how we have become wired. I don't think that we were born this way: unable to focus on anything that isn't graphically engineered and flashy and moving and telling us how pretty we are and how socially relevant we think our thoughts. But alas, I have become assimilated into the culture of the have-now's and I JUST CHECKED FACEBOOK 5 TIMES IN THE PAST MINUTE.

I have developed a small rant/rhetorical analysis of Facebook in my time staring at pages full of knowledge, which is surely coming soon, so don't you worry.

What I mean to say is that something has to change. Why am I surprised when I can't sit and formulate my own meaningful thoughts when I am used to Googling what other people are quoting from somebody else? Why am I surprised that all information seems a secondhand facade and is springing from some asymptotic nega-vacuum simply spitting unimportant, superfluous things out for me to know when I don't take the time to find the sources of what is important for myself?

It is less important to know what is going on than why it is, or what is its significance. The significance of my dwindling concentration is not that I can't sit and read like I have been able to or like I need to, it is that I have been tossing it away with this fabulous little button on my internet browser that takes me to a random page on the internet full of facts or games or cute little cartoons with witty proverbs. I am filling my down time rather than making it down time, which makes NOTHING downtime.

Information overload. The #1 killer of creativity since Al Gore invented the internet.

Since Google monetized it.

Since I abused it.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>My Goodness, What a While it Has Been

>I don't know why I feel so snarky this morning.

I have been, like the majority of America, consumed by the season (though perhaps in different ways). This is the only explanation I shall offer for the unfortunately long time between posts.

Although I am now falling into a twist of the cliche, I took, for a few days, great pride in being perhaps the only blogger in the expanse of the bloggerverse who has yet to mention "Christmas" (although there I mentioned it... forgive me) or to offer my opinion on the true nature of the season or to say that it is about the birth of our Savior and not the birth of the spirit of capitalism or to deliver moving recreations of Christmas classics or to say how awesome "A Christmas Story" is.

I didn't even watch "A Christmas Story" this year.

Besides wanting to remind people (myself, mostly) that I am still here and demonstrating classic inevitable narcissistic web logger syndrome, I wanted to squeeze a few words in about this "New Year" notion, because that seems to be all the rage nowadays. I've gotta keep up with you silly kids.

First, I want to say that I think that it is silly to try to reinvent yourself one time a year, because that never works. Don't say that come January 1 you will lose that 50 pounds you need to or that you will start being nicer to your mother-in-law or that you will finally get around to asking that girl out simply because it is a new year. One-time-resolutions will never work, because once you come down from the high of the very rhetorically interesting "rebirth" that accompanies having to write "2011" instead of "2010" the goals you set seem either unreachable or silly or you'll get to them tomorrow.

Next, in very sharp contradiction to what I just said, I wanted to offer, briefly, some things that I would like to focus on (although clearly in no way are they related to the new year, any sort of Resolution, or anything of the sort). Perhaps you would like to focus on them with me. Perhaps you'll send people over here to laugh at my list or maybe you'll write me and say that it's a great one. You might even get what Andrew calls the "tinglies" which replace the solitary man-tear following something inspirational.

1. Read a book by an author you have ragged on extensively, passionately, vehemently, in the year prior, even if it was just for a second. I just read the first Harry Potter book and I will be the first person in the room to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on reading the rest. I also offer appy-polly-loggies to any Potterheads I have offended before. I was in the wrong.

2. Learn a new word every day. Discover that the English language is not as limited as people like to say, rather people have forgotten how to use it. Subscribe to one of the many word a day email lists or ask somebody smarter than you to text you a new word each morning or buy a dictionary, I don't care. Learn a word each morning, how to spell it, what it means, use it three times by the time the sun sets, and the word is yours. You will be amazed at how more fluently you will be able to voice your thoughts.

My favorite word I have learned in the past day (you may start here and steal it from me if you so desire):  dysania - the state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning. (see? It's fun!)

3. Buy a moleskine notebook from Barnes and Noble. Make sure that it doesn't have lines, because this will do several things: offer you a completely blank slate to record whatever you want. It will teach you to write in straight lines. You can draw just as easily as you can write, even if you are like me and you cannot draw at all.

Anything that can be expressed with ink needs to be inside of this notebook, and you do not show any of it to a single soul. It is not for other people, it is purely for you in a time when NOTHING is secret.

4. Keep lists. Of everything. If it comes to mind, write it down, because you will forget it later. Keep a list of books you want to read or people you need to write or formulas you need to remember or groceries you need to buy or items of clothing to give away or websites you need to tell your brother about or songs you need to cover at a coffeeshop.

5. Listen to The Rescues. Trust me on this.

6. Take pictures of anything you see. Even if it means buying a bunch of $5 disposable cameras.

7. Keep a journal.

8. Recognize beauty when you see it, and then realize that beauty is everywhere. See it in nature, see it in Creation, see it in writing and in math and in an empty cup of coffee, but most importantly see it in each other.

9. Be curious, even about things of which you are sure. Never stop learning, never stop questioning. You must develop the things that you believe so that they are not shattered when a storm comes around.

10. Be passionate about something - anything. I don't care what it is, just find the thing that you absolutely love and follow it until you perfect it (I'll give you a hint: you never will). Don't back down from the things you love, no matter who tries to rip you away from them. If it's Pokemon, awesome. When somebody calls you a geek, you know that you're on the right track.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

>A Promise of Things To Come

>School has started, which means my brain is working again, which means that blogs will be coming more often, which means that you should subscribe.

Or follow me on Twitter, because most of the time I'll alert you via that fantastic mass communication medium when I have something worthy of your viewing and reading pleasure.

That is all I have to say before I scurry off to the next step in my painfully hectic Tuesday.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.