Frustration, Breakdown of Language, and I Even Mention Freud

I just don't think that I'm meant to be sleeping well anymore, and so this may end up being quite long-winded. I've been slacking off anyway. We have been given a frustrating place to call home and frustrating tools to deal with it.

This, I think, sums up this semester so far in a way that will be better off left alone than with whatever I tag onto it, even though I will inevitably grind the idea so far into the ground in hopes of trying to explain what I feel that every portion of meaning will be lost. Hence part of my frustration (which at this point feels rather circular).

We are all two parts, I think, and this frustrates me as well. We are empirical, in that we have arms and legs and we need to eat and if we don't have water we'll die and we CAN die and we can make more, slightly altered versions of ourselves with the help from somebody else. We can be classified into genus and species and named with fancy Latin words. We can perceive rapidly vibrating particles of matter and air and whatever else it is as color and sound. This portion of us is quantifiable. This part of us is purely animal and can be reasoned and proven through the scientific method and stands up very well in academic papers and in even things like Evolutionary Theory.

But we are something else, too, and I hate to use the word "soul" because it is such a loaded term (everything about this sentence frustrates me) but there is part of us that is most definitely not empirical. Knowledge is empirical, but we have the ability to discern. We can believe in something and we can doubt. We can listen to the cadence of wind between leaves on a tree as we lie on our backs underneath a sky pregnant with stars and think of that picture by Ansel Adams with the moon rising over the Grand Canyon, the feeling in the pit of our stomachs as we drive home from school at the beginning of vacation, and the smell of chocolate chip cookies cooling on a rack moments before getting a taste, all at once. That is not survival instinct. Emotion is not empirical, quantifiable, or describable. And that is very frustrating to me.

I have heard hypotheses for why these things occur as chemical reactions in the brain brought about by natural evolutionary processes and conditioned responses and genetic memory, in order to apply a logical train of thought to something that defies explanation, and I have to say they're only part right. It's saying the car moves because the tires rotate. Maybe emotion IS just our way of translating a chemical reaction, but then what is the chemical reaction translating?

This question frustrates me, because language can't cover it. The more enamored I become of words, the more I realize just how limited their scope is. The more I realize how limited their scope is, the more frustrated I get, because I can't shake the feeling that the vast majority of us on this planet are missing something important that can't be expressed with words even though we keep trying anyway. I wish we could take back all of the connotations every word ever has acquired and start from scratch. Because today if you want to talk about Joy or Love or God, people take away from it Happiness or Sex or Religion and we spend too much time defining terms to get anything useful done.

Why can't we talk about the quietest and grandest thunder you've ever heard reverberating off of your sternum and into that little place in your stomach where your emotion lives when a beautiful girl talks to you without explaining that you don't really hear thunder and it really isn't your sternum and this isn't some Freudian sycophantic meta-dream and it's not just your hormones acting up? Why have we turned to politics to avoid loving each other, and why do people take away from my saying politics Democrat vs. Republican?

I have been making more music than usual, I think for this very reason - because even when I try to describe my frustrations, I fail and get frustrated because of it. I must have started twenty posts in the past month, only to abandon them two paragraphs in. It isn't that I have nothing to say, it's that every time I try to say it words just feel... empty. Like I said at the beginning, we have been given frustrating tools to deal with this place. So instead of blog posts I've been throwing stuff like mad up here. I can't paint or draw or sculpt and I don't really understand modern art (not that I haven't tried immensely hard) and so often language fails me - so maybe what I have to say is better communicated with music.

This is why I love reading TS Eliot and Cormac Macarthy and Jonathan Safran Foer and John Keats (just to give as broad a spectrum as possible... good Lord.), among many, many others, because they all have something to say and they struggle around ways of saying it until it finally settles inside of you and looks at first like Beauty. It frustrates me that The Wasteland is perfect and and that the air in The Road is a better character than any that I've ever written and that Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close is what tears read like and that Keats died young and unsatisfied with his work, even though during his twenty-something years he accomplished more than most poets who write for 40.

And sort of I suppose to tie this all together, if that is even possible or worth it at this point, it brings me back to that dual parts of us notion that I mentioned earlier. If we were purely scientific creatures who answered solely to reason, I would have had nothing to say here because my frustration would have a name and words would suffice in describing it. Music and poetry and art make no scientific sense, and yet they make more sense to me than anything else. I know that for the sake of my grades and my degree and all that I'm having to suck it up and just do it (which frustrates me immensely), but sometimes I don't want to.

Science has a tough time explaining God, and that frustrates it. I think the trick is to stop trying to explain Him, though, and simply listen.

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.

Ramblerambleramble

I apologize for the expanse between posts. It seems that life has picked up and time for frivolous scribblings to the simultaneous everything and nothing of the Internet has disappeared like wisps of smoke upon opening a window. Below you will find not a constructed argument for something in particular, like I normally try to do, but a jumble of words that have been stuck between my ears for entirely too long. I absolutely love my field of study. I am able to spend the majority of my school week around artists who, like Keats and Shelley, attempt to capture the Muses flitting about in the corners of our vision because they simply must. I get the opportunity to speak constantly with people who, like it is required of me, are required to think before they do so. I am privileged to exist in a bubble separate from the drab "real" world with people like me who are fascinated with examining the very nature of all that stuff out there.

Greetings from the haven of academia. But in here we are presented a different class (or, if we are seeing the big picture, a different aspect) of problem from the outside world.

We fight wars in here with beasts possessing mouths so enormous they can guzzle you in their sleep. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these beasts are everywhere - I just happen to be able to see the front line a little bit clearer through the windows of a Philosophy class. Where I am if you don't believe in something you'll end up believing in nothing; if you don't bring a gun you'll be taken and not even held for ransom.

Here the gates are wide and every road leads to paradise. Here there exist nights where one moment you stare into infinity packed so dense that even the pillow under your head is pregnant with meaning and the next moment unrational equals unfathomable.

Here we spell God R-E-A-S-O-N.

Immanuel Kant articulated it as the battle cry of the Enlightenment: "Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own reason!" And I wholeheartedly agree with him. In Acts, Paul went into the centers of intellectual prowess and "reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 18:4). Isaiah implores, "Come, let us reason together" (1:18). God instilled in human beings from the very beginning the ability to use His divine skill of reason by creating us in His image, hereby setting us apart from the rest of creation. Reason is the essence of our humanity, an enormous road block in the construction of evolutionary theory, and the echoes inside our hearts of God Himself.

But here's the catch: instead of using it to find God, we use it to try to find meaning. We forget that meaning is a human explanation of a superhuman existence - in that sense a human construction. Meaning is the desert of the real. In using human applications of Divine characteristics to find human constructions of Divine realities, we are but dogs chasing our tails. Frustrated, existentially lost and intensely desperate dogs.

I am not sure what all I am trying to say, or if there is even a point that I am trying to make. I'm leaking out all of these words that represent the heart of what I have been thinking about and which has been keeping me from writing about lack of sleep or books  or whatever it is this blog is for. I've been reading everything from French Aesthetic theory (if you've ever read Derrida you, I'm sure, understand) to Environmental Rhetoric and have been writing next to nothing, and for that I apologize. HOWEVER - if you would like to respond to me in any way or construct arguments against everything I say or tell me to write you a clever ambiguous haiku please do. Sometimes it feels like I am talking to myself (I know I do, but that is beside the point).

I'll post soon with something a little less frustrated and a little more clear and perhaps less (ok, it won't be less) rambl-y. In the meantime, dare to be wise, friends. And, in the words of the brilliant Catherine Bolden, use your powers for good.

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 Monkey Story

There is this monkey who had been placed in a cage and given a ball and stick and a job peeling bananas and told that this is living. He isn't told about the cage because he doesn't need to know. Stay busy. Peel the bananas. Hit the ball with the stick for entertainment. Sleep after all of the bananas get peeled and the ball deflates because of endless shellackings with the stick. What a life.

The monkey looks outside the bars of his cage and glimpses a different monkey flitting through the trees surrounding him gathering the bananas that he peels. Another monkey digs in the dirt to find the exotic bugs that the monkey tasked with packaging has dropped off in his cage daily. He, too, works in solitude, and our original monkey begins to wonder if he knows he is caged and enslaved behind heavy metal bars.

He wonders what it would be like to gather bananas rather than peel them. He wonders what it would be like to dig for bugs. He wonders if these other monkeys are so different from him and, for that matter, what it is that separates him from them.

He has a dream that night after decorticating bananas and walloping the ball with the stick about walking up to the latch, laying his hand on the grating metal, and feeling the hinges squeak open after years of neglect. Feeling so silly for not ever having even tried it, upon waking up he walked over to the gate and pushed, feeling it give. The door swung wide, and without a single repercussion.

As he swung from the trees the next day, he saw his cage down below with its new occupant, happily batting the ball with the stick after enthusiastically peeling his mound of bananas that would be replenished in the morning.

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.

>Pfffft Goes the Weasel

>I have been given this curse of desperation to create, and sometimes I think it drives me crazy.

I want to craft the perfect album or tweak the perfect tone or word a perfect sentence or speak with perfect fluency or think with perfect clarity and when I can't, the river dams up. If you can't get one, the spring says, you can't get any. Catch a fish or they all swim away.

We were created creative beings, for we are like Him who created us. But this is a frustrated, downtrodden creative being. I'll toss blame to one side or the other, blaming school or work simply because they're there and they take up all of my time. The funny thing about creativity is that it exists outside of time and the excuse about being busy is a cop-out. You don't pencil in time on your schedule to be creative, knowing that if that lunch date comes along that bout with creativity will be bumped to next Monday. No, instead that little handle turns and you listen to the music and when it springs with a small hint of laughter and surprise you are caught off guard no matter what task is at hand. You can't help but react.

I think my box is defective, because I've been doing all the right things. I've cleared the table, dimmed the lights, focused all of my attention on the box in front of me, and I've been turning the arm now for endless cycles of "pop goes the weasel" waiting for the jack to make his surprising exit. But this monkey keeps chasing that stupid weasel around the bush and every time I stop to pull up my sock, the weasel is nowhere to be found.

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.

>Oh, Rants.

>Before anybody decides to read half of this and then become irate, I figured I should offer a warning to the majority of the people who read this thing and tell them that if they disagree with what I'm saying, I am more than happy to talk about it. You might even change my mind! Also, everything I say I include myself in. When I say "we" I truly mean myself as well. These statements can be pretty broad and all-inclusive, but they all stem from conversations I've had with real people in real situations (at real Waffle Houses) who use the term "Christian" with similar, negative, broad connotations.

I am completely fed up with "Christian" culture. About a month ago while working the desk, somebody walked up to me and handed me some sort of Christian periodical "Fish Magazine" or something of the sort. It was late, I had forgotten my laptop charger at the house and I was searching for things to occupy my time as I waited for the buzz indicating the end of a wash cycle on a load of towels, so I started reading it. Now, I believe that addressing the content of something like this is a moot point, because as it is an independently published work, it has the right to talk about literally anything that it wants to. So, even though the things the publishers chose to include didn't even catch my attention (which is slightly troubling, considering my beliefs fit right in with the people they are trying to reach), I cannot judge them because of what they think is important. I can say the same things about other reaches of our little Christian bubble, be it radio or music or movies or Godtube, because I firmly believe that they are doing things which could be really great. They are trying to provide a balance to the despicable deluge of just... crap that infiltrates every reach of society, so that when people get sick of being exposed to those things they have a positive alternative.

I just wish that Christian media WAS a positive alternative. As I skimmed the front page of Fish, I immediately felt like I was peer-editing a rough draft of a paper for a fellow student who was writing in a field that was out of his area of expertise. Sentences were poorly constructed, spelling and grammar trampled on the floor, stories delivered with the lackluster and droning tone of Thomas Gradgrind from Dickens' Hard Times... I don't care what they're writing about, all I want is a little bit of passion behind it. Show some professionalism, please, because I can't help but think that anything that slaps the "God" label on it to hide an appalling lack of quality is an insult.
I understand that many of these facets of Christian media (film, television, video broadcasting websites, music, print) operate on extremely low budgets, and that is something I can completely relate to as a college kid who tries to be a musician living in a duplex in Hixson, TN. However, what I just don't understand is how some of these people can be ok with themselves tossing out sub-par material and slapping God's name on it to garner a fanbase. In fact, I find it rather insulting.

Call me crazy, but I feel like we should be the ones pushing the boundaries in all of these areas of creativity, rather than giving in to the cookie-cutter formulas presented before us by both our contemporaries and the world around us. The world should look at what we're accomplishing and begin to question how in the world we can be so inspired, that there might actually be something to this God that many preach but few follow... because right now we are embarrassing. Our television broadcasts are shot with shoddy equipment and antiquated techniques, our writers use third grade devices and cheap hooks with punchlines rather than points, our thinkers are dedicated more to not offending people than to speaking the truth. We recently organized an outreach night at a weeklong secular music festival that took place on... faith and family night. Waiters dread the family that prays before their meal because it generally means they will be tipped 10 percent or a gospel tract after a long meal full of demands and disappointments (and it is so unfortunately true). We are known for rallying against Abortion clinics and Homosexual unions rather than loving the people involved. We'll sooner preach at the pregnant 16 year old about the sin in her life than hold her hand and help her cry through the daunting realization that the rest of her life is changed.

The argument I hear over and over is that we are not to be of the world, and I believe that a lot of Christians have done quite the great job at this, for we are definitely separate from the world. But honestly, if I were an "outsider" looking "in," I would see nothing appealing about the way that we live. In the words of the band Norma Jean, "Mediocrity is the killer." I don't know how God could look at His children and see the mediocrity that we have become and smile. We need to realize that before we are not to be "of the world," we must first be in 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.

>Man vs. Self

>

3.....2.......1.......

Commence breathing.

And at the same time, hold it in suspension - relish that suspension and the impending breath that lingers in your lungs - because what is to come will take it away all over again. It's one of those "this is you now, and this is you for the rest of your life" things I think, and I can classify it neither as good nor bad. 

I classify it like listening to Bon Iver break out into a 5 part harmony round during a break in the clouds in the middle of a downpour in downtown Chicago. The weather is bitterly cold, with the breeze rolling off of Lake Michigan whipping at your dripping wet skin, causing you to curl up a little bit to preserve what blood is left in  your veins and keep it near your heart. Your knees are knocking together with the surge of people around you ebbing and flowing, mixed with the bone-freezing and biting chill engulfing your skin. 

And yet you can't feel anything except for the rising and swelling of your chest when your head is encircled with the sweeping and soaring harmony escaping from the stage 60 feet in front of you. You don't notice how cold you are, you notice that the rain stopped right when they approached their microphones and that a small beam of sunlight seeped through the clouds to illuminate the band members as they exposed fifteen thousand people to the deepest questions of their soul which can be posed only through melody. 

All of that is meant to expose the paradox that I feel like I'm experiencing. I have more questions than I have answers and I have no tool to explore them other than my mind; I cannot work them out like math on paper or like philosophy in conversation, but only through countless nights lying awake in bed and contemplating the ceiling. This is a battle to fight with myself, for no man may intervene and alleviate the struggle. No man COULD intervene and alleviate the struggle. 

The music has become more melancholy as of late. There is a story in the works. There is a conflict of interests at hand. There is a frustration that will not be untangled. And yet, I know there is also an escape... the most beautiful escape of all, for not only will He take these burdens onto Himself, He already has. 

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.

>For Times Such as This

>

I believe that everybody has had one of those weeks.

I am referring to the weeks where you are constantly in the throes of a struggle against gravity and defeat and generally being bested by whatever situation you find yourself in. You fight against your eyes as they tempt you to close and shut your body down, but you know deep down that this is not possible. People are counting on you, expecting things of you,  looking to you to provide the hope for them to be able to make it through their version of what Alexander appropriately titled his "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," and you can feel the weight physically on your back. You'll find the aches come only when it is most inopportune and you'll feel the pangs of exhaustion creep over your synapses exactly when the last thing in the world you need is to be lethargic. This is a fact of life, a facet of Murphy's law that proves over and over again to be irreversibly true, but nonetheless no easier to bear.

You will find yourself frustrated by the most elementary of problems, like no more sweet tea in the pitcher, leaving you to make more, or that you accidentally bought cheddar cheese instead of American. This frustration with petty things will lead you to question your sanity and, if indeed this portion is true, make you suddenly viscerally aware of your more jaded, cynical alter ego that pens your most vivid creations and causes connections with your audience beyond the capability of your mild-mannered normal self. You then realize that you are better off as this alter ego because you are more capable of doing better than the person you were born as.

There was this story of a monk that urged his followers to carry with them everywhere they went two equal sized rocks. He asked them to smooth them out and make the edges pleasing to the touch and the surface spotless and blameless. On the surface of one rock, he made his followers chisel the following sentence: "I am but a speck of a person in a speck of a planet in a speck of a solar system in an infinitely expanding Universe." This rock, it would appear, applies to situations such as the ones described in the previous paragraphs. Our problems, in an existential sort of way,  do not matter in the slightest little bit, and make no trace of noise in the vast expanse between the stars. 

This monk recognized this, however, and though he knew that in a cosmic sense it was fundamentally true, he made his followers inscribe the other rock with a simple, opposite message that is possibly the most fitting piece of advice that is sound, encouraging, and quite frankly, tear-inducing. When you find yourself in that battle to keep your head above the water, with the weight of the entire world riding on your back and forcing you to the dirt below you, take out the other rock that this monk made his followers carry probably for situations exactly like those. It reads: "Everything, big or small, grand or petty, beautiful and breathtaking, was created with me in mind."

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.