Truth

Because I am occasionally up to date with pop culture and whatnot, I will start this out with a bit from the newest attempt to redeem the story of Spiderman from the unbecoming path that Sam Raimi sent it down. Marc Webb, the director, says that he inserted a speech in the last portion of the film which was from a lecture that one of his professors gave about the nature of fiction and storytelling (source). The gist of it is this (because I've only seen the movie once and can't seem to find it quoted anywhere): it has been said that there are seven different plots in all of storytelling - Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, The Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. But in reality, there is only one plot in all of history: "Who am I?" It makes more sense in its unraveling. It is a question that is asked not of just every literary character, but every flesh character alive in the stage of the world. It is the root of every philosophical project (why am I here?), every scientific inquiry (how can these extraordinary things around us relate to me?), every artistic endeavor (how do I express this thing that's inside of me, and thereby discover the reason it's there?), every compliment and every insult that causes us to smile deep into the night or lie awake with a mirror fogged by an incorrect or malicious observation passed off as truth. It is what causes progress. It is what incites despair. The search for the answer to this question is one of the things that unites people across cultures, locations, and religions.

Some avoid it altogether. They choose to answer the question with "I'm someone who would rather not worry about it." It's a painful, humbling question to answer, so for a lot of people, drowning out the small voice that asks it when the activity around you gets quiet with noise in any form it embodies is the least painful thing to do. Some glibly dodge it: "I'm just me." Some defer it: "I can be whoever I want to be." Some despair: "I'm not worth it."

This is not about how to discover who you are. If you'd like to read what I have to say about that, I have a rather old thing I posted on Identity that may slake your appetite for a moment. But if it does not, I have provided on this site many an opportunity to contact me and request unduly long-winded attempts at forming answers, or, at the very least, beginning discussions. What this IS about, however, is Truth.

What?

Yes. Here's the skinny: we are creatures fashioned in a way that we have a thirst for the stuff, and it has been hidden from us because of our unworthiness of its presence. Truth demands purity and there is nothing of purity in us, so there is nothing of Truth that we can comprehend. Truth disappears the closer we get to it because we use magnifying glasses to inspect its various parts rather than ladders to step back and see it more wholly. We get caught up with answers to "who are you?" such as "I am a musician" or "I am a businessman" or "I'm somebody who has dreams" and forget the part that's "I'm created for a King." We lose ourselves in minutiae when we haven't yet found ourselves in the Plan.

What was my King's purpose on Earth? "The Son of Man came to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Well, yes. But no. "He came to bridge the gap between man and God." I see you went to Sunday School, but not quite. "He came to die on the cross for my sins." Cute, and correct, but not what I'm looking for. "For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world," He said to Pilate, "to bear witness to the truth."

Imagine if this were said about you: "There was a man (or woman) sent from God, whose name was _______. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but he came to bear witness about the light."

Listen to this Hindu prayer, the cry of a nation searching the hearts of 330 million gods for what so many of us (claim to) already have the answer to in One: Lead us from Untruth to Truth, from Darkness to Light, from Death to Immortality.

When you ask yourself "who am I," is it that you mean "what do I do" or do you mean "do I bear witness to the Truth?" What do your actions tell you? Do you speak with love or bitterness? Reason or conceit? Do you live in a way that people will think "what is he pointing to? Because it sure isn't himself." Do you react with a grace that makes others ask "Where are her eyes? Because she sees something bigger than I do."

In the vein of last week's post, read the lyrics to the chorus of Oh, Sleeper's "In The Wake Of Pigs" and tell me if it's not the song you want your life to sing to anybody who can hear:

"You are not alone in the eye of the darkest storm We are the lighthouse shining a lamp from the shore To bring your journey home You are not alone, use this song to lead you home We are what's left of the love that can pierce through the callous Life you spent undone We are the legacy, that's left to breathe the wind to sail you home"

Will we be lighthouses? If so, shine. If you won't, you're either the wind stirring the sea, the waves battering the hulls, or the rocks that will wreck the boats of those trying to find the Shore.

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.

The Great Deactivate

*Apologies to those subscribers who got an early version of this that accidentally got sent out this afternoon. That's the last time I try editing something on my phone. The surgeon general, with his useful occupation of slapping labels on things generally addictive, cancerous, and harmful to your health, should have warned us about this.

It starts out humbly, innocently.

You indulge initially because of the insistence of your friends. They promise it will make you look cooler. They assure you that you'll meet more people because of it. They guarantee it's fun. You oblige, log on, and immediately sense the overwhelming universe you have just stepped into. It's over your head at first; you suppress the initial resistance to its probing, intrusive questions about the intimate details of your life. You experience the rush of your first internet connection and from that moment are hooked.

Because of its overwhelming nature, for the first few weeks you are fine limiting yourself to getting on only after dinner or before you go to sleep. You haven't yet established a network or strong emotional ties. The color scheme hasn't yet engrained itself in your subconscious. You haven't yet learned to turn off the "chat" feature because people don't really use it yet. You are fine breathing deep the complex web of connectivity and letting it settle in your lungs because it doesn't yet pose a threat to you.

Pretty soon you are at work or at school and a moment approaches you subtly on your lunch break where an email pops into your inbox telling you that so and so has offered to expand your social network by one. Not yet by instinct but by choice, you click the link and are awed by the simplicity of accepting his request. There is a sleek redirect to the home page where your neighbor is inviting all who care to view it a series of pictures of their new living room layout. Or their dog jumping through a sprinkler. You chuckle at the innocence and go about your day.

Soon, however, the occasional lunch break check-in turned into the habitual lunch break check-in. You find yourself keeping a tab open on the home page to wait for the chiming notification of somebody appreciating your wit while you write a paper about something you don't care about. You get text messages sent to your phone every time somebody pokes you. You download the free Android app. Sure, you wouldn't twitch if you were ever disconnected from the constant stream of information about people's personal lives... but you are never disconnected. You can quit whenever you want.

Facebook becomes your standard for communication. There's no need to talk to somebody that you meet because you can just friend request them and then read all about the things they want you to read. You can prepare your face to meet the faces you will meet.

We confuse who we are with who we project that we are, making it quite difficult to cope with the flaws we so blatantly try to hide... which is even more disturbing than the idea that we are addicted to a website or can literally sit and look at the same page with anxious expectation of the smallest little change. Or that we know open gossip better than ourselves.

Sure, I believe that, like just about everything else in this world, there is a time and a place for things like Facebook. I have gotten in touch with some long-lost friends (and I use "gotten in touch with" very loosely), saved myself some effort in relaying mass messages, even promoted this blog. However, is it worth those good things to lose myself for hours clicking through page after page of people I don't like to read things I don't enjoy about topics I don't care for?

I weighed my options, considered the fact that, in all honesty, Facebook just doesn't matter, and clicked the "deactivate" button (It's amazing the guilt trip they get you to go through upon clicking that button, by the way).

Perhaps the lovely, inspiring Reagan Nolen said it better than I could: "I am tired of having Facebook tell me who a person is and what they are all about. It’s time to actually get to know the world."

 

If you heartily disagree, decide to cut the cord yourself, or think I'm just a crazy, delusional kid blabbing on the internet, feel free to discuss. I would love to hear from people, no matter what you have to say :)

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.

Peacocks, AKA The UC Pianist, part II

I suppose that if were somebody critically analyzing a story of my life, they would note the strikingly literary symbolism of the piano in the UC. I have written about it before and firmly believe that it inspires this deep kind of thought that transcends the petty issues of school, much the way the music from its ivory keys wafts above the meaningless conversation of sorority girls and fraternity brothers below it. It incited a train of thoughts that left me with a pen in my hand, shakily scratching out thoughts as they came to me in the little journal that I keep in my backpack, full of half-completed thoughts and rambling sentences and things I am sure I always meant to come back to. What follows is the SparkNotes edition of the thought process I was having. For words cannot do thoughts justice.

I began to trace a trend that turned knots in my stomach, for the drastic implications of it. I was reading, reading, reading, occasionally stopping to listen to the once-in-a-while student enticed enough by the empty instrument to meander up and touch the keys. They would piddle for a moment before launching somewhat absently and self-consciously into whatever melody was occupying their minds. Some players were more skilled than others, but all, despite the level of their piano proficiency, made music, no matter how simple, and nobody who was listening really even stopped to notice. For the moments that somebody was playing it, it filled those gaps in conversation between best friends, lovers, and classmates, alike. It is a simple, somewhat philosophical tool meekly presented to all who care notice.

However, the thing that got me thinking was that none of these players were female. Not one girl played her song on an instrument that, at least until recently, had been regarded by many as a girl's instrument. It made me wonder why, and the scary train of snowballing thought began.

'Perhaps it is some sort of liberal feminism kicking in on a massive scale and making girls not want to play it for that very reason,' I thought. 'The conformity to something stereotypically "female" to satisfy some oppressive and subversive "masculine" influence somehow influencing the expectation of their decisions... In a strange reversal of roles emasculating the male and having "unsexed" (to quote Lady Macbeth) woman scoff at their feeble unconscious attempts to fill the gender gap.'

But I doubted it. I tossed several theories around and discarded them quickly, no matter how sublime a grandiose uprising of "woman" against "man" would seem to an English major constantly in the throes of analysis. What I decided upon was far sadder than what the theories of liberal feminism cast on my heart - because it is far more difficult to counteract.

I have had conversations about parts of this before with Reagan and others, particularly about, for lack of a better term, the "clothing crisis" sweeping the country. About how if women want to stop being treated like objects they need to quit blaming it on the misogynistic male and start dressing like something whose brains are not in their chest. **(Note: My lawyer would like for me to note that I am in no way shoving blame for the treatment of women as objects on the women being treated like objects.)** I looked around me and saw the terrible reality unveiled, like the curtain of Oz pulled back, as to what "woman" had been reduced to (by an equal amount of effort from both parties): a grotesque mix of makeup and show.

This is what boys expect. This is what girls see that boys expect. So that's what we get. No girls went up to play the piano because the ones that were in the UC this morning were less concerned with playing music and more concerned with making eyes at any boy who walked by staring at their chests.

But even more unfortunately, this isn't even about rampant sensuality or sex icons or cleavage, it isn't even limited to girls. This is about the deplorable state of our very identities. Who we are has been lost to a culture consumed with the idea that in order to be validated, you must be "attractive" and you must have sex and you must spend every waking moment in somebody's arms or in somebody's thoughts or else you are a waste of breath. I've never seen an ad that tells you to spend your Friday night reading a book.

And so arrived my train at the station. I was suddenly sullenly aware that this is what people have been reduced to. We are nothing but Peacocks flashing our colors. We are nothing but crickets chiming a mating song as we rub our legs together and wait for somebody to notice. We, boys and girls alike, cake the makeup on to cover up what we are because we're more comfortable being who we think people want than somebody who still secretly thinks that Pokemon is cool. We are the revelers at the masquerade while the Red Death flits unknowingly from room to room, all of us stopping to notice how great a job he did on his costume.

I cannot imagine the toll that such vanity takes on our souls. I cannot see how, as a person, it is possible to develop while you are painting over who you are. It is clear as day to me why we have such a dependency problem - because you can't be alone until you are comfortable with yourself.

There is no makeup strong enough to shield yourself from your own eyes.

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.

>Identity

>I know, I know, it's about a week dated. I just haven't found time to update anything and figured this was worth sharing!

I find myself in North Carolina this morning on a much needed break from Chattanooga and the monotony of the everyday things thereof. I'm sitting in the kitchen of my Aunt and Uncle's house with Lake Norman at my back and a breeze rolling through the leaves and in through the open window beside me, and reaching the conclusion quickly that the most important thing for the mental health of a human being is escape. We have to get out of the little boxes into which we are confined by schedules and cell phones and deadlines and, believe it or not, our friends, in order to figure out exactly what it is that makes us tick. We crowd ourselves with things hoping that the more stuff we pack into our surroundings the closer to what people for centuries have referred to incorrectly as enlightenment we become, when in actuality it just sparks a deep insatiable lust for more of that stuff... because it provides a comfortable mask to what the real issue at the core is.

We are scared of who we are.

One of the most basic of all of our problems is not a monetary or existential one, but a relational one: we have no relationship with ourselves, as it is one of the most terrifying relationships imaginable to a human being. It scares us so much that we run around stuffing so many things between the time that we wake and the time we lie down to sleep that we don't have time to deal with ourselves. When there is so much noise around you that you can't even hear yourself think (and by that I mean there is enough around you to occupy your mind with external things) there is no way you can actually know yourself.

If I were to ask you, "who are you?" would you know how to answer? I wouldn't want a list of attributes or accomplishments, because that stuff is nothing more than would start a pissing match. I am more interested in "what do you think about when there is nothing around you but a breeze and you hear nothing but your own heartbeat?"

That is a lot more scary of a question, because most of the time you will find you know very little about who you actually are. The moment you start defining yourself by external things is the moment you are in desperate need of some change.

Another point of view, just something to consider after figuring out who you think you are, is to figure out who others think you are. It requires brutal honesty and mental preparation for intense disappointment. Think about interactions you have with other people, the way they react when you walk into a room, their body language as they talk to you. Are you holding people past when they are inching their way to the door? Do people walk away when you approach them?

There is all of this and more to be worried about, if you're worried about such things. However, we have an out that has been presented to us, and that is for us to place our identities in somebody else. Those that have accepted the task are, according to 1 Corinthians 12, the body of Christ. We are His hands and his feet and His eyes and ears... basically we are not our own. When people see us, they don't see a person... they see an extension of who Christ is. If they don't like that, their qualm is not with you, it is with someone who will not be shaken by man's opinion of Him.

The best part? Christ is not exclusive. He is not some club for which you have to apply and wait with white knuckles for your acceptance. Instead, all who call on His name to be saved will be. It's as easy as that. It is amazing how quickly it will make the individual seem a little more insignificant than if we were left to our own devices.

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.