BioShock and Harry Potter in the Same Breath

Since apparently I've been on this "how is it you can't see what I see" kick, we'll keep going with it. It is disgusting how much of a sucker I am for good writing. When I read or see or hear something that just drips with lexical fluidity or a fresh voice or an appropriately complex story made to sound as simple as a front-porch fish tale, there's a small nerve inside my heart that gets caressed and rubbed back to life. People are unknowingly drawn to these sources of deep emotional warmth without realizing why, and can easily pick "good" writing out from "bad" simply because something makes it stand out from the abyss of modern culture.

There's a touch of something Real to it.

Obligatory Header Number One: Contrasting Examples In my line of thinking, good writing (and good guitar tone... but that's a different story altogether haha) reflects God, whether it means to or not. I drafted something like twenty sentences before settling on that one, because I figured there had to be a more eloquent way to put it... but I don't know that there is, and I think that the point of this post is to explain why.

I recently read the entire Harry Potter series over the course of like two months, and it only took me that long because I had a thousand other things that I should have been doing. Also because I drug out the last few chapters simply because I didn't want it to end (a technique I learned from my Grandmother). Because I'm a man, I don't cry at stupid things like dumb books </burly voice> but if I did, it wouldn't be because of any particular character that JK Rowling crafted or any exotic location she dreamed up, it would be because of the grace she employed in using "ordinary" circumstances to tackle heavy subject matter. It was the ease with which she dipped you into her imagination and the clarity that drenched her language. It was the fact that I disliked Harry's character, which I think was deliberate on her part, but found myself still rooting for his cause and touched by the loyalty of his friends despite their disapproval of his methods because they rooted for the same cause. It was the way that she had the entire series planned before publishing the first book.

It was the way that she demonstrated excellence at her craft.

For the complete opposite side of the coin and the source I will use as my second example, I recently played through, for the first time, the game BioShock. I started it out of curiosity because I had read a review online and I could get it straight from the Mac App store. What I found was a terrifying vision of a very possible future completely consumed with image-making, genetic alteration, and obsession with physical perfection. Where aesthetic is god. And this story captivated me.

Because my readers are less likely to be familiar with this than with Harry Potter, I'll side-chain briefly to give you the lowdown on what this game is about and why it is interesting. Hang on, because it gets kind of sci-fi. Years and years ago, Andrew Ryan, the embodiment of Ayn Rand's idealistic philosophy called Objectivism, built a city at the bottom of the sea where creation and self-perfection could be uninhibited by moral and social boundaries. He harvested stem cells from sea slugs that could be used to genetically modify specific parts of whoever ingested them. People gained the ability to produce electricity, fire, ice, etc. from their hands. They developed telekinesis. They thickened their skin, sped up their legs, strengthened their minds. But, like the businessman that he was, Ryan, completely controlled the supply of these gene "drugs". The rich could afford them and the poor became junkies for the stuff and like that a class war was waged. The city fell to the overwhelming amount of people fiening for more, called "splicers", and, in the alternate, dystopian, steampunked history of 1960, the story of BioShock begins.

Unbeknownst to the majority of those who play it, it is a story drenched in the terror of a Godless society. The imagery is abundant: the genetic modifiers are called Adam. The tonic you need to use more of the Adam is Eve. The city is appropriately called Rapture, and the welcome banner to the fallen Rapture reads: "No gods or kings, only men". The consequences are clear and the horror is palatable.

How Gamers and Nerds Got it (Partially) Right

Both of these stories, completely opposite of each other, can be used to illustrate what I'm talking about. I think about the intricacies of these creations, neither of which was written by people who claim to know the same Savior that I do, and, without meaning to, they both demonstrate qualities reminiscent of my God. Rowling and Ken Levine accomplished something most Christians pathetically overlook - excellence and intricacy. By pouring themselves into their creations, the final results were beautiful. By laboring over minute details which are simply packed into the Potter series, Rowling accomplished a masterpiece. By telling "simple" stories soaked to their roots with passion, they related the mundane to the supernatural. The story of persisting for good in the face of unspeakable (literally... they couldn't say his name) evil and the futility of playing God were told with fresh voices and beauty.

I am not going to turn this into another criticism of "God-culture" because 1) with the exception of a few areas, the content being produced has improved dramatically and 2) we are not here to create culture. What I am going to do is claim "popular culture" as yet another place we can see shadows of the face of God.

Go to the art museum downtown and get lost inside the level of achievement by the most diverse collection of men and women possible and tell me that you aren't overwhelmed with the presence of the Creator who gave those artists their brushes. Read Keats' Great Odes and simply try not to realize that when he is talking about the Spirit of Poetry (or the Nightingale or The Grecian Urn -- "Beauty is Truth"), he's getting at the very nature of God, and then feel sad that he never realized it himself. Surround yourself with city hippies and bands who just love playing music and tell me that the constant amid all of the chaos isn't the Source of music itself.

What I am going to do is claim that you don't have to be in a "Christian" environment to praise Christ. What I am saying is quit trying so hard to act like a Christian and instead act like someone grateful for an infinite gift they have been given.

While there is one very specific, narrow way to actually get to God, what I am saying is that today's age of agnosticism is unfounded, needlessly stubborn, and perpetuated by the blind. Unfortunately, I think that the same thing can be said about today's obsession with mediocrity.

>Hold On, I Have To Take My Medicine

>No, I'm not running away from this paper.

Why do you ask?

Have you ever felt the pangs of inspiration in your stomach so deep and so intense that you have to lie down to keep the blood from rushing from your head too quickly to nurse the growing creation inside of you? Pregnant with inspiration. I think it could catch on.

It won't happen when you need it to, just be prepared for that. If you have a story due in a day I promise your head will be as empty as the day Lindsey Lohan tried to sue for defamation of character. You couldn't write the words if somebody handed them to you. You couldn't paint it if you were provided numbers. You couldn't play it if it were on tape.

On the other hand, if you will just wait for the one week you have absolutely no time to do anything resembling creativity, it will sneak up and sock you in the kidneys. It will grow like spores on your brain, it will be the melody stuck in your head or the image printed on your mind. It will consume you and paralyze the other facets of necessity that you absolutely have to get done.

I have been reading letters that the poet John Keats wrote to various people and I believe that he felt the same way about this sort of thing. He could tell when the creation was forced (and consequently ineffective) and when it flowed naturally. The most important thing about the creation is the message it attempts to get across - the thing towards which all art should strive: that it "should be great and unobtrusive, a thing which enters into one's soul, and does not startle it or amaze it with itself - but with its subject." "How beautiful are the retired flowers!" he says. " How would they lose their beauty were they to throng into the highway crying out, "admire me I am a violet! - dote upon me I am a primrose!"

The dude has a point.

The finest art should come to the reader or observer or listener "as a wording of his own highest thoughts, and appear almost a Remembrance." How can you communicate something like this if it is not natural for you? So are we to only write when we are too busy to write? Are we only to paint when we have a million other things to be doing?

If I said no, this blog would be a lie, for the majority of the things I have written came when i wish they hadn't, when I was too busy to breathe. in media res. But seeing as how 21st century America prefers their cubicles to their imaginations and hands somebody who paints pictures when they should be crunching numbers a prescription for Ritalin, I think that the little bursts are the most somebody like me can ask for. A man's gotta eat, right?

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.

>New Things

>Living with perhaps the two most creative individuals I know, engrossing myself in thought-provoking film, learning the art of tasteful music, and the onset of fall have all influenced this work that I have coming. It's funny how being around the inspired inspires you as well, and I have been inspired indeed. I'm going to take this fall break when I'm not catching up on sleep I don't get during the week and see if I can't crank out something kinda different for me. Of course, Salem is still a work in progress, with 6 of the 13 tracks now finished... but this new thing is going to take me on a break from that momentarily. I need the sidetrack so that I can make the absolute most of my sudden spark.

Much like working out, if you only work out one muscle group day after day after grueling day, that group will be strong up to a certain point, and then the work will begin to deteriorate it. You need to strengthen different groups to give each one time to recover, which is better for the body as a whole. Well this is kind of what I'm doing. I've been so focused on solely music for so long that I've been hitting more blocks than I usually do... and this is, I think, the solution. I'll be taking a break from writing music to focus on writing words, and cranking out this story that's swimming in my head after saturating my brain with Plato and Dante and Dostoevsky and Shakespeare and Virgil and men who have been, themselves, inspired, as well as inspiring to countless others for centuries.

So look for something new and different and probably different than you've ever read before. I can't tell you right now if it's going to be long or short or good or bad or any of that, but I will let you know when it is done and you can decide it for yourself.

Thanks for keeping up with this little blog thing, for those of you that do... it really means a lot to me :) I have been using this Google Analytics thing and it is really mind-blowing to me to see the different regions that my readers are from, really from here to Florida to that one hit I got from Alaska. Ha all that makes me think is that the random little life update entries like this are too boring to deserve an audience, but it will mean something to a few of you.

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.