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.

>It Has Falled, and It Happies Me

>While I recognize the potential erroneous grammar in the title above, I invoke the sacred ritual established by Calvin and Hobbes of "verbing" to insist that it is, in fact correct.

I quite enjoy linguistic humor, because it implies a firm grasp on the rules before a bending of them. I respect people who respect our language, as much of a mutt it is.

But I digress.

After what seems like (as it does every year) the longest spell of overbearing heat in recorded history, today I walked to class successfully without breaking a sweat, and I smelled in the air the only thing I can describe as "fall." It's your nose's equivalent to the sound of yellow and orange and brown leaves, shriveled up and dying on the concrete, crunching under your feet as you walk, and your brain interprets it the same. A mere sensory observation, a set of empirical data travelling along nerves through what I can only imagine are your body's system like the pipes that transport a check in the drive through line at the bank. I put all this stuff inside the little tube of suction and it zooms noisily to a teller on the other side who sorts and interprets what little money I have and logs it in the correct place.

Yes I just compared nerves to the sucky thingeys at the bank.

It is undeniable, however, that these sensory observations (crunching leaves, the smell of fall, etc) translate into some sort of emotion. Expectation, hope, anxiousness, relaxation, impending exams. Football. A few months until it is acceptable to build a fire and sip hot chocolate, and then eat the soggy, chocolatey marshmallows that are left over after digging them out with the end of your finger. Carving pumpkins with knives that used to be a lot sharper into what you planned to be a deviously grinning mischievous orange gourd but ended up being a big jagged hole in the side of an oblong shell spotted brown and soft from where it had inevitably been damaged in transit. Not dressing up for Halloween and instead staying inside under a blanket watching the AMC scary movie marathon with a cup of hot cider and a plate full of Hershey's chocolate to give to what will turn into 3 trick-or-treaters knocking at your door. Dusting off your tweed jacket after its long summer of dormancy.

Needless to say, I am quite jazzed about Fall. If you're as excited as I am, share your excitements with me!

If you hate fall, comment and tell me why so that I may sit in my chair and refrain from lambasting you publicly (justkiddingjustkidding).

If you, like I, think that something magical happens beyond what the leaves can show, then rejoice on, dear reader. It has falled, so happy on :)

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.

>Insert a Title Here That I Like Better Than The Original One

>I've been journaling a lot more than I usually do as of late, which means that I'm writing less and less on this thing... And I can't say that I'm too happy with that decision. So, I guess I'll just copy and paste from the pages of the notebook (for better or for worse... it will be word for word. stroke for stroke.) onto here if that is ok with you :) Thank you for your continued readership!

At 35,000 feet above sea level, the things on earth way down below your feet, looking up towards the underbelly of your plane, facing the problems accompanying the frantic way of American life, seem quite fleeting and unimportant. The world keeps turning despite tragedy. People get older in spite of wayward promises of forever. The individual disappears into a cloud of dots and shiny metal car roofs peppering the interstate that suddenly doesn't seem so straight or vast anymore. People down there are ending relationships or being robbed at gunpoint or holding the one person in the entire world that means more to them than themselves and they are all concerned with how their individual situations will play out.

And all I can think about is my ears won't stop popping.

I have been thinking a whole lot about why we do the things we do in relation to this truth: that it is important to literally no other human being on the planet in the way that it is important to us (whatever "it" might be). It forces the individual back into that aforementioned cloud, that distant view where nothing a human could do would change the landscape visible from halfway between terra firma and outer space and reduces each person to nothing but a number without personality or passions or family or loves or any of the things that separate us from ants crawling on a dusty sidewalk, desperately constructing a mound which will only be squashed by an ill-wishing toddler.
Suddenly, nobody playing the guitar in their room where nobody but the faces in the walls can hear them, nobody writing in their journal which nobody will read in a lawn chair in their back yard, nobody making clouds appear in their mind as lollipops or alligators, makes any sense at all. They are not doing things which make the world a better place or helping somebody in need or loving their neighbor as themselves; indeed they are a cosmic negative, in the scientific, quantitative way of seeing things.
However, I am reminded of a dream my very dear friend recounted to me which may change everything you once thought about the individual.

He started out by prefacing his story with the disclaimer about taking the dream as a word from God or just a dream being completely up to me.

He said in his dream he was visiting a worship service at a church that was very run-of-the-mill. It was so vivid , he said, that he did not yet know he was dreaming. Songs. People. A select few swaying, hands raised. All of the sudden, his gaze was cast to the plants at the front of the stage and his mind was unnerved suddenly, as the plants and planters were hovering just inches off of the ground. Nobody was really making that big a deal about it, in fact nobody seemed to even notice all that much, but he told me that it literally unsettled him to his core.
He started looking around, trying to figure out a source for this anomaly. He noticed, after nervously glancing about, a man with his eyes closed, and he got this feeling that this guy was responsible. He just knew it in his gut. He let it go and before he knew it, the service was over and he was walking out, and he felt a tap on the shoulder. He turned to see the man he noticed earlier, standing close behind him. He spoke: "I noticed that you saw me during the service. I know it doesn't make any sense and I don't really know how to explain it, but I do know that I can make those plants hover. I can't do it anywhere else or to anything else, and I can't really do other things. I can't play an instrument or sing or speak in front of people or build things from scratch or write poetry, but I have been given the gift of making those plants levitate. It makes no sense to me either, but when I'm doing what God has gifted me to do, I feel that it makes Him happy, so I do it, even if nobody's noticing. Because it's not for anybody else."

The story almost brought me to tears as chills traced patterns up my back, neck and arms. I knew the dream had to be shared, because it is just so relevant to everything we struggle with as humans. It not only explains a little of how God sees us, but it also tells us something about ourselves, that we are created to bring our Creator joy.

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.

>Breaths and Blogs

>Slow down there, tiger, catch your breath. Breeaaathhhheeee. The room will stop tracing concentric circles around your head and before you know it your feet will touch the ground again. Hands on clocks around you will restart their ticking in a moment. The breeze against your face will again be cool.

But nonetheless, quiet yourself. Hold this moment in suspension for a second and drink deep the magical elixir tumbling over all of those jagged edges of your life before pressing "play" again, because you will thirst for it sooner than you realize. Keep a taste of it on a shelf in your brain where you store the things you are not to forget. Remember how your stomach turns, how your mind wanders, how every facet of your reason questions what exactly you are doing and how logic attempts to take control or talk you down from the perch to which you have floated.

I tell you this because unless you make the conscious decision to file the feeling away, it will pass you by and return only when you are convinced it is the last thing on earth you could need. It will catch you with your guard down and remind you that everything you once thought you had figured out has been proven incontrovertibly wrong as you fumble for things as simple as breaths. Or words... and yet you will keep breathing. And writing.

And both your breaths and blogs will be short.

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 Short Recap

>In these past two weeks, I've seen things that words cannot do justice. I've seen a group of Jamaican people being nothing short of shining lights in a culture that does not accept the message that they are trying to preach. I've seen a youth group who spent months working day and night to earn enough money to take a trip, but donate every penny to their church's building fund instead, without being prompted. I've seen firsthand the power of satan and his attempts to interfere with anything God is trying to do, and I've seen God send angels to battle on His behalf and shoot down all of the devil's evil work. I've seen older kids befriending younger ones and raising the up to their level and including them in the group, despite how unpopular it may be.

I've seen mountains so grand they disappear into the clouds above and I've seen expanses so white it stings the eyes, broken up only by the peaks of rolling hills. I've seen the vastness of cornfields across the midwest and realized that somebody has to work all of that ground by the sweat of their brow to provide things we can get in a five minute trip to the store. I've seen skies turn purple behind Chicago high rises with the sounds of slide guitar soothing the ears of over 70,000 people. I've felt the scorching heat of the northern sun and the cooling breeze refreshing the land coming off of Lake Michigan. I've seen a group of people giving away thousands of gallons of water to thirsty crowds when they could have been selling it at 2 dollars a bottle, and I've seen fire trucks hosing the masses to prevent heat exhaustion. I've heard a multitude screaming the same melody as a man with a microphone with fists in the air or their hands clasped tight around a lover's. I've felt the rush of sharing a common unforgettable experience with complete strangers and the connection that any peron from around the world can feel with music and those listening. I've compared the cheap buzz of beer in the hands of irresponsible youth hiding in a corner to the bone-chilling cries of passionate lyrics driven by drums and guitars and amps and the hard work of people who will never get recognized for it.

I've felt the heaviness of the distance between two hearts that are connected by longing and the palpable excitement that accompanies coming home. I've tasted on my tongue the joy of getting excited about something that is, to some, petty, but others, sublime. I"ve felt time rush by in a blurr of jumbled experienes and images and emotions, and I've felt it crawl across the barren interstates in Kentucky.

And I've looked at all of this, the majority of which cannot be documented with anything but firsthand experiene, and been perplexed that someone could believe that it all just happened.

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 Addendum To An Already Complex Set Of Contrasting Genres

>Sometimes it takes sitting in the dark of my room listening to my playlist on iTunes that I have spent a tremendous amount of sweat and effort making perfect called "Oh! So Epic" and indulging in great conversation with new friends to realize just how good I have it. I'm listening to everything from A Day To Remember to Emery to The Classic Crime to David Crowder to freaking Yellowcard to Django Reinhardt to Dogwood to The Early November to Edison Glass...even some Fall Out Boy thrown in for good measure. ahh.

I'm moving in with Matt and Ryan very soon to what will soon be the sweetest duplex that has ever happened. The creative energy that will be contained within the walls, if bottled, could provide Coca-Cola with enough material to advertise every new product they come out with or revitalize between now and when soft drinks are replaced by holographic representations of delicious thirst quenchers.

I'm also going back and forth between iTunes and this new track that's happening, the third track in the sequence of 12 that are going on the new record. This one is called "Swine," and takes place at a very specific moment in the main character's life. I am straight up jazzed about this track, because it is taking very drastic turns and is pushing me musically and creatively, not to mention stretching my boundaries at mixing and part writing.

Sometimes, it takes the most innocent and routine things to bring about incredible change. Today, it was the rain interrupting the heat that has been scorching our land for the past week. It has put people's minds at ease, it has quenched the thirst of the ground beneath our feet, it has moistened our dry spirits. It's very true: there is nothing quite like a summer rain.

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.