Hi, I'm ____ and I'm a Socioholic

It is somewhat traumatic when you arrive at the realization that people, in the most general sense of the term, suck. We have slowly lost our sense of self somewhere in the technological age, in which we can pick and choose what we want people to see with the rest hiding under our metaphorical makeup that we sloppily cake on in the morning to avoid showing who we are. Our phones are extensions of our brains and our cars are extensions of our feet and we begin operating under the assumption that our worth comes from the number of friend requests we get or the number of people who tell us we're talented or how long we can go without having to sit in silence and listen to nothing but ourselves.

Because we are uncomfortable with who we are, we have to find comfort in other people, even if the interactions we have with these other people are shallow. It is absolutely mind blowing that, from my junior year in high school until a month ago, I spent hours daily looking at information and pictures and thoughts from people I cared nothing about and hoped that they were doing the same for me. I cannot believe that I found validation in the fact that I had something like 800 people were my "friends," even though MAYBE 100 I had ever even spoken to and most I would have gone out of my way to avoid.

This "socioholism" is a dangerous mindset to contract, because as soon as we start projecting our sources for self-worth onto other people or onto the amount of group activities we can do or onto the number of parties we attend, we are taking our self-worth away from....ourselves.

Furthermore, we are surprised to learn that people do not act rationally, selflessly, trustworthily, etc. and take it personally when the teeming masses of sinful, horrid creatures around us act in their sinful, horrid ways. Everybody does. I do. You do. We walk as if on a sea of nails so we will not shatter the carefully constructed images we project. We'll say things we don't mean in order to alter some opinion you may be forming of us. We'll fake a smile and promise to hang out just to make the encounter which we forced in the first place appear to be less awkward than we both know it is.

We'll do everything that is a byproduct of a society so wrapped up in image making that our fragile outer shells will eventually crumble because of the hollow cores within them.

Somewhere along the way we learned that if you're not going out at night, you are an outcast. We learned that disconnection is undesirable. We learned that unless you text her every five seconds, she will forget about you or get over you or cheat. We learned that having an off night means you need to organize a slumber party. We learned that every connection you have ever made needs to be maintained.

Now, I speak with slight hyperbole, as usual. I am not saying to sever every one of your connections and confine yourself to your den and a chair and a mound of books written by old dead men. What I am saying is that unless we can, as a society, forsake this gripping necessity to constantly be around people, we are not going to be comfortable with ourselves. Until we are comfortable with ourselves, we will derive our worth that SHOULD come from ourselves from other people. These people will do exactly what it is people do and let you down, which then leaves you feeling empty.

We have to learn to fill up the space inside our shells with something that is far more complex than the social scene. You have the option to be delivered from all of the nonsense that comes from the drama of other people. How can we be comfortable with our Savior when we can't be comfortable being away from the throng of careless people surrounding us?

You have the strength of choice inside of you. Forget the hurtful things that somebody does (whether they mean to or not) - that's getting upset because a hot stove top burned you - it's going to happen. Instead, know that you were given an option the second Salvation came to the world: either stay here and get your worth from the myriads around you that are constantly in flux, or get it from that special place He puts inside 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.

A Metaphor-Laden Examination of the Situation at Hand

Since coming back from break, I have felt like a kid on roller skates holding on to an unravelling rope behind a train with a deadline to keep. I don't know what drowning feels like, but I can't imagine that the gasping, helpless breaths full of water feel a whole lot different. There is an onslaught of things coming up in my near future. Awesome opportunities. Papers, books, due dates, discussion questions, orchestra rehearsals, youth and college bands, tech weeks, opening night.

This train is hurtling forward, its incredible inertia dragging me along like the cans attached to the bumper of a recently nuptiated couple. (Yes, I make up words. Get off it.)

And all I can think about is this: not only is this train not the only one; not only are these tracks underneath the heating wheels of my rocketing roller skates not the only tracks; not only would other routes take me to the same train station, but there is no law that says I have to go to that station. Nobody even told me that I had to wear these skates or hold onto this fraying rope or expect to arrive somewhere at a certain time, I just assumed that this is what I have to do because everybody else seems to be doing the same.

I apologize. I feel slightly metaphorical this morning.

What I am trying to say is that I, like everybody that I know, am a fly caught inside this elaborate, encompassing, intricate, ever-expanding web when there is a whole field of grass around me and an entire sky of flight above me. I am the ball in a well-lubricated roulette wheel that is locked forever in its spinning, with people expecting me to land on their number and getting mad at me when I don't when there is a vast casino just over the wall.

I am completely missing the point, and perhaps you are too. Instead of kicking furiously and trying to get your groggy arms to coordinate and propel you to the surface, hold your breath for a moment. Feel the weightlessness of underwater. Stop grasping desperately at the rope connecting you to the thing you were told is your destination. Fly high enough to avoid the spider webs glistening with morning dew. Defy gravity.

This does not mean that I am dropping out of school and driving from city to city with my guitar telling people that I will play for them if they give me dinner. It doesn't mean that I will give in to the sometimes overwhelming and often stifling frustration of a city (state?country?world?) full of guitarists calling themselves musicians. I will not pretend to have it all figured out.

It does mean that I will find joy in the search. It does mean that I will lean more heavily on my Father's support and the promise of a plan.

It does mean that I will quit my furious struggle to surface and instead breathe deep the air that greets my lungs as my body floats naturally up. Instead of my white-knuckled grasp on the worn rope behind that hurtling train I will relax and trust the harness around my waist, and if the rope breaks I will feel the grass underneath my wheels and smile as I coast to a stop in the middle of an untouched meadow, chuckling as I watch the next train come.

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.

>Weather-Inspired Theological Ramblings, I suppose

>Ladies and gentlemen of Chattanooga, summer is upon us.

I awoke from a relatively decent night's sleep having completely thrown off all semblance covers protecting me from whatever cold might permeate the warm night. My hair had been matted into a clump on top of my head, held in place by a vanishing layer of sweat from my apparent tossing during the course of dreaming, and there were thin strings of sunlight filtering through pollen that had somehow escaped into my room through the open window and onto my arm, making me appear as though I had grown some sort of zebra scales. I could hear a bird close to me and a lawnmower somewhere off in the distance and the ever-present but quiet bickering of my neighbors over the clanking of their pots and pans as I rose to silence the alarm screaming at me to wake up. I was going to reset the little numbers to allow for fifteen or so more minutes of sleep, not because I needed it, but because it felt like the right thing to do, and besides, I had plenty of time to spare. It was not even 7 and I had no obligations until at least 9.
I was going to do this, that is, until without warning my brain snapped directly to attention. It told me to push the shower a little bit, to forgo stopping to get a coffee on the way to work, to leave the phone on the charger for a few more minutes. I stepped on to the back patio with a glass of water and felt the exact same thing I had a summer ago on a drive across open plains and farmland and through the dreadfully boring stretch of 65 that passes into Indiana. There was a breeze on my face and the silhouette of our duplex painted in shadows on the lawn cast by the sun rising on the opposite side of the building; the words of Nietzche rang in my head and brought a bitter taste to my mouth.
Gott ist tot.
I realize that this quote is often used out of context of what Nietzche was trying to say, but even a misquote gets the point of his message across: "God is dead. God remains dead. We have killed Him" (The Madman, section 125). I took a moment and knew that Frederich Nietzche could never possibly have seen what I have seen in the short 20 years I've been around. He could not have sat across the table from a woman and had his world realigned by the crinkling in the corner of her eyes as she laughed. He could not have stayed up all night and felt the oppression of darkness crushing his spirit, only to have it rejuvenated by the simple call of a sparrow and a stray beam of light coming over a hill off in the distance. He could not have looked at the spectacle of human imagination recorded in books and stories and page after page of the writings of people who had truly figured themselves out. He could not have ever been burdened by a load which was entirely his to bear, only to feel it lifted off of his shoulders and released from his carriage as long as he would let it go. He couldn't have felt the bitter cold of winter, killing all life as he claims we have killed God, because if he had, he would see that when the snow receded and sunlight warmed the grass, white lilies and green grass grew back all the more beautiful than when it had gone to sleep. The birds which had escaped south always returned to build their nests anew in the crooks of budding trees in his front yard.
We cannot have killed God, because, simply put, He is life. In the most hopeless and desolate situations, in the deepest and most inescapable holes we dig, there is always life. As long as you breathe there is life, and even after you cease your breathing, there will continue to be life. He gave us a pretty clear set of instructions to attain this life and made it centered around His Son, who died to give it to us.
I would ask Nietzche to his face today to deliver that statement again, but it seems that God is not the one who is dead, for there is a world teeming with life all around me... instead it is Nietzche.
I laughed to myself at the irony and stepped back inside.

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 CCM

>There is something that has been bothering me over the past few weeks, and is something that, for the simple fact that it bothers me, will irk most of the people around me.

I do not pretend to be a great musician, but I believe that I have earned some sort of credibility to kind of know what I'm talking about if I critique or praise or point out details of a certain work of music. I'm not a music snob and I do not worship one genre or one musician more than they deserve, and I try to take my influences from all reaches of the universe of musicality. I don't automatically change the song every time I hear power chords or punk rock riffs, I don't turn down the volume when someone starts screaming, I even sit through, and enjoy, opera. I have playlists on my iTunes ranging from "Oh! So Epic" to "It's Happy Cause It's Poppy," "Techno School, Pt.1," and "Christmas Songs." I don't hate Jack Johnson, I believe that a little bit of Hardcore is good for the soul, I think that the piano is the only instrument that can, at any time, make you feel like you're in love, and I can't wait to learn how to play the banjo. I have learned every major, harmonic, melodic and natural minor scale, conqured the church modes, grasped transposition, studied Bach and Beethoven and Buxtehude, and played Gospel Blues with Jamaicans.

But I can't bring myself to classify Contemporary Christian Music as.... good music. The reason that this bothers me is that it has that label slapped on it, the same label slapped on me and on everyone who strives to be a "little Christ," and it hurts me to know that His name is associated with something that is not solid. Yes, the lyrics of most of today's CCM are bold, Christ-centered lyrics that can be incredibly powerful, but they are backed by a shocking lack of musical demonstration. I do not have a problem listening to songs that consist of only 4 chords (punk rock has a special place in my heart), all I ask is that you do it well and with a twinge of originality and passion. I accidentally turned on J103 the other day and was blown away by how each song ran into each other, with the only separation between the same chord changes being the sound of the DJ's voice. We have mistaken well-produced for well-written, and as the icing on the cake, we have slapped Jesus' name on top of it.

The last time I checked, Jesus never settled for mediocrity. We serve a God that created an entire universe teeming with life and beauty and color and innovation and vast enough to leave nothing but incredulous bewilderment at the onset of attempting to comprehend it all, and the genre we associate with him is filled with nothing but similarity? Somehow, that seems blasphemous.

This is not to say that there aren't exceptions to this rule. Like every rule, there are bound to be exceptions, and I do believe that they are rising up daily. But sometimes, for one reason or another, they have decided that selling out to a cheap style is a worthy use of the gifts they have been given.

I realize that many are going to disagree with everything that I've said, because what I have are mere opinions and there is no way of convincing someone that opinions are fact. I realize that some people enjoy CCM, and to those people I say keep it up! It does good things, and is encouraging to a large number of people, filled with lyrics of hope and inspiration and joy. If this person is you, then keep listening to what you are listening to, but just... don't be afraid to branch out and listen to some other styles of music. For the most solid lyrics and some of the best musicality you can find, check out As Cities Burn or Edison Glass, Emery or Brave Saint Saturn, Mikeschair or House of Heroes... I just said these off the top of my head, and if you would like a list of some easy alternatives, just let me know and I'd be glad to help you out :)

What I'm trying to say is let's not settle for a simple chord progression simply because it's easy to play. Why use just watercolor when oil is available? Why play on gravel when there's a court just over the fence? Ok. Done with stupid analogies. My God is one that doesn't do the mediocre. My God is the one that created the diversity that we have represented all around us, the inspiration for ten thousand songs.

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.

>Figured Out

>When I used to look at this day from the past, I imagined that by the time I hit 20, I would have all of this... stuff figured out. I saw 20 as a milestone of sorts, as that top of the hill after the battle of the teens and a kind of plateau before another climb towards middle age. I understood that I'd have issues to work through in High School and all through those awkward teen years, but I saw myself emerging at the end of the tunnel a different person than I walked in as. A man who understands things and has that general adult-esque knowledge of how the world works and how to fix problems.

I can honestly say that this is not how life works. Life is not dissected into stages, but rather it is one long stage that is timultuous and ever-changing. But I've been doing a lot of changing through the past year or so, and have managed to scrape together some semblance of a list of how I have "figured it out."

1.

2.

3.

4.....

notice a pattern?

I honestly don't think that we're supposed to figure out everything the first go-around. If we figured out all of this mess without much of a fuss, what would be the point of celebrating old age or getting excited about birthdays or rejoicing in making it one more day?

Some things I have noticed, though, is that there are certain patterns that keep popping up that drive home the facts of life, and if we can grasp these, I think that the rest might come a little easier to our weary minds.

Love exists. It is the most perfect of all things we humans are capable of feeling. It can drive us to extents that were previously unreachable by our normal standards and cause us to behave in ways that our status quo would never allow. Love is what distinguishes the mundane from the sublime and is what takes the ordinary and makes it beautiful.

Another thing that I've noticed/learned is that nothing is as big a deal to anybody else as it is to you. Sympathy is a word that encapsulates what we have invented to use in situations where we need people to think we care just as much as they do. We may feel strongly about another person's situation, but nothing is ever as big a deal to somebody else as it is to that person, really no matter what the situation. The other side of this is that we think that everybody cares about all of our issues just as much as we do...

Segway into point number three: we act not for others, but for ourselves. This is why it surprises us and touches us so much when we see somebody legitimately act out of love not for himself but for others. We splotch up our selflessness and feel better about ourselves because we spent a week among the less fortunate, but turn our heads when a homeless man asks for money on the street, validating ourselves by whispering to our conscience, "he'll just buy booze with it."

I am not saying that I am exempt from anything I have said, and I am not trying to preach or even guilt trip anybody to do anything differently with their lives than they're doing now. I've just been thinking lately about how there's more to this game than people realize most of the time, myself included.

Ha, I've never taken so long to write one of these things, so it's probably all over the place. Perhaps one person will get something out of it though. Goodnight friends :)

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.

>Next

>For so many people, change is something that terrifies them to a point of debilitating hopelessness, and for good reason (at least to them). With change comes the inevitable uncertainty of what comes next, whatever that "next" happens to be. Perhaps a "next" place to live, a "next" car, a "next" paycheck, a "next" girlfriend, a "next" best movie in the world. These are all important things to certain people, each holding a place of unparalleled preponderance in the daily lives of the individuals that hold them up on their undeserved pedestals. The word "next" implies an almost unilateral view past the present and into the future, it infers an almost tunnel-esque vision into what is yet to come.

The thought of a junkie looking for his next fix conjures the image of a desperate man or woman who can do nothing until he obtains that fix. Again, the power of "next."

The problem with this word, despite the (?)positivity of constantly looking forward is that the present is simply nonexistent. I've never been much of a marathon runner myself and I doubt most of you have either, so imagine with me a runner on that final stretch of their grueling race, at the crest of the final tumultuous hill along their quest of endurance. The peak of the white banner signifying the end starts waving in his field of view, and all that stands between the agony the runner has endured thus far and the sweet and welcome relief of rest is a comparatively measly 100 yards. You tell me what this runner is focused on - the people that have flooded out of their houses lining the streets, the vast number of volunteer workers who have given up time and money to supply water, tables, powerade stations along the side of the course, the signs of encouragement held up by friends or family members running alongside them, or are they focused on the next steps their legs are going to take, how many of these next steps they need to reach their goal?

Do not get me wrong. I wish I could know for sure and I greatly respect those who do know, but I imagine that the sole focus of the runner at this point is on the banner waving ahead and the weary legs beneath their exhausted body. All surroundings, all implications of that runner's "present" are nothing but a blur, even an obstacle, in reaching their final goal.

Please please do not get me wrong or misunderstand me by thinking I'm telling you to live in the moment only, because that person is more supremely misguided than the one focused solely on the future. I do, however, believe that it is necessary to constantly be aware of where you are in the present, because there is no other place you can possibly be. You cannot be in the future. You cannot reside in the past. God has given each of us the GIFT of free will, a gift that can be used neither in the past nor the future. It is a the gift of our choice NOW.

A gift... or a present, if you will. Of course, we are to use this gift for His glory, but even that is left up to us to decide. But how can you be expected to use this gift of the present in the place where you are if you're trying to live in the future?

I guess what I'm trying to say, as trite and horribly cliche as it is, is stop and smell the roses. Recognize who it is that has gotten you where you are and be freaking thankful for everything that you have, because, as the government is proving daily, what you have can be taken away so quickly. Safety is nothing more than a fleeting warm spot in a freezing cold ocean; comfort is a word thrown around to represent what takes us off of our feet and down from our guard; hope has become a catchphrase thrown around by politicians of the right and left wings alike.

Love is a term used more frequently by 8th grade girls than married couples of 30 years.

Be sure you know what it is around you that stimulates your mind, that inspires or leaves you awestruck, that gives and takes away, understand the fragile line between life and death, and take all of the steps towards the only one that can make both life AND death as meaningful as anything you could possibly imagine.

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.