Easy; or, Good

A sea of inspirational speeches, feel-good blogs, and motivational posters encouraging their audiences to not give up in spite of difficulties floods us, but they are not working. They're us spitting on a forest fire. They're us throwing sandbags in the middle of a hurricane. They're Indiana Jones' refrigerators in the epicenter of a nuclear blast. 

We exist in the middle of a culture that doesn't just thrive on "easy," it prizes it. We may catch the occasional "don't give up" Tumblr quotes but they're just flapping jaws; everything else about the way that American society is engineered exists in stark contradiction to the "never give up" mentality. I intend here to prove two things:
1) That our culture has failed us and is in desperate need of reform, and
2) That the more we buy into it, the more it destroys us.  

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>My Goodness, What a While it Has Been

>I don't know why I feel so snarky this morning.

I have been, like the majority of America, consumed by the season (though perhaps in different ways). This is the only explanation I shall offer for the unfortunately long time between posts.

Although I am now falling into a twist of the cliche, I took, for a few days, great pride in being perhaps the only blogger in the expanse of the bloggerverse who has yet to mention "Christmas" (although there I mentioned it... forgive me) or to offer my opinion on the true nature of the season or to say that it is about the birth of our Savior and not the birth of the spirit of capitalism or to deliver moving recreations of Christmas classics or to say how awesome "A Christmas Story" is.

I didn't even watch "A Christmas Story" this year.

Besides wanting to remind people (myself, mostly) that I am still here and demonstrating classic inevitable narcissistic web logger syndrome, I wanted to squeeze a few words in about this "New Year" notion, because that seems to be all the rage nowadays. I've gotta keep up with you silly kids.

First, I want to say that I think that it is silly to try to reinvent yourself one time a year, because that never works. Don't say that come January 1 you will lose that 50 pounds you need to or that you will start being nicer to your mother-in-law or that you will finally get around to asking that girl out simply because it is a new year. One-time-resolutions will never work, because once you come down from the high of the very rhetorically interesting "rebirth" that accompanies having to write "2011" instead of "2010" the goals you set seem either unreachable or silly or you'll get to them tomorrow.

Next, in very sharp contradiction to what I just said, I wanted to offer, briefly, some things that I would like to focus on (although clearly in no way are they related to the new year, any sort of Resolution, or anything of the sort). Perhaps you would like to focus on them with me. Perhaps you'll send people over here to laugh at my list or maybe you'll write me and say that it's a great one. You might even get what Andrew calls the "tinglies" which replace the solitary man-tear following something inspirational.

1. Read a book by an author you have ragged on extensively, passionately, vehemently, in the year prior, even if it was just for a second. I just read the first Harry Potter book and I will be the first person in the room to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed it and plan on reading the rest. I also offer appy-polly-loggies to any Potterheads I have offended before. I was in the wrong.

2. Learn a new word every day. Discover that the English language is not as limited as people like to say, rather people have forgotten how to use it. Subscribe to one of the many word a day email lists or ask somebody smarter than you to text you a new word each morning or buy a dictionary, I don't care. Learn a word each morning, how to spell it, what it means, use it three times by the time the sun sets, and the word is yours. You will be amazed at how more fluently you will be able to voice your thoughts.

My favorite word I have learned in the past day (you may start here and steal it from me if you so desire):  dysania - the state of finding it hard to get out of bed in the morning. (see? It's fun!)

3. Buy a moleskine notebook from Barnes and Noble. Make sure that it doesn't have lines, because this will do several things: offer you a completely blank slate to record whatever you want. It will teach you to write in straight lines. You can draw just as easily as you can write, even if you are like me and you cannot draw at all.

Anything that can be expressed with ink needs to be inside of this notebook, and you do not show any of it to a single soul. It is not for other people, it is purely for you in a time when NOTHING is secret.

4. Keep lists. Of everything. If it comes to mind, write it down, because you will forget it later. Keep a list of books you want to read or people you need to write or formulas you need to remember or groceries you need to buy or items of clothing to give away or websites you need to tell your brother about or songs you need to cover at a coffeeshop.

5. Listen to The Rescues. Trust me on this.

6. Take pictures of anything you see. Even if it means buying a bunch of $5 disposable cameras.

7. Keep a journal.

8. Recognize beauty when you see it, and then realize that beauty is everywhere. See it in nature, see it in Creation, see it in writing and in math and in an empty cup of coffee, but most importantly see it in each other.

9. Be curious, even about things of which you are sure. Never stop learning, never stop questioning. You must develop the things that you believe so that they are not shattered when a storm comes around.

10. Be passionate about something - anything. I don't care what it is, just find the thing that you absolutely love and follow it until you perfect it (I'll give you a hint: you never will). Don't back down from the things you love, no matter who tries to rip you away from them. If it's Pokemon, awesome. When somebody calls you a geek, you know that you're on the right track.

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.

>With Such Passion That Our Hands Shake

>I wrote a while back about Identity and this is in no way intended to step on the toes I established then. Just to cover my bases :)

I in no way intend do define who I am by what I do, because I find my identity with Someone bigger than whatever accomplishments I could ever hope for on this temporary earth. However, what I do I hope to craft to reflect the magnificence of the God I serve. Right now I'm not talking necessarily about those minute-to-minute decisions, thoughts, or actions, because it is in those ways I will never be perfect and therefore in constant need of a system of checking. Without forgiveness and that mindset of always striving for perfection in the most Divine sense of the word, the rest of the thoughts I'm about to lay out hold no weight. This is the next step above the moment; in fact, it is a way of escaping from the moment.

The most appealing of traps in which we build our homes is that on which countless poorly written pop-rock songs / indie-romance films dwell: live for the moment, because once it's gone, it's lost forever. By that same logic, the argument contradicts itself at its core, thus making it a logical fallacy; for if not seizing the moment means that you might miss it and have it be gone forever, then doing everything in your power to make that moment yours means as soon as the moment passes your efforts were for naught. No, I submit that this is the reason for the emptiness that plagues our country (and even our world). Everybody who takes this advice has to constantly fill the void left by the moment which leaves as soon as it arises and makes them stuck in a cruel game of catch-up. Just like Zeno's example of Achilles and the tortoise, once locked in to that method of thinking, you can never actually catch up to the tortoise, because once you finally get to where it is, it has moved again.

The only way to escape from this flawed ideology is to not follow Fall Out Boy's advice (as crazy a notion as that may seem) and look past the moment. It takes some heartache and frustration to realize that the moment isn't all it's cracked up to be, but very little convincing to realize, once you're there, that you are capable of so much more than what one tiny snapshot in time can offer. Yes, prototypical Church-Answerer, we set our sights on Jesus and the example he set for us. That is all well and good, but I'll tell you this: you won't get there.

I'm not being Frankie Thunderstorm here either, because what we don't seem to realize is that this is the point. We can't do it.

Kinda makes you feel small, you say? It should. It should make you feel incompetent, lowly, some might even call it worthless, powerless to live up to such a magnanimous example set before us. It's ok to not be good enough.

This is where so many people professing to be Christians get it so wrong. We were not created to live up to a Divine example, we were created to bring our Creator delight and praise and adoration. Part of that delight does happen to be attempting to be more like our Example every day, but that's not the whole of it. It's knowing that we, in ourselves, will never be good enough, and even with help from God Himself, the point of our bodily forms is that we will mess up (note: this is NOT a free pass to sin. Please do not take that from this) and when we realize that even though we have defiled the name of our Creator He loves us anyway, and we worship Him for it.

The point of this blog, finally.

All of this in mind, we craft our worship out of everything that we hope to be. Striving for perfection is, in its most innocent and basic sense, our act of worship. One aspect of this that I want to touch on quickly is (don't die from the shock that I want to talk about this) music.

It frustrates me to no end, to a point beyond what words can describe (though I constantly attempt to describe it anyway), that we have created this "genre" of "worship music." Music IS worship. Words are not beautiful, for they are simply signifiers of grander ideas, but music... music transcends communities and beliefs and traditions and locations and stages of life and everything physical that separates us both from other humans and from the Divine. It creates, wordlessly, emotions followed by thoughts followed by a primitive connection, in its most foundational sense.

So WHY do we call this bland, formulaic, monotonous category of supernatural connection worship?

Because it's easier. It's easier to reuse melodies that have proven successful or chord progressions which we know work than it is to craft something so wonderful, so pleasing to our God's ears that we share the joy with Him of listening to something that he breathed life into follow His example and craft right back to Him. Perhaps it's that those gifted to create such expressions are more in love with traditions or expectations than the God who created it all. Maybe they're just lazy.

Let's re-learn that worship is a lifestyle. That if we are not searching for perfection like our Heavenly Father is perfect, we are insulting Him every time we slap His name on something that is mediocre.

Let's craft everything we do with such passion that our hands shake. It's a process that takes much longer than a moment can offer.

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.

>Slash.

>I was a witness to something last night which I will here attempt to describe.

I saw a literal wall of Marshall cabs, for starters.
I saw a man in a wheelchair wait in line, weave up a handicap ramp, and sit with anxious expectation with a large top hat on his head for the opening act to be over so that he could see the hero, whose visage he wore on his shirt.
I watched a crowd of people go nuts for a band who killed it, even though they didn't know any of their songs. Simply out of courtesy/response to awesome music.

I saw on a stage five people, all of whom were over 40 years old, playing to 1,100 people, aged anywhere from ten to 65. One of these people, Saul Hudson (more famously known as Slash), a founding member of Guns n' Roses (whose music I don't necessarily enjoy, although it is impossible to deny that they invented rock music as it is known today); who has played in front of stadiums with the largest audiences recorded in recent history, played roughly 300+ shows a year for the past 30 years in two world-renowned bands and several smaller ones, who has toured the world several times, smile a genuine smile when he looked out at the crowd of people watching him.

It was as if he were performing for the first time. He was relaxed, poised, and the definition of every image the term "rock star" conjures. He jumped around onstage as if he were 20 years old. He's 45.

I saw Myles Kennedy, 41, also a seasoned music veteran, being a pioneer both on the modern rock scene as well as the transformation of Jazz-rock fusion as we know it, step back from the mic as the crowd was singing a portion of a very well-known song, as he does every night of the week on Slash's world tour, and close his eyes. I watched him mouth the words "This is so awesome" followed closely by an undeniable "I love this." He wasn't saying it to anybody except himself. This was all the reminder he needed to remember why he does what he does.

The same as the grin that crept up on Slash's lips as he peered subtly over the edge of his signature aviator sunglasses and looked at the faces of all the people who made him who he is. It didn't happen often, because he was, for the most part, completely enraptured by the music filling the room.

I've been in the presence of "up and comers" who think that they are the best thing that has ever happened to music while they are on stage. I've watched them play so devoid of passion and heart that it almost makes the notes go as flat as the sound.

And then I saw this. With a drummer that played for Alice Cooper in his heyday, a singer who has toured in 4 bands and done his part to bring Jazz back to the mainstream, a bassist who has starred in films as well as played music in the studio with little people like, oh what's his name... Ozzy Osborne, a guitarist who knows enough to play enough in the background to hold a song together while letting someone else receive the entirety of the limelight, and a seasoned rock star whose name is known by a hundred million people who pioneered Heavy Metal but still managed to break into a slow, 3/4 blues jam play music with more passion than I've ever seen anything done. They made it sound fresh. They still got high from the adrenaline.

They felt every emotion a performer should feel and it translated over to the absolutely captivated audience, and you could tell, be it by Slash's uncontrollable smirk or Myles' whispers of overwhelming awe which he never meant for anybody to see.

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.