The Straw Man; or, Grow a Heart.

This is long and ashamedly rambly. I was just in quite a rambly mood today, I'm afraid. Please read it all, for I have several times and am not yet dead, but know that I won't be offended if you turn it off halfway. Not everyone can handle the burden of truth being poured onto them.** **That was purposely arrogant and inflammatory. I'm trying to catch your attention by being humorously cocky and reproachable right off the get-go. If that didn't work, here's some wisdom from Doctor Who, which should interest every single one of you:

"Have you ever seen monsters?" "Oh yes." "Are you scared of them?" "No. They're scared of me." - The Eleventh Doctor

Doctor Who and Introduction

It is without shame that I tell you I am veritably enthralled by the long-running BBC Television show Doctor Who. I cannot pretend to be a Who-hipster, for I was not alive when it started, nor can I say that I've been a member of the Whovian society for any long period of time. Quite the opposite, in fact: it has been only a few short months. But in these few short months, I have found myself doing very little besides reading profusely, writing (I figure now, while I have the time, means, and motivation, is when I should write that book), and watching the Doctor save the universe in countless situations infinitely more creative than my feeble mind could contrive, and in the meantime highlight the beauty of humanity and their intense dependence on something bigger than themselves.

In the section quoted above, a little boy caught in the middle of a crisis involving your run-of-the-mill otherworldy Who beasties is talking with the Doctor. He senses the threat and accurately gauges the immediacy of the situation, but asks, in a moment of seeking reassurance, about the Doctor's history of dealing with similar things. The Doctor, famous for having dashed alien hopes of universe-domination, foiled plans of genocide, and saved his numerous companions' lives time and again, responds with confidence and appropriate swagger, then characteristically smirks in the face of evil.

Confidence is praised nowadays; misplaced or inappropriate confidence is arrogance and foolishness. We see both in the lives of athletes, in the style of movie stars, in the words of introverted twenty-somethings on blogs on the internet. We are quick to call it "arrogance" in other people, but just as quick to call it "confidence" in ourselves. We are quick to think ourselves unworthy of either, and quick to overcompensate.

Perhaps it is that our mirrors are rather cloudy and dishonest. Perhaps it is our eyes. Whatever the case, one thing is certain: I see a whole lot of loathing and so little efforts for improvement; I see a whole lot arrogance and so little preparation.

What This Is Not, and What This Is

I am not thinking today about image or self-confidence along those lines, necessarily, though those thoughts do come to mind. It deserves a whole spot of its own and is quite pressing, I'm afraid, though today is not the day for it. This is not about the back-end, or how you look at yourself in light of who you truly are, for that is only the second half of the problem. This is not about vanity or even necessarily physical things

What I am addressing is what I see when I look at the majority of my generation. I see a group of people content to be what the generation before them handed down, who can honestly say that apathy is a virtue. Who socially network rather than figure themselves out. I see a generation with access to more information and knowledge than any that has come before them, yet more ignorant than any about how to use it. I see boys seeing domination as strength and girls seeing beauty as worth. I see people who think doing something worthwhile means doing something worth Instagramming; I see people for whom thoughts are merely Tweets. I see an age of humanity defined by what somebody else has said rather than what they have worked for.

And I see so few confronting it. Too many of us see "comfortable" as a good thing. So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound.

We have lost all concept of self, because we have plenty of things to distract from it... and they are sneaky things, at that: the conception that you are what your Facebook says you are or that who you are is defined by your job. Instead of asking ourselves, "who am I?" we post pictures of ourselves and say, "this is who I am."

There is a discrepancy there, and it is extremely bothersome.

The Swelling Hurricane 

I dropped a sentence a second ago as sort of preparation for where this was headed, as a gust to store up some energy in these sails. I'll say it again here: So many think that because their faith is not shaken, it is sound. I spent a good deal of time in the Philosophy and Religion department at UTC (since I studied Philosophy) and noticed a particularly fascinating trend: that the grand majority of people involved in it were vehemently atheistic, both professors and students alike.

What happened is they started asking questions and seeking answers anywhere they could find them. And when they couldn't find them easily or the conventional answers of their small Baptist churches just wouldn't cut it anymore, they conceded defeat to the overwhelming pangs of despair. They looked at one group of people claiming Absolute Truth and saw a completely different group halfway across the world and 8 million people big claiming a completely different Absolute Truth and decided everyone was wrong. Or they succumbed to the problem of evil: If one of two contraries is infinite, the other is destroyed. God is infinite goodness; if there were God, there would be no evil. There is evil; so, therefore, there is no God.

The arguments against God are powerful and persuasive, indeed like monsters in the closet of an 8 year old are when it's dark and he's trying to sleep. But they're embedded everywhere, and we're trained not to fight them. We yell at characters in poorly written horror movies when they decide to go towards the creaking under the stairs or the moaning from the attic. We're embedded with a fear of evil and the desire to run when it's scary.

To keep a consistent theme, though: The Doctor tells us, "Never run when you're scared." (Rule 7)

There is a storm in the air, horesemen afoot, and the battle for belief is raging.

And we who believe are not winning.

The War Without a Winner (or, apparently, a study in alliteration)

Sam Harris wrote in his book Letter to a Christian Nation that it is religion, belief, "god" that has poisoned our world, incited wars, dumbed the people, and placated a mass of people to the point of wasting their lives chasing invisible friends and waiting on some future judgment that will never come. Christopher Hitchens calls belief irrational and destructive. Richard Dawkins calls God an unnecessary invention by people incapable of handling reality.

And more believers are believing them every day. The armies are being stacked in their favor, because believers are being convinced by faulty rhetoric that Christ and Reason cannot exist together. That metaphysics and God are equivalent, and that they have a place in haughty classroom discussion and nowhere else. But the thing is that the opposition is using recycled arguments to attack Faith, and Faith is using recycled arguments to respond. We're stuck in a loop with one side crying, "you're ugly!" and the other sticking their fingers in their ears shouting back, "la la la, I can't hear you!"

We've both become dull and insulting: the attackers of Faith have betrayed their god of Reason and the believers their God of Truth.

Armaments 

Here is the bottom line. Christians have become comfortable with their churches and their ideas that God is a exactly the thing that they imagine, so when something comes along and challenges the toy box they keep in their prayer rooms, they panic.

There is a fallacy in the study of logic called the Straw Man. It's basically as you would imagine: to "attack a straw man" is to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the "straw man"), and refuting it, without ever having actually refuted the original position. Unbelief attacks Christianity based upon the constraints it has put upon it. Based upon what Christians have made it. It attacks tradition rather than Truth, because Truth is contested only by fools.

Jesus said that His purpose on Earth was to bear witness to Truth, which is why the Jesus we have constructed that exists to ease pain and hug people crumbles under attack. Straw men have no backbone, no substance, and burn easily when touched with fire.

But Christians are doing little to counter it. Instead of arming ourselves, learning the things of God rather the things we've constructed of God, and worshipping Jesus as Truth, we trust in the easy thing - which is also the easy thing to attack, and the easy thing to lose faith in. With a faith in the same Straw Man that is easy to attack comes all of the terrible things we write eloquently to fight: we succumb to vanity and pornography and insecurity and fear and addiction the thought that our dirty pasts are insurmountable and we're not rescued by our god because he's warding off crows from crops. Misrepresentations of God are being attacked because misrepresentations of God are being followed.

So what are those of us who wish to counter unbelief to do? We must figure out what we stand for and then stand for it. We cannot be told answers, we must search them out. We can't be handed faith, we must work it out for ourselves with fear and trembling. We can't forget that something obtainable can be taken away, so we must grasp it ever tighter when the threat of its removal comes upon us.

We must stand with the confidence that we lack, because monsters won't shy from uncertainty. Confidence comes through preparation, and somebody who tells you that God will give it to you just because you asked for it is lying to you. God will do His part - He's told you that.

But the ability to fight a war doesn't come from lying in bed. We must take up arms and learn to use them, study the opposition's tactics to be able to counter them, and face the beasties in our closets atop their black horses and say, "I'm not afraid of you because I know you. You can't say something to dissuade me because I know what you will say. You can't take away my God because He gave you the Reason you think refutes Him."

Salvation is not through works - do not think that I'm trying to say anything of the sort. But it is true that the children of God will be known by their fruit. Take a step back and look at yourself. All aspects of it. Look at who you are at school, at home, on the internet, and tell me what is being glorified: you, your Straw Man, or God? It's one of the three, I promise.

An Army of Apologists

I am incredibly far behind in my posting schedule, something which I could promise will be made up to you with bi-weekly posts or a string of witty aphorisms or free ice cream for everybody who didn't complain about it, but I honestly cannot make any guarantees. I graduate from College in a month and it feels as though the entirety of my existence is caught in a whirlwind and I have not even a trace of ruby red slippers with magical heels to tap together. I am not going to chronicle out the happenings of the past three weeks during which I exercised a bit of blog-silence, for such a journal would be incredibly lengthy and speculative and far more narcissistic an endeavour than I care to admit that I am capable of. So let it suffice that there are times, I feel, where it is necessary to take your brain out of the ten-thousand different vats you've placed it in, regroup, and redistribute it in those vats that need the most immediate attention.

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I have posted a version of a paper I turned in a week or so ago pertaining to this subject, and though it is far from perfect, I plan on revisiting it, replacing things that I had to cut to fit it within the word restriction, and adding to it to form a more formal critique. You can read a draft of it at this link.

What I want to get out there today is something of a more heavy nature than the quaint little aphorisms I attempted to produce when last we talked. Something of a struggle I am undergoing, for which criticism, advice, and general opinion would be appreciated.

I do not attempt to hide my admiration for Frederich Nietzsche, even though there is a strikingly small area of material on which we agree. On the one hand he is the self-proclaimed champion against the rise of Christianity, a vehement and angry opponent of all things humble or Divine. He roars in defiance of anything which dares threaten a living being's climb to the height of its species potential, mocks the rampant herd mentality of modern religion, and cheers with a fuming pen the constant, infinite re-consideration and questioning and throwing out of value. Indeed, it seems as though the famous nihilist, in his own little ironic way, places extraordinary value on re-valuing everything people hold dear.

But I said before that I admire him, and that hasn't changed. All that he opposes is all that I hold dear, and the monumental force of his unparalleled thinking power and rough polemic stand in gritty contradiction to a Christ-follower's frame of mind, so what is it that I can learn from him? After all, it is a tidal wave like Nietzsche which often causes those on the fence about the Big, Important things to be tossed into the realm of radical skepticism and pure, unabashed nihilism. But for me, he seems to do the complete opposite. Though I am at this point no match for his towering intellect or his hurricane-force rhetoric, he has demonstrated to me a height to aim for - not to rise up beside him, but to rise up in opposition against him. Chesterton I am not. Lewis I am not. I do not presume to be on par with any of these men, nor do I pretend to be capable of their respective feats of enormous intelligent significance, but it fills my heart with the drive to overcome, to firmly establish where I stand and to defend it against those who wish to see it destroyed.

It sometimes takes the heavy fabric of the darkness to understand the beauty of a candle.

Apologetics is a field with a longstanding tradition in any platform of belief. The idea is simple: you believe something, so you must be able to defend your point of view against issues that may prove problematic if you are unable to deal with them. While I am an advocate that a Believer is, necessarily, an Apologist ("provide a defense for the hope that is in you" and whatnot), I think that each person's defense must be suited to that person's field of specialty. The premise is, after all, a simple one: know where you stand and know how to defend it.

And Heaven forbid we should live and not just speak our convictions.

Hence my qualm with the enormous amount of people, especially in this Bible-saturated Southern culture, who claim the same Christ that I do. Because a lot of the time that I spend (as sometimes the only non-professing Atheist in certain situations) defending a Christian worldview is wasted dealing with the mess Christians have made of it, which people like Nietzsche are entirely too giddy to point out. It is time used attempting to override the errant belief that there remain no intellectual Christ-followers, that the only Christian defense to tough questions is "Faith, brother," that the correct response to those struggling with things of the world from one who has been delivered from it is judgment and hatred. It is arguing that the Christ who inhabits me does not encourage cardboard signs outside of music festivals condemning the goers to Hell, but rather the man beside them holding an arrow pointing at their signs saying "Jesus is much more beautiful than this." He would not advocate the bombing of an abortion clinic but rather the holding of a shaking, scared teenage girl and saying "I'll love you no matter what." It is asserting that "standing for God" is not merely posting inflammatory, ill-formed "religious" drivel and retorts on Facebook statuses and YouTube videos that not only prove you an incompetent wielder of rhetorical power but a bumbling imbecile waving a plastic cross around. It is proving that the Prince of Peace cannot reside in a heart of one harboring bitter animosity towards someone who believes differently from them.

I often wonder if we began living as the One who lets us bear His name did how necessary Christian Apologetics would be... but alas, the supposed attempted emulation of perfection is imperfect, so Apologetics unfortunately must exist. A tiring, taxing thing it is, for it finds formidable enemies in those like Nietzsche as well as in prosperity gospels and in portions of the Church itself. But take heart in adversaries such as these! For only through struggle comes strength; sound footing perhaps from the knowledge of where not to stand.

Though I do not believe I am fit to do such a thing (at this point in time, at least), creating a body of work in response to one like Nietzsche's would bring me enormous joy. There is a dialogue that has gone largely untouched between the Nietzschians and who I will call the Chestertonians which would be an honor one day to contribute to, but until then I will hover just behind the line of "publication," whetting my sword for the day I am called into battle. Perhaps I can at least try to rally the troops, no?

What if we could escape the culture of Christianity, embrace the person of Christ, and meet the beast of Doubt, of Apathy, of Lies, on his own ground together? What if we were so rooted as a group that no "Hurricane Nietzsche" stood a chance at dismantling the anchor tethering us to Truth? What if, as the Prince of the Power of the Air rose each morning to breathe the despair of empty, infinite rhetoric into our ears, we were ready to meet him and conquer his darkness with light? What if those who were called by Christ's name realized what sort of responsibility such a claim entails, and began acting like representatives to the King?

What if we rid ourselves of this rampant spiritual apathy, the cuddly images we grew up with plastered on flannel graphs in Sunday School, the nonsense of self-help spirituality and the battle between denominations and instead tuned our wits towards oncoming attacks, loved even those not deserving of love and recognized that we children of imperfection all need complete Perfection equally? Our fight is not of life and death, it is of creeping doubt and insecurity and of that tiny twist of Truth into lies. So anchor yourself to Truth once you find Him, friends, and soon your Nietzsche will fall.

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.

On Wonder, The Muse, and God.

When I was a child, I was paralyzingly terrified of sailboats. As well as I can remember through my own recollection and talking with my parents about it, it began one night when my family was staying at my great-grandmother's house, which is spooky in all of the glorious ways old, low-ceilinged houses should be: cases full of glassy-eyed, staring dolls, antiquated beams which creak under even the weight of thought, and what I remember to be an immense, looming, full-masted sailboat atop the dresser in the room I slept in. I don't remember the boat except for in the one mental snapshot I possess, so I cannot tell you if it was equally as scary in the daytime, or if I had even seen it before my sole memory of it. I may have been carried to bed by my dad after falling asleep on a couch, but I really can't remember.

But what I recall clearly: waking in the dead of night with the glow of a little yellow light illuminating the aging sails and the brown hull and spider's-web of twine representing ropes from afar, so that a thrice-as-large shadow was projected onto the wall behind it. It loomed enormous, starkly real against the dark void of the room, and I think that this is what terrified me the most. It was unusually tangible, as opposed to most things which after waking are vaguely foggy, as though clouded by barely-remembered dreams.

In all honesty, the thing probably wasn't all that big or fancy, it just struck my small brain as something truly big, and not big like jets or mountain ranges, but rather something unspeakable. Something of the Sublime: great beyond calculation or fathomability. The Big of nightmares, oppressing not just a volume of physical space but more a measure of your soul.

But despite all my attempts to remain terrified of them, I began learning (though I did not know it at the time) that wonder, marvel, and the kind of fear these boats inspired in me were merely knots on the same strand, and it turned to fascination.

I began collecting models of them, as much as a ten-year-old with nothing but an allowance can collect something that requires money to amass. The fear that once nested in my ribcage and made my chest feel hollow was replaced with wonder, and it was no less potent. When I think about it, that is what I collected, more than boats. I had harnessed a source of sublime fear and turned it into wonder.

When I grew older, I encountered the British Romantics and realized that they shared the same wonder, and had all sorts of lovely ways of trying to express it. Wordsworth described a craggy mountaintop lit by splitting lightening above a still lake atop which he floated in a stolen boat. Percy Shelley dedicated hymns to "The awful shadow of some unseen Power." Lord Byron describes a vacant Coliseum so vast, so desolate, with such a history of violence yet where his steps seemed "echoes strangely loud." John Keats called it the Nightingale, because of its mysterious, elusive nature juxtaposed with its infinitely enchanting song. Mary Shelley created a veritable monster out of the stuff, which her character Victor Frankenstein, even after laboring over every inch of him, describes his encounter with it: "I had desired it [the animation of his creature] with an ardour that far exceeded moderation; but now that I had finished, the beauty of the dream vanished, and breathless horror and disgust filled my heart."

You can hear it in the music of Sigur Rós, who sing sometimes in Icelandic, sometimes in nonsense, just because there is something that needs to be expressed but is bigger than mere words can handle. You can feel it in Hemmingway's "Hills like White Elephants" because to speak it would be to profane it.

The ancient Greeks called it the "Muse", The Romantics the "Nightingale." It is inspiration, and it is unbounded by human logic, unexplainable by empirical sciences, and untamable by any words or music or poetry that we could invent. It's wonder, sublimity, and breathless fascination that can present itself as crippling terror or as stillness after rain, and is the proper reaction to the things of God.

Yet still we think we can somehow grasp Him. We beg for the Truth, when in reality I cannot help but feel that Truth, all of it at the same time, would drown us in its crashing power. We talk to God, the designer of wonder and splendor, the operator both of joy that makes us light enough to fly and the kind of sublime terror that rots our insides, like He owes us an explanation. Cody Banette sings in the As Cities Burn song "Clouds": "I think that God isn't God if He fits inside our heads."

God Himself listened to 38 chapters of people bickering, reasoning, and trying to put words into His mouth before coming out of a whirlwind (!!) and speaking:

"Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements - surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?"

What is man to do with this? In the words of my friend Ariel Parsons... what even? We react to these unknowable Grand things in whatever ways we can conjure: - With radical skepticism - saying that if we can't understand it and explain it and because human rationality eventually circles back on itself, we can know nothing at all. Perhaps there is nothing at all. - With microscopic probings - thinking that if we can perhaps understand the very small, can we possibly work our way up to the very big (although we do not even understand these very small mini-universes that make up the material of our bodies by the trillion). - With art - perhaps even forsaking the search for answers to the questions and instead trying to merely understand the spirit that makes us feel the Grand crevasses in our chests.

I am positive that the only reaction to an encounter with God - with all of the Truth and all of the Joy and all of the inescapable, sublime Terror - is as Isaiah responds in chapter six of his book. Next to the Source of such grandeur, man can only feel trapped on a boat without a mast in the sweltering heat of Horse Latitudes, unless, of course, he is provided with a Path. Unless he is given sails and a strong wind to push him home.

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 Brief Aside, and What I Am Means

Some business before getting into the meat of it. If you are uninterested in this sort of thing, you may skip to below the line: I must thank you all for the unexpected and overwhelmingly positive reception of last week's little article. I have received many encouraging feedbacks and emails and have seen it shared often enough to make it the most-viewed post on this page. You guys are awesome. I am planning on doing more things in that vein, including what is shaping up to be an Introvert's Manifesto and Ebook, though I must admit that some of my motivation for that is that I've always wanted to write a Manifesto for something and publish an Ebook on my website. But in all seriousness, most of the reactions that I got to see only reinforced the idea that there are a lot out there who feel the way that I do though perhaps do not have the platform to say the things that need be said. So stay tuned.

I have still not decided what I want this blog to be. I read a lot of them that are very advice-y and full of lists and such, and those seem to have the most traffic. Because lists sell, this is fact. They are the "pop" of the blog world - easily digestible, somewhat predictable, often crafted to communicate one little gem of truth which sits, shining (perhaps literally with glowy text or clever puns) atop the screen, rather than relishing the subtle comfort of a web of it. I also read a good bunch that are quite heady and cerebral and rooted in idea, which is comforting because this is how I tend to think. But these I have rarely seen be "successful" in the commercial sense - they are often a bit wordy, even for my taste (imagine that), and inaccessible. Surely there must be a blend somewhere of the two which is neither pedantic sentence-flexing nor traffic-pandering formula. Still, I wish to talk about God when I want and spill thoughts on Philosophy or have nerd moments about music or even do reviews of books and film and albums. But none of these are exciting and revolutionary like the Introvert's Manifesto or charges to turn off our internet on Sundays or to alter the ways we behave with one another. And still on top of all of this, I at no time wish to dip into something trite for the mere sake of acquiring many page views. I maintain the wish for this to be a place of thought incubation as I referenced in this post a bit ago, and with that I accept that both bloggy, list-filled posts and the heady stuff are necessary at times. I've been doing this long enough to accept that it is no longer me sitting in a corner talking to the empty cloud of internet about the random stuff of the day; but today when I address "the audience," it is no longer rhetoric to make myself chuckle, rather a literal breaking of the 4th wall, because I now have one of those out there.

What the paragraph above should say is "this blog is a curious thing and once I figure out a way to make conversation more than simply leaving comments, I will do it, because then we can get this think-tank going and perhaps I can step out of the way." Because I feel as though perhaps I am wasting your time already.

 

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Because I had a rather lengthy aside at the beginning, I will make today's post just a little shorter than they have been in the past. I need to do this anyway.

I have been unutterably blessed for more reasons than I can count, but for these purposes we will focus on the following: that I have been born here, in a country of unparalleled freedom, to a loving and supportive family, in a time when I can access the thoughts of anyone who cares enough to write them down and when I can give voice to my own whenever I see fit. It is something that I take for granted entirely too often.

I cannot help but think that God chose this specific time to place me in, because I have been given access to the most marvelous minds the world has to offer. I can, at any point that I want, sit and read Stephen Hawking or Ravi Zacherias or TS Eliot; I can watch TED lectures about deep cave exploration or string theory or education research or marvel at "mathemagicians" and improv musicians and subtitled talks from mute people about disabilities; I can sit at a computer and continue a 55+thousand word, several-month-long email conversation with my dear friend in North Carolina or talk with anybody in the world at the touch of a few numbers on a cell phone; I can listen to songs recorded with a guitar on a laptop's microphone that is more evocative than one I'd hear in an arena with tens of thousands of people or I can listen to my favorite band through headphones and a device I hold in my hand. Friends, there is true magic in this world, and we can experience it every day of our lives.

However, and I think that this is true in most cases, we do not know how, nor are we equipped, to handle it. Just recently in our history as human beings, what you learned was limited by what you could experience firsthand, or what you could reason with whatever faculties you possess. Gone are the boundaries of knowledge and achievement that one solitary person or community was limited to. We have been presented the apple promising the Wisdom of God Himself and we have bitten hard into its bitter-sweet savor. We have been promised the possibility of omniscience and still cannot tear our minds away from it.

It is a difficult thing to stop, this search for knowledge, and a dangerous thing in the wrong hands. Our minds have not been built to grasp infinity and timelessness and unending streams of knowledge and limitless possibility, yet we have been put in a place where new things will never stop coming to our frame of vision. Our Universe, as far as we know, is infinite, and yet we continue to try to understand it in its entirety.

Some people despair in this. They see elaborate epistemic proofs which seem to eliminate the very possibility of knowledge. They look at competing, perfectly justified beliefs as muddying the concept of what is real. They see the power of Empirical discoveries negating the validity of Rational ones, and vice versa. The more our ill-equipped minds see, the more we dismantle our necessity for God.

Says the Preacher:

All things are full of weariness; a man cannot utter it; the eye is not satisfied with hearing,    nor the ear filled with hearing. (Ecc. 1:8)

But see, He planned for this. After all, it was He who set eternity in the heart of man. It was He who created us creatures capable of reason and, consequently, of doubt. It is why He sent us something of Himself in a form we could wrap our human brains around, to rescue us from the what Wordsworth calls "the burthen of the mystery... the heavy and the weary weight of all this unintelligible world." There is a reason He calls Himself Truth, because it is Truth that we crave, and it is Truth we cannot reach using human versions of God's things - logic, reason, and the like. Moses was told to tell the people "I AM sent me." Arguably the most powerful words that could be spoken by human lips. His name is not "Prove Me" or "I May Be," it is emphatic. Final. Independent of my human shortcomings and unchanging in time, space, and situation. Universal. I. Am.

I am by no means devaluing the wonder of knowledge and discovery, in fact, I whole-heartedly encourage it. Live in a way that you are constantly confronted with the marvel of this place of unending beauty. Roald Dahl writes, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it.” We are surrounded by it wonder, so long as we do not forget to look for it.

But just as oxygen is necessary for life to exist though an excess of it is lethal, so it is in this battle for understanding. It is perfectly normal to think of things that might be, for that is how we were created - to wonder at the heavens and try with all of our might to grasp things we cannot fathom - to think of things that might be so long as we do not lose sight of what Is.

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.

Ramblerambleramble

I apologize for the expanse between posts. It seems that life has picked up and time for frivolous scribblings to the simultaneous everything and nothing of the Internet has disappeared like wisps of smoke upon opening a window. Below you will find not a constructed argument for something in particular, like I normally try to do, but a jumble of words that have been stuck between my ears for entirely too long. I absolutely love my field of study. I am able to spend the majority of my school week around artists who, like Keats and Shelley, attempt to capture the Muses flitting about in the corners of our vision because they simply must. I get the opportunity to speak constantly with people who, like it is required of me, are required to think before they do so. I am privileged to exist in a bubble separate from the drab "real" world with people like me who are fascinated with examining the very nature of all that stuff out there.

Greetings from the haven of academia. But in here we are presented a different class (or, if we are seeing the big picture, a different aspect) of problem from the outside world.

We fight wars in here with beasts possessing mouths so enormous they can guzzle you in their sleep. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these beasts are everywhere - I just happen to be able to see the front line a little bit clearer through the windows of a Philosophy class. Where I am if you don't believe in something you'll end up believing in nothing; if you don't bring a gun you'll be taken and not even held for ransom.

Here the gates are wide and every road leads to paradise. Here there exist nights where one moment you stare into infinity packed so dense that even the pillow under your head is pregnant with meaning and the next moment unrational equals unfathomable.

Here we spell God R-E-A-S-O-N.

Immanuel Kant articulated it as the battle cry of the Enlightenment: "Sapere Aude! Have the courage to use your own reason!" And I wholeheartedly agree with him. In Acts, Paul went into the centers of intellectual prowess and "reasoned in the synagogues every Sabbath" (Acts 18:4). Isaiah implores, "Come, let us reason together" (1:18). God instilled in human beings from the very beginning the ability to use His divine skill of reason by creating us in His image, hereby setting us apart from the rest of creation. Reason is the essence of our humanity, an enormous road block in the construction of evolutionary theory, and the echoes inside our hearts of God Himself.

But here's the catch: instead of using it to find God, we use it to try to find meaning. We forget that meaning is a human explanation of a superhuman existence - in that sense a human construction. Meaning is the desert of the real. In using human applications of Divine characteristics to find human constructions of Divine realities, we are but dogs chasing our tails. Frustrated, existentially lost and intensely desperate dogs.

I am not sure what all I am trying to say, or if there is even a point that I am trying to make. I'm leaking out all of these words that represent the heart of what I have been thinking about and which has been keeping me from writing about lack of sleep or books  or whatever it is this blog is for. I've been reading everything from French Aesthetic theory (if you've ever read Derrida you, I'm sure, understand) to Environmental Rhetoric and have been writing next to nothing, and for that I apologize. HOWEVER - if you would like to respond to me in any way or construct arguments against everything I say or tell me to write you a clever ambiguous haiku please do. Sometimes it feels like I am talking to myself (I know I do, but that is beside the point).

I'll post soon with something a little less frustrated and a little more clear and perhaps less (ok, it won't be less) rambl-y. In the meantime, dare to be wise, friends. And, in the words of the brilliant Catherine Bolden, use your powers for good.

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 Monkey Story

There is this monkey who had been placed in a cage and given a ball and stick and a job peeling bananas and told that this is living. He isn't told about the cage because he doesn't need to know. Stay busy. Peel the bananas. Hit the ball with the stick for entertainment. Sleep after all of the bananas get peeled and the ball deflates because of endless shellackings with the stick. What a life.

The monkey looks outside the bars of his cage and glimpses a different monkey flitting through the trees surrounding him gathering the bananas that he peels. Another monkey digs in the dirt to find the exotic bugs that the monkey tasked with packaging has dropped off in his cage daily. He, too, works in solitude, and our original monkey begins to wonder if he knows he is caged and enslaved behind heavy metal bars.

He wonders what it would be like to gather bananas rather than peel them. He wonders what it would be like to dig for bugs. He wonders if these other monkeys are so different from him and, for that matter, what it is that separates him from them.

He has a dream that night after decorticating bananas and walloping the ball with the stick about walking up to the latch, laying his hand on the grating metal, and feeling the hinges squeak open after years of neglect. Feeling so silly for not ever having even tried it, upon waking up he walked over to the gate and pushed, feeling it give. The door swung wide, and without a single repercussion.

As he swung from the trees the next day, he saw his cage down below with its new occupant, happily batting the ball with the stick after enthusiastically peeling his mound of bananas that would be replenished in the morning.

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.

Born This Way

*Warning* This is long. It is, I hope, thought-provoking as well. I suppose we'll see.  

For the first time in my life (excluding my remarks about the impossibly catchy and brilliant melody of Paparazzi), I will say that Lady Gaga was on to something. For nowhere near the first time in my life, and equally as far from the last time in my life, the contents of this post may elicit anger from some.

This is my worried face.

It is no secret that I can be somewhat of a hermit occasionally, leading me to be behind on some popular trends and fads and whatnot. I spend time reading books by long-dead authors, obsessing over grammar, staring at walls, altering sixth chords, ignoring phone calls, writing papers, disintegrating slowly into acute and undiscovered forms of madness, and wishing I could do things like pogo stick professionally or own an invitation-only private island. So I was surprised to find out that Lady Gaga had a new (it is new to me, ok?) song out (that apparently came out last September? wow.).

I had no choice but to listen to it. I simply had to.

In the song, Gaga sticks up for her fellow weirdos, challenges racial discrimination, discourages conformity, blahblahblah something bland and generic like the rest of her pop Contemporaries. However, as I was listening to it, I couldn't help but think that the song is not driving at these pro-social messages. I, like Gaga, would love to see this generation raised without the crippling dependency on the approval of others... but her point is different.

"Don't be a drag - just be a queen," she says, blahblah "because God makes no mistakes." Ohhhhhhh ok. I see what we're getting at here. This isn't about racism or individuality, this is about being gay. Or, how does she put it? "No matter gay, straight or bi, / lesbian, transgendered life / I'm on the right track baby."

Gaga isn't to blame, because I have heard this excuse more than any excuse in the book (or lengthy pamphlet.... people's excuses are rapidly lacking the ingenuity they once did) for any number of actions. It is the perfect justification: the ultimate shifting of blame away from yourself - "I was born this way."

I think that we have confused "made" and "born".

Ignoring the grammatical differences between implied actors in each of these cases and approaching it purely from a) a logical point of view and b) a spiritual point of view, we can go ahead and say that Gaga's argument can absolutely hold no water.

Logical If I were the totalitarian dictator of the entire world, the first thing that I would do is require a basic working knowledge of logic proofs. We would eliminate all of the needlessly idiotic statements coming from important and imbecilic people, alike, and help Hamilton's headache wane just a little bit. Oh, if I had the words for the gratuitous logical fallacies encapsulated by this excuse. It is "born this way" that would cause the crumble of society as we know it if we listened to what we were saying. I won't even talk about murderers, rapists, child pornographers, cop killers, drug dealers, sociopaths, etc. who can all claim the same thing, because I am conscious of people taking what I am saying out of context. I don't want somebody to quit reading or ceasing their rational, calm thinking about the subject because I just equated their homosexuality with the Manson killings.

But hear this: in a way I am. You can't pick and choose the people for whom your excuse works. If "I was born this way" works for homosexuality, so should it work for murder and lust.

I was born a liar, a thief, a self-obsessed, self-indulgent, self-worshipping idolater. But I wonder how many people would excuse me if I walked around snubbing my nose at people, spouting absurd lies and doing whatever brought me pleasure because of my obsession with myself if only I started saying "don't worry about it, I was born this way." Would they try to amend the rules to allow me to slam heroin in the streets as long as I wasn't hurting somebody else? I mean, it is my right. I was born that way.

Of course not. But here is where I might lose you, if I didn't already, because it is my transition to the next point.

By establishing a distinction between degrees of heinousness of crimes, we are, necessarily, saying that we believe in some sort of a moral order. A moral order cannot exist without something against which to measure it... a moral law. A moral law cannot exist in solidarity, because it necessitates a contradistinction between "good" and "evil," where one cannot exist without the other. Finally, in order to establish what we see as "good" and what we see as "evil," there must be what Ravi Zacharias calls a "Moral Law-Giver," or something to qualify the relative degrees of what we are seeing.

Spiritual This brings me to the clincher, the basis on which I believe we should be living our lives. We have the single most historically and archaeologically backed document in existence that posits page after page of insight into the nature of this Law Giver. The perfect good. The absence of all that is, what we call, evil, although it is not an entity in itself but rather the total absence of good. The same way as dark is the absence of light. The same way that cold is the absence of heat. God can be countered not by reasoning, because reasoning from humans is tainted by human imperfections, nor can He be countered by science, for science cannot even agree with itself. Within this document, this collection of insight, are very specific things to which we must be held accountable. The moral law given by the Moral Law Giver. And believe it or not, every one of the "evils" I have mentioned above is on that list.

I possess those evils. You possess those evils, and they, in a manner of speaking, possess each one of us. But were we made that way? No. We were not created by God to do evil, because God, the embodiment of all that is good, is incapable of doing evil, just as a candle is incapable of producing heat. It is not a limitation on God, it is an attest to the nature of things. Just as we do not question the limitation of a flashlight because it is incapable of producing dark, we do not question the limitation of God because he is incapable of producing Evil. Because evil cannot be produced.

We were, however, made with free will. And where there is free will there is the option to walk either in the light or the darkness. So we were not made this way, but rather we were, as Gaga so eloquently reiterates, born this way. Hence my saying she(?) was on to something. But it cannot be, as she said, God who made us this way.

God did not make us murders, liars, homosexuals and thieves. But he made each of us capable of being all of those things so that we can put aside ourselves and our selfish nature bent on reproducing as much evil as we can and look to Him instead.

It is that act of self-denial that Christ demanded at the cross. Deny your addictions to pornography. Your propensity to anger. To hate. To lust. To homosexuality. And take Him instead.

We were born for that.

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.

New Beginnings, In A Sense

As one whose name is writ in water, I thank you for the time you give to reading these thoughts: the somewhat monotone ramblings of a kid working his way through the exact same stuff you are. It is not the writer that makes a point hit home, but rather the reader and his ability to comprehend, interpret, and apply it to himself. "In every work of genius we recognize our own rejected thoughts: they come back to us with a certain alienated majesty." Although a blog (and particularly MY blog) is by no means a work of genius, what Mr. Emerson has to say about it is valid in every situation, and is not just limited to what he calls "genius". Just because you didn't write something doesn't mean you were incapable of doing so. There is nothing somebody can tell you that you haven't, in some fashion, thought about before. By reading, you validate the writer, making YOU the important party. I am here solely because I love words and I love using them to figure things out. Without you, I speak to a void. Let's do this together.

I know I have a slight propensity to wax philosophical, become preachy, wordy, unintelligible, or meander you through the river of my mind as though you cared, but it's all in love. If you have questions, I'd like you to ask. If you're struggling through something, odds are I am too and I'd love to exchange thoughts on the matter. I don't have answers to everything, nor will I find them, but at the very least we can learn something along the way.

In other words, I'll keep doing my thing and you keep doing yours - because it's my job to write a dumb blog on the internet and it's your job to change the world.

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 Procession of the Simulacrum in Practice and Our Counteraction

>About a month ago I sent out an annoyingly large number of mass messages telling people to give me their addresses and I would write them letters.

I wrote around 40 letters. I wrote until my hand cramped. I wrote letters at 4 in the morning when I couldn't focus on the tasks at hand after the jittery stage of a caffeine rush had passed and the achey stage had set in. I wrote until I had no more words left to say. I wrote letters to 5 different states, to people I hadn't talked to in at least ten years, to old friends, to new friends, to family, to strangers. I formulated an Aristotelian logic proof about the existence of Santa Clause, condensed high school into a page and half of rambling, and stream-of-consciousness'ed about everything from the weather to my heart-wrenching obsession with Lovedrug. I filled blank pages with pieces of me and sent them on their ways. I may have even made somebody smile.

Although it may sound like it, this is not about me - something I have been working on quite hard lately. On the contrary: this is the nature of people. We live in the Facebook era, where connections are infinite but people are disappearing. We are reduced to icons. To thumbnail pictures and those parts of our ourselves we choose to share. I am no longer me, I am what the internet says about me; moreover, I am what I have TOLD the internet to say about me. We are forced to present ourselves as flawless to fit the flawless standards thrust in our faces, so we leave out the parts about how we sometimes get sad for no reason or we crop our bodies out of our pictures or call makeup beauty.

After we are all done creating these images of ourselves, we communicate through devices and with mere empty words with other people who have constructed hollow conceptions of themselves, making it not human contact but just contact.

Welcome to the desert of the real
to the great purge of humanity
to we who are not ourselves

So the stark interruption of ink engraved into a blank page, handwriting exposed, bits of our souls clinging to the ridges and wrinkles and tactility of the paper laden with character and passion intervenes in the terrible aforementioned procession. It bypasses all projections of who we want people to see and lays bare in a way only matched by coffeeshop conversations the intensity and beauty of who we are. It is as personal a thing you can do for someone in this day of anti-personal connection. It is, by today's standards, imperfect, and therefore perfect in its imperfection. We have a long way to go to reverse the heavy weight of conceptions and false perceptions of beauty, but if everybody started writing each other letters, I can't see how it'd be a bad start.

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.

>Disambiguation

>I am sitting in my chair in a towel, because I am waiting to get a shower until the clothes in the dryer are done tumbling so that when I am done they will be warm and dry and ready to cover my cold skin.

I bought a cd today too. It is a departure from my musical tastes of late (meaning primarily that it is not Lovedrug), and I welcome the departure of style if anything just because it is new material and it is a switch and a temporary break from the monotony that has become my minutes, hours, days, weeks. It is scary how fitting the title of this album "Disambiguation" is.

I perhaps do my topic disservice by restricting it with that "my" above, because I think I meant to address a broader audience than just my busy self.

Go to school for 20 years. Get a job. Do not live on the street. Walk on the sidewalk. Make enough money to eat. Give the rest of it to the establishment created by us. For us. That has forgotten about us. Complain about something and then realize how pointless complaining about that thing is, because it's done and you can't change it. Fall in love. Create. Recreate. Retire or die. Now repeat after me: I am free.

I think that the most compelling evidence for the existence of God to somebody who is in search of it is the system in which we are trapped. The little box of earthly, physical existence. Rich or poor, old or young, we are in chains, and I dare you to find somebody who would disagree with that. We are enslaved to time and to desire and to passion and to lust and to love and to sin. Each and every one of us. But just like there can be no dark without light to be the contrary, no rich without poor to be the opposite, no high without low to compare, the mere fact that we are enslaved means that there exists freedom.

But, since there is nothing earthly that we can do to break free of these chains, that means that there has to be a spiritual key to the locks. It must exist outside of time, because if it existed within time, it would eventually decay or rot or turn to dust. It must have no beginning because that would mean it would have an end. If all we know is the here and now, there must be an unhere and an unnow.

This is nothing new. Solomon knew it: "Vanity of Vanities! All is vanity!" "What has been is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun." Since the literal dawn of time the disconnect between us and God has been both the proof of God and the burden on His heart. Because the presence of the physical means the presence of the non-physical, or else physical would be nothing. It would have no alternative. And we know that this disconnect is the burden of God's heart because of the lengths He went to restore it. We live among sin. He dwells among perfection.

Beauty is not beauty without un-beauty. Pain isn't pain without pleasure.

So with all of this said, the part about God I mean, it should be no surprise to us that without Him life would be rather miserable. Without the assurance that there IS beyond this, I cannot fathom the shattering hopelessness that would accompany our steps. They would only see the horrid pattern described above. School.Job.Family.Kids.Love.Loss.Death. and they would feel extraordinarily trapped. Herein is the beauty of my Savior, the Messiah, the promised and received Christ. Because He dwells not inside of this wretched box, but rather His father is the one that holds it. And I can't get outside of it except through His arms...

Don't you see? If it were up to me, the highest I could ever get in the vast span of eternity is how far I can run. Whether you accept it or not, the same principle applies universally: the give and take; the idea behind there being no light without dark permeates literally everything. It has to, because things only mean in juxtaposition. God doesn't need your support to exist. You can deny it all you want but your belief or lack thereof is not what keeps Him around.

Rather it is His existence that keeps your disbelief around.

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.

>Philosophical Ponderings of the Barely Life-Literate

>Every once in a while, in the course of my pondering, I become hung up on one concept or idea for which I cannot define the terms. The first rule of Rhetoric is "He who controls the terms controls the debate." I am not sure against whom I am debating, but there is an internal struggle there and I am positive that I am not in control.

I am tired of going over and over it in my head to decide just exactly what "grown up" is. I know that, first of all, it is a goal which at a young age we areOh sure we will reach eventually, and which as we get older we see become more and more elusive. We watch birthdays come and go and we graduate from Kindergarten and High School and eventually College and we will repeatedly ask ourselves "am I grown up yet?"
I think after our senior year in High school, in that time between complete freedom, the excitement of new possibilities and a completely blank slate we get our first glimpse of what it could feel like. There is this moment of "I am in control" (even though it is not nearly as complete as we think it is at the time) which seems to overtake all of the general thought processes going on at the time. People will change their clothing styles, their reading habits, their television tastes, their friend groups and they will call it all the beginning of the rest of their lives. Is this when you are grown up? Good Lord, I hope not.

So I decided against the "time" aspect being what makes one "grown up." I then thought that perhaps it was less the unfolding of time itself but rather what took place as time was doing its thing. I'm talking about even the most innocuous little decisions that we make during the course of our days, like which shoe we put on first or whether we hit the snooze button twice before we wake up, that have more of a bearing on being a "grown up" than time itself. The little things form the habits by which you live, the standard against which you measure all of the big decisions you make, like where you will go to college or what you will do to be able to eat. The little things are what you use to remind yourself that you are still there, like pinching yourself to make sure you aren't dreaming. I figure that something even as trivial as this that bears such a lasting consequence has to play a major role in shaping who you are. The "up" version of you.

But this didn't give me an answer as to how you know when you are grown up... The best I could ever do is compile a list of things that are either growing you up (making you who you will become) or making you look like a fool. You won't walk across a stage to receive a diploma that declares you officially grown up, nor will you wake up one day feeling instantly accomplished. I think, little by little, you will discover things about yourself that you recognize as reaching towards becoming the person you are destined to become:

You will become comfortable with yourself. You will have gone through a painful process of recognition of your flaws and weaknesses but you will learn to deal with them. You will become less and less dependent on other people for validation or companionship and you will start to savor the little moments when you are completely alone. You will find yourself drinking them deep, storing them on a hard-to-reach shelf in the back of your mind that you can only tap into when absolutely necessary. When the storm around us consumes all of the tranquility we manage to squeeze out and sip like the last warm drops of water in the hot desert sun.

You will learn the difference between necessary and unnecessary. You won't see yourself on this one point on the timeline of the third dimension but you will instead see from above how little things you experience will ripple out and effect things to come.

Because you have this newfound broad view, you will learn to do the things that you have to do, even though you may not want to do them. Doing it now is always better than doing it later. On the other hand, one more cup of coffee with a friend will be more meaningful to you in a week than getting home twenty minutes later than you would have otherwise. Stopping and smelling the roses will make your trip a lot more memorable than if you just blow through, only looking forward.

Each of the things above will lead you to a realization that there is something bigger than you and your little group of friends and your family and the people in your community and in your county and in the state and in the country and in the world. You are blind to not see a plan unfolding before your eyes - blind by either ignorance, naiveté, or prejudice. The recognition of this plan is what drives philosophers to think on and what makes songwriters sing on and what makes lovers love on, knowing that they are searching for something even if they are not entirely sure what it is they are searching for. Even in reading this, you know that on some level, even if you disagree with my methods or my pre-established beliefs, unless you have filled what is missing with the only thing that is big enough to last forever, nothing seems to stick. You feel some sort of longing to reach farther down the path on which you travel in hopes that you will eventually reach the point where enough is enough.

Perhaps it is not that we are meant to know when enough is enough. We may not ever recognize that we are "grown up." There might not be a moment of recognition that tells us we have reached everything we are capable of reaching... but maybe that's the plan.
Maybe we are meant to press on forever and strive each day to be better than the day before and learn that the only way we'll ever know what is sufficient is by trusting in the only One that ever could be.

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.