What I do when Andrew hogs the sleep

We depart for civilization in 6 hours and all I can think about is how dark it is in this room and how Andrew is in the bunk across from me hogging all of the sleep. Or: what is vacation, a place to get away or a place to get alone?

Or: what I need is fresh air and I need to dig words out of that dusty place I threw them when we got here. For some reason.

Words are stubborn when they've been wadded up. They crinkle a little in their unfolding and you have to flex them back and forth for them to be of any use. Go figure, you don't call for a week and all of the sudden they're mad at you like you did something wrong. You tell them you just didn't need them right now because you're trying to unwind and take a breath before the train hits again and they get all defensive cause they feel like you're using them. You forget that words have feelings too. And trust issues, I think.

I tell them, let's take a stroll, because we need to talk, and I figure the humidity would help with that.

I step outside and I can smell the ocean. I can feel on my skin the sticky hot Atlantic wind and the salt in the air makes me thirsty. When the air conditioner kicks off behind me I can hear the steady rhythm of the waves crashing to a meter that seems asymmetrical at first, but on longer listen is just a complex set of hits stretched out over an ambling, slow, incredibly steady tempo. We are waltzing, that sound and I. We're going nowhere in a hurry.

And now I'm asking something different. Something about what keeps sleep away. Something about what brings it in the first place. Something about the nature of things that comes alive on still hot nights like this.

I always related to Thomas the most, I think because I know I would have been the one trying to call Peter and the Beloved one out on their excitement until I actually put my hands in the gaping, miraculous, saving holes. I can look back on him and frown and ask him "how could you" when really I should just look at myself and mutter the very same words. Ask myself if I believe simply because I have seen, or vice versa. The curse of looking for reason and knowing that until you find it there will be sleepless nights. The pain in that place you can't touch when belief sometimes feels like a listing sailboat after a changed wind. When you wish you could be Elijah and call down fire from heaven not so much for proof but just to see something wet catch fire.

Sometimes even just for the proof, I suppose.

You can drown in your unbelief, and it does feel like drowning. Gasping, groping, frantically kicking your feet until your hands slide upon something already being rocked gently to sleep by the tide. When finally on the surface you realize that it is the surface itself that snapped you awake. Just when you started to think that your whole world was underwater and enslaved to wet, you burst to the surface and your lungs ache for more of whatever it is up here that just tastes so good. You realize there's way more up here than there was down there and you can see better too.

You can hear, somewhere in the distance, those waves pounding the shore being heard by a boy sweating and swatting flies on a porch in South Carolina.

The funny thing about them is that as they roll over the sand they pay no mind to us. We can build sand castles to try to stand in their way but the water won't have it. We can try to drown out the sound with music but they crash all the more. We can film them and stick them in a spotlight and draw attention to their beauty but they pulse humbly. We can mock them with barriers but they will power through them mightily.

They are constant. The same when husbands get fired and when brothers die and when babies are born and when teenagers get pregnant and when empires fall and when songs are written and when animals sleep and when it rains and when boys want so hard to just believe as fierce as the sea but let reason get in the way. These waves operate separate from reason. Blame it on rotating planets and spinning moons and shifting continental shelves and trade winds all you want and the waves will be there when you crawl back to simply see them. They represent something that goes on despite us. One way in a long list of ways God can shake us up to refresh our belief. One thing in a long list of things that proves that there is something besides us and our petty human problems.

They are beautiful to taste for a soul crying "why".

 

I believe this is all the thought I am allowed on this sticky summer's eve before my skin becomes fodder for a thousand hungry insects who will bite me no matter the vigor with which I question them.

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.

Gerbils in Our Wheels

So I wrote this post early this morning in a fit of unsleepyness at the end of a discouragingly long span of time since my last. And I figured that the middle of a "fulfilling requirements" class in between work and work was a fitting time to publish it.

Got sick of the marching band and lost my head I am the straw that broke the camel's back Sometimes you gotta let it all out

I see you talking but I don't hear words I'm just a gerbil in the wheel, caught

Sometimes you gotta let it all out

-Lovedrug

I finally got to see Lovedrug a while ago in the dingy basement of a record shop in Nashville. Michael Shepard and I spoke for brief moments next to their merch table (which he was manning) where I told him that he and his band inspired me and that he should keep fighting the good fight and that I would buy and have bought all of his cd's from eternity to eternity and all of that cliché nonsense that he has surely heard a hundred times before.

Phase 1: Inspiration Riding Triumphantly on her White Horse I watched and listened that night to songs I'd memorized as if they were new; I was inspired all over again. I wanted a James and a Thomas and a Jeremy to be equally as passionate about the things I am and to be pumped to play in a basement half full of 50 people who knew every word to our songs and to realize that's more special than an arena full of people who had just heard them on the radio before. I wrote and prayed and began looking for these people who could get excited with me about nerdy things like tone and music for the love of it and songs that were songs, not regurgitated formulas for a twisted commercial version of success (look at how hipster I sound right now).

Phase 2: The 100m Hurdles Nights like those are beautifully dangerous. They create a little bubble in the passing of time where you neither become tired nor regain awareness of the still-turning world outside of it until it pops. It lingers like remnants of a dream in the recesses of your chest so that you remember specific feelings rather than actual events that took place.

It takes a minute to readjust your mind's eye to reality. As it refocuses, people for a minute seem horrific like trees because they did not exist for the hour and half previously. Work reappears from the happy fog. The night air loses its shine and becomes humid and closes its gentle hands around your neck so slowly you can't feel it until it is too late and already choking you. You still have all of those papers to write.

However, the dream is still fresh in your muscle memory. It has embedded itself in that place where you won't and can't forget it, for it is all that tethers you to the moment that was suspended before you set out on your drive back to the desert of the real. But all of the sudden, upon arriving back home, the music will just have to wait until you turn in that portfolio and change that projector bulb and write those chord charts and collect that paycheck and run that mile a day in the spinning tire in your cage next to the water bowl and food bucket atop the bed of pencil shavings.

Phase 3: The Gerbil in the Wheel Months go by and you can't even so much as type words on the internet or scratch them out with a dying pen on paper. You can only hum other people's melodies. You never even pretended that yours were better or even good but they were yours. Stephen Crane captured the feeling perhaps better than anybody:

"In the desert I saw a creature, naked, bestial, Who, squatting upon the ground, Held his heart in his hands, And ate of it. I said, 'Is it good, friend?' It is bitter -- bitter,' he answered, But I like it Because it is bitter, And because it is my heart."

But eventually you can't even partake of it, for all of your running on the wheel. For all of your changing of projector bulbs and fetching coffee grounds and showing up at class not to learn but to be counted present and your checking your pockets for the words that used to flow through you but now dangle like the carrot in front of a donkey tied to a mill.

And all the while your legs, and your heart, pump furiously.

Phase 4: Dawn A thought occurs to you: the wheel only keeps spinning because you keep running.  Your schedule is full but you take a chance anyway and all of the sudden you get new music (still not your own, but it's a step) and new people with whom to play it. People playing who love to play and people listening who love to listen. Your cage still functions without your constant treading on the rungs of the wheel and plus, now that rhythmic squeak from the joint is gone. You realize there is more to be attained.

The wildest notion appears as well: you don't even need that wheel in your cage. You just ran on it because it was there and now you question that decision in the first place. Don't get caught up with jogging on the treadmill if you want to run a marathon. If you were created to color, don't be content with the 12-pack of crayons. Don't even be content when you get the 200-pack with 12 shades of purple and twin sharpeners in the back. Don't be happy just because you get a bigger wheel - for it is still a wheel.

Horribly overused by teenage girls on Tumblr but relevant nonetheless:

"If you hear a voice within you say "you cannot paint," then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced." ~Vincent Van Gogh

We were created by a creative God to be creative, not complacent. Complacency is a slap in His face. You were given something that you love to do, so for the love of Him who gave it to you, do it. Don't write because you crave fame, write because unless you write you feel incomplete. The same goes for crunching numbers and hugging strangers and feeding orphans and smiling and teaching dogs how to jump rope.

If we focused half of our attention on the things we were created to do than we do on comparing ourselves to everybody and everything around us, think of what we could accomplish. Beauty cannot be found in magazines, it must be pursued. Beauty is felt, not seen, and anybody who tries to say anything else is sadly lost to a generation full of people trying to be something that they are not.

I have heard people who claim to love the same God I do tell me they are not good at anything because they can't draw pictures or play the piano or make a really really good milkshake like somebody else they've seen. They are envious not of possessions but of love. They have fallen into the trap that says unless people are listening they are not successful... even though the people they envy couldn't care less if people are listening or reading or tasting or not. We must stop treading our squeaky wheels in our cages and being content with it and we must start doing what we love because we love doing it, and we can feel the Almighty smile when we get it done. Play your guitar not so people can hear you, but because you must play it.

I can't help but think that God would feel closer to us if we'd quit running our individual acts of worship by people first.

Hamilton Barber

The subject of this page is an introverted writer/musician/lunatic from Chattanooga, TN who dabbles in lexical dexterity, unorthodox thoughts on prosperity, and being overwhelmingly undeserving of the privilege of waking up every day. He hopes that everybody who reads these words takes them to heart and leaps higher than he ever could. He reads, thinks, and speaks too much; he listens, works, and loves too little; and he says “I” entirely too often. The words on these pages are not his: they are the words that were given to him.

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.

>I Think That George Clinton Is The Only Man Ever Who Wants The Funk

>I often wonder why I never get in regular, normal people funks. Why can't I just get upset about something somebody says or consumed with worry or become anxious about a test or filled with regret or jealousy? Those are far easier to deal with. And articulate.

Instead I am wrapped up in these earth-shattering, perception-altering, "everything-around-me-is-an-elaborate-ruse-disguising-something-bigger-than-we-can-realize-while-occupying-these-bodies" existential funks. It's not every day. Some days I can push it from my mind and think about something happy and fluffy (so fluffy!) and fleeting and find some sort of gratification in it, but other times I look around at things people do and words we say and cliches we repeat and clothes we wear and habits we form and obsessions we create and the absolutely pathetic attempts we postulate to accomplish something meaningful.

It is a difficult thing to put into words, because it's deeper than words. Words are part of the problem - they are nothing but signifiers pointing to a more abstract signified that we can't really prove matters. It's more of a sinking gut thing: everything is going to burn, I am going to die, and even the most indestructible thing we can think of, time, will stop.

We are force-fed a desire to consume which has been carefully crafted by something more ominous and designing and evil than corporate heads. We are inundated with guilt for not giving money to the next big cause. We hear news about the riots in Egypt and the woman who shot her children because they were disobeying and the teenager who killed his parents and chopped them up and put them in the freezer and the statistics about poverty and the dwindling job market and the rising taxes and the (gasp!) threat of companies forcing you to pay a la carte for internet so they can turn a profit and the imminent nuclear war and on and on and on... not because that is reality but because it makes the commercial market with people smiling and holding products like cheeseburgers or diamond necklaces seem like THAT is the shining beacon and end-all of happiness that you can obtain in this life. Thus begins the cycle of realizing that "oh wait, it's not that new gizmo that makes me happy, because 2.0 is coming out next month, and that is what will really do it for me."

But I'm not done. Then I think about just how good we have it here and how our squabbles are petty compared to people who, say, don't have things to eat because everything around them is rubble. Somebody dealing with their sister having killed herself. Breast cancer. Malaria. AIDS. Insert cliche world problem here.

And I'm covered from head to toe, from home to school, from wake to sleep, and even during sleep, with stuff. Insert subtly superior American "I hurt for the world when I see how good I have it" sentiment here.

"It is an unhappy business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with. I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind."

You cannot tell me that you believe that this is it, that in the light of eternity our goods amount to chaff in the wind and our problems span the sea. If you can see, like I do, that what is going on is bigger than humans could possibly contrive, that what we care about is nothing but a series of icons that point to literally nothing, then you understand the funk. It is a difficult thing to shake, because all the things we use to shake the burden of our "problems" are pointing straight to the problems that we are dealing with ourselves.

* I have to be careful with this next part. One thing that I despise the most is trite, vapid, cliche language that talks about my Savior.

What we live in ("the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air" "sons of disobedience" "vanity" "Desires of the flesh" -- Ephesians, Ephesians, Ecclesiastes, Galatians, respectively) we have been saved from ("But God, being rich in mercy... made us alive together with Christ.") as soon as we have accepted it.

Everything above that asterisk is the best that you can ever hope for without Christ, because apart from the incredibly simple, beautiful alternative to a vaporous existence, it all goes away and you are stuck as the marionette on a paper stage. We call Him Savior (some of us out of habit) because that is the best way we our frivolous human words can describe Him.

If you only ever read one more thing I have to say, I want it to be this: this solution which I just presented will cost you your life as you know it. Everything that you are will change. Being rescued is a choice that you alone can make, but know that nothing about who you are will ever be the same again. You have the option to say no. You have the option to say yes.

You can email me or Facebook message me or Twitter or whatever, and I can help you find the right people to talk to, because I don't even pretend to have all of the answers. But if it is answers you are looking for, I promise you they exist only in the Savior I just mentioned. And I promise you they are more beautiful than whatever you've seen before.

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.