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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Barber

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

A Metaphor-Laden Examination of the Situation at Hand

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

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

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

I apologize. I feel slightly metaphorical this morning.

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Barber

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

The Great Deactivate

*Apologies to those subscribers who got an early version of this that accidentally got sent out this afternoon. That's the last time I try editing something on my phone. The surgeon general, with his useful occupation of slapping labels on things generally addictive, cancerous, and harmful to your health, should have warned us about this.

It starts out humbly, innocently.

You indulge initially because of the insistence of your friends. They promise it will make you look cooler. They assure you that you'll meet more people because of it. They guarantee it's fun. You oblige, log on, and immediately sense the overwhelming universe you have just stepped into. It's over your head at first; you suppress the initial resistance to its probing, intrusive questions about the intimate details of your life. You experience the rush of your first internet connection and from that moment are hooked.

Because of its overwhelming nature, for the first few weeks you are fine limiting yourself to getting on only after dinner or before you go to sleep. You haven't yet established a network or strong emotional ties. The color scheme hasn't yet engrained itself in your subconscious. You haven't yet learned to turn off the "chat" feature because people don't really use it yet. You are fine breathing deep the complex web of connectivity and letting it settle in your lungs because it doesn't yet pose a threat to you.

Pretty soon you are at work or at school and a moment approaches you subtly on your lunch break where an email pops into your inbox telling you that so and so has offered to expand your social network by one. Not yet by instinct but by choice, you click the link and are awed by the simplicity of accepting his request. There is a sleek redirect to the home page where your neighbor is inviting all who care to view it a series of pictures of their new living room layout. Or their dog jumping through a sprinkler. You chuckle at the innocence and go about your day.

Soon, however, the occasional lunch break check-in turned into the habitual lunch break check-in. You find yourself keeping a tab open on the home page to wait for the chiming notification of somebody appreciating your wit while you write a paper about something you don't care about. You get text messages sent to your phone every time somebody pokes you. You download the free Android app. Sure, you wouldn't twitch if you were ever disconnected from the constant stream of information about people's personal lives... but you are never disconnected. You can quit whenever you want.

Facebook becomes your standard for communication. There's no need to talk to somebody that you meet because you can just friend request them and then read all about the things they want you to read. You can prepare your face to meet the faces you will meet.

We confuse who we are with who we project that we are, making it quite difficult to cope with the flaws we so blatantly try to hide... which is even more disturbing than the idea that we are addicted to a website or can literally sit and look at the same page with anxious expectation of the smallest little change. Or that we know open gossip better than ourselves.

Sure, I believe that, like just about everything else in this world, there is a time and a place for things like Facebook. I have gotten in touch with some long-lost friends (and I use "gotten in touch with" very loosely), saved myself some effort in relaying mass messages, even promoted this blog. However, is it worth those good things to lose myself for hours clicking through page after page of people I don't like to read things I don't enjoy about topics I don't care for?

I weighed my options, considered the fact that, in all honesty, Facebook just doesn't matter, and clicked the "deactivate" button (It's amazing the guilt trip they get you to go through upon clicking that button, by the way).

Perhaps the lovely, inspiring Reagan Nolen said it better than I could: "I am tired of having Facebook tell me who a person is and what they are all about. It’s time to actually get to know the world."

 

If you heartily disagree, decide to cut the cord yourself, or think I'm just a crazy, delusional kid blabbing on the internet, feel free to discuss. I would love to hear from people, no matter what you have to say :)

Hamilton Barber

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

Peacocks, AKA The UC Pianist, part II

I suppose that if were somebody critically analyzing a story of my life, they would note the strikingly literary symbolism of the piano in the UC. I have written about it before and firmly believe that it inspires this deep kind of thought that transcends the petty issues of school, much the way the music from its ivory keys wafts above the meaningless conversation of sorority girls and fraternity brothers below it. It incited a train of thoughts that left me with a pen in my hand, shakily scratching out thoughts as they came to me in the little journal that I keep in my backpack, full of half-completed thoughts and rambling sentences and things I am sure I always meant to come back to. What follows is the SparkNotes edition of the thought process I was having. For words cannot do thoughts justice.

I began to trace a trend that turned knots in my stomach, for the drastic implications of it. I was reading, reading, reading, occasionally stopping to listen to the once-in-a-while student enticed enough by the empty instrument to meander up and touch the keys. They would piddle for a moment before launching somewhat absently and self-consciously into whatever melody was occupying their minds. Some players were more skilled than others, but all, despite the level of their piano proficiency, made music, no matter how simple, and nobody who was listening really even stopped to notice. For the moments that somebody was playing it, it filled those gaps in conversation between best friends, lovers, and classmates, alike. It is a simple, somewhat philosophical tool meekly presented to all who care notice.

However, the thing that got me thinking was that none of these players were female. Not one girl played her song on an instrument that, at least until recently, had been regarded by many as a girl's instrument. It made me wonder why, and the scary train of snowballing thought began.

'Perhaps it is some sort of liberal feminism kicking in on a massive scale and making girls not want to play it for that very reason,' I thought. 'The conformity to something stereotypically "female" to satisfy some oppressive and subversive "masculine" influence somehow influencing the expectation of their decisions... In a strange reversal of roles emasculating the male and having "unsexed" (to quote Lady Macbeth) woman scoff at their feeble unconscious attempts to fill the gender gap.'

But I doubted it. I tossed several theories around and discarded them quickly, no matter how sublime a grandiose uprising of "woman" against "man" would seem to an English major constantly in the throes of analysis. What I decided upon was far sadder than what the theories of liberal feminism cast on my heart - because it is far more difficult to counteract.

I have had conversations about parts of this before with Reagan and others, particularly about, for lack of a better term, the "clothing crisis" sweeping the country. About how if women want to stop being treated like objects they need to quit blaming it on the misogynistic male and start dressing like something whose brains are not in their chest. **(Note: My lawyer would like for me to note that I am in no way shoving blame for the treatment of women as objects on the women being treated like objects.)** I looked around me and saw the terrible reality unveiled, like the curtain of Oz pulled back, as to what "woman" had been reduced to (by an equal amount of effort from both parties): a grotesque mix of makeup and show.

This is what boys expect. This is what girls see that boys expect. So that's what we get. No girls went up to play the piano because the ones that were in the UC this morning were less concerned with playing music and more concerned with making eyes at any boy who walked by staring at their chests.

But even more unfortunately, this isn't even about rampant sensuality or sex icons or cleavage, it isn't even limited to girls. This is about the deplorable state of our very identities. Who we are has been lost to a culture consumed with the idea that in order to be validated, you must be "attractive" and you must have sex and you must spend every waking moment in somebody's arms or in somebody's thoughts or else you are a waste of breath. I've never seen an ad that tells you to spend your Friday night reading a book.

And so arrived my train at the station. I was suddenly sullenly aware that this is what people have been reduced to. We are nothing but Peacocks flashing our colors. We are nothing but crickets chiming a mating song as we rub our legs together and wait for somebody to notice. We, boys and girls alike, cake the makeup on to cover up what we are because we're more comfortable being who we think people want than somebody who still secretly thinks that Pokemon is cool. We are the revelers at the masquerade while the Red Death flits unknowingly from room to room, all of us stopping to notice how great a job he did on his costume.

I cannot imagine the toll that such vanity takes on our souls. I cannot see how, as a person, it is possible to develop while you are painting over who you are. It is clear as day to me why we have such a dependency problem - because you can't be alone until you are comfortable with yourself.

There is no makeup strong enough to shield yourself from your own eyes.

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.

>From Facebook to, well, Thoreau-Inspired Trains of Thought

>I think that I'm going to take a break from Facebook for a while, if not permanently.

This is in no way my assessment of Facebook on any intrinsic or moral or ethical set of values, all it is is me coming to this point of realization of what is necessary and what is not. I realize that by typing this on a macbook pro in my bed with a fan and air conditioning (and a very nice guitar still out of its case, the body probably warm from my body heat and my belly full from a meal that I ate not too long ago and 140 people following my twitter and fifty plus steady hits a week on a blog that is nothing but my thoughts) that statement can seem rather snobby, naive, even elitist in light of the definition of "necessary," but I ask you to bare with me for a moment.

I've found myself for the past week or so calling into question all of these things around me and wondering just exactly what I need. I drive a very nice car, when really something with wheels and an engine would do just fine, for example. As my day goes on and I interact with more and more of this stuff that is, at its core, totally made up, little things start to seem superflous.

We have all of these protocols for things like driver's licenses and Bachelor's degrees and line cutting policies at theme parks and what to do if you're seated in an emergency exit row on an airplane and the baffling thing to think about is every one of these things is completely contrived. Were we, as humans, meant to be able to propel a piece of buffed, waxed, curvy machinery using a series of pistons and controlled explosions in order to get from one place to another? Were we meant to be able to store 120 GIGABYTES of music in one location to access at any time?

Then it moves to things like: Is it natural for this world that used to feel like everything that could exist to start to feel somewhat hokey and contrived? Why do I feel like we are missing the point of all of this ridiculous stuff that we have when it literally begins to control us? What in the world could I possibly gain by clicking over on the open Facebook tab I have sitting just to the left of this one out of compulsion to see what other people are up to?

Paul seems to have thought about some of these same things and felt similar feelings towards them (although they clearly were not iPods or cars, etc) and come to the conclusion that we are not of this world when we are found in Christ. I have read that part a million times in my life but when he says, "For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body...." (Philippians 3:20) I HAVE to believe that he was questioning the legitimacy of his surroundings. He knows, beyond a doubt, that all this stuff that's here is all well and good, but it's not us. Our citizenship is not here, so there's a reason that this should not feel like home, because frankly this place isn't even worthy to think about the dwelling place of the Almighty, even though we do.

It is a strange feeling, indeed, when things appear to you as hollow alloys and plastics and items made by sweatshop labor. I'm not at all even starting to begin a political debate, and absolutely nothing about this is politically charged, because frankly politics makes less and less sense the more I think about it.

So to come full circle (somewhat), I'm kinda done with Facebook. Each time I had access to a computer I was checking it, most of the time several times each session and I'm just a little bit tired of it. Does all of the above mean that I'm going to sell all of my stuff and live as a sherpa wearing animal skins in the woods? Absolutely not. I love my music. I love my guitar and my pedalboard and my computer and air conditioning and fans and sleeping under tons of blankets in the winter. We humans were created with the spark of originality. We can construct computers from metal and electrical signals and I believe that God looks upon the way that these people He created use their God-given minds and smiles because creativity is part of Himself that He put in us, whether we believe in Him or not. This also must literally frustrate the hell out of Him because so many of us humans shake one fist at Him in anger or turn around and state that He does not exist, while we, with the other hand, demonstrate a small spark of Himself that was put into us. That separates us from the beasts.

Does He look at the depravity into which we have dug ourselves with the things we made using His gifts and shake His head and turn His back and whisper "be gone with them?"

No.

He looks at us with His arms spread, just waiting for us to take the hint.

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.

>Man vs. Self

>

3.....2.......1.......

Commence breathing.

And at the same time, hold it in suspension - relish that suspension and the impending breath that lingers in your lungs - because what is to come will take it away all over again. It's one of those "this is you now, and this is you for the rest of your life" things I think, and I can classify it neither as good nor bad. 

I classify it like listening to Bon Iver break out into a 5 part harmony round during a break in the clouds in the middle of a downpour in downtown Chicago. The weather is bitterly cold, with the breeze rolling off of Lake Michigan whipping at your dripping wet skin, causing you to curl up a little bit to preserve what blood is left in  your veins and keep it near your heart. Your knees are knocking together with the surge of people around you ebbing and flowing, mixed with the bone-freezing and biting chill engulfing your skin. 

And yet you can't feel anything except for the rising and swelling of your chest when your head is encircled with the sweeping and soaring harmony escaping from the stage 60 feet in front of you. You don't notice how cold you are, you notice that the rain stopped right when they approached their microphones and that a small beam of sunlight seeped through the clouds to illuminate the band members as they exposed fifteen thousand people to the deepest questions of their soul which can be posed only through melody. 

All of that is meant to expose the paradox that I feel like I'm experiencing. I have more questions than I have answers and I have no tool to explore them other than my mind; I cannot work them out like math on paper or like philosophy in conversation, but only through countless nights lying awake in bed and contemplating the ceiling. This is a battle to fight with myself, for no man may intervene and alleviate the struggle. No man COULD intervene and alleviate the struggle. 

The music has become more melancholy as of late. There is a story in the works. There is a conflict of interests at hand. There is a frustration that will not be untangled. And yet, I know there is also an escape... the most beautiful escape of all, for not only will He take these burdens onto Himself, He already has. 

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.

>Think About It

>

I remember distinctly one night as I was partaking in the joy of bottomless coffee and a texas bacon steak melt from Waffle house spotting a man sitting by himself in a booth and striking up a conversation with him. I don't like it when people are lonely, and this man looked lonely indeed, so I set out to fix that loneliness by giving him somebody to talk to. I told him hey and that I'd seen him there before and introduced myself as Hamilton, to which he replied that he was Steven and he was always at this Waffle House. We began to talk about the graphic novel he was reading on his computer screen and I told him that I hadn't read many graphic novels but that I immensely enjoyed the graphic novel that spawned the movie "Watchmen," which I had read around my freshman year in high school. He shared with me the joy of the art of comic books and graphic novels, which moved to his love of computers and on to his passion for learning.

He hadn't finished college but worked a tiny little dead-end job that paid enough to take care of rent, and seemed to be content with this. Also, despite not finishing college, Steven completely obliterated any thoughts that I considered myself well-read. His bookshelf, he described as his "Sanctuary," was full of everything from Javascript and CSS++ manuals to Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. We started talking about deeper things than heavily inked pages of color and art and I mentioned something about things that are more abstract, something in the far reaches of space and contained in vast nebulae in a distant solar system completely oblivious to our existence. At this point, he told me that he did not believe in things that he could not either see or reason himself to. 

This was a valid logic, I told him, because I recognized the frustration with things that could not be explained. I asked him what about ghosts, to which he said absolutely not. I chuckled in agreement and asked him what then about aliens, attempting to test his logic. "I see no reason why I should believe in extraterrestrial life, for it does not pertain to me at all," was his response. I pondered a second at this and asked him how, in an infinitely expanding universe where we are but a cell in the skin of the fabric of existence, he could reason himself to believing that no life exists anywhere else. I took no side, but merely questioned the logic with which he arrived at the definitive conclusion, as per his previous stance of only believing in things he could see or reason himself to. He acknowledged this thought with a nod and told me "what you want to believe, I'll be the last to stop you."

I knew exactly where he was headed with this and then asked him "so what about God?" At this, he immediately froze up and physically turned away from me. "I see no reason why I should believe in God," he said. I continued to ask, gently and without probing, another series of logical questions to try to get him to realize that his hypotheses had gaping holes in them, but he would have none of it. I assured him I was not attempting to convert him to a God-fearing citizen or bring him to the side of Christianity, but to merely have a conversation that stretched both my beliefs and his lack of them. He eventually excused himself from the restaurant and, with somewhat of a perplexed tone, told me he didn't think that "you people" (talking about Christians) knew how to think. I smiled and thanked him for the veiled compliment and offered to buy his coffee, but he refused, paid, and walked out the door.

What he said about Christians not thinking made me wonder for a minute just what it is we're called to do. I know that we are to trust and have faith and believe that God will be the guide to our path, but I think that in no way this excludes us from figuring out these things for ourselves. We are called to "test the spirits and see whether they are from God" (1 John 4:1) and we are to "work out our own salvation with fear and trembling" (Phillipians 2:12). I have seen the same trend that Steven referenced with Christians taking and accepting at face value everything they are fed, whether it be by a Preacher or a thinker that they respect or a friend who seems to have sound logic. I think that doing this completely perverts what we are expected to do, for the more comfortable we get in another's doctrine, the less it becomes our own. Salvation is not a topic that is corporate, it is a personal issue that is only attained through the personal recognition that Jesus is Lord and that He is the only way to God. We know that we are to follow Jesus as the Disciples did, but this means something completely different for everybody, as it first starts with belief. In order to have belief (as elementary as this is), you need to believe, and you cannot believe based on something that somebody told you. It needs to keep you up at night and bring you to tears in the car and force you to shut off all of the music and noise and motion and distraction around you so that you can focus your mind and heart on the God who will do anything but scream at you. Sometimes He will be cryptic and sometimes He will be vague, and other times He will be completely silent... Jacob wrestled with God in the desert all night, and only after that He was blessed. Nothing about this tells me we are to sit back and choke down what we is put in front of us.

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 Spoonful of Cynicism

>All play and no work has made Hamilton a very dull boy. I need a season to get here that involves me wearing something other than sleeves, jeans and socks at all times, because my skin needs to breathe, otherwise the paranoia cannot escape except through that conveniently placed hole in my head called my mind. You know that phenomenon up in Alaska where it's dark for months at a time? I have a feeling that horror movies happen daily up there, not because of some incessant amount of poorly scripted carnage but because without light, the darkness that surrounds the people seeps literally into the pores of their body, as vinegar will dissolve through the shell of an egg to achieve homeostasis.

It's funny, I've begun to notice recently a few truths about mankind (there will be exceptions to each rule, of course, and I am not in any way ruling myself out here but bear with me): We are, each of us, full of ulterior motives. Smiles are (for the most part) forced, as we are afraid to share our thoughts because we deem them either inappropriate or we recognize them for the schemes that they are. When we have something on our minds but we don't want to acknowledge it, instead of saying "yes I have something on my mind but I really don't want to talk about it yet," we say "nothing." Some might call this category "lying," but that might offensive to some.

The next thing I've noticed is that it is literally impossible for everybody to be happy at once. Compromise has become a four-letter word and a worst-case scenario. I'm talking both about the secular world and the Christian world (which may speak to a different problem, but that's a different rant entirely), as division happens in the church as much as anywhere else you could imagine. You cannot please both your friends and family, you cannot excel in school and work, you cannot focus on creation and retention without shifting your focus back and forth, unavoidably neglecting one or the other. It is not a malicious neglect either, but a necessary and absolutely inevitable neglect, and one that will probably be taken personally...

Which leads me to the next point, that man is the center of his own universe. This is the reason that we are incapable of agreeing with each other, because if we were focused on something other than ourselves for ten seconds we'd realize we are smaller than the most minuscule part on a massive technical contraption. I'm trying to take my own advice here, and I realize it's hard, but I also realize that it could be the solution to all of the problems countless causes and support groups are trying to fix. Think about it: if we really were thinking of somebody other than ourselves, we wouldn't need to assemble teams to take food to homeless people on the street, we would spend less time explaining why that guy is wrong and more time inviting him into our home when it's cold outside and loving him despite his opposite beliefs. But getting every person on this earth to think of somebody other than himself is impossible, and so crime rates will rise and murderers will be set free and no amount of money we throw will stop a war, as has been predicted since the beginning of time.

Perhaps I'm just bitter today. Perhaps I've been doing this thing where I can't seem to please anybody because I'm trying to please everybody, for I cannot choose who I should try to make happy and who isn't worth my time. I want EVERYBODY to be worth my time and I want the people I'm not looking at for the second to understand that it is not that I'm looking away from them, I'm looking at somebody else, for there is a huge difference. I only have one set of eyes, and I have a thousand staring, waiting for their turn for that contact. Perhaps I was just overwhelmed for the moment.

Hamilton Barber

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

>Figured Out

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

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

1.

2.

3.

4.....

notice a pattern?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hamilton Barber

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

>Love and God from the perspective of a coffee-fueled creativity

>I would like to take a moment this morning before I leave for work to discuss something that will probably make some people mad.

We here in middle to upper class America have somehow developed this mentality that our standard for happiness is the correct one, and should be the standard of happiness for everybody worldwide. To these people, I offer these questions:

1) Why would anybody want to be held to the principle that happiness is equated with physical, tangible, burnable things? Why would we place our joy on the shoulders of something that can be ripped away from us as easily as it can make us smile? Why is it when we don't have our computers for a week we feel an emptiness in our lives that cannot be filled until its return? If money is what makes us happy, how can it be good when we have to make up excuses to not give it away? "Oh, that man is clearly going to buy drugs or booze with it." Do not misunderstand me, I'm not saying that it is right to give what you earn to the first person that asks for it (this is a topic for another day), all I'm saying is don't lie to yourself about your reasoning for being stingy.

2) Why would anybody want to be a part of a society where your status is determined by the neighborhood you live in, the college you go to, the grades you make, the computer you use, the restaurants you frequent, the girls you date, etc. I have met more brilliant people in Waffle House at 2 in the morning selling their paintings to get enough money for bus fare than I have listening to the complaints of people who are affluent enough to be able to whine that their steak isn't rare enough. I have heard the ideas of more intelligent thinkers who are addicted to heroin or meth or are working 3 jobs to pay their half of child support while waiting tables at Denny's than I have sitting in a class of people society has deemed "high brow" in an intellectual class at an expensive university. I have learned more about God from watching a child play in a pool than I have from 90% of the people that I meet in churches.

There are more, but I'm going to have to leave soon. I think what I'm trying to say is something that has been stated and overstated for years, and is, at its core a message of love. Something you can hold is something that can be taken away from you, so it is pointless to place your trust or joy in that thing. Find love though, and you will see that nothing can take it away from you for anything in the world. Find God and let me know not when you lose Him, but when He loses you.

Hamilton Barber

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

>The Silence

>Starting two days ago, I began what I am calling a Silence, and I think that it is something that everybody needs to try. What happens is pretty simple, actually: I am cutting out all superfluous noise in my life for two weeks in an attempt to fill my head less with what other people are creating or saying and replacing it with what I'm creating.

I started work on a new album and I have been having a terrible time giving it a unique touch, and it dawned on me that this is because I have everybody else's ideas floating around. So I'm taking a break from the deluge of extraneous thoughts and doing everything I can to start fresh. Zeroing the scales. Resetting the status quo.

Doing this has already affected me: when I'm driving in silence, I roll the windows down and let God serenade my ears with the sounds of whatever's chirping or whirring or purring or chugging or sputtering along outside of my car. I let myself get lost in the sound of my engine as I shift from first to second, second to third, third to fourth. I hear the people in the cars next to me talking to their spouses, best friends, lovers, sisters, teachers, doctors; I hear white kids blaring Rihanna and black kids blaring Nirvana and the sun helps me see that this world is a more beautiful place than I originally realized. My thoughts have drifted away from myself and I begin thinking about where the person in the green cadillac is headed, where the lady driving the red F-150 lives, if the girl in the blue Bug knows that I can hear her belting Avril Lavigne from across the intersection.

Atticus Finch only said half of it when he told Scout to see what it's like walking in another man's shoes. You can't just walk in their shoes, you have to deprive yourself of your own shoes. Once you take yours off, it's that much easier to slip into somebody else's.

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.