HOW I VIEW MEDIA

As a person in the 21st Century, we have more methods of consuming art than ever before. Everywhere we turn is a screen ready to deliver all sorts of useful knowledge to us instantly. The low cost of entry to information allows inputs of every type into our brains, but ironically, we are not a very conscious people of these inputs. With the advent of streaming services such as Netflix and buffet style movie watching such as Movie Pass, long-form storytelling is no longer relegated to the discerning consumer who waits for the next blockbuster as if it were an event but instead is treated as one treats an assembly line object… disposable. Because of this, our attention to the toll it takes on our lives to watch movies and television, both in monetary cost and psycho-emotional cost is now seen as archaic. We have become consumers of the worst kind. We indiscriminately fill our heads at the table of media as our brains become fat and lazy.

BE TRANSFORMED

This is a problem for those who believe in Christianity. In Christ, we understand that we don’t need to be doing a sinful action for our fantasizing of that action to be a sin. In Christ, we understand that we are to think on the things that are lovely and pure. In Christ, we understand that our minds are what need to be renewed for our lives to be transformed.  Every believer has to wrestle with the way in which he allows media to play a part in his sanctification.

IS THIS A SIN ISSUE?

Where the Bible doesn’t speak to it, it’s an area of Christian freedom that is best spoken of in terms of maturity rather than sin. That being said, to love God is to love his correction, his discipline and his personality. We do not need to be sinning to recieve these things. In terms of our maturity, the question that we have to wrestle with is, “Am I loving God with my mind when i call these things entertaining?”

MINDS ON

As Christians our minds ought to be always oriented toward God, especially when our minds are perceiving things which are purposefully meant as distractions from everyday life. There is no greater distraction in this day and age than that of visual media. Our minds must be on.

THINGS I BELIEVE ABOUT ART

Where some might say that it would be better to become ascetic and purge visual media from our lives, I prefer to take the method of direction rather than restriction. I believe our minds should be given wholeheartedly to God through focus. To that end, here are a few things I acknowledge:

  1. Any creative output is a demonstration of the image of God. This doesn’t mean it is a good demonstration. This doesn’t mean that God likes what he sees. It simply means that our ability to create a worshipful song about Satan is never going to fully extinguish the fact of God in that work. Satan is not bigger than God. We cannot remove God no matter how hard we might try. Everything we do stresses that he exists. This confusion and delusion is why it’s so sad when people’s creative works are wicked, gross or demonic in nature.
  2. All creative works are worth exploring to the degree that our consciences are moved to praise God. As stated earlier, a creative work can try to not praise God. It can do this by screaming blasphemies. But even these bear witness to God, simply on the basis of the complexities of the tongue they use to deliver them, the wonders of intellect which they use to deliver them and the unique voice which they use. Without God, they wouldn’t be able to dissent creatively or otherwise. Therefore, we can praise God when we see these creative works because what man intends for evil, God intends for Good. However, if in the storm, which God made, we begin to sink… it is because our focus is shifted off of him. At this point, it becomes dangerous and sometimes not even worth the cost of entry to our faith. There are certain works which have defined this high cost of praise for various generations. You can find God in films like A Clockwork Orange, Requiem for A Dream and the Exorcist, but is it a good use of your time? In most cases, I would argue no. Let me be also clear that the acknowledgment that God’s power shines through all darkness is not a good reason to treasure such a work. These works, though still having value, should be treated as sad works that demonstrate how deeply deranged a person must be to tell the story to others. Works that we should treasure are works that freely bring us to praise of our God, not the ones that do everything in their power to remove that praise, but fail.
  3. We should be well versed in media of all kinds. When people spout movie quotes as if they’re scripture, it’s time to know what the social narrative is. Jude, Paul and Jesus himself quoted the works of the day to better illustrate God’s glory and right teaching. We should be able to do the same. Though a social narrative is not Holy, it should be seen as sacred. Respecting these stories, but lowering them to their proper value under God will help to demonstrate for people how to allow their lives (all parts of it) to be renewed by God. 
  4. Works by Christians should not be viewed the same as works by non-Christians. We operate with different premises. Of course, a non-christian movie has liberal views on sexuality, relationships, and nihilism, syncretism, pantheism or other at its core. What would you expect? We can’t expect a non-Christian to preach Christianity. Christianity, though ultimately logical, defies the world’s sin-stained reasoning. We expect to have to find the value for believers. We expect that it won’t be in the areas of Christian Faith, Hope, and Love.

HOW I REVIEW

  1. I review the mainstream. I don’t generally waste my time on Pureflix type produced titles… and if I do… I will be much harsher critics because they claim to be producing a Christ-centered form of entertainment. This is because a wolf in the wild may be majestic, but a wolf in sheep’s clothing needs to be put down.
  2. I review the themes of a media. What is the media trying to tell me about my worldview? It is amazing how many Christians have a worldview based on everything from the Matrix to the Wizard of Oz, but not the Bible.
  3. I review the consistency of those themes. Are those things consistent in the worldview of the movie or do they have to borrow from Christianity to make sense in everyday life?
  4. I make challenges based on the themes of the media. Does this apply to your life? What should we do with what we just allowed to be inputted into our brains?
  5. I compare and contrast the themes with those we should be holding from Scripture. This is not to say that we hold media by non-Christians to the same standards, but instead, we recognize that this media is always vying for a spot on the shelf of our hearts and minds. It’s important that we consistently remind ourselves of the difference between the sacred and the holy.

LETS WATCH STUFF TOGETHER

My hope is to generate discussion about these forms of input. My desire is simple. I hope to grow our filters for true praise and bring our minds wholeheartedly to God.

TIN MAN

Have you ever known someone who deserved what they got, but not the way they got it? In my line of work, I know many people who get the shaft for the right reason but the wrong way and i often wonder to myself, “who are these vigilantes who parade around handing out justice like they have the right to?”

In my world, the only person who has the right to hand out a sentence on another person is one who has put in the time and effort to live the life they claim to represent. I mean lets be honest… a crack addict, dead beat whore of a mother doesn’t have the right to give her daughter parenting advice… save the apology, and occasional plea. But when that crack addict decides to attack the character of her drug fueled child and then questions the sanctity of the child’s self worth… i have to ask myself only one simple question… a question which takes an energy out of me that is better directed toward a solution than anger. That question is quite succinctly… “who the fuck are you?” I fail to understand why people who enable terrible actions and dependencies steeped rich in the foul stench of maladjusted residuals see the need to comment on the very lives that they at best have perpetuated by their tepid interactions with their “friends,” or “family” and at worst have literally fostered in some sort of deep corrupted information… can any geeks out there say “cyclic redundancy?”

If someone is your friend, that is there responsibility. It is not a title to hold for someone you are hoping to get something back from. Friendship is not a fucking loan… and you are not a loan shark… wading in the seedy underbelly of the urban ocean… waiting to poach the next person who can’t repay your “friendship.” Friends are people who choose you. They don’t choose you cause its convenient, fun, or they get something from it. They choose you because you are you. Yes, I said it. In that totally cliche “like like” tonality… a friend chooses you cause you are uniquely you and no one else and that makes you valuable and something to keep around… to appreciate, to be inspired by, to cherish. A good friendship is only mutual in that it always has at least two partners with an understanding… but the same is true of business transactions, and any number of normal and podantically uninteresting interactions. Friendship is not just interaction… Real friendship is also active rather passive. Friendship is motion given to relationship, couched in the excitment and glory of meeting a person who makes sense to you on some sometimes unexplainable plain of existence.

That friend that says that you’re all that one minute, and the next minute forgets who they’re talking too… they don’t really get it. And the moment that chemistry that drew you together becomes the thing that drives you apart… best recognize… they don’t know you, they never did. At that point, the only thing left with to process the insults at your character being shot your way, is the character of the person attacking you… not the chemistry. Apparently that particular bond wasn’t so covalent. And it doesn’t really matter if the other person is dead on… because what they say might be right… but how they say it screams a sad truth… you were never as good of friends as you thought you were. They had “other” intentions.

People deserve more than that. Our real friends deserve more than our forgetfullness and senile ranting, as if we somehow betrayed Jesus Christ himself… even if we did. People should treat their friends as something precious. We all should treat each other better, anything less is an annoying top 40 hit… A dj who doesn’t respect the essence of the song quite often kills it.

THOSE WHO WALK THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE ALWAYS FALL OFF A CLIFF

MONDAY, AUGUST 31, 2009

Why is that people get creeped by other people being geniunely authentically invested. I’m sure that there is a combination of multiple things at play here… and not to get all Mayberry on our proverbial asses, but I have to wonder why it is that when a neighbor extends a hand beyond the fortresses lining our urban landscape… we get creeped. My wife and I spend quite a bit of time with mid to late adolescents, and the apparent and glaring truth of the world we live in seems to be that it is not kosher to care about people in a way which is inviting, hospitable, and authentically you. Why do social norms include in them a taboo on playing video games, watching netflix, eating dinner, and talking about life with people who are in a different generation? Why is it that its not okay for a kid to crash on my perfectly respectable couch if he’s tired? Why is it not right for grown men and women to hang out and impart a little wisdom on younger generations who could use a little support now and then from people who figured out how to get where they wanted to be in life? Why can’t we want friendship without having some insidious or off kilter neurosis lurking behind our curtain of hospitality?

All of these questions disturb me to no end… but here’s a few that disturb me more. Why do parents discourage activities like these, but stray away from confronting their children with behaviors that are unhealthy like smoking, drinking, and premature sexual exploration? Why do parents pretend to care about their kids, but not check their myspaces, facebooks, cellphone logs, twitters or other rediculously open ended social networking tools? Who the fuck says to their kids that people who are straighter than straightedge must be freaks, but you should go hang out with non-established kids with drinking problems at fucking frat houses with kids who write songs about drinking and partying? Who the fuck are these parents trying to impress? The truth of the matter is that my wife and I shouldn’t have to answer legal questions for kids who get in fights and ruin their new nose job which itself came about from falling down a flight of stairs after a binge of drinking in the middle of a fucking snow storm. We shouldn’t have to leave work to come pick up little girls from parties when the cops show up, and then argue with their parents about whether they should be allowed to drink or go with their boyfriends to kegers. We shouldn’t have to take children to the local Planned Parenthood to make sure their not infected with a fucking STD or getting themselves pregnant. We shouldn’t have to talk with kids for hours on end about how their mommys are fat and lazy and their dad’s cheat on their mom’s. We shouldn’t have to go to people’s swim meets, and plays and not see a parent present. We shouldn’t have to teach kids for half of what were promised and then get fired when they don’t like that we recognize that kids are people too in a fucking email. We don’t need to pay for people who aren’t our kids because no one else even realizes that kid has no one to pay for them. We don’t need to open a room in our house and take time from our lives to raise the children that everybody forgot.

but we do.

What we do, we do with force, and voracity, tenacity, skill, intent, direction, stamina, and drive… We step with passion to open our lives on all facets to anyone who needs us… We learn how to be good with man and God. We teach what we learn. We provide for those who don’t have. We know the truths about these kids that they don’t dare tell another soul… and in all this… we push reconciliation. We demand a standard of authenticity. We ask these kids to learn healthy relationship with everyone… including their parents… correct the legacy where its gone wrong, push the legacy further where its right. Take a sad song and make it better… always better.

and yet we’re the freaks? We’re the outcasts? 

thanks. Maybe parents should put a little time in getting to know, the babies they wound up and let go and we wouldn’t be having this problem… but probably not… because bitching and gossiping is easier than accepting responsibility and learning to be an adult… that should tell you something… kids come to us because they want to learn how to be an adult, to accept responsibility and control freedom… be right with God and man in a healthy cohesive worldview. That’s what we provide. That’s what we do in our family. 

If you’re offended by the fact that this is how it is, that this is how it has to be… That we are not just another “normal” couple involved in “normal” things and minding our own fucking business… if you’re offended that this is the way it has to be… then that’s a start, cause guess what… so am I.

SWEAR THIS SENSE OF URGENCY

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2009

There were some students this year who found out that their newspaper program had been cut. This was supposedly do to a lack of interest in the program, although last years controversial issues and articles had, last we heard, generated a large interest in joining the staff if only to challenge the forward thinking of the writers. This cut doesn’t come as a surprise, tho it’s reasoning seems sketch at best. Resources are being cut left and right from our kids. What is to be done? What type of world do we live in where aggression, and mechanisms are taught and glorified but expression is quashed under the weight of a new football field? Something must be done. The future needs to know that it’s voice means something. The future needs to know that it’s tonality, and vision are important truths to be shared with paintbrushes, and pencils, fiction and fantasy, cameras and cadences. But instead the message is sent that “the man” has time to teach you how, but not why… to entertain, but not to experience,to tell but not listen. Ultimately Budget cuts are administrators ace in the hole when referring to programs being cut. Budget cuts are simply not a sufficient excuse for the neglect of personality perpetrated on our youth. Sprawling landscapes filled with construction workers and equipment that create buildings for learning with new electronic white boards and the latest incarnation of a Macintosh paint a decidedly pointed picture of a pocket which is not empty, but a priority which is. The priority of the administrations of the school system is sports and government standardized benchmarks. The issue of the students learning to process their inner dialogue into a healthy and tangible reality for the world around them is a second class goal, taught by ostricized teachers who are right in their hearts, but misguided in their often enabling class structures. An administrator who cares about their kids will not let money decide curriculum. They would quit before under equipping their children. Instead it is clear that their vision for their children is largely expressionless, rather than emotive and authentic. Their vision is one of benchmarks. Like the parent who blindly and vicariously shoves their kid into a sport which the child has no desire to play or need to learn from. “This’ll toughen the kid up… it’s good for them.” Not only has this epidemic of mechanistic parenting infiltrated our school system, but its encouraging our children to reach these benchmarks by creating emotiveless and inauthentic residuals which are seeded in pleasing the system rather than learning about how they can be who they are in an authentic and healthy way. With this said, the Arts which dictate the pulse of our American society, and demand a level of credibility for their work, by simply mentioning the name of a a notable author, actor, comedian, or musician, are relegated in the educational system as a less than noble pursuit… one which is prioritized less than learning the quadratic formula and playing football. Are we really so daft as a society?

Human beings of all ages are wired to express themselves, whether by words, drawings, music, or dance… we as a society need expression. Art has always gone before culture, whether it be the renaissance and the enlightenment… or pop art and the rise of MTV. By not providing an outlet for kids to express themselves in a way which is directed, mentored, and guided… we risk far more than a child who has discalculia having a lifelong love affair with a calculator. Art is seminal to existence, it can be cultivated and grown and is essential to our very being… it is the reason for science, mathematics, philosophy, and sports. There is a reason why at the deepest wells of human culture we find drawings depicting and emoting concerns and observations of life. Ask yourselves why accompanying these drawings we don’t find explanations, and mathematics around every corner. Where as food, shelter, and water are the basic needs of the body, relationships through expression is the basic need of the human spirit.

This need has always been seen as sacred to the American people. America was once a land which valued the voice of the people as an accurate meter for justice in society, and encouraged the free association and distribution of the press as a necessary polarity to balance the might of a government. But our microcosms of society where we learn the boundaries, and responsiblities of the world we live in choose instead to see the associated voices of students as a burden… a free-thinking radical danger that is best left forgotten through underfunding than fought for as a necessary vigilante in an overwhelmed Gotham. This week the students of Gladstone lost their newspaper program among the plethora of other forms of expression. I wonder how many of them will think that a new football field or an extra class room is an adequate trade for their freedom to think and speak and challenge a totalitarian system? If the answer is no one, than we are most to be pitied. But if we find that there is even one who knows better than to lay his freedoms and interests at the hands of machine. Who refuses to sell his voice for a parcel of land… send them to me.

RATHER THAN DREAM, HAVE HOPE.

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 3, 2009

My band nearly broke up yesterday. Not the way that one might see a band breaking up, over an ironic cacophony and yelling and depedancy driving bottles of booze, but over a simple truth. Life goes on. In the world that we started “Rather than Dream” within, it was the 1990’s, and we were still basking in the glorious accomplishment of a walk across a platform where a sheet of paper was handed out denoting that we had arrived at the adult side of life. We graduated together, though I schooled as far away as i emotionally could from my fellow alumni. The relationship that ultimately became our band wasn’t a fraternal follow-up to the highschool experience, nor was it the post adolescent dream of three artisans on a quest to be the next Iron Maiden, Tom Petty, or even Rather than Dream. Our band was formed from the realization that we needed to make music. As cliche as it may sound, it’s the truth. As Luke and Joshua soon found out in College, highschool band just wasn’t the same familiar experience as the college band. My foray into the highschool choir left me with a distaste for choirs, as well as a mistrust for the ability of an entire school to recognize the difference between pitch and key. Joshua Cook asked us to try making music together and the rest is history. In one night of unadulterated symphonic passion, my poetry was brought from the static form of the page to the fluid form of the air by Cook’s piano and Lucas’ guitar. We wrote the song that would later be named “Coffin Doorway” with seemingly swift abandon or recognition that we were three guys who’s only musical training lay in the hands of a public school, and God. Yet, the music poored out. Not simple three chorded melodies, but masterful blends of elemental harmonies drawing upon three very different tastes and musical preferences. Where Luke brought a simple rock progression with Tom Petty into the band, Cook fused an appreciation for 80’s classic balladiers like Billy Joel and Air Supply. My vocals often were inspired by a bizarre amalgam of Freddie Mercury in the tone of Alanis Morrisette and the three together became an unpredictable always original tonality which became our first and to date, only legitimate LP. Recorded by overlapping ourselves in narcissistic and monotonous harmonies, we captured the raw sound of a powerful and equally raw time in our lives… a time which forced us all to grow out of post adolescent mazes into open and endless adult hood. The band became our public sketchbook, a storyboard of the life we had lived, and had plans for living. Within the album and the recordings you find sketches of prophecies self-fullfilled lurking about each corner. We gained momentum, respect and even a mild following. But somewhere along the way, the need to make music began to turn into a need to make ourselves. This I believe is a natural part of growing up… the stage of adolescence where in a child realizes that he has a specific part to play in the world… that he is important beyond the roots that had grown him. Rather than Dream began to grow beyond its parts. This was a reflection at its core, exhibited in the changes of jobs, marriages, births and other benchmarks in the term “adult.” This played itself out in the band with a number incarnations bringing the band multiple guitarists and a bassist over the last decade… but in that time, when all is said and at least for now done… The original Rather than Dream became the original three. We had come full circle, and in trying to make sense of the spinning motion of the ride had to ask ourselves… what now? Last night, we sat as the original Rather than Dream and asked ourselves… what do we have to show for it? Where do we find our purpose and our self worth? Is the sum of our existence quantified in the number of guitarists we have gone through, or the lack of our bassist, lost to this countries own adolescence? When a man stands at the middle of his hundred years upon this planet and asks himself these same questions, he ultimately has to live with the story played out in the lines under his eyes and the gray in his hair as he stands before the mirror within the home he’s built for himself. Does he find that he waisted his time in his pursuit of money or fame? Does he see in his face the eyes of his children and the face of someone who has been loved? As we an artist stares into this mirror, the story that speaks back to him is his art. His emotion plays out on whatever canvas he has chosen and the tail it tells him ultimately decides the future of his path… does he return to where he came from and find a renewed spirit and the knowledge that he was right in the way he accomplished his vision… or does he break his gaze from his own tired eyes into the abyss of a lack of follow through and pipe dreams. For us, we saw that what had brought us to where we are at was a noble pursuit… the pursuit of expression. We remembered the value… the pride and joy that we gained when we first loved our music… when our songs were born. And from that moment we cannot help but remember how good it was to be Rather than Dream. Last night, we almost ended the marriage that is Rather than Dream, but instead we chose to remember. We played the song that makes my friend cry, the song that made my friend wonder, the song that took my tears and channeled them into rage and passion, we played the song that drove our friends to move to the beat that we set before them… we played, “Song for the Peoples,” “Blue Rain,” “Chasm,” and “Knightfall,” songs that meant something to us… we remembered that they mean something to us. Sometimes, when life changes we choose to follow suit and forget the things that weigh us down. In doing so, it is easy to mistake those things that are inconvenient, take up our time, or challenge us to grow as weaknesses in our future. We treat them like an annoying child, and neglect them or thrust upon them something that is unreasonable or harsh. We can often forget how much we need them, forget how much we love them. Last night the band came to the precipice of adulthood and asked necessary questions about the future of the band. We came to necessary conclusions about our identity, forged by our past. Last night my band decided to remember itself and return to our roots of writing and recording and being authentic to our relationship forged in a love for music and artistry rather than fans and fame. Rather than dream about what might be, we decided to be who we are… and that vision makes having an authentic and realistic hope for all things a little more tangible in this diluted and confusing world called adulthood.

THE TIN MAN’S HEART IS A CLOCK

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2009

Not all moments are important, but without the strand of moments brought together by an individuals perception from one point to another… we would not understand the moment we find ourselves in now. Time stands alone as a road which lets traffic’s flow beat upon its cold stone path in a never ceasing cavalcade of parading little humans, scurrying to and fro… without the fro. In every moment we percieve to be the greatest most important moment of our lives, we find the potential and probability for a truer statement… that this too will pass. But somethings do not fade away into history. Somethings continue to haunt us, past the moment. Somethings stalk us, and remind us of their presence with the passing glance of an ex-lover or the non-chalante repose of a forgotten friend. Time always rushes us along, but the human mind steps back and remembers. With the aid of the heart, it wages a valiant battle against time and space but ultimately falls prey to the never failing spectre of an old man with hourglass in hand. But is the battle lost in the wake of an ultimate defeat? The soul says no. Resoundingly, we stand in the face of time and push to shard its cohesion. We break the rope into the strand, the strand into the fibers and own the pain and joy of every passing moment as if it stood on its own… apart from its past, in defiance of its future. How do we balance the line? How do we own the moment for what we are… finite beings caught in the ebb and flow of a vast sea which end has no percievable end or beginning? Do we own the moment and forget its context, or do we step back and away, losing the moment in the tussel of a million moments constantly collapsing one upon another, like a single page in a Tolstoy novel? 

Learning to balance in this tension, to see the layers of the design, to place your heart into the now while your mind resides within the ether is the path to learning what it means to be human… to be fragile and finite, and yet sovereign and substantial. Walking the streets of our lives we see people everyday caught in the one or the other… residing in the depths of the moment… caught in the trauma and concerns of the now or the then. They live as if they are trapped, caged by a sickness of the mind and paraded as circus freaks amongst the general population. In converse we see those who live in constant pursuit of the big picture… they long to look down upon jerusalem and call the now… theirs… because they stand above it all. Kings do not have the concerns of mere mortals… but they also easily forget the fragility within our lives. To be a human being is to be both the prince and the pauper… and to do this, we must appreciate what role time plays in our lives. 

Time gives us the ability to move past the moment to a new point, while still connecting us, anchoring us in the context of our own existence. With the connective web of time on our side, we can step away from the moment and appreciate the trauma’s that made us as construction on the road of life. We tear up what was there and build a new structure with better and more fluid ways of achieving what we long for. I’m thinking of a friend whose trauma helped to shape the now; her actions creating a resounding echo of the way she felt… the way she still feels. But time moves still, finding us in different places without catching the motion of fading events and as humanity grows in each of our souls, we begin to see the end on the horizon. A line is drawn acrossed the canvas of our personal history helping us to balance and walk and navigate through the fog of the moment. It is this time that gives me hope. The moment when a friend in the darkness becomes a companion on the tour. When we no longer walk the corridors of our minds as a labyrinth, but rather as a museum of our exploits… truths about us not presented to our friends as trauma’s but rather as time honored benchmarks in our character that have shaped us into the individuals we are today. It is a wonder how we get to that place in life where a directionless post adolescent living in the now stands in the mirror and looks into the eyes of a wise and patient man… relying on time so he can appreciate the moment. When i look at my friend, often lost in the smog of the moment, I remember that one day she too will lead her own tour… passing on her legacy and wisdom to a new generation lost in their own shadows.

THE EMPEROR HAS NO CLOTHES

Have you ever been working really hard at something you new needed improvement, only to be told that despite your investment and effort, the tasks you completed were to short, the focus you pushed was to narrow and the ideas you proferred were never good enough to matter?

This is the chorus of my life, filled with rants and complaints but rarely solutions or direction. My place in the greater scheme of things has always seemed to be the avatar of the middle ground. I constantly find myself pushing for growth and tenacity from one side, while pleading for grace and maturity from the other side. 

Yesterday I found myself in middle earth once again being asked to bury the ring in the pits of mt. Doom… This time however, it involved sprucing up an underfunded underkept little known fort of ours that we call home. Being in multiple leadership positions, i can sympathize with the concept that when something is run down and at times decrepit, it reflects negatively on a number of nuances which help to build a pleasing and welcoming experience. Tattered paper signs littering the glass windows do not a pretty picture make. With that said, there are for more important details which when neglected create a much more imposing and omnious picture than a bland and unimaginative “no skateboards allowed” sign… whether it reads with a tattered edge

or in pristine condition. These slumdog markers, may rally a certain patheticness to the upkeep of a building or business, but they are a second class sidekick to an unkept and tattered second rate dollar bin, vegas carpet or a knee high field littering the respective yard of weeds and litter. The effort of a crew to maintain an establishment whose owner doesn’t not believe in ownership is a naive practice

at best and anyone who can’t see their own responsibility as the underlying cause for the situation they are in is foolish at least. Blame and pointing aside, there are two ways to solve a problem such as this, the first is to micromanage and the second is to provide and then trust. I learned long ago from the brutish nature of certain men that at one point managed me that tho fear and punishment may seem the 

easier of the two… it is also the less effective. It is always more effective to be gracious in action and mentality than to be entitled… even if you are. The merits of whether something deserves funding lies in the hands of the person who owns it, but it should be noted that the upkeep and the downfall of the establishment is always with the common man. The common man decides whether to frequent a local shop

or to boycott it. The common man decides whether he is being farely treated or abused in his labor. With that said, the common man may fight for what his heart wants to protect, even if his body or his pocketbook cannot defend it, but he has a limit. Standing in this establishment meant to entertain and protect the hopes and dreams of entire generations through expression on a strip of mylar… I ask myself, is that 

worth a minimum wage and grief from an absent parent who only visits with a threat or a curse? Life is about more than this. And those who work in this generation have been bread and programmed to see this sort of investment through abandonment as the worst type of fake. If the pay was good enough, the lack of true relationship between business world castes would be acceptable, seasoned with the flavor of money and swallowed as a tasty but ultimately empty venture… but this flacid excuse for ethical business practices has hardly any preservatives left in it with which to make the job worthwhile. The reason people keep with a job that doesn’t appreciate the workers is not money, its relationship. Like Patti Hurst in a Stockholm driven delusion, we keep wanting to be with our captors… wanting to be loved. This is the tenacity of the human spirit put in the context of capitalism. A person will enslave themselves to give or be given love. This truth is not expressly negative. Sacrifice is both seminal to the human narrative and essential to the growth of every culture and generation… but the way in which we sacrifice is a choice of the people in charge of the supply. What have we become when even a casual greeting is withheld as a formality…an unessesary intrusion into the normal working hours. What have we become when we fixate holy on the anomalous tear in the corner of a sign that was printed in haste to supplement a need promised but never fullfilled. What have we become when we look for the bad and dismall, but never hold them in the stark contrast of new efforts and innovations. I stand in the middle of management and lowly worker, and ask myself… “can a system which stares in the mirror and hates its own appearance, but does nothing to change it last much longer?” I do not know what will come of this place, but i do know that long after this place has come and gone… the value of it resides in the honest and authentic efforts of the people who powered its wings and gave it cause to fly… Shooting it down will only accomplish just that. This era will come to an end, how we treat those who are withinour care will help to shape their success and ultimately ours. One day I will step from the middle of twilight into the shadow of darkness, or the bright light of the sun and when i do… i know who will be standing with me… standing amongst the ruins of a kingdom which could not outlive its peasants.

THE GRIMM FAIRY TALE

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 2009

What do we do when the answers we were given as children are no longer good enough? Simple tales of good and evil line the fabric of our childrens minds played out in propagandized fables of heroes and witches and beautiful heroines strewn in the castle tower high atop an array of dastardly villains and henchman all told in the king’s high english and circulated by a Disney artist. When the dream of a black and white reality crumbles into gray, when the witching hour takes us between night and day… what do we tell our children who can see that the world is not so small, not so simple, not so safe? I wish there was an easy answer for how to protect them. The relevant truths state that if we push them to hard, they will inevitably prove Newton’s theory and show us an equal and opposite reaction… one which usually leaves a family broken and a child branded a rebel. On the other hand, if we let them alone… we risk allowing them to slip into the dulldrums of teenage bliss… where highschool quickly fades into the best days of the life of a graduated nobody. I for one am not content to do either. I believe firmly in the concept of knowing what is ahead and being prepared for every possible situation… especially the ones which feel inevitable. In this case… i feel that there is a looming darkness to the inevitable… the loss of innocence. Santa Claus is dead, and in his place is an imposter… one who has broken into your house to perpetrate a lie… and he is not alone… he is one of a syndicate, an insidious army of men in red who one night every year dupe the worlds children into opening their doors and their hearts to an overweight old man who promises them toys. This loss of innocence is the cynicism that goes with the revelation… the anger in the stage of grief. When there is trauma… can we really expect to keep the bomb from becoming? Adolescence is a tricky thing. It is a time where parenting becomes defined by its ability to interact, while all the while it has been preventative. I cannot keep a child from experiencing the things which i couldn’t prevent, though i can prevent the child from experiencing what i keep from them. But in doing so… in sheltering the birth of a new era in development… what do i sacrifice on the child’s behalf? If my child never sees the history from the legend, and the myth from the fantasy… then a different kind of innocence will be lost… the converse loss of a right to pure and innocent adult hood. We cannot take either from them. It seems that what is most important, is not so much knowing what to do… but knowing whether i should do it. I stand before my progeny in tension with the utmost respect for who they could become, and how they need to become it.

MORE THAN WHAT WE HOLD

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 7, 2009

Never count out God. I don’t like to be Christian centric in my writing and I’m not going to be here, but those who know me, know that I am a big fan of God. I’m not somebody who parades around my faith as a thing for the masses to gock and stare at like a trophy or a merit badge I won for learning the art of weaving baskets. I hold my hope in something much more dear… and like most things which we hold in earnest, that means that I take it seriously and with a certain reverance that is simply untenable when compared with a Joel Osteen church service… even if it is the largest, most widely acceptable church service this side of a Billy Graham crusade. Those who know me, saints and sinners alike know that when it comes to God and my relationship with him… I treat it as authentically as I can. This includes the appropriate colloquialisms and slang, the pop culture as well as the prayer. I believe in being frank in my faith and this attitude carries with it a full time job. My authenticity is not a reaction to my faith, it’s a reaction to my hope… a hope which I have because I have seen God’s hand in real space and real time in really outlandish ways in my life. This presence has shaped my life in a way which can only be qualified and I stand before humanity in awe of it. Often in life, this leads me to a choice. The decision to take a road which is easier and normal, or the path which is narrow and less travelled. Those who know me know full well which path I have chosen to stride. My narrow path is one which I have run with such striking abandon that it makes those who watch me frightened to follow me on such a dangerous precipice, but at the same time mythologize my particular brand of humanity as something unattainable… a fact which often feels more a curse than a blessing. My wife is one of few to join me on the precipice of the narrow path, most others fall or turn back shortly after beginning the journey. I have mused to Mashayla that their’s a certain sense of providence to the way in which I stride with such reckless abandon through the countless pitfalls, tossing my talents, my time, my efforts and my possessions to the wind for the chance to make it to my final goal, and yet Mashayla seems to pick those items up after each careless toss and return them to me making up for my seeming lack of sensibility. It is in this way that I have often said that God loves me more than he loves her. And yet, she walks it well. As a life lived narrowly, we have had to forgo a large amount of things that other couples, even christian couples, take forgranted. We give our time, our home, our autonomy and our money to whomever God’s direction lays upon our hearts and in doing so we approach almost every day with a sense of duty, order and economy. This has allowed us opportunities to embrace God’s prime creation on a level that most other humans rarely experience… however, it has also led us to learn how to pinch every penny, eat less and save more. Sacrifices must be made, and on this path… we are the ones who make it. What is always interesting to me about what I do, is not so much what I can’t do, but rather what God does. The rampant providential thread of God shines through to many moments in my life that I cannot help but have my passions and my hopes fueled in a way which is at best weird to most, and at worst negligent to others. Yet I say with pride in my God that he cannot be counted out. Where I fail, he does not. Where circumstances refuse to throw me even their scraps, God sets down a feast in front of Mashayla and I which is bountiful and enough to feed not only my soul, but the souls in my care. It doesn’t take a christian to know that God’s hand resides in mine and Mashayla’s life in a way which is undeniable and unique. The season approaches where Mashayla and I will be called yet again to make choices upon the narrow path. We will not have enough money, food, hours at our jobs, or time to be a family… and yet I percieve a hope and a sense of wonderment… because I know that God cannot be counted out of this equation. I know that these struggles will not only provide yet another opportunity for him to prove his presence in my life… but they will also help me to remember that I can run… run along the narrow precipice and be not afraid. This sense of security will give me another reason to hope and to share and to love in an authentic way, and there is something about this that is far more important to me than a stable bank account, owning a home, knowing when the next meal will come, or living worry free could ever accomplish for me. This continuing revelation is not only worth remembering, its a truth that shapes who I am… its bigger than me and at the end of the day… knowing that something is more powerful than my drama, my bills, and my reality is ironically comforting.

BLOOD AND HERITAGE

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2009

We often times lift a certain standard above any other when it comes to relationship by relegating that standard to the position of a series of automated responses to normative circumstances. Therefore, when a person calls me a friend, it is because of the way in which i have fit his criteria for friendship. And when I am called family, it seems that i have earned that title by almost supernatural means and my actions now seem to become representative of that force of blood coursing, metaphorically or not, through my veins. Family is an interesting and loaded concept. Wrought with angst and a trepidation, we trapse around the word’s meaning while often times never really bestowing upon it any sense of certain understanding. We find family in bonds that often times are unexplicable, unreliable, and often times unhealthy. Yet, that blood coursing through us seems to gel us together despite these things… even with immanent death looming on the horizon of our choices. When I see family, I acknowledge my blood, but I find myself drawn to those that have a like mindset and understanding as myself. This is not to say that these people must be at the same level as I am, or that they play the same role, but instead that they value the same values and uphold the same principles that I do in my daily walk. Perfection is not a criteria, it’s an ideal worth striving for, but often a lifelong chase after the unnatainable. I’m not describing a relationship of perfection, but rather a relationship which respects and perpetuates a like context. I find myself calling people family when they get who I am in the now, and who I will be in the next… knowing that it won’t always be the same. This is not to say that they accept who I have become… but rather that they expect the same standard of me that i have touted about myself. Thusly I think a true test of family lies in our expectation of someone to follow through, regardless of circumstance or convenience. This is often a difficult standard in and of itself because consistency requires a fortitude of will and an intentful direction which cannot be handed out in a handbook or a 12 step program. The human being thrives in rules and regulations, but not on them, and the family that is founded upon rules and regulations rather than intent for relationship and common values is a house without a foundation. This is the first truth of family. I often see colleagues and cohorts rise to lift friendship out of its rightful place and bestow upon it the name “family” only to watch that family fall past its own origins and disintigrate into nothingness. I for one seek something more. I long for a day when I can look at my family and see that it is based in friendship and mutual understanding first… and that this first cause inspires a relationship of blood and heritage. As I strive to see this family within my friends, I cannot help but step back with a sense of awe and excitement as I often feel that i peer into a future filled with generations like us… sitting on the cusp of relational greatness, fortitude and wonderment… If only we would see and hold each other as something beyond the circumstances and the trials and this mortal shell