When is a Birthday Worth Celebrating (And is it THIS Year)?

It always has fascinated me just how much celebrations are connected with music. Maybe it’s simply because I’m musically minded. But I do believe there’s deeper symbolism somewhere in there.

In his first volume, “The Raw and the Cooked” (Le Cru et le Cuit), French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote that music is “the only language with the contradictory attributes of being at once intelligible and untranslatable…” Songs are a story, which is something we know inherently. They’re a musical story of us.

Maybe that’s why we often sing songs traditionally without any thought or regard put into what’s being sung. Songs connect us to something deeper than even the lyrics may convey.

Ever been to a birthday party and someone doesn’t sing “happy birthday” with everyone else? It doesn’t even have to be your birthday for it to give you this incensed feeling. Even though if you were to really think about the lyrics of the birthday song, we’re singing nothing of any value. All we’re really conveying in that song is, “Hey you were born today. Hey you were born today. Hey you, specific person I’ll name by name you were born today. Hey you were born today.”

And you might say, “Well…it’s not the lyrics themselves, but the symbolism. It’s not the lyrics themselves, but the sentiment behind the song.” And so if someone is at a birthday party and REFUSES to join in singing “Happy Birthday” with everyone, we ask ourselves “then what are they even doing here at the party??” Because we correlate their lack of singing as a statement on their part that whomever’s birthday it is isn’t worth celebrating. So why are they even at a party focused on that individual?
I don’t know. This is just a hypothetical.
MAYBE they’re there not for the birthday, but for the rest of you. Who knows.

It IS weird to me though, how we just mechanistically we DO these customs and traditions without even thinking about them.
Or how often we sing songs because of “tradition” without really considering the lyrics we’re singing. But isn’t that…KIND OF what so much of our lives have become? How many (metaphorical) songs do we find ourselves “singing” without even once stopping to consider (or in some cases, reevaluate) the lyrics we’re singing?

…All Show, No Substance…

When you’re out at a restaurant and “Happy Birthday” is sung at another table, do you join in singing? Or do you refrain because you don’t know the person? What if the party is incensed because of your refusal to join in song?
Would it be ridiculous for that part to say to you, “Well if you’re not going to sing and participate in celebrating this individual, why are you even AT this restaurant?”

What makes someone worth YOUR singing about?
What makes someone worth YOU celebrating?

“Please stand for OUR National Anthem”


The song’s about a Spanish guy!

Not really.
The song is about a flag.
It’s honoring a piece of cloth.
Glorifying fabric.
Worshiping a glorified bed sheet, or board shorts, or tank top, or a pair of crocs.

But no…because it’s not about the lyrics, but about the symbolism and sentiment behind WHY you stand and sing it. You’re not celebrating the flag, you’re celebrating “the land of the free and the home of the brave.

It’s not the words, it’s what’s behind them.

“The land of the free and the home of the brave.”
Interesting description.

It’s not about the lyrics, but the meaning behind it. We’re not celebrating the flag, we’re celebrating freedom and bravery.
Whose?

Are we free? Are we brave?
Well..it’s the HOME of those that are. Okay, how many? And how many does it take to make the whole land be known as the “home of”?

What makes it the land of the free? What makes it the home of the brave?
Citizenship?
Is it “The land of the Free American Citizens,” “Home of American Citizens who are brave?”

What’s it take to COME to this “land” and make it “home”? What agency? Autonomy? …Freedom?
…What bravery?

Does THAT still count?

There’s a document we tend to honor and celebrate, kind of like a birth certificate. That says things like “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Who does that apply to? JUST American Citizens? Or was this supposed to be the country where you CAME TO in that pursuit?
Do these rights REALLY apply to ALL, or does “all” simply mean American Nationals…CITIZENS?

…All Show, No Substance…

Another song we love hearing a good rendition of on particular celebrations?
America the Beautiful.” (LINK TO LYRICS) Ohhh. SO Good!

Now there’s a lot to unpack in this song as well, but the question is still the same: What are we singing about in this song? The land itself? LAND? Worshiping LAND?? No? Something deeper?

Alabaster cities…(jars that have symbolism in Christianity of being completely poured out and EMPTIED onto Jesus)

And just what the hell does it mean that “God shed His grace on thee”…?

God crowns good WITH brotherhood (interesting that it’s not “IN” brotherhood, but WITH it…)

 

In 1852, Frederick Douglass delivered a speech now referred to as “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” Given in reflection of the Celebration of American Independence (it’s birthday…) the day prior. This was delivered a good 10 years prior to the abolition of slavery.
Analysis of the speech will convey Douglass’ desire to to address what TRULY makes an “American”? Where’s the fight? In a sense, what IS that “American Spirit”?

And yeah, Christianity plays a HUGE part in his speech. Not partisanship. Not the “moral majority.” Christianity. Where Christians SHOULD find their identity. As Americans? As Nationalists? As Republicans? Or as followers of Christ?
And his point was that this “Christian” Nation of ours wasn’t behaving very Christ-like.

This “Christian” Nation of ours ISN’T (currently) behaving very Christ-like…

But Douglass had hope that while he stated we as a Nation weren’t worth celebrating, we CAN be…

 

We may sing hollow songs because of the meaning and substance IN the song. But I like to believe we don’t sing songs that have a meaning we don’t at all agree with and believe.

America. An “Honorable Christian Nation, Land of the free and home of the brave” that currently ISN’T behaving bravely, freely, honorably, Christlike, or even AMERICAN.

I believe in the symbol America stands for, but the substance is lacking.
…A white-washed tomb…

And until we bring back that American Spirit, I may be a the party, but I’m not going to be singing.

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Filed under 4th of July, America, America the Beautiful, Celebrating, Celebrations, Christian Nation, Fourth of July, God stuff, National Anthem, Patriotism, Political (as such), The Star Spangled Banner

HIT OR MISS! I GUESS THEY NEVER MISS, HUH? (Trust Issues 2.0)

Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a white room. The white room was filled with rats.
Rats?! They make me crazy!
Crazy? I was crazy once. They put me in a white room. The white room was filled with rats.
Rats?! They make me crazy!
Crazy? I was crazy once…

When I was a kid, I all too often engaged in idiosyncratic behavior. Such as repeating a phrase over and over and over and over and over (whether under my breath, or simply in my head), or twiddled my hair until I ended up pulling pieces out.

Things didn’t change as I got older. I just got better at hiding it. And then I simply found new ways for it to manifest. New outlets.
Count stairs.
Make sure volume was numerically on a prime number.
Get my hair or my beard or anything appearance-wise to EXACTLY how I needed it to be before leaving the house. Well…before leaving the bathroom.
Checking the locks on every door.

And then things…kinda settled down. I…kinda settled down.
Things became relatively…okay. I found that having kids did manage to kick up my anxiety, but it also quelled a lot of it. Especially my OCD. You either become even more obsessive, or less. And I found myself becoming less. I didn’t need to get the dollar amount of the gasoline tank a prime number. Then volume didn’t necessarily have to be prime. Appearance, I felt free to not have things perfect. That, or I was simply coming into my own. Door locks were something I didn’t think about. Sometimes I didn’t even lock the car door after getting the kids out (GASP).

I found myself accepting more, being present more, letting go more.
I used to write scripts in my head of how I cinematically desired my life to play out, and then tried my damnedest to make them do so. And as life went on, that wasn’t the case. I took a backseat to my life and began to just let what happens, happen.

And I was fine with it.
To just let life happen to me.

But then…life seems to decide that maybe, perhaps maybe, you’re becoming a little too complacent.
Remember that book you were writing?

What about that album you were set to finish?
Remember how often you used to create, and write, and share and just…put it all out there?

And then…remember how Fuller Seminary said they didn’t want you?
Remember how your acting fizzled out after really taking off?
What about your music?
And your garden, and your backyard, and your longing and yearning for that…SOMETHING.

And that’s when life decides to basically end for you. Nah, your old life is done. Time to start over. Guess what. Remember all those idiosyncrasies? Remember that anxiety? Remember how easily your thoughts drift to suicide? Well those are all going to come back.

Because your life is over.

…but it’s not over.

It’s just that what came before is over. And now it’s something new. And it’s not like you’re new. Because this has happened before. Your life has ended…before…

Quite a few times now. And every time it has, it’s this weird mix of you being the same you, but becoming something else. Like…a Doctor Who…regenerating. Same person, becoming different persons.

I wish I could go into details. And looking back, I oh so often do. But this time, it’s this multiple front that involves SO much that’s in flux, and varying family in my life that I just don’t feel I can come right out and say. If /when things get resolved, then I’ll probably end up editing this. And I’m more than happy to share personally, so message me if you’re genuinely curious, cause it involves some pretty heavy and ridiculous shit.

So here’s where I’m at: I have this overwhelming feeling that I SHOULD be titling this post “Trust Issues 2.0”. Because it feels like a new beginning. “Trust Issues” was my very first post on my website. And it wasn’t as thematic, it wasn’t as clickbait-y as other posts, and it was a bit more freeform and just stream of thought and consciousness than any of my posts became from there on out.

Since then, I wrote (read: contributed) for major online publications, I switched career goals at least 3 times, I moved, I became a parent (twice), I began professoring, and got ordained as a reverend.

In fact, THIS POST is the first I’ve written since those last two have occurred.

I don’t have any pithy or profound endings right now. But I can say this, I really and truly, actually think it’s time to “lay down the melancholy burden of sanity” and conceive the strangest project ever imagined.

It’s time to get back to it.

Time to go to work.

->and the world WILL be better for this…

 

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Filed under Dreams, Tragedy, utter nonsense

Make the World (America) Small Again

I was equally torn between not wanting to fall asleep, and going to sleep but not waking up.

My son isn’t to an age where he has much understanding outside of his family, and his immediate surroundings. So last night as my wife and I were nervously watching the election results pour in, he came into the living room with his tiger and his penguin, rubbing his eyes, with his back to the TV, looking at us. As exhausted as I was, I wanted to get him back to sleep so I could return to nervously flipping between news channels.

And while I was aware that I was facing a choice which extended beyond meeting his needs, it didn’t stop me from still being anxious.

Nevertheless, I fell asleep on the floor next to his bed, stroking his little hand.

My wife woke me up around 1 (without calling Ice Cube the top gun), and as I stirred awake, so did my son. As she took over, I went to bed, now wide awake. I looked at my phone, and discovered Donald Trump is going to be our next president.

And I could not fall back asleep.

I was equally torn between not wanting to fall asleep, and going to sleep but not waking up.

Now, I didn’t vote. And you can feel free to tear me apart for it in the comments, but it’s my choice and I accept all consequences. I didn’t want Donald Trump to be president, not because I wanted Hillary Clinton, but because I felt I had a pretty good idea of just what America would become under his “leadership.”

And between California Proposition 60 and the Presidential Election itself, it’s clear that what America wants to get off to is an unprotected dick.

Hillary Clinton didn’t seem like a great alternative either, and I didn’t want her as acting Chief. But I could at least see a silver lining in a Hillary Clinton Presidency – even if she does a shitty job, I can tell my unborn daughter that she can be President, because that role has finally been pioneered. That’s how I made sense of the country choosing Hillary Clinton. And all I could think about with a Presidency under Donald Trump was that it was going to be just like when in high school, and my soccer coach became Vice Principal.

He was a real dick.

That’s how I made sense of this terrible election, and the state of our country.
That’s what I thought it was going to be.

And then America chose.

And between California Proposition 60 and the Presidential Election itself, it’s clear that what America wants to get off to is an unprotected dick.

I finally fell asleep.

And woke up this morning to my son quietly at the side of my bed.

I feel soft. With a gentle spirit. In the dark.

I got up, started a pot of coffee, kissed my wife (I can’t remember which order), and resigned myself to face just what the world had and will become.

It was as if the lights had suddenly been turned off and I was faced with what seems like overwhelming darkness. As a friend of mine posted on Facebook, the only way I can describe feeling is “soft.” I felt and continue to feel incredibly soft today. Gentle. And it’s a strange place to be. And a strange feeling to have in such a place. To have a gentled spirit while in the dark can only seemingly be described by just saying, “I feel soft, with a gentle spirit, in the dark.”

And my interactions with my son today have been an expression of that. Throughout the morning things have been calm, quiet, and…well, soft. My wife and I both struggled with a desire to avoid the inevitable array of news and coverage and social media. It’s easier for me because I simply have to make the choice to not look at my phone all day.

But even with that simplest of tasks, I still found myself looking at Facebook. And more than looking, I wanted to see people I knew voted for Trump gloating. But I’m tired of being angry, and I’m tired of getting angry. And I wanted to see those that also wished against Trump express their heartache. But I’m tired of feeling shock, and I’m tired of feeling sadness, and I really REALLY don’t feel optimistic.

I feel soft. With a gentle spirit. In the dark.

And it was while I was sitting at the table, finishing my food and the pot of coffee, that my son tugs on my arm again and again, telling me he wants me down. Normally I get frustrated with this, and this morning was no different. I just wanted him to let me be, to go play, and let me absorb myself in the reality that is. I want to make sense of it all. I want to plan out and prepare for all those unknowns that are yet to come. I want to orient myself to this surreal sate of being.

And he wanted me down on the floor, on his level, to play, read books, to color, to sing, and snuggle his animals with him.

Chesterton said, “…if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.

It was a form of this statement that came to mind and my son was whining and pulling at my arm and saying, “down.” There’s a scene in Man of Steel that always gets me to cry (and still succeeded in doing so when I looked up a clip for this post) where a young Clark Kent is overwhelmed by his manifesting abilities and in talking to his mom, tells her, “the world’s too big, Mom!” And lovingly, calmly, and quietly, she tells him, “then make it small. Just focus on my voice.”

 

I don’t have superhuman abilities. But since becoming (not by choice, necessarily) a full time stay at home parent, I’ve discovered that I can be present with my son day in and day out.

I can enter his world.

Which is huge and exciting and unexplored.

A world with countless possibilities, and also dangers. But a world where he knows that whenever he’s afraid, I’m there in his world to hold him and tell him he’s safe. For as long as he needs it.

Chesterton said, “…if a man would make his world large, he must be always making himself small.

My trouble is that I desire to make my world—the world—small. Because if the world is small, then it’s knowable. And if it’s knowable, then there’s a sense that it’s controllable.
I can’t see that when I make the world small, I miss out on adventures, and unknown experiences that can surprise me. I miss out on SO MUCH when I make the world small.

Which is why when things happen that completely deconstruct the world that I’ve made small—that turn out the lights—that make me feel like I’ve lost my small little world and I’m floating in the emptiness of space, I’m faced with some difficulties.

But when I make myself small…
When I enter my son’s world and see it through his eyes…
When I let go of trying to know, and trying to control…

When I focus on one voice and one voice alone…

That big world isn’t so frightening anymore.

One of the most quoted parts of the second Batman film in Christopher Nolan’s trilogy, The Dark Knight, is the speech about darkness and light. Harvey Dent says, “The night is always darkest just before the dawn.”
When I actually think about this, based on experience, it’s a bullshit statement. The night is darkest when you go from bright light to no light. It makes you feel as if all truly is darkness; as if light has abandoned you. But give yourself enough time to adjust, and you begin to see light—wherever it may be, however dim it may be.
…if you’re looking for it.

There’s a tendency to close your eyes when you get scared. And what’s scarier than darkness?
But if you keep your eyes open long enough, you see light in the most unexpected places, interacting and doing things in the most unexpected ways.

When I focus on one voice and one voice alone…
That big world isn’t so frightening anymore.

I wish I could give answers.

I wish I could say what all of this is for.
I wish I could give something tangible that helps make the world smaller again, more manageable, comfortable.
But I’m realizing that I don’t really want to.

I just want to hang out with my infant son.

I want my eyes to soon adjust to the dark.

And I want to seek the light.

I want to be small. And enjoy the world, for all the good it has.

And it sure does have a lot of good.

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Filed under Political (as such), Tragedy