month of may

May 2013 was an amazing month for music. So much good music was released that my ear stomach is going to burst. It reminded me of a recent jaunt to the Dockside restaurant in Coeur d’Alene. It was my wife’s birthday and she wanted to have brunch with friends. When we walked into the room where the spread of food was laid out like an amusement park, one of our dear friends (who had never seen this kind of buffet previously) actually started weeping while having visions of the afterlife and a heavenly feast. I ate several pounds of breakfast meats, made to order crepes, an everything omelet, had 4 different flavors of mimosa, and many dessert goodies. It was almost too much.

My wife’s Dockside birthday brunch is to food as May 2013 is to music. It was almost too much. So many great albums were released that I have not had time to digest all the music I’ve consumed. For those of you who don’t keep up with new releases or if you were in a coma last month (maybe you had brunch at The Dockside), I’ve posted some of the best releases from last month below (4 major recording artists and 2 of my favorite local bands from Spokane).

Modern Vampires of the City
by Vampire Weekend
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The first two albums from VW didn’t grab me. I couldn’t feel a connection between the music/rhythms versus the lyrical content and melodies. This album, however, knocks it out of the park.

Once I Was An Eagle
by Laura Marling
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I first heard Laura Marling a few years ago when she was singing with Mumford & Sons. I think about each of their most recent offerings. While a don’t like a lot of the choices Mumford and Sons made on their last album, I love just about every choice and risk Laura Marling made on hers. This might be the best album of the year.

Trouble Will Find Me
by The National
Print
Another brilliant record from one of my very favorite bands. It’s different than High Violet for which I’m thankful. To be clear, I love High Violet. I just prefer when bands take different directions and explore new musical avenues. This album will take a few listens to start catching all the nuances.

Random Access Memories
by Daft Punk
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One of the more hyped albums of recent memory. When the teaser came out, I pretty much crapped myself. I love the end result, although I’ve heard a few negative things from some of my friends. These particular friends simply aren’t ready for retro cyber disco jams made by robots from the future.

Off My Chain
by Cathedral Pearls
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One of my favorite Spokane bands. CP wrote, recorded, and released these songs in the span of a few months as a DIY project. The songs have a congruency and intimacy that comes across nicely as you listen to the album as a whole. Caleb Ingersoll did a really nice job mastering these tracks. You can listen to and buy the album here.

Les
by Dead Serious Lovers
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Technically, this album was released on April 30th, but that’s close enough. Another great Spokane band. This album is definitely worth your time…unique harmonic structures throughout, lyrics that tend to be sullen and sometimes cryptic but always poetic, and great melodic hooks. You can listen to and buy the album here.

the pantheon of great animated movies

If the internet is good for anything, it is good for having a list for almost everything. (See listverse.com). Top 10 lists can be definitive, but many of them are extremely bias and are mostly conjecture. We all tie a bit of our identities to the things we like, the things we think are best, and that’s why we’re drawn to lists. If we agree with the list, then our very lives are validated and all is right with the world. If we disagree with a list, then the author is either trying too hard to be a cool smartypants, or is an uneducated ass-face. So get ready to give me either high-fives or punches in the face as I present to you the first of my “Pantheon” lists of great movies.

A couple of quick notes:

  • There is no hierarchy or particular order in the Pantheon.
  • Each Pantheon will have 5 to 7 movies.
  • Each genre has its own Pantheon, and genres will have specific parameters (for example, “Jerry Maguire” is not a sports movie…which is a moot point because that pile wouldn’t be in the Pantheon anyway).
  • I have an open mind, and I’m willing to hear your arguments. I’m totally willing to bump something out of the Pantheon if you can make a good case. So, please chime in and make comments. Also, if your movie gets into the Pantheon, I’ll buy you an ice cream cone. Seriously.

First up, a genre very dear to my heart, Animated Films. I love watching cartoons with my kids more than they do…and yes, I did solicit their opinions for this list.

Akira – The landmark “Japanimation” film. If you’ve ever wondered who actually watches stuff in the “Anime” category on Netflix, it’s all those kids who watched Akira in the late 80’s and got hooked. I remember watching this when I was 10 years old. I’d never seen anything like it, especially when the first motorcycle gang fight against the clowns happened. This movie is in the Pantheon because it successfully bridged anime into an American sub-culture.

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Pinocchio – There has to be a classic Disney film in the Pantheon. Walt Disney considered Pinocchio and Fantasia to be his masterpieces. I went with Pinocchio for the Pantheon over Fantasia because of the strength and timelessness of its narrative.

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Wall-E – Choosing a Pixar was tough too, but I landed on Wall-E for a few reasons. The film succeeds with basically no dialogue for the entire first act. It makes poignant political statements without being heavy-handed. Most of all, Wall-E reminds us of our creative potential as humans, and begs us to not trade beauty for convenience. Amazing!

Wall-E
My Neighbor Totoro – In so many modern children shows and movies, adults and children are pitted against each other. You often have a child protagonist and a mean, bossy parent or teacher (or whatever authority figure) in the child’s way of so-called happiness and freedom. My wife and I have tried to avoid these films (and there are many), and we have been delighted by the way most Miyazaki films approach family relationships. In My Neighbor Totoro, the parents and grannies of the world are loving and therefore loved by the children. The parents aren’t portrayed as obstacles, but as nurturers. Also, consider how fast-paced children’s movies are in our current ADD culture. Miyazaki films move at a different pace, and there is enough beauty, adventure, and mystery to hold any child’s attention.

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Beauty and the Beast – I love a good musical, and this one still makes me laugh and sing out loud. The story is classic and timeless, and has one of the all-time best villains in Gaston. You could argue that The Little Mermaid paved the way for Disney’s new era of animated films, but BATB is simply better and it solidified everything TLM started….and as far as “Disney Princesses” go, I’ll take Belle over Ariel any day.

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a bird in the hand…

I watched Silver Linings Playbook two nights ago with my wife. It had some heavy subject matters; mental illness, divorce, death, depression, OCD, domestic violence…and despite all this, it was whimsical, hilarious, and immediately earned a spot in the pantheon of great romantic comedies.

I don’t intend to review the film (although I may at some point), but it made me think about writing and the purpose of my blog. In the grand scheme, I don’t expect this blog to matter much to people outside of family, friends, and myself. If this is truly the purpose (connecting with family and friends, and personal catharsis), then I want the subtext to accurately represent my character. I think I’m failing to do that.

As I look through previous posts, I don’t think anything I’ve written is out of character, but it seems I mostly write about big, deep, complex, heavy things. I feel like I have to outdo myself every time…going deeper, more insightful, etc. Here’s a few examples of my recent articles that were 50% written but then given up on because I was too frustrated, perplexed, or overwhelmed with the subject matter:

  • Think Before You Publish: How to lose friends and look like an idiot in one easy step.
  • Why the media is making a big deal about gay athletes.
  • Mumford And Sons is the new Rage Against The Machine. (I might finish that one).
  • How singing competitions have caused us to become a judgmental bigoted society.

If this blog is sincerely to be about Sprung Rhythms or re-learning rhythms of life, then I’d do well to jot down the small things too: the stuff that seems inconsequential but actually matters most. It’s the stuff that’s real…not ideals, hypotheticals, or intangibles.  Here’s a few ideas of things you might see on the blog in the near future:

  • My “Pantheon” lists of great movies
  • Local music and art in Spokane
  • Daniel’s movies (The Banana Bandit series, and new projects).
  • Eating ice cream
  • Birdwatching
  • Stuff about my kids (which may annoy you because they’re so damn smart and cute.)

I want my family and friends to know about the real stuff I love and enjoy….and who knows, maybe I’ll start really loving and enjoying things more myself.

birdhand

healthy beauty – a new year’s reflection

Before today, I hoped to write a reflection of the previous year full of clever anecdotes, deep personal discoveries, and shiny pearls of wisdom for you to oogle at. I wanted so badly to have some profound insight regarding current, relevant happenings…maybe something political, like gun control…maybe something religious, like the “end of the world”…but, to be honest, I’m having a hard time thinking of anything that’s not sickeningly self indulgent. My 3rd child was born, I started a promising new job, I’m doing this, that, and the other thing…blah blah blah. Of course, I’m not saying these things are bad or that I’m a 100% selfish jerk (it’s only like 70%). It’s just frustrating when one’s writing goals are to make one’s self sound like a big, interesting, smarty-pants. One can exhaust one’s self! (those last two sentences were written in a snooty English accent)

Perhaps my cynicism is due to the recent news of my mother’s health and some thoughts I’ve had about beauty. The week before Christmas, I spent a significant amount of time with my mother in the Emergency Room at Holy Family Hospital as she dealt with intolerable pain. The drug she had been taking for cancer treatment had a number of unfortunate side-effects including high blood pressure and severe body aches. FYI – She is out of the hospital now, off the chemo drug, and is recovering at home. Treatment has been an up and down roller-coasting nightmare for that last three years. Mom has endured the ride in hope that recovery may be possible. Last week on Christmas Eve, her doctor, along with his “support team”, let her know that recovery is not possible (in his medical opinion), and his recommendation is to pursue “quality of life” rather than pursuing a cure. I generally understand what he meant by “quality”, especially in the physical sense. Mom will feel better (at least for awhile) if she is not on chemo-therapy drugs. Of course, I couldn’t help but think that there must be more to it. What would actually make her life something of “higher” quality? What would make for a beautiful last few years…months…weeks?
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As a measuring stick for what others find to be beautiful, I observed the things people are sharing on social media, photographing, discussing, etc. I wound up feeling slightly numb and a little bit icky. It reminded my of a visit to a friend’s lake cabin when I was a teenager. I remember walking onto the T shaped boat dock in the early morning, looking at the glass-like water. My walk broke into a run toward the end of the dock, anticipating a cold but refreshing plunge into the dark water. I dove in. My hands were the first to cut through the thick slime sponge that was lurking, invisible, about 4 feet under the surface. My head, shoulders, chest, and belly submerged into the muck and then stopped when my hands hit the actual lake floor. There was a moment of panic when I wondered if I was stuck. There was a second moment of panic after I pulled myself out and resurfaced. What the hell just happened? What was this brown, pungent goo on my face and in my ears? I had such high hopes for that moment…and I got covered in weeds and poop. It’s not completely fair to compare that particular dive into the lake to “diving into social media”, but it was the feelings afterward that were closely related. Why do many of the things we find beautiful or interesting end up feeling so shallow and gross?

It seems that most of us are addicted to the sensual. Beauty has become limited to the things that look, smell, taste, sound, or feel good in the moment. Beauty becomes something that exists to be consumed…traded as a commodity. Momentary transactions that only continue to satisfy when they become more profane and sensational. When it is reduced only to our personal and subjective senses, we end up with societies (or social networks) that find it easier to criticize and consume, rather than nurture and cultivate beauty. Sadly, when I look at the things that grab my attention, and also when I share things that I hope will grab the attention of others, this “sensual, cheap, momentary” form of beauty is what I see.

Last night, as my 6 year old daughter was going to bed, she walked over to Nona (my mother) kissed her and said, “I love you Nona”. I thought about how one year ago, my daughter wouldn’t even say “goodnight” to Nona. She used to think that Nona was mean and bossy, but after a year of my mother’s patient kindness to her, Hannah now adores her Nona. This is beautiful. To think that my daughter is watching someone endure tremendous suffering, battle constant pain, deal with uncertainty, put up with annoying relatives (like me), and to witness my daughter watching someone, in spite of their unfortunate circumstances, pour out love and patience and kindness directly to her…..that is beauty of a kind that will resonate within me through 2013 and beyond.

I hope 2013 will be the start of many beautiful things.

photo Hannah and her Nona

commonspace arts

I had an English teacher who once said, “Good writing is like a woman’s skirt…it must be long enough to cover the essentials, but short enough to keep things exciting.” Her excellent metaphor was only hindered by the fact that I was a middle school student, unprepared to process an image of my 68 year old instructor in a short skirt. It must have made an impact, however, as it is one of the few things I actually remember from the class, and you’ll be happy to know that I’m applying the principal in this very article.

I want to inform you about a project that I’ve been working on for the past year(s) called Commonspace Arts. In doing so, I’m going to make a modification to Mrs. Horlacher’s writing advice. I will offer both long and short versions, as opposed to a single, tedious, knee-length version. The short version promises only the essentials (for people who don’t care about the back-story, my personal journey/struggles, or the social and economic impact of the arts in urban contexts). The long version promises only to be longer (with a bit of the aforementioned nonessentials).

The ‘Short-Skirt’ Story of Commonspace Arts 575043_191509974319542_2091679_n

Commonspace Arts is (or will be soon) an organization that provides shared workspace to those who do creative work. The spaces will share these common benefits for its members:

flexible hours
natural light
free wi-fi
storage space
coffee
urban location
office supplies (fax, printer, paper, etc.)

Along with these tangible benefits, sharing the workspace will provide members with creative synergy, community, and other opportunities.

The first space will be in the center of downtown Spokane on S. Howard St. It is currently under construction and will be ready Spring 2013. For questions and connections, here is the contact info:

info@commonspacearts.com
www.commonspacearts.com
http://www.facebook.com/commonspacearts
https://twitter.com/CommonspaceArts

The ‘Long-Skirt’ Story of Commonspace Arts

About two years ago, I felt stuck. I was working for a church as a music and arts director. While the work was enjoyable and had its value, it was also ghetto-ized and homogeneous. It became obvious to me that my understanding of arts and culture was terribly limited, and I felt like the small town kid in those movies that desperately wanted to see the rest of the world (I tried to think of an actual movie, but I could only think of Footloose and Sweet Home Alabama…so, I’m either Kevin Bacon or Reese Witherspoon, take your pick). I decided to do what anyone who wants to become more culturally fluent does….I Google searched it. Of course, reading about art doesn’t make anyone an expert or lover of art, but it lead me to two things that significantly shaped my posture toward art in general and my city’s culture specifically. First, were the writings and art of Makoto Fujimura. His writings describe an understanding of what art “does” and an artist’s role in culture that is very clarifying. I won’t rehash it…just go here and read. Secondly, I traveled to St. Louis for a conference on the formative nature of art. The basic idea was that art, music, and physical space all offer certain aesthetics that form and shape us into certain types of people.

Upon returning from St. Louis, and after reading some other books about the social and economic impact of art, the “creative class”, “creative economy”, and all that other stuff that smarty-pants people write to explain away the beauty and mysteriousness of art, I had two questions. Who are the artists being shaped and formed in Spokane, WA, and what are they doing? I started reaching out. I joined a band. I started talking to people (a big step for an introverted, kinda awkward guy like me). The band was great. We played and wrote music together, we performed a bunch of local shows, and I met many kind, interesting people. We also recorded an album (and it’s quite good, IMNSHO) which you can listen to and buy here. During this time, I was contacted by a guy (who I’ll keep anonymous) that wanted to show me his art studio. It seemed a little odd, but he hinted that I could perhaps use the space. It was in a historic building in downtown Spokane, so I figured it would be prudent to have a look. We met in the black and white, marble lobby of the Symons Building on Howard St. and took the elevator to the top floor. We then took the stairs up another flight that led us to a large, heavy wooden door. It opened to a rather small room (about 600 square feet) with wood paneled walls and ceiling. It smelled like your grandparent’s lake cabin…smoked in, radiated heat, DSCN0637dead birds, musty. The old linoleum floor was covered in abstractionist paint splatterings from wall to wall. The natural light from the four windows spilled in and exposed the thickness of dust in the air. I was excited. At the back of the room there was another door which led to a smaller darker space…dirtier and smellier than the main room. He was trying to convert this small walk-in-closet-type space into a dark room for photography, but it was full of junk, pigeon carcasses, and old furniture. Strangely, I was even more excited. Then, back in the main room, we approached another door that required us to step on a cinder block and up to the threshold. We were now on the roof of the building. I took a 360 degree turn and surveyed downtown Spokane. The Symons building is only 5 floors, but the view from the roof is pretty fantastic.

We agreed that I would start using the space to do basically whatever I wanted to do, and this man that I had met just 15 minutes earlier gave me a key. I gathered a small group of friends (artists & musicians) and we started meeting regularly in the space to hang out, make music, and dream about what we could do up there on top of the Symons Building. We developed an idea for a shared workspace for creative professionals. The basic premise came from a lot of the literature I had been reading over the last couple years – that if we provide an urban space for artists with all the resources they would need to do their work to the highest potential, then more artists would consider making Spokane a more permanent place of residence….and if more artists decided to reside in Spokane, then this would perhaps cultivate a more diverse, beautiful, vibrant urban community…both socially and economically. We named this idea for Spokane, Commonspace Arts. I contacted my friend and designer Karli Ingersoll to develop the logo. The project resonated with her as she is a very active advocate for the arts in Spokane (Karli and her husband are currently raising money to open a live music venue in downtown Spokane called The Bartlett. Please check it out here and support them!).

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Spokane is already a naturally beautiful place, and there is a deep well for any artist to draw from. The goal of Commonspace Arts is to come alongside the natural resources of our city and help provide new social capital and relational resources not just to artists, but to all of our neighbors in Spokane. Over the next 3-4 months, we will be launching our website with more information specific to membership, working to build relationships in the downtown Spokane community, and planning some small fundraising events. Please get connected and and stay tuned for ways support this project!

info@commonspacearts.com
www.commonspacearts.com
http://www.facebook.com/commonspacearts
https://twitter.com/CommonspaceArts

changing your friend’s diapers – a reflection on political discourse and caring for people

Everyone has a particular reaction to political discussion. It can be saddening, infuriating, invigorating, but it seems like most folks are generally repulsed. I count myself among the squeamish when I see people throwing political daggers and dropping religious “truth” bombs. More than ever, especially with the advent of social media, it seems like the daggers are more piercing and the bombs more explosive. Admittedly, I’ve blocked certain “friends” from my news feed as to avoid their repeated offerings of nonsense. Seriously, what’s more annoying than reading some pile-of-BS post from someone who is obviously just parroting their favorite website’s opinions? Right?………well, I dunno. Even if I’m right, I don’t feel less annoyed or squeamish, so, maybe I’m not right.

I thought about this for awhile. It turns out that I’m not really annoyed by my annoying friends, but rather, I’m annoyed that they annoy me. Does that make sense? No? I’ll put it this way: It’s frustrating that somebody can make a stupid statement that causes me to be pissed off. Why does it even offend me?

You see, my 4 year old son is, by definition, annoying. He makes silly, uninformed statements all day long (with an unusually high-pitched voice). He ordinarily means no harm, but sometimes, his aim is definitely to provoke me. Granted, there are occasions where he is successful, but mostly, it doesn’t bother me. In fact, I find it endearing. Of course, my patience for my own offspring is quite a bit different than it is for somebody who I never spoke with in high school that is now my friend via the “like” button. I love my son. I’ve changed his poopy diapers and I still wipe his bottom when he makes a “messy”. I would not help 94% of my facebook friends if they had a “messy”. But wait…why not?

I wondered what would happen if I was in a situation with my estranged facebook friends which called for me to actually change their diapers. No metaphors, just simply a load in their pants. What if they were disabled and needed help…would I have compassion? Would I have mercy for them?

All ridiculousness aside (although I do think that comparing political opinions and loads of shit is apt), political opinions reveal things about us, and it’s not just who we intend to vote for. We all view the world from our own particular angle. We have come to our unique position by way of our parent’s influence, schooling, friendships, religion, etc. Sadly, most all of us have been bruised along the way. Some more than others. We hold passionately to what we believe will make our world a better place.

I recently had an opportunity to chat about religion and politics with one of my impassioned friends. We shared stories of our past, talked about our bruises and frustrations, and before we even shared a single opinion, we had something. We both knew that the other was “messy”. I think this is crucial. For the most part, the average U.S. voter knows jack squat about political economics, their philosophical origins, or the  historical formations and outcomes of any economic systems. So, most political opinions are unfortunately formed by the latest and greatest demagoguery, and this usually puts us at odds with one another. My annoyance at my annoying friends could easily become anger or even hatred. But, a simple act of sharing and learning one another’s stories (or mess) can build something that directly undermines anger and hatred. Compassion. If your political or religious opinions are leading to anger and hatred toward people, chances are good you are being duped. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your opinions are wrong, but do you really even know enough to have an opinion, and do you really want to hold tightly to ideas that cultivate hatred in you heart?

After our chat, I don’t know that my friend and I agree about politics necessarily, but I do know that if I were to become crippled and incontinent, he would change my diapers….and I would do the same for him.

how do the crackheads feel?

I think most would agree it is a fortunate thing to have never used crack. Personally, I don’t know how being “on crack” feels. I imagine there is some sort of temporary satisfaction followed by severe regret, perhaps shame or frustration, and other disturbing consequences (kinda like eating a box of yellow Peeps during Easter, or watching a movie with Robert Pattinson). I don’t want to speculate too much, but as I was walking around downtown Spokane today, I found myself curiously empathetic toward those who I assume to be “crackheads”. I’m not talking about people who specifically use crack (although they are included), but more so those who are socially awkward. These are the folks who have an easy time making everyone within a certain radius uncomfortable by way of body odor, loud outbursts, or general creepiness. I was not empathizing with their body odor (although my wife would argue this point) or the loud crazy outbursts, but I did indeed wonder why and how people come across as weirdos or creeps. A little back story on my empathy…

I’ve had some moderately serious health concerns recently. Without being too specific, I needed to drop some weight. My weight was not the primary issue, but losing weight was definitely a good way to address the problems. However, my circumstances didn’t allow for physical exercise, and I couldn’t simply bang out P90X in a few months and get down to my fighting weight. So, with physical exercise not being an option, my doctor suggested an appetite suppressing drug. It would be only temporary and I could slowly work my way into some light exercise and eventually switch completely from medication to exercise. For the record: I trust my doctor. So, I got the pills and started losing weight. It was pretty shocking how easy it was. I originally thought “look at all these suckers paying the monthly “fat tax” at the gym…I’m doing nothing, I’ve lost 20 pounds in 3 weeks, and it only cost $6 at the pharmacy”. The problem with drugs, and I would have known this had I not been on drugs, is that they tend cloud one’s thinking. There is a reason that most rational thinking people would rather exercise and diet over taking medication. This informational video pretty much sums it up….

http://thetravisty.com/Saturday_Night_Live/wmv/Jimmy_Tangos_Fat_Busters.htm

Over the past few months, I have had so many awkward exchanges with people that I’m absolutely sure I’ve been accused of being a crackhead (probably by my own family). It’s not that I’ve been oblivious either. When you are on medication, you can attempt simple social transactions and watch them go very wrong right before eyes. Here’s an exact transcript of a recent exchange I had with a bank teller:

bank teller – How is your day going?
me – I’m really nice now…I..uh…it’s nice…I meant to say it’s outside…I mean…it’s nice outside…for everybody…not just me.
bank teller (slightly nervous) – Ok.
me – I’m sorry, I’m on drugs. (jokingly)
bank teller – (stares at me)
me – I’m not really on drugs…well sort of…it’s just medication to help me lose some weight. It’s actually way cheaper than going to a gym….so….yeah…
bank teller – (interrupts) Here is your $5 in quarters.
me – thanks, it’s for the parking meters…not drugs…haha…
bank teller – (doesn’t smile) …
me – sorry…bad joke….well, I’ll just go…(sliding the quarters off the counter into my hand, half of them dropped on the floor)….oh shit…..sorry.

I picked up the quarters off the floor and quickly shuffled out. I looked back as I was leaving through the door and the two other tellers were now standing alongside the teller that helped me, and they were all staring at me intently. I’m certain they thought I was a crackhead. This certainty led me into a state of deep insecurity. Here’s a few recent examples of how that insecurity affected my inner monologue – “What should I say to this person to seem normal? – What does that look mean? – Does everybody here hate me? – Should I explain that last sentence…no that would be weird…but if I just say nothing, that’s weird too…ugh”. I had been riding the snake into the downward spiral of social awkwardness.

The good news is that I’m actually getting healthy. I’ve lost some weight, started exercising a bit, and I’m pretty close to being done with my medication. I can again speak in full sentences, and now, I only make people feel semi-uncomfortable. If you’re a friend of mine, and I’ve been a total jerk or weirdo to you….I’m sorry, I am coming out of my funk and I’ll call you soon.

I feel for the “crackheads” because a lot of them won’t have an easy time coming out of their funk. Some of them never will. I walked through the downtown streets today and my eyes met with the eyes of several unfortunate fellow human beings. I smiled and said “hello” to each one, and every time, they just looked back at me with no reply. I thought about my recent “inner monologues”, and I wondered if they were thinking the same things. I thought about the frustrated & hopeless feeling of not being able to say the things you want to say. I thought about that spiral with every social interaction taking you a bit further, deeper. I wondered if these people felt better or worse after I said a simple hello. I don’t know how they felt….but for once, I cared.

big questions

Some friends of mine were recently discussing the origin life and having a tiresome argument on Intelligent Design vs. the Theory of Evolution. It’s not that I don’t care about the topic, but I really don’t like arguing about it or being near people who do. It’s like fate vs. free will, or the chicken and the egg…you can’t prove anything other than perhaps you’re a really big smarty-pants. So I had a few reflections (I’m not arguing…sort of).

I’m not an expert of either ID or TofE, but this is what I think most people of average intelligence (which is me) believe when this debate comes up (I tend to be pragmatic, so forgive me if I reduce this to something too simplistic). At the core of the ID vs. TofE debate is the desire to prove or disprove the existence of God. I think it is fair to suggest, generally speaking, that proponents of ID see it as a means to confirm their belief in God, and adherents of the TofE have a reasonable explanation as to why they believe God does not exist. There are exceptions, of course, but the point is that both sides take great leaps of faith in drawing those conclusions, and both sides go to great lengths to defend their position. If ID was indeed science and could empirically prove a Creator, then there wouldn’t be any problem with ID being included in a public school science curriculum. But it can’t. ID can only suggest and offer logical (at best) suppositions. TofE basically has the same problem on the other side of the argument. It cannot disprove the existence of a creator. It doesn’t even set out to do so. Perhaps it proves that a literal interpretation of the Genesis creation story is scientifically incorrect, but anyone who understands literary intent already knows this. It surprises me that theists are so threatened by the TofE. Scientifically, ID doesn’t prove a creator, and the TofE doesn’t disprove a creator. Both sides want what they hold to be true taught in the public school classroom, which is probably fine, but what we really have is a philosophical or political argument and it should probably be left out of science classrooms.

If it is, indeed, a philosophical debate (philosophy literally meaning “love of knowledge”), then there is a truth issue. Knowledge essentially is the difference between what is considered and what is certain. The subjective nature of knowledge can often fool us into thinking that our beliefs are certainly true. For instance, your friend Stanley states “I, for one, know there is no such thing as a God”.  Stanley cannot prove this to be factual by any scientific means, and even though he attempts to reason his way to a conclusion, it’s simply a belief. If Stanley has the capacity to be objective, he would change his statement from “I know” to “I believe”. That is why this debate will not ever be settled on this side of death. We look at ID and the TofE through our own subjective lenses, and because neither can prove or disprove God, we battle one another at the level of our beliefs, which may make converts to one side or the other…but there will always be two sides.

So, do we give up our pursuits of things we can’t know? I certainly hope not. Try this quick exercise. Take a piece of paper and a pencil and draw a circle. Suppose the circle represents all that exists – all truth, all knowledge, etc. Now, fill in the portion that you know. If you marked a portion bigger than the tip of your pencil, you either misunderstood the point of the illustration or your name is Stanley. There is always something to learn, ponder, and explore. I think that’s good news.

The mysteries of life lead us and move us into places of beauty more so than the facts of life. If we knew everything, would we need poetry to help us describe the world? If we knew everything, would music be able to raise the hair on our arms? Would a film that reminds us of our childhood still bring us to tears? What would we hope for? Hope is not scientific or material and it is intrinsically tied to the mysteries of life….whether it be the origin of life, black holes, the girl you were too chicken to ask out in high school, the afterlife, sports, the fish that got away, love, or simply the weather.

If God does indeed exist, I’m pretty glad he left some things about which we can wonder.

use your imagination

My daughter is a dreamer. She calls it “telling stories”. Laying back on her top bunk bed, she stares through the ceiling and imagines other worlds. The people in her worlds have polite conversations with one another, and their basic role in the world is to lavish Hannah with kind words of encouragement and adoration. Her ideal world basically consists of being a princess that gets to eat all the sweets one could ever desire. It’s a silly, childish, beautiful (to her) dream. I recently thought to myself, “At what point should I discourage this silly dreaming? Surely, she needs to know that the world is not always sweet. I’ll wait til she’s 8. That’s probably the age when a young girl needs to stop having silly-heart dreams. Right?” After giving it some thought, I’m not so sure 8 is the appropriate age, or if there ever comes an age when we should stop dreaming.

I’m an idea man. I thrive on creating schemes and projects, and I’m fueled by enthusiasm. I once started a successful city-wide ping pong league with my friends. I’ve organized a neighborhood clothing swap. I love good ideas, and I love figuring out ways to carry them out even more. Lately, my enthusiasm has been waning. My gaze on the world has been set to a horizontal plane, and what I see and read is mostly discouraging. Just take a look at any given story in the daily news and peruse the comment thread and you’ll see what I mean. People can get pretty ugly with one another, especially when we fight over differing ideas.

My daughter imagines a world full of sweets to consume and enjoy. It’s perfect. If you asked a room full of 5 year-olds if they would like to live in Candyland and gorge on sweets all day long, everyone of them says yes. They can all imagine this beautiful world…they’ve had a taste of it and want it! They’ll come up with ideas to make this world a reality, and they will take action. Yesterday, I walked into the kitchen and found a chair shoved up to the counter top and both cupboard doors were left disturbingly ajar. I walked down the hallway and called for Hannah. I heard shuffling in the bathroom. So, I entered to find Hannah crouched behind the toilet bowl devouring a bag full of jelly beans. I not-so calmly explained to Hannah that she is not allowed take sweets from the cupboard without permission, and that eating food behind toilets is never a good idea. I took the bag of jelly beans from her, and she ran into her room and wept uncontrollably.

I don’t spend enough time imagining the world as it ought to be. Ideas and action begin with imagination. I’ve been depressingly mired into looking at the world as it is, not what it could or should be…and, not surprisingly, I’ve had few ideas and little desire to take any action. I want set my gaze to a vertical plane, and lay back on my bed, staring through my ceiling, and imagine something beautiful.

Hannah’s ideal world will change without me telling her. She’ll keep dreaming, and there will be times when someone takes her dreams away and she’ll run to her room in tears. There will also be times when the only way to dry those tears is to tell yourself stories of a beautiful place where everything is sweet. Don’t ever stop dreaming Hannah. I love your beautiful, childish, sweet, silly heart.

battle of ideas

A battle of ideas isn’t won in the blogosphere or by posting magic bullet quotes or links on Facebook. How many times have you read a disagreeable article or post that actually made you think, “Hmmm, I don’t agree with this, but maybe I’m wrong”. You may even be the type of person who engages in online discourse, arguing your points on message boards and comment sections, defending your position…but to what end? Usually, the only thing proven is your ability to argue, and that your intellect is slightly greater than someone whose handle is LAKERFAN69. And in an arena with no code of ethics, honor, or consequences, the usual end is name-calling, sarcasm, etc.

We don’t live in virtual neighborhoods. We are co-workers, neighbors, friends, and family. If you have ideas about how things “ought to be” or how people should live, have the guts to share those ideas with the people you can’t avoid or hide from behind your computer. If you can look into their eyes and share your ideas with compassion…then maybe you’ve got an idea worth having.

 Yes, this note is a reminder to myself…and yes, I realize the irony in publishing this online.

P.S. – I hate the Lakers.