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Monthly Archives: September 2007

One of my favorite Schmemann quotes…

Students’ confessions.  Always sex.  I am beginning to think that this sin is useful; otherwise they would consider themselves saintly and plunge into guruism.  As it is, they are half convinced of it.  So this sting in the flesh is useful.  It cuts us down to size!

from The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983

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One of the results of a liberal arts education is that you end up reading a lot of stuff that either makes you mad, makes you think outside your normal paradigm, or bores you to death. The following, from the book Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market by Eric Schlosser (which I am reading for a sociology class), falls in the second category.

On the whole, conservative Republicans have been more willing than liberal Democrats to criticize the war on marijuana. In addition to former secretary of state George Shultz, economist Milton Friedman, and editor William F. Buckley, the former Republican governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, has called for decriminalization. “Drug problems are health problems, not criminal justice problems.” Johnson told an audience at the Yale Law School in November, 2001. “The war on drugs is an absolute failure.” An opinion poll taken around the same time found that 67 percent of the American people opposed denying marijuana for medical use; 61 percent opposed the arrest and imprisonment of nonviolent pot smokers. The new public mood has greatly minimized the importance of providing a solemn or contrite answer to the key political question of the 1990s. When asked if he’d ever smoked pot, Michael Bloomberg, the Republican mayor of New York City, replied: “You bet I did, and I enjoyed it.”

Although President George W. Bush has acknowledged his own struggles with alcohol, he’s refused to discuss whether he ever smoked marijuana. Much like the previous baby-boomer who occupied the White House, Bush has taken great care to appear “tough” on drugs. His attorney general, John Ashcroft, has vowed to “escalate the war on drugs.” His drug czar John Walters, previously called for stiffening the criminal penalties for marijuana and has attacked drug treatment in words that bring to mind the late Harry J. Anslinger. Providing treatment to drug users, Walters argued, is “the latest manifestation of the liberals’ commitmet to a ‘therapeutic state in which government serves s the agent of personal rehabilitation.” Instead of expanding drug treatment, the Bush administration plans to expand drug testing. The education bill passed in 2001 provides funds for the widespread testing of schoolchildren. President Bush’s choice to head the DEA, former congressman Asa Hutchinson, was one of the House managers of Bill Clinton’s impeachment. Hutchinson vehemently opposes the medicinal use of marijuana because “it would send the wrong message to children.” In October of 2001 the DEA decided to ban food products containing hem, even though none of them can get you high. The ban was justified on the grounds that health food products such as Hemp Nuggets may contain minute traces of delta-9-THC. “many Americans do not know that hemp and marijuana are both parts of the same plant,” Hutchinson explained. The DEA has thus far made no effort to ban poppyseed bagels, which contain minute traces of opium.

So, I noticed today that I’ve received over 1000 views this month. I’ve never gotten this many. In fact, it’s roughly one-third more than I’ve ever gotten in a single month, and the month isn’t even over.

So, I just wanted to say thank you to all who read this blog, whether regularly or just passing through. When I started this blog 10 months ago, I just wanted a place to put down those thoughts which were a little beyond the normal realm of MySpace blogging. I never thought that people would be interested in what I write here…

Pardon me if I’m being corny, but it’s really humbling.

Thank you.

TWLOHA Title

Thanks to my friend Mary for the link to this interview with Jamie of TWLOHA. It’s short, but he said some things that really cut to the core. Here are a couple of highlights:


TWLOHA isn’t technically a Christian organization. How do think the Church’s response to the issue has been, and why are you guys taking a different approach (reaching outside the Church)?

I think the Church, for the most part, is no better than the rest of society in terms of how we respond to these issues. I say “we” because I consider myself part of the Church … Often times, the Church oversimplifies and looks only at the spiritual. In most cases, there is more to these battles than, “I’ll be praying for you.” If your friend had a broken arm, you wouldn’t just pray. You would take them to the hospital to get the bone fixed. These are complex problems and often times, they require complex solutions. I believe God’s given us wisdom, education and medicine, for a reason, and those things are part of the equation. The Church is quick with its answers but slow to embrace people living with enormous questions. And a lot of times that’s the first step, simply meeting people where they are, showing we’re not afraid of their pain, showing we’re willing to walk with them.

We don’t call ourselves a Christian organization because I believe the word has been abused to the point it now means some terrible things to a lot of people, so we’re trying to use a new language, and more than anything, we’re trying to meet people where they are. We would probably not be welcome on Warped Tour or be sitting in meetings at MySpace, if we showed up under the banner of “Christian organization,” but by doing things the way we have, we’re seeing some amazing doors open. In short, we do more ministry by not using the word “ministry.”

It seems like depression and self-injury are kind of “secret issues” that people dealing with them don’t like to talk about. How can we bring it more into the open so people feel comfortable seeking help?
I think a lot of people doing the sort of work we’re doing, especially when it comes to awareness, they tend to focus on the negative. We’re trying to be honest about these things, but we’re also trying to focus on and celebrate the hope and help that exists in the face of this stuff.

And community is essential. I know I keep saying that, but it’s true. When we get in the habit of living honest lives and doing life with people, talking to people, it makes it so much easier to navigate these storms. And I think part of a life lived in community, and the idea of freedom in Christ, is that there’s nothing we can’t talk about, no dark place we can’t bring light to.

Mute Math is a rock band with a fetish for vintage instruments and electronic experimentalism in their music.  But their songs are chock full of great music and thoughtful lyrics.  This song is one of my favorites, and it’s something I long for.

P.S.  The video is crazy…it’s all shot backwards.  Check it out.


“Typical”

Come on, can’t I dream for one day
There’s nothing that can’t be done
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

‘Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical

I’ve lived through my share of misfortune
And I’ve worked in the blazing sun
But how long should it take somebody
Before they can be someone

Cause I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical, the typical, the typical, uh huh

I’m the typical
I’m the typical
Can I break the spell of the typical

Because it’s dragging me down
I’d like to know about when
When does it all turn around

I’m just the typical
I’m just the typical

Yeah I know there’s got to be another level
Somewhere closer to the other side
And I’m feeling like it’s now or never
Can I break the spell of the typical
The typical, the typical, uh huh

Of the typical
Break the spell (of the typical)
Break the spell (of the typical)
Can I break the spell of the typical, of the typical
I’m just the typical
I’m just the typical
I’m just the typical
I’m just the typical

Once again, Fr. Stephen nails it…

 I am a noisy person. I am likely to be bothered by the quiet when it surrounds me, and reach for a knob to fill the empty space with the sound of something. And if there is no knob, then the sound of my own brain chattering away fills the space with everything but God.

I do not think I am unique in this….

Read the rest of a great post at Glory to God for All Things: The Silence in Which We Dwell.

As anyone who spends five minutes on this blog can probably tell, I love music. I’ve played guitar for around 15 years, and I’m twice a music major. I was in band from 6th through 12th grade, and I played in the high school Jazz Ensemble. I listen to different kinds of music, from rock to classical. The artists I listen to are also quite varied, ranging from Harry Connick, Jr., to Queen.

Music has been an escape from troubles, while, at the same time, being my way of confronting the issues in my life. When I was going through the initial thrust of my brother’s drug addiction, I played the blues a lot. I would drown in the music, but also use it as a way of wringing beauty out of an otherwise achingly sorrowful heart. I’m sure my dad would rather me have turned down the stereo and the amplifier, but he seemed to understand, himself being a musician. I spent so much time playing blues music back then that, to this day, I’m bound to play at least one blues riff whenever I pick up an electric guitar. I know the time playing them enabled me to lay down my pain and weep, scream, moan, and wail through the instrument that I love so dearly. I honestly can’t imagine having survived that period any other way.

But, most often, music is a scrapbook to me. A single song can open up several pages of my life, some bleeding from one to another, others being discrete memories specific to a particular time, place, and group of people. For years, I’ve been opening this book and flipping through the different sections, often smiling at the past moments of my short life. Though, some don’t bring smiles. Some bring sadness, confusion, disdain, bitterness, joy, humor, peace…you name it. It’s all there amidst the melodies, beats, and lyrics that contribute to the contents of each page.

Probably the era that gets the most attention in this regard is the music from the mid-to-late 90’s. I can listen to nearly anything that was decently popular from 1995-2000, from Gin Blossoms, Natalie Merchant, and Hootie and the Blowfish to Vertical Horizon, Creed, and *NSYNC. Yes, I said *NSYNC. And, more often than not, I’ll sing along. My girlfriend Tiffany says that I sing as if my life depends on it. And, in a way, it does.

In these songs, I revisit those things which have shaped me. By singing along, I not only share in the memory it brings to mind, but I also contribute (for better or for worse) to the artistic effort. I raise my own voice to say whatever it is the singer is trying to get across in his or her vocals. This enables me to own them at the root level and adds even more meaning to the songs themselves.

Samuel Pepys said “Musick is the thing of the world that I love most.” I would definitely have to agree, but it goes well beyond simply enjoying an art form. It provides a ladder out of the deep holes of life’s sadnesses and a way of remembering and viewing past events, and even current events. It’s more than just the tune playing in the background: music is one of the most important things in my life.

I’m looking for an orphanage
I’m looking for a bridge I can’t burn down
I don’t believe the emptiness
I’m looking for the Kingdom coming down

Everything is meaningless
I want more than simple cash can buy

Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word
Happy is a yuppie word

Nothing is sound

“Happy Is A Yuppie Word,” from Nothing Is Sound by Switchfoot

Here’s another gorgeous song by Tommy Emmanuel. He said that he wrote this one day after watching a robin fly around outside his window. It’s so great to see a musician—or anyone, for that matter—who pours himself into what he does like Tommy does. I ache to come to the point in my life when I begin to do that in everything I do.

This is from a longer blog post from Jamie Tworkowski of To Write Love on Her Arms. I needed to hear this, and I wanted to share it for others who might need to.

“Laughter is the evidence of freedom.” Bono says that. It’s one of my favorite quotes. If that’s true, then we would assume that a guy like Owen Wilson is certainly free. We always see him laughing. He is always making us laugh. Like a lot of you, I was shocked by the news of Owen Wilson’s suicide attempt.

And in the same week, Mother Theresa was on the cover of Time Magazine. For those of you who don’t know, Mother Theresa is remembered throughout the world as one of the greatest people ever to live. Her service, generosity, humility and leadership in working with the poor and dying in Calcutta, India is known throughout the world. Within the Church, she is known as one of the greatest examples of the Christian life. In short, her life was undeniable.

This cover suggested something different: “The Secret Life of Mother Theresa” it said in bold type, “Her Secret Agony” the headline inside. The article spoke to a 50-year near-silent struggle, and painted a different picture. Mother Theresa in pain. Mother Theresa feeling far from God. I suppose the story was meant to shock. It debated faith and doubt…

I finished the story with a smile. “Wow, she was human after all. She was one of us. She was broken. She was real.” That was my response.

And in the same moment, Owen Wilson is on the cover of People, that word “secret” there again. “The Secret Pain of Owen Wilson”. And again, a different picture. Heartache. Addiction. Pain. But what about all the millions in the bank? What about all the fame and all the fans, all the people who love him? Surely, he could find another girl… There’s plenty of fish in the sea, right?

Or maybe life is really really hard. For pretty much everyone. And suddenly, Owen Wilson is one of us. A human being. A real person with real problems. Questions. Struggles. A person in need.

This could probably be it’s own essay, which it wasn’t meant to… I guess I just want to say that I find hope in this possibility that we all have a lot more in common than we might guess at first glance. These are people that our culture, people everywhere, place on pedestals. And yet these are people who could not escape the human condition. Broken people, people in need of hope.

Life is hard. Owen Wilson isn’t always laughing. Mother Theresa wasn’t always walking the streets of Calcutta feeling like a million bucks. I suppose the point I’m trying to make is this: We are very much the same. We are people in need. Life is hard for most of us most of the time. Our fragile hearts break. We all have a story, and in every story, in every life, there is so much going on below the surface. And perhaps there are moments where you pray, but God feels far away. Does He care? Does anyone care? Is there hope for us?

I say yes. We say yes.

I have been learning a lot about community. I believe it’s the idea that people need other people, that we need people who know us. We need relationships and places where we can be honest. We will face complex problems, complex questions, that require complex answers. It is certainly easier to stay silent, to skip this whole conversation. That’s what most people do. We don’t like dirty laundry. We prefer to wear our cleanest shirt. But we have to face our broken stuff. We have to do our laundry. We have to learn to heal, to let go, to grow. We were meant to live.

The process might be uncomfortable. It probably will. For some, it’s a phone call to a hotline, or a counseling office. “I’d like to make an appointment”, “I need to talk to someone” or maybe it’s simply sitting down with your parents, or a friend, or a teacher, for a conversation that’s long-overdue. Is there someone you trust? Is there someone who knows you? I hope so. I know I need that. I think we all need that.

A friend sent me a really difficult email a few days ago. When I read the subject, I knew what it was about. I was so freaked out that I didn’t read it for two days. I just let it sit in my inbox and I worried about it. I was afraid to face it.

And finally, I opened it. And it was painful. Some really hard truths. The kind that steal your sleep. But it was his last words that hit me the hardest: “Hope is not a myth”, he said. And that is the thing that has stayed with me, that possibility that this thing we talk about, it is true. And if something is true, it is certain. We can reach for it. Lean on it. Run to it. Hope is not a myth.

So wherever you are tonight, wherever this finds you… You are not alone. We are all a people in need. But there is so much hope. And hope is not a myth.