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Monday, August 15, 2011

You, Me, & a Microphone

I want to play in a band with a crazy name.

Maybe something semi-emo with pseudo-poetic lyrics

about how miserable we are.

Toothpick Backpack, we could go by.

You can play the guitar and sing; I will play the drums.

No, the bass. Yes, and your name will be the known one, but

I will know that I am the backpack, and you, the toothpick.

Our hit single will be called: “If Only Yesterday She

Would Have Noticed Me Instead of the Rims on His Car.”

We’ll get a hip hop dj to produce it, and we’ll sound cool.

I’ll wear large-framed sunglasses. You can sag your pants

and wear a gold cross, even though you’re an atheist.

Or maybe not that. We could form

a Led Zeppelin tribute band, and call ourselves

Tin Blimpie. Oh? Too much like Thin Lizzy? Ok,

perhaps China Cabinet with Blonde Bangs. Better?

Crazy enough? It sounds mysterious enough,

and once we get famous as a cover band (acronym CCBB)

we’ll write our own songs and everyone will love them.

Or instead: something smoother, jazzy. We’ll call ourselves:

Saturdays in Saskatchewan. Just rolls of the tongue.

On the nights when we perform (including

but not limited to Saturdays and in more places than just the one

province) you will sit slyly at your drum set and nod hypnotically

like you’re constantly agreeing with the sharp rumble of your snare drum.

I’ll play the keyboard for this one. Maybe we could do something like

The Roots but call ourselves The Nodules. No? Ok,

now let’s imagine we’re on stage. We’ll need a singer. She’ll stand

in the front. And of course a bass player since I’ve switched to keys.

And whatever else (what else do jazz bands have?). You’ll look at me

and nod. And there will be at least one girl in the crowd who’s never heard

of us but liked our name and came with her boyfriend. I’ll look at her

while we’re performing our last song. And then she’ll make her way backstage

so she can see me smile again.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

O. M. G.

“You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Exodus 20:7

This is a verse that many people are familiar with; one of the Ten Commandments. There are a few different views on how this verse should be understood and applied, but most Christians hold this view: In order to uphold the instructions of this commandment, it tis not proper for a Christian to say things like “Oh my God” or “Oh Lord.” That is using God’s name in vain, right? And we should not mention God in such phrases unless we are directly and intentionally speaking to or in regards to God. Maybe that’s true. But here’s the issue with that: that may be all good and dandy, but that’s not what the verse says.

The verse clearly says to not take the LORD’s name in vain. In the Old Testament, the use of LORD is the accepted English translation of what was believed to be God’s name, which we understand from translation to be the equivalent, from Hebrew, of the English letters YHWH. Many people pronounce this name as Yahweh (Yah-way). So, this means that saying “God” and “Yahweh” are two very different things. It’s the difference between saying “Oh brother” and “Oh Johnny,” for example. Brother is not a name. Neither is God. It is the word we have assigned to designate any supernatural deity, essentially.

Now, I am not saying that I condone phrases like “Oh my God.” But what I am saying is that God never said to not say things like it. I am simply encouraging us to examine context and what was actually said, not what we think it means or what we have been taught growing up, or what people tell us. There is fuller truth imbedded in many things, especially religious text such as the Bible.

While we’re on this topic, let us examine some similar things. For example, let’s look at the Commandment that reads in the King James “Thou shalt not kill.” Now, what exactly is being said here? This is a topic of controversy, though it seems to come up less than a lot of other verses. Let’s look at it from this perspective: if we take this verse entirely literally and completely obey it, then a few things are wrong in any context: The death penalty. Killing in self defense. Killing animals for food (the verse definitely does not specify humans). Squashing bugs and spiders. Euthanizing sick pets.

Obviously, the verse does not apply to all of these situations. In other places in the Bible, God definitely condones killing animals for food and clothing as well as the death penalty in certain situations. And actually, this verse reads as “Thou shalt not kill” in very few English translations of the book of Exodus. But that is how it is quoted far more often that not when in fact most translation use the word “murder” rather than kill. The NIV, the Amplified, and even the New King James versions are examples that use this word instead. Now, that completely changes the meaning of the verse. Murder carries entirely different connotations and context. It’s a different situation, and a different commandment altogether now.

This forces of to do a few things if we wish to have fuller, more complete understanding. One is to examine different translations of the Bible, as no one translation can be perfectly accurate. Also, this shows how important it is to understand that Bible verses exist in dialogue with other verses, even ones in different books of the Bible. If there were no examples of God mentioning eating animals or consequences for certain crimes, then there might be a stronger argument that we are meant to take this commandment more literally. We must examine the big picture of what the text is communicating in conjunction with other parts of itself and with what God is still speaking today, if you believe that He is still speaking new things. But that raises an entirely different set of questions that we will not explore in depth until another time: What about Holy texts not found in the canon of what we call the Bible? What about things that God is still communicating through writing and through his people, especially prophets, that are not found or addressed in the Bible? There are definitely changes between the Old and New Testament, even if some are understood to be symbolic to illustrate a point. What if things have changed since the near two millennia that the books found in the Bible were written? Doesn’t the Bible have examples of God changing his plans because of the prayers of his people? What if the prophecies in the Bible, especially in the book of Revelation, are no longer applicable?

And one last things to look at while we’re still examining parts of Exodus 20. But this time, let’s look at context in the sense of audience. Near the beginning of the chapter, there is a verse that reads: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
Now last time I checked, I was not a slave in Egypt that God delivered. Now, we could understand this to be symbolic of the individual bondages that God delivers each of us from. But then why mention Egypt explicitly? And if it is symbolic and not literal, then we must acknowledge that, perhaps, other passages are not literal as well.

And even beyond that, does this mean that these commandments are for the Israelites at the time? Or for all believers in the God of Abraham and Moses? If we, today, are observing these commandments, why is it not a problem not to observe all of the rules and laws that God outlined to Moses and Aaron around that same time period? Why do we observe the Ten Commandments, but not Passover? Hanukkah? Growing up in Jewish culture, it is highly likely that even Jesus observed the Jewish laws, customs, and holidays growing up. If not, it seems that there would have been enough controversy about it that it would’ve made it into at least one of the four accounts of the Gospel.

And of course, there’s the whole Sabbath issue. We won’t go too far into this either, at least not this time. But a few quick notes in the form of questions: Why do we take this Commandment more lightly than the others? The day, as observed by early believers was from sunset the previous night to the next sunset (at least, from what I understand through researching the culture of the people and the way some of the terms were translated), so why do we observe a “Sabbath” from morning to night and not from sunset to sunset?

Some things to consider. And I hope and pray that you will walk with me on this continued journey toward actual truth and a wider view, not just the opinions, perspectives, and accepted beliefs that we have been spoon fed all of our lives.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


This post is going to be short and to the point, but it’s something that’s been on my mind.

There are many things that we do without thinking about the real reasons why. We lose sight of things that we learn when we are young and fall into cultural fallacies that have become the norm.

For example, simple everyday things. What’s the main reason why we brush our teeth? Shower? etc. etc.

If everyone suddenly lost the sense of smell, how much less likely would people be to
brush their teeth? It’s not just an issue of cleaning our mouths, but rather a way to prevent the social issues that come with having bad breathe. A lot of people only brush once a day. It is better (at least from what my dentist tells me) to brush and floss at night; that way, all the guck in your mouth doesn’t sit and rot in your mouth all night while you sleep. Plenty of people brush only in the morning. But who is going to brush only at night? Nobody.

Here’s a better example: The idea behind not speeding when driving is because it’s safer. Most people don’t speed because they don’t want a ticket. How backwards is that?

Usually, it’s not too hard to figure out what the ‘right’ thing to do is. That’s not, much of the time, that hard to figure out. The hard thing is the motivation as to why one does (or does not) do the right thing.

There’s a huge difference between doing the right thing only because it’s the right thing to do and doing the right thing because you want to do the right thing. The second is much more active, and while it’s a subtle difference, there’s a huge gap on the two sides of that fine line.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

A note on the preceding post:

I realize, after rereading the preceding post a few times, that there are a couple of ideas presented that are ill-developed and somewhat unsupported. Feel free to disagree, and, if you wish, comment with your thoughts and views.

However, I realize that I am taking a leap with a few of the statements and I will be revisiting that particular post, especially two specific parts of it (at least), for discussion points for future posts.

I believe that it would be better to leave the post as is and use the material later that edit and omit portions of it.

Thank you for your understanding, and I thank you for the time you have spent reading.

What is Love? Baby, don't hurt me no more.

Today, we’re going to be talking about religion. Kind of. But we’re looking at the topic from two sides. Hear me out: if you’re one of those people that are instantly turned off by the idea of discussing religion, then this post is for you. If you’re one of those people that read the preceding statement and became troubled and upset merely at the thought of people who dislike religion, then please, keep reading. This is more for you than anyone.

One thing I shall never understand is how ridiculous people can be. Laughably open, I know, but for this discussion this statement refers to the judgment and hate passed upon those of different groups; specifically between Christians and atheists (for this post, these two groups will be the easiest to talk about; however, this surely applies to other groups as well).

There are plenty of atheists who have no respect for Christians or believers in any faith, for that matter. Understandable. But let’s think about this for a moment. One of the biggest reasons why Christians are hated is because they are seen as hypocritical and judgmental. In essence, intolerant. Many people who are not Christians dislike, or even hate, Christians because of the hate they show. It’s like a brother and sister who refuse to be nice to each other because the other one won’t be nice first; neither is willing to be the bigger person. And that is the issue of true hypocrisy. Being a hypocrite against hypocrites, both parties just as bad as the other.

Please understand that I am not stereotyping here. I am speaking about trends of individuals who share these negative character traits. But unfortunately, it is the negative individuals in the groups that often are the face of the group. Negativity gains more attention. If you are buying strawberries and one or two in the package are spoiled, you will pass it up and look for another, right? Of course, people are much more complicated than strawberries, but the same concept remains intact.

I am a Christian, proudly and openly. But I am neither too proud nor too blind to see the problems that exist within Christian culture and modern, fabricated views of the Christian belief system. Reading the Bible apart from the way most Christians observe it is a separate experience. Ignoring context is both foolish and dangerous. The words of the Bible exist(ed) in both the context of the time period and culture of where they were written as well as through the filter of the writers. Much of contemporary church culture is disconnected from the culture of the early church. For the most part, this is not a bad thing. But when this disconnect fosters negative actions and mindsets, that is where the issue lies. Surely, passing judgment is not exclusive to a modern-day context. Jesus spoke of its dangers. But the issue becomes exacerbated by the largeness of today’s Christian community. Much of the way modern Western church culture acts is not directly the result of Christian teachings, but rather groupthink and the accepted interpretations of the teachings. There are good Christians out there; just because someone believes something strongly does not make them narrow-minded or hypocritical. It may make it easier if one is not careful, but the beliefs and mindsets/actions are far from inseparable.

So here is my challenge to you, the reader. In you are a believer in Christianity, do not allow yourself to tarnish the face of yourself, and your brothers and sisters. Be sure to observe the essential, core teachings of Christianity that teach love, acceptance, reaching out, community, and charity. These things are the epitome of what a Christian should observe, and you are not a Christian if you cannot observe them (the Bible says so; I will not quote them, but rather let you find them yourself so maybe, if you don’t agree with me already, you can find it in yourself to learn something). Or if you are not, whether a nonbeliever or believer in another faith, please realize a few things. One, I, as a human and as one following the teachings of Christianity, accept and respect you, even if I do not agree with your beliefs. And I am not the only one; we are few but we are out there. Also, never let yourself stoop to the same low level as the misguided Christians who would judge you and look down upon you. Everyone is better off when we can learn to respect each other and coexist.

After all, we are all observers of Faith. Whether your faith is in monotheism, polytheism, science, logic, or yourself, no one exists with no measure of faith. Faith is simply a belief or trust/confidence in something. It takes faith to not believe in something just as it takes faith to believe in it.

Semi-sidenote: Most of the disputes over religion are not over religion, but rather the underlying issues. And that’s what we are dealing with here. The issue is not simply belief. But rather the issues are intolerance, misunderstanding, narrow-mindedness, and sometimes, immaturity. Religion just makes it easier to find things to disagree about. But that is a complex topic for another time…

Friday, June 24, 2011


So, it has been quite a while since I have posted anyone on this blog. Quite a while, in fact; much more time that I had hoped.

But in theory, today will be fixing this issue. It is nice to be consistent, which I think it a more-than-perfect topic for this post.

But first, a quick update for those who care and/or happen to stumble across this and would like to know what’s going on in the life of this blogger (if I can, yet, call myself a blogger): As a college student, this is my summer—one that I had hoped would be filled with reading, writing, and a summer job. Fortunately, two of those things have been happening. I have been reading some fantastic stuff, most of it for the first time. In the last month, I have finished books/collections by Billy Collins, Heather Sellers, Ciaran Carson, Maya Angelou, and Carolyn Forche. I also have been reading a fantastic book by Rita Dove, as well as a lot of work by Ernest Hemingway, and I should be completely Jean Toomer’s Cane within the next week. I love reading, especially when it’s on my own time and of my own want to read. I also have been doing some writing. Not as much as I would like, and I’ve actually been doing more editing and revising of work than actual writing, but it has been enough to keep my going strong over the summer. Hopefully, this blogging thing will help me to keep up practice of writing craft.

And that leads us directly into the topic for this post: consistency. I am finding more and more how gravely important it is. It what makes our habits, actions, and hobbies act in a way that’s adhesive. It keeps us going and keeps us steady. Even looking at the word itself helps us get a truer understanding of its essentiality. CONSISTancy. What do your days consist of? Your thoughts? Your actions? What makes up the fabric of what makes you you? It is not the individual acts of whim or will, but the character traits, the actions, the outlook properties that recur.

This is one of my goals for this summer and for the rest of my life. Let those things that are important be ones that repeat, constantly. Let the things that are passions not fade or fizzle.

It will be terribly ironic for me to post this and not maintain the content of what I’m discussing through this blog itself. But to that I say: I am going to try, and often, that is all that I can do. For the most part, at least.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Balancing Pride

College has taught me so many things so quickly that it’s ridiculous. Most recently, I have realized two things: 1) that I am a swirling mess of emotions, and 2) that I need to get over myself. It’s really easy to say what we think or what we feel, or what we want to happen. But how often do we take the time to truly understand what we are actually feeling?

I’m still struggling with this blogging thing in a couple of ways. For one, I have not posted anything in far too long. I plan on changing this. One of the main reasons for starting this was to have a place to vent what’s on my mind in a semi-organized way—to have a medium for “putting myself out there.” Also, there is this delicate balance between what one can and cannot (or should and shouldn’t) actually post online. But then again, if I just decided to journal, I’m pretty sure I would have no motivation to actually do it.

Now, on the first topic, sometimes I feel like such a mess. I let my emotions run so out of balance that I’m not really sure how to even begin to articulate them, or even know for sure if I’m “ok” or not. Then add to that the sleep deprivation that comes with college. Not a pretty formula. I am learning to find balance in that area. I think I’m learning to find balance in just about everything right now. It’s really easy to just say: “emotions are stupid” and try to move on. But there’s no moving on without first confronting what you feel, head on. Things don’t just go away. Oh, how I wish life was Dora the Explorer and problems were Swiper. But life doesn’t work like that. One of the beauties of life is that we don’t have an easy button. We have to find ways every day to realize how beautiful what we feel is. Our emotions, as we understand them, are one of the many things that make us human. We should rejoice in our pain because we can recognize it and move through it. Imagine a life where everyone was great all the time—we wouldn’t grow. It would be taking rain away from a tree. We would die without the things that we feel are sucking the life from us.

On the second note, I’ve found that it’s way too easy for me to develop a warped sense of pride. It’s an odd paradox. I think that I’ve been trying so hard to be humble that I’ve forgotten the reasons why and I’ve been attempting to wear it on my chest like a button. I’ve tried so hard to push myself to a higher standard that I’ve subconscious developed a sense of feeling that I’m “better” than other people. I know that sounds terrible, but think about it: we try to be something better than what is around us, and something better than what is expected of us. So, if we become a better person, is it wrong to say that we are “better” than those who aren’t trying to push themselves? Is it so wrong to compare ourselves to others when we have such a nature for competition? We are taught that we are all equal, and we are, in a sense. No one of us is any less valuable than another in terms of the value of our lives. But how can you compliment someone without that compliment being based on comparing that person to other people? In saying someone is a great man or woman, really we are implying that others are not, or at least that the average person at least not as good of a person. But culturally we have been taught that it’s wrong to think you’re “better” than anyone else, even though we are also taught to make ourselves into better people. It’s a thin line, and I expected to have some conclusion to share on this by the end of writing this. But I’m pretty sure that this is a question I’ll never have an answer to. Pretty sure that English needs some more concise words to explain some of these topics so we have a better point of reference to think about them.

Either way, I am learning every day how important it is to be involved with the lives of other people. To feed and be fed, to correct and be corrected, to love and be loved back. I’m especially struggling with the being loved back part—not that is’ not expressed, but that I can’t always receive it. I know that I have been blessed more than I know what to do with, and I’ve arrived at the conclusion that feeling alone does not mean that there is no one there for you; instead, it is usually you (or me in this case) failing to realize who is there and in what ways. Feeling alone is the ultimate way to slap your friends in the face and stab them in the back. Pride in the only thing that stands in the way of receiving the love people naturally try to give.