30 June 2012

A little light Newness

I've become increasingly bored with my current screen name, Problematic. Not because it's bad or I no longer identify as her, but because I've used it for so long it's become old. I am choosing between two names, but I'd like your input.

Drumroll, please.

The first option is:

Lady (June) Whimsy

And the second:

April Shower

Please comment and tell me which you prefer, and why. If you've got another idea, tell me! :)


24 June 2012


Last Friday, I hit the town with some friends to celebrate someone's birthday. Least you get the wrong impression, by "hitting the town" I really mean "let's go iceskating tonight when the prices are reduced because no one in their right minds goes ice skating on Friday night."

We got there a little early to rent skates and lessons were ending. A bunch of small children, mostly girls, were skating around in miniature skate costumes practicing jumps and spins and extensions that I once did in ballet but would be entirely incapable of performing on an ice arena. A few older women were there, helping to coach the munchkins, and getting in a couple moves of their own.

There were two particular girls who stood out to me as I stood by the side of the rink. The first was a little girl who looked so innocent you just knew she was hiding something. She was, at most, two and a half feet tall - no more than maybe three years old. Bundled up with coats and a hat and a couple scarfs over her pretty skating dress, it looked like, should she fall, she would just bounce softly off the ice. She toddled and teetered around the arena, performing a routine - complete with spins, twinkle toes, and a little pose at the end - led by the other woman who had caught my attention.

This girl looked around my age, and had a very pleasant face. It was soft and amiable, but at the moment I saw her, had an expression of fixed concentration. You see, while she was not helping the toddler, she was practicing her own routine, which the toddler continued to imitate. The older girl was very elegant, moving across the rough ice serenely.

I am a very competitive person. I challenge myself to do things excellently, even if I do not win or gain in any way: It pleases me to be excellent. As I stood watching the munchkins, I started feelign that desire for excellence rising up in me, especially as I watched the toddler and her teacher. I want to be able to skate like that. I'd love to be that elegant and move with such serenity.

Well, the lesson ended, and my friends and I were allowed to step on the ice. It was roughed up by all the spins practiced on it just before, but it didn't matter much because our skates were so dull they could have slipped on anything. I took a turn around the rink, tottering and holding on to the wall. Soon, however, a thing or two about skating came back to me. I'd taken a few lessons when I was younger, and was pretty pleased I could remember it.

As I slid my way around the rink, gaining momentum and a sense of confidence, I had another Big Idea hit me. It crept up from behind and just kind of jumped me, with no prior warning.

It's okay to be an amateur.

I'd like to point out that there is a small rebel inside of me sitting in a corner and shooting nasty glares at me as I type. 

I wanna be perfect! I wanna do it right! I'm going to be amazing at everything I do even if it kills me. SO THERE! Just see if I have a life! I'm going to be flawless!

I have one thing to say to myself: Shut up. Think about it for a second.

Ice-skating is most fun when it's accompanied with plenty of friends, a couple spills, and all the weak-ankled, wobbling that comes with not knowing how to do it. It's a romantic activity to be done with your significant other, it's a signature of winter, and if done correctly, it's good fun.

Do you think an Olympic figure skater ever goes wibbling and wobbling around a public rink with some friends, racing and trying to skate backwards, before retiring to the side for hot chocolate and Hot Pockets? One word: NOTACHANCE. (That's one word. There are no spaces).

Do you think a concert pianist ever sits down with some friends, fumbles around on the keys, plays something that unexpectedly sounds good (with no application of years of music theory and experience), and then have everyone chime in on their instruments and have a good, old fashioned, not-always-sounding-good, jam session? Unlikely.

 Do you think a clothing designer ever goes into a thrift store, picks all the ugliest clothes off the rack, and then has fun laughing with friends at the ridiculous combonations. Probably not.

My point is, while it is admirable, even best to strive for excellence and mastery in areas you're interested in, there is nothing wrong with not perfecting everything. Goals; yes. Obssession for perfection: no.

23 June 2012

Imminentizing the Eschaton

A few weeks ago, I was talking with my friend Hannah at school. Not this Hannah, (though she's pretty awesome and you should go read her blog) but a different Hannah. They're pretty similar, in a couple ways, but let's move on from this hang up.

Hannah and I were working late at school in the MIDI lab on a project. The MIDI lab closed at 7:00 pm, so we packed up and left to the bus stop. However, the buses stop running every ten minutes at 7:00pm, so we had a wait of about 30 minutes before our respective buses came.

Naturally, we fell to talking in the interim. Subjects included everything from classes to weekend plans, and then finally, to personalities. Hannah is a self-described "quirky person," a fact to which I can easily attest. On the day in question, she was wearing, in addition to a skirt, heels, and flowing top, an American flag scarf. She has worn similarly unusual clothing articles to class previously. But it was not her clothing that made me include her in this post.

While talking about unusual interests, my classmate said something to the effect of :

"A life without an obsession isn't life." 

Just think about that for a second. If you like, rephrase it a bit.

"A life without passion isn't life." 

For something entirely different, let me tell you a little story. When I was still in high school, I took a Rhetoric class taught by a pretty awesome seminary graduate, musician, and person. It was one of the ongoing jokes in class that "Little Tommy runs with scissors, doesn't play with others, and imminentizes the eschaton."

What, you may ask, is "imminentizing the eschaton?" Well, imminent means "near" or "close:, so imminentizing would be to make something draw near. Eschaton is simply heaven or utopia. To imminentize the eschaton, then, would be to attempt to draw heaven, or utopia, close to earth.

The problem with imminentizing the eschaton is that it doesn't tend to work. Whether it's European interpretations of communism or mid-20th century eugenics, man's interpretations of the Eschaton and their abilities to bring it down to earth remain deeply flawed.

Hence, when little Tommy imminentizes the eschaton, it appears on his report card alongside running with scissors and licking paste.

The thing is, I've been thinking a lot about how this is not necessarily a bad thing. After all, historical attempts to bring heaven to earth have failed not so much because heaven is not meant to be on earth, but rather, their version of heaven is not meant to be. When approached theoretically, communism is a pretty brilliant idea. Don't get me wrong - every time we've ever tried to apply it, it's failed miserably - but if you take the pesky realm of reality out of the picture, communism is great! The idea of sharing everything in common is the same as what inspired early Christians in Jerusalem.

The very idea of heaven or utopia is peaceful. Not the drug induced peace of the hippy, but the pure and lasting peace that can only come through God's grace. There is something inherently wrong about co-opting earthly authority to administer one person's innately flawed vision of utopia. This is not even considering that utopia, by definition, exists nowhere. But anyways. If it is really heaven, it will have no need of strict rules, harsh retributions, or policing. Communism will always fail because it is foreign to human nature, and moreover, the force required to perpetuate it goes against the very idea of Heaven on Earth.

I digress. To sum the very wordy point I've made, the reason attempts to immimentize the eschaton have failed so spectacularly in the past is because humans try to use earthly authority to enforce utopia.

"Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like its heaven on earth." [The internet attributes this one to Mark Twain, but we all know how trustworthy the internet is on these things].

I would submit to you, dear readers, that the real sign of a Christian is how they imminentize the eschaton wherever they go. We are imago dei, the living representation of the Church, and we are to spread our joy wherever we go. Sounds suspiciously like bringing heaven to earth. If we are really the Body of Christ, then "Wherever we go, that's where the party's at {Newsboys}." Ahem. To approach it more seriously, the duty of the church is, in part, to bring a foretaste of heaven to all still living on Earth. Like an appetizer, our behavior should be a preview of things to come - as far as it is up to us, live in peace with all men.

There's one question that's been running through my head these past few weeks. Do I imminentize the eschaton? Do I live as though heaven were on earth? Can I truly love half-heartedly and claim to be a good representation of God's love for the world?

So to conclude this very long post, I would ask you: Do you long to bring heaven to earth?

19 June 2012

The Musician's Dilemma

Here's a thought for you. Of all the arts, music is unique in that the music heard by the audience is not the music the musician hears. No, I'm not talking about those Beethovenesque composers who hear the music inside their head and then write it down. I mean the physical performance of music.

As I practice violin, my mom or I will occasionally comment that "Oh, Ignatius [my violin] is really singing today."  Mom's comment never fails to make me feel good about my playing, but I have absolutely no idea what she hears.

What mom means and what I mean when we talk about my violin singing are two entirely different things. I can only assume that mom's reference means that Iggy sounds very rich and full, and comparatively well played. I don't hear that sound though. When Iggy "sings" for me, it feels as though he's breathing. The gritty sounds the bow makes as I draw it across the strings; the feeling of the string vibrating underneath my fingertips, the booming, hollow sound as the chamber amplifies the sound of the strings - these all add up to the experience of a violinist. I hear surface noise and notes: mom hears music.

All of the factors that I experience as a violinist add up to the sound that mom hears and calls "singing," but some aspects are amplified and some die away. From six inches away, you can hear the surface noise, but remove yourself by three feet , and all you hear is a sweet, sweet melody.

To approach it another way, when someone first hears a recording of their voice, they almost always feel shocked. I sound like **that**? NO WAY. As speakers, we feel the air forcing sound out of our throats, hear the sound reverberating through our nasal cavities and mouth, hear the small noises made as the words are formed, and feel the entire process from start of breath to formation of sentences. Our experience is unique: while everyone else hears pretty much the same voice, only the speaker (or singer) hears the parts before they're combined as a whole.

When a musician plays guitar, they hear the sound of the pick slipping and grabbing the strings, feel the frets, hard and unforgiving under their fingers, and feel the body of the guitar resonating in time to their picks and strokes.

If this is true, and I strongly believe it is, it raises an interesting question.

Musicians frequently speak of "being in love with their music," but they don't really hear the music they make. So does this mean that they're in love with the idea of making music, or are they in love with the performance? More specifically, are we enamored with an idea (that other people will enjoy what we make), or are we addicted to the creative process? Are we focused on the enjoyment of an audience, or the sheer power of skill  used well?