31 October 2012

The Song of the Happy Shepherd

This poem has been haunting my thoughts recently. Read it aloud - it deserves it.

by: William Butler Yeats (1865-1939)
THE woods of Arcady are dead,
And over is their antique joy;
Of old the world on dreaming fed;
Grey Truth is now her painted toy;
Yet still she turns her restless head:
But O, sick children of the world,
Of all the many changing things
In dreary dancing past us whirled,
To the cracked tune that Chronos sings,
Words alone are certain good.

Where are now the warring kings,
Word be-mockers? -- By the Rood,
Where are now the warring kings?
An idle word is now their glory,
By the stammering schoolboy said,
Reading some entangled story:
The kings of the old time are dead;
The wandering earth herself may be
Only a sudden flaming word,
In clanging space a moment heard,
Troubling the endless reverie. 

Then nowise worship dusty deeds,
Nor seek, for this is also sooth,
To hunger fiercely after truth,
Lest all thy toiling only breeds
New dreams, new dreams; there is no truth
Saving in thine own heart. Seek, then,
No learning from the starry men,
Who follow with the optic glass
The whirling ways of stars that pass--
Seek, then, for this is also sooth,
No word of theirs--the cold star-bane
Has cloven and rent their hearts in twain,
And dead is all their human truth.

Go gather by the humming sea
Some twisted, echo-harbouring shell,
And to its lips thy story tell,
And they thy comforters will be,
Rewording in melodious guile
Thy fretful words a little while,
Till they shall singing fade in ruth
And die a pearly brotherhood;
For words alone are certain good:
Sing, then, for this is also sooth. 

I must be gone: there is a grave
Where daffodil and lily wave,
And I would please the hapless faun,
Buried under the sleepy ground,With mirthful songs before the dawn.
His shouting days with mirth were crowned;
And still I dream he treads the lawn,
Walking ghostly in the dew,
Pierced by my glad singing through,
My songs of old earth's dreamy youth:
But ah! she dreams not now; dream thou!
For fair are poppies on the brow:
Dream, dream, for this is also sooth.

~ It is better to suffer an injustice than to do injustice ~


29 October 2012

Mercurial Theatre on the Air

The shop I work at in the evening uses a wireless speaker network to broadcast music throughout the store. At night, I turn out the lights, turn off the music, lock myself in, and proceed to return clothes to their rightful area. The clothing racks and strollers loom out of the gloom like primordial terro- I mean, tripping hazards. Also, we have mannequins and a long, narrow hallway through which I must pass.

Only problem: The speakers transmit random bursts of static when they don't play music, I'm afraid of the dark, and there's a windstorm currently ravaging the area.

Have you ever heard of SlenderMan? I'm pretty sure he shops at my store.

22 October 2012

Community ; or Why Whimsy's an Idiot; Incidentally, Words are Important but Deceptive

 I should take the time to point out that I'm not writing this post for sympathy points or any other fishing-for-compliments reason. I feel like I owe a few of my closest friends an explanation, and that it would be helpful to give that explanation to everyone while I'm at it. Word economy, don't you know?

In this particular season of my life, I am frequently reminded of just why God said that it's not good for man to be alone. I'm going to take some literary license and assume He was also thinking that women have the same need for companionship. I hope you don't find that too much of a stretch.

Feeling alright? Good.

So the reason I say that I am reminded of the very first "Not Good" in the Bible is because, to speak frankly, I am feeling remarkably lonely.

Lonely?! Whimsy? How could Whimsy possibly be lonely?! She's working two incredible jobs for fifty hours a week, all hours of which she is directly interacting with any and all customers which appear in the store? Impossible!

But you see, my friends, that is exactly the point. Just as a thin person can be in love with cheesecake; just as someone can wake up on a rainy Monday morning with a grin on their face and a giggle hiding in the corner of their mouth; just as you can remember someone you've never met; so, too, can I be lonely while working with a crowd of people.

You sort of get the idea that I love being a walking contradiction, don't you? :D

Community. It all comes down to community. The messy, awkward, groovy, and oft-maligned group of humanity with which we all dwell. The people who know us too well, or not well enough. The ones who share gossip through prayer requests, but genuinely mean all their prayers. The people who aggravate, anticipate, and intimidate but who all, somehow, manage to form that close bond inside the community. This is not your town. It is not your school. It is not found at your job or hiding under your bed, waiting to grab your ankles as you take that running leap guaranteed to save you from the alligators.

Instead, it is found in the people who have the power to change your life and your outlook whether you like it or not. I miss my community of awesome friends and awkward friends. I miss the feeling if companionship in the midst of silence. One of my favorite memories from this summer was this one moment in August, walking home from an outing to the Asian mall with a couple of friends. This moment is cemented in my mind, because the warm gold light of a late summer afternoon was sluggishly casting shadows through the trees lining the road on which we walked in silence. Conversation had lapsed for a moment, and we three were left to the meander in our own thoughts. The warm air enveloped us in a sort if timeless state:  Why worry about speaking when, for that brief, glowing moment, you could savor the simple feeling of belonging somewhere. Shoes scraped softly on the ground, and we ambled on.

Or that other time, arriving late at the Welcome Home party of a few travelers. I sat awkwardly in the dim glow of the once-giant bonfire, listening to the people who make up my community joking and gaming in the gloom. As the fire subsided into ashes and I realized I had nothing intelligent or amusing to add to the gathering, a feeling of contentment spread across me. Sometimes it's good not to be the largest personality in a group. This is a good realization to come to, what with the number of larger-than-life people I associate with.

Now let's get to why I'm a bloody idiot. Admit it - the reason you've put up with this ramble so far is because of a morbid fascination with my countless means of self-deprecation. Mhmm. I know you too well.

Here goes.

In my circle, there is a definite preoccupation with the art and science of falling in love. According to the Bible, this is the right and good order of things, so please realize that I am not dismissing it. However, this preoccupation makes life a little difficult for the resident Man-Intimidator. Oh, you guessed that was me? How clever of you. Now, I have mixed feelings about my reputation. When most of the male friends in your life make a constant effort to remind you of - that one time you punched me when I tried to hug you- or - Geez, I was so frightened of you for the first few years I knew you - or - I would never upset you, you'd kill me - it's hard not to feel a little ... defective.

Incidentally, in my defense, physical touch is how I express affection for people, and the punch in question happened when a young man I had known a total of three months suddenly rushed in for a bear hug when I least expected it. It was sort of like having your bearded Aunt Matilda lean in for a kiss when you're three: Extremely traumatic and will definitely provoking a knee-jerk reaction.

But back to the mixed feelings. It's not that I'm pining for a delicious love affair - although I wouldn't say no to a likely prospect - it's that once in a while, it would be nice to feel ... lovable. To clarify: getting into a relationship really isn't a priority, and isn't even in the play book - but I like to feel as if it were an actual possibility. Yes, I do have ego issues.

I get this feeling of of likeability most often when I have a really, really good conversation. You know the type I'm talking about. The ones you can't stop thinking about, or that contain a joke that keeps making you smile. The sort of conversation that can give you the warm fuzzies for days. It's safe to say that, when around members of my community, my ears are open for one of these gems. Once a conversation shows its potential, I try to extend it for as long as possible - again, not just because I like my brain to be stimulated, but because it makes me feel sophisticated and suave and polished and not like the supremely awkward 19-year-old I am.

Unfortunately, in pursuit of these good conversations, I've made it a habit of coming across the wrong way to members of the opposite sex. Which, in turn, tends to contribute to my reputation of being "The Scary Lady June." Whee. The downward spiral continues. See, in my enthusiasm for great conversation and thoughtful analysis, I usually forget that my peers operate under a different paradigm, one where social flirting is actually romantic flirting; one where friendly interest is never just friendly interest; one where words no longer mean what the user intends.

The thing about words is that they are intended to mean something specific.  When we twist our language to the point where subtext is more important than context, bad things happen. Because the subtext that one person perceives is not necessarily the subtext presented by the author. Subtext is important, but doubly so is the context the actual text is presented in. The supertext, as it were.


And now it's time to bring this ramble full circle. Because of my particular brand of idiocy (egocentricity + different paradigm - brains [ does that make me a zombie?]), I am feeling a little scared of actually engaging with my community when I see them. QED: I don't live in community enough, and when I do, I'm still not living in community with them. And it's not good for us to live alone. The wheels on the bus go round and round...

18 October 2012

A >>Mind-Blowing<< Thought

As you've probably gathered, I am a musician. While I cannot claim any place among the very good, I can at least claim to sing on key. Most of the time. (Scary fact: Most musicians never advance beyond intermediate mastery of their instrument.)

Often, people separate the emotional reaction to music from the emotional performance when creating it. This makes sense - a musician engaging in the act is active in their experience; the listener has a more passive role in receiving the creation. For this reason, many musicians I've talked to don't often feel the emotions they simulate while playing. When performing a piece, consistency is highly valued - being able to deliver a performance fairly similar to a previous performance indicates mastery of the piece.

But for whatever reason, my emotions are more involved when I play than when I simply listen. The marriage of the analytical - am I playing this note correctly? - and the emotional - should this section be more sorrowful? - serves to heighten the pleasure. Sort of like how sea salt is the perfect addition to caramel. The two taste good enough by themselves, but combine them, and WOW. Magic happens.

Regardless of if I'm creating or experiencing it, I can very quickly become swept into the emotion of a piece. Tchaikovsky's 4th Symphony, for instance, never fails to send shivers up my spine at the prospect of a future I cannot influence (the 4th, after all, dealing almost entirety with fate and humanity's futile efforts to overcome destiny and shape their own paths). Now We Are Free, from the film Gladiator, is two parts joyous to one part melancholic, and I cry every time I hear it. Point proven: Music has a very heavy influence over my emotions. This effect is so extensive that I have created playlists themed around certain moods, designing them to gradually change my feelings to a different. I have melancholic to transition in and out of feeling sad; Choleric, to make myself excited; Sanguine, to brighten my mood to the euphoric; and Phlegmatic, to motivate myself.

Too often, I get swept away into the music without a second thought. But today, while listening to the radio's disgusting, treacly, overly auto-tuned songs at work, I overheard a customer talking about "how much [she] [was] moved by Blown Away" - a recent trending song from Carrie Underwood. Now, Blown Away is probably the only song that station plays that I would consider better than bad (yes, I'm a music snob. So sue me). But I would not say that it "touches me" to the extent this song was talking about. Likewise, the person in question probably would not be moved to tears by Leave It Alone by the ever amazing Manchester Orchestra.

And this realization got me thinking. A dange -- Yes, yes, we've heard that joke a million times. Stuff it. -- ow. 

Isn't it amazing that music even has the capacity to affect out emotions?

What is it about a series of notes and chords that can so strongly affect emotions? Of course, this started me on a long line of wiki-walking. Apparently, a group of researchers played famous pieces of Western music to an African tribe that had never heard music from our civilization. The people were able to correctly identify the emotions being expressed by Bach and Mozart and Beethoven -- and they had never been exposed to this style so different from their own style of music. Additionally, when the researchers altered the harmonies to be dissonant or the drum rhythms to come off-beat, the group correctly pointed out that the music sounded wrong.

Which means that music's effects are basically universal. Different societies may express those emotions differently, but the emotions can translate from culture to culture.

There are some theories about why music affects our feelings so strongly. One hypothesizes that our emotions react to that as a sort of evolutionary strength training - our emotions need to function correctly to ensure that ape-men continue to sit by the fire ( a pleasant emotion) and hunt in groups (because loneliness is unpleasant) so that the Great and Magnificent Human Gene Sequence may continue to perpetuate. Music allows our emotions to stretch and remain active even when the body is not going through an emotional event.

That feels wrong on so many levels. Not just because it doesn't make sense, but because that would rule out any possibility of non-functionality. There are pieces of art out there that are simply beautiful without causing emotions. For instance, this picture of a pepper. It's lovely, but there is no functionality. If this theory were true, it would imply only things that provide the function of exercising the emotions would be pretty.

Also, I reject this theory because I am egotistical and do not think that my only purpose on earth is to further my DNA.

Another theory says that music stirs our feelings because it is the auditory version of motion. I find this one a little more plausible - that most things that cause emotional reactions involve motion (or lack thereof) on our parts. The joy a woman might feel at seeing a SUPERAMAZINGLYCUTEADORABLEWIDDLE BABY!!! or sorrow felt seeing the body of my uncle in his coffin at the funeral home - those both elicit reactions, and both are connected to physical movement. In fact, this theory states, we can see the link. A Symphony is broken into Movements; a Partita is a series of short pieces inspired by dance; a Fugue has an inarguable sense of motion throughout.

This may hit on part of the truth. But it leaves out the main thing: if the Heavens declare the glory of the Lord, it must be because we have the capacity to hear them. Personally, I'm a little torn between whether our capacity to be moved to tears by a piece of music is because God decided to give humanity a little present - something special just because He loves us - or because it comes innately with the imago dei. After all, the first thing God does after creating is to call it "good." He appreciates His creation, and when He gave us Creativity - another divine attribute - He also gave us His ability to appreciate it.

Most likely it's a little bit of both. But regardless of the answer, I remain in awe of the whole bundle. God *could* have created us without an ounce of artistic endeavor, but He didn't. And if that isn't Grace, I don't know what is.



16 October 2012


Oh my goodness gracious yes!!


Ladies and gentlemen, another film has been added to my list of All - Time - Favorite movies. Already on the list are L'Herison, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,  the Illusionist; the Batman Trilogy,  and now : Memoirs of a Geisha.

Put aside that it's a Spielberg;
Put aside that John Williams *asked* to write the score ;
Put aside that Itzhak "I'm a bloody genius " Perelman and Yo - Yo " you've got to be kidding " Ma play duets;


Yes, the plot may not captivate a shorter attention span; yes, it does depict some immorality in (very beautiful)  detail ; yes, it deals with mature subjects.

But the beautiful details are just so exquisitely heartbreaking!! The texture!  The cinematography!  The close shots of entrancing, mysterious women!  The layers of silk upon silk upon skin! The elegant curve of the slightly exposed nape of the neck and the subtly seductive turn of the wrist! And the colors - don't get me started.

Memoirs of a Geisha is filled with many aesthetic highs. I felt like I had used all my senses by the end. From the sweet young girl running joyfully through a long corridor of orange and black pillars to the hypnotic curl of smoke from Mother's pipe to that final, passionate kiss in the middle of a reflecting pond, this movie was simply exquisite.

If nothing else,  watch it for your five senses. You will be surprised by the little motions, the tilt of the head and the curl of a Finger that stands out. It reminds me once again that it truly is the little moments that are the most profound. The most life changing. The most inspiring. And if that isn't worth reminding yourself, I don't know what is

15 October 2012


Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance
With the stars up above in your eyes
A fantabulous night to make romance

Beneath the cover of October skies
And all the leaves on the trees are falling
To the sound of the breezes that blow
And I'm trying to please to the calling
Of your heart-strings that play soft and low
And all the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

Can I just have one  more moondance with you, my love?

A few weeks ago, my friend Argentum (Args? Arggy? ... sorry. :P) posted about his ongoing quest to find his lady, the lovely and ephemeral Autumn. I must admit, I was jealous that his personal Autumn came to visit him much sooner than mine did.

Summer dies so beautifully here in the Northwest that it is small wonder Fall remains my favorite season. The dove grey sky so startlingly split by warm, gold, sun beams. The smell of last night's rain so still and fresh on the pavement. The blowing rain and gusting leaves that hurl themselves to the ground with raw enthusiasm and the last of their vitality. The trees that flame from the outside in, leaves red and raw and green and young all at once. The warm jackets, the scratchy scarfs, the sweet taste of acorn squash on my tongue and the smell of apples outside my window. The rustle of wind through the trees and the scraping of twigs on windows.

I treasure this time of year. It reminds me of Peter Bradley Adams, of the Decemberists, of the Civil Wars, Manchester Orchestra, and Michael Buble all at once. I love the insidious cold that creeps along behind me, dogging my steps, ready to spring when once I stop moving. This runs the risk of sounding flippant, but it is truly ~~lovely ~~.

I spoke about this a few posts ago, about a missions trip I am saving up for. I sent my application in to a YWAM based in Perth, Australia. If I am accepted, I will be spending the fine Northwestern winter in Australia's foreign summer. And once I return, I will spend my freckled Summer preparing to move to California for four years of college.

It is driven home to me with every passing day that this is the last intoxicating, exhilarating Autumn I shall see in a long while. My life for the next few years will be one of Summer. And this sobering, melancholy realization reminds me of another song, by the simply sublime group Mouth Music. You can listen to this song here.

"And all the leaves are turning brown,
Yet I can find no reason
To tear myself from Puget Sound
And see her world again..."

This Autumn Romance must be conducted with the brilliance of a shooting star, not only because it deserves that much, but because it heralds the end to an era in my life.

I just want one more moondance with you, my dear...
And the wanting comes in waves.

14 October 2012

I'd Rather Feel Pain Pt. 1

than Nothing at All...

Earlier this summer, I finally got around to reading the Fault in  our Stars, by John Green. I liked it, so I read it again, and then for a third time. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, Great Literature; it is, however, a very decent book that resonates with a lot of teen-aged readers in a way entirely separate from Twilight. It is also a book I thoroughly enjoyed. Why? Because it made me think for a long time after reading it.

Anywhoo, the following is a series of reflections on a single quote from the book.

"It would be a privilege to have my heart broken by you."

Theory: Pain makes one human.

I don't mean that pain or suffering, when compared to joy, makes the happiness seem better, brighter or sweeter. I don't mean that pain is just karma expressing itself to let us know how lucky we are to have good times. No, I mean that pain, by itself, separated from all other corollary experiences, is necessary to be truly human.

And this is no ordinary, purely physical, I-just-impaled-my-foot-on-a-hook sort of pain, but ability to experience anguish, heart break, and despair. No animal experiences heart ache on the same level that humans do. True, we've all seen the Animal Planet documentaries where elephants stand over the bodies of their dead herd mates for days. These displays, when accompanied by the dispassionate voice of the omniscient narrators, seem to be the same as the pain a mother feels when her son dies, or the pain of an elderly man after his wife of sixty years passes on, or the pain of a teenager's first love moving on.

No animal can nurse heartbreak the way a human can. If you're burned by a friend once, the way you interact with all people thereafter will inevitably change. If your husband (or wife) of decades dies, you cannot simply go back to the way life was before you met the best friend you had for the majority of your life. To be human is to change, to morph, to adapt, to grow around foreign objects in our hearts, to form scar tissue, and to heal into a new person.

Now, a lot of my friends are obsessed with "truly living life" - a worthy goal, but perhaps a little one-sided in its practice. Yes, a full life should include adventuring with friends and perhaps a little kissing in the rain; climbing trees and storm drains; living victoriously at Mach 4. But I submit that life that was really lived also includes hard crashes; broken hearts; unrequited love; death of dreams; loss of companions.

If pain is a defining characteristic of humanity (and I firmly believe it is) then we should revel in the hurt as well as the victory. The people we allow to hurt us have been given a trust - their actions will shape who we become, not just who we are at a certain moment in time.

We should revel in heartache, because a broken heart is just a symptom of our ability to love.

Ahhh, humans. You're so fascinating!

If you got through that long ramble, I lift my hat to you. I'm not entirely sure I understand everything I'm trying to say.