Monday, December 21, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
I awoke from a dream where I survived a firing squad. A group of us were in a parking garage that opened to an adjacent alley. We all had guns (in my dreams, we always have guns) but we knew we were no match for the turrets on the trucks coming down the alley. The trucks drove up and aimed their guns at us, and at the last second I dove behind a pillar which shielded the machine gun fire. Everyone was slaughtered, shot to death, except for me. My heart raced as I stood still behind the pillar, a few seconds of silence passed. Did they see me? I held my breath until finally I heard the vehicles drive away. Then I woke up.
I love dreams because they are sometimes so analogous to reality. I love to dissect their meaning. Yes, I am one of those people who believe that dreams can have meanings. This dream made me think.
A few years ago as our band was finally getting off the ground we were filled with extremely high hopes. There was quite a bit of hype, and we had set our goals far beyond what was average for most bands at the time. I remember having dreams back then, flying dreams. I would be on a hill and the wind would pick up, and I would run with it and jump, hover, and slowly take flight. I would sore into the air with my dad and my brothers below me, yelling after me. They would be angry and want me to come down, but I wouldn't. I think they were mad because my choice to drop out of school and be a musician was different than theirs, different from what was expected of me, and maybe they were jealous of my 'success' with it. Who knows, but those were fun dreams. The thing about those dreams is that they were spawned from high hopes and expectations. They weren't real. Our band never really flew. My life didn't take off like I expected it to.
Since then I've had plenty of dreams, some of them quite anxious. You know the ones where you're running from something, but you can't seem to run fast enough? Your legs feel sluggish and you cant escape. It takes everything for you to be able to put one foot in front of the other. You're desperate at first, and then you're stuck with the sinking feeling of complete dread. Or how about those angry dreams, where you're punching someone in the face, or shooting them, but nothing is happening. Their face bounces back like the head of a blow up doll and they're completely unfazed.
When life is looking up, my dreams are like an action adventure movie and I am the star. In one dream I saved my wife from a T-Rex. I took it out with a pistol. No big deal. When my life is characterized by anxiety, I tend to have falling or running dreams.
This dream last night, however, left me with mixed emotions. It left me with a mix of anxiety and relief. Yeah, I just got shot at and everyone around me died, but I was grateful I was alive. I felt blessed. I didn't fly or save my wife from a vicious T-Rex, but I still felt a sense of peace and accomplishment. Thinking about it last night, the parallels of the dream with my life seemed pretty striking.
I do feel blessed to be alive. Our band has been through a lot of ups and downs, probably more downs than ups considering our expectations were much higher, but I've come to a point of acceptance with my life. I feel like we've turned a corner, survived the firing squad and will live to see another day. No I didn't kill a T-Rex or take off flying, making everyone who doubted me jealous, but I am completely at peace with that.
Living the dream is as much about the work as it is the reward. I set out after the reward and in the process, through the struggle, I found what the dream was really about. One cannot be fulfilled by receiving the reward of another mans work. You must live your own dreams, built on your own blood, sweat, and tears. Only then and by the grace of God does a sense of purpose and fulfillment arise. Hope in the lottery is hopelessness. There is no replacement for hard work.
I remember when Albatross didn't sell as many copies as expected. We'd drawn the wrong lottery number. I remember the hopelessness and the doubt. Will we be able to write anything like that again? From the depths of that struggle The Silver Cord was born, a record that communicates and articulates intense emotional stress and longing. I am extremely proud of it to this day. I sometimes wonder, "What if Albatross had met our expectations?" I think we would have tried to write it again, because 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' right? The Silver Cord would have never happened. Correspondingly, had we struck gold with The Silver Cord we might have chased that dark sound into the mathematical caverns of prog-rock and never surfaced, but we didn't. We went back to the drawing board and wrote Vagabonds, and I love it. If anything but this album was coming out next I feel like I would be disappointed. It is exactly where I want to be musically. Regardless of success, I feel like we've found our musical identity on this record. The funny thing is we recorded it in three weeks, nearly half the time it took to record our two previous full lengths. There was almost no stress in the process, it just came natural. We weren't trying to chase some commercial success of the past (there is none) and we weren't worried about creating any in the future. We were making music for musics' sake. We finally stopped caring about the nonsense that is our industry.
And then suddenly, I have peace.
I live the dream everyday. Not the dream I set out of live seven years ago, the one with delusions of grandeur, but the one I probably should have dreamt about in the first place. It's taken me several years and a lot of heartache to get here, but let me tell you I am loving it.
Yes, I still live month to month, and occasionally I'll have a pang of worry about my future, but my life right now feels incredibly blessed. Either that or my perspective changed, or I've learned to love the right things, or both. I don't worry nearly as much, and I've settled with the fact that my minimalist lifestyle is so much more of a blessing than it is a hardship. I want to have integrity and make music for musics sake, regardless of potential profits or marketability. Of course it would be nice if the mass audience appreciated our musical integrity and decided to become fans of our band, but if they never do there will be no harm done. We already have an audience, a really appreciative one, and for that I am thankful.
Friday, November 27, 2009
In a previous blog ("Worship") I talked about how I think we all worship things. We derive our self worth from empty things, we choose to be affirmed by flawed humans instead of by a perfect God. I guess this blog is an extension of that blog, but its more about how we humans long to practice some form of religion, even the "non-religious."
Atheism is a religion. It's an incredibly ironic one, but its still a religion. Talk to a full-fledged atheist, and they will attempt to indoctrinate you. They've even resorted to advertisements on the sides of buses, claiming there is no God, spreading their non-faith as if its the one true religion. They know what they believe, they have their metaphors and their logic, their rules and their guidelines. If gives them a smug sense of accomplishment, a sort of lofty attitude which provides a temporary sense of faux-peace. They're better than you. "You don't really believe in all that fantasy crap do you? Talking snakes?"
You ever see those commercials with the sad looking cats and dogs in slow-motion? Sarah Mclachlin is singing "Angel" and words flash across the screen "Will I ever find a home?" and "Why did they hurt me?" They add human words and emotions to tug at your heart strings. The animals look like they're saying these things, and it makes you want to save them. Now I'm not saying you shouldn't save animals, I myself am an animal lover, but some people have made animal-activism a religion. They have replaced animal instincts with human emotions, fears, and metaphysical beliefs. They give the invisible thoughts of an animal human attributes to bring the animals suffering onto same plane as human suffering. Animal activists are always trying to coerce and convert, usually through guilt and personification, new additions to their cause. Once again, theres nothing wrong with their cause, but when it becomes the sole source of purpose for ones life, then life can become unbalanced. In WA State, people found with malnutrition dogs in their care received a penalty of five years in prison. Parents convicted of starving and abusing their thirteen-year-old daughter have been given exact same sentence! I think we can all agree that a child is more important than a dog, but if your "calling" in life is dogs, then I think sometimes you can miss the point. When you enslave and indoctrinate yourself with a religion or a cause, whatever one it might be, you will most likely end up neglecting or negating other very important causes. Some of which, God forbid, are more important than yours.
There are so many religions in America. Consumerism, all sorts of activism (animal, environment, political), exercise, food, politics, sports, gaming. Think about it, if your team loses in sports, is your day ruined? Is your main source of affirmation through your sports team? Favorite band? Yes, I said it, music can be a religion. In America we encourage people to be religious, "Find out what you're good at and go after it," we tell them. Essentially, we're saying, "Find your god, and worship it."
I dare to say that most people who call themselves Christians in America don't actually follow Christ at all. What about the "Health and Wealth" religion? It's pretty popular. The prosperity gospel is a religion completely different than the one Jesus taught in His Gospel. The prosperity gospel says God wants to bless you now, in this life, with cash dollars in your pocket to pay bills, get a new car, a new house. Jesus says,
"Do not save riches for yourselves here on earth, where moths and rust destroy, and robbers break in and steal. Instead, save riches for yourselves in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and robbers cannot break in and steal. For your heart will always be where your riches are." (Matt 6:19-21)
"No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." (Luke 16:13)
A rich man once asked Jesus what he had to do to be saved, and Jesus, knowing that the mans obsession was money, told him "If you wish to be complete, go and sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me." (Matt 19:21)
Jesus does not want us to possess more, he wants us to give more.
It might hurt your ears a bit to hear this, but Jesus is anti-religion. The only time he got angry here on earth was at the religious leaders who were so obsessed with their dogma that they had no idea it was the Messiah in their midst. He often times debated with them. They challenged him as he healed a man on the sabbath and as he taught in the synagogue. They thought up new ways to test him but they always fell short. In one story, an "expert in the law" tested Jesus, saying, "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?" Knowing that it was a trick question, and that according to their doctrine all the laws and commandments had to be kept equally. Jesus didn't mention any specifics, he just simplified the law to their dismay. Jesus replied:
'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments. (Matthew 22:36-38)
Jesus was trying to tell them that their religion didn't work. The fact that they tithed so religiously that they gave a tenth of their spices meant nothing, because they didn't "Love their neighbor as themselves." They didn't love God either, they just loved themselves.
Jesus didn't even refer to the religious leaders as religious leaders, he just called them hypocrites,
"And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him." (Matthew 6:5)
These religious folks who were so showy with their flowery prayers had already received their reward. They were praying for peer validation, and Jesus says, "They have received their reward in full." If validation is what they want, they've got it through "babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words."
In Matthew 23, Jesus gets completely fed up with the religious leaders and says, "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness." (Matthew 23:27-28)
What an incredibly convicting statement! He was saying they were so religious and obsessed with their craft, their "obedience," that they were DEAD ON THE INSIDE. He called them hypocrites outright. Do you know any hypocrites? Do you look at them with disdain? So does Jesus. It's so sad when people attribute the loveless actions of hypocrites to the love-filled Jesus. Jesus was anti-religion, because religion breeds hypocrisy. Just like its hypocritical to value a dogs life over a humans life, or to value your exercise over your husband, or your sports team over your wife, or the stuff you get over the stuff you give, or the rules you keep over the God you "serve," or anything else that takes you away from "Loving God, and loving people." Christianity is simply those two commandments. Jesus says that if you can truly do those two things, all the other laws will follow suit. If you can love God and love people with all your heart, you will naturally be doing exactly what you need to do to have peace in your life and to please God. No need for a list of rules. Jesus simplified it, much to our dismay as we humans naturally love specific guidelines we can use and abuse to our benefit.
Perhaps I've journeyed off topic. When I talk about spirituality I always end up talking about Jesus. I feel like I have to, because the preconceptions in our culture are often times so contradictory to written history about Jesus. I've met people who have truly taken to heart the things Jesus said, and I can tell you there is nothing more beautiful to witness. The love and sacrifice and grace and peace that a person like Mother Theresa had did not come from her religion. She did not recieve those gifts from saying "Hail Mary's" or praying the Rosary. She simply followed the simple commandment of Jesus to "Love her neighbor as herself." Because of her humble life of sacrifice, her legacy lives on to inspire generations to come. If a poor nun from Macedonia can change the world by following those simple guidelines, than religion is completely pointless.
I know this "essay" is completely disjointed, as I've followed my train of thought down a few different tangents, so I'll end it here and leave you with a few of my favorite Mother Teresa quotes:
I do not pray for success, I ask for faithfulness. - Mother Teresa
I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world. - Mother Teresa
I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor? - Mother Teresa
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. - Mother Teresa
If you judge people, you have no time to love them. - Mother Teresa
If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one. - Mother Teresa
In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love. - Mother Teresa
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
Last night the band and I returned home after spending a week in Haiti. My mind is reeling with the places and the people I saw there, so I wanted to share with you some of our experiences in an effort to save these memories.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.