Thursday, December 8, 2011

His Most Excellent Harmonies

For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].

Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.

December is finally here. The familiar chill of the season is back in the air. I'm still waiting for the snow though; waiting until the streets are flooded with the glorious white glow of a winter's day. I'm not used to waiting this long.

I've found myself very inspired lately by the actions of the people around me. I don't know if people are really being more active around me, or if I've just become more perceptive to it, but in any case, it's gotten to a point where I can no longer avoid becoming these people to some extent. When you read about or hear of people who live more purposed or meaningful lives, it can be inspiring just to get that sense that there actually is a better way to live. But to physically see these people around you; to interact with them, even to feel loved by them...that's another thing entirely. It's no longer just inspiring. I'm compelled to become someone worthy of their influence.

So I guess that's what the scripture is doing up there. It's Phillipians 4, by the way. Paul wrote it to his brothers in Philippi when they were watching him take all kinds of torture and abuse for what he was doing. The letter was telling them that they didn't need to worry about him; that there's gratitude to be found in any situation ("Rejoice always, give thanks in everything"), and this little passage was some insight into what they could dwell on in order to be actively representing Christ. Which is essentially where I stand right now. So thank you, Paul.

I'm going to have to find a way to keep these thoughts in my mind. Each of the bolded words can be individually dissected for meaning and meditated on for understanding, and I think this is what I have to do. And the better I get at finding and recognizing each word, the more I will take on at a time.

But here's the thing: not only am I learning to recognize these forms of excellence in the world around me, but in recognizing them I am dedicating myself to taking inspired action in their wake. If I see something worthy of reverence, instead of just accepting it or appreciating it, I will make sure whoever is responsible knows that their efforts aren't going unrecognized. If I see something that is lovely, or lovable (that is, 'able to be loved'), I will train myself to see this as an open door. This is where I bring love.

I guess it looks alright on paper, but I feel like there's some key element of practicality that's still missing from my goal.


I suppose I'll find that practicality in the same place I found the drive to do this in the first place.
  Those I sing alongside. His excellent harmonies.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cloud of Unknowing

"So he dropped the web of the spider of heaven down through the clouds
All the way into the pool of blood at the bottom of hell
Far above in heaven a bird flies through the terrible cloud of unknowing

Trust can make a man into a wood, trust can make a man green
An everything that longs to be
Broken and small enough to see
To be held in his hands
To be a part and yet alone
Here he is, reaching for the speed of light
Here he is, reaching for the sound of forgiveness

Now wounding around the waterfront
She listens for a voice
A sign of Mother God, a sign of God the Lad

I long to enter you
With gentleness and compassion
But sorrow is always the open door

I know many days go by and I forget to look up at the stars
I forget there are stars, I forget there is the rest
Thin threads of light follow you around
Through the pale blue, down your skin
Down your skin"

-Rickie Lee Jones

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Black, White and Gray.

This is something I wrote out for the magazine team I work with, Cabbages and Kings. The next issue we put out is likely to have a theme if we can get enough submissions to match it. I actually wrote this in order to bring the subject some clarity, as we each had different ideas of what it meant. But this is one case where vaguery might help our situation, since your average submitter generally has an idea of what they want their piece to look like well before we get to see it.

Every piece of visual art created within a black and white color scheme has a certain inherent appeal to it. Stripping all the color out of an image only seems to give it a new sense of clarity; as if the hidden underlying substance of the image has just been revealed. The artistic honesty found in that familiar monochrome palette will be this year’s theme for Cabbages and Kings magazine: Black, White, and Gray.

Now that’s not to say that color will be absent from this issue. Color is often just as honest a form of expression as grayscale, and to omit it would be to omit sincerity. What we’re looking for is a piece’s ability to take opposites and extremes (black and white) and use them to create a full, complete picture, with every new shade and contrast in between.

To truly understand what black, white, and gray represent, one must attempt to really understand his own way of seeing the world. Because essentially, that’s what the theme is: a person’s own beliefs, morals, perceptions, and where their world is clearly defined or left in a state of uncertainty. These are what make up the subjectivity of the human experience. This is what we mean by Black, White, and Gray.


So I guess the layman writer/artist might have some trouble with this one. No worries. I'll try to come up with something matching this concept, and probably post a draft here when it comes to be. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waking Life

I've been having this recurring dream lately. I want to say I've had it for the past week or so, but it may have been longer. It's hard for one to be the judge of his own mind sometimes....

We're in a coffee shop or something. I'm sitting there having an in-depth conversation with someone very specific. This person changes in different instances of the dream, but it usually tends to be the same 2-3 people in my life. These people are people I'm incredibly close to; I feel their pains and joys as much as my own sometimes. But I guess I've been unable to speak what I really want to say to them as of late.

In the dreams, the conversation between us ranges between the mundane to life-and-death consideration. Whatever the topic, the key unchanging variable of this dream is that this conversation is in some way a form of unrestrained expression; there is a no-holds-barred honesty between us. Whatever social restraints from this honesty there are in the real world are removed from these dreams, and the two of us converse in complete isolation and freedom.

The dream is not over when the conversation ends. The two of us stand up. We come towards each other slowly. And then we embrace like it's the first and last time we ever will. That's when I wake up.

I suppose I have been finding it hard to open myself up lately.
Not to get anyone confused, though. There are some reasons why I wouldn't want to. But with a new need for release seeping into my unconscious mind, I'm starting to wonder if these reasons are good enough.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Corner of My Eye

Yesterday I realized something about my world that I had always found it hard to focus on.

In the corner of my eye, there is a figure. It is an abstract; it has no coherent face. It has no discernible voice.
It has no singular shape. It's actually more of a plurality that an individual being. Because no matter where I go and what I see, he/she has never found his/herself out of my sight.

Maybe I never noticed this because I tend to take things for granted when they're out of focus. This background, this atmosphere, this very room can be easily seen as a temporary dwelling on my way to somewhere else. A new or familiar backdrop for every scene, perhaps. But the thing is, just because it's always moving and shifting and changing, that doesn't necessarily mean that it hasn't been the same background the whole time. Because I'm starting to open myself up to the idea that this is not simply the space I occupy for a while, but actually the palette with which I paint my life. These colors, these sounds; they are what defines me despite their kaleidoscopic inconsistancy. When I look into my own memories, there is a place for every color and sound and smell and breath of air and drop of rain and person I come across, and I am just a collective of all of it.

And so when I see in this way, the blurry sides of the world I see suddenly become just as important as the clearly defined road ahead. Because these present indescribable uncertainties are now certainly my inevitable future. Because when I tell these stories to myself or to others, it's not the story itself that brings memory back to reality. It's the unpolished edges that I experience, should I choose to relay them, that prove to the world I have lived a life.

And in this light, there is a new figure; an old figure. It is not something I fear in any way, because I think I have some recognition of who they are. If I was to turn my eye, if I was to see them up close and in the light of focus, they would appear as someone I know, having a conversation with someone else, texting, maybe just off in another room. But despite this appearance, I know that is not the sort of thing the abstract figure does with them in the same time, in the same silhouette. What it does when I can barely make out their shape, let alone their voice. Somehow, in the quiet places bordering my vision, I simply know that they are comforting, healing, rebuilding, bringing hope to the hopeless, finding the love inside to reach out and impact the lives around them. I can see this because I can see the results of this love, and I'm familiar with it's source and the people who have chosen to take it on as their veil.

Experiencing this in action is the ultimate form of peace for me. That there is something, whether I can see it or not, fundamentally going on all around me for the good of the world. And that maybe in the end, I will have been a part of it.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Some Dusk

   It's not the act of getting my thoughts out on a white blank page that drains me of whatever pressure builds up in my brain over time. It's simply the feel of this undersized netbook keyboard under my variably calloused fingertips that keeps me where I belong. The brain melting sounds of dubstep upstairs are clogging my sinuses, but by sitting here and accepting these external influences with no filter, I slowly realize that the sick feeling in the pit of my stomach is remembering what I need to be doing. I don't think there's a word (at least in my vocabulary) for the feeling that is, quite literally, the opposite of satisfaction. There are other words like discontent, or hunger, or need, but these are all connected to other networks of emotion and this is something else entirely.
  Still, I do feel content in knowing that this will be over soon. Not like any actual event, that is, but the lack thereof. The space between. (eye of the storm?) It doesn't matter; it feels empty, and I'm just biding time in the end. Thing is, I'm holding myself to more commitments nowadays. Do normal people ever really have nothing to do? Even the internet is really not that least not for me. You can only go lurking so far before you fall back into the same places you've aways been anyway. Everybody's looking for the same thing in different directions.
Something about David Foster Wallace is affecting my ability to see straight. Nasty book. I'll never finish it, but I'll keep trying.
I already feel relieved. Something wicked this way comes...the near-night outside is getting darker and more charismatic every chance I get to look out into it. I can feel a chill so strong that there's hardly any resistance from these walls and windows between us. Trees too far away from their home are quivering in the grey ghetto twilight. Eventually I'll feel the need to turn this light on; to re-establish some sort of serinity. But not right now. Right now, I want to let this moment be what it is without any custom ROMs and open source adjustments. No light switches, toggles, dials, or tweaks to improve on the imperfections. Just cold being slightly cold, wind being mostly wind, and night being an almost half-assed night. Just like me, it's waiting on it's own transformation through the passage of time. It wants to know what it will be capable of when the time is right. Night itself has seen some nights worth remembering, to say the least. But will it be able to repeat itself now? Somehow, I doubt it's completely sure of itself. But night will once again give us all it's effort, and do the best it knows how to do. And I'll just rest in the knowledge that it will be...sufficient...for whatever that's worth.
By the way,
I found this in a journal. I have no idea what state of mind I was in whilst writing it, and I honestly couldn't tell you what some of it even means. But I liked it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

All the Trees of the Field

Isaiah 55:12.

"For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands."

I heard from the trees a great parade.
And I heard from the hills a band was made.
Will I be invited to the sound?
Will I be a part of what you've made?
And I am throwing all my thoughts away.
And I'm destroying every bet I've made.
And I am joining all my thoughts to you.
And I'm preparing every part for you.
-Sufjan Stevens

Friday, October 7, 2011

Life from Decay

I've been having trouble maintaining clarity of mind lately. It's been honestly quite pleasant.
Back to work.

In order to justify running a blog,  I guess I have to eventually post in it every once in a while. I've recently been exploring my own unpolished, untrained thoughts in the form of poetry, or at least mimicry. Unfortunately, there really aren't a whole lot of references I can make to the Great Poets of Our Time, because frankly I just don't know them very well. Maybe I've come across a handful in the occasional English textbook, but these have been relatively infrequent. My contemporaries are my inspiration more than anything else. This may or may not be healthy. I'd be a pretty poor judge of that.

So I paid some attention when Billy Collins was mentioned on campus. Apparently he was the United States Poet Laureate from 2001-2003, and the New York Laureate for some time after that. I have no idea what this means, but it's impressive to me that someone could make a living off of poetry. He'll be giving a presentation next Wednesday, and so I picked up his book Horoscopes for the Dead. It's incredible. I will be there. And I'll bring all my friends, relatives, and oxford commas that are into this sort of thing.

On the subject of inspiration, I've been looking up to a few new faces to feel my own thoughts. I'm not looking so much for the sense of "Yes...I've been there, I know this..." anymore. These are new thoughts, new emotions. They are difficult and weird.

First name on my list is David Foster Wallace. This one came about in an unconventional fashion. I was having an impromptu conversation with a man that I never saw again*. He claimed to have just given up his addiction to hallucinogenic drugs last summer. His coping mechanism to control relapse was to read up to 3-5 books a week since. When I told him how legitimately interested I actually was, David Foster Wallace was on the top of his recommendation list. Apparently this particular author made the biggest impression on his desperate mind. Almost 1/5th into Wallace's magnum opus, Infinite Jest, I'm beginning to get discouraged with his writing style. It's also likely the longest book I've ever picked up. Wallace has a certain intentional lack of appeal that I've never seen an author use so generously. I realize it's probably just masterfully written, because the emotional distance he places between me and his characters is...effective. His strange vision of post-consumer depression is doing it's job on my attention span, but I'll push through if for nothing but the experience itself.

Of course, Billy Collins. It's hard to really say I've been taking influence from him already, but I am definitely inspired by his style as well. This one isn't so mentally challenging, but it is complex. I guess I might call it a very 'masculine' style of writing, in that all the emotion, no matter how powerful/subtle/deep is implied instead of addressed. He writes about his thoughts, his actions, and his experiences, but never emotions. This are the most powerful part of his poetry, because you literally have to fill it in with your own exact representation of what he's feeling. You fill in his little boxes with yourself. And then he has you completely captivated.

There's another name on my list tonight. Been up there for weeks now, actually. I doubt I would have initiated this blog without her indirect influence...but I'll get back to that later.
(Hi there)

Also, as far as visual arts projects are concerned, I've decided to pick up where the artist Casey Murphy left off.
Amateur taxidermy.

You see, Casey Murphy was an artistic fellow who occupied the halls of my college right before I came in. He was a big contributor to the magazine I'm working with now, and some of his art was a bit...controversial. For example, he had a piece titled The Sounds of Nature that seemed to set a good amount of people off. It was a photography piece, showing a good sized stereo speaker on a wooden table. Crucified to the speaker was a squirrel with it's midsection split open and it's various organs spilling out onto the table before it. It looked like there was an input/output jack fed into his intestines. That would explain the title, anyway. As strange as this piece was, I know for a fact it was art like this that must have caught my eye at some point during my first semester at the college, and thus it was art like his that caused me to join the magazine team in the first place. So I've had a thought in the back of my head that I might someday to a tribute piece for him.

It came to me during a contemplative walk; I found him in a woodchip garden by the sidewalk. He was posed in a perfect dive; his wings folded against his back in the most natural, flawless curve, as if he had sustained this free fall for miles before the ground found him. His head was bent back in grimace, in the experience of pain that inevitably took his life, but at a closer inspection, it was seemingly cocked in some sort of final defiance as well. His little muscles were tense, easily seen as a flex of whatever authority this creature could muster, as if his death was his first and only act of rebellion and he wanted to savor (or at least experience) every millisecond of it. I found him upside down in this agony/pride, his rigor mortis forever preserving his emotion.

So in classic Casey Murphy fashion, I put him in my freezer in a brown paper bag.
 I think I'll call him Testa.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

no such thing as an empty field

Last night I walked to the fire.

In the center was the fire;
my brothers were all around it.
Together we surrounded it,
together we stared into it,
yet I felt my eyes were dimmed by its light.
I said nothing.

I walked off into the field
and I stood in the wet grass.
The clouds of autumn were restless.
The sky behind them glowed pale and red
with the city I belong to miles away,
illuminating the air itself.

I heard a voice out in the field
It was asking for honesty, openness.
I could see it was a small, white light in the distance;
The florescent glow of a phone call, just visible above the wheat.
On the other end of the line were fortresses and demons,
but there the voice stood against them, in the open field.

I saw that the voice was alone.

I realized then that we were standing under the infinite;
The field contained us, the land, the sky, and the Lord.
In the grass, in the shadow of the trees I knelt and prayed.
I prayed that the field could somehow conform itself into this voice.
I prayed that those omniscient satellites could somehow transmit the glory around us.
And I prayed that the power we speak with could overcome the evil we speak to.

After it was over, we walked out of the field.
We walked over to a fire,
my brothers were all around it.
Together we surrounded it,
together we stared into it,
yet I felt my eyes were dimmed by its light.
I said nothing.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Ecclesiastes 3:11

It's insane really.
To have eternity set in the heart of man,
but for it not to be more powerful than our pathetic

Eternity is a void,
whispers of life hidden in the infinite,

Still, the emptiness of our universe
pumps it's blood through my veins.
The source of our longing, set in place as the source of our life.

This incredible, disgusting, beautiful machine,
it pumps,
it pulls,
it crunches and cranks,
it eats, eats,
It can be calm on the outside.
But it holds me captive now.
And its source of power,
deeper and older and stronger than my own thoughts,
is desperately empty.

Eternity screams out for fulfillment.
His lungs burn as he reaches for the surface of the water.
He searches for his release

But he sees through my eyes.
I was blind at birth.