Saturday, September 20, 2014

Dwight L Moody Quote

"We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won't need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don't fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine."
-Dwight L. Moody

This is how we should live, as Christians and simply as people. If our good character doesn't speak for itself, then to point it out simply displays a lack of character to begin with. We should shine, not advertise.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Life Is Poetry, Each Of Us Our Own Poet

There is not a person who isn't important. In life we often concern ourselves only with our little bubble. Family might matter, friends might matter, but beyond that we have little care for anyone who is outside of our immediate sphere.

Life I think though, is not so much like a novel, but like a collection of works, and every individual is a contributing author. The life of each person is like a dramatized poem, expressing heights and depths of grandeur and despair, of happiness and sorrow, and love and loneliness. 

From the time we are born we spend ourselves writing this masterpiece, which details conflicts and tensions, and choices. Every story, be it a novel or a poem is driven by choices, and their ensuing consequences.

Every person though, your boss, your coworker in the next cubicle, even that annoying classmate is a poem. Some poems are dark, others bright. Some express entrapment, and others hope and freedom. but all are valuable. There is not a book written which does hold value in the effort or creativity put into it. Likewise, each life is an expression of creativity and effort; even the least accomplished has struggled and been deeply influential in another person's life.

Important though to consider is what we wish our legacy to be. In this digital age, we will never truly be forgotten; your facebook, twitter, and forum posts may remain available long after everyone presently around ceases to exist. two hundred years from now this blog post may still be archived somewhere. There is no escaping history, neither do we have to fear being forgotten by it.

But this poses a striking question: What image am I leaving myself? What is your poem? Have you outlined the novel you want remembered, or are you still a rough draft? 

And perhaps most importantly, what influence are you having as the people around you write poems of their own existence? I suggest you start writing.

The Wandering Adventure

The Wandering Adventure

What am I looking for?
And can it be found?
It's just behind every door,
an echoing sweet sound.

There's beauty in communion,
oneness of the soul.
Closeness its mission,
true knowledge made whole.

A comfort and refuge,
of certain and safe.
Which is lived and died for,
to love for love's sake.

Where the night wind is singing,
where adventure unfolds.
A fullness is built,
with a purpose to hold.

But now I am wandering,
for life does not flow.
I am searching and grasping,
with life holding no glow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Search

The Search

Seasons pass as clouds blow over,
each telling the same story:
the story of life

As Summer brings drought,
the Winter burns with ice.
The Spring rains pour.
like the icy Fall wind.

The Fall wind is a sign,
it’s icy breath whispering of Winter.
Winter, when Ice grips everything,
and no man can escape.

These winds are my soul,
whispers of an emptiness unfilled.
Winter’s ice of sorrow begins,
and my mind burns numb.

As spring rains wash away my numbness,
I am left alone feeling only sadness.
The summer drought washes across my heart,
I am drowning dry in my own pains.

This sadness, it is a strange emotion,
being sure to hold no foot in rational reality.
Instead it lies in a place of twilight and shadows,
where the curtains of past and future meet blurry and confused.

You know this land as the  present,
where life is good and food is plenty.
Where an American soul has naught to complain of
But still life is empty

In this unquenched emptiness, life becomes a search,
A sort of quest for happiness.
Life is a race, but  none receives the prize,
for the prize of satisfaction and fullness is always just out of grasp.

As I dream I come to understand my emptiness.
It is a sense of incompleteness that haunts me;
as though my arm shave been ripped off,
but it feels as though they are still present.

Somewhere in my mind lies perfection,
an eternal image of completeness and life made whole.
But in this land of shadows things are hidden,
I am but granted glimpses of life fulfilled.
So I wander, unsure of what I am looking for.
I hope I know her if I find her.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Music for Social Change

Music. Music is something practically ever functioning member of society can relate to. Music expresses our desires, our joys, our frustrations, our sadness, and it gives us a sense of identity. Through music we are both individualized, and associated with certain groups.

Aldous Huxley once said that "After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music." I think this is spot on. Look at those who find themselves in a place of utter happiness; how do they express it so often? With appropriate music; music and lyrics contain a power unparalleled by other mediums. Music is dynamic, captivating, expressive, poetic, thought about, and remembered.

It is those last two characteristics that really give music power in society. To  memorize a poem, or paper, or other information is difficult for many people; but few have difficulty memorizing song, using rhythm, beat, melody, and feeling to remember the lyrics. In this way music is more persistent than nearly any other form of media; people remember it in vivid detail.

And when something is remembered, it is thought about. Lyrics set to music can appeal to our compassion, our anger, our frustration, our sadness, our apathy, or any number of other emotions. This appeal can be powerful and convicting, spurring individuals on to pursue and accomplish great things.

Remember, society is built by the actions and interactions of individuals; your choices make a difference. Personal interactions, opinions, and expression all contribute to what society becomes. In this way, the individual has as much power as the politician or celebrity. Those people living a real life, without fame, are what makes up society, not the celebrities adored by the media.

For instance Edwin Starr's song "War"  (later sung by Bruce Springsteen) protests war, expressing that all war accomplishes is a brokenness. This song has had great influence on changing American society's perception of war, and particularly encouraged withdrawal from Vietnam. Other songs, like John Lennon's "Imagine," Pete Seeger's "Turn! Turn! Turn," and many, many more have expressed this sentiment

Looking to more recent popular music Warren Barfield's "Love is not a fight" expresses a sentiment of commitment that modern society has lost. It expresses a set of social ideals, saying:
Love is not a place
To come and go as we please
It's a house we enter in
Then commit to never leave
The song expresses the age-old ideal of unconditional love. Love is a choice, it's a commitment, and its not one that any individual has the right to violate. To choose to love is an action that is for the betterment of someone other than ones self, and provides security:
Love is a shelter in a raging storm
Love is peace in the middle of a war
The song expresses that for a person being loved, love is a safe place, it's something that every individual is in need of. And it's something that once given and assured of, is unjust to take away.

Music is a powerful tool of expression. Life, love, hate, war, frustration, sadness, sorrow, heartbreak, joy, happiness, and celebration are just a few of the emotions that can be expressed in music. And like everyday interaction, music can and often does express social ideals, a sense of social expectation, and definition of social justice. Music contributes to the defining of the unwritten social code that society generally adheres to. The more pleasant the code, the more pleasant the society.

So listen to music, express yourself, but be careful what music you listen to; because the wrong ideas are very capable of degrading the fragile integrity of society, and its your responsibility to prevent it.

Please! Comment below with the song's that have changed the way you perceive the world.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Usefulness of Discrimination Part 1

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has a couple different definitions for the term discrimination. Lets look at a couple of them:
  1. The practice of unfairly treating a person or group of people differently from other people or groups of people
  2. The ability to recognize the difference between things that are of good quality and those that are not
  3. The ability to understand that one thing is different from another thing
Looking at the first definition, unfair treatment of different groups of people, I see a bit of common sense. Isn't it rational and safest to distinguish between gang members and peaceful civilians? Those suffering of illness from the healthy? Even when dealing with people discrimination is simply the distinguishing between individuals with different characteristics and then responding to them differently. 

Discrimination is a necessary and essential function of social interaction. The sad reality of the world is that you can't trust everyone, and not everyone has the same needs. To respond differently to different groups of people is only natural and right. In fact in many cases it is safest, and even most fair.

If you're walking down the street in an unfamiliar neighborhood, its getting dark out, and you see a group of three or more people walking your direction. Isn't it safest to discriminate against them and at least cross the street? 

And isn't it most fair to treat people differently when providing any form of medical care? A person suffering of the flu, and a person suffering from broken bones need to be discriminated against, or neither of them will end up with the appropriate treatment. A neurologist should discriminate against treating heart disease shouldn't he?  If his specialty is the brain, isn't it safest and most fair to have somebody else work on the heart?

That's not to say that certain characteristics should be discriminated against without reason. The classic example, racial discrimination has no logical basis. Color of skin holds no inherit tendency of danger, disrespect, or anything else negative that should be treated differently.

Youth are more capable of learning new skills than their seniors, and those somewhat older are more proficient at completing regular tasks, there are benefits to both, and generally don't need to be discriminated against.

Men and women are distinctly different creatures, with a remarkably similar set of capabilities. There are a few situations where physical limitations of one gender would make certain activities impossible or unwise, despite the ability of the other gender to safely complete the task. But by and large, men and women are equally capable, both are capable of most anything they choose to master.

Discrimination is very simple. It is the distinguishing between different types of people, and responding to them as is appropriate. Discrimination can be abused, but increasingly society embraces the treatment of everyone in exactly the same manner.

In fact I find the lack of individuality and deprecation of culture caused by a lack of discrimination slightly disgusting. There is no longer any way to appreciate that people might be different than you are without breaking some sort of social code. Its sad and terrible.

So discrimination is simple, at least until you bring morality into it. After that its a whole 'nother ballgame.

Take Phil Vischer for instance; co-creator of VeggieTales, a children's TV series which teaches biblical principles. He was a visionary who started his own business, and was so successful that VeggieTales was briefly the #2 animated children's series in the world. That's right. The world.

What was a problem he faced in growing his business? Maintaining his mission to glorify and honor God. Religious discrimination when hiring employees is a big no-no. Its illegal in all but a very few non-profit circumstances. When hiring animators and other staff, the law prevented Vischer from ensuring that his business remained true to his goal of building a business true to Biblical principles. (for more on Phil Vischer, read his excellent book Me, Myself, and Bob)

The legal war against discrimination has erased the ability for businesses and individuals to maintain a unique moral identity. When did it become the government's job to micromanage basic social interaction? Preventing acts of violence, theft, or property damage due to prejudice is one thing, but determining the basis on which a business can hire? And who a business has to do work for? Think about it, that's actually quite outrageous.

On a moral level, the government may as well be forcing these businesses to commit theft. For an individual or business who's leadership holds strong religious ties, working for and profiting from individuals who identify as LGBT is immoral, and a violation of personal integrity.

This has become an increasingly big deal lately, as businesses have been punished by the law for refusing service to members of the LGBT community. The laws against discrimination have reached the point where consumers can force businesses to work for them. The law can now mandate businesses to do work for individuals who openly violate the moral code held by the business.

Now I'm no expert, but that seems pretty backwards to me. The law being able to force people to perform services against their will. Arizona legislation has passed a highly controversial bill that would take steps to alleviate this problem for its businesses. If signed by the governor, businesses in Arizona may once again have the right to refuse service because of moral implications.

I'll follow up more on the bill soon in a successive article. But please realize, that by making discrimination so illegal, your right to individual identity and to hold a moral standard has been compromised. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Reckless Stupidity, Endangerment, and Social Interaction

People are reckless, people are stupid, and people endanger themselves. That bothers me a little, but ya know what really bothers me? When people endanger those around them, and then don't care.

When you suddenly cut someone off on the freeway, guess what you're doing, you're placing yourself in danger. One could argue that to place yourself in danger is your right. Fine, risk your own neck. But do you really have the right to risk the neck of the woman driving the other car? Or perhaps the five children she has with her?

If you have a family, do you really have the right to risk your own neck? I mean, its no longer really your neck to risk now is it? Once you sign up to be a husband, wife or parent, you are effectively signing away any room for your own , and embracing the betterment of your family.

And that's a wonderful thing, to devote yourself to something greater than just yourself. Having a family means making a lasting positive change and difference in the way your community works. People generally assume that power to change things rests with the wealthy, the rich, the politicians, celebrities, anybody who is greatly publicized.

Fortunately  people are wrong. A change in society is driven by the individuals who make up the society. Those publicized elite make up only a tiny part of the society; what changes society are the choices we make every single day

If you choose to cut someone off on the freeway, you are choosing to place yourself above the safety of those around you, and the security of your loved ones. You are choosing to place your own business above the smooth and considerate operation of the society around you. A society that is built by your very existence as a human being. 

Perhaps more innocently, you see people walk through parking lots and across streets without watching for oncoming traffic. This is madness in several parts:
  1. It turns the road or parking lot into a zoo, wasting everybody's time
  2. It places unnecessary stress on the driver who narrowly avoids hitting you, possibly even ruining their day.
  3. It risks the time of everyone on that stretch of pavement; if an accident occurs you've just caused several people to blow their entire morning, afternoon, or potentially their entire day. Not to mention the madness they'll have to deal with regarding insurance and the law.
  4. It completely disregards any concern for the well being of anyone who depends on your existence. 
  5. It demonstrates a complete lack of concern for the politeness of general social interaction.

Lets look at point 4: Disregard for the well being of those who depend upon your existence. That's a pretty big deal isn't it. If your best friend died tomorrow how upside-down would your life suddenly be? Even if there is nobody who has a physical dependence upon you, people rely on each other for emotional stability.

I can think of several people who my life would be drastically different without, and not at all for the better. I'd be a mess. And that's what you're doing every time you place yourself in danger: risking the complete emotional well being of at least one other person for your own convenience.

Now I'm no expert, but that seems like a pretty messed up and selfish way to live. 

But lets go back to point # 5: a lack of care for society's standards of social interaction. This is perhaps an even bigger deal; social interaction, both with friends and strangers, is the basis for human existence. Without social interaction, there would be no society.

In most social interactions we are presented with some sort of choice: to be annoyed or cooperative, to be polite or rude, to be helpful or snotty, or some variation thereof. Imagine if every time you spoke to anyone, friend, family, or stranger, they decided to be rude to you, disrespecting even your right to occupy space. It'd be terrible wouldn't it? Nobody would survive a day of that with any self respect or self worth. Life wouldn't be worth living anymore right?

Now realize that every time you flip someone off, swear at someone, or even give someone a dirty look, you are lowering the social standard.  Not some celebrity on TV, not a politician, not a televangelist, but you: the individual who makes society social. 

By being unpleasant, rude, crude, or otherwise impolite or indecent, you are telling your peers, your children, and your elders that disrespect and disregard are acceptable ways to interact with each you, and others. 

Now contrast this: Imagine having the pleasure of a day filled with casual compliments, friendly smiles, pleases and thank you's, common courtesy from every person you had to talk to or walk past during the day. It'd be a pretty sweet day wouldn't it? If your ego wasn't already gargantuan it soon would be. Life would become a pretty ideal reality wouldn't it?

Just as negative, rude interaction lowers the social standard; positive, polite and friendly interaction raises it to a far more pleasant and enjoyable place. By being kind to others, you are expressing that kindness is the way you believe people should treat each other. And even without thinking about it, people want to be accepted, and to fit in with those they interact with. Being kind encourages others to be kind as well. 

So next time you walk through a parking lot, or are about to miss your exit, remember that life isn't just about you, and that by making it so, you end up making life a less pleasant experience for everyone, yourself included.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

What is Life? And why should we care?

Life is everything and nothing. The beating of lungs, the grasping of hands. The progress of human sentience, from birth in naivete, to death as a veteran, life is. Life is composed for each individual of a story they write, where the past is unchanging, and the future not yet written. Life is persistent human understanding; an understanding of our surrounding reality, and an understanding of our own ignorance.

Life is only validated by its own absence, without death life would hold no value. Life is precious to those who have lost it; while those who have not fail to appreciate why life is a game that must be played carefully.

Both the blessing and curse of life is that it ends. Without this end, we would not know to appreciate time as it passes. But the end of life, our own or another's, is cause for great pain, where solace may only be found by remembering the positive contributions of those we have lost.

So life in the end, once every breath is consumed, and all strength departs our limbs is no longer found in the continuation of our persistent understanding; but instead is found in that which we leave behind, our lasting impact upon society and those whom we have loved.

But why does this matter? Who cares? Why does it matter if we had a lasting positive impact? The answer is simple: because your interactions and impact regarding the world around you defines you. If you lived for your family, your family and the love that surrounded you defines you. But if you lived for yourself; alone, often drunk or high, always just looking for a good time, that selfishness defines your existence.

Love is classically the most positive thing in life. Its why people obsess over romance. But society's modern idea of love is severely shallow compared to traditions of the past. Society infers that love is a two way street, a give and a take.

In a romantic sense this is characterized as two individuals working for each other's better and happiness. But this is an expectant relationship, which demands some kind of service from your significant other. This understanding of love reduces the most positive aspect of life to nothing more than a contract which may be broken at any time should one party become dissatisfied with the arrangement.

Fortunately this understanding of love is wrong in all contexts. Love is more than a contract; love is a choice and an action. Love is commitment, in any kind of relationship, platonic or otherwise, love is a commitment to care for the best interest of somebody other than yourself.

Picture for a moment if people applied this understanding of love to interactions in everyday life. What would it look like? Wouldn't we be slower to become angry with each other? And swift to help each other? Wouldn't life for all of humanity become easier and better if we approached every interaction with the intention of love?

So, the purpose of life I think is actually rather simple: Love by choice. Impact the world around you and build your legacy in the most positive manner possible.