Noisey posted this documentary on December 1, 2016, I Saw The Light. I watched it today. It's a well-made little film about Christian evangelical culture's relationship with music.
I attended a few Christian festivals with my church youth group: Sonfest in Abbotsford and Jesus Northwest in Vancouver, Washington, both in the mid-90s. As a Christian teenager, I had a good time at those festivals. I admit that I enjoyed the concert elements far more than preaching or "worship," so perhaps I didn't get the full experience as described in the documentary. But I remember feeling really good and meeting lots of other Christians who introduced me to really great music. I still listen to some of that music, even 20 years later, even after my faith has long gone.
A few days ago, I was filling up a couple booklets with CDs for my car. Going through the old CDs—all on spools at this point—I was a little bit floored that I had such a significant Christian music collection: Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Daniel Amos, Starflyer 59, etc.. I'll probably keep those CDs forever; they're an essential part of my collection.
Funny thing is, I've had The Hold Steady's "Chillout Tent" running through my head for the last few days, which tells a very different music festival story. Enjoy:
Should I feel guilty about enjoying this lovely, melodic, narrative drug-trip song? The Ottawa School Board might think so.
Makes me wonder what the Shewens are up to these days.
1. Attend a songwriting retreat with other songwriters.
I've always wanted to attend a songwriters retreat.
Unfortunately, retreats like this cost $$$, and I simply do not have $$$ right now. Perhaps I can find some sort of free Internet songwriting group. Or perhaps I'll have to start up a MeetUp of my own. If I'm going to make a retreat for myself, it's going to have to be a little closer to home.
2. Solve writer's block by Pinteresting the shit out of my social media.
My ex loves Pinterest and her best friend says "Don't follow me on Facebook if you want to know who I am: check out my Pinterest boards and you'll know everything about me." I don't tend to aggressively use Pinterest myself, but perhaps I need to create a few Writer's inspiration boards on my own Pinterest.
On reflection, my Pinterest largely consists of stuff about mental health and leadership. I doubt all the academic reading I had to do for my Master's in Leadership Studies degree was very helpful in regards to my desire to write elemental, emotional, community-based music. So I should probably do my best to avoid all of that sort of writing for a bit create a songwriting board on Pinterest and visit it regularly..
3. Track down a shaman of some sort.
I hesitate to apply "spiritual" ideas to anything these days, but religions endure and tap into elemental human aspects. I should try to tap into them too.
Religions try to give purpose and vision to people in a collaborative manner. They usually have a hierarchy of leadership and mentorship. As much as I've chafed over the years at mentorship, perhaps some time with an inspirational shaman of sorts might help kick this writer's block goodbye.
As to how I could do this at this moment... I have no idea.
4. Date carelessly.
I have tried to be a very careful dater over the years. At this point, when I look back, that over-caution hasn't really got me very far, writing-wise. I still haven't written any of those "What the hell was that all about" breakup songs. I think part of this might be attributable to my general even-temperedness and desire to give everybody the benefit of a doubt and assume their well-meaningness. More likely, though, is that I'm a bit of a cowardly dater and I barely date in the first place. And right now is most definitely NOT the time to start, even for the sake of a song or two.
This one is very important. I have not had a healthy group of friend-relationships for a long time. The conversations that inspire new metaphors and hooks... I just haven't had them. Nor have I had anybody highlight what's worth holding on to and what's worth scrapping.
So perhaps this is the best option. It's time to track down a songwriting partner. Time to get back to reading literature and filling my brain with latent metaphors I'd never considered before.
Perhaps a new project for the new year.
Naturally, I'm a little disheartened by yesterday's U.S. Election results. How can a nation move from a distinctly "presidential" president—Obama, whose wit, intellectual power, and self-awareness are truly extraordinary—to a distinctly un-"presidential" one—Trump, whose careless language and lack of filter humiliates him on a daily basis—within one cycle? What gives?
And how can the Republican Party live with itself when it allowed this bombastic outlier a stage, despite their best efforts to stop him?
I was hopeful that Peter Coffin's "Election Pre-Post mortem" would seem quaint after the election, but the video hits hard with this result. The system is a problem in the USA, and the status quo's resiliency has never been more certain than it is with Trump's win. I've embedded Coffin's video below.
With some different solutions to the same problem, On The Media also concluded that The system is rigged., but not in the way Donald Trump says it is. I've also embedded it below.
So, U.S.A., what are you going to do? How will you rescue yourselves over the next four years of national and international humiliation? How will you tame Donald Trump to work in your favour and not just his own?
I, for one, recommend a National Day of Mourning for November 9. Let us mourn the death of decency and civility in the world's most important military power. Let us mourn how this election represents backwards steps for social justice. Let us mourn our mistrust of experts and people with experience in national leadership. Let us mourn the choice to democratically lean on a decidedly undemocratic leader.
And let us mourn the ascendancy of the stupid.
The video is based on this article from The Book Of Life. This passage is my favorite:
We apply the wrong medicine:
This section hits home to me, especially as I watch more and more relationships come to pieces around me, including, of course, my own relationship with my ex-wife. It's always a battle to refrain from senseless blame when we feel hurt; careful introspection can help us realize that the hurt we wield against those around us usually stems from problems deep within ourselves.
I appreciate how the School Of Life and Book Of Life folks seem well aware that our minds are far from tame, that we are by no means "rational animals." The baggage we carry with us can affect every part of our lives, no matter how much we fight against it. We mis-aim our solutions and choose misguided shortcuts that inevitably make life more difficult in the long run. We compromise where we shouldn't, and stay steadfast when we should compromise.
So with every marriage that crumbles, with every friendship that goes silent, I can't help but wonder at the hidden, mis-addressed thorns in each person's side, at the ways we've lashed out at those we love the most. It's terrifying when so many of my friends, so many of the people I love and respect the most, seem to be hurting so much.
At least we'll be keeping therapists in business.
I'm exhausted. I don't think I'm going to get to have any sort of routine until January. But lord I can't wait for that routine. I can't wait to get up in the morning and calmly prepare for my day, and to finish my schoolday with most of my daily tasks completed, to go home and do things for myself a little. I know that people say that you should be able to take care of yourself at any time, but right now there are a few too many commitments to use my time wisely. I'm having trouble keeping weight off, keeping up at work, keeping my few extra-curricular activities maintained, and keeping positive with my daughters. But a time will come when I'll finally be able to perform the introspection necessary to accurately identify and address the hidden thorns in my own self, and I look forward to it.
I can think of a few times over the last few years when I've felt uncomfortable with the ways people "call out" each other. My impression is that the person who "calls out" injustice feels their explanation is witty and useful, but it can often come-off as a conversation-closer. Despite this, I usually try to give the call-out a serious listen, even if I can't do it on the day of confrontation. If I'm uncomfortable with an idea, I like to try to get to the core of my discomfort.
A few weeks ago, I came across this article, "A Note on Call-Out Culture," by Asam Ahmad after somebody posted it to their Twitter feed. I didn't read it for a few days, but when I did I found a couple touching passages.
Here's the article:
I think the article brings up some valid concerns, namely that "Calling-Out" is a performative act. When we call-out, the calling-out itself becomes the issue of importance. It's hard to keep one's aim straight on the content when the calling-out is so attractive in and of itself.
Most importantly to me, Ahmad writes,
There are ways of calling people out that are compassionate and creative, and that recognize the whole individual instead of viewing them simply as representations of the systems from which they benefit. Paying attention to these other contexts will mean refusing to unleash all of our very real trauma onto the psyches of those we imagine to only represent the systems that oppress us.
I believe in calling-out injustice, but I also believe that there are ways to do so that decrease damage and increase relationship. When we can confront people in ways that don't jade them or shift the focus of their concern, people have a chance to feel legitimized, even if their in the wrong camp. A successful call-out should allow the receiver of the call-out to feel as human as the person who performs the call-out themselves.
On October 24, The School of Life published this video, "Is It Better To Be Polite Or Frank?" which seemed to address some of my call-out concerns that day. The video compares "frank: and "polite" behaviours and evaluates their efficacy in different contexts. If you have 10 minutes, I highly recommend viewing it.
In relation to the video above, I would argue that "calling out" is almost always an act of frankness: the person wants to bring something to the surface and "tell it as it is." However, the combination of performance and frankness shuts down nuance. Once the performance of calling-out begins, once somebody highlights somebody's apparent indiscretion. Calling out creates opposition and debate where nuance might fit better.
When I was searching for the first article in this blog entry, I came across a second article with a different focus. Kitty Striker wrote this article for The Walrus: "The Problem with Callout Culture."
For my purposes, the most pertinent part of this article reads,
For some critics, it feels safer, and more cut and dried, to call out an individual for saying something racist, for example, than to dig into the root of why they felt it was okay to say it in the first place. It’s less overwhelming to yell at one person than to, say, go after institutional oppression.
Calling out is fine if you want to frankly bring something to the surface, but terrible at identifying the root problems that maintain injustice. If anything, I would think that effective call-outs would immediately be followed by some empathic conversation between both parties. Call-outs draw attention to a problem, but may be a bad method for changing the systems they confront.
I'm all for changing the system; I'm all for calling out injustice. However, I'm more interested in workable ways to change the system than I am in forcing myself into a position where my frankness and performance force me to try to be "right" when I could very well be wrong, or missing the target altogether.
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