I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy… By: Charles Westerman

January & February have offered a lot of opportunities to build character– breakups, lost wallets (finally found after a week and a half!), flat tires, seasonal depression, dainty paychecks, running out of gas because the gage broke, quitting smoking (again), hellacious colds, watching Colin Kaepernick make the Packers defense look like devouring a creme puff, our cheap vacuum breaking…

Needless to say, I’ve been thinking about Job a lot lately. But at 22 you don’t have time for pity parties. You’ve got an identity to find, a career doing something you love to make happen, muscles to build at the gym, and a healthy relationship with Christ to maintain.

Luckily I’ve got an amazing sister-in-law who challenges me to rise to the occasion. Thank you Tara for helping me remember the importance of stocking a heart full of thankfulness.

Below is the 101-things-I’m-thankful-for list. Written by a school bus driver living in Portland who bums around coffee shops in between routes trying to write his first book.

1- When parents go out of there way to stop and let me make my turn leaving the school.

2- The names in my “favorites” on my phone.

3- That moment when I drop my kids off and crank up Colin Cowherd.

4- Having a best friendship like Turk & JD.

5- Spotify. Spotify. Spotify.

6- Living four blocks from a cheap seat/indie movie theater (2-for-1 Tuesdays: tickets $2/piece).

7- How I never get sick of bananas or homemade sandwiches.

8- The “Right Away, Great Captain!” Trilogy– where literature meets musical form.

9- The loyalty of the Westerman-brotherhood.

10- Spending twenty hours a week doing what I love.

11- Eavesdropping on conversations in coffee shops.

12- Driving by the Rose City Skyline every morning before the sun comes up. Donald Miller described it as, “the Willamette River wears the skyline like a queen wearing a beautifully jeweled crown” or something to that effect. The imagery is amazing.

13- Imagery.

14- That moment once a month when all I want is a can of coka-cola.

15- Reading a book that makes you forget to look at the page numbers when you turn them.

16- The first day you wake up and realize your cold is gone.

17- The steam room at my gym… Or as I like to call it, “the think tank.”

18- Gas in the tank.

19- How every time I walk out of a good action movie I can feel my testosterone pumping and my confidence boosted.

20- Daniel Craig: my favorite James Bond.

21- The only piece of clothing I’ve bought since I moved to Portland– my golden-brown corduroy Levi’s.

22- True moments of wit.

23- Flirting with cute baristas.

24- The moment you realize you’re going to be able to pay your bills for the month.

25- How putting on cologne makes your posture better.

26- Old men talking about old music with a youthful gaze.

27- The lack of boring people in Portland.

28- Working to master the perfect School Bus Driver wave.

29- Great art on album-covers.

30- Swanky Christmas sweaters (with elbow pads) from Aunt Katie.

31- When my kids get my jokes.

32- Watching the ways people display their love for each other in a school bus yard.

33- My new friend Manny.

34- My super warm brown hoodie I’ve had since junior year of high school.

35- The comically looking naked fairy-lady riding a bike on a pack of playing cards (I mean… Who came up with that?)

36- Similes and metaphors.

37- Stories in the Bible that involve prostitutes.

38- Deep breaths.

39- My $15 queen sized fleece blanket from Target.

40- When people ask me what my tattoo on my wrist means.

41- My super functional $20 pair of big headphones.

42- Hour-plus phone calls with TJ.

43- People who genuinely want to listen to me play a song I wrote.

44- Capturing your mood with the perfect pizza toppings.

45- New pictures of Beck on Facebook.

46- When old people talk about my generation optimistically.

47- A hot shower in the dark of Winter.

48- When Brendon calls me out for being a lame human being.

49- Sally– our grandmother in Portland. Every time I walk away from an interaction with her I feel better about myself and life. I hope I have that effect on people when I’m old and wise.

50- Tossing the pigskin with Trav and Bren in the big empty parking lot next to our house and mastering the back shoulder throw.

51- The moment in the morning when the heaters finally get warm on my bus.

52- Places where you can see for miles.

53- Ted Talks.

54- Waking up everyday knowing my mom’s already covered me with the blood of Christ.

55- Not having homework.

56- Driving bus in neighborhoods that look like The Shire meets Beverly Hills.

57- That Jesus told us not to worry about tomorrow.

58- Breakfast sandwiches.

59- Well-made documentaries.

60- The dictionary app on my phone.

61- Wordplay.

62- Still being able to get a good men’s haircut for $9 (thank you Jenny the super noble/humble Asian lady).

63- Putting on a thermal shirt at 6 a.m. on a winter morning.

64- For reasons that would take too long to explain, my parking stall at the bus garage.

65- Days when my mood is copacetic with the typical gray winter day in Portland.

66- Blowing my nose.

67- Rooms with lots of windows.

68- A good bouncy ball.

69- How Travis can’t help but sing in a country twang.

70- Writing songs with my two best friends and how that’s a healthy way we can bond with each other.

71- Days where it’s clear enough to see Mt. Hood.

72- Moms Valentine’s Day cards with ridiculously long, genuine notes written in them about how much she loves me.

73- Everything you learn at 22.

74- The sound of myself typing.

75- Getting kissed on the neck.

76- The grumpy old man at the bus garage with the glorious, bushy Gandoff-white eyebrows.

77- Being reunited with my Mr. Rodgers cardigan after two years.

78- When they FINALLY call your number at the DMV.

79- Alkai Beach.

80- That “Fun.” won two Grammies this year.

81- Getting to be one of the only people in the world who witnessed Trav eat Indian food for the first time.

82- Extra crispy hash browns.

83- Having a spare tire.

84- Getting together with old friends from college.

85- Having a nice big room to pace around in while I talk on the phone.

86- A well written hit pop song (rare, but beautiful when it happens).

87- Taking the perfect dump.

88- Charles Woodson’s time in a Packers uniform.

89- Lebrons hot streak.

90- Pacific Northwest Architecture.

91- Three day weekends.

92- One on one chats with Max over video games.

93- Taking the Wandering Summer Road Trip and being blessed with the financial resources to make it happen.

94- Lunch meat.

95- Shooting pool.

96- The $25 Chipotle gift card Jonah’s parents gave me for Valentine’s Day.

97- Arthur’s Automotive and their $22 oil change services four blocks from our house.

98- Getting a free donut at Starbucks today

99- The way Brian Regan pronounces the word “volcano”.

100- Crushing an open mike night.

101- Faux blue roses.

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Taking A Shot– By: Charles Westerman

I wrote this essay a couple weeks ago and thought maybe it would be a nice update on my life for anyone whose curious on where it’s at. Enjoy. 

I’ve been living in Portland for a little over a month now. The summer has uncharacteristically stuck around for a few weeks longer than it usually does, and believe it or not, this is the first day it’s rained since I moved here.

I should be writing on my other projects I’ve been working on, but I’m tired of writing about things where I have to think and structure and debate the moral integrity of my words. I just want to sit and drink my coffee in my blue chaise lounger and write words blindly. I want to wax philosophic and poetic and talk about things I’m still coming to grips with.

Once or twice a week, my roommate and best friend who I moved to Portland with – Brendon is his name – have these nights where we remember why we moved to the city to be writers. We talk like young men who are scratching and clawing excitedly to uncover their concrete purpose in the universe.

Such a night was last night. We met up for a drink with my friend Andrea who I know from working at my college newspaper. She works at the main newspaper in Portland, The Oregonian, and brought her friend Katherine who also works there. Both of them are the kind of people you want to sit down for a drink with.

We met them at this little hole in the wall bar called the Vintage Cocktail Lounge on the Stark street strip four blocks from our duplex on 78th avenue and Burnside. It’s already become our usual place. We’ve lived in the Montavilla neighborhood for about two weeks and have already been there three times.

They have a special called, “The Local” which consists of a single-shot of wells whiskey and a cheap tallboy for five bucks. If we’re feeling classier, they make great Old-Fashioned’s—garnishing them with both an orange wedge and real cherries, which they crush in the bottom of the cup before they do anything else.

It will be our McClaren’s Pub—our Central Perk. It’s long and thin and has crimson painted walls and artsy posters that were probably bought at Hobby Lobby. It’s not original or great art, but its pleasant to look at and goes with the vibe. The bartenders are social and want to remember your name and have you become regulars. The bar is two-thirds the length of the room and is a generous width. The shelves holding the liquor go from a foot above the floor to a foot above your head. Behind the shelves the wall is fitted with tin-tiles that are all imprinted with the same, thoughtful design. The beautiful aesthetic of the shelves communicates the honor the owners feel to the bottles of liquids that keep this place afloat

We sat at this bar with Andrea and Katherine and talked about the two-choices we had for President. They told us what it was like working in the trenches of a big-city newspaper. We told them what school-bus training was like in the basement with our instructor Gail and our fellow students. There’s Eddiemike, whose first name really is Eddiemike. He grew up in a big Italian family and has lived in Portland his whole life, yet has an almost country-boy friendliness to him. There’s Felice, who is the most pleasant and worrisome woman you’ll ever meet. Always asking Brendon and me if we’re nervous about driving a school bus, because she sure as hell is.  Then there’s Kevin, who has the most sultry-looking face you’ve ever seen, and even though he’s never done me anything to me, I don’t like him. Gail herself is overweight, smells like a basement, and is one of the best school bus trainers in the country. She understands her humble, but important role in the world and strives for excellence in that role and for that I respect her immensely.

Andrea and Katherine listened fervently to the little world we had become an unlikely part of. They thought it was funny we were becoming bus drivers, but not in a condescending way. Not in a “you went to college to become a school bus driver?” way. They seemed to take us seriously when we told them we were going to drive a school bus so we could pay the bills while we got ourselves established as writers. That it was a sensible part-time job because we had to wake up in the morning and do our route, but then had the middle of the day to write until we had to go pick our kids up in the afternoon.

And we would have to write, because we were going to be driving our bus in Lake Oswego fifteen miles away from our home in Montavilla. Fighting traffic to go back home in between routes wasn’t going to be an enticing option, so we might as well post up at a coffee shop and gut some words out while we wait.

We talked like this for a couple hours. About real things and funny things and things people our age in the place we are in talk about. Then we said goodbye and that we should meet like this again because it really had been a great evening filled with great conversation. And all four of us really did mean what we were saying—that we wanted to get together again. It wasn’t a pleasantry and that was refreshing.

Brendon and I walked the four blocks home with energy. Glad that we had met up with the girls, but glad now that we were alone and could talk about what had just happened and what was happening in a larger sense. We got back to our house and he stayed outside with me while I chain-smoked the cigarettes I’m not supposed to be chain-smoking because I said I was going to quit. I laid down on my back and puffed away and looked at the night-sky—it looked like the night-sky usually does in Portland—one all encompassing cloud blanketing the city and shyly reflecting its soft-glow. It’s sullen and peaceful and causes you to reflect on where you are.

We talked about finding security in the insecure life-choices we had made. A couple of small-town kids from Wyoming moving to a city with no jobs lined up and no place to live and enough money to pay our bills for maybe two months. With no choice but to write for our lives and trust that God was going to bless our decision to trust in his provision.

There’s a sense of calm you feel when you take a shot at greatness. When you jump off the cliffs of your future instead of making the slow, sure climb down. There’s a trust that somehow, you’ll fall up into that big-blanket of cloud. That you won’t look back at your life when you’re forty and regret that you never chased your dreams when had the chance, but merely obeyed what you thought was your reality.

 

 

Introducing: The Wandering Summer

Hopefully over the next 40 days, this blog will be a lot sexier than it has the past 100. Yes, my friends, this is me officially announcing that my grand road trip through the states is officially happening. This trip is the meat and potatoes of what I like to call “The Wandering Summer.”

My brother and I will be going through Texas to the coast and then to New Orleans over the course of the next two weeks. After that he’s flying out and I’m going across the Gulf of Mexico to see my some friends in Tallahassee (with stops along the way in any or all of Mobile, Gulf Shores, Pensacola and Panama City).

My friend Matt is meeting me in Tallahassee (fingers crossed) and then we’re driving up to the Carolinas for stays with friends there (including Myrtle Beach, again, fingers crossed).

Next I’m driving up to DC to stay with one of my best friends from college, TJ. After that it’s a little less planned out. Hopefully I can catch the Yankees v. Red Sox game in NY on the 18th of August. Hopefully I can catch a Brewers game on the way back home with my Uncle, his Girlfriend and her Daughters… you get the idea.

Anyway, I’m announcing this because I’m going to try and do a 200-700 word post on each day, so hopefully, in a sense, anyone who wants to can take the trip with me. There might be days where internet access is hard to get, or I’m just too wiped to do one, but damnit I’m going to try my hardest to make this happen. I’d appreciate your prayers as I will be traveling a lot of miles in some pretty hot weather (I’m thinking a breakdown in Mobile in August could get a little chaotic).

An Explanation for A Man Without a Human Head – mOUNTbRENDON

A madman is one who believes himself to be perfectly normal, according to the philosophy of G.K. Chesterton. I have recognized that I am not normal and in the past, this made me feel as if it was me that is mad. But Chesterton disagrees.

A Man Without a Human Head is a journey where I begin to open up my imagination. It is my recognition that we, as a culture are relying far too much on our logic and not near enough on our imagination. We see ourselves as normal, but really we are strange, we are mad, and frankly, we are fucked up. People, are replacing their human heads all around.

“A man who thinks himself as a chicken,” Chesterton wrote in his book Orthodoxy, “is to himself as ordinary as a chicken. A man who thinks he is a bit of glass is to himself as dull as a bit of glass. It is the homogeneity of his mind which makes him dull, and which makes him mad.”

I am not in any way excluded from this. Though I have come to realize the absurdity of it all, as an artist I believe it is my job to experience this all myself. I cannot understand people unless I get inside people’s minds and I am not at all doing it for my own benefit, but for yours and for God’s. This is not a record made for money, for notoriety, or anything of the sort. This is a sacrifice.

Therefore, I too must think myself as a chicken (and often I do unintentionally), as a man without a human head in order to understand and communicate this. A small circle is as infinite as a large circle, it just has the appearance as smaller. So, no matter how large you think your circle is, know that it is as infinite as any other circle, size aside.

A Man Without a Human Head is my attempt to expose all of this, and the absurdity of how we are all living. We must open up our imaginations and allow the fairy tales to once again forgive our logic, and to embrace that which simply does not make sense, rather than strain to make it make some sense.

“And if great reasoners are often maniacal, it is equally true that maniacs are commonly great reasoners.”

“If the chain of causation can be broken for a madman, it can be broken for a man.”

– G.K. Chesterton

College Graduation: From the perspective of Steptoe Butte– By: Charles Westerman

You spend four years in college thinking about your graduation day… not once do you think about the day that comes after it. Saturday you’re finally putting on the cap and gown. You finally get that diploma in your hands and the wonderful weight of it makes you think you know what it feels like when hockey players hoist the Stanley Cup.  You hug your friends and kiss your mom. You order a pitcher of nice beer and for once don’t feel like your wallet is sinking its teeth in your keister as you put it in your back pocket.

Yeah. That day you thought about a lot. That day was what helped you bust out those last two pages when your brain felt like the toilet that was always clogged in your ever-to-authentic college house. That day had you signing tuition checks your ass wasn’t sure it could cash.  That unforgettable day of celebration was what let you tell yourself that all the forgettable, overscheduled, lonely days of college would be worth it.

Then that day comes. And yes, it’s great. But even after four years of overpriced learning, you wake up on Sunday and realized you never really learned the sun would still come up after graduation night. Such was the case for me upon graduating from Washington State University.

More than shaking President Floyd’s hand on Saturday, I’ll remember that feeling on Sunday morning better.  You wake up with one monotonous, terrifying and sobering thought: “So college is… over? Yeah I suppose it is. Right? Yeah… definitely. College is freaking donezo. Checkmate. Yahtzee. Gin. Kaput. So… I guess that makes me an alumni now huh? Oh shit. Alumni’s are supposed to have a decent paycheck. What’s that magic job website again? Monster.com? Why a monster? GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY… I’m about to get eaten…”

In high school you graduate and then you spend the summer with your friends sucking the juice out of the last of the good ole days. You don’t really get that in college. The last six weeks everyone is so strung out with keeping up with their big senior projects and looking frantically for a job that you don’t have a lot of time or energy to do much reminiscing.

So maybe you get done with your finals on Wednesday and then you graduate on Saturday. Most all your friends who are younger than you leave three hours after their last final, and by Sunday at 5 pm, three quarters of the ones you graduated with have finished taking down their Bob Marley posters and are halfway to Seattle. It’s a queer, sad feeling. I’ve never said the word ‘surreal’ so much in my whole life as I did in the weeks following.

I rolled out of bed with this feeling and said hi to my parents and older brother Mick who had come to celebrate the milestone. Then one of my best friends in college – one of the ones I will be friends with for a very long time – TJ called me and said she was about to head out.

This was the girl whose apartment was on my way home from campus. I’d get done copy editing for the newspaper around 10 or 11 at night and call her up to see if I could stop by. We’d always promise each other we’d keep it to a quick 15 minute chat because we had both school and sleep to catch up on… 2 hours later we were no more studied or rested, but it was sure good to get all of our deepest worries off our chest. That’s TJ. The girl I could tell anything to. A person who I could show a part of myself that I thought unlovable and she always seemed to love me more for it.

One time my sophomore year I played her one of the songs I wrote about what I thought my Dad went through when his first wife died of breast cancer. When I got done I looked up from my guitar (that I’d kept my eyes glued to the whole time because I felt so vulnerable) and she was crying. She’d heard every word. She can empathize and be okay with feeling pain like that, and above all, I think that’s my favorite thing about her.

I drove to her apartment to say goodbye. Teej and I are never short on words around each other, but there was just too much to say to capture it. I wanted to cry but was too shell-shocked and exhausted from all the goodbyes and the “last times” that had been occurring in the last six weeks. I was sick of “last times.” We shrugged and we hugged and just like that — Snap! – TJ was gone.

Then my buddy Max texted me and said that he and his mom needed to get on the road and wouldn’t be able to meet us for breakfast like we’d hoped to.  Max is one of those friends like TJ’s a friend… only he’s a dude. My junior year when I lived right across the street from him, he’d easily come over two times a week so we could get down on Madden 11 (a football video game for you girls who live in a cave).

We’d “start a franchise” and pick teams in the same division, then we’d do a fantasy draft and play each other. We’d debate matchups and I’d always tell him that one of his go to picks, Kenny Britt (a proud owner of a recent DUI at the time), was way too drunk to drive or catch the football. The stakes weren’t as high as competing in organized sports in high school, but we channeled all our pent up competitiveness into those four hours a week. We’d throw on The Black Keys or The Temper Trap (a couple of times I even threw my controller) and let the trash talk begin.

Max even conspired with Mick to borrow my car to pick up his “cousin” from the airport in Spokane the week of graduation. Next thing I know he and Mick are walking into the coffee shop I was studying at.  Having my brother at my graduation meant a lot to me, and having Max take three and a half hours of his last week of college to pickup that big smelly thing I call my brother meant just as much. And just like that – Snap! – Max was gone.

I could write paragraphs like that for at least 10 other people, but I’m depressed enough as it is right now having told you about just two. It was this day that Pullman taught me one of its last and greatest lessons – and it taught me a lot of them in four years – but this day it taught me that you can stay in the same place, but when the people that made that place important and meaningful to you aren’t in it, you might as well be in Nairobi.

Still, my family and I went to breakfast as planned. I told myself that I shouldn’t feel sad. That I should feel grateful for the time I had and that I would see these people again. I told myself I should feel more of a sense of accomplishment– for Pete’s sake I’d just graduated freaking college! But that’s not how my slow processing head or extremely emotional heart roll. They need a week to process getting a second date cancelled, let alone finishing up one of the most important four-year chapters of my life.

So I sat at the Old European with three people who couldn’t have possibly been more clutch with their presence. The Old European is one of my personal essentials of experiencing Pullman. Most all of the people who came to visit me from home got their appetite for pancakes ruined because once you sink your teeth into an Aebleskiver… well it’s like eating Kobe beef, then being offered Cube Steak. It’s where I decided I was officially taking my talents to the Palouse when I visited Pullman for the first time my senior year of high school.

But even in this sanctuary of brunch, with my parents and my brother, three people who know me as well as anyone, I could not find solace from my sadness.  TJ was gone. Max was gone. A dozen other people were gone. It wasn’t something you could see. It was something you felt: Absence.

I get the feeling that my dad sensed I wanted somewhere to reflect and process – and more than that – somewhere that wasn’t Pullman.  On the drive to my apartment after breakfast he suggested we head up to Steptoe Butte. It’s about 32 miles north of Pullman. I’d never been there. It was on a list of about 200 other things my friends and I swore we were going to do some Saturday when we didn’t have a football game or homework or How I Met Your Mother to watch. Some Saturday when the weather was nice and you actually felt like getting out of bed before 10:30. Halfway through your sophomore year you realize you get about three Saturdays like that a year if your lucky. Anyhow, I’d never been to Steptoe Butte but I’d always heard the view was amazing.  And I don’t know how my dad knew it, but I just know he knew I needed a good view on this particular day.

We drove up to the top and for a kid who grew up in the wide open spaces of Wyoming, where a view for miles was always just a near hilltop away, being able to see out like that was more of a relief than when you pee after holding it for an hour longer than you should.  I went off by myself a little ways and lit a cigarette. My mom caught me halfway through, and on this day she just laughed and even took a picture. I finished my cancer stick and told her I was going to quit soon but at the moment it was too much to think about (I’m almost to the four week mark as I type this).

Mick and my dad eventually joined us and we talked very reflectively.  My dad always brings an incredible sense of peace and wisdom to situations like this. My mom — with her back rubs, encouraging words, and never-ending faith in me – never fails to come through. And Mick, with his jokes about how much of a girl I am mixed with statements about my talents that never fail to boost my confidence, did just those things.  It was a three-headed monster of love and support.

They too talked about their fears and anxieties up there on the top of the butte. My dad with his uneasiness and insecurities about running for State Legislature after getting hosed in his re-election for County Commissioner a couple years ago. My mom about her dad who has terminal cancer and her state program (the WBLN) that she’d helped run successfully for 15 years getting shutdown because of a lack of funding. And Mick trying to make the jump in career fields from paradmedicine to sports broadcasting.  It was good to be around other people who had fears and worries, and that weren’t 22 years old.

After that we prayed. We prayed about our own and each other’s anxieties.  We prayed for the rest of our family and I prayed like hell for the friends who had become my family at WSU.  In my family that’s how you deal with fear. You give it to God and you share it with each other, and at the end of the day — neigh by the end of college — I’ve concluded this method works.  It acknowledges your weakness as an individual and calls upon the strength of your community.

We stayed up there for awhile, and I couldn’t help but see the metaphor of the situation. Here I was. I could see for miles in all directions and I could go any which one I wanted to. It’s a cocktail of optimistic exhilaration and terrifying doom. The great American halfway house that college is over; now it’s time to go pro.  I decided right there that this summer I was going to embrace the uncertainty.

I’d applied for a one-year paid residency at a magazine in Chicago that I thought I had a real shot at getting so I didn’t look for much else. I had a letter of recommendation from one of the prominent former writers of the magazine as well as great ones from my journalism professor and worship pastor.  And I’m not gonna lie, I wrote the crap out of my cover letter; and my resume, though not built for most jobs, was very much built for this. They were even looking for a graduating journalism student from the Northwest specifically and WSU has the best program for that in the region.

I didn’t feel entitled to the job, but I have to admit I felt entitled to an interview; just a chance to show who I was in person and how bad I wanted it.  They never did call back. I called the lady who asked my professor to recommend a student for the resume at least 25 times getting only an answering machine each time. I left her two voicemails and sent a couple emails. By the end all I wanted her to do was pickup her phone and tell me I didn’t get it. The tooth for tooth side of me wants to drive to Chicago and put Crisco on her toilet seat…

I’m telling you this because it made the whole “college being over” thing that much more terrifying. I didn’t have a plan. But like I said, up on Steptoe I decided I was going to embrace the uncertainty. To take advantage of having a summer where it was acceptable to not be in school or have a real job. I decided to title it “The Wandering Summer” … but more on that later.

I came down from Steptoe still sad, but not as frustrated about that sadness, for I remembered another lesson I’d learned in college that I’ve mentioned on this blog before: sometimes you need to be sad… sometimes it’s healthy.

It’s often to the simplest ideas in life that are most effective.  So when you come to moments where you feel some perspective is needed, find the highest point within 30 miles of yourself, and do so.

We All Have a Voice – By: mOUNTbRENDON

I wrote this the other day while planning on writing a paper. I didn’t start on the paper, but I think it was worth it. The plan was to edit and revise it, but now the paper, along with another paper, have caught up to me, so I’m just going to post it as is. Uncut and uncensored…and unedited. You got me at my most vulnerable. 

Quick note. We have an opportunity that has never been presented in the history of mankind. Let’s take advantage of it…

 

I read an article for class last week that talked about how television does not report news, it creates news. This is becoming more apparent to me with every passing day. Obviously it’s more of a complex issue than I make it sound, but I am a hypocrite and don’t want to bore you with the details…

I have come to admire and respect public figures who strive for a simple life. The Henry David Thoreaus, Sufjan Stevens, G.K. Chesterton, etc. These people detect the fakeness that can come from technology. Everything is a representation. Relationships are built off of a series of pictures and short status updates. They realize a life truly experienced is a life away from technology, immersed in the reality of our world. But to live and experience the reality of our world, one must be aware of and immersed in technology. It cannot be ignored.

It is an extremely difficult balance to embrace technology and fear its influence at the same time. Technology is not evil. The internet is not evil. But it most certainly can be and allows for evil a booming voice.

For the last two or three years, I took a hiatus from popular television. Not fully, of course. But I have tried to avoid it as much as possible. I couldn’t put it to words, but I detected that something was broken. Sure, I watched the occasional episodes of various sitcoms and other shows on Netflix, and still do. But, other than weekend visits to my parents’ home in Cheyenne, local and national news stations were invisible to me. I even let SportsCenter drift away from my consciousness (something I spent hours watching every day in high school).

So, if the theory I read about television creating news instead of reporting news is accurate, the media has to be the single most influential aspect of our culture. It forms the way we think. If we surround ourselves with media centered around sex and booze, we will find ourselves almost literally molesting each other at the local bar or club, which will lead to bigger things. We will find ourselves holding onto unhealthy relationships because of the sex, or just the idea of being in a relationship; or going to the bar for an easy hook-up, a quick fix to one’s loneliness; or idealizing celebrities and their glorious lifestyles and finding ourselves spending money we don’t have as a result of our desire to live like them.

I have news for you. Happiness is not found in wealth or sex. Fulfillment cannot be instant.

Though I may be criticizing right now, that is not my intent with this post. It turns out I have been encouraged by technology lately.

Why?

Because it gives everyone a voice and everyone an opportunity to be heard.

If we allow it to be, we can use it to undermine those who are trying to control us with their advertisements and their celebrity. We can turn this world around on its head.

Thanks to the internet, music, movies, art, and subcultures that otherwise would never have been realized are finding homes all around the world. Musicians can record on their own, without being forced into a product by record labels; independent movies without sufficient funds can find a passionate and loyal fan base with the will to sacrifice their own money for its continued production; sports has found the importance of the fearless role player – the one without the big shoe contract and without the big billboards.

There is a ton of deception and artificiality found on the internet, but there is equally as much passion, genuine spirit, love, and hope. We have an incredible opportunity, because we can decide what succeeds. We can decide what we are influenced by.

We can recreate this world.

Pills and how to swallow them – By David Landrus

Song: Forget Me Not – The Civil Wars

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When making a tough decision you really only have two options. Shakespeare put it this way, “To be or not to be, that is the question.” When your asked to do something by a person who has authority in the situation you also have two decisions, to obey or disobey. However clearcut this may seem, when in the “moment” these truths are hard ones to swallow. Maybe you have self interests involved, maybe your heart is on the line, and maybe your just feeling rebellious. Either way, one thing can be concluded; the decision not to make a decision does not solve the situation or clear you of responsibility.

The past months of my life, the last week in particular, has been a season of much tribulation in my life. Situations have presented themselves to me and decisions have been made. But, as a Christian, each situation is governed by obedience or disobedience. I don’t think I have obeyed in every situation, which has caused confusion, but I know that I have on the ones that have counted. Some of the hardest decisions have been made through sadness, anguish and healthy sized tears, but I believe that these have been the ones that I have shown the most obedience in. When we truely let our heart and gut get involved in the tough situations it often is a sobering and uncomfortable thing. The sadness we have and the tears we shed are ones that are worth remembering.

Often times I console myself saying that “God has a plan for my life.” But what I really mean is, “God loves me, so he must have a plan full of serendipity and things that are easy to swallow.” The truth though is that Jesus died on the cross and bore my sin and shame for my fullness of joy, not my happiness. This is a truth that was made for me to cling to, especially in the rough times.

So I leave you with these words,

Proverbs 3:5

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Had any other condition been BETTER for you than the one in which you find yourself, divine Love WOULD have placed you there.

-Charles Spurgeon

Propaganda – By: mOUNTbRENDON

Only a very soft-headed, sentimental, and rather servile generation of men could possibly be affected by advertisements at all.
– G.K. Chesterton

Out of curiosity, I just google imaged “North Korean Propaganda Posters” followed by “Pepsi Ads”.

The results were disturbing to say the least. Open both at the same time and compare the two and you’ll clearly see how strikingly similar they are.

This morning, I watched a documentary on North Korea called National Geographic: Inside North Korea. It was a heart wrenching experience. The people of North Korea have been essentially brain washed by its leaders Kim Il-Sung, then Kim Jong-il, and now Kim Jong-un. The people worship and have worshiped them like gods for genrations. Everywhere you go, according to the documentary, you see the propaganda that supports this. They rule out of fear and marketing.

What’s the most depressing of all, is that I see many similarities to the United States of America. You know, the greatest nation in the world and all.

Only our nation isn’t led by a fearful dictator. It is led by large corporations with money and marketing, when it comes to influencing how people think. Obviously the North Korea situation is far more extreme and far more frightening, but I’m really beginning to believe that, aside from being more extreme, there are few differences between them and us.

Instead of worshipping a dictator, we are worshipping celebrities, and the ideologies imposed by their marketers.

“Drink this, and you can be rich and famous,” they tell us, when actually, if they were telling the truth, they would be saying, “Drink this, and you can make us even richer and yourself poorer.”

I’m not saying that all famous people, all name brand products are inherently evil. But they are if you allow them to be. If you only listen to popular music, if you only watch popular movies, if you only watch popular television. If you idolize these celebrities and these “beautiful people” in advertisements. If you start drooling over a picture of Katy Perry and her perfume, or Lebron James selling Nike. If do all of this without thinking about what these things are telling you below the surface. Because if you look below the surface, it can be terrifying.

Side tangent: I once was in the campus habitat hot tub and the other group that was there was having a conversation about Adam Levine, the lead singer of the band Maroon Five, who was playing from one of the phones outside the pool (of course). “Well, he’s married to a super model,” one of the girls said after one of other people were criticizing him for some reason I don’t remember. “So props to him.” I don’t think I need to say anymore about where our values are as a nation. It is undeniably affecting the way we think.

If you look at all the products you buy at face value, as a finished product, you can live in your own personal heaven on earth. But if you explore what goes into making those products, you might be forced to think twice.

What’s scary is that it effects us unconsciously, because we’re not aware the messages are even there, outside what is on the surface. I just read an article by Marshal McLuhan called The Medium is The Message for a class I’m taking and he uses an interesting metaphor for this idea. It’s like the electric light. Everyone knows that it’s there, but no one considers that it carries any meaning in itself, as a medium.

So, for the next few posts I write, I am going to analyze things like popular music videos, hopefully to reveal that possible unspoken meaning behind them. Because if we continue down this path of blindly taking in what we are given, I’m sorry to say it, but the similarities to the North Korean situation will grow.

a few words on Faith By: David Landrus

Song: Explosions in the Sky – Last Known Surroundings
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everything is derivative, everything except one

Cause and effect, one situation to another, and that my friends is how babies are born. When thinking of existence in all of its wondrous expanse, the details of why and how get very jumbled up. This is why many prefer to not think about the “deeper things”, or sum everything up and happily call it random chance or dumb luck. This, I know, is a simple solution that at the surface seems harmless, but when you don’t care to count the details many things you wish not to happen arise out of ignorance.
I believe there to be a solution though. Faith.
As stated in Hebrews 11:1-3 NLT
1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
2 Through their faith, the people in days of old earned a good reputation.
3 By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.
The first thing I find interesting in this translation is that Faith is the combination of hope and confidence.
Today hope has become a very weak word, lacking much of the desire that it originally commanded.
For instance, if you were to tell a friend heading home for spring break, “I hope you make it back safely”.
Now, it is understood that you will not see them again until after they have traveled may hundreds of miles. And through their traveling of these numerous miles you will not be able to see to their safety first hand. So this leaves the question, are we really certain of their safe return (do we have confidence) or do we just hope that dumb luck will land them back into your company one day.
Enter Faith.
It gives us sureness. But where does sureness come from? Perhaps a promise, and from whom does this promise come? And if so, why does this promise give us assurance. There are many times that I promise my friend that I will meet up with him for coffee, but when push comes to shove, sometimes it doesn’t always work out. But the truth of Faith shatters all of these doubts, as verse three comes roaring in.
By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command.
One command, one Word, one God.

everything is derivative, everything except One