Friday, August 31, 2007

Oh, hell

On the drive home yesterday I flipped through the AM stations, which I often do on a lark when I'm truly bored, and found one of my favorite things to listen to - hellfire preachers.

I don't know who this woman was, but she had an irritating refrain of, "Does that make sense, yes or no?" She, of course, gave no time for anyone to say, "Um, no ..." - because she was on to the next point. If that rings a bell with anyone, please let me know who this woman was. The signal crapped out before the end of her sermon. Does that make sense, yes, or no? :)

Anyhoo, she had a fascinating sermon - one I agreed with in part, but another that I really disagreed with. Her main premise was that hell is real but is neither immanent nor eternal. She believes that when we die, we lie in our graves until Jesus returns to resurrect us all and divide the sheep from the goats. Then the party of heaven and the agony of hell begin. Until then, all our dead loved ones (and hated ones) are simply taking their dirt nap. Does that make sense, yes or no?

She then went on to say that hell is not eternal, but is a refining fire where we are cleansed so we can then be with God. This is the part I actually agreed with in many ways. I truly don't believe there is as "hell" per se, but that there is a reconciling process we go through after death. Ultimately, however, we all are reconciled to God.

But, here's where her argument didn't make sense for me. She talked about how when Jesus returns he will smite the evil in the world, and presumably the evil who have already died - so the goats are destroyed and all that's left are sheep. Why would there even be a need for hell if that is so?

And if the only way that God can overcome evil is to destroy it (an act of spiritual and physical violence) doesn't that mean that God is ultimately powerless to reconcile evil? (And why do we take such glee in picturing God violently destroying the "bad" people?) Why does God have to destroy evil violently instead of "destroying" it by reconciling it to him in whatever process God may choose?

Does that make sense, yes or no?

I tried desperately to keep up with her argument - she had scriptural proofs and whatnot, but in the end it seemed to fall apart for me on many levels that I have outlined above. I believe that God reconciles us and does not wish for our destruction, no matter how poorly we've acted in our lives. I'm not quite sure of the idea that we dirt nap until the second coming. Since I'm not convinced of the "second coming" as some grand rapture like event, it's hard for me to picture what those who believe in such things are talking about. I think Jesus returns every day and every day we torture and kill him like before. Jesus gives us a chance daily, hourly, minute by minute, to bring the kingdom of God to earth, and daily, hourly, minute by minute, we fail to bring it about because of our inability to see that we are interconnected, interwoven to one another. Our self absorption keeps us from recognizing Christ already in the world.

Does this make sense, yes or no?

I'm not sure any of it makes sense, but it's always fun to speculate.

Speculate along with me if you feel so moved.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

South Carolina is sooooooo proud!

Our law books here in the Palmetto State require that each child be given an "adequately minimal education."

Mission accomplished.

Here's a link in case you can't see the video above.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Follow the path

"When we look around at what other people have and where they are going, we lose focus on what's important: what we have and where we're going. Yes, there is more than one path to the top of the mountain. But the only one that will get you there is yours. Do not look longingly at the paths of others. Give yours your undivided attention and keep your focus." -Philip Toshio Sudo, Zen Guitar

It's easy to look longingly at the paths of others this week. There are so many accomplished, or at least highly skilled, guitarists wandering the campus. There have been three staff concerts over the week where our teachers have shown their skill. One student remarked that he'd either burn or sell his guitar when he got home because he'd never be that good.

Well, he'd certainly never be that good in the way the teachers are that good. The teachers are not even that good in the way the other teachers are. We all have our own path. We all have our own style. We all have different levels of dedication to our instrument. Some of us play part time, after work, on the weekends. Others, like our teachers, have made music their entire lives. They eat and drink music, sleep it and dream it. That is their path.

My first day here I was tempted to give up my own pursuit of the guitar. I'm an after work and weekend player - 30 minutes a day, tops. Will I ever be as good as any of my teachers? I don't know. I suppose I could be if I dedicated myself to learning what they know. But, I don't want their path. I want my path. I don't do anyone any good by envying another person's life. That's just a distraction away from the fear of living my own life. Looking longingly at the path of another means we fear our own path. We're afraid to find our own heart, our own style, for many reasons. What if we're simply not good enough, not talented enough, not dedicated enough? So? If this path isn't working for you, find another one. Keep searching until you find the path that speaks to you.

You may play your guitar "in the style" of another player. But, you'll never play just like them. You don't have their heart. You don't have their style. You're not on their path. Emerson says our lives are the accumulation of the experiences we've lived. We can't live someone else's experience and we can't walk their path.

There's no use in envying anyone else. If someone else is doing what you want to do, pursue that goal - but realize your path to that goal will look different than theirs. Celebrate their path, uplift them as they travel. But understand, you're on your own path. Stick to it - put the force of your accumulated life behind it - and you'll soon find yourself staring at the world from the mountain top.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Idol worship

I'm engaging a little bit of idol worship at guitar camp. One of the instructors this week is a favorite performer of mine: Billy Jonas. If you've never heard of him, please check out his Web site and buy tons of his CDs. He calls himself a "repercussionist" and uses found objects like barrels and cans for percussion instruments in his songs.

I performed his song, "One" at church and the crowd loved it. Billy was disappointed to learn that the recorder crapped out when we performed it. I was, too. I would have loved to preserved it for posterity, but I'm sure we can do it again.

I've always wanted to use his song "God is In" for a sermon, but was having trouble figuring it out from the recordings since it was in a alternate tuning. He was gracious enough yesterday to teach me the song after dinner last night.


After showing me the chords he asked me to play it back to him and I refused. I was already embarrassed enough and told him to give me some time to practice it up so I wouldn't look like a complete fool trying to play his music. He promised to catch up with me later this week, so I guess I need to practice, eh?

I'm exhausted. Last night I stayed up late (remember 9:30 is bedtime for me) and jammed with a group of folks in one of the jamming tents. I sat with my guitar in the case until the last minute and was coaxed to play a couple of songs. I should have had someone take a picture since I'll probably need to prove to some people that I actually mustered up the courage to play for strangers ...

It was exciting and pass-out frightening all at the same time. As the song passed to the next person I realized I was literally shaking. The air was chilly here last night, but it wasn't that kind of shaking - it was a terrified shaking. But, it was good terror. The folks in the tent were generous to my face, even if they're deriding me today. I don't know if they are or aren't so I don't really care. I felt affirmed in the moment and really, that's all that matters.

I'm glad they only do this thing once a year. It will take me all of the next year to fully digest all of the incredible things I've learned here just in three short days. Theory to pick apart and understand, songwriting tips to incorporate and use, tips and tricks from other players to practice and use. The list is endless.

My back hurts, but my spirit is soaring.