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Monday
Jan072013

Artistic Evolution

I have stretched the limits on space between blog posts.  But alas, it is a new year.  That seems reason enough to write something.  I took my Christmas lights off of my house yesterday.  I took part in a Christmas tree burning tradition last night, and I believe I may have seen the last of the stray plush reindeer antlers on the entrance ramp to Interstate 65 as I drove past this morning.  Christmas is over.

The work of making something more of this year than was accomplished in the last has taken center stage.  The inventory of things done and left undone has been considered and now it is time to formulate the plan for achieving our various successes.  

The New Year brings promise of reinvention.  We do not have to be the same people we were mere weeks ago.  We do not have to fall prey to the same trappings that diminished our self worth, or motivation.  We can “rebrand” so to speak. 

We can take the proverbial razor to the bumper stickers that told the world what we cared about last year.  We can burn the old concert t-shirts that represented our tastes before we had matured to the present. 

We can laugh in the moments when our friends would have expected us to frown.  We can cry instead of seeking safety behind our stoicism.   We can seek understanding in the situations we might most often have dug our heels in and wasted valuable resources trying to honorably defend ourselves. 

In other words, we can change.  

The topic of change has been the centerpiece for the on-going conversation in my creative circles.  Artistic expression is, after all, a living process.  It is real time evolution.   “Evolution,” is the important word to consider.

I recently sat down with a collection of well-crafted songs that had made it through the creative crucible that is the recording process.  These songs had pieces of my heart and soul woven into them.  They had fragments of a life story sprinkled throughout.  They had the sweat and the tears and the pains of hard labor giving them weight and worth.  These were the songs that would make up the newest Jars of Clay record. 

These songs matter to me.  But they are part of a connected and historic idea that has spanned nearly twenty years.  They are songs that are poured from a cistern that has been known to hold a certain kind of drink. 

Whether the brand is as it should be, a representation of what we truly are, or whether it is a misconception born out of the need to easily label something in order to embrace or dismiss it, is of little relevance. 

The fact remains, Jars of Clay has been called a “Christian” band for a long time.  It has been truer in some years than others to what people believe that label actually is.  We have chosen the title and despised it in equal measure.

I honestly have never encountered a more vague and misinterpreted label so subjective in its usage to be deemed utterly useless in the public forum as the label, “Christian.”

But I digress..   What is real, is my desire for artistic change.  That is, to put it another way, “artistic evolution.”   It is different from cutting off the past completely and disregarding heritage and tradition for the sake of something new and untainted by familiarity. 

That is not evolution.  Evolution implies a deep connectedness to the past.  It says, that I have learned something from all that I have been through and experienced.  It gives value to the under-formed ideas of young spirituality and zealous faith.  And it gives credence to the nubile artistic expressions that often solidify an artist’s identity to soon in their careers.  Evolution takes that past and draws from it in order to inform the future.   Some artists will cringe at what they created early in their artistic lives.  Yet every song, every wardrobe choice was part of a deeply satisfying conversation they were having.  They may not believe what they once believed and wrote about, and they may not use the same words, or care for the same ideas, but they were no less valid in building a life of honest discourse.  I don’t cringe.  I don’t think the same, or write the same, or care for the same things I did twenty years ago.  (And we can all be thankful for that. )

It remains to be seen whether a band like Jars can carry our history with us into the places we long to go.  It remains to be seen whether we can join the bands at Coachella or Bonnaroo or have our music performed along side of Mumford & Sons and The Decemberists. 

My hopes are strong that it is valuable to listen to artists that have learned something over their years.  Maybe as valuable as listening to young artists that are theorizing about what the life they have yet to have lived will bring.  It is all in the balance. 

When we finally complete the work of these songs, and send them out into the world, we hope people will not find a new line drawn in the sand.  We hope people will find a group of artists willing to sit and have the conversation about what we have done and what we have left undone. 

We have learned a few things.  Lesson one,  do not hide.  

Monday
Nov052012

Enemy-Neighbors

On the cusp of Election day, my thoughts have found their way to a question that I can’t seem to ignore.  How does it happen, that we should be in such unfulfilling work as that of perceiving neighbors as enemies?  Maybe they asked for it by placing a campaign sign in their yard.  Maybe they were pushing the rest of us who don’t share their political opinions by drawing such brave deep lines along the surveyed boarders of landscaped hedges and picket fences.

It is inescapable, this feeling that we have become okay with the venomous air surrounding election time.  We see the campaign sign and immediately draw the most extreme negative caricature of beliefs that would provoke such a poor choice of political support.  We do not draw such good conclusions about our neighbors when the signs begin to sprout up.  And in the end, we make enemies of those who are neighbors.

There is an art to civilized engagement about politics.  It is the kind of art that is born out of severe disciplined love.  Only love can remove the defensive posture of apposing opinions.  Only love can settle a person in their own skin deeply enough to allow them to lift their heels and be teachable all the while standing in the trenches of a significant political discussion. 

We do love our tension though.  We need it.  It makes us feel like the story is going somewhere when the tension is greatest.  In another few months, after the political stickers have begun to peel and fold from the winter weather, and the signs have all been plucked back out of the hard earth, and a leader is cozily reading in the Oval office, we will see past the amplified filter of the two party system, and notice that there are some endearing commonalities about our neighbor-enemies.  We will find that life is more than votes or legislature, and we will have the perspective that currently eludes us.  We are all in the same garden, meant to grow together, flowers and weeds alike.  We are all watered by the same storms and brightened by the same sun.  We are not so different in the things that truly matter.  And even if we are different, we are still called to love well.

I look forward to recognizing the community of people I have been coerced into thinking represent something alien or dangerous or toxic, and enjoying a laugh, or a story or a meal with them.   I am reminded of a song that says, “We are one but we are not the same.”  And another song that says, “We are one in the spirit we are one in the Lord.”  Both are true.  And both represent something currently hidden in the fog of politics. 

Go vote, and then join with me in the messy business of turning back toward each other in anticipation of being once again neighbors.  

Monday
Nov052012

Politricks- a poem of obvious tension

 

                                  " Politricks -a poem of obvious tension"  

 

  1. vote for the person that tells the best jokes
  2. vote for the person who has matching skin tone
  3. vote for the person with the hottest wife
  4. vote for the person who is better at sports
  5. vote for the person who probably has similar music on their iPod as you
  6. vote for the person with the best sense of style
  7. vote for the person with the least amount of ear hair
  8. vote for the person you know is the better dancer
  9. vote for the person you would most like to go to a Dave Matthews Band concert with
  10. vote for the person who knows all the moves to Gyngnam style
  11. vote for the person who looks the least like a Bond villain
  12. vote for the person who uses a Mac
  13. vote for the person who is best parodied on SNL
  14. How would Snookie vote?
  15. Which one is the vampire? Which one is the werewolf?
  16. Which one looks the most like the President from your favorite disaster movie
  17. vote for the one that loves to kill babies
  18. vote for the one that worships aliens
  19. vote for the one that is secretly a Muslim terrorist
  20. vote for the one that hates public educational television
  21. vote for the one that wants to increase poverty in our country
  22. vote for the one that hates you because you are not rich
  23. vote for the one that wants to destroy the earth
  24. vote for the one that wants to deplete all of our natural resources
  25. vote for the one that wants to make sure you can’t get health care
  26. vote for the only one that is an American
  27. vote for the one that wants to dissolve the military
  28. vote for the one that LOVES war
  29. vote for the one that will allow you to forget about the poor
  30. vote for the one that will make everyone a God fearing Christian
  31. vote for the one that wants to take all your money
  32. vote for the one that believes in segregation
  33. vote for the one that believes exactly what you believe
  34. vote for the one that wants everybody to walk around with guns
  35. vote for the one that doesn’t think criminals are human
  36. vote for the one that hates Jesus
  37. vote for the one that uses manipulation
  38. vote for the one that doesn’t act like a politician
  39. vote for the one that knows you
  40. vote for the one that keeps you safe from foreign languages

 Now get out there and vote to keep America strong.  And by all means love your enemies/neighbors. "

 

                                                                                           -Anonymous 

Thursday
Sep062012

CLARIFICATIONS...

Well, there seems to be some confusion over the removal of comments connected to my blog entry.  

I deleted my entire blog entry to keep the focus on the prayer from the DNC, and not on the controversy or tension stirred by my entry.  When I deleted the blog, all of the comments attached to the blog also deleted.  I was unaware that this would happen.  

For those who believe I was weeding out criticism and only leaving positive remarks, that is not the case.  EVERY comment attached to the original blog was deleted.

I appreciate your comments regarding my tunnel vision and my inability to accept criticism, which may or may not be true at various points of my day... However, those comments do not apply to this blog or the speculation surrounding the removal of comments.  

I do not weed out negative criticism.  It is in large part why I write and engage... I can not learn anything myself if I am not mixing things up with people who do not share my beliefs or opinions.  The value of the blog is diminished if I only hear from people who share my views.  Please enter into the conversation thoughtfully and I will listen.  

Carry on... -Dan

 

 

Wednesday
Sep052012

Passion vs. Humanity vs. Passion...etc

The intention of my original Facebook post was to celebrate the opportunity that Jena Nardella had to stand up and pray for our nation.  It quickly turned into a forum for people to express their hatred of the DNC.  Some of the comments responding to the post were moving the conversation into the tall weeds of abortion and politics.  I decided to write about how misplaced passion creates untimely and callous tactics.  This was my response to one persons attempt at taking a celebratory statement and turning it into something else. 

This post is not about the abortion issue, nor is it about politics.  The comments suggesting that I am pro-abortion are unfounded.  I took this post down last night after Jena Nardella’s prayer.   Quite a few people have asked to read it, so I am putting it back up.  

 

The original post:

 

I know, I know… It is a bit of a viper’s nest and no one should really spend too much time reading the comments… BUT… I did. 

I recently wrote this post on the Jars of Clay Facebook page:

“Immensely proud of Blood:Water Mission’s Executive Director, Jena Lee Nardella!  She was asked to give the closing prayer tonight at the DNC!  There could not have been a better Christian leader chosen for the task!”

I don’t know why I am still surprised at the responses.  But I had to bring a comment to the surface for a number of reasons.  First, because of the back handed nature of the comment and, secondly, because I am slightly shocked by the number of people who “liked” it.

The comment:  “Is she planning on mentioning the amount of innocent blood that has been shed by the millions of babies who have been aborted because the policies of the DNC?”

Where do I begin?  Why do people write such things?  Who does this person hope to persuade through this comment? What positive tactic does this person feel they are employing that will help draw people into the conversation in a constructive way?  And why do other people encourage this behavior by “liking” it? 

There are SO MANY things wrong with this comment the least of them is the implications that a political party drives cultural norms.  Blaming politicians for the actions of individuals and societies may be the biggest reason things do not ever change for the better.  As far as I can tell, people who feel the need to have abortions are not considering the legislative issues surrounding their present situation while they are in the midst of crisis.  As far as I can tell, people do not generally have abortions as a means of making a political statement.  There are societal pressures and situational stresses that play into the decisions people make, and ultimately people are responsible for their choices. 

Or is this just a high stakes version of a family vacation where the kids hit each other and neither will stop because the other person started it.  Do we not see the error of this kind of thinking?    

That aside, passion does NOT afford us the opportunity to be inhumane.  No matter what we are fighting for or against, our arguments become mute if we lose the care for humanity on all levels.  This small Facebook comment sent me a very clear message.   This person is passionate about unborn children and the fight to make abortion illegal.  In fact this person cares about saving lives so much that it causes a failure to be able to just celebrate the 700,000 lives that a person like Jena Nardella has helped save.  Passion is not a justifiable excuse for such tunnel vision. 

If your cause is so close that you cannot see any other good going on in the world and illuminate it and celebrate it when it is happening, you are too close. 

Another comment on the Facebook page said this:

“Jena has had babies named after her because of her life-giving dedication to bringing water to Africa.  How about focusing  on the amazing accomplishments she’s done and not your will for her.”

I couldn’t have said it better. 

In closing, Jena has the opportunity to pray for our nation.  She has been given the task of stepping into a room and asking God to be in the decisions of our political leadership.  She has the gift of standing before a nation and reminding us all that serving the poor around the world is transcendent of political party. 

That is worth celebrating even as we mourn the reality that people are still dying from preventable diseases.  We celebrate this moment even while our tears for the suffering still sting our eyes.  We rejoice that God is moving in our politics, even as the confusion over what is best for our nation weighs heavily on our minds and hearts. 

This is not a simple time with simple answers hanging low for the picking.  We would be wise to remember our passions were once sparked by a human story, and not let them become so great that we cease to be humane ourselves. 

Okay… I will step off my box once again.  Thanks.  …oh, and remember to vote, but remember to reach out into your community and do something to love someone else.