Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bloom : King of Dreams

I am uber grateful for my newly acquired, and apparently extremely rare, Joseph: King of Dreams soundtrack. You may have picked that up from my previous post.  Aside from the beauty of the music, John Bucchino writes wonderful, meaningful lyrics.  So, I have to share the song Bloom. It occurs twice in the movie, once sung by Joseph's mother and later by his wife. In each case, these women are calling Joseph to listen to the better part of himself.

You've seen the damage words can do,
When full of thoughtless pride,
Now heed the wiser voice in you,
That calls to be your guide,
The flowers reaching for the sun are all uniquely blessed,
But though each is special not a one is better than the rest
Bloom, bloom, may you know, The wisdom only time breeds,
There's room, bloom and you'll grow, To follow where your heart leads,
Bloom and may you bring, Your colours to the vast bouquet,
There's room, bloom, learn one thing,
Your gifts are meant to give away

Bloom (reprise)
How long must there be anger here,
Before we can rejoice,
Embracing love instead of fear, Is but a simple choice,
It's hard for me to see you fall, So bitter and so blind,
When the truest nature of us all,
Invites us to be kind,
Bloom, bloom, may you know, The wisdom only time breeds,
There's room, bloom and you'll grow,
To follow where your heart leads,
Bloom and may you live, The way your life was meant to be,
There's room, bloom and forgive...
May sweet compassion set you free

Monday, January 16, 2012

Better Than I

I am a fan of Dreamworks' Prince of Egypt and its direct to video follow-up King of Dreams.  The Prince of Egypt soundtrack was written by Stephen Schwartz and Hans Zimmer.  It is a stunning soundtrack and if ever an animated movie deserved to be moved to the live stage, this one is it.

King of Dreams, its less well known sibling, also has a wonderful soundtrack.  The music was written by Danny Pelfrey and John Bucchino.  Unfortunately, Dreamworks never made the soundtrack available. No CD of the music was ever published.

My favorite song from the movie is "Better Than I". It is one of the finest songs of faith I have ever heard.  John Bucchino included it on a compilation CD (Grateful), and though the artist from the movie does the vocals, it does not have the orchestrated music from the soundtrack.  I was glad to have the version provided on Grateful, but I have always desired to have a copy of the version from the movie.

A few weeks ago, by chance, I was googling some info on the King of Dreams when I came across the soundtrack.  Apparently, a few promotional copies were printed prior to the movie's release and a cd store in LA was selling their copy.  The information was scant, but I figured I would roll the dice... to have an orchestrated version of Better Than I, along with the other wonderful songs from that soundtrack written by Mr. Bucchino, was worth a chance.

It came in the mail today.  I rolled 7.  It was exactly what I was hoping for!


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Leaving The Faith

Chris, Brandon, me, and Tony as sons of Jacob
I want to share a post by my friend Brandon. When I met Brandon a few years ago in local theater, he was a full fledged Mormon. In fact, from what I can tell of the religion and its culture, he was a true credit to his Faith.

Since that time, he went through a period of questioning... and at the end of all of his questioning, he left the faith in which he had been raised.

With the usual excellence Brandon applies to everything he sets out to do, he wrote a detailed document about the questions, concerns, and process he experienced that ultimately led him to leave his faith.

Though Brandon chronicles his thoughts and exit from Mormonism, I believe his story is an important read that would apply to anyone dealing with faith issues. The themes and questions he addresses are universal; as I read I found myself repeatedly saying, "Yes!" "Exactly" "Did that!" "Me too!"  What he experienced, and his reasons for leaving, so often mirrored my own exit from Christianity.

What Brandon has done, which I and many others who have left our faith have not, is give a detailed account of the progression and reasoning. In addition... he is absolutely graceful about it. Something I have not always been good about.

Here is a quote from his document that I completely resonate with.  I think religious people would find it counter-intuitive, but it is a common thread amongst those who leave their faith:

"(Having left the church) I don’t judge people as much. I can look at somebody and be their friend without having to worry about their salvation, or somehow steering the conversation toward the church to help them find the “right” path. Consequently, my relationships are now more genuine, and I am filled with more love for people, regardless of their religion, sexual orientation, or race. It’s also easier to make new friends."

So go to his blog here and look for the PDF at the bottom of the article.

Nicely explained my friend; peace with your continued journey.

Shallow Understanding From People of Good Will

If you have never read Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Letter from a Birmingham Jail", let me encourage you to do so in honor of this MLK day.  It is as profound as any work of poetry, and as cutting as the words of any prophets in the scriptures.  Truth is timeless, and the words expressed in this letter apply to us as much now as they did then.

I did not read this letter until I was in my 40s.  I had been in Christian churches for 30 years... and this letter was never part of my spiritual education.  I believe Rev. King describes many of our churches, and their lack of education at the congregational level, when he speaks of  "shallow understanding from people of good will" in the following quote:

"I must make two honest confessions to you, my Christian and Jewish brothers. First, I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says: "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I cannot agree with your methods of direct action"; who paternalistically believes he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by a mythical concept of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait for a "more convenient season." Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.

I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice and that when they fail in this purpose they become the dangerously structured dams that block the flow of social progress. I had hoped that the white moderate would understand that the present tension in the South is a necessary phase of the transition from an obnoxious negative peace, in which the Negro passively accepted his unjust plight, to a substantive and positive peace, in which all men will respect the dignity and worth of human personality. Actually, we who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already alive. We bring it out in the open, where it can be seen and dealt with. Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured."

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Fundraising Post

Dear Friends and Family,

My daughter, Kathryn, is part of the Wasatch Youth Ensemble, which is “a high energy group of young violinists.”  She rehearses weekly and practices nightly for a string of performances which will begin this spring.  Her last half dozen shows will be performed in Hawaii.  To that end, she and her ensemble are actively participating in many fund raising activities to pay for their trip.

One of those fundraisers involves selling the Dominos Pizza “Delivering the Dough” cards.  Each card has 10 “Buy One Get One Free” cards. They are:

4-  Buy one pizza at menu price and receive one pizza of equal or lesser value free.
6—Buy one large pizza at menu price and receive one medium one topping pizza free.
All of the coupons on the card are good until 12-31-13

Cards are $10 and funds from the cards purchased from us will go directly toward Kathryn’s trip.  Don’t feel any obligation, but if you are a pizza person, consider that this card will give value to your pizza habit while supporting a good cause.

If you know us locally, you can buy the cards from us when you see us.  If you are out of state,  you can purchase one through the secure Paypal link below (you do not have to have a Paypal account, you can check out as a guest) or you can mail me a check.  In either case, we will get it mailed out to you right away.  Thank You!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Being Human: S2 US S4 UK

I am a big Being Human fan.

Which one you ask? UK or US?

All of it!

I do not understand the need of some fans to pick one or the other.  Either/or, team thinking is so limiting.

I enjoy the gritty, more earthy version that has been for running for three seasons in the UK.  I enjoy the more polished, nuanced version that started last year here in the US.  The web mini-series Becoming Human was a treat (one I hope they further pursue).  I even enjoyed the original pilot which was done sometime before the series with different actors.

Over the past few weeks, I have been re-watching both versions of Being Human courtesy of Netflix.  This week, the US will start its second season on Syfy.  Later this month the UK will be ramping up their 4th season with an almost entirely new cast.

To introduce the new vampire in the UK series,  the BBC released this short prequel story.  I think it is going to be a good season.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Hate To Agree With Santorum, But...

Ouch, hate to be on the same page as Santorum, but I find myself agreeing with him. This week on the campaign trail he said:

I was so outraged by the president of the United States for standing up and saying every child in America should go to college. Well who are you? Who are you to say that every child in America should [go to college]? I mean, the hubris of this president to think that he knows what's best.

I have seven kids. Maybe they will all go to college. But if one of my kids wants to go and be an auto-mechanic, good for him. That's a good paying job: using your hands, using your mind. This is the kind of snobbery that we see from those who think they know how to run our lives. Rise up America, defend your own freedoms. And overthrow these folks who think they know how to orchestrate every aspect of your lives.

I think his "outrage" is feigned, and needlessly over-dramatic.  I also think his argument exists within a larger narrative that is anti-science and anti-public education; but on this quote alone I will agree with him.

There is a mis-perception in America regarding college.  I am an academic.  I love books, reading, and writing.  I am fascinated by a well nuanced lecture.  However, my interests represent a mere slice of the interests and predilections of human beings.

Many of America's schools seem to have a singular mantra - you are an academic, or you just aren't that smart.  All of our efforts and target goals seem to orbit one focal point - push everyone toward academic excellence.

And the non-academics? Well, you can just spend a dozen or so years in the schools feeling inferior.

Or, maybe Santorum has a point.  Maybe someone does not have to be an academic to be smart.  I wrote a blog describing how my father is infinitely more intelligent than me when it comes to constructive and kinesthetic work.  He never went to college, yet he ran a successful carpet business from his home for decades which provided a comfortable suburban life for his family.

In my 21 years of teaching, I have watched as academically inclined children are praised and thought of as "good" or "talented", while students who dream of art, and building, and the outdoors are often seen as anchors; a child who is masterful at art, but scores low on state testing will not be seen as an asset.  We have a one track system that plays to our citizens who will take up jobs in "book-learning" fields, but we have little to offer kids in the classroom who enjoy working on cars.

I have a friend who left college after one year.  He had his fill of classwork in high school. However, he was always a gifted people-person and not one to shy away from a good day's work.  He climbed up the corporate management ladder and easily makes triple what I do.

I have another friend who loved outdoor construction and landscape work.  However, due to parent and societal pressure, he got his degree and entered the office work force.  He now makes good money working a job that is very respectable... that he hates.

I don't blame the schools for their part in this.  They are merely reflecting and executing the corporate, bottom-line, widget making mentality that has been forced on them by the wielders of big money - and a society that has become geared toward consumption rather than creativity.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Christian No More

I often get asked the question as to whether or not I consider myself a Christian anymore. This is sometimes asked with curiosity, but more often than not it is asked with concern or chagrin. The concern part, in its better moments, is based on a fear of my spending eternity roasting... and since the person asking the question likes me, they would rather that fate not be mine.

However, it never ceases to be comical to me how often the question is founded in chagrin - the questioner is frustrated that I do not seem to find compelling or conceivable a position they have claimed. My choosing a stance that is contrary to the one they cling to, somehow, gets translated as a criticism.

Quite confounding.

The short answer to the question is no. I really don't consider myself a Christian anymore. Somewhere along the way (to be explained in more detail in a future blog post), I realized that the claims of my religious beliefs had no more inherent validity than anyone else's. Once the light bulb goes on that your group sounds to every other group the way every other group sounds to yours... and that REALLY sinks in... well, it's all up hill from there.

I tried to explain my perspective to a relative recently - that scripture has become to me a sequence of testimonies by people I don't know, having been retold and then copied by people I don't know, in a time with different values than mine. Not that it cannot give valuable perspectives, but it can't help but be hearsay. Given that, it is hard for me to know what to think of God - in 28 years of pursuing him, I've never heard from him.

The response? - Of course you have! It's in the bible!


So where does that leave me now? I could probably be best described as a hopeful agnostic. Sure, I hope we go on. Who wouldn't? But for right now, what concerns me most is impacting my world around me - loving others, making the world a better place for everyone, and giving my life to friends and family.

I read the following quote in the book Good Omens this morning and I laughed out loud. In a way, it captures how I feel about the unknowable reality of God.

God does not play dice with the universe:
He plays an ineffable game of His own devising,
which might be compared, from the perspective of any of the other players [i.e. everybody],
to being involved in an obscure and complex variant of poker
in a pitch-dark room, 
with blank cards, 
for infinite stakes, 
with a Dealer who won't tell you the rules, 
and who smiles all the time.
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