Twenty-Four

Today is my twenty-fourth birthday.

The last year was insane, and thanks to both this blog and my Poem of the Week project, I have a decent timeline on the things that changed — and stayed the same—in the last year. In brief, I decided my mental health was worth more than my pride, I finished a few major writing projects, and made some music. While I didn’t expect it, the last year felt like one where things got completed. Grad school was intense and made me grow at a speed that doesn’t feel possible; being twenty-three felt like I caught up with myself. I made new friends (this is an accomplishment in your early twenties) and made a lot of mistakes. Thankfully, grace is bigger than me.

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Looking through the blog for the last year, and the poems, and my own journal, I’m proud of who I’ve become. Learning to collaborate enabled me to launch a podcast and write the two largest writing projects of my life so far, while also doing shows with local theatre companies and holding down a full-time job. It’s been a wild ride. I’m proud of the work I’ve made and I’m proud of the things I’m working on. I think I’m doing okay around 80% of the time. That last part is probably the most important one.

A quick note: all the music I put out between my last birthday and this one is collected on Twenty-Three EP, available for download now if you click here and available to download and stream everywhere soon (very soon!). It also has one of my oldest and favorite-est songs I wrote during high school (with a friend and the photographer for the album cover, Aida Moala). I hope you check it out.

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Thanksgiving is Part of Christmas Season

I used to be a very firm believer in “Christmas season starts after Thanksgiving!” This logic followed my unspoken belief that Christmas was, in fact, a holiday co-opted from the corporate drive to spend, rather than co-opted by aforementioned corporate drive to spend. In other words, I wanted Christmas to start after Thanksgiving because I felt like I’d already lost one of the highest Holy Days in my religion to spending and had to scratch and claw a way to make it meaningful.

That was the unspoken belief. When I examined what I knew I believed about Christmas, and what I wanted to believe about it, I understood it to be the day upon which the greatest gift was begun. After all, Christmas is the day we celebrate Christ’s birthday, but the real celebration is that God in his abundance and goodness gave us Jesus, that Jesus in his love and abundance and goodness and submission to the Father saw it as a joy to be given. It’s a season about receiving from a generous God a gift beyond what we could ever return.

To celebrate this holiday, we give gifts. In other words, when you are a gift giver at Christmas, you are acting out God’s role in the Christmas story, not the role of the human beings. Yes, when we receive, we act out the human role. When we give, we act out the role of God, enacting the Imago Dei. In that light, I think the best way to prepare for our role in the story of the annual Christmas celebration is to the see the abundance from which we give. Thanksgiving is all about seeing what we already have and already have been given. By spending time meditating on that in the midst of the Christmas season, we see how adequately and abundantly we are prepared to give. Gratefulness breeds generosity. Generosity also breeds gratefulness. Weaving these holidays together, for me, strengthens the impact and relevance of both, both spiritually and practically.

So from me to you, welcome to the Christmas season!

Photo by Kieran White on Unsplash

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In Defense of Imagining

A few minutes before writing this blog, I finished reading Reality Hunger by David Shields, and found myself deeply disturbed by his assertions. This is my response to reading that book, but in general it’s also some thoughts on art and imagination. It’s weird. If this is your first time visiting my blog… good luck. It’s possible I grossly misinterpreted his point. In any case, I'm wading in.

Imagination isn’t dead, and neither is the novel. Not everyone enjoys novels; not everyone enjoys ice cream. Nothing is everyone’s cup of tea (this is especially true of tea itself). The fact of the matter is: there is no such thing as truly high art in the moment of its creation. High art is formed in the eyes of the future, who attempt to look ahead and see their view obstructed by the greats of the past. There’s a reason we talk about standing in another’s shadow.

The other night, in a conversation with a school teacher, I learned that not everyone has relationships with their favorite characters. Not everyone has learned how to love books, and so when the kids are assigned truly impressive, mind-bending works of art, they break. They can’t possibly enjoy it. I deeply enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because I knew the conventions it was flouting. It isn’t a mark of stupidity that a high schooler I know didn’t enjoy it. It’s a mark of, for lack of a better word, literary virginity. Let people meet their first loves in stories! Let them love them forever.

I am now of the age that, if Narnia is a real place, I will not find it in a wardrobe, painting, or train platform. However, what benefit is it to me to stop allowing the part of me that hoped it might be true as a child to die? The children in the novels were charged with remembering Narnia and using their memories to be better in our world. Is that not the same charge I’ve been given by every great story I've visited.

It’s a sign of snobbery and nothing else to allow no story to take you in. What sincerity is being sought? Pee in a jar: I’ll look at the hormone levels and see if you are truly “in love.” What balance of adrenaline creates reality in the mind of the dreamer? Shall I have a ring bearer and an equally small bearer of the lie detector for our wedding day?

It is not a mark of intelligence to see through the illusion we have all agreed to believe in. It is a mark of pride, in the negative sense. It’s not that hard to figure out what presents are under the tree: the joy is letting the wrapping paper serve its job and letting the truth come out in its own time. In my house, the truth comes out by nine in the morning, December 25th. I’ve painted sets before. In my mind’s eye, I see both the fabric/paint/plywood, and the haunted French castle. Maybe I’m just good at receiving gifts. Maybe I can admire the paper and the truth.

The novel is alive. Genres are only ever descriptions; if “the novel” is dead and is already entirely eclipsed by a new thing calling itself a novel, then the novel is alive, alive to the point that it is growing. Multi-genre is delightful— I agree here with Shields. Conventions themselves are fading away. What Shields fails to engage is that new conventions have already formed around the changes. The speediness of the transformation doesn’t change that it is transformation. A person might look like a totally different person, or even creature, in the span of six months of its life. It depends on which six months. We are in a critical period. Saying a form is dead when it is going through a growth spurt is a bold choice of words.

Truth is pure; it isn’t safe. It is infectious, dangerous even. And as such, the truth made entirely safe is sterile. Sterility isn’t generally a positive in the continuation of the species.

I wrote a poem once that, in essence, said that faith is like letting a wave do what it wants and riding it into shore. Reading fiction, in a sense, is a practice in having faith. It is an exercise in seeking truth. Reading fiction is allowing a world of another’s basic design to exist in one’s own mind. It is the intimate and pregnant, the birth and the glory. No story is alike in the minds of two readers, but then again, how could that be negative? Why would I want to live in a world where many more can’t exist?

It baffles me that there are people who believe in multi-verses and refuse to watch fantasy films. How many things will we believe are only true of the elves? How much more immortal do we ourselves think we can be? Meaning-making can’t be meaningless. It’s a contradiction in terms.

I am so much smaller than reality. Can you blame me for wanting to enter another one, if only for a while, through the electric storm that flows through the meat I call myself? Is there something purer than letting the markings left by another’s electric jolts and fingers tell me a story that lives only in my own thunderhead?

It bears repeating: I am religious by nature. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would be an artist. If I wasn’t a Christian, I would be a person of faith. Enduring skepticism makes me nervous. In the face of such a wave, I have to take shelter. “Child-like faith”: asking all the questions, over and over, and yet allowing the story to leave me spellbound. It is no accident the stars look back at us, asking us to weave their millions of miles of loneliness into patterns, a single narrative, the twins together forever, the hunter and his prey. “My search for God was the mouse’s search for the cat” (C.S. Lewis).

What a small world must be inhabited, to imagine that one’s own perspective is the deepest well of truth. It gives me hope to know that there are animals that see colors I can’t see. Why would I not want the world to be shot through with glory? What is the Imago Dei but imagination? What is dominion over creation but the ability to create, truly? “Made in the image of God.” I can’t create the sea in all its power, but I can remind you of it now, put the smell in your nostrils and the feeling of the salt on your skin. You and I are communing on a fictional seashore, where the sand is black and the water is teal blue, the temperature of your lips touching the forehead of your beloved last night, when the rain was falling on the roof.

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Photo by Dil on Unsplash

Someone Else's Sixteen Albums: Reviewed

Someone Else's Sixteen Albums: Reviewed

A while ago, Josh Taylor of Blimey Cow (@dearfuturejoshon Twitter), posted a photo of 16 albums that were important to him. I’ve been following the Blimey Cow gang for a while, and since I just got Apple Music, I decided to listen to Josh’s list and write a blog post about what I thought. If you’ve read this blog before or listened to Spoilers Ahead, you know I do unbridled enthusiasm. If I like it, I'm gonna tell you why and how much. Without further ado, here’s what I thought of Josh's list.

Myths About Therapy

Myths About Therapy

I’ve been in therapy off and on since I was twelve, and for the most part, it’s been a positive experience all around. I’ve had therapists with different specialties and degrees, seen what works and what doesn’t for me, and come to the conclusion that just about everyone would benefit from therapy. Here, I’ve compiled some myths about therapy, both what I’ve believed myself and what I've heard from others. Hopefully, it helps you consider whether or not getting into therapy might benefit you.

Thoughts on Impending (Whatever May Come)

Thoughts on Impending (Whatever May Come)

I'm writing this on Thursday morning, a few hours before Hurricane Lane is supposed to start really affecting Maui, my home island. Hawaii isn't Florida; most of us can't afford to book a flight off island, and the homes here aren't really designed to withstand serious storms (the hotels are, of course). Everyone I know has made whatever preparations they needed for their families, whether that means stocking up on water, boarding up the windows, or duct taping down the rubber slippers on their porch. Waiting is waiting, and surprisingly, it's not very stressful. 

Why We Still Need Theatre

Why We Still Need Theatre

Stories still matter. It still matters that, as a culture that we sit down and pay attention to the story in front of us, unfolding in real time across a shared field of vision. It matters that we learn how to listen to stories that only touch us because we share humanity. There are so many ways to hear each other; in a live setting with no stops, there’s no choice but to learn to listen to the story being told on the terms it will be heard. 

The High Key EP

The High Key EP

A few weeks ago, the music store I work at got a weighted keyboard. I have a complicated relationship to piano; I was never dedicated to practicing enough and while I love playing piano, I struggled to learn to read music. For many years, I was almost exclusively committed to playing guitar and ukulele. Even after I reached an uneasy truce with piano, it felt like a bit of a foreign instrument that I couldn't quite understand (and therefore couldn't properly enjoy). But... there was a keyboard. Right there. So I started playing.