Monday, January 10, 2011

A Prophetic Vision for America

Dear America (myself included),

Seek good, not evil,
   that you may live.
Then the LORD God Almighty will be with you,
   just as you say he is.
Hate evil, love good;
   maintain justice in the courts.
Perhaps the LORD God Almighty will have mercy
   on the remnant of Joseph.


Amos 5:14-15

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Andrew Bird and the Imago Dei

If you know me, you know this:
I love Andrew Bird.

I've said it before and I'll say it again - He is, in my humble opinion, the best musician alive right now.
Not only that, but he can write music. I've seen talented instrumentalists, well-trained vocalists, even stellar songwriters. But it is a rare package to include all three.

Still more rare is an opportunity to take a glimpse into the creative process of such a musician. Apparently I've been living under a rock because I missed the fantastic blog from the NY Times called Measure For Measure. It is a series of articles from songwriters offering insight into the delicate art of songcraft.

Anyway, Andrew Bird has written a number of articles there that you can read. But my whole reason for posting comes from this quote he wrote at the conclusion of his series...

Ultimately, I think that writing about music is a deliberate act and has nothing to do with creating music. The latter is mostly an involuntary response to being alive. I wouldn’t go so far as to say songwriters are seer-poets wired to receive transmissions from the ether, but I think we’ve all got a well that can be tapped and there follows the sort of sequencing or curating of one’s own ideas. It’s the content of that well I can’t claim responsibility for. Well I could but the only remedy would be to cease to exist.
"An involuntary response to being alive"

I will most certainly have to use this article in my upcoming course this spring where we discuss the creative nature of human beings as an imprint of the Creator (Imago Dei). Bird here seems to suggest the work of an artist as a channeler of the divine nature, a discoverer of truth/beauty (as opposed to a fabricator). Not only this, but he further asserts that perhaps this creative drive is not a specialized, esoteric gift, but rather a logical conclusion of simply recognizing that one is alive. "Involuntary" is the word he uses. I love his humility; perhaps it is one of the keys to his musical gift.

Regardless of all that, make sure you go and listen to this guy. Seriously. Maybe start here? Then go here? Then perhaps finish here:

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

M & M's : 2010 in Review

So I'll just dive right in...

Since it's been over a year (next Monday it'll have been exactly a year and a half) since I posted last, I figured I should update my avid blog followers on the goings-on of my life these past 18 months. You can now release your bated breath and devour this post as you've been so anxiously yearning to do since July of 2009. And so, I give you: The M's of MMX

Not long after the aforementioned July '09, I hauled my arse from one commonwealth to the next, out to the lovely village of Grantham, PA. The long, harrowing journey featured such star cast members as Philip Byers (who assisted me in moving tons of furniture out of the Box, and by tons I really just mean one really heavy - like unnecessarily heavy - couch) and my father Dr. Bob (my UHaul wingman). I was out to take on the world with nothin' but a song in my heart and a pocket full of dreams. It was only about 13 hours of trailers swayin' in the Appalachian breeze before I found myself at...

Established in 1909, Messiah College is a Christian college of the liberal arts and applied sciences. The College is committed to an embracing evangelical spirit rooted in the Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan traditions of the Christian Church. Our mission
is to educate men and women toward maturity of intellect, character, and Christian faith in preparation for lives of service, leadership, and reconciliation in church and society. I typed that (mostly) from memory. When I'm not busy educating men and women for lives of leadership, etc., I'm typically hanging out with the residents of Witmer, making an idiot of myself (as displayed in this picture), and loving my job and my students. In particular, I've been blessed with stellar RA staffs two years in a row. Not only that, but I've also had a chance to really stretch my theological wings in a place that is a bit more ecumenical and intellectually stimulating. Good stuff...

On December 4th, 2009, I trudged my way (with the help of several close friends, namely Travis Yoder and Katie Rousopoulos) back across the midwest a mere 3 days after making the return to Messiah, to ask the most important question of my life.

On July 3, 2010, it went down. Kerrie and I began our journey as a married couple in the presence of our closest friends and family and were absolutely humbled and blessed to celebrate God's love for us as displayed in the sacrament of marriage.

Short for Honeymoon. We did so all across the south, hitting up Nashville, Atlanta, Savannah, and finally St. Simon's Island (off the coast of Georgia*). What a blast to begin the metaphorical roadtrip through life with a literal roadtrip alongside my best friend and life partner.
Also, we went to Coke.

To say that the past year has been full of music is to say that the past day has been full of hours. There is no such thing for yours truly without a plentiful helping of music. A summary will suffice...

Iron & Wine, Andrew Bird, David Bazan, Derek Webb, Josh Ritter, The National, Ingrid Michaelson, Sufjan Stevens (Almost all were experienced along w/ Travis**).

Top Artists on
Wilco (#16), David Bazan, Regina Spektor, Band of Horses, Coldplay, Ingrid Michaelson, Radiohead, Jon Foreman, Nick Drake, The National, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, Josh Ritter, Iron & Wine, Sufjan Stevens, Vampire Weekend (#1)

Wrote a few myself, particularly one about 16th century Anabaptist martyr named Dirk Willems called The Ballad of 1569. I'm working on getting a good recording of it to share soon.

I know what you're thinking. No, I am not trying to make some weird sexual reference. Gross. This, for you unenlightened, is the French word for "members of a household" or simply, family.

My family is really cool. Take my brother for instance, and the wherewithal he has displayed in selecting a fantastic wife to become my sister-in-law. Welcome to the family, Janelle. Along with two weddings, my family has also managed to completely blow me away in the physical fitness realm (thanks P90X), clean up from a horrible basement flood, and come out to visit PA several times (much to our mutual culinary delight, thanks Pizza Grille). I'd say that for the Taylor's, 2010 was a challenging but growing year. We appear to be aging well.

While I have (obviously) done little blogging, this doesn't mean I haven't been thinking. Of particular note for me in the past year or so have been a lot of thinking/reading on epistemology (cf. Dark), utopian protestantism (e.g. Polivka), judgmentalism and the fall of man (a la Boyd), pacifism (see Jesus), transparency of government and media (i.e. Assange), generational sin (Steinbeck, 1952), commodity fetishism (via Marx), and the plight of the 18-year old middle-class American (read "my job").

In addition to these titans of intellect to stimulate my mind and my heart, I have the privilege of living close to a number of real people who have given me a chance to bounce ideas around, laugh at me when I'm utterly wrong, and just generally sharpen me. People - like my wife Kerrie, Travis Yoder, Dave Downey, Katie Rousopoulos, Cody Miller, Caleb Polivka, Amy VanDerWerf, Ashley & Lucas Sheaffer, all my RAs, Wendell & Teri Witter along with our entire small group, the students in my book chapels (RAs and SAB), and of course my mother and father (when I get to see them) - have all been a big part of where my heart, mind, and soul have been directed these past 18 months. I am thankful for such smart and challenging folks in my life.

It's probably too predictable to end a "year in review" post with a thought on the future, enshrouded in mist, the great unknown. But in many ways I feel that as I emerge from a year or so full of new starts, the next major directions for my journey seem indeed mysterious.

Will my teaching experience this spring go well and solidify my drive to further my education?
Will my wife's strange movie tastes domesticate me beyond recognition?
Will the Wildcats be able to win a national title with so many one-and-done players?
Will the critical acclaim of Weezer's re-issue of Pinkerton cause Rivers Cuomo to re-think his artistic direction of the last decade?

These are the questions that plague me. Lucky for you, I will probably explore them more on this blog, hopefully very soon.

* Yes, Georgia has a coast. Much to the chagrin of Steve Conn, who hates both.
** You might even say that I "saw" a Coldplay show as well. Travis was texting me updates about every 12 seconds and increasing my pissed-ness that I wasn't there.***
*** I was stuck in a small, hot van full of people and luggage.