Saturday, July 9, 2016

Peace in our time

“Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace!”

These words were uttered by Our Lord as he gazed on Jerusalem, the City of Peace; the hope of a long estranged people, the harbor of faith, and the place of the mercy seat: the Temple.

Would that we, even we, should know the things that make for peace.

But we don’t.

Jesus words ring not only as a lament for His Kingdom’s namesake city, but also for all cities. Who has known the things that made for peace?

The philosophers of countless ages have sought through political, rhetorical, spiritual, and scientific inquiry to establish what made for peace. They have held up moderation, good habits (ethics), political structure, moralism, relativism, fascism, communism, democracy, republics, monarchies, empires, tribes, clans, families, and egoism, amongst any number of other ideas and tactics to achieve peace.

The substantial instigating plot element of the Avengers movie series has been a simple little mantra, perhaps only explicitly voiced in Ultron by Tony Stark: “Peace in our time”. The promise of the end of war, political prosperity; universal health, wealth, and justice for all. The films then play out the consequence of that hope, and beg audiences to debate over whose version of achieving piece, or at least pursuing the good of mankind, is more soundly premised in “Civil War”.

But I digress; this isn’t about the Avengers, but good storytelling does stab to the heart of human worries and cares.

What then can make for peace? In recent memory the internet has been flooded with news stories of violence. Whether incited by terrorists, madmen, gangs, crusaders, or those we trust to protect us, there doesn’t seem to be a time when we are not regaled with the tales of the atrocities our race can commit.

At every turn the internet rises up to combat these crises; whether it does so with despair, anger, vengeance, calls for change, or with self-righteousness depends mostly on whether or not the atrocity has the right tags or threads to incite a given group. We are informed more and more vehemently that it is not acceptable that such violence occurs, and that something must change or we will face increasing peril.

The cry rings out ‘Peace!’ and the silence echoes back ‘how?’

We all sit in consternated fury, knitting our brow and reveling in how wrong everyone is about what is wrong with our country, the world, and everyone else; all the while begging the same answer as those we disagree with. We yell, ‘No! Peace!’ and the silence greets us with a low demonic ‘ha, how?’

We, because of our ready access to a panoply of humankind and a wealth of its news and stories, see the death wreaking havoc on every hand. All of our plans and schema fall away and we see the one abiding law of this world: All things are dying.

It’s a dominant theory, expressed in the law of thermodynamics. Many renowned physicists project an inevitable end to all life in the universe, although we can’t pinpoint when. Entropy defines every creature. We want law, but we ignore the one abiding law of man: he dies. We cry for peace, but we always strive for it with swords and barbs against our own brothers. We want change, but we, given time, revert back to the same systems and corruptions, across human history.

We look to the actions of a few foolish, scared, deceived, or evil men and say “see! We can no longer trust them, one of them killed someone!” As if we expected to find a human being capable of not sowing the seeds of his own destruction. We want to make the whole only as strong as its weakest link but we fail to recognize our complicity in expecting anything more than weakness.

If only, we say, we knew the things that make for peace!

We have chosen our bed, and are laid to rest thereupon. The first death amongst mankind came not to the first man Adam, but to his son, Abel. Our race marked our path in the curse with the blood of our brothers, and we have spilled that blood ever since. The blood of our brothers screams from the ground, begging the heavens for justice.

We stagger under the weight of the guilt of tragedies of our world. Any man’s death diminishes us, because we are involved in mankind. The bell has always tolled for us and every knell calls us to our own funeral. We are dead and lost with all the world, caught up in our nature with the Devil and all his band.

But, why would Jesus even ask this of Jerusalem? Why weep for this sad and depraved creation fallen so far from His divine command?

“Would that you, even you, had known the things that make for peace!” Jesus says, standing on a hill outside the city. This is the beginning of Passiontide, and Jesus is entering the city knowing the bloodthirsty rabble waits inside for him. Knowing that they, even they who beg for deliverance from oppression, will turn on their True Brother, shedding His precious blood all the way from the Praetorium, through the streets, onto the bloody hill of Golgotha.

Jesus knows the things that make for peace. He mourns the city that would not know her God, and then enters to be the Prince of Peace. Not by bringing about a restored glorious kingdom of Israel, not by preaching a message of defiance against evil, but by offering a sprinkling of Blood that would speak better things than that of Abel. The city named peace rises up in furor and strikes the Masters heel. The hill of the temple, where people no longer sought peace, was traded for the blood-stained place of the skull.

Our Peace was suspended between earth and heaven, outside the city gates. He was forcibly removed from the place of peace; ejected from the temple mount, the very presence of God’s abiding mercy, and was left to suffer all of Hell’s torments.

Peace died on the cross, surrounded by vagabonds, scoundrels and foes, amid the deriding jeering of his enemies.

But Peace, our Peace, did not stay dead.

Our Lord, Jesus Christ, having laid down His life as a perfect peace offering, takes it back up again to reign forever as our King. Christ knew the cost of peace. It was not a brilliant philosophy; or a great war to end all wars; or even a team of supercharged altruists ready to save the day. What made, makes, and will make for our peace, is His Sacrifice. Our homes were plagued with Death, but Christ has marked the door with his Blood. Our Paschal Lamb was sacrificed for us, not so that we could strive to perfect creation, but so that we would have strength for our Exodus. This world is not our home, and these trials are fleeting.

We do not mourn as those who have no hope. We do not offer the condolences of dying men. Our death is only the gateway into life immortal.

And so we pray. Do not mock those whose only response to tragedy is prayer. They do more in their love and hope than any planning and scheming for policy or revenge. We call out for love, but the only love to bring us lasting peace is the love of Christ. It is in His Love that we trust. He knows the things that make for peace, and He offers them to us openly: Be washed, renewed and named; Hear His word; Speak the words He has given you; Take, eat and drink. Receive a meal without price, which no sower sowed and for which no laborer labored. His cup runneth over and all of the world is invited into the wedding hall, all is made ready. Here, at last, is Peace.

Sunday, February 1, 2015


In which our hero no doubt will butcher many great thoughts by many thinkers far his superiors as well as his own half baked contemplations......

I realize I have been about as regular about blogging as the Cubs have been about winning baseball games, I seldom have ideas that form themselves completely enough to put into words, and even less often do I have time to commend them to type.

Nonetheless, as I sit here, likely trapped by a cataclysmic *cough*typicalmidwest*cough* snowstorm, I find myself with necessary homework defeated and time before bed. I heard tell there was a ball game on tonight but I am not a Pathawks fan. Therefore I will strive with the dual demons of procrastination and consternation to blog, hopefully for your reading pleasure.

I have just finished reading the "Republic" by Plato. I must confess to knowing much of the content before hand, having had many a prolonged and Whimmish conversation on the material. The reading itself brought me a much stronger appreciation for the essence of the text. As well, I have been aided in the reading with the guidance of a wizened teacher who is quite adamant that he is no professor of philosophy, such a thing being, frankly, impossible.

In Plato's other writings, Socrates insists that the only thing he knows is that he knows nothing. This is a powerful statement, and defines the Socratic method of philosophy. One cannot have thesis, or antithesis, only hypothesis. Everything is a shadow of greater things. The cave, often misinterpreted in modern education as an allegory about perceptions, is all about knowledge. The life of the philosopher is to be the discovery of shapes each more startling than the last, and light sources each more striking and blinding. But at the end of the allegory,  Socrates points out that the Sun, the ultimate source of light for humanity, is still not the root source of light.

The light, which is both itself and a symbol of truth or goodness, has some other source, and philosophy then is to delve and contemplate the attributes of this source. Socrates, however, has bad news for all of us knowledge seekers: there is no finding this source. Knowledge of anything, is immortal, and like our understanding of dimensions, nothing mortal can grasp that which is immortal.

Socrates does have more to say about knowledge, however. Socrates knows the things of the flesh. He knows of erotic things, desires, hungers, fears. These things he knows. Men are intimately acquainted with the knowledge of the flesh.

It is for this reason then that he establishes all of his regimes under precepts which restrain the flesh, all of which, he says, are doomed to failure and can never succeed. He describes a healthy city, full of just men who mind their own labors and don't meddle in the labors of others, and immediately the young man say it is a boring city, without relish or comfort. They want lavishness, luxuries, and extravagances. They want the feverish city, doomed to self slavery, oligarchy, democratic license,  and finally tyranny. No amount of Music, Gymnastic, Culture, or Mathematics can prevent this slow death of the city by humanity. Socrates could not give the young men a logical reason for why they should be just. He finishes his narrative with a myth about Hades, in which Odysseus says he would rather live the life of a quiet just man. Socrates doesn't have their answer, there is no answer to their question.

Men know, they know their impulses, and more importantly, we know that we are dying. We know we shouldn't, we aren't made for it. We fight it, we strive all our lives for immortality, whether in our children, our work, or in our sciences. We seek after a life that will outlast this feeble frame that could not know anything other than the desires which we so often let rule it.

But I know this, I know that my Redeemer lives.

Man cannot grasp the immortal, he cannot reach it in his mortal weakness, but the Immortal reached down and joined humanity. He bound Himself to our desire ridden flesh, but was not subject to it.

This is the knowledge that brings immortality. There are no Socratic Christian Philosophers, because you can't start with the question 'what is justice?' when you confess the Sacrificed King. When the demands of justice were fulfilled by the only Man who has ever done His duty, and not that of any other man. For just as doctors are to be consulted for sicknesses, only the Son of God, and Him crucified could redeem His fallen world.

Christ is Risen, and there is no other knowledge, of things above the earth or things under the earth, by which men are saved.

I hope you enjoyed reading my rambles. Thanks for making it to the end.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Getting Older (Or am I?)

In which our hero contemplates the annual addition of age....

Recently, I have been faced with something rather strange.

People don't seem to be able to guess how old I actually am. They assume older, or younger, and they are almost always surprised when I tell them how young, or old, I really am.

When I began at IPFW, most of my peers assumed I was an upperclassman transfer. Nobody thought I was a freshman, and many people did not know differently until I had to explain why I couldn't go out drinking with them. This still happens, to a degree. People will forget that I'm younger, or the new students will assume that I am older than I actually am. As well, this past week, I was asked by an acquaintance if a child I was holding for a friend was mine. I have not been able to establish a pattern amongst these people, though I am almost certain there must be some common perceptional basis.

The flip-side of the coin, was emphasized for me this past week. I was at rehearsal for a large Bach concert, in which I sang an aria, and the director started, briefly, to speak on the nature of the choir, who are volunteers, and soloists who are not. And he mentioned that the choir has been good about involving teenagers in singing Bach, and he sited me as an example.

In case you didn't realize, I am some ways off from being a teenager.

Afterwards, one of my professors, who was also a soloist, told me she didn't realize that I was as old as I was.

And in all of this, no one has ever predicted my age accurately, not to my memory. Perhaps, for those who have known me some time, is because they remember me younger. I don't know how to explain people believing me older. I graduated High school a year late, which might affect people's perceptions. I don't know what it is in my behavior or habits that people see as older, or younger. I know that people have always been thrown off by my voice. But that was when it wasn't tracking with my body; I was singing E2s when I was 15, if not earlier. I came in freshman year singing Db2s, which caused some confusion amongst the others in the group, when Dr. K made a remark about 'the lowly Freshman, popping out low Dbs.'

Whatever it is, I am not particularly concerned. I feel the press of my age, (having discovered that one of my more amicable classmates was born the same year as my little brother, albeit on the other end of the year) and considering decisions for college that will directly effect the rest of my life. I am starting my first annual job, and will be working a lot over the next year. As well as trying to discern how I should approach my personal development as a future husband, father, or pastor. I have been living my life very much one day, week, or month at a time, but my thoughts have to project forward to plan my schedule and make serious plans for paying for school or possible grad-school down the road.

All this to say, I got into a twenty minute conversation at lunch today about perceptions and how they change how people view  the world. In particular as pertains to art. I would like to say, I would be very depressed to think that the world is only as it is perceived, the prevailing opinion of our culture....

But that, is for another blog post.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Conduct of the Service

In which our hero speaks in the late evening, concerning the things of his morning....

This morning, as is my joyous custom, I went to church.

Big surprise, right?

This week, Kantor is gone and thus it was necessary for me to take up the duties normally performed by the choir; that is, the chanting of the Introit, Gradual, and Alleluia. I sat in the choir loft and performed my duties in their due order.

However, herein lies the rub.
I am having serious voice trouble. I don't know what caused it, but during a rehearsal last week I felt something odd in my voice, and it has been hit and miss ever since. My voice teacher chalked it up to fatigue and stress, and, with hope, it will recover after a brief respite. If not, I will have to visit an ENT specialist and figure out what is wrong.
Either way, it may mean a bit of a change in tack concerning how and when I use my voice.

But, I digress--as usual-- for I was talking about Christ and the Church....

I was able to serve in my duties as cantor, but that was it. I had to refrain from speaking the liturgy, or singing the hymns. I was effectively mute for the entirety of the early and late services. Which is really a shame, the hymns were generally excellent today.

I had one serious bonus to my morning this morning. Because I was acting as cantor, I was in the choir loft with my God-Brother, Pendragon. Pendragon is a little guy with Down Syndrome. He doesn't talk and he communicates mostly by sign-language. And today, we spent the service together in silence.

Silent, but confessing.

Neither of us could speak the liturgy, however, as the Service progressed we went through the  rubrics. When the congregation said, "The Lord be with you" we opened our hands with the blessing. We bowed for the Sanctus, genuflected for the Creed, and crossed ourselves for the Gospel. Pendragon would chime in by saying, "Amen" in sign and I would open his hymnal to the hymns so we could read along.

And this made me reflect, as I often have, on the orderly, repeated, structured, physically active conduct of the Service. I could not speak, but I could participate in the ceremonies which I have learned and have become a part of my understanding and memory. But even more than for me, these things matter for little kids, especially little ones like Pendragon. From the youngest age they can learn to participate, to discipline their bodies in God's sanctuary, and to recognize the significance of what is going on. Then, as they grow older they learn the significance of those things that they have always had.

I have a friend who told me that that most beautiful confession they had ever witnessed had been the spontaneous, heartfelt prayer of little child asking for protection for his family.

The most beautiful confession I have ever seen, was a five-year-old with Down Syndrome, beckoning me to join him at the rail to kneel and confess...

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Time to Think and a Time to Rest

In which our hero is looking for the latter; he's had plenty of the former.....

For a sample of the latter, see my previous post....

This has been a busy semester and not even coursework wise. I don't know that I'll have a semester to rival last, as far as busy work is concerned. But this semester is full of thinking. Thinking about so many things that my brain is almost constantly on overload, trimming thoughts off the edges so that I forget things, little things, but things. I lost my travel mug, or I forgot to check my email, or I forgot to eat my apple with lunch, or I forget to pick up my pin for Freshman honors. Little trains of thought that took a detour and never made it back to the station.

This semester has introduced me to many new trains of thought, all of them freight trains. This semester I was informed that I had the possibility of considerably more scholarship money, as well as being invited to take part in a Colloquium class to help prepare for grad school. I had not thought I had particularly odd or varied interests until they were enumerated being assessed by someone else; (apparently the Office of Major scholarships at IPFW has never seen 'Koine Greek' on an application.)
I've also been going through the machinations of getting a job as a tutor. The process is taking a terribly long time; because the head of the program never seems to be free to finish up the training. I've been considering how effective of a tutor I actually might be. I'm hoping that tutoring, as well as providing me some much needed income and job experience, will help me get a feel of whether or not I would want to teach at some point in my life. I'm only tutoring in Music Theory, which is a subject near and dear to me. Although all the feedback I've received from colleagues, or the professor who wrote the letter of recommendation for me to tutor, is that I will make an excellent tutor, or indeed, in the future, professor.

But I digress, I was speaking of my thought freight trains; observe how easily the detour....

Why am I thinking of thinking? Well, right now it's all I can do, I am currently confined to a chair in my living room, having pulled my trapezius (and yes, spellczech, that most certainly is a word) muscle. I am hoping to try and wake up my brain before I settle in for some homework.

But I digress, that still is not a return to original subject matter....

This semester I also ended up with the unusual responsibility of arranging a gig for the vocal jazz group I'm in. I have a contact with the local food truck association and I volunteered that I could contact them about us maybe performing at a rally. Then it turned into me organizing the event and making all of the necessary phone calls/meetings for advertizing etc. I don't mind, I was glad to contribute, but it was a weight on my mind up until this week when plans were finalized.

And, as always, my thoughts have been much consumed by my thoughts of the future. Perhaps there is a time and a place to stop thinking so hard about it, but I am at a point where my actions will almost directly and dramatically influence my future. I am looking into Summer opera programs, but I am also looking towards starting to learn the organ, to the point of perhaps graduating with it as a secondary instrument. How I invest my summers will directly effect my career options from here to the point that I graduate from a masters. Which, for what it's worth, I know I want to pursue, even if I'm not positive what form it will take. And, of course, school is not the only thing that can shape my vision of the future, or alter it dramatically. I know that marriage and a family has been a central aspect of all of my plans, even if it has not been clear when or with whom. Which is perhaps another thing that has been occupying my mind of late, (let the reader understand.)

There is also the ever present idea of transferring. It's always a thought, whether or not it will need to happen or not.

There are other things that have occupied my mind, but I am now realizing that this post is waxing long; I suppose that is what will happen if I start writing during the day, as opposed to at night. But then, I always wax long, even if I'm writing in the AMs. There are other things I could continue to write about...

Anywho, I am merely recognizing that it has come high time to bring this post to an end... What was I even talking about? I had to think about it before I remembered.

I hope that there was something worthwhile in this post, otherwise it was just grumbling. Which mind, was not the intent of this post. I don't mean to whine.

But that's a post in itself.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, September 23, 2013


In which our hero gets away from it all....

On certain satellite radio services, there is a particular station which plays schmaltzy, jazz-lounge-ish music. The station alternated announcers and each one had a different manner in which they delivered the primary tagline. All of them over delivered it and consequentially sounded absurd doing so.

Apart from the fact that the music was insipid and the announcers unbelievable, what they were proposing was ridiculous. You are listening to satellite radio, which almost necessarily means driving, which, in my mind, is the absolute most polar opposite thing from 'getting away from it all.' Driving is death, and panic, and fire, and burglars, and demons, and madmen, and thieves, and charlatans, and scoundrels, and villains......

{This section of the manuscript has been removed by the NSA to preserve the life-force and sanity of the general populace}

.... it's just wretched.

So then, the purpose of this spiel.

This weekend, I got away from it all. I have been having a terrible time getting acclimated to being at school; acclimating to not spending time with my bros; not being in control of my own schedule; not getting to spend all day with my niece when she was here. I feel like I don't have time, even though I am on top of my studies, and am really faring better than fair. I love the work. I love my music. So, why the stress and lack of restiveness?

Je ne sais pas.

Whatever it is; I got away. I had homework that needed to be done, sure. But homework can wait for the lonesome hours. I didn't have a plan, sure. It was all impromptu, the only plan being that friends were in town, and I was going to spend every second I could in their incomparable society. I put the hazards and care of my life away and immersed myself in the mutual consolation of the brethren.

And there were stories for the telling, and roads to be run. There was trudging through trees, and foolishness in fields. We gandered at greenery and milled in modalities. We spoke, or were silent. Cried out, or said nothing at all. We posed for portraiture and laughed til it hurt. We talked of everything, and nothing, of cabbages, and even of kings; discourse in dialectics of didactics of demeanor and distraction. Words were exchanged, at cost or gain (and non cared the more which for.)

A day marked by the sheer unbridled happiness of a soul and mind at rest. Sure there was thinking, there might have even been some level of worry at times.

But what are such things, when one is among his friends?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Sundry Sophomore Soliloquoys, vol. 5

In which our hero finishes the week on Friday....

So, it's come to this....

No, it really has. End of the week and this is the end of this many-volume blog post anthology. I hope that the reading has merited the time it has likely taken. I can't say it was a terrifyingly interesting week. I was pleased with it on the whole.

But back to our narrative....

Today began like many of these days have: Alarm, make coffee, shower, stumble, sip coffee, stumble, sip coffee, scratch head trying to remember what I forgot, sip coffee, make bagged lunch, sip coffee, and rinse and repeat actions, starting from 'stumble.' I am rather pitiful when I wake up early. Zombie-ish you might even say.

-Interjection: I have been remiss this week in not expressing gratitude to the most wonderful neighbor person in the world, Mrs. P. Who was generous enough to let me ride to and, when necessary, from campus with her. She would put up with me, whether it was being anti-social and dozing off, or being over social for lack of Lutheran social stimuli. Ain't nobody got neighbors as awesome as mine.

I got to school about eight. I had an hour until my first class, so I killed the time practicing blues patterns, which are fun once you figure them out but are terribly tedious to practice.  Thirty minutes of practicing later, I walked down the hall and chilled outside my Theory classroom talking DnD with a classmate, sharing silly memories from various encounters or campaigns. I might have to look into doing a DnD group on Fridays.... But then, I really need to use that time for homework or music... c'est la vie de la Musique Major.

Be warned, I might start dropping French phrases in my posts, to try and exercise my knowledge.

Theory class went off without a hitch. Every answer I had was correct, and I didn't waste any time getting those answers. It will be a great way to begin my non-busy days. Maybe I'll even get some writing done if I don't have a lot of homework late in the semester.

After Theory class, I mingled for about fifteen minutes and then sat down to practice more piano, and a little bit of opera. I learned that there was free food today, which, you must understand, is hard to beat. Especially hard to beat is the prospect of extra protein in my daily diet. So I walked across campus to the free food, and then back to Rhinehart, free food in tow. On the way I spotted a group of Freshies doing homework and cloistering themselves in the midst of their classmates. As it was a passing fair day, I decided that instead of going in and sitting in the student lounge, I would sit outside and talk with them. The conversation revolved around choir starting today, and their own varying degrees of choral experience. They asked about U.Singers, what kind of rep. we did last year, etc.

I sat talking with them for some time, and then it was time for piano. I had rather a lot of fun in piano today. Our assignments for today were to play the blues, minor scales, and playing "Twinkle, Twinkle" by ear. Then the fun part, modulating "Twinkle" into minor. It sounds really funny, and somehow really epic. One of my fellow basses and I went from the class singing "Twinkle" a la minor, an octave down in our best Bassi Profundi impressions. It's healthy to sing when walking down the hall, it helps remind people who don't get to hear me sing much that I am a bass. We wouldn't want them thinking me a tenor. That would not do.

I went about doing nothing really at all, trying to find a practice room. When I finally had one, it wasn't long before U.Singers. I practiced a bit and went to choir.

Choir today was special. It was the first rehearsal of the new year with a new director. Exciting stuff. When we had dispensed with introductions, Dr. Busarow declared that we would sing first, read syllabus second. We pulled out the music and opened it to the "Cantique de Jean-Racine."
 Dr. Busarow asked, "So, who here has sung this piece before?" I raised my hand, expecting at least a few others. But no one else raised their hand. People who knew me already laughed. They knew I was a bit of a geek, and it figured that I would have sung the piece no one else had ever sung. It is a beautiful piece, and good fun to sing and allowing a proper bass line.

On a side note, the men are divided into TI, TII, BI/Bar., B2. Of the bass 2s, I am the only non-freshman music major; making me the senior member of the section, which actually holds true in age too, funny enough.

As choir ended, I milled about in the hallway, chatting with friends until my extraction team arrived.

And then I was home. I had pool-o'clock, drank tea, and had delicious Kraft mac with my wonderful little brother, who entertained me as I wrote with his commentary while playing "Forza 4."

In summary, it has been a long week. There is much work to be done, not terribly much time to do it, and a long semester of early wake-ups and bag lunches ahead of me. But for all that, there is knowledge, friendship, experience, and maybe, if I'm lucky, wisdom to be had. My semester could turn out to be crazy. As it stands it doesn't look bad, but it can change, or I may be underestimating the workload. Any way that it turns out, I will carry through this academic year, improve my skills as a musician, and maybe, just maybe, learn some French.

The former pair are certainly worth looking forward to, the third, well, jury's still out on French.

Thank you for reading. It has been a pleasure to share this first week with you. I would like to thank my sponsors, my mama and my papa, who have underwritten my college venture and have provided more than the money's worth in love and support. I would like to thank my backer (the person standing behind me poking me, telling me I should do things when I propose that I should do them, you know who you are.) And I would like to thank the number 5 and the word "Vici." As in: Doppleganger, although I did not intend to compete with you in length of blog posts, I will point out that, while you wrote one long post, I have exceeded it in my five volumes.

Either way, I hope this has been enjoyable -or at least not boring- reading.

Thank you for reading.