I’m just going to set one thing straight first. I’m a 20-something christian white guy who has lived a remarkably privileged life. I attended one of the finest private schools in the country, received a great college education, graduated with zero debt, got a free car from my parents, and now have a job that pays my bills and gives me cheap insurance. I don’t really know what this blog will be about per se. I know it’s not going to about my opinions, and it’s definitely not going to be about convincing you that my life is hard. It will probably just end up being about me. That’s why I’m writing in the first place. To practice a more intimate kind of vulnerability. To see what I’m capable of. I don’t really care if anyone reads it and thinks it’s cool, funny, or witty. I guess the most important thing is that I am actively working against my natural aversion to taking risks, being bold, and telling people what I think. I’m also just trying to develop healthier habits and build some self-confidence. I have some thoughts about culture, politics, music, and the church. So anyways, here’s the blog version of a tv pilot.
ART & MUSIC
One of my roommates recently introduced me to this new-ish Bon Iver song. Bon Iver released it on the Wish I Was Here film soundtrack. As of this moment it is not available on Spotify, but I did find an even BETTER version of the song recorded at the Sydney Opera House. It’s acapella and he performs along side The Staves. It’s amazing.
I’ve been learning and playing music for most of my life. I started playing piano and taking lessons when I was 6 or 7. I picked up guitar and violin lessons when I was 12. I was in the regional children’s choir for years. I loved playing, and I constantly dreamed of performing. Unfortunately, I have always been self-conscious of my talent. Part of the problem is that I was just really hard on myself. I practiced over and over until I had my songs perfect. Anytime I made a mistake I would want to give up and go hide in my room and never play again. I didn’t know how to just enjoy music. It wasn’t art for me. I wanted to be the best. All head. No heart. I got kind of burnt out when in high school, but still played for fun with friends. That was a good lesson, learning how to just play for fun and not care about playing songs perfectly (or sometimes even well). I became friends with some of the most musically talented people in my school. I thought to myself, “I’ll never be as good as them. I feel bad for holding them back when we play together”. Of course I know now that was never the case. They are still my best friends. We still play music together anytime we catch up. In college, I fell in love with music in a totally new way. I was so sad and angry my first couple years of college. I struggled to make friends (or work up the courage to make friends depending on how you look at it). Sometimes I would go days without exchanging words with another human being. That was hard. And it really took its toll on my health. I started picking up my guitar and just teaching myself more and more challenging songs, making my own melodies, exploring alternative turnings, sometimes even writing songs. I understood, for maybe the first time in my life, what it meant to honestly express my feelings. I was bad at doing it verbally. I’m sure you can fill in reasons a, b, and c at this point why I was (and continue to be) afraid of that. But music, that I understood. So why say all of this? Because I’m just tired of being afraid. I’ve built up my entire identity around only a fragment of myself, the part that is helpful to his friends but too meek to do something courageous. I can still be the same nice, helpful modest guy and play sappy love songs. Maybe Paul McCartney said it best…
So I started writing songs again. Some of them are really bad. Like hilariously bad. But some are pretty good I think. I just started one that I really like called “Music City Star”. BOOM. Big reveal. That’s what the blog is named after. Also because it’s a great metaphor for someone living in Nashville trying believe that they are capable of doing something important. And it’s an awesome name for a local commuter train. That would have been reason enough. The world would be better if we just ditched cars and went back to trains. Honestly, I don’t know how that song title isn’t already taken. I checked. If you steal it I will find you. I asked a friend to help me record some songs and maybe shoot a video for me. That terrifies me. But I’m trying to take some risks in my life. I’ll let you know how it goes.
CULTURE & POLITICS
What a time to be alive. I want to make sure everyone understands what I really “think” about politics. I hate it. I hate all of it. And I really don’t want to start a politics blog. I hate the democratic party. I hate the republican party. I especially hate pundits and political commentators. Sometimes I hate “moderates” and people that sacrifice what they believe is good and just in order to win or avoid confrontations. I know there are many who agree with me and are cynical about politics. I don’t hate those people. I just feel sorry for them. How sad it must be to believe that there is no salvation for our current political crisis. If there is anything that will crumble civility, it is cynicism. The refusal to engage in the conversation is at least part of the problem. Everyone else’s refusal to listen is the other part.
So, you might be asking, what separates me from those sad sad cynics? I guess it boils down to how I think we should frame the issue of politics. I’m not a fool. We are a country with a two-party system. Yes, I’ve seen some great arguments for a centrist party that can act as a deal-maker, assuming they can get enough seats to create/defeat a majority. I’m not even going to begin any sort of argument about how our political system SHOULD be organized. There are lots and lots of smart people with PhD’s who are far more qualified than me to talk about that. My request, I think, is a fairly simple one. What if we just stopped assuming the worst in people with opposing political views? Let me give a specific example. If President Trump were to walk out into the press briefing room and announce a plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, many would cry “racist” or “evil”. Many have already called him that. These aren’t fringe voices either. Political leaders, journalists, pundits, and even church leaders have joined in the choir of disdain. Does anybody really think that Trump sits in a room with other powerful white men and think to themselves “how do we take away people’s healthcare, break apart immigrant families, and antagonize foreign enemies”? Consider me skeptical. Now, I’m definitely not going to try and argue that he’s a good person or even a competent person. But I think at worst, he’s just horribly misled about what is true and not true. And to his credit, we have a terrible system of figuring what DOES WORK to help the general public. I hear “political analysts” on CNN and Fox News talk about statistics that support their view every day. They can’t ALL be right. And then the following day politicians use those soundbites to engage in armchair politics.
I’m going to stop myself before I try to bite off more than I can chew. Our political system is broken. There is no doubt about that. Before we even begin to unravel the political-media-industrial complex maybe the first place we should look for change is in the way in which we engage each other in these conversations. Too often we assume the worst in each other. I am as guilty as everybody else. We have to learn how to both stand in our convictions and be open to being wrong. Let people try to prove us wrong and listen closely to their arguments. We might learn something from each other. Regardless we are still going to be friends. More importantly we are still brothers and sisters in Christ and ultimately stand as one family. Also, seriously question where you get your news from. We should assume at this point that everything is some form of advertisement unless we are told otherwise. If you aren’t hearing or reading reasonable opposing view points, you are setting yourself up for failure. Listen to your local NPR station. Those guys are the best.
I will very rarely talk explicitly about politics. I just hate it so much. And yet my hate of it pushes me to be apart of the change I want to see. I’m just trying to lay down some groundwork for the larger picture. I am much more interested in the broader context of American culture. This is not a blog about my opinions. It’s a blog about me and what it means to be in but not of the world.
CHURCH & FAITH
I have been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be called by God. I have always envied people who felt, or better yet, heard God direct them toward a vocation. I remember sitting in my dorm room in college saying to myself, “Why hasn’t God just told me what to do? It seems like all of my friends have something they feel called to do. How else will I know what I’m supposed to do? Do I just figure out what I’m good at and do that? I’ve never been particularly good at anything. How will I ever commit to something if I don’t have the conviction to pursue it passionately? Maybe God doesn’t care what I do. Or worse. Maybe he doesn’t think I’m capable of anything important.” Woof. Don’t even try to unpack the self-esteem issues loaded in those thoughts. Leave that to me and my therapist for now. I look back at those moments of intense anxiety about my destiny and anger at God’s dismissal of me and find myself wondering “was I even listening”? I spent so much time feeling ashamed and closing myself off that I doubt I even took the time to just listen to what God had to say. I’m not saying that God necessarily speaks directly to us and says in a thunderous voice “Thomas, I am calling you to open your own McDonald’s franchise”. That probably almost never happens. I emphasize the almost never portion of that statement because I think that we need to actively work against the kind of cynicism that says God doesn't play an active in our lives. He could be that direct, I’m sure that sometimes He is. But we shouldn’t expect it. And we definitely shouldn’t need it. Here is a grab bag of bible quotes that seem to speak of this. I’m going to find a better way of incorporating scripture into my writing in the future. For now this will do.
“My son, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you, making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; yes, if you call out for insight and raise your voice for understanding, if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1–5
“He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” Matthew 11:15
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” Romans 10:17
“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.” Revelation 3:20
While it is not super clear exactly how God gives us instruction (other than when it is actually explicitly stated in the Bible), it seems pretty obvious to me that he promises us that, if we are willing to listen, we will hear something. I do know that I close myself off too often. To God. To my friends and family. These are the people that care for me and want what is best. Why would I hold them at arm’s length, deflect their attempts to dig past my defenses, and present an untrue version of myself? Maybe because I don’t think they would like what they see. Because I’m not as nice, kind or even good as they think I am. I’m definitely not as altruistic. And then if they did see they would leave. And then I would be alone. There’s no fear quite like the soul-crushing fear of being alone. I remember when I was young I would call out to my parents “Mom?… Dad?…” when they were busy doing work around the house. I called quietly first but would get louder and louder until I heard a reply. I just wanted to make sure that someone was still there. Someone knew where I was. Cared if I was still there. It’s not an unreasonable fear. But it is an unnecessary one. There’s no time like the present to work on it.
Luckily, I have great friends. I’m learning to ask them for help when I need it, be more vulnerable and speak my mind even though they might disagree with me. They aren’t going anywhere. And even more importantly, I am loved by my Father. He knows how broken I am and continues to love me anyways. He sent his son to die for me. In the grand scheme of things my problems are small. Important. But small. I am very capable of facing my own brokenness. I’m going to be just fine.
“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31
I want to be apart of building God’s kingdom here on Earth. I think that’s really what I’m going to be talking about in this blog. How the hell do I do that? This world seems really really terrible sometimes. Can one person be capable of any real change? But if I believe that he is with me, then I should feel bold enough to listen to what He wants no matter how uncertain that path is.
So what does God want for me? I have some thoughts, but I’ll keep you in suspense for now…
This was fun! I’m going to keep this going for a while. I have no clue who I will share it with or when. Maybe nobody. Maybe everybody?! Probably somewhere in-between. If you know about this, definitely don’t tell people who I am. I kind of want to keep this semi-anonymous for now. But feel free to share! What’s the point of sharing my thoughts with an empty room? I hope you enjoyed reading about me! Maybe you can relate with some of my thoughts and fears. This has been a trial run of my first blog. I’m going to keep experimenting a bit with the format as well as my prose and grammar. I might keep using Medium. Probably not forever. I’ll try and write something every week. I doubt any of them will be as long as this one. I’ll probably just stick with one theme per post. I’m excited and nervous, which is a good thing I think. Until next time.
Music City Star