Envy

BrianVile - brightened

Yesterday I recommended some online people who inspire me. Now it’s time for the flip side. Many of the YouTubers I enjoy watching are half my age. They live in fancy big-city apartments and drive luxury cars and maintain lifestyles beyond far beyond my means. On one hand, I find them inspiring; on the other hand, I am seething with envy that is probably not healthy.

Every bit of advice I’ve read on how to be happy includes a warning to not compare yourself with other people. This is advice I have a very hard time following. How do you not compare yourself to others? How do I not watch a 20-something driving a Tesla and not resent my entry-level Ford? How do I not let a video on home decorating depress me when I’m wondering how to make next month’s rent on my tiny apartment?

Way back when I was in my own early 20s, I wrote and recorded two songs that have since taken on a bitter irony. “I Hate My Apartment” and “I Wanna Be Rich” were written when I was certain better times were just around the corner. A combination of bad luck, poor timing, and bad decisions has held those better times at bay. Don’t get me wrong; I’m certainly better off than millions—if not billions—of the world’s desperately poor and hungry people (and yes, I also wrote and recorded a song called “Hungry People,” but that one’s not online). Things, as they say, could be worse. But they could also be a lot better.

So please excuse this whiny blog post. My struggle is one I suspect I share with many people of modest means. It is also not entirely about money, though let’s face it: That’s a biggie. But even if all those talented young YouTubers were stripped of their high-price accessories, I would still be envious of their accomplishments. Ah, there’s the ticket! I may not be able to control what people pay me, but I can control what I do and how I do it. Focus on doing good work.

“Make good art.” – Neil Gaiman

And if anyone want to gift me a Tesla, that’d be cool too!

 

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Here’s What I’m Into Online

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Yes, I have accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. And I do interact with them—probably more than I should—but I also spend a great deal of time ignoring much of what comes my way via those channels. There are better ways to spend my time online. Here are a few of them:

I’ve promoted the many online endeavors of John and Hank Green before, and I’m about to do it again. Hank’s latest YouTube project is Journey to the Microcosmos, a relaxing and informative look at the microscopic world around us. Hank is much mellower on this channel than his regular viewers may be used to, and he proves he can deliver even at a slower tempo. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBbnbBWJtwsf0jLGUwX5Q3g

If someone had told me even two months ago that I would be listening to and recommending a podcast by a former megachurch pastor, I would not have believed them. Yet here I am plugging Rob Bell’s RobCast. Although his main focus is matters of religion, the pod casts a wide net (see what I did there?), and you won’t be bored! It’s not hard to see why Bell’s preaching attracted large crowds; he’s very good. https://robbell.com/portfolio/robcast/

Another religious podcast that has been bringing me much enjoyment comes from Peter Enns and Jared Byas. The Bible for Normal People takes up the many issues, problems, and controversies surrounding the Bible. Though many people claim the Bible takes center stage in their lives, too often they haven’t really given it the thought and in-depth reading it deserves. Enns and Byas tackle even the thorniest issues head-on, chatting with a varied company of scholars, writers, and bloggers, all the while keeping the tone accessible and entertaining. https://thebiblefornormalpeople.podbean.com/

While we’re on religious subjects, Austen Hartke approaches the Bible from a transgender perspective, which is refreshing and needed. The subtitle of his webpage is “Theology – Identity – Education,” and that pretty well sums it up. (I’ll be doing a lot of this business of approaching theology from different and sometimes surprising perspective in upcoming posts.) http://austenhartke.com/

“Life is an art. Make it your masterpiece.” This is the headline of Lavendaire, the website and YouTube channel by Aileen Xu. Some folks may find here a bit too New Agey, but I enjoy spending some time with her online. Creative Lifestyle Guru is perhaps an abused job title these days, but Lavendaire’s optimistic, helpful, and healthy advice is…well…optimistic, helpful and healthy! https://www.lavendaire.com/

 

 

 

Priorities

For a religion class in college, I wrote a “Confessions” in the tradition of those by Augustine, Rousseau, and many others. In my Confessions, among other things, I discussed nagging doubts about my intended career as a musician. With so many big problems in the world, setting my sights on a life of music seemed frivolous.

These days, as I spend my days working in a church and devote much of my time outside of work to academic pursuits, I face similar doubts. With so many big problems in the world, is setting my sights on spirituality and books just another frivolous avoidance of my larger responsibilities?

Sometimes Good Is Better Than Great

Neil Gaiman is not just a fine author, he is a fine speaker as well, as his “Make Good Art” speech testifies (https://www.uarts.edu/neil-gaiman-keynote-address-2012). In my journal, I sometimes like to include quotes I find inspiring. I was in the process of writing down Gaiman’s quote, when I thought to myself, “Isn’t that a little weak? Why ‘good art?’ Why not ‘GREAT art!’”

But then I thought of one of the great stumbling blocks for many an aspiring artist/writer/composer/etc.: Perfectionism. Making great art sounds intimidating; I’m not sure I can do it. What if what I create isn’t great? Maybe I just shouldn’t create at all.

Then I thought of another quote, this one from Andy Warhol: “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”

Just get it done. Anne Lamott says we should give ourselves permission to write shitty first drafts. Shitty I can do. Good I can do if I work at it. Great? Maybe, maybe not. I’ll let someone else decide. In the meantime, I have to make art. I have to just get it done.

Going to Church

Blog Post for 1-6-2019

 

My mom has played organ in church for as long as I’ve existed. Her mom before her played organ for most of her life. So it was inevitable that I would be dragged along to church every Sunday, and again every Wednesday for choir rehearsal, which involved both of my parents. And what did I think of this? I hated it! On Wednesday evenings, I occupied myself playing with the rather anemic selection of toys in the church nursery, usually alone. On Sunday mornings, Sunday school found me in with a bunch of kids who all went to a different school than I did, so I was again left feeling alone. What’s worse, once I began taking an active interest in the current music scene, the Sunday morning service forced me to miss Casey Kasem’s “American Top 40” on the radio! That was unforgivable.

In high school, I began dating a girl who went to a different church, and by this time I was allowed to make a few of my own choices, so I abandoned the church of my childhood, and even switched from Methodist to Baptist! (In my dad’s eyes, THIS was unforgivable!)

When I left home for college, something happened to me that happens to a lot of kids when they first leave home: I stopped going to church altogether. And I stayed stopped for a good long time. It wasn’t until I started playing piano for a church choir that I began once again regularly attending Sunday morning services. It’s nice. I enjoy going now. Outspoken atheist Kurt Vonnegut used to routinely recommend going to church if for no other reason than to be part of a community.

The community aspect is certainly part of church’s appeal, but I think an even bigger factor is being part of a purpose. After all, a church isn’t just a group of people with nothing in common thrown together randomly. I can get that in a restaurant, at a concert, or on a subway car. The group of people in a church have a common purpose. I don’t pretend to agree with everything my pastor says, or with every line of every creed church hierarchy has handed down. I have too many doubts, questions, and concerns to blindly swallow every morsel of church dogma. But I respect the sense of purpose. I am happy to be part of something bigger than myself. I am not alone.

 

Me!

Before I begin, it’s only fair to say a little something about myself, so you know with whom you are dealing when reading these posts. I am primarily a musician, though to call myself a professional in that field would be stretching it as my music career, although a few decades old by this time, is still in its infancy. My main performance outlet is church, where I accompany the choir, and also play in the praise band. I also serve as the church’s worship arts coordinator, which is a part-time position, but a rewarding one. Aside from participating in the church’s musical activities, I engage in voracious reading about all things theological, philosophical, and historical. This blog is an attempt to add my own voice to the mix, unscholarly though it may be.

When I was just a kid, I loved reading daily devotionals, and even began writing my own book of devotionals. That project fell by the wayside before completion, and I have since regretted never finishing it. (Aside from the good it would have done me from a personal growth standpoint, just think of the commercial potential of a book of children’s devotionals written by an actual child!) These posts may or not end up being anything like devotionals, but this is my way of revisiting a bit of unfinished work from long ago. Besides, I believe a person’s quest for spirituality is an ongoing adventure.

Please join me in the journey!