Friday, August 26, 2011

"[Your name Here] Has a Dream!"


Arguably the best, most inspiring phrase in this common era was articulated by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he boldly stated, “I have a dream.” Talk about your audacity of hope! Talk about having courage in the valley of fear. Talk about having 20/20 night vision. Dr. King dared to believe in the middle of despair, and declared those beliefs in a world that was still shaping. With that declaration, he breathed life into a disease-ridden humanity and helped us to universally get back on the road to
recovery. By the ways, what is a dream? A dream is the ability to see a vision
within your mind’s eye, in spite of your surroundings. Mainly because your eyes
are closed, your immediate environment has no visual effect on what plays into
your dream. In essence, this is what Dr. King did; he closed his eyes to his
immediate environment and had a dream. A beautiful, more perfect dream. A dream
where “the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners would be
able to sit down at the table of brotherhood.” But my question is, “What will we do at this
table of brotherhood?” According to the Table of Brotherhood Project, produced
by Chevrolet and others, the answer is:


Talk.


No offense to them, or to anyone who expresses their positive opinion, but quite frankly, the time for talk is over. Talking yields little to no results. It’s the reason why husbands roll their eyes and sigh a sigh of grief when their wife says she wants to “talk”; the fear of inconclusive banter. Circumlocution. But alas, sometimes talking can inspire. But that inspiration should lead to motivation. And motivation should lead to action. If you get nothing else from this “introduction”, please allow me to insert a famous line from the poetry group Cypress Hill.


“Time for some action”


So that I won’t be guilty of overstating this with too much verbiage, let me get down to my main point: MLK’s dream will be realized when you follow YOUR dream. As I was discussing with another friend, MLK’s dream of unity and civil rights is being achieved in this present day and age. Yes, there still are inequalities and injustices still in different places, but the overall spirit of civility is more common than not; now more than yesteryear. So in essence, we’re at the threshold of the “promised land” (though some haven’t gotten the memo yet). And similar to the story in the Bible, in order to seize this land some action
items mixed with faith have to be implemented. Most of us have the faith, and
we’re already “talked” up enough, but what are the action items?


To literally go after your dreams.


I was inspired by the quote that said “It takes courage for people to listen to their own goodness and act on it.” (Pablo Casals) Well, I’ve had a few conversations with people who have million dollar ideas; people with dreams for starting a non-profit, a business, or a ministry. People who have had an idea in their mind for years, but are a little nervous about looking into it. Yes, you! Follow your dream! I will say that I also know people who are taking the courageous route and going after their vision. I wholeheartedly applaud you. But for those of you/us who still are making excuses about why they haven’t started yet, excuses be damned. Please don’t make me quote famous entertainer MC Hammer or the more
contemporary group Black Eyes Peas. Just please get started already.


The fact that we live in a better world today, with room to breathe, is your green light to go. The path and the way have been paved. It’s been paid for with the blood, sweat and tears of all of our ancestors. We’d be doing them a disservice if we just sat on our can and kept talking about “One day…” I’m often inspired by the gold rush of 1849. There
were thousands of families heading West into uncharted territory, all with the
lure of a richer life. They left security for insecurity. They left stability
and certainty for word of mouth and promise. Where is that spirit today? Have
we gotten so anesthetized with the cares of this life, that we’re not willing
to take calculated risks for the vision that’s in our hearts? These things
ought not be. And here’s the bonus: some of your dreams are way bigger than
you. Therefore you’re going to have to invest in your kids and/or your
community of connections to see the dream go on well after you expire. But you
have to get started now.


So folks, in order for Dr. King’s dream to become a reality, YOU have to follow YOUR dreams! Take charge of your destiny. Ignore your immediate surroundings. Walk by faith and not by sight. For Dr. King’s sake, “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.”--H.D. Thoreau


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Technology Vs. Live Music: Which is Better?



Willie Jolley couldn’t believe it. He thought the
only place machines could replace men are in factories, or in movies; but never
in the music industry. Maybe even electronic instruments replacing acoustic
ones, but for a machine to replace a singer? Preposterous! But there he was, a successful night-club singer replaced by the
latest craze of the early nineties; a karaoke machine.





This was just another step in machines’ evil
conspiracy to take over the world. I honestly don’t foresee that happening
until around the year 2222. But until then, musical electronica—and its
popularity—has slowly infiltrated the hearts and minds of music fans worldwide.
But why? Is it because it’s so darn easy to create and play music these days? (
Steve Jobs with his fancy-shmancy Apple products just continue to make things
easier and easier) And with the decline of instrumental music programs in urban
schools, will playing a musical instrument be on the “Endangered Arts” list? (I
just made that up). But on the flip side, when it comes to High School proms,
weddings and other parties, it becomes much more cost effective to hire a DJ
than to hire a couple of dinosaurs who know how to play that “trumpet-thingy.”
So which is better? I cannot answer that question for you. I can only give you
a fresh perspective on the topic (and hope that my preferences don’t bleed
through too much.) But in the end, when it comes to making a selection on tech
vs. live, I hope you become better informed.





Tech Music—everything electronic including iPods, CD
players, iTunes etc.



Firstly, for all ye who are not musically inclined (shower singers, air drummers, etc) thank
God in Heaven that you live in the 21st Century. These days, in
order to listen to music—any music, your favorite type of music—all you have to
do is push ‘Play’. Nevermind the fact that real live people have spent
countless hours slaving over the just the right sounds for our whimsical
pleasure. But nevertheless, pre-recorded music is ready for our instant
gratification. And this comes in handy for several occasions. Whether we need
some motivational music to jog to, or something as elaborate as a business
convention meeting; being able to cue and play just the right song at just the
right time is the convenience of the ages. (Right behind sliced bread and the
TV remote control). Also, event planners and their budget-watchdogs need to
also rejoice. Instead of having to negotiate and make arrangements for a
handful of musicians, who sometimes can be a hand-full themselves, it’s much
easier to contract with 1 person who has the latest in DJ’ing equipment. (Which
these days can easily be just an iPod connected to mammoth speakers) For that
matter, DJ’s can likewise rejoice! Long gone are the years when they had to lug
around their archival collection of vinyl records and manually fine tooth comb
through each one just to play the right song. Now, the only time they need to
take is to download songs to their electronic storehouse. ‘Plug-n-Play’ music
also becomes convenient when the event calls for the rapid transition between
songs. Suppose you want only the chorus to the Kool and the Gang’s
“Celebration” but then, an immediate cut to Queen’s “We Are the Champions.” It
would take even the most professional musicians several hours just to get that
right. But if you want it right away—in a moment’s notice—all it takes is ‘click-play-click-play’.
I’m telling you, this modern day convenience could hardly become better! Side
note: I’ve always felt like convenience is the breeding ground for laziness;
and laziness begets atrocities. Air-go, convenience is the devil!





Live Music—all singing and live musical instruments;
both acoustic and electronic.



There I was; a grown man drooling on the floor (Not
literally, but still). I was supposed to be waiting tables at a local night
club, but I could not take my eyes and attention off of the entertainment. The
saxophone player was playing 2 saxes at once!! Did you just understand that?!
Two saxes at once!! And was harmonizing both of them!! Sure, music history
indicates that it’s been done before, but I’ve never seen it live and in
person!! So, when I managed to pull myself away from the jaw-dropping action
and look for the ‘reaction-shot’ of the club patrons, I was even more shocked.
The sax man could’ve been playing 2 kazoos for all they cared or knew. I think
the only way they would’ve paid attention is if he simultaneously set his hair
on fire. And even then, one of the clubbers probably would’ve just asked him to
help light their cigarette.



How can these things be?



Sorry, but all you non-musicians just don’t
understand. (But I do give credit to those who don’t play an instrument, yet
their musical acumen is astute) But for the rest of the population, they just
don’t get it. It’s okay, I understand. It’s the same reason why most men
normally hate going to the ballet with their significant other. (Most) men
don’t understand ballet. Or even the same reason I leave the room whenever my
wife turns the TV to So You Think You Can
Dance.
It does nothing for me. But my wife, she gets it. Because she was
trained in dance, she understands what an arabesque is; she knows how to do a
pliƩ; and she knows what perfect lines should look like. So, when she sees a
dance performance, she looks for examples that reflect her core knowledge of
dance. She knows when a dancer executes a spin perfectly and in form. She knows
when they hit the mark (and when they don’t). Me…enh, not so much. Only because
I’m married to a dancer, do I appreciate the art; but only by association. You
do not find my wanting to buy tickets to the latest dance performance. But if
you set one of the dancer’s hair on fire, then I’ll watch!



I think you get the point by now. Most people don’t
understand the skill vs. ability it takes to, not only play a musical
instrument, but to enhance the auditorium with your musical prowess. And don’t
get me started with the magic in a band or group! The magic that comes with
playing in a band is much more than just everybody doing their part. My friend
Dave B. explained it best. Music is nothing more than just organized sound
waves, or vibrations. He said, similarly, each band member emits a
vibe/vibration. Comparable to tuning a radio to a certain frequency to pick up
the right radio station channel, magic happens when band members/singers get on
the same vibration while producing music. Perfect ‘harmony’ is when ALL band
members and singers are ‘vibing’; not just keyboards and drums, or singer and
guitar player. Rarely achieved, I’ve been blessed to be a part of that magic
and witness it for myself. In a word: sublime.



So when it comes to your event, I suppose it depends
on what your preferences are. If you are overly concerned about budget or
space, than having a band may not be right for you. But if you’re anything like
me, first of all, I’m sorry! You, just like me, are a people person who gets
down right enthralled when people take the Rodney King way of life: “Can’t we
all just get along?” If you’re like me than you see the magic that happens when
people live in harmony; coalescing and coexisting without contention. So it
capitalizes on your ‘harmony-fetish’ when you see a small group of people
achieve what is rarely done in society through music. Getting on the same
accord. If that’s your fancy, or anywhere along that spectrum, than you should
choose live music.



Or if that’s too much for you, you can always just click
‘Play.’



Homophobia: a Psychological Review

In
this entry, I will attempt to uncover and explain some of the social
perceptions and prejudices that exist---real, imagined, legitimate and
illegitimate—against homosexuals, or same gender loving people, within the
fabric of modern day and urban society; starting from the very obvious
perceptions to the very subtle ones that exist naturally. For those that know
me, I will not be taking my usual Christian slant. Instead, I will attempt to
explore these social observations purely from an objective standpoint, perhaps
traversing into the psycho-social realm. My goal is an attempt to brood a
generalized and broader understanding of the dynamics that the homosexual
populations bring, in the attempt to interact peacefully with heterosexuals.



I believe that as a society, we are slowly but surely growing in knowledge,
awareness, tolerance and information when it comes to multiculturalism. (Some
of us more than others). But one demographic that has risen as a burgeoning
population is LGBT's. By my short historical account, this population really
didn't start earning respect as a sub-culture until well after the late 1970's.
Even so, hatred and ostracism continues and persists well into the new
millennium.



Why is that?



For several illegitimate reasons, and others for some very confusing reasons.
Let's take a quick look—from the very shallow to the deep seated reasons—of why
that is.



Not even acknowledging the very hatred some have of others who are generally
different from themselves, I won't go there. (Although I believe that their
hatred stems way beyond simple dislike—but lies in a deep seated issue, more in
a moment) I'll start with the common misconception of disagreement of choices.



It used to be that conservative heterosexuals didn't like gays simply because
they were homosexual; or same gender loving people. I find this concept to
be false.
There is a great chance that People Against Gays (I'll call them
PAGs...Ha!) don't even witness them engaging in sexual acts. So why the hate?
For instance, a gay person at work will obviously show no signs of his private
choices. So by assumption (or imagination) of their deeds, public opinion is
formed. This is as silly as a worker who is an admitted cheater on their
spouse. Chances are, we don't see their deeds, but we form opinions and
judgments based on clues or admitted testimony. But we still don't see it. So
why does it still matter?; especially as it relates to them being in public
places. Basically, it shouldn’t matter what they do in the privacy of their own
time. However, there are many who don’t have the gift of
‘compartmentalization.’ (See the public outcry of Bill Clinton’s and Marion
Barry’s scandal) There are some who can mentally separate the person and their
private choices. Then, there are others who cannot separate the two. Even
though with both cases (Clinton and Barry) their choices were made personally,
some suggest that their choices have no bearing on their abilities in the
public forum. Others argue this point. “The others” who cannot separate the
public person from their private actions are usually the ones who feel
uncomfortable with gays. Even though the average gay person does not have a
high profiled position, ”the others” still hold them accountable totheir own
personal moralistic standards, even when their opinion of their personal
choices doesn’t matter.



But if PAGs don’t see them do it, still why the hatred?





Another misconception is that gays will turn PAGs into homosexuals. This is
also not true.
Whereas yes there may be some (a minority) who are, as they
say, "curious", an overwhelming large majority of heterosexuals are
confident in their orientation. But unfortunately PAGs affront a strong
aversion to any gay person, not realizing their own self confidence in their
orientation. So the common misconception of PAGs being homophobic because of
conversion is very overrated.



So what is it? Why do PAGs strongly protest LGBT's?



I want to suggest to you that it is primarily a matter of pheromone confusion.
Let me explain.



Every person, both male and female, has testosterone and estrogen hormones
inside of them. The typical male has 10-times more testosterone than the
typical female and vice versa; the typical female has 10-times more estrogen
than the typical male. When a male or female self-esteem and/or self confidence
is in the healthy to high range, they emit their dominant hormone to higher
levels. Females emit their estrogen which socially turns into femininity. (Some
other nicknames for this are: dainty, prissy, elegant, sweet, and sexy)
Likewise, males emit their testosterone which translates into masculinity.
(Nicknames for this trait are: machismo, bravado, manly, and swagger) Both of
these social traits show a display of confidence and comfort with their
personage. In the social laws of human interaction and attraction, being
comfortable and confident with oneself is an instant aphrodisiac.



With this in mind, let’s move on with the “typical” gay male. Whether by nature
or nurture, the quintessential gay male emits more levels of estrogen than a typical
male. (Not all, of course) This estrogen leads to social-femininity. In
traditional society, women were the leaders in this vibration. From the
high-pitched voice, the slinky walk and body movement, to color filled emotions
and sassy personality. The confusion comes in where testosterone driven men, by
nature, are hard-wired to respond to femininity. Consider it the same as
smelling your favorite food coming from your computer keyboard. The smell is
strong, but the source is confusing. By nature, you have a bodily response to
the smell of food, but the fact that it’s coming from your computer keyboard—a
completely different visual clue—is off-putting. To the typical heterosexual,
this can be very confusing. So when they get the vibe of estrogen, or femininity,
from a male source, confusion can lead to frustration. Frustration can lead to
anger or worse, hatred. (This author has not studied the in depth effects of
how typical women feel when a testosterone-driven woman enters the social
circle, but can only imagine that, at the very least, “it gets weird”)



Why is that?



Our typical feminine and masculine qualities were designed to work like magnets
toward the opposite sex. Just like magnets, we radiate a “magnetic field”
around us when our masculine/feminine hormones are heightened in proportion to
our self-confidence/self-esteem. And just like magnets and their polarizations,
typically in humans, ‘like’, or the same magnetsusually do not attract
each other—they repel. So it becomes “weird” at best, when natural signals of
attraction are sounding, but the visual does not correlate. This, I believe,
explains the subtle confusion, and uneasiness that is felt in thriving and
budding social situations.



Alas, there are those who are aware and respectful of differing orientations,
but still may have slight pause in mixed-orientated social interaction. This is
due to gender role typecasting. On the surface, the traditional expectation is
for “a man to be a man” and “a lady to be a lady.” But a deeper issue is
because of the noted affirmation of gender bonding. Traditionally, males and
females hang out together with the same sex, with the purpose and result of
building up each other’s self-identification through gender mirroring. This
interaction is void of erotica, and used primarily for affirming one’s
identification. The proverbial “record gets scratched” when a traditional
social circle encounters a visual cue (gay person) emitting differing
pheromones. (Consider the cheeseburger smelling keyboard example) Placement in
a traditional all male (or female) social circle seems to dawdle for the gay
person a little, as the individual is not affirming their same sex heterosexual
bystanders, because they’re not radiating the same hormone. (And of course the
rules of attraction pertaining to transmitting hormones for social sexual
interplay are closely guarded and enforced by traditionalists). But for this
reason, gays are quicker to “hang out” with an opposite sexed, but same
hormonal social circle. Here is where they find their gender mirroring,
self-worth and affirmation of identification.



For instance, take the fictional TV sitcom Will & Grace. Jack, a
particularly effeminate gay male, is especially “attracted” to, not Grace—a
typical female, but Karen—a noted alpha female who demonstrates a slightly
higher level of self-confidence equaling to higher levels of femininity of her
person. I can only suggest this is the same in the male circle with
testosterone oriented females, however I have no example to provide for this
validation.



Why is all of this important?



I believe that some of the slightest of aversions to the most impassioned of
hatred of same gender loving people from traditional conversatives is stemmed
from natural, chemical, and psycho-social reactions in our bodies and minds.
And though, there are some who try to push past the perceived social stigmas or
even personal preferences, they still will find a certain awkwardness when
trying to interact in a gregarious social setting. And for gays, they still
have the pressure to either neutralize their hormone exudation or be highly
selective of where to socially interact.



Either way, the reasons for perceived homophobia is actually stemmed from
intrinsic chemical receptors, and not so much just from mental pride and
prejudice. I believe as a society, we can get past the mental aspect through
information and other means. As far as broad acceptance in all the social
spheres and interaction, that remains to be seen

Thursday, May 14, 2009

What's Happening to Ma and Pa?

Do you remember yesteryear when mom and/or dad ran the household? When parents didn't have to outsource just to have somebody clean their own home? When a home-cooked meal didn't come from Boston Market? When fixing that trick basement step didn't require thumbing through the phonebook? What happened to these people? I'll tell you what happened: Modernism!

In this current era, I'm finding out that more and more Gen X'ers either don't have, or are losing the skills, that kept families afloat and in tact for generations past. Skills like cooking, handiness, cleaning, green thumbs, and Mr. Fix-Its just to name a few. Of course there are a few of us 20-40 year-olds who still have traces of these physical virtues, but by and large we as a generation pale in comparison to what our parents and grands were able to do. These things ought not be.

I completely understand that in this post-modern era the image of the "traditional family" is quickly fading. We are living in an era where a family now can consist of, more commonly, single parents, grandparents as parents, aunts/uncles as parents, and even "non-traditional" parents. But I'm not here ranting about what a family should consist of. I'm cracking down on the disappearing skills that folks used to have to run a self-containing family. In my berating, I will single out women AND men (including myself) who, for one reason or another, are not even displaying an interest in acquiring these timeless traits.

Women!
Yeah, you. You know who I'm talking to! Now, I know better than to pigeonhole women into certain roles or functions (my momma taught me better than that). But what I've noticed is that there's an ebbing non-chalantness to learning or sharpening traditional skills. Before I say cooking and have women give me an e-tongue lashing, I already know that cooking is non-gendered. And even for the women who can't turn on an oven have been lucky enough to find a husband who doesn't mind wearing the apron. This situation balances just fine. But I'm leaning on the women who don't even have an interest in being creative in the kitchen. Instead of packing lunches replete with love notes for their children, we've been reduced to paying for school lunches to provide for our children. Instead of the "sit-down dinner" on a weeknight, we settle for Boston Market or Popeye's in front of the T.V. ( I suppose that you have read the reports on the importance of a sit-down family meal, without the T.V., so I won't go into that tangent). Part of the problem, as I have seen, is that the matriarchs (or patriarchs) of the family haven't trained the younger children on the necessary skills for "burning." We grew up well into our 20's just expecting a hot meal at family gatherings, without the tutelage on how it gets done. So we missed all that formal training in our formative years. This is where Baby Boomers share the blame. Cleaning is also non-gendered, but I always thought of it as kind of odd that in some couples, the husband is tidier than the wife. (Exceptions include raising infants and toddlers). Again, the inference is not the accomplishment of household chores, but the general lack of interest. But what's worst is hiring out. To me, it becomes a shame to pay somebody else and clean up the clutter that we "don't have time" to do ourselves. Chores, I admit, are a joint effort. But when either spouse shows no initiative in tackling them, or out-sources the solution, then laziness is set in.

Men!
Where are your toolbelts? Do you even know what a mitre saw does? Do you know how to change your own oil? (I, ashamedly, don't). Husbands and fathers are quickly losing those precious skills that kept our families safe for ages. They never hired anybody to come and clean their gutters. They simply got their ladders from the shed and did it themselves. I think that I was flabbergasted when this guy I knew, (perfectly healthy and strong), hired people to manicure his lawn every 2 weeks. Now given, his yard was pretty big (no more than an acre) but, ...come on!! This is what "elbow grease" is all about. I mean, I know with a career oriented husband/father, cutting the grass is (gasp...) a chore! But that's what character is all about. Making time for things we don't want to do. Yes, carving out 3-4 hours on a Saturday for hard, manual labor is bothersome, but convenience is the gateway drug for full blown slothfulness. What I've noticed is that men (including myself) have traded a 2x4 knowledge for technology. Instead of building a book case for our wife, we know how to build website. Instead of fixing that leak in the guest bathroom, we know how to synchronize our cell phones to our computers so that we won't miss any emails. ...SMH... And the reason why cooking and cleaning were usually left to the women is because we were so busy with fixing, repairing, renovations, and other custodial duties. But now look at us! Most of us don't know the first thing about building an addition to the house without calling a contractor. Baby boomers also share in this blame. Our patriarchs barely made the time to show us how electrical-work works, or explained to us the many different pieces in a tool set. Instead of handi-men, we've become IT-men. These things ought not be.

Please know that I include myself in these finger-waggings. Convenience is really doing a number on us all. But as much as I'm ignorant in "household maintenance" skills, I refuse to be complacent. When it comes to a handi-project, I will try my hand at it first. When it comes to home cooked meals, I will turn on the oven. When it comes to cleaning, I will do my part (even laundry.) When it comes to my lawn, no matter how persistent the youth are on my block, I will not pay them to do it. Even though I rarely have time to stretch, I will make time to cut the grass myself. I'm finding out that character is built in the little things. My wife and I used to not have a dishwasher (go figure) after years of having one; and boy did that teach me character. (It also taught me that dishes can stink!)

But I challenge all of the Gen Xers who are reading this: Don't let comfort, convenience, lack of proper training, lack of interest turn our generation into a bunch of oafs! (See the movie Wall-E)
If you don't know, put your pride down and ask a living legend to show you hos its done. We MUST keep these skills alive, and then pass it down to our children.

Repeat after me:

1) I will not use Fast-food as a substitute for home cooked meals. (Exception should be fast food less than 3 times a week)
2) I will not pay somebody to cut my lawn. (Exception is larger than 2 acres WITH physical disabilities)
3) I will not call the plumber for minor jobs such as "snaking out" the toilet.
4) I will not pay for Maria to come once a week and tidy up my place. (Again, exception includes families with infants or multiple toddlers)

I know that if you're like me, you'll need to take baby steps toward these efforts, but at least your progressing. But please folks, let's keep alive these traditional skills that keep our families healthy, wealthy, but most of all strong!

Be well!

Friday, January 23, 2009

Help! There's Demons on My TV!!

The demonic imagery that is in movies and on TV is way past my tolerance level!

For those who are 18-40, and if you've been paying attention to pop-culture, you will notice that we've been innundated with at least 3 scary movies to every one action or comedy flic. Even though these scary movies don't do so well (B movies), they still capture our attention for about 15-30 seconds when they're advertising. Ever notice that since the movie The Ring, more movies have been made with that pale/greyish hue for the main villains? That's no accident. My main point is that Hollywood is fascinated with putting scary images in our psychi. But what they call scary, really is demonic. Period.

In my experience and studies on the matter, (thankfully no personal encounters), I'm very familiar with the behaviors, personalities, and manifestations of demons. And the movies that we've become so numb to, are vividly yet obliviously displaying evil caricatures.

Movie previews like "The Unborn" and "The Underworld" , when you look at them carefully, don't need much breakdown. I mean, come on! Werewolves? Really? Or a guy on the steps with his head twisting around? A dog with an upside-down head? Yeah, the movies don't indicate that they're talking about demons per se', but....come on! That's the whole "trick". The media is introducing the devil and his cohorts, but in a non-offensive way. Desensitization. If we can get used to these images, then the real thing won't be bad when they manifest. But by then, it'll be too late to avoid the reason of their manifestation.

I mean, I can't even take my 5-year old to Blockbuster Video anymore! Just an innocent stroll down the New Releases aisle, and you'll get an eyeful of all kinds of...well, evil. And I don't need to keep instructing him to keep his eyes forward, or try to give a soft explanation as to why the guy on the movie box has all white eyes with blood dripping from his mouth.

I'm not sure what your beliefs are, but please understand that there is definitley an unseen world that surrounds us. We'd be wise to discern its presence. Therefore, govern yourself accordingly!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bara(c)k a hero of Biblical Proportions?

Yep! Get your Bible out and let’s take at Judges chapter 4. Go ahead, read through the chapter one time 1st before we get started, then we’ll convene.

I’ll wait……..………..

Okay, you done? Good. I know. Reading about all those Hebrew names is a little distracting. But follow the silver lining, if you will. Okay, the Cliff’s Notes version is that the Children of Israel (God’s people) were sold into slavery for doing bad stuff(vs. 1-2) But God, being the good, kind and merciful Father He is, heard their cry (v.3) and planned for their deliverance. At the time a lady named Deborah was the Judge or ruler of Israel (v.4…Who said ‘what’ about women leaders in the church?) She consulted with this guy named Barak to lead the armies of Israel to fight against the enemy (v.6) and told him that God will make him victorious (v.7b). Lastly she told him that the victory won’t be his to brag about, but it will be evident that this is God’s doing (v.9) He said, “Okay.”

Skip the middle.

It happened just as Debbie said God said it would. God defeated the enemy armies under the leadership of Barak, but not at the hand of Barak, per se’, but under God’s ultimate plan. Even so, Barak’s faith in the prophetess’ word earned him a spot in the Hebrews Hall of Faith, 11:32.

SO WHAT’S THIS GOT TO DO WITH BARACK OBAMA?
I’m glad you asked. Are your ready? Do you have your faith with you? Then let’s go!

Barack, similar to Barak, was “called” into leadership. Remember that it was only 2+ years ago that Barack finally considered the presidency. Before that, he was not considering it at all. (Or at least not yet) But both were called into leadership, and not for their own agenda or ego, but for the sake of an oppressed people. Now, consider the enemies. Then, it was one man with a lot of power, enslaving God’s people. Nowadays, we have a powerful few (banks, billionaires, world leaders, oil tycoons, gov’t secrecy, etc) that are “enslaving” millions across the world. Though physical slavery is all but stamped out, financial, mental, and social slavery are alive and well. These types are not as obvious.
So. We now have a man named Barack who is “anointed” to lead the free world and bring change primarily to oppressed people here in America and beyond. But this battle that he has against the powers that be, he cannot win it in and of himself. He needs, we need God to win this battle with his representative at the helm. And at the end no one but God will get the glory. Barack already stated this when he makes statements like “change doesn’t come from Washington. It comes to Washington.” This means we all have a part to play in this victorious change. In a word, PRAY! Pray for our leader, his safety and steady hand. Our part is to do our part. Live like you have common sense. Act your wage. Golden Rule. And before we know it, people will be asking, “Can we live?” And the resounding answer will be

YES WE CAN!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Becoming a Star!

Becoming a Star!

In this entertainment saturated society, it seems as if the dream of several Americans is to become rich and famous. This is why lottery tickets and TV will never go out of style in our culture. And even those who don’t necessarily look for the limelight, wouldn’t mind putting their mug on camera for a 15 second sound byte. Even so, those who stay completely away from the stage or the camera altogether still love to “star-gaze” their favorite actor, singer, athlete, politician, or hero. And instead having a long hard road to stardom, being famous nowadays is a little more common thanks to Reality-TV.
This industry turns ordinary people into instant celebrities, making being famous a real and vivid possibility for some. But I would like to know, “What is it about being on TV that makes a person feel validated? Why does having fame and influence make a person feel important?” Whatever the answer is depends on our hierarchy of needs vs. fulfillment. But in our American culture, one thing for certain is that we are society of "star"-worshippers.

Since being a star is a popular and highly sought after career choice, it seems as though that by today's standards, pre-requisites don’t exist. Anybody can be a star! (See William Hung) Whether you’re a flash in the pan, overnight sensation, or a mainstay, nowadays the bar for entering into stardom is very low. A person can go from being a MySpace star to a music industry star in a matter of months! (Why is that?) In this instance I hate the game and the player because they, as public figures, give the notion that little-to-no effort is required to be a star. This notion is the reason why America's schools are filled with dreamy-eyed hopefuls. People, with little-to-no skill set or formal training, think they can "make-it" with 1 or 2 auditions. Contemporary fame accidentally sends the message that "you can get here with minimal effort." (See American Idol tryouts) Our stars need to portray a stronger message. Whether they are overnight sensations, or have been in business for the past 20 years, I believe stars have 2 specific roles to play in society.

A) True to the positioning of stars in relation to the Earth, they're supposed to inspire us to look and reach upwards.
B) True to the nature of stars, their role is being a beacon of light in dark places.

Allow me to explain the roles in more detail. Any kind of celebrity (musician, comedians, movie-star, TV-personality, radio personality, politician, etc) can do 1 of several things. From least to greatest they can:
  1. Distract
  2. Amuse
  3. Entertain or
  4. Inspire.

But in all of these verbs, each deals with your attention and well being.

Let's start at the very base of stardom; a celebrity can "distract" your attention. At this level a star simply has caused a diversion of your attention away from whatever your stream of consciousness was. Whether they are a gospel singer, a TV-Talk show host, or a favorite comedian, they said or did something to cause you to be temporarily distracted from your activity. The problem with this level is that is does nothing to enhance your well being or add to your consciousness. It simply was a distraction. You may have chuckled, had a 10 second thought pattern, or even just gazed in their general direction, but it did not contribute to your day. Sadly, many media sources are simply happy with your attention. The they are not concerned with what kind of attention it is. Ever heard of that phrase, "Any publicity is good publicity"? As long as you looked and listened their way, they're satisfied.

Next, let's take a look at the word amuse. This word is heavily overrated. The root word muse means "to think, meditate, and ponder." Normally, when you put an 'A' in front of the word, it takes on a canceling or a neutralizing effect. (a-typical, a-nonymous, a-sexual, etc) But not so in this case. This 'a' is more similar to the 'put' or 'add thereto' as in "amass, amaze, or ablaze". Therefore, I believe that a more accurately defined meaning of amusement is when you give mental assent for someone, or something, to add or put something in your thinking or meditation. The only problem with this level is that the item that is suggested for your amusement can be good or bad. This level reminds me why I like jazz and other instrumental music. See, I'm a big fan of following my streams of consciousness and meditations. And I often find that music with lyrics is often interruptive and very intrusive. In other words lyrical music is saying, "For the next 4 minutes and 15 seconds I want you to think about the following topic." I also have a disdain for commercials and am an avid of satellite radio. Instead of being amused with my program of choice on TV or radio for an uninterrupted period of time, I'm usually interrupted with the suggestion that I should drink Pepsi Cola or that I should turn my scrap gold jewelry into cash now. What if I don't want to think about that? Too late! The commercial is already within earshot and it’s up to me to delete the thought in my mind. Back to the word amusing, it simply is a person, place or thing that gives you food for your thought life. Good or bad, take it or leave it.

Next is entertain. Entertainment has better value than the previous two stages. Entertain gives the same prefix 'en' as to 'mutually welcome-in' or enter; meaning the recipient heartily and readily allows the subject into their state of being. Whether the subject matter is a single thought or a 1/2 hour sitcom, the recipient eagerly entertains the item, normally, because it brings general or great pleasure. Entertainment usually offers something of noted value, thereby enhancing or enthralling the listener/viewer. Entertainment can bring laughter to the depressed, comfort to the loner, and preoccupation to the bored; amongst many other positives. So although entertainment has significant value and worth, I encourage all stars not to be content at this level only. Go for the highest level of stardom in that of inspiration.

Inspiration has the highest level of worth to offer. It spiritually "lifts" the recipient from where they are, to a desired place or state of mind or being. I like how self-help author and lecturer Dr. Wayne Dyer points out how "inspiration" is very close in kind to the words "in-spirit". When you inspire people, you are in a very real sense connecting to their spirit, 'in-spirit', and are giving them a positive perspective, enhancement and motivation to do, be, or think what they hadn't considered before. This is the ultimate in human achievement. This is the point where stars ought to use their realm of influence (star-power) for the good of star-gazers. Sadly, many stars only see entertaining or inspiring as by-products to their vain quest to be rich and famous. In VERITAS, the purpose of stars is strictly for the benefit of people, not for themselves. The benefits of being a star (money, power, respect) should only be the by-product.


Lastly, a star is obligated to be a beacon of light in dark places. True to its nature, stars illuminate what would otherwise be a dark, unending perspective. Though the stars don't change the ominous backdrop itself, it does provide glitters of light, hope, and perspective. And the darker the night-sky, the brighter they shine. This is very similar to our human "stars." For a large majority of people on Earth, life is dark, dismal, and un-inspiring at best. Human-stars tend to radiate the spiritual vibe of light, hope, and inspiration; and the darker the perspective, the better they shine. This is why self-interests or greed cannot be in the personality of a star. Being a star has nothing to do with feeding ones' ego as it does with inspiring others to reach higher, go farther, or to be encouraged.

In closing, I personally encourage YOU the reader to discover and wholeheartedly explore your potentiality. You have the rest of your life ahead of you. For those who are aspiring to become "rich and famous" in whatever discipline, please make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Check your ego and insecurities at the front door. Also, please know that becoming a star and staying a star are 2 completely different things. Whereas your personality and connections may get you in the door, hard work plus skill will keep the door open; there are no shortcuts. When you take shortcuts in life, you cut yourself short. For those who are already of noted fame and/or influence or, if you're just a "Joe-The Plumber" kind of work-a-day person with an nominal level of influence, considering the tough criteria it takes to be a true star, (whether you're distracting, amusing, entertaining or inspiring and being a beacon of light) I implore you to let your light shine! And I wish you all the best in becoming a star!