Thursday, 29 January 2015

How Easy…

In 2009 I went to live with my Uncle and Aunt in South Africa for a couple months. I was there to see how the life of an Architect was, I kinda think my Dad sent me there to scare me straight concerning the decision. Before I left I got a couple sermons from my eldest brother, Mwindula, decent chap. One of them was a sermon by C J Mahaney called “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing”. No offence to C J because that is quite the sermon but that sounds like a dumb tittle and yet the relevance of that sermon echo true to date and I think will be the same till the day I finally leave this earth.

There's a song too, not by C J though, it's by some other guy

A line that really got me from the entire sermon was “How easy we forget!” and C J would bellow this a number of times during the sermon. How true is that my one reader, how easy we forget? It’s like one of the things that we do as humans, isn’t it? It’s as sure as death, even more sure than taxes. No matter how important or significant an event or occasion is we forget. It is such a painful reality but let me give a couple examples to prove my point.

On the night of the 14th of April 2014 about 276 girls were kidnapped from a school in Chibok, Borno State, Nigeria. The world was in uproar, me too. How could such a thing happen? What kind of people kidnap children, let alone that many. How soon till they are found? How will the families find Justice? These and many more thoughts rang through the world like the continuous beating of a giant bell at the top of a hill. And the noise of it echoed around the world. People were moved, I can say that from memory no other event united the African Continent like that one.

A year has not yet elapsed and yet to a large extent we have forgotten. We have forgotten the feelings that we had and how they made us act and react. We have forgotten how for a moment we stopped looking at the guy next to us as anything more than our fellow man. We have forgotten the families that live through this reality. We have forgotten those for whom forgetting would either be a reason for self-loathing or some level of consolation, much like sleep at the end of a tiresome period of days.

Very few can claim to not have been moved by the kidnapping

At the beginning of December 2013 250 nurses and midwives lost their jobs because of a strike in Zambia. The nurses were on strike because they wanted, one could even argue needed a 100% increment in their salaries. The government did this to show that they would not be held to ransom. Nurses were hired to replace those who had lost their jobs though not all 250 job slots were filled. Fast forward a year almost to the day and Zambia is on the verge of a presidential election because of the passing on of the president. All 250 nurses where given their jobs back. Not at the cost of their replacements, no, they were just given their jobs back.

Now one could argue that this was just the benevolence of the government or that this was done to win favour in the upcoming election, I tend to think the latter but that’s all conjecture and I’m not intending to go into conjecture. The jobs where given back and the ruling party kept its status as the ruling party. People forgot, maybe not the nurses themselves but people forgot. They forgot how they once associated and felt for those who lost their jobs as well as a dozen other feelings but at the end of the day what can’t be missed is that people forgot.

Three things I would like to point out to wrap this all up. I am not saying that EVERYONE forgot, I am saying that people forgot and this is because people forget. We don’t even know or notice that we are forgetting till we think back over something and realise that the day for it has passed, like an anniversary, or that the item is lost, like a wrist watch or a ID card of some sort, or even a memory of a person. One day we just realise that we forgot, not all of us maybe not even most of us in a couple cases but we do forget.

It does happen so we must take time to remember.. lest we forget

Secondly, and I hope I showed this through my spectrum of example choices, the reason for forgetting have little to do with the gravity of the issues we forget. We forget, it’s what we do. It does not make the issues any less important. There are those out there who enjoy pointing the finger at others saying things like “see how you forgot, we knew you were just after the attention” NO! Sometimes we just forget. The days I do not think about the man who died while we were playing football do not show that the event did not mean something to me, it shook me to the core of my being. We should not beat ourselves up over the occasional forgetfulness

But this brings me to my final point. We must make the effort not to forget. It pains me that I forget and I try not to beat myself about it but it pains me that I forget. It pains me that I forgot about the Chibok girls and that I do not pray for them as much as I ought to. It pains me that I can only think of the 250 nurses who lose their jobs when I want to criticize and crucify them in the court of public opinion over their potential vote. It pains me that I forget the man who died because I could do nothing to help. It pains me!

C J Mahany spoke of how easy we forget the things we should remember and begged, I heard him beg, the listener to take time to remember the important things. I must go out of my way to remember daily the things and people I should pray for and think of. I should increasingly find ways to forget less often such things and though I will continue to forget, because that’s what we do, I must try to forget less and less. It pains me that I will forget people and things but I will try to remember more than I forget, progress will be slow but I’m in it for the long haul

Friday, 9 January 2015

Music, My Heart and My Head

This past Sunday myself and two other guys were invited to lunch at the home of Andrew and Daphne Swanson (Link to the blog I did on them and their work in North Cyprus), who are in my opinion, hands down, the best elderly couple north of the equator. It’s not even up for debate, they are a class act, the jury came back, went home and a couple are in comas. It was really good times. While there we got into a conversation about books which deserves a separate blogpost on its own because it was REALLY GOOD. But there was another conversation on music. I have had a couple thoughts on music and its use by Christians in term of expression and the questions that came from Pastor Andrew and his wife were great to help develop the idea. The idea is far from sound and the academic paper will have to wait but I would like to bring you, my one reader in on it, trust me, it’s worth it.

So the whole thinking process begun with my watching of a TV show called ‘Mozart in The Jungle’. It’s a pretty decent show about classical music, the replacing of one maestro for another as well as the change of direction for the orchestra and a lot, and I mean a lot, of indecisiveness. It’s an okay watch, eye opening at the least. Anyway, while watching it there was a thought that hit me on musical interpretation and it all ties in with thoughts I had been having on the artisan and his need to express himself. The idea is this, the artisan is not just there to justify his commission but also to use the forum of the commission to express his view/feeling/outlook on life through his art.

In my view this is even should be even more prevalent among Christians in that the Christian should have more to say because of the mandate and the value of what he/she has to say. So the Architect should be able to express all kinds of movement, flow and motion in his work and design. The artist should also do the same and so should the musician because art in itself is expression. I might lose you here so work with me for a second. Two musicians playing the same instrument of the same song, unless following sheet music and sometimes not even then, SHOULD NOT play it the same way. I could justify this statement a number of ways but I will use one for now. It is the same as two artists with the same instruments drawing the same object will not produce a like for like image.

You see are is expression and that was the heart of my entire argument/debate. In my view, and this may only apply to the music I hear from the Churches I have been a part of in my twenty odd years on planet earth, I did a couple on mars but we are not counting those, the use of music in among Christians is not tapping into the full spectrum of its use. I actually think the use of the arts in general are not capitalised on but that is a topic for another blog. An artist should be able to go to a piano, guitar or even a drum and be able to transmit his feelings associated with something Christian related through the use of the instrument. Things like Creation, The Crucifixion, salvation or a journey through something or other are all concepts that can be expressed through music and have been but not in the Christian circles.

Keith Green's song on the prodigal son is a good example of the tool and good use of it

At this point the questions started coming in. I will not do word for word nor will I do all the questions but I will mention the major one and it’s derivatives as well as the reason it made me rethink my take on the whole issue. The questioning was around the how that might differ from emotional manipulation. The thing is music, not just music but the arts in general, are things that translate to us on an emotional level. You see my whole idea was based on expressing the emotion that the artist might feel through his/her music but the listener is just as much a part of the art as the artisan is. And the power of manipulation that it might have cannot be thrown out the window.

The thing is this is not an idea and number of people have been using it, not exactly in the way I suggest but in similar patterns to manipulate people. Sombre music at the end of a service might convince a person they had a shattering experience at church when all that happened was the music sobered them up. A number of churches use music to work the audience into frenzies and use this to justify the ‘movement of the Holy spirit’ when in actual fact it is far from it. The reality is that and this is a heavily clich├ęd line, ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. There, I said it. The ability to manipulate people’s emotions through music does exist and should not be abused but in my opinion it should not throw out the credibility of the tool itself. The poor use of the tool should not discredit the tool as much as it should the user/abuser of the tool.

But what has this got to do with the title eh… Well I’m glad you asked. The thing is as much as emotion moves us, makes us giddy, and makes us sad. It should not be targeted first. The head must be reached before the heart. This idea, blew my mind! The very gravity of it and real life implications are outstanding! We all love a good burst of emotion and display of passion but if the heart is not reached through the head it is manipulation. I will give two examples of this to wrap things up.

It's not as much about balance as much as it is about hierarchy, Heart through head

A man in pursuit of the heart of a woman if he comes through with all the things that make the heart tick but does not go after her from the head through the heart will almost always reach a point in the relationship where the woman realises there was nothing in the whole relationship but emotion and it will break. The winning of the heart through the head in this case requires a pseudo complete understanding of the people involved, actual knowledge of the mind and heart of the person, in that order. It has both parties genuinely know and love each other for who they really are and not just for a burst of emotion.

But this is even more important in the second example. The winning of our hearts by God is done from the head through the heart. Biblical terminology might be used to disagree with me but go with me for a second. Salvation is found when the individual is brought to a knowledge of the gravity of his/her sin and the incapability to reconcile with God. This is a head issue not a heart issue. This is what causes the break down that has the individual plead for salvation which is a heart issue. Those who “find salvation”, and I use this really loosely, from the heart first soon find, especially when they go through hard times, that their “faith” fails/falls because the going to God started off with a feeling and not a proper understanding of what’s wrong with them and what God really is.

I cannot completely shut off the idea of a person getting genuinely saved from the seat of emotion first, the heart, before a full comprehension by the seat of the thoughts, the head. But I think the former is the more common. But bringing it round to the idea of the use of art as an expression. Art, as beautiful as it is, and romantics like myself can sometimes be over awed by the notion of it and its limits. Art cannot express full ideas on its own, it must be accompanied by words, real words that paint full and clear pictures, it is only through this that the tools will not be abused. The heart through the head.