The Wayfaring Aesthete

Last weekend, our small church community went on a retreat to a place in San Francisco. As a major part of the time, each person had one or more pieces of art to present on the subject of her “deepest dream(s)”. The idea was that something prepared in advance on that subject, then later presented and discussed, would provide an interesting, focused, and perhaps vulnerable manner of getting to know one another more intimately. When I started working on my own art a couple weeks ago, I found that having a deadline for the creative process actually made me quite fruitful, and I ended up having three songs and the start of a short story / novel to share.

I won’t talk about two of the songs, the novel, or what dreams they represented, at this moment, because they will no doubt receive special treatment when they are recorded / completed. I did, however, want to share one song, an instrumental piece I composed in Logic with my keyboard. The composition took over many long nights, zoned out hammering keys, headphones pressing a wide canyon in the top of my skull.

Even all the way through the retreat the song had remained unnamed, but now that I have had some time to think on it, I have decided to call it “The Wayfaring Aesthete Engages the Road in Conversation”. (Originally, it was supposed to be called “ReCreation”, but I didn’t want to inflict on it too great a connection with this weblog, and the storied nature of the final name is much more appropriate).

The dream of mine which corresponded to this particular work was that of creating/designing objects/experiences which faithfully and reliably transmit emotion. In a word, “evoking”. I long to evoke responses in others the way that good art evokes incredibly deep emotional responses in me. I treasure those experiences as gifts, and desire to give such gifts to others as well.

Click on the link below to download the iTunes-format version of the song. (The picture is a screenshot of the song’s timeline, with its various instruments).

The Wayfaring Aesthete Engages the Road in Conversation

Let me know what you think. Friends who were with us on the retreat–I encourage you to likewise post your creations, which were all excellent!

Tesseract’s End

We had a sort of “dudes’ retreat” last weekend (as staunchly opposed to a “men’s retreat”, of course), full of celebration and adventure (two words which aptly describe wandering around San Francisco on St Patrick’s Day) and much borderline-appropriate behavior. Most importantly though, we set aside a good bit of time to delve deeper into our artistic selves and lay bare our current souls via poetry and song. Needless to say, I was shocked and impressed at the quantity and quality of art that was produced, and the honest ways in which it was delivered. Various pieces from that time will probably float around the e4 weblogs soon enough.

My main contribution was a song I had written the day before the “retreat”, but I will save its lyrics for the time when I have a recording to go with it. I also wrote a short poem while on the top of Mt Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, where we had all gone hiking on Saturday. From Mt Tamalpais there is a glorious view of the SF bay, and this apparent division of the world into air and water, juxtaposed all about by land, inspired the poem, which I am calling “Tesseract’s End”:

Rugged shoulders to spines on back
A strange animal I traverse
Its own life an undefined breath
Overlooked substratum of heaven on earth

I walk sometimes up, sometimes in
Phase shift accomodating forms that
Disregard boundaries of texture--
Oh that my soul felt the same!

To swim or run or fly between
The lines that slice the diff'ring spheres
A hardened wire of surface tension
That feels, from altitude, as rock
(on it I fall, and am crushed)

To be of wing or fin was given
To marvels of motion and muscle
But lightspeed travel twixt high and low
Alone can I exhibit
--if only I could breathe at Tesseract's end

The Amnesiac Shipbuilder

Last night at community dinner, we did an exercise which was meant to replace/augment the normal process of sharing with one another how each of us is doing, what we are thinking about, how we are feeling, etc. Usually we’d just go around in a circle and have each person contribute whatever she feels like about herself, but last night we decided the contribution needed to be slightly more formal: we each took roughly 45 minutes alone with pen and paper, and wrote, either in poetry, prose, or a mix, the answer to the questions “where are you?”, “how are you doing?”, and “what are you feeling?”.

The idea was to imbue some more constrained object (a few paragraphs of prose, or a haiku, or a rant) with a more focused, albeit artistic, answer, with the hope that this presence would be actually a more meaningful way to share than just saying verbally whatever would have come to mind. Indeed, I was very surprised at the level of depth I felt we were able to achieve, seeing as we were working with a significant economy of words; in fact, when we came back together and read what we had written, we had enough time to go around twice, in order to further understand people.

Hopefully at least a few of us will post what we wrote on our weblogs here–I’m going to start with my work of the evening, entitled The Amnesiac Shipbuilder. It’s a story.

Land, that once felt safe and so sweet
Now a detestable spit of sand
What gave life and surety to feet
I'd banish if I thought it would heed a command

Water to drink is no good if it keeps
Life alive but alone, incomplete
Fruit follows suit, it belongs in the deeps
If health is all that there is in this heat

I have in the wreckage a thousand tomes
Whose wisdom's satisfied a thousand men
But my adventure lies not at home--
Useful a shipbuilding book would have been!

Resignation is my lover at night
With whom I wrestle sensuously
But her charms are not even close to delight
And in daylight, I spurn her contemptuously

Laziness would no doubt have been my bane
If I thought effort could affect
But helplessness never gave one gain
Unless him for rescue did God (or fate) select

Either one would be fine.

Vision, Values, and Praxis for a Community of Faith

In my 2005 recap entry, I mentioned that about a year ago, some of us in Palo Alto got together and threw some ideas about forming a spiritual community down on paper. Those ideas remained in that uncollected form during the following year while we began to work through them. A few weeks ago, I had some time and motivation, so I recast them into a short paper–a sort of bare-bones introduction to the kind of community we have been trying to instantiate here. I thought it might be an interesting discussion-starter, or even just an interesting read for some of you. Here it is:

Quantum Community

In physics, there is what is known as the “wave-particle duality” of photons. Sometimes, light behaves like a particle, and sometimes it behaves like a wave. It seems occasionally to simultaneously follow the rules for particles and waves! This confounds physicists (and me).

Recently, I have become aware that community is much like this. One might think that a community is just an aggregate of particles (individuals), and so it should behave like an aggregate of individuals. Another might think that a community is like a wave–it behaves like a single extended entity. These people will treat community differently; the first person will place ultimate foundation in each individual, and will argue that their motions (i.e., the influence of God’s will in their life, and their response) qua individuals define the epiphenomenal motions of the community at large. Those of the wave persuasion will argue conversely that God directs the community as a whole according to his will, and the motions of individual members follow like crests and troughs in a wave–all very connected.

It is hard to know within which paradigm I should be viewing community right now. Are we fundamentally separated, and therefore at the end of the day we must discern our calling from God as pertaining to ourselves alone? Or are we fundamentally connected, and must therefore all collectively submit our motions to the movement of the larger group?

Right now, it seems appropriate to view the motions of some as following the particle paradigm, and others as following the wave paradigm. Are we therefore separate entities (i.e., in separate communities)? Or are we exhibiting the true essence of community and just failing to describe it in classical sociological terms, exactly the same as physicists failed to describe quantum phenomena using Newtonian language?

We have been gathering data for a while now, but I think we still need some more. Anyone else have any data worth sharing?

Life, Love, and Why 2005

I’m in something of a bad state right now, and I’m not sure exactly how I got here or what to do about it. I’m not even going to attempt my typical philosophical analysis, partly because of apathy and partly because I’m pretty sure it won’t help. Instead, I’m going to use over-dramatic words to deliver a sense of what I am feeling. You may want to stop reading now.

Continue reading “Life, Love, and Why 2005”

Faith and Science

I’m in Orlando this week for a seminar we’re putting on with Alister McGrath as the lecturer. We’re filming the whole experience in an insanely-designed soundstage at Disney’s MGM studios, and just being in such a cool place every day is pretty fun. The lectures themselves, and more importantly the interaction that I’ve been able to have with Alister both on and off camera, have been incredible.

Continue reading “Faith and Science”

Community In 1 Page Or Less

I’m in a really awesome spiritual community here in Palo Alto. There aren’t that many of us right now, but it’s getting sizable enough where sometimes I want to do the following exercise: sit everyone down for an hour, give them 1 piece of paper and a pen, and say, “Answer these questions on paper: what are we trying to become, and why, and how do you feel about that?”. Then, we each read our “papers” aloud to the others.

There are other ways to ask the question of course–what is the goal of this community? Why are we doing this? What is it we are doing exactly? Why are we here? But my favorite is still, “what are we trying to become, and why?”

My bet is that people would not all write the same thing, nor would they feel the same about what others wrote. What does that mean? How much should we want to “be on the same page” (i.e., have unity of vision), what does it take to get there, and what’s worth sacrificing for it?

Losing Love

I have been looking for love (and lamenting my lack of it, in terms of the females) so intensely recently, that in a superbly dismaying irony, I have actually been unloving those around me [yes, that was a transitive verb]. I have been withdrawn, aloof, sarcastic, ungentle, and careless in my interactions with my community, and I was so wrapped up in myself, so enjoying my melancholy depression, that I didn’t even notice until someone called me out on it last night.

It doesn’t feel good to realize that you have been treating people with less than the fullest of respect; and it feels even worse to not know how to go about changing, or whether you even want to. Christ help me.