Tag Archives: Words

Human

I was at a seminar at our church last night about the humanity of Christ. Obviously there’s a lot to talk about there, but I came away from it with one particular conclusion that I thought I needed to share. I’ve been slowly making my way through the Gospel of Luke, and I’ve been reading it differently than I normally do. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like I’m actually hearing Jesus talk, instead of just reading what he said. Sometimes I’ll reword the lines on the page just slightly so I can “hear” it better, and in doing that, I’ve come to understand Jesus, and therefore, God’s personality better.

I used to read certain things Jesus said as if he was being impatient or snarky. When I was just starting to read the Gospels on my own, there were a lot of times the words, translated into English, on their own, made him sound kind of like a strict, emotionless teacher and not a whole lot more. I’m thinking of the many times he tells people they have “little faith.” On the other hand, he tells his disciples that someone with faith as small as a mustard seed could move mountains. That can be confusing. I’ve discovered that, yes, I do have little faith, but God answers my prayers in amazing, and often unexpected ways.

Last night in the seminar we discussed human nature in general. Human nature is the interaction of a person’s body and soul. However, our human nature is flawed by original sin. Christ’s is not. He reveals to us, then, not only who God is, but also, what humanity is really meant to look like. In essence, I think, he reveals to us the truth that we were made in the image and likeness of God.

The final and most important conclusion I took from the class last night was that, yes, God loves everyone no matter what, but what I think most, including myself, neglect is that he wants desperately for us to love him back. This is evident most in the Old Testament. Our priest explained something to me after the class that I hadn’t understood before. What we perceive as “God’s wrath” isn’t exactly God “reacting” to what we do, but is a consequence of us straying away from his love.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Word I Hate The Most

I really hate the word “disabled.” It sounds like there’s something wrong with me. I’ve been working on my story for the past couple of hours, and many of my characters have some kind of “disability.” Kithryd is paralyzed, and Iris has intense anxiety. Kithryd has telekinesis, and Iris has pyrokinesis. Before you have to ask, yes, this is totally wish fulfillment.

A couple of days ago I found myself griping about how I’m not physically capable of doing a lot of things. Because my body isn’t “normal” I will have to live at home indefinitely unless I want to go through the giant hassle of, first of all, finding a place to live, and beyond that, figuring out how to get help with things. I need help with really basic stuff. I need help bathing and getting from my wheelchair to the shower or my bed or what have you. A lot of things that most people would consider very simple are rather complicated when you’re me.

Most of the time this stuff doesn’t bother me, but the other night I was griping. The thing is, I’m capable of a lot. I’m creative. I’m intelligent (yes I’m bragging). I love like a crazy person. I can write. I’m unreasonably optimistic. I try to be humble and spiritual. I asked God the other night why he would give me a mind that can understand the world, and a heart that loves it and wants it to be good… and a body that’s so broken. I actually used that word. Broken. There’s something really screwed up about that.

When I was born I was diagnosed with a kind of Muscular Dystrophy that was supposed to kill me by the age of three. I believe I’m alive today because my mom prayed, and God spared my life. If I wasn’t supposed to be alive I wouldn’t be here. For the record, I am still undiagnosed. The doctors can’t figure me out, and you have no idea how hilarious that is to me. I revel in it.

I am not broken, and my characters are not broken. This stuff is on my mind now because I was working on the political and social atmosphere of my story. A lot of my story is meant to be about what’s going on politically, as well as the actual actions my characters take. After World War III, which took place around fifty or so years before my present story, the world’s population was almost wiped out, and many of the following generation (about 30%) were born with some kind of “disability,” however, they also tended to have various psychic powers. The corrupt government in my story started using propaganda to get the public to believe that these people were somehow “less,” and that many of them were even criminals because of their abilities. This is not necessarily the focus of my story, but it is going to be a prevalent part of the atmosphere.

The point is that when I was writing out my plans, the word “disabled” kept popping up, and this started to get under my skin. This word is so ingrained in our culture, that even I couldn’t think of a word to replace it. I am not disabled because God made me who I am. I’m not perfect, either, but I’m certainly not broken. The word “disabled” implies that there is something wrong with me. When talking about these things people focus on the things that people like me can’t do. People have to be unusually nice to people like me because our lives are so difficult. Our lives must be awful.

There is nothing wrong with me. I use wheels instead of feet to get around. I learned how to adapt so I could play guitar upside down. I intend to learn how to play violin. I can write ludicrously complicated stories. I was the first of my friends to graduate college. I have dreams. I want to change the world. How is that the mark of someone who is broken? How is that the mark of someone who is “disabled?” I’ll admit that I need help with basic stuff. This annoys me sometimes, but it is how it is and it’s not going to change, and it doesn’t mean anything. It especially doesn’t mean that I should be pitied. That is probably the worst thing you can do. Do not pity me. Do not pity us.

You know what? There is no “you and me.” There is no “us and them.” We’re all just different. I might not be able to get a job at Starbucks to make a little extra money (which believe me, I want to do), but I can teach middle school kids who Jesus is. I can love-spam the internet. I can express my ideas, and the ideas of others concisely and coherently. I can dream. I can trust that, despite the complications, I, and the rest of the world, are part of something excellent. I can stubbornly believe that everything will be better than okay. I can hold on to the fact that I, with all my weird quirks, am made in the image of God, and I am not broken.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Allergic To ‘E’

This paragraph, I think, will fall apart for lack of a point. You will find no logic within it. Many things will not find your vision for lack of a tiny, though significant symbol. What now can I say? I know many words and catch a thousand thoughts, but most stay stuck for most cannot fall from brain to hand to word. So now I stay without this ability which I got through thousands of hours of school. So what now? Must I stop? It is so.

I must say, that was hard. I guess it’s one of those things… You never know how much you need or use something–even an ‘e’ until it’s gone. If anyone wants to take the challenge, all you have to do is write a paragraph without using the letter ‘e’ and then challenge five other bloggers (or any number).

Release

Hey everyone!

I have one more super exciting, musical thing to tell you!

First of all, I want to thank those of you who checked out my YouTube videos. However, that was just a taste of my sneaky shenanigans of doing!

And yes, my grammar commits suicide when I’m excited.

ANYWAY… as of late last night, or early this morning, my album is available on iTunes to purchase. I’m actually a little annoyed with myself, but all day I’ve been shamelessly antagonizing the masses to go and get it. However, I would really appreciate it if you guys would at least go check out the demos. You can easily find it on iTunes just by searching “Replace These Empty Spaces,” or “Katie Rose Curtis,” but here’s a link anyway.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/one/id919649617?i=919649629&ign-mpt=uo%3D4

There will also be a “stage two” of my release since it’s only available for digital download right now. However, this will be happening in the spring or summer since I’m currently very busy with school.

I just want to thank you all again for taking an interest in my blog and my music. It really means a lot.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

3 Way Split?

I was thinking earlier about different kinds of worship music. I’ve thought about this before, but I haven’t really come up with a conclusion about it, partly because I haven’t thought about it deeply enough; what is the (for lack of a better word) best kind of worship music?

What I mean by this is that there are several different kinds: there’s “sneaky” worship music, which I tend to like the most, there’s “me and You” worship music, and then there’s straight up “praise” music. Basically I define these as follows: “Sneaky” worship is when you take a song that could be about anyone/anything and direct it to God. For example, I have a song called “Passenger,” which is about driving home late at night and not wanting to fall asleep because I enjoy the driver’s company so much. The metaphor is that I don’t always know where my life is headed, but God does, and I’m pretty content to just let him drive. “me and You” worship music is explicitly spiritual in terms of the lyrics, and it’s about the human relationship with God. What I define as “Praise” music excludes the human element as much as possible and focuses entirely on God’s greatness.

The reason I was thinking about this was because I remembered last semester I was taking a music of worship class, and someone brought up the idea that music that includes the human element is somehow less worshipful than music that does not. I’m not sure I agree with that, but I’m not entirely sure what I think in general, which is why I’m posting about it.

It seems to me that it’s difficult to think about God in nonhuman terms. For example, most people think of God as loving his creation. Love is a very human feeling. Furthermore, most people think about God in terms of what he does; whether that is what he does for them personally or in general. Then there is the fact that for a period of time he actually became human (at least I believe so).

Obviously there are some distinct aspects of God that are not human at all. He created the universe, for one, and he has greater power, strength and knowledge than anyone that has ever lived on the earth or ever will. He can perform miracles that no one would even think of doing because the thought is just absurd. Lastly, he is invisible and intangible, which is obviously not a human quality.

It seems to me that both sides of him need to be acknowledged; of course the list I’ve made doesn’t even scratch the surface of who or what God is, but that’s a whole other story. My intuition says that music that acknowledges the relationship between man and God is more effective in terms of allowing someone to have a more worshipful experience, but perhaps straight up praise music is more appropriate in terms of actually acknowledging who God is. Of course there is always the argument that different music is better for different situations, but how does one know what to use and when?

My thinking is that maybe “me and You” music is better for individual worship; i.e. when someone just wants to have their own little spiritual jam session in their basement, but praise music is better for communal situations.

I’ve said this before, but I prefer “sneaky” worship music because it tends to be more creative and artful (at least in my opinion). I think because it’s “sneaky” however, it can tend to be less spiritual sometimes. This might simply be because of the fact that it can be played/listened to in less spiritual situations and still be enjoyed; the spiritual nature of it can basically be ignored. Maybe that just makes it better music; it can be appealing to a larger audience. I have argued before that if it is partly the duty of Christians to spread the Gospel (which is definitely the case), then it follows that music which appeals to a larger audience should be more effective in achieving that end. This is probably a large part of the reason that there is Christian pop, country, punk, metal and rock music.

If I remember correctly, the argument against music that acknowledges the human relationship with God is that it can tend to be self indulgent and and at times, whiney. It can definitely be whiney; I will concede to that. I still don’t believe that the style in general is so. Furthermore I think that less upbeat songs can be more helpful in someone’s spiritual life depending on their emotional state and their beliefs in general. Even some of the psalms are rather dismal; they’re essentially calls for help. Modern music does the same thing.

In general I feel that straight up praise music is less relatable, which doesn’t make it bad by any means. It just feels to me that removing myself from the worship of God alienates us instead of bringing us closer, which I feel is kind of the point. Of course the point is also to acknowledge God’s greatness, in which case praise music is just fine. I will conclude that in an individual or small group situation it’s up to the individual(s) to decide what will work best. When it comes to a larger audience however, I think the best thing to do is to do all 3 (provided the audience is willingly going into a worship situation). Some would argue that it’s best to figure out what works best for the person/people in charge and then like minded people will join them, but I feel that worship should be more inclusive than that. I think because the different styles of music appeal to different people that they are all valid, as long as the people can really use it to acknowledge God’s greatness.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Album Cover Part 5: Effects On Glass

I’m taking a break from writing an essay about my theology of music. I decided to take one of the pictures I showed y’all in my last post and see what I could do with it. The original pic was a close up of a blue glass. I played around with some effects on Paint.NET, and this is what I came up with. It might not match perfectly with the theme of the album, but it looks pretty cool, I think.

RMES ALBUM COVER GLASS PIC

I also made this one really quickly. I think I like the second one a little better.

RMES ALBUM COVER GLASS PIC V2

“The Waking”

I don’t have time for a long post now. I don’t think I’m going to get much sleep this week. I have an essay due every single day. Long ones at that. Anyway, I thought I’d share a poem because like music, poetry is AWESOME for spiritual peace and balance.

The Waking
by Theodore Roethke
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.
I learn by going where I have to go.

 

We think by feeling. What is there to know?
I hear my being dance from ear to ear.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Of those so close beside me, which are you?
God bless the Ground! I shall walk softly there,
And learn by going where I have to go.

 

Light takes the Tree; but who can tell us how?
The lowly worm climbs up a winding stair;
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.

 

Great Nature has another thing to do
To you and me; so take the lively air,
And, lovely, learn by going where to go.

 

This shaking keeps me steady. I should know.
What falls away is always. And is near.
I wake to sleep, and take my waking slow.
I learn by going where I have to go.

Enjoy! ❤

Words

Today I started reading a book called “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies” by Marylin Chandler McEntyre. She talks about how words seem to have lost or are losing their worth in a culture where everything is based around exaggeration, propaganda and marketing. She laments the misuse of words such as when young people use the words “like” and “whatever” far too frequently and in the wrong places. I am entirely guilty of this misuse in my speech. I know proper grammatical constructs, and I think I have a larger than average vocabulary, but I speak like a buffoon (awesome word).

It’s interesting that I speak one way and write another way. When I am writing less formal pieces, people will often say that I “sound” like myself, but when I speak I use so many erroneous words and phrases that I often have to take considerable time and think things through very carefully before I say them. This is partly why I dislike giving oral presentations. I know that I can sound far more thoughtful and convincing in writing rather than speech.

I dislike arguing very much for this reason. In writing I can look things up and present my point of view in a well informed and logical way, but I am not good at responding to arguments from others “off the top of my head.” In speech I think I also tend to repeat myself sometimes. When I run out of ideas I just hold on to whatever happened to be my strongest one and try to hold it up like a shield as best I can.

McEntyre’s book was not entirely a rant about the misuse of language. She also talks about how people should step back and enjoy words for what they are. She mentions that people often say to her, “I like the word, ‘pie,'” for example, for no other reason than it sounds nice.

Some of my personal favorite words are:

ErroneousShenanigans
Comandeer
Eclectic
Bulbus
Absurd
Bucket
Idiosyncratic
Nice
Loiter
Ketchup
Flippant
Totalitarian
Megalomaniac
Tortoise
Snarky
Quirky

Most of these I like for the way they sound. I know what they mean, and some of them are not good, but they are fun to say, which is why I can put “bucket” and “totalitarian” in the same list.

Well, I should get back to work. I’ll have another tangent for another time.