The Bond of Art

Art is one of the greatest gifts we have. It often gives a name to what we couldn’t identify before, it gives us shared stories and experiences upon which we can talk about our own lives. I often feel a song or book has expressed a bit of my soul. Because of this, it often gets complicated when the people we love don’t love what we love.

A lot of times, I’m okay if someone doesn’t like what I like. I read enough books, see enough films, and even listen to enough music that I know there will be differences. But for what’s truly meaningful to me? If I really love something?

Well, I’m always sad if someone I really like doesn’t like what I love. I know in some ways this is silly, but the bond…the bond of discovering a shared love of a book or song or movie is almost instant. When you love something deeply, and discover someone else does too? Well you know you can’t be total strangers.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot this week as I’ve watched the reactions to my newest great love (Mockingjay) come out this week. Every time a friend has reviewed it, I’ve held my breath wondering if we’re going to share this new bond. I’ve also been interested and not surprised by some of the people that didn’t like it. People who think quite differently from me.

For the record it doesn’t end a friendship if you end up not liking something I love. Not at all. And we’ll probably have some great conversations about it. But I think mutual appreciation for art can deepen a feeling of understanding ease a teeny fraction of the loneliness we feel.

Does anyone feel the same way? Or am I crazy?

Really Just Some Rambling Thoughts

In an effort to keep cool, I was wandering around the Christian bookstore today and they were playing praise and worship music.  Praise and worship music is an actual kind of music (one could argue all music is worship music, I know!) usually the kind that’s quite easy for a congregation to sing along with.  As I was carefully examining the bargain bookshelves (because obviously I need more books!) I realized just how much it was getting on my nerves.

The problem, for me, are the words mostly.  And no it’s not just the shockingly bad theology that p&w music gets away with…it’s the lack of effort.   A few months ago I attended a sort of worship concert (yes yes) and the worship “leader” started singing the wrong words.  It didn’t even matter because so many songs are variations on the same handful of words…God is great, holy, awesome, wow I love Him so much, isn’t His love amazing, isn’t He amazing, you get the idea.

There’s also this idea of God saving the day that irks me for some reason, as if we’ve taken all of our superhero myths and put them in a praise song.    And what really tops it all off is that the phrases sung during a song often have no relation to each other they are just a collection of catchy acceptable things to say about God.  I tend to think that the music portion of many church services is really more of a shot of feel good to the soul.  In fact,  during my more cynical days in Bible college, a friend and I called it the “worship orgasm” the careful way the music builds up to an explosive climax of heartfelt singing, guitars, and drums.  We would look at each other during worship services and mouth, W.O.  Those are funny memories.

Anyway, while I probably sound rather judgmental, for the most part I’ve just learned to live with it.  Several years ago, I read a novel where a group of diverse women formed a prayer group and visited each others churches.  While visiting a particularly charismatic church, the main character commented that she enjoyed the way the music repeated over and over again, because it gave the words a chance to really sink in.  I had never thought about it like that before, I generally can’t stand a lot of repetition in praise music, but I can accept that people feel differently than I do.

I was thinking of that tonight as I was out for a drive.  I like to listen to songs on repeat at an unbelievable level.   I just get attached to a song for the moment and even if it’s a song I know well, I’ll listen to it several times.  So on about my fifth listen of a song today, I found myself weeping.  I wondered if it was because the words finally had a chance to sink in, or because the longing expressed in the song so closely mirrored my own and I just couldn’t take it anymore.   The words finally reached in and opened the valve allowing the emotions to spill out.

Brave and Bittersweet has Moved

I’ve moved this blog over to self-hosting. I hope you’ll update your feed and join me there.

A Sort of Fresh Start

For those of you that also read my book blog, you may know I’ve been going through a blogging identity crisis lately.  Lately, book blogging has felt like even more of a business than ever and that’s not exactly the kind of blogging I want to do.  The conversations are starting to exhaust me and the things publishers and publicists are expecting start to grate on my nerves.  I’ve realized I don’t really want to sell books so much as I want reading to matter.  I know I’ve done a lot to encourage the purchase of books in the past, but that will probably be changing.  From a blogging stand-point.

I also think that I was  falling back on poorly written book reviews as a crutch to not have to think a whole lot when I write.  I was not writing the kind of blog I wanted to be reading.  When I think about my favorite bloggers, bloggers like Nymeth, Jason, the Rabbit Room crew, etc, I love these blogs because when I read them I feel something.  I think.  I’m not saying I could ever possibly compare to these amazing writers, but I can certainly try to do better.

So I’ve been wanting to move this blog forever and here we are.  I hope some of you came over anyway!  Also, I’ve just made a tumblr account and even a separate Twitter account for this blog.  I can’t promise frequent updates…I’ll still be blogging heavily over at My Friend Amy, but I’m hoping that the illusion of privacy this gives me will encourage me to dig a little deeper and be more vulnerable here.

From Friends to Strangers

“When friends speak overmuch of times gone by, often it’s because they sense their present time is turning them from friends to strangers.” Godric by Frederick Buechner

Gems like the one above are what made Godric a redeeming reading experience for me. The medieval language was rather difficult for me to wade through but every once in awhile, I’d hit some turn of phrase or beautiful truth bearing sentence like the one above.

Friendship is such a complex thing. There are friends that indeed only fill a certain season of our lives, and others that endure and last through time. I remember once when visiting a friend in Mongolia, she commented on how we were both living in other countries and spent more time talking about our past than anything else. And sure enough, if it weren’t for Facebook, I’d have no idea what was going on in her life right now.

I’ve been thinking about friendship and the shifting nature of relationships a lot lately. How necessary they are for living, how hard they can be to sustain when life takes a turn. How hard it can be to make amends when trust is broken. How our changing self-perception and chosen memory impacts our clumsy attempts to build bridges and know one another.

But oh how sweet it can be when it goes right.

Naming the Loss

This past week has been one of intense introspection for me. It follows an experience like Hutchmoot naturally, and it’s not that unusual as I am a fairly introspective person. (which leads to me feeling a bit too dramatic at times as well)

I do think I have a tendency to pile on work in order to avoid too MUCH self-examination…I say this only because my to-do list of non-essential things has remained almost identical to what it was before I went away.

In reading through the various posts of people’s experience at Hutchmoot and how much we all loved the feeling of community and what community means and how to find it, etc., I found tears streaming down my face during one particularly beautiful one. It felt like grief and I couldn’t really figure out why I was grieving. And then it occurred to me…I have had a loss of community this year…one that has impacted and affected me more than I realized until that moment.

Why or how it happened I can’t really say in any certain terms, but I can say that is has changed a lot of how I view what I do. I think it’s been a silent shaping force I didn’t even realize was there. And I think it’s stolen from me and I’m not even sure that I want back what it’s taken. Is that cynicism? Maybe or maybe it’s just growing up and moving on.

I can be slow to realize things, like this. But I can say there’s a certain power in naming the things you’ve lost, even if you didn’t realize before just how sharp the loss was. There’s power I say, because I feel a rebuilding of what’s left begin to take form. I feel the life after start to move in its own direction, no longer a prisoner to the unnamed loss.

Hope

…I believe hope is quite possibly the most dangerous thing a human can ever embrace. After all it is only hope–yet it can become the very reason to keep breathing. The stakes are always frighteningly high. But hope is, by definition, based on wish or feeling or want–chance. One thing hope is not: it isn’t certain.

Hope is one of the main ingredients of faith, and faith finds its basis in being certain of the illogical and intangible. It is a very strange thing, hope. It can draw you in, but it can mangle you in the process. It certainly is not safe–of this, I can be sure. It is not always alluring. No, to the contrary, it is sometimes revolting.

Desperate Hope by Candi Pearson Shelton

These words came to mind as I read something a friend wrote about the struggle to believe or maybe more accurately wrestling with how a faith community fits in with belief. When I first read Shelton’s memoir earlier this year, I was really struck by these words, because hope is a concept often made to seem like a light and sweet thing, rather than something, well, revolting.

I can remember when I first really understood what hope was. I was recovering from an emotionally damaging relationship and learning how to function in normal social situations again. I was so lucky at this time to have a church group that really embraced me. I was working a job I didn’t love but that paid the bills and going to counseling for the first time. And one day out of the wastelands of my heart, I realized that I would be able to become myself again and that my life could be something different than I ever imagined. I felt something come alive in my heart that I didn’t recognize, but eventually realized was hope.

Hope can feel like a soothing balm or an exhilarating shot to the soul. It can also be the very lifeline we dig our fingers into and won’t let go of…it can hurt and cut and make us bleed and yet we hold on.

I think at times people label hope as being superficial and scoff at hope unfounded. But since that day so long ago when hope first shot through the hardened soil of my heart, I know nothing more beautiful than the deep river of hope and there’s nothing I’d fight harder to protect.

And I guess it’s a bit of a relief that hope has no clear sight. It moves us forward into the unknown, the something we think must be better, and yet it gives no shape to that vision, allowing the future to build and form itself. Hope is the fuel upon which our hearts run, but it does not guide our steps.

It is the thing I cannot live without.