Re-Share: I Found God in the Drums of ‘Boléro’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Green DesklampTolkien, philosophy, music. This is one of my favourite posts, and it deserves to surface again.

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This article is inspired by the classical piece ‘Boléro’ (Link), by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) (Link). If you aren’t familiar with that piece, it should be considered required listening for the article to follow. You can find it here (Link).

I listened to this piece recently, and found an unexpected intensity within its plodding rhythm. I hadn’t put the song on for any specific reason, yet early in, I understood the depth of the moment I was having.

It should also be noted, perhaps, that I was at the time firmly entrenched in my (11th?) reading of J.R.R. Tolkien’s ‘The Silmarillion’ (Link), a book to which I ascribe particular inspiration. So you should probably read that, too.

Nonetheless, my revelation started with the first beat of that oh-so-familiar snare-drum. Described as an ‘ostinato’, the pulsing rhythm of this opening drum continues throughout the entire song, remaining constant as everything else is thrown into chaos.

It struck me immediately as terribly spiritual, although it took me a while to articulate exactly why that was.

You see, in ‘The Silmarillion’, the one God, Eru Illúvatar, conceives of creation as music—performed by his angels, the Ainur. The Ainur sing his tune, but among them is the spirit Melkor, who sews discord into the song, and causes turmoil. Some of the Ainur join in Melkor’s discord, while Eru adds new themes to the music to counterbalance Melkor’s efforts.

In the end, when all music stops, Illúvatar offers the Ainur an opportunity to see what they have done, and creates the world and all existence to reflect the reality of his divine tune. Unto the Ainur he says, “Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.” (Pg. 17)

Since childhood, this story always struck me as one of the most apt and inspiring metaphorical representations of the divine will. And so, as I listened to the ever-increasing notes of ‘Boléro’ rising above and competing with the persistent drum-beat in the background, this was the idea that settled in my mind.

The Silmarillion goes on to tell of the events of Middle-Earth being a representation of the Music of the Ainur, and assures us that although great evil does occur, its power is limited, and in the end all things turn to the greater good. This requires a lot of faith, but it’s something I’ve held onto since first reading it as a young elementary school boy—hoping that it would prove true in our world as it does in this fantastical place.

Throughout the duration of ‘Boléro’, the snare drums maintain their eternal beat in perfect rhythm. Meanwhile, horns and woodwinds, strings and symbols are taken up against the drums. They increase endlessly throughout the song, rising to an incredible cacophony and very nearly drowning out the snare drums which are their source.

At times, the listener can barely hear the drums, but when the music changes, or when there is a brief silence in the din, they are ever to be found beneath the turmoil, just as they were before. Patient, persistent, eternal.

Taking this in, I couldn’t help but feel I heard God in those snare drums. The music rising against it was like the duelling theme of Melkor—want and greed and malice and destruction. These are present still in our world, and will often threaten to overwhelm the senses of those unguarded ears who know not how to find the consistency of Grace beneath.

Much like the confusion of the composition at hand, it’s easy to get lost in this world. These days, perhaps more than ever, the myriad distractions and temptations we meet each day are easily sufficient to overwhelm the senses and deafen us to reason and decency. It takes a concerted effort and a determined will for us to focus on what is right and just, when so much around us seems so dark and hopeless.

But of late, I have seen greater evidence of Grace and beauty in this world than I have long held possible. It’s buried no doubt, often times nearly beyond reach. And all the while the daily racket of industry, and want, and loneliness and grief compete for our ear, turning us away from the true rhythm of the world and focussing us only on ourselves.

But to miss the rhythm is to miss the point entirely.

For no matter how dismal the world can be, there is light to be found, and beneath the din there is the rhythm of Grace for any with the will to listen for it. Immutable and constant, it plods along as it always has, unaffected and undeterred by all the competing noise, and when the racket of distraction dies down, its beauty sounds out all the clearer.

I know it isn’t easy. The clamour of discontent can be deafening, and it is often all too easy to fall into this discord and march along with the madness rather than keep to course. But this is folly, for no matter how distant it may seem, for every evil there is goodness still. Where there is hate, there is also love. Where there is terror, there may also be found mercy. For the loneliness of a consumerist society there remains the comfort of the family home. There is friendship, and loyalty, and faith, and hope, and honour…for every conceivable darkness, there is a light which can still set things right.

The drums of decency pound on, and when the din of darkness rises too high for the ears to readily perceive them, all the more must we focus our hearts and minds to that eternal rhythm, and trust that all will unfold according to that divine beat.

-Brad OH Inc.

Checklists

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I was talking to a friend of mine recently, and he brought up the idea of checklists. The idea that so many people—probably all of us to some extent—live their lives by a specific set of items to tick off. Each one representing an essential expectation for their life.

Before they’ve even lived it, they’ve got it all mapped out.

  • Find the Job.
  • Meet the partner.
  • Buy the house.
  • Walk the aisle.
  • Have the kids.
  • Take pictures in front of famous landmarks.

It’s slightly different for everyone of course, but we all have some form of checklist. Most likely, this is a good thing, keeping us on track and focussed on the wonderful things we want to do with our lives.

It can take over though. Too tight a fixation on these checklist items can cause you to lose sight of life as it happens. To look ever to the future in our hopes can lead us to miss out on the meaning of the moment.

It’s important to ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice in the moment for a chance at something else in the future? It’s a tough balance, but I have often found the greatest joys in life have laid not on the path I expected to take, but in the side alleys and dark bars of spontaneity and surprise.

Now, far be it for me to discourage anyone from chasing their dreams. Go for the things you want—hunt them as relentlessly as you see fit, but as you hasten in your pursuit, don’t forget to look around at the things passing by. It may be that they are the things you’ll find you miss.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Ode to the Tavern

Because it bears repeating…

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They say that behind every great man is a great woman. Well that’s goddamn sexist, and you should be ashamed for thinking it. But it may be true that behind every middling writer is a great drinking establishment. Therefore, we thought we’d take some time from our busy schedule here at Brad OH Inc. to acquaint you with the little pub that has been the birthplace to so very many of our greatest pieces: ‘The Tavern on Whyte’.

6- Ode to the TavernThe Tavern on Whyte’– Click the Pic to Visit their Site!

Now make no mistake, this isn’t some hair-brained scheme to establish the Tavern as a historical landmark. Not yet at any stretch. In fact, the staff here at Brad OH Inc. want to take this moment to discourage all potential stalkers and photographers from taking advantage of this profession of affection.

Rather, this is a simple declaration of love for an establishment which has acted as the de facto headquarters for Brad OH Inc. since the summer of 2013. The Tavern has seen the creation of the vast majority of articles here at Brad OH Inc., as well as the writing (by hand) of our upcoming novel, ‘Edgar’s Worst Sunday’.

And why not?

It’s comfortable, and quiet enough to think. It provides a fine view of Whyte Avenue without, and is always friendly within. So come by some time and have a drink—or enjoy any of the delicious selections from their unique menu. Chat with the staff and patrons, take in some fresh air on their patio (a true hidden gem of Whyte Ave.), and enjoy yourself.

Yes, the Tavern on Whyte has a lot to offer. But for this writer, it’s the staff that makes it the especially marvelous place it is. Now, it’s not just that they keep the ‘inspiration’ flowing, mind you. They do, no doubt—in fact we have to wait hardly a minute upon entering before we have an icy cold beer in our intensely focused hands. It’s the company as well—the conversations and inspirations. For truly the staff and patrons of the Tavern (past and present) represent many of the essential muses behind the writings of Brad OH Inc., and for that we are eternally thankful*.

*Disclaimer: This admission of appreciation is not to be taken as a legal acknowledgement of debt or the owing of royalties.

-Brad OH Inc.

The Bushido of Bogney, Part III

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Bushido: (武士道) literally meaning “the way of the warrior”, is a Japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry in Europe. (Source)

Bogney: A tiny dog, wise for his years.

Today, we once again combine the old and the new for a fresh new perspective on life through the eyes of our classy canine friend. This is the daily living of a small dog. This is the extrapolated wisdom of the ages…This is the Bushido of Bogney.

-Click Here for Part I-

-Click Here for Part II-

The face of an animal may speak volumes to one who can read it.

As I prepare to leave for another day of work, I look upon the tiny dog I will leave behind. There is a sadness on his face, and it confuses me at first.

I am going to work—but he gets to stay home. Should I not be the sad one? He never has to work, he gets all that he wants provided for him. How can he be sad?

Bogney yawned and stretched. I saw the age in his face.

A thought occurred to me then.

If one human year is 7 dog years, one day must be the equivalent of a dog week.

If so, how similar it is to our own.

Bogney’s day begins with a walk, some play, and food. It is a relaxing joy, much like a Sunday.

This is followed however by a long stretch of time alone. He cannot do what he wants, eat what he likes, see who he wants to see, or go where he wants to go.

He sits, I assume, patiently waiting for this boring stretch of time to end. This is not unlike the work week.

Finally, I return to him, and he resumes with fun and play and food and happiness. This is much like a Saturday.

Suddenly, I understood how similar are the lives of dog and master.

I looked at Bogney anew.

What a somber realization, I thought.

His wise brown eyes agreed.

-Brad OH Inc.

What Should a Government Be?

All too often, political conversations of any sort—whether by public, or by politicians themselves—sink quickly into the mires of partisan politics. Teams of left and right, red and blue, create straw effigies of the other’s values, and burn them upon the altars of their own smug self-righteousness.

This is a matter of hopeless grandstanding—and seldom serves to advance the policies of either side. Elections are won and lost on insults and rumours, and the greater good of the people is abandoned to the wayside of this sickening side-show.

There is a good exercise which can help people of either viewpoint learn more about not only their opponents, but themselves. Setting aside personal emotions and group identities, one may challenge themselves instead to describe only what they believe a government’s role should be. What should it provide, protect, or prohibit—and on what grounds? What is its purpose?

Try to do this without reference to actual individuals, and certainly not to specific parties. Discuss only ideas of the primary functions that must be served.

It is important not to hang yourself on lofty words with little meaning. Freedom, peace, liberty—such words hold high aspirations, but speak little to practical realities. What do they truly mean to you, and how are they to be upheld?

We discussed these concepts in one article, ‘Greed and the Village’, using a simple tribal village as a model for the type of considerations that must be pondered.

We also discussed the fears around giving power to government in the article ‘On the Fear of Big Government’, where we established the wild and barbaric reality of a world with no authority.

Is it a government’s role to protect businesses, or people? Which people, and from what? Are there exclusions to this protection? What happens when the rights of one violates the rights of others? What about when the growth of a company enriches its members but casts many others into poverty?

Is this a natural and enviable result of a free market, or an economic violence which must be redressed?

These are the questions, and the approach to engagement, which can lead people of wildly different persuasions to not only challenge their own beliefs and grow in the process, but also to find the common ground with those who they long considered their rival.

There are very few people on either side of the spectrum who truly want the young to suffer, or women to be scared, or people to live in hateful captivity. By accusing those who think differently of such intentions, we vilify them and close off all possibility of informed debate. Only by remaining open, and seeking sincerely to find the underlying values for ourselves and our opponents, can we hope to find answers which can unite and help people, rather than serving only to reinforce the wild and destructive division that serves only the powerful.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.

How to be a Decent Human

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

I’m not a great person.

Sometimes I’m not even good, exactly.

I’d like to think I’m alright.

At the very least, I certainly try to be decent.

It’s not such a complicated thing really. I read a quote from comedian Ricky Gervais recently. He was commenting on the idea that people felt like they couldn’t joke anymore, and how that really wasn’t the case. The full quote is below.

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The crux of this really comes down to how a person reacts to a contrary opinion. Yes, you can tell a joke, but if it ends up hurting someone else that hears it, the question becomes not ‘was the joke funny’, but rather, ‘do you give a shit’?

Caring about other people is, after all, one of the chief qualifiers of decency.

If you tell a joke (or any other sort of comment or action) that gets a negative reaction, you don’t have to defend the joke, or your values, or lament the days where we could say anything we wanted and expect others to choke back their pain in defense of your ‘humour’.

People might be hurt. They may be upset or offended. And you, despite the joke being yours—and assuming it was not meant to hurt—can hear that pain.

It may come as a surprise that you can even ask questions. Not to challenge or undermine their feelings, but to better understand their experience to the extent they are comfortable sharing it.

In the end, you may both be able to learn something, transforming a painful encounter into an opportunity for mutual growth.

It’s not always easy, and no one likes being called out or corrected. It can be uncomfortable, even confusing at times to realize that something you’ve said or done has been deemed inappropriate by another.

What do you say? What do you do?

Well, one simple trick is to start with an apology. You don’t have to fully understand the nuance of differing opinions—it can be enough to understand that another is hurting, and that you are sorry for that. People sometimes need their pain acknowledged, and your obstinate focus on the hilarity of your joke should never undermine that need.

After that, there may be room for discussion, learning and growth. It’s important to remember of course, that the learning just may include the fact that the joke simply wasn’t funny, and that you should not repeat it.

That can be enough.

It’s not that you can’t discuss things anymore—it’s just that the discussion needs to have two sides. You’re not being told not to be yourself—unless you’re an asshole—and certainly, you can still feel free to joke around. Just realize that sometimes, there will be people who will point out the flaws of that joke. From there, it’s up to you to improve the approach, content, or delivery… or risk proving that the real joke is you.

-Brad OH Inc.

Magic

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Bass and belts and chains and masks,

Grins and laughter, beats and flasks,

Flashing lights and rails of brass,

And ice cubes clink in highball glass,

Inhale of shock and flash of eyes,

Temperature soars and heartbeats rise,

Blurring lights and twisted smile,

Order up and stay a while,

Such madness always does the trick,

Thrill of escape or true magic?

-Brad OH Inc.