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.

Identity and Action

Dear America,

It’s been a while since we talked. Maybe that’s my fault.

On second thought, no, it’s definitely your fault.

You see, with each passing day you become a little more difficult to bear, and it does nothing to make a person want to reach out and connect.

You’ve got a problem, deeply rooted within you, and you just can’t seem to shake it. What makes it worse, you continue to struggle in even accepting what’s wrong. I hear it all the time, even from so far away. It’s a common refrain that so many of you use to brush away the undeniable and reframe the unthinkable.

“Is this really who we are?”

It may seem like harmless rhetoric, or perhaps an attempt to differentiate oneself from the masses, but it’s also insincere, and at its root, fundamentally dishonest.

The questions acts as a challenge, but the fact is that it goes unanswered, when the answer itself is entirely too apparent.

Yes.

Yes, it is who you are.

America, as it is right now, with all the imbecilic deceits and dangerous hatreds, chooses each day who it is.

See, it’s easy to talk about what you want to be, or who you’re going to be, or what you should have been. But these false-identities amount to nothing. We aren’t who we wish we were, and we aren’t who we tell people we are. It’s not about perceived identity, it’s always about action.

You are how you treat others, what you do, and how you conduct yourself. That’s what makes a person (or nation) who they are.

So, America, it’s time to settle your debts, pay the tab, and take account of who you really are. Just as any fitness instructor, diet coach, or motivational speaker will tell you—if you want change, then get up and make it happen.

If this is not who you want to be as a nation, then decide what you do want, and figure out how to make it happen. The excuses are getting old. The time for asking “is this who we are?” has passed.

Yes, it is.

The question now then, must be, “what are you going to do about it?”

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: Dear America

I first published this article in August of 2016. Sadly, it is all the more salient today, and therefore, it must be said again…

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Dear America,

It’s time we had a chat. I’ve been thinking about it for some time—stewing and chewing my lip and hoping the feeling would pass. Sometimes, after all, it’s best to wait things out; give it some time, let emotions cool, and perhaps things will just settle down.

It’s gone on long enough now.

It’s nothing major mind you, and I’m certainly not looking to make a ‘big deal’ about this, but there’s something you do far too often to overlook. It’s insulting, disingenuous, and, dare I say, egomaniacal.

So let’s just have it out right now. America, you really, really need to stop claiming it as your solemn duty to protect the world. Freedom is not your export.

As the world watches you plunge into chaos with sorrow and trepidation, it seems a terrible injustice to hear you continue to describe yourselves as world-leaders, while simultaneously chastising the state of the world. Be clear about this—if leaders you are, then you must take full ownership of the bad along with the good.

You have made a commodity of greed, and the pursuit of vice has long overtaken those of liberty and happiness. If you are a role-model, it is primarily for bombast and falsehood—for yelling and kicking dirt and ignoring reason until everyone else gives up on you and you sit alone to wallow in your own petulance.

You speak of freedom and democracy in the same breath as economic-sanctions and drone strikes. You’re like the oversized moron on the playground preaching about self-restraint by playing ‘stop hitting yourself’ with the runt.

It’s not as funny as that analogy may lead you to believe.

It is an insult to the world at large to be chastised about morality by rat-fink purveyors of calamity such as yourselves—it’s beyond ironic, it’s downright pathetic.

But it’s not just about us and our hurt pride. It’s not even only about the importance of owning up to your actions—although this is certainly a laudable goal as well. It’s about you, and the inexpressible importance of being sincere with yourself.

As it stands, you live in a state of terrible cognitive dissonance. Calling for war while praising your mercy, and condemning greed while lining your coffers through the toil of those with less.

It is time you set aside the false braggadocio and face your true self America. Be honest with who you are—own it first, and then decide if you wish to change. For without facing our true selves—we cannot ever hope to be at peace.

Of course, if recent headlines are to be trusted, perhaps taking a good hard look into the mirror is exactly what America has been doing of late. The question then becomes, will you like what you see? (Link)

-Brad OH Inc.

Outrage Marketing

Last week, we talked about the insidious practice known as ‘Clickbait’. While Clickbait is a loathsome gimmick used to draw simple people to even more simple ends—namely ad-revenue—there are other marketing practices which present an even more surreptitious threat.

Specifically, the topic today is the tactic known as ‘Outrage Marketing’.

For those unfamiliar, Outrage Marketing is the nihilistic attempt to create a large-scale controversy in order to get your branding out to a larger audience. This is a far deeper concept than Clickbait, and requires a good-deal more care as we explore the potential pros and cons therein.

In general, Outrage Marketing relies on making some innocuous statement or observation that has nothing to do with the product being sold. It presents a moving—or provocative—tableau, set to complementary music, and usually only the closing logo will identify exactly what is being sold.

The hope here is that the inevitable controversy created will continue to carry the name of the product, thus getting the product into the mouths and minds of far more people than a simple, direct, and informative ad could ever hope to.

For ease of discussion, let us risk taking part in the cycle by looking to a recent example. In order to minimize our role in these questionable practices, no links will be provided—advertising doesn’t come free here at Brad OH Inc.

Earlier this year, Gillette released an ad that challenged toxic masculinity, providing negative examples of male behaviour, then asking whether or not this was really ‘the best a man could get’.

In the interest of full personal disclosure, I loved the content of the ad. Toxic masculinity is a dangerous blight on our society, one which leads men into dangerous patterns of denying any emotion but anger, and which forces countless women to live in fear of the terrible results of such a hideous mindset.

It is a cultural norm which must be challenged at every turn—discussed, broken down, and replaced with a mindset that encourages a full and complete range of emotional intelligence for our boys.

The question that remains is—should an international razor company be the one leading this conversation?

It should be noted that this article is not an attack on any company in particular, but rather an exploration of corporate responsibility, and the limits thereof.

At the end of the day, Gillette is a corporation—which means that their sole purpose is to make money for their shareholders. That’s it—that’s the ingrained structure of any extant corporation, and to expect any other behaviour from them is naïve at best.

On their part, the ad was nothing more than an attempt to increase sales by forcing their name into public discourse—hardly less cynical than a corporation sponsoring a war, or schoolyard fight. They created a commotion, and plastered their logo above it.

Of course, they still sell ‘ladies razors’ at a significantly higher price-point than men’s, despite being identical save for the pink dye. This alone should hint at the fact that their commitment to positive gender relations only goes revenue deep.

It’s all about provocation meeting brand-recognition, and can be dumbed down to little more than corporate sponsored controversy. The fact that they were inarguably on the ‘right’ side of the debate is of little consequence—if the research indicated that the money was on the other side, you can be damn sure they’d flip.

Ultimately however, there is an insidious subtext here which may go unnoticed. It’s hard to say where this starts and ends, but the ability to sell using inflammatory content guaranteed to get a reaction is a smaller part of the general public’s constant demand for controversy and outrage. This ties back in to our last article on Clickbait.

On the whole, we seek entertainment and distraction over consideration and reflection. The result—or perhaps the parallel—to this constant demand for outrage, is its propensity to contribute to the further creation and distribution of the truly outrageous. After all, people will sell whatever the hottest ticket is, and when outrage sells even when utterly unattached to truth, we find ourselves in a precarious position where people no longer bother to question what’s true and what isn’t, but only parrot the most exciting stories that fit within their already established viewpoint.

But don’t take our word for it; take a look at this, you simply won’t believe it!

Click Here.

-Brad OH Inc.

Facts that Only 12% of Readers Will Understand! You Won’t BeLieve #3!

Of course, a claim like that is absolutely ridiculous. It would be impossible to verify to any respectable degree, and is entirely worthless with or without such verification. Still…was it part of the reason you clicked the link today?

Honestly, did you want to prove you weren’t among that miserable 98% of idiots who will never understand what you do?

Did you even bother to check the math above, or did knowing more than 98% just sound better than knowing more than 88% of people?

Did you check that time?

I’ll admit, the entire block of text above has been a heinous waste of time, but read on…you won’t believe what’s next!

These are the sorts of headlines we see every day—whether trawling Facebook, or trying to make it through the coverage on your preferred ‘news’ site.

Clickbait is the simple understanding that people interact with things that engage them—that cause a reaction, rather than things that present an interesting idea, or a challenging but important topic. People as a mass don’t want the best, they want what’s catchy.

Spoiler alert: This works because people are—on the whole—dumb animals, who are simply reacting to stimuli in whatever way comes natural to them.

Do any of these seem familiar to you?

  • You won’t believe…
  • People can’t stop…
  • Find out what people in your neighbourhood are all talking about…
  • The secret they don’t want you to know…
  • They are trying to erase this one secret from the internet…
  • Only 82% will know this…

When you see wild claims like this, rest assured that the underlying promise is nothing more than vapid tripe for cheap clicks. Ultimately, it’s nothing more than a cynical attempt to increase page hits, and hence advertising revenue.

Nonetheless, many people spend the better part of their time online falling into these incessant traps, supporting websites which generate profit, but not content. Of course, since the model works, it continues to be reinforced, which makes such Clickbait ever more prevalent, and real content that much harder to find.

The secret behind this success is triggering a reaction from a title, and more often than not, that reaction is an urge to prove that you, the reader, are better than ‘those statistics’ the title refers to. You know better, you are better, you have something other people don’t, and dammit, you’ll prove it by following the instructions and typing an English word with two O’s!

If you see an article with 5M comments all disproving the grandiose claim of the article, it might be worth considering that you’ve been duped.

So, here’s a bit of advice, from us to you. The next time you read something online that gives you an urge to prove you’re especially smart or special—just save yourself the trouble.

You aren’t.

With our warmest regrets,

-Brad OH Inc.

Spin Top

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

You can feel it in each day,

As the plans just slide away.

You can feel it in the minute,

Perhaps there’s just more in it.

More to look back on,

To miss where you’ve come from.

You’ve made it nowhere before long,

Into the distance the road goes on.

The axis spinning starts to wobble,

Yet unfinished on you hobble.

More to do, and more to see,

And more to meet, and more to be.

But every year’s a little faster,

Can you hear the laughter of the Master?

-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.