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.

Project FearNaught- ‘It Was Never an Apple’

Temptation is among the core themes of many religious and philosophical conversations. In Christian culture, the apple in the garden of Eden is often the first example of temptation, and also cited as the source of the fall of man.

Funny enough however, most remember this story wrong.

…it was never an apple.

The story goes that the fruit that was eaten came not from an apple tree, but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

That’s a crucial distinction.

It was not a randomly selected fruit, used as a temptation for humanity to test their resolution. The consumption of this fruit was not simply a failing in our self-control, but represents rather a crucial definition in the capabilities of humanity which is closely tied to our concept of the Metaphorical Imperative—it’s about the expansion of our cerebral capacity that makes us human.

Like our ability to ask and answer questions about the world, this knowledge of good and evil is to humanity not a fall, but a burden or responsibility. With our minds, humans are capable of thought, consideration, and knowledge—and this gives us the responsibility to act rightly. We have this responsibility simply because we know better…we are accountable.

If we were no more mentally competent than locusts, our destructive actions would be excused by our nature. But eating from the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil means that we know better—human consciousness sets us apart, and it thus behooves us to act like it, or suffer the consequences.

Original Sin therefore should not be taken to mean that we are born of sin, but rather that we are born with a responsibility to avoid it. It’s a key part of what makes us human, and also what makes us fallible. Knowledge—and free will to use it as we choose—is the true Original Sin.

Knowledge is ever a double-sided blade though, as our ability to consider extra-temporal reality allows us to create it—which also allows us to make excuses and ultimately let ourselves down. Just as we know the difference between right and wrong, we know the shortcuts to fooling ourselves, to deny this truth, and to act against it.

In a perfect world, this knowledge would be enough. To rise above the domain of brutes and act upon this morality that we can clearly see should be our destiny, but because we know that not all will do so, we are often hesitant to risk it ourselves. Acting right when others do not may open us up to deception and cruelty, and soon the world begins to look like a non-zero-sum game; what others take, we may lose, and thus we, besot by doubt, hedge our bets against decency, and towards self-preservation.

In all things now, there is doubt and fear. In business, in friendships, in relationships, and in our daily conduct, the taint of fear has bewildered our senses and blinded us to the basic truths of our being.

Our knowledge is both our blessing, and our downfall. It has long been the bane of political philosophers to seek some system of governance that would allow people to thrive happily and free, but each one fails due to greed, pride, and fear.

Simple codes have never been enough, nor have the religious doctrines which are meant to bolster them.

It grows hard to believe these days…the light is fading.

What can possibly bring us back to those truths now? What story or system can erase this fear, and help us to chart our course through these dark tides? What must we risk to find it, and what will we lose on our search? These are the sources of fear we must face, no matter the associated price. For if our will is bent, if we fail now, there may not be another chance.

We must persist, because we know better.

…I know better.

Be part of the debate:Project FearNaught is an effort to start the conversation that changes the world. As such, your voice is key to our ambition. To add your input, questions, or comments, click here.

-Jeremy Arthur

‘Truth Ink.’

Project FearNaught- ‘What Does It Take to Change the World?’

Let’s get back to the question at hand. In the opening article of Project: FearNaught, I said that I wanted to start the conversation that changes the world.

That’s exactly what I intend to do.

What does it take to change the world? That is the question. The answer is still in development, and each of you reading this now will play a role, if you have the strength of will to rise up and join me.

Many different answers have been offered. Some will say that love is the only thing that can change the world. Others will argue that honest education and the ability to think critically are what’s needed.

It may require small acts of kindness. It may take discipline, and virtue.

What does it take to change the world? It takes all of these things, and more. It also takes honesty. Honesty with ourselves, and honesty with each other. Sometimes it will demand honesty to each other. That’s a scary thing. But there’s no room for fear here.

Fear leads to withdrawal, and hence to ignorance. This fast grows into resentment, blame and hatred. Some may say that fear leads to self-betrayal, but this is not true. There is nothing a man can do to betray his inmost truths. He only reveals them. And fear, fear can do this like nothing else.

Fear has changed the world many times.

Fear of the way things used to be, and fear of how they could be. Fear of change, and fear of losing what we have.

Fear of the other.

Fear of ourselves.

Fear of standing up and shouting—only to find that we are alone.

So, what does it take to change the world? Fear. Or a lack thereof. Sure, love can do it, so can education. So too can all those other things in varying degree—but that’s precisely because those gifts are the death of fear.

You don’t need love to change the world. You don’t need schools, or libraries, or healthcare. Fear alone can change the world.

Fear is at the root of all human ambition and control. It is fear which keeps us willing to accept our present circumstances, and fear that has delivered us into them.

And that’s why fear is our target…

So, what does it take to change the world?

If a man seeks to change the world, he must first change himself.

I do not have all the answers, and it will be up to the good readers of this site to take this spark and set it to light upon the tinders of their own communities. By design, ‘Project: FearNaught’ has room for all, and by design it requires the input and participation of the masses. This is not a top-down proclamation, but an essential call for community discourse. With that being said, it must also be stated that, by its very nature, ‘Project: FearNaught’ demands utter self-sincerity of its readers and participants. Without that, you will be reading the potential answers to questions you’ve yet to articulate.

So, take this with you— for if you want change, then it’s your responsibility to make it happen. Take it to the streets. Look fear in the eye, and call it out on sight. Own it in yourself, and point it out in others. For we must first know our fear if we seek to escape its paralyzing hold.

Think, talk…and Fear Naught.

Be part of the debate:Project FearNaught is an effort to start the conversation that changes the world. As such, your voice is key to our ambition. To add your input, questions, or comments, click here.

-Jeremy Arthur

‘Truth Ink.’

Re-Share: EViL

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

This post was originally from March 19th, 2017. It remains sadly relevant however, and we thought it deserved a re-share.


In the great old stories, it’s never hard to spot the source of evil. It may be a winged beast, or a black rider, or a simple, unblazoned ring sitting on a table, just waiting to change the world…

In reality, however, it’s rarely so easy. Evil may take many guises, and come from any direction. Is evil inherent to humanity? Can it ever be prevented?

Education, equal opportunity and the provision of basic needs and human rights is the most obvious answer, for by removing the greatest temptations towards desperate actions, we are most likely to see them decrease. Yet there seems to be an evil in this world which pervades and permeates even the best intentions. It sprouts up no matter what we do. It finds the cracks, or makes them, and it’s dark blossom unfolds often where it is looked for the least.

Traditionally, there are two ends of the polarity in response. One is to be jaded and fearful, rejecting everything different lest it bring evil in with it. This may prevent the terror from without, but it transforms the hearts of people, and creates hatred and evil within.

The other side would be unending faith in the goodness of human kind, sometimes to the open denial of the gathering clouds. This is idealistic, and often this school of thought is quickly met by the bitter reminder that in the end, best intentions cannot ward off evil acts.

We cannot be too careful, or too careless. Vigilance is the price of peace, and those who would deny the presence of evil may soon suffer its harsh truth.

Alas that we do not have a ring to focus on and destroy. Evil is a more insidious thing than that, manifested most often in the sins of pride, greed, and avarice—the strongest motivators of human vice. We cannot see it, nor cast it into the volcano to banish it forever.

Yet the discerning heart can feel it grow. Where will it strike? None can say.

Still, if you pay attention, you can feel the tension in the air, smell the fresh tinders and see the sparks dancing against the black night sky. Old threats and bedtime stories are alive again. Evil grows…now is the time for heroes.

-Brad OH Inc.

Re-Share: The Evocation Series- ‘This is Your Sword’

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

This is a re-share of an old post. We thought it would be a fitting—albeit one week late—tribute to fathers, and any parents who take the time to engage and teach their young, and who understand in action if not etymology, that the root of the word discipline is disciple.


The following post is part of ‘The Evocation Series’. Click Here for more information about the project, and how to get involved yourself!

Bruce Springsteen- ‘This is Your Sword’

Song Link

I can still feel the warmth—curled up in the nook of her leg on that old flower-upholstered couch. So too can I recall the sound of his voice as he read page after page—taking me out into that road and off toward all the adventure and wonder to follow.

I heard of elves and men, dragons and orcs. Tales of courage and valor in the face of great odds, and of the importance of doing what is right, no matter how insignificant you may feel in the grand scheme of things.

We are all important, and we can all serve our role in making the world a better place.

…this is your Sword.

They would work together in the telling, and I would sit silent in rapture—broken only on occasion to ask some question or demand some clarification.

I learned about fellowships and faith, family and friends—about hope in the face of doubt, and love in spite of loss. I remember sitting wide-eyed as mercy and kindness prevailed over cruelty and despair.

I remember deciding that they truly could.

…this is your Shield.

‘The times they are dark, darkness covers the earth
But this world’s filled with the beauty of God’s work
Hold tight to your promise, stay righteous, stay strong
For the days of miracles will come along…’

…I still remember.

-Brad OH Inc.

Gethsemane

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

In light of the season, a re-share of an old post.

Gethsemane

The green of the trees,

Had passed to grey,

In the deepening dark of night.

I stood waiting,

For you to show,

And knew I would not fight.

I’d seen it all,

What was to come,

We had our roles to play.

To bring it here,

To share those words,

Then sweep it all away.

For no act’s worth,

Is known until,

The final die is cast.

We’d built this house,

And raised it high,

But now to make it last.

The night was still,

The rest were calm,

When you came through the gate.

With fear and fire,

You kissed my lips,

And forever sealed our fate.

-Brad OH Inc.

On Misanthropy

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Misanthropy

[mis-an-thruh-pee, miz-]

noun

  1. hatred, dislike, or distrust of humankind.

I’ve been accused of it before, and I can certainly see where the assumption might stem from. After all, I spend a fair bit of my time on this blog ranting about the failings, shortcomings, and general depravity that are the human condition.

In truth though, I really don’t consider myself a misanthrope. I’m seldom shocked by people’s endless travesties, nor occasional decencies. But the distrust part is probably fair—the endless flow of disappointment and decay witnessed on any social media or news channel should be enough to ingrain a deep-seated distrust of people in anyone paying even an iota of attention.

It’s the distrust though, and not the hatred or dislike, which serves as the base of any misanthropy I might exhibit. Maybe disappointment is the more accurate word. To me, the categories seem to border on mutually exclusive.

To hate or even dislike humankind, one would expect little of them, and demand even less. For me, it is the opposite.

Despite all evidence to the contrary, I find myself harbouring an unshakeable love and optimism for humanity. I believe in our potential whole-heartedly, and am in awe to imagine the heights of virtue, justice, and wonder we could aspire to if only unburdened of our pride and avarice.

It is this hope for and faith in our potential which keeps my outlook on the dark side—my gestating joy clouded constantly by the disappointment of reality and our inability to rise above the pettiness and fearful indecency which has mired us in the same patterns our entire existence.

This dismal divide has been the guiding force behind most of my writing, and continues to be the driving factor behind many of my choices and actions. It is a subtle push, a shivering hope, that we may eventually see the day that humankind ceases to fear, and stands no longer in dereliction of our innate potential, but rise instead to be the glorious, luminous beings that are and always have been our truest nature.

-Brad OH Inc.