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.

Unions on the High Seas

Ladies and Gentlemen, we here at Brad OH Inc. are writing you today not with the usual merriment and cheer you have come to expect from our Corporate correspondence. No, today we are writing to address a grave concern.

Talk of ‘Worker’s Unions’ has grown to a dreadful cacophony, and menial labourers the world over are falling under the illusion that they are deserving of the same sorts of rights and freedoms as those who possess great wealth as a result of their breeding, connections, conniving, and/ or dumb luck.

Now, those that have never had will surely never understand the high position of those who have never wanted, and trying to explain such grand distinctions will be lost on the sort of people who spend their days on dull tasks like counting change, saving money for Doctor appointments, or worrying if they will be able to run their car the next day.

I mean…running your own car…for heaven’s sake!

In time’s like this, we feel it better to take a simpler approach—the sort of approach that even those who have not been afforded the finest educations can appreciate. That is to say, a direct moral analogy.

Often, when trying to decide if what we’re doing is right, it’s best to examine how we feel as we attempt it.

So, to those poor (literally) souls trying to unionize, let’s take a stroll through the steps forward to see if there are any points you may want to reconsider.

It starts off—to my understanding—with sneaking around like thieves in the night, trying to get the support of your comrades while avoiding the attention of your rightful owne…bosses. You’ll need to get over half of them on board before launching your hideous plan, lest you risk being thrown out for your treasonous efforts.

Meanwhile, your oblivious and well-intentioned bosses go on with their daily routines—you know, things like scheduling work, paying your way through the world, and creating an economy in which you might eke out your meager existence. All the while, you are plotting to undermine, betray, and steal even more from them.

If all of this doesn’t make you recoil with shame, perhaps the analogy will do the trick. If you cannot think of any particular historical situations where the same descriptions might apply, we’re happy to help.

Mutiny.

You are basically planning a mutiny—overthrowing the rightful captain of a ship to take it away from them, claim it as your own, and send into fatal exile the one person who created everything you covet.

Now, if that still doesn’t give you pause, consider that the historical punishment for mutiny—even a whisper of it—was death.

Of course, the modern ‘PC movement’ would prevent your overlords from literally sentencing you to death for planning a union—at least if we ignore the potentially fatal consequence of not unionizing—hunger, poor education, lack of healthcare, lack of insurance…but we’re getting distracted here.

In all likelihood, your efforts at subversion will need to be combatted in a more ‘modern’ way, but rest assured, we’re working on it!

In the meantime, it may be in your best interests to show a little gratitude for what you have rather than slathering over what others have. Of course, if that’s not good enough for you, maybe a bit of distraction is the ticket. In that case, it might be best to follow the profound wisdom of Delta Airlines—some of the saltiest Captains sailing the highest of seas.

You can find that advice right here.

We sincerely hope this has been an educational and reflective experience for all you workers out there. Please remember, everything you need will be provided by your dutiful Corporate masters.

There’s nothing more you could hope for…trust us.

-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.

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.

The Real State of the Union

On January 16th, the 2019 State of the Union address was announced to be delayed. No matter, for this year the world got a more effective representation of the current state of American society than any mono-syllabic speech could ever hope to provide.

While evidence of his collusion with Russia goes largely ignored, the hot news out of the cesspool called America this week focused on President Trump’s celebration party with the Clemson Tigers—this season’s NCAA Football champions.

It is traditional for victorious teams to be wined and dined at the Whitehouse—after all, there are few greater distinctions available to the American populace than being good at (American) football.

That notwithstanding, teams are usually greeted with a fine dining experience in the Whitehouse to honour their victory, but this year—partially due to the government shutdown, the Clemson Tigers received something a little outside of the norm.

Served up on silver platters, and lit by golden candelabras, Trump offered a smorgasbord of (presumably cold) fast food—Big Macs, Wendy’s, Pizza—a veritable dream-spread for a 6 year old designing their own birthday party.

Leave it to America to be split right down the middle—was this a classless gaffe, or was it fulfilling the deepest desires of this pack of finely tuned young athletes?

Some argued that Trump gave them a far more fitting meal than the ‘caviar and wine’ any other president might offer, whereas others saw it as a crude and vulgar gesture, utterly unfit for large men who are good at throwing balls.

It should go without saying that this is one of the more idiotic debates of the year, although it would of course have steep competition. But no matter where you sit on the dinner, one thing cannot be denied—it may be the most fitting metaphor for the current state of America we’ve seen in quite some time.

Fancy décor, huge controversy, embellished claims, and a smiling idiot unaware of how absurd he seems. Silver trays offering items barely passable as food, given to successful athletes who are prized above the doctors, teachers, and firemen who truly serve the nation. A self-defeating celebration with a pompous air of self-importance to it.

It was cheap, unhealthy, embarrassing, and presented with endless lies and self-aggrandizing.

When it comes to empty promises and dishonest representation, the President is truly king, and this fancy façade is a more potent image of the state of the Union than just about anything I can imagine.

What do you think?

-Brad OH Inc.