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.

*******************************************************

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…

*******************************************

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.

Re-Share: Ode to the Tavern

Because it bears repeating…

******************************

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.

Re-Share: The Mayan Denouement

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

Today, just because we’re feeling nostalgic, we’re re-sharing the first proper article we ever shared on this blog. Maybe it’s because we didn’t write anything this week, it’s hard to say.

It was a topical piece that will be almost impossible to follow if you don’t figure out the time-sensitive context, so it seemed like the perfect choice.

They still have yet to deliver, mind you. Nonetheless, the underlying topic is as relevant as ever.

We hope you enjoy The Mayan Denouement.

*************************

At Brad OH Inc., we value punctuality amongst the most important attributes for any business. That said, there is always room for some understanding and flexibility in allowing for extraneous circumstances. Nevertheless, at this point we feel it certainly clear that the Mayans are well overdue on their doomsday deliverance.

So here we are, another apocalypse come and gone. The morning of the 21st, you could almost hear the world sigh in relief… or was it disappointment? There have been many such events in the past—heavy handed claims that the world is certain to end, and doubtless there will be many more.

Humanity certainly carries an unhealthy obsession with the end times, and history would indicate that we always have. Whether it’s the passing of a millennium, the promise of a returned saviour, or the ending of a calendar cycle—any opportunity to imagine that the continuation of existence may be up for debate is a sure fire ticket to get people excited.

Like a child who’s learned to expect the worst from a young age—and thus conducts himself hedonistically in order to be certain his comeuppance is earned—we’ve been looking to these prophecies with careless disregard for a world which we continually assume is on the verge of ending.

It’s easier to sit idly by, expecting that some promised cataclysm will eventually come to wash away all meaning and accompanying responsibility. Here at Brad OH Inc., we find ourselves wondering just when humanity might stop waiting for a predicted doomsday that will never come, and start working to avoid one of our own creation. Of course, just what that might look like is a conversation for another time…

-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.’

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.