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.

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.

Going on an Adventure

If a very specific image didn’t jump to mind after you read that title, shame on you. Either way, the image applies, as all your friends here at Brad OH Inc. will soon be launching dramatically out to explore a bigger world.

To be more precise, we’re going on vacation, and thus will not be posting after today until approximately July 28th. At that time, we should have some exciting news for you.

We hope you take care of yourselves until then, and we shall soon return to you all with many new stories we may or may not choose to share.

Happy wanderings,

-Brad OH Inc.

Muse

Under the Green Desk Lamp…

The minutes crawl, meandering mindlessly by,

as the mind mulls on myopic miseries.

Minutiae distracting—malicious in its mediocrity,

as merciless minions of misgivings muddy the waters.

But where the muse, whose music brings meaning?

When weaning from mundanity we writhe,

then written on the walls is the wonder of her witchcraft.

Who mollifies the weary and meddles with our worry.

Myriad memories are woven in her menagerie.

Where many malevolent mental blocks

are withdrawn and mended into that

magical mess of which they were wrought.

The who’s and the where’s and the why’s and the when’s,

writing we wrestle them while we still can.

It’s merely a moment, a miraculous wash

but wading unworried we’ll master the world.

-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.

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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.