Friday, May 15, 2015

A Manifesto For Cultured Individuals

I love music.  I'm pretty sure if you read this blog much you've noticed I quote or reference a lot of musicians in these posts, ranging from Audrey Assad to Taylor Swift to Kid Cudi.  If I can sing to it, dance to it, or get inspired by it, the genre doesn't matter.  My taste is all over the place and I'm constantly looking for new tunes.  And often it happens that I'll be listening to a ridiculously catchy song for the first time (*cough* it'sgoingdownforreal *cough*) and have its melody stuck in my head refusing to budge until I look it up.  So I do.  And let's just say that upon further lyrical investigation I am personally ready to strangle Flo Rida, T.I., and Pitbull.  (jk that would not be the cultured ladylike thing to do.  But if there are any assassins for hire reading this, contact me in the comments or something.) Yes, something as initially delightful as music sometimes fills me with despair for the condition of the human race and its disregard for its own members.  So then I go whine on my blog about how I'm surrounded by uncultured swine, naturally.  And then have a guilty "Party Rock Anthem" dance party in my bedroom.

See, it's easy to complain, but ultimately I do not believe the culture is evil.  It's broken.  And I'm part of the problem, as was revealed to me in a profound Pinterest moment when I discovered this:

I have a problem with the culture.  I am part of the culture.  I am part of the problem. I think sometimes we get so caught up in blaming this group construct of "the society" or "the media" that can't threaten us back, because it can't threaten us back. Pick any issue you have with the world and I can pretty much guarantee it was caused by people, not by some ghostly blob as mysterious and unreachable as the Illuminati. But for some reason we like to ignore the space where we can actually effect change, that is, the personal level.  We also forget that by rejecting society completely, we are abandoning our chance to make a part of it good, and thus to contribute to the overall good.

If we recognize the truth we are then caught in an interesting situation.  We can't accept the culture as it is just because we think we're too insignificant to make a difference.  That's ultimately enabling the problem. (Farewell to half my playlist, as it goes down for real.) However, we also can't just reject the whole thing and cry in a secluded corner as we watch mankind go down for real.  (Sorry.  I'll stop now.) We have to stay involved in and informed about the world around us and make our little voices heard.  That's part of why this blog exists.

"But that's not enough,"  you say.  I agree.  Man does not live by opinionated Facebook comments alone.  And you boycotting Pitbull will unfortunately not silence the scourge of his lyrics.  You're not going to be able to build your own Utopia.  For most people, even just making simple moves to eliminate these harmful voices is difficult.  It takes what I like to call sacrifice.  And the definition of sacrifice is to give up something for the sake of something greater.  In other words, to change the world we need something positive to stand for, not just something negative to oppose.  Some of the wisest advice I ever received was to "fight vice with the opposite virtue." 

I have a friend who is an awesome example of this concept.  He's a fighter against human objectification and pornography because he knows these things sabotage authentic love and intimacy.  But the really cool thing is that he's also an amazing photographer.  He doesn't just rant about the wrong images his culture throws at him.  He contributes the right ones, ones that are truly beautiful. 

Guys, we don't have to conquer the culture, we have to reshape it.  We have to give people something compelling enough to replace the lies.  And it's ok to use tools that are attractive and familiar to do it.  That's why I think rap can be a form of evangelization.  That's why the Pope is on Twitter.   We can keep the broken pieces of our culture and fuse them into something good, a community of life.  So learn the lingo, try the tech, and meet the mob.  You don't have to lament the world you're in, because you are a part of it and you have within you the talents and ideas that will transform it.  Your love will manifest to our culture what it's missing.

You got this.  I believe in you. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The Trouble With Love

Every love is as unique and unrepeatable as the person it is given to.
Heartbreak has been on my mind a lot lately because of a few friends who I care very deeply about and their recent life experiences. This is dedicated to them.

The trouble with love is that you can never repeat it. Tell someone that there are plenty of fish in the sea and expect to receive nothing but tears, ice-cold glares that could kill, or both. It's not a comforting response because they know that love isn't a little award that they can hold auditions for, passing on the trophy of their heart to whoever performs the best at the time. It's not an emotion they can just turn on and off, or grow out of, or experience in phases. Love is unscientific, and we can't and shouldn't take it lightly, or expect to be able to solve or cure it. Love is a choice, a choice that has already been made. And true love (or unconditional love) is an irreversible choice. It's one I would never criticize anyone for making. Maybe you think the dreaded ex was unworthy of a love that deep or powerful. I might agree with you. But I think I'm unworthy of it too. No one truly deserves to be loved entirely just as they are with all their flaws. The beauty of love is that it is given in spite of the fact that we don't deserve it. That's why trust and love are so closely connected. When someone loves you, you can be your imperfect self because they're not about keeping score and making you earn it. They just do it.

And if somebody really loves you like that, I don't think they ever stop.

But they might stop belonging with you. Breakups happen, friends move away or lose touch, people die. Sometimes we understand the reasons and sometimes we don't. Either way, we usually don't care. None of the reasons seem as important as that irreversible love we decided to risk for that person. It's too late to go back so excuses don't help. Nobody is more stubborn than a person with a broken heart. Everything looks empty compared to the love they lost. All possible alternatives whether present or future dull in comparison. They simply don't want to stop loving the person they love. And frankly, I don't think they should.

No, I'm not saying it's healthy to live in the past. I'm not saying "get over it" isn't valid advice. But I think we need to acknowledge that it's ok to keep loving somebody after you lose them, because love is not a limited resource. It is not possible to run out of love. When we love people, we don't go around tearing off little pieces of our hearts and handing them to others  until we just run out. The idea is so absurd (although unfortunately rather popular). No, once you love someone you realize that love is more specialized than that. It's something you build and learn together, a permanent monument that you can look back on for the rest of your life. And you never build the exact same thing twice. And that's ok.

One of my friends said it best when he told me "I have too much love to give to just one person." I think that's beautiful, and true of all of us.  We aren't diminished when we increase our love. No, love makes us grow, and love multiplies itself. I've had a couple of friends think, and sort of tell me, that they could never love again. I felt that loss and pain with them. But looking back, I smile because I realize they were proving themselves wrong with those seemingly hopeless conversations. They were loving again; loving me, building our friendships by sharing those dark experiences and trusting me to be there for them. "That's different," you say. Precisely. Of course it's different. And every other love they ever find from now on will be different. That's a good thing. Different loves mean different lessons, different discoveries, different adventures. It means that it's possible for us to grow and change and heal as people.  I wouldn't want the same love over again every time. It would ruin the specialness of those loves from my past that I still treasure even if I didn't get to stay with those people. And it would ruin the excitement and newness of my delightfully unpredictable future. Because love is new and different every time, I can believe that someday I will be a better person than I can imagine right now.

Besides, there is no need to threaten that which does not threaten you. Continuing to love someone you lost will never hurt your future because love is non-transferable. It can not be stolen, just as people can not be replaced.  Attention may come and go from one person to the next, but love is steadfast. It can't be corrupted like the emotions that we sometimes confuse with it. It endures all things.  And when the time comes to love again, how much better it is to look back and say you still want the best for those in your past, rather than trying to manufacture bitterness towards them.  No, moving on is not forgetting, or reaching a point where you don't care anymore.  Moving on is when you realize the best way to love someone is to want their freedom and their happiness, even if you can't be with them while they taste it.  So in a sense, letting go of someone is the final proof of your love for them.  It's not an easy test to pass, but it's an important one.

Real love takes sacrifice.  It's hard to find and impossible to repeat.  It can be extremely painful.  And yet somehow, I believe it's worth every bit of the trouble.

The Forgiveness Myth

I do not enjoy forgiving people because it makes me feel like a doormat. I would honestly rather get all Carrie Underwood/Miranda Lambert up...