Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Switch heart Switch mind Switchfoot

Putting words on paper for a book, short story, memoir, novel and other forms or literature is a special task in itself. One profession that tends to be overlooked is that of song writers. Writing meaningful and inspiring songs always seems to impress me mainly because of how much can be told in such few amount of words. Many people think writing a novel is the most difficult thing to write, and it certainly can be, but I believe that writing songs that move ones soul towards a greater good can be as equally, if not more, difficult. Anyone can write fun, romantic and meaningless songs, but it takes a special songwriter to make a few words speak volumes in a way that engages someone deep within their core and has the power to provoke positive action and thought.

My first experience with such powerful songs was in my senior year of high school when I was introduced to the rock band, U2. For me, the lyrics from their albums “Unforgettable Fire” and “The Joshua Tree” connected with that inner part of me that longs for truth. Don’t get me wrong. The Edge’s unique guitar riffs and sounds, Adam’s almost navigational lead bass and Larry’s snares and rolls had a lot to do with my love for their music, but what captured me most were the words that came out of Bono’s mouth. Many people don’t realize that U2, one of the biggest rock bands ever, is also one of the leading voices of faith and social activism. If that statement intrigues you, get a copy of the book “Walk On: The Spiritual Journey of U2.”

The impact that music has had on me is one of the main driving forces in my desire to write. I find it incredible how musical lyrics can inspire someone to take positive action in their own lives. This is why we need more people writing inspirational music, books and novels. For all those writers out there already doing so, “kudos,” I say to you.

Going back to that time in my life; it was then that I realized the importance of feeding my mind with more music that provokes, inspires and challenges me to become a better person. I had a change of heart or “switch heart” so to speak. As a teenager, I began realizing how all the vice-inspiring music I once listened to mostly promote a kind of life that isn’t intended for me. I went from a change of heart to a change of mind or “switch mind” when I became more conscious of the lyrics and meanings of every song I heard. Did I completely stop listening to mainstream pop, rock and other genre music? Of course not, but when given the chance and choice, I usually gravitated toward music of inspiration and encouragement. I listen more to the lyrics than the musical notes and composition. My favorite U2 song, “40,” which happens to come from Psalms 40, eloquently captures my change in musical outlook at the time.

From "40":

I waited patiently for the Lord

He inclined and heard my cry

He lifted me up out of the pit

Out of the miry clay

I will sing, sing a new song

I will sing, sing a new song . . . "

Music is food. There is healthy music and there is junk music. Junk music is the songs that promote the vices that are behind all the unhappiness in our lives. Like junk food, this music is okay at moderate levels, but too much can lead to heap of soulful unhappiness.

U2 isn’t the only band I listen to, but they’re still one of the few “secular” sounding bands that can evoke meaning that is worthy of the good book itself. I try to keep up with current music so as not to cling on to the past. In fact, today I was listening to my favorite Christian radio station for an hour while driving home. They had the rock band, Switchfoot, as their live guests in the studio. In between interviews, they played songs from their upcoming album, Vice Versus.

As usual, I paid particular attention to the lyrics. Like U2, their songs contained lyrics that evoked a deeper meaning that could have anyone walking away a better person. Also like U2, the poetry and word play were so cleverly done that one could draw in the meaning and message rather than having it spoon fed to them. I liked all the songs, but the top three that I like most are “Where I belong”, “Thrive” and “Vice Versus. Just read a sampling of the lyrics and you’ll know why:

From "Thrive":

"I've been awake for an hour or so

Checking for a pulse but I just don't know

Am I a man if I feel like a ghost?

The stranger in the mirror is wearing my clothes

No, I'm not alright

I know that I'n not right

A steering wheel doesn't mean you can drive

A warm body doesn't mean I'm alive. . . "

From "Vice Versus":

"Let the pacific laugh

Be on my epitah

With it's rising and falling

And after all, it's just water

And I am just a soul

With a body of water and bones

Water and bones. . . "

From "Where I Belong":

"We were born into the fight

But I'm not sentimental

This skin and bones is a rental

And no one makes it out alive

Until I die singing these songs

On the shores of Babylon. . .

Still looking for a home

In a world that I belong

Where we can find the strong

Where the righteous can right the wrong. . . "

Switchfoot - Vice Versus

Switchfoot- Where I Belong

Switchfoot - Thrive

U2 - 40

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11: Moving On But Never Over

Scornful Treatment of “Our Pearl Harbor”

The tenth anniversary of the devastating events of 9/11 (our Pearl Harbor) is fast upon us.  Hopefully, many people will remember, memorialize and pray for all those who lost their lives that horrible day.  Notice, I said "hopefully." 

Last July, I came across a headline about a lawsuit filed by an organization called “The American Atheists.”  The organization was demanding the removal of the cross enshrined at the 9/11 memorial and museum in New York City.  Fortunately, Congressman J. Randy Forbes slammed the lawsuit and defended the cross while calling the organization’s efforts “sad and misguided.” 

Earlier this week I learned of the terrible decision by the Mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg, to exclude any prayers from clergy at ground zero in this Sunday’s official memorial ceremony.  In addition, Mayor Bloomberg is NOT allowing the first responders (firefighters, police, paramedics, etc.) of that tragic day attend the ceremony.  What a shame!  What can be more scornful than that?

How about taking salt and rubbing it into the gaping wounds just mentioned, which many seem to be doing.  The salt I am talking about is actually the notion that we, the nation, needs to “get over” 9/11 and move on.  Hard to believe, but I’ve heard this mentioned on several occasions in the last few days.  The first thought that came across my mind was whether these people ever lost a loved one.  If so, they should know better than to think we should get over it.

Getting Over?

Let me shift gears here and attempt to address a topic that I think women are better at articulating: the death of loved ones.  Most men, including me, tend to allow our machismo to hide what I believe is a basic fundamental truth about how we get over the death of a loved one, and that is – we DON’T.  Oh sure, anyone can play the game and “appear” so, but the reality within the crevasses of our heart says otherwise.

Sixteen years has passed since the car that my parents and baby sister were in flipped into the air over the highway median and landed on a fast approaching car.  I lost all of them that day and the surviving five year old boy in the other car lost his parents as well.  Mourning is expected immediately after the incident and even months thereafter, but for some reason, people develop a notion that one “gets over” it.  To the common eye, I certainly appear so because I am able to talk about them without signs of pain (usually).  Some of the large pictures of them that used to take up wall space at my last residence remain stored in the basement of the new house.  By appearance, I guess it's easy for one to come to the conclusion that I'm over it.

The truth is, I never got over it, and I will never get over it.  I love my dad.  I love my mom.  I love my sister.  I still periodically dream about them as if they were still alive, and when I wake up, I try going back to sleep so that I can be "there" with them longer.  Every time I meet new parents in their early thirties, I think about my sister and the kids and husband she would have had she survived the crash.  In some shape or form, I think about them every day. Their deaths have created three vacant holes in my heart/soul that only they can ever fill.  Fortunately, their love gives me the faith to believe that someday those holes will be filled if I make the right decisions in life and join them in their heavenly splendor, but until then, the holes remain within.

Moving On

Last month, my friend, Marlon, invited my family to his house to join them in a memorial dinner in memory of his father and grandfather.  I was pleasantly surprised to get the invitation because it was something more of his planning than that of his wonderful wife.  Like most men, Igorot men are no different when it comes to keeping our macho wits about us.  When we arrived, several others of our Igorot friends were already there.  I walked into the dining room and smiled at all the delicious food set on the table.  Immediately next to the table were two large pictures of his father and grandfather that stared at everyone in  the room.  It was an appropriate setting.

We all gathered around the table and listened to his heartfelt memorial prayer.  Upon the conclusion of his prayer, we “moved on” and began eating in a more festive spirit.  Later that evening, several of us were gathered in the dining room talking and drinking.  It so happened that we all lost a loved one somewhat recently. 

I poured a glass of brandy for everyone and we all did a toast to those we lost.  Afterwards, we took turns sharing our funniest memory of them.  It was great to cut through all the small-talk smoke and mirrors and just talk about someone we cared so much about, even though it was humorous.  It’s these moments of memorializing that helps us move on with our lives.  More importantly, they help remind us of our tasks as parents and the need to leave behind that which is most important – Love.

Our Pearl Harbor

On December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese Imperial Navy.    Hundreds were injured and nearly three thousand Americans were killed.  Those who survived the attack and are still living today will tell you that they never got over it.  Imagine how they would feel if prayer were not allowed at the memorial services then or if the military service men and women survivors were not allowed to attend their tenth anniversary in 1951.  Has main stream society’s political correctness gone too far?  Yes it has.

However, you can make a difference by not allowing this weekend to go by without taking a moment to pray in your own way for those who lost their lives, their surviving loved one and the future of our country.  Like Marlon's dinner; the combination of prayer, fellowship and memorials are what will keep this country from deteriorating.