Transition: Is This Thing On?
Posted May 17, 2013 @ 11:48am | by Tripp
God comes to you disguised as your life. - Paula D’Arcy
here are many things that I do not comprehend. Chemistry, for example, eludes me. I mean, I get solutions and mixtures. Sure. But once those pesky numbers enter in and we have 10^23 of anything and...well...yeah. Whack a mole! That's what I say. This week has been a week of whacking moles.
I am in this strange intellectual holding pattern. I have a sense as to why. Transition with a capital-t is at every turn. We're moving into community. This is a great thing, but it still involves packing and schlepping. Then there's the transition out of coursework into comprehensive exams. Then there are the little transitions for work this summer. At church we're bringing in two new interns. There's just a lot of transition, change, making room, packing, thinking, pondering, and - this is the hard part - articulating. It's the articulating that's being onery.
So, I get up in the morning and I'm not wondering if life is happening. I'm only rarely bored. It happens. I'll be honest. But mostly now I feel stuck in a feedback loop of my own making. I'm tempted every day to pull the plug, but it's just not an option. I think that even if I were to jerk the power cord right out of the wall the system would still be screeching at me. wheeEEeep!
So, is this thing on? You bet your ass it is.
Posted May 13, 2013 @ 8:08pm | by Tripp
I keep trying to find something worth writing about. All I have are my own thoughts. Well, those and anxiety. I am surrounded by people who appear to have more organized minds than mine. On one level I know that my mind is not particularly well-organized. On another level I am aware that I tend to idolize my colleagues.
I have this paper to write for my liturgical theology class. I'm plagued by it. Why? Well, because philosophy and theology, if they are related disciplines, elude me. If theology is instead an artform, then I have a chance. Poetics rather then noetics. I can paint a portrait but I cannot make an argument. Of course, the field requires an argument. I can honor that. I don't have a particular problem with that. But here I am wondering how I can perform the task that sits before me.
A friend recently joked that my theological posture involves porches and stringed instruments rather than St. Augustine and good dogma. There's no reason at all why these two postures need to be in opposition to one another. We don't need to value one over the other; we simply need to value both equally.
Okay. Back to the salt mines.
Connick, Grohl, and Knowles
Posted May 8, 2013 @ 9:22am | by Tripp
Blessed are you, O Lord, Redeemer God.
You destroyed the bonds of death
and from the darkness of the tomb
drew forth the light of the world.
You led us through the waters of death,
and made us children of light
and dancing to the music of new life.
Have you seen the article about Harry Connick Jr.'s frustrated lecture on American Idol? Take a read here. It's been a very popular piece. Harry is on a tear about understanding what you are singing before you sing it, about having more than one musical trick up your sleeve. I can tell you that Spouse and I had a lively conversation about it here at the Arts Collective and Book Nook. Honesty, understanding, talent, and skill...these all go into any performance. Paul would say "spirit and understanding," but I think we'd be on the same page.
I found the whole thing intriguing on many levels: aesthetics, industry, gender, privilege, and, well race. Yes, race. Remember when Beyonce Knowles sang at the Presidential Inauguration and the world went insane for a brief shining moment because she sang to a recording of her own voice (a common practice)?
It's all so damn complicated now. Western Classical snobs have weighed in on the American Idol news. Jazz snobs have weighed in. And even David Grohl weighed in...well, he did so well before Harry, but it bears sharing no less. He's perhaps my favorite of the rock and roll snobs. Yes, he's a snob. Just because he uses profanity and I happen to agree with him (as do many others) doesn't keep him from being a snob.
I find this inspiring and rather prophetic, but it is also a kind of snobbery. It's the same kind of snobbery that keeps schools like Cal Berkeley from having a rock n'roll track in their music department. I mean, it's Cal, people. Really? Really? But there it is. Rock n'roll comes from the garages of America. Brahms from it's universities and conservatories (a curious word), and Connick's "Great American Songbook" from the clubs of New Orleans, Chicago, and New York.
What makes a musician? Regionalism, racial politics, and industry heavies all have their legitimizing weight in all of this. Is it luck? Sticktoitiveness? Talent? Production and distribution? Is being a musician simple a sense of self no matter how middlin' small one's talent and ability are? Perhaps so.
The snobbery that I see at work is our holding one path above any other. Whenever you hear "there is one way to be a musician" be warned. Even in Grohl's witness, he slips into the same trap. Yes, we should be wary of the American Idolizing by the Music Industry. Yes, making someone a "star" doesn't make them a "real" or even "successful" musician. Not by a long shot. But let's be honest...some of us won't buy drums from a yard sale and suck. Nope. Some of us will take lessons and spend years in conservatories. Others of us will sit next to jazz masters in clubs. Others of us will invent a cappella arrangements on street corners. Some of us will upload and download YouTube videos. Some of us will only ever sing in church choirs, the light of fame and fortune shining elsewhwhere. It is all available to us. It's all music-making. Why do we privilege one kind of music-making over another?
The value of such polemics does us all a tremendous disservice.
It is, after all, just music. There's no reason to hold it above the people who make it.
Politics and The Spiritual But Not Religious
Posted May 8, 2013 @ 8:55am | by Tripp
Recently we were discussing the genesis of this "Nones" or "spiritual but not religious" obsession. It was at church during our session after worship (call it "spiritual formation" if you like). I was on a tear per usual. I find this time so damn exciting and I can get so frustrated when congregations stare in confused wonderment, or fear, or ignorance, or, or, or...I just can't help but think it's good news.
Anyway, we've been talking about the "shift in the American religious landscape" in churches for more than a decade now. I find it helpful to remember that the "None" obsession really hit it's public peak at the time of the last Presidential election. Why? Well, pollsters went to track voting patterns one way and discovered a Whole Other Thing at work. There are a bunch of religiously unaffiliated people out there...and they vote.
If you would like to listen, it's only 2:30 long. Easy peasy.
It's brief, maybe too brief, but that's never stopped me before. The point is that if the research is at all accurate, you can watch the political rhetoric change. I'm very curious who the first SBNR candidate will be and how they will campaign. Will it be akin to Obama's American Civil Religion inauguration speech? We'll see.
Monday Videopost: Harry Connick, Jr.
Posted May 6, 2013 @ 10:54am | by Tripp
Hear me in the harmony...well, that'll preach.
Monasticism, Beloved Community, and The Common Good
Posted May 3, 2013 @ 11:44am | by Tripp
What would it mean if people of faith began transferring their human identities from class, racial, and national loyalties to a global identity in a new beloved community created by God?
~ Jim Wallis, On God's Side
Benedict of Nursia is on my mind this morning as I ponder what it is that Jim Wallis is trying to accomplish with his new book, On God's Side. Adam Ericksen pondered the virtues of baseball, winning and losing in his post from earlier this week. Adam questioned the metaphor. What do we do with our losers? How can we all win?
Today I'm wondering about where Jim was when he started pulling all of this together. Jim shared that he went on retreat (a good practice, in my humble opinion) to gather his thoughts for this new book. He went to a monastery (also a good practice, in my humble opinion). He prayed the hours. He wandered the grounds. He spent some time in silence. He read the Narnia books and gave some serious thought o C.S. Lewis' Aslan. All of this led to a question, well, many questions, but this question I've pulled out is what caught my attention. What if, indeed, Jim. What if we were to do this thing...the beloved community.
It is no surprise to me that this question would emerge while Jim was at a monastery. Of course it would. And that he riffs on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in a way is also wonderfully telling. "Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives." said Dr. King. Our souls must change. So too must our lives. Dr. King said much about the beloved community. So too did Benedict of Nursia.
There's so much to say here. I'm a little stumped. The beloved community is the Church, but it is exempliefied by the monastery where people relinquish their individual control of their worldly goods. Monastics take vows to pray and work together. There's a shared rhythm of life. There is a shared mission. It's a challenging and difficult life and not all Christians are called to it. Obedience, stability, conversion of life...If we want to be the beloved community, then the we must avow ourselves to such a Rule. Indeed, we must give up our personal or private identities to the service of all.
But how do we do this as a culture, a global church? What a challenging vision. It smacks of utopianism, of course. It should. But we must not linger there. We know the history of the Civil Rights Movement. We know the challenges of the Christian monastics throughout history. There's nothing romantic to be had in this. Forgiveness must be a consatant spiritual practice. We're going to give each other many opportunities to practice forgiveness.
To be the beloved community is to sacrifice...for the sake of the others in the community and, now get this, for the sake of the world. Obedience, stability, and conversion of life are practices intended for the salvation of the world and not just for those who live out such vows. The common good is not about common membership in the monastery. The common good is a sacrifice those who are called into community make for the benefit of all.
Is this vision possible? Can all Christians make such a claim? Can we make such vows? I ask these questions in order to shine a light on the seriousness of Jim's vision...the inconceivable difficulty of it. This is not in order to dissuade us from attempting it, but to offer a reality check.
To be on God's side is to sacrifice ourselves for the sake of others. To be God's friend is to lay down one's life in obedience to our neighbor and our God in Christ Jesus. This is so much more than voting and lobbying or signing a petition. This is a radical conversion of life into the beloved community.
Note: This blog entry is cross-posted at Sojourners.
The Terrifying Solitude of Scholarship
Posted May 2, 2013 @ 8:43am | by Tripp
Open our ears to hear you, O God,
and our mouths to proclaim your glory
and the beauty of your holiness...
There is a kind of solitude in scholarship that simply terrifies me. It stumps me. It causes me to stop dead. I can move no further. You see, on some level every scholar is alone in their discipline. The nature of the enterprise, that trope of "original contribution," encourages a certain solitary approach. No one will ever be interested in what you are interested in. By the way, you have to convince all these disinterested people to be interested enough to grant you time and other resources to do this work.
These are the books I would use if I could write my dissertation today. Theology, cognition, epistemology, and music, music, music. I'm sitting here this morning looking at these books and wondering, to my utter amazement, if I will ever get a chance to sit with people and talk about this stuff every again.
Yes, "ever again." How absurd this must seem to some of you. "Of course!" you may exclaim. "Of course you will talk to people about this stuff."
And yet, I don't know. This is my last semester of coursework and I feel like the tap is being shut off, the well is running dry. I'm terrified that I will lose my conversation partners in some way. The solitary nature of scholarship looms before me and I feel utterly lost staring into the abyss.
I've never had the kind of character it takes for solitary work like what I assume is expected of me as a scholar. I'm trying to develop it, mind you. I am. And yet...all I can imagine is how after this term I will never again read through the pages of these books and discuss them with another similarly inclined nerd. There will be no reason to because the conversation will disappear. What's the point of scholarship without the conversation?
What a neurotic mess I've become.
So, felllow theo-ethnomusicologists, where are you? I'm hoping to meet some of you in England this summer, but I fear that this too will be a false step, a misunderstanding on my part...or the fulfillment of a fantasy that will be all too shortlived. Three days in the English countryside talking about music, eschatology, and theological aesthetics will be glorious. Returning home to the vaccuum of my own mind will be an incredible let down.
I don't find me at all inspiring. Ha! Do you find your own company inspiring? I doubt I'm alone in this feeling.
Okay. Enough with the whining for now. I'm behind in my work. I need to finish this term. I need to be done. See y'all on the other side.
Posted May 1, 2013 @ 12:37pm | by Tripp
Here is the view from my kitchen window
Rhythm is the composed ordering of our perception of time. Situated culturally, these compositions reflect individual and collective aesthetics that are linguistic, musical, and in both cases, sonic. It's also a nifty way to talk about when I take naps and get work done. Did I mention I'm eating leftover Chinese food?
Here is the view from my kitchen window.
I am wondering about the power of the non sequitor, tangential connections, and my ongoing struggle with my profound lack of intellectual discipline. I had this amazing conversation yesterday with a fellow PhD student about theological aesthitics, the aesthetics of decay, Punk music as theological methodology, and being from Somewhere or Somewhen. Roots, faith, music, life together...really, this is all I think about and talk about and it's so damn complicated I can barely stand it.
One big tree becomes very complicated when you stand up close to it. You know, looking at the bark and the branches, the quality of each leaf, or the way the roots seem to meander out from the base of the trunk in search of sustenance.
It's a mess. I'm a mess. I have a paper that has yet to come to life in my imagination. It's a textual analysis of a Baptist worship aid (maybe paired with a hymnal from roughly the same period) through the lens of post-Conciliar Catholic theology.
Then there's this project I'm working on in my pedagogy class. An ongoing effort to write a syllabus about pastoral musicianship in times of congregational change. "Turn and face the strain..."
Lastly, I have to get a more full draft of my comprehensive exam proposal together. Now. Soon.
So...bark, big trees, and the squirrelish denizens therein.
In Other News
Monday Videopost: Old Crow Medicine Show
Posted April 29, 2013 @ 12:58pm | by Tripp
"Carry Me Back to Virginia" is a good tune...of a time to be certain, but a good tune. I especially like the false start. Good stuff here from some Virginia boys.
Saying "Hello" Again
Posted April 28, 2013 @ 9:11pm | by Tripp
Last weekend at this time I was getting my bags packed. We had held a memorial service for my aunt, Ann Watlington, at Ginter Park Baptist Church earlier in the afternoon. I delivered the eulogy.
My flight would leave from Washington D.C. on Monday. Some of you who follow me on Facebook know all about it. I am pretty obsessive with posting there. I know. Pictures. Stories. Links to Ann's obituary. So, I really cannot tell you why I am posting here and now except to say that it's been a week and I am just now getting a chance to sit in this mess of sadness and grief.
Ann was a good friend and I will miss her terribly. If there is one person I could name who plugged this nerd into the popular music of my misspent adolescence, it is she. Thompson Twins, U2, Paul Young, Toad The Wet Sprocket, and many others became part of my musical lexicon because of her. She was a school teacher and knew how to enliven the hearts, minds, and imaginations of her nephews because of it.
I am a little slow on the uptake. You might have guessed that as well. I've been grumpy all week without being able to name the reason. It took me all week to realize that it was grief.
I'm just cranky about everything. And when I'm not cranky, I despair and doubt. It's old stuff and it's new stuff and it's grief and it's wishing I were in Virginia with my young cousin, Ann's daughter. This is Carson.
She's an amazing kid. I'm crazy about her. Bright. Insightful. She has a wicked sense of humor. Quirky in all the right ways. I hope to be home a great deal more over the next year to be around. My father and step-mother (Ann's sister) are going to be her legal guardians. It's a huge load, but I can think of no better people for the job.
Tonight I'm starting to settle into the grief. Tomorrow I'll dig in more deeply to the work that I have to this month. Papers, proposals, grants, projects, all need doing. Deadlines loom.
One thing I need to do here before I go on...just as another "thank you" is to share this little picture from Ginter Park Baptist Church, my aunt's church. They held a vigil for Annie as she was dying. It was quite moving. Their pastor is very good at what she does. I've mentioned that before. I know. Anyway...
I'm going to get back into it. Thanks, guys. Grief continues to surprise me. Hello, grief.
Lattes for The Common Good
Posted April 26, 2013 @ 12:58pm | by Tripp
Yep. There's talking and stuff. From the podcast:
"I'm hesitant to talk about the common good as if it's a discovery. This is not news. But maybe, maybe Jim's right in that we've forgotten how to practice it. So this is what I want to know, invoking the spirit of Fred Rogers as I do it: 'Who is your neighbor?' ... Because I wonder if one of the things that we can think about in terms of the common good is learning to practice neighborliness in the inconsequential moments so that when we face the bigger political difficulties of our shared life — when we start talking about the common good in the larger sense around some of the other issues like violence, and fear, and money — that maybe if we've already built up habits we can have these larger conversations with greater ease."
Jim Wallis’ latest book On God’s Side: What Religion Forgets and Politics Hasn’t Learned About Serving the Common Good is sparking a national conversation of what it means to come together on issues that traditionally divide the nation. Bloggers Adam Ericksen and Tripp Hudgins are having that conversation here, on the God’s Politics blog. Follow along, and join the discussion in the comments section.
Challenging Liturgical Theology?
Posted April 24, 2013 @ 12:16pm | by Tripp
This has me thinking this morning. There's much work to be done.
"While those within Radical Orthodoxy [or here] may want to suggest that they are too for the embodiment of theology, that they are fighting against the separation of thought and practice, the question here is not the intent of Radical Orthodoxy, but rather whether Radical Orthodoxy has actually done what it set out to do. To this I ask, if they have so effectively reconceived the fissures of body and mind, an inheritance of the Western colonial project, why do these expressions of orthodoxy seem to reproduce the exclusion of peoples of color within academic theology? Why do these accounts of the body seem unaware of the atrocities engendered in the name of right belief? Why can (or will) orthodoxy not theologically account for the rape of the New World and its mixed-race children? Is it possible that this theological trajectory guides our thought about God, but does little to open our lives to a substantial transformation of desire, of the economy of our every day lives? We cultivate an understanding of a tradition, and with it train disciples to speak the creed properly and delineate between a bad performance of the Eucharist and an appropriate performance. Perhaps the most astute of these students will drive the connection between how the Eucharist is performed and whether or not we are giving to the poor and needy, but it will seldom drive them to question the faithfulness of not worshipping with the Spanish-speaking congregation that rents their sanctuary at seven o'clock every Sunday evening. This proper thought about Eucharist concretizes the positions of those who seemingly confess properly within their pews. Confession thus fences imagination of what constitutes salvation around thoughts about worship, rather than rendering their very bodies as worship."
~ from Brian Bantum's Introduction to his Redeeming Mulatto: A Theology of Race and Christian Hybridity