Houses Of Worship

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This is St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans. I took this picture while on an academic-related trip there in January of last year.

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Now minus my baptism as a newborn and recognition of Christmas and Easter (the birth and resurrection of Jesus), I’m not particularly Christian in any serious way. However, I do have a special place for houses of worship. They have a special energy to them that cannot be ignored. So I was looking forward to entering this Catholic house of worship…where Pope John Paul II once was a guest.

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The whole scene inside took my breath away…

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You enter a house of worship and you feel the power of the Creator emanating from the room.

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Caedmon’s Hymn

For some reason, there is something emotionally powerful about listening to something poetic in a foreign language. Do you feel that way too? It’s like, you don’t necessarily understand what is being said, but the way the words are spoken, the cadences, the knowledge it at least has some special meaning just does something to your soul. It draws you in. This Christian religious hymn is in Anglo-Saxon…aka Old English (translation provided in the video). Close your eyes and listen to the power of the language first. I think it’s even more powerful because it is a language functionally extinct from this Earth, but is spoken for the modern world to hear.

Artistry and My Desire to Find Spiritual Enlightenment

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I am an amateur artist. I have a years-long history playing the violin, including a brief stint as a violin performance major (although I haven’t touched it on regular basis in several years, I can still get some notes out and remember proper technique), I’ve dabbled in music composition as recently as last year (mostly 12 tone, free improvisation and graphic notation music…students of music will know what I’m referring too) and this year have started really getting interested in poetry and photography.

Art to me is the portal into the spirit of another person. When I see an artistic photograph, read a poem or story, see a painting, etc, I can sense on some deep level the emotions and thoughts of that person. I connect with that person and that’s a wonderful experience. To think I’ve peered into the souls of people like Tchaikovsky, Mendelssohn,  Mozart, Beethoven, Ravel, Cage and more either through listening or performing their works. Even sitting in my usual coffee shop and seeing the paintings on display I’ve gained more of a appreciation for as their style and choice of subject, etc all reflects upon them as a human being. Art is the act of taking mundane things and making something recognizable out it, but with a unique touch. Anyone can make random noise, but how about constructing a melody (although John Cage sort of brought to the limits what could be considered ‘music’ with pieces like “4 minutes, 33 seconds”, which did have an artistic statement, nevertheless)? How about taking some random words and making a story out of it? Or taking the world and capturing it in a photograph and video that speaks to people? Art is a form of spiritual communication as it connects us to each other at a higher level. I feel that way right now listening to beautiful jazz music on Pandora and I felt that way performing music by the common-practice classical masters. I think the arts shouldn’t be short-changed in education because it is literally the path to our souls and the souls of others and is an important expressive aspect of humanity and civilization. It can serve as communication between cultures and even governments hostile to each other. It can bring people together if we so choose.

If you have children, always support their artistic growth, it will serve them well in an otherwise stressful world where the soul is sometimes strangled to get through the daily routines of life. I started playing violin in 1993 (so now 20yrs) and performed in middle school, high school and two years at college-level and it opened up a whole new world to me. Although I don’t play nearly as much anymore (the last time I picked it up was in April; my last semi-professional performance with an orchestra was in 2004), I appreciate the arts in general a lot more than I probably would’ve otherwise.  Enjoy the beauty of it all, or better yet, participate and learn an artistic skill. You’ll be very happy you did.

Poem #4

Cold air flows across the white-covered soil,

the wind blows with bone-chilling effect,

the stars twinkle and the moon shines bright,

it is the Arctic settled over the Plains,

as the Earth enjoys its winter sleep.

Inspired after going outside earlier… -6F with a wind chill of -32F. I seriously don’t think it’s frozen enough Mother Earth (sarcasm).

The Beauty and Power of Mother Nature

Picture I took of a lake CT and I visited last summer.

Picture I took of a lake CT and I visited last summer.

I’ve seen a lot of nature in my life. Whether be beautiful trees in a park in the middle of a city or a pristine lake in the middle of rural America or steep cliffs on a mountain pass, nature never ceases to  amaze. Unfortunately, nature also never ceases to amaze in other ways as well. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis and other events happen which cause so much destruction and kill thousands of people. I’ve personally been in a moderately violent earthquake and have felt of the power of nature at it’s most raw. I’ve also seen a tornado and monster thunderstorms. After the Indian Ocean Tsunami Disaster in 2004 (produced by a megathrust earthquake along a plate boundary offshore the coast of Sumatra), I remember interviews with theologians trying to ask the question of why…why does God  bring such horrors upon people? Why did 250,000 people have to die within a matter of hours? Was it just their time all at the same time? Was it because God was angry over our sins? Was it because…? I never caught these interviews in late 2004-early 2005, but the questions were more interesting to me than whatever answers people could come up with.

I remember at the time pondering the answers myself and here’s what came to me from my spiritual perspective…which is much the same then as it is now.

Our Creators created a Universe with laws…laws of physics and chemistry which define everything and create a reality suitable for life, including life which could exist to appreciate its Creators. But with those laws came something very fundamental. That fundamental thing is balance. Balance of forces, which are constantly in a push and pull on one another. These balance of forces are what lead to the life and death of stars, to the life and death of people naturally and to the things that produce the natural disasters we fear….tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, etc. Without earthquakes and volcanoes to redistribute and bring balance to energies, the world would become a very internally hot and distorted world. We live in a Universe which is favorable for our existence by the laws written to govern its behavior. But those laws have consequences.

Now this thought-process itself brings up questions. Am I saying that our Creators were unable to create a perfect Universe where no such consequences exist? Or was the way the Universe designed purposely engineered this way even though it could’ve been done another way? I have no idea. But the point I make is that with the Universe’s laws as they exist…we get the good and bad which comes from the balance of forces. And sometimes the good and bad come in extremes.

Perhaps it’s not the most comforting answer in terms of understanding why specifically so many may die suddenly in one particular event that we call (rightfully so) a disaster. But, at least as far I can tell, it’s the best answer I’ve been able to come up with. I believe everyone on this Earth has their time…and when their time has come to an end, no matter how long or short a time it has been, they contributed something to the world. We have no idea when our lives will end. It should be our goal to make sure we make even a small, positive difference in it. That difference is our legacy and that will live forever.