Music can do a number of things. It can make you laugh. It can make you cry. It can even help you reach that clarifying moment where you know how much work you need to do to get where you want to be, but you have a deep rooted sense that everything is going to be ok regardless. And maybe I’m having one of those now. The Rolling Stones’ ‘You can’t always get what you want’ (such a cliché I know) is playing and I’m sitting at my trusty iMac, surrounded by the debris of a highly stressful semester. I have about 15 weeks of classes to go and then I’m done. I’m a qualified graphic designer. I’m filled with ideas and pictures of how I want my life to look. The words of hundreds of inspiring authors float around my mind as I contemplate the life that is ahead of me.
But what happens when the music stops? What happens when the choir dies down and you are met with an almost empty and disappointing silence. Maybe you can hear the faint whir of your computer or the neighbours putting the bins out. What if the song ends and you are met with the screaming reality that it is 2am and you really don’t have time to pursue where your head, heart and Mick Jagger is taking you.
What happens is you shut your computer down, Crawl into bed, maybe check Facebook and Instagram a few more times, and you fall to sleep. Knowing full well that the cycle is going to begin again, and at the same time the following night, you will reach a point where you are almost drowning in possibilities and again there is no time at all to pursue them.
I have so many different bands for so many moods. The realm of melancholy safely belongs in the hands of Radiohead, although complimented by the odd track from New Order and The Cure (Ok, let’s face it. There’s a lot of The Cure in there). When I’m feeling moody I hit up the XX or Crystal Castles. Maybe even some Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Interpol. Happy? Try Vampire Weekend or The Shins. Even when I’m feeling a bit down and want to get out of a rut, I can always depend on the words and sound of the late, great LCD Soundsystem. This is my soundtrack. Yes I have one. I have made sure of that.
So I have two choices. I can either go easy on the music, which I am a little uncomfortably dependant on it as you can see, or I can use it. I can recognise that I am the type of person that is largely dictated by emotion and I can cultivate that. I know that my validity and self worth and future plans all need to be rooted in God. As a Christian this is mildly important. And by mildly I mean hugely and ‘if this is not the case I really need to fix some things in my life because I seem to be missing the point in this whole relationship with God thing’ important.
When I sit down at my computer, I can make an effort to invite (well, acknowledge really because the whole omnipresent thing means that he’s pretty much already there) God into that space. And then we can listen together. I’ll roam around Spotify and Pinterest and make a time and space for this dreaming and planning season of my life. I’m 23 years old. And if I go by the lessons that countless novels and TV dramas that I have consumed have taught me (and ok, my parents and numerous sermons as well), it’s the decisions and choices that I make now that determine where my life, and my identity are going end up (although when exactly is this end point? Surely people are always growing and changing? At least this is what I hope).
I’m going to do this. I don’t want to waste my life away on the theory that I’ll figure it all out tomorrow. I love music. I love design. I love fiction. I love my family. I love my friends. I love the better, whole and restored world that awaits us. I love that we have all been invited to participate in bringing that world about. I love the Rolling Stones. I love dreaming. I love hoping. I love possibilities.
So this is where I stand. I’ll check in soon and let you know of the music and the dreams and the ideas that God and I have discovered together.
And now, to Oasis.
…and I’m back. Sorry for not posting in a million years. I’ll be back properly soon I promise! I’ve just been experiencing a lack of things to say and too much uni homework.
I had the opportunity to share my experience of Nepal, which I hadn’t really done yet and now I’m wishing I had done it earlier. So therapeutic.
I’m realising how blessed I’ve been this semester with my course. I was worried that when I came back from Nepal, I would end up separating that experience from my real life. Fortunately for me, God hasn’t let me do that! In one of my design subjects we talked about Advocacy and Design, the Developing World and Design, Sustainability and Design, and the Environment and Design. We also had a class about the lovely Michel Gondry, who I want to be friends with, but that doesn’t really relate to Nepal.
It seemed that in terms of Uni I haven’t really been able to escape these issues. I’ve also written an essay and learnt all about postmodernism, a discourse that I simultaneously am very grateful to, and hate vehemently.
I’ve learnt a lot, I’m a lot more aware of how this ridiculous Western culture that I kind of love and hate works, and now I’m not really sure where I am. I still trust that this course is what I’m meant to be doing for the next year and a half, but that’s all I know. Meshing my Nepal experience and my uni life with my home life is becoming increasingly difficult. And working out that tension between who I am and who most people know me to be is still a process I’m going through.
Anyway, I’ll keep you updated. And I mean that. This blog is such a good space for me to process and think. There is something exciting about having a big blank page in front of you where you can write and create anything. Where you’re able to place a tiny fraction of yourself. I’ll stop myself before I get too Jonathan Safran Foer. But, yes, writing is pretty excellent.
We talked about faith in church today and about getting into the Word of God. Which got me thinking about Nepal again.
Here are some fun little facts about the church in Nepal:
*There have only been reports of Christians in Nepal from the 1960s.
*By the 1970s there where at least 3000 Christians.
*Until 1990, Christians in Nepal were severely persecuted.
*Today there are somewhere between 500 000 – 1 000 000 Christians.
When I was over there I had the privilege of visiting two Nepali churches. The first was a ‘mega church’, the other was held in a shed with about 4o people attending. One of the sounds I can still recall fairly easily from Nepal is the sound of hundreds of Nepali men and women singing the worship song ‘God of this City’ in their native tongue. It was beautiful and seemed so much more meaningful coming from them. The chorus of this song is:
For greater things have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Greater thing have yet to come
And greater things are still to be done in this City
Such a powerful song to sing in a city and country that is so effected by poverty. And country where Christians are still being persecuted for their beliefs.In fact the whole bible seems so much more relevant in Developing Nations. We saw some of the stories and parables in the Bible being acted out. Lowering someone through the roof of a home seems so much more plausible when a roof just consists of tin foil, rocks and mud! Context is such an important part of understanding God’s word.
So how does this all relate to the message this morning? I think I was just reflecting on the different emphasis put on the Gospel in the Western World compared to the Developing World. It seems over here we struggle so much to maintain faith, whereas over there it is what they rely on. They rely on God to provide for them and their families. To save them from the poverty that is taking over Nepal. Here we have easy access to everything. And the illusion that we can manage on our own is easily maintained in a world where you can sit at a computer and order anything from food, to furniture. Because we have the tangible stuff covered. The spiritual stuff is easier to ignore or avoid.
It just interesting I guess. That different focus of message. If I didn’t have homework nagging in the back of my brain, I’d probably explore that a little more today.
I feel like such a mess right now. Just all over the place. Putting together a coherent thought is hard. So please bear with me!
Over the last six months I’ve really been working through this sense of pressure and obligation I have to do everything right, whether that’s in a Church context or just life . I have to help run things. I have to live a certain way. I have to act a certain way. I have to buy certain things.
I’m starting to see how ridiculous this is.
I am twenty one. TWENTY ONE. Whatever happened to having fun? Just relaxing. Being a bit stupid.
I feel like at Church, our generation are all carrying this sense of ‘we have to change the world’. Which is great, but also kind of intense. There is so much pressure for us to live up to good Christian standards and set ways of doing things.
You love God? You have any sort of semblance of leadership? Great! Help us lead youth group! Run a small group! Lead worship!
I should clarify that I am aware that people are called to these things. Everyone has different paths and different journeys. And it’s great that the Church is really open to providing space for young people to grow in this. But however unintentionally this idea is being broadcast, it is still there. It’s like we go from 18 years old and in youth group, to 30 running events and groups for people only a few years our junior. There’s no room for making mistakes and mucking around. We have a reputation to keep up. Where did our 20s go? Suddenly we’re all married, driving sensible cars and going to bed at sensible hours.
Oh dear. This is turning into a rant. Let’s try again.
Your twenties is the season in life where you can relax, we’re not going to have this much total freedom forever. Responsibilities will come. And I don’t mean the kind that you can cram for and finish in one night. Full time work, mortgages, families, bills and grocery shopping that doesn’t involve a large percentage of bacon and chocolate is on the horizon.
Have a few drinks, go to a gig and have a dance, road trip, go for a drive at three in the morning, stay up all night and sleep all day. Have real fun! Whatever that means to you.
God wants us to enjoy life right?
A new Radiohead album. I love these guys because their lyrics are written in a way that you can interpret them however you want to or need to.
I think at the moment, this song is speaking to me about this new perception of real life. Of the real world.
“I’m a fish now, out of water” and, “It’s like I’m falling out of bed from a long, weary dream. The sweetest flowers and fruits hang from trees. Just exactly as I remember. Every root. Every gesture.”
A scary new beautiful world that I need to learn how to exist and participate in.
Today at church I had the opportunity to pray with someone about how I’m going. About my fear of judgment and inadequacy. Of never being good enough. Of being the older brother in the Prodigal Son story.
The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’
‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’
Trying to accept that there is nothing I can do to earn or lose God’s love, it’s unconditional, is kind of hard. And today praying about this stuff I had the lyrics, “If you think this is over, then you’re wrong” playing in my head. Not in a condemning way, but like Thom Yorke sang it. In a sad, optimistic, bittersweet kind of way.
This is a journey. Something that I’m going to really work hard on with God. Not alone.
So coming home has been weird. Which isn’t really a surprise I guess. It’s just frustrating.
I feel super emotional all of the time. I’ll be at a movie night with a bunch of friends, having a lovely time, when suddenly all I feel like doing is screaming, crying, running away or withdrawing completely into myself.
One of the common responses to reverse culture shock is grief. Grief over what you’ve witnessed, grief over the end of an excellent trip, grief over the loss of an excellent group of people around you all of the time.
I’ve been grieving over my old self. Grieving over the fact that I’m not the same person I used to be. Grieving over the relationships I have that probably will never be the same again. It is a sad time. I feel the loss of my old life but I know that I need to move on. That this is part of God growing and changing me into who he needs me to be.
A quote I love, and seems to apply to how I feel about my trip to Nepal, comes from the greatest movie of all time.
And it was said by this man. Obi Wan Kenobi.
“You’ve taken your first step into a larger world.”
A larger world. That’s what I’ve seen and experienced. And I, this new version of Blair, need to figure out how to live in it.
And here I am. Sitting at my iMac, R.E.M. playing softly in the background and my pedestal fan on the highest setting in a vain attempt to remove the heat left over from a 40 degree day.
One week ago I was in Kathmandu, Nepal.
I was part of TEAR Australia group that travelled to Nepal to visit development projects that TEAR help fund. 3 weeks, of traveling all over the country and learning the history, hearing the stories, and meeting the people that I have been advocating for over the last few years.
And what do I think?
I don’t know.
After one of my most confronting and challenging days in Nepal, I went back to my incredibly comfortable hotel room, and opened the form of escapism I had bought along with me. Not the Bible, not the latest Donald Miller, but The Secret History by Donna Tartt. A slightly morbid and depressing form of escapism, but to each his own I suppose. It was there that I came across a particularly relevant paragraph about the processing period. It went something like this:
Some things are too terrible to grasp at once. Other things – naked, sputtering, indelible in their horror – are too terrible to really ever grasp at all. It is only later, in solitude, in memory, that realisation dawns: when the ashes are cold; when the mourners have departed; when one looks around and finds oneself – quite to ones surprise – in an entirely different world.
I think this is me at the moment.
As part of my response to what I saw and heard in Nepal, I am starting this blog. Once a week I will post something of what I’ve learnt, a story I’ve heard, or just the general frustrations of living within (and actually kind of loving) a culture that seems just so opposite to God’s Kingdom. A place where no-one goes hungry, no-one is oppressed or mistreated, a place where poverty (in all of it’s different forms) does not exist.
Hopefully this place is as informative, and helpful for you as it is for me!