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.
I love good design. Which is probably a good thing seeing as I’m spending thousands of dollars a year studying it. I’m about to start my second year in my design course actually, which I’ll admit was heavy on my mind while I was in Nepal. But not in a bad way.
My uni has a flexible degree structure, which means that I can pick two minors from whatever faculty I choose. After debating between Arts (English Literature) and Cultural Studies (the nice way of saying Pop Culture), I decided on Cultural Studies. It seems like a bit of a frivolous subject – and yes, I am doing Cinema Studies this semester – but I love it. The non-fiction I read is generally about art, music and movies. Books like The Culture Club by Craig Schuftan and The Philosophy of Andy Warhol by Andy Warhol (surprise surprise). I figured that since I’ve got the opportunity to study it, I may as well.
I was worried that going to a developing country would fill me with an overwhelming sense of guilt. That what I was studying was self indulgent (and I’m starting to realise how many blog posts I’ve spent apologizing for what I love. Interesting).
But it had the opposite effect.
The name of my course is Communication Design. Not Graphic Design. And if I were my old Typography lecturer I could wax lyrical about the important shift in direction and attitude towards design since this radical and historical change.
Unfortunately for me, this carefully thought out course title, the thing that has probably caused me to damage the muscles that assist me in rolling my eyes, was a way God spoke to me on my trip. Woo hoo God. Thank you once again for your wonderful and increasingly ironic sense of humor.
Communication design is an incredibly accurate term. That’s what we do. We organise type and image to communicate effectively. And it’s not just about communicating details or information. It’s also about communicating a feeling. An emotion. Something that I have been realising that I value rather highly in good design.
A lot of what the DEEP team I was part of learnt about in Nepal was the importance of ownership and sustainable development. Meaning that the Nepali people had to own the projects. Otherwise a sense of powerlessness and incapability would be perpetuated within the communities. This doesn’t mean that missionaries are unnecessary or unhelpful. I met some really incredible people who have dedicated their lives to journeying along side Nepali people and have participated in some really amazing growth in such a poor country.
But I realised that surprisingly God doesn’t want me to feel guilty about the things he has created me to love. Shocking, right? And what do I love? Design. Pop Culture. Music. Art. John Hughes. Fineliners. Reading. Imagining. Creating.
Instead of Nepal causing me to doubt if this is the right uni degree to be studying (which in hindsight now seems a bit silly), it confirmed it.
Communication Design. What am I communicating?
Maybe part of my role on this earth is informing the western culture, that I love and hate so much, about the problems of poverty and what can be done, in interesting and engaging ways. Informing people of the real gospel. The life of Jesus that we have all been called to follow with everything we have.
Is this how my deep gladness meet the worlds great hunger?
Following Jesus and sharing his heart for the poor doesn’t necessarily mean moving to a remote village in the hills of a developing nation. It’s different for everyone. Don’t box God in. He is so much bigger than we can ever begin to understand.