New happenings are afoot! (with a bit of a personal update)

Indeed, new happenings are afoot! Well, maybe like one or two.

It all began with me deciding to revamp the look of my blog, which I think will be a positive change to help visually emphasize the creative writing personality this blog has been developing for some time now. I’m a fan of the new font style. Nice, large, bookish font. I’m sort of a bit nerdy on fonts.

However, in my theme-changing process, I noticed the forlorn category previously known as “Musically Minded,” now known as “Music Library.”

I haven’t written much on music, just for the sake of itself, in a long time. And that kind of makes me sad, because that was how I started learning to love writing (you write about things you love and in high school I would have died on train tracks for music, I loved it so much). But you know how college can take hold of your life and shake it like a dog with a new rope toy? Like, it’s really entertaining and exciting at first, but as “the fun” keeps going on, everything just gets kind of torn-up, grimy, worn-out, and sad?…yeah I’m still talking about college…learning Life at the speed of light does things to you…

Now that I’m OUT of college (perhaps “survived” is a better word?), I’m learning “how to Life Without School,” which is a lot of learning how to invest my time in THINGS I ACTUALLY HAVE TIME FOR. Sorry, I get kind of excited thinking about all the time I have now (you guys, I no longer feel like a plastic water bottle that’s 2/3 empty and twisted out of shape, it’s so COOL). And yes, I’m still working on the “full-time-job” thing, how did you figure?

But until my time starts to get used up by more and more responsibilities I’ll inevitably take on again, I’ve been investing my freedom in writing a lot–which has mostly been working on a poetic story project, (which I’ve been tagging under the working title “Summertime in the Orion Nebula,” for those of you who have been reading) which I’m excited and scared about it but mostly excited. However, I’ve also decided I need to write about music again, starting with re-introducing “Song of the Day” posts into my life. And I’m shooting for every Friday starting today. AKA, you’ll want to stay posted for later ;) .

By the way, thanks to all the new people that keep showing up to (apparently) read my stuff. It’s encouraging.

Stay hardcore, my lovers.

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A few notes about last week…

The Good

this was a trip to the woods
for summer waterfalls
raven feathers
and the breath of trees

this was a trail there and back
for fresh grain bread
avocado turkey
and the body content

this was an exchange of friends
for stories past and future
half-caf americano
and tying loose ends

this was a surprise encounter
for faces long missed
haircut beard
and arms finally filled

this was four gathered chairs
for bright words and calm wings
butter cream cheese
and the deepness of Good

The Facebook Insult

The following is a brief reflection written about a lecture given by Professor Michael Bruner, (expected) Doctor of Theology. I sum up highlights of his argument and pose my own thoughts about them. This reflection begins with the response to Facebook as a Christ-follower but ultimately regards the general interest of humanity, no matter what religion. I hope to encourage some dialogue about this daily matter of our culture. 

In Professor Bruner’s lecture “Effacebook: Would Jesus Friend You?” he spoke about the messages that Facebook and social media send us and the implications of them—and why they are damaging our culture. Relationships and community is an important property of the Christian life, as well as self-reflection and identity. Facebook, though it assumes to promote these things, actually turns the opposite direction. Reflecting on the truths revealed in Bruner’s lecture, it is no wonder that Jesus would neither “friend” anyone on Facebook, nor even sign on to Facebook.

Professor Bruner’s first pointed out that Jesus came to the world in the flesh, not in a virtual sense. This simple statement develops an idea that for interactions of importance and value to take place, a living and breathing element is essential. True relationships cannot be virtual; they must be literally fleshed out. In contrast, Facebook and social networking serves to disembody the individual; interactions can become completely anonymous and are one-dimensional reductions of words and images. Examining my own relationships, I noticed that none of my close friendships have been built by social media, and they will not thrive without personal encounters. In a face-to-face conversation, there are more than words being exchanged between people. In addition, there is an intense flow of non-verbal communication in tone, body language, facial cues, interactions with the present environment, etc. Because of the expedience of Facebook as a social network, it becomes a dangerously easy to accept this form of communication that lacks the nuances that actually bond people.

Partner to this hollow communication is the essence of the Facebook profile. Professor Bruner also built a main portion of his argument demonstrating the way the Facebook profile strips us of our humanity. “Sufficient complexity,” he said, is the definition of a human; to understand who we are, we have to accept we are complex beings that are more than the sum of our parts. This is a profound statement that is not reflected much in our culture (especially with mindsets deeply rooted in dualism). Even in our language we reduce ourselves, content to categorical statements such as, “I am ugly,” or “She is an accountant,” or “He is a punk,” or “I am insane.” I wonder if our self-images would change if we began to rephrase ourselves by saying instead, “She works as an accountant,” or “He acts like a punk,” or “My mind is making me feel disoriented,” or even “I think my body looks ugly”—at least the attribute is going only to the body and not to the entirety of one’s being. However, our culture is extremely comfortable in our self-simplifications, shown by our gleeful compliance in filling out our social network profiles. Bruner stated that there is not a social network that attempts to define humans and our needs. The Facebook profile tells that we only consist of a birthplace, birthday, gender, family ties, significant other, “friends,” occupation, current setting, activities, personal “likes,” opinions, and a thousand images of yours truly. This profile ultimately contains a few facts and a load of self-promotion. For example, by viewing my profile, one might learn that I am a female that likes outdoor activities and went rock-climbing in Sawtooth Canyon last October to prove it. But what my profile lacks is the expression of the utter joy I felt by spending a day with close friends exploring the gritty desert rocks in the mild fall sunshine. It lacks the way I smelled, or how dirty I looked after the day was done. It lacks how my muscles burned and knees bled on a particularly difficult route that I was determined to conquer. It lacks the way the trail mix tasted, the sound of laughter and struggle, or my awe of the quiet boy who could climb despite the uselessness of his left thumb and index finger. The representation via Facebook is at best un-poetic. At worst, it offensively diminishes the human being, and we click “Post” without blinking.

However, people (I) will continue to use Facebook because it is not completely evil and does provide beneficial resources. Because our world is fast-paced, we have adapted by creating fast methods of communication, and Facebook triumphs as one of the best forms of quick mass communication. Events can be configured and spread quickly to a lot of people, a productive venue for social coordination (an extreme example being a revolution that caught fire via Facebook). But the Facebook insult still remains. Perhaps a place to start is to refuse let a virtual profile tell us who we are. Then, maybe we will start realizing that status-updating and picture-posting for every activity is not an important part of our lives. Finally, I suppose I could get off the instant messenger and call my friend on the phone to ask him if he wants to go on a hike this weekend and catch up.

A wise post by Josh Dies regarding the response of Christians to art and “secular” media. Essentially a modern-day Pauline letter to the Corinthians. Please take the time to read this.

Joshua S. Porter

6499One topic that’s continued to surface for the past decade or so among Showbread fans is how the Jesus-follower appropriately deals with the “secular” arts, particularly the entertainment industry and content some might deem offensive. That the questions surrounding the topic are so often raised by Jesus-followers makes perfect sense, as does the fact that Showbread has so regularly been involved in the conversation. Since the band’s formation, non-Christian artists have been oft-cited as major influences, and the 2004 track “Welcome to Plainfield Tobe Hooper” deals (albeit ambiguously) with the Jesus-follower’s relationship to secular media.

The threshold of conviction

Among evangelical Christians, there are a wealth of cultural taboos, some of which remain consistent among Westerners: Alcohol, profanity, R-rated movies, etc. Some evangelicals consider the casual consumption of alcohol inoffensive and even advantageous for purposes of evangelism. Others, like myself, acknowledge that there is nothing inherently sinful about alcohol, but…

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Backpacking: a different paradigm

There’s a big difference between backpacking and hiking.

Hiking–dayhiking–is essentially sightseeing that gives you a sweat. Great fun, refreshing and perhaps challenging at times–and you go home at the end of the day and have a nice meal and sleep in your bed.

Backpacking, on the other hand, is hiking and camping all rolled into one and then some. You put everything you are going to live on for the next few days or weeks on your back and start trodding a landscape where there is no one.552

So as you are in the environment you are walking through, you become a part of it. When you roll out your sleeping bag under the sky, that patch of ground and wild brush becomes your temporary home. All you have is the most essential provisions to live in this place. And you begin to realize that this nature you have stepped into is not under your control, and all it will give you is brutal honesty–the honesty that what you see in this wilderness is what you get, and you must make the best of it in the way you know how.

When you’re backpacking, you realize that mother nature, as beautiful as she is, could kill you whenever she well pleased.

So you let the humility of your situation sink in–because as often as not, the animals and sky and trees are going to let you live (though you still might have freezing feet at night), and we have invented portable water purifying systems. Because you are permitted to live and adventure as you have hoped, gratitude and awe and perhaps respect begins to well up a subtle fondness, and then love, for the place you are in. This is when you begin to understand how something can be beautiful and terrible at the same time.

Hiking is a good way to find adventure. Backpacking will change your life.