love wins

I have never lost a close friend or relative, so I don’t feel qualified to comment on the grief that is instilled into the hearts of those who have. However, there is a grief that is stirred in anyone who hears stories like those that have arisen from Newton, Connecticut, or Clackamas, Oregon, or Aurora, Colorado. This resonating grief is common to every person. With it come confusion, anger, and a longing for peace and healing.

Bear with me as I reflect and stumble through some thoughts.

the Leonard Cohen concert

It is Day Two of a three-day weekend. On Friday night a friend and I bussed down to lower Queen Anne to watch Leonard Cohen play at the Key Arena. It was a fitting prelude to what has become the most sedentary few days of this year. Between paragraphs of All the Pretty Horses, I’ve stayed up late watching Doctor Who, played Halo 4 with my 3rd Hill brothers, absconded to a 24-hour breakfast joint, and listened to Christmas albums with friends while sharing the parts of our lives that need a Christmas the most. The skies begin to dim by at least 4:30 pm, making more than half of the day night. Veni, Domine Jesu.

After my friend and I exited the bus at our stop, picked up some Americanos at Caffe Zingaro, and browsed a wonderful used bookstore, we walked a couple blocks to the arena. A cloud of white hair had descended in front of it and was slowly being sucked in. My friend took a final drag of her cigarette and puffed out the smoke before we entered the cloud.

It wasn’t just old people. There were middle-aged people, a few other college students, and we even saw one young family with two kids that had to be under ten. After picking out our tour t-shirts—mine with a sketch of a very haggard looking Leonard, hers with a beautiful bird perched on a branch—we found our seats in the upper ring. Out came the man with his old school backing band, Sharon Robinson, and the Webb sisters. The speakers weren’t blasting like most concerts I’ve attended, and the audience was fairly dead (we clapped in time for one song and most people only sang along in the chorus of Hallelujah, when the sound technician kindly aimed the stage lights at us for a queue.) Continue reading


During a class discussion about Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, the question was asked, “How did a slow novel portraying a protestant minister in a good light win the Pulitzer prize?”  Gregory Wolfe, the professor, suggested that the sincerity of the novel left critics shocked.  He then spoke about the New Sincerity, which I had never heard about before.  It is the idea that a new wave of honesty and simplicity is on its way to replace the current irony, self-consciousness, and jadedness of our culture.

He cited Sufjan Stevens, Gilead, Arcade Fire, and folk-nuevo bands like Mumford and Sons that earnestly sing about things they care about.

This idea gave me a lot of hope and excitement for the future and my generation’s role in it.

opus one

Every day is a symphony.

The first movement opens with a shrill beepbeepbeepbeep beepbeepbeepbeep beepbeepbeepbeep, followed by the rustling of sheets, the rustling of clothes, a fountain, a flush, a backpack’s zipper, and the squeak of a door being closed slowly as to not awaken the roommate who woke up with the first beepbeepbeepbeep but is kind enough to pretend that he is still asleep.  Rubber-soled shoes squeak on linoleum and patter on stone.  The pattern of the patter is altered as staircases are descended.  A silent door is opened and for the first time a low murmuring of voices can be heard.

The tenor opens his mouth in a brief solo.

“Good morning.”

A lower voice responds.

“Good morning.”

Silverware jingles and plates clink.  A chair scraping against the floor marks the end of the first movement.  The soloist sits down to breakfast.

art songs

For Mom, on her birthday:

My mom told me that when she was pregnant with me I would kick her in time with the church organ.

My mom told me a story that I now tell anyone who will listen.  It is about me when I was a toddler.  I didn’t like being alone.  If I was bad, my parents would threaten to close the door during nap time.  This achieved its desired result because to me a closed door meant being cut off from the world.  During this stage of my life, Mum and Dad sang me to sleep every night after the Lord’s prayer and final bathroom run—which had various code names like “Ooka laka.” (Don’t ask.)  After this ritual, Mom often rested on the rug next to my bed until I fell asleep.  If she didn’t, I wouldn’t.

On this specific occasion, my mom thought I was asleep.  She got up and started to quietly leave the room.  I noticed and said, “Mommy, back to your mat!”  That was the last time Mommy slept on her mat.

But the singing didn’t stop.  I don’t even remember what my parents sang to me besides Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. There were a good number of hymns, like A Mighty Fortress is Our God, often sung in harmony.  I remember one non-hymn that Dad sang by himself.  It went: Continue reading

approaching saturation

“You Can Only Live Once” by the Strokes: the springs of 7th and 8th grade
The rest of  the album First Impressions of Earth by the Strokes: the winters of 9th and 10th grade
Supertramp and Abba: doing chores and making up dumb little dances with my sister in the old brick house in Manchester, NH.
How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb by U2: my family’s trip to Riviera Maya, Mexico for spring break of 7th grade.
“Fall Creek Boys Choir” by James Blake and Bon Iver: goofing off with my Blacber in our dorm room last year.
21 by Adele and the Ladder by Andrew Belle: Homework late at night during my senior year of high school.
the National: many things, mainly the more depressing parts of the last few years.
the Goat Rodeo Sessions: Mapping out essays on white boards with Brian last year.

Our brains link noise to memories.  For me, it has come to the point where most of the music I like is already claimed by a specific memory or feeling. “I’m sentimental if you know what I mean,” says Leonard Cohen in “Democracy,” but let’s not even go there.

X & Y by Coldplay: flying to Seattle for the first time.
The Silversun Pickups: turning any summer car ride into a joy ride through Western Michigan.

It used to be that I would just know what to listen to, but now, not always.  I need to start listening to new music.