Saturday, March 17, 2012

Meditation XVI -- Punctuation

But he would withdraw to desolate places to pray.

Jesus had healed a man of leprosy, and told him not to tell anyone. However, news of the healing spread so much and so quickly that Our Lord was inundated with people who wanted to listen to him and be healed of their own maladies.

But even during these times of busyness, Christ took time to get away from people and talk with the Father. One might get the impression that doing so was essential for his work. He told us he was here to do God's will; how else was He going to not only know, but live that will without spending time alone with the Father?

Too often I have looked at solitude and prayer as luxuries when I have been overwhelmed by the tasks that "must be done." Foolishly, I forget that prayer is essential for any spiritual person. Otherwise all work, even ministry, is futile. It is, as Saint Paul said, "beating the air."

Lord, nothing is as important as my relationship to You. Let not my work be punctuated by fits of prayer, but may prayer be paramount and my work be punctuation.

Music Notes -- Direction

Eddie Healy's Direction has emerged as one of my favorite recordings thus far this year, and I expect it to stay in my listening rotation for some time. Each crisply produced track was composed and adroitly performed by Healy himself, including duets, trios, and quartets as well as brilliant solo pieces. This is an album of sublime beauty and depth.

I am impressed with how nicely each song fits with others on this project. There is no drop is coherence when moving from a solo guitar work to a quartet. The three tunes composed for video games do not sound out of place among more "classical" pieces, a testament to Healy's compositional prowess and a demonstration that good music is at home anywhere. Yet each song is distinct and unique. Favorites include "Compulsion," "A Life of Consequence," "The Night Is A Rope," and the suite "The Path to Truth."

I don't know if it the titles or the tone of these works, but I find Direction to be quite spiritual. Many of the songs are reflective and/or majestic. There is a communion of sorts here, certainly between listener and the artist, but also between the music and the universe it brightens. Like some of the best instrumental music, these songs sound much like open prayers. This is not to say they are religious. They are better than that. Direction appeals not to our sense of belief or dogma, but to the oft neglected part of our souls, that is most awakened when we encounter beauty. This isn't pleasant music to augment meditation (though many pieces could be used as such), but instead music that causes one to pause, to stop what busies us and gather ourselves in.

You can listen to pieces from Direction and buy the album at ReverbNation

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Bookmarks -- Calico Joe

Redemption and family are two themes in John Grisham's novels, and we certainly have both here. One story in Calico Joe involves a bitter, aging pitcher and the rising star whose career is ruined with one beanball. The other involves the same bitter man and his failure as a father. The story moves between first person and third and back in forth in time, between the son and his trip to see his dying father and the events leading up to the awful game. This can be a little confusing, but I got used to it pretty quickly. (I never did get quite used to the verb tense shifts though.)

On certainly does not have to be a baseball fan to appreciate the history of the game, which Grisham clearly knows and loves, or to enjoy reading about these people. The narrator is as interesting a character as the title character, Warren Tracy, and Clarence Rook, though not as dynamic as one might expect. But that is not necessarily a flaw. Sometimes a novel's best message is in what it doesn't say, not it what is beat over our heads.

I fully expect this book to be made into a movie, and when it is, I hope it is handled by a bright and creative director instead of getting turned into a Hallmark presentation. Otherwise much of the real grit of the issues addressed in Calico Joe are likely to be lost, and that would be a shame.

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Bookmarks -- Prime Directive

Bryan Dietrich's Prime Directive is a moving elegy is the truest sense. The book length poem is about mourning, not only of a father, but a father's mind, and of a world that crumbles around one during loss. Wrapped with the myth of Star Trek, this book provides a fascinating journey. Dietrich covers, of course, life and death, but also deftly handles the ideas and ideals one wrestles with when one encounters one's own mortality.

My own father and step-father passed away, three months apart, and I recall that as a part of the grief process, I came to one of those startling realizations of the obvious. When a man's father dies, a man "finds out" that he is going to die too. It is one of those things we know, but ignore so long that it is as if we do not know. Dietrich's poem wrestles with this idea, and many others.

For those that might worry that Prime Directive is a poem with the usual dense poetic language and references to a television show readers are not familiar with, be still. One does not have to be a Trekkie or Trekker, or have a doctorate in ancient mythology to understand what is happening. Familiarity with these helped to enrich the experience for me, but I don't believe it is necessary. Dietrich provides a first rate essay at the end of the book, "Star Trek as Myth," which is a terrific companion for the verse. It does give the reader some insight into the poem, but as I said, it stands alone just fine.

Full disclosure: Bryan is a friend of mine from graduate school. But I can easily say that had I never known him and I came across Prime Directive, I would still think of the poem as a modern In Memoriam.