Thursday, November 5, 2015

Nothing is Sound, Fading West, and Good-bye for Now...

I feel it appropriate to end this blog with a post about Switchfoot. Their albums have been a part of my life for the past ten years and (at least in my opinion) tell of why I'm closing this blog out. So sit tight, I've got one last story for this blog before I stop posting on it regularly.

The story starts with a 16 year old kid, who had been forced to go back into highschool. He hated the idea: he'd done large schools before and they all seemed to end up with him being on the outskirts, hated for having the audacity to be himself.  He was done with groups of people, and probably people in general. But at the command of his parish priest his parents put him back into the highschool system. And he hated it. The kids were shallow and cruel still, but he found friends anyway. He  didn't really fit into any of the cliques, but found himself being friends with people from all over the school: cheerleaders, jocks, nerds, outcasts, and the legimitaley crazy. His temper was horrible: most people thougth he was on drugs and didn't want whatever they thought he was on.

But he had fun his first (and junior) year of highschool. Life was better with people in it, even if he couldn't stand most of them on a good day when the sun shone and he was happy as he was ever going to be. He found some Christians who he didn't outright despise and hung out with them as well and was astounded to find out that he was liked. He could be as weird as he wanted and people didn't seem to mind. For whatever reason they found him and his deathly serious view of life hilarious, which helped him let go just a little bit. He also had found a good friend; someone who was troubled too but just showed it a different way. The two of them hung out a lot, much to the confusion of the rest of the school, but they had a good time talking religion, DnD, and Magic.  Life was good, if a bit challenging at times: this friend had gotten himself into the occult and dragged everyone around him into a vortex of demonic activity, forcing the kid to learn more about the demonic world in a year than most people would find out first hand in a lifetime. In his journey that year he also met people who had sold their souls to the devil, said good-bye to their guardian angels, and were sad that they had done so. But it wasn't just darkness: there was nights of DnD and Bible study and way too much caffeine and so much more.

That all ended senior year. The friend's parents divorced and the friend, the one who stuck up for both sides, was screwed over by both sides for refusing to take a side. The kid watched and tried to do what he could, but couldn't stop his friend from going into places he couldn't follow. He would be woken up at all hours of the night as his friend came to crash and go goodness knows where, only to come back with bruises and sealed lips. At the same time his own paretns started having trouble as well, and the boy found out much more than he ever needed to about his parents, good and bad. And, somewhere in there most of his friends from junior year graduated and left him with a group that didn't know or care about him, who disapproved of his choice of friends outside of their circle, and thought there was no point in talking to him without conformity. At the same time the boy was trying out iconography, and finding that he wanted to be a different kind of artist than he originally thought.

And that's when the kid got lyme's disease again. While he'd had it as a kid this time was much harder, since it exacerbated a slight allergy to dairy and eggs that he didn't know he even had, throwing him into a cloud of confusion and pain that he had no idea how to end. Most days the boy was unable to sleep until 2 or 3 in the morning, and thus came to class as early as noon to try and make up the difference. He was exhausted, stretched, and overwhelmed.  The confusion and pain were so bad some days that the boy started to doubt he was in the real world anymore. There are three reasons why this kid didn't give up and fade. The first is that the kid didn't stop praying and made his Eastern Christian faith the bedrock of a world that otherwise was constantly shifting and becoming more confusing. He prayed and wrote as many icons as he could, churning out icons as fast as he could make them. The second reason was his discovery of the show Firefly. Something about the show convinced the kid that maybe, if he just kept plowing through it, it would all make sense somehow.

But the third reason was definitely the Switchfoot album "Nothing is Sound". The kid had listened to the rest of Switchfoot's discography and liked it, but something about "Nothing is Sound" clicked. I'm not sure what it was, but somewhere between Lonely Nation and Stars I had realized this was the album for me. The rest of the album was just confirmation of what I knew: Jon Foreman had stated what I had always believed in twelve tracks. Life sucked but was worth it, even if I didn't understand what the heck was going on. Which was most days, since the lyme's had woken up a dairy and eggs allergy from hell that caused horrendous headaches, paranoia, and depression. So most days were spent in a horrible fog that lasted for well over five years. "Nothing is Sound" was the album I would just put on repeat in my headphones and listen to it literally all day long, using it as a grounding mechanism.

College was the fallout, because I had no idea that what was going on was chemical, as opposed to just a component of the lyme's disease. It got so bad that eventually I stopped thinking that I was even awake anymore. Fortunately someone finally suggested that I cut certain foods out of my diet to see if the depression and paranoia was being caused by an outside. I listened and for the first time in five years I could think clearly. The world finally began to feel stable in my beleaguered head, and I began to do more than just survive.

But what does more than surviving mean? It's six years later and I still don't entirely know. You'd think I would have figured it out by now, right? And, to a certain degree, I have. All the things that I'd believed during those five years of chemical imbalance are still true. The world is ultimately a doomed place. We can't save it. Trying to do so will just drive us nuts, because the world is permanently broken. But there's a new world coming, one where the right things will happen and we'll finally find peace as a race. I believed it then as the desperate hope of a man who couldn't do much else but try. I believe it now as a man who knows it can happen, he just can't be the principle architect of it.

During this time I continued listening to Switchfoot, but I'd changed, and for the next few albums I felt removed. Don't get me wrong, the albums are good, but it wasn't "Nothing is Sound". And even that album didn't really connect with me the way it used to. How could it? The desperation that had driven me to those place in my mind was gone, and no one in their right mind just seeks out suffering in order to understand how the world works. "Where I Belong", on the album "Vice Verses", was the closest thing I'd gotten to actually synching up with the band in a very long time, but the album itself (while it's Switchfoot's best full length album) just didn't do it.

Then "Edge of the Earth" released, and it clicked. Finally, after ten years, I could own what was being said again. It's only seven tracks long, but if anyone were to hold a gun to my head and tell me to say what album summed up my beliefs about the world, I'd pick this album without hesitation.

At 27 I'm finally starting to calm down. The desperation that was present for most of my life is now gone, replaced by a determination to make it all make sense. At 27 I find that I have a tired soul. My wife and child are making me younger again every day, but for the moment I'm tired. The almost suicidal wish to go to Heaven so I could finally rest has been replaced by a need to see everything be made right. The blind need to see, the lame should walk, the jaded need to believe again. I want to go home. It's hard to say why I believe Heaven exists, but I can feel that it does. It's not wishful thinking or denial. I know there is a place beyond this one where suffering is non-existent, where all the tears are wiped away, and where we finally forgive each other for all the horrible things we've done to each other.

And that's what this album is about: fading into the sunset, walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, yearning for our actual home. This world sure ain't it, that's for sure. It's hard to sum up this album for me, especially since I haven't been listening to it all that long but, as I listen to it, I find that something has ended for me. Something has changed. As I look at the sunset that is my life I realize that I've had my back to the sun this whole time, watching the things running behind me, when I should have been running towards that setting sun like a bat out of hell, refusingo to stop running for even a second. After ten long years I can finally say it: I'm happier than I ever knew possible, and I'm just getting started. Maria and Micah and who knows who else are my traveling companions in a pilgrimage across time as we look for that beautiful moment when time, which is only the measure of change, will finally end, and we'll find ourselves, broken and bruised, finally being mended by a God that we've known our entire lives, even though we'll never understand Him.

I'd like to take this moment to thank you all for reading this blog. It was an attempt to capture who I am in a mirror so I could look at myself and figure out who I really am, who God is. I put everything I'm interested in in a shotgun and shot it out, week after week and year after year, trying to see what sticks. I've figured that out now. I'm still going to write, but The Kitchen Sink has served it's purpose, and so I must bid it good-bye. For all of you who read this blog, thank you so much for reading my thoughts! It's been a privilege and an honor to put my thoughts on the web.

For those of you who liked my stuff on RPGs and geekery: I'll still be doing that, but I'm not entirely sure what form that will look like. I'll link here on the blog when I know for certain where it's going to transition to.

For those of you who like my theological articles and such: I've reactivated my Pilgrim Studios blog, which is even now starting posts! I'll be putting up my iconography and discussing theological and spiritual stuff in the Eastern Christian tradition.

I would like to dedicate this blog to Switchfoot (geeky and stalker-ish as it sounds): y'all were the one who taught me that art was soul archeology. I'll never forget that. Thank you.

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