Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sing. Sing a song.

A friend at church brought up a few weeks ago that hardly anyone ever sings with him during church. Now, we've only got 8 or 9 people at most on a Sunday, and one of those people has yet to speak her first words. But sometimes, I don't. Sometimes it's because I don't know the words. And sometimes it's because I know them far too well. I like to think that I take my poor experiences with big church and its young adult group in stride, but I never realize how much baggage I've got until those songs start playing. It's hard to describe the flood of emotions and memories of being parked in a room of people who have worked themselves into a feel-good state, and their faces are just glowing and I was on the outside of that. Even in the middle of people doing what worship is "supposed" to look like, after the first year of crushing loneliness, I couldn't tap into it anymore. I knew what I was, still a weirdo, still a tagalong. Except for the few close friends I made, I felt like I wasn't free to be myself, or even to show the pain I felt about it for fear of being dramatic.

Don't get me totally wrong; I'm a big believer in mystical worship, feeling the presence of God, and the overwhelming joy that goes along with that, and I wouldn't dare venture to say that any person in those big church worship times was just following through. But during those times, I could not speak the words of those songs and be honest. Despite living in a place called Trinity, I really don't believe in the Trinity, so singing about the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit feels like I'm lying.

But there are songs that break through that shell. Songs of honest sorrw and the hope of repair, songs where I can admit my faults and brokenness as a messed up human being are freeing to me.

On Doctor Who, the Doctor and Donna encounter the Ood, a race that's been enslaved and had their external brains, which allow them to communicate telepathically, connect with emotions, and SING, they have that cut off and replaced with a translator that gives them a pleasant and compliant voice until they plan their revolt. They can't even express their feelings about being slaves. In a holding cell, they find "unprocessed" Ood who still have their secondary brains. The Doctor can hear their painful, sorrowful song of slavery, but Donna can't until he opens her mind. When she hears it, she's so overwhelmed by the sadness that she asks him to take it away.

I identify with those kind of songs. I've never been a slave, but I love the honesty and hope of songs that throwback to the Israelites in Egypt or in the desert. At the end of that episode, the Ood give the Doctor and Donna their song to take with them, this time a song of freedom and the triumph of good. It has no words, but to me, it's a song that lifts my heart in hope like those church songs do for other people. It brings be tears of joy.

And sometimes it's not even that I've got baggage connected with a song, but I feel more like contemplating the words that day. I did spend a significant amount of time with some Quakers, you know.

I like singing. I wish I was better at it, but I'm mostly stuck with singing in the car or doing karaoke. I just hold my God-related song life close to my chest.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Project 50: January/February

I got behind on writing reviews right after I'd read the book, so I don't think these are my best. I'm hoping that moving into my new apartment with no cable will increase my reading time.


“Cosmos” by Carl Sagan
I just devoured the first half of this book. Sagan digs deep back into the history of science and pulls out all these fascinating events that brought humankind to its current knowledge of outer space. He takes breaks from the hard history and science to gush poetic admiration and wonder about the universe. And this book was written in 1985, just as the Space Shuttle Program was getting started. Nothing stood out to me as dated because c’mon, I’m not Carl Sagan, but imagine everything that we’ve learned in the twenty-some years about “out there” that he never knew. I’ll admit though, the book was pretty long, and with really tiny type, so I kind of wanted it to end sooner, but if you’re interested in space and have the stamina for a lot of science talk, I really recommend it. A

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: A Bad Beginning” by Lemony

Lemony Snickett warns you to put down the book, then launches into a small segment in the lives of three unfortunate siblings. He does it so well, though! I especially like how he stops every page or so and defines a word that one of the characters has used. I think it would be a great way to expand kids’ vocabularies. And to crush their souls until there’s no hope, but eh, what are you going to do? I also want to read a bunch of these because they're short and will get me to 50 books. I'm a cheater. A-

“Riding Rockets: The Outrageous Tales of a Space Shuttle
Astronaut” by Astronaut Mike Mullane

This is by far one of the best books that I’ve ever read. Mike Mullane was part of the first astronaut class of the Space Shuttle program. His story of NASA behind the scenes is hilarious and irreverent, starting with his determination to have the cleanest colon in his selection group, followed by adventures in peeing in radiators and admissions of guilt for being a sexist pig. It had me in
stitches, but also in tears, because Mullane’s friend and crewmate Judy Resnik
died in the Challenger disaster. I understood his drive to get into space at any cost, and appreciated that he saluted his poor wife’s absolute terror every time she had to go to the roof for a launch. He identified a lot of problems with the NASA administration that led to Shuttle accidents and a Survivor-esque workplace, and I felt the frustration with him. The book was 400 pages, and I was glad, because I didn’t want it to stop. Seriously, read it now! A+

“Doctor Who: Dreams of Empire” by Justin Richards

This book features the second doctor, who isn’t quite as wacky as the fourth, but he has his moments, like when he tries to cover up a security camera by climbing a wall and leaping into space to throw a handkerchief over it. The novel centers
around politics on a prison asteroid, chess, and a little bit of drawn out action with robots, so take that for what you will. There’s a twist at the end, but it kind of falls flat and I feel like I should have seen it coming anyways. B-

.. ......


“The Stargazing Year” by Charles Laird Calia
When a man who had grown up an amateur astronomer rediscovers his love for the stars his pocketbook and wife’s sanity suffer. That’s the basic message of this book, written month by month as Calia starts to build his own backyard
observatory. Given, there’s a nice bit of history around the production of telescopes through the ages, but I kind of felt like the author was trying to build himself up as an eccentric backyard astronomer in the company of people who had discovered comets and planets and stuff. B

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Reptile Room” by Lemony

Poor Uncle Monty! When you know that bad things are going to happen from the beginning of the book, and the author keeps telling you to give up hope, it’s kind of predictable. I can see where these books are headed, and I’m starting to wonder just how much a person can do variations on a theme of doom and gloom. There’s 13 of these absurdly curmudgeonly books to get through! Again, I liked it for what it was, and it kept me smirking. A-

“A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Wide Window” by Lemony
I liked this one a little less than the one before for its drawn out detective work. The Baudelaires are supposed to get the clues right away, but there’s a lot of them sitting around and pondering how to point the finger at Count Olaf and be heard. Poor kids. B