Archive for April, 2008

Ninety Percent of Music

Friday, April 25th, 2008

I was talking to God about music this week. I listen to a lot of music, some of it new, some of it old, some of it really old. I’ve never been one of those people that say they don’t make any good music anymore, although there are times when I find it tempting.

The thing is that Sturgeon’s Law applies. Theodore Sturgeon, one of the greatest science fiction writer’s to ever put words on a page, famously coined the notion that ninety percent of everything is crud, and it applies to music as much as to anything. When I was younger, I somehow had more time to sift through looking for that ten percent that’s worthwhile, but not so much anymore. Now God made a point of telling me that my ten percent is not the same as someone else’s ten percent. In music, possibly even more than in most art forms, there’s a lot of room for personal quirks of taste. But even allowing for that it just seems to me that there’s a lot of stuff that comes out that really no one should consider good, but it still sells.

After thinking about that for a minute, God told me that for a lot of people it’s more important that it be new than that it be good. It’s not that they don’t care if it’s good, they’d certainly prefer that everything new was good, but not everyone listens to music the way that I do. I tend to soak up music not like a sponge, but like a tree. I need the music to soak into my ground first before I start taking it into my soul. I put music on in the background and get familiar with it. Eventually, after I’ve listened to it a number of times, it’ll start to break through and I’ll start to really notice it. For a lot of music, that’s the point where I’ll decide that it’s neither here nor there, it’s music that I don’t mind listening to, but I’m not going to seek it out. For other music, it’ll have grown on me and I’ll start to pay attention to it. And some music, by the time I notice it, it’s because it’s started to annoy me.

Now that being how I listen to music, I want the music to be good. But some people, some people listen to the music, maybe not necessarily more consciously but more actively. For those people, they get in just a few listens everything they’re going to get out of it. They don’t need to keep listening to it, looking for angles and facets that they didn’t notice before. They need new music if they’re going to find anything new and the journey is more important than the destination, so for them, new is more important than good.

Of course, some people just put on music because it’s fashionable, they have no real taste of their own, they just want to listen to something and anything will do. For those people ninety percent of everything is just fine. Not that they won’t deny that, with every bone in their body.

Care Packages

Friday, April 18th, 2008

When people talk about the “God of Abraham” they’re usually doing it to point out that there’s really a lot in common between the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. They point this out to try and say, for instance, that these three religions are like the three leaves on a stem of poison oak, separate but still together, still part of the same whole.

This, of course, ignores the many further subdivisions that these religions break down into; for instance, the bickering between Catholics, Protestants, Episcopalians and Baptists, on the Christian leaf; or between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jewish denominations; or Sunni and Shiite Muslims. When you really start to look at it, there’s not three religions that worship the “God of Abraham” but dozens or hundreds.

So why did their God let this happen? Why did their God let them put conflicting words into his mouth? Why does he let religions offer competing “truths?” Could it be that he just doesn’t care, doesn’t care about religion?

Or could it be that short of actually physically revealing himself to every person on the planet there’d still be plenty of charlatans and con men willing to trade their own made-up relationship with God for a chance to wield power over their fellow humans?

I kept meaning to ask God about all that this week, but somehow he was never around when I thought about it.

Give It a Rest

Friday, April 11th, 2008

God was pointing out to me this week that somewhere along the way most Christian nations switched from holding their weekly religious services on Saturday to holding them on Sunday. He tells me that this was actually partly in response to some prompting from him.

How come? Well, the reason apparently has to do with the work week and with praying. If you’ll recall, according to the Biblical myth of creation, God created the universe in seven days and that’s why weeks are seven days long. Or more precisely, God created the universe in six days and then rested for a day. This presupposes that the seven day week that had been around much earlier than the Bible had come out of the same event if not necessarily the same telling.

Anyway, God had developed the habit of working for six days and then resting for one. Being made in his image, we took whatever chances we could to do the same; although you’ll note that not being gods ourselves that we tend to want a little more rest than just one day out of every seven. Now being that the seventh day, the very day that God wanted to rest, was the day that so many religions were pushing for everyone to pray and otherwise clamor for God’s attention, he decided to do a little pushing back and get at least some of us to switch to Sunday.

So the next time you rush off to church on Sunday morning and it seems like you’re not really getting much attention from the big guy, just remember that it’s the Monday of his work week, he’s still getting back into the work mode and maybe even has something of a hangover from “resting” a little too hard on his day off.

Miracle Realism

Friday, April 4th, 2008

I’ve talked with God before about the problem some fundamentalists have with magic, how they think that it’s the devil’s work but that miracles are different. We talked some more about it this week and I think I’ve hit upon the difference, the thing that qualitatively separates miracles and magic.

The big picture distinction is, well, miracles come from God and magic comes from anything else that’s sentient. Magic comes from humans and elves and fairies and leprechauns and so on. You might notice there that pretty much everything in that sentence is except humans is made up. There really aren’t elves and fairies and such, and there really isn’t magic. But if we ignore that magic is made up or just plain faked, we get down to the distinction being that magic comes from humans and miracles come from God.

Ah, but haven’t the saints all performed miracles? And so then, don’t miracles come from humans? Well, if you’re going to take that position then there’s no distinction I can find, a miracle is just magic and then the whole Christian mythos ceases to have anything to say on the matter.

So what is it that makes humans something other than just another animal, from a Christian point of view. It’s free will. God gave us souls so that we could exercise free will and be something more than just parts of her. So there’s the distinction, magic is an exercise of free will and miracles are an exercise of God’s will.

So are the Christians secretly opposed to free will? Looking at the politics that the Christian leaders support, there’s certainly evidence to support the notion but I hate to saddle all Christians with the baggage of their leaders. So, I’d just like to say, I’d like to see more people thinking for themselves, more people not blindly following what they’re told should be their faith. I think we’ve had enough miracles to get us by, but the world could use a little more magic.