Weekly Musings #8 Reflections on the 23rd Birthday

Birthdays are the best days of the year. It is a great time to celebrate and reflect on your life and share the joys of being alive with the ones you care about most. I have the greatest privilege of being able to see my 23rd birthday. After making 23 trips around the sun, I have made a couple of reflections and observations on my life, and I would like to share some of them with you all.

1. I have been blessed by a mighty God in more ways than I can imagine.

A feeling of thankfulness overflows me as I get older. I look back at the choices I made, the company I keep, and the great privilege that I am fortunate and thankful to have. I am blessed with a loving family. I am pursuing my life’s ambition of being a successful composer. I am also finding my place in a little state called Iowa. I am also thankful for those who helped me get to where I am today.

2. This is the first birthday without my Dad.

This is important to note because it was a tradition that my dad would always call me first thing in the morning to wish me a happy birthday. This is special for me because I did not have the opportunity to grow up with my dad but I visited him whenever I could. It was always the best way to start my day hearing his voice calling me so early in the morning. so it is a new experience of having a birthday where my dad can no longer call me. I am truly thankful though for what is still here. I still have my brother, mother, grandmother, stepfather, uncle, aunt, and cousins who are apart of my life enough to wish me a happy birthday.

3. I always liked that my birthday is closer to the beginning of the year.

It makes a great place marker for not only reflecting but also a chance to look forward to an entire year of opportunity, freedom, and another day to pursue happiness. If I had more sense I would write down the important events of my life and look back at what happened the previous year so I could always remember and share my stories even if I am physically unable. Thank you, FaceBook, WordPress, Twitter, and Instagram for actually making this task relatively easy. I don’t know but there is something about the beginning of the year where it is easier to reflect on life than it is at other points of the year.

TL: DR Birthdays are awesome.  My Birthday is the best birthday because it belongs to me. (also anyone else who was born on this day.) *cough* Mozart *cough* I am thankful that I get to see another year and I look forward to going around the sun one more time if it is God’s will.

Weekly Musings #7 Real Hidden Racism

 a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race

This Webster definition of racism should be looked at quite carefully because there is a hidden and undiscussed condition of race relations in America.  One amendment that I would make in this definition is not just the superiority of a race but also of a inferiority of a particular race.  With this amendment and the belief that racism is never able to be rationalized or justified.  I am writing about this because I believe there are two things that are missed when we discuss racial harmony in America. Pandering,

  • Pandering or giving preferential options to a particular race is extremely racist, bigoted, and evil.

When you pander or give special treatment to people based solely on their race, then you are telling that race, that they are unable to succeed without your help. This says that a race is not self-sufficient, hard-working, or that life is too hard for them to achieve the American Dream through efforts of the community of people.  I say that politicians or political platforms that appeal to a group of people with promises of special treatment, or through ‘diversity programs’ are racist because they believe that if a group of people doesn’t have these ‘diversity programs’ the race or group of people cannot succeed. People only pander to people feel superior tend to pander to those who are inferior and if that pandering is directed to a particular race, then it is racist.

  • Making Conclusions about an individual’s belief or values based solely on their appearances is evil and there is no justification whatsoever.

It is racist and bigoted to assume that an individual must think or believe certain things to be a part of a particular race. Your beliefs and values are not predicated on what you look like. An individual is never a group. But this does not matter in a collectivist worldview.  In collectivism and all of its sub-divisions, the individual is subjective to the will of the group. This means that if an individual is not lock-step with a particular group then that individual is ostracized. This is the breeding ground for racist collectivism. It prevents people from seeing individuals as a separate from a specific characteristic. (in this case race) This is seen today most absurdly within American politics in the context of identity politics. This means that a particular individual’s race is more important than the character of an individual. When this happens, it becomes harder for people to see each other as individuals and that breeds the horrendous nature of racism. Identity politics always creates an “us vs. them” scenario.

 

Let’s begin a real conversation about racism in America.  One that doesn’t focus on race as the most important thing.

TL: DR Pandering and making assumptions about an individual based on a group is racist, toxic, and should not be tolerated if we are truly going to talk about race in America.

Weekly Musings No. 6 Happy New Years. Death to the School Mentality

As a composer, I am often hit with this desire to neglect the idea of a steady pace but pursue with a rush last minute mentality.  I can’t speak for other disciplines and skills but I find myself thinking, “it won’t take that long. I can get it done in a couple of hours, or at most three days.” Most times this works, with varying degrees of success. But I find it to be a real challenge to be focused throughout the entire process of music creation, from idea to well-crafted masterpiece.  This is especially true when I start with a blank canvas.  So I guess if I were to make a New Year’s Plan, it would be to get out of what I call the school mentality.

The school mentality is the belief that any project has to be completed no later than four months. This project could be term papers, portfolios, and of course music composition.  Admittedly, four months is a long time however, the problem arises when you are placed in a non-school setting. In school, you are there to learn how to do things and hopefully learn to think critically, you’re time can be divested almost solely on your project, with other classes on top of those. This is a great thing, focusing on developing a skill or craft with goals and deadlines. When out of school, your perceived sense of time is altered in a way that drastically different from reality.  I don’t know if this is true in other disciplines, but in the Fine Arts, time can easily be distorted.

For example, In four months I have to have at least one well-thought composition definitive of my skills currently, on top of my other responsibilities. This is good for when you are learning about pacing and managing the time you have. After spending years learning how to manage a four-month deadline, it becomes difficult to think beyond four-month completion cycles. This makes it daunting to perceive a reality where after school there is not a hard deadline. Projects could take eight months or even up to three years. You have a life filled with deadlines that entrepreneurs, musicians, composers, and artists have to often time create for themselves. I find this disconcerting at times. It means that life does not have to be lived semesterly cycles. It means that my time management skills if I learned or developed any, has to make adjustments for a 100k marathon instead of the 5k or even 10k marathon.

I still have one and a half years to make this transition from the boxed in school mentality, but it makes it difficult to imagine how to conceive of a time where there are not the constraints of school. This is especially true if you been in a school since the age of five. My major goal for 2018 is to learn how to think outside of school and increase my compacity to be able to create my own deadlines and learn how to live a post-school life while still being in school.

TL : DR School Life and Real Life have two completely different time-worlds. When I think about writing music It is difficult to imagine a time where I am writing music outside of school. My goal for 2018 is to be able to conceive an idea of what life is like after school while still in school.

Weekly Musings #5 Watch Night-A Cherished Tradition

It is that time of the year again. It is the end of a year and the eve of a new year. This time is filled with partying, remembering, and making Best of, Worst of, and Rewinds of the year. I, however, have a long-standing tradition around this time. On December 31st, I always attend a unique church service in the African-American community called Watch Night. Sadly, this will be the first time that I will have missed Watch Night. So I thought it would be great to share the meaning of this special tradition with you all.

 

Watch Night is a church service held by most denominations of the African-American church community. This occasion commemorates the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln that was to be made effective on January 1, 1863. This would effectively free the slaves in the Confederacy and allow them to join the Union if the Union forces won the war. The problem for the slaves as they were not sure that Lincoln would commit to his proclamation and would back out so, on December 31, 1862, the slaves gathered to watch and pray that God would allow Lincoln to stay the course and follow through on the proclamation. Today this event is remembered in the African-American community by meeting around 9:00 or 10:00 pm on New Year’s eve and usher in the New Year. This service fills the community with a sense of hope, renewal, and strength for the new year.

 

Watch Night is important not only because it commemorates the hope for God’s use of Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, but it is also important as a means to give thanks to God for the year that has passed and to pray for a brighter tomorrow for the future. It is the most sacred and unique traditions observed explicitly by the African-American community. Further, this occasion is used to honor and remember those who died and could not see the dawn of the new year. It is the most celebrated unifying tradition that weights to unify a community.

 

As with traditions, there are those who do not care, think its old-fashioned or unnecessary, or at best make sure to leave their party and be at a church by midnight, then return to the party. I was made to go as a kid. I didn’t understand the significance at the time, but there was never an option for me not to go. I did not want to go until I started playing saxophone with my church band. As I attended more and more, I came to understand the weight and importance of Watch Night, and I have supported ever since. I felt that a service honoring God for his works in the past and praying for a more free year is the best way to spend New Year’s Eve. Also, the breakfast afterward is always good.

 

TL: DR Watch Night commemorates the eve of the Emancipation Proclamation by watching and praying for the New Year. It is a long-standing tradition in the African American community. It is a great time to observe all that is happened this year and to look forward to the year that is to come giving God all the glory.

Weekly Musings 4: Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!!! We are almost at the end of the year, and I am just getting started with this blog. Thank you for starting with me on this journey so far, and I hope to see you in 2018. I am excited about the future, and I wanted to share with you three brief thoughts on the true meaning of Christmas.

Thought No. 1, This is the day we observe the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. This birth is special because this child was born of a virgin, but even more critical is the humble beginnings of Jesus’ birth. The Son of the God who created the entire universe and everything that is in it gave up his position of power and authority and lived the life of a mortal human from birth to death. This was done so that through his perfect sacrifice humanity would be made whole and right with God.  Thus, God gave mankind the greatest gift ever.

Thought No. 2, Christmas is the time to celebrate the joy that is found in Jesus Christ and how he changed the course of human history. This celebration could be seen in many different forms. This could be telling the story that surrounds his birth,  being together with those you hold close, remember and honor those that have passed away, and even sharing gifts with one another while partaking in your favorite holiday traditions. It is important always to remember that the reason we can laugh, share, and sing on this special day is due to the gift that is Jesus Christ.

Thought No. 3, It is a time for me to be thankful for all the gifts God has given me. The gift of passion for creating music, the gift of family, friends, and the time to say thank you, the gift of opportunities that were afforded me, and the freedoms that people before me gave their lives to secure. I am also thankful for you for reading this blog and being with me thus far. It means so much more than you could ever know and I thank God for you.

TL: DR The true meaning of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and celebrating the importance of his coming to save humanity. I take this time to celebrate the joy that Christ brings to all mankind, and I am thankful for all that he has done for me. I also thank you for being with me this year.

Weekly Musings # 2 Because I am a Composer, America Must be Good

I believe that the United States is the best place to be a composer and a musician. Despite the flaws and imperfections of the US, its robust value of the First Amendment, its open-market for music consumption, and the cosmopolitan nature of musical heritage are all privileges found here. This means that the music I write can be free from government intervention and I can also take advantage of the wealth of resources available in my backyard for an inspiration of the next great innovation in music composition.

The First Amendment, specifically the aspect of freedom of expression, is vital to the composer. This is because when the Amendment is appropriately followed, I have the freedom to express my innovation, ideas, and songs in any way that I wish. Of course, there is a danger for misuse of this freedom, but more often than not, the most significant innovations in music composition come from the freedom to explore without fear of backlash or favoritism of other music from a governing power. My music is beholden only to people who listen to it of their volition. That means my music is free to be dynamic, to grow and change, I am not bound to a particular way of thinking about and writing music. I don’t like being told what to do, so when I am free to take responsibility and have control over my music, then that is an excellent thing.

The freedom I have in America to write whatever I want is also combined with a free market of music consumption that allows individuals to choose the music they like.This means I can’t force anybody to listen and purchase a particular type of music over another. Because of this, there is a competition where only the best or most faithful to a specific style survives. I believe that this open nature is why the United States dominates in the music industry. This free market destroys most barriers to entry. No matter who you are or what you believe, good music is still good music, and no outside force can permanently stifle it in the United States.

Finally, because I live in America, I am truly privileged to enjoy the richly diverse musical heritage that embraces the United States and freely incorporate it into my music. You obviously have the diverse European traditions and the robust African-American traditions, but there is also a world of other cultures that have at least historical music value that can inspire the next masterpiece. Sure there is the internet to do research, but to witness authentic cultural traditions live; I do not have to leave my home country (unless I really, really want to).

 

TL: DR The United States is the best place to be a composer because I am free to write anything that my head and heart desire, for the exact people that are interested in it and to learn so much from my backyard.

 

The Call for True Open-mindedness for the Hope of Intellectual Honesty and Discourse

In various interactions with friends, acquaintances, and speakers, I have often listened to people’s desire to be more open-minded and understanding of others’ differing perspectives. It is often said to be an easy thing to do or “common sense.” In my experience, this value tends not to be the norm, but the exception. Why is it a quality so hard to find in many mediums of discourse? To make matters even more baffling for my brain, it seems to me that those who claim open-mindedness often do not exhibit the traits or actions that would fit the definition (or my understanding) of an open mind. The individual truly possessing the trait would not close off the mind to ideas that are different than their own (e.g. covering ears, shouting, or firm dismissal). He or she would not attack the character of a person who supports an idea contradictory to his or her belief system. An open-minded person is intellectually honest, promotes civil discourse, and can understand that the beliefs they value may be inconsistent or not fully developed in light of new experiences and knowledge. An open-minded person would not hate or distance themselves from those who think or believe differently. If most people were accepting, then the state of intellectual discourse in America, fake news, thought-policing, and misrepresentation of information would not be the norm, but the exception.

 

An intellectually honest person would be able to be truly open-minded. In short, intellectual honesty is the ability to stand by one’s beliefs and values and hold them to logical conclusions and assumptions. The type of person with this trait would be someone who can see how influences and experiences inform thinking and rationalizations. He or she would also be able to understand that biases may not be the truth or complete truth and are willing to evaluate values to form a complete understanding after consideration.

 

The purpose of this article is to encourage or challenge people to be truly open-minded and to help foster a culture that promotes discourse and intellectual honesty. To do this, I ask the following questions that I think that an open-minded person would ask themselves. It is not an easy thing to do. It is hard. It is easy to believe that you are right. It is scary to find yourself to be incorrect. It is triggering. It can offend what you feel to be true. But it is a significant endeavor that one cannot ignore. This effort requires “taking the road less traveled by.”

 

Do I know what I believe and why I believe it?

 

This question is important for obvious reasons, but it is important because if I can’t articulate my beliefs and why I think what I think, then it would be hard for people to understand my thought process. It gives me a foundation for discourse and a filter to analyze messages.

 

Have I ever questioned how my experiences and worldview inform my beliefs?

 

This level of introspection is necessary because it helps to affirm or challenge my personal views. It is important to doubt the foundation my beliefs, because it creates within me a hunger to prove or validate my opinions and be made sure in my convictions.

 

Can I admit that I do not have all the answers and that I am not an expert on everything?

 

This level of humility is vital because it is a recognition that I am human. Admitting this to myself and others in discourse is not a sign of weakness or losing. It is a sign of internal strength and honesty that should be valued. It can also fuel my desire to strive to know more.

 

Do I research the information that people share and form my conclusions based on the sources and evidence provided?

 

This question is important to ask because I should not believe everything that someone says. It also means that I should not shut out everything that someone says. It takes real maturity for me to listen to a message and form my conclusion about the facts and evidence presented.

 

Am I truly open-minded? If not, can I admit to myself that I might be closed-minded about certain issues?

 

Based on the title of this article, it is a hard question to validate, but it is ok for me to be close-minded. It is not ok to admit that I am never close-minded. Being close-minded in a healthy informed way is possible after I have understood the complexity and nuances of a particular issue and formed my concise opinion. It does not mean I can’t listen; it means that I can judge if an opinion is valid or not and make an informed choice not to consider it.

 

Am I willing to admit that there is merit to the ideas of the person with whom I am discoursing?

 

Every person has their own experiences that shape their view of the world. It is important for me to remember that I can learn from other people’s experiences. It does not mean that I have to believe that their experience of the world is truer than my own, but it means that I should be willing to learn about their experiences and how my understanding of the world relates to theirs. (Hopefully, this works in the reverse as well).

 

Am I willing to admit that I may be wrong or unsure of my belief system?

 

This question is the hardest question for me personally. It is ok for me to affirm this question. It is not a statement that says I am a bad or evil person. It is a statement that I am a growing, learning person, who seeks after knowledge. This question challenges the very core of who I am and how I answered the first question. By answering this question, I have an intellectual obligation to respond to myself and others involved in discourse. I could respond by denial, admission, or research to evaluate my belief system based on evidence provided and form a new conclusion.

 

These and related questions are the hallmarks of an open-minded person. An open-minded person is reflective and willing to say “I don’t know”. He or she believes that saying “I don’t know” or “I am not sure” is not an admission that his or her beliefs are inherently invalidated, but that he or she needs to reflect on how this new knowledge can inform the values that the open minded person holds dear. They would welcome the opportunity to say “I don’t know” or “I never thought about it that way”. These assessments should be encouraged not vilified or discouraged. Remembering these forms of self-reflecting questions can aid in the free, uninterrupted discourse between two different ideas that are discussed or posited. To avoid asking myself these questions will make me an accomplice in subverting intellectual discourse in mainstream society.