Season of thanks: Music

I went to a jazz concert tonight.  I hate jazz.  (I had great company so it was definitely worth it.)  But I went with an open mind.  I have to respect the talent of the musicians.  But the music felt subpar.  I’m used to crisp harmonies that lock without wavering.  But jazz seems to care little about that.  The tendency was to display as much musicality in the moment as possible without as much thought to whether the others will be able to follow or support.  In the end it sounds kinda sloppy to me.

Not that I really have that good of an ear.  But that’s what it sounded like to me.  But after sitting through an entire vocal jazz concert, I can respect the influence the genre has on other forms of music that I like more.

I’ve blogged about music before.  Some things should be reiterated.  Music can open us to or close us off from spiritual influences.  If we want inspiration, we have to choose good music.  The most important thing for me is to listen to music I enjoy and can sing along too (mostly in my car, but sometimes not :) ).  Music can be a source of strength to those who need it.  It can support us in our trials or teach us lessons we would not learn other wise.

Let the Christmas music season begin.

Season of thanks: Mom

I love my mom.  She’s the perfect example, mentor, role model I could have.  (She wouldn’t agree, but I might be able to convince her a little.)  Some may say it’s cliché to put her as the first entry during my season of thanks, but I feel it’s the right thing to do and it is fitting.

Aside from the obvious “she sacrificed herself to carry and birth me,” she has done far more.  During elementary-school summers, she would sit me down for half the day (it may have only been 90 minutes) and I had to to school work.  I hated it.  I fought it.  None of my friends had to endure that type of torture.  And I made the experience hellish for her.  That’s probably why she stopped doing it.  But I’m grateful now.  I frequently look back and know that my desire to do well in school, my confidence that I will, and my desire for perfection were molded during those summers.

My school teachers were ok with me missing a few math problems or having a few grammar errors.  My mother never was.  I spent hours (sometimes hours each day) going back and redoing my work.  Because I hated redoing so much, I learned to ensure it was done right the first time.  (Some of this mindset continues to today.  The desire to be right is so strong that I never check my answers on tests because I trust I read the question carefully enough the first time and that I did the problem right.)

She also made me play the piano every day for 30 minutes.  I would often slough and do less work, messing with the timer or putting the clocks ahead (I did this during time-outs too because I have no patience.)  I regret it now.  I regret that the choice offered me was to either play the piano or play sports.  Obviously I chose sports, and now I can only sight-read very slowly and can only play what I have repeated over and over and memorized.  But the important thing for me is I learned to appreciate music.  Although she usually chose songs I hated or didn’t know, my mom often played the piano when I was little.  I complained about it, but those songs (“Born Free” and “The Blue Danube”) echo in my mind today.

I didn’t often bring friends home, but she talked a lot with me about who my friends were and why I liked them.  She taught me to choose my friends carefully, to know why they were my friends.  I still talk with her frequently about my friends now.

She taught me something far more important about friends.  She taught me that friends are family, and friends of family are family.  She would often go out of her way to ensure we had interactions with friends.  After grade six or seven, I cooked up a plan with my friend Addison Pica to go climbing (I definitely had a middle school crush on her).  It was mostly due to my mom’s effort with Addison’s parents that the trip worked out.

My mom taught me to love people and want the best for them.  Sometime she didn’t approve of who I brought home–mostly in principle–sometimes in character.  Before my mission, I dated Ruth (Andrews) Chandler for seven months (or six–the timing got strange at the end).  My mom was not keen on the idea of me having a girlfriend.  But she accepted it and worked hard to learn about Ruth and learn to love her.  (For me dating Ruth was the best possible thing that could have happened before my mission.)  I’ve seen this pattern from my mother with other women I’ve dated.

She never approved of one person I dated, despite spending a lot of time with her during several visits.  Looking back, I wish I had been less infatuated with the girl and listened more to why my mother, despite attempting to love this girl, never could.

My mom adopts people.  My best friend during high school was Jenna (Furniss) Ralph.  She had a greater influence on me as a friend than I can express in words, and it may take us until after we die and communication is eased for her to understand why.  To the point, my mom loved Jenna like a daughter.  She learned to love Ruth like that.  My mom thinks of my oldest friend, Maren Kennedy, as a daughter.  Maren is involved in a theatre group back home and my mom always goes and supports her productions, and she always asks me what’s going on in Maren’s life.

This is a pattern my mom has shown since before I was born.  She wanted 12 biological kids (that’s a lot, I know) and I’m grateful there are only two of us.  But she has “adopted” children (especially daughters) since before I was born.

My mother consistently reaches out to love those around her.  She shows Christlike love for them and will serve them however she can.  My mother taught me to value my mind and has been formative in setting me on the path toward a Ph.D.  She taught me to accept and try to love people, even when they might not be what I expect, or someone I would normally love.  She taught me to love music, to love intelligence, to love others more than I love myself (possibly a lot).

Because of her example and her tireless forcings, I am now grateful for her example.  I now try to emulate that example.  She is probably not the mother she expected to be, and she likely regrets some things she did.  But she is the mother I need and should have no regrets about that.  I cannot imagine a more perfect mother.  I am grateful to my Heavenly Father for allowing me to be her son.

_________

Challenge of the day: pray for 10 minutes and only thank God for what you have.

Music

I’ve thought a lot about music and it’s qualities/effects on us. Most of my thinking, of course, is based on my own reactions to it. And I think my thoughts would reflect a lot of professional research that I’m not familiar with, but I’ll share some things anyway.

Music has the ability to affect our thoughts and feelings. A few examples:
A good friend of mine liked emo and heavy rock music. He listened to it often, and, over time, his thought pattern changed to be more subdued, less sure of himself, darker, at times suicidal. Now all of it can’t be attributed to the music, but it had a lot to do with it.
Another friend always listened to rap music to ‘pump up’ before volleyball games. I wasn’t a fan of rap, but I go the same ‘pump up’ effect from classical movie soundtracks with fast bass-heavy rhythms.
Other thoughts: music can pull our minds from clean, pure thoughts. THink of how songs with romantic overtones lead us to think of love, explicit songs bring those words to our minds more often, songs glorifying sex make us think more about it, etc.
How long does it take you to memorize a song’s lyrics? Three or four times? And how long do you remember them? Years? Decades?
What would you do if you had to listen to the music you currently listened to forever? Would you change what you listened to? Would you choose to put good things in you head or forever be drowned in mediocre or worse musical themes?
It’s something to think about.
The conclusion is, watch it. What you listen to affects you for a long time. Choose wisely.