My New Book Living More Than OK

My New Book Living More Than OK
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Friday, June 21, 2013

The Book of Eli and Summer Reading

As I was in the grocery story recently I noticed Oprah Winfrey’s recent issue of her O magazine. Actually it was a byline that caught my attention. The line was “O’s Summer Reading List”. That is one aspect of Oprah I have always appreciated is her steady support of reading. It reminded me that reading is often promoted during the Summer months. As I have stated before I was always involved with the Summer Reading Programs at my hometown library in Barberton, Ohio from second grade on up. Those programs helped shape me into becoming a Bookhead.

As I see fewer and fewer College students reading or even complaining about reading I believe it is important to keep promoting the importance of reading. In the lounge areas of campus you used to see students with books open now they just sit there blankly staring at the screens of their ipads with headphones on. As I glance at the screens there is often some type of video or movie playing. I think to myself what are we creating for the future. For the most part a continual diet of videos perpetuates a passive mind as the mind is simply soaking in the sounds and images. Reading text forces the mind to be active in seeking meaning and builds creativity as the mind has to create the images being described instead of being spoon fed the images via video.

Pondering what I see in people addicted to staring at their plastic video screens caused me to ponder what if society lost literacy and reading altogether. A movie I had seen some time ago then popped into my mind. I watched it again as I was thinking over the importance of reading. The movie is The Book of Eli. It is R rated as it has some graphic violence, so it is not a movie for small children but it is good for the older viewer to think through human nature and I found important concepts related to reading in it.

In the movie Eli, played by Denzel Washington is on a mission given to him by a mystical vision to carry a copy of the King James Bible out West to a destination unknown to him. It is based in the future after a great war that has decimated the country and the world. In his travels he comes to a town that is run by a despotic controlling man named Carnegie and his thug henchmen. Eli stops to get a rare commodity in a bar – water. After a fight scene the despot ruler of the town understands there is something different about Eli.

Carnegie is a collector of books and he is looking for a copy of the Bible as they were all burned after the war but he knows a supposedly one copy still existed. He is looking for the Bible as he feels it will give him power and control over people. It is clearly seen that this ruler of the town is the only one who can read. His thugs that look for books in their illiteracy think it is foolish to just be looking for books. Carnegie discerns that Eli can read and a short interlude between them speaks volumes to the importance of reading:

Carnegie “Do You read?”
Eli “Everyday”
Carnegie “People like you and me are the future”

The two of them were the only two in the town who could read. The town was brutish and full of savagery. Is that how life would be without literacy? The movie shows the human nature conflict between Carnegie in his quest to get the The Bible from Eli once he finds out Eli has it. There is much to be learned about human nature and good and evil as Carnegie wants the book for controlling purposes and Eli humbly on a mission, wants to get the book to somewhere out West to it’s rightful destination.

Back to the three line conversation that spoke to me. In promoting reading we need to show young people the importance of reading for their future. Readers are building the creative and critical thinking skills needed for the future. The best way to promote reading is to read ourselves. Then we can also encourage others to read. In using this movie I do see the importance in other media. Yet back to the concept of the passive mind versus the active mind. I have observed even in myself, that when I am watching a movie unless it is a documentary my mind is definitely more passive that when I am reading.

So as you go through this Summer make reading a part of it. Then remember reading doesn’t end with Summer make it a year round activity. Support your local books stores and local libraries.

Reflection: What book or books are you reading this Summer? Why is reading important for our lives and society?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Classical Music and The Creative Mind

This week again I am thinking over our recent vacation to my home state of Ohio. As we were preparing to go to Norton, Ohio my wife suggested we go hear the Cleveland Orchestra while we were visiting there. Since we all enjoy classical music it seemed like a great idea. We thought it would be a nice treat for my third grade teacher, who we were staying with to take her along too. I found a concert that fit our schedule, Sunday the 26th of May at 3 p.m. in the afternoon so we would not be out too late. The concert was to be the Cleveland Orchestra’s season finale. It was held in Severance Hall which was built in 1931 and renovated in 2000. It is considered one of the oldest and beautiful concert halls in America. From our mid-balcony seats we were impressed with the stateliness of the interior design.

The musical program showcased three works. The first was Open Mind composed by Rolf Martinsson, a modern composer from Sweden. Secondly came Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3 in C minor Opus 37 with pianist Lars Vogt, from Germany. Then the final piece was Tchaikovsky’s symphony No. 5 in E minor Opus 64. You can listen to portions of each piece by clicking the lines below:

Beethoven piano concerto No 3 in C minor Opus 37 click for movement 1

Tchaikovsky symphony no. 5 in E minor Opus 64 click for the finale

Rolf Martinsson listen to a clip of Open Mind by clicking on the title

We were enraptured by the emotion of the music as we listened intently to each piece performed. We also had a magnificent view from the balcony looking down viewing the conductor, Manfred Honeck, as he led the musicians to perform as a single unit. It was an amazing experience of sight and sound.

As I listened to each piece of music my mind reflected on the creative minds behind the music. Thinking of each composer and how their personalities and emotions came out in their individual works of musical art. I marveled also at the complexity of the creative mind. Just to think that in the mind of Martinsson, Beethoven, and Tchaikovsky they could combine together all the pieces of music for each of the individual instruments. They had to write out music for violins, French horns, flutes, percussion, clarinets, trumpets, and many more. Then combine it all together so that it makes musical sense and not just a bunch of senseless noise. Melodies and countermelodies in relation to each of their pieces of music first were born in their creative minds and then painstakingly written out for each of the orchestra’s instruments. When the audience member listens with delight it all seems so easy. But if you contemplate all that goes into to developing music from the first mental thought, through the composition process it is amazing to think of the God given talent of the creative minds of music composers.

I grew up playing trumpet in band in my hometown of Barberton, Ohio. From that experience I have always had an admiration for the work that goes into making an orchestra a unified unit in expressing pieces of music. That afternoon in Cleveland brought back memories of concert band in earlier years. Yet the primary thoughts going through my mind was that of the amazing power of creativity.

Thinking through the creative mind process of the composers then moved me to meditate on the greater Creative Mind of God behind all there is in life and creation. As we go through our days on autopilot not paying attention to the amazing world around us, it is simple to be like the concert goer to see it as all so easy. You can maybe even see how some may consider how everything just popped into existence via random chaotic macro evolution. Like a rabbit out of a magic hat. But then if you allow your mind to move from autopilot to deep reflection on the complexities and beauty of creation and life you then begin to be amazed at the power of creativity and design which of course logically would entail a Grand Designer.

Reflection: What did you think of the pieces of music listed in this blog post? Think of music composers in any genre you enjoy. What do you think of their creativity? How does this relate to your creativity?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Savoring Butterflies and Flowers

A week ago we took a family vacation to my home state of Ohio. Having a chance to go away is always helpful to gain new perspectives and take advantage of must needed rest from the busy routines of life. We stayed with my third grade teacher, Verna Clifford, in Norton, Ohio which borders my hometown of Barberton. Spending time with her, other friends and family made for a pleasant time away from Texas. We also took time during the week to experience various sights in Ohio. One excursion that stood out was a visit to the Franklin Park Conservatory in Columbus, Ohio.

The Franklin Park Conservatory is a horticultural delight of designed flower gardens and green houses. When we visited they were holding a special feature on butterflies. They had a window display hatchery where you could view the butterflies emerging from their cocoons. Then they had a large green house area of lush flowers with butterflies. This is where we spent most of our time. We each had cameras and were watching the butterflies to see where they would land. Everyone in the green house had the same agenda of taking pictures of the butterflies.

Butterflies must have the highest levels of ADHD of all insects or maybe it is just the nectar. They flit to and fro and when they would land -- just when you were ready to snap a picture off they would fly. It did not help much that there were a few unsupervised girls running around chasing the butterflies. They were not content to watch they wanted to touch the delicate creatures. Thankfully for the butterflies they remained elusive to the annoying trio running through the greenhouse. I was able to obtain a few good pictures while some of the butterflies were resting on plants. I took the time to observe their beautiful designs on their wings. It is amazing in considering how delicate the wings are. It is more amazing that those wings can transport these wonderfully designed creations from Brazil and Mexico up to Ohio. As I was savoring the uniqueness of the butterflies in the created order of nature I also observed the other photographers who gazed at these insects with a sense of wonder.

In this greenhouse there were many flowers to observe and enjoy. We took time to go through several other greenhouses that looked at desert , tropical, and rainforest flowers. We did not have time to cover all the outside gardens but saw quite a few. There were such a variety of flowers to view. From a photography standpoint the flowers are easier as they are not moving away from the camera. But as with the beauty of the butterflies I could not just quickly glance and walk on by. To capture the full beauty of the color and design of the flowers you need to take time to observe and savor the intricate delicate beauty of them. So many colors and shades of colors along with the variety of petal designs.

Taking time for the butterflies and flowers in nature is a relaxing way to spend a day. Absorbing the mind in observing their beauty is a de-stressing activity and you can feel the calmness sweep over your inner being. From time to time in living more than ok I believe everyone should take a day to visit a park, a botanical garden, a nature conservatory and take time to savor nature. It is a positive way to recharge the inner being by literally taking time to “smell the roses”.

Also from my world-view perspective as a Christian it allowed me to have a greater awe filled savoring in my mind about God as Creator. I see the beauty and variety of flowers and can see the artistic mind of God behind them and the butterflies. It is interesting as I was thinking of writing this week on this experience by happenstance, I came across an NPR article about the author, Stephen King. In the interview with National Public Radio, he states on the topic of God, “"I choose to believe it. ... I mean, there's no downside to that. If you say, 'Well, OK, I don't believe in God. There's no evidence of God,' then you're missing the stars in the sky and you're missing the sunrises and sunsets and you're missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together.” That is how I look at it as well. I choose to believe in a Creator God as it makes sense from my observations of the intricacies and complexities of life and nature. I admit it is on faith but a reasoned faith as I look at the created order. I respect the atheist to hold onto their blind faith on the unproven theory of macro-evolution. I often find that those who bark the loudest against those who believe in an Intelligent Designer will act like Darwin proved evolution as a fact. When pressed they often admit they have never even read Darwin’s, The Origin of the Species. I read it and still have it on my bookshelf. It was not convincing to me as he does not prove evolution in the macro sense. It is still a just a theory. I look to the butterflies and the flowers and they seem to be shouting out clearly concerning the Creator God. He is there and not silent.

Reflection: Take a morning or afternoon to enjoy a park or flower garden in your town. What are the flowers and nature saying to you? Stop by a flower and spend a few minutes to observe and savor the experience with all your senses. Does the experience relax and calm you?

Link to interview with Stephen King --