Friday, December 31, 2010

It's The End of R.E.M As We Know It, And I Feel Fine.

It is pretty common for things to flow in and out of our lives. There are certain fads, hobbies, etc that when we initially get involved with we know that they just won't last very long. They will be a fleeting moment in our life, and we're okay with that. Others though, well, we can't even imagine going on with life without them! R.E.M. was such a thing.

The 80's and 90's rock band shaped my teenage years. I don't just say this loosely. The desire to play the drums at the age of fourteen was because of the simple, yet beautiful, drumming of the famously unibrowed Bill Berry. The fact that in 1998 he quit the multi-million dollar band so he could live a more peaceful life as a farmer in Georgia only added to his awesomeness. Many times drummers try to be flashy, adding fills and beats that show off their incredible talent, but take away from the music that they are participating in. It comes off as an inferiority complex: they are uncomfortable being in the back of the stage behind the guitar and singer. As a result an outburst of complex, rapid and obnoxious drumming comes forth. (Side note: Jimmy Chamberlain of Smashing Pumpkins could effectively pull off the flashy drumming that never detracted to the music; It added to it). Bill Berry did not fall under this category. He was famous for playing beats and fills that were simplistic, but not because he didn't have the skill. He intentionally played simple because that is what the music called for. To more clearly show this, but with the guitar, is the song "Every Body Hurts." It's arguably it's R.E.M.'s most popular song. If you listen to the music, you'll recognize that the chords are in a simple progression with an arpeggios. Nothing flashy, complicated, or difficult. Who wrote the music? Bill Berry.

I liked to think that he thought of the drums as another melodic component to the song, not just as an instrument to keep time. As a result, he was fine with the simple beat. Bill Berry was the biggest reason why I loved R.E.M. I loved constantly experiencing the simple yet beautiful example of the melodic interpretation of how the drums should be played. His view (or at least my interpretation of his view) on drumming shaped my philosophy on drums, which then caused that instrument to be so much more to me than it would have been otherwise. And to say that the drums didn't greatly influence my teenage experience would be a gross error. Drumming was my teenage experience.

As a result I thought I would never stop listening to R.E.M. I had so many fond memories and emotions associated with them that the thought seemed highly unlikely. Yet, every album since Bill Berry left in 1998 has been lacking. I could never put my finger on it. Was it the lyrics, or the new direction that R.E.M. was taking? No, it was the absence of Bill Berry and, however cheesy it may sound, lack of his constant reminder of how important melodic drumming can be to the musical experience.

As R.E.M. is coming out with a new CD this March I will, for the first time in my life, not buy their CD. R.E.M., it was fun, but no matter how hard I try, your magic is gone for me. Nostalgia will only go so far.

Coldplay has replaced R.E.M. I never really knew why until very recently when I discovered why I didn't care for R.E.M. like I used to. It is because Coldplay's drummer, Will Champion, is in my mind the new Bill Berry. Melodic drumming, simple beats, and a constant reminder of why I loved playing the drums. But thank you R.E.M. (but really Bill Berry) for providing me with a great teenage experience. Even though your purpose is complete, it is very much remembered in fondness.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

General Conference

The following is a letter I wrote to my mom for her Christmas present. She asked all of her children to write her a letter containing a spiritual experience they had this past year. The following is my letter:

The experience I am about to share actually happened very recently. I would be lying if I said that moving to Davenport has been the best part of my life. My new situation has been very difficult to adjust to. For starters Palmer, despite it’s reputation for being a great chiropractic school, has not quite lived up to it’s reputation. Living by myself has been very lonely at times and the ward does absolutely nothing for the young single adults. Gradually these factors started to take their toll and I found myself becoming very discouraged and frustrated.
I started to develop a very bad attitude towards everything and would complain to myself and anyone who would listen. This venting process didn’t make me feel better; I felt worse. I was wondering what I could do to be happy as I really did not want to continue my three years in Davenport with such a poor attitude. I prayed for help, and the Lord answered my prayers with a series of very fortunate events.
The first started with a phone call with my brother Devin. We were just talking and I didn’t even bring up my situation. Yet, before the conversation ended, Devin mentioned how he likes to listen to General Conference on his way to school as it helps him stay focused for the day. I decided to take this to heart as I thought maybe it would help me focus. This practice did more than that. It was a stepping stone to helping me change my attitude.
On my way to school I would choose different talks from the October, 2010 General Conference. I would listen to talks during my drive to school, and even though I usually couldn’t listen to a talk all the way through, I did notice it would help me start my day with a good attitude. It was Elder Eyring’s talk during the priesthood session that not only helped to have a proper attitude during the day, it gave me guidance on how to change my attitude towards my current life situation. His words of guidance gave me the hope that I could get out of my current rut.
Elder Eyring was giving a talk about priesthood duty and responsibility. He mentioned how sometimes we can be scared to reach out to others, or be in circumstances in life that cause us to want to shirk our duties as priesthood holders. It was his advice to these individuals that struck me with great impact. He said that no matter what our situation in life is, we can be happy and have the spirit in our lives. How do we do this? By reading, studying, and pondering the scriptures; pondering being the key.
These words had great impact on me. I immediately did some self reflection while I was driving to school and walking to my class at 7:30 in the cold December morning. I realized that I read my scriptures, but late at night and in a speed-reading way. I was not studying and definitely not pondering my scriptures. I decided from then on every time I read my scriptures to read very slowly and to think about what I am reading.
As I did this I immediately saw a difference in my scripture study. It also affected my life as well. I noticed my ill feelings towards my school, ward, and just life in general started to change. I no longer was upset or bitter. I became a lot more happier as hope started to fill me. I felt very at peace with everything, which I had not fully felt since I had arrived in Davenport. I also saw, through first hand experience, that the counsel that President Eyring gave was true. I have, for the first time in my life, seen the power of what the scriptures can do for me personally. I have seen it affect other peoples lives, but not always my own in a very real and personal manner.
I know that the words we hear our leaders say are very inspired. Their guidance can bring us true happiness in our lives if we choose to follow them. I know that the Book of Mormon is the word of God and is scripture. It is not just a good book, but an important book, just as much as the Bible is, to bring us closer to God and understanding what we need to do in order to have joy in our life and to live with Him and Jesus Christ again.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ward Christmas Progam

Yesterday was the ward Christmas program in La Canada. It was a beautiful program with wonderful music and a fantastic speaker. The speaker gave a great insight into that nativity story that I really wanted to share.

The speaker was Christie Frandsen, who was Ja, Devin, and my seminary teacher. She is a known scholar in church, new, and old testament history. I wish I would have paid a lot more attention during Seminary and not slept as much. Anyway, Sister Frandsen focused her talk on describing the shepherds, the wise men, and the angels and how we can be like them today.

The main part of her talk that I wanted to focus on is the part of the shepherds. In reality, being a shepherd was not as great as we tend to believe. In fact shepherds were outcasts. To be a shepherd was the lowliest position in society. Shepherds were often times left to themselves for long periods of time and put in dangerous circumstances as they had to fend off bandits and dangerous animals.

The beautiful message of the nativity story is that some lowly shepherds, outcasts of society, were chosen to see the newborn Savior of the world. It wasn't a jewish scholar, a king, or anyone else from high society and social class. In todays context Sister Frandsen compared how the shepherds were viewed in earlier times to how we view today a homeless person off of the street. In fact she brought up a homeless person who is well known in the La Canada community. His name to the locals is Wild Bill. He is dirty, mangy, and has a mental illness. Knowing this context makes this part of the nativity story even more humbling and amazing.

It shows that no matter what our perceived worth is to the world, our worth is great and eternal to Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father. I hope that if you or anyone you know is struggling with self worth, let the nativity story be a great reminder that God loves us and views us in greater esteem than we can even fathom. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas!