Apologia

Apologia
apologia |ˌapəˈlōj(ē)ə|
noun
a formal written defense of one’s opinions or conduct.
ORIGIN late 18th cent.: from Latin (see apology).

On some days I’d like to be a rock star. To look out each night on an undulating sea of faces. To make music that moves masses. Maybe it would help if I could shred on electric guitar, or had straighter teeth, or had a better personality. There’s a manager of one of the restaurants I play at who always greets me, “Hello, Rockstar.” He might be making fun of me. I just sit in the corner and play piano while rich people clink glasses. It’s actually not very rockstar. Still, I like that he says it.

But at my deepest core, rock stars don’t actually inspire me. Rock stars live for themselves. The very idea of a “rockstar” is about the paycheck, the sex, the influence, the pride, and the ego.

It’s probable that many musical superstars actually love the music they perform. Maybe they have a passion for their chosen art form and thoroughly enjoy their craft. (It’s quite probable, actually, given that it takes thousands and thousands of hours to develop musical talent- the enormous majority of those hours spent without a screaming crowd. Lady Gaga has talked about her love of the musical art form many times.) Maybe there is a higher good in creating for the love of the art than simple carnal pleasure, but even stars who create for the love if their art fail to completely inspire.

[Small side note: I’m writing this in the retreat house at a Benedictine Monastery. The retreatant in the room next door is either needs one of those Snore-Be-Gone spice-infused pillow cases, or maybe he’s practicing the washboard part for his skiffle band. (I surmise his wife gave him this retreat as a somewhat selfish Christmas gift- like when I bought a coffee grinder for my wife. His wife is probably home sleeping quite soundly. I’m not. Sorry to bother you with the minor details of my life. For some reason I thought you should know.]

Yes, there’s power in music. The rhythm that moves us, the lyrics that convince us, the melody that comes alongside us all day. There’s true beauty in music. Intrinsic value and worth. The world is a better place because of the symphony orchestras, the high school jazz bands, and the children’s choirs that work diligently to make pitch and rhythm submit to their wills.

When I say “rockstars don’t inspire me,” I’m not saying I live less selfishly than a rockstar. I just have fewer resources. I can’t build an amusement park and keep monkeys like Michael Jackson did, but I can buy shoes I don’t need (I love shoes) or go into debt for yet another piece of musical gear. I can spend $800 a month on fast food and fail to give anything to charity.

I’m not saying that I give generously of my time and resources even when it’s inconvenient. I usually don’t. I ignore stranded motorists and hungry war heroes with cardboard signs. I’ve only been inside the soup kitchen in my town a couple of times. I’ve heard we have a homeless shelter, but I have no idea where it is, or what its needs are. I generally want what I want when I want it. (Try coming between me and Starbucks at 3 o’clock. I’m not always easy to live with. Ask my wife.)

But we were talking about the idea of inspiration. What is it that captures our minds? What is it that moves us in the deepest ways? It’s not fast food.

inspiration |ˌinspəˈrāSHən|
noun
1 the process of being mentally stimulated to feel or do something.

It’s one thing to watch Les Miserables and have mascara run down your face in the movie theater. It’s quite another to leave that theater and begin the process of adopting a child from an orphanage in Africa.

Two Kinds Of Inspiration
The kind that starts with feeling and ends with feeling.
Feeling >>> [nothing]
The kind that starts with feeling and causes us to do something.
Feeling >>> Doing

So I hope I’ve sufficiently convinced you that rockstars don’t inspire me, but they’re just one of a number of characters who fail to move me. Here’s a hasty list:
Rockstars
Actors
Billionaires
Journalists
Presidents
Astronauts
Junkies
Philanthropists
Artists
Bankers
Steve Jobs
Oprah
Picasso
Cowboys
Strippers
Land developers
Miles Davis
Facebook
Some members of this list don’t inspire me in any way. Junkies don’t inspire me at all. No matter how much they’re glamorized. They’re idiots. Miles does inspire me in the emotional way. He was a brilliant trumpet player with an exceptional gift. Steve Jobs is a true story of the American Dream in human form. Brilliant, driven, wildly successful.

You may at this point, be intelligent enough to have figured that I must mean I don’t find some of these people inspirational in the “they move me to action” kind of way.

Steve Jobs, Miles Davis, Picasso, and Cowboys (the Old West kind, not the Dallas football team) do inspire me in the “I can feel my heart swelling in my chest” kind of way.

And even if they do move me to some sort of action, (listening to Miles could make me want to transcribe his solo off of “Blues By Five” and reading Steve Jobs’ biography makes me want to start a business) they don’t inspire me to the kind of actions worthy of investing my life.

Then Who Inspires You, Caleb?
Thanks for hanging with me this far. This whole line of thought began the other days as I was conversing with myself about the people in this world who inspire me in greater and lesser ways. I discovered there’s one class that inspires me completely.
They’re the saints.

King David
Paul Iki
St. Agatha
Those fishermen from Nazareth
St. Augustine
St. Francis
Mother Teresa

They’re the men and women who gave everything they were to the cause of Christ in this world. They all gave of their time, wills, emotions, resources, even their very lives. They gave themselves to the service of the God who came as a man. The one who sacrificed Himself so we would know true love, compassion and grace. They have in turn been so captured by this love, that they’re moved to pass it on. That moves me!

I don’t just mean the canonized saints, I mean it in the way the Apostle Paul did: All of those who believe in Christ. (E.g. I Corinthians 16)

My mother
J. S. Bach
Detreich Bonhoffer
C. S. Lewis
Jim Elliot

11-29-13
To be continued…

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