How often has one read or watched the news, only to be told that America, as the leading democratic power, must do this or that because it is in the interest of all free peoples to promote democracy? Democracy has become so overused as to become a synonym for all that is good in the world, especially identified as rainbow-headed unicorns with the wings of a Pegasus, flying unhesitatingly from imagined world to imagined world, the latest one progressing ever more and more toward all that is holy. Democracy, it seems, is freedom, goodness, truth, dignity, and beauty.
This is the absurdity that now surrounds us. Honestly, the unicorns would be preferable. One only has to watch the tumultuous and tenebrous storms of emotion that brew and blow on Twitter to see how well the democratic impulse tends toward goodness.
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/04/not-democracy-bradley-birzer.html
What causes mediocrity in our lives? What is it that truly keeps us from reaching our full potential? Is there an antidote to a mediocre life?
Sometime before Christmas, I was home at my parents’ house for the weekend and attending their church. The pastor preached a fantastic sermon on this topic, and he pointed out that fear is ultimately what leads to mediocrity in any part of our lives. Primarily, I think we can boil that down to fear of two things: failure and rejection. Think about a mediocre situation in your life, and it is probably related to a fear of one of those things.
We fear not being good enough – not measuring up (which distills to a fear of failure). From the Christian perspective, this is complete nonsense. This is something I have long struggled with, and I have to pray about it specifically every day to keep that fear at bay. As humans, we are unique in God’s creation. God made us in His very image. Each one of us is inherently valuable because God created us. He knew us before our conception (Psalm 139:13-16), and for those of us that are in Christ, God looks upon us and smiles. He doesn’t see our sin and shame, for it was laid upon Christ’s shoulders at Calvary. The full wrath of God was directed at Jesus, the only man who ever lived a sinless life, in that moment so that we who have lived sinful lives might receive the very righteousness of God. With that truth, of what do we possibly have to be afraid?
So, was on a ferry the other day, and ran into that quintessential Harley Davidson motorcyclist. On a bagger with half helmet, wearing Harley Davidson boots and jacket with that round emblem on the back, most probably wider than Captain America’s shield. Of course, he had ridden cross-country to Sturgis, among the bigger motorcycle gatherings on the planet. Absolutely a cheerful guy to speak with, but also signaling an unmistakable identity, something no one can overlook.
Not just in motorcycling, adopting identities wholesale seems like a human trait. Whether its politics, art, culture, or even technology, we seek to belong. We signal identity not just through clothing, but through gadgets, accessories and through expressed opinions. Especially in politics, we probably state beliefs to just convey who we are, not because we believe they are absolute truths.
We become a liberal, conservative or libertarian not through expansive research, but through instincts. We pick where we want to belong, and then adopt ideas wholesale. In fact, any real research would evolve our own thought, making it difficult for us to fit in. Seems like more than the truth, we seek that identity. Also, Libertarians or Leftists tend to have a lot of infighting, on who is the true torch bearer, probably because we simply cannot allow that group identity to get corrupted.
Not just in politics, identity is an essential driving force in all our pursuits. If we examine with that lens, then all contentious social convulsions are related to identity, even the trivial ones. Recently came across this band Deafheaven, seems like they trigger an identity crisis among black metallers, especially the ones on Reddit. The band simply borrowed all black metal sonic influences, but none of their aesthetics. Sounds like black metal, but does not exactly reflect the artistic inspirations. Essentially corrupting a pristine identity, and wreaking havoc in a true black metaller’s peaceful existence.
Seems like the world is constantly in this disruptive state, plunging from one crisis of identity to another, and each such crisis spawning new identities. Whether it’s ‘true Norwegian Black Metal’, or capital (L)ibertarian v/s small (l)ibertarian, or obscurities like democratic socialist liberal or MAGA conservative? But this identity crisis is also an essential pillar in Federalism, Madison eloquently stated — “the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority.” In that sense, so glad we don’t simply get along.
Contrary to the vast majority of my fellow scholars of American history, I have never found the account of the creation of political parties in the Founding Era and Early Republic to be credible. I see very little evidence of anything that we would recognize as political parties before 1837… (essay by Bradley J. Birzer)
— Read on theimaginativeconservative.org/2019/04/political-parties-american-founding-era-bradley-birzer.html
Bjorn Riis’s A STORM IS COMING (Karisma, 2019).
The sheer amount of creativity that comes out of northern Europe never fails to astound or move me. From the moment the Scandinavians became Scandinavians, some 1,200 plus years ago, they seem to have existed to hunt, to farm, and to create. Even the very word “edda”—so properly associated with northern mythology—is not native to Norse, but is a word that seems to have sprung out of the moment rather than out a specific culture. We remember edda as a story, but it more properly means a divine outburst of creativity. From the creation of the AllThing (the world’s first congress) to Sigrid Undset, the Scandinavians keep shocking into life a western culture that wants to die but won’t. What is it? Is it the cold? The bleak winters? The harrowing landscapes? The daring raids? I don’t know, but I do know I thank the good Lord for their existence.
When a small package recently arrived from Norway—labeled Karisma—I was thrilled. Nothing I ever receive from that small but mighty label is unimportant. Indeed, it has to rank as one of the most important labels in the rock world, equal to Kscope, Insideout, and Sound Resources. That I found the new Bjorn Riis solo album in that package made the arrival even better. Frankly, it made it perfect. From the moment I first encountered Riis’s band, Airbag, roughly ten years ago—thanks to the recommendation of my English friend, Richard Thresh—I liked the band. Granted, their first album sounded like a sequel to Pink Floyd’s ANIMALS, but it was gorgeous, nonetheless, and it had the very James Marsh/Talk Talk-esque cover, of the eyeball crying blood. What a combination of excellent things. Since 2009, Riis has proven his genius time and time again through Airbag (IDENTITY; ALL RIGHTS REMOVED; GREATEST SHOW ON EARTH; and DISCONNECTED), each more lyrically existential and more musically creative than the last.
As much as I fell for Airbag, I fell even more in love with this solo work. LULLABIES IN A CAR CRASH; COMING HOME; and FOREVER COMES TO AN END. If you put Mark Hollis, Roger Waters, and Steven Wilson into the same room, you might come out with something close to Bjorn Riis, but still not quite there. Riis takes the best from each, but his music is very much his own.
Riis’s latest, A Storm is Coming, is more volatile and less longingly melodic than previous albums. It’s still brilliant, though. It can move from silence to a wall of sound and back to delicate piano line in a matter of moments. The title fits. The storm is coming, and Riis offers an album that looks not into the storm, but out from it. Let me revise what I just said a bit—there’s loving melody all over this album, but it feels less sustained (intentionally) than on previous albums. Honestly, I couldn’t really listen to track five, “This House,” without noting that it is melodic—in a David Gilmour fashion—to the nth degree.
I’m seeing several websites label this as an EP, but it’s 52 minutes long, so I can’t imagine what one of Riis’s LPs might look like. Yes, this is a full-fledged album. No doubt about it.
And, it’s a thing of eddaic glory. Enjoy.