Music on Monday – Niall Horan, Maren Morris – Seeing Blind

Niall Horan & Maren Morris – Seeing Blind

Just something fun here. 🙂

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Allowing for the sorrow… and anger

I was baptized into the Orthodox Christian Church back in 2002. I was fairly young, but I felt like I had done a lot of searching, a lot of praying, and the Orthodox Church was absolutely the place where I had to be.

This isn’t to say that the Orthodox Church is perfect. Anyone who takes more than the most superficial look at the administration is bound to feel really depressed about a lot of it. In the United States, it seems like every jurisdiction has been dealing with things that do rise up to the “scandal” level. Although the vast majority of it is administrative malfeasance, it leaves a lot of people wondering that if those involved cannot handle the administrative side of things, how can they handle the spiritual?

Nevertheless, I have never felt like there was any option to leave the Orthodox Church. Where would I go? The things that kept me from being Catholic are still there. I have an awful lot of devout Catholic friends, and I love and respect them a lot, but I can’t become Catholic. I can’t go back to the ruins of what was Protestant faith. I have the feeling as though though there is nothing there to go back to, like the majority of Protestant faith in this country is a burned-out shell, with only the tiniest remnant remaining to pick through. And yet, as the priest of our church said not all that long ago, something like half the people who convert to Orthodoxy in the US leave again.

In context, I suppose that’s kind of an ironic statement, seeing as now, that priest seems to have left Orthodoxy behind in his “faith journey”. It truly is a tough pill to swallow. On one hand, I have no question about his faith or that he’s truly seeking to do God’s Will in his life. On the other, there’s a sense of deep betrayal; that a mere weeks after he left the church where I attended, an announcement was put out that he’s left the Orthodox Church.

Sure, this is a secular society that stresses doing what “feels good” and what’s “best for you”. It’s a message that churches have a hard time countering; on one hand, one of the unique things about the Christian faith is the notion that each one of us is important as a unique individual, on the other, in the West, at least, I think the sense of Christianity as a greater community has largely been lost.

I feel right now like a child who was told that one parent was getting a separate apartment in order for that parent to be better able to sleep at night. It’s a confusing situation, but fine, we’ll do our best. Once the parent, then, has installed things at the new apartment, the parents turn around and say, “Well, actually, we’re getting a divorce.” Like a child who is powerless to change decisions that have already been made, I feel sad, I feel helpless, and I feel angry. I feel this was total deception. I am left wondering how long these plans were afoot. I wonder if, as the choir sang, “We have found the true faith” if there wasn’t some twinge of misgiving, some shame for the things we were not allowed then to know.

Worse yet, I feel like the congregation has been left in the hands of the allegorical 17-year-old big brother, who seriously doesn’t know what he’s doing, and is at very high risk of doing irreparable damage.

I know, I know, I’m not supposed to question any of this, just “roll with the punches”. “God’s in control” and “it’ll all work out in the end” are empty placations that come to mind. God doesn’t prevent one from falling when the rug is pulled out under him. Sure, I will get up, but things aren’t magically okay because this is a “good church” or “established church” or what have you. It may be terrible to say this, but I’m going to be angry about this, and I’m going to be angry about it for a good long while. I’m not going to let it consume me, but I think to deny it is even more dangerous. To everything, there is a season, I suppose…

Amid the ashes of despair, prayer taking wings as song

The morning reveals what has been destroyed and what remains in regard to the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. The Daily Mail, as is its custom, has lots of pictures. It was truly a devastating fire, and surely amazing that so much of the Cathedral remains. I wasn’t the only one to compare this fire to that at St. Sava in New York City; thankfully, it seems here that there was more left of the church once the fire was contained.

Churches are particularly vulnerable to fire, and, in many respects, the older the church is, the more vulnerable it may become. It seems as though some may have been cognizant of this, for it seems like a large amount of the treasures of Notre Dame may have been rescued. Reminiscent of the January 1966 fire that destroyed St. Michael Orthodox Cathedral in Sitka, it was a human chain to the burning Cathedral that apparently helped save many things. It may also be that since the Cathedral was under renovation, there were many things being housed elsewhere. As it is, many adornments, including statues nearly ten feet tall, which adorned the roof had been removed just last week. This was probably a miracle in itself, as had they still been on the roof, no doubt they would have come crashing down to earth in this inferno.

Still, one of the most haunting things about the scene last night was not the blaze rising up as it consumed this ancient cathedral, but rather with the crowds watching. Many reporters reported silence among the crowds until later, something peculiar happening.

Singing.

I did not immediately recognize the song, but it seemed to fit the moment perfectly, a chant, seemingly ancient, somber, but still holding on to hope. It is “Ave Maria“, in English, “Hail Mary”, in French, “Je vous salue Marie”.

” Je vous salue, Marie, comblĂ©e de grâce
Le Seigneur est avec vous …”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee..”


The song rose up as prayer, first with a couple solitary voices, and then with a hundred or more, a prayer, a dirge, a song most French people probably know, but, France being as secular as it is, one rarely heard in public. Yet all these people, witnessing the blaze at the Cathedral, not knowing if the morning would find it merely a heap of rubble, found their voices joining together, rising up to heaven, a counterpoint to the destruction being witnessed.

For as timeless and permanent as the Cathedral at Notre Dame may seem, as much as it is an icon of France, the French people, and the history of Christianity in Europe, as Christians, we understand that all this is temporal, that heaven and earth will pass away, and that our work here is not aimed at treasure in this life, but in the life to come. We will witness many things come to an end; we will witness destruction of those things considered impermeable, but we are not to despair, we are to hold on to our faith in the Everlasting One even tighter. If we can do this together, we’ve made getting through everything all the more bearable.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris is burning down

The images are terrible. Heartbreaking. Reminds me of the St. Sava fire in NYC in 2016. Just as St. Sava was gutted, I have little hope that when the flames are out, that there will be much standing.

St. Sava hopes to rebuild, though nearly three years later, I don’t know if they’ve been able to do much other than shore up the walls of the building, waiting for the day that they will be ready to rebuild. Of course, that is assuming that it will happen.

As for Notre Dame, if it does burn to the ground, I suppose it will be interesting to see if there is a will in France to rebuild it. It is known as an icon of France, boasting some 19 million visitors last year. Of course, as a church, its major function should be that of the spiritual, and I don’t know if the church has an actual congregation. (Then again, I don’t know much about France.)

It’s also Holy Week in the west. I could say a lot more, but I won’t.

When even the weather is #fakenews

So, the Drudge Report has a link near the top of the page today from Accuweather – “Chicago sees latest snowfall in 50 years“.

You’d think that a weather company with weather data deeper than anything I could imagine could figure out that the snowfall on May 6, 1989 happened just under 30 years ago. But that would negate the sensational headline, wouldn’t it?

Update: Accuweather has updated the title of the piece to “Chicago sees biggest snowfall this late in the season in more than 50 years”, which, while more accurate, certainly is a lot clunkier.

Music on Monday – Michelle Shocked – Anchorage

So… This week I have just a link, https://vimeo.com/99288663 , because this particular video does not allow for embedding, and as this was a decision by the artist, she’s well within her rights to do that.

In any case, the song is “Anchorage” by Michelle Shocked.


I always loved listening to music on the radio in the wee hours of the morning. The DJs had a lot more leeway to play what struck their fancy rather than the same songs that got requested over and over again. Something similar happened with VH1 as well; their overnight video lineup was much better than anything during the daytime (back in the days when they still played music videos!)

In any case, I bring this up because the first time I heard this song was actually in the wee hours of the morning on a pop radio station in Europe, 15+ years after it debuted. Like I said, it’s always interesting what gets played.

This song immediately struck me, in the first place because I’ve been fascinated by Alaska since I was a little kid, and I had no idea there was a pop song about its biggest city. Secondly, it’s a song about distance. What makes it uniquely American is contemplating the distances between the cities in the song – Dallas, New York City, Anchorage – while being in the same country. Yet, even being in the same country, they are worlds apart. Growing up in the Midwest, New York and D.C. are certainly not next door, but a quick flight gets one there in time for dinner. Living in the Pacific Northwest, though, the sense of the East Coast was completely different; it was much more common to see Alaska license plates than, say, New York. All around were the mountains, the towering trees, and weather strongly influenced by the Pacific Ocean, tied together with a sense of everything being wild. Imagining New York with its skyscrapers or Europe with its compactness gets to be hard to do if you’ve lived there long enough.

Yet the song is not just about the physical distance, but about the distance between friends, that there are people with whom one is close, and usually, at some point, physically close, as in the same town or closer, who end up far apart because of time and circumstance. As I’ve gotten older, that’s happened more and more, and save for old folk songs, I’m not sure it’s a theme that comes up incredibly often.

The other thing that is kind of interesting to me about it, is that I would have guessed that this song came out in the 1970s. Maybe it’s because one of the characters in the song is named “Leroy”. It doesn’t necessarily have a 1970s sound, but it doesn’t necessarily not. The biggest tip-off would be the line about punk, which didn’t really get big until the 1980s. However, this song came out in 1988, and while yes, people did still communicate by letter back then, as did I, technology was already making deep inroads to people’s lives; by 1988, Nintendo had been out for years, and there were a ton of gadgets on the market to make people’s lives “easier”, so for me, this song does seem to be a little bit of a throwback even for the time it was written.

Word and Action, Corporate Edition (No love for Gabby)

Blaze and the Monster Machines is a Nickelodeon show (Nick Jr.) featuring lots of anthropomorphized monster trucks along with a couple of kids who interact with them. The star, of course, is the character Blaze. The children are A.J., a boy, who is Blaze’s driver, and Gabby, a girl, who is the mechanic to the whole group. A.J. appears in every episode, and Gabby appears in most, if not all, of the episodes, though her role is smaller than A.J.’s.

The show hopes to introduce small children to science concepts, in particular those with math, mechanics, and engineering. (I wrote a bit about this at my other blog here: The Fallacy of “Educational Television”.) Regardless of whether I think educational television actually works, my two youngest children have fallen in love with the show. The thing is, one is a boy, the other a girl.

Now, for my son, finding him Blaze stuff was no problem. It’s obvious that probably 97% of kids who name Blaze as their favorite show are boys. There are coloring books, shoes, pajamas, toys, what have you, just as you would expect with any Nickelodeon cartoon.

My daughter very much enjoys that we have these things in the house. I have no problem with her running around with the monster trucks or wearing grey, black, and red Blaze pajamas.

The thing is, though, because she’s a girl, I’m sure she pays more attention to Gabby than the boys do. She pays attention to all of Gabby’s tools and can name them all, even at two years old. However, although Gabby is a “main character”, there is almost no Gabby merchandise. An Amazon search for “Blaze” and “Gabby” shows one car, which has poor ratings due to the fact that it is smaller than the rest of the series. No T-shirts, no pajamas, no dolls, nothing.

Obviously, the show’s fans are primarily little boys. That much is clear. However, if they are going to go through the trouble of putting a female character in the show, how about giving that character a little love? My daughter is very much a “girly-girl”, but there is no reason that she can’t aspire to go into the hard sciences if she wants to. A girl doesn’t have to be a boy to do that. Gabby is kind of a representation of that – a girl who is smart, competent, and feminine in a traditionally male environment. For all the whining there is these days about girls not wanting to go into STEM fields, you’d think that Nickelodeon might throw the minority of girls who love Blaze, like my daughter, a bone by giving them something in the way of merchandise choices. If nothing else, I would even wager to guess, that with her purple hair, Gabby would sell decently well with girls on the cuteness factor alone. I’m not saying that my two-year-old’s future in STEM is dependent on whether I can find some official Gabby merchandise. However, it just seems like this is another case of liberal corporate hypocrisy, where they say they are in favor of one thing, but their actions say something else entirely.