Me vs. The Rock Wall

Rewind the film. Further. Three summers ago. All the way to before college. You will see someone who resembles me a great deal. An 18-year-old, fresh out of high school, who headed up to his future university for orientation. After a day of forgettable seminars and ice-breakers, he took a break with Luke and Avery—new-found acquaintances and friends of necessity—to go check out the school’s exercise center…

“We really need to try out the rock wall,” I said as Luke, Avery, and I passed it. We had been shooting pool (I say this in a loose sense as none of us really knew how to play) and playing ping-pong for a while and were heading to the exit when we passed the rock wall.

“Eh, I don’t know about that; it’s pretty high,” said Luke. “But…Avery and I will stay and watch if you want to do it!”

A minute later, I had equipped myself with a protective helmet and strapped my legs into the harness—somewhat uncomfortable but highly secure. The attendant who helped me strap in, a tall, lean man in a blue shirt, motioned upwards, “When you’re ready.”

So I began to climb. Quickly, and mostly with my arms—I had been doing pullups that summer, and I was skinny and light to begin with. A few of the holds on the beginner’s course were tricky, but I managed to climb a few dozen feet up, Luke and Avery were talking inaudibly the whole time and would occasionally call encouragement. Finally, looking up, I could see the buzzer—my target—only 6 feet away.

The problem was that the nearest hold was positioned in such a way that I couldn’t reach it, even if I stretched. What’s more, I didn’t have the lower body strength or flexibility to reposition my legs. So instead, I did the only thing I could—I threw myself towards the nearby nub.

And missed.

The world spun around me as I swung away from the wall. I was upside down, looking at the ceiling, then the far wall, then the ground. And then I landed, touching down to earth just as the cable swung me back towards the wall. I collided with the wall, a plastic protruding rock hitting me directly in my lower back.

Rock wall: 1. Me: 0.

I climbed quickly to my feet. The attendant ran over. “Hey, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I said automatically, still analyzing the truth of that statement.

“What was that?” the attendant asked.

“I just…lost control,” I said, trying to act nonchalant as I unstrapped the harness and removed my helmet.

The attendant nodded, “Yeah, you’ve got to use your legs to control your fall—bounce off the wall as you rappel down.”

“Oh,” I said. That hadn’t occurred to me. I could imagine it now—what real rock-climbers do when they rappel down a face.

As we left the fitness center, Luke said with a laugh. “Avery and I were wondering why they made people wear helmets,” said Luke. “Well, you showed us why!”

I grinned. “Mmm, my back’s a little sore,” I said, twisting experimentally.

The night that followed was unforgettable. The dorm was cold, I hadn’t brought a blanket, and every direction I turned myself made my back hurt. When I would wake from brief dozes, I would wonder whether my spinal cord was injured, and how permanent the pain I was experiencing might be.

(Fortunately, this wasn’t the case, and my back was completely healed in a matter of days.)

Why Music?

This article is by our guest author Caroline Bennett, and it is the first part of a series she has written about music.  In the coming months, she will be sharing music reviews, composer biographies, and music history articles with us as part of her music series.

Johann Sebastian Bach“The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”Johann Sebastian Bach, composer from the Baroque Era

Music is underappreciated in society. To be sure, people hear it—blaring from speakers inside stores, rumbling from inside vehicles, playing softly in the background at restaurants. But looking at school curricula, where math and science dominate even over English, we see that music is thought unimportant in education.  Yet this careless attitude towards music shows a failure to understand how vital it is to mankind, for not only does its study teach history, but it also offers insight into men’s hearts, as well as draws believers closer to God.

Harpsichord
Harpsichord

One of the best ways to learn how to appreciate music is to study its history, seeing how it has developed over time because of the various events and cultures of the world. For instance, during the Renaissance, the predominate religion in Europe was Roman Catholicism, and so much of the music written was religious music for choirs. But at the same time, bards were traveling around to different courts, playing their portable instruments—the lute and harp—and recounting the important events of the past and present, since many people could not read in those days. As better education became more accessible, however, more people learned how to play instruments and compose music. By the 1600s most well-to-do families owned keyboard instruments like the clavichord and harpsichord, the precursors to the piano. The music composed during this period—called the Baroque Period—was vastly different from that of the Medieval Age, mostly because composers were making great advances in their understanding of music and of how instruments could be played. But because Baroque composers were generally Christians, even the most secular of Baroque works still aimed to glorify God and reflect the beauty which he had created. This mindset changed in the next two centuries, when many composers began writing music not because they felt that it reflected God’s glory, but rather because they wished to express themselves and be unique. Unfortunately, this attitude continues into the 21st century.

Richard Wagner
Richard Wagner

This leads to another reason why studying music is important: it helps Christians understand the philosophies of different eras and people. Up into the mid-1700s, most music was written from a Christian worldview; after that, many composers were influenced by various secular philosophers like Rene Descartes and Friedrich Nietzsche. For instance, Richard Wagner, who lived from 1813 to 1883, was a German composer whose music reflects beliefs very similar to those of Nietzsche (the two were actually friends). Both Wagner and Nietzsche believed that man had not yet reached his full potential, but could become an übermensch—“superman”—if he lived without any restraints, pleasing only himself. Wagner’s operas were, as a result, often about larger-than-life men who did daring deeds and lacked any kind of morality. And despite the fact that Wagner’s music was often bombastic, it had a powerful effect on many of his listeners and continues to be revered to this day. This shows how much music can influence its listeners—for good or ill. The words sung, and even the notes played, convey a worldview which, if only accepted and never examined, can lead to a twisted knowledge of the world and of God.

Pipe OrganBut just because most of the composers from the Romantic and Modern eras wrote music that does not reflect a Christian worldview does not mean that Christians cannot listen to and appreciate it. Wagner did write some heartbreakingly beautiful songs, and Christians can listen to them and rejoice in the beauty God has created, and thank him for giving man a creative mind and energy to create such music. For God gives common grace to all of his creatures; he makes the sun to rise and the rain to fall even on those who do not trust in him. He has given those who revile him the ability to write and perform beautiful music that, whether they like it or not, declares the mighty power of God.

The apostle Paul told the Christians in Philippi that they were to pursue after all that is lovely and edifying to the soul (Philippians 4:8). Most music does just that. One cannot study it, listen to it, or play it without thinking of how great and glorious our God is, for not only does it reflect the beauty that he has instilled in the earth, but it also reminds us that man is creative because he is made in the image of the Creator.

To make believers rejoice in the Lord—that is the ultimate end of music. And that is why Christians especially should appreciate it.

A Letter of Introduction

 

My dear readers,

For the next twelve-month, a friend will be joining our company as a guest author, and I would like to briefly introduce her.

Her name is –––––––, or Caroline Bennett as she prefers to be known.  Like the rest of us, Caroline enjoys writing, and in addition to being accomplished at the needle, the piano forte, and the harp, she delights in singing very much.  When out-of-doors, long strolls in the woods and local neighborhood with friends and games of shuttlecock are Caroline’s chief enjoyments.  Caroline also reads extensively for pleasure and for the improvement of her mind.

Music is of all subjects her delight, and Caroline plays the harp – I concede that I speak as a biased party – with a natural taste and grace.  As great authorities* on the subject well know, to be a proficient at music, one must apply oneself to one’s instrument and practice a great deal.  Caroline, however, needs little encouragement or advice on this point, for she practices very constantly.

Caroline’s delight in music and skills with the pen have led her to write about many musical subjects, works, and composers, and she has kindly agreed to share some of these with us.

I hope you will enjoy Caroline’s writings as much as I do.

Yours, &c.

Arrietty

 

*Lady Catherine de Bourgh in Vol. II, Chapter VIII of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice

“Hey, it is Jim from ‘The Office'”

Those were my first words after looking up info for a recently released movie on IMDB, but it wasn’t The Office…or even a comedy for that matter. In the film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldier of Benghazi, John Krasinski (Jim) plays a contractor who is hired to protect a secret CIA base of operations in Benghazi Libya. The movie claims to be based on the ‘actual‘ events in Benghazi, but whether that is an accurate statement or not I cannot verify*; however, the film itself offers a heroic and politically neutral telling of events.

So, first things first. War movies have always been a genre that fascinated me, but not because of the bloodiness, swearing, or brutal, nonstop, violence. What has always been intriguing about the movies are the motivations of the characters: “Why are you here?” or “Why were you willing to give up everything for the man next to you?”. Movies like Black Hawk Down, American Sniper, and others offer insight into what drives men: brotherhood, the need to protect, or a particular value structure. 13 Hours falls somewhat in-between the first two of those motivators previously mentioned. Following the story of contractors paid to protect a CIA complex, the film draws a narrative where men who have no responsibility to put their lives on the line are willing to do so for their country and one another.

13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI

While I have never expected much from Michael Bay whenever storytelling is involved, he does an excellent job of balancing the characters in this film. The movie displays the contractor’s desire to protect Americans amidst chaos, while providing flashes to the families back home that are waiting for husbands or fathers to return. This creates a tension between the two worlds: the world of war and the more domestic one back home. The movie American Sniper gave insight into the struggle that the family members left behind in the U.S. go through, and this film, to a lesser degree, also portrays those hardships. It isn’t The Office, or even a comedy, but John Krasinsky proves that he is capable in such serious roles as this film portrays: masterfully balancing the hardened war veteran with the loving husband and father. As the film wears on, you will find yourself rooting for the protagonists to survive, not because they are heroic, selfless, or righteous in their cause -although all those may be true -but because you want them to make it back to their families.

Although 13 Hours might not be classified as a strict war movie by genre, it does carry many of the expected traits. As such, only those who really want to see a war movie probably ought to watch in the theatre. Personally, I found it to be excellent on the big screen, but several parts of the film are Saving Private Ryan-esque in levels of blood and gore; also, given the subject material, swearing is prolific. However, those who enjoy war films will find 13 Hours to be an engaging, emotional, and inspiring film that portrays heroism and a sense of duty that is much absent in most of modern American culture.

 

*However, given how most films coming out of Hollywood tend to be, the movie is probably not all that accurate