Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ah Ha Moments

The following is an introduction that I wrote for my online Classical and Medieval Humanities class. I decided to repost it here not because these aren’t things that I haven’t written about before but because it took me a while to write and was four pages so I figured I’d get some multiple action out of my work. And if you are wondering what an Ah Ha Moment is, our professor described it as "that moment when you have a sudden realization, you make a connection between things you may already know with new insights, you learn something completely new or feel enlightened."


Introduction Ah Ha Moment

Ah Ha Moments. Well I’ve had a few in my life as well as a few moments when I discovered something, usually something to do with music, that were life altering. I guess before we get to far into that I’ll give a bit more of an introduction of myself (I know that you are dying to know these things…by the way that was sarcasm just incase it didn’t come across online).

I’m 35 and originally from Springfield, MO. Springfield is the third largest town in the Show Me State, in the part of the state know as the Ozarks, and is now well known for being close to Vegas Jr., i.e. Branson. It wasn’t always so, the Branson thing. When I was little Branson was a small town with a White Water and Silver Dollar City (which was kind of like a Ozarkian Bush Gardens. Also when I was a kid, Bass Pro Shop was nothing more than a hole in the wall. Needless to say, a lot has changed since we left.

We moved from Springfield 1986 in the summer before I was to enter 6th grade to Lakeland, FL. Lakeland is a small to medium sized town in central FL that is basically half way in-between Tampa and Orlando. The gist of Lakeland was there wasn’t a lot to do and it was hot (90+ degrees nine months out of the year). We lived there for six long years and while most of it was torturous, it had a huge impact on my life. One of my first life changing experiences happened while in Lakeland. The year was 1988 and I was in the eighth grade. At the time I was a nerd that was really into Star Trek, surfing (not that I actually did any mind you), and hair metal. That was until I heard the live version of U2’s “Pride (In the Name of Love)” from the album Rattle & Hum. That one song completely changed my life. I became obsessed with U2 and devoured all of their albums. From there my eyes were opened to a whole new world of music and in the years that followed I discovered bands like R.E.M., The Smiths, The Cure, The Pixies, and Concrete Blonde.

At this same time, eighth grade that is, I was a very active member of my church. I grew up in the Episcopalian Church and was an acolyte (i.e. alter boy) and a member of the youth group. I eventually became the head acolyte in the church and helped in administering the Communion. Even though I was an active member of the church I never fully bought into the doctrine or the teachings of the church. I never believed in the story of the Creation as told in Genesis nor could I fathom God condemning people to an eternity in a lake of fire for not believing in Christianity. Needless to say I wasn’t a very good Christian. While in youth group activities I voiced my doubts and beliefs (a personality trait that has stuck with me) but I kept going. The big reason for my doubts in the church’s teachings was my mom. She was working on her Masters degree in Religious Studies and as long as I can remember our home was filled with Buddhist statues, Hindu imagery, and Jamaican artwork. At a very young age I learned that the world’s religions actually have a lot in common. More on this in a bit…

While in high school in FL my friends and I were called the “progressive kids” but unlike most of my friends I was adamantly against drinking alcohol and using drugs. For one thing my dad was an alcoholic when I was a kid. On top of that my brother was a drug addict, so I figured it would be prudent if I stuck to the straight ad narrow path, plus I had enough problems eating too much to even begin to consider taking on a habit even more addictive than food (On a fairly ironic side note, I am completely for the legalization of drugs or at the very least the decriminalization of drugs.). One day at lunch someone told me that I was straight edge. I had no idea what that meant but shortly after that I heard the straight edge hardcore punk band 7 Seconds and had a major Ah Ha Moment. Here was the first band that I’d heard since U2 that really spoke to me and on top of that they were singing about the same things that I was thinking about and concerned with at the time. At this time I was also a huge fan of the movie Pump Up the Volume, which little did I know, would introduce me to the band that would become my all time favorite. Did I mention that I’m totally a music nerd?

Towards the end of my junior year my dad got a new job and thus we were going to move to Oklahoma City that summer. Yeah…they did it to me again. I got to go to a new school for my senior year of high school (wasn’t it bad enough that they did this to me in elementary school?). So we moved to south side OKC where I attended Westmoore High School for my senior year. The upsides were that the school was nice and didn’t have any of the social troubles that had occurred in my school in FL (I didn’t really go into this before, but the gist is that my friends and I were treated like bad-word for being different; mind you this was in the early ‘90s prior to Nirvana completely changing the musical landscape for an entire generation or two). More than any of that though I met and feel in love with the woman who would become my wife.

After graduation I headed to OU for college. That didn’t work out so well but it was in Geography class that someone let in on the fact that the Descendents had changed their name to ALL. The Descendents were the band that I first heard in Pump Up the Volume and whose live album I had listened to like crazy for two years. I went out and picked up ALL’s Breaking Things album and was completely hooked. This band became another Ah Ha Moment type of thing (albeit one that took a while to really sink in). Here was a band made up of total nerd who wrote these amazing love songs. I felt like I belonged somewhere in-between ALL and 7 Seconds. From then on I pretty much immersed myself in punk rock. I dropped out of college (for the first time) and concentrated on working full time. I got an apartment, with the help of my folks, and spent three long years working in retail—during which time I did return to college, received my AA, went to OSU, and then dropped out of OSU two months later. I moved back home and started working on paying off the debts that I had incurred over the past few years. Eventually I got an apartment with my then girlfriend and found myself working in my first call center. Prior to heading to the phones I had worked in a karaoke shop for a couple of years. During that time I produced a zine and helped run a DIY punk venue. I also headed to UCO to work on a Journalism degree. Once I got my job at the call center, AOL for those who may be curious, I had to again drop out of school. Shortly there after we, my girlfriend and I, learned that we were going to become parents. We then got married and our daughter was born. Becoming a father was a major Ah Ha Moment for me. Things became much clearer and I finally had a purpose in life. A year and three days later our son joined the family and I moved to my second call center. I spent the next seven years working for Sprint, honestly hating every minute of it. In there somewhere we moved to Moore and the drive to and from the Sprint call center just became too much (it’s on the NW Expressway and Rockwell) so I quit and got a job at [un-named company], which was a monumental step down in pay but is five miles from my house. It was prior to leaving Sprint that I took Comparative Religions at OCCC and experienced another Ah Ha Moment. Here was what I wanted to do with my life. I then discovered that OU had a Religious Studies program and I finally, definitively knew what I wanted to major in.

During these years I continued to grow spiritually, but I completely distanced myself from organized religion. I often described my beliefs by stating that I believed in God but I didn’t believe in any one religion (at the time I think I used the phrase “but none of them got it right” or something along those lines). A friend told me that I was essentially a deist. The term was completely new to me so I did some research and discovered that my beliefs were very much in line with deist thought and not too unlike that of Thomas Jefferson. I was after this when in Comparative Religions that I learned more about Buddhism and found much of that religion that I agreed with, so much so that if asked I stated that I was a “deist with Buddhist leanings.” Since that time I’ve come to realize that I am in reality a bit of a Universalist, thanks in no little part to my exposure to the works of Joseph Campbell. So there were a couple of Ah Ha Moments on this part of my journey.

Politically speaking I’ve recently gone through some Ah Ha Moments. I’ve followed presidential politics, or at least elections, since 1988 when George HW Bush destroyed Michael Dukakis. I actually have a very vivid political memory prior to that. I was election night 1980 and I asked my dad who he voted for for president. He told me Ronald Reagan. I asked why not President Carter, who I liked and still like very much, and he responded with something to do with inflation (those details are a bit fuzzy). Anywho… In 1992 I was extremely impressed with AR Governor Bill Clinton and the ideas he proposed in his run for the White House. I was a senior in high school at the time and desperately wanted to vote but I turned 18 the month after the election. I wrote an editorial for the school paper about the election that won some state writing contest award thing. When I turned 18 I registered to vote as a Democrat. Since then I voted for both Democrats and Republicans, being someone who despised party line voting, and in 2008 I supported then Senator Barack Obama in his run for the White House. I was drawn to his message of hope and healing. Shortly after he was sworn in though I realized that my hopes for something new and different in Washington, DC were not going to come to fruition. The Ah Ha Moment for me in this case was when I heard that the Treasury Secretary was seeking the power to take over any company deemed to big to fail. To me this was a complete abuse of power (which was my biggest objection to the previous administration). So I did lots of thinking and some blogging on the matter and I eventually decided that I could no longer be a member of the Democratic Party. As far as I am concerned the only thing that the two major parties are interested in is their own power. So I left and never looked back. Recently I’ve been thinking of joining the Green Party but that is still a decision in the making.

One last Ah Ha Moment and it’s another musical one. Earlier this year, ALL/Descendents’ guitarist Stephen Egerton released his first solo record which consisted of songs written by him with lyrics and vocals provided by some of his friends (including two of ALL’s vocalists and the Descendents’ vocalist, making this the closest thing to a new ALL or Descendents record in over five years). Stephen lives in Tulsa so he put together two record release shows, one in Tulsa and one in OKC. That show was probably the best show I’ve ever seen. And the Ah Ha Moment for me was when I looked around and I realized that there were no hipsters or trendy kids in the room (unless you count the one guy from The All-American Rejects). Every band that performed that night, including Drag the River, Scott Reynolds & the Steaming Beast, and OKC’s own Euclid Crash were excellent but the headlining performance was, for a total music nerd like me, heaven on earth. Stephen brought friends into town to perform various songs from his album The Seven Degrees of Stephen Egerton, two of which were ALL vocalists Scott Reynolds and Chad Price. To top of the night, ALL/Descendents’ drummer extraordinaire Bill Stevenson joined the band on stage and we were treated to short sets of ALL classics from both Scott and Chad. I’d seen ALL twice with Chad singing but never with Scott. Don’t feel bad if the particulars of this aren’t making sense because unless you are a real fan they won’t (and my wife totally makes fun of me for knowing all of these crazy details about this band).

So that’s pretty much it for me and even if it wasn’t I think that I’ve pontificated enough for now.

1 comment:

Clem said...

Discover Magazine blog:

"For many religious people, the popular question 'What would Jesus do?' is essentially the same as 'What would I do?' That’s the message from an intriguing and controversial new study by Nicholas Epley from the University of Chicago. Through a combination of surveys, psychological manipulation and brain-scanning, he has found that when religious Americans try to infer the will of God, they mainly draw on their own personal beliefs."