Saturday, November 5, 2011

Banjos and Wolves

Do you know the origin of the banjo?  The idea of stretching strings over gourds with an attached neck has roots in Africa and the Middle & Far East.  In fact, early African slaves brought to the Americas were said to have created these instruments during their captivity.  The guitar, on the other hand, quite possibly came about in Spain (in its modern form).  Its predecessor possibly using a bowl or a turtle shell with strings and a neck.  It then spread to other European countries in the 17th century or so.

Now I am not so musically uninclined as to believe that guitars are the same as banjos, or that the sound is the same by any means.  I just find it interesting that folks from long ago unilaterally produced music-making devices with a similar concept.  The spirit of invention often stems from necessity or the desire for increased convenience.  In the case of the arts, a pleasing sound eminating from a gourd or a tortoise shell is somewhat foreign to me.

I'm not sure that I would have the foresight or the wherewithal to create musical instruments where none existed previously.  I've made my fair share of cereal box guitars, and plastic bucket drums, but that is with the help of the modern instruments as a pattern.

And there is the concept I find most intriguing- to concieve a design or a concept where no pattern lies.  Quick, imagine a color that you have never seen!  Hmmm.  I can't do it.  How about a shape?!  A sneaker?!  A car?!  I fail again and again to imagine the nonexistent.  It's like trying to percieve eternity or the scope of the universe or something.

That's why I used to love to read about Thomas Edison.  As a boy, I loved biographies and especially ones about him.  His mind fascinated me.  Often, his inventions were a means to an end in solving a problem, but it was the way that he approached these solutions that made him who he was.

I resolve to have more open-ended conversations with my children.  They are master non-conformists.  Yesterday I sat outside behind a row of bushes with my 5-year-old pretending we were wolves.  We howled and growled and enjoyed the cold wind on our wolf noses.  From that vantage point I began to think about some new landscaping ideas for that part of the property.  It was nice over there, but I'm not sure everyone would be comfortable on the ground behind a bush.  Maybe a nice glider or something.

The point is, there are some things that only occur to you  from a different vantage point.  So, force yourself from your comfort seat.  Assume the four-legged position of the canine variety, and string up a gourd.  It just might become the world's next great idea!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


It has been said that violence originates in the heart. This could be said for other destructive forces as well; like greed, lust, pride, whatever. The point is, that if violence is committed in the heart before it is carried out in deed, then what of the opportunity to stay the hand?! What of war and protest and fighting and misery?! What is the name for the moment between the malice in the heart and mind and the action carried out in cruelty?! Is there a name? It is that brief moment that defines our character, that gives identity to our integrity. It is choice. A decision. A chance, to determine that we will not give sway to our haughty emotions and instead will act with dignity. Nay, that we will act with Love. It has been my experience that hatred is fleeting. As are many other disruptors of harmony. So, why behave during temporary emotions in a way that will have more than temporary consequences! Nonsensical at best, despicable at worst. And sometimes I think that we could all do well to sip cocoa and eat cookie dough ice cream, and that would intervene in many of life's ills. Godspeed to the wounded and weary!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

1 Nephi 7

"But it came to pass that I prayed unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, according
to my faith which is in thee, wilt thou deliver me"

"...yea, even give me strength that I may burst these bands with which I am
bound. And it came to pass that when I had said these words, behold, the
bands were loosed from off my hands and feet"

To this end ought our prayers to be... that we desire and hope for deliverance from our bonds. In our day and age, these may be financial, moral, ethical or, as usual, results of pride and avarice. The lesson from a dedicated servant of God was that the Lord can and will loosen our bands. They will more than likely be about our minds and hearts even more than our hands and feet. Such is not a problem for God. According to our faith in Him, so let it be done. Thus the follow up question afterward... "what will we do with unbanded feet and hands (or hearts and minds)?"

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


I watched my youngest daughter, Kamryn (10 months), play on the living room floor today. She found a small sequin and was fascinated with it. It completely occupied her attention as she worked her tiny fingers to grasp it and move it from hand to hand. Occasionally, it would catch the sunlight and sparkle or cast bluish-green shadows on her skin. It was fun to observe her in a serene mood as she enjoyed a small wonder of life. In my mind I contrasted this moment to any time that she has been upset or angry. During those moments of sincere displeasure and fist-clenching crying fits, I seriously doubt that the magic of the shiny toy would be noticed by her, much less appreciated. Isn't that how we are as a human family?! In the quiet, reflective, grateful moments of life, we can truly admire God's beauty all around us. Alas, for the selfish times of tantrum and strife, when we ignore all else for the instant gratification which we think will make us happy. Such disparity, and yet such opportunity! Perhaps we, as adults, can train our eyes and our hearts to focus on the good and the pure, and resist the enticement to throw fits of our own.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Grammar Nazi

I always find it odd when people say that they "could care less". It's supposed to be "couldn't care less" to denote that a person is so unconcerned with whatever or whomever is the topic of their disdain that they are at the absolute bottom of their caring meter. By stating that you "could care less" you are asserting (incorrectly, I presume) that there is indeed the possibility of caring less than you care now, and does nothing to provide a point of reference for the listener. If you "could care less" then obviously you care somewhat. And if you care at least somewhat, then how much? And is it a lot or a little? Is it a reasonable amount, or a microscopic bit? Your (presumably incorrect) statement leaves me nothing to measure. I just don't get it!

Which leads me to the odd threat of "fixing your wagon"...

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Falling into Autumn

For all interested parties, the Autumnal Equinox occurs on the 22nd of September at 21:18. Not much time to prepare! What that means to me, in addition to a more fair and balanced tilting of the earth's axis is that our beautiful transition time of fall is upon us. I am a dead leaf-blowing, cocoa-drinking, cold wind in the face-loving, turkey-anticipating, can't wait for snow and winter junkie. I long for these days of crisp mornings and perfect evenings for a jacket and a stroll. Break out the pumpkins, the gourds, the sweatshirts and jeans. It's football season in full force and the Huskers seem to be doing alright. Seems like all is right in the world.