Monday, January 10, 2011

The joy of recognizing and encouraging your child to develop his or her gifts . . .

We've been astonished at our 2 1/2-year-old granddaughter's obvious artistic bent. Her sense of color (she has demanded to pick her own clothes--very creatively, yet with astonishing sense of color coordination--for over a year) and her musical ability (turn on some music and she is in a reverie almost immediately) have jumped out at us from very early. But she has some astounding facility with language as well.

So her parents and we, her grandparents, try to encourage the development of these traits as much as possible. Her mom intends to take her to her first ballet class tomorrow morning if the weather will permit. (It's been snowing rather heavily here!)

Anyway. With Natalia's unique giftedness in mind, I was astonished to see the following video of a budding musical conductor . . . at three years of age!

Think of how well he has to know the piece in order to anticipate the changes in tempo and dynamic range. As someone commented: he is not merely reacting to the music; he is anticipating the changes. He really knows this piece.

I first saw the video here at the American Choral Directors Society website. Allen Simon, who posted the video to the ChoralNet blog, noted, Jonathan, the conductor in the video, "could give us all lessons in enthusiasm." --There is a page full of admiring and thoughtful comments about his conducting style and understanding of the music. Lots of accolades to his parents, too!

One guy wrote:
I believe a major symphony orchestra could easily follow his direction (except for the finish [Where he falls off his "podium" and lies on the floor giggling from the pure joy of conducting such a fine piece of music--JAH]) and audiences would love his style.

I also think that this video would serve an excellent training tool for conducting students--it teaches music expression using the whole body (including conducting with your feet), unbridled enthusiasm, and how to deal with emergencies without dropping a beat (or a baton).

In the comments section to another video, one of his parents comments,
Since before Jonathan was walking he was trying to conduct and at 19 months he had picked his instrument. He fell in love with the violin. His passion is for classical music. We found him a wonderful violin instructor whom he adores. He has been playing now for a year.
You can find that video (also of him conducting) here.

And then there's the very recent (he's now 4 years old) Jonathan performs "Humoresque" by Antonín Dvořák.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Living our lives purposefully

In the last couple of days I have had a few conversations with people who told me more than I think I have the right to know about their personal stories. At the Old Year's Night/New Year's Eve party Sarita and I attended, a young man of 32 told me all about how he and his 26-year-old wife got together, beginning from when she was the 14-year-old older sister of his younger sister's best friend. She lived five doors down the street.

I was stunned, astonished, appalled at the casual attitude he seemed to display towards entering into a physical/sexual relationship with her . . . even "way back then." And then the (brief, but enough) details about how he "tested" her and, apparently, she "tested" him after they moved in together at 25- and 19-years of age, respectively.

Oh, and then (not terribly detailed, but enough) descriptions of his relationships with all the other girls he dated in his pre-marriage days.

Then this morning, talking with family members who returned from holiday visits with their in-laws, I was regaled once more with stories of broken relationships, infidelities, people with drug and alcohol problems, and more.

"How does this happen? Why do kids who come from stable, loving, strong homes throw it all out to pursue such downward spirals?"

It was with these kinds of thoughts in the back of my mind that my "Sweet Vocal" station on Pandora played John Ondrasik ("Five for Fighting"--perhaps best known for Superman (It's Not Easy))'s song 100 Years.

I have "liked" 100 Years a lot for a long time. Not that I knew its title, who had sung it, or what it was about. To be honest, I had never really listened to its lyrics. I had just loved the tune. But I happened to have the Pandora page open at the moment when the song came on yesterday and it displayed--and I happened to read--the first few lines.

I was stunned:
I'm 15 for a moment
Caught in between 10 and 20
And I'm just dreaming
Counting the ways to where you are

I'm 22 for a moment
She feels better than ever
And we're on fire
Making our way back from Mars

15 there's still time for you
Time to buy and time to lose
15, there's never a wish better than this
When you only got 100 years to live

I'm 33 for a moment
Still the man, but you see I'm a they
A kid on the way babe
A family on my mind

I'm 45 for a moment . . .
????? "What is this about?" I asked.

I thought I knew, but I wanted to be sure. (By the way, go here for the rest of the lyrics.)

I looked the song up online and found a YouTube video. Not the official video, but the following video confirmed and, in a way, expanded on my understanding of the song (and, in fact, when I watched Ondrasik's orginal video, I came to the conclusion that it conveys the meaning of the song far better than does his).

Gorgeous. I found myself in tears:

Ah! That we would live our lives in consciousness of the swift passage of time!

Saturday, January 01, 2011

A sermon, a quest, and a book . . .

Last Sunday our pastor preached a good end-of-year/beginning-of-year sermon. He asked us seriously to consider four questions:
  • What do [I] need to Celebrate?
  • What do [I] need to Change?
  • What do [I] need to Conclude [or End/Terminate]?
  • What [am I] Contending for?
At each point during the sermon, he paused and gave us time to write down answers to the questions.

What do I need to Celebrate?

I found myself filled with fear when he paused for the first question. It was as if my mind was completely blank. It wasn't that I was thinking there was nothing to celebrate; rather, my memory completely failed me. Last year was a complete blank in my mind. I was afraid he would begin speaking again before I could remember a single thing.

Happily, eventually I remembered a couple of things for which I am grateful:
  • My Passport to India. That was a very exciting program!
  • A general sense that I am gaining new purpose and direction in my life.
  • Related to the previous item (and very much freeing me to move in new directions!): A greater and greater confidence that staff members at Sonlight/InquisiCorp are fully competent to take on and complete more and more of the tasks that I used to do.

"What do I need to Change?"

Oh boy! Deep in my heart I have been anguishing over a number of intellectual and spiritual issues that I have been unable to put aside . . . for years.

[If you have been following this blog for the last couple of years, you may remember that I promised--back in July of 2009!--to "note some places where I think Lamoureux probably failed, adequately, to do all his homework. Or, if he did his homework, he failed, adequately, to express what I believe he should have." "Let me do that in another post," I said. But I have never returned to the subject. Because I have been afraid to confront the issues. I know a lot of what I need to confront; but it scares me to do so. It scares me even to ask the questions . . . because, I'm afraid, even to ask the questions will, for many people, brand me a heretic. I am afraid that if I ask the questions--or if I admit, even, to reading the books written by certain people--those actions on my part, in themselves, will open me to being branded a heretic. And so I have shied away from raising the issues or asking the questions or--to be most forthright about it--seeking the answers! (I have direct, personal, and very costly experience that has helped create the fear within me. And I have no doubt I will soon tell the story of that experience. But as I write this post, that is for the future.)

The fear of which I speak is not unfounded, I think.

It is as if you were an intellectually open person in the 1950s. Wanting to listen thoughtfully, analytically--maybe even skeptically and disdainfully! (but with care and concern for honesty and justice)--to the heartfelt concerns of leading Socialists and Communists, you purchased or borrowed books written by well spoken advocates for those positions. But, for your troubles, you suddenly find yourself hauled before HUAC--the House Un-American Activities Committee.

In a free society, especially in a self-described Christian society--one in which, I would expect, members are dedicated to honesty, care, love and respect for their fellow human beings! --It seems to me that intellectually rigorous and honest and compassionate concern for the truth and for those who may be of a different opinion or who may be held under sway of a different worldview . . . It seems to me that such behavior should be honored and valued rather than held in disdain or abhorrence.]
. . . Well, I determined on Sunday that I need to put an end to my anguish; I need to stop holding back on confronting the issues; I need to write the book that I've been figuring, for the last several years, at least, that I need to write.

I wrote in my sermon notes: "Write on blog each day?" [I figured that, by writing a blog post each day, I would eventually get my thoughts out of my head and could then, eventually, form them into a unified whole called a book.]

And then Pastor Peter asked his next question:

"What do you need to Conclude?"

Well, I said to myself, I guess I am moving in the right direction!

But I wrote under this item that I need to finish or complete editing on two books written by friends of mine (who often read my blog and so shall go nameless!). I very much want to do those projects for them; I think that they are valuable. But I need to get them out of the way so I can attend more fully to my own project.

And then, finally,

For what are you Contending?

I thought that was an interesting question. Pastor Peter illustrated his meaning by reference to a former assistant pastor in our church who has always had a sensitive spot in his heart for immigrants. "In any room, in any meeting, with any group of people, and he was always on the lookout for the person from another culture," Pastor Peter said.

In essence, he said (at least, this was the meaning that I took away!), "For whose interests are you looking out?"

I found that question rather easy to answer. Especially in the context of what I had written in answer to the previous two questions. I believe I am and always have been most sensitive to and concerned about those who struggle intellectually with issues of faith (or "the" faith). --And, of course (if you know me), that means people who struggle with issues related to Christian faith.

It feels to me as if Christians are "not allowed" to ask the deepest questions. Those who don't struggle find the questions of those of us who do impertinent, bothersome, offensive, demonstrating a fundamental disrespect or disdain for the things of God.

And while I can understand that . . . feeling . . . And while I am sure there are many atheists about whom such comments might be made in truth, I believe that those who assume anyone who asks such questions must be coming from a position of disrespect and disdain are, themselves, demonstrating a fundamental disrespect and disdain for the person who has legitimate and innocent reasons for asking such questions! Indeed, the (non-questioning) people who level such charges are exhibiting an immaturity and fear that ought to have no place in a church or community that claims to be filled with the Spirit, power and wisdom of an almighty and all-knowing God!

But backing off from the sociology or context of question-asking and returning to my conclusions from last Sunday's sermon (!!!), I decided my best course of action at this time is to start a new blog--something separate from John's Corner of the World--to pursue these issues head-on.

If you would like to join me in that particular area of interest, I invite you to visit (the first of) what may become a series of "Forbidden Questions" blogs: Forbidden Questions: Bible & Faith.

[I should probably also note: I am thinking I may create another blog or two--one to deal with health issues and, possibly, a second one to deal with matters related to food. But however much I might enjoy writing those other blogs, creation of the Forbidden Questions blog, I believe, is a responsibility from which I cannot escape. (See my excursus on calling from a few weeks ago.)]