Back in 2017, I knew from afar a girl in a couple of the classes for my Horticultural degree program. Sweet young lady who looked very lost in the world. Through the entire course of the year, I had a shallow crush on her. Haven't seen her in a while, and probably the moment I came to realize that she was not the one was when I saw her and some of the other girls chitter-chattering about various topics, teaching her their world wise ways and such. I immediately felt the air go out of that crush. While I did then and still do pity her a smidge, once someone goes down the rabbit hole and sees what can be gotten via worldly ways, you know there isn't a whole lot of hope, especially amongst our younger kids who are coming up in an age where the pervasive influence of social media has taken the concept of childhood and rendered it as arcane and archaic as four-track reel-to-reel recording devices. The tragedy of the Samsung Galaxy replacing Jesus in the center of the lives of our younger generations will have a lastingly negative impact.
I swore then and there that, should chance arise, I would never sell my soul to be part of a group. That mentality has been severely tested in the past year. Working the past year in retail stocking as I have, the spectre of my caustic, raucous sense of humour has been made clear and obvious to me. That I still have a far ways to go before I reach the point of being a fully responsible Christian was never in doubt, but the vast extent of my serpently tongue was still jarring to me. How can I think as I do, know much of what is right and wrong as I do, and yet still give in to the most basic of problems? Beyond even ingratiating myself with guys who would never have lifted a finger for me, there was pleasure in knowing I had contributed to laughter, but at what cost? After all, this was not wholesome humour in any respect. I have come to learn that sometimes the Spirit of the Lord will intentionally set the stages for circumstances that will bring you to understanding your true nature and things that need to be cut out of your life. Understandably, you leave the circumstance a changed person, yet still undimmed in terms of keeping things real, staying close to the source. In a nutshell, soul intact, and not sold.
The impetus from this post came from another one of my many old 'flames.' Late in the Summer of 2017, news reporter Katy Tur cashed in on her quasi-legendary stint reporting on Donald Trump's successful 2016 Presidential campaign for NBC News. The release of her memoir of sorts, entitled "Unbelievable," chronicled her life and Trump's rise through the political ranks, often intertwined at various key cross-sections in the plot-line of the book. The book read like a rag of dish, and by that I mean it was tabloid rag-worthy and dished a lot of ear-tickling details about the life on the road and some specific people who joined with the author in, ahem, road travails. A pleasant and brisk enough read, but I could not shake the feeling that I was peering into somebody's diary, reading the things you feared were true but never could prove...until now. I remember after the election hoping she would put things on hold and take a rest from it all. Needless to say, I soon saw her talking about her newfangled high society ways, which reeked of dollar signs and convinced me she was going squarely for her piece of the fame pie. Living in the limelight and the accompanying constant attention seeking do have their pull, but they still reveal a sad window into the people who partake. Gone soon enough was fan accessibility(No, I never did talk to her even in 'better' days), individuality, and all the things that I thought made her special and in came the corporate production which is on display to the present day.
In 2016, a tumultuous year that more than any other before or since brought me to where I am today, I had a massive crush on Katy Tur. She was one of my biggest celebrity 'flames' ever, and it served as something of an odd stabilizing fixture in what was a weird period in life. Among other things, another, even bigger real life crush brought me to my knees and forced me into a corner. Relying on faith and actual words from the Lord, I was able to navigate the treacherous waters and escape my own destruction. In the background as all of this took place was Donald Trump and Katy Tur, the latter of whom I repeatedly and vociferously defended when the former singled her out at his rallies. She had a lot of character traits to which I related. Social awkwardness, fellow millennial, and a clear tendency towards older music. Yay! Or so I'd thought. At the time, it was my dream of being an icon of radio, a cross between Dennis Elsas and Don Imus(So, in my way, I was looking to sell my own soul to get a hit off the fame thing). The plan was that, in my famous position, I might meet her and engage her on a musical level. In my heart up to that point, I always wanted to wow a woman with my Dave Mason, Moody Blues, and Tom Petty records. Delusional, am I right? It was also the crush I psychologically abused the most(Rendering her the biggest 'flame-out' of the bunch), the end results of which left damaging impacts I especially have felt in the past month. Lesson learned. Never entertain the fantasy of consummating a relationship with a famous crush.
In the land of sold souls, 'group-think' reigns supreme. Remember how several media figures were, sometime around 2013, following the lead of the likes of then-MSNBC host Al Sharpton and doing fluff pieces on 'Knife Control'(If you REALLY want to decimate the restaurant industry...)? So it is now on every level, not just that one. Newsrooms, to give them minor credit, used to be able to competently get together and agree upon their story-line for the day. Now, it looks like they're throwing paint up against the wall to see what looks good and what doesn't. Even in places like, say, the many local dining establishments around Gainesville, GA, if you get one person talking about politics, you will see a swarm of usually older men without their wives in tow getting in on the action. They can't seem to resist. Soon, the whole group agrees upon some key thing, usually something incredibly dismaying yet absolutely relatable if you had followed the thread of the conversation. Agreed upon points hit the airwaves of social media, and it's off to the races. Sigh. Don't people have anything praiseworthy to say? Yet another notch for ideological self-agreement on the bed-post of society. Music to the ears of half of the country and not so much to the other half.
Music in its own right has a unique way of reaching people and connecting with all of us, more so than any long-form cinema and extra buttery tub of popcorn ever could. Unlike with the cinemas, music was something designed by God(Look it up in the Psalms) as a source of joyful entertainment. For music fans, though, the worst kind of person is the guy who gets paid by Rolling Stone or the Atlantic to 'review' music, or more appropriately to 'shape opinion' on what constitutes style and taste. When bending to doubtless fixed, rigid definitions of such big concepts, one is apt to get so big in the ego department that he undoubtedly comes to consider himself something of Gospel truth in the age of the great unwashed masses. Glorified selling out. Bands like the Eagles and Emerson, Lake, & Palmer resonated with a lot of people, but news outlets and legend wannabes barely made mention of them when Glenn Frey, Keith Emerson, and Greg Lake all died in 2016. Likewise, no one mentioned Ray Thomas of the Moody Blues when he died last year, nor did his name come up in any end of year retrospectives. The press and their reviewers do have their favourites, though. When the likes of fashion model David Bowie and one-hit wonder Lou Reed passed, people went absolutely bonkers. Why? "They pushed the envelope." Really, now? Are you sure they didn't just 'look good' and 'act cool' doing their thing, as opposed to the eons of other people who actually put in the hard work for their music? Want to put money on it, friend?
'For what does it profit a man that he gain the whole world and yet lose his very own soul?' It profits us much to ponder these words from Scripture. It may pay in this life to 'go with the flow,' but it will surely backfire in the next one. Another money quote which flashes around my mind as I ponder this subject comes from Stan Lynch, the former drummer for Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers. Describing Petty, he said "I could see into him. I knew who he was, even when we started out together in the band. I could see that he was...scared. I could see that he wanted to be important. I knew what he wanted. He wanted you to hear him. He wanted to be that boy. But I also knew, 'This is a frightened guy.' And we're getting into big things. This is big surf." While I don't(For now, at least) take Petty himself to have been a sell-out, I did come to that impression of Katy Tur as I read her book. She and her ilk spend their lives 'inventing themselves,' roving around from assignment to assignment on the road to being a beacon of...whatever, never stopping to appreciate all they have and all that which surrounds them. Sadly, most people fall into that mentality spiral, selling out all that ever made them good in order to get their piece of the pie, niche in the world, etc. Or, at the very least, perhaps to escape from the stain of prior lives. It's a real tragedy, especially when you look at what nice people and examples they could have been to younger people had they continued as before, making all requisite changes and learning and growing in their unique brew of circumstances as opposed to settling for cookie-cutter lifestyles.
But it pays to sell out in this life, that much is true. No one can honestly say otherwise.