No place I’d rather be

Screenshot_2015-04-21-13-04-23I stared out the window, at the same time paying attention to the vibrant chatter of my sister and best friends, the twins Megan and Kayla. The four of us rode in their small white car on the highway circling round the Puget Sound to a small town across the Sound from Seattle. Towering trees filled the landscape and hills dominated the vista. In the far distance I could distinguish a ridge of white-tipped mountains. Adrenaline surged through each of us, the combined joy of being together at last, and the prospect of an evening on our own, going out to eat and then hanging out to giggle about attractive guys and a miscellany of other subjects. How different I felt from the past few visits, the past few years of estrangement and distance and scattered communication. Even stranger it seemed that here we were, on our own, spending time together in Seattle, whereas a few years ago we had said goodbye, on the cusp of our high-school years. Now we were juniors in high school, applying to our choice universities and preparing to step into the wide world. The radio boomed the song, “Rather Be”, and the lyrics couldn’t have been more fitting.

With every step we take, Kyoto to The Bay
Strolling so casually
We’re different and the same, gave you another name
Switch up the batteries

 

If you gave me a chance I would take it
It’s a shot in the dark but I’ll make it
Know with all of your heart, you can’t shame me
When I am with you, there’s no place I’d rather be

IMG_4326

Left to right: Megan, me, my sister Abigail, and Kayla

232323232-fp63569-nu=356--679-;-8-265;679-99259ot1lsi

Mount Rainier

There’s no place I’d rather be . . . those words echoed in my mind as I reflected on how much this time together meant. True, my sister Abby and I lived in Texas. Our respective colleges are located in Texas, while Megan and Kayla live in Washington, and plan on attending universities there. Honestly, I couldn’t, and still can’t, help but think how different it all is. Before, I would have balked against change, I would have hung back and tried to escape in my head, unwilling to face the reality of having to say goodbye after every visit with these dear friends. I would rather push them away instead of embracing the time we could spend with them. Sad, but true. And then the denial would set in. It’s fine that we no longer live close to each other. I don’t really fit with them as close friends. It’s better like this. We’re too different. Different kinds of lives, friends, interests—everything! Those processing sessions always ended with a shrug and a ‘whatever.’ I had developed a way to cope with the major change, when my best friends since the age of five had moved in eighth grade to the Northwest. It seemed easier than dealing with the pain. Sure, we’ve shared in traumatic physical pain—Megan and I had been in a terrifying boat accident when we were six. The four of us will always remember that harrowing time, and even when I tried to push away, those memories of the accident and how we came out of it together with our families united will never leave

So, we cruised down the highway towards the small coastal town with small shops and restaurants and neighborhoods. We walked into a Mexican restaurant, laughing and talking rapturously. And, I think it really began to hit me how much I loved it, how much I loved us together. True, the four of us exhibit vividly unique personalities. And that’s what makes the four of us so magnetic, it’s how we click. And the more I embrace this fact, the more I can appreciate how enjoyable these visits can be.

Friendship is not about how many interests two people share in common—rather, it is a rich background of shared experiences and emotions.

The Fork in the Road

Like any high schooler in the college-selecting process, I faced a variety of options to choose from. My passions in different areas increased my confusion and uncertainty. Art universities offering a wide selection of specialized courses in animation, 2D and 3D design, illustration, and a number of other creative degrees that attracted me. I began to fixate on this idea of attending art school, as I do seek to pursue my artistic bent. However, during my sophomore year of high-school, a semester at a classical academy introduced me to a mesmerizing plane of academics. Classical education. I became entranced by the subjects of philosophy and literature taught with the classical approach, and enjoyed applying the methods of logic, thinking, and rhetoric, integral subjects to this form of learning, to my studies of history, literature, and everything else. I found myself eager to explore the tremendous depths of these subjects that students can only find purposefully, at a specialized school or with classical curriculum at home. I realized that my love for the visual arts now had competition in my avid learner’s heart. Around this time I turned my focus from a liberal arts college in Purcellville, Virginia to elsewhere. At a college convention I met several ambassadors of University of Dallas, a private Catholic institution in Irving, Texas. I recall that my interest in UD mounted the more I learned about it. They offered a Rome program during Sophomore year, an intensive “Core” curriculum that focused on the Classical foundation of learning—requiring all freshmen and sophomores to take a list of courses ranging from Literary Tradition to Philosophy to Astronomy. All of these subjects form the basis for a more concentrated major during the two years as upperclassmen. I relished the prospects offered at University of Dallas. It fit me perfectly. And yet, a small nagging voice persisted to whisper in the back of my head, “Wait! What about Art school? What about an exclusive art education?” That isn’t to say that I wouldn’t obtain an art education at UD. They rank as having one of the top traditional art programs in the nation, which I planned to participate in should I choose UD.

genna

image from the internet

As the summer before my Senior year opened, I decided to sign up for a 2D and 3D design and animation camp at the Art Institute of Dallas. My heart fluttered nervously whenever I thought of experiencing a taste of an art student’s life. In depth anatomy and design courses. High tech drawing equipment and digital tablets. I tempted myself with this shining dream. Of course, none of this is to undermine the delight of creativity, traditional and digital. Anyone with a passion for art possesses such a dream, to delve into this fervency to create, design, and dazzle others with mind-blowing visuals. I believe that all artists would love the chance to explore and develop their artistic skills at such a school. The courses at these universities can be invaluable, doubtlessly, to someone desiring to improve their abilities. Yet, I experienced a dilemma, as I still remembered the bliss of walking around the vibrant campus of University of Dallas, meeting people who enthusiastically pursued their faith and education. When I joined the other kids at the Art Institute’s camp, I found myself facing an entirely different atmosphere. Most of the kids here came from secular public school, lived secular, godless lives, and although they too shared a passion for the arts, I found it difficult to relate to them on a spiritual and intellectual level as their interests diverged from mine dramatically. Discouraged, I spent my first day hoping it would get better, that I would enjoy myself more at this idealized art camp. Yet, as the week progressed during my stay at the camp, I noticed that the teens at my camp bodily represented the mindset of liberal social media sites such as Tumblr. Their attitudes created a barrier between themselves and anyone who might possibly not share their same interests, worldview, or lifestyle. Their unwelcoming demeanors estranged me and I could hardly feel safe or comfortable when the camp leaders expressed viewpoints of homosexual lifestyles and other issues that diametrically oppose my Biblical standards. All in all, by the time Friday arrived, I was more than ready to leave the Art Institute with my parents. With a mixture of disappointment and relief I realized that I did not belong at the Art Institute or anywhere else like it.

Campus (Braniff Memorial Tower and Mall), University of Dallas

University of Dallas Mall and Braniff Tower (not my image)

The lure of an exclusively art-focused schedule during my university years has not failed to entice me with its promising tastefulness. Although the Core Curriculum at University of Dallas integrated a medley of subjects that I’d discovered a growing passion for within myself, Art school assumed the forefront focus in my mind as I idealized possibly attending a university like Savannah College of Art and Design, or Parsons Art and Design in NYC. These schools, as well as CalArts in San Francisco, are known for their top-notch courses and degrees, from which emerge many respected animators, visual developers, character designers, and story-boarders who are now working for corporations such as Disney and Pixar. As someone prone to idealism, I began to envision the promise of such schools. Until I visited the Art Institute of Dallas, another highly respected visual arts academy, did I obtain a clearer picture of the dark side of these campuses. However, any budding artist will desire courses like 2D and 3D design, anatomy, character design, visual development, and more. I nursed my dissatisfaction with my own situation and my parents’ expressed suspicions of such colleges. But they pointed out that SCAD and CalArts hardly provide a well-rounded education as does University of Dallas. They do not develop every part of the mind—the only side of my brain that would be served would be the right side—while the left side of the brain would languish in neglect. As aggravating as it was, I found myself agreeing with them. Why? University of Dallas pushes students to their limits, as they have campaigned, as I have seen by simply sitting in on the classes. Not only does this school challenge you in your area of study, but it also compels you to study hard in other areas, such as mathematics, the sciences, theology, history, philosophy, economics, and history. Sure, at a place like CalArts you are receiving a degree for extremely specialized courses throughout your four year tenure, but what beyond that? You are not exploring the great works, you are not discussing Plato’s The Cave, nor delving into the Rhetoric of the Bible. In fact, I’m pretty sure that St. Augustine’s Confessions would never arise in any discussion at one of those secular art universities.

a9e89a19696f3dadbc60559db5a74bb2

University of Dallas Church of the Incarnation (not my image)

So, I reached the verdict. As difficult as it proved to surrender my desire to attend SCAD, or CalArts, or a similar school, discussions with my parents and my summer camp experience led me to a final conclusion. I would not be abandoning my artistic ambitions. No, I would instead pursue them in the safter, Christian environment at University of Dallas, an institution that promotes a love of learning, an appreciation of the past masterpieces while integrated with the Catholic intellectual tradition that so intrigued me during my semester at Founders Classical Academy. I relinquished my idealistic image of what art school would be like and adopted a more realistic mindset. Once I finished the foundations of my education that University of Dallas would supply, I would delve in deeper in the areas that remained in need of development. Perhaps even graduate school at one of those art universities would become an option. But in the meantime, I determined to surround myself with like-minded people who would challenge me to mature in my mind and soul, not merely in the right side of my brain.

Subtlety

There is no sweeter innocence than our gentle sin 

In the madness and soil of that sad earthly scene

Only then I am human
Only then I am clean 

“Take me to Church”

by Hozier

(Grammy’s selected Song of 2014)

It’s catchy, clever, and provocative. Today, secular music has managed to capture the full attention of the world, utilizing the power in this easily-accessed medium to send messages laced in an appealing rhythm and talented singers. “It’s true—most of the time, secular music is a lot catchier than a lot of Christian songs,” my studio art teacher observed. Her words have stuck in my head through the years and at this point, as a young adult with more freedom to choose the media I consume, I find myself agreeing to an extent with her statement. As a girl raised in a Christian household, I’ve been raised surrounded by Biblical values and truths which I firmly believe in. Yet, I and many other young Christians are familiar with the songs broadcasted on secular radio stations—songs sung by secular stars—songs that echo the mindset of a godless, caving culture. A considerable amount of the music I listen to comprises of songs which I find romantic, relatable, and of course, catchy. But even these positive attributes fail to negate the reality of modern music’s dark underbelly. Top chart songs contain subliminal meanings which promote blatant promiscuity, amorality, materialism. It might not be obvious, but if a listener is careful and listens closely, a deeper malice towards virtue penetrates the soul of contemporary music.

Satan utilizes one of the mediums which touches the hearts and infiltrates the minds of the younger generations. What we simply shrug off as a song really engenders subconscious messages which infiltrate into daily thoughts. These thoughts easily influence attitudes and behavior. For example, a recent billboard chart top hit, “Take Me to Church” by Irish tenor, Hozier, was nominated at the Grammy’s for 2014 Song of the Year.

The song is hauntingly beautiful with subtle verses and a soulful chorus. Admittedly, when I first heard it, I thought, “Wow, this is a powerful song. It’s almost hymn-like.” It’s Elton John mixed with an old Southern Spiritual from the American Civil War.

 

So said Dr. Taylor Marshall, a professor in Philosophy at University of Dallas. But his opinion changed when he listened to the lyrics:

 

What’s amazing about his song is that it’s about as offensive as anything produced by Marilyn Manson, Judas Priest, or Slayer yet hardly anyone recognizes it! It takes rich Catholic sacramental language but re-signifies the imagery as a sexual encounter. And that’s the so-called “genius” of this song.

The music industry is now much smarter than it was in the days of Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, and Slayer. Your daughter is not likely to love Marilyn Manson and erect an idol to Satan in her bedroom. Your son will not likely consecrate his baby to Lucifer and baptize him in goat’s blood.

Overt Satanism is out of style. However, young people are likely to exchange their Christian faith for sexual license. The stats show that young people will likely exchange the sacramental life and liturgy for the liturgy of sexual experimentation.

And that’s exactly why this song has become an American anthem. The devil doesn’t needs a league of heavy metal Satanists. He’d almost prefer to have people mocking the Christian sacraments and images.

If God isn’t real – “If the Heavens ever did speak” – then the only goods to be enjoyed in this life are the pleasures of food and sex. That’s all there is left for humans to experience transcendence. Hozier gets it and he sings for us a catchy hymn.

 

Dr. Marshall points out how modern society dresses up anti-Biblical messages and ideas and promotes them via the media—music, film, literature, art, and the internet. It’s “just a song”? No—songs like “Take Me to Church” make it to the Grammy’s to become the Song of 2014, and this is a clear statement about the direction in which our culture is hurtling.

As the title of the book by Robert H. Bork so aptly puts it, you could say that America is “slouching towards Gomorrah”. The patterns can be seen everywhere. Rampant promiscuity, invading the mindsets of younger children, blatant homosexuality, devaluing of human life as exemplified by euthanasia and abortion. The materialistic attitude of millions of Americans reflects in our extravagant, reckless lifestyles. Egocentricity becomes the norm, and the 21st century generation embraces the idea of self-love. Some would call it “progress”, but really, it seems that we merely regress towards the days of Nero and Caligula, when orgies and amorality raged the streets of the “Eternal City”. Music hugely impacts the outlook of each coming generation. With the recent trends in blatant sexual experimentation, the arts as an expression of the human soul reveal the deeper darkness that draws us farther and farther away from Christ.

4a4acb431a1a0b60f6331268b25241af            Dr. Marshall’s insights on this particularly popular song, and a simple analysis of modern culture, both provide a sharper view of this disease infecting the nation, the entire world. When songs like “Take Me to Church” twist the sacrosanct Eucharistic, Biblical words and references into a song idolizing sexuality and promiscuity, obviously the slouching has begun. But Satan cleverly wields his deception. He infects us with his poison as we enjoy a top-notch song a talented singer. He contaminates our thoughts when we enjoy a movie with a scene or two that would’ve made a younger, naïve self, blush. His trick? Subtlety.

Here is a link to Dr. Marshall’s article concerning “Take Me to Church” by Hozier: http://taylormarshall.com/2014/12/take-church-lyrics-meaning-christian-analysis-critique.html

To be a lover of the vintage, the classic, the archaic

01eff7382ad07aaaa14f2edc9664004e (1) It means to relish in reading of the past: History. It is definitely not surprising to you that I am a major fan of anything historical. My favorite books are from the Classic Lit. genre. The artists I look up to most are the masters, the stars of the Renaissance, and a lot of the music I listen to on spotify is historically themed. I wildly enjoy writing and reading historical fiction. Genealogy fascinates me (and lately I am excited by the investigations of my older sister who is interviewing my Grandma about our family history, my grandmother’s life through the past decades of the 20th century . . .)

History comes alive for me. Maybe that’s why I choose to write about it, because it is not merely accounts to read about for school history assignments. It goes far, far beyond that. History to me is a massive tapestry, woven beautifully, a story to read and memorize and understand and analyze. People to know, to remember. I prefer history to fantasy any day. But I the fantasy that I do love is time-travel stories. Those really make my heart race, because time travel is my wish upon a star. I frequently think about what I would do if I could pass through the “universe of time” and somehow push aside this thin veil to some year long, long ago.

If you feel this same passion about history that I do, I hope you’re saying an amen by now. I mean, who wouldn’t want a time machine. Sure, time travel stories always come with the age-old caveat about “you can’t change the past” . . . but the idealist in me yearns to step back across the centuries and meet and walk through the history that I can only now read about. Change wouldn’t be my objective, but Experience would. A glimpse at another world, so to speak. That would matter. A chance to meet the people I admire and respect. To look one of the Founding Fathers in the eye and thank the soldiers of the D-Day mission . . . to even see Robert E. Lee or Lewis and Clark from across the room. I don’t know. That would be magical and enchanting to me. I know they are people like you and me. But deep down they have earned a place in the annals of the past. Because they lived–they accomplished things with the time they had. It should be a message to all of us, to live our lives to the fullest, to appreciate every moment and person in our lives, every opportunity we have to make a difference for our family, our country (America!), for our Faith. Deep down, there is a purpose, a flying standard by which to live. Even if we want to turn away from it, there is a grander meaning to it all. There is His Story, that has gone down across the thousands of years, since Eden.

That’s the Divine beauty of it all, I guess. I am rambling now, but I just had to make this statement about History. Because History teaches, it inspires, it reminds us of what it means to fight for what is right and good and just. Sure, history is rife with error and darkness. But Light will always prevail. And that is the best thing that History can possibly teach us.

God bless,

Rebecca

Last time i felt brave?

What with a surgery, college prep, finishing senior year, and a multitude of other things going on, it is easy to sink into what Anne calls, “the Depths of Despair”. I tend to get overwhelmed pretty easily, when my emotions ride up and down, waves and waves of confusing feelings and doubts and fears and irritations. The other day while running I started to listen to Owl City, because this music soothes me, as only some music can. One song I played struck an especially deep cord with me. It paralleled my turbulent mindset. It gave voice to the swirling thoughts in my head.

Tidal Wave by Owl City

I wish I could cross my arms, and cross your mind
Cause I believe you’d unfold your paper heart and wear it on your sleeve
All my life I wish I broke mirrors, instead of promises
Cause all I see, is a shattered conscience staring right back at me
I wish I had covered all my tracks completely cause I’m so afraid
Is that the light at the far end of the tunnel or just the train?
Lift your arms only heaven knows, where the danger grows
And it’s safe to say there’s a bright light up ahead and help is on the way
(Help is on the way, Help is on the way, Help is on the way…)

Help is on the way
I forget the last time I felt brave, I just recall insecurity
Cause it came down like a tidal wave, and sorrow swept over me

Depression, please cut to the chase and cut a long story short
Oh please be done. How much longer can this drama afford to run?
Fate looks sharp, severs all my ties and breaks whatever doesn’t bend
But sadly then, all my heavy hopes just pull me back down again
(Back down again, back down again, back down again…)

I forget the last time I felt brave, I just recall insecurity
Cause it came down like a tidal wave, and sorrow swept over me
Then I was given grace and love, I was blind but now I can see
Cause I found a new hope from above, and courage swept over me

It hurts just to wake up, whenever you’re wearing thin
Alone on the outside, so tired of looking in
The end is uncertain and I’ve never been so afraid
But I don’t need a telescope to see that there’s hope
And that makes me feel brave