20 October 2012

Observations from the Studio, Day #5

Our final day in the studio began with Steve polishing his solos and finalizing lead licks for How Wonderful (our potential single) and a 10-minute monster called Her Voice.  Meanwhile, I purchased t-shirts from the Radiant warehouse (AKA, Neal's garage), got to know Chris Thompson (Neal's personal assistant), and contemplated some final thoughts about our week in the studio.

I'd kind of been hoping that I would have something really poignant and eye-opening to say about our experience by our last day - something powerful and moving.  But the fact of the matter is that, despite being incredibly fun and exciting, nothing necessarily sticks out to me as perspective-changing.  It reminds me of how people would ask me how I felt about being married in the months immediately following my wedding, and I could say nothing more than it felt just about the same... and yet completely different.  I'd been excited out of my mind to tell Tara "I do," and I'd been thrilled about the concept of professionally recording our debut album - both were things I fantasized about, but couldn't possibly imagine actually happening.  However, upon entering into either time and place, I've found myself not feeling particularly different than I did before.  I suppose it's a matter of simply being ready, of experiencing a natural transition, and the change is so subtle it's not even noticeable.  The new setting becomes home, and the new faces become family.  I mean, Jerry's just like an older brother: he says things like "gnarly" and "groovin'" and makes fun of you when you mess up your parts.

I certainly can't speak for the rest of the band, but my time at Radiant has been a tremendous learning experience and my first (hopefully not last) introduction to the life of a professional musician.  Geoff is staying another week to finish his keyboard parts and to work with Jerry on the mastering process, but as far as the rest of the band is concerned, the project is finished.  We were calling the album "The Knowledge Enterprise," largely because the piece which concludes the project is a 5-part, 25-minute epic by the same title.  However, Geoff's been mulling around some other ideas and bouncing them off the rest of the band, and the new working title is currently "A Lovelorn Self."  But that's a post-production issue, TBD.


Other occurrences from today:
Joe tickling Geoff's feet, which produced much giggling and wrestling.  Lunch with Jerry at a place called Hollywood's, which prominently serves Hibachi.  Consuming an entire jar of Tostitos Salsa con Queso, in addition to our daily twin pots of coffee.  Joe playing Roller Coaster Tycoon and mumbling under his breath.  Titus smacking every available object with Joe's drumsticks.  Additional vocals, which resulted in us pondering whether or not Joe is actually Ben Folds in disguise.  Jerry's Sylvester impression.


One final preview until the album is released, and a farewell to Radiant Studios:

video


Last words:
"Let's skip all the stupid chords and play all the good chords." (Jerry)

"I can't wait to turn the knobs on this thing." (Geoff, about Neal's Moog)

"I rocked my headphones off my head before." (Steve)

"Isn't it something like 'Crabswallow?'" (Geoff, on the name of a street in White House, which was actually 'Lee')

"If you translate it into Japanese, it means giant fig balloon." (Joe)

"It's like boxing with a beehive." (Geoff)

"I feel like I'm in a circus at this point." (Tara, listening to the raw 'Airtight' waltz)

"Spit it out, man!" (Richmond)

"Taacoooos..." (Geoff, in the next room)

Gran Finale

Observations from the Studio, Day #4

Our fourth day in the studio was slotted for nailing down the electric guitar parts, which unsurprisingly would prove to be one of the more complex and time-consuming parts of the recording process.  Over the course of the day, in addition to countless re-dubs and second takes (not to mention writing new parts), Jerry, Geoff and Steve spent hours measuring delay times, tweaking gain settings, and cleaning up sustain and fuzz (just a few of Steve's favorite things).  Phrasing for electric guitar is so important, and today we learned that what we should have been doing during practices was nailing down exactly what we were each playing, because jamming quality does not equate to studio quality.  Each note needs to be carefully orchestrated, and purposefully articulated - that goes especially for something as technically involved as lead guitar.

School's out.


Some low-quality samples of what you loyal fans are in for (and more of Jerry's superb drumming):

video


video



Today's Overheard:
"Baaanaaanaaa..." (Geoff, in the next room)

"I'll give you some feedback..." (Jerry, to Steve)

"I'm playing with the grabber." (Richmond)

"Do whatever you did yesterday to get rid of all that... squishiness." (Jerry)

"My e-mail wants me to improve my love life." (Richmond)

"Tuning translated into Japanese means 'avocado of the sea.'" (Joe, via the internet)

"Listen to the bass.  It's incredibly tight with the drums.  I know, because I put it there." (Jerry)

"This next part is ugly, nasty, and terrible." (Steve)

"Well, if you can think of a way to make it not ugly, nasty, and terrible, then we can use it." (Jerry)

"I think we should just do that song from Zelda, and modify it to fit in there." (Joe)

"This guitar tends to hit amps like a sock full of nickels." (Steve)

"...and then... there were guitar players." (Jerry)

"Your feet are mildly moist." (Joe)

"Oooooh...  Chooooclate..." (Geoff, in the next room)


Tomorrow: vocals and cleanup detail!

18 October 2012

Observations from the Studio, Day #3

With bass and drums finalized, Thursday became my turn in the spotlight.  Geoff was the one to vocalize an observation that I'd already been mulling around, albeit in less precise terms: as a worship leader and one of the frontmen of Synaesthesia, my guitar-playing style is typically more driving than finessed.  Therefore, my biggest challenge in recording Twenty Committee songs was less wrapping my brain (and fingers) around awkward chords and obscure time changes than in learning when to push the song and when to "sit back and groove" (as Jerry would say).  It's learning finesse and practicing give-and-take, or finding a niche and expanding it to its fullest capacity - without spilling over into the rest of the mix.

Another hard-learned observation from today is that just because the music is technically correct doesn't necessarily mean that it will always sound correct.  Sometimes notes will rub the wrong way - partially due to the instrumentation and voicing, partially due to the equipment - and the challenge is to find alternate harmonics in order to make the music sound less abrasive.  In other words, what's right for the song is not always the proper notes - something that took us the better part of a half hour to figure out.

In other news, Jerry has re-christened us as follows:
Me = "Clark"
Steve = "Vinny"
Joe = "Vince"
Richmond = "Gregory"
Geoff = "Clarence" (circa 10:00am to 4:45pm, and briefly at 7:15pm), "Gary" (current)

We, in turn, have renamed him Pepe.  All of this for no particular reason.


Also, this happened today:

video

What I failed to capture was Jerry admitting, "That's why I stay I the other side of the glass, man."

Two days left!



More quotable XXCMTE (from here on referred to by their new names!):
"Gary is boring.  He gets most of the sounds he needs out of his Korg-M50." (Vinny, probably in comparative reference to his 600 guitar pedals)

"I can read sheet music!" (Gary, indignantly)

"We'll call him Yokel!" (Jerry, about Gary)

"I'm sure he feels different - just look at him!" (Pepe, about Vinny, who was in the next room and didn't hear)

"What Pepe wants, Pepe gets!" (Gary)

"You've got different textures!  You've got shouting, you've got screaming, you've got shrieking..." (Vinny, rebutting Gary on the varieties of metal)

"Yeah, they're like bat-fart notes." (Gary, on James LaBrie)

"Well, Gary's a nerd turd.  A re-turded nerd turd." (Vince)

"This is probably going to end up on your blog, but I'm going to say it anyway: slather this on your carrot." (Gary, pouring Ranch dressing into a cup)

"Is everybody happy?  I'm happy." (Gregory)

16 October 2012

Observations from the Studio, Day #2

Today was a 9:30 start, and bass day.  Richmond flew in from Philadelphia at 11:30 last night and promptly spent a 12-hour day locking in the low end while the rest of us played basketball, jammed in the other room, or sat on our laptops.  It's a tough life, this whole musician thing.  Radiant also provides endless snacks and coffee.

Things overheard in the studio today:

"Oh crap, these guys have shields??"  (Stephen Kostas, playing games on his computer).

"No, no - we're looking for the brlamp brlamp brlamp.  The brlamp brlamp brlamp." (Jerry Guidroz, on synchronizing Richmond's bass with Joe's fills)

"If my gum still has a lot of flavor, then I just stick it in my hand to save it for later." (Joe Henderson, after arising from his midday nap on the portico swing)

"My head's about to come off if it goes up any more." (Jerry, on the 3-minute atonal jam)

"I just feel like smacking you with this sweet salty nut." (Geoff Langley, to Joe, for no apparent reason)

"After this part, everyone can go back to their Mars-Volta-ing." (Jerry, on the 3-minute atonal jam)

"Yeah, some guitar-chestration." (Geoff, acknowledging Steve's ideas on orchestrating)

"Wait, what does this fruit do?" (Steve, playing games on his computer)

"Steve, do you suck like that description of Robo-Cop remix?" (Joe)

"I think that works - I just have to do one more measure of beat-detective." (Jerry, on correcting a drum goof)

"Geoff, stop spilling everywhere." (Joe, on Geoff's poor vocal take)


"Ahhhh, it's a pink dragon.  Pink dragons take you to bonus levels."  (you guessed it)

Observations from the Studio, Day #1

After two days of travel (6 hours to West Virginia on Saturday, and 9 hours to Tennessee from there on Sunday), we arrived in our rental cabin 30 miles outside of Nashville, well after nightfall.  Upon arrival, we made two immediate realizations: one, that we'd crossed into central time (largely thanks to our iPhones being smarter than we are), and two, that spiders in Nashville are much larger than those in Jersey.

Monday, day one of recording at Radiant Studios, yielded a fair number of simple yet foundational observations which may or may not be helpful to the up-and-coming musician debating whether to go to a professional studio to record his debut album or to attempt doing it himself at home.  Speaking as a member of various indie bands who, over the years, have opted to do home recordings for EPs, things such as decent headphones for playback monitoring and proper sound-proofing were luxuries which could be done without.  Entering into a fully stocked, professional recording studio, where such things are not only commonplace but staples of the trade, I was struck by the humbling revelation that anything I may have done using Audacity at home - no matter how many over-dubs, firewire interfaces, or painstaking EQ adjustments - would never equate to the sloppy warm-up takes we did before lunch.  The studio is certainly going to be a big investment, undeniably, but so is recording in your basement - an investment of another kind.

The following are some observations that I made for the day, in no particular order:

1). Technicalities, once glossed over as acceptable "EP quality" imperfections, are in fact major issues.  This is especially true for progressive rock.

2). Setting up and mixing the drums is, predictably, the most time-consuming process of day #1.  For us, this was quite the change from simply dropping a single 57 over Joe's head to catch his cymbals, taping one to his snare, and shoving a condenser into the bass drum.

3). In a similar vein, playing white-boy basketball in the driveway while said drums are being mixed is not quite the ego-boost we might have hoped.

4). Recording scratch tracks is not glamorous, but it is foundational.  Live takes are amazing when they happen, but when they happen is never.

5). Getting that fat and full sound is less dependent upon the bucks you dropped for your guitar (although that certainly helps too) than having quality sound equipment and an experienced producer at the helm.

6). That perfect first take is idealized, but not always golden.  Seasoning comes with subsequent punch-ins.

7). You will get very well acquainted with the comfy furniture available in the recording booth.  And your dummer's shoulder.  And your own tunes, as they will invariably be stuck in your head after the day is done.

More tomorrow.

05 October 2012

A Dramatic Monologue


I type:

They say writer’s block exists only in the mind, but it can certainly paralyze the fingers. 

And then I slouch, twisting my lips pensively. And where to go from here? 

Groundbreaking is the hardest part of writing. Cracking open a fresh idea is like breaking open a coconut or a watermelon and trying not to make a mess everywhere. And if what you’ve broken on the side of the mixing bowl is a half–baked idea, all you’re going to get is partially developed bird embryo in your omelet. 

I make a face. What a disgusting mixed metaphor. And for that matter, what a terrible pun! 

The cursor blinks and winks in the absence of my typing, taunting me from behind the laptop screen. 

And then it says: [If you can’t think what to write next, then it’s my turn to do the talking.

For a moment, I fail to react. Frowning, I glance at the coffee mug a handbreadth away from the computer and my gigantic stack of homework, wondering if I made it too strong or not strong enough. The Christmas goose on the white ceramic stares back blankly, offering no explanations. 

I look back at the screen, watching the cursor suspiciously. “But I don’t want you to do the talking,” I say slowly, suddenly thankful that my family isn’t anywhere in the nearby vicinity to hear me exhibiting signs of certain schizophrenia. “I want to do the talking.” 

Several silent blinks. [But you’re not saying anything at the moment.

“I have a great opening line,” I insist under my breath, reaching for the goose mug. I am stalling, trying to think and simultaneously wishing I didn’t suffer from the habit of talking to myself. Non–fiction writing assignments are not my forte. I like to invent stories about other people, not recount ones of my own. 

[But where are you going with it?] the cursor asks inquisitively, blinking its black–pixel spine against the last period. 

I don’t really know, I think in response, but am unwilling to admit that aloud. Somehow, the demon antagonist within my computer must already know this. Or maybe I’m just being paranoid. 

[Why don’t you take a break?

I pause with the mug at my lips, narrowing my eyes at the screen. The cursor winks back, innocently. The kitchen is silent, broken only by the out–of–tune hum of the refrigerator, and lit with afternoon sun. With the house to myself, I am keeping myself focused by willpower alone. 

From my bedroom, my guitar is calling in a sultry, spoiled–only–child wail. In the living room, the old PlayStation and its gang of mismatched controllers and antiquated games are loitering coolly, saying nothing, but I can sense their great displeasure at being ignored. Outside, the Camaro basks in the sun, snoozing shallowly, dreaming of a good bath and my hands under her hood, working out all the knots of tension in her coolant system. The bookshelf above my bed is home to volumes of Lovecraft and Poe, Dickens and Conrad, T. S. Eliot, Fitzgerald, Anderson, Murakami and many more. The soft rustle of stimulating, intellectual conversation is audible all the way out in the kitchen as the breeze from my open window teases countless pages. 

I set the mug back on the tabletop without taking a sip, shaking my head to clear it. “You fight dirty,” I say, but I am impressed and concurrently worried that I am losing my mind. 

[You do what you have to,] the cursor replies dismissively, and I imagine that if it had possessed shoulders, it would have shrugged. [I’m just trying to help.

“Help?” I repeat incredulously. “Helping me would be giving me ideas of what to write about.” 

[But that would be too easy,] the cursor responds matter–of–factly, almost smugly. [You’re the one who always says he doesn’t want the easy answers.

I laugh, possibly out of disbelief, sinking back on the bench to put my back against the wall. “You’ve got me all figured out, huh? Me and my independent Byronic mindset.” 

The cursor blinks pensively. [Looks like you’ve got a conundrum on your hands.

“No,” I retort, putting my head against the sheetrock and looking up at the ceiling. “This is just what I get for not writing this by hand. 100% recycled Meade margins wouldn’t talk to me…” 

[You say that like it’s a good thing,] the cursor replies, sounding offended. I imagine it pouting. [You’re the one who procrastinated on this assignment until now. I’m the one just trying to help.

“By distracting me?” I retort. 

This time, there is no response. I have not touched the keys in too long and the Mac's default screensaver has drawn the intermission curtain over my piece – early, of course. The second act is destined to be even dryer and longer than the first. 

Understudy! I cry desperately, then push back the bench and stand with a sigh. My coffee has grown cold anyway. I can’t write without steaming black Folgers, my thought catalyst. 

I dump the coffee back into the pot, add fresh grounds to make more, and then hoist myself up to sit on the counter and think. All I need is a good topic. Something in my past or a current experience to use in a creative, non–fiction essay. Something amusing, sad, enlightening – whatever. Anything. I have three days left to come up with something worthwhile. Of course I’ve been procrastinating – guilty as charged. But I’m a pressure writer: I work well in the last minute. 

My gaze drops onto the stack of books patiently awaiting my attention, and the sight elicits a moan of helplessness from my lips. The essay on English Grammar (which, logically, could be about anything so long as it utilizes proper grammar – right?) is due next Friday. The next paper for The Modern Short Story waits to even be started. Finals are just a few short weeks away. 

I think about saying something comically melodramatic – something like, “I’m doomed” or “The horror!” or “But man is born to trouble as the sparks fly upward!” – but heave myself to my feet instead, crossing the vacant kitchen and seating myself before the computer once more. No one is here to groan at my terrible humor anyway.

“First things first,” I say aloud, and stroke the touchpad. The Arabesque curtain immediately retreats, and there is my last sentence waiting for me. It is awkward and stunted, but it is a complete thought. And there, batting itself flirtatiously, is the cursor. 

[Back so soon?] it asks, perhaps genuinely surprised. [It’s beautiful outside, you know?

“Just get the first draft finished,” I tell myself, ignoring the comment. “That’s what Professor Brown would say.” 

Revision is just a stall. I need to stop stalling and just finish my thoughts. Then – and only then – can I once more don the guise of the Mad Proofreader, the persona of myself who enjoys marking up his classmates’ and his own short stories with comments, edits, and suggestions so much that it has become a cathartic high. But revision is a completely divorced mindset from the writing process, a separate idea entirely. It is the child of the story, the one who cares for its parent in its old age, making the final decisions on healthcare and managing finances because the parent no longer can do those things for itself. 

This is what I’ve learned in class today. 

I begin to type. 

[Good,] the cursor says, like it is the technological incarnation of Obi Wan Kenobi, come to remind me to use the Force in my writing. [You’re telling our story.

My story,” I growl. 

In all, finishing my thought takes me less than an hour. Writing involves merely the sequential pounding of keys, the squinting of the eyes, and a tunnel–vision concentration of the mind. Of course it always sounds better in the writers’ mind – that’s why he must revise and revise and revise. But before that can happen, an idea must be completed. Otherwise, it becomes something that it was not meant to be, a separate thought entirely. 

I stop typing and pop my knuckles to ease the cramping sensation that has come over them. For a moment, I stare at the final line I have transcribed. And then, I scroll slowly back to the beginning of the document, reading what I’ve written with a critical eye. 

The cursor is finally silent, blinking approvingly, flanking my last sentence like an emotionless guard at Buckingham. 

I laugh aloud, shake my head, and lean back on the bench, putting my back against the wall once more. Either this is a really creative, thoughtful idea I’ve developed, or it is something else entirely – maybe a vain cry for attention, maybe just written evidence of my insanity. My autobiography in 1500 words or less. 

Still smiling, I lean forward once more and type these words:

They say writer’s block exists only in the mind, but it can certainly paralyze the fingers. 

Forcing them to move anyway produces something like this.

END

04 October 2012

Faith, Confidence, and Sanity: The Christian Worldview

One of the more significant changes shaping my immediate future is the fact that my band will be headed down to Nashville in just a few short weeks to record our debut album with Jerry Guidroz of Radiant Records (the producer behind Neal Morse and Transatlantic).  Without going into too much detail, the album we're working on is very much concerned with the legitimacy of faith (specifically the Christian faith) as a worldview.  It's essentially a microcosm of the world's pursuit of knowledge: the quest for true enlightenment which explores all avenues of thought, but that can only be found  -- as we believe -- in the person of Jesus Christ.  Geoff (keys and vocals) is the frontman and primary writer of The Twenty Committee's material, but as we got into the heart of the project, he and I began partnering on the lyrics -- especially those depicting the grungy independence of man and his scorn for all things intangible, things that even include faith, love, and hope.

As I stared at the blinking cursor on my computer screen, pondering the instability of faithless existence, I found myself reminded of a simple statement made by Dr. David Powlison during the 2011 CCEF conference.  A very simple statement -- three words, unrefined, no pretense.

"Prayer is sanity."

So concise, and in its directness, so poignant.  In the grandiose Louisville ballroom in which my wife (then, not yet my fiancé) and I were sitting, surrounded by thousands of counselors-in-training, the simple phrase passed over us like a wave -- not a whitecap which crashes over a swimmer and leaves him stunned, but a warm swell which buoys him gently above the sandy ocean floor.  As I remember that moment now, and realize the echoed sentiment in the rough lyrics of our nearly completed concept album, it strikes me that arguments for faith severely underemphasize one of the most important and most beautiful elements of the Christian belief.

Faith, even as an objective principle, is one of the most misunderstood concepts of our modern age.  Portrayed as mysticism at its worst and irrational confidence at its best, faith pertaining to any religion has become antithetical to educated thinking.  To the modern scientific community -- a generation raised during the era of Wikipedia, genetic cloning, and subsequent failed Harold Camping prophecies -- faith-based living is as quaint and outdated a practice as bloodletting.  To the post-Christian society in which we live, archaic religious thinking may at best hold some worthwhile grains of truth, but ultimately remains the equivalent of retaining belief in Santa Claus as an adult.

Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson, April 14th 1991
Understandably, popular misconceptions arise from the fact that faith as a principle always incorporates some form of not-knowing.  In other words, faith necessarily requires some element of trust which supersedes understanding.  Calvin's decision to go back inside and watch TV in the unsettling face of the unknown is a perfect example: man wants concrete proof that he is not alone in the universe and cannot accept the possibility that his own eyes might not be able to observe a supernatural reality.  Furthermore, when the overlooked plights of our world are taken into consideration -- our indomitable pride, our idol of independence and our obsession with control -- it isn't surprising that the world would rather place its belief in something concrete like science which defines the universe by expressly non-theistic standards.  It's terrifying to place confidence in something external to ourselves when what we value is our own knowledge and ability.  To sacrifice that for something which is intangible, something that you know in your heart but cannot prove beyond a shadow of a doubt to anyone (not even yourself) is tantamount to declaring mental instability.  In that regard, the popular debate between faith and science -- above all else -- is an argument over control.  It is a war between man's sense of pride and his dependence upon something greater than himself.

But the fact of the matter is that faith is not simply taking a step out into nothingness.  Biblical hope retains no element of uncertainty - it is a hope that knows and trusts, and ultimately experiences true peace.  That is the truth which forms the bedrock upon which the Christian stands.  Faith is not hoping God can, it's knowing that He will, which is certainly a pithy saying worthy of a wall plaque, but it is also the truth which allows us to see the rain as a blessing and the storm as an instruction manual.  Hebrews 11 defines faith as the "assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  In other words, while faith acknowledges that there are things we do not understand, there is so much more that we do.  In the same way that you know you have money in the bank (or don't), in the same manner that those numerals on that paycheck represent a quantifiable amount and you know you earned, despite the fact that your boss didn't hand you raw chunks of gold to carry home on the subway, faith also incorporates a trust that supersedes what we see and experience.  Invariably, this is the kind of discussion which arouses the arguments for evolution, for intelligent design, for the notion (or lack thereof) that we can't possibly know for certain what this life is about.

The issue around which all of these schools of thought circle is the problem of evidence.  Contemporary science denies the possibility of the supernatural because equations cannot calculate deity.  Intelligent design counters evolutionary claims due to the absence of transitional forms in the fossil record.  So-called agnostics simply shrug and insist that there's not enough to go by to choose one side of the court or the other.  The consistent back-and-forth banter of "Prove it's true" and "Prove it's not" is unending, because no one has the trump card which invalidates the other arguments.  Embracing a side, therefore, is inevitably a matter of faith, because regardless of what camp you find yourself in, the evidence does not conclusively add up.  Evolution ultimately boils down to the same faith-based mechanics as any other devised religion.  It has no testable hypotheses to make it a recognizable science (no, you cannot watch evolution happen), and it lacks insubstantial evidence to verify its claims.  The Christian likewise cannot point to any evidence which the scientist would not deem circumstantial or hearsay.  It is by faith that we acknowledge the universe as God's handiwork, attributing to Him authority over nature and ascribing to Him authorship of the scientific laws which govern the universe.

But frankly, I'm tired of all the talk.  I'm tired of Christian apologetics who hint at the possibility of proving God's existence through their archeological approach and their intentional use of big scientific words.  I'm tired of evolutionists who raise their noses to the notion that someone embraces a worldview which subjects science to deity, because they themselves are unable to wrap their brains around the notion that an all-powerful god (which is, by objective definition, a supernatural and supreme being) would not be limited by the clockwork regularity of the universe He created.  And I'm really tired of people misusing the "agnostic" label simply because they don't know what they believe and don't want to be labeled as an atheist, which would be too extreme.  We stand in a room crowded with stubborn debaters, all shouting to be heard, and no one is convincing anyone of anything.

This post is not an argument for equality of thought or a demand for coexistence.  It is, however, a request for greater understanding of and a respect for what the other guy thinks.  It's a call to listen more and speak less (and I'll be the first one to admit failure in that department).  We need to stop adding to the argumentative noise.  What I also want to communicate is that faith (intelligent design, Creationism, or whatever other label you'd prefer) is not an unrealistic perspective of the world.  It is not a denial of scientific research, nor is it divorced from logic, reason, or education.  It is simply a different perspective and a different order of priorities.  Faith is a legitimate worldview because it is based upon confidence in the reality and veracity of the Bible.  Yes, it certainly takes faith to believe in a God who cannot be seen or defined with scientific instruments, a God who created man and gave him a mind of his own, and then chose out of His lovingkindness to redeem that man rather than destroy him for his ungrateful independence.  However, it also takes tremendous faith to look past the gaping holes in the evolutionary theory, just like it takes faith to answer the question "If God does not exist, then what is this all for?" with some apathetic defense of nature's prerogative.

The bottom line is that, if evolution is an educated and respected school of thought, despite its uncertainties, then intelligent design must also be held in the same regard.

In all of this, in my frustration with internet forums and the conversations which take place in so-called collegiate-level classrooms, I find myself coming back to Dr. Powlison's statement, an idea which is so fundamental and so grade-school in its simplicity, and yet we constantly overlook it.  Prayer is not the spiritual equivalent of groping blindly in the dark: it is leaning into the one dependable lifeline we have in a universe which spins out of our control, out of our finite comprehension.  Prayer is sanity because of the reality, the omnipotence, of the One upon whom we depend.

To me, the most beautiful aspect of the Christian faith is the fact that despite our wickedness, we may boldly approach the throne of grace -- boldly, not with trepidation, not with uncertainty, but with absolute confidence.  I know beyond the shadow of any doubt that my Savior will one day welcome me into His open arms, and that all mysteries of life, the universe, and everything will one day finally be answered -- but not until I come into His presence.  In the meantime, I intend to live a life which celebrates that confidence, knowing that man's pursuit of knowledge and understanding begins and culminates with Christ Himself.

~*~

Psalm 18.1-3: "I love you, O LORD, my strength.  The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  I call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised."

~*~