11 July 2016

Reviews, Pt. 10

Part 1 -- Part 2 -- Part 3 -- Part 4 -- Part 5 -- Part 6 -- Part 7 -- Part 8 -- Part 9

Next on the playlist!

Here are the album reviews I've written since the middle of April.  As usual, clicking on the album covers will take you to the band's music where you can listen to and/or download the album in full.  The hyperlinks will take you to my reviews.


Knifeworld - Bottled Out of Eden (UK)
[PROG Mind / Tollbooth]

A challenging piece of multilayered writing, Bottled Out of Eden contains all the dynamic intensity and unpredictability that has carved such a unique niche in the progressive rock arena for Knifeworld’s music.

Starchitect - Results (Ukraine)

Results is a rough entry in the nebulous catalogue of modern post-metal.

Monster Killed By Laser - Hunched & Twined (UK)

Hunched & Twined: really cool, superfluous, psychedelic prog presented in four-minute increments or less.

The Rube Goldberg Machine - Fragile Times (UK)

RGM’s work is subtle, nuanced creativity, taking cues from the likes of Steven Wilson while still maintaining a strong individualistic approach to songwriting.
Big Big Train - Folklore (UK)
[PROG Mind / Tollbooth]

Folklore has energy, melody, nuance, and character, and it’s certainly a candidate for best album of 2016.

Jon Anderson & Roine Stolt - The Invention of Knowledge (UK, Sweden)
[PROG Mind / Tollbooth]

The Invention of Knowledge is a mature distillation of its writers’ individual, remarkable craftsmanship.

10 July 2016

Post #100

I'll just go ahead and unceremoniously batter down that 4th wall once again to start things off -- hopefully for good reason.  After five years, with this entry you're currently reading...

Häxprocess has officially reached its 100th post.

(much rejoicing, fanfare, etc)

It seems not all that long ago that I was self-consciously clicking "publish" for the first time on 4 April of 2012.  The blog has covered lots of ground since then, as its solitary author has more or less adhered to a more or less frequent posting schedule.  My goal for 2016 was two posts per month, an objective that -- if you let your eye wander to the lefthand side of the window -- you'll note I failed back in April when I posted only once.  June, seeing his opportunity, soon thereafter disappeared entirely from the calendar.  Which means July's now my month to get back on the ball.

At the same time 100 posts is a milestone, however, it also seems like such a paltry number when compared to the avid, multiple-posts-a-week sites that comprise the blogosphere.  Thankfully, I can say with complete honesty that lack of activity on Häxprocess is not a reflection of inactivity in the other areas of my life -- more often than not, life itself has been the single biggest factor in my absence from writing.  My struggle with consistency is not so much a struggle with laziness as it is a lack of quality time: when I've sat down to write these past few months, I've had minutes and not hours, or I've been exhausted and unfocused, or I've had other things to work on.

But motivation and time usage has a lot to do with what I thought I'd briefly discuss with this, Häxprocess' 100th post.  That is the importance of understanding that, at any given choice, we have a choice between consuming or cultivating.  Before you close the tab, let me assure you that this isn't some kind of socialist philosophy I'm talking about, even if comparisons can be drawn.  Simply, what I intend by this specific terminology is that we should evaluate the use of time by whether we are getting something or giving something.

Am I consuming or am I cultivating?

Am I taking or giving?

Am I receiving or serving?

Am I being passive or active?

These are some good evaluating questions to ask ourselves, especially in our free time.  Most (though not all) of us don't have a problem putting in a little effort when we're being paid for it.  However, when I clock out and head home, what characterizes my activities and attitudes?  Do I drop onto the couch and turn on the TV or fire up the PS3 (yes, I'm a generation behind), because now is "my" time?  Maybe there's nothing explicitly wrong with that decision, but I should realize that I'm choosing to spend the time consuming, not cultivating.

The issue here is not necessarily an issue of right vs. wrong -- unless of course laziness is an idol you wrestle with -- but rather an issue of right vs. better.  In that regard, some who are reading this simply won't care.  Good enough is good enough.  But for those of us who are striving to bring every nook and cranny of our hearts and lives into submission to Jesus Christ (2 Cor 10.5), this is a great way to impact the area of productivity as well as cultivate an attitude of selflessness.

Why?  Because if I'm thinking in terms of consuming/cultivating, evaluating the way I'm spending my time according to these parameters, it's much harder to simply zone out -- at least, not without feeling convicted about it.  If I know what the better thing to do is, and I'm clearly identifying whether what I'm doing at any given moment is self-serving or self-sacrificing, then suddenly the choice is much easer to make.

For me, my leisure time is when I am prone to be the most self-serving.  Because, like a consumer, I think it exists for me.  It's my time to rest.  It's my opportunity to do things that want to do.  Therefore, it's easy to enter a vegitative state until (and sometimes after) my wife comes home, even when the dishes aren't done, the lawn needs moving, and there are unfinished projects as far as the eye can see.  With that kind of operative mindset, irritation when something interrupts my "earned" repose is only a snap of the fingers away.

With everything, there's a balance.  There's time to unplug, to sleep, to consume.  Resting is both a gift and a command (Matt 11.28Ex 20.8).  However, if American Christians were to honestly evaluate their time usage, I think we would unanimously come to the conclusion that we're merely passing, not exceeding expectations.  Our habitual patterns -- inbred, learned, and adopted -- are consumerist; our norms are far from self-sacrificing.  The moments when we do choose to serve others are the exception, not the standard.

But we're not really doing anything wrongwe say, sipping our comfortable cappuccino.

We're not sinningwe insist, folding our hands over the gospel according to Self-Interest, we could just do a better job caring for others.

This thought process reveals our low estimation of God's standard of holiness, and our high estimation of our own goodness.  We forget that any righteousness we might know is His anyway, attributed to us through the blood of Jesus, and therefore we don't get to set our own parameters on what is "good enough" for the Kingdom.  The new reality for a follower of Jesus is that we are freed from sin not to be self-interested, but to be servants, to live to glorify God and meet the needs of others before we even consider our own.  The fallacious "in order to love others you must first learn to love yourself" philosophy has sunken in deeply into our culture, purchased in the package deal that proclaims the almighty "I" as the center of the universe.  In order to develop cultivating patterns, we must see through this arrogant self-deception -- otherwise, we will never be anything more than consumers who occasionally give back whenever we might feel charitable.

The concept of self-denial is more often seen as some kind of radical self-abuse in our day and age, rather than perceived as a form of focused discipline.  That's probably a topic for another post, but it is embedded in this issue as well.  Being a cultivator isn't just about serving others, it's also choosing to be productive when I could instead be passive.  I can come home from work drained and flop onto the sofa... or I could teach myself to be dedicated, sit down at the computer and do some writing, pick up the guitar and work on my craft, do a project around the house... etcetera.  There's lots of specific ways to think about this, but the core issue is simply that we should be far more inclined to be at work than at repose.  That doesn't mean we should be workaholics who don't have the ability to rest, but it does mean that we should much more strictly regulate our time consumption.  I know my own inclination to use weariness as an excuse for unplugging -- physically, mentally, or otherwise -- but "rest" doesn't need to be synonymous with "passivity."  I should instead train myself to challenge my own sense of limitation by applying myself to productive, cultivating ways of resting -- using my free time to invest in service, craft, hobby, or project.

At the core, this post is actually only connected to the idea of productivity, and not directly about it.  It's really about being a servant -- a mentality that is cultivating by default: it sees and meets needs, it understands and handles problems, it prioritizes, it is proactive.  A servant mentality removes ill-conceived notions of ownership and entitlement.  A servant heart asks, "What can I do for Your Kingdom by serving others?"  By contrast, a consumer heart can only ask, "How can I make life more comfortable for me?"  Both of those pursuits have eternal consequences, but only one of them has a happy ending -- the deep joy and satisfaction of knowing and being known by our Savior, and receiving from Him the only affirmation our hearts should ever crave: "Well done, good and faithful servant.  Enter into my rest."

My intent for Häxprocess when I started it remains the same: that is for it to be a blog for personal, creative expression, with special emphasis on writing about Christian living and accurate biblical interpretation.  It's not a strict goal, but it is driven by the purpose of glorifying God through an ability He's given me.

It's a small way for me to be a cultivator rather than a consumer in my free time.

For the next 100 posts and upward, may God continue to use me and Häxprocess in a way that is pleasing to Him.