Archive for the ‘Philosophy’ Category

Dear Warrensburg,

Words cannot express the times I have had abiding here. I came to you a naive, confused, self-conscious 18-year-old kid who thought he had his adult life planned out perfectly. I came to you in chains- dragging along my religious, personal, and emotional baggage. It was here, that I gained the closest friends I’ve ever made. It was here that I learned to accept who I am, and be at peace with that.  It was here that the moral-system I upheld so zealously (and blindly) was continually challenged and transformed. It was here that I experienced some of my lowest points. It was here that I realized how utterly broken I was, so that I could accept the grace-rooted life of Jesus Christ. It was here that I laughed, cried, hugged people, ate, played music, sported like 8 different hair cuts, helped people, dated, started protest rallies, drank lots of coffee, philosophized, socialized, made a bazillion Taco Bell runs, and learned how to truly share life with people.

In the last four years there have been a number of people who’ve invested in me and spoke wisdom into my life. These people have had made a difference in my life by how they live and how they interact with others. (Disclaimer: none of these people are perfect, nor would they prefer to be put on any kind of pedestal).  Most notably Roger Brant, Sara Johnson, Mark Bliss, and Carson Conover.

Carson and Roger were one of the first few people I met here at UCM. Carson was a senior and a student leader at the BSU. Roger was the new campus minister at the BSU. (They knew each other before-hand). I always kinda looked up to Carson because he was a few years older than me. It was one of the first times I had met a young Christian who lived the Christian life with a non-judgemental, loving attitude everywhere he went. Not to mention he’s a pretty intelligent dude (though he tries to hide it with quirky humor). Carson, obviously didn’t stick around long because he graduated in 2008. I did however get the chance to hang out with him and chat a handful of times later down the line. Every one-on-one conversation we had was profoundly meaningful and surprisingly casual. This helped set a foundation for many other things to come.

Onto Roger…Roger is a very peculiar man, but one I’ve grown to love and respect. He’s got a lot of deep layers to him, that I’m not even going to begin to tackle. Roger is someone who has seen me from the day I was a freshman to the day I graduated. He saw how I changed, struggled, and grew. He was never someone who tried to spoon feed me all the right answers, but instead tried to ask the right questions. Roger helped me look at my faith seriously and honestly. He is no longer at the BSU, but instead the “leader dude” at Wayfare Church in the Warrensburg. This is another community I’ve gotten the joy of being a part of since Sophomore year (2009). I will dearly miss Roger, and his wisdom, quirky/sarcastic humor, and mandolin skills.

Sara Johnson was my Residence Hall Director/Boss in Fitzgerald Hall and Nickerson Hall, while I was a CA in those buildings. I can’t honestly say that I was always completely open with Sara (til the last month lol). But her humble, hard-working, optimistic characteristics were an inspiration for me. I admire her persevering faith. She taught me to “Choose my ‘tude” daily. She taught me to not overload myself, but to roll with my creative inspirations. She was always a great listener and always someone I viewed as a friend just as much as a boss.

And Mark Bliss…Oh Mark. Dude, I’m gonna miss you. Jam sessions. Waiting on you to show up somewhere. Sociology classes. Solving the universe’s problems inside Java Junction. Though you may not be the most organized person, you are definitely a friend I can count on to lend a helping hand (as long as I call you spontaneously and not ahead of time lol). I admire your heart and respect you like crazy man. Best of luck to you on whatever you end up doing in life.

…like I said there are a TON of other people who’ve invested in me, loved on me, and been a huge part of my life. Every year here (and almost every semester) has been different. It’s been a blast. So thank you to everyone else. It was the people at UCM that made my college experience special and memorable.

So long UCM! So long Warrensburg! I’m gonna miss you like crazy. Seriously.

Next time I return I’ll be Alum… Weird.

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This was my Sociology paper for my Sociology Senior Capstone class during my undergraduate years at the University of Central Missouri. If you feel inclined, I’d love to hear your comments and critiques!

How would one describe the hipster culture? Many have described this post-modern counter-culture by its attributes; its obsessions with ironic individuality, indie and folk music, sleek and minimalistic fashion, trendy electronics, coffee shops, fair-trade merchandise, and a hodgepodge of vintage fashion trends. Wallace-Wells of the New York Sun writes: “there are the unlikely beards, sure, but there’s also the unusual fusion of earnestness and irony, the religious zeal about creativity and cool, and the bourgeois experiment in slumming”[i]. In a lot of ways this culture adopts the trends of its post-war counterculture predecessors- the beats, hippies, punks, and grunge [ii]. One trend in this rising counterculture is the desire to not be labeled. This manifests into someone who looks and behaves like a hipster to refrain from admitting to it [iii]. That is because the very essence of hipsterdom revolves around denying any sort of umbrella label by the mainstream (Western modernism). At the same time hipsters try to pull off expressions of individuality while embracing obvious ironic inauthenticities, mixing things that traditionally are not associated with each other. Even the name, hipster, implies some sort of derogatory, jaded tone. Despite this trend of outward denial, there is a growing trend of hipster-like behavior and personal expression spreading throughout the Western world [iv]. This essay is an attempt to untangle this complex culture’s fashion, music and lifestyle preferences from the angles of race, class and gender; and offer critical dialogue through a sociological lens.

With each passing day, the gender lines previously defined by Western modernism are being bent and blurred to suit the social agenda of post-modern practitioners. As I mentioned earlier, the hipster culture is a subculture wave of an increasingly postmodern society. A large part of gender differentiation within the hipster culture is expressed aesthetically. A typical male hipster can be seen displaying some of the following physical appearance: tight-fitted jeans (i.e. “skinny jeans”) of assorted saturated colors, Toms or moccasins, tattoos, a plain v-neck t-shirt, flannel shirts, a large or messy beard, fixed-gear bikes, wool cardigans, suspenders, second-hand t-shirts, and large glasses. A typical female hipster may express herself by dawning large flower headbands, sandals or Toms, vintage sun dressers, tattoos, unshampooed hairstyles, assorted scarves, large glasses, v-neck t-shirts, vests, leggings, and even skinnier jeans. Hipsters cross recent modernism (1990s-2000s) gender roles in a few distinct ways. For males, the tight-fitted clothing and traditionally feminine accessories (earrings, scarves, handbags, etc.) become much more commonplace. The hipster flavor of male fashion seems to borrow a few ideas from the stereotypical image of a fashion-forward gay or metrosexual male. For females, stereotypically masculine things like large tattoos and a less-polished look become widely accepted (and even encouraged). This entanglement of modernism’s gender expectations is a reflection on postmodernism’s rejection of expected gender behavior. Hipster culture, and postmodernity as a whole, suggests that genders should be free to express themselves by picking and choosing that with which they most identify. Ironically by doing so, hipsters conform to generating new gender norms relative to their own culture. Though feminist and existential[v] undertones root deep within the hipster culture, they still can’t seem to fully escape the modernist patriarchal behaviors it seeks to move away from.

Despite it’s open and accepting nature, the hipster demographic does have a noticeable lack of ethnic diversity. iii Though most hipsters will claim to be non-discriminatory and accepting of all racial ethnicities, one may find it peculiar how the population is mostly made up of light-skinned people. However, this trend extends beyond race, and also into class. Not only are most hipsters predominately white, but they also primarily come from middle class backgrounds. Why is hipsterdom so appealing to the middle class white youth? Perhaps it is similar to Wilkins’  reasoning[vi] pointed out. Being middle-class white pigeon-holes one to being boring (“vanilla”). In a subconscious attempt to escape from the possibility of being inherently uncool, middle-class white youth are clinging to cultures that portray them in an edgier light. Though not as extreme as the goths, hipsters pose a reaction that looks like a contemporary mix between 1950s beat poets[vii] and fashion-forward bohemians. One of their biggest aims is to separate themselves from the institutional corporate-world. John Mayer (who I’m fairly certain is ironically not a hipster) pretty accurately describes the general attitude of a hipster’s view on society and politics:

“Me and all my friends
We’re all misunderstood
They say we stand for nothing and
There’s no way we ever could
Now we see everything that’s going wrong
With the world and those who lead it
We just feel like we don’t have the means
To rise above and beat it

So we keep waiting
Waiting on the world to change.”[viii]

By reading these lyrics, one might get the sense that being a hipster means there is an uncomfortable paradox of apathy and hope. This is very true of hipsters. One is likely to find them a lot in coffee shops, at parks, and in art galleries discussing political and social frustrations, and how they need to change. However, much like its existential roots[ix], these ideas and opinions rarely translate into action. Instead, hipsters would rather play a passive role; one which allows them to focus on personal happiness over societal sorrows. iii These nonchalant, detached reactions to life’s issues are a self-inflicting attempt to keep an exotic (and likable) reputation and do away with the stereotypical boring middle-class whiteness.

A common complaint about hipsters is that they are too argumentative; and come off as self-absorbent elitists. One of the biggest reasons hipsters come off as defensive and argumentative in conversation, is because they don’t want to be associated with the negative norms of Western modernity.  Haddow describes it well by saying:

“We are a lost generation, desperately clinging to anything that feels real, but too afraid to become it ourselves. We are a defeated generation, resigned to the hypocrisy of those before us, who once sang songs of rebellion and now sell them back to us. We are the last generation, a culmination of all previous things, destroyed by the vapidity that surrounds us. The hipster represents the end of Western civilization – a culture so detached and disconnected that it has stopped giving birth to anything new.” iii

This generation of youth has grown up in an American society that is becoming increasingly dependant on electronic-communication (texting, e-mail, online chat, etc.). In reaction to modernism’s tendency to compartmentalize and label ideas and cultures, hipsters are separating themselves from a more pragmatic way of life. Ironically this effort towards authenticity via individual freedom portrays them as separatists—which is the very thing they are striving to not be.

This brings up the biggest criticism of hipsters and at-large, postmodernism: authenticity. One of the most notable characteristics of hipsters is their embrace of paradoxes and ironic inauthenticities. For example, one might find a hipster wearing a $30 ‘vintage’ t-shirt from Urban Outfitters, sitting on an eco-friendly fixed-gear bicycle, while thumbing through new applications on their iPhone. Aims at authenticity— extremely over-priced vintage t-shirts (average t-shirt cost at Urban Outfitters is about $25), an extremely mainstream cell phone product, and eco-friendly transportation—seem to miss the target by a long shot. By the same token, hipsters and postmodernists claim to be okay with inconsistent ironies. They recognize these paradoxes as social facts of contemporary life[x]. However, this is also why postmodernism has yet to be accepted beyond the current younger generation (under 30). Modernism and postmodernism have opposing definitions of authenticity. Modernists can’t seem to accept these hypocrisies as authentically valid. Whereas postmodernists want to borrow an assortment of entities to collage together a new entities[xi]. Take for example, the music scene. The current popular choice of music for hipsters is indie folk, which is the blend of ambient electronica beats and bluegrass folk music. If one recognizes these odd mixtures as an art form, that is one thing. But to call them original might be a stretch. Originality implies a budding level of authenticity, rather than repurposing a mixture of things and calling it something new. In that regard, there is very little that is truly authentic in this world. Hipsters and postmodernists have accepted that nothing is completely authentic, and so then move forward with creating from the wide array of existing entities available. It’s a “new” spin on creativity and innovation.

So is this post-war counter-culture, hipsters, a sign of the decline of Western Modernity or the rise of a postmodern revolution?[xii] I think neither and, at the same time, both. Rather I think it is a transformational stage from Western Modernism to Western Postmodernism. Hipsters are moving into more postmodern ideas and social movement, but they still embody, by way of being separatists, some modernist tendencies. Since postmodernism in essence is the rejection of modernism, hipsters are not completely postmodern. Instead hipsters are part of a greater outcry for social change away from Western modernity.


[i] Wallace-Wells, Benjamin. “Pulp Sociology.” The New York Sun, March 14, 2008.

[ii] Lorentzen, Christian. “Why the Hipster Must Die.” Time Out New York, May 30,       2007.

[iii] Haddow, Douglass. “Hipster: The Dead End of Western Civilization.” Adbusters, July 28, 2008.

[iv] O’Connor, Maureen. “Sociology Proves That Hipsters Hate Hipsters Most.” http://gawker.com/5633219/sociology-proves-that-hipsters-hate-hipsters-most

[v] Nietzsche. Friedrich. On The Genealogy of Morals. Walter Kaufmann and R.J. Hollingdale. New York: Random House Inc., 1967.

[vi] Wilkins, Amy C. . Wannabes, Goths, and Christians: The Boundaries of Sex, Style, and Status. 1 ed. University of Chicago Press, 2008.

[vii] van Elteren, Mel. “The Subculture of the Beats: A Sociological Revisit.” Journal of American Culture 22, no. 3 (1999): 71-99.

[viii] John Mayer, “Waiting on the World to Change,” Continuum, 2006, Columbia Records.

[ix] Cox, Gary. How to Be an Existentialist: or How to Get Real, Get a Grip, and Stop Making Excuses. New York: Continuum International Publishing Group, 2009.

[x] Allan,Kenneth. Contemporary Social and Sociological Theory: Visualizing Social Worlds. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press, 2006.

[xi] Rose, William D.. “Postmodern American Sociology: A Response to the Aesthetic Challenge.” Contemporary Sociology 35, no. 2 (2006): 187-189.

[xii] McLaughlin, Linden D.. “Transforming worldviews: An anthropological understanding of how people change.” Christian Education Journal 7, no. 2 (2010): 493-500.

Sometimes I get in these odd, out-of-body, super-perceptive trains of thought. Usually they are late at night, while I’m alone, after I’ve watched some horror film or read something that makes me think. Tonight the culprits are Red Bull and the movies, The Men Who Stare at Goats and Shutter Island (AWESOME movie). The term, “God works in mysterious ways” takes on a whole new meaning tonight. And yes, I’m aware that this is a strangely odd combo of ‘psychiatric’ films….don’t judge.

While getting uber-creeped out and feeling super aware of my surroundings in the dark night of campus and downtown Emporia, jogging the movies back to Family Video at 12:15 am, I had a small revelation. About connections. This sparked it- George Clooney’s character Lyn Cassady in The Men Who Stare at Goats said this:

“Bob, have you ever heard of optimum trajectory? Your life is like a river and if you are aiming for a goal that is not your destiny, you will always be swimming against the current. Young guy who wants to be a stock car driver — it’s not going to happen. Little Anne Frank wants to be a high school teacher — tough titty Anne, it’s not your destiny. But you will go on to move the hearts and minds of millions. Find out what your destiny is and the river will carry you.”

Maybe that “river” is God. God the very creator of my being, of everything, has a plan and a destiny for each of us. Many of us fight it, because we get confused along the way and don’t want to trust him. We wanna trust our own knowledge. We can only trust what is in front of our eyes. But when will we open our eyes and let go? Heck, when will I do this?… When will we/I stop worrying about tomorrow, and instead live today to the full? Do I look like I know the answers to the universe. I hope not….but God does. Why can’t we/I just trust Him? A Bob Dylan lyric from “Blowin’ in the Wind” comes to mind- “How many times can a man turn his head, and pretend that he just doesn’t see”.

Okay now to the connections thing I was getting at, pertaining to that previous movie quote. Growing up Southern Baptist I always heard a lot of talk about metaphorical doors opening and closing in life. I’m not sure why Baptists chose doors. I guess it makes some sense. I just don’t like it when un-metaphysical doors are slammed in my face. Anywho, basically this concept boils down to taking the events (small and big) in our life and rolling with them, because they push us toward our next destination, our next step in life.

Recent example… I tried to invite several of the Summer Staffers over tonight to watch Shutter Island. I didn’t really get a straight answer from anyone on whether or not they were coming. I just figured they were (A) busy, (B) not wanting to see a horror movie, or (C) tired. I wasn’t too offended. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tried to invite people over to watch a movie or hang out, and nobody really wanted to come. Kinda sad I guess. But because no one gave me a straight answer, I decided to give up on inviting people over tonight. And because no one came over, I watched movies anyways by myself. And because I watched them by myself without distractions, I got really into it….I entered into deep thought. Plus, I went on a midnight jog around campus alone, racing in thought. Something I would have never done had their been people around. And had I not been deep in thought, I probably would not have been in a position to notice what God was leading me to. See how “one closed door” can lead to another “open door”. I’m not sure if this is the best example, but it is relevant to tonight.

Well, here was the “ahah!” moment I had while walking back on the dark Emporia State Campus after returning my movies. Here it is. God has a lot more control over our lives than we give him credit for. Sure, people make decisions and choices that affect others’ decisions and actions. But how is it all so intricately connected? How come some things work out and others not? Why, in my life, have certain events or the lack of certain events triggered small breakthroughs between God and myself? It’s as if His will takes precedent in my life, guiding me into exact situations (without me knowing it), so that he can reveal a snip-it of himself to me. Tonight was one of those snip-its. Naysayers will call God a control-freak on this one, but that is out of rebellion. God (the Creator of all things, the Holder of the universe, the Author and Perfecter) has the audacity to love US, the mere imperfect specs in the universe, and be a part of our lives. And what kind of an ignorant fool would deny a God so loving. A God that wants to reveal himself to us sinful, small humans. God cares about each step we take, and wants to show us why he created us. Tonight I fully realized that God really DOES have everything under control. He holds EVERYTHING in is hands. Even when I think I’m just on my own. Even when I don’t notice Him walking right beside me. He’s not just the creator of the universe up in the sky, big and mighty, distant and uncaring of all our little idiosyncrasies. He cares about every detail. And he cares about each and every one of us. Every one.

It’s like a young boy who is sitting in their dad’s lap in the driving seat with his hands on the wheel. It’s quite obvious that the father is controlling the pedals, and has one hand on the wheel underneath (just in case). But the kid doesn’t notice it. All the while he exclaims, “Daddy look at me! I’m driving.” The Father just smirks and says, “Take it easy sport… steady. Keep your eyes on the road.”

    Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.
    Proverbs 3:5-6 (NLT)

“Complexity of God” (originally written June 24, 2009)

I’ve been thinking about the complexity of God….which is basically a guaranteed mind explosion. Being human, I try to analyze him, study his ways, and box him into my dumbed-downed understanding. But I just can’t wrap my mind around him. First off, He’s always been and always will be. He never had a beginning and he won’t ever have an end. Nothing that I’ve ever known in my 20 years of life has NOT had a beginning. Then he made the universe, the earth, the wind, lightness, darkness, the animals, the fish, water, and humankind just by speaking….WHOA! Then after creation rejected the creator by sin and pride (painfully idiotic), God was faithful still- ransoming his ONLY SON so that we can again be called blameless and his beloved children. I can’t wrap my mind around that kind of love. To some, it almost seems dumb, foolish, and pointless for the God of the universe to give a hoot if we mere humans live or die. But in his eyes we are special, we are his own, we are unconditionally loved. That free gift of salvation that he offers through his son, Jesus Christ, saves us from our faults and failures. This is more than just a gift- it is a breathtaking grace-filled love that I and so many others search their entire life for. I can’t help but joyfully and eagerly accept it and intentionally share with others. But with that free gift comes responsibility. Responsibility to grow in love with christ instead of sin and trust god more every day. Now that I’ve tried to summarize a glimpse of the good news my mind is still on one thing…
Complexity of god. What is it? How can i describe?….well i honestly can’t. Because the God i serve and love is too unfathomable to be explained or comprehended by mere words. That is why I will forever worship and serve him.
As you can tell I have a lot of trouble trying to explain God. Really, who can? But I know this. The God of the Universe loves me more than anyone else ever can, knows everything about me, and wants me to worship and honor his glory with my life. Who am I to reject to that?

(these videos are a little addition. They are pretty stinkin’ awesome.)

Being Yourself

Don’t compromise your values in the name of intimacy. Don’t compromise who you are in the name of love.

Don’t waste your time trying to impress people. It may work at first, but eventually they will catch on to your facade. Live humbly, with a quiet confidence.

Own up to your mistakes. A contrite heart is humble and honest.

Don’t expect to gain anything without working for it.

Love

Center your life around love. Loving people for who they are.

Fill your day with smiles and laughter.

Perspective

(this is one I need to work on) Don’t give advice, unless someone asks for it. If you’re not careful, people might start thinking you have ‘all the answers’. Only God is capable of that kind of infinite knowledge.

In the end we are all fools, jumping from experience to experience, trying to figure out life as we go along. Those who keep the big picture in mind will persevere. Remember who is in control.

Sometimes our dreams can be unrealistic. Figure out if it is worth it to chase after them.

Blessed are those who trust God to provide direction, in the midst of confusion.

Do your homework. Don’t procrastinate. Seriously! Your workload will lighten tenfold.

Life is full of choices. Choose wisely.

Live today to the fullest. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. (ok so I basically paraphrased Jesus on this one)

Life isn’t about figuring out all the answers. Don’t waste your time worrying. Focus more on the questions.

Communication

Most communication is non-verbal. If you pick up on these non-verbal gestures and cues you will be able to read people more accurately.

If you carefully and patiently listen to someone, you learn how to effectively communicate with them.

The perfect message to convey can be ruined by the demeanor in which you present it.

Don’t say or do anything TO someone today that you will regret tomorrow.

The words you speak reveal a glimpse of your heart. Choose your words wisely.

Thoughts on Dating

If it ain’t there, it ain’t there. Don’t force it. The body language of your person of interest says everything.

Confidence is essential. One’s body language says a great deal about their confidence level. Keep that in mind.

Guard your heart. But don’t be afraid to let someone ‘know’ you.

You will likely experience many heartbreaks before you find the person that will piece it back together.

With every heartbreak, grow stronger and wiser.

Physical intimacy can complicate an early budding relationship. Be careful how and when you choose to do so….even kissing.

College Parties

If you are gonna party, do it with people you know and love. Partying with strangers is usually awkward and lame.

Don’t drink alcohol to be ‘cool’ or to ‘fit in’. Those things are foolish endeavors to chase.

If you can handle drinking in moderation, enjoy it. Enjoy the company and friendship. The camaraderies are what are most important. Getting ‘wasted’ won’t solve anything.

Don’t be afraid to cut loose. But that doesn’t mean to have a ton of drinks. Make sure you can still spell your name backwards.

Never come with expectations to score points with a (certain) girl. That usually fails. Just have fun, and don’t have any expectations.

Stay true to yourself. No need to put on a front- trying to be ‘cool’- just because you are at a party.

The best parties are dance parties.

(( Disclaimer: I’m still a fool. ))

I just wanna take a small space to exclaim that this whirlwind of a semester is finally over! It’s been quite the ride. I just wanna say, I am thoroughly glad that this semester is over (at least from an academic standpoint). I am in need of some much-needed rest, rejuvenation, and rehabilitation in my mind, body, and spirit.

Goals for the summer:

  1. Do a good job working with Emporia State University Housing. Work hard and cherish the experience.
  2. Get a weekend job in Emporia, KS. I need to bring in the cash.
  3. P90X!!!!!- ♫”Let’s get physical, physical..”♫
  4. Eat more healthy: no soda, no late-night munchies, lots of water, eat breakfast every morning
  5. Read the Gospels. Read Proverbs
  6. Read “The Confessions of St. Augustine”
  7. pre-read textbook for my History of Ancient Philosophy class.
  8. Develop a consistent sleep cycle.
  9. Meet lots of new wonderful people in Emporia, KS.
  10. Figure out if this Student Affairs thing is for me. Should I apply for Grad School and become a Residence Hall Director?

BONUS: Find a campus recording studio. RECORD MY BUTT OFF!

I wanna come back in the fall with sexy abs, a farmer’s tan, and a fresh smile on my face. (okay maybe the first one is a little unrealistic, but one can dream). Here’s to finishing 3 years of college, and moving toward my 4th! –> and all God’s people say, “Cheers!”