G-Love teaches the world to chill

I took a break and went to see a movie yesterday and there I saw it; My favorite acoustic blues group G-Love and Special Sauce leading a remix of the old Hilltop “Teach the world to sing” coke commercial. Only this time they were teaching the world to “chill” holding Coke Zero bottles on a Philly rooftop at sunset. (you can see the commercial here if you haven’t seen it already. You can also download the song and the ringtones for your phone.)

Several things ran through my mind:
1. Cool. Good to see G-Love getting some mainstream exposure after all these years.
2. He’s gonna catch a lot of crap for “selling out.”
3.Why didn’t they just have him sing “Cold Beverages?”
4.I wish they’d play it again. I’ll Google it later.

G-Love is his own thing. He raps, yeah, but he imitates nobody. After several decades, rap is no longer a genre of music unto itself. People sing in all sorts of genres and nobody refers to it as “singing music.” Rap can and is being incorporated into all sorts of other types of music beyond hip-hop. A white blues guy who raps like G-Love owes a debt to the black pioneers of the rap form but don’t compare him to them. So far as I know, there is no one out there doing acoustic blues with rap as well or as long as G-Love and Special Sauce. If there is, I’d love it if you’d enlighten me.

He hasn’t sold out either. Yet. Any long time listener knows that the commerical totally reflects his vibe and, of course, he loves Cold Beverages. It’s a perfect fit. I just hope it doesn’t go so far it becomes self-parody.

For those of you that are crying “sell-out”, those of you that think that all rap must be hip-hop, or especially all you posers that think anything not from your avant-garde ultrahip corner of the music world is lame, you need to listen to my man G-Love and just chill. Coke Zero is optional.

Planning vs. Preparing

I got a new Wendell Berry book a few weeks ago. This may be my new favorite poem since it helped me put my finger on something that has been bugging me about futures for years.

Whatever is foreseen in joy
Must be lived out day to day.
Vision held open in the dark
By our ten thousand days of work.
Harvest will fill the barn; for that
The hand must ache, the face must sweat.

And yet no leaf or grain is filled
By work of ours; the field is tilled
And left to grace. That we may reap,
Great work is done while we’re asleep.

When we work well, a Sabbath mood
Rests on our day, and finds it good.

— Wendell Berry, from A Timbered Choir

My vision, what I forsee in joy, indeed must be lived out day to day. Therein is the elusive hinge that connects the futurist side of me with the spiritual side of me. I’ve been seeking the essence of that connection for a while now. It figures that Wendell Berry, the humble farmer, would lead me to it. Farming is all about working for a vision.

On the Engaged Enounter weekends we run I have taken to saying that “We create extraordinary marriages in lots of ordinary ways.” One could say that about any stake one has in one’s future — we create extraordinary futures in lots of ordinary ways. Our hands must ache, our face must sweat.

Work is necessary, but not sufficient. Grace, whether we welcome it or not, factors in. The hubris of the planner comes from thinking that our work is necessary and sufficient to secure our desired future. Not so! We must be more flexible, more detached, more open to Grace.

That is, I think, the distilled difference between planning and preparing that Christian futurists like myself need to keep in mind. If I ever write a book about Catholicism and futures (something I’ve been threatening to do on and off for a while now), Wendell Berry’s poem above will be in the introduction.

Diet Coke Debrief

This blog post is very helpful. (via 43 Folders) It explains why I like Coke Zero better than the original Diet Coke, which I have been slavishly devoted to lo these twenty some-odd years since Diet Coke hit the machines on the UT Austin campus.

In a nutshell, Diet Coke was the sugar free version of the formula for the New Coke debacle. Coke Zero is the sugar free version of Coca-Cola Classic. Explains a lot.

Swimming Lessons

Petunia swam on her own for the first time last night. Our three year old jumped off the diving board and swam to the side of the pool under her own power. Three times. Whoopee.

Both Petunia and Fresh have been able to swim short distances on their own for several weeks, but neither had developed the capability to come up for a breath and keep on swimming. Petunia, age three, swims as if she’s jogging underwater — clearly more to learn there on the technique — like the little engine that could. Just as you think you might want to reach in and give her a hand, she pokes her little head out just enough to gasp a breath and go back to work. Maybe it was Heidi’s and my willingness to hold off on coming to her aid for a second or two more to see if she could do it herself that put her over the top. Hmm…. A lesson in parenting there.

Fresh is not yet so motivated to learn. Fresh is older and bigger than Petunia at age five. His larger size is his limitation so far. Since he can stop and stand anywhere in the shallow end, he hasn’t needed to figure out how to breathe while swimming. He just plants his feet and breathes. Of course this makes perfect sense to do — why work so hard at breathing while swimming when you can just stop, stand, and breathe? Fresh’s greater mobility around the shallow end means he is less motivated to venture into places where he cannot stand. Fresh has less motivation to stray from his comfort zone. Petunia has no comfort zone, so to speak, so she learned how to swim.

And the key for both of them is to learn how to come up for a breath in the midst of the activity.

(Olivia will just jump into the pool and swim-wiggle with every bit of faith that she can already swim. No fear there at all. Gotta watch her every second.)

So my question is, who’s teaching who here? A guy can (re)learn a lot about life whilst teaching his kids to swim.

The Middle Way

I’m forty years old today. Right where I need to be, in the middle of my life.

I have a lot of great things to remember and a lot to look forward to. I have been handed some things in the past few years, spiritually, emotionally, and intellectually, that I count as gifts. I just need to go with them.

Forty years ago I had the joy of learning to see. Forty years later I have, through no doing of my own, rediscovered that joy. The first half of life was about learning. This half is about un-forgetting. About doing, while knowing that I am not the actual doer. About being the one who moves, knowing that I am not the actual mover.

Couldn’t be happier, right here in the middle. With more blessings than a man can rightly feel he deserves.

Gone Country and Back

Henry James once said that the two best words in the English language are “Summer Afternoon.”

Henry James had never summered in Texas, I’d bet.

But on summer evenings, when the humidity is low and the breeze cools you just enough, when the there’s watermelon and soda pop in plastic cups and 40 or so of your kinfolk gathered to watch a small pickup truck’s worth of fireworks go off in the field in front of the big shed, I can kind of see Henry’s point.

Some of my best childhood memories are from the carefree summer days I spent in Poteau, Oklahoma on various trips growing up. Acres to explore, lots of cousins to play with, all sorts of trouble to get into. And to this flatlands city boy, the rocks and ravines and hills and creeks (pronounced “cricks”) were a whole new world of wonder.

But the key was always leaving right about the day or so I started getting really bored. I am a city boy after all.

And that’s still the formula. This time I got the pleasure of watching the same childhood delights and wonder unfold for my children as they rode the tractor, fed chickens, picked corn for dinner, and wrestled with their cohort of cousins. I could see forming in them the same kinds of wonderful memories I treasure even now. So when we pulled away from Poteau, Fresh and Petunia were asking to come back. Leave ’em wanting more, I say. Don’t out-stay the wonder.

We’re city folk after all. But there’s a little piece of country in our hearts we feed once or twice a year.