Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Where Does My Accomplishment End And His Begin?

For whatever the reason, I've been thinking about the nature of God a lot recently but more particularly about the things that we do in our lifetimes. Do we ever accomplish anything by ourselves in our lifetimes or has everything been designed for us to accomplish, by God?
I started on this train of thought as my wife and I have been watching the TV miniseries "John Adams". It is really good and it makes you be amazed at how brilliant many of those men were. However, many people believe the design of our nation to be divinely inspired which would make one question how much those men actually accomplished themselves. When Thomas Jefferson sat down to write the Declaration of Independence, did God put certain thoughts into his head to put on to the paper or were they merely his own thoughts? What about when they wrote the Constitution? Is it too much to say that those already brilliant men felt compelled to start this nation completely without any prompting from God?
I understand that all human beings have choice, but if God designs them in a way where they will choose a certain course of action when the choice presents itself, did they really take that course of action themselves? When I think about this subject, I'm often reminded of one of my favorite movies, The Truman Show. I'm particularly thinking of the end, when Truman is talking to his "Creator" and their conversation takes on a very religious and philosophical context. After learning that everything in his life was a fabrication, Truman, frustrated, asks, "Was nothing real?"
Maybe I'm too proud. I've always kind of been that way, too quick to take credit for certain actions or certain enlightening thoughts. Part of me sometimes just wants to yell out, "I did that! By myself!" completely cutting God out of the accomplishment because his inclusion makes it seem like I didn't do anything at all because I had His help.
Let me try to explain. Say that on Friday, I am going to be given the choice between going to Chili's or Olive Garden for dinner. If I choose Chili's, will I be going there because I actually chose it or because God created me in a way that he KNEW that I would pick Chili's? I guess in a way its a debate between "choice" and "fate" and I'm having a hard time seeing how the two can actually work together like many people believe them to do.
Perhaps it doesn't matter. I suppose even if God did create me so I would say "Yes" or "No" to a certain situation, it is still my choice. In the Truman Show, when Truman asks "Was nothing real?", his "Creator" answers, "YOU were real." And though vain it might be to say it, even if God could potentially take credit for anything we do, since he's not here to dispute it, we'll be fine taking the credit ourselves. :)

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Top 40 Albums of All-Time for 2009

Every year, I make a list of the 40 albums I think are the best. Surprisingly, the list changes quite a bit. I like to do the list because I like to see how things change each time. This is my list for 2009.
Next to each entry is a number. If it is a subtraction and a number, that is how many spots the entry has moved down the list. If it is a plus sign and a number, that is how many numbers the entry has moved up the list. If there is no number, the entry has stayed in the same place. If there is a N/A sign, the entry was not on the list last year. The name of the album is first followed by the name of the band. So without further ado...

40. Mirrored-Battles N/A
39. In Utero-Nirvana -1
38. Foo Fighters-Foo Fighters -3
37. The Fragile-Nine Inch Nails -5
36. Sound Of Silver-LCD Soundsystem N/A
35. The Oktober People -12
34. Get Behind Me Satan-The White Stripes -1
33. Mule Variations-Tom Waits N/A
32. Good News For People Who Love Bad News-Modest Mouse -6
31. Transatlanticism-Death Cab For Cutie -3
30. Californication-Red Hot Chili Peppers N/A
29. Abbey Road-The Beatles
28. Chutes Too Narrow-The Shins +8
27. 40 Oz. To Freedom-Sublime -6
26. Siamese Dream-Smashing Pumpkins N/A
25. Sea Change-Beck
24. OK Computer-Radiohead -2
23. Demon Days-Gorillaz N/A
22. Want One-Rufus Wainwright -6
21. White Pony-Deftones -4
20. Takk-Sigur ros -2
19. Grace-Jeff Buckley -5
18. Room On Fire-The Strokes -3
17. Plans-Death Cab For Cutie N/A
16. Aha Shake Heartbreak-Kings of Leon -7
15. Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-Wilco N/A
14. The Information-Beck +6
13. Silent Alarm-Bloc Party -2
12. Absolution-Muse -8
11. Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots-The Flaming Lips -1
10. Fever To Tell-The Yeah Yeah Yeahs +2
09. Funeral-Arcade Fire -1
08. Z-My Morning Jacket +5
07. ( )-Sigur ros -2
06. Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness-Smashing Pumpkins +1
05. The Soft Bulletin-The Flaming Lips -2
04. Return To Cookie Mountain-TV on the Radio +2
03. In Rainbows-Radiohead +36
02. Blood Sugar Sex Magick-Red Hot Chili Peppers -1
01. Kid A-Radiohead +1

There it is. Hope you enjoyed. See you next year.

Top Ten Albums of 2008

Every year, I do a list of what I think to be the best albums of the previous year. These are the best albums I heard. The album title is first, followed by the name of the band. Let me know if you agree or disagree.

10. Only By The Night-Kings of Leon
09. The Slip-Nine Inch Nails
08. The Odd Couple-Gnarls Barkley
07. Evil Urges-My Morning Jacket
06. Narrow Stairs-Death Cab for Cutie
05. Modern Guilt-Beck
04. Med Sud I Eyrum Vid Spilum Endalaust-Sigur ros
03. Made in the Dark-Hot Chip
02. Vampire Weekend-Vampire Weekend
01. Dear Science-TV on the Radio

Friday, January 2, 2009

Happy Birthday, Nene!

Today is my Mother's birthday. Of all the memories I have of her, these are my favorites.

When I was a kid, my favorite game was the Legend of Zelda. Now that I'm 23, that series of games are still my favorite. My mother also really liked that game and she would always make time to play it. I would often beg her to play it, offering to do chores and help her out so she would come play it with me. I would often tell her that I needed help but I really just wanted to spend some time with her in a way that none of my other siblings could.

Growing up, I always thought I was her favorite child. The funny thing is that if you asked any of my other siblings, they would all say the same thing. That is why she is such a good mother. She makes us all feel special.

I was such a momma's boy when I was little. If my siblings were picking on me, I would hide in her robe while she was wearing it! She would often be doing the dishes in her robe and I would go and lift up her robe and get under there and just cling to her legs. My siblings always tell me it was so weird to see 2 different pairs of legs coming out of the bottom of her robe. I felt so safe under there and my mom always knew that if I did that then I just wanted to be left alone. My siblings would try to goad me out but my mother would tell them to knock it off and they would.

When I was in football, she always stood up for me even when I didn't know it. I would come home and complain about something and my mother would agree with me that whatever was happening was wrong and they should stop doing it. The next day at practice, my coach would have us take a knee at the end of practice and talk about whatever it was that was wrong. This happened at least three times. I always thought it was weird that they would explain whatever the problem was the next day after I complained about it. I always assumed it was someone else's parents that were complaining to the coach. The last time I especially thought was weird because after the coach got done explaining what was wrong, he singled me out amongst the other 30+players on my team. He called out and said, "Okay, guys? Okay, Allen?" I said okay but it never occurred to me that he was probably doing it because he was tired of my Mom calling him to complain.

When I turned 19, we often had arguments about whether I should go on a mission or not. One time was especially heated with both my parents and I was getting frustrated. I don't really remember what was said but I remember when my mother calmly looked at me and asked, "Why don't you want to go?" I think I said something to the effect of that I just didn't want to or that I didn't feel like I had a strong enough testimony. My mother studied me for a minute and then embraced me. I knew from then on that she wouldn't talk to me about it anymore. I knew I had let her down. I still know I had let her down. But her hug was not one of anger, but one of understanding. I knew that even though I let her down, and even though she didn't agree with my reasons for not wanting to go, she understood.

My mother has taught me everything I need to know to be a good man. When she moved to Ireland, I drove her and my Dad to the airport. I was fine until I started going home and I cried the whole way home and then a little at home. I was really sad. I knew that I would be fine and that I could take care of myself but I really just wanted both my Mom and Dad to be here so I could talk to them about stuff going on in my life. And though they aren't here anymore, I'm glad they are together experiencing something new in their lives. I love my mother and I want to thank her for everything she has done for me. I will always be grateful.

Happy Birthday, Mom!