Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Soho, Camden and Some Thoughts

Camden. I remembered it more fondly than I found it! Maybe because two crucial things were missing. This time I was not going to a Lenny Kravitz gig, and I did not have my beautiful little sister with me. It might also have been that Soho, Westminster and Piccadilly Circus made such a nice impression yesterday that Camden seemed rather shabby in comparison.

But Camden Markeds were fun! The feeling of walking through these amazing dungeons with all sorts of individual distinctness around you. The food stalls reminded me about Asia. Indeed, some of the food was the same as home in Singapore. I didn't buy anything, but it was refreshing just walking around there.

It's a mad place. A rough underworld of modern witches, punks, various emos and goths; some disillusioned old-timers that may have seen the first hippie-movement; shops with side-by-side displays of crosses hanging both upside down and the right way; loud, shallow and predictable discussions of religion and spiritualism on the street for every by-passer to listen to; the sensation that the smell of that dude's cigarette was "funny," and just general madness! Still it maintains a creative sphere, because you're different if you're not different.

I guess what bugs me is to see things that are run down and poorly maintained. It's a style they say. It's supposed to have its own charm. The sad thing is that people loose sight of the value of building things up from scratch. Anti-establishment is at the complete and utter mercy of establishment for even the faintest hope of its own existence. Money is needed to expansively and passionately create the houses and structures that a sentimental goth, witch or emo prides itself of possessing the ruins of.

Which brings us to the next topic. All these old houses I notice around the whole city. Mostly the 19th century ones, some older, some newer. The money, initiative, engineering, work and purposes they were built with has all gone to the grave ages ago. A modern firm or café finds itself in a place built with a vision. We have no idea if we still keep the vision going or have created a new one along the way. There's nothing wrong or right about it, but it almost gives me a sense of intruding into someone else's territory! Except that those someones are well dead.

We should take pride in national histories for this reason. In line with the teaching of one of my pastors, Paul Scanlon, I believe that society at large grows when people plant trees they won't have the time to enjoy the shade under. If the coming generations won't cherish that shade, the potential it renders sadly remains unused. The emo, goth or anti-establishment hippie priding himself of ruins, rough edges and poor maintenance has more in common with Hitler's architectural theory of "reduced value" than he wishes to understand. It's not worth going there though. If the future is not positive, the past becomes the most glorious and ruins becomes our sentimental escape. Sociologically, children suffer neglect for the same reason. If we only lived in the days of... (insert as apropriate, e.g. Nelson, Churchill, Richard the 3rd) No, we live in greater days! Future generations must be nurtured more than we cherish the dead and the ruins of the past. Taking pride in past victories inspires for the future. Setting them as ultimate and timeless benchmarks holds back the expectancy of development.

(I'm sorry if you think I am throwing out too many topics in a ranting fashion and too swift progression. I had to read Theodore Adorno in Uni and this is my payback on reality!)

Camden was fun and I found the way back to my old favorite restaurant there. Turkish. I paid 5 Pounds for a full (I mean it in a Norwegian quantity) meal with a drink! I was happy! Let alone, the main ingredient was a whole, slow cooked lamb-shank. I think the place is called 'Just Eat.' You should visit!

But guess what? I went back to Soho afterwards. I think I have fallen in love. I like Soho a lot. I walked into a kiosk the other night to buy a pen, and they had sketching pencils of all regular grades! If your 24/7 kiosk expects people at all times of the day to just bump in to get their Daler-Rowney sketching pencils, it's gotta be a good place! And it's less run down and sentimental, and better maintained than Camden.

There's a new high-raised business complex in Soho, not far from one of my favorite bookshops and an Indonesian restaurant. It would make a great place for a studio...

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Headphones and Reality

It’s amazing when you walk into a building or hallway with headphones on and the music has reverb on it that has approximately the same length as the natural room you’re in and it feels like the music is being played in the actual room!

God and Religion and Faith and Society and stuff...

I’ve lately found myself frequently in a situation where people ask about my relation to the rules of my faith. I quite like these questions, though I often think they are coming from a sense of misunderstanding of what I believe in. So I thought, why not just make a swift comment here while I’m at it.

I believe in God. Many Christians don’t like to say it that way, they’d rather say they believe in Jesus. I believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus is God. I believe in God.

I have over the last half a decade lived around Asia and Europe away from my native Norway. I have friends of many religions and most of us all agree. We believe in God. I am not a unitarianist and I don’t believe we all believe in the same God. I also believe salvation comes from Jesus Christ and nowhere else. That is what I believe. But confessing we all believe in God creates a bridge of understanding across different religions. Now you’re wondering, what do I want to achieve with this bridge? The answer is simple. We’re supposed to live side by side. When we leave our places of worship we’re all mixed anyway.

I believe in God. I believe in Jesus. I believe Jesus brings salvation.

Presented in that order I can have a civilized conversation with friends from any faith. Presented the other way around, although it doesn’t change the statement, I very often find that I can’t. I’d rather try to make the effort of both listening and giving, and presenting it in the most understandable way. I think God appreciates that, cause He made us all to live in peace. I won’t back down on my views, and I’ll allow you the same privilege. But I have no affection (rather a despise) for this post-modern-socialist-or-call-it-what-you-want view that we should all just “shut up” about our faiths. Like that would be a better way to respect others. Bullocks! Some years ago I sat in the lounge of a top-rated Asian hotel with one of the Princes of Saudi-Arabia talking about our faiths. He initiated the topic, and he was the one to first point out the similarities between our faiths. Let me tell you, I have a lot of respect for that! A Muslim Prince can preach to me about our similarities and create a bridge of understanding between us. I love the guy, I must say! And then one comes back home to the West and some schmock who has hardly travelled to the next city tells me that faith is a personal matter best kept to myself, so I can live as peacefully as possible with my Muslim neighbours! If there’s one thing I have discovered that believers of all religions like to hear, it is the sentence “I believe in God!” It creates a bridge between two riverbanks. The only ones who have ever told me to keep silent are prolific non-believers. If you believe that there is nothing to believe in you are in your full right to do so. -And I applaud you for having made the effort to think the matter through and come up with a conclusion you have chosen to believe in! Good! -Don’t let that ever become an excuse to attempt to silence or oppress those who say the opposite: “I believe in God!” That is after all the majority of the world’s population. Christian, Jew, Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist… We all have a concept of God. Not the same concept, but an understanding that there is a Deity beyond us. “I believe in God!”

Very often I get questions about the relationship between religious practices and how I live my life. I’ll try to comment…

A lot of Christians have tag-lines like “I hate religion,” “Christ saves, religion destroys” etc… If you’re a contemporary Christian I’m sure you might have heard something similar, if you’re not a Christian I’m not sure you might have heard it at all. And therein lays the problem. My Mac dictionary says about religion that it is “the belief in and worship of […] a personal God or gods.” With the edit I made, that is very close to the Oxford Dictionary, although I don’t have one at hand as this is being written. Semantically, how can a believer “hate” the belief in God? Linguistics is not at the mercy of Theology, and thank God it won’t be!

However, God is not encapsulated in a set of rules and practices defined over time by a mass of men and women. I love tradition! It is inspiring to learn of the exploits of those generations that walked before me, to worship in their ways and get under their skin. But tradition is not God nether. Following religious rules does not equal to believing in God.

If your uncle is dead, can you philosophize over your current and tangiable relationship to him? No! He’s dead.
If he is alive, can you then? Yes!
Your theory may be:
“I want to make my uncle happy.”
“My uncle loves chocolate.”
“Hence, I will do my best effort to bring my uncle chocolate when I see him, cause I want to make him happy.”

If you lose touch of the underlying appreciation of this close relative you won’t easily commit to the first sentence: “I want to make my uncle happy.” And you wouldn’t care less whether he loves this or that food. Subsequently, you’ll take no steps towards his happiness. If you do chose to increase his happiness while feeling no love for him it will give you nothing and just become an empty action. It could sound something like: “I’ll bring my uncle chocolate cause my mom told me to, but I feel no affection for him.” -He’ll understand what you’re thinking! He’ll get the treat, but your face-expression and everything else you do will give you away and he’ll get no relational joy from your thoughtless gift.

God wants you to put your heart and passion in it! -Whatever it is. He don’t give a rip about gifts and treats if your heart is not in them. He wants dedication, love and worship and not gift to make you feel good so you can go away and pride yourself from having done your duty.

So what is the relation between religious rules and my faith in God? Initially nothing. But because of my faith I may set and adopt a certain set of rules, practices or call them what you like. One such could be: “I believe God has created us all so I’ll try to feed, talk to and generally help this homeless dude I see in town when the opportunity arises.” Whether you make a rule of it is of little importance, but God don’t mind your rules if your hearts in them. “So what if I’m not a believer?” God still loves our generosity, compassion and thoughtfulness non the less!

I believe in God. I believe God is alive. I believe there is no one Greater. I believe He has created us. I believe He is present everywhere. I believe He sees much more than our shortcomings. I believe He is looking for love rather than sin. Sin cannot be used for His will. Love can be used for His will. I believe He is looking out for love instead of sin cause love can benefit all His creation. I believe He won’t generally intervene in creation without us asking Him. I believe that is done because He wants us to have freedom of choice. I don’t believe this is to test us.

I love religion, cause it tells us where we’re coming from. If a personal relationship with God does not exist in a religious mind, religion becomes nothing more important than a recipe in a cookbook. In fact, I’d go for the recipe if it’s yummy! Religion as a field of study is sociological of nature. It is also psychological, philosophical, demographical, political and a whole lot more.

God is not sociological, psychological, philosophical, demographical or political of nature. God is God! My relationship to God is not determined by such factors. And where I discover that I am under influence of such outside factors I will try to get ridd of them!

When you see people getting their lives transformed, getting healed of diseases, shaking off addictions in days or on the spot and starting to live like they one day are gonna die and thus get to shake off the worries of their past, God becomes real. People find gravity and meaning in life. Cause in a fast paced modern consumer culture with endless subcultures with individual forms of social capital Rick Warren says it best of all: “It’s not about you!” Life is not about you. You didn’t create you. So it could never be about you. Hedonism, satanism and selfish consumerism has one thesis in common: “It’s about you!” It’s the total polarity of God!

Don’t get it wrong, God wants you to be happy. He don’t mind you being rich. He don’t mind you owning a company. And you don’t have to drive an old hippie car and wear worn out clothes to make yourself holy for him. He don’t mind you owning things. He created all natural resources. He put you here. He said the world was all for man to administer. He don’t mind you owning things or being in politics. But He does mind how you administer what you have in your possession. Cause remember: “It’s not about you!” If everyone lived according to that principle you’d be well covered in kind generosity from all directions anyway. And if people around you don’t practice this, it is still no excuse to sign out and become self-centered. Not for the sake of the rules of a religion. But God does mind! He is alive. He does mind!

So, am I really that holy? Do I really manage to pull it all off and impress God with my efforts? No! Quite on the contrary, I’m full of failures and quirks. But maybe that makes me see even clearer what I’m aiming for. -The standard I sometimes manage to hold, and sometimes fail drastically in achieving! And yes, I listen to very loud music, play rock, smoke cigars, love Cognac, love fast cars, never go to bed in time, got kicked out of a public fountain in Singapore by the security-guard and have never conformed to anyone if they don’t make sense to me. But what did you expect from a music producer?

I believe in God! I’m happy that my brothers of any religion agree on the same! I believe Jesus is the road to salvation. I’m not perfect. I love God cause I chose to, not because I have to. I hate having only Christian friends, the world is not a box catered for my own comfort. I believe “it’s not about me!” I die on the inside if I don’t get adventure. God created adventure. God is adventure!

And last but not least… I have always been strong-minded and aware of my abilities. But in all my human strength I have never ever gone as far as I go when I pray and dig into the word of God. I have also tried the opposite and know the difference. I know my strengths, but am amazed of where it takes me when God is in control instead of me! And this is the final and ultimate answer to the questions I am often asked. Faith kicks in where philosophy has to let go. Your destructive addiction won’t ask what philosophy you subscribe to, but they flee in the face of a greater power! So when people ask what the relationship between my religion and life is, they often expect it to be completely quantifiable. Can you completely quantify your relationship to your mother? I can’t! God is real. I feel Him. I meet Him where my abilities stop, faith kicks in and supernatural things happen. What supernatural things? God’s nearness, doors that suddenly open, people getting healed from illnesses, friends having their lives transformed in a way the human mind cannot achieve alone and the things that happen to my own mind and abilities. A man without a wife but who wants one will restlessly seek till his want is found. A man without God will restlessly seek almost everywhere without knowing what he is looking for. The amazing Swedish songwriter Rebecka Törnqvist said it best of all some years ago: “You’re raging and restless and oh yes, it shows. If it’s not religious it’s pretty damn close.” Some of the people that most prolifically ask questions and most loudly claim that they have the answers are the most “raging and restless” people I ever meet. If that’s “not religious” I would still say “it’s pretty damn close!” I like that they ask about my “religion,” “faith” or whatever you call it, but they often fail to understand that God is real to me and not a concept from a religious book. I love the religious books! But what would you rather do? -Hang out with your friend Tom, or read a book about him? All faith cannot be quantifiable in human terms, and God is real and does not “pop by” just because you read some philosophy about Him. But He opens the door when you knock!

I believe in God! I believe God is real. I believe He is a person. Not a human-person, but a God-person. I believe He knows how it is to be human, because He came to earth as a human infant, was tempted in all things by the devil, was killed and went to hell, rose by His own divine power cause the devil is infinitely much smaller. I believe He broke the power of everything bad, everything that scares you, everything that keeps you bound to ill habits, everything from hell, everything that makes us feel hopeless, everything that makes you sick in body and mind and everything that is trying to hold you back or down or kill you or rob you of joy! God loves you! Why? Why else would He create you?

I said I was gonna make “a swift comment.” Well… I’m not perfect. Only God is!

Soho at night

Heard through an open car-window in Soho, quarter past midnight.
(Angry, fast-paced, assertive voice into a hand phone):

“No cops!
No cops!
No cops!

Come alone!
Come alone!
Come alone!

I’m in Soho!
(More detailed elaboration of address follows.)

Where the #@%$ are you?

I’m in Soho!"

Yes, indeed! And so am I!