Monday, August 29, 2005

toddling

Toddlers have a way of drawing you in, don't they? I just went to say goodnight to my little guy, and spent 30 mintues with him. :)

And they also have a way of reminding you that life's too short to go very long without ice cream. And chocolate. Which explains the bowl of chocolate ice cream in front of me right now.

the future of the artist

I take a daily e-newsletter from an information-technology magazine. The topic today was on copyrights and artist's compensation. The editor has entered the conversation by saying he doesn't believe our nation puts a high enough value on the creative process. He said artists are not even getting one penny from the legal puchase and download of music based on the latest legal disputes reported in this article. I sent him a response about what I thought all of this means, and then I continued to think about what morality has come to mean in America. Here is what I think:

Morality doesn't get invited to the party unless she's buying the drinks.

What I mean is that morality is the very last thing musicians talk about unless someone is taking their music without buying it. Then, it's all they can do but to talk about what is right and what is wrong. Morality. But it's not just musicians. Every moral contest, which is to say every election and every lawsuit, is couched in cost. Dare a politician to make or refute one point in a debate with no reference to money—it's unimaginable. And as for lawsuits, you can't even sue someone unless you assert they injured you, meaning they robbed you of some asset—whether life or limb or property or income potential—it has all come to mean "your means of wealth." This is not only the way of our courts—it is the way of everyday conversation. "What's the harm?" is the head of the coin, and the tails-side is, "What's the risk?" Even some churches avoid doing good for fear of being sued. Morality is toted in a money bag.

But I think everyone may be mischaracterizing the younger generations, which is where most of the criticism around the immorality of music copyright infringement is aimed (for example, Barna notes in an article that Fewer Than 1 in 10 Teenagers Believe That Music Piracy Is Morally Wrong). I believe in many ways the younger generations have a better moral compass than their predecessors. It takes a "mature" person to understand the inseparable link between money and justice. In fact, if you look to the very young, you will see, as Tolkien noted in his essay On Fairy Stories that "children are innocent and love justice, while most of us are wicked and naturally prefer mercy.” Instead of being immoral, I think the younger generations simply missed out on the glory days of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll and don't understand why the rest of us want to preserve it.

At any rate, I sent my $0.02 to the editor on this subject, and now I publish "my" words here on "my" blog for free:

Dear Editor:

I amar prestar aen…
The world is changed.
Han mathon ne nen…
I feel it in the water.
Han mathon ne chae…
I feel it in the Earth.
A han noston ned gwilith…
I smell it in the air.

Much that once was is lost. For none now live who remember it.

I suppose it’s a bit ironic to copy creative work to comment on copying creative work, but the prologue to the Lord of the Rings says a lot—the world is changed—but we probably do not yet fully understand the change. It is likely that the situation with copyrighted works will get “worse” not “better.” It is likely that the younger generations don’t consider the preservation of record title system for compensating artists to be a problem to be solved, but rather a relic of the past like Prohibition or Price Fixing or the Cold War. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a future of free music, where the music itself is never paid for, but rather there is always a value-add, like a decorative, high quality collectible CD case that is numbered and signed by the artist. Also, I believe some artists can make outrageous money even with their music being ripped, or else I can’t explain Britney Spears’ fortune. In the future it may be that artists do more live performances for their money than sitting at home collecting royalties. And I think this thought fuels some of the younger generation’s rationalization for copying music—“Why shouldn’t a musician have to go to work day after day like I do?” where their job is actually performing music rather than modeling for tabloids. Honestly, I wonder how a copyright or any right is to be expected to survive decades of lessons on “might makes right.” But we are not yet in the “none now live who remember it” age, as evidenced by my observations, your article, and the war of words playing out in the judicial system, but we all do “feel it.” We probably all feel it a bit differently depending on where we stand. Being one who makes his living by creativity, both as a software designer and a creative writer, I feel it deeply—but for now I find far more interesting the manifold change that is all around us than the desperate attempt to put the butterfly back in his cocoon.

Steve Coan
o—)

Copyright © 2005 by Steve CoanAll rights reserved. Written permissions must be secured from the author to reproduce any part of this work, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles. :)

(2nd revision)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

if it is to be it is up to me

Just 10 little 2 letter words that meant so much to me in my youth.

IF IT IS TO BE IT IS UP TO ME

Had you toured my high school bedroom, you would have seen these 20 letters proudly displayed in varnished wood across one wall. And that basically described me. But it was my wounds, not my nourishment, that convinced me that I was all alone in this life, that there is no help. The truth is that very little is up to me. There is a very large story unfolding, scene by scene, act by act, setting by setting, age by age, that I am not making happen but rather am swept into. There is more going on than I can possibly make happen, more than I can possibly fathom, more than I can possibly do alone. And how comforting to know that it is not all up to me. My life is not the story, but I have a role to play in it, and there is at least one who is available to help me do it. My lines have fallen to me in pleasant places.

Friday, August 26, 2005

The Rhythm of Reality

O Joy, O Joy where can you be found?
I’ve looked and looked up to higher ground
Alas, alas in low shadow lands
Surprise, surprise you altered my plans
A momentary gift to enjoy
No regulation I could employ
Revealed you that which I cannot see—
The Rhythm of Reality

by Steve Coan

Friday, August 19, 2005

Retold: The Hidden Treasure

This is the third in a series of "parables retold," stories of Jesus retold to fit how I see modern people practicing their religion.

The Hidden Treasure

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field.

Matthew 13:44, KJV

Retold
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, to give himself time to think about the prudent course of action. He first thought, “Why shouldn’t I take it? I found it.” But then he felt like that wasn’t the “right” thing to do. After all, what was his duty to his fellow man, the current owner? This really bothered him, so he went to the local magistrate to inquire (as discretely as possible) about what was required for a finder to be a keeper. The law was in his favor—there was no obligation by any law of heaven or of earth to notify a seller of the intent of a purchase or to inform any owner of the value of any of his possessions, including hidden treasure. But the man still felt sore in his conscience—for some reason he thought the loving thing to do would be to tell the owner about his treasure. But now another fear came to his mind—what about the accusation of trespassing? Whether he told the owner or bought the land, would the owner press charges for his unpermitted access to his land? Perhaps he should just forget the whole thing. O what should he do? Filled with confusion, duty, and desire, he turned to a trusted town elder for advice. He danced around the scenario as if it were a friend of a friend’s dilemma, which was fine, because the elder hated to know details—he much preferred to think in terms of hypotheticals and sterile, faceless situations. In the end, the elder decided that his friend’s friend was authorized to make the purchase without telling the owner, but gave him this list of questions to consider before acting:

  • What kind of an example would he be setting for his children and weaker brothers?
  • Did he really “love” the current owner of the field if he didn’t go with full disclosure?
  • How much treasure did he really need in excess of what he already had to be content?
  • Why should he have so much treasure when others have so little?
  • Would he be bitter if he found the treasure had been removed, or it wasn’t worth as much as he originally thought?
  • What would God expect him to do with this treasure, seeing that he had not earned it, and there are so many in want all around?

The man took all of these questions under consideration, and decided to move ahead. He contacted his banker, his accountant, and his lawyer—individually—to find out how much he could afford to spend, and what the impact on his estate and his taxes would be if he decided to make a major purchase. Most of all, he wanted to get permission from his lawyer, and reassurance that he wouldn’t be sued, and that everything would be done by the book. Once all the figures were in, he thought about how much he would gain from the buried treasure and how much the land was worth besides, and he came up with an offer he thought was reasonable. He knew he could go much higher if the man demanded it, but he didn’t want to seem too eager. He went back to the field and found the owner to negotiate a price, but to his surprise, a settler to the area had already purchased it. So, the man decided that it wasn’t God’s will for him to have the field or its treasure, and therefore resolved to simply be at peace about it.

Brief Comment
I hate to comment, but… The kingdom of God operates by joy. Joy knows nothing of reason, duty, rationale, fairness, explanation, obligation, or should. That is not to say that joy knows nothing of cost—joy cost the man in Jesus’ parable everything he had—but that joy owes no dues to any of these: joy is a reason unto itself, a duty, a rationale, a fairness, an explanation, an obligation, and a should unto itself. A follower of Jesus Christ chooses things for the joy of them, endures things for the joy on the other side of them, recognizes enjoying and being enjoyed as the signature of Heaven on Earth, and justifies his choices with the simple statement, “I did it for the joy thereof.” Living thus for joy not only enriches his or her own life, but also powerfully speaks to watchers, believers or not, of a better way of life. Life to the full.

------------------------------
Copyright © 2005 by Steve Coan
All rights reserved. Written permissions must be secured from the publisher to reproduce any part of this work, except for brief quotations in critical reviews or articles.
(2nd revision)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Monday, August 08, 2005

Gray Rain


Looking through some memorabilia Mom hand-selected for us all to look through after she left us, I found this old poem I wrote, published by the Stephenville High School English and Art Departments. Today is gray and rainy, too.

Gray Rain

As I sit here by my window
And watch the rain trickle down,
Down, slowly, uncertain of which
Path to take until it finally reaches
The end of my cheek, I wonder.
I wonder about children –
Laughing and playing in the rain
With no worries.
I wonder about elderly –
Who sit and listen to the rain
Pitter patter on the roof,
And of farmers who share
A sigh of relief with their families
Who realize that crops will grow.
I wonder why I cannot see
The joy of rain.
I only see a gray mist of wet nothingness.
Then I turn around, dry my face,
Try to find a smile, though my face
Doesn’t agree and my lips quiver and shake,
And I wonder, wonder on into eternity.
I wonder about the many faces of gray.
And it rains some more.

- Steve Coan, 1984

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Finis Terræ

I posted this on my mom's blog, and I thought it good to post here as well.

When Mom and Dad went to Spain last summer, they visited Finis Terræ, the westernmost point in the Old World, where an ancient Roman lighthouse still stands to mark the end of the earth—in Latin, finis terræ. In its day it truly was the end of the world—beyond here a frontier-seeking soul could go no further without letting go and trusting her life to God, and even that only with a worthy vessel for the voyage. Beyond this point was the dominion of death and mystery.

Since that day, many have traveled beyond the end of the world and returned to tell about the New World on the other side. Some even settled it. As I give my world globe a spin, it is hard for me to imagine the futility and finality of such an end—a very real end—of their world. But then, the people of that age were limited not as much by their lack of science and technology as their vision.

And how like us today. We watched Mom slip away, past the end of our world and over the horizon, and we cried as she launched out into the domain of death and mystery, beyond our reach, where we could not follow. Beyond here, her frontier-seeking soul let go and trusted her life to God. I have to wonder how those of the new heaven and the new earth view what is to us the futility and finality of such an end—a very real end—of our world, limited by our science and technology and most of all our vision. My guess is that in part they see us a little like we see the Ancients—it is interesting to us, but in the end there is nothing to be done about their limited vision. They only knew what they knew, and so they had to go on living out their part in the Great Story the best they could, hoping that at the end of their role, they too would find a new home among the angels.

Mom’s hope was more than wishful thinking. She heard and believed the words of Jesus who has already been there and back again. He said to her, “In My Father’s house are many dwellings; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” Yes, she made it to her new home. Her Vessel was worthy. And though we stand now at the end of our world, looking longingly for her face over the deep, we know that finis terræ is not the end at all—we too will join her someday at her new home, and she will have the most beautiful garden bathed in rainbows waiting to receive us.

We enjoyed having my dad and sister and Spanish sister and her family with us for church last Sunday. It was good to have communion with them and pray together, and think about Mom's safe passage. And it is good to know that death is not the end of the world.