Grace for All in the Shadow of Tragedy

Someone was murdered, in a most terrible way. They were young, they were positive, they had no reason to die, let alone in such an unthinkable way.

In the midst of this we are left with a jarring disconnection. This goes against everything we think of the way the world should be.We have fear, grief, anger…all of these deep emotions trying to make sense of such a senseless act. How are we to process such an unthinkable situation?

In this, some will attempt to disconnect themselves from this person. This might be as benign as focusing on her celebrity status, and might become as severe as turning focus instead to other, more heinous realities in our world, like the deaths of many younger than her due to war, famine, and poverty.

Some will turn to change to help deal with the pain. They will focus on what they believe, in this moment of emotional distress, must be the solutions to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Talk of gun control will inevitably pop up.

Both of these will obviously upset those that in unthinkable moments, believe strongly in the purity of grief. Those who say that pushing an agenda or focusing on the overarching reality of the unthinkable pains in our world are diminishing the sadness of this individual tragedy. Like someone telling you your problems pale in comparison to the starving children in some 3rd world country.

Many will turn to belief. To prayer, to good vibes, to heartfelt thoughts being sent. This will inevitably frustrate the changers. They will see this as a cop out.

And this grief will manifest itself in many other ways as well. Complex combinations of the above. Reactions to reactions to reactions will start to surface, all clouded by the pain and emotion of the unthinkable. Ultimately, I think the thing we need to realize is that we are all struggling, as human beings, to process the unthinkable. To mentally handle a situation we were not prepared or ready to think through. Something we thought couldn’t happen.

I may well disagree with some of these methods as being healthy or helpful to anyone. But in the shadow of tragedy, I choose instead to have grace for all trying to process. I encourage you all to understand that there is a struggle, inherent in all of us, to come to terms with such tragedy, and that might manifest itself in ways you are not used to, not comfortable with, or even not okay with. But, try not to start fights, or be critical of others in this moment. Have grace. Allow people to process this information in their way. If you feel someone is “using this tragedy to push their agenda” or “not respecting this person as a human” that may be true, but realize those people are also struggling. And fighting with them on the internet isn’t going to help. Grief is messy. We need not add to the mess by being quick to criticize.

Because the people who move to political reform and just trying to figure out a way to limit the amount of pain we will experience in the future. Those who appeal to the purity of grief just want to focus first and foremost on the memory of those who are lost. Those who turn to belief and prayer are trying to process the unfathomable through something beyond them, and those who move to what they believe to be the greater societal issues see tragedy as a mirror, that reminds them of how much work is still to be done in our world. None of these are the right or wrong way to deal with grief. And my opinion on one persons reaction to grief isn’t important. What is important is that I love and respect people, and I choose to not judge, but to have grace with them in their time of mourning and processing.

Love and grace to all,
Ace

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What I believe….

I have been a Christian since high school. In high school I went to an Assembly of G0d youth group and had a wild, Pentecostal conversion. I raised hands. I spoke in tongues. I told kids they couldn’t be Christian because of the music they listened to. It was a rough time in my life.

In short, I was an asshole.

I was taught that there was one way to interpret the bible, and it was “TRUTH” and that my pastor knew the truth. I even went to bible college to learn more about this truth. And there I found out something that shocked me: Other christians, use the same bible, in the same way, and come to VERY different results as me. Even within the conservative streams of thought. There was so much vibrant debate and discussion. It really opened my eyes to the ass I was being. I started to re-think what I believed about all of this.  It was hard. It was powerful. And it changed me. I read a lot of philosophy at the time. I learned a lot about how modernism shaped theology. I learned a lot about the history of christian thought, and how much of it is ignored by hyper conservative christians.

I eventually started a house church, where we embraced anyone, wherever they are, as long as they were open to discussion. As long as you didn’t silence others with your beliefs or ideas, you were welcome to dine and discuss with us. It was messy, but beautiful.

Then I moved to Portland. And I started a YouTube channel. And I got pretty quiet about my faith. I was worried about being associated with that old point of view I once had. I was worried that my friends would think of me as a close minded bigot if that title was associated with me. I didn’t want the baggage. And I didn’t want to bother my friends who didn’t believe. But something weird happened.

Every time I did speak up about my beliefs, it wasn’t non-believers who got upset. It was Christians. Christians who thought that I was wrong. Who needed to tell me how wrong I am. And I am used to this. And it got to me. I would come in to a conversation and say, in nicer terms “Hey, lets not be shitty…” and I would be attacked and banned from the conversation. And I started to think…Is being a christian actually = being shitty? Because maybe I need to finally let go of this. But there was something meaningful there to me. There was a belief I held very true. A belief in love and radical acceptance. A belief in a G-d who pulls humanity towards progress. I knew logically that there was a deep and wide tradition of belief that was in line with what I believed, but the narrow minded theology of conservative evangelicals made it hard to emotionally accept that.

Then I met The united methodist church. Who showed me that there are other christians, who have existed for a long time, who believe in a G-d of love. Who believe in radical acceptance. Who believe in grace. Who shuddered at the thought that people actually believed some of the things that came from my tradition.

And so now, I just feel like I need to say this. Christianity has existed for a long while. We have had 2000+ years of thought, and most of what is represented these days factors in about 80-100 years of that timeline. It is fundamentalist in nature, it is exclusive in nature, and I want NOTHING to do with it.

I say this for two reasons…if you once saw something in this guy named Jesus, but have a hard time with all the bullshit that comes along with it…I feel you. There are other people out there like you. We don’t need to take it anymore.

Secondly, if you have never had any connection to this group…I write this as both an apology and a way of saying “I promise you, we are not all assholes.” So here are some things I believe.

I believe there is an objective reality to our universe, but all we can see is our subjective interpretation of that reality. We can only understand what we ourselves interpret through our sense, intuition, and knowledge. This lens, no matter how hard you try, distorts reality. Some things we can get close to fully understanding. What an orange is. The purpose of a chair. Other things can be more influenced by our upbringing, culture, and past. All people deserve the same rights. Black lives matter. Transgender people are people. And then you have the deeper thoughts. Meditating on a reality that is both beyond your comprehension, and made itself personal and human. G-d. Truth. Heaven. These are so hard to wrap our minds around, it is crucial that we realize that we, never as humans, are speaking of Truth, but rather our interpretation of it. I believe we must equally forsake and embrace our understanding of these things because they are woefully inadequate and also all we have to tap into a divine reality I believe wholeheartedly to be true. The point being, when someone says “I believe in Truth because it comes from the Word” to me this is a whole other language and culture. There is so much built into this statement that cant be deconstructed simply, that I have to walk way.

I believe that theology that doesn’t bring progress and love into the world is useless. If your beliefs don’t manifest in you being a more loving, caring, compassionate person…you should probably rethink your beliefs. In the words of Michael Gungor:

“If it brings violence more than peace, Lord let religion cease”.

I believe that the good news of grace is for all and I believe that it is not founded in shame or fear. I believe that radical acceptance and standing for the oppressed is essential to the ministry and mission of Jesus. I believe that the kingdom here and now is those ideas of radical acceptance and fighting for the oppressed being worked out in and through the Church, and when the church fights against marriage equality, or belittles transgender people, or tells someone they are not allowed in their doors unless they look or sound correct, they are in direct opposition of the gospel.

I believe in love. And that means I have a hard time when I get caught up in pointless conversations with people who only want to attack and belittle my beliefs. I get on the defensive, and then act in unloving ways. I am trying to work on it. Its hard.

Because I genuinely believe that there is a lot of damage being done in the name of G-d, and it makes me angry. It angers me that my tribe has come to represent close mindedness. It bothers me that the word christian carries with it the ideas of ignorance and anti-science and bigotry. This goes directly against everything I believe about the divine.

I want nothing to do with the G-d who sends millions of people to hell forever, because they didnt believe the right things.

I want nothing to do with a G-d who wants you to vote for Trump because “he doesnt believe in gay rights”.

Finally (for now) I believe that bible is a powerful and important collection of poetry, history, song, story, and myth, all meant to convey deep truths. Truths that are not multiple choice. Truths that are found in answers that are actually more questions. Truths you have to interpret and think and debate upon. It is a book that has been used for a lot of harm, because people misuse it, but I also see the deep beauty and truth of it. I think it is meant to be wrestled with. Its meant to be talked through. Its meant to be discussed and chewed on. Reflected on. I did a lot of biblical study in college, and I find so much of what many do with the bible these days to be antithetical to its purpose. Its not a metaphysical textbook. Its not a rule book. Its not a “how to get into the club” book.

Anyways, if you read this and go:

“Man, Ace sure is a heretic!  I should leave him a comment with 10,000 bible verses and convert him back to truth!”

Please don’t. I don’t want anything to do with that god. I don’t want the paradise promised by a madman. If that god turns out to be true, have fun in your mostly empty heaven. I will be standing beside my fellow sinners, suffering beside them, loving them, just as my savior did.

11.2.2015

I am a a weird mess right now. I can’t pull the trigger and start working on my next video. I can start to arrange it,and even start planning sound, but the moment I think to start working on the drum beat, the thing that will push the project into motion, I freeze up in panic.

See, last week I made the best video I have ever made. Not only that, but it’s easily my most positively accepted video from fans and newcomers alike. It’s performing extremely well (I will state that its at 25k views not to brag, but so when I look back on this in the future I can hopefully smile at what extremely well meant at this point in my life) and its gotten almost entirely positive feedback.

And I am terrified that I can’t live up to it.

I am terrified of the inevitability that I will go back to the pattern of my videos that aren’t Undertale (which view wise has been total garbage). I am so nervous that all my new subscribers will be disappointed.

Which is why I am just doing exactly what I want to do for the track. Because if I start chasing what I think other people want, I will burn out. But it still doesn’t stop this intense fear that is paralyzing me.

I know once tomorrow comes around, crunch mode will push me out of it…

I just felt like I needed to get this feeling out there. Get it off my chest. Maybe it will help.

Thanks for listening.

-Ace

10.05.2015

Things have been rough for me and to make matters worse, I am not keen on public complaining. Even when it’s not complaining, but just being honest, I still have a hard time with it. Every time I write something about myself that isn’t positive on Twitter, I feel like an asshole. I just feel like someone is going to assume there is some nefarious motive behind it, and the thought of someone thinking of me like that is just super uncomfortable.

But, here I can be more honest. I don’t publicly share these journal blog posts. I mean, the blog is public, but I don’t go out of my way to get this into anyone’s hands. If you are reading this, you chose to be here. It removes a lot of the possibility of it being a show.

All that being said, things have been rough. I recently got a few rejection emails for various projects and jobs I had been pursuing. I didn’t have a lot of hope in them in the first place, so it wasn’t that big of a disappointment. But it sure makes following up on these new leads a lot harder.

I feel like I have this one skill that I can use to take care of myself and those I love, and if I can’t find a way to do that, I really don’t have many options. I feel fairly useless outside of music, which is one of the reasons I am so fragile when it comes to my craft. A fan recently told me that it should be “about the fun to make these videos…” And it is fun. Its more than fun. It’s the moments that I feel most alive. Putting songs together, especially when I let go of any expectations. When I can allow my brain to let go of everything and just dive deep into the sound, that is where I thrive. That is where I am well.

Then I push the submit button.

And comes the expectations. Not so much from the audience or the comments, but from myself. See, as much as I understand that I will probably never make it “big” with my channel, my goal is to support myself and my own off of my music. And my channel is a big part of my music right now. So, every video that doesn’t do well is a burden. How did I fail myself in sharing this? or was it just not good enough? This disrupts all aspects of my life. This wears me down.

And recently, for whatever reason, things have been slow.
Really slow.

And as much as I should focus on the positive, and push forward. It’s just fucking hard. It’s hard to see your goal get further out of your reach. It’s hard to see the future looking positive when I just feel stuck.


I went to an indie game con this last weekend. I met with developers, told them who I was. Got contacts. This week I am going to be sending out emails. I hope something comes of it. Something needs to come of it. I still have options in the future. A movie that I desperately hope gets funded, because it really is the dream. The perfect situation. I have a big opportunity for my channel that I am hopeful about coming up. I have friends who are super supportive and kind.

While I was at the game con, a developer was telling me about their most recent project, that needed a composer. I got excited when he started talking about the style he was going for. I got a card, and thought….this is my best lead of the day!

Then I saw that his last game was soundtracked by Disasterpiece. And I panicked. Completely panicked. Ready to run out of the convention and rip up all the business cards I had collected. Why? Because I realized that these people worked with real composers. And it’s really hard for me to convince myself that I am a real composer.

When I am alone in my studio, I am proud of my work. But put me in a room full of game developers, and in that moment when I see the people they work with, I immediately feel like a fraud. And I am totally convinced they can all see through me. They all know I am a joke, and just put on a smile when I tell them I am a composer looking for games to work on. They are just being nice to the loser in the room. And all of that collapsed onto me as I was standing in the middle of the convention.

The moment I got home, I had to take the business cards out of my pocket and put them away from me. It took a lot of strength to not throw them away. I was so broken. I felt so useless.

And that led to Sunday. Where I finally opened up a bit on twitter about how I feel worn out. I have no doubt the convention has something to do with it. I have no doubt my channel not growing the way I feel it should have something to do about it. I am worn out. I am discouraged. I am nervous. I am self-doubting.

But working on my next song helps.

Listening to Kamasi Washington on vinyl helps.

Playing with my son helps.

Holding my wife helps.

So, I am dealing. But, know. I am struggling.

I need to say this somewhere, otherwise I will get lost in my own thoughts. And I am worried where that would lead.

-Ace

Post Script: Sorry if this is scatterbrained. Its not a formal essay or anything. Its a journal essay. So, I am just getting my thoughts out of my head.

8.18.2015

I recently read through my old live journal from 2004-2006. It chronicles my final year of high school, and my travels to an out-of-state school, and the teen angst that accompanied that. Most of it was cringe worthy and thoroughly embarrassing. But, I am ultimately happy to have it. It was a reminder. That part of my life has a written record, that I can always look back on. It may be a cringy, poorly written mess, but it still reminds me of those times and the feelings attached to those times.

I want to attempt to do this again, but maybe with a bit more writing ability and a tad less teen angst.

This isn’t written for readers. It’s written mostly for myself. I have no doubt there will be people who are interested in the writings here, but I just want to say that up front. This is not for you. This is for me. I am happy if you enjoy it, and I welcome you to read it. But, I am not going to censor myself, and I just need to state that outright.

I will probably overuse paragraph breaks, to emulate speaking, because I want to.

I may whine about anxiety a lot. I am not doing this for attention or pity, but to accurately capture where I am, and where I am heading.

I may talk about G-d, philosophy, life, death, faith, doubt, children, parenting, youtube, music… If you don’t dig these things, hope I don’t bum you out too bad. It is not my intention to bum anyone out. I swear.

I just want to be able to look back at this in 10 years and laugh.

Plus, no one reads things these days, so I should be fairly safe. *insert emoji that will become woefully dated in a decade*

Anyways, that is all I have time to say right now. I have a video that needs to get posted tomorrow that I have not started on yet, and I should probably deal with that. I just wanted to listen to a bit of this new Noah Gundersen album, and I figured a quick blog about “why I want to blog” would be a good thing to do while spinning a side. Record is over, time to get back to work.

-Ace

There’s a Wolf in my Video!

If you saw my most recent video, Blue Fields from Final Fantasy VIII, you might have noticed that I had a seemingly unconnected prop showing up in some of my clips. If you look close you can see it.

Can you see it?

That is right, my video this week had a special guest, a beanie baby wolf. This wolf is not in this video because of Final Fantasy VIII. It is not there as some kind of prop or joke. It is there because I am a father.

See, my son, who is going to be five this fall, came upstairs while I was recording this video. He ran up to me to tell me that he was going over to his cousin’s house. He gave me a hug and an “I love you.” But then he handed me his stuffed wolf he was holding.

“Dada, I need you to take care of this wolf. He gets lonely and is afraid to be by himself. Can you take care of him?”

I promised my son I would take good care of his wolf while he was gone. He smiled, gave me one last hug and headed back downstairs. See, my son calls all his stuffed animals his babies. He is their caretaker, and he takes this particular type of play very seriously. He makes them food and medicine when they are sick and helps comfort them when they get scared. He sees that some of the most important parts of life are taking care of those you love, and he wants so badly to emulate that. So, being given the job of protecting a baby who is afraid of being alone was serious business. And I wanted my son to know that I took it seriously.

So, from that point on, my new friend, the wolf, helped me make the video. Since he didn’t want to be alone, he decided to be with me as I filmed all of my parts. You can see him most clearly hanging out on my lap while I play acoustic:

Nested Sequence 06.00_01_15_21.Still001

“He gets lonely and is afraid to be by himself. Can you take care of him?”

And he was right there, watching me program my LSDj parts into the Gameboy:

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He makes them food and medicine when they are sick and helps comfort them when they get scared.

He even helped me put together my synth patches on the prophet 08:

being given the job of protecting a baby who is afraid of being alone was serious business.

being given the job of protecting a baby who is afraid of being alone was serious business.

I want my son to know that his priorities are my priorities. Even though I spend a lot of time making music, I will include his lonely wolf in what I am doing, because my son cares about that and that makes it important to me. I even will play into it, and tell him how the wolf helped make me feel less nervous in front of the camera and that he helped me make the patches on my synths.

I did this because I remember being a kid. I remember playing pretend. I remember that my parents always played along, and how happy it made me. I remember how seriously I took those games. I also see how important it is to my son. You might see a silly kid, playing make believe with some dated stuffed animal collectables his parents still had from when they got way too into beanie babies, but I see a future father, trying to be like his Mama and Dada, taking care of his babies. That is the kind of play I want to support. Not to say I won’t play along when he wants to sword fight, because I totally do that too. I love playing with this kid.

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Normally, my son isn’t super attached to my videos (unless they are from Minecraft) but when I told him that his wolf helped me make the video, we immediately had to watch it. He was so happy to try to find the wolf in every shot. I know that this video will be one of his favorites of mine, all because I put a stuffed animal on my lap while recording guitar.

I wrote this because I wanted to let you all know about the most important person in my life and how sometimes, there will be wolves in my videos. Because I love my son and I want him to know that his Dada cares. If you want to read more about our families adventures, you should check out my wife’s blog.

Up on my headstock. Can only see if you freeze on a few frames.

Up on my headstock. Can only see if you freeze on a few frames.

I’m not salty, OCremix! I swear!!!!!

Last year, I submitted two tracks to OCRemix. When the first track got rejected, I may have appeared a bit salty as to their decision, and I really wanted to clear that up. I am not mad or hurt by their decisions. The two main points I made still have a lot of validity in my mind, but I figured I should elaborate, because 140 characters makes me come off a bit more frustrated than I am.

1. The wait times are killer. They just are. As a weekly content creator, it’s crazy how much I have grown, and how much content I have made since I submitted those tracks. The idea of going back and reworking them just doesn’t sound like a lot of fun. On my second track, the Crystal Snail cover, I did some silly hard pans which is one of the criticisms I agree with most. Unfortunately, I did it all on the hardware, so there is no real way of me counteracting that easily. I mean, even if I really wanted to go and rework those old tracks, I don’t even know if I could. Having an OS change and a HD crash happen over the last 9 months makes working on old songs really difficult if not impossible.

2. When I said they don’t get what I am going for, it wasn’t meant to be some aloof artist, clinging hopelessly to his concept. What I meant was, their mixing advice is perfect, if you are making clean, polished electronic dance music. Its fantastic pop sensibility kind of advice. But, that just isn’t what I am going for. I am super influenced by shoegaze, post-rock, and more experimental styles of recording. I like thick, lush synth sounds that you get lost in. Yes, some of their advice is great advice for all genres, but I feel a lot of the reason my tracks didn’t connect is because they aren’t mixed like EDM. I like thick, textures. I like giving a track a bit of mud here and there. I am not saying every decision back then was purposeful, or good. Yes, some of these older tracks could use a bit polishing, but a fair bit of what they criticize was intentional and I stand by it. Its that disconnect between my style of mixing and their ideal for a good submission that makes me just say, I don’t think you get it. For me, some of the new accepted submissions are so glaringly shiny and clean that I don’t enjoy the sound of them. I like dat warmth. I like to have a little mess in my mix.

Ultimately I make my tracks for my channel. I only have a week to make each one, and I don’t really have the time, outside of when I put together a VGM album to get nitty gritty with the production, and I personally believe this gives my songs a bit of their personality. They are not perfect, and I like that about them. I like that you can hear the humanity in my music. The blemishes in art are the human spirit shining through.

I may still submit a track here or there but waiting as long as I have had to get feedback is no fun. Especially when the feedback is either a difference of opinion and production taste, or something I agree with, but would mean completely rebuilding a track from scratch (the limits of hardware) that I finished 8 months ago.

No disrespect, OCR. You are good people, I just don’t know if its the right fit. We can still be friends though!

Love from this unsalted ham,
Ace.