makin' due: sacrifice and the price of knowledge

a negative of a positive...

(originally published in ON THE VERGE v2.0 e-mail monthly - April 5, 2000)

Lent has been kicking my butt this year. Not entirely, but I have been feeling the sting of sacrifice. Itís longer than it usually is: Easter Sunday doesnít come until the end of this month. For the second year in a row, Iíve given up music purchases for Lent. Iíve included video purchases this year as well as swearing. Surprisingly enough, itís the words that have been tripping me up.

I donít even curse that often, but I figured that thereís always room for improvement, right? Especially since my wife had considered doing the same (good thing, too, Ďcause Beth swears like a sailor. Just kidding, honey. Kiss, kissÖ). Remember that Simpsons episode with the swear jar? We figured weíd charge a quarter for any foul mouth antics and keep a tally during the day. Can you imagine my disappointment when I was averaging $1.50 per day during the workweek? If I curse at all, itís usually at the job (that figures), but thatís still a lot for me. Meanwhile, Beth put ďcrapĒ on her list of words not to say. Now, why did she go and do that? Whenever something goes wrong, her favorite expression is ďaw, CRAP!!!Ē needless to say, that didnít change overnight. That was a guaranteed twenty-five cents per day.

I started to think, dagÖif this keeps up, weíll be able to buy Joseph that new Technicolor dreamcoat heís been wanting. Beth and I have both considered each putting a five spot in the jar and calling it even, but it hasnít come to that yet. It always seems like the moment you decide to really apply yourself to do right, obstacles come from all sides and grow in intensity.

Last month, various thoughts drove me into a state of depression that I couldnít get out of for a while. In the wake of unarmed Black men being brutalized and/or killed by police, I re-read a book by civil rights activist Derrick Bell in order to remind myself of the realities of racism. Entitled Faces At The Bottom Of The Well: The Permanence of Racism, Bell suggests that it is an indestructible part of our society and while we can come up with ways to lessen its burdens, we canít destroy it entirely. The book holds many shocking and powerful truths - all of which come at a price. Knowing that there isnít much that one can do to eliminate hundreds of years of institutionalized unwritten ďlawsĒ is a heavy burden to bear.

And while thinking about that, I thought about music and the intangible levels that GOD keeps showing me through it. I thought about the power it contains, how it can display and provoke emotions and feelings that canít be summed up in words. I thought about how people who only care about money are deciding for the majority of this entire nation what music they listen to and how the masses allow it to happen. I thought about those same people buying up smaller radio stations and stripping the DJs that decide to stay of their creative freedom, demanding that they play certain songs at certain times of the day. I thought about how the greed-fueled agendas of a few are making it next to impossible for many to even have the chance to be exposed to something different, to be able to make a choice, to possibly expand their minds.

NíSync sells two million copies of their new album in its first week and Iím supposed to believe that there are No Strings Attached? Does anybody else find that album title as ironic as I do? And does anybody realize how difficult it is sometimes to function in this life when you have all of this in your head?

It was a Friday. It was sunny outside. Absolutely gorgeous. I shouldíve been happy. And I was sitting in my cubicle wondering if I was having a nervous breakdown or not. I was reminded at that moment why most tend to use music as a means of escapism. Societyís ills are the last thing that anyone wants to think about while on the dance floor. Contrary to what some might think, I donít think that music should always be serious. Anyone who has seen me dancing and jumping around at a rave knows that (even when I spin, for goodness sake). However, I do take the art form of DJing seriously. I take the politics that record companies and radio stations have polluted music with VERY seriously. And I treat music like I know itís a gift from GOD and not just filling up the background settings of my life. Iíve recently decided to do away with music while on the job - not because I think that it distracts me from my work, but because I think my work distracts me from music. It deserves our utmost attention, and Iíve just begun to discover the balance between losing myself in it while giving it the attention that it so rightly deserves.

Once again, we arrive in your mailbox with reviews of releases both old and new. Some artists you know about, some you donít. There may be something here that you will never come across in life. However, there may be something here that will call out to you at a record shop tomorrow (lifeís funny like that). As always, we hope thereís something that makes you laugh, makes you think, and makes you excited about music all over again. If these three things are accomplished, then weíve done our job.

One love, one life, one universal language. And when in doubt, DIG DEEPER. PeaceÖ

{jason randall smith}

other Lenten rants include:
4.7.99 - strung out

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