There's a Trick of the Light I'm Learning to Do

This is a collection of songs I wrote and recorded in January - March, 2020 while on sabbatical from ministry. They each deal with a different aspect or expression of the Gospel. Click on the image above to listen.

Three Hands Clapping

This is my latest recording project (released May 27, 2019). It is a double album of 22 songs, which very roughly track the story of my life... a sort of musical autobiography, so to speak. Click the album image to listen.

Ghost Notes

Ghost Notes
A collections of original songs I wrote in 2015, and recorded with the FreeWay Musical Collective. Click the album image to listen.

inversions

Recorded in 2014, these songs are sort of a chronicle of my journey through a pastoral burn-out last winter. They deal with themes of mental-health, spiritual burn-out and depression, but also with the inexorable presence of God in the midst of darkness. Click the album art to download.

soundings

soundings
click image to download
"soundings" is a collection of songs I recorded in September/October of 2013. Dealing with themes of hope, ache, trust and spiritual loss, the songs on this album express various facets of my journey with God.

bridges

bridges
Click to download.
"Bridges" is a collection of original songs I wrote in the summer of 2011, during a soul-searching trip I took out to Alberta; a sort of long twilight in the dark night of the soul. I share it here in hopes these musical reflections on my own spiritual journey might be an encouragement to others: the sun does rise, blood-red but beautiful.

echoes

echoes
Prayers, poems and songs (2005-2009). Click to download
"echoes" is a collection of songs I wrote during my time studying at Briercrest Seminary (2004-2009). It's called "echoes" partly because these songs are "echoes" of times spent with God from my songwriting past, but also because there are musical "echoes" of hymns, songs or poems sprinkled throughout the album. Listen closely and you'll hear them.

Accidentals

This collection of mostly blues/rock/folk inspired songs was recorded in the spring and summer of 2015. I call it "accidentals" because all of the songs on this project were tunes I have had kicking around in my notebooks for many years but had never found a "home" for on previous albums. You can click the image to download the whole album.

blogs I follow

Readings, 2020

Readings, 2020
Paradise Lost, John Milton

Adorning the Dark, Andrew Peterson

The Soul of Shame, Curt Thompson

Cure for the Common Life, Max Lucado

Halos and Avatars, Craig Detweiller, ed.

Fool's Talk, Os Guinness

Brendan, Frederick Buechner

The Screwtape Letters

Surprised by Joy, C. S. Lewis

The Pilgrim's Regress, C. S. Lewis

Becoming Whole, Brian Finkert and Kelly Kapic

Real Sex, Lauren Winner

Out of the Silent Planet, C. S. Lewis

Voyage to Venus, C. S. Lewis

That Hideous Strength, C. S. Lewis

Till We Have Faces, C. S. Lewis

random reads

The Adventures of Elroy (or: What has Nintendo to do with Jerusalem?)

A few posts ago, I shared a bit about my secret life as a computer game writer back in the Co Co 3 days. What I didn't say there was that, at 14, my game genre of choice by far was the fantasy adventure role playing game. Call me quixotic, but I loved programming magical quests set in magical kingdoms, games in the fullest D&D tradition I could accomplish, with only 128k at my disposal.

Now it wasn't the gaming itself that especially appealed to me, it was more the act of world-creation. Programming offered me the opportunity to create worlds where the diabolical machinations of necromancers could be defeated with weapons of light-- worlds where phrases like "you have discovered the Amulet of Imnodel (or some such)" were weighted with wonder-- worlds where words like "vorpal," and "arcane," and "adamantine" and "valiant" rang true, like steel from a scabbard.

And because they were games-- your games--you could not only create these worlds, you could inhabit them.

As I mentioned before, for old time's sake I've been working on a game using my son's game maker software, and, as those who knew me in those old times might expect, it's a fantasy adventure role-playing game set in a world where you can use expressions like "You have discovered the Vorpal Sword!" with perfect nonchalance. I call it "The Adventures of Elroy." Call me Tolkienesque, but it's the story of a lost elven prince, Elroy, who must journey through a magical kingdom overrun with goblins and jubjub birds, to discover the Treasure of Taran and regain his throne.

[I invite you to click here to download it. Enter the World of Elroy, if you dare! (Insert nerdy attempt at diabolical voice here.)]

But while you're waiting for it to download (or mustering up the courage...), let me add this: working on the "Adventures of Elroy," I've been wondering what it was about the fantasy game genre that so appealed to me as a kid. I didn't know at 14, but I think I might now.

It was the imagination's ache for a kind of other-worldly beauty-- the deep yearning and poignant desire for that elusive something that haunts the shadows of the best myths, and fairy-stories, and romances.

The Germans call it sehnsucht-- a joy-ward longing.

C. S. Lewis called it "the stab of northernness."

In Surprised by Joy he describes quite vividly "the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing" of an "unsatisfied desire which is itself more desirable than any other desire." It first touched his heart as a child of 5, when he was reading the story of Squirrel Nutkin in the Beatrix Potter books and was smitten by the very Idea of Autumn radiating behind its delicate watercolours. "It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamoured of a season," he writes, "but that is something like what happened...the experience was one of intense desire."

Later, as a boy of ten, the "Stab of Northernness" would pierce his heart again when, flipping through a book of poems by Longfellow, he read these lines: "I heard a voice that cried, Balder the Beautiful is dead, is dead." The ache that those lines awoke in his heart- a desire for some undefined thing, beautiful but ephemeral, other-worldly but more real than real- would haunt his imagination on its long journey through atheism and eventually to God. It was a pang for a kind of spiritual joy or ethereal beauty that he would later come to associate with the "Idea of Northerness" that he found in the Norse myths and the operas of Wagner.

This deep yearning for something beautiful, unsatisfiable, Other, would eventually turn Lewis's imagination, and later his mind, and finally his heart to God. In Mere Christianity, he puts it like this: "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

This is the restless imagination's longing for that other world. The Stab of Northernness. Lewis found it in Wagner. John Keats found it in King Lear. Tolkien found it in Middle Earth (I've heard some say that the opening chapter of The Hobbit is sharp with Northernness, with it's thirteen dwarves arriving unexpectedly on the doorstep of a simple hobbit, to whisk him off in search of long forgotten gold). As a boy, I found it, among other places, in the worlds of fantasy adventure video games, which invited me to explore realms where words like "valiant" rang somehow true.

2 comments:

Jon Coutts said...

As a Chestertonian I obviously relate well to what you are saying, but the Barthian part of me is beginning to question this line of thinking somewhat.

For instance (I'm pulling these next few lines from a recent paper and I wonder what you think of this): As it regards the existence of pre-Christian incarnation and resurrection mythology Barth does not say that they foreshadow or point in some latent way to the divine. Rather, these myths simply veil humanity’s under-arching unthankfulness to God and represent an “arbitrary piety” which projects human “religious arrogance” to the usurpation of a truly transcendent God (CD IV.1, 294).

I don't know. But I'm beginning to think that myths, sparks of the divine in human experience, etc are not pointers to God except in hindsight, as lit up by Christ. After all, a Nintendo game or myth or what have you can just as easily point to human resistence to God or human self-assertion itself.

That's not to say that the fundamental goodness of something like fantasy games and adventures and myths and so on can not be affirmed and even seen later as important steps on the road to faith in God, but is to say that they aren't necessarily so.

I don't know, is that making sense, and if so what do you think, and does it even matter?

Incidentally: I can't believe you made video games. What haven't you done?!!

Unknown said...

This game is addictive! I played it for like 3 hours yesterday!