Creating New Math

Last evening, the wife and I had a dinner date that included attending a performance of Silkroad Ensemble at the Maxwell Theater over at Augusta University. I am always game for musical entertainment that may perhaps broaden my perspective a bit so a hybrid fusion ensemble of talented musicians seemed like a nice evening event. I am not a musical expert, let us establish that up front. However, I do not believe I actually heard anything that could pass as actual music last night.

Silk Road Ensemble
Silkroad Ensemble

Let me explain.

At one point early in the presentation one of the performers mentioned how the group was formed some twenty years ago to bring together all sorts of musical styles, put them in a pot and cook them into what Silkroad produces. They mentioned that 2+2 could be 5. As a metaphor, I could accept the premise. Concerning music and what music actually is, I cannot. Good music in all places, times and cultures has followed certain mathematical rules.

At another point the musicians stood on stage, essentially silent for 45 seconds, perhaps two minutes, I do not know for certain, doing ma. Ma is Japanese for a pause or gap in a sequence. I looked about the crowd in attendance and it seemed to me folks thought this was the most brilliant thing possible. I saw seven people standing on stage not playing music.

I actually had to stop the wife from laughing out loud at this point.

Music in all paces and in all times has been based upon certain mathematical certainties. (Well that and the obvious requirement to actually play your instrument and not stand silent – actually playing something is a requirement for music also I think.)

You can look anywhere, across history, and find that some cultures added 20+20 to get 40 and others 200+200 for 400 and others 5+5 to arrive at 10, etc., but all followed what can be clearly interpreted as mathematical rules to produce actual music that humans enjoy. Good music follows a mathematical ratio, the golden ratio, that all humans everywhere recognize. Tempo, style, instrumentation all vary, but real music always follows this rule. In fact, all art, architecture and even what we perceive as beauty in other humans is related to how closely something aligns with the golden ratio. It is almost like this is the mathematical basis of beauty that God wrote into the universe when he created it and we all intrinsically recognize it even for those that do not recognize a Creator.

When one of the performers stood up and told the crowd that 2+2=5 they actually meant it. Each performer clearly had talent in playing various instruments, but what they did on the stage was not at all music. It is not that I did not like it, that is not relevant. I can dislike a style of music but still, accept that it is actually music. My radio dial is filled with music that I dislike but that I still accept as actual music. It is not that I am an ignorant creten that simply cannot appreciate art. I may, in fact, be such, but as a human, I am attuned to the universal law of math and the golden ratio, I can easily discern noise from art.

The question I ask is why would otherwise talented people travel the world performing noise rather than music? Why would educational institutions such as Augusta University spend money to bring talented people to the school so that they can perform noise? Why would a small audience sit and pretend that they “get it”? Well, the answer to those questions are not very pretty I am afraid.

If one looks at the description of Silkroad it seems innocent enough:

Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.

Seems innocuous enough, after all, who can really be opposed to a “more hopeful world”. There is, however, I suspect a lot of imagery and code in that simple sentence. When a person tells you who they are, you ought to actually believe them. The 2+2=5 statement at the beginning of the show was not merely a metaphor for perhaps thinking differently. It was a statement that these folks believe that the foundation of what has come before is not worthy of their time or effort. It is essentially a statement that the rules of the universe, created by God, are not relevant to them. It is a bold statement of rebellion against tradition. They might as well have stood on stage and stated that the Earth is flat and gravity does not exist. There is a palatable ideological bent to this group.

In the free market I would say let these folks make what ever noise they want and try to sell it as music. In a truly free market they would be on the side of the street with a bucket accepting donations for supper. However, the market this ideology exist in is not free. It is supported by funds from large endowments and educational institutions.

Make no mistake, the profit this group took from their performance on Saturday was not based upon ticket sales. Augusta University paid to have this group here under the guise of providing an enlightenment opportunity for students (I saw few students in attendance by the way). As a public institution, this means that ultimately two groups paid for this, the taxpayers and students out of their tuition and fees. Imagine that some student will pay some small amount of interest on the cost of this for the next 30 years in the form of repayment of student loans – all in the name of allowing a few eccentrics the luxury of declaring that they are smarter than all of the world’s great composers and musicians to come before them and smarter than God himself.

This performance was nothing more than another expression of the supremacy of man, a self-centered secularism that seeks to dispense with all that has proven good and acceptable through centuries of human history. It was not just the innocent act of a few otherwise talented musicians banging on drums to produce noise that three eight-year-olds running amuck in a music room might similarly produce.

I enjoyed the evening, dinner was nice, accompaning the wife was nice and watching this event was informative, but I am left to shake my head at what passes for art and enlightenment.

A Visit with Templar Knights

It is my sad regret that I cannot regale you with photos of me dressed in full fig alongside my gorgeous bride attending festivities. Alas, I took violently ill just as we got dressed and prepared to depart the hotel and walk to Saint John’s for the investiture. For about 10 minutes, however, I did look pretty snappy, medals all blinging, top hat and gentleman’s cane.

I was more blingy than this guy

We will just leave the rest unsaid. It was tragic and involved my wife holding a trash can, in her dress mind you, me in tails, turning what I am told was an ashen color of grey.

No great tale should begin with such a dire and shall I even say, perhaps to detailed of a story. Yet here we are. I have recovered from whatever demon virus afflicted me.

The purpose of our visit to the quaint little town of Florence, South Carolina was to attend the Priory of Saint Vincent’s Convent. These fellows, and ladies too it seems, are part of the Sovereign Military Order of the Temple of Jerusalem. Now bear with me, and wait before you click off this page. I already know what you may be thinking.

No, I did not meet any Grand Poobah, and I was not shown a secret handshake. And NO this is not the Masons.

If we can dispense with such trivial assumptions I might explain why we drove two hours to attend this event.

Allow me first to digress. If one checks the mission statement here at this site you will find it is all about Finding Purpose. I have stated directly and indirectly numerous times that I believe a key to successfully finding purpose after a military retirement is to balance three things, aligning with the creator, engaging culturally and building spiritual, emotional and physical strength.

These are not new thoughts of mine, and perhaps not even original to my on brain-housing group. These are points I began to ponder more deeply as I approached retirement. I even began a Facebook page to “test the waters” related to some of my ideas. Chivalry seems the answer to many problems that plague the modern world. Chivalry seems a good prescription and tool for a person seeking to add a balanced foundation to their life. We would all be better off if more people acted chivalrously. You can view that page here, just so that you know I am serious and that I actually did put those ideas out there to my friends and neighbors. I wrote as an alter-ego, a fictional me, but suggested that we can actually become that which we imagine.

But to the event in Florence. The SMOTJ is a religious military fraternal order dedicated to:

  • Seeking God in our lives and promoting love and respect for our community.
  • Increasing understanding between religions, helping pilgrims visit holy places, and maintaining a Christian presence in the Holy Land.
  • Supporting the poor, sick, and unjustly accused; standing against oppression, and protecting freedom of speech.
  • Encouraging the noble ideals of Chivalry; maintaining the monuments, archives, and history of the Knights Templar.

These guys have hit on all cylinders of the Finding Purpose engine, so of course we happily accepted the invite to attend. An organization that encourages service, fraternity, and spiritual enrichment. Who but a heathen could be opposed? On the plus side, you get to justify your involvement to the wife by inviting her to dress up a couple of times a year for a formal event.

I am very thankful for the invitation, hate that we missed the pageantry of the investiture and the banquet but very much enjoyed the business meeting and the meet and greet. I hope it is ordained that we should continue our aquantence.

SNO-CAP, North Augusta

Ms. Rachel was the first North Augustan my wife and I encountered on the day we drove over to look at houses to decide if we wanted to make the city our home. She is a gracious and friendly lady, she almost alone convinced us.

The time comes in everyone’s life to move on and seek other endeavors, avocations and hobbies and in that I wish Kenny and Rachael Godspeed and much happiness.

The SNO-CAP is one of those little pieces of community that seem to disappear from the landscape daily, replaced by conglomerates, chains and sameness. I am told Fat Man’s is good. I sincerely hope that they bring what is good of that operation and intertwine it with the uniqueness of the legacy and community of the SNO-CAP.

I would also hope, as I hoped from the beginning, that the people that run the Green Jackets will wake up and include the SNO-CAP among their food choices. If one wants to truly be part of the community you have to embrace the community.

Good luck Kenny and Rachel – thank you for the hospitality, the food and the piece of the community that you had stewardship over.

Proper Work for Retired Gentlemen

I have oft repeated something I once read or heard early in my military career: “A retired officer should go home to work the family estate, write or teach”. I do not recall where I first came across this notion but it summarizes the essence of what was a proper vocation for a retired officer in the past.

Few of us actually have family estates to go back to, those days are long gone. However, writing and teaching are perfectly respectable avocations. It certainly beats prostituting oneself to the military-industrial complex of defense contract work or the mind-numbing waste of government employment.

I have engaged this semester in substitute teaching at a nearby high school. I plan to only teach history, economics and government – just a couple days per month – but I have filled in a couple of other courses recently just to get a feel for the school.

In reality this goes hand in hand with the minor and very small nonprofit I am standing up with the purpose of “enhancing scholarship, education and critical thinking related to matters of first principles.” I get the opportunity to engage with and teach young folks a small bit, I think it is worthwhile.

I must say I came away today a bit concerned about the notion of police in schools. I realize I simply do not know all the facts, I have not done this long. However, I saw something today that is concerning.

I teach one county over, in a rural high school. The county is not wealthy, it is not the poorest in South Carolina but there is poverty. Most of the student population is black. The student body are all basically country folks regardless of race.

In one class today there was a particularly engaged young man. He answered all my questions as I was giving the assignment and seemed interested in doing the reading in order to answer the follow-up questions I presented. At one point he asked if he could read on the carpet. The regular teacher had set up a pretty comfortable environment with lamps and a carpet for reading. He asked politely and I concurred.

Everyone in the class was reading, I was up front at one point and another young man came up to ask a question. The door to the classroom was open. A deputy sheriff that works at the school walked by addressed the fellow that was up talking to me saying essentially “hey you take that hoodie off your head”. He then addressed the other young man, lying on the carpet across the room, with the book on his chest reading asking what was wrong with him and if he was preparing for a tornado drill.

This was not friendly banter. It was not the sort of thing (tone) a coach might say to a knucklehead that is goofing off. This was authoritative and demeaning talk. It was I have a tin badge and a gun and you need to respect my authority talk. The kids did not show the affection or respect for him that you would expect if it were something other than what I observed.

I shut the door and told him we would call him if we needed him.

Look I do not know if this deputy has had run-ins with these two. I do not know if these fellows are trouble makers. I do know that they listened as I introduced myself, told my introductory joke and gave them a challenge question to ponder during the reading. They showed me respect. I know they seemed engaged and interested in learning something. I have no idea what the history there is, but I know after having seen real knuckleheads in my life that these two did not present and irredeemable to me.

I do not know what I do not know but it seems to me having cops in school, particularly if they are as abrasive as this fellow, is just a bad idea.

People might say that with school shootings this is just the way of the future. I say bollicks. I would much rather be allowed to carry my pistol on my person on school grounds and let any other teacher that wants to do so be likewise armed as opposed to turning schools into something like prison camps that make youngsters like the two in this story hate cops.

What I witnessed to day is just bad all the way around.