American Selfishness in the Band Program

Throughout the year we have discussed the American Dream and what it means to be an American. We have discussed the American cultures movement from a culture focused on community to a culture focused on the individual. The readings in the Concert Band Program make a strong argument about this shift in focus. It brings Scripture into this discussion. The program’s readings argue that the shift of focus from the community to the individual is very bad. The readings’ arguments are based on Christian teachings.

The readings have many quotes from the books of Pat Apel, a Christian and American author. Apel talks about the American Dream. His definition is “the opportunity for each individual to make it on his own, to be free to do what he wants in life, to be happy, to achieve his goals, to go as far as he can on his own merit,” (Apel). Apel goes on to argue that this notion is destructive to American society. He says that people in American culture are focusing to much on themselves, when they need to look outside and focus on community. He says that American society will be gone if this is not fixed. Another author, David Platt, says that the Gospel is being Americanized, which is not a good thing. It is being used to serve American needs, when in fact it argues against major American ideals. The readings all argue against this notion of selfishness: focusing on the individual rather that the community.

In class we recognized this shift in our readings. Early on in the Colonies’ history American society was much more community-based than it is today. Based on the readings from the program, this is not a good thing. The Bible says that the church is a body of believers, not a bunch of individuals all with their own ideas and notions. According to the readings, American culture needs to become communal again if it is to survive.

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Transcendentalism 4: Clouds and Rain

I live next to a golf course. So I decided to walk out to the middle of it and just lie down. For the first couple minutes I closed my eyes to listen and smell and feel. Sight takes over the other senses all to much. The power of sight is so powerful that many times we only pay attention to what we see and not to what we feel, smell, taste or hear. I felt the grass on my arms and hands. I smelled the scent of grass. I heard birds chirping and the quiet sounds of the field. After a while I opened my eyes. I just laid there and stared at the sky. It was very blue. I saw birds fly by every once in a while, but mostly I noticed the many clouds. It was a cloudy day, so I watched them float on by. I always heard stories about people trying to find shapes in the clouds, but I could never really find any shapes in the clouds. I just see them for what they are: clouds. Just water waiting to rain down on us.
That concept always fascinated me; the science of rain. Water just falls from the sky every once in a while. How crazy is that? And we just accept it as a normal occurrence. Some of the things we just accept like they are nothing are completely insane. They do not make any sense, but they happen anyway, no matter what some teenage guy laying on the grass of a gold course thinks about it.
Things happen wether we understand them or not. And even though humans have gained much knowledge about the natural world, there are still may things we do not understand about nature. We can never know everything, but we can still accept them and appreciate their beauty.

Transcendentalism 4: Clouds and Rain

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Samson and the Woods

The other day I took my dog Samson for a walk through the woods. We both enjoy the walks through the woods. When we walk through the woods I let Samson off his leash. He loves running around the ravines in the woods, although I always have to make sure he stays out of the streams. Wet dogs are not fun to bring home. I love watching Samson run around and play. While I walk along the trail he will stop to look at a plant or a log or something of the sort. While he is being fascinated by nature I keep walking. After a time Samson looks up and sees that I am ahead of him on the trail. He sprints to me and surpasses me, running ahead of me. He then comes to a halt, once again fascinated by something seemingly trivial. This process repeats itself over and over again.
Samson inspires me with his fascination of the seemingly boring things in nature. He will stop and stare at a stick for minutes. He runs around in the leaves and the joy is apparent in his face. He loves doing what I would find boring. Samson’s whole life seems rather dull to me, but he never seems like he is having a bad time. He is always having fun. He finds joy in the simple things of nature.
Samson sets an excellent example with his love of the small things. He shows that all things have meaning. Even small little twigs are worthy of attention, even if just for a moment. Samson appreciates small aspects of life and nature, like we should. He takes time to show that he finds the little things of the woods noteworthy. God created everything from the roaring rivers to the little flowers in the woods, and both of these things are worthy of praise.

Transcendentalism 3: Samson and the Woods

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Transcendentalism 2: Stream in the Woods

The other day I went walking in the woods in my backyard. After waling for a couple minutes I came across one of the many streams in the woods. It was a great sight. The stream trickled noisily along the ground. The sound was soothing. I closed my eyes and just let the sound of the stream fill my being. In the summer these streams are filled with wildlife: frogs, toads, birds and insects. The streams are wonderful. The stream is amazing. It always keeps moving. It moves along its set path, never being stopped by anything. In the past I had tried to see if I could stop a stream. I would build dams out of dirt and sticks and things like that. I made it my objective to stop the stream. But even my biggest and strongest dam could never hold back the stream. The water would just build up and go over the dam, eventually eroding it back into the stream-bed. Or the water would go around the dam, and that would lead to the dam being eroded as well. The stream always overcame the dam.
The stream always kept moving. It never let anything stand in its way. Even if a great obstacle was put in the stream’s path, it found a way to get past the obstacle. It never let anything get in its way, or at least not for long. The power of the stream kept it moving, no matter what trails I gave it. I tried my very best to stop the stream, but I could never beat it. It always beat my tests.
The stream made me think about reaching goals. When we make goals, we should never let anything get in our way. We should do everything within our power to reach our goals. The stream overcame all the many obstacles I put in its path. We should be streams in our lives. When obstacles are placed in front of us, we must overcome them. Just like the stream overcame the dams I placed in front of it, we must overcome the trials in our lives.

Transcendentalism 2: Stream in the Woods

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Transcendentalism: Fishing Birds

I recently stayed at North Captiva Island off the coast of Florida. While I was there I went kayaking. I kayaked along the coast of the islands nearby North Captiva. I saw lots of the marshes that were along the water. I love kayaking. It is a great way to see the natural world. I love paddling in smooth water, and that day the water was like glass. Eventually I started seeing some wildlife; mostly birds and fish. I saw fish swimming around my kayak. There were birds perched on the trees in the mangroves. The most interesting thing was the sight of birds going fishing. They looked like pelicans maybe, but I was not sure. The birds would fly along the water, looking for fish. Then they would suddenly dive down into the water. They would splash around for a second then fly back out of the water. Sometimes they were successful and would fly away with a meal, but more often they went away empty handed. It was an amazing thing to watch.
My kayaking trip made me think about the beauty of nature. The way the mangroves looked and the glass-like smoothness of the water. But especially the birds fishing. The way they dove into the water had me transfixed for a very long time. They were experts. They folded their wings into their body and shot straight down at impressive speeds. And even though they did not always come away with dinner, their art of fishing was still beautiful.
Watching the birds fishing made me realize that even if at first you fail, you must continue until you succeed. Most of the birds I saw did not catch a fish on their first try. But they did not let their initial failure deter them form their goal. They continued until they found success, in the form of a fish in their claws. We should take the lesson from the birds, never give up. The birds taught me to continue and try and try again until I have achieved my goal. This aspect of Truth is taught by the birds: we must never give up.

Transcendentalism: Fishing Birds

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“‘Merican” by the Descendents

“‘Merican” by the Descendents: 

 

We flipped our finger to the King of England

Then stole our country from the Indians

With God on our side and guns in our hands

We took it for our own

 

Built a nation dedicated to liberty,

Justice, and equality

Does it look that way to you? It doesn’t look that way to me

It’s the sickest joke I know

 

Listen up, man, I’ll tell you who I am

I’m just another stupid American

But you don’t want to listen, you don’t want to understand

Just finish up your drink and go home.

 

I come from the land of Ben Franklin,

Twain and Poe and Walt Whitman.

Otis Redding, Ellington,

The country that I love…

 

But it’s the land of the slaves, and the Klu Klux Klan,

The Haymarket Riot, and the Great Depression

Joe McCarthy, Viet Nam

It’s the sickest joke I know

 

Listen up, man, I’ll tell you who I am

I’m just another stupid American

But you don’t want to listen, you don’t want to understand

Just finish up your drink and go home

 

I’m proud and ashamed, every 4th of July

You’ve got to know the truth before you say that you’ve got pride

Now the cops got tanks ‘cause the kids got guns

Shrinks pushing pills on everyone

Cancer from the ocean, cancer from the sun

Straight to Hell we go

 

Listen up, man, I’ll tell you who I am

I’m just another stupid American

But you don’t want to listen, you don’t want to understand

Just finish up your drink and go home

 

Listen up, man, I’ll tell you who I am

I’m just another stupid American

But you don’t want to listen, you don’t want to understand

Just finish up your drink 

And go home

 

Okay so as I’m sure you know, I love America (MURICA). And while I do believe that this country is a great one, and we do indeed have a right to find a sense of pride in the US, we have to fully understand what we are claiming pride in. This country, while great, is not near perfect. America has a harsh past full of turmoils, as this song reminds the listener. This country started out with John Smith and his fellow colonists. Their goal was to tame the harsh new land. Of course if they wanted to settle the land they first had to kick out the current inhabitants: Native Americans. One of the greatest blemishes in American history is the treatment of the people who originally lived on the continent. When America was forming its new government in the 1780’s the founding fathers set out to create a nation of equality and justice for all men, “All men are created equal.” I  guess they forgot about the over 500,000 africans living in enslavement. There are many other spots in history that modern Americans might find shame in. The list goes on and on.

Despite this, there is nothing at all wrong with national pride. There are man aspects of American history that can be found as prideful. But before you claim pride in something, you have to know exactly what it is you are claiming. As the above song indicates, this country is certainly not a perfect nation. The colonial writers all had different views on how to start the nation, but one thing they all shared is the desire to survive in the New World. The very fact that these first Americans survived, and even thrived, in the strange land is worthy of modern pride. The first Americans fought for their beliefs, something modern Americans can look up to. This country is a great one, we just have to remember that “great” does not mean “perfect.” But this country’s great history is definitely deserving of modern pride. So in other words, AMERICA!!!

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Nationality and Individuality

Ever since people started organizing themselves into groups the question has arisen; which is more important, individuality or nationality? Individuality is the concept of being one’s own person, being true to oneself. Nationality is the concept of country and the culture of that country. While the question is not easy to answer, it can be asserted that a person’s individuality is more important than his nationality. In fact, a nation needs individuals to thrive. This is because without the individual, each person in a separate nationality would be clones of each other. Also, individuality encourages the national culture to grow by introducing new ideas to the mainstream. For these two reasons, individuality is more important than nationality. Without the individuals to affect a nation and its culture, the culture would never grow. Nationality is important, but individuality is more important because it helps the nation grow,

Without individuals a nationality would be completely dull. Everyone in the nation would be the same person. They would not express themselves because of the simple fact that without their own individuality, they would have nothing special to express about themselves. The nation would not grow as a culture and it would not be good for the people. An example of when a nation valued nationality over individuality is in Nazi Germany. When the Nazi party took control of the German government in the 1930’s, they did their best to destroy the individuality of the German people. The Nazis wanted Germans to be Aryan: blonde hair and blue eyes. They tried to “cleanse” the German people of anyone who was different from this “perfect” race. They killed hundreds of thousands of people who were different from the norm. They destroyed the individuals. The German persecution of Jews shows this perfectly. The Jewish people valued their own, individual culture. The Nazis did not like this at all. They persecuted and killed Jews because the Jews valued their individuality, while the Nazi Party did not. So in this case it can be seen that when nationality is valued over individuality, violence and death ensues. It can also be seen that most other nations value individuality over nationality, because the other nations of the world did their best to destroy the power of the Nazi party.

Without individuality a culture would not grow and adapt to the new ideas introduced by the individual. It would remain stagnant. In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s the music of America was dominated by Michael Jackson and hair metal. But in the area around Seattle, Washington the individual was going against nationality and expressing himself. A new music genre, and subculture, was forming, what the mainstream would name grunge. The musicians of this genre did not care what the nation viewed as the good music. They expressed themselves in their own way, through their own type of music. There were many bands that helped form and develop the genre, but the band that brought grunge to the masses was Nirvana. Nirvana’s album Nevermind was widely received by the American public. When Nirvana became popular they changed the national culture completely, even topping the music charts over Michael Jackson. But the band always valued their own individuality over the nation’s opinion. Their most popular song was “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” It was so popular that people who loved Michael Jackson and other pop artists would go to Nirvana concerts just to hear the song. Nirvana did not want these kinds of people at their concerts, so they stopped playing “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Nirvana’s individuality is also shown through its song “Come As You Are.” The lyrics of the song say, “Come as you are, as you were.” In his lyrics, lead singer Kurt Cobain urges his listeners to be themselves, not who the culture tells them to be. Nirvana always valued its individuality, and this value affected the nationality the band was a part of.

Nationality is important for people. It is good for people to be a part of something bigger than themselves, an organization with other people. But nationality is important mainly because it gives people an outlet to express their individuality. Individuality keeps a nation from becoming a huge group that is just the same person, like in Nazi Germany. Individuality also keeps a culture moving and growing, like with Nirvana. Without the individual, a nation would succumb to a violent fate, or one trapped in a deadlock, with no growth. People need to express themselves for the sake of their nation, because without individuality, nationality would fail.

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