Derek Johnson Muses

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DSCN0161I love August

Flies on the Horse

Shake My Head

Shake My Head

Recently, I observed a horse that had hundreds of flies circling it and sitting on it. The horse flinched, but only slightly. The fat under their skin must be as thick as leather.

Lazy Dust

 

 A car kicks up dust. The dust settles down, wonders why it had to be bothered in such a dramatic fashion, and returns to its long day of lying around.

Face the Future

Face the Future.

Face the Future.

 

 

Epic and Ordinary

DSCN5588

Epic!

Epic is a very overused word. That epic game last night. An epic speech on YouTube. Epic plays. I wish the word epic only applied to stuff that was at least 75 years old, like epic books or epic wars.

Our phones give us some much self importance that we don’t need. Instead of worrying about epic, let’s just worry on the ordinary and normal. Let’s not tell everyone they are special for getting the mail, or reading a 1000-page book. If I can’t remember something in ten years, it shouldn’t count as epic.

The Walking Dead Underachieves Because of Its Radical Nihilism (Spoiler Warning!)

(Warning: This post contains spoilers through Episode 4×14 of The Walking Dead. Proceed at your own risk.)

Right now, The Walking Dead is my favorite show on TV, which sucks because of how disappointing the show can be. Don’t get me wrong, the zombies are terrifying and the action scenes are creative and captivating, but I just can’t stand the people moping around when they are on the verge of running out of food. What would make the show better is a dose of conservative ideology.

The Walking Dead underachieves is because it’s a wildly liberal/nihilistic show, embracing the motto, in the long run, we’re all dead. Whatever satisfies you now, do it. Which works great, in the modern American world of 7-11’s and mass convenience. When you put that philosophy into practice in a world full of flesh-eating zombies (as TWD tries to do every week), at some point, the characters become unsympathetic, because there’s so little pleasure in the world. If you live for pleasure in the zombie-apocalypse, why don’t you walk into the arms of the biters?

Season 4’s second half demonstrates how dumb this philosophy is. Rick and the counsel would have plan ready if they had to suddenly abandon the prison, like bags that were ready to fill with food, and a place to met on the outside (and getting to this specific, predetermined place could have been the major arc of the second half of the season). Remember how Glenn slept on the broken bridge through the night after the Governor’s attack? The prison was intact enough that they would have time to go to the kitchen and gather supplies before they left.

Instead, the characters run off into the woods and scavenge houses and eateries for food. Hadn’t they picked the area clean when they were on the road a year ago, at the beginning of season 3? The world went to hell, but it’s as if the McDonald’s never closed.

This roaming-in-circles, Cheese-Wiz-from-the-sky attitude is because Hollywood holds luck, not hard or planning, as the main arbiter of success and failure in life. The belief in the supremacy of lucks leads to a belief that personal actions are not important, and at some point, there’s no point in watching people whining over their personal autonomy being violating. (Like Maggie in Episode 4×13, for example.)

There’s a simple conservative ideology that could fix this: building for the future. Things may look bleak, but we have inalienable rights steaming for our creator, however we define him, and we have to preserve our society. To those who want to keep ideologies off television, I’d say this: this is a mild conservative ideology that would make the show mostly apolitical, and if you want to watch more liberal TV, you have unending options. No one says you still can’t have a couple pessimistic characters to balance things out.

I do have a glimmer of hope that The Walking Dead will get better, and that has to do with the one arc that I have found interesting in the second half of this season, the Daryl-Beth story. I know fans tend to complain about Beth (seriously, fans of guy shows hate woman as a general principal it seems), but Beth got Daryl to be more optimistic and to open up. If this season ends with Daryl saving Beth and becoming a more purposed character, that could be a great arc into the next season. But given how this show likes to play ball, I’m guessing that Beth is going to be killed, and her death is somehow going to motivate Daryl to be more of a leader. While the latter scenario would be ideologically consistent, it would do the impossible: it would make The Walking Dead even more nihilistic. But at least I might be able to give up the show then.

(For more on TWD‘s ideological issues, check out this post from The Federalist.)

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Oh Beth, if You Were Only on Hart of Dixie

Could I Live in the Big O?

Omaha Skyline from the Bob Kerry

Omaha Skyline from the Bob Kerry Pedestrian Bridge, Spring 2010

The last two times I drove from Ames to Seward, I lingered in Omaha for a few hours, once on a busy Friday evening, the other instance on a dull Tuesday afternoon. Omaha is one of the few places where I think to myself when I’m there, I could live here. There are few other places I’ve thought this same thought, like Idaho; Eau Claire, Wisconsin; and Fairgrove, Michigan, although the latter two do have snow issues I find taxing. I think the reason I think this about Omaha is it appears to be a self-contained, hardworking community, but with a bit more bustle than what I’m used to. There are a lot of things to do, although that doesn’t interest me as much as it would have a few years ago.

If you drive down Dodge Street as I did on Tuesday, is you see Omaha change time periods before your very eyes, from run-down working class, to revitalized, to 1950’s maintained-and-respectable, all the while on steep, barely manageable hills, to 1970’s Tomorrowland, to 1990’s and 2000’s land of strip malls and developments on rolling flatlands west Omaha. Having been to Boise just this summer, I was struck by how much the Omaha built in the last twenty years resembles a city risen out of a desert in. Like all communities built in the last twenty years, west Omaha is full of tan fake-rock porticoes and fountains, all of which sparkle in the sun.

I had bought a Chic-Fil-A sandwich in mid-town and drove out to Zorinsky Lake in the west end to eat lunch and walk. I had strolled around the lake several times three or four years ago, and it was odd to be back in there, amid the mass of mid-day joggers and walkers. I felt as I were intruding on their private paradise, but I was going to take a walk anyway, and it couldn’t think of a better place to do it.

Ed Zorinsky Lake in 2010

Ed Zorinsky Lake in 2010

I used to linger at coffee shops and parks a lot in the past, and it’s something I don’t do as much anymore, given how much I’m involved in. I did read a few of the articles I had earmarked for my Kindle, but that was it. Now I leave a few minutes early rather than stay a few minutes too late. The laundry I had to do would be worth getting done.

After my walk, I went to the Starbucks on West Center Road and had my second pumpkin spice latte of the season. I could have made due with just a regular cup of coffee, but I couldn’t help myself. Sometime in the last couple of years they remodeled its sterile gray walls into textured dark black, giving the room a more old-world-factory feel. Just the kind of look upper-middle class people want to make them feel cultured.

Right now, I can’t envision circumstances that would cause me to move, even though I know such circumstances will come at some point. I would have to give up a lot if I did move there, my church community and my other friends here in Seward, but who knows what kind of opportunities will come along? The only thing I know for sure is that if that day does come along, it will be one of the most unusual days of my life.

Girl Across the Ocean

(Note: While the Coffee House is a real place in Lincoln, the people in this article are fictional.)

A slight movement in the corner of my eye caused me to look up from the Twitter feed I was thumbing through on my Kindle Fire. It was roughly three in the afternoon, and the Coffee House was buzzing with those who took life slow. I loved to come here and loose myself, but now my eyes darted to the girl who had just sat down at a table by the door, right across the room from me.

This was a girl who I would talk to. Her hair was dirty blonde, her figure slim. She carried a ratty denim shoulder sack as purse, out of which she removed a book I had read two years ago. She sipped warm milk off the top of her drink, and put her eyes to the book as if she were concentrating, but after two minutes she glanced up. She wore black horned-rim glasses, a purple-and-yellow knitted hat, and a faded green jacket over a white button-down shirt and faded jeans. An outfit that would have stuck out on the street, it blended her in here in the dark Coffee House.

I could have easily approached her to talk about the book, as I remembered it well. But my body flinched at the thought of saying to her,  “Hey, you know I read that when I was on this flight to Denver two years ago, and I thought it was really good.” Those thudding words would not give her any place to go with the conversation. I’d have to add, “Why did you choose to read it? What page are you? What do you think of such-and-such a character?” So many questions that could be answered so quickly, and I might overwhelm her. She may not even want to talk.

I tapped on an article in my feed and glanced back up. Not at the girl, of course, because that would be considered staring, but at the top corner of the doorway. This was a technique that I had perfected when looking at girls, glancing at a spot diagonally above her, so I could kind of look at the girl but not really be looking at her.

Okay now, I thought to myself. I have to get refocused if I’m going to talk to her. What are my answers to the questions I would ask her? I liked the book because it was so sad without being sentimental and used simple language while still being profound. I choose the book because of its bright cover and because it was on sale at the thrift store that I go to every week. My favorite character was Melvin the bumbling sidekick.

Returning my eyes to my Kindle screen, I tried to concentrate on the article. After all, reading is what people come here to do. Or did they just come here to look smart when they are reading because nobody reads any more? I had actually found that it was easier to read at home than here, which is why only read articles here anymore and not books. Should I talk to the girl about that? No, it would be presumptuous of her, that she only came here to read to look smart. Maybe she had roommates at home, and here was the only place she could go for something that resembled quite.

I glanced back the top corner of the door. She had turned another page. I should wait. Yes, wait, and let her get engrossed in the book, and then she will want to talk about it more. But if she got engrossed in the book, then she might be less amenable to taking a break from it to talk to a man she didn’t know from Adam. What should I do? Was I better off just waiting here, or should I go ahead and just try to talk to her? She seemed settled into her chair, and she had only taken two sips of her drink, so she’d likely be here a while.

But what if waiting to talk to her makes me seem like a creepy stalker? I glanced out the window, bristling at the thought. That was the last thing I wanted, to walk up to this girl in my awkward manner and have her think that I am some sort of coward, sitting over here watching her, waiting until I could work up enough courage to talk to her. How embarrassing.

What did it matter if I talked to this girl or not? I was here to get caught up on my own reading. Yes, I was interested in meeting people , but that was secondary. What did it matter if I passed on a conversation with this average girl? She looked nice, sure, but what is the guarantee that she really is just here to read her book and wouldn’t welcome conversation from a stranger?

I glanced up at the girl again and saw her to be perfect just as she was sitting there. How could I talk to her and mess that up?

Brewtopia in Bay City

The Spot…

World War Z, Conservatism, and Christianity

“Then Noah built an altar to the LORD and took some of every clean animal and some of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the altar. And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.’” (Genesis 8:20-22 ESV)

I read World War Z last winter, after the film adaptation’s trailer came out, and enjoyed the book immensely. The idea of a zombie did get me thinking about how I should think about post-apocalyptic literature like WWZThe Walking Dead, or even the late TV show Jericho, from a Christian perspective. WWZ preached the token secularist point: surviving nations ruthlessly adapt the Redeker Plan that leaves people to die, and Theocratic Russia is plainly hiding something. But as I read the book, I couldn’t help but wonder why it seemed that liberal, isolationist culture would be the ultimate victim of a WWZ, if there was such a war.

Liberal social policies tend to rise in societies that can afford them. Should the resources disappear, society would have to adapt. Ask yourself this: who is better built to survive a zombie apocalypse, wealthy, urban social liberals who can pay for two or three divorces, or thrifty conservative families who have always bought their clothes at Goodwill? Birth rates always go up with the advent of war and fears of the end, and prospering in our modern society is bound in many ways to being socially liberally. Should the zombies rise, humanity would have to reproduce at much more rapid rate to replace those who died, and conservatives, in general, have more children than liberals

And consider how the notion of family would change. Without birth control abundantly available as it is now, people would have more children, and the sheer act of providing, even without emotional content, would be considered love. The ambitious people who today leave government for the private sector would have a stronger moral obligation to lead in government. And religion would become more of a cultural force, and not the religion of self. If you don’t know where your next meal is coming from, “give us this day our daily bread” is your favorite prayer, and you would want a God who is greater than this world.

I’m not saying that every liberal/leftist principal would get swept away in a sea of zombies, but what I am saying is that a lot of liberal principals require the vast prosperity that America (certain parts of the world) currently provides. Liberalism wouldn’t die (although modern capitalism as we know it might), but some of it we would see in a different light.

It makes me wonder why Hollywood, the liberal center of western culture, is greenlighting so many destroy-the-world epics when destroying the world would likely cause them to loose a place for the liberal values they enjoy. Of course, the Hollywood version usually features the “death of God” in some capacity, and the end of the world is caused by a greedy businessman or general (think Terminator 3, where the ambitious military is responsible for Skynet, or , as I’m given to understand, The Day After.) But it would be curious to see one where the liberals get the shorter end of the stick. 

So, conservatives, let’s write a novel that will show a world crisis that eradicates radical secularism and liberalism from America after a cataclysmic event. Hey, maybe I should get on that.

Thanks, Dr. Walther

I had a joyous experience Tuesday night. I had the privilege of attending the coordinating council at St. John as the rep from the worship committee. Finally, I was hanging out with the cool people and have made a small step toward becoming one of the elders.

Not only that, but I was also privileged to read the group’s devotion and choose a daily devotion from God Grant It by C.F.W. Walther. The devotion covered John 3:14-15, and was on new birth. Even though I read it at home before the meeting, hearing myself read to the group was a bit surprising. Dr. Walther had a way of piling up words against each other that we don’t hear in today’s diction.

“our bodily birth gives us a bodily life and natural movements, desires, wills, understanding, and powers…” (p. 472, God Grant It, Concordia Publishing House. Translated by Gerhard P. Grabenhofer. 2006)

“a born-again person…thinks, judges, speaks, and lives according to the Word.” (p. 473, God Grant It.)

For a young man who was eager to be in a place of church leadership, I’m glad to remember how little I really know. Today, we read news stories and blog posts that say, “Bill got up. He ate breakfast and went to work. His boss supported him.” Walther hammers on points, making them over and over again, one sentence after the other. In our modern twitterverse, you will rarely hear one person expound the same principal in such a way, for fear of loosing audience. Which you will if you are too repetitive.

A hundred and fifty years ago, when sermons would last an hour and political debates three. Now, pastors I know tell me that they have, at most, fifteen minutes of people’s attention until their eyes start glazing over. Our technology in America today is amazing, great, and a blessing from God, but we should never think that we are so much smarter today than we were fifty years or a hundred years ago, even if we have a greater libraries of information. What we do with information and using it well is what counts for something.

So thank you, Dr. Walther for knocking me off of my pedestal. 

walther

Seward, Tear Down Your Unused Buildings!

Could have done it back in the 90's

Revenge of the 80’s?

Seward has been my home base for my nearly thirty-years of life, and one of the constants has been the empty buildings on the Jones Bank lot. One was a Napa Auto Parts store, and the other use to be a roller rink, but I can barely remember a time when either front was used. (Someone I knew reminded that a flea market was in there nearly twenty years ago.) But finally, with the renovations underway at the bank, both buildings have been reduced to rubble.

Good freaking riddance.

As I record here, I traverse a lot of country, and there’s one thing you see everywhere: empty storefronts. I’ve seen them in Bay Area suburbs where my aunt and uncle live, in major Midwest cities , and in small towns everywhere. Rotting wood, cracking paint, rocks with holes in them. It’s sad, and it says a lot about how a town cares about its image. Frankly, if I had had money, I would have bought the old Napa Auto Parts store and turned it into a trendy townhouse/loft. Of course, the reason I don’t have any money is probably related to the fact that I would build a trendy town home in Seward, Nebraska.

But back to my point. The point is, America has way too rotting empty buildings. Some of this is probably inevitable (like the employment rate never hitting zero). But a building sitting vacate in the same town for twenty-some years is unacceptable, in the middle of downtown no less. At least the building across the highway from Wal-Mart south of Seward that has kept various restaurants rotating through it. NOTHING was in this two buildings for nearly twenty years. Couldn’t we at least have pulled it down and made a park?

But now these are gone, an accomplishment this town can celebrate. Here’s to Seward. And while we’re at, let’s try and get something permanent in the old hardware store across the street from Cattle Bank. Not to mention that there’s several old, empty homes around our city, paint cracking and ivy flowing out of them. Let’s do something about those too. Anyone got some loose capital lying around?

goingoutandcomingin

"The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore." Psalm 121:8

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