B A R R Y L A N D .



observations on what my life is going to be like








bow ties.
why the real ones that you tie are sexier, and how to do it

the priest gene.
know a guy named cohen? holy men, every one

semordnilap palindromes.
an essay on my fascination with linguistic symmetry

the grand building of much talk.
poetry is gained in the translation

excerpts from an ongoing conversation with my friends


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 A bout five years ago, I came across the idea that it's good to sit down for a bit and think out who and what you want to be, and then try to express it verbally. In doing so, you might arrive at some ideals for yourself and plans for your life that you might never have if you just muddled through.

So, I gave it a shot. The results weren't surprising to me, but they've been a good touchstone over the past few years. Starting from the idea that my main purpose in life is to glorify God, I asked exactly how I was going to do that; as I looked at all of the things I'm good at doing, and love to do, I realized that my life breaks down into three categories: creating things, thinking about things, and communicating those thoughts to other people. Pretty much everything I do, professionally and otherwise, fits in there somewhere.


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 A s a musician, I of course devote my every piece of music to God. That's something that easily goes unrecognized, especially on a Saturday night at a smoky club, but I do it, and sometimes intone a private prayer to that effect.

Something that takes a bit more effort is to make every musical endeavor the best in my power. Fortunately, though, my personality gives me no choice here: sometimes it feels like a curse, but I just can't give over a musical product that isn't reasonably perfect.

On the other hand, there's musical input, and that's a different story. Involving myself in the best music, and listening to and learning and composing important music regularly, is right now a weak point with me, but I'm proud to say I've gotten better over the past few years. I even do my scales fairly regularly.


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 I 'm also a Sunday School teacher. High school students. I do it partially in repayment for the great teachers I've had, and partially out of revenge for the awful ones. So when I started I took a vow to be a model of Biblical knowledge, spiritual exploration, and Christian behavior; and to teach with the spirit and authority that can only come from careful preparation. My students have minds, and they have faiths; I respect them.

As time has passed, I've realized the importance of having a body of shared experience with each student, and of making them feel comfortable with me and comfortable in my class. It's been my pleasure and honor to teach them, learn from them, and — I hope — inspire them to make wise decisions, to live for Christ, and to share the good news with the people around them.


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 W hen I sat down to work all this out, I immediately saw how much I valued spending time with my friends and family, and how little time I actually did spend with them. And over the years I'm ashamed to say I haven't improved much. But that vow is there, waiting to be kept. And not just to spend time but to give love and understanding to each, to be communicative, complimentary, merry, frank, discreet. In other words, to be my best self with them.

I really am gifted not only musically but verbally as well. I see it as my duty, then, to write music and words of lasting value.

Part of having that gift is honing it, and not many people have the support from their families that I do. Composers bloom late, and my parents have been amazingly supportive of my career choice. And not only that: they established a family with healthy, life-giving patterns — everything from fighting fair to appreciating all kinds of beauty — a tradition that I've consciously decided to carry on.

For whatever reason, when I say things the people around me listen. So I've chosen to try to influence them to consider life issues, to appreciate art, to excel in their chosen areas, to commit to God, to realize their power to influence other people.


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 H ere are some other things I value:

To be fully human. That means developing — and enjoying — all five senses, and all the other senses as well: intellectual, emotional, spiritual.

To have a strong relationship with God. I believe that God is a personality that we can know, and that he gives us ways to know him better: prayer, and scripture to meditate on — every day.

Wise readiness. Or ready wiseness. At any rate, the idea that wisdom is attainable to some degree, and belongs in the kitchen and the office and the club, and not just in the ivory tower.

Noticing and naming. We live in a fascinating universe, one of whose features is that its properties can be discovered and understood and given names. That's not only a necessary part of life, but a source of pleasure as well.

Seeking. Constant, propulsive dissatisfaction with all that is, shooting me toward all that might be.

Philosophy. Literally, the love of wisdom. Some people have it but don't love it; some people don't have it and don't love it. If I understand Socrates right, the other two categories are one and the same, and I want to be in them.


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 A t the end of my life, I'd like to look back and see that it was characterized by some things:

love for all people,
distaste for imperfection,
excitement about anything well done.

Two final lists, courtesy of St Paul the Apostle:

For the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control....
Galatians 5:22-23

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8