Pagans and Paedeia – of Building a Culture

What role do the pagans hold in a Christian education?

This is a question that’s been bugging me for a while. I put Sisyphus on my final exam (he was supporting his boulder with a water jet), and there were a few people who got confused. Of course, my arrogant reaction is a “kids-these-days-don’t-know-anything” sort of grumble, but with respect to my own children, I wonder whether, when, where, and how to incorporate the pagans in such a way as to make a few things clear:

This is not Truth, though it has true lessons.

This is not Beauty, though much in it is beautiful.

This is not Goodness, though it has much to say of virtue.

The acculturation of a person is (in large part) the accumulation of stories. We have an immense and growing collection of such stories available, as virtually every mythos of every culture is translated and available to us in the West. What shall we do? What shall we read our children?

I’ll accept as axiomatic that the stories of the Bible are first and foremost. Stories of our family have their place – the worthy deeds of aunts, uncles, cousins, grand-folks, and so on are worth remembering. Stories of our nation have a place, too, though it is not enough to accept a nationalist (or cynical) view of any given nation. Personally, I think Paul Revere’s Ride belongs in a civics course, alongside discussion of social contracts and God’s blanket statements about authority from St. Paul. But I digress.

All of these stories shape our view of the world, consciously or not. And they all lay claim to belief simply by being known. To know a story is to allow it to make a claim – believe me. An aside: This is the power of the media state. A barrage of stories, without respite, all demanding the same thing – believe me.

But not all stories are to be believed. And it is certain that not all are to be believed in the same way. The news demands belief that such and such happened to so and so. The tortoise and the hare commands belief that diligence triumphs over pride. The tale of Sisyphus demands… what? Belief in an underworld of ironic punishments? Belief in justice? (Hardly.) Belief in the fiat of the gods and the unpredictability of fate? Perhaps. Or perhaps it is a story that, once known, requires continuous suspension of belief. This is perhaps the most pernicious way that media attacks a Christian. The more garbage that is allowed in, the more effort must be continually spent in the suspension of belief. This is effort that would be much more productively spent in pursuing holiness in various ways.

But back to the stories we are to tell. Every church tradition has them. In the Reformed churches, they tell of Huss, Tyndale, Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, the brave fathers of the Reformation, who for the sake of private interpretation, shattered Roman Christendom. In Orthodoxy, saints are commemorated daily, according to their repose (or notable day – St. John, Ivan’s patron, is commemorated today and in September). There are innumerable hagiographies, and each autocephalous national church has a paterikon, an “image of the fathers”, a collection of the saints of that church. This leads me to my next thoughts on culture.

Russia is Russian because of the Kievan Rus, who converted en masse, and it has been an Orthodox nation ever since (Communism being the great harrowing and trial of Orthodoxy in Russia). Georgia, likewise, has been a Christian nation for much more than a millennium. Bulgaria for about 1000 years (even under the Ottoman yoke). The culture of these nations is entwined with Orthodoxy, because (many of) the stories that are told are those of the saints of that land. (Aside, oppression is a danger to this, as in Ottoman Bulgaria, because it can mistakenly canonize rebels.) Serbia, Armenia (though not Chalcedonian), Ethiopia, Ukraine, and many other people groups share similar church-as-culture trajectories. So how can we late-modern-Americans work in ways that build our culture? And how can it be entwined with the church?

There must be love of God, love of neighbor, and love of our land. There is no rootless culture. All attempts at disembodied cultures fail cruelly. We live in a place, and culture is tied to place. In a few weeks, on the second Sunday after Pentecost, the Orthodox Church in America will celebrate the saints of North America. It is a small beginning, but it is a thanksgiving for holiness demonstrated in a place. One of the stichera from the Great Vespers reads:

“Rejoice, O mountains of Pennsylvania,

Leap for joy, O waters of the Great Lakes,

Rise up, O fertile plains of Canada,

for the elect of Christ who dwelt in you are glorified,

men and women who left their homes for a new land.

With faith, hope and patience as their armor,

they courageously fought the good fight.”

I never thought to hear a hymn about Pennsylvania. But lo! A recognition that holy people have labored here for the glory of God is the beginning of Christian culture. Humility, a recognition that we stand on the shoulders of giants (to unflinchingly use a cliche), a knowledge that we accept with thanks those things given to us – be they plentiful or meager – and we give them to God and to our neighbor in our land. This will make a culture. The saints, not the pagans, are the lights to follow.

Perhaps there is some wisdom in knowing the pagans for academic purposes, but I am not at all sure that it is wise to uncritically approach pre-Christian literature, as though Christ has not dispelled the myths of the demons. It is instructive that the Ephesians burned their magic books, rather than make a library for scholars to consult in the event that valid herbalism might be in there, too.

So know the saints. They live to God. They are not far from us. They worship better than we do, and we may well desire their prayers for us and for our land, even as they pray to God for the consummation of all things from beneath the altar.
“And I told them of the hand of my God that had been upon me for good, and also of the words that the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.” Nehemiah 2:18

Death and Safety

I just finished Atul Gawande’s Being Mortal, a book I’d been interested in for a while. Amy’s mom had recommended it, and it dropped into our lap in a closet-cleaning from a dear friend at St John. (I’ve also requested Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto from the ASU library, and am looking forward to that.)

The basic premise is: we all die. He’s a surgeon, and has been in many roles surrounding the dying. His major accusation is: medicine is terrible at dealing with death. The book is, in part, his reflections on different paths that he has observed people take, from the uber-interventionist family and patient who are fighting to the end, to the old lady who decides not to eat any more, to his father who dies in home hospice surrounded by his wife, son (Atul) and daughter. In many ways the book is not prescribing a solution, but exploring a problem, which is its strength. It also provides a good cross-section of concepts for elder-care (and terminal-care), giving some ideas to chew over.

Gawande’s take on medicine is very interesting. He recognizes his own unpreparedness for dealing with death – patients, friends, parents. And he perceives that the goal of medicine is prolongation of life (irrespective of cost). This gives rise to a maximalist treatment program, especially as things spiral further down. The more problems there are, the more treatments you can give. And the cost of chasing after life in this way is death.

I do not mean that the occurrence of death is the cost. But the cost of “one more treatment” is the process of death.

Make no mistake: Death is the last enemy to be destroyed. The Christian, though, falls asleep in the Lord. We wish, in fact, for a good ending to our earthly life, one met with confidence and grace, because of our risen Lord who has descended into the grave before us and broken the bars of iron. We likely wish for time with family, time to write or speak our last earthly thoughts to the glory of God. A chance to make amends, perhaps, or at least a time of love and peace. We wish, in short, for a conclusion.

Medicine offers no conclusion. Sometimes our bodies or circumstances don’t, either. My father died suddenly in his sleep. But it was on a Sunday night, after worship, after a weekend spent helping us on our house. We probably would have had different conversations if we had known that was our last time on earth together, but we didn’t do too bad. My grandma (dad’s mom) died in a hospital in Seattle (or maybe it was the skilled-nursing floor of her assisted-living home, I’m not sure). I wasn’t there, but I got to speak on the phone with her the day or so before she died. She said she’d had a good life. She was ready. Many of her family got to be there, and it was a good end. My grandfather (her husband) died in his home. I came up from college, and we got to visit with him for a few days. A brain tumor had been discovered a few weeks before, and there wasn’t much to be done, just wait, see the family, and drift off.

Gawande points out that the maximalist care route actually risks increased major depression in relatives. The failure to intentionally use the few and uncertain weeks, hours, or days that are left to a dying person hurts everyone.

This is not an argument against care. This is not to say that medical fights aren’t worth having. But it is a call for caution – not everything must be a fight. Much can be learned from Luther’s quip that even if Christ should come tomorrow, still he would plant his apple tree. Though time may be short and uncertain, our actions and attitudes can be oriented towards the repentant enjoyment of God and His creation – not bent on seeking to overcome the limits of our fallen bodies. That may mean you choose the chemo. That may mean you try the surgery. But it means that it will be done because it was the best thing to do for the glory of God – not because it was the “only” thing to do. Jacob drew up his feet into his bed and breathed his last. David went to his fathers in peace. Perhaps we can learn from them.

Now to the broader point that is embedded in the title – A Christian sees safety as a blessing, an adjunct, but never as a solitary goal or a promise. The medical (and especially elder-care) industry sees safety as a goal. In fact, Gawande alleges that it sees safety as the goal. Nothing else matters as much – not independence or dignity, to be sure.

When I worked at a foundry, safety was critically important. But the goal was to make metal. To make metal well, everyone had to act in certain ways that would assure their own and their neighbor’s safety. This was the only responsible way to act. But if safety were the goal, we would not have come in to work. It would be safer to stay away.

In our life, what is the goal? Gawande (a Hindu by birth) sees life-fulfillment (as defined by the individual) as the goal. Thus, safety is an adjunct to this – it’s less fulfilling to be in a hospital with a broken hip than to be out on a walk in the spring. But the goal is to be out on a walk in the spring. What has to be done in support of that? For a hospital-admitted terminal patient, the goal might be to get home and be with family again, in your own house on your own couch. What has to be done in support of that?

For the Christian, the goal is conformity to Christ. We understand that this carries risks. Our goal is not to avoid those risks, but to seek conformity to Christ while (and through) loving God and our neighbor. We can’t seek safety. We can’t avoid death. But we can seek Christ, knowing that, should he tarry, we will die. May we die with his songs on our lips, his people around us, and his work done well.

Disembodiment

It crossed my mind today that the Gnostic spirit is a powerful devil, and the temptation to spiritualize and disembody our relation to God is rooted in a really deep dichotomy.

The devil is an immaterial spirit, a fallen angel.

Jesus is God become man.

The Gnostics (and yes, it’s an imprecise and overused label, and Clement tried to rescue it, but we’ll use it for shorthand) are allied with the devil, seeking to be like the devil.

The Christians are allied with Christ, seeking to be like Christ. Specifically, this is resurrection. We (like Paul in Philippians) strive with every nerve to attain … what? Enlightenment? Truth? Glory? Holiness? Not exactly. More precisely, the Resurrection of the dead. The resurrection is truth, glory, holiness, enlightenment, and the resurrected Christ is, has, and gives all these things. But the goal of man is to be like Christ – the resurrected man, the glorified man, the perfect teleological man.

We flee from the devil. We offer our body to God, because Christ died to save us, body and soul.

In Christ,

Mark

Side note – the stupid dichotomist/trichotomist arguments about the nature of man mistake the point. Man has a soul like he has a mind, a wrist, a toe. It is part of the makeup of man. But MAN is saved by Christ the God-Man who became Man. Christ saves us, body, soul, toes, and everything. Anyhow, this was a point of discussion in my seminary classes, and it’s such a Aquinian problem…

The Israel of God

I am thinking about the nature of the people of God (not surprisingly, since we are shortly to be admitted to the Orthodox church). And I am reflecting on the Old Testament parallels favored by the Orthodox and those favored by the Reformed. I freely confess to being ignorant in many things, so please forgive any obtuseness and feel free to demand clarity in any ambiguity.

The Reformed strongly favor exilic/sojourning parallels – such as the patriarchs, the wilderness years, and the exiled Jews. The emphasis here is on faithfulness to those bits of God’s covenant activity which are available (a commendable encouragement to be thankful for the grace we have received, and to personally love and pursue holiness). But there is a distinct flavor of non-normalcy (at least in the two-kingdoms camp, which I was in). There is an emphasis on alienation, and in some senses this is good – we are not citizens of the kingdom of the devil, but citizens of heaven – but it can also lead to the dangerous end of individualism, which I see as taking personal responsibility only for self (and perhaps for in-groups). Plainly, there is NT language that can lead to these conclusions.

In Orthodoxy (and/equivalently in the Fathers), there is much more use of the features of Israel’s life in the church life, a transformation, an uptaking, a filling of the types with the reality of the Holy Spirit’s present powerful work. This seems, however, more fully aligned with the New Testament. We are a holy nation, a royal priesthood, just like the people of Israel (declared at their constitution – realizing that the wilderness years are an aberration due to sin). We are living in the days spoken of by Joel, where the people of Israel are transformed by the Spirit. More could be adduced, but the general idea of the consummation of Israel in the church seems fairly well established.

So, the Orthodox discussion of the sacraments (which I am seeking to better understand, as we approach them) makes a lot more sense with the parallels to the constituted people of God – Israel. This probably seems anathema to the two-kingdoms camp. I suppose it may sit uncomfortably with the sympathizers of Rushdooney, too, since there’s been a deep theology of Christ in the world for two millennia in Orthodoxy, but they can be encouraged that they are on a right scent (though to be fair, two kingdoms are on some right scents, too). But the church is the people of God. Christ’s image of the olive tree – one tree, rooted in one place, with grafts and pruning dealing with the comings and goings – seems to fit.with the deep reality of the church’s life from the apostles onward.

I welcome thoughts and discussion on the matter, and am thankful for my Godly interlocutors.

In Christ,

Mark

New Coals

This poor blog sits forlornly, the flame gradually dying to a low heat beneath the ashes. I hope to throw some new coals in and fan the flame to a warm glow.

I hope you are all doing well. I have been frighteningly busy, which I am now beginning to see as a theological problem. People who are unclear about what God has given them each day to do as their duty don’t usually just sit idly, which is actually a great way to in a short time be brought to consider our life far too closely for comfort; they fill their time with distractions, which our world specializes in producing. May you in the next week see the glory of Christ so clearly that the unnecessary chaff of your worries and distractions burn in the heat.

The great swirling conversation surrounding the Benedict Option is worth peeking in on again. Whatever Rod Dreher wanted, he got his wish that it would be primarily a big conversation starter for the church. Its a New York Times bestseller, many major organs of our nation’s news have published reviews of it. Tell your friends about it, its the closest thing we have to a publicly recognized symbol of what we are talking about when we say the church in America is in fatal captivity to American culture. Its a conversation that just being aware of is a step in the right direction as far as I can tell.

Here’s a thought I was having about the subject in general, but about some other figures only loosely involved.

Dallas Willard and James K.A Smith: both philosophers by training, both heavily involved professionally in phenomenology as a field (Edmund Husserl and his followers), both involved in the topic of Christian formation and virtue ethics. Both of them through their careful philosophical study of human nature came to be very invested in writing works about how people can change, ultimately to become more like Christ. It is remarkable that both of them come at the problem of discipleship through their training in topics like consciousness, intentionality, being in the world, and returning to the things themselves. Smith cites Willard as an influence, and says he was attempting to write an ecclesiological supplement to The Spirit of the Disciplines.

But there is a difference in tone, and it led me to wondering about this broader split one can see in emphasis between the individual and the collective. The church, and the member. Put crudely, Willard’s is the individualist book. Smith’s work is more about what is done in groups. Dreher, like Smith, emphasizes the corporate church as well. We of course frequently lament the individualism of our era, which has the effect of attenuating our connections with larger groups. Obviously both Willard and Smith try to do justice to the other half of the coin: no one is saying the church doesn’t matter, or what you do on your own is irrelevant. But I think that Ephraim Radner’s reflections on individualism are worth noting, especially for how unexpected they are. Individualism is in many ways identical with the development of modernity itself, and thus accounts of one inevitably constitute an account of the other. Radner’s disturbing thesis that modernity arises as a kind of tragic corrective from the failure of the church the love its own members and the world has implications for how we interpret the individual/group dichotomy.

As one case study in his work A Brutal Unity, Radner observes that most churches in Rwanda, Catholic and Protestant alike, failed to resist the genocide in 1994, and instead actively participated. He wanted to know what set those churches apart that did resist, and to identify aspects of their practices or teaching which enabled them to do so. Drawing on a study by Timothy Longman, he finds that the congregations whose members did resist had an ethos of teaching which strongly emphasized individual responsibility. An excerpt from a sermon given in a parish which remained faithful:

“Those who do evil, each will be saved by his actions. In Romans 14:12 it is written, “So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.” What do you want to show God? Hate? Jealousy? What do you display before God? You hide nothing before God. As Peter said, “Leave me, I’m a sinner.” We must imitate Peter, tell God we are sinners and ask forgiveness.”

Radner concludes that individualism, best understood, is a hard won and necessary burden we must bear precisely out of our obligations to one another, to the church, and to God. Going even further, he concludes that while being faithful to the gospel in a liberal democracy like our own is extremely difficult, it is what must be done precisely because of the gospel. Of course, Radner is writing a book about the unity of the church, which is about as collective an emphasis as one can think of, so the emphasis upon the individual’s responsibility to take the initiative is in service of this goal.

Coming back to Willard and Smith, it is a salutary reminder that many of the most essential spiritual disciplines for us to practice are for us to perform alone before the Lord. Looking at the problem of evil from a more personal perspective, it is easy to see how atheism can slide neatly in with a view of evil that removes all responsibility from all actors. Its not God’s fault, its not our fault, its certainly not my fault, and it mostly can be blamed on sociopaths and people of the other political party. But once we see that we do want things to change for the better and that we are the first to need this change, we can then see our most critical duties do not belong to anyone else to exercise and our preparation to serve the needs around us will consist largely of taking our leave to be alone and pray.

Nota bene: Only three days ago, Pope Francis went to meet with the President of Rwanda Paul Kagame to apologize for “the sins and failings of the church and its members.” It is the most forcefully worded apology to date, for including “the church” in the culpability.

 

 

The Problem of Evil

I want to propose a reply to the problem of evil that might be new to you.

The philosophical problem of evil, also called the problem of suffering or pain, has been on my mind since my philosophy of religion class at Wayne State University in Detroit (2012). My professor was an atheist (but totally unlike the caricatured jerk on God’s Not Dead) and no one knew until a student pressed him about it halfway through the term. I suspected, however. He debated William Lane Craig twice and is published on the issue. I was on the honors track at the time, so I had occasion to discuss this in detail during office hours. It was a fulfilling experience even though, in all honesty, this class constituted one of the handful of times my faith was genuinely challenged.

The god the philosophers argue against tries to be characteristically Judeo-Christian even as their god-concept is reductionistic, the “O-3” God: omnibenevolent, omnipotent, and omniscient. The way my former prof constructs the problem capitalizes on the suffering version and fortifies past versions of the problem. The structure runs:

Premise 1.        If God exists, then he would not allow excessive unnecessary suffering.

Premise 2.        But there is excessive unnecessary suffering.

Conclusion1.   Therefore, God does not exist.

The argument is formally valid by modus tollens. Whether it is strong (a convincing inductive argument) is another matter, which is typically viewed as contingent on the truth of Premise 2. Premise 2 requires ‘excessive, unnecessary’ suffering because (in the estimate of atheist philosophers) an all-good, all-powerful, all-knowing God might allow some suffering for a greater good benefit, but not suffering that was (a) beyond any benefit and (b) not necessary for that or some other reason. So: Premise 2 must be defended, which is draws on a combination of evidentiary, existential, and rational bases.

But I want to pick on Premise 1. Philosophically, we can claim with more certainty that human agency can prevent evil/suffering than we can claim that God would prevent it. Premise 1 is a simple non sequitor and sheer conjecture at best. What about Premise 2?

Premise 2 is backed up, as I said, with evidence from our experiences, and so on. Stories about child death and murder are offered, and natural disasters. This is a good use of pathos (but at times appeal to pity) and apparent evidence in favor of Premise 2. And yet, it strikes me that much evil that we experience is a direct result of human agency. A poignant example regards a memorial bookstore at a local parish here in Phoenix. A young boy was hit by a drunk driver, and his father immediately gave up faith in God based on the felt problem of evil. “If there were a God, such things would not happen.” I cannot even imagine the pain this father went through. The boy’s mother, however, kept her faith and founded a bookstore named after her son in memoriam. That suffering was not caused by anything other than human choice, agency. It was avoidable.

The philosophical problem of suffering basically runs this way: If God existed, we wouldn’t suffer. We can make it sophisticated like my professor does, but I believe sophisticated versions do not give atheists a free pass on the more primal, visceral expression the grieving father feels. My reply is broad enough to include all versions. And just here is why I bring the problem of evil up at all because we can run the same logic this way: If functional Gods existed, we wouldn’t suffer. Therefore, we should not believe in the existence of functional Gods, i.e. human agents. But that is absurd.

The problem of evil against God argument hinges on the fact that God knows about all the evil, cares about the good of all people and is powerful enough to do something about evil. Either God is less than God (i.e. he does not know, is not powerful enough), or he does not exist. When it comes to human agency, however, all we need is the function of all-knowing, all-good, all-powerful agency for each situation. We can make claims with more certainty and direct evidence about human agency and suffering than about abstract conjectures based on idiosyncratic God concepts (which I contend are ad hoc in the first place).

In other words, that drunk driver was functionally all-good to care about endangering children. He was functionally all-knowing to conceive of the results of his actions. And he was functionally all-powerful not to overindulge in alcohol and then drive home. He could have done something about it! And yet, what happened, tragically happened. Are we to conclude that he does not exist?

The atheist God-concept is woefully truncated (the “O-3” god), but granting it for the sake of the argument, the O-3 god also works for making the argument cut two ways. All we need is the function of the three omnis in each scenario of human agency, and we have an argument against the existence of people. Expanding the argument to natural disasters, we would have to make a separate argument appealing to the agency of Adam in the Fall. Human agency, however, remains even in appealing to creation narratives that account for the big picture of suffering.

As a final point, if we wanted it as the human community, many evils in our world could be ended overnight through practical means at hand. Take sex slavery and human trafficking—we know enough about it, we have enough money, firepower, and manpower in our world governments to join forces and end these evils. But we do not. Functionally, we as a society are God to those suffering innocents and could solve their problems right now, but we do not. Should we conclude that we do not exist? That is absurd. We know with great philosophical certainty and hard evidence that trafficking and slavery could be ended by human agency.

Alvin Plantinga showed that the logical problem of evil does not result in a contradiction. Others have raised objections about other versions. My reply to the problem of evil or suffering raises the additional problem of how the argument cuts against belief in the existence of human agency or people. This, I hope, forces us to the actual question, which presses upon our souls: what is the purpose of suffering? That is the real question, which goes to the heart of Premise 2 above. What atheists perceive as ‘excessive and unnecessary’ is really redemptive suffering. This positive contribution about redemptive suffering goes beyond my present point, but I believe suffering leads us to God as our Savior. The truth about what the true God has to do with suffering is a matter of revelation, and not speculative philosophy, and human agency extending to prayer to overcome evil is another aspect in the so-called problem of evil. But I digress.

The Last Trombone

One of my regrets from my undergraduate years, which I did not realize until recently that I should have felt, was that I did not get to know Douglas Yeo, the trombone professor whose position at Arizona State exactly coincided with my years there as a music student, only four years. Prior to that he served as Bass Trombonist of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nearly thirty years. He is now retired, and works on his publications and blog. Now, Douglas Yeo is an evangelical Christian of very forthright conviction in his field, and is also a consummate world-class expert on all matters relating to the trombone. He has written and spoken about both extensively. His willingness to voice his religious opinions in public is extremely uncommon in music, and his thoughtfulness on the relationship between the two more uncommon still. He has a blog, called the Last Trombone, which I commend to your perusal. It has genuinely hilarious gems like this post. Its essentially a quick run down of the appearance of the trombone in great literature, and the historical misrepresentations and anachronisms that frequently attend it. Short answer is, before the fifteenth century, the trombone didn’t exist, pace Shakespeare, Longfellow and The King James translators.

I wish that I had gotten to know him because I would have liked to speak with him about his sense of calling, about how he sees his professional life integrated with his faith. He seems to have a extremely sturdy sense of place in the world, he knows that God made him a trombone player so he is going to do that with all of his gusto to God’s glory and share the gospel with his fellow musicians in the meantime. His website is full of resources for aspiring trombone players, including even his own audition tape for the BSO. I think he wants to put himself out there and help as much as he can. He observes that if he had followed another path, perhaps in ministry, no doubt God would have used him but he probably would not have had the chance to share the gospel with Seiji Ozawa. Or Leonard Bernstein. He wishes that all musicians would take Ecclesiastes more seriously and stop idolizing the first chair position, or better hours, or more exciting conductors, or more time off, or better pay, or whatever, and just be grateful.

Just as a fascinating aside, he was also involved in a case two decades ago that almost went to the Supreme Court but was denied a hearing, so he lost. He tried to pay for an ad in a school newspaper encouraging sexual abstinence but the editors refused to run it, so he sued. The man’s not a spectator in culture I guess, and I respect his boldness.

We will keep our eyes open on Douglas Yeo’s website, for what other wisdom may be gleaned from a man who has by all measures had a successful music career and is still reflecting on how God can use each of us for his glory. Many Christians I know and have heard of drop out of pursuing music professionally, and I totally understand this decision and frankly consider it from time to time. It is however interesting to me to see someone who has come to terms with the career and all of its tensions in a Christ-centered way, and is willing to pass on his own experience for other musicians to consider.