Memoirs From The Forum.

Seeing as I’m doing my best to be utterly distracted in my attempts to read anything, I thought it’d be a good time to preserve my memories of last night at The Forum.

  1. Finding the parking lot was a fairly disorienting affair; I was so pre-occupied by not missing the entrance that I became overly flustered when the white Dodge Challenger behind me would not permit me access to the lane space in front of him, honking multiple times over the course of my fumbling. I sped up much further than I intended to, thinking that I missed the entrance, but I had actually found myself right where I wanted to be. Cue exhale of relief.
  2. Arriving an hour before the printed 8PM on my e-ticket, I didn’t realize just how anxious I would be going to Inglewood after hearing about its reputation.  I also didn’t realize how odd it was for me to go to a concert alone.  These things began to collaborate in creating odd, hypothetical scenarios in which I was called upon to stifle a gun-bearer’s attempts to cause a ruckus in the middle of the concert.  Thankfully, there was no need for me (and the people in attendance) to witness my would-be failure at detaining an armed individual.  This was of very little comfort four hours prior to the end of the concert.
  3. As I walked from my parking space, I was greeted by the sound of a middle-aged man crying out for us to seek salvation; way ahead of you, sir! It did make me consider how I would be able to bear the testimony of Christ to the people around me as I strode onwards to The Forum. The fear of forgetting where I parked nudged me to make note of my location: Manchester A. No sooner had I observed this than the pleasantly-colored “SAINT PABLO TOUR/KANYE WEST 2016/5 NIGHTS SOLD OUT” triplet appeared in view.  One in soft orange, one in maroon, and one in a kind of muted baby blue. I took a picture for the ‘gram.
  4. After using the restroom, I found myself attempting to hide the fact that I came alone by alternating between using my phone and watching the Cubs game that happened to be on television.  Perhaps I could pass as someone who was waiting for people?
  5. The door popped open for a second and people began to hoot and holler, but it was a false alarm, which led to some expressions of light-hearted disappointment.
  6. When the doors opened at around 7:25 PM, I went straightaway to find my seat. Section 214, Row 11, Seat 5.  When I got to my seat and surveyed the stadium, I couldn’t help but laugh a little bit as I realized how far from Mr. West I’d be. Nevertheless, the fog and the vague ambient music allowed me to get more or less settled into my seat.  As I the minutes passed in fives, I began to realize that my hands were staggeringly cold – in fact, the entire inside of The Forum was freezing. I put my hands in my pockets and watched for people trying to get to their seat by way of my convenience.
  7. It is 8:30, and the concert hasn’t even shown signs of starting.  A friend of mine tells me that she thinks it’s going to be starting at 9:00.  I absent-mindedly drop eaves near the couple in front of me, who seem to be getting into an argument.  The female turns her back to who I presume is her boyfriend, ignoring his attempts to tap her and talk things out.  She begins to partake in the chicken tenders and fries that her friends had purchased to stave off pre-concert hunger. The boyfriend scrolls through Instagram.  She asks him a question, and he gives a less-than-satisfactory answer, prompting her to roll her eyes and turn away once more.  He stares at the back of her head before resuming his perusal of social media.
  8. The crowd down on the ground floor where Kanye would be levitating above began to get hyped, and phone cameras pointed skyward as they tried to discern whether or not Kanye was on stage.  The couple in front of me made up after the boyfriend went to get a beer and a water, which gave me relief – I’m not even involved here! The people in front of me began standing up as the ambient noise swelled, but Kanye remained unseen.
  9. KANYE SHOWS UP AT AROUND 9:30.
  10. I can’t remember all of the songs that were playing, but I spend most of my time recording bits and pieces to put on my Instagram story. It’s swiftly becoming evident that alcohol is nearly a pre-requisite for many of the people in attendance, but I was a responsible, solo concert attendee and knew I would have to drive after the show was over.  The set was breathtaking, and Kanye floated around over his fans, with the music blasting and everyone captivated by Yeezy.
  11. At some point during the night, a very clearly intoxicated female begins to bump against me while I’m trying my best to “coldest story ever told, somewhere far along this road, he lost his soul to a woman so heartless,” and I begin to become hyper-alert to what could possibly happen in terms of falling over and losing balance or if things were to escalate violently. Thankfully, nothing of that sort happened.  Barring these circumstances, “Heartless” was honestly the highlight of the show for me, alongside all of the other old Kanye songs.
  12. Kanye takes some time to show his audience clips of his beloved wife Kim as a child growing up while the background of his song, “Only One,” played.  During this time, the aforementioned intoxicated female begins to tug and pull at my arm, but I pulled away from her, leading to her ask, “No?” to which I briskly shook my head. Sorry not sorry – I’m here for Yeezy.
  13. I’m increasingly wary of the group of people next to me, which includes our now infamous intoxicated female, because they are consistently grabbing at me now, as one of her male acquaintances holds onto me for balance despite standing straight up, and the unpleasant smell of his breath was forced upon me when he grabbed me with one arm and asked me how amazing this was. I told him it was amazing, and he was placated.
  14. Kanye goes out with “Ultralight Beam,” and the show is over.  All in all, it was a pretty amazing show! I learned a few things from the experience: 1) Inglewood is nothing to play with, 2) bringing a friend or two along to a concert may improve the experience drastically, 3) drunk people are unpredictable, 4) Yeezy goes OFF at his concerts, 5) merchandise at concerts is legalized robbery, 6) parking lots post-concert events are incredibly inert, and 7) I am so far from being a wavy dude.  Shout out to Mr. West for being a pretty consistent musical go-to since the 8th grade; it was awesome finally seeing him in person.
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Finding Rest.

Where shall we go from here?

The one who stood so tall

has been, by time, felled

amidst the growing wood.

~

There is silence here, but it aches

to find words proper, emotion

appropriate.

It is loss.

~

Will we survive him here?

Can flight be learned

before the ground scatters the nest?

Or will it be too soon to fly?

~

May you find freedom there.

This world was not your home,

but it was a house; greet

the family there – Amen.

Fractured Faith.

Something that has invariably been flooding everyone’s news feed as of late is the constant stream of politics – “Ten Reasons to Vote for Hillary Clinton,” “Five Ways Trump Could Actually Make America Great Again,” and “Innumerable Explanations for why the United States Seems Headed for Disaster.”  Admittedly, I have never been the most informed political observant ever, but something about this particular presidential race is troubling.  Not only has this specific election threatened the unity of Americans in how they perceive themselves and those around them, but it is also common to see disunity among brothers and sisters in the Church, and this latter point is what draws my concern. In as measured and equitably as I can manage, I’d like to make a few cases for how our faith has been trumped by our politics and why we mustn’t let this be the case.

A popular approach to politics for quite a while has been the tactic of “mudslinging,” or the tarnishing of an opponent’s reputation. The ammo ranges from policy scoffing to personal insults, and it is, in my eyes, a decidedly un-Christian maneuver.  I recognize the naïveté in trying to apply ideal Christian standards to a staunchly secular arena, but my point is that we as brothers and sisters have partaken in the mudslinging.  Many times, I’ve witnessed brothers and sisters discrediting one another’s intelligence – even faith – for their political position.  So I ask: is this in keeping with what we as Christians believe? Is this what it is to “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace,” as described in Ephesians 4:1-3? There is something deeply disturbing about how Clinton-supporting and Trump-supporting brothers and sisters, once so eager to say “Judge not” and “Speak the truth in love,” now jump at the chance to exercise their bookkeeping of either candidate’s (and possibly the candidate’s supporters’) sins. It’s almost as if we, who are desperately sinful and in great need of grace, believe that our choice of presidential candidate rests on the less sinful person!  As Christians, we seem to have been leaving our theology on the doorstep of political debate instead of seeking first the kingdom of God.

Now, it may seem like seeking first the kingdom of God, as Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, is both taken out of context but also ill-fitting in regards to the present context.  After all, one might argue, Jesus isn’t making a political statement when He’s saying that, or else we as Christians would have to want a kingship instead of a democracy. Yet why is that so objectionable? Is not the Kingship we seek (denoted with a capital K even!) a higher and richer governance? Even the Israelites of old had the desire to be ruled by a king, and it is not without considerable weightiness that we call our Lord the King of Kings.  Yet it seems that we, in our desire for self-preservation, our longing to be heard, and our pursuit of what we think is just, have chosen to extol the virtues of a system that reflects, in part, our relationship with Christ.  This is not a knock on our system of democracy or this country; those who know me know that even while in Canada, I missed my well-beloved United States of America.  However, what I am getting at is that taking our political system as fundamental to our beliefs over and above how we ought to walk in our faith, which I hold to be ideally fundamental, is problematic.  In a submissive relationship between a perfect and benevolent King and His obedient servants, it is clear whose will is to be carried out, for there is only one will – that of the Lord.  But if we treat our relationship with God as we treat our politics and come before God with a list of requests that we demand to be met, if we approach Him believing that He ought to honor our perceptions of what is just and what is fair, if we elevate ourselves to seeing eye to eye in terms of governing our own lives here on Earth while claiming to look ahead to the next life with Him, have we not indirectly affected our proper view of Himself as well?  I ask these questions to draw nigh to what I think is part of the proper context of Matthew 6:33; it is a matter of anxiety.  In our anxiety about the present situation and the future terrors, we as Christians have, I believe, lost sight of the kingdom of God.  This is manifested in our heated debates with believers and non-believers alike, how we think about people when they reveal who they’re supporting, and all the other avenues in which we could be choosing instead to seek first the kingdom of God.  I am choosing to be so bold as to say that who we vote for will not affect the kingdom of God at all.  How we treat one another, if we consider the set of believers to be citizens of the aforementioned kingdom, does affect the kingdom of God.

So, in closing, I’d like to encourage us to reflect on the boundaries of our faith in light of politics. Have we been cordoning off how seek the kingdom from how we practice politics? Are we treating one another with grace, despite heavy disagreement?  Are we allowing the human construct of politics to compromise the way we walk before one another and the world? Certainly it seems like our political future is at stake, but so is our testimony as Christians.  There’s a lot to be said about the fact that we as believers can’t stand united on the topic of presidency; we don’t even need to necessarily all believe that one candidate is the right candidate. However, we are failing to even relate to one another in love during the process, and I am strongly persuaded that it is because we don’t seek the kingdom of God through and through – we only seek it when it’s convenient for us. Let’s learn to love deeper and put anxiety aside during these times of political turmoil; let’s seek His kingdom and His righteousness in full confidence that our tomorrow is in His hands.