Are We Being Manipulated by Music?

I saw this chart a few days ago and something really struck me. The songs we hear each Christmas — aside from the religious hymns — are almost all from the 1940’s and 50’s. The interesting point made at the bottom of the chart got me thinking. A lot of times we listen to the same music around Christmas because it produces a feeling of nostalgia and memories of a time when we were younger and the Christmas spirit meant more than a little break from the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. A lot of the “new” Christmas music that isn’t the old religious standards, is merely nothing more than updated versions of these songs, rather than creating entirely new Christmas songs.

Now, if I’m being a bit more cynical — here’s how I read this.

Every year, the entertainment industry reinvigorates Christmas nostalgia so that people from the Baby Boomer generation will feel nostalgic for their childhood — and perhaps that Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle. Then, out of this reinvigorated nostalgia, they go out and spend all kinds of money on their kids/grandkids/neighborhood kids/intern pastors as the church they visit in the winter. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate it like none other.

But I can’t help but wonder if it isn’t all a big ploy to get more people in the “Christmas spirit” which might as well be synonymous with “the mood to spend money”. I can’t figure out exactly why I am so disturbed by this graph.

Perhaps, it’s just a tactic to honestly get everyone in the Christmas spirit of gathering together with family and friends and honoring the faith traditions that celebrate around Christmas. But I highly doubt it. Whenever there is the kind of money at stake that there is each Christmas, big companies will beg, cheat, lie, steal — even, potentially, manipulate through music.

After writing this, I realize this could make me the biggest Scrooge that you know, which is certainly not my intent. I just think it’s interesting the way in which Christmas music operates in our culture, pumped through the stores earlier and earlier each year.

And I think it’s really beneficial to be aware of the way in which music impacts the way we think.


What Your Writing Says About You

I recently heard someone talk about the website Typealyzer — a website that supposedly deciphers your Meyers-Briggs type based on the writing on your blog or website. I’m always curious about these sorts of “tests” or analysis so I figured I’d give it a try. And I was pretty dang surprised! I know that I am an INFP on the Meyers-Briggs with the first letter I/E being somewhat negotiable. As I’ve moved through high school through to graduate school, I’ve tested more away from ‘E’ into the ‘I’ category. So I put this site into the Typealyzer and here’s what it found…

ISTP – The Mechanics

The independent and problem-solving type. They are especially attuned to the demands of the moment and are highly skilled at seeing and fixing what needs to be fixed. They generally prefer to think things out for themselves and often avoid inter-personal conflicts.
The Mechanics enjoy working together with other independent and highly skilled people and often like seek fun and action both in their work and personal life. They enjoy adventure and risk such as in driving race cars or working as policemen and firefighters.
This really makes me think about the whole idea of writing as an expression of who we really are. There seems to be a disconnect for me because this description doesn’t necessarily match up with my understanding of who I am. Maybe because I try to be practical on here to have some sort of tangibility, rather than just getting caught up in big, abstract ideas, which is what I’m more prone to do.
If you have a blog, check out Typealyzer. Have fun with it. If you’ve used it before, how did it match up with what you know about your Meyers-Brigg type? What do you think a difference may be between the way you write and your general personality? I’m getting very intrigued by this. Hope it was an interesting venture for you.

Moving Beyond “Everything Happens for a Reason”

I had a pastor friend tell me a story a few months back about some couples that he had been doing marriage counseling for. When he asked them to tell him a little bit about their faith background, he was shocked with the responses. Many of them went something like this: “Well, you know, I believe in God and all that. And I think that everything happens for a reason and… yeah. That’s pretty much it.” Hearing this was troubling in a lot of ways… but I was left with one question that I just can’t shake.

Since when is “everything happens for a reason” a synonymous paraphrase of the Christian faith?

It may suffice for some people, but I sense for most it does absolutely nothing to satisfy our deepest questions about the world and our existence in it. It does nothing to answer some of the unanswerable questions of life. It doesn’t even try. It comes up short in so many ways.

Q: Why did George’s brother die in that car accident?
A: Well, everything happens for a reason.

Q: Why didn’t Karla’s cancer go into remission?
A: You know, everything happens for a reason.

Whatever happened to being okay just saying “You know what? This really sucks right now. And I’m angry and I have no idea why it’s happening.”? Don’t we deserve a better response than an overly-simplistic, unengaged platitude? Why can’t we wrestle with why bad things happen to good people? Why must we always have an answer?

It seems to me that this is a case of two different faiths.

  • Faith number one says that if I have faith and hold fast to “everything happens for a reason”, then nothing bad can happen to me and bad things that do happen to me happen for some kind of test from God or other cursory reason (often something like “I didn’t pray hard enough” or “I didn’t have strong enough faith”.)
  • Whereas faith number two says that there are bad things in life that will almost surely happen to me. Jobs will be lost. Diagnoses will not always go the way I hope. Tragedy will strike when I least expect. But even though those things will certainly happen to me, they are nothing to be afraid of.

It’s a subtle difference, but I think the effects of switching our perspective that much can have profound effects on the way we live our lives. I’m not saying it’s easy — but I think removing the responsibility to justify something will add so much more to our interactions and engagement with ourselves and our communities.


Enneagram 3: Why I Am the Way I Am

Richard Rohr once said, ““There is nothing to prove and nothing to protect. I am who I am and it’s enough.” As a type 3 on the Enneagram, I don’t believe that. I can’t believe that. There is a voice inside of me that just rails against that kind of affirmation. And yet, at the same time, I crave affirmation. Who I am isn’t enough. But what I do (if other people deem it successful or of some worth) is enough. I can certainly appreciate that this makes very little sense to someone whose brain doesn’t work like that — which is probably most people. If you don’t know or haven’t heard about the different Enneagram types, check out this link. Here are a couple videos about the sometimes dreaded type 3.

Here’s another good one.

I’m so fascinated with all of this.

If you’re familiar with the Enneagram, or even if you’re just becoming familiar with it, what type are you? Or what type(s) do you think you might be? How does it affect you? Does it bring about a kind of better self-awareness?

I hope this brings about the kind of self understanding that it has to me. Even if that understanding isn’t always wonderful to know.


My wonderful wife, Megan has written about goal setting in ministry as a type 3 here. She’s a very gifted writer, even if she won’t believe that. Because she’s a 3. What a vicious cycle.

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