Alright, I know I'm over a week behind the curve, but I have a good excuse, which I will choose to keep to myself. Be still and know that I am Joe.
I had a very eventful last week of 2011 - I attended a youth camp in Durban, South Africa organised by the Botswana Union of the Seventh Day Adventist church. I was initially reticent about the prospect of going when Mother first asked me about it, but I later figured "fuck it, it's Durban, why the hell not?" In the end asides from all the Jesus-ness, the horrible rooms we were staying in and the all-veg diet, it really wasn't so bad. I got to see the sea for the first time, managed to buy a few books I've been yearning for while there and generally got to relax, unwind and refresh.
As for the content of the camp...well, it was your usual revival seminar fare. There were daily sermons and prayer sessions, as well as a few workshops scattered here and there. The workshop I chose to attend was "Destined for excellence", which was chock-full of meaningless slogans, catchy mnemonics and sweet, inspirational nothings. In other words, it was just like every other motivational routine in existence, only with a lot more biblical references and perhaps more uniquely, quotes from Ellen White's works, "Spirit of Prophesy". The workshop presenter was as cute as a button, though, so not all was lost.
There was one young preacher there about whom I found myself thinking that phrase so many of us freethinkers have heard applied to us at some time or other: "what a waste". He was one of the most eloquent and entertaining speakers I have heard in a long time. His anecdotes and analogies in particular, which dealt with things almost everyone in the audience could relate with, were absolutely priceless, and had me chuckling regardless of whether I agreed with his point or not. I found myself thinking about how far the cause of freethought and even science literacy would advance if we had just one speaker like him here in Africa and an organised platform for him to use. And it got me thinking even further: if it were not for his religious upbringing, would he have turned out to be such a good speaker? For a lot of us - many, perhaps even most (myself included), our first and sometimes only experience of speaking in front of a crowd was in church. Adventists in particular will relate - holding Sabbath School, preaching on children's day - these were a big part of our growing up. The same goes for music - it is no mere coincidence that many of the most successful secular musicians of our day testify to having started singing in church.
Now, I'm not about to say religion is all good and wonderful and we should all appreciate it because it gives kids such confidence and nurtures their skills, I am simply acknowledging this fact - this is one of the few things a lot of us have to thank outr religious upbringing for. But, like with all of religion's positive points, there is a better way. The area of discovering and nurturing talent in these areas is one where I believe schools should take a major role. Right from the beginning of Primary education, children should be given opportunities to speak, sing or play instruments in public, in front of a supportive audience. School recitals and talent shows should take the place of church worship programs. The cultivation of talents in an environment where the mind is also learning about the world around it is the best possible environment for producing brilliant, well-informed speakers and artists.
Phew! Good to get that off my chest. Anyway, I survived the whole thing without having a stupid outburst over something blindingly inaccurate or obviously unconscionable that was said (of which there were many), mainly thanks to the patient ear of my one theist friend to whom I am able to talk freely about my worldview regardless of whether we agree - yes, you, buddy. You know yourself. Being able to air my views is a therapeutic experience, without which I would long have snapped. I saw the new year in while in a que for snacks and a terrible looking fruit salad at the so-called "banquet" on the last night of the camp, followed soon afterward by a desultory fireworks show at which I am surprised no one was killed.
So, that's it. That's my recounting of the final week of my 2011. Now, we look to the future. This year, I am refraining from publishing my resolutions thanks to the disaster I made of them last year. Only I know what they are, which will save me some embarrassment. All I can tell you is tat they are a lot more specific, realistiic and within my control than last year's were, so hopefully I will prevail. I'll only tell you what they were if and when I succeed.
Thanks to you all for reading this long ramble, and I wish you all an awesome 2012. I leave you with the awesome music I was listening to all throught the week before last - most particularly I want to highlight Technical Death Metal band Obscura's album Omnivium.
Everyone's Favorite Christian Metalcore Band, from their latest album Dead Throne:
French Deathgrind band Benighted, from their album Asylum Cave
And last but not least, some Obscura. Every single track from this album was a masterpiece. I can credit this band as the one that got me to love the sound of the guitar.