Background Music and Getting Outside of Ourselves


Jon Weece likes to introduce people to each other. Often it’s telling large crowds about someone he knows. And as “lead follower” at Southland Christian Church, a megachurch in Lexington, he has lots of opportunities to address large crowds. I’ve known Jon since he was a kid, and I was glad to be able to hear him speak last month at Ozark Christian College, his alma mater, as it celebrated its 75th anniversary.

Jon, a former missionary in Haiti, keeps his eye out for people who need a helping hand. One of those people is his friend Donnie, and Jon told us his story. In his book Jesus Prom, Jon writes,

When Donnie was six years old, he watched his dad beat up his mom. The trauma of that episode locked Donnie into a permanent state of childlikeness. Though he is fifty-two years of age today, Donnie thinks and acts and communicates like a six-year-old. Donnie loves me, and I love Donnie. He has taught me a lot about love.

Donnie washed dishes at a local restaurant for two decades. Each Friday he would cash his paycheck, and each Saturday he would ride his bike from one garage sale to the next buying albums and paper novels and costume jewelry. Donnie has a Christmas gift list and 385 people on it. Donnie loves people, and people love Donnie—so much so that he spends his entire year Christmas shopping for all the people he loves.


Donnie doesn’t know a stranger. When he meets people for the first time, he hugs them. And he doesn’t let go! When Donnie hugs people, he holds on! And it doesn’t matter who you are; once Donnie learns your name, your name finds its way onto his Christmas list. From the mayor of our city to the homeless men in Phoenix Park, Donnie konws a lot of people by name.

Donnie looks a lot like love.

Love holds on.

Love gives.

Love knows.

Jon also introduces people to Donnie one on one. He said that when Tony Anderson, another OCC grad, contacted him to get together, Jon brought Donnie along. Tony lives in Lexington and is a successful film composer with a long list of commercial and documentary credits.

Before Tony had become established in his career, he took on his first project, a short documentary for Christ in Youth and Rapha House, a ministry working to eliminate child trafficking and sexual exploitation. The film Tony helped them with was Baht, about sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Tony later worked on another production for Rapha House, creating the score for Finding Home, a longer documentary following three young women who’d gotten out of the sex trade in Cambodia.

Tony’s career took off when Musicbed made his growing body of work available on their licensing site, and now his clients include Ford, TOMS Shoes, ESPN, and National Geographic. When Musicbed produced a video highlighting Tony, he put Donnie front and center (and, yes, that’s Tony’s music in the background). Tony says that Donnie is teaching him how to recapture the “childlike innocence and joy” that he’s let slip away. He’s also teaching him about opening doors, seeing the value of relationships over competition and deadlines, and “getting outside of” himself.

And finally, here’s one more example of Tony’s work. He composed the music behind this short film, Onward. It’s about a family in Western Mongolia and their tradition of hunting with eagles.

(Jon Weece, Jesus Prom: Life Gets Fun when You Love People like God Does, Thomas Nelson, 2014)

[photo: “Sitting by the Piano,” by Difei Li, used under a Creative Commons license]


“Clearing Customs,” the Album


Ever heard of Fred Frith? No? Then prepare to have your horizons expanded.

I Google-stumbled across Frith while looking for other instances of clearing customs on the internet. He’s a world-renowned experimental musician and college professor who, in 2011, released Clearing Customs, the album.

Born in Sussex, England, Frith has traveled the globe composing, performing, and teaching. He now lives in the US with his wife, German photographer Heike Liss, where he teaches at Mills College in Oakland, California.

Clearing Customs is an hour-long improvisational performance by Frith and other musicians using several instruments, including a Chinese gu zheng and an Indian mridangam and tabla.

To give you a taste of Frith’s kind of music, here’s a clip of him performing at a Mozg festival in Bydgoszcz, Poland. In it, he plays a guitar using a drum stick and a thin strap. As I watched it the first time, I thought, Hey, I could play a guitar with a drum stick. But I’m pretty sure Firth has more musical talent in his little finger than I have in my whole body. And I’m pretty sure he uses his little finger to play, as well.

Frith is also in the 2009 Canadian documentary Act of God, about people who’ve been struck by lightning. In the film, his brother, neuroscientist and author Chris Frith, measures the electrical impulses in Fred’s brain while he improvises on a guitar. In this way, the documentary compares the electrical activity of a storm to the electrical activity of the brain.

I wonder if Fred Frith will ever Google clearing customs, find my site, and blog about me. There’s probably about as much chance of that happening as the chance of me being struck by lightning (which, by the way, the National Weather Service says is 1 in 10,000, during my lifetime).

[photo: “Record Player,” by Ralf Heß, used under a Creative Commons license]

What Marcel Proust Really Said about Seeing with New Eyes

In his TED Talk—on home, travel, and stillness—author Pico Iyer refers to the words of the French author Marcel Proust:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new sights, but in looking with new eyes.

When I Googled that phrase, I came up with several similar, though slightly different, versions. The most popular one comes up on over 800,000 sites, often used, as Iyer did, in the context of travel:

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.

487786787_c63e03fe2c_nBut I wasn’t done yet. I don’t trust “famous quote” sites, nor do I trust the democracy of the Internet. A little more searching led me to the actual quotation, and the original source. It’s Proust’s seven-volume work, Remembrance of Things Past (or In Search of Lost Time). The quotation above is a paraphrase of text in volume 5—The Prisoner—originally published in French, in 1923, and first translated into English by C. K. Moncrief.

In chapter 2 of The Prisoner, the narrator is commenting at length on art, rather than travel. Listening for the first time to a work by the composer Vinteuil, he finds himself transported not to a physical location, but to a wonderful “strange land” of the composer’s own making. “Each artist,” he decides, “seems thus to be the native of an unknown country, which he himself has forgotten. . . .” These artists include composers, such as Vinteuil, and painters, such as the narrator’s friend, Elstir. He continues:

This lost country composers do not actually remember, but each of them remains all his life somehow attuned to it; he is wild with joy when he is singing the airs of his native land, betrays it at times in his thirst for fame, but then, in seeking fame, turns his back upon it, and it is only when he despises it that he finds it when he utters, whatever the subject with which he is dealing, that peculiar strain the monotony of which—for whatever its subject it remains identical in itself—proves the permanence of the elements that compose his soul. But is it not the fact then that from those elements, all the real residuum which we are obliged to keep to ourselves, which cannot be transmitted in talk, even by friend to friend, by master to disciple, by lover to mistress, that ineffable something which makes a difference in quality between what each of us has felt and what he is obliged to leave behind at the threshold of the phrases in which he can communicate with his fellows only by limiting himself to external points common to us all and of no interest, art, the art of a Vinteuil like that of an Elstir, makes the man himself apparent, rendering externally visible in the colours of the spectrum that intimate composition of those worlds which we call individual persons and which, without the aid of art, we should never know? A pair of wings, a different mode of breathing, which would enable us to traverse infinite space, would in no way help us, for, if we visited Mars or Venus keeping the same senses, they would clothe in the same aspect as the things of the earth everything that we should be capable of seeing. The only true voyage of discovery, the only fountain of Eternal Youth, would be not to visit strange lands but to possess other eyes, to behold the universe through the eyes of another, of a hundred others, to behold the hundred universes that each of them beholds, that each of them is; and this we can contrive with an Elstir, with a Vinteuil; with men like these we do really fly from star to star.

So there you have it. Maybe this adds to the meaning of the more-familiar “quotation.” Or maybe it lessens it, in your mind.

Maybe, for you, this is no longer a phrase about travel. Or maybe it is now much, much more so.

[photo: “New Eyes,” by Brian Talbot, used under a Creative Commons license—the photo’s caption at is the “most popular” version of Proust’s words, above]