It’s easy to get lost in this world even while pursuing a clear objective. Running into so many trees you lose perspective regarding the forest as a whole; unwillingly embodying the old joke about how when you’re up to your neck in alligators difficulty ensues remembering the original objective was draining the swamp. It happens.

At such times it helps referring not to what you should be doing, but why you should be doing it. Clarity comes from purpose; purpose is rooted in core beliefs. With this in mind, time to look at the oft neglected cornerstone that should be at the heart of what we do in this odd little realm of blogs and social media.

Some years ago, back when I harbored hallucinations of joining cyberspace’s high rollers, I came up with what I called the four tenets of the blogging evangel. They were:

  1. The ability to broadcast an opinion neither elevates nor validates said opinion.
  2. Blog from and for the heart, not the wallet.
  3. Answer your email every time all the time.
  4. Never become what you profess to oppose. Never.

These are quite self-explanatory, methinks. Especially in noting how following them permanently relegated me to the blogosphere’s, and social media’s, far sidelines. But I digress. To brusquely summarize, the eighty-fifth post/status update/tweet today yelling about how Obama is a poooyhead and/or Trump is a meanypants, all while offering rip and read analysis from the same ripped and read mainstream news story everyone else has ripped and read, doesn’t add anything to the public discourse. Neither did the other eighty-four. Try finding something worth your, and the reader’s, time. Something that matters. Something that gives something more than bait with which to lure sycophants into boosting your visibility within the echo chamber. Have a reason worth considering.

Here’s mine.

I’ve been a Christian since 1975, and a passionate fan/supporter of Jesus Music/contemporary Christian music/whatever you want to call it since then. I spent several years from the late 1980s through the mid 1990s as a journalist covering the music scene, this time period including numerous interviews with, and feature stories written about, many of the genre’s top artists, all published in the era’s leading magazines.

I drifted away from the scene in the mid 1990s, disillusioned by several people involved in it at different levels and also extremely unhappy with myself and how I had occasionally acted. I came back to the music, and into a walk with Christ that was something more than lip service, in 2005 at a concert featuring several of the ’80s-’90s bands I had loved back in the day. I later interviewed many of the artists from that era and published my work in book form; info at http://godsnotdeadbook.com I also have an online radio show, with info for same at http://cephashour.com

The bands and artists I loved – Larry Norman, Undercover, The 77s, Daniel Amos, The Choir, and dozens more – were bold both musically and lyrically. They addressed subjects like failed relationships, death, suicide, racism, sexual perversion, and other topics usually considered too hot for discussion within Christian circles. They did so understanding and accepting it would permanently put them on the outer fringe of Christian music; minimal airplay, far fewer concert opportunities, a lot fewer Christian bookstores carrying their records. But they did it anyway, because it was their calling.

I don’t listen to much current music of any genre; don’t have as much patience or time as once was the case to seek out the latest and greatest. I’m sure there’s some terrific new Christian rock and pop out there. But I will always hold on to my beloved classic Christian rock. It truly is the soundtrack of my life, and it has been a faithful companion in my walk with Christ. It remains vital and fresh. It can, and does, still bless people. Promoting it, getting and keeping it out there, is my purpose in the online world. It is my fundamental.

What’s yours?

My late father was fond of many truisms. One of his favorites was, “Keep your words sweet; you might have to eat them.” Being one who has far too many times made a meal out of self-baked Alpha Bits, I fully testify to the aforementioned statement’s accuracy.

This came to mind yesterday when learning of John McCain’s battle with brain cancer. Cancer in any form is hideous; brain cancer is an unspeakable obscenity. Given McCain’s age and health history, it is impossible to envision this being anything but a brief, final battle before his ascending into eternity.

As a career moderate, one willing to work both sides of the aisle, McCain has garnered more than a few detractors at each end of both aisles. On the right, McCain has been routinely pilloried as the RINOs RINO, a squish benignly or actively bulldozing every hill upon which red pill poppers choose to make today’s final stand; tune in tomorrow for the new indignation du jour. On the left … eh, it’s the left. What aren’t they indignant about? But I digress.

It’s sadly predictable how, in a world where “Obama is a POOPYHEAD!” and “Trump is a MEANYPANTS!” passes as political discourse, the armchair politicians have not universally disarmed themselves in favor of prayer and support for a man now fighting his greatest battle. Be it damning with faint praise via tacking a grievance diatribe onto a get-well wish, or proclaiming McCain’s condition as karma come home to roost, haters gonna hate. And how. Hope they never take ill.

Like it or not, we are known by the company we keep. Those who herald the snarkbelcher for being cool and edgy and speaking truth to power abandon all claims of innocent bystanding when the worm turns. Make no mistake; the worm will turn … after it metamorphosises into a dragon.

Those who blog, post, and tweet as they please with total disregard for the humanity of others will in time discover that which they believed granted immunity from their own words’ consequences was transitory. The day will come when that rock solid, self-made (to whatever degree it actually was, this as opposed to whatever degree we perceive it to be) career will both blow up and throw up in our faces. That immovable object of a third party or outside corporation we’ve built upon? It will move, downsize, change direction, or simply fold altogether. That in-demand, on-demand skill set we have laboriously acquired? Seemingly overnight it will become faded fish wrap, dated and discarded. Your status as the hot hand, the heartthrob, the heavy hitter? As The Eagles succinctly put it decades ago, where’ve you been lately? There’s a new kid in town. Everybody loves him, don’t they. And he’s holding her … and you’re still around.

Remember conservative new media’s early days when all were welcome? Now, CNM is CNN minus a spot on the local cable network, stratified and tied to a totem pole. Used to be we called ourselves an army of Davids. Well, Goliath is still standing, and our slingshot ammo consists of yelling at Jake Tapper on Twitter.

Relying on the new corporation, same as the old corporation (ratings/website hits are KING!) albeit with a different philosophical core as long as it is a solid business model for attracting advertisers, is a risky proposition. An endless drone of opinion pieces makes for an entirely unsatisfying intellectual meal and a dwindling marketplace. Now, there are people in CNM who practice fundamental journalism. They read the bill. They study the transcript. They attend the meeting. They ask direct questions to those directly involved. But these people are the rare exceptions in a morass of clip and comment sludge.

The failure to treat political opponents as people instead of crash test dummies will inevitably consume both its creators and its supporters. As surely as if we signed it ourselves, that which we sign off on will be attached to our names. Therefore, be cautious and circumspect. Fire; a cleansing one but fire nonetheless, is coming. Don’t get burned.

Be careful what you sign.

The words come filtered through digital inkwells; cyberspace cries begging to be heard over the daily din. A tireless worker at keeping the music alive placing her husband in hospice care, his battle with cancer reduced to weary surrender. A friend waiting for his mother to come out of surgery, her diabetes demanding yet another amputation. A contemporary Christian music pioneer huddled with her dementia-laden mother in a friend’s apartment, praying that the panicked repair work on a crumbling spillway holds so they will have a home to return to should the evacuation order be lifted. At such time the Psalmist’s words burn with renewed meaning:

Deep calls to deep
in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me.

Out of pain, joy; out of loss, magic. My father passed away one morning while tending to the shrubbery in front of his house. Before my mother joined him several years later, she unfailingly told of how that morning, as her and my father’s parish priest gave him Last Rites, the largest and most beautiful butterfly she saw in her life gently alighted on my father, rested for a moment, then flew away. Coincidence? Perhaps. Perhaps also a sign of the promised new life through transformation in Christ.

The world is replete with social media popoff pissants, fleck and spittle-stained keyboard weariers (SWIDT) on both side of the political divide slavishly serving this week’s website while selfishly sloughing off this lifetime’s marriage. As said before, their mantra is cry outrage! and let slip the tweets of butthurt. The watchword of this generation is peace, but there is naught but self-promotion.

How long will we neglect what matters in favor of trivial pursuits? How long will vapid political prattle supersede fundamental caring and sharing? It is true that knowledge is power; information is vital. We need to be informed and alert. We need even more to offer the outstretched hand. Without this, without love, we are nothing. And all we do is nothing.