I never learned music theory. And I have discovered since going down this path that most of my fellow guitarists have the same story. I learned chord shapes— never what notes were in a chord and how to get to those notes— and I learned songs. And don’t get me wrong, I loved playing guitar all those years and if you put a chord chart in front of me, I could play along with comfort.
But I never knew my scales, never knew how to solo, never knew what a key was and what chords were in it.
Last year I picked up a ukulele. I wanted one for a while, got some birthday cash, and bought a uke. And then I discovered that there were very few apps for looking up chords for uke. And I, of course, didn’t know how to do it myself. I needed an app. So I decided to build one. Couldn’t be too hard.
I learned how chords work. How they are based on the major and minor scales. A major chord is a formula. The first, third, and fifth notes of the major scale.
This app, Selah Chords, launched late last year and has seen thousands of downloads. Not only does it support uke, but it supports almost anything with strings and frets, from 3-strings up to 7-strings. Add custom tunings or use the built-in ones and it does the work for you in finding dozens of voicings— ways to play a chord— up and down the neck of your instrument.
But that app opened me up to theory. My brain was bubbling. For one, I suddenly understood musical keys. That major scale— take a C major with C, D, E, F, G, A, B— also gave you chords that sounded good together. Specifically— to start with— C major, D minor, E minor, F major, G major, A minor, and B diminished. I got there because of math. Take that, bullies! All of a sudden I could grab an instrument, plug in it’s tuning, and play a chord progression that sounded good. And so I bought a mandolin before launching Selah Chords too.
Much of what went into Selah Chords was under the hood. Hidden, below the surface. I could surface chord intervals— look at the expanded chord library view and you’ll see I III V under major chord, I iii V under minor chord, etc.— and surface the notes in a chord under the charts, but I didn’t want to make Selah Chords into a bloated app. Other apps do that. Tuners, scales, arpeggios, chords, and more all shoved into one small interface. Hard to navigate, ugly, and unusable.
So from day one, Selah Chords was the first app. And this weekend I announced the second app. Selah Scales is coming later this year. And I am learning so much more to build this. Last year I struggled when I was told an F# major seventh chord didn’t have an F in it, but an E#. It did because the F# major scale is F#, G#, A#, B, C#, D#, F. The formula for the major seventh chord is I III V VII, so F#, A#, C#, and F. Now, through math and readability, I’ve come to understand that the F should be rendered E#. Having two F’s— one sharp, one natural— in a key is a no-no. I am now understanding why some scales are rendered only with sharps and others only with flats— double sharps and double flats being the primary reason.
Once again, I can only surface a small fraction of what I have built into the engine, but what you will get in Selah Scales will help you grow musically, give you access to scales you may have never known about— especially if my journey is your journey—, and start to help you find the fascinating quirks of theory that I have come to the hard way— math, crazy scribbles on whiteboards, and rambling insanity that my lovely wife has had to put up with.
When something that you didn’t get before suddenly clicks.
I was told last year, when working on Selah Chords, that the F# Major 7 chord doesn’t have an F in it, but an E#.
Now if you, like me, blinked twice, you might also be a guitar player. Sorry.
I was told this is because the F# scale doesn’t have an F, but an E#. Still didn’t make sense, but because the individual was smarter than me, I made a complex system to fix this and other odd notes with no understanding of why.
Fast forward to today and I’m building a scales ap— #spoilers. And I rendered the tablature for an F# major scale.
F# G# A# B C# D# F
Well, that looks weird having two Fs…
And so it clicked. And now I better understand the “why” and can build a better system to handle these enharmonic notes.
Meditation has become a life hack to the gospel of self-optimization. Akin to an eerie scene from a Black Mirror episode, we’re powered up from meditation and optimized as human capital to increase our net productivity. Meditation apps are just one more tool in our toolbox to help raise a generation of lean, mean, production machines. But it’s having the opposite effect. By forcing even nature’s spacious, awe-inspiring beauty into the claustrophobic confines of personal productivity, we further reinforce the notion that the world revolves around us and our optimized utility. That is a heavy burden indeed, and it’s not making us happier.
The Gospel Coalition
Meditation should not be about you.
One of the earliest forms of mindfulness in the Bible was practiced by Israel’s King David more than 3,000 years ago. When he considered creation around him, unmediated by technology, he contemplated its wonder. David didn’t know then what NASA tells us now about our tiny place in a vast cosmos: We are one of 7.7 billion people who inhabit Earth. The earth and sun are part of the solar system. Our sun is one of at least one 100 billion stars in the Milky Way. The Milky Way galaxy is just one of a hundred billion galaxies in the universe.
A meditation focused on finding one’s better self inside and centering oneself is always going to come up wanting. Why? Because there is no better self inside us. Our best is still like filthy rags. Our hearts are deceitful above all else. Our flesh literally wants that which is against God.
Biblical meditation focuses on God and our relationship with Him. Less of me and more of God. And so, modern meditation is not godly. It is innately selfish and will not produce fruit. It is not compatible with the Bible in any way.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon, and the stars, which you have set in place, what is mankind that you are mindful of them? Human beings that you care for them?
We are small. Insignificant to the galaxy. A grain of sand on a beach. But:
Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him dominion over the works of your hands;
you have put all things under his feet,
all sheep and oxen,
and also the beasts of the field,
the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea,
whatever passes along the paths of the seas.
O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Our purpose is not found in us. Our meaning is not found in us. Betterment is not found in us. Peace is not found in us. Contentment is not found in us. These things and more are found in the Creator of all things.
I woke to this picture. A picture of a child. And this quote:
“A life is not saved just by letting it be born” let that sit in your conscious.
The clear inference being that this child should have been aborted before he or she ended up in the place he or she is in.
And I wept.
My brother and I were adopted when we were 5 days old. I don't know much about our birth parents but we could have been this child. I could have been this child, told that I would be better dead than poor.
How calloused must you be to say that a child is better off dead? How cold must you be to say that this child is better off dead?
Why not just round them up now? All the orphans, all the foster kids that aren't wanted, all the poor, all the disordered and all the disabled. Round them up, put them in a room, tell them they are going to get a shower. And then gas them.
What the fuck is the difference?
I am not better off dead. This child is not better off dead.
We are not pawns in your fucked up unholy war. No. We are human beings; living, breathing, feeling, created in the Image of God, dignity-deserving human beings.
LifeHacker has a great article on how to automatically donate a portion of your Amazon Purchases to pro-abortion organizations, so I thought I’d share it with a little help for those of us disgusted by the killing of babies and want to help women and children in need out.
If you’re an Amazon customer and you’re disgusted with the onslaught of [babies], you can set your account to directly support [pro-life] organizations.
Through Amazon’s “Smile” program, you can choose from more than a million non-profit organizations that are qualified to receive a portion of Amazon’s sales in support of their mission.
The AmazonSmile Foundation donates .5% of the purchase price from eligible orders (that’s 50 cents for every $100 you spend), which admittedly is not much. But it does add up; Amazon reports that charities have received nearly $125 million, as of February 2019.
To set up your Smile account, go to the “Accounts and Lists” drop-down menu on Amazon’s homepage and then click “Your AmazonSmile.” From there, you can’t browse a full list of charities, but you can search for an organization to support by entering its name in the search field.
If you are in the Saint Louis area, I highly recommend searching for “Mosaic Pregnancy & Health Centers” in Granite City, Illinois, a great local organization that helps women.
When you’re placing an order, eligible products will be marked “Eligible for AmazonSmile donation” on their product detail pages. For your order to count, you have to place it through smile.amazon.com rather than the regular Amazon homepage.
Go make a difference and support women and children in tough situations.
Many U.S. political leaders may think of abortion as a key “women’s issue,” but it is not an issue about which women have substantially different attitudes than men.
Gallup, June 2018
44% of women identify as pro-life. Look at the comment threads on major news pages and you'll see just as many women as men speaking out against abortion and in support of these recent heartbeat laws.
Gender is not an indicator of whether one will support abortion or not. Worldview is. Religion is.
Don’t let the talking heads stir up a division that doesn’t exist.
This morning I’m reading more about our neighbor state’s abortion bill, which passed the Senate last night. This part makes me so happy to see:
Other provisions in the wide-ranging abortion bill include a ban on abortions based on race, sex or a "prenatal diagnosis, test, or screening indicating Down Syndrome or the potential of Down Syndrome."
Outlawing the systematic eradication of children with Down Syndrome is one of the most appalling things going on in the US. We literally have tests early in a pregnancy to detect potential “defects” that then the doctors use to persuade mothers to kill their children. This bill outlaws that practice. I couldn’t be happier.
Seeing the outrage reminds me of how outraged individuals were over losing the right to own slaves.
A lawless president has inspired lawless legislatures. Our laws are crystal clear the government cannot come between a [man] & [his property].
[This] will cost Alabama [men] their [livelihood], and threatens the [property] rights of [men] across the country. We must fight back, and our next president must act to enshrine [slavery] into law.
57% of voters think [slavery] should stay in place, poll says
You know what? Sometimes the law is morally wrong.
Slavery was legal. 100%. No question. It was legal. But it was morally wrong. So we fought to overturn that and free slaves to give them the same rights we held to be self-evident.
Those are the same rights that the unborn have. Not the same rights they deserve, not the same rights they will one day get: the same rights that they have. We are infringing on their pre-existing— not made-by-the-government— rights. Just as we were the slaves. Exactly the same.
Fewer words and more intentional questions go a long way in conversations and debates.
In both, conversations and debates, your intent should be to understand one another.
In a conversation, you want to understand one another so that you are not in disagreement and you get closer.
In a debate, you want to understand one another so that you can find what you disagree on and lay a persuasive argument.
All too often I see online debates and conversations starting with assumptions and arguing from there. Often wordy, long-winded, hard-to-follow exaltations. Sometimes the assumptions are right, but usually, they are simply strawmen. An assumed position for your opponent.
The foundation of debate is the definition of terms. Without an agreed-on definition, one can— and often does— disagree semantically and think they are disagreeing on the topic.
So my recommendation: Use fewer words and ask more intentional questions. Understand one another first. You cannot disagree with what you don’t understand.
Let’s start with something that no one can argue with. If I know all the variables going into an equation, I can know the outcome. This is an undeniable truth.
Could you imagine if you dropped a ball and instead of falling, sometimes it went straight up? No, no you couldn’t. The universe follows logical patterns. Outcomes are predictable and reproducible.
Sweet, let’s touch the touchy argument. Are people predictable?
We learned in grade school that everything works off cause and effect. Do people? Of course they do, says science. But philosophically, we desire to inject "free will" into the equation, don’t we?
I walk into a room. Three doors are in front of me. I must choose one. Can someone predict which one I’ll choose? Not easily. Now, if the doors are decorated with things and one is decorated in a way I am known to prefer, and I am a trustworthy person that doesn’t expect it to be a trap, I might have a high likelihood of choosing that door. But what if they are all just plain wooden doors? And I don’t believe in numerology. And I wasn’t coerced/lead to choosing a specific one.
I will always choose the one I choose. Why? Cause and effect. But what if a puppy is in the room? That’s a new variable. I might choose a different one. Given the same equation and the same variables, we can expect the same outcome.
But can someone predict which one I’ll choose? Only if they know all the variables.
Wait. So you are telling me that I don’t have free will?
No, that’s not what I said. Go back and read. I’ll wait.
You said I will always choose the one I choose! That means I couldn’t have chosen the other two doors. So I don’t have free will.
No, you do have free will. And you freely and willingly chose the door you chose. You were free to choose the others. You just never would have.
Free will is perception. I don’t get caught up on the term, personally, but others do. It is perception. Are you making a choice? You feel like you are, so I’d say you are. But the outcome is determined by all the variables going into the equation, so you are making an ultimately logical choice.
If your brain hurts or you need to have an existential crisis, take five minutes to breathe.
People are totally depraved. No one is capable of good. This is a basic Christian premise. If you disagree, I urge you to press on. Only part of what I want to say has to do with very Christian concepts. That is one of them. If it makes you feel more comfortable, let me put it this way: within evolutionary science, the claim is made that all things we do are for survival. Survival of ourselves and survival of our species. If that is so, we are making all decisions, even good ones for selfish reasons. Better? Okay, let’s continue.
It would be correct to say that people are capable of all sorts of evil. It would be incorrect to say that all people are capable of all sorts of evil. One word difference, but massive implication difference.
So why? See point number one.
Are all people capable of all sorts of evil? What does that mean? Grab a sampling of people. Random— which is impossible because of point one, but I digress. Okay. Are all these people capable of all the same evil? No. That guy over there is capable of murder. So is that gal. But not the rest. Those three are capable of rape. But not the rest.
Note the tense. Capable of. Present tense. I cannot speak to the future. We can make predictions, but outside of a controlled environment, we cannot predict what variables will change the individual's character— an effect— that can lead to the capability of evil they are currently incapable of. With me? I’m not predicting the future. Only the present. Okay.
So why are these people capable and these people are not. Point number one was that everything is cause and effect. If we can know every variable going into an equation, we can know the outcome of the equation. Right? And people are ultimately predictable. They just are.
But only if you know all the variables.
Okay, so we know why these people are capable and these people are not. Based on their lives up to this point, through the course of billions, maybe trillions, of causes and effects, they are where they are. They can make no choice but the one they can make.
Please stop squirming. I gave you enough time to have that existential crisis earlier.
The real questions are how do we know which are capable and which are not. We are not omnipresent and omniscient. We are not everywhere and we don’t know everything. True. Can we know?
Character and Integrity
People are remarkably consistent. As one can assume based on what I have said thus far. But you know this from your own life. Your best friend is nearly predictable. You can finish each other’s sandwiches. You are seldom surprised by their actions and reactions.
Why? Don’t they have the free will to do the completely unpredictable? Okay, I’m picking on you. Free will is a lie.
But you see it don’t you? Why is this? Character and integrity. Character is the attributes and features that make up an individual. Integrity is their level of consistency with ethical and moral positions. Over time, the closer we get to someone, the more we learn their character and integrity. They become less spontaneous and less random. Because they never were.
And as we learn about and become closer to them, we can— with more and more confidence— expect their reaction to certain situations. I can ask you if you were stuck in a specific scenario, who would you want with you.
So can we predict what evil they are incapable of? Yes, with high probability, the closer we know them. Why? Because we know more and more of the variables.
It would be correct to say that people are capable of all sorts of evil. It would be incorrect to say that all people are capable of all sorts of evil. One word differences, but massive implication differences.
Is my best friend capable of evil? Yes, of course. But all sorts of evil? No. I know her better. I could have missed something. Or she could have been hiding something. Or I could just think the worst of people. But my perception doesn’t change the variables.
Believing that some people— maybe most people— are not capable of a specific evil doesn’t go against total depravity. It fits with everything we know about the universe.
But only if we know people can we see this. We can only know someone if we get to know them. And only if we build into people can we change the world.