It’s amazing how many wonderful moments I experienced last year. God gave us the ability to create and understand art, I am learning as I mature how wonderful that gift is.
As the New Year begins, I look back at some of the art that marked and inspired me this year. Divided into books, music, theatre performances, museums/paintings, and podcasts.
Out of the Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis
In my second time reading Out of the Silent Planet I learned an important lesson. In chapter 12 during a conversation between Ransom and Hyoi, Hyoi describes the way his people enjoy life. Contentment comes through a series of events leading to the beauty of the memory as it grows in time. Joy can be found at each moment. Love grows as actions pass into reflection. In my life, the goodness of the past, salvation, and the hope for the future, Christ’s kingdom, keep me grounded in enjoying life.
Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Here, I discovered a book written in my sense of humor about a meaningful topic. Additionally, Vonnegut had an M.A, in Anthropology. The coincidence is too massive to ignore.
The Sound of Waves by Yukio Mishima
I read this in May while beginning a relationship. This book is a classic tale of first love and bravery. The timeline correlation was maybe a little too synchronized for my own health, but I absolutely enjoyed it.
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
I love stories full of whimsy and symbolism, this does both.
Laches by Plato
A little and splendid dialogue. I highly encourage you to set aside an hour or two to read and think about it.
Stranger and Friend by Hortense Powdermaker
An autobiography of one of the most underappreciated female anthropologists of all time. Powdermaker brought light to the world of the emerging anthropologists from the Boasian school. It really inspired me as a young anthropologist to pursue research our of genuine care for others.
The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
This book introduced me to the Enneagram, an ancient personality system first created by Jesuit monks in the 6th century. This book and the Enneagram focuses on spiritual growth, with a purpose of helping people become the people God created them to be.
Love Does by Bob Goff
Here, Bob Goff, an Enneagram type 7 just like me tells stories and inspires me towards love. I cherish this book.
Out in the Storm by Waxahatchee
Waxahatchee’s previous album Ivy Tripp was solid, however, in this album, D.I.Y songwriter Katie Crutchfield reaches a new creative level. I have played the album back to back so many times I cannot remember where the album starts. Within, powerful anthems and winding ballads elaborate a broad spectrum of ideas and emotions.
New Energy by Four Tet
This makes a significant mark as the best instrumental album of the year. It really connects with the depths of human emotion in a way most non-lyrical music struggles to. I recommend studying with it on, or balling your eyes out while listening to my favorite track, “Daughter”.
Locket EP by Crumb
Classic, dreamy and psychedelic. Really good vibes found here.
4:44 by Jay Z
Here, Jay Z shares his most vulnerable and socially aware lyrics of all time. There could be no better time for one of the greatest rappers of all time to speak earnestly about love, authenticity, leadership, leaving a legacy. Furthermore, he created some of my favorite music videos all year.
DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar
Most of my family would be skeptical of any album entitled DAMN. with a parental advisory label, so if you are reading this, y’all are likely right. Nonetheless after K-dot’s masterpiece album To Pimp a Butterfly, he continues to dives deeper into subjects of his faith and racial inequality.
Other Songs and Albums of Note (not all from 2017):
Flying Microtonal Banana by King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard – An entire album of using instruments tuned to microtones. King Gizzard released five critically acclaimed albums last year, I need to catch up still, if only because they are the future of rock.
Harp Family Hymnbook vol. 1 & 2 – A wonderful collection of hymns rendered artistically and whimsically.
Teens of Denial by Car Seat Headrest – Quite possibly my favorite album of all time, so I wanted to mention it again.
Willowbank by Yumi Zouma – Excellent dream pop.
A Deeper Understanding by The War on Drugs
Juju Music by King Sunny Ade – I picked this vinyl in the fall. Classic juju, by the creator of juju.
The Curious Savage
This was my first performance as an actor since primary school, so essentially my first. I could never have asked for a better play to perform, or crew to perform it with. The friendships I made during this time are some of the most valuable. Watch out, don’t break your neck!
Romeo and Juliet
I saw this at Shakespeare’s Globe in London. How rad?! This performance really brought life to the play, conviviality to my heart. It also completely trampled all over the traditions of Shakespearean theater in a classic way, music by AWOLNATION included. I see myself coming back to London to see many more shows.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
I only have great things to say about Brevity Troupe. Shameless plug: come to our next play, Parfumerie!
I saw this at the Phoenix Theater, the performance was truly compelling. I was brought to tears by Santa Fe at the end of the first act. Jack Kelley was crushed seeing his plan and the risk the Newsies took smashed by Pulitzer. His hope was broken and he sang wistfully of Santa Fe, the place he’d always dreamed to go. He was trying to run away because failing here hurt so much. He found hope there and felt none in New York, despite all the people he loved. His alienation, fear and loneliness spoke to me. He’s a big dreamer, which part of why his friends were all drawn to him, but why they stayed is because he loves and cares. Out of his feeling of inadequacy, or fear of failing them, he convinces himself that the best alternative is escape.
Hopelessness in the current reality is something I related to at the time. I knew what Jack the character was feeling, and it compels me because I have been compelled as he was. He was unaware that while his intentions were good, a new plan, a distant idyllic plan would offer the same opportunity and pain of the situation. It was time for him, and me, to realize reality: stop creating new dreams and start dreaming bigger with the one in front of you.
The Getty Center – L.A.
I went here on a weekend trip with my best friend Mitchell. The post-impressionist art impacted me most. I remember us both being particularly compelled by a painting of Albert Cahnen d’Anvers by Renoir. He was a young art enthusiast like us, his eyes, full of passion.
Royal Institute of Fine Arts – Brussels
In my second visit (the first being September 2016), my suspicion was confirmed the Vincent Van Gogh’s skill in lighting is still underappreciated as is Theo Van Rhysselberghe in general. See the portrait of a peasant below.
Heard Museum – Phoenix
This was also great. I went here with Brionna. I rarely do tours but I didn’t regret this one because the guide was extremely informative and kind. He gave some real depth to the anthropological side of things. I look forward to spending more time here.
99% Invisible – One of the best podcasts ever. Great insight on all kinds of design.
The Allusionist – Words! Apropos words, there is no podcast more sublime.
Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History – I like the feeling of sitting around the campfire while Dan Carlin talks about the wildest stories of history.
Common Sense (also Dan Carlin) – Also, Dan talks about politics, and it is also wild. One of the best thinkers alive.
The White Horse Inn – The faith-building theology of this podcast has been lovely, even when I disagree on some points.
Typology – Ian Cron author of the aforementioned book The Road Back to You hosts this. The interviews with Richard Rohr, Bob Goff, and Rob Bell all shook me.
Thank you all for reading this list. God bless!
Have you created any lists of your own? Share it here! Perhaps I may add films and videos at another point.