New Name!

I’ve been trying for a while to choose a new name for this blog.  Nothing really stood out to me for a while, though I believe I may have settled on a winner, or at least a temporary one.  In my search for a new title, I first turned to movie quotes, because movies are important to me and have shaped who I am in ways that can only be explained in multiple blog posts down the line.  I suppose I could have looked at Bible verses first, since there’s no denying that they have had a far deeper impact on my life than any movie, but because this blog deals mostly with pop culture, a movie quote makes more sense.  The focus of this blog is more often than not movies, though I do strive to write about them through my Christian worldview (often not successfully enough, but I’m learning).  The first quote I looked at immediately got my attention and won me over.

“Coulda Been a Contender” comes from a classic movie from 1954 called On the Waterfront, about a boxer (Marlon Brando) who fights corruption in the longshoreman’s union.  The line my title comes from is near the end, when Brando’s character, Terry, is confronted by his brother, who is complicit in the union corruption.  Terry tells his brother:

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

I was drawn to this quote as a title for several reasons.  First of all, there’s the obvious “a bum” connection.  For those who don’t know, my name is Aaron Bumgarner, and people often call me Bum or, more rarely, A-Bum.  A humbling nickname to be sure, but I’ve embraced it.  The fact that Brando literally says my nickname in a classic movie quote was too good to pass up.

Also, choosing “Coulda Been a Contender” hones in on my love not just for movies but for the culture of movies.  “I coulda been a contender” is a quote that’s considered a classic and holds special meaning for any movielover.  It comes from a revered movie and is uttered by the actor that not only helped to usher in a new style of movie acting but is often credited as The Best Actor Ever*.  It’s this lasting significance the quote has that points to why I love movies: they have an effect not just on me, but on culture, and sometimes the world.

Interesting fact: I’ve never seen On the Waterfront.  But that also makes “Coulda Been a Contender” an appropriate title- it’s a movie I need to see, one more in the vast landscape of pop culture I have yet to experience and digest, which seems to be what this blog has wound up being about.  I may change it someday when I find something else that wins me over, something that fits this blog better.  Until then, this will do quite nicely.

*I love Brando, but this is a ridiculous statement.  The movies aren’t sports- you can’t quantify acting like you can quantify how many shots a player makes or how many balls he’s caught or how many matches she’s won.  And even in sports there’s something intangible that goes beyond quantifiables- the stat-heavy Celtics-Heat game last night is one example.  There were plenty of great statistical performances (poor Rondo gave his all in that loss…44 points!), but it’s going to be remembered for what it meant: the near end of the Celtics Big Three, Miami coming together as a team, Rondo showing that he doesn’t need Boston’s veterans anymore to be a star, more support for the idea that all NBA refs shouldn’t have jobs, etc.  We shouldn’t think in terms of superlatives or statistics, but rather attempt to more fully articulate what’s actually happened, both in how experiences have changed us and how they’ve changed the immediate world.  For example, instead of saying Brando is The Best Actor Ever, wouldn’t it be better to describe his performances and why they’ve meant so much to us, the effects they’ve had on the world we live in?

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So I didn’t write on this

Remember how I said I’d probably write on this once a week?  Of course you don’t, you didn’t read that post.  You’re probably not reading this post either.  To be honest, I don’t expect too many people to read my blog.  Maybe my mother will.  I’m assuming my girlfriend will read this.  If she doesn’t, who will?  But I won’t blame anyone for not reading it.  I’ll just tell myself it’s their loss. Of course when I fail to follow through on a simple statement like “I’ll probably write on this once every week,” I can’t expect any avid readers.

I feel like there are other goals I’ve failed to follow through on.  Strangely enough, I can’t remember any of them.  Maybe that’s why I didn’t follow through on them.  Or maybe I’ve just blocked out any memory of failing.  Actually, right now I’m looking at my goals for last fall.  “Seek solitude with God for one hour every weekend.”  Nope.  “Fast one day every week- only to seek Him better.”  Fail.  “Review all notes the day you take them, come up with questions to ask during class.”  Um, no.  But don’t worry, I failed in all areas, even the minor ones- “Watch every Sooners and Dallas Cowboys game.”  Couldn’t even follow through on the easy ones.

There were goals for the fall that I did succeed at.  “Have $250 left in savings to use for next spring.”  Check.  “Read one book every month.”  Nailed it.  Wait- wow, that’s it.  Those are the only goals I reached.  Luckily, I almost reached a lot of my goals.  That counts for something, right?

So maybe a good first blog post for 2012 would be “Most of the Goals I Somewhat Expect to Almost Reach Maybe”:

Run 5 miles at a time by March

You heard it here, folks: running is good for you.  I could take up some space by explaining why scientifically, but I don’t want to bore you*.  I hear it helps you lose weight and stuff.  You should try it too.  But seriously, I love running.  It’s strangely relaxing- is that weird?  I want to be able to run 5 miles in one outing by March, 3 times a week.  I also want to discover the method of running on a treadmill that doesn’t make me terrified of slipping off the back and faceplanting.  But we can’t have everything.  One goal at a time.

Fast for 24 hours every two weeks

Fasting is for men, and I am but a boy.  However, I know I was created a man, and I intend to strive for biblical manhood.  While there may be no straight-up command to fast for Christians, Jesus assumes that we will fast (Matt 6:16-18).  And yet I do not fast, nor have I thought about it much in nearly a year.  In Darrin Patrick’s book Church Planter, he gives fasting as an example of a practice that cultivates dependence on God.  I know that this dependence is something I need more of.  It is something I will always need more of.

This is the last time I will mention fasting until after the semester- I have no desire to draw any more attention to this than necessary.

Play the piano 5 hours a week

Where on earth will I find 5 hours in my week?  The answer to this I do not know, but I do know that I need some sort of creative outlet, and I do know that I love playing the piano, and I do know that my sister is letting me take her keyboard back to Norman.  Therefore, this goal should be simple, barring studying emergencies due to crazy test scheduling.  I want to start with pretentious classical pieces, then work in some more accessible songs, maybe some by Animal Collective.  That’s funny because Animal Collective isn’t accessible.  If you’re wondering who Animal Collective is, that’s why they’re not accessible.

Find a 10-20 hour job by April

This one I’m pretty lenient on.  The last thing I want to do is work.  More on my laziness in a later blog post.

Write on this at least once every week

I chose this one because it was so successful last year.  Forgetting about 2011 for a second, I’ve thought seriously about writing in this blog for a long time.  I’ve never really understood how blogs become popular.  Do people really attract readers to their blogs who aren’t their friends or family?  How do they do that?  I’ve often thought that blogging takes a certain amount of ego (you have to think that what you have to say is important enough for people to read), a certain amount of time (this post alone has taken me about an hour and a half- I don’t have that kind of time during the school semester), and a certain amount of writing skill (I’d love to see the looks on my past English teachers’ faces if they heard that I’m writing a blog).  I’m not sure I have any of those things (except the ego); I really just have a desire to write.  I want to get my ideas out in words.  Maybe someday I’d like to write fiction, a book or short stories.  Maybe I’ll write about movies and books and music.  Maybe I’ll try some stream of consciousness, avant-garde writing**.  I don’t really know what I’m going to do with this blog, but I most definitely intend to write in it.  If you keep reading, maybe I’ll surprise us both with what ends up getting posted.

I promise future blog posts will be more straightforward, less jokey, and more focused.  Well, most of them.  I honestly don’t know what my plans are for this blog.  I plan to write, and that’s all I know.  Stick with me while I figure out just what I’m doing- it should be sort of an adventure.

*I don’t know why

**probably not

learning to be teachable

Hey everyone, I’m starting this blog because I want to keep people updated on the progress of my trip to SE Asia.  The trip is not for a while (though coming fast- we leave May 21!), but I want to let you all in on how God is preparing me for the experience.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to write in this when I’m there, but I can at least give you a glimpse of what God is doing in my heart now as I gear up to leave.

I named the blog learningtobeteachable because that’s been a theme of this year for me.  I have a lot of pride (mostly because I’m really cool)*.  One of the ways my pride manifests itself is through my desire to know everything, or, more accurately, to be right about everything.  It’s hard for me to concede that I’m wrong about anything, and if I do, I usually still think in the back of my head that I’m right.  I do this with movies, with theology, with music, with sports, with anything, really.  Even now, as I write this, I’m thinking of times when people disagreed with me and I had to admit I was wrong, and I’m saying to myself, “No, I was right.”  I’m pathetic!

Learning to be teachable means that I am discovering how to humble myself and learn from others.  A man who works at a shelter in Oklahoma City opened my eyes to this recently: I will never know everything there is to know.  I can fill my mind with all sorts of facts and figures, I can repeat a Scripture over and over, I can read as many books as I can find time for, and still there will be an infinite amount of knowledge I haven’t uncovered.  I can’t even fathom how much growing I have left.

Here’s what I want to look like as I learn to be teachable: I want to talk less and listen more.  I want to truly pay attention to what people are saying and figure out what I can learn from them.  I want to study the people around me, not as objects of my desire for knowledge, but as real people that I need to love.  I want to learn how to love them better, to love them like Christ loved people in His life, which started with a knowledge of who those people were in their hearts.  I want to be able to sit down at a table in a homeless shelter and listen to a man tell me the hard story of his life and recognize that nothing I have sets me above him.  My social status and economic well-being?  Rubbish.  My education and job?  Rags.  The only thing I have is Christ.

And the crazy thing is, because I’m rich, that homeless man will ALWAYS know Him better than I do.

I don’t know anything.

I’m going to go to SE Asia to spread the Word of God to an unreached people.  I expect to go in there and be challenged.  I hope I don’t live like a rich man while I’m there.  I hope we sleep in tents most nights.  I hope we’re removed from our creature comforts.  I want to meet the people in that country with the goal of giving them truth and the expectation that I will learn something from them too.  I want to be the man who heard Jesus preach and grew: “‘He who has ears to hear, let him hear.'” -Matthew 11:15

I want to grow.

Thanks for reading.  I’ll probably post on this about once every week.

*disregard this completely