(Part 1 of the word studies related to the Wood Family Covenant. These notes written to organize my thoughts, but will be largely rephrased for kids’ understanding, or so it is to be hoped! This is also a partial answer to an earlier blog, Longing, beyond.)
My family’s childrens’ dictionary defines “happy” as “a feeling of joy or pleasure.” But “happy” is also defined elsewhere as “contentment,” and it is this the definition that one should strive towards. Happiness, as an extended state of bliss, is simply not attainable.
If one were to map out the high and low points of one’s day, or life, it would be a series of ups and downs. If everything was an “up”, it would be a flat line, or “normal” and expected. To have a “high” from there would require an increased level of pleasure beyond the current state. Thus the pursuit of happiness becomes a ratcheting upward climb towards stronger, higher and different pleasures, which in the end is a treadmill of running to stand still. Addictions are an example of this law of diminishing returns.
Thus the importance of gratitude: by living in a sense of thankfulness, one is more able to appreciate the “goods” and pleasures in one’s life, big or small, and remain longer satisfied at the current “plateau” level of happiness. This is contentment.
The fact that we have an appetite for a larger, more fulfilling “good” than we can find through selfish pursuits is an indicator that we ought to pursue a higher good, namely God. He has created each of us with that sense of longing for something beyond what we can find on earth through possessions, sensual pleasures, and horizontal relationships. When we try to fill the God-shaped-hole with anything but God, it is idolatry and will be ultimately unsatisfying.
Wood Family Covenant
Rank/Artist & tags/2011 plays
- Falling You– always a favorite, been in my overall top 10 for years. This music is great for relaxing, and I use it often for that purpose. Most of 2011’s plays came from the new album, Adore. (Falling You’s Magnatune page)
- Within Temptation– While I’ve been a mostly casual fan of Within Temptation for a few years, the release of their album The Unforgiving in March 2011 excited me about this band, as I think this is their best album yet. The symphonic metal style is a little out of place within this top 10, but this album is really more rock and symphony than metal, in my opinion.
- Shiva in Exile– Another Magnatune artist (as is Falling You), this is a new band for me this year. I have been growing in recent years in my appreciation for ethnic music, particularly middle eastern influences. SIE has heavy influences of middle east fused with modern electronic music, creating a very catchy and unusual sound.
- Burial – another new artist for me. I discovered the music of Burial through the social music site www.turntable.fm (as I did #9 Ladytron, #11 Shiny Toy Guns, and many others), after which I purchased their two albums, Burial and Untrue. With a dark ambient sound, heavy electronic processing and vocal sampling, I found myself attracted to this music, listening to the albums on repeat several days in a row.
- Irfan – This is one of the original sources of interest to me of middle-eastern/Arabic-influenced music. I finally bought their albums Irfan (http://www.last.fm/music/Irfan/IRFAN) and Seraphim (http://www.last.fm/music/Irfan/Seraphim). I have not been disappointed!
- Conjure One – Continuing an apparent trend in this year’s top music, I have also discovered this mellow electronic side project of Rhys Fulber (of Delirium and Front Line Assembly fame). Also of no surprise to those that know my music taste (or who glanced at the tags in the list above), most of my favorite music features female vocalists, and while there is no permanent vocalist, Conjure One has many featured female singers (Falling You has a similar rotation of guest vocals.). These singers have a variety of styles and sounds that compliment the accompaniment well.
- Solace – Still on my new music search this year, Solace popped up on my radar during my subscription to Magnatune (www.magnatune.com, home also of Falling You and Shiva in Exile from this list) as an artist similar to Shiva in Exile that I might like. As I would consider this a less “westernized” Arab/Middle-eastern style, it may appeal less to some than does Shiva or Irfan. Indeed, even though it is in my top artists, I must admit that there are no real standout tracks for me to recommend.
- Amethystium – Another longtime favorite, Amethystium is one of those artists I default to when I need something light in the background for reading, studying, or working. Not that this is elevator music, by any means. A variety of world music sounds combine with electronica and New Age styles to make many interesting and different-sounding tracks.
- Ladytron – Having been exposed to Ladytron through www.turntable.fm, my appreciation grew over time as I recognized that my foot tapped to this female-fronted electronic (another trend for me this year) music each time it came up. Spotify and Turntable account for the many plays on this list in 2011.
- Lycia – A steady favorite throughout the years, Lycia has throughout their albums kept my eager interest as the sound morphed from droning guitars and low-key vocals to female-fronted ethereal and experimental when Tara Vanflower came on board. This group steadily stays in top rotation.
- Shiny Toy Guns – Yet another www.turntable.fm discovery for me, I’ve grown to appreciate the style of this group which I was initially inclined to dismiss as another pretentious indie garage band. I’m glad to be wrong; I find that this band has a catchy pop appeal with strong electronica/dance values underneath. A quick favorite (once I gave them a chance!) My expectation of further growth in my esteem earns them an honorary place in the top 10.
(view last year’s here: http://jkw00d.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/my-top-10-musical-artists-2010/)