Switching narrators – Matthew E. White

A fascinating reminder that readers/listeners can choose to interpret whatever they want from your words…

I’m not a Christian. That seems to be a lot of people’s understanding. I think that happened because of the last four minutes of ‘Brazos’ on the last record. I was coming out of nowhere and a lot of people wrote about that record without talking to me. That song is not of an honest narrator, it’s not me as a narrator – I see it as very ambiguous and much more darkly ironic with a lot of question marks and a lot more nuance than the original set of reviewers wrote about. Since then, I have to chase that a little bit. Which is perfectly fine. That is the nature of songs – they cease to be yours and when you’re doing things like switching narrators and you don’t make it abundantly clear or you leave things up to interpretation and nuance, then sometimes people get it wrong. That’s okay. But now that I’ve had a chance to talk to people about it then hopefully I’ll make myself understood. Because whatever questions you may have that relate to me being a Christian will now change now that you know that I’m not.

I don’t say that I’m not a Christian in any kind of aggressive anti-faith way. I’m sympathetic to any faith-based community and I’ve had really wonderful experiences in that community. All of my family is in that community – most of them professionally – and I say that more to be respectful to people who do use that title because, to someone like my parents, it means the world to them. That is what their life is. It’s purely that but I don’t want to be called that when I’m not doing what I think you need to do to use that title. And I really say that in a non-aggressive way. I’m not really bothered to be called a Christian – I don’t see that as a bad adjective but it’s just an inaccurate one.

Read the full Interview here.

Giddy, yes we can euphoria

“I’m not looking for euphoria…” says Ed at around 11 mins 40 seconds.

And then he says “Change is hard, change takes time.”

I’m not convinced by too many politicians, I am even less convinced by celebrities who think they speak for ‘us’ but, there are some fascinating points in this interview.

Avoiding euphoria has been a crucial part of building community and audience around coffee and Ballymena for us.

Slowly, on our terms, always learning and listening.

It would be too easy to generate hype…’Giddy, yes we can euphoria.’ If we wanted to do that we would record an interview with a celebrity, craft an 8ft limestone tablet with our vision carved into it… or less dramatically, build an app, plan a big event, run a marketing campaign, hire a PR company.

All of that is easy! Change takes time but, it also takes focus and honesty.

Speciality Coffee in Northern Ireland

Its over a year since we set up www.coffeeni.com

It’s looked like this: Charting the growth of coffee shops and coffee trends, posting nice pictures of coffee on Instagram, tasting coffee and sharing our opinions, asking coffee people to share their stories… and, building an audience around the broad brush stroke that is a ‘love for coffee.’

Coffee shops are ‘on trend’ with lots of new openings in the past 18 months. We could say lots about this.

Words like speciality and artisan continue to be mis-understood and mis-used so, on one hand the arrival of new shops is great but also potentially terrible if better practise is ignored in favour of brand popularity and monetary success. I know… that is probably harsh!

Speciality coffee excites us… we could say lots about this as well but for now, it’s worth pointing out that in Northern Ireland the community of ‘coffee professionals’ who are in the speciality category is tiny.

I have not said enough on www.coffeeni.com to protect and encourage it, partly because I’m not a ‘coffee professional’ and like it or not, there is a tension surrounding people who don’t work in the industry talking about the industry.

We’ve been thinking over these challenges this week so we are quitting our jobs to open a coffee shop!

Ok, that isn’t true…

We will say more about speciality coffee in Northern Ireland soon though…


Not voting

A few weeks ago I was telling people I probably wouldn’t vote in the upcoming election… even this week after viewing the UTV election debate from Northern Ireland I concluded that I’m stumped and, our politicians and their parties are hopeless.

Here are some thoughts that have challenged my thinking…

Since the book of Acts, Christians have been stepping forward in society to campaign for change: slavery, cancelling debt, standing up for those with no rights or no voice.

A quick word on that first quote: A sweep of public opinion on social media would have you believe that Christians are awful bigots and always fundamentalists… they should keep their faith to themselves many say. Well, read some history I say… your free world would be a lot less free without Christian input and participation. We can throw around examples of bad things ‘religious people’ have done throughout history but, we can’t choose to ignore the impact for good from millions of Christians.

Long before UK Prime Minister David Cameron used the phrase ‘Big Society’, churches and Christians knew that they played an important role in wider society: volunteering in foodbanks and homework clubs, feeding the homeless, running international meeting points and helping prison visitors. Christians also choose to invest in secular organisations and initiatives that serve people.

Yet while individuals working at a grassroots level can make a huge difference to their communities, the framework of legislation and tone of government is set by a small number of people that we are invited to elect to represent us.

Not voting, leaves the decision to other people. It abdicates our responsibility to wrestle with competing policies and the difficult evaluation of personalities and parties about whom we’ll never totally agree or support.

Not voting is taking your hands off the steering wheel and hoping that someone else will navigate the bends in the road.

I think I knew I would be voting… saying I may not was a momentary blip that whiffed of mild revolution.

And so, the title of this post is a little deceiving… we vote… but for who?

The above quotes are from a recent article by Alan Meban in the Presbyterian Herald – You can read his follow up post to that article here.