Sunday, March 28, 2010

Family Stories

I had breakfast with my uncle and grandmother the other morning. It was a mix of delightful and annoying ... as interactions with families tend to be. But it was a lot more delightful than it was annoying. I got to hear a lot of stories I'd never heard before and learn a little bit more about my uncle, grandmother and grandfather. The whole experience reminded me of a project I once wanted to do. It renewed my desire to pursue this project. I would like to take an entire year and drive around the country, living with family members and collecting stories about their lives. Hearing things they remember, especially as it pertains to my grandmother and grandfather on my dad's side. Just in the one hour I spent with one uncle and my grandmother I heard at least three new stories. I know my cousins all have something to share, and we seem to be a family of storytellers.
I have, as you know, been reading a lot of Donald Miller lately and his book, along with his blog, ar encouraging me to try to figure out a way to do this.
Anybody have any ideas of grants I can try to get for this little project of mine?
I have some other, not-expensive ideas for something similar as well. For example, a family collective National Novel Writing Project with each arm of the family being assigned to about 1200 words of story from family life. It would be less expensive and less work for me, but more work for my family and would be great for their own growth, but I would be less a part of the process ... although we'd still get to read each other's stories. I've thought about also binding the collection of stories and giving them as gifts as part of Advent Conspiracy and at our family gathering having the authors of the stories read them out loud and recording it for my grandmother, since her eyesight is not the best anymore.
So that's an alternative to the big project, but it's not quite as fun.
Any ideas for me or for yourself?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Mean People

I tried watching Rain Man last night. I couldn't finish it. It was too difficult. Dustin Hoffman does a marvelous job in that role. Seriously. And I guess Tom Cruise does, too. (P.S. I did NOT know both of them were in that movie. Crazy?!) I could not watch Charlie Babbitt treat his brother with such contempt, such anger, such self-serving. Partially because it is sickening to see humanity so base, so far from what we were created to be ... it must have been a little taste of how God feels when He looks down at His creation gone so far astray. When I turned off the t.v., that must be a small part of what it's like when God turns His back to what His beloveds do. But I did not turn the t.v. back on and have chosen today not to finish the movie. I normally have a problem with not finishing things ... to an extent, at least (I also love to run away from things) ... but I am trying, as it comes up, to learn to let things go unfinished and be okay with that. I'm sure the movie is completely redeemed by the end, after all, it's a much-loved classic.
But I think what is more painful is that in the character of Charlie Babbitt, I also see reflections of myself. This is sometimes the marvelous thing about movies (sometimes it's the hardest). Movies can never be too far removed from the culture in which they are made and the people who make them. Somewhere there is Truth in them, but whether you see it or not is up to you mostly. There are some movies which are solely for enjoyment and you should not always analyze movies to find the Truth lurking in there. Return to Me for example. I do not think that it is a deep movie with profound spiritual Truth about honesty, secrets, relationships, destiny and community. It's true that those things are addressed and covered, but mostly it's a cute movie. That's fine. Rain Man, however, is more than just a cute movie. And the fact that I see part of myself, a disgusting part of myself, in Charlie Babbitt hurts. A lot. We have a new coworker at my shop and she is painfully slow and nearly incompetent. I do not treat her well. If my behavior toward her were filmed and put on a big screen. I think I would also turn it off and send it back. Only in my story I'm not fairly certain the behavior will be redeemed (if the person is) ... and I won't be getting a golden statuette for it.
I haven't sent Rain Man back yet, so I may still finish it and be glad that I did. Maybe I should finish it so that I can see and be reminded of the redemption of my actions and attitude, maybe the pain is good for me to go through to help me remember to beware of my choices and avoid making poor ones, especially as I relate to people.
For all the fluff I say about loving people, I don't often do it well. It's the second most important commandment and it's so hard. We only have to do two things in this life, and both of them are incredibly difficult. But not impossible. If we have Faith.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

What am I afraid of?

Someone asked me this question in reference to relationships once.
I have frequently asked myself this question in the past.
Today I ask it about my music.

What am I afraid of?

I watched It Might Get Loud again. Still amazing. Even more amazing, watching how these guys revere and respect each other, truly interested in what the other is saying.
But it occurred to me at one point that I think if I were actually to know one of these guys, to spend a lot of time around them, we could probably have delightful conversation about lots of things and they probably enjoy and pursue a variety of passions. And yet, when I would get them on the subject of the electric guitar or music, their passion would nearly disgust me. It happens frequently with oboists. If you've ever heard two oboists discussing cane and shaper tips, then you may understand in part. Normally this sort of shop talk annoys me, partially because I think I can't keep up, maybe? But seeing these three great guitarists talking shop, since it's not my shop talk, I guess, I think it's incredible. And I sometimes catch myself thinking "I wish I knew all of that, I wish I could think that way" and to a certain extent, I can! And yet, when I'm around oboists who know the oboe-equivalent of electric-guitar-shop-talk, I walk away from them and think "I could never be like that. I don't want to be. I don't want to become what it takes to be that guy, that oboist, principal of that orchestra."

Why not?

I really could, if I wanted it. And there's a part of me that does want it, but not all of it. What don't I want? What am I afraid of?

I think I'm afraid of being weird. I know. Sad. Elementary school, even. But I'm still not convinced we ever change. I'm a little like Gregory House, M.D. in that way. It's like that Elizabeth & the Catapult song ... "we're all just taller children..." Some of us more taller than others. So I think I'm afraid of becoming the person that people walk away from shaking their heads and saying "wow. I don't ever want to be that way." Like if I really dig into the oboe, I'll lose my friends, I'll lose my respect - maybe even for myself. And maybe I will.

If I do, is it worth it?

But, then again, if I really dig into the oboe, I could just get what I'm trying for - a job playing music, and what I do with that job ... that's up to me. There are really mind-blowing musicians who are still approachable and relatable. Those are my favorite kind. Could I be one of those? I don't know that my friend would abandon me, I might draw them closer, because I can urge them on in their pursuits the way I've gone in mine. Maybe it's not about drawing people closer or pushing them away. If we each pursue our individual paths (assuming we have them) and we pursue them rightly, then if our paths are designed to line up, we will, and if not, we won't -- presumably.

But it takes effort. And I'm tired. Literally in this moment. And figuratively almost all of the time. But why am I tired? Maybe it's because I've been away from passion for so long, it's lost its excitement. Not really, but in my memory it has. I don't remember the effort being worth the result ... maybe it's just from a few bad experiences.

I don't know what all this means. I'm still working it out in my head, but I think an important question for me to be asking myself right now is:
What am I afraid of?

Sunday, March 14, 2010


From today's sermon at Commonway.

Success: To achieve a goal.
Story: A character who wants something and [must overcome] conflict to get it. Not all characters do overcome the conflict; they fail, I guess. Those are not good stories, though perhaps true. Success is to actually overcome, to obtain the object of desire.
What do I want?
What will it take for me to succeed?
What will be my success?

I want ___________________ and am willing to overcome conflict to get it.

I want music. But am I willing to overcome conflict to get it?
I want comfort. Am I willing to overcome conflict to get it? If I do, am I a success? Does it make a good story?

If other people see what I've done, and it's been true to what I want, but they laugh at me, will I still have succeeded? Will I still consider myself a success?
If no one sees what I've done, but I've been true to what I want, will I still have succeeded? Will I still consider myself a success?
If people see what I've done and celebrate me, but it hasn't been true to what I want, will I have succeeded? Will I consider myself a success?

I hope to say it doesn't matter what people say, if I know I've been true to what my heart wants, if I've pursued it, if I've overcome conflict, if I've obtained it, then I will consider myself a success.
But because of what it is that I want, if no one sees what I've done, I cannot have succeeded. They do not need to see it was me who did it, but they need to see it has been done. If they don't, I've failed greatly.

I want to live well & love much, to leave the world better than when I came and am willing to overcome conflict to get it.

I wish, anyway.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

It Might Get Loud

Davis Guggenheim produced a documentary/film called It Might Get Loud featuring Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin The Edge of U2 fame and Jack White of The White Stripes. These three bands are completely different. These three guitarists are completely different. But they have two very strong bonds -- the electric guitar and a love of music. Guggenheim basically talked to each of the three men individually and then set them all down together in a warehouse with their guitars and amps and filmed the ensuing conversation. I only had this movie going on in the background and it made for some nice background noise, but the deeper the movie went, the more I regretted not paying attention to it. I'm going to have to watch it on purpose all over again. To see these three unique music enthusiasts sharing their love candidly with one another -- it gives me hope for the world. Honestly. Watching their interaction and hearing their individual stories shows me again the importance of finding both what makes one's heart come alive (purpose) and finding people to share it with (community). We all have stories worth writing and stories worth hearing. What's yours?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

What I want?

I keep saying that I'm going to get more serious about this blogging thing. That desire has been renewed yet again. One reason, my friend Gloria has started a wicked awesome blog that is sleek, entertaining and informative. I'm a little jealous! And inspired. A second reason, my friend Carl says I should be a book critic. His mom said I should be a book and music critic. I love that family. They take good care of me. But it makes me think I should be more diligent and disciplined about the writing I already do. Maybe I can put up some of my book reviews on here, etc. etc. But I'm not going to promise to be more serious, because we all know that I tend to break that promise a lot. Just look back through the history of this blog. Although Lent has been better. I'll give myself that. I wish I could have a recorder that would just record all my thoughts straight from my brain when they happen and then I could sift through them later. Because even though I keep a pad of paper/post-its and a writing utensil with me everywhere, sometimes either because of focus (or lack there of) or convenience/ease of writing at the time (i.e. driving) many thoughts get lost in the abyss because there's a disconnect between my brain and my pen. But if there were such a device, as could record my thoughts from my head, it would probably be ... creepy and potentially very dangerous. Think of it! Or don't, because the machine would capture those thoughts and use them against you. Now there's a horror story for you along the lines of 1984 meets Clarissa Explains it All. You know, the episode where she and her best friend Sam have to write a story and Sam suggests a story about someone who gets in the car to drive and then the doors lock automatically and the seatbelt automatically starts tightening and strangles the person. No wonder I'm so dark. That was my childhood t.v.! I will also choose to blame that show on my belief in best friends with no sexual undertones or tension. Thank goodness When Harry Met Sally straightened me up on all that.

Since that lesson on Tuesday I have been asking myself this question:

What do I want?

And today that question again came to the forefront of my thoughts, this time because someone else asked me that question. Well, that someone else was my pastor and he asked it to the whole congregation, but it might as well have been to me individually. It was amazing to see that question on the projector screen in bold white font against a stark black background. (Is there such a thing as a non-stark black?) But there it was. A real question to contend with. What does my character want?
I go back and forth between wanting comfort and wanting Life with a capital ife. Because Life with a capital L is Jesus, and that I've got, praise the Lord.
But as I sat in my chair during communion (because Lent forbids me from the taking of the holy sacrament until Easter, as per my understanding), a thought occurred to me.

What is something/are some things that I never ever regret after having done them?
Aside from brushing my teeth, showering, going to the bathroom, etc.
When I take a nap, I feel guilty because I should have been being productive (i.e. practice, reeds, laundry, reading, writing, 'rithmetic.)
When I read, I feel guilty because I should have been practicing.
When I practice, I feel guilty because I should not be so angry.
And by guilty, I don't really mean guilty, I mean ... regretful, I guess.


When I meet with people for coffee and go on adventures with people, I never regret it. Ever. Even awkward times. Seriously. At least, I can't recall any times that I regret it. Why? Because people are important. People are the point of life on Earth. Really. Truly. People make everything else worthwhile.
And generally writing. I don't regret writing when I do it ... although it's not always what I'd like it to be.
And driving. I don't regret driving. But let's focus on people.

With that thought and a recent discovery, I've decided to apply for a job. Yup. We'll see how it goes. But it does not require a music resume. It requires a real resume. Be praying for me!

Friday, March 5, 2010


Believe it or not, I've already written at least three blog posts so far today. That's right. They're just in my head. In some secret place where they go immediately after I finish them. They get locked in and I have yet to figure out 1. where they are and 2. how to get them out. I should check out of those Marauder's maps from Harry Potter. That would be helpful.

A lot of people in my life are already married or about to get married. And this. Is. Awesome. Seriously. Not even a jaded single speaking sarcastically here. I absolutely love it. My pastor gave a really difficult sermon on Sunday and it did have to do with his marriage and I thought about all my beautiful friends who are married and how special they are and how special their marriage is to me. The relationships you have with other people affect each other. They really do. And I realized during Sunday's sermon that I don't need to be married, at least not right now, because all of my friend's marriages, they're like children to me. That sounds weird I realize. But what I mean is ... I don't know. I care deeply about my friends and their relationships with their spouses, or spouses to be. Especially the marriages that I was witness to their beginning (as in, I went to their wedding.) I frequently feel those lightweight burdens on my heart for my friends and their marriages specifically.

So know, my married friends, that I treasure your friendship and your marriage, your vows to each other. I take them seriously, especially the ones where I served as witness to the committing itself. So I am here for you, and I am on both your sides.

And my single friends, I pray for your spouses frequently. Your future relationships are dear to me and I am excited to see them unveiled.

But now that I have typed this out, I feel it's weird. I know it's not weird, or maybe it is, but in an endearing way. But whatever. I'm weird. No worries. I'm fully aware of this.

Time to go play some Verdi's Requiem. Intense.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

What do I want?

I am cold all the time.

I've had a bit of a rough time with music lately. I have had a string of bad auditions and frustrating musical experiences. Taken individually they're not s bad, but when combined, one on the heels of the next, they are borderline overwhelming.

As I've said before, my church has been doing a sermon series about story and I've also been reading Donald Miller's new book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years which talks also about story. So according to the book, a story is a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

Simple. Right?

So let's apply this to my life.
Character: me
Wants something: ???

Stop. See the problem? I'm not sure anymore what it is that I want. Conflict I seem to have plenty of, but what I'm overcoming said conflict for, I have no idea.

Is it music? Because I've been awfully frustrated with it lately. And not so much with it, itself, but with what it is asking of me. I'm not totally convinced that the payoff is worth the effort. So what else could I want? Starbucks? Nice, but maybe not the story I'm looking for. Money? Nice, but maybe not a good story. Comfort? Nice again, but again, not a good story.
So what do I want???
I have no idea.