Archives For Life

'Control' photo (c) 2010, runran - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

I’m proud.

Egotistical.

Stubborn.

Fiercely protective of my work.

Handle criticism poorly. (This gets me in no end of trouble).

While I can be at times mellow, catch me at the wrong time and I’m downright mercurial.

I come from a long line of overreactors.
My name is Chad, and I’m a recovering control freak.

My One Word© for 2014 is actually two:

Letting. Go.

How about you?

Can we “let go” together?

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At the outset, let me just state that I loved The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Now let me tell you why:

The movie opens on Walter, alone, in his apartment, dressed for work, futzing around on social media. More specifically, he’s trying to work up the courage to send a “wink” to a coworker on eHarmony. He finally does, and… it doesn’t work. He can’t send the “wink.”

This begins one of the movie’s funnier subplots (it’s no spoiler to say that this involves Patton Oswalt, as he’s listed in the credits. You’ll just have to watch and find out how the whole eHarmony subplot is resolved). In fact, because I’m something of a literature nerd, this is but one instance of a Chekhov’s gun in the film. Chekhov’s gun, for the uninitiated, is a rule established by dramatist Anton Chekhov stating that one cannot introduce a gun in the first act that is not used later on.

There are numerous instances of this technique on display in Walter Mitty–none of which actually involve a gun. (If you see it, pay attention to: the aforementioned eHarmony subplot, a piano, a skateboard sequence, and a wallet). I bring this up because there is nothing wasted in this movie–the storytelling is tight, and focused. Within that framework, Ben Stiller has crafted a motion picture filled with great whimsy and flights of fancy. It is simultaneously grounded, and yet has its head in the clouds.

What a difference, say, from his 90’s era film, Reality Bites. In watching it, one gets the sense that, yes, reality can bite, but this is no reason to lose heart. In its opening sequence, in drab apartment, inside an even drabber building, that wistful tone is expertly portrayed: Walter is altogether too close to being a man who has lost heart. But it is upon arriving at work that day, when he learns of his company’s impending demise, that his journey begins. In storytelling terms, this is the inciting incident: the catalyst by which a character is forced to act. Walter’s is two-fold:

First, his company is reorganizing, and its next issue will be its last;

Second, a photographer with whom he has closely worked for sixteen years, has sent  negatives, stating that number 25 is his best work ever, and represents “the quintessence of life.”

Thing is, this negative is missing. Helping Walter track it down are his associate, Hernando, and a coworker named Cheryl.

Thus begins Walter’s journey. What begins as a quest for excellence becomes so much more. Walter thinks he is on a trip to find a photographer, but really he’s on a quest to get his heart back.

Isn’t that the same path we’re all on? We want to reclaim our hearts. We know there’s more to life, but have somehow lost it upon the way. On his way, Walter transitions from imaging himself to be a hero to actually being a hero.

He goes from existing to living, from surviving to thriving.

There are potholes on the way, the  temptation to lose heart arises again, but he digs deep, and gets the job done.

And if Walter can, so can I.

So can you.

So go see The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. You’ll be glad you did.

Our founding fathers, in an attempt to keep government out of the church, gave us an amendment stating, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion, nor prohibit the free exercise thereof.” This was meant to safeguard the sanctity of the church, keep government from meddling in its affairs. This Establishment Clause, however is increasingly interpreted to mean that religion has no place in government.

Or in the public discourse.

We’re told it’s a private matter–faith–and as such should be discussed privately. If at all. God help anyone who voices a conservative, biblically informed opinion in the public arena. Because it’s time to get with the program, toe line, march in step with the times.

What was good enough yesterday no longer is.

Is it any wonder?

Lewis wrote of (then) contemporary education producing “men without chests.” People, by and large, devoid of magnanimity and sentiment. He said, “We castrate, and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

A large number of our Ivy League colleges started as seminaries, the Bible used to be used as a reading primer, we used to allow prayer in schools. These things, however, changed over time as we (supposedly) became more enlightened. Certain things were deemed to be in violation of the establishment clause…

Our collective values as a nation shifted away from their foundations in Judeo-Christian tradition. Personal liberty seems to be the order of the day. Is it any wonder? Personally, I blame Darwin. Because, with the advent of evolution, what need had we of God?

When once we knocked the Creator from off of His throne, what tether is there anchoring our values in something solid–something concrete?

Something transcendent?

Nothing.

I submit to you that the fractured nature of our current public discourse has its origins here, in Darwinism. For if we take away from mankind the dignity of being created in the image and likeness of a Creator, what is he but an enlightened beast?

Once God is gone, anything goes.

Sin is no longer sin–just an inherited trait, or a genetic predisposition. A beneficial mutation. Whatever we can conceive of goes. Because we no longer have an anchor tying us to to past, to our “inalienable rights,” “endowed by our Creator.”

Abraham Lincoln said that “all men are created equal,” but how can that be if there is, in fact, no Creator? If we are not created at all? We give lip service to the ideals upon which our nation was founded, but term such language “old-fashioned,” or “traditional.” Surely Lincoln was speaking metaphorically, or poetically, and did not all actually mean we have a literal Creator? Surely, it’s the ideal of equality which matters more?

Upon what are we basing that equality, upon whose standard?

Nothing but prevailing winds of the day.

Evolutionary theory is at the heart of a whole host of things which plague us:

Utilitarian bioethics, which deems some lives more important than others.  If you’re old, infirm, no longer able to make a meaningful contribution–watch out! Or if, say, you’re an embryo with identified birth defects, you don’t deserve a chance. In fact, I contend that without evolutionary theory undergirding it, abortion on demand would never have been legalized.

It’s also at the heart of so-called “values clarification” taught in schools. The idea is children aren’t to taught what to value so much as they supposed to figure it out for themselves. (“Men without chests”). Because they are apparently so very wise and discerning…

I could go on.

With evolution on the table, and with God gone, life no longer has any “endowed” value–for there is no Endower. Life no longer has any inherent value. There is no longer anything to defend at all costs… The only value it has is what we say it has.

And what’s best for humankind seems to be determined by an elite few, or by those with the loudest voices. Or as Owell put it, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”

Call me backwards, a fundie, a wingnut, a denier of evolution. I don’t care.

Here I stand. I can do no other. So help me God.

Excellence Opens Doors

randomlychad  —  December 12, 2013 — 2 Comments

'Excellence' photo (c) 2012, Iqbal Osman - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Yesterday, I posted about how we don’t need anymore “Christian” whatevers. In a similar vein, today I would like to talk specifically about art. If you read yesterday’s post, you would know that I’m off the mindset that what we need isn’t more Christian art, but rather more Christians who are artists. And of those, we need Christian artists who are committed to excellence in their art.

Gone are the days (if indeed they were ever here) where we can slap on a coat of Jesus varnish and expect the world to go “Ooh! Ah! Jesus!” No, mediocre art really only accomplishes two things:

1) It makes us look bad.
2) It makes Jesus look bad.

Excellence, however, opens doors. Excellence speaks for itself, and indeed invites conversation. It gets people talking, and provides organic opportunities for the artist to share his story. And make no mistake: that is what people today are looking for: to connect with someone’s story.

Yes, we’re supposed to share the Gospel. But more importantly, we’re supposed to live it. One of the ways to do so is to be excellent in all that we do. Because that is another thing excellence does: it elevates. It draws people into a shared transcendence.

But mediocrity does not. Mediocrity is boring, banal, and really not worthy of attention. And the thing is that, for those of us who would call ourselves Christian artists, our art isn’t ultimately for our fellow man–it is for us, and for God. And why would we, after he gave us Jesus, ever think that giving him less than our best is somehow okay?

PRO TIP: it’s not.

But excellence has a cost: it’s hard. Insanely so at times. Often we’re tempted to give in, throw in the towel, settle.

The world is full of frustrated artists who’ve settled.

But is that who you and I want to be? If so, let’s prepare to be ignored. If, however, you do not wish to be ignored, throw yourself into your art with abandon. Put your heart, soul, mind, guts into it.

Put your life on the line. Every time.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is what the watching world is waiting for.

So make excellence your everyday goal. If you’re a writer, beat your head against your desk until your forehead takes on an oaken sheen. If a painter, paint until your fingers bleed a rainbow of colors. If an actor, lose yourself in your roles.

If a plumber, plumb the depths until you reach China. You get what I mean.

Remember: the goal here is not to save oneself, but rather to lose oneself. And in the losing to find.

The great paradox of art, and life, is indeed that: in losing, we win. In giving up, we find. To borrow a phrase, excellence is one door away from heaven.

And by excellence we earn the right to be heard. We earn the platform.

Don’t settle for less.

“In all that you do, do it as unto the Lord.”

Much time, effort, money, what have you is invested in making Christian products. We have Christian clothing, music, movies… In short, we are a subculture. I suspect, however, when Jesus issued the dictum to “be in the world, but not of it” this is not quite what he meant.

In the world is still in the world. But not being of it is more about the attitude of our hearts than it is about having alternative products. I’m not necessarily opposed to Christian things, per se, but I don’t think the world is in need of more Christian things. No, it needs more Christians doing things.

We don’t need more Christian writers; instead, we need more Christians who write. Flannery O’Connor, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, G.K. Chesterton, Graham Greene, Dorothy Sayers, William Peter Blatty, and Dean Koontz (arguably the current bestselling Christian author in the world) had/have no problem writing for the mainstream.

I’ll take it a step further, and say that saying we need more Christian whatevers is akin to stating that we need more Christian plumbers. Do you care more about your plumber’s view of predestination, or that he can fix your problem? Is it important that the man articulate all the points of five-point Calvinism, or that he can, ahem, clear out your crap?

You see my point.

From where I sit, it seems to me that what the world needs isn’t more Christian whatevers, but rather more Christians who are:

Artists
Plumbers
Lawyers
Scientists
Accountants
Technicians
Teachers

We who hold Jesus in our hearts need to go out into the world like those guys who followed Jesus around all those years ago. What were they called? Oh, yeah–my bad: disciples. That’s us: disciples.

In short, what the world needs is more salt and light–more of us mixing it up in the marketplace of ideas. More of us rubbing shoulders with, gulp, sinners.

Just like Jesus. (Remember? The guy who was known as a friend of sinners? Yeah–him).

Fancy that.

In this age, the church age, we are no longer under law, but rather under grace. The curtain has been rent in twain. There is no longer a distinction between secular and sacred. All is calling, all is vocation. We carry Christ with wherever we go, sanctifying as we go.

But not if we keep living in our comfortable Christian ghettoes.

What do you think?

Speak on it: