One of the things I am most excited about this holiday weekend is the chance to see some great new movies. At the top of my list, of course, is The Muppet Movie, which has been helmed by Jason Segal of How I Met Your Mother fame. I’ve been a little nervous about the outcome, honestly: you’ve got to get the Muppets right or you get them really wrong. All the buzz, though, is pointing to a solid movie with the traditional balance of edge and sentiment.
A couple of links of interest for the movie. You can check out an interesting early review here. This gives me hope that what we’ll see is high quality stuff. You can also check out an interesting article about “The Gospel According to Jim Henson” here. Some interesting things to think about.
In the meantime, check out the video below. “I’m Going to Go Back There Some Day” is probably the best song from the movie; it is easily the sentimental equal of “The Rainbow Connection.” For some reason, though, it never gets the airplay.
These last few days have been quite crowded, and I must say that I’ve learned a lot about myself and how I look at the world. From classes to camp to curriculum to committee meetings, I’ve been doing something a little different at every turn. I’m looking forward to the Thanksgiving weekend (and the promise of the Advent season that starts Sunday).
Below is a video that I meant to post before leaving for camp last Thursday. I obviously did not get around to it. It’s by my favorite musician, Andrew Osenga. Most of the song, honestly, rings very true (“I know because I am a broken man like everyone else. . .”). I was surprised to find the video on YouTube and am pleased to share it with you.
I I can no longer recall the route that I took that led me to the writings of Seth Godin. I’m sure it was something that happened while following the links on Amazon.com. Godin has a background in marketing and has written a number of short, to-the-point books about contemporary culture and the shift from mass marketing to niche marketing. It wasn’t until I had read a couple of his books that I discovered (through a friend’s Facebook page, no less) that Godin had a blog.
I used that first entry from that one profile page in a department meeting a few weeks ago. The article, “Open Conversations (or close them),” talked about the different between building rapport and shutting communication down. It’s much easier, as his examples show, to shut conversation down. I think this works on a number of levels: teacher/student, teacher/class, God/person, between family members, etc. And it’s something so simple that we totally take the art of opening conversations for granted.
O ver the last few weeks I’ve come across a couple of long-running blogs that have really become encouraging places for me to visit. I hope to get to them over the next few days. Today, though, I’d like to revisit the one that has been one of my favorites for some time: Donald Miller’s blog.
A word about blogging: I really am surprised by how few people seem to do it. I think I’ve said that before, but it’s still true. Most people blog about their families, of course, or their struggles with some certain difficulty in life: church work, adoption, or som other project. Many bloggers are sporadic at best. Miller, of course, has backed off on his own blog of late. Instead of new entries, he now often posts excerpts from his books. I wish I could solve my blogging problem that way,
A few weeks ago, Miller posted what could be one of the greatest passages he’s ever written. Taken from Through Painted Deserts, “One Story Alone” sums up so well so much of what Miller has said throughout his latter books. A sample:
It’s a living book, this life; it folds out in a million settings, cast with a billion beautiful characters, and it is almost over for you. It doesn’t matter how old you are; it is coming to a close quickly and soon the credits will roll and all of your friends will fold out of your funeral and drive back to their homes in cold and still and silence. And they will make a fire and pour some wine and think about how you once were. . . and feel a kind of sickness at the idea you never again will be.
Sure, it’s a sobering paragraph, but it says something good and true.
I find myself surrounded by story, even though I too often feel like the Coupland character who feels like the story part of his life is over. I’m talking to my juniors this week about the biblical story, hoping to give them a fresh handle on a narrative that has either lost or never had much “oomph” for them. Then this Friday I’ll be talking to the seniors about the importance of ending their high school story well. Story is everywhere, and every story finds some way into the story that God is telling. “We get one story, you and I, and one story alone,” Miller reminds us.
I met my first Academy Award winner a few weeks ago. As part of a local film festival, the artist’s most recent movie was shown with a question/answer time following. I was excited about both and made a point of getting my picture made with the guy afterwards.
As I waited for the bus to head back downtown afterwards, I found myself working over a sadly difficult decision: should I post the picture of the moment on Facebook? I have a love/hate relationship with the social network, usually reading it more than posting on it. I like the idea of it on some level, but the immediacy is a strange thing. As soon as I posted the picture, the moment would be both memorialized and gone, over as soon as it gets out. I wasn’t quite ready for that. Nor was I ready for another potential and plausible reaction: no one caring. True, when I shared the moment with friends later, it wasn’t the most exciting thing they had ever heard. Most of them were just surprised by how familiar the artist and I seemed. Still, it was a good moment for me.
Back in the day, Douglas Coupland spoke of contemporary society as an accelerated culture. If that was true almost twenty-years ago, it’s beyond true now. How easy it is to treat the moments of our lives like fast food, not letting them marinate or percolate. Good moments, perhaps, should be taken out for a long walk, a nice stroll, before they are committed to public consumption.
The picture is now hanging in my iPhoto files, waiting to be resurrected at some point, for the right moment, once the time is right. I’d like to think that I’d get there someday soon, but not quite now, not quite yet.
Two issues of faith are making headlines these days, topics that have been on a slow boil for some time. It’s funny how things work out on small and large scales simultaneously.
The first issue that’s been around thanks to the presidential race concerns the literality of Adam and Eve. This is a big issue for lots of people, especially young people who have grown up in an age where science trumps everything. Part of the news comes from the recent announcement from some scientists that there is no way possible for Adam and Eve to be the sole progenitors of a race that is so genetically diverse. Then there’s the whole literal versus figurative interpretation debate. Al Mohler, a prominent Southern Baptist leader, gets quoted on the issue here.
The other issue that’s sounding sirens these days in the media is the question of Mormonis’s status as a legitimate branch of Christianity. Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary, went on record about the issue over at CNN.com. For someone labeled an “evangelical leader,” I don’t think his view is the same as most evangelicals. The comments on the article talked me into checking out mormon.org, which was an interesting excursion into a religious view that, even if they hold an orthodox view of Jesus, has a difficult time lining up with certain key tenets of historical Christianity. You can check out Mouw’s thoughts here.
One other thing of note has happened in the “world of faith” this week, this time a passing. Christian educator and thinker Arthur Holmes passed away on October 8. I first learned of Holmes during my time at Union (I believe he came and spoke at the school at the beginning of Dockery’s tenure. One simple sentence from him broadened the horizon of my worldview and reminded me that there are many dimensions to the Christian faith. The Christianity Today article concerning his passing can be found here (with some potent comments from those affected by his life and ministry, too).
Turns out that Disney’s Recess was right: life is all about tribalization.
Let me explain. The Saturday morning cartoon focused on a half-dozen kids, all in the same grade but each of them stereotypically unique: the African-American athlete, the brainy girl with braces, the street-smart tomboy, the high-strung military kid, the overweight tender-heart, and the average Joe that everyone likes. Part of what made the show special, though, was that some of the grades or groups of friends had very tribal identities. This is most true for the Ashleys (who shared the same name) and the kindergarteners (who always wore face-paint and often kept to themselves). The main characters were a nice reminder of how diversity is good and how everyone can get along if they try hard enough. Unfortunately, the days of such an approach is fading if not already gone.
Marshall McLuhan would explain it like this: because of literacy and technology, humanity went from being a collection of tribes to one mass of people. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone has access to the same pieces of the pie, homogenization was just a matter of time. McLuhan would go on to say that because of “electric media,” the world has imploded and we are now in a new state of tribalization. Why seek out the common denominator when you can be happiest being around those like you? Turns out we aren’t TJs and Gretchens anymore; we are kindergarteners with specially-selected face-paints and weapons.
Marketer Seth Godin feels the same way. In his just released booklet, We Are All Weird, the normal no longer exists. At least not as a driving force for what makes life work. Mass, he suggests, was what fed the beast that was the twentieth century. Weird, a world of splintered tribes, is what the future looks like for modern man. Weird has always been around, mind you. Now it’s just the prevalent way to think about things. Thanks to the internet, everyone has access to a community of like-minded people. Why get to know your next-door neighbor when you have friends to communicate with in the next county, state, or country? Why waste your time butting heads with those who don’t think like you when you can draw real energy and momentum from the encouragement of those who see life the same was as you? Weird people, Godin asserts, used to be loners. That is no longer the case, and we are all better off for it. “The goal is connection,” Godin asserts. And connection is bigger and deeper than just wearing the same brand of shoes and drinking the same soda.
“The weird are now more important than the many, because the weird are the many.” I feel more and more that this rings true of my students. Granted, I have a view of what high school should be like rooted strongly in the idea that everyone loves everybody else and that it’s the mascot and not the class that matters. I know this is not true. Class (grade level) matters. Or at least it used to. Now there is even less a sense of an entire grade being “in it together.” One class used to make the joke “you mess with one freshman, you mess with us all.” That is no longer the case, either. It really is every tribe for itself: politically, socially, religiously, everything completely fragmented.
It’s a scary thought, especially if we all end up acting like kindergarteners.