Changes Begin

Aside

Just a quick note about the changes.  I wrote about some things I wanted to shift around, and this new format is the first step in that direction.  It’s not dramatically different from what went before.  The design is to focus on the writing/topic of each post.  Thus I’ve eliminated a lot of the sidebar clutter.  For specific kinds of writing/topics, you can now go directly there as they are collected by category.

More to come!hand7

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Something New

This blog has been silent for too long.  I’m still working on the next vision for it, but that doesn’t mean I can’t offer up something interesting.

I’ve been watching this little image challenge on Facebook and it’s a perfect fit for what I want to be doing here.  So here is installment one.

Seven days. Seven black and white photos of my life. No explanation. No people. 1/7

Creativity – The Short Story

Almost a year ago, I published my first book, a short story collection titled “Shorts“.  While there are several novel-length projects also under way, the short story has always been one of my favorite story forms.  But it’s one that doesn’t get much respect.  Over on my other blog, “The View From the Phlipside“, I review movies, books, and music along with my long standing radio program on the media.  Beginning in July I will be trying to return the short story to its previous level of respect.

Check out my post for more.

The plan includes expanded posts on Creativity here (again!).

Here’s a great cartoon to get us started here.  This is from Tom Gauld,  a London-based cartoonist who is regularly published in The Guardian, The New York Times, and New Scientist.

Nope, I won’t quit.  I won’t.

Telling Our Stories

I am going back through some posts from a blog  I no longer maintain.  These are posts that I think are worth sharing again.

Been a busy couple of weeks with one thing or another. I was thinking about histories and personal journals the other day. I’ve kept my appointment books for the last decade or so because I didn’t want to lose that part of my personal history. I’m not one of those people who can rattle off at a moment’s notice when this happened or the date of that. I’m lucky if I remember everyone’s birthday from year to year. But the growing pile of these outdated calendars was really bugging my lady wife and being the good hubby I vowed to take care of it.
My solution was to copy all important dates/events/stories out into one of my larger journals. It’s been a wonderful exercise re-living my life. Notes on unusual weather events, cryptic notes about trips that no one seems to remember, wonderful moments like discovering the very first time we had to “ground” my daughter (she was 2!). Milestones that had slipped my mind are now safely recorded in the journal and the little books have been sent to the dump.
In the course of the exercise, it suddenly dawned on me. I don’t do this anymore. I’ve left behind the paper date book for a PDA. I no longer can quickly jot down the little events that take place. The graffiti mode is still not second nature to me and I’m too often away from my desk to type them in and synch them up. Besides it lacks a certain spontaneity a certain organic je ne sais quoi. I think I’ve lost something in the process.
Our lives today seem so forward focused that we forget we have a past. My life is not a free floating mote of energy unconnected to the universe around me. I am part of a continuum of Phillippis that stretches back in this part of the world to before the Revolutionary War. I am connected with Francis who came to this land as an 18-year-old orphan, dispatched by his uncle to scout out the new world for the family as they prepared to leave France. There are generations of dirt farmers between him and me but they are all there. I have strong bonds with a lawyer in Texas and a script reader in California, and a little old lady moving into her new house in Pennsylvania. Plus folks spread out across the country. They are part of my past but it is my past that makes up my present. This person typing, with a space heater blowing on his legs (cause it’s COLD today!) in WNY, didn’t spring spontaneously into existence. I come from somewhere, some of you who read this blog are part of who I am because you are part of who I was and what I did and where I came from. We must never forget that.
I need to find some way to continue to share this history so that perhaps one day a grandchild or great grandchild will come across the words and say “Hey, I’m related to this person and see what he did and what he thought!”

Creativity and Faith

I’m not sure I have spent as much time on anything in my life as I have on the time topics in the title.  Once upon a time, the Christian church was one of the great supporters of artistic creation.  Today, I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that one of the great stumbling blocks facing the future of the institutional church is that it has largely turned away from creativity.

Some, I know, will instantly say that the sooner the institutional church dies, the better the faith (and the world) will be.  While I am often a vocal critic of the institution, its politics and inertia inspired blindness, I’m not quite ready to give up on it just yet.  We are called together in our life in faith.  When two or more are gathered together in one place, there had better be some kind of structure.  Otherwise, nothing gets done.

Some will also raise the cry that there’s plenty of creativity in the church, right now.  To that I’m afraid I have to say while there are pockets of creativity, I’m not seeing the creative being celebrated in large swathes of my faith.  Creativity does not thrive in places where absolute fidelity to tradition, history and “how it’s always been done” is paramount.

I love classic church architecture, far more than most of the modern church design I’ve seen.  There is a church not far from where I used to live that I thought was a warehouse for years, till they finally got the sign up on the highway side of the building.  Once buildings were built to symbolize the glory of God.  Today they could easily be movie theaters or warehouses.  There is lots of fine church music that has been around for years.  Too often it is treated like a museum piece, to be carefully preserved just the way it has always been.  There is some fine modern music as well, but there’s plenty that isn’t.  Being old doesn’t make something good, but neither does being new.

The classic example (one of many) can be found in my own tradition.  As Episcopalians, we are part of the Anglican tradition.  We are largely defined by our Book of Common Prayer.  It provides the pattern of our life in faith and worship.  And it is real easy for us to treat that book like Holy Writ, never to be changed, never to be interpreted in any way other than the way it was by our predecessors.  If we are not careful we will be permanently turned towards the past.  And there is now new creativity there.

Creativity is a matter of weaving together what has gone before with what is available now.  It’s not easy.  Being creative never is.  It’s trial and error.  It’s an ongoing process.  That makes people uncomfortable.  But that’s an important part of creativity as well.

Let me give you an example of what I see as a great  creative response to worship space.  It combines the traditional and the new.  If you ever get the chance to visit or worship at Philadelphia Episcopal Cathedral.  It draws on the architecture of a fourth-century basilica with some amazing modern touches.

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The basic form is classic church architecture but without traditional pews.  This allows all kinds of unusual options for worship.  Note the raised chancel area in the back of the photo.  The curved benches can serve as choir or for a variety of other uses.  Note the high-tech lighting that creates an almost starfield effect.  I’ve been in some fabulous churches and cathedrals.  None have affected me the way this one did.

Here’s a slightly different view, note the rectangular box on the right.  That’s a baptismal font.  One that the person being baptized can kneel in the water.  Next to it, and if memory serves, with the water able to flow from the traditional basin font into the larger font.  Again, the intersection of the ancient and the new.

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Imagine if we took the same approach to our music, our worship, our liturgy, our teaching, and preaching.  Creativity is a gift of God.  Might be nice if we shared it with Him occasionally.

Just a thought.