Archive for March, 2010
I’m sitting outside right now. It’s 1:00 in the morning, and I should be in bed. I’m recovering from a cold, and I’ve completely lost my voice… again. It’s a good thing that writing does not require one’s voice. I can see my breath as steamy mist from the highlight of my laptop screen. It was cold enough to have ice on my car as I drove home, so I imagine its pretty chilly. I have a small t-shirt under my brown sweatshirt, neither proving to be much barriers from the cold. I’m wearing my beanie, which keeps my head warm, but I can already feel the icy chill creeping over my fingers and making them stiff. I clinch my hands for warmth and cough to clear my throat, as I try to not to succomb to the shivers emanating from my cold body. Why, you ask, am I out here in the cold writing like this?
It’s because I can see the stars. And I can see the moonlight too. Almost a full, beautiful disk it is, thousands of miles away, its light shining down and highlighting the scratches on my glasses. I can see the stars, too, pinpricks of blue and white light set apart from the harsh orange glow of the security light hanging over the apartment complex, its penetrating beams like violent intruders to the serene light from the stars.
I clinch my fingers again and cough. Damn. It’s really cold. Why am I out here? Why am I not warm inside my bed?
It’s because the stars are out tonight, and the cold moonlight is refreshing to my eyes like the scent of perfume to the nose. It’s because there’s been so much cloudy lately, it’s good to see the clear sky, even if there’s a price to be paid to see it.
I watched Forrest Gump tonight with a bunch of my friends, crowded around a couch in the stuffy atmosphere, together and warm. But I drove home alone tonight, fighting off the cold that had settled into my car. I thought about the grand adventures that Forrest had. Even the bad times were part of the story. The months of rain in Vietnam led to the beautiful sunshine of the Alabama Bayou. And as I drove home tonight, I told myself that adventures that grand weren’t real, that they were fabrications made up from a human heart who could only wish that things like that could happen in real life.
But I then a voice told me, “If that’s all you believe–that true adventure is only make believe–then that’s all it will ever be. And you will not be able to recognize it when it comes.” Well, thank you sage advice from nowhere, but I’d really like to believe you. I’m afraid I can’t. I’m afraid that I’ve been conditioned to believe that my only way to experience adventure is through the heartwarming tale of Forrest Gump played by someone who is paid to pretend. But does it really exist out there?
I pause, clench my hands, notice that my cough sounds a bit more haggard than usual, and recognize that it’s probably time to go in. Well, I don’t want to go inside. And to those of you who say I should value my health, let me tell you that the health of my heart is more important than the health of my body. A week of rest won’t cure the soul as well as it cures the body.
The cloudy mist of my breath crosses the path of light coming from the moon. I look at the cold moonlight and clench my hands to warm my icy fingertips.
So poor old Elementum has been neglected for a few. Not surprising, you might say, for that seems to be the inevitable fate of all aspiring bloggers…. outdated posts! Not so, said the Joel! For here I am, back again, pounding out words on the lovely black keys of my equally lovely macbook.
Sot it’s been crazy. I feel like I’ve been given so many opportunities over the last week, that it’s impossible to write about them all. From filming at a $15 million dollar mansion with two $100,000+ Porches, to having the Probe teaser trailer get featured by Blendernation… it seems like things are finally starting to look up for me. Or is it? For with this new fame comes the precious sacrifice of time and energy, something that always seems to be low with me these days. But I’m living a dream, right? Isn’t it worth the price?
I dreamed of being at a lake house last night. Peaceful, serene. No deadlines, no worries, no computers. Just me and a lake. I could finally get some rest there and experience some serenity. When I woke up and reviewed the many things I had to do today, my mind went back to the lake house and how pleasant it would to be there. But then I thought about it some more. Would the Joel I know, the adventurous, super-active Joel be one who would want to just sit back and play “retired” like some kids play “house?” Would I willilngly submit myself to the doldrums of peaceful resorts?
Heck no! I’m alive now, guys. Living the adventure as it comes. And if you know anything about me, you’ll have to agree that living an adventure is something that I love/want/need to do. And it’s coming! It’s confirmed that this summer, Ryan Payne and I will be going to Africa for a month, starting out in an orphanage in Zimbabwe, on the outskirts of a village called Bulawayo. God has really opened some doors for me to head there. Of course, it comes with a cost, and at $3500 (Ryan’s best guess) I’ll certainly need some support. But the adventure is there!
Not to mention the amazing things that are happening at the Digital Media Center. The projects, people, contacts I make and the networking opportunities that come with it are as invaluable as ever, especially since Graduation looms this coming December. So for all of this to be adventurizing my life, why would I want to escape somewhere else? Why would I wish that I could be a hermit when there’s so much out there to live?
So my mind returns back to the present not with dreams of a peaceful lake house and sleepy peace, but rather to the excitement that goes hand-in-hand with an adventure that’s already happening.
I’m sitting in the office of the newspaper where I work. I’m objectively looking at my life. Hmm. This last week has been a killer. Fortunately, it’s all physically killing me, not emotionally killing me. The physical killing can be solved via a nap. The emotional stuff tends to linger.
So I’m sitting in the newspaper office, waiting for my boss to finish editing the last page before I can upload the news and be done. And I’m thinking about all I’ve accomplished this week. I’ve succeeded in creating a trailer for my short film, I’ve succeeded in helping lots of DMC students get their projects done, I’ve stressed over a project due tomorrow that I’m skipping my 8:15 to work on, and I’ve had a discussion with my campus minister about my motivations for going to Africa this summer. Not to mention working two jobs, attending classes, playing drums at the Campus House, leading prayer, a small group, and generally being my overactive crazy self.
And that’s just today.
It’s all busy, I tell you. It’s all so much demanding my time and attention. It’s hard to keep up with it all and still maintain my sanity, not to mention my ability to spell. I’ve probably had to correct thirty words in the last ten seconds that I spelled incorrectly. Wow, look at me narrating the writing of my narration! Point being: I’m swamped!
Honestly, guys, this Africa thing is scary. All that goes into getting it all sorted out, trying to find a place to go, dreading the upcomming support pleas, not to mention the media side of it all; creating a presentable website and setting up lists of gear and such… yikes! Add that to the things I already have to do and take care of… and it’s all a bit intimidating! I wonder sometimes why I choose to get out of bed. Probably because I can’t stay in it; I have to find out what the day holds.
I look back at the hotel room in Charlotte… where I had time to think things through. To dream, to aspire, to ponder the meaning of faith and adventure. Now, I’m in the middle of it all, and I don’t have the energy to devote to figuring my theology out. Do I trust in God ultimately? Do I believe he’s going to open these doors because he wants me to go out on this adventure this summer or is he just setting things up for my failure? I can’t think through that. I have to act on the fact that God gave me a push for a reason. Can’t back out now!
So here I am, sitting in the office of my second job, staring at a computer screen and thinking about my life. And I realize… I have to carpe diem. Pardon my switching languages. I have to sieze the day. It’s one of the precious gifts I have. I can get all mucked up in why things are or are not going my way… but it’s wasting energy that right now is running low! So I choose to accept that God has got it all together, and he’s leading me somewhere and won’t abandon me. There’s nothing much I need to figure out beyond that. At least… not now!
“Come on Steve! We have diem to carpe!”
-Fint Lockwood, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
“Time is a gift, given to you, given to give you the time you need, the time you need to have the time of your life.”
-Norton Juster, The Phantom Tollbooth
What to write about. Hmm. I sit at the keyboard staring at a blank page, wondering, “What am I going to come up with today?” Seems like there’s lots of things bouncing around in my head. Too bad I couldn’t just nab one and stuff it–screaming and wriggling–onto the pages here. Mm. That was a little bit odd. Let me try again.
It’s hard to want to go to someplace you need to go to, but don’t really want to. I found myself driving back to Johnson City from Chattanooga. It’s almost as if my car had a Christmas sticker on it, and I was the present. To: Johnson City. From: Chattanooga. I don’t really want that, though. Maybe it got switched around. Maybe it’s To: New Zealand from Chattanooga. Or, maybe it’s To: “Wherever you’re supposed to belong” with love, (and good riddance) from Chattanooga. I digress.
Spring break is over, and it’s hard to return back to everything in Johnson City. College, deadlines, pressures, obligations, relationships, etc. Perhaps it’s because this spring break was a break filled with such revelations. I can barely take it all in. To return to normalcy? It seems just like yesterday I was driving through the snow-capped mountains of North Carolina off to Charlotte… dreaming of adeventure and freedom. Is this how all adventures end? With a return to normalcy?
I don’t mean it to all sound too terribly bad. I’m afraid some of you readers must think I truly live such a crummy existence. Let me divert from my emotional roller coaster a minute and write about how blessed I am. I have an incredible family–first off–who loves and cares for me even though I certainly don’t deserve it! I have a wonderful church community, both in Johnson City and Chattanooga, I have incredible friends here at college and away, and I go to school every day where I’m pushed to use my creativity to create amazing things. All of these are huge, incredible gifts from the Creator God, and without them, I’d really have a reason to be so down all the time.
I think it’s just a phase of my life. A phase that has lasted around two years, but will eventually find its resolution (see previous post). Until then, spring break ends, and another journey begins. College is an adventure, and I won’t be quick to dismiss it. Until tomorrow,
I sat down at the piano today and poured out all my thoughts. Hmm. ”Poured out my thoughts” sounds like the sensitive way of saying that I beat those ivory keys silly with all of the strength I had in me. Major notes, minor notes, sevenths, elevenths, suspended, inversions, noise and beauty all enveloped me as I played. I hashed out my very soul on the piano tonight inside my quiet home. And the music… was perfect.
Music carried my emotions tonight. Which is quite a burden to bear, and I apologize to the music for having to carry it, but I know it will forgive me. There’s a lot on my mind recently, and music seemed to be the best way to grind it all up. You see, in writing, u ned to hvae thins speled rite or esle they dont mkae much cents or flou wel. There has to be a bit of cognitive thought put into the sentences, or else they’d all banana like the monkeys fried, if you know what I’m saying. But with music? It’s freeing. Things don’t have to make sense. If you suck… just call it purposeful discord and all of a sudden your musical pieces have depth… if you can resolve it.
Ah, resolutions. Those were in plentiful want, with all the minor chords I was shredding on those ivory whites. Shredding? That’s a guitar metaphor. …with all the minor chords that I played tonight. There’s something satisfying about those resolutions… the progression between an Am and a C. The Bm to a D. You can transpose all you want, but a resolution is embedded into the chords. A Bm (a particularly wonderful minor chord) is 2/3 of the way to a D, just like an Am contains two necessary keys to make its resolution, a C. I haven’t taken music theory, but I do know that each minor chord carries its own resolution. All you need is that extra fifth key–that last 1/3–to make it resolve.
Right now, I feel like I have so many minor keys in my life waiting for the resolution. My dissatisfaction with school and my desire to be done, my plans for this summer and the impending trip to Africa, my friendships and the benefits and problems that come from the people I care about, the lack of someone to love with all of my heart, and my dissatisfaction with the story being told whose title is “Joel”. These are the minor chords in my life….
But minor chords are so beautiful. Played with a deep bass, they resound in the hollows of your chest and fill your soul with longing. Played quietly in the upper octaves, their tinker-box melody will catch the attention of any ear. And there’s nothing more satisfying when an entire symphony filled with instruments hits that solid minor key with the freight-train power of music behind it. Minor keys make you cry, and they make you long for the resolution.
I’m longing for resolution. These minor keys in my life contain the necessary parts for a resolution. I’m just waiting for the Maker to write that resolution in the sheet music of my life. I’m ready for some of these minor chords to resolve. I’m ready for that swell of instruments to proclaim: ”It’s finished! And boy, is it good!”
Yet, the beautiful melody that is our lives continues, even with the minor keys in it. I’ve heard the “If God took away a choice we’d all be robots” argument a thousand times. I’d challenge it by saying: ”Have you ever heard a good song that had only major chords?” No, it’s the minor keys that give our lives contrast. It makes us appreciate the major chords all the more.
So let those minor chords be banged out on the piano tonight. I know that in life, that musical resolution will come.
A few days ago, when I realized that my diet majorly sucks, Logan advised me not only to eat healthier but also to try out a multivitamin. Intrigued at the prospect of taking vitamins to grant me superhuman capabilities, I walked into our local Wal-Mart with high expectations. Rows upon rows of multivitamins greeted me warmly by name. ”Hello, Joel! Taaaake usssss” they cried. I attributed this creepy calling not to the telepathic powers of the multivitamins but rather to the egg mush I had eaten that morning. Must not be agreeing with me.
Several multivitamins promised things like “More vitamin C than other brands!” and “Now with calcium!”. But there were a few down at the end of the aisle that did not proclaim their un-unique lameness. ”A natural supplement to your manliness!” Ooo. That’s pretty good. ”Guaranteed to make you fly! We’ll pay for your hospital bills if you don’t!” Ah. Getting better. Still a little risky. ”Popeye had nothing on us!” Proclaimed one. I knew Spinach wasn’t the key. Popeye must have been taking a multivitamin inbetween bites. But there was one down at the end of the aisle that really got my attention. ”Clinically proven to make your blog posts better!” Ahah! That’s the one! I bought it.
Unfortunately, I’m afraid I left my multivitamin in Johnson City, three hours away from my parents’ home. So I’m forced to just be superhuman on my own without the assistance of my normal blog-writing supplement.
Today I went to the dentist to get my teeth cleaned. Yuck. I walked into the office and was greeted with the smell of formaldehyde. Great. The aliens were probably running experiments on their “clients”. That would explain the screaming accompaniment to the drilling that was going on behind the office window. ”Here for an 11:00?” The ‘lady’ at the office window said, drooling ooze out of one of her tentacles. I casually mentioned that one of her tentacles was dripping and she quickly retracted her eye stalks. ”The dentist will be with you shortly.” She replied and went back to her alien business.
I sat back down in the dentist chair and waited twenty minutes. Twenty minutes of pure agony. I knew that they were probably planning all the nasty things to do to me, those bloody aliens and their dentist-torturing devices. I plotted three routes for escape if the time came for it, but just when I was about to bolt for my life, a lady walked out, smiling nicely at me. At least this one looked more human. ”Joel?” Gulp. ”Yeah?” I replied weakly. ”Your turn.” Oh boy.
I walked into the nurse’s office and sat down on the chair. Who knows how many countless people had died at the hands of these aliens?! I knew they would get to me somehow. First it was the parking… then it was the dentist. What diabolical scheme would I live through this time? Not this one! Then…. she opened my mouth and began to dig around in my personal orifice! That’s my mouth, woman! Surprisingly… I lived. No laser beams, no cyber-wrenches to pull my pearly whites. I knew they were probably just waiting for the moment when I least suspected it… and then bam! Aliens got me at last!
Half an hour later I hadn’t died yet. In fact, the alien woman told me about her children, about her schooling, and about the distorted faces of people who used meth. In the end, she said, “All right! That’s it!” And then raised the chair. She handed me a toothbrush–probably an alien torture device in disguise–and said, “See you again soon!” Before I knew it, I was out in the fresh air, breathing on my own, and not dead. This…. was incredible!
As I pulled out of the parking lot, I knew that I had escaped the aliens one more time. Someday, they’d get me. But it wasn’t today! As I drove home, I realized that I could save myself the trouble of visiting those dangerous, dastardly dentist aliens by just inventing a multivitamin that cleaned your teeth.
It’ll be on the multivitamin aisle right next to “Guarenteed to make your blog posts better”.
I drove back to Chattanooga today. Five hours drive all by myself, left alone to my moodiness and appropriately timed playlist called “epic soundracks”. The recipie for–no!–not disaster, but a pretty decent drive. Now, this all would have been a great opportunity to do some thinking, except for the fact that my dad woke me up at 6:50 in the morning (having gone to bed at 1:00) and we were on the road at 7:40. So, the opportunity to think and drive was ruined merely because of a lack of sleep?! Lame!
Therefore, the entire five hour journey was a bitter struggle not to succumb to the sleep that my body so desperately required. But I made it. I’m not dead, and I’m glad. I still have that tropical island from a few posts back to retire to.
Tonight I got the opportunity to set things straight. I took my three youngest siblings, Heidi, Jesse, and Daniel, out to eat at Genghis Grill with Cobalt and our friend Stuart. Before we went out to eat though, the kids and I ran over to a playground where we played tag on the playground and swung on the swings. I not only made some new friends with some little kids playing on the playground with me, but I also started an epic game of tag, filled with laughing and squeals of delight. It was beautiful.
So my passing comment to this short blog is this: if ever you’re feeling like your existence is too overwhelming, and that you have to think for five hours about life, the universe, and everything, then you should try what I did. Go play on a playground. It’s a wonderful remedy.
I spent more time walking among the city of Charlotte with my father today. Except, instead of the quiet, loneliness of walking among those large skyscrapers at night, there was a hustle and bustle of activity all around lunchtime today when we ventured out. As we walked, I began to think about the concept of a team.
I’ve always loved the team. Teams in general. I started writing a story called the Conquerors when I was eleven. It ended up being one hundred and thirty pages long by the time I finished it when I was thirteen, which is quite an endeavor in itself. It was all about my friends and I being transported to a strange world through a spinning pendulum. The quest of myself–as the main character–was to gather the team of Conquerors (as we were called) in a strange world unlike and like our own. Many years later, I began working on a revised Conquerors, where the main character Jack was trying to find the other Conquerors because they all held parts of the keys to get back home. A few years after Conquerors II, I wrote a story called Deep Space, a sci-fi short story about the adventures of former space pirate Alan Spekre and his crew surviving the odds to get the treasure. Deep Space turned into the Deep Space Series, a four part epic, and those of you who have read it know that the story is all about Captain Alan and his crew. (those of you who are interested in reading it, shoot me an email)
I could easily share with you many more examples of times when I’ve used the concept of the team as a theme in my life. From playing pretend to organizing a production team, I love it when we have a group of people all get together and stick through thick and thin.
Tonight, the Chattanooga Lady Mocs won the SoCon championship with a close victory. Armed with my news camera, I was right there in the action of the celebrations of those dedicated girls. All their hard work paid off in the end. When they all clasped hands at the end and proudly raised their arms high, it didn’t matter how hard they had to work, or how many sheer defeats they faced, they were united at that ending moment.
They were a team.
I’ve experienced this same thing. When I went to Chattanooga State, I participated in a play–Rapunzel–and poured my blood, sweat, and tears along with our small cast and crew to put this play on. We faced a surprising amount of difficulties. Some members of the cast dropped out, our theater bailed on us, and the prop department fell apart. But the show must go on. And we did, at a church, and the play sold out. Every hardship we endured was blotted out of my mind the moment that the small cast and I all jumped on the stage to take our bows.
We were a team.
This summer, there’s a growing opportunity for me and and a guy named Ryan Payne to head to Africa and film a documentary of a story. I don’t know the location, and I don’t know the story. But I do know something. The team is starting to form… a group of senders, supporters, and goers.
And you’re invited to join this team.
There’s a killer view outside my window on the eleventh floor. The Omni hotel, the place where I’m spending these nights with my dad, overlooks the skyline of downtown Charlotte. I don’t mean to brag; I do wish you all could see this beautiful panorama that stretches out my window. I have all the lights turned out in the room, so it’s just the skyline shedding light in here.
I spent some time wandering the streets of Charlotte with my father tonight, looking up at the skyscrapers that stretched into the night above me. Surrounded by such buildings, it was easy to feel small and insignificant. If the sizes of the buildings weren’t enough to make you feel unimportant, the reality that you’d never be able to go to the top floor and look at the view the CEO enjoys every day helps put you back in place.
I can see into office rooms in the buildings next to me. Desks, lights, chairs…. I wonder the stories of the people who sit there. I can see some books sitting in a cubicle inside the skyscraper that looms to my right. I wonder what that person reads. Maybe they’re just user’s manuals to dull, boring employee procedures. Or maybe they’re inspirational books like, “You’re more than the person behind the cubicle: a guide to living an adventurous life as a businessperson.” Try a new flavor of coffee. Wheee.
I have a fascination with corners. Particularly inmost corners. Imagine a huge skyscraper, and then find a corner inside of a small closet buried somewhere in the center of a building. Oddly enough, I think about that corner. I wonder about the very edge of that very corner. I realize that the entire building all has weight in that corner. Not singularly, of course. But that corner plays a part to the whole.
Sometimes I feel like I’m wanting to keep my life in that corner. Just chill out there, and be satisfied as a part of the inner structural integrity of the skyscraper. But what’s funny is that this little corner wishes he was an outside edge. I’m getting tired of living life in a janitorial closet. There’s a whole view out there on the edge. And I want to see it. Out on the edge of the skyscraper, you’re open to the elements. No longer protected by all the rooms enclosing you, you’re right on the edge of it all. Cold, heat, wind, rain will all buffet you when you’re on the edge. But oh… the view. The exhilaration of looking down and seeing the ground so far away.
I can see a fern resting against a window in the office building across the street. I wonder if the janitor who waters the fern looks out at the view and wishes he was doing something else. I don’t want to be the dedicated employee who sits in his cubicle and reads a book about adventure. Or a book about how to operate the copier. I don’t even want to be the CEO whose view on top of the building is unparalleled. Because even the CEO doesn’t live on the edge. I want to be down on the streets. I want to be continually moving. I want to circle the edge.
So much talk–such little action, you might say. I agree with you completely. I just don’t know what to do yet. I don’t know how to turn this longing into a reality. I only know that there’s a rising hunger to live the adventure that I’m longing for. Honestly, I really want this longing to be God-inspired. But I’m afraid that this desire might get in the way of what I’m supposed to do now. Perhaps now, all I’m called is to be a corner. But perhaps now, I’m being prepared for the edge.
Perhaps now, as I sit in my chair in this dark room and look out at the view–dreaming about adventure in this moody swing of emotions I’m going through–perhaps all of this is for a purpose. A little bit of soul-searching, if you will, during this break. Perhaps I’m realizing all these things must come true in their own time. I want to hold onto the words that the Curbside Prophet told me yesterday. I want to trust in God, rebuke the devil, and tell all stories truthfully.
And in all honesty, if this corner is going to move out to the edge someday, I’m willing to wait a little bit longer. The view of the Skyline is beautiful…
Writer’s note: Today marked the highest number of views Elementum has received! What a cool thing it is to have people read this. I’ve created a Feedback link on the list to your right. Inside is a cheesy poll. Please, take a second and give some feedback; whether it’s a click of the mouse or a comment you leave, I’d love to see what you readers think of Elementum. Also, the addition of rating stars at the end of the articles can give me an idea of what you think. Of course, I’ll always be me. But its nice to know.
All the best,