This is the opening to my first book, CAMP: a memoir manifesto of the summer camp generation. It is set to hit the bookshelves whenever I finish it and can find someone crazy enough to publish it. Here is the opening of the book as it stands right now...enjoy...
"When I was in second grade, my mother sent me to an all day sports camp. The rec-center near our home in Ann Arbor, Michigan did a yearly camp providing a general rinse education to the town’s youth on how to play all different kinds of sports. All kids were welcome, regardless of their athletic ability, or desire to play sports, or even their desire to attend the camp. I for one, who had already chosen baseball as my sport and was already playing it competitively by that age, was not excited about going. This is the first real memory I have of summer camp.
Upon showing up to camp I was placed in a group two years ahead with the fourth graders. Being born at eleven pounds, eleven ounces, I always was much bigger then all the other kids my age, and this being a sports camp, they thought it was safest if I was kids more my size. Truth was, even at the fourth grade level, I was still one of the biggest, and being forced into an age group where I knew no one did not do much to improve my attitude about camp. Nor did the fact that baseball was not even offered at the camp. To my disappointment, slow pitch softball and kickball were the closest I would get to exercising my true talents.
At the end of each day, campers were taken to the indoor pool to go swimming. It was treated as somewhat of a reward by most of the counselors. But to me, it was just another reminder of my inferior age. Because I was younger then the other kids, they had all already passed the necessary swim test allowing them to swim in the deep end, while I only qualified for shallow swimming. The lifeguards, however, did not realize that I was much younger then everyone else, and I was not about to call attention to the fact. So, I was left with a choice, endure the humiliation of standing alone in the shallow end with my float-ies, or take my chances in deeper waters.
To this day, I still don’t fully understand why I chose the deep end. I can just imagine my mind screaming, “No! No! You idiot!” as I shuffled to the edge of the pool. But my heart was set on being just like everyone else, and I took it upon myself to take a leap of faith, hoping that in the half second before I hit the water that I would magically learn to swim. In the moments that followed, two sets of hopes were dashed. If you didn’t guess already, I did not magically learn to swim. And as I hit the water and immediately began screaming and flailing, everyone in the pool, or perhaps everyone in the greater Ann Arbor area, discovered that I was indeed younger then the rest of the campers. Because of my hysteria, I had to be pulled out of the water by two female life guards and examined by the rec-center EMS (Emergency Medical Services). The feeling of drowning was terrible, but compared the humiliation I felt afterward, I may have been willing to negotiate a trade.
Why did I jump in the deep end knowing I couldn’t swim? I’m not sure, but I’m guessing that people, including myself, have done crazier things in hopes of being accepted into the crowd. For the rest of the week however, I was not allowed to be part of the crowd as I was forced to stay, humiliated and alone, in the shallow end of the pool. My worst nightmare had come true, save for the float-ies."
It’s been said that a genius, in the artistic, scientific, or mathematical sense, is someone who asks the biggest questions, seeks the biggest answers, and settles for nothing less. Einstein, Da Vinci, the Wright brothers, Beethoven, Scorsese (especially Scorsese), these were all men who asked the biggest questions, or better yet, dreamed the biggest dreams.
These men set out to do and create things that no one, including themselves, ever thought possible. But no great work of art was ever created by someone who dreamt about the possible, the easy to attain. The greatest artists dream huge dreams for their work, dreams that, before they become reality, may even be called foolish. The biggest dreamers are the greatest artists.
In the same way, the biggest dreamers are also those in scripture who made the largest Kingdom impact for the Lord, Joseph, Moses, Peter, and lest we forget the impossibly huge dream of Jesus Christ, to save humanity from it’s sins. All of these men had God-sized dreams for their lives, and God came down and blessed those dreams.
God loves big dreams, and he will bless them. God loves ‘impossible’ dreams because to Him, they are completely possible. The Christian artist dreams impossible dreams for his work as well as his life, all based on the promises of God. He then ‘circles them in prayer’ as Mark Batterson would say, knowing that God is the only way these dreams will become reality.
Allow to highlight this truth.
The beauty of a big dream is that when it comes true, we know that it was not by our own power, but by the power of God.
God is the only way your lost friend will find Christ.
God is the only way you will write that book.
God is the only way you’re going to pay that impossible loan.
God is the only way to accomplish big dreams.
Another thing about big dreamers, and this is important to remember. All these leaders had their dream, their vision thrust upon their heart. There was a moment of divine inspiration that came from the heart, not from the head. God places it on their spirit. They did not just arbitrarily choose a dream, and neither can we.
We must wait on the Lord to hear His voice calling us into a dream and a life that only He can make happen, then circle that dream in prayer, until we see the Lord bring it into reality, all in His glorious timing.
A preface to my thesis. I am an amateur storyteller, I do not pretend to know anything for certain. These thoughts are just a reflection of where God has me on my artistic/spiritual journey. I look forward to your thoughts and feedback on this post.
Thesis: Stories, the good ones, center around characters that are utterly and abrasively real, but are, at the same time way too large and abrasive to ever fit into the real world....
In the life of an artist, or any creative for that matter, we are sure to be confronted with the evil monster of failure sooner or later. Failure is an inherent effect of risk, and risk is and inherent effect of artistry. Therefore, as artists, it is time that we embrace this monster and find a way to call him friend.
I have made a few observations about failure recently that I would like to share.....
Last night was the conclusion of an epic saga that ironically lasted only seven weeks for those of us who were lucky enough to be a part of it. Sweeney Todd is one of the greatest musicals ever written, and I cannot tell you what a blessing it was to be a part of Carnegie Mellon’s production directed by Joe Calarco. From the cast, to the crew, to the audience, and last but not least the director, the show was a theatrical experience that was not to be missed. I say this with all humility, knowing that it was despite my imperfections, as well as those of my cast mates that this production succeeded the way it did. And in it’s final hour, we as a company began to experience something incredibly rare, and completely beyond my comprehension.
Earlier this week I took a day trip to New York for a callback in a new musical that is to premiere this summer. As with all journeys into the unknown, the trip was full of lessons from the Lord.....
Writing is something I've always done. Ever since I was little I would would have notebooks full of silly short stories, or ten minute plays. I have probably started around twenty novels in my life, all of which never made it past chapter four. Writing is one of my most treasured hobbies. But recently, I feel the Spirit tugging me to make my writing more of an expanded hobby. Meaning that I don't just write for myself anymore....
My good friend Stefan Brooks sent me this article from RELEVANT. Check it out and enjoy it...I know I did....
I love Oscar season. At the end of each year, numbers of incredible, and sometimes not so incredible, films come out of the woodwork and create buzz for the academy awards. This year, I’ve noticed a small trend among some of the contenders. As I have sat in the theatre, I have noticed that the celebration of art, and it’s history has been a major theme in many of this years top films. Movies such as Hugo, The Artist, and Midnight in Paris, are educating audiences worldwide, and can all be placed in this genre of art history films.
Martin Scorsese’s film Hugo, while it has a great story, is, at its core, a celebration of the history of film and filmmaking. Scorsese, a director whose love for filmmaking is unrivaled, said last year in hid Golden Globe speech, “making films and preserving them is the same thing.” Hugo educates it’s audience on all of the beautiful discoveries that have led to what we know today as the magic of filmmaking, while at the same time, telling you a tale that sweeps you up and takes you away. Hugo is the perfect mix of a story and a history lesson, only to be rivaled, possibly, by Michel Hazanavicius’ The Artist.
The Artist is the first major motion picture, silent film to splash onto the American big screen in years. The film follows a famous silent movie actor and his struggle to make the transition to the new film craze, the Talkies. The Artist is a trip back in time, but with all the advancements in story telling and character development that we know today. It is not simply a remembrance of the old, but a partnership with the old, to create even a more spectacular new.
Woody Alan’s Midnight in Paris is, I believe, the most charming film of the year. The story follows a writer(Gil) who is transported by buggy car every night, back to the 1920’s in Paris. There, he is whisked away into the most thriving artistic community the world has ever know, befriending such people as, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Earnest Hemingway, Salvador Dali, Cole Porter, and Gertrude Stein. While working on his first serious novel, Gil takes what he has learned from his new, or old, friends, and applies it to his work here in the 21st century. The film is a celebration of art, the artist, the artistic community, and what we can learn from those how have come before us.
As an artist, no matter what your field may be, it is important to turn to those who have conquered your specific field before you for guidance. Knowing the history of your craft, and where it came from can only aide you in creating something absolutely breathtakingly new today. And do not worry about copying or stealing from what is old, it is about partnering with the old, to create and ever more spectacular new.
In our culture, something I like to call the ‘general life’ has become more and more popular of late. The life of low commitment, low focus and shallow, general aspirations has become the norm in this new millennium. We live life in a general way, but it is my belief that we still perceive life from the specifics. The memories we hold most dear, the instances that really make an impact on us are not general ideas, but tiny, seemingly insignificant details that for some reason have stuck with us over the years.
For me, I know that I’ll always remember the specific smell of the cigarettes my uncle smoked that filled the kitchen when I visited my relatives. That smell always brings me back to remember the great family memories I had in that house.
It is this same love for specifics that draws us into good story telling. It’s not the fact that the girl has been sentenced to death, it’s the way the author describes her mother noticing the bow on the back of her daughter’s dress as she walks up to the guillotine that breaks our hearts. The specifics take it from a story, to something that’s real, something we can relate to, because it’s what we naturally are drawn to. This love of the specifics stems back to our Creator.
In the biblical narrative, especially throughout the gospels, we see strong evidence of the importance of specifics. God, the original storyteller, comes down in the flesh as Jesus. And what are the things that Jesus stops to notice? He notices one women in a crowd of hundreds, who touched his robe as he felt healing go out of him. He notices a women who cries at his feet, washes the tears with her hair, and then places fine perfume on him. How much more specific can you get? Even Jesus’ death, the crown of thorns, Simon, helping him to carry the cross, the two prisoners hanging beside him, all of these specific things are placed in the story for a reason, to make it more real for us. God knows that the specifics are the way to our hearts, it’s how he wired us.
The story of your life is made up of thousands of seemingly insignificant, yet beautiful specifics that have shaped the person that you have become, and are becoming. For the artist, the characters that we create are no different. The true storyteller tells a story that is shaped and guided by the specifics of it’s characters, because that is the story that God is writing with each and every life.