Carpe Aeternum

Finding the Eternal in the Every Day

Archive for the tag “story”

Telling Stories

I started this blog, inspired by Donald Miller, to try to live a better story. If you look at some of my early posts, this theme abounds. I deliberately sought out risks. At times this has worked out for me. At other times, not so much. This continues to be a theme in my life and will continue to be a theme on this site.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years chronicles Miller’s attempts to live a better story. When a movie being made of episodes from his life exposed how little story he had to tell, he consciously made the effort to change that, to take some risks, to seek adventure so that in creating better stories to tell perhaps his overall storyline would be more compelling.

Like Miller, I wondered if I had lived enough story to make a movie. And… if I had, would it be worth watching?

I began re-evaluating this after my mother’s funeral a few weeks ago. My siblings and I sat around sharing stories about my mom. It was neat to hear about aspects of her life that I had not experienced.

Shortly after my mom retired from work, she began to volunteer as an assistant teacher at a local elementary, helping kids understand their assignments so that they could prosper in class rather than falling behind.

My siblings told story after story of while walking through a store, they would hear someone call out “Hi, Grandma B!” When the person that called out came over to talk, it was always someone who my mom had helped when they were little, now as an adult. Her assistance made a difference to them in school and in life. Enough that they wanted to speak to her when they saw her.

When pondering this, I realized that a certain part of living a great story is taking a smaller role and helping others excel in their own story. Lifting others up can be as powerful as rising up to my own challenge.  I now feel inspired to find ways to do both, to live my life better, creating a better story for me, but to also help others do the same.

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Brad Bellmore Gets a Life 29

I received an email to register for Donald Miller’s Storyline Conference. Unfortunately, at present he isn’t offering one at a location that is geographically favorable to me. At a different point in my life, I would have figured out a way around that. Road Trip!
Miller is the impetus behind this blog. My efforts to try to get a life or a better life were originally inspired by his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. In that book Miller encourages us to live a better life. Well, his words are to live a better story. Thus, the storyline conferences. Thus, my desire to attend. I really want one to land in the Chicagoland area.
But as I said, my stage in life limits my ability to just run off to such events even though I long to do it anyway. But a lot of situation in learning to live a gain came from my stage in life. I left college with ideas of changing the world. But there are more people dependent on my ability to provide food shelter and clothing than just me. I have had to focus on changing their world first instead of changing The World. If As I focus on that more, focus more on their dreams, I find my dreams floating away.
Somehow, there has to be a way to accomplish that, to deliver on my primary mission and still grasp those things that matter in the deep places of my heart. In my coming alive, I need to make sure those around me live. As I provide a living for those around me, I need to be fully alive.
I thought I was onto something there, but it feels like I just keep finding more questions. This blog continues to breed questions. Is that part of coming alive? I hope so; I’m on the right path if it is.
And it all started because Donald Miller convinced me that all these fun little stories of my life would have more power if they were connected to solid storyline that ran through my life. Perhaps if I drove to Oregon for the conference I could figure it out.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 9

So this choosing story thing isn’t as brilliant as I expected. I still love the idea. I even like the idea of embracing risk as a means to a better story. The problem lies in the action, the doing, and the truly living this thing out.
Life is full of crap and mundane tasks that eat up so much of my day. I keep hearing people refer to the book Good to Great by Jim Collins and the concept of putting aside the good things in life or business to pursue the great things. The main idea is that bad is rarely the enemy of great. Good is. The good things we constantly choose interfere with our attempts to strive something great. I have yet to read the book, but so many people are referring to it lately that I need to check into it.
The concept however, seems to be close to my life though. My earlier laments about lack of direction have mostly stemmed from choosing good things rather than making appropriate sacrifices to achieve great things. Or at least greater things than I have.
Instead, I have lived like Forest Gump, just moving through life, letting things happen to me and then responding to them. Somewhere inside me, there has to be that movie hero that stops letting things happen and starts making things happen. That would be a great thing to shape my story into something truly worth living.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 7

In the Vineyard (the denomination that I attend) they often bounce around this phrase: Faith is spelled R-I-S-K.  Actually taking some sort of a risk is promoted, typically in a realm where it puts our faith on the line and we have to expect God to do what scriptures say he’ll do.

My last post here I mentioned that I want to try to take more risks. So, as a good Vineyard boy, I should be doing churchy things to accomplish that. And in some ways, that is a good place to start.  The idea of praying for people and expecting God to make a difference always stretches me. Even if I’m comfortable with the concept, the environment and the person being prayed for, I still feel a little worried that it won’t turn out the way I want.  The way I want shouldn’t be the issue, but what God will do for the person we are lifting in prayer should matter, but I focus more on what I want. Like not looking stupid.

So, again, this is a decent springboard for me. If for nothing else, taking the risk of looking stupid in order to see if God will interact in someone’s life.  But I think some slightly bigger risks might be in order. Like accepting the opportunity to preach in two weeks.

I am one of those odd people who like to speak in public. I get nervous and I worry about what to say, but it’s fun to d while I’m doing it. I look forward to it. But there is always the fear boiling inside of me that I have nothing of significance to say. Or that even if I do that my audience will not understand it or care. In short I fear that my efforts, though fun, will be pointless.

But beyond that, and maybe this is one of those for the future things, is meeting people. Quite honestly, I’d rather speak in public than meet people. I hate meeting people. It is too personal. Speaking to a group is a bit removed and not as risky because of that. If they don’t like me it’s they. If I meet you and you don’t like me, that is a tangible real person; you are not they. So someday, as this “taking risks to develop the ability to take bigger risks to tell a better story grows out of me trying to get a life”, I will have to meet some people. I will have to man up and make some new friends. Or enemies. Or more likely, acquaintances.

So, baby steps. Risky baby steps aiming toward that eventual big leap. God, have mercy on me.

Brad Bellmore Gets a Life – 6

Donald Miller decided that he needed to live a better story in A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I agreed with him when I read that book. I wanted, and still want, a better story. Most of the story since then has been quite depressing and I would much rather portray it as montage and then move on with the time of growth and renewal on the other side.
But that would be a pretty lousy story. Delving into the full depth of the depression wouldn’t be that fun either, but there is story there and glimmers of hope. Eventually the darkness thinned and I fund myself walking in brighter times again.
I recently pondered my desire to live a better story and realized that I should have expected that though. Or something like that. The downside that is, the depression, the unemployment, the hard times. After all, any story worth telling has something go wrong pretty early on. Typically other stuff will continue to go wrong to aggravate the situation. Deliberately pursuing story is to pursue things going wrong. Which doesn’t seem so wise.
Where I want to get to though is those places in life where I can deliberate choose risk, to find things that take a little risk, a little faith and carries a chance of failure. Or things not turning out perfect. Because sometimes simply taking a risk provides enough of a story to tell. It might not be as good as the story of rising from destitution or a scrape with death, but taking a chance at something is being more alive than avoiding those situations all together.
So I am seeking out some small challenges and risks to try, things to get me used to being alive again. Some things that give me enough of a thrill of risk that I can remember how living like that used to feel. I need something to build my faith a little and get me hungry for being alive again.

Brad Bellmore Get’s a Life – 2

Donald Miller is one of my favorite authors and with the soon to be released movie of Blue Like Jazz, I have been pondering his influence on my life. That book made me rethink many of my perceptions on Christianity. He made me consider what am I really believing in and find a way to connect my faith to my life.
To Own a Dragon, his take growing up without a father. To him, a father was as mythical a creature as a dragon. This book connected with a lot of my thoughts and feelings of growing up without a father, some of which I did not even know I had until I had kids.
Another challenge to my faith and why I believe what I believe was Searching for God Knows What. It even challenged me to think about how I express what I believe.
But, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years pushed me farther than any of the others. The basic idea of this book revolves around Don realizing that he wants to write a better story for his life. This is actually spawned by the process of creating the movie mentioned above. Anyway, it resonated with me when I read it given that my life is rather a rambling mess than a cohesive story. I felt inspired at the time to make some changes. That was short lived, mostly because the various waves of depression stemming from unemployment plowed that inspiration deep into the dirt.
But now, as I ponder how I learn to live, to truly be alive for whatever is left of my life, the movie surfaces and stokes again the fires of creating a better story. Which is what I hope to do here, both explore the process and tell the story.
And so, I set forth in quest for a life worth living and a story worth telling.

Christ Figures

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about my discovery of the Incarnation Figure as an archetype in storytelling. There are obvious connections between this and the Christ Figure that w are so familiar with given that the Christ that the figures tend to emulate began being Christ through incarnation, the embodiment of something greater in than our world in our world. But the difference that I pointed out is that Christ Figures tend to have death and resurrection or sacrificial element to them and Incarnation Figures don’t always express that.
As intriguing and powerful as Christ Figures can be, I find them troublesome at times. I have seen too many Christians try to grade a story’s value on the presence or lack of Christ Figure. If it has one, it’s a good story, if not it fails. And this is whether the story is told well or the characters are believable or if there is any suspense to make us care what happens.
The other problem I frequently see is when a Christ figure is imposed in attempts to co-opt a story and make it a Christian tale. Take “The Matrix” for example. Certainly there is the element of sacrifice on Neo’s part as he stays behind to let the others escape. And there is something of death and resurrection. But did he really die? OR did he simply, finally understand the Matrix well enough to know that he didn’t have to die there? To me this story is more about faith and finding out what can happen when you truly believe more than it is about a Christ figure and the redemption that follows.
People often describe Gandalf from The Lord of the Rings as a Christ figure. Again there is a certain validity to that in terms of his death and resurrection. But as much as he is a Christ Figure, he is also an Odin Figure, at least up until the resurrection point. It’s almost as if Gandalf starts as Odin and finishes as Christ. And that’s not much a of a stretch given that Odin is a bit of Christ Figure himself, sacrificing himself unto himself.
But my favorite example of the failings of the overstressed Christ Figure is Hell Boy. In the second Hell Boy movie, the story follows the typical Christ Figure arch, as he sacrifices himself to save another, descends into the pits to eradicate the forces of evil and save all the Earth. Powerful stuff. But how many Christians stumble on this because he is a demon – and not just any demon, Satan’s son who’s true destiny is to bring ultimate destruction on the Earth? Is such a character an acceptable Christ Figure?
I think this is one of those examples that parallels the story of the Bronze Snake from scripture. God commanded Moses to make a bonze statue of a snake. This statue heals anyone that looks at it. The odd part is that most times that snakes appear in scripture, they are symbols of evil, demons or Satan himself. Jesus later tells us that the snake was an image of him. The image of evil expresses the ultimate good. Perhaps Hell Boy falls in this same category.

The Journey Inward

We took our kids to the movies to watch a kid film. Occasionally they don’t enjoy kid films, feeling they are too old for the story at times. “Finding Nemo” has become one of these. I watch it from time to time and they ultimately end up on the couch with me, but they insist that it is too little for them.
But this trip to the cinema proved just the opposite, with my wife and I enjoying the film better than our daughters. It wasn’t too young but rather too intense. I’m not bashing the film. The depths of the emotions (anger, fear, loneliness, sadness) was greater than they were ready to experience in one one hundred minute dose. They even enjoyed it for the most part; it was more of a cumulative effect.
The film was “Where the Wild Things Are”. When I first heard this film was being made, I didn’t want to see it. I enjoyed the book more as an adult than as a kid, but I felt certain the movie would suck. Recent history supports this. Most attempts to stretch a children’s picture book into a feature length film results in horrendous bastardizations of the original story. I changed my mind when I heard that Spike Jonze was directing. I love his films. It was a hard to picture him doing something for kids, but I knew it would be good. Then the trailers made it obvious that they had captured the look Maurice’s Sendak’s art. It was worth the gamble.
The story of a child being overwhelmed by his life and losing control of his emotions resulting in his running away caught my attention. For one thing, the film, like the original story, has the power to magically transform me into a kid Max’s age. I think this stems from an understanding for and strong remembrance of childhood expressed by the director, writers and actors, returning themselves to what it feels like to be that age too. Then they took the story deeper without adding much to it. Then the filmmakers let this all become real, to mimic life and kids without attempts to pretty up everything for a nice Hollywood experience.
The true beauty of this film wasn’t just a journey into the imagination but also a journey inward. Max, when facing the wild things, is actually facing his emotions. These are big, scary things he can barely control, even as their supposed king. The feeling that they will destroy him and consume him sounds all too familiar. The reality is that even as adults feel this way, so too do kids. They are humans and have the full human array of emotions even though they don’t have the language to articulate it; they also the ability to experience them more deeply because they haven’t always built up defenses and filters like adults. Too often, because children don’t have these complexities we forget that they can still experience the full complexity of feelings.
That reminder is the power of this film.

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