Tell me a story

I’m sitting in the recording studio right now listening to my friend construct a soundtrack to a video I’m making. The video is simple – just a series of statistics and other titles, but they tell a story: they paint a picture. And now, more than ever, I appreciate the role of a film composer.

So often, we underestimate the ability that music has to lead us on a journey, to tell us a story, to communicate that which is beyond words and needs to be injected directly into the soul. Many people downplay this powerful role that music has, some try to strip it of its power and relegate it to the ‘background’.

Enter the filmmaker – the person with a story to tell and 24 frames per second of widescreen technicolor canvas to do it. They can create a convincing set, sculpt emotion and mood by lighting, place memorable lines of dialogue on the lips of the actors, but without a musical score, the story is two dimensional. It is a series of lines, events and places strung together to create a narrative. But the music adds that third dimension: it brings movement and emotion to an otherwise flat picture.

Music is the ultimate storyteller because it sticks with you long after the more tangible aspects of the story (or film in this case) have left you. You may not be able to recall the overture or the predominant theme note by note, but you are left with the essence of the story. You will remember the celebration; you will remember the tragedy. You will remember the tension; you will remember the resolution. The skilled composer will use all the tools at his disposal – dominant melodies, crafted harmonies, blends of complementary rhythms and instruments – to take you on that journey, as he knows better than anyone else the lasting effect of a story told by music.

The music in my heart I bore,
Long after it was heard no more.
— William Wordsworth

Balance

People try to tell me to live a balanced life, but here are a couple of thoughts on balance. Firstly, most people regard balance as being mixture – getting a little bit of all extremes and finding some comfortable middle ground. Sorry – doesn’t interest me. If that means watering down something that I might be passionate about, just so I can fit in the things I’m not so passionate about, I don’t like that answer!

One illustration I’ve been given before (I think it might have come from Chesterton or someone) is that balance is not finding a neutral, safe seat of mediocrity but a reaching to embrace all extremes and hanging there in the midst of all the extremes. I like that idea – the fact that you CAN have it all, and that in doing so, you can be a balanced person.

Another idea I just had was that balance isn’t really the goal. Picture a tightrope walker – they are walking along a tightrope, keeping their balance and trying to get to the other side. Note the purpose of this exercise – everyone is looking at him wondering how he is going to stay on the tightrope, but that’s not what he’s doing! He is going from A to B! The tightrope is just the means to get there, and it’s tricky to stay on it. The moment you stop and start thinking about staying on the tightrope, you start to lose it. The key is to focus on the destination, the purpose of staying on the tightrope to begin with. The goal is not to make sure you’re not too unevenly loaded, but that you keep moving towards the destination. And think about it: the more the tightrope walker is moving forward, the more the balance takes care of itself.

I want to live a balanced life, but that is not my goal. I don’t want to compartmentalise and set aside this portion of life for work, and then set aside another chunk of ‘me’ time in the name of balance. The purpose of my life is not to have a nice, comfortable existence that doesn’t stretch me too much. The purpose of my life deserves its own blog post, but can be summarised in this: it’s not about me! Focusing too much on the balance amounts to focusing everything on me here and now. Sorry – again, not interested. I need to be moving forward at a fast enough pace towards my destination for the issue of balance to just take care of itself.

Fashionably late

I’m sitting in an old church on a Saturday morning waiting for a wedding to start. What is it with the bride always being late? Why is that the accepted norm? To be fair, the bride did arrive on time – she’s been waiting outside for some additional ‘special people’ to arrive. I would be hopping mad if that happened to me. Being late for someone is a mark of disrespect… Not that I’m immune to bring late, but I do hate it when I am late for someone or something.

My friend who is currently engaged just admitted to his fiancee that he’s going to bring a book to read on the front row until she steps out of the car!

Starbucks

So Starbucks at Parramatta is closing down soon, and it would appear that the staff are having a bit of fun…

Acting upon a dream

You know what they say, ‘if you aim for nothing, you’ll hit it every time’ (i.e. nothing!).

I was thinking of this in relation to dreams and desires today. I’ve come across people who don’t give themselves permission to dream or to think big. They wouldn’t put it as such, excusing themselves for being realistic. But for one’s dreams to live within the confines of a present situation severely limits the capacity to break out of that. Complete satisfaction with reality robs you of any motivation to better that reality. Goethe said that “to be pleased with one’s limits is a wretched state.”

True, there is always the element of lying to yourself: the things you dream may never come to pass. Friedrich Nietzsche said, “The visionary lies to himself, the liar only to others.” To be consumed by your dream with no regard for the present reality is foolishness. The dream becomes nothing more than a fantasy with no chance of coming to pass.

Let me then propose a balance, a solution that embraces both extremes: a dream gives the dreamer direction for their present reality. A dream without direction or foundation in present reality is merely fantasy. A present reality without a dream is a mundane existence. The purpose of a dream is to determine and motivate the direction from the present reality to the future reality.

Now allow me to use examples from my own life. I dream of being a great husband and a great dad in the future. I am neither of those at the moment (something to do with the fact that I’m not married, nor a father!). If this dream doesn’t affect my actions today, it’s just a fantasy. I will never become these things just by dreaming them: I need to get myself around married couples and families and learn from them, to pursue relational and emotional growth in my existing relationships, intentionally becoming the kind of person that I need to be. If I didn’t have this dream, the likelihood of my ending up at the same destination are even smaller – I didn’t even have the motivation to try, let alone something to act upon!

I may not step into my dreams overnight, but I refuse to aim for nothing. Even if the outworking of that dream looks different to what I originally saw, I believe my life will be different and better as a result of acting upon a dream.