“An object is either remains at rest or moves at a constant velocity, unless an external force acts upon it.” -Newtons First Law of Physics
I’ve recently added a second book to my current reading list: “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” by Donald Miller. Before departing from each other, my ex-girlfriend and I exchanged books, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years being one of them. I read “Blue Like Jazz,” Donal Miller’s #1 Best Seller a year ago, and it gave definition to emotions and questions I couldn’t articulate. I figured another book by the man who put words to my heart, wouldn’t be a bad bet. I was right.
The book speaks of living a good story. All good stories have basic elements–protagonists, antagonists, rising and falling actions, conflict and resolution. Don’s friend Jordan summarizes story in the simplest of terms, “A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.”
How many of us are living good stories?
Don, at a specific point in his book says, (In regards to the massacre in Mumbai) When we watch the news, we grieve all of this, but when we go to the movies, we want more of it. Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”
We, as human beings, hate risk and love comfort. We flee fear and embrace the secure. We avoid conflict or change yet fight for homeostasis. And yet, the elements we love, cherish and embrace as humanity are the exact things contrary to a good story.
If we watch a story about a man who is raised in great home, had everything given to him, figured out life without risk, gets a career job, finds a beautiful wife, has 2.5 children and rescues a dog named Chewy from the humane society because his 2.5 kids begged and pleaded, we’d walk out of the theatre infuriated as the credits rolled. We want risk, triumph, failure, overcoming all odds to see the character we love succeed, regardless of costs. In fact, the higher the costs, the harsher the struggle, the more we love the story. But still we prod on for meaninglessness and security.
Don later discovers that all characters, whether in a fictitious novel or real life, don’t choose to move, don’t choose to embrace the story. They must be forced. An Inciting Incident.
An object at rest will remain at rest, unless and a object of equal or greater force acts upon it. It’s more than physics.
Since coming home from oversees, I haven’t dreamed; I haven’t soared. Why? For fear. Afraid to fail. Afraid to succeed. Afraid if there really is a God up there that gives a damn. Afraid I’ll let people down. Afraid of what I want. My dreams have been shipwreck on the coral reef of fear, and though everything in me screams, “ABANDON SHIP!!! SETTLE FOR A NORMAL LIFE!!! GET A DEGREE!!! FIND A CAREER!!! LIVE A NORMAL LIFE!!!” There is a hardwiring in my soul like that of a captain…
I’d rather drown aboard my sinking vessel which was born to set sail and see the sacred seas, than loose all hope and cast my anchor down.
The Inciting Incident… Or rather, Incidents (guess I needed a bigger push).
1. An Old Friend
I stood on a hill overlooking the city I grew up in, with a friend reunited hugging me from behind. “Where’s the Landon I knew? Where’s the Landon that believed God for crazy things and loved people so deeply? You say you’re happy, but I don’t believe you. I’ve seen you happy. You’re not happy.”
As Adam’s words continued to cascade over me, I was reminded of a Landon long lost. A Landon I loved being, but am not now. A Landon who I’ve been trying to find, but elusive and evasive. A Landon, whose name isn’t Landon.
I want to be him again.
2. An Unwanted Roller Coaster Ride
Last night I went to a Switchfoot concert. I’m not a diehard fan of Switchfoot or the concert scene for that matter. I’d rather listen to the perfectly crafted EP that I can pick whichever song pleases me or fits my mood. A concert doesn’t accomplish that. You join the band in the journey they desire, while we, the audience, simply get on the roller coaster, choosing to either lift our hands in excitement or blow our chunks in vertigo. Needless to say, I get motion sickness easily. But as I watched a film of how Switchfoot flew to the shores of Australia, New Zealand, Africa and Indonesia and listened to them sing, “I dare you to move,” I lifted my hands on their roller coaster of a concert.
I want this.
I want to move. I don’t want to sit still and settle for the foreseen and senile. As much as I hate it, I want risk. As much as I loathe it, I want the highs and lows of life.
Last year I read a fantastic book named, “A Severe Mercy” by Sheldon Vanauken. In the beginning of his autobiography, he speaks of the highs and lows of life. He truly believes there is a choice as to whether we will live a flat line safe life, or an insecure on of highs and lows.
“So, if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have, if he could find it, a great love. But in the books again, great joy through love seemed always to go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still the joy would be worth the pain-if, indeed, they went together. If there was a choice-and he suspected there was-a choice between, on one hand, the heights and depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths.”
-A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken
As I began to dream again, hearing the words, “I dare you to move; I dare you to move; I dare you to lift yourself up on off the floor,” I saw Latta Ditti, a prostitute dying of AIDS and tuberculosis. I saw Navid, a little Indian boy whose mom is locked up in a lifestyle of sex. I saw Jr Higher students ascending above me as they sing praises to their God.
What am I living for? What am I living for?
When my stories written, do I want it to be said I limped along, crippled by a porn addiction? Or do I want it read, he saw lives transformed as he lavished love from a God above? And I guess the question simplified is “Do I want to risk?”