The other day I heard Maya Lin talk about her design for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington DC. I’ve visited the wall many times, and it’s always crowded with people, many of them deeply moved by the v-shaped black granite gash in the earth.
The memorial seems brilliant, even inevitable now, as if the memorial couldn’t have possibly looked any other way. But at the time, it was controversial, scandalous. Many Vietnam veterans fought it. They wanted something more traditional. A few concessions were made—a flag, a statue of a soldier—but through it all, Lin remained convicted and steadfast to her vision and her design.
The night before the memorial was dedicated, Lin was touring the space when a Vietnam veteran walked up to her. He was a big guy, an imposing guy, and he was livid at what he saw. He lit into her, practically pinning her to the wall with his rage, asking, How dare she do this?
As I listened to this story, I imagined what it would have been like to be Maya Lin, and to be the focus of such ire. Then I realized that of course, it has happened to me, though on a more modest scale. One time in the church I used to serve, we made a decision to change the way we served communion. It was the right decision, and we communicated our purposes the best we could. But a man left that day and made a beeline for me: How could you do this? How dare you do this? I received his rancor as non-anxiously as I could, but inside my heart sank and I was flooded with doubt.
I was expecting Lin to admit to similar feelings, but she responded differently. As she listened to the veteran, and heard all of that pain tumbling out, she thought to herself, It’s working. The wall is doing exactly what I’d hoped it would do.
Pastors, leaders, and any of us in the transformation business: take heed. When you touch people emotionally, people may lash out. But that’s not necessarily a sign to stop. It can be a sign to stand firm, or if you dare, to go deeper.
Lots of great nuggets of inspiration here at CREDO. Way too much (and to new) to blog, but here’s one from a fellow participant that inspired a lot of us when it comes to dissatisfaction with the way things are:
You can be angry, you can be patient, or you can be creative.
Doesn’t matter what the issue is… that is something I can work with.
Mihee is a fellow pastor and Chalice Press author. She was with the board of the Young Clergy Women last week and talked about how it was a Sabbath experience, even though she was working:
…a mixed-up experience of Sabbath from daily living, i.e. from the babies. It was a Sabbath-work. It was space to breathe, without being stifled and smothered by my extremely loving babies. It was a space to be, and be not only a mom but a pastor, a sister, a leader, a thinker, a writer. It was a space to receive, and give in a different way.
A space she found restful and Sabbath-y.
I love this. One of the things I do in the book is explore different ways of thinking about Sabbath other than simply “not working.” For example, one section talks about Sabbath as a time to cultivate novelty. By moving into a different creative space, we are able to find rest and renewal.
She’s also got a great link to a TED talk called “The Art of Possibility.” How can you not lean in to that?
And he would know, eh? The reasoning behind his choices is enjoyable to read, as is everything Ebert writes:
The two [new] candidates, for me, are Charlie Kaufman’s “Synecdoche, New York” (2008) and Terrene Malick’s “The Tree of Life” (2011). Like the Herzog, the Kubrick and the Coppola, they are films of almost foolhardy ambition. Like many of the films on my list, they were directed by the artist who wrote them. Like several of them, it attempts no less than to tell the story of an entire life.
In “Synecdoche,” Kaufman does this with one of the most audacious sets ever constructed: An ever-expanding series of boxes or compartments within which the protagonist attempts to deal with the categories of his life. The film has the insight that we all deal with life in separate segments, defined by choice or compulsion, desire or fear, past or present. It is no less than a film about life.
In “The Tree of Life,” Malick boldly begins with the Big Bang and ends in an unspecified state of attenuated consciousness after death. The central section is the story of birth and raising a family.
I could choose either film. I will choose “The Tree of Life” because it is more affirmative and hopeful. I realize that isn’t a defensible reasons for choosing one film over the other, but it is my reason, and making this list is essentially impossible, anyway.
Have you seen Tree of Life? We’ve had it sitting on our coffee table from Netflix for oh, two months or so. I will watch it!
Creativity requires an element of novelty, but novelty provokes uncertainty:
We now know that regardless of how open-minded people are, or claim to be, they experience a subtle bias against creative ideas when faced with uncertain situations. This isn’t merely a preference for the familiar or a desire to maintain the status quo. Most of us sincerely claim that we want the positive changes creativity provides. What the bias affects is our ability to recognize the creative ideas that we claim we desire. Thus, when you’re pitching your creative idea, it may not be the idea itself that is being rejected. The more likely culprit could be the uncertainty your audience is feeling, which in turn is overriding their ability to recognize the idea as truly novel and useful.
If the implicit bias against creativity is triggered by uncertainty, then crafting your pitch to maximize certainty should improve the odds of the idea being accepted. You can do this in a variety of ways…
Members of the NEXT Church and other change agents: be advised.
My video on “What to Expect When Your Church is Expecting” has hit 4,000 views/pages and counting. I’m humbled and honored by the attention.
It also makes me cringe since I hate watching myself on video.
A few folks have countered that there are places in which the church is not pregnant, but really and truly dying. I agree. One person rightly pointed out that the symptoms for pregnancy that I named are not unlike the symptoms of a cancer patient. Also true. As I’ve said, this video/post offers a metaphor. To the extent that the metaphor helps, great. If it gets in the way of the hard work of dying that must take place in many specific places, disregard.
May my words be faithful or may they slip harmlessly away.
The inimitable Jan Edmiston riffed on the metaphor in a wonderful way today. The church is graying. So what is our responsibility as grandparents to this new church that is coming into being?
It occurs to me that those in my and older generations need to keep something in the forefront of our minds as the church we love is pregnant:
The Next Church Will Not Be Our Baby.
We will have great ideas for how to care for it and treasure it. We might even be able to help pay for its nurture and its future. But it’s not our baby.
This is not to say we will not be ideal grandparents. But it’s possible that we could overstep our bounds. We could chuckle at the disciplines the younger generations have chosen to follow. We might want to talk incessantly about the way we did it. But let’s not.
She ends by saying that the church of the future will be a lot browner than it is now. That’s also true. And yet the Presbyterian Church is very white. So what’s going on there? Adoption is another metaphor that might help us. I wonder if there’s someone out there that might riff on that in some creative ways. Susan? Alex?
Let’s all keep dreaming and spinning generative metaphors.
Where did the week go? Oh yeah, to Baltimore for a planning meeting for the NEXT Church. Now that’s a group of folks with some big dreams for the church! Stay tuned… and if you are of the Presbyterian flavor, register today for the 2012 conference!
I recently read A Wrinkle in Time to the girls and was re-astounded at its beauty, complexity and depth:
What [L’Engle] seems to have intended to do is add a new twist (wrinkle?) to C. S. Lewis’s Narnia books. Those, too, combine fantasy with a religious message; The Magician’s Nephew even includes an element of planet-hopping sci-fi. But while the Lewis of Nephew was a veteran children’s author who knew, metaphysically speaking, where he stood, the L’Engle of Wrinkle was a relative newcomer, and there’s something less slick and complacent about her universe. Blend pagan myth with Christian themes and you’re repeating an old formula; stir in large quantities of secular literature and modern science, and you get a more intriguing, more volatile chemistry.
There’s also a discussion of a pivotal scene in the book (one of my favorites), which may be “the single most outrageous scene in classic children’s fiction.”
A magazine dedicated to plus-size fashion and models has sparked controversy with a feature claiming that most runway models meet the Body Mass Index criteria for anorexia.
Accompanied by a bold shoot that sees a nude plus-size model posing alongside a skinny ‘straight-size’ model, PLUS Model Magazine says it aims to encourage plus-size consumers to pressure retailers to better cater to them, and stop promoting a skinny ideal.
Lots of very arresting photos of a beautiful “plus-size” model.
There are hard problems, and there are wicked problems:
Steve Jobs was a master at dealing with wicked problems, and when he came back to Apple [in 1996], it was in a very bad place. They had the success of the Macintosh, and then they really struggled.
Most CEOs would come back and say, “How do I sell more computers? We’ll have to expand the number of consumers who are interested in my products. We’ll have to hire a chief marketing officer.” It’s a hard problem — “How do I sell more computers?”
Jobs came in and asked different kinds of questions about what could that company even be. He famously said his objective was to make a dent in the universe. He asked, “How do I transform how people interact with each other and the devices that enable them to communicate?” It’s a totally different kind of thing.
I talk about this all the time in the church. We are very good at avoiding the wicked problems by asking the wrong questions: how can we halt membership decline? How do we get young people back to church? Wrong questions.
This is a couple years old, but couldn’t help but share. We love Mike Rowe and Dirty Jobs in our house:
Oodles of fun anecdotes, commentary, and yes opera singin’. Also, his answer to “Is there any chance you’ll stop having sex with my wife in her dreams? It’s getting pretty old, Mike” is so elegant, it would have made Archimedes jealous.