1. What I’m Doing Here
A blog? What is this, 2004?
There are a few reasons for doing it this way. I miss blogging. I was a big LiveJournal user for about seven years, before the people I knew there dispersed, mainly to Tumblr and Instagram. I use and like both of those platforms, but I miss the chance to write thoughtfully without the pressure of polishing something up to pitch somewhere. (I’m not stopping that; this is just different.)
It is also somewhat inspired by Ashley Ford’s lovely “5 Things,” a post I look forward to every Sunday. I thought about just doing my own “5 Things,” as she’s encouraged her readers to do, but I want to give these posts their own space to breathe. And I wanted to tweak the format a bit. I’m doing three things biweekly, instead of five every week, at least for now. We’ll see what I have to say, over time. I’m also limiting myself to 300 words per topic. I do better with rules, and I think personal blogging – at least mine – is served by conciseness. 300 words is plenty. Maybe too much. Again, we’ll see.
Chuck Wendig recently discussed the dual necessity of showing up to write and being kind to yourself. Personally, I’m the sort of writer who finds it very easy to start projects, but I feel a bit of a failure when I don’t sustain them. Looking back, though, I suspect I may have framed the story a bit lopsidedly. Yes, I might have wished for a longer run for some of my projects. But I learned things from each of them. And the fact I have to let some projects go is not a valid excuse for never starting them.
So. Here we are. Thanks in advance for reading.
2. Enthusiasm and Apologies
I’ve been attempting to read Dangerous Rhythm, by Richard Barrios, for a couple of weeks now, and I think I’ve finally pinpointed the reason I’ve picked it up and put it down over and over.
It isn’t the subject matter. I have a complicated relationship with movie musicals; I deeply love musical theatre and film, but sometimes feel that combining the two ultimately serves neither. But there are musical films that I adore, even so, and the history of the genre fascinates me.
No, what’s given me pause is the tone Barrios strikes, at least in the introduction and early chapters: a sort of laughing defensiveness, as if to say “Haha, we all know movie musicals are dumb, but hear me out.” “These films don’t necessarily conform to normal standards of greatness,” he writes, “and far too many of them are prone to shoving wonderful moments in between sections of stolid compost.”
Now, a lot of people do think movie musicals are dumb. But I would hope that someone who went to the trouble to read a book about them – much less someone who went to the trouble to write one – wouldn’t.
As I get older, I’m less and less into apologizing for pop culture tastes on the grounds of frivolity. Devin Faraci recently argued, in response to Vin Diesel’s joke about Furious 7 winning best picture, that the wall between “serious” and popular art has eroded in some areas, such as music, but remains firm in others (notably film). The topic is complicated, but I think there’s a truth at the center of Faraci’s argument.
There are a lot of reasons to be critical of art, even – maybe especially – art that you love. But I am unconvinced that “lack of seriousness” is inherently among them.
I didn’t grow up observing Lent. My Catholic grandmother would go, alone, to vigil on Saturday; for the rest of the family, Southern Baptists at the time, Easter was just Easter. But I’ve come to really value seasons of preparation, Lent and Advent both. I’ve only attended an Episcopal church for four years and change (five if you count college CoE chapel for a year), but I’ve already come to look forward to having a season of reflection in the last stretch of winter.
For a lot of reasons, though, this year felt like it just didn’t take. Some of them are external to me; some are internal. But it’s Palm Sunday and I don’t feel ready for the emotional climax this year.
But, paradoxically, that is part of what draws me to ritual. Ritual isn’t about how you feel, it’s about what you do. Even if this is a year I don’t connect the way I’d like to, I will still show up Wednesday and Thursday and Friday and Saturday and, finally, Easter Sunday. I will still go through the motions, not because I’m afraid of punishment for not, but because I know putting myself in the stance I’ve used before will open me to something meaningful. Whether that something shows up this time through or not.
Rachel Held Evans and other young religious writers who have moved from the evangelical tradition to Episcopal worship have drawn a lot of criticism, which reeks of fear, at least to me. I can’t speak for anyone but myself, but this tradition not only offers a theology more in line with what I personally believe; it offers the sneered-at “smells and bells” that provide me a place to lean when I’m too tired to stand up on my own. That isn’t nothing.