Distant Deliveries

The awkward part about the location of our new apartment is that we have yet to find a pizza place that will deliver to the address. I’m not really certain as to why…we’re walking distance away from streets of local downtown businesses, but our street is off the magic grid of pizza delivery for our city.

In any case, Karen decided that tonight was a pizza night, and she called me on my way home from class, because the only option is carryout. So, I detoured to the appropriate pizza location and went inside to claim our dinner.

To be greeted by nostalgia.

I grew up in a rural area, and went to school in a town about 20 minutes away. My mother did all of the week’s shopping on Fridays: groceries, household supplies, whatever was necessary was all purchased in the weekly Friday excursion. She made this a special treat for me at the end of the week, as well, by picking me up from school on Friday afternoons about halfway through said shopping excursion, thus eliminating one of my one-hour bus rides for the week. And, we always managed to have fun. Frequently, we took a pizza home on Friday afternoons, arriving just in time as my father got home from work. We always ordered from the same place (my parents are to this day creatures of routine), and it was always carryout, because there was certainly no delivery in the area in which we lived.

So, many Friday afternoons were spent waiting in the restaurant for the pizza to be prepared. Those sorts of routine sounds, sights and smells have a way of making a mark on a child’s memory, and these certainly did (I was later offered a summer job at that same restaurant, and I’m so glad that I already had one and turned it down, because it would have ruined the nostalgia to see such a thing up close).

Fast forward to me leaving for college. There were multiple pizza deliveries within minutes of campus in that much larger city, all of which made a lucrative business of delivering to one’s dorm room. So, delivery ruled. And, it has ever since. Karen and I have always been quite used to ordering delivery on evenings when we don’t feel like cooking.

I think that, in becoming so accustomed to deliveries, that I’ve lost something of the memory that I once had. Standing in that pizza restaurant tonight, listening to the sounds and smelling the scents, listening to a grandmother help her grandchildren in choosing their order behind me, I was transported back momentarily to those Friday afternoons of my childhood.

My childhood was far from perfect, but it had its moments.

I know that we’ll make memories like this with and for our daughter, and I know that they may very well be the unintentional ones…like the pizza restaurant for me…that make some of the biggest impressions. Perhaps one day she’ll write about what they were and I’ll get to enjoy reliving them. In any case, this is yet another moment when I’m learning to not let convenience overpower an appreciation for the goodness of life when it was just a bit slower.

The Value of Inspiration

I’ve never claimed to be a visual artist.

I tried, mind you, when I was young, just as all children try their hands at drawing and painting. At the end of the day, though, while my drawing was a bit of an obsession for a while, my true sensitivity turned out to be auditory in nature, not visual. I think that’s why I’m a writer, because I hear the sounds of the words on the page the way they would be spoken. I’m just visual enough to do layout designs, which I’ve done in print and on the web, and I’ve done some scenic design work for the stage. I’ve done some lighting design, as well, but to draw or paint something beautiful on a blank canvas…that’s just not my gift.

Still, I’ve been friends with a great many visual artists over the course of my life, and I know how to appreciate the visual mediums. I’ve developed a taste for “what I like,” and Karen and I have occasional fun matching our disparate tastes in visual  aesthetics into a cohesive interior design. I find visual art inspiring for my writing. I’ve found some visual work on Tumblr that had a great impact on the character development of a major character in my work-in-progress.

I was thinking about this along the lines of when I see steampunk art or cosplays. I’ve never read anything in the genre, but seeing the art makes me want to read the genre. In fact, seeing the art makes me want to try my hand at writing it, as well, at some point in the future.

All that to say, it’s wonderful to see how one medium informs another. Our inspiration has to come not only from within our own medium or even our own genre, but from wildly different ones, as well.

Go looking. Stay inspired.

Belated Valentine’s Day Musings

Karen and I have an arrangement.

That arrangement is to observe Valentine’s Day more carefully than our anniversary. This isn’t because of any serious date conflict, as our anniversary falls in the summer. Rather, it’s because that Valentine’s Day is an anniversary of its own, the anniversary of our first date.

After having talked for a couple of weeks on a social network that was respectable at the time, we had lunch on campus at the university where were both grad students. We made arrangements to go out the following Tuesday, and it was that weekend that my co-workers reminded me that the following Tuesday was Valentine’s Day. How stupid to go out on a date with a girl you really like but had only just met on that most romantic day of the year? You have to play it just right…not overboard, but not ignoring the event, either. I could have bored her, or I could have scared her away.

Fortunately, I did neither, and six months later we were married. So, we’ve always been very careful to observe Valentine’s Day, as it was quite truthfully the evening that we first fell in love.

Last year’s Valentine’s was our first with out daughter. After making plans to have a family member watch her, our daughter wasn’t feeling well, and neither, truthfully, were either of us, so we stayed home and watched an old black and white movie. Nothing overly extravagant, but its where we were at the time. This year found us having just moved into a new apartment and, as I’m a full time student for a few more months, not exactly rolling in cash. We were able, though, to order out from one of our favorite restaurants. Then we put our daughter to bed for the night, and watched a movie from one of Karen’s favorite directors, a movie that I took her to see on our honeymoon.

I paused to reflect on where the adventure of life has taken us since that first Valentine’s Day dinner and coffee. We were poor students then, as well, and I don’t think that I could ever have predicted where our adventure would take us. Regardless of how elaborate or simple our Valentine’s Days are in the future, though, I wouldn’t trade that decision that I made, on our first date nonetheless, to propose to this beautiful woman that is my wife.

“It’s an adventure!”is her motto about life, and indeed it has been, is, and will be. I can’t imagine taking this journey without her at my side.

Here’s to many adventures to come!

So-Called “Faithless” Literature, and a Gospel According to Martha Jones

There’s been some debate lately about whether or not faith still thrives in fiction. That is, there is some speculation that the existential questions traditionally allocated to the realm of faith, such as those of purpose and ethics, and which drove literature in both veiled and not-so-veiled ways for some time, is now addressed or ignored in a purely secular art form.

Paul Elie recently considered in the New York Times whether or not fiction has lost its faith. Gregory Wolfe, editor of Image Journal, responded in the Wall Street Journal, insisting that it has not. Me? I’m strongly in Wolfe’s camp, and not only in literature, but in the arts in general.

I was struck by how strongly different genres of different mediums explore concepts of religious faith when I was around for a random re-watch of an old episode of Dr. Who. The episodes in question, which earned a full re-viewing by me later (what did we do before Netflix?), were the final two episodes of season 3 of the new series, in which the Doctor (then partnered with Martha Jones), finds himself in a desperate struggle to defeat the only other surviving Time Lord, the Master, as he has taken over the Earth and reduced the Doctor to a helpless invalid.

During a year of the Master’s reign of terror (which passes between the two episodes), Martha Jones escapes and wanders the entire planet earth. There, she essentially preaches to the population (nearly all of whom have been enslaved by the Master, and frequently tortured and killed), telling them of the heroic Doctor who is their only hope against the Master…the Doctor who has saved their lives over and again without their even knowing it, and who is the one person capable of defeating the Master’s evil.

The Master fears Martha enough to go after her personally…he arrives on the street outside where she is taking refuge, as one of the helpless slaves states words to the effect of “he never walks among us.” The Master belittles Martha’s faith and hope as being unable to stand against his weapons. He mocks Martha’s efforts just before he is to publicly execute her, as he learns that her plan was to have everyone on the earth, at the same critical moment, think of this mythical figure whom they had never met known as the Doctor.

Because, in his year of captivity, the Doctor has been able to telepathically connect himself with the same mental network that the Master used to persuade the people of earth to place him in his dictatorship. Thus, the Doctor receives massive power from this psionic energy being funneled into him. Essentially, the Doctor’s power comes through the prayer of the believers from Martha’s “gospel,” and he uses his power unexpectedly to, in the moment at which he has the Master defeated, utter the words which he has tried to say yet which the Master has avoided throughout the episodes: “I forgive you.” The Doctor, displaying the nature of a hero, sees the Master has someone worth saving, despite his evil deeds.

And, in the end, the Master’s refusal to be with the forgiving Doctor results in his final demise.

Season 3 of Doctor Who ended with the Doctor written overtly as a Christological metaphor. Difficult for me swallow, then, that art has lost its faith. Every medium and genre is scattered with artists who explore questions of faith and belief from various perspectives, and these two episodes of a science-fiction program are but one example to stand alongside many others.

Perhaps the issue is any delineation at all between “sacred” and “secular,” our insistence on placing artistic expression in one camp or another. I don’t believe that there is any such separation, and I am immediately suspect of any genre distinction that attempts to enforce it.

Faith is not gone from the arts. It is as powerfully stated as ever, if, as Wolfe points out, stated in a different manner, a manner consistent with our cultural evolution. That’s because the existential questions that haunted humanity a hundred years ago haunt us still, and require our attention no less than they did then. That is an integral part of the human condition, and it is the questions of that condition that the arts continue to explore.

Photo Attribution: ewen and donabel under Creative Commons