This is going to start super general and end very specific, so bear with me…
First, the general.
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot on the purpose of art––particularly my art.
See, I deeply believe part of our role as humans is to sub-create: to take the raw materials of creation and craft it into something which is part of it yet radically new. While it is stunningly beautiful on its own, we are tasked with its ordering and shaping, called to reveal new aesthetic vistas by our own manipulation of the natural world.
In some artistic pursuits, such as painting and sculpture, the act sub-creation from available resources is obvious––you take the stone or canvas and apply chisel or paint––but in others, like music or in my case, writing, the concept becomes more abstract.
At a base level, music is the conversion of friction or breath into sound waves, which vibrate invisibly in our ears, translating themselves yet again into neural data for our brains to process––yet the magic of music breaks the bounds of such clinical definitions.
The spoken word functions similarly, if yet more mysteriously, as societies attribute particular meaning to the sounds made by human mouths, allowing for the communication of ideas both practical (“take out trash the out”) and obscure (“how did we manage to create a society in which someone is offered an imaginary thing––money––in exchange for braving the elements to move my waste from one location to another”).
Again, these sounds do more than vibrate, they change the sounds from experience to meaning, changing and shaping them, so that the sub-creative powers of the writer are twofold: they manipulate the physical world of sound and the internal world of the mind. As Jewish scholar and philosopher Abraham Joshua Heschel said, “Words create worlds.”
And now we have the written word, which can weave its spell in our minds without even the intermediary of a voice. The trials of Odysseus and the wanderings of Abraham––once passed on by silver-tongued poets in marble halls and shepherds sitting round their campfires––have made their ways into our libraries and homes. And now, with the internet and its bevy of connected devices, these words have the ability to travel with us in ways even the physically-printed word found difficult.
…All of which leads me to the specific.
I wrote a book. And I’m going to publish it this year!
Shortly after arriving in Bloomington three years ago, I began writing an account of my life, mostly for therapeutic reasons, though I also held some deep hope that it may help, entertain, or even inspire others. So I began the blog series “My Story,” examining my life through the lens of faith and my relationship with the church. As a pastor’s kid twice over (both my birth and adoptive fathers were youth pastors), who then grew up to become one himself, my life was essentially conducted within the halls of church buildings or around church people, so when I suddenly found myself rejected multiple times by the church, the entire foundation of my reality crumbled.
This called into question not only my faith, but my entire world. It ended my career and cast doubt on my “calling.” It forced a change to my community, my home, and any future plans.
Inspiration struck when I realized that much of my life to this point had followed a well-trod path: the expectation, revelation, descent, brokenness, salvation, and wandering reflected in my story were not unique to me. The narrative of the cosmos, which I was discovering and describing in my own life, has always been taking this shape.
In the Christ Story, particularly as practiced in the liturgical calendar, we see this same path played out in the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, and in the growth of the community that took his name. I found names for these broad strokes of my life in the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Ordinary Time.
So I began to arrange, to organize and name my story, hanging it on the scaffolding of the Church Year. With the frame in place, the work began to explode. I desired to meditate on these movements, searching in their long histories of faithful observance for some crumb of relevance for today. By the time I’d finished, I had a piece of art in seven movements, covering my own life as well as the lives and works of fellow sinners and saints. It contained moments of great personal pride and shame, stories from history and culture, and the words of luminaries from Dostoevsky to The Dude.
Now, for the last several months I have held this work in my hands, wondering what in the world to do with it. Ought it merely to be a personal accomplishment? A shelved piece of art, such as a painter may put in his attic, hidden under sheets, to be discovered by his children after he’s gone?
Or ought it be shared? And if so, how?
First, I asked friends and family to read the thing, to tell me if it was worth sharing, or if I ought indeed to hide this thing in the digital attic. The response was overwhelmingly positive, so I began seriously considering how to release my art into the wild.
Now, after months of seeking advice and critiques, of finding an editor, a cover designer, and begging for blurbs from author friends and acquaintances; after endless discussions on how to present this, how to raise the money for it, and how to “sell” it, I’m thrilled to announce the coming publication of my first book,
Tracking Desire: A Memoir(ish) Walk Through Faith, Failure, and Finding God Under My Feet.
As summer progresses, I should be able to offer more information regarding the book itself, the expected release date, and ways you can partner to help make this a reality.
If you would like to stay up to date, I encourage you to sign up for my newsletter.
Thank you for reading and sharing my deep excitement for this work I have spent so much time producing.