Sunday, February 24, 2013

Truth in Dr. Horrible

After watching Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog for the first time, I sat for several minutes, trying to absorb everything and saying things like "That was really weird.... I don't understand..." A few years and a couple re-watchings later, I can identify the parts that make it a story I love as well as one that leaves me unsatisfied. And I think that's the point.

It's about a man who, disillusioned with the appearance of "good" in the world, has decided the best way to fix things is to become an evil genius. The problem is that he's got too much good inside of him. He falls in love with a girl who helps the homeless. He won't have an evil showdown with someone in a park, because there might be kids there (also, because Johnny Snow isn't actually his nemesis.) His real hatred is concentrated on the face of "good" that only masks a bully. By the end of the story, we're left wondering who's really the hero (if there is one), what constitutes good and evil, and whether people can actually do anything about it.

My favorite song in the show is called My Eyes/On the Rise. It shows the world through the viewpoints of Billy, also known as Dr. Horrible, and Penny, the girl of his dreams. To him, everything is crashing to the ground. To her, it looks like the world might finally be changing for the better. Neither of them are right.

What am I getting at? The story is meant to leave people hanging. There's not a happy ending, though you could say that Dr. Horrible got everything he wanted. I think the point at which the story turns for me, where a lot of the conflict lives, is in that song. Some people see good everywhere. Some people see evil everywhere. But people accomplishing both good and evil live alongside each other. Sometimes they're mistaken about which side they're actually serving, maybe because they don't fully understand the world.

There are so many viewpoints and so many arguments that some call what is good, evil, and what is evil, good, and can get away with it. Perceptions of truth are so warped that people can't see what's actually happening. They're blinded by ambition, or a mission, or even love.

Dr. Horrible, in a humorous way, calls attention to some of these things. There's not an intended Christian message, but I think the story can give Christians a lot to think about. We believe in good and truth. Why can't others see it around them? It's a broken world. Lots of evil has been done trying to fix it. What can we do about it? Since we claim to serve good, let's do good. Let's give reason for hope. And let's stick close to truth, or we may find ourselves pursuing something lesser.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Two Voices

Most people know me to be a cheerful and whimsical person. I'm the kind of girl who gets a Happy Meal at McDonald's and plays with the Hello Kitty toy. I sometimes skip instead of walking. I splash in puddles, crunch leaves, and generally enjoy the small things in life.

However, some few know the other side of me -- the one that's analytical and critical. This can be useful, and it's often how I approach problem solving and try to improve myself. The problem is that it has a tendency to manifest in the form of complaints and judgments. Projecting both voices onto my surroundings can leave me stuck between convictions. I'm still trying to decide if the exercise is useful.

Turning these voices loose on Taylor University results in conversations/impressions like this:

All the wonderful people everywhere!
Those couple of people that set off the "rage" trigger in my brain, maybe because they're contrasted against all the wonderful people.

So many ways to get involved in the community, resulting in fun and meaningful service!
Many possibilities for getting bogged down with responsibilities and others' expectations. Can you really give yourself to everything?

Late night conversations and movies with friends.
Time you really should spend doing something useful with your life. Like, weren't you supposed to be finishing your story?

A tight-knit community with potential for wonderful relationships.
A place where some still find judgement and nowhere to turn.

There are so many ways to learn about God and find growth.
But are you depending on your surroundings to grow your spiritual life?

I love learning!
You're not going to be in a classroom the rest of your life, at least not literally. Try harder.

There's so much beauty everywhere.
Are you appreciating it, or cultivating it?

Though at the outset the first voice seems largely superior (or at least happier), it gives many observations that aren't inherently useful. It needs to be tempered by the second voice. The thing I want to keep in mind is that the two voices don't have to be in opposition. They can work together. And when they actually do, I accomplish the things I consider most worthy. When they don't, I feel like I'm chipping at some stone block that refuses to be shaped.

Lately, I've been spending lots of time trading in granite dust. I think it's time to get down to the actual sculpture. I love Taylor, though I can see many cons among the pros. All I can do is try to make something beautiful, anyway.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Deadlines, Commitments, Black Holes, and Superpowers

In the last week, I've had the dawning realization that I will not make the deadline for my novel.

Pretty much what I have left is to write four-ish chapters, fix some local plot problems, go over nine or ten chapters with minor revising, and polish, putting small threads in place. I've received feedback from some fellow writers that looks very helpful, but I haven't had time to put it into action.

However, I only have five days. And on each of those days, I'll be spending almost my entire evening in the theater. Taylor University's production of Godspell opens on my birthday, my deadline date, and there were enough holes to fill in voluntary positions that I felt I needed to help. I may be able to write during the day, but with homework, classes, work, and a laptop that can't move from my desk (it's a long story), I'm not going to have the time I need to get it done, despite the deadline rush. I haven't even had time to research and pick an editor at Tor.

I'm bummed, yes. Part of me says I could have spent more time on it before, could have pushed harder. I certainly could have. But when I push too hard with my writing, I burn out. I know because I did. Other time problems were due to circumstances out of my control. Whether or not I could be in better shape right now, there's not much I can do. Maybe I'll find the gumption within me and the time around me to pull this off, after all. I'm just not pinning my hopes on it.

I've been thinking about commitments and responsibility a lot lately. I have a hard time saying no when people need help getting things done, no matter if it's something I really want to do or not. Most of the time in the theater, I do want to help. Working with props (and other technical aspects) in the theater satisfies my need for creative projects, contributions to a larger goal, not to mention my love for the plays themselves. I like the interaction with other departments. I like the steady progress.

However, it's hard to deny that theater can be a soul-consuming, time-sucking black hole.

Combined with the regular aspects of life -- friends, spiritual development, my position of authority in my dorm, the aforementioned classes and ensuing homework, and a currently unsatisfied need for PEACE and QUIET and TIME WITH GOD, I'm wondering what to do with all the things I want to do. (If only my superhero altar ego had the ability to manipulate time.) My community overflows with ways to get involved, volunteer, lead. Sometimes, my mind and heart have a hard time deciding which of those I should be doing -- even arguing that they're more important than some of the things I already do.

However, one of my superpowers is being a dedicated worker. There's a part of my mind looking at the week ahead, rolling up its sleeves, and deciding how much sleep I can do without. And more than that, I have a God for whom having superpowers is an understatement. He can use these deadlines, black holes, and commitments to accomplish his purposes. I just have to try to align mine with his.

Wish me luck -- or, since I'll be in the theater, a couple of broken legs.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Slow Development

I think lots of "ordinary" Christians secretly wish they had a really cool testimony. The stories where a person is brought from the brink of hell-breathed fiery destruction, or saved from danger and certain death, or given a new chance at life after a long, heart-wrenching struggle -- well, they stay with people. They inspire. They testify to the power of God.

Still, the rest of us really don't need to envy them.

When we really think about it, quiet testimonies like "I gave my heart to Jesus Christ when I was 12. I've been following him ever since," are a blessed, beautiful thing. In some ways they have as much power as miracles. In retrospect, you find many circumstances that were, in fact, miracles. I've realized that a lot lately about my life.

At very few points in my life did I notice a miracle in the works, big changes in my relationship with God. Most of the time, I couldn't see God slowly shaping my heart. (It's still a work in progress.) Only when looking back can I see how my slow growth is being made into its own unique story, complete with real angels, demons, and heroes, though at no point have I been close to dying. On the outside, no circumstance appears to be extraordinary. My path doesn't look like it's been fraught with pitfalls and snares. Now I know they're there, but I'm grateful that God's so far let me move at a slow pace on a relatively sheltered path. It's given me time to look back.

That low time in my life where I was slowly brought up? A miracle. The way I've been shaped by my surroundings? A blessing. The parts where I thought I was in control? Near brushes with disaster. There are lots of little stories about all the stops on my road. I think they'll slowly find their way here to the blog or find other outlets. They're missing the fire and brimstone, but the important element is still there: God's saving power.

At this rate, I'll be a perfect Christian about 500 years after I die. God bless us tortoises.