IVP - Strangely Dim - "I Still Crave the Extravagant Gesture"

April 16, 2009

"I Still Crave the Extravagant Gesture"

The halls of Likewise Books are alive on a regular basis with the sound of Over the Rhine music. This husband-wife duo have been making soulful music for a couple of decades now, with just the right infusion of jazz and alt-rock and lyrics that are crafted, not written. Pianist Linford Detweiler sent out a missive through the band's Facebook(tm) group this week, one that rambles a bit, the way people ramble a bit during the wee hours, but that offers some nifty insights into the question of calling. He encouraged his raving fans to pass along pieces of the whole, so I thought I'd excerpt it here; you can read the whole thing here.


Someone sent me this little excerpt awhile back, in a beautiful letter of encouragement I should add, the sort of letter that makes everything slow down, hold still:

Here dies another day
During which I
have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?
(GK Chesterton)

I'd really be okay with this being my epitaph.

When I was younger I would often write myself short job descriptions. I was thinking out loud about what might be worth hanging a life on, a life I was willing to sign my name to:

Create spaces where good things can happen.
Give the world something beautiful, some gift of gratitude, no matter how insignificant or small.
Write love letters to the whole world.
Build fires outdoors, and lift a glass and tell stories, and listen, and laugh, laugh, laugh . . .
Flip a breaker and plunge the farm into darkness so that the stars can be properly seen.
Do not squander afflictions.
Own the longing, the non-negotiable need to "praise the mutilated world."
Find the music . . .
That's what musicians see themselves doing, I guess. Detweiler is a writer but he's also a performer, someone who creates spaces for people. It's hard to imagine how that service translates to the makers of artifacts, such as books. I was thinking earlier this week about how American Idol contestants and youth ministers consciously attempt to "make moments" for people; is there any sense in which something static and concrete like a book can "make a moment" for people?

I posted that question and was told by a friend that I need better role models, but I haven't given up the notion. Books may be artifacts, but writing is a service--a service to the self, most definitely, but the best writing is a service to others as well: not just an information dump but a tilling of the ground so that the seeds of epiphany can germinate and flourish. Books are far too long to demand that they make a moment, but I think it's entirely possible for a book to prepare its reader for that moment when it does come. Meanwhile, writers continue doggedly in their craft, and I suppose experience the occasional moment of their own, which is as it should be. As Detweiler puts it: "If you don't do the work, the work can't change you."

Posted by Dave Zimmerman at April 16, 2009 8:48 AM Bookmark and Share

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Behind the Strangeness

Lisa Rieck is a reader and writer who likes to discuss good ideas over hot drinks and gets inspired by the sky. She takes in all kinds of good ideas as a proofreader for InterVarsity Press.

Rebecca Larson is a writer/designer/creative type who has infiltrated IVP's web department, where she writes and edits online content. She enjoys a good pun and loves the smell of freshly printed books.

David A. Zimmerman is an editor for Likewise Books and a columnist for Burnside Writers Collective. He's written three books, most recently The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/unexpguest. Find his personal blog at loud-time.com.

Suanne Camfield is a publicist for InterVarsity Press and a freelance writer. She floats ungracefully between work, parenting and writing, and (much to her dismay) finds it impossible to read on a treadmill. She is a member of the Redbud Writers Guild and blogs at The Rough Cut.

Likewise Books from InterVarsity Press explore a thoughtful, active faith lived out in real time in the midst of an emerging culture.

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