Narrative Parallels

a seeing sideways project journal


My method is to look at the object (or whatever) at hand, and brainstorm everything that comes to mind from it, and also from my objective (if I know it), then brainstorm the connections between all those terms and everything I come up with.


Who are you?
Demographically, I am late twenties, married, lower-middle income, living in a historical urban neighborhood.  Otherwise: Christian, Man, Husband, Musician, Liturgist, Producer, a little metro, east side, shalom, looking for the city that is yet to come.

Who I’m becoming: This is hard.. in some ways.  I still feel in the dark about who I’m becoming professionally, but part of who I’m becoming overall is someone who cares less and less about what I do to make a living, and more about what I do as the sum total of my living.  I want to spend my life putting light on things of worth, making them stand out as valuable.  For the purpose of this class and this education I’m earning, doing that involves making the best use of my unique giftings that I can.  To that end, what’s become increasingly clear is that I have a strong leaning toward finding and highlighting parallels.  I don’t know why, but seeing how one thing really does showcase something true about another, especially when it’s designed to do so, gets my blood pumping in the best way, and it makes me want to make that connection clear and vibrant to other people.

To sum: I want to make the worth of truly valuable things clearer by creating works of parallel, contrast, and comparison that create a vibrant experience of that worth in the viewer.

I think that Vik Muniz did a great job of that.  He took people who were thought very little of, and showed their worth by displaying them in a form people already assigned value to, thereby bringing their value up to some degree.  That’s not all he did of course, but that’s a huge piece of what I garnered from the project.

Why are you here?
I’m here because I want to throw a bunch of stuff at my creativity and see what it does, then try to discover more about how I’m gifted, what grabs my interest, and how I can tap into those things to make something meaningful.  I didn’t leave because that expectation was met.

I’m here because I don’t know, at the practical level, what to do with my skills.  I don’t have a direction.  I thought some creative exploration would help that, and I think it has, even if it hasn’t fully solved the problem.

I’m here in school because I would like to make a living doing something enjoyable, meaningful and that uses my skills at best, and something that will pay me better beacuase I have a degree at least.

What would you change?
Now that you have considered who you are and why you are here, think about your path in school. Is it what you expected? Is there a clear path that you can see that makes sense to you? What are the limitations you face with achieving your academic goals? What are the opportunities you have been given because of your academic experiences thus far? How many of your academic limitations are self imposed? How many are completely beyond your control?

In many ways, it’s exactly like I expected.  I’m learning a large number of skills and methods for creating many types of digital media, and that’s great.  The culture is one that at least seeks to balance making a career, and encouraging creative diversion.  I think I could find a job that pays a living wage with the skills I have, and that’s great.

That said, I wouldn’t say that the path is clear.  There are options that are laid out for me in the program, but not a path.  I’ll talk more on that in the next section.

How would you reimagine your academic world?

I just want to work with a mentor who is already doing what I would love to do and learn by doing it with them.  I want to be an apprentice.

How do you think this perfect academic world could be implemented in the real world?
Now that you have brainstormed, it is time to offer some realistic solutions. Looking at what you answered for the pie in the sky part, and see what could realistically be suggested. Try looking at these ideas with a very critical eye, and also from many different angles. Are there any creative solutions that you can find?

It would be wonderful if I could (optionally) begin the program by discussing different real jobs with an advisor, looking at those jobs in light of the skills I have, and the ones I want, and creating a program of classes that would be a path to that job.  I’m finding a lot of frustration because I have lots of interests in media arts, but I don’t know what all they could lead to if I learn them.  It makes it difficult to know what to focus on, what to supplement, and what to skip.  I HAVE NO TIME TO EXPERIMENT FOR LONGER THAN THE EXPECTED COMPLETION TIME FOR THE DEGREE so I would like a process that will help me get the combination right the first time.

More so, it would make a huge difference to have an ongoing mentorship course for each semester as a way to continually bring everything I’m learning together into a unified practical skill set.  This could be combined with an internship by making that mentor someone who is in the field already, and the “classwork” would simply be helping them do their work, while they intentionally seek to bring application to what I’ve been learning.

Translate this exercise to other aspects of your life.

Can you make this exercise into a tool to help you approach other things in your life? Your projects? Your job? Your whole life?

I think these are pretty worthwhile questions for anything, though it might have been helpful to have had this format at the beginning of the course to try out on different projects.  But for now, let’s try applying this to the egg.

Who am I?
I’m a man adopted by God who wants to make things of worth clearer.  This egg is a creation.. it’s the continuity of life in an ongoing system both by being the vessel for a new creature and a means for food to sustain other creatures.  It’s a sign of the intention of God to provide.. to protect (look at the shell).. it’s a sign that a protected life does not mean it’s guaranteed to go on…  it’s beauty made from the beautiful.. it’s beauty is in it’s form and purpose..

Why am I here?
To do something with this egg.  To make the value of valuable things clearer by it.

What do I want to change?
I want to pick an analogy that can me more explicit by changing something about this egg… protection.. the egg shell provides protection to what’s inside of it, but it’s only so strong.. it’s also a lot stronger than it looks… it can hold up to 45lbs without breaking (according to the inter webs), so sometimes we’re less protected than we think, or more protected than we think.  What if I could simply ask the question, “How protected are you, really?  Are you protected for the reasons you think you are?”  I could make something that would create a situation where the egg looks like it should be crushed, but isn’t for an unexpected reason.

I could make a stand that puts an egg over the user’s head.  There would be a pad that the user must step on when under the egg that may or may not release a brick hanging over the egg.  The implication is that when the brick falls, the egg is certain to break and ooze all over the user, but there would be something they don’t see. The brick could be tied to a  rope that doesn’t allow it to hit the egg.  The egg could be over a clear piece of plastic or glass that catches the whole mess.  The egg could be filled or covered with a hard substance to keep it from breaking.

this is complicated.

How could you do it in the real world?
An image would do the trick I think.  A heavy object, mid-fall toward an egg.. with something to imply it might not reach or break it.. OH or a sledge hammer making contact with the egg and breaking.  I like that.

So there’s one application.  I like it. 🙂

Fear Postlude

How’d it go?

The reactions were within the range I expected.  Many positive ones, some more positive than I expected.  Some said they really connected with certain phrases, or were inspired.  After saying what the experiment was, someone (ahem) gave a little push back and criticism about the song, which I also expected to have at least one instance of.

All in all, it worked the way I wanted.  I had to face the conclusion that the fear I held of my lyrics being no good, and unacceptable to people were they to hear it, is incorrect.  I think this is something I can carry with me as I try to do other types of work where I feel less than able to do the quality and depth of work I would prefer.

It was suggested that I could try performing the song in front of people who didn’t know that I was doing it for a project, and get feedback from them.  I like the idea, though I don’t look at it as an improvement so much as a variation.  If I were to change anything looking back, I might have asked more specific questions before revealing my point.  “What did you like?  What did you dislike?  Is it something you would want to hear again?  Is it something you’d buy if it were recorded?”  It could help get a more well rounded idea of the reaction.

What affected me most?

Honestly, I think it was Jodi’s.  I came into the class and saw the unnamed figure sitting there silently, and I really did feel uncomfortable.  We’d talked about some odd things people do for this assignment, so I felt a little unsure about what this person might do when their turn came.  Once I knew it was Jodi, that feeling went away because I felt that I could predict with more certainty the likely range of what she might do.  I actually kind of wish I hadn’t known until after class, just because it was interesting to self-assess my own discomfort about the situation as it was happening.

I feel like her experiement was very much a different animal from mine, but it might have been interesting to use a certain aspect of her experiment in mine.  Perhaps I could have written my song, then had a musician friend perform it for a recording, then play the song and get opinions from people.  That way they would have fewer clues that I’d had anything to do with the song, and may have felt more free to give negative opinions.

Latin Latin Latin

Notes Leading Up To The Fear Assignment

What is fear?

Fear is how we react when something we truly value is, or appears to be, threatened.  Fear can look very different case-to-case, but it is always an outworking of clinging tighter to whatever we feel is threatened.

What does fear keep you from experiencing?

When fear is misplaced, it keeps me from joy.  Because fear is applied to things I value, it can keep me from approaching them rightly.  For example, I default to being very afraid of failure, which comes from valuing success so much that I can’t bear to not have it.  So, let’s say there’s a job that I would LOVE, but it seems like I’m not quite qualified for it.  Fear would keep me from even applying for it, because there’s a threat of failure, even if I know in my head that there’s also a chance of success.  Creatively, it might keep me from trying to create something if I feel like there’s a threat that I’m not skilled enough to pull it off.  It would keep me from the inevitable growth the experience would cause, even if it didn’t turn out exactly like I wanted.

What is the use of fear?

Fear tells me what I really value deep down in my inner self.  When I know this, I can look at those fears objectively and see which ones are unreasonable and controlling me in a way that keeps me from good things.

The experiment.

One thing that fear has kept me from is writing my own songs.  I’ve always wanted to, but I’ve never been able to write lyrics that I think are any good.  Perhaps more to the point, I’ve never been able to write lyrics that I think anyone else would think are any good.  I know in my head that it’s normal to write a bunch of crappy stuff before I write anything that is up to my standards of good writing, but my fearful reaction that I’d be rejected and unapproved has always won out.  So, I’m going to write a song and perform it, and see if things really turn out as terrible as my fearfulness would imply.

Act… again.


That’s not so bad.

Sorry but I can’t say it’s very good.

I like it.

Advertised: 600. Actual: Sand Paper, As Far As I’m Concerned.

How do I look?

Black Then White Are All I See

A couple weeks ago I was sitting with two friends at Starbucks.  It had recently been redone with new paint, new furniture, and some new art.  While we talked, I looked over at the new black and white mural that had replaced the bright green and red one that used to be there.  It featured a picture of a woman working on a coffee farm, holding some coffee beans in her hands to show the fruit of her labor.

As I looked over the full mural, it wasn’t that prominent image that stuck in my mind.  It was the fact that the primary division of the mural’s layout was a golden ratio.  Just to confirm it, I used a golden mean guide in a camera app on my phone to test and see if I was right, and indeed I was.

My eye isn’t trained yet to see more complex uses of the golden mean, but it’s exciting to me that I can usually tell the difference between it vs. say a 1 to 2 ratio, or 1 to 3.

In general, I notice things I look for, and that are exciting to me.  The whole idea of the golden ratio as this objectively beautiful aesthetic measure that shows up in countless natural structures (so much so, it’s been called the “fingerprint of God”), is very exciting to me.  So, I watch for it.  I expect it to be around.  Of course, it’s also a very common design element, so it’s bound to show up, but I love that it doesn’t get old even if it’s used a large number of times.

There’s a little part of one of my favorite pieces of music that is my favorite.  You can Listen Here.  It’s 0.365 seconds of pure awesome.  Why?  Because there’s this little reversed suction sound happening behind the main snare that only happens that one time.  If there is any song that I think is great as a whole to begin with, that also has an element occurring only once, you can bet I’m going to find it, love it, and thereafter base 90% of my enjoyment of the song around it.

Left: snare with awesome. Right: snare.

Other examples include

  • Better Is One Day – Chris Tomlin
  • The Dreaming Tree – Dave Mathews Band
  • Flesh & Blood – Andrew Peterson

The way I do math has always felt different to me.  I have a feeling I’m not alone in this, but whenever I manipulate numbers in my head, I envision groups moving around.  For me, it’s usually blocks or cubes, and often in predefined groups, depending on the problem.  For example, if I’m adding 5 and 5, I see each “5” as a group of 3 blocks, and 2 blocks.  This comes in handy if I’m adding something like 7 and 5 because I mentally detach the group of 3 from the 5, join it with the 7 for a 10 group, then just latch on the remaining group of 2 to get 12.  So, I re-form the problem so that I’m really just adding 10 and 2.