October 12, 2007

The Passionate Pursuit of Failure

The vast majority of my life consisted in the relentless and reckless pursuit of success. The first time I remember getting a grade other than an "A" was in 4th grade, in the "handwriting" portion. I was crushed when I had to hand over the report card to my Mom, dreading her disappointment. She was full of love and support, and I was beating myself up.

Junior high was a continual, stressful obsession with "A's", as was most of high school. Then came Calculus. It won.

Every day, I see kids crushed by the weight of success. Overloading portfolios with extracurricular activities--sports, music, social networks, etc.--to get into the best colleges. These kids are wearing their exhaustion on their faces, in their attitudes, deep in their souls. We have encouraged an impossible pursuit of success, in hopes of achieving every dream under the sun.

So, maybe the good news of the kingdom of God would be the passionate pursuit of failure. What could look like a failure from our perspective might just be the inbreaking of God's kingdom. If God's kingdom is countercultural and subversive, maybe we should encourage failure.

At heart, I am a songwriter. I sing in my sleep, I hear melodies as I ride my bike, I read books and am inspired to write. And no one "knows" my songs. Technically, I think, to be a songwriter, people must know your songs. There is something about the writing of a song that seeks an audience that hears. Songs are meant to open our eyes to see an alternative view, to encourage discussion, to dream of another world that is whispering in our midst. Songs sing us through the struggles and chaos of reality. And, hopefully, songs change us.

So, I'm going to continue to seek failure as a songwriter. I don't have the desires to travel worldwide and play on stages before the masses. I prefer to sing and play for a group of about 40 people who still think that they can change the world. Something happens in a live performance, there is a dynamic give and take between the audience and the performer, and both end up changed and encouraged.

I have a hope of making a couple of CD's in the near future. If I do make them, I'm not going to sell them, but give them away and encourage people to burn copies and give them away too.

Here's the lyrics of a couple of my latest works. Let me know when you want to hear them live, and we can talk through them together.

"Be the change
That you wish to see
Be the change
That this world needs"

"Life is more than all you see
I am more than what you see"


Kenny Gerb said...

Ethan...I know that you know this, but you perform everyday for an audience of One.

Kenny Gerb said...

"If God's kingdom is countercultural and subversive, maybe we should encourage failure."

"So, I'm going to continue to seek failure as a songwriter."

Ok so I've been thinking about this post for a few days now and something about this disturbs me inside. Not sure if its a good disruption or a bad disruption. But you seem to make this argument that God's kingdom is all about failure and so therefore you, in order to pursue God's kingdom are going to pursue failure. I think your upside down in your logic here. God embraces failure out of grace, but I do not believe that God promotes or encourages failure as a character trait in fact it would be quite contrary to His nature to do so. Now I do agree that in general we as humans tend to uphold the wrong things as success and vice versa. But again that does not mean that failure is a virtue of God. And I think that is the essence of what disturbs me. Failure a virtue of God. What do you think?