Thursday, April 04, 2013

Learning From Fools

I’ve been called an idiot. But there’s something about the word ‘fool’ that feels harsher. To me, it sounds like a word that you save for those who belong in an upper tier of stupidity – people that you might even think are a little crazy. But as history has shown us, people who were once regarded as fools are sometimes revealed to be geniuses.


“It is apparent to me that the possibilities of the aeroplane, which two or three years ago were thought to hold the solution to the [flying machine] problem, have been exhausted, and that we must turn elsewhere.” (Thomas Edison, 1895)
Most of us may know that the Wright Brothers were not the inventors of the airplane or even the first ones to fly experimental aircraft. But they were the ones to develop the first controlled aircraft where flight could be sustained; thus, we credit them with the first successful and sustained airplane and flight.
But even after their first successful flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the US Authorities, local newspapers, and even Scientific Journals wouldn’t come to see any demos, thinking of them as liars and phonies. So they went to Europe where they thought they could make a difference – where someone would listen to them. They quickly signed aircraft contracts with a number of European countries and the rest is history.


Walt was fired from a newspaper because he lacked imagination. So he started his own animation company. It went bankrupt. After creating several (now incredibly famous) characters and movies, he had a brilliant idea to build a place where “dreams do come true”. The rumors are that he was turned down several hundred times when trying to receive financing for what is now known as Disney World.


To be fair, this guy actually was crazy. (If you didn’t know, he cut off his own ear and spent a lot of time in various mental institutions.) He did, however, complete over 860 oil paintings, and over 2,100 works – most of which were done near the end of his life.
He only sold one painting in his lifetime. He couldn’t keep a job to support himself, so his brother had to take care of him. One of his most famous paintings (Vase with Fifteen Sunflowers) is now estimated to be worth $142.7 million dollars and seven of his paintings are among the most expensive paintings ever sold.
This may be the part where you appreciate the history lesson but think, “So what?” 
If you’re anything like me, you have dreams. Lots of them. Also, if you’re anything like me, you might have problems doing something about those dreams because you’re afraid to fail. But if there is anything we can learn from these few examples above, it’s not from their success. It’s because they failed. But, unlike a lot of gifted people that you and I have never heard of, they didn’t let their failures or fear of failure stop them from pursuing what they felt was their calling in life. Let’s talk about some practical things that can help us as we lead others (and ourselves) through creative processes to create great art that shares the truth of the Gospel.


“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” – Proverbs 1:7
I encourage you to read that a few more times. We start at the beginning by humbling ourselves before God and realizing that He is the ultimate Creator. We are truly insignificant by comparison. It’s only then that we are ready to learn from His Word or from the wise people that He has put in our lives. We exhibit our foolishness when we refuse to listen to wise counsel or direction from the lead pastors at our churches.


For the Creative Arts pastor reading this, you can’t do it by yourself. You’ve probably heard that before but I’d like to remind you. You need to surround yourself with staff and/or volunteers who see things differently than you. You don’t need yes men. You need people who will push back because they want as badly as you do for that creative piece to be the best that it can be.


When left to our own devices, we’ll probably just sit around and keep daydreaming. I know I would. It’s easy and fun to brainstorm or dream of all the cool things I could do. But starting them is another matter. You need to share your dreams and aspirations with at least one person who will kick your butt when they don’t see you’re making any progress on the “big idea” you shared with them three months ago.
There is a long list of people who have succeeded at making their creative dreams a reality. But there’s an even longer list of people who gave up. A lot of people called these creative dreamers fools, but they saw a future that was better and they hustled to share that dream with the world. We have been given a calling to carry that’s much more important than any of those inventions. So hustle. Don’t settle for mediocrity. Run hard after the dreams God has placed in your heart and fail often.

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