Friday, November 2, 2007

Tilting Your Perspectives

I believe that we all have a muse. A sad reality of "civilized" life, however, is that few of us are ever empowered to embrace our muse and allow its fullest expression. Many people spend their entire lives with their muse locked away in a dusty attic, or secured with heavy chains in a dank basement. But, the funny thing about muses -- no matter how hard we try to suppress them, they still find little ways to make their presence known. One goal of my muse kennel is to bring together those creative forces in all of us that resist the leash and provide a space for them to play.

This week, I worked with the Director of Religious Education at our church on our intergenerational Thanksgiving service coming up in three weeks. I have known Jen for many years and consider her a dear friend. The funny thing is that we have worked together on religious education and youth events for 10 years. We have supported each other as colleagues with a common commitment and passion for Unitarian Universalist children and youth programming. But, I do not recall the two of us ever really creating anything together.

We met a couple of times over meals (muses aren't alone in needing food), hashing ideas back and forth, and generally just letting our muses romp. What a joy! A couple of times, I sat back in my chair and told her just how much fun I was having writing this service together. What happens, of course, is that the more freedom you give your muse, the more energetic it becomes. I left our last meeting buzzing with words and ideas begging to be typed into the computer. I was amazed at how just a slight change in my view of our professional relationship resulted in such a fresh approach to our artistic and spiritual expression.

I am a huge fan of paradigm shifts. But, revolution is not always the answer. We don't always need to tilt at windmills. Sometimes, all our muses ask of us is to tilt our perspectives just a little and approach projects from a different point of view.

Monday, October 29, 2007

A Pizzatorium Moment

I don't get many opportunities to wear my kilt, and I could not pass up the chance of being the only Scottish zombie at this past weekend's Pittsburgh Zombie Fest (actually one other young man also came in a kilt and I enjoyed commending him on our spanning the generations of kilt-wearers at the event). The highlight of my weekend occurred during the record-breaking zombie walk Sunday morning. I ran into a young couple dressed as Harry Potter and Hermione Granger. I was busy admiring their excellent costumes and neither of us recognized the other. But, then we realized...I am officiating at their wedding next month!

Of course, I realize the silliness of the whole thing (and I wholeheartedly support a little silliness in everyone's life). But, even in the midst of this bizarre moment among 1,000 shambling undead, entered a ministerial opportunity. A true pizzatorium moment.

I believe that our lives are vectors traveling through space and time, bent and twisted by forces known and unknown in this vast universe. Sometimes, our paths cross in more than passing ways, offering us the opportunity for deep human interactions. These amazing instances of synchronicity are the house specialty of my pizzatorium. I do not ascribe supernatural or mystical origin to these coincidental conjunctures, nor do I ignore their potential for significance.


After about nine straight months, I finally took a Sunday off from church work (well, at least until 5:00 p.m., when I met with our Director of Religious Education about our upcoming intergenerational Thanksgiving service). Why am I still tired Monday morning? Because I spent much of the weekend at the Pittsburgh Zombie Fest! In the picture from the front page of this morning's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, you can just barely see my arm holding up my shillelagh in the lower right corner.

Pittsburgh is the undisputed zombie capitol of the world. Since the filming of Night of the Living Dead back in 1968, Pittsburgh has been famous for great football, being named America's Most Livable City (twice!), and zombies. Last year, the Sunday morning Zombie Walk in 2007 attracted 894 shamblers, setting a Guinness Book of World Records mark (that was actually published in the 2008 edition). Other cities have tried to break our mark over the past year, most recently including Orlando and London. But, no one came close. Yesterday's Zombie Walk smashed our own record, attracting 1,124 of the living dead to Monroeville Mall, site of the filming of George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.

Aside from now being part of a world record, I am so proud of everyone involved in this event, and am delighted to call them friends. For the most part, the entire weekend was planned and executed by a dedicated group of fans (called the Lifeless on the bulletin board of The It's Alive Show broadcast locally on WBGN here in Pittsburgh). The Lifeless consist of an enormously friendly and talented group of folks who come together out of their love of horror movies. We call ourselves the Lifeless because, instead of going out on Saturday nights, we stay at home and watch The It's Alive Show. In addition, the Zombie Fest hosted a number of charity opportunities, from collecting donations to the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and Central Blood Bank (of course), a charity auction that raised over $1,000 for Komen for the Cure (breast cancer research), and a booth for the Animal Rescue League of Western Pennsylvania.

(I am just under the front of the banner with my left hand holding up the bottom right center)

At the Zombie Ball Saturday night, people from older teens to folks in their sixties came together talking and admiring their costumes. We listened to the music of the Ubangis, the Forbidden 5, the Motorpsychos, and Deathmobile, knowing that music is a universal language that speaks to all ages (even punk and metal). In fact, I would argue that "garage" sounds have a visceral appeal that can appeal to a level we all share (but that is a subject for another posting).

There are many communities that make up our lives. I think all of them have what one might call a "religious" component to them. Our church community obviously represents a gathering with a substantially religious purpose. But, I think even communities like our Lifeless serve a fundamentally religious purpose in our lives. They help bring together diverse people over areas of common interest. They help focus our energies on issues of importance while having a good time in a spirit of fellowship. They provide support for participants in times of stress and turmoil (one of the great benefits of the Internet when people are geographically dispersed). And, they offer opportunities for people to come together and express themselves openly in an atmosphere that is welcoming and respectful.