In my last post I admitted to feeling a little off my game. I felt like a fog had rolled into my mind and had made everything hazy. The meaning had been sucked out of the things I did, this blog included. This had been a growing feeling inside of me for a little while, and the week I finally put words to it just happened to be the same week that I would be attending the Storyline Conference in Nashville, Tennessee.
Storyline is the brain child of “Blue Like Jazz” author, Donald Miller. Based on the work of Viktor Frankl, Miller brazenly admits it is a “sexier” repackaging of Frankl’s groundbreaking “Logotherapy”. Essentially, the Storyline process is a system of searching your life for meaning, then living that meaning out to the fullest.
I wish I could just play the entire conference back for you; it was that good. Besides Donald Miller, there were several other speakers, and each one spewed forth profundities like a fire hose. I’m terrible at taking notes, so all I could do was spread my arms and allow their thought-streams to pin me to the wall. Fortunately, other attendees did not have that problem.
Strangely, I think the biggest take away I got from the conference wasn’t one that was explicitly stated. I’ve been wrestling with the fact that there are failures, everywhere. There are writers who have died without being published. There are Ph.D’s who have been unable to find a job in their field. There are artists who toil in obscurity their entire life, then die. And their art? It doesn’t even sell for a million dollars after the artist dies, it just gets dropped off at a Good Will and sold for a nickel.
How do I know that I’m not one of those? What if this blog never gets any bigger? What if even after I finish my novel, my nerd productivity guide, and God-hunting book, nothing happens? What if after a lifetime of nothing but struggle and effort, there is no payoff? How do I know that I’m not destined to live a vapid, empty, meaningless life?
Through the speakers at the conference, what I came to realize is that meaning is for everyone. The unpublished author. The cashier Ph.D. The unknown artist. Every single one of them is allowed to live a life chock full of meaning and purpose. The published book, the perfect job, the masterpiece at the Louvre… Those are just the trappings. They are the vestiges of a particular life, but they are not the point of that life.
So what is the point? Miller suggested that perhaps, the point of our own lives mirrors that of Joseph: “To save many lives.” A life whose purpose has turned inwardly is bound to become a small and meaningless life. However, one who begins seeking ways of opening the hearts and eyes of those around them, those who begin making a difference in the lives of others, they are the ones whose life will go on to find contentment in whatever it is they do.
With that in mind, it forced me to ask some uncomfortable questions about my own motivations and aspirations with the blog. We heard stories from a lawyer who prosecutes sex traffickers and a woman who gave prostitutes a chance at earning a wage with dignity, and one nut who fought Ugandan witch doctors, then opened a school for them. Can HfG match any of those in terms of significance?
Probably not yet. But maybe it could, eventually. I don’t know how. I’m not sure what it would look like. But if the words that I, and the other contributors write help people discover God in a more real way, that has to count for something, right?