One of the interesting (to me, at least) aspects of long-term storytelling is how you go about “refreshing” a property in ways that keep long-time followers invested while also reaching out to others. It forces you, in the long run, to figure out what makes the character or concept “tick,” what makes it unique amongst all of the other stories out there. Consider a property like The Flash. The character has been since 1940 in some form or another. I grew up a reader of the third Flash, Wally West. All around that time, other characters have come and gone who have either shared the name or the powers or both. When you work in multiple genres, things get even more complex. Movies, live-action television shows, Saturday morning cartoons: these things can either water down the product or build it up in amazing ways. But in the end, you have to figure out what about the character or concept ultimately survives the next reboot. And that’s assuming that the timeline itself isn’t changed drastically.
+ + + + + + +
A year ago was something of a reboot for me. After two years without a campus minister at our school (and two years chipping in to keep things going), we hired a replacement. At the same time, after over a year without a pastor (and serving on the pastor search committee) we called a new pastor and family to join us. Changes of roles, shifts in relationships, all such things contribute to some kind of sense of a reboot. Some threads get lost in translation, others get knotted up, others continue on to be part of the picture of whatever is next. We respond to the changes around us, whether we ask for them or not. It all forces you to consider what is essential and what is up for grabs. Maybe you’re lucky if you get to step back and reason your way through it.
+ + + + + + +
It’s interesting being on this side, one year away, from that “reboot.” Of the two ministers that came over, only one has stayed (the church pastor). And so some of the work at school has had to continue. And now it will continue on as we move into a completely different, uncertain time. A time where everything has changed and nothing has changed. I’ve been trying to think through some of what is “essential” this summer. Particularly, I’ve been trying to make sense of any “lessons learned” over the last year. I exist in a realm where the vocational is tied to the personal in deeper ways than others, being single and living far from home. It’s very clear to me that there is no going back, no turning back (as they hymn reminds us). And there is always some question of how much agency one has going forward. Definitely none of us has control over a virus or over major social upheavals or even how we might feel on a given day at any given time. You just kind of hope that the essential things shine through, like the unshakable kingdom of God in Hebrews, standing firm after all that could be shaken loose has been left.
+ + + + + + +
Summer has pretty much come to an end for me. Tomorrow is a dental visit and lunch with a friend and then it’s work. And it’s good work. But the passing of a summer vacation is always a little sad, if only for the sense of lost time. And there’s only so much prep you can do personally and professionally before beginning something like a Covidtide school year. I feel like I haven’t read enough, haven’t planned enough, haven’t prayed enough, haven’t loved enough. I recently told a friend that I felt like this summer would have been a time for a quantum change. I’m not sure that’s happened. Maybe the proof will be in the pudding of the school year actually starting.
+ + + + + + +
I find myself thinking of the three pieces that Andy Crouch and the folks at Praxis put together at the beginning of Covidtide to try and encourage organizations to think well about what was “coming next,” whether it is a blizzard, winter, or an ice age. That was, I think, part of the intent of “flattening the curve”: taking necessary steps to buy ourselves some time to figure out how to rethink things for the long haul, discern things that could survive reboots great or small. And I’m reminded of how Crouch and crew talked about the role of promise-making and promise-keeping in Our Current Moment. It’s all so true and right. I hope we have made the most of it, as much as possible, as we enter into whatever is next.
(art from DC Comics and the late Mike Wieringo)