On and on and on

Andrew Peterson and his wonderful little family sang this song in an online concert last night, and partway through the song something hit me that has never occurred to me before, despite my knowledge that the new earth that we’ll live in forever isn’t just limbo but life, not some ethereal harp-playing noplace, but a real, REAL, fully-redeemed physical place.

Jonathan and i were talking earlier yesterday about getting older and i said, “i’m so behind.” He nodded and said he feels that way himself sometimes. We’re in our mid-thirties, and he’s in school, and i’m looking to start school, and we’re only just sort of getting an idea of what we’re for, and meanwhile guys like AP are manhandling multiple careers with aplomb, having known who they were from the time they were 20 or younger.

But halfway through this song, these lines (which they’d already sung several times) spoke to me:

And it hurts so bad
but it’s so good to be young
And i don’t want to go back
i just want to go on and on and on
So don’t lose heart
Though your body’s wasting away
Your soul is not
It’s being remade
So don’t lose heart
Don’t lose heart
Your body will rise and never decay
Day by day by day

And it hit me: i WILL go on and on and on.

i think what we do in this life matters immensely, but:

All the stories i don’t get around to telling while in this old body will still be written. The difference is only in who gets a chance to read them (and what measure of grace and what manner of mystery inform my storytelling).

And that does matter—immensely—but there is still hope that who i am will remain; what He’s calling me to do does not end in my death; and i will have eternity to tell His stories. On and on and on.

That gives me a very different motivation to get on with it, and freedom to face the next two thirds of my life with eagerness to write, and without anxiety over whether i’ve done enough.

Advertisements

Rabbiting and renewal

i used to be very into music, back when i was in high school and everyone was into music. On my own i listened to Rich Mullins, Audio Adrenaline, dc Talk, and Steve Taylor; with my friends i listened to MxPx or Joy Electric. In college i discovered Andrew Peterson, who (i am certain) is incapable of creating anything that is not sehnsuchty. Then, somewhere along the way, i simply stopped. i stopped listening to the radio. i stopped buying albums. i stopped keeping up with favourite artists. i had been soaking in music for years and had become saturated, and something in me began craving silence.

Little by little, that silence has become filled with noise. Streaming TV shows while i cook and checking Facebook nonstop on my phone have replaced both the saturation of ceaseless music and the blessed peace of silence.

Discovering the Rabbit Room Radio burst the dam.

Over December and January’s 4000 miles of travel, Jonathan and i read all three books in Andrew Peterson’s Wingfeather Saga (book four and final is due out in April). When we finally came home to roost, all i wanted to do was soak in the story—it is painfully, beautifully glorious—and listen to AP’s music. “Beautiful Things” by Gungor required several listens as well; it is the anthem of my heart, especially in regards to creating. One thing led to another, and i ended up at the Rabbit Room Radio.

i feel like i am waking up from a decade-long sleep to discover that the whole universe is singing, and i have missed so much.

But where on earth do i start when i have been asleep for so long?

i am still yawning and rubbing sleep from my wide eyes, and the Rabbit Room Radio has been playing nearly nonstop. Along with a wealth of AP songs i have never heard, i have been discovering new artists, one song at a time. Josh Garrels. Melanie Penn. Andy Gullahorn. Jason Gray. Eric Peters. All members of the Square Peg Alliance, their songs and styles inhabit a shared musical acreage, but each one awakens something different in me.

While streaming the radio, i have also been reading articles and interviews at the Rabbit Room, and here and there i switch music for podcasts on topics such as tragedy in literature. (i am deeply jealous of the conversations these people are having, but grateful to have the opportunity to listen and think, and, sometimes, discuss with my own community.) An article by Travis Prinzi hit home. And an interview with AP’s brother, Pete Peterson, yielded a little comment that has grown into something much larger as i continue processing it.

In the interview, Pete was asked about the phrase “feeding the gnome,” which he acknowledged gleaning from Stephen King’s celebrated book On Writing (which i have not read). The concept is that every writer has a “gnome” inside which feeds the author story ideas, but the gnome must be well-fed, or else it’ll wither away or become fat and lazy. i think mine is the latter, and it was convicting to read this. My gnome has, for a long while, mostly been fed junk food. Reading about this idea while learning to listen to music again after so long made me start thinking about what i consume and how that affects what i’m able to imagine and produce.

i need to read fewer Facebook posts and more literary fiction.

i need to pay less attention to ideas about crafting and spend more time actually crafting.

i need to fill up my ears with music rather than with noise.

i need to become comfortable with silence again rather than seeking always to fill it.

i need to spend more time in Scripture, engaging it fully and letting it renew me, rather than checking off a daily reading every other day.

i need to learn to think deep thoughts again, rather than rely on sound bites or shallow article-skimming (by which i mean shallow skimming of shallow articles).

i need to recover the lost art of soaking in and reflecting on and enjoying what i am reading, rather than jumping to post about something before i’ve even processed it.

i need to make an effort to express myself well, rather than rely on internet shorthand.

i am still working out what i expect this to look like, but one change i want to make is to spend very little time on Facebook and TV shows this month. That time may instead be spent reading or writing, if it comes in blocks (and i do expect to have more blocks of time, as watching TV while doing tasks always makes the tasks take longer). If it is time cleaning the kitchen or making the weekly menu or cooking dinner, and i would normally fill the silence behind these tasks with TV shows, i will instead fill the silence with music or prayer or nothing.

i think i am actually very close to catching up in my work on Rixi. There is a natural pause coming which is nearly upon me, and it will not take long to get there. i need to make space for that to happen. But even aside from the practical implications of spending less time ingesting shallow televised stories and memes and more time creating my own stories, i need to develop better habits as a subcreator and as a human.

Now to break the news to my Facebook constituency.

Professional musicianship research

i have spent the better part of the afternoon deciding how much money a professional vocal ensemblist should make in Galadven (the capital of Nirth).

The answer: It depends.

The particular ensemble that interests me is called Linnor (a Sindarin word which means, simply, “Singer”). i have decided that in order to keep my character at a reasonable level of wealth considering his age and other pursuits (schooling), i will have a two-tiered pay scale. The lower end of the scale is for junior or “visiting” vocalists, and the higher end is for senior or “permanent members.” That way i can balance the sense of prestige associated with this ensemble with the need for not making this kid extra rich out of nowhere. It is a really good opportunity—but there’s no real reason for everyone to make the same amount of money anyway. (Actually, it only occurred to me this morning that this would be a paid gig, despite having decided to invite said character to join about, oh, a year and a half or more ago. How prestigious can it be if members must hold day jobs?)

i think that the majority of the ensemblists will likely hold day jobs, though, because as i was researching orchestra rehearsal schedules it looks like they won’t be required to rehearse daily until the week leading up to each concert, and much of the time they won’t have more than one rehearsal a week. So this might stop making sense after awhile. On the other hand, according to the Handbook on Nirthian Wealth, characters earning either salary amount will fall somewhere between “average” and “wealthy,” so they won’t need to find another job, and their own private rehearsal time will certainly take up a chunk of each day regardless of group rehearsals. So this might make sense again.

At any rate, here’s what Linnor members will make:

Junior vocalist: 5 hammer (about $5) per rehearsal, 3 horn (about $30) per smaller concert, and 9 horn (about $90) for the year-end concert.

Senior vocalist: Exactly double that—so, 1 horn (about $1) per rehearsal, 6 horn (about $60) per smaller concert, and 18 horn (about $180) for the year-end concert.

There are three of these smaller concerts, and 17 rehearsals leading up to each. There are 33 rehearsals leading up to the year-end concert. The ensemble gets a week off prior to beginning each new concert cycle, and an extra week off at the end of the year. For the first 4 (8) weeks, there is a single rehearsal each week; this is increased to 3/week for the next 2 (6) weeks, and then the ensemble rehearses each weeknight (7/week) for the final week leading up to the concert.

Concert tickets: Unlike traveling musicians, whose tickets are available without cost to community members based on a lottery system, Linnor and other such groups in Galadven charge for admittance and anyone is welcome to attend assuming they can afford to do so. Prior to each concert, there is one open rehearsal (or two before the year-end concert), and tickets for those are half off. Smaller concerts cost 3 horn ($30) and the year-end concert costs 6-10 horn ($60-100) depending on the seat (tickets are much more in demand for the year-end concert, and additional seating is opened to accommodate this).

While researching, i also ran across a tidbit of orchestra member contract policy that hadn’t occurred to me before: Missed rehearsals. The one page i saw that mentioned this allowed for up to two excused absences per concert cycle or five per year, and some rehearsals are of course mandatory. Something like that would have to be in place for Linnor as well, but i don’t know how best to map the guideline above with the Linnor concert cycle. And it doesn’t really matter, because that’ll be one of the fine details that Rixi hears about but which doesn’t affect her. If it came up at all it’d be an offhand comment acknowledging that one could “only get so many” absences or something like that, and who knows if it’d even come up.

The grand total of all of this is that, assuming no missed rehearsals, a junior vocalist would earn exactly 60 horn per year ($600), and a senior vocalist would earn double that. Assuming the arrangement i have in mind persists for the next few years, this character will have acquired some wealth beyond what the average 16-year-old deteer would have amassed while in school, but not nearly so much as he will in full-time patrolling (spoils of war yield a nice profit), and chances are good he’ll have given some to his parents and otherwise spread much of it around. i’m thinking it might be a good idea to have the bulk of his income go into a trust which he receives upon graduation. He has next to zero living expenses while at Duathos. It’ll cost him more than his first year’s salary to buy a beautiful, world-class mandolin, which sounds like a worthy expense that won’t unbalance things  at all. (He splits his time between mandolin and singing, and although this particular appointment is for voice, a grown-up or even fancy instrument to replace his student-use one would be really nice.)

This is the sort minutia that i really enjoy despite it not furthering the story one iota. (Although i was considering again the description that this ensemble is given in the letters already written, and wondering if i needed to rethink it. i think i overdid the rethinking, but i do feel much better when my details are in place and i don’t have to worry as much about whether i’ve forgotten something that will turn out to be crucial later on.)

So, there. This is the financial accounting and concert/rehearsal schedule of the Linnor Ensemble of Galadven, Nirth. Details aside, you really want to hear them sing… they are incredible.

***Addendum***

After i told Jonathan all about the above research and conclusions, he made a great suggestion: Cut that junior rate in half and call it an internship. It’s honestly an amazing experience for him. He will learn and grow a lot, and he doesn’t have any living expenses. Plus, if he’s receiving an internship salary rather than a regular salary (junior or senior), i don’t have to worry at all about whether his income will be out of balance with what he should be able to afford as a new Black Robe in a few years. If he is paid a junior salary his first year in Linnor, i will have to wrassle with the question of when he becomes a permanent member and starts receiving the higher salary, which i just don’t want to give him, but if there is a pay band specifically for students, i will never have to worry about that. He’ll make 30 horn ($300) each year, and will therefore have made 120 horn total ($1200) by the end of his last year, and that is not unreasonable. He will have made a little money adventuring, too, as will his classmates, so having a job while in school will result in more money at the outset—but not nearly as much as if he had been receiving a junior or senior salary with Linnor.

Done.

But that’s just the bookkeeping. Aside from that, a Linnor concert is breathtaking. You might want to buy your tickets early!