My thoughts from Rob Bell's “Drop Like Stars”...
First off... it is important to state that I am a big fan of Rob Bell's. His writing and videos have had a profound effect in my life. He has a way of taking the old and familiar... and making them fresh and vital. His is an alternate perspective that I get... and for that I will always be grateful to him.
Secondly... my experience on Friday was enhanced by the people that surrounded me – having noodles with Paul & Jen Clement, and Katherine Sonntag... then joining with Andrew Berry and travelling to Perth... all five of us squashed in Katherine's Astra... having a real laugh about... well... what was said in the car stays in the car.
At the Perth Concert Hall... I met up with and spoke to Laura Bridge & Sam Davies, Chris Hinton, Dan Rous, Adam Howie, and Kevin Avis. People I am proud to call friends. I also had the privilege to meet Andy Weir (aka @theweir) for the first time (the bear hug was worthy of a tweet!) and Douglas Rae (my dear friend Innes Johnson's cousin).
Thirdly... my experience was also shaped by the kindness of my community... and the awesomeness of social media – I got my ticket from Douglas, whose wife was unable to attend, and arranged for Andrew's ticket via a twitter convo with the fab Lousie aka @sepiasunrise. The arranger, Ian Black, hooked me up with returns too... but, by that point, I had my tickets.
With all these things taken into consideration... when I sat down I was in a very positive mood and it just got better and better.
Rob Bell is an amazing orator... truly brilliant. I have seen Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, Malcolm Gladwell and Brian McLaren in “concert” (if that's the right word) and by far Rob Bell is the best presenter. That isn't to decry the others but to highlight how very good Rob Bell is. He is truly first class.
The video used to set the scene was fantastic too... albeit I imagined someone being upset with all the flowers getting “smashed” (I'm not sure if there is an equivalent to PETA for flowers... but if there was, they'd be protesting).
The visuals through out were fantastic... a real exercise in the best of the best. The video was stunning. The slides were well proportioned and eloquent in their minimalist approach. Simple yet profound.
Then Rob Bell took to the stage and... well... time stopped.
He was funny... geeky... enthusiastic... eloquent... and considerate as a communicator - he ensured everyone was with him on the journey he was taking.
For the two hours he spoke... I never once though “omgoodness... this is dragging” and thankfully my bum didn't complain either.
And yes... he spoke for two hours... aided by the visuals I mentioned above, his fantastic wit and skill in speaking, and a wee exercise in audience participation.
Malcolm Gladwell spoke for half that time and cost twice as much. Again, this isn't an attack on Malcolm but more of an indication of what I was prepared for.
So yeah... down to what Rob Bell spoke about...
He spoke about suffering and the creativity that has the potential to come from this suffering.
To prepare us... he talked of the “what” as in the content of the happening and the “where” as in the context of said happening.
Our boxes (ie the things we think “in” or “out of”) act as insulators that frame and orientate the happening.
So the example used was if we were to go to the Ballet and were to be given a squirrel (and the visuals showed a huge squirrel...) then our “where” or context would be challenged.
We live with expectations and assumptions and plans for our lives... and then we face disruption through suffering... and we say “I never would have imagined this”...
Our suffering is bloody and traumatic... our insulators are smashed and destroyed... and yet the seeds of creativity and imagination are sown during this period of pain... for a creative act that brings a “new tomorrow”. This is “the art of disruption”.
During our pain... we become more honest. Pain has a way of bring this out in us. This is the art of honesty.
The thing is... it brings us together too.
Imagine a scale... on the left is true suffering and despair... and on the right is the safe, numb indifference of prosperity. This, on the right, could be referred to as “death by Rolex”.
People on the right... can and do have a realisation of their state of being... when the art of disruption moves to the art of honesty... and respond accordingly.
Rob Bell highlighted the story of Scott Harrison who moved from a NYC “Party Planner” to founding Charity:Water. He was living a “death by Rolex” life before stumbling into the suffering of people in the world who do not have access to clean water... and, in seeking to make a difference, he came to life.
Rob Bell then spoke of the art of elimination... where, as a result of the pain and suffering, we remove... we eliminate... all the clutter in our lives and, in doing so, find liberation. Think Johnny Cash in the later part of his life... recording for Rick Rubin and you'll get a sense of this.
Its in there... like Michaelangelo's David in the lump of stone that he carved him from.
From this... we look at the art of solidarity. In the pain, we gain an understanding of the suffering of others. We feel that we are not alone. We develop bonds of connection from this suffering that do not come so readily or with such intensity through wealth and abundance. People with diverse “demographics” are brought together through their similar pain.
It was at this point that Rob Bell brought in the story of Jesus... that his early followers were in the Roman world... the world of “peace through victory”... the world of peace through coercive violence.
Jesus demonstrated a new way... a way of peace through sacrificial love instead of through violence and victory.
In essence, as Jesus died on the cross, God was present in the most excruciating pain and suffering. God didn't crush people with the sword but was, instead, crushed on the cross.
God came into this world and screamed alongside us. This is what the incarnation means. God is present and he knows how we suffer because he, himself, has suffered.
He can say “I know how you feel” and does.
Rob Bell then went on to talk about the difference between ownership and possession... quoting Paul:
“...having nothing and yet possessing everything.”
In the disruption of our suffering... in our honesty and our solidarity... through the elimination of that which we do not need... we learn to appreciate all that we have. We may have nothing and yet... we possess everything.
From this... in final stretch of the story (and the book)... Rob Bell then talks of the art of failure. He spoke of how every artist must learn that even the failed pieces are essential.
We can be transformed by the opportunity our failures present us... this is a gift from “the God who wastes nothing”.
“This, too, will shape me.”
The questions is how? Will it make you bitter or better.
Truly brilliant. I would recommend the book for it encapsulates the story... with the amazing visuals and presentation within it.
This evening highlighted for me how powerful the spoken word can be. Rob Bell never once "preached"... he never once told me what to think... but instead took me on a journey and, as a good tour guide does, highlighted some of the "sights" on the way. Sights that were familiar to me and yet... unnamed. He challenged me to think... rather than told me what to think... and for that, I am grateful.
Oh and in the pic above... Rob ISN'T sitting on my knee!