FatherSon Ventures

Building a Relationship through Adventure

The Music Store

Written By: Scot Butwell - Jul• 21•13

dance moves

D and I go to the Music Store, and I ask an employee for drum sticks. The book I’m reading says a soul that is free and alive is a soul that creates.

The author says we err when we think of artists as a group of rare, elite people. He says we must release art into the hands of ordinary people, like a father and son at a music store.

To create is to be human.

To create is to reflect the image of

God. 

So, who is an artist?

Anyone who has a soul.

This is Erwin McManus’s thesis in The Artisan Soul, and as I listen to D play the drums, I whole heartedly agree with his point. “Do it again,” I say to D, urging him to play the drums as if we’re at a jazz club on a Saturday night. “Do it again, do it again.”

We see trombones and saxophones. Tubas and trumpets. Guitars. Banjos. Bongo drums. Electric keyboards.

In a corner of the store, D sits on a piano bench and gently presses down on a single key with his pointer finger, starting with the high notes. He plays one note at a time, going from high to low notes, never bashing the keys or playing with his whole hand and listening intently to each note instead of playing as loud as possible.

“Is this high or low?” he asks. “This is low. Am I right?”

He sits on a cajon and slaps the side of the wooden box. I sit on one next to him and tap out a beat. He repeats the short beat, so I tap out a new one. He repeats it again, and then we drum to our own rhythms, before his impulses lead him on elsewhere in the store.

We dance on flashing yellow, green, red, and purple circles on the floor from strobe lights, and I don’t care if anyone notices us. What can I say? An artist creates. We’re artists.

To create is to be human. 

To create is to reflect the image of

God.

So, who is an artist?

Anyone who has a soul.

In a back room, D sits on a bench and we tap buttons to create electronic beats. Then I pick up some ear plugs. We play the bongos one last time. This is how we roll at the Music Store.

He creates. We create.

We’re artists.

***

My dad worked as a reporter in high school, writing a teen column for a newspaper in Portland, Maine. My brother was on the high school newspaper staff, and as a tenth grader, I ended up in a journalism class.

It could have been the newspaper advisor or my dad who signed me up for beginning journalism. Having had my brother on the newspaper staff, the journalism teacher probably asked a school counselor to sign me up.

It was just another class at first. No different than any other class. Information to learn. But something changed during the next year when I began writing for the school newspaper, The Sword and Shield. 

I became a sociological critic on girls wearing the same duck-flat boots. I wrote about the band U2 and a soccer player whose nickname was the Mad Mohican, and the quiet kid who sat next to in math class was now a story when I discovered he taught a karate class; I wrote about a teacher traveling across the United States in her RV, an editorial on terrorists blowing up airplanes, and the kid who rarely talked (me) had found his voice.

I had become an artist.

How much turns on coincidence? Or someone encouraging a person to try something new? Or providence?

The old journalism teacher retired.  The new teacher encouraged me to apply to a journalism camp taught by professionals. I submitted samplrd of my writing and was selected as one of thirty students chosen, and when I returned in the fall, the teacher asked me to teach the class what I learned.

***

I started driving a taxi during college to write a book about all the strange, weird people in Los Angeles. The retired secretary for my high school invited me in her home and served me leftover pizza. There were toy dolls next to cat poop on her living room floor. She used a walker, and as she told me her story, she showed me a polaroid picture of herself. Naked.

I picked up a Vietnam Vet at a hotel and drove him around a few hours as he drank Vodka out of a brown paper bag. He rolled down the window and tried to give money to people. No one listened to him, so he grabbed my wrist, and I listened to his story. By the end of two hours, I had a $120 tip–$20 at a time–and he passed out when we returned back to the hotel.

While I was a cab driver in my early 20’s, my mom had a prayer group of women meeting every week at her condo, and they all prayed for me to become a Christian. One day she told me out of the blue,  if I was ever in a crisis, I could get down on my knees, pray to God, randomly open the bible and He would answer my prayer. I told her I thought it was a stupid idea.

But I crashed the cab one morning, and depressed from a break-up with a girlfriend, I remembered what my mom had told me and found myself on my knees, telling God that I didn’t know if He existed, but if He did, I just wanted to have hope, and if having hope meant turning from my sins, I was willing to do repent (though I didn’t use that word). As soon as I finished praying, the heavinesx of of my depression just went away.

***

I met a friend at church church who invited me to join a homeless ministry where we bought breakfast and taught a bible study in an empty parking lot. The lot was located behind a restaurant where I crashed my taxi, so I began serving God where my life before Christ had reached an end.

L heard me give an announcement about the ministry and called for more information. My phone number was in the church bulletin as the contact person. We talked on the phone for a few hours. She had just rededicated her life to Christ, and I was a new Christian, and we talked most of the time about our new love for Christ.

L and I went out with a group from the singles ministry one night to sing at a church service at a homeless mission. Afterwards, as we drove to a coffee place, L started singing crazy in my car, and when we played checkers, our eyes locked whenever one of us moved a checker. The drive and the checker game–that’s when I knew L would be my wife.

***

Twelve years later, on Valentine’s Day in February 2008 (we’d been married for nine years), L and I flew from Los Angeles to Memphis, Tennessee, to meet our son and, two day later, we flew home with him in our arms.

How much turns on coincidence?  Or someone encouraging a person to try something new? Or providence?

I can’t help but wonder how one class, one drum D plays, one prayer I pray for my son, one person he meets, one movie he watches, one song he listens to, or one person who encourages him, will lead him toward his path in life.

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