The Dixie Chicks are playing over my speakers once more, and their new CD Home has been promoted to my new favorite country album. I certainly don't envy the Chicks their recent financial and legal troubles, but listening to this music reminds me of a lot of things. The irrepressible grin on my face reminds me of why I love being a performer. There is a happiness that shines through this CD that lifts me up - and it truly does shine through. The Chicks had fun with this, you can tell: and that reminds me of how happy you can be when you do what you were made to do.
This issue of what I was made to do - what I am, to put it another way - has been much on my mind lately. Let me explain:
The "self" does not interest me as a rule. I usually care much more about what I should be than I do about what I am. It's like taking ground in an offensive: you don't stop short of the objective. The ground you take on the way to the objective is important, but it's not what you should be focusing on. Or to put it another way, it's like scoring a 1600 on your SATs. Sure it's nice to have done it - but once you've done it, you move on rather than sitting there congratulating yourself.
So I don't usually think too much about the parts of my "self" that are admirable (the ground that Jesus has taken, if you will, or the exams that I've scored well on). And I don't think too much about the parts of my "self" that are despicable, except with an eye towards how I should improve. And really, the parts of me that are admirable are not so admirable that they shouldn't improve. So my introspection is usually done with an eye towards where I should be more than trying to figure out where I am. Self-analysis is, when all is said and done, a means to an end.
But there is another way to look at the "self" in the present, which I think is admirably summed up in the following Kendall Payne lyric:
I wanna feel something sweeter than this sin
Cover me in leaves; roll me over again
I've been everybody else; now I want to be
Something closer to myself.
That's talking about something much deeper than simple descriptive introspection. It's talking about "who I am" in the sense of "who God made me to be." And that I think is something much more worth knowing than merely finding out "what am I like right now?" So who am I?
To begin with, I am a writer. When God conceived of me before the dawn of creation, he conceived of a person who would love the manipulation of words for its own sake. There is an impulse built into my soul to take words into my mind and shape them into objects of delight. When I am playing with language I feel the joy of the Lord.
I am a storyteller. When God formed me in my mother's womb he fashioned me into a person who loves to use his words to take other people away. When I write fiction, I feel the delight of doing what I was made to do. I feel God smile when I am roleplaying because I am doing what I am designed to do.
I am a gamer. I was born to never grow up. For my father and I, gaming is a necessary part of life. Without it our wonted optimism falters, our serenity is disrupted. Gaming helps me to take joy in life. I am refreshed by it.
One thing I am not is a dancer. I love some kinds of dance, of course: I love waltz, I love polka, I love hustle. I enjoy swing - when I'm not listening to the old self-doubt that tells me I'm not good enough to do it. Other kinds of dance I don't mind, but I don't love. But I don't love even the waltz for its own sake the way I love roleplaying for its own sake. I love the waltz because it is a picture of romance: of two learning to be one, of learning how to sacrifice without diminishing themselves. I love the polka because it is a picture of freedom and delight as I fly along the surface of the floor. I love the hustle because it reminds me that deep down inside, I want to be cool. I love all three of those dances because I love the way they make me feel when the movement is smooth and flawless. In short, I love what those dances do to me.
But it is the dances who do things to me, and that I think is different than storytelling or gaming, where the elation comes from inside me. For Shanah Van, or for Red Jenny, I do not think that is true. I think those girls are dancers by nature. As Shanah put it, dancing is her sanity.
But for me, dancing is not my sanity. It's something I do for fun, and something I do because with every fiber of my being I long for what it holds out to me. Roleplaying, now - roleplaying is my sanity. Roleplaying lets me write, game, and tell stories all at once. So when Red Jenny got me invited to the game she's playing, I said yes despite the fact that it's D&D 3rd - and when the Viennese Ball Opening Committee asked me to dance with them (which would have meant sacrificing Campus Crusade's weekly meeting), I said no.