Sunday, August 15, 2004


A song that's been playing a lot on my iPod lately—and in my brain, for that matter—is Liz Phair's Extraordinary . The primary reason I've been playing it is that my son is really grooving on it. It's very cool to watch this seven-year-old developing his own musical tastes, not always the same as mine. He's totally in love with Sheryl Crow after seeing his very first music video, for "The First Cut is the Deepest," on the iTunes Music Store. 

Anyway, Liz Phair. Like me, she went to Oberlin in the late 1980s. I was in a class with her, I believe it was Classics 100, which I took late in my college career in order to turn all the Greek classes I'd taken into an official classics minor. That's about the extent of my actual connection with Liz Phair.

Several years later, while I was serving my two churches in Ohio, I remember being in a music store in Pittsburgh and seeing her face on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine. I was a little flipped out. Here I was, maybe five years out of college, with a Master's degree behind me and working as a pastor in Southern Ohio for around $20,000 a year (plus housing). And there she was, five years out of college, on the cover of Rolling Stone. It sent me into a bit of an existential crisis. Not, in the end, the same crisis or even the same flavor of crisis as the one that sent me fleeing from ministry entirely and led me to where I am today. I think I pretty well resolved it by reminding myself that Liz Phair and I had simply chosen different paths in our respective lives. She has obviously been quite successful in hers, and at the time I felt that I was reasonably successful in mine. Now, I feel that I'm very successful in this newer path that I have chosen, and while I am still unlikely ever to have my face on the cover of Rolling Stone, well, my name has been on the cover of quite a number of gaming books. Though by the standards of the recording industry, even Eberron is a long way from even gold record status (500,000 copies).

Well, hey, good for you, Liz. You've done well. And I get to say I took Classics 100 with you. 

But why am I so hung up on Liz Phair? I've had Chris Ballew (of the Presidents of the United States of America ) over to my house for dinner. His son is the same age as mine, and they were at the same school for the last two years. One of the nicest guys I know. And we have the same kind of piano.

When it comes down to it, I know a lot of extraordinary people. When I think about what I mean by "extraordinary," I come down to "creative." I think that people who embrace their creativity and express it and maybe even make a living off it are extraordinary. They are what most of us dream of being. And it's not just Liz Phair and Chris Ballew. It's people like Rich Baker, Ed Stark, Bruce Cordell, Monte Cook, Jeff Grubb, and Stan!, who are all published novelists and are all friends of mine. (And Rich has even hit the New York Times bestseller list!) People like Jeff Simpson, who is leaving Wizards of the Coast to get his Master's in either musicology or piano performance in New York, who talked with me late into the night at Origins about Scriabin and postmodern science and just blew my mind. People like my wife, who hangs her paintings on our wall, is starting a liturgical dance troupe, helping start a creative worship team, and auditioning for a production of The Importance of Being Earnest. I guess I'm incredibly fortunate to work in a place where I'm surrounded by brilliant, creative, extraordinary people who get to use their enormous creativity to earn their livings and live fulfilling lives. I guess I'm such a person, too.

OK, yeah, so I'll never have my face on the cover of Rolling Stone. But I—like Liz Phair and Chris Ballew and all the other people I just mentioned—I get to live creatively. Every day I get to dream up new stuff, play with words and ideas, tinker with rules and build worlds, I get to come home at night and write music (again, for the first time in years!) or work on the novel I'm writing now. Every day I get to act in the image of the Creator, creating things of beauty and enjoyment. That's pretty extraordinary. 

I am extraordinary
If you'd ever get to know me
I am extraordinary
I am just your ordinary, average, everyday, sane, psycho, supergoddess

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