Echo 11 :: Andy Crouch – Ingredients for Excellence

Andy Crouch is the author of Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling,winner of Christianity Today’s 2009 Book Award for Christianity and Culture and named one of the best books of 2008 by Publishers Weekly, Relevant, Outreachand Leadership. In 2011 he became special assistant to the president at Christianity Today International, where he has served as executive producer of the documentary films Where Faith and Culture Meet and Round Trip, and as editorial director of the Christian Vision Project. He is a member of the editorial board ofBooks & Culture, a senior fellow of the International Justice Mission’s IJM Institute, and serves on the boards of Fuller Theological Seminary and Equitas Group, a philanthropic organization focused on ending child exploitation in Haiti and Southeast Asia. His writing has appeared in several editions of Best Christian Writing and Best Spiritual Writing. He lives with his family in Swarthmore, Pennsylvania.

  • What makes works of creativity excellent?
  • Ingredients of excellence
  • In the last 10 years the best film anyone has ever made about creativity is Pixar’s Ratatouille
  • Pixar is the only major studio producing films that has a number of Christian writers and producers
  • Isn’t interesting that this studio consistently produces incredible movies about creativity
  • Why is Ratatouille my favorite movie?
    • The structure of a story
      • Every story is driven by a sender that wants to deliver an object to the receiver.
      • How will the sender get the object to the receiver?
      • There are 3 forces – helpers, subject, and opponents
    • Ratatouille Act One
      • Remy is a rat who wants to be a cook.
      • How will Remy convince his family that they should be eating good food instead of garbage?
      • His opponents are his own family.
      • The people who have been gifted with creative abilities think that they should create culture that is safe for people.
      • Great culture is rarely safe for people.
    • Act Two
      • Remy is going to become the receiver
      • How is Remy ever going to get the opportunity to become a chef?
      • A chef named Linguine is the subject.
    • Act Three
      • Now all the ingredients are in place for the quest to take place.
      • Christians often treat culture, that we love it so much that we hate it.
      • We need to just love culture.
      • What is the role of the critic in creativity? – To encourage people to try something new.
      • If you win without an opponent, you haven’t won.
      • To have a story without an opponent is not a story.
      • How often do Christians tell a truncated story that doesn’t do justice to the real opposition in the world?
      • Who is the critic who is never satisfied with anything I create? – Myself.
      • The critic could convert from being our opponent to our helper.
      • To create great work you need a great critic.
      • The conversion of the opponent, and the happiness of the ending makes the story what it is.
      • Stories sometimes have an enemy and an opponent.
      • The enemy doesn’t convert and he is eliminated. But the opponent begins as opposition and ends as a helper.
      • A great story has an unpredictably happier ending.
  • Why is this the structure of a story?
    • Because this is the structure of the cosmos.
    • The sender is the creator of the world who wishes to send something to the world.
    • Act one of the biblical story ends in frustration.
    • In act two the subject has to receive something. A new subject enters whose job is to deliver something that we couldn’t acquire on our own. That is the incarnate God.
    • In act three it is a happier ending.
    • In this new cosmos is not just a garden, but a city. Every creative act of God’s image bearers is present in some way.
  • Ingredients of excellence
    • A happier ending – is the culture that you’re creating offering people a glimpse of something glorious beyond what they could expect. Because that is what God is offering the world.
    • The way to live with tremendous pain is to focus on the pain.
    • Most bad art tries to avoid the full catastrophe. But the story is not just happiness, but everyone’s story includes dissonance. Great art always acknowledges full catastrophe.
    • Is the art that we’re creating doing justice to the full catastrophe?
    • Eliminate what isn’t necessary.

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