Today, I’m interviewing Ryan Miller, ex-creator of video games such as Myst and Raven (nice) turned pastor (go back to video games, dude) who recently wrote Everything Breathes. While his title is true, I bet he doesn’t know what the Archaeoglobus fulgidus breathes.
Didn’t think so, fool.
INTERVIEW WITH RYAN MILLER
1-Just to be clear, you’re not the hockey player?
I’m not. But, my son did tell his friends that I was that Ryan Miller for a while and he had a few convinced. I went along with it for a while. It would seem that Jr. High students are much more impressed with an NHL hockey player than a pastor. Weird.
2-Now that we’ve cleared that up, you cite me in your book. Brilliant move on your part. I commend you for your healthy reading habits. You’ve obviously got what it takes to be huge. But why did you title your book Everything Breathes? Were you worried your readers would forget?
I was at a traffic light not too long ago. I was already late and a lady in a big Suburban had already prevented me from making my turn – because she was sitting in the turn lane – so I shouldn’t have been at the light in the first place. Always the Suburbans.
I sat at the light for 5 minutes. The lights cycled through numerous times before I was for sure that it was skipping my left turn arrow. During that 5 minutes I started hitting my dash and dropping a full arsenal verbal weaponry to myself and the radio.
I eventually, and very dramatically, got out of the intersection with a u-turn and made it to Starbucks. As I got out of my car, a guy who is a part of our church was getting into his car.
He asked how I was doing and I told him the whole story – again with quite a bit of drama. He then said “everything breathes right” and pointed to my shirt. I was wearing a shirt that had the title of the book on it (promotion is a hard business you know).
My point in all of this? Yeah we forget. I forget. All the time.
It comes from Ecclesiastes and the “everything is meaningless” phrase which can mean a lot of things – and does to a lot of people – but to me means that everything is breath.
Everything cycles. Everything inhales and exhales. There is life and death and joy and pain. Traffic lights get stuck. But am I, are we, going to live the life available for us, then too?
3-Why should people read your book? That is, what does it say that differs from what is already being said in the field of “Well, here we go again. Another so-called ‘challenging’ book about Christianity”?
I hope this book isn’t a challenging book as much as an empowering and liberating book about life – and I guess Christianity but that makes it sound kinda boring.
I don’t know, I think people are really tired of being challenged, trying to live up to all of those challenges, usually failing, and then getting a headache and being depressed and hating other groups of people to make themselves feel better because of all the damn challenges.
I think people are in pain and they need to be told that it’s okay and be free to live in their pain. I think they need to know God isn’t punishing them or trying to teach them a lesson. I think people are always being told to do something that will lead to something else that will eventually give them what they want and they need to be empowered to live right now.
I know there are a lot of people who just need to stop and take a breath and look around and live. And be encouraged. And believe they can affect the world. And believe that God thinks they can affect the world.
That’s who should read the book.
4-I notice your writing style is a bit like Rob Bell’s, so . . . don’t take this the wrong way when I say this, buuuuuuuuuuuut I don’t understand why anyone likes Rob Bell. Why do people like Rob Bell? (By the way, I’d only charge you $50 to come surfing with me–well, maybe $75. And you’d have to bring your own board. And booze. And, no questions about theology. I’m there to have fun, you know?)
First, have you thought about having an event? Let’s do this. I’ll be there. Forget surfing, we’ll just drink some good whiskey and see where it goes. You’ve got my $75. That way you’re event could be 1/5 as good as Rob’s and it would still be worth it.
Rob Bell. Yeah, I like him. I mean I like the him that is portrayed at giant conferences, in books, in sermons, and with 50 other people in a room. I don’t know any other Rob Bell but I do like that one.
I like the language he uses. His words and metaphors sync with me. I like the fact that he has good taste in graphic design. I like his creativity and out-of-the-boxness. I like his theology. I like the way he stays out of the fray when Christians fight each other. I like that he’s been hurt and has not gotten bitter. Most of all I like that he’s seems to be humble and incredibly gracious and loving, which I think we’re all supposed to be.
Given those things, he’s had a huge influence on me. I can’t really deny it. So if I do write like him, I’m alright with that. I wish there were others that wrote like him – I’d probably buy their books.
5-Publishing is a beast and there’s, obviously, a variety of ways of doing it. I grew up surrounded by a strong DIY ethos (primarily because of the music I listened to, Fugazi, 7 Seconds, Dag Nasty–sorry, I just wanted to remind people of how awesome I am,) and I’m interested in the reason why some people get agents and why others self-publish. Some of those reasons are obvious, yet other folks are being relatively innovative about their approach–Kickstarter being one of those paths (a sort of communal means of self-publishing). Why did you forego the traditional path of publishing?
As much as I like Rob Bell, I like Seth Godin. (I’d definitely surf with him too.)
From everything I’ve read, for people like me who aren’t famous, it doesn’t make much sense to go the traditional path anymore. I wouldn’t get that much marketing, I’d have to appease editors and I’d probably end up with some crappy cover design that would make the book look like “another so-called challenging Christian book” and still end up with 20 cents a book!
Godin did a Kickstarter and inspired me so I followed him. I’m glad I did. It was humbling to see friends support me in the ways they did and I’m terrible at self-promotion and the kickstarter made me self-promote.
I’m really terrible at self-promotion. Maybe I should have gone the traditional path…
6-In your book you say, “formulas are idols, idols are formulas.” That sounds suspiciously like a formula. Are you an idolator?
If I had said if formulas are idols then idols are formulas then I would have been an idolator.
7-Did you ever beat up that cyclist who called your wife a ‘dumbass’? I know those folks are good for the environment (cyclists, not dumbasses), but they still drive me crazy. So, you know, you can tell me if you did. I won’t tell anyone.
I really didn’t. I really didn’t. But my entire family spent the rest of the ride home coming up with fun things to say to him if we saw him in the parking lot where we all loaded our bikes.
Fortunately, for him, he wasn’t there.
8-Final question: I see that, because of his lack of superpowers, Batman is your favorite hero. Forgiving the silliness of such an awful choice (what can I say, I have a big heart), you should check out Matt Fraction’s ‘Hawkeye’. It is soooooooooooo good. Okay, so, that wasn’t really a question, more like a suggestion. Or, a demand. Go read it.
I’m on it. I just googled it. This is why you need to do that event. Maybe we could call it “A Real Tripp”. This is why you need to keep blogging and writing books. I need more of these kinds of demands in my life. I will read it!
About the Author
Tripp York teaches religious studies at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, Virginia. He is the author of more than half a dozen books including, Third Way Allegiance, The Purple Crown, and Living on Hope While Living in Babylon. He is the co-editor of the forthcoming three-volume collection called the Peaceable Kingdom Series. An actor and a lighting designer, Tripp also surfs and spends his weekends shoveling elephant and giraffe poop.