Jul 22, 2007

My Personal Influences: Catalysts

Pronunciation: 'ka-t&-l&st
Function: noun
1 : a substance that enables a chemical reaction to proceed at a usually faster rate or under different conditions (as at a lower temperature) than otherwise possible
2 : an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action

The list of people on this list was easy to come up with and fun to write about. All I did was look at the things that are part of my every day (or almost-everday) life from mundane habits to passionate interests and asked myself why am I like this? When a person's name immediately came to mind, I knew I had a Catalyst. Catalysts are people that provoked or sped up a significant change or action in my life. It's not surprising then, that with almost all of these people (Alex, I think, would be the one exception) I can point a specific time, almost to the day, if I thought about it, when they did or said something that changed the way I live of my life, or added a fresh new dimension to it.

This Catalyst list is also unique in that it features the only person on my list of 65 to be named twice. There are many people who have influenced me in multiple ways of course, but Bev Cabanatan is unique in that her name popped to mind twice as I was running through my list of Catalysts for very obvious and distinctly different reasons. I had no choice but to list her twice (though she is only counted once, of course!). Congratulations Bev! And thanks to all my Catalysts for turning my life around in ways big and small!

Alex Prouty
Beverly Cabanatan & Lori Cerna
Cliff Shoemake
Crystal Pierson & Beverly Cabanatan
Vince Asanuma
Carl Waldron

Alex Prouty
I don’t really know how I got into the performing arts but I’m pretty sure Alex had something to do with it. I met Alex during college. He was an aspiring writer and an actor and director with Impressions, Andrews University’s resident theater troupe (I believe my first piece written for the stage was for Alex to use with Impressions. I can’t even remember what the sketch was about). Back then we ran around with two other aspiring writers, Beau and Ian, calling ourselves The Four Horsemen (I know, I know. We were all writers and yet we couldn’t come up with anything more original than that). We used to get together to share our writing, bemoan our fate with women, and dream up great story ideas. I don’t recall being particularly inspired by all this bohemian brotherhood. I don’t remember thinking—“Wow, I definitely want to get involved with theater somehow in the future.” We were just hanging out. Marking time. Well, eventually Beau got married. Then Alex. Then Me. (We always knew Ian would be the last of us to settle down. I’m not sure if he ever did.) We went our separate ways. But my first year in Saipan, I signed up to teach the drama class, and it all went from there. . I’ve been the director of my own traveling drama ministry for seven years now. I’ve written five plays, one adaptation for the stage and a couple of shorter sketches. I was co-writer and co-director of a 13 episode televison drama. I’ve even done a little acting here and there. And when I look back to try to figure out where this all began, I keep coming back to Alex Prouty. If I ever make the big time in movies, TV, or theater, I’ll have to remember to thank Alex first.

Beverly Cabanatan

Lori Cerna

The most any one can ask of their profession, is to make a difference. We’d all like to think that what we do will actually do some good. The trick is that, to make a difference, you have to be committed, passionate, a hard worker, and you have to be good at what you do. It's an added bonus if you have a winning personality and can tell a good story. Well, Bev and Lori have got it all and then some. And they have made a difference in my life and, I’m willing to bet, in the lives of a lot of other people too. Bev and Lori are dental hygienists and because of them, I floss. Between the two of them--first Lori during one of her energetic, entertaining, and compelling dental hygiene presentations at our school a few years back, and then Bev, with her blog entries and Simpson’s cartoons—I’ve become convinced of the importance of maintaining my dental health, especially through regular flossing. They influenced me because they believed passionately in what they do---it’s not just a job for them, it’s a mission--and because they presented their information in a common-sense, accessible way. As a measure of Bev’s influence, in particular, I find that on those (generally rare) occasions when I don’t floss, I find myself thinking, as if it were a little prayer, “Sorry, Bev.” She cares about her patients' health, and I find I don’t want to let her down!

Big deal! you say, It’s just flossing. I thought these blogs were about important influences!

Not important? Talk to Bev or Lori. Five’ll get you ten, you’ll be flossing tonight.

Cliff Shoemake
“Would you be interested in writing a script for a TV series with a Christian theme,” Cliff asked, “It would be set right here in Saipan using local talent.” It was the winter of 2001, not long after my theater troupe had performed at a worship service at New Covenant Life Church, the charismatic congregation of Pastor Cliff Shoemake. He’d invited me to lunch to discuss his new brainstorm. Now Cliff didn’t yet have any actors, didn’t have any cameras, didn’t have any money. He did have a great idea and a lot of faith, and for Pastor Cliff that was enough. Intrigued, I signed on. And doors opened. I introduced Cliff to my friend Galvin the director of the Catholic Mt. Carmel School Theater Club—he would end up co-writing and directing with me. Galvin introduced us to the rough-hewn film and TV veterans at Talk Story Studios, who in turn would eventually bring to Saipan the man who would become one of my key mentors, Hollywood actor, writer and director Dan Shor. We shot the pilot, aired it, and shot the rest of the series before running out of money. The project ground to halt, Cliff had long moved on to the Next Big Thing, and the unedited remaining episodes languished on a stockroom shelf. But by that time it didn’t matter—the course had been set. Other opportunities to learn about and work with the medium of film continued—and still continue--to come in. It turned out that jumping on Cliff’s bandwagon opened a score of opportunities and introduced a new passion in my life.

Crystal Pierson & Beverly Cabanatan
I’d always wished there was a way to share our experiences of life in Saipan with our family and friends back on the Mainland. Sure we’d show them photos and home video, but no matter what we did there was always the sense they didn’t really get it. We just knew that deep down they really believed we were living in huts and canoeing our way to the mission school, hoping we didn’t get jumped by cannibals on the way. More than that, we wanted them to understand why we continued to stay out in Saipan year after year. And then in the spring of 2006 Crystal said, “Check out our blog!” I did, and there it was; the solution. I could blog! Crystal explained how simple it was, showed me the ropes, and I was off and blogging. Crystal showed me that blogging could be a great way to share with family friends. And then Bev came along and showed me that blogging could be a way of life. Thanks to her, I joined the “blogging community,” started reading other blogs, honing my writing style, and branching beyond the basic “here’s what we did this week” format. I’ll always be grateful to Crystal for introducing to me to the world of blogging, and to Bev for helping me kick it into high gear. Chances are you wouldn’t be reading this right now if it hadn’t been for Crystal and Bev.

Vince Asanuma
As I collapsed in agony at the end of my mile and half run for college phys ed class, I swore that I would never run again unless I was running for my life. I hated running: the gasping for breath, the stich in the side, the burning muscles, the throbbing head. You could never have convinced me that running might actually be fun. And yet Vince did exactly that. Right around Christmas of 2005, Vince, who was then a teacher at the Saipan SDA School, invited me to go running with her. To be honest, I can’t imagine why I said yes—after all I hated running—but I did. And to my pleasant surprise, I found it wasn’t so bad. In fact, as we continued to run every Tuesday and Thursday evening for the rest of the school year, I found that it could actually be fun. There was one simple adjustment in my approach to running that Vince taught me, and that made all the difference in the world: I learned to pace myself (a simple thing I’d never bothered to do when I was running for a P.E. grade in school). By simply running just a little bit slower, I found all the things I despised about running disappeared, and in their place I found gorgeous Saipan sunsets along the Beach Road pathway, the steady snap of shoes hitting pavement in rhythm to my ipod, and the glow of accomplishment as I ran my first 5 and then 10 kilometer runs. Eventually, I even learned to enjoy feeling the burn of pushing myself. I’d gone from only running for my life to being a runner for life.

Vince and I haven’t run together now in almost a year, but I’m pretty sure I’ll run into her one of these days.

Carl Waldron
In the spring of 1994 a lot of the music I was listening to just didn’t quite fit with where my spiritual life was heading. I knew it, but I couldn’t imagine reducing my musical catalogue to Michael W. Smith, Sandi Patti, Take 6 and of course an endless supply of dreary hymns with arcane lyrics. I valued musical variety and quality too much. I remember praying, “Lord, you’re going to have to provide me with something just as good as the music I listen to now.” In His typical style, He provide me with something even better, and He did so through an affable fellow by the name of Carl Waldron. He said, “I’ve got some good music for you. And it’s Christian.” I was skeptical. Good music was for the world. Everybody knew that.

Well, Carl Waldron knew differently. Carl introduced me to a wealth of Christian recording artists that I’d never heard of. . .artists who were creating high quality, original music that talked about Jesus, of all things. I think back to some of those early artists, and they don’t seem that cutting-edge compared to the Christian artists that are making serious inroads in the secular market today, but there was at least one who would grow to have a tremendous impact on my spiritual life in his own right, a singer-songwriter by the name of Rich Mullins. With the many new artists Carl introduced me to, I noticed that my listening habits shifted strongly—and permanently-- in the direction of music that underscored and reflected my developing faith

It's a beautiful sound
Moving through the crowd.
Voices lifted up
On high for You.

It's a beautiful song.
We've only just begun to understand.
Rediscovering You.
--Newsboys “Beautiful Sound”


Bev said...

Wow! I made it on your list twice!=) I have stolen your personal influences post and will blog mine in a little bit. Then you'll know how you and barbara influenced me!

Ken & Crystal said...

Wow Sean....Glad I could make a difference in your life! Opened it up a little I guess. Now instead of us "living in huts and canoing everywhere" our friends and family are asking, "Are they really missionaries???!" Life is grand in Saipan! xo ;-)