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Wedding Feast of Cana 2-Part Painting

The above video was shot from February 11, 2014 through tonight, March 30, 2014, but the process began way back in December when I first had the idea of doing a painting based on a stained glass image of the Wedding Feast of Cana, which is one of my favorite stories from the Bible.

As I searched around for stained glass images, I came across one from the Cathedral of Sts. Peter and Paul in Providence, Rhode Island. Talking to my friend, Fr. Jay Finelli, a priest of that diocese, he believes the windows are as old as the Church, which is about to celebrate it’s 125th anniversary. Thus far, I have not been able to discover who created the original stained glass design.

Nevertheless, while the layout of the paintings I did is similar, there are so many things that are different, and areas I took liberty with the paintings to make them more in my style.

The new view when you first walk into our house

The new view when you first walk into our house

But more importantly, these two paintings did so much to help revitalize my desire to use my creativity in a more prayerful way. I wrote about my growing in this area in a previous post.

Just after finishing the second painting

Just after finishing the second painting

I definitely felt God’s peace and guidance through this work. There are a few aspects of the paintings that I have no idea how I pulled off, and I attribute those areas in particular to the Holy Spirit. I also attribute the spin-off Mysteries of the Rosary series (still in progress) to the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, as well.

I’ve been very blessed to rediscover this hobby after so many years. It’s hard to adequately give words to how it has changed me in such a short period of time. I feel a tremendous peace when painting that transcends just a relaxing hobby. I feel a connection with God and an appreciation for the gifts – big and small – that he gives us.

I suppose it’s appropriate that his first public miracle – his first gift to the world – would be the my first big project upon returning to these creative endeavors.
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Rosary Painting Project

First, A Progress Report
A few weeks back I wrote about a new painting project I had started. I’m about 75% finished with that one. Here’s the progress so far:

Wedding Feast of Cana Paintings

Those are actually two separate paintings (thus, my wife Jennifer holding one of them) that tell the story of the Wedding Feast of Cana, which is one of my favorite stories from Scripture. It is based off of a stained glass image from the Cathedral in Providence, Rhode Island. Never seen it in person, but liked some of the photos I’ve seen enough to do my own version. When it’s done, these two will be framed separately and hung on the living room wall that has been completely blank for far too long. Like this:

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The project has been a great challenge (in a good way) to re-awaken a lot of dormant understanding of painting.

Unexpected Surprise
One of the things that was driving me nuts is that sometimes I end up having to mix a lot of paint just to get a little bit of color on the canvas leaving me at the end of a painting session with a pile of unused and unneeded paint. And since I’m now painting with acrylics instead of oils, the paint dries super fast.

One night, further inspired by Pope John Paul II’s Letter to Artists, I had the idea of grabbing a spare, smaller canvas and just seeing what comes out of the brush by using the spare paint from that night’s painting session.

This was the result:

Third Luminous Mystery - The Nativity

Third Luminous Mystery – The Nativity

Surprised by the result, I’ve since continued doing these #SparePaintPaintings whenever I have leftover paint at the end of the night. I’ve now completed 16 of the 20 mysteries of the Rosary.

We’ve talked about the possibility of having prints made of these either individually or as one large collage, like this:
Rosary Mysteries Painting

So here’s the question – Would you be interested in prints like this? It would require a bit of investment to have HD professional photos taken so that the prints would actually look like the original. And do any other artists out there have an idea how much things like this run for?

Here are some others I’ve done so far. Can you figure out which mystery each represents?

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

copyright (C) 2014 Greg Willits

Upon Request…

After my post about a Dad’s Guide to Minecraft, several readers requested (both in the comments below and on Twitter and FB) that I post the 100-foot statue of me that my son Ben made for Father’s Day last year.  He even attempted to create a version of me wearing a Rosary Army t-shirt.  Here are a few screen shots.

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Why I Gave Up on Artistic Endeavors and What’s Bringing Me Back

Mockup Cover

Mockup cover I did back in 2000 when I was writing the first draft of my novel.

An Accidental Artist

Since childhood, my ultimate career ambition has always been to be a novelist, to craft long-form prose, to see it in hardcover with a removable jacket sleeve, and to somehow sustain myself and my family through the quest of creating memorable fiction.  I was told at an early age by a teacher with whom I maintain contact to this very day that I had a talent, that in fact I had “no reason whatsoever not to be a writer,” and this initial encouragement was reiterated by others — teachers, friends, mentors — throughout many years.

I believed what I had been told.

Writing morphed into other creative interests, primarily drawing, but also poetry, music, and painting.  Anything with an aesthetic nature flowed somewhat easily.  In college I landed the lead in a university’s major production without ever having any acting experience (and managed to land a wife in real life in the process).  Years later my wife and I were given full-time jobs in radio without ever having taken a class in broadcasting.  Like these, in many of my creative pursuits I’ve stumbled into them rather than actually sought them out.

Dead Poets Society

Scene from Dead Poets Society from Touchstone Pictures.

I have always understood the arts and had an appreciation for movies and novels, in particular.  1989’s Dead Poets Society spoke to my core and resonated on a level I’d infrequently experienced before.  I identified in some way with each of the characters and for the next year I almost always had a notebook within arm’s reach to scribble out a stanza when inspiration struck.

Most of the creative endeavors I’ve encountered, I’ve enjoyed.  And for the most part I have had a certain level of competency.  Not expertise, mind you, but competency, and enough competency to make me think I had a shot of actually transforming one of these artistic pursuits into a genuine career.

But creative writing was the only endeavor that allowed me to relate to the phrase, “it feeds my soul.”

Apple II+

What my first computer looked like, right down to the green screen monitor with the weird film on the screen. Image from http://apple2history.org/

Somewhat surprisingly, my interest in the arts lead to a successful career in the IT industry.  I always loved to write and I always liked playing video games.  In the early 1980’s my father bought us an Apple II+ computer which, if I wanted to write and and play games, I had to learn to use.  Even Applesoft BASIC (and later just regular BASIC) programming had a certain creative sensibility and flow to it.  Because of this combination of technical and creative ability, when it became possible to create graphically enhanced websites in the mid-1990’s, I stumbled into an unexpected career that was nothing more than being in the right place at the right time. Anyone could now create a website, but in the early days of mass-acceptance of the Internet, and long before the pervasiveness of WordPress, making a website actually look good was akin to voodoo.

After several years, though, my technical pursuits involved less and less creativity as employers saw in me a proficiency for project management and leading teams.  I had children to feed now, and a mortgage, and creative pursuits and the romantic notion of being a starving artist and modern day Bohemian felt selfish.

The Worst Possible Doubt

In 2000 I was several years into a career developing software systems both as a developer and a manager.  Struck by inspiration, I’d leave work each night and stop at the local library to pound out 1000 words before heading home.  The concept for the story was the fruit of frustration from the myriad of pop sensation novels that revolved around dysfunctional characters living out immoral solutions to their shallow lifestyles.  In the midst of writing, as a result of multiple factors, my own relationship with God was deepening.  I told myself and God that my novel was an antidote to a literary market filled with tales of dysfunction that was given free reign to destroy lives.  As my own story was borne, I daydreamed of best-seller lists and bidding wars and advance checks with multiple zeros.   I’d convinced myself that the publication of this novel would alter my life forever.

The end result was a novel called “This Time For Good” which was promptly rejected by over 150 agents and publishers.  All the secular publishers said it was too religious, all the religious publishers said it was too Catholic, and the one Catholic fiction publisher at the time said they weren’t publishing any more fiction.

The rejections poured in over the course of a year in which the distaste for my accidental career in IT was magnified with each returned manuscript.  I’d arrive home each evening and check the mail before greeting my family.  Another rejection letter, and then another.  Each morning, before my eyes would open, I would wonder if that was the day everything would change.  Would that be the day when a publisher would snatch up my book and I could leave the IT industry behind, the financial security of my family assured as a result of a silly story I’d concocted?

“It’s all I think of all day,” I told my wife.  “I can’t stop thinking about it.  Literally a minute doesn’t pass where I don’t think about that book being published.  Why would God give me these talents, and the desire to give life to these words and these creations if I wasn’t supposed to do something with it?”

My wife had no idea how injurious — and true — the words she would then speak would be to me, how deeply they would wound, and how long the wound would bleed.  Having said that, I’m so grateful she had the courage to speak them to one as hardheaded as me.

“It’s as if you’ve made the book a god,” she said, and I was furious at the accusation.   Furious not at my wife, but at the mere possibility her words were true.  The hours I’d poured into the novel, the sacrifices I’d made to bring it to life.  A false god, she said.  In the service of God, had I created an idol?  Had the pursuit of a supposed good in fact brought life to an evil?

I railed against everything that night, in a way I’m not sure I can adequately describe.  For hours, I cried and screamed at God in hushed anger.  All I had worked for and toward, all hope of escape from my present work situation, all I had dreamed of for years, it was all lies.  My dream since childhood, which seemed so close to reality as I wrote that book, was nothing more than a dream, and I had just woken up to realize it as such.

And on that Friday evening, this book I’d told myself I’d written for God, caused me — for just the briefest of seconds — to actually doubt the existence of God. If all of what I’d set forth to accomplish in my life was lies and misdirection, then perhaps the God I longed to serve was a lie, as well.

And there it was, on the table, for just a moment, a thought I’d never considered.

My family had gone to bed by this time and I remember so clearly exactly where I was standing in the kitchen when that thought was made manifest.  I had one hand grasping the kitchen counter to hold myself up against the despair that threatened to overtake me, when I had the thought that if this book, this skill, this talent, and desire, were all false, “Then maybe You don’t exist, either.”

DCF 1.0I was immediately remorseful for even thinking it.  Of course God existed, but now so did the doubt that all I’d ever hoped to do in life would ever be made tangible.  If writing, and more specifically, getting published, had become a god, I wanted nothing to do with it at all.  Soon thereafter, I gave up the pursuit of writing completely.  If I’d made a god out writing, and especially that book, then I wanted nothing more to do with it.  I closed the door on the dream I’d had since childhood.

Meaninglessness

The arts lost meaning to me. In the grand scheme of things, what did it matter? Even if I did get a novel published, unless I ended up being a bestselling author, what good would it do the world 100 years from now? Suddenly, creativity was an exercise in selfishness, something I’d waste hours on for my own gratification.  I may as well just play video games or watch television.

One afternoon, when cleaning out our attic, I threw away three large trash bags of my short stories, poetry, and drawings.  Destroyed them for good, forever.  Left to mold and decay and disappear buried deep in a mound of trash somewhere.

Yet no matter how I tried to squash it, the need for creativity would not be killed.  In the early days of podcasting, I used that medium to create absurd radio plays and parody songs.  The more outlandish the better.  The podcast was supposed to be for catechetical purposes for our non-profit religious apostolate, yet I couldn’t help myself from doing oddball things from time to time, even though I was completely unaware that all I was doing was feeding the creative part of me that I was simultaneously trying to abandon. That part of me was starving and wanted to be fed.

The podcast lead to a video series, which lead to radio, which lead to a sitcom pilot, which lead to writing two non-fiction books which easily found a publisher.  But all these, I told myself, were for the purpose of evangelization.  And for the most part, they were.  During the same time I taught myself to play piano and continued to play guitar and sing (though admittedly not that well).  Some of those initiatives did in fact placate — though not satisfy — my soul in a way fiction and painting once did, but on a very superficial level.

Through it all, despite all those many rejections I’d received on my novel, I still thought of the unpublished novel, of the manuscript that has pretty much been haunting me for the past fourteen years.  I can’t get the story out of my head, and I can’t shake the desire to have it professionally published.  As I said, I’ve had no issue finding publishers for my nonfiction Catholic works, and those works have sold fairly well, but fiction is a whole other beast.  And it is at the heart of what I’ve always wanted in life.

Years later, after making more inroads in Catholic media as a result of our radio show and running several apostolates, a Catholic publisher that doesn’t handle much fiction offered to look at the manuscript and, after reading, suggested that the story was too candid in it’s depiction of one’s struggles with chastity, and in fact that I had written a book with too much sexual tension. As a result, I’ve muddled with ideas of making This Time For Good a gung-ho Catholic novel.  Just go full Catholic, for a Catholic audience, chock-full of Catholicity on every page.  Delete anything that truly resonates in the genuine struggles people encounter in their relationships and just write a sellable, sterile, predictable love story with the obligatory come-to-Jesus revelation in the third act.

Just preach to the choir from the beginning to the end and be done with the blasted thing.

But I’m not comfortable with that for a few reasons, primarily because so far there has been no proven market for Catholic fiction, so why write for a barely existing audience?

And there’s the crux of my problem from the very beginning: I love literature.  I love to write.  I love to create.  But at the heart, I don’t see worth in creating unless there’s some sort of satisfaction of compensation at the end.  Compensation, I suppose, equals affirmation of one’s talents.  You wrote something so dang good I’m going to pay you for it.

But then recently I read in Pope John Paul II’s 1999 Letter to Artists that, “Artists who are conscious of [the tasks they must assume, the hard work they must endure, and the responsibility they must accept] know too that they must labour without allowing themselves to be driven by the search for empty glory or the craving for cheap popularity, and still less by the calculation of some possible profit for themselves.”

This brings me great pause.  So…I’m to create for the sake of creating?  I must endure, to labor, not for affirmation, and certainly not for profit?

That stinks, man.

I read that as “create for the sake of creating and for the sake of sharing the creation, but don’t plan on getting paid for it.”

Trust me, I don’t anticipate payment, but why waste even more time on a novel I’ve already invested countless hundreds of hours on if there’s no renumeration in the end?  That’s the thing that’s always stuck with me.

Haunted

But perhaps I’m not in it just for a buck.  Why else have I been so unable to escape the shadow of this story and the characters that inhabit this world?  It’s important to point out that this isn’t even my first novel.  My first novel was finished in 1993 and was so terrible I have since destroyed every copy.  I’ve gotten 200 pages into two other novels.  Those books I rarely even think about, but This Time For Good I can’t shake.  I have three children who have been in my life for less time than this book has.  For a third of my life, I’ve been trying to bring this novel to completion.

A little over a year ago I went back and started reading the manuscript again, toying with making those Catholic changes.  And after time away from the world in which I’d so completely immersed myself, what I saw wasn’t impressive.  There was too much telling and too little showing.  Too many extraneous characters.  No overarching character plots.  Infrequent set-ups and pay-offs.  In short, it was abundantly evident I’d basically vomited words out on paper to get it out of my head, but little of it could ever be considered “literary.”  There was a good character-based story, and the two main protagonists really are people I’ve grown to love very deeply, despite their fictitiousness.  But the overall tale was pointless.

One day I was sitting in an airport waiting for a flight and for no reason whatsoever, I decided to take just two simple paragraphs and expand them, to dive more deeply into the terrain of the tale and see what I may have missed in the original telling.  What came out of my fingertips astounded me.  It was writing I couldn’t believe was even mine.  Over the fourteen year sabbatical, it was as if the story had been marinating and had grown in intensity and flavor.  And once I’d tasted the story again, I couldn’t resist another helping.

Over the last year and a half since that day in the airport, I’ve been drawn back to that chapter time and again.  I just haven’t been able to shake this story.

But that question remains.  Writing this, or painting a picture, or making a YouTube video.  What’s the ultimate point?  If I do this, if I write, if I spend time away from the family and staring at a computer screen, what good will any of this bring?

I’ve been wrestling with this as if I’m wrestling a demon.  I’ve prayed and asked God countless times to release me from the desire to write fiction, to escape creative impulses.  I’ve questioned the need for any hobby at all.  And, like any time I fight for understanding, I try to wait until God is ready to speak and reveal.

One evening just two months ago, I followed a compulsion to walk into an arts and crafts store.  I stood for perhaps half an hour looking at paint brushes and canvases, remembering what it was like years ago when I first started to paint.  I stopped painting after our first child was born, but now something was calling me, another artistic beacon calling out to me.  I knew I’d never sell a painting, but I could at least make things to decorate our home.  There was a certain rationalization to this particular creative pursuit.

I decided at some point that I’d give painting another shot.  I could allow that in my life.  But merely opening the door to something purely artistic like painting somehow brought greater life to my struggle with writing fiction.  For the next few weeks, both were regularly in my brain.  As I pondered what images I might bring to life through paint and canvas, I almost involuntarily kept thinking of the weak areas of the novel and my mind wrestled with solutions.

Shortly before Christmas, I mentioned this struggle on the podcast my wife I and continue to host each week.  How could I spend time doing something as selfish as writing or painting at the detriment to my own family, I asked.  Is it fair for me to go hide in the basement with paintbrushes or a word processor just to while away the hours?

I mentioned this to a few other people and my good friend and former co-worker Fr. Roderick Vonhogen (he, also, of a creative slant) said something that struck at the heart of all my deliberations.  Paraphrasing, he said, “Creativity allows the Holy Spirit to work through us to create something else.  In that sense, it could be like a prayer.”

Prayer is something that makes sense.  Prayer is something I know I need in order to make it through my hectic days.

Coupling that with John Paul II’s Letter to Artists where he says, “…beauty is the vocation bestowed on [the artist] by the Creator in the gift of ‘artistic talent.’  And, certainly, this too is a talent which ought to be made to bear fruit, in keeping with the sense of the Gospel parable of the talents (cf. Mt 25:14-30).”

This is rationalization I can accept.  If I have been given talents, and yet I bury them away and don’t even try to expand them, I’m like the nervous servant who buried the talents entrusted to him.

John Paul II says at the beginning of that letter, “None can sense more deeply than you artists, ingenious creators of beauty that you are, something of the pathos with which God at the dawn of creation looked upon the work of his hands.”

While that line is compelling, the next section, to me, was absolutely captivating.

“A glimmer of that feeling has shone so often in your eyes when — like the artists of every age — captivated by the hidden power of sounds and words, colors and shapes, you have admired the work of your inspiration, sensing in it some echo of the mystery of creation with which God, the sole creator of things, has wished in some way to associate you.”

God may not have called me to be a published novelist, but He “has wished in some way” to associate me with the echo of Him as creator.

Creativity, when brought to life, is an echo of God, and as much as I’ve tried to squelch it these last fourteen years, in is undeniable that he has “wished in some way” to associate me with the echo of Him.

Brush Strokes

For Christmas, my wife got me new brushes and paints and canvases and an easel.

When I sat down before that first blank canvas in so many years, I was struck not with fear, but with a sense of solemnity.  And I prayed.  I prayed for the Holy Spirit, if He so chose, to work through me to breathe life to something on that white screen before me.

And the first attempt was horrid.

So I started again, and I painted in prayer.  This is the result.

For the first time in years, I’m giving into the artistic impulse, and it feels right and good.  It feeds on itself in the best of ways and then resonates in other areas of my life.  As I write fiction again more regularly (still fighting non-stop daydreams of publication), I find myself energized to approach my actual day-to-day job with a different perspective.  I’m giving into the creativity again and asking the Holy Spirit to be a part of it, to help me find worth in it and the time I’m spending in these efforts.

This Time For Good, while adequate when written, was rightfully rejected by more than 150 publishers and agents.  As I pondered the many problematic story elements, and for years could develop no solutions, in just the last two weeks the Holy Spirit has broken through in some amazing ways.  The story suddenly seems new, while the characters I love so much are even more vibrant.  I’ve had to cut out some critical aspects of the story — including other characters I love — but I’m trying to let the Holy Spirit inspire and lead.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 9.18.04 PMAnd I’m painting, and that slows me down, makes me focus on the details and the shadows and the necessity of multiple layers and growing and building and patience.  So much patience.  Fourteen years of patience, and perhaps decades more ahead.

I’ve also been thinking of developing a new podcast to explore these things, but perhaps that’s too much too soon.  But I’m thinking of a title along the lines of “The Well Fed Artist: Feeding Creativity While Having a Day Job.”

We’ll see if inspiration strikes.

A Dad’s Guide to Minecraft

Minecraft makes me feel stupid.  If you don’t know what Minecraft is, stop right now and thank the Lord  for His intervention in protecting you from this cult-breeding virtual LEGO set video game that bestows upon children the power to create whatever gargantuan constructs they can imagine out of 8-bit digital blocks.

Minecraft4

That’s it.

No plot.

You can’t win the game.

You just build.

You can, however, play co-operatively with other players online or on a home network, you can play Minecraft death-match (which I really regret allowing in my house), or you could go full-introvert and dive into the single-player mode to create immersive and pixelated landscapes just so you can look at it and say, “Yep.  There’s a pixelated landscape.”

And I honestly can’t get over the fact that this ground-breaking technology that has made the creator millions of dollars looks like the chunky blocky games I used to play on an Atari 2600 over thirty years ago.  It’s retro, yet futuristic.  It’s Minecraft.

I could have come up with this.  But I didn’t.  So someone else has made millions of dollars.

Whenever my kids lose twelve hours on a Saturday because they were creating a 500-story refrigerator filled with virtual pixelated bananas in Minecraft, I ask them how that will get them a job so they can move out in ten years.  They think I’m kidding.

Minecraft3

Last winter I had to temporarily leave my family behind in Atlanta when I got a new job in Denver.  I was living in an extended stay hotel and made the regrettable promise to my oldest two Minecraft addicts (who also happen to be my sons) that I would get a Minecraft account so that we could play cooperatively and, in lieu of actual father/son bonding time, we could do so online through Minecraft.

This experience made Minecraft the first video game I’ve ever encountered in my entire life that made me utter the dreaded parental words, “I don’t get it.”

Those words then lead to a ridiculous rant where I might as well have hiked my pants up to my chest, popped on old-man glasses, and declared, “Why, when I was a kid we used to walk to the video arcade in the snow uphill both ways just so we could throw quarters away on games that had purpose – like Pac-man (where you ran around the exact same maze as many times as you could manage without dying) and Donkey Kong (where you navigated through just three repeated constructs as a gorilla threw barrels at you) and Mappy (my personal favorite which hardly anyone else remembers which was about a Police Mouse who avoided criminal cats by slamming doors and jumping on trampolines).”

Mappy

Mappy – Now THERE’S a real game!

See, THOSE games had a point!  And years later I have a job.  Because those games also cost 25-cents each so it was impossible to lose hours at a time playing them.  Heck, we could hardly afford to play for more than ten minutes before we needed to go find some work to do to earn some more quarters.

“So what do I do?” I asked my sons via Skype last winter as we played together for the first time from a distance of over 1,400 miles.

“Come over here,” Sam (my oldest) instructed.  I navigated my avatar (generically named Steve in the Minecraft world) to follow his character and together we chopped trees.  And then we dug holes.  And then we chopped trees.  And then we dug holes.  And apparently both the wood from the trees as well as the dirt from the ground formed some sort of currency that I’d use to “craft” together other minerals and objects.  For example, three logs and a pound of dirt would create a pig.  Or something like that.

And that’s pretty much Minecraft.

“So how did you do on your tests this week?” I asked my boys.  They laughed.  Dad is such a cut up.

Minecraft1

Here are the other ways Minecraft makes me squirm:

  • If other people in your home want to play, you need to buy another account for about $30.  We’ve bought three of these accounts so far.  Nearly $100.  For digital LEGO playsets.
  • If you want to play on mobile devices, you’ll pony up another $7.
  • In addition to the games, my children also have Minecraft t-shirts, posters and toys.  My wife and I paid for those, too.
  • They’ve recently announced a new service called Minecraft Realms which (if I understand correctly from my children (because I’m not going to go research this)) allows you to have your own personal server hosted on Minecraft’s end.  And this will have a monthly charge.  Probably per user.  I’ve asked my employer about having my 401K transferred to Mojang, the company who makes Minecraft.
  • When our children aren’t playing Minecraft, they’re watching videos online of other people playing Minecraft.  Because playing the game isn’t enough of a time-suck.

So those are the primary negatives for me.  But as much as it pains me to admit it, there are some pros to the game, as well.  For example:

  • My kids have made some ridiculously awesome constructs.  The Minecraft screenshots in this post are all buildings and arenas my kids made, block by stinkin’ block.  My kids.  I know, right?
  • The program encourages a combination of artistry and engineering.  Of course, kids can defy all logic and place a random block 45 feet in the air that could hold the entire Empire State Building, but still, the basics of engineering still exist.
  • It teaches math, geometry, and physics without it seeming like its teaching math, geometry, and physics.
  • Co-op mode genuinely fosters cooperation.  My boys work better when they’re playing Minecraft than if they were left on their own to forage for food.
  • Minecraft actually has multiple elements that would be good in the classroom, and websites like this one and this one have tons of articles, resources, and videos as to how to make Minecraft an even more educationally beneficial tool.  If we were still a homeschooling family, I imagine Minecraft would be a big part of the curriculum.

The single biggest reason my wife and I have allowed it in our house is that the output of Minecraft has been some of the most creative that we’ve seen from our children.  Though they spend hours creating things in a digital world that only they and a select few others can enjoy, they’re found a medium for creating.  When I was their age, I did that with reams of paper and box loads of pencils.  Tools change, and I can’t completely begrudge that fact.

And on a more personal level, when we finally managed to move the entire family across the country to join me in Denver, Minecraft not only allowed our boys to remain connected to their friends back east (as it continues to do so almost  a year later), but helped them foster strong friendships here, as well.

Though I wish my kids would exercise more, read more, pray more, do their chores more promptly, cooperate as well in real life as they do online, and engage in more of the things I did when I was their age, Minecraft has inspired my boys to build a 100-foot statue of me for Father’s Day, create technically complex infinity roller coasters, and learn how to catapult chickens long distances.

And perhaps these skills developed in an 8-bit world (particularly the chicken tossing one) will indeed help them get jobs creating buildings, designing cities, or leading communities in the future.

Probably not. But I’ll keep praying that it works out that way.

Minecraft2

This Could Have Gone On All Day

I may no longer work from home, but Jennifer makes sure I’m still there.
Texting with Lily

Live Stream Recording of TCND #033

Join us for a video stream recording of TCND Episode #030!

First Day of the Month Video

Each month Greg and Jennifer and their family try to make a video on the first day of the month. Here are the latest videos!

Live Stream of TCND #030 Recording 11/23/13

Join us for a video stream recording of TCND Episode #030!

Video Stream – The Catholics Next Door 11/10/13

Join us for a video stream recording of TCND Episode #028. We’ll talk about the Lord’s Prayer, listen to some audio feedback, and most likely get bombarded by our kids interrupting us.

Live VIDEO – The Catholics Next Door 11/03/13

Join us for a video stream recording of TCND Episode #027 (Catholic Podcast Plugging Podcast). We plug a ton of great Catholic podcasts you’ll want to add to your playlist.

Livestream The Catholics Next Door Podcast – 10/27/13

Missed the live video stream of the recording of TCND Episode #026? Well, you can watch it right here. The show itself starts at around the 13-minute mark, but this’ll give you a bit of the behind-the-scenes of our household, as well!