Try to imagine that you’ve never seen a sunset.
Now picture yourself on top of a mountain in the evening. You look to the west and see clouds. As the sun sinks beyond the horizon, the sky starts filling with dramatic color. The light show is stunning, because the sky which had been just blue and gray and white only minutes before looks like something out of a dream.
You don’t know what this is. You might feel awe. You might feel scared. You might feel like worshipping a Creator who is making this happen. You might feel a hundred different things. But your heart would know you were witnessing something majestic and stunning and powerful.
If you know what this is, you just call it a sunset and enjoy it. You understand the way it works and why it happens. But until you’ve experienced it and come to understand it, there is no way you could imagine such a stunning natural spectacle. You would have no frame of reference for it.
Right now, I am trying to create something brand new. I can almost see it, but I’m still blind. I can feel it. I’m stumbling toward something that is brand new — and it is as different to me as it would be to experience a sunset for the first time.
The movie industry was invented about a hundred years ago. That sounds odd to say. How could someone invent an entire industry?
But it’s true. Some people had figured out how to make “moving pictures,” but nobody knew what to do with them. The quality wasn’t great. There was no sound. But somebody had the idea of making stories — almost like filmed plays — and then selling tickets to people so they could watch these flickering images in darkened buildings.
Inventing the movie camera was a stunning achievement. Inventing ways to project an image from pieces of film was another huge leap forward. And it was just as big an invention to figure out how to put together the talents of hundreds of people — doing jobs which had never in history existed — to create films for this new medium.
As the pieces of that puzzle all came together, a powerful industry was created, one which would change modern culture. But nothing happened until smart people with insight and vision put those tiny pieces together — of things which nobody had ever seen before — and they invented something which nobody had ever even imagined.
History is filled with similar inventions.
It’s hard for us to imagine today, but somebody had to invent books. Then someone had to invent the concept of making up stories — with new plots and dialogue which had never really happened — and putting those into books. The concept of what we call the novel was a major invention, even though it seems obvious to us today.
In the early 20th century, radio stations were a novelty. Nobody knew what to do with radio technology. And then someone invented the concept of commercial radio as we know it — filled with entertainment and information, sponsored by companies which wanted to advertise. That was a stunning change.
Radio stations were largely responsible for the invention of the music industry as we know it today. Recorded music started being created in the early 20th century for people to play on record players at home, but then radio came along as a way to promote those records. Recorded music and radio grew together.
Nobody knew quite what to do with television in the middle of the 20th century. The primitive technology was there, but there was no concept of sitcoms and westerns and all of the things that seem obvious and common to us today.
Somebody had to invent every single one of those concepts. Some of the men who invented such things got wealthy. Some died in obscurity. But on their shoulders, today’s media world was built, block by block, bit by bit.
I’ve told you before that I want to make movies and that’s true. I’ve told you that I’d like to make better podcasts with better concepts to reach a broader audience than the experiment I’m running right now. That’s true, too.
But what I’m ultimately reaching to create doesn’t yet exist. I don’t even know what to call it yet.
A lot of my friends know they want to make movies or write books or perform music. They have specific roles they want to fill within well-understood parts of the modern media. But something about what I’m doing is different.
I’m trying to create something for which there is no name. There was a time when nobody had heard of a novel or a radio program or a TV show or a movie, much less a podcast. There was a time — not long ago — when a mention of any of those things would have drawn blank stares.
I’m trying to create something that doesn’t quite exist yet. It’s sort of like movies. It’s sort of like broadcasting. It’s sort of like radio. It’s sort of like publishing. I’m trying to invent something that I can feel — something I’m pushing toward — something that will be completely different.
If I showed you this sunset photo — from two days ago near my house, by the way — you would easily understand what it is. You can appreciate it. I assume you would even find it beautiful to experience in person.
But I’m trying to invent something which is beautiful and important and powerful — just as much as a sunset — but I don’t know what it is. I don’t have a name for it. I’m stumbling toward the concept.
In the meantime, I’m figuring out how to make things that are kinda, sorta like it. And as I gain experience doing these things in fields that are kinda, sorta related, I’m stumbling toward what I’m trying to create.
As I move in that direction, I’ll make podcasts. I’ll make movies. I’ll write books. I’ll somehow publish or broadcast my ideas — especially related to redemption themes which I’ve told you about — to a world which needs to hear this.
But to deliver my message, I have to invent some brand new form of media. I don’t know why. I just know it’s the only way I’m going to be successful.
I don’t know what that media format is. I just know that it will be just as beautiful as a sunset one day — and the day will come when you will see it and understand it and appreciate it just as easily as you would appreciate a sunset today.
But it’s going to be a struggle to get there.