Tuesday, January 30, 2007
Although I've followed to a lesser extent the hooplah surrounding all of the awards and nominations that the movie and its director, Clint Eastwood, have received, I didn't know much about the film itself. I am a lover of foreign language films (note: if you're not much for subtitles, you won't enjoy this too much), and having seen and enjoyed the performances of Ken Watanabe in two earlier films (The Last Samurai and Batman Begins), I was hopeful that this would be equally impressive. I was not disappointed. This was one of the better films that I've seen in quite some time, with magnificent acting, a very compelling story (based on a collection of letters written by Watanabe's character), and a hauntingly beautiful soundtrack written by Kyle Eastwood (Clint's son, and a tremendous jazz musician in his own right).
I've seen many war movies over the years, where stories are told from the American perspective -- films where we know the history and, while we know that things are going tough for our boys, there's a light at the end of the tunnel. It was quite an emotional experience for me to see a film from the perspective of the other side, where the outcome is -- to us and to the characters -- quite hopeless, and yet where the characters continue to search for that light at the end of the tunnel. Conflicts in the movie raged on many levels; on the surface, there's the conflict between the Japanese forces and the Allies. On a deeper level, there is the conflict among main of the major characters. And at its deepest level, there is conflict within the main characters, and that is what made the movie the most interesting for me -- watching how these men, who know they are about to die, struggle over whether they should uphold their oath to defend to the death their emperor and their homeland, or whether they should remain true to their deeper, more personal obligations to their families.
Even in the midst of the chaos and death, I found moments and thoughts that could be described as inspiring, including an excerpt from one letter that was read in the film. I hesitate in discussing the film in great depth here, for the sake of those who haven't yet seen it. (If you have already gone to the theater and want to swap opinions, please feel free to e-mail me.) In short, however, I will say that this deserves to be on your "must see" list, and the accolades the film has earned are very appropriate. Now, I'm off to download the soundtrack from iTunes and add the movie to my Amazon wish list.....
Sunday, January 28, 2007
I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to read my last post and leave what were most valuable comments; each was of immeasurable help, and I appreciate all of the kind words, the support, and the prayers. The pendulum has indeed begun to swing in the other direction: a new child on the way, several interviews scheduled for the week, and some little side projects to keep me occupied for a while. A new part of life is coming, and I've learned to accept that it's not under my control -- and that I just need to enjoy the ride. The slushy, brown snow that I talked about last time (which seemed so indicative of the way I was feeling and the it seemed my life was going) has melted away, and it looks like (judging from what I see outside the window right now) that it's going to be replaced by some beautiful new white snow.
Things will get better -- I just need to rely on prayers, faith, and the help of family and friends to keep me on that path. So while there's nothing going on today, I look forward to having lots more upbeat posts in the days and weeks ahead, and -- if I can get my head back into the serious reading I have standing by, maybe some intellectually challenging ones!!
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
I think that's changed now.
Last week, I bottomed out emotionally. Getting off the couch seemed to be too much of a chore; I didn't want to eat; I didn't want to read; I didn't want to do anything. None of my favorite things interested me, and I didn't feel like going through the motions of even showering or getting dressed every morning. At certain points, I felt like a caged animal, walking in circles around the house and not really knowing where I was supposed to be going or what I was supposed to be doing.
My wife encouraged me to pick up a project I had been pondering for a while -- a series of articles on the Civil Rights Movement in my hometown. For a time, I felt rejuvenated, and I had a wonderful trip back home to visit family and start some preliminary research on the articles. I thought that perhaps I had pulled myself out of the spiral (although a spiral implies movement, and I didn't feel like I was really moving).
And then yesterday, I got rejected by two more jobs that I had interviewed with -- interviews that I thought had gone exceptionally well, and for jobs that I was hopeful I had a shot at. In fact, I had been told that I was one of three finalists at one of them -- and now, they've suddenly pulled in a new candidate that had a previous connection to the organization and who, as I was told in the e-mail that they sent to me, "has the perfect background." It doesn't appear now that they feel there's any need for me to come in for a final interview. Having your hopes dashed and being insulted in the same e-mail; what a day.
So now, I feel pretty much that I'm back where I was last week. I showered and dressed first thing this morning in an effort to feel like I've got a routine -- but the routine at this point is just me moving back to the drawing board. One rejection I expected, three isn't surprising. But a baker's dozen? Makes you feel really under-appreciated.
And with a new daughter on the way two weeks from today, and being concerned about how to support a growing family, the gray sky that I see outside the window seems very appropriate. Even the snow outside has morphed into that slushy, brown ice -- perfect for the day.
Monday, January 15, 2007
Volume 1 of The Papers of Martin Luther King, Jr. , a project being spearheaded by Dr. Clayborne Carson at the Stanford University, includes a photograph of King when he was just one year old. The child pictured there has a look of extreme curiosity, and has his entire life ahead of him. He and his family had no way of knowing where the road would lead them -- or the country, for that mattaer.
Children are very remarkable indeed -- what they can achieve when they grow up can be miraculous.
Saturday, January 13, 2007
Thursday, January 11, 2007
To all of you who have been visiting my blog and leaving comments, thank you very much; having folks read it makes it much more gratifying for me (although it is a good exercise nonetheless and helps to keep the mind sharp), and I'm still amazed -- even after having blogged for this long -- that there are folks interested in what I have to say. For those who visit and don't have anything to say, now's your chance! I'd love to hear from more of you out there!
Monday, January 08, 2007
Hope you'll drop by and pay a visit to my second site sometime.....
God is, or He is not. But to which side shall we incline? Reason can decide nothing here. There is an infinite chaos which separated us. A game is being played at the extremity of this infinite distance where heads or tails will turn up… Which will you choose then? Let us see. Since you must choose, let us see which interests you least. You have two things to lose, the true and the good; and two things to stake, your reason and your will, your knowledge and your happiness; and your nature has two things to shun, error and misery. Your reason is no more shocked in choosing one rather than the other, since you must of necessity choose. This is one point settled. But your happiness? Let us weigh the gain and the loss in wagering that God is. Let us estimate these two chances. If you gain, you gain all; if you lose, you lose nothing. Wager, then, without hesitation that He is.In short: if you believe in God, and He exists, you've won everything; if you believe, and He doesn't exist, you've lost nothing; if you don't belive and He exists, you've lost everything; if you don't believe and he doesn't exist, you've lost nothing.
In the context of modern theology, I can't see how this sort of playing the odds could be taken seriously -- pinning your hope on a next life on the spin of a roulette wheel (I'll put my hopes for Heaven on black 23), or hitting on a 16 in blackjack (thus hoping the dealer busts, you win, and God does in fact exist). However, if I remember correctly from my post-graduate theology courses, Pascal's thesis in some ways follows up on a major theological debate which was taking place in Europe at that time, beginning with Luther: does one get to Heaven through faith, or through good works? Pascal seemingly argues that, regardless of whether there is a God and a Heaven, you should bet your money on good works (just so you don't take any chances with the outcome).
So what do most Christians today believe, or what do they hold as the most important part of their religion? I went into thinking about this question with one thing in mind: naturally, faith in God and a belief in Jesus and the Resurrection must be the most important thing to Christians. However, the more I read, the more that I found that many Christians surveyed practice what has become known as "Golden Rule Christianity." In a survey published in 1997 in Congregations: The Alban Journal, Nancy Ammerman wrote, "...they [the survey respondents] said the most important attributes of a Christian are caring for the needy and living one's Christian values every day. The most important task of the church, they said, is service to people in need." One of my favorite Christian writers, William Stringfellow, lived his life by putting his faith into action and working as a social activist. My own church shares and spreads its Christian faith by being extremely involved in numerous community outreach and global mission projects. Bonhoeffer acted out his faith by opposing the brutal Nazi regime in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s.
Looking at the countless examples of good works performed every day -- Habitat for Humanity projects, medical mission trips, homeless shelters, employment assistance services, job retraining services, food banks, the Bread for the World and ONE Campaigns, Amnesty International, Episcopal Relief and Development, etc. etc. -- hasn't the old, Reformation-era argument become moot? Do a majority of Christians today instead believe that you reach Heaven through faith and good works, instead of either/or? And when was this shift?
I look forward to your thoughts on this. I certainly don't feel I've adequately posed the question, but I know the answers I get will more than make up for this....
Friday, January 05, 2007
And then, in the midst of this train of thought, I ran across this quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
"Time lost is time when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering."Amazing how these things pop up when I least expect to find them. What do YOU do to fill your time and live the full human life to which Bonhoeffer is referring? For many of my regular visitors, I know the big things you do; what are some of the small things that make your life special -- a special place, a favorite author, hidden musical talent?