Have you come here to play Jesus to the lepers in your head?

Archive for the ‘Questions’ Category

I just finished watching “Pan’s Labyrinth”…

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…or, correctly translated, “The Labyrinth of the Faun.”  And I do not know quite what to do with it now.

I’m not going to attempt a review of this one — to do so requires literary prowess that far surpasses my own, so I’ll point you toward Jeffrey Overstreet’s review and let him walk you through it.

Over the last year, “myth” has taken up more and more space in my head.  Not the grade school variety that teaches of Zeus and Olympus, but myth as Lewis and Tolkien understood it.  Every time I read their thoughts on it, or the writings of those dissecting their thoughts, I feel like I can see it but I cannot entirely grasp it.  And then I find myself regretful of the theology degree I earned, because I feel like it only taps the surface of deeper waters.  It feels like there’s something there that I cannot touch, just a hair out of my reach.

Maybe it has to do with the place I’m at now.  I might come back to this film years from now and feel much differently.  For now, I am confused how such a story, like El Laberinto del fauno, could ever illustrate hope.   It echoes hope, it captures some of its essence.  But it fails, in my mind, to capture the whole picture.

Is the film any good?  I would say yes, but your enjoyment will depend largely on your tastes.  This is a dark film, one that broaches heavy transcendent material — futility, evil, patient courage.  As fairy tales go, this one makes you squirm.  Much like Alice in Wonderland first made me squirm.

Ah, I can taste it, right there, that slow feeling of dread that I ran away from as a child.  I remember hiding behind my father’s chair when it struck me then.  Perhaps, I am not so unlike Ofelia in the film, that she would wish to hide from the terrors of her world in a place so far removed from reality.  I find myself taking trips there in my own mind, much like we’re told J.M. Barrie did in Finding Neverland.  Perhaps my feelings about this movie rest here, in this place: the remembrance of dread, and that pressing urge to escape.

I wish I had not watched it alone.   Not for protection or security, but for debriefing.  See, art is never meant to reach out in solitary experience alone.  Art draws us together.  And this film, an artful work to be sure, deserves time among friends, and a good cup of coffee.

Written by taj

March 24, 2008 at 11:43 pm

Posted in Movies, Questions, stories

Must Reads

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Undercover at Planned Parenthood – Follow the links in the post; you will not believe your ears.

Angelina Jolie on Iraq – Thoughtful and encouraging.  Here’s the money quote: “As for the question of whether the surge is working, I can only state what I witnessed: U.N. staff and those of non-governmental organizations seem to feel they have the right set of circumstances to attempt to scale up their programs. And when I asked the troops if they wanted to go home as soon as possible, they said that they miss home but feel invested in Iraq. They have lost many friends and want to be a part of the humanitarian progress they now feel is possible.”

33 Things on Evolution and Intelligent Design – One of the best seriously and open minded primers on this issue that I have read.

Bob Geldof on Africa and the President – If people could dialog, work together, and disagree with this much class, the world would be a much different place.

HTs: The Point and Libertas

Written by taj

February 28, 2008 at 11:56 pm

The Travails of Echinacea

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From The West Wing

President Bartlett: Is it possible I’m carrying something called “Euthanasia” in my pocket?
Sam Seaborne: Echinacea?
President Bartlett: That would be it.

Last week, in response to cold-like symptoms, my wife began her usual regiment of vitamin C, non-drowsy Sudafed, and Echinacea tea.  I really like Echinacea.  It’s a strange little word, one my MS Word editor insists that I capitalize.  It smells good in tea.  And it does seem to ward off cold-like symptoms.  After a conversation with my mother-in-law, however, my wife had to put the self-aggrandizing little herb back on the shelf. 

Echinacea, she told us, could be harmful to infants who breastfeed.  Being the cautious parents we are, my wife and I did a little digging.  Sure enough, there on the box was a warning—consult your physician if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.  And it was printed in bold type; I’m surprised I missed it. 

So we called the nurse at the doctor’s office.  Her desk reference didn’t really tell her anything, just that there has been no conclusive support for the safe use of Echinacea.  So she told us to call poison control.  Poison control told us that, despite the warning, there just hasn’t been enough human testing with Echinacea to know whether it’s harmful or not. 

Brilliant, I thought.  Chalk it up to another corporate endeavor to avoid prosecution. 

Nevertheless, my wife quit drinking the tea, and the little one appears to be doing fine.  He hasn’t started growing hair in his ears or anything at least.  And when the cold-like symptoms descended upon my wellness, I drank to my heart’s content.  I suffered a full two days longer than my wife did. 

Perhaps Echinacea is not the herb of quickest relief.

Written by taj

August 17, 2007 at 2:42 pm

Quick—What’s the Hottest Year on Record?

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Have a look at this…

In the United States, the calendar year 1998 ranked as the hottest of them all – until someone checked the math.

After a Toronto skeptic tipped NASA this month to one flaw in its climate calculations, the U.S. agency ordered a full data review.

Days later, it put out a revised list of all-time hottest years. The Dust Bowl year of 1934 now ranks as hottest ever in the U.S. – not 1998.

More significantly, the agency reduced the mean U.S. “temperature anomalies” for the years 2000 to 2006 by 0.15 degrees Celsius.

NASA officials have dismissed the changes as trivial. Even the Canadian who spotted the original flaw says the revisions are “not necessarily material to climate policy.” [Full Story]

Tell me if this gels—Data on the web indicates that, in the last 30 years, the global temp has risen 0.7 degrees C.  Experts say that an increase of just 1 degree C spells certain doom.  I can’t go a week without hearing the news report that greenhouse gases are causing arctic ice cap recession.  Yet we’re still not as hot as we were just after the Great Depression, 73 years ago, and scientists have observed a similar polar recession on Mars.  Surely Halliburton hasn’t been terra-forming the red planet under our noses for all these years. 

I guess I can see 15% as trivial.  After all, it’s only the difference between an A or a B on your history final.  I would hate for a surgeon to miss 15% of a tumor.  Drop the curve of Apollo 13’s descent on its way back to earth by 15%, and Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Hayes would never have survived the trip. 

But this, friends, is global warming.  The greatest single threat to mankind.  No one dares question its veracity. 

Written by taj

August 17, 2007 at 12:34 pm

From Thought to Story

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My wife and I have spent the last few days at her classroom.  She works and I work, and I like to have some noise in the background, so I spent some time watching, among other things, Pearl Harbor. I had forgotten just how thoroughly patriotic the movie is.  There’s a particular line I enjoy: “Victory belongs to those who believe in it the most, and believe in it the longest.”  It got me thinking…

The film intercuts old newsreels within the film in order to portray the greater, global conflict of World War II.  Old newsreels fascinate me.  I enjoyed studying WW II in high school because my teachers would show us some of those old newsreels, most of which spotlighted the efforts along the home front to support the war effort, and I’ve seen others that spotlighted the efforts “over there.”  In those years of the war, Hollywood put out movie upon movie exemplifying their heroism.  Sure, they might not be the best examples of quality cinema, but they helped maintain morale.  We knew then how quickly we could lose the freedom of this great country should we wind up on the losing end of the war.  

Naturally, I started thinking about how the War on Terror never receives that kind of coverage.  At least not on the evening news.  Most news reports simply recount the recent deaths, and touch on the argumentative nonsense coming out of Washington.  Hollywood has not produced a single film in the last five years portraying the sacrifices of our service men and women in their efforts to defend the victims of this conflict.  The narrowness of thought this suggests of the creative and influential minds in the news and entertainment industries really started eating away at me.  I thought back to that morning of 9/11, and a story began to germinate…a kind of parable, maybe…one that would take me back to the schoolyard of my youth…to the tyranny of those we call bullies…the teachers’ noble efforts to protect their students…their painful inability to do so…

I remember movies like The Principle, Lean on Me, or even more recently, Freedom Writers.  Stories where teachers overcome immense obstacles to help their students learn and love each other.  I find them inspiring and frustratingly utopian at the same time.  Most teachers are not as brave as those portrayed in these films.  Most have no idea of the violence that happens right under their noses.  They are constrained by a flawed paradigm of moral relativism.  Victims of abuse are told simply to tell a teacher, and thereby incur a greater wrath from their tormentors at a later time.  When a victim does fight back, they face the same consequences as their foe.  In their self-defense, they are punished. 

From Pearl Harbor…to the War on Terror…to the school yard.  I will let you draw the parallels for yourself. 

I am at once energized and terrified.  Energized that I have a new story to write; terrified that it will end up lingering on my hard drive, the tattered beginnings of an unarticulated dream.  I have three stories on my hard drive that are, more or less, complete.  They tell a story from beginning to end, they just need to be looked over, edited, tuned, maybe even rewritten (again), and they could be ready for a publisher. 

Every morning, I endure a voice on the inside that lectures me on the imperative need to finish these stories.  If I keep this up, eventually, I will have accumulated a stack of mere words that will have served no greater purpose than to fulfill my own ego.  Because no one else will have read them.  And I will only have myself to blame. 

Written by taj

July 20, 2007 at 10:54 pm

Re: The Reasoning of Thieves

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Just in case anyone was interested, the bread and the bracelet were returned yesterday evening. 

Written by taj

June 26, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Posted in Questions

The Reasoning of Thieves

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I have to tell a story, and I have to keep it vague enough to avoid specifics, but still convey the heart of the matter.  Therefore, a parable…

A man finds a sack in the road along a strip of merchant vendors.  Inside, he finds a diamond ring, a bracelet, and a loaf of bread.  He takes the contents home, pleased that he has discovered this treasure.  However, he discovers a shopkeeper’s name etched into the pewter of the bracelet.  The man knows the shop—he passes by it every day on his way to work. 

“Thank God you have come,” says the shop keeper as the man presents to him the ring.  “But where are the remaining contents of my bag?”

The man does not lie.  “I have kept them at my home,” he says.  “They appeared to be of little value as the bread was quite dry and the bracelet was chipped.  Are you sure you need them back?”

“My good man,” says the shopkeeper, “these items are deeply personal.  The bracelet is a gift for a friend and I need the bread to feed my family.  I would like them returned immediately.”

And the man leaves to return home and retrieve the items.  The shopkeeper knows not whether he will return, and doubt lingers.  But his joy is full as the ring he means to give to his wife is now safe in his possession once more.  

Thus sums up an encounter I had with an anonymous gentleman today.  Thankfully, none of these items were mine, though I did play the role of the shop keeper today. 

Consider the man in the parable.  The act, to me, was criminal the moment he realized these items had an owner.  What possess people with this kind of reasoning?  The man returned with the ring, why didn’t he just bring the bread and bracelet too? 

The owner of the ring, I am pleased to say, is happy to at least have that back.  Though, we’re all unsure as of yet whether our anonymous friend will complete his good will and return the remaining items. 

I want to remain angry at this person.  A colleague involved told me, however, that “God will be in charge of the matter.”  Doesn’t that just snuff the flame of my anger.  And I am left wishing I had such faith.  They are items that can be replaced.  The gentleman will find no immediate use for them—its not like he’d find a decent return for them on eBay.  I have to keep reminding myself of the One to whom I—and others—are ultimately accountable.  It removes significant weight from my need for vengeance.

Written by taj

June 25, 2007 at 3:56 pm

Posted in Questions, stories