Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Blessing My Pain

Slumdog Millionaire is a painfully wonderful movie. If you have not made plans to see it, do so. This is a “must see” at about half a dozen levels. The crafting of this film captures one’s interest and builds a sort of expectation that doesn’t let go even after it ends.

I am not going to tell you much about the movie at all, except to say that there is not a single wasted scene. One scene in particular, representative of nearly the whole film, is the finest love scene in all of celluloid history. The protagonist gives a first kiss to the girl he believes to be his destiny. That kiss is not on the lips, but on a scar which had been inflicted by his brother. That simple act struck me to tears. It is one thing that I long for.

Smoldering in my heart is a strong and undilutable hope that at the end of all things, someone stands waiting who has remained true to me, who will kiss my scars, and affirm and consecrate them by love. My very being hungers for this.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Richard Gamble, The Great Tradition
Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark
Franz Schubert, Symphony No. 8
Tim Weisberg, Party of One

Monday, January 12, 2009

When Is It Really Bad?

I was thinking this morning, staring into the frig looking for breakfast, reading expiration dates on labels and lids. It was more of an unconscious, glazed-over, passive kind of activity, until I came to the edge of the cottage cheese lid. The expiration date was two days ago. I stared at it. I sniffed it. I stirred it and sniffed it. But that evoked a related question. When does cottage cheese truly go bad? Could anyone tell anyway?

Today's Influences and Soundtrack:
Luke the Physician, Acts of the Apostles
Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth
Tim Powers, The Drawing of the Dark
Scott Joplin, Rags
Lyle Mays, Fictionary

Saturday, January 3, 2009


A few days ago, I watched the complete 12-hour, extended version movie trilogy of Lord of the Rings. I only do this once a year because it is such a huge investment of time. The only thing I’ve ever done in one sitting that took longer is traveling to Hong Kong, or driving from New York to Chattanooga.

What made the viewing so enjoyable this time was having an Atlas of Middle Earth open in front of me. The maps included timetables and paths of travel so that one could get a sense of the effort involved for the characters.

Tolkien created a world that is indeed a world. Geography, geology, seas, lakes rivers, topography, vegetation, peoples, migrations, languages, histories, battles, dangers, family trees and histories that cohere, purpose, prophecies, poetry, stories. It’s all there. What’s so impressive about this story is its remarkable internal consistency. All the things that makes our world so wide and rich are all present in his stories. It is genuinely inspiring.

Some might feel that the movies seem to go on and on. (I actually had a friend grumble that they are little more than a lengthy video game!) In the actual story, however, Frodo and Sam left the Shire in September and never made it to Mount Doom until mid-March. Six months of foot travel through tough circumstances. They didn’t actually return to the Shire until 13 months after their departure. The story is a quest in its rightful form, and thankfully the movies capture that sense of arduous, extended, demanding, hazardous, obstacle-filled travel through mountains, swamps and enemy territory.

Whenever I watch the movies in one sitting like this, my appreciation for Peter Jackson and company increases. I know he made alterations in the story line so that he could produce a watchable movie, but he was profoundly faithful to the story, to geography and to the movements of action, reproducing what the written story lays out.

Tolkien believed that what one creates continues as reality beyond this world (thus a strong motivation to be creative). He lived it out. The fact remains that Tolkien created a complex, multi-layered world of remarkable detail and if his notion about “sub-creating” is correct, then he (and hopefully others like myself) will get to explore it someday.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Patrick O’Brian, Fortunes of War
J.R.R. Tolkien, Leaf By Niggle
Karen Fonstad, Atlas of Tolkien’s Middle Earth
Vaughan-Williams, Norfolk Rhapsody I & II
Kaki King, Legs To Make Us Longer
Lyle Mays, Lyle Mays

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Backward and Forward

Like Janus, I face two directions at once this day. Usually when I do this it is with the intent to find growth, and to anticipate opportunity. The trouble with looking for grow over a single year is that the kind of growth I want will likely not be found taking place in such a short time. After all, it only takes six weeks to grow a squash; and eighty years to grow an oak tree. I want to be an oak. The trouble with looking for opportunity is that we can’t actually see any further than the minute that’s in front of us. To try to see further is like trying to see around a corner that’s a quarter mile down the road.

What have I learned from the past year?

Walk in wisdom today. It can be agonizingly difficult these days because there are so many voices telling us not to bother. But it is absolutely necessary because there are myriads of fallout consequences for doing the imprudent thing.

Good family relationships are to be treasured while you have them because they can change in the course of a few days through no fault of your own.

Your days are few and fleeting, invest them well. Invest your energies where the return will positively influence others when you have finished running your race here. Build a legacy that leaves the lives of others better off than when you found them.

To what do I look forward this coming year?

Simple pleasures, mostly. (I wonder if the years have beaten lofty dreams out of me. I’ve seen too much tumble into wreck and ruin; lives of young people, families, businesses, churches.) Teaching, serving, gardening, bike riding, writing, reading, good music, good conversations with friends over a bottle of wine. The kinds of things I can do on any workday or on a week-end or on a vacation.

Today’s Influences and Soundtrack:
Patrick O’Brian, Desolation Island
George MacDonald, Phantastes
Ben Bova, Orion
Dave Matthews, Under the Table and Still Dreaming
Pat Metheny, A Map of the World
Gorecki, Symphony No. 3