Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Parenting the Weight of Glory

This past Friday I took Matthew to OMSI (Oregon Museum of Science and Industry). Before we went, I sat him down and had a little talk. Lately, Matthew has been pushing other kids. I think part of it is my fault because I have been wrestling with him. The other part is that he pushes as a response when another kid messes with him. Messing with Matthew usually means taking a toy that he was playing with. so, before we went on Friday, I say him down and told him, "No pushing."

Well, we started out having a great time for about an hour and a half. Then, some kid tried to take stuff he was playing with, and, guess way? He pushed the kid. In fact he pushed him so hard that the kid fell backwards and hit his head. I grabbed Matthew right away, made him say "sorry" to the kid he pushed, and told him in no uncertain terms that if he pushed again, we were leaving. Again, he did well for about twenty minutes, and then, when a kid tried to take his blocks, he pushed him. I took Matthew's hand and said that we were leaving. He was devastated. He cried and cried. I don't think his crying was because he was complaining, or even that he thought it was unfair. I think he was just so, so sad that he had to leave.

I remember one time when I was a kid (somewhere between 5 and 8, I don't know how old for sure). I was in an awnry mood and having a lot of run-ins with my mom. I was exerted my will by slamming doors, and she told me that if I slammed one more door, I would get no dinner and have to stay in my room. Later on, I slammed another door. I hadn't thought about it, and as soon as I did it, I regretted it. My mom told me that I would have to stay in my room and miss dinner, and I was absolutely crushed. I was heartbroken. I cried pretty much the whole time from when it happened until dinner was over. I wasn't crying because I thought it was unfair. I was just sad. I remember my mom coming into my room and sympathizing with me (very genuinely), but not backing down. By the way, Mom, if you are reading this, I thought you really did great.

This event from my youth related to this last one with Matthew. Normally when he cries I tell him to cut it out after a while. I want him to move on. This time I didn't do that. As difficult as it was, and it was really difficult, I just let him cry as long as he wanted to. The car ride home was painful. There were a couple of times that I whelled up. It was the first time that I really remember being heartbroken over having to discipline my child. He cried and cried. He was so sad.

The reason I let Matthew cry because I wanted him to feel the weight of his decision. I wanted him to remember how sad he was at having to leave, and I hoped that this might help him to want not to push anyone. I wanted him to experience that his decisions have real weight to them, and that there are real consequences and results.

Some of you reading this might think this was the wrong move. I guess it might have been. Parenting is tough. At the same time I don't regret doing it because I think it is a powerful thing for us to learn and experience the weight of who we are. This is what C.S. Lewis was talking about in "The Weight of Glory." We are significant, each one of us. Our actions are incredibly important. So many times we feel like what we do doesn't matter, but it does.

I had to ask myself if I really wanted God to allow me to feel the weight of who I am. I kind of fear that. I want him to protect me from the consequences of my actions. And many times he does.

At the same time, I know that I do want to experience the weight of glory. I want my actions to matter. I want to experience the high stakes of life and death, heaven and hell, good and evil. It makes me nervous to even say that, but I know I do.

I hope I can walk with my son and help him to experience the weight of who he is. And I hope to seek to have my Father in heaven walk me through experiencing the weight of who I am.

P.S. New movie reviews up for The Departed, Flags of Our Fathers, and Pan's Labirynth.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Academy Award Thoughts

Well, I am writing this Sunday afternoon. The Academy Awards are tonight, and, by the time anyone reads this, they will be over and done with.
I admit that I am interested in the Academy Awards, although I found out this year that I had lost touch a bit. I was rooting for Leonardo Dicaprio to win Best Actor for The Departed, but then I found out that he wasn't nominated for The Departed, but instead for Blood Diamond (haven't seen it; waiting for video). I also decided to rent a couple of the movies nominated for Best Picture, so I picked up Flags of Our Fathers, the Clint Eastwood movie about U.S. taking Iwo Jima during WWII. Turns out that this movie was not nominated for Best Picture. I had mistook it for Eastwoods other film, Letters from Iwo Jima.
This is not the first time that I have been out of touch. When the awards come up each year, I usually find that I have seen none of the movies that are nominated for major awards. Despite my blunder with Flags of Our Fathers (which, by the way, I loved), I did get to see two of the movies up for Best Picture: The Departed and Babel.
Okay, so both of these movies had a lot of "junk" in them. I know we all are willing to put up with different levels of "junk" if we believe the movie has something significant to say. I was willing to put up with the junk in The Departed, but not in Babel. I thought The Departed was amazing. It was intense, engrossing, amazingly acted, and powerful. If you are thinking of seeing it, know that it has A LOT of violence and language. It was, however, amazing.
Friday night I watched Babel, the favorite to win Best Pic tonight. I must say that I did not like it, and I highly recommend against seeing it. Some of the junk in it is reason enough to draw this conclusion, but I was more disappointed at the fact that I just thought it was not a very good movie. I found the story line impossible to believe on many fronts, and I also found that there was no real hope found in the film. There was pain, and at times it was powerfullly depicted. I just don't think that is enough.
Babel is done in a style that has become increasingly popular. It threaded several, seemingly unconnected, storylines together. The movie Traffic, which came out in 2000, was the first of this type, as far as I can see. It was an excellent movie about the war on drugs. Then there was Crash and Syriana. Overall, I didn't like either. Crash did have some powerful stuff, relating to racial stereotypes. Syriana brought up some interesting points. I thought they both failed, though, where Traffic succeeded. All three of these movies, along with Babel, deal with the reality that all human beings have issues, and they all tend to blur the lines between who is "good" and who is "bad." In Syriana, I really didn't like anyone. I thought that was sad. No, I take it back. I liked the guy that the U.S. assassinated. In Crash I just found the dialogue to be interesting, but nothing even slightly resembling real life conversation. Babel had a real life feel to some of it, but simply provided no real hope. No heroes.
I am all for the idea that we should avoid simple answers. I just also think that there really are people out there to look to and be inspired by. Speaking of which. . .
While The Departed had its fair share of bad guys, one of the characters take his place alongside Jack Bauer as one of my favorite fictional characters of all time. At the request of a couple of people who were scandalized by my high placement of Jack, I will give you ten honorable mentions of Favorite Fictional Character. Only a couple of clarifications to narrow the field:
A) All are from movies.
B) All are male, just because I guess I am more drawn to people I might want to be like, and these are, naturally, going to be predominantly men.
C) All are flawed people, not simple characters (this eliminates such fun characters as Indiana Jones). This said, some of them change dramatically throughout their film.
In no particular order, here they are:
1) Edward Bloom (Ewan McGreggor from Big Fish)
2) Lucky Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe from Master and Commander)
3) Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey from The Truman Show)
4) Frank Slade (Al Pacino from Scent of a Woman)
5) Charlie Babbit (Tom Cruise from Rain Man)
6) William Costigan (Leonardo Dicraprio from The Departed)
7) Red Redding (Morgan Freeman from The Shawshank Redemption)
8) Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack from Say Anything)
9) Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburn from The Matrix)
10) Jack Ryan (Harrison Ford from Patriot Games and Clear and Present Danger)

Thursday, February 22, 2007

An All-Time Low

So, LOST last night reached an all-time low. I really thought they were turning things around and moving the story forward. Last night I lost all hope of that. The commercials leading up to last night had said that three of the major mysteries of LOST would be revealed. The episode ended and Karina and I honestly started laughing. We are still trying to figure out what the three mysteries were. They did some strand to reveal what Jack's tattoo meant. Good job, writers. We all cared a lot. That was a major development. I guess that was probably one mystery. Another was probably that the "others" live on the main island. Again, nice one. We already knew that from the first episode of this season. I can only guess that the third mystery was that the stewardess and the kids from the flight were alive and were there "to watch." This show lives for stringing people along.
I actually would like to relate LOST to SIN. John Piper talks about how sin holds out a promise of satisfaction, but never fulfills. Need I say more about LOST.
So, why, you may ask, do I still watch it? I think I watch it to be proven right. That is kind of sick. I have said all along that they have no idea where they are going with the show, and that they should have just made it a 10-week miniseries instead of a five season long show (they are supposedly shooting to conclude everything in 5 seasons). Ridiculous.
24 is still by far untouchable. As I have said before 24 > LOST. By far. My sister wrote that she doesn't like it, and that she thinks Jack is a little angry man. I respect her opinion. It is unfortunate, though, how far she and I are apart on this one. Where she sees an angry, little man, I see the greatest fictional character in the history of all fictional charaters, and also the namesake of any future son that I have. Quite a divide.
At least Ami and I both agree about how good Survivor is and how lame LOST is. She wrote a pretty awesome post about her TV journey on her blog. You should check it out: http://whereintheworldmcnay.blogspot.com/2007/02/television-1994-2006.html.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

You Bleed Just to Know You're Alive

I've been doing some writing lately (maybe even working on a book). Here is an except if you have time (and feedback). It is not the chapter in its completion, so if it leaves you hanging, it might be meant to.

Many of us are numb. We feel worn by the fact that nothing is real. Suddenly we are willing to do more than we ever thought possible just for a taste of life. I know that I am constantly frustrated by the things I am willing to do in order to feel alive. In my head I have values and ideals, principles and standards. Sometimes I live out these values with joy and enthusiasm. Most of the time, though, I am either living up to those standards in a half-asleep way, or failing to live up to those standard because something else seems better to me.
We all do things that we regret, but we never do those things because we think that we will regret them. Whether or not you are religious, you most likely think that it is wrong to do certain things, but you find that you do them anyway. We speak harsh words to people, we look at pornography on the internet, we do drugs, we steal, we hit our family members. We are all at different points on that continuum, but we all do things that go against our ideals. We later regret it, but we go into it thinking that these things will make us feel alive. And most of the time they do make us feel alive for a few moments, but then we feel even more deadened by them.
When I give in to lust (whether on the internet, TV, or in a person I am in the same room with), I end up feeling sapped of my vitality. I feel dead. But there is usually a moment in the process that makes me feel alive. And I want more because I am bored and things feel pointless, and I will give up my principles in order to feel alive. Think about it. Is there anything that you wouldn’t be willing to do if it made you feel alive? You might answer immediately that there are plenty of things that you wouldn’t do. At the same time, this drive to feel alive tends to have a way of taking over and driving what we do. Unless we convince ourselves that these things that hold out the promise of life will really produce death, then we will continue to do them, no matter where the road leads.
I was on a website this morning that interviewed a girl who had an addiction to cutting herself. One of the things she said really struck me. She said:

“It's not really about the actual physical pain. When you're suffering a depression you feel like you don't exist.
“You feel like you could vanish and no-one would notice but when you cut yourself it's about seeing the blood and knowing that you're alive and that you're still physical. You're still there.”

These words were so gripping to me. It made me think of the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris” in which the lead singer says, “When everything feels like the movies, you bleed just to know you’re alive.” To this girl in the article, and to many, many others, the price of physical scars is worth the reward of feeling like they really exist. It makes me want to cry to think of someone feeling like this is what she needs to do in order to feel alive. I want to tell them, “No, you don’t have to.” And then I realize that when I am about to enter into lust, bitterness, harsh words, and any number of other things, there are others who would shake their heads and say, “Why does he feel like he needs to do that in order to feel alive? Those things will only end up harming him.”
About a year and a half ago I bought a book called The New Man by Thomas Merton. I was at Powell’s in downtown Portland and several of the employees were high on him, so I thought I would check him out. He was a Trappist monk who lived and wrote in the middle of the twentieth century. He begins his book by talking about how life and death are at war within us. This was interesting to me as I read, but it was his second chapter that absolutely gripped me and impacted me.
The chapter was called “Promethean Theology” and related to the Greek myth of Prometheus, a titan who stole fire from the gods, and ended up being punished by them by being chained to a rock to be eternally tormented by a vulture who ate his innards. Merton relates this legend to humanity in a compelling way. He does this by taking a different slant on the Promethean legend so that it could make sense for who we are and what we desire. He says, “For the fire Prometheus steals from the gods is his own uncommunicable reality, his own spirit. It is the affirmation and vindication of his own being.”[2] The idea is that Prometheus stole fire from the gods in order to validate himself as a person. He was upset about the fact that he didn’t matter, didn’t “exist,” so he stole fire in order to force the gods to deal with him and give him an answer. Even if he ended up being punished and tormented, at least he would exist.
The irony of this retelling of the myth of Prometheus is that when Prometheus steals the fire (with the goal of forcing the gods to deal with him), there are no gods to be found on Mount Olympus, and no one really cares that he stole the fire. So, in response, he chains himself to the rock and forces the vulture to come and eat his innards. On the one hand I want to scream at Prometheus that he doesn’t have to do this, but on the other hand I can understand why he would. He is frustrated with the exact issue that this chapter is addressing. Nothing matters. Nothing is real. I don’t really feel alive. So I am going to force an answer to my existence, even if it results in my death. At least that will be better than to go on living half-asleep, or with none of my actions really mattering.
In short, Prometheus chooses to bleed just to know he’s alive.

[1] “Cutting Myself Helped Me Cope,” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/3630954.stm.
[2] Merton.

Monday, February 12, 2007

2 Hours Tonight

Okay, so I want to say this as an opening statement. I wrote a post about Survivor/Lost and received four comments and endless informal talk from people who read it. I wrote a post about 24, and there were six comments on the post. I wrote a post about John Piper and some stuff in the Bible and being a Christian and all that . . . and received no comments. So, if anyone wants to rag on me for talking about 24 again now, you can hold your tongue. You asked for it.

Two hours of 24 tonight. Two! Awesome. So, last week Tony did not return. He probably won't. Sad. Morris is taken captive. Jack's brother is dead.

Here is something interesting. Last season we viewers experienced the ultimate betrayal when we found out that the President was bad. How can you possibly top that this season? I'll tell you how: By making Jack's father bad. That was actually more crushing to me than finding out that the POTUS was evil. Is that weird? Or are we just so attached to Jack Bauer that we would rather believe that the President is bad than believe that his father is in with the terrorists? Things to think about.

So, before the season began, the word was that former President Logan would be back in some form this season. I have good reason to believe that his return will be tonight. That should be awesome. We need some returning characters, and he was always interesting (even when you despised him, which was pretty much all the time).

Other characters to watch out for: Aaron Pierce, Martha Logan, Mike Novick, Audrey Rains (of course). I don't know that any of them will be back tonight, but I think all will show up before the season is out.

So, let me give some 24 advice.

You know. . .

That you're about to be betrayed when you confide in someone and they ask, "Who else have you told?"

That you're a Vice President when you find yourself undermining your boss.

That you're on Jack's bad side when he responds to you by saying, "Fine."

That you're a CTU director when you find yourself consistently saying to your employees, "You don't work for Jack; you work for me!"

That you're talking to Jack Bauer when every question you ask is answered with, "I'll exlpain later. Right now we need to. . ."

Enjoy. More to come.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

A Thought From John Piper

I've been going back through some of my favorite passages in books lately, and I have really been enjoying it. My favorite non-fiction book of all time is Future Grace by John Piper. Here is a section from a chapter that I used to have a big problem with, but now I am embracing more and more. I'd love to hear what you think:

But I want to say a bit more than Hodge does. I don’t want to say merely that faith in promises produces, “confidence, joy and hope,” but that an essential element in the faith itself is confidence and joy and hope. It is not false to say that faith produces these things. But that does not contradict the other truth: the confidence and joy and hope are part of the warp and woof of faith. One kind of joy and hope can beget other kinds; and joy can follow upon joy. But I want to preserve what we have seen, namely, that the essence of saving faith is a spiritual apprehension or tasting of spiritual beauty, which is delight. Yes, it is true, that faith yields delight. But if we do not taste the beauty of Christ in his promises as delightful, or as satisfying, we do not yet believe in a saving, transforming way.
Is this not one of the reasons why so many professions of faith miscarry? Sometimes we call for decisions for Christ, and bring people to crisis without contemplation. The only conversion that endures is based on a “beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18). Unless we see the Lord as glorious, we will not be “transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” When affliction comes, we will fall away. What holds us is prizing the surpassing value of Jesus (Philippians 3:8).

There it is. Hope it stimulated you to think, if not to do something else (like delight and embrace).

P.S. I just put up a new moview review of Stranger than Fiction, in case you are interested.

Monday, February 05, 2007

24 Conspiracy Theory

Okay, so I know this is a lot of TV talk lately (am I a total junkie?), but I wanted to get this post in before 24 tonight. So, here is the deal. . .

Last week on 24 that McCarthy guy had just been given the name of someone who could reconfigure the nukes. The person who gave him the name said, "But you may have to force them to do it." So, one of two possibilities. (1) One of the good guys currently on the show (Milo, Morris, Nadia, Chloe) will be kidnapped and forced to reconfigure the nukes, or (2) they are about to bring back a past character (what I am hoping).

So, I started wondering who. Now, last Thursday I was checking out movie times on fandango and saw that a woman I had never heard of in an upcoming movie had 24 on her career credits. I checked to see who she was (a minor character in Season 3), and ended up checking into past characters to see what they have done since 24. Interesting findings.

Last Season several prominent characters died. So, let's check up on them. Dennis Haysbert (President Palmer) has got all kinds of work. He is on The Unit, and is in an upcoming movie called Breach. He is doing fine. Reiko Aylesworth (Michelle Dessler) has been in plenty of things also, since her death at the beginning of Season 5 (she is in the upcoming Alien vs. Predator 2; guess she didn't want to get typecast). Edgar (an actor named Louis Lombardi) has even been in some stuff since his death half-way through the season. All of them have credits since Season 5. All except one.

If you have talked to me about 24 you know my feelings about the untimely death of Tony Almeida last season. You also know that I have always held out hope that he is not really dead. Well, Carlos Bernad (Tony) has no credits since his death half-way through Season 5. Now, are you telling me that Edgar can get work, but Tony can't?! Hmmm.

I am not saying that Tony is the one who they will get to reconfigure the bombs. But I am saying that I think chances are not terrible that he will be back. Maybe he didn't die from that shot to the heart. Maybe he'll show up and partner with Jack again. After all, Jack got swept away to China so fast, Tony could have ended up being alive, and no one would know.

Anyway, in other news, I'm happy that the Colts won the Super Bowl. That was cool for Peyton and for Dungy. Here's a picture of Matthew to make up for all this TV talk.