spirits that speak


what Hugo Cabret has taught me about myself

well, i haven't posted here in several years. so it should be interesting to see if anybody is still reading. i guess this won't be much of a post, more just an echo in my mind that i want to release before it dies.

i went to see Hugo yesterday. i've seen it once before but we were fortunate to get tickets to an event where they were showing it for free (along with a couple of other movies) along with other activities that were happening. it was some kind of family fun event. i saw it with my 6 year old who, i was convinced, would get bored out of her tree.

if you haven't seen the movie, i would definitely recommend it. it's a little longer than the average movie but that's because it takes time and tells a story. it's a very good story. what spoke to me about it was a theme of having a purpose. the boy in the title role, Hugo Cabret, has a line about how broken clocks make him sad because they have lost their purpose.

for some reason i don't think that quite struck me the first time i saw the movie. but this time was different. you see, i'm someone who feels like maybe i lost my purpose at some point (or at least my perceived purpose). i had what i thought was my purpose some 13 years ago and it didn't work out. so in the past decade i guess at time i've felt like a broken clock.

don't get me wrong. this isn't a "woe is me" kind of thing. it's just an honest expression of how i've felt. and in a way it's ok. i have other things that i do that give me purpose. but perhaps it's just a dimension of my purpose that i've lost. and it hasn't been filled since it was lost. but what the movie seemed to be saying, or what i interpreted it as saying to me, is that purposes can be found once lost. the movie said that clocks can be fixed.

now, a broken clock, if fixed, would only re-claim its original purpose. and perhaps that's what's in store for me, i can't say. but i feel like perhaps i could possibly find another purpose. that is to say, there is the hope of doing so. and for that i am grateful to Scorsese and the writers of the film.


Why I (still) smoke cigars

When I was 17 (cue Frank Sinatra) I started thinking about turning 18. Where I lived that was the age of legality. I wanted to take advantage of my soon-to-be-found freedom in a way that wasn't like everyone else. So...drinking was pretty much out (not to mention I've never liked the taste of beer or nearly anything else with alcohol in it). Gambling? I had my mind around trying to begin saving money for college. I wanted to avoid student loans as much as I could, and I couldn't put it upon my parents to give me money since they had already been spending their hard earned dollars on my desire to go to a private school. So what's left? Smoking? No..."I can't stand cigarettes", I thought back then. Then one day I was at 7-11 getting my daily slurpee (ok, almost daily) and I noticed cigars. What did I know back then? A cigar is a cigar. So I decided to try it.

The cigars I smoked back then would be a joke if a real cigar smoker saw what I was up to, but it had me interested. I started out with stuff like Century Sams and Captain Blacks. I liked that it very quickly became evident that it didn't have to be about becoming addicted or getting any kind of fix. A Century Sam would take me 20-30 minutes to smoke and wasn't nearly as plesant if i was in a hurry, so I allowed it to force me to slow down a bit at times. Soon enough, I started becoming curious about what else was out there for cigars. A few people I knew did indeed laugh at me when I told them I smoked Century Sams and didn't hesitate to tell me that I should try a real cigar some time. So I started looking for places to buy and soon found a great cigar shop in my home town (the only one, to this day that I'm aware of, that still knows what they're talking about). My first real cigar was called a Habana Gold. It took me in the neighborhood of an hour (maybe more) to smoke it and I realized I found something to take an interest in. Soon enough I established a once-a-week time to sit, think, and enjoy a cigar. It was relaxing and it helped me unwind and think about everything that was going on.

Then I took an interest in how cigars were made and decided to start reading up. There are whole books about the process. It turns out it's quite the process that requires patience and attention to detail. For real cigars there's never anything added. The process involves different ways to grow the plants and a very specific environment. Once the leaves are carefully and expertly harvested they go into curing barns for curing, fermenting, and aging. Sometimes the aging takes years, and between curing/fermenting then aging the leaves they are handled very little. During curing and fermenting the leaves are hanged in bunches and there's a controlled environment of evenly distributed heat and humidity so the leaves "sweat out" as many naturally occuring toxins as possible. Then, once the leaves are ready to move on from there, they're sorted. There are different qualities the sorters look for that will determine what the leaf is used for. The leaves are also then "de-stemmed" and then aged again for possibly another couple of years, to release more of the naturally occuring toxins that make them taste bitter when smoked.

Once all the curing, fermenting, and aging is done, the leaves are ready to be rolled. This process involves choosing leaves that complement each other well and create a blend that's created for flavor and a level of complexity. There are leaves that are chosen as filler (in which several leaves are bunched together), binder (to keep the bunch together well), and wrapper to further keep cigars in a shape that won't unravel as you smoke them. filler and binder are usually chosen more for flavor than for appearance, whereas the flavor is rounded out by wrapper that is also chosen because it looks better. Sometimes leaves initially determined fit as wrapper gets damaged and can then be used as binder or filler in another cigar. Often, when new blends are created, multiple configurations are blended together and then the cigar maker can choose which one is best.

That is a very briefly summarized story about the process of making cigars. I definitely left some things out in my description but it's a sense of what I learned when I studied all that. It made me realize that making cigars is painstaking and is an art. Good cigars are only made by those who have a passion for it, many of whom have cigar making in their families and have for over a century. Realizing all this, I basically fell in love with the art form. Since making them is such a long process in most cases, I felt even more interest in picking cigars carefully and not rushing the whole thing. Smoking them had to involve sitting down and letting it be an experience. I prefer sitting with at least one or two other people and having good conversation and relaxing together, but I smoke by myself a lot and try to take time to not only enjoy the cigar and the complex flavors involved but to reflect.

And there are flavors I would have never expected from unflavored tobacco leaves. At times I've tasted things such as toasted marshmallow, coffee, chocolate, coconut, peanuts, and even crazy things like fried rice. There's no doubt that the flavors I've gotten from well made cigars at times makes me sit up and take notice.

All this is to describe my love for cigars. It's not all encompassing, but mostly I still smoke cigars for the relaxation and reduction of stress that I still get from those experiences. My once-a-week custom still exists. Occasionally it's twice, but it's not something I'm addicted to in any way. There have been times I've gone weeks without smoking a cigar and felt no cravings. The only craving I've ever felt in relation to cigars is the craving for yet another time to sit and unwind and that craving usually only occurs immediately or very soon after my most recent one.

I wanted to add, finally, that, yes...I'm aware there are health risks in relation to smoking. However, I feel very strongly that those risks are nowhere near as high as some people want me to think. History shows that many of those who smoke only cigars and do so in moderation never experience health effects. There are many cases, including one I know of where a friend's grandfather has been smoking cigars since he was 8 years old. That man is now 93 and is in health as good as or better than many who are 50 years younger than him. What does he feel his secret is? Never inhaling and enjoying in moderation. I added this paragraph only because it's inevitable that someone will bring it up. I respect those people but I feel there's enough grounds to think that there are other factors involved in these risks. Mind you I won't try to convince anyone otherwise if they disagree with me. I'm fine agreeing to disagree. I added this also last because I want it to be clear that this is not why I smoke cigars. It's only one response to critics.


Inception - you are your own worst enemy

***note that if you haven't seen Inception, but plan to, you may want to avoid this write-up as i made no effort to avoid spoilers***

there are a lot of twists and turns in inception. as far as i'm concerned, there's no question that it's brilliantly written and executed. when i watch most movies, especially dramas, i first look for what the writer or even the director is trying to say. is it obvious? are there multiple elements that combine to form the message? are there multiple intended messages? but sometimes i also think about a message that could be extrapolated from the film that may not have been intended. in some cases it's possible that the filmmakers were aware of it, or maybe intended it, but it's buried a lot deeper and takes some time to dig out.

in the case of Inception, within the last 30 minutes or so it occured to me that there may be some important things being said about guilt. for a long time i've felt like guilt was never a good thing. i've felt like guilt is a road block to truly making progress in an area of one's life. i've also noticed that guilt is not a motivator of change. it's too easy to dwell on guilt and allow it too much attention. it seems to me that the problem dom cobb has throughout Inception is a good example of this.

even though in his heart dom knows his wife's death isn't his fault, he can't help but allow the last events of their time together linger in his mind. he has this nagging feeling that some very well-intentioned actions on his part are the cause of his wife losing control, losing her grip on reality, and their kids losing their mother. because of her mental state, his wife becomes convinced that reality isn't real and kills herself. then, his last remaining memory of her is that she set up her death to look as though he killed her and his guilt has convinced him that she's right. i don't think i would blame cobb for feeling terrible. i would likely feel the same. but what ends up happening is that his image of his wife haunts him for years after. not only that, but because of his feelings of guilt and the remaining efforts of a woman who is basically insane, his subconcious projections of his wife (in dreams) are antagonistic. she's mad at him and wants him to fulfill his promise to spend the rest of eternity with her. it gets to the point where dom refuses to take an active role in building the dreams that him and his crew use to do their work because he knows that if he's involved his dead wife will sabotage every effort they make. but in spite of that his projections of his wife still manage to find their way in.

basically, dom's guilty feelings cause him to think "you can't move on. you never can." dom's guilt is a prison for him. there are some very extensive scenes in the movie that allude to this, and to the fact that he just can't let his wife go. he even starts to think that his wife was right and that his projections are real. he's deeply saddened by his feelings of fault. but the character of ariadne conveys to dom, in every way she can think of, that all of his guilt is counter-productive. not only does it endanger his friends and the work they do with him, because his work fails to produce results he's no closer to the one goal he has left: seeing his children. cobb had to run from the united states because his wife's last efforts to make him look like a killer worked and now he's desperately searching to make the problem go away. and he knows that he can't do that without making a lot of money.

i think all this can serve as a parable about guilt. i've spoken to people who feel strongly that guilt can be a tool God uses to move us. i think it's possible God allows guilt for a time, but i can't see Him ever actively using it. it seems that guilt only destroys and imprisons those who carry it. guilt drives us only to keep our eyes on the past and not look forward. it is conviction that drives us. conviction comes from an acknowledgement of guilt, but prompts us to change. instead of being trapped by guilt for as long as we hang on to it, we can own the truth of our conviction and strive to move forward. in Inception, it's not until dom finally faces his projections of his wife and acknowledges that he was actually trying to help her before she went insane, and that he doesn't need those images anymore, that he's finally able to move on. i think that's a truth that comes from this film organically, whether intended or not, and applies to all of us.


i know something will kill me

well, i know it won't be alcohol
although i enjoy it once in a while
but it doesn't have the same hold
it does for some who bear the trial.

i doubt that for me it will be love
although i know that some it kills
some say it heals and maybe prove
although i've felt its pain and thrills.

it could be food and maybe the cigar in my hand
the doctors they would try to tell me that
they maybe right but could also build on sand
it's possible but i think here's where the answer's at.

there is still one thing it's nothing new
i've even seen the knife
it's the biggest killer i know it's true
i think what'll kill me is life.

musical meditations

so, once in a while i hear a song that really hits home for me. for one reason or another, it speaks to me.

heard this one again for probably the hundredth time the other night while smoking a cigar. damien jurado's music does really have great lyrics, but for some reason this one stood out. find a way to hear the song if you can. apparently youtube doesn't have it:

damien jurado - bad dreams

I have fell victim to you
Troubles I have seen, many years
From high windows I have called you
So come, save me from this fire

Forget all who hurt you, they don't know you
Come rest your tired body in my arms
From the bedroom I have called you
So come, save me from this fire

And I have bad dreams
I've done so many bad things
So come, save me from this fire

searching for church

well, doesn't it all just figure. if you've been reading some of my previous posts, you know that i found a church while i was in winnipeg that i felt truly at home in. this place was the real deal. it's crazy that it took me 32 years to find my home, but i found it.

so, anyway, i've now moved far away from winnipeg and i'm back at square one. i'm looking for that kind of place. i don't imagine it would have to be exactly the same. it would be great if it was similar, but i don't think it has to be. it's just...back to work.

i guess what i find most difficult is "where to begin...". at the very least, i think i definitely know i'm anglican. i really love a lot of the liturgy, particularly in the book of alternative services. but the politics are different here. it's actually easy to think there were no politics at my previous church. i do believe that, but it wouldn't surprise me if i found out that it had some. it's hard to get away from politics when people are involved. but out here...once you dig deep enough, it's a bit of a pressure cooker. there is one particular issue that drives it and unfortunately it's an issue that too many people have an opinion on (especially me).

so i'm back to searching. i think there may be a place i could settle for a little while, but it's hard to tell right now. either way i don't know that it will be home. probably not even home away from home.

i have to think that God knew i would be moving before i found the last place. so there will always be the question of why He would let me find it so late or why i wouldn't get a stronger urge to go there sooner. but it's typical to think that way. really, i knew about the place and was too lazy to check it out sooner. i have myself to blame but i still ask why.

so, here i am. looking. it's still very early in the process. it's not a process that i like that much, and i definitely don't know the first thing about doing it right. i can only hope that if something that special comes up again, or is in my peripheral vision, that i'll have the stones to check it out as early as possible next time and give myself enough time to stay for a while longer.


the result of Good Friday inspiration

the Good Friday service at my church was very appropriate. it was somber and really brought home the message of what happened and who was responsible. i really don't think we can understand that enough.

but walking out i had sudden inspiration to write. a few lines came to mind and i constructed something around them. it's a work in progress.

you can find my piece as the last section in the reflection our priest wrote about the service. here's the link.

this is the end (of lent). my only friends, the end.

yes, less than 24 hours to go for lent. technically i will end it early, but i feel ok about that. after sundown on saturday i will be watching The Passion of the Christ. i watch it every year at easter because it sets things right in my mind and makes it all more real.

but i've found that, during lent, when watching movies on sundays (the only day it would have been permitted), it all had more flavor. i just felt more...like i saw the ones from my own collection for the first time.

this relatively short period of time has helped me appreciate those things more. they hold more weight for me now. i think that there's still a lot that i didn't do during lent, and i'm sure i didn't find the full meaning of things. but this is my first time actually doing something to commemorate lent. i can only hope future years will bring improvement in how i navigate this season.

there were definitely time that i wanted to give in. having also given up fast food, there were so many times i wanted desperately to partake in free pizza that was offered to me. but God gave me the grace to turn it down. still, i think next year will be just as difficult.

perhaps i'll give up the same things just so i can see how i could improve on this.

analyze that

so, therapy is done. it's a funny process. i guess it went relatively well. i'm not really sure i cam out of it with any additional answers, but i don't have more questions. i think that's a plus.

the last session was the most interesting. it's strange when you know it's coming to an end. both me and the therapist had a chance to mentally prepare for that reality. it was actually a very honest session for both of us. he also admitted that he was having a hard time with the fact that it was already coming to an end. i don't know that he was fully prepared for that.

i guess i do come out of it with more of a sense that God is interested in me. i didn't exactly go into it looking for that. i think the most significant thing that i came out of it with is more of a desire to meditate. specifically it's meditating on very short portions of Scripture (e.g. "give us this day our daily bread"). it's a matter of trying to break down what something means and really figuring out the components of it are and how they fit together and what it all means.

so that's that. i guess what i hope now is that i've gotten some tools with which to address the questions i still have.


analyze this

a few weeks ago, our priest mentioned during a service that there was a counselling student from providence college who was looking for someone to practice on. i volunteered.

so, for 4 weeks i will be in therapy. yes, all of you who have ever said, about me, "that dude's got issues", will be happy to know someone is now trying to make me confront those issues. i've already had my first session.

i think the counsellor was surprised at what an open book i was about the things he wanted to know. he even braced me because he would be asking some personal questions. you're kidding...personal questions during psychotherapy? i did have some very specific things i wanted to address during our 4 sessions, and that's where it's going. we'll see what happens. if anything bears blogging, you can be sure to read about it here.


lenten discipline

so i'm giving up 2 things for lent: movies and fast food. movies will be the more difficult of the 2. much more difficult. but, my priest recently provided some good news. the time between ash wednesday and easter sunday is actualy 46 days...because there are 6 sundays.

those sundays are actually intended as "feast" days, when people take a break from the fasting. so on each of those sundays i will watch 1 movie. the first one will be a movie i've been waiting months to see: shutter island. however, for the other 5 sundays i've decided to honor high fidelity and revisit my all-time top 5 movies.

now, 4 of them i'm definitely decided on...the 5th i'm not sure is a "top 5", so it may change. nonetheless, here they are (in no particular order):

1. eternal sunshine of the spotless mind
2. good will hunting
3. the departed
4. goodfellas
5. funny people (may be subject to change)


a window to the soul

the next is a series of posts that i have made regarding a recent "quiet retreat" i took with some people from my church. it was kind of a roller coaster, but here are my thoughts on it. it ends with the post titled "back to everything else".

arrival night

we’ve just recently come back from night prayer. i’m just realizing it’s possible that this weekend may be a time to figure out what’s wrong with me. i actually had hoped to think about some very specific things during this time. things like plans that my wife and i are making for our family for the next year or so. i guess it’s possible that i may still get to reflect on that (please). however, it seems like ever since i’ve been coming to st. benedict’s table i lose control over my emotions during liturgy. right around the time our priest encourages us to confess our life to Almighty God, and reminds us that no matter how many times we fail, God calls us home “again, and again, and again”...i lose it. even as i write this i’m tearing up. what the hell is my problem? i couldn’t get through a few words of night prayer (just another version of a quick liturgy) without almost weeping in front of everyone. i don’t know what’s going on but i think there’s something big that i’ve been neglecting. something i accidentally buried deep down inside and it’s being dug up. is this from God? i honestly don’t know. i’ve decided that tonight will be time to take a shower, then spend some time in the chapel and just let things happen. i pray that i start understanding this soon.

after morning prayer – saturday

i’m enjoying everything that’s going on at this retreat, but starting to get a hint of what’s going inside me. while i was away at bible college, i got involved in prayer. during prayer, i would often sob or even weep and got a very clear sense that this was for those who were suffering something in silence. or experiencing some kind of stress. however, during the times of liturgy or prayer (whether at church or here) i’m starting to realize that i’ve been crying for me. there’s a heaviness and a sadness that i’m starting to pick up on from my soul. i have some ideas about why it’s there, but i don’t yet feel hopeful that i will get away from it. it feels like i’ve been chained to the worlds heaviest boulder and will never get away. i pray that i do, but also that if it takes some time that i don’t make my family suffer because of it. off to guided meditation now.

after guided meditation - saturday

i’m not really sure how i feel right now. i broke down during guided meditation. had to leave the room because i couldn’t hold back the sobs anymore. so i went to the bathroom and wept. there’s a bit of relief now, although i still feel a heaviness in me so it’s likely temporary. arranging a time to talk to jamie this afternoon and tell him about the things i’ve been feeling. it’s possible that my soul needs to breathe. maybe all this time i’ve been keeping it in some kind of chamber where the oxygen is very conservatively controlled and it’s constantly on the verge of suffocation. when i went to the chapel last night, there was a candle that was under a very solidly colored cover. it had the effect of the candle being very dim but still clearly “lit”...just not beaming the way an open candle would be. that’s how i think my spirit feels at this time. now it’s off to mid-day prayer with the sisters from the monastery.

after lunch – saturday

gonna listen to some johnny cash and some jurado/bazan today. food for the soul.

aside – saturday

just sitting in my room to prepare some playlists. there’s a lot of art around the monastery. i randomly chose which side of the room to sleep on (2 beds but no roommate). i didn’t notice it at first, but the side that i chose (the one at the window) has a painting hanging up of a very small person in a forrest with very tall trees. there is a bright light shining down on the person and there’s a wind-like angel reaching out to...i’m not sure what. it almost looks like the angel is getting ready to scoop up the person (the angel is huge too) or, possibly reaching out in protection, or to embrace the person some how. i want to think that the person is me. lost in a huge dark forrest. now i’m waiting for the light and wondering if the angel is actually there. i’m not sure.

pipe walk with a priest

decided i would talk to jamie about some of my issues. he suggested that we both bring our pipes and go for a walk. how could i turn that down? we walked, we smoked, and i confessed some of my struggles to him. i told him about the sadness. i told him that i think it’s being caused by some things that i’ve allowed to be in my life that should not be part of anyone’s life. he encouraged me to get rid of those things, and he has pledged to hold me accountable, particularly during lent. so, during lent, i will have a fight on my hands to clear out the trash. it was a good talk and jamie was gracious. i don’t feel sad now, and we’ll see what happens during vespers and communion tonight.

after supper – saturday

vespers went well, i only felt emotional during one specific part, but i think it was a good kind of emotion. i feel like i’m in much better spirits. i don’t know if this will last, but i will try to really live in it while it’s here. now, i think i will go listen to some more music and do a little more reading. then it’s off to communion. after communion we will be watching a movie called “unstrung heroes”. should be a good night and hopefully it will stimulate some more thought and meditations.

last call – saturday

well, communion was good. we passed the elements around the circle and pronounced “the body of Christ – broken for you” and “the blood of Christ – shed for you”. then we had fun, talking and eating cheese and crackers. it felt like a family re-union. then we watched the movie. still processing it. following that we did what was called “compline” in the monastery chapel. very casual, seemingly, since very few of us knew what we were doing. but it was inspiring. we chanted. that’s what it was. we sang our prayers. it was one of the greatest things i’ve ever experienced in my life of faith. tomorrow is the last day. 2 meals, with morning prayer in between. then it’s basically over. not sure i’m ready for it to be, but life doesn’t wait. my challenge now is, somehow, taking the very little that i’ve learned in the last day or so and bringing it with me. application is always so frustrating. now, i’m off outside for a few minutes just to look at the stars i so rarely see in the city. my friends damien jurado and david bazan will accompany me. we’ve got some catching up to do.

after morning prayer & reflection – sunday

this morning we joined the sisters for their morning prayer. this time it was almost all singing. not bad. some of it was more chanting and some was hymnal singing. the hymns aren’t really my cup of tea, but i participated (mostly because i didn’t know what i was in for ahead of time and was already there now). following that, we all went up to sit and talk about our feelings on the weekend. a lot of it was spent discussing “unstrung heroes”. more people had a personal connection with it than i realized. the story is mostly about how a family deals with the matriarch getting terminally ill. there were different perspectives on how people connected with that story emotionally. overall everyone seemed to agree that it’s been a good weekend. i can safely say i didn’t get nearly as much thought and reflection done as i wanted to, but i think some important things were investigated. now i think i’ll have another pipe and then some more music and reading before lunch. be back for 1 more entry.

back to everything else

that’s it. i guess my big weekend is done. i definitely do not regret taking this short journey, but so much feels left incomplete. i pray that i will remember to take time out for reflection more regularly and that i don’t forget what little progress i did make. may it be branded in my heart and mind.


into the rest of life

i stopped going to church, unofficially, back in may or june of 2009. i had been going to a church for about 6 or 7 years that just didn't seem right. lots of good people, but the church and i just weren't clicking. i didn't seem to be fitting in anywhere, even with those in my peer group.

after a summer of almost never going, i was "challenged" (as my priest has now defined it). the warden and i were talking about church and the fact that i hadn't really been going. essentially, she said "you don't have to go to our church, but you're not getting away with never going to church anymore." so i decided to visit this church i'd been aware of for some time.

i had been wanting to visit for quite some time because, over the last few years, i was aware of it and knew several people who attended there. i also attended some events spear-headed by the priest of this particular church. things like a lecture about j.r.r. tolkien, and a round-table type dicussion about "christian" media. it turns out this church does things like that regularly. i don't think anything, in particular, kept me from visiting this whole time. just laziness i guess. so, with that "challenge" having been left in my court, i finally went to the anglican church i had been thinking about for a few years.

actually, i'm not sure i was ever visitng. now that i've been there, it feels like it's where i always should have been, and where i would always go as long as i live where i do. once was enough to keep me there. if you're reading this and you're familiar with the feeling of coming or being home, that's what i feel in this place.

i'm not sure if it's any one element. the incense; the bells; the style of communion; the reverence offered by long-standing tradition...they all help focus me on what i, and all the faithful, should always do with our lives: worship. i've also become aware, thanks to this home-coming i think, that i've been letting my faith become lapsed over the past couple of years. it was gradual, it seems. a kind of erosion. but i think that's being repaired now. don't call it a comeback, it's been here for years. i've only recently been reminded that it's there. the faith, that is.

it doesn't hurt that my priest is one of the coolest dudes i know. someone who understands that a person of faith should integrate into his or her community and culture. although he would likely seek humility by shrugging it off, i think he's one definition of the role model concept and i have the utmost respect for him. it makes meeting with him to discuss life that much more meaningful. it also helps me understand, even more than i did before, why it's so devastating in some faith communities when people find out how human their clergy is. so while i do see my priest as a role model, i must also understand that he is human and makes mistakes. i must pray for him and, should i ever witness one of those mistakes, pray for him twice as much. that he will recognize the mistake and seek forgiveness.

and that takes me to my conclusion. i think one of the other things that is now keeping me in a consistent relationship with this particular anglican church is the understanding of humanity that our priest demonstrates. in communion we are all invited. regardless of how failed we feel or are, and how much forgiveness we need, we are invited. it's helped me understand that, sometimes, before someone will ask for forgiveness they need to know that they are part of a community that can show them what it means to live under God's mercy.

people need to be part of a community that will provide and environment in which they can come and confess their life to the Lord and seek the forgiveness they need in order to facilitate repentance. and we are all part of that community, whether priest or parishoner.


fatherhood so far

life is a funny thing...

ever since i was a very young boy, i've been crazy about girls. i still remember what i believe was my first crush ever. it was in nursery school. today, that girl is a woman who's become a gold medal winning olympic athlete. i'm sure that's another story altogether. as i was saying...my first actual "girlfriend" was in kindergarten. back then, having a girlfriend meant a girl you spend a lot of time with. we kinda did that for 3 years. after that, i didn't finish chasing girls until i got married. holding girls' hands was really exciting when i was in jr. high. it was always just a thrill if i spent time with girls. i didn't even think past that point (until later). i've never figured out why. i was just always worried about gaining their acceptance, trust, and affection. even today, if given the choice between hanging out in the company of females i get along with and guys i get along with...well, it wouldn't be much of a choice.

i reflect on all of this, and pretty much need it, when trying to understand why i care so much about the way my daughter sees me. my daughter's a mommy's girl, which i've come to accept. i honestly believe every child, adopted or biological, has to pick a favorite parent. since our daughter spends so much time with the warden, that's a pretty easy pick. i'm cool with that, because in a few years it's going to be more meaningful, and i think the warden will really appreciate it. that said, it's still kinda weird when the little girl is indifferent toward me. all the more, when we're watching TV together and she cuddles up or reaches out to take my hand...my heart races. when we're putting her to bed and she gives me a hug and a little kiss, it makes my day...even if she wipes her mouth after the kiss (lol).

when i got married, i thought my days of chasing after girls were over. 9 years after that, we adopted a little girl who changed the meaning of chasing girls for me. it's different now, but strangely for the rest of my life i'll be chasing her and constantly being worried about gaining her acceptance, trust, and affection.

...life is a funny thing.


love stinks

went to see he's just not that into you last night. with a huge cast and many different story lines, it was hard to know what to think going in. i've heard good things about it, so let's just say i was cautiously optimistic.

i think each character made a valuable contribution to the overall concept of the movie. i'm not sure it has a "story", although there are many stories in it, but it was well constructed. let's face it, the whole huge cast/multi-story line thing has been done a fair bit. sometimes it's a raging success, but sometimes it falls flat on its face. there is the tendency to let too many stars overshadow what the thing is actually trying to say. but i don't think this movie was guilty of that. it was pretty unassuming, not focusing too much on those who would normally be big stars. instead, the movie focuses on its most important characters.

i'd say the most important characters in this movie are gigi and alex. it's not just that what happens between them is important, but that i think a good portion of the message being sent was being sent with their dialogue (both individually and when sharing a scene). mind you, this movie has a lot of things to say...primarily about love. the joy it inspires, the pain it causes, the insanity it drives one to, and the stupid things people do in its name.

overall, i'd call it a keeper. it has its drawbacks, such as one particular line delivered by ben affleck, but those are minor when viewed with the whole. the ending sees 2 major story lines (ok, maybe they were only major imo) closed in a very moving fashion. this is appropriate because it really wraps things up nicely.

if you love relationship philosophy, or if you hate relationships, i would recommend giving this a chance.


the problem of pain

ok, so i've been reading C.S. Lewis lately. i especially love reading him while smoking a good cigar. when i realized that i lost the motivation to do any writing and got scared that i was losing interest too, i decided to start getting back to reading. it seemed that i was writing more when i was reading a lot.

i've been reading donald miller. a good friend recommended blue like jazz. that book changed my views on reading. it changed a lot. i feel like i grew as i read the book. that led to prayer and the art of volkswagon repair. more really good miller. it's not blue... but it's really good. i also read more pop culture titles. 50x50 (50 by 50) is mostly photo driven auto-biography by 50 cent. angry blonde, which is basically the story behind all the lyrics on eminem's first major album; written by the man himself. if dr. dre wrote a book i would buy it in a heartbeat, although i am tempted to get the biography written about him. can't wait for detox, if it ever comes out.

this brings me back to Lewis. while i haven't read all the books written by him, i decided to instead revisit ones that i've read previously. i went back to Narnia and finally finished the horse and his boy. i stopped at prince caspian because the warden said she wanted to read it before she saw the movie...she hasn't been reading it (!!!). after Horse, though, i moved to the space trilogy he wrote, Out of the Silent Planet, Perelandra, and That Hideous Strength. see, both my narnia chronicles collection and my copy of the space trilogy are found in the form of unabridged compilations, so i just read through the whole thing.

i ate through ...Planet and Perelandra like they were nothing. such brilliant storymaking. the battle between ransom and weston in Perelandra had me feeling sympathetic with ransom's feelings of incompetence. made me reflect on my own capabilities. i've recently started ...Strength and it made me want to write again. it's what i would definitely call one of Lewis' master works. i'm only at the beginning, but as i feel the story take shape and know that something big is developing, i feel anxious.

all of this, everything i read, kinda makes me wish something big was developing in my life. it feels like it was developing when i was in college. then, after graduation, it kinda feels like all development stopped. like someone was writing my story and hit a bad case of writers block. now, since i have a wife and child, i am working to pay the bills and i don't feel secure persuing the story that was developing. i feel like another story began. one that you read a few chapters of and put down because it just isn't going anywhere.

i'm not feeling sorry for myself here, and certainly am not soliciting any of that kind of thing from anyone who might be reading this. so if you're going to comment in that kind of theme, please just save it and pray for me instead. i'm simply saying that reading and re-reading some the best books i've ever read, books that are sincere and compelling, is why i'm writing this post. it's really made me reflect on what's going on.

...that and it gives me something to do while i smoke a cigar that takes an hour to finish.



yeah, i'm writing here. part of me has been asleep for a long time. without trying to make excuses i'll just say that i don't bother trotting it out most of the time anymore because nearly everyone at work wouldn't see the point and the warden isn't interested.

i suppose it's likely true that i fancy myself more sufficient intellectually than i actually am. like most things i try but can't seem to measure up to some peers.

irregardless, i've got a post cooking and will hopefully get it posted here in the next day or two. it won't be significant, but i'm starting to awaken a little. in the next post i'll explain why i think that is.


i am intrigued


so, if you've read my most recent post on my other blog you know that i saw i am legend. it took a while, but i finally saw it. i got in late but i don't think i missed much.

the movie deals with several complex themes. first, that i noticed, man's best friend. robert neville's dog, samantha, became his hunting partner and best friend. his only friend left. this created a little bit of a problem. when the dog got into a fight with an infected dog, and finally died because robert gave her a dose of the cure that kills quickly, all of robert's remaining hope died with her. so much so that he gave up his will to fight. the scene where the dog died was heartbreaking, but the scene where robert lured out infecteds so kill as many of them as possible was heartwrenching. his dog's death left him only with desperation. that's when one realizes that the dog represented robert's reason for the hard work he put into finding a cure. work that he was willing to throw away when the dog died because he allowed that event to make him think that he was the only immune left in the world. so what did it matter? what was left? take your agression and loss of hope out on infected zombies and then let other ones tear you apart and kill you.

but then there was the unexpected glimmer of light that was brought by the immune woman and her child that rescued him. unfortunately it was too late. by this point robert spent so much time without other human companionship that he was no longer prepared to re-integrate into some form of society. i don't think his failure to believe in the possibility of a colony was brought on because he couldn't find faith. i think his failure to believe was because he spent so much time allowing himself to be convinced that he was alone that he no longer cared about the possibility of that colony that confronted him in the form of someone who heard his message. but, by the end, he was willing to avoid allowing all that work to be wasted. if there is the possibility of a colony of immune people, however remote, he needed to do something. that remaining effort took a spark. that spark was created when he realized he created the cure and found out how to make it work. if that was possible, and becoming reality, then all the possibilities that he lost hope in were not quite out of the question. i'm tempted to think that in the moment before his death, he didn't just regain hope. he didn't just regain faith. he knew that his original hope was correct. he was right all along and now he needed to make that a reality.

i suppose it's the final ending of the film that i'm most conflicted about. it's an appropriate ending, don't get me wrong. life doesn't always work out the way you think it should. robert died but left behind a legacy of hope for humanity. it's probably the way the movie should have ended...but it still left me feeling a little empty. the course of the film spends time convincing us to like robert and relate to him. we're hoping beyond hope that he will see the fruit of his labor. even see his wife and daughter again, in the colony. when his heart breaks at the death of his dog, our heart breaks with him. we almost have a relationship with him.
we have little to no relationship with anna (the immune that rescued him). we don't dislike her. after all, hers is the voice of faith. she believes in things that are beyond her control. but we don't have that relationship with her. although at the end i'm relieved to find that her belief in the colony was correct, i'm slightly less happy about it because robert isn't there. if i can find a flaw in the story, and i usually don't see flaws in films as easily as the jaded skeptics i keep company with, it would be that robert didn't get to see what anna did.

after i see a movie i always go through a process of deciding whether or not i will eventually buy it on DVD. sometimes it's not even a question. sometimes i know i will buy it, sometimes i know i never will. in this case i'm still not decided. there are so many emotions involved in the movie i don't know if i could get through it again. i was depressed when the dog died. but then i think i want to see it again, and again, and again...if only to gain a better understanding of what it says. not to mention to again find an appreciation of the acting, the cinematography, and the art of it. i had a similar indecision when i first saw the departed.

if you know me you know how that one worked out...