Tuesday, July 31, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (Top 5)

5. Elephant (2003)
A few of the movies on my list are directly linked to actual events that have occurred in our world in my lifetime. Events that have shaken us all. This is another of Gus Van Sant's trilogy on mortality, and it has left a fingerprint on my soul. There are a million ways a movie like this could have gone wrong: disrespect, bad taste, melodrama, triteness, over-simplification---the list goes on. But it steered clear. This is a very disturbing movie, not least because it is so true to life. Yet somehow it made me love people, especially young people, and it has ingrained in me this tragic sense that if only---if only!---we could learn to love them and each other we might find a way out of this mess. The day after I saw this movie I was at a theater waiting for my wife to come out of the bathroom and I was watching teenager after teenager walk by me and I wished I could just hug each one. Every person I saw in that crowded mall was a person. WE forget that too easy. That may sound like the cheesiest thing in the world, but it was a moment as solid as the chair I’m sitting on.


4. Gandhi (1982)
Surely this film glossed over some of the more eccentric and ridiculous of Gandhi’s habits, but if it erred on the side of avoiding his foibles it did it for the sake of accentuating his power. A power made perfect in weakness, one might say. If not for this film I don’t think many of us would know Gandhi or what he stood for. It may be a sad fact that we need movies to do this for us, but all it means is that the written tradition which replaced oral tradition has now being replaced by the visual tradition. Each of these methods of passing along stories has its pitfalls to beware of, and relies somewhat on the other, but we shouldn’t discount the added power of the film. Thanks to this film Gandhi’s name has come to stand for what it ought to and has become an icon of sorts for non-violence, self-sacrifice, and passion for human rights. Although Gandhi remained outside the Church, this look at his life captures an aspect of Christ that most "Jesus movies" miss almost completely.



3. Good Morning Vietnam (1987)

This was a deeply touching film in a way similar to Life Is Beautiful. Here is a guy using humour to try to cope and help with the ugliness of war. So many sides of human nature are portrayed in this film. The complexity of global and interpersonal relations are captured well. It just stirs something up in you. Robin Williams is magnificent. I don't remember when I first saw this but I can almost remember every scene as if I was there. I shudder to think what it would have been like to actually be there. If I was I'd want a guy like Williams' character by my side, that's for sure, else I might go insane.


2. Remains of the Day (1993)

I've reviewed this movie and the next one before. I'll say this for them now though: For all the gruesome reality and inspiring beauty of the above-mentioned films, these last two have probably served as the largest motivators for me to go out and do something about it with my life. Both of them are "seize the day" kind of pictures, done in very different ways. But it isn't just about "sucking the marrow"out of life, it is about choosing which you'd rather regret: being overwhelmed and fearful and doing nothing OR being overcome with wonder and hope and getting in there and getting your hands dirty. About Remains of the Day all I can say is that I "grew up" a very short person and therefore very timid. It took a lot of prodding in my early college years to really believe I could do or be anything. This movie convinced me to pursue my love or die trying. I personally doubt I'd be married today if not for this movie.


1. Dead Poet's Society (1989)
It pains me in a way to know that this movie has become its own cliche. Nonetheless I am one of the people who this movie originally hit square in the face and who was never quite the same. I remember first seeing it with a room full of family and relatives. I was 15 or 16. It ended and I had a massive dry spot in my throat and an ache in my side. I couldn't say anything because it felt like no one in the room was with me. Turns out later at least my cousin was, but no matter, it was like someone had jumper cables on my heart and was trying to start the thing up. It worked. I think life began meaning something to me at that point. Of course there was life before that, but I don't think I'd thought about it much. Carpe diem. So overused now. But I can still hear Robin Williams whispering it as if he's over my shoulder right now.

Thanks for reading along. This has been an exercise in self-indulgence as I approach my 32nd birthday but I hope you've enjoyed it. I look forward to reflecting on this each year and maybe adding a new one every year. Maybe the list would change too. I'd probably change the order a bit even now. But these films are part of who I am, and I've enjoyed reflecting on that and sharing it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (10-6)

10. Tokyo Story (1953)
"Life is so disappointing," she says. And with that line I realize I need to watch the film again. I am even tempted to "rewind" it right there and then, even before the credits have rolled. First time I saw this I knew I was watching a beautiful peice of art, but I had been lulled into the sense that that was all it was (which is plenty, of course). But late in the film I realized I was watching a peice of everyone's life, everyone's family, everyone's experience. It only struck home more because it came to me from 1950s Japan; another time; another place; another culture; another language. Watched this one again a few months ago and find myself thinking of it often.
9. Winter Light (1962)

The picture says it all. A priest who struggles with the very answers he is giving. He has tired of giving the tried and true answers to people, likely because of the damage it feels such a thing does. But when he ceases to give answers insincerely, the damage he does is worse. There are all sorts of interpretations to this story, of course, but above you see a man crumbling under the weight of it all while a woman can only look on. And the sun continues to shine bleakly yet brightly through the window. This is a masterpiece of faith and the human soul.

8. Ordinary People (1980)

When people say that movies can never do justice to the books they are made from, don't believe them. Here is another fantastic movie from a fantastic book. You still want to read the book, but the movie does capture it well. Very well. Oh the subtleties of this family's turmoil and their striving to pull together while so much seems to tug them apart. The grief and tragedy and yet the persistency of hope. The tension of love and self-protection. It is all there in picture and story where words and definitions fall short. Like a Dostoevsky novel I felt a bit of me in each character in this story.

7. Tears of the Sun (2003)

This one likely seems out of place. I have never spoken to anyone other than myself who found this movie entertaining let alone influential. That's fine. I'm a bit of a sucker for Bruce Willis, so that helped. But that's not the point. This film hit me like a ton of bricks. Oh man, the depravity. (Is this list getting anyone down?) Catholics have saints, and evangelicals swing back and forth between saying that there are no saints and that we are all made saints by grace, but there are no saints in this film. Even though there are good guys and bad guys, the truer sense is that the world is soaked in evil and there are some just trying to limit and lessen it. Bruce Willis' character has no pretension to greatness or even hope, he just fights against evil incarnate to his last breath. Not because he has anything to offer, but just because he has to. I thought he did a great job of the role. You could see it in his face. And I don't know. It just ripped me apart inside. You don't forget stuff like that.

6. To Kill A Mockingbird (1962)

Lest we get all down and out here, this is a movie with pure heroism and innocence. It is also the penultimate courtroom drama. All the time in this stroy Atticus Finch's kids are "losing their innocence", but their father is giving them reason yet to hope and retain it. In a society full of the most twisted type of ignorance, racism, and snobbery there remain some who see through the crap and hold on to what is right, and remain pure doing it. Another film from a book excellently done, it has to stay in my head and heart because it is every bit as true as Tears of the Sun. Thank God.

Friday, July 27, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (14-11)

14. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
I haven’t really figured out yet what exactly I’m taking with me from this film, besides the big picture. Incredulity certainly shouldn’t keep me from recognizing that I will be watching it and thinking about it for years to come. 2001 probably has 3 of the top 5 scenes in movie history. Of course I’m overstating it, but not by much (I just love it when the monkey realizes he’s holding a tool, when the monolith appears on earth, and when the astronauts approach the monolith on the moon). I love the subtleties of the dialogue, the feeling of being in space that it gives, the plot, the ambitious scope of what it tackles, and the way it makes me think. There is no way to shake this one.

13. Peter and Paul (1981)
This made-for-TV movie is easily the best (and maybe the only) thing to rent at "Christian" book stores. I stumbled across it about 10 years ago and after watching it I felt a kinship to the early Christians almost like never before. It has always bothered me that such a dramatic and important book such as the Bible can so often be made trite and boring when put on film. When I saw this one I felt like they "brought it to life" the way they ought to have and it bore itself into my soul by capturing the essence of what I felt, and what I think we should feel, when we read the book of Acts. I’ve talked this movie up too much though. I watched it later and noticed a bit more of that TV-movie quality to it. But no matter, it was too late. There is little I can say to deny how powerful it was when I saw it in ‘97. Anthony Hopkins was Paul, and the distance of years was gone, and I wished for nothing more than to be counted among these apostle’s brothers.

12. The Fisher King (1991)

I feel like this film is underrated, although apparently it has had its kudos. I thought it was marvelous. I am so moved by these stories where humans bridge classes and find their common ground, where the stuck up find life in those whom they'd normally ignore, where the cast-aside is found to have something to him, where the beauty of the image of God is allowed to be seen even in those we'd disregard. This has all of that. And so well done. Such an ancient theme yet such an original story. When you get a good idea a light bulb goes off in your head. When truth and love spark inside you I think a heat lamp starts warming your heart. Far from simplistic and sappy, this film reminds me to see people.

11. Life is Beautiful (1997)

Do I have to say anything about this one? Seriously. If you've seen it you know. If you haven't you must. It doesn't get much better than this movie. What can you say? It makes me want to be a better father, citizen, Christian, friend, and basically a better person. And it helps me know what "better" might look like. When I saw this it was nothing I expected. Maybe the title threw me off. But the title is perfect.

Monday, July 23, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (20-15)

20. Fletch (1985)

I was only ten when the funniest movie I'd ever see was released in theatres, and I don't recall seeing it until at least 5 years later, but it is well documented how much I love this movie. I keep choosing these doctored photos of movies, but this one with the Babar picture in the background still captures a very funny scene. I would say I'm a huge Chevy Chase fan except it is really only in this movie where I feel like they capture and utilize his stone-faced humour. Each character he portrays is funnier than the last and I just love how he plays with people and doesn't care if anyone gets his jokes. I find myself often using lines from this movie in everyday conversation and not caring if anyone laughs (or even knows its a joke). There are only a half dozen or so people out there who will recognize what I'm talking about, and I salute each of them.




19. Bowling for Columbine (2002) I am not a huge fan of the overtly manipulative documentary style of Michael Moore, but this one is probably the least politicized of his films and therefore maybe the purest. I'm not sure he nailed the "answer" for Columbine but he definitely nailed us with the question and exposed the depth of the problem. I remember shaking my head over Columbine, and then even more over the reaction to Columbine which sought to distance the rest of us normal humans from the demonic characters who committed the atrocities. Surely they did get swept up in wickedness and it is awful that they did what they did. But I appreciate that Moore dug deeper and instead of questioning those two disturbed individuals, examined the culture in which they grew up so disturbed. Although I try to give Charlton Heston the benefit of the doubt, he sure came off looking a far cry from Moses in this film. And perhaps the scene that most sticks with me is the interview with Marilyn Manson. The guy scares me to be honest (and I imagine that's what he's going for), but it was a moment I'll never forget when Moore asked him what he'd say to those two shooters if he had the chance. He said he'd listen to them. What a great answer. It sends indiscernible shivers up my spine.

18. The Green Mile (1999)

This film adaptation of the great Stephen King story has an almost cartoonish quality to it, the way the characters are portrayed. But I am a sucker for a story having a "Christ-figure" and the one in this story is maybe one of the most interesting I've seen. His mammoth size shows that meekness is something other than wimpiness. His care for others shows gentleness to be force under control. The list could go on. I love how these prison guards have to deal with and come to grips with the miracles they are seeing. I am moved by how they grapple with the innocence of this man and yet can't stop the tragedy. I'm not sure if this one has had a huge impact on me in the sense that it taught me stuff or showed me things for the first time, but not all influences are epiphanies. I just really connected with it and took it to heart as an all time favourite and that's why it's here.

17. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

As long as I live I may not forget the closing scenes of this movie in which the Ark of the Covenant is opened and the wrath of God is poured out on the irreverent. I can clearly recall the dark brown couch I was sitting on in our Terrace BC living room as a youth when my Dad allowed me to stay up late and watch this on TV. My eyes must have been golf balls. I was never the same. Besides being the best action adventure that will ever be made, Raiders of the Lost Ark opened my eyes to the sheer vividness of such things as good and evil, courage, holiness, reverence, power, and mystery. These were words I had read and concepts I'd been introduced to, but maybe never really thought about, felt, or seen. I probably don't even realize how much this movie has informed my life. Its influence on me has biblical proportions! It was perfect that the movie ended with the Ark being put in storage, as seen above.

The next two films both re-enact real-time events in my lifetime that are themselves going to be hard-wired into most of us for as long as we live. There are a lot of films that try to capture these types of events on screen for us, especially on TV, but most of them diminish the significance of the event and make it seem trite and forgettable, I find. These two do the opposite, and it is because they are so well done.


16. United 93 (2006)

United 93 in particular has been one that I've thought about a lot ever since I saw it in Winnipeg last spring. It is so real. The heroes depicted in the photo above want nothing to do with what they are about to do, but they have no choice and so they step up. For all the movies about heroes, this is the first time I really ever felt like I saw true courage on screen. I think only people who are feeling out of their league can have courage. Surely this movie makes us wonder if we'd have the guts to step up in such a situation but on the drive home from this movie I went on a rant to my two friends about how none of us has to wait until our plane is hijacked for such an opportunity. We face these choices every day. Life is huge. Step up or cave. I am so inspired by this film. Beautifully directed. And true. Amazing. Poignant treatment of a complex event too. The scene which interplays between the terrorists and hostages each praying is maybe the defining scene of our times.

15. Hotel Rwanda (2004)

After watching this movie I was saddened that it was pretty much the first time I ever remembered hearing, or at least noticing, the genocide in Rwanda. I went out and bought Romeo D'Allaire's account of the story (he is the Canadian UN officer played by Nolte pictured above) and was deeply moved. I have tended to lean hard on pacifism and this movie and this book changed my mind. I am still what I'd call a pacifist but I now see a place for a well-trained military and am a huge fan of the concept of the UN and wish for Canada to lead the way as peacekeepers in our world. Another thing I really take from this is that sense you get watching it that the murderers with the guns are absolute cowards and pansies. This story is one of the greatest tragedies of my lifetime and this film deepened my awareness of depravity, showed me again the fine line between evil and complicence to evil, and convinced me again of the courage and power and extreme difficulty of being a true peacemaker. It is bound to hurt (and again, the thoughts conjurred up are of Christ).

I guess I hit on some themes with this batch. I didn't realize I was doing that when I formed my list. I guess I can't help but preach eh?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (25-21)

25. Babel (2006)
It is difficult to know what the lasting power of a movie will be, and having seen this one so recently I may be overstating its importance. But if had to find a way to summarize the feeling of living in the world today I would probably show Babel (or possibly Lost in Translation). This film captures the disconnect in humanity while also retaining that tiny spark of hope. Each storyline adds up make the global village seem incredibly small and yet the gap between each person overwhelmingly large. The film suggests that this gap that may only be crossed as we lend another person the tiniest of hands. Even then, so much can go wrong. The scene with the nanny and the children in the desert was one of the most gripping I’ve ever seen. My stomach was in my throat. This movie makes you wish we could all just love our neighbour. Made me feel that way anyway.

24. Andrei Rublev (1969)


This is the longest movie I’ve ever seen. It took me weeks to watch it. I almost didn’t finish. It frightens me to think what impact it might have on me once I am able to watch it again in one sitting. It literally entered me into another place, another time, and another worldview so that I was only the richer for it. I’ve read books set in Russia, I’ve studied Medieval history, and I’ve become familiar with some of the tenets of Eastern Orthodoxy, but I never even began to understand them until I saw this film. Of course I don’t know everything there is to know about this era or these people, but now it feels like the only thing that separates us is the years. The cinematography was so amazing, and the director so committed to ignoring the clock that you couldn’t help but feel you were walking along with these characters as they experienced what life threw at them and grappled with faith. There are so many scenes that have stuck with me—too many to name. Just like a Dostoevsky novel, Andrei Rublev brought them into my world and me into theirs.

23. The Outsiders (1983)


This movie and the next one are hard to separate in my mind from the books on which they are based, which has perhaps leant more power to the movies than maybe they would have had on their own. But it is a tribute to a book-based film when it doesn’t ruin but captures the feeling of the original. The Outsiders was perfect, if you ask me. It may sound silly, but one thing that hit me was that the main characters in this story would have been the guys I was deathly afraid of growing up. Looking back I think it was life-changing for me to get this movie’s glimpse into their lives and see that they were just struggling to make it through life themselves. They have feelings, they think about life, they just want to be happy and experience love too, of course. Even without the minor epiphany this film gave me, the story itself was compelling. I doubt anyone who has come to know Sodapop and Ponyboy has been able to avoid being impacted by them as I have.


22. Lord of the Flies (1990)


Another movie from a book, this one might have had the opposite effect of the Outsiders. It showed the alternate reality that not only does everyone have love inside them to give, but everyone has evil inside them as well. Rather than show how people are alike, it divides us into two (or debatably three) camps and warns us to choose wisely. There is truth to this story too—even if it is a truth told with sadness and begging for us to find a better way. Just like many others I might forever carry in my mind images of Piggy being hit by a rock, Ralph struggling to stay sane, and Simon taking the brunt of the madness—not to mention the first sign of the boots of the soldier. Its an incredible story and a captivating film. In my opinion it is the best and most poignant in the whole "shipwreck" genre—a genre that has an important place in our world because it rings so true to the situation we find ourselves in. See Chesterton’s Orthodoxy for more on that topic of course.


21. Gerry (2002)


Gerry is one part of a Gus Van Sant trilogy dealing with mortality and its simplicity and hopelessness are so desperately realistic I just couldn’t shake it. I think my wife and I just sat in silence for awhile when it was over. I didn’t know what to say then and I don’t know now. It may sound pretty dark, and it is, but the characters and the story are pretty funny and endearing as well. Who can forget the "dirt mattress"? I can’t talk about this one much or I’ll ruin the ending. I haven’t found the words to describe it anyway.


This batch of films from my list are all about stark reality I suppose. That’s fine. That’s the kind of list this is. These are the kinds of films that strike me. Part of why I gravitate to the tragic and realistic in film might be because I find myself bombarded with so much telling me that everyone’s fine and it is all going to be okay—messages simplifying life into dualistic polarities between black and white, the good guys and the bad guys—that I find it so refreshing to see the portrayal of life as it actually is. It centers me, I find, and releases me from the bliss of ignorance to at least be open to the honest joy that there still is in being alive and the vital hope we all have for something better to come. Somehow for me, as Sarah Harmer puts it so well, "the darkness rings."


Don’t worry, the next batch does have a comedy in it.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me (30-26)

30. Instinct (1999)
The five movies I’m about to reveal from the 32 Films I Take With Me may all seem unlikely choices for various reasons. This one is a forgotten picture which I think very few people saw, despite the presence of Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding, Jr, not to mention Donald Sutherland. But something about it really grabbed me. Granted, this story was a bit recycled. Another prison saga. But what I loved was the dialogue between Hopkins and Gooding which tackled such things as the concept of freedom and human dominion of the earth. I have often shown clips from this film in public presentations to drive home powerful points. So I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I do take this one with me.

29. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)


It would be pretentious to share this list and ignore comedies. How can I pretend they have not impacted me? I've seen this one hundreds of times with my family it seems, and it may be one of our greatest bonds actually. It gave us many inside jokes and provided much of the comedic lingo for the supper table and beyond. Furthermore, it managed what comedies normally don’t—it had a well-told and touching story. It was subtle rather than preachy, but it drove home that juxtaposition of the classes in a human way that I have always carried with me. Imagine if every homeless person got paired up with a high-flying executive for one crazy road trip. I’m not sure what would be better about that: the comedic value or what it might change about our society. Anyway, for me this film is legendary.

28. The Sound of Music (1965)

Another family classic. I’d be lying if I didn’t put this on my list. It was one of the first movies I remember being allowed to stay up late for, and usually around Christmas time, so the nostalgia is priceless. And it is a great film, no doubt about it. I think it introduced me early on to the concept of righteous civic disobedience, which likely prepared me somewhat for what some of my family would do when I was in grade 8. I must confess that growing up I would have denied loving this movie, but once I was a bit more secure in my "manhood", or whatever, I freely admitted it as one of my all time favs. I hate musicals, generally, but love every song in this one. Maybe it even gave me a love of music, I don’t know. The guys ended up singing one of the songs from this soundtrack at my wedding reception (as a joke). Made 10 years before I was born, the Sound of Music is a part of me in many ways.


27. Twelve Angry Men (1957 or 97)


I don’t know. This one has always had a soft spot in my heart. I love how they all want to convict the easy target and get home but one guy gets them to turn around and see the truth. This movie has sort of become the visual narrative in my head that expresses a maxim I try to live by: Choose to assume the best of people, rather than the worst. Sure, you end up looking naive and you get utterly disappointed fairly often, but it is better to be disappointed than perpetually judgmental and pessimistic. I love both versions of this film. The old one is probably the better one, but Jack Lemmon is awesome in the "Tony Danza" version. It has long been a secret dream of mine to be an actor in a stage performance of this story. Maybe when I'm 62.


26. Signs (2002)


This film has always been one of my favorites but wasn’t on my list until today. It was a last minute replacement of "Crash", which I’ve dropped from my list completely. I mean, I loved Crash at the time, but I wondered if it had the staying power to be in the 32. I watched Signs last night and realized that it does and is more deserving. It is an amazing film on so many levels. M Night is truly a genius. But that’s not why it is on my list. The thing that gets me is the Mel Gibson character, Graham Hess, who is totally angry at God. The dialogue he has with his brother midway through the film is priceless. One that maybe only pastors and priests would understand. And then when he yells at God and it proves to be the turning point in his faith—wow. So powerful. And then his brother, played by the wonderful Joaquin Phoenix, challenges him at the end in no uncertain terms to keep the faith—it is just so gripping. I can’t begin to say what that story-line alone means to me. And that is on top of the other amazing storylines in this movie. I should really have it in my top 10. Again, maybe when I'm 62.

Monday, July 16, 2007

32 Films I Take With Me

Like the oral history of ancient times and the story-times of recent history, the film has in our time become the carrier and the expression of human sentiment, thought, feeling and experience. Therefore I do not think I’m overstating it to say that movies have played a part in shaping who I am.

A couple years ago on my thirtieth birthday I sent an email of thanks to thirty people who had profoundly and positively influenced my life. I turn 32 in September, and this year, for what it’s worth, I am thanking movies. For the next few posts I will be counting down the list of 32 Films I Take With Me.

They are not necessarily my favourites, or my most recommended. Nor am I saying they are the 32 best, although they would all be up there, if you ask me. I’m just naming 32 movies that have stuck with and affected me the most. Some have raised questions, some offered answers that rung true, some have woken me up, some have brought me back to earth. And some have just plain made me laugh, cry, think, or feel more noticeably than others. In some way or other, each has connected with me deeply, and has rung around inside my heart and head ever since.

Feel free to quarrel with them, or share your impressions. There will be some omissions that might commonly appear on lists of my generation. Shawshank isn’t on here, though I liked it: I saw it after the hype and so it was sort of diluted for me. Braveheart isn’t on here, for the opposite reason: I saw it before the hype and then everyone loved it so much it just wasn’t mine anymore. Other runners up would include Misery, for rattling my bones; Meet Joe Black, for its abstractly wonderful story; White Squall, for stirring up an adventuresome spirit in me; Erin Brokovich, for stirring my heart for society’s underdogs; and Saving Private Ryan, for obvious reasons, as well as for being the movie I watched before proposing to my wife.

Feel free to mention some of your own, say so when you share the sentiment, or question my choices. In the next several posts, with all the pomp and circumstance that a twenty-reader blog can muster, I present 32 Films I Take With Me. Here are the first 2, just for starters:

32. The Truman Show (1998)

This was my first date with the woman who would become my wife. It also had everything I love in a movie. Original. Well done all around. Poignant. Philosophical and abstract and yet still a great story. It perfectly represents the dilemmas of our age. Who didn’t this movie stick with?


31. Alive (1993)


Powerful look at the resiliency of the human spirit that did not gloss over the diversity and foibles of it either. I was struck by the gritty reality of this story, which made the outcome that much more inspiring. Can something like a movie boost your love for diverse people and your resiliency to live? Of course it can. This one did for me, when I was 18.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Love

I recently read a couple wonderful little books that I highly recommend. One is a novel by Graham Greene called The Power and the Glory, and the other is an autobiogriaphy of St. Francis of Assisi by GK Chesterton. Both touched significantly on the theme of the value of each and every human being. Both book's characters are Catholic, and their conviction comes from a belief that each is made in the image of God.

In The Power and the Glory there is a remarkable scene where this priest, who is the last fugitive in a time of clerical purging, ends up in prison. He enters a dark prison cell full of numbers of people and untold sounds and smells. He couldn't see anything. But he got over his fear, and even his disgust, and even hearkened in himself a love for each fellow prisoner. He thought:

"When you visualized a man or woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity . . . that was a quality God’s image carried with it . . . when you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination "
Whereas this priest was a fictional character, Francis was the real deal. It has been said of him that "he listens to those to whom God himself will not listen." This is undoubtedly exaggerated legend, and slightly blasphemous perhaps, but it expressed how much he stood out for his love of not only each person, but each sparrow.
Chesterton said that "when he came across the mysterious outcast, traitor or coward or whatever else he was called, he simply treated him exactly like all the rest, neither with coldness nor compassion, but with the same unaffected gaiety and good fellowship. . . . I have said that St. Francis deliberately did not see the wood for the trees. It is even more true that he deliberately did not see the mob for the men. . . . He only saw the image of God multiplied but never monotonous"

There is a tale of St. Francis which depicts the beginning of his new life of ministry among the "lowly" of creation. He has just returned from the battlefield, where some had been outed as cowards, Francis not being one of them. It is not until he is back home on his own road that he meets his largest fear in the face, stops in his tracks, and must figure out what to do. GKC says:

"Francis Bernardone saw his fear coming up the road towards him; the fear that comes from within and not without; though it stood white and horrible in the sunlight. For once in the long rush of his life his soul must have stood still. Then he sprang from his horse, knowing nothing between stillness and swiftness, and rushed on the leper and threw his arms around him. It was the beginning of a long ministry among many lepers."

It seems like everywhere I look these days it is all about superheroes and saving the world; from Al Gore to Heroes to the Fantastic Four. That's all fine and spectacular, but I think we should remember who the real heroes are. They are those who love, and love like Christ.

It is that Christ-ian love that has been all but forgotten in this so-called Christian society because, as Chesterton says in Assisi, many have "lost the clue to all that lovers have meant by love; and will not understand that it was because the thing was not demanded that it was done.

Friday, July 06, 2007

An iPod Game

I don't generally make myself a slave to these crazy blog games but my friend over at can't find normal just verbally "tagged" me asking me to post the first 10 songs that show up on my iTunes shuffle, and since I'm on vacation right now it seemed an easy way to keep the blog active even when I have little to say that doesn't involve sunburn. So here I go, hope this isn't embarrassing:

10. Mr. Jones - Counting Crows
9. Octopus's Garden - The Beatles
8. Meaningless - Sixpence None the Richer
7. Estrella - Brave Saint Saturn
6. Moment of Forgiveness - Indigo Girls
5. The Ring - Sarah Harmer
4. Kamera - Wilco
3. The Phoenix - Sarah Harmer
2. My Heart - Neil Young & Crazy Horse
1. All Eyes On Me - Goo Goo Dolls

Well, that is a crazy list because I haven't listened to any of these in a long time. Two of them I haven't even listened to on iTunes yet. So to make up for that I'll also list the top 10 most played tracks on my iTunes:

10. I Can't Stand - Consider the Ravens (Jeff Coutts)
9. Denton, TX - Damien Jurado
8. Love for Granted - Phoenix
7. Wonderwall - Ryan Adams
6. A Ghost at the Window - Consider the Ravens (Jeff Coutts)
5. The Shadowlands - Ryan Adams
4. Consolation Prizes - Phoenix
3. Please Do Not Let Me Go - Ryan Adams
2. What Were the Chances - Damien Jurado
1. Barely Moving - Jeff Coutts

And so you can see what I've been into, at least since September when I got the iPod. Ryan Adams has been "climbing the charts" the last few months I must say.

Anyway, thanks for the tag, and for the hospitality over the holidays Mr. Normal. See his list here.