Archive for the ‘Movies’ Category

Grief is not a feeling

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“Grief’s not how you feel. Grief’s what you do. Grief is a skill. And the twin of grief, as a skill of life, is the skill of being able to praise, or love, life. Which means wherever you find one authentically done, the other is very close at hand. Grief, and the praise of life, side by side, the honored guests…and they’re toasting you. Grief…and the ability to love life…they’re clinking their glasses and toasting the living. So here’s to your health. Until the time comes we come to get you…live well!”

~ Stephen Jenkinson, Griefwalker

I came across this beautiful and moving quote  while recently watching Tim Wilson’s documentary film entitled Griefwalker, about Stephen Jenkinson, a Harvard-trained theologian and former program director of palliative care at a major Canadian hospital, who has made it his life’s mission, “to change the way that we die.” He says that, “The crucible of making human beings, is death.” That we haven’t fully lived until we’ve experienced and fully embraced death…including our own. I highly recommend taking the time to view the film…which you can see here.

It’s quite thought-provoking…that grief is really a gift. Perhaps the last gift that we receive from someone we love, and lose…but quite possibly the most precious gift that we’ll ever receive…if we’re open to it..if we become skillful at it, as Jenkinson suggests we must. It can enlarge our lives…if we pay close attention…not shrinking from it…but fully embracing it. Grief can teach us to live well.

Written by Jim

October 25, 2014 at 6:53 pm

You say tomato

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Passing by the kennel this morning, I noticed that ‘Mater’ is pet of the week. It got me wondering. Drawing upon the two years of Latin that I took while going to a Catholic high school many moons ago…I knew it meant Mother. But now that I consider myself a Southerner, I also know that it could possibly refer to a tomato…as in, ‘Mater sandwich…a staple of Southern cuisine. The third possibility is a character from the animated movie Cars named…Mater…who happens to be a He…that is…a male International Harvester tow-truck…

I just don’t know. I’ll have to ask next time I drop Belle off for a stay. I’ll also have to ask something I’ve been wondering a long time. Who the heck is Taylor?

Written by Jim

February 24, 2013 at 1:47 pm

Not yet the end

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Living is a form of not being sure, not knowing what next or how. The moment you know how, you begin to die a little.

~ Agnes De Mille

It was such a cool, beautiful morning, this last day of September, that I decided to take a walk along the Catawba river. I needed to clear my head.  If there’s one dominant thought in my mind these days…it’s what’s next? At times, it seems as if I’ve been left sitting on a bench at a bus stop…waiting for a bus that…I’m beginning to realize…is never going to arrive. It’s up to me to stand up…and start walking. But…in which direction?

Heading out, I stopped to pick up the mail. My mailbox is a mile down the gravel dirt road, where pavement announces the beginning of  the outside world. Apparently the Post Office will deliver up to this point…and no further. It’s not very convenient, but  I think I prefer it that way… makes me feel like an outlander of sorts. I was pleasantly surprised upon opening the mailbox that a book that I had recently ordered had arrived…Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change by Pema Chodron, from which the quote at the beginning of this post was taken, and upon which my eyes fell as I first opened it. I once recall reading somewhere else that…the only thing in life of which we can be certain…is uncertainty.

Coincidentally (or are forces conspiring without my knowledge?), yesterday I watched a movie called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel...which is about a group of older British expats who decide to spend their retirement years living in India. It was both funny…and extremely touching at times when dealing with the psychological aspects of aging…and change.  There was a quote from the movie that resonated so much with me that I wrote it down…

Can we be blamed for feeling we are too old to change? Too scared of disappointment to start it all again? We get up in the morning…we do our best…nothing else matters. But it’s also true that the person who risks nothing…does nothing…has nothing. All we know about the future is that it will be different. Perhaps what we fear is that it will be the same. So we must celebrate the changes because as someone once said, “Everything will be alright in the end…and if it’s not alright…then trust me…it’s not yet the end.”

American Beautyberry

Walking in the early morning light along the Catawba…water flowing over the rocks of  the rapids…gently, but insistently shushing me into silence. Every living thing seemed to be taking advantage of these last days before the cold weather sets in. The end of one season is here…the next is surely coming. It seems to be common knowledge among those who are truly present in the moment…making the most of what’s been given to them…now. Maybe it is time…to strike off in a new direction…to enter the new season that is presenting itself?

Happy endings

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After spending the week in Southern California…touching down late last night in Charlotte…today I have this floating, disembodied feeling as I move about. Here…but not here.  Physically here…but mentally in a different time…a different space. It usually takes a day or two to catch up…to get back into sync. But in the meantime, I’m enjoying the sensation. Sensory overload…the green of the trees…the rich, organic scent of the soil in the air.

I picked up Belle at the kennel this morning. I was wondering how she would do…first time by herself. But evidently, she did great. She always gets a lot of attention from the good ladies at the kennel…and I’m sure she enjoys that.  Even greeted me with a stylish new haircut…


Spent the rest of the day in a quiet, expansive mood…reading and listening to music.  I came across this moving clip from one of my favorite films, Gladiator (an interesting note is that Lisa Gerrard wrote the song, Now We Are Free,  in her own private language…called idioglossia in technical terms…a language she has developed since the age of twelve).

I love happy endings. It’s good to be home again…

Written by Jim

September 22, 2012 at 5:44 pm

Complete bliss

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Most days I can hear some sounds of civilization. The mechanized whirring of autos and trucks on the highway a mile away. An occasional airplane winging its way overhead. I imagine them to be like Stephen King’s Langoliers…off in the distance…incessantly and relentlessly nibbling away at the edges of my world. I wonder…how long before the present world overtakes my fortress of solitude.

But on some days, such as today…with the wind gently blowing from the right direction…it’s the complete, muffled silence of the desert…against which plays the chorus of cicadas, crickets, and frogs…and the liquid song of a scarlet Summer Tanager singing from the treetops. The sounds of Summer…pure and unadulterated. The world outside my world…fading away. Complete bliss…

Written by Jim

July 14, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Strange currents

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…flow through our lives. The people we meet through casual encounters…or what we think are casual encounters. Who are we really…where have we been…where are we going. This entwinement has always been on my mind…that we’re part of a fabric that is being woven…a tapestry of sorts…for what purpose…and with what end in mind? And the strangest part of it is…that  the grand view…what the beholder of this immense tapestry perceives…is, for the most part, unbeknownst to us…a mystery. We think we have a good idea of our past history…and where we’re going…but do we really?

I watched an interesting film this weekend called Anonymous. An imaginative revision of history…basically dealing with who William Shakespeare really was…or who he wasn’t. But the intricate web that it wove of English royalty, and the effect that mere words might have on the outcome of a civilization was thought-provoking…to say the least. It was a very beautiful film…evocative of the age…and I had to watch it several times before the story line became clear. The undercurrents of what was…and what might have been…sets the mind reeling about our own personal lives. How much of our understanding of our lives…and the people we’ve lived with, and interacted with on a daily basis…has any solid basis in reality? How much of it is mere playacting?  And…do we really have a grasp on the plot?

Even something mundane, such as looking down at my two Pomeranians…sleeping at my feet…takes on new meaning. Do I even have a glimmer of the forces of history that have enabled them to grace my life in such a simple manner? They probably have more royalty in their blood lines than I could ever hope for… being descended from working sled dogs of the Arctic regions, and being bred for royalty in Poland, Germany, and later in England.

How much more so…the people that come into our lives…however briefly. There’s a depth of being here that’s difficult to comprehend. But it needs to be taken seriously…lest we miss something…or someone…that might change our lives forever.

Written by Jim

February 11, 2012 at 2:51 pm

Angels unawares

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“Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.” (Hebrews 13:2)

Sunday morning is usually my favorite time of the week. I get to sleep in relatively late…until about six this morning…when the sun was actually on the rise. After taking the dogs out for their morning constitutional, I made some coffee, and then settled in for some reading before I had to get ready for church. I’m currently reading a book by Carl McColman, The Big Book of Christian Mysticism. McColman is a lay associate at the Cistercian Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Conyers, Georgia. I was reading a chapter where he stressed the importance of being  part of a local faith community, and actually getting involved with other people who are followers of Jesus. I said a little prayer afterwards, that I might be put into the path of someone who needed help or assistance today…maybe someone in the little congregation where I go to church on Sundays.

Later in the early afternoon, home from church, I had some lunch, and decided to watch a movie named “The Adjustment Bureau”. It’s about a group of mysterious individuals (or adjusters) who fine tune the daily fates of ordinary mortals as they go about living their lives according to a master plan of sorts that has been written by an overseer, who is enigmatically referred to as The Chairman. The movie is ultimately about free will…a gift that most of us sadly take for granted, and choose not to exercise to the best of our abilities during the course of our everyday lives here on earth.

Towards the end of the movie, the protagonist (played by Matt Damon), asks one of the adjusters about the identity of The Chairman. Harry the adjuster, matter-of-factly, states that everyone has met The Chairman, in the guise of a man or a woman,  at some point in their lives. They just may not have been aware of who they were encountering.

When I watched this scene…my jaw dropped slightly as I remembered my little prayer this morning before church, and a brief encounter I had after church at the Murphy Express gas station in town, where I stopped to fill up for the week ahead. As I was waiting for the pump to shut off, a young woman in jeans and t-shirt peered at me from around the pump and said sheepishly, ” We’re trying to get back to Myrtle Beach…would you possibly have any change that you can spare?”

I rarely carry cash these days, usually relying on my debit card…but I remembered that I had some coins in the car ashtray. I dumped the pile of coins into my hand…an assortment of quarters, dimes, nickels, and many pennies. I placed them into her outstretched hands. Her eyes lit up and she thanked me profusely…as if I was handing over gifts of gold, frankincense, and possibly a little myrrh. As I left the station, and drove down the road, I realized what had just happened. My prayer had been answered…although, in retrospect, I should have bought her a full tank of gas. Be careful what you pray for…and then…as I learned today…be sure to act accordingly when it comes through.

Written by Jim

June 26, 2011 at 4:26 pm