December 27, 2012

" see the face of God."

On Christmas day, after a very relaxing morning opening presents and having a bit of brunch, we trekked to the local theater to see Les MisĂ©rables, a film we've been waiting to see since the first announcements it was in production. We've seen the musical performed on stage twice and the soundtrack has been a family favorite for many years. Victor Hugo's classic tale set in early 19th Century France follows Jean Valjean along his tortured road to redemption and the various people with whom he comes into contact - he shaped by them and they fundamentally transformed by him. It is a story of compassion, injustice, hope, despair, duty, mercy, cruelty, grace and profound love. 

The movie now in theaters features some additional songs when compared with the long-running musical that has moved audiences for nearly thirty years but they fit the tone and mood of the beloved musical seamlessly. The last chorus of the Finale (Do You Hear the People Sing (Reprise)) has also been changed to give it a more explicit message of final-victory-in-faith and I think it works very, very well.

Anne Hathaway plays Fantine and gives the most heart wrenching, anguished performance I think I've ever seen on stage or screen. Hugh Jackman's transformation from embittered ex-con to devoted father and protector to forgiven soul is simply remarkable.

I am deeply moved every time I listen to the songs and dwell on the message they convey and this time was as impactful as ever. And just like every other time I've heard them I couldn't help but swell with emotion as Valjean and Fantine sing the greatest line I've ever heard in song -- "To love another person is to see the face of God!"

Merry Christmas, my friends. I hope the coming year is full of blessings for you regardless the many challenges facing us. Perhaps they are best seen as opportunities to extend love, mercy and forgiveness to those around us as we are loved and have been forgiven by our Great Lord and Savior! Amen!

December 20, 2012

"Hobbits, Orcs, and the Human Condition"

We are certainly immersed in dark days even as I know other people in other times and places have experienced darker. What really frustrates me is our seeming inability to recognize the dangers of the decisions we, as a people and as a government, are making and the policies and consequent paths we are accepting - policies and paths that history and our own knowledge of human behavior shows are ultimately destructive. Why can't we pull back? Individual aspects of the various values, principles, and related policies so much in vogue today are by themselves seemingly desirable but the reality is that collectively they promote conditions that are inevitably destructive over time...e.g. normalizing negative behaviors, eliminating the stigma from once socially undesirable things, creating “victim mentalities” that absolve people of the natural and/or logical consequences of their own decisions. Our approach today leverages 'good' things - a charitable Christian spirit, care of/for the dispossessed, 'equality' and 'fairness' for all, etc., - but toward ultimately harmful conclusions. Christian charity for the poor is good; incentivizing a multi-generation welfare class in our society isn’t. Of course, having the proper discussion on such issues takes more time and attention than most people seem to be willing to devote. 

For all the problems we have gathering about us and the lack of political will in our society and certainly in our governmental structures to change our course, there is still much good we can each do in our daily activities and even greater good that warrants whatever time and attention we can give it. It all reminds me of something that great Middle Earth philosopher Samwise Gamgee once said: 
    "Frodo: I can't do this, Sam. 
   "Sam: I know. It's all wrong. By rights we shouldn't even be here. But we are. It's like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn't want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it's only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn't. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something. 
    "Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam? 
    Sam: That there's some good in this world, Mr. Frodo... and it's worth fighting for."

My little musing here was spurred by a dear friend who shared the following article with me, a superb item that warrants the slow, intentional and thoughtful reading it takes to absorb the author’s message. I hope you have the time and interest to invest! 

By Glenn Fairman, December 18, 2012

It was with a burdened and weary heart that I made my way to the IMAX theater to catch the premiere of Peter Jackson's rendition of J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Hobbit." The stormy night had blackened my already dour mood, having arisen that morning to another of man's inconceivably brutal horrors that had taken place at an elementary school thousands of miles away. 

But upon seeing the face of my lovely daughter, the "almost pharmacist" and her devoted fiancée, both of whom had invited me to this 3-D showing of a classic book that has a special place in my life, I put aside that volume of human tragedy in anticipation of a literary master's fantasy world.

Transitions and New Routines

I've been away from this blog for far too long. Regardless the actual readership I have enjoyed putting together these postings and have missed the opportunity to do so these past few weeks. I've been immersed in getting our family moved from the Midwest to the East Coast and undertaking some new projects, all of which has consumed time and attention. As we get settled into a new routine, I'm fairly certain I'll be able to devote the time I'd like to this project in particular. I am loath to post things just to post things but I know a blog needs more than a little 'freshness' to maintain interest. Hopefully I'll get better at more regular updates!