There are reasons why I’m not a movie critic but the “The Spectacular Now,” based on the novel by Tim Tharp, really surprised me. The main characters, Sutter (Miles Teller) and Aimee (Shailene Woodley) will gain all of your affection in 95 minutes. Well written, well delivered. Their relationship through their senior year will take you back to that moment in life when you had your entire future ahead of you. Robert Ebert wrote one his last reviews about this film and gave it four out of four stars. It deserves all four.
I believe these words from Micheal Pollan hit the mark.
“Nowadays only a small handful of cooking’s technologies seem within the reach of our competence. This represents not only a loss of knowledge, but a loss of a kind of power, too. And it’s entirely possible that, within another generation, cooking a meal from scratch will seem as exotic and ambitious- as ‘extreme’- as most of us today regard brewing beer or baking a loaf of bread or putting up a crock of sauerkraut.
When that happens- when we no longer have any direct personal knowledge of how these wonder creations are made- food will have become completely abstracted from its various contexts: from the labor of human hands, from the natural world of plants and animals, from imagination and culture and community. Indeed, food is already well on its way into that ether of abstraction, toward becoming mere fuel or pure image. So how might we begin to bring it back to earth?”
We shouldn’t be surprised that President Obama’s administration essentially spied on the Associate Press. Prior to the 2008 election journalist James Risen of the New York Times reported on the powers that awaited Bush’s successor. It didn’t really matter who succeeded Bush. The power is too tempting. Dick Cheney was right when he said in 2008 that Obama would be grateful for the expanded authority:
“I believe very deeply, in a strong executive, and I think that’s essential in this day and age. And I think the Obama administration is not likely to cede that authority back to the Congress. I think they’ll find that given a challenge they face, they’ll need all the authority they can muster.” (Dick Cheney in the Huffington Post)
Obama wasn’t the first to use this power and he won’t be the last.
The Earth has completed another revolution around the Sun as it has for over 4 billion years. It is another reminder of how insignificant we are in the context of time. We’re simply not as important as we think we are.
So, may this next trip around our Sun be filled with more joy, gratitude, and respect toward the planet and ALL of its inhabitants (including the people we find hard to like and love).
May our resolutions be filled with meaningful and purposeful goals that benefit the good of all. May our speech, including our Tweets and Facebook status updates, be gracious, showing restraint in regards to unmitigated scrutiny, judgment, and contempt. May we cease to be peddlers of fear and instead become voices of hope.
May we, as it has been said by others, be tough on the problems facing us all and a lot easier on each other. Our appearance on this stage, as Shakespeare once called it, is brief and, unlike very few, may be without fame or celebrity status. But as we live and breath on the brink of 2013 we get to take another spin on this planet and a chance to make a positive and productive contribution. So, let’s try this again, only with less rage and hate, and a lot more peace and love.
Happy New Year!
Having shared our bread,
we know that we
no longer hungry. It is enough
that you see me for myself.
That I see you for yourself.
That we bless what we see
and do not borrow, do not use
one another. This is how we know
we are no longer hungry . . .that
the world is full of terror, fully of beauty
and yet we are not afraid to find solace.
To be bread for each other. To love.
Plenty, by Gunilla Norris
Somni 451 is a major character in David Mitchell’s novel, Cloud Altas, now a major motion picture. Somni is a fabricant, genomed to be a servant. She lives a futuristic world in which purebloods, or “real” people, are required to spend a certain amount of their income to consume and keep the economy flowing. Given our consumer driven economy this isn’t a far fetched reality. So, I post, once again, this little reminder from Advent Conspiracythat Christmas is so much more than spending money on gifts. Whether you are religious or not I think it’s worth re-imagining the possibilities of the holiday season.
The Christian liturgical year ended appropriately with Matthew 25. In this passage known as the “Judgment of the Nations” Jesus declares the criteria for separating the sheep from the goats. Curiously (or not), they have nothing to do with whom one marries, the music one listens to, the company one keeps, or the dogma one subscribes to. Instead, they have everything to do with how we (collectively) treat the homeless, the hungry, the imprisoned, the sick, the thirsty, and the stranger.
For Christians these words are timely as the Advent and Christmas seasons begin November 27. These are challenging times for the Christian community. I would submit that the words of Matthew 25 gain relevance when the church (collectively) moves to distinguish itself from the consumer orgy that commences the day after Thanksgiving, culturally known as “Black Friday.” This doesn’t mean gift giving must cease.
There is great joy in the act of selecting, giving, and receiving of gifts. Even so, it impossible to deny that the hijacking of Christmas by the consumer mentality has cheapened the gift in the manger. We have purchased unwanted gifts, re-gifted, swapped gifts cards, and, in many cases, increased our debt in the name of what? It certainly isn’t in the name of the Gospel, Christmas, or Christianity. We are called to be something different.
Thankfully, hope has emerged in recent history through alternative gift giving. Fair trade gifts can be purchased through organizations like Ten Thousand Villages or local, fair trade, gift shops like From the Ends of the Earth in Dallas, Texas. I have found the folks at Advent Conspiracy to be particularly inspirational. Committed to building clean water wells, Advent Conspiracy has challenged Christians to view Advent and Christmas as a time to embrace their call to be justice oriented people (their video posted below).
The “holiday season” as it is celebrated in our culture through gift buying, parties and beautiful decor throughout cities everywhere is a wonderful time to celebrate the relationships in our lives. And there’s nothing that says a Christian shouldn’t participate. Yes, engage in the joy of gift exchange. Just don’t buy so many! The Advent/Christmas cycle reminds us that the gift in the manager calls us to a different kind of life. A life that is simpler. A life that celebrates generosity over consumption. A life that engages in acts of justice, love, and compassion.
So, find a local church offering an “Alternative Gift Market.” Host a “Wine to Water” party and help fund a clean water well. Buy a beehive from Heifer International to increase the pollination of the crops in an impoverished village.
Whatever you choose make it a Christmas that embraces the call of the Christ-child to engage this world justly, compassionately and mercifully.
Have a joyful and meaningful season!
“Answer of a Starving Child to the question ‘Who is Jesus Christ?'”
To this question, the Ghanaian child answers, “Oh! Jesus. I have heard of that name. You say he is the Life of the world. Life! But I am hungry. I am lifeless. There is no milk in my mother’s breasts. She is sick and weak. They tell me that some people called ‘Red Cross’ are sending or have sent some powdered milk. But I am hungry. I am dying. You say Jesus is the Life of the World? But I am dying. Can Jesus help to keep me alive?” ~From Desmond Tutu’s “An African Prayer Book”
The famine in Africa is a global problem. A global responsibility. There are many ways to give. Here are two of my favorites. Click on the logo to learn and give.