Friday, October 15, 2010


Probably one of my favorite scenes in all of modern film is in the Coen brothers movie No Country For Old Men. If you have seen the Oscar-winning flick, you know it has enough action and suspense to require a mild Xanax prescription with its viewing. The scene I am thinking of, however, is not impressive in terms of action, camera work or special effects but, as is often the case with the Coens, strictly in terms of dialogue.

Two Texas sheriffs, separated by hundreds of miles and united by a violent crime, sit down for coffee before one of the sheriffs (Tommy Lee Jones) takes the long drive home. As they process the crime, its twisted and horrific chain of effects, neither of them can make sense of where this world is heading or what all this violence is "leading to?" Aside from the serious discussion about the existence of evil and the trajectory of history, the scene is really funny! I hear my grandfather talking when the other sheriff complains about how 20 years ago people didn't have "green hair and bones in their nose" and that "the dismal tide" is turning. The entire scene lasts only a couple of minutes but it betrays a great deal about evil, humanity, time and the question, "Are things getting better or worse?"

When I first saw No Country I felt an arrogant sense of pity for the two sheriffs. How could they not see that humanity has always had the potential for evil? Don't they see that the world is just changing? Surely their own grandfathers probably had identical discussions in their latter days? Now that I am a little older and have probably allowed myself to be more shocked by human violence and tragedy, I can understand the characters' bewilderment.

I am in the process of finishing a book about the Bosnian-Serbian war. More than several times I have had to put it down because the stories of torture, rape, murder and ethnic cleansing are flat-out nauseating. Whats more, the author continually makes the appalling observation that all of this happened in Europe, in the same century that Nazis tried to exterminate the Jews! Has nothing changed? We were told to never forget Auschwitz, Birkenau and Dachau so how could humanity's memory not last into the early '90s?

If I am completely honest, it's hard for me to look at history and say things are getting better. Even though each generation of arm-chair philosophers posits the downfall of man in their own time, I find it nearly irresistible to avoid the same conclusions. I do wonder, though, if human suffering and violence is simply more amplified now because of our interconnectedness? After all, in one ten-minute session online I can read about dozens of bankruptcies, betrayals, murders, lies and infidelities. To a far-less-serious extent, and oftentimes more annoying, I can also hear the cries of thousands of friends who complain about everything from Democrats to Babies-R-Us on Facebook. "It's the dismal tide."

So, is history really plummeting to its dreadful conclusion or can we now just see more of what we once could not? I'm not sure if I can answer my own question. It's impossible for me to ignore the amazing amount of good being accomplished in the midst of our planet's constant turmoil. I will say that I don't want to sit in a corner with duct tape, bottled water and a taser that's primed to fend off apocalyptic cannibals. The potential for fear and fear mongering is unceasing. I would rather find ways I can change so my own world and the one around me will get better. Jesus, in fact, calls for that same sense of responsibility in the gospels.

To the often gloomy Pharisees, so concerned with how the dregs of society were polluting their towns and cities, Jesus spoke his harshest words of personal accountability. "Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness...Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it" (Luke 11:39, 41). The point Jesus makes is what singer/songwriter Jon Foreman observes: "A mirror is harder to hold." Jesus understands that in order for the world to change, we must stop regarding wickedness as something we see in the outside world and start recognizing it in ourselves.

So, I suppose I am in the process of recognizing myself as painfully human. Maybe the whole world is going to pot, but I am not responsible for the whole world. My prayer is for the recognition of and responsibility for violence, greed and emptiness in my own heart. When I understand that I can't fix myself and that I need outside help, I am less prone to fix everyone else's problems before seeking help for my own. I find that I am much more helpful to people with problems when I look in the mirror and see one of "those people."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

I'm back...

Well the last time I wrote I was in the US. After several months of trying to get my feet on the ground and figuring out why in the world I am in Hungary (still haven't figured that one out just yet), I am back in the blogosphere.

So much has been happening in my life and in my heart that I just cannot put it all into words right now. I plan on blogging about daily life at our website but also writing about more personal things--insights, cultural commentary, the gospel--right here. Thank you for your patience and for following this blog, with all of its abrupt pauses and so on.

Here is a video a friend of mine posted on his FB page. It's something to get the ball rolling again on this blog. John Mark McMillan is probably my favorite songwriter right now and this video reveals his great, big bleeding heart. The video gives the background for one of his most popular songs and lets you peek inside of his inspiration for writing music:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Bundle up for nuclear winter!

Question: How do you make French models look even more malnourished and sad than they already do?

Answer: Put them in the setting of the Apocalypse!

For those of you who saw any number of the apocalyptic films that have been released in the past five years (I Am Legend, 2012, The Book of Eli, or The Road) and wondered, "Why can't I rock the trench coat like Denzel?" Or, "Will I ever look as good as a nearly-disintegrated Viggo Mortensen?" Now you can! American designer Rick Owens displayed his latest, darkest creation in Paris this week: Apocalypse-wear. Personally, I think Rick should take a line from Jay-Z's fashion creation (Rocawear) and call his work "Apocawear!" See pics below:

It seems the apocalyptic craze has finally reached the most important form of culture (also read here for my post on movies, the apocalypse, and why it's a hot topic).

Bundle up for nuclear winter, because it's about to get frigid with a 90% chance of sexy!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Up and eternal life

I know it's a bit late, but I finally had the chance to see Up tonight. Lately I have been doing my best to play "catch up" with some of 2009's best movies. Since Up is on just about everyone's top ten list, I finally pulled the trigger and watched the film "On Demand."

Up is essentially about life. A young boy (Carl) dreams of adventure and meets a daring young playmate (Ellie) who ends up giving him a lifetime of thrills. Before you can say "Walt Disney" three times fast, a well-aged Carl loses his life-long playmate to an unnamed illness. Death, as it does in real life, surprises and even angers most Up viewers. I had several people warn me about the "adult" themes in the film and my own step-mom yelled, "Terrible!" when Ellie died not 15 minutes into the movie. But hey, that is life.

The rest of the movie is spent following Carl as he seeks to make good on what he believes to be Ellie's last wishes. The couple's childhood dream had been to travel to Paradise Falls in South America. Carl devises a plan to take the house he and Ellie lived in and fly it across the equator. An annoying Junior Wilderness Explorer (the equivalent of a boy scout) named Russell tags along with a crotchety Carl and the adventure begins.

I will go ahead and fast forward a bit on the plot so I can relay some correlations I saw to the gospel. Carl, Russell, and a dog friend have to battle off an embittered antagonist to protect a wild bird they cross paths with. Carl sacrifices his coveted dream to fight against evil and protect the bird, saving the day with the help of his friends. Hooray! Good guys win and bad guys lose (always a good formula for a movie).

Even though Up seems to basically engender adventure, it also speaks to life eternal. What this movie teaches us about life is that it should be lived. Instead of hiding inside of our secure fortresses with curtains closed and doors locked, we should cut loose our burdens and fly! Through out this flick, what's really killing Carl is that he is letting death win. He keeps all of Ellie's old things, preserves his house in anachronistic order, and fights to keep things the way they were. All the while life marches on and he stays behind with death. One of the most telling scenes in this movie is when the camera angle zooms out and Carl is dragging his helium-held house behind him like a ball and chain. The burden is clearly too much to bear.

When Carl realizes that he has the opportunity to live, not for himself or even for Ellie, his burden is transformed into a vehicle of adventure. For most of the movie Carl is entirely self-centered. Life and death revolve around him and he is simply too selfish to engage the world. When all seems to be lost and all of his control is finally futile, he receives second life. Carl steps up at just the right time, dies to himself, and becomes the hero of the film.

Every hero learns something on the path to glory. For Carl, the lesson is about life-to-the-fullest (life eternal). Life is greater than death; life continues on, long after death is but a faint thunderstorm passing beyond the horizon. Adventure, laughter, and love are all a part of life. However, you must live in order to find said experiences. Carl learns there is life beyond death and the viewers of Up get a taste of the gospel. The resurrection of a life once-considered dead is inspiring enough to give me hope on this second day of the new year.