Have you thought about lately what you do with the treasures that others have buried inside you?
Quoting an often remembered parable “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”
My mother’s love language was acts of service. Without any conscious purpose I have spent the majority of my life pursuing the following professions, military, police, and education. All of which gave me opportunities to help, protect, and cultivate. Now I’m taking the time to consider what it means to be my mother’s son.
One of her defining traits was fostering. Her grandmother showed her what that meant while raising her from infancy. As a child my mother practiced it with her cousins. As an adult she continued it with coworkers, friends and acquaintances throughout her life.
I am humbled by the daily experience where I engage in the same fostering my mother once did. This manifests as a cherished memory now. One I welcome with warm embrace. Thankfully, I have powerfully available visual cues to remind me of how my mother’s spirit remains present in her absence.
It occurs to me that similar expressions will be born out in her other children, grandchildren, and those others whom she endowed with her loving legacy. There is a good sized list. My hope is that in the days ahead that we live without her, each of us still recognize how we operate as an extension of the seeds she planted within us.
What about you? Who do you think about? What do you remember? What do you see in your life that must have come from them? Will the idea of honoring the heritage they passed on to you bring you peace, comfort, or assurance? Will it bring healing and restoration? Will it help you bury your treasures in the right fields?
242 years ago, a group of men were forced to declare the independence of the lands they held. Three things they agreed were priorities were to protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They had to be willing to die.
Since then those lands have grown. And the people have increased to over 300 million. And the heirs of those men have had to share the priorities with women, and the families of freed slaves. And its been a fight. Sometimes more violent of a fight than the original revolution that began our nation. Sometimes a much longer fight. One that’s lasted generations.
On the eve of the anniversary of the declaration of independence, can you say what your priorities are? Are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness your main desires? If so, what would it look like for you?
To have a family, in whatever form we choose, in a home wherever we can afford to live safely, with the ability to educate ourselves to our maximum potential.
To have beneficial relationships with those around us, the ability and opportunity to accumulate wealth, to create community, to make positive change in our world, to be able to decide how and by whom we are governed.
The Pursuit of Happiness
To take part in an economy that allows us to spend quality time doing the things we like with and for one another.
Anniversaries are a chance to think about the past, present and future. Consider where we have been. Recognize where we are. Figure out how to get where we want to go. Can we talk about where we are in relationship to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Then work on where we should so next?
Can you talk about your priorities?
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.
Here’s the lesson. Stick the landing. I enjoyed Jurassic World from the beginning, the middle, and the end. We moviegoers know what we want, and we know what we like. Movie makers often appreciate that, meaning us. Infinity War didn’t deliver. If you doubt that just check any source of viewer responses.
I don’t care about the setup for your sequel. You can give an audience an enjoyable ending and still setup the sequel at the same time. Infinity War is a comic, so I guess it falls into the category of fantasy. And don’t assume I have anything against fantasy. Bilbo and Frodo are all that and a bag of chips. Jurassic World is science fiction. I think that matters.
By developing a taste for science fiction you are enabling yourself to contemplate important issues of the day. You can engage your curiosity. You can form ethical arguments. You begin to think and act in a way that determines your future, and you can do good things for someone following in your footsteps. Science fiction perpetually compares the now with the what if. It asks this question. What would happen if we had the ability to do such and such? History has taught us that the less prepared we are for advances in technology, the more bad decisions we suffer from. Remember DDT? Shouldn’t we commit the time to consider the harm of new abilities before we make ourselves too vulnerable? Science fiction has proven to be one of the most reliable tools we have to engage in the debate.
The science in Jurassic World is cloning. Genetically modified organisms, otherwise know as dinosaurs, are brought to life by combining original ‘dino’ DNA with other animals’ filling in the missing pieces. In a fairly frightening manner, the movie weighs the possible outcomes of producing genetically modified animals for profit. I’ll borrow from one of my favorite 70’s sci-fi TV shows, the Six Million Dollar Man, which introduced us to the idea of the bionically enhanced human, who’s famous line is “We have the technology. We can make you stronger, faster, better than before.” The antagonists in the film decide to do just that when they investigate the possibility of turning a dinosaur into a military weapon.
Today we are faced with a number of staggering challenges from the technology we now, or very soon will possess. What are the right answers for whether or not we should clone animals, or humans? Who should police the internet? What are the worst consequences for us of the dark web? Can there be rules and punishments for cyber warfare and cyber espionage? Where will unchecked gene research lead us? More good than harm? Will that depend on how careful we are? Who will decide? These are a few of the necessary questions. Turn to your favorite science fiction book or movie to consider the answers.
If you have never appreciated the science fiction genre before, there are many places to go for recommendations. I will offer some suggestions. Here is my Mount Rushmore of authors.
Suggested Science Fiction
Books by or films based on the writing of
Philip K. Dick
Let me give an honorable mention to Neal Stephenson, whose novel Seveneves promises to offer some of the best in science fiction movies to date. Read the book now before the first movie comes out.
I think this sports story is as much about modern American culture than it is about professional sports in general. Pro sports in the U.S. has a significant presence. Many do not pay attention to the major sports, including pro basketball. Those that do have a fanatical attachment. The National Basketball Association – NBA – best of 7 game series championship is underway. The Golden State – AKA Oakland, soon to be housed in San Francisco – Warriors (relocated from Philadelphia in a previous life), have three wins while their opponents, the Cleveland Cavaliers, have zero. The first team to win four games is the champ. On Friday this series may be over and Kevin Durant could be named the MVP of the winning team. If so he will retain his title as NBA finals MVP which he earned last season, his first as a Warrior.
Durant spent his first 9 years with the same franchise, the Oklahoma City Thunder (born Seattle SuperSonics). By collective bargaining agreement, Durant was free to sign with any team that could afford to pay him. He chose the team with the best regular season record which had just lost in the championship finals to the Cavaliers.
And he has been harshly and repeatedly criticized for going to the one team that gave him the best chance of winning.
9 years. Kevin Durant lead the league in scoring multiple seasons. Won the regular season MVP one year. Came close to winning the championship once out of those 9 years. Once. Yet the naysayers claim he should have gone to play for Boston or Washington D.C. or stayed in Oklahoma City since these teams were not as good nor did they have as much talent as the Warriors.
Here are the realities. LeBron James is the most talented AKA best player in the league, still in his prime. He left his first team, Cleveland, because he did not win a championship there in 7 years. He created a super team in Miami by joining with a former championship star player Dwayne Wade, and another free agent all-star player Chris Bosh. Four years later, after two championships and seeing the aging Miami roster not good enough to win the championship with him, James went back to Cleveland, but only because they had the best young superstar in the league, Kyrie Irving, and traded for the top rebounding forward in the league, Kevin Love.
Because of those decisions, James has been in the championship finals 8 years straight. There is no doubt that James and the Cavaliers would have won the championship last year and certainly had a better chance this year without the presence of Durant on the Warriors. So then, here is your argument. When the best player can’t win the championship organically, it is more acceptable for him to manufacture a team good enough to win because he’s the best player. But if someone else does the same thing, they should be criticized as being much worse.
History tells us that only once has the best player regularly been on the championship team. Remember Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls? They did it 6 times. That is the only time we’ve seen it.
LeBron James doesn’t need your help. If he wants to be on a better team than Golden State’s believe me he will find one this summer and leave Cleveland like HE DID LAST TIME.
Let’s point this fact out for the critics. You blame Durant for going to a team that just came from behind to win 4 games to 3 in the semifinals against a team that lost one of its best players to injury during the series. Yes. The Houston Rockets would have beaten the Warriors in the previous round of the playoffs had Chris Paul been able to play the last two games. They only needed to win one. For the sake of all the critics, I hope Durant wins at least two more championships in addition to this year. I hope you just burn with anger and frustration because Durant did what you would never have done. RIIIIGHT
How dare you criticize Durant for going to Golden State because he wants to win? He would have lost anywhere else. This, in a league where his own team left Seattle and took Durant with them to Oklahoma City, just for more money. The same league where another team left New Orleans to land in Charlotte, for more money. Wait. The Los Angles Clippers moved from San Diego, after moving from Buffalo, for more money. There is more. Much more. The Nets moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn. The Utah Jazz, in Salt Lake City moved from New Orleans too! No, jazz is not associated with Utah.
When Durant leaves one team for another he only leaves the fans of that team behind. They still have a team of players to root for. When those teams left town, the fans were left with nothing. Seattle, San Diego, Buffalo and northern New Jersey have no team to watch anymore. But you want to rant about Kevin Durant. Spare us your self righteousness judgment. Durant won’t miss it.
Can you remember your first motion picture? For me, I don’t so much remember the first one I ever saw, but the first one that I remember seeing. Alfie, starring Michael Caine and Shelley Winters. I imagine that I was younger than the age when most remember their first movie. Perhaps you really had no exposure to them so you waited until you were older.
If movie going was a family thing for you then as a kid you didn’t have a say, did you? One thing I attribute my love for films to is that early on I saw so many of those classics of the 1960s. We lived in Alaska when the entire television broadcast consisted of one black and white channel. As chance would have it, one of my father’s duties was to operate the projector for the theater at the local naval base. I tagged along and got to watch whatever motion picture he was shipped to screen. For a kid to have free run of an empty auditorium is a special kind of adventure. Arriving early, I’d wander around indulging my fantasies unsupervised, while dad maneuvered the heavy metal film canisters, removed the massive cellulose reels, and threaded rolls of it through the machinery with surgical precision. Of course, one of my responsibilities was to police the seemingly razor sharp edged empties.
My impressions were memorable. Michael Caine could command a scene like few others, the charisma that has powered one of the most prolific careers in the industry was easy to see back then. The movies from 1966 were memorable for me and I treasure their artistry with a special place for the magic that I – among many – credit to them. NevadaSmith has that status. There is no better film for showing the talent that Steve McQueen possessed. His hero epitomized the essence of the revenge plot. The story portrays racial conflicts from an individual perspective, allowing the viewer to appreciate the reasons why how we treat each other matters.
My favorite western from that year is not The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, because it doesn’t capture the America of my imagination, in spite of Clint Eastwood’s machismo. The Rare Breed and James Stewart do. Depth of feeling is one way to judge a film, as a standard to assess quality. I did cry watching it. And I cried watching Born Free. More than once. But I laughed too. Though not while watching Born Free, watching TheGhost and Mr. Chicken. The masters of the art know it is more the facial expression, the body control, in concert with lines spoken, that capture funny. Don Knotts, his comic genius on full display, may not have garnered the full recognition warranted for his performances. Watch it yourself, and dare to disagree with me.
One last thing. In case you were wondering, one of my first movie memories WAS seeing Bambi on the big screen.
Let’s look beyond the message of Star Trek and see where it finds us. First I’ll argue that this is an entertaining blockbuster with mediocre aspirations as a science fiction standard bearer. Will you enjoy it as time and money well spent? Yes. Will you think twice about it as you leave the theater? No. If you accept the premise of mediocrity then ask me, why need we look further?
My answer takes the form of a postulated question. Did you hear the message that mankind is its own worst enemy?
SPOILER ALERT GALORE
ICYMI: Idris Elba aka Krall embodies the role of the villain as a human, albeit one who’s enhanced far beyond mortal man. You might say he’s kind of a cross between Frankenstein’s monster and scifi Dracula. My complements to the script makers. There’s nothing like mining the best, most often copied material for another bite at the apple, or the neck, or the box office. With the dollars at stake (2013’s Into Darkness more than $450 million in revenue- Beyond budget ~$185 million) would you risk original work when you can trot out tried and true formula?
And when our esteemed thespian, see Beasts of No Nation, asks as to his motivation, director Justin Lin’s reply; why you’re a disgruntled employee! Talk about going postal. And Krall delivers the mail with a rare combination. Can you say spider and bee fetish? His base of operations is a planet surrounded by nebula where spaceships maroon while their crews become entangled in a web-like comatose state which he uses to extract from them what he needs. The product here is not honey but hate. His forces, however, do swarm like no hive you’d ever want to stumble across. The Federation is nonplussed to wield any technology that can withstand Krall’s weaponry.
Here I suggest is where the message digs it’s foundation. When we lift the lid on his coffin we discover Krall was heretofore our model citizen, warrior, officer and gentleman. What happened was that the Federation took the highly trained and experienced combat veteran and gave him a civilian job, having ended all wars and the need for his old ways. It has been thirteen years since numbered American soldiers have faced a two front war; one in Iraq and another in the minds of those afflicted with PTSD and other related issues. Whether or not American combat veterans have experienced being more prone to violence once returned home, the message on screen was clear. Captain Edison struggled with the loss of his military identity. He faced a consequence of being rewarded for his sacrifice and bravery with being lost in space. He was left behind. Forgotten. Edison was ultimately left for dead with little or no sign that his employers cared about either him, his subordinates, or his service. As time passed his mental state deteriorated, eventually creating the fertile soil from which Krall emerged.
The direct line conclusion from the path laid out by Beyond is that societies bare the risks associated with placing soldiers in harms way. The results could reveal themselves long after the damage has been done.
I, or shall I say the filmmakers, offer you more messages than these.
The story’s overall theme that is revisited throughout hammers home one mantra. Families and friends who commit to unite will strive together and reach their potential to overcome whatever obstacles arise.
The danger that often occurs is when we forget this belief and sabotage it through self destructive decisions. Chris Pine’s Kirk does just that when the unending, unconquerable, infinite space defeats his sense of adventure, his desire to be challenged, and his dream of achievement. The subject of his failure: purpose. Zachary Quinto’s Spock takes a different route to reach the same end. Grief, perhaps the strongest manifestation of what causes us to question ourselves, to the point we completely derail, is this half human’s Achilles heel as well. He chooses to abandon his celestial family to serve what he thinks is his ethnic responsibility to the fatherland, or what’s left of it.
The biggest reason why 13 films and 37 years of the Star Trek saga resonate with moviegoers is the bond that built the original Gene Roddenberry TV creation. Beyond is on target with this piece and Karl Urban’s McCoy delivers the glue gun. The series explored not outer space so much as it did the relationship between Kirk, Spock, and McCoy. Their journey through the ups and downs of complex and conflicted emotions had more to do with their survival than any technological techniques they mastered.
McCoy reminds Spock why they mean so much to each other and why it matters. When they bring that message back to Kirk, he takes his exercise of trust, inspiration, and leadership to another level seeing Uhura, Scott, Sulu and Chekov prove once again that their place is on the Enterprise and his home is with them.
This is the best part of the science fiction Beyond offers. There is nothing new here. That is the basis for my grade of C. Star Trek gets a pass from me because it is a production that keeps the genre alive though it falls short of advancing it. I hail science fiction because I see it as the best genre for bringing together the moral and ethical dilemmas within the human condition as they intersect with apocalyptic aspects of advanced technology. The more we role play these hypothetical scenarios the more time we will have to consider them before we have to deal with them in our reality. Are we ready to face global warming?
So I salute Star Trek Beyond. Beyond’s success bridges the gap between great science fiction movies of the past…Blade Runner, 12 Monkeys, The Matrix…and the next great scifi story which will take a rightful place in cinematic history. As for the Star Trek franchise I offer only these words: Live long and prosper.
Both sides of my family migrated to Detroit in the first half of the 20th Century. Both of my parents were born there. It is the place where our history, our culture, our collective memory, the proof of our existence to the physical world emanates from. Some have left, many have died. Others have remained to witness the horror, the transformation of a great community.
There are newcomers, such as Liana, who’s home is here because of Write A House. Here is her blog about her experience in Detroit.
I now do most of my writing from an upstairs room that overlooks most of my street. The room is stark, with freshly painted white walls (Thanks Write A House crew), a wooden desk and an aluminum folding chair. I’ve kept it bare to minimize distraction and maximize output. I am easily distracted. I lose focus. I am not one of those writers who can write comfortably anywhere, at any time. To get a place of pure, magical focus and creativity, I have to expend so much energy. But even a minimally decorated, quiet room has not stopped my mind from wandering elsewhere.
It’s been 8 years since the epic Detective Comics based mega motion picture exploded into neighborhoods across this great land. Hardly seems like it. Yet the damage wrought by the creative carnage has spread like a malignant tumor into the very fabric of the American ethos. Spread to the degree that our political system sits precariously now, perched over a terminally ill cliff, with a diagnosis of death by self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Let me explain. When popular culture crowns a product with a tiara of success, it generally conveys some level of artistic achievement that transcends genre. Our addictive obsession with film and the cult of stardom which parasitically attaches to it pay homage to the idea that is espoused with the cliché ‘life imitates art’. So when $1 billion is earned in box office revenue alone, not to mention DVD/Blu-Ray and merchandising, consider that more clue than hint. When the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences changes its award eligibility criteria, take that as more coronation than concession. Multitudes of fanboys attending multiple theater viewings aside, both dinner debates in the homes of moguls and agent provocateurs, along with power lunches turned hushed lecture sessions in see and be seen west side eateries, speak to the level of penetration Filmmaker Christopher Nolan’s experiment had into the collective consciousness of Americana.
Hyperbole! You say. Allow me to add wax. What we have here is not a failure to communicate. Our society has done nothing less than exemplify a failure to educate, to motivate, to compete, to shake loose the bourgeois trappings of prosperity a priori obesity, to care enough about each other, our children and ourselves. And, for lack of a better phrase, to thrive. As a result our institutions begin to topple. Schools, private industry, the Congress, the White House, and SCOTUS, all frayed at the edges. Forget about apple pie. What happened to the foundation of our democrapitalism, organized labor? Ask a millennial to define pension. Don’t panic when you get a description of Orange is the New Black. Symptoms. Gotham City, USA has never looked so bad. There isn’t anyone left that matters apparently, who can compare current events with the 1930s or the 1860s. Are the recent 60s and 70s now thought of as the good old days? Great revisionist history, Batman!
Back to the Caped Crusader, as you were. Consider Bruce Wayne, with power nonpareil – as masked and armed – and financed the same. Does that bring to mind President Barack Obama? Then compare how our public is led to scorn the vigilante when he dares use his assets to do battle for the home team. Why, some want him prosecuted! Our hero. Don’t they realize his intentions are to act in the best interests of those he would protect? Metaphorically going halfway across the globe to rein in Wall Street villains in the persona of mob bagman Lau, he is thwarted by bosses Gambol, Sal Maroni, and the Chechen, when they take a contract out on him with The Joker himself, who we’ll call ISIS for arguments sake. Gambol aka public education, Maroni aka an intransigent Congress, and the Chechen aka the exodus of middle class wage careers, conspire against him to attack his Achilles heel, foreign policy.
While his attention is diverted by an old flame Rachel Dawes, none other than Hillary Clinton, he’s hit with one sucker punch after another; Benghazi, Libya, Syria, Egypt, Israel, the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty negotiations with Iran. But who can blame him? Rachel has a new rival for her attention, Harvey, the real Donald J. Trump, Dent. He is the savior. The man with a plan. So easy, so easy, so easy, let me tell you. So quick, so quick, so quick. The Great White Hope, riding in on his white horse, is a stark contrast to our Black Knight. AND light minded PEOPLE BELIEVE HIM. Why he’s the legitimate offspring of E. F. Hutton and the most interesting man in the world.
But he’s not alone. Championing his cause as the true blue representative of the people is Coleman Reese, who follows the Joker’s lead and attempts to expose Batman for the fraud he is, not addressing the fact that we never learn anything about our Joker other than what he cares to share in his fable-like musings. Stunt doubles for Reese include the Sean Hannity lead Fox News Network, backed by the understudies Limbaugh and Coulter et al.
Smack in the middle of this standoff is The RNC or Gotham PD, helmed by Commissioner Gordon – Reince Priebus. Forced to carry the torch for Dent, Gordon, surrounded by corruption within the ranks, falls on his sword to save the convention ceremony and takes a bullet for the cause. Laid up, he is helpless to prevent Dent from revealing his two-faced nature long hidden beneath the surface. A latent xenophobic tendency which The Joker exposes with every hospital bombing and nightclub massacre. Yet Gordon’s fate is sealed when he makes a deal with the devil to perpetuate a lie so that the public is convinced of Dent’s integrity. Dent can’t be a fraud. Everyone knows the Batman is to blame. Don’t they?
In the end the Joker is defeated, and declared the loser. Or is he? At what cost to society was this victory purchased? Has the interim damage opened such a crack in the foundation that constructors will be forced to start over with new blueprints? Check back in November for the next episode titled: Doctor Strange. Pray to God that this time art imitates life.
‘looking to Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…’ Hebrews 12:2
Here are some tips that you can choose to apply to your writing. Decide for yourself.
Write so that your product will provide consumers with joy. Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Write what is in your heart. Don’t write what you think people will like or to please other people. Follow your heart when you write and be true to who you are and what you want to say. Luke 6:45 A good man produces good out of the good storeroom of his heart. An evil man produces evil out of the evil storeroom, for his mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart.
Believe in your vision for what you want to write. The Apostle John was directed in writing the book of Revelation to “Therefore write what you have seen, what is, and what will take place after this.” Revelation 1:19
Learn the art of writing. Practice the discipline of writing. Proverbs 23:12 Apply yourself to discipline and listen to words of knowledge.
To communicate a message understand what you are saying. Be sincere, have a clear conscience, and seek to find the purist form in your words. Avoid abstract, vague, confusing language. The Apostle Paul uses this advice when sharing with Timothy how he should stay true to the message they are supposed to be teaching. 1 Timothy 1:5-7 Now the goal of our instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. 6 Some have deviated from these and turned aside to fruitless discussion. 7 They want to be teachers of the law, although they don’t understand what they are saying or what they are insisting on.
Think of your writing as a sacrificial gift to others, and expect to be paid what it is worth. Acts 20:35 includes part of the Apostle Paul’s direction to the church elders in Ephesus. In it he states “In every way I’ve shown you that by laboring like this, it is necessary to help the weak and to keep in mind the words of the Lord Jesus, for He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”. Likewise when Paul wrote to the churches in Galatia he advised them similarly “For each person will have to carry his own load. 6 The one who is taught the message must share all his good things with the teacher. 7 Don’t be deceived: God is not mocked. For whatever a man sows he will also reap,” Galatians 6:5-7a.
Apply careful investigation to what you write. The Gospel attributed to Luke begins with this explanation: “Many have undertaken to compile a narrative about the events that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as the original eyewitnesses and servants of the word handed them down to us. 3 It also seemed good to me, since I have carefully investigated everything from the very first, to write to you in an orderly sequence, most honorable Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things about which you have been instructed.” Luke 1:1-4
Have a clear and specific purpose for everything you write. Joshua 18:4 Provide for yourselves three men from each tribe that I may send them, and that they may arise and walk through the land and write a description of it according to their inheritance; then they shall return to me.
Write when you find yourself most challenged. Write when it seems like it’s the last thing you should do. When in doubt, write. No matter what excuse you have not to write, write anyway. Here in John 8:6 is an example of what Jesus did: “They were saying this, testing Him, so that they might have grounds for accusing Him. But Jesus stooped down and with His finger wrote on the ground.”
Write for a higher standard. 1 Corinthians 4:3-5 “It is of little importance to me that I should be evaluated by you or by any human court. In fact, I don’t even evaluate myself. 4 For I am not conscious of anything against myself, but I am not justified by this. The One who evaluates me is the Lord.”