To The Wonder: A Beautiful Meditation On Life, Love, And The Wonder Of Existence?


tothewonder

Yesterday, I found myself watching Terence Malik‘s latest film: To The Wonder.  Terence Malik is not a conventional director, he is a philosopher in the disguise of a film director.  To The Wonder is not a film, it shows up for me as philosophical meditation on life, on love, on God, and on existence itself.  It just so happens that this meditation is communicated through film.

If you find that that which I speak finds a listening in you then I recommend that you make the time  to ‘read’ To The Wonder. And as for any philosophical reading it is necessary to do so when one either creates for finds oneself in the right mood and with the right listening – a listening that allows the speaking to show up as meaningful.

What more is there to say on To The Wonder?  Allow me to share with you snippets of the sayings (on To The Wonder) that speak to me and shed some light.

Every one of us, no matter how damaged or abnormal or shut down, we’re all looking for love. Every person needs love in this world, but our views on what love is vary enormously. Which is the joy and the problem.”

Olga Kurylenko (one of the main characters in the film)

“Why must a film explain everything? Why must every motivation be spelled out? Aren’t many films fundamentally the same film, with only the specifics changed? Aren’t many of them telling the same story? Seeking perfection, we see what our dreams and hopes might look like. We realize they come as a gift through no power of our own, and if we lose them, isn’t that almost worse than never having had them in the first place?”

Roger Ebert (film critic, deceased)

“On a deeper level, the film is Malick’s meditation on the Christian vision of loveand the obstacles that we perversely place in the way of satisfying our irrepressible longing for it. Anyone who’s fallen in love is familiar with the feeling: The world appears transfigured. In the first words of the film, Marina describes it as being “newborn,” called “out of the shadows……..

Ultimately, for Malick, the experience of falling in love grants us a glimpse of the divine — of a “Love that loves us”…… But love is not only rapture. In Malick’s Christian view, it also calls on us to sacrifice, to give ourselves over fully to the one we love…… Father Quintana says it is: “Love is not only a feeling. Love is a duty. You shall love… You feel your love has died? It is perhaps waiting to be transformed into something higher.” 

Father Quintana achieves a spiritual epiphany during a sequence toward the end of the movie that is unlike any I have ever encountered in film……As the priest comforts a succession of suffering people — the old, the anguished, the crippled, the sick, and the dying — he recites a devotion of St. Patrick: “Christ be with me. Christ before me. Christ behind me. Christ in me. Christ beneath me. Christ above me. Christ on my right. Christ on my left. Christ in the heart.”

Humanity was made for God. And he is present all around us — in the transfiguring, wondrous joy of romantic love, in self-giving sacrifice, in our suffering and the suffering of others, in the charity we offer to those in pain, in the resplendent beauty of the natural world — if only we open our eyes to see him. That, it seems, is Terrence Malick’s scandalous message.”

Damon Linker (senior correspondent at theweek.com)

Sin revisited


Christian doctrine of ‘original sin

If I have understood the concept of ‘original sin’ then it arises as a result of the ‘ fall of man’ whereby Adam disobeyed God.  As such every human being is born sinful – being sinful is the original condition of human beings.  Put differently, ‘badness’ is our nature and we have to strive to be good.  Who can redeem us from this state of ‘original sin’? God – if and only if he chooses to do so.

The Kite Runner: Baba’s view of sin

Some years ago when I was reading the  Kite Runner.  In this novel a conversation takes place between the principal character and Baba (his father.   This is what Baba says about sin:

“There is only one sin, only one. And that is theft. Every other sin is a variation of theft… When you kill a man, you steal a life. You steal his wife’s right to a husband, rob his children of a father. When you tell a lie, you steal someone’s right to the truth. When you cheat, you steal the right to fairness.”

A powerful way of looking at sin

If we are going to create and live from/into stories then how about generating a story that leaves me being powerful in my living?  I say that we are born ‘whole-complete-perfect’ – we are thrown into this world with all that we need to play fully, our part, in the drama called ‘Life’.  Thrown into this world we are neither ‘good’ nor ‘bad’.  We simply are.

Yet somwhere along the the line each of us does commit ‘sin’:

I sin when I say that I am not ‘whole-complete-perfect‘.  I put myself down in any number of ways: I am not enough, I am weak, I am powerless, I am helpless, I don’t count, I don’t matter…….

I sin when I fail to take responsibility for what is so – that includes my life, my community, my tribe, my nation, the state of the world.  Chaos theory shows that a miniscule change can influence dramatic changes in the world.  And history shows that everything starts with one wo/man – a man that takes a stand and operates from that stand.  Think Jesus, Mohammed, Stalin, Hitler, Luther, Alexander the Great, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, Florence Nightingale, Marie Curie……..

I sin when I fail to recognise that any moment I can reinvent my life simply by inventing and living from/into possibilities that leave me moved-touched-inspired-uplifted.  To be human is to be granted with imagination – the capacity to envisage a life other than one I am living now, I world other than what is so today – and the capacity to act on the world, to live that possibility and bring it to fruition.  The happiness research shows that it is not arriving at the destination that generates happiness.  No, happiness is a byproduct of being on the right journey.

I sin when I hold myself to separate from my fellow human beings, from all other living beings and the earth itself.  When I hold myself as being separate I close to my eyes to the fact that in the drama called ‘Life’ everything, everyone, all of life is interdependent.  Each and everyone is in relationship.  Look deeply into this and it is obvious that I have never been independent – I, you, we would not be alive today if it was not for the air, the water, the plants, the animals, our fellow human beings……..

I sin when I steal and like Baba says I steal in so many ways.  I sin when I withhold my compassion, my love for to be human is to be social – to search for and need compassion and love from my fellow man.  I sin when I treat living beings as merely objects – objects/resources to be used/abused for my benefit.  I sin when I criticise, I condemn, I belittle, I diminish the humanity of the other.  And the other includes all sentient beings e.g. the great apes, elephants, dolphins…..

What is the ‘good’ news?

I do not have to wait for God or for any other entity for any kind of redemption.  Right now and at any moment I can give up my ‘sinful way of being/living’.:

  • I can live from the context of being ‘whole-complete-perfect’.
  • I can choose to be responsible/accountable for my life, for the state of the world.
  • I can invent and live from/into possibilities that leave me ‘moved-touched-inspired-uplifted-joyous’.
  • I can recognise that the nature of existence is relationship – to be alive is to be in relationship – and I can act accordingly.  I can ask myself “How would I like to be treated if I was born cat, dog, monkey, elephant…..?”  And I can show the care that I expect others to show for me.

To Walk With Lions: why did we cry?


My youngest loves animals.  A year or so back I read Jane Goodall’s book ‘My Life With Chimpanzees‘ and she loved it.  At the end of the book my daughter made a choice – she chose to stop eating meat.  Why?  She was deeply touched by the story Jane shared and the fact that Jane went from being a meat eater to a vegetarian.   A few weeks back I came across a move on Sky that I thought she would like (because it is a story of people and animals) and I recorded it.

Yesterday, the two of us sat down and watched ‘To Walk With Lions‘ a film that can be described as “Set in Kenya in the late 1980s, British backpacker Tony Fitzjohn is fired from his safari driving stint and lands a job assisting the aging George Adamson at his wildlife reserve. After a shaky start with the lions, Tony soon develops a rapport with the animals and also a strong bond with George who continues to battle the government and poachers to protect the magnificent creatures that mean so much to him.”

Both of us were captivated by the movie: George Adamson’s love of the lions and his absolute commitment to his cause, his stance, the Possibility that had fired him through his life; Terrance (George’s brother) and his love of /devotion to the elephants; and Tony Fitzjohn and his transformation from a lost soul into one fired by his love of George Adamson and the Possibility that George is living into and living from – the right for lions to be exist, to live, to live free in the wild.

At the end of the movie my daughter and I were both crying.  She was crying at the slaughter of the animals (rhinos and elephants for their tusks) and the killing of George Adamson (an 83 year old man) and his associates by the local populations.   She could not make sense of why man does what he does.  Why man cannot let the animals live freely?  Why man kills fellow man just because that fellow man loves animals and insists that they be allowed to exist freely rather than being hunted to extinction or put into prisons called zoos.  And she could not understand how anyone would kill an 83 year old man.

For my part I cried deeply for a very different reason.  George Adamson lived as a ‘God’ and if you do not like that word then lets use ‘ GIANT’.  Each of his days was full of absolute commitment to an unshakeable stand (coming from Possibility that was lived from).  And from that context George lived fully, completely, deeply.  George’s life was simply a vehicle to serve a purpose that touched, moved and inspired him so profoundly that the ordinary pettiness of life (vanity, status, money, power…..) had no place in his life.  And it was this that infected Tony Fitzjohn so deeply that he became George Adamson in the sense of being a ‘GIANT’.  Within and from that context I got that for the bulk of my living has been wasted.  I cried for myself and all the moments, days, years that have been wasted.  Oh to have lived one day as George Adamson did?

And I get that I am still alive and I can invent and live into any Possibility that calls me and causes me to live as a ‘GIANT’.  Yes, I can do that, you can do that, we can do that.  And now that I get that, really get that, I am smiling on the inside and the outside.  Are you?

The Possibility that I am ‘re-inventing’ for myself and my life is that of ‘Playing BIG’: of inspiring myself and my fellow human beings to live an extraordinary life, to be of service (to our fellow human beings, to animals, to plants, to the earth, to the universe itself) and to contribute to a ‘world that works’ for all – no-one excluded.  That moves, touches and inspires me.  What Possibility touches, moves and inspires you?  What Possibility lifts your heart, gives you wings and in the process you find you have transcended your life and current circumstances?

Finally, leadership is simply OWNING your life, your living, what is so, COMPLETELY!  George Adamson was a leader.  Tony Fitzjohn became a leader simply be being around George Adamson.  Enough for now.

I love you, I thank you for listening to what I say.