Saturday, July 28, 2007

Carpe Diem - Thoughts on Dead Poets Society

I recently watched Dead Poets Society for the first time. I loved this movie, and it touches on some of the issues I've recently thought or blogged about, including manhood, our education system and stepping out, and it made me think about a poem my friend Eric recently posted.

I think our education system has a tendency toward lecturing and regurgitating, without enough dialogue and learning to think on our own. Often teachers teach what the curriculum says and expect students to respond with what the textbook says. There are exceptions, but the norm is conformity. And so often we as a people have a tendency to conform, to trivially accept what we hear and do what everyone else is doing.

The teacher, Keating, challenges his students to be free thinkers and non-conformists. His first lesson is "carpe diem" (sieze the day), and talks about how most of their predecessors believed they were "destined for great things" (sound familiar?) but they waited too long. Keating also quoted Thoreau, "Most men lead lives of quiet desperation," then stated, "Don't be resigned to that. Break out!"

I want to break out! ...not lead a life of quiet desperation.

But, life is a balance. On the one hand, so many people do what they're "supposed to" or what everyone else does or what they need to survive but never live out their dreams. Some may have let their dreams die or lost hope in them, but we need dreams. Dream big, trust God and take steps toward that dream (baby steps are often the best way to start).

On the other hand, there is so much sin because people let their desires control them. I do not want to live my life always waiting and never experiencing my dreams. But I also want to follow, obey and trust God. I believe He wants us to be truly alive to the desires He's placed inside us (sometimes that means waiting and sometimes stepping out), yet not to succomb to sin. And often living our dreams means sacrifice and hard work.

We can't just do what we want and disobey God, parents, the law or our bank accounts and not expect consequences. Neil's situation in the movie was very difficult, but he could have avoided tragedy by waiting rather than overtly disobeying his father. And sin and tragedy happen so often due to a lack of wisdom. But, too often I feel like I and others are leading lives of "quiet desperation." Waiting, waiting, waiting and missing opportunities. There have been moments, but I want more. I do not want to live a life of complacency. I want to be passionate for God and life, to step out, do great things, and live my dreams.

I love my friend, Eric's recent poem, Dare Me to Move. There are a couple parts which I really love:

Awaken my dreams
Oh, Lover of souls
Let love haunt in the night
Let passion set sail
And purpose steer true
If failure it be,
Then failing I'll try.

Let me not idly stand by;

Let me not idly stand by.

PS I could go on with how these thoughts relate to needing to trust in God, finding our fulfillment in His presence and the patient faith of Abraham, but I'll save that for another blog.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Thoughts on Blood Diamond

I just watched Blood Diamond for the first time last night. It's an intense and moving film. The senseless violence funded by diamonds is horrible. The rebel soldiers (RUF) attacked multiple villages. Why? Maybe just to capture a few slaves, maybe to inspire fear and eliminate some opposition, but I'm not totally sure. But, even the government soldiers did not hesitate to shoot civilians who got between them and the RUF in one battle.

The movie definitely hits on the issue of boys becoming men, which I discussed in a recent blog. After the rebels kidnap some boys, they quickly indoctrinate them into becoming violent child soldiers, an obvious case of boys becoming men too quickly. In this case, Solomon was helpless to save his son until he found him again. Yet, in America, teenage sex, underage drunkenness, drugs and gangs are a huge issue which needs addressing. Children grow up too soon on their own while parents often either avoid the issue or try to keep their kids as children for too long. It is not a simple issue, and I'm not a parent so I don't propose to have the answers, except that we need God.

One thing the RUF commander said was true, that youth are the future. Yet, that's just like the devil who mixes lies with truth to make everything sound true. But, youth are the future. The question is, will they serve God like David and Timothy in their youth, or will we allow the devil to capture their hearts?

How do we help Africa? Do we just send some money? Buying diamonds from conflict zones sends money to Africa, but obviously it doesn't help the situation. Legislation like banning the import and sale of blood diamonds can help, some. Giving to charities can help, and I'm thankful for all the recent awareness about Africa, but charity won't solve all their problems. We need to pray and some people need to go there. Some of the greatest revivals have taken place on the continent of Africa, yet why is it still plagued by so much conflict, corruption, starvation and HIV/AIDS? I don't know, other than that humans are far from perfect and this world needs God in a major way.

I wish I were more motivated to do something, but sometimes I feel paralyzed by all the problems in the world and in my own life. There is no way one person can solve all the world's problems (other than Jesus), but we can still pray, give and go where God leads. And sometimes it takes time. My friends at Global Support Mission, who recently went on a mission trip to Uganda, say that action starts with awareness (which this movie brings), which leads to sympathy and finally compassion (=action).

I am thankful for our God who is able to bring healing to a land, like He did for Israel several times: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land." (2 Chronicles 7:14, NIV)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Why are stories so powerful?

I just watched Bridge to Terabithia again last night (twice). It's a powerfully moving story, and even if it is a kid's story, it touched something deep in my heart. It made me long for something, it made me cry. And it inspired me to pray.

I identify with Jesse in a lot of ways, especially when I was his age. Feeling outcast and longing to belong, facing bullies, being hounded about chores by my dad, wanting to express my creativity and needing others to help me get past my shyness. I had a best friend and a girlfriend. But then my girlfriend dumped me and my best friend found other friends who I didn't get along with. It wasn't death, but it was still a hard loss.

I long for my walk with Jesus to be like Jesse and Leslie in the story. The wonder, the joy, the fulfillment, the freedom of expression, the fellowship and being accepted by one who truly knows me. To walk in creativity using the gifts God's given me. To believe and see the great things He says. So that's what I prayed about last night, and I just rested in His presence.

I hope my wife someday will also be something like Leslie was to Jesse. Not replacing God, but accepting and inspiring and encouraging and having someone to fight for.

Back to the power of stories: Jesus used stories to preach, and in my own experience a testimony is more powerful than a tract. Stories like Narnia, Lord of the Rings, Braveheart and others touch people deeply. I would love to be able to tell stories that touch and inspire, heal and bring hope, and perhaps gently open people's hearts to God, like Narnia.

It would be cool to write stories, and who knows if that might happen. But even if I never write a book, I would love to create games that tell stories, like Final Fantasy. I love stories, and God has given me a love and gift for technology, and games are such a popular medium today. So my dream job would be to tell stories through video games.

Stories can penetrate our hearts without our minds messing it all up. That's why they're so powerful, like few other things - such as music. They can bring hope, inspire love and bring healing. I love a good story. And I would love to somehow be involved in telling good stories.