Beyond Belief: Rocky Is the Way

<sarcasm on>
Hey Pastor!

Rocky VIHaving a bit of trouble coming up with Sunday’s sermon? Is your congregation tired of those humdrum “Love your neighbor” messages that just make them feel guilty? Are they fed up with this “turn the other cheek” crap when there are countries to bomb and people to kill? Want to give them a Christmas message that won’t put them to sleep in that “Boring Town of Bethlehem” with the same old prayers for peace on earth?

Why not give them what they really want for Christmas: self-esteem! That’s right. More than Jesus, even more than fruitcake, they want to believe in themselves. At RockyResources.com, we know how to help you care for your flock’s real needs. Visit RockyResources.com for a message from our Sly guy on how vague “faith” and generic “values” moved him to make the sixth inspired epistle of St. Rocky Balboa to the Ticketbuyers.

But that’s not all! Check out our “Faith-based” Leader’s Guide. Our handy “five-round” plan can spare you from having to listen to the Spirit for a full five weeks! And if anyone needs a break from God, it’s you, right? Senior pastors, be sure to try Idea 1 in Round 4:

During your sermon, show a film clip from a Rocky movie that demonstrates the values of teamwork, and the futility of going it alone.

(After all, we know where that got Jesus, right?) And youth pastors, you can’t go wrong with Round 3, Idea 2:

Plan a TKO: The Kraziest Outreach. Get all five Rocky movies and do a Rocky-thon at the church—maybe on New Years’ Eve! Finish at the theater with Rocky Balboa! Stay awake!

If your youth don’t believe in hell now, they sure will after twelve consecutive hours in the ring with Rocky!

And just in case you have any doubts about our motives, or letting the Italian Stallion guide your flock for the next few weeks, just remember these two things: There’s no better way to celebrate the Lord’s birth than by spending money, and … Rocky isn’t gay!

<sarcasm off>
In all fairness, this movie is getting fairly good reviews. And as most of you know, I love to find spiritual parallels in movies… it’s the very reason I write reviews, and Rocky probably does have some excellent spiritual lessons. But something about the crassness of selling Rocky as spiritual resource on a par with the teachings of Jesus was more than I could take.

Listen to the NPR report on how Motive Media sucessfully converted some pastors (some very well-known) to sell this rocky “gospel” according to Sly.

Drew Goodmanson at least wasn’t one of them.
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Blogjam vs. Block

Everyone’s familiar with “writer’s block,” the point where a writer working on a specific project either can’t start or can’t finish. (The movie Stranger Than Fiction not only gives a great portrayal of the problem, but some wonderful spiritual analogies and philosophical questions as well.)

Bloggers—at least those of us who share our lives and insights rather than links to news releases and such, have a different problem: it’s not a block, but a logjam. Blogjam. There’s not a scarcity of stuff to write about, but everything touches on the theme of your blog, and choosing what part of everything to present is the challenge.

Here’s an example of the challenge as I’m experiencing it:

  • I came back from a mini-vacation to spend Thanksgiving with my parents, whom I hadn’t seen in a couple of years. Blog material there? Not really.
  • I’m still processing the ongoing ideas that Mark and his sensei have been sharing this month at Eternal Awareness. Blog material there? You betcha. But I’ve little to add because Mark says it all so well.
  • I watched West Side Story last night for the first time in ages. It made me cry as it always does. I thought about just putting up a post asking you to share what movies make you cry. Seemed kind of flimsy, though, like my last real post this month on studying Spanish!
  • And then there’s just this thought that’s been in my head today. It’s from an observation that Fr. Matthew Fox made in The Coming of the Cosmic Christ. that the Greek god Chronos ate his children, but Christ gave himself to his children to eat. I’d thought I’d give some nice, deep, philosophical observation on the destructive and constructive principles, time vs. eternity, or some similar bullshit. But I’d feel that it’s bullshit, so I wouldn’t. Except that I just did. Oh, well.

So that’s my blogjam. In fact, I’ve got four drafts ready to go on different subjects that I thought I’d use when I didn’t know what else to post, but none of them feel appropriate to the day either.

So take your pick, comment on whatever you like–blogjams, movies that make you cry, metaphysical principles, what’s going on in your lives.

PW II

I’m so sorry that I haven’t had much time for blogging and reading blogs this week. We’ve had a major project going on at work . . . I’ve been putting in 11-hour days for a week, and it’s not over yet. However, this weekend I did get the chance to relax a little. No time for loneliness this week.

I saw Peaceful Warrior for the third time. Iit’s been years since I loved a movie so much that I paid full admission to see it three times! And I actually began writing my long-promised review of it, but a power-surge knocked off my computer and destroy my unsaved work. (I know, I should know better.)

Part of me wondered why this superb film seems relegated to occasional arthouse screenings. Then I realized that PW‘s higher level of meaning is inaccessible to people who aren’t ready it yet. Hence, most critics and non-seekers see Peaceful Warrior as a familiar sports movie of the well-worn “dramatic comeback” type, sprinkled liberally with vague New-Agey platitudes.

The mind acts as a kind of a filter, almost as a safety valve in some ways, that keeps itself from grasping any truth before it is ready. In a teacher-disciple relationship, it kinds of goes like this:

Teacher: You are not the body. The world is an illusion. God is all there is.
Student: Yeah, cool.

Teacher: You are not the body. The world is an illusion. God is all there is.
Student: Whatever.

Teacher: You are not the body. The world is an illusion. God is all there is.
Student: Got it.

Teacher: You are not the body. The world is an illusion. God is all there is.
Student: Holy Sh*t! GOD IS ALL THERE IS!

Peaceful Warrior portrays the learning process beautifully.

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Peaceful Warrior

Peaceful Warrior posterI just got out of the Naro’s showing of Peaceful Warrior, based on Dan Millman’s novel, Way of the Peaceful Warrior. It’s simply *perfect.* Finally, a film with overt teaching on the path, that succeeds on all levels and by any standards. I’ll write a full review this weekend.

In the meantime, let me say, SEE THIS MOVIE! Bring your friends. Bring your enemies. Just don’t miss this.

The Holy Grail: still missing the point

Holygrail.jpgI’m writing my reflection on The Da Vinci Code. As I write, what strikes me most is that Brown’s interpretation of the Grail comes so close in some ways, yet still misses the point completely!

The Grail legend is a wonderful confluence of symbols which have been (mis)understood in an amazing variety of ways… rich treasure, holy relic, magic power, historical artifact (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade), sacred bloodline (The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail), sacred person (The Da Vinci Code). And yet they all miss the point!

Any mystical symbol must be understood mystically; and then it becomes obvious:

What is the object of the Holy Quest?
What vessel conveys the “blood of Christ”?
What is hidden where only “the worthy” can find it?
What is the most sublime goal to attain?
What is the ultimate power you can access?

The answer, in a word, is you.

Not the “you” you think you arenot the “you” that has an age, gender, race, and loves and hates. Its the “you” you really are. Your true nature, your source, your ultimate potential. All mystical traditions have their own names for this: Atman (the one Self within all beings), Buddha-nature, Christ-nature, Nirvana, Emptiness, the Tao, the Kingdom of Heaven, the imago Dei (the image of God), the Holy Grail.

I once heard a priest relate a Hindu parable: Because the gods feared man’s power, they decided to hide his divinity from him. One suggested hiding it in the heavens, but the others responded that man would build spaceships and find it there. Another suggested hiding it in the ocean’s depth’s but the others said that men would build submarines and discover it there. Another suggested hiding it deep in the earth, and that too, was voted down, due to the power of the human mind. Finally, a god said, let’s hide it where they’ll never find itdeep within their hearts.

A more familiar version of this story is the Tower of Babel: God feared that man’s genius would enable him to storm heaven, since he was “of one mind.” To prevent this, the Lord said “let us (plurality again!) go down and confuse their speech.” And so, our divided mind, full of unending, confused chatter, enshrouds itself around the pure simplicity of our actual being, keeping us from seeing it or even suspecting it.

Another close parallel is attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Thomas.

Jesus said:
If those who guide you say, Look,
the Kingdom is in the sky,
then the birds are closer than you.
If they say: Look,
it is in the sea,
then the fish already know it.
The Kingdom is inside you, and it is outside you.
When you know yourself, then you will be known,
and you will know that you are the child of the Living Father;
but if you do not know yourself,
you will live in vain
and you will be vanity.

Our consciousness is the consciousness of God in flesh.
Our bodies are the body of Christ
Our blood is the blood of Christ.
Our love is the Eucharist.
Our realization is the Holy Grail.

This is the quest. This is the desire of ages. This is the Holy Grail.

The highest of all things desired is to become God.

The center of the soul is God.

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Duma

duma.jpgI saw two good movies last weekend. One was Duma, a coming-of-age story about Xan, a white farm boy in South Africa during the apartheid era, who must let go of his nearly-full-grown pet cheetah, Duma. He runs away from home to try to return Duma to the area he came from, and ends up crossing hundreds of miles of the wild on foot, including part of the perilous Okavango Delta. In addition, he needs to teach a very tame cheetah who loves to play with other animals, how to hunt. Xan, who was home-schooled and sheltered, must also learn to trust Ripkoen, a mysterious black wanderer, in order to survive. As unlikely as it seems, it’s based on a true story.

This is the kind of movie people used to go to the movies for! It’s directed by Carroll Blanchard of The Black Stallionand Fly Away Home fame. If you get the chance to see it, do it. You won’t be disappointed.

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Naked in Ashes

nakedinashes posterAnother good film shown at the Naro last weekend was Naked in Ashes, Paula Fouce’s documentary on the sadhus (holy men) of India, and their extreme aesceticism. The documentary focuses on three small groups of yogis (each with two or three practitioners) and follows them for several weeks.

As I suspect many are, I’ve generally found extreme aecesticism, especially of the Eastern kind, very off-putting. I can understand St. Francis and his love of having nothing but God, but wasn’t able to make the same connection to these ash-covered guys in India.

Naked in Ashes sheds some much-needed light on the sadhus. Some are true bodhisattvas, dedicating their austerities to taking away the sins of the world. One guru said, “The world is suffering. That is my problem. I take on myself the sins of all, and wash them away in Mother Ganges.” I came to realize the answer why these holy men live in caves with nothing is not that far from why Jesus went to the Cross. The spirit of all-consuming Love is behind it.

Yet some cautions are necessary with Fouce’s film. She consistently refers to these practices as “yoga” and the ascetics as “yogis.” It would be more accurate to call them sadhus, as there are many kinds of yoga, most of which do not involve austerity at all. Also, Fouce concentrates almost exclusively upon male yogis which is odd considering she is a woman, and that there are large numbers of female yoginis and holy women.

Still, it was an educational experience, greatly enhanced by an marvelous, enthusiastic discussion afterwards.

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End of the Spear

End of the Spear picEnd of the Spear isn’t a masterpiece on a par with The Mission, but in spite of its low budget and naive manner, it is a very moving story of the power of love to conquer fear, hatred, and violence.

It’s based on the true story of the missionaries who made first contact with the Waodani people of Ecuador, at a time in which they were so involved in revenge killings they were in danger of annihilating themselves off the map. Soon after their initial contact, all five of the missionary men were slaughtered by the Waodani. Yet two years later (in the movie it looks like a few weeks later), Dayumae, a Waodani girl who had lived with the missionaries’ families, returns to the tribe, and brings with her some of the wives of the men who were killed.

Dayumae presents the Gospel in the most simple and profound words:

Oenagongi had a Son: Even though he was speared, he did not spear back.

I love this gospel! I would like so much to hear it proclaimed in America! (In fact, Mincayani, the leader of this Waodani band, eventually came to America with Steven Saint (the son of the missionary he killed) telling how their tribe renounced violence. Are we listening?

I found the “path of the spear” timeline on the official site to be almost as good as the movie itself (and more informative). (Note also the link to Beyond the Gates of Splendor, a documentary of this story which has received better reviews from critics.) Another excellent stop is the Wikipedia article on the Huarani/Waodani people.

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Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.

If you haven’t done so already, please check out the excellent post by Akilesh at Graceful Presence. It’s a long one, but well worth the time it takes to read. Aki makes some excellent points on the importance of owning the shadow for living in the Light.

Also, I wanted to let everyone know that the first-contact “mini-site” is now complete and has an introduction exploring common themes in first-contact stories, followed by reviews of Surface, Invasion, Threshold, and War of the Worlds.