Sunday, December 23, 2007

A New Look at an Old Movie

Patrick Deneen has a really interesting take on It's a Wonderful Life over at What I Saw in America. He argues that George Bailey really hated the town that ultimately saved him and that his actions of building a new suburb for low income families also worked to undermine the community that came to his rescue. It is a very interesting critique of one of my favourite Christmas movies and fits my views of the suburbs (sorry Jane!).

Turner and Communitas

Victor Turner wrote extensively about the way in which pilgrimage meant stepping out of regular structures producing a sense of communitas between pilgrims. Communitas is a kind of egalitarian community that occurs when the normal ways of relating including authority structures etc are suspended.

We experienced a little communitas this morning at Ascension when we arrived to discovered the batteries in the thermostat were dead and the furnace in the church hadn't been on for some time. It was icy cold so we moved the service into the hall. The whole feeling of the service changed with people sitting around the tables in a rather oddly shaped circle. People spoke back in the service and everyone seemed in great spirits as we moved books and brought in candles and improvised an altar. What fun!

Great Movie

I just got home from seeing August Rush and it was wonderful. It is a fairy tale - you have to accept that or it will just seem schlocky. It is the fairy tale of a boy separated from his parents at birth who has a gift that will reunite them despite many obstacles. And the music is great.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bad and Good Movies

Superbad is just that, super bad. It got great reviews, 'it has heart,' 'it is crude but funny.' Well I watched 15 mins and never got to funny, just crude and decided life is too short and turned it off. The Simpsons movie on the other hand is funny...Spiderpig, spiderpig does what ever a spider can...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Oh my goodness

This is what has happened in the last hour!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Golden Compass

I went and saw The Golden Compass a couple of nights ago with a friend. As an escapist movie at the end of a very busy few weeks it was fun. There's all sorts of controversy around the movie and the novel it is based on because the author Pullman is an atheist and the bad guys in his novels are 'the Church', renamed 'the magisterium' in the movie.

I think that it is unfortunately that one Roman Catholic school board has responded to the books by banning them and in doing so have acted exactly as Pullman expects. For the most part I suspect that most readers won't realize that Pullman has a (anti)theological point of view. I have a friend who has taught The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe for years and only recently realized that the novel is a Christian allegory.

So I don't think Christians should boycott the movie - see it and talk about it. But pay close attention to what is said about freedom. The underlying message is that freedom is more important than anything else and freedom for Pullman means freedom from any authority, constraint or tradition. At several points in the movie the words, 'freedom's just another word for nothing left to lose...' ran through my mind. It is questionable whether such freedom is possible never mind desirable.

At the same time, the suggestion that our souls walk beside us as daemons in animal form was really appealing to me...especially as Robbie struggles with another bout of congestive heart failure.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sleep deprivation

The last few weeks have been crazy busy with work and even one or two social engagements for the Christmas season so I haven't been getting much sleep. Add to that, Robbie has a throat infection happening again and has woken me up some nights coughing.

So last night, after a very busy weekend with the pageant and two baptisms and book study I went to bed at 8:00 pm. Since I normally go to bed around 1:00 am this was a big deal. Unfortunately Robbie didn't get with the programme and he woke me up at 9:30 to go out, 11:30 for a treat and water, and 5:00 am to cough. Sigh. It was a long sleep over all but in individual pieces it was actually just a bunch of short sleeps.

Today some volunteers and I are going to spend a lot of money donated by the good folks at McKillop United to put together hampers for needy students. I love this time of year. I'm always exhausted but it is fun. Come Wednesday though I'm done except for two services and some parish visiting until the 2nd of January!!! Yeah!

Saturday, December 15, 2007


Today was a day of firsts and an anniversary of a first.

Today for the first time I had a part in a Sunday School Christmas pageant. I played Herod.

Today for the first time I forgot something in the service...okay, that wasn't a first. I forgotten things before but this was the first time I forgot a scripture reading. Oy. Shouldn't try to officiate and play a role in the pageant on the same night. This will be the first and last time I do that.

Today is the fifth anniversary of my first Eucharist (unless my first was the consecration of more wine at my ordination - see below).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Reflection in the Chalice

Aaron, over at Aaron's Head and I share an anniversary. We were both priested on the Second Sunday of Advent. I was ordained five years ago on what was also the Feast of the Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Aaron this Sunday. He's written a wonderful post about celebrating his first Eucharist and catching a glimpse of himself and others in the reflection of the chalice as he elevates it. I loved what he said about that. I too was struck when I began to celebrate when I saw myself and the window in the chalice. His words are poetic and can be read here.

I am not sure what to consider my first Eucharist. We ran out of wine the night of my ordination (about 90 of us were shoehorned into the church which holds 70 and another 90-100 were in the hall watching on a video feed so it was kind of hard for the bishop to estimate numbers) so I had to do the quick prayer of consecration for more wine. So I guess that was it.

Monday, December 10, 2007


Tonight was Unchurch and during Advent we've been following a different format. We've been doing readings on themes with one of the folks who comes sharing on the theme. Last week the theme was doors and one of the group shared a picture he had drawn of the doors of the Temple. This week our theme was light and another member shared a quilted hanging of a candle she had done. It was a really powerful evening of sharing what the image of light meant to us. For many of us the stories were stories of candlelit worship of one variety or another. The coffeehouse were we meet was being used for a Christmas dinner so the owner gave us her own living room to meet in. Maybe it was the homey, warm atmosphere but the sharing was more personal and reflective than usual. I love Unchurch!

In the course of looking for readings for the service I came across this quotation from a long time favourite theologian of mine (I did doctoral work on him - didn't finish the degree but learned a lot), Karl Rahner:

If God's incomprehensibility does not grip us in a word, if it does not draw us into his superluminous darkness, if it does not call us out of the little house of our homely, close-hugged truths...we have misunderstood the words of Christianity.

from Poetry and the Christian, cited by Kathleen Norris is Amazing Grace: A Vocabulary of Grace

Friday, December 7, 2007

End of Term with the chaplaincy

It has been an insanely busy couple of weeks as we wind up all our end of term programming at the college and university. I love this time of year but it is exhausting! Here are a few scenes of the ways in which we try to cheer up students and give them a little boost as they head into exams.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Eternal Sunshine

I watched Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind again tonight with a bunch of friends some of whom had read Miroslav Volf's The End of Memory. It really is a fascinating film. This is the review I wrote sometime ago for the Sower, the diocese of Calgary newspaper:

Perhaps it is a sign that I’m getting older but I’m finding myself grow increasingly impatient with movies that don’t capture my imagination quickly. And I’m finding myself increasingly irritated by the number of recent movies that tell their stories out of order so that you have to work especially hard to figure out what the story line is.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is one of those films that starts near the end, moves to the middle, then to the beginning and then back to the end so that it takes a while before you can figure out what is going on. And I knew something of the story line before I watched it.

Yet despite this I enjoyed the movie and I was glad in the end that I had persisted through my initial frustration. For Eternal Sunshine says some interesting things about the nature of memory and relationships.

The title of the film is taken from Alexander Pope’s poem ‘Eloisa to Abelard’ but unlike these storied lovers the two main characters, Joel and Clementine, have a tumultuous relationship. Jim Carrey plays Joel, a restrained and rather colourless character who meets the very colourful and extravagant Clementine, played by Kate Winslet. For viewers who are used to seeing Carrey play the manic comedic role this role may be something of a surprise but Carrey has shown before in other films that he has a wide range.

Joel and Clementine have met, fallen in love, fought, grown nasty towards each other and separated. Then Joel discovers that Clementine has taken advantage of some new technology to erase all memory of him and their relationship. Lacuna Inc has developed the ability to map the brain and erase portions of memory while leaving the rest of the memory intact. Joel is so angry that she would reject him like this that he decides to undergo the procedure as well. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that getting revenge on someone who doesn’t remember you doesn’t make a lot of sense. While he is undergoing the procedure, however, he begins to realize that even though he has lost Clementine he doesn’t want to lose the memory of her and what she has meant to him.

It is at this point that the film began to engage me as we see Joel and Clementine desperately trying to hide her in some part of his memory so that he won’t lose her. Despite their efforts, however, the procedure is successful and he wakes up with no memory of her. Then it becomes clear that the meeting at the beginning of the film was not their first meeting but their second when some impulse draws them back to the place of their first meeting. And as in their first meeting, they fall for each other at their second. But I won’t say more about what happens with love the second time around.

What intrigued me was the question of whether or not I would want to erase certain memories if the technology was available. Joel is confronted with the realization that he will be losing good memories with the bad and he comes to see that despite the ache of losing her he values what they had together. So I began to wonder why he and Clementine couldn’t have just erased the bad memories of their relationship and left the good.

The film actually gives something of an answer to that question in another relationship between the doctor and his receptionist but I won’t even begin to try to unwrap the complicated plot twists involving the Lacuna staff. Suffice it to say that the film seems to suggest that even painful memories of the hurts we do to each other are part of the process by which we learn and grow into better people.

Is it impossible then to ever forget hurts inflicted and received? The theme of forgetfulness is a rich one in the book of Isaiah and what we read there is that God will forget the sins of His people and they will forget their shame. But this is a forgetfulness that follows the hard process of truth speaking, repentance and forgiveness.

Lacuna Inc offers what many of us would like, a painless, fast and easy means to forget pain. In the end, however, the film seems to suggest that Joel and Clementine will choose a more difficult but also more rewarding path towards forgiving and forgetting the hurts they have done each other.