Mental Illness and Me

Two thanksgivings are behind us, but I would like to give a big thanks to Kristen Bell and Ryan Reynolds. Why them? There’s actually more: Billie Eliish, Lady Gaga, Wayne Brady, Sophie Turner, Prince Harry, and Kendrick Lamar. These are all celebrities who spoke publicly about their struggles with mental illness. It takes guts to come forward and admit to this, but it’s so important to do. Everyone who suffers needs to know they’re not alone.

I’d also like to thank Abraham Lincoln, Beethoven, Sir Isaac Newton, Winston Churchill, and Leo Tolstoy. Now these people didn’t come forward because awareness, knowledge, and resources were limited back then. But just the idea that they had it makes me thankful. Thankful that we can see examples of those who suffered but were able to do great things in spite of that.

For some, like Vincent Van Gogh, his genius and accomplishments didn’t happen in spite of his mental illness, but rather because of it. His ability to connect with his struggles and express himself from that perspective made for some of the most beautiful art ever created in history. The same can be said of Pablo Picasso and his “blue period.”

Kesha used her struggles to write an essay for TIME magazine addressing others with mental illnesses to help them make it through the Christmas season. Prince Harry not only talked about it, he enlisted the help of his family, namely Will and Kate, to join the effort to “end the stigma.”

But not all are/were fortunate enough to have a happy ending. For Ernest Hemingway and Robin Williams, it was their mental illness that took their lives. Just like cancer and heart disease, mental illness is a killer.

If you’re suffering, you’re not alone. You are also not stuck with having to hide it and “just move on.” I know for me I’d rather just keep it to myself. I’d rather hide it out of fear of what people would think. But if Dwayne “the Rock” Johnson, Emma Stone, and Charles Dickens can be judged, I can just go over and stand with them. I’ll be in good company.

Congratulations A Beautiful Mind. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Julianne Moore as Alice Howland in Still Alice (2014).

Best Actor: Russell Crowe as John Nash in A Beautiful Mind (2001).

Best Quote: You know, taking us for ice creams in a blizzard… makes you wonder who the real whack jobs are.” — Winona Ryder in Girl, Interrupted (1999).

Before writing this Joy sent me a story she found on social media. The details within are well documented, so no worries of hoaxy stuff. It’s about Jimmy Stewart, and you’ll especially enjoy the part where they talk specifically about his It’s a Wonderful Life performance. Click here to read it if you’re interested.

Pick your movie of the week: Mental Illness (Dec 1-7/19)

It is a subject in which we must all try to further our understanding and response to in order to make this world a better and safer place. A great number of movies have delved into the subject over the years. Last time we had this as a theme we chose from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975), Mary and Max (2009), and Silver Linings Playbook (2012). Which of one of these would you pick as our movie of the week?

Girl, Interrupted (1999)

A Beautiful Mind (2001)

Still Alice (2014)

Is God magical?

I have many, both positive and negative, thoughts and feelings about God’s role in the life of humans on earth. I’ve tended to keep these thoughts to myself when in the company of fellow faith adherents—especially at church—but I honestly believe this should not be. Sharing doubts, frustrations, conflicting beliefs, etc. ought to be encouraged. They shouldn’t be so quickly answered with a “Yes but…” either. Otherwise, how do you grow in an informed, mature faith? Furthermore, how do you answer those who say religiously devoted people are blind followers? And how can anyone truly know that their theology is sound?

For me, one of the biggest issues is what we might call “the Hand of God.” We’ve all wondered if God truly does reach down with his hand and make or prevent things from happening. If you had a near accident on the highway, was it God’s hand that kept you unharmed? If you were in urgent need of a sum of money needed to keep your business/organization going and at the last minute the money came in to the very dollar amount, was that God’s hand?

I want to say yes, but if on the same planet there exists a family who lost their lives in a car accident (or in some more terrifying manner), or an honest couple who became homeless because of a lack of income, are we to believe that God picks and chooses some instances over others?

To take it to a more extreme level… We all know that millions of people live in squalor and die from preventable diseases every day. We also know that innocent children get raped, tortured, and terrorized every day. I don’t blame God for that, I believe the onus is on us to change this world, not hope God “steps in.” But if God steps in when I’m about to lose my footing when I’m shoveling snow off my roof but not when an innocent child is abducted and killed, I would—obviously—not want any part of anyone who operates that way. 

For me, the “hand of God” being there is more about presence. In a seminary course I took years ago the professor shared with us about a woman who was enslaved for her entire life and experienced/witnessed events that none of us would wish on our worst enemy. As an old woman she was speaking to an audience eager to hear her in London, England and she told them that no matter where she was, no matter how horrifying the situation, there was never a place she was where God wasn’t there as well. That I can get behind. I’ve had wonderful blessings in my life and terrible things in my life. I don’t believe they are because of some divine faouritism nor divine punishment. They are life and, yes, God was there.

The intention here is not to crap on anyone who gives God credit for good things. I can roll with the idea that he is the source of all things good, as well as with the idea that we need to be grateful for those things. But his hand entering in to alter events in a way to help us avoid hurt, be financially comfortable, avoid calamity, avoid bad weather, etc. just seems like an uncaring, unjust worldview.

It makes one wonder… is it that we really love the idea of the magical and unexplained? In magical movies (like The Wizard of Oz, Aladdin, etc.) we don’t need an explanation for what a “fairy godmother” is or how a mix of wind and glitter can change a boy into a frog. We like the magical and perhaps want to cling to it when it comes to our daily lives, or maybe even our faith. There certainly are “magical” things about the divine that I think we can revere and enjoy. But when left unchallenged, it can be lofty at best, and toxic at worst.

Congratulations The Wizard of Oz. This is your week. Interesting to note here: This movie and Gone with the Wind were made and released in the same year and directed by the same person, Victor Fleming. And when you think about it, The Wizard of Oz could easily have been given the title Gone with the Wind.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: TIE: Vivien Leigh as Scarlet O’Hara in GWTW and Judy Garland as Dorothy Gale in TWOO.

Best Actor: Clark Gable as Rhett Butler in GWTW.

Best Quote: A fine bunch of water lilies you turned out to be. I’d like to see anybody make me wash, if I didn’t wanna.” — Grumpy in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Another great quote of his is said during “Someday My Prince Will Come.” He says, “Ha! Mush!”

NOTE: I mean no disrespect with the Jesus pic above. Any depiction where he looks like a bearded midwestern soccer mom deserves to be ridiculed.

My favourite magical movies:

  1. Bridge to Terabithia (2007)
  2. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
  3. Peter Pan (2003)
  4. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (2001)
  5. The Chronicles of Narnia trilogy (2005-2010)
  6. Elf (2003)
  7. Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)
  8. Beauty and the Beast (1989)
  9. Pinocchio (1940)
  10. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-2003)

Honourable mentions: The Neverending Story (1984), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), Aladdin (1992), Cinderella (1950), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), Sleeping Beauty (1959), Enchanted (2007), The Polar Express (2004)

Also, I recommend doing a google image search for “Margaret Hamilton posing in front of Oz poster.” The first image should be a picture of the actress who played the Wicked Witch of the West standing in front of a movie poster for TWOO. I love it so much!

 

The insanity of the feminists

My daughter recently wrote a paper on feminism, and you won’t believe some of the crazy stuff they engaged in just to get what they wanted. You probably can remember these “femi-nazis” throughout the last century (plus a score) and their irrational behaviour. Most of us have heard of them burning their bras, shouting in the streets, and yelling at men. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here are some interesting tidbits you might find “interesting”…

In 1971 a 25-year-old Louisiana woman took a cinderblock and then pulled a gun out. The people standing by and watching were understandably shocked, frightened, and wondering what she was going to do with it. She started threatening the cinder block! She even snuck up on it from around a corner like a stealthy soldier at war, pulled out a stick and started hitting it and screaming. Obviously she just came across as a crazy person. Spectators just walked away shaking their heads.

Then a 47-year-old woman from New York City took a much lazier approach. She laid down on the grass in a local park and refused to move. She said she would lay there in that same position for over a year. OVER A YEAR! She got up only to eat, use the bathroom, and (barely) bathe. As you can imagine it was gross, inconsiderate, unnecessary, and just an overall pain in the neck!

Then there’s the Canadian woman who, in 1978, decided to get in on the act. She stood at a corner on Yonge Street and shaved her head. Completely! She took a bunch of it and threw it in the air and the wind picked it up, something I’m sure bystanders and passersby didn’t appreciate. And yes, she did this in front of everyone making a big spectacle. She proceeded to take another handful and cut the locks up into bits with scissors. Then she burnt the rest. Yes, burnt it. Again, not sure she was thinking of the passersby and onlookers. Quite the stench. Later that year she was found trying to dig a hole in the side of Maple Leaf Gardens. She was arrested, thankfully.

The best though is the 35-year-old from California (That place always takes the cake!). It was 1969 and she had a wood stove in her kitchen where she made all her food. She emptied out the ashes and started to use cow crap instead of burning wood. Yes, cow crap! For every meal she would fire up that thing that–again!–drifted a funk aroma all over the crowded neighbourhood. The local news interviewed her and she spewed off her message of inequality and said she’d  originally was planning to use human excrement but decided instead to opt for the bovine variety.

Those of you familiar with the story of Ezekiel may have already guessed that this is actually the story of one man in the Bible. He wasn’t a feminist, rather he was a man trying to get an urgent message out. The people living in Israel were about to be taken over by an army who were every bit as cruel, blood-thirsty, and brutal as the Nazi SS army. And they were going to be the recipients of the coming holocaust. Almost every one of them would die a painful, horrific death.

It goes without saying that the message he was bringing was urgent! But no one was listening. And that is why God told this prophet to use these unorthodox methods and media (to put it mildly) to get the word out. And he instructed him to do many more crazy things as well.

Of course, his message was of a more grave nature than that of feminists. But I make this correlation for a reason. For years I thought feminists were, for lack of a better term, bad. They were offensive and weren’t looking for equality, but a flip-flop of the current inequality. They wanted more than what equality would give. And maybe this has happened to a degree: a few people claiming to be feminists being unreasonable, perhaps even being misandrists who misrepresent the cause… my fellow Christians this happens to us too, does it not? The God-hates-fags people? Westboro Baptist?

Sometimes there are movements like Black Lives Matter, feminism, and others that seem to be “a little out there” and offensive to us. But maybe, like in Ezekiel’s case, no change needs to happen and one seems to be listening. Hearing, perhaps, but not listening. They get passed off as fanatics. And sometimes those weird methods they use to get our attention that seem so “in-your-face” are what those who need to be heard end up using because… well, they have to do something to get our attention. Maybe we should seek to understand first before passing judgment.

Just be thankful they didn’t do what Ezekiel did.

Congratulations Jerry Maguire. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: No question here: Renee Zellweger as Dorothy Boyd in Jerry Maguire. When she received the call that she’d gotten this part she didn’t have enough in her bank account to make a withdrawal. Now she’s one of the best, which she proved once again in this year’s Judy.

Best Actor: Tom Hanks as Andy Beckett in Philadelphia.

Best Quote: TIE: “You had me at hello,” and “Show me the money!” from Jerry Maguire. I wanted to pick another, but these are by far the most known quotes from these movies, and there’s a select few movies that can boast quotes more recognizable in pop culture than those. Which brings me to this…

Greatest Movie Quotes from the 2010’s (IMHO):

  1. “I’m glad he’s single because I’m gonna climb that like a tree.” — Bridesmaids (2011)
  2. “I am Groot.” — Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  3. “Avengers assemble!” — The Avengers: Endgame (2019)
  4. “Chewie, we’re home.” — The Force Awakens (2015)
  5. “Puny god.” — The Avengers (2012)
  6. “I just wanted to take another look at you.” — A Star is Born (2018)
  7. “In moonlight, black boys look blue.” — Moonlight (2016)
  8. “Would that it were so simple.” — Hail Caesar (2016)
  9. “Do you bleed? You will.” — Batman v Superman (2016)
  10. “People say nothing is impossible. But I do nothing every day.” — Christopher Robin (2018)
  11. “We know each other! From work!” — Thor Ragnarok (2017)
  12. “Don’t say n’stuff. Just say, Dad there are whores here.” — The Nice Guys (2016)
  13. “Well, I don’t want to survive. I want to live.” — 12 Years a Slave (2012)
  14. “Now you’re in the Sunken Place.” — Get Out (2017)
  15. “Great. I think I got it. But just in case, tell me the whole thing again, I wasn’t listening.” — The Lego Movie (2014)
  16. “What a lovely day!” — Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
  17. “Not quite my tempo.” — Whiplash (2014)
  18. “Eat my shit.” — The Help (2011)
  19. “I volunteer as tribute!” — The Hunger Games (2012)
  20. “Look at me. Look at me. I am the captain now.” — Captain Phillips (2013)

Pick your movie of the week: Bruce Springsteen! (Nov 17-23/19)

Bruce Springsteen is one of my absolute favourite musical artists, and he seems to have a knack for writing and performing amazing songs for movies. The following are, in my opinion, the best ones. You can choose according to which Springsteen song you like the most, or the movie you think is best, or a combination of both:

Philadelphia (1993, “Streets of Philadelphia”)

Jerry Maguire (1996, “Secret Garden”)

The Wrestler (2008, “The Wrestler”)

 

Never Again

One of my favourite parts of Ocean’s Eleven is when Saul (Carl Reiner) says incredulously, “we’re just supposed to walk out of there with $150,000,000 in cash on us, without getting stopped?” as nine other characters then turn their eyes to Danny (George Clooney) who responds with a simple, “Yeah.” I love this about heist movies. The protagonists plan to do the impossible and we get to watch their genius plan unfold.

It’s not so fun to watch when it’s the bad guys though.

At this time of year we are reminded of the horrific events of the two world wars. And the scary thing is, they walked right out the front door in plain sight. How did they get away with that?!

Remains of a gas chamber in Auschwitz, Poland.

Would anyone have guessed that there would be a political party in central Europe that would grow in number, take over countries, threaten the entire developed world, and kill over six million innocent people (not to mention the millions that died in battle)?

A friend of mine posted on social media the warning that the Holocaust didn’t start with a gas chamber. No, it seeped in. It started out very subtle. Not even with all his charisma and power of persuasion could Hitler have merely talked his way into making so many people commit such nightmarish crimes. It started with just a grain of fear and grew into a monster.

This time of year we say “lest we forget” in remembrance of those who sacrificed their lives for us in battle. But it’s important to also not forget the way this evil got its foot in the door, stole from us, and then walked away in broad daylight. Legislators, senators, and politicians used worry and fear to stir up the emotions of the people. They divided them. They told them how fed up they were with bad leadership and a poor economy. And it was hard to deny. Frustrated and fearful people followed them.

Now before you criticize the German and Austrian people of the 1920’s and 1930’s, remember that they were just ordinary people like you and me. You, the one reading these words, have the capacity to be persuaded and led down such a dark path just like they were.

German Jewish Holocaust Memorial Berlin, Germany

After all these years of learning about this time period, I never thought I would see white nationalists boldly demonstrating, marching, and causing violence anywhere in Europe or North America. It always seemed crystal clear to me that everyone learned from this event. I naively believed there were only a very select few “crazies out there” who would still align themselves with such despicable ideology. But even if that were true for a time, the fear and hatred of those select few can seep in again.

I believe it is time for us to be bolder than we were yesterday. No more simply shaking our heads when people around us seem racist or intolerant. We stand up and speak up. In many holocausts that have happened in this world the perpetrators have called a certain group of people cockroaches, vermin, disease, etc. But it is fear and hatred that are the cockroaches. We stand up against those attitudes, inappropriate comments, and attacks on people for things they cannot control (e.g. race, social status, sexual identity, etc). We tolerate people. We do not tolerate hate. We speak. We defend.

It was fear that fueled the Nazis. It is fear that fuels hate. And as gushy and syrupy as this may sound, all the TV shows and movies we watched that claimed love was the only weapon that could kill hatred were right. Love overcomes evil. We can’t let the robber to get in.

Never. Again.

Congratulations Ocean’s Eleven. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Julia Roberts as Erin Brockovich in Erin Brockovich. She was also great as Tess in Ocean’s Eleven.

Best Actor: Don Cheadle as Montel Gordon in Traffic. He was also great as Basher Tarr in Ocean’s Eleven.

Best Quote: The moment you set foot on that casino floor, they’ll be watching you like hawks. Hawks with video cameras..” — Eddie Jemison as Livingston Dell in Ocean’s Eleven.

Tomorrow at 11 am, we will all remember.