Sometimes we get stuck seeing things our way. Would you like to see some things through another set of eyes? Maybe it will make you think and stretch or maybe just chuckle or shed a tear. Here is my world through my eyes...

Saturday, March 17, 2012

What I've Been Reading #14: Special Edition

I completed the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.  I read the book because I had wanted to see the movie when it came out earlier in the year, but missed it.  Since my experience tells me that the book is always better I thought I might as well read the book and then see the movie when it comes out on DVD. 

As expected after having read about the movie and seeing previews of the movie, the book was about Oskar Schell a 9 year old boy whose father died in the 911 events.  Oskar is not your typical child nor is he a typical boy.  Quirky and unique Oskar deals with his father's death in a very unexpected manner.

Because of the closeness Oskar had with his father and the very original activities they shared, Oskar is lead into a truly odd way of dealing with his father's death.  Oskar finds a vase in his father's closet with a small envelope with an unusual key in it.  On the envelope it says "Black".  Because he and his father have done similar things when his Dad was alive Oskar determines that this is his father's way of telling him something and now he just has to figure out what the key goes to in order to know what his father wanted to tell him.  So we are off to the races as Oskar with his great intellect and original creativity seeks to find his father's meaning.  The story is really great.  It is a real testament to how close and influential a father son relationship can be. 

However, there is an additional story that is woven through the book.  Oskar's grandparents have a unique story of their own.  Oskar doesn't know his grandfather and has never met him.  But the story of his grandparents marriage and relationship is told very open with sometimes too much detail. 

This second story serves as a counter point to show how hurtful a father's relationship can be as well--only this story is told from the father's relationship.  How emotionally harmed he is because of his poor choices with his son. 

The point seems to be that father's and son's desperately need the relationship with each other to have a meaningful existence.  Two other much shorter father-son stories are in the book as well.  One positive and one negative.  The author shares his point again that father's need their sons and sons need their fathers. 

The book left me a bit confused about whether I liked it or not.  There were parts that I found objectionable balanced by parts that I found very affirming of good.  Once again the balance, maybe intended by the author, forcing, I think, the reader to determine the meaning of the book.  Most likely each reader's determination of the meaning will be determined by their own relationship with their father, and that unwritten relationship influencing the reader will ultimately determine what the reader gains from the book. 
Then today, by chance, I saw a movie that helped me to put this book in perspective:  Facing the Giants.  This movie is an earlier one by the same group that put out Courageous which I have raved about in the past.  This movie is great as well.  Strong on the Christian values and slightly preachy, it touches the heart, especially male hearts.

There is a part in the movie's story that really touched me however and continued this theme of father son relationships from the book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. 

A young man and his father move into the little town portrayed there.  The father is a college professor and is in a wheelchair.  His son is a soccer player but the town doesn't have soccer at the school, only football.  So the father encourages the son to try out and he does, but he is intimidated by the sport but is kept on the team as a back up kicker.  Consequently he plays very little.  The couch gives him a few opportunities to kick field goals throughout the season but mostly he rides the bench.  Each of the few times he kicks a field goal his father calls his name after his son is lined up and in an encouraging gesture from a seated position in his wheel chair raises both his arms straight up to indicate "You can do it". 

After losing their first three games miserably, the team ends up making it to the state finals through a variety of miracles.  As you might guess the game comes down to needing a field goal with 2 seconds left for the win.  The first string kicker is hurt during the game and so it is up to the young man with weak confidence.  But there is a problem.  A 51 yard field goal is needed and this young man has never hit one from that distance.  His longest field goal even in practice has been only 39 yards.  The coach encourages him but the young man tells the coach that he can't do it.  The coach sends him to the field anyways and the boy lines up to kick.  He is shaking his head as he lines up because he knows he cannot do what is required.  His coach sees the boys utter lack of confidence and wishes he could call a time out to encourage him more but they have used all their time outs.  The father calls the boys name to do his normal encouraging symbol but the boy refuses to look because he is so utterly sure he cannot do it that he will not allow himself to receive any encouragement. 
The opposing coach calls a time out to "ice the kicker".  The coach does his best during the time out to encourage the kicker and when he returns to the field and lines up to take his kick this time he looks over to his father's spot to allow his Dad to encourage him.  Now the boy wants to try his best.  But his father and his wheelchair are gone.  The boy is surprised and disappointed but must do his part.  He looks to the goal post down the field to get his bearings and there is his Dad standing just behind the fence behind the goal post.  Standing on unsteady legs, leaning forward against the fence to hold himself up with his arms raised straight up from his sides to encourage his son.  In essence saying "We can do hard things".

The kicker now will give it his all after the strong words of encouragement from his coach and his father who has done a hard thing to encourage his son.  The ball is hiked and he steps to the ball to kick it with all that he has.  He kicks the ball so hard that the motion pulls his left leg out from under him and he ends up on his back.  Yes the ball splits the uprights and the game it won.  Good prevails one more time.

So what is it about fathers and sons and the profound relationship of love and encouragement that they have between the two of them.  What is it about the son who listens, trusts and honors his father that makes the Father want to be a better man?  What is it about the father who loves, respects and encourages his son that makes the son want to do his best and be just like his Dad?  This relationship has the potential to really determine the path of both of them. 
Please father's don't let your sons down.  And sons, honor your fathers and that will help them be more worthy fathers. 

Here is a trailer from the movie Facing the Giants:

Here is the part of the movie that I've described above.  Little does the coach know that God wasn't done with him for that day.  Watch the movie to get the rest of the story!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Monday Music #25 : Xcultures: One World One People


Brian Wayy is the producer behind Xcultures.  He has been involved in the music scene for many years working with other groups and singer helping to produce their music.  This particular project however was his chance to take many world music influences and infuse them into individual songs with multiple world music influences.  This was his debut and only album as far as I can find under the X cultures name.  With a quick web search I wasn't able to learn much about Brian Wayy.

The Album: One World One People by Xcultures

My favorite song on the album shares the title of the album:  One World One People.  I ran across this album a couple years ago and just re-discovered the music again today as it has gotten pushed to the back of my play list as I have been enjoying some other music recently. 

So often in our world it is easy to get caught up into a mini culture to the point where we eschew other cultures and people.  It seems to be a human trait to want to be better than others to the point where we are willing to demean or demonize other groups.  Culture wars between blacks, whites, Latinos, Asians and so forth often exist in a range from minor thoughtlessness and lack of understanding to extreme prejudice.  This happens in religion as well to the point where the actual tenets of a religion are not considered for their truthfulness or openness but rather the culture is assessed for its comfortableness.  Meaning that people associate with a religion because of a culture that is comfortable rather than teachings that have any benefit, meaning or are based on teachings from scripture.  Neighborhood cultures may take pride in their exclusiveness.  Any groups that has things in common may tend to be exclusive for any reason rather than inclusive.  To me the message of this song is that we are all a human family and need to realize we are all one race. 

The following YouTube video has the song but I must admit that the video images are not indicative of the meaning of the song by my estimation.  I would encourage you to ignore the video and listen to the song and seek a meaning uninfluenced by the video.

On the other hand this next video does not have the great music but is more indicative of the meaning.  This video is an interesting one of a flash mob that deals with a similar topic of One World One People.  So if you could figure out how to watch this video and listen to that song, well then you would have nirvana...briefly.

I hope you enjoy it.  Here is some artwork that seems to go along with the theme.

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