Tuesday, December 16, 2014

First Blood: Movie Thoughts

Last Tuesday night, my history curriculum teacher decided to throw a movie night.  As the end of the semester is winding down and we're working our way through our last assignments and last couple weeks of classes, he wanted to provide us with a social night to help de-stress and watch a bit of "created history."

There was roughly twenty of us who showed up for the movie and after voting, he put in First Blood (also known as Rambo), based on the novel by David Morrell.  I don't know if you are familiar with the story, but this was the first time for me.

In summary, in this 14A movie (Canada's rating) John Rambo is a Vietnam veteran who is now back home in the USA.  From the get-go, we understand that he does not have a permanent home and walks from town to town.  His hair is shaggy, his face unshaved, he's dressed in a dirty old jacket and he carries a sleeping bag over his shoulder. Near the start of the movie, he comes to the town of Hope, Washington and immediately runs into sheriff, Teasle. The sheriff takes one look at him and classifies him as a vagabond.  Not wanting that sort of trash in Hope, he drives him out of town.  Rambo though, is hungry and wants to get some food, so, after Teasle drops him off, he turns around and walks back into town.  This leads to his unwarranted arrest and then abuse by the police force.  The tension escalates and things progress to a whole out war between Rambo and the police.

I would say that overall I enjoyed the movie because it is different from what I am used to watching. In reflecting, I would say the biggest difference is that although Rambo is the main character, he hardly talks throughout the whole movie.  A lot of what we know about him is shown or said by other characters.  What is powerful about this is that the other characters, such as the police force, are very quick to voice their views and theories but slow to actually see who and what Rambo is.  To me, this implies that his actions mean little against the opinions and labels of others.

I felt a deep sadness as I watched the film and found myself getting increasingly frustrated with the sheriff and his men.  They judge Rambo as a vagabond and a criminal because of how he looks and not what he has done. Even after they find out that he is a veteran, their attitude toward him does not change and he is still painted as the enemy.

At the end, our teacher said that this film is a metaphor.  Rambo is not just one veteran but represents many who come back from wars to find that their country and the people that they fought to protect--the people that they fought to bring hope to--reject and fear them.  People are quick to make assumptions about Rambo without figuring out where he has been and what he has been through, classifying him as crazy when he doesn't fit their "normal" mold.  Rambo should not have been shunned for merely passing through a town.  He should not have needed to carry his sleeping bag on his back with no place to call home.  He should not have to worry about holding a job. And he should not have to deal with PTSD all on his own.

In conclusion, I thought this was a powerful movie.  It raises an issue that will affect our society as long as we send men and women off to fight our wars.  When their service is done, how do we care for them?  How do we show them respect?  Even if you are a pacifist and are very anti-war, that doesn't mean you should disrespect the men and women who have fought and died in wars.  In comparison, let's imagine that you are anti-garbage.  You hate waste and live an all-green lifestyle.  Do you then hate garbage men/women?  If you do, that doesn't make sense.  They don't make the garbage; they just deal with it.  Wars are caused by a series of complex factors and not by the soldiers who are merely tasked with "dealing with it."

Thank you for reading.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Send me a Postcard: From Fort Henry

Well, we're into December and the weather still cannot make up its mind.  Monday was 9°C, Wednesday 5° and Tuesday?  Well, Tuesday this week was a startlingly frigid -17° feeling like -22° with the wind.  My body was not prepared for that sudden descent into the ice box.  And you know, I probably would have been okay had I only needed to walk to and from school, but nope.  Tuesday, I had the pleasure of going on a field trip with one of my classes to see and experience Fort Henry in Kingston, Ontario.

I had never been to the Fort before and was excited to see this historic site.  And honestly, the day was lovely: the sun was shining and the sky was patched with blue.  But, as the main body of the Fort is pretty much outside... Cold. It was a cold field trip.  I say that I couldn't feel my nose, toes or fingers after a few minutes, and sadly I am not exaggerating.  An hour after I got in from the cold, I was still struggling to warm up my finger tips.  (Luckily no frostbite!).  Still, despite the cold, the Fort was pretty cool.  And it had a killer view of Kingston!  Just look at that lovely image.

Image of Kingston from the Fort
Image of Kingston from Fort Henry
What's really cool about Fort Henry is the way that the site is run.  The employees work hard to create an interactive learning experience.  At different times in the year, they put on dramatizations of battles that the public can come and watch.  And, in addition, our tour was also like a play.  Our guide was in character the whole time (I think he said he was a Lieutenant Colonel... either way he was near the top and he was in uniform) and addressed as army recruits.  We had to march and answer his questions as if we, too, were part of the militia force.  It made for a fun learning experience.  At one point, he mentioned how groups would sometimes spend the night and I honestly wished that we could have been doing a sleep over trip.  Before I knew it, our time was up and it was time to leave.  This was definitely one of the best Tour Guide/Museum experience that I have ever had and I wish it had been longer.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

Thoughts on Dream Interpretation

I always loved the story of Joseph (and the Amazing Technicolour Dream-coat).  Ever since I first heard it, you could almost say I was enamoured.  My six-year-old brain couldn't quite understand why Moses got "more press" (shall we say).  Sure, God used Moses to save the his people from the tyrannical pharaoh, and yes that is important, but in my mind, Joseph was cooler because (1) he had cool dreams and he could interpret dreams for others, (2) he was a poster child for family problems and survived some pretty rough situations--I mean, his own brothers sold him as a slave and then while a slave he was thrown in jail because the wife of his master framed him for sexual harassment!  Talk about rough. And (3) I must admit that I really liked this story because Joseph's mother was named Rachel. Hehe...

In any case, I would read his story, learn about it in Sunday School, watch different cinematic representations, and pray that God would let me have the same gift as Joseph: dreams.  As a kid, dream interpretation seemed like an amazing super-power because I saw dreams as a way of hearing a message more directly from God.  My young rational was that God, being so holy and us being so not-holy, would make our head explode if he spoke to us directly all the time, but if he speaks to us more indirectly (e.g. through dreams), we'll be okay.  As an adult, I can still see the sense in what past, kid-me thought.  But I digress.  Point being: I prayed a lot asking for this gift.

Where am I going with this?  Have I been having prophetic-type dreams?  Nope.  Only the déjà vu kind with the occasional feeling that what is happening in a current situation happened at one point in a dream.


In the past week, I have been reading the book of Daniel which is another one of my favourites--well, at least the first few chapters are.  When you get to Chapter 7, things start to get a bit more heavy and confusing.  You see, Daniel, like Joseph, was a dreamer.  And Daniel, like Joseph, received wisdom from God so that he could interpret the dreams of others.  As I was reading this through the book this past week, I found myself noticing more Daniel's prophetic dreams.  These were not simple dreams and their content greatly stressed Daniel.  So much so that his "spirit within [him] was anxious, and the visions of [his] head alarmed [him]" (Daniel 7:15).  Later, Daniel says, "I was overcome and lay sick for some days.  Then I rose and went about the king's business, but I was appalled by the vision and did not understand it." (8:27)

What I first thought would be a really cool gift also seems to be a burden.  Not only were the dreams hard to understand, but the visions caused Daniel great distress.  I can't imagine being sick because of a dream.  After reading that, I also rethought Joseph's story.  When he first had his prophetic dreams at home with his family, he did not know what they meant--only that he will be lifted above his brothers.  What kind of thoughts went through his head as he contemplated its meaning?  Did it gnaw away at him?  An annoyance like an itch that can't be reached?  Or what about the time when Joseph was in prison and two other prisoners asked for help interpreting their dreams.  How would it feel to tell someone that their dream foretells their death in three days time?  As a kid, I was so caught up in the miracle of the truth that Joseph and Daniel spoke that I never really noticed the weight of this gift.

I still think that Dreaming is a cool spiritual gift, but my perspective has changed.  I think now of having a dream that is so vivid that I can't forget it.  A dream from which I wake in a cold sweat, shocked, confused and afraid because of content that later leads to sleep loss as I replay the images through my head.  I imagine having to tell someone what their dream foretells unfortunate events--Could I do that?  Would they hate me for telling the truth?

Some heavy food for thought.

Salut et bonne semaine !

Things I've learned about France (or at least Normandy)

Well there we go, my second European country. In some ways, very similar to England (a lot of meat and potatoes, fancy churches, pay toilets...