FreshLA: The following is the latest guest submission by my dear friend of 20+ years, Fred Grewe. Fred is a full-time hospice chaplain on the West Coast, regular seminar speaker and published author. Without charge, he’s always mentioned me in the “Acknowledgements” of his books. Actually, he feels strongly I owe him for his tolerance these past two decades and counting. Personally, I think I’m a credit. PAX!
Monday, I visited three people…
The first was a woman who has battled MS for most of her life. Now bedbound with great difficulty in swallowing, when I asked what she wanted prayer for she replied, “I want to be married. I want to be loved.” I prayed, knowing full well that’ll never happen.
A really nice woman with a quick mind and teasing sense of humor trapped in a body that has never worked well. Her soul longs to be special. To be desired. To be loved.
Next I visited a young man (in his thirties) who was born addicted to drugs. Mom was and is a meth addict. He’s emotionally on the level of an eight year old and terribly afraid of dying. Painful wounds on his buttocks that won’t heal. Ashen white skin wrapping his protruding bones.
When I showed up he was out in the courtyard of the facility smoking. Shortly into my visit his mom arrived. He immediately reached with both arms from his wheelchair and tearfully cried, “Mommy.” She had brought him a bean burrito with no onions from Taco Bell … his favorite.
A life of drug use has left him with few teeth, so my patient was reduced to merely sucking on the burrito rather than biting it. Mom stood by and dutifully squirted taco sauce on it between sucks.
Two cousins an aunt and an uncle joined us in the courtyard. The sky was blue, the sun was shining but it was cold. Everybody smoked but me. It was awkward. These folks who knew each other well and loved each other were on polite behavior as I, a relative stranger and supposed man of God, was in their midst.
I tried to be nice, made a few attempts at conversation, and encouraged them in their love and care for my patient. But it was awkward. They were too nice to just say, “Go sell crazy somewhere else … we’re all full up here.”
My final visit was with a woman in her nineties who can no longer remember who she is, or where she is, or why she is. Mercifully she was soundly asleep, saving us both from the uncomfortable chore of trying to converse, so I just sat silently and prayed blessings for her…
The next morning as I was thinking about these folks, and praying for them, I became keenly aware of how alike we all are. These three dying folks and me. The details of my life are a little different but we all share hopes and dreams that will never happen. We all have experienced painful disappointments. We all ache to be loved. To feel special. But often only feel awkward in a world that has no place for us. Frightened lost souls looking for a place to fit… more here.
Fred’s latest book:
FYI: Featured post pic is of T-Hollywood doing her sunset yoga on vaca in Hawaii.
Post 20+ years in ministry, I landed a good job with a billion dollar company. Currently, I am an interior decor project manager working with leading franchises around the world.
As much as a job can be, it’s fulfilling. I enjoy the people I work with and the creative aspects of decor. I’m salaried with freedom to work from home when desired and I’m building a retirement that will hopefully be “golden” in 20 years.
I was 45 when I left ministry. I have some college but no degree. I have no background in design or engineering. My computer skills are average. With Mac, I’m exceptional; Microsoft, the preference in business, I hate! I had some experience in the trades before ministry but nothing recent.
The question I’m most frequently asked by former clergy is: “How did you get the job you got?”
Initially, I exhausted all my leads from current and past friends. One was a business owner who was eager to hire me, but not for the reasons I thought. He offered me base pay and wanted a commitment that I’d counsel him at least 2 hours a week.
Hmm… thank you, but no. I had lost valuable years of accumulating $$$ in a 401k. I couldn’t consider base pay and free “on-the-side” counseling.
Those few months were very rough. I was so depressed, and didn’t know the first thing about writing a resume. I also struggled with self-condemnation, dwelling on how I had “thrown my life away” and put my family in a terrible situation.
Eventually, I reconnected with a friend who’s a business consultant. He had been active in my church when I first planted it, but had left shortly after. Life took us in different directions.
Not a Loser!
He helped me process my predicament and sort through my “woe is me” emotions. He also helped me uncover the hidden gems (my skills and life experience) from what I thought was only rubbish! Together, for a few weeks we worked on my resume.
He shared with me that most professionals have at least three to six different resumes, each tailored for similar but different positions. We identified that my collective experience screamed MANAGER! Then, he taught me a new language. Religion was my native tongue. Business was not. I needed a translator, and he was that!
FACT: I had preached with translators around the world, but had never put two-and-two together. Translators paraphrase the message, and by de facto direct the conversation which follows. Learn how to translate and you can be the one leading and directing the conversation, even when being interviewed.
We started by listing my pre-ministry jobs and highlighting my skill sets. Have you ever participated in safety meetings, time studies, board meetings, interventions? That’s called problem-solving!
We then tackled my “gap years” in ministry.
We identified my ministry experience as a specialization in non-profit management. We listed out a few of the projects I had been part of: building projects, community-helps programs, weekly presentations, capital campaign initiatives, overseeing staff & volunteers, hiring, firing, etc.
FACT: Charitable initiatives are very popular with small and large companies. Few people have experience in coordinating and leading these initiatives. As a former clergy, a.k.a. non-profit manager, having past experience with charity drives is a big plus.
The initial goal of my resume was not to be exclusive about my past work experience; it was to highlight my worth and value. We kept it focused on my managerial experience, including buzz words such as, problem-solver, solution-oriented, positive, team player, etc. Because I didn’t have a completed college degree, I attached a link to my Strengths Finder summary.
The primary goal was not to oversell anything. It was to peak interest, and to get me into an interview where I would have face-to-face time. As a former minister, I knew I had the people skills to deal with that!
To make a long story short, the next interview I went to with my resume lasted for an hour. I was anticipating questions about my non-profit experience, but to my surprise, it never came up! Instead, we talked about family, marriage, music, movies and a host of shared interests.
When I left the top floor to find my car in a parking garage below, I wasn’t sure I had even interviewed. Two weeks passed until I received a call back inviting me to take a tour of the production facilities. This lasted for two hours, and the conversation was much the same. My head was spinning with bewilderment.
Can I Work With You?
Another two weeks passed and I was hired. Turns out, from reading my resume they were confident I had the managerial chops they were looking for. Their chief concern was:
Is he personable and likable? Is he a good fit with the other team members? Will they enjoy working with him 40+ hours a week?
This explains why my two interviews were so casual and conversational. That was 3+ years ago, and obviously my employer’s initial hunch proved correct. They enjoy me and I enjoy them. Last night, my direct report and I split a bottle of wine and 4 small plates with desert, reminiscing about life, work and growing older.
Let’s Try It Again!
After I had been employed for a year, my wife and I decided to create a resume for her. She had zero college and no trade skills. However, she’s confident, smart and possesses exceptional communication skills. She got her face-to-face interview with the same company and was hired as a salaried PM like me. Presently, she’s killing it, and has been tapped to be a leader in her department soon. Why? Because she knows how to get people to work together.
A year later, we did the same thing with my daughter. She has some college and a brief job history. She’s smart, a quick study, amiable and a good communicator. Long story short, she was hired as a customer service representative. After one year, she is being promoted to a salaried project manager position! Why? She has a good work ethic and is willing to tackle difficult projects others freak out with.
This past week, my 18 year-old son got word he’s being hired to work in the production plant. He’s excited, because after 6-months the company will pay for schooling as long as he’s employed and has good grades. He sees his future in IT and software engineering. Why did he get the offer? He had exceptional references, via dad, mom and his sister.
A Growing Trend
For us, things have worked out very nicely. I realize not every company out there is willing to hire people with little to no experience. But there is a growing trend right now prompting many companies to take a chance with people that are lacking experience, but are kind, responsible and willing to learn.
The economy is good right now; demand is high, and companies are desperate for good workers. As a result, the hiring environment is far more open to giving people like you and me a chance. We just need a little re-educating behind the scenes, learning how to translate our previous experience in a format that is appealing.
In preparation for creating your resume, I’d recommend taking a personality test. Even if you have done so in the past, take it again. Many of us have taken “gifts test.” That was then; this is now. A lot has changed for you since then.
I’d also recommend taking the Strengths Finder test. The results will help you understand how to translate your religious experience into a more business friendly vocabulary. You’ll also learn a lot about yourself in the process!
Once you’re satisfied with your resume, update your LinkedIn profile. It’s important to have an online presence. Once I completed this, I reached out to a handful of friends and asked them to endorse me on LinkedIn. Don’t be afraid to ask. Most people are willing to help, even if they don’t agree with you. I gave them a deadline and followed up. Soon, I collected a handful of references, and posted them on my profile in a PDF attachment as referrals.
Once you’ve completed these things, you’re ready to interview. If you don’t have any leads, consider a temporary job service. I used Seek Professionals. They were highly motivated to get me an interview and super great to work with. They will also provide counsel on how to tailor your resume for a particular job posting. They get paid when they place you!
Once you land a decent job, the panic ensues as how to keep that job. Consider these tips.
- Be a good listener — Practice active listening by asking clarifying questions.
- Resist divulging your past — Your past is your past, not your present.
- Enjoy being you without a ministerial title — You no longer represent an ecclesiastical order or position; you represent you.
- Display willingness to learn — You’ve made this transition in life because you are a natural seeker and learner. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Keep learning.
- Take responsibility for your mistakes — Confession is in your wheelhouse. “Hey, I screwed up! I have a plan to remedy the situation. What do you think?”
- Avoid work politics — You’ve had plenty of experience with power plays and position flexing. Therefore, you know how to spot it when it’s happening and how to avoid it.
- Complete tasks in a timely manner — Deadlines are nothing new to you. Think Saturday night before Sunday service, and for some, multiple services.
- Enjoy yourself — Console yourself with the reality that you are doing something very few have had to do. Celebrate the small things. Every day is an opportunity to keep moving forward.
I’m sitting here waiting on a call from someone I haven’t spoken with in a long time: a once fellow evangelical minister. Like me, he is no longer in Christian ministry. He lives on the East Coast, and I a few miles west of Lake Michigan. We’ve kept in touch via Instagram. He messaged me earlier today asking if we could talk tonight. Apparently, a lot has changed with him recently.
Oh, my phone is ringing!
My friend is the analytical type, very thorough and exact. However, differing from others with the same gift of precision, he’s capable of adjusting the level of transferable data according to the capacity of his audience.
Since it was me he was talking to, he started by downloading the 5-minute CliffsNotes version. Apparently I’ve lost some of my intellectual capacity through the years?! LOL!
His story reminded me of Kelly Clarkson’s song Beautiful Disaster:
He drowns in his dreams, an exquisite extreme I know… He’s magic and myth, as strong as what I believe,a tragedy with more damage than a soul should see… Such a beautiful disaster.
What he shared was something akin to a tragicomedy, highlighted by abuse, betrayal, false accusations and extreme loss. It had all the makings of the numerous ancient crucified messiah tale.
Apart from the terrible sh*t, he did share some amazing, wonderful shizz. In the midst of extreme pain and loss, he’s experienced his own miraculous version of resurrection! To his surprise, the power that raised him from his grave came via… a lovely humanist!
She shared none of his religious beliefs or inherited convictions. With excitement, he told me, “She doesn’t even believe in God! But, she applies Scripture in context with greater clarity than I ever did as an evangelical minister!”
His story is not uncommon. Countless ones have plenty to share, but remain largely unheard. Pop culture is obsessed with the Kardashians and the like. As it concerns Evangelicals, they are simply ruthless when it comes to suppressing objectivity and keeping things hidden. It’s not so much an organized effort, as it is an inherited culture of denial and blame shifting.
They are masterful with the cup and ball game, always distracting attention away from what they are skillfully concealing. Misogyny, sexual abuse, gender biases, impoverishment, racism and mindless servitude shift from one cup to the next. The faithful masses remain entertained by their divine, loving “Father” figure who knows best, while carelessly tossing their time and money away.
A headline mega-church pastor once told me:
What’s happening with the Catholic sex abuse scandal is nothing compared to what will eventually be exposed in the Evangelical Church.
For many, the only way of escaping or surviving the madness is via self-sabotage or silent compliance. For my quoted mega-church friend, it was self-sabotage. His scandal provided Oprah, Barbara Walters, Bill O’Reilly and HBO a momentary surge in ratings. It was big news nationally, but on the local level the grassroots cup and ball games never paused or stopped. The status quo remained intact.
A New Found Faith
Presently, my friend’s relationship with his lovely humanist has taught him how to truly love himself for the very first time in his life. With this, he’s experienced a new found freedom with problem solving and decision making. Furthermore, he’s learned to place his former zealous faith in… wait for it… wait for it… IN HIMSELF!
Recently, he put his new humanist faith to the test and started his own company. Currently, he’s well on his way to financial freedom! #applause
“Even so,” he woefully confessed, “I’m a complete f**k up; seriously man, I’m just a f**k up.”
What do you say to that?
I completely understood where he was coming from. After all, we both share similar religious backgrounds, trained from an early age in the self loathing art of condemnation and repression. However, I no longer practice those dark arts. YouTube sensation “Sweet Brown” famously said it best when she exclaimed: “Ain’t nobody got time for that!“
So how did I respond? Well, sometimes I surprise myself by saying something amazingly profound. My close friends refer to these moments as “rare flashes of brilliance” — emphasis being on “rare” and “flash.”
In those brief moments, I’m often moved to scratch my rare brilliance out on paper. Thinking, later I’ll put it to text on the background of a cool pic and then post it to Facebook? It’s sure to go viral!?!
Well, thankfully in this particular moment the brilliant wisdom of Instagram was close at hand. Thank you high speed internet! Here are the anonymous wise words I successfully transferred to my friend in less than 7 seconds:
You should give a f**k. You really should. But only about things that set your soul on fire. Save your f**ks for magical sh*t.
And with that, we both sighed and exchanged heartfelt “I love you man” valedictions and promises to talk again very soon.
Goodnight. Sweet dreams my friend.
For those who have been reading my Patheos postings, you’ve no doubt noticed I keep referencing Icarus, the mythological risk-taker who flew too close to the sun and perished from his tragic fall back to earth. The inspiration which sparked my recent article came from an Oscar Wilde poem:
Lately, I’ve been questioning why I’m obsessed with making inferences to Icarus. After all, it’s a tragic story traditionally accompanied with warnings for the over-ambitious and reckless. There’s even an attributed psychological term called The Icarus Complex: a person who is fond of heights, narcissistic and obsessed with fantastical, far-fetched, imaginary cognition.
Never regret thy fall, O Icarus of the fearless flight. For the greatest tragedy of them all, is never to feel the burning light.
Psychosynthesis ties this complex to those whose religious/spiritual ambitions exceed the reasonable limits of their own personalities. They are characterized by self-gratifying, attention-seeking behavior and obsessions with apocalyptic “crash & burn” predictions. Interestingly, they also have an emotional fascination with fire (e.g. burning sexual desires, moral works tried by fire, scorching eternal punishment, etc.).
To say the least, there’s enough with all of this to keep me busy for months, writing and making inferences!
The Red Arrow
As it concerns my recent articles, my chief motivation can be found in the painting above. Icarus’ fall (red arrow marks the spot) is depicted as an unnoticed non-event. Farmers, travelers, fishermen, sailing merchants, they all continue their day-to-day tasks, unconcerned with the tragic splash below.
So, what is it that best represents the uninteresting splash? Without knowing the painter’s intentions, I’ll attempt to offer my own insights.
Splash! Splash! Splash!
Maybe the uneventful splash is symbolized by all the rising/falling religious-spiritual fads, trends, obsessions, predictions and ever changing, contradictory dogmas? You know, the elusive transcendental stuff. If this painting were a contemporary work, we could theorize the splash to be the numerous rapture theories or Zionist Temple Mount predictions featured by Charisma Magazine each month.
Or, we could point to the televangelists’s hyper theatrics serving up hot, steamy love songs to God followed by oratory hell-laced admonitions to the Divine’s captive bride.
Or, our thoughts could turn to Oprah’s recommended reading list and all the eager Super Soul Sunday guru guests.
The splash of week-old TV ratings certainly constitutes as a non-event.
Cable specials about angels and demons, books left out of the sacred canon, dinosaur-sized giants, ancient aliens, Nessie and Bigfoot exposes and alchemy secrets revealed… splash! splash! splash!
The latest, greatest study bibles promising word-for-word translations, religious programming’s annual pledge drives, right and left wing talking points, political call to arms and Church/State promises to use your tithes and taxes to honor God and country… SPLASH! SPLASH! SPLASH!
Who Gives A Crap?!?
For many, if it doesn’t impact grocery and gas prices, vacation resort deals, or 401K gains… who gives a crap?!?
Week after week, month after month, and year after year, many have learned to ignore the splashes. It’s just entertainment after all, right? Umm…
I’m a romantic, so I like to think the splash is not Icarus sinking into Davey Jone’s Locker. I like to envision him getting close enough to the burning light of reason, he realizes his world is upside-down. He no longer fears falling and sheds his father’s wings. He’s actually flying; for real, he… is… flying!
Think Neo being unplugged from the Matrix.
My romantic self likes to think of the splashes as being all the social, religious, political, inhumane mechanical bodies–the dim promises of transcendent flight–plunging into the waters of stupidity far below. Like Icarus, I envision myself shedding my inherited biases to soar high, far above the superstitious storytellers, religious dogma and prejudiced contemporary philosophers.
Together, we live without regret in the brilliant light of free thought and discovery.
Have I peaked your interest?
More romantic, sentimental musings to come soon… #Icarusflew #noregrets
Fred Grewe has been my dear friend for 20+ years. Our friendship, through many seasons in life, has enriched my life in countless ways. Fred has a new book out right now, published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers in London and Philadelphia: Time To Talk About Dying. He’s a brilliant storyteller and his insights about life and death are always thought provoking.
Check out his Amazon Author’s Page here.
Why is the Grim Reaper so Grim?
By Fred Grewe
I work with Death on a daily basis and over the years have come to know him quite well. On an average week I visit about twenty dying folks, more than three hundred terminal individuals annually, and over the past twelve years I have provided spiritual care for nearly two thousand people who have died.
I’m a hospice chaplain.
A little context might be helpful. Nearly all of the folks I meet and serve are north of 70 years of age. Most often, people in their 80’s, 90’s and even 100’s. Also, I work in a relatively safe middle-class environment. By and large, the people I serve have at least had a shot at a good life. These facts color my experience with Death. I’m sure ministers who work with dying children or in places of great poverty and privation might have different feelings about my friend Death.
Now generally I don’t tell people what I do for a living. I mean, when you tell someone you’re a hospice chaplain, they tend to just tilt their head knowingly and look at you with big doe eyes like you’re Brother Teresa.
And I’m not.
It’s not that I don’t love what I do or am not proud of it. Actually, I find my work both inspiring and refreshing, inspiring because of the courage and strength I witness everyday by patients and family members.
Refreshing in that I encounter very little in the way of nonsense. By the time I get to meet our patients most of the nonsense has been kicked out of them – either by a doctor’s terminal diagnosis or by some painfully failed therapy – or both.
Most clergy by and large have to put up with a lot of nonsense. I sure did when I was a pastor. It usually sounds something like this: “Why do we have to sing the same songs every Sunday?” or “You know, if we could just get out 15 minutes earlier we could beat the Baptists to all the good restaurants.” or “That was a wonderful sermon pastor, one of your best!” Pure nonsense.
Hospice patients know they don’t have time for such silliness. Every alert minute takes on profound importance when you know there are precious few left. I find the brutal honesty of conversations with such people incredibly rich and refreshing. There’s so little pretense, so little posturing. The sacredness of such moments often demands my full attention and it feels as though time simply stands still in silent homage.
That’s not to say such conversations are always serious. They’re not. But what they are is real.
For example, I remember when Carolyn was telling me about how depressed she became after her doctor told her cancer was inoperable and she only had a few months of life left.
“I stayed in bed for three or four days just crying,” she said. “I didn’t get dressed or shower – I just cried. Then one morning my daughter Jennifer came in and brought me breakfast. I started yelling at her that I didn’t want any God damned food, and if I’da had a bag I’d just put it over my head and end it all right now!
‘Paper or plastic?’ Jennifer asked.
Well, how can you stay depressed when someone treats you like that? So I got up and ate and decided to continue living until I can’t anymore.”
Such folks are daily reminders for me to live intentionally now – while I can. Because the reality is none of us is promised tomorrow. I would say this is the supreme lesson the dying have taught me about living. I call it the dying well paradox: contemplating my death compels me to live a fully engaged life now and living a fully engaged life now is the best preparation for my death. I imagine you’ve heard something like this somewhere before. So the real question is how do we engage this wisdom to actually impact our day to day existence? How can this insight shape our spiritual maturation?
What can be considered as evidence of spiritual maturity anyway? Church attendance? Tithing records? Number of memorized Bible verses? Faithful rotations in the nursery? I suggest signs of an authentic spiritual life must go deeper than these.
Now one of the drawbacks in being a minister is most everyone lies to you at a first meeting about their life of faith. For example, when I meet a new hospice patient or their family as a chaplain and ask, “How is everyone doing?”
They usually all say, “Fine.” Or, “Praise God, I’m good … I’m just waiting to go to heaven.”
Often those are simply deflections.
Those are the responses we’re all trained to tell the minister to keep him or her far away from doing any harm. If we actually tell the truth, the minister would likely try to probe deeper and unearth all the little tawdry dark family secrets that have caused enormous pain for years – and no one wants that!
To circumvent the social niceties that deflect against really getting to know folks I’ve developed a list of spiritual vital signs to help determine what’s really going on inside someone’s soul. Here’s my list of spiritual vitals: gratitude, generosity, submission to reality, and an ability to shower the people you love with love. (I know I stole that last one from James Taylor.) These are the qualities I look for in meeting a new patient to help determine the relative health of his or her soul. These are signs I look for to see if someone is really alive.
Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast has famously promoted the mantra, “It is not happiness that makes us grateful. It’s gratefulness that makes us happy.” A brief scan of the TED Talks library gives you an indication of the growing awareness on the importance gratitude holds for spiritual and mental well being. I’ve learned that gratitude is something we cultivate. It’s also magnetic. The more I express gratitude the more I find to be grateful for. Sadly, I’ve also learned the same is true for ingratitude. The more I bitch – the more I find to bitch about.
In recent years there has been a growing body of research to demonstrate that simply doing three kind things a day for others can help lift depression, improve sleep, and increase spiritual resilience. Generous behavior is evidence of a soul that has been humbled by the reception of grace and understands the deep connection we all have with each other. I have never met a truly generous person who was not aware of how much they have been given as gift and the natural response is to share that gift with others (see the story of the four lepers in 2 Kings Chapter 7). Conversely, stinginess and a sense of entitlement are symptoms of a grace starved soul.
By submission to reality I mean one’s ability to simply and humbly accept the impermanent nature of life. All living things die. Over the years the folks I’ve met and served who can accept this fact generally die a much less painful death. Those who insist on fighting the inevitable, who refuse to give up when the end is in sight, often need far more analgesics (heavy duty pain killers).
In serving nearly 2,000 departed souls I have never once had someone say to me, “I wish I had gone to more football games.” or “I wish I had spent more time on line.” or “I wish I could have gone shopping more often.” What matters most to those at the end of their life are the people they love and those who love them. Jesus taught there is no more important investment we can make in this life than loving God and those whom God places in our lives (see Mark 12:28-31). For so many years as a practicing Christian I thought this is what I needed to do to make God happy. To my joyful surprise, I have discovered that this what truly makes me happy.
So these are my spiritual vital signs, signs to give me an indication of how really alive someone’s soul is. Are they truly awake to the wonder of life? Or are they asleep, simply eking out an existence without truly engaging this miraculous gift?
Why is The Grim Reaper So Grim?
In the years that I’ve worked with Death and felt his presence at the bedside of a dying patient, I’ve thought about his costume. I mean, what’s with the hooded cowl?
I wonder if Death uses the cowl to hide his own grief, grief at having to come and collect folks who have never really lived? Never given their hearts freedom to love and be loved? So afraid of what others think, seduced by culturally unachievable standards of wealth, beauty, and knowledge, or traumatized by painful life experiences that they spent their limited precious moments in a self absorbed sleep walk. Why is the Grim Reaper so grim? Maybe because he aches so deeply for the missed opportunities we all had to really live?
Of late I have been working to strengthen my own spiritual vital signs. I want to be alive while I still can. So I look for opportunities to be generous, especially with my time (which is very hard for me)–surrendering to the things I cannot change, battling the ones I can and praying to know the difference between the two. I start each day praying for the grace and courage to be Chaplain Fred for yet another day and ask God for the openness of heart to use the day as a treasure hunt. In the midst of my tasks – the daily phone calls, traffic, charting, emails, meetings – I pray to really see at least three people this day. I mean really see them, see what is beautiful and special about them, and then find some kind way of communicating that to them. Then as I sit for prayer in the evenings I try to reflect on those folks I saw and pray for them. What I find can be big or little – but I want to find and bless at least three people. I so want my life to be a blessing for others.
I have come to the realization that all I seek at this point in my life is to be a good man. I want to spend my remaining days telling the people I love why I love them. I want to reflect back to them the beauty I see within them. I want to be a conduit of God’s grace rather than a participant in the fear of “not enough.” I want to be kind and generous – trusting that if I give myself to these tasks I might become the son God dreams me to be. I want at the end of my days as I lie on my deathbed for the last words to cross my lips to be “Thank you.” I want my friend Death not to be crying when he comes for me – but to have a gentle smile and knowing glance indicating that I really lived.
Lately, I’ve been vibing out to the delicious, soulful entrees of Tash Sultana. OMG! WOW!! I’d like to give a BIG SHOUT OUT out to my daughter SBeabz! She came home from Coachella this year and screamed, “Dad, you gotta check her out!”
Seriously, I don’t what more to tell you. If you don’t know who she is, get in the know now!!! To use a “Trumpism” – Believe me! Please don’t email me for that reference. HA! Instead, with your hungry-soul-plate in hand, rush Tash’s musical, hypnotic, soul-licious buffet.
A few weeks ago, I stumbled across a promo for the 2011 sci-fi movie, Another Earth. It immediately intrigued me because it promised to be a deeply moving, emotional sci-fi film about two earths, employing none of the usual sci-fi garb such as aliens and UFOs… interesting! I searched and found it on VUDU, placed it in my wish-list, and finally found time to watch it late last night with my wife, whom I had successfully convinced to join me for the sake of “research.” Convincing her wasn’t a chore; she was intrigued too.
Even though the movie has been out for four years, I want to be careful not to give away an spoilers, so I’ll be brief with the synopsis. The storyline centers on a young lady whose life is filled with promise and possibility until something tragic happens, drastically altering the course of her life. At the moment of this tragedy a second earth (Earth Two) appears in the sky and she, along with all the residents of Earth One, are captivated by this new reality. Furthermore, they are challenged with the suspicion that there might be “another me” out there living a similar life but differently due to opposite actions, choices, and events.
This movie was made on an extremely low-budget. The actors even did their own makeup, and the director created the Earth Two scenes on his personal computer. However, you’d never know it. The cinematography is great, and the depth of characters and storyline are superb. Brit Marling did an excellent job playing the leading role of Rhoda. She also was the co-writer of the movie script. I’m sure you’ll recognize her from her many screen roles, namely in I Origins, and her role as Liz Garvey in the TV series Babylon.
I was immediately drawn into Rhoda’s internal struggles and the new choices she labored to make in the light of Earth Two just over head. The director Mike Cahill explains that Earth Two is “kind of this externalization of the interior world of Rhoda. She could have dealt with those ideas of the confrontation of the self just by looking in the mirror, but I felt like there was something [more] powerful about really externalizing it,” by creating a situation where there really is another version of us all. Co-writer Marling elaborated further by saying the image of another Earth provokes a primal reaction, “we all feel something [deeply] about looking back at the Earth.” Definitely, this movie is a “feeling” movie, very personal, introspective, and surprising… especially the ending!
Ultimately, the movie is successful with taking a very high, external concept and internalizing it in order to explore the inner world of who we are, and what it means to be a human. Rhoda has a strong desire to become an astronaut and explore this other Earth, but ultimately her greatest desire is realized—the exploration and discovery of herself. For me, what makes this movie so deeply emotional is the use of the doppelgänger.
A doppelgänger is a look-alike or double of a living person, sometimes portrayed as a paranormal phenomenon, and in some traditions as a harbinger of bad luck.
In pop culture, when you meet your doppelgänger, “you see each other, and then one of them has to die, and so it turns into an action adventure movie in which one of them has to kill the other,” says Marling. Another Earth “was never going to be a movie about an Invasion of the Body Snatchers style” confrontation, she adds.
Another Earth deliberately turns the usual idea of doppelgänger on its head. Says Cahill: “For me, I pushed completely the opposite [idea]. I think we, as humans, have this desperate yearning to connect, and we are so alone, no matter how many people we know, our close friends or whatever, we are ultimately alone. And I think there’s a yearning to not be alone. So, to confront someone who has your shared history and all your secrets… I think there would be the greatest amount of empathy.”
Don’t Watch It Alone
In short, this movie highlights forgiveness, hope, and our common need for redemption. I love high concepts, and I especially love when they are employed in a pop culture medium that captures our imaginations while invoking a deep sense of wonderment and awareness. This movie certainly did all of this and more for me. If you’re in the mood to be entertained and challenged, watch Another Earth. And I would advise not watching it alone. Watch it with someone you love, someone you’ve dreamed with, and been forgiven by. The impact will be greater.