The Fools Who Dream

As someone who is planning on pursuing a career in the arts, La La Land really hit home for me when I saw it a few weeks ago. Then a few days ago, I read this article by Jennifer Trafton, and I realized all over again just how much the movie meant.

It stars two young artists in Los Angeles- Sebastian, a jazz pianist, and Mia, an actress. Their passion and uncontrollable love for the arts is obvious from the beginning. They are brave enough to dream, stubborn enough to fight for their dreams, and strong enough to let some of those dreams go.

Artists are dreamers. They are makers. They have thriving imaginations, aching hearts, vivid colors swirling through their minds, and countless stories hidden just beneath their skin. Out of necessity, they are also fighters. The battle to turn dreams into reality is not an easy one. Mia and Sebastian realize that this battle brings frustration and failure. They must repeatedly ask  themselves, “Is this fight worth it?”

Because the battles also require sacrifice.

In this broken world, we cannot have all we hope for. Sometimes, our dreams lead us to a fork in the road, and we have to choose a path. For the young artist, the choice can be between either creativity or money, career or relationship, originality or acceptance. The list goes on and on.

I am currently in the process of choosing a school to attend in the fall. A year or two ago, when I first started the terrifying College Search, I had a hazy, glorified vision of my school. I looked for schools that fit with this vision, and soon realized that I would never find an exact match- such a school does not exist. Now I am faced with five schools, all of which can offer me a wonderful education for my next four years. But I must choose only one. At some, I would be sacrificing my dream academic environment. At some, I would have to give up the community I want.

And I have to choose.

We make our choices- life demands that we do so. Some are easy, some are almost too hard to bear. We carry on as we must. If we are making our choices for the right reasons, the path we ultimately choose leads us to beautiful new heights; it is a good path.

But artists are dreamers. We will always wonder what might have been, had we taken the other road. We still look back wistfully on the road not taken, with a melancholy smile, wondering where it might have led us.

Does the inevitable sacrifice of some dreams make it useless to dream at all? Of course not. Dreams are what motivate us. They give us goals to ceaselessly work toward. They push us to realize our full potential. In short, dreams give us life.

In the end, however, we must remember that they are still just dreams. La La Land is so powerful because it slams its viewers with the painful truth that Sebastian and Mia cannot end up with both the dream career and one another. That is reality. Had they ended up with both dreams fulfilled, the movie would have been just another fairy tale movie that is too good to be true. Instead, we were bluntly reminded that we have to make choices.

And how should we go about making those choices? Is regret avoidable?

As we wrestle with choices, we must remember to keep our moral compasses pointed straight. It is easy to be lured away by our surroundings, but keeping our eyes looking due north ensures that our decisions are good ones. This often leads us to make decisions that the world considers foolish, to give up dreams that others would have killed for, or to choose the straight and narrow path rather than the wide, winding way.

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I am Rory Gilmore

I got out of the habit of writing. I forgot why I love it and started questioning myself. Is this actually something I want to pursue? Why do I still have a blog? Will I ever write down all the ideas floating around inside my head?

rory readingIn the midst of these questions, I remembered Rory Gilmore. Continue reading “I am Rory Gilmore”

What Are We Bourne For?

Throughout the gripping intrigue and wild car chases of the Bourne Trilogy, a question kept nagging in the back of my head. It seemed there was a plot hole, an unrealistic inconsistency. I kept wondering:

What is driving Jason Bourne?

What could his purpose in life possibly be? Continue reading “What Are We Bourne For?”

The Force

During my Holiday Blog Hiatus, I, like every other good American, saw the new Star Wars movie (Don’t worry, there won’t be any spoilers). I come from a family of avid Star Wars fans, who could not stand the thought of only watching the seventh movie of their favorite series. We had to watch the first six Star Wars movies- over 13 hours of space ships and lightsaber battles- before seeing The Force Awakens.

star wars4

After having seen and, shockingly, enjoyed 15+ hours of Star Wars, I heard that some Christians are hesitant to watch this new movie because it is about “false gods.” This is an issue that I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about as I’ve developed my love for fantasy and science fiction stories. Continue reading “The Force”

Coincidence or Destiny?

In short, the answer is destiny, assuming by “destiny” you mean God.

Allow me to explain.

For the past two weeks, my entire family has been watching The Flash. My mom and I started this trend, but my brothers quickly caught on, and now even my dad, hater of all TV besides the news and college football, has joined us. Heck, the cat probably watches it too.

The Flash -- Image Number: FLA02_FIRST_LOOK.jpg -- Pictured: Grant Gustin as Barry Allen/The Flash -- Photo: -- Jordon Nuttall/The CW -- © 2015 The CW Network, LLC. All rights reserved.
CW’s The Flash
the flash comic
The Flash from DC’s comics

Like any other superhero story, The Flash has some cheesiness: plot holes, inconsistencies, scientific impossibilities, and just in general some far-fetched scenarios. For example, Barry Allen (aka the Flash) had a traumatic childhood. When he was a young boy, his mother was murdered, and his innocent father was imprisoned for her death.

cinderella“Well that’s pretty cheesy,” you might think. “Doesn’t every fictional hero need a traumatic childhood? Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Every Disney Princess Ever? This must be one of those cheesy superhero things that I’ll just have to roll with…”

So I thought for a large part of the first season. However, as the season progresses, Barry and his friends start to struggle with the concept of Fate. Was it just a coincidence that Barry’s mother was murdered by an inhumanly fast streak of a person, and years later Barry himself can run that fast? Of course not.

As Eddie Thawne says in the season 1 finale,

“No such thing as a coincidence.”

Over the course of the first season, the characters are presented with news from the future and the ability to travel back to the past. They begin to realize that nothing that has happened to them was just coincidence- it was Destined to happen.

This brings up a big question: What is this “Destiny”? Is it some cruel outside force that controls and determines our lives just because it can?

Destiny is God’s plan; his hand over all of time. God knows what will happen, always and forever. Because he knows it, it is destined to happen- God can never be wrong.

Of course we think coincidence is childish; it doesn’t existence. How silly it would be for Barry to believe that his mother was killed by a “flash of yellow lightning” for no reason. His past, present, and future are all tied in, constantly influencing each other.

the flash drawing
The Flash, played by Grant Gustin

In a not-quite-so dramatic and science fiction-y way, the same is true for us. Is it just a coincidence that last night, you found yourself pondering ways to more easily build friendships with shy people, and then today you see a quiet person sitting by himself at lunch? Of course not. Is it merely a coincidence that your pastor talked about ways to reach out to atheists on Sunday, and on Monday you go out for coffee with your atheist friend? No.

In the same way that Barry’s childhood seemed like simply an unlucky random event, our current circumstances do not always make sense. Actually, they hardly ever make sense. It’s not until later on, when we can look back and see what brought about those circumstances and in turn what those circumstances brought about, that it makes sense:

It was God, leading you down the path that he knows is best for you. Barry realizes that his tragic past brought about so many good things, and even though he has the chance to go back and save his mother, he decides not too; he wouldn’t sacrifice the abundance of good things he has now for the one good thing that he could fix.

“‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.'”

-Jeremiah 29:11

Tricked and Treated

The movie A Perfect World is about an escaped Texas convict, Butch, who kidnaps a hostage- an eight year old boy named Philip- and is running from the police, hoping to eventually escape to Alaska.

Philip, played by T. J. Lowther
Philip, played by T. J. Lowther

The two form a strange kind of friendship as they run from the authorities, partly because both of them have daddy issues, so they can relate to each other- Butch’s dad was a criminal who left his family early on, and Philip has been growing up without a dad as well. As the story progresses, Butch attempts to play the role of Philip’s dad, but he has a twisted, selfish view of fatherhood.

This made it where, throughout the movie, I was torn. I couldn’t decide if the relationship between Butch and Philip was sweet or completely creepy.

a perfect world

I decided on creepy.

In fact, so creepy that I think Butch can even be compared to Satan.

He constantly emphasizes to Philip that he should get to do whatever he wants, which is in fact the opposite love. We like to think that lawless freedom is love, but love requires correction too. Love is not simply letting someone do whatever feels good. It is helping another person seek true goodness.

Butch is always asking, “What do you want?” or letting Philip know, “It’s up to you.” This makes Philip feel free and mature, which he never experienced in his sheltered home. However, Butch is not truly offering freedom- he manipulates the boy’s emotions, making what he wants for Philip sound the most appealing. We so often fall into this same trap. We like to seek after easy temptations, and we don’t see where those temptations lead us.

For example, when the convict and his hostage are out of rations, Butch knows that going into a store to buy more food would be too risky. Philip had mentioned earlier that he would like to go trick-or-treating (it’s the day after Halloween, and Philip has never been allowed to go).

Butch takes advantage of this. Philip in his innocence believes his kidnapper is taking him trick-or-treating, but they are stealing.casper

The young boy rings the doorbell.

“Trick or treat!”

The house owner hints at turning down Philip’s request for candy, but Butch casually flashes his pistol, forcing the lady to promptly give Phillip lots of candy, food, and even some money.

Throughout the movie, Philip thinks he is making his own decisions, when in reality he is doing exactly what his kidnapper wants. Philip lies, steals, and threatens for the man who dragged him out of his home and away from his family.

Honestly, I think this is an exact picture of us as we sin. We think that sin is what we want. Satan makes it seem like a tempting treat. We think we are making free choices when in fact we are playing right into his hands.

We end up tricked into serving the one who is leading us straight to danger and death.

“The devil can site Scripture for his purpose.” -William Shakespeare

A Heroic Company

I just finished watching the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers and its companion piece, The Pacific, with my dad. Both were amazing cinematic masterpieces, and I thought it was particularly interesting to see how they portrayed the two main theaters of World War II- the European war against Germany, and the Pacific war against Japan.

For Band of Brothers, just the name tells a lot. We immediately think of King Henry V’s bone-chilling speech in Shakespeare’s famous play. As Henry is rousing his weary men into action for the imminent battle, he closes his speech with:

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;

For he to-day that sheds his blood with me

Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,

This day shall gentle his condition.”

King Henry speaks of the glory and honor that war brings, and the bond of friendship and even brotherhood that lasts long after the fighting has ceased. In WWII, nearly 400 years after Shakespeare wrote this speech, European battle is, in many ways, still the same. It is unfairly vicious and brutal, but the honor and the unbreakable bonds help rally soldiers on both sides and invigorate them with the strength and courage they need.

“One day my grandson said to me, ‘Grandpa, were you a hero in the war?’ And I said to him, ‘No, I’m not a hero, but I have served in a company full of them.’”

-Major Dick Winters

In the last episode of Band of Brothers, the Germans have surrendered. Their commander gives a speech to his remaining soldiers, which is translated as

“Men, it’s been a long war, it’s been a tough war. You’ve fought bravely, proudly for your country. You’re a special group. You’ve found in one another a bond, that exists only in combat, among brothers. You’ve shared foxholes, held each other in dire moments. You’ve seen death and suffered together. I’m proud to have served with each and every one of you. You all deserve long and happy lives in peace.”

Even the Germans, the “bad guys” of the war, have this concept that battle is merciless, but through it, beauty can emerge. Honor. Strength. Courage. Friendship.band of brothers1

I think this is why it’s easy for Westerners to romanticize our wars. We see that good can come from even the worst of evils, and we like to focus on the good. As an audience, we would rather hear about the bond of holy friendship formed in the depths of hell, than about the countless injustices dealt from both sides. And as for the storytellers, they would usually rather relive the joyous fruits that emerged than the circumstances under which they came.

Band of Brothers does a spectacular job of balancing the Western, romantic view of war with what actually happened. The show does not shy away from gory violence or attempt to hide any disgusting truths, and yet despite the gritty horrors, we see the characters grow stronger both individually and as a group.

The marines in The Pacific expect something similar as they are shipped off to Guadalcanal, but they are in for a tough surprise.

They are fighting the Japanese, who don’t have a Western view of war at all- how could they? The Japanese want to win, and they seem willing to do anything to achieve this goal: killing themselves in order to kill off one or two American soldiers, using guerrilla warriors to attack in the middle of the night, poisoning wells and lakes, shoving guns into the hands of women, children, and elderly, and even sacrificing these civilians.

“The Japanese fought to win – it was a savage, brutal, inhumane, exhausting and dirty business. Our commanders knew that if we were to win and survive, we must be trained realistically for it whether we liked it or not…The technology that developed the rifle barrel, the machine gun and high explosive shells has turned war into prolonged, subhuman slaughter. Men must be trained realistically if they are to survive it without breaking, mentally and physically.”

-Robert Leckie

the pacific
Robert Leckie, played by James Badge Dale

The Pacific is much darker. Instead of focusing on a group of comrades who stick together throughout the war, it follows three individual marines who rarely cross paths. This gives the show a heavier, more hopeless feeling. To add to the mood, soldiers are deep in unfamiliar terrain. They camp in the jungle, enduring relentless rain on one day and heat the next.

During torrential downpour in the middle of a hostile jungle, we see 18-year-old Eugene Sledge forced to jump from guiltless childhood to unforgiving manhood overnight.

“I asked God ‘Why, why, why?’ I turned my face away and wished that I were imagining it all. I had tasted the bitterest essence of war, the sight of helpless comrades being slaughtered, and it filled me with disgust.”

-Eugene B. Sledge

Snafu
Merriel Shelton, or “Snafu,” played by Rami Malek 

Both series so accurately portrayed the brutality of war, how it breaks body and mind and soul, but they also showed the small glimmer of goodness and hope that endures.

“War is brutish, inglorious, and a terrible waste… The only redeeming factors were my comrades’ incredible bravery and their devotion to each other. Marine Corps training taught us to kill efficiently and to try to survive. But it also taught us loyalty to each other – and love. That espirit de corps sustained us.”

-Robert Leckie