Who wants to live forever? Dec02

Who wants to live forever?...

Stories about eternal life on earth abound in sci-fi and fantasy; I think of the Dúnedain from The Lord of the Rings, That Hideous Strength by C.S. Lewis, many a Star Trek episode, and the list could go on… The Highlander movie and TV series, however, is a favourite of mine. My family will attest to my random singing of “Who Wants to Live Forever”by Queen, or shouting out the catchphrase “there can be only one!” during battles with… well, anyone who will battle me. The theme of immortality is also a constant in Doctor Who, since the Doctor is essentially immortal. Though there were two recent episodes that dealt with immortality head on—”The Girl Who Died” and “The Woman Who Lived.” In the first episode, a young Viking woman named Ashildr dies to save her village from aliens using a helmet that the Doctor modified. Feeling sad for her poor, grieving father, and perhaps guilty for his part in it, he decides to bring her back to life. He uses a modified microchip (he’s really into modifying alien tech in this episode) to bring her back and gives her a second one to use on someone else so that she will not be alone—because there’s a catch to this remedy—she will be immortal. The immortality that I am waiting for is one where I will become most perfectly myself. “The Woman Who Lived” picks up in Ashildr’s adulthood, several hundred years after her encounter with the Doctor. We find her so jaded, broken, and lonely from the solitude of her immortality (she never did use the second microchip) that she has been living a life of crime. She reveals that, since her memory is mortal-sized, the only way she could remember everything that has happened to her is by writing it out...

Oh, the superhumanity Nov09

Oh, the superhumanity...

The second that we got to the train station—before we even parked—I spotted some co-attendees for my first-ever Comic Con. The red cloak and Thor’s hammer were the first things to clue me in. Costumed folk were everywhere on the way to the convention, and as I walked the streets of New York with my husband, we played many rounds of “Cosplay or Everyday?” Some I was able to figure out and some remain inconclusive for me. My husband and I met the first Godzilla suit actor, Haruo Nakajima, and got his autograph for my son, who has wanted to be a kaiju actor since he was four. Doing that for my son made my day, but seeing the cosplayers, the merchandise booths, the life-sized TARDIS, and the exhibits was amazing—I’d like to do that every year. But my favourite part was attending a presentation by Scott Snyder (Batman writer), called “DC Entertainment Spotlight on Scott Snyder.” Snyder shared the challenges of writing and all of the rejections he faced before he got anywhere (that was great for me to hear). However, his best insight was when he shared about his vision of Batman. Much of the discussion focused on the villains that plague Batman, because no hero can be discussed independently of his or her villain(s). While a true hero isn’t defined by his villains (try as the villains might to make it so), he is, in part, shaped by them. Snyder pointed out that the villains totally outweigh the heroes—the hero-to-villain ratio favours villains almost exponentially—making the defeat of evil an insurmountable task.Batman’s awareness of his weakness makes him stronger and a better hero. In the Batman universe, the most formidable villain is Gotham itself. The city is the embodiment of evil;...

That’s easy, I’m Spock Oct19

That’s easy, I’m Spock...

Who am I? That’s easy, I’m Spock. BuzzFeed says so, so it must be true. Like many people, I enjoy taking online quizzes—so much so, that they have now begun showing up in the advertisements that pop into my Facebook feed. It still freaks me out a bit that they are tailored to my particular interests, but not enough for me not to take them. Through these quizzes, I have discovered that I should live in England, Rivendell, the Shire, the Victorian period—or the 80’s—and own a cottage in the woods. I have found out that if I was an Avenger I’d be Captain America (no brainer), if I was a companion of The Doctor I’d be Rory (maybe), if I was a character from a Jane Austen novel I’d be Fanny Price (wrong!  I’m an Elizabeth Bennett all the way), If I was a Star Trek character I’d be Spock (absolutely), if I was a LOTR character I’d be Merry (not sure about that one) and if I was a character on Big Bang Theory I’d be Sheldon (that’s true). I will pause here so you can click the link to the right and find out what sci-fi character you are. Go on. You know you want to. Why do I love these quizzes? It’s fun to consider questions about myself that I normally wouldn’t entertain. I like to see if the program is accurate. Sometimes I become indignant at the result because I don’t think it fits me, but other times their prediction is spot on. I’m pretty sure that I know myself well—I do an awful lot of self-reflection between my writing life and prayer life—but I guess I’m interested in seeing an outside perspective, even if it is based on a ridiculously...

That thief, lust Aug17

That thief, lust

In The Lord of the Rings, there are two characters who lose their names. Their names are stolen from them, really. Stolen by that thief, lust. That poor, little dude Smeagol is the first of lust’s victims. Smeagol is the embodiment of lust. The way the power of the Ring works on him is so clear, so apparent, he should be under the definition of lust in the dictionary. It’s downright obvious. And sometimes lust is downright obvious. Smeagol becomes Gollum almost instantly. His lust is so transformative, he kills his best friend within minutes of finding the Ring. His lust is so revolting that it serves as an immediate warning for anyone who meets him. More often, however, I think lust is subtle, more deviously sneaky—and that’s when it is the most dangerous. Both Gollum and Wormtongue lose themselves so completely to lust that they become someone else. Take our second character, Grima, for instance. He’s slimy, he’s creepy, and he makes no bones about what he wants. Like Gollum, by the time we meet him, it’s clear what he’s about and nobody likes or trusts him… except for King Theoden. Theoden has thrown off every good advisor in his kingdom, including beloved members of his family. He used to be a wise, loving person, so we can conclude that something very powerful must have been working on him. But it’s also apparent that what’s happened to Theoden has been a gradual change. If Gollum showed up in the court of Rohan, he would have been imprisoned or killed on the spot.  Grima, on the other hand, better known as Wormtongue, is not only allowed access to the King, but is a trusted advisor. His lust, because of how it is disguised, transforms not...

The Master would not approve Jul27

The Master would not approve...

When I was a kid, my dream job (besides working for The Peace Corps) was to write for a show called Mad Movies. If you’re old like me, you might have seen this show on Nickelodeon in the 80’s. The show was old movies with new soundtracks dubbed over them to make them hilarious. I thought making fun of old movies would be an awesome job; that’s what I wanted to do that with my life. You know… or work for the Peace Corps… Well, I didn’t do either. I wound up working for the Catholic Church. Though I teach and write a lot, and both of these venues necessarily include humour. When I was in high school another show came into my view: Mystery Science Theater 3000. It was like Mad Movies, but with robots! And you get to hear the original dialogue, which is often as funny as what the guys added. Many of the jokes become staple phrases in my home, and my family watches episodes on YouTube together as often as we can. If we have no joy we really need to re-evaluate what we’re about. My younger son recently said, “Oh no…I’m growing up to be Torgo.” (Don’t ask me why—I can’t remember and I probably forgot on purpose.) Both of my boys periodically approach me awkwardly reaching for my hair while humming the Torgo Theme. We are all in agreement that The Master would not approve of most of the things that happen in our home. When I ask the kids a question, the answer is often a whiny, “I don’t know!” in the style of Zap Rowsdower. And, even though they haven’t seen “Devil Fish” yet, they know that when I sing the modified “Juicy Fruit” theme,...

For God and shrubbery Jul14

For God and shrubbery...

Let’s face it—if God is going to show up in the clouds and give you a quest, people are probably going to expect some kind of heavenly reproaching and yelling along with his appearance. But the kingly face in the clouds in Monty Python and the Holy Grail instead reprimands Arthur and the other knights for averting their eyes and groveling. This is actually one of my favourite things about the movie—the knocks it takes on God and the Catholic Church. That may be shocking coming from a person who loves God and works for the Church, but in my mind, they point to larger issues and realities that we need to look at—and humour is a good place to start! Humour opens me up to hear truths that I might be inclined to rebuff if couched differently. I couldn’t wait to share this movie with my oldest son (in whose experience of God I take a keen interest), and this was the year for it! Of course, I fast forwarded past the Anthrax Castle scene… I’ve never met nuns like that, and I wasn’t up for a conversation explaining what just happened. On the other hand, I love Brother Maynard and the other monks. The reading from the Book of Armaments sounds like the new Roman Missal at times—and while I love the Missal and I love the Mass, some of the language can be a little challenging for some. I enjoy watching the monks walking in single file, chanting Latin (an actually very nice prayer) and whacking themselves in the head with boards. I’ve never met any monks like that either, but I suppose it does speak to a certain segment of the population who, to my personal dismay, practice mortification even...

You didn’t say it, you didn’t do it Jul08

You didn’t say it, you didn’t do it...

The Princess Bride was on TV the other night. No matter what else is happening in my life, if I’m flipping channels and I come across The Princess Bride, that’s as far as I’m going. I have the movie on DVD—I could watch it any time I want—without commercials. But, if I see it on TV, I’m watching it. It was playing in the background while I was working, and while I wasn’t paying 100% attention to it, it didn’t stop me from saying the lines along with the movie. When the wedding scene came on, however, I began to pay attention. It’s hilarious. Everybody knows—and I’m sure Prince Humperdink would have remembered if he wasn’t so rushed and stressed—that this was not a valid marriage. But poor Buttercup was so distraught that she lost sight of this fact. Thankfully, Buttercup has Westley to put it in perspective. It goes like this: Buttercup: Oh, Wesley, will you ever forgive me? You have to know what you’re saying and say it with intention and in freedom. Westley: What hideous sin have you committed lately? Buttercup: I got married. I didn’t want to – it all happened so fast. Westley: Never happened. Buttercup: What? Westely: Never happened. Buttercup: But it did I was there; this old man said ‘man and wife.’ Westley: Did you say ‘I do?’ Buttercup: Um, no…we sort of skipped that part. Westley: Then you’re not married. You didn’t say it; you didn’t do it. If you were married in a church, you were probably subjected to a whole lot of questioning, paperwork, meetings, Pre-Cana sessions and maybe a year’s worth of waiting. Why all the trouble? Because, like Buttercup, people need to know what they’re getting themselves into. No one can be...

Dragon baptisms Jun23

Dragon baptisms

For almost half my life it has been my job to work with individuals who are converting to Catholicism, and baptism is a huge part of this. Everybody is always super jealous of the Elect who will be Baptized, because everything bad they ever did in their lives is drowned in the waters of Baptism and they get to totally start over. They go into the water their old, broken selves, and come out a new creation in Christ. But before being baptized, they really scrutinize themselves to see what needs to be left in the water—what they need to die to in order to rise to Christ. Each year on the morning of the Easter Vigil (the Elect will be Baptized that night) we get together for a retreat. And each year I read them one of my favorite passages from C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia. It’s from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If you’re not familiar with this story, why the heck not?! Read it! The books in this series are short, easy reads and they are AWESOME. (Note: the movies are NOT a substitute for the books.) I cannot let sin follow me around like toilet paper on my shoe. The section I read to them takes place after a jerky kid named Eustace becomes a dragon. He came across some dragon treasure, took a bracelet and (naturally) became a dragon himself because dragon treasure is cursed. He has a lot of time to think about what an ass he had been (and he really had been). He is alone with his thoughts and regrets. From out of nowhere a huge lion, Aslan, shows up and Eustace understands that Alsan wants to help him become a boy again. Eustace understands that...

I don’t want to be upgraded Jun08

I don’t want to be upgraded

Humans are funny. On one hand, we want to avoid any kind of vulnerability at all costs.  We don’t like to fail, be judged, or show any imperfection. We guard our appearance because we don’t want to look old, or fat, or out of style.  Consider the amount of makeup ladies wear; consider Spanks or Just For Men hair coloring.  And that’s just physical vulnerability—when we mess up, we immediately look for excuses—someone or something else to blame. We will go through all kinds of elaborate schemes to avoid feeling uncomfortable, uncertain or hurt. On the other hand, we would fight to the death for our right to be imperfect, vulnerable and broken. We do it in personal relationships and as a species. And, as is reflected in our preference for stories that support and identify with our ways of thinking and feeling—we love stories where we are victorious over those who would take away our individuality, diversity, autonomy—our right to make our own mistakes and be vulnerable. I wonder, would I be willing to sacrifice myself for someone else? Most superhero stories have this element.  There’s often some alien race that wants to take over the world and make us conform to their ways—and it frequently means that they want to take away the things that make us weak—like feelings—so that we will be obedient.  Doctor Who has many examples of this: The Cybermen (who call it “upgrading”) and the Daleks to name a couple; Star Trek has the Borg who want to make everyone part of the Collective; Falling Skies has the Overlords who want to turn the kids into Skitters… We also have stories of humans trying to “improve” their own kind, like in the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell. There was talk a couple of years ago of scientists being able to remove bad memories from people’s brains—even my 12 year old thought that was a bad idea. And then, Gravity Falls had an episode all about it—and cartoon children came to the conclusion that there is value in vulnerability. A story that has stuck with me is about Batman’s Mr. Freeze, who tried so hard to avoid the vulnerability of grief that he went to extreme measures; he tried to save his wife through cryogenics and wound up turning himself into a villain. Avoiding emotion never ends well—you are always going to turn into a supervillain if you try not to feel. Whether we have superheroes come to the rescue or a rag-tag fugitive fleet saves the day; a remnant few will stand up for our right to be the small, broken, hot mess that humanity is. Someone will be there to resist—even when resistance seems futile. In fact, in most TV shows and movies, the little group of heroes will inevitably have a conversation like, “What are the chances of success?”  “Slim to none.”  “Let’s do this.” We would fight to the death for our right to be imperfect, vulnerable and broken. In The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis illustrates the power of vulnerability as salvific. Aslan offers his own life to save the life of Edmund—a traitor. By sacrificing himself, not only does Aslan save Edmund, he brings out the “deeper magic” that saves everyone and takes down the evil Witch who was oppressing Narnia. Aslan’s vulnerability changed from apparent weakness to the ultimate strength—and that’s why we are so willing to fight for it—vulnerability embraced becomes unfathomable strength. Vulnerability is literally the banner of Christianity—the cross.  I’m challenged every day to step outside of my comfort zone to serve others, to see and acknowledge my failings and shortcomings. And, contrary to what many think about Christianity, valuing vulnerability doesn’t mean I’m an obedient drone. I wear my brokenness like a badge. I follow the example of a God who came to the world in the form of...