Posts Tagged ‘spiritual freedom’

Happy Mothers Day

13 May 2020
Happy Mothers' Day sign

I was supposed to post this on Sunday, but got busy with other things.

After I got off the train to go to Winco, one of the first things I ran across was this outdoor “celebration” of the holiday.

Jesus Culture event

This event, in which people could drive in and get a bouquet for Mom, was being put on by Jesus Culture Sacramento. It turns out that this group came out of the Bethel Church in Redding, which we were involved with when we helped with wildfire relief efforts in 2018.

Bethel Church appeals to well-educated higher-income people who want to be Christians, but in a more modern way than how this faith is offered and presented in more traditional churches. They utilize the power of prayer (and group postulates, as we might call them) and believe in playing a leadership role in society. They train their people to be professionals.

Flowers for Mom

All the rest of this post is flower pictures. I usually take both a longer shot and a closeup of most plants I photograph, and have included the longer shots here (when I took them), though the closeups are definitely the bigger eye-catchers.

pea flower

On the trail from Winco to the park, there is a little stand of pea plants. Their flowers are very showy, though these have been out long enough to start fading. I usually don’t bother to photograph them because they aren’t wild plants.

clarkias

Here is another example of plants I don’t see in the park. However, these flowers are very common in California. They are related to fireweed which is a very common wildflower in many places. They are called “clarkias.”

clarkia flowers

Blackberries are common everywhere. This particular bush is one of several that are eagerly harvested when the berries ripen. In the park these berries tend to be ignored.

blackberry flowers

These are in the Rose Family just in case the thorns and flower shape look a bit familiar. The Rose Family also includes a lot of fruit trees.

The most obvious flowers in the park are the buckeyes (California horse chestnut).

buckeye tree in ful flower

These are now in full, full bloom. The weather this year was just right for this, so now they are putting on a real show.

buckeye flower spike

New members of the aster family also keep appearing. This family is so numerous with so many similar-looking plants that it is hard to know exactly what genus some of these plants belong to.

new yellow asters

While the new asters dominate the foreground in this shot, just behind them are a bunch of monkey flowers (covered earlier) that are still blooming quite profusely and have been for some time.

yellow aster flowers

At the aquatic center they have taken pains (apparently) to bring in some native plants that would otherwise not be seen very often any more. One of these now in bloom is the tree poppy. These are huge bushes with very big white flowers.

tree poppy bush

I have been by here many many times and don’t remember seeing these before, so these flowers must not last very long.

tree poppy flowers

I hope you all had a good weekend, and wish I could share these sights with more of you in person.

Star Wars episodes 4, 5 and 6

3 April 2016

I never went to see Star Wars in a movie theater when it originally came out. Later, I saw parts of the earlier films (not sure how that happened), and some of the later films, complete. What with a new one recently released, and some talk of it on forums, I thought it was time to add the original three films to my collection, and watch them all the way through.

I found somewhat to my dismay that the original films are not available in digital format; newer sequences have been added (replacing the original ones) in almost all digital releases except for maybe one that is almost impossible to get a copy of. Star Wars devotees have gone so far as to reconstruct digital versions of those movies that are closer to the originals, risking copyright infringement attacks.

I settled for a modern copy – blue-ray plus DVD – from Walmart. Friday night I sat down and watched them, one after another.

Background (per Wikipedia, of course)

The first film in the series, originally entitled just “Star Wars,” was released 25 May 1977. It was created by a man named George Lucas. He was a filmmaker and had already made some other films, but had been working on the Star Wars idea for quite some time. He had always envisioned it as a series, but could only land a contract to make three films. Thus, he modified the story of the first film (the fourth in his series) so that it could stand by itself if it had to. He then sought help from other writers to develop the follow-up screenplays. His first helper was a woman named Leigh Brackett, a legendary science fiction writer who was over 60 when Lucas asked for her help. She had been married to and collaborating with Edmond Hamilton, a man 10 years her senior, since 1946. Hamilton was associated with the editor Farnsworth Wright who worked for Weird Tales magazine, was a Californian born in 1888 and had seen action in World War 1.

How these people got their inspiration for their work and story picks is not much discussed in their online biographies, yet is of interest to me.

But to continue with the background story: Lucas is a Californian from Modesto, about 10 years older than me. After he graduated USC’s School of Cinematic Arts with a Bachelor of Fine Arts (1967) he tried to join the Air Force and then the Army. They turned him down due to disqualifications. He resorted to instructing a documentary cinematography class for the U.S. Navy. I find this fascination with the military odd and unexplained. It has been noted that many artists who began their careers in the 1960s were connected with the military.

Lucas is said to have been influenced by Joseph Campbell, a scholar in comparative religion who in turn was influenced by many noted “modern” thinkers. Lucas has characterized himself as a “Buddhist Methodist” and lives in Marin County, where there is a sizable enclave of successful people from the entertainment industry and related activities.

He ended up being the principle writer on all three of the original films, plus the prequel trilogy, produced much later.

The Story

Superficially, the movies are strictly Space Opera, Buck Rogers style, to a degree approaching camp. [Camp: banality, mediocrity, artifice, ostentation, etc. so extreme as to amuse or have a sophisticated appeal – my dictionary.]

They trace the adventures of one Luke Skywalker, a young man first unaware of his previous political connections, but sympathetic to the cause of the Rebel Alliance, a group opposed to the vicious rule of the Galactic Empire, which has developed a planet-killing weapon known as the Death Star which they hope will quell any remaining resistance. The Alliance has a plan to destroy the Death Star, and Luke ends up being key to its ultimate success.

An extensive string of major and minor additional characters fill the story with an almost unending stream of twists and turns. Ray guns are constantly being fired, space battles regularly occur, and ancient secrets are revealed, as the rebels and their antagonists chase each other through a universe (or galaxy) filled with a huge variety of beings, stars, planets and moons. Superluminal speeds are commonplace!

At the end of the first movie, the Death Star is destroyed, but the evil Darth Vader narrowly escapes the blast. This episode is now entitled “A New Hope.”

In the second episode, “The Empire Strikes Back,” Luke begins his training with Yoda as a Jedi knight, but interrupts it to go out and save his friends. During this episode Luke learns that Vader is his biological father.

The third episode, “Return of the Jedi,” first involves the group’s attempts to rescue Han Solo – a rascal but skilled pilot – from imprisonment, and ends on a moon called Endor, with a huge battle that, at the last minute, allows the rebels to destroy the second version of the Empire’s Death Star, incomplete, but functional. Luke learns that the rebel leader Princess Leia, is his twin sister. At the end there is great rejoicing as the area emerges from a long period of spiritual suppression.

According to the sequel stories, which begin 30 years after this (as all the actors from the original are now 30 years older), a new suppressive group called the First Order has emerged and attempts to gain control of the galaxy. This group is overtly inspired by the Nazis, according to writer/director J.J. Abrams, including the stories that they survived post-WWII in exile at various secret locations.

What I see as the most important theme

Superficially, this is just another epic Space Opera story. Its popularity, which has been almost unprecedented in the history of the film business, could be attributed to its central theme of good versus evil (where good always wins in the end), the skill of its story telling, and the attention paid by its creators to the details of cinematic art and technique.

But we should add a few other factors to the phenomenon of popular appeal: marketing push on the one hand, and on the other, the true depth of the human psyche.

What other films stand high on the list for popularity (by gross earnings)? Gone with the Wind, Avatar, Titanic, The Sound of Music, ET. And by franchise: Marvel (comic book superheros), Harry Potter, James Bond, Middle Earth, followed by many others involving magical powers.

Magic

To me, magic is the key theme in all these popular works.

I have been taught that at one time we were all capable of what today would be called “magic.” It can be broken down into a long list of spiritual abilities.

The appeal of stories involving magic lies, I think, in the abiding – if subconscious – question: Why don’t we have those abilities any more?

Almost all these stories address this question in a similar manner: Magic can be used for good or for evil. And because it can be used for evil, it is best left alone.

Most people, as much as they love these stories, would probably agree with this.

But is it true?

It is possible we are mistaken in some way about this. Star Wars gets as close to any popular story I know of in addressing this issue.

The Force

In Star Wars, the power of “magic” is in The Force. We are introduced to this concept in the scenes involving Luke’s Jedi training. The idea of such a Force is an ancient one, though I am by no means an expert in tracing the idea. However, its name betrays the slant of its namers. Force, in our language, is a physical phenomenon. However, the concept in one of its forms – that used by Frenchman Henri Bergson – élan vital (translated by materialists as “life force”) was translated by Bergson’s English translator as “vital impetus,” which is similar to Hubbard’s idea of a living urge, or an urge to be alive, or the simple essence of Life.

Thus, the whole Jedi concept may be purposely (or unwittingly) misleading. As a being becomes more and more disconnected from himself (or itself), and its own abilities, it will turn to material technologies to make up for its own loss of power. Its only power then becomes the threat of using those technologies on those it wishes to dominate. Those who refuse to be dominated can be exterminated, but that does not kill their love of freedom. Thus, most criminals end up concentrating on ways to substitute the love of freedom with more material attachments.

As the highest-level storytellers, we may suppose, are not interested in the spiritual freedom of their audiences, these films are not meant to help anyone achieve that, but only to “teach lessons.” And the primary lesson is that there is a Dark Side that is very powerful.

LRH has discovered that there is much more to this story than what these movies are showing us. I recommend his work for this and many other reasons.

My Take on Cloud Atlas

8 December 2012

Cloud Atlas is a novel that was turned into a movie by the Wachowski brothers (Matrix) with the help of another director and independent funding, including a contribution from the German government. It was all shot in Germany.

I have not read the novel. I saw the movie on the evening of Saturday December 1st in Portland. I then read the Wikipedia article on it.

The book, I get the impression, was divided up into six stories, starting with one set in the 1800s. In the movie, an “ensemble” of actors play various roles in different stories, and the stories are intermixed. You get the impression that various characters in different times and places are actually the same spiritual being, because those characters are played by the same actor. I don’t know how this is handled in the book.

The Stories

The stories start in the 1800s with a tale involving a sailing trip. We see a young man concluding a business agreement with someone in a tropical country. As they tour the plantation, the young man witnesses a whipping and faints. He is then put under the charge of a doctor who decides to slowly poison him and blame it on a tropical disease, in order to get his hands on the young man’s valuables. Meanwhile, the slave who was whipped has stowed away in the young man’s cabin, and appears – asking for his help to prove himself capable of been a free man. The young man agrees and the slave wins his freedom. At the end of the voyage, the ex-slave discovers the doctor’s plot and kills the doctor. The young man survives, reunites with his young wife, who he had been corresponding with during his voyage, and they renounce her father, who does business with slave owners, and leave to become abolitionists.

The next story, a tad unrelated to the first, is set in the early 1900s. It involves an aspiring musician who has a taste for sex with his own gender. This musician succeeds in gaining access to a failed composer and ghost-writing several pieces for him, which brings him back to fame. He then writes his own piece, which he calls the “Cloud Atlas Sextet,” and determines to promote it on his own – regardless of his agreement with the composer. When the composer tries to stop him from doing this, the musician shoots him (but doesn’t kill him) and then must hide out from the law until he finishes his piece. He then kills himself, leaving the publishing of the work to his male lover.

Following this story we have one set in the 1970s. A young woman investigative journalist runs across a plot to allow a nuclear reactor to blow up, giving nuclear power a bad name. It seems to be funded by oil interests. Everyone who helps her loses their lives. She is helped by a security officer for the nuclear power company who knew her father. They are pursued by a professional assassin, but with the help of a Latino lady he is killed.

The next story takes place in more or less the present time. A failing book publisher runs into financial luck when one of his authors notoriously kills a book critic at a party. The publisher is now pursued by thugs sent by a creditor, and goes to his brother to ask for help. His brother, in the guise of helping him, gets him locked up in a high-security old folks home. He then plans and carries out an escape with three others who also value their freedom. Their pursuers get beaten up by a bunch of soccer fans in a pub where they go to celebrate their escape. In a somewhat separate story line, we see this publisher writing about this whole adventure. He is writing what seems to be a screenplay for a movie. In this story he redeems himself in the eyes of the lover of his youth, and they reunite to live happily.

The next story happens approximately 100 years forward from the last. It is set in Korea (Seoul) and depicts an automated civilization in which bodies are manufactured and killed (then recycled into food and more bodies) at the whim of the controlling group. The slave masters seem to have won with finality. But they rule over a decaying and war-torn world, and the urge to be free has not died. One slave asserts her independence one day and is killed by her handlers in public. Another slave, seeing this, feels the need to escape. She is assisted in this by a member of the resistance movement who shows her how the system really works (the recycling of dead bodies). She agrees to broadcast an announcement for the resistance over a hacked communication channel, and thus wins public fame. She is then captured and killed, after being interrogated by an “archivist.”

The final story is set in a post-apocalyptic land where peaceful people try to protect themselves from cannibalistic marauders who ride horses. An ET, stranded on earth with a small crew, persuades one of the peaceful ones to assist her to locate an old communications station located on top of a mountain. The station, it turns out, is called Cloud Atlas. They finally locate the station and contact her planet, which then sends out a rescue ship. But meanwhile the man’s village has been attacked by the cannibals, and all killed save one little girl who successfully hid herself. With the help of the ET woman, the man and girl escape. Through this whole story, the man is plagued by a “ghost” in a top hat which tries to get him to do the wrong thing instead of the right thing. But the ET’s love and determination to survive is stronger than the ghost, and the man’s evil intentions are finally overcome.

The Ensemble

The cast of characters is lead by Tom Hanks, who plays the evil doctor in the first story and the man who helps the ET in the last story. In between he plays several other characters who struggle with their moral choices, including the criminal who kills the book critic.

Another main character is the ET woman played by Halle Berry. She also plays the young abolitionist in the first story, a daughter of the composer in the second story, and the reporter in the third story. This being, then, remains pure throughout the entire piece.

Hugo Weaving, of Matrix fame (Agent Smith), plays a string of bad guys, including the 1970’s hired assassin. He seems to be a being thoroughly caught up in the various games of power and unwilling or unable to free himself.

An oriental actress Doona Bae plays the girl who marries the young man in the first story, the Latino woman, and the slave girl in New Seoul. She is a parallel to the Halle Berry character in many ways, but more caught up in the system.

Another set of important characters are those played by the black actors Keith David and David Gyasi. These include the slave in the first story, the man who helped the reporter in the third story, and one of the ETs in the last story. Here are competent beings who have principles and are willing to live by them.

Hugh Grant also plays many roles, usually someone “successful” but with compromised principles. He plays these roles strongly, and I had difficulty knowing what to think about these characters. They achieve a kind of “freedom” for themselves by playing within the system, but they don’t seem happy; they know they have betrayed their own integrity.

Themes

My friends told me “you have to see Cloud Atlas – it’s about past lives!” Well, it is, kind of. But I would not describe it that way. I think it uses the idea of past lives as a way to explain the continuity of human experience over extended periods of time. And this is a very valid explanation. But the film does not dwell on it.

What the film does dwell on is the continued and persistent arrogance of the “dominant” race on earth (oddly, the only race with recessive genes for skin color) to maintain power through any convenient myth that they can appropriate, but particularly the genetics myth, and what has become known as “social Darwinism.” This manifests as a teaching that society is the way it is because it was meant to be that way.

In opposition to this is the shared urge towards freedom of all people. This urge is not handled carefully or finely in this film, but rather coarsely. It deserves more contemplation than this movie gave it, yet I suppose we should be grateful that it appeared as a theme at all.

A dominant, but to me unwanted, theme in this movie was the topic of sexual confusion. We had the gay composer, his lover who played a woman in another story, and various other crossed-sex roles, such as Susan Sarandon playing a technologist in New Seoul. It is not that this topic is unworthy, but that it was used in this film as a way to make the story line even more confusing than it already was. It is quite true that the fact of past lives can indeed cause gender confusion in people. But that connection was not dealt with in this story.

Outcomes

The urge towards freedom did not win out in these stories; the urge to find a mate and reproduce did. And that, again, is genetics.

Genetics is also very involved in the various New Age teachings, and in most of the “channeled” material being presented to us.

They want us to focus on the “problem” of genetics, which I believe is a manufactured problem. Like the “problem” of Mid-East terrorists, or “global warming”. These problems have been manufactured by the power structure to keep us attached to their game. All these subjects ARE problems – for THEM! It is their genetics that are failing, their lives and property being endangered by criminal elements, and their planet – which they think they own – being threatened by cosmic shifts that they have little or no control over.

But the big problem for the rest of us, I believe, is actually freedom. This whole power game being played on this planet by what are basically a collection of criminal groups has the rest of us all caught up in activities that we would rather have no part of – be free of. War, murder, robbery are not things that suit most of us. Yet on a planet ruled by criminals, these activities become commonplace.

 

Do you want a future such as the one portrayed in Cloud Atlas? This year is only 2012. We still have time to change the course of events. There is much to learn about freedom, and if you desire it you owe it to yourself to learn more about it.