Week #6

An Apt Movie Review

"Well I'm picking the restaurant," the older man said loud and exasperated as the lights in the theater gradually came on.

"What, you didn't like it?" his wife asked in a more diminutive tone.

"It was weird!" was his response.

He was referring to the new Robin Williams movie, "What Dreams May Come."

In some ways I would agree with the old man's assessment, because what you get when you try to include everyone's vision of heaven and hell (excluding any Christian notion in the process) does tend to resemble a punk rock music video. However I thought there was one redeeming insight in the movie not about heaven or hell, but about earth and that was, "we create heaven or hell here by the way we choose to think."

I am long versed in how thoughts and feelings can obsess us. I've had my share of obsessions that I held onto long after I had declared them irrational. But at some point in much the same way as the historical Sidhartha (commonly referred to as "the Buddha") we just have to let go of wanting reality to be something other than what it is.

In the movie people are in hell for not accepting reality, even in heaven people are stuck in some type of limbo until they can accept the fact that they are dead. It strikes me the same is true here on earth, as long as we paint the world around us in different colors we end up sloshing through a world of paint, it messes us up.

Of course in Christianity this is termed "Original Sin," a feeling of dissatisfaction with the way things are something evidently even Adam and Eve felt in paradise. The return to Paradise is humanly impossible, so Christianity teaches. The Buddhist would counter that Nirvana is humanly possible when we stop wishing for Paradise, in other words get rid of desire and you'll be happy. I'd rather have Jesus open the gates of paradise and to convert my desire to wanting the right things.

I use to joke that as I taught world religions that I was routinely converted to each of them, since I had to defend their beliefs to my students who always found fault in them. Perhaps it's time to return to Christianity, where the savior walked on earth, suffered, died and was not satisfied with that. Who would be?

So he rose again. That may be weird to those who imagine heaven in Hollywood, but to me it's real.

Baloons and Mountain Demons with Their Dogs

I had planned a short hike, figuring that in five days I had already traversed at least 20 mountain miles. The trail seemed abandoned this morning, there was a light fog in the air and it was cool. I reached First Water and decided that I should at least go as far as I had the previous trip where I had left a simple etched "M" on a rock.

Up ahead I saw two people with two dogs. I reached the spot where they had stopped and now were joined by a third man with a dog about a hundred feet where I planned to stop and turn around.

We exchanged greetings at which at some point I announced that I had pretty much reached my destination and was about to turn around.

"Oh no, you have to go further, you can do it," came the demonic chorus.

I had no doubt "I could do it," but I wasn't sure that I wanted to, after all this was a two-way trip and for every step taken forward you had to take one back.

"Up around the corner is where it really gets good," the oldest demon said.

I was now faced with a mild dilemma, go the 100 feet further that I had planned and have to encounter the three a few moments later or fulfill their wish. Temptation won out and I continued up the trail past the paltry "M" that I had sketched in a rock.

The climb was steady from that point and after about a 1/4 mile I entered a more wooded area. In the midst of this wooded area I stopped totally winded and it was then that I noticed a long string of balloons caught in one of the trees. So now I've reached the graveyard of helium balloons, I thought.

Plodding along a bit further I wondered how much further it could be before I would reach the "orchard" where I would encounter the next sign. I kept thinking that it must be close, and this thought would propel me a little further. Even thought I felt like turning around, I was so sure that I was almost there I did not want to stop now to find out later that had I walked around one more corner I would have been able to say that I had climbed that far.

So I climbed, and still no sign. I looked backwards and far down the mountain I saw the tops of the trees and even further I saw the balloons caught in the top of one of them.

Finally I reached a place where the stream crossed the trail, "Decker Spring" I would learn later. From here the trail went straight up and it was here that I finally decided that it was enough. The orchard would have to wait for another day.

The trip down seemed to take forever. It was a good mile before I ran into two of the demons with their dogs.

"Nicer up here isn't it."

"Yeah," I muttered back. "But it's a long way down."


Walking up mountain trails reminds me of Medjugordje, Bosnia, a place I visited twice at the end of the 1980's. Medjugordje reminds me of apparitions and strange happenings, plus a little political turmoil thrown into the mix and perhaps responsible for the other. So it wasn't without reason that I found myself wondering what would happen if as I rounded one of the many turns in the mountain trial I were to encounter an archangel.

My first reaction to the thought was that I would hate to run into anything that would scare me on such a narrow trail, but I suspect an archangel would be preferable to a bear, coyote or even a squirrel. Presumably the angel would have the power to save me if upon seeing it I went for a tumble, but who knows it's mission might be to accompany me to the next life.

Angels in the Bible always say the same thing first, "Do not fear." There have been a lot of books written about angel visitations in the past few years, the trouble I have with most of the experiences is the angels never have to impart the important greeting. It strikes me a sane person would require a do not fear command.

Luckily no angels visited me for any reason on my hike, at least in a physical form. I guess they were in my mind and after all they are spiritual beings so maybe they were there after all. I think I did hear there message, "Do not fear." It's a lovely message if you think about it, one that covers a multitude of sins.

"Do not fear," a nice thought on the feast of the Archangels.

My feast day actually. When I attended a school run by monks, they celebrated feast days like they were birthdays. I received an icon of St. Michael on my feast day in 1980; I still have it somewhere.

Feast days commemorated not only the saint, but also those who took on that name in Baptism. Michael is a good name. I feel sorry for all the Brooks, Dawns and Stones who have no feast days!

First Burnt Stump

Today I ventured further up the mountain, past the previously mentioned "First Water." I passed the sign that marks the "First Water" and continued upward, where the trail suddenly became very narrow and at times it was like walking on the edge of a cliff.

At first water you can actually reach the creek that for most of the climb has been a hundred feet below you, once you past first water it is amazing how quickly the water is once again far below you. As I meandered up the trail I could no longer see the water, but could still hear it sounds emanating from below the tree cover.

I walked for about fifteen minutes past "First Water" to a spot where there was a burnt tree stump. The stump measured about 30 inches across and obviously had been the base for a very large tree. It was a rather remarkable site, for it seem half suspended in the air. I leaned against a rock and contemplated the burnt stump for a few minutes.

It seemed that younger trees surrounding the burnt stump had survived the fateful fire without a scar, yet what had at one time been a very large tree had been destroyed. It made me reflect that in nature, bigger is not always better.

I walked a little further up the side of the mountain and found a small stone that I used to scratch my initials on the side of a large rock so that I would have someway of remembering how far I had gone the next time. The rock I found had already been scratched on quite a bit, but I managed to find room at the bottom to scratch in MAD. We'll see if it survives.

Walking down the mountain, which is always a lot faster than climbing up it, I met a man on a mountain bike. He decided that this was a rather risky venture and I soon met him again has he passed me rather slowly making his way back down.