Love Long – Long Life

The only way to be happy is to love. Without you love, your life will flash by.
~ Mrs. O'Brien (played by Jessica Chastain), The Tree of Life (2011).
Long life is in wisdom's right hand.
In wisdom's left hand are riches and honor.
~ Proverbs 3:16 (GW).

A long life is a scary existence to the fearful. Their experience of life may better resemble death than life. But there's always hope in everyone's life; that light might achieve reception within the hearts and minds of those estranged to God and, therefore, love.

Love's a thing will be away from selfishness, self-pity, sedition, and pride, and won to relational surrender, selflessness, and perseverance.

It's a thing that's highly idealistic yet intensely practical.

Love is a full life because it's given to overflow; not via the form of activity but through the engagement of the senses and intuition in the realm of reality, and therefore meaning.

A life sold to love has given itself away so it can become itself. This is where life really begins; not beforehand.


When we approach matters of life and love and wisdom, we see that wisdom is above love, but only by the way it can explain the truth of love – why love is the only sensible choice to live life by.

Wisdom knows it; love achieves it. Love perpetuates this wisdom: that a long life is possible only by giving ourselves away.

Long life, by way of the meaning packed into life's years, is the logical result of hating what can be stolen in life and loving what can be given.


Three times in Mark's Gospel we find Jesus teaching on love being the way of losing its life so it can be saved, desiring to be least, and being last and servant of all; to be slave of all, destined to serve and not be served (Mark 8:35; 9:35; 10: 44-45).

Life in the eternal realm makes no sense until we understand this principle and begin to apply it.

When others are blessed in the smallest of kindnesses, then we know love. We've exhibited it and we've experienced it; firstly, by the exhibition of loving our neighbors as ourselves, and secondly, by the experience of God's infilling of love.

That's the Gospel message. That's how we love God; by loving others in almost self-confidential ways.

Where desires are lost reverently to God, God gives us more blessing than we can even absorb. This makes for a full life; full days enlivened with meaning make for long life.

© 2011 SJ Wickham.

The Tree of Life Movie Review

Terrence Malick is a truly extraordinary and enigmatic filmmaker; over the course of the last 38 years, he has directed only five films, each of which is widely considered as a consensus masterpiece. The beauty and complexity of his images are almost in a league of their own. Between the sheer cinematic perfection of his work and its anti-prolific output, he is reminiscent of sometimes the cinema's greatest auteur, the late Stanley Kubrick. His latest film is reasonably his best work to date (I still have not seen 1978's Days of Heaven, widely regarded as his greatest achievement up until now), and it certainly feels like his most personal, while simultaneously tackling the huge metaphysical ideas of Kubrick's own greatest work, 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

The Tree of Life is a staggeringly ambitious film that evokes not only the monumental beginnings of all existence in the universe, but also the tiny, specific details of ordinary lives; the result is a flaw but substantial epic on the scale of 2001 with the emotional resonance that Kubrick's more detached approach is often accused of lacking. It is also a film that describes comparison to Darren Aronofsky's extremely underrated masterpiece The Fountain (2006) in its themes of the interconnectedness of all time and space and the way in which we are all affected by forces beyond our control and understanding. It is the rare film whose flaws only make it more intriguing, since life itself is flawed and disconnected in much the same way. Above all, while comparisons can be made to other masterpieces in Malick's own care as well as those mentioned above, this is a wonderfully unique and original film, with a style and voice unlike any I can recall.

The two central ideas of the film are stated very early on, in voice-over, by Mrs. O'Brien (Jessica Chastain) as she recalls her childhood. She says that she was raised with the idea that "there are two ways through life: the way of Nature, and the way of Grace." Nature, it was said by her father, wants to satisfy itself; it could be seen in these terms as an interpretation of Sigmund Freud's idea of ​​the id, the pleasure principle. Grace, on the other hand, seems to be something beyond even the super-ego, an almost Taoist way of living with acceptance of all things and faith in something greater than oneself; This way leaves no room for selfishness, and it is the source of high ideals like forgiveness and acceptance.

Through the film, these ideas are continuously explored in often unexpected ways. During the film's amazing Big Bang sequence, for example, we see an injured dinosaur lying on the ground. A larger, presumably predatory dinosaur comes upon it and stamps on its one foot, holding its head down. We expect it to kill and eat the small dinosaur, but instead, it considers for a moment before moving on, though not without a final push with its foot, as if it wants to make sure the first dinosaur is down. This can be interpreted in a number of different ways, such as the idea of ​​life's competition against other life, but within the context of the ideas of Nature and Grace, perhaps what Malick is showing us is just that. The predatory dinosaur's nature is to kill and eat others, but some element of Grace within it allows it to leave this one to its own fate. It is a scene that sets the tone for a deeply spiritual film with a distinctly Christian outlook, albeit one that never dreams didactic or proselytizing; for the most part, it is far too subtle and evocative for that.

The human center of the film is Jack O'Brien (Hunter McCracken), the oldest of three brothers promoted by Mrs. O'Brien and her husband, who is likewise only known as Mr. O'Brien (Brad Pitt). As an adult, Jack is played by Sean Penn, in what amounts to a cameo for the amount of screen time he has, and the film plays out as disconnected memories and reveries in his mind. Of course, this is not a conventional film, and all of its human actors are relegated to snapshots in time while Malick's camera, guided by the excellent cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Children of Men, The New World) swoops and dives through the farthest reaches of existence. The impact of the film's Nature scenes can not be overstated, but it is the human struggle for the abstract concept of Grace that provides its affectional impact, which is extraordinarily universal and timeless. Although the story takes place in the specific and clear autobiographical time and place of 1950s-era Texas, so much of it feels like it was taken from my own childhood, and I feel certain almost any viewer of the film will feel the same.

Pitt's performance as Mr. O'Brien is stellar, perfectly capturing the conflicts that consistently boil inside him and which he clearly passes on to young Jack, just as his father easily passed them on to him. One of the film's most poignant moments is Jack's voice-over: "Father, always you wrestle inside me. Always you will." We get only glimpses of the adult Jack's life, but it is clear from these that in may ways he has become his father, a man who builds things as men must, but who notices that something greater, something forever beyond his reach. Mrs. O'Brien is a less well-developed character, becoming more a representation of Grace (and, at times, Nature as well) than a flawed and conflicted human being, as Mr. O'Brien is, but I feel that this is because she is seen through the subjective lens of Jack's own memories. We see more of Mr. O'Brien's inner conflict because a large part of the story involves young Jack's graduating disillusioning from the idea of ​​his father as just, true and all-knowing; This, of course, is analogous to the realization that, if there is indeed a god, he or it is potentially fallible as well. It is an almost tragic loss of innocence for a young boy to lose this idea of ​​his father as god, and The Tree of Life conveys this idea on a larger scale and with greater insight than any film I can remember. His mother, on the other hand, is remembered in a more subjective way, as an almost perfect angel of compassion and beauty; it is somewhat troubling that the film's only major female character is so broadly drawn, but for better or worse, this is a look at a father-son relationship more than anything else.

There is also Jack's songer brother, RL (Laramie Eppler), who sees to have inherited more of Mr. O'Brien's musical tendencies and less of his bent toward anger and violence, and in whose relationship with Jack we see a reflection of Jack's own relationship with his father. This is another very universal idea I have never seen better conveyed in a film, the notion of an older brother's responsibility to his younger counterpart and how directly his father's treatment of him is carried on in this way. We see a good example of this in two more of the film's most poignant scenes, first when Jack apologizes for intentally shooting RL's finger with a BB gun and later when Mr. O'Brien asks forgiveness for his own harsh treatment of young Jack. As mentioned before, this is a film with a decidedly Christian outlook, and it is possible that in some ways the father-son dynamic goes deeper (think "holy ghost") than a single viewing reveals, in which case Mrs. O'Brien's angelic appearance and rather slow involvement in the bulk of the drama could have been explained by the possibility that she represents the Virgin Mary. I may be stretching here, but The Tree of Life is a film rich with such interpretive capabilities, and one that seems to demand multiple views. It is a demand I am certain I will not be able to resist for long.

Movie Review: "Zero Dark Thirty"

Rating: R (for strong violence including brutal, disturbing images, and for language)

Length: 157 minutes

Release Date: Jan. 11, 2013

Directed by: Kathryn Bigelow

Genre: Drama / history / thriller

The spy thriller "Zero Dark Thirty" revolves around the ten-year hunt for Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorist group al-Qaeda, and his death in May 2011. The film screenplay was penned by Mark Boal and Kathryn Bigelow, who were also its authors and co-producers.

The movie opens with a black screen and the justified votes of victims of the World Trade Center bombing on 9/11. With time, viewers are introduced to Maya (Jessica Chastain) in the early years of the hunt. Maya is a CIA officer who has focused her career on building intelligence on Osama bin Laden (Ricky Sekhon). When Maya is transferred to the US embassy in Pakistan, she teams up with another officer Dan (Jason Clarke), who is hunting for al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan. The duo tortures and tricks a suspect, Ammar (Reda Kateb), into revealing the identity of a suspected courier for Bin Laden, Abu Ahmed. The information ultimately leads to the capture of one of the recipients of Bin Laden's messages.

Over time, Maya becomes more and more obsessed with capturing Bin Laden. Over the course of several years, she focuses all her energy and resources on finding Abu Ahmed. With the help of other CIA officers, she was finally able to track the terrorist down to a large compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

Most people who watch "Zero Dark Thirty" are of the opinion that they will immediately frighten their eyes on the raid of Osama bin Laden. It is true that director Bigelow accurately re-created this scene, but movie fans will have to wait for nearly three hours to come to that scene. Those who have watched "Zero Dark Thirty," along with other Bigelow's movies such as "The Hurt Locker" and "Point Break," will agree that the director knows how to create highly tensed and realistic action scenes.

However, it is the two hours before this point that many people find interesting. The ten-year manhunt is chronicled in detail, with numerous setbacks and murderers along the way. Much credit for this is due to the keen eye of the screenwriter. The post-9/11 fear and thirst for revenge clearly becomes visible on the screen, and no officer quite icons these feelings like Maya.

At first glance, Maya does not seem at all that tough. With her delicate features, most people would be forgiven for mistaking her as a soft CIA agent. Nothing can be further from the truth, however, because she is revealed to have focused all her career into finding Bin Laden and his henchmen. In fact, she is the one who grabs the wheels of this search for Bin Laden in Pakistan after Dan leaves for a post at CIA headquarters, back in the United States. Her stance towards torture changes from relevant involvment at the beginning of the film to full participation in the middle.

Much controversy has surrounded the accuracy of the events represented in the movie as facts, especially the torture scenes. Many people in government have denied that the information used to capture and kill Bin Laden was acquitted via torture, but torture is clearly described in "Zero Dark Thirty" as a useful tool. This is confusing given that the film was supposedly set up to portray the events leading up to the raid. It has been revealed that the filmmakers, chiefly Boal and Bigelow, widely consulted with CIA officers and Navy Seal teams who had been intimately involved in the raid.

As with many other movies that try to depict historical events, however, "Zero Dark Thirty" is not explicitly marked as a factual film. The filmmakers have explained that their production is a movie, not a documentary. Bigelow went a step further to explain that the movie does not have an agenda and is not set up to judge anyone.

To many people, it is still surprising that a complicated and dirty movie such as " Zero Dark Thirty " could include real and famous historical events. Torture, phone tapping, and even acts of bribes are all depicted in this film, which also shows the 2005 London bombings and protests in Pakistan against drone attacks by US forces. The characters in this movie are engaging, but the cinematographer Greig Fraser also did his part to make the movie great. The use of a handheld camera makes viewers feel as if they have been inserted into the middle of the events in the film, but the lack of excessive shaking means that the events are still clearly visible. "Zero Dark Thirty" is clearly a great movie to watch.

Rating: Not provided

Take Shelter – Film Review – An End-Of-The-World Type Movie

Curtis, well-played by Michael Shannon, is the type of husband and father, who seems to like his life emotionally simple. So when he starts having vivid dreams about a strange rain-storm that coincides with negative changes in his close relationships, he takes them as prophetic dreams rather than symbolic for his own internal issues. One might think he is playing out paranoid fantasies in his dreams. This could very well be the case, since his mother had been institutionalized for paranoid schizophrenia. But I have come to realize that dreams for most people reflect the issues they are working on. Since Curtis does not share his inner life with his wife and close friends, he does not have the chance to stand back and take a bigger look at what his dreams might mean in terms of his own unresolved emotions.

It is so hard to read the symbols in dreams sometimes. I’ve had my own storm dream. In the dream, I’m sitting in my living room looking out a big picture window. The view is so vast that I feel I can see the whole country, maybe even the world. A storm comes and it looks and feels very frightening, but then it ends and things are just fine afterwards, maybe even better. I took this to mean that the world will be going through a transition that will seem very scary, but the transition will make way for a better world. But then again, maybe my dream is just about my own emotional healing. When people feel through their previously denied emotions, it can seem unbearably scary or just plain unbearable, but afterwards, there is a new sense of peace and a greater understanding of one’s self and the world around them.

“Listen up. There is a storm coming like nothing you have ever seen and none of you are prepared for it!” – Curtis (Michael Shannon), TAKE SHELTER.

Take Shelter in one way is the simple story of a working class husband and father who has visceral dreams of a strange powerful storm coming and reacts by expanding his storm shelter. And in another way, Take Shelter is an emotionally complex story which questions a man’s sanity. It is also a story filled with loosely connected metaphors and symbolism along side the issues of our current lifestyle in the U.S. which gives the film an apocalyptic feel to those viewers that make that connection.

The biggest question in Take Shelter is: Are Curtis’s dreams prophetic or just plain delusional and paranoid? The film contributes to the possibility that they may be prophetic. People who are concerned with a great change coming and feel a subtle pressure of a possibility of great change will resonate with these ideas. The film seems to slowly unfold a simple story, but minimal dialogue and the skillful visual storytelling, create a visceral, deep emotional feeling of a great event coming. Visually, we are constantly reminded of the costliness of gasoline and prescription drugs. Even though he has a supervisor position at a construction company, Curtis has to juggle his families needs with his income and what his borrowing power will allow. His wife Samantha, played convincingly by Jessica Chastain, has a booth where she sells her embroidery. She ends up selling herself extremely short by customers demanding a bargain, which would not happen in a flourishing economy. She also lives in rural Ohio which may be a factor. So we are constantly, but subtly reminded that things are not secure with our society. Just the fact that Curtis is expanding his storm shelter so it is equipped for lengthy stays reflects stories of many people who are preparing for a collapse of the system.

Curtis’ dreams remind us of the “prophecies” or theories of strange events being reported in the news such as, birds falling dead out of the sky, dirty raindrops as evidence of polluted or Geo-engineered skies, people going crazy or changing personalities due to chemicals in our environment whether from prescription drugs, pollution or chemical manipulation. Even Curtis’ dream of his living room furniture levitating shows concern over fundamental changes in our Earth. Curtis is not portrayed as a conspiracy theorist; he doesn’t seem the type that would research these kinds of topics. He seems to be someone who’s inner awareness is suddenly and strongly increased. We just aren’t sure if he is correctly interpreting his experience or if he’s just following in his mother’s footsteps.

As you can see, I was very drawn into Curtis’ character. All the characters in this film were well-developed and the direction and cinematography deepened the story. It started out slow, but by the end I was floored and thinking about it for days. It’s a great subtle end-of-the-world type movie. This award-winning film is in limited theatrical release (probably because it’s thoughtful and subtle), and will soon come to DVD. Highly recommended. See the official Take Shelter website for a trailer and more information.