While We Were Away

Is this what the world would look like if the pandemic didn’t end? The scientific word is entropy: things crack and crumble, they disintegrate. But they’re also invaded–by water, soil, light, life, transformed from the unnatural into the natural. As these photos remind us: life never really ends — it just takes new and sometimes more beautiful form.

Click on any image to enlarge it, or to start slide show.

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Imagine Having to Explain to Your Child…

Rose, Father Peter, IngridRenika Williams, center, in the feature film Healing River.

This week in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a black man named George Floyd choked to death while a white police officer knelt on his neck, ignoring his pleas.

I am not qualified to speak about this. And by “this” I mean the ongoing pandemic of racism, an issue that white people in the U.S.–people like me–are perpetually blind to. Many of my friends, black and white, are speaking out about the incident. I haven’t spoken until now because, as I said, I am not qualified.

But one woman, a brilliant young actress named Renika Williams, whom I had the great pleasure of directing in her first feature film Healing River, has spoken both painfully and powerfully on the issue. I not only admire Renika’s talent, but love her as a person. She’s a joyful, faith-filled beam of light that floods every room she enters. And so I was particularly shaken by her convicting words to the clueless privileged like me who simply cannot see how endemic the issue is.

Imagine having to explain to your child why the police murder people that look like them. What a privilege it is not to have that conversation with your child. Imagine telling them that they can get murdered for going on a jog. What a privilege it is not to have that conversation with your child. Imagine being in third grade and learning about the history of slavery in America and realizing that you would be the only one in your class who would’ve been enslaved 400 years ago. What a privilege it is not to have to fully realize what slavery is at just eight years old. What a privilege it is not to have to think about all the ways slavery still impacts your daily life at just eight years old. What a privilege it is to look away from every post, hashtag, video, article. What a privilege it is to see these things every week and not feel completely enraged and physically and emotionally in pain as if it was someone you knew. What a privilege it is to never have to think that it could’ve been you.

May we read these words and think. Read these words and pray. Read these words and do all we can to assure no parent will ever have to explain this to their child again.

Renika’s most recent appearance was in the play All the Natalie Portmans at the MCC theatre in New York.
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A Tribute Written For One of My Favorite Poets

CaptureMy Featured Blogger this week is Paul Szlosek of Paul’s Poetry Playground. Paul is a first-order poetry aficionado (he even looks like a poet). A past recipient of the Jacob Knight Award for Poetry, his work has appeared in numerous publications. Paul also studies, teaches and quotes other poets, and invents new poetic forms.

Paul’s tribute to e. e. cummings (below), one of my favorite poets as well, is absolutely spot-on and delightful!

Paul's Poetry Playground

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You may be familiar with my series of beau présents recently written as tributes to my favorite poets that I have been posting on this blog lately. Well, the poem I am posting today is not part of that series; it is definitely not a beau présent, anf not actually in any specific poetry form per se (though it  was certainly written in a style meant to emulate the poet I was attempting to honor: E. E. Cummings). The following poem was written over 20 years ago when Peter Mancevice, the publisher of a local poetry journal called Sahara, approached poets in the Worcester, MA area (including myself), asking them to write and submit poems about their favourite poets and the reasons why they liked them for a planned special issue. Apparently there wasn’t a sufficient amount of submissions, and this special edition of the journal never came to…

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Help, I’m Being Attacked by Trolls!

Not this kind:

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This kind:

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My feature film Healing River was released on Amazon Prime a week and a half ago, and so far it has been rated a perfect 5 out of 5 by viewers! (They’ve also written wonderful reviews). The producers and I are thrilled, but not completely surprised. After all, it played to cheers at sneak previews and has received over 20 festival awards, nominations and selections. We couldn’t be happier. However…

The Trolls aren’t happy (the internet kind, not the cuddly kind). Or then again, maybe they are. As soon as the influential IMDb (Internet Movie Database) began accepting ratings, before anyone who’d actually seen it got there, trolls began rating the film a 1 out 10 points, the lowest possible score, actually ranking it below the worst movies ever made, movies like The Room, Plan 9 From Outer Space, and (interestingly) Troll 2, infamous flops made by befuddled amateurs who had no clue what they were doing (our cast and crew are seasoned, award-winning professionals). But that’s not the point.

The trolls haven’t actually seen Healing River! In fact, according to IMDb data, almost half of the ultra-low ratings are from from countries where the movie hasn’t even been released! But then trolls attack just for the sake of attacking. Why? According to internet psychologists, there isn’t a why. Trolls attack anything people care about (they’re known for mocking families of mass shooting victims). They take pleasure in hurting anything perceived as good (the term troll derives from the Old Norse word for “demon”).

Help us drive away the trolls! Watch Healing River at Amazon, rate it (and write a brief review), then go to IMDb (you’ll need an account, but it’s quick and free). Then look for the star next to the movie’s title and rate it according to how you honestly felt about it. If you’ve already seen Healing River, head straight for IMDb now!  P.S. Rate a few other movies while you’re there (IMDb devalues ratings by people who only rate one film.)

Thank you!

The Official Healing River Trailer

To watch or order the movie, click here.

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Courage Has Many Faces

Today is Memorial Day in my country, a day when, like many other nations, we express our gratitude for those who’ve given their lives defending us. Traditionally, of course, this means those who died in battle.

And indeed it should.

But there are other kinds of heroes and other kinds of battles, as well. There are many ways of losing one’s life in defense of others. Unnumbered thousands of fire fighters and rescue workers have died saving people. So have police officers, teachers, missionaries, and volunteers. Even as I write this, health workers are dying fighting COVID 19, just as many died fighting cholera, SARS and ebola. They knew the risks and yet they risked everything.

So let us honor them all.

And finally, what better way to honor them than to ask ourselves, “Would I do the same?” and then to so align our values and courage as to be able to answer, “Yes”…

If that time should ever come.

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     “Heroes are made by the paths they choose, not the powers they are graced with.” ~Brodi Ashton

“Courage is found in unlikely places.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien

“Courage is…when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” ~Harper Lee

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” ~C.S. Lewis

“Sacrifice is a part of life. It’s supposed to be. It’s not something to regret. It’s something to aspire to.” ~Mitch Albom

“My father told me once that the most important thing every man should know is what he would die for.” ~Tana French

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Time to Walk on the Water

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Radical Forgiveness!

Alec about to be confronted

More Rave Reviews for Healing River!

The trailer has been seen and shared by thousands. From multiple true events, including my own near-death encounter with a heroin-addicted driver, I created a story of “impossible” forgiveness that both challenged and moved me. And according to the latest Amazon Prime reviews that’s just what people are experiencing when they see the movie:

“This could have been stripped right out of today’s headlines. A story of anguish, pain, loss and the power to rise above it. A seamless work of storytelling. Very well done.” 

“This movie is raw and real. A breath of fresh air in a cinematic world where revenge and vigilante justice is the normal fare.”

“A powerful and accurate picture of the power of forgiveness and mercy. And it does so while avoiding tropes common to religious films. It offers a candid portrayal of the desire for revenge experienced by many people when they are victimized. A must-see movie!”

“A compelling story from the hard side of what life may bring. A great cast of characters. Throw them into a great storyline and you have a very good movie.”

“Life is always bigger and richer when you do the thing you think you never could and this movie shows that beautifully.”

“Your response will define you.”

“Put on your seat belt because this movie is going to take you through a roller-coaster ride of emotions; some understandable and others quite unexpected. There are so many twists and turns you will not believe the outcome!”

“Beautiful message about forgiving and what it can make happen. A great movie!”

“A deeply moving story of radical forgiveness!”

See it with someone you love this weekend.

To watch or order the movie (available to all, but free to Prime members), click here

The Official Trailer

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