Obsessed with the "beautiful" nostalgia of the past, Cassidy has made a frightfully common mistake: he has assumed that ordinary, everyday life isn't romantic, when the truth of the matter is subtly (but vitally) different. It's not that ordinary life isn't romantic; it's that it isn't romanticized. Cassidy has mistaken flashy appearances for the truly worthwhile struggles of everyday life, and his inability to embrace ordinary challenges of living will prevent him from ever achieving the folk hero status he so desperately desires.
The Naked City reminds us that instinct to hide behind such facades is a powerful one. Faced with the challenges of daily life, many of us create personas to cope with those things we find most challenging—easily defendable fortresses that hold the harsher, more demanding "realities" of our world at bay. Sometimes, these masks are a means of escaping (and hiding) from the truth. But sometimes, they are a sign of progress rather than a sign of escape. Sometimes, these masks are created to protect those we love rather than to hold them at arm's length.
As the current presidential primary makes abundantly clear, having a handful of funny, simple, and (above all) short answers is far more important than having a nuanced, thoughtful grasp on complex issues. Our generation unconsciously bestows the veneer of entertainment upon anything it sees on TV, transforming themselves from constituents looking to be won over, into nothing more than "audience members." And audiences aren't looking for complex answers; they're looking for amusement.
...even God does not consider us independent of our human relationships, but in our totality within them. I am not only "Joseph," I am also "Dominic's father." And that paternal relationship profoundly influences us both. At the Final Judgment, I will be called to answer not only for my own life, but for the impact I have had on the lives of my children.
For More, sharp of tongue and even sharper of intellect, this moment is an opportunity to reach out one last time in an attempt to show his weak young friend the truly damnable blunder he has made. But for the audience, it is that most cathartic of moments when Rich's betrayal is shown in its true light, the absurdity of fatally compromising one's soul for something as transient and fleeting as worldly fame and fortune, cast into sharp contrast with More's impending martyrdom.
Fairy tales are not unrealistic; they're supra-realistic, underscoring the absurdly wonderful, fantastical world in which we find ourselves, and reminding us of the One who placed us in it. There are dragons, yes, but there is Someone to subdue them, as well. And if we have the one, resplendent in all its fairytale-encrusted glory, must we not also have the Other?
Despite the encouragement of Charlie Sheen and Al Davis, winning is far less important than being right. Our stubbornness and our pride in the validity of our positions can be a valuable tool. But we must never allow that stubbornness—our own deep-seated desire for victory—to get in the way of what is true.
How can God forgive someone who does not recognize their own need for forgiveness? Sure, a "debt" could be paid, but what would that payment mean if there was no spiritual transformation to accompany it? We must be transformed if we are to be perfected, yet there is no transformation without recognition and acceptance of our own personal, insurmountable failings.
To truly embrace our roles as stewards, we must learn to listen as well as to command. The subjugation of Nature will only succeed if we recognize the importance of the stewardship to which we have been called. It is easy to assert our importance in the order of Creation, but Heaven help us if we refuse to recognize that safeguarding the integrity of this harmonious universe is as vital a part of our human nature as is our dominion over it.
Indulging our natural curiosity is only an impediment to action when we fail to recognize the humanity of those we are observing, mistakenly viewing them as things rather than people. Mistaking "watching" for "acting" is only possible when we, like Folke's fellow HFIers, "maintain a safe and sterile emotional distance." But dissolve that distance, and our innate desire to interact with our fellow human beings will return in full force.
In those panicked moments, the fear can be overwhelming; the desire to withdraw into the safety of one's self is an easy solution to the exhaustive obligation of parenting. That instinctive shrinking from responsibility, understandable though it may be, ignores both the good we parents do without realizing it and the grace God gives to us as parents. We have been given to power to serve as the most immediate, most formative forces for good in the lives of our children. But we can't be that force without simply being there in the first place.
Teaching by example is an important part of living out our lives as effective parents and faithful Catholics. But it is vital to remember that while "actions speak louder than words," they don't always say exactly what we want them to say, even to those nearest and dearest to us. Sometimes, what we do is less vital to our children's formation than why we did it.
The emptiness of the New York skyline is an emphatic reminder of the extraordinary heroism, nobility, and self-sacrifice that rose from the ashes on that day—a heroism that represents New York just as surely to our generation as those two great buildings did in the decades before September 11, 2001. And as long as we can see these vacant spaces and remember our heroes, we will not be defeated or disheartened by those seeking our abolishment; we will have won.
It would be a shame to dismiss his gentler work as nothing but childish amusement. Like the Pixar films he has influenced, Miyazaki’s creations are both entertaining and enlightening; for him, animation is the lens through which he looks at life, not a way to distance himself or his audience from its lessons.
The boys respond to this apathy with false bravado. But the actions of these wayward children are clearly shown for what they are: hollow attempts to defend their fragile emotions and frailer psyches. Giuseppe, Pasquale, and their fellow cellmates are most definitely children; their swaggering, calloused behavior merely an effort to hide their childhood before someone destroys it.
The film, by delving into the story behind Max's behavior and those of his huge, furry friends, eliminates much of the mischievous charm of its source material; the childlike exuberance which permeates the picture book is largely absent in Jonze's work because the audience knows too much about Max and his Things. Where the Wild Things Are is inappropriate for children because it's sad, not because it's scary—sad about things and emotions which they cannot possibly begin to understand.
Our need to wrestle meaning from such Evil, often leads us to blame cultural, political, or religious ideologies, but this kneejerking blame-game is not only politically and spiritually unhelpful, it is misguided. Even the most clearly-stated of intentions will never fully explain such depravity; ideologies and motivations will never truly match up to the unthinkable actions conceived and carried out by misguided fanatics.
How often are we willing to compromise on smaller matters, setting aside what we know to be right and just for the sake of our own desires? Surely, we would not kill another to further our own ends, but how many of us are willing to ridicule and belittle others in the feverish building up of our own importance? Are those two groups really so far apart? How far will we go to get what we want?
Though the story is Elmer's, Sister Sharon Falconer has a vital lesson to teach. Once overlooked as an earnest, inexperienced supporting player in Gantry's dramatic story of self-discovery, she becomes the all-important "flip-side" of the story - the effect that adulation can have upon the one being followed. This devout and well-intentioned young woman begins to view herself as more than a simple human instrument. Her followers have come to rely so completely on her spiritual strength that she now sees herself as The Only Instrument by which they can be saved, and her inability to reject her new-found fame for an "ordinary" life will have tragic and lasting consequences.