Monday, May 31, 2010


The total number of deaths (both soldiers and civilians) from wars in the 20th and 21st centuries that the U.S. has been involved in is between 58,000,000 and 146,000,000. This does not include the number of wounded, which would be much higher. Of course, there is no way to quantify the misery and ruined lives brought about by these wars.

Here is the breakdown of deaths:

WWI: 10,000,000 - 65,000,000
WWII: 40,000,000 - 72,000,000
Korean War: 2,500,000 - 3,500,000
Vietnam: Approx. 5,400,000
Iraq War: Approx. 100,000

All of these wars could have been avoided. They were not necessary. None of these wars effectively achieved the objectives of the combatants. The conflicts could have been resolved peacefully if the leaders had chosen to take that path. Perhaps if the people had not bought into their government's war propaganda and instead refused to fight, the leaders would have been forced to deal with matters in more creative and less violent ways.

This is what I choose to remember on Memorial Day: That war is evil. That it is always a very few elite who choose to make war, but it is the common people (soldiers and civilians) who pay the terrible price. That, in war, civilian deaths nearly always far outweigh military deaths. And that millions of people--soldiers and civilians--could have lived out their lives if we had not repeatedly failed so terribly at being peacemakers.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Movie Review: 'As It Is In Heaven'

'As It Is In Heaven' is, without a doubt, the best Swedish movie I've ever seen. Ok, it might be the *only* Swedish movie I've ever seen, but it is really, really good. It is a very mature and spiritual film (by mature I mean "grown up", not explicit), which manages to be both heartbreaking (in the way very beautiful things tend to be) and heartwarming. It also manages to be inspiring and thought-provoking without preaching or manipulating. The movie unfolds slowly and with great subtlety. At first I wasn't sure if I'd like it. By the end I was captivated and moved. You will think about this film long after you've watched it.

The central character, Daniel, lived as a child in a small village where he was constantly bullied. He eventually moved away and grew up to become a world famous symphony conductor. Emotionally isolated, driven and passionate--always seeking for a perfection in music which he could not attain--Daniel destroys his health and is forced to retire.

He returns, with no particular plans, to the sparse village where he lived as a child, and ends up becoming conductor of the local church choir. Over time, as Daniel and the choir rehearse, subtle but amazing things begin to occur. The choir-members, though they've lived as neighbors in the village for years, begin to experience true community--perhaps for the first time. Daniel discovers, as a gift rather than an achievement, the thing he had wrecked his life searching for: Love. Not just romantic love, but love given and received in the context of community. Community with people who, it turns out, are just as broken as he is. Within this context the music he always dreamed of--"music that will open the heart"--emerges. And the music is beautiful.

Some in the village struggle with what this emerging community will cost them; particularly those who would use fear or violence to hold others close to them. These antagonists are met, not with violence in return, but with grace. This film does not succumb to the myth of redemptive violence, as so many of our stories tend to do. Rather, those who rely on imposing their will upon others though fear and violence are exposed as fearful and desperate themselves. They are regarded with compassion.

At the climax of the film, the choir enters an international competition, but to everyone's surprise (including their own) they transcend mere competition and bring instead an even greater level of community. This is the message of "As It Is In Heaven": Letting go of fear and of what we hold over others and what others hold over us; being honest; accepting one-another and experiencing true community. Truth. Forgiveness. Mercy. Compassion. Grace. Love. Here on earth, as it is in heaven.

'As It Is In Heaven' (the Swedish title is 'Så som i himmelen') was nominated for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2005 Academy Awards (it did not win). It also has the curious distinction of being the longest running film in Sydney, Australia, beating out Titanic for most days in the theatres. Apparently it was a huge hit in Australia as well as Sweden. It is available for instant viewing on Netflix, in Swedish (duh!) with English subtitles. More info:

Sunday, May 16, 2010

'So I Hear You've Become a Quaker' - The Movie

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Saturday, May 08, 2010

'Sunday's Coming' movie trailer

Thursday, May 06, 2010

An Innocent Man

This is an amazing story. What is most remarkable to me is the grace and dignity of Raymond Towler, a man found to be innocent after being imprisoned for nearly 30 years. He was exonerated thanks to the work of the Innocence Project. There is a fantastic documentary about the Innocence Project, entitled After Innocence.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

This Still Room

Quantum physics and Leonard Cohen

My son, who is majoring in Physics, was telling me yesterday that at a quantum level two objects never actually touch because atoms always maintain space between each other. All matter (including us) is made up not just of atoms but of spaces inbetween. This made me think of Leonard Cohen's song 'Anthem' where he sings, "There is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."