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Archive for the ‘Films’ Category

Dear Readers,

After writing more than 70 columns about films, faith and family, I’ve decided to take a break.

I would like to tell you that I am flying to New Zealand for a small part in Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.”

But the simple truth is that I have a number of writing projects I would like to complete in the next twelve months. Discontinuing my monthly Reel Life Journeys column will free up the time I need for these new projects.

However, I did not make this decision quickly. Only after much thought and prayer did I see that this was the best road to take at this point in my writing career.

“My writing career”… I like the sound of that. I’ve always wanted to be a writer, and thanks in large part to the interest and support shared by Rick Musacchio and Andy Telli of The Tennessee Register, I have a great start.

Looking back over these past six years of writing this column, I learned a number of important lessons:

~ Writing is hard work. I can remember only a few magical moments when whole paragraphs flowed through my fingertips. For the most part, I wrote my 850-word columns after purposefully sitting down at my laptop many times to write.

The editors asked that I e-mail my column to them on the Tuesday before the newspaper is published on Friday. That means during the previous week I would ponder the column’s topic, what movie to feature and other quotes or song lyrics I could use to illustrate the topic.

The columns I like the most had a rough draft done by Sunday, extra quotes added by Monday and a final edit before e-mailing the text to Andy on Tuesday.

Unfortunately, too many of my columns, either through procrastination, family duties, my daytime job or other diversions (the Chicago Cubs, pizza, Notre Dame football) did not see a rough draft until Monday, some updates on Tuesday and a final edit early Wednesday morning. I know that most newspapers have a hard print deadline and I know it’s best to get things done sooner rather than later. I just hope I didn’t cause too many late nights for the TR staff.

~ Live each day to its fullest. Unless you are Phil Connors, the weatherman reporting from Puxsatawney, Pennsylvania in Groundhog Day, you can never repeat today. As many others have tweeted or posted on Facebook, today is a gift, that’s why it’s called the present.

~ Show respect to everyone. A simple school project of collecting one paper clip for every life lost during the Holocaust continues to teach valuable lessons of respect and tolerance to the students, parents and community of Whitwell, TN Middle School. We should remember that lesson and stop judging people because of their looks, their wealth (or lack thereof) or their religion and show them respect. We would all hope to receive the same.

~ There’s no crying in baseball.

~ Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. As Master Yoda so eloquently states, fear is often the root of many evils. But when we sing John Michael Talbot’s lyrics “Be not afraid, I go before you always. Come follow me, and I will give you rest,” we know that our God is ever before us, guiding us in love.

~ Even the smallest person can change the course of the future. This theme from The Lord of the Rings is much more than supporting a three-foot, seven-inch hobbit on his quest to destroy the One Ring of Power. One individual, standing upon this rock in space we call Earth, is a minuscule part of the world’s population of 7 billion people. Yet that one individual, by his or her acts of kindness and love for other people, can start a chain reaction that will transform this world into a better place to live. You are just one person, but you have a very important role to play.

~ All you need is love.

~ The richness of life is not found in a large bank account. The first Reel Life Journeys column I wrote centered on the song “If I Were a Rich Man” sung by Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof. In this column I imagined what I would do if I won the Powerball lottery. I realized that the things I wanted to do most (write, talk to Grandma more often, spend time with family and friends) were things I could do now without the winnings. Carpe diem!

So thank you, dear readers, for your interest and encouragement through the years. It has been a pleasure and an honor to write this monthly column. I may yet show up on these pages again in the future. “God only knows when we will see each other again,” Hodel says to her father Tevye before boarding the train to Siberia. “Then we will leave it in His hands,” he replies.

The von Trapp family said it best in The Sound of Music when they sang: “So long, farewell, auf Wiedersehen, goodbye.”

CF

Christopher Fenoglio is grateful for the loving support of his wife and family, to whom these columns are dedicated.

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“You can’t buy forgiveness. It’s free, but you have to ask for it.”

When scraggly old Felix Bush (Robert Duvall) hears these words from his hometown preacher in the current film Get Low, he picks up his ball of money and goes back home.

You see, Mr. Bush has been a hermit in these here parts of Tennessee for nearly 40 years. Folks across four counties can tell some pretty tall tales about his life, yet nobody really knows what he’s been doing all these years or why he showed up in town today.

Turns out he says it’s time for him to get low – get down to the business of life.

Guilt is a mighty powerful force. It can drive a man to do many things, like living up in the hills so long that people don’t know you no more.

Mr. Bush has been going through the motions – living in a state of self-imposed exile that feels like somewhere between alive and dead. He wants the truth to come out about what really happened the night of the fire. He’s tired of carrying that heavy burden.

He travels to Illinois to ask his preacher friend Charlie Jackson (Bill Cobbs) to come back and tell the story to the town for him. It would be much easier if someone else spoke those awful words. But Reverend Jackson refuses. He knows that true forgiveness only comes when the sinner asks for it himself.

Despite the support of a new and old friend, Mr. Bush starts to run away again. He just can’t face the townspeople and confess what happened that night.

It’s too bad that after all these years, he’s still too stubborn to admit his sins and too proud to humbly open his heart to accept God’s gift of grace and forgiveness.

At every Mass, we have the opportunity to acknowledge our own sins and failings. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

La bella signora Liz Gilbert (Julia Roberts) in the film Eat Pray Love is also running away from her life. Even though she has everything she’s longed for – a loving husband, a beautiful home, a successful writing career, she is mired in a spiritual rut.

When she gives up on her marriage, she runs away like Mr. Bush – not to the lonely hills of Tennessee but to the arms of a younger man. When that relationship doesn’t work, she jets to Rome to find solace and peace in a bowl of pasta Bolognese.

She hopes to regain her appetite for life by enjoying Rome’s finest meals. “I am going for it,” she says. “Food without guilt.” It appears that she wants to live the same, guiltless way – without any concern for commitments and responsibilities.

The next stop on her quest for self-enhancement is India, where she settles in at a sacred ashram. However, she is still burdened by the guilt of her failed marriage and is unable to come to grips with what she’s done.

One of her friends is a tall Texan who gives her some good advice about self-examination: “If you want to get to the castle, you’ve got to swim the moat.”

She works harder at finding time for quiet prayer and self-reflection. When she gets to Bali, she begins to find a balance in her life and admits her past mistakes. “There are cracks in everyone,” she writes, “that’s how the light of God gets in.”

Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the Word and my soul shall be healed.

Mr. Bush and Ms. Gilbert want to live again, but both have trouble acknowledging their own failings and past sins. One retreats inwardly, one flies away.  Yet in the end, each finds in themselves the humility to admit their shortcomings and to seek forgiveness.

As Catholics, we are blessed with the sacrament of Reconciliation, an opportunity to come before God’s representative to acknowledge what we have done wrong and what we have failed to do. After this confession, we can humbly ask God for His forgiveness, which he freely gives. This grace washes away our sins and creates a clean heart for our human lives.

With such an opportunity to be unburdened by the guilt and shame of our past sins, why do so many Catholics stay away from the sacrament? Are they scared, like Felix Bush, to speak their past sins out loud? Are they self-indulgent like Liz Gilbert, too worried about feeling guilty that they never start down the path of self-examination?

Rory Cooney’s song “Change Our Hearts” speaks so well to the joy and freedom we experience when we finally let go and let God’s forgiving grace wash over our souls:

Drawn by your promises, still we are lured by the shadows and the chains we leave behind. Change our hearts this time, your Word says it can be, change our minds this time, your life could make us free. We are the people your call set apart. Lord, this time, change our hearts.

We have the opportunity to live more fully in the love of God. Take the first step – get low.

CF

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First published in the September 3, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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When I was a wee lad, about five years old, my favorite toy was Doggie, a cuddly-soft stuffed animal. This little guy had floppy cloth ears and black button eyes. I played with him during the day and held him tight every night as I drifted off to sleep.

Doggie got a lot of my playtime and love, so much so that his fur eventually became worn, an eye was lost, and all the leg stuffing was squeezed down into four very large paws. But it didn’t matter, Doggie was my favorite toy.

If he lived in the same world as the toys in Pixar’s three Toy Story films, Doggie would have been held in very high esteem.

The Toy Story films show us our digitally-rendered world from a toy’s point of view. Looking back through the entire trilogy, I can see three closely-related lessons that reinforce our daily walks as members of the Body of Christ.

Serve others. When we first meet Sheriff Woody, Mr. Potato Head, Hamm the Piggy Bank and the entire community of toys, we learn that their sole purpose is to be there for Andy whenever he wants to play. Each of the toys has a special role in Andy’s imaginative adventures. Hamm and Potato Head are bad guys, Little Bo Peep is the heroine in distress and Woody saves the day as the hero. They are all there to have fun with Andy.

Buzz Lightyear, however, believes he has a different purpose: to protect the galaxy from the evil forces of Emperor Zurg. He doesn’t have the perspective of the other toys who know they are playthings. Buzz truly believes he is a member of Star Command and has crash landed on a strange planet.

Woody tries to tell Buzz that he is a toy, but Buzz doesn’t believe him. It’s not until Buzz sees a TV commercial with thousands of identical Buzz Lightyear toys on the shelves that he realizes the truth. He proceeds to get hammered on Darjeeling and sink into a dark depression. But he overcomes this feeling and saves the day for Woody and himself.

Lord, in this vast, complicated and crowded world, help me to know my individual talents and how they can be used to serve others and thus to serve you.

Love your friends and family. Like other Buddy Films by Hope and Crosby, Martin and Lewis, Abbott and Costello and others, the Toy Stories portray the adventures of two friends: Woody and Buzz. No matter what happens, these two friends look out for each other. When Woody accidentally knocks Buzz out of the window, he goes to rescue him. When Woody is stolen by Al the toy collector, Buzz leads the gang across town to rescue their friend. When his friends are trapped at Sunnyside Daycare, Woody leaves Bonnie’s fun playroom to organize their escape.

In all our relationships – business ones, true friendships or loving ones with a spouse or family, loyalty and fidelity matter the most. The theme song (written by Randy Newman) describes the friendship between Woody and Buzz: “You’ve got a friend in me.”

Lord, help me to recognize the needs of my family and friends and put them above my own selfish desires.

Build a community. All children grow up and most leave home for college, and Andy is no exception. The wonderful community of toys in his bedroom has slowly dwindled down to just a few in his old toy chest, waiting patiently to be played with again. When they are accidentally left in a trash bag on the curb, the toys escape and hide in a box of donations for Sunnyside Daycare.

At first the toys believe they have arrived in paradise. Andy hasn’t played with them in years, yet here are dozens of children who will play with them every day.

However, Woody, Buzz and friends are true babes in toyland, for underneath the bright colored rainbows and spacious playrooms is a dark element to the daycare’s toy community. Managed by an oppressive dictator who is not at all sweet like his strawberry scent, the community subjects new toys to the rough treatment by the younger children. Toys that complain or try to leave are imprisoned and punished.

In a happy ending, Barbie and Ken take over as managers of the toy community at Sunnyside Daycare and make some “cool and groovy” changes that make all the toys happy. Woody and gang join the toy community at Bonnie’s house, where toys are loved and played with all day.

Lord, make me a channel of your peace to help build a City of God among your people.

What happened to my Doggie? As I grew older and paid more attention to Superman, baseball cards and other things, Doggie was often left alone. But when my sister Maria was born, I gave Doggie to her. Once again, someone would play with and love our little Doggie.

For a toy, there’s no higher calling.

CF

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First published in the August 6, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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Amid the hundreds of news items emanating from Rome last month was this little gem: The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano officially designated the film “The Blues Brothers” as a “Catholic classic” and recommended it for viewing by Catholics everywhere.

Now I’m all for the Vatican commenting on popular culture and helping us discern inspirational messages from our films, music and books. That’s the same goal as this column.

But to recommend a 30-year-old, R-rated film with lots of cursing, weapons firing and mass destruction of Chicago police cars for spiritual inspiration? Well, the Vatican’s designation certainly made me curious and warranted another viewing of the film on DVD. Besides, the music is fantastic!

My notes below include the appropriate time stamps of the action. Lights, camera, action!

2:54 At the Joliet (IL) Correctional Center, inmate Jake Blues takes his last long walk across the courtyard. After serving three years of a five-year sentence for armed robbery, he is being released for time served and good behavior.

6:36 Elwood Blues picks up his brother outside the prison in a black and white car he bought at auction. The old police car, still labeled with the phrase “To Serve and Protect,” has a cop engine, cop tires, cop suspension and cop shocks. It’s the new Blues Mobile.

9:58 Jake and Elwood arrive at the Saint Helen of the Blessed Shroud Orphanage where they grew up. Jack had promised Sister Mary Stigmata (a.k.a. The Penguin) that he would visit her after his release. Elwood tells his brother “You can’t lie to a nun.”

12:23 Sister explains that after a recent property tax assessment, the Orphanage only has 11 more days to pay Cook County $5,000 or they must close their doors for good. “No problem,” says Jake, “we’ll have the money in the morning.” But Sister knows they intend to steal the money, so she admonishes them and drives them out of her office. “Don’t come back until you’ve redeemed yourselves.”

14:50 Jake and Elwood are reunited with Curtis, the caretaker who first introduced them to rhythm and blues music when they were young. “Sister is right,” says Curtis. “You boys need a little churchin.’ Slide on down to the Triple Rock Baptist Church and listen to Rev. Cleophus James.” When Jake refuses, Curtis gives him strong advice: “Jake – you get wise. You get to church!”

15:55 Standing in the back of the church listening to the preacher (James Brown) and the invigorating music, Jake experiences a spiritual conversion. He sees the light and realizes that they must put the band back together to earn the money needed to save the orphanage.

22:54 While discussing their plans, they run a red light and are stopped by the cops. With long history of traffic violations, Elwood fears an arrest and speeds away. Jake worries that he they will be caught and he’ll end up back in prison. “They’re not going to catch us,” says Elwood, “we’re on a mission from God.”

37:33 They begin their search for former band members. They find most playing to sparse crowds at the Holiday Inn as Murph and the Magic Tones.

41:50 Band members doubt they can get the band back together. “Well, me and the Lord have an understanding,” says Jake. “We’re on a mission from God,” says Elwood.

47:04 They convince Mr. Fabulous to leave his maitre d’ position at the Chez Paul restaurant and rejoin the band.

51:32 They order four fried chickens, a Coke and dry white toast at the Soul Food Café. Despite his wife’s objections, they convince Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Blue Lou to leave the Soul Food Café and play again. “You better think about the consequences of your actions,” says Mrs. Murphy (Aretha Franklin).

1:06:41 They play their first gig at Bob’s Country Bunker, masquerading as the Good Ol’ Boys. They skip out on their bar tab and are chased by Bob and the real Good Ol’ Boys.

1:20:26 Still broke, they blackmail their old agent (Steve Lawrence) for a gig at the Palace Ballroom.

1:34:46 “Who wants an orange whip? Orange whip? Three orange whips.”

1:37:16 Finally on stage in a packed house, Jake and Elwood’s talents shine through. “Everybody needs somebody to love,” they sing.

1:43:10 “Where did the Blues Brothers go?” ask the police in attendance.

1:46: 48 With $5,000 bucks in hand, Elwood says “It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we’ve got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses.” “Hit it,” says Jake.

1:47:18 While the Blues brothers race to deliver the money to the Tax Assessor’s office, they are chased by the Illinois State Police; the Good Ol’ Boys in their Winnebago; the Illinois Nazis; Chicago City Police in squad cars, boats and on horseback; the SWAT team; the Illinois National Guard in jeeps, trucks, tanks and helicopters, while rappellers and sharpshooters take up positions on the building.

2:03:59 They successfully pay the tax bill, save the orphanage and get a receipt from the clerk (Steven Spielberg).

2:04:12 “It’s never too late to mend” can be seen on the wall at the Joliet Correctional Center where Jake, Elwood and the band entertain their fellow inmates with a rousing rendition of “Jailhouse Rock.”

No, crime does not pay. But hard work, your God-given talents and the motivation to help others will get you far. Just ask Jake and Elwood, if you can catch them.

CF

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First published in the July 9, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio.


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In the Iron Man films, the second of which is currently in theaters, Robert Downey, Jr. portrays Anthony Stark, a brilliant scientist, engineer and narcissistic playboy who succeeds his father as the CEO of the family business.

This business, however, is not a neighborhood hardware store; it’s a multi-billion dollar weapons manufacturer that supplies arms to governments and terrorist groups around the world.

During a Middle East trip to demonstrate his company’s weapons, Tony is injured and captured by terrorists.  Tiny shrapnel from a bomb blast threaten to penetrate his heart, but he is saved by a doctor who implants an industrial-strength magnet in his chest. Tony must keep the magnet powered in order to prevent the shrapnel from moving into his heart and killing him.

Tony builds a crude, metal suit that powers the magnet and allows him to escape the terrorists. Once safely back home in America, he renounces the goals of the family business and pledges to do something more useful with his life.

He perfects another version of the metal suit, equipping it with a supersonic propulsion system, integrated wireless communications and plenty of high-tech weapons to fight the bad guys. He becomes Iron Man, a powerful force for good who succeeds in diminishing hostilities between warring nations. In Stark’s own words, he has “privatized world peace.”

Yet despite the powerful technology that protects his outside, the technology inside him is threatening his life. The mineral that powers the magnet and keeps his heart safe is slowly poisoning his body.

As I watched this movie, my mind wandered to other uses of “iron man” in our culture.

For instance, the Ironman World Championship in Hawaii is the ultimate day-long test of strength and endurance. Competitors must be proficient in three different athletic events as they first swim 2.4 miles in the Pacific Ocean, bicycle 112 miles over mountainous island roads and then finish with a 26.2 mile (full marathon) run. The winner is proclaimed Iron Man of the year.

Whew, that is a lot of exercise for one day. I can’t even find time for a long walk around the neighborhood.

My friend Adele tells me that I need to make time for exercise. “Thirty to sixty minutes a day, four days a week – that’s all you need for a healthy heart and a long life with your family.” I don’t doubt her advice. She’s a nurse who practices what she preaches – she works out most days at the gym.

But I wonder why I can’t exercise on a regular basis. It’s not ignorance – I know the health benefits of regular exercise. It’s not laziness – between work, writing and singing at church, I stay busy. I suppose it’s a matter of commitment – focusing only on the activities that are vital to my health and well being: activities like exercising, praying, thanking God for my blessings, honoring my wife, loving my family, lifting up others with my words and deeds.

It’s not easy to do this day after day. These activities, though very meaningful, become very familiar, mundane and sometimes even boring. It’s also difficult to focus on them in today’s culture when advertisements constantly interrupt my day and try to sell me something new. “New is better!” the ads proclaim.

I don’t need anything new. Everything I need that is good and wholesome is already within my reach. I just need to remind myself what’s most important and concentrate on the present.

Legendary coach John Wooden motivated his players with innumerable life lessons that also applied to the game of basketball. “Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can,” he once said.

Coach Wooden was preceded in death by his beloved wife Nell. The day he died, he reportedly asked his son to give him a shave. Asked why, he replied “I always shave before I see Nell.” He was an Iron Man in so many ways.

Baseball players Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken, Jr. are two more enduring examples. They never stayed home sick; they never took a “mental health day.” They played in every game for more than thirteen years, Cal finishing his streak in the sixteenth year. They played their entire career with just one team, never leaving one to play with another. They were baseball’s Iron Men.

Where did they find the strength to play on, day after day? Where do we find our daily bread to nourish our souls and keep us strong in our relationships and responsibilities?

C.S. Lewis wrote that “Man is like a tin soldier who can only be brought to real life, bit by bit, by the presence of Christ.”

We find that presence in the Eucharist. At Mass we pray for blessings from the Holy Trinity so that we may live strong in our faith and along our daily walk in this world.

Even Tony Stark needed help. With newly-discovered information from his father, Tony created a new, three-sided substance with unlimited power. Once he placed it near his human heart, he was no longer in mortal danger.

If it was only that easy. Live strong, iron men.

CF

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First published in the June 13, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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Regret is a powerful depressant.

To some degree or another, everyone has a dream of a perfect life. Our human nature motivates us to build the best life for ourselves and our family. Yet when life serves up changes that alter our dreams, do we give up or step up?

Do we let the disappointment of unrealized dreams affect the way we live our life today?

That’s the rut in which Carl Fredericksen finds himself in the animated film Up. Every morning this crotchety old widower goes through the same routine: he wakes up, eats breakfast, straightens up the house, and then sits on the porch or watches boring television programs.

All his neighbors have moved away, selling their homes years ago to a development company. Even though skyscrapers are constructed around him, Carl doesn’t change his ways. He stubbornly refuses to sells the house where he and his wife spent their wonderful years together.

Carl wasn’t always so crotchety.

As a young boy, he fancies himself an adventurer. Carl pretends that he is exploring a great unknown land, flying over high mountains, and soaring across grand canyons just like his hero Charles Muntz in the dirigible “The Spirit of Adventure.”

Carl’s dreams are intensified when he meets Ellie, a young girl with her own spirit of adventure. Ellie dreams of flying to South America and living in a house on top of Paradise Falls. Ellie’s zest for life is so infectious that Carl crosses his heart and promises to someday fly her there.

The young couple marries and sets out to make their dreams come true. They renovate their new home, work together at the zoo, take picnics and make plans to raise a family.

These plans take a wrong turn when they are told they cannot have children. In order to raise Ellie’s spirits, Carl reminds her of their plans to travel to Paradise Falls. They begin to save their money.

But just like our daily setbacks, life keeps interrupting their plans. Important, more pressing needs force Carl and Ellie to spend their savings elsewhere. Before they know it, years have passed by and they can no longer travel to Paradise Falls together. Ellie dies and Carl has to learn to live by himself.

It reminds me of my Italian grandparents, my Nonna (grandmother) and Nonno (grandfather). When Nonna passed away, Nonno seemed lost. He steadily declined during the next six months until he too passed away. It seemed to me that Nonno lost the spirit of adventure, the will to live each day to its fullest, when he found himself all alone.

Carl, on the other hand, doesn’t let his spirit of adventure die with Ellie. He decides to fulfill his promise to fly to Paradise Falls by lifting up his house, and his spirits, with thousands of helium balloons. He travels with Russell, an eight-year-old Wilderness Explorer who embodies the same spirit that Carl and Ellie had at his age. Together they meet Dug, Kevin and other strange characters in a far-off land during their own special adventure.

How do we respond to the challenges of daily life and the realization that the future we had envisioned is no longer possible? The first step, suggests Michael Joncas, is to trust in the Lord. Joncas used Psalm 91 as inspiration when he wrote the lyrics and music to “On Eagles Wings.”

You who dwell in the shelter of the Lord, who abide in His shadow for life, say to the Lord, “My refuge, my rock in whom I trust. And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.

The second step is realizing that life does not have to be filled with colorful adventures that thrill us every minute. We may have the heart of an adventurer but the also the purse of a pauper. Can we find daily peace and joy in the ordinary, mundane events of our lives?

Russell the Wilderness Exporer thinks so. He tells Carl about the special times he spent with his father, who is divorced from Russell’s mother. Russell and his father didn’t go off on vacation, to an amusement park or even to a fancy dinner. They just sat on the curb in front of the ice cream parlor, counting red and blue cars. “It was kind of boring, but those are the special moments I remember most,” Russell says one night around the campfire.

Bil Keane, creator of the comic strip Family Circus, is credited as the author of a popular saying, one that we should take to heart: “Yesterday is the past, tomorrow is the future, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.”

There is no better time to live than right now, so trust in God, live life like an adventure and everything will work out as it should.

Cross my heart.

CF


Originally published in the April, 16, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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I am alone again, walking with quiet prayers at the beginning of Lent.

Trees tower over me, man-made planes glide above me and prehistoric stars shine upon me. Here on earth, amidst all manner of beings, I realize that I am just one small person. Where do I fit in? What good can I do?

I am Scott Carey at the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man. A successful businessman, he spends restful weekends on the lake. One day his boat goes through a cloud of radioactive pesticides. Weeks later, he realizes his dress shirts are all too big.

His wife thinks he’s silly, that no one shrinks in such a short period of time. She used to reach up to kiss him. Now they look each other in the eye.

He continues to downsize and can no longer be a success in his job. His marriage suffers greatly from his condition. He moves out of their bedroom into the two-story dollhouse down the hall.

Once he battled business executives; now he battles mice and spiders with a long spear fastened from a safety pin. He forages for leftover cheese in traps. He continues to shrink and questions his place in the changing world.

I am very small. What good can I do?

I am Pat Kramer in The Incredible Shrinking Woman. The parent of three, she lives in the Tasty Meadows subdivision where all her neighbors rave about the new products they just purchased.

“Hey Pat, you gotta try Camper Clean.” “Hi Pat, have some of this Cheese Tease.” “Pat, you’ve got to get some of this stuff for your lawn.” She knows these products well because her husband’s agency wrote most of the advertisements.

One day she is exposed to a strange combination of household chemicals, including Galaxy Glue. She begins to shrink and has to move into a dollhouse. Her husband and the product scientists can’t explain her condition. She reaches a stage where she can no longer fulfill her duties as a parent and a spouse.

I am very small. What good can I do?

I am Kevin Flynn in Tron. He once created video games that are wildly popular and profitable. Unfortunately, a co-worker stole his programs and leapt above him to the top of the corporate ladder.

One night while searching for incriminating evidence against his rival, Flynn is digitized and transferred inside the company’s computer system. He sees for himself the vast Internet and social networks that connect hundreds of millions of people to each other.

He meets other beings – software programs who fight against the oppression of the Master Control Program (MCP). Flynn joins the fight to break through the firewalls, defeat the attack forces and destroys the MCP, thereby opening the system and networks to all users. In the process, he restores his good name and career standing.

I am very small, but during my walk, I realize what good I can do.

My focus will no longer be centered on business. I will care less about new products and what the neighbors have. Instead of spending hours on social networks, I will be content with a good book in hand. No longer must I measure myself against others in this world.

I turn inward and remember that I was once baptized and sanctified with the Living Water. I focus on little acts during Lent that remind me of that sanctification, that holiness.

I fast, I pray, I confess.

I confess to almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault, in my thoughts and in my words, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do; and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you, my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God.

These little acts cleanse my soul and lift my spirits.

I am very small; a tiny acorn nestled in the warm earth near the headwaters of God’s love. I trust in the truth that this everlasting love is for me.

My soul bursts forth from the glory of this truth. My roots extend far and deep into the living water. With this endless, nourishing love, I grow tall through the seasons. My leaves stay green and provide cool shade to others. Though the earth is parched around me, my branches grow large and bear fruit for others to eat.

If a boy needs my apples to sell for money, he can have them. Should he return for my branches to build a home, he can take them. If he wants my trunk to build a boat and sail away, he can have it. If he just wants to rest his weary bones on my tired old stump, let him rest.

For I am happy. I am alive with God’s love. I no longer feel small.

CF


Christopher Fenoglio watches films and reads books like The Giving Tree at his home in Bellevue. This column was originally published in the February 19, 2010 issue of The Tennessee Register. © 2010 Christopher Fenoglio

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