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Archive for the ‘Forrest Gump’ Category

I’ve been on a fitness kick lately.

Whether it’s my age, my doctor’s recommendations or my desire to live long enough to see the Chicago Cubs play in a World Series, I am trying to maintain a regular exercise program.

My wife and I both work at healthcare companies and our daughter just graduated with a degree in exercise science, so the value of regular exercise is a daily topic in our home.

Three to four days a week I am stretching, walking, sitting up, pushing up, and lifting weights. I’m trying to strengthen my core—those muscles around the stomach, back and hips that keep us balanced and productive throughout the day.

I usually exercise in our basement with a fitness DVD, but it’s more fun to run outside, as it helps my mind to relax and create.

To get ideas for this column, I lace up my shoes and go for a “run and write.” I let my mind wander through my favorite films. I imagine that…

…I’m running through the Painted Desert wearing a Bubba Gump Shrimp ball cap, in lands so beautiful that you can’t tell where the sky stops and the earth begins.

…I’m running on the beach with other members of the Olympic team, splashing through the surf and listening to the bold, synthesized sounds of Vangelis.

…I’m running through the streets of Philadelphia in the cold, early morning hours, a boxer training for the fight of a lifetime. Ahead of me lies these massive stairs…

My mind accesses a real memory. I’m in Philadelphia at a professional conference. Walking near the Museum of Art, I realize that these are the massive stairs where Rocky finishes his runs. Seizing the opportunity, I run steadily up, ignoring the locals who have seen it too many times before.

At the top, though a little winded, I raise my arms in triumph. “Rocky! Rocky!” the fans shout at the end of his films, especially in Rocky Balboa, the last in the series.

In this film, we find Rocky is the soft-spoken owner of Adrian’s, a neighborhood restaurant named after his beloved wife, a victim of ovarian cancer.

When a computer-generated fight on ESPN generates genuine interest in a fight between Rocky and the current champ, Rocky accepts the offer of an exhibition fight.

“I’m a fighter, and a fighter fights,” he explains to his son. “But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done.”

I focus again on the road ahead, my legs pounding the pavement as my chest and stomach muscles work hard to keep me balanced, moving forward.

My core is getting a workout. Fitness trainers tell us to exercise our core. Companies spend hundreds of man hours creating and refining their core values—the foundations upon which they perform work and conduct themselves.

What are my core values? How can I teach them to my children? I condense them down to an acronym: Christ-Oriented, Responsible and Enlightened.

To live a Christ-oriented life, we should follow what Jesus said are the two greatest commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength. You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 30-31).

I want my children to be responsible individuals, but more so than just completing their chores or doing what they say they’ll do. I would like them to be responsible with their friendships and their love, knowing that other people are affected by their actions.

They need to be responsible with their time, their talents and their treasures, as so much good can be produced from these gifts. I also want them to be responsible with the Earth’s natural resources, knowing that we should be mindful of everyone and everything that lives on this planet.

Finally, I want them to be enlightened individuals, people who will never stop learning long after completing their formal education. I hope they will read often, think faithfully and logically, be good listeners and consider other opinions so that they can actively form their own. “I didn’t know that” and “Thanks, that’s a good idea” should be common phrases for them.

Enlightenment begins with a certain amount of humility. The more I learn, the more I realize there’s so much more I don’t know or understand. It sets the stage to learn something new, to relate to my family and friends in a new way, or to understand the volatile issues our society faces today.

Can we learn how to be humble? My friend Steve thinks so. He says that humility is born out of thankfulness. If we start each day by thanking God for what He has given us, we will understand the magnitude of these gifts and how important they really are to our daily lives. That is our core.

I finish my run, thank God for my health and hang up my Bubba Gump hat…until tomorrow.

CF
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Based upon the Gospel for February 3, 2008 Matthew 5:1-12a

The journeys continue in the new year, looking for Light in all the right places: the quiet corners of prayer, next Sunday’s readings, and the faces of our children.

Yet inspiration is also found onscreen in celluloid characters who embody the values we long for, search for, try to emulate. Fictional or factual, they strike a chord that resonates in our lives. Oh, that I could be more like them.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land – like Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Hobbits by nature are quiet, peace loving beings. They shy away from Big People like us, preferring instead to till the earth, enjoy a hearty meal and savor a cold pint. They usually avoid adventures, yet are surprisingly resilient when adventure is thrust upon them.

FrodoWhile mortal men argue over power and who should be in charge, it’s the meek hobbit who speaks up and volunteers for the most dangerous task of all. He willingly accepts the burden of bearing the great One Ring, for he knows that he alone must destroy the evil at hand.

And while there are friends and wise counsel to guide him on his journey, he alone must decide what to do with the time that is given to him. He does not shy away from the new and difficult, though he prefers the familiar and the comfortable. His response to this treacherous task is simply “What must I do?”

When his deeds are over and evil is vanquished, he sets his affairs in order and says goodbye. To leave his middle-earth, he boards the ship that sails to the horizon. “The grey rain-curtain of this world will roll back to see…white shores, and beyond a far green country under a swift sunrise.”

An inheritance worth living for.

Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God – like Forrest Gump in Forrest Gump. While his intellect may be below average, his instincts are deeply rooted love.

GumpHe loves his mama, who raised him to believe that no one was any better than anyone else. We are all God’s children, loved by the Father, saved by the Son, inspired by the Spirit. We each have our unique talents and tastes, which we use when we open the box of chocolates called life.

He loves his wife, navigating the twists and turns of their separate roads until they merge into one loving freeway. Together they produce a family that will live on in future generations.

At times Forrest is floating like a feather on the wind, intersecting with the lives of the famous and the faithful. Other times he looks back and believes he was destined to follow the path he’s on, though he doesn’t know where it is going.

Yet on his journey, he takes time to recognize God in his surroundings. “In the desert, when the sun comes up, I couldn’t tell where heaven stopped and the earth began.”

A vision of God worth living for.

Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven – like Anakin Skywalker at the end of Star Wars VI: Return of the Jedi.

AnakinHis life started with so much promise. He was the promised one, heralded to bring peace and order to the galaxy.

He had a special sense of the world around him and learned that his gifts solved big problems. He focused his youthful ambition first on helping people, even if it meant leaving his mother and his home. He fought through his fear of separation and joined the righteous warriors.

But as he grew older, he allowed Fear to creep back into his life, along with its cousins Doubt, Greed and Anger. Under the influence of a powerful dark force, he turned away from the righteous path. He encased his humanity in a machine and became an instrument of evil.

Yet his humanity and sense of righteousness remained inside, dormant until kindled by the love of his own son. In his son, he saw the look of steadfast faith and unconditional love.

At journey’s end, when faced with the finality of evil’s triumph, Anakin regained his humanity and destroyed the evil, even though it proved fatal to him. But with his sacrifice, he fulfilled his destiny, succeeding to bring peace and order to the galaxy.

A righteous cause worth dying for.

So now there are no more auditions, you’ve got the part. You are the lead actor in a film that is still in development. While it is sometimes tempting to go on strike, you have to keep writing, keep living, keep creating the next scene in your film.

There are times when you are adapting someone else’s screenplay to fit into your own life, but the best screenplays are true originals.

Produced by family and directed by God, it’s up to you to create a film that resonates in the lives of others.

Quiet on the set. Action!

CF

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First published in the January 25, 2008 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2008 Christopher Fenoglio

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“Momma, what’s my destiny?” “That’s just something you’ll have to figure out for yourself.” – a scene from Forrest Gump

The walnut table in my Mom’s kitchen sits quietly in the sunlight. It used to be bigger, expanded with leaves to handle the meals and conversations of nine family members. But now it sits smaller, crowded with books and mail, with just enough space for one place setting.

This kitchen table was the center of my universe during my school years, the site of many “kitchen table talks” with Mom. It was from this table that I would look ahead. Never too far into the future, usually a semester or two, testing the water with my big toe to feel what it would be like on my own. What road should I take and where will I end up?

Looking back, I don’t see a straight line. I see a complex road map filled with a thousand streets intersecting at many points. My path, highlighted in yellow, is filled with many twists and turns.

At each of the turns I could have gone in the opposite direction, altering the yellow line and changing my future. Was I destined to take this path? Did I decide each turn by myself? What role did God play in this journey?

GumpWhen Forrest asks his mother about his destiny, he has already led an eventful life. He was an All-American football player, a decorated Vietnam War hero and a gazillionaire as a shrimpin’ boat captain. He even taught Elvis to dance.

Unlike Chance, the gardener in Being There, Forrest does not wander aimlessly through life. He follows his good instincts and the advice of people he respects. But when Jenny talks about jumping off a bridge or Lieutenant Dan wants to die like his ancestors, Forrest steps up and challenges them, acting on his own good sense of what is right.Through it all, Forrest still asks for guidance about his destiny. His wise mother, however, resists the urge to give him a map. “I happen to believe that you make your own destiny. You have to do the best with what God gave you.”

As a Catholic in middle Tennessee, we are often faced with different Christian views. A traditional Protestant belief, known as predestination, states that we can do nothing about our salvation. God has already determined our destiny and by his grace some of us (but not all) are saved to manifest divine grace here on earth.

Mrs. Gump’s advice leans the other way, acknowledging God’s gift of our talents and grace, but she puts the responsibility of Forrest’s destiny squarely on his own shoulders.

Somewhere in the middle is the traditional Catholic belief that our gracious God desires the salvation of all and wills us to cooperate freely with His grace in the working out of our salvation. Thus we have the choice to follow Him, live in a more Christ-like manner, and do our part to spread God’s love to others around us.

Perhaps we are each riding a feather, sometimes floating on a breeze created by God to move us in a particular direction, other times steering that feather ourselves along the path we choose.

The best flights are when we are always checking the wind, spending prayerful time to understand God’s will in our lives, and steering our feather to keep the wind at our back, helping us along our journey.

Forrest comes close to this same understanding near the end of the film. When talking to Jenny at her gravesite, trying to understand the past so he can raise little Forrest without her, he says, “I don’t know if we each have a destiny or if we’re all floatin’ around accidental-like on a breeze. But I think maybe it’s both. Maybe both are happening at the same time.”

Sometimes I wonder about the points on my road map where I turned one way instead of another. What would life be like if I had taken another path? Some of the changes might have been superficial, such as owning a different house if I had stayed with a particular job. Other paths would have drastically changed my life, such as returning to Illinois after college instead of meeting my wife in Nashville.

Looking back, I took this path because I listened to God’s will and made my own decisions on what is best for my life. Many times it seems like the wind is at my back and I am confidently facing the future with God’s grace in my sails.

Still, there are times when I have to dock my ship at my mother’s house, sit at the kitchen table and have another good talk with her to stay on the right path. The upcoming holidays will be a great time for this – I hope you will find time to do the same.

CF
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First published in the November 4, 2005 issue of The Tennessee Register.
© 2005 Christopher Fenoglio.

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