Desperately Seeking Hero X

Out of the mist of time and imagination have stepped great heroes, whose stories have graced the silver screen to become an integral part of our cultural consciousness: Moses, King Arthur, Joan of Arc, Abraham Lincoln, Indiana Jones, Nelson Mandela, Rocky Balboa, Erin Brokovich, Batman, and Luke Skywalker, just to name a few.

The main function of heroes is to exemplify a society’s ideals, morals and values. Their virtues transcend time and place to become universal values worthy of emulation, such as, honor, duty, courage, loyalty, compassion, and self-sacrifice.

Throughout history, each generation has produced great heroes, who have left their mark on the world. One notable constant among these fictional or historic characters is that they were born out of conflict. By boldly rising to the challenges before them, they have taken their places among our constellation of heroes. It is why we are drawn to their stories. They represent the best of what it means to be human.

The 20th century has given birth to numerous American heroes, who have fought valiantly to make the United States first among nations. Not so long ago, America was a symbol of the Promised Land, where anyone could achieve his or her wildest dreams. Then something went terribly wrong… The nation became bankrupt – financially and morally. It was like a spell had been cast across the land. The old heroes no longer spoke to us and any new ones failed to make an appearance.

The 21st century is the time when our science fiction writers envisioned us living in a futuristic society. Instead, we are facing many complex challenges that threaten our well-being and progress: climate change, government surveillance, erosion of women’s and workers’ rights, terrorist attacks, cyber-warfare, GMOs in our food, rising student debt, a growing prison industrial complex, partisan gridlock in Congress, and the widening gap between rich and poor.

This begs the question: Who will be the new heroes of our Digital Age? Ironically, we have invented great heroes to fight our battles against the most evil villains, vampires, wizards and aliens, but for some odd reason we have fallen short when it comes to creating a modern day pantheon of new heroes to show us the way.

It’s no wonder that we are seeing a rise in the popularity of Superheroes. Will it take a Superman to solve our problems? The truth be told, these heroes are actually a projection of ourselves. We identify with them only to the extent that their stories reflect our struggles, fears and anxieties.

If we cannot create the perfect hero out of our collective unconscious to match these challenging times, then does the fault lie with us? Is that why we have grown cynical of our institutions and elected leaders? Do they truly represent who we have become as a people? Is that why celebrities have taken the place of our heroes and are viewed as the new role models? What happens when our storytelling becomes devoid of meaning and no longer serves its proper function?

These are some of the questions that have given rise to this documentary film project. It is why we are desperately seeking Hero X, a new Prometheus for this millennium. He or she will be the ultimate twenty-first century hero, a man or woman of steel and science, who can stop this runaway train before it derails.

He or she must embody the best qualities of a fierce warrior, great thinker, inspirational leader, and live by the highest ideals. In addition, he or she may exhibit otherworldly skills and prowess that will set him or her apart from mere mortals. He or she can be real or fictional, but must be able to capture the imagination and jolt us from our current dream state.

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Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies

sf dystopia11 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction MoviesScience fiction is a genre of storytelling concerned with imagining alternate worlds and futures based on scientific principles, while predicting how our lives will be affected by these new realities. The genre provides a roadmap of the evolution of the imagination as we have moved from dwelling in caves to skyscrapers and, ultimately, space colonies.

Science fiction writers often use the genre to explore controversial issues confronting society and warn about the bleak future awaiting us, if we do not change our current behavior. If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that even when a utopian society is envisioned, where everyone is free from want, unhappiness, pain, and suffering, it winds up becoming dystopian in nature, which suggests there’s no escaping the darker side of human nature.

Today, we live in a world with many complex problems still needing to be solved. We are witnessing more natural disasters as a result of climate change, buildings collapsing with no means of rescuing the people buried beneath the rubble, people losing limbs in wars and terror attacks without the ability to regrow them, the rise of Social Darwinism with the death of the American Dream, pointless partisan gridlock in Congress that is hastening the country’s decline, and an escalation of cyberwarfare among nations, just to name a few.

If the future is now, then the following Sci-Fi movies seek to interrogate our current social and political systems, and the impact of technology and medical science on our morality, identity, and belief-system:

1984

sf1 1984 300x300 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: The activities of citizens are monitored and controlled by a totalitarian government.
Reality: Recent revelations about the U.S. surveillance programs indicate that Big Brother is watching us in the name of fighting terrorism. Since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Americans appear more reconciled to losing some rights to privacy and other civil liberties for greater security.

Blade Runner

sf2 blade Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Los Angeles becomes a dystopian society that is polluted, overcrowded and besieged by corporate advertising. Human clones or replicants that were created to work as laborers on an off-world colony have rebelled and are being hunted down by Blade Runners driving gravity-defying vehicles.
Reality: The cloning of humans remains illegal, although animals have been successfully cloned. The infrastructure for gravity-defying automobiles is still not a reality, but the first driverless car has been built by Google. Even though we are bombarded by nonstop advertisement, it is what enables us to access free infotainment.

A.I. Artificial Intelligence

sf3 ai Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Lifelike robots will take care of the basic needs of humans, and even fill the emotional void in their lives.
Reality: Humans have become dependent on their smart phones and electronic devices, rather than on personal robots. Despite the many benefits of technology in the workplace, it is causing large-scale worker obsolescence.

Minority Report

sf4 minority Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Law enforcement agencies will predict and stop crimes before they occur.
Reality: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is engaged in an ongoing battle to anticipate and prevent acts of terror before they occur. It is not unusual for drone strikes to be ordered on suspected foreign terrorists.

The Island

sf5 island Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Clones of human beings will be harvested for replaceable body parts.
Reality: Advances in medicine are helping to extend the lifespan of humans, which means that the better we understand stem cells and DNA, the faster we will be able to cure life-threatening diseases, reverse aging and grow replaceable body parts.

Demolition Man

sf6 demo Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Criminals and other misfits are removed from society and cryogenically preserved.
Reality: Even though cryogenics still remains in the realm of science fiction, some people have chosen to be cryogenically preserved after they die, with the hope that science will advance where they could be brought back to life. On the other hand, with the rise of the prison industrial complex, more citizens are being locked away and are serving longer sentences. Those prisoners who are buried alive for twenty-three hours and then resuscitated for one hour each day quietly go insane, which seems to suggest that cryogenically preserving prisoners may be a little more humane.

The Handmaid’s Tale

sf7 handmaid Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Less privileged women are forced to become surrogate mothers for the elites in society.
Reality: Surrogacy is voluntary in America and all parties are protected by a written contract. However, some couples from the West pay women in developing countries to become their surrogate mothers. Not to be outdone, lawmakers in America are trying to turn back the clock by enacting new laws to force women to bear children against their will, even in cases of rape and incest.

2012

sf8 2012 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Climate change will cause severe natural disasters.
Reality: On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall on the East Coast and caused about $60 billion in damages, which proves how prescient this prediction was in its timing. More investment is needed to develop better advance warning systems and to build sturdier shelters.

Gattaca

sf10 gattaca Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Society is divided based on the genetics of its citizens.
Reality: As we become better at manipulating the DNA code, more parents may be tempted to decide the sex of their unborn children and the physical characteristics they wish them to have. Expectant parents are already being informed of potential birth defects and have the option of not carrying the babies to term.

Soylent Green

sf11 soylent Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Climate change and overpopulation will cause severe food shortages.
Reality: As more forests and farmlands are converted into cities, it is becoming increasingly hard to feed the world’s population. It is no wonder we are seeing the rise of foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). As a result, more people are opting to purchase organic foods as an alternative.

War of the Worlds

sf12 war Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: An alien invasion from Mars forces nations to fight together for the very survival of earth.
Reality: We are yet to be contacted by Martians or other aliens, although NASA recently sent a rover to Mars on an exploration mission. It will be interesting to see our response if Martians are encountered, since we already have a hard time getting along with each other from the same species.

I Am Legend

sf14 legend Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: A pandemic disease leaves a sole survivor, who must navigate his way amid an infected population.
Reality: We are in a perpetual race to find a vaccine for one infectious disease after another. These superbugs are developing immunity to antibiotics and pose a serious health risk to the global community. The good news is that search engines like Google can help us identify infected areas as people search online for more information about the diseases.

The Road

sf theroad Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: A father and son encounter lawless cannibalistic gangs as they travel across a post-apocalyptic America.
Reality: We have witnessed a new form of cannibalism by corporate elites, who might as well have fed on their fellow citizens, after stripping the country of its manufacturing sector and turning many neighborhoods into ghost towns. With the collapse of the economy after the 2008 Great Recession, many Americans are finding themselves traveling a metaphorical post-apocalyptic road.

Total Recall

sf18 totalrecall Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: People are willing pay to experience fake memories and alternate states of reality.
Reality: The Internet has created myriad ways for us to be entertained twenty-hours a day, ranging from cable network programming, streaming movies, videogames, and social networking sites. If creativity depends on stilling the senses, then one is hard-pressed to imagine what kind of future will be invented.

Fahrenheit 451

sf 451 Predictions from the Best Science Fiction Movies
Prediction: Firefighters are ordered to burn books as part of a government program to suppress free thought and individualism.
Reality: Instead of a problem with censorship, we are experiencing quite the opposite with the overabundance of self-published works. The digital revolution has made it quite easy for indie authors to bypass the traditional gatekeepers of the publishing industry, who once guided the culture and acted as curators. It has disrupted the industry by driving down the cost of books and shrinking the profit margin of many companies.

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The Art of Being

artofbeing 300x218 The Art of Being“To be, or not to be” is the opening line of a soliloquy uttered by Hamlet, as he ponders the meaning of life and whether the price we pay is worth the suffering that we must endure to experience it. Hamlet is a gentle and introspective young man, who is not given to bold action. One day, his tranquil world is turned upside down, after the ghost of his recently deceased father visits him.

Hamlet’s father reveals that he was murdered by his brother, Claudius, who has been crowned king and is married to Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude. His father demands that Hamlet avenge his death. To do otherwise, would mean dishonoring his father’s memory and being branded a coward. This is the life script that Hamlet is handed to work out his destiny. It’s no wonder that Shakespeare writes in his play, As You Like It, “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

 
What does your life script look like? Even though we do not get to choose the type of script we receive in life, we can still decide how we play our roles by making the best possible choices that are available within our particular set of circumstances. To be sure, we are all born with a certain backstory, within a particular family, culture, historical context and socio-economic status that will shape our experiences, values and belief system. Thus, your particular background will inform your decisions and influence your actions. Even though we live in a society with a justice system that saves us from avenging the wrongful death of a loved one, the same code that guided Hamlet’s society, i.e., loyalty, honor, courage, are the same values that are admired today.

Ultimately, the essence of what we seek in life is happiness. Even though we pursue external objects and experiences as major goals in life, any happiness we derive arises from deep within ourselves. Happiness is a state of being. It is our essential nature. Just like reel life heroes, we may feel a certain lack in our lives, or possess a character flaw that keeps us from living the good life. It is this need for change and self-improvement that stirs the mind and embarks us on an incredible journey of self-discovery and self-fulfillment.

It is just like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, who feels unloved and decides to run away from the home where she lives with her aunt and uncle. She is swept away by a tornado and winds up in the Land of Oz. As she follows the yellow brick road to find the Wizard of Oz, she meets Scarecrow who desires a brain, Tinman who seeks a heart and Cowardly Lion who wishes for more courage. By the time Dorothy reaches her destination, she discovers that happiness is a byproduct of helping others and that “there’s no place like home.” By venturing out into the unknown, she discovers what is truly valuable in life.

 
We all play a variety of roles throughout our lives, beginning with being members of a family unit and part of a larger community.  If you are unlucky to be an orphan like Oliver Twist, then your life may turn out to be extremely difficult. It will require greater coping skills to navigate the world. If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that once you decide on a goal, you will find everyone else is either there to support, or oppose you in your quest. Similarly, depending on whether you wish to cooperate or compete with others, you will find yourself frequently changing masks and playing the role of a shapeshifter. Depending on the situation, you may change your personality to assume the role of a friend, confidante, mentor, gossip, flirt, snitch, pessimist, optimist, panderer, or aggressor, just to name a few.

In Oliver’s case, he finds himself with no good options. His mother dies in a workhouse while giving birth to him. By the time he is nine years old, he is sent to the main workhouse where he toils away, but receives barely any food in return.  After running away to London, he is recruited as a member of a gang of pickpockets. Oliver is clueless that the gang is involved in criminal activity.  He yearns to become part of a family and even though his situation is not ideal, he works hard to be accepted. It is not until he is arrested that his life changes serendipitously, and he discovers that he is not an orphan after all.

What the movie, Oliver Twist, reveals is that there are times when we need to surrender to certain situations that are beyond our control. Not surprisingly, they embark us on an inner journey that leaves us feeling lost, lonely and frightened. These hardships are there to test and instruct us, so we must persist through doubt and fear. Sometimes it may even seem like we are standing at the end of a long, dark tunnel with no way out. But, if we keep our focus on the essence of what we hope to achieve, it will act as a beacon of light guiding our destiny.

 
As human beings, we possess an uncanny ability to imagine the outcome of whatever we desire and simulate the emotions that we expect to experience as though they were real. It is what gives us the freedom to dream the impossible. It is what keeps us motivated whenever obstacles are confronted. By creating an image of what we desire in the mind, we become like an artist painting a picture on a canvas.  Since thoughts become things, we attract the people and circumstances that can help to make them a reality.

In The Secret Garden, a young orphan, Mary Lennox, is sent from India to live with her uncle in a gloomy, old castle in England.  Life for Mary becomes an adventure as she discovers a bedridden cousin, Colin, who is kept locked away in his room because of his disability, and a secret garden that has been locked up since her aunt passed away. Mary sets to work, tirelessly restoring the garden to its former glory and inspiring Colin to believe that he can walk again. In so doing, she restores life in the garden and love in the castle.

What Mary reminds us is that we all need a Secret Garden to escape and regenerate ourselves. It should be a place of beauty and serenity, where we can find solace and solitude. Such a sanctuary must be created deep within ourselves, where we can withdraw from the hustle and bustle of the world. It must be a place where past and future do not exist.  What we did yesterday, or last year, is past and gone, except for the memories that still flicker in our minds. Tomorrow remains nothing more than a dream. All we have is this present moment, which is the seat of our power.

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Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

martian4 Top 10 Movies that Define the American CharacterWhat if a Martian, calling himself Joules, shows up on your doorstep and tells you that he is on a special mission to learn more about Americans. Since we are currently exploring his planet, he has been sent here on earth to learn more about us.

Joules promises to grant you one wish in exchange for this information. Will you invite him into your home in the interest of interplanetary friendship? How will you describe the American character to him? What “top 10 movies” will you choose to demonstrate your point? The following is a partial list of movies from my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, that I believe provides a good snapshot of the American character:
 
poster1 patriot1 Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
The Patriot: Freedom from tyranny is a foundational feature of the American character. The rallying cry during the American Revolution was: “Give me liberty or give me death!” By standing up for their principles and beliefs, these revolutionaries helped to create the most powerful nation on earth.
 

poster2 gone Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Gone With The Wind: As the Old South with its peculiar way of life burns to the ground around her, the heroine fervently believes in her ability to reshape the world in her own image. She displays a high degree of optimism that tomorrow will be a better day. It also shows how Americans are willing to fight each other, even on a battlefield, for the preservation of their beliefs and values.
 

poster3 citizen Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Citizen Kane: It is an era when an oligarchy of wealthy and powerful men ran the world. America provides the perfect stage for these larger than life personalities to live out their fantasies. It shows that despite all the money in the world, happiness can sometimes remain elusive.
 

poster4 blood Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
There Will Be Blood: It depicts an American ethos of hard work and rugged individualism in a country that provides ample opportunity for anyone to pursue the American Dream. It also marks the beginning of America’s love affair with Big Oil and the energy industry.
 

poster5 grapes Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
The Grapes of Wrath: As families journey to California seeking a better life during the Great Depression, they find themselves being exploited as a cheap source of labor. The workers decide to fight back by forming a union and demanding higher wages. It is also an era when Americans were losing their homes due to foreclosure and had to find the will and wherewithal to start over.
 

poster6 missis Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Mississippi Burning: When three civil rights workers are murdered during the Civil Rights Movement, the norm was for the local authorities in the South to look the other way. It highlights a time when the nation was coming to grips with the specter of racial injustice and taking a hard line against discrimination.
 

poster7 godfa Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
The Godfather: America has a long history of battling corruption and organized crime. It reveals how certain members of society will always try to circumvent the system to get rich quick. It shines a spotlight on the inequitable distribution of wealth in society that may lead some people to consider criminal activity as an option.
 

poster8 anygiven Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Any Given Sunday: Watching sports is America’s favorite pastime and represent the competitive spirit of Americans. Football is a sport that pits the best athletes against each other, just like the gladiators of yore.
 

poster9 wallst Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Wall Street: It is a coming of age film about a young man trying to find his moral compass in the face of great temptation. Wall Street is the domain of risk-takers, who believe that “greed is good.” It is a place of leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers. It is a place where easy money is made without producing a tangible product that provides a real benefit to society at large.
 

poster10 erin Top 10 Movies that Define the American Character

 
Erin Brokovich: A single mother helps a small town bring down a power company for polluting its water supply. It demonstrates how Americans like to root for the underdog and act courageously in the face of injustice. It also displays one of America’s greatest strengths – its spirit of volunteerism.

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Brave New World

933 hd urban fantasy Brave New WorldThe twenty-first century seems to be the magical point in time chosen by our creative thinkers, dreamers and visionaries when our dreams of a futuristic world will become a reality. If the future is now, then what kind of life do we have to look forward to? How will we cope with living in an alternate reality? What new meanings will we attach to our new existence?

In 1492, Christopher Columbus set sail from Spain to find a trade route to Asia, little knowing that he would discover a New World. Five hundred years later, we have evolved from believing the world is flat to sending astronauts to the moon. By daring to embark on a journey into the unknown, Columbus revealed a boundless universe that has changed the trajectory of the world.

 
The Age of Discovery opened a whole new world of exploration and conquest. Even though it unlocked the floodgates to unimaginable wealth and power for some nations, it was responsible for heaping untold pain and suffering upon many more. On the other hand, it expanded our world of storytelling by offering new experiences that helped us to explore and better understand what it means to be human.

If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that when the hero embarks on an outer journey, it necessarily entails his traveling on an inner journey. The farther the hero travels outward, the deeper he travels inward. Life requires that we participate in the eternal drama. This is how we evolve and grow.

 
Throughout the ages, myths, fairytales and folklore were our attempts to explain life’s mysteries and ground us in the reality of our world. How else could we cope with the cycles of birth and death – the seeming temporality of life? These stories helped to insert meaning into our mundane lives. The more we better understood ourselves, the greater control we gained over our environment.

Today, we continue to wrestle with the same existential questions as our ancestors: Where did we come from? Why are we here? Where are we going? It is through our storytelling that we hope to explore the many truths about ourselves. In the movie, Inception, the hero’s task is to manipulate the mind of a sleeping subject and implant an idea into his mind that will be acted upon in the real world when he awakens. This story raises some interesting questions about how ideas are conceived in the mind, while exploring the power of suggestion and the realm of the unconscious, which remains largely untapped.

 
When Columbus set sail on August 3, 1492, land was not sighted for another two months. Today, we have developed air travel that easily bridges time and space, so that a similar trip would take only a few hours. We have invented technologies that allow us to communicate instantly with anyone around the globe. The creation of the Internet has allowed us to enter the Digital Age. Just like Columbus before us, we are heading into uncharted territory and only time will reveal what new adventures and stories await us in Cyberspace.

For starters, Social Media is redefining how we form “community” and interact with each other. It used to be built on nationality, ethnicity, culture, religion, class, and race, but the Internet is erasing these artificial barriers. We are forming communities based on common interests. In the movie, The Social Network, the founder of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, is depicted as a friendless young man, who is willing to risk everything in his single-minded pursuit to create a virtual platform that will support a global community. His sacrifice seems to have paid off, since Facebook reportedly has surpassed a billion users from around the world.

Not surprisingly, the Internet is changing how we communicate, work, play, learn, shop, dine, travel, date, seek jobs, find information, read books, consume news, use money, entertain ourselves, practice medicine, fight wars, commit and solve crimes. It is affecting the way companies market and sell their products and services. The Internet has become a veritable wellspring of free advice from anonymous strangers, which is proving quite valuable when a second opinion is needed. We have developed a sudden yen for sharing and staying connected. It’s no wonder we are witnessing the rise of crowdsourcing and crowdfunding online.

 
In the dystopian tale, Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley, human reproduction is obsolete and children are born and raised in Hatcheries and Conditioning Centers. The society is divided into five castes, the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta and Epsilon. The Alphas and Betas are bred to be the natural thinkers and leaders in society. They are expected to make decisions and dictate policy. The lower castes are physically and intellectually inferior. The drug soma is dispensed to keep the population docile and happy. This helps to create a peaceful and stable society, where everyone accepts their place within the hierarchy. The trouble begins when a citizen defies the system and is confronted by the absolute power of the state.

While the Internet holds great promise, at the same time it conceals a dark side that threatens to turn our society into a Brave New World. It has disrupted how we do business, which has led to millions of people being displaced from the workforce. While it has made many areas of our lives easier, we have not yet figured out how to deal with its negative effects. One can only wonder about the long-term impact on society with millions of people unemployed or underemployed, with no relief in sight. What happens when the state is unwilling or unable to lend a helping hand? On the other hand, if technology is here to stay, then it behooves us to figure out how to make it serve our needs.

Notwithstanding, the Internet has led to the loss of our privacy and control over many areas of our lives. We can be tracked and followed, whether we wish it, or not. This makes it much easier for Big Brother to watch us. Neither can we escape the marketers and advertisers, who make their living from selling to us. Our digital identities offer little protection. It’s just a matter of time before we are treated as mere ciphers in a computer database that can be manipulated, regulated, and controlled by those in authority. On the other hand, it will be interesting to discover what other aspects of our nature will be activated, once these unknown forces of the Digital Age are unleashed.

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When Bad Things Happen to Good People

Sadness When Bad Things Happen to Good PeopleAs we turn the chapter on 2012, the name Sandy will forever live in infamy. Sadly, 2012, was not just the name of a science fiction movie, but the year when America came to know Sandy, intimately. Our introduction to Sandy was brief, but deadly. If you have read my book, How to Create the Good Life from Reel Life, then you know that science fiction writers use the genre to gaze into the future and sound the alarm when they see society being placed in danger. It’s no wonder that the movie, 2012, proved eerily prescient, with its prediction of a natural disaster resulting from global warming.

On October 29, 2012, Superstorm Sandy made landfall and swept across the East Coast, leaving behind a path of death and destruction. Not to be outdone, a homicidal maniac targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, several weeks later. By the time the winds calmed and the waters receded, Sandy left behind an estimated $62 billion in damages and a death toll of at least 125 people. After the gunsmoke cleared at Sandy Hook Elementary School, 27 people were shot dead, including 20 schoolchildren. Thus, a lone gunman with three weapons, wreaked more havoc in a few minutes, what it took Superstorm Sandy days to accomplish.

How does one recover from such unthinkable loss and devastation? Memories and possessions washed away at sea. Young lives snuffed out like candles in the wind. The tragedy of the situation is that we expect home and school to be a sanctuary. This way we can lock out the monsters. Anytime we feel like a good scare, we watch horror movies from the safety of a movie theater. Unfortunately, there is no guarantee of that privilege, anymore. While we love being frightened out of our wits by the supernatural world, as depicted in the film, The Woman in Black, we discover that the real danger lies in the natural world.

When a storm penetrates and invades the walls of a home, it is like a monster being on the loose. Just as a monster targets and preys upon the weaknesses and vulnerabilities of its victims, Superstorm Sandy was no less discriminating. Neither was the gunman, who entered Sandy Hook Elementary School and committed the most monstrous act on that fateful day. Those sweet, innocent babies were forced to stare into the eyes of this crazed monster, just before they closed their own.

How could they have known that their society fights vociferously to protect the lives of the unborn and a killer’s right to possess his weapons than it does to shield them from such deadly menace? How could they have known that the gun industry would receive a surge in sales even before they were laid to rest? How could the Founding Fathers have known that their simple flintlock muskets and gunpowder would morph into today’s sophisticated killing machines, with exotic names like, Sig Sauer, Glock, and Bushmaster?

From the beginning of time, our storytelling has depicted drowning as being one of our greatest fears. In the Christian tradition, the symbolic act of drowning is performed during baptism to signify rebirth and renewal. In movies, a storm may portend impending disaster, which usually reveals the true character of those affected by it. When a storm turns out to be a destructive force, it is seen as offering the opportunity for a fresh beginning. Thus, the rain can also be viewed as a cleansing and restorative agent.

In Ordinary People, the Jarrett family is torn apart after the accidental drowning of the favorite older son and attempted suicide by the younger son. The mother withdraws emotionally from the world, as a way to cope with her grief. The younger son is left bereft, suffering from survivor’s guilt. His father watches helplessly as the family disintegrates around him. As the family members drown in their own sorrow, one is hard-pressed to decide whether they will survive their ordeal.

In the Rabbit Hole, Becca Corbett is coping with the loss of her four-year old son, after he is struck and killed by a passing car in front of the home. She finds no solace for her grief, even after she joins a self-help group. She rejects a member’s blind faith in an omniscient God, who has shown no mercy. She rages at the absurdity and injustice of it all. Against her will, Becca is being forced to confront the nature of suffering and what it means to be human. Being alive requires that we participate in the eternal drama. For Becca, her way to healing is through the path of forgiveness.

What does losing a loved one feel like? It is a pain beyond reason. It feels like you’re plunging deep beneath the ocean into your own watery grave. Even though you wish for sweet oblivion, your senses are heightened and you become a fish able to survive underwater. Separation and loss are part of being human. It is the price we must pay for experiencing life, which seeks full expression of its own nature. So, it waits with bated breath for you to emerge from the abyss. You have been called to bear witness. You are the sacrificial lamb. What secret part of its nature will you behold? What meaning will you assign to the experience? Meanwhile, Father Time waits patiently in the wings to sweep you into his arms and heal your wounds, while he dims your memories.

When tragedy strikes, we tend to draw together and encircle those in need of our love and support. It helps to quiet the mind and soothe the soul of those afflicted. What Sandy has taught us is that the rain falls on the just and unjust alike. So, we’re all in this together. Are we going to stand by impotently, while our towns become like Baghdad, with its random acts of violence? Even though we could not protect our young from a deranged killer, surely we can implement sensible measures to prevent it from happening, again. Our main concern should be the protection of innocent citizens, not lining the pockets of the merchants of death.

Our storytelling abounds with tales of human beings having to cope with death and disaster. Like us, they struggled to make sense of their pain and suffering. That is why they created rites and rituals, throughout the ages. In the movie 300, the Spartans find meaning in their warrior code of honor, duty, glory. They see life as a contest of wills. This allows them to live fearlessly. Surrender and retreat are not part of their vocabulary. They draw a line in the sand and stand their ground. Can we do any less?

The Spartans have come and gone, but, here you are for one brief glimmering moment in time and space. Who dare fathom your travails? Who shall grant you rest? The agony in your heart builds to a mighty roar, until it reverberates across the heavens. Your soul fragments. Yet, you remain like an immovable rock, as the waters rush over you. Any sign of weakness and the tide sweeps you out to sea. Time stands still. You have an encounter with the Self. You pierce the veil, catching a glimpse of your secret nature. There’s no turning back. You are drawn into the the infinite I AM mystery. Your life will never be the same.

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