Oprah Winfrey is joined by war veteran, entrepreneur, Rhodes Scholar and New York Times bestselling author Wes Moore for an inspirational conversation about discovering and pursuing your life’s purpose. As a combat officer in Afghanistan, a White House Fellow and a Wall Street banker during the financial crisis, Wes shares the lessons he learned along the way. He also discusses his journey of self-discovery, service and risk-taking that led him to walk away from financial success to create a more meaningful life for him and his family; and his new book, “The Work,” which inspire readers to find their own path to purpose.
Arts & Entertainment
Oprah Winfrey speaks with life strategist Tony Robbins about developing the skills to transform your life today. Tony lays out specific daily strategies people can use to overcome suffering in their lives, and how to manifest a beautiful state. He’ll also discuss his new documentary, “Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru.” Tony’s wife Sage also joins the conversation to talk about the insights they have discovered through their journey as a couple.
Oprah Winfrey talks with New York Times bestselling author Dr. Shefali Tsabary about the revolution of conscious parenting, creating an awakened family and raising confident children. Dr. Shefali discusses parenting in her new book, “The Awakened Family,” where she provides daily tools for parents on how to manage expectations, avoid the pressure to succeed and embrace the child they have rather than the child they want. In this interview, Dr. Shefali challenges myths of traditional parenting and provides skills that allow children to grow into their own authentic selves.
Shame is probably one of the most avoided words in the English language. And no wonder. It seems dark and sticky and secretive by it’s very nature. Shame can arise from anything from abuse to sex to doing something we feel embarrassed about to simply being in a human body. The story of shame can wind its way through every part of our lives. What happens when we finally stop to face our own experience of shame? The answer could be both liberating and life-changing.
Interviews Feature DeVon Franklin and Megan Good, Tony Robbins, Nate Parker, Glennon Doyle Melton, Wayne Pacelle, Wes Moore, Geneen Roth, Dr. Shefali Tsabary, Jeff Weiner, Cookie Johnson, Carl Lentz and Carole Bayer Sager
The all-new season of two-time Emmy award-winning series “Super Soul Sunday,” featuring Oprah Winfrey’s inspirational interviews with thought leaders, authors, spiritual teachers and visionaries, premieres Sunday, August 7 at 11 a.m. ET/PT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.
The new season of “Super Soul Sunday” features thought-provoking, in-depth interviews with New York Times bestselling author Dr. Shefali Tsabary (8/7); life strategist Tony Robbins and his wife Sage Robbins (8/14); The Humane Society of The United States President/CEO Wayne Pacelle (8/21); Hollywood power couple DeVon Franklin and Meagan Good (8/28); social entrepreneur Wes Moore (9/4); bestselling author Glennon Doyle Melton (9/11); LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner (9/18); wife of Magic Johnson and activist Cookie Johnson (9/25); bestselling author Geneen Roth (10/2); writer, director and actor Nate Parker (10/9); New York City’s Hillsong Church Senior Pastor Carl Lentz (10/16); and Grammy and Academy Award-winning singer/songwriter Carole Bayer Sager (10/23).
Join the conversation using @Oprah, @SuperSoulSunday and #SuperSoulSunday.
OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK REMEMBERS ELIE WIESEL WITH SPECIAL RE-AIRING OF HISTORIC 2006 INTERVIEW FROM ‘A SPECIAL PRESENTATION: OPRAH AND ELIE WIESEL AT AUSCHWITZ DEATH CAMP’ THURSDAY, JULY 7 AT 10 P.M. ET/PT
In Addition, Winfrey’s 2012 “Super Soul Sunday” Interview with Wiesel Will Re-Air Prior to the Special at 9 p.m. ET/PT
In memory of Nobel Prize winner and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network will present on Thursday, July 7 at 9:00 p.m. ET/PT a special re-airing of “Super Soul Sunday,” featuring Oprah Winfrey’s intimate one-on-one conversation with Wiesel, immediately followed by the historic 2006 interview “A Special Presentation: Oprah and Elie Wiesel at Auschwitz Death Camp” at 10:00 p.m. ET/PT.
On “Super Soul Sunday,” Wiesel shares his thoughts on love, regret and abiding faith. And in the historic 2006 special, Winfrey and Wiesel travel to Poland to walk through the grounds of Auschwitz. Wiesel recounts his memories of internment and shares excerpts from his New York Times bestselling novel Night.
OWN: OPRAH WINFREY NETWORK TO AIR “SUPER SOUL SUNDAY” EVERY MORNING STARTING MONDAY, JUNE 27 AT 6 A.M. ET/PT
OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network announced the launch of “Start Your Day with Super Soul,” as the Emmy award-winning series “Super Soul Sunday” will air favorite past episodes every morning on OWN starting Monday, June 27 at 6:00 A.M. ET/PT.
Viewers can start the day with uplifting conversations between Oprah Winfrey and the top influential leaders of today exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment, spirituality, conscious living and what it means to be alive in today’s world.
For more information, please visit www.SuperSoul.tv.
About “Super Soul Sunday”
“Super Soul Sunday” is the two-time Emmy award-winning series that delivers timely, thought-provoking, eye-opening and inspiring programming designed to help viewers awaken to their best selves and discover a deeper connection to the world around them. The series features all-new conversations between Oprah Winfrey and top thinkers, authors, visionaries and spiritual leaders exploring themes and issues including happiness, personal fulfillment, spirituality, conscious living and what it means to be alive in today’s world. SuperSoul.tv is the online destination for spiritual content and conversation – because everyone has a soul story. An all-new season of “Super Soul Sunday” will premiere in August (Sundays at 11 a.m. ET/PT).
What does it mean to follow one’s dreams of creative fulfillment? It can be a challenging and frustrating experience, especially when one’s efforts don’t readily bear fruit. But, when events come together to bring about the realization of those goals, the rewards are tremendously satisfying, especially when the results take pleasantly unexpected forms. Such are the outcomes chronicled in the uplifting new documentary, “Presenting Princess Shaw,” now available in theaters specializing in independent cinema and on video on demand.
Aspiring singer-songwriter Samantha Montgomery (a.k.a. Princess Shaw) spends her days as a health care worker in a senior center and her nights as a would-be performer in New Orleans night spots. However, despite her perseverance, her musical career seems to gain little traction. Even with her own YouTube channel, on which she posts a cappella renditions of her original compositions, she has little success attracting fans or potential backers.
Meanwhile, across the globe in Israel, visionary composer and video artist Ophir Kutiel (a.k.a. Kutiman) scans the Internet (particularly YouTube) in search of material for use in the unique creations he posts to his own YouTube channel. Kutiman compiles inventive video mash-ups by combining samples from the web performances of amateur musicians, mixed with his own original orchestration, to create entirely new distinctive works. He essentially treats these video samples as “notes” for his “compositions,” which not only create new pieces but also an entirely new musical and visual art form. He has developed quite a following for these creations, too, earning him international acclaim and invitations for high-profile public performances, such as a special concert at New York’s Guggenheim Museum.
While searching YouTube for new material, Kutiman discovers Princess Shaw’s videos, and he’s mesmerized. He soon begins sampling her videos and reworking her music with his original arrangements. The result is an overnight sensation, one that astounds viewers around the world – including Princess Shaw herself, who knows nothing of Kutiman or his reworking of her material until she sees it online for herself. This fusion subsequently leads to a new creative collaboration, one that brings together two of the unlikeliest of participants.
Journeying to the creative promised land often seems like an exhilarating adventure. When we start out, the air is full of thrill and expectation. But, once we embark on that trek, we quickly find it often requires considerable effort, likely far more than originally anticipated. And that naturally raises the question, “How do we get noticed?”
That’s where what we have to offer comes into play. To get the attention of potential followers, we frequently need to offer materials that are fresh, new and distinctive, something that decidedly requires us to think outside the box. And, to make that happen, we must be able to envision those unexplored possibilities, an outcome made possible by searching the reserves of our beliefs, the means by which we create the reality we experience through the conscious creation process.
This is something that applies to both of the principals in this film. Princess Shaw, for example, clearly has the basics down, and her YouTube channel helps to make her presence known. But, to successfully place her work in the public eye, she needs something to set it apart. This requires her to formulate beliefs aimed at manifesting that nebulous “x factor,” the element that will put things over the top for her.
Kutiman, meanwhile, faces a comparable challenge. Even though he may be more practiced at materializing unique creations than his future collaborator, he nevertheless needs to put out beliefs that will lead him to the secret ingredient he needs for his next original sensation.
As events unfold, the participants in this scenario each succeed in their respective tasks. Princess Shaw finds the missing piece to complete her work, and Kutiman identifies the centerpiece of his newest undertaking, all made possible by the manifesting beliefs that they both put forth. They thus take their respective intangible conceptions and materialize them in finished physical form, the practice that essentially underlies any creative venture, including anything from the lofty to the mundane, be it writing a song or cooking dinner for the kids.
Working such magic can be facilitated by drawing on several key related principles, all of which the collaborators in this film are expert at. For instance, both Princess Shaw and Kutiman have an unshakable faith in their abilities (and, by extension, the beliefs that support them). This galvanizes their resolve and confidence, significantly bolstering their efforts at achieving what they set out to accomplish.
Likewise, both collaborators approach their endeavors by operating with personal integrity. They’re sincere in the tasks they undertake, and this resonates in the beliefs they employ to make it happen. By making use of such genuine intents, they significantly augment their efforts at realizing what they set out to manifest.
Of course, nothing happens without being willing to face our fears and live heroically. Both Princess Shaw and Kutiman understand these principles and don’t hesitate to stridently push forward with their creative ventures by drawing on them. When Princess Shaw realizes that her career is going nowhere in New Orleans, for instance, she decides to travel to Atlanta, the music industry’s newest hot spot, in an attempt to increase her visibility. And she does this despite a number of personal hardships, fully aware that it’s an essential step to furthering her vocation.
In the end, both principals appreciate the fact that their journey together is an act of co-creation. Their joint efforts, as well as the beliefs that support them, are integral to the fulfillment of their finished products. In large part, this is made possible by their creation and recognition of fortuitous synchronicities, those “meaningful coincidences” that appear so perfectly tailor-made to meet their needs that they enable their goals to sail through from concept to materialization quickly and with tremendous ease. It’s truly inspiring to see what such collaboration can yield when we put our minds – and beliefs – to it.
“Presenting Princess Shaw” imparts a resoundingly uplifting message, one that’s sure to inspire viewers. The film candidly captures an artist’s struggle to get by, both creatively and in the challenges of everyday life, not to mention the balance required to make them both work. The protagonist’s heartfelt revelations about her life and her past are indeed moving, providing poignant insight into the source material for much of her music.
What’s more, success issues aside, the film profoundly celebrates what it means to create for its own sake, something aspiring artists often lose sight of in seeking to establish themselves. As the efforts of Princess Shaw, Kutiman and the many YouTube artists featured in the film illustrate, there is much to be said for pursuing our creative ventures, regardless of the outcome. One would hope that rewards follow from such efforts, but, as this picture shows, sometimes creative fulfillment is its own compensation.
However, even though the film is based on a true story, its designation as a “documentary” might seem a bit dubious, given the chronology of events and the participants’ apparent one-sided awareness of one another. In production notes for the film, director Ido Haar acknowledges that, while he knew what Kutiman was doing with Princess Shaw’s music, he didn’t volunteer this information to her during filming prior to the video remix releases, a revelation not made in the movie. Without this acknowledgment, astute viewers might justifiably wonder how the filmmaker just happened to be opportunely present to capture his subject’s candid revelations and the seminal moments in her life and developing career at a time when she was still largely unknown. This is a rather glaring oversight, in my opinion, one that seriously impacts the film’s credibility. Nevertheless, with that caveat in mind, it’s still entirely possible to enjoy the picture and what it has to offer, even if this conspicuous omission makes some of the content seem somewhat suspect.
Climbing the ladder of success often pushes us to our limits – and beyond – in our search for our own creative milieu. Preparing ourselves by being in the right place at the right time, backed by manifesting beliefs that make such circumstances possible, can turn things in our favor when those auspicious moments arrive. We should all be so fortunate, but, thankfully. we have Princess Shaw’s example to draw from.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
“X-men: Apocalypse” (2016). Cast: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Nicholas Hoult, Oscar Isaac, Rose Byrne, Evan Peters, Josh Helman, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Lucas Till, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn, Caroline Bartczak, T.J. McGibbon, Hugh Jackman. Director: Bryan Singer. Screenplay: Simon Kinberg. Story: Bryan Singer, Simon Kinberg, Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Web site. Trailer.
What does it mean to wield unchecked power? How do we control it? And what responsibility comes with that? Those are the considerations raised in the latest offering in one of the movie industry’s most storied action-adventure franchises, “X-men: Apocalypse.”
Set in 1983, 10 years after the series’ previous installment, “X-men: Days of Future Past” (2014), the film follows a band of mutant beings who possess special powers (and who are often discriminated against for being different, viewed by many as a threat to public safety). While the plot is too complicated to detail here, it essentially follows the X-men in their battle against a resurrected being, En Sabah Nur (Oscar Isaac), who draws upon an array of special abilities that he has amassed through multiple incarnations to fulfill his personal agenda.
Led by the mutants’ mentor, Prof. Charles Xavier (James McAvoy), the X-men (Nicholas Hoult, Jennifer Lawrence, Evan Peters, Sophie Turner, Tye Sheridan, Kodi Smit-McPhee) and a courageous CIA agent (Rose Byrne) match wits with their nemesis, who literally looks to bring about what his new name embodies – the Apocalypse. And, to ensure that he succeeds in this nefarious quest, Apocalypse recruits the assistance of four jaded, impressionable mutants (Michael Fassbender, Ben Hardy, Alexandra Shipp, Olivia Munn) who possess powers comparable to their heroic counterparts, setting up an epic battle for the fate of the world.
As in many action-adventure offerings, themes of facing fears, living heroically and tapping into our innate courage permeate the narrative, principles that are integral to the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents. But, in this film, the story also delves deeply into another crucial concept – the management of our personal power and the responsibility that comes with it.
Personal power is by no means unfamiliar turf for the “X-men” franchise. In this film’s predecessor, for example, the narrative plumbed the notion of claiming our personal power. In this release, that idea is carried further, following the exploits of characters who have claimed their power but now face the challenge of managing it (and doing so responsibly).
In this regard, the film is thus a metaphor for a fundamental challenge we all face. Power is something we each possess and in vast, untapped reserves. Indeed, as author Marianne Williamson observed in A Return To Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.” What matters, however, is what we do with our power, something that becomes readily apparent in the film – and in the actions of both the heroes and the villains.
Apocalypse, for instance, believes that mankind has poisoned the planet and needs to be eliminated. Wiping the slate clean, he contends, will offer an opportunity for a fresh start, one that he asserts will bring about a glorious new future. However, while it may be true that humanity has done its share of despoiling the earth, and no matter how appealing a new beginning might seem, does that mean we should necessarily scrap what we’ve got? That’s particularly important to consider when we realize we have it within us to bring about such a sweeping outcome. (If you doubt we possess such power, think about what we’d reap if we allowed ourselves to engage in a nuclear exchange.)
As Apocalypse wreaks his havoc, the X-men wrestle with how to respond. Given the strength of their adversary’s will (and the beliefs and power that back it up), a formidable response is obviously called for. But how far should the mutants go? How much of their own power should they exercise in thwarting his efforts? If they hold back, they run the risk of letting Apocalypse succeed. However, if they unleash everything they have, they come perilously close to matching the unchecked actions of their opponent, moves that, at best, could be viewed as hypocritical or, at worst, could result in devastation equal to or worse than that inflicted by their foe. These are thorny questions, to be sure, yet they’re considerations the X-men ultimately must address – just as we’re all likely to have to do at some point in our lives.
This naturally raises the question, “So what are we to do in circumstances like this?” For starters, we must consider the responsibility that comes with our power. As recent films like “The Lobster” and “Money Monster” illustrate, just because we have the power to accomplish a particular objective doesn’t mean we necessarily should seek to manifest it. Apocalypse obviously needs to address this, but so do the X-men – including those on both sides of the duel in this film. This is especially true for Jean Grey (Sophie Turner), one of the good guys, a psychic gifted with incomparable creative powers that are equally capable of materializing glorious outcomes or unspeakable destruction.
In managing her power, Jean (like all of us) must ask herself how far should she go. But how much is too much (or too little)? That’s where she (and we) must look inward to assess our beliefs and intents, a process in which we should employ honesty and integrity. If we do that (and follow through accordingly), the answers (and results) will come to us. However, we must be careful to avoid the pitfalls of allowing fear, doubt or contradiction to come into play; if we do, we may well be disappointed with what we get.
If examining our personal beliefs doesn’t provide the answer we’re looking for, then perhaps we should consider expanding the scope of our analysis, especially when dealing with big issues like the fate of the world. In situations such as this, we should bear in mind that large-scale manifestations are co-creations, materializations that we bring forth with the assistance of others. Taking it upon ourselves to decide the destiny of our peers can be problematic (especially if it results in their annihilation), so, under these circumstances, we should be willing to take a step back and consider the ramifications of our beliefs and their manifested progeny. Our future – and that of the planet we call home – might depend on it.
Those who might be tempted to dismiss “X-men: Apocalypse” as little more than just a piece of summer fluff need to take a closer look; they’ll find there’s a lot more going on beneath the surface of its dazzling special effects. This flat-out winner features an engaging narrative, a thoughtful, well-executed script, terrific action sequences and enough overall variety to keep it interesting without becoming overburdened or unduly convoluted. It’s truly refreshing to see a sci-fi adventure that actually packs some meaningful meat into its plot instead of relying on things just blowing up for two hours (though the visuals are outstanding, especially the 3-D effects, which are some of the best I’ve seen using this cinematic technology). Fans of the franchise will definitely love it, and viewers who fancy their blockbusters with some depth will likely find it worthwhile, too.
For those in need of an excellent example of “Think before you act,” then this is the movie to see. Its exploration of the respect we must have for the power each of us possesses is crucial to avoid falling into the trap of allowing ourselves to be governed by our heads rather than our hearts, a pitfall that, if not heeded, could trigger our own personal Apocalypse.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Literary Speaking: Life as A Prolific Writer
Prolific wordsmith and memoirist Crystal-Lee Quibell joins Edie Weinstein and shares her seasoned perspective on the pros and cons of being a professional writer. How can writers get their work out into the world? How can they silence the inner critic who says their work isn’t good enough?
Passionate writer, radio host and book coach, Crystal-Lee helps writers take their stories from ideas to completion, offering the tools they need to make their book publishing dreams come true. Her Vivid Life Radio show is called Literary Speaking.
French Food & Memoir with Elizabeth Bard and Crystal-Lee Quibell discuss the delicious details of a writer’s life in France, writing about world travel, food and falling in love. Learn how to write a food memoir by interweaving recipes with personal stories.
Elizabeth Bard is the author of, LUNCH IN PARIS: A Love Story with Recipes a New York Times and international bestseller as well as several other awards. Her new book, PICNIC IN PROVENCE: A Memoir with Recipes, is available now.
“Viva” (2015 production, 2016 release). Cast: Héctor Medina, Jorge Perugorría, Luis Alberto García, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco, Luis Manuel Alvarez, Paula Andrea Ali Rivera, Laura Alemán, Oscar Ibarra Napoles, Luis Angel Batista Bruzón, Jorge Eduardo Acosta Ordonez. Web site. Trailer.
Identifying our own form of self-expression can be a challenging process, but, once we find it, we generally want to move forward with it enthusiastically and unimpeded. However, despite such fervor, sometimes we encounter hindrances that keep us from proceeding, frustrating our progress. We often wonder why this happens, but many times we eventually come to discover that they serve a purpose, one that we fail to understand at the time they unfold. Such is the case in the heartfelt new drama, “Viva.”
Jesus Gutierrez (Héctor Medina) struggles to get by in the slums of Havana, Cuba. The young hairdresser has no family, but his friends (Laura Alemán, Paula Andre Ali Rivera, Luis Angel Batista Bruzón) and customers do what they can to look after him. In addition to his small pool of regular clients, Jesus coifs the wigs of the performers at a local drag club. But, when those efforts don’t generate enough income, he takes to the streets as a hustler, servicing the needs of visiting tourists and assorted locals. Turning tricks is not something he’d rather do, though, so he seeks another option, one that he finds right under his nose – trying his hand at being a drag queen.
With the somewhat tepid support of the club’s owner, Mama (Luis Alberto García), Jesus takes to the stage under the performing name Viva. His initial outing leaves much to be desired, but Mama agrees to give him another shot. With pointers from fellow performers (Luis Manuel Alvarez, Renata Maikel Machin Blanco), he learns how to improve his stage presence. They also show him how to coax money from audience members. But that suggestion backfires when Jesus is slugged while soliciting tips from a middle-aged patron who proves to be an angry, homophobic drunk – a man who also turns out to be his long-estranged father, Angel (Jorge Perugorría), a one-time boxing contender jailed for murder.
Angel informs Jesus that he’s returned to take back the life that he believes was taken from him. He moves in with his son and quickly proceeds to start dictating to him how he’ll live his life – including giving up drag. Just when Jesus thinks he’s found his calling, he has the rug pulled out from underneath him.
Jesus refuses to be deterred, though. He does his best to cope with Angel’s return, taking whatever steps are necessary to support them both while quietly keeping his own dream alive. It’s an exercise in learning what it means to build his own inner strength, much of which, interestingly enough, comes from the power of forgiveness. Through his stormy, gut-wrenchingly emotional relationship with Angel, the would-be drag queen truly learns what it means to be fierce.
Fighting for our goals requires tremendous fortitude, but, even with the best of intentions, we’re often faced with having to ask ourselves if we have enough of what it takes. In many instances, this is where the power of belief (specifically, our belief in ourselves) comes into play. And this is crucial, since our beliefs, along with our thoughts, emotions and intents, form the cornerstone of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience.
To a certain extent, the degree of stock we put into our beliefs makes a difference. When we give ourselves lukewarm support, we may prevail in materializing our dreams, but we may not, either, especially if the undertaking involves a substantial aspiration. So, the more fervor we pour into our beliefs, the greater our chances of seeing our objectives fulfilled. This, in essence, is the nature of faith.
For his part, Jesus has tremendous faith in his abilities, even if he’s initially lacking in practice and poise. However, he knows he can pull off his drag act, and he grows ever more confident and convinced of that as time passes. What’s more, the more he sheds conflicting beliefs that undercut his efforts – particularly those related to fear and self-doubt – the more grounded he becomes in his convictions. He thus sets an inspiring example for us all to follow, no matter what we may be pursuing in our lives.
Ironically, Jesus draws some of his inspiration from Angel, someone who literally once fought for his dreams. However, what separates Jesus from his father is his faith in himself. He’s willing to hold fast to his goal, despite whatever obstacles appear in his path.
Angel, by contrast, apparently gave up on his goal of becoming a boxing contender by falling into a life of crime, drinking and, eventually, failing health. Unlike his son, he lacked the degree of faith in himself that he needed to see things through, succumbing to influences that sabotaged his dreams. And, even though his release from prison renewed his ambition of getting back into the game (by becoming a boxing coach), he still struggles with mustering the conviction he needs to realize that goal, especially now that his life has become dominated by daily alcoholic binges.
Still, ironically enough, the boxer ends up teaching the drag queen how to fight for his voice. In this way, Angel looks to turn things around for himself, even if his methods are somewhat backhanded and unconscious. In doing so, he thus avails himself of one of conscious creation’s greatest (and often most overlooked) blessings – an opportunity for redemption. While this may not enable Angel to undo his past, it nevertheless gives him a chance to make amends for it, to give a gift to himself and to the son he abandoned, to accomplish something meaningful and contributory while he’s still able to.
At the same time, Angel’s actions benefit Jesus by showing him the way toward gratitude and forgiveness (and everything that comes from them). These qualities make it possible for Jesus to appreciate what his father has given him, even if those gifts have come to him in a roundabout manner. They further bolster his beliefs in himself and his talents, which may not have materialized to the same extent were it not for his father’s influence. Such self-awareness, in turn, allows Jesus to galvanize himself in his beliefs, planting the seeds for his career and a promising future. Having endured his circumstances and identified the silver lining in them, Jesus finds the inner strength needed to rise to his own greatness.
While the narrative of “Viva” is somewhat formulaic, the picture’s unique setting and characters help to distinguish it from other similar dramas. This touching, sometimes-humorous, sometimes-gritty film explores what it means to find one’s voice while simultaneously plumbing the depths of concepts like forgiveness and redemption. It’s also refreshing that the picture doesn’t rely on an endless repertoire of musical numbers to carry the story, despite the importance of drag to the film’s story. Admittedly, the pacing slows a bit too much in the final half hour, but “Viva” comes through on all other fronts, delivering a tremendously powerful punch.
Expressing ourselves is something we all seek to do to make our mark on the world, to bring forth our inner self into tangible being. It’s often a struggle, even when we have a sense of what it entails. But it’s also an undeniable passion, one that’s not easily silenced or squelched, especially when fueled by our personal fervor and faith in ourselves. Finding a way to see it made manifest is the calling we must all address, and, if we’re fortunate enough to succeed, we’re able to live out the destiny we were intended to fulfill.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
“The Lobster” (2015 production, 2016 release). Cast: Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, John C. Reilly, Ben Whishaw, Olivia Colman, Léa Seydoux, Jessica Barden, Ashley Jensen, Angeliki Papoulia, Ariane Labed, Garry Mountaine, Anthony Dougall, Emma O’Shea, Michael Smiley. Director: Yorgos Lanthimos. Screenplay: Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthymis Filippou. Web site. Trailer.
Courting rituals in the 21st Century certainly aren’t what they used to be, but they could be a lot worse. What if being coupled were mandatory, regardless of one’s desire for it, putting pressure on singles to become partnered at all costs? To facilitate this, what if the unattached were encouraged to seek compatibility with others based on the most superficial of qualities? But what would the imposition of such conditions mean for issues like conformity, individuality and the employment of personal power? And, under such compulsory circumstances, what would it mean to love someone (if that were even possible)? Those are just some of the questions raised in the new offbeat, thought-provoking comedy-drama, “The Lobster.”
When a middle-aged architect (Colin Farrell) suddenly finds himself single, he’s whisked off to a special “hotel” where he’s given 45 days to find a new mate from among the other guests. The circumstances are far from ideal, mainly because the guests are largely dispassionate, mechanically going through the motions of dating, looking for anything to latch onto that might hint at potential instant compatibility. Singles who mutually possess seemingly insignificant traits, like walking with a limp (Ben Whishaw), an affinity for breakfast biscuits (Ashley Jensen), lisping (John C. Reilly) or being prone to spontaneous nosebleeds (Jessica Barden), gleefully view these mundane attributes as possible foundations for romantic kismet.
Finding that amorous magic is important, too, considering that the price of failure is being turned into an animal (of the guest’s choice, of course). The thinking is that, if people can’t find love as humans, then they’ll at least have an opportunity to do so in a new set of skin. And, from the film’s title, viewers can probably guess which animal the architect has chosen for himself should he fail in his mating quest.
If all that weren’t bad enough, hotel guests must be particularly careful not to do anything that smacks of individuality for fear of being labeled “loners,” relationship scofflaws who militantly lead lives on their own in the wilds of nature but who also run the risk of being hunted down (literally) for their antisocial lifestyle. Guests who engage in even the simplest expressions of individuality, like acts of self-love, risk harsh reprimands for such heinous crimes, their punishments coldly and methodically doled out by the hotel’s staff, including the facility’s icy manager (Olivia Colman) and her perfunctory minions (Ariane Labed, Garry Mountaine, Anthony Dougall).
With his days running short and his prospects of finding a mate dwindling, the architect desperately attempts coupling with a woman who has a reputation for being heartless (Angeliki Papoulia). But, when that doomed arrangement doesn’t work out, he makes his escape from the hotel, finding his way to a loosely organized community of loners who live in the nearby woods. Once there, however, he finds life among these radical individualists almost as dogmatic as what he fled, with community members forced into obeying the dictates of the group’s Napoleonic leader (Léa Seydoux). Anything that even remotely hints at being coupled is severely punished, a circumstance that becomes quite problematic for the architect when he meets a fellow loner who proves to be a genuine romantic interest (Rachel Weisz). In attempting to navigate these two polarized worlds, he’s increasingly faced with a dilemma of “damned if you do, and damned if you do.”
As we seek our place in the world, one of the fundamental issues we often face concerns the question of conformity versus individuality. When do we assert one of these notions over the other? Is one of them inherently preferable? Or is a well-considered balance of the two what we should strive for? And, if so, how do we achieve that? As in any undertaking we tackle in life, it comes down to our beliefs, the foundation of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience.
Conformity and individuality are clearly put on trial in this film, but each definitely has its place. Conformity, for example, is integral to the smooth functioning of an organized, mutually beneficial society. When it incorporates elements and calls for behaviors that are reasonable, most will concur that conformity is a worthwhile proposition. Indeed, there’s much to be said for an agreeably conceived, harmoniously functioning co-created mass materialization such as this.
But how far should we take it? At what point does the push for conformity become overly intrusive? What happens to concepts like choice, free will and personal liberty? Pressuring individuals to follow spurious rules – especially those set down by a select few for the alleged benefit of the many – can have seriously deleterious effects, a variety of which are depicted here: social tyranny, capitulation and apathy, as well as the contrary responses they sometimes spawn, such as rebelliousness, violence and even anarchy.
Individuality, by contrast, is what makes each of us who we are, what distinguishes each of us as readily identifiable beings. It plays a huge role in personal satisfaction and fulfillment, even what makes life worth living. When tempered by such considerations as concern for others, respect of individual sovereignty and the well-being of the collective, it enables meaningful self-expression while protecting the welfare of the masses.
But, again, how far should we take it? When does the push for unrestrained individuality undercut the mutual concerns of the group? What happens to notions like cooperation, social harmony and joint ventures? Unreasonably imposing the wants of the individual on the concordance of the collective threatens to derail the efficient functioning of such well-crafted co-creations. When allowed to get out of hand, it can lead to the rise of self-centeredness, a lack of concern for others and callousness, which, in turn, can provoke chaos and discord, qualities that can subsequently prompt such overwrought reactions as intolerance, oppression and despotism in an effort to get things back on track.
So what’s the answer? This is where striking a balance comes into play. But that won’t happen unless carefully considered beliefs supporting it are put into place. And, given that a mutually acceptable solution requires the belief input of the masses, everyone involved must cooperate to reach the necessary concurrence.
“The Lobster” aptly illustrates what happens when that balance is lost and matters get out of hand on both ends of the spectrum. The hotel guests, for instance, have generally bought into conformity without reservation: They’ve gone along with the mandatory partnering requirement, embraced the rules, sanctions and trappings of the hotel (right down to the unimaginative, outdated, standardized clothing supplied to them), and willingly subjected themselves to the transformation process for failure to find a mate. They barely even identify with their own names, instead recognizing one another by their distinguishing physical traits, personal habits or behavioral quirks. In many ways, they’re barely a cut above walking zombies (only without the cravings for human flesh).
The loners, by comparison, have embraced individuality to such an extent that they rarely care about anyone else except when their dogma is being violated. Their acts of defiance against socially sanctioned partnering have led to narcissism on steroids. Self-preservation and self-service are paramount in virtually everything they do. Loners are even free to masturbate whenever and wherever they want, but they don’t dare consider intercourse out of fear of an unimaginable punishment for such an unthinkable transgression. They’re walking embodiments of self-importance and conceit, unconcerned with the needs and welfare of others except for what it gets them in the end.
The architect, meanwhile, sees each community for what it is and does whatever he can to mitigate their respective pitfalls. His escape from the hotel shows his disdain for mainstream society, while his pursuit of romance with a fellow loner reflects his rejection of the individualists’ manifesto. He thus seeks to strike his own form of balance in the face of the oppressive conditions confronting him from both sides. He accomplishes this by employing manifesting beliefs that make it possible, specifically those associated with asserting his personal power. He rejects the nanny state run amok imposed by mainstream society and the dictates of the self-absorbed anarchists who surround him. He has managed to retain a semblance of self-awareness that others in both camps have abandoned, forgotten or lost sight of. His existence may not be an easy one, but at least it’s one where he calls the shots. He stays true to his own self and his own brand of personal integrity to stay afloat.
The empowerment the architect exercises serves as an inspiring example to anyone who needs to find or to rediscover this capability, one of our basic birthrights. That’s important, because it carries implications related to such matters as our power of choice and our ability to change, fundamental elements that factor into the healthy functioning of the conscious creation process. His peers in both camps no longer make use of this ability, because they’ve allowed themselves to be dumbed down and/or numbed by their circumstances, which, in turn, has prompted them to forsake this personal attribute (and even to formulate the beliefs required to make use of it). The hotel guests in particular have abrogated their awareness and deployment of this trait to such a degree that they diligently attend (and blindly heed the advice of) ludicrously simplistic workshops heralding the benefits of being coupled versus being single (sessions laughably similar to those depicted in the over-the-top comedy “But I’m a Cheerleader” (1999) in which gay teens go through a structured deprogramming regimen in an attempt to “restore” them to the heterosexual lifestyle).
Giving away our personal power in this way has devastating consequences, as evidenced by the prevailing ways of life apparent in this film. In addition to surrendering our ability to balance collective cooperation and personal individuality, we allow those setting up the prevalent paradigms to call the shots – and to run roughshod over us. This becomes evident in the behavioral hypocrisy exhibited by the leadership of the two dominant camps, who freely exercise rights denied to those they oversee. One might rightly ask why they get away with it; and the answer is “Because we let them,” mainly by holding fast to beliefs that give them carte blanche to do as they want while we kowtow to their whims.
In light of this, the narrative of “The Lobster” can be seen as an allegory for contemporary society and its various institutions, especially those related to religion, politics and even sacred cows like political correctness, regardless of which end of the ideological spectrum one adheres to. It also shows us that, even when we’re willing to forego one viewpoint in favor of an alternative, we’re just as likely to fall prey to equally intolerant attitudes and outlooks by switching sides. Changing tribes doesn’t mean we’re able to escape tribal mentality; it just means setting ourselves up for a different form of mentality (something to bear in mind with regard to highly charged events, such as this year’s hotly contested US presidential race).
In a similarly symbolic way, the story line painfully portrays the effects of personal detachment, something that has, unfortunately, run rampant in today’s society, especially when it comes to matters of emotional engagement. All too often, we limit ourselves to contemplating mere surface considerations, never going deeper to anything more meaningful. Again, because we’ve allowed ourselves to become dumbed and numbed, we’ve bought into beliefs that support such woefully shallow conditions, keeping us more removed from one another than ever before (an amazing irony given the heavy-handed emphasis placed on sanctioned coupling in the film’s narrative).
Only when we assert our personal power – and formulate beliefs that support it – can we avoid becoming ideological automatons. This is especially crucial for striking the aforementioned balance required to square the needs of society and the individual. Let’s hope we figure that out before we find ourselves headed for a pot of boiling water and a cup of drawn butter.
“The Lobster” is one of the most unusual – and most provocative – films to come along in quite a while. Its decidedly bizarre humor and wry symbolism work wonders in skewering everything from contemporary courting rituals to relationship dynamics to social institutions. The picture regrettably becomes a little bogged down in the second hour, going off on several tangents that could have easily been deleted. On balance, however, “The Lobster” offers a thoughtful, satirical look at where we stand as a society – and, one hopes, where we’ll resist the temptation to go.
Even though the picture is just now being released in North America, director Yorgos Lanthimos’s offering debuted overseas in 2015 and racked up an impressive dossier of film awards and nominations. Among its many honors, “The Lobster” captured three awards at the 2015 Cannes Film Festival, including the Jury Prize, and it was a Palme d’Or nominee, the event’s highest honor. It also earned a nomination for best British film production in the BAFTA Awards program, the UK’s equivalent of the Oscars.
Striking the right balance between conformity and individuality may be one of the most daunting ventures we’ll undertake in our lives, and finding the right mix may take a lot of effort. But, if we look into our hearts and minds to identify our true selves, and then formulate manifesting beliefs in line with our authentic being, we can materialize an existence that harmonizes the aforementioned attributes, offering us a chance at lives truly worth living on all fronts, both for ourselves and for those with whom we share it.
A Postscript: If you were faced with having to decide which animal you would become, what would you choose? Find out by taking a quiz on the movie’s web site to see which creatures might best suit you.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Finding Your Narrative Voice: Writing Your Memoir
Finding Your Narrative voice with Zoe Zolbrod and Crystal-Lee Quibell discusses how to find your unique voice as a writer, the difference between writing fiction and memoir and what she’s learned as both a writer and editor for, The Rumpus.
Zoe Zolbrod is the author of the memoir The Telling and the novel Currency. Her essays have appeared in Salon, Stir Journal, The Weeklings, The Manifest Station, The Nervous Breakdown, and The Rumpus, where she is currently the Sunday co-editor.
“Fireworks Wednesday” (“Chaharshanbe-soori”) (2006 production, 2016 release). Cast: Hamid Farakhnezhad, Hediyeh Tehrani, Taraneh Alidoosti, Pantea Bahram, Matin Heydaria, Sahar Dolatshahi. Director: Asghar Farhadi. Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi and Mani Haghighi. Web site. Trailer.
What does it mean to be married? Does it live up to the hopes and expectations associated with it? Or is the reality destined to fall short of the mark? And what impressions does it leave on those considering it as an option? Those are among the issues raised in the Iranian drama, “Fireworks Wednesday” (“Chaharshanbe-soori”), a 2006 production recently released in North American theaters for the first time.
Mojhde (Hediyeh Tehrani) and Morteza (Hamid Farakhnezhad), an upscale Tehran couple with a young son (Matin Heydaria), have a troubled marriage. Erratic behavior, emotional outbursts, suspicions of infidelity and bursts of anger resulting in property damage are the norm, and keeping a lid on the discord is becoming increasingly difficult. That becomes all too apparent when the couple hires a housekeeper, Rouhi (Taraneh Alidoosti), a young bride-to-be, to help clean up the mess that is their home – and, by extension, their marriage.
As the story unfolds, Rouhi becomes an unwitting party to the drama as it plays out. She’s even recruited by Mojhde to act as an impromptu spy to clandestinely investigate the divorced neighbor woman (Pantea Bahram) with whom she believes Morteza is having an affair. Thus, even though she inadvertently becomes part of the couple’s troubled life, Rouhi also has an opportunity to observe, from a somewhat detached perspective, what it means to be married. And, as tensions heat up, the fireworks begin going off, ironically enough all in the shadow of the Persian New Year, a celebration known for its own ubiquitous pyrotechnic displays.
How will things shake out for Mojhde and Morteza? And will Rouhi’s observations of their experience prompt her to change her mind about marriage? Those are the questions to be answered as the film plays out, for better or worse and, possibly, for later discussion.
If someone were asked to characterize the nature of the scenario playing out in this film, the most fitting description would probably be, “It depends on which character you ask.” Each clearly has his or her own perspective on the unfolding events, and their outlooks are framed by the beliefs they hold, the driving force in the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through our thoughts, ideas and intents. And, given their diverse viewpoints, an equally diverse number of interpretations of that existence is possible.
For example, Mojhde is convinced that her husband is cheating on her, and evidence suggesting that pops up at every turn. Her beliefs thus become self-fulfilling prophecies. But, because she only has suspicions, the available evidence doesn’t conclusively prove her allegations, making it difficult for a definitive claim to stick.
So what is Mojhde to do? If she’s unhappy with these circumstances, she could always pursue other options, such as choosing to embrace beliefs in a contented relationship. Nevertheless, her beliefs in her worrisome convictions are so strong that swaying her opinion in another direction would be difficult, if not impossible.
This outlook, in turn, prompts the emergence of the other conditions that surface in her life. Her fits of irrational behavior and moodiness, for example, arise as byproducts from her suspicious beliefs. And these manifestations consequently contribute to the discord she experiences with Morteza. One belief thus begets another, which begets another, and so on, leading to a spiral of events that almost seems to take on a life of its own, even though their origins can be traced directly back to the one who set this process in motion, Mojhde herself. If she continues down this line of probability, one can only guess where she’ll ultimately end up (though it’s probably not too difficult to predict the most likely outcomes).
Morteza, by contrast, believes his wife is delusional. As her husband, he tries to assuage her misgivings, continually comforting her and even going so far as to propose taking the family on a fun-filled New Year’s vacation to Dubai. But, when Mojhde’s frantic outbursts and unexplained, erratic behavior become increasingly commonplace and unpredictable (manifestations undoubtedly driven, at least in part, by the beliefs Morteza holds about her), he witnesses a commensurate spike in the volume of these frustrating events – and in the intensity of his reactions to them. He grows impatient when it seems there’s no pleasing her, especially when she engages in acts intended to air their dirty laundry publicly.
Collectively, the conditions they each materialize in this co-creation intensify over time, affecting the quality – and perhaps even the viability – of their marriage. The interaction of their combined beliefs creates its own set of prevailing shared circumstances, conditions that impact the character of their relationship and that, in turn, serve to further influence their respective individual beliefs, perpetuating the spiral of evolution in their personal and collective outlooks. Given the state of mind that each of them possesses, it’s no wonder why the couple finds themselves where they are.
And then there’s Rouhi. As an outsider to the relationship, she has an opportunity to view what marriage is like. By being able to witness the example set by Mojhde and Morteza from an up-close-and-personal, yet ostensibly objective perspective, Rouhi has a chance to see what she might be in for, an important consideration in light of her upcoming betrothal. The operative word here, though, is “might.” The troubled couple’s example is by no means the only one the bride-to-be has to draw from; she can just as easily choose a different outcome for herself by embracing a different set of beliefs for characterizing the nature of her impending marriage.
Some may believe that the example set by Mojhde and Morteza is sufficient to make a case against marriage, that it could easily scare off Rouhi from following through on her wedding plans. However, one could also argue that they provide a valuable cautionary tale to those who are still committed to the idea of matrimony, showing prospective newlyweds what to avoid in their relationships. In any event, Rouhi’s experience with the couple provides her with an opportunity to explore possibilities, one of the primary benefits afforded by the practice of conscious creation. When we realize that we have choices, that we’re not reconciled to a path we cannot alter – be it with regard to marriage or any other undertaking for that matter – we can envision a wider range of options for ourselves, including those that we believe best suit our needs and desires. It also helps us to dispense with unrealistic, storybook notions about marriage, even if we don’t sink to the same depths as Mojhde and Morteza have.
This intriguing look at marital life and strife is capably handled and deftly told, especially with its use of an outsider’s perspective for carrying the story. Its excellent performances (especially those of Tehrani and Farakhnezhad) are real stand-outs. At the same time, though, the sometimes-melodramatic narrative doesn’t come across as especially groundbreaking, at least in the world of cinema at large (even though it may have been audacious by Iranian audience standards at the time it was made). Also, the film’s less-than-subtle pyrotechnic metaphors grow a bit obvious as the movie progresses. “Fireworks Wednesday” provides an eye-opening examination of marriage, especially for those who look upon it naïvely, but it’s not quite in the same league as some of director Asghar Farhadi’s later works, such as “A Separation” (2011) and “The Past” (2013). The film is currently playing in limited release in theaters specializing in foreign and independent cinema.
Perspective is everything in life, no matter what aspect is involved. But, to properly appreciate it, it helps to have an open mind, an open heart and, above all, open eyes, particularly in assessing the manifesting beliefs at work. “Fireworks Wednesday” shines a spotlight on this idea when it comes to marriage, and it encourages us to thoroughly scrutinize this institution before partaking in it – especially before the explosions start.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
“The Man Who Knew Infinity” (2015 production, 2016 release). Cast: Jeremy Irons, Dev Patel, Devika Bhise, Toby Jones, Stephen Fry, Jeremy Northam, Anthony Calf, Kevin McNally, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Arundathi Nag. Director: Matthew Brown. Screenplay: Matthew Brown. Book: Robert Kanigel, The Man Who Knew Infinity. Web site. Trailer.
Imagine that you know your destiny. Now imagine that you know what you need to do to fulfill it. But is that vision enough? Is it truly possible to translate those intangible insights into tangible outcomes? And what of any obstacles that appear in your path – what purpose do they serve? Those are the questions raised in the thoughtful new biopic, “The Man Who Knew Infinity.”
The film tells the life story of Srinivasa Ramanujan (Dev Patel), an early 20th Century mathematical genius who devised a variety of groundbreaking theories, mainly by intuiting them from what he considered an unseen divine source. He knew he needed to share these ideas with the world by getting them published through reputable channels, such as the scholarly journals of the time. However, given the means by how he arrived at these notions, coupled with the fact that he was an “uneducated” clerk from Madras, India, he was met with much prejudicial opposition from the learned powers that be, especially those with the clout to give his work a fair review.
Ramanujan got a big break, though, when Cambridge University professor G.H. Hardy (Jeremy Irons) – himself a somewhat radical mathematical innovator – decided to investigate his theories in greater detail. He invited his Indian colleague to join him in England to further explore the plausibility of these new ideas.
However, even the blessings of credible allies like Hardy and his colleagues, John Littlewood (Toby Jones) and Bertrand Russell (Jeremy Northam), were not enough for Ramanujan to get his work taken seriously. While his theories were seen as intriguing, he did not have the proofs to verify them, despite his impassioned insistence that they were indeed correct. Such “unsubstantiated” claims and his perceived unwillingness to prove them earned him the reputation of an arrogant charlatan, a label that his condescending English peers unreservedly slapped on him (something that came easily to them in light of their disapproving views of his ethnic background and lack of formal schooling). So, to ensure that Ramanujan received a fair shake, Hardy took him under his wing, shepherding him through the review process in hopes of his material being rendered legitimate. And, by following Hardy’s suggestions, Ramanujan came to understand what it means to have one’s dreams realized – and in ways that exceed expectations.
A keen awareness of our destiny can be both a blessing and a curse. The clarity that comes with such heightened cognizance makes it feel almost effortless in realizing our aspirations. But that kind of unquestioned, self-assured personal understanding often runs afoul of the views of others, especially when placed under the microscope of skepticism. What’s more, given the unshakable faith we often have in such convictions, it’s easy to lose patience with naysayers who don’t share our vision, mainly because, to us, the validity of our contentions should be patently obvious.
So what accounts for such a discrepancy in outlooks? In a nutshell, it all comes down to the beliefs we each possess. And the differences in our respective perspectives become palpable when those beliefs are employed in the conscious creation process, the means by which we harness our thoughts, ideas and intents to manifest the reality we each experience.
For Ramanujan, his faith in his beliefs is so strong that he’s certain of the legitimacy of his ideas; he needs no further proof, and that contention characterizes the nature of his reality and outlook. However, those who require “evidence” of the authenticity of such notions employ a different set of manifesting beliefs in the existence they create, and that variance in intent accounts for the disconnect between their perspective and that of Ramanujan.
But, thankfully, not everything in a scenario like this is black and white. Because conscious creation and the beliefs that fuel it make it possible to materialize an infinite range of probabilities at any given time, there will always be many intermediate shades of gray available, and that’s where Ramanujan’s allies come into play. Since colleagues like Hardy can appreciate the innovative nature of Ramanujan’s work while simultaneously understanding the need for verification required by the skeptics, these intermediaries hold beliefs that take stock of both perspectives, effectively running interference between the two polarizing viewpoints and allowing each to have their say in the unfolding of this line of probability.
Those whose beliefs fall into “the middle ground” in situations like this symbolically help to illustrate how mediated notions metaphysically come into being. As conscious creators are well aware, our beliefs form through the synthesis of the input we receive from our intellect (signified here by the views of the skeptical Cambridge professors) and intuition (embodied in the unshakably poised outlook of Ramanujan). Ideally, though, we often get the best results when we strike a healthy balance between these two sources of inspiration (as symbolized by Hardy’s attitude).
The narrative in this film thus demonstrates how the belief formation process works – and how it can be finessed to work most effectively. However, to reach the point where we can fully appreciate this, we must often go through the process of experiencing the attributes of each opposing perspective (and the beliefs that drive them) to arrive at an equitable compromise, one in which we can value the benefits of both the intellect and the intuition and what arises when the two come into balance. When that happens, we have an opportunity to partake in the dance of the intellect and the intuition in belief formation for bringing forth the intangible into tangible being.
Indeed, while neither element should be allowed to ride roughshod over the other, this is not to suggest that either the intellect or the intuition is inherently damaging. Both clearly have beneficial attributes, and exploring them can prove useful in amassing our individual databases of personal experience.
For example, placing an emphasis on the intellect (as the Cambridge faculty does) enables us to hone our capacity for rational, logical thought. Fields like science and mathematics depend heavily on this, so the greater our intellectual capacities, the more adept we’re likely to become in these areas.
Similarly, focusing on the intuition (as Ramanujan does) allows us to develop an appreciation for feelings, emotions and gut impressions. Art and other creative endeavors benefit from this, enabling us to become more proficient painters, writers, chefs and musicians. But “creativity” is not limited to such tangible expressions; it encompasses anything we manifest through the conscious creation process, and a heightened intuition can help enliven this.
Moreover, a better grasp on our intuition can also help us foster a deeper, more intimate relationship with All That Is, our divine collaborator in all of our manifestation efforts. Ramanujan readily recognizes the existence and splendor of this partnership and doesn’t hesitate to make others aware of the role it plays in his work and the fulfillment of his destiny, no matter how reticent they may be about embracing such an outlook. Overcoming this resistance is challenging for Ramanujan, though, given the widespread skepticism among the intellectually driven Cambridge staff. Even Hardy, who is much more willing than his peers to give his protégé the benefit of the doubt on this point, has difficulty accepting Ramanujan’s contention; as an avowed atheist, Hardy has trouble appreciating such an esoteric concept, despite its undeniable influence on the existence and evolution of his colleague’s work.
Ramanujan’s belief-based faith in the role of the divine in his life has implications that extend beyond the mere development of his revolutionary theories. He knows that All That Is will see him through all of his trials and tribulations, like finding allies who will support him and locating the means to get his work published, because his beliefs enable it. But that faith even goes beyond such comparatively pedestrian challenges, extending into other areas of his life, like dealing with the rampant prejudice he faces in the dogmatic world of academia and, because of his ethnic background, in the world at large.
By going through the process of learning how beliefs form, all of the parties in this scenario (but especially Ramanujan and Hardy) develop an appreciation for the value of change. Again, because conscious creation makes all expressions of existence possible, reality obviously is not a static, unchanging state of being; rather, it is a fluid, dynamic phenomenon that is said to be in a constant state of becoming, with change (and the beliefs that drive it) being the agent of alteration.
Hardy, for example, a mathematical innovator in his own right, readily recognizes the importance of change (having been personally responsible for bringing about significant advances in the field long before he met his Indian colleague), and he’s open to additional new ideas, even if they don’t come from conventional sources. Ramanujan, meanwhile, comes to see that, if he’s to be taken seriously, he must change his ways in how he makes his ideas known, an adjustment that ultimately works to his benefit. And the Cambridge faculty members, like Major MacMahon (Kevin McNally), who have long been ensconced in their own dogma, have their eyes opened by their radical colleagues, making it possible for them to embrace changed outlooks that may have once seemed intractable.
All of these factors loom large in the fulfillment of Ramanujan’s destiny. But, thankfully, he recognizes the wisdom of these ideas as he moves through the process, with a payoff that’s beyond what he imagined – not only for himself, but also for those who benefitted from his work.
“The Man Who Knew Infinity” is a sincere, modestly intriguing biopic with excellent period piece production values and solid performances by Irons and Patel. In many regards, the film’s narrative and subject matter are somewhat reminiscent of “The Theory of Everything” (2014), effectively exploring a great mind’s attempts at overcoming obstacles in the fulfillment of one’s life purpose. The picture’s spiritual and metaphysical undertones are quite engaging, helping to elevate a story that, without them, might have otherwise been unendurably dull.
However, despite these strengths, the film comes up a little short on other fronts. Its depictions of the protagonist’s personal life – particularly his relationship with his wife (Devika Bhise), who remains in India while on his years-long journey to England – and of the impact of World War I on Ramanujan’s life at Cambridge are under-developed, their inclusion feeling more historically obligatory than meaningful and relevant. What’s more, while it’s easy to appreciate the twin collaborators’ passion for their work, the narrative is a little thin when it comes to explaining its importance, which may leave some viewers wondering why they should care about it. Shoring up these aspects of the story would have made for a better, more focused movie.
Living up to our potential is something most of us hope to do, and those who have a built-in understanding of what that entails have a distinct advantage. But knowing how to fulfill it is key, and appreciating the role of conscious creation can prove crucial, allowing us, like Ramanujan, to reach for infinity – and beyond.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Turning Journals Into Fiction: Crafting Fiction From Truth
Turning Journals Into Fiction with J.R. Thornton and Crystal-Lee Quibell discuss how J.R. used his journals to craft his novel Beautiful Country. Based on his time in Beijing as a junior tennis player, they discuss how J.R. handled rejection, honed his writing skills and never gave up.
J.R. Thornton graduated from Harvard in 2014 where he studied History, English and Chinese. He lived in Beijing as a teenager, returning recently to undertake a fellowship at the International Writer’s Center at Beijing Normal University.
Crystal-Lee Quibell is a memoirist, book coach and aspiring author.
“Sing Street” (2016). Cast: Ferdia Walsh-Peelo, Lucy Boynton, Aiden Gillen, Maria Doyle Kennedy, Jack Reynor, Kelly Thornton, Ben Carolan, Mark McKenna, Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rice, Ian Kenny, Don Wycherley, Lydia McGuinness. Director: John Carney. Screenplay: John Carney. Trailer.
When life seems to be falling apart, it helps to have something to latch onto to stay afloat. But whatever one reaches for, no matter how satisfying it may be, could lead to even bigger and better things, and much of it unexpected. Such is the case for an Irish teen seeking to find himself during deteriorating circumstances in the charming new musical romantic comedy, “Sing Street.”
In the mid 1980s, with the Irish economy in the doldrums, residents of the Emerald Isle suffered financially, with many, especially the young and talented, fleeing to England to seek new opportunities. For those who remained behind, life was hard, with many households having to make sacrifices, and even the middle class wasn’t immune. Such conditions often led to domestic strife, with couples squabbling over money and, eventually, a host of other relationship issues.
Such is life in the family of a soft-spoken, somewhat geeky teen named Conor (Ferdia Walsh-Peelo). His parents, Robert (Aiden Gillen) and Penny (Maria Doyle Kennedy), seek to save money by transferring him from a pricey private academy to the Synge Street School, a public institution in a rough, inner city Dublin neighborhood. Needless to say, Conor’s not thrilled at the prospect, especially when he meets his loutish classmates, such as the resident bully, Barry (Ian Kenny), and the school’s no-nonsense headmaster, Brother Baxter (Don Wycherley).
However, not all is lost. Shortly after arriving at Synge Street, Conor meets a mysterious young neighborhood girl, Raphina (Lucy Boynton), who is said not to give anyone the time of day. But Conor is so taken with her beautiful, enigmatic looks that he can’t resist the opportunity to try chatting her up, a gesture to which she surprisingly responds. He quickly learns that she aspires to move to London and become a model, which gives him an idea to win her affections: He asks her if she’d like to appear in a music video for his band.
Much to his amazement, Raphina agrees, and everything between them seems good to go, with one little hitch – Conor needs to form a band to make the video. But, despite this minor complication, Conor is not deterred; with the aid of his buddy, Darren (Ben Carolan), who agrees to act as the yet-assembled group’s manager, he recruits a songwriting collaborator (Mark McKenna) and a coterie of musicians (Percy Chamburuka, Conor Hamilton, Karl Rice) to join him. And, with the tutelage and encouragement of his older brother, Brendan (Jack Reynor), a one-time aspiring musician, Conor and his new band, Sing Street, are on their way.
What begins as a quest to win the heart of a would-be romantic interest soon takes another course. As the band hones its sound and Conor becomes polished as a musician and songwriter, his life moves in a new direction. He finds his calling and embarks on the pursuit of his unexpected destiny. And what of the amorous catalyst that launched this unforeseen endeavor? Well, you’ll have to watch to find out.
When beaten down by life’s setbacks, rebounding can be difficult, but that’s where having an inspirational spark to recharge ourselves can prove a godsend. So it is for Conor; when faced with the challenges of attending a deplorable new school, dealing with feuding parents destined for separation, and enduring the routine rants of dejected, disillusioned siblings, it’s no wonder that he needs something to give his life meaning and purpose. And that’s where he believes Raphina comes in. But, at the time they meet, little does he know that she’s merely the catalyst for something even more impressive.
Approaching Raphina certainly takes courage, given the rumors of her aloof reputation. But the hearsay doesn’t intimidate Conor; on some level, he knows that he must at least make the effort to find out what this connection will yield, a hunch that ultimately pays off far more handsomely than he ever could have imagined. It’s quite a dividend for an ostensibly simple gesture.
So what would prompt Conor to take such a seemingly improbable step? Considering his mild-mannered nature and the conventional wisdom about Raphina’s icy receptivity to advances (particularly from strangers), the odds would seem to be stacked against him. Yet Conor proceeds because, on some level, he believes something will come out of it. And that inner awareness ends up being his saving grace, but then that comes with the territory for advocates of the conscious creation process, the means by which we manifest our reality through the power of our thoughts, beliefs and intents.
As this story illustrates, Conor is quite proficient at employing the conscious creation process. To begin with, he makes effective use of several of its key components. For instance, he trusts the input of his intuition, regardless of how dubious its messages may seem. On top of that, he obviously has a tremendous capacity for living courageously, overcoming his fears and moving forward despite them. The result is quite a substantial payoff.
But getting Raphina’s attention is just the tip of the iceberg. What Conor’s involvement with her yields is by far the bigger prize, revealing talents that he never knew he had. To be sure, he had long dabbled with music but mainly as a dilettante. However, by making an offer to feature Raphina in a video for a nonexistent band, Conor realizes he must now get serious about his art. Given how events unfold, it’s obvious he believes he’s capable of pulling it off – and, by implication, on some level, always has been.
As Conor embarks on this odyssey, his first steps are undoubtedly tentative and not without errors. But, as he gains experience, his skills improve, confirming his beliefs in his innate talents, which subsequently blossom in full-fledged tangible form. This builds his confidence, bolstering his self-reliance and abilities even more.
Conor is also proficient at drawing to himself the resources he needs to pull this off, a prime example of the law of attraction (the alternate name for conscious creation) at work. In addition to his catalytic association with Raphina, he successfully locates a band manager, a songwriting collaborator, a mentor and, of course, his band. Even the prevailing circumstances that prompted this scenario – difficult though they may have seemed at first glance – fortuitously appear and lead to the emergence of Conor’s new life path, paving a way for him that he might not have considered had they not materialized. In these ways, all of the puzzle pieces remarkably fall into place, as if by design (which, in fact, it is). This represents a clear demonstration of Conor’s ability to recognize and make use of the power of synchronicity, those meaningful coincidences that are tailor-made to meet the needs of our conscious creation undertakings.
The flowering of Conor’s previously unknown talents also illustrates the existence of our multidimensional selves. Many of us might be tempted to think that we’re merely the selves we already know, but, as Conor’s experience shows, there’s clearly more lurking within us than we may be aware of. Bringing those other aspects of our selves to the forefront is a primary aim of the conscious creation process, revealing those parts that have long remained hidden or obscured by self-imposed limitations. Their expression as physical manifestations marks their liberation and lends credence to one of conscious creation’s hallmark notions, the principle that we’re all in a constant state of becoming. And, in Conor’s case, what he becomes not only astounds those around him, but himself as well.
“Sing Street” is a charming, funny, coming of age period piece about a hopeless romantic who discovers talents he never knew he had. This finely produced feel good offering both inspires and tugs at the heart strings, but it successfully resists the temptation to become schmaltzy or clichéd. The film deftly spoofs the early days of music videos, mimicking their unapologetic silliness but without going over the top in doing so. Its original songs, composed by director John Carney, echo the music of the period and mesh well with the soundtrack’s other artists, such as Duran Duran, Hall & Oates, Joe Jackson, The Cure and The Jam. And the picture’s fine ensemble cast (many of whom are first-time on-screen performers) shines throughout, living up to the spirit of the film itself. Admittedly, the narrative would have benefitted from a bit more back story and greater character development among the supporting players (such as the other band members and Conor’s family), but, on balance, “Sing Street” never fails to entertain, offering a raucously good time at the show.
Having a diversion to get us through hard times can prove incredibly beneficial, perhaps serving as more than just a stopgap measure to stop the bleeding, as Conor’s experience demonstrates. But, to take advantage of these circumstances, it’s imperative that we have the insight to recognize them and the courage to act on them. Should we do that, though, we may end up surprising everyone – including ourselves.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.
Oprah Winfrey speaks with legendary writer and producer Norman Lear, who brought the groundbreaking and socially conscious shows “All in the Family,” “The Jeffersons” and “Good Times” to television, about changing the TV landscape and his life as a spiritual seeker and political activist. In the episode, they discuss our desire to lead more purposeful lives, preparing the next generation for the world we live in and maintaining our humanity. They also discuss his new documentary film “Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You,” and his first-ever book, the memoir “Even This I Get to Experience.”
The Secret Language of the Heart, Music as a Path to Healing and Transformation.
Barry and Raquel share how every one of us—the musical and nonmusical alike—can harness the power of music to alleviate specific illnesses, reverse negative mindsets and attitudes, dissolve creative blocks and improve overall health.
Barry Goldstein is a musitarian whose passion is utilizing music, or as he calls it, “The Universal Language of Love as a vehicle for transformation. He has composed and produced music for New York Times best selling authors, hosted several radio shows, written articles and facilitates workshops on utilizing music, sound and vibration in the healing process.
“The Dark Horse” (2014 production, 2016 release). Cast: Cliff Curtis, James Rolleston, Kirk Torrance, Miriama McDowell, Wayne Hapi, James Napier Robertson, Niwa Whatuira, Shaden Te Huna, Dante Nathuran. Director: James Napier Robertson. Screenplay: James Napier Robertson. Short Film Source Material: Jim Marbrook, “Dark Horse” (2003). Web site. Trailer.
Battling our personal demons can be quite a challenge. It may even land us in debilitating circumstances that require us to struggle to find our way back. Such a descent can be especially hard when it involves someone who has attained success only to see it slip away. So it was for a fallen chess champion combating a host of issues in the inspiring new biopic from New Zealand, “The Dark Horse.”
Genesis Potini (1963-2011) (Cliff Curtis), a Maori tribesman who became a seemingly unlikely chess master (which earned him the fitting nickname “the dark horse”), may know the intricacies of the game he loves, but he has considerable trouble managing the affairs of his life. In part that’s due to his battle with bipolar disorder. But there’s more to it than that, namely, his impoverished background and troubled family life. That becomes all too apparent when he’s released from a psych ward and left in the care of his long-estranged brother, Ariki (Wayne Hapi), a gang member and the irresponsible father of a teenage son, Mana (James Rolleston).
Genesis realizes he needs something to ground him in his life if he’s to carry on. He knows he won’t find it through his brother and his violent lifestyle, so he returns to what he knows best – the game at which he excels. He thus becomes coach of the Eastern Knights, a chess club for underprivileged children organized by his friend, Noble (Kirk Torrance). He also hopes the club will provide a healthy alternative for his nephew, but coaxing Mana away from his father proves problematic and reignites the lifelong animosity between the brothers. Through it all, though, Genesis endeavors to bounce back and bring meaning not only to his life, but also to that of others.
Battling one’s way back to stability and peace of mind while ensconced in the depths of despair, depression and confusion is quite an ordeal. Many times we can’t see a way out, let alone be able to perceive where we hope to end up. But, for those who are able to successfully make use of the conscious creation process – the means by which we manifest the reality we experience through our thoughts, beliefs and intents – there’s a possibility to transform those circumstances for the better.
Whenever we employ this process, we use our beliefs as a springboard to project our innermost thoughts and intents from the realm of the intangible into the world of the physically manifest. Much of the time we do this without even thinking. However, when we consciously seek to create what we’re musing about, we can produce astounding results, yielding outcomes that meet or exceed our expectations. And this can prove tremendously helpful for those looking to transform their circumstances, especially those, like Genesis, who need to turn their lives around.
The key in this is being able to envision the results we want to achieve. It provides us with an anchor, an objective to strive for, in our manifestation efforts. Projected outcomes will naturally vary from individual to individual, depending on what is being sought. But, for those who seek to establish a solid foothold in a grounded new reality, this practice can be particularly useful.
Unlike many of us, Genesis has an advantage when it comes to his envisioning skills. Because he’s a chess master, a game based on a seemingly infinite range of possible moves, he’s able to envision multiple probabilities for manifesting a desired outcome. In fact, ironically enough, that’s likely why he turns to chess itself as a means for finding his way out of his adversity. Since the game has familiarized him with the need to focus on his moves to realize his goal, he has ready access to a transferrable skill that he can employ in his larger life. By adopting beliefs commensurate with this ability, he thus has a strategy for seeing his way clear.
Interestingly enough, Genesis is able to take this concept and turn it around when teaching the game to his students. By making analogies between life and chess, he’s able to show his protégés how to play the game by drawing from life experience as an example. This approach proves particularly useful when he references mythological Maori stories to convey gamesmanship concepts and strategies to the many native members of the Eastern Knights.
Being able to picture multiple outcomes helps Genesis avoid further difficulties. For example, after his release from the psych ward, he clearly sees that following in Ariki’s footsteps won’t help him get his life back on track. In addition to the inherent dangers of his brother’s lifestyle, Genesis is well aware of Ariki’s innately negative world view, an outlook that he was able to see even when the brothers were youngsters (Shaden Te Huna, Dante Nathuran). Because of that awareness, Genesis is able to quickly rule out that problematic path and find a course of his own.
Genesis is also fortunate to possess a strong sense of personal integrity. Despite his mental state, he has a well-defined sense of what’s right and wrong, and he never hesitates to act on his convictions, something reflected in his character and actions. This, too, helps him to define what he wants to pursue and to make use of those insights in his envisioning practices. It also enables him to fend off the efforts of others who may try to impose their views on him; he knows what’s best for himself, despite what others might say to him – and who erroneously claim to have his best interests at heart.
Of course, the ability to envision multiple probabilities can be a dual-edged sword. Having so many options to choose from can be overwhelming, perhaps making it difficult to choose which path to follow. This may be something that comes with the territory for chess players, given their preoccupation for assessing moves and their associated consequences. It appears to have affected chess master Bobby Fischer, as depicted in the biopic “Pawn Sacrifice” (2015), and it may have contributed to Genesis’s life experience as well. It could even offer a possible explanation for his bipolar condition and why he created those aforementioned personal demons in the first place. Taming that tendency and adjusting the beliefs related to it may be necessary to avoid this manifestation pitfall.
Nevertheless, in the manner of a true conscious creation practitioner, Genesis is able to bring about a positive outcome for himself, and his influence rubs off on others, providing them with better lives as well. This is a prime example of the concept of value fulfillment, the principle of living our lives as our best truest selves for our own benefit and the betterment of those around us. Even though some might contend we’re simply talking about a game here, it’s ultimately much more than that. It offers a new beginning not only for Genesis, but also for those who learned from him and looked up to the example he set, both as a chess player and as a human being.
Despite intermittent pacing issues and some annoying sound quality problems during the first 30 minutes, “The Dark Horse” delivers on all other fronts, with superb performances from its excellent ensemble cast (especially Curtis) and a nuanced script that tackles its complex story line on multiple levels. This heartrending release is an inspiring tale for more than just fans of the game. The film is currently playing in theaters specializing in independent cinema.
Bringing oneself back from a dark and scary place is undoubtedly quite a challenge, one of the most difficult tasks many of us will ever undertake. And, while we’re embroiled in such circumstances, it may seem like we’ll never recover from them. But a rebirth is indeed possible if we set our mind to it. As this heroic story illustrates, the “genesis” of a new idea truly can emerge when we picture it and allow it, offering a fresh start to get back into the game of life.
Copyright © 2016, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.