Finding Meaning in the Journey

cropped-man-at-the-door.jpgSomeone close to me remarked that they couldn’t understand how those who suffer from depression can be told to simply be happy and that they have chosen to be the way they are. I believe that this statement is both right and wrong. For me finding meaning in the journey is a deeply personal thing and requires each of us to learn to endure the weight of world. No one can give to us the experience nor the wisdom necessary to accomplish this. We must find it for ourselves. If we can’t then how can we live when we find ourselves abandoned by the world? I need to assure myself that there is a purpose to what my family and I are going through. I write it for them and I write it for me.

I think that those who suffer from depression feel the weight of immeasurable pain caused by traumatic events, personal choices, or the environment that they are surrounded by; in other words external or internal pressure. What is the meaning of pressure in this situation? To me it is a force that influences, intimidates, compels, or drives a certain object , or in this case, a person to react in a certain manner. More often than not escaping from that pressure isn’t an option, especially under extreme circumstances. However, I believe that people can choose how they will live, even while fighting against it. 

We can’t allow ourselves to fall victim to adversity and trials. Trials represent that darker side of life and they come in a myriad of forms that are cruel in fashion and resilient in nature. One of my favorite stories Fullmetal Alchemist (2001-2010) by Hiromu Arakawa explores the strength of the human will against these hardships. In volume 18 of the series she states, “Enduring and forgiving are two different things. You must not forgive the cruelty of this world. It’s our duty as human beings to be angry at injustice. But we must also endure it. Because someone must sever this chain of hatred.” Endurance requires incredible strength of will, something that is innately inherited by every human being. However, like all things it requires practice and application.

Knowing we have the will to do something inevitably awakens different questions. Why must we keep fighting? What is there to fight for? What is there to hold on to? I have always loved the conversation that Sam and Frodo have in the second installment of The Lord of the Rings (The Two Towers) because it answers those very questions. In the midst of a terrible battle Frodo, who was suffering under the pervasive influence of the Ring, felt that same despair that hits so many of us. The powerful words of wisdom Sam gives to him still touches me whenever I watch it. 

Frodo: I can’t do this Sam.

Sam: I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.

Frodo: What are we holding onto, Sam?

Sam: That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.

What benefits can we gain from fighting against cruelty, pain, and wanton hatred? Viktor Frankl, who endured incredible hardship in Auschwitz and other concentration camps, stated in his book Man’s Search For Meaning that “In some ways suffering ceases to be suffering at the moment it finds a meaning, such as the meaning of a sacrifice.” In other words, what is not directly expressed or noticed amidst our suffering is the wisdom and strength we have gained. Happiness, true happiness that is, awaits those who have been able to keep going despite adversity because they find meaning in the suffering. To endure such things well brings immeasurable blessings.  Arakawa remarked, “A lesson without pain is meaningless. That’s because no one can gain without sacrificing something. But by enduring that pain and overcoming it, he shall obtain a powerful, unmatched heart. A fullmetal heart.” I think that is the defining difference between those who allow themselves to be swallowed by the weight of the world and those who keep fighting. Many great men like Lincoln and Winston Churchill also fought against depression, yet despite their hardships they did incredible things. 

Viktor Frankl noticed that “everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.” Agency, the freedom to choose, is an immeasurable gift that ensures that we can never truly be forced to do anything unless we decide to do. Viktor Frankl also surmised that “Man does not simply exist but always decides what his existence will be, what he will become the next moment. By the same token, every human being has the freedom to change at any instant.” Who we are inadvertently comes from that freedom of change, which comes directly from how we choose to react to our environment.

It is important to understand, more than anything else, that we need not fight alone. We need the Savior. To find true fulfillment in this life and relief from its terrible weight we need to come unto Christ, who took upon all our sins as well as our pains and afflictions. It is at those times when all seems lost that we can see a light before us and Christ beckoning to us saying:

 28 Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek, and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls (Matthew 11)

Too often when we are at our lowest, when all the world turns to black, we feel the emptiness and terror of being alone and don’t turn to Him, though he is the one who truly understands us and can help us. Charity, love in its fullness, will lead men away from the emptiness their griefs have born. For, as Tolkien said, “The world is indeed full of peril, and in it there are many dark places; but still there is much that is fair, and though in all lands love is now mingled with grief, it grows perhaps the greater.” We must remember that there is much to live for, and die for in this world, though it may seem distorted and cruel. There is beauty in nature, beauty in words, beauty in song, and beauty in life; for mortality is one of the greatest opportunities and blessings given to us by our Heavenly Father.

The Hobbit or There and Back Again (1937)

The Hobbit  I remember reading this book when I was thirteen and I don’t recall being impressed by it. This was most likely because I loved the Lord of the Rings trilogy and Tolkien’s other complicated works like The Silmarillion. The book probably was too simple for me to fully appreciate at such a young age. Yes, I know that doesn’t make sense but that was what I was like when I was a child. I read the book again about two weeks ago after watching The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. So many fans of the book have criticized the new movies because supposedly Peter Jackson made it too dark or has taken too many “creative liberties”. I will give my reviews on the Hobbit movies later but for now I want to focus on  the original first novel of J.R.R Tolkien who, in my opinion, is the greatest fantasy author of all time.


The plot for this novel follows the literary pattern called “The Heroes Journey” or the monomyth. Many stories have followed this cycle, some you wouldn’t even think of. Some examples that I can think of from the top of my head include The Odyssey  by Homer, George Lucas’s Star Wars , the Mesopotamian written work The Epic of Gilgamesh, and Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko’s Avatar the Last Airbender (the animated series not the movie). There is a fairly flexible pattern that the story must follow, the three most important aspects being Departure, Initiation and Return. A more simplified model of the monomyth looks somewhat like this:

  1. Ordinary World
  2. Call To Adventure
  3. Refusal of the Call
  4. Meeting With The Mentor
  5. Crossing The First Threshold
  6. Tests, Allies, Enemies
  7. Approach
  8. Supreme Ordeal
  9. Reward
  10. The Road back
  11. Resurrection
  12. Return With Elixir

(If you are interested I have left multiple links for any questions you may have.) Moving on, I believe that The Heroes Journey represents progression or a needed change, either for the hero, for those around them, or both. I think in the first movie the conversation between Gandalf and Bilbo before they started their journey best embodies this idea.

Gandalf:  You’ll have a tale or two to tell of your own when you come back.

Bilbo Baggins: …Can you promise that I will come back?

Gandalf: No. And if you do… you will not be the same.

The hardest part of life is learning to change and, more importantly, to take the steps necessary to allow that change to happen. Wisdom and understanding then come depending on how we react to the challenges and opportunities we are presented with. Bilbo was content at the beginning of the story to never change and live a simple life separated from what was away from the shire and the comforts of his home. However, that changed once he SAW the world, became a part of something bigger and stepped up as a leader and motivator.

There are other elements of the story that are equally important, such as the nature of greed and the corruptible effect the treasure hoard had on those who were exposed to it. I found it compelling to see how in the end all the armies who were about to fight each other over the treasure united when they were faced with destruction by a fifth army of goblins and wargs. Evil was shown then to come from within as well as in a tangible physical force. Each needed to be fought and defeated in order to find peace and contentment.


I find the characters in this story to be intriguing and real. Some are there only to help Bilbo and the others on their journey, like Beorn the skin changer and Elrond from Rivendale. Bilbo, our hero, learned and grew possibly faster and better than his companions. Though he was the most inexperienced, Bilbo became the one who led the group and made the important decisions (after Gandalf left) and he remained unaffected by the treasure, though it seemed to corrupt almost all who looked upon it. Tolkien wrote “All the same Mr. Baggins kept his head clear of the bewitchment of the hoard better than the dwarves did. Long before the dwarves were tired of examining the treasures, he became weary of it and began to wonder nervously what the end of it would be.” (Chapter 13).

The other characters like the dwarves, especially Thorin, took a lot longer to learn from their mistakes and see things clearly. Thorin allowed himself to become consumed by his greed, going as far as to banish Bilbo from the company though Bilbo had saved his life and the the lives of the others many times. Though he was the heir to the throne he didn’t become the leader he needed to be until it was too late. In the end he learned from his mistakes but it cost him his life.

Smaug has intrigued me the most since I watched the second movie and read the book. He represents evil, of course, and is possibly the embodiment of the evil that is born from greed. To me though, he shows the true nature of evil. Evil isn’t stupid. It is conniving, intelligent, malicious, and well aware of its nature. That is something that I have come to appreciate in Tolkien’s works. Not only does he show the true nature of evil embodied by creatures who have become consumed and controlled by its power but also that good men can change by willingly choosing to follow it. Along side it though are those who are willing to fight against it like Bard from Laketown and those who don’t allow themselves to be controlled by it like Bilbo.


There is something so endearing about this story. Many have called Tolkien’s writing style boring or overbearing but I think that he is one of the few who was able to write so thoroughly and yet retain a feeling of enchantment in his stories. The Hobbit is different then his other works however, because it was originally written for children. It is a story that takes them on an adventure, where they fight against evil, defeat it, and return to the comforts of home. It also teaches important lessons like change and overcoming temptation. I will say this often but just because a work is written for children doesn’t mean that it is childish. It merely simplifies things and makes it easier to understand the story, its characters, and the lessons that are meant to be learned.

I finished this book in less then two days. I couldn’t put it down. I find it somewhat amusing to think that I enjoyed this book more when I became an adult then I did when I was a child. It is a shame. Despite my lack luster opinion of the book as a child, I look forward to reading this book to my children. I want to them to experience the same enchanting world presented in this book that I have experienced and now come to cherish. Even if they are like me and don’t absorb this story in childhood, hopefully they will come to appreciate its magic in time.




“There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
― J.R.R. TolkienThe Hobbit

Gigi (1958)

stanley2345I watched Gigi when I was seventeen years old. It actually came in a case with two other classics “Singing In the Rain” and “My Fair Lady”. I found it surprising that it would be included with such masterpieces and I believed that it would be average at best. However, my admiration of the film has grown over the years and after watching it yesterday (January 23, 2014) my first impression of the film has been thrown away and labeled as a moment of naivete.


PLOT: 5/5

The film takes place in Paris during the turn of the 20th century and centers on the high society, or more accurately on the culture that had developed there among the elite. This film shows impressively the intricate relationships between men and their mistresses and the effects of living such a lifestyle. As the film opens with Maurice Chevalier singing “Thank Heaven For Little Girls” I was both charmed and intrigued by the message that lay there. Men needed women, however a woman’s worth depended on the man’s perspective on what was socially acceptable and what they could gain from them. A woman’s image was intricately connected to the role she played in a man’s mind. For me, the film showed what happened to women who were mistresses to the elegant “lovers” of high society. They were expected to be feminine, charming, graceful, knowledgeable on jewelry and quality and subject to their patron. Those in that world (both men and women) lived what they called a truly romantic lifestyle, in the springtime that all lovers aspire for without limitations made by marriage and family. They went to cultured events, threw elegant parties and traveled the world. However, when their springtime ended and they grew tired of each other they moved on. The film masterfully shows not only that such a lifestyle is detrimental but also that true love is found differently and much longer than the short time given in springtime. I think this idea is shown best when Gigi’s grandmother and Gaston’s uncle reflect on their own romance in “I Remember it Well”. Though he claimed to be such a romantic he barely remembered anything about their relationship together. It truly was only a passing fancy.

gigi iii


I found all of the characters in this movie enjoyable to watch and study. None of them were boring, and to me they all contributed something essential in understanding the meaning of the film. I will talk about the two main characters the most because I believe they embody the movie’s ideals the best.

Gigi is the character who, in my mind, represents innocence and genuine self-awareness. I found it fascinating to watch her as she sang “The Parisans”, and mock “the art of love-making” that her aunt and so many around her believed in so thoroughly. I believe that she saw it as fake. She wanted something more genuine in her life. She wanted to laugh, play games, and most importantly be herself. When it came to love she wanted something long-lasting and a relationship that didn’t have to follow all the silly rules her aunt showed her. To her, “The art of love” that so many followed was a mere counterfeit. I found it amazing that though she loved Gaston she could still see what fate awaited her if she were to accept his offer and become his mistress. Despite this, she still decided to accept because she couldn’t bear to be apart from him.

Gaston (Louis Jourdan) was a victim of that counterfeit lifestyle. He was bored and empty and he found all the wonders that his uncle reveled in to be unfulfilling. His uncle, who had followed that lifestyle till old age, fought to persuade his nephew throughout the entire film that he would be happiest following his footsteps. However, The things that Gaston enjoyed the most weren’t all that glamorous at all. He was happiest when he visited Gigi and her grandmother at their small apartment. When he realized that he loved Gigi, making her has mistress was the only way he knew to show his affection. It was what he had been taught and how he had lived most of his life. However, when he saw her in that environment I can imagine the revulsion he felt by bringing her there and having her change into what she hated. When he pulled her away from the restaurant and left her at her apartment, I could see the wheels in his head turning. As he walked ,along the same path he had taken when he realized he loved her, he realized his feelings had not changed but his perspective had. He could not force Gigi to live a lifestyle that would ruin her and bring her unhappiness and yet he could not part from her. When he asked her to marry him I thought the same thing as her grandmother. Thank Heaven that they were able to find each other and realize that true happiness came from long-lasting commitments and not short term fantasies.


MUSIC: 3.5/5

I don’t believe that the music in this film is that spectacular. In fact, I think the film would be able to progress just as well without it.  Each of the songs follow the same pattern and they lack diversity and individual charm. I don’t mean that the songs aren’t charming or fun to listen to. They are just average. I have to say though I enjoy listening to “Thank Heaven For Little Girls”. Often I find myself humming it when I remember this film or I watch “The Aristocats”.


The film isn’t boring it is just simple. It doesn’t give you anything extraordinary but I don’t believe that it is meant to. The message is simple and so is its visuals. I would have given it a 5 if it had shown me something I wasn’t expecting. However, it’s purpose is to charm through its characters and story not through anything visually glamorous.



As I said before, this has become one of my favorite films. Not because of the music or anything fancy but because it leaves me with a feeling of relief and respect for its creators. It isn’t often that you find a film that endorses marriage and shows the emptiness that comes from engaging in counterfeit relationships. This isn’t a romantic film meant to glamorize love but to show true love and the happiness it brings to those willing to look for it and commit their life to another person.



[last lines]

[after a long while, Gaston  returns to Madame Alvarez’s apartment]

Gaston Lachaille: May I come in?

[Gigi shrinks into a corner, hoping to be spared]

Madame Alvarez: Please, Gaston… no papers… no scandal.

Gaston Lachaille: Madame, will you do me the honor, the favor… give me the infinite joy of bestowing on me… Gigi’s hand in marriage?

[Gigi, filled with relief and joy, draws to Gaston’s side]

Madame Alvarez: [smiles] Thank Heaven!

[“Thank Heaven for Little Girls” plays again]

Welcoming Message

Hello! I was somewhat inspired by my sister Jessica to create a blog. If not for her I probably wouldn’t bother because I am lazy and I tend to keep my opinions to myself. However, I have realized that I a very passionate about certain things; mainly about quality entertainment and human expression through the art of storytelling. What I view as quality entertainment will probably confuse many. The basis of my opinions lie in my values and also in my education. I will probably seem harsh at times but despite everything I try to be fair to those who put in the effort to make what they did whether it be a movie, book or music. I hope you will find while reading these a way to differentiate between abysmal, mediocre, average, above average and exceptional created works. I will sometimes talk about music, but as a rule I don’t particularly like one artist but specific songs that they produce. This is because I am picky and I get bored very easily.    Now to important matters. I will be grading and reviewing on a scale from 1-5 for movies, books, music and TV shows (if I find one I like. I don’t tend to watch much cable television) on specific categories I believe are important in understanding and evaluating each work. Throughout all of these I will also put in something like a parental guide. If the books get really bad I will probably just burn them and not worry about giving you a review about it. I will just tell you I don’t think it is morally acceptable and proceed with my review. Those will probably be pretty short.

Movies: Characters, Plot (Which will include execution as well as overall message(s) of the story), Music, Cinematography/special effects, and Personal Enjoyment

Books: Characters/Character Development, Plot, Writing Style (author’s overall execution) and Personal Enjoyment.

TV Shows (same as movies)

Music: Tone, Execution (vocal technique/talent and instrumental), Lyrics and Personal Enjoyment

Even if people don’t read this, I think it will be nice to finally write down my opinions. May this be an enjoyable experience.