Rather than criticize things I watch and read, I want to reflect and write about my overall experiences with them using a system I’ve adopted over the years. The questions I usually ask myself are these: What did I learn? How did I feel? How did it enlighten my mind? If you are interested in learning more, please feel free to read my post about it HERE.
I know I just finished another review but I needed to write my feelings out before the words fly away from me. First, this was an incredible movie. I thought the way it was arranged was definitely different than any version I have encountered before. Rather than starting at the beginning so many of us are familiar with, it instead shifted more towards the end of the book, when Jo was very unsure of herself and her family’s future.
I won’t talk too much about the movie itself, because the story is as familiar as so many novels we have grown up with. From Pride and Prejudice, Jane Eyre, A Christmas Carol and even Treasure Island, directors have given Little Women by Louisa Alcott new faces through each generation. I believe this is because its message on family, God and womanhood are identifiable. We all experience our own life, simple stories which in and of themselves are priceless.
In this film I thought more than any other version before, we are allowed to see Jo reflecting on her life and fighting through fresh grief towards the happiness of her childhood. She thought she knew what she wanted to be happy, but life took many unexpected turns. She and her sisters grew up: Meg married, Amy took her place as Aunt March’s companion, Beth didn’t get better and Laurie, heartbroken, left because Jo could not love him as a lover.
I saw this movie and for the first time I felt I was Jo. I have never had her ambition and fire but I saw for the first time a girl displaced and lonely. I could feel her disappointments and grief and I was deeply moved when she allowed herself a happiness she wasn’t expecting. She never thought she would marry. In fact she hated the idea. But she accepted change. Even if it meant a life without Beth. Even if it meant learning to sacrifice for another person.
I feel like Jo March because she acknowledged her loneliness, and was even willing to go against her heart to be loved. She tried so hard to keep her world together, to earn money selling stories she didn’t herself like. But in the end, she didn’t understand how much she really just wanted the world to hear her true voice, one which loved her family and wanted so badly to bring others happiness.
Now, when I went in to see this movie today, I didn’t know I would have the experience I did. I would like to talk about it. Sorry if it is not the review you were expecting. I know this story very well, but I didn’t understand how heavy a weight I am carrying. I have had so many dreams lately, where I try to help those around me avoid dangerous situations. Sometimes they are people I don’t know. Other times they are my family. Usually no one listens. And I wake up and can’t help but feel sad.
I think it was my mother who told me I could fill the world with my love. I give that love very carefully. But just because I don’t show it often, doesn’t mean I don’t wish to show others my love, or be loved.
As I child I often was alone even among friends and family. Much of my school I did by myself, because my siblings were just a little too old or young to be there with me. I had to learn to make my own way, to know who I was, to learn to guard myself against hardship which came at me. But in the end I always had my family at home, who I knew loved me. And I loved and do love them all with all my heart. They are the most important thing to me.
But my heart is slowly breaking because I feel all of us drifting away from each other. Sometimes I want to scream, because I don’t know how we can be content living away from one another, barely writing or calling. The thing I fear the most is nothingness.
It is hardest with my elder brother. All my life I have wanted to be important to him. I tried so hard, but in the end when I call him or talk to him I wonder if he would miss me at all if I like Beth were to leave. I can’t talk to him with the confidence I could a friend. I wish I was precious to him. But I don’t feel I am. I wish I knew how to let this go, but it is a small ache I have carried with me for a long time. I just didn’t know how to put this feeling into words until now.
I have to get this out. I think I have been having so many dreams because I can’t love the way I wish I could. I feel stuck between what I feel is proper and what is reality. I try to push it down, but now I know, seeing this movie, my feelings matter.
I don’t know how to tell my friend Carly I miss her, without intruding in her married life. I feel I am losing my best friend, but I shouldn’t voice my feelings because such relationships shift and change.
But as I had all these thoughts flitting through my mind, I had a soft voice tell me, “Aubrey, remember you are loved. All these things will pass away.” I watched Jo March allow happiness roll into her life, a happiness she never would have thought could be one she wanted. And so it must be with all of us.
I thought of Sam’s speech in Lord of the Rings.
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?
That there is some good in this world Mr. Frodo, and it is worth fighting for.
– Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002)
This time as I pondered his words I thought, maybe perhaps the happiness I need is something which, though different, is infinitely better than what I could possibly imagine.
I’ve decided to start recording my notes for this Come Follow Me Program this year, emphasis on the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ. When I write here on my blog, I feel somewhat like a teacher but I also learn so much more as I organize my thoughts. For those who do not know, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints. If you like, you can read through these notes.
Usually I write reviews on movies, books or shows but lately I have been feeling very introspective. Mostly I have thought of how important it is to add my voice to the many others who talk about Jesus Christ, his love and gospel with confidence. As the years pass by, the more I notice people turning away from religion onto other paths. Much of this is happening I feel because we aren’t speaking about what we know and believe.
The Tree of Life is God’s Love, its fruit is his love manifested through the coming of Jesus Christ and his infinite Atonement. Leading to the Tree is the Iron Rod, or word of God along a strait and narrow path. Surrounding this path are the mists of darkness, or Satan’s temptations, the Large and Spacious Building, or the Pride of the World and the River, the filthiness of the world.
For this week’s initiative, we are studying 1 Nephi 8-10. So many thoughts and memories have passed through my mind as I have studied this week. Specifically, where I am on the path of discipleship. The major themes to my study have included, I. Where I am on the path of discipleship, II. The different groups heading to the tree, III. God’s infinite love in giving us commandments and a way back to Him and IV. How I can listen to the Holy Ghost amidst other louder voices.
I. Where I am on the Path of Discipleship
In the Come follow Me manual, there was a specific phrase which really struck me. It stated, “Lehi’s vision offers an invitation to reflect on where you are—and where you are going—in your personal journey to know the Savior and feel His love. President.” (Pg. 10, Para 1)
I thought a lot on my decisions thus far in life. I grew up much of my time alone amidst my peers. I went through much of school set to sea so to say among many differing ideas and fads. I wondered how I was able to stay so faithful despite such opposition. It is too easy to say I just knew. But reflecting back, I now know I had a habit of reading the Book of Mormon from a young age.
In reading and pondering I found an anchor in Christ. As an adult I feel a need to continue forward and find new ways to strengthen my faith the Savior. It is more then just reading sometimes or going to church once a week. It is immersing ourselves in God’s love. For “Perfect love casteth out all fear” (Moroni 8:16) and leads us to find eternal happiness with a being who loves us in such a Godly manner.
To love God is not foolishness it is enlightenment.
It is as Arakawa stated in Fullmetal Alchemist, “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 of Christ when I hear this statement because he gave the ultimate sacrifice to save us all. I think of myself as I face life’s challenges and carry my own personal trials. I also think of who I am meant to become by choosing this life of faith.
II. The Different Groups Heading to the Tree
There were three groups going to the tree. The first did not take hold of the Iron Rod, or word of God and fell away, swallowed by the mists of darkness. The second clung to the Rod, partake of the Fruit but then fell into the river or onto forbidden paths because of those who mocked them in the great and spacious building. The Last, held continually to the Rod and humbly fell and partook of the fruit, ignoring the mockery of others.
I actually thought of a principle I learned in yoga a few months ago. The idea, whenever we do the physical part of yoga or the mental exercises also involved, the level of our experience depends on our commitment to doing what is asked of us. Regular practice is infinitely better in the end then random, uncertain, or occasional participation.
I also felt such a strong desire to help all those going to the Tree. I thought so many times, “There must be a way to save everyone”. In a talk I heard this last week how Heavenly Father and Christ will do everything within their power to save everyone according to the laws of justice. They also will do nothing which will impede our freedom to choose for ourselves the path we want. It is hard for me to imagine not turning to God or purposefully breaking his Commandments, given in love to keep us spiritually safe. But all people have their own lives and must choose for themselves.
I actually had several dreams this week with different situations where I tried, most of the time in vain, to help those around me who were in danger. I could see it, yet I couldn’t force anyone else to listen. I talked to my mother about it and she said I worry because I cannot help everyone. But when I thought deeper I realized it wasn’t my burden to carry. It is Christ’s. Though I wish I could fix so much happening in the world around me, my primary responsibility is to see to it I find my way back to Him. Miracles happen as we simply live a Christ centered life.
III. God’s Infinite Love
I recently listened to the late President Monson’s talk entitled “Keep the Commandments“, as I pondered the reasons behind commandments and also how to discern God’s voice. One particular statement he said really touched me. He said, “He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live in order to obtain the greatest happiness.”
We hear so often how God loves us, I wonder if we know what it truly means. I know for myself, it is like hearing your parents tell you they love you. I hear their words, but I don’t see their happiness when I was born, or their worry as I became ill. I can’t see the years in which they watched me, nor can I understand what it is like to see me grow from a child into an adult.
But I can understand a small fraction of what it means to have God’s love when I hear, ““God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16 God loves us so much he sent His Son to save us from a desolate life, wandering, lost and spiritually cut off. He loves us so much that he gave us this life to grow and choose for ourselves to find him again.
IV. How I can Listen to the Holy Ghost
Again, I pondered a lot as I listened to President Monson’s talk on the commandments. When speaking to men in the church he boldly stated,
We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices. I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety. Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”5 Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … , saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”6May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe.
-Thomas S. Monson, Keep the COmmandments 2015
In church today, one of the speakers said, “Without the Spirit we don’t have Christ.” I thought about this and realized how much I knew is and will always be based on my willingness to seek God’s guidance and hear his voice. This is so hard at time because it really does become so loud.
I paired this with the last part of my reading from 1 Nephi 10. In it, not only does Lehi expound further on their people in Israel and Christ’s role as Savior but his son Nephi, not understanding all his father said, desired to learn more. He said,
“17 . . . I, Nephi, was ddesirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the eHoly Ghost, which is the fgift of God unto gall those who diligently seek him, as well in times of hold as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
18 For he is the asame yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
19 For he that diligently aseeketh shall find; and the bmysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the cHoly Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the dcourse of the Lord is one eternal round.”
I wondered what it is like to diligently seek and receive such answers. Then I remembered times in my life where I had deep questions about where I should go or what I should do. Sometimes I received direct answers. But that was usually only after I had undergone a severe trial or learned a profound truth. Usually, I get small promptings in the small, quiet moments in my day.
As it says in Moroni 10:5 “. . . by the power of the Holy Ghost (we) may know the truth of all things.” But the key lies in our desires and our intent. If we earnestly seek God, he will always manifest himself to us.
I am so grateful for God’s love and how infinite it is. I listened to a song recently that really maybe ponder my place in this world. It also made me wonder how in all his love he created such a beautiful world for each of us. He also gave us the chance to choose him of our own volition, knowing we would grow and become like him. I leave with the lyrics of the song “Saturn” by Sleeping at Last and hope any who read this have a wonderful week!
You taught me the courage of stars before you left How light carries on endlessly, even after death With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite How rare and beautiful it is to even exist I couldn’t help but ask For you to say it all again I tried to write it down But I could never find a pen I’d give anything to hear You say it one more time That the universe was made Just to be seen by my eyes -Sleeping at Last, “Saturn”
It has been interesting these last few weeks to see how many people read my reviews for movies and other media. Little secret, my inner critic has been severely pacified over these last few years. Therefore, I have barely written any reviews. But I miss writing them and learning so much about how things are made.
I don’t want to be negative and I don’t believe there are very many things which truly deserve to be judged so harshly. So I have come up with a compromise. Rather than criticize things I watch and read, I want to reflect and write about my overall experiences with them using a system I’ve adopted over the years.
I do this because I no longer feel it is enlightening to simply criticize what I find. Rather, I want to explore better my experiences and thoughts. In the long run, what really matters isn’t how good or bad I “think” these things are, but how I changed because of them.
The name of this post comes from a Humanities class I had while attending college. It helped change my entire way of judging and finding new media and books. In this class, we discussed the four levels of experiencing music. Depending on which music we listen to, it can either encourage or discourage higher levels of thinking.
Based on research composers like Aaron Copland have done, to truly gage what we gain from our music we must reflect on how it affects us as people emotionally, physically and mentally. I would also add spiritually.
Basically, these levels were to help us as students understand the value of the music we listened to based on what manner it encouraged us to change. In my mind this method did not only apply to music but also to books, movies, theater and art. I believe it is up to us individually to evaluate what we surround ourselves with and to consciously decide what we allow to influence and change us.
Now you are probably wondering what these four levels are.
Level 1: The carnal, or that which steals away our souls into dark, forbidden paths.
I don’t like to dwell on this level very long. The reason being, there is nothing to gain from participating in this level of experience. Level one is where anything and everything beautiful and true is twisted and uglied into counterfeits . These counterfeits are designed to manipulate and turn our hearts and minds to addictive behaviors. It steals away our time, destroys our minds and stunts our potential.
The question to ask, if I feel I might have stumbled onto anything which damages my soul in such a manner is this: What is it taking from me?
Pornography and gratuitous sex lies in this level. It destroys families and love within ourselves. Graphic violence destroys our vision of the sanctity of life and our connection with humanity. The list could go on. . . but I would rather not think about it.
This level should be avoided at all cost. Participating in this level is blind enslavement. It also means abandoning or yielding our freedom to choose for the sake of entertainment and carnal pleasure. It is the dwelling place of darkness, self hatred and confusion.
Level 2: The fun, or that which steals our time.
Rather than stealing us away, this is the level where we let things wash over us. We find ourselves here more often than not when we are tired, upset or anxious and when we want to forget or check out for a little while.
This is also a level of complacency. We become comfortable with what we know and repeatedly immerse ourselves in sources which entertain, but rarely enlighten or encourage higher learning. This and level 1 are intricately connected because both are incredibly enticing and hard to resist at times. More often than not, people eventually fall back into level 1 because of their involvement here.
I am always careful to look for cleverly inserted dangerous ideas or imagery. They often disguise themselves through intriguing stories, comedies and romances.
These things in and of themselves aren’t bad. But they are very often created to shift human opinion and moral standing. Beware of anything which treats sacred things casually or callously. Sensual comedy, lustful romance, drama, and gratuitous violence numbs us and lulls us into allowing immoral principles and damaging ideas into our souls.
These lies will tell us a person is redemptive merely for the suffering they’ve endured. Or that their acts of evil are justified by their sorrow. They also tell us the loss of chastity is freedom, acts of lust are love and life is not sacred. Some will insist a man’s charisma justifies stealing and sometimes even killing. And so it goes on.
One of the greatest examples of this is the story of Fantine from Les Miserable. Though it doesn’t go into heavy detail in the musical, she and her friends became involved with a group of rich young students in Paris with very loose morals. She fell in love with a young man and started an affair with him. One day, he abandoned her with nothing but a note, leaving her with their unborn child Cosette.
Slowly but surely, forces beyond her control pushed her into extreme poverty and prostitution. As she states in her song, “I dreamed a Dream” “But the tigers come at night, with their voices soft as thunder, as they tear your hope apart as they turn your dreams to shame. He slept a summer by my side, He filled my days with endless wonder, He took my childhood in his stride But he was gone when autumn came”
The tragedy in this story is not that she was a sinner receiving divine punishment or that she was not deserving of love because of her mistake. It was where she placed her trust. Had she remained faithful to the principles she knew were true she would not have faced the consequences which come from loving wholeheartedly someone who did not value her as a human being. She was abandoned by love’s counterfeit.
We can distract ourselves to death if we are not careful. We all know how easy it is to limit our interactions and minds with things which are of little or no worth. It is like being satisfied with a meal of bread and water in a gray room while being offered a luxurious feast under the stars.
My mother’s favorite quote comes from the movie Mame. It is this. “Life is a banquet, and most poor fools are starving to death.”
All in all, this is the doldrums of human experience and not worth as much time we usually give it.
Level 3: The intellectual, or that which enlightens our minds
Now we come to a level of progression. Level 3 is the great realm of understanding the world around us and its people. This is where we begin to acquire knowledge which inspires deeper thinking. Just as levels 1 and 2 are intricately connected, so are levels 3 and 4. It takes great courage to engage ourselves in higher learning. To seek the unknown. But it is definitely worth it. It also takes hard work and TIME.
We begin our exploration traversing classic literature, history from a myriad of perspectives, Broadway musicals, opera, astronomy, classic films, poetry, sculpture, art and ethics.
The great books, artworks and musical compositions of this world are in fact born from man’s innate capacity to become like God through small and simple means. This is because they are on the brink of reaching for godly horizons. They were more often than not inspired by God himself. Exploring these things take us one step at a time, towards a brighter, bigger world.
As Dr. Suess said in his children’s book, O the Places You’ll Go, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”
This level teaches us many things about science, books and showcases the great works of many wonderful people. But it isn’t the paragon. What is missing? The answer lies within ourselves. Our hearts in creating or studying these things are the deciding factors.
It is very simple. In this level people are concerned more with being artistic then in inspiring the soul. It is knowledge which teaches but does not encourage change in ourselves. Ultimately, it removes God from the picture.
When it comes to inspirational moments or life lessons, it focuses on the do and is, but doesn’t explain the why. For example, a character may be faced with a situation where they are taught not to steal. They either go against it, or follow the advice. But as to the why stealing is wrong, there usually isn’t any clear explanation as to why it is wrong.
Science becomes an empty collection of ever changing laws, diagrams and theories. Man’s origin is no longer divine but a simple matter of genetics, animalistic tendencies and is the product of millennia of natural selection.
Philosophy becomes a flurry of ideas and theories which ever argue on what truth is but can never find it. This is because many revel in the journey and not in attaining truth.
Art, music and often literature becomes a pursuit of rebellion against constrictive, old ideas that wish to break from the confines of the past. They seek for the next exotic or bold idea, moving from the conservative in search for further enlightenment. This often leads to the loss of integrity and virtue in order to engage new sensations.
Pride is the ultimate inhibitor in this level of intellectuals. It is just like Dr. Frankenstein in Mary Shelley’s famous novel, who believed he could become a God himself by stealing from God’s own creations to make a new, evolved man. In the end, Frankenstein’s pride created a truly tragic creature he himself refused to love, ending in the destruction of everything he cared for.
This is not to say, the knowledge we gain through these things is not valuable. We are meant to learn of these things to prepare us for greater things to come. But it is very limiting to ignore greater things which enlighten the soul for the sake of being knowledgeable or simple teaching a good lesson. It is because knowledge without love is a very empty thing. It is because to be truly human is to seek ways to change and become better.
Level 4: The divine, or that which enlightens the soul.
I open this final level with one of my favorite quotes from Charlotte Bronte’s novel Jane Eyre “We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”
To seek God is to see his hand in our world. For spiritual experiences are to see true humanity. This level promotes family, the beauty of life and true love. It encourages sacrifice, forgiveness, honesty and virtue. It shows humans as they really are: imperfect but beautiful.
To participate and recognize the value of this level, we ourselves must choose to seek for it. In essence, to seek God and beautiful things.
Slowly but surely, as we seek God our vision changes. Art becomes a reflection of God’s creations. Science becomes a glimpse into God’s creative knowledge. Philosophy and literature are a doorway into man’s desire to understand and interpret life.
Level 4 is one of enlightenment, to hear and feel as musicians, to see as artists, to understand as scientists, to envision as writers and ultimately to create as God wishes us to do. We become like God himself. And to do any of these things we look to, and follow Jesus Christ. To know of Christ and to pattern our lives after him is the greatest and most irreplaceable experience we can have.
Here, in the level of the divine we choose whom we serve and with that mindset we seek him in every aspect of our lives, especially in our pursuit of knowledge and entertainment. We honestly cannot seek God in and through things which go contrary to his laws and truths. But there are enough beautiful, captivating things in this world to fill us infinitely.
Our devotion to higher learning is akin to falling in love with the light of knowledge which surrounds us. Another of my favorite quotes comes from the Young Adult novel, East by Edith Pattou “It was the difference between walking with a stranger and walking with your heartmate. It was the difference between working for duty and working for love.”
We find these things in reading classic literature and poetry, in studying scientific law, listening to the compositions of the masters and in stepping outside and viewing nature. It takes time and patience to learn with God, to allow his influencing spirit to guide us to enlightenment and beautiful things. But it is worth everything.
In Uchtdorf’s recent BYU devotional “Can you Hear the Music” he stated, “What we love determines what we seek, what we seek determines what we think and what we do. What we think and do determines who we are and become.”
Conclusion: I’d like to make a change
Thinking on myself, I am somewhat ashamed with how I treated some of my past reviews. Not because I think I was wrong, but because I gave so little back through those reviews. I talked a lot about what was right or wrong, but it was only sometimes I stopped and reflected on my true experiences.
That is the true tragedy. We connect best with other human beings when we catch a glimpse of their life and heart. We all find things which truly enlighten us and matter to us.
Our individual opinions matter but they are not always the definite rule or point of view. They are a piece.
These pieces are truly precious as we try to understand ourselves and our place in this world. I hope from this point on, I may learn more and in turn give back in small portions to any who may read these posts.