Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's in a phrase?

Jesus said: "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:24; Mark 10:25; Luke 18:25). Some scholars have claimed this memorable, even humorous, quotation is a translation that has been mistaken. Some Greek and Armenian versions of the Bible refer to a "rope" rather than a camel. However...proverbs taken from the Talmud and the Koran do allude to a large animal, perhaps even one so large as an elephant, passing through a needle's eye. Jesus may have chosen the word "camel" for emphasis so that no one would forget the illustration.

Or another possible explanation is that the ancient cities which had walls built around them for safety also provided an "after hours" entrance--a very small gate or gateway which would allow a camel to go through it only if it were made to crawl through the gate after it had been unloaded. This was called the "eye of the needle." It was made very small for security reasons. Only one person or animal at a time could enter. If the people entering were bent on mischief or making trouble, they could be dealt with by the guards one at a time.

But in any translation, explanation, or interpretation...let's not lose the meaning. It is difficult for people who have learned to trust in their riches to humble themselves so that they, too, can enter the kingdom of God.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Weekly Office

February 1 - "Attention! Attention! We only have a few weeks left and most of you are just as fat as the day we began." (Dwight)

February 2 - "Serenity by Jan is kicking butt and taking names. Remember last week when that girl went missing; guess whose candles they used for the vigil?" (Jan)

February 4 - "Jan is about to have a baby with a sperm donor. And Michael is preparing for the birth of a watermelon with Dwight. Now this baby will be related to Michael through delusion." (Jim)

February 5 - Michael: "What's so funny?" Pam: "You had to be there." Michael: "Oh, hey! Geography joke."

February 7 - "Hey everybody, I just invited Jim to 'suck it' and I am cordially inviting all of you to a special convention, a--a lonely hearts convention this afternoon, singles only...We may not have someone in our lives that we love, but we do have each other." (Michael)

February 8 - Michael: "Pam, I would like you to meet Ronni. We call her 'Rice-a-Ronni.' She is hilarious, she is wonderful; a beam of light in this dark, dark office. Not really so much. All she does is plop herself down there and answer phones all day." Pam: "The nerve."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Witch's Broom

Once upon a time there was a witch named Grizelka who chalked up a very enviable record when it came to witchery. If you don't believe me, just look at her resume:

-Sleeping Beauty: Cast highly effective spell on young female, putting her in a state of slumber for several decades.
-The Frog Prince: Turned member of the royal family into an amphibian. Received wide publicity.
-Hansel and Gretel: Successfully enticed two young siblings to a house in the Forest using sweet food as bait.

Naturally, when it came time to give out the award for The Best Witch of the Year, Grizelka won. At her acceptance speech to the Academy of Witches, she moved almost everyone to tears.

"I'd like to thank all the little people who made this possible. Like that guy I shrank to fourteen inches tall after he said something about the wart on my nose. And I'd especially like to thank my assistant, also a little person, the gnome named Harry. I'll treasure this gold-plated skull the rest of my unnatural life!"

Well, sir, after that, Grizelka's stock soared high, and as far as she was concerned, every night was like Halloween. One day, a typical day, Harry and Grizelka were busy in her cobweb-filled house, hashing out her schedule.

"Okay," Harry said, glancing at the clipboard. "Tomorrow you're due to fly to London to touch off the Year of the Plague. And then you've got a banquet for the Society for the Humane Treatment of Trolls."

"Cancel that till Monday. Tomorrow I've got to lock this lady Rapunzel in a tower and then run over to the--"

Suddenly, the door to the witch's little house creaked open and there stood the most handsome prince in the world. "Ah, fair lady, could I trouble you for a flagon of water?" Such a request wasn't exactly the wisest thing the prince had ever done. In fact, it was tantamount to committing hari-kari.

"Instead of water, try a sip of this!" said mean old Grizelka, handing him a hissing, steaming cup of newts' knees, bat tripe, and other ingredients that would probably not pass FDA inspection, but would turn the prince into a tree stump. Still, witches too have hearts and, at the very last second before the concoction touched the prince's lips, Grizelka's was struck by Cupid's arrow.

"Don't drink that!" she shouted, and knocked it to the floor. The liquid burned a hole three feet deep. "My word," said the prince. "It must be carbonated."

With that, he made a courtly bow, and excused himself to go to the well outside to quench his thirst. Grizelka stared wistfully through the window. For the next few days, Grizelka just couldn't concentrate on her witchery. She sent Snow White a poisoned kumquat instead of a poisoned apple. She turned bats into bunny rabbits. She tried to put people to sleep, but just made them tired and cranky. Finally, she admitted to herself that she was in love--but because she was horribly ugly, even by witchly standards, she knew she could never win the prince. And so she went to the magic mirror--which charged only $100 for fifty minutes--and asked for advice.

"Mirror, mirror on the wall--and don't you dare crack on me--how can I win the prince's love?" The mirror responded, "Why don't you cast a spell on yourself? I'm afraid our time is up. I must go before I crack up myself."

Of course! The mirror was right. If Grizelka changed herself into a beautiful princess, the prince would fall in love with her. For two weeks she worked on the project, stirring a cauldron full of wolfbane, mice wings, and artificial flavors and colors. Finally, it came time for the age-old incantation. "Over the teeth and through the gums, look out stomach, here it comes!"

She drank it and--POOF!--where the witch once stood, there was an enchanting princess. The next day, the newly beautiful witch went to the royal ball. When she got there, the prince and the king were in the corner, talking.

"Well, my son, how are you enjoying the ball?" asked the king.
"Oh, I'm having a ball, Dad."
"I know that, but how are you enjoying it?"
But before the prince could answer, he spotted the most beautiful maiden he had ever seen. "You're beautiful, you're lovely, you're me! Am I rushing things?"

Grizelka shook her head. A whirlwind romance ensued. They went to the opera, to the ballet, to be-headings. But there was one little problem. They were never alone. For wherever they went, along came a broom--they broom that Grizelka used to ride on her nightly forays. It would ride i the carriage with them, sit next to them at shows. There was just no escaping her past. The prince began to get a bit suspicious. "Now, I have nothing against cleaning instruments in general," he said. "I just want to be alone with you."

Desperate, Grizelka decided to shell out another $100 and go to her old mirror on the wall. The mirror counseled her, "Ah, well, it is all psychological my dear. You see, that broom over there has a sort of dust complex. Now that you're a princess, it's lonely. It misses its former owner. And it no doubt still thinks you are a witch."
"Well, what can I do?"
"The answer is simple. Get it a gride."

Now, in medieval English, which is what the mirror was speaking, the word gride mean dustpan. So, the witch immediately purchased a small but attractive dustpan and set it beside the lonesome broom in the broom closet. The rest happened naturally.

In the end, when the prince and princess got married, they had a double wedding with the happy cleaning instrument couple. So, as you can see, not only was there a bride and a groom, but there was also a gride and a broom.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Weekly Office

January 22 - "Babies are one of my many areas of expertise. Growing up, I performed my own circumcision." (Dwight)

January 24 - "I'm excited to lose weight for the wedding because I really want to have washboard abs the first time Angela sees me naked." (Andy)

January 26 - Holly: "No! You do not talk to him like that!" Angela: "But he's an idiot." Holly: "He is not an idiot. He is mentally challenged. But he's doing a super job here." Kevin: "Wait, back up. Do you think that I'm retarded?"

January 27 - "Well, I was in the seminary for a year and dropped out because I wanted to have sex with this girl, Cathy. Followed her back to Scranton, took the first job I could find in H.R. Later, she divorced me, so, no, I wouldn't say I have a passion for H.R." (Toby)

January 28 - "When held over heat, the invisible ink will reveal that everyone should meet at the warehouse immediately. Do not ask me where I got the invisible ink...Urine. It was urine." (Dwight)

January 29 - "I have an enormous amount of trouble trying to get people to come to my place and I hate it. I can't tell you how much leftover guacamole I have ended up eating over the years. I don't even know why I make it in such great quantities." (Michael)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Some Serious Influence

His active life work lasted a bit less than 3 years. He held no political position in public life. He had almost no money and very few material possessions. He never wrote a book, poem, or song. He never painted a picture. He is not known for any clever invention. He never used force, other than throwing moneychangers out of the temple. He was hated by the religious and political authorities, arrested, condemned, tortured, and executed. And yet...

His teachings are of enormous relevance for us today. If what He said was true, we have the answers, profound answers, to some of the greatest questions that have perplexed peoples down through the centuries of time. These are issues of life and death, God and humanity, humanity relating to each other, time and eternity...and a whole lot more. His life and character wrapped up in a single being what all of us would like to be in our best moments.

His death, beyond any question or dispute, was the most famous death in all of human history. No other death has aroused even a fraction of such intense feelings over these hundreds of years. This death is still the subject of study. His resurrection was either the most outstanding event of all time or else a monstrous hoax perpetrated on a trusting humanity.

And today...about 2,000 years after these events took place in history...more than 1,400,000,000 people throughout this world profess to follow Him. (This is approximately one-third of the world's population.) Few have the luxury of being neutral about Jesus. No other human being has been so loved and so hated, so adored and so despised, so proclaimed and so opposed.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Take a Moment to Remember

At those times when you're feeling insecure, inept, and unsuccessful, when it seems as if every person you know is more successful and accomplished that you are, it's important to take a moment to remember that:

-Alexander the Great, who conquered the world before his thirtieth birthday, did not graduate from high school.

-Plato, considered by many to be the greatest philosopher in history, never read a single book.

-William Shakespeare, the greatest writer in history, did not know how to type.

-Christopher Columbus, the man who sailed across uncharted oceans in a tiny wooden sailing ship to discover America, never drove a car.

-John D. Rockefeller, once the richest man in the world, was never approved for a credit card.

-Knute Rockne, the legendary Notre Dame football coach, never won a single NCAA championship.

-Amadeus Mozart, perhaps the greatest composer in history, did not even own a radio.

-In his entire lifetime, not a single article about Leonardo da Vinci, one of the greatest scientists and artists in history, ever appeared in a major magazine.

-And Benjamin Franklin, the legendary statesman and inventor, never successfully programmed his own DVR.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Weekly Office

January 13 - Holly: "Today we're going to have a business ethics seminar recently, without mentioning any names, there has been some misconduct at corporate and we have a very strict ethics policy and that employee has been fired." Kevin: "Oh, come on. He's right there. He was hired. Ooh, check it out, hired guy!"

January 14 - "Okay, Dwight, let me explain something to you. I set the rules and you follow them blindly, okay? And if you have a problem with that, then you can talk to our complaint department. It's a trashcan." (Michael)

January 17 - "Oh, I went zip-lining my third day in Costa Rica. I guess the harness wasn't strapped in exactly right. I broke my neck. And I've been in the hospital five weeks now. Still haven't seen the beach." (Toby)

January 18 - "I happen to be losing weight on my own for my own reasons. The truth is, I have lost a little of my speed, a little of my fire. Here's what I used to look like. Look at those biceps. We were fighting the power and eating whatever we wanted." (Stanley)

January 19 - "When Michael told us that Jan was pregnant, he led us to believe that he was the father. By telling us that he was the father." (Jim)

January 20 - "People expect a lot from these meetings: laughter, sudden twists, surprise endings...You need to be Robin Williams and M. Night Shyamalan. You need to be 'Robin Shyamalan.'" (Michael)

January 21 - Ryan: "That's me and my friend Jasmine from Thailand." Pam: "I don't want to look at your friend Jasmine's boobs all day." Ryan: "You could be hot, too, if you made any effort at all."

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Three Different Structures

The members of the "Order of the Star of the East," who were led by a Hindu mystic named Krishnamurti, held a strange belief about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. In fact, they believed so strongly that they built a 2,000 amphitheater in 1925 which cost more than $100,000, in anticipation of this event which was to happen. Their strange belief was that Jesus would return to the earth, and in particular to this part of India. He would come walking across the Pacific Ocean to be welcomed by the waiting crowd in the seaside amphitheater. They gathered regularly for the next four years in preparation. When He did not arrive by 1929, this group finally gave up all hope and dissolved.

The "All Saints Church" of Sedlac, located in the former nation of Czechoslovakia, was completely looted of all its decorations and fine ornaments in the year A.D. 1600. However, this congregation was not deterred nor discouraged. These worshipers set about re-decorating their house of worship with human bones. They exhumed nearly 10,000 graves for what must be the most macabre interior in all of Christendom. The highlights are a bony chandelier made up primarily of femurs and hundreds of skulls piled up in the shape of the "Schwarzenberk" family crest. It was all done in the name of Jesus Christ to honor some of His saints. In his well-known collection of books about travel, Fodor calls it a "ghastly fascination" and recommends that you should stop in to take a look.

The world's largest active salt mine is located in Zipaquira, Colombia. Contained as part of the mine, more than 800 feet deep into the mountainside is the unique "Salt Cathedral." A remarkable place of worship...magnificent, yet so earth-bound. The three main corridors have ceilings arching 73 feet high supported by columns of solid salt. It took about six years to excavate and seats up to 5,000 people. It must give a whole new meaning to the statement of Jesus that "you are the salt of the earth" (Matthew 5:13).

So, which ones of these stories is cool? And the flip-side of that coin, which one is utterly ridiculous?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

The Good Agent

Richard Langsam was once the most powerful agent in Hollywood. Representing superstar clients like Clint Eastwood, Barbra Streisand, and Jim Carrey, he could put a $50-million picture into production or end a career with a single phone call. Langsam's reputation as the ultimate take-no-prisoners negotiator had earned him the nickname Richie Nightmare, a sobriquet of which he was so proud he had it stenciled in gold leaf on his reserved parking spot. He was so powerful, it was said, that owners of restaurants so trendy that no one even knew existed actually made reservations at his house for dinner. Other agents looked to him with admiration for inspiration and followed his every more. If he took his car to a certain car wash, for example, that car wash immediately became the place in town to be seen, and every other agent, producer, director, and actor in Hollywood would soon be found lined up behind him.
But in 1991, Richard Langsam made a left turn into history. Coming out of a shopping center, he turned the wrong way into oncoming traffic. The result was a devastating accident. But his will to survive to deal again was so strong--doctors called it a miracle and the rights to his recovery story were purchased for a TV movie--that within six months he returned to work. But he returned a different man.
Although he proudly wore his scars--causing numerous young agents to visit tattoo parlors for facsimile scars--his brush with death had forced him to look his life squarely in the eye. And he did not like the reflection. And so Richard Langsam decided to change the world.
Within months he had founded The Two Percenters, an organization based on his belief that the top 2 percent of American businessmen could foster significant changes in society by working together to educate this nation's children and to provide assistance to people in need.
To support this program, Richard Langsam announced he would donate 2 percent of all profits earned by his giant talent agency and requested that all other agents in the motion picture and television community follow his example. "It is time," he said, "for those of us who have had the great fortune to be part of this wonderful entertainment industry to give back to the people who have made it possible."
Richard Langsam's unusual request did not go unnoticed. In 1992, in the annual vote by all agents for the prestigious Agent of the Year honors, Richard Langsam finished 14,782nd, directly behind the agent representing Bozo the Clown.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Box & The Lovely Bones

More than any of my previous blogposts, this one has the potential to be completely random. And let me preface by saying that what I'm going to just utter forth on the lines below are all things that have been buzzing around in my mind for days now, and really I felt compelled to put them down on paper now as opposed to constructing separate blogposts for each one.

-What a clever film we find in THE BOX. You know how most of us have been programmed to watch TV or Movies, and regardless of the climate of the story, the conflict, or even the insurmountable odds of the characters, we always hold out that slight chance that in the very end there will be some redemption...some exemption...some get-out-of-jail-free-squeaky-clean-card...some loophole that circumvents negativity and sets things right in the universe...some Ace of Spade for the final trick.

Well, THE BOX doesn't exactly entertain that mirage. In fact, more than most films, it stays true to its form, not really allowing for the romantic rescue that we have become so sensitized in film today. The story actually reflects the principle of reaping and sowing, and that there are indeed inescapable consequences for our decisions. The writer/director of THE BOX, Richard Kelly, is no stranger to this idea of choices, intricate plot twists, and evolving realities. His brief resume includes Southland Tales and the cult-fav Donnie Darko.

All in all, THE BOX has some very tangible spiritual undertones...greed, love, sacrifice, contentment, victims, suffering, the afterlife, baptism, temptation...I would suggest that you only see it if you're ready to process some of those big life-items, no matter your place in the faith discussion. While it has a great cast, nice pacing, and even some humor for a period movie, it's not a daisies and roses story. Check it out if you dare!

Now, about this Peter Jackson flick, THE LOVELY BONES...well, it just wasn't so lovely to me. In fact, I found it to be quite a tease of a film. The book seemed to have a decent following before Jackson got the movie rolling, but from my vantage point, book sales have skyrocketed lately, particularly around the holidays. I have not read the book, but my wife has, and she really enjoyed it.

It was nice to see Saoirse Ronan (she also appeared in Atonement & City of Ember) not annoy me AS much in this was creepy how her voice narrations are the thread through the story, and it's very awkward when she keeps flirting with really going into the "wide heaven." I found this struggle a little weaksauce, despite her tragedy and love for her family. Wahlberg and Weisz were solid, Sarandon complimentary, but Stanley Tucci steals the movie. He's Dark and Demented (capital "D's"), and really made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up out of fear for my own kids. In fact, I didn't find the supernatural retribution the book and movie lay out for his demise gratifying at all...I suppose as a father I wanted some earthly justice, ya know?

All in all, it's a solid movie...would it ruin it for you if I mentioned that the author of the story, Alice Sebold, is a rape survivor from her college days @ Syracuse, who eventually single-handedly identified and testified against her attacker? While I celebrate HER story, it would be nice if her novels offered more of that kind of closure. THE LOVELY BONES was sort of Law and Order: SVU meets What Dreams May Come. Not too shabby, but not really sure of what it wants to be, ya know? Enjoy it if you must.