Monday, February 10, 2014

Small Sips Pays Tribute

First, this. Back around the time Philip Seymour Hoffman's movie Doubt came out, James Martin, SJ, who served as a theological consultant for the movie, wrote this piece about his experience of the actor/director:
When I asked Phil Hoffman about his directing style on “The Last Days of Judas Iscariot,” he readily agreed with the inherent strength of the parable—or, in his words, the personal anecdote—in its ability to communicate more than a strictly worded directive. 
“It’s the way I normally direct,” he said. “The anecdotes and stories spark a discussion with the actors and it starts a give-and-take about the character or the scene. And the more personal the better. If I can be open with my life, then the actors usually feel more comfortable expressing themselves through the work.” 
I asked if he ever felt the need to be more specific in his direction. “Sometimes you have to tell someone exactly what you want, but you can’t dictate,” he said. “You have to keep suggesting. Otherwise, the person becomes a sort of empty shell, and they end up performing in a way that’s not at all, well, spiritual.”
I found this very timely as I journey through my spiritual direction practicum, as PSH's directing style sounds a lot like what spiritual directors are meant to do: suggest, rather than dictate. Honor their individual style and story rather than try to force them into something that is going to look and feel inauthentic. It's a great insight for any vocation.

Also, this. Aaron Sorkin wrote about the actor's tragic death, and the never-ending struggle of addiction:
On breaks during rehearsals, we would sometimes slip outside our soundstage on the Paramount lot and get to swapping stories. It’s not unusual to have these mini-AA meetings — people like us are the only ones to whom tales of insanity don’t sound insane. “Yeah, I used to do that.” I told him I felt lucky because I’m squeamish and can’t handle needles. He told me to stay squeamish. And he said this: “If one of us dies of an overdose, probably 10 people who were about to won’t.” He meant that our deaths would make news and maybe scare someone clean. 
So it’s in that spirit that I’d like to say this: Phil Hoffman, this kind, decent, magnificent, thunderous actor, who was never outwardly “right” for any role but who completely dominated the real estate upon which every one of his characters walked, did not die from an overdose of heroin — he died from heroin. We should stop implying that if he’d just taken the proper amount then everything would have been fine.
I don't even pretend to know what addiction is like, at least to this degree. I recognize traits in my personality that would very easily lend themselves to becoming addicted to these types of substances, and I joke that I'm addicted to caffeine (which I probably really am), but to me heroin is on a totally other plane that is way outside my knowledge and experience.

So I'm grateful for articles like these that try to explain it, and hope, along with Sorkin, that those currently struggling with such dependencies really did receive this as a wake-up call to seek help.

And this, too. Jan reflects on the church's role in the face of addiction:
All of us would like to go to sleep and wake up happier or more content or less anxious or totally healed. I wish we who are addicted could stop eating and drinking our feelings. I wish we didn’t turn so quickly to pills or needles when we are emotionally hurt. 
But we like fast and easy fixes. And we don’t want to trouble others with our pain. And some people consider it more fun to deal with our pathologies pharmeceutically. It feels like “recreation” instead of hard work. 
But our souls cannot be healed with sugar or alcohol or narcotics or hallucinogens. The world cries out to be loved in spite of our brokenness. 
It kills me that the church has the reputation of being so judgmental and lame and irrelevant. Because the world could really use a worldwide community of people who unconditionally love each other and teach others how to love unconditionally.  If only.
Let's be clear about something here. A lot of us like to talk about how the church is not a country club, a political entity, a recreation center. It is also not a social services organization. It often does not have the mechanisms and resources in place to offer long-term assistance to people dealing with poverty, addiction, or mental illness. As much as some envision the type of church that can independently help people out of these sorts of problems, this is beyond the limits of what many congregations can do. This is a lesson that I've learned the hard way.

What the church can do instead is offer a spiritually supportive and safe space to people while partnering with other organizations better equipped to deal with these issues, which I think is what Jan is getting at. It must be clear about what it can and can't do both for itself and for those it's helping. But to begin with, it should be about the sort of unconditional love that she mentions, i.e., "We can do this but not this, and both are because we love you."

This, which is completely different. Georgia lawyer Jamie Casino made a Super Bowl commercial that only aired in his local market, but a lot of other people have seen it anyway. It has, as they say, gone viral:

I know, right?

Misc. Jan again, this time on admitting brokenness in the church. PeaceBang on breastfeeding in the church. Jamie on those times when the internet isn't fun. Obligatory link to something about the recent Bill Nye/Ken Ham creation debate.