Monstrous Monday – Spiritual Responsibility

Zak Bagans’ latest television show Deadly Possessions brings up serious spiritual concerns. I’m not going to critique the show as much as what is not being broadcast.

After all, he’s not the first to open a museum stocked with paranormal objects. John Zaffis showed the world his museum on The Haunted Collector. But Zaffis also revealed some precautions he took to neutralize any spirit attachments after removing them from where they were found. Not all of the objects he acquired were placed in an open-to-the-public museum. Some were considered too dangerous to display.

Bagans doesn’t appear to have the same level of concern. In Deadly Possessions, he invites owners of possessed items to come to his museum to investigate the validity of the haunting, then interviews those who have suffered harm from having come in contact with the objects. A couple of objects had deadly stories attached to them as if even looking at the haunted object could kill a person.

He says “I” and “Mine” a lot about the collection of haunted items. In my mind, he doesn’t own anything. Those things own him. It’s a huge responsibility to be the caretaker of anything dangerous. It means being responsible for any harm that might befall anyone while displaying an item in your care.

Which brings me to an episode about an English doll that supposedly killed people who had merely gazed upon her face. Before revealing the doll’s face (covered with a black bag), a disclaimer was displayed on the screen that warned viewing the object could be dangerous. Look at your own risk. All right. After a few seconds, they revealed the face. I chose not to view it. I never cared for dolls when I was a child. I certainly had no curiosity about them now. But when the program resumed after the commercial break, there was no warning. Suddenly the face of the doll was the first image to flash in the recap. Thereby, exposing the audience whether they wished to view it or not. Highly irresponsible if the claims of death attached to this doll are to be believed. Exposing millions in the television audience with any level of belief in the possibility of harm makes everyone involved in the production responsible.

What other precautions are taken (or ignored) for the protection of visitors to the museum full of Deadly Possessions? I’m sure there are warning signs before entering the museum, but the only disclaimer for the television viewing audience at the opening of each episode is that the producers don’t share the views of the program.

Now you might be wondering, why watch such a show at all?  For me, the stories behind the items are the hook. Some might be nothing more than urban legends. But others provoke morbid curiosity.

I’m still alive.

Do Your Beliefs Define You?

No god but God (Updated Edition): The Origins, Evolution, and Future of Islam

Oprah Winfrey’s interview with Reza Aslan, author of Zealot and host of Ovation’s Rough Draft with Reza Aslan, brought up a new idea when she asked him, “What is belief?” He answered, “Identity.”

I’ve spent my life sifting through various religions and philosophies in search of what I truly believe. From the time I was introduced to the Catholic Church, I’ve been trying to determine what is real for me. It didn’t do me much good to sit through a mass delivered in Latin if I didn’t understand the language. My high school didn’t even teach Latin. I only knew a deity that demanded obedience or else. No matter how well behaved I was I didn’t experience enlightenment.

I was born on Native American soil while being of European lineage. I got in trouble if I asked the priests or nuns about the differences in belief systems. Who was right? Like most people, I was in search of “the truth.”

If belief is identity, I didn’t know who I was for most of my life. I know now (or think I do), but what if you don’t? Are you void of identity if you don’t know what you really believe? I don’t think so. You just don’t know how to define it with clarity. Doesn’t mean that you don’t know your own mind.

When you ask a Jewish person “who” or “what” they are, they will generally respond with their religion instead of a nationality. “I’m a Jew.” I’m not sure any other group of people does this with as much conviction. Ask an Irishman the same question and he will identify regionally. I’ve always been a blend of several varieties like table wine. I’m not comfortable with labeling my belief system as any one thing. If I had to, I’d call it Open. Open to all systems of belief, understanding that even through our differences we share common ground.

There’s the old “I’m not religious, I’m spiritual” line. But being spiritual is not the same as believing in a deity. In my view, I am a spirit living in a human body. Being human is the perspective from which I view the world. As much as I can identify with other species, I am human and cannot view life from any other perspective. Just as the humans who penned all the religious texts on the planet. They identified their beliefs in human terminology, including their gods. Does this perspective define me? Of course it does. What I believe about everything defines me: business, politics, art, morality, etc. Stir all those things into a pot and you have a souffle as unique as the human who made it.

At last week’s RiverRun Film Festival, the film Heavenly Nomadic told the story of a dying culture of horse people who, when the leader of the clan died, killed his horse to go with him to the next life. Talk about a defining belief system. Indigenous people honor elements in nature, especially animals.

I adored this film by the way.

I envy Aslan’s ability to clearly articulate my own understanding. If you are as fascinated by belief systems and other world views as I am, check out his books as well as the series Oprah Winfrey produced last year called Belief, and Morgan Freeman’s current series running on the National Geographic channel, The Story of God.

Cover artBelief

The Story of God with Morgan Freeman logo.png

 

 

Could You Face Your Former Self?

 

 

 

  The Dumas Hotel

The first episode of the new season of The Dead Files was an eye-opener. It was the first time I have seen an encounter with a living person who is presumed to be the reincarnation of the previous owner of the premises being investigated.

Dark things were happening to and around the current owner of The Dumas Hotel that had been a brothel for 92 years. His personality changed and he would lose time. A concerned friend contacted The Dead Files duo for help.

After researching the history of the property, a photograph of the original owner/builder was revealed. And the resemblance was uncanny, especially his eyes. The client looked like he could have been this man’s grandson. Yet, medium Amy Allen said the words,”This is you.” After her partner Steve’s neck cracked when he turned to her, she went on to say that when the original owner died, his soul had been fractured.

Now reincarnated, the owner has found his way back to the property and begun renovation and restoration, feeling a strange attachment to the building. But he never knew why. He was eerily calm about seeing his former face in the photo and said he felt relieved as if a weight had been lifted.

I can’t imagine feeling relieved to discover I had built a bordello where women were abused, forced into having abortions, or selling their children. Or that people around me had witnessed a metamorphosis in my personality when I was there.

Reincarnation is a phenomenon that you either believe or don’t. But if you do, you probably assume that you come back with your soul intact. But the soul can be whittled apart into pieces through trauma, aggression, and other emotional distress. Every energy exchange between two people can open the opportunity to take or leave soul fragments. This brings up a concern for me.

If I have reincarnated more than once, how many of my soul’s fragments are still out there somewhere? What if a big chunk of me is collecting dust in some dilapidated old silver mine? Pacing around a suburban culdesac that was once a battlefield? Or hanging around an Interstate highway where my old trading post once stood? Does that mean I’m walking around incomplete? Missing an important part of myself?

Amy’s advice to the client was to have a Reiki master absorb the fractured piece so that it could be healed and moved on.She did not get into what happened after that. But I know that fragment can be retrieved the help of a healer or shaman. He might not feel complete without it.

Should Unfinished Works by Deceased Artists be Completed?

In the wake of the passing of the legendary writer Jim Harrison I ask: Should his unfinished works be completed by another writer? Or be released unfinished?

Jim Harrison in February 2008.  Jim Harrison

I lost a fellow writer in my circle who’d left several unfinished works behind. Family members made mention of finishing them and seeking publication. To my knowledge, nothing came of this. And I wasn’t sure how I would have felt about seeing his work altered or added to by someone else. Would it still be his?

I saw a television piece on Unfinished Works by authors Charles Dickens, Ian Fleming, and Jane Austen. When passersby were polled, they responded that they’d rather have the unfinished piece of work than seeing it completed by someone other than the original artist. And I agree.

 

   Charles Dickens

 

Ian Fleming

Jane Austen

This is not to be confused with the co-writing of mainstream authors with others such as James Patterson and Janet Evanovich. Those authors are hands-on, with final say over the finished works. That is also not the same as when a copyright expires and the work becomes public domain. Ian Fleming’s James Bond continues to live through the pens of other authors, but they must meet the strict requirements of the agent of Fleming’s estate to maintain the integrity of the character.

Did you know that the face of George Washington on U.S. One Dollar note was an unfinished work?

But I think the important portion was already completed by the artist. It wouldn’t matter if someone else filled in the coat and backdrop.

I think unfinished work should remain that way if the artist has left the building. I wouldn’t want anyone finishing mine.

Thoughts?

For more on Jim Harrison: http://www.cnn.com/2016/03/27/entertainment/author-jim-harrison-obit-legends-fall-feat/index.html

 

W.T.F. – Smarter than Silly

You never know what you’ll get with a Tina Fey film. Could be risky. It might be too silly or raunchy to be worth the time. So, I saw this hoping it wouldn’t take a wrong turn, and was pleasantly surprised. They kept it straight by surrounding Fey’s Clueless Kim with smarter characters in-the-know.

Kim has no experience as a field journalist when she’s pressured into an assignment in Afghanistan. Off the plane, she’s as lost as Elle Woods in Legally Blonde, and I worried that a couple of her bone-headed moves might send the plot down Cheap Laugh Lane. It did not. After a rocky start, Kim learns fast with a lot of help from a sympathetic General (Billy Bob Thornton), a local fixer/translator who protects her from her American ignorance, and a couple of fellow reporters (Martin Freeman, Margot Robbie) who have become addicted to the adrenaline-filled lifestyle.

Kim adopts a “When in Rome” attitude to fit into the booze-soaked nightly ritual of her peers.  Even though a situation or two wouldn’t have occurred in real life, Kim manages to wise up and earn a little respect out of sheer tenacity, proving that a woman can step out of her comfort zone and survive in spite of being dealt a lousy hand.

I love when a film exceeds my expectations. This is one of Fey’s better performances and worth a look.

 

In Search of a Tribe?

“I try to talk to people, but they reject me.”

The young man looked like a regular guy to me. What I think he wanted was a tribe.

The world is a big place and much easier to navigate with a support system.But if you are emotionally distressed, you’ll probably attract others who are the same. Like does attract like.  If you are struggling with something you don’t like about yourself, do something to change it, or you’ll attract a dysfunctional tribe. Probably not what you were expecting when you set out to find your people.

Only you are responsible for your happiness. Friends, partners, and pets are not. they might be able to make you feel good temporarily, but they can’t change how you think about yourself or how you behave. You alone are responsible.

In my younger days, I was perceived as unapproachable. I didn’t smile easily and always seemed to have my guard up. I wasn’t even conscious of it, and spent a few years very lonely. I kept to myself and didn’t actively engage with many people outside my workplace. Eventually, I realized that only I could change my solitude, and I made the conscious decision to force myself to smile more and speak to people out in the world even though I hated small talk.

I’ve never needed a great number of friends, but a handful of trustworthy people who were on the same page and available to offer company and support. I’m available for my friends, even if the only recent contact has been an occasional greeting card. I joined a couple professional associations, but those are often populated by acquaintances instead of genuine friends. Lately, I’ve found other tribes to join online. People who share my unconventional interests.

Volunteering for causes or events that intrigue you is a great way to meet new people. Joining organizations specific to your profession and extracurricular interests.

Joining organizations specific to your profession and extracurricular interests can net a group where you might find a couple close companions.

Moderated Social media groups, chat rooms, or bulletin boards online can be a great way to commune with people of like-mind.

But the trick to having a tribe is being a contributing member who brings something to the table. If you don’t feel you have anything to offer, examine your strengths. Everyone has something of value to add.

Your tribe doesn’t have to be large or even nearby to give you the social connection you might be craving. Even if you’re a loner, at some point, you might long to talk with someone with whom you share an interest. Doesn’t mean you have to become a joiner, just open to sharing a piece of yourself or a point of view.

Relationships are a two-way street. Be willing to give as well as receive. Most importantly, show up.

My Bologna has a first name. It’s Oscar.

Remember that commercial with the little boy sang with his bologna sandwich? (Maybe not if you were born after the 70’s.) But that thirty-second spot was so much more fun than the Academy Award show last night. And yes, his bologna was between two slices of white bread.

Celebrities have used the Oscar stage for their political platform as long as the show has been televised. Who wouldn’t with such a large captive audience? So it was no surprise that Chris Rock’s theme for the night was black actors getting the shaft. I just didn’t think it was necessary to poke the world in the eye with it the entire show. That’s preaching to the choir.

I’m not a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Therefore, I can’t nominate anyone for an Academy Award. Nor can most of the viewing audience.

My morning paper praised Rock’s ranting. Was I the only one that got bored? I certainly didn’t find it entertaining. And, had I been one of the nominees, I would have felt embarrassed for my lack of skin tone.

I agree with equality in all things. Race, gender, religion, politics, sexual orientation, you name it. I’m down for equality for all. But if someone isn’t nominated for an award, does that always mean it was for a biased reason other than that particular role might not have been worthy of a nomination?

And there was no mention that at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, every black actor nominated won their category. Did that mean they won because of their brilliant performance, or because of their skin tone?

Is it any wonder the rest of the world views Americans as rich, spoiled, and now, racist?

Plenty of actors have been nominated several times for great roles and never won an Oscar.  Great actors like Peter O’Toole, Glenn Close, Ed Harris, Albert Finney . . . Wait! All white and still lost.

I adore film and television, and all the creativity and work that goes into making them. At one time the theater was my church where I worshipped the gods of visual art.  I still live to experience all kinds of diversity in settings around the globe that I’ll never get to see in person. I want to see, feel, and hear how other groups of people think and respond to all kinds of circumstances. I want the “me too” moments, and the “I can’t imagine” thoughts.

What I don’t care about anymore is all the pomp and pageantry of award shows. I mean, pre-show emcees were all a-Twitter about Rock’s use of a rainbow pen in rewriting his monologue. Really?

I don’t care who shows up with whom, who or what they are wearing, or who Oscar says is the best. It’s all bologna. I’ll wager that no Syrian refugee, homeless Haitian, or Greek grocer lost sleep over not being represented at the Oscar’s last night. My guess is that they would have preferred bologna, too.