Monthly Archives: May 2014

Spiritual lessons from Walter Mitty

by Peter Lockhart

“The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” is a thoughtful and reflective movie which on its second viewing contained as much enjoyment and insight as the first time around.  Whilst a large part of the message in the movie is the challenge to move from day dreams into new experiences, it was other more subtle messages which stood out for me.  These are deeply spiritual lessons for us.  They encourage us to live more intentionally and to value ourselves.

The first lesson comes from the photographer Sean O’Connell (played by Sean Penn) who rather than take a particular photo chooses to just be in the moment, to enjoy it, to live it.  Growing up with such quick accessibility in our phones to take a snap, even a selfie, can distract our attention from what we are doing and who we are with.  Yes we can publish our memory on Facebook, but what is our memory – the taking of a photo?  At more than one family, and also many public events, pausing to preserve the moment in pictures has all but destroyed the moment.  Can we drag our eye from behind the lens and beyond our need for perpetual publication and live more fully in the moment?

The second of the lessons which stood out is that however insignificant we might feel in our job or role in life we all contribute.   The character Walter Mitty is a negative assets manager whose job seems to be of little consequence and is derided by others.  The location of his work space is dark and separated from others, apart from his one assistant.  The rest of the workers are in open spaces filled with light.  Yet, as becomes evident in the film, his role is an integral part of a significant machine, whether others can see it or not.  In fact, for the photographer O’Connell it is Mitty who makes his work come to life by caring for and promoting his work.  In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians his description of the church as a body is an analogy not simply for the church but for all of us in life: we all contribute, we all have a part to play.  Remembering this helps us value ourselves and others!

(Spoiler alert! You may want to watch the movie prior to reading on!)

Finally, you never know when you are someone else’s cover story.   The movie culminates in wonderful scene where the photo described as the quintessence of life, the final cover photo for Life Magazine, is a photo of Mitty outside the magazine’s offices working in the sunlight.  Without knowing it he had been the cover story, the example, even the hero for O’Connell.  As insignificant as he may have thought he was, as irrelevant as others treated him, he was an example and hero to someone else.  The reality is that none of us can really know who it is that might be looking at us in this way.  We may not think ourselves worthy of it but it happens whether we intent it or not – we are all witnesses to how to live and what life is about.

As you think upon your own life: Are you able to live in the moment?  Do you see yourself as part of an integrated whole?  And, who do you look to to be a part of the cover story of your life and, even more importantly, who is it that might be looking at you?

Of budgets, truth and faith

Almost a week has passed since Joe Hockey handed down his first budget as treasurer. The accusations of lying by the Prime Minister and the general deceit of the Liberal Party have filled our air waves.

Promise discodoni

Promises, promises

The media community, and we as a general population, appear to have an obsession with the connection between promises, truth and lies.  Yet, whether we agree with the proposed policies or not, anyone in leadership knows that often things we say cannot be realised in the way we would hope or intend.

As much as I was critical of the budget it appeared for many the more important issue was not the outcome of the policies but whether or not the government was perceived as being liars.  Is the reason we should consider our allegiances not the policies of a party but their ability to be truthful?

Are we expecting too much from politicians and ourselves? Are we realistic about truth in politics? What does integrity really look like?  Are we really focusing on the right questions?

In this week’s lectionary reading Jesus says “I am the way, the truth and the life.” For Jesus to make the claim of being ‘truth’ there appears to be a great gulf between his sense of being truth and what our politicians talk about.  Being truth is not merely about not lying but about revealing through his presence how it really is.

Jesus shows us who we are and who God is by coming among us and truth is filled with as much confrontation as it is with good news.

I suffer no delusions: politicians cannot embody the truth, let alone keep their promises! So it is that I wonder if our desire for such high integrity for our politicians is realistic.  Have we been duped into a vicious cycle of judgement and accusations about truth and lies in politics to the point we think whether a person keeps their promise is the end goal?

What shift is needed in our thinking? The thinking of the press, the populous and the pollies to help us move to a new space where a different dialogue about our future and the way we make decisions can take place?  How do we make the well being of all people not the unrealised promises of a few the focus?

Breaking Bread

In the story of the walk to Emmaus I have long been struck by the opening of the disciples eyes when Jesus broke the bread.  This breaking of the bread is repeated in the life of the church whenever we share in communion and has been a reason I have taught the value of weekly communion.

It is in the breaking of the bread that the disciples become aware of who has been with them on their journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus.  Now whilst there is reportedly a physical presence in this story I have long believed that Jesus ongoing presence with us is revealed to us when we break the bread.Bread & Wine by Ian Britton

So, whilst sharing the bread and wine does, and should have, a sense of celebrating in the coming kingdom of God already (in the jargon of the church it is an eschatological celebration), it can also be a very grounding experience.  Our eyes are opened to the reality that Jesus has been walking beside us each and every day as well and maybe even a reminder that our hearts have been burning within us as he has been teaching and helping us on our way.

Id this not an argument for regular celebration of the eucharist? Is it not also a reminder of the importance of gathering with the community of faith to be reminded of Jesus presence in every moment and be encouraged to responded with attentiveness and witness?