Kindness: Les Misérables and the Royal Hospital in Edinburgh

Kindness connects people, kindness connects cultures and eras, and kindness connects us to God.

Les Misérables was written by Victor Hugo in 1862, and it is considered one of the greatest novels of the 19th century.

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Hugh Jackman played the role of Jean Valjean in the 2012 film of Les Misérables.

Les Misérables follows the life of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict who is given a chance to live an honest life by a kind bishop. Valjean becomes mayor of a town, employer of many, savior of a prostitute, father to an orphan, and restorer of persons. Although Valjean must spend his life running from authorities who want to punish him for breaking parole, he shows that redemption is possible and mercy overcomes.

Kindness and a life lived for others are some of the main themes of the book, and this emphasis on living for social good continues today.

A few days ago, Mairi Holden and her son Oscar had to stay in the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh for his asthma-related breathing issues. Holden was not expecting to stay overnight, so she parked on a single yellow line outside the hospital. In the morning, she found two parking tickets on her windshield.

However, along with the tickets, she also found the money to pay for both and a note that said, “Pay it then forget it happened.”

Holden was so touched by the kindness of a stranger that she created an online charity to raise money for the hospital that treated her son. She started the charity with a £50 donation of her own, which is double the amount she was given to pay her tickets.

Kindness is a quality that transcends all cultures and every era. Also, it gives us a glimpse into something much bigger than ourselves.

“To love another person is to see the face of God.”—Victor Hugo, Les Misérables.

– Megan R.

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Daredevil, Flannery O’Connor, and Violence in Media

Marvel recently released a trailer for Daredevil’s second season, introducing the new anti-heroes Punisher and Elektra. (Warning: Trailer briefly shows a crime scene and fighting throughout.)

Matt Murdock is a blind lawyer who moonlights as a vigilante. In the courtroom or on the streets, he protects innocents who can’t protect themselves. Matt is also one of the most religious characters in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With the help of Father Lantom, a Catholic priest, Matt grapples with his motives and his own soul.

The peace of the church is a sharp contrast to the dirt and chaos on the streets. The strongest-stomached viewer will flinch at the gritty picture of Hell’s Kitchen slums. Is the violence justified? Is the harsh picture of evil necessary?

Flannery O’Connor says absolutely. Evil belongs in movies and TV because it’s already in real life. It’s tempting to gloss over the bad, but refusing to acknowledge evil is like pretending it doesn’t exist or will fix itself, which ultimately helps no one. Sin and pain are an inescapable part of reality; the honest writer must confront it with wisdom and careful consideration.

“For the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”- O’Connor, “The Fiction Writer and His Country”

Daredevil is absolutely a loud and startling figure. It paints humanity with all its rottenness and hope and reminds us that redemption is not cheap.

O’Connor is right. Evil, in media and in life, is inescapable. Without some cause of conflict, story is impossible. Or at least very untrue. But how much of that evil we see, or can stomach, is something each of us must weigh for ourselves.

-Josie K.

 

Television, the Nightly News, and Fear: How Christians Should Respond

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I recently heard a sermon titled “The Kingdom of God and the Culture of Fear” (check it out here). In this sermon, the preacher talks about “peddlers of fear,” people and organizations that actually make a profit on producing fear. This is not the type of fear that a haunted house sells. This fear is the type that we might feel when we hear of natural disasters, violent protests, or random shooting rampages. In fact, just this weekend in Kalamazoo, MI six people were killed by an Uber driver who went on a random shooting rampage. See the news footage – Kalamazoo Shooting Suspect Charged. It is a tragedy that should have never happened. It should break our hearts that these things happen in the world, but it does not mean that we should lock ourselves inside for fear of something like this happening to us.

It is a good thing to be informed. We need to know about what is happening in the world and to be aware of the social issues going on around us. As Christians, however, we are free from being paralyzed by fear when watching the nightly news. As emphasized in the sermon, we have a hope to cling to that conquers all fear – Jesus Christ. Isaiah 41:10 tells us that we are not to be afraid because God is with us. Romans 8:38-39 says that nothing can separate us from the love of God – even random shootings cannot break God’s love for us.

The first ten minutes of most newscasts focus on the stories that elicit fear. I want to challenge you to actively combat this culture of fear. Here are three key points to keep in mind when engaging with current news media:

  1. Pray for protection from fear.
  2. Pray for those dealing with the tragedy or suffering.
  3. Trust and believe that God is sovereign and that will never leave us nor forsake us.

Out of Touch with the Oscars

The Oscars are coming, and I haven’t seen almost any of the movies. As I scrolled through category after category of Oscar nominations only to find a small handful of films I’ve seen, I understood that I’ve been living under a rock for the whole year. In fact, I’ve been under two rocks—the rock of College and the rock of Christianity.

Living on campus without a car is not unlike being a part of the Gilligan’s Island castaways: you have interesting people for company and plenty of bamboo-rigged conveniences, but there’s no escape, and your only connection to the outside world is a radio. I really had planned to see some of these movies, but I was just too busy curled up in my dorm-room cave.

Christianity is a weightier rock, to be sure. As a child growing up in the “Christian bubble” I was rightly sheltered from many films, but parental censorship no longer applies to my life, and I have to figure out for myself how to honor God with my movie-going decisions. There’s no hard and fast rule; but when five of the eight films nominated for best picture are rated R, I’ll usually just give up the task of weighing the merits of each individual film and go see Inside Out for the second or third time.

I may be one of mass of people that are out of touch with the Oscars, and chances are—you are too. But I realize that it’s not always bad to be behind the times with our engagement with popular culture. While we can all celebrate the artistic talent and hard work that is highlighted in the Oscars, the best kind of cultural engagement is dictated by our interests, our time, and our faith.

–Emily D.

Lessons from Click: Don’t Put Your Life on Autoplay

This weekend I watched the movie Click for the first time, and I found myself with a desire to start living my life differently.cXR4a7WITJbzkVbWQJ3UVkoK2sd

Michael Newman (Adam Sandler) is a workaholic who puts his job above his family while pursuing a well-deserved promotion. In an attempt to balance his life, Michael acquires a universal remote from kooky salesman Morty (Christopher Walken). The remote allows Michael to skip or fast-forward through uncomfortable parts of his life. It’s the perfect answer to his dilemma, until the remote takes over and programs Michael’s life for him.

The prevailing theme in Click is to enjoy each day and put family first. The movie is convicting because, even without a remote, we make the same mistakes as Michael.23clic.600

When Michael skips scenes in his life, he goes on autoplay. This means his body is still present, but he gives minimal effort to interacting with others.

We can often do this in our lives. We skip around the boring or hard parts, tuning out instead of investing.

We can see from the movie, that this lifestyle has bitter consequences. So how do we keep ourselves from going on autoplay?

  1. Say, “I love you.” You will never regret being honest with your friends and family about how much they mean to you.
  2. Shut off screens. I love media, but sometimes I need to take a break so I can interact with people. Choose one night a week to be “screen-free” and fill it with quality time spent with people.
  3. Examine your priorities. Michael was so focused on doing well in his job so he could make a better life for his family, he didn’t realize he was neglecting them. Make sure you have the right priorities and pursue them the right way.
  4. Be present in every situation. Unpleasant moments are easier to skip past, but we need to be invested in others no matter how difficult it gets.

Click is a cautionary tale about what happens when we don’t appreciate every moment we have. Stay off autoplay.

– Megan R.

3 Truths That the Media Tells Us

 

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Yes, I said “truths.” We are constantly being told all of the lies that media is presenting to us, such as what love is and what makes a person feel happy and fulfilled. It is true, the media definitely spits a lot of falsehoods at us, but if we look at the media in a more positive light, are there any truths that it presents to us? Is there anything we can learn from the entertainment industry that is beneficial in our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us? I think that there are. Here are three of them:

  1. Attention is a drug.

We can clearly see how this affects celebrities. For example, what does a musician or actor do when they begin declining in popularity? Many times, they resort to using the value of shock in order to get attention. This goes to show how addictive the desire for attention can be and how it has the potential to drive us to do crazy things.

  1. Trends are temporary.

This is obvious when looking at clothing and hairstyles, but we can even see this when looking at ideal body types over the years. I think this is an important truth that we can take away because it shows us how frivolous chasing after the ever-changing trends is. There is nothing wrong with getting a cool haircut, but we will never be satisfied if we are placing our identity in short-lived trends.

  1. Fame is exhausting.

Sure, it may look glamorous, but when hearing about the hours that actors spend working on films or the long tours that bands take, it really is hard work. Think about it: if you’re a celebrity, you can’t even run a simple errand without the paparazzi hunting you down. As an introvert, I think I would go crazy.

Even though these are just a few, I think there are a lot of lessons and truths we can take away from the media and entertainment industry. What are some others that you have noticed?

5 Ways To Beat Post-Series Finale Blues

Gravity Falls ended this Monday. After two seasons of monsters, twins, and a fight against a demonic triangle, I’ve got the post-series finale blues. No more Mabel jokes, no more mysteries. Now what?

Even if we enjoy television in moderation, it’s easy to get attached to characters or storylines. If we fall into binging five or six episodes a night, it’s worse. We don’t like endings, even happy ones. So here are five ways to bid the finale blues goodbye.

  1. Read a Book

This is my go-to for recovering from a great TV show. The change distracts my brain from wishing Gravity Falls had three more seasons. Check out our tips on finding an engaging book. Even better, try a new genre.

  1. Find a New Show

If no books catch your eye, another option is a different show. Again, a genre switch can be most effective. Just pick one still airing so you aren’t tempted to binge all five seasons on Netflix.

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    In Theaters November 18

    Wait for the Reboot

Reboots/remakes take a long time, but hope tides many fans through finale syndrome. Harry Potter fans rejoice! Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child are reviving the magic.

  1. Fanfiction

Fanfiction explores all the favorite moments and missed opportunities. The best ones will recapture the themes, characters, and atmosphere that made the series so amazing. Fanfiction can also be really hit or miss in quality and content, so be cautious if you pick this route.

  1. Share the Love

popcornTV is better with a friend. Whether it’s another post-series finale sufferer or the uninitiated, find a buddy, pop some popcorn, and replay episode one. Enjoy the beauty that hooked you in the first place. Celebrate the best moments together and start conversations about what you see.

Tell us about your experience with post-series finale blues. Is feeling sad after a finale a natural part of enjoying media, or is it a sign we’re too invested in a fictional world?

-Josie K.