Blog: Here's what Tom says about that!

Collateral Beauty

Posted April 13th, 2017 by Tom

This film took my breath away. Literally. I found myself short of breath toward the end. I highly recommend Collateral Beauty.

Yep, it got a score of 12% on Rotten Tomatoes. It was savaged by critics. It died at the box office. I don’t watch movies that receive such a horrible, cumulative score on Rotten Tomatoes. I made an exception this time because of the recommendation of a good friend whose judgment I trust when it comes to matters of the heart and spirit. Gretchen and I are both certified trainers for Infinite Possibilities, a network of people who share a program on living life deliberately; about life’s beauty and our power.

So what is it about Collateral Beauty – a film about a dad caught up in the depths of despair over the death of his 6-year old daughter – that inspired me to write such glowing praise; in contrast to pretty much every film critic on earth? Howard, the character played by Will Smith, pulled me in right from the start when he said…

We’re here to connect. Love, time, death. These three things connect every single human being on earth. We long for love, we wish we had more time, and we fear death.

This is an “Infinite Possibilities” film, if ever there was one. It illustrates that we each have the ability to shape our lives and live our dreams through understanding, and working with, our thoughts, words, attitudes, beliefs, and actions.

Just be sure to notice the collateral beauty. It’s the profound connection to everything.

Yes. That.

And this: I wrote this post because there is someone who needs to read these words. I don’t know who you are, but you do. Pay attention.

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Edward Snowden and the Times in which we Live

Posted February 19th, 2017 by Tom

I watched the new Oliver Stone film Snowden a few weeks ago. It gave me the creeps. I recognize it’s a Hollywood/Stone version of a story about a guy people consider either a traitor or a hero. It still gave me the creeps. Though Stone’s version of JFK is considered by some to be a whacky, paranoid conspiracy buff’s dream, I have no doubt there was a conspiracy to murder JFK and a conspiracy to cover up the truth of who was involved. I’ve read 1984. It also gave me the creeps, along with a healthy skepticism about government and unscrupulous people with lots of power. The U.S. government has done some horrible things throughout our nation’s history, including to its own citizens. If you disagree, you may as well stop reading now and go to another website because nothing else I’m about to write will resonate with you at all.

Because I was so intrigued by the story of Edward Snowden, I went to the library and checked out CITIZENFOUR, the 2014 winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Film. I figured it would be less “Hollywood” and more the straight stuff. It is. CITIZENFOUR was directed by Laura Poitras and features journalist Glenn Greenwald, along with Snowden. It was Poitras and Greenwald that Snowden contacted to help him make public the classified information he had chosen to release: evidence of massive, indiscriminate and illegal invasion of privacy (spying) by the U.S. government, via the National Security Agency (NSA) on virtually all its citizens… you and me. Read the rest of this entry »

Kubo and the Two Strings

Posted February 8th, 2017 by Tom

One of the byproducts of living with two young granddaughters is we tend to watch more animated films in our home than we might otherwise. One of the benefits of this reality is that many such movies are teaching some important life lessons that are often missing in what grown-ups often encounter in many adult-oriented films, not to mention the national news, political discourse, and the other stuff we encounter in everyday life.

Kubo and the Two Strings is nominated for Best Animated Feature Film in this year’s Oscars. Kubo loses his father and his mother and unleashes a couple of evil spirits determined to destroy him. He embarks on a quest, accompanied by a monkey and a giant beetle, to solve the mystery of his fallen, samurai father, and along the way, discover his own magical powers.

Particularly in these challenging times, when so many people believe there is so much going wrong in the world, Kubo reminds us of the power of sharing our stories, the power of family, and most important, of our own power.

In the event you’re a grown-up reading these words, and you think you’re too mature for animated films… trust me. You aren’t. Embrace your inner child, or snuggle up with your grandchild on the couch, and join Kubo on his grand adventure.

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The Walk

Posted February 4th, 2016 by Tom

PetitI feel a special connection to Phillipe Petit, the man who walked back and forth across a wire strung between the twin towers of the World Trade Center for almost an hour; some 1,350 feet above the ground in 1974. In 2008, the documentary film Man On Wire screened at the Newport International Film Festival in Rhode Island. I was there with many of my cousins with our film Traces of the Trade. When Petit was introduced after his film ended, he pretended to trip and fall walking on stage. His fake pratfall is one of my fondest memories from the festival. His extraordinary accomplishment left me in awe. His focus, not on cheating death, but fully living life… what an inspiration. Man on Wire went on to win the Oscar for Best Documentary of 2008.

Now comes the dramatic retelling of the same story in The Walk, with Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Petit. It’s brilliant! My heart pounded, my mouth went dry, I had to stand up because I just couldn’t stay seated as he walked back and forth, stopped, turned, stood, kneeled, and lay on his back on that thin cable so high above the ground for fifty minutes while police on both towers and in a helicopter above tried to coax him off.

Look, I knew how the episode ended. I met a very-alive Phillipe Petit in Newport 34 years later, but I feared for his safety. Dude is crazy for sure… crazy for life. He inspires me to live my life as fully… doing what I love because I love it. Check out The Walk. You’ll be inspired.

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Inside Out

Posted June 23rd, 2015 by Tom

My oldest granddaughter (age 8) and I went to see Inside Out, the new Disney/Pixar flick, during its opening weekend. In connection with my writing, my study of Trauma Healing and Infinite Possibilities, and my work with Coming to the Table, this is one powerful movie. I will absolutely be utilizing clips from Inside Out in future workshops and presentations I offer.Pixar Post - Inside Out characters closeup

Riley is uprooted from her home in Minnesota (Note: I originally called it the Midwest in this post, but when my granddaughter read the draft, she said, “that makes no sense, Papa, she was from Minnesota” so Minnesota it is) when her father starts a new job in California. The transition at home and at school does not go well. We get to watch that transition from inside Riley’s mind… and those of her mother and father… as we watch the key emotions inside their brains advise and direct their choices in life. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear jockey for position in response to the events in Riley’s and her parents’ lives.

Understanding the impact that trauma has on us physically, spiritually, psychologically, and emotionally, and knowing how deeply rooted responses to trauma are in our bodies and brains, in our instincts and emotions; watching a IMG_7703fun, engaging, animated film explore issues of memory, emotions, and trauma in thoughtful and thought-provoking ways is refreshing and useful. I’ve been talking ever since with my granddaughter when she laughs or scowls — about who is at the control panel in her brain at the moment… joy or anger; disgust, or…

An interesting and critical aspect of the film for me is the moment I realized I had been rooting for Joy to be in control all the time and eventually understanding the important roles Sadness, Anger, Disgust, and Fear play in the richness of our full lives.

The more I study trauma, how our brains work, racism, and Infinite Possibilities, I realize how clearly our thoughts become the things and events of our lives. How we direct our thoughts, particularly in reaction to what happens to us and others, goes a long way in determining who we become and how we create the rest of our lives.

You gotta see this movie (and respond in your own life accordingly).

Altered States – Wanna Float?

Posted June 2nd, 2015 by Tom

Altered StatesI first became seriously fascinated with deprivation tanks when I watched Altered States in 1980; the William Hurt/Blair Brown sci-fi, love story about a Harvard professor who drinks a spoonful of psychedelic mushroom juice from South America before slipping into the isolation tank to travel in his mind billions of years to the beginning of time; the birth of life.

LOVED that movie.

Frightening and exciting, I wanted to float in one of those tanks; albeit without the drugs. It sounded like the ultimate meditation session; totally alone, the Universe and me. And I never did. There was a place in Portland, three hours away, that had a couple tanks but I never went.

Fast forward thirty-five years. I’ve received wonderfully healing and renewing deep tissue massage from Bonnie Snyder, LMT on and off for more than a decade. During my appointment in April she mentioned Float Central and how she floated for an hour and a half the day before she received a massage and what a difference it made.

That was it. No more procrastination. I called to make an appointment for the day before my May appointment with Bonnie. They no longer call them “deprivation” or “isolation” tanks. I guess they’re going for less claustrophobic terms nowadays. It’s just a float tank, which still removes all external stimulation, including light, sound, gravity and pressure points, from your mind and body. Physically, float therapy has been known to help relieve stress, anxiety, high blood pressure, and pain, and enhance healing from soreness or injury.

Me? I just wanted to float and meditate. An hour and a half seemed like a really long time. I usually meditate for more like a minute and a half and call it good.

I watched this introduction video the day before my appointment and then drove to Float Central the following morning.

IMG_6956The woman behind the counter explained that the huge stack of bags of Epsom salt in their lobby is what goes into the tank of water where I’ll be floating. No wonder you can’t sink! She explained the process and showed me to the tank room. After a cleansing shower I climbed in and closed the tank lid above me.

I settled in and began to breathe. Slowly in and slowly out. The video recommended I count my breaths; a good way to pass the time for my first float, I thought. I quickly calculated that when I got to 300 I would have been floating for about an hour. Other than counting, I tried not to think about anything outside of this moment; to just be here and see what comes up. I began with my standard morning meditation routine. I breathe slowly in and out, paying attention only to my breath.

Fifteen… sixteen… seventeen…

Next I offer gratitude for people and things in my life for which I’m thankful. Then I visualize my dreams manifesting in my life. That seemed to take up about ten minutes. Then, I just breathed.

Forty-one… forty-two… forty-three…

A lot of what I experienced was darkness and silence, which felt quite peaceful. The floating was easy; never the slightest concern that my face would sink beneath the surface. No fear at all. Images of owls began to appear, then wolves and dogs, then faces of people I did not recognize. It seemed as though they were people on the other side; ancestors who had passed offering me comfort. Colors in patterns appeared and shifted; bright and then dim, always slowly in motion.

One hundred twenty-eight… one hundred twenty-nine… one hundred thirty…

Several times I realized I had breathed out but not back in. How long since I breathed in? A few seconds or ten minutes? I don’t know and it didn’t matter. More owls. More wolves. More ancestors.

Two hundred forty-one… two hundred forty-two…

IMG_6952Music gently began to play when I reached the two-fifties. That’s not possible. I couldn’t have been in here more than about forty-five minutes. But sure enough, my ninety minutes had passed. I slowly climbed out of the tank and took a shower to wash off the salt. I felt more relaxed and at peace than I have in a very long time.

My appointment with Bonnie the following day made for a back-to-back gift to myself that felt relaxing, healing, and inspiring. The massage felt smoother somehow; not completely different, but different in the way I felt the pressure of her touch from time to time. I’ve scheduled the same back-to-back experience later this month. I look forward to spending more time with my owls and ancestors.

I highly recommend this experience for your whole self… your physical body and your inner spirit.

And if you haven’t seen it, check out Altered States. It’s a great flick; though if it seems like it may scare you away from float tanks for thirty-five years, go float instead.

12 Years a Slave

Posted November 10th, 2013 by Tom

12-years-a-slave-001.jpg_rgbMy wife Lindi and I went to see 12 Years a Slave yesterday. It wasn’t a film I wanted to see. It was a film I needed to see. It is harsh and searing and honest in its depiction of the institution of slavery in the United States. I hope (and encourage in particular) my white friends will watch this important film. 12 Years a Slave is now a key resource to understanding the traumatic wounds – physical, psychological, and spiritual – inflicted upon black people for the benefit of white people, and inflicted upon white people (whether directly or indirectly connected with the system of enslavement); wounds that have never been healed, have been passed down through generations, and continue to cause harm to all of us today.

My second request is you read the words of my Gather at the Table writing partner and friend Sharon Leslie Morgan. She wrote “400 Years a Slave” on her Our Black Ancestry blogsite after experiencing 12 Years a Slave the day before we did. I read Sharon’s words (click here) before we went to the theater, and again after we returned home. Her story is as powerful and haunting to me as the film because Sharon’s family lived and suffered and died in slavery and its racist aftermath. When white people make the effort to sincerely understand and acknowledge the experience and feelings of people of color as regards these historic wounds, and to understand how white people were and are wounded, and the present-day consequences of this damage, we take our first real step toward healing.

 

Saint Misbehavin’ – Happy Birthday Wavy Gravy

Posted May 15th, 2013 by Tom

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Wavy Gravy is 77 years old today, May 15, 2013.

I met Wavy Gravy at an APCA (Association for the Promotion of Campus Activities) Conference on Halloween in 2010. We had a couple of warm and funny conversations and enjoyed watching Gallagher smashing watermelons and various other disgusting, juicy items together that weekend at the same conference.

I’ve been a fan of Wavy Gravy since his voice rang out regularly from my repeated playing of the Woodstock album in the early 1970’s: “What we have in mind is breakfast in bed for 400,000!”

I loved his book Something Good For a Change, which is now autographed with a hand-drawn labyrinth in the shape of a clown’s head.

Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha Plop!

That’s someone laughing their head off.

He’s been a clown for peace, has enriched the lives of untold numbers of children at Camp Winnarainbow, combatted preventable blindness in the Third world through the Seva Foundation, which he co-founded in 1978.

In honor of Wavy Gravy’s 77th birthday (May 15), I watched the Wavy Gravy movie, Saint Misbehavin’, which is WONDERFUL! One of the highlights of that memorable weekend two years ago was enjoying lunch with the film’s director, Michelle Esrick. For my friends in Central Oregon, I requested Deschutes Public Library to order the film. As soon as I return it, y’all can check it out… or better yet, buy a copy! I highly recommend it!

Saint Misbehavin‘ is an unabashed love letter to the world that defies the cynicism of our age.” – Stephen Holden, New York Times

There are a whole lot of things wrong with our world. Wavy Gravy and his gifts to us all are not among them.

Happy Birthday, brother! May blessings flow to you in abundance in gratitude for all you’ve done for others.

 

Free Angela

Posted April 4th, 2013 by Tom

freenangelaI can’t wait to see the film Free Angela & All Political Prisoners. The primary focus of the documentary is Davis’s infamous 1971 trial. She was arrested in 1970; charged with conspiracy, kidnapping, and murder following the failed attempt to free Black Panther George Jackson.

Read the review of the film in Village Voice.

If you live in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Detroit, Los Angeles, New York, Oakland, or Philadelphia, Free Angela opens in your city at an AMC Theater this Friday, April 5.

The rest of us may have to wait awhile. My hope is that folks in the above cities will FLOCK to Free Angela, so that it will receive the exposure it deserves.

The director of the film, Shola Lynch, previously made the acclaimed film Chilsolm ’72.

Shola-Lynch-and-Angela-DavisCaveat: my personal passion for Free Angela is that Shola is also the daughter-in-law of my writing partner for Gather at the Table, Sharon Morgan. Shola has been working on this film for several years. I know from my participation in the creation of Traces of the Trade just how challenging it is to complete documentary films. I haven’t seen Free Angela yet, but Sharon told me it is INCREDIBLE. She attended the premiere in New York along with producers Will and Jada Smith, Harry Belafonte, Ruby Dee, and, of course, Ms. Davis.

I am so proud and honored to be connected to this family. Go see Free Angela. Not only did Ms. Davis speak truth to power, she forced power to listen. We need her example to inspire us today to do the same.

Al-Jazeera buys Current TV… wait… WHAT?!

Posted January 3rd, 2013 by Tom

Current TV, the cable channel co-founded by Al Gore, has been sold to – gasp – Al-Jazeera. Within hours, Time Warner Cable dropped Current TV like a hot frying pan – reducing Current TV’s potential viewership by about 9 million. About the deal, Gore’s partner, Joel Hyatt wrote:

“…it became clear to us that Al Jazeera was founded with the same goals we had for Current. Al Jazeera, like Current, believes that facts and tru th lead to a better understanding of the world around us.”

Al-Jazeera, the Arabic news network, has been much-maligned by American politicians and press for being the mouthpiece of Al-Qaeda and for having an anti-Israel and anti-America bias. A couple years ago I watched a terrific film. Before concluding that Middle East terrorists are taking over American news, I encourage my readers to check out Control Room, an unsettling documentary about this controversial news agency as well as about American reporting of the war in Iraq – from the inside.

control_roomDirector Jehame Noujaim had, frankly, unbelievable access to the inner workings of both Al-Jazeera and the U.S. military’s Central Command. At a time when no American news outlets were showing dead Iraqi civilians or dead American soldiers, Al-Jazeera did so–and was heavily criticized–believing it was their obligation to show the human cost of war. What most Americans don’t know is that Al-Jazeera has been vilified regularly in the Arab world for criticizing Arab governments.

Before watching Control Room I had a particular bias about Al-Jazeera. This movie definitely made me think–and reconsider my beliefs–not just about my own biases but about the biases inherent in all media.

One of the most powerful aspects of this film are the interviews with reporters and producers for the various news agencies. I was impressed not by how different they were but by how much they had in common. I sincerely believe that whether you consider yourself liberal, conservative, or somewhere in between, you’ll like this movie. And it will challenge your thinking.

I highly recommend Control Room. You can watch a preview, or the whole movie, right now, online… here.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Norman DeWolf | Website: James DeW. Perry