Day 37 – Horse Therapy and The Glorious Boring

On August 28th, my wife lost her job. 24 hours later, I lost mine. This blog is a continuation of the day-by-day chronicling of our emotional journey back to employment. This is bound to be upsetting, hilarious and hopeful.

Saturday – October 4, 2014

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Today, Cami rode a horse. She does this every Saturday morning, at the Heart of the Horse Therapy Ranch just outside of town. At the Ranch, they work with kids and adults with special needs, performing miracles on a daily basis. I don’t know what it is or why it happens, but there’s something about some horses that is magical* that brings out new things in people with difficulty.

*Besides unicorns, obviously. 

The first time Cami went to Heart of the Horse, she did something Erin and I had never seen before: she sat up still and straight. Cam is a fidgeter and to see her in total control and perfectly balanced moved Erin to some very real tears. We’ve been going every week ever since, for the past year and a half. Each time, without fail, a melt-your-heart grin washes over Cami’s face as soon as the horse starts moving. It’s incredible. It’s this whole other side to her we don’t see any other way.

The new thing Cami did this morning was push everybody away when they tried to take her down off her usual horse, Bandit. We already knew she loves to ride, but she’s never asserted herself like that before. We love it when Cami fights like that. Usually, she’s so agreeable and, because she’s nonverbal, it’s hard to tell what she wants. Not today.

This is a short video I edited, and shot with my friends Austin and Jesse. We did this as gift to the Ranch to help them with their first fundraiser (Cami is in it quite a bit):

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For Mormons, today was huge. Twice a year we gather at church buildings and around TVs and computers to hear the words of Apostles and the Prophet to know God’s will for his children today, in real time. It’s a stone tablets down from the mountain kind of thing, but via the internet. It’s a real time of spiritual refreshment and uplift.

It’s also terribly, at times, truly boring. The Conference lasts two days and plays out over five 2-hour sessions of, mostly, old men talking heads. If you’ve ever thought about becoming Mormon, I probably just ruined it right there. Also, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir tears the roof off throughout the sessions. This is all great if Errol Morris docs and organ-inflected hymns are your thing, but it can be a bit of a challenge it sit through if you prefer your visuals lean towards the Steven Spielberg end of the spectrum and your songs accompanied by more than one instrument.

So why watch this thing? Well, why I admit Conference is boring, that doesn’t mean I’m bored watching it. It engages me and others who watch it on a level beyond its entertainment value. I think entertainment is important, but the actual benefit entertainment provides is, essentially, escapism. Conference, and other religious services (when done properly), nourish and comfort, and that’s far more important. I approach Conference with a spiritual hunger. I don’t need to be entertained. What’s more, to be honest, I don’t even want to be entertained during what is supposed to be a direct download of truth and perspective. I think there’s a certain amount of artifice that goes along with entertainment–a manipulation–and if you lean too heavily on those tricks you risk compromising the message. I don’t want to be “sold” an idea with bells and whistles and jazz hands, I want truth presented to me, plainly, that I may see it accurately and can decide for myself without manipulation whether or not it is right.

THAT’S Conference in spades. That’s church. It’s boring, but it’s engaging. If you’re watching, really watching it to discover and participate–if you’re having that internal dialogue within yourself about how what you’re hearing applies to you and seeking to know God’s will for you from what you hear–you can’t help but be swept up in it just as much as you would the latest blockbuster.

And it’s boring. It’s dead boring and all the more glorious for it.

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The preceding had nothing to do with unemployment, as was my day. I don’t know if I should be worried about that or relieved that I’m not obsessing over our predicament quite as much.

Why I Won’t Watch Breaking Bad

bbadrect011-460x3071As someone who is both a Christian and a lover of good television and well-told stories, whether or not to watch Breaking Bad is something I’ve struggled with for a long time.

I tried to watch the pilot a couple years ago and made it about 15 minutes in before stopping. Too many F Bombs, a topless woman and an overall dark and depressive feeling to the entire proceedings left me feeling cold and like I needed to spend some time repenting.

Some time passed, Breaking Bad entered its final stretch, and I started hearing from friends at church about how much they enjoy Breaking Bad. They dig the show and don’t have any problems with it like I did. I decided to give it another shot. I did some research and found out the rest of the show isn’t like what I saw. The F bomb doesn’t really appear all that often and nudity is at a minus. Besides, Citizen Kane is my favorite movie. What is that but a movie about one man’s descent into self-destruction brought on by his own selfish choices? I love the movie BECAUSE it’s about that. It’s a great lesson about the kind of lives we should be living. No one wants to end up like Kane.

SO, I queue up the pilot to Breaking Bad again and this time I forced myself through it. There was lots to love, certainly. It’s well photographed, holds your interest, and the psychology of the thing was fascinating. I loved all the actors and their performances–Bryan Cranston in particular is always worth watching, as everyone knows. Loved Aaron Paul, who was new to me. The writing was so, so good. It’s exactly the kind of show I could really get into.

And I won’t watch one minute past the pilot even though I desperately want to. The storyteller in me is dying for the master class I know is just waiting for me on Netflix, but I won’t do it.

I won’t watch again because that feeling I got the first time I watched it–that dark, depressive feeling–never went away. In fact, it only got worse and it wasn’t really coming from the R Rated content that I’d already seen the bulk of two years past. It was just the vibe of the show. Now, I’m told Breaking Bad gets much, much worse as it goes along. Walter White becomes Scarface, I know this. Is that really worse than what became of Charles Foster Kane? I don’t know, but I know that the way Breaking Bad chooses to depict a fall of such magnitude is not something my Father in Heaven wants me, personally, to be watching. I think God often communicates with feelings like the ones I had when I watched the pilot. I do my best to pay attention to them.

Breaking Bad wallows in the evil it depicts. It is, as Blake says, visceral. I don’t think I need to give the devil that much airtime. I don’t think storytellers need to do that to get the point across. I know Kane cheated on his wife without ever having seen him in bed with his mistress. Was the impact of the betrayal of his marriage vows lost because I didn’t see it actually happen? Of course not.

I think there’s a fine line between showing consequences and glorifying them. I’m not saying the show is ever trying to put forth Walter White as any kind of example of what we should strive for, but in its effort to show the evil that one man can do because of his selfish choices, the show revels in the entertainment value of that very evil. This cannot be a good thing. I think it’s the source of that awfulness I’ve felt the two times I’ve watched it. I think it supersedes whatever other benefits may come from watching the show.

To be clear, I’m not saying anyone who watches Breaking Bad is evil or wrong for doing so. I’m simply trying to share my experience with the show, such as it is.

This post was in part inspired by Wes Molebash’s great cartoon on this very subject over at Insert [IMG] and the commentary below by Blake Atwood. I don’t know where Wes lands on this subject, but Blake offers an opposite–yet still Christian–point-of-view. Check it out.