Zen Blog

This blog collects various internet feeds aimed towards information, experience and technique exchange in support of our shared spiritual journey.....

”Namaste - may the light in me, honor the light in you…”

Beautiful Boy

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Drug overdose is the leading cause of death of Americans under 50. In 2017, drug deaths topped 59,000, 19% more than the year before. Illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin are responsible for some deaths, but opioids (pain killers legally prescribed by doctors) account for even more. A newer phenomenon is the growth of the use of crystal methamphetamine, a highly addictive drug that damages the central nervous system. The user immediately experiences a rush of dopamine in the brain, causing feelings of intense pleasure. But over time, he or she will need to use more of the drug to achieve the same effect. Meanwhile, changes in the brain due to the loss of dopamine receptors can lead to feelings of anxiety, paranoia, and fear.

Tough questions are raised by these developments. Is this kind of addiction a disease, a behavior disorder, or a moral failing? Is this trend a side-effect of American culture and history? Is it genetic or learned? What is it like to be addicted? What are the sources of this habit for most individuals? Can addiction be treated, and are relapses common and likely?

These questions and more are explored in Beautiful Boy, the story of a teenager who gets addicted to crystal meth and despite the loving support of his family and his own best intentions, can't stop using it.

The film is based on two memoirs, Tweak by Nic Sheff and Beautiful Boy by his father, David Sheff. Timothee Chalamet plays the teenage addict, and Steve Carrell portrays his loving and idealistic father who is willing to do whatever it takes to retrieve his son from the prison of addiction and bring him home to heal.

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Six Signs of a Strong Friendship

Making friends is tough. It takes time, trust, and a little bit of luck (who knew that the girl you sat next to on your first day of university would still be your best-friend, all these years later?), but the right friend can be life-changing.  

In this video from School of Life, Alain de Botton shares six ways you can tell your friendship is the real deal.  

True friendship is about trusting one another. While acquaintances or work colleagues may hide their shortcomings from you, a friend confides in you.

“They show how much they trust us by confessing failings and sorrows which would open them up to possible humiliation from the world beyond,” de Botton says.

A friend gives you the gift of vulnerability, which allows you to be vulnerable in return.

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Praying in Times of a New Abnormal

As of this writing on November 16, 2018, the death toll from California's Camp Fire has risen to 63 — making it the deadliest wildfire in California history — and the list of the missing contains 631 names. It is the worst of the fires currently ravaging California, but the Woolsey Fire in Malibu and nearby areas has burned nearly 100,000 acres and hundreds of houses; the Hill Fire in Ventura County, more than 4,500 acres.

Pictures of people and animals fleeing the fires are heartbreaking; the thought of those who couldn't get away is even more so. California Governor Jerry Brown observed that "we’re in a new abnormal, and things — things like this will be part of our future. And this won’t be the beginning. It’ll be things like this and worse."

His remarks are not some dire, apocalyptic pesssimism but rather an honest assessment based on what research tells us about climate change. In her interview with Juan González, "Climate Scientist Who Fled CA Wilfire," broadcast journalist and investigative reporter Amy Goodman points out: "The fires are so large they can be clearly seen from space. Smoke and ash have left millions of Californians exposed to air quality rated 'unhealthy' or 'very unhealthy' levels, with residents of Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the Bay Area warned against spending time outdoors."

And so we pray this news . . .

Dear Creator,

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Family in Transition

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At the heart of Ofir Trainin’s riveting documentary is the abundant love that connects Amit and Galit Tzuk to one another and to their family. And while Amit’s coming out and transitioning to life as a transgender woman is the film’s main event, the shifts that the entire family’s devotion undergoes over the course of the film’s brief running time expand this story into a transformative universality that will affect many viewers, regardless of their proximity to the central subject matter.

Amit and Galit are childhood sweethearts living in the very traditional Israeli town of Nahariya. Together since they were 15, the couple has journeyed through seven years of friendship and 20 years of marriage, bringing four children into the world, and are still as warmly dedicated to their relationship as anyone could wish. From the opening moments, this fierce faithfulness is clear, as Galit calmly urges a nervous Amit to go through with a planned coming-out gathering. With Galit looking proudly on, Amit finally enters hesitantly but elegantly, carefully made up to outwardly reflect the woman Amit has privately and inwardly fostered for years.

Following this brave moment of self-disclosure, the signs of commitment continue to build. Galit is staunchly determined to accompany Amit to her sex change operation in Thailand, and the couple’s children, all disarmingly reflective and open-minded, express nothing but enthusiasm for their parents’ decisions. The clarity with which Amit and Galit and their children discuss the realities and possibilities inherent in their unique family dynamic is stunning. It offers a jarring juxtaposition to the vocal onlookers who either question or openly mock them from the sidelines. This might be a family in transition, but it is also a family intent on actively becoming who they are meant to be, constantly asking questions of the status quo and trusting their radical familial love with uncommon fervor.

That the story takes a sharply somber turn following Amit’s operation seems simultaneously jolting and inevitable. Amit is certainly the family member going through the most physical changes, but the emotional lives of all involved begin to unspool in challenging ways both related to and transcending Amit’s transition. Galit, still strongly committed to supporting Amit, also begins to come into her own deep self-discovery, one that points her toward new horizons that will change the family forever. And the children remain characteristically reflective and articulate, even as the cocoon of their family cracks painfully open to give way to unexpected and challenging new realities.

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Wildlife

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"This is a wild life, isn't it," Jerry Brinson (Jake Gyllenhaal) tells Joe (Ed Oxenbould), his teenage son. The family has just moved to Great Falls, Montana, and Joe doesn't feel like he fits in at school. He wants to quit the football team and, although he is a good listener, he has only made one friend. She tells him not to worry about the smoke coming into their valley from fires in the mountains because if the swiftly burning blazes reach town, they won't be able to escape them anyway.

Joe senses that destructive and horrific forces beyond the fires may destroy his family. It begins when his sociable dad is fired from his job as a golf pro at a country club. His high-strung mother, Jeanette (Carey Mulligan) is taken-aback when Jerry moves very slowly looking for another job. When the country club offers him his job back, he stubbornly refuses, saying "I won't work for people like that." Jeanette does not share Jerry's idealism. When he decides to go fight the fires in the mountains, for only one dollar an hour pay, she asks, "What kind of man leaves his wife and child in such a lonely place?" But Jerry is looking for adventure and meaning for his life.

Puzzled and angry, Jeanette tries to figure out how to make ends meet. She likes her job as a swimming instructor at the YMCA but decides she needs a better position. Meanwhile, Joe finds relief from his loneliness helping out after school at a photography studio.

Wildfire is based on Richard Ford's fourth novel written in 1990. It is at once a coming-of-age story and a domestic drama about a marriage under siege. The gifted actor Paul Dano has written the emotionally literate screenplay with Zoe Kazan. In his debut as director, Dano makes the most of the slow movements of life in a small Montana town, finding beauty and terror in the simple settings. His camera tracks a full range of emotions as Jerry and Jeanette express feelings of anger, betrayal, and loss in a series of verbal fights which have a passion of their own.

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