Friday, June 24, 2011

Why The Tree of "Life"?

Yesterday I found myself pondering why the movie is called The Tree of Life.
The movie opens with Job 38:4 "Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?”". If I hoped to find the meaning of the title, it seemed logical to revisit the Garden of Eden narrative in Genesis.
  • In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve freely ate of the Tree of Life giving eternal life.
  • They were only instructed to not eat of the Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil.
  • Once they had eaten of the forbidden tree, they were banished from the garden and consequently could no longer eat of the the Tree of Life.
Humanity, in their rebellion with the Knowledge of Good and Evil, was no longer fit to continue eating of the Tree of Life.

The universal question of choosing the path of nature or of grace is the result of the friction created by the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Which means the movie is not so much about the Tree of Life as it is the absence of the Tree of Life.

And the movie is also about time; as in all time, from creation at the foundation of time until the redemption and resurrection of humanity at the end of time. Again, this transitory conception of time is the result of the absence of the Tree of Life.

And honestly, "The Tree of The Knowledge of Good and Evil" is just a mouth full. "The Tree of Life" was definitely a better title.

UPDATE January 6th 2012 - Just stumbled across an excellent Tree of Life quote from Irenaeus, I think he would have enjoyd this film as well.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Tree of Life

I rate the quality of most movies by how deeply I am mentally and emotionally moved. If the experience is deep enough, it will draw tears.

These are normally not tears of sorrow; but of joy, revelation, and beauty in life (e.g. Pixars's Up or Bollywood's 3 Idiots). I find this quite convenient because I am able to easily quantify my rating of movies. This is much more effective than trying to ascertain some ambiguous amount of stars after the fact.

The Tree of Life has set the bar mighty high for 2011.

This movie achieved tears on 6 separate occasions. To top it off, Elena and I had a long conversation after words which had us in tears again. And these were tears of the most powerful variety, tears of self-revelation.

Yes, The Tree of Life is beautiful, thoughtful, powerful, and moving.

But my one warning:

In the first half of the movie I guarantee you will experience a sense of being confused and lost. Be thoughtfully engaged, but be patient, letting the imagery wash over you. It's okay that nothing is "happening". The first half of the movie is a cleansing; washing away all of the baggage and distractions that you brought with you into the theater.

Trust that the first half of the movie is preparing the palate of your mind and soul; as would crackers and cheese prepare the palate of your mouth before tasting a fine wine.

When I go to see a Hollywood blockbuster I expect to be propelled from scene to scene at a breathtaking pace, constantly stimulated by the action, enraptured by the drama, distracted by the comedy, without an idle moment to be left with your own thoughts.

This is not a Hollywood blockbuster. 

Go in to the theater with an attitude more akin to how you would enjoy an art exhibit or a symphony, but with all the sensory fullness of cinema.

So, without spoilers, what's the movie about?

The movie is all about understanding our relationship with our Creator God as something very broken/jaded while yearning for redemption. But it uses the most mundane of settings as a canvas - a family in 1950's small town USA.

Tangibly, the story is about the eldest son of three boys and how he is moulded by the attitudes and actions of his mother and father. (The son is played by Hunter McCracken. This kid is going places!)

The trailer (a work of art in and of itself) clearly alludes to this tension between father and mother.
"Mother, Father, always you wrestle inside of me. Always you will."
...Metaphorically representing nature and grace.
"There are two ways through life. The way of nature and the way of grace. You have to choose which one you will follow."
But this tension between nature and grace can be interpreted in many ways. I was reminded of a quote from Francis Schaeffer after first watching the trailer. It's short and worth the read. Now having seen the movie, I believe that definition is indeed consistent with the message of the movie.

I also find myself thinking of the movie as snapshots of defining childhood moments. This is where the powerful self-revelation comes in for me.

These snapshots are moments that relate to spirituality, understanding and questioning God, the realized loss of innocence, the raging evil of nature around us and within us while yearning for goodness. Other themes are shame, forgiveness, hypocrisy, compassion, regret, grace.

Anyone up for some Terrence Malick movie nights in the near future?

Next up... my reflection on why is the title The Tree of Life?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

"Get Rid of The Crappy Stuff"

There are few people in the world who, with integrity, can tell a company as successful as Nike to "get rid of the crappy stuff." This isn't just talk, this is the way Steve Jobs has walked since returning to Apple in the late 90's.

I came across another quote that elaborates on this principle. According to Steve Jobs:
“People think focus means saying yes to the thing you’ve got to focus on. But that’s not what it means at all. It means saying no to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done. Innovation is saying ‘no’ to 1,000 things.” (
Recently I have been struck by how much this seems to be a universal principle.

Whether it is Dieter Ramwhose tenth and final principles of design is:
"Good design is as little design as possible"
Or Mark Twain on writing:
 "A successful book is not made of what is in it, but what is left out of it"
The great minds that have positively driven how we see and experience culture seem to agree; greatness is decided as much by what is done, as by everything else that is not.

How do you apply this to disciplines in your life?

Friday, June 17, 2011

Google Commits Cardinal Sin of Design with Chromebook

"...How well does Google’s newfangled concept hold up in the real world?

Unfortunately, not very well.

The first assumption is that you’re online everywhere you go. That’s rather critical, because when it’s not online, a Chromebook can’t do much of anything. You can’t peruse your e-mail, read documents or books or listen to music. With very few exceptions, when the Chromebook isn’t online, it’s a 3.3-pound paperweight." (NYTimes via DaringFireball)
The industrial design guru Dieter Rams has some brutal words for just such a product:
"Indifference towards people and the reality in which they live is actually the one and only cardinal sin in design." (The quote was seen in As Little Design as Possible via
The NYTimes review concludes their thrashing of the Chromebook with a compliment I'm sure Dieter would find utterly misplaced.
"Truth is, considering how stripped-down the Samsung is, you have to wonder why it’s as big, heavy and expensive as it is. You can find plenty of full-blown Windows laptops with the same price, weight and size.

Maybe the Chromebook concept would fly if it cost $180 instead of $500. Maybe it makes more sense if you rent it (students and corporations can lease Chromebooks for $20 to $30 a month). Maybe it will fly once this country gets free coast-to-coast 4G cellular Internet, which should be just after hell freezes over.

For now, though, you should praise Google for its noble experiment..."
Why praise Google for a half-baked product that is severely overpriced and wasn't designed for the reality in which people live? And don't forget Samsung shares culpability in this sin by choosing to manufacture the hardware.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Statue of Responsibility

In Part 3 of The Cost of Freedom, I quoted  Viktor Frankl's vision of a Statue of Responsibility to be constructed on the West Coast to be a bookend for the Statue of Liberty on the East Cost.

Liberty is not functional apart from Responsibility.

Right after I posted Part 3, I thought to query what else is happening on the world wide web concerning the "Statue of Responsibility".

I was thrilled to find that this project is well on it's way to becoming a reality. The Statue of Responsibility Foundation is a non-profit with a mission to construct the monument in California:
While something as important as this would always have been better sooner than later, I believe the timing is perfect at this point in history. 

As a nation we stand at a breaking point. We are breaking free from paradigms and value systems that shaped our reality for the last century. These paradigms and values are at worst broken, and at best insufficient.

We are ready for a fresh start.

Something as iconic as this monument is functions as a physical catalyst in the psyche of the nation. It's something tangible that we can point to as a turning point in history.

What do you think?

Is it time for our nation to have a new iconic monument? Is this the right one at the right time?

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Cost of Freedom (Part 3)

In this series on Freedom, I have sought to establish a link between Responsibility and Freedom. As I understand it, the link is:
The Suffering experienced through Responsibility is the necessary cost to know the Value of our Freedom
Suffering is required for growth in the human experience. This is a topic I've often pondered and have appreciated the insight of Viktor Frankl's; suffering being a central theme in his work Man's Search for Meaning. One would expect then, that he would speak to Freedom as well.

Drawing from his personal experience as a Jew in Nazi concentration camps, he discusses Freedom, especially the inner Freedom that even a prisoner at Auschwitz has access to. Valuing this Freedom "determined whether or not you would become the plaything of circumstances".
"...Freedom, however, is not the last word. Freedom is only part of the story and half of the truth. Freedom is but the negative aspect of the whole phenomenon whose positive aspect is responsibleness [sic]. In fact, freedom is in danger of degenerating into mere arbitrariness unless it is lived in terms of responsibilities. That is why I recommend that the Statue of Liberty on the East Coast be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the West Coast." (Pg 134 Mans Search for Meaning)
I am struck by the symbolic wisdom of this proposal. I often ponder what imagery would be evoked by this statue, and wonder about the poem that would be graven on the tablet within the pedestal on which the Statue of Responsibility stands.

Each of us knows our Freedoms are something to be valued, yet how infrequently we the weight in our soul. Nothing short of an external tragedy seems to stir us. However, understanding the cost of Freedom gives us a path to initiate change.

Thinking long and hard about our own Responsibilities is the first step; acting accordingly the second. We know this is a willing choice that will invite suffering. Only then can we taste delight in the Freedoms of life.

Reversely, to have Freedom without valuing it (i.e. to continue on refusing to pay the cost with Responsibility) is to defile Freedom.

I will run through some consequences of decoupling Responsibility from Freedom, using the examples of Freedoms mentioned in Part 1:
  • Journalist disconnected from responsibility results in the press being pitted of constructive value to the society it is supposed to serve.
  • Teenager who takes for granted his privileges will fail to mature as a human being; becoming unruly, demanding, self-centered, ignorant, bitter, spiteful, abusive...
  • Citizen in a democracy who does not value her right to vote will be flippant with this power entrusted to her; if compelled to vote at all it will be in ignorance and driven by selfish motives.
  • Prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp (as with all humans in any situation) who does not value his own inner freedom defies responsibility to his very life; ceasing to acknowledge his own humanity and losing a will to live.
In all of these cases, failing to pay the cost of Freedom through Responsibility is both self destructive and socially destructive.

But why is this such a struggle for us?

The concept of freedom seems to be a paradox when you ask why it does not come freely. But the paradox unravels when you understand the cost of freedom is responsibility. Freedom does not come freely to humanity, because humans are not innately responsible.

Here lies the tragedy of the human experience:

If complete fulfillment of Responsibility hangs out of our reach, than fully realized Freedom is forever out of our grasp - apart from Grace...

Star Tours - The Adventures Continue

I was crushed that Star Tours was closed for renovation when Elena and I did our SoCal road trip last summer.

That regret doesn't squelch my excitement for the grand opening of "Star Tours - The Adventures Continue". LA Weekly has an excellent review that will fuel your anticipation.


Thursday, June 09, 2011

Crash Course in Mid-Century Modern Design

This is a must watch for any designer, artist, history buff, or fan of the Mid-Century Modern (MCM) design aesthetic.

In the 50's and 60's, Chevrolet/General Motors influenced the design language of American culture in a way that is comparable to Apple's influence today. It makes sense then, that Chevrolet would have been commissioned to create a film celebrating the "American Look":


Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Apple Introduced iCloud

 How did I do in my prediction a few months ago?

I formalized my prediction in the post titled What's So Great About the Cloud.

And for point of reference, there's a solid summary of the iCloud introduction at MacRumors.

In my opinion, the connection I failed to make explicit is how iPod in 2001 related to iTunes as it's hub for digital media. 

iTunes was the hub of the last decade for the iPod. This hub was dependent on the traditional PC, but radically increased the mobility, convenience, functionality, and simplicity of how we handle our digital media.

However, these mobile devices became increasingly sophisticated (ie. the iPhone) and the iTunes hub became cumbersome and constricted further growth. 

10 years later...

iCloud is the new hub for all aspects of our digital lives. This hub liberates our digital information (if you so choose) from dependence on any one particular device (ie. the traditional PC). This increases mobility, convenience, functionality, and simplicity of how we handle all of our digital information on any number of devices depending on your specific needs.

10 years from now, what will our lives look like?

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Strange and Beautiful Photos from Around the World

Be mesmerized by images of Serendipity. Beauty. Humanity. Perversity. Hilarity. Fortuity.

All captured through the 9 Eye's of Google (Aka, the 9 lens panoramic camera that Google mounts on their Street View cars).

Here are a few to get you started:

...And many many more at