I’m officially obsessed with Polish Cinema

I have begun to obsess over Polish Cinema. Why this obsession? I feel this intense yearning to watch every film by Andrzej Wajda. The way he portrays women is incredible. They are portrayed like Our Lady Mary– the Saviors and the symbols of truth, innocence and honesty and usually saving the butts of men, or at least trying. The men instead are stubborn and their allegiance to their country always seems to get the better of them. The women are the ones who enable life to continue even in the most wretched of circumstances. Wajda’s films are highly politicized and for good reason. Wadja began filming just five years after World War II, a time of intense turmoil in Poland especially. A country was tossed back and forth like a ragdoll between both Germany and what was then the Soviet Union. Before 1989 Wajda’s films had to be approved by the censorship authorities in Communist Poland. So despite his discontent with Socialism he had to mind himself so his films could be approved. And his films were important, not only did they expose the evils of socialism, but I’m sure they provided ammunition, albeit small, for events such as the Gdańsk shipyard strike. At least in films like Man of Marble–which was hugely successful in Poland with lines outside the cinemas–audiences related to the film because it highlighted the manipulation and the trickery of the Socialist Worker’s Party. Although the film was looked at as potentially harmful to the government, it wasn’t banned.

In Man of Marble, basically a film within a film, the character filmmaker, Agneiszka, an abrasive young student who smokes constantly while ordering around her male film crew. She is determined to finish her film, a documentary about a former Worker’s Party leader who rose to fame only with the assistance and manipulation of the government, unbeknownst to him. He was used like a puppet and they ruined his life; his life meant nothing to the success of the socialist leaders, which was the story of many in those days. Wadja displayed this to audiences to silently expose this truth. Poles knew about these injustices but weren’t allowed to talk about them. But here it was, the truth displayed for them on the big screen and their voices finally felt heard, which is why it was said that 1 in 3 people in Poland saw this film and celebrated it.

Man of Marble (1976)

Dressed in blue and white, Agneiszka resembles the Blessed Mother. And the film she wishes to make will resurrect the corruption and manipulation by the government in Communist Poland and possibly remind people of the continuation of it. The man financing the film gets scared to release the film and takes away Agneiszka’s equipment and orders that production end. “Why are they scared?” Her father asks her after the film gets terminated, “because they think it is dangerous,” she says. Her father replies by saying, “It is honest.”

Man of Marble (1976)

In Ashes and Diamonds, starring Zbigniew Cybulski (basically the Polish James Dean) the woman with whom the main character falls in love takes him for a moment to a hopeful land, where only love exists and beauty and poetry, “Life is so beautiful sometimes,” he says to her. He has taken her on a walk through heavy rain. They end up in an old crypt reading a poem by Cyprian Norwid…So often, are you as a blazing torch with flames of burning rags falling about you flaming you know not if the flames bring freedom or death. Consuming all that you must cherish if ashes only will be left and want Chaos and tempest or will the ashes hold the glory of a starlike diamond. The morning start of everlasting triumph.”

Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

All this while he wrestles with the idea of killing a party leader and falling back (which is what he was scheduled to do later that night) into the violence of the times or walking away from all of that to be with this woman with whom he has fallen in love.

Ashes and Diamonds (1958)

In Wajda’s film Kanal, he dipicts the Warsaw Uprising and the Home Army soldier’s escape through the sewers while the city of Warsaw is being destroyed by the German army. The soldiers leading the rebellion escape at night into the sewers. “Shouldn’t we be afraid the Germans will come down here?” One soldier asks, the woman replies, “No. The Germans would never come down here.” Insinuating the Germans thought they were too good for such a place, too clean, & too perfect.

Again Wajda highlights the courage of women. In this film, the woman knows the way through the sewers. She is leading all of the men and they are depending on her. She knows the way. But one by one the men get lost, not willing to stay behind her, because she is going slow, encumbered by her injured lover whom she is carrying. At the end of the film, the woman’s lover is dying and too weak to climb up the shaft that will save both of them. She decides to find a better route for them, but they come face to face with a opening with bars over it. She can see the other side of the river from the opening. Delirious from fever, her lover doesn’t see the closed opening but only light, so she tells them they are safe and they will sit by the light a moment to rest, but she knows he is dying. She gave him the last bit of hope he needed to make his transition to death in peace.

Kanal (1957)

All of these films were more like autobiographical accounts to Wajda and to the actors themselves; all of them experienced the hardships of Socialism, especially in Wajda’s earlier films. In one of his most recent films, Katyn, which depicts of the Katyn Genocide of 1940, a massacre of 22,000 Polish officers at the beginning of WWII. The Soviets blamed it on the Germans and the Germans blamed it on the Soviets, and no one knew what really happened to the officers until after the war. Mothers desperately looked for their sons, wives looked for their husbands, but to no avail until the truth came out years later. Like most of Wajda’s films, Katyn depicted most of this event as seen and experienced through the women. In an interview he mentions that the women are the ones that keep history going, that keep records and letters and without them we would have no memory of our past. The film was something Wadja had always dreamed of producing and directing but couldn’t because of the censor. So when all that ended in 1989, he began to think more about directing Katyn. His own father was one of the Polish officers killed in the Katyn forest and the lead actress’s (Maja Ostaszewska) grandfather was also a victim. So the actors themselves were very close to the story, as with most of Wajda’s political films, which is why they are so powerful.

Katyn 2008

I don’t think I would be so obsessed with these films if the casting wasn’t so good. Days after watching his films the characters still sit with me and think about the small almost imperceptible moments and shots. Like the moment in Man of Marble when Agnieszka is interviewing the former wife of the main character for her documentary and the wife begins to cry in the interview, so Agnieszka closes the window so the interview can no longer be recorded. Here, although she has a tough outer shell, displays her humanity, mercy, and generosity toward this other woman, and it shows that much of the pain of that era was felt behind closed doors and lived on years later. In this scene, Agnieszka seeks the truth, but not at the expense of another’s pain. This is admirable and very subtly displayed in the film.

These are the small details I think about days later. And I think about the characters days afterward too. They stick with me and their stories leave me with a gut wrenching heartache when the film is through.

The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough

When I was in college my mom and I stayed up until 4 am watching the TV series of The Thorn Birds on VHS. We binge-watched before there was such a thing!
However, she says now that the book is way better. I’m sure it probably is, but how could you not love watching Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward on screen?!

Any Thorn Bird fans out there? What do you think? TV series or book?

The Wisdom of the Desert by Thomas Merton

“One of Thomas Merton’s favorites among his own books—surely because he had hoped to spend his last years as a hermit.”
I have spent a lot of time in the “desert” or in the “wilderness” this past year. I think many, if not all of us have. But it’s how you move in the desert that can help you come out of it better than when you went in. The desert is a place for healing I think and a place for contemplation. It is a place for silence, prayer, and question. It can be a lovely place if you can see it with the eyes of love and not fear.

Intro to the Anamchara Fellowship Community!

I’m so excited for this journey! I have just joined the Anamchara Fellowship as a seeker for Aspirancy. Anamchara is a religious order of disbursed people from all walks of life canonically recognized by the Episcopal Church at large. It is for people who wish to continue their spiritual journey in a community. Together we pray the same prays each day and meet each night over zoom (the community is all over the US and the world) for evening prayers. The community uses the Northumbria Community book of Celtic Daily Prayer, every prayer in the book is so beautiful and flowing with green, rich Life. Each individual is committed to a certain Rule of Life which usually involves intentional prayer, recreation (exercise, art, music, whatever you love, etc.), meditation, and what I would call ‘gazing’ at God in all Creation—which is, at its heart, the Celtic way. I felt after doing eight months of my discernment course with the diocese that joining a monastic community was what I was called to do right now and bringing a piece of it, hopefully, back to the parishioners of my parish to benefit not just me, but all.

To Bless the Space Between Us by John O’Donohue

This may sound strange, but I’ve been thinking of joining a dispersed religious order for people from all walks of life. That means married people like me can join. This would be a great next step for me in that it would give me a community of folks like me who are intentionally doing everything they can to grow spiritually. This is different than a church community. I love my fellow St. Philips peeps, but I think I could learn a lot from a group like this. And the thought of being in this type of community fills me with joy. There are two I’m looking into, one is a Franciscan order and the other is Anamchara, a Celtic fellowship that is supported by the Episcopal Church. In Anamchara they use John O’Donohue’s, To Bless the Space Between Us, as their prayer book, from what I understand. Just having this book in my house is a blessing! From it exudes so much life and lushness and creation and love—every word is so beautifully chosen. So as I’m discerning what to do, this book will help guide me I think into the next phase of my life of perpetual spiritual growth.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

The mystic in all of us…here is an example in a Puritan woman from 1675.

Trying to pick a couple easy paperback reads for our trip through spring break. I love travel stories, but the first narrative in this collection is of Mary Rowlandson who, along with her three children, was taken captive by an indigenous tribe while living in Massachusetts in 1675. The first draft was written in her own hand and it is of a different type of travel story in which she recounts the 150 miles she walked over the course of eleven weeks with her captors. The author of the prologue to her narrative said something very interesting and…can you believe…mystical! They write, “Rowlandson’s narrative, moreover, stands in contrast to the other narratives included in this collection, both in regard to its religious tone and in its significant lack of exterior descriptions. For in her depiction of a Puritan soul who struggles from sinfulness to regeneration, Rowlandson cares less for the surrounding wilderness and focuses instead on a more interior journey.”

So mystical and beautiful! When we struggle we look to our center and focus on that which is God. Rowlandson was eventually returned to her husband. She was not mistreated by her captors at all. However, her little daughter died from injuries she received when she was first kidnapped.

The Interior Castle by St. Teresa of Avila

Just started this!! I love St. Teresa of Avila, no one messed with her. If you need human strength, her words can help. I’ve heard this is her book about prayer but as I’m reading it, it seems that it is more about the intentional spiritual journey, the drawing closer to union with God, and the way to ‘perfection’. Perhaps I heard wrong or maybe I’m misinterpreting the book so far, but as I’m envisioning her descriptions it seems to be more of a pilgrimage to the pointing to God, which we are striving to do.

I had a little castle, but I put this appropriately shaped barnacle in the scene instead. Can anyone guess why? 😄 hint: it has to do with the book. Haha 🥸

Living Buddha, Living Christ by Thich Nhat Hanh

Getting into it!! So excited to be reading something beautiful and inspiring again!!

My Lenten devotion to meditation is going well, but I had to put down Cynthia Bourgeault’s book on centering prayer, because it was too pragmatic in its thinking about something that really can’t be explained. I think Thomas Keating and she have done a lot to bring ‘silence’ out of obscurity in the Christian religion, but I found both their books about centering prayer dry and cold. I know they are both acclaimed writers on this subject but I couldn’t get into it. Too many big words for me. 😄

Centering Prayer and Inner Awakening by Cynthia Bourgeault

Part of my Lenten devotion was to be more intentional with meditation and prayer. Was able to start reading this last night. Looking forward to getting into it more! It always takes me about a week to think about what devotion I will take into Lent. I’m always coming to the show late after thinking and thinking…maybe I’ll give up chocolate, cheese, wine…but in the end I chose to add rather than subtract. So I got up this morning at 5am to do morning meditation. With all the different schedules I’ve had to get used to lately this is the only time left for silence. Sacrificing sleep won’t kill me but rather, in this case, help me live!

Niels Lyhne by Jens Peter Jacobsen

A well known recommendation from poet Rainer Maria Rilke. It fell out of circulation for a while because Jacobsen’s prose was difficult to translate. This translation, however, by Tiina Nunnally has won awards and so far it’s been an enjoyable read and so incredibly deep. This was Jacobsen’s masterpiece written after he was diagnosed with chronic tuberculosis which he knew would eventually kill him. So it is a story of a soul really, a soul’s journey from childhood into adulthood pondering questions of immortality.

My book Detroit’s Lost Poletown—sold out already?!!

My book released yesterday and it’s already sold out online at Barnes and Noble, Target and Amazon! This came as a shock to me, but a lot of people told me they preordered it. I hope its success will continue, and it pays honorable homage to the neighborhood and the people impacted by its razing. Thank you to all who preordered the book and plan to get it from their local bookshop! 💕

New Book Release 👉👉👉Detroit’s Lost Poletown: The Little Neighborhood that Touched a Nation

My work for the last two years has come to fruition…thank you @historypress for believing in this story!! It officially releases in a week!
Available for preorder now!!! Link: http://bit.ly/Poletown

Poletown was once a vibrant, ethically diverse neighborhood in Detroit. In its prime, it had a store on every corner. Its theater, restaurants and schools thrived, and its churches catered to a multiplicity of denominations. In 1981, General Motors announced plans for a new plant and pointed to the 465 acres of Poletown. Using the law of eminent domain with a quick-take clause, the city planned to relocate 4,200 residents within ten months and raze the neighborhood. With unprecedented defiance the residents fought back in vain. In 2004, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the eminent domain law applied to Poletown was unconstitutional—a ruling that came two decades too late.

Mementos & Treasures…

You can see I marked Isaiah 55: 9-13. I also placed some leaves from that Fall season two or three years ago that my daughter gave me.
But that little pen mark by verse 9: I marked it years ago when I first ventured to read the Bible. I thought these markings would distract me, so I made them as small as I could, but I love coming across them! They are precious, and I wish I would have marked more verses like this. That person I was a couple years ago (we should always be growing) found something sweet and significant in these lines. And now my attention is drawn again to them as it was my reading today, and I have spent all morning meditating on these verses (Lectio Divina), and it was a joy!

General Crack by George Preedy

Not the most romantic title, but so far I’m enjoying this piece of fiction by George Preedy (actually a pen name for British Author, Margaret Gabrielle Vere Long Campbell). I haven’t read anything in a while that I looked forward to at the end of the day, so this has been such a pleasure. To think it has been in my collection for years and I never touched it! What other beautiful stories are hiding on my bookshelves? 🤔

The book of Zechariah

“…’Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’…” (Zechariah 1:3)

Zechariah is another prophet. He and the prophet Haggai (see yesterday’s post) are both trying to encourage the people to complete Jerusalem’s temple, but the people keep getting distracted by other things. Sounds a lot like when God calls us to do something, but OUR plans take over or we are sidetracked and veer off God’s path. Zechariah was there to herd the people back to finish what they started.

Kind of like me finishing these Bible posts for the entire Bible. I said I was going to do it, so here I am finishing what I was called to do. Now there are only two posts left until we’ve done them all! Whether they helped you or not I’m thankful to all of you who have supported me in this endeavor. I enjoyed this journey probably more than anyone else. 🙃And I do encourage everyone to read the Bible, especially if it’s something that is nagging you–that might be God calling!

Not only is it a great goal to read the whole thing, but it is also great protection against people who use the Bible as a way to spread hate and fear. If you’ve read it, you can set many people straight (including yourself) and possibly inspire with your knowledge of Christ as love and mercy. It is better than sitting back allowing the world to fester in its own lie (fear and hate), as I did for so many years, almost to the point where I started to believe the lie myself. Get back to building that temple inside of you! 😄

The Book of Esther

In what simple way is God calling you to act that would draw you closer to Him? For me it was spending a year to read and study the Bible. .

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These are my own contemplative thoughts. If you disagree with the below that’s ok! .

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Before Christ, in the Old Testament, under the old covenant, only priests were allowed near the altar, and they acted as the mediators between God and man. The book of Esther is symbolic to this as it describes her standing in the inner court in front of the king’s hall. The king sees Queen Esther just outside his inner court, HE FINDS FAVOR IN HER (a statement we read often in scripture when God’s relationship to his people is discussed) and holds out his scepter to her as a sign that it is ok to approach him. She moves towards him and touches the very tip of his scepter, a sign of her obedience and humility. To me her approach is like those hoping to come to God either for the first time or after a long hiatus. We have to approach with humility and an open heart, yet we do not have to be pure, or holy, or of a certain worldly stature. We are allowed to come as we are. Esther, who despite knowing she was doing something against the man-made laws of the day said she would approach the king to save her people the Jews from being slaughtered, “even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish.” In this statement she showed her bravery. This kind of bravery is what God wants to see from us, wants us to cut through all the worldly “laws” like our own expectations, guilt, rules, etc., right to Him. And He will find favor in us for this—we will become his special students in that moment, He will take us under His wing and show us wonderful miracles and bless us tremendously, especially show us how to find His kind of joy in this life if we keep our eyes open to Him. .

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Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner

Contemplative Vision by Juliet Benner is a book about contemplating religious art with prayer in mind and using it to expand our prayer life by gazing at the face of God through it, seeing His face and meditating about the art’s purpose/story, and the artist’s time creating it. The book discusses using art as a purpose to expand our faith and awe. For instance, the artists who create icons of Christ meditate on his face for hours while painting him. Just beautiful! .

Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker

Talk about a cozy book for the season! Prairie Avenue by Arthur Meeker is that! Prairie Avenue was a really fancy neighborhood in Chicago in the early 1900’s. This story highlights the world that goes on behind closed doors—really fancy ones—and in rooms—really fancy ones with large stone fireplaces and indoor gardens. Despite what we may see, trouble can brew anywhere and people can be in pain even though their life may look grand on the outside. Arthur Meeker highlights this kind of paradox and I highly recommend it! It’s one of my favorites and it is one of the few books I would read again. .

Soul on Ice by Eldridge Cleaver

It was just a couple days before the Buffalo shooting I was debating to read Soul on Ice or the essays of Audre Lorde. I had both copies on my shelf and I went for this one. I would encourage everyone to read more work by black authors. This one in particular has been enlightening. The Buffalo shooting is terrible. If anyone of us is dying because of ignorance and hatred then we are all dying. Sometimes, when I’m faced with it, I’m overwhelmed by our broken world.

Eldridge Cleaver was one of the early leaders of the Black Panthers and was editor of their newsletter. He was convicted of several crimes which resulted in his imprisonment in Folsom Prison—same prison in which Johnny Cash cut a live album in 1968, two years after Cleaver would be released. It was in this year (1968) that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Cleaver was a follower of Malcolm X and was devastated by his assassination in 1965. It could be argued that this event really influenced his activism going forward, his involvement with the Black Panther Party, and his running for president via the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.

📸 wikipedia

“From my prison cell, I have watched America slowly coming awake. It is not fully awake yet, but there is soul in the air and everywhere I see beauty. I have watched the sit-ins, the freedom rides the Mississippi Blood Summers, demonstrations all over the country, the F.S.M. movement, the teach-ins, and the mounting protest over Lyndon Strangelove’s foreign policy —all of this, the thousands of little details, show me it is time to straighten up and fly right. That is why I decided to concentrate on my writings and efforts in this area. We are a very sick country —I, perhaps, am sicker than most. But I accept that. I told you in the beginning that I am extremist by nature —so it is only right that I should be extremely sick. I was very familiar with the Eldridge who came to prison, but that Eldridge no longer exists. And the one I am now is in some ways a stranger to me.”

— Eldridge Cleaver, Soul on Ice, 1968