189: Readers Tell Us About Spiritual Tools, Stereotypes, Zohan, Eulogies

    Once again, we’ve received so many creative and helpful notes from readers this week that we’re going to share some of your best comments and ideas … Today, it’s your page! And, please, we love to hear from readers!


    The Rev. Jeff Johnson, a Baptist minister in North Carolina, Emailed to say that he’s hooked on an idea we shared a couple of weeks ago in our story about a pilgrimage through IKEA. Jeff wrote:
    I came across the article on the same day our church began a summer mini-series on spiritual gifts, and I found the “synchronicity” spiritually energizing. I plan to use your article at some point in our gifts study, and I might just steal your idea of doing a pilgrimage with our people at a home-store in the near future.
    In the actual IKEA pilgrimage that I led near our ReadTheSpirit home office, I asked men and women to reflect on a number of questions throughout their time in the store — but the most interesting question proved to be: What kind of tool am I?
    It’s a fresh way to contemplate our spiritual gifts. Jeff was struck that as my own symbol I chose a tool, a pencil, that was a departure from the traditional list of tools.
    Jeff said he’d probably choose an unusual tool, as well:
    In my reflection, I have found myself in the toolbag as the “stud finder.” I am able to find the solid places behind the walls and help people connect their picture, find their place and feel secure.


    Mary Liepold from the Washington D.C. area was among the readers thanking us for our Monday story this week about the resurfacing of ugly stereotypes in media.
    Reporting on this issue is far more than an intellectual exercise. Millions of Americans find themselves the targets of such imagery and, even if they confidently ignore it for the most part — we all should be aware of how close to home this problem can be for many families.
    Mary added a personal voice to this issue:
    As the mother of two adopted Asian children (as well as two home-made ones), all four of whom are now adults, I’m especially interested in hearing about stereotyping of Asians. And, I am appalled by the regression you report.
    Mary pointed out that it’s especially difficult to find positive, diverse images in movies. At ReadTheSpirit, we’ve written quite a bit about independent filmmakers trying to provide alternative spiritual stories and viewpoints. But, it’s a struggle — and Mary said this also is an issue that concerns her. She wrote:
    I’m frustrated by the fact that all the wonderful progressive documentaries people are turning out these days are so hard to find, even in a culturally rich area like DC. We have the SilverDocs festival and various organizations hold showings, but they’re not on tap the way a lot of less important stuff is. And I know that in smaller communities they must be even harder to find.
    Mary is fortunate to live near Washington D.C. where there is more alternative cinema in theaters than in many cities! If you’re in that part of the U.S., here’s a link to the SilverDocs festival Mary recommends — coming up next week: June 16 to 23.


    Speaking of spiritual themes at the movies, a great place to find even more reviews than we publish at ReadTheSpirit is Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat’s “Spirituality and Practice” Web site.
    On Monday, we invited readers to tell us what they thought of the blockbuster “You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.” In its first week in theaters, “Zohan” took in $50 million, surpassed only by “Kung Fu Panda,” which means basically that Americans in large numbers enjoyed Adam Sandler’s comedy.
    (PREVIEW NOTE: Watch ReadTheSpirit, because within just a few weeks we’re going to bring you an in-depth Conversation With one of the actors in Zohan — no, not Sandler, but someone we think has an even more remarkable story to tell about spiritual diversity in the entertainment industry.)
    Fred and Mary Ann responded to our question on Monday with a link to their Zohan review, which is generally quite positive toward the movie.
    I’m impressed that they linked the film to the spiritual tradition of “Crazy Wisdom” — sharp thinking, Fred and Mary Ann! They said in part:
    Adam Sandler’s over-the-top comedy pokes fun at the antics of superheroes through the lead character, a top Israeli counter-terrorism operative. But there is also another entry point into this movie for spiritual people: it’s a great example of the “crazy wisdom” espoused through the ages by saints, holy fools, jesters, poets and artists of all stripes.
    Click on over to their site to read the whole review, especially if you’re thinking of taking in a movie this weekend.


     Please note as well — “The Incredible Hulk” is likely to be the huge draw this weekend and we’re wide open to comments readers want to send us about any spiritual themes they spot, after watching Edward Norton attempt the role that’s been played by others over the years.
    Like the Brussats, we find ourselves at ReadTheSpirit frequently suggesting unusual films and TV programs to you — things you might completely miss if someone didn’t point them out. You’ve told us that you appreciate such suggestions.
    But you’ve also told us that you enjoy the give-and-take of exploring some of the bigger Hollywood movies, too. So, please — we’d love to hear what you think about the big green guy stomping through thousands of towns this weekend.


    I keep hearing from readers that our Conversation with Cyrus Copeland, the leading authority on the art of the eulogy, was very helpful. I bumped into a reader recently at a church I was visiting, who was eager to show me that he had a copy of the book and was enjoying it.
    Then, he paused awkwardly as we were making our way through the church’s doorway. “You think I’m odd?” he asked. “You know, enjoying reading about dead people?”
    “Not at all,” I said.
    Then, shortly after crossing paths with this fellow, I got a wonderful Email from the artist Nancy Thayer, explaining the importance of eulogies far better than I had in my three-word answer in the middle of a church doorway. Nancy wrote:
    I was very happy to read about the writings of Cyrus Copeland on the Art of Eulogy. A few years ago I had the unusual experience of attending several funerals in a very short period. I was asked to give an introduction/eulogy at one celebration for a friend who had passed away, so I’ve had a small bit of experience writing a eulogy.
    It was an extraordinary experience because it allowed me the opportunity of getting to know this wonderful man so much better than I had before his death. The more I learned, the more I wished I had known all of this from the start of our friendship. I wanted the chance to appreciate him more while he was here, but that could not be.
    Most of the funerals I have attended make me, as Jack Nicholson said, want to be a better person. The eulogies focused on the good, the strengths and the accomplishments — not on the petty shortcomings. While they didn’t aggrandize, they did see the individuals in a way it would benefit all of us to see others and ourselves: in the best light possible, as humans doing the best we can do.
    After an experience like that, I feel determined to appreciate those around me more fully, but that
commitment doesn’t always last long. I seem to go back to old habits of not
really getting beneath the surface of relationships except for family
and a few close friends.
    Your interview reminds me that I have another opportunity today to be a better person, to see the best in others and celebrate their lives while they are here.

THANK YOU to all the readers we’ve quoted today! And, thank you as well to all of our readers who send us such marvelous notes!
    If you didn’t see your comment or suggestion show up today — keep reading, because we’ll have more news, reviews, quizzes and inspiring interviews next week.

AND PLEASE, as these readers have done — Tell Us What You Think.
    There’s still time to sign up for our Monday morning ReadTheSpirit Planner by Email — it’s free and you can cancel it any time you’d like to do so.
    Not only do we welcome your notes, ideas, suggestions and personal reflections — but our readers enjoy them as well. You can do this anytime by clicking on the “Comment” links at the end of each story. You also can Email ReadTheSpirit Editor David Crumm. We’re also reachable on Facebook, Digg, Amazon, GoodReads and some of the other social-networking sites as well, if you’re part of those groups.

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