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July 4th. Thoughts turn to country and patriotism. Flags wave and for a brief moment we share a sense of solidarity, taking time to acknowledge our greatness and thanking God for our prosperity. Speeches are spoken, anthems are sung. We ask God to continue to bless us. America, that shining city on a hill. The beacon of hope to the world.

Others are not proud of some of the acts our country and government have perpetrated and allowed. Pointing to our record on civil rights, and the marginalization of whole groups of people, among other atrocities, they expound our country’s guilt.

Carl Jung, a psychologist from the turn of the century, built many of his theories around sets of dualistic principles. Yin-yang if you will. He believed that it was important to embrace both parts of a dichotomy if we were to move forward.

One of his dualistic concepts was the persona and the shadow. Briefly stated, the persona is what we present to the world, the part of us that looks desirable. We are happy to put our persona on display. The shadow is the part of us that we take pains not to show. It is the part of us we would rather not admit. Jung stated that we are both the persona and the shadow. To deny either one is to deny who you are.

So on this July 4th, I will acknowledge my immense gratitude to my country that has given me so much. I will accept that there are parts of our story, past and present that are detestable. I will acquiesce that there is no call for smugness, that our shining city on a hill has some dark and disturbing ghettos. I will embrace our goodness and our darkness. For to deny one is to negate the other. Persona and shadow.

Sitting in church yesterday, for some odd reason, I looked around the room and imagined the 150 or so hearts pumping, the 150 pairs of lungs, kidneys, pancreases that were all functioning enough to keep everyone alert and engaged in the service.

Later that day I heard about a 16 year old girl who lived in our subdivision and was to be a Junior next year at our local high school. She decided to go for a run. Shortly after starting, she collapsed and died on the trail, a short distance from her home. Something failed, and a tragic end to a young life was the result.

It is so hard for me not to take my life for granted. It is hard to live in the moment, to be grateful for the all the systems that sustain my life. Organs and glands do not continue to function based on my feelings of gratitude. The systems tirelessly maintain their vigilance to sustain my body and mind. They don’t need gratitude to keep them functioning. But I can still be grateful.

Thank you heart! Thank you lungs! Thank you bladder…huh? (the last line is to keep it from getting lost in syrupy rhetoric.) And even when I am not aware of how strong my dependence is on you, I thank you for your steadfast labor on my behalf.

Last night I watched the movie, “The Artist”. I had read no reviews and had no idea what to expect. All I knew is that it had won best picture.

It started out as a silent movie, with exaggerated expressions, and the less than descriptive caption boards. Once the movie ended, I thought I would be able to hear the conversations of the actors. I was wrong. It slowly dawned on me that I was watching a silent movie about a silent movie. It was frustrating. I was reduced to lip reading and waiting for the caption boards, that came too far apart to be truly helpful.

I wanted to hear what was going on. My wife bailed out halfway through the movie. I got up to get a snack. While I wasn’t willing to quit the movie, I felt the last half was going to be more endurance than enjoyment, I settled in to finish the movie and my chips.

That is when the magic hit. Once I understood that the movie was not going to become a talkie, I settled into acceptance. As the story continued, I came to see the genius of the film. My change of perspective revealed amazing creativity. The creators moved the film from a cerebral study of a man who wouldn’t change, to a visceral understanding of what was at stake,

The story is about a man, George Valentin, who stars in silent movies. When talkies are introduced, he wants nothing to do with them. He sees no reason to change. People have been filling the theaters to watch his silent movies for years now. Given the opportunity to embrace something new, he refuses.

At the same time a young woman, Peppy Miller, starts as a dancer in silent films and when given the opportunity, agrees to star in a talkie. George, believing he is right, bankrolls another silent film, which debuted the same day as the movie Peppy Miller stars in. The audiences overwhelmingly choose the talkie. George’s intransigence plunges him into financial ruin.

This is where the brilliance of the movie lay for me. The filmmakers didn’t just tell me a story of a man who wouldn’t change. The movie let me feel the consequence of that choice. As the movie continued, I felt how limiting the silent movie medium actually was. I wanted to be in on the conversations and the caption boards were too few to be effective. The music gave me cues, but I wanted more.

The movie forces me to connect with George’s decision, in a visceral way. When George refuses to change, his world diminishes. It does not enlarge or even stay the same. And watching the movie I could feel it. My word was diminished. I felt my movie going experience could have been so much richer than what I got. I wanted to hear the actors talk!

So, to put it bluntly, if you don’t change, your life will be reduced. The creators of this film not only want you to know it. They want you to feel it as well.

Change is but one of many themes explored in the movie. “The Artist” was cleverly done, with its truths expounded slowly seeping into my consciousness. A truly clever movie.