Hurricane Katrina

These are difficult days for our brothers and sisters in the area hit and effected by Hurricane Katrina. I was thinking that those of us who are watching or listening or reading about the devastation and rescue efforts go about our daily lives – such as watching movies and writing about them – and wonder what we can do to help. There seems to be such a disconnect between some aspects of daily life in America and the utter loss that our brothers and sisters are living through at the same time. I watch frivolity in the ads about new films and the TV season and I wonder what transcendent meaning they can possibly have to those who are without basic needs.

Viktor Frankel in “Man’s Search for Meaning” speaks about ways to accept and live life in freedom in the midst of impossible tragedy. I found this on a web site: “As Viktor Frankel said in his incredible book, we are free to choose how we interpret what happens to us.”

Yet, when people are hungry, in need of fresh water, medicine, clothing, and hope for the future, how is this possible?

I do not have the answer to this question.

What I do know is that for us who have access to the beauty of stories told through cinema can find in them the presence of God especially when people act in Christ-like ways and are willing to make sacrifices for others.

In 2001 Father Elwood “Bud” Kieser, CSP, founder of The Humanitas Prize for film and television writing, was interviewed about “The Insider” that won in the feature film category. The NBC correspondent said to Fr. Kieser: ” I don’t remember seeing God in ‘The Insider'” Fr. Kieser responded, “The word ‘God’ was not there but the reality was. Whenever people do things unselfishly, God is present.”

This is where art, cinema, hope, meaning, spirituality, and humanity intersect I think. Beauty is found, God is found, when people love, act, unselfishly. When stories about people who lay down their lives for others are told through cinema, we are all enriched and inspired to do likewise. What heroic stories will emerge from the tragic consequences of this storm (upon other storms)? What role will I play?

Pope Benedict XVII, as Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger wrote in 2002: Art cannot be “produced”, as one contracts out and produces technical equipment. It is always a gift. Inspiration is not something one can choose for oneself. It has to be received, otherwise it is not there. One cannot bring about a renewal of art in faith by money or through commissions. Before all things it requires the gift of a new kind of seeing. And so it would be worth our while to regain a faith that sees. Wherever that exists, art finds its proper expressions.”

May our eyes be filled with this new way of seeing beauty – and the possibility for beauty – in human and natural desolation and respond to it. May we be the beauty our brothers and sisters need at this time, as they are living in the kind of extreme physical and spiritual “de profundis” we often see in cinema stories, in whatever way we can.

Here is one site you can access to donate to help:

www.catholiccharitiesusa/katrina.cfm

Here’s another idea. I am reading a book about the lost boys of the Sudan. At one point the boys end up in a town with an abandoned library. The sell the books for money for food. But one boy, who found a book that had been read to him as a child at the school in his village where his family lived, kept that book and took it with him on his journey, because it meant so much to him. People will need books and Bibles as they stay in huge stadiums in chaos and seek to put the pieces of their lives together. The Daughters of St. Paul are working on a way to make books and Bibles available. When the information is available, I will post it here.

I am hoping that the film industry will realize how important cinema art is to the rebuilding of hope.  And when it is possible, make films accessible to people. As such films will be “spaces” and “places” for the spiritual and moral imagination to believe that life will be good, even if it is different, once again.

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