Inspiration

The Eternal Inner Message of the Arts

“Most of us can remember the strangely moving power of passages in certain poems read when we were young, irrational doorways as they were through which the mystery of fact, the wildness and the pang of life, stole into our hearts and thrilled them. The words have now perhaps become mere polished surfaces for us; but lyric poetry and music are alive and significant only in proportion as they fetch these vague vistas of a life continuous with our own, beckoning and inviting, yet ever eluding our pursuit. We are alive or dead to the eternal inner message of the arts according as we have kept or lost this mystical susceptibility.” — William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience

Grandfather’s home, which is now Uncle Marts’s home. Yangmei, Taiwan.

Inspiration

Grief and Humor Smashed

A family wails into a vulgar pile as cameras flash. From The Host by Bong Joon-ho.

Inspiration

Sad Astronaut Movie Marathon

Ad Astra directed by James Gray, written by James Gray and Ethan Gross

Solaris (1972), directed by Andrei Tarkovsky, written by Andrei Tarkovsky and Fridrikh Gorenshtein, based on a novel by Stanisław Lem

Solaris (2002) written and directed by Steven Soderbergh, based on a novel by Stanisław Lem

Interstellar directed by Christopher Nolan, written by Jonathan Nolan and Christopher Nolan

2001: A Space Odyssey directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Arthur C. Clarke and Stanley Kubrick, inspired by a short story by Arthur C. Clarke

Inspiration

Sad Priest Movie Marathon

Calvary written and directed by John Michael McDonagh

Winter Light written and directed by Ingmar Bergman

First Reformed written and directed by Paul Schrader

Inspiration

Hope and Despair

“Courage is the solution to despair. Reason provides no answers. I can’t know what the future will bring. We have to choose despite uncertainty. Wisdom is holding two contradictory truths in our mind, simultaneously, hope and despair… Holding these two ideas in our head is life itself.” — First Reformed by Paul Schrader

Inspiration

To Live Without God

“The greatest question of our time is whether men can bear to live without God…. I cannot believe, in the face of biology, in the eternity of the individual self; nor, in the face of history, can I believe in a personal anthropomorphic God. But unlike the tougher minds of my time I miss these encouragements, and cannot quite forget the poetry with which they surrounded my youth… What immortality means to me now is that we are all parts of a whole… the whole is made forever different by what we have done and been… Perhaps the greatest Whole, to which in all generations the greatest souls have devoted themselves, will, in tomorrow’s religion, be called God.” —Will Durant, 1932

Iceland

Inspiration

Every Man is a Mob

“Every man is a mob, a chain gain of idiots. This is the tragedy of life. Because for a few minutes of every day, every man becomes a genius… But then the genius has to hand over the controls to the next guy down the pike, most likely the guy who just wants to eat potato chips… The only way out of this mess, of course, is to take steps to ensure that you control the idiots that you become… The best way to do this is with a list.” —Memento Mori by Jonathan Nolan

Lisbon, Portugal

Inspiration

Who She Is, Where She Belongs

“In the thirteen years since Zema came to America, she has never had any idea that having no idea who she is and having no idea where she belongs makes her more American than anyone.” — Shadowbahn by Steve Erickson

Two Guns, Arizona

Inspiration

Memories in Circulation

“Strangely, the memory of eating eggs on Chinese New Year was one that my mother later told to me as well, except in this version, it was she who had grown up in the countryside—even though she had actually grown up in Fuzhou city proper. It was as if she had absorbed her husband’s memories as her own. Or maybe she was trying to speak for him, to keep his memories in circulation.” —Severance by Ling Ma

Death Valley, California

Inspiration

From a Single Throat

“His keenest memory was of Rome, standing before the Michelangelo Pieta in St Peter’s, of the rows of sputtering candles, the kneeling women, rich and poor, young and old, fixing their eyes on the Virgin’s face with an intensity of longing almost too painful to witness. He remembered their outstretched arms, their palms pressed against the glass protective shield, the low continual mutter of their prayers as if this ceaseless anguished moan came from a single throat and carried to that unrewarding marble the hopeless longing of all the world.” — Children of Men by P.D. James

Rome, Italy

Inspiration

Small Dull Smears of Meditative Panic

“He said we do this all the time, all of us, we become ourselves beneath the running thoughts and dim images, wondering idly when we’ll die. This is how we live and think whether we know it or not. These are the unsorted thoughts we have looking out the train window, small dull smears of meditative panic.” —Point Omega by Don DeLillo

Medan, Indonesia

Inspiration

Public Art + Time

A 1965 sculpture once under a waterfall is now a motif of people scrambling the hell out of TGI Fridays Restaurant. The city goes on. Tuscan Girl Fountain by Oskar Stonorov and Jorio Vivarelli in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Inspiration

Pliancy and Weakness

“Pliancy and weakness are expressions of the freshness of being. Because what has hardened will never win.” —Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky

Inspiration

A Ritual for Candor

In a temple in Taiwan, we joined family members and burned ghost money (symbolic paper money) to send prosperity to ancestors. The shared act opened the door to candid conversations about death, grief, and the funerals of loved ones. On the flip side, this ritual is so popular in Taiwan that it contributes to significant air pollution. While an uncle faithfully burned several stacks of “cash,” an aunt suggested we modernize and write one “check.”

Yangmei, Taiwan

Inspiration

This Confusion Is Me As I Am

“But this confusion is me as I am, not as I’d like to be. I’m no longer afraid of telling the truth about what I don’t know, what I’m looking for, what I haven’t found. Only this way do I feel alive.”   – 8 1/2 by Federico Fellini

Inspiration

A Ritual for Atonement

On a temple floating in the middle of a lake, an old monk writes sutras on the wooden deck with a cat’s tail dipped in ink, and a student is instructed to methodically carve these characters with the same knife he once used in destructive ways. From the film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring directed by Kim Ki-duk.

Inspiration

To Live Without Certainty

“To teach how to live without certainty, and yet without being paralyzed by hesitation, is perhaps the chief thing that philosophy, in our age, can still do for those who study it.” —Bertrand Russell, The History of Western Philosophy

Heraklion, Greece