Enlightened Conflict

juxtaposition

November 24th, 2016

 

juxtaposition-stop-keep-moving-life-advice

 

“It is a union that suggests the essential mystery of the world.

Art for me is not an end in itself, but a means of evoking that mystery. ”

 

René Magritte on putting seemingly unrelated objects together in art

 

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jux·ta·po·si·tion

noun

 

  1. the fact of two things being seen or placed close together with contrasting effect.

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Thanksgiving often represents the ultimate juxtaposition.

 

dream interesting headA time and place in which generations intersect.

 

The ones intermittently stepping with both uncertainty and moments of certain confidence … growing into who they will be.

 

The ones intermittently standing in a space of satisfaction and moments of dissatisfaction … who grapple with who they are <and what they have done and have not done>.

 

The ones intermittently looking at how things have changed, for good and bad, who desperately hold on to who and what everyone was … while every bone in their body wants to see how it will be better for those around them despite how much has changed.

 

 

Thanksgiving is fraught with juxtapositions.

 

And we wonder why there is often conflict?

 

Thanksgiving often forces us to view the past, present and future in one forced viewing. And not only that but instead of the more common sit back and introspectively view your own intersection of past, present & future this one is more often done in a collaboration & consensus event where all participants weigh in and offer some thoughts on. And the participants aren’t typically some random people pulled of the street or employees in some department you only see in the break room … these participants are representative of what truly happened in your past, are most likely semi involved in your present and , whether you like it or not, are places you will visit again in your future.

 

The juxtaposition of what is in your own mind and what is in others minds shifts the intangible to tangible as real as the turkey being served on a plate to everyone.

 

I often do think that Thanksgiving is art coming to Life.

 

We picture the picture.

We choose the palette of colors to use.

We all place a brush on the canvas.

 

And, in the end, we gaze at the end product … each seeing it through our own lens of what Life means to us and what we mean to Life.

 

Juxtapositions can be difficult.

 

Difficult to … well … like … or maybe to embrace easily.bad-good-juxtapose-life-family-ideas

 

Difficult to easily see how the good and bad embody … well … good shit.

 

Difficult to see a reality that matches … well … the reality we had in our head before we were forced to encounter this juxtaposition.

 

Regardless.

 

I have one word for you today, on this thanksgiving, as we ponder this day in which we are faced with juxtaposition  … “neighboring.”

 

In the Modern Guide of Synonyms juxtaposition does not have its own heading.

It can only be found under “neighboring.”

 

Juxtaposing can be found only side by side with adjacent, adjoining, contiguous and neighboring.

 

Far too often we, I included, separate past, present and future … “live in the moment” … “learn from the past” … “the future is now.”

All that shit.

 

Last year on Thanksgiving I suggested it is the functional dysfunctional being served as a good tasting dish on the day. That on Thanksgiving all of that typically comes together and eats together. But I also suggested … “all I know is that my family is my family and my childhood was my childhood and my future is my future.”

And that the functionally dysfunctional in all aspects, and all the aspects, helped craft the man, the person, I am today. I imagine I am not that different in that aspect from anyone else.

 

I was a victim of it all without becoming a victim of the experience. Just as I will be a victim of the future without becoming a victim of the experience.

 

Anyway.

 

Past, present and future are neighbors. We see each other every day and say good morning even when grumpy and not awake and talk about what is happening with our kids and lives over the fence in between chores. And these neighbors paint the canvas of our lives. Yeah. Sometimes we don’t always like what we see but sometimes it all comes together just right.

 

Thanksgiving, while a forced juxtaposition in which we are forced to sit and face next generation of thinkerspast, present & future, is a gathering of neighboring thoughts, adjacent thoughts, adjoining thoughts and contiguous thoughts.

 

And that, my friends, is what art is.

 

A gathering of all those thoughts.

A creation borne of the mystery of the world … and our world.

 

Ponder that this thanksgiving wherever you are and whoever you are with.

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

functionally dysfunctional is actually the norm

November 26th, 2015

dysfunctional functional

“My life doesn’t teach me absolutes.”

Unknown

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Okay:

according to some etymologists, was an acronym for “oll korrect” <slang for “all correct”>.

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I thought on Thanksgiving, a day when families typically gather, it would be a good day to discuss dysfunction.

 

 

In a way functionally dysfunctional is actually one of the Life absolutes.

 

 

This becomes important because I imagine beyond moral imperatives Life thanksgiving darthabsolutes are few and far between.

 

 

What I do know is that if you google Life absolutes you get overwhelmed with ‘life help lists’ of “5 truths of Life” … ‘absolutes of womanhood’ … ‘absolutes of family’ … but none of the absolutes seem to recognize the functional dysfunctionality of Life.

 

 

Lets face it … we are all victims of some dysfunctional aspects of Life, family or something. To suggest that anyone’s life, or family, doesn’t and didn’t contain some dysfunctionality is kinda silly <if not honest>.

 

And this means everyone.

 

Haves. Have nots. Seemingly well adjusted families and people. Seemingly non well adjusted families and people.

 

 

We all have encountered good and we all have encountered bad. I am not suggesting the life balance sheet is evenly balanced between good and bad … just that we have encountered some on both sides. I would argue the dysfunctional aspects are neither good nor bad. They are simply dysfunctional things we either navigate, or do not navigate, in our attempt to become functional human beings.

 

 

As for not navigating <or not accepting the responsibility to navigate>?

 

I admit.

 

I don’t fit in with, nor do I understand <in a way> what is called the ‘victim mentality’ which seems to pervade society today. We seem to labor under this burden of having been victim to some dysfunction which either <a> is an excuse for our own seeming quasi-debilitating dysfunction or <b> suggests that we have overcome some extraordinary thing which makes our ‘being functional’ more heroic in some way.

 

 

I personally don’t need any excuses nor do I need to try and make whatever I have made of my life look better by suggesting my ‘better’ occurred despite some obstacles or ‘odds against me.’

 

functional to dysfunctional business

Some call this personal responsibility.

 

 

And I imagine I could but instead I simply suggest that all of us decide to be functional within, or despite, what is normally some dysfunctional family & life aspects.

 

 

The whole idea that someone commits a crime or some ‘lesser than desirable behavior’ which is a portrayal of some lack of moral fortitude because … well … we cannot really blame them because they had a rough or less than perfect childhood or came from a dysfunctional family environment is … uhm … generally speaking … an excuse.

 

 

Ok.

 

 

In general … let me suggest it is bullshit.

 

 

Everybody had a tough childhood.

 

 

I could argue that being a child is tough by definition.

 

 

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Everyone is bigger than you, older than you, smarter than you … and can tell you what to do. and while parents who are abusive, mean drunks, & addicts are fortunately not in the majority pretty much 50% of marriages end in divorce … and of the other 50% … let’s say about 90% of those sputter along on 2 cylinders most of the time. so when I hear people moaning or making excuses about a dysfunctional childhood & family … I am tempted to challenge them to show me a truly functional childhood. A real one and not one idealistic concept from a TV show.

<lost source but loved he words>

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And part of being a kid is being part of a family <or typically some cohort of adults>.

 

Adults typically defined by two things with regard to our childhoods:

 

dysfunctional family people

– Good intentions for the child <making decisions based on the best future interest of the child>

 

 

– Flawed behavior and decisions made with good intentions

 

 

That is the weird thing about our families and what creates most of the dysfunctional functional aspects. Parents and families represent the worst of the worst and the best of the best.

 

 

Families can represent the most fucked up aspects of Life which if you reflect upon them too much could represent all the excuses anyone could ever need for a fucked up life and adulthood. But families also represent the most hopeful aspects of Life if you reflect upon actually represent all the good one would ever want to find in Life.

 

 

And on thanksgiving all of that typically comes together and eats together.
All I know is that my family is my family and my childhood was my childhood and my future is my future.

 

Functionally dysfunctional in all aspects and all the aspects helped craft the man, the person, I am today.

 

 

I was a victim of it all without becoming a victim of the experience.

 

dysfunctional life family

I do know that growing up sports was pretty much all I thought about. I played as much as I could anywhere at any time <yea … I was one of those kids who shoveled snow off the courts to play basketball and played baseball at 2 in the afternoon on 100degree + days>.

I studied the games, studied the athletes and knew its history. As a tween I threw a ball against a wall for hours on end pitching and fielding games of future glory.

 

And that was within a family in which sports was code for ‘leisure and nonproductive activity.’

 

 

If I wasn’t doing some activity that ‘bettered me’ <boy scouts, internships, actual labor, education & learning acquisition> I wasn’t being functionally productive. That was our family dysfunction driver. I could shake my head in despair … and I have had people actually shake my their heads in seeming shock <because I turned out to be a decent athlete but not even close to professional> and in the way that good dysfunctional bubbles to the top … I have oddly even found myself defending my family drive. And I could do so because … well … the dysfunction was driven with good intentions.
I am not a psychologist but I assume that sports was more than just a boyhood passion … it was also either a means of escape or rebellion against the functional dysfunction of family.

 

 

Family life, dominated by my brilliant father, was highly, often relentlessly intellectual. I have never spoken with my sister about growing up but I tend to believe we some pressure to display copious brainpower at all times. While I was always a voracious reader <of everything> I gravitated towards sports.

This only exacerbated the functional dysfunction.

 

Doing what came naturally to me made me feel a second rate citizen in the family. To be clear … not necessarily a failure just an outlier or an oddball. The thing I loved, and was okay at, became a badge of our dysfunctionality … and in parallel … our functionality.

 

 

I never wanted to turn myself into someone different. I never wanted to be the intellectual brilliant parents I had and I never wanted to be the more serious and hard-edged focused person I think the functional best interest aspects of my family wanted me to be.

 

I always kind of knew <albeit I couldn’t articulate> that someone can’t unmake who we are and I tend to believe within all the dysfunctional functional aspects of our family everyone just wanted me to be successful being me … it is just their path looked different than what I envisioned my path to be. .

 

 

I can honestly say at the time it was miserable and confusing. But I can also honestly say it was miserable and confusing for all parts & pieces of eth family … not just me.

 

I shared some personal stuff to make a point.

 

 

All families are dysfunctional. And yet still mostly functional. It is a herky jerky Life within a family with moments of smoothness.

 

 

I made mistakes that contributed to dysfunctionality. The family made mistakes that contributed to the dysfunctionality.

We would like to believe our parents, and the family, have all the right answers and do all the right things … but family, and Life, just doesn’t work that way.

 

 

In fact.

If most of us could get their ‘victim’ head out of their asses it would become a little more obvious that the dysfunction contributed to the functional aspects of who and what we are today.

 

 

Childhood has a tendency to magnify the small things. Shit. Childhood has a tendency to super magnify the dysfunctional things.

 

 

All of this leads me back to one of my ‘quotes’ at the top of the post.

 

 

okay typeOkay.

 

 

“Okay,” according to some etymologists, was an acronym for “oll korrect” (which is slang for “all correct”).

 

 

Coming from a dysfunctional functional family has taught me many valuable lessons.

 

Maybe the most important is that despite any dysfunction, if you do not accept being a victim, “it’s going to be okay.”

 

 

Part of being in a family is having to shares loss, pain and heartache … as well as moments of joy, sharing and good intentions. Our experiences taint what we would have liked to be childhood bliss but at the same time this mixture of functional dysfunction teaches us that Life rarely turns out perfect, most of the time things, and you, are not magnificent and that … well … it is all going to be okay. In fact … I believe I could make the point that all the dysfunction is simply being part of an ‘all correct’ Life.

 

 

Life has never been perfect and never will be. Heck. Growing up is never perfect and will never be.

 

 

And while we may look back at the dysfunctional aspects and wish it could have been different … you cannot go back and revise what happened. Therefore you really only have one choice … accept you are a victim of it all without becoming a victim of the experience or become a victim of the dysfunction.

 

 

Anyone and everyone can find flaws or something insufficient in us. That is simply being human.

 

 

But blaming your circumstances on others <parents, childhood, God, fate> and not yourself?

C’mon.

 

Dysfunctionality begets functionality. That’s kinda Life’s gig.

 

 

Life has not betrayed you. No one has betrayed you. Only you can betray you on this particular topic. You have to pretty much embrace your dysfunction, and dysfunctional family aspects, on your terms and move forward.

 

 

===

 

“If your success is not on your own terms, if it looks good to the world but does not feel good in your heart, it is not success at all.”

getting older awkward_family_

Not My Family

 

 

Anna Quindlen

 

 

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So, on Thanksgiving, recognize that Life is functionally dysfunctional and that pretty much everyone has had a dysfunctional Life, childhood and family experience.

 

 

And despite it all … most of us are pretty functional.

And we are because we figure out how to accept, if not embrace, the flawed dysfunctional functional people we are as individuals … and the individuals in our families. We figure out that despite all the dysfunction … it is all going to be okay if we believe it will be okay.

giving thanks to eagles on thanksgiving

November 28th, 2013

 

“… the turkey was “a little vain and silly.”

 

Ben Franklinturkeys discussing

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

No matter how you may look over your past year … inevitably you find things to give thanks for.

 

But I am going to look into the “way-back” machine to find what to be thankful for this year.Like maybe 1776 or so.

 

If cooler heads had not prevailed early in the beginnings of the creation of the good ole US of A … we may be eating eagles for thanksgiving.

 

Why?

 

Because if it had been up to Benjamin Franklin the turkey would have been the national bird instead of the bald eagle.

 

turkey vs eagleWhich would have then <of course> made a turkey a protected species <therefore uneatable because unkillable> and … well … I imagine we would be eating eagles on thanksgiving <okay … maybe not … but it made for a fun thought>.

 

So.

This Thanksgiving I would like to give my thanks to whomever we should thank for getting Ben to focus on something other than turkeys as a national bird.

 

In case you didn’t know about this the National Wildlife website was kind enough to have actually written something about this in 2007 so I will share their words:

 

Nations often adopt animals as symbols: England has its lion, India its peacock. On the afternoon of July 4, 1776, just after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress appointed a committee made up of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin to select a design for an official national seal.

 

The three patriots had different ideas and none of them included the bald eagle. They finally agreed on a drawing of the woman Liberty holding a shield to represent the states. But the members of Congress weren’t inspired by the design and they consulted with William Barton, a Philadelphia artist who produced a new design that included a golden eagle.turkeys BFranklinFurCap

 

Because the golden eagle also flew over European nations, however, the federal lawmakers specified that the bird in the seal should be an American bald eagle. On June 20, 1782, they approved the design that we recognize today.

 

At the time, the new nation was still at war with England, and the fierce-looking bird seemed to be an appropriate emblem. But from the start, the eagle was a controversial choice. Franklin scowled at it. “For my part,” he declared, “I wish the eagle had not been chosen as the representative of this country. He is a bird of bad moral character; he does not get his living honestly. You may have seen him perched in some dead tree where, too lazy to fish for himself, he watches the labor of the fishing hawk and, when that diligent bird has at length taken a fish and is bearing it to his nest for his young ones, the bald eagle pursues him and takes the fish. With all this injustice, he is never in good case.”

 

Some people have since questioned whether the eagle would have been chosen to adorn the seal had the nation not been at war. A year after the Treaty of Paris ended the conflict with Great Britain, Franklin argued that the turkey would have been a more appropriate symbol. “A much more respectable bird and a true native of America,” he pointed out. Franklin conceded that the turkey was “a little vain and silly,” but maintained that it was nevertheless a “bird of courage” that “would not hesitate to attack a grenadier of the British guards who should presume to invade his farm yard with a red coat on.”

 

 

In addition.

In a letter to his daughter Franklin was not particularly nice with regard to our bald eagle:

Franklin’s Letter to His Daughter (excerpt)

 

“With all this Injustice, he is never in good Case but like those among Men who live by Sharping & Robbing he is generally poor and often very lousy. Besides he is a rank Coward: The little King Bird not bigger than a Sparrow attacks him boldly and drives him out of the District. He is therefore by no means a proper Emblem for the brave and honest Cincinnati of America who have driven all the King birds from our Country…

 

By the way.

 

Three other types of birds were suggested in the preliminary United States Great Seal designs:

 

–          a rooster

 

–          a dove

 

–          a phoenix in flames

 

Also. An imperial two-headed eagle <not unlike the pre-soviet Russia emblem> was in the initial discussion..

 

Oh.

 

fuck you youSpeaking of birds with honors <and … no … I am not speaking of giving the honorable proverbial ‘bird’ to someone> … what’s up with state birds?

 

Why the heck do we have state birds?

 

 

And its kind of screwed up because they aren’t even really state birds … because states actually share state birds.

 

<… heck … every state has an official state bird, state flower, state tree, state flower … bla bla bla … what the hell is the point of this? A state has a lot of different birds, trees, flowers so why pick one to be “official”? … oops … sorry … I digressed …>

 

Anyway.

 

Apparently the cardinal is the most popular bird. It is the official state bird in 7 states <Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia … I think> followed by the western meadowlark in 6 states and the mockingbird in 5 states. This also makes me ponder the thought that if say maybe the cardinal reached a majority of states as a state bird … would it then be voting out the bald eagle and become the national bird?

 

turkey twerkyJust so you now.

Just in case you are wondering.

 

Every state officially flips the bird.

 

Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Give someone a bird today.

 

 

father’s day

June 19th, 2011

So.

Despite not being a father I figured I would use the day as an excuse to talk about my friends, use some quotes and discuss movies.
“Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad” – unknown

I am really lucky to have the friends I have. The guys are great dads (and the moms great moms).  I am pleased to have the opportunity to be a dad vicariously through them. And I am fascinated by how each, in their own unique way, shows their love for their kids.

In the end how they do it is irrelevant.  It’s that they actually do it that matters.

And research supports what our gut tells us that it matters.

Research has shown that a father’s love is just as important as—or sometimes even more important than—a mother’s love.
It is obvious that fathers who enjoy a loving, nurturing relationship with their children have important opportunities to influence the direction children take in life. Studies have demonstrated that young people whose fathers are actively involved in their lives have greater self-confidence, perform better in school, and are better able to avoid risky behaviors.
All that said … I have truly come to respect great fathers because being a loving father is not easy. It requires a dedication, a commitment and making the time. Whether they feel comfortable doing so or not … fathers must learn about the different stages of child development and become familiar with the strengths, weaknesses, personalities, and specific needs of their children as individuals. Dads also must build their listening and communication skills (not a particularly strong characteristic in the male world) and ultimately not just be a great father but also a great partner’ (if married) to insure alignment. Being a great father takes some strength of character, giving and earning respect and a shitload of resiliency <because all kids constantly test your patience>.
Regardless.

This first portion was written to say to all fathers who have stepped up to the plate and figured out how to show love to their kids (regardless of its end expression) that they are doing a damn good job.  No matter how difficult it may seem.

Anyway.

Before I get to the really fun part here are my three favorite father quotes:

To nourish children and raise them against odds is in any time, any place, more valuable than to fix bolts in cars or design nuclear weapons. – Marilyn French

“Any man can be a father, but it takes a special person to be a dad” – unknown

“My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass”; “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys”
– Harmon Killebrew

I like ‘em because they seem to capture the essence of what I believe is a good father.  And, happily so, it reflects my best friend’s who are dads and their attitudes.

OK. And now to the fun part. Movies.

In honor of Father’s Day I tried to pick my best father movies. It was tricky but here is my basic criteria.

I thought about it from the perspective of the fact anyone can bring a child into this world, but it takes a true man to be a father. At the same time … fathers aren’t superheroes (although it takes superhuman effort) and they aren’t always perfect. And it is ultimately their imperfections that often make them a special father. Despite personal flaws … they try to overcome those flaws for the sake of their children.  I tried to find the flawed fathers, who were human, but also depicted some super-human “heart.”

Here you go. My top father movies.

(note: some of the movie writeups are other people’s words which I used because they can summarize what I wanted to say about the movie much better than i)

Finding Nemo

Well.  May as well begin with an animated dad. And a fish. Oh. A clownfish too. This father is a widower clownfish who becomes a neurotically over protective dad. His smothering attitude so infuriates his little son, Nemo, that the little fish swims defiantly away and is captured by divers. The father must then go on an epic journey to rescue his son.

Voiced by Albert Brooks, a loving but over-protective little clownfish must search the entire ocean to find his lost son. Nemo has a disability, which his father has taught him to call his “lucky fin.” This shows us that at some level, even before he is aware of it himself, he wants to teach his son to be strong, confident, and independent.

Bicycle Thieves

This is an AWESOME movie that shouldn’t get lost. It is timeless. Antonio Ricci is a poor young father struggling to make a living in post-war Rome. He finds a job putting up posters around town only to have his bicycle stolen by a brash thief. The rest of the film follows Antonio and his young son as they attempt to track down the bicycle.

You would have to not have a heart not to be moved by this story of a poor man and his young son, as they search the streets of Rome to find his stolen bicycle, which he needs for his job. As their search continues we become aware that the poor man’s real treasure is not the bike, but his son. An incredibly touching father/son movie.

To Kill a Mockingbird

The father of a daughter <Dill>, Atticus Finch <Gregory Peck> gives a fatherly performance of granite decency and integrity. He is a widower and Alabama lawyer who defends a black man against a wrongful charge of rape. This is one of the most highly charged depictions of fatherhood in Hollywood history. This father, this man, is one who takes the moral high ground even when it leaves him largely outnumbered. Atticus is the ultimate role model of equality, courage, and empathy to his children. And yet, throughout, he is able to do all this while still encouraging Dill and Scout’s individuality and giving them the freedom to make up their own minds. He is everything you want from a father.

Taken

This may seem out of place because it is certainly no cinematic classic. It isn’t odd because it is a vivid demonstration of the extremes a father will take for a child. In Taken, Liam Neeson plays an estranged divorced father of a 17 year old girl. He’s a retired government agent who has missed much of his daughter’s childhood due to his job, and it’s also cost him his marriage. Having retired, he chooses to live in the same city as his daughter in an effort to make up for lost time. His ex-wife wants to let their daughter go to Paris and he grudgingly gives in against his better judgment. Once in Paris his daughter & her friend are kidnapped to be sold into white slavery. From here on out this is all about a father relentlessly tracking down her kidnappers and finding her before she disappears forever. Rarely has there been such a single-minded fatherly demonstration on screen of a father going to any extreme to save the life of his daughter.

Sleepless in Seattle

Almost impossible to leave this sappy one off the list. You gotta love the reversed relationship moments throughout the movie where the young son plays the role of the adult. It is an amazingly clever way to show how well a father is bringing up a son without being heavy handed. The love story is simply an addendum to the power of a great father-son relationship. We all know the story.  Despite being devastated by the loss of his wife the father is committed to being a positive and caring father for his son Jonah. Hanks is particularly good at showing us how Sam’s love for Jonah both sustains him and makes him miss his wife even more because every moment reminds him of how much he wishes she could share his pride or supply some guidance. The true “father moment”?

Look for Hanks’s expression as he arrives at the top of the Empire State Building in search of Jonah, who has flown to New York from Seattle in search of a woman he thinks might be right for his father. The combined relief and desperation as he asks himself, more than Jonah, whether “haven’t we been doing all right” … is something every father can understand.

Father of the Bride

George (Steve Martin) is the father of Annie whose journey from girlhood to womanhood has seemed oh so short. She’s just about ready to get married  which has George shaking in his sneakers.

Steve Martin shines as the bumbling, nervous father who’ll do anything for his little girl … including letting her go. The defining Father moment? The scene of Steve Martin playing basketball with his daughter in the driveway is priceless. It captures the essence of what is at the true core of love and sharing and the inseparable bond that can be created beyond a father and a child way beyond words.

And I have to end with what I believe is the penultimate father movie.

Life is Beautiful

Whew. This one is amazing.

Guido Orefice is one of the rare movie fathers that is genuinely good from start to finish. Even through the atrocities of the Holocaust, he found a way to keep a smile on his young boy’s face. In an effort to preserve the innocence of his son, while also protecting him, Guido turned the Holocaust into a game. As impossible as it sounds, he turned every trash can into a hiding place and the Nazis into nothing more than fake villains. As far as his son knew, the entire concentration camp was created just for him. There is so much devastation throughout the film, yet Guido’s persistence and dedication to family surpassed his own selfish desire to survive. Even when a pair of Nazis hauls him out of the living quarters to beat him mercilessly, he convinces his child it is all part of the game. No matter the cost, he was committed to psychologically and physically protecting his son during one of the most horrifying events in human history.

There you go.  Happy Fathers Day my friends.

Enlightened Conflict