Henry Poole is Here

9 out of 13 nots.
for being about faith without being preachy

Technically, this movie opened yesterday, and I should have put up the review then.  But I already had two reviews set to go up, and three posts in one day seemed a tad crowded to me.  Besides, I don’t think many people are going to rush off and see Henry Poole is Here on a Friday night.  It is more of a lazy Sunday morning movie.

Henry Poole is dying.  Although, we never learn from what, he does say he won’t be around long.  But he’s gone back to his childhood home… or at least he tried.  Instead, he bought the house down the street.  He has a Hispanic neighbor who used to date the man who previously owned the house (who died of a heart attack in the kitchen).  He also has a neighbor whose husband ran out on her and their child, a daughter who hasn’t spoken in a year.  And he’s got a water stain in the shape of Jesus in his stucco.

Its that last thing that causes the most problems.

Henry Poole is Here is a movie about faith, about belief in something greater, but at no point does it come out and shove any particular religion down your throat.  It also never says anything remotely close to people who don’t believe going to Hell or anything.  It is more a message of, “Having hope is better than having no hope.”

I enjoyed it.  Not the greatest film ever made, but far from the worst.  I can think of plenty of worse ways to spend an hour and a half.


First off, Mr. Eko is dead. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry about it. If you understand it, well, I hope you already watched this week’s episode.

My problem with Mr. Eko was that when they introduced him as the silent butt kicking prayer stick guy, I liked him. His representation of a man with faith was cool, and looked to be a good introduction to the mix of people finding their faith only once they were stuck on the island. Then they had to go and make him just like everyone else as he decided that “the button” was his purpose. *sigh*

In a way, I’m glad he’s dead… So, what exactly does that have to do with the NaNoWriMo? I’ll tell you.

When I started thinking about the project, I have a handful of ideas swirling around in my head. Immediately, I narrowed it down to three. Then I tossed out one because it would work much better as a TV script instead of a novel, and that left me with two. I wrestled and anguished over which idea I would run with, and finally I picked one.

Then I started writing it… See, I’ve tried writing this story before. I know where it starts, and I know where it ends, and I even know a few places it has to go in the middle, but I’m missing all the inbetween parts. As expected, when I sat down and started writing, the story started not going where I wanted it to go. I got stuck, as I always do, trying to get from where I am to the next major plot point. I see where they should go, but my characters don’t seem to want to get there. And this is how it relates to Mr. Eko.

From the show, I get the feeling that someone wrote up the character of Eko as he was in the first few episodes. Silent butt kicker who, with Ana-Lucia helps the tail survivors actually survive the much harsher life they fall into as compared to the relative peace of the other group from season one. I think that it was intended for Eko to somehow die, perhaps sacrifice himself to save the other survivors, on their trip across the island, but the character proved so popular that they kept him alive. According to legend, Jack was the same way. The good doctor was supposed to die in the two hour premier, but they rewrote the part when Michael Keaton turned down the role. He went from a big name guest star to a smaller name major character. In Jack’s case it all turned out pretty well, but with Eko, it seems like they hadn’t considered what to do with him. Upon the tail survivors reaching the rest of the passengers, they made Ana-Lucia the fighter, and so they decided to make Eko pursue his faith, which lead him to the button, and the conflict of faith with Locke… and it was all pretty uninteresting, Eko’s half anyway.

When writing my story, the character I want to make the main character keeps trying to step back and let other people be in the spotlight. I keep pulling him back in, but it just feels forced. So I think I’m either going to have to scrap the idea until I find a way to make him the main character without it feeling forced, or just let him fade into the background and use somebody else. I don’t want to turn him into a Mr. Eko.

Anyway… that’s all I’ve got today.


When I run pen and paper compaigns, one thing I hate most is people who want to play a paladin. This is partly due to the the fact that most people really suck at playing a paladin, and partly due to the preconceived notion of a paladin.

The white suit of armor, lance, flag, holy, goody-goody… the restrictions set forth in the book descriptions and the fairy tales… its just… boring.

To me, a paladin is simply a devout warrior of the faith, and its that second part that is the rub. What if you are a devout warrior of a god that desires the subjugation of all people under his will? Under those conditions, would lying to someone be against your faith and cost you your powers?

This is where the true essence of roleplayin comes in. A good GM, in my opinion, will work with his player to outline the tenets of his faith and determine the shape of the paladin’s persona. From this, the GM will be able to extrapolate what constitutes challenges to the faith and what would cause the paladin to lose the favor of his god.

Now… you may be wondering why the heck this even comes up. Over an EN World, someone posed the question: If Dudley DoRight is entering the city of an evil overlord, and at the gates the guards are asking people if they are paladins, would the paladin lose his god’s favor for lying in order to get into the city?

Really, its a stupid question involving a contrived situation created by a lazy GM who simply wants to trap and torture his paladin player. What reason could an evil warlord have for instructing his minions to ask “Are you a paladin?” of each person who enters the gate? But further, this whole situation would only work if the player was indeed a Lawful Good paladin who followed a god that holds honesty in high regard. It would be better if the warlord instructed his people to keep a lookout for certain crests denoting paladins and their deities. Even better, if its just the Lawful Good Dudley DoRights that he fears, would be to hire a spell caster to guard the gates with Circle of Protection from Law and Circle of Protection from Good spells, preventing the DoRights from even approaching the gate.

There are just so many better ways to handle every aspect of this.

Monday Morning Philosophy

Throughout my life, I have attempted to encapsulate large groups of my beliefs into one or two phrases that I feel sum up the whole of the thing. Religion is one of the places that I’ve done this, however whenever I say my summed up phrase to someone, they never get it.

“I don’t believe in God, but god believes in me, and sometimes that’s enough.”

The first part is misleading, intentionally, and loses a bit when its spoken because I can’t speak in uppercase and lowercase, I’m stuck with just speaking. I don’t believe in God, big “g”, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc… Organized religions, in my experience, fail, not because they accept certain limitations in their system, but because they preach and teach those limitations to others, and to a degree their structure is designed to support the continuation of the church, the physical buildings, over the continuation of the faith. But I do believe in a god. I believe that there has to be something out there greater than all that I can see, because if there isn’t… well, I don’t like the idea that this is it. Even if the “next world” is just another go round on this one, or its to spend a term as undefinable quantum energy sliding through the time space continuum until I pass through a singularity and report for my life in a negative universe… Doesn’t matter, I believe in “something”, some days its more definable or specific than others, but its always there.

The next part is the meat of it all… whatever exists out there, whether it be a scientist looking in his petri dish swirling around some chemicals or an undeniable force that guides and binds the universe, its smarter than me. And hey, I’m pretty damn smart, if not always the most intuitive. And since it created or guided or is the universe, it will never give to me more than I can handle. I might disagree sometimes, and there are days when I have broken down in tears because of the strength of my disagreement, but I do always manage to get back up, bear the new weight and survive. I even win sometimes and lighten my load. There have been times that solutions are a long time coming, or were obscured by other problems. But never, not once, have I, when it comes down to facts, ever been given a life that I cannot handle if I choose to handle it. God has given me this because it has faith in my ability to handle it.

That leads us to the final part… Given the other two parts, that I believe in something out there greater than me and that it will never burden me more than my ability to cope, my faith in those two tenets mean that no matter how rough life may get or how crappy a situation may be, I know that given effort and time I will be okay.

And sometimes that’s enough…

One of those days

There are days that define a person’s life. Joyous highs, abysmal lows. There are days that are a test of faith, days that push you to your limits. Days were you succeed against all odd, and days when you succumb to the slighted of failures and crumble beneath the weight of the things you thought you’d set aside.

Today was definately not one of those days. Somewhere between great and horrible lay the days of nothing better to do.

Counting Blue Cars

An ongoing thread on a messageboard I frequent has brought up thoughts on religion, and mostly I just need somewhere to pour out my brain so that the words are somewhere other than in my head. As I often do, I’ve chosen here.

A long time ago, I separated from religion. Questions on the validity of the beliefs, most likely due to an increasing interest in mathematics and science, caused me to cast doubt on some of the core fundamentals of my upbringing in regards to the church. In my days I have attended a number of church, most often as a guest, but to some of them as a member of the congregation. To those that I belonged, either by my own right or by my parents, they have largely been of the protestant or reformed faiths.

After a number of years of turning my back on all things God related, I came to a realization that it was not God that I doubted or disliked, but the church. It was the organizations, the buildings of wood and stone, and the corporate like hierarchy of their ministers that were the source of my unease. It was then that I came back to God, but not the church.

Another of the major issues that I have with the established religions is in their handbook… you know, the Bible. I feel that far too many of them view the book as the written word of God, as if he inhabitted the bodies of the authors and guided their hands divinely, crafting each word, and in turn possessed the spirits of each translator throughout history to ensure that nothing was lost. And I just don’t think this is so. My personal belief is that the Bible is a collection of historical fact, oral tradition and moral tales written and bound to be used as a guide to emphasis the qualities of that which should be a “good” life. The reason I cannot believe in the Bible as being the absolute word of God is that there are things in there that actually support the idea that God doesn’t care. The Book of Job, for example. God allows Satan to kill Job’s children and their families in order to prove that Job’s faith is absolute. But what about the faith of those children? Am I to believe that God will, on a whim, decide to end my life just to test the faith of someone else? Or to end the lives of others just to test mine? Setting aside that, however, the Book of Job is a good example of maintaining ones principles through hardship, which is a good thing to teach.

The last major issue that I have with the organized religions is that none of them believe what I feel is true. The major tenet of Christianity is the Holy Trinity, the three that are one, The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit. I feel that Christianity has latched onto this idea largely to avoid being a polytheistic religion and to maintain their monotheistic outlook on spirituality, to avoid Jesus worship spinning off a sect away from God worship. They force Jesus and God to be the same so that worshipping one is worshipping the other and vice versa. While I can fully grasp the idea that you could have multiple aspects of a single being be the same whole being, my problem is that if God and Jesus are the same, then the sacrifice of Jesus means nothing. If God is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, and Jesus is God, then Jesus is omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent. The moment he “died”, he would be release from any mortal constraints and be God again. His descending into hell holds no meaning because he is omnipotent, snaps his fingers and he’s out. If, however, you believe only so far as that Jesus is the mortal son of God (with the ability to perform miracles), then the sacrifice takes on a whole new light… what Jesus says as they crucify him becomes half a conversation. God says to Jesus, and no one else can hear, “Son, I can smite them. I can wipe the earth clean and start again like I did before. I can save you this pain. Just say the word and it will be done.” To which Jesus relies aloud, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” All the sudden, Jesus’s sacrifice means everything. He gives his mortal life in order to stay God’s hand, because in us, the flawed creation of God, he sees hope, he sees the ability of us to overcome what we do in ignorance. And then, knowing that by the rules of his own universe that he created Jesus will descend into hell and he won’t be able to help, God lets his son die, and forgives us. That has weight and meaning.

In the end though, the sum of my beliefs can be found here: “I believe in God, and God believes in me, and that’s enough.” With so many religions out there with such core difference in their worship and their organization, this has to be true, because its about the only thing they all hold in common. And if its wrong, that’s alot of people going to hell because God won’t just come out and tell us the truth. Unless God enjoys people killing each other under his various pseudonyms… If I were God, that would make me angry, and I would make them stop. Just show up and say, “Hi, I’m God. These guys are half right, and these guys are about a quarter right, and those guys over there are insane, but be nice to them anyway. Now shut up and build spaceships already, I didn’t create infinity for you just to have a twinkling sky at night.”