Posts By: David Chatzistamatis
“So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded . . . and every winged bird . . .” — Genesis 1:21
Why did God create animals? Merely a modest observation of the most common of life’s creatures brings about a thought-provoking question: do animals have a purpose, or do they simply eat and sleep and simply exist for the sake of existing? Consider the jellyfish: a literal blob—99% water and no brains. What kind of statement could the Creator possibly attempt to make through such a meaningless mass of nothing?
You can’t help but observe the common squirrel or farm pig and declare, “What a life!” Their daily routine consists of nothing significant or fulfilling. What was the purpose of God creating any animals at all? By simply taking a detailed look at some of the creatures humans work closely with, this seemingly-pointless aspect of creation readily becomes one of God’s greatest accomplishments.
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There are no species of animals in history that have aided humanity more than the dog. Commonly referred to as “man’s best friend,” dogs have been available in times of tragedy and times of comfort. They were first used by the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Babylonians, and Assyrians in the B.C. era. These various groups recognized dogs’ advantageous abilities in warfare and placed them as forward attacking fighters. During the American Revolution, many troops (including General Washington) used dogs as companions and bodyguards.
But more recently, dogs have been called upon for a special kind of work unique to their species. K9 units have been utilized extensively in narcotics and bomb detection, or even just as patrol dogs in prisons or high-security areas. They’ve also aided wildlife and conservation officers in the detection of illegal hunting and fishing. Their sense of smell—which is almost 50 times more sensitive than a human’s—and their ability to react only as they’ve been trained makes dogs an invaluable asset for police work. Even their presence alone can prevent physical confrontations. Seeing-eye dogs are yet another example of their usefulness. Though a dog’s vision is less superior to a human’s, their sense of direction and their defensive abilities greatly aid a blind person in their day-to-day routine. Simple actions like crossing the road and maneuvering around the grocery store become possible only through the loyalty and keen attention of a well-trained canine.
And the wages for all their irreplaceable help? $0. Give them sufficient food and care and man’s best friend quickly becomes man’s best ally. Besides being used for reconnaissance, police work, security, and guiding the blind, dogs are ultimately the perfect companion, especially for the lonely and depressed. Many classics such as “Lassie,” “Old Yeller,” and “Where the Red Fern Grows” depict the need boys young and old have for dogs. Dogs stand by you, protect you, love you, lick your wounds—and they do all this without ever doubting, a testament to their impeccable companionship. Many of us could never be that way.
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The true reason why animals are so well-loved and valued is because they fulfill a need in us. Animals are loyal, patient, kind, and affectionate. They don’t talk back. They don’t offend you. People will hurt you throughout your life; animals will not, at least not intentionally.
Biblically, animals are used to importantly illustrate examples and convey inspiration for Godly living. In Isaiah, we are compared to sheep—“All we like sheep have gone astray” (Isaiah 53:6). God uses sheep, one of the least-intelligent animals on the planet, to convey our utter weakness and lack of judgment. The ant is used as an illustration of working hard, persevering, and not being lazy: “Go to the ant, sluggard.” Ants are very efficient workers who toil together as a team not for the benefit of the individual, but for the whole colony.
Was it not a large fish that was influential in the lesson taught to Jonah? Was it not a ram that was offered to Abraham as a substitute for Isaac? Did Jesus not pick a donkey to carry him into Jerusalem? Did God not also use a talking donkey to teach Balaam a lesson?
So why did God create animals? The ultimate answer: to show us his handiwork. I believe the very reason God placed countless species of creatures great and small on this earth was to display his vast creativity. God shows his magnificence to us through the magnificence of his creation. The fact that animals exist in such variety and vast dimension points to the brilliance of a sovereign Creator who has dominion over all living things. How truly privileged we are to live in a world filled with so much of God’s splendor. And we have the remarkable animal kingdom to remind us each and every day of that immeasurable splendor.
John Ronald Ruel Tolkien is perhaps the 20th century’s most influential writers, a man who defined the literary fantasy genre. Like any writer, exceptional or common, his inspiration for his “Lord of the Rings” epic was derived from many places and people throughout his life.
While enrolled at King Edward’s School in Birmingham, England, Tolkien became close with three beloved friends who called themselves the “Tea Club and Barrovian Society.” It was this group of four friends—akin to four hobbit companions—who sought to conquer the world through poems of fantasy as from the venerable times of old. In December of 1914, the four friends called a meeting which they entitled the “Council of London.” It was at this council of literary aficionados that Tolkien had a revelation, a revelation in which Middle-earth was spawned.
In this expansive world of Middle-earth, Tolkien crafted rich histories for the various ethnic groups and races, many of which tapped into our real-world cultures and histories. One such region of Middle-earth is Rohan, home of the horse lords. The culture and fair-haired people bear very Celtic nuances and were inspired from the Anglo-Saxon race. Prior to World War I, Tolkien was a member of the King Edward’s Horse Battalion. Tasked with breaking in new horses, this position gave him an immense understanding and a deep appreciation for them. When the time came to populate Middle-earth, the esteemed horse masters played a pivotal role in the battle against Sauron.
But Rohan symbolized a deep-seeded desire in Tolkien’s life. A keen student of history, Tolkien asserted that if the Saxons had established a cavalry during the struggle against the Normans (and in particular the Battle of Hastings), then the English most likely would have driven the Normans back to their country and emerged victorious. Thus the major French influence that took hold of Great Britain, a merging Tolkien considered an outright disgrace, would have never occurred. Suddenly Rohan becomes the image of nobility and splendor that Tolkien strongly thought belonged to the Saxons.
The Shire, meanwhile, contains many characteristics of Ireland—lush, green, rolling hills, and a race of tranquil people whose speech is markedly similar to the Irish. The dwarves on the other hand (Middle-earth’s most daring, bold, battle-hardened race) embody the Scotts—rough, tenacious, often slovenly, beards down to their waist. In battle they bring to mind images of William Wallace’s struggle against English domination.
Tolkien was an avid student of Latin and Greek. During his undergraduate years at King Edward’s, he came into possession of Charles Eliot’s “Finnish Grammar.” Coupled with his attraction to the Welsh dialect, these languages served as the basis for the Elvish language. In the appendices of “The Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien provides an account of the loving relationship between Berén and Luthien, an Elf who relinquished her immortality for a mortal. Berén beholds the elf dancing in a forest glade, and he immediately concludes that she is the most beautiful thing his eyes have ever beheld.
This fictional story was largely inspired from Tolkien’s marriage to Edith Bratt, a woman who received more love and adoration from Tolkien than anything else in his life. Before their marriage, Edith took Tolkien into a forest where she sang and danced for him. This beautiful image stuck with the author for the rest of his life, and served as the basis for one of Middle-earth’s most passionate romances. When Edith died, Tolkien had “Luthien” engraved on her tombstone.
By 1914 war had broken out across Europe, and the entire T.C.B.S. (Tolkien’s group of friends) was soon engulfed in the bloody conflict. The four friends—again, like four hobbits— found themselves separated by war. On one December night in 1916, Tolkien’s closest friend G. B. Smith wrote a letter to him just before going out on patrol:
“My chief consolation is, that if I am scuppered tonight, there will still be left a member of the great T.C.B.S. to voice what I dreamed and what we all agreed upon. May God bless you, my dear John Ronald, and may you say the things I have tried to say long after I am not there to say them, if such be my lot.”
Smith was killed that night. By the war’s end, all but one of Tolkien’s friends perished.
It was through his experiences in the Great War that Tolkien was able to incorporate into his book the devastation of battle. Prior to the war, he had always considered men atop garish horses bearing ornate armor as the epitome of nobility and honor in warfare. The role that horses had in combat for centuries was unparalleled to anything else.
However, major technological advancements came about during World War I. The horse was quickly replaced by metal; the sword replaced by the gun; and all honor and chivalry was removed from war. How could a war that could deal death from a distance be compared to the respectable fighting of old? Tolkien suddenly saw the last ounce of honor being stripped from warfare. The “fires of industry” that Isengard produces in “The Two Towers” is Tolkien’s image of the rape of sophisticated conflict.
The kingdom of Gondor experiences a devastating attack in “The Return of the King.” This siege embodies the depletion of nobility from warfare. Mordor comes in staggering size, and with them come the machines of war—siege towers, catapults hurling flaming balls, a battering ram that makes light work of Gondor’s protective gate, giant creatures capable of squashing men, and even fire that can undo brick. When Rohan—the image of nobility—arrives in radiant splendor, they’re mowed down by the giant elephant-like creatures just as the machines of war (tanks and planes) altered traditional warfare.
“The Lord of the Rings” is, in actuality, an account of how things were, how things are, and how things could have and should have been. Tolkien’s feelings and perceptions manifest themselves throughout three books that chronicle the War of the Ring. Each new generation takes away something different. Each unique individual finds something personal to them. Each reader—just as Bilbo passed his story to Frodo, who passed it to Sam saying “there’s room for a little more”—adds something further to the story. Those words ring true in Tolkien’s world as well. To the reader, he says, “Here is my work. Read it, absorb it, add to it, and pass it along. The last pages are for you. There’s room for a little more.”
In this modern age, film reviewing is no longer an ability limited to magazine correspondents and film critics. Anybody with a free blog or an IMDB account has the power to critique movies.
However, the internet is full of people who want to be heard but don’t want to put in the time to make their voice meaningful. Instead, they critique with little to no knowledge of the subject. They inundate social media and personal blogs with opinions and review things based on non-objective feelings. Thus we have website after website containing lackluster content—white noise to the world of the internet.
Perhaps you’re an avid enthusiast of the art of film, somebody who loves and appreciates it as more than mere entertainment. Perhaps you find yourself overwhelmed by the plethora of movie websites and film review blogs and have concluded that your own thoughts and viewpoints will just be added white noise.
But here’s the thing:
If your movie reviews are good, then they’ll cease to become white noise and will be added to the read and enjoyed material of the internet. IMDB is full of people who know absolutely nothing about movies. You can’t be simply another voice in the cosmos of the internet. You have to give your voice credibility. Only then will you be heard. This article offers advice on creating those reviews that will become the first step of making yourself known. It isn’t a sure-fire guarantee that you’ll create the next great film website; but, rather, a guarantee that your film reviews will contain meaning and understanding behind the subject.
- Determine effective story elements and plot. I’ve always asserted that the single most important element of any film is the story. The first thing you should always ascertain is: How original is the story? Are there classic themes present or any scenarios that reminded you of particular films? Is there a proper story arc that is appropriately completed by the film’s end?
“Have you ever wondered what goes on inside a person’s head?” the movie asks right off the bat. Up until now, no film—animated or non—has ever truly taken the opportunity to create an entire narrative that shows the thought process behind our constant actions. In that sense, this is Pixar’s most original film ever. And that is no exaggeration. You thought a monster factory that collects children’s screams or a rat with gourmet taste was original? Watch Inside Out and be blown away.
- Did the actors portray their characters accurately or effectively?
The voice acting in this film is perfect. I greatly admire Pixar’s ability to cast ideally. They never pursue celebrity voices for the sake of making the film appealing. Inside Out doesn’t boast a wide array of big-name star power. But as you’re watching it, it becomes readily apparent that Inside Out doesn’t need big-name star power. Each character works so effortlessly and effectively that you fall in love with each one’s unique personality.
- Avoid generalities. Some people may want just a quick “yay” or “nay” from a review, but there are plenty of reviews out there for people in a hurry (IMDB has short reviews galore). If you wish to truly convey to your readers precisely why you enjoyed or were displeased with a film, you should strive for being specific and avoiding generalizations. Most of your readers want to know why they’re shelling out their hard-earned cash. If you came out of a movie pumped with excitement, tell us what your experience contained that gave you such an adrenaline rush.
Brimming with warmth and cleverness, Inside Out is precisely the kind of film Pixar excels at making: totally and completely unique. With true-to-life and relatable scenarios, creative humor, no lack of emotional teary-eyed moments, and memorable characters made to adore, it’s no wonder this film is considered a contender for Best Picture at this year’s Academy Awards.
- Don’t try to sound overly prolific. The best reviews are the ones that people can understand and follow. Sound smart, but not pretentious. Use uncommon words, but only seldom. Make yourself sound knowledgeable, but don’t use gaudy words you wouldn’t typically use in a conversation. Remember, you are writing a movie review, not an AP exam essay.
Over the course of the film, you discover that happiness without the effect of some sadness or fear or anger easily becomes less meaningful; that, ultimately, happy experiences are only so because they’re not sad. Without experiencing sorrow, what makes a happy experience positive in the first place? The sadness we experience in life is often the precursor to more uplifting feelings.
Not your typical big city. Typically there’s noise. Too much noise. Horns are blaring, sirens screaming, people shouting, tempers flaring. But not here. Normally, graffiti and mounds of trash meet your every step. But not here. Here it’s clean.
As you saunter along the river that winds through the city, all the sights, sounds, and smells greet you. Birds fly above. People shop along the sidewalks purchasing trinkets and souvenirs to remember their wonderful time. The outdoor cafes are filled to the brim with customers. The waiter brings a fresh basket of bread to the table, and the patrons smile with delight as they bite into the warm food. Boats drift peacefully by with the national blue-white-and-red flag fluttering in the cool breeze. Church bells, as from times long past, ring in the clear noon air. The aroma of fresh-crafted baguettes wafts from a nearby bakery to greet your nose.
As you walk, you can’t help but notice the amount of care and attention that has been given to the city’s architecture. Its grandeur has been preserved for so many years. Why, even the statue of Joan of Arc has been recently cleaned. And the music! Such music! Close by, a man is playing Le Vie En Rose on the accordion. So typical of this untypical big city. Crowds gather to watch an artist hard at work on the pavement. Using simple chalk, a man can create a masterpiece on the sidewalk—the sidewalk! Da Vinci would probably have never painted his famous lady on the sidewalk. And yet people stop to take pictures and admire the artist’s talent. When it’s done, it might depict the city’s most iconic structure.
Of course, any visit here must include a fresh turkey-on-baguette sandwich from Paul. If the day is nice, some Orangina may complete the delectable ensemble. With these in hand, you sit down on a park bench. People greet you with “Bon jour, Monsieur.” While enjoying the perfect weather, you watch the pigeons flapping about, or the children sailing boats in the fountain. The man who owns the boats is old, most likely retired. Quite content is he in his life of simplicity. The aged wrinkles reveal a life of hardship; now he sails boats.
Are you weighed down by life’s struggles? Are you fatigued by the daily 9:00-5:00 grind of your job? Are you fatigued just by getting to your job? Is your spouse in his/her weekly “mood”? Are the kids wearing down your emotions to the point where you just want to hurl the baby monitor through the window? Do you participate in any activities whatsoever that require you to leave the house? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then allow me to diagnose your problem: you are stressed.
Now allow me to tell you exactly what you can do to relieve your stress. Ready for it? . . . Color. Yes, color. In case you don’t get out much and haven’t been keeping up with what’s in style in the big wide world, coloring has become quite the popular trend lately. People stressed out of their mind with life’s problems are quickly realizing the power coloring has; the power to relieve your stress! That’s right, folks, this is no gimmick from the same man who tried to sell you a bottle of that “special miracle elixir.” This is the genuine, bona-fide, real deal.
Here’s what neuropsychologist Dr. Stan Rodski has to say about adult coloring:
“Coloring elicits a relaxing mindset, similar to what you would achieve through mediation. Like meditation, coloring allows us to switch off our brains from other thoughts and focus on the moment. Tasks with predictable results, such as coloring or knitting, can often be calming.”
One explanation concerning coloring’s relaxing facets is the back-and-forth motion we engage in, which in turn engages both sides of the brain while also turning off the part of the brain responsible for situational awareness. “Coloring is a great way to introduce yourself to the concept of mindfulness,” says adult coloring authority Tiddy Rowan. “One gets so engrossed in coloring, it’s an extraordinary activity. In fact, if you watch children playing with crayons you can see just how absorbing it is.”
Today, everything is so instant. A meal can be ready in two minutes. An app can be downloaded in seconds. Coloring offers escapism and allows you to slow down and pace yourself. When you sit down to color, you’re allowing your brain to focus on one thing and one thing only. No distractions, no noise. You’re using old-school pen and paper, nothing technological, just as when we were children.
Cynthia Riviere is a woman who manages a Facebook group for over 1,000 coloring fans. She strives daily to spend time coloring, and the effects are more than felt. “I realized that coloring makes my headaches go away. I concentrate, my breathing slows down and I move into a deep calm.”
When one looks at coloring’s roots, its relaxing affect shouldn’t be all that surprising. In the Buddhist culture, monks were known to draw with colored sand. After the image was completed the sand was then removed, symbolizing the temporary nature of existence.
In today’s modern society, stress is an undeniably large struggle. It grips us daily, and is often reluctant to let go. And if we’re not careful, it could ultimately be our cause of death. Pick up a coloring book and allow it to transport you back to yesteryear. You may be quite pleased with the results.
English novelist and playwright John Galsworthy once said, “If you do not think about your future, you cannot have one.” He also said, “Beginnings are always messy.” While short in length and simple in diction, these quotes bear great significance and substance. Great men from Benjamin Franklin to Walt Disney achieved remarkable things because they looked ahead and created goals. Their beginnings were indeed messy—think of the tumultuous and bloody conflict that ensued in the earliest years of the United States that Franklin took part in.
While my own meager beginnings may not be comparative to the likes of such outstanding men, these two absolutes still ring true. As I begin the next chapter of my life, I value these pieces of truth—the first because it’s a reminder of how dependent we must be on our own willpower and motivation, and the second because it depicts that failures are an imminent certainty.
Moving forward with writing, the ultimate goal of making a living with my craft may seem obvious. But while some may look at self-employed work as supplemental, my ultimate desire is for this to become a career. My writing has been more of a personal pleasure in the past; now I’m honing in on my strengths and focusing on them. But even my strengths in writing have room for improvement. Moving forward, my goals are to become more proficient with my skill.
And though this career entails writing quite a bit more than before, I do plan on writing more for personal pleasure. This includes developing a brand new website to house my movie reviews. I also desire to establish an email list of clients to work with.
The future is always uncertain and full of doubt. But the greatest thing about tomorrow is that we can influence what occurs in our own lives. Some things are beyond our grasp of control. Troubles will always arise, and beginnings are indeed messy. But what’s truly amazing is that we have the ability to work past those cluttered developmental times and establish something that will become far less messy and far more rewarding.