An Overly Unsettling Film That Will Remain Anonymous…

Today’s article is about an overly unsettling film I saw in the theater recently whose title is going to remain anonymous simply because it was probably the most disturbing movie I’ve ever seen before on the big screen. Its subject matter was highly allegorical on the religious level and surrounded the actions of a Satan-like character.

During the course of this movie, every possible theatrical element I’d label as severely dark was visualized on the white canvas in front of me. From rage-filled acts of violence and murder, to killing babies, to rape, to idol worship, to addiction, to greed, to cannibalism, there surely was no shortage of showing what a religious person might label as truly sinful behavior.

While I won’t go so far as saying the movie was a terrible one, because ultimately on a cinematic flair it was actually rather unique, beautifully shot, and well acted, I will say that it is one I will probably never forget because of how uncomfortable I felt long after I had left the theater.

I’ve had several spiritual teachers throughout my life warn me that I should throw more caution to what I watch on television or at the theater, but I never quite understood that at the time. In recent years though, it’s begun to make a lot more sense.

You see, the more I’ve moved away from my old addiction-based life and sought a higher path of living, the more my spirit has become overly sensitive to seeing various things in entertainment that used to not bother me at all. And the more I’ve drawn closer to my Higher Power, whom I choose to call God, the more I find myself not wanting to see any of those things now that feel so low vibrational, such as severe acts of violence. I feel so extremely unsettled these days when I do, and even find myself getting sick to my stomach, which is precisely how I felt during the majority of the time I watched this film. I was so severely unsettled with this movie that I longed for it to end way before it finally did and even thought at one point about getting up and leaving the theater because of it.

Yet, I know movies are just another form of artistic expression, except in this case, this one went way too far, at least for me. While I don’t consider myself religious, as I’ve said many times before, I do have a strong faith in God and believe there are dark forces out there who provoke many of those things I saw going on in this film, to actually occur in real life. All you have to do is tune in to the news to see that sad reality.

I don’t want to see that type of content in the movies I go to because movies are one of the few healthy escapes I have left in life, so to watch something so unsettling only defeats the purpose. There are countless murders and rapes and addictions and other terrible acts of violence going on every single day in our world that to see them for two straight hours on the screen in front of me, only makes my movie-going experience more of an unhealthy escape than a healthy one.

Ironically just a few days prior to seeing this tremendously disturbing film, I had gone and seen an animated movie titled “Leap!” that was the exact opposite in its content. It was uplifting, inspiring, and even moved me to tears with its “Never Give Up!” message, and is the very reason why I fell in love with watching movies long ago. But in this case, when I left the theater after viewing such polarizing content, I felt as if I had done something wrong by even watching it and almost felt as if I needed to take a shower to cleanse myself from it.

Nevertheless, I absolutely agree with those spiritual teachers now and see why it may be best in the future to avoid watching content that will not only work against the purpose of me having a healthy escape in the first place, but also move me away from feeling the very thing I am wanting to achieve in life and that’s experiencing God’s true joy and peace…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Detroit”, A Docudrama That Will Probably Disturb You…

I hadn’t been born yet when the Detroit riots actually took place back in July of 1967. Yet watching Kathryn Bigelow’s latest film “Detroit” chronicle this tragic event of that summer ultimately made me feel as if I really had experienced it first-hand.

As the movie begins, the viewer is immediately entrenched into the growing heated tensions between blacks and whites during that hot summer of 1967 in the city of Detroit, when the local police raided an unlicensed, after-hours bar hosting a welcome home party for a black soldier. During the raid, each of the guests at the bar get hauled away into one paddy wagon after another while nearby locals begin to shout obscenities towards the police. Soon, the tensions rise to a level that eventually escalates into a full-blown riot which ends up lasting five entire days. The film itself mostly focuses on one specific event that took place during that period where three young African American men were murdered at the Algiers Motel while being interrogated by several white police officers.

Overall, I found “Detroit” to be a truly disturbing movie, not only because Bigelow directed it in such a way that felt as if the events were unfolding all over again in the present day, but also because I still see the same racial tensions going on all around our country and even in the world as well. There have been a number of “accidental” and “questionable” murders of minorities by police and others in recent years where no justice was ever achieved. The movement towards equality seems to be going in the opposite direction now with groups using religious rights to segregate all over again. And violent crimes by radical individuals that target minorities also seem to be on the rise too, like with the Pulse nightclub massacre last June where 49 innocent people were killed.

When I left the theater after watching “Detroit”, I can definitely say I felt a great level of sadness. Fifty years later, after these events unfolded, life still seems to be in a volatile state in our nation. I feel the racial tensions in the air a lot of the time these days, often hearing white people use offensive racist terms towards minorities and vice versa, the same from minorities towards whites. And living in a city where there is a high level of poverty, I tend to wonder if the events of Detroit in July of 1967 could happen all over again right here in my own backyard.

With the world at unease because of the looming threats of war and the feeling that a civil war could actually break out in my own country, my heart deeply grieves. I can’t imagine this is what God ever intended for us, yet I know it’s up to each of us to make a difference and reverse this trend. I know I’m only one person and I truly do my best to make a difference, by practicing love and compassion towards everyone, no matter what their race, religion, sexuality, etc. I just wish more would do the same because deep down within every one of us is a piece of God. Unfortunately, that piece often gets blocked by deep levels of hatred, fear, and resentment that only unconditional love and forgiveness can erase.

So, while “Detroit” may have triggered a nerve within me and brought out some definitive sadness for the state of our nation and our world as well, it truly was a masterpiece of a movie directed by a female who knows how to make the viewer feel a part of what’s taking place on the screen. “Detroit” is not for the light of heart, but it ultimately is an artistic masterpiece that hopefully will receive its due recognition come Oscar awards season.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Burning Sands”, A Great Netflix Movie That Depicts Fraternity Hazing Quite Well

Hazing has often been used as a rite of passage tool for membership into many organizations throughout history, especially Greek fraternities and sororities. And although it’s definitely diminished in recent years due to increased regulations being instituted on many college campuses, hazing still goes on underground and “Burning Sands” is a great Netflix movie that depicts this quite well.

“Burning Sands” primarily revolves around the life of a pledge named Zurich (Trevor Jackson) who’s desperately trying to overcome that which his father never accomplished, that being to become a member of a black fraternity named “Lambda Lambda Phi.” The film begins during the final week of pledging, which for all purposes is called Hell Week, and showcases how Zurich’s academic and personal life get totally thrown to the side during it. Instead, his world becomes one where he allows himself to regularly be humiliated, degraded, taunted, paddled, and disciplined again and again, by a number of already initiated brothers, all for the sake of achieving his dream to become a Lambda Lambda Phi.

Watching “Burning Sands” reminded me so much of a life I lived 25 years ago when I myself pledged a fraternity. While I may not have gone through any physical beatings during any of that process, I did experience an incredible amount of mental and emotional torture that often led me to profusely cry. Having weekly line-ups in severely overheated rooms, sometimes for as long as three hours, where my pledge class had to answer trivia questions about initiated brothers, and being screamed at when we didn’t know the answers, was probably the hardest hazing I ever went through. But add in a night where I had to drink the quantities of a bunch of shot glasses where the contents were unknown and another where I had to consume a six-pack of warm beer as fast as I could, throwing up profusely over and over again in the process, made for some hellish hazing memories I’ll never forget. Yet through it all, I wanted to become a brother so bad that I was willing to do just about anything, just like my friend did who got his arm broken during his pledging process of another fraternity, most likely from paddling, yet continued forward till he finally became a brother.

That’s how come I could relate so much to why Zurich allowed himself to endure what he did in his own pledging process in “Burning Sands”. You see, by the time an individual gets to the final week of pledging, their mind tends to become willing to do just about anything to cross over and become a brother. But sadly, as I reflected on this movie and on my own pledging process, I realized that hazing is not only incredibly dangerous and potentially deadly, it’s also something that only continues to live on because those who get hazed only become the hazers once they get in, attempting to enact their “revenge” on those pledging next, thus becoming a vicious cycle that never ends.

Thankfully, my fraternity isn’t one of them anymore, as they put an end to it some time ago. Gone are all hazing tactics, which were replaced by a pledge process that involves much healthier principles to shape a person into a future brother. Unfortunately, that’s not the case with many other fraternities, sororities, and other organizations though who still buy into the idea that hazing is ok and just a part of the rite of passage. Hence why there is always at least one death each year on a college campus somewhere due to this practice and it’s usually where alcohol was consumed to toxic levels. And there are many other hazing tools as well that are just as deadly, none of which ever really help a pledge become a better person or a better brother.

And it should be mentioned as well, that another reason why hazing, like in “Burning Sands”, continues to live on is because of the fear that’s instilled into pledges along the way. Fear that scares a person so much that they are afraid to tell anyone what they’re going through, just like what a person experiences in an abusive relationship from their abuser.

So, while I became willing to do whatever it took, including living in constant fear, just as Zurich did in “Burning Sands”, simply to become a brother, it was truly an eye-opening experience to watch this Netflix film and be reminded quite well of why hazing needs to be completely done away before any more injuries, PTSD, or deaths ever occur.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

How I Matter, Even If I Never Appear On America’s Got Talent…

The only reality show I enjoying watching these days is America’s Got Talent (AGT) and although I’m usually quite amazed at the many gifted people who perform on the show, I sometimes feel a little down after watching each week’s episode simply because I don’t currently have a single talent that I could ever take onto that stage.

Yet, even though I’m not a magician, a comedian, a dancer, a singer, a dare artist, a ventriloquist, or any of the other types of acts that tend to make it past the first round on AGT, I do have a talent to communicate pretty well in life through both my speech and written word. Unfortunately, that’s not something that would ever get me anywhere in the largest talent show in our country.

So why is my lack of an AGT-type talent getting me so down?

It all comes down to my ego, as it keeps trying to convince me that to matter in this world, I need to become recognized for something.

And you know what?

That’s total bullshit, excuse my French.

I matter in this world, and so do you, not because we have some talent that puts us on the map. We matter because we each have a special uniqueness that was given to us by something Greater.

And while that special uniqueness may not ever be the “something” that makes us famous, it is “something” that still does serve a very special purpose, one that I believe God brought us here to do.

Case in point, I have personally witnessed how my words, both written and verbal, have helped others to heal from deep wounds, to seek recovery from addiction, to make peace within themselves, to find forgiveness, and so much more. And I give all that credit to God for giving me a talent that continues to grow.

So, while that may never be a talent I could ever take onto the AGT stage in front of Simon Cowell, Mel B., Heidi Klum, and Howie Mandel, it is something I feel I’m taking onto a much greater stage every single day in life, and that’s God stage, which is always all around me.

There, I perform to the best of my ability in each article I write, in every moment I share in a recovery meeting, and all the other times I share my experience, strength, and hope with others.

But, if you’re like me, and tend to still find yourself feeling from time to time that you don’t matter, especially when you start comparing yourself to the many gifted and talent people in the world who are stepping onto stages like AGT, remember, you too have special skills that are making a difference in this world and just as important to God.

It may be the ability to raise a child well.

It may be the ability to soothe people.

It may be the ability to organize things.

It may be the ability to light up any room you walk into.

It may be the ability to teach.

Or it may be something else.

Regardless of what it is, I truly believe we each have gifts and a uniqueness that makes us special in God’s eyes, ones I also believe we “perform” on God’s stage every day, and ones that God never, ever, buzzes us off of. In fact, it’s probably quite the opposite, as ultimately, to God, I think we’re all winners, and that’s why I know I matter, even if I never appear on America’s Got Talent…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Everything, Everything”, “A Heartwarming Love Story About A Girl Who Longs To Live Life To Its Fullest

While there are some who end up getting confined to their homes due to house arrest, there are others who must do the same because of serious health issues and that’s precisely the premise of the movie “Everything, Everything”.

“Everything, Everything” is about a 17-year old girl named Maddy Whittier (Amandla Stenberg) who has something called Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disorder (SCID), which in simple terms is a rare condition where one’s antibodies are not able to property fight off infection. Because of this, for as far back as she can remember, Maddy has been restricted to the safe confines of her sterile home where her companions have only ever been her mother Pauline (Anika Noni Rose), her nurse Carla (Ana de la Reguera) and Carla’s daughter Rosa (Danube Hermosillo). And other than an online support group that she occasionally chats with, Maddy has no one else to occupy her life with except her creative architecture projects. That all changes though when she stares out her bedroom window one day and catches the eye of her new neighbor, Olly Bright (Nick Robinson), as he’s moving in. Later that day, Olly attempts to visit her by bringing a gift in the form of a Bundt cake, which both he and the gift are promptly turned away by Pauline, who makes it abundantly clear that she wants no one else to be a part of Maddy’s life. Yet fate has another plan, as one evening when Maddy stares over into the window across from hers, she realizes it’s Olly’s room when he suddenly appears, smiles, and waves at her. He then proceeds to show her his sense of humor by doing some funny things to the failed Bundt cake gift and soon they begin to connect more and more after he writes his cell phone number on his bedroom window. Before long, Maddy begins to feel something she’s never quite felt before and that’s a longing to live life to its fullest, no matter what the cost and this is something I truly could relate to.

Living life to its fullest is something I’ve haven’t been able to do much of in recent years due to my own health issues. And while I don’t know exactly what it would feel like to spend over 16 years of my life living in my house like Maddy had to, never once being able to step foot outside, I still could relate, as I’ve had to watch much of the world go on around me, engaging in plenty of things I haven’t been able to do, ever since my health physically declined a number of years ago. So even though I’ve been free to walk out of my house every single day without potential consequences unlike Maddy, it still has felt like I’ve been in a prison of sorts like her home was to her in the film.

Yet, at the same time, after watching this movie, I had a lot more gratitude in life with the realization there are people just like Maddy in the real world, who are permanently stuck in their homes or in hospital beds due to their own health issues, as thankfully I’m currently not one of them. There are days though when I do wake up and struggle to get out of bed due to the level of pain I feel, but I always push myself to still get up and eventually walk out my front door to participate in life, because I know that tomorrow may never come and I too want to live life to its fullest and choosing to remain home is not doing that at all.

So, although I may not be able to do various things yet that I long to do again, like rock climb, hike, and go to amusement parks, I have a spiritual drive within me just like Maddy did, that keeps me going. And while Olly’s unconditional love for Maddy became the spark she needed to eventually break free from her prison and begin living life more to its fullest, God’s unconditional love of me is that which continues to drive me to do the same.

The bottom line is that I truly believe unconditional love, no matter where it comes from, is strong enough to overcome anything, just like it was for Maddy in the movie “Everything, Everything” and like it will be with me in life one day too…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Gifted”, A Very Moving Child Prodigy Film

While many may only be able to think of Chris Evans as the star-spangled superhero named Captain America, seeing how he’s played that role in seven films over the past six years, he has also acted in a number of other movies as well, some quite good in fact, one of which being “Gifted”, which I just caught a screening of recently in the theater.

“Gifted” is about man named Frank Adler (Chris Evans) who has solely been raising his deceased sister’s daughter Mary (Mckenna Grace), ever since her mother committed suicide. Mary is exceptionally intelligent, showing a brilliance well beyond collegiate levels at only 7 years old, especially in the area of mathematics. But, Frank feels she needs to be more like girls her own age, instead of spending all her time focusing on complex mathematical equations and hanging out with their adult neighbor Roberta (Octavia Spencer). So, he opts to send her off to public school in the hopes she finds that, but it becomes immediately apparent once there that Mary is bored, unchallenged, and has no desire to remain there. When her teacher Bonnie (Jenny Slate) notices this, and begins to see Mary’s arithmetic gifts emerge during their normal classwork, she quickly brings it to the attention of Frank and the school’s Principal, Gloria Davis (Elizabeth Marvel). Frank becomes adamant when they both suggest that Mary attend a school for gifted children and says Mary is just fine being right where she is. That answer doesn’t go over so well with Principal Davis though, who ends up getting in contact with Mary’s grandmother, Evelyn (Lindsay Duncan), as it’s her hope that Evelyn might be able to change Frank’s mind. Unfortunately, Evelyn is the very person Frank has been trying to keep out of Mary’s life and as soon as she swoops in, it becomes pretty obvious why, as her only desire is to see Mary develop her mathematical gifts. But when Frank refuses to compromise with Evelyn, she decides to take him to court for parental rights, thus drawing Mary into a fierce custody battle where the victor will either be Mary remaining the child Frank desires to continue taking care of or the prodigy Evelyn wishes to groom Mary into.

Overall, I really enjoyed this film a lot. I laughed, cried, and felt my heart move more than not throughout the entire running time and almost wished it didn’t have to end when the credits finally rolled. I’ve seen a number of child prodigy films over the years, none of which tugged at my heart-strings as much as this one did. Why that is has a lot to do with the incredible acting of both Chris Evans and Mckenna Grace. It was very refreshing to see how far Chris Evans has come in his acting abilities, as I clearly remember watching him in one of his first starring roles way back in 2001, where he played a totally goofy teenager in a spoof-based film titled “Not Another Teen Movie”. As for Grace, an eleven-year old actress who already has over forty acting credits to her name, she played the conflicted and genius seven-year-old so well that if “Gifted” had been released during awards season, there’s a good chance she would have been nominated for her role.

Nevertheless, while I may not be a genius on any level nor ever have been, and while I may not have ever gone through a custody battle either, I definitely could relate to the material of this movie, especially the family dynamics of Frank, Mary, and Evelyn. On some level, Evelyn was a lot like my mother, as she constantly drove me to overachieve in everything I did. My father on the other hand, was a lot like Frank, and seemed to always stress the importance of being of kid, even as an adult.

So maybe that’s why my heart moved as much as it did while watching “Gifted” and because of that, I highly recommend seeing it and give the film my best rating of five stars.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Trainspotting”, A Humorous Look At Heroin Addiction That’s Really Never Humorous

Recently I watched the movie “Trainspotting” (1996) for the first time along with a few friends of mine who’d already seen it. It’s mainly a film about heroin users that on some level seemed to occasionally take a humorous look at an addiction that’s really never humorous.

“Trainspotting” centers around the lives of Renton (Ewan McGregor), Spud (Ewen Bremner), and Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller) and the Edinburgh drug scene they are deeply immersed in. The movie focuses on all the highs and lows that a heroin junkie tends to go through including the crimes it takes to support their habit, the losses that stack up while engaging in their habit, and the hell that one goes through in any attempts to kick their habit.

What I struggled the most with this movie is the way the heroin addiction was portrayed, as many of the sequences that were involved were shot in such a way that it made the viewer laugh at the antics a heroin addict might go through. But in the world I live in, there’s nothing funny at all about heroin addiction. Every year the rate of heroin users continues to increase along with its rate of deaths. 13,000 people actually died in 2015 from this drug and I have personally watched countless lives throughout the rooms of recovery be destroyed by this disease.

Thus, watching Renton in this film fully crawl into a disgustingly dirty toilet that he just defecated into to retrieve two pills didn’t make me laugh one bit. Or watching Spud lose his bowels in a bed he slept in because he was so messed up and then seeing them eventually be sprayed all over everyone the next morning when the family grabbed the sheets out of his hand that he personally wanted to wash, didn’t make me laugh either. There were plenty of other scenes throughout the film as well where I noticed my friends were laughing, but I just couldn’t.

Because in my world where I’ve seen four sponsees, all under the age of 40, die from heroin overdoses, or where I’ve seen my actual friends steal, go to jail, hurt, maim, and attempt to kill all for this drug, made it kind of hard to watch a film that makes more light of an addiction that ultimately is extremely dark.

There was one scene in the movie though that I feel accurately depicted this disease at its worst and it involved a baby that was being brought up in an apartment where all these junkies hung out. It crawled around innocently, playing, and laughing as the mother thrusted one needle after another in her arm day after day. But one day, after an extended period of using, the woman discovers her baby dead in its crib, looking blue, malnourished and very diseased. As she screams and cries, Renton decides he needs to shoot up to deal with it, which she agrees is necessary as well. Soon, she’s high, her screaming is over, and she appears to care less about the loss. I shudder as I still picture these movie scenes in my head, because it’s scenes like them that happen far too often in the real world with heroin users. It reminds me of that family that shot up heroin in their car last summer, both passing out and overdosing while their baby sat in the backseat.

None of this is funny! Heroin addiction is never funny! It’s deadly and it’s taking the lives of many beautiful souls more than any other drug out there right now! People don’t come into the rooms of recovery and laugh about their heroin addiction, most in fact are usually crying because they’ve lost so much. Personally, I’d prefer to watch a film that has a more realistic approach to heroin addiction, that correctly shows the disease at its worst and never with humor. “Requiem For A Dream” was a great example of that.

Nevertheless, while director Danny Boyle does a good job highlighting some of the craziness that a heroin user goes through in his movie “Trainspotting”, I was left rather disappointed because I felt the film could mislead some who see it into believing that heroin is not as deadly as it truly is.

Heroin addiction is nothing to laugh about. It’s a serious problem in our country right now and I actually live in a state that leads the nation currently in overdose deaths. That’s not funny and never will be, so hopefully films that come out in the future about this disease will focus only on the bleak outlook that comes with it. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll also focus on the hope that does exist out there for a heroin user, that being the 12 Step rooms of recovery.

So, overall, while “Trainspotting” was a good cinematic movie in that it was original in its own design, its biggest flaw was in showing humor with an addiction that truly is never humorous at all…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Eddie The Eagle”, An Inspiring Film About An Unlikely Hero Who Never Gave Up

There are plenty of movies I resist seeing in the theater and even for home viewing, simply because I don’t like any of the trailers I see for them. And even when I’ve gone against that notion, and chose to see the full feature anyway, I’ve usually ended up regretting it, but not so with a 2016 film titled “Eddie The Eagle”, which I recently caught on television at home.

“Eddie The Eagle” is the true story of Michael “Eddie” Edwards (played by Taron Egerton), a determined British ski jumper who defied all the odds and qualified for the 1988 Winter Olympics. From an early age, Eddie’s only dream was to qualify for the Olympics, but due to a number of disadvantages that life dealt him from physical limitations to financial, it seemed as if Eddie’s dream was always beyond reach. But when he discovers his love of skiing and pursues it with all his might, he achieves local success, furthering his belief he’ll one day head to the Olympics. Yet even when he fails to make the competitive Olympic British team in 1988 for downhill skiing, he still doesn’t give up. That becomes overly evident when he learns there haven’t been any British ski jumpers since the 1920’s, as then he decides to quickly switch to the totally different winter event, convinced he will learn how to master the highly difficult sport all on his own and qualify for the Olympics there. And even through a number of setbacks and injuries, his determination eventually arouses the interest of a cantankerous coach named Bronson Peary (played by Hugh Jackman) enough to help him in his quest to become Olympic bound. In the end, it becomes apparent that Eddie is a man who never stopped believing in himself, even when so many counted him out, and becomes an unlikely hero in the process when he finally achieves his childhood dream.

When I first saw the trailer for this movie, I must admit I rolled my eyes and thought it looked kind of silly. And even after reading up on Eddie’s life on Wikipedia, I wasn’t motivated enough to head to the theater to see it. But zoom forward a year later when I noticed on one of those free premium channel weekends that my satellite company occasionally offers, that this movie was showing. I opted to record it to DVR mostly for my other half, as he had wanted to see it in the theater the prior year but never did. When we finally got around to watching it, I was less than enthused, half expecting myself to fall asleep during it. Yet, it was quite the opposite. Finding myself seeing some parallels to Eddie’s journey to the Olympics, to my own journey of self-healing, that many have often told me to give up on, just like they did Eddie, I actually found myself being pretty moved by the film. In a world where it’s rather easy to listen to others and give up on our dreams, our passions, and our goals, sometimes we have to look Higher and go deeper within, to channel enough energy that will help us defy the odds that so often seemed stacked against us. And that’s exactly what Eddie did in his own life, he never gave up and achieved his dream, which is precisely what I plan to keep doing and why I was so inspired by this film by the end.

I’m grateful for stories like Eddie The Eagle’s, because in a world where negativity seems to be abound these days all around me, it’s stories like his that truly help me to keep going and never give up on something I know I can achieve, God willing, just like Eddie did…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Before I Fall”, A Heartfelt Teenage Groundhog Day Film With Its Own Uniqueness

Ever since the movie Groundhog Day (starring Bill Murray) was released back in 1993, there’s been a slew of other movies and television programing that have followed in its footsteps. While I’ve seen most of them and feel none have ever surpassed the uniqueness of the original, one such film recently challenged that opinion, that being “Before I Fall.”

I should probably explain the premise of Groundhog Day first before I go any further though. To put it simply, it’s about a newsman who hates reporting the events of Groundhog Day each year in Punxsutawney, PA, until during one of them, he falls into a time loop and proceeds to wake up over and over again, on the same morning of the holiday he so despises, all till he learns how to become a more unconditionally loving person in life. “Before I Fall” doesn’t stray much from that overarching concept, although it’s more of a young adult drama than an all-around comedy like Groundhog Day is.

Nevertheless, “Before I Fall” centers around the life of Samantha Kingston (Zoey Deutch). Young, pretty, well-off, and soon to be graduating from high school, Samantha spends most of her time with three other teenage girls, all of a similar caliber. One could easily be reminded of a similar group of teenagers from the movie Mean Girls when watching them together on screen. Arrogant, stuck up, and focused solely on their own needs, wants, and desires in life, Samantha, Lindsay (Halston Sage), Ally (Cynthy Wu), and Elody (Medalion Rahimi) seem to only care about how they look, what guys they might be able to sleep with, and what parties are happening. This becomes overly apparent from the onset with Samantha when she wakes up to her phone’s alarm and is more interested in a text from a guy who doesn’t really care about her, instead of the piece of origami left on her bed by her little sister Izzy (Erica Tremblay) as a present. It becomes even more apparent a little later as she heads off to school when Izzy chases after her with the gloves she usually wears, hoping for a hug in the process, only to be yelled at by Samantha for touching her things. Later in school, Samantha continues to remain self-absorbed by joining in with her friend’s while they make fun of the one girl in school who stands out the most, that being Juliet Sykes (Elena Kampouris). Her streak of self-centeredness then heads into the night when the four attend a party held by Kent McFuller (Logan Miller), a guy who’s totally smitten with Samantha, who in turn wants nothing to do with him because he doesn’t quite fit her mold of what “cool” is. As the four girls proceed to get drunk, gossip, and eventually terrorize Juliet when she shows up at the party, a catfight ensues, causing them to instantly lose their buzzes and make the decision to head home. Unfortunately, Lindsay doesn’t pay much attention to the road while driving on the rain-soaked evening, focusing more on what music to play, when suddenly she hits something, causing her car to flip and potentially their deaths. But then Samantha’s alarm abruptly goes off on her phone, waking her up once again, playing the very same song that began her day yesterday. So, as the day begins to repeat a second time, Samantha is then thrust into the Groundhog Day premise, where she becomes the only one who knows the day keeps repeating, thus descending her into total confusion, frustration, and eventual hopelessness, and leaving her to ponder her life, her importance in the world, and who she ultimately wants to be.

“Before I Fall” has a number of twists and turns that Groundhog Day doesn’t and treads into somewhat new territory, choosing to deal with the serious-side of things versus comedy in the repeating-day concept. As I watched the film, I found myself truly connecting to Samantha’s angst more so than I did Bill Murray’s. Over the past seven years, while my days may have been moving forward chronologically, I’ve often felt as if I’ve still been reliving the same type of day over and over again, waking up each morning in incredible pain, and doing my best to get through it. Yet it’s all those pain-filled days that have also motivated me to question my existence, to question who I am, and to question who I truly want to be. It’s because of this I began to make serious changes in my life to become a more selfless and unconditionally loving type of being, as compared to the initial Samantha type personality I held for so many years. The person I am today is definitely not the same person I was seven years ago by any means, which is precisely why I connected so deeply and in tears to Samantha’s story. Watching her slowly wake up to the realization that she didn’t like who she was and seeing her find the motivation to become a better person in life, as each day repeated itself, really hit home with me.

Overall, “Before I Fall” truly stands apart from Groundhog Day, especially the ending, of which I won’t spoil of course. But if you truly like the repeating-day to learn life lessons concept, I highly recommend you check out this movie. While it may indeed not be totally fresh in its premise, it does hold enough originality and uniqueness to draw people in, like it did for me, which is why I give it 4 out of 5 stars.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

Don’t Give Up Before The Miracle Happens!

I’m not really a sport fan these days nor I don’t regularly follow any type of professional team, yet I still watch the Superbowl every year like I did just over a week ago when the New England Patriots played the Atlanta Falcons for the NFL championship. And while most people I knew were rooting against the team I was cheering for, that being the Patriots, something interesting happened with that game that I felt was an extremely invaluable reminder for myself and that’s to not give up before the miracle happens.

Whether you’re a fan of football or not, it’s actually a pretty impressive feat to come back from a 25-point deficit with only a quarter of a game to go. Personally, when half time came during Superbowl 51, I had already given up on my team having any chance of winning and chose to sulk out in my kitchen. Because unfortunately, that’s been a bad habit of mine over the years, to give up on something before the miracle ever has a chance to happen.

So, when the Patriots came storming back with one touchdown after another and tied the game with relatively no time left on the clock in the 4th quarter, I was relatively stunned. Not only because no team has ever come back from that large of a deficit in Superbowl history, but also because the Patriots have never overcome that large of a deficit in any regular season game either. Given those stats, I simply gave up on them and assumed they were going to lose, and badly at that. Yet, that didn’t happen. They did come back, with a vengeance at that, and forced an overtime, which is something that’s never happened in any prior Superbowl. And when they scored the first touchdown to win the championship, achieving a feat I hadn’t thought possible, it symbolized something I’ve long strived for.

You see, the path I’ve been on over the past six years has been a rough and bumpy one, ladled with plenty of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical struggles, sometimes more than I could have ever imagined I’d bear in life. So many times, I’ve wanted to give up, to check out, and assume that God won’t and/or never planned on delivering me out of this. Yet, watching the New England Patriots beat the odds, the statistics, and really any of their own self-defeating thoughts they might have had with a 25-point deficit to win the championship reminded me that miracles do happen, especially when you don’t give up.

That’s why I’m thankful the game ended as it did, because I needed the strong reminder to help me to keep going in my own life and overcome an ego that has so often wanted me to give up. And while I’m not sure what actually drove the Patriots to make such a huge comeback instead of giving up, I know for myself when the odds have been stacked against me like it was with them in the game, that there’s only one thing that’s ever helped me to overcome any deficit and that’s my faith in God. So, God willing, I plan on beating the odds in my own life and am not going to give up, because I truly do want to see the miracle happen, even if no one else seems to believe it ever will…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“A Dog’s Purpose”, A Moving Film That Addresses The Notion Of Reincarnation

There are plenty of times newly released films end up garnering negative attention. And even though “A Dog’s Purpose” was one of those, mostly due to some leaked footage that showed inhumane treatment of a canine used during filming, I still found myself deeply moved by a movie that addressed the notion of a spiritual principle I’ve only recently come to believe exists.

“A Dog’s Purpose” surrounds a dog named Bailey (voiced by Josh Gad) who enters the world as a very loving, playful, and curious golden retriever. When he’s rescued unexpectedly from an extremely overheating truck by a boy named Ethan (Bryce Gheisar), the two immediately bond. Soon, they’re inseparable and on some level, Bailey becomes the escape Ethan needs from a father who’s rather distant, overly stern, and a budding alcoholic. As Ethan ages and becomes a star high school quarterback (KJ Apa), his connection to Bailey grows even deeper, as Bailey always seems to know exactly what Ethan needs when he most needs it. Upon one of those many moments, Bailey abruptly introduces him to Hannah (Britt Robertson) at a carnival where the two quickly become quite smitten with each other and start planning dreams of a future with the three of them together. Unfortunately, when a freak accident shatters those dreams for Ethan, everything starts falling apart in his world. Angry and frustrated with his new reality, he ends his relationship to Hannah and reluctantly heads off to farmer college alone, leaving Bailey behind with his mother. Feeling abandoned and without purpose anymore, Bailey eventually succumbs to illness. As his life comes to a close and his eyes apparently shut for one final time, he suddenly reopens them only to find himself in a new body and with new purpose. Thus beginning a cycle of lives that leaves the viewer wondering, will Bailey be reunited one day to the person he first loved, that being Ethan?

This concept of reincarnation that “A Dog’s Purpose” proposes, is something you won’t find many Christians ever talking about. For most, life is a one and done type of deal and how their life is lived determines whether heaven or hell is their final destination. But what if life was more than this, for both humans and animals alike? It’s a hard concept to swallow I know, especially with a Christian-dominant country like the United States. And while I may consider myself a Christian, I also hold some devout Buddhist beliefs as well and have only recently begun to accept the possibility that I may have already lived a great number of lives prior to this. And like Bailey, who came in and initially had one purpose, to unconditionally love his first master Ethan, I too feel I was brought here with my own set of purposes for my own Master, that being God.  Unfortunately, I got sidetracked for a while here in this life due to a number of circumstances. But somewhere along the way I started to wake up and began feeling like I’ve been down this path before with a similar set of purposes, some that I never fulfilled. Watching “A Dog’s Purpose” resonated with much of these spiritual principles and truly left me wondering, maybe we really do come back life after life with varying sets of purposes to complete. Regardless of whatever inherent truths exist in this question, I have a difficult time now believing that life is a one and done type of deal like I once used to.

Nevertheless, “A Dog’s Purpose” is a moving film that does address the notion of reincarnation. And while that may have been its initial downfall in why it hasn’t been well received by critics and movie-goers alike, I still give this film 5 stars and highly recommend seeing it for those who continue to feel like there might be something more to God, than what’s presented in the Bible.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“When God Winks At You”

I’ve been reading a book lately that was given to me by a friend and it’s titled “When God Winks at You”. It’s a collection of real-life stories about how God speaks to all of us through the power of coincidence. I’ve really enjoyed it thus far and am further convinced that many of the things we often write off in this world as simply coincidences could actually be God blessing us. And what’s ironic is that my partner and I personally had one of our own experiences with this just over a week ago.

It all began with two tickets my sister had gifted us this Christmas to see Jeff Dunham who was coming to Detroit in late January. If you don’t know who he is, he’s a pretty well-known and very funny ventriloquist. Anyway, as the date of the show loomed closer, we grew more excited. But then my partner suddenly got a job with the postal service and didn’t know whether his schedule was going to conflict with the event or not. When he began his first day, six from the date of the show, he completely forgot to let them know of this prior engagement. Unfortunately, much to his dismay, during the next day’s class, he was assigned to shadow someone on their existing mail route on the very day of the performance. When he inquired on when that work day would end, he discovered it would be too late for him to make the show. I must admit, when I found out about this that evening, I was livid and didn’t do a very good job handling it at all. In fact, I pretty much threw a temper tantrum that I’m not very proud of. By the time I finally calmed down, I began to think of someone else I could ask to go with me, but I also decided to do something else in the meantime, and that was to start praying to God to provide a way for Chris to still go with me. With the performance being only four days away at this point, I didn’t have much hope of it happening though.

But then something quite interesting happened. Chris was in one of his training classes when he randomly befriended another new postal worker who just so happened to be someone that grew up in his neighborhood and whose mother had been great friends with his own. As they proceeded to get to know each other, they also discovered they had both been assigned the same postal route. When Chris inquired as to when she was doing her shadowing, it was two days after his. He then told her about his schedule conflict and how he was going to probably miss the event when she said she’d be willing to switch with him. Except when Chris asked their teacher for permission to do this, he was subsequently turned down with an answer that basically said their shadowing assignments were set in stone. Yet, with one final hope, Chris opted to go the very next day to the actual post office where their new assignments were and ask the manager directly for permission. When he came home later that day, I must say, it didn’t sound like that had gone over so well. Even so, I prayed again and asked God to make the decision and I’d accept the answer. And wouldn’t you know, the next day, less than 24 hours from the start of the Jeff Dunham show, Chris received a phone call that gave him the approval to switch.

While this might seem like a trite thing to you, maybe quickly being written off as a coincidence like so many things can often be, look at the number of “coincidences” that had to happen to make this possible:

  • I was given a book about how God speaks directly to people through the power of coincidence less than a week prior to the event.
  • Chris made one new friend during his first week of postal training who just so happened to be connected to his family and grew up in the same neighborhood as he.
  • Chris’s new friend was the only one assigned to the same route as he in their 18-person class.
  • The day that Chris’s new friend was assigned to shadow was actually Chris’s day off and vice versa for her
  • Neither had any scheduled conflicts with each other’s days of shadowing.
  • Both were willing to switch with each other (which is something many frequently don’t like to do these days with fellow co-workers on their days off).

So, are all these things merely coincidences that allowed for this to happen? Are they all part of some strange sort of randomness of the Universe that occasionally blesses people along the way? Or, does God truly exist and operate on a level that is far beyond anything we could ever imagine, placing the right people, in the right places, at the right times, all to make the necessary things happen that are meant to happen for God’s glory?

I leave you to come up with your own answer.

As for me, I already have my answer and have written today’s article as a personal thank you to God for winking at me through the power of coincidences and reminding me that He’s always working on my behalf. It just may not look like anything my small ego could ever come up with…

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“The Founder”, A Great Film About All The Deception That Went Into Creating McDonald’s

I haven’t eaten at a McDonald’s restaurant in a very long time, really ever since I saw the movie “Super Size Me”, which highlighted much of the unhealthiness of the food that’s regularly served there. Recently I became even more turned off to this fast food chain when I watched a film called “The Founder” that chronicled all the deceptive ways that went into making this huge franchise what it is.

The movie revolves around the man who made it all possible, that being Ray Kroc (played exceptionally by Michel Keaton). From the beginning, the viewer is introduced to him as a washed-up ice cream shake machine salesman. But one day, upon calling his secretary, she informs him of an establishment out in San Bernardino, California that wants to order six of his machines. Given his ongoing lack of sales and string of poor luck, Ray instantly thinks there must be some mistake, so he decides to contact the restaurant. Ironically the place is named “McDonald’s” and is owned by two brothers, Dick McDonald (Nick Offerman) and Mac McDonald (John Carroll Lynch), who in turn inform him there’s no mistake and that business is so good, they probably need to order at least eight of his machines. Ray, being the salesman he is, instantly is curious as to their success formula so he decides to head out west, driving across the country to see what this place named McDonald’s has to offer, that no one else seems to. There, he finds the McDonald’s brothers have created an ability to serve food faster than any other existing restaurant out there and with pretty great quality. Seeing the potential for a franchise and huge dollar signs, Ray immediately wants a piece of the action, except Dick and Mac aren’t so thrilled with the idea due to some of their previous attempts to expand it themselves. But Ray is that relentless type of salesman, who always seems to know what to say and how to say it, just to get what he wants. When the McDonald’s brothers finally cave in to his repeated pressures, albeit it reluctantly, Ray promises fortune and fame will come their way because of it. But eventually, when Ray’s profits from expanding the chain are not measuring up to all the effort he’s put into it thus far, it becomes overly apparent just how much of a salesman he truly is and how far he will go to get what he wants, no matter who gets hurt in the process.

Watching “The Founder” ultimately reminded me so much of all those pyramid-based companies out there I’ve either tried to work for over the years or been attempted to be recruited into. Places like Amway, NuSkin, Herbal Life, various co-op electric companies, or these days, a number of businesses who sell holistic products. Each promising huge dollar signs and great returns if you become a salesperson for them. They give awesome presentations and seem to know exactly what to say to get someone involved, and even when you don’t choose to, they find a way to at least get you to buy their product(s). But if one does get involved, the only concern then becomes where the next sale will come from. In the past few years, it’s grown even worse, as I’ve fielded a number of phone calls and emails from people who I haven’t heard from in years, where they initially say hi and how they miss me, until the real purpose of their call occurs, that being me as the recipient of their sales pitch to the product(s) of one of these companies.

I’m definitely not cut out to be a salesman like that, using my friends as a source to make money off of. I also don’t like lying, manipulating, cheating, or being deceptive in any way, shape, or form, just to make my bank account grow. But regrettably, I must admit I once did just that, using friends and loved ones to pitch product(s) from one of these companies, just to make a buck for myself. And it never did feel right to my soul either. Yet there are plenty like Ray Kroc, and many others in this world, who feel otherwise and believe making money is the only thing that matters. In the process of doing so, they often promise the world to those they pitch to, yet in the end, many are frequently left with little to no return, like Ray did with the McDonald’s brothers.

Nevertheless, “The Founder” is a great film that highlights all the deception that went into creating McDonald’s into the billion-dollar company it’s become these days. And although I’m even more convinced now to never spend my money at any of their establishments, I highly recommend you see this film, at least for educational purposes, and give it 4 ½ stars out of five.

Peace, love, light, and joy
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Silence”, Another Disturbing Film About Religious Persecution

Watching a movie where the predominant focus is on Christians being severely persecuted isn’t normally my cup of tea. Case in point, when I saw The Passion of the Christ over a decade ago, I was truly horrified for how long the scenes were of the beatings, lashings and torture of Christ himself. Ever since, I’ve avoided pretty much any movie that delved into similar subject material. That changed though recently when a new movie titled “Silence” was released into theaters. Given all the Oscar buzz and good reviews from critics surrounding the film, I opted to not practice contempt prior to investigation by heading to the theater to check it out.

Written and directed by Martin Scorsese, “Silence” is loosely based upon the true story of Jesuit priests who travelled to Japan in the early 17th century to spread Catholicism. With a running time just over 3 hours long, the film centers around two priests from Portugal named Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garupe (Adam Driver), who go a mission to Japan to locate their mentor, Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson), who has gone missing, and to continue promoting Christianity as well. Unfortunately, once there they find an incredible amount of fear and resistance to their religion and faith and are met with a dictatorship that predominantly believes Buddhism is the only path to salvation. And it’s not very long into the movie where the similarities to The Passion of The Christ begin as the viewer must endure plenty of scenes of torture and even murder of those perceived to be practicing Christianity. Most of those scenes were incredibly difficult to watch, which is probably why I was rather grateful when the film ended and the credits began to roll.

While all the elements of “Silence” were done quite well from the cinematography, to the costumes, to the plot, and to the acting, I found this film truly disturbing like I did The Passion of The Christ. Disturbing because of how much throughout history those in power have often persecuted various people of faiths that weren’t the predominant one being practiced in a specific region. Sadly, I continue to see this happening today in many places in this world, and on some level, even here in the United States. It may not be so much in the physical sense anymore, but by far, it still does occur frequently in the mental and emotional sense. I have personally experienced this far more times than I can count and have been proselytized to by those claiming their faith was the only one that’s valid. And anytime I’ve ever expressed any dissension to it or talked about my interest in another path of faith, it’s regularly been met with words that have left me feeling like I was wrong and frankly like a piece of crap.

The fact is there has constantly been an incredible amount of religious persecution throughout our world’s history. It always starts with people growing used to believing and following the spiritual path they do. But at some point, that path is met with another type of faith and when it does, they are challenged with either expanding their beliefs or totally denouncing any others that aren’t their own. Unfortunately, the latter seems to be the leading course of action time and time again. And while much spiritual growth on our planet has allowed this to loosen a bit over the years, too many still live in fear that there might be more than what shows up in the Koran, or the Bible, or the Torah, or in any other religious text.

“Silence” demonstrated that fear all too well, so much so, that I hope to not be in a theater any time soon watching another film on religious persecution. All in all though, the film was executed with excellent precision and for that I give it 3 ½ stars out of 5.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Enchanted”, A Very Funny And Unique Disney Movie To Revisit Often

It’s rare that I end up liking any of the comedy movies being released into theaters these days. More often than not, I instead usually find myself rolling my eyes and groaning to all the “potty humor” that seems to be prevalent in most of them now. I can only handle jokes surrounding defecation, urination, flatulence, and sex so much. But occasionally a movie comes along that has a good, old-fashioned sense to it and still brings about those deep-down belly laughs for me. And thankfully, I have a few of those movies in my home collection that I continue to revisit again and again anytime I need to find some humor in life, and one of those is a wonderful Disney flick titled “Enchanted.”

Released in 2007, the film is a clever cross-blend of both animation and live-action that begins in the former with a beautiful singing woman named Giselle (Amy Adams) who’s living in the kingdom of Andalasia and wanting nothing more in life than to meet a beautiful prince to marry. When a series of accidental events introduces her to a prince named Edward (James Marsen), they immediately decide they’re meant for each other and choose to wed the very next day. This in turn draws the negative attention of Edward’s evil step-mother, Queen Narissa (Susan Sarandon), who’s intent upon being the only ruler in the kingdom and not wanting anyone else to have any happily-ever-after’s. To prevent that from ever happening, she disguises herself as an old woman and convinces Giselle that she needs to make a special wish at the large castle fountain before she gets married. Unfortunately for Giselle, it’s just a ploy to remove her from the realm completely by pushing her through a portal, which lands her directly in the center of real-life Times Square in New York City in full marital gown and all.

At first glance, I know this might sound an awful lot like this film is going to be no different than all those other Disney animated movies, where it’s mostly a conglomeration of songs and dance numbers accompanied by some whimsical characters and a good versus bad plot. Movies like The Little Mermaid or The Lion King per say. But trust me when I say that Disney begins to poke fun of itself by parodying its own genre when Giselle attempts to navigate herself through the real streets of New York City trying to figure out where she actually is. So as not to ruin any of the unique and witty humor to come, let’s just say that most of it truly starts when a divorce lawyer and good Samaritan named Robert (Patrick Dempsey) finds Giselle frantically knocking on the door of a glitzy billboard that’s in the shape of a castle. From there, the laughs multiply exponentially when Giselle’s loyal chipmunk Pip discovers Narissa’s evil plot and gets Edward to pursue Giselle through the portal into New York City too. As there, Pip finds himself unable to speak and Edward, still in his full prince garb, begins running around Times Square, sword-a-blazing.

While I’ve never been much of a fan of most of those classic Disney animated films, mostly because I’m not one who enjoys seeing a serious tone and dialogue going on and then suddenly having to deal with a character breaking out into a rousing ballad and dance number, I can safely say Enchanted isn’t that at all. Instead, it takes this typical Disney genre and plays off of itself by plopping those animated characters who usually live in those positive, magical bubbles into the non-animated world of New York City, a place that I grew up near, where people often seemed to me to be quite rude, mean, irritable, and angry on a daily basis.

So, if you happen to be down and out and are looking for something to lift up your spirit, I suggest you check out the movie “Enchanted”. It’s not your typical Disney animated movie by any means. Rather, it’s a film that’s chock full of good-natured laughs that are “potty-free”, original, and truly gut-bursting. And it’s why I give Enchanted my best rating of a full five out of five stars.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Spiritual Look At The Kim Burrell Controversy

I had no idea who Kim Burrell was up until she became a major news headline lately, as well as the subject of a number of conversations that went on around me. For those who quite possibly didn’t hear about this already, the quick summation is this. Burrell is one of the singers on the soundtrack for the recent hit movie titled Hidden Figures. She’s also a pastor at the Love & Liberty Fellowship Church in Houston, Texas where one of her sermons went viral and showed her preaching that gay people are “perverted” and an embarrassment to God (To see that part of her sermon, click here). When approached with the backlash to her sermon, her response was “I make no excuses or apologies.”

Hearing something like this truly saddens me, not because it was about a person who was expressing their anti-gay views, which is something I’ve actually grown used to hearing in the past two decades, but more so because they did it on behalf of God, meaning they felt they were speaking directly for God.

As far as I know, Kim Burrell isn’t God, nor am I, nor are any of my friends or family. But all too often, there have been far too many people who come along and express their religious views and do so by justifying that it is God’s will, solely because of their own interpretation of God.

Look, everyone is entitled to their own views and opinions in this world, but when someone begins speaking for God and throws a whole class of people in a bucket labeled “perverted”, it bothers me greatly. Frankly, I’m not sure if Burrell realizes that Jesus himself said to never judge another, yet she did just that not only in front of her congregation, but to millions and millions of people in the rest of the world too when her sermon went viral on the Internet.

It also seems as if Burrell is forgetting about the main message that Christ hammered over and over again and that’s the principle of love. Jesus said the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and will all your mind. And the second was to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” I have a hard time believing that Kim Burrell was actually practicing either of those commandments by denouncing the entire LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) community, given how far from loving her statements were.

Ironically, Burrell was actually scheduled to appear on the Ellen DeGeneres show around the same time her sermon ended up going viral. And being that Ellen is a very open lesbian, as well an extremely pro-LGBT activist, it goes to show why it was decided to pull Burrell from appearing. Since then, Burrell’s weekly radio show has also been cancelled and she was uninvited from appearing at a gospel awards show as well.

It’s kind of sad that Kim Burrell has had to experience the fallout she has, given how good a singer she truly is. Her talented voice is ultimately God-given, and one that can really move the soul. But how easily it was for her to use that same God-given voice to let other words come out of it that weren’t moving to the soul at all.

So, while I do feel everyone is entitled to vocalizing their own personal views on anything, like I do quite a bit in my blog on a regular basis, doing so in a way that judges and hurts others and claiming it’s God’s will is something I don’t support. If love is all that matters to God, is saying statements that claim all gay people in this world are “perverted” and an embarrassment to God being loving? I think you already know the answer to that, regardless of where you stand on the subject of homosexuality.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Collateral Beauty”, A Critically-Bashed Spiritual Movie I Still Treasured

I often use the website Rotten Tomatoes as a gauge for whether I choose to go see a movie in the theater or not. If you’re not familiar with this site, it’s where most of our country’s top film critics pool their reviews and then a rating is given by the “Tomatometer”, which is based upon the overall summation of those reviews. A good review is denoted by a fresh red tomato, which means at least 60 percent of all critics liked the movie. But if that rating falls below 60 percent, then it’s denoted by a rotten green tomato splat. Most often, when any movie drops below a 30 percent rating or less, I rarely, if ever, go see it because that means that at least 70 percent or more of all the critics in the country didn’t like it. And when the rating gets that low, I’ve usually tended to agree with the critics each time I’ve gone to see the film anyway. In light of that, when I saw on Rotten Tomatoes that a recent release titled “Collateral Beauty” received a measly 13 percent rating, I was extremely disappointed because all the previews I saw for this film had peaked my interest greatly. That being said, I opted to go against the critics, as well as the masses of people who saw it already and said it was terrible, and ironically, I’m glad I did because I truly treasured this movie.

Collateral Beauty is about a man named Howard (Will Smith) who has been broken ever since his young daughter died due to cancer. When the movie begins, it’s been over two years since that happened, yet Howard is still completely unable to effectively communicate with anyone nor live his life with any sense of normalcy. His company is also beginning to fall apart, much to the dismay and frustration of his fellow business partners, which include Whit (Edward Norton), Claire (Kate Winslet), and Simon (Michael Pena). While Howard spends most of his work days building complex chains of dominoes, his partners are trying to figure out a way to convince Howard to accept a buyout that’s being offered, which would help save the company and their jobs. When it’s decided that the only solution is to usurp control from Howard by proving to the board he’s incompetent, Whit hires a private detective to find enough evidence of that. In the process, it’s discovered that Howard has been mailing letters on a regular basis to “Love”, “Death”, and “Time” due to his immense grief. When they realize that’s not going to be enough to prove Howard’s instability, Whit runs into a strange woman named Amy (Keira Knightley) at his company who’s in line for some audition. After a brief conversation with her where it’s apparent she’s his type, Whit watches her abruptly disappear into the nearest elevator. He immediately follows in pursuit and ends up at an old, broken-down theater where he sees both she, and two others, Brigitte (Hellen Mirren), and Raffi (Jacob Latimore) rehearsing lines with each other. It’s then that Whit concocts the idea of hiring each of them to answer Howard’s letters by playing the respective parts of “Love”, “Death”, and “Time” where the main stipulation made is that Howard will only be able to see them. In doing so, he then plans on having the detective film Howard from safe distances and later digitally edit out the actor’s presences each time they confront him. This then will be used later as the evidence needed to prove that Howard is losing his mind and not able to make any type of sane business decisions. Ironically, all of this happens in the first ten minutes or so of the film, setting the stage for the rest of it.

Why I believe so many critics and viewers alike bashed this film is due to the spiritual complexity it presented. In the previews for it, it appears that there’s going to be a supernatural element present, yet when watching it, it’s pretty easy to think otherwise at the precise moment when Whit meets the three actors who end up playing Love, Death, and Time. But it’s also pretty easy to miss a few key lines early on in the movie as well that are strongly reminiscent of the premise from an old television show named “Touched By Angel”. In that series, angels appeared as everyday people who showed up in individual’s lives at cetain times for specific reasons to help them. And only those who needed to see them would. So, while many viewers may have thought they were misled and never caught on to any of the supernatural subtleties being presented, I clearly noticed them. And I also saw how those “actors” were there in the film not just to help Howard, but also to help heal the wounds that Whit, Claire, and Simon were carrying as well.

Movies like this are frequently hard to sell in mainstream society. They present elements that often go beyond most people’s thinking and spiritual views. The idea that angels could actually appear in human form and act just like us can seem quite preposterous to some. Yet I often believe that’s exactly how they’d present themselves in my own life if they ever appeared. That basically, I would never even know they were an angel in the first place. Frankly, I’ve even wondered at times if God or Christ or any other Higher Being of Light has done this in my life before without me ever knowing. While I may never discover the answer to that in this life, I can say this.

Collateral Beauty was exactly the type of movie I treasure because it presented some spiritual elements that left me expanding my mind rather than deflating it long after the credits rolled. It also left me with a very positive feeling and became the first movie where I wholeheartedly disagreed with the critically-bashed rating it received on Rotten Tomatoes. I’m glad I ignored all those bad reviews and went to see it anyway, because in the long run, I realize the openness of my spiritual journey these days helped me to fully appreciate this hidden gem of a movie. I personally give this film 4 ½ stars out of 5.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Manchester By The Sea”, A Sad Film Surrounding The Inability To Forgive Oneself

There are some movies I see from time to time that truly depress me, not because they are poorly done, but because they inherently explore a subject that remind me of something very painful from my dysfunctional past. “Manchester By The Sea”, a film written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan, is one of those that definitely falls into this territory.

Mostly set in the sleepy Massachusetts coastal town of the same name as the title, the movie revolves around the life of Lee Chandler (Casey Affleck). As the film opens, we learn Lee no longer lives in Manchester and actually resides south of Boston in the town of Quincy, which is a good hour and a half drive away. There, his job entails the janitorial maintenance of several housing complexes and it’s quite apparent how miserable and unhappy he is with both it and his life, but we aren’t initially told why. After having a strong verbal confrontation with one of the tenants and sharing some extremely frustrated words with his boss thereafter, he receives a phone call where he learns his brother Joe (played by Kyle Chandler, who ironically keeps the same last name in the film) has died. Immediately upon hearing the tragic news, Lee heads back to his hometown where we begin to see flashbacks of his once happy life there. While most of the movie surrounds the mystery of what torments Lee so much about Manchester, there is also a second plot that involves Joe’s son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), someone he once had an incredibly close connection to. Unbeknownst to Lee until his brother’s will is read, he learns he’s to be given full custody of Patrick. Sadly, he profusely refuses to take on the responsibility, except we aren’t told why. But without spoiling the most major plot point of the film, Lee’s resistance to taking on Patrick’s guardianship and overall anguish in life both revolve around the same thing. There is something so painful from his past that he was responsible for, which he refuses to forgive himself over and wants nothing to do with his former life in Manchester because of it.

The angst that Lee goes through throughout this entire film really spoke to me, not so much due to what he specifically did in his past that haunted him all the way to his present, but for the fact that he just couldn’t come to a place of forgiving himself for it. Why that spoke to me is simply because I did the very same thing when it came to my father’s suicide.

The final conversation I had with my father prior to his death was during the last week of his life where he was locked up in a psychiatric ward. There, he called me to say hello, looking for support, except I was so wrapped up in my own selfishness that I proceeded to go into all my own drama, not once asking him how he was. When he interrupted me and said he couldn’t handle talking about any of what I was going through, but that he did love me, I was somewhat less than cordial. A few days later he was released and shortly after that his body was found in a dingy motel in Atlantic City alongside a suicide note. I blamed myself for his death for three straight years after that, telling myself I could have done more to prevent it. In turn, my health deteriorated quite a bit, I became dependent on medications and therapy for survival, and developed a number of medical conditions as well because of it. By the end of that three-year period, I was ready to die and pretty much thought about killing myself every single day, but thankfully, by the grace of God, I discovered a men’s spiritual organization called The ManKind Project that said they could help. Mostly out of desperation and being sick and tired of not knowing how to forgive myself or my father for that matter, I agreed to go on their initial retreat called The New Warrior Training. There I found forgiveness for both and the freedom that came from it was incredible.

But watching Lee Chandler in Manchester By the Sea refuse to forgive himself throughout its entire 2 hour and 17-minute running time was a little too hard to swallow. As I sat there and partook in every bit of self-torture that he went through with violence, rage, addiction, and more, I was reminded all too well of the similar path I took when I couldn’t forgive myself for my father’s suicide. And it was for those reasons which ultimately depressed me, even long after the film ended.

While Manchester By The Sea is definitely a well written and directed movie, it’s subject matter is not one for the light of heart, especially when the viewer has struggled with forgiving them self for something painful they did in their past. I’m just grateful that I’ve learned how important self-forgiveness is because without it, I was left with hopelessness, despair, and constant thoughts of suicide.

Nonetheless, Manchester By The Sea was a great movie, albeit a very depressing one. In light of that, I still expect it will garner a number of Oscar nominations this year in several different categories and most likely will earn a number of other awards as well. I give this film four out of five stars and recommend it to those who truly are fans of strong cinematic and art-based fare.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Moonlight”, A Coming Out Story That Everyone Can Relate To

It’s rare that I ever see a movie that delves into the subject of homosexuality show up in mainstream cinemas. It’s even rarer for one to garner any type of awards, especially the Oscars. The last time this happened dates all the way back to 2005 with Ang Lee’s “Brokeback Mountain”, which starred Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger. But I think this dry spell is bound to end with the recent release of a little gem of a movie titled “Moonlight”.

I was actually surprised when I discovered this film playing locally here in Toledo given how small of a city we are. Normally, very few artsy-based features ever make it into one of the only three theaters we have here. Instead it’s usually more of the standard blockbuster-type popcorn fare. In light of knowing that, a couple days later I attended one of its screenings seeing that most movies like this tend to last no more than a week or two here.

Slightly reminiscent of the movie “Boyhood”, Moonlight chronicles the story of a shy African American kid named Chiron through three different periods of his life: pre-teen (played by Alex R. Hibbert), teenager (played by Ashton Sanders), and young adult (played by Trevante Rhodes). From the onset, we learn that Chiron is desperately trying to find his place in the world. Fatherless and living with a drug-addicted mother in a rough neighborhood of Miami, Chiron has no role models. But when Juan (Maherhshala Ali), a local middle-aged drug dealer, saves him from a bunch of bullies, that all begins to change. The real shift in Chiron’s life takes place though when a boy named Kevin (Jaden Piner) befriends Chiron one day after both finish playing with a bunch of other kids on a soccer field. When Kevin attempts to toughen Chiron up, they end up in a playful wrestling match, which only seems to stir something deep from within for both. From there, the movie follows Chiron through those three periods, as he begins to grapple with his sexuality, his despair over his mother, and his lack of any sort of direction in life.

Without going into any more details so as not to spoil the plot any further, I think it’s best to say that Moonlight was probably the closest to some of my own experiences of coming out in life. While I may not have grown up in a rough neighborhood, I did experience the same lack of healthy parenting Chiron went through, given the dysfunctionality of my parents with their alcoholism and mental illness. And like Chiron as well, before I came to terms with my sexuality, I went through a long period of looking for role models in guys I was attracted to, which for me ranged widely from drug dealers to retired businessmen.

Without a doubt, this is much of the reason why Moonlight definitely struck several heart chords within me. Done in a very tasteful and never overly sexualized way, Moonlight speaks to the many struggles an individual often goes through in trying to come to terms with not only their sexuality, but also their place in life. By far, I feel Moonlight deserves to be healthily nominated during the upcoming film awards season. It’s my hope it will even penetrate the Academy Awards this year as well, seeing that movies centered around black people have sadly been overlooked more than not there.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend seeing Moonlight, even for those who don’t have a same-sex attraction, because like Brokeback Mountain did many years ago, this film speaks on more than one level and is done in a way that truly is gentle and moving to the soul. It really is a story that everyone can relate to and it’s my hope that more mainstream movies like this will be made in the near future. And just as importantly, it’s also my hope you’ll see why I gave the film 5 out of 5 stars.

Peace, love, light, and joy,
Andrew Arthur Dawson

moonlight

“Doctor Strange”, A Superhero Who Finds His True Path Through Surrendering

There are plenty of superheroes from the comics that most people will know the names of even if they’ve never really been comic book fans. Superheroes such as Iron Man, Thor, The Hulk, The Flash, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman to name a few. But Doctor Strange? Unless you really are into superheroes like I’ve been throughout most of my life, then you probably aren’t going to know about this one. Nevertheless, Doctor Strange is personally one of my all-time favorite comic book characters, especially as of late, and Marvel’s latest foray into its growing list of movie releases about superheroes truly does his story justice.

Doctor Strange (played by Benedict Cumberbatch) begins with him as one of the world’s leading neurosurgeons. One who’s at the top of his game, is wealthy, extremely good-looking, and overly ego-centric. But then one day it all comes crashing down upon him when he gets into a major car accident and his hands are crushed. After a number of unsuccessful surgeries and attempts at miracle cures, Strange still refuses to accept the nerve damage in his hands as permanent, believing his only purpose in life is to use them in the surgical practice he feels he was born to do. As he continues to exhaust what little money he has left, he hears of a person who was healed from an injury even worse than his and discovers that the potential cure is as far away as could be, in Tibet. There he meets a teacher named The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) and demands to get his hands healed. When The Ancient One explains to him that there’s far greater paths for him in life than just being a doctor, Strange has a hard time swallowing that until he witnesses magical things his science and medicine can’t explain. Immediately he wants to know more. Thus begins Doctor Strange’s path of surrendering his former self to becoming The Sorcerer Supreme and eventually a member of the superhero team known in the Marvel world as The Avengers.

Why I am drawn so much to the story of Doctor Strange is how similar my own life path has been. Having come from a relatively well-to-do family that was rather ego-centric itself more than not, and having worked in a field that once paid me quite well, my own life circumstances greatly changed when my health suddenly fell apart a number of years ago. After that happened, I, like Strange, spent years and large sums of money looking for ways to fix it so that I could return to the life I once had. But when none of those fixes worked the way I wanted, I began to arrive at the conclusion that maybe my Higher Power had something much greater in store for me than returning to my old business-oriented life and receiving those high-dollar paychecks. Thus began my own path of surrendering, studying, and waiting upon God for guidance and direction to becoming who I’m meant to be.

Doctor Strange really is a great superhero movie, particularly if you’re someone who’s had to go through any process of surrendering in life. Surrendering everything you thought you knew all for the hopes of becoming something much greater in life. If that fits you in any way, then I highly recommend seeing this film, especially in 3-D, as I’m sure you’ll be spiritually moved as much as I was in watching it.

doctor-strange

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Queen Of Katwe”, A Film That Opens Your Eyes On Some Of Our World’s Poverty

Have you ever watched a movie where you found yourself being more interested in a certain aspect of the movie versus the plot itself? Queen of Katwe ended up being one of those for me.

Based upon the real life story of Uganda native Phiona Mutesi (played by Madina Nalwanga), Queen of Katwe revolves around Phiona’s discovery of an incredible ability to play the game of chess at a very young age. While the film itself was quite inspirational, I found myself more drawn to the fact that Phiona grew up in extremely impoverished conditions. Much of the film drew upon that and showed scenes from the conditions of the slums she once lived in.

Why her impoverished upbringing was far more interesting to me than the story of her becoming a master chess player is simply this. I have never experienced what it feels like to be poor like she did and to totally honest, much of the previous years of my life I was pretty ungrateful for the abundance that God had blessed me with since the day I was born.

Things like having running water, being able to take showers or baths, having ample food in the cupboards, sleeping on cushiony beds, and having windows and doors to my home that can actually be opened and closed were all things Phiona never knew during her childhood. Her home was initially a metal shack with one room and an area where she and her siblings slept next to each other on a hard slab. Water came from a rusty spigot in the center of town that she had to carry in buckets home each day. Food was consistently scarce for her and usually came from daily bartering on the streets. And due to how poor her family ultimately was, she spent most of her younger years not being able to get a proper education because they couldn’t afford to send her to school. Thus she was never taught how to even read or write. Each of these aspects of Phiona’s life were things that automatically came to me in the family I was born into. I grew up in one that was middle to upper class and I’m sure from Phiona’s childhood perspective, I probably lived a life of luxury.

I feel sad when I think about how ungrateful I used to be when billions of others were and still are living in severe poverty-based conditions just like Phiona once did. Yet it’s easy to forget about that in today’s society and instead dwell on nothing more than what we don’t have in life. Take when I was a young teenager for example. Back then every one of my neighbors had cable and I was angry that we didn’t. And when a childhood friend got a full-size arcade game for his garage, I became irritated at my parents when they didn’t get one as well. Those were just two of the many ungrateful moments I had in life that I never realized how good I really had it.

Thankfully I’m far more aware of it these days and am quite grateful now for things such as my humble abode, the food I eat each day, the clothes I have to wear, the water that comes into my home, and for so many other things that are a regular part of my life. As now I’m aware of people out there who don’t have any of these things and instead are living in dire straits like Phiona did during her adolescent years.

So while the Queen of Katwe movie was mainly about the emergence of a poor female chess player from Uganda, my interest remained fixated throughout the entire film on the conditions a little girl was born into and had to endure. Given the stark contrast to the rich bubble life I grew up in, I’m thankful to God for helping me to see just how much of an abundance I truly had growing up and still do.

It’s my hope each of you will think about this the next time you find yourself becoming ungrateful for anything you perceive is lacking in your life…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Designated Survivor”, A Riveting New TV Show That Seems All Too Real

For those who know me, I’m not much into politics, but there’s a new television drama most definitely political in nature that has become the number one show I look forward to watching every week. It’s called Designated Survivor and stars Kiefer Sutherland as Tom Kirkman who is suddenly thrust into the role as President when a deadly terrorist act wipes out all the members of Congress during a State of the Union Address at the US Capitol.

Until I watched the first episode of this new television series, I never fully understood what a “Designated Survivor” actually referred to in our government. Simply put, it’s an individual in the presidential line of succession, usually a member of the United States Cabinet, who is arranged to be at a physically distant, secure, and undisclosed location whenever the President and all the country’s top leaders are gathered in a single location, such as a State of the Union address or a presidential inauguration. In the case of ABC’s new hit show, Tom Kirkman is the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development who is chosen to be the designated survivor during a major presidential speech at the capitol.

What has interested me the most about this show so far is the reality that something like this type of event could truly happen in today’s day and age. In a country and a world where terrorist attacks seem to be ever increasing, I often wonder if it’s just a matter of time before something like this ends up taking place in the United States or somewhere else.

After the terrorist attacks on 9/11/01, I can honestly say I didn’t feel safe in my country anymore. Maybe I was living in a bubble prior to that and was never safe to start with, but given the fact that every time I glance at the latest news headlines nowadays, I see there’s been some type of terrible event somewhere in our country, which in turn makes me constantly question whether it’s just a matter of time before another deadly terrorist attack happens on our soil like 9/11 or even like the premise of this new show.

Nevertheless, what I like best about Designated Survivor thus far is how it’s choosing to portray what might happen after an attack of such magnitude occurred in our country, when essentially all of our leaders are wiped out. Personally, I hope something like this never, ever, happens as long as I’m alive, because my honest opinion about what would take place is what the show is already demonstrating, that utter chaos would probably reign supreme for a while both within our borders and most likely with a good portion of the rest of the world as well.

I must say that Sutherland does do a superb job playing the underdog in a position the country didn’t elect him to in this riveting series that seems all too real. Great supporting work is also done by Kal Penn, who plays the president’s speech writer Seth Wright, Natascha McElhone, who plays the president’s wife Alex, and Adan Canto, who plays the president’s Chief of Staff Aaron Shore.

For a dramatic program with such great depth in acting and an incredible premise, believing in the possibility that an event like this could ultimately happen isn’t much of a stretch. And while it’s hard to imagine the state of our country deteriorating even worse that it feels like it has in recent years, the show clearly shows it could. But as with all calamities that have ever taken place in our country throughout history, great leaders and heroes have risen from their ashes and Tom Kirkman seems poised to become just that in ABC’s new series Designated Survivor, of which I greatly look forward to continuing watching in future weeks…

designated-survivor-image

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Glass City Men’s Coffee Group

Earlier this year my partner and I began attending the Glass City Men’s Coffee Group here in Toledo, which consists of gay men who meet every Tuesday night at various coffee shops, restaurants, and member’s homes for great conversation, food, and of course coffee. What’s ironic about this is that it’s doing something quite out of my norm.

About five years ago, I actually stopped hanging around the whole gay scene because I had grown tired and weary of what usually went on during most of the things I attended in it. Conversations always seemed to be sexualized. Cruising others was a constant norm. Gossip and judgments ran rampant. And open promiscuity was often present as well. None of which were in alignment with my spiritual journey anymore.

Occasionally though I’d make a gay friend or two, or sometimes a gay couple, usually from my recovery from addiction realm, who shared similar feelings as I and my hanging out with them here and there would become the extent to my gay social calendar. Thus going to things like gay pride, gay bars, gay pool parties, gay camping trips, gay drag shows, and plenty more, were all thrown to the wayside, simply because I just didn’t enjoy those things anymore whenever I went to them.

But back in February here in Toledo, I met a guy named Carl at a party that a local businessman and friend was throwing for his community. And it was Carl who told me about this Glass City Men’s Coffee Group during the course of our conversation. When I told him the truth that I normally didn’t attend most gay-based things anymore and why, he suggested I give this group a chance because it didn’t fit that mold.

A few months later I finally did, and I’m grateful to God for that because I actually enjoyed it. But far more important than that was the lesson I learned in continuing to go and that was the realization that I really had been doing nothing more than placing judgment on the gay community as a whole every time I avoided doing anything that was gay-based. And overall, I truly had totally polarized myself completely away from in some aspects, a part of me.

Thus I’m thankful I’m far more open to change these days than I used to be. I give credit to God for this, as my faith in God has led to some pretty wonderful changes in my life like going to this group.

The bottom line is that this Glass City Men’s Coffee Group here in Toledo, which officially began back in the late 1960’s, is a wonderful collection of gay men who have truly opened my eyes to the notion that there is a lot more to the gay culture than just cruising, sex, gossip, and the like. I have already made a few new friends in the process because of attending this group and look forward to continuing to be a part of something that ultimately showed me there is depth in the gay culture and that it was only me and my judgments that blinded me from seeing this…

glass-city-main-image

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Snowden”, A Film That Will Make You Think About Your Privacy

I didn’t know much about Edward Snowden when I went to the movies recently and saw director Oliver Stone’s film titled “Snowden”. About the most I knew was how he formerly worked for both the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the National Security Agency (NSA), the latter of which he copied and leaked classified information without prior authorization that revealed numerous global surveillance programs.

When all of this became big news back in 2013, I remember how everyone suddenly became polarized over the issue. Some said he was a hero for doing what he did, claiming he was a savior of sorts, while others said he was a traitor and should be tried as one. Personally, I never held an opinion on him back then and honestly I still don’t, but what this movie did help me to think a lot more about was the privacy we all think we have in this world.

I would venture to say that most of us probably use a cell phone, e-mail, a computer with a camera, and a number of social media outlets every single day. Frankly, I never put much thought to any of them being looked at by anyone in the CIA or NSA or anyone else for that matter, probably because I have nothing to hide, but there’s the strong reality that at some point in time or another something of mine was looked at by someone in the security administration of our government. At least that’s the impression I got from the film when Snowden, played quite wonderfully by Joseph Gordon Levitt, began to see all the spy software that was in place to invade the lives of even the most common of US citizens.

Reading e-mails, Facebook postings, and text messages, looking into cell phone call logs, and spying through cameras on computers without their lights being turned on were just some of the many things Snowden uncovered and leaked to the world. I can’t say I was shocked when I learned exactly what his leak was really about, as I made an assumption long ago that the government was probably always doing this.

So while many have been in uproar ever since Snowden’s leakage, it ultimately hasn’t phased me. Between my writing on my blog that I make public for the world to see and what I share at countless recovery meetings on a weekly basis, I have already fully exposed myself on every level. Simply put, I have no dark secrets. But there are many out there in the world who still do. Not that long ago though I was still one of them.

I used to have plenty of secrets that I wouldn’t have wanted anyone, especially the government looking into, such as the acts of indiscretion I was having with married individuals, all of which could have been seen through my emails and text messages, or even by spying on my phone or through my computer’s camera. But thankfully, I’m not doing any of that behavior anymore or anything else for that matter that might put me at risk with the government or anyone else.

Yet I know there are countless people out there who want to keep their privacy and their secrets protected. Do they deserve that? Of course, but in a day and age where terrorism is a serious threat, especially within the digital realm, the line between what’s acceptable government behavior and what’s not is becoming overly blurred. That’s precisely what Snowden showed back in 2013 and what this film portrayed.

So while I understand how some think of Snowden as a hero and others, a traitor, what I think is that it ultimately doesn’t matter. Snowden simply bared something many of us had already wondered deep down every time we used our own digital media, especially if we had something to hide. And I’m sure somewhere in our government today what Snowden exposed is still being done in some fashion, thus I feel the only solution that works for me to deal with this possibility is to just not have any secrets.

Originally I started on that path by revealing all of them to God, then it was with the sponsors I had in recovery from addiction, and finally it’s been with everyone else through my writing and my speaking these past few years. It’s been totally freeing ever since and I plan to keep it that way.

Nevertheless, “Snowden” is a great film that will make you think about your privacy and whether you really have any of that in this country anymore these days. For me that doesn’t matter though, because I’m a firm believer in not hiding anything these days, not with God, and not with any of you. Because in doing so, I truly found a spiritual freedom that never came when I used to keep all those secrets.

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

How An Adele Concert Was A Unique Blessing From God…

Sometimes I really think that God has some pretty unique ways of reminding us He truly is there and not some figment of our imagination. I say this because of something that happened recently that fell into my lap and ended up being an incredible blessing for not only my partner, but for me as well.

It all began a few weeks ago when I was spending time with one of my sponsees at a local coffee shop when she mentioned she was going to the Adele concert the following week. I told her how lucky she was given that Adele’s entire North American tour sold out in minutes and any tickets that were out for resale were going for incredible sums of money now.

When she asked if I liked Adele, I told her it really was my partner who was the fan. In fact, my partner Chris is such the fan that he flipped out when his favorite cd from her got stuck in his car player. Thankfully he did manage to get it out, but the cd player stopped working after that, of which I joked with him and said it’s probably because he played her cd too much!

Nevertheless, while I think Adele’s voice is amazing, I told my sponsee that it ultimately was my partner’s music idol and not mine. His dream has been to see her in concert ever since buying her “21” cd many years ago. So when my sponsee told me she had two extra tickets for one of her upcoming shows in Auburn Hills, Michigan, I was shocked. I asked if she was willing to part with them and half expected her to say they were already spoken for, given the concert was less than a week away and if they weren’t spoken for, that she probably was going to ask for an incredible sum of money, of which I know I couldn’t afford.

Ironically I was wrong on both accounts. She hadn’t sold either of them yet and actually offered them to me at face value ($98 a piece). What was even more surprising then that was how both Chris and I had the night free to attend her concert given how busy our schedules have been lately. I of course immediately accepted her offer and told Chris to block off next Wednesday evening.

Up until the night of the concert, Chris had no idea what or where I was taking him to. Because of this, I took a rare opportunity to toy with him a lot over it, telling him we had a big road trip ahead of us. I suggested the event might be taking place in Columbus, Cleveland, and a bunch of other locations. At one point I even had him convinced we were just having dinner and seeing a show at a casino in Detroit. I must admit it was rather funny to see him squirm, as Chris isn’t one to usually handle waiting for surprises to manifest that well.

So when the night finally arrived and we could see the Palace Stadium sign up in the distance on our approach, I reached into my console and handed him a large black envelope, which was labeled across its front in bold with one word “ADELE”. As he took a moment to take it in, he suddenly burst into tears and abruptly grabbed my hand with no words to say.

But I didn’t need any words because I felt something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Joy. Joy from a place that is hard to have when your body is riddled with chronic pain every single day. But that joy wasn’t for myself, it was joy for someone who truly deserves the best, especially with what he has to go through every day when it comes to handling my health issues. And in all truthfulness, Chris and I have had some serious struggles feeling close to each other lately, mainly due to the roller coaster of things I do go through with my health day in and day out.

Yet all of that seemed to dissolve away immediately as he grasped that envelope and continued to cry profusely. And his tears continued through most of the concert, as he savored every one of the songs Adele performed and every word she spoke with great passion to the audience. Watching Chris’s soul move for those several hours was one of the best blessings I’ve had in a very long time and I know God somehow had to be behind making it all happen.

While it may not have been the answer to the many prayers I’ve been asking for with my health and healing, it definitely was the answer to something we obviously both needed. That’s why I sometimes really believe we often fail to see God is always sending us blessings because they often come in ways our brains and egos don’t normally conceive of.

But I’m grateful I realized it in this case and so I thank you God for making Chris’s dream come true and for helping me to feel a ray of Your light come from something as simple as an Adele concert in Auburn Hills, Michigan.

Adele_Live_2016_tour

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

A Different View Of Those Flash Passes At Amusement Parks

While I haven’t been to any amusement park in over six years, I have noticed something has definitely changed at many of them. Most have introduced a flash pass type of system for an extra cost that allows people to bypass all that line waiting that can occur on busy days, which for the most part seems to happen a lot nowadays.

At first glance it may seem pretty cool to have these types of systems available for purchase. After all, who wants to wait in line for several hours for a ride that will most likely last for less than two minutes. But I’ve spent some time pondering this as of late and really feel that the addition of things like this are just another growing sign of the belief that money can fix anything, including things such as people’s impatience that can come from waiting in lines.

What’s sad about the addition of these flash pass systems is that not everyone can afford to purchase them. In fact, many can barely even afford the price of admission to most amusement parks these days and when they can, they end up waiting in line for several hours at each ride, only getting to enjoy four or five of them in an entire day, while others who have more money, can purchase these flash passes and bypass them time and time again.

What I find even more sad about this is the different levels of flash passes one can purchase. Take Six Flags for example, where the admission price normally ranges between $50 and $70 depending on the park. Yet for another $35 to $50, you can get a regular flash pass that allows you to go enjoy other things until it’s your time to ride. But then there are even greater levels of access if one has more money to spend. There’s the gold level that costs between $60 and $80 that cuts wait times down in half. And there’s the platinum level that virtually eliminates waiting on every level and even grants riders a second ride once they return to the station, all for the “low” price of $100 to $150. Thus if one has $150 to $200 to easily spend, they can go to an amusement park these days and never care whether it’s crowded or not.

I must admit I probably would have been one of those who would have spent the big bucks to get a platinum pass if they had existed back in the day when I used to go to amusement parks regularly. As back then, I had a high income and constantly felt I was better than everyone else because of it. Even worse, I most likely would have smirked at those I was allowed to cut in front of, who had been waiting in line for hours, feeling some sense of satisfaction over the huge money I had spent to do so. Thank God I feel quite differently these days. Now I look at things like these flash passes as representing nothing but ego and isn’t it ego that constantly keeps us all feeling separate from each other?

When I was growing up there wasn’t as much separatism in amusement parks. As back then, we all did our best to patiently wait in line and while we did, we excitedly talked to each other around us, sometimes even making new friendships in the process. But now, as the gap between those with money and those without continues to grow wider, that separatism increases by introducing things like these flash passes. People then grow up believing that all they need is to have more money to enjoy life, to enjoy things like these flash passes. Funny enough, I think if I had a huge amount of money to spend these days, I’d go to an amusement park early enough to buy every possible flash pass available and then throw them all away, causing everyone to resort to having nothing but a regular ticket and patience.

Nevertheless, money doesn’t really fix anything in the long run. It only causes one to want more, the more they have. Like with those flash passes, the ego drives the people who buy them to believe they deserve greater, such as better treatment in things that aren’t even part of what they purchased, such as with the food lines.  It’s a vicious cycle that in the end only keeps one separate from not only others, but especially from God.

So the next time you’re considering buying one of those flash passes at an amusement park, remember all those who can’t afford them, who never will be able to afford them, and maybe save your money and spend time in line with them instead. And who knows, maybe God will be one of them in disguise…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Why Are Most People Not Excited About The Olympics Anymore?

I didn’t watch much of the 2016 Summer Olympics this year. And to be honest, I haven’t watched much of any of the Olympics, winter or summer, since I was in high school. Life has sure changed since back then, as when I was growing up, sitting around the television and rooting on our home country in every single event, even with the ones I wasn’t interested in like synchronized swimming, was just the thing to do and we all were so excited about them. It was also the thing we all talked about in many of our conversations with each other. But now it seems like people aren’t excited about the Olympics anymore. So why is this?

Is it because each of the games always seem to be shadowed by all the doping accusations and scandals these days?

Or is it because there are countless other channels to watch on television now?

Or is it because there’s always talk about corruption in the cities where the games are held?

Or is it because many have lost faith in our country due to how it’s been run?

Or is it because so many are far more wrapped up in video games or social media than anything else nowadays?

Or is it a combination of all of the above or something else altogether?

I don’t truly now the answer to this but what I do know is that I honestly miss the good old days when I aspired to be like Mark Spitz who won a ton of gold medals in swimming a long time ago. I also miss playing basketball with a bunch of kids in my driveway, where each of us pretended to be someone from The Dream Team. And I miss goofing off in front of others with my silly attempts at doing gymnastics and laughing at how I’ll never be the next Mary Lou Retton.

But these days, you don’t hear most people talking about specific competitors in the Olympics and I would venture to say that if you mentioned one of the prominent athletes from any of the events to a random set of individuals in our country, there’s a good chance most wouldn’t even know who you were talking about. Sure they would probably know the names of Michael Phelps or Usain Bolt, but that’s only because they’re constantly plastered all over the news due to the massive number of gold medals they each have accumulated over the years.

Unfortunately for the most part these days, the Olympics come and go and people seem to be far less interested in them or any of the athletes who compete there as compared to decades past. This makes me sad, maybe for nostalgia reasons. Or maybe it’s because our country often feels like it’s going in the opposite direction. One where everyone is pulling more into themselves and withdrawing from the comradery we all used to seem to have together, especially during times when the Olympics were on.

Nevertheless, I still hope for the day to return where this trend will reverse and things like the Olympics will be a time to get excited again. One where having pride in our country means something and one where we all seem to unite together during those few weeks while they’re going on. Until then, I think I’m going to just live with my nostalgia by remembering the good old days where I’d shoot a 3 pointer in my driveway while imagining I was Larry Bird playing in the Olympics…

For New Blog

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

Just One Thought On The 2016 Summer Olympics In Rio

It seems like there are three major topics lately in the news that continue to keep people talking. They are gun violence, Donald Trump, and the upcoming Summer Olympics in Rio, Brazil. I feel like I’ve written enough about the first two topics in recent weeks, but I have yet to comment on the third.

Beginning August 5th, Rio, Brazil will be hosting the 2016 Summer Olympics and many are concerned about the infrastructure there. There’s an economic crisis going on with massive inflation and unemployment. There’s a large amount of corruption in the political leadership with more than half in power facing serious charges against them. There are vast money problems going on that’s causing important cuts to be made with things like the amount of transportation available to athletes, seating for spectators, and even comforts such as air conditioning and television. Then of course there’s the Zika virus that’s continued to ravage the area, as well as the virus-soaked sewage problem in most of the waterways.

People are really angry because of all these issues in Rio, blaming this and that, talking about how the Olympics should just be cancelled. Unfortunately, all this unrest and all of this resentment is doing nothing more than creating more of the same.

I really have only one thought when it comes to all this 2016 Summer Olympic turmoil. PRAY. Ok, well maybe two. PRAY OFTEN.

The fact is, complaining, worrying, and stressing out about the mess that’s going on in Rio isn’t doing anyone any good. A far better action is to pray and send love, light, and positive energy over there. Pray for all the athletes and their families, the future spectators, and the local residents there as well to be safe and blessed by Higher Guidance. Instead of spending energy saying how bad the situation is over there, use it to pray. While you may not think it will do any good, think again, because it will.

I know that most of us don’t truly understand how prayer works and why they seem to be answered sometimes, while other times they don’t seem to be doing anything at all. I remain firm on my belief that they are always doing something good, it’s just beyond our understanding. With that being said, I encourage everyone to say a simple prayer every day from now until the end of the actual 2016 Summer Olympics. Because I ultimately believe that it will help, far more so than focusing on the current state of affairs over there. None of us have any idea of how great of an impact praying will make, but I’m sure you can agree, that if we don’t pray at all, the only thing that will result in that is more pointing of fingers at who’s at fault.

“God, I ask you to bless all of Rio. May you bless everyone there who’s working hard to prepare for the upcoming 2016 Summer Olympics. May you bless all the athletes and their families who are planning on attending the games. And you may bless all the local residents and people who will be visiting as spectators as well. Please keep all of them safe and healthy and guide everyone who will be there for the Olympics to have a successful and blessed event. Amen.” 

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“The Beauty Inside”, A Testimonial Movie About The Source Of True Love

Can you imagine waking up every single day looking like someone different? That’s the premise of a 2015 Korean movie named “The Beauty Inside”, which I watched on Netflix the other day.

The film centers around a person named Woo-Jin, who up until the age of 18, was a young man living a normal life. But on the morning of his 18th birthday, he wakes up in a different body and begins to experience this strange phenomenon every single day from there on. While he’s still the same person on the inside, on the outside it’s always different. Sometimes he’s a man, sometimes he’s a woman, sometimes he’s old, sometimes he’s young, and sometimes he’s even a foreigner. Life is hard for Woo-Jin living like this, but eventually he comes to acceptance of his bizarre condition, which only his mother and his best friend know the truth. But one day, many years later, he meets a girl that changes everything. Her name is Yi-soo and she is unlike anyone he’s ever met. Unfortunately, he also has no idea how to connect with her given that he’s someone else every time he wakes up.

I know the premise of this movie seems rather odd, but it really was a very amazing love story, especially for one specific reason. So often in our world these days, people focus their attraction to someone for what shows up on the outside, not on the inside. And once that person meet some specific attraction-based criteria, the rest of any type of courtship usually follows. But in this case, the movie is about a woman pursuing love beyond what sight can offer.

While normally, I’m not a big fan of subtitles because I think it takes away from being engrossed in a movie, it actually didn’t bother me with this film at all. Woo-Jin and Yi-Soo’s love for each other, their chemistry, and the delicate mix between the movie’s drama and comedy-based themes kept me so immersed that I found myself not even reading the subtitles at times.

I truly wish that love was like this in real life for all of us. Sadly, it hasn’t been for me for much of my life as I have succumbed far too often to looking only at the outside of people. But as I continue to spiritually evolve, surrendering my own will and desires, I’ve seen this begin to change. The good thing is that I know what’s most important is the soul that lies within each and every individual. It’s the soul that each of us are meant to love, rather than the outside of a person. And that’s precisely the struggle that Yi-Soo faces in this movie and one that I believe the vast majority of people on the planet do as well.

Nevertheless, I highly recommend this movie as a great mind-opener to a spiritual principle that I hope will one day permeate each and every one of us. True love is not something that comes from the way one looks, it comes from “The Beauty Inside.”

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

“Me Before You”, “A Tear-Jerker Film That Hit Close To Home

I saw a movie today that made me cry so hard. It was about a middle-aged man who was living a pretty great life until he experienced a tragic event that changed everything for him. It was called “Me Before You” and much of it reminded me of what I’ve been going through myself in recent years.

The film begins with an extremely good-looking man named Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin) who is just starting his day in a very upbeat way. It’s apparent how good his life is by his home surroundings, his attractive girlfriend, and even the clothes he puts on to go to work. But suddenly his playboy life changes in the blink of an eye when he’s hit by a motorcycle during a heavy downpour heading on foot to work and becomes a paraplegic.

The story picks up two years later with his family looking to hire someone to help keep him company, as he has been more despondent than not with anyone or anything ever since his tragic accident. Enter Lou Clark (played by Emilia Clarke), a quirky young woman just looking for a job after a recent layoff at the diner she worked at. With her family pressuring her to help support the household by a currently laid off father, she’s willing to take anything in a town where jobs are scarce. So when an opportunity arises to be a caregiver for the local very-wealthy Traynor family, she jumps at the chance, but assumes it’s probably for an elder man. Little does she know that it’s for Will or that his mother has an ulterior motive behind the person they’re looking to hire. Will has signed a right-to-die contract for a euthanasia in Switzerland, but promised his parents he’d give his life six more months before making the final decision. His mother secretly hopes that the woman they hire, that being Lou, will somehow change his mind and give him a reason to go on living during that time.

While I know I’m not paralyzed nor confined to a wheelchair like Will was in the movie, I could relate to all the pain and anguish he went through day after day after day, trying to cope with a life he never wanted or ever imagined he’d be living.

Not too long ago, I was living a similar life to Will’s, except for one thing. I couldn’t seem to free myself from falling into one addiction after another. So in a humble-moment one afternoon, after falling prey to yet another time of toxic behavior, I got on my knees and asked God to bring me through whatever I needed to go through to be free from all the addictions, toxins, impurities, and energies that kept me from being the person God wanted me to be in this life. In that moment, I truly was open and willing and ready to go through whatever I needed to, to make that happen. Little did I know though that my life would change dramatically not too long after that prayer, as I would become plagued with many different pains and ailments.

And similar to what Will experienced in the movie, there has been no amount of medications, loving company, holistic healing, volunteering, or the like that has been able to truly bring a consistent smile to my face or warmth to my soul. Yet, years later, there is one thing that has sustained me from giving up like Will wanted to in the film. It’s God and I have remained faithful to God even on many days when the pain has been so great I’ve wanted to curl up in a ball and die. Why? Because I believe God has a plan for me that’s not meant to end with this.

But I must admit that sometimes I think if euthanasia did exist here in our country, I might have already gone down that path myself on days when it’s harder to exist than not. But yet, I don’t believe that’s the path I’m meant to take. I don’t believe that God has allowed me to go through all this, just to end up being taken care of by someone else for the rest of my life. I also don’t believe that God’s plans for me involve being medicated and numb just to keep going. So I wait with hope and I have joy in that hope, joy that one day soon things will be far better for me and that’s where my path diverted from that of Will’s in the movie.

Without God, I think I’d probably already be dead by now given what I’ve gone through all these years. But I must say, seeing this movie truly was like seeing a snippet out of my own life and all the difficulties I go through just to make it through a single day.

Nevertheless, “Me Before You” was a strong tear-jerker film that truly did hit very close to home. While I’m grateful I’m not paralyzed and confined to a wheelchair, I related so much to Will Traynor’s struggles throughout the entire movie. Living with intense pain or any serious handicap is not easy, especially when others don’t know how it feels because they’ve never gone through it themselves. So I encourage all of you to be thankful for what you have, especially if you’re not currently suffering with any serious handicap or daily pain, because there are people out there just like Will and myself who do and who have uphill battles to face with each living breath. But if you do struggle like Will or myself, know you’re not alone and know there is one who can sustain you through it all, and that’s God, for I’m living proof that even in the darkness, there is light…

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson

The Blue Man Group And The Inner Child

When I was kid, I regularly used to make a lot of strange noises with my mouth, do funny faces and poses, create messes in all sorts of ways, and produce percussion-like noises with whatever and wherever I could. Watching Blue Man Group is a lot like that and almost feels as if you took a visual trip back into your childhood during their 90-minute performance.

My partner actually took me to see them for my birthday this year. If you’ve never gotten the chance to this eccentric show, I highly recommend it for one reason. It really does bring out the inner child in you.

The show itself is about three individuals who are completely dressed in black clothes, are colored dark blue from head to toe, and show childlike emotions and fascination through a spectacular display of lights, video, sounds, props and more. There is so much off-the-wall kid-based humor throughout their act that it makes it nearly impossible to not laugh during the majority of it.

Ironically, this was actually my second time seeing them perform in the past decade, but I enjoyed it even more this time around. Not only because the show has evolved and become even more fun since the last time I saw it, but also because the company I was with was far healthier for me than my last go around when I spent it with someone I was seriously addicted to.

Nevertheless, I’m always grateful to find new ways to get in touch with my inner child because of how important it is to never lose sight of the kid that lives within me. Far too often, too many push that part of themselves down, they grow up, they act like big, strong adults, and they forget all about that little boy or girl who still lives deep inside them. I often tend to believe that’s where much of the world’s sadness comes from in life, because so many neglect getting in touch with this part of themselves the older they get.

That’s why I do my very best these days to make time for my own inner child and I tend to feel much better in life when I do. So I encourage you to not only do the same, but to also go see The Blue Man Group if you ever get the chance, and allow that kid within you to have 90-minutes of child-like fun, as I’m sure you won’t regret it!

Peace, love, light, and joy,

Andrew Arthur Dawson