Searching for a Guru…

In prep for this coming quarter, I thought I’d watch a few documentaries that might expose my students to the idea of critical thinking and questioning the status quo, not to mention that I really enjoy documentaries with a spiritual flavor.

I  knew going into the documentary that Kumare was fake, a man doing a Borat-style (though, seemingly with less malintent) social experiment meant to expose the ease in which swamis/gurus/prophets/babas/etc can exploit people’s desires for truth and connection. I knew he was fake the whole time. They tell you right from the beginning, and then you follow him on his journey to become the false-prophet Kumare, and gain a following, but I found myself compelled by his persona the whole time.

What is it about the search for a guru that compels me so much?   I WANTED to believe in what he was saying and who he was. It’s crazy the feeling that I had while watching it, because I am normally the most skeptical person ever.I sit in church and pick apart the sermon. I read and analyze and am open to learning, and yet in so many other ways I simply give in to emotion and believe random things that come along that just “feel” right to me.

So why do I feel like I want a guru/teacher? In my mind I envision sitting at Jesus’ feet and it feels SO RIGHT, but he’s not here anymore, and in so many ways I feel like his message has been twisted and changed by the church and pastors to mean something different than it was intended. It makes people feel unloved and unaccepted, and that’s not what I believe to be true.

In so many ways I have felt a part of a spiritual community in our home church, but now with a little-one and a church comprised of 70+year old grandparents, and virtually no under 3 child program or way of me getting my spiritual needs met while Potamus gets his spiritual needs met, leaves me feeling frustrated. And yet I’m not inclined to go to the neighborhood rock n’ roll church with a preacher I disagree with, simply because they have a “good child program.” I also don’t want to drive a bazillion years to get to church, because I like that ours is in the heart of our town and is such a community feel. I wrestle with my motivation for wanting to go and my motivation for wanting to stay home. And my desire for Potamus to have spirituality as a foundation, but wanting to steer away from the way my fundamentalist upbringing.  I know that I believe being a part of a community is important, but if I were to say I have a “guru” it’d be in the form of writers like Anne Lamott or Donald Miller or Brian McLaren. But part of me wants to sit at the feet of a teacher and experience the love. Ya know?

Thoughts? What influences you spiritually? Do you have a teacher you resonate with? Have you seen Kumare? What were your thoughts on it?

Craigslist Joe: A Movie Review

A student in class was referencing this documentary, in relation to one of our in-class discussions, and it made me think that I might want to check it out, perhaps as a documentary to show future classes. The premise, follow Joe, for 31 days, as he lives and travels off Craigslist. He sets out with no money, and bums around the country on the backs of kind strangers. It’s to take a critical look at the interesection of community and technology, and attempts to show how kind and generous the American people really are.

And, it sorta failed.

Okay, it maybe wasn’t a fail in the grand scheme, because he accomplished his goal, but I somehow left feeling more depressed and sad about the state of this country than before. What I think I experienced was a disconnect between what HE experienced (in his own words, ‘inspiring’) and what I experienced sitting here watching it, which was, less-than inspiring. I think that I’m bumping up against the way it was documented, the drabness of color and slow-paced nature of the filming. I found myself, about halfway through, thinking “dear God when will this be over,” and felt like the people who helped Joe out on his Craigslist journey were other ‘bums’ and hobos and traveling types. I didn’t see many rich people offering for him to stay in their houses or drive their Mercedes across country. It was college students and musicians and others, who probably would have and will continue to offer rides, regardless of whether someone is filming them for a documentary. And that doesn’t make it BAD, it just didn’t feel all that exciting. In fact, I feel like I saw a documentary or something awhile back that showed a similar experience of somone bumming around the country and it was much more exciting, though I can’t remember the title of it.

Though, it’s not that I wouldn’t recommend it, because it does show an interesting social experiment carried to fruition. And yet, I think I would rather have read it, on a blog, or in a memoir, because the rich description that could have happened would probably be more entertaining than drab photography. Which makes me wonder if I have an addiction to excitement in documentaries or if I’m addicted to my own imagination, rather than seeing the beauty of his experience.


Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey: A Movie Review

I wasn’t allowed to watch much television as a child, save Mr. Rogers, so my experience with The Muppets and Sesame Street is rather limited. My conservative Christina parents did not like that Count Dracula was a vampire, and had various other misgivings about the whole Jim Henson world, so my exposure is a few random snippets of the shows over the years. However, I was around during the Tickle-Me-Elmo phase, and while mystified by the appeal of a squeling red doll, I did recognize that The Muppets and Sesame Street characters were influential to most of my peers. In fact, thanks to my height, Big Bird, was one of my nicknames growing up!

So, in looking for documentaries that showcase career development or overcoming obstacles, I came across Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey, which chronicled the life and work of Kevil Clash, as he pursued his dream of being a puppeteer, and eventually gave Elmo the voice and character that we know today. While thinking of myself as a reasonably interested individual, the ADD media generation has certainly worn off on me, so I give documentaries about 5 (long feeling) minutes to grab my attention. If the documentary fails to draw me in in that time, no matter how good it might get further along, I am done and moving on to the next one. This is what happened while prepping for my lesson. I started on documentary and BLOOP moved onto another and BLOOP moved on to another until FINALLY I stumbled across Being Elmo.

I was skeptical at first. How would this relate to my life, let alone the lives of my students? But hot dang, the first five minutes went by and I was rivited. The storytelling is magical, and really shows how Kevin followed his dream against the odds and ended up doing something that he loves. While I did feel that it was redundant toward the end (think minutes last 10 minutes), the fact that it kept my attention for so long was amazing.

So regardless of whether you grew up loving The Muppets or Sesame Street, or, like me, you have limited exposure to it, this documentary will entertain you and leave you inspired. I am excited to share the story with my students, in hopes to inspire them to follow THEIR dreams like Kevin did!