Sunday, July 18, 2010

Oracles, Omens, and the World Cup

When one door closes, another door opens.

On June 26th my path crossed the Louis Vuitton Journeys campaign—the one about Legends which introduces itself as An Encounter with Greatness. It was like bumping into old friends in a distant city. Louis, who was last seen strapped to the roof of a classic red Renault traveling the back roads in Ireland, had emerged on on reality’s side of the boundary that separates it from make-believe. By all appearances, Louis has found his niche promoting travel as a form of self-discovery... an opportunity that gives rise to both “spiritual and physical metamorphosis.”

With renowned photographer Annie Leibovitz behind the lens of the camera, the Journeys campaign has a history of its own. This year the creative minds behind it chose to align the message with a world event due to culminate on July 11th, 2010 in South Africa.

Annie’s photos are a companion to words the likes of “Three exceptional journeys,” “One incredible game,” “… the moment the world has been waiting for.”

The snapshots capture three great soccer players—modern-day legends—in an epic battle being played out on a foosball table. In the real world, Pele won his first World Cup at age 17 and is the only player in the history of the game with three World Cup medals. He was named Football’s ambassador to the world while the government of Brazil declared him an official “national treasure.” Zinedine Zidane helped France win the World Cup in 1998 and has been awarded every top honor at both national and club levels; he is a three-time FIFA World Cup Player-of-the-Year. Diego Maradona captained Argentina to a World Cup victory in 1986, a trek highlighted by five personal goals, one of which is said to have been infamously delivered by “the Hand of God.”

In an effort to engage the audience, Legends was designed with an interactive feature where questions could be asked of the greats and answers actually provided. But for all its planning and creativity, nobody at Louis Vuitton could have guessed where this journey was headed, even with picture perfect postcards from every destination that’s been visited.

On a whim, I Googled the generic phrase about “knowing where one is going” and came upon a note saying it was used by Alex in the movie Hitch. Alex (Will Smith) describes his occupation as one that “creates opportunities.” He’s a self-described late bloomer whose first round with love ended with a scene straight out of Forrest Gump. During a rainy night on a college campus he goes looking for the girl who’d captured his heart’s affection and finds her in the back seat of some other guy’s car. He never pursued another woman. Instead he became a date doctor who coaches men on the proper way to woo a woman. And he promises three dates is all anyone needs to seal the deal.

When Alex observes Sara (Eva Mendes) across a crowded room, he feels an immediate attraction. Following a quick introduction that provides only a name and who she works for, he has half a paired-set of walkie-talkies delivered to her desk so he can make contact with her. She agrees to meet him on a Sunday morning at a marina on the Hudson River.

Sara is a gossip columnist who doesn’t hesitate to break a couple apart. She freely says, “If a guy is stupid enough to cheat, the world should know he’s dumb enough to get caught.” In a surprise revelation, their date involves jet skis and a race to Ellis Island where they get a history lesson from the resident expert:

“In fact, over 100 million Americans can trace their ancestry back to a single man, woman, or child on the ship’s manifest to an inspector’s ledger. By 1910, 75% of the residents of New York, Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, and Boston were immigrants or the children of immigrants.”

As a creature of habit, I looked up Ellis Island myself and discovered a few facts that weren’t mentioned in the movie. Ellis Island earned the moniker “Gateway to the New World.” More surprising was that the first immigrant on record, who came through the gates on January 1, 1892, was a 15-year-old girl named Anna “Annie” Moore who arrived from—of all places in the world—Cork County, Ireland.

Alex and Sara continue their tour and stop to gaze at the book of names which is on display. Alex tells her, “You can't really know where you're going until you know where you've been.” Unbeknownst to Sara, he set the stage prior to their arrival in hopes of endearing her. However he failed to take into consideration a seemingly minor detail and things didn’t play out like he’d envisioned.

Hitch was originally titled The Last First Kiss and incorporates a Kissing Post, also on Ellis Island, which explains how people from different cultures kiss after long absences.

On their second date Alex has a bad reaction after swallowing some specially prepared fish. Sara takes care of him through the night then wakes to discover he rose early and departed. As she punches the pillows on the couch in frustration, he appears in front of her with a selection of tea and coffees and explains that he merely slipped out to pick up breakfast.

Sara: Oh God. You’re a morning person aren’t you?
Alex: Well, like I tell my clients, “Begin each day as if it were on purpose.”

I have news for Sara. Just because someone gets breakfast at the break of day doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a “morning person.” Look at Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s!

By the time their third date rolls around, Alex is feeling pretty good about where their relationship is going. Sara, on the other hand, fails to ask a few key questions while doing a little investigative work and ends up destroying not only her own budding opportunity for love, but she tears apart a relationship Alex had been working on behind the scenes that had passed the three date milestone. Alex is clueless as to the source of her sudden hostility and his home cooked dinner transforms to a battle as they throw garden vegetables at one another. The scene puts a whole new spin on Declan’s comment in Leap Year, “Alex, you’re in charge. Don’t blow anything up.”

If there were a moral to this story, it would be “get your details straight or NOBODY will ever get to where they thought they were going.” But putting bits of wisdom to use isn’t always as easy as the words make it sound and sometimes takes practice.

Somewhere along the way I supplanted that old adage about following my first instinct with “fools rush in.”

Five weeks ago I thought I knew which of the “17 stories” rising above the stage I would be tackling next. I’d already made a connection to The Blind Side and knew that Sandra Bullock’s new baby’s name was Louis. At the end of the movie Leap Year, Declan leaves the kitchen to respond to a customer’s complaint and approaches a table saying, “All right, which one of you bollockses thinks my chicken’s dry?” But whatever the mechanism is that nudges my inclination to pick up and follow a particular thread... all communications petered out to near nothing.

It certainly wasn’t for lack of possibilities. After the earthquake in Haiti, I never stopped accumulating news articles that contained details which originated in the imaginary stories and were being used to describe events happening in reality. After bringing The Phantom of the Opera into the gemstone, Whitney Houston apologized for her “croaky” voice in the midst of her European tour; a thought that never occurred to Carlotta. Jesse James is the only person I’ve ever heard of that owned two mini hand-painted coffins other than Eric, the Opera Ghost. A bomb was discovered in the theater district of New York City like the barrels and barrels of gun powder Eric had stored beneath the Opera House that he planned to explode at the height of a performance of Faust. The CEO of BP took a weekend away from the unparalleled disaster in the Gulf of Mexico to enjoy the pleasures of sailing different waters on his boat named “Bob.”

As I watched Louis’ abductors in Leap Year parade Anna’s intimate undergarments in the back room of Big Tom’s bar, the first person who came to my mind was Sandra Bullock. However, despite the play on words that journalists used to suggest Ms. Bullock had been blind-sided by Jesse James’ indiscretions, the details that connect the couple’s personal life to the gemstone of stories has nothing to do with adultery. And perhaps this in itself is important to remember.

On the other hand, in the week leading up to the FIFA World Cup Championship, a different story dealing with adultery gained prominent attention. A son was seeking a reprieve for his mother. Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a widow who’d confessed to adultery after being subjected to 99 lashes, had been imprisoned since 2006 and was condemned to death by stoning. She had exhausted the Iranian judicial system and was facing imminent execution. The young man was not alone in believing that an international outcry was her only chance to alter what seemed sure to happen.

The truth is that the Adultery and corresponding denials that were at the heart of my blog “No Sign Will Be Given except the Sign of Jonah,” have nothing to do with intimate relations between a man and a woman and everything to do with three exceptional journeys, One Great Game.

On July 8th, an article appeared on Today’s website titled, “A requiem for fallen — geese?” It was a real life story that included people named Foster Fell and Mary Sojourner. A memorial service for 109 geese was set to occur on Thursday evening on a bridge that spanned a river in a place called Bend, Oregon. Mary Sojourner was quoted as saying, "I understand that Park & Recreation thought there were too many geese, but I'm struck that the crimes of the geese that got them executed was basically defecating on the grass at Drake Park."

The scene is a cross between the cows that left piles of poo on the road in Leap Year and the goose in The Story of the Grail which was felled by the white falcon and left three drops of blood on the snow.

Friday, July 9th, a news article appeared announcing the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird. As a reminder, the novel was among the five books referenced in Forrest Gump which served as the legend to the map that identified the path the gemstone would follow.

While I was being entertained by this sudden surge and variety of details finding their way into reality, Lynda Hill’s newsletter on the Sabian Symbols arrived in my inbox. (I’m beginning to wonder when these will start arriving via the clutch of an owl.) Sunday, July 11th, 2010 was not only the date for the FIFA World Cup Championship and the 50th anniversary of To Kill a Mockingbird, it was a day marked by a new Moon and a total Solar Eclipse that was due to begin at sunrise over Easter Island. (Read more: Lynda Hill's Newsletter)

If you’re not familiar with the Sabian Symbols, they’re considered an Oracle, a tool to interpret and give meaning to events that are happening. They’re words intuitively derived and randomly assigned to each of the 360 degrees of the Zodiac, a project conceived by astrologer Marc Edmund Jones and brought to life with the aid of a clairvoyant named Elsie Wheeler. In 1925 Marc took Elsie to Balboa Park in San Diego where she could find quiet and still be in close proximity to people in order to accomplish what needed to be done. Each Sabian Symbol can be likened to a short story that serves as a framework further shaping the energies of Sun, Moon, and the planets as they transit.

On Sunday, July 11th, the position or degree of the Sun was Cancer 20. The Sabian Symbol given to this degree is “Venetian Gondoliers in Serenade.” Because this was a day marked by a total Solar Eclipse, the Moon also passed through Cancer 20. However for a few short hours before the eclipse, the Moon was positioned in Cancer 19 whose Sabian Symbol is, “A Fragile Miss, Representative of Proud Old Blood, is Wed in a Marriage Ceremony by a Priest to an Eager Youth of the New Order.” Additionally, after completing its passage across the face of the Sun—like a slow kiss—the Moon lingered for a few more hours in Cancer 21 projecting the image of “A Prima Donna Singing.”

One doesn’t need to be an astrologer or knowledgeable in the traits that correspond to either the heavenly bodies or signs of the Zodiac to appreciate the picture that was being painted by the words. It was as if the heavens were reenacting the duet performed by the Phantom and Christine Daaé as part of the wedding ceremony of Anna and Declan.

The attendants to the ceremony were perfectly aligned. Venus on Virgo 2 contributed “A Large White Cross, Dominating the Landscape, Stands Alone on Top of a High Hill;” Neptune on Aquarius 29, “A Butterfly Emerging From a Chrysalis;” Chiron on Pisces 1, “A Crowded Public Marketplace;” Lilith on Pisces 2, “A Squirrel Hiding from Hunters;” Mars on Virgo 20 added “A Caravan of Cars Headed for Promised Lands,” while Saturn on Virgo 30 exerted energy in support of “Having An Urgent Task to Complete, A Man Doesn’t Look to Distractions.”

In hindsight, on January 12th, when the earthquake struck Haiti, Saturn was stationed retrograde on Libra 4:39, whose corresponding Sabian Symbol is "A Man Teaching the True Inner Knowledge of the New World to His Students." Saturn rules Capricorn. Its energy is slow moving and known for its longevity as well as its transformative powers. It governs our karmic responsibilities and our capacity to learn about life, in every aspect of our living. In her book, Retrograde Planets, Traversing the Inner Landscape, Erin Sullivan describes Saturn’s work like a pregnancy. It requires 9 months for it to complete its retrograde cycle.

In the movie Hitch, while Alex is in a bar playing a game of pool with his buddy whose wife is pregnant he asks, “So when is Grace due?” As a reminder, Grace is the meaning behind the name Anna. On September 5th, 2010 Saturn will return to Libra 4:39, the same place it was on January 12th and whatever was begun will have been completed. I sense an August rush of some kind in the offing.

Interestingly the "original" Polynesian name for Easter Island, Te pito o te henua, carries the meaning "The Navel of the Land." Pito means both navel and umbilical cord which was considered to be the link between the world of the living (kainga) and the spiritworld Po, lying in the depths of the ocean. (Wikipedia)

In terms of what’s been happening, Haiti is symbolic of the New World that’s being prepared. As a wise man once told me, you can’t build a home in the forest without first clearing the land. The idea is similar to “if you want to learn, you must first empty your cup.” Given the reality of the circumstances, the concept has been raised to a whole new level.

Sun rules Leo—the Lion, AND will power and ego. It’s the core of the potential and uniqueness belonging to each individual and holds reign on the main direction or course of our lives. The primary influence and Sabian Symbol for any given day corresponds to the position of the Sun.

The karmic condition of July’s new Moon is identified by the Sabian Symbol given to the day before which was Cancer 19, concerning the“Priest Performing a Marriage Ceremony.” The Quest is identified by the Sabian Symbol the day that follows, which was Cancer 21, “A Prima Donna Singing.” In the transition from Sunday to Monday—which incidentally are the “days” ruled by Sun and Moon—there was but “one voice.” Sun was both the Gondolier Serenading and the Prima Donna Singing. Redemption arrived with Venus in Virgo 3, “Two Guardian Angels Bringing Protection.”

With such potent images and Universal energies coming together, I got curious and began stepping backwards through the Sabian Symbols to see what was influencing the days leading into the weekend:

Friday, July 9th, the Sun was in Cancer 18: "A Hen is Scratching for Her Chicks."

On September 15, 2009 my blog opened with: “I think there must be a place where stories are kept, a world of their own where each is categorized by the intent with which they were initiated. Where the stories of our lives are woven together; where Sacred Stories gather the stories of their people like a mother hen gathers her chicks; and where the imaginative stories people create provide the threads that bind them all together.”

This place where stories are kept is called the Akashic Records, also known as the Book of Life or the Book of Names where every soul is registered.

Thursday, July 8th, the Sun was in Cancer 17: “The Seed Grows into Knowledge and Life."

In 1185, a minstrel performed in a crowded public market during the height of the summer Hot Fair in Troyes—a center of international trade and home to the Champagne court. The seed that became legend begins with words that convey the meaning of the “Parable of the Sower.”

He little reaps who little sows.
the man who wants good harvests strows
his seeds on such a kind of field,
God grants a hundredfold in yield;
on barren ground good seeds but lie
until they shrivel up and die.
So Chrétien sows, disseminating
this story he’s initiating,
and sows it on such fertile soil,
he can but profit by his toil.

Wednesday, July 7th, the Sun was in Cancer 16: “A Man Studying a Mandala in Front of Him, with the Help of a Very Ancient Book.”

Chrétien shall gain, since he has striven
at the command the count has given
and made endeavors manifold
to rhyme the best tale ever told
in any royal court: this tale
is called the Story of the Grail.
The count has given him the book;
now judge what Chrétien undertook.

The Seed That Became Legend

For the last 825 years, one portion of the population has been on a quest to find the Holy Grail while others have focused their attention on identifying “the book” that was put to rhyme. I don’t know if there was a book written by Abelard or Heloise that Eleanor put to rhyme, but I do believe that everything people have been searching for can be found in the gemstone’s details.

Beneath its 9,234 lines of octosyllabic rhyming couplets, The Story of the Grail is a collection of biblical stories brought to life by imaginary Arthurian knights whose words and deeds are embellished with details borrowed from reality. Woven into the conversations of the characters are paraphrases of a single line borrowed from a biblical story that’s different from the one being acted out. Furthermore, if the character who is speaking has an identity associated with the Old Testament, Chrétien de Troyes (Eleanor of Aquitaine’s pseudonym) provided him or her with words that came from the New Testament. And visa versa; a character whose biblical identity is aligned with the New Testament was given a paraphrase borrowed from an Old Testament story.

The strategy projects the image that the two portions of the Bible are being sewn together—into one big book. But the reality of the situation is that biblical stories have threads that cross-reference each other, Old to New and New to Old from start to finish, so whatever was done in the imaginative tale was an accurate depiction; there’s nothing new here.

  • Gornemant of Gohort instructs Perceval with a bit of wisdom borrowed from Solomon: “The wise man’s saying’s always been that 'Too much talking is a sin.'” (Per Frappier, this is taken from Proverbs 10:19)

  • When Perceval decides to leave the town of Belrepeire and search for his way back home, he tells the crowd if he finds his mother has died, he’ll have a service for her each year so God will let her soul abide "in the bosom of holy Abraham." (Hilka notes this is from Luke 16:22.)
  • During the procession of the grail at the Fisher King’s manor house, Perceval remembers what Gornemant taught and fails to ask two important questions. The storyteller himself interjects: “I fear he was not very smart; I have heard warnings people give: that one can be too talkative, but also one can be too still.” (Hilka cites Ecclesiastes 3:7)
  • After three days and three nights of celebration following the meeting between Perceval and Gawain, the knight Guinganbresil crashes the festivities where King Arthur is holding court and accuses Gawain of treason for unseating a king. He orders the knight to appear before the new King of Escavalon, who is far "handsomer than Absalom." The line refers to King David’s son as he’s described in 2 Samuel 14:25. (Hilka’s attribution)
  • In the town of Escavalon, Gawain and the sister of the king come under siege in a tower and she’s accused of being affectionate with the foul traitor. The maiden shrieks, “He came here by no secret way; he did not fly in here today! My brother sent him as a guest…. What objection can you have, if I gave the knight companionship, joy, and delight? 'He who would hear it, let him hear it.'”

Frappier and Hilka are considered experts on Chrétien de Troyes and have published their own books sharing insights into "his" writings. It was their commentary included in footnotes that put me on the trail of the story and for that I am indebted. But for all their scholarly work, the one paraphrase which was so obvious that even I could pick it out was completely overlooked.

There are slight variations of “He who would hear it, let him hear it,” that appear multiple times in the Bible: Matthew 11:15, 13:15, and 13:43; Mark 4:9, 4:23, and 7:16; and also Luke 8:8 and 14:35. Of these 8 occurrences, I chose Mark 4:9 as being the verse Eleanor had in mind as she was writing. And for the moment, you’ll just have to trust that I know where this story is going.

Not surprisingly, there are unwritten codes that one should follow when reading The Story of the Grail. Rule 1: Leave no stone unturned, and dig deep. Follow every detail to its source and read what you’re led to in entirety.

In practice, while following the threads provided by the paraphrases, chapter 10 of Proverbs should be read from beginning to end, Luke 16 from start to finish, and the same for Ecclesiastes 3, 2 Samuel 14, and Mark 4.

Reminiscent to the five novels named by Winston Groom in the opening chapter of Forrest Gump, Eleanor puts words in the mouths of five different characters, each connected to a different chapter that are spread throughout a “single book.” However, instead of indicating the path to follow, the short stories and parables borrowed from the Bible provide a snapshot of where the real life story has been.

The Gospel of Mark brings additional meaning. Mark 4 begins with “The Parable of the Sower,” which shaped the opening words in the Prologue. The words “He who has ears to hear, let him hear” occur two times in this chapter. Sandwiched in between is a parable called, “A Lamp on a Stand.”

The image of the lamp occurs in Proverbs 6:23, Psalm 119:105, Matthew 5:13-16, Mark 4:21-23, Luke 8:16-17 and again in Luke 11:33-36. The words that describe it change from one to the other. The lamp in Proverbs is God’s commandment that becomes the light for one’s feet to illuminate the path in Psalms. When Jesus gave his sermon on the mountain as captured in Matthew, he said, “You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden.” According to Mark, the lamp is a metaphor that should be placed somewhere to light the way for others. Then he added “For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open.” Luke repeated Mark’s initial words and in a different chapter elaborated on them: “Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body is also full of darkness.”

Their words capture an evolution of thought which, in totality creates synergy; the result is not obtainable by any of them independently.

The Beginning and the End

Mark 4 is also special because the opening parable of the sower and the repeated paraphrase of "those who have ears to hear" literally ‘mark’ the beginning and the end of The Story of the Grail. The answer that brings closure to the legend can be found within the words spoken by characters in Escavalon. And whoever can hear, should listen up.

As an aside, Mark was the son of a woman named Mary, a widowed lady who lived in Jerusalem and hosted meetings in her home to perpetuate the teachings of Jesus. In his youth, he was directed to travel with Paul who served as his mentor. The Gospel of Mark is the only writing to proclaim that one of the signs that will appear when people truly believe, is they will take up serpents. (Mark 16:18 -King James Version)

Eleanor’s Third Nesting

In the twelfth century, people in Europe entertained the prophecies of Merlin which supposedly provided insights into the family of Henry II. One of the prophecies was, “The Eagle of the broken covenant shall rejoice in her third nesting." Some people believed that Eleanor was the Eagle, the broken covenant was the dissolution of her marriage to Louis VII, the King of France, and the third nesting was the birth of her third son, who was the first of her sons to actually assume the throne of England, though he rarely stayed long enough to keep it warm.

The prophecy is true, but the third nesting has nothing to do with the handsome young warrior named Richard the Lionheart. Rather, Eleanor gave her heart and soul to the King of kings during the fifteen years that her second husband, Henry II, kept her imprisoned. One might say that she was in bed with the Falcon.

These same five paraphrases that symbolically stitch the Old and New Testaments together as well as establish placeholders for the beginning and the end of the story, serve to enlighten the audience with respect to Eleanor’s intent behind the work she put into the tale.

After reading the biblical chapters in entirety, the key is to summarize each or identify a single idea from each chapter that is unique and brings new meaning and then combine the statements in the same order as they were presented.

They come together like this: He who holds his tongue is wise. (Proverbs 10) But if the people don't listen to Moses and the Prophets, they wouldn't be convinced even if someone rises from the dead. (Luke 16) Who can bring them to see what will happen after, whether a man's spirit rises upward or whether his body merely turns to dust? (Ecclesiastes 3) I created the story to change the current situation, to cause you to think differently. (2 Samuel 14) Now, whoever has ears to hear, let him hear it! (Mark 4)

A Light unto the World

Eleanor took the parable of the lamp to task. But it’s the vision of "the city upon a hill" from the Sermon on the Mount which has been an inspiration to world leaders for hundreds of years who have passed it on in a refusal to let the light fade.

Ellis Island didn’t earn the moniker “Gateway to the New World” on its own merit.

In the year 1630, a ship called the Arabella dropped anchor when it arrived at the shores of a New World. Before anyone stepped off the ship, John Winthrop gave a sermon to the future inhabitants of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Whatever they created would be “a city upon a hill," watched by the world:

“The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken... we shall be made a story and a by-word throughout the world. We shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God... We shall shame the faces of many of God's worthy servants, and cause their prayers to be turned into curses upon us til we be consumed out of the good land whither we are a-going.”

January 9, 1961, John F. Kennedy recalled the phrase and breathed new life into it during an address before the General Court of Massachusetts as he was transitioning to his new position as President of the United States.

“It was here my grandparents were born–it is here I hope my grandchildren will be born.”

President Ronald Reagan used the image of the “city on a hill” in his 1984 acceptance of the Republican Party nomination; he’d already been President for four years and was hoping to be re-elected for another four years:

“Our opponents began this campaign hoping that America has a poor memory. Well, let's take them on a little stroll down memory lane.”

Like Luke in the Bible, Reagan used the image of the city on a hill a second time in an address broadcast to the nation. As I began to read his farewell speech given on January 11th 1989, considering all that’s been happening and what I perceive as the “voice of God” that arrives through the written words of other people, my heart sunk with his opening comments:

“One of the things about the presidency is that you're always somewhat apart. You spend a lot of time going by too fast in a car someone else is driving, and seeing the people through tinted glass — the parents holding up a child, and the wave you saw too late and couldn't return. And so many times I wanted to stop and reach out from behind the glass, and connect. Well, maybe I can do a little of that tonight. People ask how I feel about leaving. And the fact is, "parting is such sweet sorrow." The sweet part is California, and the ranch and freedom. The sorrow — the goodbyes, of course, and leaving this beautiful place.”

It’s not always easy to decide what the single most important statement is in a writing, particularly when there are so many good words to choose from. And as I read Ronald Reagan’s farewell speech, I looked for anything that would change my initial perception that this was “good-bye.” Perhaps it was his comment, “But life has a way of reminding you of big things through small incidents.” I have pages and pages of details from the gemstone that weave in and out of the events tied to July 11th.

Sometimes knowing ahead of time where the story is going is enough to keep a person on the right path. The good-bye and farewell don’t fit with the story that’s currently in bloom. They don’t bring anything to its synergy; they break it.

God isn't going anywhere. Quite the opposite in fact.

So I rejected the good-bye, just like Declan rejected Anna's offer to "not make plans." And instead I grabbed hold of the vision of "the city on the hill" provided in the closing paragraphs of Reagan's farewell.

“I've spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don't know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind it was a tall proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teeming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace, a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity, and if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That's how I saw it and see it still.”

In the movie Invictus, Nelson Mandela calls an impromptu staff meeting on his first day as the newly elected President of South Africa:

“All I ask is that you do your work to the best of your abilities and with good heart. I promise to do the same. If we can manage that, our country will be a shining light in the world.”

An Omen of Things to Come

There is a scene in the movie Hitch where Sara is in her living room watching Jerry Maguire on the television after her fight with Alex—a movie within a movie.

The scene is a classic. It's the moment Dorothy (Reneé Zellweger) tells Jerry (Tom Cruise), “Shut up! You had me at hello.” For our purposes, we need to capture this scene from its beginning. What has happened is Jerry and Dorothy rushed into marriage and just as quickly wandered apart. After struggling to get his business on track for the length of the movie, one Sunday afternoon everything falls into place like clockwork. Rod Tidwell (Cuba Gooding Jr.), the one football player who entrusted his future in Jerry's hands, is playing in an out-of-town football game. Despite a scare that lasts a few minutes, both of their dreams become a reality. While watching his star player handle the frenzy of the press, Jerry realizes the one thing missing from the moment and races to the airport then follows with a cab to Dorothy’s house. He enters the living room which is filled with women who are connected by their shared experiences of bad relationships with men. Dorothy is behind the couch, out of sight when Jerry says, “Hello. I’m looking for my wife.”

Dorothy rises slowly.

Jerry: Wait… If this is where it has to happen, then this is where it has to happen. I’m not letting you get rid of me. How about that? This used to be my specialty. I was good in a living room. And now I just….

Tonight... our little company had a very big night. A very, very big night.

But it wasn’t complete. It wasn’t nearly close to being complete.
I couldn’t share it with you.
I couldn’t hear your voice.
I couldn’t laugh about it with you.
I missed my… I missed my wife.
We live in a cynical world.
And we work in a business of tough competitors.
I love you. You... complete me. And I just—

In reality, July 11th, 2010 was a very, very, big day that spanned from Easter Island to South Africa and the heavens above... but nobody was aware of what was transpiring except God—and me.

A Mother Hen Gathering Her Chicks

In my last blog, I described how phrases that were repeated three times in The Story of the Grail formed a list of items that had to be remedied before the story would be considered finished.

The idea is similar to what Carter (Morgan Freeman) begins to prepare in the movie The Bucket List. Carter is a mechanic at the neighborhood garage. Edward is a multi-millionaire who invests in businesses—and mostly hospitals. They’re connected by terminal illnesses and six-month life expectancies. The bucket list is something they compile as a joint effort naming all the things they want to do before they die.

When they arrive in China they make their way on winding paths that climb the Himalayas—the monarch of mountains and the measuring pole of the earth. The goal is to witness something majestic and in Carter’s mind, there is only one place on earth where that can be accomplished.

They stand in the doorway of a shelter on a smaller mountain that’s facing Mount Everest.

Carter: Would be a whole lot more majestic if we could see it.
Edward: See that old woman? Odds are we’re gonna be dead before her.
Carter: Happy thought.
Edward: Of course, she’s probably got reincarnation going for her, however that system works.
Carter: Ah, Buddhists believe you keep coming back. Moving up or down a level based on how you lived your life.
Edward: See that’s where they lose me.

Earlier in The Bucket List, before the two embarked on their journey, Edward is seen hanging his head over a toilet following a round of chemotherapy. He walks to the sink where he looks at himself in the mirror and says, “Some lucky guy out there is having a heart attack.” In reality, Jack Nicholson makes a lateral move when he returns as Harry Sanborn in Something’s Gotta Give. Just like Edward Cole, Harry Sanborn prefers being single, is wealthy, invests in businesses, has a male assistant that tends to all the details... and has a heart attack that creates an opportunity to change his life.

Carter, on the other hand, got the idea of making “a bucket list” during his freshmen year in college. A philosophy professor assigned each student the task of writing down all the things they hoped to achieve before they died. Carter admits he had youthful dreams: he wanted to be a millionaire and become the first black president, but he got his girl friend pregnant and his dreams came to an end. In reality, Morgan Freeman returns in the role of Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa in the movie Invictus, who is famous for his ideal that a nation can be brought together when inspired by a common goal... one that’s symbolized by the Rugby World Cup Championship set to be played inside Ellis Stadium, in Johannesburg, South Africa. The movie is based on a true story that happened 15 years ago.

Edward’s assistant gives them news that a storm is forcing a change in plans and it won't be possible to fly close to the mountain. Not until spring. They’d thought they covered every detail but neglected to take the season into consideration.

After digesting the disappointment, Edward says, “Well, maybe your mountain’s trying to tell us something.”

Carter looks at him, “What do you mean?”
Edward, “Well, maybe we’ve been gone long enough.”
Carter: Gone long enough? Gone long enough for whom?

They continue on with their journey, arriving in Hong Kong where Carter is shown sitting at the bar of a classy hotel talking with the bartender about the mountain, Chomulungma as the Tibetans call it, “Goddess Mother of the Snows.” A woman named Angelica approaches and corrects him, “'Goddess Mother of the World,' actually in traditional Tibetan translation.”

The two exchange stories. Angelica tells Carter what it was actually like on the mountain at 26,000 feet. “The sky is more black than blue because there isn’t enough air to reflect the sunlight. But at night, you’ve never seen so many stars.” “They’re like little holes in the floor of heaven.”

Carter: Did you hear it?
Angelica: Hear what?
Carter: I read an account of a man who made it to the summit and standing there at the top of the world he experienced this profound silence. It was like all sound fell away. And that’s when he heard it. The sound of the mountain… He said it was like he heard the voice of God.

In reality, in 1953 the first climbers to reach the summit were Tenzig Norgay and Edmond Hillary. They only stayed a short while, noting that at the top of world there is only enough space to accommodate two persons, maybe three if snow is moved out of the way.

Sun, Moon, and the planets have their own unique characteristics that influence the world, while the Sabian Symbols provide shape and form to their energy. As above, so below. Human beings have unique traits and abilities that they bring to the world which are given shape and form within the framework of the Sacred Story within which their soul develops.

Like the son a few weeks ago who tried to save his mother from being put to death, Jesus’ intent was to save the “soul” of Eve, to preserve the story of the Goddess Mother of the Garden. The one message that Jesus came to deliver merely repeated what the serpent Nachash had already said. It was the serpent who contributed something new and important to the story. He told Eve that God knew when she ate the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, that she would become wise like the gods. She would have the vision of those who look upon us from the heavens above… who understand the meaning of life on earth.

At this point, Eastern traditions encompass the paths provided to Buddhist and Hindu followers while the Western tradition born by Eve’s intentions in the Garden of Eden gathers all those who claim her story as their ‘beginning.’ Human beings are the same regardless of which path they choose to follow.

The story that belongs to Buddhists is the Four Noble Truths. And anyone “developing” within its framework is guided to bring the Sacred Story into reality within their own life. They strive to escape suffering. Their vision rides a projectile from Earth to the sky above that might deliver them from the cycle of life and death and return to the One. They’ve always had their eyes on the heavens.

Eve’s desire to become wise like the gods established a perspective which was the opposite, as if looking from the heavens down towards Earth. The ‘hitch’ is the Master Storyteller didn’t think through all the details from start to finish before the story was initiated. Until we could raise our level of consciousness, we faired no better than Anna when she fell face first in a puddle of mud. God was behind us, out of sight and with a voice that could only be heard in the profound silence at the top of a mountain. In other words, we’ve been SOL for six thousand years.

Native Americans, just as all indigenous peoples on the islands and in forests, along the rivers, and in the plains, each have a Sacred Story that maintains harmony with Nature. Like the world of Pandora in AVATAR.

The combination of all the Sacred Stories maintains balance and synergy in the world. In our arrogance and ignorance we destroyed the harmony. Haiti was the first casualty of Western expansion. Not only have they waited long enough, but if we help them clear away the rubble that's been heaped upon them, perhaps they will be kind enough to teach us the ways in which we can find God everywhere we look.

In The Story of the Grail the sister of the King of Escavalon is accused of being affectionate with the traitor, reminiscent of rumors which have dogged Eve for millennia:

“Shame on you, woman, shame!” he flung.
“May God confound you; you’re disgraced
to let yourself be held, embraced,
and kissed, and cuddled, and caressed,
by him whom you should most detest!
Poor, foolish woman, good-for-naught,
you’ve done exactly as you ought …

Yet, if a woman did not sin,
you could not call her feminine.

Who hates the bad and loves the good
can’t be called ‘woman,’ for she would
be forfeiting her right to own
the name by loving good alone.
I see you’re a real woman too.

When woman can do as they please,
They go too far and do not care.”

The words that were spoken in Escavalon have no place in our Sacred Story, no matter how many times they're paraphrased and repeated.

A Very, Very, Big Day

I mentioned earlier that July 11th was a very big day. In reality, it was surrounded by significant details with ties to the gemstone and provides clues as to what we should be looking for:

July 10th - Excitement builds for 2010 FIFA World Cup Final. Headlines boast that Spain and the Netherlands are competing for the "Holy Grail." Read more

July 10th - Vegetables are losing their nutritional value... Read more

July 6th - Satellites to track space debris... Read more

July 7th - Brutal heat wave hits East Coast. Read. (Declan did say, "We're gonna heat things up.")

July 10th - Soccer fans shun hookers for art. with Photos - See and Read
  • World Cup - Cash Cow Nowhere to be Seen (Hookers complain)
  • World Cup - Apartheid Museum - a look at the past
  • World Cup - Art Gallery
  • World Cup - Family and a Fish Dinner - togetherness, a meal on a pier
  • World Cup - It's a Long Haul Trip

July 10th - Older news gets front page coverage: Mayan pools are explored. Divers burrow into the bottom of a mini-lake and recover ancient artifacts. (In The Last Templar, the display at the MET followed the Mayan show while in the novel the ancient astrolabe was recovered at the bottom of a man-made lake.)

July 10th - Haiti Hospital Woe's Show Challenge of Recovery: "It was a simple problem- with a novel solution." Read more

July 10th - Portrait of Mandela sparks debate - "Yiull Damaso has said that the picture is designed to show South Africans that although Nelson Mandela is a “great man” he is “just a man” who will eventually die." Read more

July 11th - Haiti recovery paralyzed 6 months after deadly quake. Read more.

July 11th - Keeping Haiti in sight. Read more.

July 15th - Most countries fail to pay pledges made to help Haiti. United States pledged $1.15 billion for reconstruction. Amount paid to date: $0. Read more.

July 16th - Freight Train? Thunder? Holy Cow! Earthquake hits D.C. Read more

July 15th - Iroquois lacross team denied access to first game of the sport's World Championship, a sport they shared with the world Read more

July 11th - the day is marked by a total Solar Eclipse that can best be viewed on Easter Island, which got its modern name from a Dutch explorer who arrived on its shores on Easter Sunday in 1722. He was looking for David's island. For the history of Easter Island read; for Easter Island's FIFA Match of the Century read. (As a worthy exercise, both sources are filled with details that connect Easter Island to the gemstone.)

July 11th - In Pensacola Beach, Florida, Angels cure oil blues. The Blue Angels perform in air show. Read more

July 3rd - "A Whale," the biggest oil eating ship in the world arrives in the Gulf. Read more

July 11th - front page photo with caption: No More Crying Over Spilled Coffee: "Hate it when the party's spoiled by a spill. Well stop that fussing..." It was an article about spilled coffee, but with a little imagination, it had everything to do with the clip on the "BP Coffee incident." Watch

July 19th - By all appearances, the latest cap is successful but "tests on the ruptured BP well in the Gulf of Mexico will go on for another 24 hours as federal and company officials try to explain "anomalous" pressure readings and possible leaks. The readings are significantly lower than what they expected... Read more

July 7th - Some 27,000 Abandoned Wells in the Gulf... Read more

July 6th - BP the Board Game... Read more

July 11th - World Cup fervor inspires racial harmony. Will it last? Read more.

July 11th - Photo Gallery See it - photo captions:

  • World Cup - All the buzz
  • World Cup - Setting Sun
  • World cup - Blow your Horn
  • World Cup - Polite Reception -"Thank you South Africa"
  • World Cup - Fish Story - Paul the Octopus
  • World Cup - Take the Stage
  • World Cup - Helping Hand
  • World Cup - Hat the Ready
  • World Cup - Power Suits
  • World Cup - Pretty as a Picture
  • World Cup - Stage Presence
  • World Cup - Lap of Honor - Nelson Mandela
  • World Cup - Vocal Vixen
  • World Cup - Shake It
  • World Cup - Stomp It Out
  • World Cup - Grand Stage
  • World Cup - Dance Party
  • World Cup - Winning Team

July 11th - Photo Gallery - photo captions: See it

  • World Cup - Group Therapy
  • World Cup - Such Pageantry
  • World Cup - Red Fury
  • World Cup - Orange Crush
  • World Cup - Pau-er Play
  • World Cup - Idiot Patrol
  • Word Cup - Man Down
  • World Cup - Out of My Way
  • World Cup - Up and Running
  • World Cup - Face Time
  • World Cup - Caught in the Webb
  • World Cup - Marteen on the Spot
  • World Cup - Air Apparent
  • World Cup - Yellow Peril
  • World Cup - Off Center
  • World Cup - Say Ankle
  • World Cup - Who's the Boss
  • World Cup - Red Worthy
  • World Cup - Up for Grabs
  • World Cup - Slide Into It
  • World Cup - Action Hero
  • World Cup - Stay the Course
  • World Cup - Don't Lose your Head
  • World Cup - Over the Top
  • World Cup - Missed Opportunity
  • World Cup - Talk is Cheap
  • World Cup - Not Close Enough
  • World Cup - Ugh
  • World Cup - Piggy Back
  • World Cup - Get Over There!
  • World Cup - Forget It
  • World Cup - High Jump
  • World Cup - Head Shot
  • World Cup - Replacement
  • World Cup - Seeing Red
  • World Cup - Goooooooal!
  • World Cup - Get in the Net
  • World Cup - More than Words
  • World Cup - What's Up?
  • World Cup - It's Ok
  • World Cup - Yeah!
  • World Cup - Touching Moment
  • World Cup - Smile!
  • World Cup - Golden Touch
  • World Cup - Make a Run
  • World Cup - Hug it Out
  • World Cup - Oh, pretty
  • World Cup - Consolation Prize

July 11th - Game On - Fan holds Spanish flag in front of a setting Sun. The Spanish flag features a coat of arms with a crown resting on pillars of Hercules. Red banners display the motto "Plus Ultra" meaning "More Beyond," alluding to Columbus' discovery of the New World. The two columns flank a shield that displays a castle, a lion wearing a crown, red and yellow stripes, and three fleur-de-lis (the sign of the Holy Grail in The Da Vinci Code) in an oval in the center.

July 12th - Spain by the Numbers: Spain wins the Final match in extended time, only goal is made in the 116th minute, final score 1-0. (Don't for a moment think the score pertains solely to the Dutch opponent on the football field. In Leap Year the score was Declan 1, chicken nil). At the final whistle, the Spanish players hurried to swap their blue shirts for their more familiar RED colors in time to collect their trophy. They were the 8th nation to receive the honor in the tournament's 80 year history. Read more

July 11th - Spain Exemplifies Winning Formula: the delicate touch paid off as it overcame the brute force of Netherland's team. Read more

July 11th - Bob Sheppard, legendary Yankees announcer, nicknamed "the voice of God," whose voice spanned half a century died today with his wife Mary at his side. His voice however will live on... Read more

In the role of Leigh Anne Tuohy, Sandra Bullock said she would never wear orange - it wasn't in her color wheel. And unfortunately for the Dutch, their uniforms are orange.

July 10th - Running of the bulls in the French Quarter of New Orleans begins with a Spanish tapas dinner... Read more

The Story of Ferdinand , which has a place in The Blind Side, was written by American author Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson. It's about a bull that would rather smell flowers than fight in bullfights. Ferdinand sits in the middle of the bull ring failing to take heed of any of the provocations of the matador and others to fight. The book was released nine months before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Leaf said he wrote the story on a whim in an afternoon in 1935, largely to provide his friend a forum in which to showcase his talents. (Everything Leigh Anne Tuohy did per the movie The Blind Side, she did to help someone else.) The landscape in which Lawson placed the fictional Ferdinand is more or less real. Lawson faithfully reproduced the view of the city of Ronda in Andalusia for his illustration of Ferdinand being brought to Madrid on a cart: we see the Puente Nuevo—New Bridge—spanning the El Tajo canyon. The Disney movie added some rather accurate views of Ronda and the Puente Romano—Roman Bridge—and thePuente Viejo—Old Bridge—at the beginning of the story. The story was set to incidental music in "Ferdinand the Bull" by classical composer Mark Fish. It was also adapted, in 1971, as a piece for solo violin and narrator by the British composer Alan Ridout. Singer-songwriter Elliott Smith had a tattoo of Ferdinand the Bull, from the cover of Munro Leaf's book, on his right upper arm, which is visible on the cover of his record either/or. Smith's song "Flowers for Charlie" can be seen as a somewhat abstract retelling of the book from Ferdinand's perspective. The rock band Fall Out Boy named their third album From Under the Cork Tree after a phrase in the book. Richard Horvitz commented that fellow actor and friend Fred Willard performed this story as a 5th grade class play when Fred was a child. Ferdinand made an appearance in the 1997 film Strays, a Sundance favorite. Ferdinand again appeared in the 2009 movie The Blind Side, the story of Michael Oher, with a similar metaphorical message. According to one scholar, the book crosses gender lines in that it offers a character to whom both boys and girls can relate. The short film is broadcast in Sweden every year on Christmas Eve as a part of an annual Disney Christmas show. (Wikipedia)

Spain has a player on their team whose first name is Jesus (Navas).

In the movie Invictus and in the real life Rugby World Cup match 15 years ago, the force to recon with was Jonah (Lomu).

With a little imagination one can make a connection between the names Shakira (the entertainer), Sakineh (the woman sentenced to death in Iran), and Shekhinah which is "a visible manifestation of the divine presence as described in Jewish theology" or "God among the people."

July 11th - Nelson Mandela makes an appearance at the closing ceremony of the World Cup. Read more.

July 11th - Historians locate King Arthur's Round Table, capable of seating far more knights than ever thought... Read more

July 11th - Mythical unicorn found in Italy... Read more

July 13th - Paul the Octopus who was hailed an "Oracle" is retiring after correctly predicting the outcome of eight World Cup matches in a row. Paul had all the characteristics of God that are found within the gemstone: the face that Handel saw when he was composing Messiah, the hand (8 of them!) that supposedly aided Diego Maradona, and the voice from the Mountain that is heard only in profound silence. Read more.

July 21th - "Whale of a Tale!" On Sunday (the "octave" of the FIFA World Cup Final) a 40-ton whale landed on a yacht sailing near the infamous Robben Island off the coast of South Africa. A couple watched the whale flipping its tail for half an hour before it went under the water. They didn't realize they were on a collision course. The man told the woman, named Paloma, to go over to the other side. Then the whale jumped. She ducked behind the coach house; he hid behind the wheel as the whale crashed into the boat. Both watched as the mast fell. The couple were able to sail back to Table Bay Harbor and only later that night realized how lucky they were to be alive. Read more

July 22nd - Sun enters Leo, "The King of the Zodiac" Fun Facts

The movie Invictus is named after a poem of the same name. William Ernest Henley wrote the poem from a hospital bed in 1875, not long after his leg was amputated below the knee to fend off a disease that had progressed to his foot. The title Invictus is Latin for "unconquered."

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tear
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate;
I am the captain of my soul.

There are two thoughts from the film that bring meaning and significance for where the story is at this moment in time:

In order to build camaraderie and national support of the rugby team, Mandela requested that the Springboks schedule clinics where the rugby players could interact with youth. At their first outing to an impoverished neighborhood, François tells the boys “…the first rule of rugby is you can only pass the ball backwards or sideways."

On July 12, 2010 Fox News reported, “A Somali terrorist group tied to al Qaeda reveled in the tears and blood they spilled in Uganda as they claimed responsibility for simultaneous bombings that tore through World Cup parties, killing 74 people…” Read more.

This group of terrorists chose to connect their actions to our very, very big day. But they're clinging by a very, very, very thin thread. There is NO place in our story for people who boast that others' tears puts a smile on their face.

There is a time to kill. But there is also a time for peace and joy in like measure to the hostilities and pain we have all shared. As Nelson Mandela told the people of South Africa, "throw your weapons into the sea." (Metaphorically speaking! Our journey has already been given a glimpse of the miles and miles of garbage floating in both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.)

At the moment I seem to be carrying the ball, but there's nobody I can pass to sideways... and there's only God behind me. Well... "Game on."

In Invictus, on President Mandela’s first day in office, a news anchor is shown on the television broadcasting all of the problems that the country of South Africa is facing. François Pienaar (Matt Damon) is the captain of the Springboks. He’s sitting in the living room of his father’s house. The father turns the television off and says, “I never thought I’d see the day. I feel sorry for you son. You’ve got your whole life ahead of you. What’s it gonna’ be like now?”

On July 16th, Jesse James was back in the news. Journalists were commenting that he had hit rock-bottom and was now embroiled in a custody case concerning his 6-year-old daughter who happens to be named Sunny. The papers report that Sunny has been “acting out.” The issue currently before the court revolves around Jesse James' desire to relocate and move Sunny to a place where she can remain close to those who have been there for her, from day one.

The first time Declan showed compassion for Anna he said, “A father is someone you should be able to rely on, you know.”

Everything that's been happening is about what's in the best interest of the children.

But if you must put yourself first, remember we are all the children of tomorrow and in this particular story, a soul only moves sideways, returning to someplace it left off, or backwards—which actually raises one's perspective.

Where are we in our journey? As Alex said, "three dates seal the deal." If there is only one idea or vision that can be used from each of the dates, this is how they come together: the sheep that were nervously running around on stage in The Phantom of the Opera following the hanging of Joseph Buquet became the ewes that were pregnant during the celebration of Lá Fhéile Bríde in Leap Year... which gave birth as the Sun rose over Easter Island on July 11th, 2010.

And the Lion has arrived to lay down with the lamb.

Jesse James, I have a message for you: "No matter what happens, no matter how far you think you've fallen, there is always a hand extended... and rest assured, God will always have your back."

Now... about those "17 stories" that rise above the stage. The rules of numerology require that 17 be reduced to a single digit, while the number 8 when looked upon from a different angle becomes the symbol for infinity. And good thing, because as you might have gathered, my list of movies that are woven together is growing exponentially.