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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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'White China: Finding the Divine in the Everyday' and 'Howl's Moving Castle'

B O O K

White China: Finding the Divine in the Everyday by Molly Wolf is a fine collection of essays on the spiritual meanings in everyday life. The author, founder of www.Sabbath-Blessings.org and co-author with Linda Roghaar of the Knitlit books, describes this kind of God-talk as “making the rubber hit the road.” There are chapters on creation, being human, truths and illusions, answered prayers, saints—ancient and modern, lighten our darkness, last things, and God-stuff. Her brand of spirituality is salutary and substantive whether she’s writing about leaves, chocolate, mud season, dental appointments, or ropes and cooties. She tackles tough questions, too, showing how our sense of fairness is often upended by God’s unconditional grace. On a Christian path herself, the author writes with respect of other religions and is buoyed by common emphasis on virtues such as compassion, justice, forgiveness and love (Jossey-Bass).

M O V I E

Howl’s Moving Castle is one of the best films of the year. It’s another animated masterwork by Hayao Miyazaki, the Japanese director who was behind the 2002 Academy Award-winning film Spirited Away. This story revolves around Sophie, a shy and diligent 18-year-old who works in a hat shop. One day while walking home, two soldiers stop her and try to impress her with their power and sexuality. She is rescued by Howl, a handsome wizard, who lives in a magical castle.

Later, the Wicked Witch of the Waste, who is looking for Howl, comes into the hat shop and puts a spell on Sophie, turning her into a 90-year-old woman. Deciding Howl is the only one to break the spell, Sophie embarks on a difficult journey to find him, eventually becoming his housekeeper. Howl has his own problems, as the King has summoned him to fight in a meaningless war.

Miyazaki’s films always have a spiritual perspective. In this one, there is no simplistic division of the world into good guys and bad guys, no “us” vs. “them” battles in which we cheer for the heroes and hiss when the villains appear. Humans, demons, sorcerers and witches all demonstrate moments of goodness, selfishness and folly. For this achievement alone, Miyazaki deserves to be commended for advancing the cause of a mystical appreciation of our connections with all others, no matter how strange or unappealing they seem at first.

A second admirable motif is that being old isn’t a terrible fate. As an old woman, Sophie gains all the attributes she lacked as a young person. She become courageous, willing to face challenges, self-confident and unafraid to speak her mind.

A final theme is an anti-war message and an affirmation of the heart. Howl is transformed into a great birdlike warrior in his efforts to bring peace to the land. He and Sophie learn that true fearlessness emerges from our tenderness (Walt Disney Studios).


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