‘Black Panther: Wakanda Forever’: More Than a Marvel Adventure Movie

By Kathy Winings

Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” is a rare sequel — one I found to be even better than its predecessor, “Black Panther,” in terms of the depth of its message and themes even though the Marvel Cinematic Universe film is minus its former lead actor with the 2020 death of Chadwick Boseman.

The movie is a typical Marvel film complete with lots of action, superhuman feats and high-tech wonders. “Wakanda Forever” also continues to emphasize the theme of diversity, but expands this focus more powerfully to highlight gender, age and Hispanic/indigenous culture along with that of Black culture. As good as this is, though, it is not the real power behind the film.

What makes the movie particularly poignant are timely and highly relevant themes that stand out for today’s world. Foremost is the focus on forgiveness vs. revenge. This leads to the closely-related issue of the meaning and power of love over hate that enables one to genuinely forgive. The final theme is the role of women as peacemakers.

What enables these themes to stand out is the context of age that is subtly present throughout the film. It took about 30 minutes before I realized that most of the main characters are part of the millennial generation. As an educator and minister, I found this to be a significant feature of the movie because of the issues the characters are facing. All this makes for a more sobering film this time around.

The death of King T’Challa (Boseman, the original Black Panther) is never far from the hearts and minds of the main characters and is woven into the storyline as the film begins with Wakanda mourning the death of its king despite his sister, Princess Shuri’s frantic efforts to save her brother. This sets Shuri (Letitia Wright) on the path of having to deal with her grief and anger over this loss, leaving her to question love, forgiveness and eternal life.

Soon after her brother’s memorial service, several pivotal events take place that become the catalysts for Shuri and several key women to come to terms with these important themes. One lingering question that hangs in the air from the first film concerns T’Challa’s previous offer to share Wakanda’s knowledge about vibranium with the world now that the Black Panther is gone. Are world leaders wise and mature enough to handle such an offer without greed and violence? Unfortunately, we know the answer to that question all too well.

In the year following T’Challa’s death, Queen Ramonda (Angela Bassett) and the Dora Milaje security forces find themselves protecting Wakanda from those forces seeking to gain access to vibranium. Some efforts led to violent confrontations that were wrongly blamed on the Wakandans. So each event increases the tension and fear for the future of Wakanda in the heart of Ramonda and Shuri.

At the center of this struggle comes a new threat, whose very existence came about centuries earlier because of vibranium — an underwater culture known as the Talokan. Their leader, Namor (Tenoch Huerta), sets things in motion by confronting Ramonda and Shuri when he finds them alone on a beach preparing for a final family ritual to end their year of mourning T’Challa.

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What Music Tells Me: Beauty, Truth and Goodness and Our Cultural Inheritance

By David Eaton

The 19th century French novelist, Gustave Flaubert, asserted that “the art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.”

In the process of writing my book, What Music Tells Me: Beauty, Truth and Goodness and Our Cultural Inheritance, I realized Flaubert’s assertion was quite apt.

The chapters in the book span several decades and were written for various publications, including The World & I magazine, the Journal of Unification Studies, the Peace Music Community blog, and the Applied Unificationism blog.

They draw upon many of my experiences as a musician, as well as my interest in music in relation to politics, philosophy, commerce, education, and religion. The influence of music on self and society is a central narrative of my book.

What Music Tells Us

One of my favorite composers is Gustav Mahler (1860-1911). Mahler is generally considered to be the last of the great symphonists of the European symphonic tradition. He composed nine symphonies and his third symphony, written between 1893 and 1896, has six movements. He ascribes the following titles to each movement:

1.  Pan Awakes, Summer Marches In
2.  What the Flowers in the Meadow Tell Me
3.  What the Animals in the Forest Tell Me
4.  What Man Tells Me
5.  What the Angels Tell Me
6.  What Love Tells Me

For Mahler, nature, angels, humankind, and love all had something to say to him — presumably something imbued with beauty, truth and goodness. He would say that it was through the art of music that he could find answers to many of his questions regarding life, love and the pursuit of happiness.

Mahler intuited, as did those in ancient cultures, that music wasn’t solely about pleasure or aesthetics. Like the philosophers of ancient China and Greece, Mahler believed music possessed moral and ethical implications and could be a gateway to higher truths and deeper understandings of the human condition.

Hebrew and Christian philosophers also shared this perspective and wrote treatises regarding the effects of music on self and society — psycho-acoustics in modern parlance. Any examination of our cultural patrimony reveals that the metaphysical, spiritual and axiological aspects of music, and its potential as a change agent in the spheres of politics and public ethics, has been a constant refrain from antiquity to Mahler, and remains so today.

The Unification movement’s founders, Rev. Sun Myung Moon and Mrs. Hak Ja Han Moon, often alluded to the importance of art and culture in establishing a culture of peace. In their respective memoirs, they each aver that it’s not politics that changes the world, but art and culture that can move people’s hearts and raise consciousness and thereby foster conditions for socio-cultural betterment.

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Unearthing My DNA: The Lost Sister

By Eileen Williams

It’s natural to presume that family are the people who think like us, are born into the same cultural group, share similar political stances, and even look like us. A homogenous comfort zone called “family” might be nice to ponder, but the reality is often a far cry from this rosy Rockwell-esque tableau.

The unexpected discovery of a half-sibling made me re-think “family” and my place in it down to my very core. To put this in a Unificationist perspective: the reality of tribal messiahship with diverse members spanning two coasts and two continents sometimes requires both flying far and digging deep.

It was Thanksgiving 2020, and I was participating in a Zoom meet-up through my local library with Libby Copeland, author of The Lost Family: How DNA is Upending Who We Are. That might make a good Christmas present for someone, I thought, unawares that the very person to benefit from the book would be me.

Inspired by Copeland’s case studies delving into family heritage — its twists, turns, and surprises, the medical miracles, the family drama — I turned to my sister Mary: “Let’s buy ourselves Ancestry.com DNA test kits for Christmas.”

Mary and I were curious about where in Ireland our relatives came from; she was readying to visit my father’s second cousins in Germany. However, we had not anticipated that we were about to “out” our own family skeleton, although that doesn’t seem a nice way to describe a newly-found half-sister.

After Christmas, I received my test results, and there staring back at me from the Ancestry.com website was a photo of a woman tagged as a first degree relative. I determined after a few stunned moments that she could neither be aunt, niece, nor cousin but rather was/must be a half-sister (really?).

She had lurked on the Ancestry.com site for two years hoping to “strike” a match. I would come to learn that she had longed most of her adult life for someone — anyone — she could call family. And strike a match she did.

Although myself and three of my siblings had managed to forge a bond despite the childhood rupture of divorce, my younger adopted sister cut all ties with the rest of us. Sadly, family is not always what folks want to find, and sometimes it’s even those we want to lose. Yet, here on the site was a half-sister hoping desperately to discover family connections.

The first thing I learned about DNA testing is people can inherit different pieces of DNA from their ancestral gene pool. One does not neatly inherit 25% of your genetic traits from each grandparent, and then 12.5 % from each great grandparent; rather hereditary traits are expressed in a random manner.

My sister and I share a 58% DNA match, which is normal for siblings or fraternal twins; identical twins share a 100% DNA match. My sister has a higher percent of Scottish DNA than I do (ah, the red in her hair!).  My half-sister was a 27% DNA match with me.

All humans share 99.9% percent DNA in common, so why bother researching your genealogy at all?  Some DNA test sites suggest you can form meaningful connections from doing this — second and third cousin discoveries, famous relatives. Maybe your ancestors go back to a signer of the Declaration of Independence, as a proud friend of mine discovered.

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Belief and the Power of Narrative

By Graham Simon

At midnight on December 31, 2020, the UK finally parted company with the EU.

After taking negotiations down to the wire, a beaming Boris Johnson, the unkempt UK Prime Minister and optimist extraordinaire, who five years earlier had promised the British people that they could leave the EU and still “have their cake and eat it,” declared that he had delivered a very “cakeist” treaty indeed.

The exit was mandated in a referendum in June 2016. The anti-EU faction had orchestrated a well-planned high-profile campaign which included catchy but less than truthful slogans on the sides of buses. Those who wanted to remain part of the EU dithered and presented their case badly. In the end, the “Leavers” won with 52% of the vote against 48% for the “Remainers.” Much rancor between the two sides followed.

Most economic forecasts have predicted a loss of UK GDP as a result of Brexit, ranging from 0.1% to 7.9%, with the official Treasury report coming in at around 6% over the next 15 years. Those who voted to leave tend to believe the lower figures or even outlying forecasts of gains, rather than losses. Those who voted to remain tend to believe the more pessimist numbers.

Regardless, the deed is now done and the probable outcome in five years’ time will be that the only things British citizens will notice are: the country is now able to exclude immigrants from Europe (but will probably still need plenty of Europeans to pick its fruit and staff its hospitals); there is more red tape when importing and exporting; and tourists need to keep showing their passports when traveling on the Continent. There is also an outside chance that Northern Ireland will no longer be part of Britain but be reunited with Eire (Southern Ireland) to become part of the EU again.

The UK was split down the middle with regards to Brexit, but people have managed to pull through without killing each other. As we look across the pond to the U.S., where the nation also seems split down the middle, we are perplexed and concerned at the severity of the divisions. While the fault lines may be different in the UK and U.S., the two situations have a lot in common — namely the centrality of belief and narrative in stoking divisions.

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Identity Politics, the Post-Truth World and Constructivism

By Gordon L. Anderson

The bitter partisan divisions in American politics have several roots: political, economic and cultural.

In my 2009 book, Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, Version 4.0, I explain how a number of the political roots, like viruses, particularly through political parties, have hijacked the political system. The economic roots of the struggle essentially boil down to whether policies support an economy based on production for all (a win-win market economy) or taking from one group and giving it to another (a win-lose, hunter-gatherer economy).

This article focuses on the cultural roots of the struggle, looks at how deconstruction brought a crisis to post-modern thought, and considers whether a “constructivist” approach can overcome that crisis.

Several articles on the Applied Unificationism Blog have sought to understand the evolution of the idea of “truth.” Dr. Keisuke Noda discussed (July 23, 2018) the correspondence theory of truth, coherence theory of truth, pragmatic approach to truth, existential approach to truth, linguistic approach to truth, and an integral approach to truth.

I followed up (March 11, 2019) with a discussion of how our level of consciousness affects the way in which we understand the truth. I showed a cultural development of theological consciousness, metaphysical consciousness and scientific consciousness in the study of scripture and also argued for an integral understanding of scriptural truth (inherited cultural narrative).

The Death of Truth

However, we now find ourselves in a world where a significant part of society considers we are in a “post-truth world.” The April 3, 2017 TIME magazine cover story, “Is Truth Dead?” was a replica of TIME’s “Is God Dead?” cover story from April 8, 1966.

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‘Parasite’ and Viewing a Film in One’s Imagination to Overcome Cultural Barriers

By Incheol Son

You may be curious about the Korean movie “Parasite.” The film and its director, Bong Joon Ho, won Best Picture and Best Director at the Academy Awards in February. Bong and “Parasite” also won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best International Feature Film.

Their winning streak began at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival last May by winning the Palme d’Or. Wins followed at the Golden Globe Awards, the Screen Actors Guild Award (for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture), and the British Academy Film Awards, to name a few. “Parasite” became the first South Korean film to receive an Oscar, as well as the first in a language other than English to win Best Picture.

Parasite,” or “Gisaengchung” (기생충) in Korean, was Bong’s descent into the “real world” from his previous films about social inequality such as “Snowpiercer” (2013) and “Okja” (2017). “Snowpiercer” was impressive because well-known Western actors and actresses were cast. I wondered, “Did they follow Bong’s direction with respect in every scene?” Later I learned they respected him a lot.

As Bong said, winning the Best Picture Oscar would not have been possible without the long-running success of the globalization of Korean culture or hallyu (한류, the Korean Wave) over the past 20 years. Especially, the boy band BTS has swept the Western world for several consecutive years. The West is now ready to recognize a new kind of cultural expression. I’m reluctant, however, to say that “Parasite” is from the East. It’s because the movie is rooted in Western culture as a motion picture. It’s like riding in a Hyundai sedan but never thinking it’s Korean.

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Films Shining Light on Three Lives that Mattered

By Kathy Winings

The great thing about movies is they often shine light on amazing people or bring to our attention issues that need to see the light of day. Last holiday season did not disappoint in doing both.

Three noteworthy 2019 films offer audiences not only Oscar-worthy performances but also a great deal of food for thought: “Harriet,” “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” and “Richard Jewell.”

Harriet” not only gives us important information about the beginnings of a courageous 19th century freedom fighter but finally addresses a long-standing omission in our historical knowledge.

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” moves our hearts and reaffirms the power that one ordinary person holds when they take the time to listen and offer genuine love and compassion to another soul.

And, “Richard Jewell” stirs our sense of righteousness as we witness an injustice that took too long to correct.

Growing up in the American public school system in the 1960s and 1970s, one topic was standard for U.S. history classes: the American Civil War.  Key themes always included the causes of the war, the Gettysburg Address, significant battles, and, of course, the presidency of Abraham Lincoln.  Though some textbooks noted the “Underground Railroad,” it was not a major focus in the schools I attended. If abolitionist Harriet Tubman was mentioned at all, it was more as an historical footnote than spotlighting a woman who helped bring hundreds of slaves to freedom.

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The Unification Movement’s Next 100 Years

By John Redmond

The 100th birthday of Rev. Sun Myung Moon next February seems a fitting time for reflection, assessment and a reorientation to our shared providential course.

To do the topic justice, it’s necessary to back away from the disappointments, challenges and victories of the present, and give ourselves a comfortable seat to try to look with God’s eyes at the progress and potential of our relatively young Unification Movement.

Learning from history

There are several ways to plan for the future.  One is the religious way, to trust that God is in charge and close your eyes, do what you are told and go along for the ride.  Counter to that, leftist intellectuals may be certain they can manipulate history and force society into a pragmatic scientific paradise.

My preference is the method discussed in the Divine Principle, where patterns of history combined with human responsibility and God’s inspiration direct history toward tragedy or triumph.

It’s instructive to look at history and identify the success path of movements similar to ours to see what worked for them and how they broke through to become embedded in the culture to achieve their goals.

If we look back over the last few thousand years, there are several movements that lasted beyond the life of their initial prophet and created a significant impact on history. Buddhism, Confucianism, Judeo-Christianity, the early American Puritans, and Marxism all have a similar development pattern.

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The Korean Wave Matters: K-Pop Band BTS and the Providence

By Incheol Son

Recently, a Korean boy band hit the world stage and many of the youth generation have fallen in love with them. They’ve become so famous that even this band of seven boys was surprised to see the global level of reaction to their performances, far more than they anticipated.

The band is BTS. Their name comes from the English acronym of 방탄소년단 or BangTan Sonyeondan, literally “Bulletproof Boy Scouts” in Korean. They won the Billboard Music Awards for Top Social Artist for the past three years. They are almost like the Second Coming of the Beatles, at least for our present generation of young people.

This year, at least 100,000 fans in each city they toured turned out. In particular, they filled Wembley Stadium where Queen performed live in 1985. Their fans have created a kingdom-like quasi-religion of their own. On the Internet, such as YouTube, the band’s fan club is called the ARMY.

Fans are especially amazed by the dramatic growth of the band. Their production company was not one of the three major companies in South Korea. As they sang in “Silver Spoon/Baepsae,” there used to be a golden rule in the South Korean entertainment industry: a band should be promoted by one of the top three K-Pop companies to gain global popularity. But, BTS started at the bottom. And none of the seven boys was from the capital, Seoul.

They were initially ignored after their debut because their music was totally different from prevailing trends. But because of that ignorance they went on to win the Billboard award, as sung in “DDaeng.” The boys show their fans a humble attitude while singing “I Need U,” “Best of Me” and “Illegal/Dimple.” And they recently released the song, “Boy With Luv,” dedicated to their fans.

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