Movies

10 Things I Loved About ‘Messiah’

messiah-mehdi-dehbi-02-scaled

‘Messiah’ is a 10-part drama series created by Michael Petroni on Netflix which premiered on January 1, 2020. It follows the rise of a mysterious, soft-spoken Christ-like figure named al-Masih (aka “the Messiah”). A skeptical CIA agent Eva Gellar (Michelle Monaghan) is assigned to figure out whether this person they call al-Masih (Mehdi Dehbi) is actually a divine entity or just a dangerous con artist looking to upend the world’s geopolitical order. While the critics didn’t warm to it, and religious traditionalists criticized it, here are 10 reasons I absolutely loved it (Spoilers Ahead).

  1. Firstly, the ambition of the show—to explore the core of spirituality on a global scale—is worthy of admiration. Using the comforting tropes of the global CIA thriller makes it palatable mainstream entertainment in its own right, but what made it stand apart for me was that the high spiritual EQ of the show. The fact that it got green-lit and made is a miracle in itself.
    .
  2. I loved that every crisis of the key characters, while it may appear to be about conceiving a child, accepting their homosexuality or guilt over past wrongs, is really a spiritual crisis. In almost every other thriller/drama, the solution to the protagonists’ problems is attacking, punishing or killing someone. Here, as the external action unfolds, the characters either come to peace with themselves, or continue choosing to suffer. While some critics complained of the plot having loose ends, the real story—that of the inner transformation of the characters—is beautifully fleshed out.
    .
  3. If Al-Masih is meant to be the return of the Christ, thank God he’s not played by a blond American. Perhaps the first time on screen that such a character is played by a person of Middle-Eastern origin. Good to see a brown lead who isn’t trying to enter the US, blow up the US or play Tonto to a Lone Ranger US agent.
    .
  4. I loved that Al-Masih is not a cocky know-it-all prepared with the answers. He doesn’t have a plan to save the world and does not go around showing off how much he knows about whoever is in front of him. (“Ah Agent Aviram, I have been expecting you.”) God’s Will is revealed from moment to moment—and that is enough for him. Trusting in God’s goodness means trusting, as he says, “Nothing shall befall us, except what God has ordained.” Side note, also loved how simply and pragmatically the guidance comes—from an Instagram post, a ‘spontaneous’ decision, a dream.
    .
  5. The show doesn’t shy away from asking difficult questions relevant to modern life and doesn’t provide easy answers. Al-Masih killing an injured dog to put him out of his suffering is a courageous scene to write. Likewise, the show’s take on abortion and immigration (…and ACLU lawyers!) At a larger level, the entire architecture of the show is designed as a spiritual Rorschach test, with enough evidence to support alternative theories. As Al-Masih says in his sermon on the Washington: “What you see happening depends on you.”Messiah Netflix
    .
  6. I loved that each character has a different crisis of faith. The CIA agent, the ex-Mossad officer, the pastor, his wife and daughter, each has a different challenge to finding peace. The pastor Felix Iguero (John Ortiz) wants to believe and has moments of Grace but falters when he demands a plan. His wife Anna (Melinda Page Hamilton) wants to believe but not at the cost of the security of her family. The ex-Mossad officer Aviram (Tomer Sisley) keeps recreating situations of self-punishment for his past guilt but refuses to accept forgiveness. The CIA agent Eva Geller seems hell-bent on proving God wrong by having a baby even after her husband has died with his frozen sperm. Also, the show accurately depicts one important point: our fantasies of a savior notwithstanding, how easily the ego-mind reverts back to doubt even after experiencing miracles. The pastor burns his church even after he’s seen Al-Masih save his daughter from the storm and walk on water. Isn’t that how it is for all of us as well?
    .
  7. The show’s creator Michael Petroni reposes hope for the future in the youth. Screwed up with teenage angst and confusion, they are still the most clear-eyed and willing to trust. “The fire burns brightly” in them, as Al-Masih says to the pastor’s daughter Rebecca (Stefania LaVie Owen) at one point. The other reflection of Al-Masih is the refugee boy, Jibril (Named after the Arabic name for the angel Gabriel meaning ‘hero/strength of God’. By the way, the Biblical choices of names are intriguing in themselves. Aviram and Eva are the two characters who seem most hopelessly stuck outside heaven… coincidence?)
    .
  8. The government and religious machinery from both sides of the world are united in trying to discredit him, without any desire to know the truth about who he is. As the rich televangelist played by Beau Bridges suggests, they need to keep God out of these decisions.
    .
  9. Loved that the character of Al-Masih spends much time communing in silence, instead of running around problem-solving. He’s comfortable even in a jail cell without needing to fix other prisoners’ problems. Neither does he try to unite Christianity and Islam—his single focus is on our connection with God. Broken spokes on a wheel don’t need to be fused together, they need to be joined to the center. Then they all work in unison. A nice reminder that the joining between man and God is the only real joining, not the joining between bodies or between dreams.
    .
  10. Finally, loved his conviction that ‘History has ended.’ (Eva Geller’s father reinforces this when he says he has been feeling something different in the sunrise these days) And by the way, in case you didn’t notice, the show was released on January 1, 2020… or if you want to call it ‘20/20’. Is it time to look with clarity at our world and simply “make a new choice”?
    .

Can’t wait for Season 2 of the show. I hope it is greenlit by the Algorithms-That-Be at Netflix and I hope the show holds its nerve to keep asking the questions that are worth asking. What if God really exists? What if His Will is audible to each one of us? Would we follow even without knowing the entire plan? Would we drink our fill like the bird that finds water in unseasonal frost, or would we ask questions first?

22594406-0-image-a-11_1577112915672

GD Speaks

Where Does Your Salvation Lie?

butterflies

Sometimes, when we make a life-choice that is not in accord with our highest vision of our life, it appears as if we have succumbed to weakness or temptation. Guilt prompts us to struggle against these ‘lower impulses’ by urging us to change our actions – to quit smoking, to stop overworking, to end an old affair. And yet, when the carousel comes around again, we find ourselves riding the same hobbyhorse in a modified form.

Maybe the root problem is not the temptation itself – it is our belief that salvation lies therein. My mentor GD often refers to this as ‘creating false gods’:

“A false god is anyone or anything external that is seen as the source of completion. Every time we run outside ourselves to seek joy and fulfillment, we need to create false gods. It could be in the form of relationships, power, money, success or even addictions. We often dedicate our lives to these ‘substitute’ gods, in the vain hope that they will bring us happiness and deliver us to salvation. But every false god will eventually fail you – and push you back inside – to your own divinity and oneness with source.

Where do you believe your salvation lies? It’s easy to tell, because this is where your attention flows obsessively. This is what you speak about and value in others. This is where your energy moves,and where your time is spent. It’s the substance and significance of your dreams.

A Course in Miracles is unequivocal on this subject: “All idols of this world were made to keep the truth within from being known to you. And to maintain allegiance to the dream that you must find something outside yourself to be complete and happy. It is vain to worship idols in the hope of peace. God dwells within, and your completion lies in Him.”

*

 

Poems

The Empty Boat

The Empty Boat

There are very few poems that you can live your life by. Poems that grow with you as you grow older, revealing a different meaning at different stages of your life. Taoist sage Chuang Tzu‘s ‘The Empty Boat’ is one such for me. As I begin a new phase of my life today, engaging in the world of work, rereading it gives me so much joy and guidance yet again. I hope it does the same for you.

If a man is crossing a river
And an empty boat collides with his own skiff,
Even though he be a bad-tempered man
He will not become very angry.
But if he sees a man in the boat,
He will shout at him to steer clear.
If the shout is not heard, he will shout again,
And yet again, and begin cursing.
And all because there is somebody in the boat.
Yet if the boat were empty.
He would not be shouting, and not angry.

If you can empty your own boat
Crossing the river of the world,
No one will oppose you,
No one will seek to harm you.

The straight tree is the first to be cut down,
The spring of clear water is the first to be drained dry.
If you wish to improve your wisdom
And shame the ignorant,
To cultivate your character
And outshine others;
A light will shine around you
As if you had swallowed the sun and the moon:
You will not avoid calamity.

A wise man has said:
“He who is content with himself
Has done worthless work.
Achievement is the beginning of failure.
Fame is beginning of disgrace.”

Who can free himself from achievement
And from fame, descend and be lost
Amid the masses of men?
He will flow like Tao, unseen,
He will go about like Life itself
With no name and no home.
Simple is he, without distinction.
To all appearances he is a fool.
His steps leave no trace. He has no power.
He achieves nothing, has no reputation.
Since he judges no one
No one judges him.
Such is the perfect man:
His boat is empty.

Image Used Under Creative Commons License via Lola Khalfa
Poems

Just Right

God's Light

For many years, my mentor GD had written on the wall near his bed, the line: “There Is No Such Thing As A Mistake In Existence, Only Limited Vision.” And on some dark days, this is about all the spiritual teaching one needs to hear. Here is a fragment of a Shin Buddhist Poem from Taitetsu Unno’s book ‘River of Fire, River of Water’ which reflects that same truth beautifully…

You, as you are, you’re just right.

Your parents, your children, your daughter-in-law, your grandchildren,
they are, all for you, just right.

Happiness, unhappiness, joy and even sorrow,
for you, they are just right.

The life that you tread is neither good nor bad.
For you, it is just right.
Whether you go to hell or to the Pure Land,
wherever you go is just right.

Nothing to boast about, nothing to feel bad about,
nothing above, nothing below.

Even the day and month that you die,
even they are just right.
*

Cartoons

The Real Akashic Records

Akashic Records Cartoon

GD Speaks, Poems

The Divine Intoxication

While cleaning out an old bookshelf, my father discovered a few poems written by my brother and mentor GD almost ten years ago. Here’s one little gem:

*

Every human being is God
in a state of divine intoxication.

Mesmerised by his own thoughts
compelled by his desire to experience
he totters from pillar to post
in search of Himself.

*

Image Used Via Creative Commons via petertandlund

Journal, Uncategorized

Superaalifragilistic Celebration!

Here’s a prime example of how little the mind knows. When my mentor GD suggested I write a blog in early 2012, I rejected the idea completely. Amongst my many ‘reasons’ was the fact that no one would be interested. When he brought up the subject again in June, I stopped talking to him for a few days. Fortunately, his inspiration prevailed over my resistance and I posted my first blog on June 30th.

And here we are three months later… Last evening,  superaalifragilistic crossed 10,000 views! Beyond the numbers, I have encountered some amazing new people and re-encountered old friends in a new light. I made a lot of mistakes along the way and continue to learn about clarity, integrity and creativity through the excuse of this blog.

Another piece of ‘woohoo!’ news: one of my favorite early blog posts “10 Mind Strategies for Avoiding Change” has been reproduced as a full-fledged article in the October 2012 issue of Life Positive Magazine! Do check out the magazine if you are in India – or you can subscribe online even if you are not. It is one of the most sincere and widely-read magazines from India dedicated to spirituality and wellness.

In case you would like to revisit the original blog post, you can click here. This post contained superb insights from my mentor GD on how the mind tries to avoid the change we need in our life. It was the most viewed & shared piece on my blog and can be a real life-saver for anyone feeling stuck or at a crossroads in their life…

For all the new friends who have joined us recently along this journey, here’s a recap of some of the most liked and commented articles from the early days.

  1. The Fixer of Polarities – A radical and reassuring take by GD on the ego and its constant preoccupation with fixing everything in Life. I loved the line: “The ego is not a bad, evil thing. It is like a beautiful, faithful dog who has gone neurotic and is now barking at butterflies, the postman, and lamp-post.” This remains the most commented article till date.
  2. Living is Optional – A simple poem about the choices we have in Life resonated with many many people.
  3. Six Things I Have Learnt From a Three-Year-Old – A lovely piece about the life lessons I have learnt from my son, Nirvaan.
  4. Do You Want Another Band Aid? – A strong post on how we use things like jobs and relationships to cover our deep-rooted wounds.
  5. The Numbers Game – A much-loved poem about our obsession with numbers.

Thank you all for being with me on this journey without a destination. For taking the time to read, comment, and share. I don’t know what lies ahead but as GD says: “Let’s see how it unfolds…”

Image courtesy of ddpavumba / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Poems

The Numbers Game

So many rich people are just
poor people with lots of money.

So many successful people are simply
failures at higher levels than me.

So many spiritually-evolved are just
too vain to be ordinary
and too frightened to be simple.

Still I follow the roads where many walk:
I seek my solace in crowds
and count my success in numbers.

Image Used Under Creative
Commons via James @ NZ

GD Speaks

Why Be Something When You Are Everything?

When I was a teenager, I was so shy, I could barely say hello to strangers. As I grew within a global corporation, I picked up a way of speaking, an easy humor and bluff confidence. Meeting others with a giant company logo behind me ensured a comfortable starting point. And then one day, I left the corporation and realized that the teenager remains alive inside, still uncertain, still feeling lost without a definition.

It was only then I could see clearly that my job had become more than a simple transaction in exchange for money: it had become a crutch for my very identity. Without it, I felt I could not stand – it was painful. One weekend last year, during my transition out of a full-time job, I discussed this with my mentor GD.

“Who we truly are is absolutely un-definable,” he reassured me. “Our attempts at a ‘fixed’ self definition are like trying to trap the sky into a box – just not possible. The mind desperately wants to define oneself and one’s life story: I am a CEO – I am a millionaire – I am creative – I am a husband. But deep down, we know that all these definitions are only temporary. And being temporary, all self definitions inherently create fear.”

I remembered how the fear of losing the position and business card made me resist any change in my corporate lifestyle for years. Even if it felt like muck, leaving a full-time job was unthinkable. So instead, every weekend, I would ask GD how I could use spirituality to make the muck a little more livable.

Our bondage is this deep desire for self-definition, GD would often say. But I wasn’t ready to hear this until much later, until that weekend after I had quit.

“The mind,” GD explained that weekend, “is seeking certainty and stability. So it creates numerous definitions and gets very attached to them. These definitions become ‘me’. So when these definitions are taken away, it feels like a death of some sort. Our true undefined nature scares the hell out of the mind. But if you truly want to flow with life, you have to embrace the fact that you can never be defined. You are too big, too vast for any label.

While writing this, it struck me that today, almost a year after this conversation, I rarely think about how I define myself anymore. I have developed a few stock phrases, which seem to satisfy most people who don’t really care about you anyway – they have too many problems of their own. I take the cue from my three-year-old son, who doesn’t care if he is called a gorilla or a genius – he is equally ecstatic to be alive either way.

And I try to remember GD’s statement: “When you cease trying to define yourself as ‘something’, you are suddenly free to be anything and everything.”

Lovely Image Used Under Creative Commons thanks to h. koppdelaney

Poems

Just Sit There

Here’s a powerful poem that I read a few days ago in Leo Hartong’s book ‘Awakening to the Dream‘, and haven’t been able to get out of my mind. It brings a sigh of pause and peace every time I read it. Hope it does the same for you 🙂

Just

Picture from Front Cover of “I Heard God Laughing” Translations of Hafiz by D.Ladinsky

sit there right now.

Don’t do a thing. Just rest.

For your

separation from God

is the hardest work in the world.

– Hafiz in Love Poems from God: Twelve Sacred Voices from the East and West,
translated by Daniel Ladinsky, Penguin, New York, 2002.