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Those forgiven much love much. Those forgiven little love little.–Jesus.

5pm Sunday, May 5, 12, 19, 26.

The Cineforum, 463 Bathurst, Toronto. 416-603-6643. Donation $20.


As someone who has had intimate knowledge of public shaming since the age of 6 THE SCARLET LETTER (1926) means more to me than it does to most people.

Proverbs 4:7 King James Version (KJV)

Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

Understanding comes at a much higher price than does wisdom.

Understanding comes only from allowing things to happen to us so that we may understand. This is the meaning of the word “suffer” at its best.

MGM offered Lillian Gish a huge salary when she began making motion pictures for them in 1925. She took less, settling for $800,000.00 a year (regardless of how many films she made for the studio) because she wanted part of the gross profits and because, more importantly, she wanted complete control over the work she appeared in.

Lillian Gish made five films for MGM. The most successful of the five were the three she personally wanted to make. They are LA BOHEME, THE SCARLET LETTER and THE WIND. All three films not only are timeless, they resonate with the power of motion pictures at their best.

Every church group in America was dead set against the making of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic novel THE SCARLET LETTER into a motion picture.

“The book is banned,” the MGM studio heads told Gish.

That did not stop her. In fact, nothing stopped this wonderful human being.

At the dawn of her career as an actress (she was 5) Lillian Gish was told by the greatest star of her day Ellen Terry, “A star has a cup of tea and a sandwich a day between engagements. She does not work as a clerk in a store nor as a waitress in a restaurant.”

That’s a hard lesson to follow.

The secret to success in any field is that we have to love what we are doing more than life itself. This is the lesson of Marge Piercy in her poem: FOR THE YOUNG WHO WANT TO

For the young who want to

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.
Marge Piercy (1936-)

Copyright 1982 Circles on the Water: Selected Poems of Marge Piercy
Alfred A. Knopf. Notes  M.F.A.’s: Master of Fine Arts degrees.
phlogiston: invisible hypothetical matter or `principle’ thought to
combine with all combustible bodies and be expelled during burning —
a concept popular in the 18th century but abandoned once oxygen was

At the left is a picture of Jesse Dumanch. Dumanch was brought up on an army base in Germany. He was raised to be a prostitute. He was raped from the age of ten on by police officers, politicians, business people, the clergy.

When I discovered his story I wanted to learn as much about him as I could. Understanding only comes when we know all that can be known.

Our justice system is derived from THE HAMMURABI CODE and THE OLD TESTAMENT LAWS.

Like the people who profess to be religious in THE SCARLET LETTER our justice system and our public media resolutely turn their hearts from Jesus.

It takes a lot more to be a Christian than to simply park our ass on a church pew once a week.

How can I say that our justice systems and our churches have absolutely nothing to do with either Jesus or God, his father?

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course, that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere. ‘Blessed are the merciful’ in a courtroom? ‘Blessed are the peacemakers’ in the Pentagon? Give me a break!”

Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

Some excerpts from Kurt Vonnegut‘s commencement speech at Agnes Scott College, Decatur, Georgia, May 5, 1999 as recounted in “If this isn’t nice, what is?”  He offers a critical insight for business as well as life.

Everybody asks during and after our wars, and the continuing terrorist attacks all over the globe, “What’s gone wrong?”

What has gone wrong is that too many people, including high school kids and heads of state, are obeying the Code of Hammurabi, a King of Babylonia who lived nearly four thousand years ago. And you can find his code echoed in the Old Testament, too. Are you ready for this?

An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.

A categorical imperative for all who live in obedience to the Code of Hammurabi, which includes heroes of every cowboy show or gangster show you ever saw is this: every injury, real or imagined, shall be avenged. Somebody’s going to be really sorry.

When Jesus Christ was nailed to a cross, he said, “Forgive them, Father, they know what they do.” Any real man, obeying the Code of Hammurabi, would have said, “Kill them, Dad, and all of their friends and relatives, and make their deaths slow and painful.”

His greatest legacy to us, in my humble opinion, consists of only twelve words. They are the antidote to the Code of Hammurabi.

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

The full video of Vonnegut’s Anges Scott College commencement is available on CSPAN.  I learned of Vonnegut’s speech from Maria Popova’s “If This Isn’t Nice, What Is? Kurt Vonnegut’s Advice to the Young on Kindness, Computers, Community, and the Power of Great Teachers” but she doesn’t include the “twelve words” in her summary.

“An eye for an eye and soon the entire world is blind.”
Gandhi [attributed]

Well, the entire world almost, it seems, is blind.

But then, it always has been.

America is a shameful country.

Always has been. Always will be.

Canada is no better.

One day at MGM studio head Irving Thalberg told Lillian Gish she was on too high a pedestal. “You need a scandal, a fall from grace, to get the public once more interested in your movies.”

Gish replied, “If I need a scandal to stay in the movies it is time I left them.”

She did.

“I have been offered $30 a week to tear down your street flyers, $100 to break your legs and $1,000.00 to kill you. The thing is, if I have been offered this others have,” a street person I had helped told me just before Christmas 2017.

None of those who make a profession of publicly caring actually give a damn.

But this homeless street person who could have used the $1,000.00 cared enough to turn it down. He gave a damn.

THE SCARLET LETTER is the story of a young woman given in marriage by her father to a much older man she did not love. That’s the story of a very great many young women from as far back as time records. King David’s last wife was 11. He was 72.

Mary was 11 when she married Joseph who, again, was a much older man.

The young woman is then shipped off to the Puritan settlements in America. There she is separated from her husband who is presumed dead.

She falls in love with the minister. He falls in love with her.

He is sent back to England. While he is away she gives birth to his child.

He returns to find her an outcast.

Then the husband returns.

THE SCARLET LETTER is as much an indictment against our time was it was against the time in which it was published.

It is an indictment against the people who took the name GISH off the theatre that had borne it.

We live in a shameful moment.

Drop by and see Lillian Gish in THE SCARLET LETTER.

There was a woman in my home town people said was a witch. I used to walk by her house every day on my way to school. I was 8 the day I turned, walk down the path to her front door and knocked.

She invited me in.

We became friends.

The people who spoke ill of her now spoke ill of me.

Often the best path we can walk is the one that will set idle tongues wagging.

–Reg Hartt 2019-05-04.

Acclaimed Toronto film archivist faces child porn charges

Luke 7 New International Version (NIV)

The Faith of the Centurion

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people who were listening, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion’s servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” So Jesus went with them.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and that one, ‘Come,’ and he comes. I say to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

Jesus and John the Baptist

18 John’s disciples told him about all these things. Calling two of them, 19 he sent them to the Lord to ask, “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”

20 When the men came to Jesus, they said, “John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?’”

21 At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind. 22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor. 23 Blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.”

24 After John’s messengers left, Jesus began to speak to the crowd about John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swayed by the wind? 25 If not, what did you go out to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. 26 But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 27 This is the one about whom it is written:

“‘I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way before you.’[b]

28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”

29 (All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30 But the Pharisees and the experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.)

31 Jesus went on to say, “To what, then, can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 32 They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:

“‘We played the pipe for you,
and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge,
and you did not cry.’

33 For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ 34 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ 35 But wisdom is proved right by all her children.”

Jesus Anointed by a Sinful Woman

36 When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table. 37 A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. 38 As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them.

39 When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.”

40 Jesus answered him, “Simon, I have something to tell you.”

“Tell me, teacher,” he said.

41 “Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii,[c] and the other fifty. 42 Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?”

43 Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.”

“You have judged correctly,” Jesus said.

44 Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45 You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46 You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47 Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.”

48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”

49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?”

50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”


  1. Luke 7:22 The Greek word traditionally translated leprosy was used for various diseases affecting the skin.
  2. Luke 7:27 Mal. 3:1
  3. Luke 7:41 A denarius was the usual daily wage of a day laborer (see Matt. 20:2).

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