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The First Birthday Party. Soul Boom. Road House. A Fistful of Dollars.

For the first time, I skipped a week's edition of From the Present Moment. I did for what feels like a good reason: Because I wanted to make sure that I was truly living in the moment, and not cataloguing it. There simply wasn't much time for writing last week, and that's okay. If I become fixated on chronicling the moment instead of living it, I've definitely missed the point. Onwards!

Luna // The First Birthday Party // 12 Months

With Luna turning one, Kristine went all out for her birthday party. The theme was strawberries, Luna's current favorite food, and every detail was berry-themed, from the ice cream to the cake to the decorations. I ate more strawberries that day than I had in a very long time.

Before the guests arrived, the three of us went out to the front yard to play in the little baby gym Kristine had set up. It had big stackable foam blocks, a ball pit, and a slide. Looking back, it was my favorite moment of the entire day.

As I watched Luna play, I was struck by the pure, unadulterated joy and wonder she found in the simplest things. I watched her as she made up her own game, grabbing balls from the pit and dropping them through a little hole in the slide's steps, watching them bounce their way down. To an adult, a ball pit and slide are only one thing, but to a one-year-old, they represent something different entirely. Luna didn't care that she was using the slide in a way contrary to its intended purpose. She didn’t even really grasp what that purpose was. Instead, she was fully immersed in the simple delights of cause-and-effect, object permanence, and gravity.

As the day went on and the birthday festivities ramped up, I found myself continually drawn back to that moment of pure, unstructured play. There's something so special about the way young children engage with the world, finding entertainment and learning opportunities in the most mundane things. A cardboard box can become a fort. A pair of wooden spoons can become a pair of drumsticks. A plastic cup can become a home for cherished toys.

As Luna smashed her little hands into her strawberry cake and tasted frosting for the first time, I knew this was a day I would cherish forever — and when the memories have faded and the berry-themed decorations have long since been packed away, I’ll always remember Luna's game in the ball pit, basking in the Los Angeles sun.

What I Read

Soul Boom by Rainn Wilson (yes, Dwight from the Office — he also ran a longterm online media project called Soul Pancake) delivers a charming and insightful exploration of spiritual practice.

While the book delves into some heavy existential territory, it never feels preachy or ponderous. Wilson approaches spirituality with an open, inquisitive mind, more interested in asking big questions than claiming to have all the answers. He draws upon an eclectic mix of influences, from the Baha'i faith of his upbringing to Buddhist and Transcendentalist ideas, but avoids dogma in favor of encouraging readers to seek their own truths. Ultimately, Soul Boom is a reminder to approach life with humility, compassion, and a sense of wonder. A favorite quote:

When in conversation with an atheist, I always ask about the God they don’t believe in, and they usually, to a T, describe a God that I also don’t believe in. I’ll then get to respond with one of my favorite sentences: ‘I don’t believe in the God that you don’t believe in.’

What I Watched

This week I watched two westerns, in a way.

On the surface, Road House might seem like just another '80s action flick, replete with bar fights, romance, and a villain straight out of central casting — but beneath its neon-lit veneer lies a film that taps into the spirit of the American West, transplanting its archetypes and themes into the decade it was filmed.


Patrick Swayze's Dalton is the quintessential western hero: a mysterious outsider with a dark past, riding into town to confront the corrupt forces that hold sway. In this case, the town is a small Missouri hamlet, and the corrupt force is Brad Wesley, a local businessman with a chokehold on the community. Surprisingly to me, the film isn’t satisfied to be a simple good-vs-evil tale — it's a meditation on the nature of violence and the toll it takes on those who wield it.

Like the lone gunslingers of the Old West, Dalton is a man with a reputation and a code. He's the best at what he does - which in this case is cleaning up rough roadside bars rather than frontier towns. As a "cooler", his very role is to be a restrained keeper of the peace, using force only as an absolute last resort. Yet violence remains his most potent tool, and the one Wesley and his goons repeatedly force him to employ.

The film shows us a man who has grown weary of the very skills that define him. Dalton's attempts to forge a new life, to find peace and perhaps even love, are constantly thwarted by the specter of his violent past and the demands of the present.

It was surprising to me to watch Sergio Leone's A Fistful of Dollars and see many of the same story beats, told two decades earlier. Clint Eastwood's "Man with No Name" is a gunfighter who speaks softly but carries a big stick, a far cry from the square-jawed, morally upright heroes of traditional westerns.

This too is a story about the corrupting influence of power and the thin line between civilization and savagery. The town of San Miguel is a powder keg waiting to explode, with two rival families vying for control and the innocent caught in the crossfire. Into this chaos rides Eastwood's gunfighter, a wild card who upsets the balance of power and sets in motion a chain of events that can only end in bloodshed — and hopefully peace.

Like Dalton, the Man with No Name is a master of violence who nonetheless adheres to his own moral code, one that compels him to stand up for the weak and the oppressed, even as he profits from the conflict he creates. At their core, both films are explorations of the violence that lurks beneath the surface of civilization, and the men who are both masters and slaves to that violence. They're tales of lone heroes who stand up to corruption and injustice, even as they grapple with their own demons.

In the end, both Dalton and the Man with No Name ride off into the sunset, their work of bringing justice to a lawless frontier complete — but they very nature keeps them from ever truly be a part of the society they protect.

That's all for now,

From the present moment,

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