"The Zen saying, 'what you do, do that,' applies as much to film-viewing as it does to anything else, say chopping wood and carrying water. Moreover, the stories of our lives — our losses and gains, our vices and virtues — seem universal. We remember who we are — as members of an enduring human family — by being open to other people's stories. Such openness also stirs discernment, being as it is akin to honesty. Eventually discernment turns to wisdom.

"Saint John Cassian (mentioned earlier) wrote frequently about human virtue. To him, and other early desert fathers, discernment was 'the most difficult' of all spiritual arts.

"Its cultivation required persistent discipline. It still does. In all these centuries nothing much has changed. Why should we not use film, selectively, as yet one more way to grow strong in this art of arts, to help ourselves become truthful and empathic — toward ourselves and others?

"Refined objective awareness — that rare blend of judgment, rational prowess, heightened perception, the integration of intuition and logic — is a benchmark of our spiritual maturity. We don't gain discrimination power from books or experts or college degrees. Life itself is our teacher.

"Everything placed in our path can help us assimilate, and learn from, direct experience so that, ultimately, wisdom results. Certain films — like certain lovely people, glorious works of art or music, and special instances of prayer — seem a grace expressly given for our edification. Movies are now our shared, celluloid tradition of storytelling and encouragement.

"As we stay fully conscious while eating hamburgers or listening to our child complain of school bullies or viewing movies; as we apply ourselves faithfully to whatever we do, discernment blossoms. Following love, virtue, and our own breath, we enter the sacred, luminous present. This in is itself is the gift — real power, life itself."