Today I’m A Pirate (With A Tiny Parrot)

Tonight I will be dressing up as a pirate and celebrating Halloween. Halloween has always been fun for me. When I was a little kid I loved to dress up and get a ton of candy, which I inevitably never ate. When I was in high school I liked it because I was interested in the occult. Now I like it because it’s an excuse to hang out with my friends, eat fried chicken and watch scary movies. I also enjoy coming up with cute or creative costume ideas. My best ever was when I dressed up as a soldier, and my dad made a cardboard tank to go around my wheelchair. I realized I could have requested a pirate ship be made for tonight, but we ran out of time.

Of course it’s Halloween season, but somehow my dad and I got on the subject of Christmas a few nights ago. I think we were talking about politics and somehow ended up there. Last night I realized something, however. I like Halloween more than I like Christmas. I don’t mean I dislike the essence of Christmas or the reason we celebrate it. I dislike what Christmas has become. Our culture has turned a religious holiday of great importance into not much more than reason to go shopping. Our Jewish neighbors celebrate it, and my friends, a Hindu, Atheist, and Agnostic, all celebrate it. It is no longer a Christian holiday, but I still feel like I should celebrate it as a Christian, and that can be a headache sometimes.

Halloween has also abandoned its origins, and maybe this bothers someone, but I just don’t know. For me Halloween has always been a completely secular, and completely innocent holiday. It’s just fun, and that’s all it will ever be. The point I’m trying to make is that I don’t feel like I have to fight anything when it comes to Halloween. I don’t have to defend its roots. I don’t have to work so hard to re-make it spiritual. Honestly, Christmas, like Halloween has been very secular since before I was born, so I don’t really even have a place to start. I’ve just had to wing it when it comes to making it spiritual.

This is also why I like Easter so much better. While things like the Easter Bunny are weird additions, it’s still a very Christian holiday. At Christmas time, my family throws big parties. We eat a ton of junk food, stay up late, and revel in gift-giving and silliness. We don’t do that at Easter. We go to church, and our parents still give my brother and me Easter baskets, but that’s about it. I usually do some writing and praying and celebrate in my own quiet way, but there’s nothing else to it. No lights, no decorations, no parties. It’s a lot more subdued, but it feels so much more genuine. From what I just described, you might be thinking we’re not happy on Easter, which would be missing the point. Actually, I always feel very happy on Easter, and I’m in a celebratory mood. I’m just not celebrating with so much stuff and so many people. Part of the reason for that is that we don’t have many super spiritual people among our family or friends, but part of it, I think, is that the “stuff” distracts from the purpose of it.

My mom has a cousin whose immediate family doesn’t celebrate Christmas at all because it has become something so vastly different from what it originally was meant to be. I think not celebrating at all still misses the point. While it’s hard to ignore the commercialism of it, I think it’s necessary. Maybe it’s because there’s a part of me that’s still a fighter. I just don’t want its original purpose to disappear completely.

Last night I had a very timely dream. In the dream I found some kind of magical document that opened a doorway to another world, and I spent the remainder of the dream scurrying around my house trying not to get killed by weird magical creatures. It was dark and creepy, and I woke up thankful that it was just a dream. At the same time, it was fun because, well, it’s Halloween. The truth is that Halloween is a perfectly good day to celebrate what Jesus did for us. In fact, considering what this day still represents for some, it’s probably an even better day than most. It is what you make it, and for me it’s a day to celebrate silliness, It’s a day to celebrate being alive, and yes, it’s a day to celebrate my salvation.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Be Careful

It seems to me lately that social media, or at least Facebook, is getting more negative. I don’t have a lot of Facebook friends–just my chums and extended family, and a couple of our neighbors, which in total, amounts to 100/150 people. A lot of those people rarely use it or don’t use it at all any more, which reduces the number to somewhere between 20 and 30 people. I still use it quite a bit to keep in touch and for networking or organizational purposes. Often it is fun. People post silly personality tests or interesting articles, and I like that stuff. There are certain types of posts that just drive me insane, though.

  1. Passive aggressive: These posts are directed at no one in particular, and yet they are obviously meant for someone. They are usually some kind of attack by people who will not confront their problems by talking to people directly. Instead, they clutter up everyone’s news feed with meaningless banter that is just confusing and annoying. Either break off your relationship with that person, or talk to them privately. Don’t expect me to pity you if I don’t even know what you’re talking about.
  2. Self pitying posts: These all say essentially the same thing, that being, “If you move on from your difficult past, it will make you stronger.” While that’s technically a good message, it gets posted a lot, and says to me that the people who are posting this really aren’t moving on. Furthermore, posting this doesn’t accomplish anything. You’re posting it because you’re dwelling on your past. Learn to forgive. Learn to appreciate the little things. Allow yourself to hope. Everyone has difficulties and regrets, and I get that it’s easier for some people to move on for whatever reason, but posting this stuff on Facebook accomplishes nothing.
  3. Guilt trip: Someone posts a picture of a kid with cancer and says something along the lines of, “If you don’t ‘share’ this, you’re a heartless jerk.” That doesn’t make me want to share the post, and often makes me scroll past it without doing anything. There are similar posts that say, “Hey, do me a favor and pray for this kid.” Those are nice. That’s not a guilt trip, and that actually makes me want to pray for the kid. In fact, sometimes if I see something like that I’ll just stop what I’m doing and pray right then and there so I don’t forget. Maybe the intention really is good, but telling me I’m a jerk if I don’t share your post does not make me want to share your post.
  4. Straight-up mean: These usually come in the form of comments. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen a perfectly innocent post about even a vaguely religious or political topic, and people start ripping each others’ throats out. It happens a lot with controversial issues, but sometimes it happens with completely amoral, apolitical, areligious stuff. People will post something about a cool art piece, and it’ll start an all-out war. This wouldn’t happen if people were talking in person, so it shouldn’t happen on Facebook. Debate is fine. Being a jerk is not.

Social media is a tool. Yes, it is also a form of entertainment, but it can be used for constructive or destructive purposes, just like movies, books, or other forms of entertainment. However, because it is interactive, it is particularly powerful. It can be used to bring people together and lift people up, but it can also be used to gang up on the vulnerable and cause a lot of damage. We are constantly using it, and therefore, we are constantly exposed to whatever messages are being spread. Humans are social animals, which makes social media addicting because it allows us to be more social. I’ve quit cold turkey a couple of times, and I can go several days without checking it, but I freely admit I’m probably a little addicted. It’s useful, but it’s dangerous in that way, and I just think that people should be more careful about what they post.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Money

I have complicated feelings about money. My dad makes a lot of money, and by most peoples’ standards, my family is wealthy. My parents paid cash for me to go to college. That’s pretty crazy. I personally am broke. I’m on social security disability because I can’t just go out and get any job. I’m pretty stingy, and I’m good at saving what money I have. Still, my parents spoil me and help me pay for a lot of things. You have no idea how much I hate that. I want to contribute to our family’s income, and my mom keeps telling me that I am because of social security, but that’s not really my money. I didn’t earn it. I feel like I’m leaching.

Here’s the thing: I don’t want money. If I had a crap ton of money, I would give a crap ton of money away. At the same time, I want money so that I can independently contribute to my family’s income. I almost sold out. I stopped writing for a while because I just wanted a job so badly. I want to be able to occasionally splurge or donate to causes that I care about without having to feel guilty. I’m not good at accepting help. I get that from my dad. His side of the family is very proud about that kind of thing, and I inherited it.

I guess I don’t hate money. Some people say they hate money, especially when they don’t have it. I get the reasoning, but I don’t hate it. I just don’t have it, and that annoys me. My mom doesn’t work, so we’ve always treated our money like it’s all in one pot that belongs to all of us, and if I had my own money, I guess we would still treat it like that, but I would just feel a lot better about using money if I was contributing to the pot. You get the point. I should probably just stop worrying about it and be patient. Right now my parents don’t care if I contribute to the pot. They want me to finish my book and do stuff that I care about. I guess that’s really more important, anyway. In other words, this is just another whiney tangent about nothing. I do that sometimes.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Kind Of Like Eating Vegetables

I’m discovering that I have to approach a lot of things kind of like eating vegetables, even if they’re things I want to do. There’s a part of me that sincerely just wants to do nothing, and I mean NOTHING. There’s a part of me that just wants to lie in bed all day and think about random stuff without worrying about anything. I guess everyone’s probably got that part of them.

I’ve finally got back into a consistent writing routine. I write a minimum of half an hour every day whether I want to or not. There are some days where I feel like a literary genius, and there are days where I feel utterly uninspired. I do it because I want to finish my book and see what happens, but I also do it because I need structure in my life, and because it’s good for me. I’ve also been a lot better about reading the Bible, and I approach it in a similar way. I started a reading plan that splits the whole Bible up into daily reading assignments. I’m actually ahead of where I’m supposed to be because I read a minimum of one assigned reading every day whether I want to or not.

Honestly, things have been going pretty darn well lately. I’ve been writing more (either blogging or working on my novel), I’ve been reading more, and I’ve been praying more. The best thing that’s happened recently, though is that last night, my friend and a couple of her friends came over so the four of us could plan a prayer/service group that’s going to meet once per week. We already have several things planned, and I think this is going to go really well. We even have a meeting tomorrow with a social worker who’s connected to a homeless shelter to talk about one of our ideas.

I’m really loving teaching religious ed at my church this year, too. There’s a girl in my class who really actually seems to be interested and genuinely wants to have a serious spiritual life. She asks good questions and really tries hard to come up with good answers to our discussion questions. Our last class was about the importance of going to mass, and what the Eucharist actually means. I like going to church, but of course, there are days that I just don’t want to.

What I’m coming to realize is that I have to approach everything, even things I like doing, like eating vegetables sometimes. Sometimes I think a part of me just wants to be isolated and hide, partly because a lot of the things I like doing also take me outside of my comfort zone. I’m also coming to realize that a part of me doesn’t think I’m going to succeed at this stuff, so I have to force myself to do it.

My prayer group is already forcing me to do things that I’m not sure I know how to do or that I’m not sure I’m good at, but they’re also a really supportive bunch of girls. I’m feeling really optimistic about this. For the longest time I’ve been trying to find a community to belong to. I’ve been trying even just to find Christian friends. Periodically, I’ve given up and resigned myself to the fact that this might never happen. Might. I’ve been called an insufferable optimist, but I’m also a realist. The fact of the matter is that I was looking in the wrong places. I’ve known the friend I started this group with for several years, and I’ve known she was Christian for quite a long time. It just never occurred to me to suggest this to her. When I first met her, she didn’t seem that into the whole spirituality thing, and after a while she switched churches. I think that did it for her because now she’s really involved with her church and volunteers all the time. I like to think maybe God was getting us both ready, but that’s partly because I think I was probably just being dumb for a while. Maybe it’s both. Anyway, I’m really looking forward to some of the stuff we’re going to do, and hopefully it doesn’t have to be like eating vegetables.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why I Like Star Wars More Than Lord Of The Rings

Yes, I realize how nerdy this is. As I’ve mentioned before, I live in fantasy land. I watch fantasy movies, read fantasy stories, and play fantasy games. Yes, that includes Dungeons and Dragons. I’m also a nerd when it comes to art, and I love to over analyze everything, so when these two aspects of my nerd craziness coincide, I get excited. Lord of the Rings and Star Wars are probably my two favorite fantasy (movie) series because, let’s face it, they’re probably the best. Unless you’re incredibly boring or totally clueless, you know that Star Wars episode seven: The Force Awakens is coming out in December, and I am beyond stoked. Furthermore, I got tickets for opening night! Even my brother, who is also a major Star Wars fan thinks I’m insane, but let’s face it; I belong with the crazies.

I woke up way too early this morning after having a dream that I forgot to do my math homework, which was horrifying, and couldn’t fall back asleep because for some reason I started thinking about why I like Star Wars more than Lord of the Rings. Why I started thinking about this, I have no idea, but I thought it would be fun to write a blog post about it, and here we are. So why do I like Star Wars more? I’ve come up with a few reasons.

Something I realized this morning, which I thought was interesting is that, although the scope of Lord of the Rings is smaller than Star Wars (i.e. it takes place over a much smaller area), I think the stakes are much higher. It’s not just a question of Jedi vs Sith; Republic vs Empire; good vs evil. If the Fellowship fails, it could literally mean the end of the world. In my playwriting class we learned that higher stakes tend to make for a better or more interesting story. However, what I realized is that LOTR feels finished to me while Star Wars feels like it still has life in it. LOTR feels like an epic story of times long gone that gets passed down through tradition from generation to generation. I think this is what it should be, and I think it makes it a very successful story. It’s suspenseful, has enjoyable characters, and has a satisfying ending.

On the other hand, the Star Wars story feels like it could be going on as we speak. For one thing, there hasn’t been much extra material written outside of the core LOTR trilogy, while the original Star Wars trilogy has been followed by books, TV series, video games and prequels. It feels more like a universe that one can live in, partly because, especially when you play the games, you can. The story may have supposedly happened a long time ago, but it feels like it could still be going on, especially since the sequel is coming out. That universe is still expanding.

Cinematically, LOTR is a superior trilogy, hands down. The acting is arguably better, the script is better, and the effects are considerably better, which is an obvious benefit of those movies being made later. Here’s the thing, though, I don’t care. The Star Wars characters are more likable and more relatable, and this, among other things, is what has me hooked. Furthermore, the Star Wars characters have more understandable and more relatable motivations and problems. I think Luke’s relationship with his father is particularly interesting. You would think that he would hate him for abandoning him, turning to the Dark Side, and trying to destroy everything Luke comes to believe in, but he forgives him, and ultimately, that forgiveness leads to Vader/Anakin’s redemption. It sounds rather Christian, doesn’t it? I won’t talk about that because this isn’t meant to be a spiritual post, but I just think that it makes it an appealing story to me personally.

Here’s the thing, there are things about LOTR that are better than Star Wars, but the villains definitely are not. The villains in Star Wars are human. This makes them more scary, but it also allows the audience to empathize with them in a way. I definitely think Vader deserves some empathy, especially if we consider his story as a whole. I won’t argue with you. The prequels are bad, at least from an artistic standpoint, but I think they do add to the story. Anakin Skywalker begins his journey as a poor kid with an ordinary life. Nonetheless, he’s ambitious and optimistic and full of love. This leads him to do some not-so-nice things after joining the Jedi, and ultimately leads to his downfall, but the point is, he starts his journey as a good person, and ends it that way. There’s a scene in Return of the Jedi where he’s talking to Luke, and Luke tries to convince him to come with him. Vader says it’s too late for him to turn back, but you can tell in his voice that that isn’t true. You can see it when Luke says, “My father is truly dead.” Though you can’t see it in Vader’s face, you can see that this hurts him when he leans over the railing of the walkway they were standing on. You know, even as an outsider, that he’s not 100% evil. A part of that loving kid is still in him, and he misses his family. You don’t get that in LOTR. Both Sauron and Saruman are as impersonal as they come, and we don’t care about them.

I think it’s more fun to think about the Star Wars universe. To insert yourself into the LOTR universe is to go back in time. To insert yourself into the Star Wars universe is to entertain so many possibilities about technology, space travel, and maybe even politics. I think also that Star Wars, in some ways, is more unique. LOTR takes place in a similar universe as games like World of Warcraft or the Elder Scrolls games, or stories like the Inheritance Cycle. Medieval worlds with dragons and magic are fun. There’s no denying it, but that’s why there’s a lot of them, while I don’t know of any stories that take place in a similar universe as Star Wars… except for Star Trek, but Star Trek is dumb and stupid.

Lastly, I had an interesting realization. This has almost nothing to do with the movies themselves, and yet, I think it may have a lot to do with why I like Star Wars more. I’ve seen both series a million times, but I’ve seen LOTR a million times more. I think this has actually led me to be somewhat less interested in it, and more critical of small details that make the story more fun if you overlook them. Star Wars is still new every time I come back to it.

Because Guinea Pigs Can Fly

P.S. Apparently this is my 300th post, so that’s pretty cool!

Where To Find God

Earlier today I read a short article that one of my friends posted on Facebook about why Christians should create art. The strongest argument, I thought, was that we are created in the image of God who is the ultimate creative force in the world. We’re not meant to just sit idly. We are meant to take care of God’s creation, but we are also meant to create. Another point that was made was that good art is a reflection of the goodness in the world, and the potential for the world to come.

The author also pointed out that the art we create doesn’t have to be Christian art. Painters don’t have to paint scenes from the Gospel. Songwriters don’t have to exclusively write worship songs. Good art amazes us and can even bring us to tears, and I think there’s spiritual value in that. We can pay homage to our Creator without being obvious. Good art brings joy to our lives, helps us relax, and allows us to dream and to wonder.

If God is meant to be like a friend, if we’re meant to have a relationship with him, then it’s important to actually spend time with him. On one level, yes, that means going to church and reading the Bible and praying, but I think it can also mean just being content, enjoying some good music, or playing a good video game by yourself. It means enjoying life and appreciating what you have. I think simply being content is a way of communing with God because the complications of life and the world around us aren’t getting in the way. I think that’s why a lot of people say that they find God in nature, as opposed to in a church.

It’s not easy to be content. I know I often find myself overly critiquing my thoughts and actions and coming to the conclusion that I’ve failed. I often find myself thinking that I’m doing something wrong or that I’m missing something important or that I’m wasting too much time. I’m very critical of myself, especially when I think I’m being overly self-indulgent. Trying to be perfect is a giant hassle. All this is to say that I am often the most at ease–the most content–when I’m playing video games in my bedroom. I’m not praying, I’m not reading, I’m not thinking. I’m just enjoying myself, and honestly, I think it’s really good for me. I get the same feeling out of reading fantasy stories or watching movies. It’s not a spiritual activity, but it lets me be at peace. Some people find God at the top of mountains. I find him in epic adventures through which I escape my own mind: through which I escape the complications of this world.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!