Tag Archives: Children

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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Complementary

I had an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance a few weeks ago. I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I thought it would be worth sharing. Our conversation, of course, started with small talk, but for some reason, we both felt very comfortable with each other, and I found out in a fairly short amount of time, that this person was also Christian.

The interesting part of this is that she and I had very different views of things like science, philosophy, mythology and logic going into the conversation. It also turned out that she and I came to faith through very different means, had different upbringings, and were part of different denominations within Christianity. All this being said, I want to explain, in particular, my view of science and logic, as well as some broader sociological issues from my personal Catholic point of view.

As I mentioned in a recent post, there was a time (mostly through middle and high school) when I was Catholic in practice, but Agnostic in belief. I went through the motions without actually knowing what any of it meant. A lot of this has a lot to do with where I grew up, who I hung out with, and what my education was like.

I grew up in a suburban town in Massachusetts where the political standpoint on many issues tends to be relatively liberal, and the line between church and state is drawn boldly. When I was a kid, the most important things in my family’s life were our extended family in Maine, and my education, including the cultivation of my imagination. Often, these things superseded God entirely, so our church attendance was infrequent, and we didn’t really talk about God at home.

My education as a kid was delivered from an atheistic standpoint. I went to public school, and no one, kids or teachers, talked about God. Therefore, my initial understanding of Truth was from a scientific and mathematical standpoint. 1 + 1 = 2. The Big Bang created the Universe. God was there somewhere, sure, but at the time it didn’t really matter to me. Then when I got what you might call the equidistant of an internship in high school developing a disability advocacy program, I ended up working with a devout Jewish guy, my brother’s age, and a Muslim woman,  who I’d guess was in her twenties, and it was interesting to work with people of other faiths who were also far more invested than I was.

Then I went to a Christian college, as I have previously mentioned. Although we were saturated with the culture and Christian worship, I ended up taking a few philosophy classes where the whole point was to think logically and atheistically. All of this comes back to my conversation a few weeks ago. My acquaintance was surprised that I put so much faith in physics, for example. However, this also relates to another question she asked me. She asked, “So how do understand Greek mythology, since it was once an actual belief system?” I told her that this was a belief system based on what was inferable and observable at the time. I put faith in science because it can prove what is inferable and observable to be true. I also explained that I have never thought God and science were at odds, and that God often works through, natural, scientifically verifiable means.

One last thing I would like to add is that I have come to understand that a belief system has stages, and is personalized invariably by everyone. What I mean is that the primary stage of one’s belief system informs their secondary, their secondary informs their third, etc. Specifically this refers, in my case to my understanding of science through Christianity, my understanding of politics and culture through both, and my understanding of economics through all three. In other words, certain beliefs hold priority over others, but they all inform each other to some degree. If science can help me understand what God is doing, then great.

Look At The Sky

The other day I realized just how much I stare at my phone. I don’t remember exactly how it happened, but I realized that for the longest time, I had not looked at the sky. After realizing this, I realized just how much I don’t pay attention to as an adult that really seemed to matter when I was a kid. As a kid I would just sit and stare at the sky and think about a million things and nothing. It seemed like there was so much more in the world. I didn’t notice when I stopped doing that. I didn’t notice as the world became smaller and faster.

I’ve been trying to make a point to look at the sky now. I still don’t always remember. I think it’s important. I used to see pictures in the clouds. I don’t see pictures anymore, but I still think the sky is beautiful. I think it’s important to appreciate the things God made. If it wasn’t important, he wouldn’t have made things beautiful. The world could have been black and white. As an artist, I don’t always know why I make things or write things. I just can’t help it, and even though I don’t have an explicable reason for them, I love the things I make. I imagine God feels the same way, particularly about people who can love him back.

It’s funny that a lot of things in the world can keep you alive in one case, and can kill you in another. I like fire. At one point in time, fire was integral to the survival of the human race. In fact, for several years we’ve heated our house with a wood stove through the winter because it’s been cheaper. Fire is something I can still stare at for hours and think about nothing and everything. I like to play with fire. I like to watch stuff burn (yes I know that sounds weird) because it’s interesting and beautiful.

I’ve said this before, but I have over one hundred cousins of various removes, etc, so I just call them all cousins. Anyway, at camp this summer my mom had to explain to one of my cousins who has some form of developmental problem that he couldn’t touch fire. He understood that it would hurt him, but he thought he could run to the lake and put it out before it got too hot. Like me, he thought fire was beautiful and interesting and just wanted to understand it better.

Two years ago, when we had a record-breaking winter, my dad went hiking and made a video. It was snowing and sub-zero on the mountain, but my dad had the time of his life. He loves cold and snow. When I was a kid I liked it. Listening to the weather forecast and hearing seventies and eighties instead of eighties and nineties makes me a little sad these days. At the same time, a part of me is hoping for another record-breaking winter. If it has to come, I’d rather it come in full force. When we got Seamus, we tried to give him some snow to play with. He was afraid of it. He’s a really stupid bird.

I wonder if it’s easier to appreciate things when you think about how you relate to those things, or when you project yourself into a story or an idea or a situation. In my last post I talked about Mythic Island. There was a specific way in which to get there. You had to build a fairy house. Fairies would show up and live there, and in return for building them a house, they would do things for you. In particular, they would create a magical portal that would allow you to get to Mythic Island. A fairy house is a tepee made of sticks and leaves and things. The better the fairy house, the more fairies it would attract. The more fairies you had, the more they could do for you. When we hung out in the woods as kids we would think about these things, and we would build fairy houses just to be nice. We had more of a reason for being there.

I think it’s harder to relate to the world when our worlds are our computers. On Facebook and WordPress and wherever else we “exist” we create the versions of ourselves that we want that particular world to see, and we see the manufactured versions of everyone else. We can look at pictures of clouds and fire, but they’re no substitute for the real thing. When I started playing Dungeons and Dragons with my friends, it was like going back to Mythic Island. At the time, though, things from Mythic Island would come into the “real world” and we had to help dragons get back home. I guess maybe that made the world seem a little bigger, too.

What I didn’t realize as a kid was that the world is really big. It’s just my little piece of it that’s small. In Mythic Island we could ride our dragons hundreds of miles in a day, we were powerful, and time didn’t make sense. It was our world, and that’s why it seemed so much bigger than the “real world.” I guess I just kind of miss being amazed by the sky. The world really hasn’t changed. I’m just more easily distracted, and ironically, I think I’m less patient in some ways. For the longest time I didn’t want a cell phone. Everyone my age (eleven or so) had one, but I didn’t care. Then when smart phones became a thing my mom practically had to force me to get one. And a few days ago I realized that I forget to be amazed by the sky.

Don’t forget to be amazed. Even if you’ve looked at something a million times, look at it again. Listen to that song you love again. Smell those flowers. Climb that mountain. Eat that cookie. Go back to Mythic Island.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

To My Ten-Year-Old Self

I saw a post on Facebook by an acquaintance who was going to be speaking at a fifth grade “graduation”. He asked for people to comment on what they would have liked to know when they were ten. I think there are quite a few things I would like to tell my ten-year-old self. I don’t remember a whole lot about that year in particular, but I know things now that would have been helpful to me then.

I didn’t feel very confident in myself back then. I allowed people to make bad decisions for me, mostly regarding my education. Granted, I was ten, but I think even then I knew that these decisions were wrong. I didn’t protest. I didn’t complain. I just assumed that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I learned to say “No” on my own. Part of the problem was that I was lazy, and this perpetuated the problem. I could have, and should have complained much sooner. I would tell my ten-year-old self not to be lazy, and to protest loudly.

I don’t know if I would have re-done my eight years from middle to high school. I like the way I’ve turned out. If I had to re-do it, though, I would probably tell myself to try and be more outgoing. The fact of the matter is, I’m shy, and back then, I was downright anti-social. I probably would tell myself to be more forgiving, too. I had fairly good reasons for it, but I tended to be a bit of an angry kid sometimes. This contributed to my anti-social tendencies. People didn’t often directly pick on me, but they did pick on my friends, and I took it as a personal offense. I would tell myself to try and be a peacemaker.

I also would tell myself not to care what other people thought of me. I would tell myself to be as weird and imaginative as I wanted, and I would tell myself to write my crazy ideas down. I would tell myself to keep a journal. I had a journal in my computer through middle school, but for some reason, I never wrote down anything happy. I only wrote miserable stuff, so I would tell myself to focus on the good. I also would tell myself to read more, even though it felt tedious at the time, because stories are soul candy.

Along with that, I would tell myself to read the Gospels, and I would tell myself to ask questions about God. I would try to explain to myself that Jesus is alive, and that he’d always be my friend. If I had known that back then, I would have been a lot happier, especially through high school. I would try to tell myself that the Gospel isn’t just another story. That’s how my church made it sound. CCD was just extra school, and the Gospel was just another myth. I would have liked to hear about Jesus’ human relationships; his interactions with other people; his friends; his parents. He was always distant. Sure, he was God, but I never really grasped that he was and is a man, and a friend. I don’t know how I would explain that to a ten-year-old, but it’s definitely something I wish I had known.

I would like to tell my ten-year-old self that she’s a nerd, and that it’s totally okay to be a nerd.

I would tell my ten-year-old self that being a girl doesn’t mean you have to be “girly” by default (I wanted to be a boy when I was a kid).

I would tell her that miracles are totally a thing, but they don’t always look like what you’d expect.

I might also tell her that God has a plan for her, but it most likely doesn’t involve getting married. I wasn’t even thinking about boys when I was ten, but it would save me a lot of pain later.

I might tell her that her brother was going to like metal, and that no matter how hard she tried, she would never like metal–ever.

That’s all I can think of for now.

 

I’ve Been Thoroughly Educated, Thank You Very Much

Last night I went to see Tenth Avenue North. It was an absolutely amazing night. My dad and I got there early because we had VIP tickets so we could meet the band. They’re a bunch of super nice, funny guys, and their music is fantastic. What’s more is, since we got there early, we got to grab whatever spot we wanted in the entire chapel (this was at my school). We were literally touching the stage. It was a little claustrophobic because it was a sold out show and everyone wanted to be up front, but it was just so much fun.

What I love about their music, though is that it’s super fun to just listen to, but it also gets me thinking. I like things that make me think. I like to be challenged sometimes; not just entertained. Anyway, what was super awesome is that their new album doesn’t officially come out until tomorrow, but they had copies available at the show, so I snagged one.

They have one song on the new album–I forget which one, but there’s a few lines that go:

Forgive me
Forgive me, Lord
For living
Like I’m not yours

And I had it stuck in my head as I was going to sleep last night.

Today I’ve been sort of antsy. I feel like I need to be doing something, but I don’t know what that something is. I do need to be doing homework, but that’s beside the point.

As part of their show, Tenth Ave talks a little bit about Compassion International, partly because they sponsor a few kids through that organization, and partly as a promotional thing to try and get some of us interested. They talked about it last year when I saw them, Rend Collective talked about them when I saw them a few weeks ago, and Tenth Ave talked about them again last night. They’re not obnoxious about it, and they don’t try and guilt anyone into doing anything. It’s just important to them. It still makes me feel guilty, though.

It makes me feel guilty for weird reasons. Firstly, I mentioned this before, but I take things that Jesus said very literally, and he said that we ought to help the poor. Secondly, I am in a very weird financial position at the moment. I am the daughter of a guy who is a successful banker, and who makes a lot–I mean a LOT of money. He’s paying for my brother and me to go to college, and when we graduate, we will have borrowed nothing. By that standard you could say I’m ridiculously wealthy. However, if I wasn’t leaching off my parents, I’m not sure I’d be able to support myself. I’d probably manage, but it would be pretty tough. That said, I think I’d still be in the top 1% of the world. By American standards I’m broke. By world standards, I’m filthy rich. It’s confusing. Thirdly, I don’t feel called to help the poor. I feel called to make peace.

For one thing, I’m good at it. I’ve been able to help fix at least a couple nasty relationships, and I’ve actually been able to help a few people be a bit more optimistic about humanity in general. What I really want to do is help people make peace with God. I didn’t feel like I had courage enough to do that until recently, but I really want to now, and I’m not afraid to talk about it and write blatantly obvious songs about it. I’m convinced that the world is good and people are inherently good. I’ve just encountered so much pessimism and anger about the state of the world that I feel like I should do something about it.

Part of being a peacemaker is getting people to understand that we’re all on equal footing, and getting people to love each other. Loving each other means helping each other, so really, helping the poor is part of that.

The reason I bring up the Tenth Ave quote is that I feel like I haven’t been doing this lately. I’ve written a few blog posts, but beyond that I’ve just been coasting. I’ve been wasting a lot of time on the internet or playing video games when I could be researching music stuff or doing homework. Homework isn’t directly related to being a peacemaker, but I need to get through this semester, and I do feel like I owe it to God to try and do well in school. Lately I’ve just wanted to be lazy, and I guess that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it right.

I’m just finding it hard to really take a whole lot of interest in my work this semester. I’m just not finding my classes all that interesting, and I kind of feel like it’s an obligatory waste of time. I want to work and make money and do things that will actually make a difference in the world. I’ve sort of been struggling with this for about two years now, and I guess it’s getting to a point where I really need to be done with school. A lot of people have been asking me if I want to go to grad school. The answer is “no.” I’ve been thoroughly educated, thank you very much. Now I’d like to put that education to good use.

Because in my world, guinea pigs can fly!

Prayer For Children

Last night I heard a horrifying story on the news. An 11 year old boy was chained to the porch of his foster home wearing only a T-shirt and long pants in the cold with a dead chicken tied around his neck. There were 4 other kids living in that house, which apparently was filthy. The worst part is that the foster mother was working in social services and was supposed to have the best interest of children in mind.

I have an 11 year old cousin who is one of my best friends, and I can’t imagine anything like this happening to him, but the fact of the matter is that it did happen to this little boy who was probably a lot like Dinkens. He was probably in 5th or 6th grade, just adjusting to middle school, on the verge of puberty, interested in baseball, math and video games, and just kind of a goofy kid.

The truth is that I don’t want any kids of my own. I just don’t have that kind of patience and I don’t really know at what age you’re supposed to teach them things. I know myself enough to believe that I’d probably be an irresponsible parent. I don’t know what was going through this woman’s head when she adopted. 5 kids maybe she just wanted kids so much that she was willing to sacrifice their welfare in order to just have them. I don’t know. The point is that people should know themselves well enough to know that children just aren’t a good idea for them, and it’s incredibly selfish to go against that intuition.

Kids deserve to have good, fun, loving childhoods so they can grow into happy, intelligent, responsible adults. Please pray for the kids in that house and all the kids who are in similar situations. Kids who are born into this world deserve better. My mom says that when people have kids they are making a promise to live for those kids. I had an awesome childhood because my parents kept that promise. It just makes me so angry that this lady on the news didn’t.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!