Tag Archives: culture

You Are Time

Imagine you know you’re part of an army but you don’t know who your allies are. You know you’ve got enemies, but you don’t exactly know who they are. For all you know, they’re invisible. They’re often smarter than you, and they’re masters of trickery. It’s dark, you’re tired, and you know your side is losing. You start to wonder if resistance is futile. Eventually it really starts to seem that way. Then something drastically changes. Defeat seems inevitable until a new ally suddenly appears. He fights valiantly and he teaches you his ways. He heals your allies and defeats innumerable enemies.

Then, once again, something changes. He warns that it is only a matter of time before his death, but your victory. He is captured, tortured, and killed, and you are forced to fall back, but miraculously, just days later, he is alive and your enemies vanquished. He was right, and he celebrates your victory with you because now that enemy you faced is conquered for good. He eventually says that he has to go, but he will send his spirit so he can always love you and guide you and help you, and he keeps his promise.

Centuries go by until it seems that the whole world knows him, or appears to know of him. He is glorified in acts of heroism that mirror his own. He is honored in acts of love and goodness. Fantastic works of af art are created by those who love him still. You find, nonetheless, that things inevitably change. Slowly but surely, in many places he is forgotten; in many places is made into a laughing stock; even his very name is dishonored, thrown into the mire of language with unutterable words.

And you ask, “what does it matter? What is a name?” A name is how you are known. You are known by your name as a writer or a thinker or a worker or a finder, or something else that makes you who you are. He is a hero, still here, still living, and his very identity is used as a curse. His name has weight; it is precious.

Bring It On

Over the past few days I’ve been thinking about when Jesus talked about building a house on a rock versus building a house on the sand. Scrolling through my Facebook feed, I see a lot of cynicism and a lot of pessimism, and I wonder what this has to do with where one chooses to build their house. I remember at the beginning of Advent, going into my church and being surprised to see the purple on the altar and the Advent wreath by the entrance, but I was also excited.

A week or two later I was asked to explain the meaning of the Advent wreath to my fourth grade class, and honestly, I had to google it. The wreath itself represents eternity. The three purple candles represent love, peace, and hope, The pink candle represents joy, and the white candle which is lit on Christmas Eve represents purity. My godmother came to visit during the first week of Advent, and she drew an advent wreath on our chalkboard. Even though it’s just a drawing, it’s been exciting each week to draw a yellow light on each of the candles.

In scripture, God is referred to as our rock, our fortress, and our refuge. He has been that for me over and over. This weekend is Christmas. All the candles will be lit. There won’t be any more darkness. Still, scrolling through Facebook, I see darkness, sadness, and bad news. I heard once from someone who went to a therapist that they were told every ship needs a sail and an anchor. Some people are sails, and some people are anchors. Some people lead to new adventures, risks to take, and experiences to delight in or learn from. Others lead home. Using that analogy, it seems to me that so many people are sailing ships with no anchors.

Last week I finished a song about the aftermath of the election. Don’t worry, this’ll be quick; I know we’re all sick of talking about it. Both Clinton supporters and Trump supporters have been unfair and unkind, and in some cases, violent. I supported neither candidate. I didn’t vote. There’s a line in my song that says “I have one king.” The chorus of the song says:

I dare you to lose
Stare down your own defeat
And defiantly believe
That it’s true you can live on hope alone

I think a lot of people have lost hope. I think Trump won because people lost faith in the government, and I think the people who didn’t support him lost hope because they still had faith in the government. Either way, everybody lost. Everybody lost if we’re only talking about the present, the immediate future, and the reality we know apart from God’s part in it. Everybody lost if we forget to hope.

Jesus is king no matter what, and he will always be king no matter what. There is no reason to lose hope at Christmas time. It’s not about whether or not one has amazing decorations, or can hold extravagant parties, or can afford the newest, greatest gifts. What matters is the reason for celebrating. Last week I spent an hour with my fourth grade class as usual. I brought my ukulele and a bag of cookies my mom made. We sang a few songs, and my assistant teacher read a couple stories to the kids. It was one of the most worshipful hours I’ve spent during Advent, and I spent it with eleven little kids.

For some, Christmas is one of the only times to get together with family. For some, it’s a good excuse to eat junk food. One of our favorite traditions is to get my parents, brother, aunt, cousin and me into the car, get some hot chocolate or coffee and drive around and look at everyone’s lights. It’s fun to make our neighborhoods look pretty, and Christmas is a good excuse. For some, however, the weeks before Christmas are not fun. While everyone else is enjoying themselves, some are simply stretching themselves too thin. Some are reminded of bad experiences connected to this time. Some go hungry. Some are cold. Some spend the holiday alone.

The first Christmas wasn’t a party. The first Christmas was dark and dangerous. Jesus’ life was in danger from the moment he was born. I don’t think he would want the world to forget that for the sake of having a good time. I think he might find it easier to identify with the people who aren’t having a good time. For those of us who are, it’s important to remember why, and to invite the Lord to have a good time with us. It can be as simple as remembering to pray before Christmas dinner, and making sure we get to church.

I’ve seen so many posts about how 2016 has been a really crappy year. Okay, in many ways I can’t disagree. Maybe it’s just been another year for me, but we’ve had political unrest in our country, and the Middle East is still in turmoil. There have been terrorist attacks in various countries all over the world, and sometimes it looks like the world is going to end. As we fight for a better life for ourselves and others, we are dished out more problems. Yes, 2016 has looked bleak in many ways. We’ve had to stare darkness in the face.

We have two options this Christmas and in the weeks to come. We can look at that darkness, often disguised in songs about snowmen and sleigh rides: candy and chaos: we can look into that darkness and see only war and death; or we can look into that darkness and defiantly say, “bring it on. I have the Light of the World inside of me. Jesus is with me, and that’s all I need.” We can live on hope alone.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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.

Give Him A Chance

It’s getting cooler around here. The fall colors are slowly coming out. I’m savoring the last few weeks of warmth in the air while I can. Usually, come November, it gets too cold for me to wander around outside much. Today I took a wander and my friend’s mom and his dog were outside. For whatever reason, his dog practically worships me. I don’t get it. She’s old, and has very bad arthritis, and apparently I’m one of the very few people she’ll even get up for. I feel bad. I suspect she’s coming to the end of her rope.

I hadn’t intended to, but I ended up talking to his mom for quite a while. I’m teaching three CCD classes this year, and she suggested I consider teaching as a career option. Truthfully, I’m better at it than I thought I’d be. This is my third year doing it. One of my classes is fourth grade. I’m realizing it’s hard to translate a lot of what Jesus taught into kid language, but the experience is teaching me stuff, too. I could be a teacher. I’d prefer to teach high school, though. The thing is, becoming a CCD teacher was initially a spur-of-the-moment decision, and then I discovered that I’m fairly good at it. I would have to get certified as a teacher, and I just don’t know what’s involved. I don’t want to go back to school–at least not yet.

After I left there I called my grandmother just to talk. When we hung up, I headed for home. Before all this, though, my mom and I had taken one of our neighbors out to lunch. Without saying too much, she has some serious mental health problems, and isn’t exactly well liked. She’s a perfectly lovely person, but she’s very strange. She was telling us about some of her problems and I said, “I don’t mean to be pushy, but you could try praying about some of this stuff. I know from experience that God is a very powerful friend.” After I hung up with my grandmother this conversation came back to me. I thought, “I just wish people would give you a chance, God.”

That gave me two ideas. I don’t know a lot about “safe spaces” and the problems and arguments they may or may not cause, but the point is, they’re supposed to be “all inclusive.” Everyone is supposed to be welcome, at least from what I understand, and that led me to wonder if, for one thing, Catholics are welcome in those spaces and, for another, if God is welcome. The other thing I thought of is an analogy. I do think of God as a very powerful friend. He’s like a very influential friend who has a lot of power, but likes to do things behind the scenes. People kind of know who he is, but they’ve made up all kinds of gossip about him and his friends, so they don’t invite him to their parties, even if his friends are invited. I just want people to give my friend a chance to show them that he’s not the freakozoid that people say he is. Really he’s a very nice, creative, helpful, loving person.

Say It Anyway

Sometimes I find myself about to write about something, whether it be about God, faith, my family, creativity, writing, or what have you, and a little voice in my head says, “I’m sure people have heard that a million times from a million different people.” Then another little voice in my head says, “Say it anyway. Maybe you can say it a little bit different so that it will click for someone in a way it hasn’t clicked before. Maybe hearing it this time is the last time they need to hear it for it to make sense. Maybe hearing it this time will help them to understand it in a different way. Even if no one listens, say it anyway because it may not matter to anyone else, but it matters to you.”

This happens to me a lot. Have you noticed that good stories never get old? I have watched Lord of the Rings, and the Star Wars movies a thousand times by now, and I could easily watch them a thousand times more. Every time you read a good story or watch a good movie, you pick up on different ideas or different symbolism. Different things take on different meaning and more significance. I don’t mean to sound like I’m bragging when I say I can quote quite a lot from the Gospels because there’s just so much there and I’ve read them so many times.

The other night I was at Adoration at my church, and sometimes while I’m sitting there I just “talk,” and I don’t remember exactly how we got to this, but eventually I just stopped and thought, “You know, you’re a story-teller. You told and tell a lot of stories. Could you tell me a story? It doesn’t have to be anything new. It could be something I’ve heard before.”

Immediately I started thinking about all these different ideas about light. I remembered things like: “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then, the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” and “A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under a bushel basket, but on the lamp stand, and it gives light to all the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.” Then I remembered that while working on my novel the other day, I had a segment where Aven, one of my main characters is in prison, and he has a weird experience where he sees darkness, and realizes that this is what he’s seeing. This is significant because he’s blind. He realizes that there’s a difference between being blind and seeing darkness. Finally, I remembered a story I’ve been working on recently just for fun where the main characters have to find the Soul of the Light to break a curse that has been on their kingdom for hundreds of years.

There’s a part in Lord of the Rings where Frodo remembers he has the light that Galadriel gave him. He has sent Sam away because he’s been tricked by Golem, who has left him to die in the spider cave. Galadriel gave this to him saying, “May it be a light for you in dark places when all other lights go out.” When Frodo lights it up, he’s in panic mode. He’s desperate. For him, all other lights; all hope, has gone out. I really don’t think Galadriel’s gift is meant to be taken only literally. Hope is often symbolized by light, and light is even sometimes symbolized by other things. At the beginning of the Lord of the Rings trilogy the shire appears bright, beautiful and peaceful. At Bilbo’s birthday, there are fireworks, there is light. When they leave the shire, they are cast into a dark forest, and are followed by the black rider. There are many juxtapositions of light and dark in Lord of the Rings, particularly in reference to specific places. Where there is death, in particular, there is darkness.

Eventually, though, even Galadriel’s light can’t keep Frodo out of danger. Even that light goes out, but Sam comes back. Forgive the sentimentality, but Galadriel’s light could not keep Frodo out of danger. It failed, but Sam’s loyalty didn’t. Sam’s loyalty was a light that really couldn’t go out. For those who might argue, Sam did not leave by his own free will. Frodo told him to leave, and in fact, he held to his loyalty to such a high degree that he obliged. He knew that many of Frodo’s decisions and judgments were wrong, but he allowed his friend to make those choices, determined to protect him while he could. Truthfully, the more I watch Lord of the Rings, the more I think Frodo isn’t a very good friend. He has his reasons. His task is not an easy one. Regardless, Sam is seriously devoted to him, and in the end, it becomes clear that Frodo is appreciative.

The point is, Loyalty has to be mutual, and it takes perseverance. Frodo and Sam do not have an easily relatable or translatable relationship because yes, they are friends, but they have slightly different social status. Sam is Frodo’s servant. By the end, it seems like this slight status difference is gone between them. This is only possible because of what they went through together. At the end of his life, Jesus says to his disciples, “I no longer call you servants because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything I have learned from my Father, I have made known to you.” Being a friend of Jesus changes our position in the Universe, whatever that may be.

I took a long time thinking about two things in particular. What does it mean to be full of light? What is the difference between being blind and seeing darkness? I think both have to do with one’s outlook on the world. We spend a lot of time, when thinking about external spirituality, trying to figure out our position on X, Y, or Z, or wondering whether a particular practice is appropriate in worship. Internal spirituality is often much more abstract and simple. We spend our time praying or listening to music or simply musing. I don’t think we spend enough time thinking about how God actually views the world, and how, as his friends and followers, we’re meant to view the world. This is important because our outlook on the world affects our actions in the world, and our internal spirituality. If we have a generally negative outlook on things, we will lose hope. The hope we have; the light we have is, therefore, at risk of going out.

This also relates to loyalty in that our outlook on the world is connected to our outlook on people in general. A positive outlook allows us to be more trusting, more open, and more loving. It allows us to live more freely as God would want us to live. Often, we don’t openly talk about God or faith or spirituality in general for fear of judgment. If we have a more positive outlook, we will be much more likely to trust, and much more able to forgive when our trust is taken advantage of. This obviously does not mean that we should throw caution to the wind in every situation, but being more trusting and forgiving also allows people to trust and forgive us.

To see darkness is different from being blind. To be blind is often a metaphor for being unaware. Seeing darkness is to know that there is light or hope, and not know how to find it, or to see it and refuse it or give it up. I think a tangible example of this might be in one of the final scenes of Return of the King. Sam is trying to help Frodo get to where he can get rid of the ring. He tries to give him hope by reminding him of home, but Frodo says, “I’m naked in the dark with nothing, no veil between me and the wheel of fire…” In response, Sam says, “Then let us be rid of it. I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you.”

Sometimes we do have to carry people until they can see the light again, or maybe even for the first time. That can mean a whole lot of different things, and sometimes it just means making sure we pray for them. Jesus says, “Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Sometimes people can only rely on God to carry them, but there’s no one more trustworthy, no one more loyal, and no one more capable. Jesus says these things with certainty and authority. They’re true and unchanging.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

“Me Before You”

I just read a review of the book Me Before You. I had never heard of it before, and the only reason I read the review was because a friend of mine posted it and the title of the article sounded interesting. Apparently there is a movie adaptation coming out in the near future, and based strictly on the plot presented in the article, this story sounds idiotic and evil. I don’t use the word “evil” lightly.

It’s supposed to be about a romance between a quadriplegic guy and his caretaker. He was paralyzed after being hit by a motorcycle and now hates his life. Apparently it is also over-emphasized  how people see and treat him differently. People are invariably awkward or uncomfortable around him. What’s even more problematic is that for one thing, he values himself so little that he is suicidal, and refuses to pursue what could be a loving, fulfilling relationship. It seems to me that he is largely portrayed as a burden or an object–at best, someone to be pitied and nothing else.

Normally I wouldn’t judge a story before I’ve seen the movie or read the book, but this really makes me angry for so many reasons. I was born with Muscular Dystrophy, and I developed epilepsy when I was eight, so my situation is different than that of Will’s (the character in the book), but the problems arising from this portrayal relate to disability in general.

I think it is true that the world sees people with disabilities differently. Sometimes people do pity us. Sometimes people are awkward around us. However, I noticed it a lot more when I was a kid. My peers were awkward. Sometimes I was shunned or excluded from things. However, I don’t think mature adults do this. Maybe it’s because I’m more comfortable with myself, but most of the time I don’t think people even see the wheelchair. They just see me. Often little kids look at me funny because they’re curious and they don’t understand, and I’m not offended. Their parents often try and get them away, so I make an effort to talk to them and act like a normal human being.

The fact of the matter is, disabilities are not something to be pitied. It’s just different. I can’t walk. So what? I am the first of my friends to graduate college. I’m the only one of my friends to have written and published music. I can write. They can’t. After reading the article this morning, I realized something else. If I was paralyzed, I’d have to be even more creative. This spring I took a few months of violin lessons. I don’t play violin the “normal” way because I can’t extend my arms enough. My dad made me a metal bar that fits into a hole in the side of my wheelchair and bends over my legs. I rest the violin upright on the bar, and play it kind of like a cello. My favorite thing is when people tell me I won’t be able to do X, Y, or Z, because I love to prove them wrong. I would love to hear about some of the creative things people with other disabilities have come up with.

I also love the question: “Do you mind if I ask…?” No one knows how to pose the question. They always trail off. I don’t know why, but I like telling people what Muscular Dystrophy is. Then I abruptly change the subject because my disability does not define me. This actually touches on a broader issue. I think, too often, people let small things define them. They sometimes put far too much emphasis on their own sexuality or the color of their skin or their gender or what have you. They do this because the world has done it to them for so long that it’s become second nature. It’s become their defining feature. I recently told my dad that when I was a little kid I hated the question “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I never had an answer. He said they asked because they were trying to put me in a box.

Our culture loves boxes, and they hate it when one box doesn’t comfortably fit in another. I am not primarily a disabled person. I am not primarily a woman. I am not primarily asexual. I am not primarily white. I am all these things, but I don’t really care about them. What matters to me is that I write well and that I love people, and that means all people, in a real, significant, tangible way. It matters to me that I’m an optimist in a largely pessimistic or even nihilistic culture.

The fact of the matter is, my disability makes certain things difficult. It makes some things impossible. That does occasionally bother me. Because of my MD I will never be able to live on my own. Because of my epilepsy I will most likely never be able to hold down a “regular” job. That’s fine by me. It’s all the more reason to write a seriously awesome novel, followed by many more. Most of my main characters have some kind of disability. I don’t focus on those. I focus on their strengths and their personalities. My story is about how a diverse group of people work together to dismantle a very problematic, illegal government program. The problems presented by Me Before You are all the more motivation to finish this thing and knock it out of the park.

Lastly, I want to focus on something that is of utmost significance. God made me who I am. God made a Katie with disabilities. To tell the truth, I think my faith is much stronger than it otherwise would be because of this. It makes me realize how much I need him, and it makes me realize how close he is to me. It makes me realize how much he loves me and how much he loves all of us. I know for a fact I’d be a very different person had I not had my personal complications. I would probably have different friends, and I might be interested in different things. I’d probably be more athletic. I can’t even imagine all that would be different, and if I could see that version of myself, there’s no guarantee that I would like it. I like who I am now, and if I were offered a do-over, I wouldn’t take it.

To anyone reading this who feels like disabled people should be pitied: Don’t! If you pity us, you obviously don’t know us.

To anyone reading this who feels bad for themselves because of their disability: Don’t! Seriously! It’s a giant waste of your time! Be creative! Be productive! Be happy! There is always something to be happy about! Always!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Katie’s Can Of Worms

My bird is snuggling with me and chewing on my necklace, which is cute. I just beat my dad at our nightly racing tournament. I’ve been making a lot of spiritual progress in what feels like very short order. I’m being intentional about things. It feels like I’m doing everything right. It feels like I’m in control. At the same time, I feel weird, for lack of a better word.

I find myself thinking “I can do that,” as I read about being dedicated to God in one way or another. Normally details scare me. At the beginning of each semester in school, there was always one class that would scare the crap out of me as the professor explained the requirements for success, how much homework we would have and other details. It always freaked me out, and I always did just fine. I find myself thinking about this movement in my life like I thought about that class, except I find myself thinking “I can do that.” I’m going to have to learn stuff, and I’m going to have to change… but I can do that.

Today I got in touch with the “Delegate for Religious” (whatever that means), Sister Marian, for the archdiocese of Boston. I want to meet with her. She got back to me fast. She wants to meet in person. I guess I’m bugging out because on one hand, I hear God calling me–practically yelling “Hey! Hey, Katie! Tell people about me! Love them! Love me! You can do this!” On the other hand I find myself thinking, “I’m a sinner. I’m a scatterbrain. What the heck am I getting myself into?”

I almost didn’t send Sister Marian an email today. In fact I found her email address yesterday, thought about contacting her, and found stupid reasons not to. Today, as I was somewhere between sending and trashing my message, I thought, “What’s my problem?” Then I realized I was scared, and I remembered that Jesus said not to be scared, so I hit “Send.” My message to Sister Marian contained a question: am I jumping into this too fast? She said I’m not. In fact, I don’t think you can jump into this too fast. I think this is one of those things you have to jump into head-first. I’m taking a pretty freaking big leap of faith, and I don’t know what I’m going to find when I land. Then again, I still find myself thinking not only can I do this, but I want to do this. I don’t think I’ve ever encountered a situation quite this perplexing before.

Actually, I’m freaking out about this because I’m in control. I have free will. I can say “no.” Saying “no” would be way easier. There are so many possibilities that would open up if I said “no.” In fact, as I write this, I’m realizing that life could be absolutely amazing if I said “no.” I don’t want to say “no.” For at least the last week I’ve been constantly reading things and watching things about nuns and other religious people and thinking “Yes! That’s what I want! That’s perfect!” This is actually hilarious, because when I was a kid I was scared of nuns, and when I was a teenager, I thought religious people were all old and annoying and weird.

I need a third (fourth?) hand because there’s another reason I’m freaking out. I intend to meet with Sister Marian. What if I tell her my story, and she says I’m not meant for this? What if she says, for whatever reason that I can’t take a vow in the Church? What if I’m wrong? What if I’m hearing God’s call, but I’m interpreting it wrongly? I feel like I do before any kind of audition. I hate auditions. I’ve had three big ones in my life. I auditioned for the drama club in my Freshman year of high school, and didn’t get a part. I auditioned to get into Berklee College of Music, and didn’t get in. I auditioned to be a singer for my college’s worship team and didn’t get the gig. I know this probably shouldn’t feel like an audition. I know God loves me and has a plan for me no matter what. It’s the people involved in the process that I’m worried about.

The fact of the matter is that I know God is calling me. I know for sure that he’s calling me to love people and to love him. I think; I believe that he’s calling me to something else, too, and I think I might know what that something else is. I really hope I’m right. While this process is scary, a part of me kind of feels like the kid who doesn’t know what she’s getting for Christmas and still believes in Santa Claus. I’m excited.

Okay, I definitely needed to open that can of worms. The worms have been buried outside and the can has been discarded properly. Maybe I’ll find another one tomorrow, but that’s okay. Apparently this is an emotionally complicated situation. I am now going to bed.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

What I Learned When I Learned

Last year I learned what “hangry” meant. I hadn’t heard anyone use it before, but when I finally did I thought it was hilarious. I was writing a paper on slang and culture, and my argument was basically that everything is a word, regardless of if it’s in the dictionary as long as it is widely used in a general social context for a sufficient period of time so that various groups of people know what it means. I thought “hangry” was a hilarious concept because I realized that I get hangry, but I never had a word for it. I get grumpy when I’m hungry. It’s great that I did find the word because now I can better monitor my emotions: “Katie, there’s no reason to be pissy. You’re hungry. Eat some food.”

Earlier today I read an article about how to make God happy. I just wasn’t finding the clarity I needed on this particular issue while reading through the Old Testament prophets. The person who wrote the article said that one makes God happy by loving. We’re basically told to love everyone–love your God; love your enemies; love your neighbors; love yourself. I want to make God happy because he makes me happy. In the article, I came across the question I’ve been perpetually asking myself: What can you possibly do for the person who literally made and owns everything?

In Church this weekend, our priest talked about what we can do during Lent to become closer to God. I usually try and give something up for Lent. Last year I gave up Facebook, and I think it did me some good. I initially thought I would just do that again because I do think I spend a little too much time on there. However, lately I’ve been a lot more intentional with what I post. I try to be positive, and I often post things from scripture that I think will be helpful for people to hear, so I figured it wouldn’t necessarily be the most productive thing to give up. Then our priest mentioned that instead of giving something up like a bad habit or a thing we value a little too much, we could spend the time during Lent to simply be more intentional with the time we dedicate to spiritual things or with our emotions.

There are times where I can be rather negative. I don’t mean to be, but when I butt heads with someone or spend a lot of time with someone I disagree with, I can think downright mean things, sometimes even for no real reason. Sometimes I’m impatient, particularly when my technology isn’t behaving, even though it’s usually an easily fixable problem. Sometimes I’ll read through posts on Facebook and think: I don’t care, NEXT; that’s stupid, NEXT; that’s wrong, NEXT; what a giant waste of time, NEXT; why is everything so negative, NEXT. There are periods where a lot of posts are negative for whatever reason, but it doesn’t help when I get annoyed at posts about football, even though I just don’t care about football. I invariably get these negative impulses and feelings when I’m hangry. I noticed myself doing this a few minutes ago, so I’ve decided that, for Lent, I’m going to make sure to monitor and, to the best of my ability, shut down unwarranted negative feelings and impulses. I’ve already started, and it’s darn hard. I keep a lot of it in my head, so I never really face any repercussions for it other than I eventually realize what I’m doing and then feel bad. I don’t want to do it anymore because it’s not loving, and I want to love better.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Own It

Belonging is a high priority for people, made more complicated by the fact that our minds and hearts can comprehend issues like religion, politics, and philosophy. The more things we can belong to, the more things we can be excluded from, and the more difficult it is to figure out precisely where we fit in. Sometimes we simply don’t want to put names to things, but ultimately, identity comes down to categories. We are all unique individuals because of the unique combination of buckets we fit in to. Of course it isn’t always simple. Sometimes our buckets don’t fit together perfectly for whatever reason, and sometimes we fit better in certain groups than in others. Being human is complicated.

I could probably give you an exhaustive list of every bucket I belong in, but it would be a pretty long list. Furthermore, the list might raise some red flags for certain people. I just read an article about a conference held in Houston for LGBTQA Christians. Several different views on many topics were represented, and it seemed like the whole thing was very balanced. Then I read the comments. They were snarky, cruel, and judgmental, and pissed me off royally. I bring this up because I am asexual and Christian, and that might freak some people out, but in my mind, there’s no issue when it comes to bringing these two aspects of my Katie-ness together. In the same vein, as you all know if you’ve been following me for a while, I love stories, particularly fantasy and science-fiction stories. I’ve read accounts from people who have been judged harshly by their churches for their interest in such things. In fact, at my college, I know that some students’ parents took issue with the fact that we were reading mythology in some of my classes.

Obviously some aspects of our personalities are more important to us than others. My sexuality almost doesn’t matter to me at all. It can complicate things here and there, but it’s otherwise not important. The fact that I’m a total nerd is important to me. The freedom to watch sci-fi movies and play RPG’s is something I value very highly, and I don’t find that it clashes with my faith. These stories take place in different universes, so the rules of this one don’t apply. It’s as simple as that, as long as we are able to distinguish fact from fiction, which is, or at least should be pretty darn easy.

Of course belonging isn’t simply a matter of identifying the buckets we theoretically fit into. it’s also a matter of acceptance. We long to be accepted for who we are by the people around us, even if those people are very different from us. Sometimes we’re the black sheep in our immediate families, or in our schools, but we find friends in odd places. Sometimes we fit into the category of weirdos who don’t have much in common other than the fact that we’re weird. Sometimes we’re just the odd ones out, and in that case, we just have to own it. That’s important. Acceptance is often a matter of recognizing confidence. It seems to be natural. Confidence in one’s self is a sign of strength that people will see and appreciate.

Lastly, it’s important to recognize where we belong and how valuable it is. It’s easy to disregard the fact that, although we may not belong in one “cool” or interesting group of people, we are loved by God, and the people we grew up with, and the new friends we make over time. It’s easy to forget what we already have, and we don’t have to strive for something we don’t need and ultimately might not want. Acceptance that is freely given is extremely valuable and should not be taken for granted, though it seems to be a natural human impulse to do so. Of course it is most important to be comfortable with who we already are, while remembering that we can always be better. As long as we strive for our perfect selves, we are the best we have ever been up until this moment. As cliche as it sounds, the most important person to be accepted by is yourself, so own it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Language And Culture

Over the past year or so, as I’ve been writing my book, I’ve been paying more attention to characters that are underrepresented in popular media. The first I noticed were people with disabilities. We’re hardly even on the map. Hopefully my novel will help fix that to a degree. The other I’ve noticed are “normal” people who happen to be Christian. What I’ve seen in TV shows and movies is that Christians are generally represented in two ways. The stock Christian characters are almost always either Bible beating, ignorant jerks, or intellectually stunted, and thoroughly content.

When I was a little kid, my dad told my brother and me lots of stories–stories he made up, old Greek myths, as well as stories from the Bible. I learned about Echo and Narcissus at the same time I was learning about Adam and Eve and Noah. I grew up on mythology, science fiction, and fantasy, and I made it through the public school system intellectually unscathed. I learned (or at least tried) about Chemistry, math, biology, evolution, and physics, and I don’t question the facts regarding those subjects. The point I’m trying to make is that the largely agnostic and atheistic culture has a tendency to stereotype. I want to see Christian characters who are smart, funny, and nice, because a lot of us are.

I have a friend who is very into social justice–women’s rights, LGBT rights, race relations–if there’s a social disparity, she knows and cares about it. I admire her for it, but at the same time, she’s so militant and angry about it sometimes that it can get tiresome. Last night she was talking about how there is so much corruption in our country’s justice system, regarding racism and police violence. She has mentioned before that she is very wary of people in positions of authority, especially when those people have access to weapons. To be fair, at least right now, I feel like the people in authority in our country are kind of useless, but I don’t distrust them per se.

It’s easy to stereotype, and we all have a tendency to do it. While some authority figures are corrupt and untrustworthy, some, in fact I’d say probably most, are good people. The same can be said for Christians. People notice the jerks and publicize them because it’s easy and because they make the most noise. The truth is that most of us are reasonable and nice. I would just love to see a moment in a movie or TV show where something good happens because a Christian character was kind to someone or gave them advice, or because they prayed. It doesn’t have to be corny. It can be done artfully.

I will say that sometimes an issue I have with Christian culture is that it has a tendency to lag behind the culture of the Country in general. This is partly out of necessity. We can never deviate from the core teachings and beliefs of the Church, but we need to be more willing to adapt without compromising our faith. We’ve done it since the Church began, but culture changes with such increasing speed in the 21st Century, that it’s harder to keep up. One thing that I think should be an easy fix that the Church has largely neglected, however, is the language we use. For example, I still pray the ye oldie version of the Lord’s Prayer because that’s how I learned it: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name…” I mean it when I pray it, but it’s the only time I talk like I was around when Shakespeare was writing Hamlet.

How a person expresses him/herself has a large impact on how that person and their ideas are viewed. Many Christian ideas are considered cliche or uncool because we’ve been using the same language and motifs to express our beliefs since the beginning of time. It’s why I often can’t listen to Christian music outside of worship for an extended period of time. Artists just recycle the same stories, images, and metaphors over and over. This is due, in part, to the of fact that many ideas and images are taken straight from the Bible, which again, is relevant in a worship setting, but isn’t going to be helpful when it comes to bringing people to the Church, which I’m much more interested in doing, at least when it comes to music.

However, I think there aren’t many actually interesting Christian characters in popular movies and TV for similar reasons. I think part of the issue is that Hollywood at least is largely secular, and the people who make the best movies honestly just don’t know how to write good Christian characters. What would that character be like? Maybe they’d be like me–a dorky writer who  plays pen and paper RPG’s and teaches religious ed once a month. Maybe they’d be a physics teacher who chose that job to try and expand his students’ intellectual horizons. Maybe they’d be someone with psychic powers, trying to figure out if using those abilities encroaches on God’s authority, while at the same time, trying to save the world from certain doom.

A character’s religion does not dictate their entire personality. In terms of characteristics, it is equal to their interests, their profession, their education, their upbringing, and everything else that makes a person a person. It is another factor that makes them unique. I bring this all up because I’m tired of seeing Christian characters that are nothing more than the designated annoying Christian character. I just want characters that are interesting human beings who happen to believe in Jesus, just as I want to see more interesting characters who happen to have some kind of disability. I’m tired of factors like these being defining characteristics above all else. I’m tired of annoying stereotypes that put me in categories I don’t belong in.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!