Tag Archives: internet

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!

A Good Place To Start: Review Of Christians In Crisis Website

It is difficult to say exactly what “accurate” news really is. The truth of the matter is, however, that without doing more research than most of us have time for, we’re never getting the whole story. Furthermore, every news station on TV, and every newspaper has its priorities and its politics. To survive they have to cover what is most important and most interesting to the average consumer. News, like anything else, is a commercial product. In general, it seems that domestic issues get far more coverage than international ones, especially when international issues are religious in nature, and particularly violent. The coverage of the war on ISIS, and their brutal persecution of Christians in the Middle East has all but died out, and is only really mentioned again when an American reporter gets tragically involved.

However, this is an ongoing problem. Radical Islam and their oppressive ideals are currently taking over in Iraq and Syria, but the media is very quiet on the issue. Christianity is the largest religion in the world, seconded by Islam. However, in many parts of the world, it is a clear minority. The International Christian Concern released an article on December 11th explaining how Hindu radicals in parts of rural India are going into villages and forcibly converting Christians to Hinduism and their churches into temples. This is clearly a bigger issue than the media is letting on.

In light of that, a blog has been created that specifically focuses international religious relations for people who are invested in it. Christians In Crisis is a small, nonprofit organization that compiles information and news found from internet and print sources specifically about the persecuted Church throughout the world. They do not ask for or accept donations, but point potential donors in the direction of organizations that do. Their main goal is to provide information and incentive to help. They are constantly updating the site and do not simply focus on one area. On December 12, they posted five stories focusing on current events in various Middle Eastern countries as well as one article focusing on Christian missionaries in China.
The link to that particular article is here: Article

This article explains that the Chinese Government seems to be cracking down on Christian missionaries from around the world due to their humanitarian efforts to aid North Korean refugees to that country. Several individuals that were specifically mentioned in the article have been accused and deported for allegedly stealing and illegally sharing state secrets. One theory is that:

“While there’s no concrete evidence for such a claim, the deportations do seem to be part of a larger trend toward nationalization of domestic institutions, particularly Christian churches.”

Furthermore:

“A number of Christian aid groups in the area have ceased operations.”

The article suggests that this increase in deportations is a way for the Communist party to maintain power over an increasingly Christian population.

This is very helpful information for the western Church to know. If the Church is in fact one cohesive organization, then it is important to know what is happening in all areas of the world, and it is the responsibility of those who can help to actually do something if they can. Knowing the truth about these things is the first step toward making change. obviously change is difficult, and there is more involved than religion, such as politics, diplomacy and other cultural concerns. However, Christians In Crisis is a very helpful website and an excellent place to start for those who want to know more.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Church Needs To Stop Being So Churchy

The Catholic Church needs to not try to be cool. It’s not. I know. I’m a part of it. It’s old fashioned and formal and quiet, and I think that’s the way it should be. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be contemporary. I would love to have contemporary worship in my church, and I love that the Church throughout the world uses technology to get the message out to more people. I’m also not saying that the Church shouldn’t be involved in current, secular culture. It absolutely should be. I read an article yesterday about how Pope Francis is planning on doing a lot of work to help the homeless in Rome. He’s already started a project to build public showers for them near the Vatican. This is great because he is someone all Christians can look to and say “That guy practices what he preaches.”

However, a couple of days ago I watched a video about going to confession because I’m not sure how I feel about it. As it is, I currently don’t. I didn’t find the video very convincing for a couple of reasons. The first was that it didn’t give much of a reason why I should go to confession. It mostly just gave an overview of the actual process. The second was that the video itself was pretty doofy. For one thing, it was animated, which isn’t a bad thing by default, but it seemed like it was making light of a serious subject. The animation was not very good, and I just found it annoying because it was downright cutesy. In the description, it didn’t say that the video was geared towards kids, but it might as well have been. It’s this kind of stuff that gets on my nerves. Don’t make this kind of stuff cute or cool. Make it seem important.

I saw another article that I didn’t read because the title was one giant, horrible pun. Maybe this is getting overly critical, but I know that the teachers at my home church tend to be very punny, and they try to create environments for young people that teenagers and young adults will actually enjoy, but then they call them things like Holy Hangout. Not everything the church does has to have a churchy name. In fact, more people might be interested in these kinds of things if they have even neutral names.

There’s an Episcopal church one town over from me that does open mics once a month. It’s very family friendly and performers have to keep it clean, but it’s not churchy at all. The only differences I can see between this open mic and an open mic at a bar or something are that there’s no alcohol, and it’s a bit less out of place for me to play worship songs. Honestly, though, I like playing worship songs in little cafes and bars because it might be the only way some of the people there get to hear about God. We can’t always separate church from other aspects of life. The Gospel isn’t meant to be heard only in church buildings. Maybe it’s obnoxious, but no one’s ever said anything to me, and quite frankly, I don’t care.

I feel like my job as a musician is to make people happy, but also to give them hope. I try not to be a preacher; I just explain my songs as briefly as possible and play. No matter where I’ve been, I’ve never got a bad response.

The congregation at my home church consists of an overwhelming number of old people compared to any other demographic. The next biggest group is families with young children. There are almost no parishioners between the ages of about 12 and 30. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that this young demographic has a choice. They can either sleep in or go to breakfast/dinner or meet up with family and friends on Sunday morning/Saturday afternoon. Churches tend not to offer services that are super convenient for young people.

However, the second reason this group tends not to go to church is because its not a priority. This tends to be a fairly worry-free period in a person’s life, especially for middle and high school students. People feel they need religion when they have things to worry about. Perhaps this is the reason why young families start going back to church: People have to worry about taking care of children for the first time, and perhaps this worry leads them to look to something bigger for guidance.

The third reason has to do with the first reason. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. We are basically programmed to constantly ask ourselves “How much can I get done and how fast can I do it?” Because of this, we have to make choices about what the most important things are, and what can be left behind. Church tends not to be a huge priority because it doesn’t seem very productive to sit in a pew and listen for an hour. However, it’s been proven that living with this high-efficiency mindset leads to high stress levels, anxiety and depression in a lot of people. Prioritizing a few “less productive” things at least a few times a week is actually good for our health.

The third reason applies more to the demographic of people with teenage or adult children. There are almost no middle aged people in my parish. This is probably due to the fact that, despite their children being gone, or at least less of a handful, they are still working super hard and still trying to provide for their family; especially if they’re trying to pay college bills.

It seems that retirement age people tend to go back to church for a few reasons. They have time for it, or they don’t have many other things to do. Church becomes a social thing for them, especially if they are not savvy with social media or technology in general. In some cases, they feel worried about where they are in life and worried about what will happen to them on the other side.

This is all fine, except it makes my church feel like a retirement home as opposed to the vibrant community I know it could be.

Last Night I Didn’t Have A Seizure

Yesterday I didn’t have a seizure. This isn’t out of the ordinary. I don’t usually have seizures. I do have epilepsy, however, and I sometimes get symptoms. I was a little spaced out all day yesterday. For the most part it was fine, it was just a little difficult to pay attention in my first class. I took a little extra medication between my second and third class (which is totally allowed), and I felt better. I was mostly fine in my third class, but I still found it a bit difficult to read. That particular class is from 4:30 to 7:30 PM. By the end of it I was completely back to normal.

Quite frankly, I hate medication. I avoid headache meds like the plague. I don’t like the idea of some unnatural substance messing with my brain. My brain is already screwed up enough. I take the seizure meds because I have to. It’s times like last night when I really appreciate them, though.

I don’t know why, but last night I was thinking about miracles. I keep relearning over and over that miracles aren’t usually what we think they are. I guess I was thinking about this because of Tenth Avenue North’s new album. The main idea of the album is that we are God’s cathedrals: we are the dwelling places of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, wherever we go, that place becomes sacred. God allows people to do miracles. It happened in the Bible, and it happens now. Doctors didn’t make my epilepsy go away, but someone created these ugly little pills so that people like me can manage our problems.

Some engineer years ago figured out how to make powered wheelchairs and accessible cars so that people like me could go wherever the crap we want. I can’t use a regular wheelchair. I can’t push it myself because my arms don’t straighten enough, so it’s basically this or nothing.

There are so many technological advances and happy accidents in our lives that we take for granted. The truth is that all these things are miracles.

If you think about it, it’s a miracle the sun comes up every morning. It’s a miracle that there’s life on earth. It’s a miracle that life continues. So many things had to go right billions of years ago and have to continue going right it’s unfathomable.

For Lent last year I decided that instead of giving something up I was just going to make a point to pray more. I think I sort of succeeded in doing that. I definitely pray more, if not as much as I would like to. As part of this, however, I learned something; or at least I decided something. I try to pray whenever I have a meal. As part of that, I’ve learned to appreciate food more. There are other reasons for this as well. Part of it was learning more about where my food comes from, and part of it was learning more about countries where people don’t have easily accessible food like we do. I’m not saying food is a miracle. I’m just saying that there’s something kind of sacred about the act of eating.

My dad and I watched a TED Talk last night by an author who just does weird experiments and then writes books about them. His most recent book was about his experience with trying to follow every law in the Bible literally. There were a lot of things he learned from that, but one of them was that giving thanks is super important. He talked about how often times, we think it’s changing our minds that will modify our behavior, but it’s really the other way around; changing our behavior is what changes our minds. I think that’s true. This guy was agnostic, and remained agnostic after his experiment, but he realized through doing these Biblical rituals that there really is a kind of sacredness to things–whether it’s related to a higher being or not. Admittedly this was a bit confusing to me, but I think it makes sense on some level. I think sacredness can and should be felt, not simply intellectualized.

I know if I don’t bring it up, somebody else will, or will at least be thinking it: but what about the things in the world that are clearly bad? What about the things that are clearly not sacred? I’m not denying that there is evil in the world. I’m not denying that doing certain things is wrong and sinful. If that weren’t the case, then we wouldn’t have rules about not doing them. However, at some level, all creation is God’s creation. This includes human creativity. We are meant to be co-creators, and in some sense, co-redeemers. Bad stuff happens because we have free will and we derp around a lot, but I think beautiful things can be created even from a mess. Nasty things can be made sacred in one way or another. This too is miraculous.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Consistency

I’ve been known to say (jokingly of course) “Google knows all. Praise the all knowing Google!” My search history on Google has been extremely eclectic of late. When I’m bored I like to learn about things: everything from the Big Bang Theory to obscure religious groups/cults. I’ve also been trying to find a place to get my album mastered, and I was very recently doing research for a paper on eschatology (the study of the progress of history until the coming of God’s kingdom). You really can find anything just by typing it into that little search box.

Obviously a search engine doesn’t actually know anything; it’s just well equipped to find things. They say knowledge is power, and the Internet is extremely helpful when it comes to gaining knowledge. Sometimes I wonder what it really means to be smart. When I was little I thought it was simply knowing things that made a person smart. I don’t think so anymore. It’s how we use the factual knowledge we have that makes us smart. Intelligence also comes in the form of problem solving. The ability to think through things and fix problems or get out of situations is invaluable. Lastly, I think intelligence is knowing how to use power.

I think in the simplest terms, power is the ability to influence others and create change, whether for good or ill. What needs to be clarified is that “influence” and “control” are two very different things. Control, I think, is when influence turns to the dark side. In my theology class, which just finished yesterday, we talked about how a relationship with God is all about obedience. This is an obedience that people consent to. No one is forced into it. The same kind of thing goes for people’s obedience to each other. In the workplace, for example, people will happily work under a superior with no complaints if they like him/her and think that he/she is fair, etc.

These ideas are relevant when it comes to what people worship. It is impossible to deny that everyone worships something. In fact, most people worship many things to varying degrees, people of faith included. In fact, I’ve been known to say (jokingly) that music is my secondary religion (blasphemy, I know.) What I mean by that is simply that I love it–a lot. I can create it and interpret it and perform it, and though I can’t touch it or hold it, it’s very tangible to me. It helps me connect with people far beyond what my faith alone can do, and gosh darn it, it makes me happy.

Obviously I believe that there are right and wrong things to worship. Being a Christian, I believe that one is only supposed to worship God in a fairly specific way, etc. Beyond that, though, I think there are more right and more wrong things to worship. People worship things, and people worship other people. They do this because those things or people have power over them in some way. During his reign, the people of Germany worshiped Hitler because many of them believed that he was infallible and that he would restore their country to greatness, but also because he was a psychopathic tyrant who scared the crap out of everyone. The things people worship are often very good and intangible. For example, it can probably be said that some people worship philanthropy. In a way, this is like worshiping one of God’s traits without attributing it to anything or anyone greater. People often worship other people whom they are very close to. Admiration is a kind of worship, and so is love.

People worship who or what has power over them. Of course this is not always the case, but it is true. This can take many different forms. What is also true, however, is that people do not always worship a particular thing or person. This is because things and people change and sometimes have more influence in peoples’ lives and sometimes less. This is absolutely true of pop stars. For example, 12 year old girls worship Justin Bieber. However, these girls grow up and practically forget about him because they’ve moved on. In a sense, this is what it was like for the followers of ancient pagan religions. There were thousands of gods, and those gods were constantly changing; one day being kind, the next day, not so much. People needed thousands of gods because they couldn’t always rely on one for help and guidance. This is why monotheistic religions are so strong. God can change his mind, but his nature doesn’t change. He does everything out of love for humanity, and according to his plan which doesn’t change. That is why worship of God can stay consistent, unlike any created thing or any one person.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Belief vs Knowledge

Is believing something different from knowing it? I had a theology question a day or two ago, so I went to a discussion forum I had joined about a year or two ago to see what people thought. It had been several months, if not a year since I had gone there because last summer I decided that I was addicted to social media, so I quit everything except Facebook and flyinguineapig.

Anyway, I couldn’t find any threads about my particular question, and I didn’t feel like posting a new one so I left. Before I did though, I read a few posts on a thread about believing versus knowing something. I almost posted something, but I didn’t feel like getting into an argument, which actually happens a lot on that forum, but I thought I’d share my thoughts here.

Normally I would like to keep this open to belief in general, but I think in this case I might have to talk about it in the context of my personal beliefs. I think “belief” implies a lack of knowledge in one way or another. The online dictionary says that belief is “the acceptance of something as true or real.” Knowledge on the other hand is “What is known in a particular field or in total; facts and information.” I think faith may actually require both. There are things I know because I have accepted them as fact. There are also things that I believe, but don’t have enough information to accept them as fact or make judgments one way or another.

I think if one is to follow a particular religion or philosophy that there are beliefs within that system that they need to accept as fact. For example, Christianity is a very individual-oriented religion. One’s personal relationship with Christ is often what makes or breaks their faith. Therefore at the very least, people need to accept their salvation from sin and death as fact. Not knowing that for certain makes for a weak faith. I think Knowledge actually implies a very strong belief. There were facts in science that people accepted as true and real until they were proven false by innovation. For example, at one point in time people thought the earth was the center of universe. This was accepted as a scientific fact until it was refuted and a new model of the solar system was created.

In short, here are my definitions of  knowledge vs belief:

Knowledge: The acceptance of information as true based on evidence and conviction

Belief: The acceptance of ideas as true based on limited information and one’s personal desire/inclination to believe them

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Gallant Gears: Artists Unite!

Hey y’all! I thought I’d direct you to https://www.facebook.com/pages/Gallant-Gears/452339194853052?fref=ts. Gallant Gears is a small Jewelry business that was recently started by my buddy, Joe Amico. His pieces are inspired by Steam Punk, which according to Wikipedia is “…a sub genre of science fiction that typically features steam powered machinery, especially in a setting inspired by industrialized Western civilization during the 19th century.” I admit I had to Google it. 🙂

Anyway, his pieces are really great, and so are his prices. If you’re interested in Jewelry, Steam Punk or art in general you should really check it out!

Here are some of his pieces:

Butterfly

Cool Key Chain

More Stuff

Please “Like” his  Facebook Page.

Thanks!

Open And Honest With Perfect Strangers

In my time of being on various discussion forums and of blogging, I’ve noticed something that is actually quite concerning. It seems that people in general (myself included) are much more open and honest about just about anything through the medium of the internet. Many people feel much more comfortable talking about their dirty secrets, how they feel about things, what’s troubling them, etc, and by the same token, I think people are much more likely to give advice and “say what needs to be said.”

This of course brings up the question, “why?”

I know anonymity must be a huge part of it; it’s easier to say things from behind a user name and across cyber space. I just don’t quite understand why It’s easier to talk to people who might as well not exist rather than people we know and love. For example, I’ve mentioned on this blog that I had a “religious experience” through a dream that has really helped to shape who I am this past year or so, and yet the only person whom I personally know who knows about it is my cousin who I’m not actually that close to and who is almost an atheist. I could have told my best friend who I actually do tell almost everything to, and I could have to told my friend/mentor/teacher who likewise, knows a lot of my “dirty little secrets.”

I think the fact that we’re never actually going to meet the people we talk to on the internet plays a part in this as well. Many of the things people talk about are just embarrassing. I suppose It’s sort of like throwing something out there and not having to look at where we throw it. Perhaps having to interact with the person who knows your secrets can feel like having to interact with a manifestation of them in a way. Perhaps seeing that person is just a reminder that you have these thoughts, feelings, secrets, etc.

Perhaps it isn’t all bad that we do talk about these kinds of things on the internet. After all, humans are all fallen, and we are meant to confess our sins to God and to each other, so if the internet makes that easier, maybe It’s a good thing. I still can’t help feeling that It’s kind of like taking the easy way out. Perhaps what needs to happen is that if people insist on discussing these things on the internet, then they should make themselves a little less public. What I mean by this is that maybe people should try to make stronger connections with a select few whom they will share things with. I think people need to try to make genuine friendships and I think it can be done. I think there will still be a sense of anonymity, but also a sense of intimacy that will make talking about serious matters less stressful and more meaningful. I also sincerely think that people really need to just try and be more open and honest with the friends and family they already know and love.

How To Kill Time

The internet can be very interesting, helpful, fun, social and amusing, but it can also be a murderous maniac on a blind rampage seeking to kill time. The internet does this in a very crafty way. It has something for everyone, and therefore, brings in the largest group of people possible. There is social networking like Facebook, Twitter and others. There is music and video sharing on sites such as YouTube. There are forums that cater to nearly every interest, activity and point of view.

Using these kinds of sites can be very helpful and fun. However, I have also found it a monumental waste of time when not used properly. I like so many others have fallen prey to the lure of the internet. This is mainly due to the fact that, unlike text messaging or calling someone on the phone, waiting for an email or a reply on a social networking site or forum can take hours if not days.

While waiting for answers, it can be very tempting to waste time on an online game or an arbitrary task such as sending inane text messages to friends or checking every single site you’ve made a profile on. Unfortunately, internet addiction is a real and dangerous thing.

Blogging I find, is actually very helpful in avoiding wasting time. Of course I wait for answers, but one has to remind oneself that most of the conversations one has online are realistically, inconsequential and the world won’t end if a random stranger doesn’t get back to you. I find blogging helpful, because I write an entry and I leave. I don’t feel obligated to reply to someone else, and I don’t expect many people if any to reply to my posts. Let’s face it, they’re long and rambly. It is also true that a blog is not meant to be a conversation. I personally feel that a blog is a one way road. I do feel that is polite to reply to conversations in a timely manner, however, I feel it is best to do it at one’s own convenience.