Tag Archives: Literature

The Battle Of Helm’s Deep

Church is sometimes awkward. This past weekend was the celebration of Christ the King. Our priest is really good at making things plain and simple. He said we all had to just stop and ask ourselves who or what is, or is going to be our king in the end. He said there are ultimately two questions one needs to ask in deciding who or what our king is going to be: 1) can this person or thing love me unconditionally, and 2), can this person or thing protect me? The choice is ours. That’s a complicated choice, and it’s one we often have to make more than once. I’ve made my choice, and I’ll continue to make the same choice. Jesus is my king. The reason our priest’s homily was awkward for me was that it brought something else to mind. I have to trust my king.

I have made my choice, and I will continue to make the same choice, as I said. Jesus is my king, and I trust Him. The problem is that I’m having trouble trusting the church hierarchy. He’s pointed out to me that He has allowed those in charge to have the power they have. That kind of means I have trouble trusting His patience and wisdom. I’m reminded of a scene from Lord of the Rings. It’s before the battle at Helm’s Deep. The people of Rohan are drastically outnumbered, and the king asks one of his servants, “Who am I gambling?” The servant, who is arming him for battle says, “You are our king, Sire,” To which the king responds, “And do you trust your king?” The servant says, “Your men, my Lord, will follow you to whatever end.”

Right now, I kind of feel like one of the soldiers of Rohan. I kind of feel like we’re outnumbered. In the end, Rohan won that battle, and I know we’ll win this one. I do trust my King, but I want to trust Him more. That was my awkward prayer at church yesterday. There is no other person or thing–not my parents, not my brother, and not my bird–who can love me absolutely unconditionally. Everyone has a breaking point. That’s a fact. My family can protect me from most things, but not everything; not death, and certainly not the consequences of sin. Only Jesus can do that, and I will worship only Him.

I wrote a while ago about the wedding at Cana when Mary tells the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them to. I hadn’t thought about it then, partly because it wasn’t related to the point I was making, but they do exactly what He tells them, despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense. “They’re out of wine? Okay, you guys, fill those empty jars with water.” There’s no indication that the servants know what He intends to do, or even what He’s capable of. They just do it. Maybe it’s simply because they are servants and are used to just doing what they’re told, whether it makes sense or not. I think those servants are actually an excellent model for how we are supposed to relate to the Lord. Things get messed up. That’s okay. He can fix it, and He wants us to help. That’s actually pretty simple.

Despite the often strange and extreme lengths Jesus goes to to show us His love, we’re pretty slow to recognize it. When I became Christian, I didn’t have any really serious Christian friends. Luckily, when God made me, he made a stubborn woman, so I prayed. I prayed for years about this. It did take years, but now I do have faithful Catholic friends, and though it took me a little while to recognize it, I really am grateful. If we are facing the Battle of Helm’s Deep, then this is my declaration, “I will follow my King to whatever end.”

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Idols And Heroes

Last night, my dad and I ended up laughing at a musician we heard on a Spotify playlist who was trying to be a poignant country singer, but really just came across as whiney and corny. His lyrics were really quite terrible. Then, of course, because I’m a musician, we ended up talking about songwriters who are actually good at what they do. A songwriter I admire very much is Eddie Vedder, lead singer of Pearl Jam. My dad agreed that Pearl Jam was a really good, original band, but, he said, Eddie can try to hard to “be his idols” when it comes to his own side projects. I know, for example, that he “idolizes” Neil Young. I don’t know that I totally agree with my dad because I love Eddie’s music, especially the weird stuff, but I also love Neil Young, so there’s that.

Our conversation then moved to an idea my dad had for our house in Maine. He said we should have a bookshelf with work from all of our “Idols.” He started listing off people he admired, and I noticed, he stopped using the word “Idol,” and switched to “Hero.” It’s an interesting distinction. Our God commanded that we are not supposed to have idols because there is only one God, and only He is worthy of worship. Another interesting question is: when does one cross the line from admiration to worship? I have a very long list of people I admire, but I don’t worship any of them. I don’t worship them because I know my God, and I know what worship is, and how to worship. I had to be taught, though.

I think worship invariably has to be taught, whether it is worship of God, or worship of some other human or thing. Catholics, for example, have specific religious practices that are forms of worship. Perhaps worship of a certain musician, for example, would involve getting a guitar and learning to play all of their songs, playing them at open mic nights, and listening to their songs all the time, and seeing them live whenever they’re in the area.

This is not to say one cannot do all these things and be an avid fan without worshiping them. A better example than Pearl Jam for me might be Tenth Avenue North. I know and love almost every one of their songs. I’m more of a singer than a guitarist, and I can harmonize on plenty of them. I recently went to see Mercy Me just because Tenth Avenue North was opening for them. I’ve seen them several times by now. Still, they’re just dudes, and I don’t worship them.

In the end, whether it comes to awesome humans or awesome things, I think everyone at one time or another needs a reality check. Everything and everyone in the world, whether it’s a black hole, or a baby has an ultimate Source, and if the effort is taken to find that Source, there’s not much that can be done but to worship Him. The uncreated God created this universe and everything in it out of love because He wanted it–wanted us–to exist.

Truthfully, I think that’s why I love mythology and I admire good fantasy writers so much. If there is any writer I aspire to be like, it’s J.R.R. Tolkien. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, and the universe it takes place in is genius. Right now I’m rereading the four books of the Inheritance Cycle, by Christopher Paolini. I admire this writer, too, not because his universe is genius, but because his style is eloquent, but easy to follow, and his story is enjoyable.

I loved my dad’s bookshelf idea because I do have heroes. I have a long list of heroes. Some of those heroes are Catholic, some are non-Catholic Christians, and many are not Christian at all. In fact, I have no idea what they believe, or believed, but they are or were admirable. There are still more whose names I don’t even know, but whom I consider heroes. With all this in mind, I submit to you all my list of heroes. These are in no particular order, and are not separated into categories. It’s also probably not exhaustive, but these are the people who come to mind as heroic.

-J.R.R. Tolkien
-Seamus Heaney
-William Wallace
-The Astronauts of the first Apollo mission
-J.K. Rowling
-C.S. Lewis
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky
-Christopher Paolini
-Eddie Vedder
-The members of U2
-The members of Tenth Avenue North
-Neil Young
-The Indigo Girls
-Any martyr of any faith
-Anyone who stands up to injustice in any way
-Saint Faustina
-Saint Dismas
-James Gallagher, the first person to fly nonstop around the world
-The crew of the HMS Challenger

NOTE: Jesus and His Mother are not on this list simply because they’re too obvious and I didn’t think I needed to put them on here.

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!

The Intensity Of Head-Space

Today is Star Wars Day, so of course I have to write about it. There’s so much I could write about. Realistically, it’s an absolutely amazing story. It has so much longevity, and as far as I know, it’s the closest we’ve got to a parallel universe. What I mean by that is, for one thing, it exists in several genres. Regardless of the quality, one can read, watch, and play Star Wars. This has been true since the very beginning. The universe exploded with A New Hope, and it’s still expanding. What is also significant is that is the amount of contributions from fans. The people who love this story shape what happens in its future and in the parts of the galaxy we wouldn’t otherwise see.

The latest RPG I’ve been a part of is a Star Wars rendition of Dark Heresy. We decided to go this route because we understood and cared about that universe. The time period our game takes place in is the height of the Empire (between Revenge of the Sith, and A New Hope), far away from where the “main story” is taking place. Before this, I had been part of two Dungeons and Dragons campaigns. I hastily threw together my characters, not thinking too much about who they really were, what they cared about, or where they came from. This time I took time.

My character’s name is Sky Turin. Before becoming a Jedi padawan she lived with her father on the lowest level of a planet similar to Coruscant, though this was not where she was originally from. Her parents were from the Sky, which was the wealthiest part of the planet. Think of Cloud City. The Surface, where she lived for most of her early life was the poorest. Her parents were what would probably be the Star Wars version of missionaries, working to empower the poorest people on the planet. When Sky was nineteen she rescued a Jedi, not much older than herself, who crash-landed in her neighborhood while in pursuit of a Dark Jedi. Dark Jedi, if you don’t know, were force-users who were not directly allied with the Jedi or the Sith. They generally minded their own business, but the few Jedi who remained after the Empire took most of them out pursued them, either to bring them over to their side or detain them if they could.

While Sky was helping Val escape, Val discovered that Sky could use the Force, though she didn’t know what she was doing at the time. Sky went with Val to the remaining Jedi–none of them officially masters–and was permitted to learn the Force and become a Jedi herself, as the Jedi were desperate for recruits. After some preliminary training with a light saber, Sky and Val went to a planet similar to Earth to investigate a possible meeting of Dark Jedi in a mountainous area, similar to the Rocky Mountains. While they were there they were ambushed and captured. Their captivity didn’t last long, however, because Val was extremely powerful with the Force. They were able to escape, but had to leave in separate ships. When Sky returned to the Jedi council, she discovered that Val had not returned. The council would not permit her to look for Val, so she left and began searching against their will. This is where I entered our campaign. While I don’t know the specifics of where the story is going, I do know that Sky is assertive, hates the Dark Jedi, hates the Empire, and mistrusts the Jedi themselves. She has been taught that the Dark Side is evil, and will lead to her own destruction, but she’s so obsessed with finding Val that she will most likely not always stick to the Code entirely. She’s also impulsive and will probably make some stupid decisions.

I considered writing Sky’s story in full detail. In fact, I tried, but she’s too distant from me, for lack of a better way to say it. Ironically, I think I have trouble creating a story in an already existent universe. My novel takes place in a future version of the U.S., but almost everything about that world is my own. It feels awkward to me to write about a universe that someone else made, even if I’m inventing most of the details of a story that is otherwise original. It feels weird to talk about the Force and the Empire and the Jedi as if they were my own. It feels invasive in a way, like I’m invading someone else’s creative space. At the same time, the Star Wars universe has always seemed very inviting when it comes to original ideas. I think what this ultimately comes back to is that I’m much better at coming up with characters than I am at coming up with plot. I’m great at writing their past, but when it comes to writing their present, I often get stuck.

I’ve written two hundred pages of my novel thus far, and I’m about fifty pages into Part 2. Part 1 was a lot easier to write. So far I’ve had to write two battle scenes. I think they were both okay, but they both need work. I have trouble with timing and intensity. Right now I’m working on a captivity situation. I have to deal with the head-space of a character who has just been captured and is about to be interrogated by an evil government. This kind of scene is slower, but I think, just as intense, and I’m much better at writing this kind of thing. I think Star Wars is a very action-oriented story, and maybe this is why I have trouble writing in that universe.

One of the greatest stories I’ve ever read is Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Most of that story takes place in dialogue and internal thoughts, which one might assume would be boring, but it’s anything but. Solitude, in particular, can make for some seriously intense character and plot development. Head-space, while mostly metaphorical, is still space, and in that space, anything can happen. In that space, a character can go insane or overcome impossible odds. A person’s psychology makes them who they are, and plot can’t exist without characters. A world without people in it doesn’t matter.

I’ve seen some great and some terrible post-apocalyptic movies. I’ve noticed two things regarding these, and regarding my story. First, the movies that are good have more people in them. It’s hard for a story to maintain its momentum when no one is around to keep things going. Second, what I’ve noticed, and sometimes want to smack myself for, is that I keep creating more characters. My story takes place over a very large area–basically the entire United States. I’ve noticed that the space in which a story takes place tends to correspond with the number of characters that are needed to keep the story going. Sometimes great movies or great stories take place in one house, or even one room. Sometimes there are only two or three characters involved, and these stories can be great. Some of the most intense scenes in my story are conversations or even internal monologues.

Interestingly, in the case of Star Wars, we really don’t get to see too much of the characters’ head-space, at least not directly. Their personalities come out in how they react and adapt to various situations. This is clearly effective because we know and love characters like R2D2 and Chewbacca, who never even speak a word of English. However, I think to get to know characters in this way, there needs to be constant action. There isn’t a lot of time, or even good reason to slow down. Finding a happy medium is definitely difficult. I think the few exceptions are the exchanges between Luke and Vader in Return of the Jedi, but even these are short and almost invariably turn into light saber fights. The thing about dialogue is that it has to be executed well. There are far more longer exchanges in The Phantom Menace-Revenge of the Sith, but they’re often not well written. They’re either boring or cheesey. If there had been less talk and more action, I think they would have been better movies.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Write Your Story

 

Over the weekend I went absolutely Star Wars crazy. I’ve already seen the movie three times. I’ve done more than my fair share of theorizing about the next one already. My friends and I have all been very nostalgic about the old movies, and are now super excited about where the story is going. I’ve imagined what it would be like to be a Star Wars character (Jedi or not), and I’ve wondered whether I would turn to the dark side. At the same time, I began to feel a strange, increasing feeling of seemingly misplaced guilt, or something like it.

Eventually I thought, “What gives?”

Then it came to me. “You don’t want to live in that universe. You may feel like you would have more agency; you might have more of a chance of being a hero, but planets get blown up in that universe. Billions upon billions of people die in a matter of minutes or hours.”

Still, this whole thought process wasn’t normal. I’ve done this before–the whole “what if” thing. I’ve imagined myself as another character in another world, living a different story and thought nothing of it.

So I argued. “I’m just having fun. Star Wars is just such a good, fun story. It’s obviously fictional, and no, I probably wouldn’t want to live in that universe. It’s just fun to think about.”

At this point I was convinced I was arguing with God. I probably shouldn’t do that, but it happens. He said, “Your story’s fun, too.”

Me: Yeah, but it’s not as fun as Star Wars.

Him: Make it as fun as Star Wars. It’s your story. You can make it whatever you want it to be.

Me: You mean my novel, right?

Him: Yes.

Me: I’ll try, but I need your help. It’s your story, too.

Him: I know. So you’ve told me. I’ll help you when you get stuck. I want you to write an amazing story, and I want you to use it for good. I know you can.

This is an actual conversation I had. Maybe it was with God, maybe it wasn’t, but answers were coming back to me in a way that made it seem like I wasn’t just talking to myself, and I’m convinced. On top of that, I ended up writing for around four hours straight yesterday, and I finally finished a scene that I was really nervous about writing. I’ve been agonizing and procrastinating because of it for at least a couple of weeks now. Yesterday it just seemed to come to me.

There are going to be two parts to my novel, and I’m very close to finishing Part One. I’m going to have a couple trustworthy people read it before moving on to Part Two, and I’m probably going to have to do a lot of editing, but especially in the past few weeks, for one thing, my style has been improving quite a bit. I seem to be getting back into the groove. I started writing this novel over the summer, and there was a time where I could write ten pages in a day. Then in October (I think) I hit a brick wall and went for several weeks without writing at all. Then my mommy yelled at me. Both my parents, but she especially seem to be convinced that it’s my destiny to write the next great Science Fiction novel. I hope they’re right. I’m falling in love with this story again, and yesterday, as I said, I wrote a lot. I’m going to try and finish Part One by next Monday because I’d like people to read it while they’re on vacation.

For reference, I’ve written almost 120 pages. That’s the most I’ve written ever, at least on one project. I’ve invented a futuristic drug trade. I’ve invented an alphabet. I’ve developed an evil, corrupt government plot (the details of which you’ll just have to wait for). In retrospect, I’m darn proud of this story. If nothing else, it’s complicated. Admittedly, there’s a part of me that wants to use this story to legitimize Science Fiction as a genre in the literary world. At school I took every creative writing class that was offered, but of course, that did not include fantasy or Sci-Fi. In many ways, realistic fiction lost its charm for me a long time ago. It has to be a really freaking compelling story for it to hold my interest. I live in this universe. Why would I want to read about it? If there’s no magic, no dragons, no space ships, no “what if,” then it’s no fun.

The argument, or so I’ve heard, is that sci-fi and fantasy are nothing more than entertainment because they are not relevant to real-world issues. That’s only the case if you let it be. You can absolutely use alternate universes to address issues of morality, power, politics, and spirituality, among other things, all of which come up in my story. What happens if religion is taken out of the equation entirely? What happens when the military has the most political power? What would happen if you brought magic into the equation? A friend of mine said something that i thought was quite interesting and true. She said that a miracle is something that we just aren’t able to explain yet. I’d like to explore that as well.

Anyway, I’m playing Dungeons and Dragons later, so I should get back to work.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

 

Insomnia Induced Idea

I went to bed uncharacteristically early last night because my epilepsy wasn’t behaving, which of course meant I woke up at some unreasonable hour. I wanted to get up and read, but that would have been a pain for my parents, so I decided to invent a story instead. Somehow that got me thinking about the story line I’ve been following in Oblivion, which turned out to be entirely unhelpful since I’m presently stuck in that game (I’ve been playing Minecraft instead).

Eventually, because my mind is a tangential lunatic, and because insomnia is particularly conducive to intellectual meandering, I got to thinking about Christmas. Christmas is about celebrating how God came among us as a human, and I realized something interesting. The Gospel is not the only story in which a god becomes human, but it is unique in that, as far as I know, it’s the only story in which a god becoming human has a good outcome for humanity in general. It is also the only story in which, again, as far as I know, a god comes among humans as someone vulnerable and helpless. Lastly, it is the only story in which his humanity is permanent, and has a permanent outcome.

We hear all the time how amazing it is that God came among us in human form, but compare it to other stories. Last fall I took a class about ancient literature–namely Greek and Roman mythology. It was a ton of fun because those stories are absolutely insane. I love the insanity, and I realized that a lot of what those gods did made no sense, but a lot the things the Christian God does don’t seem to make a ton of sense either (to me at least). The difference is that God does everything out of love, while in most other stories involving deities, the gods are largely self-serving. Furthermore, those stories are episodic, and while some of the stories in the Bible are episodic, it is professed that God has an overarching plan for humanity.

This is what happens when you study literature and theology together.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

Hope For The Waiting

I am a huge fan of epic stories. Most people are. I think this is in large part because they are a lot more interesting than our own mundane lives. Last night my dad and I finished watching the Lord of the Rings series for the umpteenth time. I don’t think either of us will ever get tired of those movies. The thing is, after you’ve seen them so many times, you begin to see different things that you’ve missed before, or you begin to view the characters differently. You begin to look at the movies as a whole from an artistic standpoint in some ways. They just never get old.

It’s the same with any good story, but what exactly is it that makes a story good; what makes a story timeless? I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, the Inheritance Cycle, the Hunger Games, and other stand-alone novels and movies. In some ways, all of these stories are very different, but what they all have in common is the triumph of good over evil. I think it is precisely this that makes a story great. Of course they are well written, and employ elements of suspense, high stakes, etc, but ultimately, what the human heart wants is for everything to work out. The human heart wants love and justice and some kind of redemption. Furthermore, we like things to be black and white. We like heroes and villains because we know who is right and whose side we should be on.

Real life doesn’t always give us that, and our stories aren’t usually that epic. Perhaps we are side characters in someone else’s epic story, or perhaps we’re really just not that exciting. Everything isn’t as cut and dry as we would like it, and we find that between shadow and light is a lot of gray area. Truth becomes a loaded word and white lies become useful. Stories are confused, exaggerated and changed to fit the situation, and the future is uncertain. The truth is that even though real life is less exciting than epic stories most of the time, it’s a lot more complicated. We have some guidelines for right and wrong; good and evil, but even so, we often have to trust that what we’re doing is right based on our best guess and a hope.

I think stories give us that hope: especially true stories. We have to remember that there are plenty of real-life stories about good triumphing over evil. There are plenty of real-life stories about human redemption. It happens in small, unlikely places, in weird, unexpected ways. We believe in these stories because they make real life a little more interesting and a little more bearable.

This is Easter weekend, and whether you believe in it or not, I think the resurrection of Christ is an excellent finish to a really good story. The Old Testament is filled with trials and adventures and triumphs and failures. It’s filled with danger and suspense, and in some cases, peace and redemption seem impossible. Even the Exodus alone is an excellent story, as evidenced by the fact that it has been portrayed countless times and different ways in movies.

Even if it is taken simply as a story, I think the implications of Christ’s triumph over death is enough to bring people a little joy and hope. It is the ultimate triumph of good over evil. Of course some might argue that, from a literary perspective (if we are only taking it as a story), it’s a little bit cheap to have him rise from the dead, but Gandalf did the exact same thing in Lord of the Rings, and I don’t know of too many people who would argue with that. Lord of the Rings clearly falls into the category of fantasy, and taken only as a story, the Bible does, too. I suppose that’s why it is rather hard to digest: it is a fantastic story of epic proportions that is taken as true.

If the Gospels are taken as the last several chapters of an epic story, it seems like a rather anticlimactic conclusion. A baby is born in a barn. He grows up in a good, but poor family. As he grows up, he begins to realize who he is and his importance. Eventually he starts teaching and his message is one of peace, acceptance and love. He is condemned and killed for it. He comes back from the dead to give hope to his followers and to show the world who he really is. He goes up into Heaven and sends his Spirit as a moral and spiritual guide for humanity. He leaves his people with the promise that he will make the world right.

This is the end of one story. However, it is the beginning of another, and each of us is writing our own version. Ultimately, the story will end like this: Jesus will come back and bring his Kingdom with him. The world will be made right and evil will finally be eradicated. That is why the resurrection is such a good ending. It might be seemingly anticlimactic, but it makes a difference in our real-life stories, and it gives us hope for the waiting.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The List

Things I want to do:

Get married
Get payed for playing music
Travel (everywhere if possible)
Be philanthropic
Change the world (on a small scale would suffice)
Own at least one pet (this will be happening soon)
Pay rent
Buy groceries
Start over at something
Start something new
Go skydiving
Sit at the top of a mountain
Burn the ships
Get utterly and completely lost and then find my way back
Be an aunt
Read lots of books (working on this one)
Live a century
Be happy (in progress)

It isn’t exactly a bucket list, but in some ways it is.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why Should We Care?

Something we talk about a lot at school is 1) what is beautiful and 2), why do we/should we care? I’ve recently decided, as mentioned in a few previous posts, that there is good in everything. Something good can be found in every event, situation, person, place and object in this world. Of course, goodness and beauty aren’t exactly the same thing, but I do think that beauty is inherently good. I would also like to clarify that horrible disasters, for example, are not good in themselves. They do, however, tend to bring out the good in people. Sometimes, it’s impossible to see good in things, but it is there. God has a plan, and his plan is insanely complicated and confusing and indiscernible, but it is inherently good.

There is a line in “You Do All Things Well” by Tenth Avenue North that says, “You work in beauty, even out of ugly things.” God uses people and things in completely unexpected ways to change the world and do miracles. It is partly the unexpectedness of these miracles that is beautiful. Whenever we see something that is beautiful, we can identify it as being so. However, there are things that one might not immediately label as beautiful, but some people still call them that.

I do not think however, that Beauty is so subjective. I do believe in absolutes. I have trouble identifying them, but they do exist, and it is best to adhere to them if possible. When I Googled “beauty in the Bible,” I found a whole slew of verses talking about how we should worship the Lord for his greatness and beauty, but that earthly beauty is dubious at best. There are so many commercials on TV featuring women with fake foreign accents flopping around, acting “sexy,” with bright lipstick and shiny hair. The word “sexy” triggers alarms in my head. For me, “sexy” is synonymous with “superficial,” and “superfluous.” These women, to me, are not beautiful.

Something that really freaks me out is when women who are 50 try to look 30. It’s just not “natural” to me. I get that some women do it because of insecurity issues or what have you, but it’s still kind of freaky. I suppose it’s a little judgmental of me to think this way, but I’ve always thought that one should look their age, as well as act their age. I’m not trying to bash women who are into looking pretty, and if it honestly makes them feel good about themselves, awesome. Good for them.

The point is to talk about what is beautiful. I believe that we are given examples of beauty on Earth so that we can understand God’s beauty, to a small degree. We mostly find beauty in visual art (paintings, sculpture, etc), music, and stories. Many times we call emotional sentiments beautiful. Beauty, therefore, seems to be understood primarily as an emotional response to stimuli of a certain kind. Some people, scientists in particular, call things like mathematics “beautiful,” perhaps because it gives them an understanding of something they would not have known before. In a sense, art does the same thing in a different way. We often understand love, for example, in terms of metaphors. Without these metaphors, we would only understand it as an abstract, and somewhat removed emotion.

If beauty is an emotional response, then is it an important one, or is it superfluous? Is it generally harmful or helpful to individuals or society as a whole? Why should we care about art or bother to nurture our sense of beauty? I tend to think that beauty is an important emotion to nurture. If we think about jealousy for example, we find that it can often be a motivator for positive action. I am jealous of the way my friend sings, so I strive to be a better singer. Although rather indefinable, beauty is also a positive motivator. If we can’t find it, we create it. It also seems to be a catalyst for other, stronger emotions and actions such as love, joy, or empathy.

My brother has been assigned “Hamlet” for the second time in high school, and he is thoroughly displeased. I love “Hamlet” because of the beautiful language and deeper issues within the play. Sam hates the idea of looking for deeper meanings, artistic devices, or analyzing the emotional states of characters and relating them to real life; English class type stuff. He argues that it is pointless and unproductive and says that the United States should sacrifice a generation of Children and only teach math and science in schools because our country would be so much farther along in terms of solving problems.

It’s true. We would be much farther along in those fields if a generation was sacrificed. However, would this generation understand love? would they even be able to relate to one another? Would they be able to work together to solve problems? It’s possible to a degree if part of the curriculum involved classes on cooperation, but the whole idea just sounds very stark and lonely. What would our culture be like? What would people do in their free time? If everyone was working in scientific innovation, there would be no one writing books or making movies or composing music. These are the things that people talk about and enjoy together. This scenario sounds extreme, but entertainment media is a huge part of our culture, and in terms of curing diseases or figuring out how the Big Bang happened, it is pointless.

We learn about literature and art in schools so that those of us who enjoy it can create more, quality art. At least that’s my take on it. What about religion? Would religion be banned from this society of math and science? Perhaps not if the purpose of excluding art is to solve problems more efficiently, since religious groups are often concerned with helping others and solving problems. Then again, religion and science sometimes tend to be in contention, so it might be a precarious friendship. Lastly, art and beauty often bridge gaps between cultures and create empathy between people who may not otherwise be prepared to accept each other.

Obviously, I’m very biased, but I just can’t imagine a world without art and beauty since my life revolves around it. One last question I would like to pose is, does it really matter what happened before the Big Bang? As interesting as they may be, I feel that some scientific “innovations” are just as unhelpful as our favorite movies. It’s all relative, and we all like to have our fun.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Things I’m Thankful For

I know Thanksgiving was a couple days ago, but I haven’t had time to get to a computer until now.

My aunt did this “month of gratitude” thing where she had to post something she’s grateful for every day through the month of November. I thought I’d do my own list and share it with you guys.

1) My family… the huge, insane, lovable mess that it is
2) My friends… for introducing me to lots of good movies and music and for always being there
3) Music… for getting me through every allnighter and making me happy
4) Movies… because they are wonderful. Nuff said
5) My faith in God… I don’t know where I’d be without him
6) Coffee
7) Chocolate
8) My bed
9) The wood stove in my basement
10) Cute animals
11) My education
12) My mom’s accessible car (even though it’s falling apart)
13) My wheelchair
14) Electricity
15) Humor
16) My insane dreams
17) The ability to use language
18) The ability to make music
19) The ability to help others
20) Forgiveness
21) Love
22) Art (literature & visual art)
23) My medication
24) Technology (even though it insists on fighting me most of the time)
25) Video games
26) My eyesight (as crappy as it is)
27) My hearing (because it’s awesome and therefore I’m super good at eavesdropping)
28) Traditions
29) The sacrifices people make for me and for each other
30) The absurdly satisfying clicking sound my keyboard makes when I type

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!