Tag Archives: Movies

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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One Year Later

I’ve been trying for a week, at least, to do two things. It’s been difficult, because they are related, and if I can’t do one, then I can’t do the other, either. It’s Valentine’s Day, and all weekend I’ve been trying to convince myself that I don’t care. I’m about 90% of the way there. It’s important that I don’t care because, for one thing, I’m single, and for another, I promised God that I would belong to him 100%, and to me, at least for right now, that means not having a “romantic” relationship with anyone else. I decided on this many months ago because, for several, rather complicated reasons, finding a partner would be difficult at best.

This decision has been, for the most part, emotionally helpful. It seems counter-intuitive, but giving up in that department has allowed me to be happy for people who do have strong relationships, has allowed me to focus on more important things, namely my novel, my hobbies, and my friends, and has allowed me to strengthen my relationship with God. However, just because I’ve decided I will never have a “significant other” and have decided not to look, does not mean I don’t still sometimes want a partner.

Last month, when I realized Valentine’s Day was coming up, I started to feel a little bad. I’ve realized that this issue is a little more complicated than I originally assumed. I’ve read and heard some things explaining how having a strong relationship can be a way of glorifying God. Lately I’ve been trying to figure out exactly what it means to belong to God 100%. I want to know if I can have a partner and still be dedicated entirely to him. The thing is, I feel like it’s a little bit of a betrayal if I’m longing after something I can’t have. But if I’m longing after that person (whoever it might be), does that mean I should seek them out? I’m just a little bit stuck.

A little while ago I went on Facebook. Normally that would be a bad idea for someone like me on this day, but I actually liked seeing what people were doing or a few silly or cynical posts. I was going to go to the movies with a couple of friends tonight, but they ended up having other obligations. I planned to go to the movies to distract myself, but actually, I don’t need to. As far as I’m concerned, today is just another ordinary day. I have some things I’d like to get done, anyway.

I know this day can be hard. I totally get it. I wish I had some words of wisdom to share, but I really don’t. I’ve been trying to figure out a meaningful way to tell the world that God loves everyone; God’s love is eternal; God’s love is no-matter-what, but I can’t. I don’t know how to make that sink in. I can’t figure out how to say it in a way that hasn’t been said before. You’ve probably heard it so many times that it doesn’t mean much any more. You have to feel it to know it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why I Like Star Wars More Than Lord Of The Rings

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Because Guinea Pigs Can Fly

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

Where To Find God

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

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

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

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

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Three Dreams

Last night I had a few very weird dreams.

The first was that the world was ending and no one knew how to save it except for one really annoying guy who no one wanted to talk to. That dream didn’t really go anywhere, except that I eventually ended up talking to him because I didn’t want the world to end. The problem was that I couldn’t understand what he was saying for some reason, so I just sort of had to follow him and do what I thought he was trying to tell me.

Then I had two similar dreams.

My second dream was that everyone had a number over their head and depending on what they were doing, or how healthy they were, the number went up or down. I was at Canobe Lake Park with my cousins, and a girl somehow got hurt on the Corkscrew. Her number went down to zero, but she refused to die.

My third dream was that there was some kind of disaster in a big storage building. A few workers got trapped in there and there was a fire. One guy got half his body burned, but he was completely calm and peaceful while he waited for help that eventually did come.

I try not to read too much meaning into dreams unless I’m absolutely sure I’m supposed to. I’m not sure about these ones. For some reason I have a lot of dreams about disasters or the end of the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s because I watch too many movies. Anyway, I don’t think these are too important. I just want to remember them I guess, so I figured I’d write them down.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Falling In Love Again

Well, hello again. I’ve taken a bit of a break from blogging for a few reasons. I’ve mostly just been doing other things. I’ve spent a lot of time with my cousins and friends since I got out of school. Yesterday we went to our cousins’ house for Amber’s 22nd birthday party, and to visit the animals. They have three cats and a small dog. One of their cats was mine for a couple years until we figured out that my brother was very allergic to him. We had named him Hercules, but they renamed him Elvis. In my opinion Hercules was a better name, but that’s beside the point. That cat is 16 or 17 years old now, and much less of a jerk. I think he knew my brother was allergic because when he was a kitten, he would perch himself on the back of a couch, wait until my brother walked by, and then pounce. He wasn’t playful about it, either. He was aiming to kill. Now he mostly just sleeps in boxes that are obviously too small to be sleeping in.

I also spent 10 hours playing Portal over Christmas week. There’s not a whole lot to say about that except that it was very relaxing and very fun. GLaDOS is officially my favorite villain of all time. She’s hilarious. My brother had been trying to get me to play that game literally for years. Spoiler alert; the cake is a lie.

I’ve been open mic hopping, as well. Last week I did one on Monday and one on Tuesday, which was great fun. I’m featuring at my favorite open mic on the 14th. I’m actually missing my first 6:00-9:00 class to do so. I screwed that up, planning-wise, but it was the first slot they had open, so I took it. I keep falling in love with music over and over again. I’m in the honeymoon phase right now (again). I’ve written two new songs fairly recently. One I wrote right before my break started, and one I wrote just this past week. Falling in love with music again is great, because when I’m in love with music, I’m perfectly okay–actually better than okay–with being single. In all seriousness, though, I have to do music. Ideally, I would have it be a full-time job, but it’s gratifying singing to four people in a tiny bar for free. If I have to get a “real job” for a while to allow me to do that, so be it.

In other news, Christmas was great. Christmas mass was actually really nice, despite the fact that our priest’s homily was obnoxious. We’re ignoring that. The point is, I got to sing about Jesus with my family and my best friend who is agnostic. It was really nice of her to come anyway. After church (midnight mass) we exchanged gifts. I got her the first two Hunger Games books, and she got me How To Train Your Dragon 2, and a Toothless plushie, which just makes me so happy. I actually got kind of a weird array of gifts this year. I got a new headset for my computer and a bunch of Guitar Center monies, which were the only things I asked for, but my parents also got me a couple old video games, and a book of Seamus Heaney poems. I also got a few little things like guitar picks and such (I tend to lose them, accidentally give them away, or leave them places). Overall, it was an awesome Christmas. New Year’s was good, too. My little cousin who lives nearby came over, as well as a couple of my friends, and we hung around, watched movies and played video games.

So I’m in a much better mood than the last time I blogged. Happy New Year, everyone!

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Procrastination Holiday Mash Up

Since high school my Christmas list has gotten shorter and shorter. There’s usually one or two things I want that I’m too cheep to buy, and one or two things I need, and that’s what I ask for. Otherwise I just buy stuff myself whenever I need/want it. It’s partly because I learned how to save money, and partly because I’ve had a mini-job for the past couple years so I can do said saving of money. It’s also because since probably my junior or senior year of high school, I feel weird asking my parents for things that I can afford and don’t necessarily need or that I can wait for.

The thing is, my parents like buying stuff for my brother and me. We have an obnoxiously huge beanbag chair (it’s not actually a beanbag chair but I don’t exactly know what to call it) in our kitchen in front of the TV. Our kitchen is obnoxiously huge, so it’s basically part kitchen, part dining room, part living room. Anyway, two summers ago it was ridiculously hot, and because of that (or maybe just because of coincidence) I got sick and projectile vomited all over the nest (that’s what we call it). We went 4 or 5 miserable months without a nest, but our parents surprised us with a new one that Christmas.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to get a new one if my brother and I weren’t home all the time. Sam and I are both in college, but I commute, and he comes home every weekend. We’re both about half an hour from home in opposite directions.

Last year my parents surprised me with a 5 gallon fish tank and a beta fish for Christmas. His name is Raskolnikov because Dostoevsky is a genius. I know we have a ten gallon tank lying around somewhere, so I’m thinking about upgrading and getting a few more fish. I don’t think I’d move Raskolnikov because he seems quite content all by his lonesome, but it might be nice to have some more little friends. I’m weird. I talk to my fish.

I do need a new set of headphones for my computer. Last year my aunt got me a wireless set, and they stopped working. I’ve decided to ask for a set of wired ones for Christmas because wireless anything and I have never been friends. In fact, technology and I have never really been friends, but that’s a whole different story. I know it’s the thing you plug into to charge them, and it’s not the charger itself that isn’t working because I’ve tried a different one and it still doesn’t work.

My brother and two of my cousins and I did ask for the new Pokemon game for Christmas. Yes, I’m 21 and I shamelessly admit that I like and play Pokemon. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia involved. When we were kids, Star Wars and Pokemon were our obsession. That and, gosh darn it, they’re fun!

Otherwise, that’s about it. My list is short this year. It drives our parents crazy, and it drives our aunts and grandmothers crazy, too. I could use a new amplifier for my guitars, but that can wait. I suppose I could ask people for Guitar Center gift cards. I’d like to go and try things out for myself. That upgrade probably won’t even happen for a few years anyway, though.

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it seems like Christmas and Thanksgiving are really close together this year. Thanksgiving is kind of the start to our Christmas season anyway. The past few years we’ve gone up to Maine and gone out to eat with our family. We used to have it at our house, but my grandfather got really sick, and my grandmother didn’t want to go far. We’ve just gotten used to doing it that way, I guess. We used to stay for one night, but last year we stayed for two because my grandfather died two days before Thanksgiving and we had to stay for the funeral. This year we’re staying for two nights again just so we can have time to see everyone and hang out. We usually go and get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but since we’re staying for two nights we’re doing that just before we go home. It’ll be fun just to hang out in Portland and play with our cousins. I think we’re going to bring the Wii so we can play Mario Kart in the hotel room.

Our family is insane. My oldest first cousin is 9 years older than me, and my youngest second(third?) cousin is 16 or 17 years younger than me. My mom has about 50 first cousins, which means I have over 100 cousins of varying degrees. On my dad’s side I have 2 second cousins who have no kids, and 2 fist cousins. One is my age and one is two years younger than me. For Thanksgiving this year we’re meeting up with 27 people. Some people have asked why we go out to eat instead of going to someone’s house. Part of it is that we have too many people, and part of it is because it’s significantly less stressful. It makes it fun.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook about people stressing about Christmas already. There are ways of making it less stressful. It’s not that hard. I’ll admit that there are things about Christmas that bug me. It’s almost like there are two holidays going on at the same time, and a minority of people remember the real reason why we celebrate it. The point isn’t to have the biggest tree in the neighborhood (we have the 2nd biggest only because our neighbor has taller ceilings). The point isn’t to get the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to give the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to have the most decorated house (our mom goes nuts anyway, and it’s fun!). The point is to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and that’s WAY less stressful.

I know some people freak out about the “secular” stuff and say it’s creepy or evil and that Jesus was born in April, which may or may not be true. The same people don’t celebrate Easter for the same reason: it’s become too secular. Honestly, I don’t think it really matters. The point is that we remember the real reason why we celebrate. The other stuff just makes it fun. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have fun. The only thing I might do differently if I had kids is I’d probably skip the whole Santa Claus story. It just seems kind of pointless to me. I’d still get a tree, I’d still eat massive quantities of junk food, and I’d still get together with all the magnificently crazy people.

I think it’s true that people get a little nicer around Christmas, and a little more generous. Maybe the love gets thrown around for some of the “wrong” reasons, but the point is that the love gets thrown around, and I am perfectly okay with that. So have fun. Don’t stress out. Go to church if you want to. Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Just remember why this holiday exists.

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!

Sammy

I love my brother. I mean I really adore him, to the point where it might be weird. First of all, he’s super cute. He cut his hair a few months ago, and personally I think he was cuter with hippy hair, but that’s just me. Still, he looks like a refined, dignified little nerd now, which kind of makes him more adorable. He just had his senior pictures done since he’s graduating from high school this year, and he looks like someone who is aspiring to be a doctor.

On top of the fact that he’s super cute, Sam is funny; granted, he’s weird as heck, but he is funny. When Sam laughs, it’s impossible to not laugh along with him. I’ll admit, his sense of humor is a little sadistic at times, but his laugh is contagious.

Sam gets excited about really nerdy things; i.e. new video games, leaked information about the new Star Wars movie, etc. He is also bothered by very strange things. I can’t think of anything specific at the moment, but think of Sheldon Cooper, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

It’s basically a requirement for a little brother to be annoying, and Sam fulfills that requirement 150%. Unfortunately I fulfill that requirement 250%. We’re very good at annoying each other; I just happen to annoy him with excessive amounts of affection. Maybe this blog post was a little obnoxious, but I couldn’t help it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!