Tag Archives: Society

Make Use Of Your Magic

I’ve spent many hours over the past 2 or 3 days trying to figure out if there was some kind of volunteer work I could do from home or close by in town. I don’t drive so I didn’t want my work to end up being inconvenient to my parents or anyone else who would be willing to drive me. What made things even more complicated was that my disability makes it impossible to do many hands-on tasks that I would sincerely love to do. I still haven’t found anything that’s close enough or even doable.

In Luke 14 Jesus says to a man who invited him to a banquet that he should not invite rich neighbors or friends and family to his lavish dinner party. Instead he should invite the poor, the lame, etc. His rich friends can and probably will repay him, but the poor can’t pay him back. If he takes care of them though, it’s out of love and compassion and he will be “repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

I read this the other day and it really struck me. I want to help people because I should. Something I figured out while I was searching was that if you want to volunteer you have to pick a problem and a cause and focus on those and those alone. There are a lot of things that bother me, but a few of them are related. Needless hate and violence really bothers me. Apathy is likewise a big problem that is often overlooked. I remember hearing a story about a man who decided to commit suicide. He lived in a large city and his note said, “I’m going to the bridge. If one person smiles at me or even acknowledges me, I won’t jump.” The story did not have a happy ending.

I remember when we went down to Georgia for my graduation/18th birthday trip. We were spending a night in Charleston, South Carolina and we were wandering around trying to find a place to eat– obvious tourists. A young man noticed us and asked us if we needed any help in a very friendly voice. I don’t remember if we said yes or no, but I do remember that we were slightly in shock. We weren’t used to complete strangers being that nice to us.

Ironically, people often seem to care more about people oversees than own next door neighbors. There is poverty, hunger and homelessness right here in the U.S. I’m not saying our problems are more important than anyone else’s. However, I do think that solutions could start at home. I love the idea of paying it forward. If everyone made an individual effort to make one other person’s life better, that person might do the same for someone else. In a literal sense, I think we can spread love; if we try hard enough, we can spread it all over the globe.

Love and compassion can save lives. It trumps greed and selfishness and it brings people together instead of pushing them farther apart. I think the best thing is to do what you can.  If you can write, then write and inundate the internet with the shared message of love. If you can travel to foreign countries and build houses for people, do that because that seriously needs to be done. If you can sing, then belt it and make sure people hear that love will win.

I think sometimes people are guilted into inaction. If you’re not out on the front lines of a particular organization’s effort than you’re a terrible person. I definitely think that this kind of mentality is harmful. Every person has a different situation and a different skill set that can be useful for making this world a better place. The trick is to figure out how to put those skills to use. It’s an opportunity to be creative and challenge yourself while doing something wonderful.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Crazy, Bad Or Misunderstood?

What is the difference between crazy and misunderstood? I think a lot of things and people who look crazy or dangerous truly are just misunderstood. It’s easy to write off things we don’t understand as disturbing, crazy or just plain bad. There are many factors that contribute to this a big one is popular opinion/societal norms. Another is our own interpretations of media, literature, various situations we encounter and rules or guides such as those that are presented by religion or philosophy (something like Transcendentalism). Therefore, it is important to learn about these subjects as objectively as possible.

In my opinion, it is important to engage with things we don’t understand because learning about them in a safe and responsible way can help us make connections with more people and in doing so, make changes that need to be made. To do this, it is important to understand every side of an argument and to have a basic understanding of various philosophies, religions or ideas. In my opinion, it is wrong to disagree with someone or write off their beliefs or methods of doing things if one does not understand them enough to give a good reason for disagreeing with them. Quite frankly, it is simply impolite to say someone or something is wrong just on a gut feeling.

Often, if we engage with new ideas, cultures, etc, we can find answers that we otherwise could not. If we are careful and critical about this, and balance it against what we already know, it can help us grow as people. For example, an American songwriter who is used to rock and roll, 4/4 time, etc can learn from Eastern rhythms and styles and can broaden their musical horizons extensively.

Learning in this way and making these connections is extremely important when it comes to bigger issues such as education and working towards world peace. We need to stop being afraid of things that are foreign to us because we were all created by one God. We are all brothers and sisters, and if we take the time to understand each other there will be no need for fighting. We are all unique people, but we are all human. We all think and feel. We all live and we all die. Therefore, we must spend our time spreading love and not hate.

Love– Do It!

Good things do happen to good people. The clouds do eventually go away and the sun does shine. Although it doesn’t feel like it sometimes, love is abundant in this world. Most people really do have an enormous capacity to love. Furthermore, love is contagious. It will spread as long as you let it. Love is easy. It has no boundaries. Love is creative. It brings about new ideas and feelings and inspires people to do what is right and good, but also to innovate, step out of their own little worlds and empathize, not just sympathize with their friends, coworkers, neighbors and maybe even their enemies. Love is forgiving. In love there is always a second chance. Love understands. Love waits for an explanation and is never quick to place judgments. Love has no boundaries. It transcends age, race, gender, economic status, intellect and religious belief. Love is comforting. It is the feeling you get when someone is there for you; when that person feels for you; when that person feels with you. Love is a gift. You have love inside of you, whether or not you know or believe that you have someone to give it to or receive it from, and this should be comforting. Love never ends. It will keep giving, keep creating, keep inspiring, as long as you let it. (I stole a bunch of this from First Corinthians 13: 4-8).

The point is that there is evil in the world. Crazy people do crazy things. Bad things happen for reasons that are beyond us. We cannot give into hate, skepticism and mistrust, however. We just have to love and trust and believe and see that this world is good and the people in it are good. The crazy people and the disasters don’t happen every day. Love happens every day, every hour, every second. If we can believe that, we can act on it. Love doesn’t take much. People remember little things, so do little things and spread the love you have. All this takes is something like a smile and a “thank you” to a perfect stranger.

I really hope this was helpful. Please reblog this if you thought it was helpful. I think it can be a lot easier to see the glass half empty sometimes, but I think we’ve come to a point in our history when that kind of thinking is dangerous. I think we need to learn to be more open and more willing to love and to be loved. That’s just my two cents. Thanks for reading. ❤

Faith Lives On

A question that came to my mind the other day is: are Christians a dying breed? I was singing in church a couple weekends ago, and I looked out at the congregation to see that the church was practically empty. I’ll admit that this wasn’t a usual weekend. My church is usually a little more full. Even so, the weekly regulars at my church are all retirement age or older. My brother and I are some of the only really regular young people. What’s more is that everyone else in the choir is in their 60’s and 70’s. What am I going to do in a few years when they all start dropping like flies? Who is going to take over when our music director retires? Will there be any young people ready and willing to take over?

I don’t live in a particularly religious town. A lot of people around here are what I call “Christian by association.” You could look around here and think of Neitzsche. I know not every American town is like my own, and I know there are places where faith is a huge part of the community. What I would like to know is whether these places might go in the same direction as my town. I have heard that atheism, agnosticism and secularism have steadily been growing in prominence all around the country. I just can’t quite wrap my head around why that is. Is it because of technology? Is it because of science? Is it because of the accessibility of material things? I would probably say yes, yes and yes, but I don’t quite understand why these things lead to such a loss of faith.

Is the problem that faith has become old fashioned? I don’t mean literally of course, but is it perceived as being an out dated practice/system/what have you? Is it naive to believe that there is some kind of all powerful entity who sustains life and judges our merits? Why do Heaven and Earth have to remain apart? Why is it so hard for some people to believe that God has a hand in a doctor’s passion and ability to save lives or a judge’s ability to morally decide a person’s fate?

Perhaps some people think that faith restricts freedoms. While it is true that it sets moral standards, many of these standards are set by human laws and societal expectations. In many cases, the Father has the same expectations as human parents. Among other things, He wants what is best for His children. The expectation that we will worship Him is similar to the parental expectation of respect.

Of course people are busy, and making it to church every Sunday isn’t always possible. One does not always need to be in a church to worship the Lord. He said Himself, “where two or more are gathered in my name, I will be there.” Furthermore, it can be difficult for people to get into the habit of praying. I think the problem here is that some people think that in order to pray, you have to stop, drop what you’re doing and take ten minutes to recite a long, well thought out prayer. Sometimes a prayer can be as simple as “God, please help me,” or just a heartfelt “thank you.” The trick is to mean it. The fact of the matter is that God knows what is on your heart, and your prayer doesn’t even have to be coherent. It’s the intention that matters.

Of course It’s good to read the Bible whenever you can, but you don’t necessarily need to set aside a huge chunk of time for that either. My Shakespeare professor made an interesting comment the other day that I thought was helpful in this respect. She said with Shakespeare and scripture, It’s best to read until you feel a “hook;” until something sticks with you. If the hook comes right away, great! You can stop there if you want. Sometimes you’re just not going to feel it on a given day. That’s fine too. God can give you the hook in other ways.

I’m not saying that one should compartmentalize their faith, rather, I am suggesting that one should make it an integral part of their life. This is when performing acts of faith such as prayer, etc feels natural, desirable and necessary.

So I suppose my point and my hope is that people would be ready and willing to let faith be a part of modern day life. I hope that this apparent disconnect that people feel with God will be resolved, and I hope a renewal of faith can bring a renewed sense of groundedness; something that I think many people nowadays could really use.

I know one blog post by one girl isn’t going to change too much too fast, so if you read this and think It’s worth sharing, do me a favor and pass it on.

Thanks!

Building Bridges

Bridges can be very difficult to build. I’m not sure of the engineering that goes into it, but I know I have trouble with anything beyond basic algebra. In fact, I’m honestly astounded that I scrapped by with a C in my high school physics class. Therefore, bridge-builders deserve to be recognized.

It’s a fact of life that bridges are necessary. They help people get from one place to another. They give people options and help avoid traffic. They make it easier to connect and they make it easy to experience new places and the cultures that go along with them.

Metaphorical bridges do much the same thing. One often hears the expression “Don’t burn any bridges.” This generally means that one should avoid making trouble and aggravating a particular person or group of people. This idea is very similar to “Love thy neighbor as thyself.” We see this in the story of the Good Samaritan. A traveler is beaten and robbed and left for dead. He is avoided by a priest and a Levite (considered outstanding citizens), but is helped by a Samaritan (considered to be scum by the Jewish people of that time). In the story, it is the Samaritan who is the bridge-builder.

Another obvious example of a bridge-builder is Martin Luther King Junior. Again, the hero of this story is a minority, considered to be inferior by the white majority. He successfully exercised the novel idea of peaceful protest. The reason this was so successful and noticeable is because it didn’t force people to pick a side or fight one another. Again, bridges were built.

I think the reason the government is in such turmoil is because it’s being run by bridge-burners. Politicians and perhaps people in general seem to have forgotten about something I like to call compromise. I believe this is also part of the reason the divorce rate is so high. I won’t go into it here because it’s not really my business, but (NEWS FLASH), marriage is about compromise.

Something that the younger people in my parents’ generation and certainly a lot of people in my generation seem to have forgotten is that you can’t always get what you want. Something I’ve seen a lot in sports is that kids will get trophies even if they didn’t win a tournament or something. If you lost, you shouldn’t get a trophy. You can’t always win. It’s not how the world works. If parents teach their children that they can always have their way and that they will never lose, they will never learn how to compromise. Quite frankly, without compromise, nothing would ever get done.

Of course there are some cases where compromise is just not an option. Ironically, I’ve seen people try the hardest to compromise in these cases. In the past couple of decades (the length of my life so far), I’ve noticed that people absolutely adore the gray area. I’m a child of absolutes. There is black and white, right and wrong, correct and incorrect in many cases. The trick with this is that people need to realize that disagreement isn’t evil. One also has to realize that what is 100% correct in one person’s mind is 100% incorrect in another’s and vice versa. At this point two people at a disagreement will reach an impasse. There can be no agreement and no compromise. This absolutely does not have to end badly. One does not always have to prove that what they believe is right. It’s enough to know that you are right. It can be a lot easier to convince someone that you’re right if you do it subtly. Just be nice. I promise it works.

The fact of the matter is you can still meet in the middle. You can still get along just fine without agreeing. Chances are if you don’t agree on matters of religion, you can agree on matters of politics, or if you don’t agree on matters of what is enjoyable, you can agree on matters of money. It is almost always possible to find a middle ground and that is how you build a bridge. If you are unwilling to find a middle ground, you will eventually find yourself bitter and alone.

The best thing to do is to find a neutral territory and meet there. If two people agree that a particular video game is fun and nothing else, they should play that game. In cooperating or even in playing against each other, one will discover strengths, weaknesses and personality traits in the other person that would have gone unnoticed when the two were at odds. Often, they will discover that they are similar in many subtle ways and this can also bring people together.

Knowing What You Want

Knowing what you want out of life can be an exceedingly difficult thing. It is one thing to know what you want at any given moment, but another thing entirely to know what you want in the long run. I tend to think there are certain things that generally everyone wants out of life such as a good job, a steady income, love (with a partner), a place to call home, stability and independence. These things are bordering on necessities rather than desires; needs more than wants, however.

I think on an individual level, people want more specific, and perhaps deeper things out of life. In one of my classes this year, I had to write a paper that determined what it is that makes life worth living by using the ideas of two philosophers that we had studied. I used Aristotle and St. Augustine’s ideas and determined that it is happiness in or by goodness that makes life worth living. It is being able to rejoice in goodness.

This however, does not explain what people want. Sure, it can keep you going, but I believe that this is actually the bare minimum in terms of what people need to be truly happy. People who believe in God and believe that He is good and rejoice in His goodness can still be otherwise miserable without the other things that I specified above.

The fact of the matter is, every individual wants the basics and something more. Everyone has a yearning for something. Some people want to find their perfect place; a place that is so close to heaven they can taste it. Others want to master something. Still others want to somehow, somewhere, sometime save a life. These are long-term-once-in-a-lifetime goals. Some people meet them sooner than others. I think once people meet their long-term-once-in-a-lifetime goal, they find a sense of peace. I have seen this in people. I think this is why some people seem to be fighting and striving, even when we don’t understand why.

More than anything, I want to save a life. I spend more time fantasizing about this than you’d even believe. The fantasy is always different. Sometimes I save a person from a tragic accident, sometimes from a sickness, and sometimes from deep sadness. For some reason, I strongly believe that there is someone out there who I am eventually going to save. I’ve actually held this belief since I was a child. I don’t remember how old I was when I started fantasizing about this, but I may have been as young as five or six.

When I got older and picked up the guitar, I began to have more musical ambitions. I had dreamed about being a rock star ever since I was eight years old. When I was fifteen I learned to play the guitar and when I was 16 or 17 I started writing songs and performing at open mics. Even though I had far more ambitious goals in my mind, I am perfectly happy with where I am now in terms of music. I have gone as far as I need to, and although I will continue to learn more and become better, I am entirely satisfied with where I am now. Music is my peace. When I play guitar, I am entirely calm; not always happy, but at peace with the world. In the past couple of years, I’ve been picking up other instruments and slowly teaching myself. It is a slow process, but I enjoy it more than anything else. It gives me a sense of accomplishment when I master something new on the drum or learn a new technique on the guitar, or figure out a new chord on the mandolin or adapt a song from one instrument to another. I have reached my musical Nirvana.

 

Hierarchy

Political and social hierarchies can be either good or bad for varying reasons. I believe that a solid political and social structure is needed in order to maintain peace within a society, but I also believe that this structure needs to be flexible in order for people of every political view, race, religion, gender and to a degree, age will have a chance at influence if not power. I believe that this is fair and right, and it is why I firmly believe in democracy. I believe it is right for every opinion to be heard, and therefore, every person in a democratic society needs to have a chance at ascending the ladder of political power.

Although I believe that Democracy is the best form of government, I also agree that it can be dangerous. In a democratic society, one has to keep in mind post World War 1 Germany. Although different from the United States system, the Germans had a democratic government for several years. In this form of government, the people would not vote for individuals, but they would vote for political parties. Instead of having two parties, the Germans had many. Because there were so many opponents, the stronger parties allied themselves with less influential parties in order to gain more votes for their particular cause. Unfortunately, parties also turned against each other. The system was overly complicated and ineffective, which is ultimately why the Nazis were able to come to power. As leader of the Nazi party, Hitler was able to pass a law that made him dictator. It is easy to condemn the German people, but one has to keep in mind their economic situation. They were dealing with hyper inflation and war debt that would have been the demise of Germany if not for World War 2. The United States’ form of democracy is safer and more effective, which is why we are one of the most powerful and successful countries in the world.

I also believe in the hierarchy created by capitalism. I believe that there should be rich and poor. This is because I believe that people should be repaid for their efforts. I think the people who work hard should gain more than the people who wait around for a handout. I also think that people should keep what they gain from their work, which is why I do not believe in income taxes. I also do not believe that the government should take away from hard working people so that they can give it to those who did not work for it and do not deserve it. What many people fail to recognize, is that if the rich were not taxed so much they would be less likely to hold on to what money they are allowed to keep with an iron grip, and more likely to donate to charity and give to those who are less fortunate not because they are forced to, but because they want to.

There are many hierarchies I strongly disagree with, however. These are actually hierarchies that are currently more relevant to my own life. I do not agree with the hierarchy created by economic status. This seems to be contradictory to my last point, but let me explain. In a perfect world, money would not matter, but because the world is not perfect, people judge each other based on their occupation and income. Imagine how much nicer the world would be if people were interested in important things like moral character or common interests.

Another excruciatingly annoying hierarchy is the one created by popularity. Although this hierarchy is fairly rigid, there is a relatively easy way to navigate it. Perhaps “navigate” isn’t the best word, but if you find yourself at the bottom of this hierarchy (as I did), there is a lovely solution. You just have to give up caring. In fact, if everyone gave up caring about this hierarchy, it would shatter and die all together. But I digress. The way this hierarchy works is very confusing to me. When I was younger, I thought this social structure only existed among people between the ages of 7 or 8 and 18 or so. I thought it died away with public education. However, as I’ve grown and as I’ve been exposed to more of life, I see that this social structure never dies. I see it among the women in my own neighborhood. I confess, the only thing I understand about this social structure is that it is easier to do things when one is popular, and it is more difficult when one is unpopular.

It is no wonder that hierarchies encompass nearly every aspect of society. According to one theory, hierarchies are actually wired into our brains. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is the theory that over all else, humans need five things to be fully developed. At the very least, people need to be able to fulfill bodily functions such as breathing and excretion. Next they need safety, which can include financial security as well as mental and physical security. Next they need love and belonging, which can mean belonging to another person, or to a group of people. Next they need esteem of themselves and of others. And finally, they need “self actualization,” which is basically the ability to express individuality. There is room for a measure of vicariousness within this hierarchy. For example, one can have financial security while living at home with one’s parents as a child. Therefore, it is not particularly difficult to be able to fulfill all of these needs in one way or another.

I also believe that hierarchies are wired into our brains in other ways. Preference is a type of hierarchy. We like some things more than we like others. We also deem things more important than others. For example, I enjoy reading more than playing video games, and I consider faith more important than reason because I believe in God’s ability to manipulate the world and I believe that His will is good. That is not to say that I disregard reason; in fact I find reason and logic to be exceedingly important, but when it comes to things that I can’t do anything about or that I really do not understand, I turn to faith.