Friday, December 31, 2010

Field of Absolute Terror

"This is the light of my soul, a sacred territory in which no one may intrude."

So essential is this to humanity's continued existence that I can not overestimate its' importance. From the popular Anime Neon Genesis: Evangelion comes the concept of the AT Field, or the thing that separates us from everyone else. This is both literal and metaphorical. Literally, it means our body, our physical form, our very nature as a separate being from everyone else. Metaphorically, the meaning is obvious: humans are fundamentally disconnected from others, and this brings both safety and pain.

We each are sacred beings, and the proof is in our ability to be safe from others. There are some things no one can take from you, no matter how hostile they are to you, how much they think they know you, how much they attack who you are, or how badly they treat you. The converse of this is that because of our nature, we endure the pain that comes from a lack of acceptance, a lack of knowledge, the ability of another person to shut us out completely if they don't want us in. When we love another person and they ignore us, don't give us a chance, and worst of all, claim to know who we are and reject and shut us out...well, few things compare, as far as pain goes.

"Nobody wants me. Nobody cares whether or not I exist. Nothing ever changes. So they can all just die."

It's tempting to be this way when confronted with how people can be, but you must also face the fact that you are fundamentally the cause of your own pain. It's a sure and steady numbing death, the life by oneself, and it's very comforting to realize that you know exactly where your pain comes from, and that it can be managed.

Personally, I have had to accept what I have become because of others, before realizing the nature of human beings. To put it simply, I was an idealist, and I thought things should all be a certain way, people should treat each other with respect, love should be the way we act, and people should listen to each other and care about each other. I used my religion to justify this, and I failed.

I didn't fail because any of that is false, I failed because no one would play by my rules. I failed because you can't force people to act a certain way. Whether I am right or not is immaterial: it is not how people are. By and large, people are selfish animals, and I am no exception. The real deal-breaker came from realizing my own horrid nature. It came from realizing who I am, and that I'm not the ideal, not the nice person I thought I was. Whether through self-realization or the things that have happened to me, I am a pitiful example of what humanity should be, and I have no business expecting any better of anyone else. My business is expecting better of myself.

My job is to do my best, to manage my own sacred territory.

One of the most aggravating things to me of late is when people are apathetic toward others. Ironically, it is one of my most fundamental and often used abuses of others. I imagine if more people realized that what annoys them about others is tendencies they have that piss them off, there would be far less self-righteousness.

I do not post this to whine about my life, and I do not post this for attention. If my comments are any indication, all of 2 people still read this, and they already know me. I post this because I am tired of reading about how pain is irrelevant to how we should be as people and what we should believe.

"I don't want my pain taken away, I need my pain!"

Every single day, someone mistreats me. I am cut off in traffic, people assume wrong things about who I am, I have a comment made to me that hurts, I am disregarded and told in so many words (or more frequently, silence) that I don't matter and never will. It happens, and it's not going to change. I used to be so hurt by every little thing people did, and I'm afraid it's made me a little bit of an angry person.

Now, I no longer care. It is so frequent, so common, that it has ceased to matter. If someone's objective is to speak to me as an equal and make me better, I will listen and interact. If I am being written off, if I am being ignored or "looked out for" because of assumptions, I no longer care about that person. I have no more life to waste on those that would not treat me with respect. I have been in 3 relationships, and I was only respected in one of them. My last relationship was with a person that deeply, deeply disrespected me in every way possible. I'm not going to say it doesn't hurt, but I will say I no longer care. I am no longer that person's, and I can move on precisely because of the light of my soul. She may no longer intrude into who I am, she does not know me any longer because a person is not a static object, they are a changing force.

Let me repeat that. A person is constantly in motion. They are constantly changing. What is insulted one day may no longer exist. The lie that "people never change" is probably one of the most obviously incorrect statements I have ever seen. In fact, people change all the time, and it is the assumptions that one shows when they utter this statement that are shown to be held in stasis, never changing by the force of that person's will.

When you assume about another person, they eventually will stop caring. Because they eventually realize it is not their job to change your mind any longer, because you have made up your mind and they are done caring. Or they get jaded and angsty.

Your soul is a sacred place, and who you let in is entirely up to you. I advise you to let in people that respect you, that will love you in the way that you deserve to be loved. Friends, family, loved ones...they will all disappoint you at some point. What matters is the intent. As long as we are human, we will never stop causing the collective pain of our race. We will never cease being monstrously unjust to each other, but we can choose to respect each other's souls if we want.

Just remember: your respect, your love, will rarely go unpunished. It's much easier, much safer, to shut out everyone else. But you then have to deal with loneliness, with rotting in a dark room by yourself. Fool yourself if you must, but you will fool no one else.

If you wish to live without pain caused by others, by yourself, within yourself, you must answer one simple question: what is your heart for?

Friday, December 10, 2010


I believe in something greater than myself. A lot of people call this force, this being, God. I've heard him called by other names, but I tend to just say God.

I have to admit, I was raised to believe this way, and part of me pays honor to those that have influenced me by persisting in this belief. But another part of me is an insatiable longing for the world to be better, for people to finally understand love, for the end of ugliness and selfishness. A lot would call this naive and idealistic, I call it a recognition of a higher reality.

I have the highest respect for those that don't agree. I believe those that would disagree with anything I believe have every right to do so. My thoughts, my ideas, are not the measure of all things. My morality is not the measure for a single other person.

I affirm the God of the Bible, because He makes sense to me. The Bible doesn't always make sense, but the God present in it does, on a basic, visceral level. Because he sits in my soul, keeping me alive, bringing me the strength to carry on when every other person fails me, when the world caves in on me.

I haven't been to church in years, because the church as I know it has rejected me on the same basic level that God seems to accept me. My questions have been met with hostility, my differing opinions with condescension, and my feelings with superiority. The church I've met has been an example of how everyone is the same, and this group of Christians is worse than most of the nonreligious people I've met because they've got religion to convince them of their superiority. I fell in for a while with the more "hip" crowd of Christians, and found them to be exactly the same, needing some kind of revolutionary version of Christianity (emerging, hipster, whatever name it may have) to convince them of their superiority.

I have hope for finding the church that serves humbly, that is convinced they're no better than anyone else, that does not need to prove it's more right than everyone else, and that I'd be proud to go to. Slowly but surely, I've been convincing myself to put myself out there and try another one. I will probably be hurt again.

I believe that pain is an effective teacher. It sharpens us like a razor, and it makes us into a better person. Pain teaches consistency, grows faith, and produces character. Every time you are hurt, remember that you can make life better because of it.

I've had the core of my being rejected by people, I've put myself out there and been ignored and stepped on, and very few are an exception to this rule. I am glad for this because I now understand how weak I have been to allow this to begin with. To allow a person, no matter how one feels about them, to dictate a single thing about who we are is to be a sellout, to be mastered by another person. The God that never forsakes me, that preserves the hope I try to stomp out just so I'll stop hurting so much, and that loves me tirelessly despite my inability to love at all, is the one that deserves such mastery over me.

I've rejected others, ignored others, broken the heart of others, always while trying to do what I think is right. I am no different. I deserve what comes to me, but I believe in a better reality, free of this petty bickering, this inability of humanity to live with itself. Redemption is coming for mankind, and I hope for it because I have to. Something will not let me go.

You might tell me I am weaker than ever because of this, you might even read the beginning of this post and think I am nothing short of hypocritical. You're probably correct. But the truth is, I don't care what you think. I do my best like everyone else.

I believe in something greater than myself. Strength and honor.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Some people just want to watch the world burn

The Enlightenment has its' roots deep within us. So deep, in fact, that when people step up to be "nontraditional," they are still on the same playing field. They still create these structures bent on finally answering the questions that burn within us.

What is our purpose?

Why are we alive?

Why do we exist?

We think making a movement, an institution, a religion around something we've discovered will lead us to hope, will lead us to answers, and will force the world to be how we want it to be.

What we overlook is that it's just another expression of power. Expressions of power tend to backfire, and create things we never intended.

An institution built on love and acceptance that is so good at rejecting people that don't fall in line and conform.

A philosophy built on seeking the truth that constructs its' truth and orders others to seek it.

A nonconformist movement that becomes so hip, so cool for people to follow, that you are ostracized if you do not conform.

People that want so badly to be accepted that they do whatever it takes to do so, and end up alone.

Radicals that make everything worse, and become the foundation for more oppression, more intellectual stagnation, and more people following fads and rejecting each other.

Whenever we find something good, we destroy it. We make it into a system that destroys it, we make it a fad, a construction that others must conform to, because we have to prove we exist.

The world has become an alien place, a place where people can't relate to each other. We say we'll do something for another and then avoid them. We become so socially anxious that we do stupid things just to get away, just to relieve the pressure. We go to institutions because we're dying to be accepted, to feel that connection, to feel better about this thing we call life, and we are met with more requirements, more standards, more things we must do, more images of what we must be to gain the thing we're looking for.

Eventually, some just stop caring. They don't care about anything anymore, not even their own survival. They simply do what feels right and don't consider anyone else, because it's easy. Because it's better than what they did have. I'd say they're pretty correct.

Too bad it solves nothing.

You end up just as empty, just as broken, just as alone.

Destruction without creation following it is not beneficial, but to destroy systems to create a new system is pointless. We will have simply traded one set of specifics for another, created a new cage for our hearts and minds to rot in.

Philosophy does not free us. Theology does not free us, religion does not free us, politics do not free us. Social groups do not help, and neither do rituals that used to have meaning that have been repeated so many times that no one cares anymore. We are trapped within our own walls, our own limitations.

Someone will probably take this post and make it into another limitation, another system, another fad.

Brokenness and apathy don't help. We are free, but we quickly find that we are only free to die. There is no purpose, there is no life, there is no joy or happiness or anger or frustration or sadness or anything else. There is no thought, no value, no reason to live, so we might as well die. We might as well set the world ablaze and watch it burn up and take us with it.

Freedom is not its' own reason. Freedom must be responsibly used. We must recognize our own power, our own ability to choose. We must understand reality, seek truth, and realize who we are.

We must be true to how things really are.

It is the business of very few to do this, and that is because they will do it without forming another system and without falling into despair.

The beauty of it is, no one will care. Because the world is sick, and we've constructed our way into rejecting honesty, into fabricating everything for our own protection from the hostile void beyond.

Some people learn to live in that void, and they make it their home. Nothingness as the essence of reality, the true freedom, the ability to become actualized, to understand how things are and who oneself is.

It's rare. It doesn't happen often. You will be hard pressed to meet someone like this, because society doesn't encourage it. Life is hostile toward humanity, and culture has become a tiresome burden. Expectations have become so grossly overstated that the construction of reality is obvious. Our systems are so high level that one need simply ask "why?" and it falls apart most of the time.

It's worth it to seek though.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Never Fading

People eat each other.

It's the truth, an observation with a little spite and hyperbole thrown in for flavor.

In the absence of hope, I have found life to be an exercise in breathing and surviving the void. I wrote about that already though.

What I've come to understand through this is that ideals have never been meant to be taken literally. That is, to live purely by one ideal is to shove one's head in the sand, to stop living in a real world, and to inhabit a world of imagination, a construction in the void. Because we want to run away, and it feels good to do so.

The problem is, all you're doing with your ideals is blindfolding yourself and sprinting through a forest. Sure, you may start out walking, feeling around with your hands, being very careful, tiptoeing, but eventually you get cocky. You think that you can walk normally, and glancing off trees every once in a while is no big deal. Your eyes are protected from any branches. Faster and faster you walk, and then you start running. You have gotten a feel for the forest, you think you understand its' pattern, and then you slam into a tree. You become broken, you fall on the ground, and you may even stay there for a while.

But the truth is, you can either die or you can take the blindfold off, realize the forest is far uglier than you dreamed, and keep walking. It may be drudgery, but at least it's real.

When you stop seeing what you want in people and you start asking what they actually are, you may come to the same conclusion I have. People are selfish, dumb animals that act largely on instincts. Those that transcend that are rare because the rest of the species makes it nigh impossible to do so. To be able to love, you must risk everything your instincts tell you to protect, save the instinct to procreate.

When making love is largely a selfish act, we have truly proven what we are: animals.

Animals eat each other.

Sure, most humans aren't practicing cannibals, but given a situation where one could, without consequences, take advantage of another person and get something amazing out of it, one will usually do it. Hell, it doesn't even have to be something amazing, it could be driving a few feet ahead on the road, and the price could be endangering many lives to attain this. Why not? You don't know them, they don't know you. Why not risk killing them to get ahead? You are going to be late if you don't do this multiple times.

People sell interest in someone that is not themselves for money, compassion for fame, and their souls for getting ahead in some way.

Those that do not are the exceptions that prove the rule is largely true, but they also prove that people don't have to eat each other.

Living a different way is possible, and make no mistake: you will pay with everything you have ever held dear. Allegiance to the truth typically results in mass opposition, ostracization, and recognition only after you can not benefit from it in any way. Self-esteem typically results in being ignored because in reality, 99% of people are more concerned with their next sentence and making it profound than in anything you could possibly say or why.

So why do it?

For the sake of doing it. You will be never fading, the anomaly that laughs at power and threats, that proves that we're not just animals, and that is all the satisfaction you can possibly expect from it. No good act goes unpunished, and no allegiance goes unchallenged by someone. No ideal is accepted by all, and no morality is agreed upon. It's a complex mess of things that you can never seem to win at times.

But it's life.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I have tried to stay as positive as possible in most of my online correspondence of late. The reason for this is because those that have known me for any length of time will notice I have a nasty negative streak, and that's something I'm not proud of. This is evident by the fact that I haven't written here in a while because I simply have had nothing good to say about anything. I try to stay upbeat, but it's been nearly impossible to feel that way or to do anything but what I know I need to do (go to work, eat, socialize in an acceptable manner, sleep). I laugh and smile and enjoy things but at the core of me there is something that's beyond weary with my life, and I haven't been at all sure of why. I think I may know part of it now, but I'm still not sure of all of it.

I was told recently that I don't care about the truth. This was a revelation to me, and for some reason, all I could do was sit in my chair at 10 AM before going to work and alternate between staring numbly at the wall and crying for a solid hour. There was no rational reason for this, but for some reason being told that by a person that I'd sworn never to listen to about these things again broke me again. At first I thought I was being naive, thinking that perhaps I could express myself on subjects such as God and religion and not have to deal with immeasurable hostility. Of course, I dish out more than my fair amount, and I am aware that that aggravates people and I am only getting what I deserve if people become irritated, so that wasn't really it. I thought perhaps that I was just being overly emotional, but once the emotions subsided, once things started going better, that deadness stayed in me, that thing that has been broken in me in the past few years that I can't seem to escape.

Then it hit me: of course I feel dead, I am a nihilist. Nihilists have no reason to hope.

I never made the conscious decision to be a nihilist, no. However, I have debated Christian Theology for most of my life, and I have been taught apologetics, hermeneutics, eschatology, soteriology, calvinism, dispensationalism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Young and Old Earth theology, creation science, christology, the Trinity, Church History, and every way I could possibly argue that my opinions are correct according to the Scriptures I must acknowledge as Absolute Truth.

From the beginning, this has sewn the seed of death in me. I have been taught to ignore my feelings because they are the enemy, and I have been taught that I cannot grasp most of these things with my rational mind, but it's all absolutely true. I've been told to trust a source outside of those things, and no one has ever thought about what this does to a person.

I can tell you firsthand what it can do: it can make a person distrustful and hateful of himself. When circumstances are not ideal, he blames himself for being too reliant on his feelings or on his understanding. When circumstances are ideal, he grows arrogant and thinks he has finally arrived. His perfectionistic tendencies nourished by his Enlightened Christian upbringing turn in on themselves, and he is at all times either the elite of the elite or the most worthless person to walk the Earth.

The Enlightenment has shown us a people reliant on their intellectual capacity.

"What a piece of work is a Man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god!" -Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 2

We rise from our primal passions, we achieve technological breakthrough after breakthrough, we discover more about ourselves, and we evolve toward a state of perfection.

The problem is, we still make a mess out of things. The more our dark side is repressed, the worse it becomes. Crimes of passion run like a rash across the world, and we keep coming up with new ways of evoking the darkest of our emotions, new thrills, new ways to feel what we have forgotten.

Humanity becomes divided: there are the intellectual elite and those that follow their passions without reason. Christianity in the Modern World stands between both of these and calls down the wrath of all by saying they're both wrong.

"Don't you know? The heart is desperately evil, who can know it?! Stop following your passions and read this book!"

"Don't you know? Practicing science and philosophy are merely to reason yourself away from God! Stop thinking and read this book!"

Nihilism is the doctrine that certain aspects of life have no meaning. Modern Christianity puts all stock into the "spiritual" aspect of life and in doing so, everything loses meaning except what is deemed to be spiritual. A constructed meaning, with the contention that it is the only thing good, and we must deny any other parts of life as sinful.

So instead of trying to understand who we are, what life is, we are pushed to be this particular kind of person, to take the meaning on ourselves, and if we are successful in doing so, in imprinting it onto our identity, we are considered to be good, or perhaps a Christian leader.

It is nihilism, with a constructed meaning on top of it and obliviousness to the fact that what is said to be spiritual is a construction, a set of ideals in place to push a particular structure of power, or perhaps to push a particular opinion for the benefit of a particular group of people over another.

If there is one thing I have learned through experience, it's that love is a horribly rare thing. By love, I mean regarding others as more important than oneself, truly caring when you talk to another person that they are speaking, what their life is like, and what they feel. I'm a pretty poor example of this myself, and a pretty excellent example of selfishness, which is the force I am talking about, the way people tend to do things, the way love tends to masquerade to those that don't yet understand it.

Everything in life is a competition to most people. They must have the last word, they must get somewhere faster than you, they must prove themselves to be better in some way to sleep at night, and those that aren't interested in this competition are considered second class, are stepped on and insulted for no reason, and thrown out as worthless. The tragic reality is that love is the farthest thing from most peoples' minds, and the Christian world is no exception to this.

You may think I am straw-manning Christianity, and you could be correct. Indeed, I believe in a very different faith than the one I am outlining here, and I do a bad job of following it because, to put it simply, I am not a good person. I do my best though, and I tend to hope that God is there beside me understanding my every selfish action and loving me anyway.

However, a straw-man implies that I am portraying a person or group or system differently than how it would seem to be to an objective observer. Given the lack of self-awareness the religion has about the way it acts toward others, I can not in good conscience call most of the Christians I have met objective in any way. Indeed, perhaps the theology is different, perhaps people would claim not to believe certain things I qualify as under Christianity, but the way people act is what should be given attention here, as actions flow out of beliefs. In my experience, Christians are nihilists with a fuzzy system built over the void trying to survive like everyone else.

So when did we accept this destruction of meaning? For it is not only the Modern Christian's fault, they have simply fooled themselves to avoid the void they know exists. To be honest, I don't really know. But what is clear to me is that 99% of the people I have met, including myself, are struggling, suffocating in this meaninglessness, either trying to understand where they fit in life or choosing to believe something they have no proof of, no reason to believe except that they feel good believing it. Can we really blame a person for their beliefs, even if we disagree with them and find them horrifying?

It really is no wonder people find this type of thinking scary: it is terrifying. It is no wonder that the Christians I speak of here would say I am destroying my own faith: in many ways they're correct. But something has been too wrong for far too long, and I can't take it anymore. I have become a nihilist trying to find my own way, and every meaning I construct gets sucked into the void because I keep finding every structural problem and exposing it, and I wish I could stop.

Is there a solution to this? Once again, I don't really know. However, let us come back to where we started from.

Nihilism, the void in our beings that comes from losing trust in ourselves. Whether that is to imbalance ourselves or to totally become someone that blindly leaps at something that will save us from our complete lack of trust in ourselves, it doesn't matter. What matters is that we were created as intellectual, emotional, and yes, spiritual beings. Were I to have to construct a meaning in this void, I would start with what I can readily sense, and I would have faith in those things first.

I enjoy things that give me pleasure. I enjoy things that stimulate my mind. I enjoy things that make me feel whole. I enjoy it when I feel capable, and even when I do not, when I feel worthwhile despite my mistakes and my brokenness. How can I be worthwhile if I cannot trust myself? Would I not be a boy just hitting puberty running into walls in a dark room, trying to escape, trying to see again, if only to understand what is happening to my body and my mind as I grow?

When you go out in public, you are surrounded by people. These people have the same feelings you do, they think some of the same things you do, they are just as valuable as you are, and they are different in ways that you do not know.

This isn't complicated; but we've managed to bastardize and mangle it enough with our philosophy, our religions, our lack of faith in what we can obviously sense, and by twisting the truth for our own advantage, by buying into the power and authority that we seem to have to align with to have some of our most fundamental needs met: the need for acceptance by other people chief among them.

That's the opinion of one Nihilist trying to construct his way back to sanity again, and to save his own existence. Hope it helps ya.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Religion: The Infection vs. The Hope

If you've read anything I've written this year, you've probably caught at least one of my posts regarding religion. To say the least, this past year hasn't been the most pleasant experience in the world for me, and my experiences have sadly informed my definitions. In the end, I can pretend objectivity, but I can not help but speak from experience and my heart just as much as I do from logical deduction and observation. I imagine anyone reading this could empathize with that assessment.

That said however, I still stand by my observations regarding religion. I've seen it become a blunt instrument to intellectually and emotionally beat people into submission or manipulate others for some sort of gain, whether it be monetary, social or emotional. I still retain my skepticism regarding those in authority of any religious institution, because I have watched power trips that I am confident those on them did not even realize were happening, and I've seen those in power do things to others that I could only attribute to their desire for control. I have also observed the subtle grouping religion creates, so that if you are a certain way, you are not welcome or accepted, and you gain only lip service, without any real connection with other people. The fact that I can count on my hands the lasting friends I've made from the religious institution I attended for five years may have something to do with this. Though I am thankful for the friends I have made, I have lost just as many to rumor, apathy, and straight up rejection, all of which would have been unnecessary if any sort of healthy social environment were in place.

I am hurt by religion, very deeply, and it's taken a lot of things out of me to just deal with it. I've kept my mouth shut, except in writing, for the past year so that I could graduate from the institution I attended without having to deal with the administration demanding to know about my personal life every 4 minutes, and it worked. But I paid a price. I now believe more than ever that most people, despite what they say, could not care less about others' freedoms or what makes them unique. When people that claim love so blatantly violate it when it becomes inconvenient, I have no idea how I am supposed to continue to believe a word that comes out of their lying mouths. This is not even mentioning the emotional violence done to me by some that I had allowed myself to become very close to, naively expecting that I could believe someone, for once. When I am then asked to support my fellow Christians, I can only laugh bitterly and go on doing my own thing, seeking truth through channels that aren't horrific examples of propaganda and intellectual enslavement.

Though I have always tried to seek the truth, I am a prime example of many of these things. I simply choose not to pretend anymore. I do a horrific job of loving, and I have not called myself a Christian for a long time because of that. I told someone last night for the first time in years that I would pray for them, because I actually meant it for once. I've done terrible things to those I claim to love as well, and can only do my best to try to atone. I have no conceptions left of deserving a single thing. When I am rejected socially, religiously, emotionally, or in any way, I simply believe that something I've done has caused me to deserve it, that maybe justice is being done to me in some way for being how I have been. I share this because it is important for the reader to understand that I am not judging Christianity from a high pedestal, I am looking at the devastation in my own heart and brought on all around me by naivette, the best of intentions, stupid idealism, lack of self awareness, and inability to recognize the virus that infects us all, the virus of self-absorption, of death, of "sin," if you will indulge me a moment, spawning horrific religion.

Yes, I am saying that the religious institution I have been associated with for many years is so corrupt that it is a product of the darkness infecting our world. This may offend the few people I have managed not to alienate yet, and if it does, so be it. I can come to no other honest conclusion after my observations. I would ask the offended reader to continue reading however, because I have a nuance to this point later you may be interested in.

In the interest of honesty, I must also share another observation I have made. However, this is not an observation that grieves me, but gives me hope.

There are a few I have met who, for lack of a better description, refuse all attempts of religion to hold them down. I have made it my business to get to know these people, and to cautiously begin to trust them. What I have found are people just as flawed as I am and everyone else, but people that choose to be aware of themselves, that choose honesty instead of comfort, and that do their absolute best to be honorable, respectful, truthful, and to love in a way that respects others. Additionally, to my amazement, these people claim to be religious! "What foolishness is this?!" I ask them, and their answers are always exceedingly simple. Their conviction in Christ as being the true example of humanity, God's fusion with the brokenness that is humanity to show us what it means to live, outweighs the hurt they have been dealt by religious institutions. Sure, they don't all claim to be religious people, but they follow Christianity as a religion, and I finally understand why.

The Christianity these people I admire follow is a friend to other religions rather than an enemy, approaches others with the best of intentions, even while knowing how horrible people can be, is respectful despite the way people disrespect themselves, and is a simple matter of loving something, indeed Someone, so much that it becomes religion.

The religion I've been referring to is different, it is a virus, an infection on humanity, the Christianity that Nietzsche referred to when he pronounced God as dead and the movement whose followers do not cease to be insipid. It is an elitist group of people who are interested in comfort, security, self-gain, superiority, and will do whatever it takes to assure these things.

The religion I've encountered is something I understand by nature of being a passionate person. For the entirety of this post, I have been listening to Nightwish live recordings on Youtube. These are not the highest quality recordings, but I find them to be overwhelmingly beautiful, because they're examples of why I love my favorite band. They're full of passion, rendering the flaws another aspect of these recordings' greatness. Indeed, when I have seen Nightwish the past two times, I have been completely emotionally overwhelmed by what I've seen, by the connection in the crowd of people, all different, that came for one purpose: to see Nightwish, to sing along, to express their love for the band playing and to enjoy it, regardless of how. We may have our differences on favorite band member, what album was the best (obviously Once, come on!), which singer was better, and some may appreciate different parts of the band (I appreciate the vocals the most, some may like guitar, etc.) No one's not actually a Nightwish fan because of these differences, they just have their own opinions.

That is the religion I encounter from this small group of people, these few that are faithful in their own way. These people aren't interested in proving that their religion is better than others', they're not interested in imposing morality on others' or in maintaining some kind of status queue. Sure, they understand it, we all do. We're all broken, we're all damaged, we all understand how the infection works. But the hope is in moving beyond this, the hope is found when we stop giving a damn what other people have to say about what we should be doing in the name of religion and start being more concerned with respecting others, respecting ourselves, doing inconvenient things in the name of being a true human, and generally being the biggest threat the viral strain of religion has ever known.

Another thing that I've learned is that no good act goes unpunished. I am not the only one that's been damaged while trying to do rightly. I've seen it happen over and over, watched as people that claim Christianity act so contrary to the God I know and can not deny knowing, as much as I have sometimes wanted to. There is no reward for our love for God, and we will be rejected by 99% of the people we meet, simply because we've lost our interest in their stupid little power games. Just as doing philosophy to seek truth is foreign to many in this age, so is being religious because we actually think God simply Is to many religious people. You will be punished, rejected, and probably have all sorts of unfortunate things happen to you if you choose this way. However, I think this is what Jesus had in mind when he pointed to another way beyond the dominant religion of his time, and I think this way transcends the power games, the pettiness, and the terrible things done in the name of corporate religion.

To those that have helped me get to this point, to see a way out of the despair I found and hid away in: you know who you are, and thank you. I could not have done it without you.

Monday, September 6, 2010

On Hipster Christianity

I was amazed to find that my friend and fellow writer Carson had recently posted about "Hipster Christianity" as a movement.


I read an article (which I am unable to find) about "Hipster Christianity" a few months ago and proceeded to write a bitter post about it, which I subsequently deleted without posting. What follows is perhaps a more measured set of thoughts regarding this "movement." Perhaps.

I use the word movement loosely for two reasons.

Firstly, the Emerging Church seems to have been the previous "movement" in Christianity, and it lasted perhaps 5 years, if that. Though my exposure to Christian subculture has been to a small community of conservatives for the most part, it seems like most people missed the point entirely of the Emerging Church when it was around. Indeed, when I can read an article citing Rob Bell's book "SexGod" as an example of Hipster Christianity and as shock value, when Bell was previously lumped in with the Emerging Church, it seems like we're talking about nothing of substance, more than people moving from one fashionable thing to another. If I remember correctly, the point of the Emerging Church was for Christians to embrace those around them, to listen instead of reacting and respond with understanding, as opposed to the knee-jerk represented so often in pop-culture that is sadly typical of many religious people. Has this movement died? Has it institutionalized already? I have observed very few people in my time in Christian subculture that responded to Emerging and newer writers that challenged the "status queue" (rather new itself, relatively speaking, even if we're speaking of Luther), and only a few reactions. Some chose to say that Postmodernism is dead and that the Emerging Church is irrelevant to anything, some chose to call the Emerging Church heresy for no good reason that I could find, and still others simply bought it, hook line and sinker, with obviously no understanding of what it is. This third reaction leads me to my second point.

"Hipster Christianity" seems to me to be the logical extension of those that liked the Emerging Church without understanding the Philosophical background and the reason it existed. There are now multiple stereotypes of a hipster Christian, and another subculture within a subculture has formed. This is not a movement, this is a subculture. A movement implies change, a subculture is a binding force with social acceptance at the center. Movements frequently operated counter to social acceptance, and in general are seeking truth in some way.

Hipsters have been around for a while, and it's just a new word for people that enjoy fashionable things. This is fine, let them do what they like. But to call this thing a "movement" seems sadly indicative of the lack of intellectual freedom and critical thought present in not just a lot of Christianity, but in many that choose to throw their support behind things without thinking about it.

I'll not doomsay our culture, for I have no authority to make predictive claims that will put my foot in my mouth later. However, I am understandably dissatisfied with a subculture that would make things that are intended to arouse critical thought, such as the work of Rob Bell, into a mere fashion statement, and denigrate critical thought to the level of merely being contrary. It is understandably frustrating to me, having had my life literally changed by reading the work of Bell and others like him.

In conclusion, I do believe the Emerging Church movement is completely dead, and has been dying a slow death for some time, culminating in this "Hipster Christianity" fad. Or perhaps my age is finally beginning to show. Either way, I can only look to those people that do still practice critical thinking and choose to respond to circumstances rather than reacting without seeing or understanding. Perhaps one day I'll return to church because of those people.

Comment is invited. If you know more than I do about this, please feel free to share.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Star Trek: Enterprise - A Review

I grew up watching Star Trek. I know, it's not particularly cool, depending on who you are. But I say it's an excellent set of series'. My dad got me into The Next Generation and showed me the cheesy gloriousness of the 60's era Star Trek. I watched the Wrath of Khan and about lost it at the end. When Voyager came out, I watched the first episode with nothing less than extreme excitement. I even came to love the series most people that like the other 3 already mentioned don't like: Deep Space Nine. It's character development, overarching story throughout the latter half of the series, and continual outstanding mix of sci-fi with solid story telling and development of classic and deep characters captivated me completely.

I love Star Trek for many reasons. I love sci-fi and futuristic technology, I love good storytelling, and I love a universe I can get into, even if it hasn't remained consistent throughout all of its' run. However, the main overriding reason I like Star Trek is that it shows the best parts of how a person can be. It shows people exercising bravery, truly thinking through problems instead of allowing themselves to be overwhelmed, friendships that last and endure through years, and the enduring nature of people, how they will continue to explore, improve upon themselves, and fight for the right things, even if it costs them their lives.

To me, Star Trek is truly great, and everyone should give it a chance.

Having been a fan of the other 4 series' and all of the movies (though Nemesis, I confess, disappointed me greatly), I was deeply frustrated when the fifth series, initially named only Enterprise, launched. It was said that the writers were attempting to rewrite the Original Series, and the continuity violations started there. I'm not talking about simple technological differences, entire aspects of the universe, such as the nature of Vulcans, were being completely rewritten. I watched the first few episodes, and then when I watched one that I thought was particularly silly (male pregnancy wtf?!) I abandoned the series altogether, preferring to say it's not canon.

Recently, I decided to watch the series and give it a fair chance before discounting it, on the advice of a few people. There were some rather painful parts, and a few episodes that I thought were contrived, low level metaphor for contemporary issues. But Star Trek has never been without a few of those episodes in any series. I struggled through those, and I became addicted. I watched all 98 episodes, and I have to say, I not only think that it eventually became a very good canon series due to the way the universe and technological issues were handled, (season 3 and 4 changing the name to Star Trek: Enterprise to reflect the change in tone), but it's reminded me of why I like Star Trek.

The Universe of Star Trek has always been a bit flexible, with the science never being too exact and the plot usually driving the show or movie. What really shines through every series is the philosophy: that exploring and finding something better about ourselves and humanity is a worthwhile endeavor. In Season 3 of Enterprise, Captain Archer and crew are faced with a threat that could entirely destroy Earth. He takes every step, crossing many ethical lines, to make sure that that doesn't happen. What that costs him personally can be summed up as him losing his way. I believe most people can relate to this, at some point they must do what is necessary, including some ugly things, to accomplish a greater goal. Life's not always easy, but change is the essence of who we are. We can move beyond, grow, and become better, or we can change for the worse. Regardless, everything counts, and what separates us from evil is not a simply black and white formula, but our choices, our perspectives, and the way we choose to handle things.

I like Star Trek because it shows me that it is possible for humanity to live for something greater, and for us not to be alone. Star Trek: Enterprise reminded me of that, and I am proud to say I watched and enjoyed it.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Transcending Tragedy

Sometimes, things are simply unfair. As the saying goes, no one ever said life would be fair. Sometimes this works in our favor, and sometimes it does not. Regardless, our world is out of balance. The idealist is disappointed at all times, as his experiences are never a thing corresponding to reality. An ideal is at best a hope for tomorrow, a thing that is desirable for the future.

Life is tragic, and sometimes in the smallest ways. It is tragic when a person is misunderstood to the point of being written off by many that he used to call friend. It is tragic when a person loses who they are in another person, as if that person is in some way superior to them because of what their misplaced admiration tells them. It is tragic when people sacrifice their own personalities, their own uniqueness, to conform to a system out of fear of reprisal. It is tragic when people are lead solely by their emotions and desires, and forget what their head tells them out of some twisted sense of spirituality.

I could go on, but that will more than suffice. I've experienced my share of small tragedy, and I've even experienced the more obvious forms: death of loved ones, people driven nearly to suicide by the lack of caring of others and the total collapse of things held so dear to them. I've even caused my share of tragedy, large and small, and my favorite victim has been myself, a tragedy in itself.

It's all made me very mad. I hate how unfair life is, I hate how petty and ignorant people can willingly be, and how entirely unfair situations end up being because people can not see beyond their selfishness. I can not stand the small tragedies that I and many others are asked to "just deal with" every day for the convenience of others. I hate seeing things I love being used to justify appalling abuses of people.

Being mad has done nothing but make me bitter, and my bitterness has done nothing to change any of the situations or things I can't stand. On the contrary, it has spiraled them further out of my control, whether through others' deliberate manipulation, through a simple lack of desire to engage someone so angry, or the distance I place between myself and others because I have become convinced at times that people are all going to fail me.

But there is a better way, and one does not have to become an idealistic fool to take it. One can only control himself and his own responses to their life. We do not have to respond how our emotions tell us to. We do not have to allow our emotions to make us miserable just because we think, for some reason, that that makes us noble or right. On the contrary, to be so controlled by chemical reactions in the brain is to discard part of what makes us human: our mind.

My mind has come into conflict with much of what I have been told to accept for 24 years lately. I am on the verge of many changes, and leaving many things behind. I don't even know where this will leave me when it comes to things such as the church, friends I've known for years, my family, my alma mater, and life in general as I've known it for the past almost 10 years. It's exciting and necessary change, but terrifying nonetheless, as change often is.

The change of scenery, the newness of routine and the ability to support myself are all parts of this change, but at the core of it is a new refusal to allow myself to be an entirely emotional being any longer.

I've spent a lot of time reacting and not a lot of time thinking when it comes to a lot of things, and that creates problems, no matter who you are. Sentimentality is one thing, but I refuse to allow another person to control me again through emotional manipulation, as I am so prone to do.

When a person feels deeply, they feel the tragic things in their soul. I make no apologies for being disturbed, for criticizing, for lack of reverence that I hope leads toward change in myself and the things I love. However, I will embrace this change, I will transcend tragedy and find hope again.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Emotional Intelligence, Part 1

I just ran into this topic yesterday, and do not know much about it yet, but it already has me interested.

Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is sort of like the Intelligence Quotient, or IQ, but seems a little more complicated to measure and manage. It consists of a person's Personal Competence and their Social Competence, and is further divided into Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Management (Bradberry, & Greaves, 2009).

Like any multi-pronged, testable psychological measure, there is a degree of subjectivity to the test, but after taking it myself, I found it to be quite accurate, and it comes with strategies for improving one's EQ (which I need).

So what does it all mean?

I can only tell you what I think it means. In academia, value is placed on the ability of a person to recall facts, deductive reasoning, and their raw intelligence. This is how you get grades (ignoring for now whether the grading scale and assignments even accurately measure these things), and how you progress. There is even an accidental measure of motivation built in. You will not do well in academia if you simply do not do the work.

In social situations, people often lack the ability to be effective for many reasons. For example, some people may assume that others think much worse of them than they actually do. Some people may have a built in propensity to fail for their own emotional protection. Sometimes people fear change so much that they maintain the status quo at all costs. Still others have personal desires for themselves or for their lives that are never fulfilled because they are their own worst enemy, or because they can not go beyond their own insecurities, their own sense of being disturbed, or their own upset state to simply make the best of their situation.

It came to my attention recently from a friend that I tend to allow my own wounds to keep me from making progress. I then stumbled on this topic, and I think it may have been a good bit of what he was trying to tell me. Granted, life has been pretty tough for me lately for a few reasons, but when I consider EQ, I am met with an interesting challenge.

All of these things can be a problem if we are not intentional. That is, if we always think and act based on how we feel, then we will not only be unpredictable, we will lose our perspective on life, especially when things do not go well. We are emotional beings by nature. Emotions are, at the base level, a chemical reaction in the brain that precedes any conscious thought. In other words, they set the tone for how we handle things if we allow them to.

Emotional Intelligence, as I understand it, is self-control, awareness, and intentionality in all situations, and it is a choice.

More on this later.

Bradberry, T, & Greaves, J. (2009). Emotional intelligence 2.0. San Diego: TalentSmart.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Laid To Waste

What do you do when your entire life decides to leave you in the dust? What do you do when nothing is left that you can recognize from only a few months ago? Some days you grieve, some days you are so angry you could kill somebody, and some days you just don't care about anything.

But life goes on. Your passions move you away from the direction that many have tried to pigeonhole you into, your eyes fixate on another thing and then another, but nothing gives satisfaction. Because you no longer understand the life you once claimed to know like no one else. You are haunted beyond anything you can think of. Some days you simply laugh at everything that used to seem so important, and some days you think it would be nice to die, just to not have to try to understand anymore, just to have to stop constantly forging your own way forward in a direction that it seems no one else will go.

You doubt yourself, because you could just have a bad case of stubbornness, and you sometimes wonder if you should have settled for the life you could have had if you would simply cease to be so damned contentious and stubborn about everything. You wish, beyond anything, that you could be like the people that seem to have it all figured out, instead of standing in a vacuum where seemingly nothing makes sense.

Yet, at the end of all things, there is the knowledge that you are like no other. There is the knowledge that you have sacrificed so much for something irreplaceable: the pursuit of Truth.

If you can survive the void, if you can survive the nothingness, then you will endure the life ahead of you, beyond all of the ideals you've left behind, all of the comfort of tying one's identity to social acceptance or intellectual movements or to another person's whims.

Being laid to waste is only the first step. Life will go on, and you will endure.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

On the Utility of Social Relationships

It is no secret to the reader of this blog that I am a highly passionate person, and that my passions can rule me at times. However, that said, I try to keep my writing here as detached and objective as possible, while still retaining a personal touch. In other words, I write from my experiences, but attempt to be logical and reasonable in doing so.

I explain this because my life has recently become very uncertain, and a lot of personal things I've believed for a very long time have been disproven. Unfortunately, this process makes a lot of sense out of some of the difficulty I have been known to have due to my idealism. It is, at best, devestating to have one's beliefs knocked out from under them like this, but I write about this particular belief in the hope that it will make some sense out of things for both myself and anyone that still reads this.

I have believed in love for a long time, and I've had my own particular way of thinking about it. It has been my guiding ideal, the altruistic drive that proves that people are worth my time. I've always believed that love redeems, and that it's something that will make one's life better. I've thought of love as the force of good in the world, something that treats everyone with equal value and creates a sense of balance, of justice. I've even come to view God this way, as the explanation for how He is. Perhaps the only part of this I still believe is that this is His nature: He loves perfectly, and that love is a perfect redemptive force.

I recently had a man come sit by me in the middle of the mall and tell me about Jesus. He asked me and my friend if we knew for sure what would happen to us when we died, and proceeded to articulate an extremely conservative Christian faith. I asked him where he went to church, and he named a Baptist Church. No surprise there, he articulated the Baptist theology to us perfectly. I mentioned to him that I was a jaded Christian, and he said he got that feeling from me when I didn't give him a straight answer right away about where I'd go when I die (I said I hoped I knew).

Those of you that know me probably think that this whole interaction pissed me off. In all honesty, I was appreciative to this man. Don't get me wrong, I threw away the tract he gave me, but I still appreciated that someone would take time out of their day and demonstrate that they care, however misguided they may or may not be. After all, I am no judge of the things he spoke of, I merely have my opinions, most of which change several times a day.

Personally, I was offended by several of his views. I disliked how much he railed against the academic establishment as being liberal, I thought that his tying of reading the Bible and going to Church as being what keeps you strong to be simplistic and legalistic at worst, and his once saved always saved theology is something I highly disagree with. His theological tone was appalling to me, and if he'd put it in writing I would have flamed him to no end.

But he came up to me, and his tone was entirely disarming. I don't know how much he actually cared and how much he merely wanted to grind an axe or how much he felt obligated to do what he did. But socially, he created an advantageous situation for him to articulate his beliefs to us. And it worked. I was polite to him, I listened to him, and I interacted a little bit. And then, when he felt satisfied by the interaction, he walked away. I recommended him a book, one that with his views, he will probably disregard or never read.

The two levels of this interaction, the social and the conceptual, are such an interesting thing to me. If I am friends with a person, those things are the same to me, or at least as close as I possibly can make them. However, I am an oddity in this world because of that habit.

In normal social interactions, people seldom say what they think. I am included in this. When I can tell it is pointless, I merely play the part. This could be because I avoid confrontation, or it could be because I simply do not care. Maybe both, maybe something else entirely. But the point is, when someone becomes my friend, or when they address me personally, I spare them no hint of the truth about me.

Another interesting fact is that I have lost contact with most of the friends and all of the women I have been intimate with over the years. The relationships simply dissolve into thin air. Someone I hadn't talked to in years contacted me the other day and asked me why we hadn't talked in so long and that it was wrong, and I told her that she had blocked me on Facebook until recently. She immediately stopped talking to me. I suppose that conversation didn't call for honesty. My bad.

But I digress. I am here to talk about love and social relationships. I have a few friends that I have been able to have a lasting connection with, regardless of distance and circumstance and despite, seemingly, myself. They are good people that have known me and accept me regardless of my multitude of flaws. They are not critical of me except in ways that are beneficial, and they support me even when they don't necessarily agree with me 100%.

They are the exception. This refers to less than 10 people I have met in my nearly 25 years of life, including my immediate family. In many other cases, I have had so called friends be nice to me to my face and tell others I know things that frustrated them about me. I've had some spread lies about me, and I've had some stop talking to me for no apparent reason. This is their prerogative, but what strikes me as interesting is how much they all emphasize truth and love. They're all religious people, and they all have idealistic beliefs about how to live rightly, and they all believe zealously in absolute truth.

I am no ivory tower of love and altruism, and I am not honest to every person I come across. If I am less than truthful, I try to make it for a beneficial reason, but in general, the more honest I am, the more I am met with distrust and hostility. This applies especially when it comes to religion and philosophy, and I suppose that makes sense. Hot button issues, especially idealistic ones, are more detached from the every day than most things.

"...sometimes the truth isn't good enough. Sometimes people deserve more. Sometimes people deserve to have their faith rewarded." -Batman: The Dark Knight

Society is profoundly sick with fear. Honesty is a scary and awkward thing, and it's hard to handle most of the time. More people are motivated by fear than anything else. I was evangelized by a well meaning individual who used the fear of death as a way to get into a conversation and convince me of something. I've seen more relationships broken because someone could not handle the truth, more friendships die because people valued their ideals over the people right in front of them. We are not driven by love or truth, we are driven by convenience and fear.

I am often told that the way I approach God and religion is dangerous and scary, and I have to agree. I know very few things for sure, and I merely have hope about everything else. The religion I grew up with has rejected me almost totally, and I'm better off, if not as secure, without it. But what good is false security?

The truth is scary, and we are afraid of it. The truth is, love is the most inconvenient thing you can possibly think of. It means giving up everything that you are for other people. It means challenging yourself constantly to sacrifice more, to give more, and to be invisible. And hopefully, those people will do the same for you. But most of the time, they will not.

Love is not a victory march.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Why I am [Almost] a Relativist

Claims to absolute knowledge are nearly as plentiful as there are people. The religious person is the expert of claiming that there is absolute knowledge, and that they have that knowledge. The latter part of that claim bothers me much more than the former.

There are numerous religions, and numerous factions within every religion. There are numerous people within every religion, and there have been disagreements from the start of the world, precisely because no two people see things the same.

Why then, do we spend our time trying to convince other people that we are correct? Do we believe we have special wisdom no one else has? Do we believe we are God's gift to the world?

I've listened to Christians for years go on about absolute truth and how we have to save people by convincing them to intellectually acknowledge their beliefs, and frankly I'm tired of it. When I say I don't try to convince people to believe in God how I do, I am told it's because I want them to go to Hell. Typically, how I want to respond is "no, I want you to go to Hell." And then, when I explain to them my view of God, I am disagreed with, mostly because I don't find there to be very many imperatives to how God wants us to live.

I don't believe God is pissed off about people having premarital sex or gay marriage. I don't think God wants everyone to be straight, everyone to be a particular brand of religion, or have particular political views. So why do we think that?

The God I know is the only thing keeping me from being a relativist, and I still don't believe in very many absolutes, for one simple reason: I listen to other people and evaluate all of my beliefs as honestly as I can. In doing so, my beliefs have been kicked out from under me far too often, and I am simply tired of blindly committing myself to a set of beliefs and then realizing what kind of a person that's made me, and what exactly I have allowed my mind to be enslaved to.

Morally, I find what does harm to others or to ourselves to be reprehensible, but that tends to vary wildly with very few exceptions. Even killing as an act can be acceptable based on situation. For example, presuming I am married sometime in the future, if I find a man in the process of raping my wife, I will kill him, and I find that to be justified.

That is a far cry from drugs, casual sex, drunkenness, and any other vice that the Christians I've spoken to about morality tend to get uptight about. I find those things to be harmful to me, and I imagine they have more implications for life than a lot of people realize. However, I do not find them to be morally wrong.

People all see God a different way, but the only things I have found common to all people, regardless of how they live and their faith, is that people are of value, and should be treated as such. Even if it is simply in the inner recognition that leads to defending oneself, people do believe this. And I believe that value comes from God, the one that created us, that gives things value.

That does not mean that we must align with a church, tell people how not to go to hell (as if we even know the exact machinations of how God relates to humanity), or push what we believe on others. It means we're free, and it means that respect and love are the right way to treat people, regardless of the specifics.

Morally, religiously, and intellectually, when speaking of specifics, I believe that what is true for me may not be true for you. Even when it comes to larger things like religious affiliation, sex orientation, lifestyle choices, and how you see God, I don't think there is any totally right answer. I believe this precisely because God and reality are larger and more creative than anything we can possibly imagine, and we each have a bit of it in us.

A true relativist doesn't believe in any sort of Truth, and as much as I want to put myself in that camp, I can not do so. However, what I can do is suspend my beliefs at will whenever a conversation happens, for the sake of allowing myself to be wrong. I believe what I believe because I think it is right, but I do not hold myself to be on the high pedestal of knowing absolute truth. It's simply arrogant to do so.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

This Moment Is Perfect

I sit in my apartment, alone in my consciousness, my roommates dreaming of other things in their lack thereof. I feel disgusting due to attempting to sleep for hours after my body decided it was time to either be awake or have a panic attack after a mere 4 hours of sleep. Through the classical music I am listening to comes violent dissonance from a phone ringtone. I need a shower, and my face is slovenly unshaven. I have assignments due for school this week about things I care about, and I do not care to do them. I have money to live where I am for now, but no job. I am not moving forward in any measurable sense at the moment, I am static, stagnant, and entirely fascinated with being so.

"There is not a thing in this life that does not hold some fascination."

But I am moody. Shortly I will become annoyed with this state of affairs, and I will do something to pull myself out of my mental and emotional slump caused by nearly everything I knew a mere two months ago being torn out from under me. I now attend a different college. I thought I would be getting married in a little over a year and it is now obvious to me that it will be much longer than that, and to a different person. I was excited about my Masters' Degree and now my excitement is entirely detached from my heart, being a mere intellectual interest. I desire a daily routine that will bring in money, but I also enjoy the freedom of not having to do this. However, given the choice at the moment, I would rather work a meaningless job that interacts with people regularly than work in a therapeutic setting and study to move up in the field.

My passions have been burned from me, as seems to always be the case. I am a creature of dissonance, an unpredictable force whose only constant is writing from his head and his heart. And yet it all fascinates me. The moment I am pressured, I rebel, I move away from the things I love. I am a difficult person to keep in any way, and I've left broken relationships behind me, everywhere. Friends lose contact with me gradually, romantic relationships that were such a sure thing simply fall to pieces, acquaintances passively ignore or avoid me. My few constant friends are a source of tremendous joy for me, because it means I am not entirely alone despite my inherently chaotic nature.

What kind of a future is there for a person such as this? Will it really fit into a typical framework with a 9-5 job, 2.5 children, continuing education in a professional field, and honest work? I desire the constant companionship of a wife as I never have before. Not with my emotions, nor with my intellect, but with something deep within me. I am made to integrate with another, and that other must understand me to be uniquely damaged, broken in a way that no other is, one that belongs everywhere and nowhere. Perhaps we'll travel the world, doing random things for people, making friends and moving on in the same breath. Perhaps we'll live with other friends, fitting into a setting uniquely, living a small and satisfying life.

I belong to no religious affiliation. Christianity offends me, deep within my soul, as does anything that dictates what my heart should feel. I am wild, wasteful, amoral, areligious, and religion's attempts to "save" me have felt like nothing but power of other men like me attempting to align me for some purpose. Simultaneously, I know God. That force that runs through me, that mind that contacts mine and hands me wordless concepts, beautiful phrases and paints pictures of the reality that our mundane cultures, religions and social schemas flow from. The Christian God? Allah? Yahweh? It all falls terribly short.

If there is one thing my incurably diseased soul lives for, it's that energy it contacts, the thing that sets me on fire. It's the reason I fit nowhere, and the way in which I flow into every corner I can. I seem to lack the ability to specialize, and if I am subject to any other person it is always by choice. Despite being chaos embodied, my spirit is gentle, and I don't want to hurt other people. Yet, power comes from somewhere and flows through every interaction, and I've learned to act responsibly through destroying others and being destroyed by people that have claimed to love me. I tie others to my will so easily it scares me, and I suppose that means I could manipulate others very easily. Maybe that's why I am still so entirely frightened by every social interaction that I do not completely understand.

Faith in humanity? Give me one good reason to have it. I do despite myself, and for that I hold rage toward my meaningless idealism. It's that thing that keeps me honorable, because it is right, and not for another person's sake. Once, long ago, I knew how to love other people without expecting a thing in return. I think that was burned from me as well, and I mourn its' passing. Perhaps I'll learn it again, in a way that is unkillable, even if I am killed in the process. I suspect this is the journey ahead of me.

You don't understand, and yet you do. Because I am nothing, an alien, and yet I am so very human. This is not even scratching the surface of myself, because what I understand of this person I am is nothing compared to what I do not understand.

This moment is perfect. I am fascinated by it, and yet revolted. Time to move on.

Sunday, July 11, 2010


"Adolescents tend to view themselves as somehow unique and even heroic--as destined for unusual fame and fortune. Elkind dubs this romantic imagery the personal fable. The adolescent feels that others cannot possibly understand what she or he is experiencing, and often this leads to the creation of a story, or personal fable, which the adolescent tells everyone, although it is a story that is not true" (Crandell, Crandell and Vander Zanden, 2009, p. 380).

Sometimes I read something that strikes a chord in me, and I have to come here and make my special kind of music around that chord before it stops ringing in my head.


I remember feeling like this. I still do on occasion. I was the hero of my own story, the main character, the egocentric center of my own universe. Nothing could happen to me, I would never make mistakes that wouldn't somehow work out in the end, and I know everything. I live the right way, believe the right things, and if anything comes up amiss, it will all get tied back together into a neat little package.

It seems a bit silly to all of you probably, because you're likely aware that life doesn't work that way. If you're not, perhaps you live in a personal fable.

Life is a mess. Life is full of broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, things that were supposed to work out but didn't, and all because people can't seem to understand that life is not about them. When they're confronted with this reality, they get very, very pissed off. They pitch a fit like a child, precisely because this is a tendency present in somewhat childlike people, adolescents.

Personal fables stunt our growth when we can't distinguish between them and life. But sometimes things run through them that are part of our potential. And what does it come down to? Naturally, choice. Because life is not a set of ideals, it is a tragedy. We write our own stories, but we must also realize that others write stories that interact with ours', and so does God. What a messy, beautiful, tragic thing.

Crandell, T.L., Crandell, C.H., & Vender Zanden, J.W. (2009). Human Development (9th ed.). Boston: McGraw-Hill Higher Education

Saturday, July 3, 2010

A Case for the Value of the Twilight Saga

An accusation of insanity would not be far off from my mental state right now.

However, consider a few things for a moment.

Insert spoiler warning here.

Admittedly, Twilight (the first book) is an unrealistic romance. Not only that, it's downright cheesy at times, and the portrayal of vampires is -not- traditional by any means. Though it's explained well and makes sense (yes, even the sparkling), it still can not be placed in the same category as a vampire, at least for me. I think we all know the story, a girl falls in love with a vampire, there are about 100 mind-numbing pages of descriptions of his body, and he returns her love and protects her from everything, mostly perfectly.

New Moon introduces another drastically flawed character, but not one like Edward Cullen, who is seemingly this impossibly perfect model of what a man should be. Jacob Black (aside from Taylor Lautner, gag me please) is by comparison a drastically immature character that is extremely manipulative with his pursuit of the protagonist, Bella Swan. He is an excellent character because of how easily relatable he is to how many people feel. While Edward is like Ice, cold and unmoving and seemingly passionless in the face of a situation that would make -any- man jealous, Jacob is like fire, constantly governed by his passions and will stop at nothing in his pursuit.

The contrast is fascinating.

Even more fascinating is the fact that in Eclipse, Edward is the one chosen. The sun is eclipsed by darkness, or more aptly, fire is defeated by ice. The dispassionate Edward is shown to be true to his word, and he constantly shows a kind of infallible love for Bella. Even his mistakes show love, and it is that love that wins Bella over, even though she also loves Jacob. She sacrifices everything she possibly can for him because they bonded in New Moon, when Edward was gone.

Breaking Dawn is a story of marriage, and it quickly comes down to Bella being nearly killed by her unborn half vampire child. Edward is again willing to sacrifice whatever it takes to protect the one he loves, and eventually comes to love their child, and Jacob goes from being completely devastated by rejection to imprinting on the child, solving the love triangle present throughout the series. His commitment is absolute, and he goes from being a violently unstable individual to a constant protector of the child.

You may wonder why I am going on about impossible amounts of seemingly soap opera-like drama. Here's why.

Firstly, having had the experiences I have, I don't think a lot of it is too far off. Love is a messy thing, relationships are a messy thing, and no amount of talking about destiny or soul mates will change the fact that they are a choice. Both people choose, and they continue to sacrifice whatever it takes to make it work, and it works.

To digress slightly, no man is like Edward Cullen. The constant impossibly selfless behavior, the ageless physical beauty, and the flawless display of manners all held in perfect balance is nothing short of a fantasy. Jacob Black, while being much more realistic, is also a fantasy. His passionate nature that so entirely governs him and his immediate attachment to the one he should be with, no matter how well explained are fantasy.

This brings me to my second point. The fact is, the human heart is a fickle thing. But one thing that makes stories like Twilight so interesting is that they show us some of the best parts of ourselves. Because a man can be a gentleman, and his passions are able to be governed. And a choice to be with someone, to love them for their entire life, can be final. Though life does not often work out in a neat set of ideals, and never seems to at all times, I think it is beneficial to remember that these ideals exist within flawed people, and they can be chosen. Life is not always clearcut, but there is a thing about Twilight, as an idealistic series, that is very captivating because it speaks a little about the human heart and how it can work.

Lastly, I think it is important to be guarded, no matter who you are, when confronted with beautiful ideals of any kind. Because living merely by many ideals is not acknowledging a great many things about what it is to be human. A woman looking for Edward or someone with any one of his characteristics at a constant will be disappointed every time. A man trying to be such an ideal will quickly find himself lacking, because the truth is life does not work that way. It is possible for a man to be honorable, and to hold to ideals that make him an excellent mate.

It is impossible for anyone to be perfect, and anyone expecting perfection out of the one they claim to love might as well hate them. Forgiveness is as much a part of who we are as humans as honor and love and respect are.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Another Critique

"As a religion, organized Christianity, as it is now practiced is just about as genuine as tea made from a bit of paper which once lay in a drawer beside another bit of paper which once had been used to wrap a few dried tea leaves from which tea had already been made three times." - Søren Kierkegaard

Imagine a force that twists everything good into an obligation. Everything beautiful in life has a dark underside of mechanical obligations, universal claims based in imagination that comes from reading an ancient text that was never meant to kill us this way.

We pull law after law from its' pages, we create a world of ideals, a creation that puts our desires in cages rather than understanding them and being in control of ourselves.

The problem of religion, specifically Christianity, is not that it has its' doctrine wrong, not that it's practice is often horrifying and followers refuse to see it, but that its' recursive logic, its' blinding tendency to not speak truth but shibboleths, not promote freedom but mindless obligation and enslavement, and its' insidious inability to not manipulate its' followers is truly a perfect storm against the freedom and the beauty of mankind.

In or out. Heaven or Hell. An elitist group not distinguished by anything but dogmatic agreement to a created, cultural religious dogma held to be "absolute." Even still, within these groups there are the "hypocrites" and the "true believers." The single-minded uncritical exclusion of others, a hallmark of religious arrogance.

Look around. Every person is different. As many beliefs exist as do people, and no one person has all of theirs' correct. We waste time with assumptions. Belief that we know the absolute truth is nothing but arrogance, and the assumption that we are God or at the least gods. Belief that we know truth, in one of its' flavors, from our perspective, is more realistic. Unfortunately, it doesn't fit religion at all. A pity, because religion is comfortable to the extreme. We do what is "right" and don't have to think about it.

I criticize because people are better than this. I've met people of all faiths that are better than this. It is pathetic that as humanity has progressed we have not shaken off this ancient tendency to group ourselves into religious factions, but I suppose no one is perfect.

It is not helpful for us to judge other people, it is beneficial for us to judge the actions that occur close to us and the prevailing beliefs that they indicate, to critically analyze and to understand more, for the purpose of loving and respecting others.

How else can we live with ourselves any longer?

Saturday, June 12, 2010

To Wax Somewhat Personal

I've somewhat recently witnessed, in a few different ways, some pretty drastic misunderstandings, as well as some genuine anger and hurt over one simple thing: communication.

I am both an offender and a victim in this unfortunate trend: the trend of being passive aggressive, not saying how you feel or what you mean, protecting oneself from being hurt at the expense of others, and simply refusing to be straightforward in conversation.

It has affected everything in my life, from something as stupid as an online game to something as serious as my relationships with the people I love. The amount of misunderstanding and assumptions that are made out of fear are simply unbelievable. What is even more disturbing is that when we act out of fear, we are being selfish.

If you can acknowledge that and are okay with it, fair enough. However, the selfish person suffers from many setbacks in social situations. By necessity, they are not treated with the respect that a considerate and straightforward person would be, because in general it comes down to being inconsiderate and even rude to them because they will not be honest about their feelings, or to playing a guessing game, which leads to more assumptions and more misunderstanding, especially when it all goes unsaid.

It is amazing the lengths that a scared person will go to to avoid confrontation, or rejection, or even addressing difficult things that will end positively if they would just be said. Manipulation is not to be opposed because of some kind of metaphysical wickedness, it's a problem because it creates distance between people, it makes drastic violations of others' personal freedom, worth, and lives possible. It is hurting other people, and in general, it tends to be harmful to oneself. The more people you manipulate, the fewer genuine connections you will have, and that is sad.

Manipulation, even for the purpose of a positive ideal, is still a fundamental disrespect for the person you are manipulating, and it is still a dehumanizing force that affects you as much as the person you manipulate. It is for this reason that you can have all of the best intentions in the world and still create severe problems with your actions, with your words, and with your intentions in situations.

To digress to the original point, I think it's helpful to say what you mean, even when you feel you're risking something of yourself or when you fear the retaliation of the person you are speaking with. Of course, this can not happen all the time, however, as much as is possible is beneficial to both oneself and to others in the situation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

On Critical Thinking.

I am highly encouraged by what I have begun to read in the beginning of my graduate studies. It seems that what I've been missing in my educational endeavors is now present in my studies at Capella, if the first day of my first class is any indication.

Of course, in this hope, I betray my strong desire, perhaps even need, for such intellectually refreshing material, to the point of assuming the best about the future, something I rarely do. More on this later.

For now though, what is this that I have been missing? To put it simply, intellectual freedom.

For example, I offer an excerpt from the first article I have been assigned, regarding critical thinking.

"Like the honest juror, the critical thinker is ethically committed to the concept of due process-intellectual due process-as the best way to increase the likelihood of finding the truth. This code of intellectual conduct demands giving ideas their day in court before rendering an informed and reasoned verdict. It requires such traits as these:

* Being unwilling to subordinate one's thinking to orthodoxies that demand to be swallowed whole-at the risk of being charged with heresy

* Refusing to dismiss possible merits in ideas that otherwise may be deeply repugnant-at the risk of appearing immoral

* Being capable of saying, "I don't know"-at the risk of appearing unintelligent

* Being willing to judge the truth value of ideas sponsored by demographic and cultural groups to which one does not belong-at the risk of being accused of prejudice

* Being willing to change one's mind-at the risk of appearing capricious

* Being open to the arguments of adversaries-at the risk of appearing disloyal

* Having an acute awareness of the limits and fallibility of one's knowledge-at the risk of seeming to suffer from that dreaded malady, low self-esteem" (Gabennesch, 2006, p. 40)

I find that I resonate with so much of this that I wonder if the writer has looked at my experiences over the past 5 years and written an article. This, of course, is probably exceptionally conceited of me to say, but if you'll pardon the presumption for a moment, I will elaborate.

I've begun to attribute the recent chapter of my life to when I was a small boy and asked God for patience. I think He may just have laughed and simply said "you have no idea."

I have been, at nearly every turn, judged harshly for many of the things I have said. I have had it demanded of me to agree with certain ideas, certain methods, and certain attitudes. When I would not agree, I was accused of not agreeing with Christianity, not agreeing with what everyone in the church thinks, having no foundation for my truth claims, being rebellious, and perhaps most hurtfully at the time, being a heretic.

My problem, the thing that causes me pain, is that I believe in God, that I love the church, and that I proudly call myself a Christian. Though I will apologize for any number of things any part of the church has done that have been simply insane, I am still glad to follow the teachings of Christ. However, I bear no loyalty to what I am seemingly forced to accept with this faith I hold. I find it unnecessary to look at Christianity and any religion as a system that must be swallowed whole or rejected completely. I find it harmful to agree with anything I do not fully understand, even if that understanding must be between myself and God, and must include some type of intellectual mystery. I find it unnecessarily hostile to defend my faith as better than everyone else's, to the point to where I will not do it.

I claim less than most people not because I am more humble, but because I seem to naturally think critically. Or perhaps I do so because of the way my life has gone. However, I would not trade it for the world. It is my approach to life, it is my allegiance to the truth, and a thousand men could accuse me of heresy because of it and I still wouldn't regret it.

What I hope the reader will recognize is that I do what I do and I think how
I think because of my journey with God. I hold a profound allegiance for the truth, and I recognize that my beliefs are not, and never will be, the full and absolute truth. Hence, when I hear another perspective I want to know about it. Because God is this huge, beautiful being that will always have some kind of mystery to Him, because He is just that much.

I Am. We can't even understand His Name completely. I can't believe He would create us with the capacity for critical thought and not wish for us to use it.

Howard Gabennesch. (2006, March). Critical Thinking: What Is It Good for? (In Fact, What Is It?). The Skeptical Inquirer, 30(2), 36-41. Retrieved June 7, 2010, from ProQuest Psychology Journals. (Document ID: 996976231).

Friday, April 30, 2010

On "Calling a Spade a Spade," or another perspective on "Embracing Labels"

My friend Carson recently wrote a blog post on Embracing Labels. This is not exactly a response, but more of my take on the issue of labels themselves. I think Carson and I have some pretty fundamental thought differences that these views may highlight. I encourage you to read his blog post here for another perspective:

A label is a construct, at its' very best, of a concept for the purpose of communication. With this in mind, labels are indeed helpful in furthering understanding, but my question is whether they are more harmful than beneficial. I say that they are, though tragically, language and what it does are inescapable parts of the human condition.

For example, one may label me as a Postmodern thinker, for a couple of reasons. I am skeptical and suspicious of structures of power, I feel that one must construct their own meaning that stands apart from the predominant culture around them, and I believe that scientific and logical objectivity is about as possibly as emotional and spiritual objectivity. In other words, I am a radical affirmer of human subjectivity, and my stance toward absolute truth claims is always suspicion. This encompasses postmodernism decently well, enough to where that label could apply to me.

However, in even applying that label to myself as tentatively as I just did, I do not fit it. Additionally, I am educated in the science of Psychology, and am continuing my education in that field. I think extremely logically and systematically. I see numbers everywhere. Perhaps most importantly however, I believe that a person can come to perfect (but not exhaustive) truth regarding the world, God, and humanity. I am very not like the label of Postmodernism in these ways.

So what then is the purpose of labeling me a Postmodern thinker? Is it to communicate some of my beliefs in an efficient manner, or is it for the purpose of pigeon-holing? What if I have other beliefs that contradict my postmodern beliefs, but when someone hears that I am Postmodern, they assume that I deny the existence of absolute truth altogether, like some radical postmodern thinkers do? Is that label still a helpful and functional representation of who I am?

Some may say I merely need another label. Perhaps psychologist fits better because of my scientific orientation toward research and systematic understanding of the human mind. But then one must take into account how little faith I place in the science of psychology as a stand alone discipline, and how I believe it should be looked at as more of an art than a science. I hold this type of skepticism even toward the most physical sciences, with massive amounts of empirical proof employed in the carrying out of.

So, how about multiple labels then? Perhaps I am a psychological, intellectual, postmodern, scientific, artistic, Christian. At one point does this become a complete defeating of the purpose of labels?

I believe the inherent complexity of any person is a cause for the rejection of labels. "Calling a Spade a Spade" is only helpful if that is the spade's identity. So, in order for labels to continue to be helpful, we must cease to use them in the manner we do. That is, I can tell you I'm a Christian because I align with God as expressed in Christ, and I believe things a lot of Christians do. But for that to be my identity simply ignores a good deal of my skepticism toward the religion itself, toward the metanarrative that many Christians present, and any other leanings I may have that are contradictory to Christianity as it is presented in our culture. In other words, I must self-define what a Christian is for it to be helpful, which defeats the purpose of the label, which is communication.

Finally, we come to the point. Labels are constructs, and they're helpful in specific cultures in which they are constructed, so long as a person isn't merely a "Postmodern" or an "Evangelical" or a "Muslim." To define people this way is to depersonalize them and control them, a goal inherent in the way in which this type of language is used. Hence, I believe labels should not be embraced, but they should be hesitantly tolerated.

Now, I understand that I've already used hundreds of labels in writing this. Every word is a signifier, and though language comprehension builds our understanding of the world, it is still a construct. However, it can only be constructed because there are some things that make us human. There is an essence to the universe that flows through every person, and binds us together, giving us the ability to communicate, to encode for the purpose of transmission of our thoughts from one person to another.

I call it God, and I think He is far, far more complex than we give Him credit for, to the point that systematic theology, if not taken with a grain of salt, creates merely an idol for us to worship. The same goes for man, and for the nature of the universe. Labels are helpful in encoding information for transmission, but that is it. To use them for anything else, to believe we have a person figured out because they fit a label in our mind, and indeed to separate people into groups is, whether the person believes it or not, a power play, an attempt at controlling the world and the people around them.

Surely, some of this we do naturally and is perhaps not a bad thing in light of the broken nature of reality. But is it the ideal? Certainly not. I think utilizing labels intelligently and with restraint is a necessary evil because of our disconnected state.

But keep in mind, with the using of these labels is the danger that we will fall into the very thing the Postmodern Philosopher would warn us against, that we would use this control, these power plays to marginalize based upon arbitrary systematic inclusions and exclusions that do more harm than good to all involved.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Senior Testimony: Video and Summary

Some of you know that TFC let me speak in chapel earlier this week, to give my senior testimony. I've had the video asked for, so here it is, and I'll also post the outline I took up with me for anyone to read that wants to interact.

I came to TFC looking for a fight, and I found one. I've never been a person lacking in passion, but if there's one thing I've learned from my experience at TFC, it's that passion is not its' own reason, and being tempered by self-control, critical thinking, and compassion is not only desirable, it is essential if one wishes to be of any good to those around them and to themselves.

I came to Toccoa Falls College at the same time as my best friend at the time, Matt, whom very few of you know. We both held non-traditional views and were struggling to understand basic Christian doctrines that we'd been taught all of our lives. At least for me, this experience occurred because I had been on a journey for some time to make my views my own. I was greeted by some that engaged me in conversation, some that responded with hostility, and some that informed me of my endpoint, where my beliefs would end up. The ironic thing is that in my pursuit of truth, this last group of people was very rarely correct. It is through this experience that I have learned that when a standard is applied to a person, it very rarely seems to fit that person unless they choose for it to.

My best friend renounced his faith and left TFC to pursue other things. In light of how liberal I seemed to be at TFC, he began to talk to me as though I held to extremely conservative Christianity. Through a great deal of pressure, I began to realize that I could never settle for another person's conception of truth, I needed to seek it myself, no matter how sharply I am disapproved of. This has led to a great deal of personal difficulty, but I've always found it to be a worthwhile endeavor, as it's been the guiding force in drawing me closer to God.

I came to TFC intending to be a Counseling Psychology major, and my major and my friends are the two overriding reasons I am about to graduate from this institution.

The Counseling major is simply excellent at this college, and I've been fortunate enough to interact with professors who both know their field very well and truly desire for the students in my department to succeed. I haven't even wanted to be a Counseling Major through about half of my time here, but I could not bring myself to change that path, because every time I tried, including on the graduate level, I have failed to follow through. I've known it's my path ever since I left Georgia Tech and a promising path in life in computers, which I know very well, to work with people. I've learned through my education and through my personal interaction that I not only have needed my time at TFC to develop social skills (something I strongly lacked upon coming here), but that my calling is to help people think, and to bring them into a stronger congruence with who they are. This is not a calling I take lightly, though I must say, I've very often termed myself the “Worst Counseling Major Ever” when things socially or emotionally began to crash for me in recent years.

I have made many friends at TFC, an experience that was a first for me. I have about 3 consistent friends from the 19 years before attending this college, and I am proud to say that I've met some of the best friends I could've ever asked for at this place, including the woman I will marry.

Initially, there was a lot of social drama, something that seems to be a constant in high school and in environments like TFC. I, being a passionate and extreme sort of personality, reacted very strongly to this drama, usually making things worse. This lead to many situations that were quite unfortunate, but as I've come to recognize, the darkness sometimes helps one see the light.

I've been in three different relationships during my time at TFC, and as aforementioned, I am in the third one now, a relationship I intend to see through to marriage and beyond. The interesting thing about these was that they were all very different experiences. I've been in a codependent relationship, something that I had to recognize as idolatry and come to value myself and look out for myself in the context of relationships as a result. I know that you hear a lot of cliches and advice about relationships about TFC, but if there is one thing I have found, it's that relationships, overemphasized as they are, are a beautiful thing and can be a growing experience. The trick for me was to learn that I can not find my reason to live in another person, I must find it in the Truth of existence, or in God. What this looks like is something I can not explain up here in the time allotted, and I believe is something that each person must find out for themselves. However, as a man that has found the one he intends to marry, I will say that when people are truly their own and in submission to God, and when there is a level of absolute freedom in a relationship for each person to be themselves, it becomes a beautiful portrayal of what I think God had in mind when he created the woman to be with the man, so he was no longer alone.

My $.02. Take it or leave it.

Throughout high school, I focused so much on romantic relationships that I neglected friendships. In my time at TFC I've made many friends, and I've lost contact with some that I thought I never would. As fleeting as relationships of any kind are, it makes me thankful for the ones that will last. This has become especially apparent in recent years with the death of several people close to me. In particular, I've lost all of my grandparents in my time at TFC, a friend from another college, and my former best friend Matt, who was killed in action in Afghanistan. Truly, life is a fleeting thing, and now is the time that we must live in, making every action count, every relationship reconciled, and doing as much good as we can. I believe this is what God wants us all to do, in our own way, with our own gifts and talents.

Some of you know me from Philosophy classes or the Philosophy club, or perhaps even from the formal debate I participated in at the beginning of my Freshman year. If you remember that, then graduate already! But honestly, I still had to answer questions regarding beliefs I held as long as 4 years ago within the past year. It has astounded me how few people will even consider the notion that beliefs are not static, and that the person you knew years ago is no longer the same person today.

Philosophy is not merely a hobby for me, it is a thing I participate in because I feel driven to. It is part of who I am to ask questions when people claim things, and to critically evaluate the information I am given before I will accept anything as true. Furthermore, this has become part of my regular conversation and lifestyle, and with anyone I am close to, I challenge their assumptions not because I wish for their beliefs to be torn down, but because I desire for them to have the same thing I have received from those that would challenge me. Philosophy, to me, is the “love of Wisdom,” and I'd encourage you all to critically think in whatever field you participate. Re-evaluating one's own beliefs is a recognition that we are human, don't have all the answers, and are still pursuing Truth.

I now stand to graduate from this institution, having learned many things both about myself, about the world around me, and about life. And in the future, when I move on to other things, I believe I will realize just how limited that knowledge is and come to a greater understanding about a variety of things. I encourage you, if you are as frightened by the change coming in graduating as I am, know that it is another step in the adventure of life, and look at it as an opportunity to grow rather than “going out into the real world” with necessities like “defending your faith.”

I once nearly renounced my faith because of the poor experiences I've had in seeking Truth in Christian community, and mainly because of my own bitterness and limitations. I can't say that I've fully overcome those personal obstacles, but I feel that it would only be appropriate to leave you with a quote from a man that wrote a book called Velvet Elvis, a book that God used to draw me to Himself, out of my own bitterness, and ultimately away from the path that lead me to a place far from a faith I've found to be essential to my life:

“Questions, no matter how shocking or blasphemous or arrogant or ignorant or raw, are rooted in humility. A humility that understands that I am not God. And there is more to know. Questions bring freedom. Freedom that I don't have to be God and I don't have to pretend to have it all figured out. I can let God be God.” -Rob Bell