Friday, January 31, 2014

On writing a spiritual autobiography

Last weekend I decided that I needed to write (actually, re-write) a spiritual autobiography. I say rewrite because I had to develop one for my application to the college seminary that I studied at for two years. A lot has happened during and since college, and I figured that it would be a good idea to reflect, do some reading of my journals and start from scratch.

Why am I doing this?

Clarity, illumination, and dare I say enlightenment? It's easier to know where you are going if you know where you have been, and that is my impetus for doing this. Despite my initial thoughts, I discovered that much like writing a paper on a historical, writing a paper about yourself requires research. So I delved into my journal entries, I read notes from friends, I perused emails, and looked into Word documents that I saved (I discovered dozens!). Each piece I discovered was a snapshot into my life at a particular point in time. They brought up many memories, both good and bad. It was so much like Dumbledore's Pensieve. I re-entered my memories as an observer, able to recall the moment, the emotion, but removed from it.

So far it has brought a lot of intriguing questions and observations to the surface. Some previously unanswered questions remain a mystery, but the organization of so many fragments of thought and emotion brings with it some sort of clarity and sense of order. It has given me a lot to think about and reflect on, I highly recommend it as an exercise to consider doing. If nothing else, what becomes apparent is the imperfect but beautiful path God has carved out for me. It has increased my awareness that whatever struggles or confusions I experience now are all part of the same beauty I saw in years past.

Monday, January 27, 2014

What I Read: Logicomix: An Epic Search for Truth

I just finished an awesome non-fiction graphic novel (yes, non-fiction). Logicomix is a story about Bertrand Russell, renowned mathematician, logician, and philosopher. Rather than being a dry and dusty exposition on things like set theoryaxioms, and formal logic, it is a vibrant, entertaining and highly thought provoking story of a man who searched for the foundations of what we can know with absolute certitude. It tickled my philosophical fancy (I was a philosophy major for two years), while simultaneously tickling my desire for a fun "movie-feel" read.

It was awfully hard to put down. This was in part because I recognized so many names from my sleepy days in philosophy class (Ludwig Wittgenstein was a HUGE one). It was also so fun to see so many of these men that I had learned about come to life on these pages. This story not just about the philosophical theories, but also about who these men were and perhaps what drove them.

I still don't understand 90% of what their theories were, but the way the story is written, it doesn't matter so much. I found in this story some "kindred spirits" of men in the past who sought for the most cherished and hunted concept on earth: truth. It also broke some of my prejudices against graphic novels. This has proved to me that something as seemingly juvenile as a comic book can be profound and thought provoking! Beyond this, it has even tempted me to delve into something that Bertrand Russell himself has written. I have a copy of "Mysticism and Logic" staring at me at this very moment....Enjoy! 


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

23?

Dad-gum I liked this! This is a great article (linked here) in response to the blog post "23 Things To Do Instead Of Getting Engaged Before You're 23" (linked here).

My personal reactions (exaggerated) to the second link:


Reading calmly, yet with slight concern.


Spontaneous and unexpected table flippage (grossly exaggerated).


Puh-lease leave thoughts or criticisms. This one be a'ripe for pickin'!

Monday, December 30, 2013

What I Read-"Hyperbole and a Half"

I have a bad habit of reading books solely for information and not enough for entertainment. This recent realization led me to seek out a book that I would find funny or otherwise enjoyable. Because I work at a library, this task is amazingly simple (woo!). I came across a book we just ordered titled "Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened" by Allie Brosch. When I saw the cover of the book, I knew I had struck the purest gold of all time ever:


I saw that little humanoid on the right and remembered this:


And less well known, but equally hilarious: 


It was nothing less than love at first sight. One of my most favorite internet memes is a book! All of those drawings come from a real live person, and I found her ermahgerhd!!!! Now I could have hilarity for not just one image, but for hundreds of images all in one place! It was mine, all mine...and no one (NO ONE!) could take it from me. I protected that book like it was the last piece of Domino's pizza on the planet. Enter another appropriate image by Allie Brosh to illustrate my emotions after getting the book:
No oooooonnnnneeeeee.....

The book is basically a compilation of short stories about the author's childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Each of these stories is written in her blogging style: a chunk of words (a paragraph at the most) and a humorous picture to illustrate the situation much more vividly. She does a brilliant job with it, and her drawings make for a hilarious read. There were multiple times I doubled over in laughter at the illustrations, which enhanced her story and made it truly seem like something out of a cartoon.

Despite the cartoon illustrations, it is definitely an adult book. At times, the author was vulgar, using the f-word to be especially poignant, or just to use it for humor's sake. By and large, the use of vulgar language is few and far between. Because of the large amount of illustrations, it's an incredibly quick read, I finished it in two days (partially due to obsessive reading). 

It takes an absurd and slightly dark sense of humor to really enjoy this book, as she talks about dealing with depression, the oddness of her dogs, and rather whimsical childhood situations (like eating an entire cake just to spite her mother). It's a great read if you are looking for something on the ridiculous side. You will definitely get into the author's mind and connect with her on some points, feel sorry for her on others, and be a little bit freaked out on a few others. I'd recommend a visit to her website too! You can find it here: http://hyperboleandahalf.blogspot.com/

Enjoy, and let me know if you have read it!!!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

My town got a casino for Christmas

A new casino opened up close to where I live, complete with the glitz and glamour you would expect. I don't particularly like casinos, they always strike me as depressing places. A little trip to the Horseshoe Casino in Cincinnati just a few months ago confirmed my suspicions. People were agitated, grumpy, and seemed mostly lost in a solipsistic world where their only friend was money (a friend whom they seemed to part with all too readily).

So this newest casino near my house is very popular right now, but I didn't realize just how popular it is until last night. I was driving home with my parents from our last Christmas celebration and we just happened to drive by it. To everyone's shock, the parking lot was absolutely jam-packed with cars, with more cars piling in every second.

Maybe I'm just naive, but I thought it was normal to spend the whole day, including the evening with family and friends on Christmas day. It was about 7:30 or so, not late at all, so I can't figure out why it looked like every citizen of my town was gambling!!!! What were they thinking!? Maybe the conversation went something like this:

"Thanks for having us over, Pam! It was great to catch up, I think we're gonna round up this night by playing a few hands of poker at the casino. Have a good night!"

Or, what were the people like inside?

"Oh Charlie, what a wonderful Christmas. I'm just so glad we got to-OH MY GAWD, I JUST GOT THE JACKPOT!!!! *dingdingdingdingding* THIS IS THE BEST CHRISTMAS EVER!!!!!"

And this would be my expression.



I don't know how long those people were there or how much money they won or lost, I don't care. What I care about is that they were there. At a casino. On Christmas Day. Either none of those people had a family to visit, or they all visited and then bustled out quickly because "this money isn't gonna spend itself hyuck-hyuck-hyuck!". Or maybe the families decided to collaborate and opted to spend their Christmas at the Casino, rather than meet at someone's house. I'm not trying to tell people how they should celebrate Christmas, but a casino!? I just witnessed hundreds of people spending their Christmas night in the tackiest way imaginable. There's nothing that fills my heart with more Christmas joy and feelings of peace toward men of goodwill than seeing people throw their money away during a season of giving. Oh wait, they are giving their money away aren't they?

Monday, December 23, 2013

Relationship Marketing

I don't think it's a stretch of the imagination to say that my generation (20 somethings) is pretty public with personal information. Facebook is replete with information about our likes, interests, desires, relationship status, etc. It isn't a bad thing per se, but we've become so interested in marketing everything about ourselves, that some of us have developed a thirst for external affirmation. I might post a youtube video, and I love that I get so many "likes" for it. That means it's an awesome song right!?!?!? Of course it is...because I posted it. I post pictures of a vacation, and all kinds of people comment on how awesome they are, and I sit there smugly thinking "why yes, yes they are".

It's human to seek out approval, as social beings we desire it. But when that desire becomes a need that we subconsciously crave, that's not so good. From my own experience, I think I got that craving specifically in my last relationship. We had pictures taken of us, we posted about each other and we got a bajillion likes and all these comments of "Oh, you two look so cute!", "You look so happy!", blahblahblahblahblah. And I looked at those comments and thought "Yeah, we do look cute", or more importantly; "I am happy with her" (which I wasn't). I depended so much on positive affirmation that I ignored my real feelings.

This has made me pause and think about the nature of our relationships. I think that a lot of people want their relationships to work so badly that they post every picture of themselves together so they get that positive feedback. Perhaps it isn't bred out of a conscious sense of doubt, but rather a conscious desire for something to be. Again, it isn't a bad thing per se, but it certainly should not be the focus.

The positive feedback is very important. If "the people" approve, then it affirms what you know or desire in your heart. In trying to diagnose where I went wrong in my previous relationship, I think the strong personal focus on positive feedback was a capital error of mine. I got so caught up in the "relationship marketing" and completely lost sight of the journey in formation for the vocation of Marriage. 

As a young generation, let's try our best to avoid the "relationship marketing" for the sake of the "like" or "comment" and focus on what is true, good, and beautiful about our relationships. Focus on the person we are with: is he/she good for me? Am I happy? Those are the most important questions for us to ask ourselves. If we are happy, and if our significant other makes us want to be better versions of ourselves (saints), we are well on our way to attaining the will of God. It brings peace to me to know that I don't have to market my relationship for personal affirmation. It can be done out of a desire to share those posts and pictures with joy, and the "likes" don't matter so much anymore.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Conservative and Liberal Stereotypes, in Pictures!!!

I have many opinions on things, and I have definite frameworks of the people who hold certain views. So here are my ideas of how theological conservatives view theological liberals, and vice-versa. Let me know if I have it correct:

Liberal brands of theology:

"Unicorns and Rainbows" Liberal:
According to conservatives, these liberals are dupes and idiots. They have a proclivity toward grandiose sentimentalism and drool over songs like "This Little Light of Mine" or "Kum Ba Yah". They emphasize feeling good and having warm fuzzies in your heart. Conservatives despise this brand of liberal theology because it is so superficial to them. The unicorn and rainbow liberal takes great joy in such things like liturgical dance, priests being "one of the people" (because aren't we all a "holy nation, a royal priesthood"?). This liberal tends to dislike any form of authority and believes in not only the equality of dignity of each person (which conservatives agree with) but also in the equality of abilities of each person (which conservatives do not agree with). We should all be able to perform the actions of the priest, the pope is just a mean old man, and the Church is just a plain old nasty institution that needs to open its heart to true love.

"Drama Queen/King" Liberals:
Conservatives just shake their heads at these people. These liberals are the ones who jumped to the emotional conclusion that George Zimmerman was a monster and Trayvon was the victim of an oppressive white man (never mind the fact that Zimmerman is technically Peruvian...). This brand of liberal focuses on social justice (and conservatives think that is good), but to the exclusion of blatant social justice issues like abortion, contraception, euthanasia, etc (and conservatives think that is bad). Theological Drama liberals essentially infuse politics into their religious beliefs. We consequently see most feminists under this category, by the way (and their poor, oppressed husbands tag along with an apron tied to their waists). It isn't a matter of unicorns and rainbows to them, it is rather a matter of cold, hard rights. RIGHTS is their God, according to conservatives. God is referred to as a woman because it is a matter of equal rights! Somehow, the gender of God effects them personally. They are obsessed with the "marginalized", the "outcasts", and those who are "barred from the feast".

"Stuck-Up" Liberals:
Elitist liberals are frustrating to conservatives. They mostly occupy college campuses spreading their Marxist ideologies to unsuspecting students. A stuck-up liberal theologian writes off anyone who does not agree with him/her as "uneducated", "unrefined", and "underdeveloped". High IQ is associated with so called open, inclusive, large ideas that smaller minded conservatives cannot possibly understand in their bigoted little world. The world of theology is populated with these snobs. They are interested only in the vague "spirit of Vatican II" and the "coming changes" of the Church. There is a constant talking down to the people they consider unworthy of their brand and level of intelligence.

Now for the conservatives!

"Blood and Iron" Conservatives:
Liberals mostly laugh at these characters. All you have to do is refer to God as "she" and you will inevitably get dirty looks. Blood and iron conservatives are an angry people. While I find it annoying when people politicize God's "gender", I don't get all bent out of shape by it. These people, however, lose it. Any difference or infraction in theology is declared heresy, excommunication, and you are hereby rendered anathema by the Holy Roman Church. I would imagine that these folks have high blood pressure, as they are quick to fight, and slow to relent. I wouldn't be surprised if at the sign of peace, they offer you a clenched fist, rather than an open hand.

"Superstitious" Conservatives:
These are interesting people. They have an amazing tendency to make otherwise pious devotions into modes of superstition. If they don't pray a certain prayer, or if they don't pray for a particular person, that person or intention will not get any attention or at worst, something bad will happen to the person. That's just silly! Superstitious conservatives (and I say conservatives probably because it's conservatives who mostly fall into this trap) desire-albeit unconsciously-to control God, or to put Him (or her...HAHAHAHA! Kidding!) into a  box. By saying a prayer so many times, only then will you get what you want. Normal people clearly see the problem here.

"Contradictory" Conservatives:
I find these characters particularly interesting. I wouldn't take any note of them except the fact that they participate in the same actions that they should espouse against. You would think that their emphasis on morality and correctness of doctrine, etc. would promote an equally squeaky clean personal life. Well...no. These lovely people rigidly follow doctrine, but fail to apply said doctrine to their personal lives. It is frustrating because they seem to have a certain arrogance like the stuck up liberals. Perhaps part of it is that they have no sense of allowance or flexibility to their views, so then they therefore live in a way contradictory to their views to reduce unconscious tension.
You've just been Freud-ed!

So there you have it! Three stereotypes of both ends, each as dangerous as the next. As Aristotle stated, virtue lies in the "golden mean" between two extremes. Seek to find that mean, to be obedient to Christ and His Church, but to also allow true humanity to shine forth. John Paul II is probably one of the best examples of the "golden mean". Look to Christ, in His words and actions, to find the way to be the truest of Christians. What do you think?