Give a little more than you take.

I haven’t yet mentioned that I read the second installment of the Mr. Miracle comic series.

I have a whole list of the problems with it, but I’ll sum it up as being far lesser than the first one.

Of course, as I do, I had some deeper thoughts about it and also about why it bothered me so much. You see, by comic book standards of the seventies, most of it was passable; it wasn’t terrible if I compared it to the Superman of the fifties and sixties. However bad it could be, Barda and Scott could never be that campy and still be the same characters. But they weren’t the same.

I know that this bothers me more than some would say it should, and some hard core fans would be even more upset than me, but for my part, here’s why I get upset when this happens, and it happens a lot.

When a creative person underperforms, it bothers me because it seems like they didn’t know what they had. Often, I think that even when I like what they’re doing. Because it seems too good to be the work of some one who was not trying to be astounding, and often the source was not.

Check out the making of Frozen, for example. It was a long process and what they were trying to do at first ended up being the opposite of what they did.

I also think of the early Ever After High series, it seems like the show was just supposed to be for kids and yet the points is made were worthy of a lot of adult consideration.

Generally something like this gets ruined because of a new writer who just wants to use the franchise to make money. But sometimes the staff remains the same, and they just seem to lose touch with what made their show or series so great.

(Forgive me, but I think this happened with the Percy Jackson series when it switched to “Heroes of Olympus.”)

The problem is, once you get a devoted fan base, you always have an audience, even if you were to do the worst thing possible some of them would defend it. And believe me, as an aspiring writer, I think about how I would handle this problem.

There will always be those who don’t like anything you do that’s new, either. When Ever After High switched over to covering the opposing point of view in their rebel-royal conflict, a lot of people weren’t happy, including me. But I had to hand it to them that a couple times it came out well and deserved some appreciation.

I don’t think a little change is bad, writers and movie makers are always expanding their vision, or so we would hope, and they fill out their stories. They have the right to do that.

so, I would not have faulted Kirby for that, and some would say that is what he was doing.

But there was a very serious problem with how he ended the story. He let evil have the last say. It was sort of like how the Empire Strikes Back ends, (always my least favorite by the way,) but even worse. Because we know it’s not over for Luke and his friends, and we have hope, but the evil figure of this comic book steals the best moment of the whole story from the best people in it. It’s just so unfair to them, and they don’t seem to realize it.

I can’t go into it fully, but that is what I had a problem with. The beauty of Kirby’s creation of Mr. Miracle was in how good triumphs over evil against all odds, and even against our human weaknesses.

Together Scott and Barda are unstoppable. But only when they are being the best they can be. I’d say that’s true in real life. I hope all of us have met at least one couple who was like that, amazing separately, but together they became an inspiration.

That’s what made the whole thing work. I liked Scott okay by himself, and I like Barda by herself, but I didn’t really get into their stories until they were together.

And it wasn’t that that changed, it was how they were together. It just wasn’t the same. But worst of all was I felt like Darkseid showing up at the end made it his victory.

In fact, I really wonder if Kirby did it on purpose. But that’s a whole other discussion.

I guess the point I want to bring out of all this is that, fan base or no, your work will not be worthy of admiration if you lose touch with what made it special. It’s important to know what truth you want to show, and to listen to what your positive feed back is telling you; what people are getting out of your work, I mean.

I’ve been surprised by what people got out of my stuff sometimes, but once I saw it that way, I thought it was even better than what I planned.

Which is not to say you can never try anything different, I try different plots and usually I like the result, and my siblings are always trying new things with their creative pursuits, but you have to have a core.

Otherwise you might start to think it’s about you, and how great you are, instead of about what you give to other people through your creativity. Or your service, if that’s how you give.

I think I’ll end with this song which is about that very thing:

“A single voice is joined by multitudes in song, with every note they’re finding harmonies that rise to carry on, richer and richer the soil in which they thrive, higher and higher a hymn of what it means to be alive.

You’ve got to give a little more than you take, you’ve got to leave a little more than was here; you may be prideful of the strides you will make, but keep one things clear. You’re just a player in a much bigger plan, and still you have to give it all that you can, the very measure of your soul is at stake, you’ve got to give a little more than you take.”

–Natasha.

National Women’s Day.

A while ago, the women here in America celebrated this “holiday” by boycotting work and going on marches.

And I didn’t even know there was a national holiday dedicated to women.

Of course, I didn’t celebrate, but I got to thinking, maybe a day to celebrate being a woman isn’t such a bad idea. Or a day to celebrate being a man.

But I’d do it a bit differently.

I think celebrating womanhood should look less like one big hate letter to the male population and more like one big love letter to the people around us.

On that day, a woman would make it a point to either dress up or dress down, depending on what makes her feel more comfortable with herself. (Personally, dressing up does that for me.) She’d either do her make up or not do it, whichever makes her feel confident and pretty.

A woman would spend the day, not protesting that she was a victim, but taking control of her time and spending it doing things that she feels really matter. Which could be hanging out with her kids, cleaning up a park, volunteering for a charitable organization, or visiting her family, or going out with her other female friends for a girls day.

Then she should do something fun, like go on a date, or if she’s single, do one of her favorite things.

The perfect day would include the kinds of talks that women love to have, and the kind of peace that they love feeling when they feel loved and cherished.

A strong woman does not need a man’s permission to be feminine; she would celebrate whether anyone else did or not.

I’d put hearing my favorite songs; eating assorted chocolates; watching a good movie or reading a god book; and hanging out with people I care about in a relaxing place; all on my list of things that make up a perfect day. Not to mention feeling close to God.

How men would treat women on this day would just be to say the things they should say all the time. To admit that they need women in their lives. And to be equally proud to be men.

Because when both men and women are glad to be what they are, it’s an irresistable combination. People like to see it.

Which is not to say all the problems between men and women would be fixed in one day, or even that everyone would celebrate. But the point is, if you will celebrate, really celebrate.

I just don’t see the joy in ranting and raving about injustice on the one day you get to be celebrated on. Which goes for any holiday. Who celebrates Christmas by protesting all the people who don’t get of give gifts? Or don’t go to church, or don’t celebrate at all, no one does that. (If they do I feel sorry for them.) What people do instead is they give to someone who has nothing, or they invite someone to go with them, and take someone in.

Celebration is about joy, and sharing that joy with other people. There will always be those who’d rather be miserable and gloomy, or who will focus on the wrong thing. but no one should pay them any mind except to help them.

That’s what I’d call celebrating my womanhood.

If nothing else, just taking a minute to be glad for what you have is celebration. We have so much in America, and if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got a lot more in your hands than many people will ever get to see in their lifetime.

Let’s not complain so much.

Until next post–Natasha.

Totally Scott Free.

Like I asked a moment ago, what is total freedom?

Well, it turns out it’s not just being able to choose. Scott had a choice. That didn’t give him freedom.

Of course choice is a big part of it, but as weird as this is going to sound, freedom is actually the ability to choose the right thing.

What’s the difference?

There’s a big difference.

Take the extreme example of drug addiction. Most addicts are not force-fed the substance they are addicted to, they choose to take it. They bring their hand to their mouth, or whatever form they use. They are not free. They were at one time, one time they had the choice to not try drugs, and they forfeited their freedom from drugs when they chose to try them. Now they can’t stop.

Choice is not freedom, it is the medium freedom is accessed through, if that makes sense.

Freedom is a state of being, not an ability.

Total freedom is humanly impossible without some sort of Divine intervention, and that is just the truth.

But what about all that stuff about taking freedom?

That’s all true. Freedom is a fight.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” John Philpot Curran.

It’s a fight for me.

There’s another quote about freedom being in disobedience, but as far as I can see that kind of thinking leads to disaster. Freedom is obeying the right thing. Like your conscience for example.

We do choose what we listen to, but what we listen to is what makes us free or slaves.

To go back to Scott Free, he spent years listening to Granny Goodness. (The name is a misnomer.) It wasn’t until Granny took away her voice from him (as punishment, but if you ask me, the psycho was just too arrogant to realize she was doing him a favor,) that he started listening to Metron and then Himon.

You got to be careful what you hear. I can’t tell you how many times I did not struggle with a sin, or a fear, or even a symptom of disease, until I heard about it. Knowledge is not always power, or it’s not always a good power.

One more thing about freedom: It’s a lifestyle.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”–Nelson Mandela.

We can blame other people for enslaving us, and some of us have a reason to do that, but blame will not free us.

We want to take our freedom, and then we want to pass it on.

Scott didn’t think of anyone else but himself needing to be free at first, but after Barda helped him, he realized she should be free too, and later he came to wish everyone could be, though he knew you can’t free everyone and that they really have to want it themselves.

Barda is an interesting example of someone who is uncertain about freedom at first. She wasn’t ready to leave when Scott did, but once she left, she resolved never to go back without putting up one heck of a fight. And she did.

Even though Barda never seems to want to free others, she is the one who is responsible for bringing four additional people back to earth with them. Four of her furies. Though the furies get a chance at freedom through this turn of events, none of them stay on Earth. They are too bound up to their home planet, even though it will be the death of them.

So we see that freedom is offered to all of us at one time, but few of us accept it.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

This verse is generally taken as “It’s so hard to be good, why is it so hard? Why did God make so few things okay for us to do?”

The truth is, the things that are bad to do in of themselves, those are pretty much summed up in a list of ten commandments. Dishonoring God; dishonoring parents; dishonoring what’s sacred; lying; stealing; adultery; greed and covetousness; murder; etc. You can find rules like that in many other books and creeds.

But the list of mistakes we make with even the things that are good, that list is extensive. I couldn’t name all of them if I tried. The reason the road to freedom is narrow is because the road of slavery is so broad. We enslave ourselves to nearly everything; but we free ourselves only in doing what’s good, healthy, and holy.

Scott Free is a little bit like how they portrayed Moses in “The Prince of Egypt” movie. (Thank you Dreamworks.) He can have power, wealth, respect, fame….and he can live a life built on slavery. Or he can run off and become a nameless nobody in a strange land, only to return later to secure the freedom of others.

God is the one who told Moses to go back (and that was the part of the story they changed the least,) and I don’t think anyone ever gets fired up for the freedom of others without it being a Divine thing. Because there’s a certain power in fighting for other people.

So, those are my thoughts on the story and the concept. I hope it all made sense, since I’m still figuring it out myself. I do recommend checking out the stories for yourself. (With the exception of the Barbie Fairytopia one, please do not watch that.)

Until next time–Natasha.

“Freedom to dance, freedom to sing, freedom to grow, I’m telling you Pharoah, let God’s people go!”–Jason Upton.

Getting off Scott Free.

Some of you may remember the post I did about Mr. Miracle. Well since then I have actually read the comic book of that title, and I thought I’d share my reaction.

Oh my gosh! It is freaking incredible!

Seriously, I have never been a huge comic book person, but this one blew me away.

You don’t realize the first time you read it how great it is, you only see that it’s way better than most of the other stuff in the genre, but upon rereading you notice the details that went into the character arcs and plot build up, and how, remarkably, there is no real discrepancy anywhere (I can think of one place that something didn’t entirely add up, but it was minor, and I’m not sure it was really an error, and it was just one.)

Sorry everyone, I’m still in fan girl mode. Which for me is both way more excited and way less than what you’d typically see made fun of on TV.

Aside from geeking out about it, I do have another reason to share it with you guys. I need to do some writing about liberty for a school thing, and all I can think about is this comic book as a reference. (Which is the first time in my life that has happened, I assure you.) The reason is, liberty is a huge point in the story, though it’s ironically the one I’ve thought least about, because being the person that I am, I want to talk about the love story.

But it’s time I gave the idea of freedom some consideration.

Scott Free starts off as a brainwashed prisoner of the hellish planet of Apokalips. I won’t give away all the details here, it would be far too long, but suffice to say he’s different than the other drones. In Barda’s words, they never got to him. Scott is affected by his life on this planet, but he refuses, for a reason unknown to himself even, to ben to all their rules. He in encouraged in this by Metron and Himon, two people who try to help whom they can become free minded.

Now the narrator leaves no doubt in our minds that no one on Apokalips is free minded except Himon. And he has precious few people who are even willing to try to learn his ways. But Scott becomes intrigued by him.

Long story short, with help from is unexpected ally, Big Barda, Scott flees the cursed planet and comes to Earth. We aren’t told exactly what he does at first, but he learns about the place and develops a passion for seeing justice served, but always with a degree of Mercy. he takes on the name of Mr. Miracle and tries to live a quiet life. Or quiet for him.

But Scott soon finds that you cannot just run from oppression and think that will be the end of it, after Barda joins him on Earth both of them try to keep their enemies at bay using their respective skills, but Scott quickly realizes he cannot run forever. So they return to face their past. To face themselves in a way.

I  have avoided this part of the story for one reason, I was concerned that the story was trying to tell us that finding our self is the answer. I know many people will take that from it, and take it at face-value. But how many of us really know what finding our true self even means?

Oddly enough, what came to my mind was a Barbie movie of all things, and not one of the good ones either, it was the second one of the Fairytopia trilogy. (Gag worthy, especially if you already hate Barbie, which I did for a while probably because of those movies.) But there’s one good part, Elena, the “Protagonist” is faced with the option of eating a berry that will turn her into whatever form her “True self” is. Elena was born without wings, and wanted them badly, winning them as a reward for saving the day in movie No#1. Her fear now is that her true self will not have wings.

I actually understand Elena for once. But her friends tell her “Whatever you are, you’ll be happy, because you’ll be your true self.”

Mixed up in the sappy stuff of this whole idea is actually an important truth. Our true self is not always what we want it to be, but what it is best for us to be.

This applies to Scott, as well. He wanted to be free; he wanted, in his own words “tranquility;” and he thought he could find that by running until they stopped pursuing him. Barda knew better, but she would rather chase after a delusion with Scott than be realistic by herself.

But Scott had to realize that we cannot be free by running, running is just the start, the begging of the dive into the deep end.

Freedom is not something anyone can be given, it is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”–James Baldwin.

Barda, on the other hand, knew you have to take freedom. She lived this next quote.

Better to die fighting for freedom then to be a prisoner all the days of your life.”–Bob Marley.

Barda figured on dying in the fight to be free, but she intended to go out with a bang.

What makes this story oddly different is that their battle is a mental one. Scott literally fights it out in his mind. Barda nearly loses on that account, but Scott saves her in the nick of time.

It might be said that Scott will get out of anything, but Barda will avoid getting into it as long as she remains standing. She’d be free to start with if she could.

But the thing it, none of us are born free. We say we are, but we are all slaves to something. To sin usually, there’s always that one thing we can’t shake, sometimes its many things. Others of us get enslaved to people. Being a Christian is comparted to being a slave for God.

Only, in that last instance, it does not last. God wants free people. The reason we consider ourselves slaves fro Christ is because we don’t trust ourselves with total freedom.

What is total freedom anyway? It is not the absence of tyranny, that leads to anarchy most of the time.

I think I’ll dive into that in my next post, until then–Natasha.

Running away from Sadness.

Continuing from my previous post…

Now that I have defined Joy and explained how we find it, I need to expound upon it.

This, more than any other topic, is a Church related one, because it’s in the Church that the word is mainly used; and many people are frustrated that they can’t find it.

If it were as simple as I made it sound, than more people would have joy. Because accepting sadness is totally simple…right?

Wrong is probably what you all thought, but actually, it is simple. It’s just not easy.

We run from sadness. From our own and other people’s.

I know people who will cry over nearly every movie they watch, but they don’t talk about what’s going on in their life so much.

I also know people who seem to be perpetually depressed, and by choice, not medical condition; it offends these people if you tell them to cheer up.

You know, Pollyanna actually had a sequel, Pollyanna Grows Up, and in that sequel Pollyanna tells her friend Jimmy about a man she heard say that every time someone said to be glad, he just wanted to go out and shoot someone.

A rather extreme way of reacting, but how many of us have wanted to scream when someone makes light of our sorrow?

Which is the last thing I want to do, I’ve had sorrow too, and I’d be a horrid hypocrite if I pretended it was minor.

I handle sorrow in an unusual way, when I experience real loss, I am oddly unshaken by it. I am sad, but it is not crushing. I suppose it is because I have never lost anyone close to me. Another thing is I constantly hear false alarms, one side of my family is always having one problem or another health wise, but they get over it.

but when I have relational pain, it can be very depressing to me.

I think because all our self worth issues get mixed up in that sort of pain.

I won’t say either type of pain is less selfish, or better than the other, but it is true that the latter often makes us act very selfishly.

The worst is when we don’t feel the pain, but it remains there, undealt with, and affects all our behavior.

Which, if I go back to Inside Out, is what happens to Riley. Though she can’t feel her pain any more, it remains there, buried or lost in the subconscious.

Years of living like this are what make people develop neurosis and sometimes psychosis; it is also the source of anger issues, difficulty in committing, and submitting to abuse because one feel like they deserve it. Pain turned to hate against ourselves is lethal.

And it turns to self hate when we neglect is.

But there is hope. Through counseling, or our own personal journey, we can go back and grieve over what we have lost.

After that process, or even during it, comes the time to have joy again.

There is always a reason to be glad, no matter how bad things are, they are never without some silver lining, but it’s hard to find. Plus that is not exactly joy.

Joy is, as I said before, bittersweet, when it first starts. It begins as the feeling of peace after sorrow, or during sorrow. after you have stopped running from it and have chosen to embrace it.

But one cannot live in sorrow, Ecclesiastes says in chapter 3 that there is a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, there is a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to laugh and a time to weep.

I can’t really explain how you know when the time of mourning is over, I think it comes if you are waiting for it but not rushing it, you just know.

When this time comes, you put away your mourning clothes, so to speak, and you start enjoying things on purpose. You open your heart to new love, you might start a new hobby, or devote more time to an important person in your life. You move on.

It’s okay if it takes a year or two to completely move on, sometimes it takes longer, the idea is never to stay in one place too long, but to keep growing.

I think it has been said that the joy is in the journey, and I think that is true. Joy can be present when you stand still, but usually you need to be in motion.

That’s why joyful people dance, sing, paint, and write; or do whatever they do to express themselves, joy wants to be shared.

In fact if you are hogging your happiness, that’s a sure sign it’s not joy.

We will all run into sadness, but the key is to then run out of it, and leave it far behind. Though we will not forget, nor should we, because the sadness will eventually turn to joy if we are willing.

Those are my thoughts for now, stay joyful–Natasha.

Running after Joy.

I thought I’d do a different style of post today, I wouldn’t want to get entrenched in the same subjects all the time.

I want to talk about that elusive quality known as Joy.

I say known as, but if you google it, look it up in the dictionary or read about it, you’ll find that no two definitions of joy seem to be exactly the same.

C. S. Lewis thought Joy was a longing, or that a longing was how we experienced joy in this world.

Most people think of joy as some type of ecstasy.

The more practical of us think it is just another word for being contented with your life and your work and your family. (I am not using practical as a good thing in this instance.)

My guess is most of us don’t think about it at all, or not frequently if we do. I myself don’t give it as much consideration as I could.

To many people e, and I have felt this myself, joy seems to be a joke. Something people talk about but no one has found. If anyone claims they have, they are delusional. Maybe, we think, joy is just a delusion. Which is worse than an illusion.

We think joy only comes when we can forget our troubles, which we can’t, and that it is fleeting. Maybe we felt it at one time. It’s odd how it is such a strong feeling while it lasts, but it is so easy to forget once it’s gone.

It’s not like we’re left alone once the euphoria we think of as joy dies away. Trouble inevitably comes.

Now if you’re a Disney fan, perhaps your mind immediately went to Inside Out when I brought up Joy. I watched that movie once or twice, I had to give it credit for doing a good job of explaining joy and sadness. I’m gong to reference it in a second.

If there was no trouble in the world, we suppose, perhaps everyone could be joyful. Or I could be, but who can be happy knowing there is so much wrong going on.

The truly sad thing is most of us aren’t unhappy because of the sufferings of others, but because of our own problems. We could ignore the rest of the world if our world was fine. But the rest of the world affects our own, whether we like it or not.

In A Walk to Remember, the movie, Landon, when still pessimistic and bitter over his dad leaving, tells Jamie he has no faith because “There’s too much bad — in this world.” Jamie replies “Without suffering there would be no compassion.” Landon says “Tell that to those who suffer.” Jamie looks away. We later find out Jamie suffers plenty, and tries to stay cheerful and kind despite that.

However, I’ve never really bought that line that we need suffering for compassion, or rather, that we need to have compassion anyway, because if no one suffered, compassion would be useless. Don’t misunderstand me, I believe compassion is very important, but it is the compensation for suffering, not the reason for it.

The reason I went off about suffering is because there will be no discussion of joy if suffering is not dealt with too, even if I tried to leave it out, everyone would think of it anyway.

As is pointed out in both the book and the movie Pollyanna, the Lord tells us to rejoice over 800 times in his word. It would be hard to find a book of the bile where rejoicing was not mentioned in some form.

It’s a saying in the Church, though no any I’ve been to in my memory, that God wants you happy.

Many people have attacked this phrase because it’s used as an excuse to do whatever stupid thing you want in the name of happiness. Which it shouldn’t be.

But though God does not always want you happy, in the way you think of it, He does always want you to rejoice. He says so.

This is where we get to the big difference between joy and happiness.

In Inside Out, Joy starts off as what I would call happiness, a positive attitude, fun loving, goofy character who keeps all other emotions in check. Joy also avoids Sadness like the plague and always feels like Sadness is intruding on her turf, and complicating things. Sadness feel bad, but can’t seem to help herself, she knows that Riley needs her, but she doesn’t know for what .

But after some really sad stuff happens to their kid, Riley, Joy finds it harder and harder to keep control, and eventually she ends up lost, along with Sadness. Sending Riley into a crisis.

The big moment at the end of the movie is where Joy finally feels sad, which seems oxymoronic, but it helps her to see what she needs to do. Sadness finally is able to help Riley, and a new kind of feeling if forged, the bittersweet sort, Joy and Sadness mingled.

Which is the type of feeling C. S. Lewis called Joy. A deep sadness that it is happy to feel. Another oxymoron.

True Joy comes only when happiness has been baptized in sadness. Bapitized is kind of a religious word, but it means a thing has to be purified, usually be dying to itself, and then being reborn as a newer, better version of itself. (Basically what the idea of reincarnation tries to accomplish and fails because it uses the wrong kind of dying and rebirth.)

In other words, you will not have joy until you have accepted sadness and grief and allowed them to make you a bigger, better, kinder person; because let’s be honest, we all know people who won’t ever cry or admit they’re not dong so hot, and they are often the least compassionate people of all.

Or we may be that person, and that’s what bothers us.

The heart of Joy is to overcome suffering. Not sorrow, which is where we get confused, sorrow is good in the right amounts, but suffering if only good when we treat it properly, and that involves pursuing joy even through suffering.

I can get more into this in my next post, until then–Natasha.