Purpose and Loss.

At my Youth Group last night we started talking about purpose. More specifically, is it hard to believe that you have one? And what makes it hard, since to be honest, most of us would agree that it is.

It’s always been easier for me, my parents raised me and my siblings to believe God has plans for our lives. They used to pray with us every night about that.

Even I had to admit, however, that it’s gotten harder over time. It’s hard not to get jaded by the world as you get older. The older people get, have you ever noticed, the less they tend to believe they can accomplish anything big, and the less they want to.

You might have heard the song “7 years” it’s a great song, very moving, and one of it’s fine points is the shifting attitude as the singer talks about getting older. He goes from a friendly kid, to a kid trying to be edgy and conquer the world, to an idealistic twenty year old, and then looking ahead, he recognizes that come thirty, things will start to seem like the highlight was in the past and he just hopes he’ll have friends still. And that he’ll be able tot each his children. Then he leaps ahead to when he’ll be sixty.

Looking ahead to old age, the singer has two or three profound thoughts. The first is that you remember life and then your life becomes a better one. This could be a reference to heaven, or to old age maybe being better in some ways than youth. His other thought is that he doesn’t want to be stone cold, but have children around to make him remember that kind of hopefulness he had once.

As you age and lose your energy and drive, being content with a family life seems appealing, and it’s not necessarily wrong either. For some that is their purpose. The people who go through mid life crisis’es feel differently though.

Even the people I know who didn’t have an outright midlife crisis definitely struggled with knowing their youth was gone and wondering if they were accomplishing anything with their lives.

My recent experiences have led me to believe that there is one huge factor in how we lose our sense of purpose, and it only gets worse with age. I think that factor is LOSS.

Something about losing something or someone important to us shakes us up. Even if you go numb, there’s a part of your mind that is reeling from realizing how little control you have. Since we automatically base our sense of purpose in what we think we can control (Think “Wait for It” from Hamilton) feeling out of control makes us wonder if we can do anything.

Realizing that young people can die just as easily as old made me question my age as any safeguard against having a wasted life. While realizing that older people can live a long time and not really learn anything about love or purpose made me question if getting older will help me be wiser, or will it just make me more cynical? It already has in some ways.

I wouldn’t say I’ve lost my ideals, but I tend not to get fired up about them like I used to. I tend to want to fight less over them. What I want more now is to know I can do well what I do, and to have people around who love me.

Yet I can’t get rid of that fiery side of me. I’m a born fighter, I fight whether I intend to or not.

Where does that leave me? And you, I know I’m talking to someone reading this.

The first step toward a Loss not defeating us and our purpose is admitting that our purpose never had anything to do with what we could control. Some people think we control our own destiny, I say that’s only partly true. We’re going to end up in some places whether we like it or not, all that we control is whether we let God use those times to help us fulfill His purpose for our lives, or we let ourselves become purposeless, dragged around by the breeze.

I had no control over ending up living in someone else’s house for two years. And that really bothered me for a long time, sometimes I still wish I could control it. Yet I chose not to give in and let that make me a vegetable, just going through the motions of living. I believed God had a purpose in bringing me here. I still try to have control, probably too much, but I don’t have the reins of my life.

Aging is tough on our resolve to live well and live bigger than ourselves. We realize how little we control as we get older. We don’t singularly control who runs our country (in other countries, the common person controls it not at all), or what taxes we pay, or where we live, or how well our business does. We try, but there are always factors that do not depend on us. That should make us humble and grateful for other people’s help, often it makes us despairing.

There are plenty of older people who are exceptions to this rule, and I’m glad of it. I’m more scared that younger people are giving into despair far more often than the old are.

Don’t let loss shake your faith in having a purpose. Even short lives can be bright and powerful. It may be true that every day we walk out the door is a fresh risk, but that means every day can be a chance to do something brave and meaningful. If we simply do not let ourselves lose our confidence.

Until next time–Natasha.

 

How it feels to be white in America.

So ready for some controversy? Good.

I am feeling a little discriminated against by…the system!

Nah, too dramatic.

Still, for all I read and hear about what it’s like to be in a minority group, I wonder.

Okay, it’s not like this bothers me every single day of my life or anything…it just occurred to me at school today when I did something mildly nice for an Asian student. I had the thought “What would my actions be construed as by the wrong person?” Any number of things i suppose, but with the blatant hostility I read about sometimes, I had to wonder. Would my help be seen as some psychological need on my part to absolve myself from the charge of prejudice? To show that i don’t see myself as a cut above non white students? Or above foreign ones.

Anyway, what really bugs me is tokenism. Which targets minority groups. It works like this, by stressing how excluded a minority is, and then including one or two members of that minority in your project, you make it seem like you’re on their side.

However, it’s kind of bizarre to make a point out of including someone just for their race or gender. Isn’t that basically the same as saying they are different? That different rules apply?

And if you should choose not to work with those people, you get accused of being bigoted. Though you could have legitimate reasons not too. I don’t choose that myself, but I know business owners who’ve been burned plenty of times by minority group members. Just because you’ve been discriminated against doesn’t make you a good employee.

That’s kind of the problem. Just as someone can’t lack worth because of a their race, neither can they gain worth. Black lives don’t matter more than anyone elses. All lives matter.

Being born one color doesn’t grant superiority, inferiority, amnesty, or guilt.

I think most of us would be surprised how many people got turned into racists simply because they were accused of being so. Maybe our idea of what racism is changed, or maybe our idea of ourselves changes if enough people say bad things about us. White people have been as much a victim of that as anyone else.

How it feels to be white living in America now is something that people don’t talk about very often. Even saying white can be a trigger word. Now, I’m sure, I’d make some eyes roll if I said being white can be hard now. Well sue me. (Not literally.) It can be kind of rough.

I hate  having to ask the question if I do things because I am kind, or because I feel guilty. Now, I don’t really entertain that thought, but the fact that it’s even come to mind is kind of sad.

I remember as a kid I used to be kind of uncomfortable around black people. I didn’t know any personally for years. I guess there weren’t that many where I lived. (There still aren’t come to think of it.) But I never considered them as inferior. Just different. On the outside.

You know, the madness has gotten to the point where my even feeling that way would be twisted by some people into saying that racism is just part of being human and I couldn’t help myself. And white supremacy, blah, blah, blah.

You now the black people I do know now are all more well off than my family is, so much for white middle class pride.

I’d be glad enough to think that when I pass a black person at school they don’t look at me and think “racist” or assume I’m privileged. Or that somehow I have advantages they don’t.

If you took race out of it, just assumed race has nothing to do with success, then the difference between me and them is…not outward.

It’d be a fair guess that most of them weren’t homeschooled, based on what I know of young people, a lot of them don’t like to read, they probably don’t really like school most of them.

That’s what I’ve seen from all students, race isn’t important. Even the Asians who are reputed to be the brainy, honor roll, geniuses complain about classwork. The few white students in my classes actually yap the least in general about the teacher. They tend to be quieter too. I can’t say if that’s race, environment, temperament, or all three.

But, here’s the thing. If I succeed academically and then at a career, it’ll be assumed by a large amount of the population that I was given preference over these other students. “Of course she did well,” they might think, “the system was rigged for her.”

It’s slippery when you can convince everyone that the system is rigged against one group, and secretly rig it against another.

Here’s a little trivia for you. Guess how many groups I can be a part of just because of my race? Guess what scholarship opportunities and clubs I get to join because of it? Guess what kind of discrimination claims I can file if I don’t get selected for something?

If you answered none to all of those, then you’d be right. Can you imagine, even in the midwestern part of this country, someone starting a white pride club?

It’s laughable isn’t it. Now this will be hard for some people to understand but bear with me…If you can’t start a club about how proud you are to be your race because that in itself would be considered racist…that’s a double standard.

“I’m painfully white,” “I’m too white,” “I’m so white, people need shades when I’m at the beach.” What kind of talk is this? And who made it okay for white people to disparage their skin color, but shameful for black people or Latinos to. (Not that they don’t still. Anyone can have this problem, it’s just how its viewed by society.)

I am not saying white people can’t make jokes at our own expense, I just don’t like the underlying shame in the tone of these jokes. We aren’t proud to be this way…we feel unable to change it.

What saddens me is that some very bitter people (not all by a long shot) in minority groups would say this is what we deserve after years of doing it to them. How does it feel?

Well, how does it feel? Guess what, my roots aren’t all in the oppressor. My grandfather’s family was the oppressed. They had to leave Europe. Now, who’s had it worse? I’m sure either side could make an argument.

But because I look white and american, no one will ever think just be seeing me “her grandpa got persecuted for his race. Her great grandparents got forced out of their homes by a corrupt government.” Just like African Americans. What is the blooming difference?

That I’m white.

What stings is not that I want payback for it all. I don’t. I don’t even want to talk about it. It’s in the past. Things change. We change with them. And maybe, dare I say, Jews understand this a little better because we are so universally despised. We adapt though we hold on to tradition.

No, what stings is the assumptions. Again, some Africans I know have a less brutal history than my family does, even if you go back a few generations. Not all of them, and probably not most of them if I’m honest. But what will be assumed?

To restate the old adage “you can’t judge a book by its cover.”

Why do we keep on focusing on what divides us? I’m not the first to ask, and I won’t be the last. If they don’t care, I won’t either. But I’m not living my life feeling guilty for something I didn’t do.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

RAGE!

Okay, I normally stay away from two things when I blog: Politics and outright reprimands.

But I’ve had it!

This is not about Judge Kavnaugh, though that whole mess is partly what got me to thinking about this, but also what I’ve been reading about in my Logic and Contemporary Rhetoric book. It has a whole chapter devoted to how we justify our own bad ways of thinking.

The whole book has a liberal slant, but its not wrong.

But  my problem is not just with politics, but with how we as a culture and as a people are handling conflict. And I mean this is extremely personal, because I find it in myself. I see it in the people around me. Slapped on slogans, broadcasted over talk radio, and good gracious the  news network! For crying out loud, it’s even in our superhero movies and teen dramas.

That thing can be put into one word: Rage.

“Oh, it’s well beyond rage”–William Wallace, Braveheart.

Just take a minute and think about it, what word would you use to describe the way people talk about each other? The way they talk about policies?

What I hear and feel when I see the news is rage.

It’s mindless too. And I’ll admit my own political party is nearly as bad as the Left (clearly we’re not rioting and sending death threats.) I am disgusted by Conservatives who spend all their time blasting the left. While I wholeheartedly believe the left is wrong, and I can’t help but think they act abominably as a whole, even if as individuals I know plenty of decent liberals, but I have never felt the appropriate response was to return in kind.

Pointing fingers is not helpful, maybe we’re right, maybe we’re not, but playing the  blame game will not leave anyone innocent. In fact, it’s stupid for human beings to play this with each other.

It’s like how Adam and Eve pointed fingers in the Garden, both of them did wrong, did it help to blame others? We can argue for hours on who was more guilty, but it won’t change the past.

We can’t change the past.

I’ll tell you one thing, if tomorrow every democrat I knew of had a change of heart and started doing the right thing and standing up for the truth, then it wouldn’t matter to me what the party had done in the past. I don’t freaking care what the Clintons did, or Obama, because it’s in the past. What I care about is the future, if democrats were doing what I honestly thought was best, then I would vote for them.

My identity is not in my political party name, it’s in my morals. Conservatism lines up with what I believe in, that doesn’t mean conservatives always do things I like. I don’t support the party because I like all the people in it, but because I think the bad ones do less damage, and the good ones do more good overall.

Fixing the politics in this country would take a number of miracles, and both the left and the right are holding us back. I’m not ashamed for my party’s ideals, but I’m ashamed of the way we uphold them,

Rage is a virus. It’s contagious. And it’s all about returning in kind. The Left has been awful to the Right, no mistake, but being awful back…this bickering, name calling, mocking, and whining…I consider it beneath us.

Look, I’ll get frustrated with liberals just as much as the next conservative, but I do not hate them. I don’t consider them all to be the worst of humanity. (Some yes, but you’ll find those in every party.) I may get mad at what they do, but I do not want to let myself be consumed by rage every day. It has to be exhausting to do a talk show on politics.

Now, I know there would be protests here. Some would argue that conservatives have to be more aggressive because we own so little of the networks. True enough. I’m not against showing initiative. But, if we’re really as better at politics and morals as we claim, then we shouldn’t have to stoop to yelling and verbal jabs. Or generalizations.

What are we so mad about anyway? That evil exists? That in our mind it’s represented by the opposition? That people can be liars, thieves, abusers, backstabbers, accept bribes, and be unbelievably biased (the ironic thing here is that for some of you I just described my own party.) Did it surprise anyone? Why is that making us angry?

The Bible says not to fret over evildoers, and to not give way to wrath or let anger consume us because it only leads to harm.

I challenge you, whether you’re right or left, to take a long hard look at how your party acts toward the opposition. Ask yourself, is that how I believe people should be treated?

I admit, no. There, I said it.

I especially implore you college students and teens, many of you are liberal, and it’s easy for young people to feel anger over causes (I ought to know, I am one.) But, is this the legacy you want to leave? Rage? Ten years from now, will you be glad of what you did out of rage, or what you did out of mercy?

I’m not letting conservative young people off the hook, how cruel can we be to the others? What kinds of things do we call them on social media.

If there’s one thing I do agree with liberals on, it’s that human rights include not being disrespected and then having it justified because of prejudice. But that goes for them too. If you believe racism is wrong, stop labeling everyone who disagrees with you a racist…because that’s still being bigoted. Does that make you better than us?

Conservatives, stop accusing liberals of destroying the country. We’re all doing it. It’s not just them. And it’s not really the wisest way to change their minds either.

Lastly, everyone for your own sanity and relationship’s sake, please, for the love of all things holy, let go of your rage. It’s blinding us all to the truth. Blame is a waste of time. It doesn’t matter. At the very least, Christians should be comforted by the thought that God will judge in the end who is to blame. He won’t play favorites.

Until next time–Natasha.

Thoughts on the RWBY team members.

Some of you older followers know me and how I get with show characters. I just can’t help myself, I have to delve into them. A year or two ago I did a post about characters from Ever After High and what I learned form them, I thought it might be fun to do the same thing with RWBY. Even if you don’t watch it (and I recommend it but do not read the comment section.) The show is rife with interesting life lessons.

Now, though I like most of the characters, I don’t get as much out of all of them. The thing that makes RWBY different form Ever After High (there are similar stylistic choices) is that Ever After High was very much character driven, the character’s individual perspectives were the main source of conflict. Which was great, and I have no complaints about shows like that. But RWBY is a different kind of show. It’s story-plot driven. The characters become more clear with plot development. Which means you love them more the longer you watch.

A lot of the lessons aren’t really spoken so much as implied. One would be the importance of forgiveness. Over seasons 4 and 5 especially, Yang, one of the main four, deals with bitterness toward her mom as well as her teammate Blake for abandoning her, in the end she realizes she needs to forgive Blake, and at least come to terms with how her mom is. At no point does anyone directly tell her to do this, but her sister and her friend both say different things that change her perspective, plus she learns a lot on her own.

That’s as good a theme as any to start with. The point of Yang’s arc, and Blake’s in some ways, is that forgiveness is not something people deserve, and it’s not something they can earn. Some fans have complained that Blake was forgiven way too easily, but they miss the whole point. You can never deserve forgiveness, so either it is given, or it isn’t. Yang could have waited, but it wouldn’t have changed what happened, it would have only dragged it out. I’m glad she saw that.

Blake has a hard time forgiving herself. I related to her a lot in season 4 when she talked about being tired of people getting hurt because of her. Girls especially tend to feel this way, though I’m sure boys can too, but that feeling that we bring more trouble than we’re worth. Blake’s checkered past of working with a terrorist cult (Before realizing what she was in) makes her pretty insecure about whether or not she’s really able to help people.It seems like she gets them hurt more than she saves them. There’s a very cool song “Like Morning Follows Night” that’s between her and Sun, her boy friend that illustrates what she feels and what his response is is that it hurts people more to be pushed away than it does to risk themselves for her. Blake slowly starts letting herself get helped.

Then there’s Weiss, another member of the main team. Her story is more complex than most of theirs. She is out of place in her family. As cliche as that sounds, believe me if you watch it, it’s real. I felt uncomfortable around her family as a viewer, something about them was creepy. Both Weiss and her older sister realized they needed to get away from their parents, their father especially. I normally find that story line annoying, because it’s just not justified, but in this case their dad really is evil and I can’t blame them at all. Aside from that theme, there’s an interesting side theme that children aren’t guilty for what their parents have done and shouldn’t be made to pay for it. Plus a good old crack at how the rich and indolent can live such empty lives. Which is well worn, but in this case fits.

Ruby, the team leader, was not my favorite. I liked her but she’s more young and quirky than I tend to favor. Over time I came to appreciate her though, she gives her teammates and friends some great advice. Telling Jaune, another team leader, that he’s not allowed to be a failure now that he has  a team to lead. It’s an important moment because everyone, even the fans, thinks he’s already failing and that’s kind of hard to help without him getting a serious upgrade. But Ruby turned it around to show that leadership can be entrusted to us whether we like it or not, and yet it’s still our responsibility to be the best we can.  Ruby inspires that in all the other characters.

And then there’s the other main team, JNPR (pronounced “juniper”) Aiiiy. SPOILERS!

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Seriously, I don’t know if I can bring myself to talk about it just yet. Suffice it to say they have some of the most emotionally wrecking arcs of the show.

But before and after and during that they have some of the best development.

All of them are introduced as a little quirky and unusual, and Jaune the leader, is shown to not be a very good fighter. Yet over time we see what makes them exceptional.

Jaune, though he lacks confidence, proves to be fiercely loyal to his friends and devoted to his team. Though he gets bullied and has issues with admitting he needs help, he eventually stands o]up to the bully for the sake of his team and then learns to accept help. He expresses his frustration at always feeling like the damsel in distress. Even as of season 5 he’s still the weakest fighter, but that isn’t really the point. There’s more to strength than being powerful, and there’s more to being a hero than strength. In fact what Jaune’s teammate Pyrrha shows him is that being a hero to someone is a lot more about believing in them and being there when they need help then it is about being able to kick rear. Thought that’s always fun to watch.

Ah Pyrrha, my favorite. I just love her, I can’t help it. No one can, I’ve yet to read a bad word about her.

Pyrrha was from the start easily the kindest character on the show. She and Jaune are alike in that they see someone in need and the aren’t shy about helping them. Pyrrha usually makes it look way cooler, but hey, if you can, why not?

Pyrrha’s theme ended up being about love. Something that I pinned down about her early on was that love wasn’t just something she did, it was who she was. Pyrrha is never seen doing anything mean or selfish. She inspires without trying to. Really you have to see it to understand, but you can’t watch any scene with her in it without thinking “Wow, she’s just so…nice, but like, she means it. How does she do that?”

Nora and Ren are the last two members of the team, and they’re a package deal. They balance each other out. Nora is peppy and a little crazy, but shows she is emotionally intelligent over time. Giving both Ren and Pyrrha advice that tells us she pays attention to what people are feeling. Ren is the opposite of Nora as far as personality goes and sees uncomfortable with emotions. Which is explained later, his theme ends up being getting closer and not letting anger make you do foolish and reckless things. Facing your demons and so on.

There’s even more, but this is long enough for one post. Until next time–Natasha.

We don’t understand Death.

My cheerful topic of discussion in class yesterday was Death. What is it? Why do we avoid it?

I’m starting to think the curriculum was designed to hit close to home for me since I’ve lost some people recently and been pondering the subject of death. As I wrote about in my last post I am a fan of Resurrection.

However if we go by what my classmates seemed to think, it doesn’t look like most people see much sense it the idea of resurrection. Many people embrace the idea that death is the end, and we should just accept that.

Everywhere from real deaths to fictional ones, I find this. Some folks are still holding out for their favorite character to come back to life, the soul crushing response by some other fans? “They’re dead and gone, deal with it.”

Well, ouch.

Seriously, is that really the most sensitive thing to say? Don’t stomp on my hopes.

Characters dying never bothered me too much as a kid, usually they were the evil characters. Of course I didn’t like Obi Wan Ken-obi, but then he comes back. And it’s sad in other stories too. Not a lot of examples come to mind. There’s Beth from Little Women, but I stayed away from sad books as a kid.

As for real life, I’ve only known four people who’ve died. Known them well. I remember my first brush with losing someone was a nice woman at my church who died. I didn’t know her very well, I just remember her always smiling at me. My mom told me she went to heaven. I believed it, and I still do, so I wasn’t bothered.

However since then the people I’ve lost have all been ambiguous at best, I’m not sure if they went to heaven. A few I really doubt.

It’s the worst part of being a christian, having to believe that not everyone gets to live happily ever after, and worse, that they could have if they’d opened their hearts. Rejecting God is a choice.

Yet Death is one of the things that makes it hardest to accept God. Especially a loving God. Though we all intellectually know death happens and the world goes on, when it happens to us it’s still a fresh shock. We are suddenly unsure f ourselves, and that makes us unsure of what we believe. This doesn’t happen to everyone. Some people handle death with peace. But they are the exception, not the rule. Most of us are left feeling uncertain. Some never recover from that, most of us do, but we never feel the same.

That’s not to say we are the worse for it. Death, like other ills, is a matter of how you handle it. It can make you stronger or weaker.

In my class my teacher brought up the idea found in some poetry on the subject, that love ends with death. There is no love between the dead and us. We love them, but it’s not a living, growing thing.

I’m not sure that’s true. Many people continued to feel connected to their dead family or friends. I don’t really myself, except at certain moments. The interesting thing about love is that it preserves your memory and therefore a little bit of yourself. When you’re gone, you’re not entirely, if someone loves you. A part of you, not your own consciousness, but your memory, stays with them.

It’s something science hasn’t been able to explain. Loving our lost ones is not biologically helpful to most people. yet we still do.

I am not sure that the dead no longer love. I believe that those who go to heaven love even more, but from afar. We can’t hang onto them, because they have no need of us anymore.

Most of grief isn’t really coming to terms with the dead, but with yourself. Asking how you can deal with this, how you can go on. Some decide hey can’t, but that’s not the right choice.

I think because we’ve removed the comfort of religion and core values, death has become too much for many people. Now  they have nothing to make it seem less terrible.

And the answer most come to is “We don’t know.”

There is no faith in saying “I don’t know.”

I’ll admit, I don’t know what happens to every person everywhere who dies. OR even to the ones I know. That’s my uncertainty, and that’s my grief. Not knowing.

But what I do know that I know that I know, is that Jesus is real. And that he is love. And though God does things I don’t understand, there’s a reason He holds the keys to life and death. I  know that I’m alive now in a way I never was before knowing Him. I know that He changes lives. I know that He enables people to die with courage.

You might wonder, why does God let people die at all if He really conquered death? The Bible says in 1 Corinthians that Death will be the last enemy to be overthrown at the end of time.  Why is this?

A couple of reasons might present themselves. If we never died our bodies would be pretty useless. At old age, death is a mercy if you will be transformed.

More than that, if death was overthrown now, all the evil people in the world would never die either. Can you imagine that?

Even more than that, God wants us to trust Him with our lives. It’s what sets us apart form nonbelievers. If we didn’t die, there would be no need of trusting Him.

We are promised the fruit of the tree of life when the new heaven and new earth are made. We will be eternal then, in fact we already are, in our spirits.

That sounds nutty to many people. The things of God are foolishness to the world. What else would you expect?

My conclusion: Either I believe the Bible, or I believe nothing…and that doesn’t seem to work out too well.

Until next time–Natasha.