So I watched Encanto…

One of the unsung perks of babysitting in this country is that you get to use people’s streaming accounts even if you don’t have them. I’ve watched a crap ton of Netflix and Disney Plus because of babysitting.

That’s how I watched Vivo…which is a better movie than Encanto, bite me.

Funny because Lin Manuel Miranda worked on both, I just think Vivo’s plot and themes suited his talents better than a Disney Girl musical (since now we aren’t even pretending they’re princesses…although this movie might as well have been about a princess.)

I’m not going to hate on Encanto, it was an enjoyable ride, but after watching it, I do think it is inferior to its predecessors.

I’m sure all of you are too nice to hate on me for saying that, but if I went on a different platform, I think I’d start a riot. Everyone seems to love this movie.

Well, it’s mediocre, sorry, not sorry.

I won’t deny the animation was gorgeous, a joy to watch. The songs were…predictable. The only one I thought really stood out as creative lyrically was the “Pressure” one. Then, Imperfect was okay, and “WE Don’t talk about Bruno” was impressive editing-wise, but lyrics were a little weird, I thought.

But I’m not much for modern musical movies, to be fair. I like old ones better.

i have before unashamedly said that I like Disney movies–some of them–and that Frozen is actually my favorite movie, for personal reasons. See: Why a DP movie is my favorite. Why a DP movie is my favorite part 2. I don’t think it’s the most amazing movie ever made, but it stands out form other Disney films, I’m not the only one who thought it has a different vibe, wrapped up in a Disney package, it still somehow felt unique. Thought he haters will never admit it.

Encanto is a beautiful mess, that is my honest opinion. I was interested in the plot while watching it, and the 3 year old I was watching it with loved the music. But I kept waiting for the movie to make its point…and by the end I was just…non plussed.

Encanto basically has two or three over arching themes, and it tries to bring all of them together at the end, but it doesn’t finish any of them. The ending was one of the most rushed I’ve seen in a Disney film, and the characters were not well flushed out. We only get depth on Luisa and Isabel, and it’s dropped after one song.

Abuela’s character being the cause of the magic disappearing was predictable, I called it form the beginning. But that wouldn’t have been bad. I thought it actually added to the idea that families often miss the obvious when it comes to their problems. It’s true in my family, for sure.

I actually thought they were going to do a Brave thing, and make it both the older and younger women had pride and selfishness, and that was the cause of the rift. And the magic of the family was tied to their unity.

The movie implies this, but doesn’t say it.

I could put that down to a wish for subtlety, except every other theme in this movie is blatant and shoved in your face, as with most kids’ movies, so why they would hesitated to spell it out for us, if they actually intended it, I don’t know.

I don’t necessarily mind blatant messages, I think kids need things to be spelled out for them, and adults who watch kid content should be prepared for that. But I think you can do it tastefully and creatively. Just singing it to save time is not tasteful.

The imagery in this movie is probably its best feature. The lights, the candle, the sand, the cracks.

I kind of thought Bruno’s character was less impressive than he could have been, he was exactly what I expected, and the goofy, kooky character seeing the future and then hiding…well, it’s a little old. But it’s not bad, so it’s more of a personal wish than a criticism.

What actually made me mad about this movie was the ending. The first half was quite good, but it was like they ran out of run time. Isabel and Mirabel get over 20 years of disagreeing, (or 18, or whatever it was) and it takes 2 minute of one song for them to suddenly understand each other?

I was the scapegoat and my sister was the golden child, it took us months of disagreeing, and years of tension before that, to work out our differences. Especially when our dad poured gasoline on the fire.

And another thing, I found it stupid that only Mirabel was yelling at Abuela at the end. If Luisa and Isabel were really that miserable, seeing Mirabel do that should have just burst the dam. Especially for Isabel.

Also the magic was so poorly explained.

I know that magic does not always need to be explained in a story, I actually don’t like it when it is, like, We didn’t need an explanation for Elsa’s magic–and the one we got made no sense.

But in this movie, the magic disappearing is the whole point, so that is the time to explain how it works, the entire point of most of the film is Mirabel trying to understand the magic, so explaining it was totally necessary.

And what is explained…nothing!

I mean, I guess the magic relies on the family’s…bond? But then why doesn’t it crack every time one of them fights? The one lady with the weather powers should be having cracks every 10 minutes. Isabel and Mirabel should have been causing issues all along. Then Abuela’s obsession with perfection might actually make more sense.

Or how about this, make the fact that Abuela herself actually has no gift, and just guards the candle and house the reason she doesn’t like Mirabel. Mirabel reminds her of her own mortality, and humanness, and we tend to project our insecurities onto other people. So when she’s yelling at Mirabel, she’s really upset at herself. And Mirabel annoys her by not being as stressed about it as she is. I’ve known that to happen to many people in real life, myself included. Misery loves company.

This is almost implied in the movie…but never enough to be sure it’s actually what it’s saying.

Also, the conflict of this movie is set up poorly.

We’re supposed to be wonder why Mirabel has no gift, right? Well that question is never answered. Ever.

Then we’re supposed to wonder if the gift is becoming a curse…

But the thing is, Mirabel’s mom is a really nice lady, and supportive of all her daughters, and so is their father. Isabel is so driven to be perfect…why?

I can’t recall her ever actually being told she was doing something wrong. Maybe she just wanted to avoid it ever happening, but most people aren’t afraid to fail until they have failed in a painful way, and we never see her do that. Perfectionism comes from not being able to control things when you were a kid, but we get no such story with Isabel.

We never see Luisa told it would be selfish to take a break. She just assumes it.

We’re meant to think Abuela made them think this way just by her example…but even if that is true, no one ever questioned it before? And why do none of the men feel this way? They seem carefree, and happy-go-lucky. No pressure there.

And while the townspeople take advantage of the family’s gifts, they aren’t ever pushy about it.

So why are these two girls so driven? Isabel says she was going to marry the guy for the family…but they never push her to do it, they just assume she wants to marry him. If she’d ever spoken up about it, I’m sure they’d have been happy to push Dolores forward instead. Why does it need to be Isabel?

And by the way, Dolores character had the potential to be so much more compelling. Imagine if you could hear everything? Everything anyone ever said about you? That sounds like a curse to me. Maybe that’s why she tries to be invisible, so people won’t talk bad about her.

Would make relationships difficult, and relaxing. She’s shown to be jumpy, but she doesn’t get her own song, and she doesn’t ever get a moment to explain it. A total waste of potential. I’d say her life is way harder than Isabel’s.

I mean, when the main conflict of your story is your MC just isn’t special enough….what the heck movie? Is that what counts as drama these days? Her family loves her, and the one person who actually is hostile to her, Isabel, is not even in most of the movie, and resolves the conflict in 3 minutes…yay!

Mirabel is all like “I can’t embrace Isabel!” and then 5 minutes later “Oh my gosh, I was so wrong about her!”

Uh…you weren’t really, you just didn’t know why she acted that way, she still acted like a b-word. And perfectionism is no excuse to bully your sister, Isabel. How about an apology?

Nope…nothing.

I mean Isabel could have said she envied Mirabel her freedom to do whatever she wants. Built on the trapped by your gift thing…but nope.

And another thing, if Isabel is so stuck…why doesn’t she want to try something other than growing flowers? Her whole rebellion is spraying herself with colors and growing cacti…who in the heck said she couldn’t grow cacti? Cacti are useful, heck her mom could use aloe to cure people, everyone would be all over that. And she has a whole room to experience with crazy flowers in, and no one else seems to care…what exactly is holding her back?

I mean, Abuela only cares when it becomes convenient for the plot, she never reprimands Isabel before then.

Movie, stop expecting me to assume domestic abuse, actually show it if you want to use it, you coward!

You now that just ticks me off about this film, and every other kids’ media I watch these days. Domestic problems are assumed. No on’es family is actually good, no one is actually happy, it all hast o be fake. You can bet if I see a nice character, I’m going to find out they have skeletons in their closet later in the story.

And while no human is perfect, not all of us are as royally fricked up as the movies imply. Sometimes we just get frustrated once in a while, and guess what, we move on! Some of us actually deal with it in a healthy way. Geez! What is the problem Hollywood?

I think it’s on purpose, the idea of contentment just doesn’t sell, so every character has to have a dark side.

Frozen kicked off this trend–but you know how Frozen made it work?

Because we actually see Elsa’s powers backfire, we see her parents tell her bad advice, we see her fear of herself grow–the movie accomplishes this in 10 minutes. We all perfectly understand why Elsa is afraid, how it affects her, and that Anna is unaware of it.

Then when Elsa goes berserk, we know why. It’s not random, we see the causes.

And her problems instead of being over in 5 minutes, take a whole movie to work through. And are revisited in the shorts and the sequel–which are not great, but at least they aren’t delusional enough to say Elsa is never going to doubt again. Of course she will, but she now lets herself be helped, that was the difference.

Where is this in Encanto? Or should I say Donde esta en la cinema Encanto? (Pretty sure I said that wrong, but my Spanish is not great, and the constant switch in the movie was not as charming as they thought it was. I was just left feeling like the whole thing should have been in Spanish, or English, pick one.)

Nada! Nunca! It’s not there. You won’t find any deepening, or further introspection of any of these characters. One song, that’s it.

That’s one of my problems with the movie.

The other one is the Magic itself, and the Miracle. It’s never explained.

And why Mirabel does not have a gift. She wanted to know.

I think the movie’s biggest mistake here was that when Mirabel went to get her gift, the door began to form…but then it stopped.

If she was truly just not meant to have one, fine. But then why did she start to get it and then it stopped? The candle changed its mind? Hmm?

Sure seems like something went wrong, not looking at Bruno’s excommunication or anything.

And if the family splitting is what lead to the magic cracking, than it would have made perfect sense that Mirabel’s lack of gift was because it weakened after they sent Bruno packing. Like, it literally seems like that’s what they are implying.

Mirabel even sees the same cracks as Bruno. Which could have been taken as maybe she was going to have the same gift as him, because he wasn’t around, but because he still is, she couldn’t get it, and it broke.

Then restoring Bruno the family, and fixing the house should have fixed her problem. But she still has no gift at the end…even though she restore the magic, so she has magic, but no gift….because logic….

You have all the set up to make this make sense…but no pay off? Nothing.

Because oh she’s just special enough without a gift…

(How can not being special be what makes you special? It’s a logical fallacy.)

Well if that’s true, why restore the gifts at all. If it really had become a burden, then just let it go, accept change.

Wasn’t that the message? If you hold onto the past too tightly it crushes the very people you were trying to protect…I thought that’s what they were saying.

But I mean, i’s Disney, so of course the Magic shouldn’t have disappeared at the end…but Mirabel still can’t have a gift because reasons.

Even though it clearly show she didn’t get a gift because something went wrong, setting it right doesn’t give her one…why? She doesn’t want one anymore?

I fail to understand you movie.

I thought they all should have either lost their gifts for good, or never lost them at all. Maybe they just could have corrupted, been twisted, like in Frozen. Because they were used wrong. That’s more true to real life anyway. We don’t lose our talents because of stress, but they do become less pure.

So in the end, this movie has two messages. Or three really. 1. You don’t need a gift to be special, because not being special is what makes you special. (Cure the Incredibles rant about celebrating mediocrity) 2. If you put yourself into one box, it will crush your spirit, it’s okay to have more than one interest and to take a break. 3. Holding onto the past is bad. Embrace the future. (As long as you do it by not forgetting what made your family special in the past and reigniting that flame….get it? Because it’s a candle, we’re so clever).

How did anyone like this movie’s ending? I get liking the songs and story, but the ending? It makes no sense. None few these three messages is finished. Nothing is explained, and there is no truth. Everything goes back to being exactly how it was, except that Isabel goes disco tech, Luisa takes naps, and Dolores gets with the guy who’s about as deep as a kiddie pool.

Mirabel is not a different person than before. And the town is the same…so yeah…

I really thought there could have been something really good there. Heck, even all three of those message together would have been okay, if they were finished. But they aren’t. There is no point of resolution.

An apology is not a resolution if the problem is that complex. That worked in Brave because the mother -daughter conflict is present in the whole movie, shown to be the core of its problems, and is explained as the way to resolve them. Merida humbling herself makes sense, because Pride was her problem.

But the whole family conflict in this movie is so shaky. Not everyone is unhappy. The problem are so minor that literally two conversations fixed them, and Bruno comes back with no fanfare whatsoever, and Mirabel isn’t even the reason.

Mirabel was actually mostly useless, she spends most of the movie making the problem worse, and in the end is the reason the magic goes out…so way to defy negative expectations there, movie.

Guess she really was the bug in the system…and maybe it deserved to crash and burn…so show that. Don’t just make it all go away because apologies!

Ugh…

Perhaps I am oversimplifying. But it was still poorly done.

Encanto is, in my opinion, a product of our culture.

Fewer and fewer movies and show have any definite meaning now. And fewer and fewer people seem to notice it. We are becoming incapable of discerning structure and payoff in a story.

As long as the label diversity is stamped on something, we swallow any amount of lazy writing, and Hollywood knows we will.

Encanto is a badly written movie that would not have stacked up to a 90s Disney Movie, and they have very weak conflicts usually, but at least hey are clear. Ariel may be kind of a bratty teen, but at least I know why. I know why Aladdin wants to be a prince, even if he’s a liar. I know why Mulan is going to war ( and that is one of the best Disney movies there is).

I don’t know that with Encanto. It would have taken like 1 extra song, and 5 minutes to explain, but it’s not there. They could have cut the unnecessary songs and put in actual story, they could have not rehashed the begging like 3 times for padding. It was fixable. How did someone not say “Uh guys, we didn’t answer any of our own questions in this script…can we like…fix that?”

But no one cars, becuase diversity!

I can’t say I see what a magic house really has to do with Columbian culture. Or how themes that are so clearly modern are really representing what makes it special. Kind of the running joke of representation in Disney is that it’s…you know, based in fictional countries, so you can’t really represent real ethnic groups…

I mean, people complain about how all the old movies had white characters…but they were stories form Europe, of course they could have white characters. Whenever the movie were set in other countries, they changed the ethnicity…I never really saw the issue. People just like to complain.

And I don’t mind if a movie is set in a Mexican, or Colombian culture, if it’s good. I enjoy movies like that.

But I won’t approve bad writing just because it was packaged in a nice look, and fun songs.

I’m sure it would be fun to watch Encanto, but it has no meaning. It is gutless, it doesn’t commit to any one message, because it doesn’t have to to be liked, and the creators knew that.

But I think this in underminding our chilrend’s abilty to tell when there even is a emssage in osmeitng.

Implied messages that are not stated are usually called propaganda. Subtle, but propaganda. When a message is boldly stated, it opens itself up to criticism.

But if it’s vague, you can’t really criticize it. So it is gutless, but the implicates are enough to squeeze it by the virtue signalling SJWS, so they think it has meaning.

If you still think I’m being too harsh, I challenge you to take Encanto, Raya and the Last Dragon, and Moana, take a pen, and write down each main element of those movies. each character’s conflict…and then how the movie resolved it.

I defy you to find a way it really was fleshed out. It’s implied, that’s all. Implications don’t help us in real life. People need actual ideas if they will change.

But if you can feed yourself with colorful, but empty visions of meaning, you can fool yourself into thinking you’re being cultured, but you are really being conditioned.

Encanto is not evil or bad in of itself, so much as it is just lazy, but what scare me is it never would have been praise so much a few decades ago, and now it’s haled as top tier.

A Goofy Movie did family conflict better, sue me.

Well, I think I have ranted enough, this movie is not horrible to watch, but I can’t endorse anything it says, as it says nothing whatsoever. That’s my verdict. Watch it for a good time, but don’t expect any substance, and you’ll be fine.

Try Brave or Frozen if you want the exact same message but with an actual message. Or any of the renaissance era movies.

Until next time, stay honest–Natasha.

Why I hate YA novels…but still read them.

Okay, this isn’t the most serious topic, but sometimes you just gotta blow off steam.

I don’t know if the people who read this blog are really the type to read Young Adult or Teen novels, but some of you watch anime, and that’s kind of the same crowd, so…

When I was younger, I didn’t really read these books, I actually hardly read any teen novels till I was already almost an adult. My mother wouldn’t have let me, to be honest.

I barely got to read Christian Romance novels. And those were mostly horrid.

I couldn’t even tell you the first teen novel I read now, that’s how little it stuck with me, they are more my sister’s thing anyway.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with the genre, it’s usually some type of romance, coupled wither with fantasy, action, or horror like plots, but they are more vanilla than the adult counterparts…but usually still pretty bad.

For whatever reasons, Twilight made vampires and werewolves a popular part of teen fiction, and so are witches, and fantasy things.

Or you have your typical high school story about popularity and being yourself.

A lot of YA novels are set around adult characters, but they still act like teenagers.

And most romance stories, even for older women, follow the exact same tropes as teen novels…but with more sex.

The whole hting disgusts me.

The only ones I generally read are fantasy ones that sound interesting plot wise until you actually read them, and it’s just more tropes and angst.

When I was still a teenager, I got a good look at how teens write because I joined this online forum called the Young Writer’s Workshop.

The stories I read there were total garbage for the most part, a few might have had potential.

What I found disappointing was that they were all exactly the same. I could understand bad writing from inexperienced writers, if it was in every genre, and had some diversity…but all the books had the same style, themes, and ideas in them.

I was shocked. My own writing had never resembled anything like this at all, even at its worst. I had more originally when I was 8 than these stories usually had.

And I’m not saying that just to brag. My early attempts at writing were not good, but I was at least trying to come up with my own story.

I’m aware that these young author probably did come up with the ideas themselves, they just executed them in the same way.

And I think I know why, most of what teens read now is either fan fiction, romance , or teen novels. They don’t read classics, or philosophy, or non fiction.

I grew up reading all of that, I was homeschooled. I knew C. S. Lewis’s writing better than I knew J. K. Rollings. And that’s not even a teen novel.

I have attempted to write some of these tee story plots in the past, I find them kind of interesting as a premise. A lot of the ideas have potential, if you don’t take them too seriously.

A lot of stories, for example, try to use fairy tale races to explore racial problems in our own world. The Hunger Games famously tried to reflect back our society’s superficial obsession with entertainment, no matter how morally bankrupt it is.

But the Hunger Games annoyed fans most when it became the most like a teen novel, and focused on a love triangle and teen drama when it could have focused on the more important elements.

There’s this assumption in teen or YA fiction that teenagers are not going to care about a story unless there’s some drama in it. That they are incapable of higher thought,, and higher aspirations, we just want to date and dress up and play games, and maybe save the world on the side.

A lot of teens buy into this.

When I was 12-13, my mom was encouraging me to read books like “Do Hard Things” by Alex and Brett Harris, and “A Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens” by Shannon Brookes. Books that told me that the teen years are a time to prepare for bigger things. That I could still take them seriously.

That had me trying to start my own ministry and teach people while I was still in high-school.

I didn’t succeed, but I learned a lot form trying and failing. I learned how hard it is to inspire people, and how hard it is to make them believe in something. And that coordination is difficult, and so is organizing something.

I also learned that people rarely take teenagers seriously when they say they want to do something serious.

I’m now in my 20s, and still getting disrespected by older people for being young. My generation is not looked highly upon…but then when are young people ever looked highly upon by older people? You’ll find accounts of older people knocking the younger generation in every part of history books.

I like what the Bible says “Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young,” I live by that.

Anyway, to get back to my point, books aimed at people my age or a little younger, are really, really insulting.

To be fair, a lot of teens I knew in high-school were just about as basic as these books made them out to be, a lot were angry too. And would get mad at me if I said that things should be different.

I think I wasn’t that good at delivery back then, I was young and immature too. And while I’m not old enough yet to have all the perception of old age, I’m old enough to know better than I used to. I can now present myself much more clearly and politely.

However, I don’t think my lack of social grace was the real problem back then, teens don’t really notice that as much as adults do. You have to be old enough to expect to be treated with some amount of respect, before you get offended over it (think about that for a second.)

I think it was just I was raised a different way. And they couldn’t understand me, and I couldn’t understand the pressures of their lives. Now that I’ve been to college and gotten a taste of it…I frankly still don’t see the appeal, but I do understand the social pressure to blend in more. People are vicious when you don’t agree with them, and the younger they are the less they have empathy about it.

I’m so glad I was homeschooled, to be honest. I see what my public schooled cousins go through and I’m relieved I didn’t have to deal with it till I was an adult.

But even with those problems, the stories we feed kids are not helping anything.

I mean if all we give them to think about are superficial, light stories, that is all they will think about.

You know while I’ve been fasting this month, I’ve been thinking about all the ways we distract ourselves in the West.

What makes us different from other parts of the world–though not completely different– is how many ways we can distract ourselves.

We all can afford it, subscriptions, splurges, junk food. all of it. Even the poorest people in our society still have phones, often enough. And TV.

Despite what critics of our country like to say, we don’t really have it so much better than everyone else. I mean, as a whole we do, but within that framework, a lot of us don’t have easy lives. For personal as well as community reasons. You don’t have to be poor to suffer, and wealth doesn’t get your happiness. Just makes you run out of excuses for being unhappy faster.

Teens in the West don’t have easy lives, but they do have over-saturated ones. Over saturated with corruption, propaganda and lust, and vanity.

Every prosperous nation has turned into a corrupted one, in history. People get cocky whey they don’t have to live day by day to survive.

I know that I’m a part of all this, but at least I’m aware of it.

And the books we write, and read, and make movies out of, they feed this.

Our entertainment quality is plunging every year. “Representation” has replaced original, deep plots and the message of personal fulfillment has replaced any other message of meaning in life.

There are a few gems here and there that defy this, but they are getting fewer all the time. When I find them I want to re-watch and reread them over and over.

One thing I thought while I was viewing the 90s X-Men show was just how different they wrote heroes back then. It’s only been about 30 years since the first season dropped.

In 30 years, most of these characters would have just been angsty, morally grey individuals. Who would all question if what they were dong was worth it, and be mildly or heavily depressed. Even the live action movies veered more that way, and most of them weren’t made that much later than the show, until the reboots, which are somehow less depressing than the old ones, but also less well acted, so…

( I still like them better, but I like happy stuff.)

Watching that show was like going back in time, I can just barely remember from when I was a kid, shows and movies that used to try to make character real. They had emotions that weren’t all angst and sadness and anger and doubt. They had diversity of worldview’s, and unlike now, they could explain why they did.

I’ve written before about the lack of strong ideology in movies now, how good characters can’t defend goodness as well as evil characters defend evil.

I may be nuts, but I think it’s deliberate, it happens too often to not be on purpose. I think that Hollywood wants us to see goodness and hope as emotional, weak position that people hold just because they refuse to give up. And all of us root for because we prefer it to the alternative.

But the evil position is what really makes sense, and has factual evidence to back it up, and we just prefer no to face reality.

Movies and anime tell you that you don’t want reality, you want entertainment. You want sexualized content, and fluffy feelings, and drama. You don’t want something real.

You’re weird, in fact, if you don’t like that.

Funny, all the Youtubers I watch express disgust with this very aspect of media when they review movies and shows. They yearn for meaning. Even the ones who make fun of it the most.

Even Nux Taku, a rather famous anime YouTuber who likes hentai, openly, will get into the deeper themes of something, even when, in my opinion, they aren’t really there.

We like to find meaning.

Hollywood knows how to get people to watch things that are garbage just because it checks the right boxes for them, and book novelists know how to get teens and young adults to read their material by luring them in with superficial appeal.

But I for one get tried of the lack of depth. What’s the point of this stuff?

I know, someone is going to say “But it’s just for fun, to relax.”

And, I get it. I want that sometimes too, just a dumb movie or book to read.

That’s okay once in a whle.

But I’m talking about all the time, like, kids who never read anything else, or watch anythig else.

I was surprised entering highschool not only by what people did watch or read, but what they didn’t.

I had a huge library of books and movies I liked that no one else had ever heard of except other homeschoolers. And I was flabbergasted. Why would you only read one kind of thing?

But that’s how it was. The brainwashing worked.

I don’t think it worlds completely though. Some people still want depth, and if introduced to better things, will learn to like them. I have hope.

My concern is those people are fewer and fewer the more saturated we are in the bad stuff. We don’t foster that trait in people, it makes them harder to please, and for such a commercialized culture, we need people to be convinced to buy things, not think about them.

Because of how I was raised, I actually avoid products I see advertised. I have an aversion to commercials and ads, they make me not want to buy something. I prefer to read reviews by real people. The few times I’ve broken that streak, I didn’t like the result.

I won’t say it’s wrong to listen to ads, a few are probably true, I’m saying it’s unwise to be so pliable.

Once you learn how to see when people are buying and selling you something, you become a lot harder to fool.

I think I got off topic.

But all this is really on topic. Teen novels are just a product of what I’m describing. Buying and selling a lifestyle and moral standard to teens that is so much less than what they are capable of.

Teens have shaped history many times, most important historical figures started what they did in their teens. There are exceptions, but it’s not the rule.

We are capable of high thought, and high achievements…and yet we soak up this superficiality, like as sponge, and we thing that’s what we re.

It makes me sad.

I take every chance I get to introduce people younger than me, or my age, to deeper ideas. Sometimes I think I’m getting somewhere, other times I think I’m not.

But we have to try, adults. It’s a worse sin not to try, than to try and fail. Some of them are bound to get it, they are still human.

That one thing to remember too, teens and young adults may be exposed to a lot of crap, and dumbed down by society, but they are still human beings. Humans can change, grow, and adapt, that’s what makes us human.

You can be brought down to the level of a slug, but the same person can be elevated to a prince or princess. Our state of mind is not set in stone at any point in our lives.

Some people may just be dumb, but I think most of us are just untrained. I’ve seen little glimpses of depth even in the people I thought were mostly shallow in my social circles.

I think it’s getting people to believe that about themselves that’s the trick, and to care about it. WE all want meaning, deep down, but most of us hide from that desire and pretend it’s not there.

I’m not writing this to put down teens or young people, by any means, I still am a young person. I just know I’ve been blessed to have the chance to see all this at an early age. I started this blog for that exact reason, to inspire younger people to look for depth and truth in whatever areas we can.

You see embracing that is the key to wisdom in life. A wise person learns from everything around them, whatever is available, they can even learn form total trash, if they try. A foolish person avoids learning as much as they can. And they accomplish very little in life.

I know I am fighting an uphill battle, that people often don’t really want to be wise…but this is what I’ve got. This is what I do. I pray it resonates with someone out there.

Maybe that’s why I keep reading these books, I’m looking for signs of hope. That other people are trying, and looking, and succeeding.

One author I could recommend is Megan Morrison. She’s modern, but I have found all her books to have depth that shocks me, considering what I usually see in that genre. They hold up. The best one is “Grounded” which is just a better version of Tangled, if you ask me. (I like Tangled too, but this book is so full of imagination and depth that a short movie just can’t capture.)

I guess all this sounds a bit sentimental, but I don’t know, why do any of us teach or inspire if not to try to raise people up to a higher level? It’s frustrating, but the most rewarding when you succeed.

They say being an artist is hard, but being a teacher has to be the hardest job in the world just about for high risks and low rewards. Along with being a pastor, probably.

So in summary:

  1. I hate these books because they are shallow
  2. I read them to find hidden gems
  3. I think we need to expect more of young people
  4. I think we need to expect more of ourselves

I guess that wraps it up, until next time, stay honest–Natasha

Lyrics
Well I was young
Well I was young and naive
Because I was told
Because I was told, so I believed
I was told there’s only one road that leads me home
And the truth was a cave, on the mountain side
And I’d seek it out ’til the day I die
I was bound
I was bound and determined
To be the child
To be the child that you wanted
And I was blind to every sign that you left for me to find
And the truth became a tool, that I held in my hand
And I wielded it but did not understand
I was tired of giving more than you gave to me
And I desired a truth I wouldn’t have to seek
But in the silence I heard you calling out to me

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The Gauntlet.

You know, I love to draw meaning from stories, it’s one of the most fun things I know of. I hope all of you have had that experience of sitting (or standing) with someone and just analyzing a story you both like. You get such a satisfied feeling afterward.

As I mentioned, I’ve been watching RWBY, and the show is just too good not to analyze in depth. There’s a lot to choose from, but today I’m thinking of one of its more sobering themes. It’s problematic, but it plays into a common concern parents and teachers, as well as young people like myself, have with entertainment, and how we should prepare kids for the world.

RWBY has, ever since season 2, not hesitated to bring up the question of when children should be considered adults. The idea the show deals with is if it’s really correct to call kids kids after they’ve taken up the gauntlet to fight for good.

This dilemma is presented literally by Yang, a girl who actually uses “gauntlets” to fight, and makes a point on multiple occasions of saying she doesn’t consider herself a kid. Now that she (spoiler alert) has made the choice to risk her life defending the world, been on a mission armed to the teeth, and then lost her arm defending her friend, she feels pretty adult.

Yang’s perspective is understandable, but it is counted by her mentor Ozpin and also her father, Ozpin never talks to Yang about it specifically but he does wish for the youth on the show to retain some of their child-likeness as long as they can, knowing it won’t be for long. He also hopes they will  not lose their sens of humor. Yang’s father Tai tells her directly that she’s still got a lot to learn, just fighting and undergoing trauma doesn’t make her an adult.

Yang does go on to prove she is growing up by making her own difficult choices. But we are still left wondering if it had to be that way. And if it’s right for children to take on such adult roles.

It’s an old problem on shows with young characters that they tend to act more adult than the adults, but this show takes a closer look at why that is. Maybe the simple truth is that we talk down to kids, and they are capable of handling far more than we realize.

Children, as any teacher who’s had any success might tell you, are capable of grasping very deep subjects, often faster than adults do. Things like loss can be hard on kids, but sometimes they still handle it better than adults.

It depends on the person, but it’s fair to say that children surprise us with their maturity often enough to make us question if sheltering them really makes sense.

i don’t mean you shouldn’t protect kids from knowing about evil. But some people think that includes not telling them about suffering and pain, and that’s not something we really can keep from kids. There’s no sense dwelling on it, but if it comes up, should we hedge around it as we often try to do?

RWBY is honest about one thing: This is war. As a kid, that’s what I was told. We’re in a war between good and evil. That wasn’t hard to accept…it’s not really like that’s news to a child. They see the fight all around them.

But in a war there are casualties, an damages, and wounds, and losses. What do we do with those? Some say we should encourage children to think about the happier things in life as long as they can. Others that we should not shield them from harsh realities.

If I might offer some insight on what I think the real answer is…

I think that we over think it, honestly. Unfortunately, the reason we do that is because we have the luxury of it. Not so long ago, most kids would have known someone who had died, or had lost a close family member. Tragedy would not have been a strange notion to kids. They weren’t sheltered from it because there was no way for them to be. Parents couldn’t hide the truth. Cruelty and hate were things kids witnessed, not just in bullying or movies or online, but in person. Between adults.

In many countries, this is still the case. I don’t know why the West doesn’t get it, honestly, I think it’s because we spend so much time running from realities like that ourselves. For some reason, we think our happily ever after comes without a struggle.

It’s not that we should give up on happy endings, which our culture has more of than most, all over its’ fiction and sayings and ideals, and I love that about America; but we tend to pass over the part in every story where the hero or heroine had to got through nearly hell to get to the better ending.

It’s quite simple, if you want a mediocre, quiet ending, then live mediocre and run from what would make you a hero. If you want a truly happy ending, then you have to embrace the sorrow in life and let it temper you into something new.

My pastor pointed out this past Sunday that Jesus said “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” He said “we need to learn how to mourn.”

And that got to me, because, I don’t know how.

Golly gee whiz, I’m not the only one am I? As a freaking culture, we don’t know how to mourn. Our whole message to people is that if you get knocked down, you get right back up. You shove people’s abuse of you right back at them. You keep moving forward.

Well, yeah, you should, but first you have to mourn.

If we hold it together all the time, then our strength will be brittle and a strong enough blow will shatter us. But if we let ourselves break over and over again, we’ll heal a little faster each time.

And this applies so much to children.  I wasn’t usually told to stop crying when I was upset as a kid. Mostly, I could express my feelings. But I still bottled them up out of insecurity, a huge part of my christian journey was learning to cry over my hurt. And just let myself admit it sucked. It’s funny, when you quit trying to be strong all the time, you find things aren’t so hard to bear. Not with God’s help.

And other people’s.

And dang it, that’s what we need to tell kids. Yes, you’ll have hard times. But it’s nothing to be afraid of. It’s because we treat suffering like it’s something to fear that it’s so hard to deal with it. It can be scary, but that doesn’t mean we need to fear it coming.

And there is comfort. That’s important to remember.

–Natasha.

 

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.

 

At home in the universe.

Yesterday I had the great opportunity to go to an observatory. I am a big fan of the universe and stars and planets. A friend of mine and I were discussing recently how awesome it would be, after we get to heaven, to just go hopping around the universe.

And it would be, because even the pictures I see of clouds of stars and galaxies are breathtaking. Imagine seeing it in person. It’s no wonder some astronomers are dying to discover the secret of space travel.

You can Google images too if you want to know what I’m talking about. Rainbow clouds, huge whorls of pink galaxies or solar systems. More stars than you can fit into your mind. And it goes on forever. Literally, it’s all still expanding.

Which is proof of a higher power if you ask me. Where did the space to expand into come from? The big bang couldn’t have created it, even if you buy that crud, which I don’t. But the Big Bang doesn’t solve the problem of where everything cam from, it just presets a very long drawn our method of it expanding.

I am getting to the point where I find the Theory of Evolution too ridiculous to take seriously. If you look at what the universe looks like, you’ll see it’s astoundingly beautiful, and it truly is other worldly.

stars-galaxies-space-wallpaper-wallpapersBX442

King David wrote about seeing all the worlds God had made  (You might be more familiar with that in the song “How Great Thou Art.”) I don’t think David meant there was literally other earths out there, like in science fiction, I think he was probably referring to the planets.

I don’t believe in aliens. But I don’t rule out the possibility of other worlds, Not ones that could support human life. I think we’re here on earth for a reason. I don’t expect we’ll ever find anything resembling a life like a life on earth in the universe.

I think that out there, the’re life of another sort. If you look at the pictures of the Galaxy, you’ll feel like it is alive. But not alive like we’re alive. It’s not a sentient breathing being, but it’s not dead. It’s vibrant, it’s magnificent, and there’s so much of it.

Why would God put beauty all over the universe when it is doubtful we’ll ever be able to find it all?

Well, because God is much greater than we can know, in this life anyway. And He does not limit Himself just because we are limited.

Which brings me to something a little less pleasant. The folly of man.

While I was at this observatory I saw a sign (one of those informative ones like you see at museums) that was talking about what we’re discovering about the universe. At the bottom it had the amusing thought to present that because we’re learning abut this “We are finding our place in the universe and feeling at home in it.” That’s almost exactly what it said, but I wish I’d had a notebook to jot it down, my phone doesn’t take accurate enough pictures for it.

Yes, ladies and gents, because we can take pictures of stuff billions of light years away and form theories about things we’ll never touch, we are finally able to feel at home in the universe.

The plaque also said that the reason for this was because we could understand it. BS I say!

We have our theories, we can’t even agree on those. But if we think we are anywhere near understanding the universe we are beyond delusional. We don’t understand DNA, something all around us, on us, in us, and something we’ve studied up close for decades. Yet we think we could understand something we’ve seen only at a great distance.

We can’t predict our own weather with great accuracy, yet we think we know weather on other planets. Do you see the humor in this? And the arrogance.

At home in the universe? Give me a break. Do you feel at home on your block?

When I consider the heavens, like David, I am in awe. And there was a quote about that too. From Griffith J. Griffith talking about the Mount Wilson Observatory.  “Man’s sense of values ought to be revised. If all mankind could look through that telescope, it would change the world.”

spiralgalaxyngc1365-s

I know that I don’t exactly feel at home in the universe. There is something entirely beyond my understanding even just looking at the photos. Let alone if I tried to study it. See if it doesn’t make you feel the same way. Small.

But I do feel like I differ from a lot of people in one way. The universe does not make me feel unimportant. Unimpressed with man’s attempts to snatch glory apart from God, yes.

But not unimportant. I do feel small and extremely limited when I think of all the places I can’t reach, but it only makes me realize that one day I will be free of this body “of death” as Paul called it.

I don’t hate my body, but it’s a humbling thing to have a mortal body. It does things that don’t really make you feel all that proud, and it limits you. What Outer space reminds us off is that our body is a very temporary thing.

If you don’t feel at home on earth, I don’t think space frightens you so much as it makes you want to expand. If people are too busy int heir lives to ever look up even at the heavens we can see from here, I wonder if they are just a little too comfortable on this fallen planet.

Nathaniel Bowditch looked up at the stars, his mother said they made your problems shrink if you looked at them long enough.

I think the scariest thing for some of us, and also the most alluring, is that the galaxies are not full of man made objects. They are wild, in a way. Divine in their design.

I hear a man quoting one of those ole shows “Space, the last frontier.”

The frontier we can’t reach yet.

galaxy-sky-stars-Favim.com-192527

The Unimaginable.

I recently was introduce to the Musical Hamilton. What sold me on it completely was the end. I actually came near to crying, the tears were in my eyes. I know every girl says that about every movie or book with a sappy story in it. But that wasn’t what got to me. Up until the lat half or so of Act 2, I thought it was pretty good. But when Phillip died it got serious, and then this song. “It’s quiet uptown” got to me. I would definitely say listen to it because it’s better with music. But check out these lyrics, especially at the bottom:

 

Angelica: There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is suffering too terrible to name. You hold your child as tight as you can, and push away the unimaginable. The moments when you’re in so deep it feels easier to just swim down.

Hamilton: I spend hours in the garden. I walk alone to the store. And it’s quiet uptown. I never like the quiet before. I take the children to church on Sunday. A sign of the Cross at the door. And I pray. That never used to happen before.

You knock me out, I fall apart.

Company: Can you imagine?

Hamilton: Look at where we are. Look at where we started. I know I don’t deserve you Eliza. But hear me out. That would be enough.

If I could spare his life. If I could trade his life for mine. He’d be standing here right now. And you would smile, and that would be enough. I don’t pretend to know the challenges we’re facing. I know there’s no replacing what we’ve lost. And you need time. But I’m not afraid. I know who I married. Just let me stay here by your side. That would be enough.

Company: If you see him in the street walking by her side, talking by her side. Have pity.
Hamilton: Eliza do you like it uptown, it’s quiet uptown.
Company: He is trying to do the unimaginable. See them walking in the park, long after dark. Taking in the sights of the city.

Hamilton: Look around, look around Eliza. 

Company: They are trying to do the unimaginable.
Angelica: There are moments that the words don’t reach. There is a grace too powerful to name. We push away what we can never understand. We push away the unimaginable. They are standing in the garden. Alexander by Eliza’s side. She takes his hand.

Company:

Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
Forgiveness. Can you imagine?
If you see him in the street, walking by her side, talking by her side, have pity. They are going through the unimaginable.

The last part with Angelica and the Company is so true. It stuck me as profound.
In case you haven’t been caught up in the Hamilton craze, let me explain why this is so big. Hamilton cheated on his wife. It’s was a long messed up story, but he ended up publishing his letters with the woman to the public to clear his name. Very, very stupid. And the man was a genius in other respects. (There are some pretty scathing songs directed at him int he musical. And the fans get pretty hard on him too.)
Then Hamilton’s son got in duel, much like his father would after him, and was shot by the other man while he also fired into the air. The Hamiltons moved uptown after that, hence the song.
Eliza we know carried on Hamilton’s legacy after he died, for the next fifty years. She collected letters about him, she started an orphanage. She wanted him to be remembered. She had to know that would meant he affair would be remember too. As it has been. But clearly, she forgave him. Actually it might’ve been sooner then the song suggests, or later. But they had another kid.
Funny, whenever I hear some great forgiveness story on YouTube, I find in the comments that people can’t understand how they could forgive that. It can be fictional, often it’s real life. But either type of forgiveness blows people’s minds.
And it occurs to me how little we encourage it in each’s other. On TV people are petty, and rarely ever let go of event he stupidest of offences. They nag each other. How many of us are imitating that pattern? I know I am far too often.
And I struggle with forgiveness over really serious things. I am committed to justice. When it comes time to let that go, I fine it hard.
 Christians are told to forgive everyone for each offense and show love.
Forgiveness is hard enough even when you’ve been raised to believe in it. But I think it is made harder when as a culture we feed on vengeance.
In entertainment, and the news. In politics. Of someone smears our candidate of choice, we smear theirs. If they talk bad about our party, we talk bad about theirs.
It may surprise you to know I see more blame on My own party’s side in this. Republicans and Conservatives. I think the Left does it too. Possibility more than we do. But I expect that from them. They always have. What shocks me sometimes is the contempt Conservatives show, and the lack of difference between how we talk about them.
True, we acknowledge some of them mean well, but that’s about it.
But political differences are a lot easier to forgive then something like cheating. Probably someone who reads this has been cheated on. It may make you livid to have it suggested that forgiveness is even possible. OR maybe you wish it was. 
This one puts it well. Grace and recovery form grief are both unimaginable to us. I can’t imagine the kind of grief losing a child would be. I can try, but I know I get only a small part of the picture. My Aunt and Uncle have gone through this experience now. They have been quiet about it.
But anger in understandable to, and necessary for a time. The question is, and the question Hamilton is asking himself in this song is can the anger eventually pass? Can it be quiet? And can there be forgiveness?
I understand the outrage over what Hamilton did, and I would find it hard to get past myself. But a lot of couples do. I will say this, a man may make that kind of mistake, but not be worthless. It depends on the man. It depends on the woman too.
That kind of broken trust is hard to repair. But as someone who has been on the receiving end of not being forgiven for a long time, (as many of you have no doubt,) I can’t help but feel some sympathy for Hamilton. 
Until we kill the desire, all of us at one time yearn to be forgiven and to be set free from the guilt of everything we do wrong. Eventually we let that die because we give up hope.
It’s an odd pattern that people who hate God or who give up on Him, tend to not have forgiven themselves or feel forgiven. 
Anger at God for the things that have been done to us it nearly always built on the anger of not feeling forgiven. Which is fear, really, not anger.
Because in the Bible, and in the testimonies I’ve heard, it is always after we’ve been forgiven that we can forgive.
I think we hold grudges as a kind of covering for our own nakedness. So we can say that though we did wrong, we were wronged too, so there should be pity.
That’s not what the Company in this song is talking about when they say to pity Hamilton.
They mean, pity a man who is trying to redeem himself, or trying to accept grace. Because we do hide from what we don’t understand. especially grace.
People have been killed for it. People who forgive have been hated by those they’ve forgiven.
Yet the guilty often only change after  they know they’ve been forgiven. When we get a blank slate, suddenly we feel we can rewrite our story.
Grace is unimaginable, more so than grief, because we live in pain easily, we live in freedom with great difficulty.
But what I love is that int he song, and apparently in history, it happened. Eliza did extend grace. She was a spiritual woman we know.
I guess the only appropriate way for me to end this is by telling you the good news: Jesus offers forgiveness. And maybe you don’t feel it, but you do want it. Or you did once, and it’s just buried.  Maybe it seems to good to be true to you. (Skepticism is built off that feeling) but it’s true. All you have to do is ask him for it. And follow him.
Maybe you have already done that, but do it again. We all need to revisit that often.
And if there is someone who had done the unimaginable to you, there is a chance to forgive them. They will never deserves it. That’s why we can’t understand it. But thank God, we don’t get what we deserve.  The bigger the offense, the more beautiful it is when it’s finally washed away.
Until Next time–Natasha.