reflection browsing by tag


The Bechdel Test

Wednesday, January 5th, 2011

A friend posted this article about the purpose of the Bechdel test (see the article if you don’t know what that is) and how it’s not all about ‘passing’ the test. In a nutshell, the author sums it up like this:

It’s not that the audience doesn’t want to hear what “women” characters have to say, as one film pro told me… It’s that we don’t want to hear what’s said by irrelevant, underdeveloped characters who have nothing to do with the plot.

When you start thinking about movies you’ve seen recently, you might be shocked at how few pass the test – even those that have caught your heart for their other good qualities (including stereotype breaking).

Off the top of my head, here’s some movies I’ve watched in the past few months, and whether they passed: (I’m leaving out some really obvious ones, like Trainspotting and Pulp Fiction.)

  • Inception – fail
  • Hero – fail
  • Toy Story 3 – fail (!?)
  • Love Actually – fail (another ?!)
  • Shrek Forever After – pretty sure it fails
  • The Social Network – fail
  • Chico & Rita – fail
  • Despicable Me – unless you consider the orphanage lady’s commands or a few joking lines exchanged between the 3 girls ‘conversation’, fail
  • Avatar – pretty sure this fails, even though I loved the woman scientist and the kick-ass helicopter pilot
  • How to Train Your Dragon – fails, even though it reverses gender stereotypes (a strong, competitive but cold-hearted female is taught how to care by a weak, shy male with a big heart who doesn’t want to kill and connects with animals?? WHAT!?) and does a good portrayal of disability
  • Winter’s Bone – probably a technical fail, but I’d be willing to argue its case, as the whole story revolves around a missing father, even though he is never actually IN the film. So just about every conversation is, indeed, about him. However, the main character is a woman and so are many of the supporting characters. In fact, it has some really interesting portrayals of women in this society and how they interact.

However, what happens when you take it to literature? Even with all Larsson does for strong female characters in his Millennium Trilogy (especially in the third book), it is probably a fail. Though the characters are diverse and independent, they’re also islands, connected only by Bloomkvist. When they interact, it is about Bloomkvist.

Sigh. Depressing.

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Coming Out Against ‘Bitch’ and ‘Miracle’

Thursday, March 19th, 2009

I’ve set myself a new ideal: to stop using two words – ‘bitch’ and ‘miracle’. I know, those two seem pretty random! But I do have reasons.

I use bitch a lot. I call people bitches, I call things bitches, I call events bitches – I’ll even call myself a bitch (usually something like ‘Oh, I will be a bitch about it if I have to’).

The problem is, I, and many other people, use ‘bitch’ in two different senses. First and perhaps most commonly, people use ‘bitch’ in a derogatory sense. I’m sure everyone has their own exact definition to attach to this, but when I use ‘bitch’ this way I usually mean someone who’s making a scene and/or being being rude and unreasonable. The travel agent who won’t let you check in because you’re 30 seconds past the closing time might be considered a ‘bitch’. The lady making a huge scene over a coupon at the grocery store and holding up everyone behind her instead of going and taking it up at the customer service desk might be a ‘bitch’.

The second usage is usually how I use it on myself. It can almost be a complement. It doesn’t mean being unreasonable or making a scene, but it means being strong, assertive, and perhaps a little rude if that’s what needs to be done. Usually I call myself a ‘bitch’ when I’m in a situation where I’m going to have get strong about something in order to get it done. Group-work is a great example of this – I don’t stand for people slacking off or handling things so that I have to work harder to make up for it. My current payment situation is another great example – TCU has owed me about $1000 for about 4 weeks now – I will be pretty damn strong and assertive about getting my money.

The problem arises because you’ve got these two completely different meanings – one positive, one negative – in the same word. I realised that whenever I call myself or another woman a bitch for being strong and assertive, meaning it to be a complement, I am feeding fuel to the misogynists who believe any woman who dares to stand up to anyone is a ‘bitch’ – in a derogatory sense. While it would be great if we can ‘reclaim words,’ I am just not sure that with a word like ‘bitch’ that’s going to happen anytime soon. And I don’t like the idea of words (‘n*gger’ is a great example) that can only be ‘safely’ used by one group or another – I have no desire to make so that only women can call each other ‘bitches’ without fear.

So the solution, in my personal life anyway, is to simply stop using the word. When someone’s being rude and unreasonable, I have many other words I can fall back on, like asshole, without worrying much about offending the butts of world. When someone is being strong and assertive, I will call them just that – using words that can’t later be used as ammunition against me and other women!

While my problem with ‘bitch’ might be considered feminist, my problem with ‘miracle’ is purely scientific. Mainly I have developed a hate of it because it is so overused!

There are so many situations where ‘miracle’ is used in a purely historic sense, and is so obviously outdated. ‘The miracle of life’ is the most obvious example – how is it a miracle? There are 6 billion people on the world! Believe me, there is nothing miraculous about that! Yes, conception and birth are very, very cool – believe me, I will be the first to agree on that, but they’re not miraculous! And it’s not a miracle because we don’t know how it happens – we know exactly how it happens. It’s pretty day-to-day – think about how many eggs got fertilized today, not just by humans, but by all the living organisms in the world!

‘Miracle’ implies that something is amazing, unique, and shouldn’t happen. It implies that we don’t understand how it works, or it seems so amazing that obviously mysterious outside forces are at work. Now there are some situations where it might seem that the word ‘miracle’ might be appropriate – a tree falling over and missing your friend by an inch, the helicopter finding the lost hiker a few hours before he would have died of hypothermia, on and on. But even then, I don’t think we can attribute these to a mysterious power – whatever made the tree fall made it fall exactly how it did, and when you throw in random chance, there was always a chance it wasn’t going to hit your friend. The helicopter rescue team might be very well trained, they might have found someone there before, they might have decided to make that last sweep – and again, there was always a chance they were going to find the hiker.

If you personally want to invoke God or the FSM to these situations, that’s fine, but I personally believe that God is not here to direct the falling of trees or the direction of a helicopter search. And I think it covers up the science of the real world – it encourages people to get too caught up in how wonderfully amazing something is to take time to give credit to the natural order of things, and the scientific data so many have slaved so long to gather and test and interpret!

So, because it is such a wavy and unclear line, I have decided it is best not to use the word ‘miracle’. Amazing, sure, incredible, why not, lucky, no problem. There are many other words that can express my amazement without taking credit and attention from the fact that the world is a chancy place that runs on rules.

By the way, I am not advocating that everyone needs to stop using these words, though I think you might want to consider your own thoughts on the subject. What do you think?

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My, My, Time Flies

Saturday, December 27th, 2008

Today I went out to run errands, and stopped by the shops to see the post-Christmas sales. You could feel in the air the ‘Christmas crash’ as everyone milled around the decorations that two days ago seemed so joyful and twinkling and now seem limp and out-dated.

But this feeling did not extend to me. I have enjoyed a feeling of deep calm all day. I love Christmas, don’t get me wrong! Anyone who’s been to my over-decorated apartment knows that! But it’s nice to finally get through the rush of the season – school, finals, graduation, Christmas. Done. It’s nice to get a chance to have a relaxing day with few worries and only a few small errands to run, which is a joy when your pockets have some Christmas cash.

Anyway, in regard to the title, it’s true, time does fly. I suppose it’s very typical of me post-university to look back and make remarks about how quickly it goes. It does, and it doesn’t. It does seem like 4.5 years of school, but it also seems like it went faster than I thought it would. The title, for those of you who don’t know, is from Enya’s new winter album, ‘And Winter Came’, and is a song I’ve grown quite fond of.

As I talked about in my last post, I am at a point where I feel very comfortable in life, in the future, in general. It’s a lovely feeling. I’m sitting on the edge of a cliff at the moment, but instead of it plunging me into a world of uncertainty about what the hell I’m going to do with my life, I feel poised at the lip of an adventure.

This next semester, apart from way too much research, tutoring, and auditing a CS class, I am going to be taking the GRE and applying to grad schools. Sean and I have recently been discussing this, and I am thoroughly excited. My mom wants me to try and apply to Rice, though chances are pretty much zero that would work. However, Sean and I have discussed it, and after this miserable excuse of a winter, we’re both ready to move to a climate with more pronounced seasons and a half-decent winter. In fact, we’ve decided on two locations housing universities with good evolution programs where I am definitely going to apply: Denver, CO, and Eugene, OR. Eugene is one of the greenest cities in the US, and very pretty, too. Needless to say, both are cooler than TX! This winter has reaffirmed my long-held suspicion that I can handle Texas heat just fine, but I do require a decent winter to offset months of blistering, sweltering sun. And this winter just wasn’t good enough. Perhaps time to explore.

The prospect of moving somewhere new, doing some exciting new evolution studying, having snow in the winter, finding a nice place for Sean and I to settle down for a few years – it’s all very exciting, and feels right.

We’re not sure about timing just now – my lease here runs out July 7th, so we will most likely be somewhere new after that. We don’t know if we should go ahead and relocate north (state residency for one thing), or perhaps we will head back South to Georgetown for a while, as the condo’s current resident’s lease is through June, and we can live there for awhile without having to worry about anything but utilities.

Anyway, I will keep you all updated, as time flies along…

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Sunday, December 14th, 2008

On nights like tonight it often suddenly hits me: I’m happy. I like life. I have a future. It’s still a little scary – when isn’t it – but it’s exciting too. And I can handle it.

It seems like such a simple revelation. But for me, it’s still an amazing event. To finally have a handle on things after so long, it still seems somewhat unreal.

I guess knowing that so many people were worried about my happiness for so long – and with good reason – makes me feel like I should write this now. To thank everyone, for continuing to care, for continuing to worry, even when it seemed like I was way too busy digging myself into a deep dark hole to be listening. I may not have been acknowledging, but I was listening. And hearing people ask me if I was happy, hearing people tell me I could be happier, hearing people repeatedly say they were worried about me, and that they wanted me to be happy – it forced me to keep, even if just for a moment, picturing the brief possibility that what they were saying could be true – before I bowed my head and continued digging.

I really couldn’t see the light. And that’s because I was digging. When you dig down, there is no light – you’re not in a tunnel. Going in the same direction – ‘working through it’ – isn’t going to fix anything. You’ve got to turn around, and look the other way – then you’ll see the light. Then you’ve got to start clawing your way out along the steep, crumbling sides.

And lord knows it wasn’t easy. I kept digging for a very long time. At first I thought there was a light, and then I resigned myself to the fact that there wasn’t a light in front of me, but there never was one behind me either, and so I might as well just keep heading this direction.

First, I lost the past. Then, I found myself. Then I found hope. Then I found Sean. Then I found my tutoring job. Then I found willpower and discipline in school. Then I found a dream, a passion. Then I found a good job. Then I was headed to making better grades than I have in years. Then I found a future.

It’s slow. It was painful, so painful. But it also was so amazing. I know it may seem shallow to put Sean on that list, at least to some, but it’s not. That we have a wonderful relationship now is a dream, but it was through getting to know him that I made some amazing steps. I finally accepted that someone could actually be attracted to me. That I was date-able. And through watching him take so much pleasure from getting to know the quirks of Emma, I remembered something I’d forgotten long ago: that I liked me too.

It’s been a long road. And I’m still on it. I still have those reactions, where I’m taken back. If I’m sitting with my legs up and Sean tries to kiss my knee, I still jerk back. In my mind, I’m afraid he’s going to bite me so long and so hard that I scream for him to stop and the bruises last for weeks, but I’m not strong enough to pull away. Sean’s never done that, of course, but my mind is still conditioned from the past.

But I hardly even care, because look how far I’ve come. I’m content and I’m happy. I’m doing unbelievably well in school. I’m climbing back onto a better road, in all meanings.

I know you already know this, those of you who stood by me so long, because I’ve heard it from so many voices so many times: “Emma, you look so well.” “Emma, you seem so happy.” “Emma, it’s so good to see you like this.” So, I really don’t need to say it, but I will: I’m happy. And all of you who gave me your words and your care and your love, you’re all part of this happiness.

So thank you.

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Interview with a Sibling!

Friday, August 8th, 2008

Elizabeth, of The Spotted Ottoman Blog, recently interviewed her 14-year-old sister on her perspectives on a few things in life. I am shamelessly stealing her idea to interview my brother Kenneth (who is also 14) and my younger twin sisters, Alice and Heather (who are 10). I changed up the questions a bit, but I thought this might be some interesting insight. I am also considering a second post with my answers, my sister Elizabeth (Libby)’s answers (she is 19), and my dad’s answers! Stay tuned!

•  Kenneth

•  Heather

•  Alice


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Ad Songs & Me Rambling On

Monday, April 7th, 2008

Well, I really should be working on my nutrition brochure that I just got assigned (I knew today would end my wonderful break!), but I’m a little pissed off. See, we’re supposed to be writing it to be at an 8th grade reading level (Word apparently can show you this – I didn’t know that!). Unfortunately, using the words “protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals” pushes my brochure’s reading level from 7.3 to 8.6 – 1.3 grades! How I am supposed to write a nutritional brochure without using “protein,” “fiber,” “vitamins,” or “minerals” is beyond me. I’ve emailed Dr.Hill about it – we’ll see what she says.

Anyway, in the meantime, I thought I’d be completely unproductive and write about music. I was talking to a friend the other day and realised that many of the songs I’ve purchased recently over iTunes (using up a $30 gift certificate, yey!) are songs from ads. And, according to the ‘popularity rating’ of the songs when I find them on iTunes, I’m not the only one doing this. I wonder when this trend began? I’m absolutely positive it’s due to the advent of being able to purchase one song immediately – I’d have maybe one of these songs if I had to go drive to a store and buy the album. Whether the song’s popularity has affected the effectiveness of the ad, I don’t know. I can’t say that I’ve purchased any of the products featured on these song’s ads since the ad’s premiere, but I do, for the most part, remember the product attached to each song.

Anyway, here is my list of ‘ad-songs’:

‘Remind Me (Radio Edit)’ by Royksopp – Featured in the ‘airport caveman’ Geico commercial. When he’s on the sidewalk. I like this ad so much I recorded it on my camera. More on that later.
‘Le Disko’ by Shiny Toy Guns – Featured on the ‘knife-fight on the subway’ Razr ad. I like how the phone stuck in the wall when it was thrown.
’1234′ by Feist – You all know this one – featured on the new iPod Nano commercial by Apple.
‘Never the Same’ by Supreme Beings of Leisure – Featured in a Christmas-time Johnny Walker Black Label ad. I was fond of this ad, as the whole screen was black except the outline of the label and the whiskey itself. Very artsy.
‘New Soul’ by Yael Naim – Another one you all know. Featured in the MacBook Air commercials.
‘I Melt With You’ by Modern English – Featured in the Taco Bell ‘cheesy beefy melt’ commerical.
‘Can’t Get It Right Today’ by Joe Purdy – This is the one exact product I don’t remember (I remember the ad but not the brand)… *goes to look it up.* Ah, featured in the Kia Spectra ad – where everyone’s pulling into the gas station and doesn’t remember which side the gas tank is on.
‘Sweet Pea’ by Amos Lee – Featured in the AT&T; ‘business trip dad/pictures of the monkey everywhere’ ad. Fond of this ad too – touching! I liked this song enough that I did end up going out and buying the whole album, which I’m glad I did.

So! The Royksopp song. I think it’s the song/ad combination that touches me so powerfully. The ad, if you don’t remember, is the caveman standing on a moving pavement in the airport and going past those lit-up wall-billboards, carrying bags, checking his ticket, obviously headed to the gate. The camera angle changes once at the end, where you can see that on the opposite wall there’s a window overlooking gangways and planes pulled up to gates. As simplistic as the scene is, it hits me with profound meaning. So much of my life is embodied right there – moving sidewalks in airports around the world, checking the ticket, looking for the gate. Heading to wherever it is I need to be, whatever family has it’s ‘turn’. I can’t really explain it, and don’t really expect anyone else to understand.

The song itself is meaningful as well. In the commercial, the only lyrics you hear are, ‘And everywhere I go, there’s always something to remind me, of another place and time’. I can relate to that, for sure. Maybe everyone can. Not a day go goes by, either here or in the UK, that I don’t think of something or someone in the other location and, even if for a fleeting second, wish I was there instead. That’s especially true when I think of Kenneth, Alice, and Heather. Or just climbing up to the top of the hill outside the cottage and standing in the cold, bracing wind until I forget whatever strains are on my mind. Obviously no matter which country I’m in I have that experience, so I don’t sit and pine (ok, well, maybe occasionally!), but it’s something I’ve dealt with for a long time.

In the radio edit of the song, the opening lyrics are:
“It’s only been a week,
The rush of being home in rapid fading.
Prevailing to recall
What I was missing, all that time in England

Has sent me aimlessly,
On foot or by the help of transportation,
To knock on windows where
A friend no longer lives, I had forgotten.”
Obviously, I often feel that’s fairly accurate. No matter where I am, I’m glaringly aware of what I’m missing out on wherever I’m not. And whenever I arrive, I have to catch up on whatever’s changed. I’ll have to interject at this point that I realise this is just the deal whenever you travel, or even if you’re doing something like going to college far from your home. It’s not like I sit around being miserable because I’m not in the US/UK, but I guess it might seem strange that it bothers me more than average Joe college student who rarely goes home. Perhaps just because I don’t know much else – from age 5 I’ve had that feeling. Or maybe that’s just part of Emma being Emma – who knows. I have more thoughts on that, but I’m probably starting to sound whiny and I’m running out of time before class. I’m just trying to share some lyrics that hit me, not depress you all – I swear! : )

So I’ll leave you with some last words from the Royksopp song:
“Brave men tell the truth,
A wise man’s tools are analogies and puzzles,
A woman holds her tongue,
Knowing silence will speak for her. “
; D

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Those Old Questionnaires

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

While Google-ing myself (oh, come-on, you all do it too!) I came across one of those old question things everyone used to post on blogs. You know the ones, where they had like 80 questions and you had to answer pointless weird questions about yourself.

Well anyway, I started reading through it, and began thinking it was a really interesting way of seeing how life had changed. It was from July 2004, which was when I was fresh out of high school and before I’d officially started at Southwestern. Oh, life since then!

So I re-posted the questions with my ‘modern day’ answers below the originals, in blue font. Take a look if you want, but maybe it was just mostly for me. Maybe in another 4 years I’ll go back and do it again : )

See it HERE

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This is Why I’m the Way I Am

Sunday, December 30th, 2007

Oh how I hate today. I will not go into all the reason I hate it. It is the same as it always is over here. I am afraid and I am trapped. One should probably not feel so fearful in her parent’s home. (Non-pleural possessive on purpose.)
I am wishing so much I was in my own snug apartment, curled on the couch with my cat, or really, with any friend in America, even the distant ones, than here, now. A week and a few days, and I will be back. The beginnings of this week were uneventful, I hope after this ungodly day, it continues this way, though I doubt it. I can’t keep doing this, it takes too much out of me. Someday, my own self-preservation will outweigh my duty to my brothers and sisters – after all, they have each other. Step-parents in general should be banned. However, they will not be, as parents in general are selfish, angry, and childish. Then, children from previous marriages should be openly banned, so we can cease to cause such trouble to those who bore us – unwanted ticket stubs from a sham of a marriage that ended almost two decades ago.

As the famous line goes, the pitying soldier leaning over the grossly wounded but still choking body of his enemy – ‘For God’s sake, he’s still alive.’
Finish it, or leave us be.

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Where to Stand

Wednesday, October 24th, 2007

As many of you know, I’m a big advocate of healthy lifestyle and healthy eating. While my healthy lifestyle could use some improvements (I hardly ever exercise – though I did just by DDR for my Wii and am trying to get active on it every day), I do try to walk a lot and take the stairs. And I do put a lot of effort into eating healthily. I don’t count calories and I don’t ban carbs, but I do try and keep my intake of fat, salt, and sugar low. And I encourage others to do so. Obesity, heart disease – thats a nasty-ass way to go, and an even nastier way to live out the rest of your life.

On the other hand, though, I’m very much for healthy lifestyle and healthy diet. Wait, you say, that’s just what you said. Yea, but now I’m coming from the other direction. In my 21 years of breathing on this planet, I’ve met a really scary number of girls and young women with eating disorders like anorexia and bulimia, and girls who compulsively exercise. People that definitely don’t need to be worrying about obesity (but should still be worrying about heart disease, though a different form than the obesity-linked kind – brought about by lack of protein and other nasties).

So on the one hand I stand up and I talk about eating less and exercising more. Then I turn around and talk about eating more and exercizing less.

On the one hand, I hate the pressure so many women feel to have these perfect, skinny bodies and the unbelievable insecurity so many women feel when their bodies aren’t pefect. Many girls can probably relate to this, but many guys might fall over backwards two or three times if really exposed to this in raw form.
On the other hand, I hate the fact that a fourth of our country is obese, and that we live in a cheap, fast, and easy society where we eat what we please and seek cures at 40, instead of preventing the problem at 20. And I hate the denial. ‘I’ll get healthy later’ ‘No really, I feel fine, I must be fine’ ‘I’m big-boned’

One side says I need to be skinny to be loved, I need to see ribs to be sexy, I hate my body.
The other says It’s not my fault, I don’t have time, this is what a real woman looks like.

How do you possibly reconcile these two extremes?? But then, is this just another example of the polarization of America?* It’s a dilemma (Can’t have a dilemma without Emma®) I’ve faced a few times when posting. Often I ignore it, but it still nags. If I post something about forgetting society’s expectations for a super-skinny celeb body, am I nudging aside the obsity crisis? If I post something about healthy eating, losing weight, and working out, am I further pressuring our anorexic female youth?

I recognise that my little posts are not going to make much difference either way in the grand scheme, but the integrity of my writing is important to me, if nothing else, and it’s important that I’m not slicing into my own values unintentionally.

I realise this post is rather unstructured and all over, but I’m short on time, as usual. Anyone have thoughts on this?

By the way, all of this was triggered when I thought of posting a list I came across that I liked. You can view this post-starter here.

* A quick Google revealed I may be using a term that’s been built up to mean more than I realise it does. I’m using it as a construction of English words, not as a concept or term – please translate accordingly.

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WARNING: Religious Post

Monday, October 1st, 2007

Often, when I look back through old posts, I’m fairly impressed with what I write. True, a lot of it is psycho-babble, but I’m proud of a few where I, at least, think I make a good point. Of course, I’m probably more than a little biased, as they are by me, and they probably do make more sense to me, since I did write them, but still.

This morning I was contemplating religion while playing sudoku, which made me come into the library and look up some old posts I made on religion. As some of you may or may not remember, 4.5 years ago (god that was ages ago) I wrote a post that lay out the culmination of many weeks, perhaps even more, of thoughts on religion. Almost five years later, I still stand by the main points of this end result. I thought maybe I’d revisit the topic, and try to clarify and simplify from the jumble of words that makes up that original post. So, here’s fair warning. If you didn’t like the original or don’t want a recap, or just hate going back in time, scuttle away. Similarly, if you have a shaky foundation in your own religious beliefs and avoid all other religions/religious ideas in the fear that your faith will be shattered, or just don’t like religious topics, run away quickly!

I was never one very comfortable with the idea of sins and of the absolute word of the Bible. I remember in high school I knew a few people with many different conflicting ideas about what God wanted/didn’t want, what really pissed him off, what was a sin, and how to get into heaven. It all seemed so complicated. But from other things they said, it seemed like it should be much more simple. From the words of those who ‘knew,’ God was described as two things overall: ever-loving and ever-forgiving. And, coming in third, the father, or parent, of humanity. So I started with that – the three things that seemed most likely to be true – God loves us, He forgives us, and He’s the ultimate parent.

This is getting a little somber for me, as personally I like to take religion and God with some salsa and humour, but for now, we’ll keep it simple, and thus somber.

From God being the ultimate parents, you can obviously redraw the idea of idea of Him being loving and forgiving, but you can add that He wants what any parent wants: for us to be happy. I can’t think of any parents I know that, at the end of the day, want differently. Of course there are exceptions, but I’m thinking they’re probably not good models to use for figuring out ‘the ultimate parent’.

From God loving us and God wanting us to be happy, the conclusion can be drawn that God probably is not down with people hurting or killing each other – since that’s usually a pretty big downer on the other person’s happiness.

From the above, the two ideas that make up my whole religious belief:
1. Do Not Infringe on the Happiness of Others
2. To Thine Own Self Be True

1 is pretty self-explanatory. There are some puzzles, such as euthanasia and suicide, but that comes down to (as far as I know) the one and only dilemma in my two little kernels of religion: What is happiness? Is the person’s happiness really decreasing or being infringed upon if they’re asking to be killed because they’re going to die slowly and painfully anyway? Is it if they feel they’ve got no happiness in this life anyway and would rather zip off to whatever’s next? First, it’s obviously different for every situation. Secondly, I don’t believe I’m in a position to know conclusively what’s best for someone else.

The same issue is presented in 2. ‘To thine own self be true.’ That’s Shakespeare, by the way – and one of my favorite quotes. In non-quote-speak, it means do what makes you happy, don’t do what hurts you, don’t do what impedes your own happiness. Obviously, we can’t always be happy all the time, and we all must do things that make us unhappy, like take out the garbage. But looking at a bigger picture, is your lifestyle making you happy? Are your actions making you happy? Is your job or schooling making you happy, or setting you on a path to something that will make you happy?

Therein lies the rub: (that’s misquoted Shakespeare, BTW) to be honest enough with yourself to admit when you’re not happy. It’s so very easy to convince yourself you are, when if you drag away the self pity and denial, you’re really not as happy as you could be or you want to be. Again, it’s different for everyone, and again, I don’t think I can say conclusively what makes anyone truly happy. Sure, I can give you advice about whether I think what you’re doing is really a good idea, but it comes down to looking inward, being honest, and deciding for yourself.

AND THAT IS SO HARD! In my experience, being true to yourself is one of the hardest things in the world. I’m willing to vouch that often we really don’t even know what makes us happy, let alone can admit that we’re not happy. And that doesn’t even touch on the fact that once you do figure out you’re unhappy, you’ve got to actually do something differently to get happy!

And of course, you can’t really get much help. You can get advice, but no one else can really tell you if you’re happy or not, because your individual happiness is different from anyone else’s. I mean, they can, and they might be right, but it’s up to you to recognize that they’re right in yourself. And there are obviously some things that make most people happy, but overall, we all have individual happinesses.

So this is both the greatness and the difficulty of the second idea:
1. It’s individual! There are no set rules. So loving and having sex with a guy makes you happy, really happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So going to church and reading the Bible makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy! So having sex with people for money makes you happy. Great! Go forth and be happy!
I might not be able to see how that brings you happiness. I might feel that it’s impossible for that to bring you happiness. But who am I to judge? I’m not you, I’m not God. If you’re being true to yourself, and honestly doing what makes you happy, you will love life, you will be happy.

2. It’s individual! There are no set rules. The responsibility is on you to figure out your own rules. Sorry, but the Bible just became like the Pirate’s Code: “more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.” Maybe the ideas presented in there will make you happy, maybe they won’t. It’s here that I can see why so many turn to organized religion. It’s much easier. They lay out the rules, you follow them, and they tell you the rules’ll make you happy and give you a good afterlife, cuz God’ll like you. No need for introspection and brutal, painful honesty.

So what if you’re not happy. Is it a sin? Will God punish you? Will it keep you from heaven (more on heaven later)? Why would it need to be a sin or keep you out of heaven? You’ve just lived your life not truly happy, not experiencing all the great things you might have. I’d say you probably suffered exactly proportionally to how far from actual personal happiness you were. Not really much need for further punishment. Will God be mad? Personally, I highly doubt it. In relation to him, with this omniscience and his universal powers and ability to create life, etc, we’re like 3-year-olds. I see Him being much more sad that we weren’t as happy as he knew we could have been and would have loved more than anything to have seen us be than angry that we did something wrong. Maybe He’ll remark that He hopes we learned something from that experience, and hopes we make better choices next time (if there is a next time), but I can’t imagine much more than that from an ever-loving, ever-forgiving ultimate parent.

Lastly, I’ll touch quickly on heaven. Is there one? Hell, I donno. I’d like to think there’s something just because it makes me sad to think of never seeing my friends
and family again. But if there’s nothing after this life, I doubt I’ll be worrying about it much, either.
Honestly, I think the idea of heaven is dangerous. I’ve met many people who seem to be living just to die because they’re so convinced of this wonderful, glorious heaven. To me it seems like the best idea is to live life like it’s all you get. Heaven is like a bonus round – if it’s there, great, if not, at least you had a great time while you were alive. Relying on heaven seems about as smart as relying on your teacher to drop a test grade – in theory it seems like a great back-up plan, but in reality there’s a good chance you’ll end up leaning on that crutch way too much, and then when it never happens, you’re kind of fucked.

To fill in the extra few minutes I have, I also don’t think there’s a hell. If you really really messed up on Earth, say, intentionally killing some people, my own personal belief is when you get to heaven you will be given the insight, knowledge, and understanding, to really, truly comprehend what you’ve done to the point where you feel 100% honest remorse, sadness, and pain about what you did. You’ll be in a lot of pain when you first get that dose of understanding, but once you’ve truly understood your actions and torn your heart out and wept for what you’ve done, need there be more punishment? The past can’t be undone, definitely not so by hurting you. The next best thing, it seems, is ultimate remorse and pain from understanding and feeling the pain you created. And then, a chance to be forgiven and to heal.

Honestly, I think that’s what happens to all of us if/when we go to heaven. We all get a dose of understanding and insight and feel ourselves the pain we caused others in our lives, whether minor or major. We mourn and hurt for those we hurt, and then we are forgiven, and we slowly heal, and learn.

Well, that’s my religious ramble. It was good to pass the time.

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