Wednesday, October 29, 2014

From Breath to Life

I just hit the "Publish" button on the post called "Aspirations." I clicked "View Blog" to proofread it again, and was struck by that word:


Out of nowhere, its Latin roots assaulted me unbidden:  a meaning "of, from, by, since" and spirare meaning "to breathe."

Aspirations:  Something from which we breathe.

Our aspirations--our goals, our dreams, our desires--are not only what we strive to, but what we breathe from. They aren't just in our futures, they are in us now, motivating us. When we breathe, we breathe because we're working toward something, working to be something.

I got up this morning because I aspire to be an English major. To be an English major, I must get up and read things and write things and study things and drink a lot of coffee (it's in the major requirement. Don't check; it's there)--and breathe. Because I aspire to be an English major.

I'm really starting to love the word "aspire." It is a light word. It's airy and crisp and invigorating--like a breath, I suppose, but a really good one. A breath of cool, sharp air that fills you with energy like electricity and makes you want to jump higher and run faster and smile brighter.


To what do I aspire? From what do I breathe?

I aspire to be a lover of words:  to speak them effectively, read them closely, write them artfully.
I aspire to be a champion of truth, valuing it in people, institutions, and ideas.
I aspire to travel:  to see places that amaze me and meet people who change me.
I aspire to know God and make him known.
I aspire to drink my coffee at a mature pace.

From what do you breathe?


Monday, October 13, 2014


You know how some people--and maybe you're one of them--can make a cup of coffee or a bag of M&Ms last for like hours? The cup just sits beside them on the desk as they attend to their work with focus and tranquility, largely oblivious to the delicacy at hand. Occasionally they'll take a sip. The steam starts to subside, but they don't seem to mind. They have mastered the arts of moderation and indifference.

I am profoundly jealous of this mastery.

I first noted this kind of detachment when I was eight years old. Matt, a first-grader, would come over to our house after school if his babysitter had some other commitment. Sometimes Mom would give us a snack--chocolate chips or something--to eat as we did our homework.

My chocolate chips were always gone within the first three or four minutes. They were delicious, and after a single chip, I became a temporary chocolate addict. I couldn't resist eating them one after another until they were gone, and my homework barely started.

Matt did his homework with the meandering, selective attention of a little boy who does not want to use a number line to practice subtraction. However, he ate his chocolate chips the same way. Every few minutes, he would blink at his snack as if he'd just remembered it, pick up a couple of chips, and then immediately forget his snack's existence again.

How could he care so little about chocolate chips? How was he not driven crazy by their tempting presence until it was fully relocated into his stomach?

As a third-grader, I chalked it up to the fact that Matt had funner food at his house (which was true). He was used to candy for snack; it wasn't a treat for him. It has lost its novelty. I wondered if the same phenomenon would be true for me if I ever became rich enough to have fun food on hand at all times.

To some extent, that philosophy proved true. My family now has orange juice on a regular basis, and I no longer feel compelled to drink it all the time just because it's there. The same is true of cookies, and Cheez-Its, and flavored yogurt. I have risen above the animalistic urge to consume these relatively mundane foods.


With "treat" foods and beverages, the art of pacing oneself is still lost on me. I buy a smoothie, and it's half gone before I'm even back in my dorm room. I open a 2-serving bag of M&Ms, and within ten minutes, it's empty. I grab an iced coffee on the way to work, and I'm sucking at the ice fifteen minutes later.

Meanwhile, I watch people around me exercise this intensely classy combination of absentminded appreciation and tranquil indifference to their "treats." Large iced coffees go minutes and minutes and MINUTES without even being touched, and people don't even seem to be struggling to resist.

Maybe they're just all rich and have treats all the time and the novelty has been lost, like Matt with his chocolate chips? Or am I totally and abnormally self-control-deficient when it comes to delicious things?

All I know is that I envy the air of maturity embodied by people who can resist their treats. It's a level of maturity to which I genuinely aspire.

And I will get there, even if it means drinking steamless coffee and drooling on my keyboard.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

But Only a Little Bit

I am lying on my bed with a stomachache. Normally I would write this kind of thing in my journal, but that would require me not to lie on my back with my eyes closed.

I am stressed and I have a lot to do, but I have decided that it is okay for me to lie here for a while until I don't see the world in roiling waves of green nausea. I think that is one of the marks of being an adult:  having to assess whether or not you can afford to ignore your work for a bit. When you're a kid, you can ignore your work all day every day and not think twice about it. No guilt. No stress. That's why there are grown-ups:  to make you do your work.

But now I'm a little bit of a grown-up. I have to buy my own paper towels and toothpaste and chocolate milk. I have to get out of bed and wash my dishes and turn my light off at a decent hour. I have to wear clothes that fit the occasion and compose emails professionally and dedicate enough time to my homework.

{But I'm still in college, living on campus, so there's a lot of adultism that I haven't had to deal with yet. I'm pretty glad.}

Blugh. I just want someone to hand me peppermint tea and make me smile and help me see that the 70+ pages of political ethics and United Nations reading isn't actually going to kill me. I want someone to tell me that they liked my pigtails today and that having a tiny gold Batman ring is pretty much the coolest thing they've ever seen. I want to sit close to someone around whom I don't have to hold my stomach in or keep my shoulders back or try to look pleasant.

I sort of want to come apart real quick, but not in a helpless, emotional way. I just want to unstitch myself, come apart at the seams, and spill out all the stuff inside my heart and mind. I want someone to listen to me mumble aloud my chaotically elegant train of thought and not judge me based on conversational relevance or profundity.

Hmm. I'm starting to feel better--somewhat unfortunately. I can no longer justify lying here on my back with my eyes closed. I guess I have to go do my work now.

Alas, I am a little bit of a grown-up.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Writer's Constipation

There are words inside of you. Tons and tons of Words. There are so many words inside your head that it's physically uncomfortable. You can feel them like a pressure behind your eyeballs. There are too many words to keep inside.

You smile. Cool. So you can write. You'll write. How exciting!

So you sit down at your computer, or pull out a notebook and pen. You stare at the blankness, and prepare to write. The words leap to the tip of your mental tongue. You wait for them to make the final connection and spill forth.

But they don't.

You put your fingertips directly on the keyboard, hoping to signal your words that it's time to come out now. This is their cue. Nnnnnnnnow.

But they just sit there.

You frown and make a conscious effort to dislodge the words from your mind. You close your eyes and try to hunt down a good word. Just one word that feels right. An adjective maybe. Or a name.

You picture yourself running around in your mind, arms outstretched, chasing a small word in block letters. "Come ON!" you demand. "It'll be FUN. What is WRONG with you?"

Eventually you might catch a word, but the satisfaction slinks away as the word glares at you. It doesn't perform. It just sulks there on the page alone, crossing its arms and hating you. It's not fun. It's just a pain in the butt, and you backspace it, half out of spite.

Forget words. How about an Idea? A word is such a specific, elusive creature; an idea can be led along much more happily. Just moments ago, there were a lot of ideas skating around in your head, graceful and strong and silver, like a spiderweb.

Your mind's hand drifts out to take one, but instead of sticking and blossoming, the idea goes limp and disintegrates. Just when you think you have one, it leaves. There's a terrible mental dryness leftover, like your head needs a drink. Maybe a stiff one.

So you sit there, staring at the blankness in front of you, feeling full of words, but unable to produce a single one. You stare at the blankness, frustrated and uncomfortable, and watch the moment tease you, and flee. The urge to write fades slowly as the irritation builds in its place.

There was something great there, you knew it, but now it's lost, gone, and it's not even your fault. The injustice. The frustration. The hurt.

Some call it writer's block. But that's not the most accurate description.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Teenage Brain

I stir sugar into my hot tea with a knife. {Oh please, no college student washes silverware until the very last utensil is dirty}. Today I was surprised to see the graceful explosion of tea leaves swirling around in my mug. I was raking a serrated metal edge against a thin, wet tea bag. What did I expect to happen? Somehow, not that.

Then I got to thinking.

The human brain doesn't effectively factor in consequences until it's 25. We watch videos in health class about how eating badly can cause diabetes, and tanning can cause melanoma, and smoking increases risk of lung cancer, but there's a disconnect in our heads. Our subconscious definitions of "relevant" are exceptionally narrow.

Researchers say that this is just the way young adult brains work. It's a scientific fact. It's not that we CAN'T make the better choice, it's that we don't fully understand why it's better.

So what? Is it not our fault that we have bad judgment? Should we be exempt from blame when we make stupid choices?

My immediate response was, "No, of course not. Even a three-year-old is expected to follow rules." Don't hit people; use your inside voice; don't leave the front yard. If toddlers are legitimately subjected to rules, teenagers should not have a My-Brain-Hasn't-Developed-That-Far-Yet card to play.

So yes, teenagers should be expected to follow rules. But that's not quite the question I had originally asked myself. "Following rules" and "making choices" are two radically different things. Rules result from authority; the option to make a choice results from having authority yourself.

During the teen years, people are given more authority over themselves. They get more freedom, and, of course, with freedom comes responsibility. It's not just about following rules anymore; it's about choosing our own rules, drawing our own boundaries.

But as soon as we're allowed to make our own choices, our brains become ill-equipped to make good ones. What are we do to, then?

I think it depends on what kind of person you are. Some teens are perfectly content to seek out authority figures and ask them for advice. They continue to follow the rules that have been set for them, and ask mentors to help make new choices.

But then you have the other kind of person, the kind of person who wants to see for herself; the kind of person who wants to find out WHY that rule exists before she chooses to follow it, or builds her choices on that rule.

The first situation is ideal, I guess. Best case scenario, teens listen to their mentors until their own brains develop enough to make good judgment calls. There is definitely honor in this approach, and I'm sure it prevents a lot of heartache.

However, I mostly wouldn't know, because I am Kind of Person Number Two.

I'm an advocate for freedom of decision:  freedom to make stupid choices with the knowledge that consequences--good or bad--will follow. I think your conviction to do right becomes stronger once you truly understand wrong.

{Experience also makes you undeniably more convincing and better able to advise Kind of Person Number One. Number Two probably isn't going to listen to you anyway.}

But getting back to the original question:  Can teens be held accountable for their choices if their brains are scientifically not conducive to good decision-making?

Absolutely. And they should be.

But instead of condemning them for making the "wrong" choices, we should remember that they couldn't see it coming quite the same way, and that their "screw-up," no matter how devastating, is ultimately one more step on the road to true understanding.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Poetry and Party Poopers

No one knows who wrote "Beowulf." But because of "Beowulf," we know a lot about ancient culture, particularly about some of the first literary heroes and villains.

For instance, the villain--the monster named Grendel--hates music. He first attacks the kingdom because he hears singing and it annoys him. He hates the sound; he hates the celebration; he hates the fellowship.

Grendel lives far away from people. {I guess he just has phenomenal hearing.} We later find out that he shares a home with his mother, but it's just the two of them. He hates company.

From the way Grendel is villainized {I choose to believe that's a word}, we modern-day readers can gather that in "Beowulf's" day, silence and solitude were frowned upon. If you didn't like poetry and parties, you were evil.

But then you have the hero, Beowulf, himself. Beowulf doesn't LIVE in solitude, but does insist on going to battle alone. How come the hero can get away with the very actions that make the villain what he is?

I don't know.

I also can't decide if I think today's values have changed or not.

Certainly, today's heroes must be team players or they're labeled "arrogant." If modern heroes demand to work alone, 9 times out of 10 they end up suffering some kind of "humbling" experience that teaches them to value others. This is because today’s issues are increasingly of global rather than regional importance, causing heroes to model teamwork as a subtle lesson for society.

What about poetry and parties? Personally, I support the idea that hating poetry makes you a villain XD But parties?

I think today's society is at least a little more accepting of introverts. We don't rip their arms off or anything. However, there's still the whole wallflower/party pooper stigma, and being "popular" is a timelessly desirable trait.

I dunno. In thirteen hundred years, a lot of things can change. But some things don't change a lot.


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Souls are Songs

Every soul is a song.

There are different instruments, genres, tempos, lyrics, voices, messages, depths, audiences. It’s all music, yes; but at the same time, each song is radically different.

Deep within your soul song is harmony, running through each note with thrilling depth and revelation.

Harmony is your purpose, path, desire, goal. It's always there, but you have to hear it in order to sing it. Sometimes you recognize it out of nowhere, and you wonder how you missed it before. Sometimes other people have to point it out to you, sing it with you, to get you to notice it.

Sometimes you lose the harmony, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve sung it or listened for it. It’s always there, but you’ll stop hearing it if you aren’t careful.

There’s more than one harmony. You have alto harmony, and soprano harmony, and variations in between.

Sometimes you can only be hear or sing one harmony, but sometimes you can hear multiples. Then you have to choose which best suits your voice. Or, if you’re singing with someone else, you pick the harmony that best complements his.

Songs can be played with different instruments to get different effects. It depends on what instruments are available, what effect you’re going for, and for whom you’re playing. But your song is always the same, and usually a certain arrangement will suit it best.

Our souls were composed by one who delights in His music. He delights in sharing it; he delights when it’s listened to, analyzed, and appreciated.

He loves all His songs and He created each with a unique harmony. He eagerly awaits the day when each perfect harmony will be hummed, and every song will reach its glorious full potential to awe, inspire, convict, and transform.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

I Don't Like Love Stories

I think I don't like love stories because they're all lies.

I guess to some extent, all stories are "lies" in that they're fiction. But see, no one expects {REALLY expects} to be able to read a character into our world or travel to Venus. At least, by the time you're old enough to look for truth in books, you know that those things won't happen. But by the time you're old enough to look for truth in books, you're also old enough to search for Love, and that is something we really DO expect.

In real life, we look for love and expect to find it, so it seems cruel and wrong to write stories that set people up for failure.

Books--love stories in any form--are pretty clear from the beginning. The main characters are laid out for you and you can tell instantly which guy{s} are on the list of potential Trueloves. By about half or three-fourths of the way through the story, you're sure whom the main character will end up with. {In movies, it's usually within the first fourth.}

Real life is absolutely nothing like that. In real life, you're sort of always and never in medias res. Yes, you're in the midst of your life right now, but at any moment, something completely new could be introduced. Every second of life could be the beginning of a new story. There's never a time where you can nod and say, "Okay, no more central characters are going to be introduced" or "Clearly, this is the main plot strain."

In a way, real life can never be authentically translated to a story, because stories deal with neatly defined sections of a person's life and include--for the most part--only details relevant to the story. {Unless it's by Herman Melville.} In a story, you know what to pay attention to, because if it's there at all, it's likely important. In real life, you have all of the details all of the time and must prioritize them on your own.

However, some kinds of stories can achieve more authenticity than love stories, for example ones that deal with solving a mystery, investigating a crime, or battling an enemy. Those stories can be more authentically contained by literature because they have beginnings and endings in real life too. Mysteries have answers; crimes have perpetrators; evil kings have deaths. In both stories and in real life, the components of the answer exist before you embark on the journey. In both stories and real life, you know for sure when you can check the box on the story's completion.

Plus, mystery/crime/morality stories contain universal, applicable life lessons. Love stories are generally mined incorrectly for wisdom. Instead of looking at a story and saying, "Clearly lying to people results in unimaginable heartbreak," people look and say, "Clearly a liar can still be your true love if you just don't give up on him." People miss the trees for the forest, instead of the other way around.

But even if crime-solving and enemy-fighting stories couldn't be applied to real life, the topics aren't sacred. They're universal and impersonal enough that it wouldn't be terribly offensive to distort them a bit.

But to distort something like LOVE...that's just sick. "Love stories" usually pump people full of unrealistic expectations of the scope and clarity and beauty of love. Real life and real love cannot be detected any better by familiarizing yourself with romantic fiction. Real love is too complicated to reduce to a finite story.

Love stories do a gross disservice to Love and lead people to false knowledge. I'd rather read something else. To me, "Inkheart" is somehow more real than "The Notebook."


Sunday, April 6, 2014

Humility: a Luxury of the Strong

"Alright." Dr. Dunnum's pleasant mid-western accent blanketed the inane buzz of the classroom. Voices and pencil cases quieted with beginning-of-semester immediacy. "So, Beowulf. Everyone should have read Beowulf for today. Epic poem. Sort of the first piece of English literature that we have. Today I want us to sort of look at the notion of 'the hero.' Heroes illustrate what a given culture admires. Someone name another famous ancient hero."

Faces turned with expectant disgust on the girl who had--in one previous class alone--singled herself out as the socially inept know-it-all. Sure enough, her nasally voice rang out:

"Well, Odysseus, of course. Of Homer's Odyssey."

Dr. Dunnum nodded, clearly aware of the potential minefield of unwelcome information he was walking through. "And what was Odysseus known for?"

"His cleverness." Her deep breath and raised eyebrows warned of an impending torrent of explanation and opinion. Dr. Dunnum neatly cut her off.

"Right. A lot of texts will translate his description as wily. He was wily: very clever and willing to lie. And this suggests to us that wiliness and deceit were actually admired traits in the Greek culture."

Dr. Dunnum strode to the whiteboard. "What I want us to do, is get into our groups and come up with a list of adjectives we'd use to describe Beowulf."

After the exercise came a time of sharing. Dr. Dunnum wrote the suggestions on the whiteboard in his cramped, curly handwriting. Adjectives like valiant, strong, generous, loyal, and transparent were offered.

Dr. Dunnum turned his sharp blue eyes on the girl who'd offered "transparent."

"What do you mean by that?"

The girl straightened in her chair and gestured slightly with her pen as she answered. "He's open about his strategies and motives. He tells the people exactly what he intends to do, and that he expects to receive glory for it. He doesn't hide the fact that he wants recognition."

Another girl threw out the word "boastful." Dr. Dunnum nodded and scribbled the word at the bottom of the list.

"So, pride was a big deal for these people." He raised an eyebrow in an inviting expression. Students nodded. "And yet, no one seemed to really have a problem with that. Boasting and glory are huge parts of Beowulf's character, and yet he's the hero. Does this suggest that the Angelo-Saxon culture valued arrogance?"

Dr. Dunnum switched gears with a swing of his head, eyes gleaming. "How about heroes today? Who can we compare Beowulf to? In your groups, pick a modern hero and write down some of the traits associated with him or her."

"Transparent" Girl glanced back at her group, shades of condescension showing behind her thin smile. "Who do we think, guys?"

"I 'on' know, man," said her closest neighbor, leaning his chair back on two legs. "Like Supe'man or somethin'."

Something genuine leaped in the girl's eyes. "That's what I was thinking! There aren't really a whole lot of wholesome, superhumanly strong characters out there."

She got to work on her list: honest, just, wholesome, worthy, loyal, humble...

Dr. Dunnum invited the groups to write their heroes and traits on the board. When the chaos of voices and the squelching of dry-erase markers faded, the board held three Supermans, a Thor, a Captain America, and a Batman.

"Transparent" Girl gave a throaty noise of disapproval as her eyes passed over the lists. Chair-Tipper glanced at her expectantly. She looked embarrassed through her annoyance. "Under 'Batman'," she said, stabbing her pen in the direction of the whiteboard. "someone wrote 'fearless.' It's just...Batman's not fearless."

Chair-Tipper lost interest.

"Okay," Dr. Dunnum interrupted the din of unavoidable side conversations. "What are some common themes here?" He walked in front of the board and circled the recurring words: brave, loyal, strong. "What are we not seeing?" He paused at the Batman list and gave it a look of confusion, frowning slightly. "Transparent" Girl felt smugly validated.

Dr. Dunnum turned his eyes on the class, eyebrows raised. "Boasting. Arrogance. Pride." He tilted his head. "It's not here. We, as a culture, put less emphasis on pride as a positive thing. Why is that?"

"We have-uh lass to buh-rag about-uh," came a strong valley girl accent from across the room.

"Yeah?" Dr. Dunnum couldn't keep the chuckle out of his voice. "Penicillin? No big deal?"

"I mean-uh..." Valley Girl looked immediately enraged. "Like, we don't have like-uh one guy who could win a war alone-uh."

Dr. Dunnum nodded thoughtfully. "Okay. But do you think the Angelo-Saxons really did either? I mean, this is just a story. Beowulf was not real."

Valley Girl rolled her eyes and turned her attention apparently to her crotch, presumably to her iPhone.

"Less had already been done?" Someone suggested from the back. "Bragging was more legitimate back then because people were doing things for the very first time."

Dr. Dunnum nodded some more. "Okay."

"Transparent" Girl put her elbows on her desk and leaned forward, suddenly intensely engaged. No one was getting it. This question required real thinking. Why did the Angelo-Saxons value boastfulness? Why did Americans today shy away from it? Why?

Her brain churned up chunks of thought, which she examined and mentally threw over her shoulder. No, no, no. What positive outcomes could occur from bragging?

The answer leaped to the front of her mind with an electric stab of understanding. Her hand raised itself. Dr. Dunnum caught her eye and wrapped up his acknowledgment of another mediocre answer.

"Yes?" he raised his eyebrows at her.

"Back then, your reputation was a way of protecting those you loved," she offered. "By boasting, inflating his reputation, Beowulf was actually ensuring that no one would attack his people. It wasn't all selfish. He was trying to help his family."

"And what did everyone think when Beowulf died?"

"They expected to be invaded."

"Yes." Dr. Dunnum walked back to the center of the whiteboard and addressed the class. "Today, in the modern world, we have such impressive technology and are so strong that..." He shrugged. "We don't really need to brag. Our reputation goes without saying."

He pointed to Beowulf's name, written in red dry-erase maker. "Could we maybe even argue that the people of Beowulf's time bragged out of weakness, and not strength? That their need to assert their reputation grew out of fear and anxiety?"

It was 1:50pm. The students began forcing their notebooks and textbooks back into their backpacks.

"Transparent" Girl left the classroom on a dreamy Idea High. What a thought. Humility: a luxury of the strong.


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Happy Enough to Die

{inspired by Florence + the Machine's "I'm Not Calling You a Liar"}

"I am happy enough to die."

That phrase confused me as a kid. If you're happy, why would you want to die? Doesn't it make more sense to die when you're sad?

Well, in a way it does. But who wants a death like that? Who wants to die with a broken soul leaking from his eyes? Who wants to die with a smashed heart tearing its way through his ribs? Answer: No one.

An ideal death--if that can be a thing--is a satisfied death. You leave this world with a smile, and few regrets. You relinquish your grip on life with a confident wholeness, knowing you've done what you were here to do and you're ready to face what comes next. For some people an ideal death might be taking a bullet for a loved one; for others it might be a quiet, anticipated passing surrounded by friends.

But whether you envision your last as moments heroic or nostalgic, one thing's for sure: you don't want to die miserable.

Some moments are beautiful and whole enough to be your last. "I'm happy enough to die" doesn't mean, "Wow, life is so great that I think I'll leave now." It means, "I can't imagine a more perfect ending."

It was just this year that I really began to understand being "happy enough to die." As to be expected (considering how I am), the moment that enlightened me wasn't breathtakingly romantic or overwhelmingly sweet. I think my first "happy enough to die moment" took place in a vehicle driven by a friend. We were driving along, listening to music, laughing, talking, and one of those Well-This-Was-Definitely-A-Poor-Driving-Decision moments occurred.

I didn't panic. I didn't really feel alarmed at all. I remember continuing to laugh and be happy, thinking, "Well, if I'm going to die, I really don't mind dying with my best friend."

Those moments--when you can close your eyes and feel joy like a tangible thing in your heart--are the moments in which you wouldn't mind dying. There's something satisfying, poetic about your last breath being a laugh, your last glance being full of love, your last words being happy. No one genuinely wants to die crying, full of hatred and spewing cruelty. Everyone wants to die happy.

I think the moral here is clear: No one knows when death will come, so if you want to die happy, then live happy. Seize every moment, give every smile. Laugh lots, forgive fully, live intentionally.

Live happy enough to die.


Saturday, March 29, 2014

Why I Believe in "Slut-Shaming"

Don't freak out--yet. Just hear me out.

Today in my research for a Brit Lit paper, I got vastly distracted. One thing led to another, and I ran across the most obnoxious online strain of feminist tirades I've read in a long time.

As you probably know, I'm a pretty proud person {...who alliterates}. And that is why I can live my life as a young woman without demanding to be treated like a man. The feminist argument is essentially "Look how great women are! We can be just like men!" Um, irony, anyone? The logic just doesn't jive.

The article that most captured my attention was a crusade against "Slut-Shaming:"

"Slut-shaming occurs when a source attempts to elicit feelings of inferiority or remorse [by] attacking a woman’s perceived or actual sexual behavior or feelings." - Feminspire

I see.

Are there not perceived or actual sexual behaviors for which people should feel remorseful? Because basically what I'm hearing in that definition is that it is now unacceptably offensive to label promiscuity as a bad thing.

What is this, A Brave New World?

We talked about free markets in International Relations this morning. If you create a product and it doesn't sell, you either improve it, or you create a different product. The feedback from people, positive or negative, guides you to produce the best product you can.

I think the concept of discouraging promiscuous behavior can work the same way.

Unless you have no respect for individuals, you view luring people to bed-hop as a contemptible behavior. If you're a Christian, you believe that sex/sexual thoughts belong in a specific context--and that context is not strutting around the mall. If you're a feminist, you rabidly oppose instances where people--specifically women--are objectified. Really, there should be no version of sleeping around that isn't frowned upon.

So give the "product" of promiscuity negative feedback. If you don't like it, if you don't want it on the market, if you think it's a bad product, discourage it.

One way to do that is obviously not to "buy the product." If a girl is getting nowhere with her physically flirtatious behavior, theoretically she'll quit. However, there will unfortunately always be someone willing to take advantage of a girl's availability.

I guess that's just too bad, right? If you think something is wrong, but it seems to be successful, you're just supposed to let it go.

Well, no one seems to think that when it comes to drugs, animal testing, Chick-fil-A's stance on homosexuality, tobacco use, or a whole host of other things.

Success should not exempt something from criticism, especially if you believe it to be immoral.

In addition to not "buying the product of promiscuity," offer an additional kind of negative feedback.

Basically, SHAME IT.

If you think something is wrong, is it not right and natural to speak out against it? In our culture of hyper-sensitive political correctness, no one is allowed to believe in absolute morals because it might hurt someone else's feelings.

I hate to break it to you, but Flannery O'Conner has it right:  "The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it."

Now, I'm not saying that it's okay to ridicule someone. People are insecure enough without being torn to shreds by the judgmental public.

But some behaviors are objectively inferior to others. {"Love your neighbor" > "Eat your neighbor"}. I believe that being a sexually forward, indiscriminate young woman is an inferior behavior.

Should that behavior be called inferior? Yes. Should that behavior elicit remorse? Yes. Do I then support "slut-shaming?"

I guess you could say that. But I prefer the term "promoting self-respect."

Now, what was I doing? Oh yeah. Writing a Brit Lit paper...


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Real Adventure

I just started dating someone, and the other day, he confessed to me that he's a "sappy romantic."

I have never wanted a sappy romantic. I am a self-professed hopeless unromantic, and emotion of any kind makes me uncomfortable. But ever since he said that, I've been creeping closer and closer to an eye-opening personal revelation:

I always assumed that since I'm not mushy, I should look for someone equally unmushy. But maybe that's a cop-out, you know? In my quest for challenge, I've actually been tackling things that are completely within my comfort zone.

See, usually stretching oneself involves being brazen and dauntless. But for me, maybe it's more of a challenge to be, well, "romantic." Maybe THAT will be the audacious adventure I look for in a relationship.

This guys makes me see a lot of things differently. I love it.


Saturday, March 22, 2014

A World Spinning on Words

What if writing goes out of style? What if books become obsolete? What if one day, the last of the writers dies, and from then on, people just sit around and text and watch movies and talk? Maybe even handwriting will become extinct.

What if people forget how to write? What if imaginations get smaller and weaker until all people talk about are real events and the here-and-now?

What if novels are put in display cases in museums and people look at their covers and think, “Someone made up stuff and stuck it together with words for fun. Who does that? How weird.”

But you know what? I doubt that will happen. A lot of things have come and gone, but stories, words, and sharing have never faded. They’ve been around since the beginning of time. Humans have an innate desire to remember, create, discover.

I can’t imagine a world where words aren’t valued by a single person; a world where everyone goes around throwing out words that are “close enough;” a world where no one gets chills when words are put in a painfully beautiful order.

I think someone will always be writing.

But how much can be said, really? There are many words, but so many people, so much time. Will we ever reach a point where everything has been said? Will there come a point where every combination of words, every pattern, has been penned?

I don’t think so, but if that time does come, I think it will be time for the world to end; to quietly fold on itself in satisfied darkness, like a blanket. Tender, gentle, crisp finality will settle over the earth. When everything has been said, thought, experienced, loved, trusted, written, mocked, taught, and pleaded, what is left to live for?

The last written words would be like the final piece in a puzzle, or a dying man being forgiven, or lying down after a rough day.

Of course, if that time comes, it will be something new to write about, and someone will capture that moment and write it and keep the world spinning just a little bit longer.


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Is Yesterday Still a Friend?

When I was younger, I used to be really arrogant. {*irony meter explodes*} I loved to hear poems or songs or stories and dismiss them as "stupid" because they didn't speak to me. I thought I was so much wiser beyond my years, and that if there was anything to be gathered from a work, I'd be able to gather it--at age twelve.

Daddy and I talked about these things a lot. He was never rude or judgmental, and he never mocked or laughed at me. He would listen to my conceited little tirades about love and life and then suggest that I might come to understand the song better as I experienced life.

My dad's profound strength in humility always caught me a little off guard, and made me at least give lip service to the fact that maybe I didn't know everything.

At twenty, I know more than I did at twelve. However, I'm also acutely aware that I don't know what I'm doing half the time, and the other half I'm quite possibly wrong anyway.

I like to think {and I hope I'm right} that this admission of ignorance has made me less judgmental and more open to new understanding. Now, when I encounter a song, poem, or story that doesn't speak to me, I try not to write it off. I consider it from many angles, play with potential double meanings/puns, apply it to different scenarios, and look for symbolism.

Sometimes, I'm pleasantly surprised. One of my favorite revelations deals with a line from a Shinedown song:

"Now that you've lost tomorrow, is yesterday still a friend?"

A few summers ago, after trying to make sense of that line for a long time, I decided that I had not yet experienced that phenomenon. The words made sense, but the spirit of the concept was lost on me. I decided to continue to love and listen to the song, hoping that someday I would understand what it meant.

I think I finally do.

We live our lives toward a future. Sure, we all have those nights when we decide to live in the moment and make a poor decision {and by that I mean eating that third chocolate bar, of course}, but overall we are goal-oriented people. The way we live our lives today reflects what we're ultimately striving for.

This might mean making good that you can get into a good college/get a degree.

This might mean investing in a that you can spend your lives together.

This might mean saving up your that you can travel over the summer.

More or less every decision is made with "tomorrow" in mind.

But what if you were suddenly disillusioned? What if you suddenly discovered a truth that undermined your future?

What if you realized you had read the wrong chapter in your biology book?

What if you realized your special someone had been lying to you?

What if you misplaced your money?

This new knowledge means that you have lost the "tomorrow" you were striving for.

Knowing what you know today about tomorrow, would you have acted differently yesterday?

Would you have checked the syllabus again?

Would you have demanded answers sooner?

Would you have taken your money directly to the bank?

Now that you've lost tomorrow, is yesterday still a friend?

It's a beautiful, sad question, one that I finally understand. I'm oddly proud to be able to say that. I'm thankful to my dad for teaching me how to listen to things I might not understand, so that I can be prepared to understand them when I'm ready.


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Reason

I was born with my eyes open. Much earlier than "normal" children, I learned to talk, mostly so I could metaphorically bludgeon everyone around me with the words "Why" and "I know." I grew up with a powerful imagination, an anathema to change, a passion for learning, and a rigid belief in a world of absolutes.

Since graduating high school in 2012, I've discovered that the world IS full of absolutes...but they are fewer and farther between than I once believed.

My mind is constantly engaged by people I meet, places I visit, professors I hear, and progress I make. As my ideas are challenged, I use writing as a tool of exploration and resolution. Out of my "rhymes," I often discover my reasons.

It's like Faulkner said, "I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on it."

Welcome to the arena in which I explore the world with words.