Saturday, March 8, 2008


Question everything. Believe it or not, that came from a religious education teacher. When he first said it, I was in shock. Shouldn't this guy be teaching faith? And isn't faith the opposite of questioning? But what he said nest hit so close to home, I haven't forgotten it in the four years since he said it.

The teacher started by asking us if what we believed in was important. We agreed. He asked if we would defend out beliefs if challenged. Again, we agreed. Then he asked why we believed, and how we came upon our beliefs, and most importantly: how we justified them. We were stumped. Most of us heard our parents' voices in out heads. A couple students were able to respond with "because I do" or "because it makes sense", but no one really had a reason. The teacher smiled and repeated, "Question everything." Then he explained: "if you don't question your beliefs, what will you do when someone else questions them? If your beliefs can't withstand your questioning, how can they withstand anyone else's? Not only that, but if you question them, then you can be sure that they are truly your beliefs, not just beliefs that you accepted."

This made more sense to me than anything else I had heard about faith, religion, or beliefs. Ever since then I have questioned everything. Not just about my beliefs, but about life. This relatively new approach has resulted in quite a bit of confusion and changing back and forth between belief systems, ideals, dogmas, etc. It's even hurt a little from time to time. But at least I am sure of one thing. No matter what I believe, it truly is my belief.

Can you say the same?

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

It Sucks to be Me

"Most people would rather be certain that they are miserable than risk being happy." - Robert Anthony
Have you ever met one of those people who is always miserable, no matter how good his or her life is? An Eeyore sort of person? Now be honest, how often have you been one of those people? Of course, we all have. I'm certainly guilty. A friend calls it the "Poor Lil Old Me" syndrome, or PLOM.

Why do we do it? We all know how we feel when someone else is miserable for no reason, often ruining a perfectly good day. We also know that it definitely doesn't help anyone. Perhaps we are afraid of happiness. "Now that's silly," you might say, "what is there to be afraid of with happiness? Isn't that what we all want?" Well, there is plenty to be afraid of with happiness.

Humans are creatures whose society is built on change. For the most part, there aren't any cultures that don't strive to improve, change, and grow. Humans thrive on change and improvement. Imagine if we reached a point where no more improvements could be made, and everyone was happy. A utopia, if you will. What would we do then? What would be out motivation; maintenance? I can't believe that that would be enough for the human race.

Does this mean that negativity and misery are essential to overall happiness? Is that not a paradox? Not necessarily. How do we know happiness without unhappiness? How do we know health without sickness, warmth without cold, or light without darkness? But that's another discussion.

I will leave you with this: Are you brave enough to be happy?

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Somebody to Love

"Everyone has a soul mate, just not everyone marries theirs." - Evelyn Moran

Ah, soul mates. There are countless references to them. From bad poetry to classical literature, from great ballads to single-chord off-key songs composed in preteen periods of angst. I suppose the place to start the investigation into this mysterious world would be the source of all linguistic knowledge - the dictionary.

An online dictionary
defines a soul mate as "a person with whom one has a strong affinity". In case we are unclear as to what "affinity" means here, don't worry. Even the dictionary seems confused on this one. It has ten definitions, all of which have several subdivisions.

Ok, so you have an affinity with someone, whatever that means. Kind of kills the romantic, ballad ideal, doesn't it? I can hear it now... bards of old singing of the great affinities of the past... But with such a broad definition of affinity, wouldn't that imply a larger scope of soul mates than just Romeo and Juliet? One of the definitions of affinity is "a natural attraction, liking, or feeling of kinship". By that definition, friends, family, and pets can all be soul mates. Believe it or not, as long as you were attracted to or liked all of your exes, they were all soul mates! Maybe the question isn't "when will I find a soul mate" but "when won't I find a soul mate".

So how did the idea of a romantic, white picket fence and 2.3 kids idea of soul mate come to dominate the vast definition of the phrase? In ancient Greek mythology, humans were originally two-for-the-price-of-one. That is, each one had four arms, four legs, and a single head made of two faces (eww). But Zeus (see picture right), the head honcho of the gods, feared their power and split them in half (ouch), condemning them to spend their lives searching for the other half to complete them. Not cool, Zeus. Not cool. Anyway, this theory came to us from our good friend Aristophanes, as presented in Plato's Symposium, after all the guests were charged to philosophize (yes, that's a word) on the topic of love. Perhaps this idea is where we get the notion of having one other person who "completes" us.

Whew! It's exhausting sorting out centuries of mythologies, creeds, ideas, and philosophies just to find something that we all take for granted. But what it all boils down to is this... next time someone says that you're their soul mate, be sure you know what they mean!


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Trust Me

Commodore James Norrington: "You actually were telling the truth!"

Captain Jack Sparrow: "I do that quite a lot, yet people are always surprised."

- Pirates of the Caribbean 2: Dead Man's Chest

Truth is an interesting thing. Not only is it interesting in and of itself, but our perception of it is interesting as well. How often do we try to hide the truth, yet it manages to escape and expose itself to the world? And how often do we try to expose it, yet it refuses to be seen? Sometimes this is the fault of the teller, sometimes of the listener, and sometimes it's just the situation, place, or time.

Speaking of situation, one has to wonder if there is a social situation killing Truth, or our sensitivity to it. I submit: is political correctness ruining the ability to tell or perceive the truth? Take for example the cliche "does this dress make me look fat?" scenario. If the answer is yes, Honesty would persuade one to say yes (hopefully as as courteously as possible). But if there is such a need for political correctness, perhaps the responder would reply "No, it accentuates your curves", which implies a positive response to a negative reaction. While this response makes the recipient happier, is it true? No. You can only imagine what can happen with more delicate scenarios.

So where is the line? Too much of a good thing is bad, right? So if Truth is good, and Honesty is good as well, can there be too much of either? Or are they both dying out?

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

For Jim

Are we to love only those who deserve our love? Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.
- Matthew 5:43-45

For Jim:

Jim is the best friend of my mom. Though he passed away on Dec. 2, 2007, I still say that he “is” because I believe that those who give love to this world, and those who are loved, never leave, and never truly die. Jim is one of those people.

I think that one of the lasting memories of Jim would be his amazing capacity for forgiveness and love. He was able to forgive and love throughout many years of misunderstandings, anger, bitterness, and grief. His voice still comes through, “Why can’t we all just get along?” To us, it’s a funny memory and to others it may seem like a joke, but come to find out, there’s an innocent hope there that I think is all too often lost in the shuffle. He lived by this simple question, and died because someone else couldn’t answer it. Turns out it’s easy to ask, nearly impossible to answer. I think if we all tried a little harder though, maybe eventually we could help each other get closer to the answer. What do you think?

Cheers, Jim: To Love.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Regret and Change

"Never live in the past, but always learn from it." – Unknown

I used to say that I didn’t have regrets, and that I didn’t believe in them. I think this was in part because I was afraid of regrets. I would still love to believe that I don’t have regrets, but I am coming to realize that regret is not always a bad thing. Regret can facilitate change, and change is not only necessary but inescapable.

Change is happening whether you like it or not. There are some things that we can not control, and the only thing we can determine is how gracefully we accept that change. Change is a natural process that our minds, bodies, and souls do even without our realizing it. If you have something that you wish could be different, be aware of the changes going on in your life already – you might be naturally moving toward a better outcome than you would have thought of on your own. I would advise to let change happen naturally: don't fight it, but guide it toward where you want to be and let change guide you too. Sometimes the things that we think are accidents are just changes happening without our noticing. Want to change your past? Do it, but do it naturally. From what I’ve seen, trying to make unnatural changes doesn’t work. After all, the future is merely a reflection of the past.

Of course, one way to avoid regret in the first place is to change the way you deal with life in the first place. Recently, I discovered that because of my fear and my insecurity, I missed out on an opportunity that I could have really enjoyed. Do I regret the decisions that led me away from this opportunity? Yes. However, what I have now is just as good, and perhaps better. Not to mention that I would have missed out on all the lessons I’ve learned on the way if I had taken the opportunity. Does that mean that I won’t change my future? Absolutely not! Because of this experience, I have learned to believe in myself more and to stand up for myself and for what I deserve.

Regret and change are two issues that I think are universally challenging, and are also two of my favorite topics, so if anyone has any advice or helpful experiences, please feel free to respond!