Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seeds Sown

I'm at an age where many of my peers, and myself, have begun the process of looking for a significant other.

Whether to marry, or co-habit with, we all seem to be looking for someone to provide us comfort and love as we age. Engagements have caught on, like a spark to dry tinder,  in the Facebook realm. It seems that every week there's a new, deliriously happy, couple staring up at me from my mini feed. And that's awesome.

But, for every engaged couple, there are many more single folks who're continually looking for that "spark." For some, it can become downright discouraging.

I've seen more than a few posts which can be filed under the 'Dear Mr./Mrs. Right, where are you?' category. Because everyone wants to feel like they're enough. Everyone wants to know that they're loved, right? It's been a subject I've thought a lot about in the past couple years.

Anyway, the most recent one went a little something like this...

"What ever happened to the guys who appreciate a lady with class, and priorities?"

Something along those lines.

Well...I have an answer. And please forgive me, because this post will be a bit of a soapbox, so if you aren't a fan of those kind of posts,  I suggest you stop right here.

What ever happened to the good guys, who like good girls?
What ever happened to gentleman? What ever happened to classy ladies?

Seriously?

The answer is simple. Look around. Look at your society, and look at your families.
The answer to my friend's question lies within the things we choose to champion, and the values we've been raised with as a culture.

Values are the litmus test, and what follows after is a simple 'cause and effect' scenario.

My generation was told that we're simply animals. That sex was recreational, and that we should indulge every urge because it's the "natural" thing to do.

We were told that intimate relationships are foundationally about feelings, not morals.

We were told that drugs and partying are the ultimate highs.

We were taught that it wasn't ok to be good at something, if someone else wasn't. It may make them feel inadequate.

We were taught that life is all about esteeming ourselves first, and others second.

We were taught that life is about making ourselves as comfortable as possible before we die, after all...it only happens once, right? Live it up.

We were led to believe that all authority is bad, and repressive.

These values, which have been imprinted upon my generation's soul, have consequences. Very real consequences.

When we were told that sex was not sacred but, rather, a commodity, it bred a generation of kids who are more sexually active. It also taught us that there was nothing special about sex within a relationship.

When we began to believe that relationships are about feelings, rather morals and character, we saw relationships crumble and divorces skyrocket. Because, when the feelings change (as feelings often do), there was nothing left to cling to.

When we bought the lie that drugs and partying were the ultimate high in life, we ended up with a generation of hollow addicts. We're left with a generation that has more than any generation in history, yet is more medicated and depressed than any generation in history.

When we were shamed for excelling, in the interest of catering to those who weren't as good at the same things, we bred a generation that accepts mediocrity. There's no need to work hard, to thrive, and to be a great citizen when the ones who are elevated are those of inferior talent.

When we accepted that it was our self that needed to be esteemed first, we created a generation of narcissistic, egocentric youth, indifferent to the suffering of the world.

When we were taught that life was about making ourselves comfortable, we created a generation which worships the religion of consumerism.

When we lost traditional authority, we gained a new one. Authority based not on wisdom, and experience, but whimsical thinking. When parents abdicated their responsibility to provide authority, and when we turned on religion, we became exactly what we were naturally bound to become without those structures...

So, you ask where the guys are that appreciate classy ladies?
You ask where the gentlemen are?
You ask what happened to commitment?
You ask what happened to genuine relationships?

When I was a part of a competitive music program, there was one thing which was drilled into my head from my freshman year all the way to graduation.

'Practice like you perform.'

Perhaps a more conventional version of this statement is, 'You reap what you sow.'

I submit to you that we haven't sown the seeds of gentlemen, commitment, classy ladies, or genuine relationships. In fact, we're reaping exactly what we have sown.

There are still those in the world that do offer the things, these status' on Facebook ask about. But they're becoming fewer each day, and will continue to do so until we plant a new kind of seed in our society.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Just for the Record...

I'm not gay.

Ok, time to rewind, right?

I think it's only fair that I provide you with the context for this wonderful post, which I am about to write.

It was a dark and stormy night... No. That's not the right one. Hang on a sec...

Ah, yes, so last night a couple friends came over and we hung out for a bit. One of my friends (a relatively new addition to my 'friends' category, yet still just as lovely) texted me after they left, and asked a deeply personal question to me.

"What team do you play for?"

Naturally, I thought she was speaking of Harry Potter, and thus responded; 'Why, Gryffindor, of course!'

Apparently, this wasn't what she was trying to figure out. So I tried to think of what she might have meant...

"What team do I play for?"

Wait...what? Did she just...

Yep, she did. She's totally asking if I'm gay! Gahhhhhhhhh.

I proceeded to tell her that I'm about as straight as an arrow, and inquired as to her confusion on the subject. Her reasoning was simply because my apartment was ridiculously organized for a guy my age...

Oh damn. it. all!

Now, mind you, this isn't the first time this has happened to me. I've had several people, who don't know me better, ask me that same question. Sometimes, they don't even ask, I can just tell by their interactions with me that they have a certain impression in their head about me. So this is, by no means, me talking down on this friend of mine. Not in the least.

The thing is, mostly these assumptions are bred from superficial, and stereotypical sorts of images that people carry about the dividing line between "gay" and "straight."

Things like, enjoying shopping (I do, I like to buy new shit ok?), being conversational and friendly (God forbid), types of music I have on my iPod, not being afraid to go dancing and then actually dancing when you go, a neat/ organized apartment...that kind of stuff.

The thing is...the text got me thinking really how sad the caricature of a "straight guy" has become.

Seriously.

I'm not sports obsessed. I don't rattle off statistics to impress women (who generally aren't impressed by sports knowledge anyway).

I don't 'hit the gym' like it's a religion.

I don't sit around on the couch scratching my balls all day.

I don't believe that all women are good for are sandwiches and sex.

I don't speak in unintelligible grunts either.

You get the idea.

You'd think that, by talking to many women, that those are the only type of straight guys there are in the world. No wonder they'd want a 'gay best friend.' They smell better, clean up after themselves, and go out and have fun in a relational way. Well, shit, who wouldn't take a friend like that over the straight guy caricature.

The fact of the matter is, that there are straight guys who aren't pigs. Ladies, did you hear that? There are guys out there who value the things that really matter.

There are guys who value the idea of family, commitment and marriage.
There are guys who value women for more than what they can "get out of them."
There are guys who hold their faith and values in high esteem.
There are guys who get off their butts and go to work, so that you don't have spend you're entire youth taking care of them.

And there are guys who are capable of using more words than: Ass, rack, and lame.

I promise. They aren't fictional. :)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Post Apocalypse Regrets...

So... The world did not, in fact, end today as the Mayan calendar predicted. Or, rather, as we assumed the Mayan calendar predicted. This really threw a kink in my plans, if I can be perfectly honest with you.

I've compiled a list of post apocalypse regrets here for your enjoyment...

1) I now have an abundance of granola and Campbell's chunky soup. By abundance, I mean enough to feed a small African colony.

2) Most of my clothes are packed up. Great, now I've got to UNpack them!

3) It was probably a tad premature to tell my boss exactly what I thought of him...

4) That "one day notice" I submitted at work?? I kid, I kid!

5) Probably shouldn't have poured so much money into a state of the art bunker in the middle of Mississippi. The location is terrible to sell, even in a bull market.

6) Those classes I took on the art of semaphore seem a bit silly now.

8) Because I can't tell you number 7.

9) I have more candles now than a Yankee Candle store.

10) I've been filtering water like crazy lately, honestly, I've grown far too snobby for tap.

11) All my luxury possessions that you won in an eBay auction? Yeah, I'm gunna need those back.

12) Crap, I still have to pay rent...

And finally...

13) That tattoo I got, bearing the crest of the New World Militia which would rise from the ashes of Armageddon and begin to forge a new society, will be a bit difficult to explain at upcoming family gatherings...

Happy post Apocalypse day my friends!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Rise

I've been trying, for the past week or so, to process the events which unfolded in Connecticut.

I want to pay a tribute to the memory of those who lost their lives and, while any words I could offer are nothing short of inadequate I feel I need to write something...


Any time a tragedy, such as Sandy Hook, occurs, we (as members of the human race) are brought face to face with the reality of evil. Real, tangible, unavoidable evil. Evil that has haunted humanity since its earliest days. Evil that refuses to rest, and refuses to relent.


We see it on a daily basis, yet Sandy Hook took horror to new levels, as some of the most precious, innocent members of our society were the victims. Caught in the cross hairs of man's curse. As I write this now, I think of my family, my loved ones. I think of my siblings, cousins, and my darling baby niece.


I feel anger, and rage. I feel the need to hold back tears, and I'm left with one question...How?


How could someone be that monstrous???

But the how doesn't heal the hearts which are bleeding in this moment.

How, doesn't fill the empty space at the dinner table, or the absence of laughter in now shattered homes.

I want the victims' families to know that we are all with you. Standing in solidarity, and mourning alongside you. We cannot fully fathom your pain, but we stand with you nonetheless. We're praying that the hands that formed this world hold you tightly, and bring you peace in this time of trial...

As I tried to process this tragedy this past week, my mind wandered to the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In the Two Towers, King Theoden of Rohan, previously under a spell of inaction, has been reawakened to find his kingdom on the verge of ruin.


As he looks around at all falling apart around him. The ruins of the glory that once existed in his kingdom, which is now being overrun with the hordes of evil.


And I remember feeling, what Theoden must have been feeling in that moment. Numb. Paralyzed. Despairing.


When all that is good, and bright in the world has been extinguished it's hard to feel anything else.


In that moment, he laments all that is lost saying this;


"So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?" 

Anytime we hear stories of tragedy, I'm sure we've all experienced this moment.

When all the pieces are shattered, and we look around at the chaos, and ask what we can do with the remnants of the life we knew...

In response to the king's lament, Aaragorn Son of Aarathorn responds:


"Ride out with me. Ride out and meet them!"

This makes me think of the phoenix. 


The phoenix, in mythology, was a bird of the sun which cyclically regenerated itself. The way it was born into new life was from the ashes of its predecessor...


There are two choices we face when we begin to deal with tragedies. We have the choice to become ashes, a shadow of what was. Or we have the choice to rise anew from those ashes. We have the choice to let evil have the power, but there is also the choice to allow the sun to rise upon the evil, and burn away the oppressive night it casts upon the world.


We owe it to those who were lost in this horrific tragedy to live, and strive to create a better world for generations to come. We owe it to their memory to rise, and to use each breath to make the world a brighter, lighter place.


I encourage you friends, grieve, mourn, and pay respects. This is necessary, but what is also necessary is to come forth from the darkness, when the time is right.


We must rise from this.




Monday, December 10, 2012

The Pursuit of Mediocrity

It isn't really a secret that my generation is self important to a fault. The millennials are really quite self absorbed, and narcissistic. It saddens me to say this, but more often than not I find this to be the gospel truth. A generation with no regard for history, for authority, for altruism. A generation that is dead at its core. Rotting from inside out.

It's because we have been taught by our parents, our society, and our entertainment, that mediocrity is ok.

One example of this, is how millennials refer to their job titles. For instance, as a janitor, I was told that my job was a "Custodial Service Technician." As a bank teller, I was told that I was actually a "Customer Service Representative I." As if anyone who banked there really cared.

I see this all the time on Facebook. Friends will enter, under the 'employment' section, some fancy title that really refers to a very basic, entry level, skill-less job.

Therein lies our downfall.

I've noticed, over the years, that the people who have greatness in them spend much less time worrying about tailoring a glamorous job title to fit a less than glamorous job. They call their job what it is and, instead, spend more time investing in their dreams. But, in a society where the ideal that "everyone needs to feel special" is predominant, there has been a nasty, unintended consequence. Youth remain stagnant, rather than advancing. Because, when you're already something special, why strive for anything better?

I've been raised with a mindset that, to get where I want to be, I have to get my hands dirty. I have to work hard, and at jobs that don't hand out accolades all the time. I've been taught that this world owes me nothing and that, while I'll always be loved by those closest to me, there is no guarantee my life will be remotely remarkable. It's that simple fact that drives me. It spurs me on to try greater things. Because everyone wants to be something special. Everyone wants to believe they have greatness within them.

Greatness isn't an accident. It is to be striven for. It continually improves upon itself. And, most importantly, it doesn't try to create a facade of grandeur, where grandeur is absent.

You too can be great. God doesn't make mistakes. But greatness is determined by our awareness of self.

Look in the mirror. Take a good, hard look. Be honest. Do you like what you see? Have you arrived? Or is there potential to yet be released?

Then ask yourself if you're ready to act. Without action, there's no movement. Without movement there's only mediocrity.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Seizing the Moment

Can I just say something? Ok. I will.

If you Google "leap of faith", apparently you'll turn up more than a few funny images of people jumping off cliffs. I couldn't help but laugh.

True, with leaping out in faith you never know what to expect...but I think that someone jumping off a sheer cliff, probably isn't the best illustration of the expression. Not the best marketing campaign for religious people, or those thriving on the Carpe' Diem fervor of youth.

So...

Ah yes! Seizing the moment.

So, basically, I've come to some very valuable conclusions in the last year or so. Or, at least, I hope they're valuable.

One of these conclusions boils down to this: Don't hold back.

That's it.

Don't hold back. I've lived much of my early life in fear. Fear of inadequacy. Fear of failure. Fear of mediocrity. I taught myself, from an early age, that if I never put myself out there I wouldn't have to fail. And it's true, you don't fail...technically.

Do you believe it's possible to not fail, but still be a loser? I do. And I was. I lost out on so much when I held myself back. I wouldn't apply myself in the weight room when I played football, because I was afraid I couldn't ever lift as much as my friends. I held back from trying out for wide receiver  quarterback, or running back, because those positions garner much attention. I didn't want to lose in front of people.

I held back in school, because I was afraid I wouldn't be smart enough, and the thought of being mediocre after putting in all I had in me was too much to bear.

I held back in relationships. I never stood up for myself, because I was always afraid my girlfriend would leave.

To this day, as I pursue photography, and am surrounded by people who are (in my eyes) masterful at their trade, I feel like a shadow of a person. I feel quite small. Dwarfed by fear that the work I'm quite proud of, will continually fall short.

But you know what?

While this used to scare the shit out of me, it doesn't anymore. Learning to be open to criticism has never been easy for me. Being open to admitting I don't know everything about something isn't easy for me. Asking for help isn't easy. But all these things make us better. Stronger. They make us into the people we want to be.

But you'll never know this, unless you have the guts to seize the moment.

I may end up being either a superb, or sub-par photographer, but I will never know unless I throw myself into it.

You'll never know your full potential, unless you give something your full effort. Be open to criticism. Be willing to cut unhealthy ties. Be ready to be frustrated, and prepared to persevere.

The road is never easy. But the "safe" road will never build you into the person you desire to be, it will only turn you into the person who desires to be like the person you wish you were.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hills We Die On...

I sat down with my pastor a few weeks ago for a coffee klatsch and, let me tell you, it was pretty damn refreshing.

Pastor Jay always has a way of humbly, firmly reminding me of the things that really matter. Do you have someone like that in your life? Someone who can sift through all the tumultuous crap of your life, and salvage the bits of gold from your soul that you had forgotten existed?

Because we all forget sometimes. We all get wrapped up in the things that matter least, and lose sight of the core truths which we have always held dear.

My nugget of wisdom I brought away from our conversation (thanks to Jay's sifting), was that we all have to choose our hills to die on. That is, we pick the values that we are going to fight, and metaphorically die for.

It caused me to think a lot about the things I'd never compromise. The things that I'll defend with tenacity, no matter what others may say.

I've never really talked about politics here. It can be quite stressful to some and, though it interests me a lot, I don't feel that politics will be a hill I choose to die on. Despite my holding strong convictions in this particular venue I do (at my core) realize that politics, like any other institution is governed by men. Men are flawed. Thus, these institutions often fail. If I place my whole self into this arena, I know that I will never leave fulfilled.

So, then, what are the hills I'd die on?

Firstly, my faith.

Faith is the lens through which you can begin to decipher the puzzle of life. It is the gateway to God. Without faith, we are the masters of the meaningless. Life has no merit. Because if we are, in fact, mere products of chance, then this very existence is pointless. I've been there. I've seen nothingness, and I've been pulled back from that vast waste. I know whose arms held me, and continue to hold me. There is nothing in this entire world I'd trade for my faith. This is the first hill I'd gladly die on.

Secondly, my family.

I've been incredibly blessed with a beautiful, loving family. A luxury many do not have. We have our faults. We have our fights. But, at the end of the day, we are family, and nothing can ever sever our loyalty to each other.

And thirdly, my friends.

Without my friends, I honestly don't know who, or where I'd be as a person. They've kept me grounded, and given me a reason to keep fighting when I'd used all the fight I had. Nothing anyone says will get in the way of me and my friends.

Faith, family, and friends. These are the values I cherish. These are the hills I'd die defending, no questions asked.

Turning A New Leaf

Well...

It wasn't indefinite.

Actually, if I'm quite honest, I missed this. Perhaps more than I knew. So now I have to swallow my words (yes, you were right Rachel, I'm now back).

Partially motivated by my friend Tim, who recently just received his first copy of his first book. I figured that I had to start writing again.

I can't have him outdoing me, could I?

So now it is time for a new chapter. There will be lots of catching up to do. New pictures and stories to be told.

We'll see how long this lasts.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thank You All

This will be my last post.

I don't know if this is indefinite or not, but I will be pursuing some new things, opening some new chapters, and closing some old ones. I don't have the time to invest in blogging anymore, not like I did.

All I can really say is that this experiment has been vastly different than I ever anticipated. You made it what it was. You helped me through some rough stuff, and your encouragements helped me more than you'll ever know.

I think about the last year. How I've grown. What I still have to work on. I know I'm far from complete, or ideal, but...for once in life, I think that things make sense. I don't have to worry, because I know my steps are guided, by one much greater than I.

I know that broken hearts can heal. Do heal. And though we still carry their scars with us, we are better for it.

As I close this chapter, I remain confident that nothing is waste. There's beauty to be found, even in the worst fathomable situation. If you take nothing else away from my "perspectives", I hope you at least take that simple truth with you.

This site will probably be up for a few weeks, then it will revert to private. Thank you my fine readers/writers. I won't forget this....

Thursday, August 9, 2012

[Music] Faceless- Red

Spark

I just want to explode. To light it all on fire, and let go.

I want someone to see the true me. 
I won't be a shadow, a ghost.

I want to light up the night.

How would it be, if we let ourselves burn bright?

We're a cocktail, waiting for a spark to ignite. 'Cuz the war within is already alight. Illuminate the night. 

Feel the heat against your skin, as it drives away the cold. Know that you won't be going back there anymore. Learn to breathe again. Feel the numbness leave, and realize you were meant for more. 

Leave the grave, and kiss the sun. Know that peace can only come, when the war is won.


Tuesday, August 7, 2012

When Life's Not Clear

I've been in a bit of a fog lately. It happens every now and then, and normally it shows up for no good reason.

I've always kinda liked fog.

When I was younger, and my family was driving through the foothills of Kentucky, and the mountains of Tennessee we'd drive through sporadic blankets of fog along the way. 

It's kind of crazy to think you're driving through something that you see in the sky every day.

When you see clouds they always look so bright, and shiny. But when you're in a cloud it's dark, cool. It's almost as if the whole outside world disappears, and you're left alone in a suspended state. Left with your thoughts, in an unobtrusive environment.

That's where I've been lately.

My cloud used to be a lot darker. It was oppressive, and it didn't dissipate quickly, but these days it's just a state of numb that occurs every now and then, and disappears relatively quickly.

I couldn't tell you what triggers it. Just like I probably couldn't tell you why clouds decide to cover certain stretches of road and not others.

As we'd drive through the fog on the mountainside, I remember, it became thicker and thicker as we reached the center of the cloud. 

So thick that you could only see the yellow road stripe a few feet in front of the car. The stripe let me know that we were still on track, and not on our way off the side of the mountain. I'd anxiously watch that yellow stripe with the intensity of a hawk...

There are certain things in my life that I'm sure of. Faith, family, and friends (to name three). They're like the road, the path that I travel on, that takes me to the other side of the cloud. They're the thing that you can focus on, one step at a time.

But then there's the whole rest of the thing called life that remains enshrouded by the denser parts of the cloud. Love, living situations, income, security, marriage...the unknown.

There may be a time when these things come into focus, but for now they aren't. I'd like to think I care, part of me does at least...but mostly I don't. I don't care.

And, while I could manufacture some impressive reason why I don't, it's simply because it takes too much effort.

How much of my life have I tried to keep under tight reign? How many uncontrollable things amounted to nothing more than sheer disappointment? These ghosts linger in the fog.

All because I wouldn't acknowledge that some things just can't be known, let alone manipulated.

I guess what I'm saying is, life isn't clear to me right now. I don't know why I am where I am. I don't know my purpose (though I know I have one). I don't know why I try to pursue the unrealistic, while denying the attainable that is right in front of me. I don't know any of this...

I remember when our car would roll out of the fog, and we'd be hit with brilliant rays of sun, mercilessly pounding down on the car. Almost as if to punish it for hiding in the fog so long. I remember looking around and seeing the mountain that we traveled up in the dark, cool mists, shrinking behind us. 

And I remember that there's always sun, there's always clarity to come.

And when it does, you may find yourself over the dark mountain, and on the way to a new horizon.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

There is a Hell...

Everyone loves ice cream cake, right?

If you don't, please leave. Now. No seriously, go.

Alright, come back, come back. You can still read, and enjoy with the normal people.

Basically, ice cream cake is delicious. So, you can imagine just how stoked I was when my co-worker (and good friend) Natalie came in, and informed me that there was ice cream cake in the break room's freezer for her birthday.

Uhhhh......WIN!!!! Couldn't think of a better way to end the shift.

When 10:15 rolled around, and I moseyed on up to the break room. Time to burn ten minutes in an unhealthy coma of awesome.

I pulled the cake out of the freezer and let it sit for a  bit to thaw, as I checked Facebook, e-mails, and blogger. After about 2.5 minutes I couldn't stand it any longer. I gingerly, yet  firmly popped the plastic lid open like it was the cover of the Ark of the Covenant, and what lay within didn't disappoint!

I stared in awe at a full 12 inches of chocolate, and vanilla frosted joy. If there was a Mona Lisa in the world of ice cream cake, it was on the table in front of me. It almost made me want to sit back for a bit, and further admire its sheer beauty...almost.

Naturally, my stomach won out, and I convinced myself it'd look just as (if not more) beautiful with a nice sized wedge cut out of the side. I walked over to the kitchenette unit, and pulled open one of the drawers for a knife.

No knife.

Next drawer?

No knife.

The panic lights began to flash in my head...

Next drawer.
No knife!
Next drawer. No knife!?!?!?
NoNONONONONOOOOOOOO!!!!!

Why the 'eff do we have a kitchenette if we don't keep silverware handy?!?!

Frantically I searched the entire length of the damn thing. Nothing. 

"This must be Hell."  I thought.
"This has to be Hell. To have that cake, this close, and nothing short of my hands to plunge into it, to retrieve my piece?"

So I said a quick, albeit testy, prayer asking God what I could possibly have done to deserve this, and what I had to do to get my hands on a delicious slice of frosted heaven.

Out of the corner of my eye, to the left I caught a glint of light on metal. A pizza cutter! Of all things, we have a pizza cutter?

Didn't matter. Immediately I knew this was my vessel to redemption. I plunged it in the beauty of a cake, and emerged, victorious.

But let me tell you friends, there is a Hell, and after the brief taste I got tonight, I can tell you, I wouldn't wish it on the worst of my enemies...

May you continue, now and always, to enjoy the glory of cold, creamy confections!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Former Life

Yesterday I went to the Fox Valley antique mall with a friend, in search of antique cameras.

Well, she was actually looking for cameras. I was just along for the ride.

I'd never been before, so I was thinking it'd be some small, one room shop. Uh. No. The place is huge, and packed to the seams with relics from the past. There's a nice mix too. Some of the stuff is complete junk, but other items are the real deal.

After I got over the fact that the place smelled like my grandma's house, and started browsing around, I became fascinated with some of the stuff the antique mall had to offer.

There were a ton of cool things there! The old telephones were my favorite. And tin toys! Yes, they used to make toys out of cheap tin, not cheap plastic, believe it or not...

But the thing that really stuck with me, as I browsed the endless rows of past treasures, was the sheer amount of change that's happened in the last decade alone.

I mean, the people who had a phonograph probably thought it was the shit! And it was, of course, until the next thing came along.

Now we have iPods, with crystal clear media quality and literal days of music loaded onto something that fits in the palm of our hand easily.

Could those who lived in another life have ever seen past the fragile borders of their existence? Or did they think life was as good as it was going to get? I mean, I think my life is pretty good and all, but I know that the things I enjoy, or rely on to assist me in everyday functioning will be obsolete by the time I have kids.

My kids will probably look at my old iPod, and be like; 'What's that dad??', and I'll have to explain how Apple revolutionized the music industry by allowing people to carry music libraries with them.

And they'll make fun of my antiquated technology, as well as my receding hairline, and I'll be sad.

Do we ever think about this? We think we're so relevant, and happening, but really, our iPads, and toys and all manner of things we enjoy now, will end up behind glass in a warehouse someday. With people coming to look at how we ever managed to live with such primitive devices.

Look at how things have changed in a matter of ten years even!

I guess that's what David's son, Solomon (wisdom guy), meant in the Bible, when he famously lamented that "everything's meaningless." He wasn't saying that life, in and of itself, has no purpose. Rather, he was noticing that the purpose we get from material things, or social status, are really quite laughable when juxtaposed with eternal things.

Yet, these are the things we place our hope in. 

I was super pleased with myself when I got the iPhone 4s. I started being a 'phone snob', because I was now hip and trendy. All condescending toward those lowly people who use slider phones, and keyboards (even though I myself had been using one the day before).

Not two weeks later I got word that the iPhone 5 was to be released within the year. Crap.

Really?!?!?! Really now Apple? You can't just let me have this hipness for a full year? You gotta one up me so soon?!


But that's life, isn't it? We can believe we're on top one moment, then be ten steps behind the next. So what are you placing your meaning in? Today? Tomorrow?

I guarantee, when we look back, and walk through a warehouse someday, we'll see all the gadgets, games, and household items that we thought were the future behind the glass. Replaced by the next new fad. If that's all we live for, then life is truly meaningless.

Place your hope in the things that matter. The things that endure. The things that will never become obsolete. These are the things that will take you through all the fickle change this life throws your way.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oh no, she diiin't!

I was recently reminded why I'm not crazy about the bar scene.

So here's the story...

I went out several nights in a row for my birthday weekend. I should preface this by saying that, since summer started, I've been working about 80ish hours a week, and it took it's toll for sure! So coming off that, and going into my birthday weekend, I decided  that I needed to cut loose a bit. Live a little.

And it was a lot of fun!

So one night, I met up with my friends at a popular campus bar. The drunken revelry was already in full swing by the time I got there. Loud music. Lights flashing. Drunken make-out sessions.

Typical college bar.

Does it make me old if I want to go home already, and sleep instead?
No! I've gotta cut loose a bit tonight. Go have fun, or else!

So I take a couple shots with my friends, and right as I'm enjoying a nice, cold Spotted Cow, I heard my name being called.

Strange. Where is this summons coming from?

I glance around in a bit of a haze, and see a friend of mine halfway across the bar yelling for me. Miracle I could hear her over the noise, but anyway...

She looks at me, and, in a very demanding tone says; "Buy me a drink."
Apparently I didn't have a choice in the matter.

I may have been in a haze prior to this, but everything got real clear, real fast.


What did she just say??
Oh, hellllll nah.

I just looked at her like she was crazy, so she migrated to the next unsuspecting victim.

Now I'll say this, first off. This girl is a sweetheart. I'm sure she didn't mean to be rude or anything, but I'll tell you why this bugged the hell out of me that night.

I work hard for my money.
I like spending my money on my friends.
I even like buying a drink for ladies on occasion, BUT...

I'm not your personal bar tab.

If you want me to buy you a drink, don't yell at me from across the bar, come have a drink with me. I'm not asking for your whole night, just one damn drink. Don't just think that because you have a pretty face, a lovely smile, or a skimpy little dress on that I'm just going to be a big dumb animal and give you whatever you want. I'm not. Other guys might, and if so, go find them.

That's not me. Sorry to disappoint. It used to be me, but not anymore.

Just because a single guy is at the bar, doesn't mean he's looking to drop his wallet on drinks for you, in hopes of hooking up. The same is true for ladies. Just because she's there without a date doesn't mean she wants all the creepers to hit on her all night. It goes both ways.

I write a lot about girls sticking up for themselves, and they should, but I don't write nearly enough about guys holding their own.

Not all guys are pigs, contrary to some of my lady-friends' beliefs.

Some guys would love to take a nice girl on a real date, or buy her a drink at the bar. Some guys will do that just to see a girl smile. Some guys are too damn nice. And by being too damn nice, they let all the pretty girls walk all over them.

Then the jerk guys, walk all over those girls, and the cycle continues.

I didn't write the rule book of life, that's just how it happens.

But, nice guys, you gotta stick up for yourself. Save your money for a girl that will appreciate the drink you buy her. Don't spend it on a girl who won't give you the time of the day.

When you can say no, as much as you say yes, you start to find not only confidence, but you see who sticks around, and who's gone the next minute.

The people that stay are the ones that matter.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

[Music] The Humbling River- Puscifer

Self described at Maynard James Keenan's stream of subconscious, I find Puscifer's music fascinating...

Reminisce: Making a Lot, Out of a Little

If you've been reading for awhile, you may have noticed that, at times, I have an over active imagination. And whether that's a good or a bad thing, it is a big part of how I was raised.

I'll explain.

Growing up, my family didn't have a lot of money. We always had enough to keep us from worrying about being out on the streets, so I always felt secure in that sense. But, from an early age, my parents repeatedly taught my sisters and I the value of making a lot out of a little.

My mother stayed at home and raised us, and my dad worked. He was an educator and, starting out, he didn't make a ton of money. We lived in a blue townhouse that one of the members of our family's church rented out. He rented one half to my parents, and one half to missionaries when they came back to the states, for rest and support raising.

It was always really fun to meet people who had gone to Turkey, Tajikistan or other various cultures and to hear their stories about living with peoples of other nations. Many of the missionary families had very little money, so all their clothes were hand-me-downs from other church folk, and when they left, they took only what they could carry for the most part. So the rest of the clothes were given to us.

That was how my sisters and I updated our wardrobes. When we didn't get clothes from missionary families who didn't need them anymore, my parents would "thrift." They'd go to Goodwill or Salvation Army (when they had time), and they'd buy what they could afford.

When we got those clothes, we made them last. I guess this is why I've never been too concerned with having lots of different clothes, or the newest, latest fashions.

If it works, why by three more pairs?

The same was true of our toys. With the exception of Christmas, and occasional birthdays, we'd often make do with used toys (often from the same missionary families who were leaving the country). I never had a ton of toys growing up, but Legos were my favorite. I never went into toy stores. Our parents didn't want us to get in the habit of fixating on wanting things that we couldn't afford.

It was in those years that I began to mold into a person who makes a lot out of a little.
I learned that there's no shame in buying things used, or wearing hand-me-downs, or not having the newest name brand item.
I learned that you can always stretch something a bit further.

Americans are actually incredibly wasteful, when you stop to think about it. We barely use things to their full potential. I see this more and more as I get older.

The other thing I learned, and this will tie into the first statement I made, was to use my imagination. Since our parents didn't buy us a ton of toys, more often than not my siblings and I would be kicked out of the house to play outside. We had to create our fun.

We raked leaf piles, and jumped in them. 
We biked to the park and ran around for hours. 
I found sticks in the wooded area of our yard and turned them into guns, with which I drove away invading hordes that were trying to overrun our property line. 
We played hide and seek. 
We built forts out of blankets, and chairs.
We made up stories. 
Played card games.
Ran through sprinklers.
We hung out at the library
We read books (Crazy idea, that)
Went to nature centers, and festivals....

There are so many fun things to do, that don't cost a dime. We learned that growing up. We also learned that fun wasn't contingent on a plastic game box, and a flatscreen T.V.

Boxes were the shit. We could do so much with boxes. They could be a hiding place, a makeshift base, a lab, a house...you name it, we imagined it.

My siblings and I spent a ton of time together growing up. We made up games, and we played hard. It was a rare day in the Carter household that we'd be inside in front of the T.V. I think that's why we are so tight even now, with different lives, and different schedules...


I feel that those days enriched my life exponentially. This lesson actually plays off the first value that I wrote about: Strong work ethic. 


Having little when you're young, teaches you the things that matter. It helps you to be independent of the need to accumulate. It teaches you that the things you do decide to work are to be taken care of. 


Growing up with little, you appreciate the things you have more fully.
At least, that's what it's done for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

[Music] Always- Panic! At the Disco

Same Story, New Package

There isn't anything new under the sun, is there?

I mean, there's a reason people say that...because it's true.

Think about all the compelling stories you've ever read, or been told. Or think about all the inspirational movies you've seen, what's the common thread? Well, the answer is (for many), that a common story is being told. That is to say...we've heard the story before.

For example, a story about a guy and a girl who are deliriously happy together, then (whether by poor fortune, or a misdeed) torn apart, the rest of the narrative explores the protagonist's struggle to fight and win the other back.

Sound familiar?

What about a story about someone coming from nothing, having everything in the world against him (or her), and at the end of the story they've climbed the mountain, or bested all the obstacles placed in their path. They've overcome, and their victory is so sweet.

What about the story of a nation that is facing a threat to it's very freedom, or even existence. The nation rallies, and fights back coming together and driving out the alien (whether human or extra terrestrial) forces. There's great celebration in the land afterward.

How many times have we heard these, and a great many more, stories?

I would venture to guess that, there isn't a script in Hollywood today that has a completely new script. Something never before seen, or experienced by humankind. I would also wager that a fair bulk (somewhere near 100%) of scripts play on a theme that's likely been done time, and time again.

Are humans not smart enough to think of something new? Have we really cashed all our chips when it comes to stories? Or is there something inherently powerful in the stories we choose to tell time, and time again?

This is why, despite the efforts of many in human history, the Bible is an absolutely brilliant, and completely relevant book now, even after centuries upon centuries of persecution, book-burning and outright dismissal by some.

The Bible tells the stories we all tell in our own lives.
Maybe that's what brings a sacredness to the text, in the eyes of its readers. It really has a transcending power to it. It doesn't appeal to just one ethnic, or social group. It's read worldwide.
Different cultures.
Different beliefs.
Different social classes.
Maybe this is what brings the power of healing to people who needed to heal.
The strength to forgive to those who had been hard of heart.

It's a realization that we aren't alone in this. That the stories we carry, and the stories we've told, have already been told before us.

The Bible is just paper and ink. It's a book like any other. Yet it, to this day, is the #1 bestseller in human history. Why is that?

Because it tells the stories that matter, and we're compelled to respond.

I would go so far to say that, if we choose to, we can examine these common threads in the story lines of the past and our lives in the present, and we can actually stumble into the right, best and truest way to live.

Maybe that's why the stories that get told over, and over and over again matter so much to us.

Yeah, we can dress them up in different packaging, change the boy hero to a girl hero, have her meet some talking animals along the way, change the kind cook to a kind librarian, but who are we kidding?


We're telling the story of a brave child, who is given opportunities to go beyond what others think possible. A child who has the opportunity to save the world from it's imminent destruction. A child who, given countless opportunities, refuses to turn back.


There's a common story line that runs in all of us. I think God put it there. We know when we're in the dark places. We know when we have an opportunity to run or stand. We are living the stories we love, and we don't even know it half the time! Yet, when I read something like the Bible, it isn't unlike looking into a mirror. The question is, how will I respond to it? How will you respond?


Will we let the stories of others shape and guide our story today? Or will we continue to blaze a trail blindly, thinking no one has traveled the path we walk before?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Reminisce: Breakin' A Sweat

I'll begin this series with, what I feel is, the most important thing my parents have ever instilled in my. A good work ethic.


First off, let me give you a little family background. My dad's side of the family is mostly Welsh and English. My mother's side is 100% German. I, myself, am about half German.

The German people are a people renowned for their strong work ethic, and practicality. It's essentially built into their heritage. They haven't always gotten everything right, but German products are often solid, built-to-last products, and the people are no strangers to putting in a hard days work.

Both of my grandfathers were hard workers. One was more a white collar, factory administrator. The other was a plumber by trade. Both put in long days, and the importance of the feeling of a job well done.

So, it was in this context that both of my parents were brought up. They did the same, raising my sisters and I.

By fourteen years old (the earliest legal age to work) my parents sent me out to find a job. My freshman year of high school I did school, marching band, football, and worked part time at Culver's frozen custard.

I didn't think anything of it, because I figured everyone did it.


Not so much.


But, beginning work early was an important step that I needed to take toward adulthood. As I began to use my checks to pay for things I wanted, I began to understand just what it took, work-wise, to earn something. So, if I'd blow my paycheck on things like fast-food, or video games, then wanted to go out on the weekend to a movie with friends, I'd be stuck.

I also began to realize just how much I didn't like working in food service. My dad had always told me, growing up, that if I wanted to get ahead, I needed to work hard to achieve it. It was never an option to accept handouts.

The things that you don't work hard for, you won't appreciate.

My parents always told me that it wasn't my friends, family, or the government's responsibility to provide for me. It's mine alone (as an adult of course, as a dependent there are obvious exceptions to the rule). But this stuck with me.

Along with my heritage, I also believe in the quintessential "American Dream." Which is simply this: "Living in this country, I'm blessed to have an opportunity to pursue life, liberty and happiness."

America doesn't promise life, liberty and happiness. It only promises the pursuit of these things.

I truly think that's why my generation has missed the boat so badly. We've been told all our lives that we have a "right" to this, or a "right" to that, and in this process entitlement creeps in.

But that isn't what America is. The only thing I have a right to, is going out and earning an honest day's wage. I have the right to take care of myself and not to rely on a government or program to take care of me. I have a right to be a responsible citizen, not someone who believe that I'm entitled to everything I want.

All these things are possible, if someone doesn't mind breaking a sweat. If they don't mind going after their dreams with their whole being. That's what my parents have taught me from an early age, and I believe it to my core.

This summer I undertook three jobs, for the first time in my life. I've been working about 60-70 hours a week consistently. Why is this?

Simple. I have a dream to own a home. A place that I can call my own.

Sometimes it's tough though...I mean, working 15 hours a day, most every day of the week can get tiring, and there have been times that I've wanted to quit so badly. But quitting isn't in my nature. What I want is a large undertaking, and it's going to take sweat and resolve. Quitting isn't an option. Neither is doing a half-assed job. I can't go home at night, knowingly leaving unfinished business at work. It drives me nuts.

It makes me very sad to see friends, some of which who barely work full time, complaining about how tired they are, or how hard it is to do their job. I was always taught to, first and foremost, be grateful for the job that I have. Secondly, there are a lot of people, pulling much longer hours than a mere six hour shift, some of them are working just to survive day to day, isn't it kind of rude to complain about missing a 15 minute break?

I don't mean this to be condescending, I'm only saying this because this is the mentality I was raised with. Do I always love my jobs? Hell no. Sometimes I straight up hate going to work! I'd rather hang out in the backyard and have a cookout any day. But I'm blessed beyond reason to have these jobs, and an opportunity to make my way in the world.

I'm so thankful that my parents taught me that I'm not owed anything. That I have to fight to earn my keep, and that I have to conduct myself with integrity in doing so. I don't always live up to their expectations, but it is something I continually strive for. Mostly for myself, but also for a future wife, and family.

Having a strong work ethic will never disappoint you, in fact, I find that it has only enriched my life. 

It's made me appreciate the things I have more, and it's brought more clearly into focus the things that matter most. Integrity, gratitude, and the drive to provide for myself.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

[Music] Castle of Glass- Linkin Park

I can honestly say that I'm obsessed with Linkin Park's latest effort. I've been a fan from their debut, and they continually awe me with their constant evolution of sound, and their passion for music. They're actually one band that I can legitimately say is passionate about music, and they take their artistry seriously. I'd highly recommend "Living Things." You won't regret it!





Natural Beauty

So, when I was browsing Facebook just the other day I ran across an article that one of the talk show hosts I follow posted. The first few sentences grabbed my attention (kudos to you sensationalistic media).

Here's the first paragraph...

At 14, Britney Marshall is apparently going through something of a ‘funny phase’.
She works hard at school and dreams of going to university one day. And if that isn’t strange enough, she has absolutely no desire to have breast implants.


This disturbing state of affairs has left her mother Chantal, who had great hopes for her youngest child, wondering where she has gone wrong...


Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2168513/Britney-Marshall-Meet-14-year-old-unlike-mother-sisters-refusing-breast-implants.html#ixzz1zy0jTC24

This is an actual story, believe it or not. I searched everywhere for some kind of indication that it may be a parody, or spoof of some other story. You know, something you'd find in The Onion or something? No such luck. This story was covered by several news outlets, all saying the same thing.

Naturally my reaction was something along the lines of : WHAT THE HELL?!?!?

Seriously.

Ladies, can you even imagine your mother trying to persuade you that your natural figure isn't satisfactory? Can you imagine having a discussion about chest enhancement at 14 years old? Maybe you can. I know, for a fact, however that my parents would never have even mentioned this to my sisters.

Yet, this kind of thing isn't uncommon. In the last decade, breast implants have started to become more common as graduation presents for senior girls. Again, can you imagine? Your parents are sending you off to college, but they want you to get fake boobs so you can "fit in."? Well...I guess fitting "in" isn't the goal, is it?

I think the greatest tragedy, is that poor Britney finds herself the black sheep of her family, simply because she's choosing to stay in her natural body. She isn't interested in being fake, or garnering attention because of an exaggerated feature of her body.

I have sisters. I know what they have had to deal with on a regular basis. It isn't enough that society consistently hammers away a message of airbrushed bliss to women. It isn't enough that we see in the media that the only thing that will bring you happiness is having the perfect nose, eyes, teeth, boobs, butt, legs or whatever. Those two forces alone are enough to make any adolescent, or even a young adult, feel shaky in their own skin. Now we have mothers telling their daughters that they 'like how fake and glamorous' they look. What's a girl to believe?

Ladies, I want to tell you something straight up. As a red-blooded, American guy, I've seen my share of airbrushed, fake, "glamorous" women. I've seen what society tells me I should believe is beautiful. I've also seen the fallout of these astronomical expectations of beauty manifest themselves in both physical, and emotional scarring on some of the most beautiful girls I've ever had the pleasure to know.

As a guy, I want to tell you this, when I look for someone I don't look for someone fake. I don't look for a fixed up nose, or ridiculously huge boobs. Odds are, actually, that your natural self is already quite attractive, and you may not even fully realize it yet. I'm not lying. But your beauty goes beyond the shell too.

One thing that I find incredibly beautiful, is the ability for a woman to be content in her natural skin. I know that society, and the media, and even peers can tell you differently. Don't buy it. Take it from a guy. Natural is beautiful. You don't have to be something you're not. You don't have to bow to the unrealistic expectations of a media that airbrushes women till they aren't even recognizable anymore.

You don't have to carry that burden with you. In fact, when you release that, and find contentment in your natural beauty, you're free to become twice the woman you were before.

When it comes down to it, most guys who are looking for a companion, want someone who will be real with us. Someone who isn't painted up all day every day with caked on makeup, and fried and dyed hair. We want someone who's real.


I want someone who's real.

Now, let me say, though I disagree with it, I don't believe cosmetic surgery is evil. I don't believe it should be banned because of crackpot mothers, or absent fathers.

All I'm saying is that, humans aren't cars. What I mean by that is that we don't need to continually soup up the exterior to make up for an inadequate engine. Because that's really what cosmetic surgery does. It helps boost someone's confidence when they have nothing to run on inside. A car that looks "hot" on the outside, but doesn't have an solid engine won't take you places. A person who looks nice, but has no depth of character won't find someone who will stick around. Simple as that.

I guess what I'm trying to say, is that this article really helped me understand an important truth.

It strengthened my conviction that parents have an incredible responsibility.

Though Britney seems like she's a sharp, wise 14 year old, her parents, and siblings have influence over her. Parents shape children into adults. It's just part of nature. So when a parent is a crackpot, the child is likelier (in many cases), to be a crackpot. But, if the parent emphasizes to their child that life isn't about being a pinup model for people to salivate over, then a child is likelier to turn out more self-confident, and content in their own skin.

At the end of the day, what I'd say to the ladies who think a pair of boobs, or a tuck or a nose job would bring them happiness is this: You are uniquely created. There isn't another you to be found in this world...why trade that? Fake doesn't equal beauty in my book.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Jesus v. Religion

This really inspired me, so I thought I'd share it here. If you can find 45 minutes in the day, please watch it! Worth it.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Road

This is my 247th post.

There isn't anything super significant about the number 247, but after pouring my brain out over who knows how many pages worth it brings with it a reflection of how things change. I'm a completely different person than I was five or six years ago.

I (like to think) I've grown up a bit.
I've traveled places I'd never been to.
I've made new friends, lost old ones, seen who's stuck around.
I've learned to say no, and when to say yes.

And I'm not done yet. Not even close.

I'm still a mess of a construction site. Constantly being shown new things, and things I have to work on as an individual.

The reason I say all this is because, though the road has been interesting (albeit extremely bumpy at places) there is one thing I'd never change. Not for all the money the world could offer. That's God's invasion of my life.

I'm kind of lucky, I guess. I have actual remembrances of the event itself that I look back on. Apparently, I had my own paparazzi and never knew it till after the fact. Can you believe it? 

I mean, who actually has pictures leading up to the moment of their conversion?

For instance...

This picture above, is me sitting with Lee, and Ashley.

Lee and Ashley were Ohioans on the same trip I was on. I had actually signed on to go to Panama City Beach, with a campus ministry, to "witness" to spring breakers. Quite honestly, as an agnostic, the only reason I went was to get away from Wisconsin. I was escaping all my problems for a week, trying to clear my head.

Do you think God has a sense of humor? I sure do. Here I was, on a trip to "witness" and along come Lee and Ashley, and they begin to share the story of God with me. But, can ya blame them? I mean I look like a godless pagan sitting there all anti-social-like.

I wasn't ready at that point, but I listened to what they had to say. I don't know why. I thought it was all a load of crap, but I felt compelled to stay. After Lee ran through the gospel with me, he noticed my trip bracelet. I think he was kinda disappointed that he'd just shared with a "fellow Christian", little did he know my life was going to change drastically from this moment on.

The next picture is a moment, I'll never forget. Sitting in assembly of all the students, as they shared their stories of witnessing. Something happened. I broke. I realized just how incredibly awful I'd been. To everyone. I knew I couldn't do it on my own anymore. I knew...that no one could possibly love me, for all the shit I'd done. But for some reason...I couldn't shake the feeling that someone did.

To this day I still feel the chills. Still feel how it was to realize pure love for the first time. I remember that it was like stumbling around in a dark room, and having a door to the outside flung open. That moment when you squint and recoil, blinking furiously...then all of a sudden, you can see.

There really isn't any feeling in the world, that I could put into words, that can describe the revelation I felt.

And there never will be.

When you, whoever you are, experience God in a real, true way for the first time I guarantee there won't be words you can use to do it justice. It's more than praying a prayer. It's more than being a good Christian. It's different for everyone, but it's real nonetheless.

Since that night I've changed a lot. People all change, and evolve over time. I have stronger opinions about aspects of the Christian religion than I did then. I've broken with some ideas that I thought were correct, and embraced others that I'd never considered before. And tomorrow? I don't know. I don't know where I'm going to be tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 10 years.

I don't relish ever last thing about my past. And I don't always make the right choices in the present.

But choices come and go, and life goes on. One thing remains constant, and that is this: I will never regret the decision I made that night.

And that's all I'll ever need to know.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Homely Hunchback

Ah, yes. It has been awhile since I wrote one of these...but trust me, I've been cooking up several ideas. Today, I'll regale you with the tale of lies, lust, and a boy who was beautiful on the inside, but slightly less than mediocre looking on the outside.

Today I'll share with you the story of the Hunchback of Notre Dame.

The story begins with illegal immigration.

One dark cold night, an incredibly shady-looking ferryman is sneaking a small band of gypsies into Paris. Any viewer can feel the tension, the need for secrecy...except the baby one of the women is carrying. He just starts hollering like it's no ones business.

As they dock, the ferryman tries to collect for his troubles, when all of a sudden a troop of soldiers materialize from nowhere! A trap! They put all the men in manacles and hall them off to the infamous "Palace of Justice," the woman remains behind, and the bundle in her arms arouses suspicion. No doubt causing the leader of the soldiers, the evil judge Claude Frollo, to think it's illegal narcotics. He orders the remaining soldier to confiscate the bundle/baby, but somehow the woman escapes.

We find her running down the back streets of Paris, being hotly pursued by Frollo on his evil looking horse. As I watch this scene, the theme music from COPS definitely popped into my head at least once or twice. Can't you just see it?

The gypsy woman manages to elude Frollo long enough to make it to Notre Dame where she bangs on the door repeatedly, calling for sanctuary. But it's too late! The judge curb mounts with his horse, and rides it right up to her. He grabs the "bundle of stolen goods", they struggle, he gives her a Chuck Norris kick to the face, she falls and hits her head. She dies....on the steps of the church.

Pigs: 1
Gypsies: 0

In a strange plot twist (that isn't really a plot twist to the viewers, 'cuz we know it's a baby), Frollo is shocked to find that the bundle he's holding isn't crack, but it's a living breathing...thing. Apparently the baby got some ugly genes, which is kinda surprising given the mom isn't all that bad looking!

He looks around frantically for something to do with this monster-child. There's a well conveniently located across the courtyard. We, the viewer, can just see the idea light-bulb go on in Frollo's head. But just as he stretches out his arm over the great black opening, and prepares to drop our (spoiler alert) protagonist into the well, we hear an urgent cry of "Stop!" coming from the church.

Apparently it takes the priest a while to get out of bed, when someone is frantically calling for sanctuary at his door, but he did come out. And now, in true clergyman fashion, it's time to lay some guilt on the simple common person.

The Father tells/sings to Frollo about how he's just a bad person 'cuz he kicked a lady and she died on the steps of a holy cathedral. And he also tells Frollo that, should he drop that baby in the well, he'll probably burn in Hell. 'Cuz you know how those Catholics feel about baby killing.

Granted, killing a woman carrying a child probably already got him a spot there, but Frollo is shaken. He asks the Father what he's to do. The Father (who obviously doesn't have a social services degree) tells Frollo to care for the child, and raise him like his own.

Yeah. Great idea Mr. Priest. That won't be an awkward conversation someday.

"Uh, son, when you were a child...well, I'll just be frank. You were so ugly I almost dropped you down an icy well."

Yeahhhhh.

Anyway, naturally Frollo is repulsed, but acquiesces under one condition; that the child live hidden away, in the bell tower so no one can see how ugly he is.

Enter opening credits.

We find ourselves next in the bell tower, with a grown-up Quasimodo. Our hero sings a song about how cool it'd be to leave the bell tower, and one can't help but warm up to the guy. I mean, yeah he won't be doing modeling for JCrew any time soon, but he seems to have a warm heart that glosses over the less than stellar outer shell.

It's here that the viewer begins to see the theme running through this movie. I'll keep it a secret till later. ;)

After the song we see Frollo come up to have a meal with Quasi, and they start rehearsing the alphabet, each letter synonymous with some sort of horrid thing that Quasi is to believe about himself. Remember what I said earlier about the priest not being educated in social work? Yeah.

Unfortunately, Quasi let's slip that he wants to go to the Festival of Fools, thus pissing of his Master. He's told to forget it, and to never think of it again. If anyone saw Tangled, you know how well this'll work!

Quasi ends up going. He also manages to stumble in on the lovely Esmeralda who is prepping for her show. Atta boy Quasi! First/ only day out right? Go big or go home!

She helps him up, and as he's leaving she tells him what a great mask he has on. Ohhh snap. Course he's too hung up on how beautiful she is to realize, he just got burned.

As the festival kicks into full swing, it comes time to crown the King of Fools. Basically this festivity works the opposite way of a beauty pageant. You gotta have one ugly mug to win this one.

Quasi wins. And when people realize that "mask" is his real face they flip shit! Best Feast of Fools ever right?! Our boy wins a crown, and a cape, the crowd is happy...oh yeah, and Quasi's master knows he's out of the tower. Cover blown.

Soon the party turns nasty though; I guess all good things have to come to an end.

The drunk carnival goers decide it'd be fun to have a food fight. Everyone, against the King of Fools! They rope him down and throw a bunch of crap at him, Frollo does nothing to intervene. It's actually his new friend Esmeralda who does. She defies the presence of law, and frees Quasi, doing some social justice speech while she's at it.

Thus stirring the wrath of the law, and capturing the interest of the Captain of the Guard. Phoebus. You can imagine the job stress it will create for Ol' Phebes, as his job description entails "helping Frollo root out, and rid Paris of the gypsy infestation." But, eh. C'est la vie.

The next sequence of events is mostly a blur, building to the climax of the movie. Let me sum up for you...


Esmeralda is trapped in Notre Dame, soldiers guard every door waiting for a chance to take her into custody. She hangs out with Quasi a bit. 
She begins to see what a beautiful person he is...on the inside. 
Quasi gets the hots for Esmeralda. 
Helps her escape. 
Phoebus looks for Esmeralda 'cuz he has the hots for her too. 
Quasi and Phoebus have alpha male issues. 
Frollo starts burning the city down in pursuit of Esmeralda, 'cuz he has the hots for her. 
Phoebus and Quasi have to team up to save Paris...and Esmeralda.

What is this?!!?  General Hospital?

The film climaxes when Quasi and Phebes find the fabled "Court of Miracles." Which is apparently gypsy that translates to "hideout in a French crypt." No lie. This entire city is in the catacombs. Ew. They try to warn the gypsies of the coming danger, when all of a sudden Frollo shows up with a battalion of soldiers.

They arrest all the gypsies, and all of Paris is told to come see Esmeralda burn for witchcraft. Nothing like a good old witch burning to raise the spirits of a city huh?

Frollo offers Esmeralda one more chance to "repent" which would mean marrying him, 'cuz let's be honest, this old man wants to get him some!! She, of course, spits in his face. As. She. Should. Seriously, creeptastic old man wants to marry her? He ain't Hugh Hefner folks. So Frollo lights the fire.

All the while Quasimodo, chained in the bell tower, is standing by, pouting because she only thinks of him as "just a friend." Ugh. Hate it when that happens. But suddenly, maybe at the prospect of seeing his friend burned to death, he pulls a Samson and breaks his chains, swooping down at least fifteen stories on one rope. And pulls her out of the flames.

Frollo is pissed, naturally. Some people break out of their cages, and the battle of Paris begins.

Needless to say, the good guys win. Evil Frollo plunges to his death and, in all likelihood, burns in Hell forever. And justice prevails, without the loss of any major characters in the process.

But the end of this story pisses me off to no end. I'll tell you why, since you asked.

Quasi, doesn't get the girl.
He doesn't.

He helped her escape the law. Put his life in danger trying to warn her of the coming attack on the Court of Miracles. Broke some seriously heavy chains and swung down the face of a cathedral, fought of guards, and saved her from burning to death...and he doesn't get the girl.

Who does?

Phoebus. The Captain of the Guard. A man in uniform. Which is not to say this guy doesn't have his moments. He's downright heroic at times too. So why does this ending annoy me so?

Because the whole theme of this movie is that "it's not about how you look on the outside, what matters is what's inside." BS. See the end of this movie, and you'll find that natural selection won out. Esmeralda went with the better looking genes. I mean, who's going to impress mom and dad more when she brings him home for dinner? The guy in shiny golden armor? Or the homely hunchback?

And, let's be honest, if the guy who single-handedly rallied Paris to stand up against oppression, has sweet acrobatic skills, dreamy forearms, and saved a woman from burning to death, doesn't stand a chance with the ladies...

Where does that leave plain-ol' guys like me??

I sigh as the joyful townsfolk carry Quasi off into the sunset in the closing scene. I think of the last time they did something like that...the feast of fools, and shake my head sadly. I just know that he's going to end up with another face full of fruit...

But isn't that just how life is?

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Fear of God...

I want to preface this post, first and foremost, by saying that I have a lot of wonderful friends. They are all uniquely gifted, and incredible in their own ways, so this is not intended as a diss. If you're one of these people, and you're offended by what I have to say...I welcome conversation, anytime.

I want to talk about freedom tonight.

Being a Christian, I dwell a lot on this concept. It's really central to the message of the gospel, if you think about it. What was Jesus' sole mission? To free us from ourselves. To bring peace with God. To give us the permission to be called his children. That kind of thing.

So, naturally, it disturbs me when I see my friends forget this.

See, I believe, when you accept Jesus you're freed from yourself. The things you've been enslaved to, the things you've felt shame over. You're free. I've experienced this personally, and seen it in the lives of professing Christians over the years.

But there are a handful of friends of mine who, from what I see, still find themselves slaves to themselves. Now, by no means is a life in Christ perfect here on earth. We all have bad days, and I completely understand that, but these friends of mine seem to have a cloud of fear over their lives.

They try to live the best life they can and then, when they trip up (as we all do) I see it bring about a depression, and stress upon them that's awfully painful to watch. They carry this shortcoming, until they're weighed down, and can't move forward anymore. After awhile they recover, but jump out of their spiritual skin every time something remotely challenging comes their way next.

 This isn't living in freedom.

Living in fear, and living in sadness, isn't the life Jesus offers us.

I recently read the book of Galatians, and the entire book is basically the apostle Paul telling those in the Galatian church, that there is absolutely nothing they can do, short of fulfilling every commandment in Jewish law to earn God's favor. He goes on to say that if we try to live governed by law (aka "do this", "don't do that"), that we are separating ourselves from the work Jesus himself did.

That by trying so hard to be so good, is actually nullifying the work Jesus has already done.

Add that to the fact, that living according to the Jewish law, is the equivalent of failing daily. Because we aren't perfect. We'll never, ever, be perfect.

Sadly, the Pharisees of Jesus' days aren't the only one enslaved to the law.
Many Christian people our age, well intentioned though they may be, are still slaves to a legalistic code of conduct.

You know the ones I'm talking about:

Don't smoke
Don't drink
Don't have sex before marriage
Don't swear
Don't hug your friend of the opposite sex too long

All these things and more. They live in fear of "stumbling" and being cut off from their "walk" with Christ. As if, when they stumble God is gunna lay the smack down on them.They're already more cut off than they may know. Is this is not unlike the Jewish faith in Jesus' day? 

I don't believe that a Christian life is a life of fear. Is it a lifetime of screw ups? Of course!

Jesus loved the screw ups. God loves the screw ups.

Sometimes, you have to be at peace with your imperfections, your shortcomings and failures. Sometimes you need to be like: "Yeah, I fucked up, but Christ caught me as I fell. Just like he did the time before this, and just like he will the time after."

When you surrender control completely, and stop grieving the past, you can full embrace the bright future God has for you.

I want freedom for my friends. I want them to live without constantly battling every day to just live.

I've been there. I know what it's like to struggle just to get through the day. It isn't worth it.

Leave the sins to Jesus. Start living in the freedom he offers!