Manga vs. Anime

"Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories."
-Hilary Mantel
I am very open about my opinions regarding books vs. movies. In fact, I did a whole post about it previously. Essentially, because books and movies are such different forms of art, I don't believe that they can translate effectively. That is to say, I think that books should not be made into movies, and movies should not be made into books. A story meant to be told in one cannot be effectively told in another. However, I've come to a roadblock when I reach manga and anime. Shouldn't the same philosophy carry over? Shouldn't I refrain from watching any anime that's based on a manga series? Not necessarily. In today's post, I'd like to go over manga vs. anime, and ask why this is a different discussion from books vs. movies.

The main similarity between the two discussions is that one side is in a literary format while the other is in a video format. And at first, this may seem to be the entire discussion. But when we look more closely at the reasoning behind the issue, we see that anime and manga are actually far more similar to eachother than movies and books are. Books on the teenage and adult level typically have no pictures. Juvenile fiction will have a few, and children's books will have many pictures, but the books that are made into movies are generally told with words alone. Contrast this with manga, which is comparable to a graphic novel. Already, this removes one of the major barriers between books and movies- narration. Movies, as opposed to books, rely on the visual to show what's going on. But manga does the same, making the stories more easily translatable.

Having seen how books and manga are different, let's next see how movies and anime are different. This one has to do with the time involved in telling a story. Movies often have to cut things out, change events, twist personalities, and make any number of other distortions in order to fit a book-length story into a movie-length format. But because anime is shown in an episodic format, this doesn't need to happen when translating this type of story. They have a much longer amount of time overall to tell the story. (If we assume twenty-minute episodes, two hours of story could be conveyed in six episodes. A short anime series is typically around twelve episodes, which already gives twice the amount of time that a long movies would have.)

We should also keep in mind the similarities between the art styles of manga and anime. Because both use actual images, and because both are animated instead of using live actors, characters in one can look exactly the same in either format. Because of this, one the two differences that I have found between manga and anime is diminished drastically. That difference is that the images move. But because the images in the two formats are essentially the same, the motion isn't a very important aspect. The pictures in the manga are often drawn in such a way that it makes it obvious how they would be moving if they were animated, and this can be directly mirrored in an anime.

The final difference that I've found is, obviously, the addition of sound. This is a bit larger of a difference. But sound effects are often drawn into manga to begin with, and mood music doesn't really take away anything from the story- it just adds another layer. The only thing that could be seen as a problem here is the voices. This is primarily a question of whether the voice acting is any good. However, because I watch subbed anime (and don't speak Japanese), even this difference is heavily diminished.

As a person, I generally tend to prefer manga over anime. But when deciding whether to read or watch a story, I often decide based on which one I saw or heard of first, rather than which one was made first. Because manga and anime are so similar, the stories will tend to match up very closely, and I don't have to worry about whether the adaption is accurate so much as whether the translation is. Of course, there are exceptions, like the original Fullmetal Alchemist anime, which caught up with the manga as it was being published and went in an entirely different direction. For that, I obviously would lean towards reading the manga (or watching the remake, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood; for me personally, that choice went to the manga over the anime once again). But barring exceptions like this, they're so similar that any differences can be pointed out within one or the other and not really affect the story in the same way that books and movies do when translated into the other.
"Painting is poetry that is seen rather than felt, and poetry is painting that is felt rather than seen."
-Leonardo da Vinci

A Christian's Fiction

"And now here is my secret, a very simple secret: It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye."
-Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
I've heard it said that you can tell what's important to a person by what they fight for and defend. If two things are in conflict and one of them has to go, which one do you toss out? And, while this can sometimes this apply to physical possessions, the most important things aren't the things that we can see with our eyes. (I could write a whole post about that by itself, but I don't think that very many people, if any, would disagree.) Recently, I've seen this coming into play in my life in a very specific way- that is, when encouraged to read, watch, or otherwise engage in fiction that opposes what I believe as a Christian.

The argument that I commonly hear regarding this topic is, "it's fiction, so it doesn't matter." This can be worded in any number of ways. For example, "yes, this story assumes that evolution is true, but just imagine that God doesn't exist for the sake of the story." Or, coming from another Christian, it might sound more like, "yes, God is real, but this story doesn't take place in our world, it takes place in a world where God doesn't exist." But this doesn't work; as a Christian, I believe that not only life, but the entire universe is impossible without God having created it. The common argument that I hear in response is, "but you accept all sorts of impossible things for the sake of fiction." True, but these are impossible in a different way.

I sometimes read stories that have talking dragons in them. Talking dragons do not exist in our world. In fact, no talking animals exist in our world. However, this is a law of reality, not a law of logic. There is no logical rule that says, "you have a planet, therefore it does not contain dragons," or even, "you have an animal, therefore this animal cannot talk." Of course, if you see a dog, you can deduce, quite logically, that it cannot talk. But not because of a rule of logic. When something is logically impossible, you will be able to show that logical impossibility even within the laws of a different universe, because logic must be true by definition. (This goes back to my post on the different levels of knowing, if you haven't seen it.)

Logic consists of such rules as, if A is equal to B and B is equal to C, then A is equal to C. Believe it or not, I have heard it claimed that this needn't be true in fiction! (And, to be honest, that was the point where I realized that the discussion as a whole may have been pointless.) If you write a story where A and C are both equal to B and yet are not equal to eachother, all you're doing is writing nonsense. The word "equal" has a specific definition. A simpler way of explaining this might be to have a story with a square circle. In such a case, I can draw a picture of a circle and ask, "is this the shape that you described in your story?" If they say yes, then it is not a square. If they say no, then it is not a circle. "But that's not true in my story!" Yes it is, you're just a bad writer. You are using real words with real definitions to describe your story, and therefore, must describe real concepts. You can combine previously existing concepts and rules, or you can tweak the way things work, but you must still be using basic logic for your story.

I believe that it is logical to believe in God. That is to say, if somebody says to me, "I don't believe in God," to me this is as silly as saying, "I believe that square circles can exist." After all, something cannot come from nothing- this is a rule of logic. (Atheists are sometimes quick to point out that something actually can come from nothing, but this is a distortion of the words and is not actually true according to the proper definition of nothing. Dr. William Craig gives a basic rebuttal to this claim in the link provided.) The universe has come into existence, and must have come from something. Therefore, God must exist. Because of this, any story which makes the assumption that God does not exist is, in my eyes, illogical. And, as with any other plot hole or illogical situation in a story that I otherwise enjoy, I must patch up that hole with headcanon.

However, what if a story is so opposed to the Bible that it can't be reconciled? For example, I've heard of a TV show called Lucifer, and from what I know of it, it is directly opposed to the Bible. In this case, we go back to what's important. Which is more important to me: God, or personal entertainment? This is where all those arguments from before go astray- they assume that I see God as simply an aspect of reality, no more, no less. That I have an impersonal relationship with Him similar to one that I might have with a tree. I believe that the tree exists, but it has no special meaning to me. But as a Christian, I don't believe that God is simply an aspect of logic to use at my whim. Logic fits with Him, but that's not all He is. I believe that He is my Creator and Savior. And if I have to choose, I pick Him. Some would say that because it's just fiction, I don't have to throw away my faith- just put it aside. But do you put aside your love for someone when it's convenient? If someone wrote a story that was entertaining and funny and dramatic, but they kept talking in the story about how much they hate your best friend, what would you do? Would you make the same argument? "I don't actually hate my friend, I'm just putting aside my love for them while I read this story." That's not something that I can do.

Stories are just that- stories. Fiction. They're not true, and don't have to fit with the laws of reality. But at the same time, we are in the real world, and stories therefore are required to interact with our world- through real words, through real definitions, through real storytellers, through real readers, through real time, and through real devotion. It makes me uncomfortable when I have to reconcile a story- when I have to imagine that such-and-such happened instead. When it gets to the point where that's impossible, I've already made my choice. Because even if it could be shown that a fictional world can function logically without God, it wouldn't make a difference. The entertainment isn't worth setting aside my Lord.
"What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us."
-A.W. Tozer

Dancing's Difficulty

"The existence of other people is essentially awkward."
-Lionel Shriver
The other day I went to a swing dance. I'm not great at swing dance; I've been to far more english country dances than swing dances. But it's fun anyway, so I went- after all, how different could it really be? As I soon discovered, very different. I felt like I was back in dancing kindergarten (which, admittedly, was only a few years ago for me). I remembered how difficult it can be to ask a girl to dance, and also remembered how little people seem to understand about why that is. Some guys are naturally social, and have no difficulty asking a girl to dance. Many girls don't seem to understand why a guy would go to a dance and then not ask anyone to dance with him. (However, whether man or woman, people do often seem to think that they understand, and offer encouragement that doesn't actually apply at all.) So in today's post, I would like to explain what goes through my head when I'm trying to ask a girl to dance, as well as going over the "encouragement" that always seems to be offered. Of course, while my particular concerns my not apply to every guy out there, I still think that it's good to get a more general understanding of the topic.

One of the most common things that I've heard is, "you're not asking her to marry you." These events aren't designed for romantic dancing, and it won't be seen as weird if you ask somebody to dance. For guys who are new to such events, it may seem odd to ask a girl to dance. Will she assume that you're interested in her in some romantic way? While this advice was helpful when I was new to dancing, it no longer applies to myself, or to people who are familiar with dances like this. The next assumption seems to be that maybe the guy just doesn't know where a girl is. It's common for somebody (often a parent) to walk over and say something along the lines of, "there are a few girls right over there." Yes, I can see them, but that's actually part of the issue.

One of the problems that I've found, which actually applies to both english country dancing and swing dancing, is that girls tend to group together. Not that that's a problem in and of itself, but if I know all of them or don't know all of them (as is usually the case) then which one do I ask to dance? In asking one girl, "may I have this dance?" I am indirectly saying to any other girl in the group, "I am not asking you to dance at this time." (While this could technically be considered to be true of any girl in the room, it's a different situation, because you aren't right there next to them.) This is a bigger issue at swing dances, because in english country dancing, everybody finds a partner at about the same time, because the dancing starts all at once. But the problem is there for socially awkward guys no matter what the setting is.

An issue that I've found in asking a stranger to dance is one of conversation. I'm bad at conversation, especially in dance, and it's easier to ask somebody that I know. In english country dancing, I've mostly gotten over this, but in swing dancing and waltzes it still applies with full force. On its own, conversation is a minor factor, but it's aggravated by dances that don't have a set end. English country dances have a specific set of moves that everybody performs at the same time, and the caller decides when the dance will begin or end. A swing dance doesn't have a set time to start or end it. How do you decide if it's been too long or too short? If a conversation gets awkward, I wait until they're not looking at me and sneak away. I can't do that in a dance.

Skill level is also something that I have to take into account. This doesn't apply as much at english country dances, partly because I'm generally good at those, and partly because everyone is doing the same thing. But in swing dance, I'm a mediocre dancer. I'm good enough that I could confuse somebody by trying the pretzel, but bad enough that I could easily bore a girl with my very limited moveset. If it's somebody that I know, I have a rough estimate of how much they match my abilities, but it's not perfect. With a stranger, I have no clue whatsoever.

To sum up the basics, if I don't ask a girl to dance, it isn't because I don't like dancing or want to avoid it, or because of any fault by the girls at the dance. It's because, as a highly awkward person, I don't want to cause offense, boredom, awkwardness, etc., which I as a person am very good at bringing about. Of course, I did dance at the dance that I went to. I didn't just stand in a corner feeling awkward. But it did take me a bit of time to figure it out. The reason I've chosen this topic is because, while encouragement is good, it doesn't make a difference if the encourager doesn't understand why there's an issue in the first place.
"I am an inexhaustible source of awkwardness."
-Milena Veen

Controversy Matters Not

"Religion is like a pair of shoes... Find one that fits for you, but don't make me wear your shoes."
-George Carlin
About a week ago, I was watching a Minecraft livestream from a YouTuber that I watch. He was playing on the same server that he uses for YouTube, but the point of the livestream was to gather resources and do other boring things that people wouldn't normally want to watch a whole video about. He livestreamed it (as opposed to doing it off camera) so that he could have a conversation with his audience while he did the boring stuff, and the conversation would make the normally boring things become interesting. During the discussion, the topic of politics came up. I joined the livestream late, so the most I caught of his political opinions was that he didn't support Donald Trump. (Big surprise there. :P) But I did see the chat bar on the right, and I saw a number of people using that quote from above and applying it to politics.

This brings me to the topic at hand, which is that of controversy. I've found that many people seem to have a similar philosophy to the one from the quotation above. That is to say, the belief that political and religious views are personal, and should not be shared, except perhaps among those who agree with your beliefs. Shoes make you feel comfortable, because they conform to your feet. They change according to your shape and therefore are good at making you feel comfortable, but would not make another person feel comfortable. It wouldn't work to wear another person's shoes unless they have feet that are a similar shape.

There are several problems with this comparison, however. The first, of course, is that someone who would say something like that clearly believes that all controversial opinions are equal, and yet, is trying to assert his or her own opinion over me. That is to say, if you believe that all religions are equal and shouldn't be pushed on others, then feel free to accept your own advice, because my opinion, which you accept as being equally valid to yours, is that not all opinions are equal and that I should be free to share my opinion. (You can see more on this point in my video called Total Equality from a couple weeks ago.)

But additionally, this makes an error in assuming that politics and religion are personal things, as by their very nature, they are not. Political choices affect the entire country, and must be discussed. Religion affects not only the country, but the world. After all, if I'm right and the Bible is true, then that's something that should be widely spread. This isn't a belief that I hold for myself to make myself feel good, it's something that I believe is true for the entire world whether they like it or not. This is very different from a pair of shoes that conform themselves to me. Rather, I desire to be conformed to Christ and the Bible.

Simply because something is uncomfortable for somebody doesn't mean that it's meant only for somebody else. If someone were to spend their life slouching over, and then were to be put in a brace to keep them from doing so, surely this would be uncomfortable. But not because it's meant for somebody else- rather, because that person is the one bent out of shape. And unlike a pair of shoes, politics and religion, as well as any other controversial topic, must be discussed because it affects more than just one person. In fact, if something isn't controversial, you could argue that there is little point to discussing it at all. The quotation at the beginning compares religion to something personal that makes you feel comfortable. But this goes against the very nature of any philosophy that regards the way in which the world works, and thus, is a flawed comparison.
"I don't see how you can write anything of value if you don't offend someone."
-Marvin Harris

Little Things Matter

"Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around."
-Leo Buscaglia
That quotation isn't entirely relevant to today's post. That's not to say that it isn't relevant at all, or I wouldn't have put it there. But this post isn't what that quotation may have led you to believe. It's easy to give a smile, or to show some simple act of caring, and yet, it's also important. But everybody knows that. It's the type of thing that people post on Facebook, or slap on a motivational picture. (Of course, whether people actually act on it or not is another question, but that's still not what today's post is about.) The reason I bring this up is because what I'm going to do in this post is expand on something that people already accept.

A smile can make a big difference. A little thing, but with a large effect. This is inspiring, so people accept it. It feels good, so people spread it. But what about can I vs. may I? ...That doesn't inspire any particular emotion at all. Let's try something else. Maybe a simple mathematical equation? 2+2*0=? What's the answer? I suspect that people would tend to give one of two answers. Some people would say the answer is 0, and other people would say the answer is 2. The latter would be correct. The reason for this is a little rule called the order of operations, which says that in any equation multiplication and division are performed before addition and subtraction, unless parentheses say otherwise.

Let's go back to can I vs. may I. In our house, it's rather common for my younger siblings to throw "may I" to the wind. "Can I" is used for everything. There's no real reason for that, as it's not any easier, but it still removes clarity. This can be applied to many things, but the reason I bring up this topic is because people will often throw these small ideas to the wind, claiming that it's a little thing, and therefore doesn't matter. "You know what I mean," they say. But I beg to differ. You know what you mean, but how am I supposed to know if you won't communicate clearly?

I once was in a conversation online where it took me about a half an hour to figure out what somebody was trying to tell me because they left out quotation marks around a particular phrase. Communicating clearly is the job of the person speaking. It's not right to expect somebody else to go through the work of deciphering your jumble of words. But this is another topic entirely, and isn't even why I brought up the topic.

The reason I brought this up is because of the political season. Chris Christie in particular was being rather infuriating in one of the debates from a while back when he was bashing on Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio for talking about the goings on in the senate, saying that the American citizens don't care about that stuff. Sadly, he's correct. Many don't care, because they think that it doesn't affect them. They think that, for example, a single word doesn't make a difference. But what if the word changes the sentence, changing the paragraph, the section, the bill, the entire effect of the law? Far-fetched? A little, but not as much as you might think.

If people are paying such heavy attention to something that seems small, they must have a reason. Maybe that's just because they're being petty, but often, it's because it actually makes a difference. You may not understand it, but small things do make a difference. Being clear, closing loopholes, covering every angle, these things make a big difference, just like how one smile can turn a life around. Tugging the corners of your mouth up by about half an inch can change the course of an entire life? No, that's too small. The position of your face doesn't make a difference. ...Or does it?
 "You may think I’m small, but I have a universe inside my mind."
-Yoko Ono

Likable People

Sometimes, I can know that I won't get along with someone before I've even met them. Or should I say, I don't know that I won't get along with them, but based on my track record, I suspect it. I suspect it because I have heard many good things about whatever person it is. The person is fairly popular and well-liked. I have been informed that I should meet this person because they are very likable, and I will get along well with them. I really don't know where people get the idea that I'll get along with likable people. So today, I'll be talking about this type of person. I'll be explaining what I mean, and why I don't tend to get along with them. Part of it is my fault, and part of it isn't. I'll explain more on that later.

The first question to be asked is, what makes somebody likable? Obviously, different people have different personalities, and interact with others in different ways, and get along with different people. (Apparently, I can't get rid of that word, whether on my blog or on YouTube.) So a likable person would have a personality that connects well with a wide variety of other personalities. But a personality isn't all that a person has. There are also questions of politics, religion, and any number of other controversial issues. Of course, it's not a question of what you think about these things, but rather, how you think about them. How do you look at your own opinions? How do you look at the opinions of others? How much are you willing to compromise?

Because I believe that we have a sin nature, I have a rather low opinion of humanity in general. Our instincts are not to better ourselves, but rather, to justify ourselves. Of course, this doesn't mean that there are no people who learn when they need to learn. But people tend to like something if it doesn't particularly challenge them, or if it only challenges them in specific ways. And if someone, for example, gets up in your face and starts shouting at you, that person gets thrown out the window. (As it turns out, I have a friend who did once get up in my face, literally, and started shouting about my attitude towards my hat. But my attitude didn't affect him in any way. He was doing this for my benefit, to challenge me, because I was being stubborn and wouldn't listen any other way.)

This is part of why I have trouble getting along with people who are described as likable or popular. They tend to be, for lack of a better word, weak. They don't tend to challenge people, or ask the tough questions. They are very willing to adapt to what people want, and thus, are less likely to stand up for their controversial beliefs, whether because they back down, or because they just don't talk about them to begin with. Now, I'm not saying that people should be argumentative, but they should be willing to defend their viewpoints in a reasonable manner. Most people, of course, take a defense of an opposing opinion as being unreasonable, regardless of whether it is or not, and thus, would not be inclined to describe such a person as "likable."

Of course, not all "likable" people are like this. Obviously, I do like my friends, and some of them could even be described as popular, or, at the very least, extroverted. It isn't wrong for someone to have many friends, or to be an enjoyable person. But when somebody is described to me in that way, I find myself unable to get along with them. Not that I end up hating them, but that they end up rubbing me the wrong way. And I think that it's because being an enjoyable person isn't merely an attribute that they have, but rather, the attribute that is so overwhelming that that's how people would describe them to somebody else. Not as intelligent, caring, strong, introspective, considerate, or any number of other adjectives, but as having popularity as their primary trait.

But, I will admit, part of the reason that I don't get along with likable people is my own problem. To put it bluntly, I get jealous. People are social beings, and tend to desire affection in various forms. By attention, compliments, or whatever else. To hear somebody mention someone else in a positive light isn't a problem, but often when people talk about somebody likable, they're not just mentioning them. Often, they end up gushing a bit. Because I'm somebody who doesn't mind the spotlight, and even enjoys it, having the attention put on somebody else causes me to get a bit annoyed.

Jealousy of attention that others receive isn't a good thing, and it's something that I need to work on. But, at the same time, I do still believe that there's a problem when somebody's primary trait is their popularity. When the way that people describe someone is as "likable." After all, there are times that someone like this rubs me the wrong way before I've ever even heard them described. To get along well with many people is not a bad thing, but if it becomes the primary trait that people assign, it indicates, in my mind, that this popularity is coming at the expense of other things that are more important.
"Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect)."
-Mark Twain

Tolerate the Intolerant

"Tolerance isn't about not having beliefs. It's about how your beliefs lead you to treat people who disagree with you."
-Timothy Keller
I had a difficult time finding quotations for today's post. Hopefully the ones I've found are adequate. However, in searching for quotations, I did find a fair number of quotations that I couldn't use, including one that I almost considered using for the sake of contrast. It described the paradox of freedom, and I found it to be a rather interesting perspective. So I'll be going over that in today's post. Today's post is, of course, about tolerance. Tolerance is often, I believe, a good thing. However, in today's society, it has been elevated above all else, while simultaneously being twisted and distorted so that it is no longer good. This is what I hope to bring to light in today's post.

In my hunt for quotations I found a piece from Karl Popper's book, The Open Society and Its Enemies. "The so-called paradox of freedom," he wrote, "is the argument that freedom in the sense of absence of any constraining control must lead to very great restraint, since it makes the bully free to enslave the meek." To put it another way, let's say that a country has a law against opposing anyone. The problem with this is that if a criminal does oppose somebody, you have no way of stopping them, because the police force would have to oppose the criminal, and thus, would be themselves breaking the law. Karl Popper compares this paradox to the paradox of tolerance. That is to say, if you tolerate everything, you must also tolerate intolerance.

The obvious point of this paradox is that some restrictions must be in place. For example, in America, we have freedom, but we do not have freedom to murder, as this would infringe upon the rights of another. Likewise, we do not have freedom to enslave another human, as that would take away his freedom. So while we do have freedom, we have limited freedom- we are free, so long as our freedom does not remove another person's freedom. However, Karl Popper's application of this scares me. He writes, "I do not imply, for instance, that we should always suppress the utterance of intolerant philosophies; as long as we can counter them by rational argument and keep them in check by public opinion, suppression would certainly be unwise. But we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force ... We should claim that any movement preaching intolerance places itself outside the law, and we should consider incitement to intolerance and persecution as criminal, in the same way as we should consider incitement to murder, or to kidnapping, or to the revival of the slave trade, as criminal."

There are two things that he could mean by this. He could mean that intolerance should be treated as a crime. This is a very scary thought. The second, and (hopefully) more likely, is that intolerance should be treated with intolerance, just as your freedoms are removed when you take another's freedom. Intolerance would be restricted by force in this case only when the intolerance demonstrated itself with force (which would, of course, violate various other laws). On the surface, this is a logical argument. However, because of the way that tolerance has been twisted, I believe that there are some more questions that need to be asked, and some more angles that need to be looked at.

Can tolerance be compared to freedom? In our culture, "tolerance" has become another word for "approval." This is where the issue lies. We no longer desire tolerance. We desire approval. This is why so many people are labeled as sexist, racist, homophobes, islamophobes, and any number of other degrading terms. For example, the Christian faith says that homosexuality is wrong. Christians do not go around beating up homosexuals, but also are not willing to violate their beliefs (note the first amendment of the United States constitution). But Christians are still labeled as homophobes for saying that homosexuality is wrong. So what tolerance is really saying is, "You must approve of the same things I approve. You must support the same things I support. You must accept the same things I accept. If you disagree with something, then don't talk about it."

People are no longer allowed to say that there is objective good and evil, or that there is right and wrong. Much less, that there is only one God and one way to heaven. You must accept other beliefs as valid. Which means that you really can't believe what you want to believe anymore. You can believe what you want, if what you want to believe is that there are many roads to heaven and each person's beliefs are equally good. But if each person's beliefs are equally good, then this must apply to the Christian as well, and the Bible rather clearly indicates that there is good and evil, right and wrong, and one way to heaven through the Lord Jesus Christ. If you truly believe in tolerance as it is preached today, then you must be willing to accept other people's beliefs, even if you disagree with them. That includes a belief that one know the only true path to heaven.
"Tolerance only for those who agree with you is no tolerance at all."
-Ray A. Davis

A Nerd's Popularity

"To think or not to think? That is the new question."
-Nadina Boun
It used to be that nerds were mocked, made fun of, and looked down upon. They liked things like comics and videogames and math and science and books. But recently, society has taken a turn. Our culture is now interested in Marvel vs. DC, in videogames and the internet, and in keeping our bookstores alive. Superhero movies are all the rage. Gaming channels on YouTube have hundreds of thousands of subscribers, sometimes millions. Nerds have become popular. At least, that's what our culture thinks. But I disagree. I think that nerds exist in approximately the same ratio that they've had before. Only the appearance has changed, and I'll explain why I believe that in today's post.

The explosion of "nerd" culture can be most easily seen in the recent popularity of videogames and superhero movies. Even Star Wars: The Force Awakens was an instant hit. And yet, I've heard very few people complain about the way Disney has treated the Star Wars Expanded Universe. I've seen many games reach popularity through their combat aspects, and the recent movies from Marvel also seem to be primarily action movies. That is to say, the content that used to be enjoyed exclusively by nerds has become much more popular, but I don't think that the culture has changed so much as the content has. Things that once had a style that only a nerd would enjoy have now become more broad and allow for more people to enjoy them.

I see being a nerd as being about analysis. About looking deeper than people would normally think to look. Previously, this applied to comics, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, etc. People would debate over the specifics of a person's powers and what they could do, or would study the Mandalorian language, or would read side-stories to figure out the main one, or would design long, elaborate storylines that take a lot of math to figure out. I think that this is what made the nerds nerdy. These interests themselves simply lent themselves easily to analysis, rather than being what made a nerd a nerd.

As our technology and culture have been changing, the lines defining nerdiness have been blurred. The internet has made it easier (to some extent) to identify and find the nerds, making them seem proportionately more abundant. Similarly, because the internet has made information far easier to access, analysis has become more common, and nerdiness has become a bit more popular (though, not by as much, methinks, as people believe). But nerds are still defined by their analytical and overthinking nature, rather than their interests themselves. American football, for example, is no longer something that nerds are barred from enjoying, because of the easy availability of stats, statistics, graphs, and more information about the game. Similarly, comics are no longer restricted to nerds only, because of the action that's been inserted and the way that they've been made easier to understand.

The point is that the nerds will be the ones who think about the details about whatever it is, past the point that most people would. A nerd wouldn't say to stop overthinking something, a nerd would encourage further thought. Being a nerd isn't about the interests, it's about the reasoning and thought behind the interests. Anything can be analyzed and looked at with intensity, and anything can be viewed with simplicity. But the fandom doesn't make the person something that they're not. I think, in a way, that it's good that interests have become broader and enjoyable to more people. However, nerds are still relatively unpopular. The only difference is that the words have changed.
"Why is being a nerd bad? Saying I notice you’re a nerd is like saying, ‘Hey, I notice that you’d rather be intelligent than be stupid, that you’d rather be thoughtful than be vapid, that you believe that there are things that matter more than the arrest record of Linsey Lohan. Why is that?"
-John Green

Minecraft's Popularity

"Minecraft certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either."
-Markus Persson (Notch)

I'm going to assume that you have at least heard of Minecraft, even if you don't know details about it. If you haven't even heard of it, I could explain it, but odds are you wouldn't find this post interesting anyway. However, if you've heard of it but don't know details, that's another matter, because this post will attempt to answer a question about Minecraft from those who don't play it. I've been asked (by those few people I know who haven't played Minecraft) why Minecraft is so popular. So I shall attempt to break it down.

Minecraft is a block-based sandbox game. Block-based means that the game is made of blocks. That may sound stupid at first, but think of it this way- your computer screen is also made of blocks called pixels. They're very small, so we don't typically notice them unless we're looking for them. In the same way, while Minecraft's blocks are a bit more noticeable, they still tend to work out when they're put together in the right combinations. Not everything is exactly one block. There are stair blocks, fence posts, doors, glass panes, flowers, half-slabs, and more. "Block-based" really just means that when you place something down, it will fit in a 1 meter x 1 meter x 1 meter area. (I suppose doors, beds, and some paintings actually take 2-4 blocks, but they're the exception.)
Minecraft is a sandbox game because it doesn't really have a set storyline. Of course, there is progression as you harvest better materials, but you aren't restricted to one path. In RPGs (Role-Playing Games) you take on the role of [character] and go on [quest] to do [task]. There are aspects that keep you from going down one trail or another, because you're playing a story. Of course, there's nothing wrong with that style of game. I enjoy RPGs. But a sandbox game means that you go where you want and do what you want. If the game has a boss (or several bosses) you typically choose when to fight it by going to its dungeon or summoning it. But if you don't want to fight the boss, the game will never force you to do so.

The appeal of vanilla Minecraft (as opposed to modified Minecraft) is in its versatility. You can go wherever you want and build whatever you want. You can fight monsters or set the game to peaceful mode. You can survive the depths of caves in survival mode, or you can build with unlimited resources (not to mention the power of flight) in creative mode. You can play by yourself or play with friends. You can build a simple hut in the woods or a grand palace on a mountain. (In my current Survival world, I'm actually building my house inside a mountain. I've been told it looks almost like a dwarven hall.)

But Minecraft doesn't stop at vanilla. You can also modify it, either by writing programs as add-ons, or by using command blocks (in-game tools for programming). You can install texture packs that make your blocks and tools look like whatever you want. This gives the game even more diversity than it had before. Sandbox games are only one style, after all. While they are very broad in their capabilities, some people like direction and story. But Minecraft has that in the form of custom maps. People write mods and commands that enable Minecraft to take the form of pretty much any other game you can think of, while others wrote their own original stories meant to be played in Minecraft.

On one hand, Minecraft can be almost anything you want it to be. (It can even be round, with mods.) On the other hand, Minecraft grants each player a new experience and the options to do whatever they want with that experience. This is why I think Minecraft is popular- because nobody goes into it looking for the same thing. If you don't believe me, go to YouTube. PaulSoaresJr roleplays a survival adventure as a knight or a viking, while Mumbo Jumbo uses redstone to automate anything he can get his hands on. Grian jumps into creative mode to fly around building amazing structures that would be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to make in survival mode, and Logdotzip hops around on custom parkour maps. Each of them has over 100,000 subscribers (which is my long-term YouTube goal). These players show why this game is so popular. Because no matter what kind of game you're looking for, odds are you can find it in Minecraft.
"Minecraft is to a large degree about having unique experiences that nobody else has had. The levels are randomly generated, and you can build anything you want to build yourself."
-Markus Persson (Notch)

'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at:
'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at:
'Minecraft' certainly became a huge hit, and people are telling me it's changed games. I never meant for it to do either.
Read more at:

Science Textbooks and the Bible

"I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use."
-Galileo Galilei
I just found that quotation, and I must say, I think that it's excellent. It loosely describes today's topic, I believe, but also describes my blog as a whole. However there's something disturbing that I've noticed lately among Christians, which is something that I hope to put to rest today. Not that I expect to succeed, but by addressing it, I hope to at least make some small difference. This trend is the idea of theistic evolution- a method of reconciling science and the Bible. There are a few arguments and assumptions commonly used to support this, beginning with "the Bible is not a science textbook." I'll be addressing these throughout the post.

Before going over the specifics of the argument for theistic evolution, I'd like to bring to light the assumption that's made here, which is that science points to evolution, and thus, is in a starting position opposed to the Bible. That is to say, people assume that science and the Bible actually need to be reconciled in the first place. This is, of course, an assumption, and I don't believe it to be the case. There are all sorts of problems with the theory of evolution, and various evidences that are still in textbooks have been publicly proven to be false (by evolutionists) and yet remain in textbooks. Basically, evolution is heavily pushed in the media, and people start to think that there's more evidence for it than there actually is. Thus, I don't believe that the two need reconciliation. This is important, because I believe that if they are at odds, you have to pick one or the other. I don't believe that theistic evolution is an option.

Moving on to the actual argument itself, it is, quite simply, "the Bible is not a science textbook." That is to say, the Bible is here to lead us to God, but not necessarily to give us a sound basis in science. The point of Genesis, therefore, is to tell us that God created the world, not how it is that He created it. To back up this interpretation, people point to other differences between the Bible and reality. For example, in the time when the Bible was still being written, people commonly believed that you thought with your heart. Science now tells us that we think with our brains, but the Bible still indicates that our thoughts come from the heart. (Examples can be found in Matthew 12:34, 15:18-9, Mark 7:21, and so many other places that I can't name them all.) So if we take the Bible as a science textbook, then we should be taking this literally, and we should believe that our heart provides our thoughts. Maybe our brain pumps blood instead? Or maybe we're just filled with blood like they used to think and we don't need to pump it.

There are two potential reasons I can think of for why this argument doesn't actually work. The first is the, admittedly weak, argument that spiritual definitions don't always match the physical ones. Sometimes they do, but it's possible that we physically think with our brains and spiritually think with our hearts. Of course, I'm not asserting this as fact. It's a possibility that I'm throwing out there. Feel free to examine that and get back to me about it, but it's not my main argument. My main argument is, quite simply, that I agree. The Bible is not a science textbook.

You see, the argument that the Bible is not a science textbook is actually a form of strawman fallacy. That is to say, the opponent is misrepresenting my argument to make it easier to attack. I don't believe that the Bible is a science textbook. But I do believe that it is, in part, a history book, and that's very different. It's one thing to use terms that somebody will understand to get a point across. That has to do with language and culture. Even now, we refer to the sun rising and setting, or what we feel in our hearts. It's quite another to assert an event as being historical when it's actually just a fairy tale. To say "this is what happened" when it didn't actually happen. That's just an outright lie. The idea that God created us can be summed up in Genesis 1:1, which is translated, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." Why is the rest included if all that's meant to be said has already been said, and the rest isn't even true?

The Genesis account never pretends to be a science textbook. It doesn't describe how God designed the laws of physics. In fact, it never even mentions physics. We use science to confirm history, just like an archaeological dig can discover the ruins of an old city. We hear that the city was there, but don't see it today. So we use science to dig up the ruins and confirm that it was there. In the same way, we now can use science to go back and confirm history, but Genesis is not pretending to teach us about science. It is, however, asserting that account as historical fact. In fact, if Genesis isn't reliable, then neither is the rest of the Bible. After all, Jesus is described as the last Adam. Without the first Adam, salvation wouldn't work. We all have one common ancestor, and we need that to be saved. For that matter, with no original sin, there's no sin curse either, and there's no need for us to be saved in the first place. But then, that would mean that death and disease and destruction were part of God's original creation, which I find to be inconceivable.

An argument for theistic evolution strengthens evolution, but weakens the Bible. I once debated with an evolutionist who said that he wasn't against the idea of a god to guide events. The reason he said that was because he saw the flaws in evolution, and knew that it couldn't possibly happen by chance. But why would God choose to create with that method? God is not at all against the idea of using His supernatural power. He caused a bush to burn and not be consumed, He walked on water, He turned water into wine (not the same water)... In fact, the entire point of the gospel revolves around His raising Himself from the dead! Now, raising someone else from the dead is a pretty tricky feat. I only know of one Person to ever do it. (Hint, it's Jesus again.) But to raise yourself from the dead is a whole different matter. That's like, super-supernatural. So to argue that God "wanted to create the world in a natural manner" is utterly ridiculous. The sole purpose for the argument of theistic evolution is to reconcile the Bible with science, not to read the Bible as it was actually intended (that is, as a historical account). In the end, I don't see theistic evolution as an option. I see no room in the Bible for evolution. We can use science to examine history (and I believe that science confirms the Bible), but we can't argue that Genesis is false on the basis of the Bible not being there for the purpose of scientific education.
"Science and religion are not at odds. Science is simply too young to understand."
-Dan Brown

It Doesn't Affect You

"It doesn't affect you."
-People who want you to let something go
Yeah, it's a lousy quotation. But it really is something that I've heard said a lot. I'll have an opinion about something, and people will tell me that I shouldn't assert this opinion because the topic doesn't affect me. Sometimes, this is how it should work. If two people are having a private discussion, it's not my place to step in and start telling them what I think. In this way, it doesn't affect me. But then, that isn't the situation where I typically hear this phrase. Normally it's something else entirely. Something happens across the globe, or a law changes that won't change the way I live. These do not directly affect me, and therefore, people who support what happened will tell me that I shouldn't oppose it because it doesn't affect me. I, however, would beg to differ. I think there are situations where we must speak up.

Before I get into the meat of the topic, I'd like to give an example. Let's say that I have a box. This box is empty, and this box is closed. My box has never been opened, and I take pleasure in that fact. But let's say that one day, I'm sitting at the park gazing fondly at my box as it sits on the bench beside me. Suddenly, a stranger walks up and takes my box. He opens it, looks inside, closes it, and puts it back. The box is now, physically, exactly the same as it was. This will not directly affect my life. My actions will not be required to change simply because my box was opened, seeing as how the box is now closed again. But it has still affected me. My box, which was never meant to be opened, has been opened, and thus, has been defiled.

I'll come back to that example again in a moment, but first, I'd like to move to another example. Let's say that a law is passed legalizing murder. The exception to this rule is that nobody may murder me. I now have secret service agents protecting me (but in such a way that I won't even notice them) so I'm still safe and not directly affected. It's still illegal to murder me, so no issue, right? This law hasn't affected me in any way, except maybe given me a freedom that I didn't previously have. So, since it doesn't affect me, I have no need to speak out against this law.

As you may have noticed, my being forced to live differently isn't the only way to affect me, and things that affect me aren't the only things that I should speak up about. See, there are two issues that, more than any others, cause people to tell me to shut up because it doesn't affect me. These issues are gay marriage and abortion. I've done a post on each of these topics before, so I try not to saturate my blog with more of what I've already examined, but in this case, I'm looking at a new aspect- that is to say, I'm not examining the topics themselves, but rather, why it is, in fact, my place to discuss these issues.

Marriage is a religious institution. That is to say, the entire purpose for marriage (as opposed to unwed companionship) is either, A, to glorify God, or B, to glorify a fake god that we made up. In that way, marriage basically "belongs" to religion. If you don't believe in God, then there's no reason to value marriage. Gay marriage is actually a defilement of something that is precious to us, and thus, even though I don't have to change my behavior or become a homosexual, I still am affected.

I believe in a just and holy God Who has said that murder is wrong. I believe that abortion is murder, and that it goes against the rights of the child for the baby to be executed. In a sense, this doesn't affect me. I'm a guy, for one thing, and even if I weren't, I wouldn't have to ever choose to get an abortion. And because I'm already born, nobody can abort me. In the same way, under the earlier example, I don't have to choose to murder anyone, and nobody can murder me. But it's not that simple. It's not a matter of whether it forces me to change my ways, it's a matter of whether it's good and just. Abortion violates the rights of the child, and therefore, I must speak out against it.

In some situations, it's not my place to offer an opinion. But in others, I must speak out. Gay marriage and abortion are only two examples. Two large examples, yes, but there are many more situations where we're told that we shouldn't talk about something because it doesn't affect us. But just because something doesn't require us to change our actions doesn't mean that we shouldn't speak out. Just because something doesn't affect us doesn't mean that it's okay.
"No cause occurs without effect, and no effect occurs without cause. No unjust action goes without penalty, and no action or thought flows unnoticed throughout the universe."
-Suzy Kassem

Stereotypical Vices

"Once you understand what people really want, you can't hate them anymore. You can fear them, but you can't hate them, because you can always find the same desires in your own heart."
-Orson Scott Card
I recently started watching Once Upon A Time. The first episode was atrocious in every way. The writing, the acting, the special effects... I really don't know how in the world they got past a pilot episode. But I'd heard that it gets better, so I continued. It has gotten a bit better (though I've heard that it goes downhill again after season four, so that's where I'm planning to stop) but one of the first thoughts I had was about how two-dimensional the main villain was. She was flat-out cruel and she knew it. Her motivation was revenge, and that was all that drove her: anger and rage, and a desire to bring about pain and suffering. In fact, in one of the episodes that I just watched, a character asked her how she felt about all the misery she had caused. Her answer was that she felt regret- regret that she hadn't caused even more sadness and despair. Such a character is so obviously evil that nobody could possibly hope to relate to her.

This is a stereotypical vice. She's evil. She knows she's evil. Over and over again in the show they say that good will always win, and it terrifies her, because she knows that she's not working with the good guys. But real life isn't like this. People don't identify as villains and set out to cause misery in others. But these villains are easier to handle, because we can identify them easily. People can look at a character in a book, TV show, movie, etc., and identify them as the "bad guy." These are the characters that technically have a motive, but not one that actually makes sense, because only an extremest would take that course of action. It's one thing to say "I hate that person now." It's quite another to say, "I hate that person, so I am going to dedicate my life to making her miserable." People in real life can do the first. They're far less likely to do the latter.

Another example can be found with the homunculi in Fullmetal Alchemist, which are named after the seven deadly sins: Gluttony, Lust, Envy, Greed, Wrath, Sloth, and Pride. Of course, these villains were never intended to be, strictly speaking, human. Their motives are entirely different from our own, so it's not really a fair comparison. But they're so unspeakably evil that nobody would sink to their level of obvious villainy. Real people think they're doing what's right- at least, they do on some level. I believe I've used this quotation before, but I like it, so I'll use it again.
"No man chooses evil because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks."
-Mary Shelley
In this way, the villains in stories which are supposed to teach us about vice actually cause us to justify ourselves, in that the vice we display isn't as bad as the one from the story. Many times, a person will either refuse to admit that a vice is a vice, or else will claim that they are not displaying that vice. In both cases, the person almost certainly believes what they are saying. Because we refuse to see villains as being exaggerated for the sake of adventure, we sit behind a wall of "I know I'm not perfect" without actually doing anything about our problems. We fail to recognize that in any story, we are rarely the hero, but rather, the villain.
"The moral world has no particular objection to vice, but an insuperable repugnance to hearing vice called by its proper name."
-William Makepeace Thackeray

Worry, Distraction, and Passion

"Lord, I lift my friend to You, I've done all that I know to do
I lift my friend to You"
-Casting Crowns
I spend a decent amount of time on my blog bashing emotions. Not because emotions are bad, but because they shouldn't be used for thinking, and too often, they are. And my blog is, after all, heavily based on logic and analysis. Emotions can easily get in the way of rational thought, and should not be used in the place of logic. However, over the past week or two, I've discovered a benefit to emotions. That is to say, a benefit further than simply "they can feel good." Emotions, I'm learning, can cause an inspiration of the mind. They should not be used in the place of thought, but sometimes, they can urge analysis onward when previously the trail would have remained untrod.

Those of you who are subscribed to my YouTube channel may have noticed that I didn't post a video on Friday. I apologize for that. It was based, in part, on emotions. Lately I've been rather worried about a friend of mine. This happens to me from time to time. I start to worry about a friend, and I find it difficult to think about anything else for a time. Sometimes one friend, sometimes another, sometimes a new reason, sometimes an old... The important part of this is that I get distracted. So when I went to record Friday's video, I couldn't think of anything. Or rather... I could think of plenty of topics, but I couldn't think of what to say about them. I felt uninspired. Of course, the same thing's been happening with my blog, but it's easier for me to fake passion in writing than in video. Here, I can force myself to write, edit, rewrite, until I make something that I consider passable (even if it isn't the same level of quality that I'd like). With a video, if I'm distracted, it will show.

Emotions can, of course, work in the other direction as well. Sometimes I've been talking to one friend or another, and things are going well, in their life and mine. Sometimes, my emotions are in a good place. When that happens, I find myself driven to write. I find that ideas and topics start flowing through my head, whether fiction, non-fiction, articles, videos... While the emotions don't form the ideas or analyze them, they dig them up and show them to me. They ask me, "isn't this something that you'd like to think about?" They don't make me think about things, but they make me desire to think about things. They cause a passion and a burning to break things down and figure out how they work. Emotions, it would seem, can be useful for rational thought, even though they shouldn't be used directly in the thought process.

This has caused me to realize something else as well. I have friends that talk to me about this trouble or that, stuff that's going on in their lives. I'm always willing to listen. In fact, sometimes, based on the situation, I'll even pursue answers to figure out what's going on specifically. People often tell me that they don't want to inconvenience me, and I always tell them that it's not an inconvenience. I've realized that this is truer than I'd thought, and also that it's not as true as I'd thought. When someone I care about starts telling me about what's going on, I start to worry about them. In this sense, I'm realizing that it is an inconvenience. If I didn't think anything was going on, I'd only worry about them in the minimal way that I worry about all my friends. But if I know that something is going on, then telling me exactly what it is is the best way to alleviate my worry. If I know that something's going on, but I keep getting answers about "it's nothing" or "I'm fine," that makes me worried that it's so much worse. It makes me think about it even more.

I should note that the situation that's been happening lately is one of the latter. That is to say, I'm worried because there's something going on that I don't fully understand. If someone needs to talk to me... Well. I would rather you talk to me about it than not. Because not talking to me about it for my sake won't accomplish anything, because I'll be able to tell, and that will just make me worry more. And that, of course, will cause me to spend time worrying about you instead of listening to you, which will turn a passive concern into a distracting worry, which will cause my emotions to go haywire. And that won't help anyone, will it? But when people are honest with me, when I don't have to worry about not knowing what's going on with someone, emotions can be like a compass, in a sense, that drive me with passion to find a topic to analyze.
"Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength."
-Corrie ten Boom

INT Types, Emotions, and Star Trek

"Your emotions are the slaves to your thoughts, and you are the slave to your emotions."
-Elizabeth Gilbert
I recently came across an interesting description of INTx personality types. If you're not sure what I'm talking about, I'm referring to an extensive personality test called the Myers-Briggs test (developed, of course, by Myers and Briggs). This test can be taken for free at any number of websites online, if you're interested. It sorts people according to sixteen different personality types with letters. There are two letters available for each position, and can come up in any number of combinations, from INTj to ENFp. While this test is looked down upon by some professionals, I do think that it can be mildly helpful as a basic tool when getting to know people (while keeping in mind, of course, that people are more complex than just sixteen different types). For this post, I'll be looking most intently at INT types. Introvert, iNtuitive, and Thinking (as opposed to Extrovert, Sensing, and Feeling).

I should mention that I'm not an expert regarding this test. Somehow, I always seem to forget exactly what the difference is between N and S, as well as between j (judging) and p (perceiving). (In case anyone's curious, the last letters are lowercase because they weren't part of the original test- they were added later. Some forms of the test include even more variables, but that's another topic.) Every time I've taken the test anywhere it's given me INTj, except for the most recent time (several months ago now) when I got INTp. So, for now, I've been calling myself an INTx. But the reason I'm discussing this is because of a comparison that I saw recently. INTjs were compared to "the coldest human," while INTps were compared to "the warmest robot."

What really interested me about this comparison was a comment from a guy named Jared Vincent (who has a wonderful name, by the way) who compared this to Star Trek. (While he says that the comparison itself has been done before, the specific way he chose to look at it was original.) He illustrated INTp, the coldest human, with Seven of Nine from Star Trek: Voyager. As a human child, she was assimilated by the borg. (For those of you who don't know the Star Trek lingo, she was basically turned into a cyborg, more robot than human.) After she was restored to a human state (with some robotic pieces still necessary for her continued survival) she retained a robotic personality. She was human, but she was cold. This coldness is just a shell, though. She has emotions. Not fabricated emotions, but emotions that she intentionally tried to suppress. She didn't want to be a slave to her emotions, she wanted to always act in a way that made sense, not based on some passing feeling that would be detrimental.

On the other side, Jared illustrates INTj, the warmest robot, with the android Data from Star Trek: The Next Generation. Data, as a robot, has never felt emotions. But they fascinate him. He doesn't sit there all cold and logical because he hates emotions, but rather, because he doesn't understand them. He tries, though. He wants to show emotions, he wants to understand the emotions of others, but it doesn't come naturally to him.

I think part of the reason that I've gotten both INTj and INTp is because I can understand both of those. I'm human, so I have emotions, but how I act on those emotions is different than many. On one hand, I try to suppress the emotions I have in order to think rationally. I don't want to make stupid decisions based on passing urges. I want to take every thought captive. If I am slave to my emotions and my emotions are slave to my thoughts, then I must make my thoughts slave as well, and control my emotions.
On the other hand, I oftentimes don't understand emotions in others, or even my own emotions. I don't want to eradicate my emotions (though there was a time that I did), I just don't want to be a slave to them. But to love somebody, to show them affection, and any number of other emotions as well are good things. This is part of why (as I've mentioned in a previous post) I prefer hugs to handshakes. They're warmer. But I don't always understand emotions. Sometimes when I try to, I get it wrong, or sometimes I overlook the ways people are feeling.

Emotions can be tricky things. Even if you understand them and think something should be obvious, not everyone may be on the same page. This is part of why I believe that emotions are for feeling, not for thinking. This is part of why we shouldn't let our emotions carry us away while we ride along, helpless to do anything. INTx types aren't perfect when it comes to emotions, but it doesn't meant that we don't care. Some just don't understand, and others attempt to show that they care in ways that seem a bit colder. In either case, understanding how a person operates on the emotional level can help us relate to them better (even if they aren't quite sure how to do the same).
"I don't want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them."
-Oscar Wilde

Depression Doesn't Leave

"There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, 'There now, hang on, you'll get over it.' Sadness is more or less like a head cold- with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer."
-Barbara Kingsolver
Last year, on the first Tuesday of February, I made a post called The Depression Culture. Over the past few months, I've been considering the nature of depression and the importance of the topic within our culture. Because of this I've decided that, for the time being, I will dedicate the post on the first Tuesday of February to depression. Let me tell you right now, this is one of the few posts that will be ridiculously easy to write. It's late on Tuesday night as I write the beginning of this post- the last Tuesday of January. I've just posted my post on chopsticks. And these past three days have been misery. I don't want to even try to finish the week. Things were going just swell up through Saturday, and then Sunday came and I hit a brick wall. But at least I'm right here where I need to be in order to write this post. Because for the duration of the foreseeable future, the first Tuesday of February will be a day of darkness, gloom, and despair on my blog. And in order to write it, I have to know it.
Psalm 139:8b, 11-12 (NASB)
"If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me,
And the light around me will be night,”
Even the darkness is not dark to You,

And the night is as bright as the day.
Darkness and light are alike to You."
Before I get into the meat of today's topic, I need to explain exactly why I'm covering this. After all, as Christians, we believe that there's always a light. So why focus on the doom and despair of depression? I have two main reasons for looking at this. First, for the sake of contrast. Light is always more brilliant when it shines in the darkness. Second, and more directly, for the sake of the people caught in depression. We live in a fallen world, and inhabit sinful and broken bodies. In many cases, our brains have chemical disorders which cause depression. This is not necessarily a sign of spiritual need, but rather, a sign of our broken bodies which will someday be replaced. Because we live in a sinful and fallen world, we need to know how to deal with it, rather than pretending that it doesn't exist.
Romans 8:23-25 (NASB)
And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body. For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for who hopes for what he already sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it.
Now, into the topic itself. A while ago, there was a "copy/paste" status going around on Facebook meant to tell people who struggle with depression that you're there for them. I believe I mentioned something similar in last year's post. While it is good to let friends know that you're there for them, there are two problems with this type of declaration. The first was covered last year: people who are depressed are unlikely to believe you. The second is that if they believe you, it won't actually cure them.

Imagine a person with depression as a magic dump truck. Every day, a new load of dirt (read: depression) is piled into the back. Now, other trucks are going around from place to place with maybe a covering of dust, but not the same load of junk that the dump truck has. The dump truck can only get rid of this dirt by dumping it into other trucks. But typically, the dump truck will not do so. It could be out of pride, or it could be out of consideration for the other trucks, but he doesn't dump out the depression. Eventually, however, he has to break his custom. His tires are about to burst, his entire being is about to fall apart, so, because it's an emergency, he asks for help. And he dumps it into one of the ordinary trucks, or maybe two or three. Now, these other trucks are able to go to the landfill and dump in their junk. It's not pleasant for them, but unlike the poor dump truck, they at least have the ability. They don't reach the height limit that blocks access to the landfill for the dump truck. Because of this, at first, the other trucks are perfectly willing to help the dump truck. "You can dump stuff out whenever you need to," they say. "We can transport it to the landfill for you." They have the best intent. But after a while, they notice something. The dump truck's load isn't getting smaller. They thought that they were helping heal the dump truck. They thought that, little by little, the dump truck would be on the path to recovery. But after a while, they start to realize, "isn't this the same dirt that we've already helped you with so many times already? Shouldn't this issue be gone by now?"

A number of things have happened in the past few days that hurt. Some of them are big things, some of them are little silly things, but either way, these past few days have not been happy ones. It's easy for me (and much more so for somebody looking at the situation from the outside) to look at the situation and say, "if it weren't for this, this, and this, then I could be happy." The problem is that there will always be one more thing. Something will always come along, and if nothing comes along that's worthy of causing depression, the depression will come anyway, and I'll just find something to blame it on. No matter how consistently you listen to me, no matter how faithfully you stay by my side, you cannot make my depression go away forever.

Now, this doesn't mean, of course, that we should just abandon people who have depression. Listening helps. What I'm saying is that it doesn't help in the same way that's expected. It doesn't make the depression go away, but it still relieves some of the pressure and lets the person who's affected have some time to breathe. I'm also not saying that we should devote our lives to listening to somebody who's depressed. As humans, we wear out. We get tired. Sometimes, we need a break of our own. And in situations like this, we should be able to go to the person who's depressed and say that we need a break- not that we no longer love them or that we'll never come back, but that we need to rest and relieve some pressure of our own.

God can heal depression, just like He can heal an amputated limb. But that doesn't mean that He'll choose to just yet. And just like somebody missing a leg needs somebody to lean on, people with depression need someone to lean on as well. Leaning on someone won't cause healing, but it will help. And understanding this will benefit people on both sides of the issue. It will help the person with depression because understand this and care about them anyway, and it will help you because you won't become discouraged when you don't see the depression going away after months or years. Depression isn't fun, but with a proper understanding of what it is and how it works, we can at least help to make it bearable.
"If you know someone who’s depressed, please resolve never to ask them why. Depression isn’t a straightforward response to a bad situation; depression just is, like the weather.
Try to understand the blackness, lethargy, hopelessness, and loneliness they’re going through. Be there for them when they come through the other side. It’s hard to be a friend to someone who’s depressed, but it is one of the kindest, noblest, and best things you will ever do."
-Stephen Fry

A post about... Chopsticks?

"I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?"
-Bill Bryson
The other day, I was with some friends at a mall, and we ended up getting hungry. So we went to a nearby shop in the food court and ordered some Chinese food. I ordered orange chicken and chow mein. With my food, they game me a plastic fork. After all, it's not real Chinese food, it's an Americanized version that probably wouldn't be recognizable in China. But because they also had chopsticks, I took a pair and used them to eat my chicken and noodles. My friends, noticeably confused, asked how and why I was eating with chopsticks, to which I responded that with a bit of practice, it's not all that difficult. Around this point, one of my friends said that I should write a post about chopsticks, and I began thinking about what I could do with such a topic. And, while it seems a bit silly at first, I did come up with something that I can say about it.

Admittedly, my first time actually eating with chopsticks was not a result of the purest motivation. I was heating up some topramen, but we were out of forks and I didn't want to wash one. So instead, I took the easy way out. I took some chopsticks and looked up YouTube tutorials on how to use them to eat noodles. At first, it was difficult, and somewhat tedious. (Of course, not as tedious as washing a fork.) But the next time I ate topramen, I figured I'd try chopsticks again. As I practiced, it became easier, until I hardly noticed it anymore. Then, one day, my mom brought me a plate of spaghetti. She also brought me a fork. While I managed to use this unwieldy piece of metal successfully, it seemed harder to get the amount that I wanted and to transport it safely to my mouth. I now regularly use chopsticks for my noodles.

I previously wondered, as many Americans still do, how in the world anybody could eat with two sticks- especially things like noodles and rice. But now that I've tried it, I think I can understand why. Think on this: how much functionality would your hand lose if you didn't have opposable thumbs? A fork is a simple piece of metal. It can scoop and stab, but it can't pick up your food. Chopsticks are more versatile in this sense, because you can use them more delicately.

Of course, there are some foods that are better consumed with a fork. Pork chops, for example, would be rather difficult to eat with chopsticks. Soup also is best eaten with a spoon. My point is not to praise chopsticks and put down American utensils, but neither do I wish to mock the utensils from another culture merely because I don't understand them. Our culture becomes ingrained in our head, so we think chopsticks are inferior to our own utensils, when in reality, they each function in different ways. Just because something is from another culture doesn't mean that it's better, or even good, but it also doesn't mean that it's bad, and our culture digs so far down into our roots and our thoughts that it even causes us to think that chopsticks are a silly idea.
"Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new."
-Henry David Thoreau

On Harry Potter (and Other Controversial Stories)

"Some of these things are true and some of them lies. But they are all good stories."
-Hilary Mantel
I recently heard about a discussion taking place on the topic of Harry Potter. One person had stated that she was going to read the series. A second person warned her to be careful, and a third person put the second person down for implying that they're dangerous, telling the first person to have fun. The discussion between the second and third people's points of view went on. At various points in the conversation, they left, and other people joined to carry on their thoughts. But I found two basic opinions in the conversation. One, that Harry Potter should be eschewed, and the other, that it should be enjoyed. While I can't say much for the tone of the conversation, I found myself both agreeing and disagreeing with points made here and there. I see similar conversations about Harry Potter and other stories rather often. Here, I'll be going over some of the arguments I see more often, and then explaining my own views.

In the arguments for Harry Potter, I often see the defense that it's just a story. It's harmless fun. After all, the story doesn't actually teach you witchcraft and wizardry. It doesn't teach you how to cast spells and enchantments. All of that is just the setting for a story that's much deeper, and has a good message to boot. This negative idea that Harry Potter is dangerous is not only an extreme overreaction, but also hypocritical, since the same people will often read and/or allow Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, and many other stories that involve magic. This being the only excluded story doesn't make sense, especially since it has good, positive messages about love and other virtues.

Against Harry Potter, we don't see only the basic argument of witchcraft and wizardry. I've seen a number of different cases against Harry Potter, usually different from eachother. One argument is that the main characters are consistently disrespectful towards authority and mean towards eachother. The adults are portrayed as villains and the children as heroes, and one of the very few "good" adults is gay. Another argument says that it's only prudent to avoid stories delving into witchcraft and wizardry for the sake of keeping our minds pure. Narnia and Lord of the Rings are clearly different, as their authors were Christians, while J.K. Rowling is not. I've even seen Harry Potter compared to pornography. You don't look at porn to see what the author thinks about life, so why would you read Harry Potter to learn about the author's opinions if it's clearly a sinful series?

I agree and disagree with various aspects of both sides, so let me tell you about my history with the series before going into greater detail in debunking those arguments. I wasn't allowed to read Harry Potter as a child. I assumed that this was because of the magic. When I was almost eighteen, I was discussing the series with some friends and my dad, and learned the true reason for my not being allowed to read them (which I'll cover in a few paragraphs). At that point, I checked the books out from the library and read them over the summer, finishing after I turned eighteen. I later found used copies either in boxes marked "free" or at used book stores and sales for extremely low prices. At this point (that is to say, as I'm writing this post), I own used copies of all seven books and have read the series twice. (Once in order, and once in the order that I found them used.) I do not, however, recommend them to anyone (though I don't try to keep people from reading them, either).

I'll now go over some specific flaws with the arguments made above, and then explain my overall reason for my stance. I'll begin with the first of the arguments against Harry Potter. I will admit that the main characters are not ideal role models, but this is about as far as the argument goes with regards to accuracy. While they occasionally behave in a rebellious or disrespectful manner, I believe that, far from being glorified, this behavior is put down. While some adults are portrayed as villains, many are also portrayed not only as "good guys," but even as heroes. Similarly, many of the students are seen as mean, and if they rebel against the teachers, foolish. In addition, Dumbledore is not portrayed as gay within the series. The author stated in a separate interview that she had always thought of the character as gay, but that isn't how he's characterized within the story.

Next, the issue with the comparison to porn. Pornography is not meant to convey what somebody believes. If somebody is making pornography, you already know what they believe. It's meant to bring about lustful thoughts and actions, not to build people up or to teach people. Stories, on the other hand, are intended for good (whether they fulfill that goal or not). They are meant to teach. If one person writes a story, their goal may be very different from that of another writer. Where they are alike is in that writers are attempting to teach people, even if the people don't realize it. This brings us to the very important point that is at the base of my opinion: stories have power.
"I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word."
-Emily Dickinson
The very reason that writers write is because they know that stories have power. After all, if we think that our writing is useless, then why do we do it? A story portrays some characters and character traits as good, and other characters and character traits as bad. It puts people in certain situations, and tells you whether the characters made the right choice by what happens as a result. As we read, we learn, because stories are there for the purpose of teaching. Even here, my style of teaching is not as direct as it could be. While I write my opinions in these posts and share them with you, teaching you about this particular topic is only a sub-goal. As I've said from the very beginning of my blog, my true goal is to make thought and analysis a regular and easy thing. I hope to achieve this by analyzing various topics on a regular basis, regardless of whether or not people agree with my individual posts. Similarly, fiction writers display their own worldview in their writing and hope for it to become normal. In this way, Harry Potter is dangerous. It's easy to become desensitized to the nature of the world, including the witchcraft and wizardry. (As it turns out, I have another post on Magic and its Types that covers this in a bit more detail. As it also turns out, Tolkien and Lewis were fairly interested in paganism, which worked its way into their stories. Thus, it could be argued that because it's more subtle, their stories are even more dangerous than Harry Potter.)

I wasn't originally allowed to read Harry Potter because my parents knew that I can get sucked into fiction very easily. They didn't want it to take over my life, and they didn't want me to learn subconscious lessons as so many do. Now that I'm older, I attack stories as I read them. I still enjoy them, but I also look for what they're trying to teach me. I fight back against them. I want to be able to root it out before it gets into my subconscious. I am then able to learn not how the world supposedly works, but rather, something about the author's worldview. I write stories because they have power, I read stories because they have power, and I'm careful with stories (especially ones with subtle messages like Harry Potter does) because they have power. I also have to know where to draw the line. I do not, for example, read erotica. And even though I very much enjoy Star Wars, I don't read any Star Wars novels, because I know they'll take over my life. This is why I neither recommend Harry Potter nor urge people to stay away from it. People need to know their own limits and what will be healthy for them. For children, it falls to the parents to make informed decisions about what their children can handle without getting sucked in or absorbing lies.
"Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man's character, give him power."
-Abraham Lincoln

New YouTube Channel

Greetings! I've started a YouTube Channel! The introduction video will be replacing today's post, but next week we'll be back to normal. My introduction video can be found here.

Technical Difficulties

Unfortunately, today's post is delayed due to technical difficulties. I apologize for any inconvenience.