Sunday, March 22, 2015

Accepting Yourself AND Others

     We have to learn to love ourselves. We have to acknowledge that the things that make us unique are good and not weird. I struggle with this. I also struggle with accepting others for who they are too. I'm pretty sure this is something our society as a whole could do better at.
     When I was younger I had this unique obsession with stadiums. To this day I'm still not sure why. I don't know, something about seeing what thousands of people look like all in the same place fascinates me. In my free time I would go on and see how many people each stadium seated and where the stadium was located. Seeing the different types of architecture was intriguing.
     But I was always
kind of ashamed of my interest in stadiums and didn't tell many people about it. Those I did tell didn't do a great job letting me know that it was okay to be interested in such a random thing, rolling their eyes whenever I talked about stadiums, or just flat out telling me it's weird. Thinking about it today though I'm not sure why random interests like this are such bad things. It's okay to have hobbies and fascinations.
     To be honest though I can be judgmental of other people's interests too. I'm a flawed human. I'm working on getting better though. I currently park cars for a living as a valet. The other day my coworkers were obsessing over a fancy car somebody left us to park, a Rolls Royce. This led into them discussing different engine types and whatnot. Things that I have little to no interest in. I never understood the fascination in cars. I've always said that if a car gets me from point A to point B that's all that really matters to me. But I had to stop myself and remember not to judge my coworker's interest in cars. You could argue that being interested in material things such as fancy cars that aren't really benefitting our society is unhealthy but we all do this and it's best just not to judge sometimes. Another example of people's interests that I've unfairly judged before is sports. Just because I'm not into it doesn't mean others can't be. I think and hope that admitting my flaws is a good reminder for me and will help me grow as a person.
     I encourage you to love who you are and your unique obsessions. Maybe you already have and that's good. Be comfortable in your own skin and don't worry what others think of you. There is a video going around of a guy who lost over 200 pounds and what his excess skin looks like. He was very nervous to post the video because he is self-conscious about his body but he wants people to accept themselves for who they are, and I think that applies to both the physical and mental.

Friday, February 6, 2015

The Problem With Self-Defense

     The world in which we live is a very violent place. Nations spend more money on militarization than anything. At a smaller scale we know not to go down dark alleys by ourselves, we lock our doors, and sometimes we take extra precaution and purchase weapons and take self-defense courses to protect ourselves in case of an emergency. We are profoundly aware of the dangers a fellow human being is capable of. I have come to believe that precautions like self-defense is not the best way to be handling this matter.
     First of all self-defense does not fix the overall problem. It is only a temporary solution to your personal safety. To make this more relatable when I refer to self-defense I am talking about it on a smaller scale... Like how one would respond if their house was being broken into. Let's try to figure out how to stop people from committing crimes against another person in the first place. It's easier though to focus on how to protect ourselves when it does happen instead of fixing the overall problem. This is the main issue here I think.
     Something we need to consider is human psychology. The cliche argument against gun control is that we have a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem. Even though I'm pretty liberal I actually completely agree with that... On a side note though I really wish guns were never invented. Not to mention all the statistics show it is much more likely of an accident happening with your gun than you ever having to use it. Our brain is an organ that needs taken care of. People who do bad things can't just be looked at as monsters who can never change. There needs to be forgiveness and compassion. This may sound like we should just let people walk all over us but I really believe that if people showed more sympathy towards a criminal that there would be less crimes committed. Have you ever done something bad and then the person you caused harm to forgave you? That's such a powerful feeling. Your eyes are opened to the terrible thing you did and they showed you grace? How can this be? It makes you want to change and be a better person. Forgiveness is such a powerful weapon against injustice.
     One of the more obvious problems that isn't helping our obsession with justifying violence is what we view on television, in the movies, and the video games we play. I'll admit that I am being a little hypocritical when it comes to this though. I enjoy an action movie just as much as the next person. I am a frequent player of Grand Theft Auto. Probably doesn't help my argument that I just admitted that but I think the affects these forms of entertainment have on a person vary depending on the person. I was raised a pacifist which I carried into my secular thinking. Since I am blessed with this alternative way of thinking I'm pretty sure viewing violent content isn't going to change how I feel about violence. The fact of the matter is, and I wish it wasn't so, violent movies and video games glorify violence. Watching James Bond shoot bad guys makes most people see guns in a more positive light. It's just how the brain works.
     In conclusion I encourage people to rethink justifying violence in order to protect themselves. I realize that causing physical harm on someone is evolutionary and part of our human nature. I just hope that we can evolve from this form of dealing with problems and be more understanding of others.

Monday, December 29, 2014

I Don't Feel Safe

     As some of you may know, based on my posts, I am Agnostic. Agnostic meaning: a person who believes that nothing is known or can be known of the existence or nature of God or of anything beyond material phenomena; a person who claims neither faith nor disbelief in God. This is where I'm at in my spiritual journey right now. Through my life experiences, people I've met, stories I've heard, I have come to this alternative American way of thinking. Amurricca... It is in fact a Christian nation. You never find an atheist politician. According to the Huffington Post, 49% of Americans and 73% of Conservative Americans would be unhappy if their family member married an atheist, making nonbelievers one of the most discriminated groups in the country.
     All that being said you might understand why I don't feel safe sharing my opinions about God to people. I can do it over the internet because I don't feel the immediate backlash from it. There have been times when people asked me if I'm a Christian and I don't know how to answer them. I tend to just tell them what they want to hear without being completely dishonest with them such as saying, "I was raised Mennonite and I attend a Mennonite church." And there have been times when I WAS completely honest with them and immediately regretted it, feeling a strong sense of judgement. People raised in faith tend to never even consider the possibility that other ways of life can be just as fulfilling.
     But I understand their beliefs and I respect them. If you really believe in Hell and people who don't believe in God will go there when they die then of course you are going to try to get them to believe like you. Or even if you're a Christian who doesn't believe in the literal definition of Hell... You believe that through faith and a personal relationship with Jesus Christ is the only way to real happiness you're going to want that for others too. The judgment that stems out of religion does in fact come from love. I really do get it. It's like a line from one of the songs that I wrote and I quote, "Deceived in his childhood, I know it's his right, but still we are hurt by the forgivable fight..."
     The fact that nonbelievers feel unsafe to share their opinions is unfair. We have to put up with hearing theists share what they think all the time. At work especially, in rural Lancaster County, a lot of my coworkers are openly Conservative Christians. And I love them dearly but if I really shared what I thought about God they may not think of me as highly. I urge everybody to be open to other opinions. I think if there is a God she would understand why I have my doubts about her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" Review

     Last night I had the pleasure of seeing the third and final Hobbit movie. It officially came out in theaters today but there were screenings in select theaters last night and Penn Cinema was one of the lucky ones. If you know me I am a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings movies... Best movies ever made! So as you can imagine I was extremely excited when I heard they were making The Hobbit. I already reviewed the first Hobbit movie so I won't talk too much about my overall thoughts on these movies but basically I was pretty disappointed. The Hobbit trilogy did not live up to my expectations. That being said "The Battle of the Five Armies" was by far the best out of the three.
     This movie picks up where we left off in "The Desolation of Smaug." The great dragon is destroying Laketown with his breath of fire. Thankfully this scene doesn't last too long and (spoiler alert) the dragon is killed by Bard pretty early on in the movie and isn't mentioned again... Poor Benedict Cumberbatch. Honestly though I thought the dragon scene in the last movie was overrated. Maybe it's because when I think of dragons I think of cheesy children's stories that don't belong in a Tolkein movie.
     So much like the final LOTR movie The Hobbit went out with a bang, packed with epic battles where tens of thousands of soldiers armed with swords, axes, and bows marched against countless orcs, goblins, and trolls. This is what I'm talking about! Classic good vs. evil showdown. Just as much eye candy as the battle of helms deep, pelennor fields, the black gate, etc. You get what I'm talking about. Okay so the battle only lasts like one page in the book and they decided to base the whole movie off of it. Frankly I don't really care. It felt like a Lord of the Rings movie.
     Unlike the previous two films this one used a lot more on-location shooting rather than filming up against green screen in a studio. I could actually tell they were in New Zealand. The previous two Hobbit movies just looked really fake and cartoony. That takes away from the movie. Yes there was some of that in this movie too but a lot less.
     Now let me talk about what I didn't like about the movie. The scenes in which one of our heroes went up against one of the main villains dragged on for far too long. Okay we get it, Legolas is a bad-ass and can do some sweet moves. We saw that in LOTR. Remember when he took down that oliphant in Return of the King? It was pretty over the top and ridiculous but we enjoyed the moment. That took maybe 20 seconds of our time at the most. In this movie whenever a hero fought a main villain it would last like 20 minutes, or so it seemed. Remember when Aragorn fought Lurtz in the Fellowship of the Ring after Lurtz killed Boromir? That hero/villain fight scene lasted maybe a minute and it accomplished what needed to be addressed to us as an audience. Same with when Eowyn fought the witch king. I could go on and on. There were several hero/villain fight scenes in "The Battle of the Five Armies" that just went on forever. Worst part of the movie.
     "The Battle of the Five Armies" is the shortest of all six Middle Earth movies with a run time of about 2 hrs and 20 min. A lot of people have and continue to complain about how they made The Hobbit into three movies while each Lord of the Rings book was only one. Even I thought it was ridiculous when I first heard the news. In fact I had the top comment on IMDB's article about it with over 2,000 likes. I quoted a line from Bilbo in The Fellowship of the Ring saying, "I feel stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread." I feel bad about that because there's a good chance Peter Jackson himself saw the comment. I have changed my mind now. I've read The Hobbit and I can't imagine it being crammed into one movie. Now I haven't read any of The Lord of the Rings so I'm not sure how they did it with them. But from a psychology perspective I think people get hung on the fact that they made it into three movies because they think it's to make more money and so they refuse to like them.
     Go see this movie! Don't go see it if you haven't seen the previous two though. You might be a little lost. My point of this review isn't to convince you to see it because if you saw the other two you're going to see it anyway just to finish it off. These were just my thoughts on it and to convince you that if you disagree with them you are wrong! Just kidding but I would like to know what how you felt about it in comparison to the other two. I give "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" a B+.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Let's Talk Feminism

     A war is going on. It is the war on sexism. Feminists everywhere are trying to take away our rights as men to be masculine and superior over women. This has to stop!
     Of course I am being sarcastic. I suppose the reason why people don't want to call themselves a feminist is the same reason I'm not comfortable calling myself an atheist. I have mostly the same beliefs (or lack of) as an atheist but the presumptions and the discriminations that come for people with that title in this country are atrocious. It is likely that a lot of people who don't call themselves a feminist still affirm the same principles the feminist movement stands for. That's one theory I have.
     But I do think a lot has to change. We need to rethink gender roles. We've all been to dinner parties and family gatherings. Ever notice what happens when guests start to arrive? From my experience I see all the guests who are women offer to help in the kitchen. There's always something for them to do, while the men just sit back and relax, conversing with one another. Don't deny that doesn't happen. I've always noticed it and took advantage of my male privilege but lately it's really starting to piss me off. The last couple times I've offered to help. Oh but gender roles... Gender roles!! Men are awful in the kitchen, we can't cook! We're not wired that way... While it's true I am pretty bad at cooking but maybe it's because I was programed to think that men aren't supposed to be good at it.
     I really hate the whole masculinity thing. My whole life I have been a victim to all of the pressures of what it means to be a man. I used to cry a lot when I was a kid and was bullied for it, which is why I can't really cry anymore. A man has to be tough, not feel pain. No complaining about the cold! A man doesn't drink fruity alcoholic beverages. He drinks beer, whisky, or rum. A man has to work out and have a great body. He must shave or wax his body hair, wait that's ironic. A man watches sports. A man is confident and thinks highly of himself. These are all stereotypes, I know. My point is that I don't want to be defined by our society's stance on what it means to be a man... Because frankly, I don't really relate to any of those, especially the alcoholic beverage one. I like me some sweet and tasty booze! If you've ever watched the show "How I Met Your Mother" I identify a lot with the character Marshall. We're like the same person.
     This blog post comes from the perspective of a male feminist. There are many reasons why a female should want to be a feminist too, but I'm sure you're all tire of hearing them lately. It's a trending debate these days. Just watch Emma Watson's speech on the topic explaining why feminism is misunderstood by most people.

Friday, November 7, 2014

The Relevance of School

     Hello my name is Nathan. I am a 23 year old male living with my parents with no clear direction of where I'm going in life. It's hard to imagine it's been almost five years since I graduated high school. At this point I would have thought I would have furthered my education by now. I had planned to take a gap year or two after I graduated. I just wasn't feeling that school was right for me at the time. How about now?
     School. What a thing. Our society worships it. If you want a job that pays for what you need to live independently you pretty much have to go to college... Or so they say. Never mind the fact that in school you have to take a bunch of unnecessary classes that are a waste of time and money that don't have anything to do with the career you want. Never mind the fact of how expensive school is. While those are both negatives, that is not the point of this post.
     I wonder if people will be trying to talk me into going to school for the rest of my life. Probably. They say you're never too old to go to school. And maybe I will at some point, but for now it still doesn't feel right. Most of my life I have struggled with identity issues and fitting in. I am unique. I used to see it as a bad thing but now I'm becoming more content with it. For me to succeed in life I have to be different. I have to take the road less traveled by.
     A couple years ago I found myself living in Los Angeles, California. Through some connection, I'm not even sure how, I was an extra on the show Glee for a day. It was a crowd scene in an auditorium. Don't try to pick me out because you won't find me. I was a dot amongst hundreds of other dots. Throughout the day some of the actors would talk to the extras and answer questions. I don't remember everything that was said but I will never forget the advice Chris Colfer, pictured on the right, gave to an aspiring actor. "There are an unlimited amount of ways to get there. Don't let people tell you how to do it because everybody who gets there arrives differently." Something along those lines at least. I'm not sure why that stood out to me so much. At face value it doesn't sound that profound, but it stuck with me. To be happy in life and to feel like I've accomplish things I don't need to do what everybody else is doing.
     Don't forget that the most famous people throughout history who impacted and changed the world did things differently than most. They would have had to. You can't make changes by doing what everybody else is doing. I'm not saying I'm going to change the world in some profound way but I strive to get people thinking more about our education system. Ask yourselves if it really should be so important as we make it to be. I know I said before that I don't have a clear direction of where I'm going in life. I'm okay with that though. I've done so much in the past five years and have learned from those experiences. It looks like Austin, Texas is my next adventure. My sister and her boyfriend are living there and now my best friend, Derek just got a job there as an engineer. It would seem the city is calling me. Who knows what profound life experiences I will receive next...

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Coffee Dates Will Change the World

     I like to see myself as somewhat of a thinker, someone who is constantly trying to figure out life's big questions, the meaning of life, someone who strives to change the world for the better. Not to say that doesn't accurately describe you who is reading this as well. Lately I have been having a lot of coffee dates with other thinkers. Let me tell you, I think we will find answers to hard questions more quickly if all of us got coffee or lunch with another person more often to specifically talk about these things and to hear other perspectives.
     Okay so I'm pretty sure there is absolutely nothing in the world that is black and white. Everybody comes from different backgrounds and experiences. Not to mention how much our DNA plays into how we see things. And I think if there's a God, She understands this. But if you really want to come closer to the truth, I encourage you to set up a coffee date with someone where it will be understood that you will be talking about your spiritual beliefs. Don't go into it with the intention to convert them to your ways of thinking though.
     In the past couple weeks I have met with a number of people, all from different upbringings and beliefs. I met with a woman from my church who is pretty sure what she believes but admits to questioning everything sometimes. I met with a professor of psychology who knows a lot about how the human mind works and everything that plays in to why we believe what we believe. I met with the Lancaster Freethought Society, a group of local Atheists who get together a few times a month to discuss what they believe. Just this morning I was going to meet with them again at the Prince Street Cafe but only one other person showed up. It had its awkward silence at times but in all I'm glad it happened. It never hurts to get to know someone new.
     I really encourage you to actively seek out conversations to talk about what you believe in a respectful, non-converting way obviously. Sitting down in a coffee shop or restaurant to talk seems like the best setting to do this in. If this sounds like something that could interest you let me know. I would be happy to meet with anybody.