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.

Monday, August 11, 2014

What the Church Needs to Know About Me... And Others Alike

     I attend a church almost every week. It helps that the place I work at is closed on Sundays so I have less of an excuse to miss it. But I thoroughly want to go to church.
     I want to go to church but I am more of an Agnostic than anything. The thing is I am finding that people at church all speak the same language. They all appear to be in the same place in their spiritual journey. I can't help but feel a little left out. The fact that there could be people who have doubts or just straight up don't believe who still enjoy the experience of church isn't even acknowledged. I go to church because of the community. I've been attending James Street Mennonite since I was a kid and have met and befriended many people thanks to it. I just feel like I belong there.
     Jay Wenger, a member of JSMC, brought up the point to me that sometimes our church will welcome guests in the beginning of our service, welcoming everybody and inviting them to come with their fears, come with their doubts... And then we'll jump right into singing something like, "One day every tongue will confess you are God. One day every knee will bow. Still the greatest treasure remains for those who gladly choose you now." Don't we realize how that sounds to people who have doubts? I think singing in church is one of the best parts about the service, though I rarely agree with what I'm saying. There are some songs that seem to address the doubts more. We should be singing more of those.
     My point is that we are all in different places in our spiritual journey, some like me, who are more different than others. I understand that most young adults struggle with questions and my parents hope and pray that I will regain my faith. I may never get it back but I am always open to growing spiritually and mentally. By culture I am Mennonite and I wish to continue to have that be a part of my life, despite my doubts about God. I ask that the leaders of the church, any church, please help me and others alike feel a little more included when singing and preaching.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

     Let me start out by saying that I do not consider myself to be liberal or conservative. I am pretty anti-government actually. I do however tend to identify more with democrats when it comes to many social issues. I try to form my opinions out of love and peace. I am anti-war, anti-death penalty, anti-killing of animals (vegetarian). I am pretty much anti everything that has to do with killing and violence... So it would make sense for me to be anti-abortion, right?
     Quite honestly this is one of the issues that I just don't know about. It's like that saying, "We have a mental health problem disguised as a gun problem." I would almost say we have a sex education problem disguised as an abortion problem. Actually a lot more plays into it than that. We also have a poverty problem. How can we expect young women to properly raise a child in the conditions that many of them do? Many of them are single mothers working two jobs and can hardly pay for their kids upbringing.
     Even though I'm not sure what I think about this issue, I'll tell you what I do have a problem with. It's the attitude. A lot of people who consider themselves pro-life are not as passionate about any other issues. It's like they don't care about the child after they are born. It's hard to explain. It just seems like they're not handling it well.
     Yesterday I joined a group of people in Horshem, PA to protest the Drone Command Center that is currently in the works to be built in the town. Do you realize how many children are murdered by US Drone attacks, and at what cost? All for the protection from potential terrorists? Don't you see that we are the terrorists when our drones are killing hundreds of innocent women and children? Yet it was the conservatives who were yelling from their cars telling us we were wrong to protest the drones. And they call themselves Pro life?
     They're not putting themselves in the shoes of the mother. What will having a kid mean for them and how is it going to make their life different? Having children is an incredible responsibility. You can't always do the things you want and they are a burden on your wallet. You have to put your life on hold and start living for your kids basically. If someone doesn't want to have kids or if they aren't ready for them they shouldn't have to have them.
     So maybe it means more people need to be willing to adopt. A lot of pro-lifers are financially stable and often have kids of their own. Maybe you need to stop worrying about passing on your DNA and Genes and adopt someone else's. Yeah seriously... Why is it that we feel it's so important to have blood related kids? Pretty much everybody who has adopted children have not regretted it and were blessed by them. Anyway that's all I will say regarding the topic. I certainly don't have all the answers. I would just encourage you to try to be more careful and respectful when discussing this issue.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

God Doesn't Hate Evolution

     More and more Christians, at least in the Mennonite church I've noticed, are starting to accept Evolution and various other scientific truths as something they believe in. They are starting to admit that, "Oh yeah. The universe is definitely more than 6,000 years old." But then there's just one thing they don't want to admit. They will say, "I believe in evolution, but I don't believe we came from apes." What? How can you admit that there's some hard evidence in favor of evolution but then refuse to acknowledge the various fossils and bones that prove we are not excluded from evolution?
     The answer is simple. I once believed in the evolution of other species of animals but thought the idea that we came from apes is a slap in the face to God. I imagine that's basically how others think. It's almost degrading to us knowing that our ancestors were once very much like Chimpanzees. How does this disprove God though? Why does it matter how God created us? It disproves a lot of the book of Genesis, yes. A lot of people think that was just symbolic though. There was no Garden of Eden, or Adam and Eve, or talking Serpent. That was just symbolic of what actually happened in creation. Plus you gotta admit that the reason there is so much suffering and "sin" in the world today just because some people ate a bad apple way back when doesn't really make much sense. That's what we were told as children, but really, that ain't fair. You would think that an all knowing god would have known that the humans he created would have disobeyed him/her. It's not like he/she didn't see it coming.
     Okay so if you're one of those people who believes the universe is only 6,000-7,000 years old, let me quickly explain how you're very wrong because Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey explained it to me well. You must believe in some parts of scientific fact, such as the speed of light and lightyears, right? Most of the stars you see in the sky are millions of lightyears away from us. That means we are only seeing what they looked like millions of years ago because that's how long it took the light to reach us. The night sky would be a heck of a lot dimmer if the universe was only several thousands of years old. See my point?
     To me the magnificence of the universe is so fascinating. It kind of makes me believe that there is some kind of god out there. Although I have to admit that it's only natural for us to call everything we don't understand supernatural. Before we knew how the atmosphere worked and the different weather patterns, every time it rained or something we believed it to be a reaction from God whether it be anger, sadness, etc. We have a strong fear of the unknown.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Am I Missing?

     Something I've been thinking about tonight is the importance of romantic relationships in our society and culture. I was trying to ask myself, why ARE they so important to us? It's so ingrained in everybody's mind that we just have to find the right person and we have to spend the rest of our lives with this person. It's like we wouldn't be complete without a romantic partner. But why?
     I've hit a time where I see pretty much all of my facebook friends are either in a serious relationship or are married. Everybody my age has found someone who they want to spend the rest of their lives romantically with. Lately I've been sort of giving up on love though. 50% of marriages end in divorce. Everybody knows that statistic by now, but we all know for a fact that we're on the winning side.
     I can't help but kind of come to the conclusion that it's passion driving our relationships instead of true commitment, especially with young couples. Since it's so ingrained in our brains that we have to get married people want to do it as quickly as possible. They may find a special someone in college and then hop on that opportunity to tie the knot because they may never find another person that good. It's a gamble and we always take our chances. Comedian, Aziz Ansari, in one of his stand up acts about marriage mentions how he's had shirts for two years and then realized he doesn't like them anymore, and those are just shirts. How can young people already think they've figured out what they want in life? Over time we learn more about ourselves and we change.
     Please do not take any offense to what I am saying if you are young and in a romantic relationship, which no doubt you probably are. I have to admit that maybe part of what's driving this vent of mine is maybe some slight jealousy. I see all these people who appear to be happy in a relationship. What am I missing? I feel like I'm not a part of the club. I've never really been in a relationship before. My shyness has a lot to do with it of course. I also fear making mutual life decisions with a partner. I have a hard enough time trying to figure out what I want to do with my life by myself. I can't imagine trying to figure it out with another person. Couples have to make sacrifices for each other. You can't always just go off and move to Costa Rica for a while (which is what I'm thinking about doing).

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Modern Day Pharisees

     I look at Jesus' teachings, and most of the things that he said and did and I think, "Yeah, this guy is great!" If everybody just followed what he said the world would be a better place. Even if Jesus was never real. I'll admit, I'm not even sure I believe in him... But whoever made him up must have been pretty smart. You can still learn from a fictional character. Samwise Gamgee wasn't real but I still learned from him. I mean Jesus was all about love, compassion, forgiveness, and helping the oppressed. If the whole world lived like him imagine how great life would be.
     Unfortunately though most people who claim to follow Christ don't actually live like him. Yeah, there are a lot of good Christians out there but it's the one's who are very dogmatic and black and white in their thinking that I have a problem with. I would say a good 90% of Christians today Jesus would complain just as much about them as he did with the Pharisees.
     A lot of Christians put way too much attention on the idea of sin. What's an acceptable way of living and what's not? Churches are split on issues of homosexuality, women in leadership, etc. Jesus wasn't about rules though. In fact, the way I see it, he mostly did things that broke the rules of the religious leaders. Jesus often healed people on the Sabbath, which was a huge No No at the time. He talked to a Samaritan woman at the well, which was also forbidden. What rules do we follow today just because the scriptures tell us to?
     Form your rules based on love. You take away love when you don't allow someone to marry another person based on their gender. You take away love when you don't allow a woman to serve in leadership even though it's her gift to be a leader to other people. You take away love when you don't allow another person to live in your country just because they weren't born here.
     But it's really not about studying the scriptures to see what they really meant in the context of their times. I end with one of my favorite quotes... 

"This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our 
own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness." 
-Dalai Lama