The Lord of the Fantasy.

Yesterday I saw “The Fellowship of the Ring.” For the first time.

I know, Christian; millennial; homeschooled; how is it possible I’ve never seen it before?

I haven’t read the books either (gasp.)

Honestly, the story just didn’t appeal to me. The ring creeped me out, and there weren’t a lot of girls in the story. Up until recently, I really didn’t have an interest in any story without girls in it. Girl Power and all that.

I’m sure some of you haven’t seen or read the series either, but I’m  not going to recap, I’d never fit all that into one post, or two.

The point is, now that I’ve seen it, do I like it?

Sort of. I actually only decided to finally take an interest because I’ve been reading a lot of J. R. R. Tolkien, and what better way to understand a writer than through his material?

but reading about his creative process is very interesting. Did you know he never knew much about what would happen in the legend before it actually did happen? HE always had  a sense of the story being given to him, not imagined.

And knowing some of it, I completely agree that no one could make that up. It really happened.

No, I don’t mean I think it actually did, (though If I were told it had historical base, I might,) but it would make you think so.

Genius.

And it just the thing to make you feel how little you actually know about writing.

I can easily feel smug about my talent when I compare it to most modern authors, who don’t know how to really write. If I have even an inkling more than they, I’m ahead. But next to real genius, my efforts still look like child’s play.

Nothing wrong with that of course. Plenty of good books are written n that way, and it’s not a reason to stop. But it is a reason to be more humble.

I think we get lied to a lot about our abilities. Not everything we crate is beautiful just because we created it. Being unique does not equal beauty. Some of the ugliest and most disturbing art I have seen was unique, because it was unhealthy.

See, rarity works both ways. It can either mean you have an incredible gift and are using it well, or that you are creating something horrid, that only people who have a flaw in their soul will like.

That is not an exaggeration. It is hard truth.

Now, it may be a rare person who will create such bad art, but it’s not so rare as it was, because we’ve started letting them off the hook by saying they are expressing themselves. (As if any of us would want to know the self they are expressing, if that was the case.)

But this is not a post about that, I think I’ve made my point.

But most art is on better footing. Not all of it is about pleasant subjects, but it will at least be making a healthy point about the sadness of a more tragic subject.

Tolkien’s work is very much a blending of both, and a skillful blending because he does it without shifting the overall tone of the story.

No one should read fantasy without considering its tone, and its message. Anyone who thinks fantasy is for pure entertainment and has no real life point, is reading it wrong and does not understand the genre.

See, if I may wax Tolkien-like for a moment, fantasy is far closer to real life than we think. But because we have no guard against it, we accept truth in fantasy easier than we will in real life.

Think of you favorite books, mine are all fantasy or fiction, and I know that the truth I learned from them became a part of me because it was ins tory form, and that was much easier to take in and retain than any “real” lesson would be.

The Gospels tell us that Jesus constantly used stories, known as parables, to teach the people. But only to his disciples would he explain the full meaning.

The reason he gave was that it was for his disciples to know the things of the Kingdom, but he people had shut their ears, and eyes, and hearts.

This makes more sense to me now than it did when I first heard it. Someone recently expounded on it, saying that the stories were so even the people could understand the way to have an abundant life. (I paraphrase.)

As we all know, many people consider Jesus to be a moral teacher but not the Son of God, and that being the case, they will only accept his teachings on that basis, so the stories are an effective way to convey that.

In this case, the motivations of Jesus and of fantasy writers is the same. Both wish that the people would understand them if they spoke plainly, but people don’t like that for the most part, so in order to get their message out, they use stories. Because they want people to have a better life, even if they stubbornly refuse to have the best life.

You might compare it to how, in stories, the heroes will have the best life (if they win) but the people who helped them along the way will still have a better life than otherwise. No good author likes making everyone in their story miserable just because they aren’t the hero. (Not that some don’t do it. Check out Les Miserables, though I don’t know if Victor Hugo liked it, so much as though he needed it.)

So, the first thing fantasy teaches us is that if we want to be happy, we have to be good. That is the foundation of all healthy fantasy, because any that says otherwise is lying, the real world will prove that.

There’s plenty more about this subject to be delved into, but for now, I’ll sign off.

Until next time–Natasha.

A strong mind and a soft heart.

Someone said recently, in a video I watched, that many people now have weak minds and hard hearts and we need more people with strong minds and soft hearts.

And I agreed.

But I suppose I didn’t really ponder what that meant, until I was reading “The Problem of Pain,” by C. S. Lewis. (Who, as some of you know, is my favorite author.) This book is as brilliant as his other books, but not fully developed in his style. It’s one of his earliest intellectual apologetics books.

But brilliant, just the same, if you can follow what he’s saying. (A lot of words ad terms that people would have known in the last century, but we wouldn’t know make it hard to always know what he’s referring to.)

Anyway, I remember back when I hadn’t read any of Lewis’s books except the Chronicles of Narnia and eventually “Mere Christianity,” I had the mistaken idea that he was very much a reason-driven person; but once I learned more about him and read some of his other works, I found out that despite being brilliant, he was very much a believer in feelings being a guide as much as the mind.

To put it more concisely, Lewis would have favored both a strong mind and a soft heart.

The thing I noticed lacking in his non fiction was an acknowledgement of how God affects our feelings, and uses our sense of need much more often than our sense of morality. But having looked closer, I see that he did addresses that, just in a very reason-oriented way.

This appeals to me, since I hate to have things be too dumbed down for me to feel at all like I’m learning; but I have little respect for people who can’t get out of their mind and into their heart.

For me, it’s a temptation to despise people who are much less intelligent than I am, because I have never in my whole life been considered of average intelligence. I admit, I do get my share of vanity from this, but it’s no credit to me. I figure I just use the brains that God gave me, and the only reason I’m smarter than a lot of people is because they don’t use their brains.

Yet, I am not at all intimidated by people who are smarter than me in their ability to learn and retain information. Because I value wisdom even more than intelligence. (If they really are two separate things, and those who lack wisdom but have a high IQ are not really just smart idiots.)

Frankly, I don’t consider even those with Special needs as stupider than me, because often they see things more clearly than a genius would. If anything, a lot of intelligence blinds you to the obvious. I have social awkwardness problems because I tend to get wrapped up in my own thoughts instead of sensing other’s feelings and reaction. As far as that goes, a dog might be more aware than the hyper-intelligent person.

Genius is not a bad thing, and when it comes out of a place of a lot of suffering, it can actually be a persons link to sanity, the ability to go inside themselves and their creations instead of focusing on what’s around them.

But my point here is that intelligence is not the same as having a strong mind, a strong mind is a wise mind, and mind with a  sense of humor. If you ever check out the book of Ecclesiastes, you’ll find a man who is wise, in a morbid way, but seems to have no sense of humor.

What about a soft heart?

Well, hard-heartedness is rampant nowadays. (When has it ever not been? The natural tenancy of man is to be selfish, unless he is consciously trying not to be.)

It’s a term we don’t really think about now, but it means to not let anything penetrate your heart. Neither pain nor pity nor love.

I move that technology has made us more hard-hearted. Charles Dickens would have agreed with me.

Also, being bombarded with negativity, and also propaganda. We have started to celebrate the hard-hearted; cold; and evil people of stories and real life.

You put out what you get put in.

As wrong as I think it is to admire any evil person for being good at what they do, I have to admit we’ve made it awful hard to admire the good. If someone is good, there is always some attack on their character, some dirt dug up, some rumor spread; to be fair, even the bad people get made  worse by rumors, but that only furthers the point.

Look, it’s okay to admire a good deed. I recently saw a short documentary of a celebrity (Julia Roberts I believe) taking vaccinations to a village in Africa. I think what she did was admirable, and she proved to be more of a down-to-earth person than I would have expected. (Because Hollywood seems to drive people crazy.)

That is admirable. I know nothing about Julia Roberts when she is at home, and not in front of a camera, but what she did was good. It’s good publicity for her, sure, but also for the cause she was supporting.

Getting back to the subject of a soft heart: A soft heart is an open heart, but not open to the wrong thing, that’s why you need a strong mind too. You need both.

And there is equal danger in lacking one but having the other, either way.

A soft hearted, but weak minded, person may end up supporting the wrong thing and in the end doing more harm than good to the same people they were trying to help.

But action without heart is sure to lead to an empty life or worse, one spent doing harm.

There’s plenty more to say on this topic, this post was sort of an introduction to the idea so I can reference it later without confusion, but for now, I’m done.

Until next time–Natasha.

The Spectacular Spider-Man!

I do not like spiders, but ironically, my favorite superhero was Spider-Man when I was a kid. Back when it was the only superhero comic I read. (We used to get them in the mail, cool huh? I wish that still was a thing.) And while Scott Free and Big Barda may be my new favorites, along with Wonder Woman, Spider-Man will always hold a special place in my affections.

And that’s why I have now seen the Tobey Maguire movie version of it, which was the most true to comic book version that I have seen. (I couldn’t have  been the only one disappointed by the less mature, and more goofy Spider-Man in Civil War, though even so, he was the best of it, in my opinion.)

I’ve talked about Superheroes in general a lot, but I haven’t talked about most of them specifically, let’s do that.

In my view, Spider-Man and Batman are a lot alike. (I apologize for the hyphens, but autocorrect keeps putting them in.)

I don’t mean personality wise, but let me say, I’d forgotten how sad Peter Parker’s story was. It was even worse seeing it then reading it. I guess that means the actors were convincing. The movie version is even more like Batman because Peter sees Uncle Ben after he’s shot and goes off at once to stop the killer. Only to find in an  un-Batman-like twist, that it was a guy he could have stopped.

Lesson Learned: Revenge is stupid and so is yelling at someone over nothing.

But I would not be flippant about it, Spider-Man had a legitimately crummy life, whatever version of him you know. he gets dumped constantly; his friends turn into villains; his villains turn into worse villains; his family dies. Not fun.

The amount of times Peter Parker gets really hurt, emotionally and physically, are enough to make you ache in sympathy. Why? You ask. Why do the writers keep doing this to him? (If anyone knows the answer tot hat, please comment it, seriously.)

By contrast, Batman witnesses one personal tragedy (though more later in some versions of him) and is scarred for life. Ig et that there’s a difference of age here, but still…

Really, it’s their personality. Spider-Man is a wisecracking kid trying to dot he right thing and pay the rent at the same time. Batman is a rich kid with nothing else to occupy his time except making business deals and going to events. Nott hat I fault him for that. To each his own, but perhaps Batman gets more of the luxury of wallowing in Self Pity.

After all, Peter has to support his aunt, and keep any eye on Mary Jane and his other friends. (Though they dwindle.)

Maybe it’s true that idleness is worse for your character than almost anything else. Bruce Wayne can be kind of self absorbed, though he does a lot of good. Peter doesn’t have that option. So  even though he’s younger, he’s got more heart. (Like Captain America says.)

Maybe that’s why my favorite version of Batman, and the only one I really like and respect, is the Justice League Unlimited one. AS much as I wanted someone to punch after he turn down Wonder Woman, he still is at his best when he’s with the League.

It brought him a bit out of the shell of darkness most of his movies place him in. It’s even in the background. Most of the JLU adventures take place in the daytime, whereas if you go to a Batman only film or show, most of it is at night. Interesting, right?

I could go on for a whole other post about Batman’s good moments in the League (maybe I will, who knows?) But for now I think it’s enough o say he needs friends.

Another difference between them, despite their similar origins, is that Batman usually has people around him who wish he’d let them be more of friends or family to him, but he won’t.

Where as Spider-Man will, but he gets deserted or libeled or overlooked.

I really think Peter Parker just needed to be cut some slack by his writers, but I guess that just doesn’t leave people o the edge like horrible things happening does.

I ought to have learned by now that a person like me, who likes peace, tranquility, and happy endings; is never going to be satisfied with superhero material unless I purposely stop before it gets ruined again.

It’s the never ending battle of super-heroism that is what I don’t like about the concept. And no one said it had to be that way when the genre started, it just evolved into that. And that was what kept stuff selling. Which we can only blame consumers for.

Apparently, I’m pretty much a minority in my tastes on that score.

Anyway, you might be wondering if I liked the movie. The answer is: I neither liked it nor disliked it.

The Green Goblin is without a doubt the scariest Spider-Man (or Marvel itself even) villain I’ve ever seen, though there are DC villains even worse than him. He was too real. I firmly believe what happened to him could happen in real life, and probably has.

Nonetheless, it was not exactly a tragedy because he chose it himself and kept choosing it. My sister said choice was the big theme of the movie.

I agree, and I would add so was the difference between being given power, and trying to take it.

This difference is sort of pointed out in Frozen, when people think Elsa is using sorcery, but as we know, she was born with her powers, making them a gift.

That’s actually a subject worth covering in another post, but I can’t delve into it here.

The Green Goblin, or Osborne, made all the bad things happen to himself by poor planning and experimenting with dangerous things and ultimately committing murder and hurting his son’s emotional well-being. A classic case of a villain who doesn’t know he’s a villain. Only, he does, in a way.

Peter, on the other hand, directly cause only on of the bad things that happens to him, and is sorry for it. Not blaming anyone else. But instead of letting it crush him, he does the only thing he could to honor Uncle Ben’s last bit of advice to him, he uses his powers for good instead of selfish gain.

You have to pick up the pieces after your life is shattered, or you and everyone around you will step on the broken glass.

And those are my words of wisdom for now, until next time–Natasha.

Lessons from a five year old.

I consider myself a spiritual person. I pray, I worship, I read my bible. Which is all great. But every now and then I run into something I haven’t thought of before, that somebody else gets.

My cousin just recently discovered church and she loved it. The child came alive at each service, and I was loving watching her.

But she went farther than I thought possible. And watching her, I noticed a few things.

One was that she always prayed using the words “I hope,” instead of “I ask.” If you pray you know the drill, everyone has their way of beginning and ending, and I wouldn’t say one way is better than another, but I thought “I hope”? Is that right?

Then I thought, on the other hand, maybe the kid’s got a clue. I mean, why do we pray if not for hoping it will affect something? That’s why people who haven’t prayed in years may do it when they’re at then end of their rope.

A lot of people don’t like the idea that people only come to God when they’re desperate, they think that they should be able to use logic, reason, knowledge; things like that, to find God.

Which is all well and good, except the majority of the population will not use any of those things to make most of their decisions. (You know what I’m talking about.) And no matter how smart you are, you’re never smart enough to understand God. At some point, you have to be humble enough to admit you need him if you’re ever going to accept Him. That’s the plain truth.

Which, bringing it back to prayer, means that you need to admit it even to yourself, what you’re really asking when you pray is for things to get better, and to get better in ways you can’t do yourself.

A while back I saw the movie “Bruce Almighty” for the first time, hopefully the only time, I didn’t like it. It wasn’t all bad, but it was close. In that movie, the grand solution Bruce finds to his problems, after being God for week or so, is that people have to solve their problems themselves, and help each other. I agree that we should help each other, and try to help ourselves when it’s appropriate, but beyond that, I don’t think there’s a worse conclusion the movie could have come to.

Praying is not about helping yourself, but about recognizing that you can’t. Until you do, your prayer is empty. My cousin gets that prayer means hope. That’s something I didn’t really grasp before.

There’s one other thing she taught me:

The Bible tells us that Jesus makes intercession for his followers, which means He intervenes on our behalf when we’re in trouble, whether of our own making or of another kind.

I knew this already, but my cousin discovered it in a unique way, and made me realize what it actually means, if you think about it.

To have Jesus sticking up for you would give you so much more confidence if you believed it. But Christians generally don’t think about it much because, honestly, it sounds too good to be true. And a non-Christian might scoff at such a notion, or just think it sounds cool, but not believe it.

Frankly, most of us don’t think of Jesus doing anything except dying; but according to our faith, He’s not dead still. Check out some Revelation Descriptions of Him and see how dead He sounds in there.

It’s easy for people to see why my cousin would buy all this, she’s five, anything is possible. But it’s more puzzling why someone my age, who’s supposed to be jaded and apathetic and disconnected, can believe such things.

I really think the majority of us spend our lives trying to hide from those ideas, in one form or another. Whether we live in a country where appeasing spirits is the normal thing, like cleaning house; or we live in a Western civilization where believing in them at all is enough to make you  a freak.

But freak or not, that’s the way I think. And it doesn’t bother me that a kid can believe the same thing, because we are told to be like little children in our faith. It’s not that we put reason on the back burner, no, just ask C. S. Lewis about that, it just means knowing that our reason is limited but there are more answers out there than we know. Every kid knows that.

Being Christian means buying the whole package,  just like anything else worth being. There is no pass, no get out free, and that’s fine by me.

And my cousin is a smart kid, I think I’ll probably learn a lot more from her before we’re through.

Until next time–Natasha.

Willingly Ever After.

So, my siblings and I recently discovered this YouTube Channel called “Overly Sarcastic Productions” and I’m just recommending it here because it’s both entertaining and instructive (hopefully like my blog posts.)

That aside, let’s talk.

In my previous post I told the story of how a book changed my life, and it’s not  new thing either. Lots of people have similar story. (I read a book once about it, but I wouldn’t recommend it necessarily.) I didn’t get too much time to elaborate on it though. I do have  limit for how long I make my posts.

What I wanted to talk about more was the idea the book introduced to me. That of Submitting to God’s will. In the story this is always represented by obedience to a difficult command, and/or building an altar and sacrificing the will power. (Usually these two things happen simultaneously.)

This has to be the most unpopular idea in the history of humanity. It takes a brave person to make it the whole turning point of their book.

But Hannah Hurnard is just being honest with us, because it is this act of laying down the will that our human stories all turn on. Will we or Won’t we?

C. S. Lewis recognized it too in “Till We Have Faces.” Orual comes to the point where she says there was no rebel in her anymore. She finally does that the gods say.

Christians can all too often sell Salvation as a way to ease all your troubles. To finally get what you want. Peace. Joy. Love. Eternal Life.

Since the Fall, men have wanted Eternal Life, and God actually had to guard it from them with a flaming sword and two cherubim. (See Genesis 2-3, I think.)

The problem is, we like the Eternal Life idea, but not what goes with it.

Eternal life, if you are a corrupt being, is actually tormenting. Several movies have touched on this idea and also some books, like the Heroes of Olympus series by Rick Riordan.

Many people have concluded that living forever isn’t really what we want, like “the Fault in our Stars” basically says, that it’s a fantasy.

The one tiny detail they always leave out is that it is entirely possible that one could exist forever, but in a terrible, torturous place, typically known as hell.

Bringing up hell is not a very safe thing to do. No one likes to think of it. (Well, some people do in an obsessive way I find unhealthy.)

God was doing mankind a favor. Eternal life with no cost would have been horrible, nightmare-ish, for evil people.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t want Eternal Life, the cost is a trade. We havwe to give up our own small, mortal lives. Not in that we die the minute we choose Eternal Life, but that we no longer live as if we’re in control.

That’s the price we are afraid to pay. And many people miss out on eternal life for that very reason. The thing is, controlling our own lives makes us cynical. We’ll scoff at eternal Life and the idea of Christ crucified, not because it’s actually mockable, (what about the story is at all mockable even if you think it’s made up?) but because we get mad that we couldn’t make ourselves immortal.

I actually know this song, maybe you’ve heard it, that’s not even a Christian song, but the first line nails the idea. “They say we are what we are, but we don’t have to be.” (It’s Immortals by Fallout Boy, and for the record, I chose to ignore some of the lyrics for the sake of the ones I think are profound.)

A lot of us see that idea as saying we could change who we are, but the truth is, we can’t. We don’t have to be what we are, it’s true, but it’ll take more than ourselves to change us.

It’s simple logic. You cannot give what you don’t have. I, being human and mortal and flawed, do not have perfection or everlasting life, so I can’t give it to myself. I have to get it from someone who has those things.

A lot of old stories get some of this truth in there in that the hero will have to find a magical item or complete an impossible task with help from a supernatural being (a fairy or elf will count here) before they can live happily ever after. Which means forever, by the way.

To get back to my beginning point about laying down the will, God isn’t making this demand out of a desire for control. He just knows that only He has what we need.

People still get mad at God for making them dependent on him. (It’s happened, even if you’ve never done it, and good for you then.) To which God replies “I am the potter, you’re the clay. Can the clay say to the potter you’re making me wrong?”

I don’t know still why God does all things the way he does, but the whole lesson of the book is that I don’t have to know.

People will always mock Christians, and other religious people, for believing in something they can’t fully understand. And accepting that even when it looks like that something is being cruel. But they don’t understand faith. Or they hate it.

And that’s not going to change my mind. But I have no hate for those people, there’s no point in that. Heck, I hope they are the ones who read my stuff even if it’s just to disagree with it, because it’s important that people know what they are actually against.

I have to go now, hope you enjoyed this post, until next time–Natasha.

Hinds feet on High Places.

I like to talk about movies a lot on this blog. It’s fun, people have watched them so they know what I’m talking about, and I learn from them.

But if there’s one thing that’s been even more important to my spiritual learning process than movies, it’s books.

There was one book in particular that shaped my life in a huge way, and it’s not very well known.

That book was Hannah Hurnard’s “Hinds feet on High places.”  The title is taken from a verse in Habakkuk, “He maketh my feet like hind’s feet and setteth them upon mine high places.” That’s the whole premise of the story. The main character must travel to the High Places and develop hind’s feet.

The first thing to know about this book is that it is an allegory. The backdrop of the story is purely spiritual. Mountains; deserts; the ocean; the meadows; the valleys, every place people use when they are being metaphorical. And why not? It is an unabashed allegory.

In case you don’t know what an allegory is (and I didn’t till I read this) it’s a story about inward realities, but told like a regular fiction story. But all the places and people are symbolic. They have names like “Much Afraid” “Mrs. Valiant,” and of course “The Shepherd.” The most famous allegory is “The Pilgrims’ Progress.” I’ve never been able to get through that book all the way, even I have a limit for old English speech. But the book I’m talking about has very quaint and simple language. Easy to read and entertaining.

But the most important thing about it is that the main character, Much Afraid, was me. Literally, if I had been called by a name depicting my inward state, Much Afraid would have been the perfect fit. If you’ve read any of my posts about Frozen maybe you know this. Let’s just say Elsa would have identified with this book.

Much Afraid is one of the Fearing clan, and she has fearing in the blood, as we are told. And only the Shepherd can really help her. Much Afraid is also disfigured. She has a crooked mouth and crooked feet. She can only limp along painfully and she is ugly. But it is her fears that are her real trouble.

We are not told exactly what she fears except for pain and her relatives. Who bully her and plague her and try to kidnap her. She is weak, and they are all cowards. Much Afraid needs no object, she just fears period.

How well I know the feeling. Well, I can’t tell the whole story here, but after the Shepherd offers to take her to the High Places where she can be cleansed of her imperfections, Much afraid accepts, and even allow shim to plant the seed of Love in her heart. Though it hurts. Immediately she feels different.

When I read this the first time, I was not yet a Christian, though I believed in it. I have never not believed it was true. That was why the book made so much sense to me. Everyone in that book knows who the shepherd is. Some of them hate him, others love him. But they all believe, in that sense, that he is who he is. No one at any point denies that the Shepherd is real. Because everyone can see him.

That was how I grew up. There was no question of whether God was real, or whether Jesus was, but of where I stood with them.

That’s the only real question when it comes down to it.

Anyway, so I read the book and honestly, I did not understand it. Oh, I got the point about overcoming fear, but I had never felt real love, or been free from fear for longer than a few hours for most of my life. But Much Afraid has the same experience. She feels bold for a short time, and then she is ambushed by all her relatives and in the end faints dead away. To make a long story short, she is still able to go with the Shepherd, and she sets out, with his two helpers Sorrow and Suffering as her companions. They undergo many obstacles, dangers, and attacks from her enemies, and at the very end of their journey Much Afraid is asked to give up what she ahs staked her whole hope and life on, the promise she was given about having new feet and a new heart. And she asked to give up her human love that is in her heart like a weed, its roots going deep into her soul.

Much Afraid can hardly believe it, but in the end she does as she is told. After both these things are removed and burned on an altar, she faints and wakes up feeling different. Then she washes in a stream and discovers all her blemishes have been removed. Then the Shepherd calls her and she bounds up, with her new feet, and joins him.

More stuff happens, but I’ll stop there. When I first read this, I didn’t know you had to surrender your will to God. Maybe I had heard it, but I hadn’t made the connections. My fear was a terrible thing, but I still chose it over God so I could protect myself from having to do things I didn’t want to do. Fear was an excuse.

It was really to the point where I had no will at all except to resist God. I couldn’t resist fear. I was foolish, as everyone is with their besetting sin, but I didn’t know it. I wanted to be free but I didn’t want to pay the price.

God will set you free, but He demands that you give up your chains, and yourself. and give it all to Him. The reason people hate that idea is because they want control. Fear is a huge problem for all of us. I count myself fortunate that I at least knew it was my problem, many of us don’t.

I didn’t really become saved till I laid down my will to God. And I only knew to do that because I had read this book. To this day I still learn new things from it.

I know it wouldn’t mean as much to anyone else, but it would still mean something, so I recommend checking it out.

Until next time–Natasha.

Black, White, and Grey.

You all know that you can spell grey with an e or an a? Weird huh?

The spelling of grey is arbitrary, it’s not even a British English vs American English thing as far as I know. (Unlike spelling honor, valor, favor, flavor, and other “o-r” words with an “o-u-r”, which they do in Britain. Or used to anyway. Which is why, I, being the C. S. Lewis fan that I am, still “misspell’ those words sometimes.) How you spell it is entirely up to you.

Doesn’t that just seem fitting? Because we like to say there there’s black and white morality, and then there’s a grey area. The grey area is your arbitrary perception of right or wrong, or your uncertainty thereof.

In simpler terms, the grey area is moral limbo.

Some say there is no grey area. (Gray area?)

Well, I think that there probably is. But I think we need to be more specific about what we mean when we say grey area.

We don’t mean that some things are neither right nor wrong, we mean that some actions are right or wrong in different circumstances, and those circumstances are not always plain to see.

See, I believe in situational ethics, but not what the term means now, but just that different situations call for different actions.

What I don’t believe is that your code of ethics can change with each situation. Just the enacting of it does.

See, if you are a inconstant person when it come to telling the truth, than your ethics are that truth is only important some of the time. So whether you tell it in one situation (where it won’t hurt your case), or hedge it in another (where it will), your ethics have remained the same.

Likewise, if you tell the truth whether it hurts you or not, you ethics are to be painfully honest.

Simple, right?

But that’s more of a black and white example. Or is it?

People would argue that lying is better sometimes in order to save someone’s feelings, I personally think lying is justifiable only when someone’s life is at stake, and that’s a rare situation.

But you see how this black nd white thing can quickly be turned into a grey area.

It’s kind of the inspiration for the title “Fifty shades of Grey,” but I won’t go there. (No, I haven’t seen it, and I won’t if I can help it.)

But this is where all this arbitrariness has gotten us.

Part of the reason I enjoyed Mr. Miracle so much was because in the 70’s, right and wrong could still be cut and dried things. Clearly, Scott was doing the right thing, and his enemies were monsters (literally often enough.) Barda sometimes verges on doing something bad, but she is always stopped or stops herself before it gets to that point.

But look at superhero movies and comics now, our heroes spend more time trying to figure out if they are really heroes than they do defeating the bad guys. Who often try to say they aren’t bad guys. You know, back in Shakespeare’s day, a riveting villain was one who knew they were evil and wanted to be different but had one vice they would not let go of (Read Hamlet.) Shakespeare called it what it was, insanity. There was no grey area. most of his villains don’t even want to change.

Now, we have bad guys who don’t want to change yet we feel sympathy for them because they are more human. Plenty of people will defend to the last this way of treating bad guys.

When this trend started, it wasn’t all bad. Some villains do just need to be shown some mercy. But I would argue they are the ones who are less evil and more confused or bitter. Which would not be the majority now.

Some people are cruel because no one had ever been kind to them, they can change because of mercy.

But some are cruel because no one ahs ever stood up to them. And that is not something mercy is going to fix.

Why should we sympathize with people who have never really been mistreated but decide that it’s their destiny to control everything?

I have both real life and fictional examples in mind, and I’ll bet you do too.

I think this is pretty long, but my word count is not working, so I’ll wrap this up.

We all need to realize that you don’t prevent evil by questioning good. Someone needs to tell the media this. (Of course, sometimes evil masquerades as good.) But when good is apparent, we should not second guess it.

There’s this thing called faith. I like what that one girl in the first avengers movie said after the big New York showdown. The avengers saved her life, so she believes in their intentions.

You see, it’s not the good guys fault that there are evil creatures raining from the sky, but it is their fault that the rain stopped.

That’s all for now, until next time–Natasha.

Give a little more than you take.

I haven’t yet mentioned that I read the second installment of the Mr. Miracle comic series.

I have a whole list of the problems with it, but I’ll sum it up as being far lesser than the first one.

Of course, as I do, I had some deeper thoughts about it and also about why it bothered me so much. You see, by comic book standards of the seventies, most of it was passable; it wasn’t terrible if I compared it to the Superman of the fifties and sixties. However bad it could be, Barda and Scott could never be that campy and still be the same characters. But they weren’t the same.

I know that this bothers me more than some would say it should, and some hard core fans would be even more upset than me, but for my part, here’s why I get upset when this happens, and it happens a lot.

When a creative person underperforms, it bothers me because it seems like they didn’t know what they had. Often, I think that even when I like what they’re doing. Because it seems too good to be the work of some one who was not trying to be astounding, and often the source was not.

Check out the making of Frozen, for example. It was a long process and what they were trying to do at first ended up being the opposite of what they did.

I also think of the early Ever After High series, it seems like the show was just supposed to be for kids and yet the points is made were worthy of a lot of adult consideration.

Generally something like this gets ruined because of a new writer who just wants to use the franchise to make money. But sometimes the staff remains the same, and they just seem to lose touch with what made their show or series so great.

(Forgive me, but I think this happened with the Percy Jackson series when it switched to “Heroes of Olympus.”)

The problem is, once you get a devoted fan base, you always have an audience, even if you were to do the worst thing possible some of them would defend it. And believe me, as an aspiring writer, I think about how I would handle this problem.

There will always be those who don’t like anything you do that’s new, either. When Ever After High switched over to covering the opposing point of view in their rebel-royal conflict, a lot of people weren’t happy, including me. But I had to hand it to them that a couple times it came out well and deserved some appreciation.

I don’t think a little change is bad, writers and movie makers are always expanding their vision, or so we would hope, and they fill out their stories. They have the right to do that.

so, I would not have faulted Kirby for that, and some would say that is what he was doing.

But there was a very serious problem with how he ended the story. He let evil have the last say. It was sort of like how the Empire Strikes Back ends, (always my least favorite by the way,) but even worse. Because we know it’s not over for Luke and his friends, and we have hope, but the evil figure of this comic book steals the best moment of the whole story from the best people in it. It’s just so unfair to them, and they don’t seem to realize it.

I can’t go into it fully, but that is what I had a problem with. The beauty of Kirby’s creation of Mr. Miracle was in how good triumphs over evil against all odds, and even against our human weaknesses.

Together Scott and Barda are unstoppable. But only when they are being the best they can be. I’d say that’s true in real life. I hope all of us have met at least one couple who was like that, amazing separately, but together they became an inspiration.

That’s what made the whole thing work. I liked Scott okay by himself, and I like Barda by herself, but I didn’t really get into their stories until they were together.

And it wasn’t that that changed, it was how they were together. It just wasn’t the same. But worst of all was I felt like Darkseid showing up at the end made it his victory.

In fact, I really wonder if Kirby did it on purpose. But that’s a whole other discussion.

I guess the point I want to bring out of all this is that, fan base or no, your work will not be worthy of admiration if you lose touch with what made it special. It’s important to know what truth you want to show, and to listen to what your positive feed back is telling you; what people are getting out of your work, I mean.

I’ve been surprised by what people got out of my stuff sometimes, but once I saw it that way, I thought it was even better than what I planned.

Which is not to say you can never try anything different, I try different plots and usually I like the result, and my siblings are always trying new things with their creative pursuits, but you have to have a core.

Otherwise you might start to think it’s about you, and how great you are, instead of about what you give to other people through your creativity. Or your service, if that’s how you give.

I think I’ll end with this song which is about that very thing:

“A single voice is joined by multitudes in song, with every note they’re finding harmonies that rise to carry on, richer and richer the soil in which they thrive, higher and higher a hymn of what it means to be alive.

You’ve got to give a little more than you take, you’ve got to leave a little more than was here; you may be prideful of the strides you will make, but keep one things clear. You’re just a player in a much bigger plan, and still you have to give it all that you can, the very measure of your soul is at stake, you’ve got to give a little more than you take.”

–Natasha.

Totally Scott Free.

Like I asked a moment ago, what is total freedom?

Well, it turns out it’s not just being able to choose. Scott had a choice. That didn’t give him freedom.

Of course choice is a big part of it, but as weird as this is going to sound, freedom is actually the ability to choose the right thing.

What’s the difference?

There’s a big difference.

Take the extreme example of drug addiction. Most addicts are not force-fed the substance they are addicted to, they choose to take it. They bring their hand to their mouth, or whatever form they use. They are not free. They were at one time, one time they had the choice to not try drugs, and they forfeited their freedom from drugs when they chose to try them. Now they can’t stop.

Choice is not freedom, it is the medium freedom is accessed through, if that makes sense.

Freedom is a state of being, not an ability.

Total freedom is humanly impossible without some sort of Divine intervention, and that is just the truth.

But what about all that stuff about taking freedom?

That’s all true. Freedom is a fight.

“The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.” John Philpot Curran.

It’s a fight for me.

There’s another quote about freedom being in disobedience, but as far as I can see that kind of thinking leads to disaster. Freedom is obeying the right thing. Like your conscience for example.

We do choose what we listen to, but what we listen to is what makes us free or slaves.

To go back to Scott Free, he spent years listening to Granny Goodness. (The name is a misnomer.) It wasn’t until Granny took away her voice from him (as punishment, but if you ask me, the psycho was just too arrogant to realize she was doing him a favor,) that he started listening to Metron and then Himon.

You got to be careful what you hear. I can’t tell you how many times I did not struggle with a sin, or a fear, or even a symptom of disease, until I heard about it. Knowledge is not always power, or it’s not always a good power.

One more thing about freedom: It’s a lifestyle.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”–Nelson Mandela.

We can blame other people for enslaving us, and some of us have a reason to do that, but blame will not free us.

We want to take our freedom, and then we want to pass it on.

Scott didn’t think of anyone else but himself needing to be free at first, but after Barda helped him, he realized she should be free too, and later he came to wish everyone could be, though he knew you can’t free everyone and that they really have to want it themselves.

Barda is an interesting example of someone who is uncertain about freedom at first. She wasn’t ready to leave when Scott did, but once she left, she resolved never to go back without putting up one heck of a fight. And she did.

Even though Barda never seems to want to free others, she is the one who is responsible for bringing four additional people back to earth with them. Four of her furies. Though the furies get a chance at freedom through this turn of events, none of them stay on Earth. They are too bound up to their home planet, even though it will be the death of them.

So we see that freedom is offered to all of us at one time, but few of us accept it.

“Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow is the way that leads to life, and only a few find it.” Matthew 7:13-14.

This verse is generally taken as “It’s so hard to be good, why is it so hard? Why did God make so few things okay for us to do?”

The truth is, the things that are bad to do in of themselves, those are pretty much summed up in a list of ten commandments. Dishonoring God; dishonoring parents; dishonoring what’s sacred; lying; stealing; adultery; greed and covetousness; murder; etc. You can find rules like that in many other books and creeds.

But the list of mistakes we make with even the things that are good, that list is extensive. I couldn’t name all of them if I tried. The reason the road to freedom is narrow is because the road of slavery is so broad. We enslave ourselves to nearly everything; but we free ourselves only in doing what’s good, healthy, and holy.

Scott Free is a little bit like how they portrayed Moses in “The Prince of Egypt” movie. (Thank you Dreamworks.) He can have power, wealth, respect, fame….and he can live a life built on slavery. Or he can run off and become a nameless nobody in a strange land, only to return later to secure the freedom of others.

God is the one who told Moses to go back (and that was the part of the story they changed the least,) and I don’t think anyone ever gets fired up for the freedom of others without it being a Divine thing. Because there’s a certain power in fighting for other people.

So, those are my thoughts on the story and the concept. I hope it all made sense, since I’m still figuring it out myself. I do recommend checking out the stories for yourself. (With the exception of the Barbie Fairytopia one, please do not watch that.)

Until next time–Natasha.

“Freedom to dance, freedom to sing, freedom to grow, I’m telling you Pharoah, let God’s people go!”–Jason Upton.

Getting off Scott Free.

Some of you may remember the post I did about Mr. Miracle. Well since then I have actually read the comic book of that title, and I thought I’d share my reaction.

Oh my gosh! It is freaking incredible!

Seriously, I have never been a huge comic book person, but this one blew me away.

You don’t realize the first time you read it how great it is, you only see that it’s way better than most of the other stuff in the genre, but upon rereading you notice the details that went into the character arcs and plot build up, and how, remarkably, there is no real discrepancy anywhere (I can think of one place that something didn’t entirely add up, but it was minor, and I’m not sure it was really an error, and it was just one.)

Sorry everyone, I’m still in fan girl mode. Which for me is both way more excited and way less than what you’d typically see made fun of on TV.

Aside from geeking out about it, I do have another reason to share it with you guys. I need to do some writing about liberty for a school thing, and all I can think about is this comic book as a reference. (Which is the first time in my life that has happened, I assure you.) The reason is, liberty is a huge point in the story, though it’s ironically the one I’ve thought least about, because being the person that I am, I want to talk about the love story.

But it’s time I gave the idea of freedom some consideration.

Scott Free starts off as a brainwashed prisoner of the hellish planet of Apokalips. I won’t give away all the details here, it would be far too long, but suffice to say he’s different than the other drones. In Barda’s words, they never got to him. Scott is affected by his life on this planet, but he refuses, for a reason unknown to himself even, to ben to all their rules. He in encouraged in this by Metron and Himon, two people who try to help whom they can become free minded.

Now the narrator leaves no doubt in our minds that no one on Apokalips is free minded except Himon. And he has precious few people who are even willing to try to learn his ways. But Scott becomes intrigued by him.

Long story short, with help from is unexpected ally, Big Barda, Scott flees the cursed planet and comes to Earth. We aren’t told exactly what he does at first, but he learns about the place and develops a passion for seeing justice served, but always with a degree of Mercy. he takes on the name of Mr. Miracle and tries to live a quiet life. Or quiet for him.

But Scott soon finds that you cannot just run from oppression and think that will be the end of it, after Barda joins him on Earth both of them try to keep their enemies at bay using their respective skills, but Scott quickly realizes he cannot run forever. So they return to face their past. To face themselves in a way.

I  have avoided this part of the story for one reason, I was concerned that the story was trying to tell us that finding our self is the answer. I know many people will take that from it, and take it at face-value. But how many of us really know what finding our true self even means?

Oddly enough, what came to my mind was a Barbie movie of all things, and not one of the good ones either, it was the second one of the Fairytopia trilogy. (Gag worthy, especially if you already hate Barbie, which I did for a while probably because of those movies.) But there’s one good part, Elena, the “Protagonist” is faced with the option of eating a berry that will turn her into whatever form her “True self” is. Elena was born without wings, and wanted them badly, winning them as a reward for saving the day in movie No#1. Her fear now is that her true self will not have wings.

I actually understand Elena for once. But her friends tell her “Whatever you are, you’ll be happy, because you’ll be your true self.”

Mixed up in the sappy stuff of this whole idea is actually an important truth. Our true self is not always what we want it to be, but what it is best for us to be.

This applies to Scott, as well. He wanted to be free; he wanted, in his own words “tranquility;” and he thought he could find that by running until they stopped pursuing him. Barda knew better, but she would rather chase after a delusion with Scott than be realistic by herself.

But Scott had to realize that we cannot be free by running, running is just the start, the begging of the dive into the deep end.

Freedom is not something anyone can be given, it is something people take, and people are as free as they want to be.”–James Baldwin.

Barda, on the other hand, knew you have to take freedom. She lived this next quote.

Better to die fighting for freedom then to be a prisoner all the days of your life.”–Bob Marley.

Barda figured on dying in the fight to be free, but she intended to go out with a bang.

What makes this story oddly different is that their battle is a mental one. Scott literally fights it out in his mind. Barda nearly loses on that account, but Scott saves her in the nick of time.

It might be said that Scott will get out of anything, but Barda will avoid getting into it as long as she remains standing. She’d be free to start with if she could.

But the thing it, none of us are born free. We say we are, but we are all slaves to something. To sin usually, there’s always that one thing we can’t shake, sometimes its many things. Others of us get enslaved to people. Being a Christian is comparted to being a slave for God.

Only, in that last instance, it does not last. God wants free people. The reason we consider ourselves slaves fro Christ is because we don’t trust ourselves with total freedom.

What is total freedom anyway? It is not the absence of tyranny, that leads to anarchy most of the time.

I think I’ll dive into that in my next post, until then–Natasha.