Millions of flashing lights.

I wonder what people are doing when they find this blog. Surfing through internet stuff to kill time. Or perhaps checking their own blog and then seeing what’s new on WordPress. Not that I’m ungrateful or think that’s a bad thing, I just wonder how much of it we do.

People say we are over connected nowadays, we’ve all heard it. Most of us probably agree with the statement to a degree, just not as it affects us. I have heard statistics, but I’m not going to list any about the subject at hand. There are no statistics  that can measure how connected you feel with the people around you. Can we take a moment to acknowledge that, good.

The truth of the matter is, nothing you see in front of you can make a connection with your heart of hearts if all it is is flashing lights. Why don’t we ever ask ourselves just what the substance of a text, or a post, or a picture is? It’s flashing lights, it’s not the sound of a human voice, or the touch of human affection, or a real face in front of us. It’s just an image. It serves about the same purpose as a photograph or a letter used to, conveying part of the person, as a way to remember them and get a small taste of who they were when they couldn’t be with us. The more you knew them, the more you could get out of such reminders. Pictures are good I think, and it’s fine to take them even on a phone, but can they substitute for actually seeing the person?

Three things that don’t have value in a culture of technology:

  1. Privacy.
  2. Silence.
  3. Seriousness.

For the first thing: Moments of being alone with your thoughts. Time to yourself. This is not seen as a good thing, by you or by your friends who keep texting you all the time, or who constantly post new things for you to read. Wanting time alone can only mean you’re tired and cranky, not that you want to stay SANE.

Secondly, there is almost no silence. When we’re tired we turn on the TV or whatever our preferred form of tech is, ( if you don’t do this, then you have my apologies,) but I’ve found I’m more rested after just a little quiet time outdoors or in my room. If a stay at home mom is reading this, I know it’s hard to get a break; if a working person is reading this, I know that it can be just as hard to. Frankly, if you go to school it’s even harder because half your day is taken up without your consent. But there are still hours of time that most of us have that we fill with distaction form how tired we are, instead of rest.

Thirdly, When your day is crammed full of things that seem disconnected with each other, it’s hard to give full attention to anything. Again, if you go to school it is not your choice that subjects are seperated by the hour, but an hour is too long for some things, and far too short for others. I can spend hours writing, I get frusterated if I spend one hour trying to figure out a song on the keyboard. I have to take it in little bites.  Our minds look for connection and patterns, we need them to make sense of the world. The whole world is one interworking system, nothing is independent of everything else, yet nothing is the same. Both sameness and irregularity play havoc with our ability to reason and think and feel.

Yet entertainment is becoming increasingly both same and irregular. People who play the parts in the media industry now utter lines that come out of nowhere, and whose very randomness is supposed to be funny. I laugh sometimes, but unless it is very well done, such humor shows less, not more, cleverness. And plots are cliched. Based on what sells, not on a good message. I have to give Disney and Pixar credit for sometimes being an exception to this, but only sometimes. By and large there are no exceptions beyond the least popular movies and shows.

More than movies though, is our hopping from computers to phones to tablets to ipads to computers again, in a cycle of boredom.

Let me now quote a show called “Girl meets world”I heard this on one episode and liked it a lot.

“Not until we switch off our computers, put down our phones, and look into each others eyes, will we be able to touch each other’s hearts..there is no connection you can make with any screen that compares with the moment you understand only human beings have souls.”

Note the word understand. If you’ve read this far, I must have your interest on some level, so please, attend. I cannot possibly state enough the importance of knowing human beings have souls.

Personal story: A while back my sister and I decided to stop watching movies and youtube clips on the weekdays, we wanted to spend more time reading, and doing other stuff, and getting our studies done. At first it was hard and it still is in a way, (although I’m currently on break for a week,) but I noticed a change almost right away. I was happier, I was more interested in things. My brain was more receptive, I could enjoy reading more. I could go outside and really look at the world around me. I had more time to pursue interests, and more time to just rest without watching a screen, or to listen to music instead of watch music videos. I am more awake. That, versus yesterday, when we watched things for hours on end, and at the end of them I felt cranky with everyone, bad about myself, and confused about where I was in my personal life. I might have felt all that anyway, but it seemed so much worse than of late, and I couldn’t even think as clearly. To be honest, I’ve noticed the quality of what I’m watching plays a part, you feel clearer after good movies, and sutpider after stupid ones. It’s just the way it is.

I have found myself more paitent with people, and more at peace. Because in the absence of a screen, I have to use real substance to feed my imagination, not sicken it.

This is very long, so I’ll save the rest for a later post. I think we all have plenty to consider, myself included.

 

Justice League: Superman

I’ll admit upfront The Man of Steel was never my favorite. I don’t have much against him, but our personalities just never clicked.

He kind of reminds me of Mr. Incredible (who is clearly based off of him.) And like that hero, I think most of Superman’s mistakes (and successes) are the type that a dad might make.

There’s more to this than you might think. In the JLU show I’m referring to for all of this, Superman was the one who founded the Justice League. He said he needed more help protecting the Earth. So you might truly say he was the Father of the League.

That is how he relates to it an its members. Even though they are all friends, it’s demonstrated several times that Superman can never forget that he;s the mpst powerful, for better or for worse.

Unlike with Wonder Woman, Superman is someone we have to look at the background of before his character on the show will even make sense. Especially since its referred to several times.

Superman’s worst moments all have to do with Apokalips, if you’ve read my other superhero posts, you’ll know that that is the hellish planet Scott Free and Big Barda hail from.

The trouble is, the writers of JLU didn’t believe in making characters who could be stronger than the evil of Apokalips. Scott is the only one they ever let escape it without help, and that only because they couldn’t change too much about him. (And Scott actually had help originally, so his story got totally rewritten for that show.) Superman gets targeted by DArkseid after crossing the wrong person (I forget exactly who it was.) And brainwashed via machine into forgetting who he is and then attacking earth.

I hated that whole twist, but it creates his central conflict, so I ahve to include it. One cool thing about the whole mess was that Lois Lane, the one without powers or any notable fighting skills, was the one to snap him out of it. She keeps him grounded. (Honestly, it’s the best version of her I know of.) Other than that, the whole thing completely detrys Superman, and he has a hard time picking up the pieces.

This comes into play on the show many times. Darkseid is the one who can upset Superman’s self control (aside from Luthor.) The others have to hold him back from attacking. Batman gives him one hard hitting talk about getting over it. Deserved, I grant you, but as usual Batman has no tact whatsoever and its clear superman is sore and bitter about the whole thing. IT would be hard not to be, if you’ve never forgiven yourself for it, which he hasn’t.

We see in another episode that his greatest fear is losing control of his powers and destroying everything without being able to stop himself. Something I can relate to. Very much the Elsa-complex. And just like with her, superman only feel reassured when he lets someone who loves him reach out to him and help him bear the weight of his own powers.

I’ve heard that we are more afraid of our greatness, our glory, than we are of our weakness. It ain’t kryptonite that gives Kal-el nightmares.

MAybe we could all learn something from the way his friend help him wiht it. My only problem is that he never seems to be cured, which I think he could be. But notwithstanding, they were on the right track.

Some good things Superman does are also fatherly. He gives pep talks. He keeps the Leauge centered and focused, and whenever he cant ake a hit for is friends he does. HE’ll get in front of them to sheild them, or put him self first if they are falling hard, the best time was when he got Batman out of a burning watchtower in the nick of time. I love that scene because Superman is using his invulnralbily and speed without regret or thought of himslef. It’s pure.

No one is afraid of him most of the time, some jokes are made at his expense regarding how he can’t intimidate people like Batman can; but friends and enemies alike are terrified of him when he’s truly angry. Like most mild mannered people, when Superman gets ticked, he gets really ticked.

Even though he starts the league in order to have help, he has a hard time delegating to them. They feel like he doesn’t think they can take care of themselves.

One of the worst episodes (at least if you go by the hardest to watch) was “The Secret Society.” That was the one where the obligatory team split-up happened. The writers had the sense not to ever do this again, and the way they did it was completely annoying.

You’d really expect a team of adult superheroes to be more mature. Frankly, all their problems came out of nowhere. I never understood what Green Lantern was talking about for the first en minutes when he was laying out their problems.

But well-written or not, it did introduce some problems that came back in later episodes. One of them being Superman’s problem with letting other people be in danger.

If I had to say what the best thing about Superman was, I wouldn’t know how to answer. Or would I?

My favorite thing about him was that, except with his three most hated foes, Superman is a very merciful guy. He doesn’t hold grudges against anyone else, he expects the best from people. We never hear him knock any of his friends for being anything but less powerful than him–and not always right.

Superman got made into a complicated mix of proud and humble by the time the show ended, but over all, he’s likable. And he is the League’s fearless leader, and no one else could be like him.

All of them care about him deeply, as is shown in the episode “Hereafter.” And they share how he encouraged them, and set them all a good example. Because most of the time, his motives were pure, and his character more steady than the rest of them.

And I think that says it all.

This is pretty fun, I can’t wait till the next installment, and even if the J.L. isn’t your thing, I hope you’re enjoying this trip down memory lane with me.

Until next time–Natasha.

Justice League: Wonder Woman.

So, I’ve been thinking about my once-time favorite show a lot, and I thought why not take a closer look at it?

Because, as I’ve explained, I no longer watch it, but I think I was too harsh with it in some ways when I mentioned it before on this blog. It’s a sensitive subject you know.

There are some really bad episodes on it, and no mistake, but there was at least twenty or so that were worth watching and also thought provoking. (And there’s not that many episodes to begin with.)

With that introduction out of the way, Let’s get started.

The best thing about this show was the characters. I don’t think a single fan will argue with me on that point. Nomatter which ones you liked, you pretty much only watched the show because of the characters. (Though it has some of the best animated superhero action I know of.

These characters could nail corny one liners; awesome climatic dialogue; flirty romantic; serious romantic; fun; angry; under mind control; you name it. And all of it seemed to fit. That was how good the voice acting was. You believed you were really watching them.

So that’s why I’m going to dive into each member. But it was putting them all together that made the show freaking incredible. More on that later.

I’ll begin with my favorite: Wonder Woman.

Now, you have to throw out the Linda Carter version of her completely. She has no sister, she can’t sing, and she has no interest in someone in the military.

But Wonder Woman, generally called Diana on this show, makes up for all that by being totally awesome. And I don’t just say that as a crazy fan.

In a way, Wonder Woman balances out the League. She is one of the most powerful, but she is also the most simple in some ways. She’s straightforward but not overly blunt. Somehow she manages not to irritate the inferiority complex in other people that Superman tends to (more on that later.)

It’s not hard to see why. Diana has no trouble picking a fight, or winning one usually, but she doesn’t rub in her advantages. Unlike some of the other top super powered beings, she has warrior training, and she know what it’s like to work for her skills, instead of just to be born with them. She’ll pull her rank when she needs to, but it’s not often.

But more important than her power is her heart. As cheesy as that sounds. Diana always strikes me as the most motherly out of the female supers. She just has a way of caring about her friends and wanting to help them, but not too much. You get the feeling she’s the one they’d turn to for some serious mom-talk. We never see her really use this ability full on except in “Kid’s Stuff.” But it’s an underlying theme of her character, and you can sense it even when you can’t see it.

Without a doubt, the best episode with her in it is “Maid of Honor.” But that’s also the best episode for discussing the Wonder Woman/Batman dynamic, so I won’t give away too much.

But in that episode Diana meets the Princess of Kasnia (made up country) after she is nearly abducted in the middle of a party. The Princess, Audrey, is not much phased by this event, but in order to continue on her merry way, she needs Diana to escort her around. Diana agrees to this and ends up having a blast. She and Audrey become friends instantly, and she decides to keep and eye on her, which won’t be hard because Audrey is inviting her to all her events.

They way Diana and Audrey interact is flawless. Audrey brings out the hidden party girl in Diana, and Diana shows compassion and some tough love to her new friend. We get to see Diana at her best in both the fun friend role, and the friend who-loves-you-too-much-not-to-be-hard-on-you role. Diana also gets to play detective in a way, and we see how though she is a lot more instinctive than Batman, her instincts are right.

Pretty much is was impossible not to love her after this episode.

But Diana has her flaws. The major one we see most in “Starcrossed.” and “Hawk and Dove.” But many people refer to her as “stuck up.” What’s odd is that we never see her act stuck up except in the latter one, and that was a new development.

Diana does act like a Princess, I’ll grant you, but she is one. I’d call it confidence and a really refreshing unaffectedness. (By which I mean she’s never awkward, though sometimes she unconsciously makes other people feel so.)

Her real flaw is she is vindictive. She’d rather fight it out than talk it out. Which is a typical superhero problem, and Wonder Woman has it in a typical way. Slugging it out is simpler than trying to peaceably settle it, and she has a temper. She eventually becomes aware of this flaw and tries to control it, but she has a hard time forgiving.

To her credit, like Mr. Darcy, she seems to take great care in not letting herself be offended easily. WE almost never see her get angry at friends, and then not without great provocation. See’s easy going and spontaneous. Not often spending a lot of time thinking things over, but her decisions work out 80% of the time. Basically, you could sum up Wonder Woman by saying she’s rough around the edges, but her heart is in the right place, and she’s a lot of fun.

I wouldn’t say she’s the core of the League, or what holds them all together, like I said, I believe her effect is more to steady them. She provides back bone. She’s the midpoint between all-too-human and all–too-powerful.

Actually, Wonder Woman is kind of the most balanced superhero in my mind because her powers are definitely super, but she only has two actual powers. Flying and Strength. The rest of it is skill and her magic armor. It makes her easier to understand than the ones with so many powers one can’t even keep them all straight (not to mention the writer keep changing them as time passes.)

I’ll talk more about her in the Batman one, but for now:

Truth. Justice. And whatever Wonder Woman’s motto was.

–Natasha.

The Do-good principle

Hate, love, they’re talked about a lot. As are the reasons for doing either. But I’ve noticed one reason in particular has been overlooked, and I think it’s worth mentioning.

If anyone besides me has read “Mere Christianity” (and the odds are you have) you may remember a point Lewis made about people who ae cruel, and people who are kind. He  used the Nazis as a more widespread example, but there are plenty of others, you’ll have encountered them yourself. Lewis’s point was that the Nazis were cruel to the Jews because they hated them, and then they hated them more because they were cruel to them.

Likewise, if you love someone and are kind to them, you will love them more because you were kind.

I think it’s simple really, when I do bad to someone, I am seeing the worst in myself, which I don’t like, therefore I will not like them, not through any fault of their own, but because I choose not to take responsibility for my own actions.

and if I do good to someone, I will always remember them as someone who caused me to bring out the best in my character, so I will like them more than ever.

Sounds straightforward, doesn’t it? But boy, is it overlooked.

To me, this explains why the Gospels start off with John the Baptist’s calling to repentance, before Jesus’s calling to love. Because if this principle is true, then the first step toward loving people is to admit your sin was your own.

Because it seems to me that hatred for someone you’ve abused is just misdirected hatred toward yourself and your sin.

I am not saying that hatred of others is not real, I am saying that in this case, it is unjust, and a product of our desire to shun responsibility.

In my case, I’ve had people who would say things to me that were wrong, but the more they said them, the more they believed them,  till it wasn’t what I did that really mattered anymore, but what they felt I did. I’m sure you’ve been there too.

This is the explanation for racism. Whatever kind. The white people hated the black people because they were cruel to them, the black people hated the white because they eventually returned the cruelty; pick any two races, two parties, two families who are feuding, and you’ll find the exact same thing.

Take even the recent election. The more one side rails against the other, the more they hate that side. Even though, any sane person knows that victory or defeat depends a lot more on what you do with your own party than on what the opposition does.

This is also why people who serve each other tend to be nicer, more forgiving people.

The only cure for hate is to start doing good for the people one hates. It is the hardest thing perhaps in the world to do that, but it must be done.

This rule will apply to more than hate, it will apply to laziness, envy, greed, jealousy, an almost any vice. It started with the person doing something wrong.

But let me clarify: hate can begin before someone has ever met the object of it, therefore they could not have sinned against them. I won’t deny this is real, but it is rarely self-begun in that case. Usually there is a cause for such hate, and then the solution is not repentance but forgiveness.

But I’d say that’s only 10% of the hatred out there, the rest is taught or grows out of our own selfishness.

It works even if it’s not hate per sec. Children who are rebellious started off at one point disobeying once or twice, then made it a habit, and the more times they did it, the more they felt like doing it.

I can even cite a non-biblical, or religious, source for this idea.

Watch your habits for they will become your character, watch your character for it will become your destiny.

It’s the same idea. What you make a habit of doing will become your character eventually.

As you can see, I’m not the first to hit upon this principle. But it is not well known enough, and never has been. It’s too hard to retain. It’s more natural to us to blame others for our behavior, or excuse ourselves, or even in some cases enjoy being bad.

Like I said a few posts ago, evil will change your idea of fun (Girl Meets World) and this principle explains why. Call it the snowball effect, or something akin to that.

The Golden Rule is “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” I used to think that meant if I was nice, others would be nice to me. Well, that is a possibility. But the Golden Rule is really for us. If we treat others how we want to be treated, eventually we will come to love them as ourselves, which is just paraphrasing the Golden Rule. (Jesus said both things real close together after all.)

Simple, profound, and difficult. It must be right.

One last thing, I’ve mentioned before how our culture is obsessed with evil people. If you think hard enough, the Do-good principle is at the heart of this too. The more we choose it, the more we like it. Any character that starts off as good guy and ends up a villain will be applying the inverse of the principle.

I think that wraps it up for now, until next time–Natasha.

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 appeal of evil.

I have an unusual subject for you all today. (At least I hope it’s unusual.) What is the alluring power of evil?

Believe it or not, this was sparked by a chapter title in The Ever After High book “The Storybook of Legends.”

In this particular chapter, Shannon Hale takes a rather startling turn from the rest of the book, which has dealt with our protagonist, Raven Queen, feeling unfit for evil. WE all feel bad for Raven, but in this chapter Hale shocks us with a rather long inner battle in Raven’s mind about whether evil might actually be an intoxicating thing. There was a lot of power at Raven’s fingertips. (Literally.) A whole army of evil servants willing to do whatever she wanted. And she could even take revenge on everyone who “had ever made her feel like dirt.” While shes’ thinking this, Dexter, one of her few friends, comes up to her and says he almost didn’t recognize her because she looked so angry.

Personally, this chapter made sense to me. Right from the start of the day Raven feels the pressure to sign the book and seal her fate. She dresses up in her mom’s cape, puts on striking make up, and looks the part. She even feels the part, mistaking the inner turmoil shes’ feeling as evil, when in reality, it’s her uncertainty mixed with her fears of both signing and not signing.

But is the power of evil really so appealing?

Many sources recognize that evil appeals to our desire to control, to have absolute power, to manipulate others and ourselves. Pretty much any book with magic in it will deal with that part of evil and power at some point. (And if it doesn’t; frankly, I question how relevant it is.) Take the ring in the Lord of The Rings. It isolates the person wearing it, and tempts them to keep using it, to keep having control. Another example is The Green Goblin, whom I mentioned in my post about Spider-Man. The Goblin offers Osborne more and more control, but the price is to do evil. We all know which he chooses.

But though it’s easy to identify what desires in us prompt us to give in to this kind of evil, I rarely hear it discussed whether the desire itself is not evil to begin with.

A lot of kids, sad to say, are rooting for Raven to be evil. Why? Because it’s so darn cool. (I don’t speak for myself, here, of course.) Because she’s so much more intimidating when she’s evil. Even people in the story are rooting for her to be evil. Which is infuriating both to her and to the fans.

Girl Meets World pointed out the fact that just when we think we’ve seen the worst of it, someone finds a new way to do evil. Why? “Because it’s evil that fascinates us.” Heck, there’s a whole movie about that coming out on Disney Channel, and I am not endorsing it. Seriously, no one watch Descendants 2, it’s terrible. Whatever you’ve heard about it, if you’ve heard about it at all.

Girl Meets World actually tackled the subject of evil in another episode, and Riley’s dad said something wise, that evil changes our idea of what fun is.

The fact that evil is a kind of thrill is a sad fact of life; but it does not give us a pass.

Let’s go back to Raven. She has always felt like evil is not a good fit for her. But she knows other kids at school who are destined to be villains who like it. They have no pressure on them to be nice, in fact, they are applauded for being nasty. And Raven could have gone that way. It was tempting.

And what is it that makes it tempting? Is it not our desire to control things? And is that desire good?

Because when it comes down to it, it’s all about motive. Evil would not be appealing to someone who had no evil desires, and every human being has evil desires. As James 1 tells us, and as any honest person will have to admit. I’ll admit it right now, I sometimes have desires that I know are bad. I get angry, and I don’t always want to let it go, though I know I must. I feel like hiding the truth. And I give into fear.

I don’t do any of this as much as I used to, but I still feel like doing it sometimes. Something is wrong with some part of me.

This doesn’t make you a bad person, in as much as any human being can be a good person. But it does present a problem. It means none of us are perfectly good.

And if so, aren’t we all evil?

I don’t need to protest, you’ll all probably do it for me. Because nowadays our immediate response is “Don’t judge me.” Or “Nobody is without flaws.”

And yes, I am not one to judge. But I can at least go so far as to say, it is not good to have evil desires.

But does that mean Raven has already lost? And does that mean we all have?

Yes and no.

We are none of us good by nature. But neither are we completely bad. The mistake the Ever After High books are highlighting for us is that is it wrong to think anyone is automatically all good just because they are supposed to be, and it is wrong to think anyone is all evil just because they were taught to be.

Raven Queen has the purest heart of just about any modern character I’ve encountered, but even she was able to see why evil can be tempting. So why did she decide not to choose it?

Why did she give up control?

Well, Raven is smart. She figured our that by giving up control, she was really taking control for the first time. But not of her destiny, per sec; but of herself.

Raven saw more clearly than most of us that signing away your life to evil will never be a happy fate, no matter what perks it seems to have at first. One big part of it was she didn’t want to become full of hatred. Which she would have been, because she’d always blame her destiny for her unhappiness. (And not unjustly either.)

Unlike the foolish Apple White, who put aside all misgivings in order to do what she thought she was born to do.

In conclusion, it is the desire to give in to evil that we all need to guard against. It is what prompts us to do wrong, and it needs to die. Every time it comes back. I know of only one way to accomplish this, and that is through Christ.

But even so, any of us can choose to resist it. We should.

Hope you enjoyed, until next time–Natasha.

Going back to the basics.

I revisited My Report Card post, someone just looked at it recently. Of course, the reason I re-read it is because, as I said in the post, I need my own advice.

Disappointed again.

Boy, it’s hard not to just let this become your attitude toward life, isn’t it?

Funny story: back when I was a kid, I got disappointed frequently for awhile, and one day I got it into my head that if I said I hoped for the opposite of what I wanted, then what I actually wanted would happen. It even seemed to work.

But what’s not funny at all is how many of us still think that as grown men and women.

I realize now that my negative thinking was more likely to prevent what I wanted from happening than to allow it, but at the time I had a rather negative view of myself. It wouldn’t be the last time I felt almost like I was cursed.

If you check out Genesis, you’ll find that the original human beings were indeed cursed, but it was for trying to get what they wanted by doing the wrong thing.

The Man was cursed with thorns and thistles and constant work.

The Woman, which to us at least sounds worse, was cursed with painful labor, even though of course, it’s not constant.

As John Eldredge has pointed out in “Wild at Heart.” The curses are more than just what they sound like on the surface.

Men were cursed with futility and failure. Which I think doesn’t mean things like work are futile, or that men will constantly fail, a curse is really a lot more about your perception of what’s happening.

And don’t men feel like their lives are futile a lot of the time? And like they are failing?

So do women of course, but for us it’s even more personal, I think.

It’s not just having kids, it can seem like whatever women do, it ends up being a long and painful process, and one we never really feel ready for.

And of course there’s the part about having desire for, and being ruled by, your husband.

Relationship difficulties, am I right? Not fun.

Women feel like their desires contradict themselves, after all. We want this, but we also want something very different. Ah! Why can’t we be simpler?

Well, where’s the fun in that? But my main point is this all feels like a curse… and it is.

But not completely. Like I said, it’s your perception.

The reason I think that is because Christians like to say Jesus freed us from the curse of Adam and Eve; which is true; but not in the way we think.

At bottom, a curse leads to sorrow and suffering. Jesus was cursed if you can believe it, because the Word says “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.” Which is what a cross is made from. Major suffering.

But Jesus does not free us from having to suffer and know sorrow. He knew plenty himself, and part of the deal of being a Christian is learning to be like Jesus.

I’d venture to say 90% of our problems as Christians come from not understanding what being like Jesus entails. Maybe even more.

I like better the answer I heard from another source, that Jesus’ suffering redeemed our suffering. The thing about a curse is, it never makes your life better. (Read “Ella Enchanted.”) But suffering can ultimately make your life better, if it is in the right hands.

So in a sense, maybe my younger self was right. But now that I know this, I know that my disappointments don’t have to make me bitter, or just plain delusional. (Why do we use delusional as a word to apply to people who believe things are better than they are? IT’s far more often the other way around.)

All that said, will disappointment hurt? YES!!

Does it have to break you? No.

It might, being broken isn’t as bad as being bent. Broken is fixable.

So is bent, but it’s harder, definitely.

But once you’ve cried, or ranted, or whatever you do to feel better; it’s time to pick up the pieces.

Because as bad as I feel, and as much as  might want to quit, I’ve come to far to give up now. I’m finishing this thing.

Frankly, I can’t accept defeat because I’ve staked everything on victory.

You can’t quit when you realize what you have to lose.

And looking at the bigger picture, I see that one disappointment is not worth throwing away everything.

In a way, I needed to write this more than any of you needed to read it, because I had to remind myself of all that.

Still, I hope it was helpful to someone else besides me, thank you for reading, and until next time–Natasha.

Give or Take?

Hey everyone, get ready to dive down deep.

In my post about Spider-Man, I mentioned something about being given something or taking it.

I was specifically thinking of power of course, since that was the thing in question. Spider-Man was given power, if you don’t believe in fate, at least you have to admit that technically the spider did give him its power.

And I mentioned Elsa.

Now, there’s been a lot of movies and books that explore the idea of whether all special powers are evil. I mean, a lot, it’s a huge theme now.

So, what’s my take on it?

Better yet, is there a biblical take on it?

Because the first mistake many Christian kids make is thinking that it’s entirely up to them whether this stuff is okay or not. People have justified horoscopes as being harmless.

But are they?

Okay, no one wants to hear the Christian freaking out over invisible demons type of thing on a blog, so I won’t. But I can’t avoid it either when talking about power.

We all have seen or read, or heard of in real life, a story about someone grasping for material power. Authority; wealth; strength; sway. Some of us think that’s dangerous, some of us are still grasping.

Assuming for the moment that we all agree that it’s dangerous, than good. WE won’t try for it. But I notice another trend that’s prevalent in our culture.

Magic. Real or fake, magic sells. Kids think it’s cool. And I think it’s all right in a fantasy context.

Magic, however, is all about power.

Which is why it can be a great symbolic way to teach us about the follies of being power hungry, but it can also masquerade as something harmless and fun. This happens even in stories.

(Ever see Disney’s Sword in the Stone? All the magic in that ends up backfiring in several ways, despite how harmless or fun it seems. Merlin actually teaches Arthur that in a way, magic is no toy.)

Plenty of people think there are powers we can’t understand in the real world. Some are even scientific. That’s no great leap of logic.

But is power given or is it taken?

You’ll find that in real life and in stories, the villain often brings the tale to just that sort of crux. Where the hero must choose whether they take power, or whether they use only what they’ve been given. In Prince Caspian, this amounts to calling up the white witch, or using the forces they have and believing Aslan will show up in the end, with help. We all know what the right choice was.

The truth is, real or not, things like horoscopes; and Ouija boards; and tarot cards; and magic tricks; they all are rooted in the same thing: Wanting power. Often sold as wanting knowledge. Knowledge of the future, mostly. After all, our greatest fear is not being prepared for the future. But as the saying goes, knowledge is power.

We think if we know, we’ll have the power to control it.

Like in Macbeth, where Macbeth finds out the future from three witches and tried to make it happen, only to be killed in the end. Because you cannot control your fate.

Even in Frozen, when Elsa is told fear will be her enemy. I don’t think it was wrong for the troll to warn her of that, but her parents immediately tried to control her fate. Elsa learned to do the same.

Often in The Bible, and in old myths, people are told the future without asking for it. And that is a given thing. Usually in the form of a prophecy. You might notice that it rarely has the same negative outcome as seeking out such knowledge does.

God may choose to reveal to people what will happen, often the knowledge only prepares them, they can’t do anything to prevent it.

That’s the difference you see. Control is different from preparation. Or even prevention. In the end, somethings in the future are changeable, but most aren’t.

We’re told to focus on the present, and that is a wise thing. Live in the now, even commercials will tell you that. I’d just add that there’s a lot your better off not knowing or thinking about.

But one final not on power: Everyone has some. Everyone is indeed born with certain powers. The power to choose being the most famous one. That is a gift. Use it wisely.

And it’s okay to have the gift of music, or athletic ability, and to build on those gifts. I don’t want anyone thinking I meant that was a bad thing.

It’s going outside of your natural talents that leads to harm, in whatever form you do it in.

That said, I’ll end this here. 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.

What I hate (and love) about superheros.

Not the first time I’ve talked about this I know, but I actually have found a couple of superhero films that I like, and the new Wonder Woman came out this month, so let’s go for it.

First of all, start with the negative.

What I hate about superhero movies is how darn depressing they are. Seriously, there’s some pscyo villain who has some non-relatable reason for wanting to destroy humanity, and we’re all supposed to sympathize with them, even when they’re point of view makes no sense. And the hero never has a really good answer for them.

At least in the last decade and a half of films.

But when they do it right, the villain is tragic or at least someone we won’t feel sorry for; and the hero is not shaken by the villain’s warped world view.

Not all superhero movies are depressing, they were originally inspiring.

What I like about superhero movies is they can give us a cool story, with plenty of unrealistic action and science and powers; but they keep it grounded in real life. The perfect combination some would say.

In my personal opinion, “The Incredibles” nailed this one in every way. The heroes never stop being normal people with their own quirks and problems to work out.

In contrast, the Avengers never stop acting like superheroes. I have never seen any of them really loosen up and turn off the charm and bravado and wise cracking, and just be people.

The whole idea of a superhero is a person with special powers, who uses them unselfishly. The MCU can’t even decide whether it’s heroes are heroes or villains.

What shocks me is how many people are applauding this, even while many are horrified. People find a movie boring now, if the villain is not just as compelling as the hero.

I don’t mind an interesting villain, but if they aren’t going to reform by the end, I don’t want to get attached to them.

This will sound sacrilegious, but I have never made any connection with any modern superhero except briefly for Captain America. (In his first movie.)

But, what I do like about the superheros I actually connect with, is how they never let anything stop them from doing the right thing.

It’s like Superman says of his friends in one episode of the animated Justice League, he tells the bad guy he’s fighting that none of them will stop fighting as long as they ‘re breathing, and able to move. (I paraphrase.)

I appreciate the teamwork they exhibit. It’s what makes they’re powers are attractive, because the team shows the best of everyone.

But it’ how they are with each other in ordinary life that really makes it work.

I think Guardians of the Galaxy was better in  this regard, even though they all start off as enemies and end up with rather dysfunctional family–friendship dynamic, it worked.

Anyway, there’s no formula for making a good superhero flick…which is the problem. Personally, I find movies where there has to to be a violent action sequence every five minute to be boring.

I’d really start to think superheros just don’t have self control.

At least when Mr. Incredible loses it, there are serious consequences.

I really hope that this new Wonder Woman film sparks a new trend, because I think this genre had a lot of potential if people figure out how to use it right.

In the end, though, whenever you have huge quantities of something, the’res only going to be a few really good products to choose from.

I think some people see it as stuck up to even complain, the masses like the total crud that studios pop out every two years, why not we? What makes our opinion so much better?

Well, I can’t really say. I have my reasons, my concern is that the majority of us don’t use reason when we’re judging a film or any other thing we like. We want to be entertained. Not taught.

(I know folks who won’t even try to hide that this is their perspective.)

And if that’s what you want, than even a really well-made movie is lost on you. Take Frozen as an example. I know for a fact that despite its popularity, not even half of the fans fully understand why it’s a great movie. They like the songs, the cool clothes, the funny scenes, and the wishy-washy message about love; but they miss the real deep message about true love, and the really important stuff the movie is telling us about ourselves.

And many just can’t stomach the format.

Personally, I don’t care about formatting.(Most of the time.) My tastes go from those super-boring-to-most-people real life story movies, to a few of the notoriously bad Christian movies, to Disney, to obscure movies very few people have ever heard of and movies that were supposedly made to sell toys.

I don’t care. I just want the movie to speak to me. Otherwise, what’s the point? Literally.

Now, it is possible to get caught in the trap of assigning meaning where meaning clearly wasn’t intended, which is why I think movie reviewers are important in moderation. Just like book reviewers are. I’d be hypocrite if I said that’s a bad thing.

But I do think there is too much credit given to the movies that are huge successes. Frankly, a lot of them are trash. Except the ones that are not.

But, there are legit reasons people like even the Superhero movies that I despise. A lot of the times they can overlook the flaws because the heroes are just so cool, and I suppose that’s fine to a certain point.

But you can’t just excuse every problem because a movie appeals to your personal taste. Per example, I used to like Pocahontas the best of any Disney princess movie, but though I don’t hate it now, I admit it’s pretty flawed. (Sorry to any fans out there.)

Anyway, I risk shooting the sacred cow just writing this, but I think people will see where I’m coming from.

Until next time–Natasha.