Category: Christianity & Catholicism & philosophy

Destiny

I was trying to think of how to title this post, and it’s just a pain. I’ve always been bad at writing titles for the purpose of getting attention (my English and journalism teachers knew this). I like titling things descriptively (my science teachers know this). I don’t know why. Anyway, I’m thinking about destiny. Fate. Predestination. Darma. “Meant to be.” I still don’t know how much I believe in it.

Destiny can be somewhat of a comforting idea, and I think it’s really powerful in movies and books. Frodo was destined to be the ring bearer, for example. It wouldn’t be as interesting if Frodo just sort of happened to end up taking the ring to Mordor. It’s not just a matter of interest though, but also a matter of making things believable. How did Frodo overcome all the odds to get that damned ring to Mt. Doom? Destiny. Because we hate to believe in chance, don’t we?

I’m not really trying to talk about Lord of the Rings though, and I’m not sure if Tolkien really thought of Frodo as being fated to carry the ring or not. It’s beside the point, but maybe I will return to it after I’ve graduated college and finally had time to reread the LOTR.

I’ve been thinking about destiny, fate, etc., and also the Christian idea of a calling. I think there are certainly general callings. For instance, if you’ve come to believe in Christ, you’ve been called to do certain things: love your neighbor, seek peace, praise God, look forward to the world to come. But people talk a lot about specific callings, most often having to do with occupations and/or ministries. They feel called to become a doctor or a priest or a teacher. They feel called to move somewhere to start a new church group. Sometimes the conversation then turns fuzzy. If God calls me to be a teacher, say, does that mean I was destined to be a teacher all along? If God says today that I am to be a teacher, does that mean he had always planned on saying that?

Partly this goes back to the clockmaker God debate, in my mind. Is God intimately, unceasingly involved in everything that’s going on in the world? Is he always putting just the right person in just the right spot and just the right time for infinitely many specific purposes? Or did he set it in motion, this gloriously intricate universe, already knowing everything that would happen? Either of these seem to suggest fate–but now I am being sloppy. Can the universe have a fate, but each individual planet not? Can the human race have a fate, but each individual human not? Can the Jewish people have a fate, but not each Jewish person?

I believe God has a plan, although I can’t honestly say from the top of my head what I base this belief on. I can’t think of any words from the bible that told me this, although maybe there are some, and they got the idea across without me remembering how. It’s not necessarily a logical conclusion either. I believe it though, at the moment. What I am unsure of is whether God has a plan for me. Did he really make me to do some specific thing? Or did he make me just because, and it doesn’t matter what I do, but rather how I do it?

Years ago, I read the Bhagavad Gita, an Indian scripture I am not qualified to analyze too deeply. Anyway, it partly deals with duty, and something called dharma, which has to do with what I’m talking about. One of the things I recall from the reading was the idea that a person can have a duty that he must perform, and that he must perform it, even if he had a greater talent for something else. I don’t remember if the person’s own desire was discussed. While I know there are many interpretations of this Indian work, and while it is not something I believe was inspired by God (like the Gospels, for example), I have always been open to different ways of thinking… and really, to different ways of asking. Many people I have talked to seem to think that a person’s “natural aptitude” or simply their interest in something is a good clue for that person toward what he or she should pursue seriously. But when I think of Arjuna’s story (the Gita), I’m not so sure this is a logical approach.

Firstly, say I have an aptitude for catching fish. I’m good at it. Am I good at it because God made me to be good at it? Or am I simply good at it because I grew up a poor fisherman’s daughter? Perhaps I would be just as apt at anything if I were experienced with it.

Next, say I am interested in journalism (which I actually was at one point). I’m so interested in it. I’ve studied it. I’ve practiced it. This seems problematic too because there are at least three things that are likely to happen: a) I get burnt out, b) I simply change over time and fall in love with something else (especially possible with something like journalism in which your job is really to learn about other things), or c) I always love it, but never am especially good at it.

None of these thoughts are getting me any closer to an answer though. Am I meant to do something?

I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me much, really, for all the writing I do on it. I just wish I had an opinion, but I really don’t. I could argue yea or nay. Watching Interstellar twice made me think of it. Studying physics makes me think of it. Being a Christian makes me think of it. I’m convinced that God created, made, and formed us. I’m even convinced of salvation through Christ, and the resurrection. But what about in between?

The other day I was thinking about where I might be someday. When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a professional equestrienne for a while. Of course. Then, for a long time, I was really interested in genetics, and I was sure that’s what I’d get into. I remember reading about the Human Genome Project, back when it was still years from completion. Other things caught my interest. I pursued one of them, the Navy, and even today, I’m not sure I was right to end that pursuit. One of the possibilities I still seriously consider is going back on active duty (though hopefully as an officer). Now I study physics. I’ve always been interested in it. I’ve loved math ever since I took my first trigonometry class. Did I ever see myself in this position though? Did I ever see myself as a physicist? Do I now? Well, I can.

The other day when I was thinking of this, I got a slight sense that I’m not sure I’ve felt before… if I have, it was a long time ago. I got this slight sense that, “I was doing this before.”

As I said before, destiny is sort of a comforting idea, but I’m still not sure I buy it. I’m not having an identity crisis or anything. I don’t think I tie too much of my identity into what I do, but maybe it would be easier if I did. If you’d asked me a couple of years ago what I wanted to do, I’d say I wanted to make films. You know, I still do, too. But I want to do a lot of things, and I want to study a lot of things. I already discussed how it can be problematic to just do things you like to do.

For now I am following curiosity and a little practicality. I am curious about many things, but I am studying in school the subject I think I have the least ability to learn by myself. I mean, I am curious about art history, but it is relatively easy to research it without a lot of help. Physics on the other hand?

Please don’t apologize

Recently a very close friend called me after several months of very, very little contact. Even though I keep this blog pretty anonymous, I’m still not going to go into the details of why my friend sort of disappeared for a while. The thing is, when she did call me and explain everything that had been happening — and let me be clear, she was and is going through some very serious grief and hardship — she apologized for being out of touch. You’re apologizing to me for not making sure I know every little detail of your life? I’m not entitled to that. You’re entitled to your privacy. You deserve to have some time to deal with things on your own. How can you apologize to anybody when you’re the one who should be receiving apologies?

Then the other day I got a call from the St. Joseph the Worker group at my church. I signed up with them a few weeks ago. The mission is to pretty much be there to provide help when it’s needed. If someone needs a ride to the doctor, or maybe an elderly person really needs some strong young people to move something heavy for them, etc., they can call SJW, and the group calls someone who’s already registered to help with “odd jobs.” When you sign up, you tell them what you can do, and what days you’re usually available. If you’re not available when they call, it’s okay, and they just go to the next person on the list. It’s really awesome in my opinion.

So anyway, I got a call from SJW asking me if I could drive a lady downtown for a medical procedure next Friday. I was happy to say yes because… honestly, I need to be needed. I’m a Christian. It’s my job to fulfill needs. The hardest part is figuring out who needs me to do what. I love it when I’m asked to do something specific, and when I know I’ll actually be helping someone. So I got in touch with the lady, but she said she might not need me, but then again she might, so she’s wondering if I could keep Friday morning open. Basically she’s having some pain that she’ll receive treatment for on Monday, but she’s not sure if the treatment will be effective. So I’m thinking, “I’ll just drive you either way.” I don’t know… The SJW people told me that this woman has been helping other people for years. Now she seems shy about receiving help unless she really, really needs it.

There’s plenty of talk about how people are very self-entitled nowadays. There are plenty of stories about people who just take and take and take, and can hardly be bothered to say, “Thanks.” But there are still some amazing people out there who even when they are suffering, think about others. Even when they’re in need, they don’t want to inconvenience someone else. Even when they took only what they needed (in my friend’s case, time), they feel like they took more than they should have. What if we were all like that? It’s very humbling.

I just want to enjoy the fresh air (venting)

I’m having issues with some of my neighbors. It’s not that they let their children run around the street like wild animals, leaving their toys and scooters everywhere and just randomly screaming. It’s not that they themselves are always out on the street yelling at the kids or each other. It’s not their music. It’s not their cigarette smoke or their drunken slurring.

It’s just their fire pits. I live in a small community of townhouse style units. Nobody has a yard, and nobody is allowed to have a fire pit. That makes sense to me. If I can smell what the neighbors are cooking for dinner, and I can hear the conversations they’re having outside while I’m sitting on the second or third floor of my place, of course I can smell — and be completely overwhelmed by — the billows of smoke coming out of their fire pit…. that they’re not supposed to have.

I get wanting that feel. I get that some people like the smell of wood smoke. I get that a lot of these people are from the country where they probably grew up acres (or at least tens of yards) away from their neighbors, and burned wood all the time. I understand that country people like to do that more than, say, people from St. Pete, Florida, like me. But here’s the thing. We all like the cool, fresh, autumn air, right? So why pollute it? If you’re okay with inhaling known carcinogens, that’s okay too, but why force your kids to breathe that too? And why your neighbors? Isn’t there a way to have a good time without sitting in front of a fire pit drinking?

A lot of people would say, “close your windows,” but the bottom line is that the rules say fire pits aren’t allowed. Now it’s just a matter of getting the rules enforced. But even if it weren’t for the rules, why should I close my windows? If someone’s neighbors are blaring music so loud that his apartment is shaking, is the solution really, “Use some ear plugs?” Of course not. Why shouldn’t I get to enjoy the fall air after all these months of super hot and dry weather? Why shouldn’t I get to keep the windows open and lower my electric bill and my carbon footprint? I don’t do anything to bother these people. They do a lot to bother me, but I only complain about one thing.

A group of these neighbors came by my place around 10 last night. They started by saying, “We’re sorry if we…” but ended by saying, “You’ve pissed off a lot of people,” and other things like that. They were drunk, and they thought we had called security on them for their blaring music, which we had not done. (Apparently that means we are not the only ones annoyed by these inconsiderate people.) We told them we had never complained about the music or anything else except the fire pit. We were honest and said that we wouldn’t stop complaining about the fires ever, because they’re against the rules and we hate them, period. Of course they were drunk and talking over each other and getting emotional, and I told them if they really wanted to talk about anything, they should come ring my door bell when they were sober.

Some of them were mad that we had called security without talking to them first. Again, we didn’t call this time, but we have called about the fires before. As I explained to my one sober neighbor, I don’t confront groups of drunk people, let alone drunk Marines and their drunk hyper-aggressive wives. As far as I’m concerned, if there’s someone who’s trained to do that, whose job it is to do that in my neighborhood, I will by all means call that person.

So what to do now? Keep trying to talk to the leasing office or the district manager to get the fire pits contained. Keep having drunk crazy people cussing and complaining on the street because someone else justifiably called security because of their loudness?

I’m not even trying to get philosophical or anything. I’m a Christian, so of course I’ve tried to be considerate of my neighbors too. I get that they want to have a good time. That’s why I think it’s a reasonable compromise to not complain about them making tons of noise all the time, if they’re willing to do that without also burning wood upwind of my unit. It’s just frustrating. I try hard to be civilized. I cuss at home, but not to strangers, and definitely not at them. I definitely don’t use words like “motherfucker” around people I have never met before, or if there are children around. I try to be considerate. I don’t make noise. I’ve asked my next door neighbors if I’ve done anything to annoy them, and they’ve said no. I don’t gossip about anybody, ask anybody for anything, or get obnoxious when I drink (I rarely drink anyway, but still). Why is it so crazy to expect the neighbors to follow the community rules and let me enjoy having my windows open? Would not burning wood on the street really get in the way of them having a good time?

Stuff like this makes me miss Japan. I don’t even understand this. I’ve lived in places where everybody was single, and it’s not really surprising to hear music and parties and things; but I’ve never lived anywhere with neighbors who were this into partying and generally loudly socializing on the street… even though all of these people have families! I thought part of growing up was settling down. Putting the shot glasses and red Solo cups away when you have a couple of kids. Going to sleep before midnight because you and your spouse need to get up and go to work tomorrow. Responsibility. Courtesy. But I’m pretty sure living in the barracks as an airman wasn’t this bad. Living in a berthing with 50+ other people wasn’t this bad. Living in a dorm probably isn’t this bad. I just expected better I guess. And I’m sure these people all think I’m a bitch or something, when really I think I’m pretty laid back and liberal about all that goes on. *shrug*

I guess I’ll just get back to my homework until one of them decides to come ring on my doorbell and talk to me sober.

Debating abortion laws is pointless.

I read a post I saw on Freshly Pressed earlier. It was one man’s reason why he won’t be voting in favor of an amendment to make abortion more difficult in his state — even though he’s a Christian. He explained pretty well, IMO, the fact that Roe v. Wade was never meant to speak as to the morality of abortion. That is, the court’s decision was not in favor of abortion, but in favor of women’s rights. The idea is that states can’t really say abortion is only okay in cases of rape or incest, for example, because then when a woman wants an abortion because she’s been raped, the doctor asks her to prove that she was raped. Clearly that’s a privacy violation.

But I have a few issues with this. First of all, most women don’t get abortions because they were victims of rape or incest. Every source I’ve been able to find, pro-choice or pro-life, say that most women who choose to abort, do so because they don’t feel ready for a baby, or because they lack financial resources, etc. (Infanticide is still illegal even if you can prove that you’re destitute, by the way, but that’s another argument.) For all the shouting by many feminists about protecting women, protecting women, protecting women, let’s be a little more critical about this.

First of all, any doctor will tell you prevention is key to health. Person trainers and coaches say this. I wouldn’t be surprised if police say this. What if we put less into “protecting the privacy rights” of a very few women, and more into protecting the women themselves? I’m talking about preventing rape. I’d like to have a dollar for every time I heard or participated in an abortion debate in school, but until very recently, I never heard anything about preventing sexual assaults.

And what about the rape victims? I want them to have privacy, of course. My opinion is still that abortion is wrong, even for them, but… still, I’m not sure if I’d honestly vote in favor of a law that banned 100% of abortions. The thing is I don’t think it’s really right to base the entire legislating-abortion issue on protecting these women. The reason is that, as I said, they’re in the minority. Aren’t we in fact using these women as an excuse to permit any woman to get an abortion for any reason? That’s not right. It’s like a person asking for money to feed orphans, but then spending almost all of the money on… I don’t know, anything. New clothes. Something like that. That person can still say that the orphans benefited, even if he or she only gave them one percent of the money donated. Indeed, I suppose the orphans do benefit, just like women who have been raped and want an abortion benefit from the Roe v. Wade decision. But I find it pretty disgusting for people to pretend the pro-choice battle is all in the name of women who have been victimized.

I could go on, I guess. I don’t know how I’d vote on any given abortion bill/prop/amendment. Talking to my older female relatives, I know that women sought abortions in this country before they were legal. It doesn’t take a lot of reading to find out that in many countries where abortion is legal today, many women (and babies) die as a result of unsafe abortions. The line of reasoning I’m following right now is the one that essentially says, “If we prohibit abortion, we won’t save any babies. The babies will still be aborted, only more of their mothers die too.” I think that’s probably true, although part of me also thinks — and I’m not sure this is right because it does seem callous — but are these women unaware of the risks? I’m not saying they deserve to die, but it doesn’t make sense to decide what laws to make based solely on what will happen to the people who break those laws. Probably this is another unpopular opinion, but I also think people in this country don’t think about the consequences or meaning of anything. They don’t think about the consequences or meaning of sex, and so they end up with unwanted pregnancies. They don’t think about the consequences or meaning of abortion, and so they end up — however they end up, regardless of the law. The same people I hear complaining about being broke are drinking Starbucks beverages every other day, smoking cigarettes, or driving gas guzzling cars. I’m not being holier-than-thou — I definitely do bad or stupid things sometimes.

My point is that people really do need to think about priorities and consequences. If your priority, for example, is to be a real career woman, fine. Think about it. Get some effective birth control, and make sure you take it properly. I’ve been in the position before of fearing I was pregnant. It’s not like I don’t get what women think. I’ve been there. I’ve thought about my lost career plans, what others would think, how not-ready I feel, what the financial impact would be, how my lifestyle would change, how I don’t want to get huge, etc. But I’ve always thought, “As much as I don’t want to do this, if I am pregnant, I know how it happened. I made that choice. It’s not worth it to take another innocent person’s life in order to avoid all these things I’m afraid of.”

I just don’t understand how another human life isn’t as important as me not wanting to lose my figure or take time off work. I think half the financial arguments I hear are nonsense too, because some of the greatest and happiest mothers I have known were/are living in or close to poverty. If I’m not “ready,” or I’m so sure I’m going to be a terrible mother, well… would my unskilled parenting be worse than dying? Worse than not getting a chance to live in the world at all? Oh, and there’s always adoption. If I’m worried about having a child with special needs… what am I worried about in that case? The expense? The difficulty? How can people be against abortion except for children with Down’s Syndrome, for example? Does the life of a baby with a disorder like that mean less than the life of any other baby? It disgusts me and makes me sad how many people seem to think so.

So what do I think about laws? I don’t know. I don’t care. It doesn’t matter. Truly, it doesn’t. Like the Pope has said, we have this disposable culture. We are so materialistic that even babies in the womb are not “lives,” are not “people,” are not “babies,” but are “bundles of tissue,” like a scab torn off a skinned knee. We say “terminate a pregnancy,” instead of “terminate a life.” We look at a baby in the womb a thing, not a somebody; so we think it’s okay to get rid of it, and we don’t consider that killing. I know these words would probably seem insulting to someone who has had an abortion. I’m sure many or most of these women don’t even think they have killed anyone, don’t think their babies were really babies. That’s exactly it. That’s exactly it. The entire mentality of our society is why abortion can’t be solved by laws. People don’t care about laws. (I’m not sure many people care about a whole lot, honestly.) Unless and until women start to turn away from materialism (including looking at a fetus as, essentially, nothing but genetic material), abortion will be a big thing.

But Americans can’t even be convinced to save fuel or to save food! Everything is a commodity. If there’s a zucchini in my fridge that I don’t want anymore, and I can afford to go buy a new one, out it goes. It’s not food. It’s not something that someone else could really use. I toss it. Why save the earth? Why save gasoline? I can afford to drive a gas guzzler, so why don’t I? I am certainly digressing now, but the attitude that underlies the pro-choice movement is the same attitude that leads to a half of the country’s agricultural products going to waste, and to fuel-efficient car sales going down now that the price of gas is going down. It’s money, convenience, material. So depressing.

Final word: This is quite a ramble. I have mixed feelings and many thoughts. I sympathize with women who are raped or poor or who just don’t want to have a baby yet. I sympathize with people who don’t want to eat that damned zucchini in the fridge. I sympathize with people who just want to drive a badass car. I get it, and I’m not judging anybody. If anything comes from this post though, it’s that I put thought into it. All the angry debating I hear about these things… all I hear are emotions, people arguing over what they want or feel entitled to. But we need to think harder. If every pro-choice person tried to understand what I’m talking about, and if every pro-lifer would try to be more compassionate toward women who want abortions, maybe we could come up with effective solutions. The sooner everybody realizes that debating abortion laws is pointless, the sooner we figure out something to do that really helps women.

Catholics getting pissed off are pissing me off.

I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been busy. I don’t get a lot out of my calc II lectures, so I have to “teach myself” at home. Physics is also proving to be a huge, time-consuming, soul-destroying (just kidding) pain in the neck.

Also, I’m not sure I’ve had much to write. But one thing I have been thinking about in recent days is this:

Why do we Christians, including Catholics, mostly find ourselves in the news when it has to do with homosexuality? Is that really what we care about most? Are we really more upset about gay people’s marriages taking away the sanctity or dignity of our heterosexual and/or Sacramental marriages? Oh — and does anyone honestly believe that two gay people being married takes away from the sanctity or dignity of one’s own marriage? Other people’s marriages don’t concern me, and if they did, I’d probably be more concerned about all the people divorcing and subjecting their kids to a bunch of bullshit, than all of the really loving, committed, faithful gay couples I know actually getting some marital rights/privileges.

My point writing right now isn’t actually about gay marriage at all. It’s about Christians, and how we keep pushing people away because we’re so obsessed with affirming and reaffirming and reaffirming what we think is sinful. The synod is in the news, and conservative Catholics are going nuts just thinking about divorced people getting to receive the Eucharist, among other things. Why? Why not go nuts over the thousands of impoverished people who are dying of ebola (or malaria, polio, the flu, or various other diseases which hardly kill anyone in a rich nation)? Why not go nuts over how endlessly shitty the situation in the Middle East is — where innocent people are being displaced, tortured, and/or killed every day? Why not go nuts about how many people are living in the streets?

Oh, or what about going nuts in a more positive way. Not being mad, but being passionate for a cause. Could be healing, teaching, serving in any number of ways. Could be talking about the Faith — could even be living the Faith, and making people actually want to learn about Christ. But so many people aren’t interested in anything but incessantly declaring what is sinful and must not be permitted by the church. Why is it that when we get a new pope, people are grateful and glad and say that the Spirit chose the pope? We have confidence that God wanted this person to be pope, but then as soon as that man says something along the lines of, “We should consider the possibility that we’ve been going about some things wrong,” we forget that we thought God chose him. Instead, we start attacking him. Does this make sense?

To me, the way some people are talking about Pope Francis right now is the same way people talked about John the Baptist or Jesus. John and Jesus both said, “Repent!” and interestingly, they told people to repent who didn’t expect that direction to be given to them. The same thing is happening today.

My Christian brothers and sisters (of course not all) are so sure that the message of repentance is for gay, divorced, and other people, that they get totally indignant and start crying “blasphemy” now that the pope (and others) are suggesting perhaps we should repent of the ways we have treated others. Are we called to judge and exclude others? I don’t think so. Is there precedent for ostracizing members of our own community? Well…. in the New Testament, yes. Paul suggested such a thing in certain circumstances… and he also said women should not speak in church (though conservative Catholics don’t seem to have an issue with female lectors) and that we should have our heads covered. A sensible person should realize that adhering to the Faith — following the will of God — is not such a black and white matter as looking up a few words in the Bible. How can we cite a few references against homosexuality and divorce, and ignore the many long passages of the Word which talks about mercy, love, humility, non-judgment, justice, and equity?

I’m not down on the church at all. I’m not down on most of my fellow Christians. I just think we’re doing a TERRIBLE JOB representing Christ on earth when all we do is point out others’ sins, ignore our own, and argue. Being a good Christian is not about stopping other people from sinning. It is not about having the most theologically defensible position on gay marriage. It’s about faith in the one true God, and following him. If God himself broke bread with sinners, then why shouldn’t we?

I’d write more, but I must must must work on some physics problems. Peace, joy, love, mercy, justice… these are more important than if someone with a different sin than me is receiving the Eucharist with me. It doesn’t diminish me or God! Giving food to the hungry, defending those who cannot speak for themselves, and treating all of God’s creation with dignity is more important than whether a couple lives together before marriage!

Is violence ever right?

As I was driving home from school today, I was listening to “Kill ‘Em All,” the star single of which is, of course, “Seek and Destroy.” As often, it got me thinking about the nature of war, which is something I haven’t been able to stop pondering since I became a Christian.

The only new thought I had today was actually that I can somewhat understand “the terrorists” in, let’s just say Iraq, for now. I don’t mean that I support them, agree with their ideologies, or even find them entirely rational. What I mean is that I can empathize. Years ago, when the Iraq and Afghanistan wars started, I believe it was my mother who said something like, “One man’s terrorists are another man’s freedom fighters.” This has always stuck with me. Were not the founders of the United States considered by the British to be something less illustrious than “freedom fighters,” or patriots or heroes? No, to the British, our founding fathers were committing treason and killing their own countrymen. The same idea applies to many groups, especially revolutionary groups, through history. I’m sure I am not the only one who has observed that American news often seems biased in favor of Israel, while most of us really know very little about the Palestinian people (or their politics, history, leaders, sufferings, etc.). So we say Hamas is a terrorist group — and they can certainly be perceived that way. But in this particular case, I don’t think it is that difficult to also see them as freedom fighters or something like that, considering the violence and cruelty Israel is responsible for. I even personally perceive a little of “the little guy,” when I think of Palestine, and yes, maybe even Hamas. Again, I do not say I support their violence, but I think I can understand why they have support. My point, I suppose, is that we call Israel an ally, a legitimate state, a world power, a professional military (even though they kill tons of civilians — but I digress), etc.; while we call their much less powerful neighbor a terrorist force, a territory, rebels — or we simply don’t talk about Palestine except to say there is violence there.

So what’s this get at? This gets at human beings “othering” each other, a social process that seems to me — and I admit I’m studying physics, not history or sociology — only to have been exacerbated by the concept of nationalism. Nationalism is a whole different beast. But anyway, othering is, it seems to me, one of the things we do as human beings that allows us to kill each other. Ask anyone on the street in America, and they will oppose murder. In fact, many of them will oppose it so much that they will consider the death penalty a suitable punishment … which is extremely illogical and ironic and ridiculous, in my opinion… But if you ask the same people who disdain murder (whether or not they support capital punishment, own a gun, etc.), they probably will say that war is generally okay. The same church folks who think a Christian shall not commit murder see no problem with a Christian becoming a soldier. I in no way mean to put down soldiers, but is there business not, in fact, by definition, murder? Their motivation is different for killing, sure. They just take orders, sure (although that is no defense when “war crimes” are committed). But isn’t the difference in our views of killing based mostly on who is getting killed? I assert that it is.

While I would like to explore more ideas further on othering, the concept of war crimes, etc., I will instead turn my attention to the heart of the matter, to me. That is: even though we differentiate murder in ordinary circumstances from the killing that goes on in war, does God? Is violence ever allowable in his eyes? Is pre-meditated violence, especially on a large scale, actually justifiable? To be perfectly honest, if I had never learned much about World War II, my first answer would be no. But the Nazis…

Isn’t there such a thing as fighting the good fight? Furthermore, the Bible itself is full of violence — full, in fact, in the old days, of God telling his people to go, pillage, plunder, and not leave anyone alive. God told his people to go do things that the international community (what is that anyway, the G8, I guess?) would abhor today. Encroaching on territory? Hello, Russia. Killing civilians, including women and children? And really it could be interpreted as either ethnic or religious “cleansing,” if you look at it that way.

I don’t pretend to understand. I don’t pretend to know the will of God. And I don’t accept that “the Bible just contradicts itself,” as so many anti-religious people say. I don’t believe there is any contradiction within God, but I do believe that his ways, thoughts, commands, and ethics are such that we humans do sometimes have a hard time, having the tendency as we do to try painting everything in black and white.

So while the words and life of Jesus teach me to hate violence, still I am not inclined to always hate it. May he forgive me if I am mistaken.

When I first joined the military, I totally believed in the justice of violence. To be perfectly honest, my blood rushed when I thought about the civilians and journalists who were killed simply engaging in non-violence work in the Middle East. I remember waking up to the news the day that bombs were going off in trains in London. I remember 9/11 of course, and other terrorist attacks in the West. I remember learning that the Taliban actually stoned people to death. I remember learning that girls couldn’t go to school in Afghanistan. I felt so angry and affronted that people I considered to be innocent were being murdered; and the reports and videos of torture, dismemberment, etc. that went along only increased my feelings. But it wasn’t totally emotional. I had a certain rationale in my head for why it was acceptable for me, a Christian, to be part of an organization that kills people — because it was killing those people, the people responsible for so much injustice and barbarism. Animals!

Now I am older, and I can only deny those old thoughts and feelings to an extent. Recently, some of my countrymen have been beheaded, and this horrifies me and angers me. But I also realize that my country has been responsible for no small amount of injustice and barbarism as well, both internationally and domestically, and both hundreds of years ago and today. I’m not saying we deserve to be murdered. Also, I realize that the desire for revenge makes me an animal. I realize that our constant quest for security, and all the billions and trillions of dollars spent on “defense” are, essentially, vanity; we cannot simply put other nations into submission.

We especially can’t put them into submission without becoming authoritarian international-law-breakers ourselves. I hate to say it, but could we have defeated Japan had we not used the atom bomb? (I think some historians would say yes, while others would say no, from what I have read.) But we did use it. It ended the war. Imperial Japan ceased to be imperial, and ceased to commit atrocities in its neighbors’ borders. So were we right to drop the bomb?

I’m not trying to answer specific questions like that. I am simply beginning to work through some of the justifications we make. The question is whether they are valid. I have always heard that pacifism is stupid. That’s how it is regarded in America (and elsewhere, I don’t know). The idea is why guns are so popular here. Being a pacifist does not promote peace, it just promotes your side dying and losing. But here’s where I think of Jesus, and even men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Gandhi. In the case of the latter two, they did manage to change societies and promote peace and justice — with non-violence. In the case of our Lord, it is true that his non-violence led to his death… but that was necessary so that he could conquer death. He showed his true power by submitting to military “power.”

So why do we all see power in guns and missiles and nuclear capabilities? On a smaller scale, why do people riot? Great things have been and can be accomplished non-violently…

Oh, but it gets hairy. What about World War II? What about any war, perhaps? Can these things be solved non-violently? (Could they have been prevented by the promotion of peace?)

I think, and I pray, and it has been many years. I don’t want to hurt or kill anyone, and I don’t even want to contribute to it, which is something I think about regarding military service; as a Sailor, I never shot anyone, but I helped keep aircraft and ships functioning which carry and deliver all sorts of deadly missiles and bombs and things. I have been complicit in violence I don’t even know about.

So what? So I think, is it ever okay? Is it okay when the enemy is just bad enough? Or what if you really believe in your cause, but maybe you’re the bad guy? My husband’s great grandfathers, or perhaps great-great, I can’t remember, fought in World War I — the one for the French, and the other for the Germans. What was the difference between them? Did most of the Germans and Japanese in WWII even know about some of the atrocities their organizations were committing? Did simply being ignorant and believing that they were right justify them? This is why I hesitate to do violence, or support it, even when I feel it is supportable. I don’t know the answers to these questions, and of course I don’t know God’s views. I just know what I believe, and that is that really, we have the potential to all be brothers and sisters. Don’t we? There is no fundamental difference between a Jew and a Christian; a man and a woman; a black man and a white man. Without categorizing other people into convenient groups, some of which are supposedly good and some of which are supposedly bad, we can no more justify war than we can justify murder sprees in banks.

I know I am not really addressing the question of self-defense either, but if I did, it could be applied not only to individuals, but also to war. It’s the thinking behind preemptive strikes… where is the line? I strive to find one, but probably there isn’t one. Probably there are so many shades of gray I should see.

That’s enough. I have spent enough time blurting my thoughts into type. Hopefully I am not called upon any time soon to make an actual decision about violence.

Jesus Christ Superstar

About eight years ago, my uncle died, but he still influences my life. Still I recall moments with him, and I recall the kinship I felt then. Even though as I have grown I have become aware of some of our differences, most notably that I am still a terrible and hopeless musician, while he was a genius, still I feel that we understood each other in a unique way.

Nothing can recall my memories of him like certain songs. Of course that is because he spent so many hours trying to instruct me in music. One instruction I received was to watch his VHS of Jesus Christ Superstar, and to write a critique of it. I never wrote the critique, and it took me a long time to even watch the VHS — which I remember I lent to someone else later on, who never returned it to me. I don’t think I was a Christian yet, or if I was, I was very new. Still, the movie’s story awed me, and so did the soundtrack. My favorite song was and is, “The Last Supper.”

I remember one evening in my uncle’s living room, him telling me to put a CD on. I think he told me to choose whatever I liked. I chose the second disc of the JCS soundtrack, the first song of which is, of course, “The Last Supper.” It is so sweet and so dark at the same time. It seems ironic, but I don’t think there is anything evil or even really irreverent in it. I cannot remember my uncle’s exact words, but I think he held my hand for a moment, and was deeply moved by the song. As a musician, I am sure he could name all the little aspects of the music that make it so wonderful — syncopation or counterpoint or what I don’t know. But music was so incredibly important and moving to him, and anyway, we both loved that song, and it was as though he thanked me for choosing it, almost thanked me for loving it too.

I am sad that I cannot remember everything, sad that things did not go as I would have had them go right before he died. Sad that he never really seemed happy as long as I knew him. But even all of this taught me about love. Love can be as simple as sharing a little music that stirs your soul — because maybe it will stir someone else’s. Love is learning to say, “I love you,” which is exactly what I learned when my uncle died. I had resolved to say this to him before he died (he was like my third parent), but I did not have the chance. Ever since, I have regretted it, and ever since, I have tried to be more affectionate to my friends and family; cliche as it may be, you never know when your last chance will be to let them know how you feel.

So there is a little sweetness to this song, and a little darkness. But it does talk about Christ, and… ultimately, Christ makes everything alright again. He cried in agony, did he not? But now sits at the right hand of the Father. He descended to hell, did he not? But rose again, and is Lord of the living and the dead. And he is light, “and in him is no darkness at all.”

Faith is stress ‘management’

Medical – A few years ago, when I was an overweight, McD’s eating, daily-soda-drinking, cigarette-smoking, binge-drinking fool, I was actually pain-free. When some of my shipmates complained about knee pain, I thought they were making excuses not to exercise. When I got to my ship, my knees did get sore for a little while, but then they seemed to adjust to the ladder wells. I got a sore elbow now and then if I didn’t make sure to alternate which arms I used to open and close doors and my rack (because ship doors have ‘dogs’ that can be very tight). Still, none of these little problems persisted. I felt so robust and sturdy and lucky.
Ever since April-ish of 2013 though, I’ve had problems. First, I hurt my right knee during a spin class in which the instructor had us ‘mashing’ gears… something I learned later on from biking forums is a terrible idea. With RICE and some new weight-lifting exercises, my knee got better — though never back to the way it had been before. I also got a lot stronger, finally kicked tobacco for good, and lost fat. I had been working from mid-2013 on, trying to run my second marathon, but I hurt my foot by November. I only got up to doing halves, when I had all the symptoms of a stress fracture. But I didn’t have a stress fracture.
The podiatrist I saw X-rayed my foot and found no fracture. Long story short, I tried doing everything he said, but as soon as I stopped all of his suggested treatments, and started running barefoot (or in FF’s), I was fine. That is, I was fine until maybe two months ago, now? I had a little tendonitis on my right foot, which was easily defeated by a little rest, then improving my stretching routine. To this day, neither of those problems has returned.
But only a couple of weeks after that tendonitis went away, I got it really bad on the peroneal tendon of my other leg/foot. I saw my primary care physician, and all she said was to use anti-inflammatory pain patches. Thanks a lot. This injury, whether it’s just inflammation, or if it’s actually a bit of a tear or strain, has put me out of commission. I can’t even run a mile without pain that will leave me limping the next two days. This injury, whether it’s just inflammation, or something worse, was also the fault of my ignorance. I had been running for a few weeks on some soccer and baseball fields, and neighboring sloping fields. Apparently, running on uneven surfaces, like mashing on a bike, is known to cause injury.
I’m not writing to complain, but I need to vent. For years, running has been a major way that I unwind, reduce my stress, and get some quality thinking done. Not only that, but it makes me feel good, and makes me feel good about myself. It’s so easy for people to give advice to “manage your stress,” but what happens when you lose your main stress reliever?

Dental – I obviously care more about health than I used to, and I’m even better at not procrastinating. Therefore, I recently got back to the dentist, and have had to return for additional care. It turns out that not only my peroneal tendon is inflamed, but my gums are too. I’m only 25 years old, but I have gum disease. Again, it’s my own fault: I didn’t have dental insurance for two years, and why? Because I just wasn’t concerned. I could’ve afforded it, but I was just not thinking. Anyway, my teeth are really not bad at all. It’s my gums that are puffy and red. But what a lot of people don’t realize, and I didn’t either, until I sat down to think of it, gums are part of the body as much as knees or toes or eyeballs. Gum health affects over all health. How have I neglected it? I’ve been brushing and flossing, but not well enough. Now I am hoping, since I had debridement done, that I will be able to restore my gum health somewhat. The point is that it does add just that extra flavor of stress to my life.

Being a Wife – This morning, when I was on my way to school, I became aware that my sweater and my hair smelled like bacon. Suffice it to say, I became irrationally furious, cried, and ultimately came back home — skipping school — because I just couldn’t take it. I was disgusted. I cannot stand smelling like food, and that is actually why I don’t fry much food at home, not just that it’s not healthy. But I can’t be mad. My husband had gotten up early not only to cook a week’s worth of turkey bacon for us to enjoy, but also to assemble things in the crock pot for dinner tonight. A few weeks ago, I thought if only K. would cook a little, I would be so relieved and grateful. I work on school just as many hours as he works on actual work. When I come home, I either work out, cook dinner, or get to studying. In fact, until seven or seven-thirty every night, I am doing a combination of those things. When K. gets home, it’s true usually it is later than me, but he has plenty of time for the gym, running, biking, or racquetball. He also doesn’t bring work home with him, because he doesn’t have to. He gets to play video games. So I’ve thought, why can’t he just cook dinner half the time? Or even once a week?
He started to do this a little bit, in recent weeks. Maybe he realized before I did how terrible this semester is. The demands on my time are huge, on top of the fact that since we moved, my commute is way longer and more stressful (the stress of driving in a California city could be the subject of a book by itself). First, K. made jambalaya in the slow cooker. I did help by making red beans and rice to eat with it, but… I thought, Wow, this is amazing! I’m so glad he’s doing this. Then he made chicken adobo in the slow-cooker… then ribs in the oven… all of which turned out very well. Then last night, I came home from the dentist’s office to find him in the kitchen, chopping a whole boat load of vegetables, preparing a slow-cooker bolognese. I don’t know how long he worked on it, but this is the dish he woke early to finish preparing for its day in the slow cooker. I am grateful, but… at the same time, foremost in my mind is not gratefulness, but a feeling of inadequacy and generally not being the type of wife I would want if I were K. At this point, I really don’t contribute a lot financially. Probably my main contribution is that I cook meals, and now that’s out the window. How useless. The other day I had planned a dinner I thought K. would particularly like, only to tell him when it came time to cook that I simply could not do it because my physics homework was destroying me, and I had to finish it. I didn’t even eat dinner with him that night because physics had gotten me upset so that I lost my appetite. All I can say is that that was a mistake. It was not as bad to tell K. that he had to take care of his own dinner, but it was not right that I did not dine with him. If we must commute, toil, exercise, and do so many things separately, I feel that I family — and that is what we are, though we are only two people — ought to take the time to share at least dinner together. I let my obsession with homework — which turned out to be fruitless anyway, that night — to get in the way of my life’s most important ministry.
I should say that I somewhat doubt K. even thinks much about this. Does he wish he wouldn’t have married me? Am I troublesome? Do I just increase his bills without making his life better? I don’t think he thinks that, and of course I hope he doesn’t. Still, one must have standards for herself. And if I can’t do as well by the person I most love, who can I do well by?

Being a Student – The bane of my existence is also what occupies most of my time, even on weekends. I do love to learn, and I do not want to quit school. But I am frustrated by it, and always feeling rushed. Many, many things I have ostensibly learned, but only actually begun to understand months or years or semesters later. But college is so expensive that I do not have time or resources to fool around. It must be done, and it must be done promptly.
All my life, or most of it at least, people have thought I was so smart, or at least precocious. Always. And for a while this is an ego boost. I am sure for many others besides myself, it has been enough to say in one’s mind, “I cannot socialize, and I am embarrassed to try a sport — but I am smarter than most of these people around me.” Even if I never thought that consciously, probably something similar was present in my subconscious mind. I don’t mean to analyze my childhood here. But others have realized, as I am lately, that with high expectations, high pressure can come. I never worried about getting an A when I was a child. Ever! I knew I was smart, and I felt that I had nothing to prove. Much of adulthood, however, is proving oneself, even if it is only some bullshit written on paper and vouched for by a professor or former employer or two. Increasingly, we must quantify ourselves and our accomplishments, qualifications, etc. It is never enough to say, “I am confident that I can learn quickly what you want me to do, and I can do it well.” So I do feel a great pressure now to do well in school, and to possibly even qualify myself for some sort of career that interests me.
But I am always afraid of that intellectual wall. I am afraid, now that it seems important to me, that maybe I am not so smart after all. When I was a kid, I didn’t question possibilities. I thought I could do anything. Part of that is probably the American psyche, the belief or delusional hope (maybe not delusional, I don’t know) that “you can accomplish anything you put your mind to.” I must admit that empirically I do not agree with this. Many poor people work very hard, and make no more mistakes than the rich — yet hard work alone is not enough to rise above poverty, most of the time. It seems to me there is much more. Perhaps you  must be hard working and especially intelligent. Or you must have connections. Or you must obtain a miracle from God. But I have seen with my eyes how much easier things are for those who already have advantages! There are no leveling grounds, even college and the military. I am getting away from the point though. The point is that I don’t know the point, and nobody does. My husband tells me I am so smart all the time. He never used to tell me this, so I wonder if he is trying to boost me. Or maybe he thinks that just because I am beginning to comprehend calculus, I must be smarter than he’d though. I don’t know. But he says it, and I think, “You have no idea how much I’m struggling. Are you joking? What do you mean when you say this?”
And as far as struggling goes, I am annoyed with my professors too. Firstly, half of them do very little teaching; and I end up having to instruct myself at home from my textbooks and online resources. Secondly, they talk about the grand importance of concepts — which I think I get pretty well, actually! — but then focus lectures, work, and exams primarily on quantitative analysis. Quantitative analysis is of course where I require most practice, but still I somewhat resent the fact that my strength — conceptual understanding — is at the same time talked of like it is important, but then hardly talked of. It makes no sense. I am so early in my education that I don’t even know what to hope for, who to believe, where to get advice… ultimately, it comes down to the fact that college, in many ways, emphasizes so many uncertainties in my life. Uncertainties about career, abilities, intellect, work ethic, and more.

Being a Christian – The thing is, those uncertainties are always there. I am only a human, and it isn’t my place to control things. If it were my place, I suppose I’d have been granted the ability to control them! I am not unique in this. Feeling out of control is a bit different than becoming conscious of the fact that we are always out of control. This isn’t new to the Christian, yet again, I know I am not the only modern Christian to struggle with this. It is so hard to be a creature. Why do adults marvel that children want to grow up? They want to control their lives, perceiving that that is what adults do. They do not realize that adults are not as in control as they may appear.
The Bible talks about this. You cannot change your hair color or height by worrying. You need not worry. God cares for you. It even talks about worrying about the physical world vs. the spiritual one. What does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul? But how well can we comprehend these true teachings? We cannot even control what we want. So many things we do we want to, yet we don’t want to at the same time. This is part of Jesus’ humanity: Jesus partly did not want to be tortured and crucified and descend to hell, which is why he prayed that the Father “take this cup from me.” Yet he wanted to do it, too. He made his will God’s will. I know that Jesus is God, so it is perhaps a little different… but really, isn’t the goal of a Christian to daily make his own will more God’s will? Don’t we want to turn our evil desires into the desire to do good and glorify God? We are just full of conflicting ideas and feelings and wills. I can’t crack this.
But anyway, I pray sometimes for help to “conform to Your image.” While I believe this is a good thing to pray for, since God first made us in His image, and said that it was good; still I think I must be careful to distinguish between the image of God, and God himself. It is right for me to conform to God’s image, or desire to, but it is not right that I should wish to be God — and what I  mean by that is, it is not right that I should wish to control everything, which is God’s prerogative.
Aside from struggling to just accept that I do not have control, and should stop vainly wrestling for it, as a Christian, I also face the question of what matters. I let myself become confused about this. What matters? Am I really saying that I hate my life because I am pissed off over my physics quiz? God forgive my absurdity, ingratitude, and loose tongue! I cannot believe myself sometimes. I cannot believe the things I treat as though they really matter, when truly they do not. I become upset about the smell of bacon in my hair, yet there are people with serious material needs. There are people who would be happy to have clean hair like mine, even if it did smell like bacon. I can be so vain. I cannot believe I actually considered spending $300 on the whitening treatment offered by my dentist! That would be making the appearance, not the health, of my teeth, above hungry people, people suffering from diseases, etc. Three hundred dollars on teeth! I thank God I came to my senses. Would he forgive me if I spent that money, when of course it should be given to Medecins Sans Frontieres or something instead? For that matter, it would be better spent on books or entertaining friends or anything before the appearance of teeth! God help me.
What is important? It goes back to my choosing to study the other night, instead of eating with my husband. He is more important than school, yet school is the pathway I am walking toward hopefully a better, easier life for him in the future. If he died today, may God forbid it, wouldn’t I regret my studying terribly? I don’t mean to be dramatic or extreme. But really I must try harder to stay aware of what really matters. Relationships matter. Other people, even strangers matter. Needs matter more than wants. What matters is pleasing God… and I don’t think that an Eternal Being could really “not give a shit” about anything, that is, I think he is able to consider literally every single thing, no matter how seemingly insignificant to us; but if there were something I don’t think God would give a shit about, it would probably be college degrees. A degree might mean having more money over the course of a lifetime, but as far as I know, it has never been correlated with improved health, family happiness, kindness to others, or any other type of goodness. I do not know whether in itself it enables one to better serve others.

Being a Daughter – It’s just as simple as I live thousands of miles from my parents, and I don’t know when to call them or what to say. I love them, but what do I do? What all does it mean to honor them? The trouble is that a child cannot ask advice on such things from parents because parents are typically selfless in their answers. They will usually volunteer to suffer if they think it will even add a little convenience to their child’s life. It is a beautiful thing, in a way, but at the same time, sometimes I wish my parents would be more clear, vocal, and honest about their wants and needs.

How Do I Manage it Now? – *shrug* I suspect it may have to do with stopping trying to. That is how I learned to swim, years ago. I was struggling and struggling and stressing and stressing, trying to swim in Navy boot camp. Finally I was tired and my hope was waning, and I thought I wasn’t going to even get to be a Sailor because I just couldn’t do it; so I quit trying, and I prayed to God to make me do it if he was willing that I should. If not? I guess a lifeguard would’ve saved me. And it just happened. Was that the Holy Spirit? I’m not theologian, but I can at least realize an act of faith. I think that is what is needed. If I am stressed because I cannot control anything, and I am more stressed because I cannot control my stress… I must really have faith that it is better for God to be in control than for me to be. Things aren’t really going badly for me, only they don’t go exactly as I wish they would — but if they did, probably I would not be able to account for how they would affect other things… Like Star Trek time travel. You never know what one person traveling back in time will do to the entire future. But God is Eternal, so I think he is able to always know how things tie together. The Bible says that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose…

The bishop died

After spending most of my weekend working on physics graphs and calculations, I was in no mood for Mass; but knowing my bad mood made Mass all the more important, I went. Of course I was glad, although when I heard the bells ringing as I was walking up to the church, I thought I was late, and nearly turned away. I know it’s foolish, but such is my hate for tardiness, that there have been times in my life I left or totally neglected to go somewhere because that was preferable to me to walking in late. I didn’t turn away last night though. I made my way in, and turned out not to be late anyway.

The priest announced, “for any of you who do not watch the news,” which is me, that our bishop had died. I have only followed the news about Bishop Flores in the church bulletin, and I only met the man once, but it was very sad for me. Less than a year ago, there he was, I saw him, and thousands of San Diego area Catholics, catechumens, and candidates.There is no time or real reason to try analyzing my feelings on all this, but I was sad, and I did pray. All I conclude is that if the bishop was indeed a man of God, then he is with God now, and my tears are out of place. Even if I cry because the world has lost a good person, then I am wrong. I say this because Jesus, the only good man, really, died; and rather than be sad that he is no longer walking about performing miracles, I think really it is our duty, if we are part of his church, to pick up his work. Someone will have to do what the bishop did, and we shall pray for that person. But as for the bishop, I hope he is with God.

There is more I wish to write, but I have passed the time I set for myself.

Quantifying yourself

I’ve read more a couple of books over the years about how people who are trained in advanced mathematics and computer science have been able to increasingly quantify human beings. What I mean is that people become this amalgam of credit card transactions and GPS pings and ad-clicks. It’s an interesting enough subject, I guess, though I doubt I’ll read any more books on it (the second one I only read because my mother sent it to me).

But sometimes when we normal people feel upset or unsettled about being quantified one way, we ignore the fact that we do it to ourselves in other ways, and teach our kids how essential it is for them to do the same. What I’m talking about here are resumes and college applications. I’m finishing up my University of California application right now, and I realize maybe it’s a little deeper and a little weirder for me, being a transfer student as well as someone who took 5+ years off school to be in the military. But anyway, college applications want grades and test scores, the numerical representations of how good you are academically. They want to know about clubs and volunteer experiences and things, though I can’t say I have confidence that they look a lot at these things; and if they do, I don’t pretend to know what they want to see. Anyway, even that stuff gets broken down into years and weeks and hours. Did you have a leadership role? How many people? How often? How long? And what about awards? My entire life is broken down into lists… and it’s strange because when I think about what I’ve done, because I know how busy I’ve been and how hard I’ve worked, I feel like I’m doing okay. Not as accomplished as Mozart or Fermat or some other genius, but I don’t think I’ve just been sitting on my hands ever since the 9th grade either (which is as far back as the college application asks you to go).

But when I’m writing everything I can think of down… I wonder how inactive I appear to whoever looks at these applications. I can’t even write down my volunteer experiences because, although I have volunteered here and there my whole life, I’ve really never stuck in one role with one organization before. As for clubs and extracurricular activities, the truth is that I did the best I could in high school– but my family was poor, and I really didn’t have the option to do a lot of things. Poverty didn’t just affect me outside of school, but inside too. I remember physics class in high school. My main difficulty had nothing at all to do with the concepts or even math. My main difficulty was that we had assigned seats, and so I couldn’t choose to sit in the front so that I could see. I was stuck in a seat where I couldn’t see the board, so I couldn’t take very good notes. I couldn’t afford glasses, and I was too embarrassed to say anything to anyone. No one seemed to care anyway. They probably just thought I was lazy or stupid — not poor and blind. I couldn’t try to copy someone else’s notes later on either, because none of my classmates lived in my neighborhood, and I had no way to travel to their homes.

I’m not crying for myself. I’m just saying that I feel I’ve done quite a bit to overcome those old disadvantages. But I can’t escape the way those years look on paper. What can I say? Write a personal statement on my excuses for not being a straight A student in high school as well as a track star and the newspaper editor? I think that sort of statement would come off as nothing but excuses– and truth be told, I prefer to focus on the positive things anyway. But anyway, I sort of resent the application for the way it demands that I describe my life accomplishments so far. It’s so incomplete.

Eh, homework.