Category Archives: philosophy

Running with Perseverance

A couple weeks after the election, I ran a 10k. The course was a down-and-back route and the race event included a 5k, half -marathon, and marathon as well on the same route with staggered start times, so as you ran, there weren’t just people in front of and behind you but also crossing paths beside you headed the other direction.  I was running with a friend, and we were apprehensive about maintaining a respectable pace because our training hadn’t been particularly rigorous, but something happened that made running non-stop both easier and more enjoyable than I had anticipated.

pilgrimpacer-2016-0191-xl-both-ways-good-pic2

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What I Like But Don’t “Like” About My Facebook Friends

I try to keep my identity vague  in most of my online accounts.  Most profiles that I have open to public viewing uses a pseudonym and only generic details:  Twenty-something.  Female.  Educated.  Employed.  It’s simply a matter of protecting my privacy and safety, and it allows me to feel comfortable interacting with people I don’t know and might have nothing in common with other than the same film and book obsessions.

But on Facebook, it’s the opposite.  I am only Facebook-friends with people that I have met and know in real life.  I love seeing pictures of my family and friends’ babies, I like being able to see what people that I haven’t talked to lately are up to, I enjoy “liking” the big announcements like engagements, weddings, graduations, new jobs,  or even new hairstyles.  But aside from being able to share pictures and news with family, I think the biggest benefit I draw from my Facebook feed is a continually-updated understanding of people and issues.

You often hear about the polarizing nature of the American public today.  Politics divide sharply down partisan lines, religion is treated as something that must either be fervently and legalistically clung to, or entirely rejected.  There is no room for a middle ground.  We like to talk about ourselves as an ever-progressive and tolerant society, but we venomously despise  the views that oppose our own.  We belittle those that we do not agree with and label them as everything “wrong with this country”, blaming the other side for “holding us back” or “calling judgment upon this nation.”  Above all, we use labels.  Those who don’t agree with us are not people, they’re not respectable fellow humans with convictions; they’re Homophobes, Liberals, Fundamentalists, Feminists, etc.

That’s where I think Facebook comes in handy.  I see posts on multiple sides of almost every issue or current news story in my feed.  I know some people block or un-friend people who post stances they don’t agree with or that annoy them, creating smaller and smaller circles of increasingly exclusive and homogeneous acquaintances.  Everyone is certainly free to control access to their own Facebook account as they see fit, but it’s often these Facebook friends who are the most extreme and outspoken that I value the most.  When I see a potentially polarizing post, I also have a context to put it in; I’ve seen the same person post about her bad day at work, or the movie he’s recently enjoyed.  I’ve seen the pictures of a family visit, and I know something about their education and career.  It forces me to see the poster as a complex individual, not a faceless label. 

pic depicting "liberal media" protecting obama

I was in a lot of classes and activities with the person who posted this, in high school.

I know this poster from taking a few semesters of a college language class together, and we’ve hung out outside of class as well.

this poster helped me move.

posted by several of my Facebook friends, including my cousin.

Forcing myself to see the person posting as complex and not a label is actually the very opposite of what many of those memes aim to do.  They often include partial facts or deliberately re-frame arguments to make them sound more compelling.  And the juxtaposition of ideas and perspectives propels me to continually try to see things from someone else’s point of view.  It’s what keeps me a moderate.  (It helps that at different points in my life I have lived in very conservative and very liberal communities; I’ve accumulated Facebook friends with a wide range of backgrounds, lifestyles, and opinions.)

contrasting pics prolife prochoice

These images both appeared in my feed in the same week.

It’s not the same thing as interacting with a diverse mix of people in real life, since people may be more conscious of the persona they cultivate online, and it may not reflect everything about the real person.  I have to confess that I am a bit stealthy myself on Facebook, rarely posting the types of political or religious commentaries that I scrutinize so carefully on others’ walls.  Perhaps I am too much of a silent coward, perhaps I should speak up more.

And I’m not saying that every post is ultimately valid–sometimes people’s views really are just spewing unfiltered hatred, ignorance, or misinformation, but if I conclude that about a post on Facebook, at least I can hope that my rejection of the post isn’t a knee-jerk reaction in my own disagreement to the stated opinion.  There are only a few people that I’ve observed display a consistent pattern of cold-heartedness; most people, on every side of every issue, are compassionate and concerned for people who are hurting, or at risk, or disadvantaged, unlike they are often portrayed by their opposition.  They just have different convictions on what the solution should be.

Constantly trying to contextualize Facebook posts is more than just putting a face on a particular position, it’s dismantling the idea that you could ever even have one person that represents an entire segment of society.  I wish more people could learn to take the time to discern the realities behind the rhetoric, to realize that saying you understand someone’s position doesn’t have to mean that you agree with it, to adopt a way of declaring their convictions without denigrating everyone else’s.  Think about it–the path to a more compassionate and civil society could lie through a cultivating a diverse Facebook feed.

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Green Eyes

I’ve always been annoyed by the treatment of green eyes in movies and books.  I have green eyes myself, and as a child I always hated that green eyes were supposed to be some sort of shorthand for villainous, jealous, or somehow evil characters. It’s like, blue eyes are for “pretty girl” characters, brown eyes are for “smart girl” characters, green eyes are for “crazy/jealous/evil or minor character girls.”

Green eyes in this movie poster let you know Loki’s the bad guy.

One of my favorite books growing up was A Little Princess, (which I would have loved anyway since it is a delightful story), but one of the reasons I clung to it was because the heroine, little Sara Crew, is repeatedly described as having gray-green eyes.  I loved Sara’s imagination, bravery, and selflessness, but most of all I loved that she was such a good character who also happened to have green eyes.

“Oh,” sniffed Lavinia, spitefully, “that is the way her shoes are made.  I don’t think she is pretty at all.  Her eyes are such a queer color.”

“She isn’t as pretty as other people are,” said Jessie, stealing a glance across the room, “but she makes you want to look at her again.  She has tremendously long eyelashes, but her eyes are almost green.” (–Sara’s first day at boarding school, from chapter 2 of A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett)

Then of course Harry Potter came along when I was a bit older, and throughout seven glorious books the boy who would save the Wizarding world again and again was the proud owner of a pair of green eyes, just like his mother.

Harry had a thin face, knobbly knees, black hair, and bright green eyes.

“Las’ time I saw you, you was only a baby,” said the giant.  “Yeh look a lot like yer dad, but yeh’ve got yer mom’s eyes.”

-(from Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, by J.K. Rowling, chapters 1 and 2)

Of course, the movie adaptations of Harry Potter feature a blue-eyed star, (and inexplicably his mother has brown eyes as a child), so needless to say that was a disappointment.  And in both of the Little Princess movies that I’ve seen, the main character had blue eyes.

What sparked this post was the release of the first image of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent in her latest project, a live-action version of Sleeping Beauty.  The first thing I noticed were the eyes.

The accompanying article in Entertainment Weekly describes her image by saying:

There’s a kind of vampire quality to the tipped back head and slightly parted, blood-red lips, and of course the glowing eye — pure nasty.

I know they aren’t outright saying that green eyes are nasty.  But it still feels a little personal, that the costume designer went with glowing green eyes and not blue or brown or some non-human color like purple or red, and especially because my eyes actually have rings of color similar to this rendering of Maleficent; green on the outside and then brown and yellow in the center.  (I would post a picture, but I’m paranoid about the personal information that I put online, and what if iris scanning becomes a thing?  You’ll just have to take my word for it.  Some might classify my eyes as hazel, but they are predominantly green and I’ve always self-identified as a green-eyed girl.)

I’m just so sick and tired of my fellow green-eyed people being negatively stereotyped onscreen!  Or, more often, completely absent from the screen.  Thank goodness for books, where my imagination’s casting director never has a hard time projecting characters that actually match their written descriptions.  I recently came across a new book with a green-eyed heroine for me to admire, the main character in Matched.

“Greenspace, green tablet,” Grandfather said, and then he looked at me and smiled.  “Green eyes on a green girl.”

“That sounds like poetry,” I said, and he laughed.

“Thank you.”  He paused for a moment.  “I wouldn’t take that tablet, Cassia.  Not for a report.  And perhaps not ever.  You are strong enough to go without it.”

I close my eyes and think of Grandfather’s poetry.

Green tablet.  Green space.  Green eyes.  Green girl.

-(Matched by Ally Condie, Chapter 10)

The movie rights to Matched have been sold, but I won’t hold my breath for accurate eye-color casting.  With the exception of the Twilight films, contact lenses and digital re-touchings seem to be too much bother for film producers to concern themselves with.  Just look at The Hunger Games, where the books describe Katniss and Gale as having gray eyes and Peeta as blue, but they cast blue-eyed actors for the former and a guy with brown eyes for the later.  And they didn’t bother with contacts.

Until Rapnzel in 2010’s Tangled, I don’t remember encountering an on-screen princess with green eyes.  None of the Disney Princesses have them.  If I had still been a little girl when Tangled came out, I probably would have idolized her.

You do see green eyes in Disney movies.  It’s just that they’re always the bad girls.

Then of course there are neutral portrayals of green eyes, like how the Earth Benders in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra tend to have them.

And while we’re on the subject of Legend of Korra, I have to give a shout-out to Asami Sato, a non-bender who holds her own in combat, drives race cars, stands up for herself and is on team Avatar.  You go, green-eyed Asami!

In conclusion, I guess I feel like I can relate in a very small, insignificant way to the frustration that other minority groups might feel at being under-represented, sidelined or negatively stereotyped in film and literature.   There’s just something about having a hero you can admire and say, “Hey!  They look like me!” that resonates.  I can only imagine how much more it would matter if to me if I were talking about skin color or cultural background.  Eye color is relatively trivial by comparison, but I will still always keep a (green) eye out for positive green-eyed representatives.

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What Was the Point of Phaedra’s Vision(s)? (**SPOILERS**)

In the film Immortals, there is a character named Phaedra who is known as The Virgin Oracle, (played by Freida Pinto).  We’re told through dialogue, “The Virgin Oracle is blessed with visions of the future.  If she were to be violated?  Her vision of the future would be corrupted.”  The mortal hero Theseus scoffs, “How can it be considered a gift?  When you can see the future but you don’t have the power to change it?”, and Phaedra herself downplays her powers, telling Theseus, “What I see is only a glimmer of what may come to pass.  Your actions and decisions shape the future.”

I have some problems with this.  First of all, I get that Theseus is supposed to be the hero, the fate of the world rests on his shoulders, blah blah blah.  But is it really necessary to be so pessimistic about Phaedra’s potential to enact change?  Doesn’t she very actively participate in shaping the future by telling certain people about what she sees, and not others, and by leading Theseus through several of his actions?  She isn’t just the passive vessel that she is described as being.

Secondly, I’m not convinced that her visions were actually all that helpful, (other than to advance the storyline, of course.)  Consider–the first vision of hers we see is actually the opening sequence of the movie, with Hyperion wielding the Epirus bow and unleashing the Titans.  That actually ends up happening, in pretty much the same way that she envisioned.  The only benefit to her seeing it is that a few characters realize the cosmic shift that victory for Hyperion would bring.

But the main vision that guides Phaedra throughout the film is what she sees when her foot touches the outstretched leg of a passed-out Theseus, who is mid-way through a forced journey to work in the salt mines.  Phaedra sees Theseus holding the long-lost Epirus bow, with one arm around Hyperion.  Hyperion is returning the embrace, and they seem to be standing on a boat or something, with a dead body wrapped in linen at their feet.  That’s pretty much it.  That’s the big reveal that the divine powers grant to the Oracle.

Because of the vision, Phaedra is convinced that “this man is favored by the gods,” so she hatches a plan with her sister oracles (that are really like her bodyguards/handmaidens) to help him escape.  She doesn’t have a plan other then get the perceived-as-blessed man (and herself) away from the bad guys, and maybe somehow this will stop the other vision of the Titans being unleashed from happening.  Not sure how she gets all that from this vague image of Theseus with Hyperion and a dead body, but, okay, so far I’m with her.

If Theseus yells loud enough, will it overshadow the weakness of the plot?

Theseus wants to head for the fight, but the little band of escapees runs into trouble at the sea’s edge.  Poseidon decides to interfere by creating a giant-ass tidal wave that sweeps all the bad guys away, (and after all “the sea has forever been an unpredictable domain,” smirks a hairless Kellen Lutz as the trident-wielding god), but Phaedra’s foresight ‘saves’ the group again when she repeats a line she had stated earlier, which was “when cloudless skies thunder, stand fast.”  Poseidon’s dive-bomb does create a kind of a boom, and it’s cloudless, so I can see how this sort of fits, but really how much of an advantage is it to know “okay, when that happens, stand fast.”  What if “stand fast” meant not backing down to the bad guys on that boat?  How were they supposed to know it meant waiting until the last minute, when you see this giant wave, and then jump to the cliff and hold on to the ropes that are conveniently anchored there for you?  Not sure they needed the prophecy to figure that one out, or that having the direction makes it any more plausible than the usual heroes-narrowly-escape-death-but-bad-guys-fall-easy-prey-to-mishaps movie-universe logic.

Anyway, after the giant wave, Phaedra learns that Theseus’ mother was killed, and that her body wasn’t buried.  Somehow Phaedra just knows that the body of Theseus’ mother must have been the one in her vision, and so she convinces the hero “you must return to your village” to give her a proper burial.  It is when Theseus is placing his mother’s body in the tomb that he discovers the Epirus bow, and hence Phaedra tells him “your mother’s death was not in vain.”

So, it seems like maybe the visions are helpful, although vague, but almost immediately after Theseus finds the bow it is stolen by a warg-like creature that delivers it to Hyperion.  What was the point of Phaedra leading Theseus to find the bow, and telling him “In your hands it will bring the Hellenics victory,” if it was soon to be out of his hands and into the hands of the very man they were trying to keep it from?  Wouldn’t it have been better for the bow to remain hidden?

And why was Phaedra so willing to give up her visions?  I thought they were fairly useless myself, but many characters in this story placed a lot of stock in them, including her sister oracles and the monk who sacrificed themselves and various body parts to protect her and keep her ability intact, only to have her throw it away to sleep with Theseus.  At that point he has the Epirus bow, so she believes that he will be able to defeat Hyperion, but that’s clearly not a guarantee yet.  They haven’t joined up with anybody else, Theseus is wounded, and she more than anyone should know that the future, though it may look bright right now, can quickly change.  So it’s really stupid, not to mention selfish and disrespectful of the sacrifices of her followers, for her to disrobe and say, “You were right, Theseus, my visions are a curse.  I want to see the world with my own eyes, feel with my own heart, touch with my own flesh.”  (And shame on you, Theseus, for not offering a peep of an argument against this faulty logic, for not even saying “um, are you sure you want to do this and lose your sacred visions of the future?”  She offers her justification unprompted, but shouldn’t he have said, “wait, hold up girl, you sure you wanna do this?  Let’s think about the ramifications for our current quest as well as your entire future.”  It makes me hate both of them.)

Phaedra discards her visions with her robe in a heap on the floor. Hey, thanks for dying so I could have sex, sister oracles!

Later, when they have joined the Hellenic army and Hyperion requests an audience with Theseus, Phaedra begs her lover not to meet with the enemy, because in her vision she saw him “embracing” Hyperion.  “Phaedra, have you never been wrong?” asks an exasperated Theseus before storming off to meet with Hyperion anyway.  (And how does she know that the future she saw hasn’t changed now, since she threw her visions away?  Maybe shouldn’t have done that so quickly, HMMMM?)  In fact, Theseus declines Hyperion’s offer to join him.  But later, after the Titans have been unleashed, (oops, I thought that’s what all these visions and blessings of mortals was trying to avoid?!), Theseus and Hyperion are locked in an one-on-one battle that ends with Theseus pinning Hyperion, holding a knife to his throat and snarling “this is the last embrace” before delivering the kill blow.

The Titans unleashed. Oops.

So in that sense, Phaedra’s vision did come true.  Theseus at one point possessed the Epirus bow, which he found because of his mom’s dead body, and he did embrace Hyperion, kind of, to kill him.  But did the vision itself really foretell that eventual outcome?  Couldn’t it have been interpreted many different ways, if Theseus had joined Hyperion, for example?  Anybody could be the dead body.  And again, why did the vision lead Theseus to the Epirus bow if he was just going to lose it to Hyperion the very next morning?  And in the end the bow is lost again, trapped in Tartarus, so what was the point of anyone having it, ever?  Besides the fact that it was used to unleash the Titans, which was the exact thing that everybody was trying to avoid, including Zeus, who spent years in disguise as a mortal just to mentor Theseus just so that he could one day lead the Hellenics in a fight against Hyperion to prevent him from unleashing the Titans.

What. Was. The. Point?

 

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strategy

 

 

the best thing that i can do to combat the negative effects of hypocritical ‘christians’ is to not be one myself.

 

 

 

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‘divergent’ faction manifestos!

this morning i saw a link that let me read the faction manifestos of the five factions in veronica roth’s amazing new book, Divergent.  it was very very interesting to read through them.  you can read them all here. Divergent is the first in a planned trilogy.  i had some ideas about what might be happening next when i finished reading the first one, but now after reading the manifestos i think there are even more clues, and i am very excited.

i had thought that i would choose the erudite faction, if i lived in the dystopian society described in the book.  i normally identify as ravenclaw when it comes to harry potter, i consider myself a nerd who loves to read and learn new things.  but the erudite faction manifesto was my least favorite.  and it’s obvious that the current erudite leader, jeanine, does not adhere to the outlined principles of her own group.  and it says they are supposed to pick a new leader when the current one reaches 55 or shows signs of a loss of mental functions.  she is described as being middle-aged.  i am wondering how close to this age she might be, and what she would do if confronted by it. but she’s already broken the manifesto anyway because she has withheld information and manipulated knowledge to her own gain, and she is obviously power hungry.  so…that should be interesting.

meanwhile, book one ends with tris and co. headed to the amity faction seeking asylum.  the amity manifesto, which is all about living in peace and harmony, has a section at the end footnoted as belonging to the original manifesto when the faction was founded, but that has since been excluded.  it’s the part that says conflict is okay if it is in defense of someone.

One Friend says to Another: “Friend, today I fought with my enemy.”

The Other Friend says: “Why did you fight with your enemy?”

“Because they were about to hurt you.”

“Friend, why did you defend me?”

“Because I love you.”

“Then I am grateful.”

SO, that is definitely going to come into play. because the amity people are not going to want to join the fight for or against anybody, and that’s going to be bad…but one or two of them might, if caleb or four can show them an old copy of the original manifesto and convince them.  the other sections of the amity manifesto are conversations like this one, except they end with one person telling the other why they shouldn’t have fought (leave the past alone, don’t let others’ words provoke you, don’t be selfish, etc.)

i really really liked the abnegation and dauntless manifestos.  i guess that just leaves candor, which i guess i have no strong feelings about at this time.

the abnegation one is really short.  if i chose that faction, i would say the version with “and only God remains” at the end.  (it says that line is optional).

i will be my undoing

if i become my obsession

i will forget the ones i love

if i do not serve them.

i will war with others

if i refuse to see them.

therefore i choose to turn away

from my reflection,

to rely not on myself

but on my brothers and sisters,

to project always outward

until i disappear

(and only God remains).

the dauntless manifesto is longer–they are all longer than abnegation, actually.  dauntless is three pages.  one of my favorite lines from it was quoted by four in the book, but there are some other good ones as well:

we believe in ordinary acts of bravery, in the courage that drives one person to stand up for another.

we believe in shouting for those who can only whisper, in defending those who cannot defend themselves.

we believe, not just in bold words but in bold deeds to match them.

we believe that pain and death are better than cowardice and inaction, because we believe in action.

we do not believe that we should be allowed to stand idly by.

those lines from dauntless, and the bit at the end of amity that was cut out, make me really think about whether violence can ever be justified.  it’s hard to argue against these inspiring words.  i tend to think that as a christian i should be a pacifist, but it is something i struggle with.  intellectually, i mean.  but is there a way to defend others and be willing to suffer pain and death rather than standing idly by without harming others? or at least without killing them.  like shepherd book in the show firefly–he only shoots kneecaps or shoulders, disabling people without killing them.  maybe that is the best position.  hmm.  something to continue thinking about!

***update*** if you buy the paperback version of Divergent (just released), it comes with a bunch of extras at the end including the Faction Manifestos.

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