Friday, December 11, 2009


I make no secret of the fact that I struggle to get along with my father's side of the family. I just don't click with them. I feel awkward, and as if we have nothing in common. I had one hope among them: one of my cousins was reasonably like me. I admired his fashion sense, he had a clever wit, and I thought that he and I might get along.

Less than an hour ago, I saw he had changed his facebook profile picture to this Demotivational Poster of Santa Claus:

In case the picture ever breaks, this is what it reads:
One Day You Will Learn Everything About Santa Claus. On That Day Remember Everything The Adults Have Told You About Jesus.

Congratulations. You have killed my hope for your branch of the family. I knew you weren't Christian. I didn't know you were so far gone as to senselessly attack Christian faith.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Gay Rights

I spend more time than I like thinking about Gay Rights. It seems to be THE issue for a lot of people these days. So now, in risk of offending my friends and family both on the right and on the left, I'm going to spell out my views.

1) I do believe that homosexuality is immoral. I do not think it is worse than any other consensual sexual sin. I take issue with Christian homosexuals taking their identity from their sexual orientation before their faith, and with their ignoring or discrediting parts of the bible that condemn the practice of homosexuality. When conservative Christians point to Leviticus, homosexuals fall back to the "God Hates Shrimp" campaign (effectively saying that the Old Testament, or at least Leviticus, is not a legitimate guide to morality). When we point to Romans, they say either that it wasn't talking about homosexuality, but going against one's natural sexual orientation, or that the homosexuality practiced then was not like the homosexuality practiced now. I respond in the following: Leviticus outlawed many things; Acts 10: 14-15 and 11: 8-9 has God declare that He has made some things clean, and that no one must call them unholy; Romans reaffirms that homosexuality is immoral. I conclude that the only rational response from these passages is that homosexuality is wrong.
HOWEVER, I do not in any way shape or form advocate any sort of discrimination against homosexuals. Like Christ told the adulterous woman "I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more" (John 8:11). We are NOT to condemn. We are to love. I have my sins, and am no more holy than any homosexual. I would even say I am less holy than some.

2) Gay marriage. It bothers me when people talk about it as a right. Marriage is not a right for anyone: it is a blessing. As I see it, Marriage belongs to the Church, not the government. If we are to truly have separation of Church and State, the State needs to back out of the Church's business. Here is the core of what I'm saying: The government should not offer "Marriage" to anyone, regardless of sexual orientation. They may, if they wish, offer "Civil Unions" for the purposes of taxes, visitation, and inheritance, but the legal aspect of a marriage is just that: legal. A civil union. The marriage is a pact between two people and God, as witnessed by those the couple love. If you want to get married: find a religious institution which will marry you. If you want to get legal benefits, get a civil union. I think this should be the case for all couples in the United States.

3) Don't ask, Don't tell. I honestly don't know what I think about this. That alone should give some credence to the possibility of repealing it. I can appreciate the reasoning behind the ban, but I feel that the reasons are no longer relevant. There is enough questionable behavior in the military that the moral claim has lost all weight. One could argue it would make someone uncomfortable, but it shouldn't make anyone more uncomfortable than having a member of the opposite sex fighting alongside them, and with women in the military, that defense loses weight as well. In "the Republic," Plato even argues that soldiers would fight better with someone with whom they shared a relationship beside them, because they would not want to appear cowardly in front of their beloved. Maybe he was right. I'm not saying that the rule NEEDS to be repealed. I'm just saying, I don't see the arguments supporting it anymore.

Maybe I'm crazy. Maybe I'm wrong. If anyone would like to discuss or respond rationally to this post, I'll be happy to have your input. However, any comments that are in effect yelling at me or insulting me or my views without rational discussion, I will not allow. The same goes for anyone who belittles or insults other commentors.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I had an epiphany today.
You can't love just one person unconditionally. If you love someone so long as they stay the same, you're putting a condition on it. If you love someone so long as they steer clear of one crucial attribute, you're putting a condition on it. If you love someone, you love everyone.

If you love someone unconditionally, you are not saying: "I will love you under all probable circumstances." You are not even saying "I will love you under all possible circumstances." You are saying "I will love you under ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. It doesn't matter what. Think of someone you love. Imagine they changed in every way until they resembled someone you absolutely despise in every way. Do you still love them? Imagine they have changed, not only to resemble, but to actually become that person you despise. It doesn't matter whether this is possible or not, just imagine it. Now: do you still love this person? If so, why do you despise this other person? If you truly love any one person unconditionally, you must love everyone. Nothing else makes sense.

It may seem corny, but this epiphany has had a big impact on me. I realized this, and I began to think of those people I don't show love. People, mostly from my past, who represent to me things I fear and despise. A bully I never forgave. An enemy who still harms those I consider friends. Everyone I ever thought I hated. Each time, I summoned up the image of them in my mind. I tied to it everything about them that I hated. And I gave them everything I could of love. I tried to see things from their perspectives—not only putting myself in their places, as I had in the past, but thinking of all the possible reasons I might treat someone else as they treated me. I saw, and I felt pity, sadness, and the beginnings of love.

I don't love unconditionally. Not yet. But today, I took a step in that direction.

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Name

I was writing an email to a new acquaintance explaining my email including "William" but my preferred name being "Liam," and I though its contents might be helpful for those other people who have wondered why I go by the name that I do: a lot of people have asked why I switched.

Yes, "William" is my legal name. Liam is the Gaelic form of William, and my preferred variant, but if you prefer William, I don't mind that either. There's actually something of a story behind my name:

When I was a kid, my family called me Willy (some of my older relatives still do). When I was being registered for kindergarten I was asked what I wanted to go by and I opted to drop the "y" and just be Will. At some point, I stopped caring what I was called, so long as it wasn't Bill (it's a perfectly fine name, but it's what my grandpa goes by, and that was enough to keep me from wanting to go by it). No one ever called me Billy, so far as I know.

As time went on, I started to dislike the way Will looked when written. For a while, I stopped this by saying it was "Spelled 'William' but pronounced 'Will,' the I-A-M is silent." I even briefly modified it to "The 'I Am' is silent, in reverence to Our Lord," but then realized that since I was actually doing it out of vanity, to claim it was out of reverence was irreverent at best, and possibly blasphemous, so I stopped.

I also disliked how easy it was to think someone was saying my name when they in fact had said "I will do such-and-thus" or "well..." the final straw was being a Philosophy major and all the jokes a out me being "the Good Will" or "a human Will" et cetera. At this point I decided I genuinely disliked being called "Will" but had no alternative - I didn't want to be the guy who insists on being called by his full name when so many variants are available. At some point, I thought of switching to "Liam." Since I was planning on moving to LA for a film studies program my senior year of college, I decided that my last semester of college would be a good time to switch. Unfortunately, events transpired that stopped me from going to LA. All the same, I stuck to that schedule, started going by "Liam" and have gone by it ever since. Many people still call me "Will," but I don't call myself by that name anymore.

In addition to this "story," I also like to acknowledge the fact that I've changed. "Will" to me reflects the way I was growing up and in high school. "Liam" to me is the sum of my experiences to date, especially the growth I experienced in college. It's a much shorter explanation, but also a part of why I prefer Liam.

Is this more information than you needed? Probably. Still, I prefer giving too much information over too little.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Want to Write

I want to write, but I keep getting ideas that are only half-ready as I'm about to start. So now I've got a few dozen half-ideas in my head, all vying for attention, and no clue where to start.

Ok, not NO clue. I'm starting by writing this and hoping it gets the ball rolling.

On a totally separate note, this iPhone app is none too shabby for blogging, if one couldn't get to a computer. Still not as good as my laptop, though.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


So, I've been thinking. I have had way too many crushes that never went anywhere. Maybe by some people's standards, it's a much more normal number, but to me, it's downright sad. The worst part is that about half the time, I've found out after the fact that the girls liked me at one time or another (though I rarely know if it is at the same time I liked them). Some people would say to be happy for friendships that those crushes have grown into, and I am, sort of, but there's also this nagging feeling of "Dammit, why didn't I say anything?" I think Randall Monroe illustrated the sentiment of my fears best. Apparently, he also illustrated what is ultimately the situation on both sides, though that prospect still baffles me.

Now, in real life, I know that things don't work like this comic implies. The Neurotic Little Stick Figure imagines a worst-case scenario. But real life is bad enough. Because for some reason, I seem to get up the nerve with girls who aren't interested (I can still say "girls" because I was still in college last time it happened - from here on out I think I'm culturally obligated to call any new crush a "woman.") When I tell these particular girls that I am interested, they typically "let me down easy." The first time was the worst. I told this girl, Kim, that I had liked her for some time, and I asked her to come to my highschool homecoming with me. She told me she had already made plans with friends. This pattern repeated a couple times, with me asking for a date and her dodging it by already having plans. Finally, I asked her to be my girlfriend on, fool-that-I-was, the day before Valentine's day. She asked if she could get back to me, and again, being a dope, I told her that was fine, genuinely hoping for a good outcome. She did get back to me the next day, and explained that she just wasn't attracted to me. This would have been fine if she had stopped there - I have never considered myself to be terribly physically attractive. I had just always hoped my personality would overcome that. But she didn't stop there. Rather, she went on "but it's not a physical thing. It's more of a personality issue." I'm pretty sure she went on, but the thundercrack of those words and the balm of the intervening years have faded anything beyond that sentiment to total obscurity.

As I say, that was the worst. Since then, rejection has just been a polite "I just don't think of you that way" or "I don't have time for a boyfriend, and don't expect to anytime soon." Still not the best responses in the world, but those were infinitely better than to say that the thing I expected to overcome my difficulties was my difficulty all along.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Good Taste/Bad Taste

It bugs me the way people talk about taste in media (particularly music). They act like the rule is you either have good taste, liking good music and hating bad music, or bad taste, where you either don't care about or dislike good music and love bad music. Most people think, or at least talk as if they think, that it's impossible to have both. Well, it's possible.

I have good taste in music: I like the Submarines, the Weepies, Maria Mena, the Beatles, and half a dozen others you're even less likely to have heard of than the first three I named. And there is some music I cannot stand, like Taylor Swift's "Love Story" (addressed briefly here). But there is some genuinely BAD music I like. For example, I think Nickelback is incredibly fun. I'm not saying I "enjoy them ironically," whatever that is supposed to mean. I just like listening to them. I know they lack compositional talent. The song "Nickelback sucks" demonstrates that by pairing "How You Remind Me" with "Someday." They have the exact same chord progression and remarkable similarities between the two videos. That doesn't change the fact that I like them.

In summary, just because someone has bad taste in music, doesn't mean they don't have good taste in music, or vice versa.

Saturday, September 12, 2009


I have a semi-recurring nightmare.

In it, I have finished college (or, when it started, I was in college), but my highschool has contacted me, saying that my diploma is invalid because of some irregularity or other. Sometimes I had forgotten to take a required class, and they just now noticed. Other times, some teacher or another had faked their degree or missed something that would have made the class count. At least once, I remembered having agreed to putting off this one requirement until such a time as I was free. The bottom line is, I need to go back to highschool for a semester and get this taken care of.

This is not a terribly disturbing nightmare. Perhaps it is only an unpleasant dream. I just know that I always have this panic of going back.

It doesn't help that after graduating, I've been living at home and still cannot find a job.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


My Senior year of High School, I worked for about three months at Meijer. One day, one of my coworkers—a self-described "pagan"—went around asking people whether they believed all demons were evil. Most of the self-described Christians, agnostics, and atheists who worked there gave a tepid "I guess" or "I don't know." She smugly pointed out that they hypocritically condemned what they did not understand and did not understand what they believed. When she asked me, I did not know yet that she had asked my coworkers for their thoughts, or what answers she had received. Our conversation went a little like this (not word for word—it has been four years):

PAGAN: Do you think all demons are evil?
ME: Yes.
(PAGAN descends into sputtering rage at my certain and confident answer, babbles about being self righteous)
ME: Wait a minute... what do you mean by "demon"?

At this moment, I realized that she and I did not agree on our terms. I took demon to mean fallen angel. It's very definition meant that it was a being which saw God in all His glory and turned against Him. She did not have the same definition, as her answer demonstrated:

PAGAN: Any kind of demon!
ME: No, I mean...
PAGAN: Take a succubus for example. It has drains the life out of humans by having sex with them. Is it evil?
ME: If such a thing really exists; yes.
PAGAN: How can you say that?!? It's only doing it to survive! That's like denying a person the right to eat!

Here, again, we were hitting a wall in our conversation. One from which it did not recover, as I was called away shortly thereafter to do my actual job. However, I know how I would have responded: Angels, fallen or otherwise, are eternal beings. They don't die. Demons, therefore, do not need to feed to survive, whether on libidos or Fritos. It would be ludicrous for a Christian to respond any other way to her questions.

I suppose I'm thinking of this because I've been watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer lately. (I just finished Season 6, and haven't seen it before, so please no one who reads this ruin Season 7 for me.) It's gotten me thinking a lot about different things: occult, demonic, magic, and mythic. I've done a lot of considering lately. Most of my thoughts are unimportant, and I will keep them to myself for now. I may have follow-up posts, however, wherein I discuss individual ideas in greater depth.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emotional Experience

When I applied to Los Angeles Film Studies Center, they asked for a narrative of my most emotional experience. The following is what I wrote, with minor changes:

In my junior year of high school, I met a girl I'll call "K" (whose name I will omit for the sake of her privacy). We were both on our high school's forensics team, and were both of the intellectual persuasion. By this, I of course mean that we were smart and knew it, with (I am ashamed to say on my part) varying degrees of humility. Throughout the course of the semester, we became as close friends as I was with anyone during my pre-collegiate years. Much of our time was spent preparing for or going to speech competitions, and so we spent much of our time in each other's company. She was phenomenally talented and immensely kind to everyone to whom I ever saw her speak. I admit I may have even had a crush on her, but I never acted on it. Then, at the end of the year, she transferred to a private girls school and we lost touch with one another.

Throughout the course of my senior year, I would send K an occasional email. I didn't say anything special, just some updates about who had done what that we both knew and the sort of things I was up to. I knew that her new school's curriculum was much more intense than mine, so I thought nothing of it that she didn't really respond to my emails. Perhaps this was mere foolishness, perhaps self-delusion. Whatever the reason, I kept sending her emails every month or two for the first half of the year, then began to get less frequent. One day in the spring, I realized I hadn't written her in a while, so I sent her one last email. The act did not seem significant to me at the time.

A day or two after I sent that last email, I got a response from my not-so-long lost friend and was elated at the fact. I opened the email reply to my message and was horrified at what I read. It has been nearly four years, and those words were not “burned into my mind,” but the general gist of her message was. Her message essentially said: “I thought ignoring you was enough to send the message. Apparently not. I do not want to hear from you. I do not care how you or anyone you know is doing, and I hope you never talk to, write to, or in any way contact me again.” She expounded upon this theme for well over a page of writing. Likely, she thought this necessary, as I was too “dense” to pick up the subtleties of being ignored and so might miss the direct point as well. While I did not understand her reasoning, I respected her decision and so immediately deleted her from my email contacts, instant messenger, and any other list of contacts in which she had previously appeared.

For many people, this would only be a strange occurrence and perhaps slightly disappointing. But I have always had a fear of rejection (a full discussion of which would take well over a the allowed length of this essay on its own). I am reluctant to use common platitudes and metaphors, so I will not describe her message as a knife in the chest. That is exactly how I had described it at the time, but I have since thought back and realized that the feeling was nothing at all like a knife. What I felt was not pain, or sadness, or anger. It was a sort of internal reordering. The best I can think of to describe it is the way I imagine a surgery patient would feel after having had an appendectomy. Something of which I had not been normally aware had been taken away from me.

What was even worse than the feeling, however, were its aftereffects. I cannot make myself make first contact with any of my high school friends. Those with whom I have reestablished contact already, I may call, but the fear that they too will without explanation or reasonable provocation demand that I sever all ties between us grips me with all its might. Those who have not contacted me I have simply lost. Thankfully, there is such a disconnect between my high school and college careers that I do not have this problem with my college friends who have graduated or transferred. I am reluctant, perhaps, to call unsolicited, but I still do try from time to time, and most often my efforts are rewarded.

I have felt stronger emotions than this unclassifiable feeling K gave me, both before and since then. I have not, however, had any event trigger such a long-lasting shift in my emotions. I may never be free of her influence in my life. This strikes me as perhaps the greatest irony, that in trying to sever ties between us, K permanently won herself a place in my heart as the friend who didn't want me.

One might wonder what prompted me to post this now, over a year after I wrote it. The truth is, I recently googled "K"s name on a whim and found out where she goes to school. I still respect her decision, and will make no attempt to contact her. I'm just nostalgic, and a little sad.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Twenty Three Years of Madness

So, yesterday was my twenty-third birthday. It was somewhat interesting. I don't like this blog to be about my life so much as it is about my thoughts, but birthdays tend to make people think about their lives, so I'll call this post a toss-up.

Two days ago, I took my guitar out of its case for the first time in months and decided to genuinely practice. (For those who don't know, I don't ever claim to play the guitar — I practice. I'll call it playing when I can goof off and still not sound like crap.) I spent a while working, but then I remembered that my fingers were no longer calloused and decided to stop. With luck, I'll stay with it this time and end up actually playing the guitar.

Also recently, I started telling a "Choose Your Own Adventure" story on my facebook, run by popular vote. My hope is that this will motivate me to keep up with writing more (and possibly increase my audience, and provide me with feedback — lots of pluses to this plan).

I could go on, but I honestly feel this is better left short and sweet. I feel like I'm being more productive and responsible. Now if only I could find a job...

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Looking at My Friendslists

I decided to look over my facebook friendlists. I learned a few things. Here are some of the things I learned.

By my definition of Friendship, I have 8 facebook friends I consider True Friends. I went over the list 3 times and grouped them together. 8 out of nearly 600.

As near as I can tell, there are 25 girls on my friendslist who I at one time or another had a crush on. Some of those it's hard to believe I ever liked. Exactly 2 are also on my list of "True Friends."

I have 17 Family Members among my friends, including my entire immediate family.

There are at least as many people on my list that I keep around in the event they might be helpful to me later in life as there are true friends - I stopped counting after 7, and know there was at least one more.

There are 7 people on my friendslists who have betrayed me at one time or another: at least four of them would have been on my list of "True Friends" if not for these betrayals.

All of my facebook friends who are on none of these lists are either people who I think are cool, but don't really know that well, or people whom it would be awkward and potentially create drama (for me or for our mutual friends) if I unfriended.

Tell me, does this seem normal to you? Are any of these groups unusually skewed, as you see it? I'm just wondering.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Some Things Change, Some Things Make Me Angry

When I was in early high school, I disliked country music—among other things, I disliked how hick-ish my high school was, and felt that country music exemplified this problem. Every semseter, we had a spirit week including a "Dress Like a Farmer" day. Most people didn't have to change that much. But I digress.

My junior year of high school, we moved to a new building which was no longer in walking distance from my house, and though I had a license, I had no car, so I started riding the bus. The driver liked country music, so that's what we listened to. Throughout the year, I learned to deal with it. I accepted, but did not like country music. This continued through much of college.

My junior year of college, however, my roommate talked me into going line dancing with him at a club called "The Dusty Armadillo." Not wanting to be a stick-in-the-mud, I danced. Dancing, I learned to love the music. That isn't to say I loved all country music, or all the time, but when I recognized a song I knew I could dance to, a new thrill shot through me. Thus I began to like country music.

Since graduation, I have moved home, and during my frequent visits to the Chiropractor (another story, for those who do not already know), I typically listen to one of our local country stations. Today was one such day. And now the reason for my writing: "Love Story" by Taylor Swift is a terrible song in every way, shape, and form.

I hate the music, I hate the lyrics, I hate the story the lyrics and music come together to tell. And not just because I feel that Mercutio should have been the hero of the play, because it completely ignores the actual plot of the story! Don't mention Romeo and Juliet if you're going to have a happy ending, Miss Swift! No! I had thought there was no way it was as bad as I thought it was, so I forced myself to listen to the whole thing.

It was worse.

Monday, May 18, 2009

An Essay

I wrote the following as my final essay for my author studies class of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. I've incorporated the suggestions my professor made (mostly removing unnecessary citations) and thought I'd post it for you readers on the interweb. Let me know what you think, LotR fans!

One of the most dynamic characters the reader encounters in The Lord of the Rings is that of Aragorn, son of Arathorn. There are two senses in which this character develops throughout the series, the first being a sort of traditional character growth, most of which had already taken place well before the founding of the fellowship, and the second resembling more of an unveiling of the character to his companions, which takes place over the year or so from when he meets the hobbits to when he is crowned King of Gondor. Naturally, the two developments are related to one another, but the distinction is fairly significant, and becomes apparent if one realizes that much of Aragorn's development takes place long before he met Frodo and the Hobbits in Bree, and is recorded after the closing lines of the novel in its appendices.

Aragorn, we learn in Appendix A of The Lord of the Rings, began his life under a false name with no knowledge of his true kingly lineage. He spent his first twenty years under the name Estel, or “Hope.” Little is said of this time, except that Elrond came to love him as a son, and that the period ended when Aragorn “returned to Rivendell after great deeds in the company of the sons of Elrond; and Elrond...saw that he was fair and noble and...would yet become greater in body and in mind.” At this point, Elrond rewarded Aragorn with his true name, true heritage, and many—though not yet all—of the heirlooms of his house. Shortly thereafter, Aragorn first sees Arwen, the daughter of Elrond, and falls immediately in love with her. This is perhaps the only brash action which is attributed to Aragorn, who throughout the novel itself makes every decision cautiously and thinking heavily of the consequences. However, even if Aragorn did not think fully through the repercussions of his love, he did stick by his decision, demonstrating even from an early age a genuine sense of commitment.

There are two major spans of time between Aragorn's first loving Arwen and his appearance in The Fellowship of the Ring. The first is a space of about thirty years, after which Arwen sees Aragorn come into his own and strong (not to mention clad in Elvish clothes). Though we are not told all of Aragorn's deeds in this time, we can gather from chronologies that it was in this time that he met and befriended Gandalf, and that he served both the King of Rohan and the Steward of Gondor in disguise. We learn four attributes of Aragorn's character from these facts. First of all, he keeps high company, since he manages to befriend a member of the Maiar. Secondly, though he knows his high birth and has been given such tokens as could prove his rank, he chooses to still serve until the time is right for his ascension. Thirdly, though he serves, he offers no one his allegiance, or else he would not have served two rival, though friendly, kingdoms of men. Fourth and finally, he has learned well the value of secrecy, following Elrond's lead in hiding his heritage. Arwen, seeing these changes in him, falls in love with him and the two commit to faithfulness to one another.

After receiving Arwen's pledge of love, Aragorn again turned to traveling and adventuring. He spent the next thirty-eight years protecting the North as a Ranger, taking time for such individual tasks as hunting and jailing Gollum, before meeting with the hobbits in Bree. At some point in this period, he also met Bilbo, and began his friendship. It is likely from this friendship that Aragorn learned to appreciate hobbits. This period more or less solidifies Aragorn's kingly nature, and the majority of his development after this point is the unveiling of which I spoke earlier.

When Aragorn first meets the hobbits, he is not trusted, having all but completely hidden his goodness beneath a rough exterior. Butterbur, who has seen him many times, mistrusts him and warns the Hobbits to avoid him out of genuine concern. He appears, at first, merely a gruff man of the wilderness, skilled in fighting and perhaps in hunting, but with few other attributes certain. After Frodo is stabbed at Weathertop, however, he shows himself also to know something of healing, even if it is only enough to slow the effect of the Nazgûl's blade until they could reach Elrond in Rivendell. He continues to quest throughout the world after they reach Rivendell, and reveals his true identity to more companions as they set out to destroy the Ring. But the next significant unveiling is that he was wiser even than Gandalf in at least one sense: he knew tragedy would befall the Fellowship if they travelled through Moria, and for lack of regard for his counsel, Gandalf was lost. However, this is also what forces the next change in Aragorn—whereas before he was able to rely on his wise friend for leadership, now he was forced to take his place as a true leader. Where at first he is hesitant, pulled by alternating desires, he ultimately makes a bold decision and begins to use his inborn authority to lead.

Aragorn, in leadership, continues to reveal his name at need, in such cases as when Éomer demands the company identify themselves in Rohan. When Gandalf returns from the dead, Aragorn yields leadership back to him, not so much out of reliance, as he apparently did at first, but more out of respect. When they must part ways next, Aragorn does not bemoan their fate. Indeed, very little is said of Aragorn at all, whose dialog is sometimes recorded even without a hearer. I would therefore consider it reasonable to say that he was entirely at peace with the parting.

Once Gandalf has departed, Aragorn takes possession of the palantír and takes it from Sauron's control, showing that he, unlike Saruman, could not only withstand but overpower the will of the Dark Lord. From this point on, few of his choices are really developments or unveilings for the reader, only the natural actions of a man who knows that the times are grim and his destiny is high. Even in his decision to rally the dead army and his decision to ride, perhaps to his death, against the gates of Mordor, seem in keeping with the man we have met already. After the victory, he seeks a sign by which to claim his rightful kingship and his queen, but he himself is already ready for this, it cannot be called “change.” The only real change that remains in him is long after the events concerning the Ring are over—in his final days, Aragorn chooses to meet his end as he grows weary, not staying even for his love for Arwen. This is the final and most important change, as it allows him to return to the legacy of his forebears, not only men of Gondor, but the mighty Númenoreans as well.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A Response to the Administration's Spin

In a recent issue of the Aviso, Malone University's newspaper, one of the administration whom I will call “Dr. S” addressed the concerns about the changes in Malone's admissions requirements. But very little of what he said sounded even possible to my ears, let alone true. I am so disturbed by the most recent article that I felt a response was not only in order, but absolutely necessary. This is a mildly revised version of my response, going play by play through Dr. S's article.

I'd like to begin by dealing with an ungrounded claim in Dr. S's first paragraph, which was also copied and had attention drawn to it as a particularly relevant quotation: “Please know that the leadership of Malone is committed to preserving and strengthening standards, quality and relationships.” This sounds very nice. My only problem with it is that it is in response to concerns that the admissions standards and thereby quality of academic achievement of Malone have been lowered and thereby weakened. I feel that I show in this response how the new system reduces the relationship potential of Malone admissions.

Dr. S first defends the new admissions standards by saying that the scholarships were not competitive, “were not distributed more broadly to our incoming students,” and that the school was “lagging behind in the timing in which we would make our scholarship awards.” Dr. S never defines what he meant by timing, but that is a minor issue. He only points out that “Now, every student that meets our admissions requirements will receive some form of... scholarship or grant.”

For those of you who don't know, the word “scholarship” comes from “scholar,” and refers to an amount of money awarded to students who excel in scholastic endeavors. To give a scholarship to everyone defeats its purpose, especially if done on an institutional level—after all, it would save a considerable amount of red tape if Malone simply cut tuition by the relevant amount for everyone, and this would not cheapen the word “scholarship” by broadening it out. I have no issue with grants being given to any student, but again, if you are going to give the money to everyone, it is much smarter to just cut the tuition.

Dr. S's second point is that the application pool has been redistributed among the admissions counselors according to the students' surnames instead of their geographic region. This is designed to broaden the focus of admissions, but will also have the negative effect of cutting down admissions relationships with particular regions.

Dr. S went on to say how Malone now receives a wider pool of “ethnic and geographic diversity.” He claims that both have been hindered by the smaller applicant pool, and that now we receive applications from students that will do well in college. This is quite possible—they may do very well. However, if they are admitted due to lower admissions standards, then many in this group will do less well than those admitted on the previous admissions standards. Not to mention, the claim that lowering the admissions requirements will allow more ethnic diversity at Malone does not strike me as the most appropriate of statements.

The next point Dr. S makes is that “one other impact of setting this new admissions requirement is related to college readiness.” He goes on to explain that these lower standards are still enough to project that the students will achieve a probational status GPA. That is ridiculous. We should not be aiming for probational students. Malone should certainly be admitting some probational students, but the general admissions standards should strive for excellence, not adequacy.

Dr. S's last point is that the new recruitment standard will be more aggressive and will be streamlined. The only specifics he mentions are eliminating brochures. I have no issue with this, it is one example of smart use of resources (although the majority of this claim is left unexplained, and I would have liked more information).

In his closing remarks, Dr. S reminds us of our Presidents words to “begin with the end in mind.” The end, for Dr. S in this article, is “to increase residential population, provide competitive scholarships, and strengthen our academic programs.” I have shown in this article that I do not believe the new standards accomplish this goal. But what is more importantly, we should focus less on academics, and more on what Malone claims is its continuing commitment: Christ's Kingdom First.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


In church this Sunday, a woman got up and "taught" on Proverbs 14:30. Now, those who know me know already that I have an issue with this, but that is neither my primary complaint nor the reason I decided to put "taught" between quotation marks. What I have an issue with is, in fact, not even primarily a doctrinal issue (for once). It was the sheer incompetence of a woman who showed no depth of understanding of those things about which she presumed to tell others.

The text of Proverbs 14:30, as she used it, is:
A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones.
(This was from the King James Version.)

Now, first of all, she did a horrible job of talking about this verse, because she was constantly repeating herself and falling back on saying "hallelujah" at what seemed to be the points where she either lost her place or couldn't think of what to say next. It is certainly a good thing to praise God, but it felt more like she was using "hallelujah" as a place-holder than an expression of worship. But even beyond this, was when she brought up bullies.

I was bullied as a child. It has left me with a profound disgust for bullies. If I call someone a bully, I do not mean they are being less than kind, I mean I want them to die a slow, painful death, in the most humiliating manner possible, in front of everyone they hold dear. It is not a minor issue for me. And, like every child, I heard the simplistic response that "they're just jealous." And like every child who was bullied, and like most bullies, I realized the lie of this statement. The speaker made this very claim when talking about the pitfalls of envy, and even related her own experience of being picked on as a child, but admitted she didn't know what the bully in question was jealous of. Let me fill this in for you: not all bullies are jealous!

True, I had some kids pick on me for what may have been jealousy. But more often than not, it was a way to assert their dominance without any personal risk. By showing that they could put down someone, they were given popularity and with it, power. Very rarely did I offer anything of which they could be jealous. Some of them even got better grades than me. And I certainly didn't have more friends. Or try to take away their friends. I shrank! So you want to tell me that all bullies are jealous, you'd better have some really good proof. Don't simplify something that tortured someone for over a decade to one potential cause unless you are absolutely sure. And you are not absolutely sure.

Not my most meaningful post, but I needed to get that off my chest. I may have a few more depressing blogs in the future for more venting - sorry if this brings anyone down.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


This could be a lot better, but it was more or less a stream of consciousness. Ironically, this kept me from actually talking about the event that triggered this post.

I make a lot of enemies. As a Christian, I struggled with this fact for some time. I spent a lot of time trying not to have enemies - even to be friends with everyone. I was motivated partly out of a desire to be nice, and partly out of fear. I was bullied a good bit growing up, and have no desire to ever return to that miserable state. Worse yet, I may become one (I come too close for my own comfort with certain friends as it is, but that is a whole other topic).

I will skip over the various ways I tried to stop making enemies for the sake of brevity and interest. Suffice it to say, every attempt failed. A little while ago, I came to a realization that put my mind at ease. We are not commanded by God to have no enemies. We are called to love our enemies. I need not like everyone or even want to spend time with them. I need to love my enemies.

This drastically shifted my means of approaching life. For one thing, I no longer feel guilty or like something is wrong with me when I love someone the wrong way (or when they have that effect on me). I need keep two things in mind when I am among my enemies: I must treat them as I would a friend and neighbor, and I must strive to want this. Ultimately, I hope that I will love my enemies by nature - to truly love all of humanity. Right now, I stick with what is reachable: to manifest love towards those I would call enemies.

I may be blowing my own horn here at the moment, but I think I have better definitions of "friend" and "enemy" than the rest of the culture with which I interact. I do, sadly, call some people friends who I do not consider to be real friends. By cultural standards, they are: we hang out, share our thoughts, and even have fun together. But for me, that is not a friend. A friend involves love, trust, and connection. There are many people with whom I spend my time simply by coincidence - on my own, I would never contact them or seek them out. I would not confide in them anything beyond my surface thoughts, I feel no connection, except by geography, and I cannot say I love them in any meaningful way (though I still try, as with enemies, to love them as neighbors).

True friends, in my mind, are peers in every way. Someone you can respect, through differences in interest and ability alike. Someone who respects you in turn. Someone from whom, at least when you are alone together, you would not withhold any secrets of your own. Indeed, keeping any secrets between friends should pain both you and them, because you would want to share. And most importantly, there should be a real, unmistakable connection, such that you could not stop being friends if you wanted to.

Enemies are opposed to these in some ways, but very similar in others. The most notable similarity is that you have no choice - this person who is your enemy will be your enemy whether you like it or not. The greatest difference is trust - you will not want to share anything with this person, and may resent them when they try to earn a share of anything in which you are invested. That is why it is so great a challenge to love your enemies. You must pain yourself, give of yourself to the one you feel certain must hurt you. And you must accept it when he does, and trust him again. This does not mean you must actually help him hurt you or those you care about, but we, as Christians cannot let fear of being hurt stop us. We must love those who may hate us, and do our best to endure the repercussions.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


***Warning: This post is not only about swearing, but includes "inappropriate" language***

Okay, I'll admit it: I swear too much. Growing up, I didn't swear. And I don't mean I rarely swore, I mean that I never intentionally swore before I came to college. My freshman year, I had a roommate with a somewhat foul mouth who also liked to watch comedy central. Even more than public schooling, this whittled away at my resolve to keep my speech clean. So, despite the fact that in college I could be fined for swearing, I began my excursion into the vulgar my freshman year.

I will take a moment here to make a clarification. There is "swearing," "cursing," and "cussing." Outside this paragraph, unless otherwise specified, I am using the terms of "swearing" and "cursing" to refer to "cussing," that is, vulgar language. However, in actuality, swearing refers to taking oaths, and cursing refers to putting a curse on someone. Both of these are explicitly condemned in the Bible. Many misinterpretations of scripture come from people applying the "cussing" definition to swearing and/or cursing. I hate the equivocation, and would not use these words for this purpose, except that I hate the word "cussing" even more, and I am too impatient to say "vulgar language" in every instance.

My language freshman year was therefore worse than it had been in my entire life, but still fairly tame. The words left a strange taste in my mouth. It was unusual to me to think that I was using these words. On the whole, I kept it under wraps, in part because I was so new to the idea, and in part because few of my friends swore. However, my friend group shifted sophomore year, and I developed a mouth like a sailor, which I have kept to the present date. I have tempered my language in the past school year, and I still hold my tongue around authority figures (more out of respect for their authority than for fear of reprisal).

***Mature language begins below this line***

All of this, I tell you so that I can tell you what I think of swearing in general. I, like many people, rank 'bad words' in a hierarchy. I have a very different ranking from most, however. I have no idea why "shit" cannot be said on television, for example. I consider it simultaneous among the least severe, and least useful. Also ranked among the minor curse words for me are the two "b"s. The second tier for me includes "fuck," as well as any of the more vulgar references to reproductive anatomy (the "c"s, as it were). Taking the Lord's Name constitutes the top tier - I will not even here write them. Top of the top tier is g--d--- (I hate when people do that with spelling, but I know of no other way without breaking my own requirements). "Piss," which some people count as a curse word, I do not, putting it rather on par with "crap." They aren't elevated language, but neither are they truly swearing.

This leaves what I refer to as "the floaters": Hell and Damn. When I think about them, I consider them practically top tier, insofar as they have theological implications. However, when I swear myself, I use them with bottom tier frequency. What I've ultimately concluded is that to use them literally as curses is inappropriate on the grounds of the Biblical command not to curse (which refers to casting curses, not just vulgar language). Using them as non-curse swearing is acceptable however. Thus "what the hell?" and "dammit" are acceptable, while "go to hell" and "damn you" are not.

Why do I not just say "no swearing at all"? Simple: I do not believe there is any reason for such an assertion. The Bible itself contains words and phrases which were culturally as inappropriate as what we today consider inappropriate. There are verses about letting no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but if this were genuinely a sinful act, then the Bible would not have used such culturally sensitive language. Thus, either that is a piece of advice not bearing the weight of a command or it has some other meaning. I confess I have not looked closely into it. Perhaps someday I will and I will stop swearing altogether. I will say that those who can say what they want without swearing are better off than those of us who swear, and I am working to become such a person. But I am not there, and I do not think it is a moral so much as intellectual and practical pursuit to strive to reach that point.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Heir of a Worldview

Do we inherit our views? Are we cursed to live as a sum of those individual views shared with us by those we come to know? Or is there some chance of something more? There are those who tell us that we would even inherit those views which we come upon on our own by means of experience: they become ours by mere endowment. This view disgusts me in the same way that I imagine most people must be revolted by the idea of living without free will - it is not that I have any evidence against it, I simply find the idea abhorrent (As a side note, I do not have this issue with lacking free will: I believe we have it, but would be totally fine if we did not).

The problem is, the idea of inheritance to me implies that it belongs rightly to someone other than myself. For all my love of heritage and legacy, I could not bear to think I had nothing but these. Rather, I would say that we sometimes (I would not dare say how often) do not simply pick up the ideas of those around us. Instead, we observe many ideas, decide on the one that seems truest, and claim it for ourselves. We might even need to wrestle the idea into submission, making them surrender to our other views and adapt as necessary. In this way, cannot our views be truly our own?

Friday, January 30, 2009

γνῶθι σεαυτόν

Who knows you better, you or your friends?

I've been thinking about this a good bit lately. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with two friends who seem to have a much higher view of me than I have of myself. Another friend has constantly been telling me I appraise myself wrongly (not just in one respect - pretty much every time I describe myself, he tells me that no, I'm another way).

The question was first: do my friends know me better than I know myself? But this question is too self-absorbed, too narrow, and hardly inspires genuine thought. So I widened it. For people in general (including you, dear reader) who knows someone better, the person himself, or his friends? I'd like to believe I know myself better, but acknowledge there are at least some ways in which I know virtually nothing about myself that others seem to understand quite well.

The question then becomes: if someone else knows you better than yourself, how do you come to understand yourself as well as they do?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I Have Been Wrong

This semester, I am taking Author Studies: Lewis and Tolkien, and am as a result re-reading The Magician's Nephew. This has led me to... discuss... rather thoroughly, how the correct order in which to read the books is in the order they were published, both because that was the order in which they were written and for various other reasons. However, I could not remember the correct order except that it began with The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and ended with The Last Battle, so I decided to search online. I received quite a shock when I read a letter Tolkien wrote to a young fan named Laurence (From C.S. Lewis's Letters to Children here, page 68). In it, he explains that he personally prefers the chronological order over the publishing order, and had no plan for revealing in any particular order. Thus, while I still prefer the original order and the effect it has on the reader, the chronological order is clearly the correct order. I was wrong. As such, I must make an effort now to argue just as heartily for the correct correct order just as fervently as I previously argued for what I had presumed was the correct order before, or admit myself to be a hypocrite. The only temperance I will put on this is that I must admit I still prefer the publishing order.

On another note altogether, I had forgotten how beautiful Lewis's writing is. I was moved nearly to tears by his account of the creation of Narnia.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Linguistics is Changing Me Already

This semester, I am taking a linguistics course. We had our class session today, and it is largely what I expected. What I did not expect was the effect that the class would so soon have on me.

We spent a reasonable amount of time in class talking about "teenage English," "Black English," and a couple of other dialects of the English language. Our professor was putting forth the idea (as did our readings) that these variants are in no way deficient or lesser than "good English," but simply operate under a different set of rules than the dialects we more commonly speak. I, being the troublesome student that I am, immediately set about trying to think of why this was wrong. Thankfully, I did not express this view in class, both because I would likely be accused of some degree of bigotry and small-mindedness, and because of where my thoughts led me.

I tried to explain (in my head) why it was that "Good English" (GE) was better than Ebonics. I could not claim that Ebonics does not have rules, because our professor clearly established that, written or not, every dialect has some form of rules. So I sought to find in what way Ebonics was derivative of GE, and then show how the derivation caused a sort of decay (a claim expressly denied in our reading for next class). I decided I would show this by pointing out that Ebonics has fewer rules. That is, one could insert GE language rules into any small phrase in Ebonics and it would be acceptable. Thus, Ebonics does not have different rules, but only allows for more deviation from the default. I became excited about being able to demonstrate this to a close friend, if not even in class, so great was my proof! I could show this clearly by expressing how, with the possible exception of vocabulary not used, an Ebonics speaker could understand a GE speaker clearly, even if he were unable to conform to the rules himself, while the GE speaker would not be able to understand Ebonics, nor to speak it. That's when it hit me:

Ebonics speakers are therefore more bilingual (or should I say bi-dialectical) than GE speakers, because they understand more speech. Even if I do not understand the speech, or resent its variation from GE, Ebonics speakers have a superior grasp of language because of this variation, even if only because they are forced to learn basic GE.

As one friend of mine might put it, my world just got a little bit bigger.