Sending and receiving the message of love


One of the last smses that my ex sent me before the break up had a part which said, “I just want to say that I love you, and Jesus loves you much much much more.”

Remembering that got me thinking about love; how it’s shown and given, and how it’s received and felt.

If Jesus loves me so much, why can’t I feel it? What can it possibly mean for someone like Jesus to love me, someone I can neither see, hear nor touch? Of what value is such a love, that cannot catch a movie with me on a whim, or call me up at night to share the joys and sorrows of the day, nor give me a hug when I’m down?

Just like communication and perception, love is half-half, isn’t it? I mean, when communicating, the words are only half the message. The other half lies in someone’s head: their interpretation and understanding of your words. Similarly, when we see events around us, what happens physically holds only half the meaning of what happened; our perception and understanding of the event gives the other half. Isn’t love like this too, perhaps even more so?

My ex likes reading about things like the five love languages. The concept is pretty straightforward: people express their love in different ways, and there are five main ways in which they do so: quality time, words of affirmation, gift giving/receiving, acts of service and physical touch. Knowing your partner’s love language is helpful because you won’t miss it when they express their love, and you’d have a better idea of how to make them feel loved.

I scored highest for ‘quality time’, which made sense when I thought about it. I enjoy spending time with friends and family, to the extent that it rarely matters to me what the activity is. I could have zero interest in an activity but gladly participate to spend time with friends.

So. A love language. How we communicate our love. How something intangible, abstract and nigh indescribable in our heads (or hearts, if you like) is converted into the real world. And how that is subsequently picked up on and converted back into something intangible in the mind (or heart) of someone else.

It’s easy to see how that can break down.

Miscommunication.
When a child being disciplined doesn’t see the love behind the actions. When you focus on what someone fails to do and miss out on all the things they do for you. When a husband works because he loves his wife, but the wife, left alone, feels unloved. When a bad tempered relative seems on the surface to ignore or pick on you, but has actually made great sacrifices for your sake.

Un-received. One sided love.
When you crush on someone you can’t reach, like a celebrity. When your love is received as annoyance instead. When someone is oblivious to your love.

Unsent.
When you keep your crush a secret. When you don’t act on what’s in your head. No action, no interaction.

‘Sent, but unreceived’ is unrequited love. A delusion, obsession, infatuation… is it still love?
‘Unsent, but received’ is slightly bizarre but not unimaginable: an orphan who convinces himself that his parents love him although he doesn’t know who or where they are, and feels loved when he thinks of them. Or someone who mistakenly interprets ambiguous actions as love. Surely this constitutes delusion, not love?

In my entry Unconditional Love, I wrote, “I love you, even if you don’t want to receive it.” and “My love is mine to give, and you can’t take that away from me.” But maybe that’s incoherent. Maybe that’s not love.

If I love you without sending it, and without you receiving it, is that love at all? If I love you without you caring, knowing or being affected by it in anyway, is there any value in such ‘love’?

After all, love is more than a feeling, right?

Even if it begins with a feeling, even if it’s rooted in emotion… love, ideally, should be more than that, because feelings and emotions are fleeting and transient. Love, to me, is a feeling cemented by commitment. Love is a feeling that drives you to action. Love changes you, and changes the one you give it to.

Love without action; love that never leaves your own head; love that doesn’t affect anyone else; love that exists only in your head. Can any of these be genuine love? Or just an insubstantial feeling. Just delusion.

What do you think?

Prayers for Bobby


Touching story. Real people, real lives.

From the description, “The true story of a mother’s struggle to reconcile the tension between her deeply held religious beliefs and the suicide of her gay son. Mary Griffith came from a religious family and raised her four children to believe in God and live a Christian life. Their conservative Presbyterian church was the center of family life for every family member except Mary’s husband, Bob. When 17-year-old Bobby confided to older brother Ed that he was gay, the family’s life changed. Mary convinced Bobby to pray that God would cure him and to seek solace in church activities. Bobby did it all, but the church’s hatred of homosexuality and the obvious pain his gayness was causing his family led him increasingly to loathe himself. Excerpts from a diary he kept, family photos, and letters written by Mary to her dead son make the book intense reading for both high-school and public library patrons.”

Give it a watch if you have the time!

Will it take the death of someone close to you for you to consider that you may be wrong?

Suffering > Joy


A simple equation.

Take all the suffering in the world. Past, present, future.
And then all the joy in the world. Past, present, future.
Perhaps they even out, in the sense that the joy makes the suffering worth it.

Do you think so? We often think that falling is worth it to learn to run; a thousand failures are made up by the eventual success. (but of course, we have to think that, else how would we go on?) Does this apply on a global scale? Throughout all of history? It’s easy to dismiss your own suffering and focus on the things that make you joyful. But to bring it to a global, historical scale seems to be dismissing other people‘s suffering, which I don’t feel I have the right to do. But perhaps we can assume that everyone dismisses their own sufferings and elevate their own joys. So, while it still seems It seems doubtful that global joy would be worth global suffering, let’s just assume it is.

Next.

Take all of the suffering in hell.
And then all the joy in heaven.

By sheer numbers alone, the suffering in hell would be many, many, many, many times the joy in heaven.

And this would be God’s overview. He would see that many more would end up in hell than in heaven. And somehow he chose to go ahead with his entire plan.

If you tried to say that the joy is worth the suffering, this time you have no choice but to dismiss someone else’s suffering. And what would balancing out the overwhelming abundance of suffering, in terms of numbers?? God’s own joy in heaven?

How can that be all-loving or all-good? There’s nothing loving about eternal hell, or dismissing the suffering of many as necessary for attaining a certain good. There’s nothing good in prioritizing your own interests and glory over others, even if the ‘others’ are ‘lower beings’ compared to yourself.

Don’t tell me ‘god works in mysterious ways’. I can accept that we can’t understand God. I can’t accept that an all knowing, all powerful God is not able to simplify the concept into something we CAN understand, rather than leave us with a contradiction-filled idea. And then fault us for not getting it.

In an ideal world, it would be a non-issue


From Rachel Patrick’s post on LGBT-BJU over here.

But I never wanted to be one of the PRIDE kind of queers, the activists, the vocal ones, the ones with rainbow tattoos. I feel I am defined by so much more in my life than my sexual orientation. I feel like there is so much in my life that is actually more important than my sexual orientation. I love to read, hike, cook, write, snowboard, and garden. I like to get my nails done. I go to church. I am obsessed with Clemson football. I am just like everyone else. I am just like you.

am just like you, except for the fact that in twenty-nine states, my employer can fire me because I am gay. I am just like you, except in the nineteen states that still do not classify violence against LGBTQ individuals as hate crimes. When I want to adopt or foster a child, I am treated exactly like you… if I live in one of the ten states that allows GLBT people to adopt. And I am just like you, because when I fall in love, I want nothing more than to love and care for my partner with everything that I am, with all of my heart and all of my resources, for all of my life— I want to get married someday, except, I can’t.

Sexual orientation should be a non-issue. In an ideal world, no one cares. People love whom they love. God loves everybody. The end.

But we do not live in that world.

Obviously the ‘God’ bits don’t apply to me, and I don’t live in America but… everything else. This.

In an ideal world, to me too, it would really be a non-issue. Along with my gender identity and how I choose to present myself. The clothes I wear, the way I style my hair. But we don’t live in that world.

Not yet. 
One can always hope.

Hope + Fear = Flavoursome mix of life


How time flies. I thought April had just began– for that matter, I thought 2012 had just began. Now it’s past mid-april. Next week end april, then May. Then June. And half the year’s gone.

Next week it’ll be end April… and soon it’ll be time to pen another letter.

I’m afraid. This will probably be the last. Then the road forks up ahead and a new chapter begins. More accurately, a new book. I’ve been doing it at my own pace, and now the time has come– is coming. I’m ready– or, I hope I will be. Pen poised over paper.

I’m afraid, but also not. More… anticipatory? Weary, cautious. Wanting to hope, but not daring to. Excepting the worst, and the best. Not particularly certain what is the best or worst; not particularly certain what is it I’m hoping for or what I should be hoping for. Blanketed by a sense of resignation, preparatory acceptance: I’ve done what I have to and I’ve done my best.

I’m afraid, but also not. Excitement? Partly, but not exactly either. Because… the future is out there, and it’s coming whether you like it or not. And if there’s anything certain about the future, it’s that it’s filled with unknowns. A sea of unknowns rushing up to meet you. Don’t you feel a tingle? Fear mixed with giddy excitement. The next wave could bring you to the highest point yet–on top of the world!– or give you your most spectacular wipeout. Fear mixed with giddy excitement. Now that’s what life’s about.

Hope, mixed with the risk and thrill of potential failure. Mmmm, what a flavoursome mix!

Unconsciously searching


It’s so stupid when you’re so tired
Yet refuse to go to sleep
“Just a while longer…”
one more game, one more article, one more site…
Searching unconsciously for that one thing
Some drug
Of satisfaction, of contentment.
The icing on the cake
Dotting in the dragon’s eye
Before switching off and logging out
and being able and willing to end the day.

You won’t find it where you’re looking.

Too bad.

 

One man’s meat, another man’s poison


I remember once, in the earlier part of our relationship, we had a relatively bad fight. I don’t remember what the fight was about (who ever does?) but it was probably one of the worst ones, because unpleasant and hurtful words were exchanged.

Later on, she called me up crying and apologizing. It must have been the devil, she said. The devil trying to drive us apart, the devil that made her say those horrible things which she didn’t mean.

Strange how now it has become the devil that brought us together in the first place, and God who gave a ‘sign’ that we should be apart.
~

In Julia Sweeney’s ‘Letting go of God’ show (which I shared two entries back), she tells of how she was upset when her mother revealed to her that her birthday was not on September 10th as she had thought all along, but on October 10th. This made her (then a young teenage girl) upset mainly because she had a huge virgo poster on her wall, and read her horoscope every week (which was so totally her!!) and now this meant she wasn’t a virgo but a libra?! So she went into town to buy the libra poster and started reading the libra horoscope… which, to her amazement, was ALSO soooo totallllyyy her!!
~

I have this group of good friends and most of us are Terry Pratchett fans. We don’t see each other that often (because half of us are always overseas and half of the other half are always uncontactably busy) and we do pretty different things in terms of study, work and how we spend our leisure time. But we’re good friends nonetheless, and enjoy each other’s company when we do get together. Somehow, we’re mostly on similar wavelengths, similar intellectual levels (alternating between talking about medical terms and rainbows, yes.) and have s similar sense of humour.

Yet we found out recently that one within our midst didn’t like Terry Pratchett! What was there not to like, we wondered? His writing is funny, witty, smart and has all kinds of references to real world events and realities… it seems exactly like something she’d like too!

Well, it’s just one of those things I suppose.

It’s like when you hear a song, or watch a movie, or see a painting and you think OMG THAT IS THE MOST AWESOME THING EVER!!!!! and other people are just, ‘…meh.’ and you really for the life of you can’t understand HOW THEY CAN NOT THINK IT’S AWESOME.

Well, it’s just one of those things.
People are different. They see things differently.
And we’ve learnt to accept that, even if we still think, at the back of our head, “HOW IN THE WORLD CAN ANYONE NOT LOVE THIS?”
~

I’ve blogged about this before, the subjectivity of words, the subjectivity of perception. The thing out there in the world only holds half the meaning. The other half happens inside your own head.

There are subjective truths, and objective truths.

Subjective truths may be true for you, but not for other people. It may be true at certain times, under certain circumstances but not others. It may be true depending on your mood, on your interpretation, on your perceptions. And while we can all champion our subjective truths, we should not have problems when people disagree with them. It’s different for them, then. It’s just one of those things. The song speaks to me in one way, speaks to you in another, and doesn’t speak to someone else at all. And there’s no conflict. Neither me, you, him nor the writer of the song should be upset at these differences. There IS no ‘right’ interpretation. That’s art, your input and participation is half the process.

Objective truth on the other hand, should deal with something that is more out in the world than in your head. Objective truth should be something verifiable– anyone and everyone who goes to check should come away with the same answer. They should agree. And if you don’t agree on the objective truth, then that’s where we have a problem because it means someone is right, and sone one is wrong. The views are mutually exclusive.

Actually, the real problems come about when people mistake subjective truth for objective truth. When they insist that people who don’t agree with their subjective truths are wrong. When they think that because it feels true for them, it must be true for all and anyone who doesn’t think so is wrong.

Based on how religion is experienced, based on how there are so many kinds of religion, based on how there are so many different interpretations and understandings… don’t all arrows point to religion being more of a subjective truth than an objective one? How else can you explain the incredibly varied responses to the same journey (search for meaning and god), to the same activities (prayer, meditation, going to places of worship) to the same religion (Christianity and it’s many branches, cults and denominations), to the same books (sacred texts), to the same words, even? How can you claim your own answer as objective truth when it’s plain that so many have come away with so many different answers, over and over and over again?

Oranges are not the only fruit


Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit is a novel by Jeanette Winterson published in 1985, which she subsequently adapted into a three-part BBC television drama. It is a bildungsroman about a lesbian girl who grows up in an English Pentecostal community.

I plan to read the book, but in the meantime, I found the TV series on youtube, so I watched that first. It’s a great show, give it a watch if you have the time. On youtube it’s uploaded as 6 parts of about 7 minutes for each of the 3 episode. There’s a part missing though, so if you can access the video via other means, maybe you could try that too. For example, I’ve just realized that the esplanade library carries the video cassettes! …not sure how I would watch video cassettes though haha, maybe the esplanade has a multimedia room you can use. Nonetheless, the missing part didn’t make the show any less enjoyable to watch.

Some thoughts:

It made me think, once again, about how flexible the human mind is.
I mean, how easily we can twist words to mean what we want them to mean. How words can mean anything.  How easily we can delude ourselves, how easily we can truly believe what is not true. How easily we can think, with all our heart, that we’re doing the right thing.

Can you blame the mother in the show, as unpleasant as she is? Can you fault her for treating the main character, Jess, in that way? It may not be your idea of love (it may be, in fact, your idea of hate) but I do think she does love Jess, and every horrible thing she did, she thought it was for the best. No, she knew it was for the best.

This is how humans are. We can operate separate from the ‘truth’. It doesn’t matter so much what is out there as what we think is out there, how we perceive what is out there.

And that’s the problem I have with ‘faith’. Knowing how susceptible we are to such thinking, to being able to have unwavering belief in your own thoughts, positions and actions, shouldn’t we be guarding against such thinking rather than encouraging it? Guarding against ‘having faith’?

Because isn’t such type of thinking the essence of faith?

To have complete trust in something. To believe in god without evidence. To… just believe. Just have faith. With all your heart.

People are capable of being blind enough as it is. Don’t tie blindfolds over your eyes and tell me that’s a GOOD thing. The more blindfolds you tie, the more you trust without EVIDENCE or PROOF, the better and more PREFERABLE that is? Seriously?
—-
The show had me crying. Because the worst thing was… knowing that this isn’t merely fiction. Knowing that this isn’t merely history. Knowing that this isn’t merely abstract ideas, or something happening far away.

This is real. This is now. This is here. This is me, and those are my friends.

Please don’t pretend that the church’s position has ‘progressed’, that your position has progressed and is better and more reasonable than historical positions. Does it really matter what words you use? Whether you call it a ‘demon in you’ or an ‘illness’ or a  ‘disorder’ or a ‘result of the fallen world’ or an ‘abomination’ or even just simply a ‘sin’?

You change the words, but the final meaning is the same. The church’s idea of ‘progress’ is ‘accepting’ new evidence but without letting it change the bottom line. So you have to change your interpretation a little. That’s not a problem. As long as you keep the bottom line the same.

I don’t remember if I’ve said it out loud on this blog yet, but… my girlfriend of three years broke up with me–yes, you guessed it– for religious reasons. You could say this blog is born from that incident.

During that break-up period, she showed me two different cases from two different Christian books she was reading– about homosexuals having had demons successfully cast out of them.

…how do you think that makes me feel? To know that the person you love thinks that the only reason why you love her and why she loves you is because of a demon?

…so when we enjoyed each others’ company, simply sitting on a bench enjoying the breeze and talking; a demon at work?
…so when we celebrated anniversaries or valentine’s days, exchanging heartfelt gifts; a demon pulling the strings?
…when we went out for dinner; a demon ordering dessert?
…when we said ‘I love you’ countless times, cheered each other on through tests, exams and school work, listened to each others’ problems and worries… all through a demon’s mouth and ears?

I understand a little more now why people can be so cruel, why the mother in the show can behave so hard-heartedly towards her daughter. That’s not her daughter, it’s a demon. The devil’s limb, as she says.

How people could have burnt women at the stake: they’re not women, they’re witches. The cries you hear aren’t the cries of a women in pain, they are the cries of evil knowing it has lost the battle. When someone cries and screams while having a demon cast out, that’s the sound of the demon, in pain.

What does ‘demon’ even mean, anyway? The idea of ‘ALL GOOD’ and ‘ALL BAD’ is really an incoherent one to me. It can’t exist in more than the abstract. If this thing you call a ‘demon’ can feel pain, shouldn’t we have compassion for it too?

I can’t wait to read the book.

Swim against the current, run against the wind.


Stay strong, stay true.

I’ve just finished watching the season finale of series 6 of this UK television drama Waterloo Road, which centres around a school and it’s students and teachers.

One of the larger story arcs that has been taking place involved one of the teachers, Francesca, getting involved with a student, Jonah. Since it is not just taboo but illegal for a teacher to ‘take advantage’ of a student in this way, you can imagine there was a lot of sneaking around, being paranoid and alternating between ‘I/we can’t do this. It’s wrong. It’s too difficult, too risky. It’s not possible.” and “It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks. I love you and all’s fine as long as we have each other.” All this cumulated in ep19 and 20 with (SPOILER ALERT!) them being found out, Francesca being suspended and charged along with pending imprisonment, and then the two of them running away to get married (before being arrested and brought back). Makes for great TV drama indeed!

The whole thing could easily parallel a closeted gay relationship; constantly watching your back and being afraid of being found out; the way you act around each other in public, a necessary facade; the lies that come with keeping a secret; and huge secrets, even from those closest to you; the conviction that you’ll be ostracised and worse if anyone knew; knowing that no one will understand; all that negativity, risk and adverse concequences being offset by the joy you feel when you’re together…

To be honest, most of the arc made me really dislike both characters, possibly precisely because I could see myself in a similar situation so easily. They were being retarded and brainless! Too careless and impulsive and immature! C’mon guys, it’s hard but not impossible! Can’t you sacrifice some short term pleasures for the long term happiness!?

At the very first signs of it, when Francesca was still trying to stop it from even starting, and then stop it from progressing… To me she didn’t try nearly hard enough. Later on, when they were well into it; Acting so suspicious, doing really stupid/risky things, not taking enough or proper precautions, and not planning or talking about things seriously… why couldn’t they have kept it a secret until Jonah graduated? Like I said, it’s difficult, (in the sense of being mentally and emotionally draining,) but not impossible, (like I cannot NOT speak to you during school hours.) I’ve been there! …or maybe I haven’t, since we didn’t share a working/schooling physical space and weren’t closeted with most mutual friends.

But these last two episodes really brought me over to their side. What was once blind, stupid impulsiveness has become an inspiration: If i were in a similar situation, with hostility and disapproval on all fronts with no sign of respite in sight, would I be so brave to continue to stand firm for what I believe in, and do what I think is right?

To lose your family, your friends, your job, your community, you life and still stand strong?

At least they can get married. Part of me thought. Even if gay people were to run off to some other country to get married, that piece of paper would have absolutely no power back home. We’d still have absolutely nothing. And in time, when the scandal has blown over, they will become just any other couple, blending in. They can rebuild. Gay will always be gay, and will always stand out. 

What would you do? What would I do? Would I be willing to give up my family, my home and friends if it came down to it, for the person I love? Would “giving up” your family, home and friends even be the ‘Right’ decision to make?

Here’s my stab at it:

You’re not ‘giving up’ anything. You’re merely standing by what you believe in, you’re merely staying true to yourself. And if, because of that, other people fall away, that’s hardly your doing, your choice, nor your fault. And if they should, in time, change their minds about accepting who you are, you’d more than welcome them back with open arms. The only ‘giving up’ would be if you gave up on your dreams, your beliefs, your values and yourself.

The only choice you should be making is to stand by what you believe in, and to stay true to yourself. Leave judging and rejecting of people to someone else, that’s not your choice to make.
—-

I guess this is the follow up to my Charles and Erik post that I’ve been meaning to do for the longest time, but hadn’t truly reached the conclusion in my mind and heart. I knew where it was heading all along; It just took me a while to get there. Am I there yet? Maybe I still have a little way to go… maybe we’ll always have a little way to go. You always have something to better, something to work towards. That’s life.

To recap my entry, I was envisioning Charles Xavier as someone holding a belief (presumably the Right one): that mutants should ultimately live in harmony with humans ie humans are friends, and Erick (Magneto) holding a differing belief (presumably the Wrong one): that mutants and humans can’t be in harmony ie humans are the enemy. And these differing beliefs, while not directly pitting them against each other, were different and serious enough to change them from friends to enemies. And I wondered where such a line would be drawn? What kind of differing beliefs would make turning against a friend justifiable, and inevitable?

Specifically, I was using this fictitious example to help me think about these these differing beliefs: homosexually is morally wrong / homosexuality is NOT morally wrong; religious beliefs in general.

Soon after I wrote the post, a friend pointed this out to me: If i insist on alienating or cutting ties with people who think homosexuality is Wrong, I would have turned into Magneto. It’s not, as I was envisioning, Xavier vs Magneto representing pro-gay and anti-gay. But rather, mutants as homosexuals, humans as heterosexuals and Magneto the one who has turned evil, hating all humans for the evil deeds of a few. So the right answer, according to X-Men? Be Charles, and not lose hope. Be Charles, and reach out even to the ones kicking you down. Be Charles, for how else would humans be able to know that mutants aren’t all bad?

And I also realized: neither Charles nor Eric ever rejects each other? They never said, “You’re not with me? Then you’re against me. From this day forth you are my sworn enemy and I hate your guts and nothing will change that.” Wasn’t it more like, “Friend, join me. No? Well, I’m sorry, friend, I have to go. But the invitation stands.”? Being ‘enemies’ only as a technicality of finding themselves on opposite sides.

Well, I’m not an X-men fanboy or fanatic, so forgive me if I’m straying from canon and projecting my own ideas onto the characters.

But… the lesson never seems to change does it? Be a Gandhi. Be a Jesus (ok tbh I’m still feeling slightly sore about Jesus/christianity). Be a Charles.

That is… hold on to what you know is true. Stand up for what you know is right. And most of all, love and accept everyone. Leave the judging and rejecting to the one who has all the answers (or thinks he has all the answers, anyway.)