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Smothering the Fire with Love, not Hate

With the recent protests in Charlottesville upsetting the nation this week, there is a plethora of circulated emotions, first and foremost, frustration and anger. And following these emotions is the all but stereotypical counterpart: blame. When something erupts; fingers generally point. And the blame has fallen on some who definitely deserve it, and others who don’t. Morally, the blame must first fall upon the American members of the Nazi belief system and those who support White Supremacy. There is no place for such people in God’s Law, and therefore, they must not emulate what they have chosen to. In my opinion, they are living in a place of sin and despair, and they must turn to God to escape such a position. It is a position that is crippling America and freedom itself, and only God knows what can be done to reverse such racism. There is no question that these people are extremely lost and vile; but unfortunately meeting them with force will only result in more violence—whether it be physical or spiritual. I will pray for them to see God and His Love moving forward, as we all should.

But—back to the “blame game.” Who is responsible for this, anyway? Well, I’d argue that the perpetrator is actually everyone. Yes, that’s right, I am accusing myself too. We are all responsible for the scene in Charlottesville. Although it sounds outlandish, it is very true. It is no secret that America has become a hostile, political battleground, but really, it has become a place of brooding hate and unmeasured divisiveness. Hate has become our motto and our flag—we have forgotten what true freedom is, and more importantly, what love is.

We no longer “love thy neighbor,” we instead love whoever can provide us with progress. We love the people that please us; the people that give us hope. We no longer run that extra mile, we instead refuse to even start the race, because we just don’t feel like it. Our society now praises drama, conflict, and independence to the point that it has become venomous.

Bigotry, Racism, and Fascism are philosophies that should fail to exist in this world because of how putrid they are. However, we cannot fight these flawed ideologies with hate, because hate is what fuels them. You wouldn’t put out a fire with more fire; you would smother it. In this case, we must choose to smother these viewpoints with the opposite of what engenders them, or we are just contributing to what is already scorched soil.

It’s okay to be discontent with the way things are shaping up in America—it is in fact, normal, but it is not okay to believe the way to combat current events is with hate and disgust. There is a time to mourn and to pray, but what follows afterwards must be action. Justice will be achieved, but not by unjust means. People act in their own best interest, and we all deserve death except by the cross. None of us are too far gone to escape God’s Grace, lest I be condemned to hell as we all would be.

“I’m a Godless Heretic”

Upon taking a trip on the Long Island Railroad, I discovered the words: “I’m a Godless heretic not a God-fearing lunatic,” scratched into a window. Despite spelling and grammatical errors, I could very well interpret an occult message that had yet to be revealed to the person who actually wrote it: they clearly had no idea who God was/is. How could someone take pride in sin? Well, it could certainly be labeled an easy task in the face of ignorance. But it’s not different than the ignorance I possess on the daily; their’s just happens to be broadcasted by public transport and their pride.

We’re all in the same situation at times, unfortunately, because of the nature of sin. We think ourselves to be superior, whether by ignorance, or choice, and neither is better since they both lack truth.

Although a random set of words can amount to pure nothingness, such a phrase struck me as a great reminder that we should not take pride in ourselves, our intellect, and our experience, because without God, we are to be damned.

Agape: A Love We Will Never Understand

Working at a Day Camp this summer has challenged me in an invigorating and profound way. While I did expect to gain some valid and legitimate work experience, I never believed I would learn so much about myself. After all, I’m working with 5-7 year olds. There’s no way they are anything like me, right? Wrong. Although I may be a little more aged and experienced, I still need to be learning everyday. With a closed mind, that is impossible. And that’s the mindset I went into Camp with: “What can I teach these kids?” The reality, is that these kids have taught me much more than I could ever teach them.

When in the workplace, there are really three mentalities: indifference, mediocrity, and exceptional diligence. You can either choose to hide and simply sustain yourself to earn money, you can meet the expectations set by your employer, or you can try to exceed the standards set by your supervisors. I’ve learned this summer that the latter option is extremely tiring—but also extremely worth it. That’s what I had tried to do from my first day at Camp, but I soon realized that it was unattainable and unsustainable if I was going to rely on my own abilities (and my own sleep patterns). How could I go above and beyond for these kids? How could I make sure all of their needs were met? Well, I really couldn’t, on account of my own flaws. The first two weeks of Camp, I found myself falling flat on my face. There were a manifold of situations that I wish I had handled more humbly, and I was not exactly thrilled with my performance so far. I am now halfway done with my work experience this summer, and it has finally hit me that love is the secret to my success at Camp. The only thing, though, is that it is not the type of love we commonly prescribe in this world. It is the type of love only owned by God himself: agape love.

My intentions in citing agape, is to demonstrate just how important it is in understanding and in growth. When a child would cry at Camp, I would find myself more frustrated than loving. Instead of radiating comfort, I was likely echoing annoyance. The fix for this, in my daily life, is to imagine myself as the child. In this case, if I were to cry about something that was taken away from me, I would also be frustrated. And I realized that this situation is actually a microcosm for life itself. We, as “adults”, tend to become heavily enraged when God introduces pain and struggle into our lives, when in reality, he is demonstrating pure and supreme agape love by not giving us exactly what we want. The kids I work with often cry and pout when they lose in Gaga, when someone cuts them in line, or when we go to a station they don’t particularly like. And likewise; don’t we all do the same? We may pretend that our struggles are larger and more mature, but really—are they? I would think not.

So the answer to this enigma that has recently plagued my mind is not to ever believe you are done learning. God is always going to give us struggles and tests so that we can become strengthened through Him. Children are too young to understand a variety of issues, but also are we.

As I handle struggles moving forward at Camp, my solutions will not entail simply trying to “make the child stop crying,” but to actually engage in an active lesson for the child—with me learning alongside him/her. Because true agape isn’t just trying to hide the problem; it is showing the child that we don’t always get what we want, but we will always have the support we need in Him. It’s not an easy lesson to learn, but it is one that reaps benefits for the soul.

On the Harsh American Political Climate

It’s no secret that politics have since commanded much of what we Americans pay attention to. The media, the economy, and even freedom yield to politicians and their agendas. But as of late, this has escalated. It seems as if our aptitudes have taken a back seat to our new identities: our political viewpoints. If I disagree with you, I am disagreeing with your lifestyle, your identity, and your entire being—and that’s not how it always was.

I am old enough to recall a time when this wasn’t the case, but unfortunately this climate is showing no signs of slowing down. Why is this? It’s a culmination of many collapses, such as the collapse of the nuclear family, the decline of virtue, and the fall of stern expectation. When we remove the need for faith, family, and truth, we must fill that void with something, and it becomes stacked with the desire for attention, a lust for self-gratification, and a flawed understanding that reflects many distinct vices.

The only way to approach the animosity that seeps within America is by moving forward, and not backwards. We need to appreciate each other and recognize diversity, but not by foolishly challenging each other’s values and by becoming offended at the slightest bow—we must engage in discourse and in a real struggle to better ourselves.

You have to go home every day and question yourself before you can interrogate others. Did I do my job to the best of my ability today? Did I treat my coworkers as I would want my own children to be treated? If the answer is ‘no’, you can’t possibly expect yourself to grow and to learn, because the answer should be a resounding ‘yes’.

This is how I believe America can turn the corner on this tough time. Not by reassigning insult, and not by exchanging hatred, but rather, but relearning responsibility and self-accountability.

Being Heard Instead of Hearing

It seems as if the goal of most modern men is to be heard, but not to hear. This is evidently a mistake, but one that many will be stubborn in recognition. Why is it a mistake? It is a mistake because you cannot be heard if you do not have anything extremely important to say – anything that changes the conversation or has been built upon extreme reason and caution. We hear God because He is the most valuable and perfect being; we need His guidance. We do not hear teenagers because they are most likely ignorant and unsure. We do not hear those who are not yet ready to be heard, just as we do not milk a cow that has not blossomed into adulthood. You cannot dare to pull from a lacking resource – you can only continue to build upon its foundation.

The Latin phrase sapere aude always speaks to me! It means “dare to know” and it is a phrase most individuals should dwell upon. When I am in class, I speak decisively, and not because I have no concept of discussion or the topics that are being covered; I am not loquacious because I want to hear what the teacher opts to say, what the other students have discovered, and what I can think more closely about. I only speak when I have something relevant to say, and thence the cycle is not broken – it is only strengthened. I would much rather say share one mere constructive detail than launch a plethora of ideas that are potentially unrelated or even slightly ostentatious.

I personally assert that listening is extremely underrated, if unadvertised, but it is the most rewarding thing you can do. It is easy to spout views and opinions, but there are many who possess unspoken, unaltered wisdom, and I guarantee you will miss out if you find yourself obsessed with being heard by others. If your message is worthy of being heard, it will certainly be heard—so don’t worry about it!

My Response to Kathy Griffin: Comedy and Responsibility

This is a letter with a simple message for Kathy Griffin. It is not meant to be provocative, but it is meant to inspire provocative thought.

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Dear Kathy Griffin,

You are a comedian. Your job is to make people laugh. You are creative, and your job is to seek out inspiring new content. And nobody wants to prevent you from doing that. After all, you must be somewhat proficient in the field if you had such a platform to begin with. I personally have not had much exposure to your work, and I am not sure whether I will endeavor to gain that exposure now, but don’t take it personally. You have the right to convey your personal sense of what comedy is, just as every American does, and they have every right to disengage with you or your comedy anymore. Nobody is claiming that right from you, even if they are taking their business elsewhere. More importantly, I personally am convinced that you have lost a copious amount opportunities because of how you have handled this situation in its entirety, as they outweigh the actual provocative photo that you published.

Everybody makes mistakes—nobody is perfect. Perfection is unattainable, but when you make a gargantuan error, you must be willing to correct it. Sure, you acknowledged it, but your apology assumed a particular type of artificiality that became intensified when you pushed all of the blame onto others. This is not how you handle a mistake. Instead, it resonates as proof that you are unable to accept that it was a mistake in the first place. It shows immaturity and a pre-adolescent handling of the circumstances that have since turned against your favor. This is an issue that has begun to plague America. Responsibility is critical to professional success—even in comedy. Comedians aren’t exempt from consequence, just as I am not void of responsibility for my performance at my job. You always need to consider how people will react to your decisions—it is rather selfish to fail to do so. After all, we don’t live in this world alone, do we? It’d be quite boring if we did.

This is not to say that you are a terrible person; I just want you to know that the solution is not to make another mistake. You have the unfortunate punishment of being in the spotlight, and I don’t consider myself to be “better” than you; if anything, I am just more fortunate that my mistakes haven’t been broadcasted like yours have. But please, please, don’t pretend that you didn’t make a mistake. Acknowledge it and receive the consequences it may bring on your career. Seek reconciliation, not reconsideration.

On to the heart of the matter, I would like to question why you thought this would be an innovative idea in the first place. It’s not your fault, even if you are contributing heavily to the problem. Comedy is better served when it seeks to attack with wordplay and quick wit as opposed to death and destruction. It’s not completely your fault, Ms. Griffin, that comedy has evolved into such a demonic tool. Comedy is wonderful until you misuse it. Ms. Griffin, as a member of the mainstream media, you should be well-aware that people can take offense to things they don’t like. So why would you take that a step farther, especially with the ubiquitous presence of ISIS? Ms. Griffin, this joke is just one failed act within a ravishingly inhumane comedy routine. Americans must learn to take responsibility for their actions before it is too late. Yes, Ms. Griffin, you are not completely to blame for this mentality, but you have succumbed to it, and now this is your mess to clean up.

As for Mr. Trump, I didn’t vote for him, nor do I condone everything he says and does, but he is viciously attacked whenever he makes a mistake. Now, I fear, you are simply receiving a taste of your own medicine. You are now in the same boat as Donald Trump. Now that is funny.

Mihi Esse Videtur

This is a Latin essay I composed for my Sophomore Independent Study of the Latin Language. Check it out. It is certainly far from perfect, and it is my first effort at Latin prose. I would not like to post an English translation, because I feel it loses some of its meaning and voice—so here it is!

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Mihi esse videtur quod vita sequitur numquam nos qualitercumque necesse est. Quid etiam vita est? Quam ob rem hic sumus? Vivimusne ut vivamus aut vivemus? Illa etiam pretiosa est? Postremo quid significat valde vivendo? Possumne vivere bonam vitam?

Dubitare vitam est dubitare Deum eiusque voluntatem. Laudemus eum ac gaudeamus etiam cum ea difficillima sit. Interdum de rebus vitae censeo ac puto omnes res bonas esse. Sed quidem, omnis res non potest esse bona, immo vero Iesus Christus semper erit bonus.

Frequenter fallamus in vivendo apud merces dabantur ab Iesu Christo Deoque nostro. Cur opperimur donec cras facere opum ad manum cum id oportet agi hodie nobis? Cur moramur nostras fides cum hodie iam hic est? Celeriter consequere! Enim id est non solum tibi confidere in eo licet, sed etiam necessarius ac congruens est. Quam potes negare sacrificium Iesu Christi? Illud sacrificium ingens est. Respiciens per historiam, aliquis potest videre peccatum covestivisse ubique id. Ego historiam redere ad originem suum video. Mihi esse videtur stultum verum ignorari. Iesus venit ut nos salvet, ne nos ignoremus. Necesse est enim nobis invenire noster peccata, ut recognoscamus nostram defectibilitatem. Diabolus expulsus e caelo omnes homines fallere videre vult.

Deinde homines bestiae imperfectae sunt. Nos omnes mutemus ut nos fiant perfecti, autem solum unum homo potest mutare nos! Voluntas eius nos salvare est, atqui nemo potest est salvare aliquem qui non vult salvari. Ut in Verbo scriptum est: «αρκε ην λογος». Quid significat? Illuc omnis homo mutatus est. Ego eum esse solam viam scio, atque ego eum esse solum viam video, sed si non eum esse solum viam credo, omnis res perdita est. Denique, aut demum, an tandem, ille finis meorum verborum est. Nolite solum capere meorum verborum; capite eius verba! Nolite desinere umquam credendo! Nolite numquam credere in arte ipsius, sed in Deo qui nos mutat!