POWER

Hey guys!

[storytime] So on Monday, I was driving to get lunch and there was this highway patrol car in front of me and it was a red light so I stopped behind this car. The light was taking a while since there was a lot of traffic (it was lunchtime) and the patrol car ran the red light. Now, I know that there are exceptions to traffic laws for police and law enforcement when there’s an emergency; but, there was no visible reason-from what I could see- to run the light other than impatience. There was no one speeding because of the high traffic, no car crash, no fire, etc. So, it was a really mind-boggling experience.

Now, I don’t know if it was legal of the person to run that light. I don’t know traffic laws in regards to law enforcement but, it didn’t seem that legal to me. Does anyone know?

So that story was a precursor to the main topic of this post.

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can withstand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

We all know that once given power, people change. Some become arrogant. Some make rash decisions. It’s in our nature. I am a huge bibliophile, I love books, I love stories. I love reading about people. An author is good when they are able to fully capture the vulnerability and rawness of being human. A lot of books I read are in the fantasy/mystery genres and its in those books where I’ve learned half of what I know about people. People who are given any kind of power often misuse it-that’s a fact (misuse is subjective I agree). But, the actions they take, are often not ‘good.’

Power corrupts, but how it corrupts is different for everybody. Someone who is in law enforcement-they are given power to make sure that the law is obeyed. This given power has them believing they are the law-and that’s corruption of their character. But this is a generalized example, obviously there are exceptions. Not everyone realizes their own power, and some who do-they realize the danger and their potential. Fame and influence is a power, some don’t realize the potential of that and those that do, they recognize the potential profit and future success that is possible or they choose to use that influence to help others. Any young person in this day and age will recognize the power of media and technology. It’s all about perspective-how you see the world.

(I had this whole post planned but it all went out of the window as soon as I started typing-I get lost in my own head sometimes.)

DAY1

Hey guys!

So, my volunteering came to an end and so I have literally nothing to do. So, I’m putting forward a challenge for myself: Write a post everyday for the next week. That means that starting from this post, I have six more to go.

Okay so I was asked to expand on my post on belief systems. What it means to be agnostic and not atheist, and my past encounters with religion.

[personal story time] When I was younger, toddler years to fourth grade, I was enrolled in a private Lutheran school, Lutheran as a sect of Christianity. I sang Christian songs, read the bible, went to church, believed in God. I was fully invested (as invested as a child could possibly be), I took all the lessons to heart-I still remember a lot of the bible stories. But when I switched to a local public school for fifth grade, I stopped putting in as much faith into Christianity. It wasn’t because all the other kids didn’t believe-it was because at the time there was nothing to keep reinforcing that faith. Nothing to keep the belief alive. As I moved through middle school and high school, science and literature firmly stoppered any possible fully-fledged belief I could have fostered for religion. I remember being asked if I was Christian in 7th grade and I remember replying that no, I’m atheist. But I was wrong. At the time I had no idea agnostic was even a thing. But I’ve always had a belief in a possible higher power and I’ve always fancied the idea that maybe some aspects of the supernatural exists-like magic.

While atheism is basically believing that there are no deities, gods, or higher powers. Agnosticism is believing that while its possible that a god or higher power exists, its unknown/rather its untestable and unknowable. So, that’s how I came to identify as agnostic.

So, the only time when I was exposed to anything relating to religion was when I was at school. My parents never really talk about religion all that much-they allow me and my sisters to be free to believe in whatever we want-so long as we are good people (by society’s standards) and we’re informed (not ignorant, not blindly walking in).

I remember wondering how diehard atheists and Christians could ever get a long with such contrasting beliefs. But, I’ve noticed that people just avoid the topic of religion and beliefs in general-unless they’re with someone who’s beliefs are known to them already.

I’ve wondered how so many people with contrasting opinions in the same areas could still call themselves Christian when some of their core beliefs are completely different. So, we have to assume perception of the same reading, the same religion has to be different but similar enough that people form sects. But that seems so exclusive-especially when they’re all worshiping the same deity.

There will be some that will say that I have no right to judge when I’m for lack of a better word-an outsider. But I will say this, the core beliefs of religions like Christianity, Judaism, and Islam-and all the other polytheistic religions-all promote a system of morals that contribute to our societies. This contribution provides a baseline for what is good and for what is bad.

NORMAL

Every summer I volunteer at a local youth camp and a majority of the classes center around teaching these kids science-one of these classes, CSI jr., is one of the classes I was a TA for and kids learned fingerprinting and the importance of looking for clues in a crime scene and these kids were kindergarten and first grade kids. I remember the teacher having the kids draw what they thought a criminal would look like and they were asked to present their drawing. And, one kid walked up to the front and showed a drawing of a perfectly ordinary looking person and he said, “I drew a serial killer.” All the other kids drew people holding weapons or people robbing a bank and this kid drew someone so completely ordinary looking and I was shocked. I thought, wow this kid-he knows what’s up.

The truth of it is, is that appearances are deceiving and that anyone can be a killer. Sometimes, the most horrible killers are the ones that can blend into the crowd, the ones that no one would ever expect-because they look so normal.

It was shocking to me that a child maybe 6 years old was able to say what a lot of us in hindsight ‘know’ but would never think to say. I, myself would probably have drawn what the other kids drew because I would never have thought to draw what he did. But I think that it was important that the child did and I was able to witness it because I feel enlightened and I can share it with my readers.

I think we often overlook the opinions of those younger than us-because we all assume that we’re older, that we’re wiser, all these things-but in all honesty, I think that children compensate the lack of knowledge that they have with simplicity-finding simple solutions to complicated problems which is sometimes the best solution. They have simple morals-you told a white lie, it’s wrong doesn’t matter why you lied, its still wrong-that sort of thing. And, sometimes simplicity is key.

I think that its important to note that children can sometimes be more insightful than a lot of adults.

I think it’s important to not overlook anyone, because to obtain opinions from all types of people allows for a broader spectrum of understanding.

FAITH

I think it’s important that we all have some sort of belief system in our lives. A moral guide in times where our judgement isn’t all that clear. Belief system(s) as in religion, superstitions, family + cultural traditions, etc.

I personally have always believed in both good and bad karma as well as believed in fate, so I guess if I had to label myself as something it would be as agnostic-but that doesn’t seem to be too accurate.

And it has an impact on the way I behave. I can’t remember a time in my life where I hadn’t tried to give change to a homeless person when I had the opportunity and the means to do so. I’m plagued with the idea that somehow karma is it’s own deity and I earn good karma when I do good deeds and the reverse with bad deeds.

I believe in fate and the idea of crossroads, that we’re fated to make the decisions that we do and ultimately it is our will and our sense of self that predetermines our decisions and therefore our fate. That fate is an entity that can ultimately see our true self and make accurate predictions of our possible choices and the outcomes of such choices. I think of fate as a gardener of a large collection of trees. Each life is a tree and fate prunes off the branches of “what ifs.” At least, that’s the best way I can explain it, my mind is a mess of tangles and I probably will never be able to fully articulate my thoughts on how fate works, at least in my perception of it.

Dan Brown’s latest book Origins which has probably offended quite a number of people for it’s bashing of Catholicism and Christianity has an interesting lesson near the ending of the novel. Aside from the obvious warning against the creation of AIs with the ability to think for itself, the protagonist after contemplating the discovery that disproved most religions’ origin stories-he realizes that a world ruled by just science is cold and heartless. That sure maybe the origin stories of ‘there was nothing and then there was something’ are not too believable, but religion provides an important role in any culture. It mainly acts as a moral guide for most of us.

And, a lot of us are skeptics, that we need cold hard proof to believe in something-but the problem with that is, once you have proof, it isn’t just believing anymore, its also knowing. You might ask, well why is that a problem? Because to take ideas like religion and to believe in them truly and wholly is something much greater-its faith. Faith is not to be taken lightly-it is a powerful motivator and source of wonder. I’m not trying to bash science-because it is a truly wonderful thing that it has done for humanity, it has made our lives easier, we live longer, we are capable of feats we were once unable to accomplish, we can do so many things with science. But they say that part of being human is not only our physical bodies and intellectual minds, but it is also our ability to express emotions. We are compassionate creatures, capable of empathy, happiness, rage, all these different emotions and all that comes with it. But it is our belief systems that direct these emotions. We experience guilt when our belief systems tell us we have done something wrong. We experience rage when our belief systems tell us that its okay to be angry when we have been ‘wronged.’ There are some who claim to be atheist and will ask how it works to be atheist and still have morals, and I would say that their morals would be a result of their experiences and what they have taken from the culture they live in. And, I would also claim that most cultures have a dominant religion that has been accepted. So take what you will from that.

To this day, I wonder how I could have possibly developed such strong feeling on this topic but I must say that not a lot of people have opinions on why we have belief systems-just that we have them and that not everyone has the same one.

CENSOR

Recommended song for this post (because yes it matches well): Listen by Beyoncé

Should I start recommending songs to go with posts?

What does it mean to be censored?

Why is it so hard to be able to express opinions freely and without judgement?

I have always been an advocate of people speaking their minds, their opinions, so long as it is not intentionally hateful.

But that is always confused with ignorance, and that is why we must educate ourselves as much as we can before we speak on a topic. To speak with ignorance, makes to the whole argument moot.

I cannot claim to know everything there is on societal behavior, why some people are sensitive to the generalizations strangers make, or why it is a novel experience to not get hate over an offhand comment.

But I can say that, a majority of people do not like being wrong. Understatement? Maybe.

And sometimes that affects the way they hear certain things.

Personal anecdote: My parents, I love them-they have different experiences than me, but they are not capable of understanding that other people will have opinions different to theirs (at least in regards to myself) and that’s the way it is, I suppose. They wouldn’t understand why my opinion was different from theirs on specific topics, or why I would get frustrated when they would angry at me for speaking my mind. They say, “Well, your comment was silly”, “stupid”, etc. and it was really frustrating-I couldn’t understand why they got so angry especially when it was only an opinion. I realize that maybe they couldn’t see it from my point of view, or maybe because they were raised with their parent’s beliefs and expected the same of me. But it was so frustrating, and I didn’t know what to do. They were unshakeable. We couldn’t talk about anything-aside from how each other’s day was- without tension building. It was crazy. I know they aren’t the only ones at fault, that I have so blame to share-that I probably should have said nothing to keep the peace or if I knew my parents had a particularly stressful day, to just not talk at all- but it was hard to just sit there and not speak up for myself.

I like to think that, around family we can talk about anything and everything-that we would be able to talk and debate ideas back and forth without a fight breaking out. I’m an idealist.

I’ve obviously not lived very long-through no fault of my own-but it has put me at a disadvantage because my youth will be used against me in arguments such as these-no matter who is actually right because who cares about logic (it was thrown out of the window a long time ago). A lot of people would disregard my side of the story simply because I’m a teenager and there is a long-held myth that “teenagers always think they’re right,” but there’s always exceptions. The winners write history, they say, well- parents are the ones who’ve said that teenagers always think they’re right. But what if that was a result of the parents not being able to accept individuality and difference of opinion? Something to reflect upon, I suppose.

What if we lived in a tolerant society? I say we keep working for that.

What if speaking out was encouraged rather than frowned upon? Would we have an explosion of diverse ideas and viewpoints? Maybe.

This is my way of speaking out.

What is censorship? I had asked. Well, my answer is this, censorship is the suppression of opinions by the ideals of society and the surrounding environment, the discouragement of difference and individuality in expressing one’s opinions, even if they are unpopular opinions.

We actively discourage the expression of hateful speech in the effort to promote tolerance. So, I’m not saying that all censorship is bad, but maybe what is censored/taboo should change. I suspect millennials and gen z will be actively working towards a society where difference in opinion is encouraged-not only because we are the more outspoken sort (who gets defensive of everything) but because we were raised with the idea that we are the change that we wish to see in the world.