Illuminate

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You can’t pretend that the sun won’t die
After every forced smile and each tear you have cried.

Though we never outgrew our fear of the night,
Perhaps some things are clearer by lantern light.

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To the MOOOOOOONN! and the Official WP Photographer, F. Stop Fitzgerald

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Welcome, good lords and ladies, to another edition of The Friday Review.  This week, we bring you a space shuttle of a masterpiece that will (possibly) make you cry, and a book widely revered as a classic this side of paradise.  So grab your ticket for the next bus to Princeton and a box of tissues, because it’s time for…

This Side of Paradise
F. Scott Fitzgerald | Scribner (1920)

F. Scott Fitzgerald is more widely known for his 1925 novel The Great Gatsby, but his debut novel, This Side of Paradise is worth the price of dinner too.  If you are a fan of classic literature, you ought to give this one a go.  If contemporary fiction is more your fare, or if you find romantic protagonists who can’t seem to grow up annoying (which is understandable), look elsewhere for your next read.  This Side of Paradise definitely has its shining moments, but its lack of an actual ending, or at least a decent one, removes it from my “most loved” shelf.

A novel that could use more direction, but a classic.  7 out of 10.

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excellence-visualTo the Moon
Freebird Games | 2011

Oh, where to begin with this one…  Can video games be considered a work of art?  With the creation of To the Moon, the answer to that question has become a resounding “YES.”

Never have I played a game so firmly based on its story.  And what a story it is.  The setting: a future in which doctors can alter the memories of the dying to give them the sensation of having achieved their lifelong wishes.  But it gets so much deeper from there.  How it’s possible to connect with and care about characters rendered in 16-bit style graphics is beyond me, but it is.  I get chills just thinking about the ending.

Some have argued that To the Moon isn’t a game but an interactive movie.  I disagree.  Besides the fact that it lasts twice as long as the average film, it’s gameplay elements go beyond the mere advancement of the story.  Although, it is obvious that the most effort was put into the game’s storytelling.  It’s sparse, slightly repetitive gameplay is its only flaw.

However, the gameplay’s shortcomings detract nothing from the plot, which unfolds like a novel.  It can be played — nay, experienced is the word — in a matter of 4 hours, but it need be no longer.  Its touching story, poignant soundtrack, and multifaceted characters transcend any perceived limits of old-fashioned graphics, coalescing into an unforgettable experience that may find you reaching for that box of tissues.

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No longer need video games be ostracized from the world of art.  For that is truly what To the Moon succeeds in being.  9 out of 10.

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Thoughts and Introspections, Part 1: Voices from the WordPress Community

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The past few days have seen a lot of thinking on my part about the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

I usually make a point of not prompting political discussions here at WP, if only because they so easily devolve into raised tempers and polemics.  But the issue at hand is not political.  It is social.  It is ethical.  For people of any faith, from atheism to Christianity, it is also spiritual.

This is an issue about which I am still not finished praying and thinking.  I cannot disagree with what is in the Bible and the Catechism if I truly believe them to be the divinely inspired Word of God and the definitive reference of what can be interpreted from it, respectively.  Nevertheless, I don’t believe I have grounds to object to the Supreme Court’s ruling.  We do live in a country based on a secular, democratic civil government, and I cannot expect the State to adhere to my religious beliefs.

Really, that’s no longer relevant.  What has been decided has been decided, and it ain’t gonna change.  What is important now is how we, as Christians, respond.  I hate that the issue has already passed from the 72-hour span during which our intellectually crippled mass media is capable of remembering anything that has ever happened in the world, but it has taken me this long to formulate a response.  I post this because there are still questions I need to ask myself, and perhaps that others have yet to ask themselves.  In the hope of formulating at least some sort of guideline for beginning to answer these questions.

With that in mind, I would like to introduce several viewpoints from other bloggers I have found throughout the WordPress community.  My method of researching these opinions was, I admit, not very thorough.  I browsed through the “Christianity” tag on WP a few days back, curating posts written across roughly an 8 hour time span.  As such, there are probably many other thought-provoking posts I haven’t read.  So, if you like, I encourage you to browse through looking for posts on the topic as well.  You may come across some real gems.  I also encourage you to read the posts I quote below in their entirety.  They are most certainly

What follows are three points made by some fellow WP bloggers on the subject of Christianity and the legalization of same-sex marriage that I found novel and/or thought-provoking and which approach the issue with understanding, with a few more to follow in my next post.  They are points I probably wouldn’t have thought about otherwise.  We all gaze from a window at the same vista, as it were, but we often see it more clearly through others’ eyes.

Without further ado:

1. Understand What Compassion Is, and Practice It

Emmy Potter, of The Art of Making Art, writes:

“This is the moment, like the one I had with my best friend all those years ago, that Christians have a choice in how we respond to those who are reaching out to us, and I fear many of us are going to choose the wrong response. Some of us already have.

“Being compassionate doesn’t mean you are condoning the words and actions of another. It doesn’t mean you have to agree with anything. Being compassionate means putting someone else’s feelings above your own. It means listening and seeking to understand another person’s sufferings as best as you can totally free of judgment.” [1]

Compassion.  Oh, compassion.  I really believe this is essential to approaching all the complicated social, economic, and geological quandaries we are faced with today.

Potter’s definition of compassion is as accurate as it is well-written, and, as she goes on to note, it is this type of love — compassion — that Christ best exemplified when He sacrificed Himself for you, for me, for all of humanity on Calvary.  We are called to the same.  Even if one is against the Supreme Court ruling and feels as though the world is against them, Potter writes, “The irony is that is exactly how the LGBT community has felt for hundreds of years. It is how I feel sometimes as a woman in this country. It is how my African American friends feel. We’re all in this thing together, and the sooner we start treating one another that way with true compassion, the better off we are in the end.”

2. Recognize Our Shared Brokenness and Continue Our Mission of Love

rab0325 writes:

“I don’t really care about your supposed sexual identity or whether you are straight or homosexual or black or white or Latino or Indian or some other race or culture. When I look at you, yeah I see all that stuff and I’m human so I have first thoughts and first opinions, but I start processing immediately and working to set all that aside. Because when I look at you, when I really look at you what keeps me awake at night… what I lose sleep over and think about day in and day out and cry over and worry over and constantly go to God with… is your life, is your salvation, is your deliverance, is your healing, is your faith, is your forgiveness, is your broken heart, is your unfed soul, is your broken spirit, is your lost loved ones, is the thing you weep over, is the thing you hurt most for, is the pain and suffering you have endured… I could go on and on because I know it’s tough out there and this is a cruel world in many ways, but what I break over the most – and this is me being me – it’s your identity in Christ.” [2]

This very much goes hand in hand with compassion.  We are all broken; there is no denying that.  Compassion should lead us to this next step, which rab0325 describes so passionately: solidarity.  Ministry.  Reaching out to hold the hand of our brothers and sisters.

“Your rights won’t save you. New laws in your land won’t save you. New “love” or a rallied around flag won’t save you. Oh, and by the way, your church won’t save you either” rab0325 goes on.  “Our hearts still need to break and bleed for the lost. So join with me again, let’s take our eyes off the rainbows and the running colors of old red and blue conspiracies and let’s join hands and get back into the battle for souls. The hurting and the needy didn’t go away this past month, they went unnoticed.”  We can’t ignore issues like this, but we can’t get caught up either.  We’ve got a mission to do.

3. Stop Acting Like Bratty Schoolchildren, No Matter What Side You’re On

Cody Paige writes:

“I saw people reduce themselves to bratty schoolyard children and felt disheartened on so many levels. There was very little pure respect and compassion for others, that I witnessed. It was just so hateful, even if you were happy with Gay Marriage being legalized. No one could see past the passion of their beliefs to see what was going on.

“It was like now we all have to fill out a checklist of things we agree with or disagree with to be friends. Don’t agree with me? Well then, I’m done with you.” [3]

Fellowship, compassion, solidarity…  These should not be based on some checklist of beliefs.  And there were without doubt childishly mean-spirited remarks exchanged this past weekend.  But perhaps the most damning line (and rightly so) I have read in anything written on the subject was this:

“Yesterday wasn’t a victory in my eyes simply because of how we treated each other. Our true colors showed, and it wasn’t a pretty picture.”

Whatever side you find yourself on, no matter the issue, loses when compassion is forgotten.  Ouch.  It’s a reminder I know I could use.  Heck, it means I even have to show compassion towards people who don’t use serial commas, and that’s sure asking a lot.

I agree.  This can’t be seen as a victory when its aftermath was so… unloving.  The good news is that we are always, always given a second chance.  So let’s learn from our mistakes, and move forward in love.  Let’s not repeat this.

This has been a long post, but I’m so grateful to you for sticking around until the end.  I sincerely hope you got something out of this endeavor in making sense of my thoughts and the world.  If there is anyone of LGBT identity reading this, I understand that the world, orthodox Christians included, is often unkind to you.  Be patient with us, try to understand where we’re coming from, and you have my word that I will do the same for you.   Disagreement may or may not be erased, but it is only ever resolved through dialogue, gentleness, and respect.  That, I am convinced, is truly when love wins.

And above all else, pray always.

Pax vobiscum,

Luke

Works Cited

1.  Potter, Emmy.  “Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Compassion.”  The Art of Making Art.  28 June 2015.  Online.

2.  rab0325.  “Battle Lines Made of Rainbows, Flags, Hearts and Souls… Thoughts for the Journey.”  A Journey – Life Should Be a Journey.  28 June 2015.  Online.

3.  Paige, Cody.  “We Are a Bunch of Bratty School Kids.”  Cody Paige Blog.  28 June 2015.  Online.

Silver / Ironically… (He’s Dead Jim – Episode 2)

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Silver

silver the thread
that binds me
across interstates
to those who
share this eleventh hour
sheltered from
the lightning which
splits my windowpane
by a voice, floating
through headphone
channels, left and right
whispering the image
of a memory we share
inter  con  nect  ed, and
holding each other
in the night
i cannot feel your hand
but i see you
waving: hello
drive carefully
sleep well, my friends
my own true kin
wherever you may rest

 

IMG_6407Words which coalesced while listening to some Sufjan Stevens last evening with the lights turned low.  So thanks in part to his music for the inspiration / spirit behind this one.  Dedicated to all late-night on-their-own music listeners.  I get it.  And I love you guys.

 

Ironically…

… my headphones died the day after I wrote this (as you can see).  And I don’t think even duct tape can fix them this time.  R.I.P. Monoprice 8323’s (2013-2015).

If you can think of a pair of (reasonably priced) headphones you love, I am definitely open to suggestions.

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I had planned to top the evening off with the aptly titled “Headphones” by Jars of Clay, but all I could find on YouTube either was blocked for copyright reasons or were poorly recorded clips of them performing it live.  Dunno whether the video will play in other countries or not, so if you hail from somewhere other than the Home of the Brave, you may be in luck.  Otherwise… I’ll refer you to my Jars of Awesomeness playlist (below), or you could always get the album, which, I recommend too.

God bless you, dear reader.  You are an amazing and beautiful person, and don’t you forget it.