Saturday, February 25, 2012


There are six very important books (or series) to me for various reasons, and I very much wish to write something brief about each one. I am not including the Bible, if you are curious.

1. The Harry Potter Series, by J.K. Rowling. This series made me aware of the joy of reading. I had read other books before, but I usually had to force my way through. I eventually learned that horse books bore me. But Harry Potter made me read. It was fun, imaginative, and inspiring. Not to mention, it wasn't wrought with long boring descriptions about things no one cares for.

2. The Giver, by Lois Lowry. This book represents everything I believe in. It is commonly mistaken for a children's story, but it typically isn't very clear to the average American child. It is about love, it is about control, and it is about safety versus beauty. It is also short and to the point, with a very open ending that I appreciate.

3. The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I haven't cried so much while reading a book in my life. This story is really an eye-opener on life in Germany during World War Two, and not as a Jew, but as a poor German child. It is cute, it is funny, it is deep, and it is dark. This story has some of the most creative and effective methods of telling itself. It introduced me to the horrors and the irony of humankind.

4. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card. This is another that reminds me of the irony in humankind. This is the book that has probably made me think the most. It is very deep and philosophical. You can read the description and think "Really?" because it sounds just like every other sci-fi alien thing you've heard of, but this story goes beyond itself. It isn't about destroying the aliens. This story is about saving the main character, and ultimately about what humans really are. It explores the good and the bad in humanity. I've read this somewhere between 5 and 8 times, and it is still very good.

5. The Phantom Tollbooth, by Norton Juster. If you are looking for a quirky story, The Phantom Tollbooth is it. This most certainly is a children's book, but it is a children's book that everyone can enjoy. It should be a Pixar or Dreamworks animation. Nothing compares to how mind-bending, imaginative, clever and fun this story is. Everyone should read this book at some point in their life. It emphasizes the importance of intelligence, it makes you laugh, and it makes you think without being dark or scary. I would put a quote here, but to choose my favorite I'd have to put the entire book.

6. Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, by Susanna Clarke. This book didn't have to make me think deeply. It was clever and imaginative, but ultimately with this book I just seriously felt like I accomplished something. This book is more than a thousand pages long. I persevered because it was an entertaining story, and I felt smart reading it. The British humor is fantastic, the characters are colorful, and the imagery is exquisite.

So those are the six most important books that I plan to always own and revisit occasionally. If you have not read any of these books, please read them. Well, I'd forgive you if you did not read JS&Mr.N. It is a tedious venture. But I do believe that specifically, Ender's Game and The Book Thief are something to attempt, while The Phantom Tollbooth, and The Giver are books that everyone should be required to read. About 3/4ths of the population has read Harry Potter so I'm not worried about that.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Misconception: Christians "Love" God to Get to Heaven

Actually, you could take that title either way. It isn't entirely a misconception. The real misconception at the base of that is what Heaven is.

Heaven is where God is. Heaven is being with God, surrounded by him. Heaven could be ugly, brown, gray and dusty; but if it has God then it is worth it. That's what Heaven is. It isn't the streets paved with gold. It isn't the promised places that he prepared for us. It isn't the soft green grass or harps or halos or clouds. Heaven is being with God. I'm in heaven when I'm with God.

Now if you aren't Christian, you are wondering why I think Heaven is so great if it isn't about the pretty stuff in the sky. If you've never been in God's presence then you wouldn't know and I can't explain it. The most I can explain to you is why I love God and why I want to be with him forever.

I love God because in the very beginning, when humanity betrayed him, he promised he would rescue us. I love God because when his people were starving in the desert, he provided them food. When their enemies threatened to destroy them, he led them to victories, accomplishing more than they could have dreamed. When they were slaves, he even gave their slave-owners chance after chance to relinquish them. When they did not, he still rescued his people. He protected and rescued the good, and he wiped out the bad so that good could thrive. Although he makes it clear that women should be women and men should be men, he also esteems them equally. There are many strong and powerful women in the Bible, like Esther. He esteems all creation equally, and understands their places.

I love God because he, a shining being of all-powerful royalty, beautiful in every way, dressed in rags and walked among the lowest places of the earth as a hick from Nazarene. Saying Jesus of Nazareth was like saying Albert of the Midwest back then. I love him because he taught us how to survive in the desert and how to survive in our own personal wildernesses. He gave us hope. God allowed himself to be beaten and speared and tossed into the fiery pits of Hell by taking on all of the burdens we've borne. He carried everything I've ever done - the time I told my brother I hated him, the time I screamed and embarrassed my parents. The times I thought mean and rude things about my classmates, the times I've hurt my parents or lied to someone. He carried the weight of that to Hell so I wouldn't have to.

I love God because he has healed me. Again, and again and again. He has brought me through dark places so I could find beautiful ones. The darker the place I've gone through, the more incredible the things on the other side. I love him because he loved me first. He has pursued me, and not only me, but everyone. He is with us at all times. When your parents didn't do a good enough job, when your brother or sister leaves you, when the person you married fails you, and when your friends drift away, he is always there.

So if you wonder, just remember the list. That isn't even a specific list. But if I were specific, it would be a TLDR* situation and that isn't necessary at this point.

Christians don't pretend to love an imaginary being they can't see out of fears that they won't reach the place with golden streets. Maybe people think they are Christians and do that, but a true Christian isn't in it for that kind of material reward. In the Bible it describes God as being with Abraham and Isaac and everyone in the ancient times. It describes God as being in us after Jesus leaves. In that sense, we know he is there and do not have to see him. We know he is there and we love him because of it. We love him because while he is in us, we can understand it when he speaks to us and teaches us. And while he is in us here, we want to be surrounded by him. That is why we love him, and that is why we want to get to Heaven. It is because we want to get to where God is.

*Too Long Didn't Read

"Brain Fog"

I would like to describe "brain fog".

Imagine your brain is an open landscape. Its vast, open and empty. Just some green grass, flowers and bunnies etc. You can walk among this landscape and easily find anything you require. If you would like to pick a flower, it is easy to find it and see it on the ground. This is your mind as a child.

Now pretend like there are a few scattered trees here and there. They may block some vision, but they are useful. These are the things that you need to know or do, like class assignments or chores. Sometimes they are very annoying and make it difficult for you to find the right piece of information that you need, but they also produce fruit etc. Even if the trees are fairly thick, it isn't too bad because you can find everything. This is your mind when you are a tween or older child.

Now imagine that you are worrying about keeping all of your plants watered. You need some rain. When it does rain, everything continues to work as it should. You are happy, though while it is raining it is hard to find things again. Also not so pleasant. You have many more trees now because you are a teenager, though of course, when you reach college, you are aware you will have more trees, so you plant trees of worry just in case you need them ahead of time. But these worrisome trees really only block your view and soak up more water than necessary. Your landscape is not yet ready to hold so many trees.

Then, as you are fretting and worrying about more rain, you accidentally get a thick fog, instead. Everything is kept moist, we think, but there are many trees now, and this dense fog makes it nearly impossible to find anything unless it is less than three feet in front of you. The fog makes it hard for you to locate the information/trees that you need and you find yourself distracted instead with whatever thing you find in your three foot radius. You can do quite well once you push through the brain fog, or if what you need is within three feet, but it fairly difficult to locate something say, fifty feet away.

So from an outsider's point of view, if I am not thinking of the same thing they are, I will not give an accurate response because I will spout out whatever is nearest to me. If they are asking me a question and I think about something else that I know is wrong, I will stare at them blankly because I am having a hard time discovering what exactly is the correct answer. It is buried in fog. If someone tells me something important, I will gladly plant a tree for it, but I will not be able to recall it later if I wander away - which I inevitably will because I will need to search through the fog for something else in the meantime.

I also get tired much faster, pushing like that, and my eyes have trouble focusing on things because everything has to be so close.

Brains are meant to be clear of fog. Mine is not.