Book hunger

book hunger

I’d like to order a fantasy book with some cheese and pepperoni toppings.

Have you ever had a craving for a particular kind of food? Some days I just want to eat meat: beef or fried chicken. The same thing happens to me with books and movies. I get book hungry, or I get a craving for a particular kind of story.
Sometimes, it’s for a fantasy story that isn’t trying to make a statement about life, but is just trying to tell a good story where everything ends well. Other times, it’s a craving for fantasy mixed with romance, or it’s for a good mystery, comedy, or thriller. There are also times when I’ll read or watch anything, ignoring the fact that I might regret it if the story turns out to be sad, bad, or soap opera-ish.

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The misinterpretation of hard work and the truth of Kung fu panda

Hard work isn’t what it’s made out to be

 

I liked the movie Kung Fu panda because it really exemplifies life. It all starts with the bad guy in the movie, Tai Lung, a snow leopard. I empathize with him. Tai Lung is angry because his trainer and kung fu master, Shifu, kept putting it in his head that he was going to be chosen as the Dragon Warrior.  This position would give Tai Lung access to the Dragon Scroll, which is believed to hold the secret to limitless power. All he had to do was to work hard. Well, this guy did. He worked hard, but because of his pride and arrogance (which was encouraged by master Shifu), he eventually forfeited the Dragon Scroll.

Imagine what that must have been like for him. All this time preparing, training to be the chosen one, doing all that work…….. for nothing, an empty promise. So yeah, he’s angry.

Shifu: You were not meant to be the Dragon Warrior, that was not my fault!
Tai Lung: Not your fault? Who filled my head with dreams? Who drove me to train until my bones cracked? Who denied me my destiny?
Shifu: It was never my decision to make!

I know how he feels because I’ve been there. I remember times when I worked very hard on things, going over and above what was required. Yet instead of being rewarded for what I had worked for, I was not. I was sometimes even punished, treated like a trouble maker, irresponsible, and incapable. My parents and society had taught me the whole “work hard and get rewarded” sermon. I believed it. I did it, but there was no reward.

I felt like Tai Lung in those moments. According to the Bible, “hope deferred makes the heart sick.” Tai Lung and I were ‘heart sick’. I remember asking myself, “why did I do all this work?” So in one particular area, I stopped putting in any extra effort. I didn’t stop working though; I wasn’t that type of person. I just stopped putting in the extra effort. And things quickly went downhill from there.

Po the panda, the hero in Kung fu Panda, stands out. This panda was not as gifted as Tai Lung, in fact he didn’t have any natural talents. He had nothing. Furthermore, he failed many times during the training sessions. Master Shifu wanted him to fail, to give up, to quit, BUT…… he didn’t. He didn’t give up despite all his failures, and despite the attitude of master Shifu. (However, I must point out that Po didn’t have to fight ‘heart sickness’ because nobody told him, like people told me and Tai Lung, that all he had to do was work hard. His hope wasn’t deferred because he didn’t have any promised expectations.)

If you check the dictionary, hard work and diligence are grouped together. While one of the definitions of diligence is hard work, the other definition is perseverance or  persistence. You see in many cases, what hard work won’t get you, persistence will.

Persistence may seem hard at times because of all the emotions, and the feelings that stand in the way as boogeymen in the shadshadows, making their appearance look big even though they are in fact very small. These emotions remind you of all the work you did, the disappointment, and the anger. Nevertheless, persistence is really just a decision to keep doing what you were already doing, to not abandon it.

So let’s re-imagine Tai Lung’s and my disappointment. All these emotions were bubbling up in us like a volcano. The smoke and the lava are clouding our vision. If we had just taken a step back from our emotions……. then Tai Lung would have seen that he just had to decide to apply the same hard work that he was already doing to his behavior. And I would have seen that if I decided to continue putting in the extra effort, I would have massive leverage on the people that refused to give me my due because I could always confidently say that I gave 120%.  I believe that if I had done that, things wouldn’t have deteriorated at the rate and to the level they did.

So I say instead of hard work, persevere, people, persevere.

 

The unbearable love triangles

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Have you noticed that the wave of love triangle stories all center around one woman and two men? Or that the majority of these stories are written by women? I understand the dream of having two men after a woman, it gives that woman’s self esteem a boost. “Two men desire me, there’s something special about me.” And if there’s something special about the main character, the reader shares in the character’s glory.

As an adult, I really dislike love triangles though I liked them as a teenager. I used to read Archie comics, and cheer and weep for Betty, the frequent loser in the Veronica, Archie, Betty love triangle. As I matured, I began to see that men and women who put themselves in the middle of this type of situation are usually very selfish and self centered individuals. Interestingly, despite my ‘new found’ distaste for love triangles, I’ve still read some books with female characters who find themselves in the middle of two guys. While I don’t always like these females, I would utterly despise a male character who found himself between two woman, and I probably wouldn’t read the book. Is this a double standard? Yes it is. He, he

 

The heart is deceitful above all things

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? Jeremiah 17:9

Sometime ago, I went to a shop to buy something, and they didn’t have change, so I couldn’t buy what I wanted. This irritated me because this had happened frequently in the past (in this country I’m living in). It was so annoying.  I mean these shop owners lose money by turning people away because they’re too lazy to go to the bank and get change was my thought.

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The attendant who told me there was no change is like 14 years old. The shop is owned by her aunt, who wasn’t there at the moment. She apologized as I huffed and muttered to myself before I turned and  walked away to find some change. By the time I came back to the shop with the exact amount of money that was needed, I was no longer huffing or muttering. I was calm, and I said in a gentle voice to the young attendant, “if you don’t have change, you should go to the bank and get some change. You know.. you’re losing business this way”

“I’m very sorry”, she replied, “please don’t be angry”

“I’m not angry, really”, I answered calmly, “just think about it”.

I walked away happy that I had passed on my point in a calm and gentle manner.

angFunny thing is that a few days later, someone said something very unfair to me and in a similar way (calmly and gently). All  I could think of was how unjust and manipulative that person’s words were, and I was quite angry at this person. It took me some time to  remember that I had done something similar just a few days ago.

 I now looked at my behavior towards that shop attendant honestly. Why did I give her my “gentle advice”? Because I was irritated by the lack of change in shops (remember I was huffing and muttering at first). My desire to give “gentle advice” stemmed from this irritation. Even more unfair was what I said to the particular person I said it to. I instinctively chose this 14 year old as the sounding board for my irritation because she was young, I could ‘give her advice’ , also her aunt wasn’t there; and her aunt is older than me and could tell me off. How unfair is it to tell a 14 year old girl, who has probably never been to the bank, who could probably never leave the shop to go to the bank, and who could probably never tell her aunt (owner and in charge of the shop) ‘my gentle and calm demeanor advice’? Very unfair. I saw that I used the power that was in my age and in the situation to bully, yes bully, a younger person.  People are not going to have or be what I expect them to have or be. I don’t control them;  what good does my anger? None.

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So you ask, what does this have to do with books? A lot.  The way I behaved shows our very discreet human flaws, the lies we convince ourselves of (“I’m not angry”, yeah right), and how sometimes what we do unto others is not what we would want done unto us.

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Good character stories are able to pick out these subtle flaws in the characters, they don’t shy away from them, especially in their protagonists. They also don’t make light of them, that is to say they don’t justify them even if the characters don’t improve. (Note : I said good character stories, not all stories are about showing human characteristics)

Jesus Christ, Harry Potter and the Hunger Games

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I have a feeling that people are wondering at my title. What does Jesus, Harry Potter, and the Hunger Games have to do with each other? The reason I put them together is because  all these stories deal with  one particular spiritual law.

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There are physical laws like gravity, whatever goes up must come down. There are also spiritual laws like, whatever you sow, you will reap. For example,  you treat people badly, expect to be treated badly. You gossip about people, expect people to gossip about you. Another example is don’t repay good with evil. Spiritual laws are just laws that have to do with things that can’t be seen directly, but happen as a result of people’s actions. I want to talk about a spiritual law that was broken in the Hunger Games by the killing of Katniss Everdeen’s sister, Primrose Everdeen a.k.a Prim. If you’ve read the books and know something about spiritual laws, then I want you to guess what law I’m talking about.

What is this spiritual law? The ultimate example of it is found in Jesus Christ. If you’re not familiar with what happened over 2000 years ago, Jhere is a short summary: Jesus Christ, who is God, was crucified by the Romans, under the directive of the religious leaders of that day. The thing is, according to the Bible, that was exactly what God wanted, He wanted Jesus, His Son, to die. You see all humanity has to go to Hell, to pay for any sin they have committed. Going hell is considered spiritual death. Yet because God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell (but He can’t interfere with people’s choices), He sent Jesus to die for humanity, every single human being.

A book in the Bible, John 3:16 says: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

So instead of you and I dying, Jesus took our place. He died for us. If we accept this sacrifice, we won’t go to Hell when we die, we go instead to heaven.

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In Harry Potter, this same spiritual law is applied. Voldemort, the main antagonist, went to Godric’s Hollow. He entered James and Lilly Potter’s house. First he killed James,  then  he went upstairs, saw Lily by Harry’s crib, and tells Lily to step aside cause he’s gonna kill Harry (yeah, like what mother is gonna step aside for her child to be murdered!). Lily refuses and says that Voldemort should kill her instead. Voldemort, instead of stupefying Lily (that is to make her unconscious with his wand), decides to kill her. Maybe he thought that if she had another child, he/she may come back and kill him in revenge. Then again, maybe not. I mean the guy just loved killing people. vold

Lily is now dead, and  Voldemort goes to complete the job he really came to do, the real threat to him. He looks at Harry who is also looking at him, he points his wand towards Harry, and he says the killing curse. Only something unexpected happens. The curse bounces off Harry and kills Voldemort instead. Nobody had ever survived the killing curse, and nobody had ever escaped when Voldemort decided to kill them. So why did Harry survive? He survived because his mother gave her life for him. She refused to step aside for Voldemort to kill Harry, and she told him to kill her instead. Her blood made Harry untouchable; he could not be killed.

Now in the Hunger Games trilogy, Katniss Everdeen, the protagonist, volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Prim, in the Hunger Games. (The Hunger Games was a mandatory competition where people were chosen through a  ballot box to fight other people to the death until there was only one person remaining alive.) Prim’s name was picked, and Katniss volunteers to go and fight in the place of her sister. Let’s now fast forward to the third and final book where Primrose is killed.

Can you now guess what law was broken in the Hunger Games?

Prim could not be killed. Katniss had taken her place. Prim’s life was protected according to a spiritual law.

So why did she die? This is my opinion: I think that the author wanted a way to get rid of Gale, one of Katniss’ potential love interest. Prim was killed in an attack method that  was similar to one that had been designed by Gale. And Gale tells Katniss that she would always be wondering whether it was because of what he designed that her beloved sister was killed. Katniss doesn’t deny this.

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I felt sorry for Gale, and I don’t think that the author should have gotten rid of him like that. (I also wonder whether my sympathy for him stems partially from the fact that he was tall and handsome). That aside, the thing is that the author didn’t need to get rid of Gale by killing Prim. Gale was a great guy, but I agree that he wasn’t the best guy for Katniss. Nevertheless, he didn’t deserve that sort of exit. Gale was smart, he knew Katniss, and he knew what she needed. He probably could have figured out that Katniss and him were too similar in personality to be compatible.

What could have happened was for Prim to almost get killed in the bomb blast, but be saved by Gale . In doing so, Gale could have come to the realization that he needed to deal with his anger, and that Katniss was not the woman that could help him in that area. That would have been a better ending. And the sad thing is that Gale was smart like that. He could have come to that realization. I also felt like that author was also giving some subtle unfair hints about Gale by saying that he went on to live in district 2, the district that had been buddy, buddy with the evil Capitol.capitol

This is the reason why I do not like the Hunger Games.

Unraveling the consequences of giving up who you are

Unraveling the consequences of giving up who you are

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The unraveling of my emotions

When I was younger, I had a very good image of myself, and it showed. Unfortunately I came into prolonged contact with people who had a very negative view of me. They fearlessly showed me with their words and actions what their image of me was.  Regrettably, I chose to accept their image of me. As a result, I became best buddies with low self esteem. I learned to fear rejection, to expect it because people really didn’t see me as worth much. Eventually, I had to relearn to see myself as I am: a child of God, priceless, and beautiful. Yet this new and positive image I have of myself is not yet a natural image. What I mean is that it doesn’t come to me unconsciously, I have to deliberately (making a conscious effort) paint it in my mind.

Interestingly, I read a book this last year called Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris, and I didn’t really like its female teenage protagonist Janelle. At first I felt that my dislike for her was because she was overconfident and cocky, but I later on saw that what I perceived as cockiness was really a lack of fear of rejection. The way Janelle behaved showed she didn’t even consider that rejection might be a possibility. That was what really bothered me; she didn’t even consider rejection.

When I was her age, I could never have been that confident, never! I would never have done the things she did because I would have considered rejection, and I probably would have been rejected. Janelle was unconsciously confident, whereas I have to make a conscious effort to be confident. In the end, I saw that it was for this reason that I didn’t like her.

What is interesting is that it took reading a book  entitled Unraveling to unravel this aspect of my emotions.

Has any book ever made you realize something about yourself or somebody else?

Of love and of worry, Part 3

Of love and of worry, Part 3

In part 2 of these series, Of love and of worry, I discussed the real life consequences of Edward’s behavior towards Alice and Bella in one particular scene. I said that Edward’s behavior which was caused by worry could have led to Alice doubting his brotherly love for her and Bella fearing to tell him about his faults.

Are these projected consequences exaggerations? Repeated behavior shows character. Edward was always worried/afraid and his worry/fear always made him behave badly. (in New Moon, he breaks up with Bella because he’s, *big surprise*, worried about her safety and her humanity. In the same book, he’s afraid that she committed suicide, so instead of finding out more from Alice, he overreacts and tries to kill himself by going to the Volturi. This action exposes his family to the jealous nature of the vampire government; This is the source of most of their problems in the next two books.)  I’ve noticed that some romance writers don’t really analyze the long term meanings behind their protagonists’ ‘romantic’ behavior. If these writers really did think through it, they would see that no one actually wants a ‘soul mate’ like the one they write about.

 What did Edward achieve by worrying, only to hurt and put his family in danger? People may think that Bella saw his love for her through his worry, but how does raising your blood pressure and mistreating others around you, including the person you claim to love, show someone that you love them? If love is an action, then what did Edward’s actions show? A lot of books have characters who behave in similar ways. More dangerously, in real life, people expect their love ones to worry about them. It gives us pleasure if we know that people are worried about us. It hurts us if people don’t worry or fear for us; we would feel like they didn’t have affection towards us. (Carmen in the movie Sisterhood of the travelling pants, is an example). Once again, what does people worrying about us really accomplish for us or for them?

How can writers cut down on writing 3 pages of ‘I’m worried about my love interest’? what you can do is to have your characters think about how they don’t see the benefits of worrying, instead of worrying.  So they could write something like:

*my rendition of the Eclipse scene I described in LOVE AND WORRY PART 2 above, but from Edward’s perspective.*

I felt fear’s cold, strong hands grip my heart. Bella was in danger, again. How could Alice have….

I quickly blocked that thought. What good did it do for me to get angry at Alice? Now was the time to be in one accord, not to be angry with the one person who could see the future. Besides, I wasn’t going to  let fear win. I was no use to Bella if I let fear dictate my decisions like it had when I thought she had committed suicide.

I resumed breathing.  Vampires don’t need to breathe, but doing so helped me to think, to be rational.

Writers, think through how your protagonist’s worry really affects those around them. Think through what it says about a person that expects others to worry/ be afraid for them.

Of love and of worry, Part 2

A preacher, Kenneth Hagin, learned to stop worrying from a young age. However when he got married, his wife was a worrier. (The general belief is that mothers/wives are supposed to worry about their families. You’d be considered a bad mother if you didn’t.) Mrs. Hagin worried a lot and would get angry that her husband just never seemed to worry. So one day she accused him saying something like, ” if me and the kids drop down dead right now, you wouldn’t even worry about it, would you?”. Mr. Hagin basically replied, ” no, I wouldn’t because if you guys are dead, then I don’t need to worry about you.” That may seem heartless to some people but it’s so true and smart! What do you accomplish by worrying?

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Jesus said,” Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? (Matthew 6:27) Think about it, what do you accomplish by worrying, only to raise your blood pressure and damage your health? People may think that if they didn’t worry they wouldn’t get things done. However, you can still get things done and not worry about them. So why add worry  to it?

Here is one scene in Twilight’s Eclipse by Stephanie Meyers: Alice Cullen, who can see visions of possible future events, missed one vision that was a threat to Bella, Edward Cullen’s girlfriend. Edward, who claims to love his sister (and he really did have affection for her), spoke harshly to her because of her mistake. Bella tells him to stop talking angrily to Alice (cause he was really mad). Edward then turns on Bella, with a glare. After a few seconds, he calms down and apologizes. The book doesn’t delve further into this issue, but leeclipse-alice-cullen2t’s imagine this scene happened in real life. How do you think Alice felt? Like her brother loves her only if she doesn’t miss a vision. She’s only worth something to him when she doesn’t miss a vision that is important to him. So these thoughts come knocking at her door whenever he asks her about another vision or whenever he’s not around (It seems like I tend to remember the hurtful things loved ones have done to me when they are not around.)

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Furthermore, Edward is all worked up because he’s worried about his love, Bella. So what does he do when Bella tells him to stop mistreating Alice? He turns on her (his love) in anger. What does this show Bella? That whenever you caution edward-and-bella-cullen-nuevo-poster-de-y-swan-con-las-imagenes-113020Edward on his behavior, there is a strong possibility that he’ll get angry at you, so maybe it’s best not to tell him his faults………

to be continued……

Of love and of worry. Part 1

Of love and of worry. Part 1

What’s worry got to do with love? If you read a lot of books where there is romance, whether they be romantic books, fantasy etc, you’ll see that love seems to be represented through worry. The main characters care for their love interests by worrying about them. And writers can fill pages talking about their characters’ worries. The Twilight series did this a lot. Bella, the main character, was always worried about everyone. Edward, her love interest, was always worried about Bella’s safety. His worry for her seemed to be testament of his love for her. However, I believe that love has nothing to do with worry. In fact, worry’s real face is very ugly.

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Here are some synonyms for worry: be anxious, be afraid, be concerned, fret, agonize, be bothered. I like the word agonize to describe worry; it has the same root as the word agony, which istorture synonymous with the word torture. How much can you love someone that tortures you?. It may seem like you love your family, kids, boy/girl friend, spouse, etc., and still worry about them; but I want to  redefine love.

I don’t define love as a feeling because feelings are so unstable, fickle, and inconsistent. Today you feel affectionate towards someone, tomorrow they irritate you, and you hate their guts. I like the Bible’s definition of love because it has to do with actions (1 corinthians 13:4-7): Love is patient, kind, not rude, not easily angered, not self seeking, long suffering, keeps no record of wrong, etc.  So love is really something you choose to do, not something you feel. (check out this man’s love for his wife)

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Worriers tend to behave in a manner that is the reverse of these love actions mentioned above. They blow up and lash out at those around them, especially their ‘loved ones’. They say hurtful things in hurtful ways, that once you’ve said or done them, no apology will remove those words or behavior. Hurtful words and actions can remain in people’s memories for years to come. They hurt relationships and stall intimacy. We then wonder how things got so bad. The truth is that some big problems can be traced back to  worry.

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While I’m not blaming worry for all the problems in relationships, nevertheless, think about it, think about the times you got angry with a loved one. Delve deep into the reason why you got angry. It may not be because you were worried for that loved one; it could be that you were worried about being late, worried about money, worried about work. How did you treat that loved one when they didn’t get into the car quick enough? When they did something that cost you more money etc? Worry doesn’t make people behave kind, patient or peaceable (all attributes of love), no, it makes them behave unkind, impatient and angry. And the interesting thing is that there is a verse in the Bible that says:

          There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.  1 John 4:18

(fear is a synonym of worry)

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So I say: Writers, stop showing love through worry. Worry and love have nothing to do together. Loved ones, stop worrying. It doesn’t help you love each other as you should.