My Year In Photos: February

 

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February is associated with love. I’ve written on this blog about how there are many types of love and for this photo reflection, I’ll talk about how I experienced each of the Four Loves (as named by my favorite author, CS Lewis).

Storge: Although Storge is more associated with family, the definition of storge is affection. Once a week, I teach Catechism to a class full of kids in my parish. One little moment that I felt stood out for me was getting a small gift from some of the kids. We were doing crafts that represented “the eyes of our hearts,” like the song “Open The Eyes of My Heart.” I love getting these gifts from my kids because these kinds of gifts are sincere and sweet. It’s things like this that make teaching Catechism worthwhile to me.

Philia: I spent time with my friends preparing for a young adult retreat taking place in March. It was my first time being on staff for any sort of retreat. (I usually attended college retreats instead of staffing.) The friends I made through the Awakening retreat I attended a year ago were still there and they would soon become the best friends I could ever ask for.

Eros: Eros is the most well-known form of love and CS Lewis defines it as being in love. It doesn’t start with superficial physical attraction, but appreciating one particular person. Romantic love by itself is a neutral force. Although I didn’t get involved in any romantic relationships, I did realize that I was crushing hard on one particular person. But he’s an actor. And married. So it ain’t gonna happen.

Agape: God’s mercy is the most beautiful form of agape that one could experience in my opinion. I wanted to detach from my obsessions because I felt like they were getting in God’s way. But God still let me have my obsessions and fandoms. I increased my prayer life by starting up my consecration to Jesus through Mary, which would end on the feast of the Annunciation.

Most people only see love one way, as having a romantic relationship with somebody. In reality, everyone can give and receive love in its many different forms. We can receive affection from families and those we share a close emotional bond with, friendship with those we share great experiences with, romantic love from one particular person, and selfless love from the One who is love.

Lent Day 26: Temporary Home

Fr. Robert Barron’s Lenten Reflection today reminds me of a CS Lewis quote:

If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.

I had the chance to visit my alma mater yesterday, a place that I called home for four years. But I knew that eventually, I had to graduate and move on. I couldn’t stay there forever, even though I really loved being a student. And every high school student can attest to the fact that no matter how much they liked or hated high school, there was always a point that they knew that the high school life was only temporary.

There’s always a point in our lives where we wonder “Is this all that there is? Isn’t there more to life?” I know that it’s something a lot of motivational speakers and self-help writers say. But it is a question we all ask. It’s why people wonder if there’s life on other planets. It’s why we try and gain new experiences. It’s why we try to find satisfaction in things that ultimately can’t satisfy us in the long run.

We were created for Heaven, but we were given life on Earth as a preparation. Why we’re not in Heaven in the first place is a mystery.

It’s kind of like The Wizard of Oz. We are put into this strange world with the desire to find home and we learn a lot about ourselves along the way. And what some don’t realize is that everyone has the opportunity to have a personal relationship with God, just like how Dorothy didn’t realize that her red slippers were her key home all along.

Having a personal relationship with God comes from following God’s will. However, following God’s will isn’t a cure-all, nor is it easy. Finding home never is.

Four Loves Friday: Philia AKA Friendship

Sorry again for not updating on Tuesday. I’ve come up with an idea on what to do for this blog and I realized that the whole “True Love Tuesday” thing was seriously biased of me. I want this blog to be more than just my ramblings on fandoms. I want to show the things I love to bring out a stronger truth. With that, let’s continue the Four Loves Friday with Philia AKA friendship.

Like Affection, Friendship is often overlooked in the shadow of Eros. However, Friendship has it even worse than Affection because it seems so everyday compared to the sweet softness of Affection and the grandiose affair that is Eros. The worst thing is that people often want Friendship to turn into Eros. (Just google “JohnLock.”) Why is that?

According to CS Lewis, it’s because few people experience what friendship really is. Look beyond the pastel-colored ponies that declare “Friendship is Magic” and give this some thought: Friendship is not something that comes naturally. Eros eventually leads to the creation of future generations. Affection helps raise future generations. But friendship? It’s not a necessity. Think about the most logically created business mergers or arranged marriages. Yes, it sounds cold and detached, but at one point, society didn’t put such an emphasis on feelings.

Nowadays, we put such an emphasis on feelings that people often assume there is something more than friendship when two people are out on the town together with no other companions tagging along. If a man and a woman are seen out together, it’s assumed that they’re in a relationship. If it’s two men, they’re gay. If it’s two women, they’re lesbians. Even now, completely platonic friendships seem unnatural because of how oversexualized our culture has become. 

However, in this age where technology has become a part of our everyday lives, new ways of creating friendships have formed. The internet has become a great way to find people who share a common interest in something. The best example of this are the content creators from That Guy With The Glasses. They all have a shared interest of expressing their opinions on various media. They meet in conventions or via online hangouts and people can see, from the huge amount of crossovers, that these guys have developed a camaraderie. Some romantic relationships have come out of that, but as a whole, the TGWTG team are True Companions.

However, having a common interest might not be enough to sustain a friendship. Sometimes, that love for a shared interest might be the only thing you might have in common with a person. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but the friendship can be hard to maintain when there is only a few common interests. No matter how much you love something, that one thing doesn’t necessarily define your life. I’m not saying that being in a fandom is a bad thing. It just can’t be the only thing.

True friendship comes from shared experiences. The reason why the TGWTG content creators have a strong friendship is because of the times they collaborate together, give each other feedback, and make fun of each other. Another example of friendship from shared experiences is the main cast of How I Met Your Mother. While the show has its flaws, the reason it’s been going on for 9 seasons was because of the strong friendship between Ted, Marshall, Barney, Lily, and Robin. The best example of that was when Marshall and Lily were deciding on who their son Marvin’s godparent would be and they decided on all three of their friends because Lily wanted Marvin to stay in the family no matter what happened to Lily and Marshall. The friendship between the five of them has endured Ted and Robin’s relationship, Barney and Robin’s relationship, and Ted’s neverending quest to find his soul mate. The focus on How I Met Your Mother wasn’t on the various romantic plotlines, but on the strong friendship between these five amazing characters.

Next week, I wrap up this series by going into what “Agape” means and plan out what I’ll be doing in March.

Four Loves Friday: Storge AKA Affection

To paraphrase a well-known quote, if love was rain, Storge or Affection would be drizzle and Eros would be a hurricane. But what’s so wrong with a drizzle? Drizzles are a manageable kind of rain, the kind of rain that helps the flowers grow instead of flooding cities. In a similar way, affection and familial love are such a part of everyday life, that it’s often overshadowed in the hurricane that is Eros. As I said before, romantic love is not the end-all, be-all of life, nor should it be. Like Eros before it, Affection has a lot of misconceptions. 

Lewis says that Affection is different from the love we have for our pets or to put things in modern day terms, the love a fandom has for a certain show, movie, book, or celebrity. Affection is something that grows over time, can be mixed with the other three forms of love, and produces appreciation for the recipients of said affection. What sets Affection apart from the other three loves is that it can love things that some may not see as loveable. I’ll go into detail on how affection works by combining it with what I wanted to write for True Love Tuesday, but got delayed to to my being ill at the time.

There are examples of Affection seen throughout media, but it’s rarely the central focus of the show. TV shows like Charmed and Gilmore Girls have Affection as the premise and theme, but a lot of plot points in those shows tend to move towards romantic love. So instead, I’ll look into three examples of Affection from some more recent works. BE WARNED! SPOILERS AHEAD!

1st Example: Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond in Frozen.

Believe me when I say that Frozen deserves all the hype it’s getting and I really hope it wins an Oscar. The central focus of the movie is about Elsa and Anna’s sisterly bond. The two sisters spend the time between the prologue and the first act isolated from each other and they cope in different ways. The entire plot is moved forward by Anna’s desire to be close to her sister again and Elsa’s fear of hurting Anna. Distracted by the expectation that the movie would follow Anna as she falls in love with Hans and the expectation that either Hans or Kristoff would be the one to save Anna via True Love’s Kiss, it comes as a shocking and refreshing surprise that Anna and Elsa end up saving each other in the end. Anna saves Elsa from Hans by throwing herself between them, even though it came at the cost of her entire body becoming frozen due to Elsa accidentally freezing Anna’s heart. However, that selfless act of bravery made Elsa realize how much Anna really meant to her and the mistake she made of isolating and hurting the only person she wanted to protect. 

In true Disney fashion, Anna’s heart thaws Anna herself and Elsa realizes, through Olaf’s words and Anna’s sacrifice, how she can control her powers: her love. In the best example of showing-not-telling, Elsa channels the Affection she has for her sister and her kingdom to end the endless winter she inadvertently caused. 

Other examples of Affection in Frozen can be seen in Olaf’s affection for Anna and Elsa. Before Anna sacrifices herself for her sister, Olaf creates a fire for Anna and tells her that “some people are worth melting for.” He also helps Elsa to see that her ice powers aren’t a curse if she could create life from it. In the end, Olaf is rewarded for his Affection by getting an affectionate gift from Elsa: the ability to enjoy summer with a personal little flurry over his head. 

2nd Example

The True Love that I wanted to write about on Tuesday was the Affection between Henry and his birth mother, Emma as well as with his adopted mother, Regina. In the first season, Henry is what motivates Emma to stay in Storybrooke and what leads the major characters to go to Neverland when Henry gets taken there in the Season 2 finale. Season 3, so far, had Henry at the center of the plot, with Affection being played against Pan’s manipulations. 

And no matter the ship wars in the Once Upon a Time fandom, the one thing fans can agree on is that Emma will always put Henry first before anyone else. Henry was willing to eat the poisoned apple turnover for Emma to prove to her that magic existed. By the time of the Season 3 mid-season “finale,” Emma and Regina have put their differences aside to save their son from Pan and Henry considers both women to be his mother. Lesbian undertones aside, the interactions between Emma and Regina in Season 3 were seriously awesome and there is at least a form of platonic affection developing between the two of them. Whether the affection leads to friendship or a romantic relationship is up to the writers.

3rd Example

In this world of new media, it’s amazing how far YouTube has come from the everday cat videos. Some content creators have taken the risk towards adapting literature into a series of YouTube videos. What started this trend? The Lizzie Bennet DiariesAn Emmy-award series created by Hank Green and Bernie Su, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries took Pride and Prejudice and turned it into a series of video blogs by modern day 24-year-old Lizzie Bennet. Pride and Prejudice is famous for the love story between Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy, but what makes this adaptation just as good as the book, if not better, is that it focuses on the relationship between Lizzie Bennet, her sisters (Jane and Lydia), and her best friend, Charlotte. 

The romantic leads of the story (as well as the romantic rival) don’t appear in the videos until certain episodes, so events in the novel that are usually seen through a third-person narrator are often re-enacted with “costume theatre.” The majority of the action in these videos isn’t on the romantic plotlines, but on how Lizzie, Jane, Lydia, and Charlotte feel and react to the things that are happening and the things they decide to do become major plot twists.

The best example of how Affection is more prominent is shown in Episode 15: Lizzie Bennet is in Denial. In this episode, Charlotte and Jane give a different point of view to an event that Lizzie would rather dismiss out of her own negative bias. Their affection for Lizzie doesn’t blind either of them to the fact that Lizzie has a lot of personal prejudices to get over. And eventually, lack of Affection leads to a major important plot point that I won’t spoil here.

So for this Valentine’s Day Weekend, think about the people you feel Affection towards. See how you can show them how much you love them. After all, hurricanes aren’t for everyone.

How to Portray Religion in Fiction Without Causing a Riot

It seems so easy to paint religion as evil in fiction. But in my honest opinion Evil Religion (especially corrupt Christianity/Catholicism) is a cliche that needs to DIE. Ditto with the stereotypical pedophile priests, sexy nuns, loud overenthusiastic preachers, annoying Jewish mothers, and terrorist Muslims. However, I’m not advocating that religion in fiction should be portrayed in the other extreme, with constant Jesus Symbolism and heavy-handed guilt tripping.

The best examples of fictional religious works that portray religion as good without being heavy-handed are the works of two authors: CS Lewis and JRR Tolkein. Although both of them are Christian, they have a lot of secular fans. Tolkein especially because he didn’t intend for anything in LOTR to be allegorical. (But then again he’s Catholic. Catholics and allegory go together like bread and wine.) But portraying religion in a good light isn’t limited to fantasy.

A good way to show religion without bashing it or lavishing too much praise is to have characters of different faiths and figure out a common ground. I recently learned that Pope Francis used to be on a radio show with a Protestant and a Jew and the three of them would talk about different topics. Pope Francis and the other two hosts are still friends. Another example of this is a book by Peter Kreeft called Between Heaven and Hell which has CS Lewis, Aldous Huxley, and John F. Kennedy in Purgatory discussing religion.

If you don’t want characters to debate religion or if religion isn’t part of the conflict, show how a character’s faith or lack thereof drives him. But again, don’t use the whole “If I do a lot of good things, I’ll get good karma or go to Heaven” cliche. (It’s also a heresy, but that’s another post.) Instead, show a character whose faith has benefited his life so much that he wants to show it to the world through good works and altruism. Or show a character who has a lot of problems but holds onto their faith not because it’s a crutch, but because it’s their compass, their guiding light in the storm. Priests, nuns, and ministers can be great mentor figures. Not all epic stories have to include wise old monks, after all.

A common ground in many faiths is unconditional love. Buddhists call it loving-kindness. Christianity calls it agape. Jews call it ahavat olam. In contrast to the cliches of romantic comedies, forbidden love, and sexual taboos, unconditional love shines as the ultimate form of true love. (Just watch Frozen!) If you want to include religion in fiction, figure out how that particular faith shows love.

But why write about religion at all?

It seems like society wants to keep religion out of the other things in life because religion to them gets in the way of what they want to do. To the mainstream frame of mind, religion is “holier than thou” with all of its “thou shalt nots,” funeral picketing, and conservative politics. People need to realize that for better and for worse, religion is a part of everyday life and that maybe people should look beyond the often accepted “belief” that religion should be limited to Sunday mornings in a church and nowhere else. In reality, religion is a driving force for a lot of people. And no two people from the same faith are alike. In Catholicism alone, we have hundreds of saints that act as role models whose stories are as varied as comic book superheroes. But that’s another post.

Tl;dr Religion in and of itself is NOT evil. Fiction needs to fix that.