Learn How To Love

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This post will be part blog and part spoken-word poem. I just want to process everything I’ve been hearing from the news and try to speak about what’s on my mind.

 

People are dying. I wish it could stop.

There is so much anger and hate in this world. Why can’t we learn to love?

Do we even know what love is? We say that love is love, but what is love?

I know that a lot’s been going on in the world. I hate hearing of police officers killing Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. I hate that 11 police officers were shot in Dallas. I know that a LOT of y’all are angry right now and nothing I can say will change that.

I wish in times like this we can choose to love instead of expressing our anger. It’s easy to be angry. It’s easy to demonize every police officer. It’s easy to say that “All Lives Matter” isn’t enough. I see so much anger as a reaction to this. We have a right to be angry. We are justified in our anger. Our anger is an expression of our hunger and thirst for righteousness and justice. But we cannot hold onto our anger and unleash it towards people we can’t even really see. We need to retaliate against violence with all the love we have.

So what is love?

Love isn’t indefinable. It’s not a feeling. It’s a choice. Love is wanting the greatest happiness for everyone, even the ones we hate. It means to speak out when police are killed just as much as when the innocent die at the hands of the police. It means that we acknowledge everyone, even the ones in Turkey and Iraq, as our brother and sister. I don’t care if you’re religious or not. I don’t care what belief system you have. We need to stop seeing those outside of our “circle of belonging” as a them. We are all an “us.”

I refuse to be angry over this. I’m more sad than I am anything else. I’m sad at all who are angry. I’m sad that it seems like this year is getting worse and worse. I’m sad, and yet in spite of it, I am trying to find little bits of happiness, tiny points of light that shine in this darkness. For me, compassion and mercy are that light. Through prayer, I let go of this anger and remember to choose peace instead.

Our universe is not an indifferent one, as strange as it may seem now. We are all part of a greater narrative. As Hamilton has said, we have no control who lives, who dies, who tells our story.

We won’t be remembered for our hashtags, but by how we retaliate and the actions we choose. History has its eyes on us. How do you want to be remembered? Will you be remembered for your anger? Or will you be remembered for how much you loved?

The Limit of Labels

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There’s this saying that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. People put all sorts of labels and preconceptions on women and we have this tendency that being a woman or being of a certain race, ethnicity, or sexuality means that we have to look and act a certain way. Sometimes, we believe society and think that we have to act like everyone else who has the same labels as us in order to belong. But the worst thing we could do to ourselves is allow circumstances like family problems or relationship issues to define who we are.

God created us a certain way for a reason, but he didn’t create us so that we define ourselves according to other people’s preconceptions. So the question is “How do we choose to define ourselves?” There is nothing wrong with being a woman or being of a certain race or ethnicity or even being attracted to the same gender. The problem is when we choose to define ourselves by just these things. The things that are in our lives are just parts of who we are and not the sum or the whole of who we are. I choose to define myself by my faith because my faith is so much bigger than myself. And there are things about my faith that I still have to learn and understand.

Marc Barnes AKA “Bad Catholic” on Patheos wrote that: “A label allows us to subsume ourselves into an abstract, and thereby cease dealing with immense difficulties of being our unique, particular ourselves. When I am truly silent and truly alone, I am alone with an I who finds himself living with no immediately discernible purpose, alone with an I who — quite naturally — feels the difficult desire to do good and avoid evil, to love the beautiful, to know the truth, an I with a conscience that constantly reminds me of my own inability to do any of these things, an I that doesn’t age but still is and feels like the same eternal I that lived and breathed at 10 years old. This is the I I return to when I am stripped of every external — of my ideology, career, possessions, class, race, and status — the I that must simply be, approaching death. This is, of course, terrifying.

I was browsing my YouTube subscriptions when I came across a video that talked about forming identity. The person in the video said that identity is always fluid and changing and that only the individual has any control over his or her identity. While I agree that a person’s identity can change over time (growing from child to teen to adult, for example) I think that there are some parts about identity that never change.

I shared this video with my friend Marguerite, who said, “Our primary identity is as beloved children of God and that one cannot change and we do not control it. God will always love us no matter what we do. I agree with staying curious and exploring (within the limits of morality) and knowing that labels are flexible and that we change as time goes on. But the one point about who we are that is most important is the one that never changes from our birth to our death: it is who we are in the eyes of God.”

The difference between finding out your identity based on the world and letting God be the one to guide you in forming your identity is that the world always changes, but God never does. The beautiful paradox of letting God help us figure out who we are is that we become the best versions of ourselves through His help.  Like Saint Paul said in Galatians 2:19-20: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I live, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself up for me.”

So no matter how you choose to define yourself, remember to put God at the center of your life and He will be there to help you when you need to define yourself. Before anything else, remember that you are God’s creation, a child of the One True King, adopted into the family, and a part of the mystical body of Christ. You are loved, you are cherished, and you are not alone.

And The Oscar Goes To…

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There’s been a hashtag going around you might’ve seen called #OscarsSoWhite. This hashtag was made in response to the lack of diversity in this year’s batch of Oscar nominees. Directors such as Spike Lee and actors like Jada Pinkett Smith are calling for an Oscar Boycott.

While I agree that there are movies out there that may not have deserved the Oscars they were nominated for (Looking at you, Birdman), it’s not like movies with diverse leads have never been nominated before. Last year, Selma was nominated for Best Picture. The year before that, 12 Years a Slave won 3 Oscars.

Straight Outta Compton may not be nominated for Best Picture, but it’s still up for Best Original Screenplay, which is saying a lot because it’s competing against Bridge of Spies, Ex MachinaInside Out, and Spotlight, all of which are really good movies.

So it’s not like the Oscars have never considered films with diversity before.  So my first question is “Is this proof of an issue or projecting?”

We have seen evidence that diversity in media can work on its own merits. Biggest example being Hamilton, which is universally appealing, but doesn’t shove its messages of diversity and feminism down the audience’s throat. What makes Hamilton work is the characters, the music, the familiar tragic storyline, and the real message: Legacy depends on your actions and those you leave behind to tell your story. You can’t just go around complaining that people are being unfair and say “Screw you guys, I’ma going home.” I’m not completely sure if boycotts work, but last time I checked, the African-American acting community has their own awards going on.

Not to mention that there’s also this question: What about other ethnicities? America Ferrera and and Eva Longoria made a joke about how Latina actresses get mistaken for other Latina actresses. There are people out there making independent short films and diversity in television, so the constant laments about the lack of diversity in Hollywood aren’t always well-founded.

Hollywood (or at the very least the people of Twitter and Tumblr) can never be satisfied when it comes to representation. It’s crazy enough that a movie like The Danish Girl and Carol are even getting the attention that they’re getting, but according to social media, it’s not enough because the leads aren’t played by trangender/lesbian actors. Mad Max: Fury Road is actually nominated, whereas most of the time, action movies would probably get the snub or just get the token “Special Effects and Sound” nominations. Jennifer Lawrence is nominated for being the lead in a movie about a female entrepreneur and yet it’s not enough. I am mad that Charlize Theron isn’t nominated for Best Actress, though.

You know what I’m actually more angry about when it comes to the Oscars? The fact that Fifty Shades of Grey  is still getting attention through one of the songs from the movie getting a Best Original Song nomination. I’m also not a big fan of Chris Rock and I’m already cringing at the jokes that might come from him. I’m also mad that Star Wars: The Force Awakens got the token “Sound Editing/Mixing” and “Best Visual Effects” nominations. Highest grossing movie of the year and you’re just gonna give it those awards? At least give a nod to the actors who played Finn and Rey and Kylo Ren.

If you want to give voice to issues relating to diversity, there are bigger issues to deal with such as why is more attention being given to Donald Trump rather than the more sane presidential nominees? How can we balance out violence caused by the police and the retaliations that happen because of police killing innocent kids? What about abortion and the fact that most abortion clinics are in poor communities and that most babies who are aborted are black?

I’m not completely sure if I’m gonna watch the Oscars. I am rooting for a good number of movies to win. But given the bad taste in my mouth from Neil Patrick Harris’s hosting and the fact that the award show goes on forever, I might just find better uses for my time.