Friday Thoughts: Tolkien and War

Good morning! We made it to another weekend! Unless you work on the weekend then I wish you much strength and courage.

On my commute, I have been reading Lord of the Rings. I am happy to say that in six hours worth of riding the train, I have finished The Fellowship of the Ring.

It has been many years since I last read these three books and I am disappointed in myself for this. However, the long wait is over and I am much better for it. I once again walked through the Shire, saw the beauty of Elrond’s home, and felt the terror of the Nine Riders. In the recent news of attacks in England, disappearances of children from around the city, and the poor representation of “heroes” in the world, it is good to have some wholesome things to read.

I have noticed that in the movies, no one quite puts enough weight on the numbers killed. Regardless whether the hero slew them or the villain. In DC’s Man of Steel, an entire city was destroyed but no one mentioned it. Going further back, every single Transformer movie. No one notes it. More recently, in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2, Yondu is seen killing an entire crew of a ship and enjoying it.

And the audience laughed.

It was disturbing to hear people enjoying one man and a garbage panda kill hundreds of men. Without warning. Without mercy. Perhaps it was justice because they killed his entire crew. Perhaps it is because Yondu has a black soul*. But was it necessary? Was it needed?

In Tolkien’s story, either the characters note the number of dead. Or the narrator does. From the number of men killed in the defense of Gondor to the number of Urak-Hai slain for control of Helm’s Deep, you can see the cost of war. You can also see why the war was fought. Or why the hero had to fight.

I think that is something we are in danger of losing. That we forget just how horrible war is because of the gory movies we watch or how easy the “hero” takes to killing the enemy. Or why some battles must be fought or why some battles are not worth the fight.

But that is just me. Maybe I am a strange individual who believes in fighting but at the same time wishes to avoid it. Maybe I am strange for wanting to be like Faramir: a warrior and a scholar. But then again, these are my thoughts.

In light of this, I will leave you with this question:

If you fight all the time, are you able to know when you must fight?

*Disclaimer: when I use the word “black” I mean in relations to evil deeds.

Friday Thoughts: Becoming Great

Good morning! I hope your Friday will go well. This week, I have thought a lot about what makes a person “great” at something. What makes a basketball player talented or a gymnast a natural? What gives that person the “bend” for science or computer programming? Natural born gift? Or something that has to be worked on every day?

For me, it is both. Sometimes it is a natural bend. Most of the time it is practice and training that makes a skill natural for an individual.

As someone who thought that graphic design was out of my league, I find myself working as a designer. For a while, I knew what the answer was but I struggled with putting it into words. Then I came across a comic strip created by The Awkward Yeti (a fantastic artist and writer). Below is his comic:

Comic Strike from the Awkward Yeti
This comic was created by “The Awkward Yeti” All rights and usage belong to “The Awkward Yet”.
Please visit his website for more laughter:
http://theawkwardyeti.com/

As you can see, both “Heart” and “Gallbladder” started at the same point in time. A shapeless lump that looks like a yellow Ditto. But where Heart stared and wished that he was better, Gallbladder kept at it. He made some funny looking pieces and even found himself disappointed in the resulting work. But he kept practicing and researching by producing sculptures and looking things up.

The end result is Gallbladder has created a recognizable art piece.

 

And yes, some people are truly born with a natural gift. But that means nothing if one does not apply that skill every day. Refining it. Sharpening it.

It takes a desire to master the talent as well as investing hours of time. It takes determination to overcome obstacles and a willingness to try.

Whatever you want to do. Whatever your dream is. The only way to know if you can do it is to go for it.

P.S.: Special thanks to “The Awkward Yeti” for giving permission  to use his comic. Visit his website at http://theawkwardyeti.com/

Have a great weekend, folks!

Friday Thoughts: Memorial Day

Memorial Day has finally arrived! With it the thoughts of discounts abound. With Christmas coming up, this is the time for those big, expensive gifts. Even I will be taking advantage of the sales.

But that is not Memorial Day.

As someone once pointed out to me, this day is not a day of celebration but of remembrance.

Men and women have spent their lives serving and protecting us.

Whether they gave their life in a single moment or spent decades, they have made sacrifices. They have marched through miles of sand while their son or daughter celebrated their third birthday without them. They have faced ambushes, snipers, and roadside bombs in distant lands. Not knowing if they will see the next sunrise.

On the home front, who have husbands and wives who hear the news and their painful words. Hear the reports of conflicts where their spouse is deployed. Dreading to see a man in uniform knocking on their door.

Think of the daughter who will never have her daddy walk her down the aisle. Or the son who will never be able to introduce their own child to “grandpa”.

Think of the father who waited months to see his new born girl. Or the mother hoping to get leave so she can see her son walk at graduation.

So this weekend, get your shopping down ahead of time. Take advantage of the deals.

But on Memorial Day, stop and remember those who stand as a living wall, a living shield, to defend us.

Friday Thoughts: Moments

Good morning! It is Friday and we have made it through another week. Unless you are in a different time zone that results in a different day. Then I’ll just say good morning.

This past week, my coworker reminded me that I need to take each day one at a time. Not to plan out far into the future. My own devotions have stated that God has given me so much time to work with.

Despite whether you believe in God or you like to plan ahead, everyone has a limit to what they are able to handle. Some can handle more. Others are only able to handle less.

But here is the question that I encountered: is there a difference between “living in the moment” and “living for the moment”?

At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be any difference. However, I think there is a difference. A big one that can shape how one’s life unfolds.

Living in the Moment

I believe this means to focus on what is current. Whether that is living day by day or hour by hour, just work with what is immediate. It could mean working on a project that is due next week for work or school. Or it could mean focusing on your child’s dance recital instead of the tomorrow morning’s work meeting.

Instead of trying to figure out what is going to happen for Christmas or where I am going to be in five years, I focus on what I need to do now. I need to eat today. I need to check in on my friends. I also need to get a design done today.

Living in the Moment does not mean I am ignoring planning for the future. Just not taking on tomorrow’s worry.

I find living day by day helps reduce how much stress I have on my shoulders. This also helps me find the little things that make life enjoyable. A joke by a coworker or watching the sunrise as I commute. For me, these things is what makes life living.

Living for the Moment

It reminds me of the phrase “you only live once”. A phrase that implies just do whatever comes to mind because life is short and you only have one. This life plan strikes me as short term and short sighted. From my understanding, the idea is that you are looking for the thrill from one moment to the next. What gets you excited and that every day you are making it an adventure.

While that does sound fun and a joy, life doesn’t not unpack itself like that. Each day is full of responsibilities that need to be attended to. If you are always looking for just the fun, then you’ll forget to get your work done and life becomes difficult.

It also makes it hard to enjoy life.

If every day is an adventure, then you’ll need to find a bigger high every moment. Life has it dull moments and that’s okay.

Take Away

Enjoy your life and have your adventures. But not at the cost of your responsibilities or your sanity.

Friday Thoughts: Word Choice

In today’s world, there are hundreds of words we can use. Take the word “color”. We could use the word “color” or “tone”. Or “hue”, or “light”, or “frequency”. Throw in phrases and the world start getting complicated. Each phrase is similar to the others but carries a different meaning. Telling someone to f-off or versus telling them to leave. Makes for an interesting study.

However, in today’s world word choice has become extremely important. From directing people to websites or being interviewed a job, how you say things is just as important as what you are saying. Especially when it comes to taking political stances.

What comes immediately to my mind is “Undocumented Immigrant” versus “Illegal Aliens”.

What do those two labels mean?” One inspires thoughts of people trying to make their way through life. Chasing the American dream. The other label shows the people as being squatters moving across the border. Sneaking in and evading the law because they don’t want to stop. Or simply knowing that they will be denied visas.

To some, the meaning is the same. But I disagree. How you label something sets the stage of how people hear or react. Consider what you call offspring still being carried in the womb. A fetus? A collection of cells? Or an unborn child?

For good or for ill, word choice is very important.

Friday Thoughts: Life’s Achievements

When I was a wee lad of sixteen or so, I always assumed most people graduated from high school at 18, finish college in 4 years, and get married by the time they are 22 years old. Four years later and they are expecting their first kid.

As I wave goodbye at my mid-twenties, I have come to realize that these assumptions are wrong. Not everyone graduates high school at 18. Some wait decades, others have to earn their GED instead. There are dozens who are in their early thirties who are single, no kids, and still no game plan.

This realization made me think: where did this assumption come from in the first place? Who sat down and said “you must have graduated by this point and married by this other point. Or else you are a failure.”

I do not have the answer to this mysterious question. However, I do have some words of wisdom from a dear friend of mine: “You are on your own path. You cannot compare your journey to anyone else’s.”

In other words, your path is your path. You can use others to guide your way (or in my case, do a lot of praying) but you still have to walk it.

A Baggin’s Adventure

Although I am thankful to have a job but at the moment all I am doing is working and sleeping. This is mostly because of the two hours commute– one way.

However, the long commutes do offer me a chance to think. One of the things I thought about was life and its adventures. For some odd reason, Frodo and Bilbo Baggins showed up in my mind.

For those of you who do not know, the Baggins are Hobbits from Tolkien’s world of Middle-Earth. Which you should read.

Now Bilbo and Frodo had very different adventures.

Bilbo made the choice to take a risk and step way out of his comfort zone. He found great friends, made enemies, and learn much. Both about the greater world and himself. He returned home with a heavy heart but older. And yes, he suffered the loss of dear friends but they departed as they wished to. Good terms and for the greater good.

Frodo, by contrast, had the choice forced upon him. Although he agreed to take the Ring to Mordor (cue YouTube videos), the ring and circumstances push him towards that decision. Like Bilbo, Frodo made and lost friends along the way. However, their passings were useless. That even the victories of the good guys were costly. From Boromir’s death to the fall of the King of Rohan, the deaths were caused by the ring and those who chose to serve evil.

Even their endings were different.

Bilbo returned home and lived a long life filled with the peaceful celebrations that Hobbits celebrate. Frodo, on the other hand, were empty for the remainder of his life. This was proven by the fact that he was accorded a place in the Undying Lands. If you read the books, all of them, ring bearers were given this gift to become healed from carrying the weight of the One Ring. This means that Bilbo, Frodo, and Sam were all accorded a place in the Undying Lands.

The adventures of Bilbo and Frodo can be examples of the adventures we may have. We can choose to step out of the door and take a chance.

Go and find out more about life, make great friends, become famous, and get filthy, stinky rich off of Trolls.

Or one can have one like Frodo. From one painful situation to the next with no hope or reason. To realize if you even reach your goal, it means the end of you. To struggle through the darkness. To fight because the lives of so many others depend on you.

The funny thing is, you don’t which adventure you will have once you step out. I guess the only way you find out is at the end.

So here is to leaving the safety of the home and heading out of the door.