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Posts Tagged ‘identity’

I watched Moana for the first time yesterday. I’m kind of ambivalent about it, since I can think of some good and some bad messages, and as a 32-year-old, wasn’t all that captivated by the story (though I appreciated the quality of the animation).
Maybe because the setting is more tribal and not so Western, and maybe because of Disney’s motif of sort of refuting some of its earlier fairy tales, I was partially hopeful that this would be a story less about following your heart and more about courageously and sacrificially submitting to the leadership and community you were born to.  I was disappointed.

 

It wasn’t the demi-gods or coconut-demons or fire-monsters or reincarnated/ghost grandmas that most concerned me about this movie; it was that message of how to find out who you are meant to be: Disregard your parents and authority figures.  Be inspired by stories and legends.  Find some distant ancestors whose way of life is most appealing to you, and believe it’s an integral part of you.  Don’t prepare; just literally let yourself be thrown into something, and then pursue it with all the publicly rebellious determination you can muster.

 

One thing that complicates this for a Christian is that some of Moana’s discernment is based on the spiritual encounters she has.  There is no true God and Savior Jesus Christ in this movie, so other things stand in for the role He plays in directing our lives and gracing us to fulfill our “destinies”.  If the water-spirit that is so influential in Moana’s journey were actually the Creator God of the Bible, her story would be less concerning.  But it isn’t, and I believe that there are other spiritual forces in the real world, not only in fantasies, that stand-in for the place God ought to have in our lives.  And these beings are not good, not neutral; they are in evil opposition to the loving Lord of the universe.  What kind of message is it sending us and our kids to trust these kinds of spiritual experiences to direct us?

 

Moana did keep in mind and heart, always, how to serve and care for her people.  This is one of the better aspects of the “find your purpose” theme.  I was telling my brother that if they’d written the story of her father encouraging her to be different from him, while holding these same values of service to the tribe, I’d be way more excited about all of it.

 

Also a positive, in Moana, Disney has released another film that demonstrates the need for teamwork.  Moana and Maui each come to realize that they are more effective with each other’s help, and that the other does really need them in order to save their world.

 

I think I am actually most intrigued by the character of Maui, who wrestles with his own identity questions.  When we first meet him in person, we quickly recognize a dominant trait of arrogance, but later we learn that this is sort of a cover, a compensation for a deep insecurity.  The complex ways these issues affect his choices are fascinating; and over-all, I think they send a good message to audiences.

 

In the end, Moana does have a suitably communal argument for everyone having something to contribute, be it a peculiar chicken, a teenage girl, a demi-god with or without his hook, an experienced leader, or the village crazy lady – and the value of embracing what others have to offer.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Tonight I’m thinking about how I’m not sure what my life is accomplishing. But on the bright side, I just made bread without a recipe, and it seems to be working.  I just kind of scooped and sprinkled and dumped, with yeast and oats and whole wheat flour and a handful of bread flour and honey, chia and flax and butter and milk (no yogurt since the stuff I had didn’t smell quite so great).  It was a fun experiment.  Recently I heard someone saying they don’t like baking because you have to be too precise.  I tend to disagree.

How ought one to communicate that they’re desperate for affirmation – as in, one cannot, on one’s own, perceive how God is making good use of them?

And, having begun asking such questions, how does one communicate need for time, need for physical affection, need to be given things/provided for?

At what point does hunger classify as a need? Or just a desire? “I’d like a snack” vs. “this is getting unhealthy” vs. “if I don’t get food soon, I’ll probably die”? Because I can tell I’m hungry for those things that communicate love.  I feel the lack, see how I could be a stronger person if I had them.  But if I’m not in dire need, is it right to be so bold as to ask for other people to give me attention?  Is anyone obligated to give attention to my needs?  Is there any point where it would be right to be “demanding”?

I’ve also been wondering, how do people keep going, who don’t know God? How do they survive the loneliness? Is it possible to be intentionally more numb to it, by being less self-aware and more focused on, say, entertainment?

Or would it solve a lot of these problems if I was more others-aware? But then, can you really give, give, give when you feel starved?

I’ve been focusing on random things.  Is it worthwhile to know things like improvising bread without a recipe? The history of medieval Spain? The way that purple and blue and orange go together? How to teach cube roots?  The work of the Holy Spirit during the pre-Jesus days?  Maybe these things go together.  Maybe they’re good in themselves.  Maybe someday they’ll combine to usefulness for a different stage of my life.

I read another quote from Anne of Green Gables today, but I can’t get myself to agree with it: “I believe that the nicest and sweetest of days are not those which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls slipping off a string.”

While my bread was rising, and earlier in the day, I searched Pinterest making fanciful plans to visit Scotland – or less fanciful ones to do an afternoon trip to Ft. Collins.  I am feeling restless.  I want to be beautiful and in beauty and seeing beauty.  I want to go places I’ve never been, and really soak them in – not just drive through.  I want to see old things, but they might make me cry if they’re abandoned, and so many old things are.  Who abandons *castles*, after all?  If you ever don’t want your castle, give it to me; I’ll see that it’s inhabited!

What is my place?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

To

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There is something blissful about finishing a good book.  It makes me want to stand by an open upstairs window in spring, or find a well-cushioned corner of a cozy room, or to make cookies.  Many good books leave one wishing the story continued.  But a really great book finishes with a satisfying sense of closure and promise, as though the story did go on, exactly as you would wish it would, only I don’t need to know the details.  And then I am lonely, but not for another book; for people – and not to share thoughts or to retell the plot in a silly, useless way, but just to be unalone.

That Hideous Strength is a love story.  And it is a story of the beloved very much in danger.  CS Lewis writes of the lovers meeting difference – things other than self – and either fighting them, dominating them, hiding from them, or giving them a sort of worship.  That’s what the whole story is about, whether you’re talking about Mark or Jane or Ransom or Mother Dimble or Wither or Frost or Merlin or mankind or God.

The tale of the N.I.C.E. and Logres’ simple war against it describes what you get when you reject reality.  In reality, even a person’s own identity is rather different from how one perceives it.  He is meant not for what he wishes himself to be, but for what the world needs him to be.  There is humility and obedience and purpose and harmony set up against pride and selfishness and destruction and nonsense.  People who reject truth find that they are lied to.  And in the end, the lie is stripped bare, and each person makes the choice of loyalty, not really dependent on which side is winning at all.  Every man and woman decides whether to sink with the ship that stands for the elimination of mankind or to risk fighting on the side of the good guys even when the bad guys look terribly strong.

Is it such a little thing, to be a self-important College Fellow arranging the affairs of colleagues as one wishes?  What epics of the world stand or fall on whether a woman loves her husband?  Is weather good (delightful) no matter what its form?  How is it so fitting to keep a garden, to marry, and to beget children?

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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The politics of Star Wars are interesting.  The philosophy, though? 

I was watching Revenge of the Sith the other night, a tense and moving film filled with individuals in conflict.  Obviously Anakin is torn between what he wants and what he fears.  Padme loves Anakin but can’t believe who he’s become.  Obi Wan has to fight evil, though it is manifest in his pupil and friend.  The Jedi want to follow the Jedi-way, but evil is too powerful to be left alive that long. 

The prophecy, about the “chosen one”, is the one common theme in all of the movies.  Anakin is to restore balance to the force.  Balance is just the half-full way of describing this tension.  As Padme lies dying, she tells Obi Wan that there is good in Anakin.  Luke repeats this in Return of the Jedi, and ultimately, appealing to this shaft of goodness is what saves the galaxy. 

While I watched a few nights ago, Anakin Skywalker’s seduction by the Dark Side, I laid a finger on something that has always bothered me, a fundamental difference in philosophy between George Lucas and I.  For Anakin, there is no going back.  He never repents for what he has done, even at the end of Episode VI.  In Episode III, after disarming Master Wendu, leading to his death, Anakin’s whole being looks like he wishes he could repent.  “What have I done?” he cries out.  As though unable to control who he is or what circumstances limit him, the young Jedi hates who he is becoming yet boasts in it.  The wickedness in him is just as important, just as valid, as the good.  In the end of the story it is not a turning from his identity that causes the change, but the resurgence of a different part of his character. 

That is a hopeless, gnawing life.  The truth is, Anakin wasn’t good.  Neither was Darth Vader.  Goodness could only really come by acknowledging the wrong, and turning from it to something truly good outside himself.  Without that, there is no forgiveness, no redemption.  Without that, good versus evil is ultimately irrelevant.  Which matches the philosophy of the Jedi, who claim that “only the Sith [bad guys] deal in absolutes.” 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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No one is checking. 

People are careless. 

Take signatures:

With scan technology, forgery is fairly simple. 

But people don’t need scan technology. 

Banks aren’t checking signatures on checks. 

Those contracts you sign to pay things?  You can declare bankruptcy and back out. 

Marriage contract?  No fault divorce. 

Those credit cards that are supposed to be signed?  Who looks at the back, let alone checks ID cards? 

Income tax returns can now be efiled, and you esign them.  Or someone else claiming to be you does. 

 

A bank, which isn’t going to check for the validity of the signature anyway (as my bank informed me in a notice on my recent statement), requires that a check be endorsed by the payee.  A husband signs for his wife all the time.  So do her parents and teenage children.  If a transaction is ever challenged in court, who is to say what her signature is, and which is a fraud?  How different can a forgery be from the variety of family versions of her signature? 

Here is a scenario.  A large debit comes in on her monthly bank statement.  She calls the bank and says that she did not authorize that payment.  Do you have your credit card with you?  Yes.  Have you lost any checks?  I haven’t, but my husband has a checkbook, and I send my kids with checks sometimes for things like doctor’s copays.  Are you careful when you do business online?  Yeah.  I don’t give my password out or anything. 

So the bank isn’t really sure whether her identity has been stolen, or her bank account number.  Neither is she.  Does the bank just put the money back into her account and send the bill to insurance?  How would criminals get caught?  What if the woman is lying, and just wants a free hot tub or laptop or vacation?  

Maybe they call the business and look at the credit card receipt.  The signature is her name, and maybe it is a little different from standard, but no one’s signature is the same, and this woman’s tends to show more variation than most.  Maybe she’s on anti-depressants, and her signature is firmer early in the day.  Or she is tired when she shops in the middle of the night.  Maybe those electronic penpad signature machines at Walmart and grocery stores distort the signature a bit.  Or maybe she has her family sign for her all the time.  The whole thing is her word against theirs that she didn’t sign that receipt.  And is she really going to vouch for everyone who had access to her credit card, that they didn’t sign for her? 

For the sake of efficiency (if not for fraud), people are abdicating the power to create their own identification.  It is like standardizing the locks on houses to where anyone can buy a key to anyone’s house.  In the example of keys, we have private companies that create and issue unique access keys to homes.  A car company actually standardizes, and has a variety of keys and locks that they apply to their cars (my key opens one of my best friend’s cars made by the same company).  Personal identification is a growing private industry.  There are some identity protection companies, and companies that sell you a “key fob” which randomly generates passwords and sends that message to you and to your website or computer or other secured digital device in the information technology realm.  We have the iris scan and thumbprint locks that are some of the best options for security – but again, in a digital world, how hard could it be to hack the system?  In the old days people used signets or seals as identification, but those can be forged.  A signature was something recreated each time, not scientifically standardized, but theoretically an identifier solely in your possession.  As we move away from signatures, we give businesses more market to sell us identification.  Or worse, we give governments more incentive to enforce a government-issued identification.  When even your identity is controlled by the government, watch out! 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Who Am I?

Is it possible to answer the question, “Who am I?” on  a  personal level with out dealing with what you are not on a human level?  First you must know that you are not God.  If you are God there is no need to discover your identity.  You are as you do.  But if you are not God, you are humble enough to look around and be curious about your place and purpose.  Then you can look to God, as creator and transcendent to let you know who you are.  The other thing it is important to realize you are not is a beast, accident of cosmic chance.  If you are a beast, you are as you do, a slave to your impulses and with no purpose beyond obedience to instinct. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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Why am I writing this series?  On Saturday I went to a jewelry party (like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, PartyLite candles, etc.)  There are rules for how to wear your jewelry!  People are afraid to try something new or not their typical style.  Layers are very “in” right now.  But you can go with a classic look that never goes out of fashion.  My friend who was hosting the party disagreed with some of the fundamentals of wardrobe, and the jewelry saleslady assented, “If it looks good to you, wear it; it’s all about confidence.”  I know my friend is independent-minded.   

Style is a big industry.  People advertise their designer creativity with crazy lines of clothing in fashion shows, and somehow make plenty of money.  This happens even though I don’t see anyone but models wearing those things, and if they’re not wearing them, are they really buying them?   Why do people follow trends, anyway?  The popular girl wore that, so I will too?  We really think the movie star’s life is so wonderful that we want to do everything like them, including clothes and hair? 

Because something is popular, we consider it beautiful?  Or just because it is new and different, edgy, we invest money in it?  I can understand doing that with a car (whose innovations usually look good and have functional improvements in performance).   Apparently advertising agencies run the world.  They created the concept of teenager, which now governs economics, education, family, marriage, morality, justice…  The industry tells us how to spend our money by manipulating emotional, need-to-fit-in people into feeling like they need their products.   

Do we have a choice?  Does God have choices?  What is the meaning of not choosing something?  Is value subjective or objective?  Is value placed on a thing by a chooser, or is it inherent?   The capitalist system of economics is based on the notion that consumers will act on their sense of value.  For example, I value a necklace at the jewelry party, but I value other uses of my money more. 

A wrench is thrown in the theory of capitalism when I say that even though I value something more than my fluid cash, I won’t buy the item because of moral/spiritual convictions.  I may believe that God doesn’t want me to spend money I don’t have, for example.  I believe that $15,000 would be a great deal for a house.  But I don’t have 15 grand, so I’m not acting on my sense of value.  Even if I need a house, or think it is a great investment, I won’t buy.   

God is also teaching me about embracing sacrifice, intentionally going without what I want.  This is part of the concept behind fasting.  Fasting is a huge exercise of will over want.   If I was being sincere, I would tell you how I really feel about fasting.  My convictions tell me that the way I feel is sometimes wrong.  So I will exercise my will in acting upon what I ought to be in order that I may become that ideal in sincerity.   

Finally, I’ve been reflecting on strong-willed people, especially children who try their parents.  Some strong-willed rebels are breaking my heart.  Other strong-willed children are too young to have made life-altering mistakes.  I listen to their parents talk about them, and I wonder if I could help them to understand the puzzles who are their children.  Would it benefit them to know?   Dr. Dobson wrote a book.  I haven’t read it.  He doesn’t seem to be strong-willed to me.  I think President Bush is.  President Reagan was. 

Heroes are strong-willed, fictional or historical.  Villains tend to be that, as well.  In Beauty and the Beast, both main characters are strong-willed.  Think of their argument after she runs away.  But, as the song says, somebody bends unexpectedly.  Notice it doesn’t say somebody was bent.  They bend.  The tense is intransitive.   

I can relate.  This could be titled, “Confessions of a Strong-willed Christian.”  In writing this series, I discovered a lot about myself, and happily connected dots.  I have a friend who thinks that it is inconsistent with the rest of my personality that I like to watch football.  My position is that it must be linked to my fundamental identity.  This has been an exercise in associating who I am with that identity.  But no, I still can’t explain why I like football. 

Still to come:

What is a Strong-Willed Person? 

How Can you Tell if Someone is Strong-Willed? 

What should Parents of Strong-Willed Children Do?  

Is there Hope?  The Good Side of Strong Will.  To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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