Christianity and Tabletops

I usually start these articles with “Christianity vs -” but I think the break from the norm makes it more appropriate.

I’m ridiculously into Critical Role, about two years too late. I’m only on ep 57? I think? and they’re already on their way to another …. arc? show? come January. I love the characters, They’re relatable on most levels, and I love the drama-rama in everything. Matt Mercer is an excellent DM, a wonderful storyteller. And, honestly, I’m trying to follow his example for my own sessions between me and my players.

Beside the point here. But really it’s awesome, and if you haven’t already, check it out.

Okay, but now, I’m honestly getting to why I’m doing this up.

A bit of spoilers ahead, so you have been warned.

 

Like significant to the plot spoilers

 

Not inside joke spoilers, which I think are miffy, but okay.

 

Seriously, real spoilers.

 

Which gets me thinking, since it’s really important to this article.But seriously….

 

I shall forge on, because as I said, it’s important to the article.

 

But it is plot heavy stuff. Just saying.

 

  

The interaction between Pike and her patroness goddess Sarenrae and Vax’ildan and his patroness goddess (waaaaay down the line) the Raven Queen is so…. familiar. I’m in Pike’s shoes spiritually speaking. My family was converted to Christianity before my father was born, and so it’s easy for me to take for granted everything that I’ve experienced spiritually – the blessings both known and unknown, life, power, authority, comfort, ahhh, what else? Basically, everything that has allowed me to be who and what I am, even up to the doubts and just – pissy – moods that sometimes go against it. And Pike does that sometimes. Her ancestors experienced the pardon and transformation and blessings and warmth of Sarenrae, as has Pike. Yet, sometimes, it feels like she’s taking her patron for granted, as a means of power to draw from as needed. Like a bank.  And I know I do that as well. And it’s not the best way to go about it. But we’re both born into our religions; it’s an easy trap, really. I mean she knows Sarenrae will be there. I know God will definitely be there. Not necessarily in a way I want or expect, but I know I can count on Him.

And then there’s Vax and his interaction with the Raven Queen. She drew him to her, even allowing him to bring his sister back from Death, once he pledged himself to her. And he did. After much fighting against her. After much doubt. After finally realizing that there isn’t anything to fear with her. He still fears. But, I think he understands there will be comfort in her for him. So far, she has come through for him, saving him as necessary and coming when he calls. And even in this last episode I watched his prayer as a (multiclassed level 1) paladin was as simple as it hurts, please help (adlibbing, but yeah).

That prayer alone. It wasn’t big or extravagant. It didn’t start with Oh great Raven Queen goddess of Death we celebrate you – no. It was a sincere plea. And he was able to heal himself through her until the problem could be properly sorted. He received comfort and peace when needed. And wow. Prayer is important to me, so imagine me seeing elements that I…. am familiar with, or have been taught coming into play in someone else’s gameplay.

(Wow, Liam, your little bit of roleplay months ago is actually having real word significance on a  fan. There is no way I can not appreciate you. Or your character. Seriously, I’d already loved Vax and his love for Vex and now…. thank you? I guess? for this little spiritual reminder. Or conviction I think may be the word)

There is a lot to say in  the things that we come across. It’s easy to see why blogs like Between the Tangles exists. Even in fandoms, we see things that hail back to our Christianity. Granted, if I looked more into the bible, the way I look into…. just about any fandom I’m in, i’d be a proper theologian.(maybe. not really)

It’s easy for me to hear a preacher say “try to be a Mary, not a Martha” but even though I know a bit about them, I mean, I’ll get there with them, but for now, I think I’ll look to Pike and Vax. I  want to be like Vax. I want to fully give myself to God. Not necessarily without doubt or fear. But with full acceptance. And I thought I did, I really did think so. But there is still a little Pike in me. I still call when I need help. Primarily. Almost always only when I need help or need something. I can’t blame it on being born into it so I can take God for granted, while someone who experienced God firsthand while they were out in the world, just doing whatever  they did before could do magnificent things for God as new (Gen 1) Christians.

Maybe next time I’m a PC in D&D, I’ll be a cleric.

But that’ll open up a whole nother can o’ worms.

 

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Koe no Katachi

I want to say first off, I am not Deaf. I know very little about Deaf culture or the struggles that the community, the Deaf themselves, or even their families, would face, when integrating into the hearing world. The opinions here are my own, and based on a limited knowledge base, where Deaf culture and  Deaf life is expressed. If I am wrong, I’ll take it, along with any corrections and new bits of information that would help develop better …. well informed … (vocabulary…) opinions.

Koe no Katachi – The shape of voice – a story about a boy who’s continually guilty about having bullied a Deaf classmate when they were in elementary school, and feels that the having no friends thing that came up after the class basically threw him to the wolves after her mother called the school to address the situation when her eighth pair of hearing aids in a month or so gets damaged, was deserved.

But no, wait! I swear it’s better than I make it sound.

Seriously, please you need to watch this if you already haven’t.

The high points for me in watching this are well, not numerous, but there are a few. One being that for the many years I’ve watched  anime, there were few that actually showed protagonists with disabilities as ruling or functioning or even just living and exceeding expectations. In fact I think the same is true outside of anime.

Well, there was FMA. And Switched at Birth. And Toph was pretty badass as a bender. and as a character in general.  But I think for every one show I’ve watched, there are probably like 30 that didn’t explore a character as having a disability.

Honestly, it was a little bit….. refreshing?  I guess? that Nishimiya was capable, but we see her struggling to communicate with her classmates. Which leads to another thing I liked about it. Parents sometimes opt for mainstream education for their children, which is what happened in the movie. And also, how her classmates had trouble communicating  with her.  Which led to conflict, which leads to movie plot, which-

Okay, but here’s the thing, mainstreaming deaf children would have some difficulties. Which weren’t addressed effectively in the school. There was a little attempt for integrating Japanese Sign Language into the classroom, with a session before classes begun, to get the students to understand their fellow classmate a little better. And Nishimiya does get a chance to sign and communicate with her classmates in her own language, something that the other students – and I – take for granted. Ishida, himself, takes JSL classes later on, and we do get to see him sign with Nishimiya later when they reconnect. That tickled me, being a language nerd, because outside of photographs of one JSL sign, -baseball- I dunno much about it. So it was nice to see. We don’t really see much classroom action, but when we do, I have to admit, the lack of an interpreter was obvious. When it was Nishimiya’s turn to read, other students had to prompt her.  Why not have an interpreter for her tho? Expense?

Also kids are meaaaaannn. Most rejected any chance to better understand the new Deaf girl or learn from her. Poor girl had 8 pairs of hearing aids damaged in one form or another. And multiple kids were responsible for bullying her or allowing her bullies to continue, then throw one of their own under the bus. wow kids. Y’all are cold.

I liked, too, how Nishimiya’s family stepped up for her. Her grandmother learned sign language, her mother basically bitchslapped anyone who bullied her daughter for her deafness. But within the family unit, her deafness was just another part of life for them. Her younger sister looked out for her, but it wasn’t just because of her deafness. She looked out for her, as any sister would for her siblings – who do you like? how did they react? why confess nowwwwwww????!!!! Overall, her deafness didn’t hamper how she interacted with them, whether verbally, through text, or through signing. And I loved how  the  writers almost made it a point to show not only how difficult it can be for the deaf, in a world that doesn’t cater for lack, but also, how normal life is for Nishimiya. She’s a teen dealing with teen troubles. She’s as normal as anyone else.

I could probably continue to list things that I liked about it, where learning about Deaf culture and Deaf life is concerned, but I think I’ve trampled through enough spoiler territory for one day.

At the end of the day though, it falls pretty snugly into Slice-of-life boy-likes-girl/girl-likes-boy territory. If you’re like me and a closet romantic, you’d like it. You get lots of that, which seems to be a staple for a good half of the Slice-of-life anime I’ve watched. But what makes it different is the expression of a very real divide that really needs to be addressed.

It did as the title promised, and presented the need of voice, and to be heard and understood. For both Nishimiya and Ishida.  Nishimiya got communication with the hearing.  Ishida learned to properly express himself to others. They’re the perfect parallels,  from their being bullied and targeted to their obvious struggles with their lives, and their relationships with  their families. They are the same, despite their differences. The movie didn’t only focus on that by making Nishimiya’s Deafness the key plot. Instead, it incorporated it, and mixed it in effectively. Nishimiya was a part of a whole in their group of friends. She was equally affected by the past and present as everyone was.

Basically I love this movie. I endorse it.

Go watch it. It’s worth it.

 

Harry Potter and the new Generation

That title alone got your interest, didn’t it? Well, if it dinnae, then do I have the clickbait for you! Well, a third, if that sentence didn’t do it. As a Christian, I’m gonna let my kids read Harry Potter. I’ll probably have to get an entirely new edition though. Mine are falling apart.

It’s a part of an ongoing list of movies, tv shows and books that I’m compiling, from  my life, from 7-27, that inspired me, that I loved, and that had subtle impacts, and, in the case of Harry Potter,  Major impact on me.

Of course, I’ll be bring it back to God, to the bible and the Church. But I wanna let them see the world as depicted in these forms of media, and just how the world seems to work and evolve. I want my kids to do some critical thinking, to understand why and how God applies, and just who God even is to them. And how we should treat each other and ourselves. I want them to develop strong identities and be comfortable in who they are and who they are in Christ.

It seems odd, I guess, to want to show God to children with some decidedly unchristian pieces of work (I’m also Including San Manuel Bueno, Martir  and Laberinto   by Borges… or any existentialist piece, because I’m that insane),  but I really think these pieces helped me seek out God some more. I know how crazy it sounds, but I also know that without a search for something more, without wanting to see further than what I saw, without wanting to understand something greater, I couldn’t have decided to be where I am, and to get where I’m going.

So yeah, I know that the witchcraft in Harry Potter and the darker themes in it would put off most Christian parents, and I understand why. Witchcraft is a very real thing. It’s dangerous, and it can open you up to so much that you may not understand. And I will explain that, including my own desire as child and teen to want to explore that myself. But you can’t deny that the relationships developed and explored in the series can only be beneficial to a developing child. They’ll see examples of good and bad relationships, parents who do what is hard because of what was right. How harmful ideas are perpetuated, and how they are erased. How people treat others. They’ll develop their own ideals and ideas, based on what they’ve explored and seen and experienced. And I want them exposed to these and others. I want them to see these through their own eyes, as taught by a mother who experienced life in and out of the church as well.

Les Miserables -Javert

I haven’t posted anything in a while. At least not like this. I’m not entirely sure where or how this will be going, but I do know, I want it to be substantial.

Okay, yeah, Les Mis: The Movie came out like….. was it 2012? I didn’t get to see in on the bigscreen like I wanted, and I def wasn’t gonna stream it because tv shows to catch up on. Actually, no that’s a lie because I’ve streamed enough movies during that 4? year period. Haven’t I?

Beside the point.

What is my point?

Javert. My favourite character among a cast of endearing characters. As much as I’ve youtube’d enough Les mis performances and anniversary specials and movie clips, none has really stood out to me like Javert.

This is a man who knows right from wrong and is willing to uphold the pillars of the law to make sure the right thing is always done.

And yet, he’s faced with Jean Valjean, a man who committed a crime of necessity,  and is also a good man, a man who’s done right by a woman he fired, by ensuring her child’s provision and safety.  A man who saved another from under a cart. A man who’s done right by his adopted daughter by saving the boy she loved. A man who’s done right, by promising to give himself up to the law, to ensure that the boy he saved is given the proper medical care, after removing him from the barricades. A man who – here’s the kicker – released from custody, the very man who was after him for years. 

It’s not like Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean  who knew his duty, but who adapted his strategy when facing Captain Jack Sparrow, because this man was branded and punished for being a pirate, despite saving the lives of 100 people from slavers – thus making said pirate the worst pirate. Jack did wrong, but he was still a good person at heart. So,Chaotic Good.

Where am I going with this? Well, Norrington seemed to understand the multifaceted character of people, and adjusted to suit. Javert on the other hand, had little understanding. It’s his fatal flaw. As God-fearing and law abiding as he is, his two dimensional view of good and evil tore at him, and tortured him when faced with Valjean. His love of God and his love of law and order in society – that’s not wrong. It was why I like him. And it broke my heart to see him throw himself to his death. 

But here’s the thing

Javert has been described as a legalist, in that his “moral foundation … is built strictly on legalism”

It’s true enough that Javert did pray, and swear to God (by the stars), and have enough biblical knowledge to have a pretty emotional song (I quite like it). But I wonder. Javert is legalist. And the musical turned movie summarized his character but the basic structure is the same as in the novel. So, across the board, this is him. He’s legalist –

So devoted is he to this choice that, Hugo writes, “[h]e would have arrested his own father if he escaped from prison and turned in his own mother for breaking parole. And he would have done it with that sort of interior satisfaction that springs from virtue.”

So,  I have to wonder, or conclude, or assume, that the God of the church in ~1877 may not be said to be Javert’s god. It was the law. It was his two dimensional view of right and wrong. His devotion to it dragged him around France persistently after a man who dodged him for ~10 years. It seemed right to do so. Prisoner 24601 Jean Valjean refused to go for Parole . This man who escaped the law and the punishment that Justice claimed he deserved, needed to be apprehended. At any cost.

When faced with the idea that everything he knew and had accepted before was wrong, Javert couldn’t handle it. How could God allow this? How could Javert, who  was righteous, and good, and dutiful, and law abiding, not be able to bring this chaotic, turbulent man to justice? And why is God showing Valjean as a good man, he did wrong, stealing from honest, hardworking people who put in the effort to earn a livelihood? Was it God? Or was it the devil in disguise sent to torture him?

AND one heartwrenching, stressful song later, He’s there, floating in the Seine.

I’m talking about Javert, and what I think about him. I like his tunnel-visioned need to see that justice was served to the people who needed it, however they deserved it. I like that he was dutiful to his people and his country. I like his intentions.

I like his name.

But I like him too, mainly because he’s very relatable to people like me, who try to do good. Who try to live the way God commanded. Who live closely to a set of morals, not only because it’s right, but also, because, it just helps society. It provides a sense of order, preventing chaos and trouble. It’s not perfect, but it helps.

But his flaws make him my favourite. This is a man, who unknowingly created a god out of his sense of duty to the laws of France. What the law said was right. Whatever the law deemed necessary for punishment for whatever crime needed to be exacted. It caused him to act the way he did, because the people deserved more than being taken advantage of by people who he saw as unwilling to make the effort to provide for themselves.

(I’m aware that these statements can be said by people about Christianity)

Aren’t we guilty of that though? We try to do the best we can, to be the Christians we’re supposed to be (ugh, Thenardiers echoed here), but we may unknowingly create gods from something else, even as we claim to want to serve God. I’m not innocent here, surely.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now. We can’t hate on Javert, it’s really pointless. He was a broken man, left with nothing but despair. It broke my heart to see him jump though. I mean I know it was coming, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat for months and months. It was only so because, God.

I am not strong. I am weak. I actually am, it’s a running joke with my brother. But spiritually, I just  can’t some days. I won’t. Despair is a running theme, and self-hatred, among other self-harming things.

But I can’t bring myself to physically harm myself. Not- no. Never. I feel that despair, but I feel peace riding underneath, reminding me of something in a situation to overcome. I’m reminded of something, anything, that one thing that I need to be thankful for. And, God, I’m so grateful in those times.

And Javert didn’t have that.

 

 

 

 

 

New Year’s resolution update: February

Admittedly,  I haven’t been keeping up with them, as much as I had been for January. Still there was progress. I have that booklet for February down. Including a ticket stub for Deadpool – a family affair, and a program from a free concert that me and a friend went to just before her birthday. Totally livesnapped the event to another one, who lives abroad now.

I’m not finished with a new book yet, but I am in the middle of Songs of the Dying Earth,  for a book I abandoned. I’m also using the Fullmetal Alchemist manga for a book I read read at least once. It’s a manga. I’ll use the completed thing as a whole book. Plus manga. io^.^ I’ve already teased with Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man  for a book that I should have done in school.

I’m aware that trying to complete three books at once is risky business, since possibility of me abandoning one is high. I’m using that as a way to combat abandonment though. SotDE is pretty captivating, but I think it’s a bit dense. FMA is familiar and that alone draws you in, but sometimes, you’ll need something else. I have hopes for Invisible Man though. Puts me into the pattern I started in January.

I’m falling behind in personal Bible Study, and I think that could be a major reason for a sense of drifting, falling back into old habits, laziness, a drop in so much right now.

I think I’m wary of doing it to become a routine, and lose the sense of why I’m doing this in the first place. On the other hand, I feel like having that done would add – and did add – a certain discipline that I needed. I felt more active and satisfied in January, and even last year when I  regularly did it anyway. Since I fell away from Bible Study, or felt it harder to do,  I’m basically  lost for lack of a better word. Same with my prayer journal, to be honest.

I could blame others for it, but I know this is all on me.

 

New year’s resolutions update – January

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This year, I have a few creativity based challenges. Reading, which is something I don’t do. I’ve adopted a DIY habit, which I think would be fine by me, I like trying my hand at different things that I would have looked at longingly at a distance. Journaling – prayer journaling, continuing bible study – which makes it easier to see and understand what I’m reading. Then there’s this daily positivity resolution, which I intend to try to eliminate the bad from the good. I accept that bad happens, but I don’t want it to override the good that happens. Which works for me at least. There were bad things, but as simple or trivial as the good was, I have a minimal effort booklet of the good things that happened in January. And February looks promising so far.

Summed up so far, we entered the new year with the same number of family members and animals as we expected to enter the new year. I’ve been social, and productive, and even attempted grownup errands and tasks. And succeeded. Trivial, yes, but it matters. There was growth in different areas so far. There have been spiritually encouraging events too, which makes me put more trust in God, that makes me want to further develop and strengthen my relationship with Him.

My challenges prove to be just that, but it wouldn’t be too much fun if they weren’t difficult, would it? But I’m sticking with them so far. ( btw -for a book I’ve abandoned, I’m doing Songs of the Dying Earth. Short stories that are basically fanfiction for Jack Vance. So what could be better, right? Hopefully GRR Martin doesn’t kill too many people  off.

I’ve made contact with family members that sadly we’d lost contact with over many years, but it was nice to talk to them again.

And I’ve found the way to cut my hair that keeps it manageable, and even presentable. I’ve talked myself out of streaking my hair pink, blue, and purple, because ultimately, I’m not that kind of person, and I’d’ve regretted it almost immediately. So there was change, but enough of it to make me less difficult to deal with – I have hopes for the other 11 months of the year, I’ll be a got-dang treasure at the end of 2016.

 

RE: 2016 Reading Challenge

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It’s only the 16th day of the first month, but I’m already three books in. I’m not rushing myself. I’m getting the easy choices done first, that way I’ll have more time to muddle my way through the tougher ones.

I’ve read The Great Gatsby, which I was meaning to read for quite some time. And I’m glad I’ve finally gotten it out of the way. I could safely say that I could lump it with the likes of A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye. It’s not exactly a coming of age story, as both of the previously mentioned books are, but in terms of the narration style, the introspection of the narrator, the familiarity of the narrator to the person he’s telling the story to – we, the  readers – whether he’s aware of it or not (as in A Separate Peace  where he’s returned to his school and is running through the story of his past to himself more than us.  We learn of the charisma of Jay Gatsby, and the awe, then awe-filled pity for the man who was a victim of another punting the blame and consequence of his (the latter’s) own deception    in adultery.

It felt more to me like Catcher in the Rye, almost as if Holden Caulfield had grown up a bit; he’s still in possession of his teen-aged cynical nature, but was tempered by maturity to question and observe before voicing his opinions of others around him. But like Gene Forrester, he’s still a bit player in his own life, with his experiences dependent on the influence and insistence of  another.

In the end, I think I waited too long to be influenced by it. It would have been better to read it on the coattails of A Separate Peace and The Catcher in the Rye, where it would done more in terms of influence. But I could still appreciate it.

Then 1984, that great Orwellian classic. It’s my choice for books published before I was born, Like most distopian settings, I  was drawn to the raw nature of the characters, their defiance, their hope for something more, their depression, their despondency, and cried at their frustration and eventual acceptance. Winston was someone I hoped would be free from the hold of Big Brother. Still, in the end… In these kinds of societies, is there really any way out? The war continues, when civilization picks about up the cycle continues, run away and the troubles will get you. Skynet never dies.

Maybe I’m more Julia. Accepting of and adapting to what happens. Double think. Accept and act, while you reject and rebel. Why fight to destroy it when you could safely rebel from the inside? What Brother doesn’t know won’t hurt you.

Of course, what he allows will.

In terms of the survival in this novel, I know that I would never. The giddy, gleeful talk of the reduction of language and the destruction of the past through language would give me away as a thought criminal. Freedom of speech was already absent. Stealing language from the people and dedicating your life to destroy it I believe is a crime onto itself.

I know why the Caged Bird sings. A book that was once banned. A work of  non-fiction, and a look into the life of a woman who influenced many aspects of life in the 20th century. I’ve read books like this in the past. Merle Hodge’s Crick crack, monkey was a key text in literature in form 5. And it was nice to learn how my country was before 1962. How it affected the wider society. How it affected the individual. What were the influences that shaped Trinidad’s culture (Tobago was never explored as far as the book allowed).

I admit that the life of Maya Angelou was nothing like I imagined it. Neither would I expect Her chosen style of writing. Far from the rhythmic meter of the poetic, it was blatant but not flat; soft, full of the past and the pain.

And out of the three, it was the most captivating.

How could the thought rebellion and hope amidst the frustration of the mere members of a Party they had no recollection wanting to join, past a need for survival in 1984 compare to the real life of a woman who lived through the distopia of America in her own childhood? How could the parties and debauchery of Gatsby  overcome a woman who witnessed scandal before she was 16?