All posts by 21stCenturyCatholic

“Where the Dead Go to Die” — First Impressions

Having been bitten by the horror bug once again, tonight I found myself in the mood for a scary story, and looked up one I heard about 2 years ago: Where the Dead Go to Die (2012). A horror anthology about children who are taken to Hell by a demon dog.

Having heard that Where the Dead Go is one of the most graphic, horrifying anything ever…

…my curiosity was piqued.

Turns out, my curiously needn’t have bothered. Where the Dead Go is awful in ways it isn’t trying to be.

For starters: The demon dog’s voice is nails-on-a-chalkboard annoying. Watching it tempt a little boy, all I could think of is Kindergarten Cop (1990):

One thing that makes demons creepy is that they tell you what you want to hear in a way you want to hear it.

What father wants to kill his daughter?

But this?

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I’d rather staple my ears shut than listen to this he-bitch for more than 5 seconds.

Second: Where the Dead Go is an eyesore.

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A YouTube comment put it well: “This is like ReBoot on acid.”

But ReBoot — being the first computer animated TV series — has an excuse for its (by today’s standards) poor animation.

Where the Dead Go, having been made in 2012, has no excuse.

This is how far animation had progressed… by 2008:

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WALL-E

If the creator of Where the Dead Go didn’t care enough about his work to make it look the best it could, than why should I care at all?

Finally: Nothing means anything.

If what I’ve read is true, the “horrifying” events in Where the Dead Go are just there for the sake of being there; there’s no deeper meaning to anything that I’m seeing.

When I read that what I’m seeing is just there for the sake of being there, I feel like I’m being trolled.

To go back to Evil Dead (2013): One aspect of that film that I like is that aspects of the story are left up to the viewer’s interpretation. The film isn’t just blood and gore for the sake of blood and gore.

In conclusion:

“Worthless” is the first word that comes to mind when I think of Where the Dead Go.

I could be playing Doom right now. But I just had to talk about Where the Dead Go

Thankfully, that’s a mistake I don’t have to live with.

I’m off to “Rip and tear, until it is done.”

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Nudist Fiction: My Dilemma

I’ve realized that my “___-Word Story” series doesn’t mean anything. It’s the literary equivalent of a sugar rush: brief satisfaction followed by a feeling of What did I just do?

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To go into more detail:

One of the subjects I write about on this blog is nudity.

Specifically: Nudists. I write stories about people who go naked, and have written about the times that I myself have gone naked.

The reason why is: I find people who go naked fascinating.

The reason why is: “Wear clothes” is a near-universal rule in any family and any society. And yet, such people say “No.”

I don’t see nudists as rebels. But, such peoples’ choice to go without clothes goes against the grain. And I want to know what drives a person to make such a choice, and what they learn about themselves, others, and the world around them, as a result of being naked.

Only, I often find myself disappointed. I get the impression that a number of people only go naked in order to more easily pleasure themselves sexually.

That’s where I come back to me writing about nudity: I feel like I’m writing stories for a reason that is equally shallow.

For example: My most recent story:

The night I sleep naked, I am told, “You sleepwalk.”

Reading those words again, I think What does that even mean?

Nothing.

At least, not to me.

sigh

Looking back on all my writing about nudity over the years, “I Have Found It” is the one piece I can honestly say I am proud of.

Everything else just… bleh. It doesn’t feel right.

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I want to do right by people who choose to go naked.

It’s my duty as a Catholic to see the humanity in all people, regardless of what they are or aren’t wearing:

“‘Whatever you did to the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me.’”
~ Matthew 25:40

And, ultimately, I don’t see that happening when it comes to 99.9% of my writing on nudity.

Change is coming.

By the grace of God, it will be the change I need. Whatever that may be.

On a final note:

Thank you to the beautiful woman who made the photo used in this post possible.

What A Witch Taught Me About The Virgin Mary

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam’s descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: [It] is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin – an inclination to evil that is called “concupiscence.” Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ’s grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle. (Emphasis mine.)
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church, Section 405

As a Catholic, one aspect of my faith that I struggle with is the Blessed Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus.

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It’s not fair, I’ve thought more than once. If God can just create people free from Original Sin, like Mary, and thus spare them the possibility of ending up in a place like Hell, why doesn’t He do that for everyone?

I know God is love. I know God has a plan. But still: I look at all the horror in the world…

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…and think Can God do nothing?

I’ll struggle with these questions all my life.

But, lately, I’ve found something that makes the struggle more bearable: Witchcraft. Specifically: Kiki, from Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989).

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Kiki helps me to understand what it can mean for a person to be free from sin.

Having recently re-watched Kiki’s Delivery Service, there is only one instance I can remember where Kiki committed an act that could be called a “sin.” She disobeys a cop, running away from him upon being told to stay put after causing an accident. But the accident was just that — an accident. And after the cop dashed off to pursue a thief, there was no telling when he’d be back. Or if he’d even be back at all. She does avoid a police car she sees driving through the park. But, other than taking a page out of Johnny’s playbook…

…Kiki is a law-abiding citizen. As free from imperfection as Mary.

I often imagined Mary as emotionless, mindlessly going through one aspect of God’s plan to the next because there was nothing keeping her from doing otherwise. Mary was a puppet, and God was pulling her strings.

But, as a result of Kiki, I no longer think such a thing. I believe the absence of sin doesn’t mean the absence of one’s humanity (i.e., one’s emotions, feelings, and intellect). What it means is the perfection of one’s humanity; one’s humanity being directed toward that which will do the most good for all.

I think of my favorite scene in the film. Kiki goes to an old woman’s house in order to deliver a birthday present to her granddaughter. Only to find that, because of a broken oven, the potpie has not been baked and, thus, there is no delivery to make. Saddened that the delivery girl came all this way for nothing, Madame asks her maidservant to pay Kiki anyway. Not feeling that it is right to take money from a person she has done nothing for, Kiki insists on baking Madame’s gift in an older, long-neglected oven instead.

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It is her desire to help others, and her insistence on a job well done, that drive Kiki to go above and beyond the call of duty. “A desire to help others” and “An insistence on a job well done” being qualities that I believe anyone, regardless of their beliefs or absence of beliefs, would praise. Such qualities are examples of human nature at its best. In such a situation, who wouldn’t want to be Kiki?

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“Your mother must be proud.”

I believe Mary is the same way. She goes above and beyond the call of duty for the sake of the well-being of others.

Upon being told that God would impregnate her, Mary’s reaction was not…

…it was: “Let it be done to me according to your will.” (Luke 1:38)

To me, Mary always seemed alien and unapproachable. How could I even begin to have any kind of relationship with such a person? Every word I read about her, I felt like she was rubbing her perfection in my face. Scolding me for not being just like her. As a result, my feelings for Mary turned from revulsion, to jealously, to anger.

But no more. Through Kiki, I believe I can better see how Mary lives.

When I was little, God was there and wonderfully granted my dream.
On mornings when I wake up with kindly feelings, even though I’ve grown up, miracles happen!
Opening the curtain, tranquil sunlight filtering through the trees.
If it envelopes me in tenderness, surely everything reflected in my eyes will be a message.
When I was little, God was there and every day he delivered love.
Inside my heart, I had forgotten my precious box of good memories.
The time to open it is now.
An English translation of “If I’ve Been Enveloped In Tenderness”

Responding To Richard Dawkins: Part 2

The Closet Atheist‘s 31 favorite quotes from The God Delusion, and my first thoughts upon reading each them.

Part 2: 17 — 31

“Do people never open the book that they believe is the literal truth? Why don’t they notice these glaring contradictions?” p. 94

81 “Sacred Scripture is the speech of God as it is put down in writing under the breath of the Holy Spirit.”42

“And [Holy] Tradition transmits in its entirety the Word of God which has been entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit. It transmits it to the successors of the apostles so that, enlightened by the Spirit of truth, they may faithfully preserve, expound and spread it abroad by their preaching.”43

82 As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, “does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.”44
~ Catechism of the Catholic Church

All of this is to say that, as a Catholic: While I do believe that the Bible is Truth, it is not the only source of Truth. Like a male and a female, Scripture and tradition make no sense on their own but, together, make more sense. And the “contradictions” in Scripture, like the fact that no one is perfect, don’t take away from the beauty and truth that results when two become one…

Woman1

“It is an essential part of the scientific enterprise to admit ignorance, even to exult in ignorance as a challenge to future conquests.” p. 125

“One of the truly bad effects of religion is that it teaches us that it is a virtue to be satisfied with not understanding.” p. 126

I’ll do these two at the same time.

On the one hand, Richard Dawkins, you say that, when it comes to the study of nature, it is “essential” to admit ignorance, even exult in it — take it as a challenge.

But then you lament that, when it comes to one’s study of God, a person could ever be satisfied with not understanding something.

It sounds like you’re essentially saying “Ignorance for me but not for thee.”

Which makes you sound like a hypocrite.

And why would I listen to a hypocrite?

“. . . Design certainly does not work as an explanation for life, because design is ultimately not cumulative and it therefore raises bigger questions than it answers – it takes us straight back along the . . . ultimate regress.” p. 141

To look through a telescope or a microscope in the hope of one day declaring “There is no God” is like trying to disprove the existence of a woman by studying her newborn baby.

On another note: The Catholic Church’s take on life and where life comes from.

“Some educated individuals may have abandoned religion, but all were brought up in a religious culture from which they had to make a conscious decision to depart. The old Northern Ireland joke, ‘Yes, but are you a Protestant atheist or a Catholic atheist?’ is spiked with bitter truth.” p. 166

I agree.

“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one.” p. 167, George Bernard Shaw

I agree.

“A great deal of the opposition to the teaching of evolution has no connection with evolution itself, or with anything scientific, but is spurred on by moral outrage.” p. 211

I agree.

“If you agree that, in the absence of God, you would ‘commit robbery, rape, and murder’, you reveal yourself as an immoral person, ‘and we would be well advised to steer a wide course around you.’” p. 227 (quoted partially from Michael Shermer)

I agree.

“To be fair, much of the Bible is not systematically evil but just plain weird. . .” p. 237

To quote Bob Dylan: “Don’t criticize what you can’t understand.”

“Why should a divine being, with creation and eternity on his mind, care a fig for petty human malefactions? We humans give ourselves such airs, even aggrandize from our poky little ‘sins’ to the level of cosmic significance!” p. 238

Why should a divine being care about humanity?

You just said why: because he’s got creation and eternity on his mind.

And if a cosmic being does care about us, is it not logical for us to care about our “sins” that offend him?

“It is, when you think about it, remarkable that a religion should adopt an instrument of torture and execution as its sacred symbol, often worn around the neck.” p. 251

Here is something to supplement your thinking.

“The idea that baptizing an unknowing, uncomprehending child can change him from one religion to another at a stroke seems absurd – but it is surely not more absurd than labeling a tiny child as belonging to any religion in the first place.” p. 315

What about labeling that same child an atheist? Is that not “absurd” as well?

And if a child, through the use of their reason and as a result of their own research, one day says “I believe there is a god,” will you see them as “absurd”? Because, if you will — if, in your eyes, everyone who is not a non-believer is a fool — I fail to see this decency that you claim to have as an atheist since, to you, everyone who is not an atheist is a lesser human being; absurd, as opposed to not absurd.

“The faithful are encouraged to profess belief, whether they are convinced by it or not. […]” p. 352-53

Having attended church every weekend of my life (when I wasn’t sick or otherwise not able to make it) I can say that not once have I ever been encouraged to just say I believe. So I don’t know where such a claim is coming from.

On a related note:

“…do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”
~ Matthew 23:3

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven…”
~ Matthew 7:21

“I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it. p. 354 (Mark Twain)

I wouldn’t say I fear death, either.

It’s what might come after death that keeps me up at night.

“The atheist view is correspondingly life-affirming and life-enhancing, while at the same time never being tainted with self-delusion, wishful thinking, or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something.” p. 361

Isn’t it wishful thinking to say that atheism will never be “tainted with self-delusion… or the whingeing self-pity of those who feel that life owes them something”?

After all: History is full of examples of people thinking “___ will never happen.”

One example being:

Titanic

In Conclusion

“Baby’s First Atheism” are the words that come to kind when I think of The God Delusion. Take of that what you will.

There is more I could say about Richard Dawkins’ words, but this post was just me expressing my first impression of his views.

For now, my final words on Richard Dawkins are these:

Atheism strikes me as, for lack of better words, a terribly boring view of life.

To me, renouncing all belief in anything supernatural is the equivalent of choosing to watch paint dry all day, every day, for the rest of my days.

If I were to live in a world with absolutely nothing associated with anything supernatural — i.e., Richard Dawkins’ dream world — I would be denying myself pieces of art like this:

The Garden

Picking a flower from the garden
I know there is a world out there for me

Woman

These words are slightly different than words in “Arrietty’s Song” by Cecile Corbel (an instrumental version of which is below) which was the first thing that came mind when I saw the piece of art posted above:

Thank you to the beautiful little girl who made the piece of art used in this post possible.

Why I Won’t Be Finishing “Wild Child”

I won’t be finishing “Wild Child,” a short story I was writing about a mother and her child who live in nature, and what happens to them when they encounter civilization.

The reason why is: I realized I was writing for the wrong reason.

To explain:

3 years ago, I dropped out of university.

And this fall, I enrolled at a community college, in order to pick up where I had left off; in order to receive an education that would allow me to put bread on the table.

And in all that time, I feel like I’ve been running away.

I’ve been trying to escape from my struggles. Even if I know that, ultimately, my struggles will make me a better person.

And, I found my “escape” in fellow blogger sunshine lou.

Her writing about being naked in nature is what gave me the idea for “Wild Child.”

Her writing awakened a longing in me. A longing to be, in her words, “Naked and free.”

I didn’t want to just be free from clothes and out in nature — I wanted to be free from the struggles that were sapping my love for life, and get away from a mindset (“I’m a failure because I dropped out of college”) and an environment (college) that were causing me to hate myself.

And, I’ve realized: That’s no way to live.

What I mean when I say “That’s no way to live” is:

Through my writing, I shouldn’t try to express an experience (being a woman naked in nature) that is not my own because, ultimately, my words won’t be authentic.

I’ll never be Lou, and I shouldn’t try to be.

I need to learn to not hate the struggles that have made me the person I am today. I need to love myself for all that I am.

And that won’t happen if I keep on wishing I was someone else.