New Years’ Resolutions at Catholic Match

My latest Catholic Match post is all about New Years’ Resolutions (and is largely written to myself):

One way or another, we are afraid to change, afraid to set aside what we’ve carried for so long, even though it’s a burden to us. We may genuinely want to make the change, or at least, we may intellectually acknowledge that the change would be good for us, and on a certain level believe we would be happier afterward. But still we are afraid to go through with the procedure.

Part of this is simply the fear of failure: we worry that we won’t have the courage or the ability to see it through.

We’re worried that if we reach for the big dream or the big goal, we will fall on our faces. If we ask the cute girl out, she may laugh at us. If we try to get into shape, we may find the work too hard. If we try to change careers, we may fail.

But we’re not just afraid of failure: we may be equally afraid of success.

See, the thing about success is that it always carries its own set of problems, pressures, and responsibilities. If we get into shape, we then have to maintain it by constant diet and exercise. If we start dating the cute girl, we then have to work at the relationship with all the hardships and sacrifices that entails.

Read the rest

Chasing Nobility

One way or another, I’ve been feeling pressured to get on with my life. That, of course, is a good thing, since I really ought to be getting on with my life. For one reason or another, though, I haven’t made much progress.

So, partly to spur myself on in this direction and partly just because the subject interests me, I’ve started a new blog dedicated entirely to the purpose of trying to live well and make the most of my life. It’s called Chasing Nobility, and it’s going to be a kind of journal of my efforts to develop in virtue and get my life back on track, as well as a description of my own discoveries and ideas on the subject.

I’m keeping this blog open, of course, as an outlet for more general writing and so on. Chasing Nobility is specifically for my thoughts and experiences with trying to live well and grow in virtue.

Take a look and see what you think.

Talking About Depression on Catholic Match

For those who don’t know, I suffer from mild-to-moderate depression, among other things. About a month or so ago it got really bad, and I ended up channelling that experience into the following post, which just went up on CM.

Depression isn’t sadness or feeling down. It’s pain. Raw, emotional pain, like there’s a wound inside you that just won’t heal. And you know it’s never going to heal; it’s just going to keep on throbbing and festering for as long as you live.

Except, it’s worse than that, because along with the pain is a sense of isolation; the sense that you are cut off from the rest of humanity, not for any one cause or defect, but simply because that’s who you are. It’s the sense that you are and always will be totally alone, no matter how many people are around you.

A good description of depression I found online was that, “It’s like drowning, but you can see everyone around you breathing.”

Now, my depression is relatively mild. I generally can manage it enough to get through life, and I’ve never had suicidal thoughts. A lot of people have it far worse. That said, I have found a few strategies to be useful in managing my own depression. And though I’m not an expert in the subject by any stretch, I understand that many other people with far worse conditions have also found them to be helpful.

Read the whole thing here

Saturday Sundry

  • Publishing of my new book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney is planned for sometime next week. I originally planned to publish it this week, but needed more time for editing and such.
  • I’ve had a notion that I’ve been trying to make into a suitable essay: this increasing insanity we see in public discourse is partly a manifestation of the style of thinking that we’ve been taught in our school system. You see, our schools, by and large, don’t teach us to actually think or reason logically. Instead, we’re told (in essence), “this is the right answer. This is the wrong answer. Good people pick the right answer, bad people pick the wrong one.” Tell me that the vast majority of issues presented to the public aren’t presented in this kind of ‘right-answer-wrong-answer” pattern: Global Warming, same-sex marriage, ‘Transgender’ rights, racism, ‘Islamophobia,’ and on and on.
  • Planning to do the videos about every two weeks. Hopefully the next one will go a little easier, since Land Before Time was a lot of work. And I’ve discovered that years as a bitter recluse have left my voice a little…off. Maybe it’s just me, but recording’s kinda difficult, and I think I sound strange. Anyway, I’ll announce what the next film to be reviewed will be early this week.
  • I finished reading The Count of Monte Cristo this week. It was about mid-way through that I realized “Wait a second: this a book where the hero is a Bond villain!” Think about it; he’s got his secret island lair, unfathomable riches, a beautiful mistress/henchwoman, exotic henchmen, untraceable poisons, and he’s an urbane, sophisticated man enacting an elaborate scheme of vengeance. Absolute Bond villain!
  • And a little beauty to finish up:
Giotto_Polittico-Baroncelli_Firenze-Santa-Croce

-Polittico Baroncelli, by Giotto

Friday Flotsam

 

  1. Been hard at work on the Project, so this week’s Flotsam is going be all about updating on that.
  2. The plan, at the moment, is that the video series Noble Snake Reviews will launch a week from today (that will be Friday, August 11). I’ll announce the film to be reviewed beforehand, but suffice to say, it’s one I have a special bond with.
  3. The idea for the videos is to have a semi-animated serpentine avatar to serve as my ‘face,’ while I narrate my thoughts, with footage from the film projected into a theater screen behind him. So, there will be a visual component to the reviews as well as a vocal one, allowing me to incorporate some visual humor. Keeping with the ‘Noble’ part of the title, there will be no swearing or crude language, though I’m trying to include a lot of deadpan humor. Here’s a preview of what it’ll look like: Screen Shot 2017-08-04 at 8.45.04 PM.png
  4. Meanwhile, I’m tentatively planning to launch the book, The Wisdom of Walt Disney, a week later on August 18.
  5. Status update on the book: thus far, I’m more or less satisfied with the essays on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Song of the South, Treasure Island, Cinderella, and 20,000 Leagues Under the SeaSnow White, Bambi, Old Yeller, and Sleeping Beauty still need work, and Swiss Family Robinson and Mary Poppins I haven’t started. This was not just an excuse to list the films that will be discussed in the book.
  6. By the way, the ending of Old Yeller? Yeah, it still made me choke up. I know exactly what’s going to happen, but it’s so well done that it still gets me, dang it! I was even choking up writing about it.
  7. So, the logo question is almost settled; right now I’m deciding between these two, possibly with some slight modifications.

    That’s all for now; keep an eye for further updates as we get closer to launch!

Ponies and Introverts

Being an introvert mostly involves having people force you into uncomfortable situations and then blame you for not enjoying them. Our society doesn’t approve of those who prefer solitude or working alone: we want team players! Socially-well-adjusted youngsters! Collaboration! Synergy! Whatever other terms for ‘forcing people to act according to plan’ you care to name.

Reason number I-lost-count to love My Little Pony: it not only avoids this approach, but directly criticizes it. Yes, the show literally called ‘Friendship is Magic’ teaches it’s okay to enjoy solitude and unsocial pursuits, and that the more outgoing need to understand and accept that.

True, in the first episode Twilight is forced out of her comfort zone and becomes more sociable. But she doesn’t stop being an introvert. She still likes spending time alone reading or organizing her library (she does that a lot), and she’s not portrayed as being at all wrong for doing this. The show distinguishes between ‘enjoys spending time alone’ and ‘reclusive shut-in,’ with the latter being portrayed as an unhealthy exaggeration of the former. The point isn’t that spending time alone is bad, but that there needs to be a healthy balance between solitude and socializing, and that this balance will look different for different types of people.

It’s not just Twilight either: Fluttershy and Rarity are played as more introverted characters as well. The show even makes the point that Fluttershy choosing to opt out of some group activities and just stay home alone is perfectly okay if she doesn’t enjoy those activities. Likewise, when Rarity sometimes becomes too focused on her work to be polite it’s presented as a forgivable lapse rather than a fundamental problem in her personality. That she sometimes has to seclude herself to get her work done, that she draws energy from solitary creative effort, and that she has precise, high-class tastes that the others don’t really share are all portrayed as being a good thing: just part of her unique personality, to be accepted and appreciated rather than resented as ‘unsocial.’

Meanwhile, super-extrovert Pinkie has a couple episodes where she learns that some ponies simply don’t enjoy the kind of exuberant fun and socializing that she loves so much. Pinkie doesn’t mean any harm, of course, but it’s shown that she can be annoying to people who either don’t know her or who don’t share her taste in fun. In such cases, the lesson isn’t that they need to lighten up and be more outgoing, but that Pinkie needs to accept them as they are and befriend them based on their personality rather than hers.

Then there’s Maud. Oh, Lord, I love Maud! Maud is Pinkie’s older sister, who is pretty much her complete opposite. She’s extremely reserved, speaks in terse, laconic sentences, almost never shows emotion, and is completely and utterly wrapped up in the study of rocks. She’s so odd and so socially awkward that the others at first don’t know what to make of her, until they discover that Maud’s bland exterior hides very deep feelings, particularly when it comes to her little sister.

Pinkie_Pie_throwing_confetti_and_streamers_S4E18

The Introvert and the Extrovert

In other words, Maud is a non-specific, but very sympathetic portrait of someone with Aspergers, or some related condition. She’s not presented as being ‘broken’ or tragic; just as another person with her own unique personality. She’s difficult to get to know and not good with people, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with her.

One episode reveals that, much as she enjoys spending time alone with her rocks, she actually is lonely for a friend. She notes that “it’s not hard to find somepony I like. It’s finding somepony who gets me.” That’s a sentiment I can definitely relate to, and I love that this show is mature and thoughtful enough to understand it. When Maud does make a friend, it’s with fellow introvert Starlight, and they bond over quiet, thoughtful activities like kite flying and geology.

The overall message is that there are some people who are very outgoing, expressive, and sociable, and some people who aren’t, and that’s just how the world works. Both types have their strengths and weaknesses, and both need to be allowed to be themselves.

I wish more shows, and more people, understood that.

7 Quick Takes Friday: Preparing for Launch

 

  1. First and foremost, I guess I should announce that I’m taking my blog and my work in a new direction, with the intention of turning writing into a full-time profession.

 

  1. As part of this goal, I’m planning on blogging a lot more. This will probably result in sloppier and shorter pieces and a lot more filler but such is life (It’s also probably going to involve more My Little Pony at least for the time being, so heads up on that).

 

  1. It also means I’m going to be revamping the blog to fit better with my business plan. So don’t be alarmed by any sudden and explained changes you may find here.

 

  1. My business plan is, briefly put, this: there are a million-and-one film reviewers out there. The market is saturated by them. So, my approach will be to focus on the themes, ideas, philosophy, and morals of various works of fiction. I’ll talk about what I think is good or bad as well, but mostly I’ll be drawing out what I think the film is saying through essays, e-books, and videos.

 

  1. I’m currently working on my first e-book for this endeavor, which will be addressing the films of Walt Disney. That is, the films that he himself worked on and were produced during his lifetime. I take twelve of his best and most important films and explore the ideas and ethics conveyed by each one. More on that as we get closer to launch.

 

  1. I will also, of course, continue to write fiction of my own, but when and how that will be released is more uncertain. One thing at a time.

 

  1. Finally, if anyone reading actually cares about any of this, I’d like to solicit your help. My plan is to call my business “Noble Snake Productions” and use something like this as my logo:

Logo 3

When I ran it by my family, though, it didn’t meet with a good response. They pointed out that most people don’t like snakes and will consider it a sign of untrustworthiness.

Me, I think it’s cool, unique, and perfectly encapsulates everything I hope my work will be: the exotic and eccentric combined with the venerable and traditional. Then again, I’m eccentric and don’t think like most people do, so maybe I’m completely off on this.

What do you say? Off-putting or charmingly eccentric?

Stay tuned for more content and more announcements as we get closer to launch date! Including the announcement of what the launch date will actually be.