People

A couple of weeks ago, I went on a mission trip with a group of fellow Catholics to New York City. It was an incredible experience, and one thing we focused on a lot was homeless outreach. This, of course, required us to reach out to individuals who we might otherwise overlook. This taught me a few things. I wanted to briefly share one of those things with you today.

I can generally be pretty shy around people I’ve never met before, and even among people I do know. So whenever I’m in a public place, perhaps just strolling down the street or sitting in a subway in New York, my natural instinct is to keep to myself and my thoughts. Don’t talk to anybody, don’t even look anybody in the eye. While that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it often blinds me to a certain fact.

All these people around me, these people I’m avoiding eye contact with or just trying to forget they’re there? Well . . . they’re people.

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That sounds silly, I know. Of course they’re people, Matthew. Duh. But do you ever think about that when others are passing you by? Those are people. People with lives, with families (hopefully), with hopes, with needs and wants. It can be so easy to get caught up in ourselves, so much so that we don’t take proper notice of what’s going on around us.

See that homeless man sitting alone on the street corner? See that elderly woman on the bus with no one to talk to? They’re people. And people need love.

I’m not trying to guilt anybody. And no, I’m not saying that I think you should talk to every single stranger you run into. Sometimes people do want to be left alone, and other people just aren’t friendly at all. But I think there are definitely situations we find ourselves in from time to time in which we can feel a nagging voice in our heads. Go to that person. Talk to them.

The Holy Spirit works in funny ways, that’s for sure. And it’s usually a good idea to listen. Who knows? You might just make someone’s day.

That’s all. Until next time!

The Best Thing About “Star Wars”

Wait, it’s Easter! Why aren’t I writing a post about Easter?

Technically, I am. You’ll see. To start, though, I want to share what I think is the best thing about Star Wars.

Okay, so maybe it’s not the best thing about Star Wars, but it’s definitely one of the best things, because I find it to be very inspiring. And it’s this.

When the original film was being made, most people thought it was going to fail.

Many of the cast members were dissatisfied with the script. The studio executives were sure that such an unconventional film wouldn’t make much money. Even George Lucas himself was very disappointed with the film that he got versus the film he had in his head. As grand and exciting as the final film turned out to be, he had always imagined something even grander and more exciting. The technology at the time simply didn’t allow for it.

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“I was compromising left and right just to get things semi-done,” he said in an interview. “I was desperately unhappy.”

In May 1977, the movie opened in 32 theaters in the U.S. Just 32 theaters in the entire country! Crazier still, instead of attending the premiere, George Lucas took a vacation to Hawaii with his friend Steven Spielberg, because he was absolutely convinced the movie was going to flop.

The rest, as they say, is history. It was an instant blockbuster hit. And now, almost forty years later, Star Wars is just as popular (if not more so) than it has ever been.

So what’s my point? My point is that, sometimes, things don’t go our way. Sometimes our plans are destroyed by circumstances. Sometimes reality doesn’t meet our expectations at all.

Sometimes, it looks as though things couldn’t get any worse.

But then, lo and behold, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s a simple message that we’ve heard many times, but I think it’s worth repeating, especially at Easter time. (See, I told you this was actually a post about Easter!)

Happy Easter, and I hope you remember never to give up hope. Later!

Faith, the Future, and the “Falls”

Have you ever worried about the future?

I admit that was a pretty dumb question. Of course you have. We all have. Some more than others, of course, but it’s a pretty universal problem.

Why do we do it?

We’re afraid. We don’t know what might come. We want security. We want good things to happen. We know that bad things can and will happen sometimes, but we don’t want them to.

We want to be in control.

I went on a silent retreat this weekend. There was a lot more to it than what I’ll reiterate here, and it was a very eye-opening and refreshing experience. But for now, I just want to share one thing that I was reminded of.

We’ve heard these words more times than we can count, but they are still worth hearing. We forget them. We even ignore them sometimes.

But here they are again. Four small words.

Do not be afraid.

Read them again.

Do. Not. Be. Afraid.

This is no easy task. It’s natural for us to be fearful of things, including the future — sometimes especially the future. But you know something? We’re not the ones in control. This is not easy to accept, but I believe it is true. I am in control of myself and am responsible for my actions, yes. But I do not control the world or other people’s actions. Therefore, there is uncertainty ahead.

I have trouble with uncertainty. You probably do too.

With that in mind, another thought. Recently, a show called Gravity Falls aired its final episode. It was a near-perfect ending, in my book. During the silent retreat this weekend, after repeating “do not be afraid” to myself, I was reminded of the show.

But I wasn’t reminded of the finale. I was reminded of the second-to-last episode, particularly a scene in which one character is terrified of the future and another character is trying to convince her that she shouldn’t live in denial about it.

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“You’re scared — of growing up,” he tells her. “And who could blame you? I’m scared too.”

A little later in the scene, he tells her this:

“I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the future, but whatever it is, you don’t have to fear, because we’ll do it together.”

Wise words.

Look, I don’t want to get too preachy. But we can’t control everything that happens in our lives. So what’s the point of worrying about the future?

I seem to remember Jesus having a few words to say about this. “Which of you, by worrying, can add even a moment to your life?”

Wise words.

Do not be afraid. Whatever comes, comes. Good and bad.

Will it be easy? Heck no.

But you’re not alone.

Do not be afraid.

Live. Learn. Love.

Let’s do it together.

One day at a time.

Adventures in College: Sophomore Surprise

So, much to my amazement, I am coming close to the midway point in the first semester of my sophomore year in college.

I guess Nationwide was right when it said “life comes at you fast.”

Now, at first, I was a bit apprehensive about my second year. I’d seen memes and stuff like this before:

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But I’ve actually been rather surprised by how my own sophomore year is turning out thus far. Overall, I’d say it’s shaping up to be even better than my freshman year. I feel significantly less on edge this semester, and I’m finding more time to myself and to be with my friends on campus than I did last year.

I think part of it has to do with the fact that two of my classes this semester are online, which allows me to work at a steadier pace — I don’t even have to be on campus for class on Fridays! I’m also sure it has to do with the classes I’m taking; I haven’t written a single research paper yet, and to my knowledge, I won’t be writing very many at all (although I will have other big writing assignments, like scripts).

This is most definitely a welcome change of pace. But . . .

. . .

Wait a minute . . .

. . .

. . . did I just jinx it?

. . .

I just jinxed it, didn’t I?

. . .

. . . Darn.

Now wouldn’t it be hilarious if I wrote another post in a few weeks complaining about how complacent I had gotten?

. . .

To be continued. Possibly.

Love = Feelings?

I’ve been reading a book by Edward Sri called Men, Women, and the Mystery of Love — basically a condensed version of John Paul II’s Love and Responsibility. The most recent chapter I read discussed a topic which I think is extremely important, but also one that a lot of people don’t think about or ignore. I also had a great conversation about it with a friend of mine yesterday, so I decided to write about it a bit while it’s fresh in my mind. Don’t worry, I’ll do my best to keep things short and simple.

Quick note first, though: you should definitely read this book. JPII was a genius. They don’t call him St. John Paul the Great for nothing!

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So, in his work, JPII describes how people are attracted to others in two main ways: physically and psychologically (or emotionally). He calls these attractions sensuality and sentimentality. We are attracted to people’s bodies and also to their masculinity or femininity — that’s a pretty obvious given. We were designed this way, and these attractions are meant to orient us toward another person, eventually leading us to love them in an authentic way.

However, ever since the Fall, lust has entered the picture. People are now capable of misusing their sexual desires in order to use others for their own personal pleasure. The way men and women tend to lust is related to the two main types of attraction; that is, in general, men tend to lust more physically and women tend to lust more psychologically, or emotionally. That’s part of why we have the stereotypes of “all men are pigs” and “all women are overly emotional.”

Now, obviously, we are called to control our sexual desires and orient them toward what they are meant to lead us to: true authentic love. We’re not animals, after all, acting merely on instinct. We have free will. So we hear a lot about how we should be careful about how we look at others, how we shouldn’t use them as objects for our own gratification. And that’s an extremely important thing. It’s certainly not bad at all that we see articles about it all the time (or at least I do; my Facebook news feed is probably different from yours).

However, I don’t see nearly enough articles or hear enough discussion about the dangers of not controlling our emotions properly. And I think that’s a problem. I’m no expert, but I think I can see why a lot of people (especially the younger crowd) jump around from relationship to relationship so much. They get so caught up in the powerful emotional rush they receive from mutual attraction that they (wrongly, of course) think that they’re “in love.” But oftentimes, the relationship isn’t based on anything except the attraction. Just for example, the guy may be dating the girl because of her shapely body, or the girl may be dating the guy because she has idealized him in her head — projecting traits she finds desirable onto him even though he may not possess many (or any) of them. Then, once the feelings fade, there is nothing left for the relationship to stand on, thus leading to breakup and leaving both parties worse off than before.

I don’t want to go super deep into this or go on for too long, but I think it’s important to start a discussion about it. Why is it that so many marriages end in divorce? Why are so many people so unhappy in their relationships? Could it perhaps have something to do with people confusing love with sentimentality? I definitely think so.

The book gives a great example of how we can see this happening in life: James Cameron’s blockbuster film Titanic. People flocked to see this movie, particularly women (or so I hear). They were drawn to the thrilling romance of the main characters, and the book speculates that they were especially drawn to Jack’s sacrifice to save Rose (do I really need to include spoiler tags for this movie?). Women want that. They want a man who is willing to give everything for her, even his life. And this is a good thing. But because that great message was mixed with a “love story” that was based on little more than a sexual attraction between the two main characters, we end up with an upside-down message: that this kind of relationship is true, authentic love. That this is the kind of relationship we all should strive for.

Again, it’s no wonder there’s so much complication in people’s love lives (so-called). Hollywood (and other sources, I’m sure) has taught people that love is equivalent to romantic feelings. This couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s high time people woke up to this fact and stopped getting caught up in their emotions.

Yes, emotions do come along with love. But they are not what love is. Let’s stop seeing the people we’re attracted to as the fulfillment of our personal fantasies. Instead, let’s start seeing them for who they really are. And from there, we can truly grow to love them authentically.

Adieu, Summer. Adieu.

Well, it’s finally come.  For me, today marks the final day of summer vacation this year.

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Oh yeah, this was taken by me last summer. ^_^

It’s a bittersweet feeling. Summer, as I’ve stated on this blog before, is my favorite season. And this one was pretty fantastic! There was much swimming, gaming, reading, theme parking, playacting, vacationing, lazing around, movie seeing, TV watching, hanging out, and just all-around having a ball. I did a lot this summer.

There’s a weird feeling I’ve got about the whole thing, though. I feel both like it’s all flown by in a flash and like it’s lasted for ages at the same time. I find myself thinking: “It can’t already be time to go back to school!” But then when I really think about it, imagining myself sitting in the cafeteria on the last day of classes, eating lunch right after finishing my last final, it really has been quite a while. More than three months.

And, while I’m absolutely going to miss summer (almost too much, really), that really is plenty of time. And it has been a blast.

So, I’d say I’m ready for the new semester. It’ll be a much easier transition than last year, that’s for sure. Sophomore year, here I come!

To close, here’s a very nice summery tune for you to chill out to.

See you all next time! And if you’re still on summer vacation, make it last while it’s still here!