A Non-Believer’s Hopes

People often find comfort in God or some sort of higher being when faced with a troubling issue. And that’s great that they have something in their lives to rely on through tough times. But I, unfortunately, do not have a lot of faith.

Could I say that? I’m not sure. Basically I just don’t believe in anything religious like other people do. And sometimes that sucks.

Classic college student, soon-to-be 22 year old girl with debilitating insecurities, emotional stability of a seesaw and is sensitive as fuck. Just like most people at this age, I’m lost and don’t know what to do with my life now and in the future. I don’t know how things will end up and there’s not much I can do at the moment about it.

I want to so badly believe that some higher being has great plans in store for me and that everything will be okay – but I don’t even have a lot of faith in religion so it’s very hard to make myself believe that everything will indeed be okay.

I could leave it to fate and destiny, but that also doesn’t give much comfort and hope for me because it still involves some sort of belief in non-physical things. Full belief in a concept per se.

I grew up in a religious, Buddhist family and some of those Buddhist morals shaped who I am today… but where did things just go astray? At what point in my life did things just take a sharp turn on the highway and make me NOT as religious as I probably should be (given how and where I grew up)?

I even went to the country of Buddhism for a whole summer and came back from my trip DOUBTING my Buddhist background.

Religion has never played a huge part in my life or how I see things, so perhaps the lack of importance of religion throughout my life caused me to develop a certain mindset. Or perhaps it was my love for paleontology as a young one where I learned a great deal about science – that too could have developed a certain mindset on how concrete evidence is more important than a belief.

Not to say religion and belief is not important, I think it’s one of the greatest things in life that people can grow up with and live by. But I think my subconscious naturally leans more toward modern science and the need for evidence…

Thinking about it, maybe it’s my generation that is cultivating more non-believers. I know quite a few people my age who are atheists. Two of my ex’s were atheists and I’m pretty sure Gamer might be one too. And no, I’m not actively seeking out atheists as I don’t have a religious preference.

Science is great and, frankly speaking, I don’t have much faith in religion. I have a lot of respect for it and religious people/practices, but I’m naturally always dubious when I hear tales of miracles or people claiming superstitious religious beliefs (mainly thinking of Tibetan Buddhism here). Like, I don’t actually believe a monk touching my head is doing me any good, despite my parents finding it an important blessing. But I’ll naturally/instinctively bow my head and clasp my hands in respect because that’s how I was raised by my wonderful parents.

Overall, I take more toward science and evidence (and I suppose a good chunk of my generation would agree), but sometimes I wish I had faith. I wish I had something to believe in to get me through these tough times (yes yes I know – I’m young and have yet to encounter real hardship, but right now it’s difficult for me, alright?). All my life, I never believed in anything that didn’t have concrete proof. Not even Santa or the tooth fairy. I knew from day 1 that those were fictious characters.

Not having anything comforting through difficult times in general, for anyone, seems to make things much harder. I guess all I can do is wait and see if I get through these obstacles without much difficulty.

On a relevant note, does my not inherently believing in higher beings or having a lot of faith mean I’m an athiest? I mean, I don’t think that higher beings DON’T exist, but I don’t actually believe in them either. Or am I still a Tibetan Buddhist just going through a slump since I still live by some Buddhist morals? I’m not sure what to call myself. Ah, well.

World Heritage Sites

I recently learned about World Heritage Sites, and it’s really piquing my interest. Do any of you know much about those? Essentially, they are sites in the world that bear significant meaning, whether natural or cultural. Examples of natural world heritage sites would be like the Great Barrier Reef, various national parks and reservations (in places like Kenya, India, the states, etc.), and the Swiss Alps. Basically, sites that were naturally “made.” Cultural world heritage sites are man made, but bear significance whether in a negative or positive way. Examples of cultural sites would be Robben Island (the prison system where Nelson Mandela was held), the Taj Mahal, Statue of Liberty, and the Holocaust concentration camps.

Natural or man-made, all of those sites are universally important despite some being less well known than others.

What’s sad is that Syria has six world heritage sites (all cultural sites) and all of them are in danger of being destroyed or has been destroyed. One of the sites is Aleppo. Aleppo, I recently learned, is an ancient city. One that dates back to the 2nd millennium BC. Palmyra is also another city of cultural heritage as it contains monumental ruins of a great city that existed back in the 1st and 2nd century.

If any of you get the chance, go to the World Heritage Sites website and check out all of the world heritage sites that exist in the world. Also, check out the heritage sites of Syria and their pictures – they’re all beautiful and it’s sad to see that these heritage sites are under threat.

And World Heritage Sites are so important that it’s actually a crime to destroy any of them. The International Crime Court handles cases of genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes. Destroying a world heritage site falls under war crime and so far, the ICC has tried 4 criminals. Three of them committed serious cases of murder, rape and torture, but the fourth had destroyed a world heritage site.

The leader of an Islamist group, Ahmed I believe, was sentenced to 9 years of prison for purposely destroying Timbuktu, a cultural world heritage site in Mali, Africa. Over 500 years of history and culture gone just like that in one day.

Getting 9 years only is measly, but my TA said that this is still, regardless, a good first step toward the future and protecting world heritage sites. I think it’s good that these world heritage sites are taken seriously and that the destruction of one of them is no petty crime, but I still wonder how the ICC will handle the destruction of Syria’s world heritage sites.

Maybe one day when the war ceases and it’s not so bad anymore, the ICC will take measures against it. The pictures of Syria’s world heritage sites are so beautiful and to have thousands of years of culture and history being destroyed is something that just… saddens me.

What do you guys think? I strongly urge you to look at the list of world heritage sites, you’d be surprised at just how many there are – natural or cultural.

Nature vs. Environment

I’m supposed to be writing an essay on a sonnet, but honestly there’s only so much Shakespeare your brain can handle before everything starts to not make sense. As I’m having this break, I thought I’d take the time to write an overdue post.

I label myself as an introvert, and my mom often tells me that I have to change from an introvert to have a more successful life (that’s another point for another day), but I also hear from some people that you are who you are and you can’t change your nature. I wonder, though, just how much of your personality is naturally who you are, and what parts of your personality is affected by your environment.

By nature, I would say I’m a “docile” and passive person. That, in turn, has been the base characteristic that shapes all my other characteristics. For example, I’ve never gone out a lot when growing up because as the only child, my parents are quite overprotective of me and worried about me when I happen to be off by myself late at night or such (In gentle words, I had relatively strict parents).

Now, people say that strict parents often end up raising kids who are more rebellious or want to go out more as an adult to make up for their lack of childhood. But I think that depends on your base nature. As I’ve always been a passive person, I grew up just accepting what my parents wanted and, thus, grew up to be someone who identifies more as an introvert – someone who would rather be by themselves, someone who gets tired very easily when out and about, and etc. If someone, by nature, was not passive but rather maybe more outspoken or lively, then I think there’s more of a chance that that person would grow up to identify more as an extrovert, set aside a rebel or anything of the likes.

I think it’s cool just how much of your natural personality and how much of your environment can take part in shaping who you are as a person and continue to grow as a person. Like, how much of yourself do you think is natural and environmentally affected? 50/50? 40/60? 70/30? It’s pretty intriguing to wonder and I’m sure we all can figure that out if we take the time to trace back through our lives and analyze it. I mean, for all I know my passiveness isn’t even a personality trait I naturally have.

What do you guys think?

Compassion Under Fear

This past Sunday, my family went to visit another family for a barbecue they were hosting. I had never truly met them formally before, and to my horror they had a five year old boy. Now let me tell you, as a 21 year old girl, I do not particularly like kids. At all. I much prefer animals. It may be because I grew up as a single child with cousins much older than I and instead watched a shit ton of documentaries on wildlife, but I am awkward around kids. Or at least, with toddlers and below. Not to mention I hate loud noises and some toddlers tend to be loud and/or make loud noises like throwing toys.

Anyway, their five year old son, let’s call him P., was super into me. He kept looking at me and doing things to get my attention. I eventually went inside with him because he wanted to play with me. And from there I was held hostage by a five year old boy for 5 hours. As an introvert who gets tired from socializing quickly and also someone who is not at all fond of kids, I was dying fast and furious.

That night when my family and I got home, my parents were teasing me about it because they know I am incredibly awkward around kids and babies. I kind of snorted and said that I disliked kids, which lead to my dad saying how that meant I’m not compassionate. I think that was just my dad’s slightly inebriated side talking, but it got me thinking.

I think you can still have compassion even if you don’t like something. Heck, I hate spiders. I fear them and every time I see one I will freak out. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have compassion for them. Whenever I see a spider in my vicinity, no matter how much I freak out, I won’t kill it. I’ll have someone else take care of it and throw it outside.

Of course, it’s a no brainer that if you don’t like something (or even hate it), you aren’t at all interested in them. For example, I won’t go out of my way to donate to a charity that saves some endangered spider species because I’m not interested in them in the slightest to begin with. But when it comes down to specific moment between me and a spider, yeah I will have compassion and avoid making any rash decisions that might mean death.

Same with kids. I might even go to the extent to say I almost hate kids, but that doesn’t mean I’ll stand by idly if I see a kid getting hurt or such. I do feel sympathy for kids who suffer through bad times, be it an abusive home or losing a family in war, and I wouldn’t wish harm to anything no matter how much I dislike them. And I think everyone can relate to that. You may not go out of your way to save or do something nice for something/someone you hate, but you might just have a separate container of compassion in yourself that has nothing to do with your fear or disliked thing.

Of course, everyone’s fear or hatred of something may very well exceed the point where his/her “emergency compassion” may not exist for that specific thing/person, but I think it’s there in everyone to begin with.

What do you guys think?

Late Night Story

Hi everyone,

It’s been a long while since I last posted. To be honest, nothing super exciting has been happening. So, since it’s been a while and I still feel the need to post something, here is a little tidbit I wrote. Often times, a moment will suddenly give me the need to write it down in story form. The following piece was written down the day after it happened, and I remember in the moment one sentence stuck out to me for a while: “… no more words were exchanged as we retired for the night.” I changed the sentence once I began editing it, but that’s where the piece stemmed from. That one sentence. And that’s normally how most of my stories begin, from one random sentence that sticks to my mind until I write it down and then expand around it. So, please enjoy! It’s actually quite a bit longer, so I cut it down a bit for this post. Sorry if it seems a bit abrupt or such in some areas :) This takes place a few weeks ago when I spent the night at Gamer’s place.

It was nearing 3am, and my eyes were so strained it didn’t even feel comfortable to close them. I took off the shirt he lent me and placed it next to me against the wall in a crumpled fashion before lying down, enjoying the comfort of my head sinking into the pillow. Returning from the bathroom earlier, I had turned the lights off and now only the blue lights of his dual monitors across the room and his bright laptop nearby illuminated the room in an oddly soothing way. It was clear our introverted selves had enough of mindless chatter for the night and I could tell both of our minds had sunken down to a level where having a conversation did not seem like the most appealing idea.

His room was chillier than usual – at 72 degrees – the perfect temperature for me to wrap the blanket around me and be cozy. I brought the blanket up to my chest and tucked it neatly under my arms before glancing down by my feet. I was unable to completely stretch out my legs because he was lying horizontally, his back to me as he was still on his laptop looking at Pokemon source codes. He seemed wide awake, compared to earlier when he was dozing off while we were on the 5th YouTube episode of Pokemon glitches.

Wanting to stretch out, I scootched over and awkwardly pushed my legs past his arm and ended up in an odd curved position. Perhaps he realized that I was attempting to sleep or that it was getting incredibly late because he got up to come to lie in bed as well, bringing his laptop along.

“Chillin’?” He smiled at me as he moved toward the pillow, his laptop balanced on one hand and his laptop’s light reflecting off of his black rimmed glasses. I smiled and nodded in response. “Chillin’? Like a villain? On penicillin?” Letting out a laugh, I looked at him in a slightly quizzical way.

“What? That’s new,” I giggled as I moved over a bit more to give him room. He set his laptop down on the piano bench and plugged in his earphones – looks like tonight he’s not playing the video out loud. At first glance, it’s amusing to see a piano bench next to his bed, but it was conveniently level with the bed so one could place multiple items on it. He had brought the bench months ago into his room from the piano in the dining room so that there was a flat surface to put our Indian take out on. And it’s been in his room ever since.

As was done every night, he began his nightly YouTube search of a lengthy, commentated gameplay to lull him to sleep. Tonight, he searched up a random gameplay of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth on his favorite YouTube channel, a game that he’s been resorting to for the past couple weeks.

“I said that to you earlier, remember?” he let out a chuckle as well as he placed his glasses next to his laptop and lay down, putting in one earphone to listen to the gameplay. He glanced at me and moved his arm above my head. In response, I swept my hair to my free side and raised my head so that we’d transition into our default sleeping position.

“Oh yeah, that’s right you did.” I then briefly remembered him asking me that earlier in the day when I was lying on his bed reading while he worked on the game he was programming by himself. Resting my head partly on his chest, I snuggled up to him and rested a relaxed fist on his chest while he wrapped his arms around me comfortably. 

That was all we said that night as I closed my eyes and we both retired for the night. The white noise of the fan whirred in the background but was soon forgotten about as I subconsciously matched my breathing with his rising and falling chest. He had a faint but very familiar smell lingering on his skin. I still wasn’t sure if it was from his Jimmy Choo’s Man cologne or his Old Spice body wash even after months of being with him, but whatever it was, I loved it. Nothing has ever soothed me as much as that scent has and, as always, I could practically feel my entire mind relax as I breathed it in. 

A few minutes later, I was nearly dozing off but the sound of his his heartbeat speeding up disrupted that. It thumped loudly, but perhaps that was because my ear was right above his heart. He’s having a panic attack. I uncurled the loose fist that was formed on his chest and lightly traced my long fingernails up and down a small area of his chest without moving my hand.

It wasn’t much and I knew it probably wasn’t going to make a big difference, but I hoped it helped a little bit. Shortly after, his fast and loud heartbeat subsided back to normal and I stopped the light scratches, glad to see it was over. Panic attacks suck, and I still have no idea how he manages to keep a straight face on when he goes through one. Granted, he’s been getting them constantly since he was a child. I turned on my side and relaxed, hoping for my mind to descend into the haziness of sleep soon. He shifted along with me and I felt his arm slip over my bare waist and hold me close. Comforted by his soft, even breathing by my ear, I let out a breath of contentment as the quiet night settled on us peacefully.