Monday, April 30, 2018

On Scorpion, Romance, and "Love" Based on Feelings


I was a big fan of CBS's Scorpion from the time we bought season one and started watching it, at a time that allowed us to catch up to current episodes a little more than halfway through season 3. It was exciting, intense (a little too intense in the sinkhole episode, though), and I LOVE the characters. They're well developed, each very unique, nerdy, dorky, socially awkward, funny, just all around awesome.

The romance was something that I considered to be better than in most mainstream stories. Despite the Walter citizenship fiasco, Happy and Toby got married, and remain happily married. Sly and Megan had ups and downs and you knew from the start it had to end sadly due to Megan's MS, but they got married. Seriously, he started dating her and then married her knowing she was dying of MS any day, wanting to make her last days the best they could be. If that's not true love, I don't know what is. Walter and Paige were will they/won't they, and there was Paige's brief relationship with Tim (a really great guy who everyone hated because he wasn't Walter), and besides, she was only dating him to try to forget Walter, but you judge from the other relationships and you figure it's only a matter of time before they get together. They've been through a lot together, they know each other really well, they're close friends, and Paige has done a lot for Walter's EQ (Emotional Quotient). It's going to be great. After all, the team always functioned as a family where rifts never last for more than an episode or two.

It's going great. And after Walter has a sort of freak out, he tells Paige he loves her, she tells Walter she loves him, they're finally a thing, and Cabe, the dad of the team, says that it's about time. Season 3 finale is pretty awesome, and we've got promises of a great Walter/Paige relationship and the hope of a Happy/Toby baby.

Then season 4 hits, and it feels like all the character development, the growing love between Walter and Paige, and the precedent of relationships leading to marriage goes down the toilet. This relationship that should have been based on years of friendship and knowledge and trust in each other has devolved into nonstop, feeling-based relationship drama. Paige has gone from Pollyanna to downright mean. Walter's gone from telling everyone like it is on everything (and thereby creating issues with potential customers) to hiding from Paige the fact that he basically went on a date with the neighbor whom he dreamed he kissed and who has developed a crush on him. And it ends in a violent break up and a schism in the team. And it was horrible.

I felt like the writers forgot who Walter and Paige are. How much they've been through together. How well they know each other. How after three years of working together in high stress, life or death situations, they should know exactly what they're getting into, whether or not it's going to work, and their love should be far deeper than the circumstances of the moment make them feel. They shouldn't be all of a sudden acting like teenagers with an infatuation.

Because feelings are not love.

I've come to the conclusion that I really don't like when couples say they "have feelings" for each other. You see it all the time in books and movies and shows. But that begs the question "What kind of feelings?" Infatuation? Probably. But what happens when infatuation fades?

Feelings are fickle. They're influenced by circumstances, hormones, that Facebook argument that made you hopping mad, the beautiful sunset, the washer that flooded the laundry room, the candlelight dinner, the kid's temper tantrum, the trip to Disney World. And if a relationship is based on feelings, it won't last.

When you take away the infatuation, what is left? When the fluttery feelings and twitterpated behavior get lost in the realities of life, is there anything left? Not that there's anything inherently wrong with being twitterpated. There isn't. It's when that's all there is that there's a problem. Fluttery feelings don't cause one to sacrifice one's self for the other person. Twitterpatedness doesn't forgive unconditionally.

Love does.

Feelings are not love, and I think that's what the Scorpion writers and so many writers who came before and who will come after miss. It's what so many people in the dating world miss. Feelings are great, but they are fickle. And as Progo said in A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L'Engle, "Love isn't how you feel. It's what you do." I love my family just as much when I'm annoyed with them as when we're getting along great. Romantic relationships—both fictional and real—should be no different. Not dependent on feelings. So much deeper, from your very core, there no matter what, causing you to love sacrificially. Causing you to love the way Jesus loved us, the way love is described in 1 Corinthians 13.

That is true love, not this fickle, feeling-based infatuation.

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends."
—1 Corinthians 13:4-8a

Monday, April 23, 2018

Being "Real Old"

I'm turning "real old" tomorrow, "like, 22."

If you know what that's from, you're awesome. 

It's crazy to think I'm really going to be 22 tomorrow, and even crazier to think back over my life and see how much technology has changed. I mean, if I only had VHS tapes as a kid, can you imagine what my kids will think of my parents' childhood? 6 channels, no TV remotes, no cell phones...they must have lived in the dark ages! :)

Remember "Be kind, rewind"?  Kids today have no concept. A couple months ago, I put in Toy Story on VHS for some kids who were over, and I was fast forwarding through the previews when one of them said "At home, we can just skip them." That's not how a video tape works. Also, one of these kids was all confused when my sister told her we only had Mary Poppins on VHS. So confused she was going "No, the movie."

I remember our first DVD player, a VHS/DVD combo. Eventually we got a DVD recorder that just did DVDs, but it wasn't until my grandparents gave us a BluRay that we upgraded to that. Still have that exact one. I remember when we had only two BluRay discs: The Patriot and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe bought at a Blockbuster going-out-of-business sale. Remember Blockbuster?

I remember when the digital conversion was happening and we had to get converter boxes so we could still watch our analog TVs. I remember getting our big HD flatscreen TV (which we still have eight years later) when my grandparents gave it to us. I remember the first time I watched The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe in HD, going "Wow, you can actually see something in 'the Blitz' scene." I remember when my friend's family got TiVo, and how amazing it was that they could pause live TV.

I remember cassette tapes, my yellow Cedarmont Kids tape with "Wonderful Words of Life" and "Hallelu, Hallelu" that I usually kept in my room. I remember the little stickers my mom put on the buttons so that I could stop, start and turn over the tapes all by myself. I remember standing in the living room, pretending to knock at a door to "Behold, Behold" and swinging on the swing set singing "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot" at the top of my lungs, songs I'd learned from other Cedarmont Kids cassette tapes. Does anyone listen to Cedarmont Kids anymore? I know the girls in my Bible study were unfamiliar with some of the kids' songs from those tapes.

I remember our first cell phone that we got when my youngest sister was on the way, a black thing with an antenna that belonged to my dad. I remember our first camera phones, little silver phones that took bad, grainy pictures. And you couldn't do anything with them unless you went out and bought a USB cord, because they were special cords, not the kind that come with just about everything. I remember when my parents got Blackberries, something that could do a little more than just make calls. They could pin message other Blackberries for free!

I remember when we cancelled our landline and got a flip phone for my sisters and me to share. I remember when I got my first iPhone, a hand-me-down from my mom that I still had to share, but now I could do all sorts of things from my phone!

I remember the big, clunky computer monitors I used to play Oregon Trail and Reader Rabbit on. Who else loved Reader Rabbit? My favorite was the castle one. I played it twice. I remember when we got a laptop. I remember dial-up and super slow internet speeds. No instant downloads or streaming even close to possible.

I remember when we got my mom her Kindle, just the basic all-it-can-do-is-read-books Kindle. I remember seeing my friend get a Kindle Fire, my sister get a Kindle Fire, and finally getting one myself, and how cool it was to be able to check my email on it. As well as download all these out of print books from that we'd previously had to print out and put in folders.

I remember when Netflix became popular and you could get both streaming and DVDs for one low price. The first thing we watched was From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. I remember how cool it was that you could just watch TV online. I remember how we finally at long last had access to lots of Disney movies because the library only had so many and the stupid vault kept us from buying most of them. 

I remember when My Space was a thing (not that anyone in my family had an account) and you got all those TV commercials with people going "This is my space." I remember when my parents first started Facebook accounts. I remember Instagram breaking into the scene, starting my Pinterest account, discovering Goodreads.

I remember when YouTube was a newfangled thing, not this massive site where you can find practically everything. I remember streaming Pandora on the computer, getting Spotify and discovering how cool it was that I could listen to all this music online for free and not have to buy the CDs. I remember the Walkman we used to have down in the closet and how cool I thought it was to have a portable cassette player. I remember getting my first mp3 player (because my CD player was getting really finicky) and listening to Narnia audio dramas and Star Wars music on it.

I remember film cameras and going to Wolf Camera to get our pictures developed. The only camera I've ever owned was film. I remember the Polaroids they used to use at the dentist and sometimes at storytime, and how amazed I was that it could just spit out a picture like that. On that note, I remember the gag-inducing plastic thing they used to have to stick in your mouth to take dental x-rays before the beyond amazing panoramic machine. I remember when my mom got her first digital camera and how neat it was that the pictures could go on the computer. I remember when we realized our iPhones took better photos than my mom's old point-and-shoot.

I remember getting our first video camera and its mini tapes you could stick in a bigger tape and put in the VCR. I remember our flip video and how neat it was that it was digital until HD became a thing and it just wasn't up to standard.

Childhood is very different these days. And though I cherish now being "real old," I still love the days of Adventures in Odyssey on cassette.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Doctor Strange, Violet Baudelaire, and the "Greater Good"

My family watched the movie Doctor Strange last Friday. It was an...interesting movie for sure, and Dr. Strange did have a positive character arc of transformation from a self-centered jerk into a defender of the earth, but I can't say that I liked it. There was quite a bit about it that bothered me, like the Eastern mysticism and occultish magic that most certainly didn't fall into an acceptable category of fantasy magic. I'm not against all fantasy magic—I love Narnia and Tangled and Frozen, after all—but the magic in Doctor Strange really seemed to cross the line. I'm not going to go into it too deeply as that's not the main point of this post, but I think it was pretty clear that it was supernatural, spiritual power that didn't come from God. And because of that, the bit where Dr. Strange had to surrender completely to the powers in order to use it treads into very dangerous territory. Surrender completely to God, absolutely, but if you're surrendering completely to anything else, you're in big trouble.

Aside from all that though, one thing that really stood out to me was the overall message of the movie. The idea that you can do anything, break any rule, so long as it's for the "greater good."

Do evil that good may come.

Use whatever means necessary to save the world, even if it's wrong.

Early on in Dr. Strange's use of magic, he's warned by another sorcerer named Mordo about manipulating time. It can destroy the space/time continuum, which obviously can have catastrophic consequences. According to Doc Brown, after all, it could destroy the entire universe. Because of that, tampering with natural laws is forbidden. In the climax of the movie, Dr. Strange turns back time to reverse the destruction of the bad guys and traps himself in a time loop with the ultimate bad guy to wear him down and get him to agree to leave. Despite Mordo's warning that such actions always have consequences, this is presented as a noble and heroic action. 

In and of itself, time travel and time loops don't bother me. I liked Doctor Who up until the last season and still like earlier seasons, and I enjoy watching Back to the Future and Groundhog Day. The problem comes when the writers create a scenario where breaking good rules is considered the right thing to do. A scenario where doing evil for the sake of the supposed "greater good" is upheld and applauded.

And they take it a step further in the end credits scene by showing that by trying to prevent sorcerers from breaking the rules, Mordo has become a villain. 
These sorcerers are trained in the use of magic by a woman known as the Ancient One. She is a supposed good character, a trusted mentor, one who does right. I can't recall any of her actions that the writers of the movie appeared to consider wrong. Yet she is drawing power from the Dark Dimension to extend her life. This is supposedly acceptable because she has been able to teach others for a longer period of time. Using evil power to extend her life is okay because it helps the "greater good."

Perhaps the reason this aspect of the message was so prominent to me was because earlier that same day I had been listening to The Slippery Slope by Lemony Snicket while sewing. In that installment of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Count Olaf and Esmè Squallor are constantly harping on the "greater good" mantra, which to them is the successful theft of the Baudelaire fortune. It doesn't take much to realize that that is no true greater good, but that's not where the book stops exploring the theme.

Sunny was kidnapped by Count Olaf apart from her siblings at the end of the last book, after they'd all set fire to the Caligari Carnival. Violet, Klaus, and a spoilery character are desperate to get her back, and so they hatch a scheme. They dig a pit in which to trap Esmè, and lure her to it, so they can exchange prisoners. Sure, it's not really a good thing to do, but that's okay because they're only doing it to rescue Sunny. It doesn't really matter if it's wrong because their purpose is good.

But then as Esmè is about to fall into the trap, Violet has a revelation. They're acting like villains. They're behaving just like Count Olaf and that isn't okay. It doesn't matter how right your cause is if you do wrong things to accomplish it. Two wrongs don't make a right. So instead of allowing Esmè to fall into the pit, they warn her, help her get back to Count Olaf, and find another way to rescue Sunny. The "greater good" argument is invalid.

I had this rattling around in my brain as I watched Doctor Strange, and I couldn't help comparing the two messages.  

Doctor Strange: anything is acceptable as long as you justify it by claiming it's for the greater good.

The Slippery Slope: villainous behavior is never acceptable, even if it's for the greater good.

And I'll take the message of The Slippery Slope any day over Doctor Strange.

Friday, April 6, 2018

A Short Blogging Break

Just a heads up that I'll be taking a break from blogging and such next week. My quarterly newsletter will also be on its way soon. See y'all in a week!

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Here it is: My promised video on The Man Who Invented Christmas! Have you seen it? What did you think?