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Dumbest Thing I've Ever Done

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Life, Wisdom Apr 23 2018 · 158 views
masochism, sadism, Bullet Ant and 2 more...
:kaukau: I've alluded to it several years ago on this blog before, but anyway, someone recently asked me what the dumbest thing I've ever done was. It's often hard to answer questions like that, but after high school I began to consistently answer it with the same example.

My father once dared me to go streaking during a blizzard. It was thirty degree below zero, plus wind chill. I followed through on his challenge, and ran nearly a mile. It gave me frostbite, and I nearly lost my toes.

So in my opinion, if I go through with my desire to get stung multiple times by Bullet Ants, it won't be the dumbest thing I've ever done. The Blizzard Streak will still hold that title. Insect stings don't dismember you.



Let the Past Die

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Jan 01 2018 · 205 views
STAR WARS, The Last Jedi and 2 more...


Shid auld acquaintance for fergot

and ne'er brought to mind?

Shid auld acquaintance be fergot

and auld lang syne?

Should we forget those times? Or perhaps we should never forget, when the past strengthens us, when the past reminds us of who we are and where we belong, of who our friends are. When we remember the good things, and not cry that it's over, but be happy that it happened.

Incidentally, I have a great memory with a friend of mine. Great memories. And this midnight, I think of her and our auld langs. She's my Jo. As in, she's my friend who's name is actually Jo.

The funny thing is, the auld lang in question is when we traveled a great distance to see each other in order to watch a movie. It was the first and so far only time anyone has ever driven outside of their own town to meet me, which has a greater impact on me than people may realize, since otherwise I have always been the one who has had to travel across the country to visit others.

The movie in question was the seventh episode of a popular series. Incidentally, the movie was all about auld langs, and also incidentally, we're watching its sequel next week, which is also about auld langs, but additionally about the future and making way for newe langs. And the film begs the question, shid auld acquaintance be fergot?

I don't think so. But on the other hand, my friendship with Jo is still a fledgling acquaintance in the grand scheme of things. I'm not necessarily going to let the past die, as our lovely movie suggests, but I certainly wish to make that past worth every moment of what it was by building a future worthy of it. I'm optimistic. I believe that the best langs are yit ahead of me. I raise a cup of kindness for those days of newe lang yit. This Hogmanay, I've decided that I'm going to completely embrace my friendship and not treat it like a passing acquaintance. It absolutely deserves to be brought to mind.

Now as it happens, there's another friend of mine. She's my best friend, actually. Back in the day, I gave her a giant, impressive art project when she graduated college. Perhaps I'll share a picture of it someday. The interesting thing is, I gave her that gift in part because I didn't expect anything in return, even a continued friendship. I thought that we would go our separate ways after that. At the time, we were both done with college and moving to other states, but we ended up keeping in contact. We continued to talk. Back when our friendship was only fledgling, but still good enough to give her a tremendous gift, I was content to let go of it and move into the future without her. We now have more memories, even better memories than we ever did before, but if I am to be true to that original turning point in our friendship, I should be able to accept that it's in our past and move on if the time zones and the schooling gets in the way. We made our lives better, and that's what matters. Over Christmas, she told me that she's going to a graduate school in the currently United Kingdom, and there's no telling if our friendship can survive that. If it doesn't, than it's important that I don't let that loss hold me back, or even treat it as a loss. It will be a sign that, perhaps, I am ready for a significant new chapter in my life. There will be new friends, new journeys, new passions to follow. For an optimist who finds meaning in life, who believes that no man is a failure who has friends, it's a wonderful life indeed.



Internet Bullying

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Dec 01 2017 · 105 views
bullies, bullying and 1 more...
:kaukau: In an earlier entry, I said that this decade saw a dramatic decrease in tolerance for bullying, but I realize that this is only part of the story. Bullying in schools has gone down and rarely dips into the realm of physical violence, the type that my father used to brag about witnessing in the 70's and 80's when people were apparently as bad as that kid from It (part I). Obviously, we don't see too many of these things anymore, right? Even since I survived middle school, it sounds as though younger family members never endured what I went through that I considered normal. They didn't have to deal with getting punched in sensitive places, having their shoes tossed out of the school bus window, being challenged to fights, and receiving swear words for nicknames. They didn't have fathers and authority figures who called them weaklings, thing-skinned, and pathetic for complaining about this kind of bullying. That makes me happy, because they won't end up as psychologically broken because of it.

However, over the last few years, I've been noticing a new form of bullying, one that we've heard people talk about for a while, but which has escalated to a point that I find incredibly unhealthy for us as a society, if not outright dangerous. In dearth of opportunities to bully others in public physical forums, people have turned to bullying and demeaning others in public virtual forums. Yes, we know that internet bullying is bad, and we launched campaigns against it, but I do not believe that the campaigns are working. I believe that they can work, if delivered with an inspired execution, but what I see now is a downward spiral in this new age.

The first and most obvious case of internet bullying comes in the real of politics and culture with some political subtext, and this is also where I began noticing a marked decrease in quality of conversation. Politics always had heated, emotional discussion, enough so that it's banned on BZPower. I've heard BZPers make cases for why politics should be allowed on the site, because we're supposedly mature enough to have these discussions and we have such a great sense of community, but I've begun to notice that even in communities organized around incredibly mature leadership and moderation, any discussion about politics will get ugly. The sign of the times that tipped me off about how bad things are getting now is that I used to get rude comments only from people who disagreed with me, but now even conversations with people I agree with tend to lose their decency from the get-go. I remember reading through political threads and encountering about a 50/50 ratio of hate-fueled comments and careful comments that were considerate of everyone's feelings. Now, the vast majority of comments make me cringe.

People are perhaps the most honest about their opinions on their fellow man in politics: everyone else is the the stupidest, least competent, most misguided, most fragile, most morally reprehensible person to exist. Anyone who doesn't conform to you exactly. And gradually, I see that trickle down to non-political things. People will say absolutely horrendous things about a celebrity, usually for the most trivial reasons. Everyone gets paranoid and assumes that everyone else represents a social movement that's abhorrent.

This contempt that we used to only see in political and religious discussion is now airborn. It contaminates even the most unifying aspects of our culture. BZPower forbids politics and religion, but these days I wonder if we should ban all discussion on STAR WARS, too. I remember that I gathered a lot of heat back in the day for saying that I really like Episodes I-III, and the treatment that I got on BZPower is nothing compared to the various Youtube discussions that I've had, where people will say the cruelest things simply because someone likes a movie that they didn't like. Alternatively, if you didn't like something that others like, then you must be self-righteous, pretentious, or you're over-sensitive. Those are the most polite insults I've heard, but most of us are sadly all-too familiar with how the internet works and how terrible this discourse can get. For example, I just saw an article entitled "Seven Things Justice League Did Better the Avengers, and Seven Things It Did Worse", and in the comments section, I saw one comment that I think does a pretty accurate job of representing what the average comment looks like these days: "1 way this article could improve: the writer kills himself." Surprise, surprise, it had zero dislikes.

I think that this is the unspoken message behind a lot of comments on the internet, isn't it? We want people that we disagree with to kill themselves. If they aren't moral abominations, then they're complete freaks. If they're not complete freaks, then they're stupid. If they're not stupid, they're functionally stupid, and so forth. We simply cannot believe that perhaps, just maybe, the people that we address on the internet are just like the people that we meet on the street. Perhaps, when a person complains about something, they're not nagging, but just expressing an opinion about something that they don't like?

Until then, we live in a world where apparently anyone who liked Marvel blindly supports a corporate empire as a brainwashed sycophant, anyone who likes DC must be a prejudiced fanboy, anyone who likes The Phantom Menace isn't worth talking to and is a blasphemer, anyone who dislikes Christopher Nolan must be an insecure haters who are full of themselves, anyone who likes Titanic supports bad romances, anyone who likes Toy Story has no culture, anyone who liked the new Les Miserables has even less culture, anyone who enjoys Michael Bay movies must be the lowest common denominator, anyone who watched Twilight must be too dumb to be allowed to breed, and anyone who likes that one unpopular sequel must apparently kick puppies. Take your pick. It has become bad that ScreenJunkies, the people behind Honest Trailers who make money by making fun of movies, even began requesting that people try to have friendly discussions about movies and realize that it's okay that we don't all like the same things. They realize the type of influence that they have, and they decide to use it in their small little sphere, and I for one really appreciate that.

At the end of the day, I think that it's incredibly important for people to realize that we're all just people who have our own opinions on what we think is great, and we like different things. People don't too often intentionally hold an opinion just because it's nefarious. A person who disagrees with you, or who has different tastes than yours, isn't necessarily a corrupt, despicable person who's light years behind your intellectually and emotionally. They're probably just a regular person. As inconceivable as that may seem to some. Who knew that we could be unique human beings? I, for one, choose to have some faith in the people that I meet everyday, because we just might be more alike than we are unalike. We are, after all, human beings.



Hunting Ethics

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Nov 17 2017 · 189 views
riflery, archery, falconry and 2 more...
:kaukau: So recently a news story came up about hunting. It got me wanting to talk about hunting, since it's something that I take some interest in. As it happens the news story involved political debate over some laws that are being passed on the federal level, but I don't want people thinking that I'm making a veiled political commentary; I genuinely had a sudden desire to talk about a sport that interests me. I also wrote a blog entry elsewhere on gardening and nature, which primed me for this topic. I haven't written an actual essay of any sincerity on this blog for a long time, and it's about time that I do it again.

Honestly, I've never hunted, because I never had the time. Back when I was a kid, I took a hunting class that included a lot of details about safety. That was the main thing, safety. A lot about safety. I do think that that's the most important thing to keep in mind when hunting. If you learn nothing else, you must know how to never shoot yourself in the foot, or worse, accidentally shoot someone else. One of the #1 rules of hunting is to always know where you're aiming your rifle and always know what you're shooting at before you pull the trigger. Always be aware of whether or not a shot is safe to take before shooting. Always take extra precautions to know with absolute certainty that you're the only person in the area. There are also many rules for handing a gun safely from one hunter to the other, how to handle guns in groups, how to cross fences with a gun, and even how to pass axes between two people (upside-down, with the blade perpendicular with your arms).

In case you were wondering, I learned all of this in a Boy Scouts-y type organization.

Anyway, that's safety. When it comes to ethics and other traditions, there are certain things to bear in mind. In a nutshell, always respect the law and the customs of the land. This includes:
  • Knowing if you're required to have a permit to hunt.
  • Knowing if you're the right age to hunt.
  • Knowing what hunting equipment is legal.
  • Knowing if you're allowed to hunt in an area.
  • Knowing if a particular animal is legal to hunt and in-season.
  • Knowing what you're allowed to do with an animal once you've hunted it.
  • Respecting people who are uncomfortable with hunting.
That last part isn't a written law, but a custom. In my hunting class, I was taught about how to live in a world where others do not particularly like the idea of hunting. Not everybody supports hunting. Not everybody reading this blog likes the idea. Often times not even the family members of hunters like or support hunting. While I can't say that I will stop hunting for them, I will do my best to not parade hunting culture. It's sort of like nudist culture; fine on your own time, but you don't start displaying bodies out in public, since most would consider that obscene. The most basic rule that I learned is that if you're transporting the carcass of a deer, you should keep it under a tarp in a pickup truck. Do not tie it to the hood of your truck. This will upset people, even other hunters. Most people agree that an animal must be shown respect, and in America it is disrespectful to transport an uncovered carcass. There is some debate over whether or not it is okay to pose for a picture over a carcass; I respect either opinion, but I personally think that it's okay. With regards to the content of the picture, such as whether or not the hunter is smiling, or if the wounds are visible, or if the animal has been gutted, or if part of it has been turned into a trophy, I personally believe that the photograph must reflect what is considered acceptable and respectful in the area where the animal was hunted. A respectful photograph in South Dakota might look different than a respectful photograph in South Africa. When you hang up a photograph in a public space, such as a small private business that you own, make sure that it reflects the values of both the culture of the hunting grounds and the locality of the physical portrait. This is just my personal perspective. It is also important for hunters to know when not to brag about their accomplishments or even talk about hunting at all, since non-hunters might find it socially intrusive.

There are certain things that aren't illegal, but it is still the responsibility of the hunter to act in an ethical manner. A hunter should always make sure that his hunting does not hurt the ecosystem. The law does not always reflect what is healthy for the environment. If you're on a hunting trip in another country where a reckless behavior is legal, that legality does not make the hunting ethical. You must use your judgment. Some countries do not have proper protection laws against endangered species. Make sure you recognize an endangered species and don't take advantage of their availability. A hunter must be a hundred times better educated than the average person on what impact their activities leave on the animal kingdom, since they bear a great responsibility.

Another thing that isn't illegal everywhere, but one should strive to avoid, is any unnecessary animal cruelty. Never allow an animal to suffer. My father, who likes to fish, enjoys catching fish and tossing them back into the water. My sister objects to this, because it's pointless and doesn't serve any point. She does not object to fishing, so long as the fish's body is used in some way and to some end, but returning them to their place worse than how they were found is not only cruel, but completely pointless. I happen to agree with her. I wish that my father would stop that habit if only for her sake. Unfortunately, my father doesn't really care much about hunting ethics, or any kind of ethics, or respect for people, or human decency, or boundaries, or love, or kindness, or any notion that any sort of living people holds any sort of dignity worth his acknowledging, or any sense of obligation to treat people with respect, or comprehension that he has any obligation to follow any sort of reality other than his own, or any ability to show empathy, or any inkling that sadism is actually the opposite of integrity.

[I had to delete this paragraph after I realized just how angry this subject makes me.]

So basically, there are a lot of rules, written in civil laws and in natural laws, for what one cannot do as a hunter. Once you respect those, you have freedom to determine your own hunter's ethics and traditions with what's left over. Different people have their own perspectives on hunting, and hunters are not a homogeneous group. In some places, hunting is seen as a rite of passage or as a means of proving one's worth. it can be a strong tradition, or a weak tradition. Many people have religious perspectives on hunting; for some people, their religion forbids it altogether, and among those religions that permit hunting, there's no consensus of what it means.

How I was brought up, I was taught that a hunter must contribute to the land, or at the very least, do no harm. It's sort of like the Hippocratic Oath. I see hunting as a spiritual experience, one where you bond with nature, one where you take part in the circle of life. I see humankind as holding a special place as both the caretakers and the masters over nature. A friend of mine, a farmer and actress (uncommon combination, I know), takes care of pigs, truly loves them, and holds similar views as me. As it happens, she still ends up slaughtering her livestock. The way she sees it, in her role as master, she determines the course of her pigs' lives; how they're conceived, how they're raised, what sort of health and happiness they will know while they're on this Earth, when and how they will conclude their lives, and to what ends they will die. The deaths are painless, and they are meaningful in her eyes. When I apply similar principles as hunting, I think of my grandmother's garden. She trims her bushes, uproots weeds, and sometimes even uproots beautiful flowers as she alters and shapes her garden into a plot of land that she deems desirable. I see hunting in a similar way; you're in a garden, and the death of a game can be like the trimming of a bush. Hunting shapes nature in small ways. Hunting allows someone to become one with nature, to appreciate the small details of nature's garden. It's more interactive than merely hiking. It has an intimacy to it.

Others simply love the primal aspect of hunting. Remember how I compared hunting to nudism? The comparison holds up. It's natural. It's a means of rediscovering our core identity. Some might say that we've grown past this, that we're better and more sophisticated, but others have a mind that technology will never change our core identity. We are hunter-gatherers. We go out and we tame nature. We celebrate being at the top of the food chain. So long as no one is hunting anything endangered or off-season, I have no problem with this mentality.

There are those who do it because it's a sign of independence. It makes a personal statement. There are those who do it because it's better than playing video games. Some do it to be tough, which I find a weak reason, but if they respect the laws of man and nature, then there's no reason to stop them from hunting. Then there's people like my father, who talk about hunting all of the time and never do it, and demean people who don't hunt, and will do thinks that deliberately make people feel uncomfortable for the sake of being macho, and

[Another paragraph and a half deleted.]

Believe it or not, I do want to go hunting with my father sometime. It's an experience that I feel that I need to have, if we can agree on what it ethical and what the meaning of the hunt is. It would probably be one of my better experiences with him. He never developed beyond parallel play; that is, he doesn't actually interact with people all that much, but he still desires for people to do the same things that he's doing as he's doing them. If he's interested in something, he wants to do it, and he wants everyone else that he knows to do it with him. Without copying and pasting a definition of parallel play, that's how I'll describe it. Basically, hunting seems like the ideal situation for this, since you don't have to talk much while you're doing it, but it's definitely something that he reveres and considers constructive, so it just might form a bonding experience. So long as he doesn't revel in his capacity to cause pain and demean everything in this universe that isn't him, it just might work out.

[Fighting the temptation to fit in another rant.]

Outside of my father, I sometimes wonder what people I would want to hunt with. I wonder what sort of father I'd be. When I took my hunting class, I remember a picture in my textbook of a father hunting with a daughter. That image stuck with me, and to this day I see that as something that I very much want. I don't give much thought to these days on romance and marriage and other intimate mushy stuff, and I like the idea of staying single for my entire life because of how hardcore and na-na-na-na-can't-touch-this that sounds, but then I think of these things and remember what I'm missing out on. I think of what things that I can offer someone that I've never witnessed in my lifetime, and hopefully in ways that are far more loving and prosperous than they ever would have been if I had had the opportunity. I only just realized as I was writing this that if this ever happened, there's a good chance that I wouldn't walk with my children in my own homeland of the North American Great Planes, but in a far-off country like China, and this image of hunting with my children that I always had might be completely different from the one that happens in reality. I'm very much interested in international travel.

On the note of China, hunting has been suspended there altogether since 2006. It isn't a permanent ban, but rather the country has been trying to figure out its laws for the last decade. Most people, when they think of hunting, think of the United States, Canada, Australia, Argentina, and the continent of Africa, but China has a rich history of hunting. Eventually, when they figure out their hunting laws, I would be very interested in going to the sparsely populated regions of the country to experience nature in ways that few Americans have thought of. Before hunting was put on hold, they had various species of deer, goats, gazelles, and argali. The argali are a group of wild mountain sheep with twisted horns, with several subspecies, and are the largest type of wild sheep in the world. They are unique to the Himalayan region. There were a few other species, such as the Tibetan Antelope and wild yaks that required special permits. Presumably, most of these will still be legal when hunting is allowed again, with updated quotas. China is also trying to figure out what hunting laws will apply to citizens, since oddly enough it was only legal for tourists to hunt before they started on their revisions.

There's also Australia. I have a friend who was raised in Australia. When we ran in to each other on our first day of college, we went on a nature walk, and we did it regularly. On one occasion, we saw a couple of deer roam by our dorms, and we pulled out knives and chased them through a construction site. We've also done other things in nature, such as camping on the Omaha Tribe Reservation, which we visited regularly (and really ought to again sometime, if we can get in contact with our friends there), playing broomball on a frozen lake, sledding and skiing down the hills of our river valley neighborhood back when winters were cold. He moved back to Australia for a year, and upon his return often asked me if I wanted to move there with him. There we can explore the slot canyons, roam the desert, and skedaddle through the natural parks. He also mentioned legal means of hunting. There's an open season on all non-native wildlife, and it doesn't stop there. As sacrilegious as it sounds to Americans who would never dream of shooting the national symbol of their country, Australians don't hesitate to shoot their signature animal. Kangaroos are considered by many to be pests, and furthermore, though exotic they aren't endangered, so Australian hunters commercially hunt over one-and-a-half million kangaroos per year. Traditional, pre-colonial means of hunting kangaroos included throwing sticks, where people would throw heavy sticks at kangaroos and break their necks. These throwing sticks come in a few shapes, the most recognizable being a boomerang shape. An actual boomerang is considered to be lighter, and it thrown in to trees in order to startle birds into flying up into traps set in the higher branches. Contrary to popular believe, boomerangs were not designed to cross-breed yo-yo's and Frisbee's. I really like my friend's idea, and I am seriously considering it, since our lives are advancing similarly and we will both be in an ideal place to move to Australia at about the same time.

Hunting with throwing sticks fits my idea of hunting. I do not consider hunting with guns to be unethical, and as an American I consider firearms to be a quintessential inclusion in my nation's mythology. However, older tools such as the bow and arrow have always grabbed my attention. They're less precise and more frustrating, but I wanted that challenge. Furthermore, firearms scare me on an innate level, in part because of negative experiences with you-know-who. [Okay, I didn't have to delete a paragraph this time, but I removed a particularly unpleasant sentence right here.] I like that it forces me to conserve my ammunition, and to go search for it when I miss my target. I like the ability to select my arrows and even decorate them, and that arrows can be retrieved from their targets, and that arrows marking special achievements can be preserved. I like that everything about a bow and arrow is completely manual and dependent upon my strength. I like the physical exertion that it takes to create the torque. I love the technical design and the engineering that goes in to a bow.

What I didn't appreciate was being asked by a physics teacher to bring my bow to class back in high school without providing a means for me to do it without frightening other students in the hallways. Again, this comes back to the ethics. Hunting wasn't even involved here, but I still wish I had found a way to respect other people's comfort and not to startle anyone. A mature and responsible owner of such a tool ought to know how to never cause disharmony with it, because even freedom from fear isn't a legal right, it is still right to never let them know fear. For those wondering, the bow was brought to class for an experiment in measuring different types of force. In hindsight, I should have proposed meeting him outside of school so that he could have safely and inconspicuously brought it to the lab himself.

As cool and as challenging as it is to hunt with a bow and arrow or just a simple throwing stick, hunting with firearms isn't a walk in the park, either. Many people believe that hunting defenseless animals with guns at a safe distance is cowardly and isn't an accomplishment. Naturally, this has a point, and it's obvious that I agree with it to some extent seeing as I chose to train in archery instead. However, the name of the sport is hunting, not shooting. The weapon is only a part of the hunting experience, and anyone who has taken a hunting class knows this. The reason why I have not yet gone on a serious hunting trip is that the actual act of hunting is time-consuming, and takes a lot of knowledge. A good hunter must know where to find game, how to track game, how to wait for game, and if necessary, how to lure game. Hunting isn't like an arcade game where the deer are right there in front of you and all you have to do is aim and shoot. The vast majority of the time, you aren't aiming at anything. The hunter must use a backdrop of technical know-how to read the environment and find animals. I never quite mastered that level of outdoorsmanship. In addition to knowing the art of hunting in and of itself, avid hunters ought to know how to deal with the elements when things go wrong. If someone goes on a hunting trip in the Canadian shield, he needs to know how to take care of himself if he gets lost, how to cope with hypothermia if he falls into a freezing river, and how to start fires and create shelter. Having a gun makes things a bit easier, but it's still a hardy experience. People can have different opinions on ethics, which all hunters must respect, but I also believe that non-hunters must all understand the challenge that hunters undertake. Hunters can't simply be dismissed as lazy, insecure people who claim a cheap sense of accomplishment.

One thing that most people can agree on, though, is that laser-sighted rifles are unfair. Even in America, these are illegal in every state but the great state of Texas. At least, last I checked. It might be illegal there now, too. I wouldn't argue against its legality if it was legal in my state, but I would strongly discourage hunters from using them and I wouldn't want to hunt with such a person as my partner. This isn't surprising from the guy who enjoys archery. Riflery is more precise, but people still often miss. Having laser sightings is like using cheat codes in a video game. Can you imagine Jumanji if you had cheat codes? Good luck impressing Karen Gillan with that sort of sportsmanship.

Overall, I do still expect to hunt with a rifle someday, especially if I ever decide to get sentimental and have kids, and especially if those kids are raised in America. Rifles are a part of American iconography, just as swords are a part of England's. It's a part of the culture, and I do desire to hunt in part for cultural reasons. They say you haven't truly experienced another country if you haven't tried their food, and in some ways that goes for hunting. Really, any old traditions having to do with subsistence. As I said earlier, if I was in Australia, I would want to hunt a kangaroo with a boomerang-shaped bludgeon, not only because of the sportmanship but also because of culture. I could, after all, hunt with a throwing stick anywhere, but I would specifically do it in Australia because of its connection to the heritage of the land. The same goes with America, which had a history of riflery since its very inception. One simply has not had the "full" American experience without understanding riflery.

This leads me to one last thing with relation to hunting methods ending with the "ry" suffix. I mentioned riflery, archery, boomerangery (that isn't an actual word), and there's one more. It's called falconry. This is, hands down, the single coolest method of hunting ever devised by man. For those not in the know, it's when you capture a raptor and train it to fetch wild quarry, like having a dog catch a . People who practice falconry are called falconers, and come to think of it, that would make for an awesome name for a baseball team. But I should get back to the circle of life before I get off on a tangent. While the game that Thorondor brings home might not make for as impressive of a photo-op as the triceratops that Steven Spielberg shot, you get to pose with a bird of prey on your wrist as your loyal companion. You can be that person. Throw in a steed, and I'm pretty sure that you'll be the coolest person in the room no matter where you go. You win in life. Game over.

Of course, it isn't just awesome because it looks cool, but because it truly is a great achievement and puts you in a rare tier of hunter. Falconers are the SEAL Team Six of hunters. You don't buy a raptor for this. You capture an actual wild animal and forge a bond with it. You need to spend a great deal of time every single day with it. You most likely need to be single. Many places don't hand out permits for it unless you take a written test on it. You usually end up spending a small fortune on books because of the sheer amount of knowledge required for both training and caretaking. It can take two years to finish an apprenticeship, and it takes over seven years to become a Master. Most falconers will refuse to teach you anything unless you provide proof of the seriousness of your commitment. You have to spend great deals of time in the middle of nowhere, far away from roads, rifle hunters, power lines, barbed-wire fences, and all other things that could put all the time that you invested with Hedwig at risk of amounting to nothing. You never feed them food from the pet store, but raw meat that you expect them to later hunt for you. You have to be emotionally prepared for the possibility that Hawkeye might pull a Richard Parker and dump you at any given moment, after so much effort was put in to trying to share your life with nature's most graceful predator?

Got that? Now throw in ethics. The law mandates that you provide your raptor proper housing, and that you have the proper equipment. The American federal government has no laws saying that falconry impacts the environment, but falconers have to hold themselves to a higher standard than what the law permits. A falconer owes it to other falconers not to damage the reputation of the craft, and must never harm any birds. If you or another falconer looses a bird, then custom dictates that you put serious effort into finding it. If you run out of money to support this lifestyle, you must pass your raptor on to another qualified falconer or safely release it into the wild. The future of the sport rests on your shoulders to sponsor apprentices. You shouldn't let your friends touch it. You shouldn't do anything commercial with it. And remember what I said earlier about photo-ops and being the coolest person in the room? The falconry community actually discourages publicity, and much of what you do will go without recognition. At this point, we're not just talking about ethics, but the mettle of one's character.

Clearly, it isn't for everyone. However, I hold the ethical expectations for falconers as the classic standard which all hunters should take inspiration from. The future of the sport depends on the nobility of its participants.



War is like Love

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Oct 03 2017 · 215 views
love, war, peace, what if
:kaukau: The word "war" is like "love." What I mean by that is that I see a lot of people on Youtube who ask questions such as "What if X went to war with Y," or "What if all of the countries of the world went to war with each other?"

The answer is, it depends on what you mean by war. There are many different styles of war, and there are also many different purposes for war. You can't simply ask "What if X went to war with Y;" you have to also consider the goals that each country would have in this conflict and what would constitute as a victory. Are we talking about a Cold War in which countries are trying to gain an upper hand in the balance of power? Are we talking about a war where the objective is for one country to "contain" another? Is one country trying to merely weaken another? Take away a territory? Eliminate a threat? Take a rival down a peg? Force another country to meet some sort of demand, such as "Stop trading with Z?" Is the goal of the war to nation build? Are you uneasy with your allies and only allied out of convenience, or are you actual close friends? Is it an international policing action? Is it a war of conquest? Is it to solve a border dispute? Is it a defensive war where the goal is merely to survive?

With regard to the purpose of the war, how important is it to the countries involved? What politicians were in power at the outset of the war, and will any of the involved countries see a political shift? How important is the war too the politicians? How important is it to civilians? How important is it to the military? What are people willing to sacrifice for victory?

With styles of war, are we talking about a blitzkrieg? Trench warfare? Arms race? Is there an invasion, or are there proxy battles? Is it a siege? Is it merely a standoff, with war only being declared but no one really wanting to cross either country's borders? Are international laws and treaties followed? Is it naval war? Urban war? Guerrilla war? Are civilian casualties on the table? Is it a nuclear war?

How was the war declared? Surprise attack? Formal statement at the E.U.? Was it never declared at all? Did both countries anticipate the war and react immediately when one line in the sand was crossed?

So many things to consider. I find it pretty ridiculous when people take these "what if" scenarios and act like all war is going to look the same, like all war is an invasion.

I end this random ramble with an interesting thought: There's the saying of yester-generation, "Make love, not war." What if we were to make the word "love" even more ambiguous than it already is, and have it become synonymous with war? Boy, that would mess with people. I already had an idea for a language with one word for "love, like, want, and need." Con-langers tend to like breaking the word "love" up into several different, more specific words, but I rather enjoy obfuscating it even more.

Jean Valjean


Tattoos on Children

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Aug 29 2017 · 143 views
tattoos, laws, controversy and 2 more...
:kaukau: Would it be considered political if I said that I believe that it should be legal for a child, with his or her parent's consent, to get a tattoo? Some mother got arrested lately because she allowed her daughter to get a tattoo. Furthermore, tattoos were actually introduced to the Western world less than two hundred years ago from Polynesia, where they hold incredibly important cultural significance. Are you going to person from a Native-American, Polynesian, African, or other culture where tattoos or other body modifications on children are normal that they can't exercise their culture? What about Jews and Muslims, who mark their baby boys?

If people want to draw the line somewhere, draw it at foot-binding or blinding the eyes, or even amputating limbs (yes, these things actually happen). Tattoos and scars are only skin-deep, and if done safely are only cosmetic. They don't cripple a person, or leave them with medical issues. If a tattoo artist is unsafe, then that's an issue. But if they're completely professional, and the worst that people have to worry about is aesthetic regrets, why should it be illegal? I might add that some of these tattoos that I hear about that children get are things that they don't really sound like they'll regret, such as religious or ethnic symbols, or medical information, or identifiers put on identical twins. And at the end of the day, it's about freedom. It isn't hurting anyone, so people should have the freedom to do it. Does this mean that a ton of kids are going to get tattoos that they're going to regret? No, because this is one of those areas where I think that we need to trust the judgment of the parents.

(Ugh, don't get me talking about the legalities of "What if the parents are divorced?" Laws for divorced families are such a different ball game.)

On a side note, since it's related to the "blinding and amputating" that I mentioned earlier, there are people in India who will blind and/or amputate children in order to make them more sympathetic beggars. This is a terrible practice. And before you think "I can just pick up a beggar from the street and save them!" be aware that many child beggars get abducted by people who are claiming to be charitable. You definitely would want to go through a legal process if you want to ethically help out this kids.



Quote of the Day (5/13/17)

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom May 13 2017 · 231 views
STAR WARS, George Lucas, politics
:kaukau: "Never attribute to malice what you can attribute to stupidity and incompetence." - Ben Shapiro

Whenever you think that the world is filled with terrible people, just assure yourself with this. Yes, you still live in a messed up world, but at least most people are not malicious.

So no guys, George Lucas is not evil. Goodness. For that matter, I wouldn't call him stupid or incompetent, either. And I know you would like to argue that, but I don't think that you have the, eh, high ground when it comes to such accusations. I've looked at the BZP library. I've read your fanfics. There aren't exactly too many people who are good enough to write and direct professionally.



How to Rate People, part 2

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Dec 19 2016 · 719 views

:kaukau: Alright, so here's me serious, non-sarcastic thoughts on rating people based on how attractive you find them. I don't engage in the practice myself, for a couple of reasons. I don't trust to do it without objectifying women, first of all. Second, and probably more importantly, it offends the person being rated, since I would rarely rate someone above a 6, and everyone wants to be a 10. As I've said in my previous entry, 10's basically don't exist, and anything above an 8 is incredibly rare, or at least that's how it would be if I actually rated people. Anyway, I'm not looking to to hurt people's feelings over something that isn't even worth my time. There's also the fact that people who rate other people rarely ever actually communicate anything through their ratings, because different numbers mean different things to various people. Furthermore, people are rarely consistent with their rating system, so you can't take them too seriously.

All that having been said, I don't necessarily find the practice of rating your attraction to someone appalling. I don't trust myself to do it without objectifying women, but what if someone else can? What if someone is just more inclined to express himself or herself through numbers and has a natural inclination to quantify everything? I know I often try to quantify a lot of things. For example, I give a rating out of ten for every film that I watch, every book that I read, and every television show that I watch. As it happens, those numbers have meanings for me, and I'm very consistent with how I distribute them. What if someone has a similar system for how they rate attraction, and the numbers actually have meaning for them? And they're capable of being consistent with their ratings, too? Good for them. Honestly, I don't actually care.

For those of us who aren't numerically inclined, we have something similar to number ratings. It's called adjectives. Instead of calling someone a 6, 7, 8, 9, or 10, you could say that he or she is fair, lovely, beautiful, irresistible, or perfect. Each of those words kind of imply a different level of attractiveness, don't they? Why is it that we aren't appalled when we call someone fair? In a way, that's quantifying someone's attractiveness without explicitly doing so, because it implies that he or she isn't quite good enough to be called beautiful or irresistible, so why don't we find words like that appalling and objectifying? Just a thought. Language is funny. Perhaps some people do find phrased like that appalling. I'm pretty sure there are. There are probably some people who get really tired of hearing descriptions of themselves that imply that they're moderately attractive, but they can tell that people are holding back from truly gushing over how appealing they find them.

Perhaps some people like the numbers better, because they genuinely like to quantify things, like I do with movies and books. I honestly don't judge them, because I truly don't care. It's just something that people do, and it's part of our language. I just wish that people were far more clear and consistent on what their ratings meant, so I had a better idea of what they're trying to communicate when they say that someone's a 5.5.

As far as communication goes, I also think that if a friend told me that he had a crush on someone and then said that he thought that she was a 7 overall, I'd tell him to not even bother and wait until one day he met someone that he thought was at least an 8.5 (that is, if he rated people like I would if I rated people). If he came to me and said that he was getting along with a girl that he considered an 8.5, or even a 9, I'd feel compelled to be his wingman and make the relationship happen. So I can see how ratings would work well in that regard, if people were consistent and picky with how they rated others.

Let's be honest, though. If he actually met a 9 that he wanted a relationship with, he wouldn't be thinking to himself "she's a 9." Here's why: love can be very emotional, and rating people exercises the left side of the brain, which is the less emotional side. When you rate people and trying to quantify things, you're putting off any emotional attachment. I can actually see the benefit to that, since we ought to refrain from getting emotionally attached to attractive people too easily. If a guy met an attractive person, and then rated her, I believe that he's probably trying to distance himself from her, even if he rated her rather highly. At least, that's the impression that I get. As I said, it can also lead to the objectification of people.

Overall, I don't think much of it when people rate others. It's just something that people do, and it's too trivial for me to find it appalling, and in and of itself I don't object to the practice on account of how it's technically possible to rate people without objectifying them, and we already to similar things to rating people via other linguistic means. It is interesting to speculate on the psychological aspects of it, so I consider it an intriguing phenomenon.



Man in Black

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom, Music Oct 01 2013 · 360 views

:kaukau: For some time my favorite Johnny Cash song was "A Boy Named Sue" until in 2010 my history teacher introduced me to this.  Mr. Lehman wasn't a very sentimental person, but he was very sincere about a lot of things.  Behind all that cynicism was a man who cared a lot and, in spite of his low opinions of everyone, valued them dearly and believed in doing the right thing.  In a similar way, I balance an ongoing disappointment with humanity with a belief in its fundamental worth.
I wrote a story a while back.  For those who haven't read it, I won't advertise, but basically I made indirect reference to this song in some of the dialogue, particularly through a character who was supposed to represent me.  I realize that sometimes there's a time for ethics and philosophy, but depending on your point of view you either have to take a step back from this or step in a little to take a good look.  In any case, sometimes in order to see things as they really are you have to stop examining it, and you have to stop trying to feel it.  What you need is to simply believe in the whole point to morality: to care and to love other people.  In order to understand it you have to do it.  Don't try to experience it - act on it.
Perhaps I'm fortunate to have grown up in an unsentimental town, filled with stoic Iowans sitting silently in their Calvinistic pews.  We weren't looking for an experience.  Of course, you could say that we didn't act on our ideology either.  Then i went to a Pentecostal church where people were huge on experiencing righteousness, but their supposed good deeds ultimately didn't come out of love and I ultimately had to question whether they were loving people.  I would like to come to the defense of my cultural background and say that the Iowa Gothics have it right and the Armenian hippies had it wrong, but I can't quite say that one person was more loving than the other.
If anyone got it, it was Johnny Cash.  I like to call myself a Johnny Cash Christian.  If you don't believe in the things I believe, fine; call me a Johnny Cash American or Johnny Cash human.  I prefer to attach his name to my faith because that's what's most important to me.  In any case, I'm a person who's lived in a lot of silence and has gone through some rough times.  There's another song that described it quite well, one I will write a completely different essay for later, that really explains the internal decay we share in common.  What I understand about John is that he's a person who went through rough times, and he saw the ugliness of the world.  For whatever reason, that's what it took to also see its beauty.  Here he is, a broken man, and by seeing his brokenness and neediness and helplessness, he managed to see it in others and had compassion.
Growing up, I suffered depression.  I still do.  It's never gone away, no matter what I've tried to do.  Even when it all seems okay, my positive feelings stand in front of a backdrop of profound sadness.  Things went horribly wrong in my life, and I tried and failed to fix them.  Some of that was out of my power, some of it was.  I'm not sure which is more despairing.
I have found this to be somewhat of a truth: true sadness cannot exist without having known true happiness, and true happiness cannot have existed if not for true sadness.  They are both necessary, in order to know either one intimately.  So perhaps I have been blessed, because I am not depressed for no reason.  Rather, I have never lost sight of what constitutes for true joy.  I have never taken it for granted, and joy remains precious and real to me, even if it is distant.  At least I can be still and know it exists.
Now, having known this darkness, and having looked left and right and realized that in the humility it brings the world seems much bigger all of a sudden, I cannot look at others without feeling some degree of compassion.  I want the best for them, better than what I have for myself.  Perhaps they don't suffer depression like I do, but I want them to all know true joy.  I want what is right for them.  I waited for a long time, hoping for someone to come along and hold me when I was not enough, but there came a time to put that waiting aside.  Since I know what joylessness feels like, I cannot wish that upon anyone else.
This isn't a grand exposition of morality and ethics.  I'm just, for a moment here, being completely human, and sometimes it's difficult to find the words to express that.  Morally speaking, it's very simple: Do unto one another as you would have done unto yourself.  Somehow, though, I don't say this in moral language.  I just know what I want done for me, and I realize I can't have it, and in order for there to be something right in this world I have to give it out to other people.  Pretty soon my pain becomes not my own, but that of the others I want the best for, who lack the best.  I'm not thinking of whether or not it's moral, and it isn't an experience.  I'm a slave to grace.  That makes sense, somehow, but I'm still trying to figure out what that means.
What matters is that I'm sincere.  No, that doesn't matter.  It's important, but it's secondary to the real thing that matters.  What reallymatters is that other people hurt, too, and we should all be a little more selfless and sympathize with their wounds.  We have to deliver on the promise of a better world, and not out of some blind idealism, not because we're preaching morality or because we want to be better people.  I don't care how good I am.  I'm not looking at myself.  Helping others doesn't make me feel better, and at this point I've stopped caring about how I feel.  What do I feel?  Variations of depression, my only real friend.  It's unfortunate, but I've learned to love myself in spite of it, whether I succeed or not in helping others, and whether my failures are within my control or beyond it.
Love.  It's really that simple.  There's a stoic way of saying it; that's intellectual.  There's a hippie way of saying it; that's emotional.  I just want to see the doing done.  I want to see genuine love come from a person's spirit, even if it's imperfect.  Love everyone; yourself, in spite of your flaws that you know all too well, and others, even when they don't live up to your standards.  Don't even think about standards.  The only reason you should apply them is because it's for the food of the people you hold them to, and they will be healthier if they act lovingly as well.  Not everyone's life is going to improve.  That's okay; it's all the more reason to love them.
To the people I love dearly, who mean a lot to me, who I have been praying for and hoping for, to the people I have had to comfort, and to many others who are hurting and not even knowing it, I'm on your side, and I dedicate this entry to you.  I will never give up on you.



On Suicide

Posted by Jean Valjean , in Wisdom Sep 21 2013 · 347 views

It was never a temptation I struggled with.  The fear of death and of the unknown always outweighed the fear of life's struggles.  It was a permanent "solution" to a temporary problem.  Suicide was an escape route that never seemed worth the price of admission.
Somehow, other people struggle with it.  I don't fully understand; I will never be in their shoes.  My personality is just different that way, because I always had the drive and the stubbornness never to give up.  Yet, some part of me deeply understands, because I have known the trench warfare of life's battles and the shellshock that leads to it.  I have known hopelessness and despair.  I have felt the whole world abandon me and desired to respond in kind - I wanted to abandon it as well.  I was no longer needed, so I turned inward to a soulless life of loneliness, and the only thing holding me together was the common grace of a God who wouldn't give up on me.  That I have never desired to take the ultimate step in abandoning the world is a blessing I can take no credit for; I am merely lucky.  The thought never crossed my mind and I don't know what would happen if it did.
As plain as day, the struggle with suicide is real.  It is a real tragedy that affects real people.  It becomes more than just an idea or a temptation, but an actual decision someone commits to.  They actually do it.  I don't know how.  To me, it's unnatural, unthinkable, and for that it's all the more tragic.  It should never have happened, but somehow it sneaks like a thief in the night into the lives of hurting people and whisks them away.  I try to imagine what it must be like, to not just think of that infinite blackness but to know it, and the theatre in my mind descends into a place that's dark and perverse, to a basement that's pure evil.  This basement is like the one that spooked me out when I was a little kid, where I was afraid I would meet a haunting ghost or a malevolent shadow, or Satan himself.  My mind must create images of personified evil in order to comprehend the experiential knowledge of this irrevocable decision.
Every once and a while I hear of people committing to it, and I try to comprehend how it could happen.  To me, it's not just sad but horrifying, because it is so completely unknown to me, and Man fears that which he does not know.  Still, it is sad above all, and I mourn the losses.  I mourn for the suicidal, their family, and their friends.  Part of me even mourns for the sake of all creation.
One of the first suicides I knew of was during my junior year in high school.  A kid from a nearby school was gay and got bullied.  Out of the blue, he solved the problem.  I was very sad when I heard about it.  He and I had never met, and I would have never heard of this person had he not died, but I grieved anyway.  He was young.  Too young.  How could death come to a boy who hadn't even begun to experience a mature life and all its promise?  In no fashion was an understanding of their family's grief even comprehensible, and I could hardly grieve on the behalf of specific people.  Yet, I grieved for all of creation, because all was wrong with the world.  If one person had died, then the universe had died.  Death can only exist in a dead world.
Someone, her name being Hope, trivialized the whole matter.  She thought he had it coming, because he was gay.  I thought this was in bad taste, and it hurt me that she responded to tragedy with hatred.  She never knew him, but she had murdered him.  He needed more love than what he received, and think we were all to blame for not living in a loving enough world.  If the world was loving - truly loving - how often would people give up?
Hope should have given her neighbor more hope; this I cannot deny.  Yet, I cried for her as well.  She hadn't just hated and judged this person, because she had done the same to me as well.  I knew a thing or two about her that made me feel very guilty for my ill-will toward her.  She had a chip on her shoulder, and some vague history of family problems.  I had overheard her talking once about how she had to go to counseling.  If I just stopped and paid attention, it was obvious that she fostered a world of insecurities and some pains of her own.  If suicide is an evil, and her hatred was an evil, then I really had to mourn for her affliction.  Both vices are forms of murder.  Both robbed someone of their good humanity.
This was several years ago and I could have forgotten that suicide was real, except it happened again this August.  I went to a meeting amid church youth counselors.  We talked for a while, covering a number of relevant topics, until someone asked one of the elders, Alan, how things were going.  He mentioned several things about his family, and ended with an aside that his nephew had decided that life wasn't worth living anymore.
I failed to comprehend.  It was, as I said before and will not hesitate to say again, unnatural.  Alan told the story of his nephew, and there seemed to be no visible, discernible reason for him to give up on life.  He was a good man, seemed happy, and worked exceptionally hard on his job.  He put all that effort into everything.  He was loved and valued.  Why couldn't he see that life was worth living?  He apparently had a temporary problem, but chose a permanent solution to it.  It was far more than what was merited.  How could he have possibly been tempted?
At times like these, I realize that all is wrong with the world.  I realize what's inherent in all humanity, and what I'm capable of.  I can defy natural order, spit in the face of all that is good, and destroy myself with evil, even when everything would have been infinitely better if I lived exactly as I should.  For whatever reason that defied all sense, I constantly mess up.  I don't mess up so bad that I prematurely destroy my physical existence, but at all times I am, somehow or other, exhibiting some sort of negative potential.  I share the DNA of the humans who commit suicide.  The alleles might not be the same, but our spiritual genome is equally human in its corruption.  Any small error on my part is a reflection of the greatest errors possible.  If one person commits suicide, then so have I.  For me, it's just by some divine grace that it kills me in less literal ways.
So why haven't I taken it to the greatest extreme?  Why haven't I ended myself, if that's my nature?
There's always hope.  Always.  I hope that there's something redeeming about my existence as a human being, and I believe in that hope because I have seen evidence in it.
That same August, a few days before I learned of Alan's nephew and suicide was far from my mind, I received a random message on Facebook from someone who was a friend of a friend, but to me a complete stranger.  "Jesus loves you."  She paused.  I smiled, touched.  It was cute and I really appreciated it.  Then: "I wish he loved me."
My heart sank.  I didn't know exactly what she was feeling, but I had an idea.  She felt that she was loved less than other people, that she was less of a person.  I have no idea why she was feeling that, but it was the obvious takeaway from such an expression of emotion.  I had compassion.  Without even thinking about it, and certainly without thinking much of it at the time, I messaged her back.  Of course Jesus loved her.  I told her exactly why, because I believed it with all my heart.  It wasn't an essay, but pure human communication in its simplest form.  Something told me that she carried some sort of deep shame, that she doubted herself and her self-worth.  Yet, it didn't matter what type of wretch she was.  She was beautiful.  Even the bad things in us and in this world would work together to the benefit of our beauty.  Jesus loves her.
She told me thanks, that it was exactly what she needed to hear.  Then she realized that she had accidentally messaged the wrong person.  I shrugged it off, because it seemed to minor and inconsequential at the time.
A week ago, she messaged me back.  She remembered me, and apparently what I had to say meant so much to her that she had to tell me about it a month after I first talked with her.  She said that she had almost committed suicide that night when she first sent me an accidental message.
I looked up from my computer and around the library, astonished.  Was anyone looking?  Where in the room was God?  Who could I turn to?
The other suicide victims were people I had never talked to, and I had most certainly never had any direct involvement in their suicides.  Nobody I knew ever struggled with it, or at least that I knew of.  Suddenly, some simple, innocent young woman comes to me and tells me that I had helped save her life.  I was overwhelmed.  I felt unworthy of this supposed righteousness, because I wasn't even helping her with some grand intention of saving her life, and I wasn't on some saintly crusade.  I was just being a regular nice person who was content to fix small problems.  I never needed to know what my comforting words had done or how much of a difference I made.
For some time, I let her talk about her feelings and how far her life had come in just one month.  She had struggled with some serious doubts about herself and had beat herself up a lot.  I understood this pain, for I and many of the people closest to me have struggled with the same issues.  My breath was taken away that this came so close to ending with a tragedy before grace saved her.  It was a time for celebrating, and I cried tears of joy.  Still, I couldn't rejoice, for I was too overwhelmed for that.  I had just witnessed a miracle, begetting a happiness I didn't even know how to feel.
Instead, in shock, I told an old friend about it, Monica.  At first I poorly communicated what had just happened, and she believed that someone was still considering suicide, and she found me later to tell me she was going to get a pastor we both knew.  I had never seen her so sincere before.  When I talked with the pastor a few minutes later, I was numb.  I couldn't explain myself, or all of it.  We both agreed that it was, in the most literal sense of the word, awesome.  Someone had been lost and yet was found.  She was alive, and it was all because she knew that she was loved, that the world had not abandoned her.  The pastor and I prayed, and I went about the rest of my night a changed man.
Evil can exist within us, but we have the mark of love upon us.  That's the hope I need.
I wish the story ended there, but it's not so simple.  She had been spared, and death did not take her away, but her brother had ben seized that very night.  An hour after she told me about how she had survived, she got news that her brother committed suicide.  She didn't understand it.  I didn't either.  I didn't know how such a thing could happen, especially when someone's life was just about to go right.  I went and I talked with another pastor, and he didn't have many answers.  He did, however, know how to listen, and he taught me that what I needed to be at that moment was a good listener as well.  This young woman needed someone to talk to, to listen to her as she sorted things through.  She needed someone to mourn with her, but also to be distant enough to provide the necessary objectivity.
I still wonder what my obligations toward other people are, and how all things are working together toward an ultimate peace.  We're not there yet, but I still often hope for it, and for all those who are still living - the only people I can talk to - I pray that they never give up hope, either.  I've seen that darkness, and I've seen the brightness.  One is to be acknowledged, while the other is to be believed.  Shadows cannot exist without light, and so it is that the very reason we should mourn the loss of loved ones is because we haven't lost sight of what we love.  And on my soul, may love never fail.



Username: Jean Valjean
Real name: People literally don't have names in my family
Age: 24
Gender: Male
Heritage: Half Dutch, Quarter Hungarian, Eighth Swedish, Sixteenth German and Irish
Physical description: Looks like the eleventh Doctor
Favorite food: Chicken, turkey, and beef.
Least favorite food: Vegetables of any kind
Favorite band: Queen
Favorite singer: Billy Joel
Favorite song: American Pie
Favorite movie: Schindler's List
Favorite TV show: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Favorite play: Les Miserables
Favorite color: Silver
Second favorite color: Brown
Favorite board game: Risk
Favorite athlete: Michael Phelps
Lucky Number: 53
Past-times: Writing, reading, drawing
Political Caucus: Iowa Republicans
Religion: Christian
Language: Iowegian

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