A Good Friday Blog Post with Greek Words in It

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Jesus' arrestI noticed something fascinating and awesome during the Good Friday service today. It was in the Passion reading from John 18 and 19, and the particular verse was John 18:8, when the chief priests and officers have arrived in the garden of Gethsemane to arrest Jesus. Twice, Jesus asks them who they are seeking and they say, “Jesus of Nazareth.” John 18:8 is Jesus’ response the second time. In the ESV, the verse reads, “Jesus answered, ‘I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.’” The bit that made me notice something fascinating and awesome was the “let these men go” bit. I remembered hearing on Worldview Everlasting, my favorite youtube addiction, that there’s a certain Greek word that is often translated “forgiven” that can also be translated as something along the lines of “sent away” or “separated”, among other things. (Which is really interesting, because it means that the phrase “your sins are forgiven” is equivalent to “your sins have been sent away”)

Even after much searching, I have failed to find the Worldview Everlasting video in question, and I actually don’t remember exactly what it said or which verse it quoted. (Although I think it may have been Matthew 9:2) I did, however, find the Greek word in question.  It is αφίημι and the various forms thereof. For example, the last phrase of Matthew 9:2, “Your sins have been forgiven” in the ESV, is “αφίενταί σου αί αμαρτίαι”in Greek.  αφίενταί, according to a certain library book, is the present passive third-person form of αφίημι.  And the beginning of Matthew 6:12, “And forgive us our sins/debts/trespasses” (in the Lord’s Prayer) is “καί άφες ημίν τά οφειλήματα ημων.”  άφες  is the second-person imperative active form of αφίημι. I have here in front of me a book that has approximately a bajillion examples of places where forms of αφίημι are found in the Bible, with a variety of different English translations depending upon the context. The point is that it is indeed a word that means forgive/ let go of/send away, etc.

The other point is that John 18:8 is in that list. (Or at least, it’s presumably there somewhere; I can’t actually find it at the moment, and I am hereby acknowledging that, just in case I’m wrong that it’s a form of the same word.) According to the internet, in the Greek, John 18:8 reads, “απεκριθη Ιησους, Ειπον υμιν οτι εγω ειμι. ει ουν εμε ζητειτε, αφετε τουτους υπαγειν”, except that I left out all of the accent marks and stuff because I’m too lazy to deal with them. (Also, some things, like the breathing marks over leading vowels, don’t appear to exist on Microsoft Word. That’s annoying.) The part that the ESV translates “Let these men go away” is the part that says “αφετε τουτους υπαγειν” in Greek. (Incidentally, τουτους is a pronoun, not a noun, so wouldn’t it make more sense for the English translation to be “Let them go away”?) αφετε is evidently the second-person imperative form of αφίημι. That’s not speculation; I looked it up to be sure, and that is indeed what the plural second-person imperative of a Greek verb is supposed to look like.

So, to make a long story short, I have spent the last few hours using various books and internet resources to verify that the Greek word used in John 18:8 was indeed the word I thought and hoped it was. A better and much quicker way to verify this would have been to ask Pastor before I left church, because the fact that I don’t actually know Greek rather holds me back from knowing what stuff means in Greek. But, y’know, on Good Friday we’re supposed to leave church in silence, so that’s what I did.

crucifixThe interesting point that I have thus far failed to make is that it’s cool that the word used in John 18:8 is the same as the word translated “forgive” because of the reason Jesus was being arrested, and then crucified. At the moment of his arrest, Jesus told his captors to forgive/let go his disciples, rather than arresting them too, just as, through his death on the cross, Jesus forgave/let go us from our sins, rather than condemning us for them.

The point of all this, in summary, is that forgiveness and salvation come through Christ’s sacrifice. Yeah, that’s basically what I was getting at here.

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Words From the Abode of My Kin

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This week is spring break. Last Friday, after my calculus exam, I finished packing while watching the newest Worldview Everlasting video, put some stuff in the trunk of my car, checked out of my dorm room, and got into the aforementioned car to drive 373 miles to the abode of my kin. At precisely 4:20 PM, according to the digital alarm clock that I had set up in the cupholder, I turned the key in the ignition. Then, for approximately six hours and fifteen minutes, I journeyed long and far, braving the dangers of treacherous weather (the sun was pretty bright for the last couple hours before sunset), the risk of car failure, and the great perils of the wilderness. (‘Cause one never knows if a mountain lion is suddenly going to jump out at one. They say that mountain lions don’t live around here, but “They” have been wrong before.) Also, we must always be aware of the possibility of space alien attacks.

Waiting for the Saint Patrick's Day parade to startThose hands are the hands of my sister.

Waiting for the Saint Patrick’s Day parade to start
Those hands are the hands of my sister.

But as it so happened, I arrived at the place where my family lives, and in fact made relatively good time. Unfortunately, my spring break has just happened to coincide with illness in this household, which is actually a pretty unusual occurrence. The weekend’s Saint Patrick’s Day festivities were greatly dampened by fevers and headaches. So far, I seem to have managed to stay well (except for allergies, which are the cat’s fault) but who knows how long that’ll last.

As you can see, this animal is quite glad to see me.

As you can see, this animal is quite glad to see me.

This past weekend has been a busy time in this house, and next week will be even busier, (my sister’s confirmation is next Sunday) but in the meantime, there are four or five days that will be about as uneventful as things ever are around here. That could mean one of two things: 1) I’ll have plenty of time for all of the stuff I don’t normally have time for at school, which may include lengthy and potentially interesting blog posts, or 2) I will spend most of the time lounging around on whatever piece of furniture has a cat on it and not actually end up doing much of anything. It remains to be seen which direction my spring break shall take.

I am on a quest to abandon reality

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I have become somewhat disenchanted with reality. It’s not cool; I don’t like it. For this reason, I have decided that I would like to leave. I plan to move to Kroopskicoonx as soon as I can figure out how to do that.

Pictured: Saturn, because I don't have a picture of Kroopskicoonx.

Pictured: Saturn, because I don’t have a picture of Kroopskicoonx.

Kroopskicoonx is an imaginary planet. I made it up for a science fiction thingy I was writing a month or two ago, because I needed a planet to name as the home of the incomparably brilliant Inctovery Yurinch, a mathematician whose groundbreaking work in time anomalies was instrumental in understanding why time behaves differently on different planets. It is worth noting that these different planets are also imaginary; in reality, it is my understanding that the nature of time does not depend upon the planet in question. But we’re not talking about reality right now. We’re talking about the imaginary cosmos that includes the imaginary planet of Kroopskicoonx.

The science fiction thingy went on to discuss the mathematical reasons why some planets have stuff like time zones while others have planetary constant time. (Of course, these mathematical principles are intellectually over my head, not to mention the fact that they are imaginary, so I had to make up a lot of words and cite a lot of imaginary mathematicians to discuss them.) The thingy did not give any additional information about the planet Kroopskicoonx, although I have since then imagined a few more things about it. It is somewhat smaller than Earth, with approximately the same land/water ratio. The population is significantly less, though; there are only about twenty million inhabitants of the dominant species, who are humanoid and closely resemble Earthling humans, although their skin is a bit greener, their ears are lower down on their heads, and they don’t have toenails. Also, they have seven fingers on each hand, and therefore tend to count in base seven, when they aren’t counting in binary since they have two hands.

Obviously, there are many details that I have yet to imagine. Because I am an odd person, I do in fact intend to imagine many things about this planet until such a time that I can move there. Upon my arrival, I shall surely be glad of this, for it’s very confusing and disorienting to move to a new form of existence without prior knowledge of what your new home is like.

My current dilemma, of course, is how to leave reality and get to Kroopskicoonx. Right now, sadly, I am a real person in reality and an imaginary person on Kroopskicoonx. The goal is to reverse this and to be a real person on Kroopskicoonx and an imaginary person in reality. One could argue that it doesn’t work that way; that it is Kroopskicoonx that is imaginary and not me, so I can’t be imaginary there if I’m actually real, where “actually” means “in the real world.” But I disagree with that logic. It’s not that I’m trying to say that reality is subjective; it isn’t. Kroopskicoonx is imaginary from any perspective. It’s imaginary by definition because I imagined it and it doesn’t exist apart from my imagination. Its inhabitants would not see that any differently; they are well aware that they are imaginary people.

x is the imaginary dimension, y is any real dimension, A is a point in reality, and B is an imaginary point.

x is the imaginary dimension, y is any real dimension, A is a point in reality, and B is an imaginary point.

But think of it this way. Think of reality as a place that has a positive coordinate in a certain imaginary dimension, and my imaginary world as a place that has a negative coordinate in this same imaginary dimension. When I travel to Kroopskicoonx, I will be moving towards it, which means that to it, my displacement is positive, and I shall become real. That doesn’t mean that I will really be real, because my location will then have a negative (and thus imaginary) coefficient. But I will be imaginarily real in the same way that I am really real and imaginarily imaginary now. Just as two negatives equal a positive, two layers of imaginariness equal reality, provided that we are discussing a single dimension of imaginariness. If we bring multiple dimensions into the picture, it is of course possible to be imaginary in more than one dimension, just as it is possible for a point to have negative values in both the x-direction and the y-direction. But for the sake of this discussion, we are talking about only one imaginary world and only one imaginary dimension.

Now, I just need to know how exactly to travel in that imaginary dimension. On the one hand, I should be able to do that because I’m the one who imagined this dimension. On the other hand, though, that doesn’t necessarily mean that I get to make up all the rules. Indeed, ‘tis an odd and non-humanoid entity to which I am alluding, for it has three hands and the third hand is this: perhaps it is not even possible to really travel in an imaginary dimension. Perhaps I am stuck in reality for good. That would not be cool.

Homework, Coffee, Settlers of Catan, and Color-Coded Stuff: A Tale of a Night When I Didn’t Sleep

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9:39 PM

Cups of coffee: 0

M&Ms: 0

Homework done: None

Games of Catan: 0

 

The pattern is now familiar. I make a list of homework and a plan of attack, I get some M&Ms and make some coffee, and I sit down in front of my computer to document my sleepless night by writing random and rambling things about it, which shall then appear on my blog for all the world to see. Generally, these all-nighter chronicles begin with a remark that I wasn’t expecting to need to do this. That is certainly the case in this situation; I really thought that this semester wouldn’t call for any all-nighters. Academically, this is the lightest semester I’ve ever had. But around midterms, there’s no such thing as an academically light semester.

To be honest, this all-nighter probably isn’t necessary. I think that I could be ready to call it a night by about two O’clock or so. That’s really late for me, but it is much less drastic than pulling an all-nighter, especially since I don’t even need to be up at a reasonable time tomorrow. This semester, I only have morning classes on Mondays and Wednesdays, and tomorrow is a Tuesday. I prefer to be up at a reasonable time anyway, but I could make an exception to that habit if I felt it was necessary.

But, after giving the matter due consideration, I decided to pull an all-nighter. That way, I have all the time I need and don’t have to feel stressed about finishing by a certain time. Besides, it gives me an excuse to eat M&Ms, and it makes it possible for me to take the time for Catan breaks. Anyone who has been reading my blog regularly may have noticed a bit of a pattern lately, which is that I have a tendency to mention Catan quite frequently.

 

I didn't win. Life is tough.

I didn’t win. Life is tough.

11:26 PM

Cups of coffee: 1

M&Ms: 10 blue, 7 red, 3 yellow, 3 brown, 8 green, 8 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus homework and one single-spaced page of a paper that shall be double-spaced later

Games of Catan: 1. I lost. It wasn’t fair. I totally should have won.

 

I would say that I was making pretty good time, except that I’m supposed to have three pages of this paper done by midnight. That is, I’m supposed to submit a three-page draft online. Three pages really isn’t a big deal, especially because this draft isn’t going to be graded. The professor is just having us submit it to make sure that we actually have that much done. Originally, the paper was going to be due tonight, but now it’s due on Wednesday instead. Compared to certain papers from last semester, this will be quick and easy; it’s basically a paper on a project that was already presented in class today. But I’m a very slow writer. For me, any paper is a long paper. That’s a little ironic, considering just how much writing I do, even outside of schoolwork. I’m also very slow at math. I’m slightly proud of myself for being done with my calculus homework for tonight, even though it was a pretty easy homework assignment. It was on the partial derivative. Partial derivatives are pretty simple. Incidentally, I really don’t seem to have many yellow M&Ms here. That’s a little odd.

 

11:57 PM

Cups of coffee: Still just one

M&Ms:  12 blue, 9 red, 4 yellow, 3 brown, 9 green, 9 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus and that draft of that paper

Games of Catan: Still just one. I still think I should have won.

 

An incredible and very good thing as happened. As I logged onto the thingy to submit my paper draft, nothing went wrong. This is rare indeed. My college’s internet system doesn’t like me; whenever I try to log into something that’s through the college, it won’t accept my password the first few times I try. Sometimes, I keep on trying over and over and over and never even get in because it eventually blocks my access because of so many failed attempts to enter the password. This is extremely frustrating. But it didn’t happen tonight, which is good because I submitted that draft at 11:54, which was cutting it pretty close. The uncool part is that it’s a pretty lousy draft, but that’s not a big problem. I still have two days to finish it and clean it up, and I’ll probably be able to dedicate a significant portion of tonight to it. But I do have to concentrate on my algebra homework for tomorrow first.

 

Here's why the number of green M&Ms isn't a whole number.

Here’s why the number of green M&Ms isn’t a whole number.

1:57 AM

Cups of coffee: one and a half

M&Ms: 21 blue, 10 red, 8 yellow, 4 brown, 12 ½ green, 10 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, that draft of that paper, and practically all of the computer assignment for linear algebra

Games of Catan: Just one. I really want to play another one now, but it isn’t time yet, according to my detailed plan for tonight.

 

Normally, whether I’m staying up all night or just staying up really late, I don’t actually leave my room in the middle of the night. Tonight was an exception, though, because the aforementioned computer assignment for linear algebra required a computer program that I can only use on the computers in the math building. So I headed over there a little after midnight and spent about an hour and a half on that assignment. It was weird being outside at that time of night; for once, it was quiet. There were a few people in the math building, because that happens to be a favorite late-night-studying place and all-nighter place. The assignment in question was actually pretty cool; it had to do with ciphering. I made a slight mistake on a cipher that I was supposed to be deciphering, so it came out correct except for one word in the middle, which said ‘rMOk’. This amused me greatly. But I redid the exercise anyway, and it came out with real words that time. I couldn’t quite figure out how to do the last exercise, though, so I’ll have to do that one later. I’ll probably do it right before class, because that’s the only way I’ll have a chance to ask the professor about it.

 

3:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 14 red, 14 yellow, 14 brown, 22 ½ green, 18 orange

Homework done: All of my calculus, the draft for that paper, almost all of that algebra assignment, and the reading for my postmodernism class on Wednesday

Games of Catan: Still just one. But the time for game number two is near at hand. First, I have some algebra homework to do, but Catan is next after that.

 

Colored index cardsThere are five greatly awesome things that are within inches of my hands right now, all of which I have used quite a bit within the past few hours. The list is as follows: coffee, M&Ms, colored index cards, sharpies, and dry erase boards. A few minutes ago, I was surprised and confused to discover that my fingers were speckled, but a moment’s reflection enabled me to realize that this was because I had been using my fingers to erase numbers off of my dry erase board in order to replace them with other numbers. I love using dry erase boards to keep track of random and inconsequential details of my life. ‘Tis an entertaining thing to do. The appeal of colored index cards and sharpies, of course, is that they allow you to color code stuff, and color coded stuff is automatically cooler than non-color coded stuff. As a matter of fact, this point also can be extended to explain the coolness of M&Ms, and to relate to my interest in keeping track of M&M colors on my dry erase board. But coffee isn’t colorful. The coolness of coffee is independent of its visual appearance. Maybe someone should invent colored color-coded coffee. By definition, that would be incredibly cool, but I can’t actually think of a good purpose for it. I’ll have to think about this.

 

4:06 AM

Cups of coffee: Two and a half

M&Ms: 31 blue, 18 red, 14 yellow, 15 blue, 26 ½ green, 19 orange

Homework done: See above, plus just a couple algebra problems. But those couple that I did took a really, really long time.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. The website’s down, so that last game was aborted. That’s okay; it was making me really mad because I was losing really badly because nobody was rolling fours, sixes, eights, or nines, which just shouldn’t happen. People were basically just rolling tens every single time, which was very much in orange’s favor and did me no good at all. It was really unfair, especially since I had had a very similar problem in the previous game. Sometimes I wonder if other people have discovered ways to rig the dice on internet board games. It seems feasible, since those are just imaginary dice anyway. Presumably, if someone was really good with computers, they could figure out a way to trick the system. I’m not necessarily saying that’s what happens, I’m just saying that it sure seems like it.

 

101_9851Aside from the Catan problems which I have lamented in the previous paragraph, I’m also frustrated that this algebra homework isn’t going well. I still have several hours before class, but I don’t want to spend that entire time on this one homework assignment. At the rate I’m going, that’s how long it’ll take.

The weird thing is that it’s almost morning now, and it really doesn’t feel like it’s been that long since I got back from dance class at around eight O’clock. It’s no wonder I always feel tired; apparently nights go faster than days, and so one doesn’t get a lot of sleep by sleeping through the night. But it wouldn’t be any better to sleep during the day, since I have just determined that nights aren’t long enough for doing homework.

The only solution I can think of is that days just need to be longer. Since the length of a day is determined by the amount of time it takes the Earth to revolve around its axis, we just need to slow the Earth’s rotation. I wonder what kind of an impact this would have on the Earth’s climate. Of course, in order to minimize these effects, it is important that the Earth’s orbit around the sun should not be changed at all. I think years are a pretty good length.

Although it would be nice if the number of days in a year was something a little nicer than 365 ¼. That’s such a random number. I would like to suggest 350. That’s close enough to the current year length that it wouldn’t make a big difference, but it’s easier to remember and it has more factors than 365 or 366. We could divide the 350-day year into ten months of 35 days each, which I think is a lovely length for a month to be, and ten is a nice number of months. And there will be exactly 50 weeks in a year, which would be convenient. It would also mean that holidays and birthdays would fall on the same day of the week every year, which is an appealing idea and would make it very easy to keep holiday traditions the same from year to year. And Advent would always be the same length, so Advent calendars could actually be Advent calendars instead of December calendars that call themselves Advent calendars.

It would seem that I don’t feel like returning to my algebra homework.

 

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

Between various math problems, you can see my M&M statistics.

5:08 AM

Cups of coffee: Three and a half. Now my coffee is gone, but that’s okay, because I’ll be able to go and get some more from the cafeteria in just a couple hours. It is worth noting that, on days when I sleep, I hardly ever drink more than one cup of coffee.

M&Ms: 43 blue, 22 red, 19 yellow, 24 brown, 38 ½ green, 26 orange. This is a final count; my M&Ms are now gone.

Homework done: All I have accomplished since the last update was another couple paragraphs on that paper.

Games of Catan: Two and a half.

 

It’s still dark and will be for a while, but I hear birds singing. Some people on campus complain about how loud the birds are, and I am puzzled by their annoyance. Personally, I don’t mind the birds nearly as much as I mind the leafblowers and lawn mowers, which are also noises that one hears almost constantly on this campus, and frequently right under one’s window when one is trying to do homework.

I think I’m going to go take a shower now. After that, I have to get back to my algebra homework, and then I’m allowed to take a break to check tumblr.

 

6:26 AM

Cups of coffee: Still at three and a half.

Homework done: See above, plus a couple more algebra problems.

Games of Catan: Still at two and a half.

 

I actually didn’t take a shower shortly after five, like I said I would, because my roommate was in the shower. In my residence hall, we have suites, and each suite has its own shower. I definitely prefer that to a communal bathroom, but it’s more than a little annoying hearing water running when I’m trying to do homework. It’s weird how some noises, like showers and squeaky doors, drive me crazy, while other noises, like ticking clocks and the strangely loud hum of my desk light, don’t bother or distract me at all.

Right now, I’m a little annoyed at the world in general for the fact that it’s morning. I don’t know where all the time went last night. I was expecting that I’d get more done. Now I still have homework to finish and stuff to study for midterm exams later this week, but I have lost the quiet and solitude that the nighttime offers.

 

7:34 AM

Cups of coffee: A little more than three and a half. I just came back from breakfast in the cafeteria, and I brought back a cup of coffee with me. Coffee is good stuff.

Homework done: None since I last gave an update, actually. Unless I’ve done a couple algebra problems since then. I can’t remember how many I’d done before that point. I’m still less than halfway done with what I have due today.

Games of Catan: Two and a half

 

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

This is what one of my dry erase boards looked like by morning.

Today’s sunrise was disappointingly nonspectacular, but that’s okay, because now that the sun’s up, it’s a really beautiful day. Maybe it’s a bit chilly, but it’ll probably be really nice in a few hours.

Next on my agenda is the game I like to play where I use a random number generator to get twenty random digits and then try to memorize them in under a minute. Lately, I’ve only been doing this once a day. I’m on a good streak now, though. I’ve gotten a perfect score four out of the last five times. This may not be an achievement that means anything to anyone besides me, but I am rather proud of it. I just hope I can keep this streak going. Considering the fact that I haven’t sleep in over a day and I’m dead tired, my brain might not be at its best this morning, though.

I really wish I was playing Settlers of Catan right now. And I really wish I was winning.

 

9:13 AM

Cups of coffee: Four and a half

Homework done: More algebra, but I’m still not done with today’s assignment yet. I am actually making progress; it just really takes that long. Seriously, math is hard.

Games of Catan: Two and a half. But I’m getting close to my next Catan break. This excites me greatly.

 

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn't look as pretty as it really is.

Here is a picture of outside, despite the fact that the picture doesn’t look as pretty as it really is.

I just opened my window. It’s so ridiculously beautiful out there today. The thing about Alabama is that you never know from one minute to the next what the weather is going to be like. On Sunday, it was nice like this, but yesterday, it was gloomy and wet and rainy and just really ugly. But then it suddenly cleared up in the middle of dance class, very shortly before it got dark. And last night it was pretty chilly. As clear as the weather is now, there’s no telling whether it’ll rain again. For all I know, it could snow tomorrow.

I’m trying to remember what I normally write in my all-nighter blog posts. I seem to recall that they aren’t normally about the weather, but right now, the weather seems to be the most noteworthy thing. I tried to take a beautiful picture from my window so that I could show the beautiful weather, but it didn’t turn out looking very beautiful because most of the trees still don’t have leaves yet. I’m guessing that will happen soon.

 

10:28 AM

Cups of coffee: I’ve stopped at four and a half.

Homework: A couple more algebra problems

 

CatanOkay, I admit it, I just played several consecutive games of Catan; I don’t even know how many because I lost count. Most of those games were ridiculously short because one person got all the luck and won before I’d even had a chance to do anything. It was getting quite frustrating. I mean, here I’ve been awake all night, working long and hard in an effort to learn stuff. I feel like the universe at least owes me a few lucky rolls. So I just kept playing until I finally won.

And now, here’s what I’m going to do: I’m going to put this on my blog, then I’m going to finish my algebra homework (which is finally almost done), and by then, it’ll probably be about time for me to get all my books and stuff together, go to the cafeteria for lunch, check my mailbox quickly, and then head off to math class.

 

 

Unedited Ramblings, Episode Two

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warningAs I pondered the many reasons that my life is meaningless and pointless, my mind latched onto the topic of how much I dislike a certain cliché. ‘Tis often said that one’s self-worth should not be defined by other people. This idea, which is related to the self-esteem trend, is used to negate the insecurities of people who feel disliked, to critique the opinions of people who feel lonely, and to undermine the unrealistic and superficial definition of love that is prevalent in pop culture. The last of these three objectives is the only one that has any merit, and even then, this cliché phrase addresses this cliché idea in the wrong way. I may or may not explain what I mean by that later. I can’t be sure at this point, since this is an unedited and unoutlined blog post. (Otherwise, it would be destined to forever remain an unfinished blog post, ‘cause I am kind of busy and stuff.)

disclaimerThe point of the aforementioned cliché about self-worth is that you shouldn’t worry about what other people think, that your relationships with other people don’t define who you are, and that you can live a good, happy, and purposeful life without other people being an important part of it. The first of those three points is often (but not always) true, depending upon the context. The second is kind of a philosophical point that you could argue either way; but I would argue that it’s false. I think that the relationships between family members, friends, classmates and coworkers, and even random strangers are so significant that it really is fair to say that a person is largely defined by their relationships with other people. After all, we describe people’s personalities based upon the way they interact with other people. The obvious example is that introversion vs. extroversion is one of the basic personality distinctions in every personality model with which I’m familiar. (Certainly in both the Myers-Briggs and the Big Five, which are the only two that are widely considered to be useful) Furthermore, most people’s moral values, opinions, interests, and tastes are at least strongly influenced by those of their family and friends. I realize that the “other people don’t define you” cliché doesn’t mean quite what I’m taking it to imply, but it seems to be that those implications are definitely present even if they aren’t intended. And then the third point mentioned above is definitely untrue. It’s meaningless to even try to argue that life is meaningful without other people.

triangle warningsI don’t mean that in a corny way. I’m not talking about emotional validation coming from the support and affection of other people. I’m questioning what it means to talk about meaning and purpose in life, and as far as I’m concerned, the answer to that question is pretty obvious. You accomplish meaningful things in life when your existence and your actions have a positive impact on the world around you. “The world around you”, of course, means other people. I suppose you could argue for the value of environmental work, but I would counter that even then, the reason it’s good to protect the environment is that it helps other people. Your personal talents, abilities, and situation in life will determine how exactly you’re supposed to make this impact, what degree of influence you will have, and how many people will be affected by you. But if nobody else is benefitting from you in any way, you’re either living only for your own enjoyment or accomplishing literally nothing at all. I don’t mean that to be a moralistic statement; I just think that it’s the obvious definition of purpose in life.

trianglesI didn’t intend to make that into a religious statement, either, and I feel like it’s necessary to point that out, because if this was supposed to have religious connotations, it would be terribly legalistic. The fact of the matter is that sin negates any good and purposeful things that we do, and that any individual’s net value is negative until you bring God’s forgiveness and salvation into the equation. And by Christ’s crucifixion, we are clothed in His righteousness, and it’s therefore no longer necessary for us to wonder whether we are living good and purposeful lives. That is, it’s not necessary for our salvation. That certainly doesn’t mean that we’re actually supposed to spend the rest of our lives doing nothing but lazily sitting around, playing Settlers of Catan online, and watching Mythbusters. (On a related note, guess what I did with my Friday night yesterday?)

tangent lineThe above paragraph, by the way, was not where I was intending to go with this; it was just a long tangent, which is what happens to one’s writing when one decides that one doesn’t have the time to decide what to write before one writes it, or to edit one’s writing afterwards. As I trace the tangent back to the point where it meets the topic at hand, I find that I seem to have gone off-course at the point that one’s purpose in life is in fact not independent of one’s relationship with other people. So I’ll go back to that point and follow it in the direction I had originally intended, until my brain gets distracted by another tangent. (I blame it on calculus. It’s hard to avoid tangents when you’re taking a calculus class and are expected to look for tangents.)

trigonometrySo, I am disagreeing with the idea that a person’s value is independent of other people, and instead saying that a person’s value comes from their relationships with other people, and that a person’s purpose is to make life a better place for other people. And just for clarification, I will add that by “relationship”, I’m not talking specifically about romantic relationships. I’m talking about any connection between people, whether it is between family, friends, acquaintances, or random strangers who briefly interact in a public place and never meet again or even remember the encounter. If I’m going to stick with my definition of purpose, then I have to come to the conclusion that any of these relationships can be used to do something purposeful.

scrabble and speed of lightHowever, since I have already used the term “romantic relationships”, (even though I used it only to say that I wasn’t specifically talking about it) I actually have something else to say about it, and that is this: I really don’t like the English word ‘love’. It’s not that I’m not opposed to the idea of romance, as anyone who knows me on tumblr would attest. (For some reason, tumblr seems to bring out an overly sentimental side in me, the kind of side that probably would have liked Titanic even if it didn’t have a great soundtrack and exploding lights. For example, the other day, I informed tumblr that I needed to fall in love with someone so that I could use the line, “The only thing that will ever come between us is the word ‘and.’“)The reason that I don’t like the word ‘love’ is that it has too many meanings that are very different. The Greek language has the right idea when it distinguishes between αγαπη, ερως, and φιλια. Incidentally, can you tell that I recently figured out how to use Greek letters in Microsoft Word? This, in my opinion, is extremely cool. I have now forgotten what I was about to say, and I think it was completely irrelevant anyway.

voicesThe general gist of what I’ve been saying here is that it’s not true that a person’s value has nothing to do with other people. And the reason that this seemed relevant is that it offered a somewhat more specific way for me to tell myself that my own life is pointless. I mean, I’m a full-time student, so pretty much all of my effort and energy goes into the attempts to make myself more knowledgeable. This has absolutely no impact whatsoever on the world around me. If I just randomly decided to stop trying and to instead dedicate my life to internet games, nobody except me would even notice any difference. It’s a depressing thought. Yeah, I think that’s where I was going with this whole thing. It may have looked like I had more positive and/or interesting things to say, but I didn’t. I warned you that this was a very disorganized and rambling blog post.

catanAnd now, the next thing I need to do is to decide whether Settlers of Catan or homework is more important tonight, and to rewrite a version of my to-do list that reflects this priority.

Random Thoughts on a Sunday Afternoon, Episode Five

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1. I have noticed an interesting pattern. Today is the third consecutive Sunday that the weather has been absolutely gorgeous despite having been less than satisfactory previously. Yesterday, it was dreary and cold and cloudy with flurries in the morning. I am in favor of snow, but ‘round these parts, early March is supposed to be springtime. I would have enjoyed the snow anyway if there had been very much of it or if it had actually stayed on the ground, but that wasn’t what happened. It wasn’t pretty or fun; it was just interesting, and anything good about it was outweighed by the annoyance of the cold. But when I woke up this morning, it was a bit warmer, and the clouds had mostly dissipated. They’re totally gone now, and the sky is blue. The view out my window isn’t nearly as pretty as it would be if there were leaves on the trees, but it still is quite nice. The birds are singing and the pale green grass reminds me of the fields of Settlers of Catan. Spellcheck tells me that Catan isn’t a real word. Silly spellcheck.

2. Just for the record, I would like to say that the people with whom I go to church are awesome people.

typos3. I really hate it when I catch typos in things I’ve already posted online. Fortunately, wordpress allows me to go back and edit things after I’ve posted them, and I frequently do post things before proofreading them, and then spend significant amounts of time making sure there aren’t any grammatical errors or typos. I didn’t do that for the one I posted last night, and now I notice that there are several mistakes. I could go back and fix them, but I have an inexplicable personal rule against editing something I posted online more than a couple hours ago. Either I have to break that rule, or those mistakes will stay there, tormenting me for all time. Actually, there’s another option. I could pretend that I did it on purpose and that it’s a game. Any grammar Nazis reading this are thereby invited to go back to my previous post (The one about the song Bohemian Rhapsody), make a list of the mistakes, and then put that list in the comments for this post. I don’t know how many there are, and you might catch some that I’ve missed every time I’ve looked. I kind of expect that nobody will actually participate in this game, but if anybody does, whoever finds the most mistakes wins. Sorry, there’s no prize, unless the satisfaction of grammatical superiority is its own reward.

Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed4. As of now, at 1:37 in the afternoon, the song going through my head is Alas! And Did My Savior Bleed. We did not sing this hymn at church today, nor did I sing it in the car on the way back. But since it’s a Lenten hymn, it is entirely appropriate for today anyway.

5. It’s a little weird how often people tell me I’m smart. While it’s true that my IQ is above average and my grades aren’t bad, it’s also true that I have difficulties telling my right from my left and am frequently too stupid to go inside when it rains. I think that the truth of the matter is just that I have a number of friends and acquaintances who are more aware of my strong points than my idiotic idiosyncrasies. But I guess I let that get to my head a little bit, because I’m kind of in the habit of considering myself to be unusually intelligent. I hope I’m not a conceited know-it-all. I don’t think I am, but that probably is one of those things that people can’t accurately judge about themselves.

6. I really hate it when I make one stupid move that loses the game. I was even thinking the right move while I did the stupid move. It was just so obvious that I was supposed to take the knight with my queen, because that knight wasn’t even protected, but instead I stupidly moved my king out of the knight’s check, and because of that, I lost my rook a couple moves later. Now I’m going to be annoyed at myself for this for the rest of the day.

chess game7. Well, that was an interesting game. And by “interesting” I mean “black really made some serious blunders there”, except that “black really made some serious blunders there” isn’t an adjective, so it doesn’t fit into the context very well. I have decided that if I was black, I would have played Nc6 in that situation. Alternatively, Be7 would have also prevented immediate checkmate. But black obviously didn’t notice either of those possibilities, because he moved his queen to a useless place and I checkmated with Qd8 in the next move. I also won the next two games, and they were both better games in the sense that no really bad mistakes were made, and so I earned those wins.

(EDIT: Not Nc6, duh. Stupid Self. It would have to be Be7.)

8. I am truly excited about the final paper I’m going to write for my postmodernism class. It’s going to be called “και ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο: Postmodernism vs. Logocentrism”. (The only problem is that I obviously want to say theological stuff in it, and I know that’s really not what the professor is looking for.) But first, I have to get through midterms. And before that, (right now, in fact) I have to do my math homework for the next two days.

Princess Bride9. A disturbing has just happened to me. I have just realized that there is a plot hole in The Princess Bride. (Inconceivable!) Two, actually, although they’re so closely related that I think they count as the same one. First, when Fezzik finds Inigo Montoya, he tells him about Vizzini’s death and the six-fingered man. It’s likely that Fezzik found Vizzini’s dead body, but how in the name of Galoompa did he find out about the six-fingered man? He never saw Count Rugen. I suppose we could imagine that they somehow crossed paths, but that doesn’t solve the second plot hole. When Prince Humperdinck turns on the torture machine and Inigo and Fezzik hear Westley’s scream, they know it’s “the man in black” because they know that his true love is marrying another. But how do they know that Princess Buttercup is his true love? They never found out who he was or why he was following them. It would have made sense for them to assume that Prince Humperdinck had sent “the man in black”.

10. Someone just followed me on tumblr who posts some really inappropriate things. I know this because, whenever someone new follows me, I always take a moment to look at their page, but that is definitely a page I won’t ever visit again. In fact, I clicked “ignore”, which is equivalent to denying the existence of this person; now I couldn’t find his page even if I looked for it. Although I am somewhat creeped out that this person followed me, I am also kind of amused, because now he’s going to be seeing Bible verses and hymn verses and quotations from Lutheran theologians on his dashboard.

11. Now that it’s gotten dark, it’s getting cold, and I feel like I ought to close my window. But I love having my window open. This is indeed a conundrum, and I do not know how to solve it. But I do know how to spell conundrum, and that, in my opinion, is an impressive feat.

Yes, I do look for every oppurtunity to make Matrix references. I ought to start looking for every oppurtunity to make Inception references, because that's an awesome movie, too.

Yes, I do look for every oppurtunity to post this image. I ought to choose a corresponding Inception image, because that’s an awesome movie, too.

12. Right now, I’m kind of having a hard time making myself do my homework and stuff. It seems like it would be a lot more entertaining to pace my room and think random thoughts about interesting things. I ought to learn several different languages and think random thoughts in different languages so that my brain can practice worthwhile things while I’m thinking random thoughts. Either that, or I need to learn how to think it a code based upon numbers. I think that it ought to be possible to convert every kind of idea into a simple mathematical expression or formula, and that this would increase the efficiency of every form of communication as well as simplifying the learning process, regardless of subject matter. Of course, the aesthetic and artistic quality of language still has value, and, as an English major, I shouldn’t dismiss it as impractical. The ideal balance would probably be to use language as a means of communication, but to use a mathematically coded thought process. Of course, then there would be a translation process involved every time I had to communicate thoughts, but I feel like that’s already the way things work in my life. This translation process would actually be easier if my thought code was mathematically based, rather than being whatever it is now. I’m really not sure what kind of code my brain uses now, but it’s very odd. I think it has multiple layers of coding, because sometimes I have some random images or numbers or emotions or phrases running around in my brain that I can’t readily connect to anything, but I have the sense that they are somehow related to reality or something akin to reality. Speaking of which, there’s something that begins with 2-1-5 in the first column that’s really important. I just can’t remember what it is, but there’s a word that has an O-I in the middle. Okay, Self, that’s enough of that. Now go do what you’re supposed to be doing right now. Whatever that is. Um, it has an A in it, and it’s yellow and light blue. Oh, yeah, calculus. Wait, no, I forgot! There’s that purple thing I have to do first!

Is it time for another Princess Bride reference now?

Is it time for another Princess Bride reference now?

13. Don’t you hate it when you start to watch an online video without intending to watch another one, but the background music is so annoying that you have to watch something better to keep from getting the wrong music stuck in your head?

14. I eagerly look forward to the coffee I shall drink tomorrow morning. Indeed, coffee is a great and wondrous thing.

This isn't from a game I played, but this is the same website. This image has become very familiar to me recently.

This isn’t from a game I played, but this is the same website. This image has become very familiar to me recently.

15. It’s getting late, which means that within a few hours, I’ll be playing Settlers of Catan.  I mean going to sleep. Because obviously, I’m not going to stay awake  until two in the morning sitting on my bed playing Settlers of Catan online. That’s not the kind of thing I would ever do. Well, actually, it is. In my life lately, there has been a very fine line between playing Settlers of Catan online and sleeping, so who knows which one will end up taking precedence tonight. (See the earlier remark about my idiocy)

Nothing Really Matters: A Close Reading of Bohemain Rhapsody

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Bohemian RhapsodySome popular songs lose their appeal and fade into obscurity as soon as they have existed long enough to have outgrown the attractiveness of being new and current. Other songs make the transition from current hits to oldies and become nostalgic memories for some and offer a sense of musical stability over time for others. Yet other songs never leave the mainstream and continue to be popular for an indefinite period of time. Bohemian Rhapsody falls into this category. Recorded and released by the English rock band Queen in 1975, the song is still well known and loved by a notably large portion of the inhabitants of our culture. Its appeal does not lie only in its musically aesthetic quality, for there are many pieces of music in existence that are aesthetically pleasing, and long-term popularity cannot be ensured simply by being a “good song”. Bohemian Rhapsody’s timeless role in pop culture is a result of other likable qualities, such as its vaguely abstract lyrics that make just enough sense to be thought-provoking, seemingly metaphorical, and universally relatable, without being specific enough to confine the song to a single context.

Bohemian Rhapsody begins simply with the line, “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?”, introducing a binary opposition and a tone of uncertainty which sets up the sense of a dichotomy, even though the question is answered to some degree by the following line: “Caught in a landslide, no escape from reality.” The listener can relate to the singer as he questions the nature of reality and implies that he is trying to escape from it. The song continues, “Open your eyes, look up to the skies and see. I’m just a poor boy, I need no sympathy.” It is not clear who the singer is addressing and what exactly the implied audience is supposed to see in the skies. It is also not clear whether this rejection of sympathy is sincere, or whether the statement is ironic and actually is meant to evoke pity.

BohemiaThe song articulates its theme in the next couple lines: “Cause I’m easy come, easy go, little high, little low, any way the wind blows, doesn’t really matter to me, to me.” This sense of directionless is what puts the word “Bohemian” in the title. Although Bohemia refers to a specific geographical location in central Europe, the song title is using the word to refer to the bohemian lifestyle. Although the term has been used in some officially defined contexts, Bohemian generally can be used to mean more or less the same thing as Hippie. Although “bohemian” is an older phrase, they both describe a type of person who prefers a free and unstructured way of life than that of normal society.

After a brief pause in the lyrics, the second verse begins, and the poor boy who needs no sympathy informs us of the context of this monologue. As it turns out, he has committed a murder. He sings, “Mama, just killed a man. Put a gun against his head, pulled the trigger now he’s dead. Mama, life had just begun, but now I’ve gone and thrown it all away.”  The listener is not told why the singer killed a man. Maybe it was self-defense, or maybe it was an argument that escalated into a gunfight, or maybe it was a cold-blooded murder committed for no reason at all. This detail is evidently not relevant to the song. We can infer that the singer is on the run because he continues, “Mama, Ooh-ooh-ooh, didn’t mean to make you cry. If I’m not back again this time tomorrow, carry on, carry on, as if nothing really matters.” Although he is repeating a line from the previous verse, this same phrase carries a very different meaning this time. Now the singer is using this idea of meaningless as a word of comfort in a miserable situation, but he is acknowledging that it is only an act; that things do in fact matter.

Bohemian RhapsodyIn fact, the singer now sounds to be anything but carefree. The next verse begins, “Too late, my time has come, sends shivers down my spine, body’s aching all the time. Goodbye, everybody, I’ve got to go. Got to leave you all behind and face the truth.” It would seem that at this point, the singer has been caught and is being taken to trial, or perhaps he is turning himself in to the authorities. His remark about facing the truth seems somewhat ironic when juxtaposed to the opening lines of the song, which questioned reality. Apparently, that question has now been fully answered, and we are to assume that this is “the real life”, not fantasy. The other question is whether or not anything really matters. Although that point was never stated as a question, it is evidently something that the singer does not decisively know; he seems to change his mind. Now, he evidently does not believe that nothing really matters, because this verse does not end with that previously repeated line. Instead, it ends “Mama, Ooh-ooh-ooh, I don’t want to die, sometimes I wish I’d never been born at all”, followed by a dramatic instrumental where the dismissively carefree line otherwise would have been.

Scaramouche

Scaramouche

After this instrumental, the song changes. The melody is different, and there are additional voices. The lyrics, now sung by someone other than the poor boy with whom the listener is already acquainted, continue “I see a little silhouetto of a man, Scaramouche, Scaramouche, will you do the fandango?” Scaramouche is a character of the commedia dell’arte, a theater tradition which originated in 16th century Italy. It was by nature comic and somewhat improvised, and the characters were exaggerated stock characters that were meant to be ridiculous. Scaramouche, also known as Scaramuccia, is a rouge who is known for his black mask and his conceited manner of speech. Presumably, the people singing this line in the song are either the authorities or upper-class people, and this line indicates that they are pigeonholing the main singer into a stock character role, so to speak, because of his comparatively low social status. If this part of the song is taking place at the trial or in jail, it is evident that neither he nor his crime is being taken particularly seriously; the case is a matter of entertainment and humor for those around him. This fact is emphasized by the quicker and more staccato melody at this point in the song.

The following line, “Thunderbolt and lightning, very, very frightening me”, is sung by a larger group of people, who then take turns singing the name “Galileo” followed by the name “Figaro” and the word “Magnifico”. Galileo, of course, is the name of a very influential Italian scientist of the Englightenment era. Figaro is the name of a famous opera character, but the famous Barber of Seville opera was in fact based upon a play by the same name that was inspired by the aforementioned commedia dell’arte tradition. Magnifico refers either to a Venetian nobleman or to a high-ranking person in a less specific sense. Whatever these lines contribute to the plot of the song, a class distinction is being emphasized between the lead singer and this other group of people.

Poe boyThe original singer continues this theme as he now sings, “ I’m just a poor boy; nobody loves me.” This echoes the beginning of the song, but at that point, the singer continued by saying he needs no sympathy, and now he is asking for sympathy. A chorus jumps to his defense, singing “He’s just a poor boy from a poor family; spare him his life from this monstrosity!”

This is followed by a three-way argument between the ‘poor boy’ and the two groups of people. The original singer begins, “Easy come, easy go, will you let me go?” One chorus responds, “Bismillah! No! We will not let you go!” Bismillah, short for the Arabic phrase “Bismillah- ir Rahman-ir-Rahm”, is an exclamation that more or less means “In the name of God!” (Technically, this “god” is Allah) In repeating and slightly overlapping lines, one group demands the release of the ‘poor boy’ and the other refuses to let him go. The original singer re-enters the melee with the line “Mama Mia, Mama Mia, Mama Mia, let me go!” and his supporters join in on the third “Mama Mia!” The phrase “Mama Mia” is Italian for “my mother”, but it is also a generic exclamation, (one that is more vernacular than “Bismillah”) and it hearkens back to the “Mama” lines earlier in the song.

I tried to write this blog post without mentioning Weird Al's version, but I just couldn't do it.

I tried to write this blog post without mentioning Weird Al’s version, but I just couldn’t do it.

The chorus continues, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me!” After a brief upbeat instrumental which makes it obvious that this song is ideal material for the likes of Weird Al Yankovic, the song becomes a monologue once again, as the original singer says, “So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye. So you think you can love me and leave me to die. Oh baby, can’t do this to me baby, just got to get out, just got to get right out of here.” But then the song becomes quieter and slows down again. After a couple “Ooh yeah”s, the song returns to its earlier theme: “Nothing  really matters. Anyone can see. Nothing really matters… nothing really matters to me.”  Finally, the line “Any way the wind blows” recurs one more time at the very end.

Essentially, the song alternates between the idea that “nothing really matters” and the need to escape from an unpleasant situation that clearly does matter. It also presents the dichotomy between the so-called Bohemian “any way the wind blows” philosophy and the theme of confinement. Additionally, the opening question about reality, which seems to have been forgotten in the lyrics of the rest of the song, is implied again by these dichotomies. The singer of the song speaks as a bohemian sort of person who believes that “nothing really matters” and who goes through life with an “any way the wind blows” mindset, but he finds himself in a situation where he is described as a stock character and where he is must plead for his release in a very non-“any way the wind blows” way, so is that really the real life? It’s certainly not his idea of “the real life.” And, of course, the song is itself a composed piece of art; the exact scenario that it relates didn’t literally happen, at least not to the specific people singing the song. Presumably, it is meant to be metaphorical in some way, and perhaps it is also meant to be a social commentary.  At any rate, one thing is clear. The song itself is not real life, it is just fantasy.