What makes something childish?

10 06 2010

Last week I was in Orlando, Florida, for vacation.  I spent two days at Disney World, and it was awesome.   I went to Magic Kingdom and Epcot, spending one day at each.  (Each park really needs a whole day, if you want to experience everything.)  There were fun rides and neat buildings and attractions, but the best part was how the place sparked my imagination.  It made me feel like a kid again.

Later I got to wondering why many of us tend to put away things like imagination when we become adults.   I realize we can’t keep acting like children all the time because we have responsibilities to tend to, but we don’t have to throw away our imagination.  To me, that’s what makes people “old” and stodgy.

Is Disney World more for children?  Perhaps in some ways, but not necessarily overall.  On a similar note, are cartoons only for children?  Some are, because they’re so dumbed-down that there’s really nothing to them.  But many aren’t like that.  Yet it seems like most adults dismiss cartoons as childish.  Why?

Do we quit enjoying fictional / fantasy worlds?  Many adults still watch fictional TV shows, where scenarios are created that aren’t reality.  Do we not like comedy anymore?   Many of us still watch comedy shows.  So why are all cartoons dismissed when we still enjoy the basic principles of them?  Is it because they’re “childish”?   That’s too vague an answer.  What makes them childish?

I’ve seen cartoons that have more entertainment value and substance than “real-life” TV shows, including areas of comedy, action, and intellectual depth.   Those clearly aren’t childish.  In fact, many of the Looney Tunes cartoons we grew up on have jokes made for adults, like referencing war rations.   So how did they become childish?

I’ve wondered about this numerous times, because I sometimes hear these things.   I’m 36 years old, and I still enjoy watching some cartoons and playing video games, and I hear comments sometimes that those things are for “little boys”.  What makes shows for adults better?   From what I hear, many of the “reality TV” and real-life drama shows are stressful and vulgar.   Is that better for adults?

Lest you think this is just my ramblings, I want to quote one of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century, C.S. Lewis.  He also thought about this:

When I was ten, I read fairy tales in secret and would have been ashamed if I had been found doing so.  Now that I am 50, I read them openly.  When I became a man, I put away childish things — including the fear of childishness and the desire to be grown-up. ~ C.S. Lewis

Why do we have a fear of appearing childish?  Why do we want to appear “grown-up”?  (And what does that even mean?)  When we accept these preconceived notions of what is and isn’t grown-up behavior, are we doing it to convince ourselves?  Or to convince others?  What’s the purpose?   Haven’t we learned to be ourselves?  Do you remember how as a teenager you wanted to be grown-up, so you would conform to certain boundaries (in selected areas) so you wouldn’t be a kid anymore?  And likewise, teenagers tend to conform to the crowd they want to be part of, to be “cool” and to fit in.  As you get older, you realize how silly some of that is, and you learn that being “cool” is about being yourself and being confident about it and accepting who you are.  It’s not about what style of clothes you wear or what music you listen to or what car you drive.   It’s about being yourself.  So why would we as adults still do this by saying certain things are childish?

I’d like to hear your opinions on this.

judging someone we don’t know

27 03 2010

I wasn’t planning to write any more about the Tiger Woods “scandal”, and I’m not going to write on the issue directly but use it as an example leading to a related point.  Okay?  (I don’t know why I’m asking — I’m going to write anyway.   I suppose you could stop reading, but you might miss something good.)

I came across a quote by Bill Simmons, an ESPN.com writer, about the media circus revolving around Tiger Woods, which sets up my point:

“We are voyeurs when it comes to our favorite athletes. They thrill us, keep us guessing, keep us on our toes, keep us watching. During the average golf tournament, cameras capture every reaction and emotion from the closest of angles — triumph, anguish, fury, frustration, panic, you name it — which deceives us into thinking we know these guys better than we do. How many times did you hear someone say “Can you believe Tiger did that?” over these past two weeks? Like we knew him. And we didn’t.” ~ Bill Simmons, 12/2009

That was said over two months ago, and yet the media hoopla continues.   Recently SportsCenter there was a poll about whether everyone believed his apology and whether they forgive him for what he did.   Why do the fans have to forgive him?  (I won’t rant on that again — you can read my previous post to go there.)

Notice how Bill Simmons said we didn’t know Tiger Woods, yet we were so shocked and outraged at his behavior.  We really didn’t know him.  And we still don’t really know him . Just as we jumped to conclusions / judgments on his moral character before all this, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions or judgments now.  Sure, we know more now, but there’s also all that we “knew” before (and some of it was true), and we should also consider that one aspect of character doesn’t necessarily make someone overall good or bad.  By the world’s standards, we can be both good and bad, and we probably all are.

Here’s what I’m really wanting to get to in this article.  Why are we so intent on putting people in a box?  We had made all these judgments on Tiger Woods, on what a great guy he was, and we didn’t even know him.  And it’s not just him — this happens to everyone: celebrities, athletes, and even “everyday people”.   I’ve seen this happen a lot — if someone makes good grades in school, they must be a nerd and not be very sociable or “cool”; or if someone is a great athlete then they’re not very smart; or if someone is a musician then they can’t be an athlete also; or if someone is a Republican / conservative then they don’t understand economics; or if someone is a Democrat / liberal then they don’t have morals; etc.

Why are we so intent on grouping people into boxes?  It’s because it’s easy.  We don’t have to think as much, as we can assume we know more than we really do.   Here’s how another blogger explained it:

Isn’t it comforting to fit people into little boxes and categories, so that you can stop caring about what happens to them? I’m as guilty as anyone. … There’s no shortage of little boxes to put people in, either. Marxists think there are financial classes. Feminists think there are sexual classes. Blacks think there are racial classes. I think there are classes of … politics. It’s the human way of dealing with millions of people, with meeting hundreds of people every day. You can’t get to know every one individually. … We just toss them in boxes. This one’s a feminist. That one’s a leftist. That one’s a conservative. That one’s a skinhead. This one’s a single mother. That one’s a divorced father. And for every box we have a list of ready-made qualities we ascribe to it. Self-absorbed. Angry. Annoying. Petty. Self-righteous. Dogmatic. Immature. Cold. Heartless. Vicious. Greedy. Victim. Oppressor. Throughout all of this we forget the one great truth: that there are no boxes. That all there really is are individuals. But, as I said, and as the conversation illustrates, nobody is immune from bigotry and prejudice, not even those, like the left-wing revolutionaries at the next table, who claim to hate bigotry and prejudice. ~ Buster B

Can you see how harmful it is to put people in boxes?   We misinterpret people, because we our interpretation of all they say and do is based on what we think we know about them (and also based on who we are).  If we get a wrong first impression of someone, then when they do anything that resembles your judgment, it’s considered evidence, so you keep thinking that way.  Also, how we are influences how we see others.  If we are greedy and/or can’t manage money, then when we hear someone asking for money (like a preacher), we may assume they want to use it for themselves, even if that’s not true at all.  (I’ve seen that happen.)

I’ve been put in boxes many times, and it gets old.  People have often been surprised that I like a certain style of music, that I can play in a tennis league (and even win it occasionally), that I don’t get offended easily, etc.   I’ve seen people alter their actions around me because they thought that I get offended easily.   (They told me this later.)  Yet I don’t offend easily — it’s something I strive for.  But why did they think this?  Why were they so surprised at how I am?

I suspect we do this more than we realize it, and we probably don’t realize how it can hurt people and hinder relationships.  I’ve heard it said that prejudging people makes us less compassionate.   I think it makes us less open to people and more oblivious to reality.   It can also make us prejudiced. (One definition of prejudice is “a preconceived preference or idea.”)   We may think we won’t like someone based on a few impressions, because we’ve already “figured out” how they are.

This is just something to think about.   If you catch yourself figuring someone is a certain way, ask yourself if you really know that for sure or if it’s just a “hunch” (which could be a preconceived stereotype).   It would make our relationships better if we took things at face value more often and gave people the benefit of the doubt…

Can you imagine living without money?

24 07 2009

Can you imagine living without money?   Think about it.  You might imagine being in a third-world country where there’s no other option.  But there are people who choose to live without money, even in America.  I just read an article about one such man, Daniel Suelo.  He’s not a bum, and he’s not homeless — he lives in a cave of his choosing.

In 2000, Suelo decided to stop using money.  I’ll let you read the article about him for the full backstory.  He decided he would have a better life by not using money.  He forages for food — both in the desert and in a nearby town.  He gives freely of what he has.  And he likes to help people for free.

Suelo has a college degree, and he knows how to operate a computer — he even writes on a blog occasionally, using computers at a public library.  So he could get a job, but he chooses not to.  He’s not against working, but he wants to help people, and he feels dishonest about getting paid to help people.   He has spent a couple of years teaching first aid and nutrition in an Ecuadoran village in the Andes.  He has also worked at a women’s shelter for 5 years.  He just chooses to live without possessions (beyond what is needed), and he doesn’t owe anyone anything.

I’m not implying that we should all live this way, but I think it is good to consider his point-of-view.   Most of us in America are caught up with material possessions way more than we realize.  For example, could you live happily without a TV or cell phone?  We don’t need those things…

how do you know what you know?

7 05 2009

Have you ever wondered how many facts you “know” that you have never seen proof for?  There are a LOT of things we are taught in schools that we accept as true without ever seeing any amount of proof.  Of course, we have scientists and researchers who conduct studies to figure out what is true, and they then report it to us.  But how do we know what they are saying is true?

My point in this is not to get you to doubt everything — because some of what we’re taught is true — but I want you to consider how much faith you put in other people to validate what you believe is true about the world.  I’m sure we can think of examples where “facts” were incorrectly taught, such as that the Earth is flat, that the Earth is the center of the universe and everything revolved around it, and how old the universe is (which has changed several times since I started school).  Are there “facts” being taught today that are not accurate?

I started thinking about this after reading an article called “On Some Epistemic Pathologies, or Why the Human Mind is a Terrarium for So Many Lies“.   This was my first visit to this blog, so I don’t know anything about the authors, but a few articles gave me some things to think about.  This particular article started out mentioning some historical events that some people don’t believe in, such as the Moon landing, William Shakespeare writing the works he’s famous for, the Twin Towers being destroyed by terrorists on 9/11, the existence of Jesus Christ, and the Holocaust.   There’s proof that all these things happened, yet there are people who believe some of them never happened.

The article doesn’t offer proof of those events — that can be found elsewhere — but it does discuss why people might choose to not believe in them (from a sociological point-of-view).  It also discusses why most people tend to believe research studies, even though it’s been proven that some are wrong.  (I once read that something like 1/3 of medical research is proven wrong within a year or two of its release.  Thinking of all the claims I’ve heard about whether eggs are healthy for you or not, I’m inclined to believe that number.)  Before I ramble too much (if I haven’t already), let me quote a part of that article for your convenience (because if you think this post is long, then the linked one may overwhelm you):

Leaving aside questions of outright fraud, media gullibility, and PR spin, the lay public must also now take on faith (no other word will do) some very counterintuitive claims by honest scientists, such as the wave/particle duality in the behavior of light, the constancy of the speed of light, the relativity of the contraction or expansion of spacetime according to the speed of the observer, and the origin of the universe in a “singularity” that was at one time, roughly fourteen billion years ago, infinitely dense and infinitely small.  If the lay citizen — a resident of the Show Me State of Missouri, for example — were to demand irrefutable evidence for any of these assertions, how could he be answered?  But the problem goes deeper than the suspicion that science has turned the universe into a vast Ripley’s Believe It or Not Museum.  The real problem is that almost all of what people claim they know — and not just the esoterica of science — must be taken on faith, from the number of planets in the solar system (who, by the way, demoted Pluto from the pantheon of planets, and on what grounds?) to the age of the earth and the chemical composition of water. ~ Edward T. Oakes, S.J.

Think about how many things you accept as true but have never seen proof for.  (Feel free to pause reading for a few minutes to let your mind ponder that.  Continue when ready.)  🙂  I’m going to mention a few things here, for your future thinking and/or discussion.

* politics — When we hear politicians make claims about their values, do we check if they are speaking in accordance with how they actually vote?  This is also important for claims they make of other candidates — they do lie.  In fact, in the 2008 Presidential campaign, both Barack Obama and John McCain were caught lying in their own TV ads in the same week.  So it’s known that politicians lie.  But do we have any idea how often they do and how often we believe their lies?

* Global Warming — This is an issue that has scientific facts which supposedly support both sides on whether it’s occurring now and whether it’s man-made.   Yet there is a lot of disagreement, and there are respected scientists on each side.   How do you know who is right?  Do you actually look at facts and research from both sides?  If not, how do you choose who to believe?

* faith / religion — This is the biggest issue.  Why do you believe what you believe?  Obviously this question is huge and we could discuss it for a LONG time, so this is just an intro to it.  Some people believe what their parents told them to believe, which has led to many believing in false religions.  Some people believe what seems right to them or what is most convenient for their lifestyle.  Some people make up their own beliefs and call it Christianity (or some other religion).  Obviously some faith is required, but we should also have some proof — that is, actual encounters with God — which lines up with the Word of God (the Bible).  We must be careful to not blindly follow others, because even some well-meaning people teach false doctrine sometimes.  But the truth is out there, and God wants you to find it.  (I discuss this more thoroughly in other parts of my blog, so I’ll stop here now.)

I could go on, but more examples are left as an exercise for the reader — that’s you.  🙂  You’re welcome to share your thoughts in a comment.

believing something that’s wrong

30 08 2008

John McCain sure surprised a lot of people with his choice for Vice President, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.  His choice has everyone talking.  But I’m not going to discuss the merits of her for VP — there are plenty of blogs and political analysts on TV doing that already.  I want to make a point out of what I’ve heard professional political analysts say within the first day or two.

I heard one analyst say this choice was the best thing the Republicans could’ve done, and I heard another analyst (on the same program, even) say this choice was the worst possible thing the Republicans could’ve done.  Those two viewpoints are very much opposite of each other.  So at least one of them will be wrong (and possibly both).  Yet these people are professionals at this; they analyze politics for a living.

This wide gulf in opinions / judgment shows how two people can look at the exact same situation and see opposite things.  This applies to a lot of areas in life.  Sometimes we may wonder how someone can believe what they claim.  It goes to show how we can believe something yet our belief is wrong.  And there are probably areas where we all have some type of belief that isn’t 100% correct.  You probably don’t know about it, because it would be crazy to believe something that you knew was false.  So it’s wise to sometimes listen to viewpoints that differ from our own, because we aren’t experts on everything in life, and we don’t see all sides of the issues.  (That’s not to say all sides are correct, because they’re not.  But sometimes we may see something incorrectly and not know it.)

It may be tempting for us to say there can’t be anything I believe that isn’t completely true.  Because, as far as you know, everything you believe is true.  But there’s the catch — as far as you know.  None of us know everything, even about a particular topic.  One of the “requirements” for being wise is in knowing what you don’t know.  🙂  Confucius once said, “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”  (Please don’t think I believe everything Confucius said because I quoted him.  Even that quote can be debatable, but it makes a good point.)  You’ve probably met people who didn’t know where their knowledge ended; their conversation would sometimes go beyond wisdom and into ignorance, and that’s a recipe for saying foolish things.

My point is that we all have limits to how much we know.  (We don’t have limits on how much we can learn, but there is a boundary to what we know at any given time.)  It’s wise to consider our words, to think about whether we really know what we’re talking about.  For example, there are people who would like to tell President Bush how to balance the national debt, when they can’t even balance their own checkbook.  There are people who talk like experts on foreign diplomacy even though they can’t get along with all their neighbors or family.  There are people who say, “God would never do that”, even though the Bible shows they’re clearly wrong.

I don’t know where I’m going with this (so maybe I should stop before I say something in ignorance!).  🙂  I don’t have a particular reason for saying all this, except that I thought of it after hearing that political analysis this week, and I think it’s something good to consider.  It’s easy to think that our reasoning and rationalization is correct, because it makes sense to us at the time, but we need to be careful that we know enough to make that reasoning and that it’s not clouded by emotions or ignorance or bias.

the growing influence of universalism in America

3 07 2008

Do you know what universalism is?  It’s the belief that “all roads lead to God”.  This philosophy / “religion” is spreading through America these days, and sadly, this worldview has even infiltrated the evangelical church, up to 57 percent according to a study by the Pew Forum.  (I find that number hard to believe, but if so, then it’s worse than I thought.)  A lot of people are jumping on this bandwagon because it isn’t offensive to the general population.  It goes with the big buzzwords of our time, like “tolerance” and being “politically correct”, because you are saying everyone’s beliefs and/or “religion” are right.

There are some big advocates of this, like Oprah Winfrey and Barack Obama.  I know Obama claims to be a Christian, and he supposedly attended church for some 20 years (though not really knowing what the pastor taught), but he has made statements like this:

“I believe there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.” ~ Barack Obama

Friends, that is NOT Christianity.  I know, a lot of people say it works with Christianity, because you’re not excluding it.  But to be a Christian, you have to accept Jesus (and His covenant) for who He is.  If you call Him a liar for some of the things He said, then He would not be the perfect sacrifice that paid for our sins, and He wouldn’t be the Son of God like He claimed.  And so Christianity would be based on something that wasn’t true.   But to be a Christian, you have to believe the Bible is the Truth and that Jesus is who He claimed to be.  That’s the foundation of Christianity, and if you don’t accept that, you’re not a Christian.  Of course, you’re free to believe whatever you want, but you shouldn’t call yourself something you’re not.

I can see why universalism is appealing to people who don’t already know the Truth.  In addition to it being inoffensive, it’s also easy.  Listen to how Tim Wildmon explains it:

“What is appealing about universalism to modern-day Americans is that it is intentionally ambiguous and doesn’t require any measurable commitment by the individual. One doesn’t have to agree with any creed, you don’t have to go to church, you don’t have to abide by any particular code of conduct, and there is no objective standard for defining right or wrong or good and evil. It is all up to the individual and how he or she feels.” ~ Tim Wildmon

You can read more of his take on universalism here: Universalism — the end of Christian influence.

Again, you’re free to believe whatever you want.  You have that right.  But you will have to give an account of your life before God someday, and you will be judged according to His standards, not ours.  To be saved and enter His kingdom, you have to do things according to His terms, not whatever you feel is right.  Of course it sounds great to think you can do whatever you want and that God will let you in if you consider yourself a “good” person, but that’s not the way God looks at it, and in the end, it’s His decision that matters.  So you should think long and hard about this, if you aren’t living according to God’s covenant He made with us.

freedom vs oppression

25 03 2008

We in America have a lot of freedoms compared to the rest of the world.  Some particular countries really limit what people are allowed to do.  Have you ever considered how you would enjoy life if you were in such a place?

Suppose you lived in a country where there wasn’t freedom of speech.  If you said negative or critical things about the government, you could be imprisoned or killed.  Suppose you were told what your job was going to be, whether you like it or not.  Suppose there was an official state religion, where you had to honor it or be imprisoned or killed.  Suppose there was no real police force to protect you, where criminals and terrorists steal, rape, and murder every day.  Suppose the government kept nearly all the money, forcing the citizens to live on about a dollar a day, barely making ends meet.  Suppose women had no legal rights whatsoever, having to hide their face in public, having no voice, having very little freedom.  Suppose you didn’t get to vote, that the government was a dictatorship, and you had little to no power to change it.  Suppose the government censored the news programs, where all you heard was propaganda or approved messages.

Now consider this — if you lived in such a place, would you want another country to overthrow the government so you could have freedom, or would you rather keep living that way?