Haters Are My Motivation

So today as I was walking around the city I saw a shirt that read “Haters are my Motivation.” And all I could think was “what a terrible motivation.” And as often happens with me I just couldn’t get this random thirty-second encounter out of my head. I mean I see where she’s coming from, it sounds like a quote someone would post on Tumblr.

In a direct sense, I suppose it’s only fair to admit that it probably means that if you already have “haters” you shouldn’t let it affect you negatively and instead let it fuel your fire to succeed. Yet why hold on to wounded pride as a motivator, isn’t there greater freedom in taking a page from Princess Elsa’s playbook and completely letting it go?

In my experience the road to happiness is love and if your pride is wounded it is indicative that you insist on loving yourself for a reason instead of loving yourself simply because you are. And using your success as revenge to give you a smug satisfaction in being able to lord it over your enemies is a weak band-aid at best, because then instead of having one group of people consumed with hate you have two, the original haters and yourself who responded to their hatred of you with a mutual hatred for them. And, ironically, I would argue that loving your enemies is the better path because it allows you to reject harboring hatred in your heart and avoid the ultimate punishment of becoming exactly like them.

So have I over-thought this t-shirt? Absolutely. Over-thinking is one of my talents. But I point it out because the world always encourages you to be happy by satisfying yourself by every worldly standard, by “earning” every luxury, success, and victory. It is a model that insists your happiness should depend on attaining some worldly thing, whether it be success, or a nice car, or a committed relationship, and your power and self-worth is subsequently determined by how successful you are in getting that thing. “Haters” may fuel your desire to get that thing you want even more and you could, if you wanted to, rub it in their face when you get it.

But this way of life is a lie because it makes you a slave, a slave to whatever it is you are desiring because it makes your happiness contingent on the things of this world. Not the things that you have in the present moment but the things you anticipate having in your future, a future which is unreliable and cannot be controlled as much as society would lead you to believe. Moreover, even if you do accomplish your goal the feeling of accomplishment is not by its nature able to perpetually satisfy you and at best you will just end up in this cycle again as you pursue the next desire.

And I point this out because on a personal level I want more to my life than a succession of 5-year plans designed with outpacing my competition and my “haters” in mind. I firmly believe it’s so much easier to be happy simply by letting God love you because then your happiness can be as constant as God Himself.

And why complicate something so wonderfully and profoundly simple as that?

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Those People Who Call Everything an Adventure

Recently I read something somewhere that was complaining about people who call everything an adventure. The tone from the author was a sort of mocking and directed towards, “those people who call everything an adventure and by that they mean going to get ice cream at 1 am”

I don’t know what the rest of the world was doing while in college, but that is an accurate description of many of my Friday night adventures with friends and I loved every minute of it. Moreover, I still fail to see the problem or why she felt the need to address this in the first place. I could tell her words were meant as a sort of loving critique but I feel like critiques are baseless if the alternative is not something better but something worse.

One of my favorite writers, G.K. Chesterton, once said,

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

Chesterton defied his realist, naturalist, and materialist contemporaries by seeing adventure everywhere, even in the most mundane moments that strike others as insignificant, and his reward for living with the adventurous enthusiasm and curiosity of a child was a wisdom and a joy that far surpassed that of his contemporaries.

The fruits of the seeds planted in Chesterton’s age, the turn of the twentieth century, are fully grown and blossoming now and despite the pleasant picture such a metaphor may conjure I do not necessarily mean that as a positive thing.

The problem of realism, naturalism, and materialism is not that they are inherently bad but that when practiced to such a narrow and exulted degree they are confining. I know this to be true because their more zealous subscribers lose the very thing Chesterton had and the very thing I seek to have also: the mysterious and sublime adventure that can be discovered veiled amid the ordinary routine of everyday living. And the charm of the adventure comes not from knowing all the answers but seeking them and discovering them more profoundly as one goes about his ordinary life. The sense that there is more to the eye than what you can see with your eye.

And it almost saddens me that we live in a world that discourages silliness and imagination in favor of “growing up” into people who see but don’t see, hear but don’t listen, and live without living.

Three Kids was Enough

Today I’d like to thank Cecile Richards, the CEO of Planned Parenthood, for inspiring the title of this post. I recently read an article where she defends her and her husband’s choice to end the life of her fourth child in the hopes of reversing the stigma of abortion.

It truly bothers me, how she claims that it was an easy decision, as casual as deciding where to go for breakfast in the morning. Ultimately she and her husband reasoned that their family was big enough with three children and they didn’t want it to be any bigger, therefore they had the right to end the life of their unborn child. While abortion advocates always insist that an abortion is merely a medical procedure (as insignificant as getting your wisdom teeth pulled) I can’t believe that among rational, educated people it is accepted that intentionally stopping the heartbeat of another person is not murder, but good medical practice and a fundamental resource for female contraception.

Because it’s just like the situation from Girl Please where arguments are expected to stand in one instance, but not in another and no one blinks twice at the hypocrisy. If Cecile Richards “aborted” her 4-year-old child with surgical instruments on the same logical grounds that her family was already large enough, she would be rotting in jail for murder. But since presumably she had the “procedure” before her “fetus” reached the subjective legal deadline that qualifies you as a human baby these days, she faces no legal repercussions for actions. It’s brilliant actually.  Her child was legally deprived of his or her basic human rights by being disqualified as a human. That is the logic and reasoning echoed in infamously lethal ideologies such as Nazism and racism.  And of course, let’s not forget the eugenics that inspired Planned Parenthood in the first place manifested in the desire to grant the right to life on a selective basis only.

What makes it especially clever is the subtlety, how it shifts the focus from the desired elimination by clouding the death, or “outcome” (let’s not use the strong language of truth as we might offend someone) as deserved, convenient, or justifiable because the target was determined less than human by those in power.  And with the ensuing societal acceptance wrapped up in pretty legalize and medical terminology, Ms. Richards is free to spend her days perpetuating a woman’s “right” to deny rights to others deemed less worthy of those rights in the eyes of the law. Even though this is branded as the height of progressive modernity, it sounds a lot like oppression to me.

However, there is one thing Cecile Richards and I agree on, her words that:

“when politicians argue and shout about abortion, they’re talking about me — and millions of other women around the country.”

Yes, yes they are, and that conversation should include all women. Those politicians and pro-choice media personalities don’t simply get to silence my dissent by dismissing myself and the women in my family as “ignorant” and “Christian.” But I imagine they would certainly try because we would be Cecile Richard’s nightmare if this theoretical conversation was actually inclusive because the populace would risk hearing the tale of my mother who made the opposite choice of Cecile when she found out she was pregnant with her fourth child and my youngest brother.

Yes, in the year 2000 when I was just shy of turning ten years old I found out my parents were expecting another child. Although my parents welcomed the idea of having a baby, my mother, as I found out later, was justifiably terrified. Not only was she thirty-eight, but she had already had two bouts of thyroid cancer and was worried the chemicals from chemotherapy alone could result in serious deformities. Doctors suggested abortion as an option, but my mom really does believe in life, and believed that my brother was my brother at the moment of his conception and that there was a purpose to his life. So she decided to just trust beyond the fear and press forward.

When my brother was born we did discover that he had apraxia, which is a learning disability where (and I’m oversimplifying a bit but this is my understanding of it) the brain knows what it wants to say but has trouble communicating it. Doctors were worried that he would never be able to read. However, with the help of some amazing intervention specialists, he left kindergarten above grade level and has been at or above grade level ever since. No stranger to adversity, at age ten he was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, Type 1. He takes insulin shots with every meal. It is discouraging sometimes because he’s a sweet young man and he was more mature about it then I would have been in his shoes. Yet day in and day out he’s my little brother. He’s in the marching band, he loves Star Wars, and he hates social media so I’m going to stop before I give away too many personal details and he gets mad at me. I lucked out with him because he’s absolutely fantastic and we are very close, to the point where I couldn’t imagine my life without him and I certainly wouldn’t want to. I am so grateful to my mother for saying yes to life and being open to the possibility that maybe three kids wasn’t enough, because she has given me and my youngest brother a chance to know and love one another in this life, a chance that Cecile Richards’ three children will never have with their youngest brother (or sister). And that is the reality that gets left out of the conversation, the part that nobody wants to talk about.

I tell you this not to oversimplify the situation or instantly convert you to the pro-life cause. I’m telling you this because the quality of a life cannot be measured by any human intellect. It so far surpasses our expectations, predictions, and understandings, and any attempt to determine a standard for what constitutes a quality life is a dangerous and deadly game that we have no right to play. Even though I have told you parts of my family’s tale, none of us have any right to comment on my mother’s decision or debate whether or not my brother’s life was “worth it” (a disgusting endeavor but one that our cold and calculating culture of death permits), not even my mother herself. Because while she carried my brother and has cared for him in every way, she did not create his life, it was only entrusted to her and my father. And that responsibility, while overwhelming and frightening at times by its sheer magnitude, is never something we should shrink from if we hope to retain our humanity.

Life is a gift and it is anything but standard, and I hate the frightening consensus that life only counts as quality if it’s sanctioned by the parents, privileged, pain-free and perpetually satisfying. We create such a phony ideal through the media that we too quickly forget that life is intrinsically valuable and infinitely worthwhile. We’ve been so trained to live only for earth and create a legacy in the shifting sands of time (a futile effort at best) that we forget our heavenly significance, the destiny our Father had planned for us the moment He first breathed life into veins. Because not only were we made to live, we were made to live forever.

Don’t ever give up on that promise.