Hindsight’s 50/50: You Choose to Either Focus on the Positive or the Negative Memories

No, I didn’t mean to say “20/20”.

It’s easy to look back at when life was a bit easier (AKA “the good ole days”) and compare it to now.  There’s a 50% chance that life seemed better a year ago, two years ago, or five years ago.  But, there’s also a good chance (let’s say 80%) if that’s the case, that you’re choosing to focus on the best parts of that time in your life, and for the most part, forgetting about the tough parts.  Hindsight’s 50/50 because you either romantically focus on the ideal parts of the past, making your present life the short straw compared to it, or, you don’t, and instead make an effort to choose the bad parts of that ideal year too.

In a sense, everything in life can be broken down to the statistical chance of 50/50.  Either you will get that one thing in life you’ve always wanted, or you won’t.  Either you win the lottery, or you won’t.   Either you will live to be 100, or you won’t.  One of the few events in life that can’t be assigned the 50/50 status is whether or not you will die at some point; No matter what the percent chance is how you leave this world: by cancer, by car accident, by heart attack, etc.

Last night I watched the final episode of Lost again.  One of the most memorable scenes for me was when the protagonist, Jack Shephard, technically in a flash-forward of the future after he had already died, meets his father in the afterlife.  “I died too,” Jack says to his father.  His father reassures him with a smile, “It’s okay, son… Everybody dies sometime, kiddo.  Some of them before you, some of them long after you.”

Whether you ever watched Lost or not, I’m not giving away anything by telling you what happened in the last scene. Because really, for any TV show or movie, ultimately everyone does die- it’s just that that’s never included in the episode.  Does Marley die at the end of Marley and Me? Whether he does or doesn’t die at the end, he still has to die sometime.  But it’s when a protagonist’s death is included in the script that we are forced to be reminded that beyond each “good time” and “bad time” in our lives, there ultimately is a bigger picture.

We have to choose to focus and dwell on the good parts of life now in this moment.  Otherwise, we end up psychologically living in the past when things appeared to be better than they are now, or we live in the future when things will hopefully be better, which is again focusing on a potentially imaginary life.  Because at this point, the glorious past and the perfect future are both impossible now.  The only thing possible is what is happening right this minute.

Hindsight really is 50/50.

Here is the final scene of Lost; the conversation between Jack Shephard and his father:

If you enjoyed this post, there is a 50% chance that you will also like these ones too:

The Good Ole Days: Past, Present, or Future?

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Sounds Like Someone’s Got a Case of the What If’s?

A) Agnostics Vs. Atheists, From a Christian Perspective and B) Is Atheism Technically a Faith-Based Religion?

I’m not trying to convert atheists to Christianity; I’m trying to convert atheists to agnosticism.

Maybe somewhat surprisingly, I am actually not the kind of person who participates in pointless debates.  Granted, I’ll observe them, but I won’t join the heated discussions myself.  One of these classic debates is when Christians try to argue with atheists.  I remember one time on a church mission trip in high school I witnessed one of our youth group’s leaders yell to a guy at Wal-Mart during an emotional exchange: “Well buddy, one day you’re gonna finally meet God and see that He’s real and when you do, I hope you bust hell wide open!”  For what it’s worth, the atheist started it by loudly scoffing at our youth group’s Christian t-shirts which explained we were in that city to help with construction in low-income neighborhoods and also to lead Vacation Bible School at a local church in Phenix City, AL.

But still, that story shows how neither person was there to even defend their own beliefs, but instead to try to prove that the other person was a fool.  Therefore, it’s safe to say they both successfully proved their point.  It was a win-win situation.  Technically.

It has been my observation that agnostics (people who admit they don’t have the answers when it comes to the afterlife or the existence of God or how we all got here, but are willing to admit there’s a chance that just like any explanation out there including atheism, Christianity could be right) are respectful and overall cool people.  Typically, from my experience, agnostics do not have a general attitude that comes across like they are smarter or better than those who do believe in God.  It seems that truly they have no agenda to convert me to a state of doubt or unknowingness.  And I like that.

atheist/agnostic/deist

Generally (but not always), my experience observing atheists typically means they openly mock the “blindness, arrogance, and lack of ability to think freely” of those who do believe in God, specifically Christians.  Of course, this only fuels the emotion of certain Christians who sincerely belief, yet fail to recognize that while Jesus did say to go forth and tell the nations, the Bible also teaches against arguing with a fool– whether that fool is an atheist, another Christian, or the host of a political talk show.

I don’t see how it’s my place to try to convert someone who not only clearly demonstrates they are not interested or are not at all open to the idea, but who also mocks my efforts or even my lifestyle, stereotyping me because I am a Christian.  When it became clear to Jesus that His own people, the Jews (especially the Jewish religious leaders), had officially rejected His claim to be the Son of God, He then focused His time and efforts elsewhere- to the rest of us Gentiles.  Jesus didn’t waste energy on those who wanted to argue with him.  And interestingly, He didn’t waste energy on trying to prove them wrong.  He just simply walked on.  Nice move, Jesus.

Since it’s not a Christian’s place to argue with someone who doesn’t believe or to try to belittle those who belief differently, I would like to expect the same amount of respect from atheists.  It’s this simple: I do not believe I am better than anyone in this world, no matter what they do or do not believe. If I did, I would be contradicting the beliefs of my own religion.  Again, in turn, I would like the same treatment from those who do not believe the same way as me.

It’s pretty clear to me that both Christians and atheists have given themselves a bad reputation in the process of trying to prove each other to be wrong and to be idiots.  For example, there is a facebook group called “f— Jesus Christ” (I am of course censoring the actual name).  Obviously, that group started quite a stir, some Christians started creating groups like“ban the facebook group ‘f— Jesus Christ’”.  Therefore, hundreds of Christians have joined that group and as they have done so, it proclaims on their facebook profile and on the status feed which all of their facebook friends see that “(So-and-so) has joined the group “ban the facebook group ‘f— Jesus Christ’”.

As a Christian, I feel bad enough even typing the censored version of the name of the original facebook group.  So I definitely don’t want it repeated all over facebook.  Again, even though Christians are standing up against some offensive atheists who created the group, they have ended up defeating the purpose by not only bringing attention to their cyber bullies but also by wasting their energy arguing with fools.  No one wins; instead they just get upset.  I guess the thing about this story that makes me the most curious is this: Why would an atheist hate Jesus Christ or curse Him?  How can you hate or curse something that truly doesn’t exist?

Ultimately, the atheist who started the facebook group ended up having his or her wish granted: Christians got upset and in turn may have said some less than nice things towards atheists on facebook.  Because if a Christian can be made to look like an unstable, hate-speaking person, the atheist wins because it in essence shows the Christian to be a hypocrite- since the angry Christian’s  demeanor is not in accordance with how Jesus taught His followers to behave.  But again, this whole thing just goes to show that none of this is even about converting anyway; it’s about proving the other to be wrong, and therefore to be an imbecile.

I just think that if I were an atheist, I truly wouldn’t care what other people believed.  It wouldn’t even be worth talking about.  There wouldn’t be any emotion or passion invoked when I thought about it.  It would be that simple for me.

The problem with my hypothetical example of me being an atheist is this: Being an atheist truly requires having faith in the unseen and in prehistory.  And the way I see it, it takes much more faith to believe in nothing than it does in something.  Not to mention, it has been my experience that atheism is a vehicle (or Trojan Horse) for Evolution and Darwinism.   Therefore, I see atheism as a religion based on faith.

But agnosticism, I respect.  Because I’ve yet to meet an agnostic who mocked me, spoke to me condescendingly, or was passionate about their view.  And they never tried to convert me to Darwinism; because just like they can’t prove or disprove there is no God whom they can not see, it would take faith to firmly believe in Evolution.  I am actually fascinated by agnostics, because they evidently have no faith in the unseen or unknown or physically improvable.  I don’t see how they do it.  It seems that goes against how we were wired as human beings.

I see atheism as a passionate, organized religion.  But agnosticism- I just don’t know how to classify it.  The combination of faith and passion is a clear sign of a religion; most atheists I have met in my lifetime clearly possess both.  Agnostics, on the other hand, are not passionate about their non-belief and truly appear to have no faith.  Like Penn said in this candid and honest YouTube video, if a person truly believes in their religion, they should share with it others.  I guess that’s unless you’re an agnostic, because there’s no big idea to prove- not even Evolution.  But it seems to me like atheists want to preach their “nongospel”- and that sounds like religion to me.

Maybe the ultimate irony here is that I realize it could be pretty easy for any blog sniper to come across this article and miss the whole point.  Maybe a reader’s perception could cause them to believe I have found a way to cleverly be condescending towards atheists while ironically preaching that we should Christians and atheists should treat each other with respect.  (But I don’t think so- I’ve made it pretty clear that overzealous Christians have mishandled the situation too and have definitely been in the wrong by being rude and condescending towards atheists.)  I could see how the exact kind of overzealous person I refer to in this post (whether they are a Christian or atheist or political talk show host) could find a way to get upset by the words I’ve said here today and be inspired to leave a three paragraph-long comment using my words (in sarcastic quotation marks and out of context, of course) to try to start a religious debate or character-bashing session.

If that’s the case, I promise this: I will not retaliate.  I will not defend myself.  I will not reply to your comment.  Because then I would without a doubt become my ultimate worst example.

But… if you’re just dying to leave a comment on this one, what I would rather you do is debunk is my claim that because atheism requires faith and has passionate believers (and often has an agenda based on its own bible: the teachings of Evolution), atheism is therefore an unofficial organized religion.  If you want to leave a comment about that, I may be inspired to debate you, with all due respect.



The Cultural Identity of Being “Born Again”

I actually come across as pretty normal on the surface.  But recently, I have realized that I’m not simply a religious guy, or even just a Christian… I am one of those evangelical fanatics- basically another version of Kirk Cameron.  So now, I take this opportunity to come out of the closet and accept my social label as an official Born Again Christian.


“Even though I see fundamentalist Christians as wild-eyed maniacs, I respect their verve.  They are probably the only people openly fighting against America’s insipid Oprah Culture- the pervasive belief system that insists everyone’s perspective is valid and that no one can be judged.”

-Chuck Klosterman, in his book Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs

It wasn’t until recently while finishing the final chapter of Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs that I finally realized I am part of a subculture of Protestantism which outsiders label as “Born Again”, which from what I gather, was a pretty popular term back in the 1970’s.  This whole time I’ve been calling myself a Christian, but now I fully understand that just doesn’t cut it.  “Christian” has become such a generic term these days.  Jesus is officially a household name now. While Jesus may be Ashton Kutcher’s homeboy, it’s safe to say that the relationship I have with Jesus Christ is much different than someone just using Jesus as a funny pop culture reference on a t-shirt.

By reading about myself from an outsider’s perspective (Klosterman identifies himself as a mix between a “bad Catholic” and an agnostic), I am able to understand my cultural identity in a way I never have before.  I get it now: I am a fanatical Christian.  Every thought pattern in my head eventually comes back to Jesus being the savior of the world and my desire for people to know Him.

I find it extremely important and relevant to quote a paragraph from Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs:  “There are no other subjects, really; nothing else- besides being born again- is even marginally important.  Every moment of your life is a search-and-rescue mission: Everyone you meet needs to be converted… Life would become unspeakably important, and every conversation you’d have for the rest of your life (or until the Rapture- whichever comes first) would really, really, really matter.  If you ask me, that’s pretty glamorous.”  For me, calling myself a Christian doesn’t simply mean that at some point I came to the realization that I belief Jesus is the son of God, which would be the simplest definition of the word Christian.  Instead, I live a seemingly curious and quirky lifestyle as it relates to my relationship with Jesus Christ.

You’ve probably heard of “Catholic guilt” or maybe even “Jewish guilt”, but I need to introduce something called “Born Again guilt”.  Because we truly believe that Jesus literally meant it when He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but through Me,” we carry this burden of wanting every person we meet to “have a personal relationship with Jesus” like we do.  We sincerely believe that by trusting in Christ as the redemption for our naturally flawed nature and by loving serving others as ourselves, we will be part of the Heavenly Kingdom when Jesus returns as the King.  Sounds pretty sci-fi, yes.  But so does every religion, including atheism.

It’s no secret that I find reasons to insert random facts about the year 1983 or to tell which actors are Jewish or relate the Rubik’s Cube to everyday life.  That’s just me being me.  But I am also constantly looking for ways to write about or at least mention Jesus in ways that are subtle as well.  I realize that if Scenic Route Snapshots was simply me preaching, I wouldn’t be getting between 600 and 1,000 hits each day.  Instead, I write about whatever off-the-wall thing is going through my head that week.  And if it’s possible to show my faith as relevant to the subject as my faith is relevant to my life, I won’t shy away from mentioning it. I would love to sit down with people and discuss my relationship with Jesus on an everyday basis.  But I know that often, that isn’t practical, and therefore not possible.

Kirk Cameron is the official mascot of Born Again Christians. Just ask them about a movie called Fireproof or something called "the love dare"...

Everyone I know, it seems, already understands why Jesus died on the cross. That cultural familiarity with Him, in American, often can be the thing that keeps people from seeking Him in their lives beyond a basic understanding.  It’s hard to tell people what they already know.  So when I write and when I am involved in seemingly surface conversations with people, I try to find ways to point the thought process to my faith somehow- even it’s simply using the word “afterlife”.

How can you tell a Born Again Christian (also referred to as “saved” or “evangelical”) from other deists who use the term “Christian” to describe themselves?  Here are a few red flags to look out for:

They attend a “small group”. In addition to regularly attending their church on Sunday, many Born Again Christians meet once a week (in groups of around 6 to 10 people) at someone’s house for about two hours to study the Bible together and pray.

They strive to study the Bible and pray on a daily basis. In addition to their weekly small group meeting, they also study the Bible and pray privately as well.  Sometimes they refer to this as their “quiet time”.  Many of them can be seen doing this during their lunch breaks at work.

They avoid using profanity. This is often a way they recognize each other.  This means they also refrain from saying “oh my God” as well, as it profanes the name of God to matters that are not holy in any way.

They use the word “blessed” to describe their life. It’s a way of glorifying God in a non-churchy sounding kind of way.  Also, when you leave a message on their cell phone, they end their “sorry I’m not here right now…” spiel with “have a blessed day”.

They truly believe that sex is for only for people who are married to each other. Even if many of them largely contribute to the high viewership of the reality TV show The Bachelor, it’s understood between them all that they collectively do not approve of the “overnight date” episode with the “fantasy suite”.

They politically identify as Republican, or are part of the newer, cooler, independent version called the Libertarian Party. If nothing else, these two political parties typically support the Pro-Life movement whereas the Democratic Party is at best indifferent on the issue.  For Born Again Christians, abortion is not up for discussion or debate.

They take the Bible as literally as possible. Jesus was literally born from a virgin.  Jesus literally multiplied the fish and the bread.  Jesus literally came back to life after these days in the tomb, etc.

They do not believe in Evolution. In particular, the theory that humans evolved from apes. Intelligent Design is instead their theory of choice.  Here’s the 101 on how the dinosaurs fit into Noah’s Ark.

They often refer to Jesus as “Jesus Christ”. It’s almost like “Christ” is Jesus’ last name.  Really though, it’s a Born Again Christian’s subtle way of distinguishing Jesus as the prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament, as opposed to just a historical rabbi who happened to be a “good teacher”.

I'm not Mormon, but I feel like I can relate somewhat to their cultural identity and displacement in society.

So if you know someone who contains at least two or three of these attributes, there’s a good chance you’re dealing with a Born Again Christian. Like Kirk Cameron, Sarah Palin, and President Jimmy Carter, they are the ultra-conservative Protestants.  They seem to blend in with society at first glance, but once you get to know them, you’ll notice the underlying behaviors that set them apart from standard Christianity- like a Mormon, only without the added teachings to the Bible or the crazy mad dancing skills.  (Derek Hough, Julianne Hough, and Lacey Schwimmer of Dancing with the Stars as well as Heidi Groskreutz and Benji Schwimmer of So You Think You Can Dance are all Mormon.)   For some humorous characteristics of Born Again Christians, check out this blog by Jonathan Acuff, called Stuff Christians Like.

“You gave your life to Jesus Christ… and you were not the same after that.” – “Not the Same” by Ben Folds


Just Like the Uniqueness of Human Fingerprints, No Two People Share the Same Version of Reality

Is the integrity of “reality” compromised because it’s different for every person on Earth?

One of the subconscious questions that we movie watchers love to deal with is “What is reality?”  Maybe the main character was actually dead the whole time.  Maybe the whole thing was a computer-generated reality that took place centuries after the main character died.  Maybe the setting wasn’t really the 1800’s, but instead current day the entire time.  These movie twists are interesting because they reveal our fascination with the fact that “reality” is more of an idea and less of a certainty.  Even if most people agree that this world we all live in is indeed reality, there is still the afterlife (or “after reality”) to consider, which completely complicates and enhances the importance of reality.

These thoughts about reality, the meaning of life, and the afterlife are unavoidable at some point in life, for most people.  When someone we are close to dies, our thoughts have to at least consider for a few minutes what happens next for that person.  But even in its simplest form, it’s still difficult to grasp the fact that reality, if nothing else, is different for every person on Earth- and therefore, reality is a static thing, even if most of us agree what reality generally is.  So why is reality so different for each individual?

Sometimes when I read, I come across a quote that I wish I would have thought up myself.  Last week as I was reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, hidden somewhere in the middle of this random yet organized book (page 169) I found this nugget of epiphany: “The strength of your memory dictates the size of your reality.”

For a guy like me who is arguably only a few notches away from being Aspergers, with a vibrant memory of details of my life all the way back to my 2nd birthday party in 1983, my obsessive habits regarding pop trivia, and my natural ability to memorize Wikipedia highlights, it could be said that if the above quote is true, then the size of my reality is pretty large.  But even if you’re not a walking Wikipedia like me, you still have used your memory to save meaningful information (like certain things you learned in your highest level of education, as well as social cues and expectations) along with meaninglessinformation (like who won the Super Bowl in 1997 or who Jake Pavelka chose on the finale of The Bachelor).  The purposeful along with the pointless are both mixed together along with memories from your life that for whatever reason are not forgotten.  These are some of the major ingredients that make up an individual reality.

But even if we can’t all share the same reality (which would be beyond boring), through our meaningful human relationships we can form a similar version of reality.  For life to have meaning, life must be shared: The more shared experiences people have with each other, the greater their shared reality is.  Our friendships, our families, our political affiliations, our religious organizations… they all help make reality a reality.


The Importance of the Perfect Ending

It’s satisfaction we’re looking for; not perfection.

Editor’s note: This post pretty much gives away the ending to the first Rocky movie and the finale episode of Lost.  If that matters to you, please don’t read it.

When it comes to movies and TV series, if the ending isn’t satisfying, I typically label the whole thing as “not that great.”  Movies like Quarantine and Vantage Point could have been so good, but the 90th minute proved the other 89 to be a waste of time.  On the other side of the token, movies like Cast Away and The Social Network could have totally had a lame, pointless, or predictable ending; but instead, the events leading up to the finale were brought together in a way that had me leaving from the theatre thinking, “good job, movie makers” instead of hearing a collective, annoyed gasp from the audience at the ending of another M. Night Shyamalan film that we all tried to give a chance.

Of course a good ending doesn’t always mean they all lived happily ever after, but at least that the characters learned from their experiences and became better people accordingly.  Like the first Rocky for example; by the end of the movie we realized we didn’t truly care whether or not he actually won the fight.  The point was that Rocky was given the chance to fight someone out of his league, he fought a good fight, and that Adrian was there to support him no matter what happened.  It was a perfect ending, even if our expectations were assuming he would win the fight at the end.  “Perfect” endings don’t actually have to be perfect; they just have to be worth the ride.

I have come to the realization that one of the reasons I am a movie enthusiast is because watching good movies is a fun way to (metaphorically) download lessons on social situations into my brain and to become more “life experienced” without having to actually live through those experiences myself.  Sure, a major part of life is learning from your own mistakes.  But most of the time, I prefer to learn from other people’s mistakes- and I don’t care whether or not it’s someone I actually know in real life or a fictional character in a movie.  I think it’s such a wonderful bonus that in addition to the character building experiences I already learn from everyday life, I can extract this knowledge from stories shared through the seemingly petty vehicle of entertainment.

To me, no ending will ever be better the finale episode of the TV show Lost, where the characters reunite in the afterlife to reminisce their shared years of life on Earth together, despite the fact that by that point (not the entire six seasons) they had all been dead for decades or even centuries.  It was unique and extremely creative in that it superseded the limited perspective of the human lifespan.  Despite acknowledging that while what we do here on Earth does indeed matter and yields eternal consequences, it reminds us that one day this life does indeed end.  And whether or not we fully understand The Smoke Monster or why Walt was so special or how long Hurley and Ben Linus ended up staying on the island, the point isn’t that we get all our questions answered in detail.  And whether or not you’ve ever seen an episode of Lost to understand those bizarre references, the perspective of looking back on the meaning of our lives from an post-life view is pretty interesting; it reminds us who and what truly matters to us.

No matter which side of the parallel between real life and the entertainment world I am on, I am still wired to want the perfect ending.  I have to believe that in real life I will live a long and happy life with my family.  Simply, I just want a realistic and satisfying ending, with a few pleasant surprises thrown in for good measure, since I know there will be unpleasant surprises disguised as necessary plot lines.  A perfect ending isn’t always defined by all the ends being tied together when the credits roll.  Instead, it’s knowing there is meaning behind it all- that is satisfaction.