One big religious mess

I came across this video today and this is exactly why, although I persist in believing in a Higher Power/Authority/Presence I will call God for the sake of making things easier and simpler, I just cannot look at the Catholic church with the fondness and warmth I used to.

I do believe in God, consciously and most of the time, subconsciously, because I’ve spent a little bit more than half of my life going to church, being involved in different activities at church, and developing and maintaining close relationships with church people, including nuns and priests. And as cliche as it might sound, you can’t just shake off the education and environment you’ve been raised in, and suddenly totally deny the presence of God all together.

I consider myself fortunate enough that most of the people I’ve personally known, at or through church, between roughly 1990 and 2008 have been marvelous and inspiring. However, I know that, as much as I would like it to be, these people do not represent the Catholic church all together and they are not what the Catholic church represents. Some of them do portray, or at least try to, the best of what the church should indeed be, which, in my own simple interpretation, is love and understanding. But the Catholic church is, unfortunately, a whole institution and a system bigger than these few people, and that current Catholic institution and system embodies values and actions I simply cannot agree with. In doing so, it also forces its members, including the ones I personally know, to follow its rules.

Some may protest and defend the church, saying that pedophile priests and anti-homosexual comments are just part of the church, not all. True, but all I see is the church’s reaction, or rather, its lack of reaction, its unwillingness to embrace changes and its denial of its mistakes; and those are enough to reinforce my disillusion in the system.

Instead of facing the 'real problems', the church often misguides its attention and efforts to other issues.

Instead of facing the ‘real problems’, the church often misguides its attention and efforts to other issues.

Like any other organization, the Vatican cannot control or monitor every single one of the priests it chooses to ordain. But just like any other organization, it should hold responsibility for its mistakes when told so, because people, inside and outside, look up to the system to find the answers. The church may often pride in distinguishing itself from what is mundane and secular and all the political mess, because it wants to take care of what is spiritual and related to faith. But that would be a very naive and misguided perspective. It may not hold the political authority of secular governments, but I see it none too different from a political entity, with a strict hierarchy, a diversity of members and moreover, responsibilities it should answer to. And as a political entity, it is entitled to making mistakes, but it also has a responsibility to answer for them and correct them. After all, like they often like saying, it is God that is divine and absolute, not the people serving that God. Since God has given them the freedom to think and act as they wish (the main explanation as to why there is so much pain and atrocity in this world), I should think God also gave them the freedom to recognize their mistakes and hold themselves accountable for those.

I don’t know why I get upset and frustrated whenever I hear some bad news about the Catholic church. Maybe deep inside I still want to believe there is more good than bad in Catholicism. Maybe I’m just looking for a little sign that will give me faith again and allow me to go back to Sunday masses my head held high, and I’m disheartened to see that all I get in return is big signs pointing at all that is bad and wrong in that religion.

This video made me realize, once more, that no matter how many ‘good’ individuals there are in Catholicism, as a group, they somehow turn into this irrational mob, blind and deaf to all that is wrong, brandishing their faith as a pass to do everything in the name of God.


Oh Hope thou art treacherous

I didn’t want to write this because I didn’t want to jinx anything, but today is graduation day at SNU, and having graduated from the Graduate School of International Studies (GSIS), as a proud holder of an MA, just a year ago, I can’t help but assess how much I have changed (or, sadly enough, unchanged) since then.

Having had yet another (!) rejection this morning, it is truly a miracle, I find, that I can get up from my bed  at all, come to work and type away my miseries. Geez, re-reading this makes me want to kill myself…

Having had yet another (!) rejection from a grad school this morning (I’ve lost count now), I think it is fair and about time to assume that a Ph. D degree and going to the States won’t be part of my near future. Yet while most of my brain tells me that, there is this tiny and thin thread of hope that I desperately cling on to, a hope that will linger on as long as the remaining five schools don’t deliver the fatal (or redeeming?) verdict. And so, yes, I cannot yet make myself  look for a ‘real job’ thoroughly enough right now, for, what if I found the perfect job, applied for it, got it (because doh? Of course my resume is brilliant and I will ace the interview), and then, suddenly, Oh Behold, Harvard offers me a fully-funded Ph. D position? Well now, I would have to let down the people who made the wise decision of hiring the awesome person that I am. Oh the disappointment they will have! I’ve had enough disappointment in my life, I don’t want to be the one to bestow it on others. 

Yes, call me crazy and delusional, but that is roughly what has been going through my head for the past couple of weeks. I will probably regret not having made extra effort to find a job a few weeks from now, but that’s the thing with hope, isn’t it? You can’t just make it go away, no matter how much you try to reason with yourself. It lingers there, it hops here and about, taunts you, hands you water to your thirsty and starched soul, only to take it away when you finally gather up the courage to accept what you know is poison for your mind.

Oh Hope thou art treacherous

It’s like when I was a kid, I knew in my head that I had screwed up an exam, I checked, with my very own eyes that what I had written in my paper was not the correct answer to the question. Yet I hoped with all my heart, for the following few days, that somehow, history had changed and suddenly, yes, the First World War had indeed started in 1916, or that a guardian angel had corrected the + sign in my Math paper to the correct – sign. But the day finally came when the teacher would hand out back our exam, and hope scurried along to haunt another kid while sticking its tongue out for a last chance of mockery, and I had to face the red pen marks of my teacher and the bad grade it ensued.

This tormenting relationship continues to this day, and to this day, I cannot, will not, learn my lesson. Because just when I’m about to give up, it suddenly offers its generous hand and rejoices at my relieved shout ‘Yes! There IS hope!’, only to snort at my naivety once more. Hope is sometimes overly exaggerated. Sure, it’s what makes us go on day after day, year after year, but at what cost? At the cost of seeing your imaginary world, which you carefully built day after day, shatter into a thousand pieces with a simple rejection letter, a phone call, a click at your keyboard, a message, and so on.

Oh Hope, you are mean and misguiding…


today again, I hope.

I hope that one school will open its doors for me.

I hope that I will get a great job.

I hope that I will finally move out from my parents’ house.

I hope that I will make enough money to take a trip once a year.

I hope that I will meet my Chandler and live happily ever after.

Yes! We’re bound to achieve our dream, whatever that may be, sooner or later!

“The Great Gatsby” by F.Scott Fitzgerald

I have struck through the first book among the ‘classics’ I have set myself to read during this year 2013. Unfortunately, this one was probably the easiest and shortest in the list (which includes “Les Miserables” and “Great Expectations” among others), so I won’t celebrate too much.

Reading a classic often leaves you with a bitter aftertaste, I find, especially if it’s an easy read like this one. You feel like you should value your experience, be submerged by a well-deserved fascination for the ‘oeuvre d’art’ in your hands, confirm why it has been called a classic by so many, and finally come up with a great review you can only hope is 1/10 as good as the book itself. Yet there’s also that lingering feeling that you can list at least three books on the top of your head that have inspired you more than this one and have incited you to write a more eager review. Then you come to question your ability to appreciate, understand and analyze ‘true literature’, and wonder whether your brain is more fit for easier reads that do not require so much in-depth analysis. But well, you decide to fight your intuition and try to come up with a decent enough review for ‘the classic’, although the reviews you have peeked on the internet had so much more to say than what you tried to discover and unravel, on your own, during the time you were invested in it (‘What does this mean?’ ‘Why did the protagonist use this word instead of that?’ ‘This motif is a recurrent one, what is the point of the author by using this?’ and so on).

So here goes.

The first impression I got from ‘The Great Gatsby’ is that it very much resembled another book I had read some time ago, a longer yet much ‘funner’ one than ‘this classic’, “Past Imperfect” by Julian Fellowes, creator of the series ‘Downton Abbey’. Although set in different countries (the US and the UK) and in different times (after WWI in the former and after WWII in the latter), in both books, we see the ‘friend’ of the narrator and the main character of the book, struggle to rise to a certain social status where money and reputation constitute the main foundations, a struggle that is motivated by his love for a woman he cannot ‘get’ with the little he has in his pre-existing situation. While both Gatsby and Damian seem to have reached the holy grail, with wealth beyond the imagination and grasp of the ‘original wealthy class’, with the help of their seemingly natural social skills, like any dream you try too hard to achieve, the mirage disappears once they are at the top.

Is it the fault of the characters? Or do we owe this to the general disillusion that seems to prevail in both times? Throughout the two books, and more so in “The Great Gatsby”, we feel the heavy weight of nonchalance and disenchantment, amidst the lavishness of the period, sip into the characters. Where free reign of morals, ‘freedom‘ from traditional values, and material abundance prevail, the characters seem to have been dipped into this atmosphere, and come out like chocolate-dipped strawberries, and one has to bite into them to really feel the juicy and fruity, yet at the same time a bit sourer taste compared to the chocolate out-layer,  revealing their past and their feelings.

Gatsby, after having achieved everything he wanted and thought was needed to be formally included into Daisy’s life, has to wait and hesitate and go through different schemes to actually confront her. Having built his hopes high to finally grasp his long-lost love, he finds himself separated by a mere river and all he can do is watch the green light in her house. And when finally he thinks he has made somewhat of a progress, his life is shattered by an unforeseen accident and he’s the one to take the fall.

His -spoiler alert- death is the most tragic event of all the book, well, obviously because he has died, but mostly because of what he has left, or rather, hasn’t left, behind. He doesn’t leave behind a grieving Daisy, because she has moved on in her life, staying with her husband, whom she has loved at some point in her life, despite Gatsby’s refusal to believe so. He doesn’t leave behind mourning friends, as if the numerous guests in his lavish parties suddenly vanished from the face of the earth. He doesn’t leave a father struck by despair and sadness, but rather a mourning father who is more impressed with what his son has achieved, the status he has risen to, and less with the actual death of his son. He only leaves behind the narrator, Carraway, the only one who lives to tell the story of the ‘Great Gatsby’.

Sure, I could also talk about the recurrent motifs, such as the Doctor’s eyes, the weather, the swimming pool, etc, but I’ll leave to those more capable than I am.

I guess “The Great Gatsby” is considered a classic because it grasps so much of that particular era. And of course, I wouldn’t know, since I wasn’t in the States in the 1920s, but that’s what a classic should do, right? Have contemporaries face their reality and live to tell the future generations of how the world was ‘back then’, solving a little of the mystery of how we have come where we are now.