Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I am Loki, Part IV: The Prodigal's Brother and Me

(No spoilers to Thor this week, just spoilers to the story of the Prodigal Son. Click the appropriate link for the appropriate post, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, the story of the Prodigal Son.)

The story of the Prodigal Son is a beautiful story about us—humans—and God. It’s a story that embodies that Whitecloak saying, “No one is so far in the dark they can’t see the light.” There is nothing you can do that the Father won’t welcome you home with open arms. 

And I understand this. I understand what this story is about. Inheritance. Coming home. Self-righteousness. Bitterness. How God can be with all of us, love all of us, those of us who wander and those of us who stay. 

But people who identify with the prodigal really love this story, and they really love to take this story and pull it out, to read between the lines. They love to say things like, “Oh! Oh! Verse 20 says while the son was far away the father saw him! That means the father was watching for him, waiting at the window for him! Look how much the father cares!” 

And it’s stuff like this that drives me insane. 

Because for those of us who identify with the other brother, for those of us who have experienced the prodigal son story in our earthly families, this sort of thing causes us—or at least me—to get riled and start to defend the older brother. 

Because if you can read between the lines and make stuff up that’s clearly not written there, so can I. 

So if the father was always standing at the window, watching for the younger brother, that means he was neglecting the elder. 

And I know what it’s like to sit at the dinner table and listen to your parents talk non-stop of the prodigal son, worrying about him, wondering what he’s doing, trying to figure out when he might call, how they might get in touch with him, while you sit there quietly. Sure it’s selfish to want the conversation to turn to you and how school’s going these days, but when it’s every dinner. Every meal. When every time your parents call you they only want to talk about the prodigal and how much they worry…when you call your parents one time in tears over something traumatic in your young life and they drop your call because the prodigal calls through to tell them something mundane…It’s hard. And it’s really easy to grow bitter. It’s really easy to resent. 

Because when the father is always staring out the window, it means he’s ignoring you. 

Some like to say, “Well, if the older son was a really good son, he would be at the window with the father. Look how far away the son was from the father! In the fields! They weren’t even on the same page.” 

To which I always respond, “My life should stop because my sibling went prodigal? My life should be put on hold for them?” As for the elder son being in the fields, if the father is spending all of his time staring out the window wondering, who’s keeping the family business running? Methinks it’s the elder child, who is in those fields working to keep everything going, because the father is neglecting his business. 

Now, I understand that this is not really a fair analysis of the story. Because in the father in the story is God, and God is all omniscient and omnipresent and can be with all of us all at the same time. He can be looking out the window for the Prodigal and in the fields with the elder son. 

But when the prodigals of the world stretch the story and pull into the reveal the holes in the metaphor, it makes me go crazy. Because they don’t know what it’s like. They don’t know how hard it is, to be put on hold while you’re crying, to have every conversation with your parents turn to someone else. To have every moment of your life feel secondary to someone else—someone who essentially ran away from the family. 

And you’re just the good kid, the ignored kid.

I think it was Victor Hugo who once said something like parents often love best the child who gives them the most trouble. (Of course he said it far more eloquently). And for those of us who give the least trouble…that’s a very disturbing thought. 

So for years I’ve really struggled with this story. Debates on this topic have reduced me to tears, because no one understands. I feel like 90% of the world identifies with the prodigal son and those who don’t are like “I got over that years ago” but with no real advice on how to do so. 

Leaving me floating alone with serious older brother syndrome in family. With growing resentment and bitterness towards my other siblings. Because even though this story isn't about earthly families per say, I still know that this bitterness and resentment building in me towards my earthly family is not good. But I feel so justified in my feelings. I'm not asking for much. Just a little attention. Just a little equal treatment. And it's hard not to desire that. But it's merely a Sisyphean Ambition leading me on a path to the Dark Side.

So how did watching the movie Thor give me a personal revelation? More on that on Thursday.

Click here for Part V: Loki and the Other Son.

Monday, May 28, 2012

The Parable of the Prodigal Son

(I didn't want to post the entire prodigal son story into today's main post, so I decided to post it in this post for your easy convenience. So here it is. The Parable of the Prodigal Son. Break-ups between versus are my own.)

Luke 15:11-32 (English Standard Version)

(11) And he said, "There was a man who had two sons. (12) And the younger of them said to his father, 'Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.' And he divided his property between them.

(13) "Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. (14) And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. (15) So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. (16) And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything.

(17) "But when he came to himself, he said, 'How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! (18) I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, "Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. (19) I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants."' (20) And he arose and came to his father.

"But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (21) And the son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.'

(22) "But the father said to his servants, 'Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. (23) And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. (24) For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.' And they began to celebrate.

(25) "Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. (26) And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. (27) And he said to him, 'Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.'

(28) But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, (29) but he answered his father, 'Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never game me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. (30) But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!'

(31) "And he said to him, 'Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. (32) It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.'"

Click here for the next installment of "I Am Loki, Part IV: The Prodigal's Brother and Me".

Thursday, May 24, 2012


So I totally lied. Work went way late and I have a headache, so I can't do this post justice. Next week. I'll post like regular next week (because for once I'm going to write all my posts in advance!).

But if you really need to read something written by me just head over to my book review blog and read a couple reviews. 

I promise I'll be back next week.

Late Post Today


I know I've been very flaky in the past, but I promise you there will be a post today. I just forgot to write it in advance, so I'll have to write it up after work today. Luckily for me, it's a post I've been thinking about for a while now with this whole Loki series, so it shouldn't take me too long. But I do live in mountain time, so it might seem really late to those of you on the eastern side of the world. I apologize, but I don't get off work until like six-thirty eastern time, (which of course is a nice early four-thirty my time).

Anyway, today I will talk about the prodigal son story, something I don't often do because I have really strong feelings about it. But these strong feelings have been put into perspective by me watching the movie Thor. So look forward to it. :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

I am Loki, Part III: Sisyphean Ambition

Beware, I’m about to mix a classic science fiction franchise with a super hero franchise. But trust me when I say this case of mixed metaphors works. So bear with me and join me into Part Three of “I am Loki”. Click the appropriate link for Part 1 and Part 2

In Star Wars Episode 1, a movie most people would rather not talk about, Yoda makes a statement when he senses fear in young Anakin Skywalker. He says, “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” And apparently suffering leads to the dark side….or hate leads to the dark side and the dark side causes suffering? Either way, Yoda is saying that it’s fear that is the impetus that leads people to evil. 

I’m generally hesitant to disagree with a Jedi Master, especially Master Yoda who has been practicing the arts of the Jedi longer than the country I live in has been around, but on this matter I must disagree. It’s not that I don’t think fear can lead to the dark side. It can. I just think that it’s not THE path to the dark side. I think there are much more common ways there. And I think Loki displays the most common path to the Dark Side: Sisyphean Ambition. 

What is Sisyphean Ambition you ask? Well that’s a good question considering I made the term up after trying to poll my friends for a word with a specific meaning, and it turns out such a word doesn’t exist. So what am I trying to say? What I am trying to describe is the ambition to earn something you can’t possibly earn. Like Sisyphus rolling that rock up the hill every day only to have it fall back to the bottom before he can reach the top. 

The terrible thing about Sisyphean Ambition is that it doesn’t always seem like it should be Sisyphean, which is what leads the person to pursue it. To use our current example, Loki’s Sisyphean Ambition is to be loved equal/the same as Thor. This pursuit is not particularly ignoble, in fact it’s rather a sympathetic one—one many of us have probably felt at different points in our life. He wants it so badly, and he does everything in his power to try to earn it. The problem is that it’s impossible to love two people the exact same way. And it’s impossible to earn love. 

Unrequited love is often a Sisyphean ambition. You love that person so much, but no matter what you do they do not love you back. You try to earn their love but you can’t. And often that unrequited love can lead to you hating that person if you’re not careful. 

How? Well, I would argue that Sisyphean Ambition leads to resentment. Resentment leads to hate. And in the true words of Master Yoda, hate does lead to suffering. 

Some things we can’t earn or make happen, no matter how much we try, and that ambition, that intense desire to make the Sisyphean possible often leads to resentment. We resent the people who have what we want. We resent the forces that thwart us, whether they be science or God. We resent that no matter how hard we try we can never, ever earn what we want. 

And that’s a thought humans just can’t stomach. We want everything to be earnable, whether it’s the American Dream or Salvation. But Salvation can’t be earned, and for some us, that’s a completely baffling and infuriating thought. If I try hard enough, if I set my mind to it, if I do everything in my power I can, I should be able to earn whatever I want. 

But you can’t. Loki can’t. I can’t. 

Not everything is earnable. 

Loki wanted to be loved equal. Anakin wanted to find a way to stop death. Many super-villains want to be God. But these desires are impossible and impossible to earn no matter how much we try. 

And because we can’t have it, we resent. 

And slowly our resentment turns to hatred. 

And hatred always leads to suffering. 

Welcome to the Dark Side.

Click here for the Parable of the Prodigal Son (which you should read before Part IV), and click here for Part IV:  The Prodigal's Brother and Me.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

I am Loki; Part II: How a Good Kid Becomes a Super Villain

(Spoilers for Thor throughout)

This is a continuation of my discussion on Loki, and my empathetic connection with him. Click here for Part 1. 

It's easy to point at supervillains and say they're evil. It's easy to judge and shake your head and say "I just don't know where they went wrong." How does someone go from being a good kid to trying to destroy Jotunheim? How does someone commit treason and argue it's all to better protect his family and people, as Loki tries to argue? Well, to answer those questions, travel with me into a mind that it's all too easy for me to understand. Come with me on a journey through a life that strangely parallels my own.

You grow up in a happy family. You love your parents. You love your older brother, even if he's not quite as clever as you and far too interested in sports. Your parents have a tendency to gush over Thor, praising his athleticism. You're proud of your brother too, and your parents do praise you for your cleverness and your cool ability with magic, but it's always a little bit different. You try to argue it's because you're just two different kids. You have different likes and dislikes so of course things seem different. Your parents love you the same. But there is something there, something you don't know that other people do that is coloring how they view you...and you can sense it even if you don't realize it.

You don't want much in life. You certainly don't want your parents to not love Thor. You just want--for once--to be his equal. But you can't excel at what he excels at. You're just not Thor. You're not all brawny and athletic. But magic is a different story. So you study hard, thinking that if you just excel at something--anything--that will be enough. And your parents praise you and love you, but it's just not quite the same. Thor is on this pedestal and you are below him. You think maybe they prize his brawn over your brains, and there is nothing you can do about that...except prove to them that brawn isn't all its cracked up to be. So you use your brains to show the failure of brawn.

You sneak three frost giants into Asgard during your brother's moment of glory. 

Asgard was never really in danger. You know that. Sure it might be viewed as treason to some, but you're trying to save Asgard from an even bigger threat. The threat of your all brawn and no brain brother being on the throne. You don't want the throne, not really, but you don't want Thor on it as he is either. And now maybe his parents will see him for what he is. Especially when you sort of goad him into a very dangerous attack on Jotunheim that could cause war between the two kingdoms.

But once again there is never really any danger to you guys or the kingdom, because you tell a guard as you leave to get your dad and stop this madness before it begins. You don't want to start a war, and you don't want you, or Thor, or any of your friends to get hurt. You just want to show your dad what he's been turning a blind eye to all this time

And it works. Sort of. Except your dad showed up later than you expected. And someone got hurt. And Thor says something way harsh that he doesn't mean to your dad, and Dad gets freakin' mad and banishes Thor.

You didn't really want that. Not really. You just wanted Thor to be taken down a notch, for your parents to see your true worth. Thor is your brother. You love him. You miss him. But you have bigger things to worry about right now.

Because it turns out you're actually a frost giant.

Your parents have kept this information from you until now because "it was for your own good" and "we wanted you to be grow up normal and feel equal to everyone" and "blah blah blah blah", and you know their intentions were good but it's like you're suddenly re-watching your entire life with a different lens. Stuff that didn't make sense as a child--times when you and Thor were treated differently for no apparent reason--suddenly make sense. The pieces fall into place. You're a frost giant and they've known it all along and that's why you're different.

You're confused and angry, but ultimately nothing has changed other than your life makes more sense. Your desire is still the same. You still want to be Odin's son, and you just want to be freakin' equal to Thor.

You don't want to be king. You just want to be loved.

So you connive a plan--one that might make some less clever folk thinks you're a traitor when really all you're doing is momentarily playing villain so you can forever play hero. So you can save the king and your family finally loves you like you want to be loved--like they love Thor when he comes home victorious to a feast and celebration.

But it backfires. It always does. Thor shows up, even though he's supposed to be gone, and for once you're not happy to see your brother. And he claims he's changed, and a better man, and able to be king after spending maybe a week on Earth. And as always everyone falls all over the prodigal son returned. You are the bitter brother in the background that everyone villianizes and refuses to understand.

But you're not a villain. You did this all for your family--your adopted family that you still love regardless--for them. You just want to be loved, to be equal, but nothing you do can earn you that. You're always second. Always one step below. Always the bitter, angry one in the background.

So when your father looks at you and says, "no Loki", you break.

You did everything for him. You just want to be the son he wants, the son he esteems, the son he loves, and instead he looks at you like you're the biggest disappointment.

And in that moment you realize there is nothing you can do. You will never be equal to Thor. You will always be Loki, the mischievious troublesome one. Never the thunder god.

So you give up.

Because its hard to love them. It's too hard to continue trying. It's too hard to get continiously rejected. So you give up.

You let go.

Everything in your life you've done to be a better son, a better part of the family, to prove you are an equal part of the family. Instead they think you're a villain.

And if they're going to think you're a villain, you might as well be one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I am Loki, Part I

(Sorry for posting a day late. I was actually on travel yesterday and I thought I would have time before the review to type up this post but that was not the case. So you get this post on Wednesday instead of Tuesday.)

(Also, spoilers for Thor below. But you've had over a year to see the movie so I don't feel bad.)

I saw Thor for the first time on May 3rd. It was the Marvel Marathon in the theater, where they showed Iron Man, Hulk, Iron Man II, Thor, Captain America, and then at midnight The Avengers. I had seen most of the prequels but not Thor.

I expected it to be a terrible movie from what I'd heard from people and the blogosphere in general, but I was stunned when I loved it. It wasn't that the plot was epic or anything or that there was huge character development for Thor--because frankly neither is true. When I first saw it, I knew I liked it because of Loki. Something about his character--about him--made me love this movie as much as I love Captain America (which is a lot, by the way. I love Captain America. Steve Rogers is the man.)

before a week went by, I bought Thor on blu-ray and then this past Sunday I watched it for a second time.

When the movie came to the end, and Loki let go of the staff, plummeting into the vortex, there were tears in my eyes. Tears. Actual, honest to goodness tears. I almost wept during a superhero movie. Why? Because when he says he did it all for his father and his father say, "no Loki" and Loki gets that heart wrenching look on his face, and he let's go--that scene resonated to my soul.

I know that feeling. I know that level of trying so hard just to please your parents only to have it all backfire on you.

I am Loki.

I am the younger sibling trying so hard to live up to the elder, trying just to be equal.

I am the one with bitterness building in my soul over the lack of inequality, the one watching and waiting for the elder one to fail so our parents will realize I've been the good one all along.

I am the one who is constantly one step away from true villainy.

I am Loki.

So for a little while here on this blog, we're going to explore this deep connection I had with a super villain. One of my friends had a hard time understanding Loki--his motivation, why he did what he did, so first we're going to explore the movitvation that leads to being a supervillain (which I understand all too well), and how it's not really a desire for evil at all. Then we're going to talk about how the story of Loki and Thor parallels the story of the prodigal son, and why Loki's story had a greater effect on me than all the lecture I've recieved on "the other brother". Then we're going to talk about what I'm going to do with this knowledge--how I'm going to stop from being a super-evil dude.

So yes, we're going to spend all of this week and the next talking about a villain in a superhero movie. Be ready. Be prepared. Things are about to geeky and Christian up in here.

Click here for Part II: How a Good Kid Becomes a Super Villain.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Avengers was Great!

I apologize for not posting last week. I moved from an apartment into a rental house last Tuesday and spent most of last week unloading boxes. But in addition to this small post, you will get a Tuesday and Thursday post this week. 

I saw The Avengers at midnight when it came out, and I felt like I should write a post about it. I kept thinking: what do I want to write about? There are so many great aspects of that movie, like someone finally getting the Hulk right, or Black Widow being an actual person and not a sex object, or that special Joss Whedon touch that adds comedy even into the darkest of situations. That's just a few of the great aspects, so what did I want to write about?

Then yesterday, while unpacking boxes I re-watched Thor, and it hit me. I didn't want to write about the Avengers at all. Not the heroes anyway. I wanted to write about Loki. And more specifically, I wanted to write about the deep personal connection I found to him.

So look forward to a two-part blog post this week. It will contain no spoilers for The Avengers for those of you who haven't seen it (and you should really really really go see it), but will contain extensive spoilers for Thor, which came out ages ago so I don't feel bad about that at all.

Hope everyone has a good week.

Thursday, May 3, 2012


For those of you who don't know, I have had a dog named Rikki since I was in the seventh grade. He's a Keeshond. When I went to college, Rikki had to stay with my parents, but when I moved off campus, I was able to bring Rikki to Atlanta with me. Now Rikki lives with me in Albuquerque where he is a happy twelve-year-old who likes to sleep all day.

Since he's old, Rikki is fairly well behaved. He can do all the basic tricks, is completely potty trained, loves being around other people, and has a very low activity level (since he's ancient in dog terms). He's pretty much your ideal low maintenance apartment dog.

But because Rikki's so old, there are a lot of dog things he doesn't do any more. Like go on long walks. Play fetch. Or anything else that might be slightly strenuous. (Ok, not entirely fair. He'll play rope for about five minutes once a week.)

So I recently got a puppy!

Back in February, I purchased a Samoyed puppy and named him Galad (more on that later). At the time, I was doing a ton of travel so I couldn't really provide a stable home. So he went to live with my parents.

Last week Galad came to live with me, and now I have two dogs! And let me tell you, this puppy is full of energy and wants to play all day.

For the most part things have gone really well. My parents continued the house training that the breeder I got him from had started, so he's generally house broken. There have been a few incidents of him having an accident in the house, but really it's just because the two of us aren't used to each others signals and habits yet. We haven't had an incident in a couple of days, so I think we're over that.

Rikki tolerates Galad pretty well, but Galad cannot understand why the older dog does not want to play with him. At first Rikki was really hesitant of even letting Galad near him, but now Rikki is ok with the puppy cuddling up to him and touching him. Rikki just can't handle Galad's really playful moods. So when Galad starts teasing Rikki, trying to get him to play, Rikki just stands there and barks at him. It's actually kind of funny, but I don't encourage barking so I always put an end to that quickly.

The hardest part has been how having a puppy has affected my sleep. Galad is five months old so he's not too bad about staying in his crate through the night. However, Rikki really spoiled me. That dog can go for over half a day without going outside. With Rikki, I could sleep twelve hours on Saturday, get up and have a leisurely breakfast in front of the TV, and not take Rikki out for another hour or two after we woke up. With Galad....not so much. Galad can stay in his crate and not have an accident for at least ten hours (as has been proven by my workday), but he doesn't like it. So at around seven hours he starts to bark. And I have to tell him to stop. Which will keep him quiet for another hour. Then he'll start to bark again.

I'm sure the people upstairs in my apartment are really enjoying that. But they haven't complained and if they do, I'll just remind them that their alarm clock has woken me up everyday for the past ten months. I think they can handle a week or two of a barking dog.

Anyway, there is definitely some adjusting that's happening on my and Rikki's parts in order to welcome this new addition to our family. You can look forward to more discussions on my adventures in puppy raising in future posts! This is really just an introduction to get everyone on the same page.

Anyone else out there gotten a new addition to the family recently?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blogging Fail

I know...I know...I have seriously neglected this blog. *sigh* My excuse? Well I'm going to use the old "I've been traveling a ton" excuse because it's true. Over the course of the past three months I've traveled to Maryland, Georgia, Missouri, Montana, Texas, Michigan, New York, and Massachusetts. Later this month I go to Colorado and then my last trip for a long time should be at the end of this month and it's to Hawaii. You would think I would be excited about going to Hawaii, but...really...it's just sort of annoying. I'm not going to have a chance to enjoy the place. I'm going to fly in. Go to a hotel and crash. Go to what will probably be a twelve hour meeting. Go back to the hotel and crash. And then fly out the next day. *Bleh*

And it turns out while I've been not blogging, blogger has completely changed it's interface. Now I've got to get used to this all over again.

I fully intend to start blogging regularly again now that things have settled down. I've gotten a new puppy and I'm eager to share my adventures in puppy training with all of you. 

In the meantime, I've started an official book review blog. It shouldn't detract from this blog at all, because I'm only posting there once a week on Tuesdays. And I haven't even done that in a while. (Will be back on track with that next week). So go check it out here. I've reviewed several books so far, some of them fairly new releases and some of them really old. If you like Science Fiction and Fantasy books I highly recommend it.

Anyway, blogging will start coming back to normal soon. I promise. Look forward to a new post on Thursday.

Also in the meantime, please enjoy this video, which makes me happy every time I watch it:

Note: I'm not condoning going out and getting sloshed, which the lyrics might actually be condoning. But I am condoning Star Wars. :)

Thanks for being patient with me guys!!!