The Agent’s Secret to Maintaining Positivity

You call it, “overwhelming negativity.” I call it, “thousands of chances for self-fulfillment.”
Source: Zone of Success

Well, my news feed has gotten depressing again.

Threats are being slung back and forth by every which country, the president has failed on every aspect of his 100-day plan and may actually be clinically insane, YouTube’s struggle with advertisers threatens to hurt the careers of many young creatives (thank god for Patreon), and I’m currently living in that weird ‘Seasonal Depression’ Limbo where color and light are returning to the land but rain and allergies prevent me from enjoying them. Long story short: total crap-sack.

Whenever I get like this, I can always count on a bunch of friends and family to send me a bevy of links to pages talking about how to stay happy and positive. And while I do appreciate how much those people do for me in that regard and love them for it, it’s ultimately unnecessary. I’ve spent over 25 years fighting depression, I’ve gotten REALLY good at it, and I’d like to see people take care of themselves instead of babying my big, hairy backside.

So, what’s my secret? Well, as I hinted at in a previous article, I’m a proponent of Albert Camus’s philosophy of ‘The Absurd Hero’ and the idea that life is just a chaotic, meaningless, hot mess that’s structurally shaped to have no purpose other than that which we choose to make for ourselves. It’s a pessimistic – maybe even nihilistic worldview, but it’s one that has the power to release you from your own self-imposed constraints. Once you stop freaking out about how devoid of anything your life is by default, you start to realize just how much of your own meaning you can fill it with. It’s a blank canvas for you to create your LITERAL life’s work.

For example, I’m part of a body positivity group on Facebook. One day, a very sweet girl, posted pictures of her new outfit and make-up. Me, being the huge nerd I am, geeked out telling her cool I thought she looked because her thin but athletic frame made her look like Envy from Full Metal Alchemist. It was only long after I posted it that my ‘normie-filter’ switched back on and said, “you just compared a really cute girl to a shapeshifting, gender-fluid, boy in a skirt, you clod.” But, much to my relief, it turned out that she identified as androgynous and that was the highest compliment anyone had ever paid her. The fact that she was so happy after that lifted me up with her. That’s the meaning – the purpose – I prescribe to my life; to lift others up to heights above me that I can bask in their joy.

The important thing to remember in all of this is that happiness is not an eternal reward like we’re often taught it is. Instead, it’s a constant struggle to shape the nothing of your chaotic life into something you can love. I expect positivity to fade with time. And, in an odd way, it needs to in order to remind us to appreciate the joy we have.

As for all of the negativity we experience, that’s just the struggle of other people trying to shape their own purposeful lives bleeding into ours and the sabre-rattling of people trying to reconcile their differences of purpose. It sucks, but that’s why my, “it’s my job to make as many people happy as I can,” goal is so important to me; because it enriches my life as much as it does theirs.I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone. And that’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be.

I know I’m not going to change every life, but I can see when I DO make difference to someone and I can certainly spread that peace of mind to as many people as I can. That’s enough to, if not keep me positive, make me positive for as long as I need to be to get the job done. And when it is done, well, it’s time for some rest before moving on to the next one.

Struggle and fulfillment. Dark and light. Negative and positive. Life isn’t a box of chocolates, Forrest. It’s a two-stroke combustion engine; the day you give up on your struggle is the day you stop gassing it up.

Embracing Darkness and Why The Agent Hates to Self-Silence

“No, me; I will NOT shut up. This is some important s***.”
Source: Thinking Healthy

Just a quick stream-of-consciousness style rant today to discuss how I apparently have a ‘bad habit’ among my more private circle of friends.

I keep a private Facebook page exclusively for friends and family where I allow myself to get much darker in my speech and tackle weightier topics that I don’t discuss here simply because I treat this corner of my part of the internet like a business and I don’t want to drive people off.

But, if I’m being honest, that kind of pisses me off. I hate having to do that.

However, I got reminded of why I do that recently. You see, I share those dark stories and thoughts because it’s my way of letting others who may be struggling with depressing crap that I’m somebody that can relate, is listening, cares about what you have to say, and wants to see the world change for the better. I legitimately want people to turn to me for emotional support.

The problem is that when people see a long string of sad posts saying how I relate to people with depression, praising artists for speaking out against bullying, or sharing stories commending parents for being aware of the danger their kid may be involved in, they think that I’m about to go off my nut.

And while I may get annoyed with the ever-echoing mantra of, “are you okay,” don’t begrudge those people for wanting to check up on me. After all, they’re just as worried about me as I am about them. And I’d like to think ALL of us are worried about the state of the world. It’s only natural to want to be concerned with the each other.

But the fact of the matter is this; I talk about dark, depressing things because I feel that denying them is to deny serious look into the human condition. I want people to see just what’s happening in the world and understand how people are feeling until they have no choice but to do something about it as a collective whole.

Of course, I realize that part of the fault is my own. Nobody likes being told how much of a crap-sack the world is when there’s obviously plenty of good in it that keeps getting ignored (why do you think I post #GoodNewsFriday on Twitter every week?), but it seems just as easy these days to just ignore the horrible stuff and act like it never happens.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is that we all have a duty to speak up and act when we see injustice and inequality in the world and remind those that are suffering that we want to help them. Go and enjoy the good things in life that keep you going; that’s your right and what we all need every day. But don’t forget to step into the shadows every once and a while so you can remind yourself and others when and where there’s a candle that needs lighting.

The Final Philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Christianity, Satanism, and Accepting Your Sins

At long last, Isaac’s nightmare is at a close…
Source: Steam Community

You’d think that with my history of gushing about the greatness of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth that I would have written a think piece on its final DLC, Afterbirth +, long ago. But, I wanted to get a feel for the game before I actually sat down to pontificate on it. It was a good thing I did that too because this game gave me a lot to think about.

Anyone who has played the game (or has just read the title and knows their bible stories) can tell you that Christianity is a running theme of the story. But, very few people discuss TBoI‘s associations to Satanism. Of course, one can infer that a story that praises or decries Christianity will likely be touching on Satanism by virtue of how the two are linked. But after doing some light research, I was shocked to see just how much there was to unpack.

First things first, I want to make it clear that this article takes NO OFFICIAL STANCE on either Christianity or Satanism as the superior moral practice. This is purely about comparing the two philosophies and putting them into a modern, progressive context so that everyone of any religious or non-religious background can benefit from it.

Secondly, I’d like to give a huge shout out to horror movie critic and open-practicing Satanist Jack ‘Count Jackula’ Shen for informing a lot of the research I did for this article – especially his semi-in-character rant on why he chose to convert to Satanism and his thoughtful debate on applying Satanic philosophy to social media. Even if you don’t buy into his beliefs, he’s still a funny and insightful man that I’ve supported for some time (you can actually see my name at the top of his credit rolls in his movie reviews from when I helped fund his new editing rig). I also wish to apologize to Jackula in advance if I’ve misinterpreted anything I may have gleaned from his discussions.

Getting back to TBoI, this new DLC gave us a pair of new main story endings that tie together with the previous endings and share a common theme; Isaac is found dead in his toy chest but is soon seen again walking through an empty field resembling the hills overlooking his house.

Another theme that pervades the game is Isaac’s guilt. Not only has he grown up in a VERY strict Christian household that reinforces the idea that he is evil and shames him for his sins, but the scenes that unfold suggest that he’s also from a broken home without a father and that he blames himself for his parent’s divorce. This guilt (or ‘sin’ if you will) manifests as a shadowy devil-like figure that lives inside Isaac and that he routinely becomes.

This is the core belief that both Christianity and Satanism share; all people, regardless of faith or lifestyle, are inherently flawed and ‘sinful’. The difference is that while Christianity believes that morality is to repress sinful nature and shame those who fail to do so, Satanism believes morality is to accept one’s sins as normal so that one can focus on doing right by themselves before moving on to others.

I propose the following; Isaac’s death is not a literal death. Rather, it’s the death of his ego. He’s finally grown up, come to terms with his ‘sinful’ flaws, and is ready to form a new, healthy moral code of his own rather than adopting the one he’s been force fed by family and a millennia old fable that, admittedly, is overdue for re-examination.

In short, Isaac has finally learned a lesson that is so often overlooked in both devout and non-religious lifestyles: Moral Relativism.

Now, am I preaching the virtues of Satanism over those of Christianity? Absolutely not. Firstly, Satanism eschews the idea of virtue by its definition (remember, it’s all about EMBRACING sin instead of repressing it). And secondly, I’m far too much of a free-thinking skeptic to accept any religious ideology entirely.

That said I do believe that good ideas can come from all religion; even one that embraces a figure that many consider the embodiment of evil (I guess that would make me a bit of an Agnostic Omnitheist, but I’m not one to care for labels). And I have to admit that the idea that we are all damned souls no matter what, while pessimistic, takes the painful edge off of our failures.

We can’t always be good people; it’s impossible. Eventually, you’ll be forced to do something that some will call ‘evil’ for the sake of yourself or another or that will make you question your own morality. However, you can always strive to be the best you can reasonably expect and not let yourself be deterred by your missteps.

You can’t be a good person. However, either by the virtues of God or by the sins of The Devil, you can be a decent one.

The Agent’s #YearOfTheIronWoobie: Three Badasses To Motivate and Inspire Us Through 2017

We all know it and we’ve all been talking about it; The year 2016 can go F*** itself.

Around the world, the story has been the same thing ad nauseam – racial and religious violence breaking out, politics becoming a joke, and many of the great thinkers and artists we’ve loved being taken from us en masse. We’ve all been emotionally battered by this year and we’ve had enough.

In storytelling, a character who seems to be made to suffer is often referred to as a Woobie. But what happens when a Woobie gets so utterly beaten down by the cosmos that they can no longer feel sorry for themselves and make it their duty to oppose fate through every step on their moral path? You get an Iron Woobie.

So, as an ultimate middle finger to 2016 and in an attempt to encourage people to be more proactive in setting this crap-sack world of ours straight, I’m using these final moments of the year to declare 2017 “The Year Of The Iron Woobie.” And to start, here are three great examples of people whose determination and conviction in the face of adversity we should strive to emulate.

Guts

A brief forwarning: this guy's S*** is about to get dark.

A brief forewarning: this guy’s S*** is about to get dark.
Source: Wikipedia

To me and many other anime fans, Berserk‘s anti-hero protagonist isn’t just an Iron Woobie – he’s THE Iron Woobie.

Guts has literally suffered so much that his entire life is essentially a prolonged trigger warning. He was born from the corpse of his executed mother, watched his adoptive mother die from the plague, and was beaten and pimped out by his foster father before killing him in self-defence. Even when he finally got a taste of comradery in a mercenary group, his commander betrayed them all, slaughtered all of his friends (save for his girlfriend whom he abused in from him), gouged out his eye, and forced him to cut off his own arm.

While Guts’ morals of vengeance and bloodshed may be questionable, he displays the greatest quality of the Iron Woobie, fearless determination. He wakes up every morning, gets the crap beaten out of him by something WAY out of his league, and always manages to find the one and only way to win so he can do it all over again tomorrow – even if that only way means having to put himself in harm’s way to get that critical advantage.

It’s a stark reminder that, on some days, you just have to look forward to the struggle knowing that it’s another chance to prove you’re better than others – or even you – give yourself credit for.

Marowak

“I’m-a beat a motherf***er with the bones of ANOTHER motherf***er!”
Source: Pokémon by Review

Some of you are a little shocked right now… The rest are just nodding and thinking, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

You see, underneath the cutesy exterior of Pokémon, the world is quite dark. Nowhere is that more obvious than with Cubone and it’s evolved form Marowak.

Cubone is famous among fans for being one of the saddest critters in the games. The skull mask it wears is actually the skull of its deceased mother that it’s in mourning for. However, the game’s Pokédex entries make it a point to show how the evolved Marowak has made itself stronger in response to its harsh life saying that it, “… has overcome its sadness at the loss of its mother and grown tough. This Pokémon’s tempered and hardened spirit is not easily broken.”

Marowak reminds us that all experiences – even the painful ones – can and should be used to make us better people; either to become wiser and kinder or more hardened to defend ourselves and others from a cruel world. At some point, you need to stop crying and start fighting again.

Audie Murphy

We salute you, solider. Source: Wikipedia

We salute you, soldier.
Source: Wikipedia

I bet you didn’t expect a REAL-LIFE Iron Woobie on this list.

Audie Leon Murphy, First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and Major in the Texas Army National Guard, was an actor, a songwriter, and the most decorated American soldier to serve in World War II. But those medals and the safety of nations came at a heavy price for him.

Murphy was a long time sufferer of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the war. But, rather than feel sorry for himself, he used his experience to become one of the most outspoken people on PTSD (then referred to as “Shell Shock”) in order to demand the help that soldiers coming back from the field needed.

Murphy used his pain as the impetus to drive him to save others from a similar fate and I feel we should hold ourselves to a similar standard. If you find yourself hurting, you owe it to yourself and the world to fight back so you can help the ones that hurt just like you.

The Importance Of Sex In Fiction (Or “This Cartoon Is Hot And That’s Okay”)

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site. Source: Wikipedia

Drink it in folks; this may be the only time I can LEGALLY get away with showing bare breasts on this site.
Source: Wikipedia

So, one reader this week left a comment on my discussion of Steven Universe‘s Garnet and the purpose of her sexualized nature saying that they found the article after doing a light search to see if other people felt the same way about her. They also stated how they felt odd about being so attracted to an animated character and wanted to know if there was “something wrong” with them.

Well, to that reader and to others like them, I say to you this; No, there’s nothing wrong with you.

Sex and sexuality have been a major part of fiction since the creation of fiction. When someone invented the wall, someone else said, “not bad, but it would look better with a bunch o’ NEKKID people on it,” and created the first mural.

Arthurian lore is a great example of this. The tales of King Arthur and the likes of Sir Galahad, Sir Lancelot, Lady Guinevere, Morgan Le Fey and others are often centered around or even solely motivated by sex.

Even when the issue of censorship started coming into play, people found ways around these ‘decency laws’ to simulate and imply sex without actually showing it as a legal loophole. And thus innuendo became mainstream.

Basically, sex is a big deal in fiction because it’s something we either all do or are at least affected by; a universal constant that we can all relate to. Even asexuals are affected by the conscious decision to abstain from intercourse. That’s why asexuality is STILL a sexual orientation.

It’s for this reason that I get a little hot-headed whenever I see trolls online poking fun at people who draw erotic art, read hentai manga, or have an interest in anthropomorphism. Here are a group of people engaging in a time-honored global tradition and now they’ve come under attack by closed-minded bullies that can’t separate reality from fantasy.

Fiction is fiction and fantasy is fantasy; no healthy-minded human being will debate that. The use of fiction and fantasy is a means of self-exploration; exploration of our minds, our morals, and – indeed – our inner desires. And to this day, we have yet to find a better way to explore those notions than through fictional narrative.

Basically, if you aren’t willing to indulge in flights of fantasy – including sexual fantasy – while reading a book, watching a movie or playing a video game, why are you even bothering with a story in the first place?

The New Face of Evil: Revising The Deadly Sins

While having one of my philosophical chats at work, (you tend to find a surprising number of fascinating minds at a rest stop/welcome center) I came to a realization that the most famous list of what-not-to-do’s on earth – the seven deadly sins – is in dire need of an update.

The current deadly sins were conceived of back in the 4th century and our understanding of things has changed a great deal since then. So, like a tech geek scanning his software vulnerabilities, I’ll be going through and updating the sins to make a more modernized list of things you shouldn’t be doing if you want to avoid being an a-hole.

Lust

This one is just plain vanilla stupid…

You’re going to notice a pattern with most of these sins; that they attempt to curb bad behavior, but are defined too broadly to be practical. Lust is no different.

Lust seeks to control unbridled sexual desires and force sexual responsibility. However, sexual desire is also what promotes procreation and ensures the continuation of a species. It’s perfectly natural; let it do its job.

That said, the idea of responsibility – in regards to sex and in general practice – is a good idea. So perhaps what needs to be done here is just change the language around a bit to provide more focus on the real problem. The issue isn’t lust; it’s irresponsibility.

Gluttony and Greed

In the interest of logic and simplicity, I’m going to bundle these two together.

Gluttony and Greed, overconsumption and coveting material goods, are practices that seem good to avoid. But if you ever looked closely at the list, it seems far too strict.

Gluttony is the worst offender in this regard. Eating too expensively, eating too daintily, eating too much, eating too soon, and eating too eagerly are all considered gluttonous acts.

But in all honesty, shouldn’t you be allowed to enjoy the things you’ve earned? You bought the cool toys, you bought/raise the great food, and should be yours to enjoy.

Where gluttony and greed become a problem is when you have so much, but refuse to let others that are clearly in much more need than you partake in your excess. Hell, even five-year-olds know the importance of sharing.

So, let’s simplify and focus the list by combining these two into a new paradigm I call ‘uncharitably’.

Sloth and Envy

I’ll be combining both of these as well for reasons that will be made more obvious later on.

Sloth is a great big pain in the tailpipe to define as it covers several ‘bad behaviors’ from antiquity. Generally speaking these days, we liken it to laziness. And while I’d argue that a few days of rest should be allowed (no one can keep running at full steam forever), it’s actually pretty good as a sin and something to keep in mind.

Envy, on the other hand, is less forgivable.

Envy covers great desire – much like lust, gluttony, and greed – but subtracts the actual possession of the thing you desire. Already, this seems redundant and needs to be stricken. Not to mention, that the desire for something is often a driving force that pushes you to work for it.

However, when you stop to think about what happens when envy is allowed to grow IN THE PRESENCE of sloth, then you get a bunch of lazy MFers that want it all while everyone else does all the hard work (the ‘one-percent’ as we call them today).

So, once again, let’s create a new sin from these two and we shall call it ‘hedonism.’

Wrath

Okay, back to the singular sins…

At first glance, wrath DOES seem wholly bad. People tend to do stupid things when they’re angry after all.

But excluding anger from your life entirely is just as detrimental if not more so. I’ve gone on record saying that anger is what motivates people to fight against a system that’s hurting them and the ones they love.

So when is wrath a bad thing? When it causes you to harm innocent people. When your wrath becomes so great and goes untempered by compassion for so long that you are motivated to destroy property or unjustly harm lives – when you are moved to violence – that is when wrath does its worst.

Pride

And finally, we come to MY sin. I call it my sin because it is the one that I and, in my humble opinion, most creative personalities are ‘guilty’ of.

This is the one that started me on this philosophical track and all because I spoke one line; “Whoever called pride a deadly sin has never known the joy of creating something beautiful.”

There is nothing wrong with having pride in your work and what you do. It’s a feeling of accomplishment after a successful venture. No one should be robbed of that feeling.

Pride is only an issue when you allow it blind you to the truth; when you are so convinced that what you’re doing is right that you continue to push forward at the cost of yourself and others.

Of course, that’s not pride; that’s delusion – the presence of pride and blind faith without the guiding hands of insight and skepticism… and it is possibly the deadliest sin of all. One need look no further than the Nazi Party, the Ku Klux Klan, the Westboro Baptist Church, and Donald Trump supporters to see the dangers of delusion.

So, after all going through the entire list and making the necessary changes, I present you with my simplified and modernized list of…

The Five Deadly Sins

  • Irresponsibility – The act of seeking pleasure at the cost of self and others
  • Uncharitably – The refusal to give to those in need when your needs are more than adequately met
  • Hedonism – The desire for pleasure without the drive to earn it
  • Violence – The act of destroying property and/or life in cold blood
  • Delusion – The act of remaining willfully ignorant and unquestioning of the world

Now that’s a list, people! Simple, honest, and direct. Dante and Virgil could have made it through purgatory in time for the Red Sox game with a list like that. Plus, five is just a more psychologically pleasing number than seven.

Transhumanism: A Philosophical Question

Oh, give it up already. That pun’s too good to waste… or is it?
Source: Nerf NOW!!

It’s been a while since I sat down to wax philosophical and just let my mind wander in thought.

So recently, I played a quick one-shot game of Eclipse Phase with friends. This along with a recent Twitter post from Nash of Radio Dead Air has got me thinking about the nature of Posthumanism.

I think what fascinates me so much about Posthumanism as a philosophy is that there are so many schools that come at the problem of the human condition from different angles. Ideologies and theories like Antihumanism, AI takeover, and Voluntary Human Extinction take a more pessimistic view of humanity and sometimes even believe that we need to be removed for the sake of the planet’s well being.

More philosophical schools like Cultural Posthumanism and Philosophical Posthumanism seek to question the very notion of human nature while taking a closer look and the ethics of a life beyond humanity.

But the thing everyone has most likely associated with Posthumanism, and the thing I’ve been thinking about more these past few days, is Transhumanism – a movement/ideology that seeks to use science and technology to transcend our mental and physical limits; i.e., enhance our strength, halt aging, improve cognitive functions, etc.

Now, I know people on both sides of this debate. A lot of people are afraid that tinkering with the things that “make us human” (stem cell research, Synthetic Biology, etc.) is morally repugnant. But there’s also a more pragmatic way of thinking about this.

Every time the technology has arisen to improve how we do things, we’ve leaped at the chance to use it and incorporate it into our everyday lives. For the most part, this has meant the use of tools and improving them instead of ourselves.

Perhaps what is needed here is think of what we consider as “human” about ourselves as merely our psychological components (ego, personality, memories, etc.) and look at the body that houses them as just another tool to be improved on. After all, “human” is merely a title that we give ourselves and self-granted titles are totally subjective anyway.

Besides, don’t you want to have the power to graft a cybernetic exoskeleton to a quadriplegic person to make them walk again, alter our genome to fight genetic disorders, or slow/stop aging so you can play with your grandchildren for years to come? That seems like an awesome future to me.

But hey, this is about YOUR opinions as well as mine. What do you think about Transhumanism? Should we leave well enough alone and let nature run its course with us or is it our moral obligation to use science and technology to improve our minds and bodies anyway we can?