Debate Is Not Safe: The Agent on ‘Safe Spaces’

If the media doesn’t spread the word, how will anyone know to care about your cause?… dunce.
Source: Daily News

So, in last week’s fuming rant on how most anti-trans arguments are dead out of the gate, I may have let slip that I disapprove of the focus on and use of so-called ‘Safe Spaces’ on college campuses. So, I might as well elaborate on that now while the thought is still relatively fresh in my mind.

First things first, despite what the above statement may suggest, I’m not against the CONCEPT of a Safe Space. On the contrary; I think Safe Spaces are absolutely necessary for an increasingly politicized and divided society to function. No one can be expected to fight for their beliefs non-stop without rest- that’s how severe stress disorders develop. Every now and again, you need to have a place where you and like-minded people can go to just be themselves; a place to get away from the stress and judgment of politics, pull a Quasimoto and claim, “Sanctuary!”

That said, the way we use them now completely misses the point of a Safe Space. We’re often seeing videos of rallies and protests at these places that are mostly ineffective at best and toxic at worst because the very nature of a Safe Space doesn’t allow for a counterpoint to rally against and no constructive debate can be had. This leaves the people involved (who often have very good points to make, in reality) looking for all the world like angry, rabid animals rather than a victimized minority trying to fight back.

And yes, I know it sucks when a peaceful protest goes south and violence breaks out and perhaps preventing that was the intended goal. But, sad as it may be, that’s just one of the inherent risks that come with pushing back against the zeitgeist. Eventually, you have to step out of the Safe Space and have that confrontation if you want any change to be made. Every LGBT person attends a Pride Parade knowing that someone will likely try to break it up and may even become violent. Every Black-Lives-Matter protester acts with the knowledge that they will be LUCKY if all they get is a little pepper spray in the face.

The sad truth is that change – and political debate by extension – is chaotic, daunting and often breaks people. But I find that fact easier to swallow if you think of life like a body of water.

Peace is like a still pond; it may be easier to float in, but the scum, insects, and disease that breed and spread in the stagnant water make doing so a foolish venture.

Chaos is like a flowing river; the waves may try to jostle you under from time to time, but foul and sickly things cannot grow there and the currents will always push you forward.

It’s for this reason that I support anyone who advocates for open debate and criticism – even if I don’t personally agree with them. I do so because I know that every one of them is a chance for change. And change, however uncomfortable it may be, breeds life and renewed strength.

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An Agnostic’s Interpretation of Religious Philosophies: The Nine Satanic Statements

Despite what some may insist, even The Devil has standards of practice.
Source: Scott Divine on Facebook

When I was working on my first degree in college, I took a course in Comparative World Religions during my first semester. As it turned out, I found that I enjoyed learning about other faiths and their philosophies even though I never really found a deity that I truly believed in.

I also found that a lot of faiths that I had been told about when I was younger were highly misinterpreted and I found a measure of happiness from better understanding those that are misunderstood.

So, what I would like to do is attempt to start an occasional series here about applying various religious philosophies to everyday life for the betterment of the self as well as to dismiss the myths surrounding these faiths to encourage understanding among various peoples. I’d love to learn more about and discuss any religion you would like to suggest. But for now, I’d like to start with the most controversial religion of MY day; Satanism.

Satanism has been seeing a return to popular consciousness after the “Satanic Panic” of the 80’s and 90’s – mostly due to political activism on behalf of The Satanic Temple (they’re the ones who want to erect a statue of Baphomet next to the Ten Commandments monument in Arkansas in protest of religious favoritism). So I thought it might be a good place to start the ‘promote understanding’ part of my mission statement.

For the sake of simplicity, I think I’ll start with an analysis of a (comparatively) small section of the philosophy – the Nine Satanic Statements, as they are designed to give a general overview of the faith as a whole. What’s more, I’ll be quoting from Anton LaVey’s own Satanic Bible as that is the text my generation is most familiar with. So let’s start from the top with…

“Satan represents indulgence instead of abstinence!”

I mentioned in my revision of the seven deadly sins how I felt that so-called sins like Gluttony, Lust, and, Greed were too strict, too vague, or just plain bogus. And if the near universal image of a Satanist as a religious party animal is any indication, they would seem to agree.

Now, I’ve spoken with practicing Satanists (they’re actually very charming individuals who know how to carry on an enjoyable, friendly debate), and I can safely say that they aren’t expected to indulge in EVERY vice ALL the time. There is still an air of ‘enjoy responsibly’ among them. Really, this statement is more an affirmation to enjoy life and the finer things in it. After all, you can’t play in the middle of the street if you’ve never even seen the far curb.

“Satan represents vital existence instead of spiritual pipe dreams!”

This seems to deal with the idea in some religions of an eternal reward in some grand afterlife for following the faith to the letter – what we philosophers call ‘Transcendence’.

But as discussed in my combination argument against suicide/love letter to Albert Camus, Transcendental Thinking distracts from the now. There’s just as much proof for the lack of an afterlife as for its existence. As such, it’s a much safer game to live in the moment and use our ‘vital existence’ to do good works NOW rather than sweat over the ‘spiritual pipe dreams’ of a future we can never know.

“Satan represents undefiled wisdom instead of hypocritical self-deceit!”

Again, I’m reminded of my Deadly Sins revision. In it, I listed Delusion as one of the new sins. And in more flowery prose, this seems to agree.

Faith is important; it gives us the strength to continue some days. But it’s important – more so now in the age of social media and ‘fake news’ – to temper faith with doubt. Otherwise, being wrong will feel absolutely right.

“Satan represents kindness to those who deserve it instead of love wasted on ingrates!”

This is something my father taught me as a child and I wish I had listened to him sooner. I kept a lot of abusive ‘friends’ and manipulative people in my life for far too long out of a self-imposed obligation to be kind to everyone regardless of what they did to me and I’m still recovering from most of them.

So I’m going to tell you what my dad told me in his exact words, “If someone isn’t contributing to your overall happiness, CUT THEIR F***ING ROPE.”

“Satan represents vengeance instead of turning the other cheek!”

I’ve never enjoyed taking petty vengeance on people. However, I can say from my experience throughout high school that ‘turning the other cheek’ is just a free license to some people – a message that they can do whatever they want to you with no repercussions.

There is absolutely no shame in defending yourself (in an appropriate and equal fashion, of course) from bullies, thugs, and goons. Anyone who says otherwise is trying to get you to leave yourself open.

“Satan represents responsibility to the responsible instead of concern for psychic vampires!”

Nobody likes a leech. Some people are content to form any number of parasitic relationships with others and bleed them dry rather than try to lift themselves up to a higher standard. I shouldn’t have to tell you that those people should be avoided at all costs, but that’s why I’m saying it to you all.

Still, there had to be a less silly term than ‘psychic vampire.’ I would have gone with ’emotional parasite’ or something.

“Satan represents man as just another animal, sometimes better, more often worse than those that walk on all-fours, who, because of his ‘divine spiritual and intellectual development,’ has become the most vicious animal of all!”

My mother and I will often joke about how the beasts of the earth are often more sympathetic than people. That said, from a purely scientific and psychological standpoint, I get this.

Humans ARE animals – incredibly exceptional animals with a great capacity for intelligence, but animals all the same. And like any animal, we have our basic drives, needs, and urges. To think we are anything more than that simply by virtue of our perceived intelligence is self-delusion… and we already know how Satanists and I feel about self-deceit.

“Satan represents all of the so-called sins, as they all lead to physical, mental, or emotional gratification!”

Well… that’s pretty self-explanatory, init? The Christian Sins forbid indulgence and Satanism is the antithesis of Christianity. Ergo, Satanists embrace the sins of Christianity.

I did go into this in brief when I was pulling apart the philosophy of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth. But combined with the rest of these statements, it paints a more vivid picture of living for your happiness and comfort rather than those of the ones who would use you.

“Satan has been the best friend the Church has ever had, as He has kept it in business all these years!”

Heh heh. Clearly, Anton knows it’s always good to end on a laugh – especially a laugh that has a grain of ironic truth to it.


So, Satanists aren’t the cruel, wicked sadists many of us were taught to think they were, are they? Turns out, they care a great deal about human welfare and happiness. And whether you personally follow the faith or not, it may be beneficial to your mental health to try to work their philosophy into your daily life.

Again, if you have a religious philosophy that you would like to see discussed and explained here, please let me know. This is as much an educational journey for me as it is intended to be for those that read this. If there’s enough interest, I’d love to continue this as a series.

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?