Monday, September 28, 2009

Traveling [or: A Huge Hassle When I Have To Go Home For The Weekend]

Since last time was a bit on the heavy side, I wanted to talk about something more light hearted than death. Unfortunately, I couldn’t think of anything good and so I’ll just tell you about how I get home.

As I’m writing this, it’s 7:15 in the morning, and on the Staten Island Ferry, all tired, and a bit hungry, although the sandwich I brought with me mitigates that. Anyway, I am headed back to ‘Nova right now, and I still have……….about 3-4 hours left. For those who don’t know, I live in NYC, Staten Island, to be precise. And my school is in Pennsylvania. So you can imagine the hassle it takes to get there (of course, it’s a lot easier with a car, but since I don’t have one…) but what can you do, right? Well, Let me tell you how I ended up arriving home yesterday, since there isn’t much variation in my travel. In fact, I have it down like clockwork, which is good for me, cuz I hate wasting time on the road if I don’t need to.

12:50: Took the R5 train from Villanova to Market East Station in Philadelphia. Wait, no I didn’t, I ended up eating with my friends and was too lazy to leave after only eating 20 minutes. Lemme try it again.

1:50: The R5 train from Villanova to Market East Station in Philadelphia. There we go!

While on the train to Market East, I usually just stay bored, since I forget to bring anything to read or enjoy myself with. This time, I was lucky that I have a class on Augustine which requires me to read his Confessions, and since it was in my bag, I decided to get ahead and read book 4. After a while, I stopped, then just listened to my iPod. Not bad.

2:25: Got off the R5 at Market East and took the 2:30 Chinatown bus to New York City.

This is probably the tightest part of the trip. I usually make it to Philly with enough time to get to the Chinatown bus. But if I missed the bus, I would have to wait half an hour in a neighborhood that I don’t know, which sucks. I take this time on the Chinatown bus to text some people about what’s going wrong with my weekend and then promptly fall into my usual habit on the Chinatown bus, which is taking a nap. Let me tell you, for some reason, my right knee always hurts because I can never get into a comfortable position on those seats and my right knee always juts out into the seat in front of me.

4:17: Got off the Chinatown bus near the subway 1 stop in……..I believe Franklin St. in Manhattan. Takes the 1 to South Ferry Terminal.

For some reason, the bus usually stops near this station right after getting out of the Holland tunnel, but hey, it works. I was listening to my iPod but unfortunately the subway is louder than MODERN STRANGE COWBOY (J-rock song with Engrish) so my ear usually take a beating here. I decide that pausing the iPod momentarily will be more beneficial than keeping it on. The train itself is kind of packed, but it’ home. Or close to home, w/e. Anyway, I take the 1 and end up at South Ferry, which let me remind you, is all new. They redid (or more like made a new subway stop) and it look SOOOOOO nice. Everything is new, the walls, the stairs, everything. And so clean.

4:28: Got off the 1 train at South Ferry and boarded the Staten Island Ferry.

The ferry was kind of late today. Or, I actually think it was rush hour or something, cuz it seemed like it left at 4:45 as opposed to 4:30. Fine with me though, I really didn’t feel like waiting a half hour for another ferry. So I board the ferry and crank the iPod with some more J-pop. There are no seats near the front of the ferry, so I sit out in the dock, where I get the fresh air, and also some sun, which burns.

5:10: Got off the Staten Island Ferry and took the s78 to my house.

FINALLY!!!! After traveling in like a billion different vehicles, I arrived at a most familiar sight- the Staten Island bus. I took the bus, using the transfer I neglected to tell you that I got from the subway. I feel that I can relax now, because from here on out I know I’m home.

5:25 Goff off the s78 and made it to my house.

Home- where the food is, because this whole trip made me hungry, and you trippin’ if you don’t think I’m going to eat right away after traveling with no food. Said hi to my mom, then to my dad, then ate some steak and potato sautéed thingamagig with ham in it. Oh, and some salad. The potatoes were spicy, but damn if I wasn’t going to eat the anyway. Pretty much I did nothing while I was at home, which makes you wonder why I even WENT home. That…….is a secret! Although if it’s any consolation, I did in fact waste my time at home because what I had to do wasn’t due till November, and some people at my house cannot read dates *COUGH*hermanas*COUGH*.

Stressful, right? It took me a while to get everything down to minutes and seconds, but it usually doesn’t take more than 4 hours to get home. However, going back…….ugh. I mean, yea, just do everything in reverse, but some things are different.

For example, when I go back to school, everything goes smoothly until………….I get to Philly. This time, I had the misfortune of the R5 train stopping their service because some electricity failure or some crap. Fine, there’s another way to school, the R100 line. However, I had to go to 69th Street station on the Market-Frankfurt line (or something like that) to get there, which required me to use MONEY to buy tokens to get onto the line. Thankfully, it wasn’t far from the Market East station, but it was annoying. I get to 69th, and lo and behold, the train just left. I have to wait 20 more minutes to catch another R100. And then I get on, but OH NO! The train stops moving because of ANOTHER failure. Whatever, I get to school 2 hours later. Keep in mind that I left my house at 6-30 so I can get to Villanova by 11. But nooooooooooooo, SEPTA had to be dumb and cause delays. I’m glad I got that off my chest.

But in all seriousness, the scheduling of the R5 on Sundays practically guarantees me waiting 40 minutes, since their trains don’t come until every 40, so if I get to Philadelphia around 11:56, I have to wait for the 12:40 train. It could be worse though, I could not have a way to get there.

And there you have it, the wonders of mass transit and traveling to and fro the best city in the world *cough*NYC*cough*. I hope you had fun learning about my travel plans, and if not, meh. See ya next week! Maybe I should talk about happier things than mass transit…

Oh, and I finished this blog post at 12:17 on Sunday, because I got lazy lol. Yea.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Death and Dying: Part 2

Part 2 of this blog post will consist of me talking about my ideas about dying, Heaven, and Hell. Remember, these are my ideas, so feel free to give comments on how to improve them!

So what I do I think about death? It is an unfortunate consequence of life, but something that we cannot avoid. However, it is not something that represents an “end”, but rather, a “beginning”. Death is sad for those who stay behind, and indeed, may even be sad for those who leave this Earth, maybe regretting not going on that vacation with their kids or buying that car they really wanted. However, I don’t think that we should focus so much on the fact that the person “died” and they can’t participate in the human experience anymore. Rather, we should realize that they are in a better place, where there is no pain, and be happy that they no longer have to experience suffering (this is, of course, assuming that they go to Heaven as envisioned in Christianity). Though it is normal to grieve for a departed one, we must not let that grief consume us. After all, we would want our loved ones to be happy even without us, or at least when I die, I want those whom I left behind to remember me fondly and for them to live life with happiness, despite me not being there anymore. One day, we are to join them, so why not wish them the best? Let them go with no worries.

Now, what does that death represent? As I said before, it is a beginning. But a beginning to what? In the Christian tradition, whenever someone dies, if they have lived a good life and die with no sin, then their soul goes to Heaven. If they die as a bad person, with sin, then their soul goes to Hell. Simple, right? Not exactly. Catholics also believe in a Purgatory, which is where souls go when they aren’t evil enough to go to Hell yet are not quite saintly enough to go to Heaven. Some may scoff at this idea, especially Protestants, but the existence of Purgatory can be supported with scripture. Anyways, you can think of Purgatory as a car wash. You are clean for the most part, you just need to get rid of the few blemishes you may have. That’s what Purgatory is.

What is Hell? Hell is the evolution of the idea of Sheol, except that in Hell, souls are tortured. Or at least that’s the preconception of Hell that everyone believes. I have come to shy away from that idea, simply because the implications of an all-loving God who would also willingly torture non-believers and sinners in such a way to be disturbing, to say the least. Thanks to several people and some inner thinking, I have come to see Hell not as a place of torture, but as an existence where the evil soul experiences pain because they realize they have deprived themselves of God’s presence. In a way, I am starting to think of Hell almost as Sheol- a place where you simply don’t “exist”. This would also sort of explain God’s omnipresence with the fact that Hell is supposed to be the complete presence of God. And what better place for God not to be present in is “non-existence”? These ideas still need thought and are subject to revision, but for now, this is what I believe.

What is Heaven? Heaven is the complete presence of God. You are there, with Him, near Him, as a part of Him. You’re surrounded by God. You will no longer experience pain or sorrow anymore. This is an eternal existence, so it is practically impossible to describe how eternity feels. What happens when you enter Heaven? Since Heaven is a place where you experience existence in eternity, then once you “go” there, everyone who was, is, and will be going into Heaven is already there. Basically, it’s like everyone went into the same time. It’s a bit confusing to think about. With that said, I believe Heaven is the best place to be, because there you are with the source of Love itself, God. At that point, you give yourself completely to Him, and you let Him live in you as you live in Him.

As I take more of this class and learn more, I will continue to develop my ideas and improve my theological thinking. For now, have fun, and don’t forget to stay tuned to this blog!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Death and Dying: Part 1

It’s time for another blog post! Despite the laziness, I fight hard to bring you this little insight into my mind. Today I want to talk about death. I will write it in two parts, and today I present part 1.

YES………death. The one constant thing that happens to all humans, and indeed, all life (some would argue taxes are also a part of that, but you can live without taxes- I’ll tell you in a later post [citation needed]). Why? Well, since I am taking a class on death and dying, I decided to tell you a bit of what I’ve learned, as well as some ideas that I have on the matter.

Death- what is it? It is the ending of life? Well then, what is life? Life is the process of existing, the state of being able to reproduce, eat, drink, move, feel, hate, love. To define life and death is a tricky thing, since biologically speaking, it is a bit more straightforward that explaining it in theological or philosophical terms. So, returning to life and death. Death is something powerful, able to reach both rich and poor, strong and weak, saint and sinner. But how exactly did death, the idea, develop? How exactly did people think about death and after death?

For the Jews, they envisioned death as almost a non-existence. When a person died, they went to Sheol, which is translated usually as “hell” in our Bibles. Sheol was where everyone went, no exceptions. And what happened there to you? Nothing. You were basically nothing. God could not hear you; it is like screaming and wailing at someone while in a soundproof room. The inhabitants of Sheol are just there, like shadows. However, this idea of “after-life” went along with a belief that the good get their rewards while alive, and the bad get their punishment. When their history was starting to become unbearable to the Jews, they began to question their ideas on the afterlife. However, they still held on to their idea of earthly reward/punishment Later on, the Jews began to be exiled and conqured over and over again. In this time period, the book of Job was written, which explained the story of Job and how his faith was tested, and how he was rewarded for his strong faith. However, the idea of death and afterlife was going to change soon.

By the time of the book of Daniel, a new image of afterlife was present. And a new concept of “resurrection” came about. For the Jews living in the time of Jesus, they would be able to hear about how there would be a resurrection at the end of days, that the loyal followers will go up in Heaven, body and spirit, into Heaven, uncorruptible. And that idea has persevered to this day. However, this evolution of death and afterlife has lead us to separate our concepts of “body” and “soul”, as almost being at odds with each other. This is an idea that the Jews and probably the Christians of the 1st century would not have had. The Jews believed that you lived not as a composite body-soul but just as a “person”, that what made you, you, was not contained in a “soul” but rather was a part of you, IN you. The idea of soul came from the Greeks, in particular from the writings of Plato and Socrates. From there, this idea spread to Christianity, and influenced how we consider the concept of resurrection. So what inevitably does get resurrected? Before today, I would say that the body and soul join again, and that the body becomes “better”, but now I’m not sure. This will lead me to reevaluate what I believe about resurrection.

Part 2 comes tomorrow!