Right Or Religion?

Two weeks ago, give or take a couple of days, I was watching an episode of the National Geographic show Taboo at midnight or so. The topic of that particular episode was that of teenage sex, and how such obstacle is faced in other countries, including our own. While the first three out of four individual stories were indeed in other countries, and didn’t really pique my interest that much, the fourth story was quite different, and indeed piqued my interest.

The fourth and final story was in Mississippi, and spoke of something called a purity ball. A purity ball (associated with Evangelical Christian churches), is a formal dance attended by a father and his daughter(s), in which daughter(s) promise and pledge to stay pure until marriage, and in turn the fathers also promise and pledge to protect their daughter’s purity. I know that everyone is entitled to their own religion, and while I’m no one to judge, something about the whole fourth story rubbed me the wrong way.

According to the type of religion the individuals believed in, the man is the breadwinner and the woman stays at home, cooking, cleaning, etc. That’s all fine and well, but what about the when the gentleman’s daughters got married? The same fate would befall them. Their husbands would be supporting the household, while they would be home, doing what needed to be done at home.

The first thing that came to mind: What ever happened to their rights?

It might be hard to believe now, but it wasn’t always easy for women. They fought for the equal rights they have now, even defying and accomplishing feats once only men were successful. The same thing can be said for our modern world. More and more women are going into professions usually occupied by men, such as welding, truck driving, etc. I myself even had aspirations of going to school for the trade of welding, until my parents brought to attention my horrible luck with high heat situations…Even though I’m an adult, it truly helps to have input from my folks…I remember when I still had my job in a department store stockroom, using the box-crushing compactor, people would be genuinely surprised to learn that a petite, 96 lb. girl worked in the stockroom and not on the store floor. What can I say? I’m not particularly a people person.

Back to what’s at hand…I honestly felt bad for those young ladies. Not because they had different beliefs than I, but because they would never know what it’s like in the real world. Never knowing what’s it’s like to obtain a job, working for what you want and need. Never really being able to make her own decisions, as far as their freedom of choice is concerned. Never knowing what their life would be if they had a different religion or none at all. Young women should be able to think and choose for themselves, without the help of anyone else.

I understand that as a father, there’s an obligation to protect your child and look out for their well-being, but a father can only protect their child for so long. At one point or another, they have to let go and let their child experience the world for themselves. You’ll never truly learn anything until you actually experience it firsthand, and being sheltered from everything, it’s unlikely that you’ll learn anything at all. It’s one thing to be a loving father, but it’s quite another to dictate the choices that your child has every right to have and use how they see fit.

When all is said and done, everyone has different faiths and the beliefs that go with said faith. There’s no way of getting around that…I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. I don’t look down on anyone for what kind of religion they’re apart of or beliefs they have. That’s just not the type of person I am…Some might look at the idea of a purity ball as being an excellent idea, given the influence peers and technology could have on a young individual, while others might see the ball as something odd and unfair, taking away the choice every person is rightfully entitled to.

Would you rather sacrifice your right in order to follow your religion, or sacrifice your religion in order to follow your right?

The Answer Changed

My mind is racing more than usual, and with good reason…Four months ago, I stumbled upon an essay that I found very interesting and just down-right pure and honest, something you don’t see a lot of in our world today. The essay I’m speaking of is that written by Aiden lead singer/creative genius behind William Control, William Francis. In the piece, he was referring to something that he had posted on one of his social networking sites and the reaction he received because of said post…Basically, he was setting the story straight, as any good person would, explaining where he came from and how he became the person he is today, beliefs and all. I found this very interesting because while I couldn’t relate to how he grew up, per say, we do share similar beliefs.  I know some of you are thinking that I only agree with Mr. Francis because I’m a fan of Aiden and William Control, but even if he didn’t front such awesome works, I would still feel the same way about his views. So please, don’t assume. It never makes anyone more knowledgeable, believe me. More on assuming later, it strangely fits in with the questions at hand.

Sometime last summer, I wrote a piece about how I questioned religion at a young age, how my questions weren’t being answered and all that jazz, but I never really cared to mention what caused me to deny an existence in God. The answer isn’t rocket science, it’s actually really simple. Probably not worth explaining because I will more than likely only be shot down by someone who thinks they know what’s good for me, but that’s the thing…No one knows what’s good for me…Only I know what’s good for me. Granted, my mother and father’s judgement does matter of course, but I’m an adult and only I can make decisions and know/choose what I want to believe in.

Before I go on any further, I would like to apologize for offending anyone because I know right off the bat, that I will. It’s not something that I do intentionally, but it always seems to be what happens. People sometimes cannot handle their convictions being challenged and while it isn’t something that should be blown out of proportion, almost 100% of the time it is. I don’t mean to change anyone’s way of thinking because I down-right loathe when the same thing is done to me. It seriously isn’t something I agree with, but that’s beside the point. Back to what really matters…

I had been questioning religion and everything it stood for for a very short time, but I always thought that there was a God. I was completely, 100% sure that there was some all-powerful being that would sooner or later decide my fate upon dying. It was something I did believe in. Honestly, it was something I was raised on. Pure and simple. I was raised Catholic. There’s no two ways around it, that’s just how I raised. I was raised Catholic and believed that there truly was a God, until I started questioning such claims of course. I believed in it until it started not working for me. As I grew up, I started to turn away from the whole church-going-thing, on account of the fact I wasn’t attending a Catholic school anymore. Blame it on the public school system or the fact that I was just becoming a teenager, but I found myself not going to church anymore. I found myself changing, as any normal person would during their teenage years, and it seemed like instead of going to church, I was preoccupied with school and its never-ending array of horrors and new experiences…I was raised Catholic and that is that.

Over time, I started to find better things to do with my time. From doing homework and staying out late on some school nights to catch an underground show, to spending time with people who I hardly talk to now. Hardly is actually an understatement. Never would be more like, but then again this isn’t a how-much-we’ve-all-changed post. Not today. Honestly, I wasn’t going to church anymore, and sometimes forgot that there was a such thing as God. Well, not really forgot, but it wasn’t something I thought about on a daily basis, not like before when it was an essential part of my days. I wasn’t thinking about God as my friends and I were being verbally abused day in, day out or before and after my head was smashed into a locker. The thought of such a thing didn’t cross my mind anymore.

Instead of learning about religion, right/wrong and such, I was learning about how incredibly cruel people are, how heartless. Yes, I said it. People can be cruel, wicked, down-right horrible. I dealt with things that I normally hadn’t dealt with before. I was learning about real life. Sure, being at two Catholic schools did somewhat have their fair share of pressures, struggles, I suppose, but I don’t think I learned anything that would help me in the real world. I mean, I did learn that you were supposed to treat others the way you wanted to be treated, something I try to live by, despite the fact that people won’t always return the favor. I have to say that that’s the only thing I learned that I still put my convictions in. It’s really just something I believe in. There is some amount of good in the world, you just have to know where to find it, I guess. While I learned that smoking lead to blackened lungs and lung cancer, getting good grades were the main objective if you wanted a bright, shining future, and that God was the Lord and his son Jesus was our Savior, dying for our sins, it didn’t really seem to help me anymore…It was like I was in a whole other place entirely because, quite frankly, I was. It wasn’t the same guarded structure I was familiar with. Now, it seemed like you were all on your own, with maybe a couple tight-knit friends to help you fight your way through…I believed in all of that until those things started to not be all rainbows and Care Bears. I believed in all of it until those things stopped working for me. Until they started to slowly unravel and not be as true as they seemed. (Granted, tarred lungs and the cancer that comes with it is definitely not rainbows and Care Bears, but you get the idea.)

From a completely personal standpoint, the individuals I knew who smoked practically their entire lives, and then decided to quit to better their health or what have you, have developed lung cancer and died from said cancer. I honestly believe that if they hadn’t quit the habit, they would still be alive. It sounds outrageously idiotic and stubborn, but somehow makes sense. There is always the dreaded possibility that the cancer would develop later in their lives, or that they could expire from something completely unrelated to the fact that they smoked all those years. It’s more ironic to die by something that’s never harmed you your whole life, as oppose to expiring by something that you’ve built up a tolerance to. Whether it really makes sense or not, is completely up to the way you look at it. As for the whole good grades agenda, it is true. Hard work and good grades could get you into a good college and on your way to a bright future, but in the same breath, could swamp you up to your knees in school loans and debt and it isn’t always certain that you will find a job in the field you majored in. I’ve ranted about this fact more than once, and quite frankly, it’s really annoying. This isn’t some college-ranting post, and I’m not making it into one. Not today. God being the Almighty and powerful Father and his son Jesus Christ, our Savior, the one who died for our sins…I’m happy you stayed around here for the so-called clincher.

The event that made me believe that there was no way there could be a God was my friend’s suicide in the late summer of 2008. Yes, it’s probably not a good enough excuse for denying the existence of said deity, but way back some 3 years ago it seemed like the best reason. I had already seen many loved ones expire, all of them far older than me, riddled with some kind of cancer, and all that time I’d still had faith. I was a foolish child. I didn’t know any better. I think it’s when something is unexpected and at the same time incredibly shocking, you tend to question your faith. In this particular circumstance, it seemed like just another question on my never-ending list.

It was one of those times where you remember everything that happened, and I remember exactly what I was doing the day I got the phone call I almost didn’t answer. I was just randomly browsing Hot Topic’s website, something to past the time, when I heard my phone ring. I almost wasn’t going to get up and answer it. I was being lazy. Plain and simple. I didn’t want to get up and pick up the phone. I only answered it because it happened to be one of my best friends calling. She was wondering what our one friend’s sister’s name was. I, of course, had absolutely no idea and asked why she wanted to know. She said she saw something in the obituaries in the paper and wanted to be sure about something. I said that I didn’t know, but I would check it out because now I was a little curious. At first, I honestly didn’t believe it. After I went online and typed in obituaries, I saw what she was talking about. The obituary in question appeared to be that of our friend. I immediately knew this couldn’t be the same person, that’s not how his last name was spelled, it’s not him at all. It just didn’t seem possible. Of course, that was exactly how his last name was spelled, the obituary was indeed his. I immediately thought that he’d expired by being hit by a car, riding his bike. Horrible thing to think, I know, but it was something that could have been a possibility, despite the fact that he loved cars. How ironic, right? It only gets worse. The idea of him expiring by being hit by something that he loved was indeed ironic, but the truth was that of an even more chilling caliber.

I called my one friend and while she wasn’t really friends with him (just acquaintances), I was curious to see what she knew about the whole situation, if she did indeed know anything. She did. She told me that it was suicide. He strung up himself a noose and hung himself. He committed suicide in a nearby park. The park that just happened to be less than 5 minutes from my house. I didn’t want to believe it. The person I’d known since the 6th grade was dead. I also didn’t want to believe that I was one of the last people to know. He was dead for four days or so and I find out that he died the day of the wake. We weren’t outrageously close, but we quickly bonded and became friends when I first arrived at my new school. We had hung out outside of school and shared common interests. We had a friendship. He was (at least he seemed like) the happiest person I knew. His Myspace screen name was Mr. Wonderful for fuck’s sake.

Rumors started to surface about why he went to such extremes. Strict home life, possible depression, murder…The idea that one of his best friends might have murdered him first started to circulate, but then died rather quickly. I don’t really believe the whole murder thing. I met his friend a couple of weeks before at the library and while he was quiet, he seemed like a pretty nice guy and they seemed like genuine friends by the way they talked to each other. I didn’t want to believe the whole suicide thing either, although it seemed like everything I knew about him was shattered, like nothing about him was real anymore. Everything was just some big facade, a cunning charade. His whole life was one big neatly sown together lie, stitched, holding back everything he knew no one would want to see. I racked my brain for weeks, a couple of months even, trying to understand why such thing happened, what drove him to the so-called edge. After a while, I stopped searching for answers to why he committed suicide. He had his reasons, whatever they might have been, and he is now gone from this world. To where you’re probably wondering? No one knows. Yes, Christians would say that he is burning in Hell for all eternity because suicide is considered a sin, the self-desecrating act of taking your own life, but I know better.

While I lost my faith upon learning first hand the reality and aftershock of suicide, there was evidence that my said faith had an even better reason to be questioned. Earlier that same year, my sophomore year, I learned about the Theory of Evolution in my Biology class and honestly, it changed the way I looked at the world and religion. This theory has absolutely nothing to do with suicide and whether you burn in Hell or not, but it is probably the best evidence to support the fact that the world didn’t start out with Adam & Eve. It is also just one of those things that I still remember to this day and find plausible. I’m not saying my memory sucks, but sometimes I surprise even myself with the things I can remember. I also distinctly remember that some girl in my class was gone for the semester or so that we learned about the subject because it went against her religion. All I could think of was that it goes against almost everyone’s religion. Honestly, the Theory of Evolution just seemed to make sense to me. As I stated before, it isn’t something I’ve forgotten to this day, but then again, I’m not saying God is something I’ve forgotten either. I remember almost everything I learned in my years at those Catholic schools just as well as I remember the basic concept of Darwin’s theory. I’m not saying I remember one thing just because it happens to make more sense than the latter. I recall both school lessons and I know where I came from and know what I believe in now.

The world didn’t start out with Adam & Eve. How could it be written that Adam & Eve were the only two people on Earth, if there was indeed just that? How could something like that be recorded if there was no one around to record it? I distinctly remember that  was one of the questions that crossed by mind in the beginning, and one that I still ask today. I’m totally serious when I ask this question. How could it be documented that Adam & Eve were the only two people created on Earth when there was just the two of them? The same question applies to the story of Noah’s ark and the great flood. How could something like that be recorded if there was no one there to record it? Sure there were people alive, but that was before the flood. There was indeed Noah and his family if I remember correctly, but it was never stated that he was recording the events that were happening. This question also comes to mind: How could someone who created all mankind and everything under the sun, be so cruel as to send a massive flood to destroy his precious creations only because they weren’t acting as such? Does that mean someone could destroy his home and family because they weren’t acting how he wanted them to? God destroyed his creations once, why isn’t it alright for man to do the same?

I was watching this show called American Occult a while ago, coincidentally two of the stories took place in my birth state of Ohio. In the show, it explained the story of, if I remember correctly, a teenager killing two people in the name of the Devil and everything that happened after said acts. Now, I don’t mean to sound stereotypical, but it seems like you hear that a lot. People killing in the name of Satan and honestly, that doesn’t sit very well with me. Before you start pointing fingers and judging, no I’m not a ‘devil worshiper  or Satanist, but in that particular belief system, what they practice makes sense. Coincidentally the same year I learned about the Theory of Evolution, there was this 2 hour-long show on the History Channel about Hell and how such a place came to be. Somewhat towards the end, the Church of Satan was mentioned, explaining how it became to be and what it stood for.

The things that I found actually very interesting during the program is Satanism’s take on dealing with frustrations and individualism. Instead of keeping all your frustrations bottled up inside, waiting to explode, you go into a room and yell. Scream out your frustrations and once you do that, everything obviously isn’t guaranteed to be better, but you feel relieved, far less frustrated. I mean, seriously, that makes a lot of sense. I think that if everyone in the world yelled out their frustrations in a room somewhere every once in a while, this world would be different. Not completely changed mind you, but maybe a lot less chaotic. The other concept that I agree with is that of individualism. Being an individual is always something I continually strive for. I hated going with the crowd and what not. I tried it once, and it didn’t work for me. I was surrounding by people who I shared no common interests with, people I actually talked to and such. Now that I think of it, I’m not entirely sure as to why I interacted with those individuals in the first place. I was probably trying to be nice or something. I’m not sure the same thing can be said now. There isn’t that much individuality left in the world, but it always makes sense to be yourself and know who you are. Let’s face it, if you don’t know who you are as a person, it’s far too easy for other people to take advantage of you and what not. It’s really just common sense. I’m not saying I would make Satanism my religion, I’m not saying I wouldn’t. I’m honestly not too sure if I would claim any religion as ‘my religion’. Bottom line, the basic fundamentals and beliefs of Satanism do make sense. Embrace the person you are and be an individual. Know what you stand for. Pretty simple.

While the first episode in the hour of American Occult told of murder in the name of Satan, the second episode caught me by surprise. The second episode began to tell the tale of a man in Ohio who formed a congregation of sorts, and ended in the murder of an entire family…You’re probably thinking that it was like the story that was told before, but that is not the case. The conclusion is a little more shocking…The man killed in the name of God. Yes, you read correctly. The whole ‘killing in the name of the Devil’ assumption is stereotypical, and now that I know more about the religion that most people wouldn’t dare to look into, I find that very assumption offensive. It’s a rarity to hear that someone kills in the name of God or so it’s thought to be a rarity. People have been killing in the name of God and/or religion for centuries. When it all comes down to it, that’s usually what disagreements stem from. Religion or differences between individuals. Murder isn’t a good thing to do in any religion and isn’t good period. It doesn’t matter what religion or congregation you’re a part of. It’s just pure common sense that something like murder is wrong.

Why do people feel the need to have the promise of Heaven or the fear of a Hell to determine how they live their lives? Such beliefs shouldn’t indicate how you live your life. Again, its common sense that such acts are bad. It isn’t rocket science. It really isn’t. As I watched the episode, I honestly couldn’t believe it. If something like that doesn’t make you question your religion, then I don’t know what will. Furthermore, I couldn’t believe how incredibly ignorant the man’s followers were. I mean, seriously? Someone crosses you on the street and says that they’ve spoken to God or they’re the son of God, and you don’t even think twice? Are some people who devoted and brainwashed in a sense, that they cannot distinguish a truth from a lie? Seriously? I’m not saying religion is bad, or that I’m against people who are religious. Definitely not. Religion is something you believe in, one of a person’s many convictions, and I don’t look down on someone because of their religion. I respect people for who they are and what they have to say, regardless of whether or not I agree with them. That’s just the type of person I am. I don’t try to act like I’m better than anyone else because I’m not. While religion is something you believe in, it is not necessarily a freedom. A freedom is something that is well, free, a luxury of sorts one might say. A freedom should be something that is without criticism or bias and religion, in that respect to what a freedom should be, surely isn’t a freedom when a different religion or rather lack there of, is chastised so to speak for being so.

I know that there are some individuals that would say I’m crazy for questioning and denying the existence of a God, that I’m only going to burn for all eternity in Hell because I’m a non-believer. That what I think is wrong and I need to be ‘saved’ now while there’s still some kind of hope left. How would those said individuals know that I’m going to burn when they don’t know what is on the other side of the great divider known as death? No one knows what is on the other side, so to speak. No one knows what happens when you die. Sure, people have been saying for centuries that there is indeed a Kingdom of Heaven for those who follow God’s path, and an eternity in Hell for those who do not, but there’s no real evidence supporting those ideas. I remember a month or so after my friend’s demise, (he decided to leave the week before our Junior year started) my English class was reading Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God by Jonathan Edwards. If you aren’t familiar, it is a sermon written to persuade churchgoers to stay on the path to the Lord. It spoke of fire, flames and the Devil. Basically, what will happen to you if you didn’t stay on the said path or aren’t currently on it at all. When all is said and done, how in the world did he know such things? How did he know of this place called Hell? Sure, he probably knew most of what he knew from the Bible, but there’s isn’t actual evidence supporting the Hell he spoke of. He had never been to such place. Therefore, he couldn’t really know what the fiery place known as Hell even looked like or held in store for the ones that would inhabit it…

I’m going a little off subject here, and I do apologize, but recently I’ve learned that you don’t really know how something is until you’ve actually experienced been through it yourself first hand. You don’t know how someone else’s life is just because they tell you. You haven’t truly lived it. You don’t know how an addiction, any addiction, is until you’ve actually lived through it. Just because you see how something is on TV or the Internet, that doesn’t mean that you automatically know how said scenario is. As I just stated, you don’t know how something is until you’ve experienced it.

The same way of thinking goes for the belief of an afterlife. It’s been said that when you’re dying or close to death, you see this great white light and you are supposed to be taken into the loving arms of God. How could someone know this if they’ve never been dying or close to death? Yes, there are exceptions because people have been in near-death experiences before, but everyone is different. It isn’t destined that everyone in a near-death experience will see their lives flash before their eyes and a white light. With all honesty accounted for, I was close to death on September 16, 2008 (and a couple of weeks after that), after suffering from the worst asthma attack I’ve ever had and being in the hospital for almost a month. Now, I don’t like to talk about it because I hate to seem like a sympathy hound and it’s the last thing I want, but honestly, I didn’t see any white light…The only things I had seen were the product of a horrible trip, thanks to whatever medicine I was given to keep me under…No act of God saved me. Sure, there were people praying for me, but it wasn’t God or their prayers that saved me. Modern medicine did. Just like how I’m in better health now. God didn’t just magically tell my intestines to stop hurting for a while. It was the new medicine I’ve been taking for the last two months.

…If you haven’t truly been in the same position as another individual, then you have no reason to assume how it is for them or put your two cents in. Sure, opinions and such are perfectly fine, but seriously? Don’t assume you know someone just by the way they talk or the things they believe in. Assuming doesn’t benefit anyone. Really, it doesn’t. The person who assumes just looks like an idiot for going on pure assumption alone, when finding out about said situation would’ve made a lot more sense.

When it comes to the concept of religion, it seem like more times than not, people assume without hearing the other side. Going back to Satanism, people would automatically assume that just because there’s ‘Satan’ in the title, it’s something blasphemous and horrible. If they took the time out of their day to do a little research, they would know that they’re gravely mistaken. Another thing that is often assumed to be a downfall according to religious folk, is what people do behind closed doors. Recently, my eyes have been really opened to this fact and like the assumptions with Satanism, I find it very offensive. The fact I’m talking about is the sexual orientation of individuals and how it supposedly plays a huge part in where they’ll reside when they die.

I remember a couple of months ago, there was a story about some church in my home state that claimed it could ‘pray the gay away’, ultimately converting a homosexual individual into a heterosexual. I guess a little prayer and hopes of changing someone is something that actually works, right? Wrong. You can’t just change someone like that, or shouldn’t change someone at all for that matter. Just because an individual’s lifestyle is the complete opposite of your own, doesn’t give you the right you condemn them. Just because an individual is in love with the same-sex, doesn’t give you the right to try to change them because you’re most certain they’re going to Hell. How do you know that you’re not going to burn in your own manufactured version of Hell for condemning another to such a place?

While I don’t believe in much, I do believe in Karma. Yes, condemn all you want, but it’s the truth. What you do indeed does have a way of catching up with you, and hitting you tens times as hard, depending on how much of an asshole you were. I’ll be honest, I have absolutely nothing against homosexuals, just the people who think it’s okay to badmouth them. It really bothers me when they’re judged for their sexual orientation and their sexual orientation alone. It’s like those individuals are automatically judged and not given the light of day by some for the simple fact that they’re different. Some people just judge people without the giving the slightest amount of thought to how it will affect the ones they’re criticizing. I myself know people who are gay, and they’re the nicest people in the world. Who are you to say that homosexuals are ‘damned and unclean’ when you’re just basing your statements on assumptions? Seriously? Just leave people alone, and let them live their lives. No one tells you how to live your lives, don’t tell others how they should live theirs.

Like I said early on, I’m not trying to offend or change anyone’s view. Just merely explaining myself because I felt that it was time to. I decided to write about religion because I’d written a previous post without explaining first what lead me to believe so, and because it was fitting to the article I’d read by Mr. Francis. Pure and simple. While I don’t believe what the Bible says anymore, there are good morals in the stories. Be kind to thy neighbor, do not steal, basic things that children are taught early on, but you shouldn’t need stories written some 2,000 odd years ago to reinforce the fact that you should be a good person. You shouldn’t need the promise of Heaven or fear of Hell to help you determine your actions in life. It’s just pure common sense, what’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong.

As I’ve said, I’m not trying to change anyone’s views, just let people know where I’m coming from as a person. I don’t need to have a belief in God to be a good person. I believe that there are good people in the world, whether they’re easy to find or not. I don’t need to believe in God. All I need to believe in is myself and the things around me, despite the fact that it’s not always the easiest thing to do. I don’t care if I’m categorized as an atheist because technically that’s what I am. I don’t need to believe in something higher in myself. We’re all just people living in this world, filled with swirling vortexes of change and excitement, just trying to survive. Everyone’s just surviving the best they can. I’m surviving the best I can.

Don’t say how someone should survive when you’re barely holding on.

Lack Of Sleep And A Higher Education 

It’s been a long time since I’ve written any kind of ranting post. I mean, it’s not that there’s nothing for me to rant about. Believe me, there are a lot of things I could be ranting on and on about, but would any of it be interesting or well, worth ranting about?…Then again, why am I asking the potential followers of this blog? I’m not too sure either.

Right now, I feel like I’m somewhat running on empty, which is absolutely no excuse for me to be ranting, but for some reason, I find myself noticing things more and more because I’m tired. You’re probably wondering why I’m running on empty and the answer is pure and simple…I worked overnight last from 10 at night to 6 this morning, scanning for price changes, and I didn’t get enough sleep beforehand. I did, but at the same time, I didn’t. I wasn’t falling asleep at all while I was scanning and walking around to different parts of the store, but I sure as hell felt the familiar cloud of sleepiness come over me. Don’t get me wrong, my first night of price changes was actually pretty peaceful and uncomplicated…And yes, I actually just said that price changes at the wee hours of the night/morning is peaceful because it is. I didn’t have to deal with any customers and their never-ending slew of questions, but I have to say it was pretty creepy hearing music over the speakers with practically no one in the store. Very creepyyy.

With the reason for my sleepy eyes accounted for, let me first start my little rant by saying that summer needs to be here already…It’s on everyone’s mind and no one seems to be saying anything, so I figured what the hell? I love how snow looks falling on the ground just as much as the next young lady, but it seriously just needs to stop altogether and be summer. I honestly miss warm weather. I mean, humidity gives me the worst headaches, but I would much rather have a headache that can be taken away with some good ‘ol Excedrin, then have a cold that takes a month to fully rid of. Headaches I can deal with, colds I unfortunately cannot. I seriously miss that great second season known as Summer. I miss going to the park and laying out in the grass or swinging on any available swingsets…Yes, I am indeed a child at heart…I miss swimming in my purple bathing suit and lounging out on the swing in my backyard, listening to whatever music happens to be on shuffle. All and all, I think it’s more than safe to say that I miss that beautiful and humidy-stricken thing called Summer. I only hope that it comes soon as oppose to later.

I’m going to veer off the subject of annoyances for a quick second because, quite frankly, I’m not too keen on what I can complain about at the moment. Sure, I’m running on said hours of sleep and there are plenty of things I could complain about. Believe me, there is. No doubt about that fact…Everything from the lack of sleep because of the overnight shift at work (despite the fact that I enjoy the silence and solitude) to the ever-growing fact that I’m not as close to some people as I was at the end of school year.

Yes, I think I found something to rant about all of a sudden. I remember somewhere around this time last year, I was talking about how I was getting ready for graduation and my plans after said graduation. Unfortunately, those plans didn’t turn out as well, planned. Call it being a loser or just one of the consequences of not saving for college ahead of time or whatever you damn well please, but I’m currently not going to school like the majority of my peers. Why? I honestly couldn’t afford it at the time. Sure, I had big plans of saving for college and strangely, I would have enough to pay for one semester with the money I have saved now plus the amount I was awarded, but I’ve opened my eyes to one simple fact: I don’t need to go to school right out of high school. I know I said that I was going to wait a while anyway and go in the Spring or this coming Fall, but honestly, I don’t really think I want to attend school even then. College would just be one more stress that I don’t think I need now, and I think anyone will agree that if you can put off something that’s stress-inducing until a better time when it might not be so stress-inducing, then why the hell not? Sometimes I seriously think that’s what separates me from some of the people I used to be close with at the end of the year last year, the simple fact that I’m not gaining some higher education at the moment. As if just because I’m not attending college, it makes me some kind of inferior person, basically a loser in every respect of the word. I’m somehow the lesser person because I’m working and not cramming my brain with information that may or may not benefit me in the long-run. Go figure. Thankfully, I don’t see it that way, or else I would be in school right now. Granted the entire reason is because I didn’t have the funds at the time, but still.

Once again, call it what you will, but I’m glad I’m not waking up early to go to school every day or designated day. I would much rather wake up early to go to work, being wired on caffeine to combat the lack of sleep, as oppose to the routine of waking up early and listening to a lecture that I would most likely fall asleep during. Coffee and energy drinks were invented for better causes than that.

For some reason, I’ve lost the fuel to rant at the moment…Whether it be the sleep I lost catching up with me or what have you, I feel like I have nothing to rant about anymore. It seems like I can only muster the brain power to rant about how much I miss Summer and how I don’t need the stresses of college right now, but I’m not too worried about that. Sure, there still are things I can rant about, and I’m more than positive they’re things I’ve ranted and raved about before, but they’ll have to wait ’til another time…When I’ve had more sleep and am not sleepwalking through Wal-Mart, helping my mother look for couch covers…I’m totally serious. It happened….Luckily, the two Grande orders of Starbucks somewhat helped.

(Kudos to whoever created the Cinnamon Dolce Latte. Your contribution to the arts of fine coffee-making is greatly appreciated.)

My lack of sleep and a higher education are just astonishing.

Newsflash From “Heaven”: I’ve Descended Into “Hell”

There’s something that makes every one of us on this Earth question things that we don’t understand, can’t understand or just simply refuse to…Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that it’s safe to say that the concept of religion has always been something that’s second-guessed or questioned.

And if I question that, then what kind of person does that make me?

I honestly never used to question religion. It just wasn’t something that was questioned. You just go with it, and think that it’s something you personally believe. After awhile, it’s all you’re willing to believe. No one can change your mind; your heart is set on that way of life. It can turn you into something you’re truly not, while on the other hand can bring a whole new perspective on things. Which ever you may choose, there’s always questions that will arise that are going to make some wonder and others won’t even pay attention to.

I first started to question religion, being the foundation for my day-in, day-out education at school. I’d been at a Catholic school from Kindergarten to the first half of the 6th grade, and being at a Catholic school, I’d have to go to church every Friday with the rest of my class. There wasn’t an option of not going, and I honestly didn’t mind. We would be rewarded if we were good, anyway. I remember in Kindergarten, I literally thought the priest at my school’s church was a cannibal. I literally thought that when he said the “body and blood”, he really did mean the body and blood of someone. How crazy is that? Really?

What kind of person does that make me?

I began to ask questions about the religion that I’d learned about five days a week and sometimes on Sundays. Whether the questions made sense or not, I have no idea. They probably made absolutely no sense, the reason why no one could give me a straight answer. The questions made all the sense to me though. If Jesus died for everyone’s sins, why do people still sin? I distinctly remember that was one of the questions I’d asked. Yeah, a pretty stupid question. All my teachers probably thought it was, or maybe they thought I was crazy or something. I look back on that now, and think that it was a pretty foolish, but it also makes me realize that any other outrageous question I had would be let right in with all the eagerness, only to be shot down for being utterly stupid.

Now what does all this grade-school reminiscing have to do with my feelings toward religion now? It proves that there are questions that either can’t be answered or are being pushed under the rug. Let’s face it, who wants to believe in something that can’t be answered or proven? I don’t mean to judge anyone here. What the next person believes may not be what I believe, but that doesn’t mean I’m gonna jump down their throats about it. That would just be ignorant, and I absolutely hate ignorance. People are more than entitled to have their own beliefs and opinions, despite what other individuals think or say. I firmly believe in that, and truly have the utmost respect for that fact.

I would be much more comfortable knowing that what I’m believing in is, well, worth believing in. Sometimes, I believed that there possibly could be a God, but there are things that come in the way me truly accepting that fact. There are facts and reasonings that are so hypocritical and no way near logical. Say one thing and it doesn’t add up to what’s being said next…Yeah, that makes a hell of a lot of sense…I myself have a hard time agreeing and believing everything I hear because it all just doesn’t sit right with me as a whole. I suppose somethings could be plausible, but that still leaves others unaccounted for and to me, that isn’t good enough.

What kind of person does that make me?

I’ve been asking that question all though this post…What kind of person does that make me? Honestly, it makes me a goddamn human being. Most would say that questions and questioning isn’t the way to go because it will either get you nowhere or everywhere you don’t want to be, but I don’t find that the case. People don’t know if there is indeed a ‘Heaven’ or ‘Hell’ because no one has ever been there. Some are so fixated on something they’ve been feed throughout the years or what have you, and can’t comprehend that maybe there isn’t anything after you die. Maybe there is just nothingness, a creeping sense of darkness that’s just out of our reach with every passing second. Maybe not. ..Does death scare me? Damn right it does. Do I believe in something after death? I’m not sure. There could be something amazing beyond anything we’ve ever seen above and something else amazing in quite another sense of the word way down below, but who am I to know? Exactly. I have absolutely no idea and I think it’s best that way.

If people really (and I mean really truly) knew what happens when you die, they wouldn’t take any risks. If people knew what happened when you die, they wouldn’t be living. The entire point of living is taking risks and taking whatever comes at you, not matter the speeds or intensities. I think that knowing where you’re going to go when you die, totally dictates one’s risk-taking and therefore the entire concept of Life. Some people live that way already out of faith or whatever you choose, and that is entirely their choice. I have absolutely nothing against people with healthy convictions in what they believe in. I think it’s the best thing in the world, please just don’t try to press it on me. While some completely discreet and totally polite about brandishing their beliefs, not pressuring others at all, there are other people that think they know everything that the afterlife has to offer (or religion in general for that matter), down to every detail and I personally don’t believe any of it. Yeah, that probably sounds pretty bad, but notice the things I’ve said so far. My brutal, honest opinion.

I honestly don’t believe what people have to say about what it will be like when you die because they don’t know, they’ve never been there. No one knows, no ones ever been there. Unless of course with the exception of a near-death experience, that’s the closest thing to the afterlife you can get without feeling death unfortunately pull you out of this natural life permanently. Other than that exception, I don’t believe.

I love how the subject goes from the disbelief concerning religion to the disbelief an afterlife. They’re two different subjects that sometimes (maybe more often than none) become intertwined and discussed on the same playing field. I suppose that this is no exception to the conversations on the subjects that came before it. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. I honestly don’t know.

When all is said and done, I just don’t believe…Yeah, it might sound like I’m just another teenager (technically I’m not really a teenager anymore, but whatever) who listens to death metal and is ‘brainwashed’ by the ‘Satanic’ lyrics, but I’m here to clarify. While I do listen to my fair shares of black/death/heavy metal, my musical preferences in no way impact my views on religion or the afterlife, as which was mentioned earlier…Or rather there isn’t anything good enough for me to believe in. That probably sounds pretty arrogant and whether arrogance plays a part at all or not, it’s true. I don’t think it’s that there’s nothing good enough for me to believe but actually nothing I feel comfortable really believing in. Hopefully there will come a time when I find something that I indeed feel comfortable enough with to believe in without questioning or second-guessing. Until then, only time will tell.

So I ask you now, as I’ve been asking throughout this entire post…

What kind of person does that make me?

Newsflash from “Heaven”: I’ve surely descended into “Hell”.

A New Appreciation

It seems like it’s been “forever” since I’ve written something music-related. But it honestly hasn’t, it’s just a new year.

I have a new-found respect for music. I have a new-found respect for bands I’d either never heard of, or wasn’t a big fan of before. For some unknown reason, I’m drawn to bands I wasn’t drawn to before, and honestly never thought I’d like. Things definitely changed. For the better.

It’s safe to say that I really like Flyleaf now. I mean, I never fully got into them in 2005 when their self-titled CD came out and everyone seemed to fall in love with them. Strangely, I just didn’t. I’ll admit, I’d fallen in love with “Fully Alive” and “Breathe Today”, but never got into them as much as I would some other band. Call it the rebel in me, but it just wasn’t something I was listening to. Now, that my musical tastes have evolved, along with the help of their new album, I have a massive amount of respect for them. 

I honestly had no idea about their new CD, Memento Mori, until I saw the video for “Again”, and saw the CD on iTunes. When I heard the beginning of the song, I immediately fell in love with it. As it progressed, I fell even deeper in love. Lead singer Lacey Mosley’s voice is just incredible. Her vocals are a lot cleaner and easier to understand. She’s improved on the vocal front, and paired with the rawness of the instruments, it’s just amazing. The whole album is swirling around the need for freedom, while still incorporating their faith and religion in every intricate lyric.

I’m not usually a fan of Christian rock bands, but Flyleaf is definitely an exception. For some reason, I always thought that Christian bands would sing about how their religion was better than every other religion, but that’s not the case with Flyleaf. I guess that’s what I get for assuming. Made an ass out of myself.

Obviously, I’m not as keen on the concept of religion as the next person might be, but music is music, and if it’s good, then it’s good. It honestly shouldn’t matter what type of faith is put into it, it all goes through your earbuds/headphones the same way anyway.

Music is music, and it’s definitely safe to say that I’m a new-found fan of Flyleaf.

The next band on my rather lengthy appreciation list is another female-fronted band, known to the majority of the world as Paramore.

It is extremely safe to say that I love Paramore again. I first fell in love with them when I saw the video for “Pressure”. I honestly had no idea who they were at the time, but the song just grabbed me. I then fully recognized them when I  heard the song “Emergency”. One of my friends bought me the Warped Tour Compilation 2006 CD, and that song was featured on it. I instantly fell victim to Hayley Williams’s one-of-a-kind voice, and the band’s all around sound.

After their debut, All We Know Is Falling was Riot!, and once Riot! came out, it seemed like everyone was listening to them and saying that they were a Paramore fan. Now, I have absolutely nothing wrong with someone who listens to Paramore because I do too, but things like that aggravate me. With the songs “Misery Business” and “Crushcrushcrush” being what everyone was listening to, I stopped listening to Paramore for a while. Call it stupid, or dissing the band, but I needed to be away from what everyone else was currently listening to.

Despite the fact I stopped listening to Paramore for a while, there’s no sure-fire way to ever stop listening forever. Needless to say, it’s kind of impossible not to listen to Paramore, especially since their newest release, Brand New Eyes.

Paramore prove that they’re so much more than the band they were in the beginning. Having dealt with conflicts, and the near break-up of the band, they’re definitely stronger, and the music on Brand New Eyes totally shows it. Hayley’s voice is better than ever, fitting perfectly with the new-found aggression and strength. The videos for “Ignorance” and “Brick By Boring Brick” should be good demonstrations. Proving all the more that Paramore have grown up not only as a band, but as individuals as well.

I congratulate Paramore on finding their brand new eyes and only becoming stronger. Music is music whether you accept it or not.

The next band I have a huge amount of appreciation for is hardcore act, A Skylit Drive.

I had never heard of Skylit until earlier last year. I found them courtesy of iTunes, and figured I’d check them out. Upon my first listen, the element that surprised and grabbed me the most was lead singer Michael “Jag” Jagmin’s voice. His rather high-pitched voice incorporates with drummer Cory La Quay’s screams beautifully. I think if his voice sounded any different, then it wouldn’t be the same. It wouldn’t be A Skylit Drive.

I immediately found myself falling into a trance listening to their EP, She Watched The Sky. All 7 songs are amazing, and their full-length debut, Wires…And The Concept of Breathing, released in 2008, is no exception. Everything about Wires is crushing and brutal, while is managing to be incredibly crafted and beautiful. I find myself listening to “Knights Of The Round”, “Wires…And The Concept Of Breathing”, “I’m Not A Thief, I’m A Treasure Hunter”, and “All It Takes For Your Dreams To Come True” countless times a day.

Their newest release Adelphia, has a very different sound than Wires but it only proves that A Skylit Drive can break out of their genre a little and still create something hard-hitting and original. Jag’s vocals are clearly a lot cleaner and seem to be more present than they were on Sky and Wires. The vocals were obviously always there, but now they seem to be the main focus on the album, rather than Cory’s screams combined with the clean vocals.

Despite the mixed reviews I’ve read about Adelphia, my mind hasn’t changed about the band or the CD. The band is truly original, and Adelphia is genius. Every song is its own entity; no two songs sound the same, making them a stand-out among most bands today. The song “Prelude To A Dream” makes me swoon, and “Those Cannons Could Sink A Ship” and “Eva The Carrier” make me attempt to sing along. Not very good, I might add. The beginning of “Prelude” is just amazing. Jag’s voice is so soft you almost can’t hear what he’s singing, and then the screaming comes to proceed into a damn-good song. The lyrics in “Cannons” and “Eva” are both infectious and you’re kind of entitled to sing along because they’re so catchy.

While I think it was pretty hard to top Wires, it’s safe to say that Adelphia does come close. I love Wires, but I’m beginning to fall in love with Adelphia. Only time will tell which one I end up loving more.

Kudos to A Skylit Drive. Music is music, and I’m happy to say that I’m a fan.

The next band on my pretty lengthy kudos list is Every Time I Die.

I’d more than likely seen them a million times before on TV or something. I just never knew who they were. I remember I’d seen the videos for the songs “Kill The Music” and “The New Black” on FUSE and I thought nothing of it. “The New Black” was featured on the same Warped Tour Compilation 2006 as was Paramore’s “Emergency”, I just don’t think I ever took the time to listen. I figured that they were just like any other band out there. Every song sounded like a carbon copy of itself. Once again, that’s exactly what I get for assuming. Made an ass out of myself yet again.

This new-found liking for Every Time I Die came accompanied with their new CD, New Junk Aesthetic. The first song I’d ever fully listened to by them was “Pretty Dirty”, and that song caught me. With all honesty, despite the fact that I had the song on my iPod and all, I forgot about them once I erased the contains and started from scratch. The song that truly hooked and held me was “We’rewolf”. The overall song itself was unlike what I was used to hearing. The lyrics were twisted into some kind of new perfection, and Keith Buckley’s voice was actually pretty refreshing.

I knew absolutely nothing about New Junk Aesthetic until I’d heard the song “Roman Holiday”, and read an article in the November issue of Revolver. Leave it to Revolver to fill me in on things in the music world I more-than-often miss. In the article, it talked about how the CD had a more rock-and-roll type of sound as oppose to their previous releases.

Their debut EP, The Burial Plot Bidding War, as well as their full-length debut Last Night In Town, had the hardcore sound they became famous for. While the albums that followed, Hot Damn!, Gutter Phenomenon, and The Big Dirty still radiated that hardcore/metalcore sound, they also incorporated a Southern-rock tinged sound in the guitar department, and Keith proved to have a killer singing voice, in addition to his signature screaming. Compared to their other albums, Aesthetic is definitely more rock-and-roll, but that’s not a bad thing at all. It still shows how talented they are as musicians, and that they still have the “hardcore/metalcore” sound people usually associate them with, just with a different kind of intensity.

Regardless of how New Junk Aesthetic sounds, where it be rock-and-roll, hardcore, or a strange combination of both, there’s no doubting that it’s well-crafted, with flawless instruments and Keith’s better-than-ever vocals. There’s also no doubting that it’s just down-right kickass. Every song is well pieced together, where one dims off in brilliance, the other picks up the light not shy of a few seconds after. It’s honestly no surprise that I probably go from “Wanderlust”, “White Smoke”, “Buffalo 666”, and “Goddamn Kids These Days” and back again in a 40 minute class period of gym. Those songs alone are that awesome and badass.

I would like to congratulate Every Time I Die for being kickass, and for once again reminding me that you shouldn’t judge a band before you actually listen to them.

The last but definitely not least band on my finally finished, very lengthy appreciation list is the Danish act Volbeat.

Once again, with all brutal honesty accounted for here, I had no idea that Volbeat was even a band until I saw something about them in the back of one of my many issues of Revolver magazine. I didn’t look back on it until I found myself looking for a new and interesting band to listen to, which wasn’t until a couple months ago. Last October actually. It’s honestly kind of weird saying ‘last’ October because it still feels like 2009, but that’s not correct. It’s 2010. But enough about the fact that it’s a new year, back to what makes Volbeat original and one-of-a-kind. 

Like the majority of new bands I’ve listened to, I had no idea what to expect when it came to Volbeat. I didn’t assume I had with Every Time I Die or Flyleaf, as previously stated. I just listened…and I found myself in almost a whole other niche in time. Everything about their sound resonates the old-school music that came before them, and that’s not a bad thing at all. They’re like a violent blend of Metallica and The Misfits, along with a splash of Johnny Cash and Elvis mixed in. I think that most people aren’t drawn to the old-school sound because nowadays it seems like it’s all about the next big sub-genre.

When I first listened to Volbeat, I was taken aback (in the purest contradiction of those words) by frontman Michael Poulsen’s voice. The deepness of his voice sort of reminded me of the vocals of Type O Negative lead, Peter Steele, even though their vocal styles are no way near the same. Despite the partial coincidence, his voice is the most unique thing I’ve heard in a while. His voice wraps around the crushing drums and heavy guitars perfectly, only in a way that he can. Volbeat wouldn’t be the same kind of band if his vocals were different.  

Their latest release, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood is just amazing in every way possible. Amazing is a word I use a lot when talking about music, and when I say it’s amazing, it truly is. Everything about it is fresh and original, while still having enough venom and bite to surprise and entice. It’s not your typical CD by a band that’s sporting today’s latest sub-genre, nothing even remotely close…

Most bands today, with the exception of a great few, are afraid to break away from the genre they’re currently in and take a chance. I have an extreme amount of respect for bands/musicians that break the mold, while still managing to stay true to their signature sound. It’s like, their signature sound combined with something new and innovative, to create something new that’s all their own. The bands that refuse to go out of the box, and crush the hell out of that mold, seem like they’re either scared to lose fans or afraid of what the so-called “scene” will think. They’re not living up to their full potential.

…Volbeat isn’t one of those bands. If you thought their brilliant, fresh sound was only on Gangsters & Blood, then you’re wrong. Their debut CD, The Strength/The Sound/The Songs released in 2005, displays the same kind of bone-breaking mix of rockabilly, metal, and punk, giving Volbeat their one-of-a-kind sound. I honestly never thought about what it would sound like, mixing three different types of music that all had similarities, but now I’m happy to say that I know exactly what it sounds like. Strength/Sound/Songs is a 15-song joyride that’s just as explosive, as it is in-your-face. It has the same brutality as Gangsters & Blood, only it’s more gritty and rough around the edges. Their follow-up, 2007’s Rock The Rebel/Metal The Devil is no exception to the originality and impressive sound. According to my iPod, I’ve listened to the song “Radio Girl” off Rebel/Devil over 30 times, and something tells me that it’s true. It’s a great song; the whole album is pretty great.

Out of all three releases, Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood is the best. When I first heard “Still Counting”, the first Volbeat song I’d heard…ever, I was in complete shock and awe because of how incredible it sounded. The first thing I heard was the almost Southern sound of the guitar, then the drums came in to coincide with it perfectly. With the assistance of Michael’s branded vocals, the song then totally does a 360 and guitars and drums are leading a full-scale assault on your ears. The title track, “Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood” and “Back To Prom”, almost remind me of the 1950s’. Just the whole feel and sound of the songs echo back to a time vintage cars and gorgeous pin-up girls. “Hallelujah Goat” and “Wild Rover Of Hell” beckon to the metal sound that came before them, executed in perfect heart-pounding harmony. “Find That Soul” reminds me of The Nightmare Before Christmas. I honestly don’t know why, but the feel of the song reminds me of the part in the movie where Santa is confronted by the Boogieman, and then the song proceeds to play and that’s when you know that Santa isn’t going anywhere. Call me crazy, but that’s what I thought of when I first heard the song. No matter what the song reminds you of, it’s awesome nonetheless. As is all of Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood.

I take my hat of to Volbeat for being the most original thing this way out of Denmark. Music is music, and I’m without a doubt a Volbeat fan.

I’m happy that my musical tastes changed because if they didn’t, I don’t think I’d be listening to the great bands I just expressed my appreciation for. I’m happy it changed for the better.

Music is the safest haven. When the rain falls too hard to think and the snow falls too lightly to hear a whisper, you’ll always have its comfort.