Month: December 2013

Why “It’s A Wonderful Life” Is Important

I have a confession: I had never watched “It’s A Wonderful Life” all the way through until a few years ago. It wasn’t the holiday movie in my house growing up. I always preferred “A Christmas Story” or “A Christmas Carol” or “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.”

I’d seen snippets of the Frank Capra classic over the years and knew the basic premise, but never sat down and viewed the entire thing until the Christmas before last. I was at my mother’s house on Christmas Eve and as usual, A Christmas Story was playing for 24 hours and as I was about to partake in my second go-round, much to my mom’s chagrin and sigh of annoyance, I flipped through the channels to find something different, and came across It’s A Wonderful Life, but it was nearly over. I checked the channel guide and found it was going to start again around midnight and I vowed to watch it. After my mom and her husband went to bed for the night, I sat on their couch, curled up with a blanket and some beef sticks (there’s a small family owned meat processing shop in my home town and every year since I can remember, on Christmas Eve my mom would get beef sticks, dried beef, and summer sausage from this place. The beef sticks are the best I’ve ever, ever, ever had and always highly sought after between me, my older brother, and dad).

(Author's graphic depiction of fighting for the last beef stick.)
(Author’s graphic depiction of fighting for the last beef stick.)

The opening credits came on the tv screen and I settled in for the next two hours. I was enraptured and by the end, a sobbing mess and now when I watch it, the same damn thing happens: I bawl like a baby and oh my gosh. It ruins me every damn time.

For those also living under a rock, in a cave, on the moon, here’s a super brief low-down of the film:

George Bailey is a dude finding himself in a pickle and in turn, contemplates what I submit every person does once in their life–to end theirs. A guardian angel by the name of Clarence comes down to earth and ends up showing George what life would be like if George had never been born, and it’s vastly different than anything he could imagine. Lessons are learned, new meaning is given to life, all is well with the world again, and ol’ Clarence is given his wings. Atta boy.

Perhaps it was the beef stick high I was on, or my own sordid past with depression and suicide, but Jesus Christ does this movie get to me. I can’t count how many times I’ve thought to myself, “I wish I hadn’t been born. I’ve caused so much grief to so many people,” or “”If I could just someone be…gone,” I think, “then I won’t have to worry about this crap.” “I wish people would forget about me as soon as I’m gone. If they ever see me again, they won’t recognize me, and I’ll just be a very vague feeling of déjà vu.” LOL depression! LOL! Goofy brain chemicals being all silly and stuff!

The sheer perfection of this picture and how it exactly tells how I feel roughly 90% of the time is incredible.
The sheer perfection of this picture and how it exactly tells how I feel roughly 90% of the time is incredible. Thanks, Hyperbole and a Half.

I watched the movie again yesterday and again, sat in my blanket pile, sobbing. But maybe it was because I didn’t have any beef sticks…no, it was because of the message of the movie and goddamn it, Frank Capra! Goddamn it! And with lines like this, “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” it’s hard not to be reduced to a sniveling pile of snot.

Life hasn’t been super easy for me as of late. This whole being unemployed for the last six months thing is really starting to wear me down and I just feel like I’ll never be able to find anything as good as I had before, plus going this long without a job is really effing with my self-esteem. Why can’t I get a job? Why is no one hiring me? What is it about me that no employer is wanting? I admit I have been over-qualified for most of the positions I’ve applied for, which is kind of a good problem to have to an extent, but otherwise, Jesus rollerblading Christ, just hire me! Please! Living off unemployment is not fun. I feel like a shithead for doing so. I’m frustrated and feel worthless and it being this time of year and not having the finances to show my appreciation for family and friends by gifting them small tokens of my affection is really bothering me. I know giving gifts isn’t what this is about. I know that, but I’ve been given some and feel like an absolute heel for not being able to reciprocate. Everyone has said, “oh, don’t worry about it. I don’t give presents to expect any in return.” Well, good for you for being selfless like that, but seriously, it is killing me…and adding to my mounting depression.

Waa waa waa, I know. Tiniest violin concerto for Erin.

I’m glad for movies like this, though. They briefly pull me out of my sad sack funk and give me perspective on things. I too often fail to do that.

I wish I could have a George Bailey moment like this. I wish that anyone dealing with crippling depression could be given a chance to see the hole they’d leave if they were to not be around. Part of depression is being selfish; we only tend to think of ourselves and forget about anyone else. By being shown what would happen if we did carry through with our suicides, we’d be forced to face the product of our selfishness. See? See what you’ve done here? Is this what you want? Look at what would happen if you weren’t here anymore. 

“You see George, you’ve really had a wonderful life. Don’t you see what a mistake it would be to just throw it away?”

Corny? Yes, but sometimes a  person just needs to be reminded of their impact on others, or to be shown it to begin with. Depression grabs hold of you and blinds you to what is going on around you. It makes you feel small. Alone. No one is there and no one cares.

But I know this isn’t true. I have to remind myself there are people in my life who would feel my absence.

And as a wise man once said, “no man is a failure who has friends.”

Thanks for reading,

E

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Sam Harris on Morality and the Christian God and How He Summed It Up Perfectly

I’m a Christopher Hitchens girl. I love everything about the man, may he rest in peace. To me, he was my voice of atheism, and reading his works helped me embrace my lack of belief. When the atheist community lost him to cancer two years ago, his death saddened me greatly. We lost our voice. I know there are other prevalent members of atheism that do an equally good job, but Hitch was my main man. I tend to find Richard Dawkins a bit of a blowhard bully at times,although, I fully agreed with him and the ridiculous Rebecca Watson/ElevatorGate debacle a few years ago. And honestly, I never really gave much attention to Sam Harris…until today when I watched a video that I’ve seen floating around my Facebook timeline. It’s titled “Morality and the Christian God” and boy howdy, it’s a terrific ten minutes.

No doubt some of you will not watch this, and that’s fine; some of the images shown are brutal and hard to see, but are shown for the purpose of driving Mr. Harris’s point home: atrocities happen daily and the god so many believe in let them happen. As Mr. Harris says, “any god that would allow this to happen…either can do nothing to help, or doesn’t care, is either impotent or evil.”

Perhaps I should repeat that: any god that would allow this to happen either can do nothing to help, which debunks his omnipotence, or doesn’t care, which solidifies his malevolence.

I don’t want to hear about free will–children–or anyone, really–needlessly dying is not free will. Children dying due to acts of violence is apparently acceptable to this god. Children getting terminal diseases is okay by god because he’s the one who gave them leukemia to begin with. It’s his plan, after all. Deal with it. Children being sexually abused is fine by god because well, it just is.

Do you understand why I refuse to believe in this god? Do you get why I have such an issue with a supposedly all-knowing, all-seeing, “loving” god that willingly causes pain and suffering to his followers? Do you realize that by people saying “god only gives us what we can handle” or “he has a purpose for everything” is total and utter bullshit to me? I don’t understand why people believe this. I don’t understand why I believed it for 20 years…

The purpose of this is not to convert anyone to atheism. The purpose of this is to help those who believe to see why I don’t anymore. I was raised in the Lutheran faith for 20 years. I attended parochial school. I went to church and Sunday school weekly like a good Christian. Then, I met people who didn’t believe. I heard their points of view and for the first time in my life, I realized that I sided more with them than what I had been taught for so many years. I actually took the time to think about what they said and it made more sense to me. I had been slowly backing away from my faith for a while, anyway, namely due to personal experiences in the last few years of that point in my life, I found myself wondering how god could let these things happen if he had the power to prevent them. I felt awful for thinking those things, for going against what I had been taught, that by even entertaining the brief thought that there isn’t a god would surely mark my place in hell.

But my faith continued to wane. I asked to be removed as a member of my childhood church, which warranted a very rude letter written back to me from the elders of that church. I wish I had kept it. That letter was the tipping point. How could grown men acting as liaisons of the church and god himself write to me that they felt my decision was a poor one and that they will pray for my lost soul to return to the true way? Never one to take kindly to that sort of thing, my removal from the church was liberating. I took that incident and further expounded upon it.

I remained quiet in my non-belief for years, and in some instances, still am, much to the dismay of some of my fellow atheists. I’m not ashamed of who I am now; on the contrary. My circumstance in not telling everyone of my atheism is for a good reason…or at least it is to me. I haven’t told my dad and I entertain the thought of doing so every now and again, of just sitting down with him and saying, “hey Dad, here it is,” but I can’t bring myself to do it.

Why? Why am I scared to do so?

I’ve written about this before–I’m afraid he’ll disown me. I’m afraid that my father will take this as a slap across the face, that he somehow failed as a parent, that by things he did/didn’t do, he led me astray and I faltered from the path of righteousness and it’s his fault. The two of us have a rocky past which I don’t care to get into at the moment. But in the same breath, why was it so easy to tell my mom about my atheism? I have theories (of course I do. It’s me, for crissakes). The main one being the father/daughter bond. I don’t want to disappoint him. My coming out as an atheist will be a massive one to him. For now, I choose to remain silent until one day I grow the ovaries it takes to finally tell him.

Well gosh, I sure strayed from the original topic, didn’t I? Classic me.

Back on track before I close. As I wrote earlier, I’m not here to convert. I guess my main purpose of this post is to express my side of things and to make you think. Think about why you believe. Think about how while you praise god for the good, god is also responsible for the bad and how it seems to me that believers ignore that. I like to refer to that as the battered wife syndrome. God loves you, but does all these bad things, but dang it, he loves you so you continue to put your faith in him.

In the words of Forest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

As always, thanks for reading.

E