Curiosity Column: Could All Religions be Intertwined?

Religious tolerance illustrationWhat if all religions are parts of a larger puzzle? Now, I’m not claiming this as an absolute truth. You have to be honest, there is not much to substantiate religion in most of our humanly observation. You cannot justify philosophy with philosophy without making assumptions (quite unsubstantiated at the least, as per my intrigue with philosophy). Ok, so now that we established that, let’s establish an assumption, for curiosity’s sake if not anything else. Let’s assume that there is a hierarchy of supernatural, unobservable power as claimed in religious texts.

Recently, I have spent quite a bit of time researching the fundamentals of religions (I voiced a minute part of what I found here). I was coerced by some of my peers and by my own curiosity to discuss the interrelations of religion for a public speech class. I spent my once free time perusing peer-reviewed journals, claimed holy works, and the fundamentals of major organized religions. I read through ancient mythology and folk-lore alongside historical information to get a cultural context. To my disbelief, all religions seemed to share many more aspects than I thought possible.

Oddly enough, most of the religions I looked at were formed within a span of a few hundred years, merely a snapshot in the overall of human civilization. Also to note, is that these religions were founded in isolated regions yet still share these commonalities. I will leave an enumeration of commonalities to another post so as to not have a book.

These factors present a bit of a curious case to me. Even then, there are many factors that must be considered for possibly accounting for some of these shared traits, from trade to the evolution of human thought throughout the ages. Any factors that can morph a religion must be examined as well, which I have not yet had sufficient time to do.

I traced some of the evolution of the individual religions, the spin-offs that led to the modern forms today. Rather than diverging into highly specialized regional sects as one might expect, they actually seemed to converge a little more. Small nuances from one to the next were incorporated, which I would attribute to the inter-connectivity brought about by growing Internet communications.

religious_diversity5Yet, I want to draw attention not only to the similarities, but also the dissimilarities—the gaps, so to speak.

Take, for instance, how Buddhism approaches the human need to strive for perfection and enlightenment in relation to the reincarnation cycle of Hinduism. One could draw a direct connection between the two, with the Buddhist enlightenment being the top tier of Hindu reincarnation. On the other hand, take a look at Shintoism, an ancient Japanese religion similar to that of Shamanism. In Shinto mythology there is no mention of the creation of man and other forms of life. The creation myth found in the Kojiki and Nihon Shoki/Nihongi only talk about the creation of  land and the natural world in relation to it. It seems to be a strange account to leave out in respects to all the stories and relations of the nature deities. This is by no means meant to be an exhaustive list so I will leave of at this point. There are many more strange accounts and holes than just these, as this is just a snapshot.

This can obviously be interpreted in many ways. One way that struck me is that it could be filled with another creation “myth.” What if another religion—for example Christianity, Judaism, or Islam—could have it right on how humans were created/evolved/etc? Could it be possible that these three pick up where Shintoism leaves off? Food for thought.

Another thing I find quite interesting follows along the lines of afterlife. Remarkably, many religions do not put a large emphasis on afterlife as per the belief of impermanence. Meaning that the afterlife is not necessarily eternal. One could be punished or rewarded based on their life on Earth, but time will tome to pass both in “heaven” as in “hell” and then the cycle begins anew. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Judaism all follow this route where as Christianity and Islam vary on the other side of the spectrum. All of these there eventually do have an ending point, whether to a cycle or a linear path of life. Yet, this also seems strange to me, particularly in the cycle beliefs because it seems to abruptly cut off. Simply put, it leaves me wanting of an explanation of “what’s next?” This leads me then to wonder if another religion has the “end game” covered.

I just wanted to lay bare what my curiosities have led me to and in no way are these to be considered truths as even I am dubious. I am young and naïve and have done no where close to enough investigation to defend such claims. That I do recognize. So I offer this more as a hypothesis; a rambling of a young character who is search of and not yet close to a satisfactory answer.

Laci Green – “Elliot Roger: More than a Madman”

Alright, so I don’t necessarily agree with Laci in that culture is an illness, but aside from that I believe anyone involved in American culture should see this issue clearly. This is not about guns or knives or weapons, but about the psychology of a culture. Take a look at Laci’s thoughts (forewarning: this may not be entirely appropriate for young audiences, but it must be addressed one way or another).

Also, I would recommend taking a look at her note about blaming mentally ill people here. You can read more statistics similar to the distressing ones Laci found at Mother Jones (as posted on Upworthy).

This is a pervasive problem. It’s past time to put the politics aside and figure out what we can do about it.

Why not a Major?

Just recently, I had a discussion over dinner with a few friends. As we are all young college students, the topic of future plan inevitably arose. And that’s when the question was popped to me: “Why the heck aren’t you majoring in languages?”

My retort: I’m not that good with them.

…And I have my other reasons.

Yes, I have a habit of learning functional phrases in languages, but that’s just it. Yes, I can hold terse conversations in 6 or 7 without much effort on my end. But that is exactly my problem. Without much effort. The truth is, for the longest time I haphazardly studied languages. I enjoy messing around with them; identifying and tracing the nuances, meeting new people, being able to read new things. I actually did not find it agreeable that my high school required two years of the same language in order to graduate. It seems utterly unthinkable now, as I have completely turned a 180 and now advocate and actively pursue fluency in my fourth language.

I  could tell that they weren’t settling for this as an answer. Their eyes all looked at me inquisitively, as if to ask the same questions I have heard reiterated a hundred times, “So why not a major? You enjoy learning languages so much, why do you neglect them?”

Oh, how frustrating it is! Why is the major an all powerful deal in American education? Why is the lack of formal classroom study considered neglect? I could rant for hours explaining upon such topics, but the hours of the night were dwindling so I wrapped it up and put a nice bow one it. Something, I must say, that I despise to do.

A language major is a piece of paper, just as an other major is in actuality. It is a certificate saying that you ran through all the coursework, no matter how blindly or how well you master the material. That doesn’t mean that you can actually functionally speak the language, much less fluently. What is the use of a piece of paper if you cannot apply the knowledge it is supposed to represent? That there, is my qualm with language majors.

I know too many people, both friends and acquaintances, that have the language major/minor tacked on. They enter the work force and a few years later can no longer hold a conversation in the language or have forgotten many of the rules to writing that differ from the spoken words. That is not what I want. If this means that I have to take some of the dreaded fluency tests in order to truly show that I have maneuverability within the language, then so be it. It is, after all, much cheaper than paying for all the classes to get your major/minor.

But my primary issue applies to the follow up question. Why is self-study considered “neglecting” the language? To be frank (and yes this is a generalization, but in my experience it holds true), the language learning community highly respects self-studiers. Why? Because of the following reasons:

  1. Self-studiers do it on their own volition. They want to study it. Now, there are also quite a few people who study languages in a classroom setting by their own will, but it is much more likely that there is another driver (an employer, school requirement, etc).
  2. Self-studiers have to be efficient with their resources and time. Even with the power of the Internet making books and learning material more widely available, there are no strict sets of lesson plans that you must follow. It takes time to identify your learning style and find the suitable resources through which to learn, which leads to my next point.
  3. Self-studiers have to be self-aware. They must identify their weaknesses within the language and address them before moving forward. They have to know how they learn best, so that they do not have to retrace their steps and repeat; a draw that often narrows the field of self-studiers.
  4. Self-studiers have to persevere. Anyone involved in languages has to do this. But I can attest, as one who has learned languages through both formats, that self-studiers have a much more daunting task. There is no direct guidance. No one to set benchmarks or progressions on a smaller scale. If reaching for a certificate, there are the fluency tests that seem impossible for starters to reach. Learn a language is not something you just do overnight. It takes time and a ton of patience.
  5. Self-studiers know their motivators. Money? Grand. Experience? Interesting. Friends? Priceless. Everyone has their unique motivators. In a classroom, the motivators are primarily extrinsic. There are grades, prestige, and certificates that constantly remind you why you are pursuing the language. For self-studiers, the rewards may be less evident and are often intrinsic. A better knowledge of yourself and others, new ideas and perceptions, a new skill set. Granted, there are also extrinsic motivators in most cases, but to keep at a self-studier needs to know his reason for studying else it is easy to lose sight of your end goal.

Sorry for the excessive rambling, but my point was:

No, I will not get a language major. Yes, I will and have had instances of both formal and informal language learning, but for gosh sake don’t devalue one method for the other. It varies from person to person, but personally I don’t need a certificate to validate my choice.

Dear Moms

All moms have a tough job. They have the concerns of their children and family – health, food, housing, love – and they often don’t get the thanks in return. Here is a cool project, “The Worlds Toughest Job,” from Mullen in Boston.

Mullen posted this job listing for a “director of operations” at a company called Rehtom, Inc. The requirements were as followed:

• Standing up almost all the time
• Constantly exerting yourself
• Working from 135 to unlimited hours per week
• Degrees in medicine, finance and culinary arts necessary
• No vacations
• The work load goes up on Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and other holidays
• No time to sleep
• Salary = $0

“The job ad got 2.7 million impressions from paid ad placements. Only 24 people inquired. They interviewed via webcam, and their real-time reactions were captured on video.” – AdWeek

Take a look at those applicants reactions:

Credits

Moms – this is for you. My mom was a stay-at-home mother who left her job as a claims analyst to raise my brother and I. I can never her thank her enough for her support and want to take this moment to send my love back and dedicate this post to her. Love you Mom!

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An Opportunity of a Lifetime: Yonsei University

Yonsei_university_in_Seoul,_South_korea_04I’m utterly flabbergasted at the idea that I will be off to South Korea soon! I have applied and been selected to spend a semester at Yonsei University, one of South Korea’s top three universities known as the SKY (Seoul National, Korea, and Yonsei) universities, to continue my studies paired with intensive Korean and Chinese language classes.

I have dreamed of a chance to experience Korea and never thought that I would get a chance to be there so soon! I look forward to sharing my experiences abroad to all my fantastic readers and bringing a glimpse of South Korea to life here on CultureQuote. There will be a great many things to cover in my journey, and I intend to do them justice!

There are no words to describe my excitement for this Fall! The more I think about it the more I am itching to go~! The countdown has begun! (And yes, as always I will also post random musings and findings in the meantime). Please look forward to hearing more about the adventure to come~~

Graduation Season is Here! High School Students – This is for You

Graduation season is now upon us, so I am addressing this to all my high school senior friends and readers. Firstly, congratulations! Graduating high school is a huge bench mark! Now it is time to celebrate the end of one stage and beginning of the next. Right now you’re brimming with self-confidence over your success in high school and maybe, just maybe, you’re thinking it’s going to be an assured cakewalk at your chosen college. As a friend and fellow student myself, I’m here to tell you it’s not. To gently dispel such naïveté I’d like to proffer these five nuggets:

1. Studying. To all my graduating high school seniors and fellow high-achievers, I’m going to put this bluntly, get over yourself if you don’t think you have to study. If high school didn’t require you to study much, starting learning how. Now. Figure out how to study and get good at it. Discipline yourself. You will find that an extra hour of hard studying pays dividends on a test.

dogreading-book

2. Tests. At university a lot rides on them and they’re demanding. In high school I was one of those super-achievers that took nine AP tests my senior year and felt sure that I could fare just as well in college. I’m an engineering major and believe me, if you think AP tests are as hard as it gets, think again. College tests can be harder still and it can be disconcerting to realize that no matter how many tests you take, you might never feel 100% prepared for any of them.

Test

3. Grades. Here’s a shocker: grades aren’t everything. Chances are you’re a sharp-shooter. Maybe you’ve bulls-eyed good grades with little or no effort and you’ve felt “mission accomplished.” Well, the target changes in college. Don’t aim exclusively at grades. Instead, the mature student knows that mastering the material will get you farther in college and life. Do that, and the grades will come. Guaranteed. Plus, your professors will recognize your hard work, which just might give you that extra sway when you need a half-point at the end.

betty_grading

Research. If you have even a hint of interest in research as an undergrad, field notwithstanding, ask your professors about getting involved. This serves a dual purpose: 1) your classroom professor will know your face and associate you with hard work and passion and 2) you will get your foot in the door for a possible job in a semester or two—and I don’t mean working the library desk at midnight. Especially in the sciences, laboratory professors are always looking for capable underclassmen to grab the knowledge baton as seniors graduate.

scientist working at the laboratory

Moderation. If you do not set limits, you will quickly get overstretched. If you hear the story of the 3 S’s, Sleep, Social, and Study, you might be told you can have only two. However, if you are skilled about it, you can have all three—but only through moderation. Equilibrium is tricky to find. If you can’t have all three, then do a great job on two—just make sure one of them is Study.

everything in moderation

No doubt you’ll find others besides these five. Keep yours in mind when you’re asked to pass on your wisdom to your underclassmen friends after you. Now, hit the ground running at college this fall!