reasons

After reading When Breath Becomes Air, it caused many moments of self-reflection, recognition, and realization. The most profound of these moments was certainly the correlation that Dr. Kalanithi feels between the morality of humans and the principality of science – and the deep and undeniable connection between the two. My own experiences with realizing what morality is and how we as humans can approach understanding truthfully moral ways has heightened my awareness of the breadth, complexity, and utter incomprehension we have of the meaning and value of life. I don’t say this morbidly, because if you know me you know I am quite the optimist (insert cheesy smile), but I do say it with sincerity. There is such a truly bold connection between humans as spirits and souls that feel love, mercy, pain, and an array of emotional qualities, and the humans that are comprised of varying physiologies of biological and chemical pathways and processes. We are such a complex and deeply intertwined species, that pure science and pure metaphysics do not explain us. They require themselves and a few other important things for a full, robust and accurate description of what it means to be alive.

Deriving from my own experiences as a student, Christian,  and human (surprise!), I have found many truths and many troubling thoughts. Philosophy is something I have grown to love and hate at the same time, which I have commonly found is not unique just to me but to others who study philosophy as well. You may ask, what even is philosophy, and you may laugh at students that say philosophy is their major, but I encourage you to exercise some tact when approaching those who enjoy philosophy. But first, to answer your question in my own, rudimentary knowledge of the subject, I would say that philosophy is truly a search for meaning. Meaning of life, meaning of people, meaning of actions, of religion, of science, of thoughts, of generally anything that is worth searching for. And my own experiences with this quest have been… circuitous. Oscillating between why does this matter? and how could this not matter? has left me in a comfortable, but strange, place with philosophy. Almost at peace, so to say. I have found innumerable truths reading though the great minds of thought, peering into their own opinions on the most important matters of life: happiness, virtue, God, and learning to name a few. I have experienced these inquiries from mathematicians, career-philosophers (ha ha at that term), atheists, scientists, Christians, and teachers. What I have found is a universal truth: that we are humans, and that we take our experiences and we develop our own values, our own morals, our own ethics, our own vocabularies, our own meanings, and we are all developed differently but still the same. For me, this has allowed me to see Christianity in a newfound strength (insert: Go read Rene Descartes’s Meditations). It has allowed me to see the necessity with which there needs to be God. God is the true foundation for which all life, thought, and meaning is derived. He is the unifying alikeness that all humans possess, and He is the only thing that can complete science in its discrepancies and shortcomings. Maybe philosophy has the opposite effect for others, but for me it has challenged my thoughts in unseen ways (sometimes scary ways), but has allowed me to truly integrate every piece of my being – my desire to live a good life, my love and faith in Jesus Christ, and my infatuation with science. I don’t credit philosophy with helping me understand more about myself. I do credit philosophy with teaching me how to think, how to speak, and how to formulate my own ideas and opinions. I see the connections in my life, the concrete existence of a God that no, cannot be empirically proven, but can be proven by merely examining humans and experience. I have seen different parts of my life woven into a fabric that just makes sense. In a way, I felt it has set me apart more than before I had studied my own self and values so extensively (as a by-product of philosophy) and has made me difficultly different than other people in this way (hopefully other students can agree with me on this). Ultimately, I have realized the importance of dependency. The importance of friendship; the importance of conversation; the importance of sharing your life with others; the importance of NEVER thinking you are above others and cannot learn from them; the importance of bringing together all parts of your life and finding where you are genuinely the most happy.

This has been me incessantly rambling about how happy I am to have learned something about my life. The truth is, there are many, MANY, many things I do not know. In these are where my trust and faith in God prevails. I know not what my life holds, but I do know who has been entrusted with my future. And I do know that He has placed meaning, importance, and value in every life on this earth. I see these not just through a lens of spirituality but also a lens of philosophy. Until I am made fully aware of these things, I will keep striving to understand more about what God wants for me, how He wants me to live, and the ways in which I can more fully be His humbled, faithful, and loving daughter. I can pray we can do this together. (I also HIGHLY, highly encourage you to read When Breath Becomes Air… It is beautiful.)

 

divinity

Romans 1:20: “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

Sometimes, as a student that studies science, I feel like I have a special vision into what God’s divine nature and eternal power looks like when displayed in a physical context. I feel advantaged to be able to interpret God’s divinity and sovereignty over all things in a context unusual to most. God’s infinite powers “have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” I take this to heart. I am found out of excuse when it comes to an argument against the creation of man by a skillful and intricate Creator. As a lover of science, I admire the challenges that scientists face when trying to discredit creationism. On this one though, I can only see through the lens of a God Most High. Yes, my answer to “How is the world created?” is a simple “God spoke life into all things.” And I am sorry if this doesn’t appease you, but truthfully my stance is not to satisfy the natural curiosity that man possesses. My desire in these matters is only to search for Truth and to find it in a way that remains objective and unemotional.

I say my desire because I do not always fulfill this query. Remaining non-subjective, I will. I can hear the facts of the Big Bang Theory or the evolution argument, and I will ponder them and explore them with you. We can learn about them and challenge them together. Through these experiences, you will see that your faith in a scientific concept is just as strong as my faith in a divine Creator. Your faith in random interactions of matter is equivalent to my faith in the Word of God. However, my faith is discredited, maybe due in part to the sociocultural evolution of Christianity. I won’t deny that some people present Christianity in a way that may be quite different from what one may say is the “right way” and on this, I have no discernment except for to encourage the recipient of the knowledge to search and explore the word for himself. Nonetheless, Christianity gets a bad rap in the world of intellect and reason. Taken face-value, maybe I can understand. But when investigated, these “highly intellectual and logically sound” persons are taking their belief to a level beyond my extreme. Matter collided, and the world progressed through time to evolve into what it is and who we are today. I just have difficulty with this, and maybe this is where I fail to remain unemotional. There are undoubtedly some parts of Christianity in which I also have difficulty understanding, too. I will support science when presented with the facts or laws that rest within scientific realms. I will support science when presented with partial facts but at least a clear and comprehensible reasoning. Perhaps my feeble and weak mind cannot comprehend how particles interacted in a way that eventually led to the ability for the human body to thrive the way it does. Do I think creationism is a short-winded way to the Truth? No, I think creationism is the Truth. God spoke life into me, and into you, and into every plant and animal, and living being on the earth. I believe this because it is seen clearly to me. I see beauty in life. I don’t see discrete (but abstract, in a way) collisions of matter that came together explaining what we know today about biology and biochemistry. Life is too complex, and inconceivably amazing, for me to settle with that lacking answer.

But if you believe we were made in this way, I don’t mock you or undermine your intellect or belief. I just challenge you to search for Truth in other ways. Tunnel-visioning belief is belief built on rocky ground. Explore creationism. Try to see life through my perspective. If you saw beauty in the way topoisomerase is signaled to start assisting DNA for replication the same way I do, I promise your life would be more meaningful and utterly inspiring. I don’t love God because He makes my life more meaningful and utterly inspiring, because I love God my life is more meaningful and utterly inspiring. God’s divine intervention is evident through so many things. Aside from tangible things like the ability to survive and complex cellular biological processes, nontangible things like the feeling of being embraced or laughing uncontrollably are indicators that someone out there loves us more than particles colliding can provide to explain. Human cognition and consciousness gives me faith in Someone more powerful and of higher capacity than me. Someone that transcends all things. Science can’t explain everything…which gives me reason to believe that a God Most High can (although maybe not while we are here on this earth).
The truth is we don’t have the facts to it all. We don’t have answers, and there are some questions we probably never will have answers to. But we should search for the Truth. And whatever you believe, or if you believe nothing at all, at least experience the beauty of life. Because whomever, or whatever, put it there is clearly trying to display to us a small portion of the magnanimity and all-encompassing beauty we may someday get to experience more fully. My troubled, but hopeful, soul rests easily in that.

new year

Happy New Year’s Eve!

2015 was one of my greatest years so far. I have seen myself grow so much just in the past few months and look forward to how much I will learn about myself and my future in the next year as well. God has blessed me beyond what I deserve this year. My highlights of 2015 include:

  • Gaining my beautiful, healthy baby nephew
  • Getting nominated, interviewed, and selected as Presidential Scholar
  • Spending prom night in Nashville with my very best friends (whom I miss so much)
  • Being Valedictorian for the class of 2015 and the great experiences that entailed
  • Spending two lovely weeks at the beach with my family
  • Taking my first, REAL yoga class at Glow Yoga in Gulf Shores, AL
  • Relaxing over the summer and reading some extraordinary books
  • Shadowing a cardiac electrophysiologist at Vanderbilt
  • Attending NEEDTOBREATHE and For King and Country concerts
  • Moving to Belmont, living with my amazing roommates, and making lifelong memories
  • Getting the opportunity to conduct biological research in neuroscience
  • Finding my niche at Ethos church
  • Continuing to learn through difficult times and lean more dependently on God
  • Realizing life isn’t perfect, and it never will be. But that isn’t what makes it beautiful.

In 2016, I have decided to change up my blog posts! I am going to post more frequently and hopefully I can help others with some of the things I have decided to write about. As you probably know, I am a college student studying biochemistry and wanting to pursue medicine. I would love to incorporate more of my study techniques, my ways to navigate through difficult material, and different things related to my course of study. I am going to post more about my journey through yoga and how I became interested in yoga. I will continue my posts about concepts and ideas, and I look forward to sharing more of my opinions on philosophical texts and ideas. I also want to spend more time focusing on Christianity and spirituality. So if you are interested in very different hobbies and interests, I welcome you to my blog!

For 2016 you can look for posts that center around:

  • My journey as a science major and pre-Med student
  • My ways to find happiness and motivation in high stress situations
  • My thoughts on various scientific and philosophical texts, concepts, and ideas
  • My journey as a yogi, health and wellness tips, and ways to find healthy eats in different places
  • My occasional beauty post or recommendations
  • My raw and vulnerable thoughts as I navigate through difficult times
  • My reasons for being a Christian and some of the readings I find helpful

I am excited about this change for my blog, but I look forward to continuing the types of posts I have been about since day one. I hope many of you can find ways to help me in various aspects of my life as well. I pray for all of you to have a happy new year, and find many joys and successes in 2016!

 

illusions

I am thankful that God gave me the ability to experience beauty.
What is beauty? Where is the idea of beauty derived from? What molds our minds to think something is classified as beautiful? I am not talking about exterior, superficial beauty. I am talking about things that are truly beautiful. Truly extravagant and truly awing. This type of beauty leaves me humbled and thankful. It makes me feel small but important. It leaves me confirmed in my faith and sincerely amazed. Have you ever seen an illusionist or magician perform and leave thinking, wow that was incredible. How did that happen? What was the trick or the hidden performance that caused the illusion?
I feel this way about things that are beautiful.
The biological sciences leave me almost daily in a state of appreciation and utter awe. Every day, every second, every single millisecond, our bodies are performing some incredibly complex and intricate processes. The human body blows my mind. My biology professor, Dr. Laura Stephan, was lecturing this morning about a protein found in the mitochondrial matrix (remember from middle school, the mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell!) that is so fundamental to our beings that it is a testament to the enormity and intricacy of our God. This protein, ATP synthase, is the sole proprietor for the functional energy created by our cells. This may sound like mumbo jumbo but let me elucidate – this single, microscopic molecule enables our cells to produce energy, which enables our cells to do amazing things like fight disease and fix problems in the body. I am able to write this post and think these thoughts because of a tiny, seemingly insignificant protein. I am able to laugh and enjoy apple cider and watch endless amounts of Netflix because these minuscule mechanisms within my body are functioning – and not just functioning but functioning in a way that is conducive to living and thriving. I’m sorry, maybe it’s just me, but that is beautiful. The way everything fits together so well, the way everything works at the right time and halts at the right time, the way the body has all these crazy complexities that allow me to live and breathe is absolutely awesome, in the true meaning of the word. Beauty to me is seeing how God enables our lives. He put all of those proteins in the perfect places. When I was being created in my mother’s womb, all of my cells came together in a fashion that enabled me. So much is going on in our bodies at a given time that it is almost incomprehensible. I think God works this way. He silently creates these beautiful pieces of our lives and when we are exposed to them, it takes our breath away and leaves us in awe and wonder. God has shown me the beauty that He is capable of uncovering. It makes me hopeful and excited to know that my God can make things so indefinitely beautiful.
Last night I attended a symphony at the University. I love classical music, but this was my first attendance at a true symphony with an orchestra. It was incredible. Hearing sounds created by instruments that came together in a way that seemingly flowed into a single piece caused my thoughts to navigate towards what was actually going on. Individuals on the stage were performing with their instrument, those sounds were combining with other sounds; the sounds danced around each other, and then that music traveled to my ears and I was enabled to experience the combination of it all. During the symphony I just thought to myself Thank you God for allowing these things to enrich my mind and fill my ears. This is just another form of the beauty you allow me to see. Whenever you let God take you to something beautiful, you know it. Last night was one of those moments.
Beauty is all around us. Maybe you have difficulty seeing beauty; if that’s the case, I encourage you to look for the beauty. He has placed it all around us: in the leaves, in conversation, in our bodies, in the mountains, in His merciful grace, and most prominently in ourselves. God has given you a beauty so unique to you that no one else can replicate it. He has given us the ability to recognize this beauty in others and verbally acknowledge it (I think we should utilize this ability more often). God, thank you for the beauty you have shown me. Thank you for the incomprehensible, transcending, munificent, and amazing beauty you have allowed me to see. I pray that you guys see this same beauty around you and within yourself.
Like the magician, we see only what is exposed to us. But instead of living a life of wonder and incessant pondering of unanswered questions about how the magic tricks are working, God is transparent. He lets us know that He is the illusionist behind all things beautiful and all things wonderful.

Well, This Is Different…

This is unlike anything I have ever posted; for that reason, I am choosing to post it! I think it is important to reveal my dynamic side as well as my not-so-dynamic side (yes, I do thoroughly enjoy painting my nails and being fashionable, but even more so I enjoy reading and writing about complex ideas such as this). This is an essay I recently wrote for my Intro to Sociology class for college. I found this topic to be intriguing, and I enjoyed researching and studying the concepts throughout the past two weeks. I have to view these ideas (and all the other ideas studied in this class) through a sociological perspective. Meaning I try to leave out personal bias, opinion, and thought. Of course, that isn’t always as easy as it seems! I must tell you that these concepts are based on factual evidence provided by professors, biologists, anthropologists, geneticists, and professionals in their field of study. I hope you take the time to read (it is quite lengthy, my apologies!) and maybe it will inspire you as it has me to find faith in humanity again.

Let me warn you: this is an educational blog post. It may not be as popular as my others but I still wanted to share it with you guys!

This is written as informal discussion post so all in-text citations have been excluded and proper format isn’t required.

“Race is a socially constructed category composed of people who share biologically transmitted traits that members of a society consider important . In America, for several years we have used physical differences to classify people into four or five groups we call races. Races are categories that are assumed to be unchanging. Meaning, once you are in a race it is often very difficult to escape the racial group and all of its stereotypes and prejudices that come along with it. Race assumes that genetics sets us apart; however, these things aren’t rooted in biology, but instead ascribed to biology according to biological anthropologist, Alan Goodman. Americans have had many assumptions about different races and what characteristics pertain to certain races. For example, blacks are better athletes, Asians are more intelligent, whites are wealthier, and Hispanics are hard workers. These assumptions are often generalizations we call stereotypes. Among these assumptions are also the beliefs that interracial marriage lessens the integrity of a society, racial inequality is essential to a functioning society, certain diseases cause racial groups to die earlier, and races have genetically determined traits for sexual appetites and reproductive capacities. According to pbs.org, race is a modern idea. In fact, ancient societies did not divide based on physical differences as we do today, but instead on religion, class, status, and language. We as a society have developed these groups that often lead to lost job, business, and marriage opportunities. So, how do we as a society “unmake” what we have “made”? Race, though it seems simple and fixed, is often complex and changing. First, we must define what our perceptions are about race. Then, determine the facts of race; and lastly, more forward towards a goal that benefits society, and every race in it, as a whole.
Race is assumed by most (including myself prior to my research on these topics) to be a genetically inherited trait. I think most people do not think any differently of this concept due in part to the fact that they don’t actually think about this concept. Race is a socially accepted idea in America. Because we accept this as Americans, we also accept all of the issues that come with it. It is important to realize that yes race is real, but not in the terms that most people think it is. What I mean is that no, race is not real in the theory that one inherits it genetically from the traits passed down from his or her mother and father. One does not inherit race the same way he or she inherits eye color, hair color, hair texture, skin color, body shape, musical, athletic, and intellectual ability, personality tendencies, and other genetically determined traits. However, one does get ascribed a race based on these inherited qualities. For example, an African American male does not inherit a gene that labels him “African American”. He does, however, inherit a gene (or multiple genes) that control his skin color. Furthermore, based off the premise held by the color of his skin, that we as Americans have institutionalized, he is classified as African American. Although this concept is clear cut and comprehensible, the complexity of disapproving race as a biological concept would be a major paradigm shift in society. For it to be accepted that race is indeed something we have “made up” would be as to the ancient philosophers accepting that the world is indeed not flat: a concept not easily accepted. I noted during the Race: The Power of Illusion video that race has no definite physical markers. Some determine race based on skin color and some determine it by hair texture. This was proven to me to be true in the PBS exercise. I was asked to categorize people into racial groups based solely on physical appearance. There was a particular female who had white skin with unruly, curly hair who I classified into the African American category; my answer was accurate, and unfortunately I had answered it based solely on the texture of her hair. Just as the physical markers for race are uncertain, so are the actual races. For example, a black person in America may not be classified as black in Brazil or South Africa. As Ms. Warner stated in her synopsis of race, these physical differences are no more significant than two people who classify themselves as white but have different eye color, hair color, nose shape, and body shape. These are insignificant differences that hold great significant importance in our society’s eyes.
When studying this topic, a common argument is that African Americans are genetically favored towards having superior athletic ability. In Race: The Power of Illusion, a comment was made by a white man that blacks have superior athletic ability because they were closer to the primitive. Contrarily, a comment was made by a black man that whites often use this argument as a disposition for their tendency to have inferior athletic skills. Of course, both of these are opinions have no evidential support. In biological terms, the alleles for skin color and hair texture are inherited independently of one another; meaning that a black person may have silky, straight hair and a white person may have coarse, curly hair (Race: The Power of Illusion). In contrast to these seemingly “simple” genetic situations, the genes for musical talent, athletic ability, and intellectual ability are very complex, but they are also inherited independently of skin color. This is to verify that a white person is capable of having just as much athletic ability as a black person and a black person is capable of having just as much intellectual ability as a white person.
Statistics show that blacks make up only 12% of the total population but 75% of professional football players. A black woman stated that African Americans across the globe are often better at sports because they run or perform physical activity on a daily basis for survival. For example, Kenyans often have to travel long distances to retrieve food and water; thus, Kenyans are typically better performers at long distance races. These aren’t inherited behaviors though. They are learned behaviors. There are no doubt physical differences do encourage athletic performance in blacks, but whites with the same physical differences are just as capable of performing on the same level. One man indicated that it all comes down to drive and how bad you want it.
In Race: The Power of Illusion, I was very shocked to hear about the findings of the experiment executed by the teenagers. In short, the teenagers were asked to identify who they thought they would be most closely identical to genetically. As assumed, the whites chose whites, the blacks chose blacks, and the Asians chose Asians. They performed an experiment where they tested the mitochondrial DNA from each individual. Mitochondrial DNA doesn’t code for physical differences, so traits such as skin color and hair texture were excluded. After the experiment was concluded and the findings were displayed, I was shocked. From the beginning, the students thought they would be most similar to the ones they shared national origin with. Astonishingly though, the most differences between any two individuals, regardless of race, was 12 base pairs. One male was a 100% genetic match to individuals from Iceland, the Balkan Peninsula, and Africa; three completely different races. This was revolutionary to me because it showed that there are very few differences between any two individuals within a society, despite skin color. It proved that race is in reality just a socially constructed concept. (All of these concepts were applied from Race: The Power of Illusion).
There is a lot of evidence in racial stereotypes that cannot be denied. Animals are often instinctively forced to make judgments based on physical differences to survive. Just like animals, it is often innate for humans to make judgments. “We automatically, immediately, and unconsciously judge people based on race and sex,” says psychologist John Dovidio. In the exercises performed by the children asked to choose who they perceived as nice, mean, weird, etc., they displayed great stereotypes. These are just children who already have perceptions about race. Somewhere they have been exposed to negative stereotypes associated with certain races. This isn’t a surprising statement though. It is essential that we stop ignoring these stereotypes. To lessen discrimination, we have to address and identify these perceptions. After we recognize these stereotypes are real and are affecting our nation, we must next disclose the facts about the biological myth of race. Many are uneducated about these topics and need to be informed. Following the clarification that race is a socially constructed concept that we inevitably “made up”, we have to present the realities of the flourishing racial discrimination and inequality in the United States. Finally, to promote equality and decrease racial prejudices, we must educate the upcoming generations. We have to shatter the false premises of racial purity, various “subspecies”, and ethnocentrism. We have to inform and engage our youth with the truth about racism, genetic myths of race, and the future for racial concepts in America. Promoting change for racial institutions contemporarily would be favored, but it is critical to educate our younger generations about the reality and consequences associated with race.”

Sources:
Race and Ethnic Stratification Outline – Candace Warner, Associate Professor of Sociology
Video: Race: The Power of Illusion
pbs.org: What is Race? Is Race Real?
Video: Race and Sex: What We Think (But Don’t Say)
Sociology in Modules – Richard T. Schaefer