Prologue (1/7): Child of Corwick

Her story began as many others: with a mother’s screams. She came into the world with more grace than others, however, and her mother lived through the ordeal. She was not even dropped in shock when the midwives saw the strange markings, like tattoos, that covered her frail little body, and her mother’s love saw not these differences where others may not have been so blind. This love filled her mother’s voice as she looked into her blue eyes and sighed, “Aeris.”

In short, Aeris Faulkner was born lucky, for had she not been, she would not have made it past her first waking moment.

Neither her hunter and leatherworker father nor her shopkeeper mother knew what to make of her strange appearances, but Corwick’s people did. She was different, and that singled her out. For the most part, that difference meant only distance placed between herself and anyone else, and only occasionally did it come to violence. But through their mocking, she learned what she was: a sylph, born of human origins yet with elemental ancestry, able to utilize the winds to her advantage. The people made their point with their cold stares and hushed voices: she did not belong and she never would. And so, Aeris stuck to the back corners and side streets, learning how to remain unnoticed, how to use the winds to aid her stealth, for they could not deny her if they did not see her; their staring eyes would find no purchase.

Finally, it became too much for her, and she left her hometown Corwick when humans would come of age. She sought a band of ne’er-do-wells about whom she heard whispered rumors, who lived in a giant cave and lived by their own law, that of thieves and mercenaries. She discovered on her trek a clay that could hide her swirling marks, the hints of abnormality. She practiced remaining stoic so as to keep the winds calm as well. And so she approached the cave with confidence, determined to fit in, eager to be known as something other than the freak, and, most of all, afraid of rejection.

She should not have feared so, for outside her isolationist human hometown, there awaited a world full of creatures much more strange and frightening than herself.

Next>>

About Religion

Since this blog is relatively brand spankin’ new, none of you know about my personal beliefs. In a professional sense, that is perfectly fine, but as I’m writing here in part to rant about certain things and to hopefully provide some insights to those seeking answers, to those who have been where I have been and need to know that they are not alone in their struggles, I feel it is necessary to write about something that was once a big part of my life, and that involves religion. More specifically Christianity.

Now before you run away, know that I’m not here to convert you. Quite the opposite. I grew up in a religious household, but I’m far from that now. My parents are uninformed about my current view of life, and if luck holds out, they always will be in the dark. Or at least, I’ll try to maintain the illusion until they move out of state and I’m ready to be disowned just in case that is their reaction. If you face this same dilemma, I feel for you. I wish I was more courageous and capable of just telling them and then washing my hands clean, but we know what happened to the guy in that story and I’m too sensitive to be villainized just yet.

Growing up, I was deeply embedded in the Christian religion and surrounded by friends and family who were all Christian. I thought it was right and true and everything one could hope for and that I would strive to be the best Christ-like person I could. And then I moved away from most of my friends and family, moving thousands of miles away with my parents and sister. The initial response from being yanked from all my close connections was to “draw closer to God,” so reading the Bible and praying and shit. I tried to maintain those connections through email discussions of passages and such, but they all slowly withered away, as many long-distance relationships do. That was the first sign, one I didn’t even notice, that indicated a fork in the road of life coming up. (Yes, cliched, I know.)

My immediate family found a new church in our new hometown to attend. I was ignored by the other teens there, which I initially didn’t mind because I don’t necessarily like a bunch of attention at once. But it gradually gnawed at me that these twits wouldn’t invite me to their Christian-y events and excluded me in conversations and left me out of their hangout circles during little breaks in church activities. This lack of connectivity to Christian peers in my age group led to me withdrawing slightly. Even then, I was embedded enough I wouldn’t slip out of the Christian ranks, however.

And then college happened. I left the influence of my immediate family, the only thing keeping me tied to the Church. At that point, I was aware of how much I had backed away from Christianity. Granted, I was saddened by the fact and wanted nothing less than to find my way back to the “straight and narrow.” I found a church in the city the college is in and attended regularly for another several months.

Finally, it hit me. The services weren’t doing anything for me, and I had to wake up earlier and drive out to go to them. I no longer firmly believed in what I was being told in church and in fact disagreed with common Christian views on some subjects. I made friends who were non-Christians who shared their perspectives on issues, and I agreed more and more with what they had to say.

So, I stopped going to Church, initially out of laziness and then out of the realization that I didn’t share their beliefs. Why go? It would only be a waste of my time.

I didn’t realize I made a choice at the fork of the road at that point. It took me several months before I realized the surrounding changed. I was actually watching a video of a guy called Mr Repzion when I realized that I could not consider myself a Christian anymore.

So, that’s the setup. Now here’s the dilemma: my parents. They’re concerned about my lack of church attendance and view it as a reason to pray for me. God dammit… I used to feel gratitude when hearing someone say that they were praying for me, but now I cringe inside. I now thoroughly dislike hearing about Jesus and about the Bible and about sin. Unless it’s discussed with an open mind by people who don’t act like they have a stick up their ass and not someone who is trying to “bring me back into the flock” because they “fear for my soul.” I don’t mind an open-minded discussion and in fact can enjoy it since I have that background knowledge of the Bible combined with the dissatisfaction of growing up with ignorance-encouraging, close-minded, preachy Bible-thumpers I call family.

Do I tell them I’m not Christian anymore, or do I wait until I’m in a different state and not dependent on their hospitality? I don’t know how much longer I can fake still being a Christian for the sake of avoiding the chaos that will ensue after I announce I’m now agnostic. A part of me believes I shouldn’t pretend to be something that I’m not, but I really don’t want to deal with the reaction to my announcement just yet. I wish I could believe the best of my parents, but I can’t. I just know they’ll try to bring me “back to the light.” I think only shock therapy or a lobotomy could put me in the condition in which bringing me back would be possible. But that doesn’t stop them from trying.

I still have strained relations with my mother, who is freaking out that I stopped going to church. She’s afraid that I’m turning my back on Christianity. Which I am, in essence, and here’s why:

The Catholic Church decided which accounts of men would be bound together under the title “Holy Bible.” These were accounts written in Hebrew, ancient Greek, Arabic, and possibly other languages originally, then translated into Latin for the priests and clergy. From what the Catholics chose, Martin Luther translated into the vernacular, the common tongue, so that non-clergymen could understand it themselves. And from there, it was translated into other languages, such as English. The English monarchy chose how it was to be translated; King James I took the Bible and gave his translators instructions so that his version would conform to the Church of England’s views. The language itself changed into what it is today, resulting in more and more “modern” translations of the Bible.

Therefore, you (here “you” will refer to Christians, not “you” as in audience, unless you are, in fact, Christian audience members, in which case that is merely coincidence… or not, considering my tags) place your faith in men. It was by Man’s hand that the words were initially recorded, by Man’s knowledge that those words were then translated, and by Man’s volition that those groups of words appear to Christians in their text.

But Christians (at least the ones I know) will argue that the Holy Bible is God’s Word. They will say they place their faith in God that the Bible is His Word, not Man. They won’t see all the places men could have stumbled in the delivery; they’ll claim the package is not damaged without even rattling the box, let alone opening it. God wouldn’t let “His Word” be misrepresented, right?

If you make the assumption that there is a god, even if you assume that the Christian God is the one true God, there are still issues to address about the Bible. Doesn’t God “work in mysterious ways”? If God allows some people to die but others to live, with no reasoning that we can make out, who’s to say He won’t act differently than what people assume? God didn’t strike Hitler down to stop the Holocaust; who knows His every plan? He allowed the Mormons their Book, He didn’t stop the Qur’an from being recorded, and He didn’t strike down the creators of the Tipitaka. Who’s to say this “Holy Bible” isn’t just another?

It’s great that people believe in things that help them get through life with hope in a satisfying future and less stress. But people shouldn’t look down on or “fear” for others just because they don’t hold the same beliefs. Maybe there is a God, and He just doesn’t want to see His “children” squabbling. Maybe He’s waiting until we can all live in peace, and then He’ll reward us. Maybe there is no god and religious bickering and fighting is completely and utterly pointless in the grand scheme of things. Maybe one religion has it right and the rest of the world is screwed, but how do we know which one it is? In any case, we should be tolerant of each other, assuming that one’s religious beliefs and practices are not disruptive or harmful to our fellow living organisms, especially humans.

This is what I would like to see out of everyone: holding to your own beliefs without trying to stuff them in other people’s faces and down their throats. Live your life the way you believe is good and right, question everything you are told and taught, don’t try to “convert” people. If your way of living is so great, people will ask about it and then you can tell them. Otherwise, don’t be pushy and claim your way is right and everyone else is wrong. Don’t be AFRAID for someone you think is going to hell. That means you believe firmly that they are wrong and you are right. This is basically what my mom has said to me, that she is afraid for my soul in the same way that she is afraid for someone’s life if they smoke. That analogy blows (couldn’t help myself). That is saying that since you don’t believe exactly what I believe, you’re going to hell. Unfortunately, that basically sums up all religion.

That’s basically religion’s goal from my perspective, to convert you from your current set of beliefs into another and then maintain its hold on you until you die. If you are a part of any other religion besides whatever THIS religion is, you’re wrong and will pay for your blatant ignorance. But then there’s a different sense to the label “religion,” isn’t there? In my mind, there are the Religions (Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Judaism, Pagan, Shinto, etc.), the groups of accepted beliefs with a following, and then there are religions, what an individual believes. I know, that isn’t exactly the definition. You’d say that those are just a person’s set of beliefs that perhaps do not have a convenient label on them, but it’s much easier to just slap the term of “personal religion” than that explanation. Everyone has a personal religion, even atheists. Now, I know many Christians believe that atheism is a religion itself, but really it isn’t. It is merely the rejection of a specific religious concept that there is a god in existence based on the lack of evidence for such a claim. It isn’t so much of a belief as a disbelief. Anyway, the point of introducing the idea of a personal religion is this: while Religion’s goal is to convert you to whatever you aren’t, personal religion’s goal should always be to find the truth of things. Religion is arrogant, fundamentally fundamentalist. Personal religion should be humble and eager to question and learn and seek out and ponder, confident in the truths it has found but willing to admit such perceived truths as false if given clear evidence. This is a dangerous thought and is discouraged in almost every church I’ve ever stepped into. They like to degrade it, calling it a convenient “buffet” style of religion. Bah! I have nothing positive to say to that, so I won’t.

And more than just religion, we shouldn’t assume that our views in general are so much better than someone else’s, at the very least until we’ve heard them out on why they see things the way they do. Take, for instance, one’s outlook on life. Here’s a link to an article written by a religious person on fatalism. And here are my problems with what she has to say:

I don’t see why the writer has such a negative view toward fatalism. Sure, fatalism isn’t a great outlook on life since it usually involves self-fulfilling prophecy. But do you trash pessimism? Is optimism the only way anyone can think? Is someone somehow less than you if they think that whatever happens will happen? I myself have been accused of being a fatalist because I’ve said similar things. I don’t really consider myself a fatalist; however, in case that’s what I actually am, I’ll let you in on my views of life.

We each try our hardest. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we fail. Can we do better than our best? We can strive to improve and progress, and our best becomes better, but at any given moment there is a limit for our own efforts. So by saying, “Whatever will be, will be” someone like me is simply stating, “I have done what I can. The situation is out of my hands now, and I’m choosing not to stress about it.” That’s one of the best things about praying is that you don’t have to worry about it, whatever “it” is, anymore. So if someone finds comfort in such an outlook, why do you have to attack that?

And it’s hardly right to say to someone who has suffered, “You have suffered for no reason. God just let it happen. He could have stopped it, but he didn’t, and there was no divine reason for it.” If they can deal with their past because they believe that there was a reason it happened to them and that they are stronger now because of it, why deprive them of that? Why take away someone’s method of coping with the crap they’ve gone through?

Also, pagans are a specific type of people, not necessarily all non-Christians… The Catholic church did much to make the word “pagan” associated with evil, but pagan is just another label for someone who has a certain set of beliefs.

Also, karma doesn’t have to be directly tied to Buddhism or Hinduism, though it has its origins from them. I believe in karma, but I’m not from either religion. Karma can simply be the belief that someone who does wrong will be punished and someone who does right will be rewarded. “What comes around goes around,” “you reap what you sow,” etc. Even if you are Christian and the “blood of Christ covers your sin,” if you do wrong, there will be consequences to your well-being, even if it’s very slight, like feeling guilty. I don’t see how such a belief is bad for someone to have.

And as for Christianity being “tainted” by different beliefs, OF COURSE it is. Srsly? Do you not know your own religion’s history? (to the author) Well, I suppose that is to be expected.

Well, that was really long so I’ll end it here. I’m just sick of all the religious bullshit I have to go through because of my oppressive, religious family. I know I’m not the only one who has to deal with things like this, and so if you’re going through it too and are reading this, good luck, I wish you the best. Courage to you to do what is best for you. I sometimes wonder if I’m only being cowardly by not telling my parents… but I’d like to think it’s more out of laziness and convenience.

Useless

Whenever someone I know goes through something, I don’t know what to say or do to help. I feel useless and shitty, and shittier for feeling shitty even though I’m not going through what they are. But what am I supposed to do? I ask, and they say, “There’s nothing you can do.” It’s impossible to tell if they mean that or if they are just too uncomfortable asking me to do whatever would help, whether that be because they don’t feel close enough to me to be able to ask or because they’re too proud and stubborn. And I have a LOT of stubborn people in my life, some of them even somehow proud of their stubbornness.

So I mentally shrug to myself and say what can one do. What else can I do?

Old Wives’ Tale: Hair Growth

A common belief that has been passed down generation to generation is that cutting hair actually encourages hair growth. I myself believed this to be true but found myself wondering if this wasn’t just another old wives’ tale that I was tricked into placing unwitting faith into something so silly. Time and time again, I find that I’ve been taught and indoctrinated to believe in things that turn out to be false. [INSERT DERIDING COMMENT ABOUT RELIGION HERE] And so I thought I’d do a little digging to get to the root of all this.

Starting off without looking up any sources, it conceptually made sense to me. We prune bushes for the good of it growing, right? So why wouldn’t it be similar for hair? And the second justification for why hair might grow faster would be because you are reducing the weight put on the follicles which would then, I reasoned, allow the follicles to push more hair out, encouraging production.

But I’m no biologist nor physician, and so that is where my train of thought paused until I could gather more information. I assume plant biology is different from human biology since I breathe in oxygen and don’t usually jizz out eggs that fly around in the air and up people’s noses, so the pruning analogy might not be valid. Hair also consists mainly of dead cells, yet another flaw. The physics viewpoint is tenuous at best. And so, to the internet I delved.

According to the Huffington Post [1] and a butt-load of other such sites, no, cutting hair does not do anything for hair growth. It gets rid of things such as split ends or weaknesses in the hair that would result in it breaking and thus partially staying shorter, but the actual rate your hair grows does not change due to the trim. Which, if you think about it, is basically only one aspect of pruning bushes (again, not a biologist). So what does affect the rate of growth? Anything?

Before I go any further, I should probably mention some of the basics about hair growth. You can check out WebMD’s article about the “science” of hair [2]. Here, you can find information about how hair grows. Hair grows in cycles which consists of a growing period (anagen), a resting period (telogen), and a transitional phase between the two (catagen). The anagen phase lasts for about 2 to 6 years, and the catagen phase lasts for 2 to 3 weeks. The telogen period lasts for about 100 days and is when the hair stops growing and falls out, about 25 to 100 resting hairs a day. There are also three different types of hair: Lanugo (fetus hair), vellus (soft, unpigmented hair), and terminal (long, thick, and pigmented) [3]. Here, I’m only talking about the terminal hair that can be found on the scalp. And with that, I’m moving on.

It’s really easy to notice a difference in the hair growth rate in animals; many animals have seasonal coats, thicker for winter and then we all get to enjoy the change of coats as they shed all over the place for the warmer seasons. Those of us with allergies get to doubly enjoy it. The length of the photoperiod affects animals’ follicles; the longer the day, the more at rest the follicles are and thus the shorter or thinner the hair [4], at least with some animals such as the cashmere goat.

Could we be affected similarly to the seasons? I didn’t look this up directly, but my answer based on the material I found is that no, our hair won’t grow more during the colder seasons, at least not significantly. And here is why I think this: we don’t shed. Not in the same sense, anyway. We don’t lose hair on an annually or semi-annually basis; instead, we lose it daily after our hair goes into the telogen phase, which 6 to 8% of our hair is at any given time [2]. We also have different hair types (vellus and terminal, as mentioned earlier), and our hair has different properties than most animals’. 

That said, there are other trends that occur during summer that could have more impact, though still imperceptively. Hair is made up of proteins, so it stands to reason that if you have a change in diet that vastly increases or reduces your protein intake, your hair growth will be affected, which WebMD also mentions [5]. Other substances that you consume will also affect your hair growth. From what I’ve found, your diet is the biggest thing that you can control that contributes the most to your hair health and growth. Well, besides hormones, but I’ll touch on that later.

However, the same woman interviewed for the Huffington Post’s trim myth article was interviewed for another article two months later on this subject [6]. I know, two Huffington Post (and two WebMD) references in one article. Ugh. But the appeal to authority is strong with this one! Their trichologist interviewee mentions in this article that whatever changes in our diet that comes of typical summer trends is minimal and probably not even noticeable, in essence. Whether or not this expert meant the same about the effects of diet minimally contributing to one’s hair is hard to discern from the short article. Perhaps she meant that compared to your genetics, any other change will likely not affect your hair in any significant manner. Or perhaps she meant just eating a lot of fruit compared to winter does not make a noticeable difference.

But what about drugs? The one drug most of us take, in many cases daily, is caffeine. Those of us concerned about growing hair can relax, though, because according to this study [7], caffeine actually helps hair shafts elongate and prolongs the anagen phase, resulting in more growth. Steroids would have a significant impact, however, as they typically contain hormones. See [3] (PO. . . had to) for speculation on how androgen could affect hair growth.

There are many other factors that contribute to the health and growth of your hair. Here’s a questionably reliable list of things that might aid or hinder you in your path to righteously awesome long, lovely locks [8]. This last reference is unfortunately the least reliable as it does not have the author’s name nor references the author might have pulled information from, so read with the realization that this person could be making up whatever they wished and just feeding it to you as absolute truth. We wouldn’t want any more myths going around now, would we?

Here’s the skinny of it: trimming your hair does not affect the growing rate which is mainly determined by your genes. You can affect your hair’s health and growth in small ways, through your diet mostly, but for the most part, your hair’s growth will not change significantly without the use of hormones, intentionally or not.

EDIT: I should have mentioned this before, but perhaps the reason we might think a hair cut results in quicker growth is due to perception. The percentage growth is easier to witness, and so when we take a look at, say, 1 inch length hair, when it grows 1 more inch, that’s 100% growth. But if we look at 10 inches of hair, 1 inch growth is only 10% growth; it’s far less noticeable. Perception is a funny thing!

Fare thee well, and thanks for reading!

REFERENCES
[1] The Huffington Post, 2012, “Hair Growth Tips: Do Regular Trims Really Make It Grow Faster?” Huff. Post,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/07/hair-growth-tips-trim_n_1477383.html
[2] WebMD, 2010, “Hair Loss: The Science of Hair,” WebMD,
http://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/science-hair?page=1
[3] Alwaleedi, S., 2015, “The Involvement of Androgens in Human Hair Growth,” Amer. J. of Biomed. Sciences, 7(2), pp. 105-124.
[4] Lin, B., Gao, F., Guo, J., Wu, D., Hao, B., Li, Y., and Zhao, C., 2016, “A Microarray-Based Analysis Reveals that a Short Photoperiod Promotes Hair Growth in the Arbas Cashmere Goat,” PLoS ONE, 11(1), doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0147124B
[5] Saling, J. and Martin, L., 2011, “Eat Right for Your Hair Type,” WebMD,
http://www.webmd.com/beauty/hair-health-11/eat-hair-type?page=1
[6] The Huffington Post, 2012, “Does Hair Grow Faster in the Summer? A Pro Gives us the Real Answer,” Huff. Post.,
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/17/hair-grows-faster-summer_n_1671907.html
[7] Fischer, T., Herczeg-Lisztes, E., Funk, W., Zilikens, D., Biro, T., and Paus, R., 2014, “Differential Effects of Caffeine on Hair Shaft Elongation, Matrix and Outer Root Sheath Keratinocyte Proliferation, and Transforming Growth Factor-Beta2/Insulin-Like Growth Factor-1-Mediated Regulation of the Hair Cycle in Male and Female Human Hair Follicles in Vitro,” Brit. J. of Derm., 171(5), pp. 1031-1043.
[8] Author, G., “Factors Affecting Hair Growth,”
http://www.healthresource4u.com/factors-affecting-hair-growth.html

Picture from unsplash.com‘s Hannah Morgan

Coming Soon: Shadowbreeze

The story of the Shadowbreeze is that of a Pathfinder campaign I participated in with some friends a while back, from the perspective of the character I created. I took some liberties as both my and my DM’s memories began to fade on the events quite some time ago. I will begin posting the story starting with the first part of the prologue on the 18th. If you enjoy fantasy, DnD, or a good story, tune in here!

Hello, and thank you for stopping by my new website! Unfortunately, I don’t have anything for you yet, so please stop by again in about a couple of weeks! I’m working on putting the thing together currently while balancing a lot of other transitions outside of this project.

Thank you for your patience!