Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mario and God--what they have to do with each other

It's been a while, hasn't it?

It feels quite pleasant to write about this again. For a variety of reasons. Not the least of which is all the other writing I've focused on.

In the last level of the newest Super Mario Brothers for the Wii, just before you fight the very large and imposing Bowser, you hop into this chamber of slowly sinking lava. You stand on this platform that sinks faster than the lava does, dragging you down in the goopy orange that makes Mario shout "oh no" and Luigi yell "ow ow ow" before sealing your fate in failure. Just before your platform sinks into the lava, a new platform appears. The lava keeps sinking and you keep moving down the chamber that way, trying to find a new platform before your current one sinks into the fire. (It reminds me of a scene I wrote in a book, actually.)

I realized midway the key to the level was faith. If you wanted to live, you had to jump in the air towards the area still covered with lava, believing that the game creators had put a platform there that would emerge from the orange death-trap before you landed in it. It became easy to guess where they'd put the platforms just based on the distance between previous platforms, but you never actually know where you'll land until you land.

God has treated me like those game creators treat us lately. It's lava, and I have no idea where to land. But I knew that the game creators didn't make an impossible game. There had to be another platform in that chamber SOMEWHERE, and I sure as the lake of fire couldn't keep standing on the same platform, so I had to jump.

I guess I just have to trust that God didn't make an impossible game, and that as I step forward into craziness, there's going to be a place to land.

I'll try to remember that next time I'm on a sinking platform in a chamber of lava.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Excerpts from a Trip Beyond the Equator

"This place feels like such a home to me. Every little thing, from our bus (tetanus waiting to happen) to my moisture enhanced bedroom (the brick holds in water really really really well...way too well) to the night sky chock full of stars I´ve never seen before somehow just welcomes me. The people are so real here--the world is awfully dark, and to hear the stories people have about their lives is to cry inside (one of my friends here was very surprised to find that both of my parents attend church...that´s not normal here), but God is working in the church here, and that is absolutely amazing. I really would like to live here as a permanent missionary after medical school.
Now to the pictureless picture. The team went to visit Iguazu falls, the biggest waterfall volume-wise in South America, and I did not want to go. Thank God my parents encouraged me to tag along. We went and looked down into this huge Sarlaac pit of water just pouring into it by the tons, thundering so hard that a huge white mist arose to be seen from at least a mile away. We went and stood practically underneath one of the falls, and I got soaked just by the cloud that rises from the impact of the water hitting itself on the bottom. Being there I almost felt I was going to collapse with wonder...on the way back I couldn´t speak, or even really think. On the little train away from the falls we girls rode in the back, and they asked me what I was thinking. I started crying. This was and is quite embarrassing, but I am sharing it because I want to let you know what the waterfall asked me.
If this massive, immense, majestic, powerful, simply awesome moving formation came from the hand of God...and if compared to Him it is as nothing...than what is He? We are told so much about who He is, but compared to the reality it´s so obvious that we know absolutely NOTHING of His Holiness, His Power, His worthiness to be feared above all things, and so loved! And what of me? What of His relationship with me? If just the MIST of the waterfall could soak me, what of just the slightest nearness to God? As I write this I wish you could see how hard it is for me to find words, because this is so much more than I can possibly express. There is absolutely nothing that I can give a God like that. If I tossed a cup of water into the fall, it would make more so little difference...how much less can I add anything to God!!! I have nothing to give!
Except my heart. My heart is everything that I am, all my life, all my soul, my strength, the way I move when I´m working, the steps I take when I´m dancing, the vibrations in the air when I´m singing, even how I sleep...To me, it seems like it would just be His due. To me, the miracle is that He would accept it as the most precious gift in the world.
I feel like a thousand gazillion tons of water shattered everything I ever thought I knew yesterday. I want this more, so much more...I want to know and serve the God of the waterfall, here, and now!
And THAT is what I need you to pray for.
Much much love,
... "

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Endothermic God, Part 3--what about us?

Just one more note about our perpetual motion God.

He is endothermic because He allows us to give back to Him.  We praise him, we do good for him, "ascribing honor, glory, and power."  We cannot possibly increase his energy level, but we feed into him anyway.  God admits throughout the bible that His heart is gladdened by his people.  Somehow, we add happiness to him.

Yet that very accepting--the very endothermicness of taking from us--throbs with exothermic action.  As our frigid little bodies draw near to him, giving him the tiny lack of heat that we are, our actions of love warm our own hearts by nearness to him.  "God loves a cheerful giver"--in our giving, we receive love and blessing.  Even God's stooping, bending down to accept our love only comes down to another exothermic giving of himself to us.

And yet through all this giving, he keeps on growing in energy.  Some mystical way, we feed into him, and his blessing moves through us back to him.  "From him" comes blessing, through us, back "to him"--all things work this way.  He blesses himself through us, enriching himself, increasing in energy, and in some mystical way, we commune.  God's exothermic nature spills over into us and we heat the people around us, and they catch on fire and heat towards God, and that nearness heats them, and it becomes an ever growing river of fire, of energy...

And onward into eternity we go.

Hot, Hot, Endothermic Deity 2

(*In case you have forgotten--I have simplified the definitions of endothermic and exothermic here.)

A while ago, I claimed that God is exothermic.  "Oh, no," you say. "The Title said..."  Well, yes, it did.  It said endothermic, even though I wrote an exothermic blog post.  Why?

Well, is God endothermic?  An endothermic reaction ends with more energy than it began with.  It brings heat into itself, from its surroundings, and leaves a highly potent system.  Many synthesis reactions are endothermic.  It often takes energy to push things together.  Because endothermic reactions have to take on energy, we say they are "energetically unfavorable:" They usually don't happen all by themselves unless they cause some extra special increase in disorder.

God is not endothermic in that way.  He does not need outside intervention to make the magic happen.  The Bible calls him a consuming fire, highly reactive, highly heat-giving, highly "energetically favorable," new every morning.  An exotherm.

Yet God does not lose energy like an exotherm.  He draws into himself.  He consistently becomes more and more potent, never burning out, never running out of anything--not uniqueness, not energy, not perfection--but rather improving always.  Can he improve upon perfection?  In the Bible, yes, for God is "perfect in Holiness."  Perfect in "differentness." When he promises that we will become perfect, because He is perfect, he still promises that he will remain different than us.  He will be ever more perfect than we.  He will always increase in energy and creativity, coming up with new ways to bless us, new mercies.  Hebrews even says that Jesus, the already perfect man, was perfected through his death on the cross, though he had no defects before; he did not need to die on the cross to become somehow worthy.  Yet in both Revelation and Isaiah we see that this death makes Christ all the more worthy of praise--even though he was already infinitely worthy before!  Like an endothermic reaction, His internal energy and his bright glory always ends up higher than it began, and He is more powerful, beautiful, helpful, good, and world-changing each moment. 

So God is the only being consistently improving without sucking something from his environment.  He is a consuming fire--he continually consumes, increases, takes into himself--yet he needs nothing to keep his fire going.  He is the exotherm giving heat to his endothermic, increasing-in-energy self, the only perpetual motion machine.  "From him and to him are all things": from that exothermic superstore flows all our heat, all our energy, physical and spiritual, and to the endothermic improvement he grows.

A note for getting back on track

One special thing about the God of the Bible: he is a being of opposites, not via inconsistency, but via the limited nature of the human language.  Our adjectives—terrible, beautiful—and ideas—justice, mercy, love, holiness—are all too limiting.  When you get to know him, he no longer looks contradictory or fracture, like a mural of traits soldered together into a convoluted ceramic idol.  He looks like a person.

I don’t prefer the poetry of Walt Whitman, but this sentence he wrote, while utter crap, hints at what I am trying to say, not about small, twisted, limited humans trying to justify their inconsistencies, but about the Lord of Hosts, the God of Multitudes.  Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

So I do not, with these contrasting pictures from I draw from nature, want to say, “God is impossible to know with reason” or “God is distant and horribly, complicatedly full of oxymorons.” I am not a follower of Emmanuel Kant.

I am a follower of Jesus Christ.  He said, “You shall know the Truth.” You shall know!  We can know. And we can know Him, and through Him, the beautiful paradox of the Most High God.  “He who has seen me has seen the Father.”

And the Father inspired David to say, long ago, that “the firmament declares the glory of God.” The world, flawed as we have made it, still sings through all our white noise.  Our reason, science, pets, history, food—it all says something about Him.  It all says complex stuff.  For God stands at juxtapositions.

And—I want to find him there.  Guided by the HandBook that tells me what he looks like, I want to push through the jungle of reality and see the glimpse of his coattail that Moses saw.  Without the Handbook, how could I identify him?  But without the world around me—well, I would be missing out to have a beautifully illustrated bird guide on my shelf, and never use it to go out bird-watching.
That’s what we’re doing.  Bird-watching.  God-watching.  Because we are Juxtapositors, and our Master stands in the Paradox,  so that’s where we go.  Into the Juxtapositions!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Hot, Hot Endothermic Deity Part 1

Real quick, sorry I forgot to post something last week!  Anyway, today is Chemistry day here at Prometheus Studies, and I want to tell you about the Master of Paradoxes as endothermic and exothermic!

So endothermic and exothermic are chemically opposite phenomena that make beautiful analogies to how God works.  For those of you who don't know, something is endothermic when it absorbs heat and exothermic when it gives off heat--endo for "in" kind of, and exo for "out."  I always remember exo because of exoskeleton, which is the outside part of a bug, but that's probably not the easiest way for you to remember it.  However you remember it, things that are exothermic give off heat, and end up becoming colder than they were.  If you touch them, they feel hot, because the heat they are giving off is being absorbed by your hand.  So when something feels hot, it's exothermic and losing heat (becoming colder) as you take the heat away with your hand.  The opposite is true of endothermic--it absorbs heat, and feels cold because as IT is getting hotter, YOU are getting colder because it's stealing your heat like the mean little temperature vampire that it is mwahahahaha

As you can see I'm a bit on the excited side today. 

Anyway, so God is infinitely exothermic and infinitely endothermic.  He is exothermic because he gives off heat and light and energy, always at his own expense, to support and supply all the rest of us.  To us, he feels hot, sometimes threateningly so, or comfortably warm, because he is a violent and dangerous giver.  An explosion is an exothermic thing--he is like that.  A hand-warmer is another exothermic thing, and he is like that, too.  Whether in violent ways that blow us away, or in gentle every day kindness, God is an exothermic giver. 

But can God really become colder, like exothermic reactions are doing as they lose and give off heat?  As in, while we take what He has, does He experience loss?  Well, I would say yes, because when Jesus was walking around on earth, he was always losing.  He lost comfort, friendship, pleasure, and even life on his exothermic mission to give.  That's in fact the whole mystery of Jesus--that an infinitely warm God could become cold and dead as He poured Himself out for His people. 

This ties back to the whole point of this blog.  Fire, which Prometheus brings to man in the Greek legend, is a result of an exothermic "oxidation reaction" between oxygen and something else (usually an organic polymer like cellulose in wood) burning to create carbon dioxide and water.  It's the giving of heat as heat is taken out of the chemicals themselves.  Prometheus was exothermic just like the reaction--as he gave fire to man, he experienced loss of all the "heat" that makes existence wonderful as he suffered alone, a failure out on a cold mountain top cursed by the gods.  The Abundant Source of Fire finds himself cold, although we feel him as warm and giving, and the Abundant Source of Life finds himself dead.

I really appreciate that my dear Exothermic One did that for me.

All Gen Chem knowledge.  Next week, in Part 2, we'll talk about how God is endothermic.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

God as the BOX DESTROYER: Understanding God as Anisotropy

Bones, those voiceless hunks of wet calcium buried in the ooze and flesh we call our bodies, could talk about God in many ways.  They could sing to you about the One who "upholds the Universe by the Word of his Power" like bones uphold our bodies, or that our lives without him are ultimately foundationless, or that from Him comes life just as the red blood cells we need come from their birthplace in the bone marrow...they are metaphors for a lot of things.  But I'd make the case that a little bit of bone biomechanics weaves an analogy about God that perhaps you and I wouldn't have thought of otherwise.

In order to understand how pieces of our bodies respond to stresses or how they align or how to create replacement tissues or how tissues heal, biomechanical engineers have to use mathematical models. One way to model tissues in our bodies is as "hookean elastic solids." Generally, this means that the elasticity, the way the solid shears, and the ratio of stretching in two directions follow certain mathematical rules. All you really need to know about this model right now is that these three properties are the same in any direction.  If you pull on the hookean elastic solid the same way in any direction, it will be just as elastic.  If you twist it, it will always shear the same way no matter where in the material you shear it.  When you pull it, Poisson's Ratio, the ratio between the amount one part stretches when another part shrinks, always remains the same in any direction. This is called isotropy.

Bone isn't like that.  As an "orthotropic elastic solid," it's anisotropic and has different, but constant, properties in different directions; in order to bear the most load with the least waste of material and the best containment of soft bone marrow, bone is layered, and made of cells called osteons lined up in only one way. It bears more load in the direction that it needs to bear load, and isn't so forceful against load in other directions.  Elasticity, Shear Modulus (the way we describe behavior when you twist it), and Poisson's Ratio (that ratio I mentioned earlier) are different in every direction. This means that every time you calculate how the bone will behave, you have to take into account the direction it is loading in and the new properties for that direction.  We can still predict how bone will behave, and bone is still reliable mathematically, it's just not as simple as we'd like.  The equation has like ten more variables and takes three times as long to solve, but it's still a good equation.

God is like that.  When we try to understand his behavior in our lives or in the Bible, we need to take into account his different-ness, and stop treating him like he has to be isotropic. In different times of history--like different places on the bone--God behaves differently, with different amounts of force, mercy, and justice, not because he is unreliable, but because that way he can best support His Body and the Body of Christ, with the least loss.  Sometimes, we think him excessively violent. Sometimes we think him unfair.  But it's not like he's throwing away morality any more than the bone throws away reliability.  He simply has a much more complex job in history than we do. Just as bone shouldn't become isotropic just to fit our analysis (good Lord that would destroy your body), God should not have to submit himself to our rules about morality or who he can and cannot kill or whether or not he showed himself physically to us then and doesn't now or WHATEVER.

Many of you have heard the slogan "don't put God in a box." Quite frankly, something that infinite would require a large, large box, and God does not let himself be boxed. So the slogan really ought to be, "don't even try to put God in a box," because when you try, you merely break the box.  People sometimes get mad when God breaks their boxes, especially with the way he breaks some serious modern boxes in the Old Testament.  In our nice little moralities or pleasures or what have you, when God breaks our sets of rules he has committed sacrilege against our beliefs of right and wrong.  God has committed blasphemy against what we really worship.

And you better bet he's going to do it as much as he can until he's broken every box in the Universe. Some boxes he welds back together, others he melts down. Yet ultimately, God makes the boxes in this Universe, not you and me.

All scientific information in this post from BME 2220, my Biomechanics class at UVA.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,
   and look at the earth beneath;
(L) for the heavens vanish like smoke,
   the earth will wear out like a garment,
   and they who dwell in it will die in like manner;[b]
(M) but my salvation will be forever,
   and my righteousness will never be dismayed.

Isaiah 51

Just reiterating the point of this blog--that we can see metaphors of something eternal in the finite world in which we live.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

God is Gen and Eval

I normally write only about things that I know about, but I had a tiny little thought last night that I wanted to share with you about the beautiful Being I blab about here.

So, linguistics.  Despite common misunderstanding, linguists do not necessarily know a bunch of different languages, but rather understand how language in general works.  How do we learn language, how can we use it, why does grammar turn out this way, what languages are related--those are the kinds of questions linguists ask.  One of the really cool things a linguist can theoretically do is predict possible words in a language based on a limited knowledge of the sounds and morphemes, or units of meaning, in that language.

Linguists do that with something called "optimality theory." I don't really understand it at all, to tell you the truth, but I understand these two things--first, there's a huge pool of possible words called Gen.  Gen basically says "oh, look, all these options!" and shoots a gazillion ideas at you, without any limits.  To find out what real words in the language are, linguists use Eval.  Eval creates a set of constraints on the possibilities from Gen, saying "uh, no, that won't work in this language because of this or that".  The possible morpheme combinations come out of Eval, and linguists use a weird hand rule to select which one most probably forms a real word in the desired language.

I was thinking about God the other day, and I got really excited about this silly little idea of mine.  So, God is Gen, right?  He's limitless, and there are no boundaries on Him, no rules, and infinite possibilities.  But He's also eval.  He created matter, and matter, unlike energy, has definite boundaries and rules. The moment He created matter, He created boundaries and constraints: spiritual boundaries, physical boundaries, etc.  He Himself holds those things together, so He himself is Eval. 

This is weird!  God is Gen, and God is Eval.  God is limitless, but God chooses to restrict Himself for the sake of a functioning universe.  He creates goodness and right and wrong and pushes all His limitless possibilities through those constraints to come up with the Optimal Universe--the best story that could ever be told, and the most glorious History.  For That really is his purpose--That gloriousness, all congealing around Him and Us.  He knows how every little person or ant or wind would affect anything else, and He puts all the possible universes through His Great Big Heart of Eval and comes out with Optimality.

Are you able to believe that?  Can you trust that this God of paradoxes, this great Master of Opposites Who Is Both Gen and Eval, knows how to bring forth great and wonderful things from the possibilities that you or I might prefer instead?  I'm not able to believe that in a functional way, but I still think it's pretty cool to think about.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

An Endoplasmic Reticulum-y God

When I was littler than I am now, I used to use cell organelles as insults.  I have no idea why.  "Get off my lawn, you endoplasmic reticulum nucleus golgi body!" I don't even know what that means.

Endoplasmic reticulum is pretty cool, actually.  I've learned a lot about it recently that I didn't know.  Everyone knows, I think, that endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is the series of tubes in your cells that carry stuff all around the cell, like a high way system, they told us back in middle school.  They told us that two kinds of "highway" swerve through our cells--the smooth ER, and the rough ER, covered in those protein-producing ribosomes.  They never told us anything special about the smooth ER--after all, it didn't have ribosomes on it.  Did you know, however, that the smooth ER also does lipid synthesis, calcium ion storage, and drug detoxification?  And that the smooth and rough ER are actually all part of the same long, windy, twisted series of long bent sacks?  There actually aren't separate ERs--hence the name Endoplasmic Reticulum instead of reticulae.

I posit, in my wild insanity, that ER also represents God, a god of paradoxes whose thoughts, as I read today in Isaiah, are infinitely above ours and complex, weaving through all of the universe and the Bible in ways we cannot always put together.  Sometimes we see a God of vengeance, sometimes of mercy, sometimes of death, sometimes of life, sometimes of air, sometimes of earth, a consuming fire and a satisfying water.  What does this have to do with ER?  Only that the two different pieces, which I once thought separate, actually constitute one and the same being.  I simply never saw the connection points--and amidst the winding mess, finding connections between two different substances can seem nearly impossible, much like with God.  I also never saw much use for smooth ER, just as many people do not see much use for God's wrath or justice or jealousy.

Yet God's thoughts, in all his complex paradox and all the winding impenetrability of his nature, carry our very existence forward, moving around all the substances that make up the fabric of our lives.  Often the parts of him that don't seem to make much sense or have much purpose become the most precious and important attributes of his being.  If He lives within us, his thoughts store our potential for action--just as ER stores calcium that makes physical action possible.  His more complex attributes rid our hearts of poison and provide an anchor for our living plans and daily bread and all the other "ribosomes" that create our lives on the most basic level.

So I suppose it would be a little odd to say "next time you think of ER, think of God," since you probably don't think about ER very much.  So instead, I ask that next time you think of God, you think of ER; next time God confuses you or does something in the Bible that you don't think he would do, remember that the connection points between the "rough" and the "smooth" God may be difficult to understand, but that no matter what, in his "rough" and "smooth" actions, God is serving His people.  Just as rough and smooth ER are one and the same, God in his rough and smooth is the same God who pulls together all the important processes of your life.

All scientific information in this blog post from Professor Guilford's Cell and Molec Bio for Engineers, UVA

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Clownfishing Around with a Deadly God

Nemo has ensured that everyone knows that the sea anemone stings, and kills, all fish except for one--the little clownfish, whose skin bears a sticky immunity after years and years of exposing itself to the deadly tentacled animal.  I think, if you search with me among the tingly arms to gaze deep beyond our striped fortress-dweller, you will find a picture of our true Prometheus, a God of deadly power whose very substance is deeply opposed to ours.  Even if we were perfect and good, every bit of his existence carries a danger that makes angels cover up to avoid his touch.  Every other being in the universe--except us, the indomitable spiritual clownfish--cannot survive the touch of God.

Yet He asks us to dwell in the very midst of Him, surrounding ourselves with Him every day, touching Him, and being touched by Him.  Never in the Bible do we see God touch an angel, but Jesus touched people all the time.  We humans may cover ourselves with His blood just as the clownfish's skin coats with the protective mucous--and dwell in His presence. 

We could talk about sin here, since other fish probably have a protein coating that the anenome's nematocysts recognize as food--just as in our normal sin, we really can only serve to be consumed by the holiness of the fire of God.  But some have theorized that the clown fish's mucous, based on sugars, fails to call out, "hey, I'm food" to the nematocysts.  In the same way, our new living, based on the coating that God has inspired in us, no longer screams out for destruction.

But more importantly, we could talk about God, and his "otherness"--the quality Christians often call holiness.  The word actually means his uniqueness and "set-apart"-ness.  The clownfish lives set apart from all other fish not only by where it lives and the dangers it can conquer, but by its very essence and the very pores that produce sugars instead of proteins.  How much more "set-apart" and special is the God who can bear the infinity of danger and pleasure in which He lives!

Monday, May 16, 2011

God is Pain, God is Pleasure

Did you know that pain and intense, intense pleasure are activated in the same part of the brain, at least in a study done on women?  The Count of Monte Christo once claimed, and continues to claim to every reader who reaches the end of his lengthy vengeant story, that he would not have understood joy had he not understood pain.  Yet this study shows that somewhere, some more significant binding ties together pain and pleasure, not simply "understanding by contrast." 

This study also brings to mind the verses that call out for God's children, the benefactors of Prometheus, to live ever in sorrow, ever in deepest joy.  "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phillipians) and yet "sorrow is better for the soul than joy" (Ecclesiastes)--"mourn with those who mourn and rejoice with those who rejoice," when somewhere in the world someone always has a reason to begin celebration and someone else a cause to weep.  I have often read these as a dual life, in which our deep internal joy for the love the Lord bears us carries us through the sorrows that prick us to the heart, as if our beings were marbled with joy and sorrow.

Yet perhaps, rather than marble, the joy and the sorrow come from the same stone.  This is a wondrous mystery, but perhaps God allows sorrow not that we might understand joy, but that we might be able to experience it.  It could be that the exercise of pain that we receive now only prepares us for the ability to feel the intense pleasures of heaven.  Pain itself does not harm anyone, and only serves as the warnings of unhealth, but the terrible practice of the intensity of its sensation perhaps strengthens the weak desires and tastes of our beings to really indulge in unbridled enjoyment.  Of course these things are metaphorical speculation...

But on a higher level, does this not lead us to consider the mystery of the nature of God himself?  Consider the consequences of pain to a God who feels so much more intensely than we do--after all, our vision carries a tiny piece of the visual spectrum, our smell only a bit of the possible sensations of the nose, surely our feelings and the emotions in that tiny hypothalamus must be very limited indeed compared with those of the Being of Infinity Himself!  Consider also how every time someone we love experiences joy, our hearts beat a bit faster--how much more must God, in whom exists ultimate love, thrill at the prospect of our happiness?  And if pain and pleasure are intimately connected, somehow, perhaps God is not merely marbled with pain and pleasure, but He himself is the severe, dangerous, yet incredibly beautiful source and combination of the whole intensity of both!  This thought makes me tremble and admire and love.

Information on pain and pleasure from Discovery Health
P.S. on the title--if p=true, reverse p does not necessarily equal true.  Neither pain nor pleasure are God.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Ben 10 Ultimate Alien: Because Teenage Infidelity is TOTALLY ookay

I absolutely adore Ben 10, and Ultimate Alien has some crazy cool aliens and fights. I'm really peeved, though, because no matter how many worlds you save, or how many times Man of Action (Ben 10's producer group) tells us about forgiveness, honor, friendship, loyalty, and courage, there's this gross slimy feeling creeping up my spine about the new series. Not only does it enforce clear gendered stereotypes, it's (I hope accidentally) making preteens imbibe this idea that infidelity is just a part of any relationship. Because guys can't help it.

Kevin Levin, the anything-absorbing half-Osmosian powerhouse, has a bad attitude and a hard history that makes him the most impressionable and endearing character in the show. Like Beast Boy, the voice actor's previous role, he's generally comedic relief. However, the infidelity in our nation's relationships is no joke, and Man of Action consistently makes it funny through Kevin's ogling of women other than his girlfriend, the magical pink-mana-blasting half-Anodite Gwen Tennyson. This wasn't such a problem in "Ben 10 Alien Force," where when he did stray, he faced horrible consequences and quickly learned his lesson. In Ultimate Alien, Kevin never actually cheats on Gwen, but wow he has some serious problems keeping his gaze set on her! Almost every blonde on the show becomes an object of his wandering eyes. Kevin probably won't actually do anything, but jokes alone enforce the stereotype that men just can't help looking to other women; infidelity seems normal and funny.

As I said, Kevin may not do anything, but the season premier that came on last Friday shows that Ben might. The 16-year-old shapeshifter's had relationship troubles the entire last season, but supposedly cleared it up by saving his girlfriend's life. Well, Julie, we've got news for you, because suddenly a blonde's appeared on the scene. This time, the story's more serious and perhaps Man of Action intends to make an object lesson of it. Man of Action, this is not the way. Pre-teens want to follow what looks fun and normal. You're making it look totally normal for a guy to "girl-shop" rather than choosing to love the girl he's with. Should shows reflect reality? Yes, and infidelity is commonplace. Commonplace does not equal normal; normal implies healthy, right living, and wanderlust does not factor into that picture at all. Leading by example says way more than leading by "oooh that was bad, let's do it the right way" because your characters have amazing adventures as a result of "being bad." Yes, they suffer for their wrong--but it's exciting! So stop it right now. Just stop.

Gwen's sarcastic, correcting, and frankly really annoying responses to her cousin and her boyfriend only enforce gendered stereotypes that women have hearts and men's hearts lurk somewhere down between their legs. Crude? Yes, but honest. Setting the girl up as the defender of fidelity and the boys up as immature blonde-hungry creatures only tells boys that it's normal to be unfaithful, and tells girls to accept that as their cross to bear. Teaching girls that it's normal for men to cheat also only empowers the double standard that guys deserve whatever happens to them in a relationship. This probably doesn't reflect the nationwide statistics, but in my circle I've seen more girls mistreating (and cheating) my guy friends than vice versa, and it seems to me that saying "girls are nicer than boys" makes girls think it's okay. After all, if men have no hearts, women have the right to break them. Yes, Man of Action would never intentionally send these messages, but the unconscious gendering of the right and the wrong does not benefit women.

Finally, what's with blonde and white always equalling beautiful? Yes, there exist some lovely white blonde girls out there, but seriously, every girl set up in the show as "beautiful" is as Caucasion as Hitler and blonde as Rapunzel. Not to mention stick thin. In a world that pretends to embrace diversity and to battle anorexia, you'd think Man of Action would know better. I wanna see a chubby black girl set up as a model of beauty. Or maybe I wanna see Julie struggling with body appreciation issues, or Gwen learning a lesson every now and then rather than standing out as the judgmental lie about moral perfection we see now. (Don't even get me started on her) Man of Action, please show me something that really reflects the real world problems teens face, rather than creating new subconscious traps to screw up their lives.