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Disconnected From Nature by john cheng

photo from

photo from

I recently read the article, The Day A Dozen Parents and Children Killed a Shark for a Selfie, and I found myself questioning my level of interactivity with nature. Granted, I've never been one to harm nature as this article illustrates how some others may do, but I think the reality of our situation is quite alarming.

The commotion continued, and curiosity got the best of me. I nonchalantly weaved between the blankets, just so happening to meander in the direction of the crowd. I leered over the hairy backs and damp towels flung around necks to see a man clutching a baby shark by its tail. He was grinning, delivering a thumbs up to his wife.
A few heads turned my way, then returned back to taking photos. My cheeks began to burn as I stood in front of the man, my hands waving, blocking the cameras. "This shark is dying. You guys are literally killing this shark for a photo, can't you see that?" I asked. A sea of cameras, iPhones and iPads stared back at me. The crowd waited for me to move so they could resume their important work of proving they saw a shark. Dead or alive, it didn't matter. It'd be liked on Facebook and Instagram either way.
- Joanna Zelman

My father has always been a lover of the great outdoors, taking all his children out to the beach, go hiking, or see the mountains of Taiwan and Japan. So the seed was planted and that love for nature did blossom within me, but when did it start to whither? The answer I believe is lies somewhere between hanging out with friends in high school and entering the work force after university, that I completely lost touch with nature. I have become so immersed in the digital world that the real one around me began to lose it's luster.

At this very moment all I can think of is when my dad took me snorkeling out in the reefs of Hawaii when I was around 8 or 10 years old, and remembering the beauty that is nature. Recalling the tiny fish swimming around my feet and just the amount of vibrant colors hiding beneath the blue of the ocean. I hope that from here on out, I'll be better about basking in the nature that is all around me and appreciating it's beauty rather than drowning in a sea of pixels. Further more, when the time comes that I have kids, my hope and prayers are that they will be able to enjoy nature rather than treat it like an estranged cousin.

HuffPost: How Asian-American Millennials Practice Faith by john cheng

This is a great HuffPost Live conversation with Chris Chen, MC Jin, and Jason Chu. The question of how Asian-Americans practice faith is one that has been part of my life since birth one of constant struggle, confusion, and blessing.

In this conversation, these three gentlemen bring up many important points about Asian-Americans and faith, but the ones that remain close to me are the ideas of culture versus faith, self observation and learning from failure, placing faith into the public sphere, and the idea of owning up to your mistakes and taking steps toward acceptance rather than towards ignorance.

Culture and faith have always been two important foundations for my parents when it came to raising my siblings and me, culturally identifying as a Taiwanese-American while placing our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. However as I grew older, the two felt like they began to clash. I found myself caught in-between a generational gap as the first generation, the majority of our parents, and the second generation, American-born children, had many differences of opinions. Questions of whether retaining our cultural heritage, or, if furthering the message of the Gospel by foregoing culture and heritage to reach a larger audience was more important, constantly riddled my mind. It is still a struggle for me today, but I will not deny my faith and cultural background. My comfort lies in knowing that facing this issue with a positive attitude and overall acceptance in time will lead to hopes of unity.

It is such a shame that our society quantifies people based on the successes achieved. The underlying truth that failure is a normal part of life is not discussed nearly enough. Especially in Asian-American culture, failure never seems to be an option. I was fortunate enough to grow up in a household that did not shame failure, but used failure as a means of reflection in order to better ourselves. Successes are great, but they bring no value to our character. They are great none the less, but nothing is more precious than failure. With failure, you learn specific things not to do, you reflect upon things and actions you’ve made to bring you to the point of failure, and you learn your true colors when dealing with failure. I fail everyday, and everyday I’ve learned something new that aids me in my quest to success. It’s definitely easier said than done but an important part of life. 

Something that I believe I’ve failed pretty hard at and am constantly learning hard lessons about myself is how I place my faith into the public sphere. I would say that it’s almost non-existent. I like to say that I identify myself as an Asian-American Christian artist, but the truth is I am not nearly confident enough in my identity to do so. I think this is the case with many of my Asian American Christian peers. It is very difficult to pronounce our faith to the people around us because of the fear of rejection. Unfortunately, we have many Christian brothers and sisters who preach rejection rather than acceptance, and as a result, the world around us has treated us the way “Christians” have treated them – rejected. What I have come to learn, but have yet to have the confidence to live out, is that I have to be adamant in showing my faith through actions. I don’t mean preaching Jesus to every stranger I meet, but what I mean is emulating the life of Jesus by living out a life of acceptance and love to everyone around me. Once again, easier said than done, but each time I fail to love my neighbor is an opportunity for me to learn as long as I learn to embrace my mistakes and learn from them. Actions speak louder than words, and in order to lead the younger generations of Christians into a world of love and acceptance, I must lead by example. 

“My mistakes, they hurt you? Well that’s on you…”
The “haters gonna hate” type of attitude is not applicable to everything. It is when you talk about identity, your cultural background, and who you are as a person. Don’t ever let someone make you feel less of yourself because of what you like and who you are. However, using this type of “haters gonna hate” attitude to justify ignorance is not acceptable. My mistakes are still mistakes and need to be accounted for. We shouldn’t blame others for what we’ve done, but own up to them. Why? Because of what I said earlier, they are invaluable! They are the day-to-day failures we make and learn from. 

We should take more steps towards acceptance rather than ignorance and take responsibility for the actions we’ve made that have hurt people. We all run to the front lines when accepting responsibility for success, so lets be honest with ourselves and take responsibility for our mishaps. What goes around comes around, it may not be immediate or even tomorrow, but it definitely will make itself known sooner or later.