In a recent letter to the “Ask Papabear” column, a reader named Jack asked for my input on his attraction to monsters. Being a furry myself and having a column intended for furries and the furry curious, I naturally thought he was talking about furry critters, so my response was geared toward that interest.
Not long after posting, however, a reader named Tristan contacted me and set me straight. Jack wasn’t a furry; he was a “Monster Lover.” Now, I didn’t know this before, but there is a difference between the two. A Monster Lover can be furry, but not all of them are. Thus, I was introduced to a new community of which I was heretofore unaware.
Tristan reacted to the fact that I used a psychological term—teratophile—to describe what Jack was experiencing. The thing about this term is that it refers to people who can either be attracted to a monster (e.g., a dragon or werewolf) or to humans with severe physical deformities (you’ll see more on this below).
I contacted Tristan and asked hime to educate me about Monster Lovers. Here is my (edited and cleaned up) interview with him.
Papabear: Hi, Tristan! Here’s my first question: in your comments you seem to indicate there is a community of monster lovers? Like, are there chat groups or something of people who share this interest?
Tristan: There is! I'm in a few groups here, and there are a good number more of them that aren't as much my interest. But the community is diverse. Like in the furry world, I'm not hugely socially active, so I’m not in the Discords that I know of. But I’ll add to forum discussion now and then. These groups are very age-aware and restricted because sometimes its not SFW content.
Papabear: Fascinating. So, this is like a fandom separate from furries?
Tristan: Very much so. That's actually a group rule in most places. No Furry Content. Furries being anthro creatures. Some straddle the line, like werecreatures. But overall, they aren’t seen as furry because of presentation.
Papabear: Do the people in these groups call themselves something? Like anthro lovers call themselves furries, so do monster lovers have a name?
Tristan: Not that I know of as a general thing. Overall, we joke about just being degenerates because people view monster lovers as weirdos. The communities share a lot of overlaps in things like that. I just say I love monsters. Some say "monster fucker" for the shock value. But that's more Harkness Test, too. [Note to readers: the Harkness Test refers to Dr. Jack Harkness, a fictional character from Doctor Who, who set up standards for having sexual relations with alien monsters; basically, they had to have human or above intelligence and the sex had to be consensual—no bestiality]. Exophile works well. As it was mentioned overall the community is very aware of appropriation of cultures (i.e. we do not talk about Sk*nwalkers or Wend*go to respect Native Nations.) Teratophilia leaves a lot of sour notes because we don't do human deformities/disabilities. Collectively, they're trying to divorce from the term as a community.
Papabear: Ok, don’t laugh at this question, but I’m guessing you don't have conventions.
Tristan: No questions are laughable! Learning is good! If there are conventions, I don’t know them. But it’d be hard to organize one, I think. The content is so very broad. It folds into a lot of places. Also, it could be easy to abuse in some respects. My circles are very firm in cutting out any Zoophiles/Pedophile behaviors/non-con and non-Harkness.
Papabear: I actually thought it was odd the APA [American Psychological Association] defines teratophilia as attraction to BOTH deformed humans and monsters as these are very different things.
Tristan: Language-wise, it made sense for the time period. People with disabilities and deformities were seen as being monsters, not people. Made freak shows thrive.
Papabear: I agree psychologists should have a different term to attraction to deformities. So, next question: how do you define "monster"? I mean, some people might consider furries monsters, ya know? So, what is a "MONSTER"? Frankenstein? Godziilla? Cthulthu? Gremlins? Trolls? Donald Trump?
Tristan: Oof. Trump is a whole other monster there. But he's human. All large monsters are creatures of generally nonhuman form. Though it's rife with grey areas. Vampires and trolls/orcs, for instance, are under the monster category, while elves/dwarves, gnomes, and such are classed as fae or "monster lite." They attract people, but you never call them monsters, overall. Ghosts and aliens also strike a grey area. People simp real hard for Kaiju like Godzilla. Cryptids are considered monsters. Various SCPs [refers to a survivor horror game that has lots of monsters in it] are accepted. Werecritters.
It boils down to personal view/share. There’s a group dedicated to gods of various regions and from shows. There's a group for robots. A group specifically for dragons (which I left because of the admin supports noncon and Harkness failing.) They're branded under the same umbrella.
What separates Furries from Monster Lovers is their presentation. I don’t have a monster fursona; wouldn't want one. I adore them, but don't want to be a monster. I do have and enjoy having fursonas though! I see it as being a cute, fat opposum doing my normal life things. Monsters rarely fit into society and break the norms. Furries can be monster folks. I've seen such cool designs! The ones with skull faces and such. But monsters don't work in reverse as easily.
CLOWNS. I hate clowns, but because it’s a common phobia, a lot of monsterfolk love them.
Papabear: Oh, I HATE CLOWNS, TOO, LOL! So, people in these groups are attracted to monsters but don't want to BE monsters and don't create monstersonas.
Tristan: Correct. I always gotta scroll quick when the one artist shares her clowns. Great artist but oof, no thanks.
Papabear: Okay. Now, you said something else interesting in your comment to my column. In the column, I stated that the sexual fantasies have the monster as dom, but you said it can go both ways?
Tristan: Very much! In a lot of the discussions we have, people just desire cute, everyday, balanced relationships with scary, could-kill-you monsters. Not taming them, but just existence in a safe way. I’d be happy if I had a dragon partner. Not that we'd be able to be involved physically because of size differences, which isn't my feelings anyway. But daydreaming about the domestic things is just so very nice. Not to say it doesn't have "damn, wish that monster would pin me to the wall" feelings. Because it sure does! But it's not the predominant behavior. It's split really evenly with wanting to be stronger and dom over monsters. Those discussions always get weird because of puzzling out logistics of how to dom a monster. But they're very lively talks. Sometimes a bit too descriptive for my taste. I’d say, in terms of BDSM related to monster lovers, its 40% Wholesome, ~35% dom by monster, ~25% dom the monster. But that's the communities I'm frequent to, so it’s subject to scrutiny.
Papabear: Ah! So, it isn't JUST a sexual thing but can also be romantic?!
Tristan: Yes! That’s what I mean. A lot of monster lover folks are on the Aro/Ace spectrum and don't actually want the sexual aspects. (But, gods, do we joke like we do.)
Papabear: Ok, so, the attraction is for a partner who is wild, untamed....?
Tristan: Hmm. Not necessarily. Just, dangerous, is often attractive. Wild things can be attractive. But so is haughty society. As I said, for the community, the Harkness test is important. It should be for Furries, too. Though I didn't know the name for it originally. We do fight and remove people who think the Harkness test is guidelines and not actually rules.
Papabear: I'm sorry, I sort of know what the Harkness test is, but what do you mean it is a rule? Do you mean you can't be in the group without being sexually attracted to monsters?
Tristan: Yes! Harkness rules are: Is this creature of human or higher intelligence? Is this creature mature for its species (not by human ages, but by their lives)? Can it communicate AND understand consent with you? If any of the answers is “No,” then you do not desire that monster. These are hard lines you do not cross because it makes you a pedo, zoophile, or rapey. Pokémon are a good example of disagreement. We don't share Pokémon that AREN'T anthros/gejikas because they are considered animals. Even though they're shown to be intelligent and are able to communicate with us. You cannot give a proper age for them as Pokémon because of their animal status. You only know what a baby is because it hatched. For sake of clarity, the groups require humanized Pokémon, but there are many that may disagree.
Papabear: My understanding of Pokémon is that they are smarter than many animals but not human-level smart, although that Pikachu movie made him seem human smart. I'm not much of a Pokémon fan myself.
Tristan: And that's why there's a hard line! People can't truly agree about the intelligence or ages of Pokémon. So it’s one case where anthro is important.
Papabear: Fascinating. This has been extremely educational, thank you. Oh, and one more question: could you describe the composition of Monster Lovers in terms of fans? What is the mix of males and females, different ages, education, etc.? As you know, the furry fandom skews to young white males, although it is diversifying.
Tristan: Lot of male/masc presence, but a lot of vocal female/femme and nonbinary sharing. Nonbinary masc presenting is also VERY common. Age range is tricky, since the Facebook groups do not allow under 18, but a good deal of us seem to be mid-20s and up. From what I see, looks like we have folks in their 40s who are vocal, too. I'm 33 myself. Nonbinary. We have a lot of parents and married/partnered folks in my groups as well. Overall, very Rainbow Party, though. Most people are some flavor of LGBT and nonconforming. Its great when I see folks talk about supportive partners. It makes me happy to relate.
Education. As I hazard by the groups I'm in, standard is high school grad or equivalent. A lot of the personal art shared (I’d say upward of 75% of group photo/art content) is from college students. A lot of us are working adults in various job details. It really reaches. Have blue-collar and white-collar folks. Got kitchen dogs like me. I'm a college drop out due to an abusive relationship at the time. (Thriving and safe now with a supportive spouse.)
Papabear: Can you list a couple of monster lover groups that you would recommend so if people reading this interview would like to look them up and maybe join in?
I’ve heard of this term "species dysphoria." Is this a valid term? I sometimes feel like I’m just going crazy, but I still just don’t know what I am. There are days I feel like I am a human being, but there are days where I just don’t. It stresses me. I hope my best friend doesn’t judge me for it. I have a very good feeling he wouldn’t; he’s always a very open-minded person and a huge sweetheart. But I’m scared about the chance of him rejecting my possible identities. However, I do remember we talked about how there are so many things in this world we probably don’t know the truth to and probably never will, and he explain that he does believe that maybe it can be possible for someone to be some kind of therian deep within their being. So, I do know he’s a very open-minded person.
I am in my 20s now. I turned 20 recently. I feel like my body has been going through so many strange feelings. I always try not to think about the worst-case scenario, but it’s hard.
I just worry I’m going crazy. I want to talk to my therapist about it, but I’m worried she’ll misconstrue [this].
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There is, indeed, such a thing as species dysphoria (called Species Identity Disorder among mental health professionals), the feeling that you are inhabiting a body that is the wrong species. Are you familiar with otherkin? Otherkin are those who feel, for one reason or another, they are not human. This can mean they feel "other" in a spiritual/psychological sense or that they are actually, physically different but are concealing their true form under a human guise. I have met otherkin who believe they are from another world that faced some kind of cataclysm and they had to come here and take human shape in order to survive. Others believe they come from another dimension or that they are of an angelic or demonic origin. Some of these otherkin are in an animal form, some are more like a species of elf or other humanoid (but not human) race.
Species dysphoria is comparable in some ways to sex dysphoria (often incorrectly, in my opinion, called Gender Identity Disorder since "gender" just refers to social standards of what is "male" and "female" while "sex" is biological) in that both involve feeling that your physical form does not match who you truly are. It is interesting that psychologists are coming to accept sexual dysphoria as a real thing, but species dysphoria is regarded as a type of mental illness. But I have to ask, if one can feel that they are, say, a woman in a male body, why can't one feel as though they are, again as an example, a lion or a dragon in a human body? (Unfortunately, while surgery can replace male parts with something simulating female anatomy, the same is not true for turning someone into another animal--just don't watch the horror movie Tusk.)
In "Furries from A to Z (Anthropomorphism to Zoomorphism)" by Kathleen Gerbasi et al, published in the journal Society and Animals (August 2008), the authors surveyed over 200 furries at a convention and found that nearly half (46%) had, to a lesser or greater extent, some feeling that they were not entirely human. This coincides fairly well with my experience with furries in that about half of them feel they are furry while the other half are hobbyists and are just doing this for fun (in the same way as a Trekkie might dress up as a Vulcan at a Star Trek convention but never considers themselves to be an actual Vulcan).
So why do many furries feel this way? There are a couple of possibilities, and I will just touch on them here (this could be a book, seriously). One possibility is social. Many furries feel rejected by (or reject) humanity and their own humanness, which leaves them feeling disconnected to the extent that they literally do not wish to be human. When one feels this way intensely and long enough, it can become ingrained in your very being. Another possibility depends on whether or not you feel reincarnation is possible and, perhaps, furries with species dysphoria are recalling former lives as some type of animal (or even alien species). The third possibility has to do with empathy: a deep connection with another animal, one so intense that it begins to fill one's own being. This is kind of how I feel about bears. I feel very connected to these beautiful and majestic animals, almost feeling like they are a part of me.
Or, we could just be crazy.
But I don't think it's that last one. The definition of "crazy" to me means that our perception does not match reality. But if the reality is that we are deeply connected to another species, are we truly crazy? No. No, I don't believe that. Also, if we are really crazy, it would make it impossible to function in this world.
This all keys into a core belief of mine: we are not our bodies. Even many "mainstream" humans believe this. They believe we are our "soul." But our soul or spirit or essence or ego is not the same thing as our flesh. Our flesh is just something we use to travel around in this reality. The spirit that is within us is connected to all spirit that inhabits this universe. Truly, we should not limit ourselves to thinking that we are just Homo sapiens. That is just a species. You know what I think? I think many furries (and others who don't know about furries or are connected in other ways) have freed themselves of the constraints of species and open themselves up to an interconnectedness with all creatures and spirits.
Don't let it "stress" you if sometimes you don't "feel human." That's just you reaching outside of your physical limitations. That's just you stretching your spirit and embracing the life that is all around you. Just like a man who refuses to let society say they can't wear a dress or makeup if they choose to, you are rejecting having others impose upon you their standards of what you should look and feel like.
Bottom line: you are not crazy. You're merely struggling with trying to live up to the limitations imposed upon you by our neurotic society that insists on making everyone look and act like we are all the same.
But we are not all the same, are we? Instead of fretting about it, embrace it, explore this otherness you are feeling. You can still do that and function within our lame society. You can attend class or go to work with your human persona firmly in place, but when you have a quiet moment to yourself, you can explore outside your physical self and the rigid standards of humanity. What's cool is that you have an entire furry community that you can talk to about it and who won't call you crazy because we sympathize and empathize with you.
Hope that makes you feel better.
My letter is part question, part concern. I know I ask a few questions in the latter, but can you try to answer them, or try to answer the general underlining question I am trying to ask?
Given the state of the world, you constantly hear how bad things are: poverty, rape, corruption, killings, etc. It seems nowadays that the only way to thrive in society and be successful is to put yourself first, to the exclusion of anyone else, and if you do not, you will get stepped over in life and miss out. Either be corrupt in your life and put yourself first, or live your life by what other corrupt people want you to do as they are in charge of society. There seems (from my experience, I could be wrong) to be no real benefits from serving others selflessly because no one writes about it any longer.
Here is an example. My dad is very self centered. He is the type that worked his butt off his whole life, was given no natural talents, his parents divorced when he was in high school, to which his dad left the family and his mom had to raise all of her sons, an environment that required dad to take an active role in helping supporting himself and his mom at a young age. He never talked about his life at all. I only know him during the years I was alive and with him. Today, his success seems to show: he has a rewarding job, money, his health, a girlfriend, lives in CA (his favorite place in the world), and I think he is happy; he even divorced mom because he thought he deserved better than her. The only thing that seems to be wrong in his life now is he has to work 60 hours a week to keep up. (He manages the entire development and production of medicine.) In other words, he looks, acts and more or less is the example of "work hard and success is yours."
However, he is a narcissist, self-centered and very egocentric. He acts like everyone who is not above him can be treated like an inferior and he can act however he likes. Including his family (old and perhaps new). To the point I want to believe that all the wrongs he has done will come back to get him one day, but now I am starting to think that this is life, and you can and will get away with wrongdoing. He is the reason I think karma does not exist that much.
When I was living with him and was working (I was living with him as he provided free rent and help when I was taking collage classes), I live with my mom because I thought college would be better with Mom. But at the moment, I dropped out and work full time as a delivery driver for a pizza place. He would outright discourage or forbid me from tithing. He says what money I make at my job I should save, spend it on myself, help pay for groceries, and, in his words, "If you want to tithe you can tithe to the house." Even if I did all he requested, he still says to keep what I make. When I asked him why not give money, he said it is unnecessary. (I can see his viewpoint: it is not essential to give to those in need as their lives will not affect your life in any way, and what good you do for them will not give you anything, and therefore it is not worth doing.) Though it does help them, it is not a requirement, is what he thinks.
For example (one of countless, this just demonstrates his personality), one point, when he tasked me with selling the garage refrigerator that was unused, I had a potential client, but rather than picking it up herself she wanted us to send it to her via delivery. She sent enough funds to pay for the fridge and a few extra hundred to pay for shipping, which we had to set up ourselves. Dad thought she was taking advantage of me and told me to decline her order and find someone else. He also read my emails to her and noticed how nice I was to her, expressing patience and understanding about her current situation. (I forget what it was now). He did not like that in the slightest, and several days after he said, "It is not your job to be nice to others, they will take advantage of you. You should only be nice to your family" (blood family, that is).
To summarize, my dad is who inspired me to give and be as selfless as I can. Not because he showed what good helping others can bring, but because he set such a bad example on what success is. I realized I did not want to be successful. The pleasure of success is not worth the price it costs others.
But as of now, I am starting to doubt being selfless is better. I feel like what I do is not enough. Currently, I am working full time at a job to raise money for the sake of helping someone with debt and living expenses, I ask for additional hours at work to increase what I can give as well as be of service more at work. (I try to go with the attitude of "what can I do for others, and what I make goes to my friend" (I keep almost none of what I make; I only take money for gas and occasionally $50 to treat myself, but everything else goes to my friend as I do not have any expenses for myself atm).
Is this a sign that I need to expand my efforts to other things and other people?
So on to my questions.
What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others? Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?
What can you tell people who try to take active effort into serving others, when they feel like their work means nothing in the end, like what they do to serve others is fruitless in the sense of what they do does not help enough to make any real difference, and those who try to do good for others (selflessly without expecting anything in return, not out of wanting something back) that fear that they will wind up with nothing in the end. In other words, do you think that living self-centeredly (if not immoral and greedy) would be best?
What do I do?
PS: I am aware that the law of generosity also says "give one season, receive another season" as in what works you do will not have any immediate rewards, it takes time. I am not writing out of distress.
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These are profound questions you are asking. Let's take it a step at a time, starting with definitions. What does it mean to be "selfish"? What does it mean to be "selfless" or "altruistic"? Selfishness means to only do things that benefit you in some way (financially, materialistically). Your dad seems to follow the path of selfishness, although even he will say that it is okay to help one's own blood family, so he's not 100% selfish. On the other hand, it is not selfish to make sure you are not being used by someone, and it is not selfish to make sure that others do not harm you in some way, or that by helping them, you hurt yourself. This is to say that you need to be sure you are financially secure and physically and mentally healthy first, because when you are not, you are of no use to anyone, including yourself. So, if you, say, don't give a few dollars to a beggar on the street because without that money you would go hungry, that is not necessarily selfish. But if you are well-to-do and have more than you need, then hoarding your money and refusing to help others is selfish. Your dad, apparently, went through a rough childhood, a very scary one in which he struggled to make sure he and his family could survive. This likely planted the seeds for his current attitude.
So, what is being selfless or charitable mean? It means to realize that you are not the center of the world, that the human race and, indeed, the world benefits when people work together as a community, helping each other to build a better world. It doesn't mean that you have to do this to the exclusion of your own health and well-being, but it recognizes that no person is an island. Selfless people give to their fellow humans and to their communities not in the hopes that there will be a payback someday but, rather, because when we create a better, kinder, more loving world, we all get to live in it and enjoy the benefits of that world.
A perfect example of the above is the United States of America. The current capitalist system and influence of conservative politicians has created a world in which the 1% have 90% of the country's wealth. They don't share this wealth; they hoard it for themselves. The idea of the "trickle-down economy" in which giving tax breaks to the wealthy and letting them build huge hoards of gold like dragons in caves does not work, as proven by numerous economists. What IS the result of such hoarding? Well, we now live in a country where people are literally dying from lack of money and health care, where the infrastructure that everyone uses is crumbling, and where there are high crime rates and drug use because people are desperate, depressed, and without hope. This lowers the quality of life for everyone. And it also creates political unrest and destabilization. Furthermore, on a worldwide scale, it has led to global warming, which is going to destroy coastal cities and lead to mass migrations, war, and water shortages that affect the wealthy as well as the poor.
When your dad tells you that being kind and generous to others offers no payback, that is because he is thinking in financial, materialistic terms. Will volunteering to plant trees earn you money? No. Will donating clothes to a charity buy you a new wardrobe? No. Will helping a roommate get through a difficult time in their life by helping to pay their bills or giving them a shoulder to lean on get you a job promotion or a university grant? Of course not.
The rewards of being a good, kind, generous, and selfless person are largely intangible. Imagine the kind of world we would live in if everyone followed kindly principles? We could literally eliminate hunger if billionaires decided to use their excess money to feed people. We could get rid of pollution and make the fear of climate change a memory if corporations were not so profit-driven to pollute so they could please their stockholders. There would be no war if no one tried to take over other countries or deny others their religious beliefs or ethnic background. Students wouldn't be buried in school loan debt if we made college education free, and this would lead to an economic boom, too. Yet, none of these acts would benefit the donors financially, materialistically.
The key to being selfless is not expecting a payback. It's not charity if you expect money or favors in return (and it's not being a good Christian if you are only nice to people because you expect to be rewarded in Heaven). How would you feel if someone gave you a birthday present worth $50 and then said, "Okay, that cost me $50, so now you owe me." Would you think that was a good friend or family member? Now imagine yourself giving someone a present that they truly didn't expect and that they totally love. Doesn't that put a big grin on your face?
Oh, and guess what? When you feel joyful for making someone else happy, that improves your mood and this, in turn, improves your health. Studies show, too, that happy people live longer! Isn't that payback? And that one is actually quite tangible! (Note: this benefit requires that the giver have empathy; some people lack empathy, sadly).
All this is not to say you should allow yourself to be used. No. This seems to be your father's fear, and perhaps comes from personal experience. He sees everyone out there as a potential user, and so he has built walls around himself to prevent outsiders from using him. The problem with this is that now he lets no one in and he has, frankly, become a big douchebag. He might look happy and materialistically successful on the outside, but it is rare for such people to have loving, caring relationships. They tend to have trophy spouses, have family that resent them, and are in constant fear of losing what they have (which is why he works 60-hour weeks). This is what engenders conservative politicians. It is the same mentality that creates dictators. Sure, the dictator is all-powerful, but he is in constant fear that he will be assassinated or overthrown and put in prison. That is not a happy life.
As to your concern that helping others won't make a difference, you are incorrect. I can understand why it might seem so. When we are overwhelmed by the media reporting wars, poverty, pandemics, global warming, political corruption, and on and on, it can be discouraging. What can one person do?
A lot, actually.
When you exert acts of kindness in the world, it has a cascading effect, the results of which you might not see or realize (at least, not right away), but they are there. Being nice to others can make the people you are kind to say, "Hey! There are good people in the world! This makes me happy, and now I want to pay it forward!" Like a pandemic where one person can infect three or four people, and those people infect three or four people, and on and on until millions are sick (maybe not the best analogy), so, too, do acts of kindness spread around the community and the world. And those acts of kindness can be seemingly tiny. For example, compliment a coworker or a restaurant server. Take the trouble to tell the boss at a fast food place that you thought Sarah at the cash register was very kind to you. It doesn't have to cost money to be nice and to put a lot of good vibes out into the universe.
You ask me, directly, in your letter, "What good things have you experienced in life that was a direct result of serving others?" The letter you are reading is an example of what I do selflessly. I don't get paid for writing this column. I don't get awards or even, really, any recognition. Yet, I feel like it has done a lot of good for many people (cf. https://www.askpapabear.com/testimonials.html). You added, "Not just small things like feeling good for donating money or helping, but real treasures from sacrificing lots and giving lots? Is living selflessly instead of selfishly worth it?" Again, in this question, you are looking for evidence that selfless people get back "real treasures" for their acts, although you don't really specify what qualifies as such a treasure, though you assert that "feeling good" is insufficient reason.
Other than what I have noted above, writing this column gives my life a sense of purpose, and that is a profound reward. You see, I started writing this column right about when I was in my midlife crisis years, wondering what the hell my life was all about. It wasn't enough just to be doing okay, making money enough to live. I wanted a purpose, and writing this column gives me that. It is the most rewarding thing that I do in my life other than helping my disabled spouse and other family members. What is, after all, the purpose of life? Is it just to exist? Is it just to hedonistically pursue pleasure? I, for one, don't believe so. I have concluded that the only thing that truly brings me happiness is not material goods or money or even sex. It's making the world a better place as much as I possibly can.
I hope that answers your questions.
First of all, I'm a huge fan of your site, and I'd like to thank you for being such an amazing, kind and wise person! Keep it up!
Now, I'm not here to complain about my issues since I'm proud to say that I'm really happy with myself and will continue to be happy! Thanks both to your knowledge and positivity and my efforts! I'm only here to share my view on why there's so much sadness in this "modern", "advanced" world and how realising this changed me for the better and rescued me out of a vicious circle of self-pity, anxiety and sadness.
I'll try to keep this short, and I'm sorry since English isn't my native language so sorry if it sounds weird.
So, everyone keeps bragging about how the world today is so "advanced" and "modern" and how science is this aaaamaaaazing thing that is only improving our lives and will continue to do so. But that, of course is not the case at all because, how I see it, science hasn't really solved any problems or made our lives "better" by any means, it only replaced previous issues with twice the time as many worse ones. Science didn't make us better, happier and compassionate... It only did the contrary.
Science doesn't "improve" our lives, it actively replaces our real, natural lives and experiences with simulation, replicas and failed attempts to surpass nature. In it's delusions of grandeur, science is shortsighted... It creates and invents more and more, always focusing on how it will "make the world better" but never on how these Inventions could be used for evil, or how they could backfire in the long run and destroy people's lives and so many other side negative side effects... Just because something can be invented, doesn't mean it HAS to be invented. Science invents things for the sake of it, always under the pretense that it will improve the world, while being blind to the counter effects.
This talk about science matters because science has removed all real life activities and experience with replicas and simulation of said activities and experiences. There is no more need for exploration, risk, real thrill, challenge... All is replaced and packaged into the virtual existence, or heavily roboticised and automated.
Why go outside and explore nature when, on a click of a button, you can immerse yourself into many virtual, idealised worlds without having to go into the real, "dangerous" world? Why go to concerts and enjoy a good time with your friends when you can simply listen to music on your phone, computer or TV, in the safety of your own home? Why indulge in dangerous, tiresome sport activities when you can play sport games or watch other people do sports, all the while eating snacks and not breaking a sweat? Why travel and see the world in all its beauty when you can watch other people travel on travel shows or just open up Google Earth? Not to go on any further, you get the point.
Science created a world free of challenge, risk, no major problems, everything made easier, everything made readily accessible... Served on a silver plate, all the while eliminating the need to even leave your house and socialize. You can do all those things, and many people thankfully still do, but that number is rapidly decreasing...
It is so horrible that we are allowed, in many ways forced, to live such sheltered, passive lives. "Lead" is not a proper word, "watch" or "observe" is more suitable. A life where nature and reality, failure and experience and all the great things that make life are made "obsolete" by the virtual, the packaged replica... In which there is no real consequence, no real failure, no thrill... no love. Most activities replaced by video games, relationships and romance replaced with over-idealised, readily available porn/anime/hentai (all of which replace the need and the want for real sex, because it's so "perfect" compared to the real deal and seriously skews the expectations of what people should be), real socialisation replaced by "social" media, real comedy, parody and jokes replaced by "memes" which bleed the humor dry, real labour replaced by machines and automatic processes.... Real reality, with all it's flaws and beauty, replaced by safer, risk free artificial copies that are more easy to access and provide no real repercussions to failing, which is necessary for growth. I do not live in the "first world", but this especially applies to it.
All of this combined, you get sheltered, deeply unhappy people with very unrealistic expectations due to overwhelming exposure to over-idealised fake reality, and with insufficient failure and experience from said failure due to resorting to risk-free alternatives, the same people, when faced with real problems or when comparing their own lives to that of a idealised ones they see in games, TV, anime, whatever, they start to feel empty, insufficient, "not good enough"... But overexposure to the fake world and insufficient exposure to the real world make those people not realise the difference between one and the other... I was one of those people, always depressed and anxious, ever sheltered and passive, always escaping to the virtual world in which I don't have to put any real effort or face real pain from failure... Always comparing my life to over-idealised ones I saw on social media, in film, games and anime and always thinking how I'm not nearly as "good enough", because due to not enough experience in the real world, I projected the picture perfect things I saw in the virtual to real life people which were only perfect on the surface. Many people do this, unfortunately... It was always like that until I got a grip on life, and on risk, and failure and grew stronger from it and realised that I'm not as weak and "useless" as I had thought and that other people weren't as perfect or as happy as I thought. That was all due to my skewed perception of what life is supposed to be, and what love is supposed to be, heavily skewed by porn, anime and other media, which is why I view anime and porn as especially dangerous due to the fact that it can skew expectations tremendously... Especially to the inexperienced youth. Another thing are the artificial and unrealistic beauty standards that come from western media that is especially troublesome and dangerous... Many people have gone insane with anger, bitterness and pity over them, but that's all just fantasy and NO ONE can achieve those standards. It just isn't realistic... I thought I was "ugly" all the time and constantly saw other people do the same, and even now they do... Thankfully, I saw through the bullshit and am much happier now!
I'm sorry for my English, I might have forgotten to mention many of the things I wanted to, but I hope this makes enough sense. I see that the people in the west, especially the USA, live such lives with unrealistic goals and expectations provided by society and further abused by consumerism. Am I correct on that?
I'm just so afraid of what's going to happen to the world, science isn't going to stop anytime soon... It is a sad world in which the human experience is made obsolete by artificial, picture perfect virtual worlds. All of life packaged safely in a magical rectangle, all the knowledge in the world contained inside our devices, all at a click of a button, all in the safety and comfort of our homes... But science can never replace nature, a copy can never surpass the original... We are paying dearly for not realising that, aren't we? The spiritual made obsolete by the material...
Thank you for reading, Papa Bear!
Theo (age 19)
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Thank you for your intelligent and well-thought-out letter. Your English is quite excellent, by the way, thanks to European education (you don't say what country you are native to, but pretty much all European countries excel over the USA's pathetic public schools). On to your question/statements....
My two initial reactions are: 1) it is dangerous to generalize about anything as being "all bad" or "all good," and that includes science; and 2) it sounds like your main concern is with virtual reality, the internet, and the media (TV and movies) giving a false impression of reality and depriving people of exposure to the real world, which leads to unrealistic expectations about life. Let's address these two issues.
Science is both good and bad. Medical science, for example, has come a long way in treating previously incurable or untreatable injuries and diseases. Physics, biology, astronomy, mathematics, etc. are teaching us the true nature of reality, which has helped explain the world in ways where religion has utterly failed. Science can solve problems such as how to deal with climate change and pollution (it's only politics and greed that get in the way). Yes, science can give us bad things, too, such as plastic waste and nuclear warheads. That's true with everything, though. There is always good and bad. Don't blame science; blame the people who use science for ill.
Going into the specific area of science and technology that you are complaining about: the way it creates a world that protects us from the real world. This can include everything from the internet to living in climate-controlled houses and cars. Yes, science has separated us from nature in many ways, as well as from social interaction. Religion does this, too, if you haven't noticed. Religions such as Christianity teach us that nature is "bad" and only heaven is good (which results in mankind treating nature like garbage), and it keeps us from understanding other people through mistrust.
But, back to science. Let's focus on virtual worlds and social media and movies and such. What you say is, often, very true. I've seen people get immersed in gaming, for example, as a way to hide from a difficult world. It is far easier to be Zardok the Savior of the Fifth Realm than to be Edmund Peebles of Tiny Town, Iowa, who can't hold down a job at the local McDonald's. Likewise, with porn (and this is a huge reason why many furries are into furporn, I believe), it is more fun (and stress-relieving) to pretend you are a well-endowed muscle wolf who can ejaculate 10 gallons of spoo from your 5-foot-long penis than it is to be a lonely 20-year-old who is too nervous to ask a girl on a date because he is terrified that if it leads to sex he will be too nervous or awkward to perform. The fursona aspect of it is a way of wearing a mask--not to conceal your identity so much as to relieve the anxiety and tension that arises if one were to reveal one's true self, which leaves you exposed to being judged by others, and if there is one thing most people crave it is positive validation, not criticism.
Yes, movies, television, RPGs, and even comic books take us to fantasy worlds that are not realistic. This can be a lot of fun, but it is also very limiting. Let's go back to furporn for a second. While one can be a sexy furry with many partners online, the stimulus here is limited to the visual and the auditory. Compared to real-world sex, you miss out on all the other senses: touch, smell, and taste. And so, you are only getting about 40% of an actual sexual experience. I, for one, would much rather have the real thing than sit and watch a naughty furry animation.
The same is true with experiencing nature. Yes, you can take virtual trips online or watch a travel show on TV, but again, you are only getting part of the experience while also neglecting some physical exercise. You can learn a lot of stuff from a documentary, but you don't get an experience you will remember. An example from my life: Ten years ago, my sister took me whale watching off the coast of Baja. Oh. My. God. You go out in tiny boats where the cow (female) gray whales are swimming gently about with their calves and these magnificent creatures come right up to the boats and interact with you! You can pet them, smell them, feel their presence. Far more amazing and memorable than watching a National Geographic special.
Neither online porn nor TV shows will ever replace the real thing, as you wisely conclude. Fortunately, they never fully will. Just as when people feared that the invention of Betamax and VHS tapes would keep people from attending the movie theater proved incorrect (except when you're in a pandemic), technology will never fully replace real life.
When it comes to furries, I believe that one reason people want to be anthros is because, deep down, they recognize how humanity has become separated from animals in nature, and this is their way of reconnecting with wildlife. Now, one of the greatest things to do as a furry is to go to furcons and furmeets, but the main reason the fandom has grown by leaps and bounds can be chalked up to the internet, which allows for communication throughout the world (as I am doing with you right now, my European furiend). Many furries can't go to cons and meets for one reason or another, so the internet allows them to do this. You can thank science for the ability of people to connect in ways they never could before.
Again, good and bad, Yin and Yang, positive and negative. It is the dual nature of our lives.
To answer your last question about science and technology replacing the real world, no, I don't think it will--at least, not completely. There will always be people like yourself who want to go outdoors and do things, interacting with nature and other human beings. Look at what is going on now with the pandemic. Yes, people can watch football on the telly and they can watch movies and talk in chat rooms, but they are screaming to "get back to normal," go see sports and concerts in real auditoriums and stadiums. They want to hang out with friends in bars. They want to go to a beach, even a crowded beach, and enjoy the people and surf. Humans are social beings. They want to interact with real people. How many furries do you talk to who are sad that the conventions have closed? There is nothing like fursuiting in public and getting real hugs. A glowing screen will never ever replace that.
I am glad that you have wrested yourself from the virtual world to experience your life. That's a great thing. You needn't reject it completely, however, or label it evil. As will all things, balance is the key. Find what is good with technology and exploit it for good use. For example, I could not do my current job without the information I have access to when researching online. Yes, I could go to a library, but that is limited compared to the terabytes of information online.
Balance science with nature, technology with the spiritual, and temper it all with wisdom and compassion. That is the path to a happier future.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’ve just been very busy with woodwork and social stuff. However, recently I’ve been thinking about the sad and dark stuff that happened in 2020 and how so much I wasn’t expecting just how low the year could get.
I’ve been feeling down lately (though I stress I wanna live more than anything). The news and all the horrifying stories about COVID-19 and the horrific crimes committed by police (the fact I now cannot trust them with my life given my mild Autism and hearing about police murdering Aspies [people with Asperger's] is both depressing and disturbing), the numerous deaths of beloved figures from disease, the recent financial recession in my country. Not to mention the natural disasters that occurred earlier in the year and so many events I were looking forward to getting cancelled.
I’ve also suffered a relapse in depression. There are nights where it’s been so overwhelmingly miserable, I just want to cry myself to sleep. I struggle to smile and find the situation so hopeless, I can’t stop frowning. I just wanna smile again and feel hope and light, not this looming despair and darkness that leaves me paranoid of a horrible disease. It’s so scary and uncertain.
I’ve been feeling lonely lately. Trying to get out of the house to help my mother out with shopping and seeing a friend is to try and cheer myself up. It’s hard to feel hopeful when the news is destroying my faith in humanity and the global pandemic is killing so many people. I’m just so overwhelmed.
I also felt a sense of guilt from what happened with Etika. I wanted to help him because I could empathise with him and wanted to help him but when I heard he was blocking people trying to help him, I didn’t do anything because I loved his stuff and I wanted to not bother him. I was scared when I heard about his disappearance and was devastated when I heard the news of his suicide. I’m crying typing this because I feel so guilty I didn’t do anything even if doing something kind meant being blocked for trying to be a good person.
Also, one massive thing that traumatised me and made me feel terrified was my Mum’s so-called friend (I’m just gonna call him “J” even though he has the same name as my brother which I find insulting). I noticed early on in 2019 when J was emotionally abusive to my mum, gaslighting her and making her feel as if he was the only one who truly loved her(my separated father is 10-times the better partner than that bastard). He was also screaming at her at times. I could hear them through the paper thin walls. He threw things and was cruel to her. First time that happened my brother and I (and my dog Jake though neither of us got our shoes on and I couldn’t get my phone or wallet from upstairs) ran out while my Mum called the cops (this is before my trust in them was destroyed this year) and her bloody bruised face still haunts me. Second time it happened at night after he “apologised” to her and threatened to kill himself if she left, I couldn’t take it anymore and screamed at him to get out and stay out! I never once trusted him and my mum screamed at me that I should be glad dad and mum are in separate relationships. I don’t appreciate abuse. I always had a gut feeling not to trust him but I was nice to him anyway before the second time because I wanted to give him a second chance. He even gave me chew lollies but I suspect it was a bribe to shut me up and it didn’t work. I now associate the packet of lollies with that asshole. I hate them.
Both times, he destroyed something in the house (the car park door on the 2nd time) and made my mum cry. I hate myself for being so scared. I hate that man for what he did and it took every bit of willpower not to attack him the second time he attacked my mum. He’s also taller than my mum and me so he’s intimidating. He’s a monster. A cruel, manipulative and evil sack of shit who I hope I NEVER see his face again.
By the way, I should clarify despite my sadness at my parents separating, they’re still good parents who care about me and my siblings.
The 2010s were honestly some of the darkest and lowest points in my life. I was seriously hoping 2020 would actually improve things but it just got worse. I really wanna hope 2021 is slightly better but I have no idea. I wanna be a parent before I’m 30 but I’m worried if I’ll be a good parent given that I remember a social class from primary school when we were given a younger student from another class to help as a “parent” and I wasn’t there for them so they were given to someone else and the kid told me to my face I wasn’t there for them and were disappointed in me. I know it was just a school Project but it haunted me ever since and makes me scared I’ll be a bad parent for real. After some horrible abuse I went through from that shithead, I realised how important my family mean to me. I really wanna be a good loving attentive father one day.
I guess my questions are this: is there any hope for the future and how can I be a better person? Also, hope your leg’s okay, Papa Bear. I was rather worried when I heard the news from you. Stay safe, mate.
From a concerned and unhappy canine.
Sam the Dog
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Wow, there is a lot going on in this letter. There are at least four questions here: 1) Given the current state of the world, how can I be optimistic and hopeful about the future? 2) How do I deal with my mom and her abusive boyfriend? 3) Should I be a parent soon? 4) How do I deal with my feelings of guilt regarding Etika? (Please note in future that you are only supposed to ask one question per letter, but I know that writing this down is a catharsis for you, so it's okay this one time.
Let's start with the second one first. Domestic abuse is a serious business. Your mother's boyfriend is emotionally abusive and, it sounds like, even physically so. There is not too much you can do until your mother recognizes this, and there are many psychological reasons too complicated to go into here as to why she might be so reticent to change her life. I'm not sure what Australian police are like, but if you do not trust them to help with domestic abuse problems, I would recommend you contact Lifeline Australia (https://www.lifeline.org.au/), which offers services concerning suicide, domestic abuse, and other crisis support services. Start with them.
Next: Etika. What happened to Etika is not your fault. Could you have done more? Sure, you could have tried to talk to him more or recommend help for him, but ultimately his choices were his own. You do not own other people's fates; you only own your own fate.
Should you try and be a parent before you are 30? Ideally, in my opinion, no one should try to be a parent until they have their shit together, but if I could somehow enforce that, Homo sapiens would become extinct in a couple of generations. Almost no one has their shit completely together, so the second option would be to have your shit mostly together, meaning you had enough income and could provide a stable environment to nurture a child into adulthood. Do not become a parent for your own selfish reasons (I cannot count how many times I have heard people say, "I want a baby so I have someone to love me" or "I want a baby so I have someone to take care of me in my old age" or "I want a baby so that I can have someone to carry on my legacy.") All of these reasons are wrong reasons for bringing a human being into the world. So, ask yourself: "WHY do I want to bring a child into this crazy world?"
Lastly, the BIG question: How can one be optimistic about the future in such a grim year? To get a grip on this, one must accept that life goes in cycles. There are good periods in history and bad ones; economic good times and depressions; periods of political stability and periods of unrest. I sympathize with your unease in this Time of Trump, which is simply horrible. I am very nervous that our American republic is being destroyed and we are regressing into a past when racism ran rampant and when destroying the environment was the status quo. Right now, it is about 50/50 as to which path we will follow in November, and it is truly disturbing how many Americans still support Trump and his evil reign of hatred and racism. Let us hope that voters will turn things around, but if not, and we get four years (or more) of Trump, even then there is still hope because, as noted, eventually evil is overthrown and things improve. The only question is whether that happens sooner or later. Of course, you are in Australia, which is a stable, fairly socialist country (compared to the US), so you should be okay, especially since Australia is doing better handling the COVID-19 pandemic than many countries (South Australia is considered one of the safest places on Earth regarding the coronavirus). I think you will be okay. Hang in there.
Looking worldwide rather than just in Australia, yes, there has been a definite swing toward right-wing regimes in recent years. Countries including the USA, Brazil, the UK, Hungary, Poland, and Austria have growing right-wing movements. This is the result of a couple of things, including reactionary movements against immigration and the success of liberal legislation giving rise to counter-legislation. Basically, white, conservative Christians fearing they are losing power to brown-skinned people who follow other faiths or who are liberal socialists. So, we get a political phenomenon based on changing world demographics. As with any active system, there is turbulence during a transition from one equilibrium to the next. Things will settle down eventually, but it could take decades.
You can't take on the world by yourself. But I do like the saying, "Think globally, act locally." If you wish to do something, get involved in local political, social, and environmental groups, and see if you can lend them a hand. That will ease your sense of being powerless because you will be doing something constructive.
Good Luck to You! Take Care! Bear Hugs!
Dear Papa Bear,
I'm writing to you because you've helped me out multiple times while I was a teenager, and it just felt nice to come to you for advice once more as an adult! So for that, let's start this off with a thank you.
So, the TLDR of my situation is that my parents divorced. Dad retired from the army, kicked me out. My mom helped me move to California, where I had a lot more job opportunities. Mom is moving back with her bf in January, and I'm planning on leaving California. They (half) joke about you needing to make $30/h or higher to live here on your own haha. It's just a bit too expensive for my taste.
So when January comes, I'm hoping to go to Kansas, but I'm unsure, actually. It'll be my first time on my own. I was always planning on moving out but so many things in life kept happening that my plans kept suddenly changing.
When it comes to that time, do you have any advice on moving out on your own? How much money should I have saved up? What things should I do to make sure it goes smoothly? Advice on getting an apartment for the first time?
Sorry that this is a big question. It's been weighing on my mind a lot lately.
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Welcome back. It's weird, this column has been going on for about 8 years now and, yes, some original letter writers who were teens back then are now adults. How fast you grow up!
Depending where you live in California, you need to make more or less money. For example, it's much cheaper to live in the Central Valley than in a coastal city, but I get what you're saying.
Moving across the country is a really complicated and involved process, and I could write a book on just how to do that. Really, too much to say for this little column of mine. But I can give you a few pointers:
Hope this helps. Good luck!
Have you heard the news lately? A Soyuz capsule recently returned to Earth after a 6-month mission to the International Space Station, which was a complete success. Whoever these people are became international celebrities. There will likely be schools named after them. The only problem is the Chinese are not allowed on the International Space Station, which is totally racist. I mean, it's not like they will steal technology that is part of the ISS. I blame the U.S. government for that. It is holding humanity back by not letting the Chinese go to the ISS. What will it take for people to make Uncle Sam change his mind?
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The history of international cooperation in space is long and complex. As you likely know, mundane exploration in space began with the Space Race between the Soviet Union and the United States. When the USSR launched Sputnik in 1957--the first satellite--Americans freaked out and decided to work on their space program. Then, the USSR put the first human, Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin (1934-1968), in space in 1961 aboard the Vostok, which freaked out Americans even more. That year, President Kennedy made his famous Moon Speech about putting a man on the moon and returning him safely home, which we did eight years later with Apollo 11. Once the United States declared itself the winner of the Space Race (that depends on whether you consider having the first man in space or on the Moon more important), it wasn't long before we began to lose interest. Indeed, it is my belief America would never have put Neil Armstrong on the Moon if the Russians hadn't challenged us to do so. The last man to walk the Moon's surface to date was Astronaut Eugene Cernan in 1972 with the Apollo 17 mission--nearly a half a century ago!
International cooperation made its first mark on history with the Apollo-Soyuz mission in which a Soviet and American spacecraft linked up in 1975. Other countries began forming space agencies, including Japan, China, India, and the countries of the European Space Agency (ESA). Of these countries, only the programs in the U.S., Russia, and China have put men and women into space using their own vehicles; all three have also put craft on the Moon, but only the Americans have put astronauts on the moon (Russia, China, and India have landed unmanned craft on the Moon).
As for the ISS, this is a partnership formed between the United States, Russia, Canada, Japan, and the ESA. Members of these participating countries have all been on the ISS crew. The reason why there have been no Chinese on the crew is that China is not a partner in the ISS. This is not a racist decision; it is a political one. China is seen as a competitor and rival among current space agencies, and they are actually doing quite well developing their own space program independently of America, Russia, and Europe.
That said, it is Papabear's opinion that the future of humanity is in space, and the successful exploration of space will not be fully realized without the cooperation of all nations. Indeed, it is my fondest hope that space travel will, one day, unify humanity with a common goal, bringing our countries closer together and even, perhaps, helping us all realize that we are all one people and that we should not separate ourselves based on nationality, race, religion, sex, or gender.
Perhaps one day....
I have launched a sub-fandom of my favorite tv show. It is a furry kids show on Qubo, and I feel that none want to join it as it is under a free domain. This is a forum that I launched. I feel really lonely in this sub-genre and I don't want to give in and give up on it. In what ways could I get others to become interested in it or join my newly created sub-fandom, so I have people around me to share it with? I hope you can help!
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That's a good question! I suggest you treat your endeavor like a business. When the wise businessperson has an idea for a product or service, before putting a lot of time, money, and effort into it, they do market research to see whether or not there is a demand in the first place. It wouldn't do to, say, manufacture thousands of Roseanne Barr dolls if you discover that the actress is no longer popular and no one wants anything to do with a toy based on her.
The solution, then, is not to play around with the forum itself, trying to create ways to make it more attractive to lure people in; rather, what you have to first do is find your customers. I don't know what the show is, but you might start there. How popular is this show? Are its ratings going up or down? Search the Web and see if there are already forums for the show or for other Qubo kids' programs, join them, and start chatting with the people who are participating. If you discover there are a lot of fans like yourself, that is when you start putting the word out: "Hi! I've created a forum for the Qubo show George and Martha [or whatever it is]. Come join the fun at www.forumcommunity.net/514889 [not a real page] and chat with fellow George and Martha fans!"
This isn't Field of Dreams where you build a baseball field and the ghosts of past players automatically show up. When I began this advice site, I did so because I saw there were lots of furries out there who wanted some advice. Once I was confident that was true, only then did I launch "Ask Papabear." You should do likewise. Find your customers, talk with them, then start putting the word out on the Web at any place that they gather online.
I am no native English speaker, but still I do know enough of the language to understand some of its quirks.... With that in mind, having heard the term "ostracized" now and then, it being synonymous to shunned leaves me rather perplexed by it's playful implications. Would a furry which feels correlated to ostriches feel weirded out by such term?
Darkaos (São Paulo, Brazil)
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LOL, the word "ostrich" and "ostracized" have no relationship. Ostrich is from the Old French word "ostriche," which just means "bird." Ostracize is from the Greek word "ostrakon," which means shell or a piece of pottery. In ancient Greece, when someone was to be banished, their name was written on a shell or piece of pottery (potsherd).
The English language has an interesting history, drawing from languages that include Latin, Greek, French, German, Spanish, Anglo-Saxon, and Nordic tongues, as well as other languages. Anyway, I assure you that no furry who has ever felt ostracized would even think this has anything to do with ostriches. There are no "playful implications" about it, I'm afraid.
Your English is coming along great! I know a little Spanish, but no Portuguese, so you have me at an advantage for sure.
Thanks for a fun question!
P.S. Here is a word for you to learn as you study English (or any language): etymology. Etymology is the study of the origins of words. It is a fascinating field.
A note on comments: Comments on letters to Papabear are welcome, especially those that offer extra helpful advice and add something to the conversation that is of use to the letter writer and those reading this column. Also welcome are constructive criticisms and opposing views. What is NOT welcome are hateful, hurtful comments, flaming, and trolling. Such comments will be deleted from this site. Thank you.