Friday, December 4, 2009


I've been struck lately by how all of life happens in seconds. Thousands of little decisions flow past us like so much water. The channel of our life is cut by seconds, flowing over our decided course. Occasionally, we have those life changing, path changing opportunities - for a second, and then the choice is made and we go on. Even if we take some time to consider, that's the choice. As Pres. Wilford Woodruff said, to paraphrase, - "We do not tread twice the same water in a stream." We can ignore, but not escape, the value of life in "every, every moment" (Our Town, Oscar? Wilde).

This semester has happened in seconds - so many thousand seconds for this assignment, so many hundred seconds for this meal, so many tens of seconds for this thought. So many seconds procrastination flows into hours, evenings, days. A second of action precedes another, and another, and the job is done. If nothing else, I've learned that seconds are what make up minutes, hours, days, months, semesters, and a year.

I've been home a year now - but what I remember are seconds. A feeling in this moment, or a thought in that. A succession of seconds here- not necessarily continuous - like a slide show strobe, flashing relationships by. Agonizing seconds of doubt, redeeming moments of faith, forgiveness, and courage. The second of a decision confirmed; the number of seconds to realize that fact.

Decisions -what am I doing this moment? Is it right? What is the best use of the next moment? Will I do it? five, six, seven, nine, 15 seconds. Were they worth it?
I don't want to belabor the point - but how much more then, the words, "I need Thy presence every passing hour. None but thy grace can foil the tempter's power! ... Swift to its close ebbs out life's little day! ... Change and decay are all around I see: Oh, Thou who changest not - Abide with me!"

Friday, November 6, 2009


In class today, we watched a section of a television show about parenting methods. Two mothers switch households (to some degree) for two weeks, and the viewing public watches the highlights. The experience literally turned my stomach - I felt physically ill after the first ten minutes, when we stopped watching.

First, the parents presented as extremes - a family of "pirates" (I honestly wish I was joking) that never cleans, and a family in which everything in the house is labeled, efficient, and clean, assaults the Gospel ideal of parenting. Organization is not the opposite of laziness - they're only obliquely correlated - nor is organization and order the opposite of love. The presentation of the two "extremes" was what I found distasteful, as if living in a structured environment is as distasteful as living in one where the people catch fleas from their dog. Dante described it better perhaps than I have - pandemonium is a characteristic of hell; to add to that, order does not require oppression.

What of freedom? What of creativity? Try working in an environment of instability and disorder, and tell me that you are more creative and at greater inner peace. Karl Marx made that argument with his choice of living conditions and lifestyle, and lost three children as a result of it. (Note: Not all who lost children at the time, nor all who currently live in squalor, choose to do so; Marx had the resources not to, and chose to anyway. At least that's my judgment, you call it as you like.) He described losing his children as some of the worst experiences of his life - is that worth a few extra minutes each day of creative expression? Again to Marx - the price he paid in time lost to depression associated with losing his children while writing his seminal works was far greater than would have been the time to, say, make a budget or find a new home, or to give his children needed medical care, or even to earn the money to make those options possible.

Another argument, from the class discussion: organization isn't worth the few minutes you save. Here is the counter: neither is laziness. Being lazy is trading a few minutes of one activity for the few minutes required for a better one - three minutes of sleep versus three minutes of cleaning your bedroom. It's the same false doctrine as "we're not going to force our children to be like us." As if parents could! But whether they accept it or not, parents encourage their children one way or another; far better to encourage the freedom of self control and self development than to encouragement the oppression of sloth, filth, and the self-appeasement of the senses.

A related, infernal line of reasoning is that, "I choose to go my own way, rather than God's way." The lie is that we are going our own way; we are not, but instead choose to follow the devil. Our own way is whichever way we choose, but we cannot cut our own path; we can choose our actions, but not the consequences of our actions.

Perhaps, most disturbing: why would I ever seek this out as entertainment? Why would I ever tolerate this in my home? I don't watch tv very often, and now I am very glad of it. What depravity, what excess would lead me to enjoy watching two people be subjected to others choices; to enjoy seeing people inflict upon each other intense social and emotional pain; to not only encourage that suffering through the creation of the show, but to revel in it, to enjoy it, and to laugh at it?

Maybe I'm taking this too seriously, but I don't approve of this type of "emotional Colosseum."

Quite frankly, it makes me sick.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Love: The Risk is Worth It

I'm currently writing a paper on a piece of Swedish literature - Det gaar an ("It's alright") I'm going to update this post as a I write, but one of the characters, Sara - whom I once thought was like a girl I loved! - disparages marriage and commitment as, at best, unnecessary between two who love each other, and at worst and most often as a constraint that binds two people together even during tough times when they don't, can't love each other.

What a fantastically hopeless view of love! I'm just coming out of a relationship, where she I and both loved each other; but because of divine instruction, we needed to break up. We did. Even so - the point of love is that it lasts, through thick and thin. Love is like faith - it is a decision that is not to be given up during tough times. What I felt for my former girlfriend was the beginning of a commitment - inspired by the happiness I felt with her up to that point - to be with her through both happy times, and times when I was not as happy. What is love that leaves with unhappiness? No love at all. If love only exists with infatuation, then love is nothing. But it is not. Love is strengthened through weathering adversity, when that is chosen - the presence of trial certainly doesn't negate it.
Sorry - this post probably doesn't make sense to those who haven't read Det Gaar An. Simply, this: I loved someone, and even though it didn't work out and breaking up has hurt, it was worth it for me to love, and I state absolutely that it will be worth it for me to love again.
So there!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The test

"Good timber does not grow with ease - the stronger wind, the stronger trees."

This is something I've been pondering recently -why are things so hard sometimes? And this is what I come up with: Abraham had to climb Mount Moriah, and to be willing to sacrifice his only son in order to become like the Lord. Joseph Smith taught that a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all we have cannot produce the faith necessary for salvation (not an exact quote).

In other words - it has to be hard. If it's not, we cannot develop the strength we need, or the faith we need, to become as the Lord, and we, would that we become.

Fortunately, the Lord doesn't leave us despairing, but gives us hope, by revealing to us enough to confirm our faith and to help us carry on.

I really like this picture - I think it says it all. "The Voyage of Life: Manhood" by Thomas Cole.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


It's amazing how involved in our lives our Heavenly Father is. It's amazing to me.
Anyway, I'm free!
The whole world is ahead of me! And the horizon is, once again, back where it should be in the distance.
However, I am glad for my experience - I am better prepared for the future. I know more what I want out of life.

Part of that is adventure - I want to hike Kilimanjaro, bike the American Discovery trail, shoot the tunnel in the Grand Canyon, hike Denali. Another part is love - I want to love and to be loved intensely. I want to live life intensely - and I'm okay with that, and if other people aren't, so be it.

One good part about rejection is this: it forces the question, "Do you like who you are?" And I can answer, "Yes, I do!" I'm not perfect, I'm working on things, but I am a valuable individual. And so rejection is not a blow, but simply a negative answer.

If that is the prize of rejection - a renewed awareness that my worth is not dependent on someone else's opinion - then rejection is a very, very good thing.

Not that I want more of it, though. :-)

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Shorter thoughts

Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come,
From [Heav'n], which is our home...
- William Wordsworth, Ode: Intimations of Immortality

It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to, than I have ever known.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I have thought, today, on how the Lord Jesus Christ not only aids us in the difficulties of sin and repentance, mercy and forgiveness, but also guides us through the difficult aspects of day to day living. He helps us to do difficult, (righteous) things we choose to do.

The commandment that we should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and, as agents unto ourselves, bring to pass much righteousness, (D&C 58:27) is not a commandment disassociated from the assistance of the Savior. I believe it is a commandment to use our resources as best we can, before being asked; but, in my experience, this opens the door to divine help.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Truth and personality

And truth is knowledge of things as they are, and as they were, and as they are to come...
Doctrine and Covenants 93:24

The real reward for pain is this: self knowledge. - Lance Armstrong

I think it is one of the hardest lessons to learn - that who we are is reflected by how we act; "Wherefore, by their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 16:20). Our character is not something that can be taken off and put back on, nor does our accountability sleep. We are accountable for all of our actions, past the age of accountability, and it seems that much of who we are is the accumulation of our choices.

Who we are, then, is very important. Do we like who we are? Let me be honest: Do I like who I am?

I hope that I can consistently answer "Yes." But there are times when I cannot, and I believe that in these times the Atonement must be sought. Faith is a principle of action and power (True to the Faith), part of which includes a supreme, consistent effort to get better.

As faith is exercised over time through work, prayer, study, pondering, and worship, we - I - can be given the assurance that "I can do all things through Christ which strengthenth me" (Phillipians 4:13), even change.
Joseph Smith put it beautifully: "Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed" (Doctrine and Covenants 123:17).

This doesn't apply only to sin; I believe that it is through the Atonement of Christ that we become the type of person that we ultimately want to become. Here in mortality, that includes the major attributes of charity, humility, mercy, faith, hope, etc. over long periods, and also can help in the immediate: how will I behave tonight? Will my behavior this hour help me become more like Jesus Christ?

I think this leads up a path of ever-increasing consecration to God and His work. This is not to say that we do not pursue supposedly temporal interests; rather, our perspective on temporal things becomes more like God's:
"Wherefore, verily I say unto you that all things unto me are spiritual, and not at any time have I given unto you a law which was temporal; neither any man, nor the children of men; neither Adam, your father, whom I created" (Doctrine and Covenants 29:34)

We start to see our lives like the Lord sees them - times of rich and eternal opportunity. That, in turn, gives us greater motivation to become what we can and must become: children of our Heavenly Father; men and women of God; men and women of sound understanding, who hunger and thirst after righteousness; the Zion of our God.

Simply, this: Though I make mistakes, I know that God is faithful, and that through my Savior Jesus Christ, I can become like my Heavenly Father and dwell with Him again.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


After an excellent lecture on the benefits of giving, I thought to ponder the question:

As a college student, how does one give? How ought I to give?

My first thought was that of giving blood. The sharing of life's blood seems a beautiful, symbolic action; and in few other daily circumstances can one directly save lives.

A charity run presented itself, incidentally, the same day. The Red Cross coaxes me into being 15 dollars more generous by allowing me to run a race. I do not find this type of incentivization (No, that's not a word; yes, it is now.) inappropriate; Is it better to do evil, or good? Indeed, a major thrust of the address spawning this article was to encourage us to give to others by describing statistically the economic, psychological, and sociological benefits of charitable giving. But I think all this talk of incentive rather misses the mark, which is to get beyond the incentive.

Quite frankly, giving is the right thing to do. In response to Cain's question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" the response is emphatically and absolutely, "Yes." In an ideal situation, we would give because we want to give - even when no when else will know; even when it wrenches our hearts to do so; even when we see no personal benefits from it. Perhaps, most of all, when we don't want to give and feel hypocritical for doing so.

And what type of giving? Blood and money have both been mentioned, and both are important. Time costs us so very dearly, but is so very precious to those who receive it; no amount of money can buy the satisfaction in a child's eyes from a few minutes of interaction. Don't believe me? Try to correct the opposite - the hurt in a child's eye from a lack of interaction - with cash, or a gift. (I may be biased - gifts mean much less to me than time. But the point remains.) Service, kind words, a smile, a touch - given freely, sweeten and strengthen our lives.

Gary Chapman, author of the Five Love Languages, would say correctly that what I am describing generally is love. (In fact, I borrowed or rounded out that list using his book, The Five Love Languages for Singles, which I heartily recommend.) Giving is the key to opening our hearts.

As a side note, I think the sweetest romantic relationship would be one of mutual giving; of the mutual pursuit of both parties' happiness, carried out indefinitely.

You want to love someone? Serve them. Help them. Give to them, in all of the ways mentioned here. Have problems with a person or group? Serve, help, give of yourself to the people with whom you have problems.

How wonderfully the Savior expressed this principle, in Matt 5:44-45, and 3 Nephi 12:44-45 - "But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; 45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven..."

This is something in which I have a long way to go. I think we all do. The conclusions of those chapters are a commandments to be perfect, as our Father in Heaven is perfect. The primary attribute of God? Love. If love is expressed by giving in some way, then one interpretation of the Savior's command is "Give, even as I, or your Father in heaven has given." (3 Ne 12:44). We cannot perform the Atonement; we cannot lay down our lives and take them up again for the salvation of mankind. But we can lose our lives for the sake of the Savior, in the service of our fellow man.

How is this done? We return to the original question: How ought I to give?

Pres. Monson speaks ofen of how the Savior went about doing good. Christ's life was and is an example of service; consistent, and throughout.

From His example, then, the question ought not to be - How ought I to give? But rather - Where am I holding back, and how can I correct that? (This requires a delicate balancing act between personal renewal and improvement, fulfilling our needs and desires, and using the tools at our disposal to bless and enrich the lives of others. I submit that success in this endeavor requires revelation. Pray about it.)

I think the first corrections I can make are running for chairty, and giving O- blood. But I'm not perfect in love, or in my motives, or in my giving. I take comfort in an incentive offered by Christ "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it." (Matt 26:25)
To the extent that I've done that, I have experienced that. It's true. Christ makes so much more of us than we can of ourselves - as we give.