Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Epiphany Beautiful

     ...The rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
     No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
     Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
     That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
      Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
      The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (Doctrine and Covenants 121:36; 41-45)
The above is a famous scripture in the LDS Church; it describes how people are to interact with each other. For some reason, these verses are usually applied particularly to men who formally bear the priesthood (LDS definition of Priesthood: Power of God delegated to man for the express and exclusive purpose of helping bring about His children's salvation), though I am of the very strong opinion that the instructions given here are not gender-specific or exclusive.

It struck me today, for perhaps the first time, that the scripture above is a description of how God acts towards us when we try and follow Him. He works through the same Priesthood power He delegates to His children; it seems clear to me now that He follows the same pattern He instructs us to follow.

I have written here before about how I have been recently reproved and taught; I had not expected, but can now testify of, the increase of love that the Lord is showing me. His faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death, whether that death is physical or spiritual.

It is and has been a blessed relief.

Isn't it amazing how life is made up of ten thousand, thousand little moments of experience, each and every day?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Down to earth

And they said one to another, Go to, let us make brick, and burn them throughly. And they had brick for stone, and slime had they for mortar. And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth. (Genesis 11:3-4)
And it shall come to pass, that when they make a long blast with the ram’s horn, and when ye hear the sound of the trumpet, all the people shall shout with a great shout; and the wall of the city shall fall down flat, and the people shall ascend up every man straight before him. (Joshua 6:5)
I have recently been granted a "wake-up call," as a good friend of mine called it, in the form of a number of my sureties and plans unraveling before my eyes. This was initially gut-wrenching and very sad; I was brought low.

In the aftermath of the same, I have realized again the call to application in the Gospel. I had imagined to myself a God of miracles, but, dangerously, also a God of miracles who did not expect me to work at the particular miracles intended. As the above examples perhaps illustrate, miracles do occur - but they occur in process, as we do, and not as we consider.

I have, for some time now, sown a life of pondering and wishing for things beyond my control, with various doctrinal and experiential justifications. I now am reaping, to some degree, a harvest of air and wishes.
it shall be unto them, even as unto a hungry man which dreameth, and behold he eateth but he awaketh and his soul is empty; or like unto a thirsty man which dreameth, and behold he drinketh but he awaketh and behold he is faint, and his soul hath appetite... (2 Nephi 27:3, quoting Isaiah 29)

By miraculous aid and the assistance of wonderful family and friends, I have been allowed to come thus far. I have tried to pursue a life of holiness and energy, of purity and of being "unspotted from the world," but, to some degree, I have pursued this task with detachment from the world, seeking an escape. I understand the Grecian yearning for the perfect world of Platonic forms; perfection disembodied and unattached, abstract.

The circumstances and experiences of the past month at least, both good and bad, reveal to me that such is not God's ideal. Indeed, the Savior walked in a mortal form, along dusty roads. He spent His time with sinners and publicans, and washed the feet of his disciples. His purity is not the purity of abstract perfection, but the purity of applied truth: love in action.

Indeed, the most abstract principle of Christianity - the Atonement - is itself the ultimate application of Christ's love - both in His taking upon Him all of our sins and infirmities to answer the demands of justice and "that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities" (Alma 7:12), and also in the application each of us must make to our individual circumstances, guilt, and memory. It is an infinitely personal process of making "all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose" that each of us must undergo to receive the benefits  of the same. The Gospel and Atonement of Christ is a Gospel of the personal application of eternal and infinite truth.

It has been impressed upon me too, of late and by necessity, that it is so also with my discipleship. I am so much more in His hands, and I suspect in His eyes, when I befriend and serve the men and women around me, the child next to me, the outcast, the arrogant with whom I have personal difficulty. In retrospect, I am shocked by the incredible difference in my own life and psyche between the kind actions of one friend, and hours of personal agonizing and introspection. I am earnestly grateful for friends who have helped me - imperfectly, but personally, real-ly, rather than waiting for some type of perfection.

And so yes, this blow has been a wake-up call. I have been to large degree knocked from my intellectual pedestal, and I find that I am not privileged, not unique, not protected from the trials and irregularities of life. I have been reminded that,
“If a man has any greatness in him, it comes to light, not in one flamboyant hour, but in the ledger of his daily work” (Beryl Markham, 1936).
I do not regret my intellectual exercises or striving for perfection. "Where there is no vision, the people perish" (Proverbs 29:18), but I am reminded also that "To the engineer [applicator, the applied actor] falls the job of clothing the bare bones of science [or religion] with life, comfort and hope" (Herbert Hoover, Memoirs, "The Profession of Engineering." Comments added). A similar quote, discovered while searching for the exact quote given immediately prior, extends the point:

No mathematical formula, however exact it may appear to be, can be of greater accuracy than the assumptions on which it is based, [with the] conclusion that experience still remains the great teacher and final judge. (James Kip Finch, Engineering Classics, commenting on Sejourne's Grandes Voutes)

And so, I choose for this blow to set me back on a path of engagement, of creating light in murky darkness, of being in the world even if I am not of it. I can accept and chart my limitations. I can intellectually accept and embrace my mortality. And I can do so while striving to live a Celestial life. Indeed, I give the Lord greater opportunity to show me that, while I am weak, "in His strength I can do all things" (Alma 26:12). As I do so, I can better assist the Lord in making my life something unique, beautiful, and extraordinary.

(Thus concludes the intellectual portion of my post.)

These thoughts lead me to expand my personal definitions of what is acceptable on this blog. While reading a collection of essays by Wendell Berry, (What Are People For?) I was surprised to find that many of his essays are book reviews. After I pushed through my initial objections, I realized that the substance of Berry's reading provided a framework for his thought and positions in very effective and sincere ways. It supports my previous theme: knowledge is inseparable from experience, depends upon it, cannot be divorced from it.

Normally, I would not share the rather plebian or mundane experiences and sources of inspiration that lead to some of my personal discoveries; today, as I hope the previous post explains, I believe I will do so. Additionally, in the future, I will be providing some more of my applied thoughts - such as book  reviews and descriptions or analyses of experiences, etc. - in addition to the more abstract musings I have generally posted. Hopefully, this process will provide more posts, greater opportunity for personal development and growth, and encourage more, and better, photography.

I thought, in preparing these experiences in my mind for publication, about two pieces of music which use a similar low, almost percussive bass sound for dramatic effect. Perhaps because of the change in frequency, I have felt that this particular bass sound is musically comparable to my experience of being brought metaphorically low.

The Main Theme of Mass Effect 3, embedded below, uses the motif in a wistful mood of ending. As the game story requires, the protagonist is nearing the end. It is a game, and a music, of conclusion. Though I thoroughly enjoy this music, I feel that the emotional arc of the piece is a melody defeated by the motif.

In contrast, the following piece - Bach's magnificent Prelude to the Unaccompanied Cello Suite in G Major, as performed by Mischa Maisky, - uses the low note as a source of energy and correction or change for the progress, drive and momentum of the piece.

So too do I decide to let this lesson be for me. It has improved and sharpened my leadership abilities. It has refined and clarified my planning. It has drawn my priorities and necessities back into alignment. It has required me to be more honest with myself and the Lord. It is, most paradoxically, a blessing, and I am grateful for it. 

Monday, August 6, 2012

Livet - Life

These past two weeks, I have been astounded by how much a single healthy relationship can change everything. I've begun to pursue a young lady, and even in these early stages of pre-official relationship, things are changing rapidly. I feel so much better, happier, more enthusiastic, more hopeful, less lonely.

The last few days especially have impressed on me that a search for truth is something that is lived more than something that is pondered; experienced rather than elucidated. I have come further living in two weeks than I had thinking in three and a half years.

There is a place and time for meditation and reflection. But that place and time is not the place or time for action and the leap of faith. There is also a place and time to do, to become and be rather than to plan and prepare.

A leap into the dark does not become easier by thinking about it, nor can it be accomplished by anything other than the jump itself. This is true in business, love, work (especially bitter work), exercise, singing, and in spiritual matters. The value is in the doing of it. The change comes from the doing of it; contemplation is insufficient.

It is a sweet and focusing revelation - to live.