Saturday, September 26, 2009

A Child's Prayer

Ok ok, I don't want to sound super cheezy...but I recently had a spiritual experience and figured I would blog about it.

I was thinking about a recent conversation I had about returning home from a mission and how life isn't quite so meaningful, and how personal progress seems an insurmountable task. I was thinking about the high goals I had set for my personal progression and good desires. I was also thinking tonight about a new little nephew I have, and what that little boy has lying ahead of him in his life. I was thinking about these things as I went running tonight.

I felt very overwhelmed--like all the goals I had set and every good intention I'd had, were just poorly laid bricks in a poorly-constructed "road of life." I paused from my run, laid down on a parcel of grass, and waited as these kinds of thoughts settled down next to me.

It may not seem like a huge revelation (but honestly, the good revelations are the ones that open our eyes when they're too tightly shut to see at midday) but after uttering a prayer, I had the calming reassurance that it wasn't all dependent upon me. I learned a little something about the Atonement tonight. I relearned the exclamation of the Savior to "take [His] yoke upon" me. Regardless of the burdens and doubts (and inadequacies), the Atonement of Christ exists as the end of all suffering.

With General Conference coming up, I'll end with a quote from Elder J. Reuben Clark and others:
"So as I conceive it, we must stand adamant for the doctrine of the atonement of Jesus the Christ, for the divinity of his conception, for his sinless life, and for, shall I say, the divinity of his death, his voluntary surrender of life. He was not killed, he gave up his life. It is our mission, perhaps the most fundamental purpose of our work, to bear constant testimony of Jesus the Christ. We must never permit to enter into our thoughts and certainly not into our teachings, the idea that he was merely a great teacher, a great philosopher, the builder of a great system of ethics. It is our duty, day after day, year in and year out, always to declare that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ who brought redemption to the world and to all the inhabitants thereof."

"Man unquestionably has impressive powers... But after all our obedience and good works, we cannot be saved from the effects of our sins without the grace extended by the atonement of Jesus Christ... Man cannot earn his own salvation."
--Dallin H. Oaks

"This life is not so much a time for getting and accumulating as it is a time for giving and becoming. Mortality is the battlefield upon which justice and mercy meet. But they need not meet as adversaries, for they are reconciled in the Atonement of Jesus Christ for all who wisely use Today."
--Lance B. Wickman

"Each of us will taste the bitter ashes of life, from sin and neglect to sorrow and disappointment. But the atonement of Christ can lift us up in beauty from our ashes on the wings of a sure promise of immortality and eternal life. He will thus lift us up, not only at the end of life, but in each day of our lives."
--Bruce C. Hafen

Sometimes laying alone in the dark on a patch of grass can be the perfect place to be taught that we are never alone, and that God provides us that little bit of knowledge we need when overwhelming thoughts threaten to settle down next to us and stay awhile.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Utah State Fair

I paid $8 last night to enter a big grass field, covered all over by booths and attractions that costed additional money: fairground grass had never been so expensive.

I saw some of the weirdest, saddest things last night. First, there was the 'smallest woman in the world' from Haiti. They kept her in this half-box as people filed through and just looked at her. I immediately had regrets for entering the attraction as I saw the sad, lonely look on her. How barbaric! Aside from this little woman, there were billboards for: "The 5-legged sheep", "The Beautiful Head of A Woman on the Ugly Body of a Snake", "The 2-Snouted Cow". The whole carnival atmosphere just reminds me of one of those old disney movies, that teach young people some morally prolific lesson (ex:Pinocchio, Alice in Wonderland, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride).

We walked through the 'tent of informercials' (as I'll call it) where there were old men selling: knives, George Foreman Grills ®, Hair Removal Kits, and my personal favorite, 'The Super Shammy'. They old guy with the super shammy, poured an entire bottle of root beer on a piece of carpet, and cleaned it all up with a shammy! Incredible. If it hadn't cost $15 for a 2x2 square of the stuff, I might have splurged.

We also rode a ride called the Zipper, which was designed to make your 'insides' want to be 'outsides' and vice versa. Not only was it like a miniature ferris wheel, circulating around a central point, each individual cart also spun at torrent speeds. It was a highlight of the night.

While I was at the Carnival, though, I thought about the lives of the people who travelled and worked at the Carnival. I mean, I entered this insane, freakish world for a night to somewhat escape reality and feel alien for a minute. I wondered if the "Carnival people" perceive their world as an accurate portrayal of reality. A world of flashing lights, bouncy music, and stuffed animals. It is legitimate to assume that those people have a very skewed view of reality. We all live in our own personal Carnivals and mistake it for reality.

reality (n) - something that exists independently of ideas concerning it.; the world or state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them.

Sometimes, we have ideals that are important to us--so we create worlds that have no actual ties to reality. Like the man who loved giant mice and pizza so much, that he created Chuckie Cheese. Or the man who loved candy so much, that he wrote about a character named Willy Wonka. More important, is when we experience the reality of the world and then form ideals and notions about that literal actuality!

Friday, September 11, 2009

i Love that Hummus

I recently helped someone write a paper about what the word “love” means to them. After stumbling around some boring premises to the paper, we stumbled upon something I think about, but have never really thought deeply about. My brother would talk a lot about ‘5 Dollar Words’ right when I got home from my mission. Words that we use when we don’t want to explicitly state what it is we mean.

So for this paper, it was decided that we should write out what it is we really mean when we say love in various contexts. I think it is interesting to think about what love really means to us when we say it--is it superficial or sincere? Deep or shallow? Understood or just negligently used? What does love mean?

I was prompted to think about this today while I was eating my homemade tacos and really enjoying the secret hummus sauce I put on them, when I said to myself, “Man, I love that hummus.” I stopped and thought, “What does that even mean?” So, I thought I would write down some common usages of the word love and describe what they literally mean in my opinion.

I love that hummus = Hummus tastes really good and compliments the meat, onions, tomatoes, sour cream, lettuce, and wheat tortillas of my fresh made tacos.

I love Autumn = The weather is perfect in the Fall and I can comfortably wear pants and a long sleeve shirt.

I love that shirt on you = that material really compliments your body type perfectly.

I love this song = this song makes me want to dance / this song reminds me of that one time… / this song really inspires me.

I love the Gospel = The Gospel teaches me truths about my Savior, the purpose of life, and the things I need to do to return to live with God, and I feel the Spirit when I hold to its precepts.

I love my family = I have known and spent tons of time with these people who know me and appreciate me for my good and bad parts, and I feel more at home and comfortable when I am with them than I do anywhere else.

When I really think about how unabashed I abuse the word love, I come to the solid conclusion that I don’t understand it much. I think we hide behind that word more than any other, and use it so we can avoid saying what we really mean. Only when you think you really understand it, do I think you should use it as a verb. I think those last two examples I used are the only two times in my life where I can use the word love appropriately, because I do love the gospel and my family…very much.