Wednesday, December 29, 2010

To A God Unknown

I'm currently reading Moby Dick and Steinbeck's To A God Unknown. I am favoring the second more and dividing my time between them quite unevenly. I just finished the chapter in which Joseph and Elizabeth get married and travel back to their valley home--and I'd like to share some of the quotes that stirred me. Enjoy.

At the wedding ceremony:
And suddenly Elizabeth was sorry for Joseph. She thought with a little more frantic sadness, "If my mother were here, she could say to him, Here is Elizabeth and she is a good girl because I love her, Joseph. And she will be a good wife once she learns how to be. I hope you will get outside the hard husk you are wearing, Joseph, so you may feel tenderly for Elizabeth. That's all she wants and it's not an impossible thing.
Elizabeth's eyes glittered suddenly with bright tears. "I will," she said aloud, and, silently, "I must pray a little. Lord Jesus, make things easy for me because I am afraid. In all the time I've had to learn about myself, I have learned nothing. Be kind to me, Lord Jesus, at least until I learn what kind of thing I am."

Crossing the precarious pass over the river into the valley on their wedding day:
"Joseph," she said. "It's a bitter thing to be a woman. I'm afraid to be. Everything I've been or thought of will stay outside the pass. I'll be a grown woman on the other side. I thought it might come gradually. This is too quick." And she remembered how her mother said, "When you're big Elizabeth, you'll know hurt, but it wont be the kind of hurt you think. It'll be hurt that can't be reached with a curing kiss."

They walked slowly through the pass, in the blue shade of it. Joseph laughed softly. "There may be pains more sharp than delight, Elizabeth, like sucking a hot peppermint that burns your tongue. The bitterness of being a woman may be an ecstasy."

As Joseph ran back across the pass to get the horse team:
But when he was gone, Elizabeth cried sadly, for she had a vision of a child in short starched skirts with pigtails down her back, who stood outside the pass and looked anxiously in, stood on one foot and then on the other, hopped nervously and kicked a stone into the stream. For a moment the vision waited as Elizabeth remembered waiting on a street corner for her father, and then the child turned miserably away and walked slowly toward Monterey. Elizabeth was sorry for her, "For it's a bitter thing to be a child," she thought. "There are so many clean new surfaces to scratch."

I love the way words can grip you and leave you feeling a certain way. Stories and words don't always have to be the same thing. Steinbeck has a way of saying things that leaves you contemplative and sympathetic. Or maybe that's just for me, as I sometimes feel like a character is some troubled Steinbeck novel.

Friday, December 24, 2010

'Tis the Season

Merry Christmas all! In case you missed it, here is the ending of one of my favorite Christmas classics.

"Strange isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"


It's a great season for contemplating the holes we fill in each other's lives, for giving and being given to, and for remembering the Savior. So, thank you for the little holes you fill in my life--life is awfully full of holes-- and thank you for letting me fill some holes in yours. Merry Christmas!

"Christ was born in the first century, yet He belongs to all centuries. He was born a jew, yet He belongs to all races. He was born in Bethlehem, yet he belongs to all countries."

"And she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins." -Matt. 1:21

Monday, December 13, 2010


Sometimes I feel like Napoleon Dynamite was right in so many ways. Most recently I have been thinking about this quote:

"Girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!"

Sometimes I don't get what brings two people together and causes them to start dating. Let's go through the progression:

Middle School:
-The reasons we like others may go as deep as their hair color, their hair style, their lack of braces, how fast they can run the Park mile, their dodgeball/capture the flag/PE abilities. I once had a crush on a girl because she used crutches. Deep and abiding are not the words I'd use for middle school romance.

High School:
-The reasons we like people in this season is even less connected with reality. We like people because they have cool cars, are on a school sports team or cheer squad, they sit next to us in class, they listen to the same music we do, they wear pink and say "like" a hundred times a day, they make us feel cool or give us a status symbol, and probably, they like to kiss A LOT. Just a few of the reasons high school loves are formed, I feel.

Freshman Year of College:
This is a tricky stage to find love in. The reasons here for two people liking each other vary greatly, but I can still think of a few generals. The reasons might be they simply HAVE a car (regardless of how cool), once again, they probably like to kiss a lot, or an admiration for the pursuits and immature goals one has as a freshman, the "funness" of another person, or a yearning to find someone to care for you whilst one is far from home.

Young Adult Life:
There is this gross misconception that the coming together of two people in this stage is without the fallacies of the previous dating/finding love stages. It is full of them, as well. But this stage, I suppose, is where finding love is the best balance between admiration and infatuation. What is love without some infatuation? I think the best reasons for two people coming together in this season are a deep respect for what the other values, a commitment to care for another person amidst weakness, a similar perspective of life and its dealings, and an enjoyment of one another in any and all (or at lease most) situations.

Still, I cannot help feel that love is this game of picking and choosing, debating and deciding whether his/her skills are cool enough for my attention. If love is a case of skills, then I am lost. I have no skills! (And please hold any flattering comments). I have nothing to put on display in front of the girls I like. No cool car, no cool hair, no cool singing abilities, no cool sports teams, no cool jokes, or cool muscles. If love is bred of coolness and skills, then once again, I am not bred for love.

I guess I just don't understand the concept yet. Either love is skills or it is chance. Either it is coolness or it is timing. Two people have to meet each other and for some reason, aside from coolness and skills, decide that the other person is worth abandoning independence and solitude. And if that's the case--probability and timing--then I can't ever assume the second hand will strike in my direction. So I guess I'd better start developing some sweet skills.

What brings two people together?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cameo Blog

I've never tested the waters of featuring other's blogs on my page, but my thoughts are rather drab lately and I have so many relatives and friends who write some pretty beautiful things. A good friend of mine wrote recently a post that inspired me. She is a young, Christian, recent APU graduate in the greater LA area. If you have a minute check out her post, I'm sure you'll enjoy her thoughts and style:

-Dani Davis

Monday, December 6, 2010


Creatures Without Eyes

At the bottom of ev'rything
There is a place without lights--
Without eyes.
But the creatures there see just fine
Without lights and without eyes--
They see fine.
I can never go there to see
Things without lights and their eyes--
I can't see.
Here, there are lights and there are eyes
We see things with light and our eyes--
We see them.
If we did not have lights and not eyes
We would see the world without lights and eyes--
We would see.

"We shall see but a little way if we require to understand what we see."
-Henry David Thoreau

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Caught Up to Beatrice

We had an interesting discussion today in philosophy about Dante's Paradiso chapters 1-5. Dante exits purgatory, after having toured hell, and meets Beatrice on the moon's celestial surface. They chat for a little while about those who inherit that lesser 'sphere' and then Beatrice begins to talk about why people are in heaven and why others are in hell. Essentially, she says that those in heaven are there because they took delight is doing whatever was God's will. Those in Hell, as portrayed in the Inferno, are endlessly reviling God and cursing His will. Maybe there is no heaven after all! I can imagine an eternity where everyone is banished to a field forever and ever, and the only difference there would be the smiles on the faces of those who, in this imaginary existence as in past existences, loved God for whatever His will brought to them. And the rest of us would still be in our little hell of frowns and froward thoughts! Perhaps this makes heaven even less of a place than we imagined, turning it into a state of being.

"Be more grave, Christians, in your endeavors.
Do no resemble feathers in the wind, nor think
that any sort of water has the power to wash you clean.

"You have the Testaments, both New and Old,
and the shepherd of the Church to guide you.
Let these suffice for your salvation."

On the same vein, I was researching for a paper about philosophy and religion and was reminded of this quote from Brigham Young that I like, and I'm sure will delight my sister and you, too:

“I am more afraid that this people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are led by Him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind self- security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give to their leaders, did they know for themselves, by the revelations of Jesus, that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know, by the whispering of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the path the Lord dictates, or not.”

“God has placed within us a will, and we should be satisfied to have it controlled by the will of the Almighty. Let the human will be indomitable for right. It has been the custom of parents to break the will until it is weakened, and the noble, Godlike powers of the child are reduced to a comparative state of imbecility and cowardice. Let that heaven-born property of human agents be properly tempered and wisely directed, instead of pursuing the opposite course, and it will conquer in the cause of right. Break not the spirit of any person, but guide it to feel that it is its greatest delight and highest ambition to be controlled by the revelations of Jesus Christ; then the will of man becomes Godlike in overcoming the evil that is sown in the flesh, until God shall reign within us to will and do of His good pleasure.”

Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 9:150

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Marcus Aurelius

"My name is Maximus Decimus Meridius, commander of the Armies of the North, General of the Felix Legions, loyal servant to the true emperor, Marcus Aurelius. Father to a murdered son, husband to a murdered wife. And I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next."

We read the meditations of Marcus Aurelius this week in philosophy class. He talked a lot about the glories of life being futile, and the fear of death being vanity. In fact, Marcus Aurelius would probably have had qualms about this quote from a vengeful Maximus. Life that is short, is sweet. Here are some quotes I really enjoyed. Enjoy:

"The universe is transformation: life is opinion."

"How much trouble he avoids who does not look to see what his neighbor says or does or thinks, but only to what he does himself, that it may be just and pure; or as Agathon says, look not round at the depraved morals of others, but run straight along the line without deviating from it."

"For the greatest part of what we say and do being unnecessary, if a man takes this away, he will have more leisure and less uneasiness. Accordingly on every occasion a man should ask himself, Is this one of the unnecessary things? Now a man should take away not only unnecessary acts, but also, unnecessary thoughts, for thus superfluous acts will not follow after."

"In a word, thy life is short. Thou must turn to profit the present by the aid of reason and justice. Be sober in thy relaxation."

"Love the art, poor as it may be, which thou hast learned, and be content with it; and pass through the rest of life like one who has entrusted to the gods with his whole soul all that he has, making thyself neither the tyrant nor the slave of any man."

"Time is like a river made up of the events which happen, and a violent stream; for as soon as a thing has been seen, it is carried away, and another comes in its place, and this will be carried away too."

"Do not then consider life a thing of any value; for look to the immensity of time behind thee, and to the time which is before thee, another boundless space. In this infinity then what is the difference between him who lives three days and him who lives three generations?"

And one of my favorite:

"But perhaps the desire of the thing called fame will torment thee.—See how soon everything is forgotten, and look at the chaos of infinite time on each side of the present, and the emptiness of applause, and the changeableness and want of judgment in those who pretend to give praise, and the narrowness of the space within which it is circumscribed, and be quiet at last. For the whole earth is a point, and how small a nook in it is this thy dwelling, and how few are there in it, and what kind of people are they who will praise thee."

-Marcus Aurelius

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Love, Love, Love

“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
-Mother Teresa

I have been considering charity, lately. I sat down and watched President Monson's address to the Relief Society entitled, "Charity Never Faileth." I have been praying lately to be kinder, gentler, and able to see past the pretenses, so that i might see 'the person'. I met someone over summer who embodied this love. This person loved each and every person for who they were, exactly as the were, doing whatever they were doing. I've heard before, "hate the sin, love the sinner". I think the first clause there is extraneous--inappropriate, even. Love the sinner. Love the person exactly as they are. Once pretenses fade away and persons are left, you will see only beauty. I enjoyed his talk. Here are some excerpts:

"I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging... I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.

"I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.

"There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.

"Needed is the charity which refuses to find satisfaction in hearing or in repeating the reports of misfortunes that come to others, unless by so doing, the unfortunate one may be benefited. The American educator and politician Horace Mann once said,

“To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is godlike.”

"In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.

"Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others."
-President T.S. Monson

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Have I Got A Story for You

Around 10:30pm last night I was standing on a dimly lit basketball court watching my date clutch her nose in pain, tears streaming from her eyes, while I profusely apologized for having potentially broken a number of bones in her face.

My name is Ryan Williams--and this is my story.

I said to my cousin last night as she got in the car and we discussed my awkward lifestyle, "I am quite possibly the most awkward man alive." She didn't believe me then, but I'm sure I have her convinced now. We went on a double date last night. I set her up with a friend and she set me up with a really nice girl. The plan was to go to Pleasant Grove and attend a "Clothing Swap" at a local Yoga club. We walked up to the door at around 9:00pm as people were filing out, only to learn that we had barely missed the event. This was really no big deal and we even got invited to host a "Clothing Swap" of our own in Provo, but it left us with the decision of what to do next. We drove around for a few minutes brainstorming great date ideas, until one popped into my head, and sealed the fate for the evening. I remembered I had a basketball in my trunk and we weren't too far from the secret basketball court behind the Riverwoods shopping center. Don't bother looking for it, you'll never find it!

So, we parked the car with the headlights facing the hoops and played a fun round of "H-O-R-S-E". After the game, my date and I started playing a quick game of one-on-one. There was laughing, there was scoring, but there was about to be a quick change in the geniality of the evening. All I really remember from 10:29pm last night is dribbling up to the top of the key, stopping there, and thinking, "How cool would it be if I kicked the ball in the hoop for the last point of the game?"

Now, compare that last sentence with the opening paragraph of this post. Yeah, you guessed it. I drop-kicked the ball into the air, but with a lot less loft under it than I expected. In fact, it was more like a bullet--and my date's nose was the destination. Of all the body parts ol' Spalding chose to connect with, it was the one that most easily produces tears, blood, and awkward silence. I essentially kicked my date in the face. That being said, she was a really good sport and I couldn't have asked for a better date. But this just chronicles how truly bad at dating I am.

My roommates enjoyed that story last night, along with the other ward members that came over to hear it, as well.

But such experiences will not keep me from the dating world, no sir. No amount of blood, or tears, will prevent me. And yes, I realize that is only a saying. I will really try not to draw any more blood or tears from my future dates.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

My Failed Attempts at Flirtation

IN the past few weeks I have been "rebuked" several times for my lack of dating desire. I have been called "eternally narrow-minded" and complacent. I was pretty sure those accusations were correct, so I decided to go about changing my ways. I made a concerted effort this week to be... "better". Let me share with you a story.

Last Sunday was Stake Conference for the BYU 9th Stake (at least I think we're the 9th Stake). I attended in the BYU Tabernacle with two of my roommates, who we will here call Fwesley and Feric-for reasons of nondisclosure. Fwesley, Feric, and I (Fryan) were seated in the balcony, to the right of the podium, close to the choir. As the choir stood up to perform their first musical number, Fwesley leaned over to me and commented on how cute "the girl with glasses" was in the second row of the choir. My opinion very much coincided with his. Fwesley asked if I thought she was cute. I accented to said cuteness and the meeting proceeded on as scheduled. Fwesley then dared me to talk to "girl with glasses". After the conference, Fwesley and I went to talk to some members of the choir who are members of our ward. As we left the choir area, Fwesley nudged me, whispering indiscreetly that "girl with glasses" was right behind us. We turned about, saw girl with glasses, and bolted for the door. Somewhat disappointed, I told Fwesley on our walk to the car that if I ever saw girl with glasses again, I would at least talk to her.

Sunday afternoon passed peacefully, and Monday morning came swiftly. I woke up at 7:15am, showered, ate breakfast, and was out the door at 8:05 to my 9:00am philosophy class. I was seated in the front row, not by way of choice, but of necessity (I lost my glasses). Shortly before class was to start I saw a figure sit down next to me. This figure was wearing glasses. I looked to my right and immediately recognized girl with glasses. I fuddled through my thoughts of techniques of how to talk to girls and ended up blurting out, "HOW'D THE HOMEWORK GO FOR YOU?" at a decibel that is hardly socially acceptable. It was early and I hadn't talked yet. She, a bit startled, responded that she'd forgotten to do the homework. I responded, "Oh." And was out of things to say. We exchanged names and talked a bit about the class and that was that.

Wednesday again I attended 9am philosophy. A figure with glasses sat down next to me. I had been dared the previous night to try and ask her on a date. I consented. With all the absolute creativity I possess, I turned to girl with glasses and ask, "How'd the homework go for you?" In my eye was a sort of flirty twinkle. She responded, "I didn't have time to do it yesterday." Again, my conversation reservoir was depleted. Class began and we talked a bit amid lecture. We confirmed names once more. I forced a laugh, she forced a couple, and all the sudden it felt like we were having a real conversation.

The bell rang and we continued our talk on a walk to the next class. I found out that she works at the MOA museum as a tour guide. I put a little pep in my step and with all the flirtatiousness I could muster, asked cooly, "So what does one have to do to get a private tour at the museum?" The shot was fired, the investment deposited, now I just waited for the expected return. She looked at me perplexed, and responded flatly, "Oh, we don't do private tours. If you just go to the desk, though, you can look up times for group tours and..."

I have decided to never try flirting again in my life. Or at least not for another 6 months.

You'd Better Hurry. You'll Miss That Plane.

Annina: Monsieur Rick, what kind of a man is Captain Renault?
Rick: Oh, he's just like any other man, only more so.

A friend of mine a few doors down lent me Casablanca the other night, and I finally got around to watching it. To say I liked it would be a bit of an understatement. I think I laid in bed last night for at least 30 minutes just quoting it to myself. The simple plot, the mixture of nationality, the patriotism, and the dialogue were all simply awesome. I watched The Maltese Falcon a few weeks ago and was pleased to see a majority of the cast in this film, too. And of course, Humphrey Bogart is seen brandishing a pistol on the cover of both. I think it's safe to say, I recommend renting Casablanca at least once if you haven't yet seen it.

I've been reading Aristotle's Nichomachean Ethics, lately. In books 5 and 9 he writes about the importance of friendship, or in the Greek, philia. Love. He says there are three reasons for love or friendship:

1) Utility
We may care about the individual for himself or herself, but our main cause or basis for friendship in this case is the usefulness a specific person is to us. This form of friendship is often fleeting--changing as often as our needs. The old and the ambitious are particularly partial to this form of friendship. I feel like most friendships I make with those in the business school are thus categorized.

2) Pleasure
Before you shield your children's eyes, I don't mean this in THAT kind of way. I mean, some people we enjoy being around, we laugh around them, we feel uplifted by them, we enjoy the brownies they cook for us, we get some sort of "pleasure" from them. I think I inadvertently place a lot of emphasis on this when I look for friends, and I feel most people heavily overemphasize this when seeking to find or retain friends. It is understandable that these kind of friendships are most common among the young--the ones predominantly ruled and governed by their feelings. If friendship isn't pleasurably stimulating, it is not worth the stimulation. This leads to frequent, swift changes in friendship--as swift as feelings change and pleasures dissipate.

3) The Truest Friendship is between the Just
The people who enjoy true friendship are those that are internally just and good, and who find friendships with others who are just and good. Aristotle reasons that everyone who is just is happy. All those who are happy, enjoy the best virtues of this life. Friendship is a true virtue. Therefore, all those who are just will require friends. Friendships based on virtue, not on pleasure or utility. These friendships are not only the longest, because goodness is eternal, but also provide the just friends with benefits of utility and pleasure.

So, what did I learn from reading Aristotle? Nothing really that will ever help me. But I enjoyed highlighting passages that I will never again read. So before you pick up a copy of an issue of Ethics, go rent Casablanca and enjoy the classics. And then we can quote it to each other frequently.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

More TED

I was introduced to the Talking Heads and David Byrne in an introductory Humanities in the basement of the JFSB. We watched a live choreographed presentation of one of their songs. David Byrne spoke the phrase, "Bike riding is faster than a walk, slower than a car, and slighty higher than a human."

I like his style. I was scanning today for some inspiration and came across his presentation of his 1988 hit "(Nothing but) Flowers". Check it out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

John Wooden on TED

I was eating my turkey sandwich in the Wilkinson Center last wednesday and decided to put the BYU WiFi to use and log onto TED talks. If you haven't seen the website yet, it is a collection of talks and presentations from inspiring people around the world.

I watched a presentation by John Wooden, former UCLA basketball coach. He talked about 'true success'. I really liked it; it was refreshing. Here's the link if you'd like to check it out.

Here were some things I wrote down:

No written word or spoken plea
Can teach our youth what they ought to be
Nor all the books on all the shelves;
It is what the teachers are themselves.

Your reputation is what you are perceived to be, and your character is what you really are.

Giving all, it seems to me,
Is not so far from victory.
And so the fates are seldom wrong,
No matter how they twist and whine,
It's you and I who make our fate
We open up or close the gates
On the road ahead
Or the road behind.

If you become too engrossed and involved and concerned with the things over which you have no control it will adversely affect the things over which you have control.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Flower Gathering

I left you in the morning,
And in the morning glow,
You walked a way beside me
To make me sad to go.
Do you know me in the gloaming,
Gaunt and dusty gray with roaming?
Are you dumb because you know me not,
Or dumb because you know?

All for me?
And not a question
For the faded flowers gay,
That could take me from beside you
For the ages of a day?
They are yours, and be the measure
Of their worth for you to treasure,
The measure of the little while
That I've been long away.
-Robert Frost

I was thinking on my walk to school today about poetry, and this little beauty popped into my mind. I memorized it a couple years back and enjoy reciting it to myself on solitary walks, sometimes. It used to have a lot more meaning for me, especially while I was on my mission and had a girl I liked at home, but even now I can still enjoy its personification of the blossoming nature of absent love.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Life In a Cave

Plato on education:

"Education is not what some people claim it to be. What they say, roughly speaking, is that they are able to put knowledge into souls where none was before. Like putting sight into eyes which were blind.

"Whereas our present account (referring to the allegory of the cave) indicates that this capacity in every soul, this instrument by means of which each person learns, is like an eye which can only be turned away from the darkness and towards the light by turning the whole body. The entire soul has to turn with it, away from what is coming to be, until it is able to bear sight of what is, and in particular the brightest part of it. This is the part we call the good, isn't it?

"Education then would be the art of directing this instrument, of finding the easiest and most effective way of turning it round. Not the art of putting power of sight into it, but the art which assumes it (the soul) possesses this power (sight)--albeit incorrectly aligned, and looking in the wrong direction--and contrives to make it look in the right direction."

The allegory goes that we are all chained up and have been since we came into being. Our heads are fastened and incapable of turning. All we've ever seen are shadows from a puppet show going on behind us (see the above picture), illuminated by a fire burning far on the back wall. We don't see reality, instead, we busy ourselves with the shadows of figurines. True education deals with teachers breaking students out of the chains with which they are bound (societal chains, perhaps), and dragging their peers up the slight incline to the cave's mouth. Our first steps into sunlight would be painful, with eyes only accustomed to darkness. Indeed, we may even angrily claim that this new world isn't reality because we can hardly see it, the outlines of things would be entirely indistinct, because our eyes would have grown so accustomed to the fuzzy outlines in the cave. Not until our eyes adjusted and we saw the world, would we slowly realized that our entire life was spent in a cave. We would see the sun--the good. The source of all light and life--we would realize that the fire which dimly lit our cave was only a sorry representation. The man who discovered the truth would not be satisfied until he could run back and free everyone that still lay chained on the dusty cave floor. Plato argues that only few in life are philosophically minded. He argues that even the majority would fight to stay in the cave, entirely convinced that the philosopher, with eyes now unaccustomed to the dark cave, was foolish and had suffered only impaired vision. The majority would grow impatient and angry, even violent with this man who would threaten their reality.

I loved--loved sitting in class listening to this discussion. It struck a very deep chord with me. We busy ourselves with these "shadows on the wall": money, careers, politics, etc. It must look ridiculous for the philosopher to come down and watch us debating and praising each other for recognizing shapes on a wall. I find it a swell representation of life.

Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire (said Aristotle, I think). We have the power of sight; it's just that our sight is focused on the shadows of shadows. Education is grabbing someone by the head and turning them, and their bodies, and their souls, away from the shadows and toward the absolute reality of the light. The good.

Friday, October 8, 2010

A Valid Syllogism

I am in a deductive logic course and have 'arguments' (in the philosophical logic sense) on the brain. I made sure my roommates woke up to this syllogism on our whiteboard this morning:

-Every girl in a BYU ward is in a ward directory.

-Everything in a ward directory is nothing but a picture.

-Pictures are incapable of loving anyone.

-Therefore, Every girl in a BYU ward is incapable of loving anyone.


Subject to refutation.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


I woke up yesterday and found this equation on our whiteboard in the living room:

1. time = money
2. money = evil (root of all evil)
3. women = money x time

Substituting 1. into 3.

women = money x (money)
= money2

Squaring 2.

money2 = evil

Substituting 2. into 3.

women = evil

I thought it was pretty funny.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Being Good, Knowing Your Badness

"No man knows how bad he is until he has tried very hard to be good."

"A silly idea is current that good people do not know what temptation mean. This is an obvious lie. Only those who try to resist temptation know how strong it is. After all, you find out the strength of the German army by fighting against it, not by giving in. You find out the strength of the wind by trying to talk against it, but not by lying down. A man who gives into temptation after 5 minutes simply does not know what it would have been like an hour later. That is why bad people, in one sense, know very little about badness. They have lived a sheltered life by always giving in.

"We never find out the strength of the evil impulse inside us until we try to fight it: and Christ, because he was the only man who never yielded to temptation, is also the only man who knows to the full what temptation means -- the only complete realist."

-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

It follows, I think, the worse you think you are doing, the more you are trying. Sometimes I get terribly discouraged about my personality traits and weaknesses and disparage any and all progress and good I've made. To try hard is to feel more deeply the impact of the fall.

Plato's Republic

"You don't, I imagine, call the art of earning a living 'medicine', just because someone becomes healthy while earning a living?"

-"Certainly Not."

"Nor do you call medicine the art of earning a living, do you, if someone earns a living practicing medicine?"

I wish I could have sat by and watched Socrates and Thrasymachus debate over justice. Or rather, watch Socrates dismantle any claim at what justice might be. This snippet from the conversation comes as the two are discussing the precise form of the arts or "skills". They discuss that medicine does not function to improve medicine (as a skill or art), but it functions to improve the body. In the same sense, the art or skill of medicine cannot and does not function to earn on money, but RATHER the art or skill of "making a living" functions simultaneously to put money in one's pocket. Thus, The true form of medicine is to improve the body--and not to make a living.

Now, that point wasn't even a part of the discussion. They were not debating motives. But I like that. Anything we do has a 'true form'. If we study--studying has a true form. A function that does not have applications outside of studying. If we study justly, or purely, we study to the improvement of our souls. If we talk--talking has a true form; probably for no other purpose than communicating purely the thoughts within us. If we do anything, if we study anything, it should be because we wish to do it purely. Study medicine unto the improving of the body, talking unto perfectly communicating, philosophy unto perfectly...thinking?

Which brings me back to the question of what I would like to do with my life. Do you ever ask yourself what kind of brain you have? And when considering a profession, do you choose based upon what kind of brain you have, or what kind of brain you would like to have? What is the most important consideration when deciding what to study? Is it to enjoy it? Is it what comes easy to you? (These two can and often do differ). Should I study what will make me most useful to society, to my family, to my God, or to myself?

If your reasoning convinces me, I will likely change my mode of considering to this, and hopefully be able to blame you for any unhappiness which follows.

P.S. Don't you just love autumn?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

the old lady in Cana

I've had some time to do some leisurely reading today for the first time in weeks. I picked up Nikos Kazantzakis' The Last Temptation of Christ, and I am thoroughly enjoying it. Here is a line from the book spoken from an old woman in Cana as young Jesus runs away to join a monastery in the desert:

“…Don’t you know that God is found not in monasteries but in the homes of men! Wherever you find husband and wife, that’s where you find God; wherever children and petty cares and cooking and arguments and reconciliations, that’s where God is too. Don’t listen to those eunuchs. Sour Grapes! Sour Grapes! The God I’m telling you about, the domestic one, not the monastic: that’s the true God. He’s the one you should adore. Leave the other to those lazy, sterile idiots in the desert!”

-Nikos Kazantzakis

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Nugget Of Wisdom

"Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attach otherwise impossible."
-C.S. Lewis

I have forgotten and excluded the principle of trivial sacrifice for the Lord. When I got back from my mission, I would make little sacrifices daily from me to the Lord. I would turn off a show I was enjoying and read a verse. I would close my computer and go on a prayerful, meditative walk. I would consecrate an act to the Lord. I don't find myself doing that much anymore... and I miss it.

"Nobody can always have devout feelings: and even if we could, feelings are not what God principally cares about. Christian Love, either towards God or towards man, is an affair of the will... He will give us feelings of love if He pleases. We cannot create them for ourselves, and we must not demand them as a right. But the great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not:
It is not wearied by our sins, or out indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him."
-C.S. Lewis

"Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good" -Romans 12:21

Thursday, September 23, 2010


Do you ever miss that feeling of first knowledge? You know, where your mental eyes open to a concept or where something you heard on Jeopardy finally makes sense? The older I get, the more my education progresses, the less I get that transcendent feeling. It is an absence of wonder, of surprise, a difficult quench to the thirsting for something intellectually stimulating.

I felt it in high school in an AP Biology class, in each and every philosophy lesson from Mr. Meyers in my last block class senior year, from Professor Pope in American Heritage lectures, and I miss it desperately. It seems a bit tragic that in my few years of schooling there have been few classes, fewer moments that have inspired and fed me intellectually and philosophically. Moments that have brought me closer to the "good".

I have had glimpses of it this year, seen it through the windows of the passing semester, and mostly it has come from chemistry and philosophy classes. I have been reading Socrates the past week:

Euthyfro: You understand what I said perfectly.
Socrates: That's because I am eager for your wisdom, and give my mind to it, so that nothing falls to the ground.

I think that's what makes the great writers the great writers: They open our eyes to the 'good'. They show us something real, and we become a little bit more in touch with reality because of their unique perspective.

So what do I get when I read Socrates? I get a meal. He devoted his life to wisdom and the obtaining of it (though he wouldn't say he obtained any). He doesn't ever really create a theory and then press it on others, he asks questions and discusses with others until a new idea is born out of reason.

"And now we go, I to die and you to live. Which of us goes to the better lot is known to no one but the god."

Monday, September 13, 2010

As Dawn's Fingers Rose

An epic metaphor:

"Joy, warm as the joy that shipwrecked sailors feel
when they catch sight of land--Poseidon has struck
their well-rigged ship on the open sea with gale winds
and crushing walls of waves, and only a few escape, swimming,
struggling out of the frothing surf to reach the shore,
their bodies crusted with salt but buoyed up with joy
as they plant their feet on solid ground again,
spared a deathly fate. So joyous now to her
the sight of her husband, vivid in her gaze,
that her white arms, embracing his neck,
would never for a moment let go. . ."
Odyssey, bk.23, lines 262-272

Penelope and Odysseus embrace after 20 years of absence; after wars and storms; after broken ships and conquered beasts; after even doubt of his return. After our discussion of epic metaphors in class I highlighted this passage mentally in my book. Isn't it kind of climactic? Here is Odysseus embracing his wife after 10 years of war, followed by 10 years of being tossed about on the sea and lost on land; After being shipwrecked multiple times and fighting the swells to regain his footing on land, and here comes a metaphor describing Penelope's (his wife) state the past 20 years as being emotionally ship-wrecked--clawing and fighting for air and land. Oh man, I loved it.

Oh, and not to mention the scene of blood and gore that came about 2 books prior as Odysseus, his son, and his cowherder, slaughtered all of Penelope's suitors.

Perhaps my tenderness towards this quote was due to yesterday's CES Fireside by Elder Scott. As is common among CES Firesides the address was centered around marriage. The Odyssey is basically a story about returning home to one's family and doing everything in one's power to get there. I guess I just haven't reached that point in life where I can relate entirely.

Here are some notes from the fireside that I wrote down:

2 Vital Pillars that Support Heavenly Father's Plan:
-the Home

"The adversary destroys these pillars by promoting promiscuity."

-Make where you live the embodiment of a clean, righteous living.

-Marriage will help you find out who you really are. It is a perfect arena for overcoming all tendency to be selfish. (Remember Matt. 16:25)

-The best way to live life is to seek the will of the Lord as inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


. . . who believe that they believe in God, but without passion in their hearts, without anguish in mind, without uncertainty, without doubt, without an element of despair even in their consolation, believe in the God idea, not God himself.

~Miguel de Unamuno

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

How Appropriate

So, for my Philosophy 201 class I am required to write about my experiences with the weekly reading assignment in my journal. I choose to fulfill that requirement here on blogspot. I apologize for any inconvenience this may subject you to.

I did come across a laughably appropriate bit in the reading this week, which comprised books 5-8 of Homer's Oddyssey:

Around line 220, Odysseus is having a conversation with the goddess Calypso, who has kept Odysseus captive on her island for seven years--her love for him being the cause. Odysseus does not love Calypso. He has a wife back in Greece and "...[pines] all [his] days" for her. Hermes is sent from Zeus to Calypso to argue for Odysseus' freedom and safe return home. Since Zeus is never to be disobeyed, Calypso agrees, but first extends Odysseus, the great grecian Warrior demigod, an invitation and a warning:

"But if you only knew, down deep, what pains
are fated to fill your cup before you reach that shore,
you'd stay right here, preside in our house with me
and be immortal.." (lines 228-231)

She goes on to ask if her beauty is any less than Odysseus' wife's--and in his cunning response replies:

"Ah great goddess,"
worldly Odysseus answered, "Don't be angry with me,
please. All that you say is true, how well I know.
Look at my wife Penelope. She falls short of you,
your beauty, stature. She is mortal after all
and you, you never age or die. . .
Nevertheless I long--I pine all my days--
to travel home and see the dawn of my return.
ANd if a god will wreck me yet again on the wine-dark sea,
I can bear that too, with a spirit tempered to endure.
Much have I suffered, labored lone and hard by now
in the waves and wars. And this to the total--
bring the trial on!" (lines 236-248)

What a great response. He compliments the goddess and declares his love for his wife, Penelope, not because her beauty and comparison exceeds that of the Gods, but because she is his wife! What more is there?

Our professor made a point before the end of class ended our discussions. He asked whether we think Odysseus meant what he said (about desiring only to return home to Penelope) or whether he used what he said merely as an excuse to get out of Calypso's imprisonment, thus embarking again on epic and awesome journeys. This is the point that I find appropriate and applicable. The search for the next adventure... how inebriating the adventure potion can be.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thoreau Today

Here is a little refresher from Thoreau:

"There are nowadays professors of philosophy, but not philosophers. Yet it is admirable to profess because it was once admirable to live. To be a philosopher is not merely to have subtle thoughts, nor even to found a school, but so to love wisdom as to live according to its dictates, a life of simplicity, independence, magnanimity, and trust." -From Economy, p.17

"The stars are the apexes of what wonderful triangles! What distant and different beings in the various mansions of the universe are contemplating the same one at the same moment!...Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other's eyes for an instant?" -Economy, p.14

"But men labor under a mistake. The better part of a man is soon ploughed into the soil for compost. By a seeming fate, commonly called necessity, they are employed, as it says in an old book, laying up treasures which moth and rust will corrupt and thieves break through and steal. It is a fool's life, as they will find when they get to the end of it, if not before." Economy, p. 9

Thursday, September 2, 2010

In Bonn, Deutschland

Once upon a time there lived a young missionary in Germany, who wanted to be good. He lived in the ward boundaries of a member who was wise beyond her years. This ward member had a quote book out of which a young Elder Williams read the following:

Are you wandering or being led?

I have been thinking a lot lately why life feels off. Recently, things just seem to be harder--like trying to run in molasses, or trying to see far-off without glasses. I am straining. I am strained. I was reading out of my past journals (an activity I practice when looking for solutions to current problems), and was surprised again how much I learn from what I wrote. A journal is a godsend. A bible.

I didn't ask the Lord about any of the decisions I made this fall. Not where I live, not what classes I am taking, not what clubs to join, what sports to play, what activities to fill my time. I did it all by myself and it is starting to show. Do we ever really know what is good for us? I am starting to doubt it.

I realize now that instead of being led to where the Lord wants me this semester, I was wandering to and fro, searching for where I thought I would be of most use and happiest. Wandering, Searching, Testing. These are all good methods and sometimes God will send us down those paths--give us time to think about what we've done or where we need to go. But to embark on a stint of wandering without direction is just dawdling life away. There is such a thing as happy diversion, or needed sauntering. But those are afternoon pursuits only valued when their length allows for a return to the paths of progression. Right?

Am I wandering through life or being led?

Perhaps I missed a chance to do something great this fall; To grow from a class I should have taken, to serve in a capacity I might have been given, or to simply be at peace with the world around me.

The story continues: After having forgotten the source of his happiness, the next time this former young missionary was faced with a decision, he turned and asked God, "What wouldst thou have me do, now?"

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A Dream Within A Dream

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow--
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream.

I stand amid the roar
Of a surf-tormented shore,
And I hold within my hand
Grains of the golden sand--
How few! yet how they creep
Through my fingers to the deep,
While I weep--while I weep!
O God! can I not grasp
Them with a tighter clasp?
O God! can I not save
One from the pitiless wave?
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?

-Edgar Allen Poe

Hesiod Selections

My Philosophy 201 professor assigned this reading for last night. I was amused by this passage:

“And he gave them a second evil to be the price for the good they had:

whoever flees marriage and the sorrows made by women

and will not wed, reaches deadly old age

with no one to tend his years, and though he has no lack of livelihood

while he lives, yet, when he is dead, his kinsfolk divide his possessions

amongst them. And as for the man who chooses the lot of marriage

and takes a good wife suited to his mind,

evil always contends with good;

for whoever happens to have mischievous children, lives always

with unceasing grief in his spirit and heart within him;

and this evil cannot be healed.”

It sounds like a lot of grief and sorrow and suffering. Sounds like fun.