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.