Sunday, November 20, 2011

No Heaven

The point is not that God will refuse you admission to His eternal world if you have not got certain qualities of character: the point is that if people have not got at least the beginnings of those qualities inside of them, then no possible external conditions could make a ‘Heaven’ for them—that is, could make them happy with the deep, strong, unshakable kind of happiness God intends for us.

-C.S. Lewis

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Kitchen Table Wisdom

I've had this book for over a year now. It can be found anywhere among my possessions, at any time. Like a sweet tasting snack, I find myself running to it in times of craving, and dropping it along the byway once satisfied and satiated. It was written by a woman M.D. who, for many years, has worked as an end-of-life counselor to those with terminal illness. She is one of the most beautiful writers I've come upon, and her life has been one of ebbing disheartenment and flowing inspiration. I marked down a quote in a previous chapter that I hadn't thought about for a while until recently, when I read a friend's blog about the power of those around us. The people around us hold such power in our lives. The quote is about unconditional love, and the power it has on us, and I really love it.

"The null hypothesis is a research principle that applies only when one is studying universal laws and principles, forces that hold in all circumstances and at all times. It states that should one find only a single instance in which the law does not hold, the law itself has been invalidated.

"There are laws of our inner world that bind each of us as firmly as gravity, beliefs we carry about ourselves and about life in general that we experience as true in all conditions and at all times. A feeling of personal unworthiness is one such inner law.

"One moment of unconditional love may call into question a lifetime of feeling unworthy and invalidate it."

I have noticed in myself at times the desire to withhold love from someone to show them that I disapprove of their actions or attitude. A glance or a silence is more than adequate to convey withheld love. I don't like it at all, but I do it. Love is such an easy something to give, and it is a healing-something. I think the power of unwarranted, even unreciprocated love expressed will have such lasting power if we are constantly in practice of it.

If you're reading this blog (and if I know your blog URL) you can be assured that I've been reading your blog, as well. Just because I've been strapped for blogging inspiration, doesn't mean I don't religiously follow your blog--because chances are, I do. And I enjoy them always.

Monday, July 25, 2011

a mess

"It is one of the severest tests of friendship to tell your friend his faults. So to love a man that you cannot bear to see a stain upon him, and to speak painful truth through loving words, that is friendship."
Henry Ward Beecher

It is a very hard thing to have to watch the faults of loved ones, and the faults of your own self, come to light. We are sometimes compelled to watch, partly unable to look away from finding that those you love are human just as you are--but mainly we are compelled by slowness of foot, not able to run fast enough away from the mess to avoid the sad revelation. Life recently seems set for such a course - and it is a sad, hopeless one.

I am, however, convinced of the above quote. Love is expressed in friendship, friendship is tested in times of sad revelation. Love is tested by the faults of those nearest me - the faults that cause pain to those nearest us both. To see a loved one's faults, to know them so closely, to share those same faults, and then to press forward in hope and truth. That is what I want from this life. I want love. I want friendship. I want sad revelation to be an impetus for that. But I find I am much more apt to speak out over the stains on a friends coat or pant and leave the stains of the soul untouched. It is a sad truth to find a stain on a friend's soul and live without being able to help one bit.

I would like to be a better friend. Oh, let me love deeply enough to see the soils on my friends, let them see mine, and let us lovingly speak the painful truth.

Friday, April 15, 2011


"It is not from nature, but from education and habits, that our wants are chiefly derived."
-Henry Fielding

I've been having one of those semesters where my "desired profession" changes every week. I think so far I've traveled from doctor, to professor, to chef, to forest ranger, to farmer. Where am I now? I currently reside somewhere between traveling salesman and circus performer.

This week brings finals and lots of studying. I walked into the office of my housing management yesterday to sign a new contract. I got the clipboard and was looking over the information as I duly listened to a conversation between a girl and the receptionist. The girl was refused a housing contract for the summer because she wasn't a BYU student (BYU usually acts as a co-signer). The receptionist rudely told her that, even though she worked full-time, the management company was unwilling to give her a contract. The tone of the receptionist to this girl's trouble was pronounced indifference. I was immediately turned off, and mildly infuriated. I stood up, placed my clipboard on the counter and informed the receptionist that I didn't feel their apartments and services were worth the prices listed on the sheet.

I just find no need for rudeness in life. I don't support it, and I hope not to indulge in it. However I may soon find myself less willing to indignantly boycott rudeness when my housing contract expires next week.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Things for Summer

I am excited at the possibilities for this summer (all minus the prospect of taking two "heightened" semesters of physics). I want to volunteer and do things, after all, I have someone to do them with! I want to become involved in things I care about, or am at least interested in. Why should I think I'll do lot of great things with my life if I never start on small ones? I am having somewhat irrational ideas of joining the FoodCorps, or convincing the city to lend me a plot of land to start an organic farm for the provo schools. The local-food movement is inspiring me right now; we talked about it last class (I'm a nutrition major, remember?) and I've been reading about it since. Here is a list of things I would like to try before summer is past:

-Volunteer on a local farm
-Become a CASA volunteer
-Read theses books
+Anna Karenina
+Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
+East of Eden (again)
-Get in a research group at BYU
-Be a Group Leader for BYU New Student Orientation

Who knows, maybe K and I will sneak a few chaperoned road trips in there, as well. What would summer be without a little escapism?

Any other suggestions for this summer?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Ulysses, by Tennyson

" ...Come, my friends.
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
the sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down;
It may be that we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are---
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield. "
-Alfred Lord Tennyson (1842)

A friend recommended that I read this poem for my birthday last week. I am thankful for good friends who are willing to share a good poem with me. I love a good poem. It works well for me because I recently read the Odyssey and could follow this short bit of verse with at least some understanding. Plus, I am inspired right now at the thought of a better world; the idea that the world can actually be improved, be it only the proximal world around me, or me only, is inspiring. That which we are, we are--not so, Lord Tennyson. Timshel.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Apathy, Who Cares?

I've been thinking a lot lately about a paradox that keeps popping up in my religious worship--in every aspect of my life. It has repeatedly led me to choose to be indifferent in various stages of my life. I know the signs very well, yet have no defense against the slow slide to passionless serenity. It's somewhat comical, because what people are usually searching for when they search religion is serenity. But, like boils on my flesh, it plagues me. For me, religion is no place for serenity and apathy. I feel like it should be struggle and pain and clarity. Serenity is like looking into the surface of untroubled water, you cannot see what lies underneath until the surface tension is broken and the glare from the sun sunders into waves.

It mainly has to do with life after death. If there is life after death, and if life continues on in the way we say it will, then this life is nothing but a waiting game. Once we die we move on, like the transition from middle school to high school--important in the moment, but forgotten entirely in the future. Again, if there is no afterlife, and if this life is really all we have, doesn't it become of most importance to preserve what little while of consciousness we have by managing our risks, and perpetuating this tiny existence as long as we've got it? Even more importantly, if there is no life after death, what is the point to passion? All the drops will return to the passionless drink in the end, anyway. But seeing as I do believe in life after death, let's explore that topic a bit further.

Life is followed by a better existence. When we are in a better existence, we rarely think about (or can remember adequately) the worse experiences we've had. Therefore, when we are in heaven we will rarely think about this life. How do you fight apathy when you realize that what you're living for will soon be obsolete?

Maybe I am just seeing a smaller portrait of the greater picture. I guess I am also confused by this other paradox. If we all believe in life after death, why are we wasting our time doing things that have nothing to do with that future life? It seems a rare thing to think these days.

I don't want apathy or indifference in any measure in my life. I want to care about the little things, even keeping in mind how they contribute to some celestial frame, and do each thing in life with that particular passion that is common among happy, or at least complex, people. But the paradox returns and returns. I am constantly living my life for the next, so why should I care too much about this one? But then again, if I don't mind this one duteously enough, I'll have lost any opportunity at seizing the next.

I should just devote my life to money, and put these cares of apathy and existentialism out of my mind. Money is easy. It provides enough stimulus to keep one always striving. One can never acquire "too much". The reasons are simple, the goals easily definable, and the pathway discrete. There couldn't be a more futile concept in my mind than the concept of striving for money. To have spent time doing anything for money is to have been truly idle.

I just wish it was easy to keep a fire always burning, you know? It seems, though, like life is a continual cycle of inspiration and flatness. Don't worry, though. Soon true doctrine will fill my ears and the paradox will plague no more. I'm sure of it.

"For who knoweth what is good for man in this life, all the days of his vain life which he spendeth as a shadow? for who can tell a man what shall be after him under the sun?" -Eccl. 6:12

"Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?" -Matt. 6:25

"Therefore, care not for the body, neither the life of the body; but care for the soul, and for the life of the soul." -D&C 101:37

"Whosoever shall seek to save his life shall lose it; and whosoever shall lose his life shall preserve it." -Luke 17:33

Sunday, February 20, 2011

To the Top




-Large Mountain

Check. Check. Check.

Tomorrow waits another excursion. The goal? To see the world from a higher vantage. W and I decided that with no school tomorrow morning we wanted to take to the wilderness and hike Y-mountain. We were looking on the BYU Outdoors Unlimited website and found that it costs a mere $5 to rent an axe. I decided that, with one of my life goals so close to fulfillment, I would rent the axe and chop down a sizable tree tomorrow morning. Don't worry--every fallen tree is the beginning of new life (or so says Planet Earth). Chopping down a tree is not about dominion over life--not at all. It is a participation in the way of things living and dying. It is connecting with nature and the pattern of the wilderness. I do not chop to destroy. I chop to understand.

"Being is the great explainer." -Henry David Thoreau

Hopefully there will be pictures tomorrow from our expedition. We are renting snowshoes around 8am and heading straight to the mountain. We will not return until we have inhaled enough mountain air to sufficiently clear our lungs of the dust and staleness of libraries and classrooms. Though life is good right now, a brief departure from the valley will be revitalizing. To go up to the beginning of streams and maiden snow drifts! With the confusion of the past few weeks with K recently giving way to more certainty, it will be nice to contemplate how good life is while on a hike in the nature of the mountains. Because life is very good right now. Life is best at two times: when in thoughtful solitude and when surrounded by good people. And a moment or two of thoughtful solitude usually leads to appreciation for the goodness of those around us.

Tomorrow should be fun. Wish W and I luck that we won't die!

NOTE: Someone recently recommended not using names in my blog, so all names will be indicated with capitalized letters. Sorry for any ensuing confusion and vagueness. If the first letter of your name is used and is tied to a derogatory statement in my blog please assume I'm not talking about you.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Talk on the Two-Way

I had three good phone conversations last night in what I deemed as answers to a prayer. My thoughts have been dominated lately by doubt, uncertainty, and a little bit of obsession, and each of these conversations helped to clear away some clutter in my mind.

First, I got a call from my mom. I hadn't talk to my mom in what felt like weeks. I love my family. I fear calling them on the phone because they are all interesting individuals and I never have anything interesting to bring to the table in conversation with them. Not to mention, I dislike talking on the phone. Our conversation wasn't anything special, but it felt good to get some motherly love via telephone.

Second, I got a call from a friend in L.A. She had read my post about the abscess and called to ask how things were going, aka to chastise me for not calling her and telling her about it. She called immediately after my mom. Before talking with my momma, I had just finished praying and was lying on my bed reading from Moroni, chapter 10. Ironically, I had challenged her months previously to read Moroni 10 and pray about it. We talked a bit about Mormonism and her feelings about it, and it was exactly what I needed at that moment. I haven't felt like much of a Christian lately, probably because Provo feels more focused on being cool and marriage than on being a Christian. It felt good to talk with someone about scripture, and even though it was brief, I am always inspired by her to consider God in a different way than the one by which I usually consider Him.

Third, I got a call from a friend I hadn't talked to in awhile. She called to tell me that she was planning a humanitarian aid trip to Kenya, and that she would be hiking Mt. Kilimanjaro before the summer was over. After talking for awhile about life and the way of school, I looked at the clock and decided it was time for bed. I was so inspired by our conversation that I laid in bed for a long while and just thought about it.

I hadn't received such a stark answer to prayer in a long time. I could have easily missed it. You have to understand, I hardly ever talk on the phone. I just don't like doing it. My goal once on the phone is to get off of the phone immediately, usually. People know this about me and generally don't call me much, and I apologize for creating that system by my lack of enthusiasm. Please, for anyone reading this, call me more often. It is one of my goals to become a lover of phone conversation. Conversations are the stuff of relationships, and relationships are the stuff of life. I love good conversation and good relationships--so it follows I need to improve my phone usage. Those three conversations have really led to some quality introspection.

Here are some goals I set as a result of last night:

-call at least one person on the phone a day to ask how they are doing
-By February 21st, find a place to devote at least 6 hours monthly of volunteer service
-don't waste time by watching any TV, or reading sports articles

What do I want to achieve through my goals? I want to be able to be inspired frequently to do things for God and my fellow man. At different points in my life I have felt like this, I just hope to extend those points to now and always.

Baby steps, right?

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Midnight Hour

"Remember," said her godmother, "you must leave the ball before the clock strikes twelve. If you do not, your coach will again become a pumpkin, your horses will become mice, your coachman will turn into a rat, and your footmen into lizards, while you will find yourself once more in shabby clothes."

All the evening, the prince kept at Cinderella's side, dancing with her and serving her dishes at suppertime. Indeed, his mind was so taken up with her that he forgot to eat a morsel himself. While Cinderella was talking to her stepsisters, the clock chimed a quarter before twelve.

She thought it not yet eleven when the clock struck twelve. She started then in fright and fled from the ballroom swiftly before anyone saw the rags her raiment had become. The prince ran after her, but he did not catch her. All he could find of her was a little glass slipper lying upon this staircase.

Thus it was as the clock struck midnight and the bells filled the air. It became as if the night had never been, as if no ball had ever happened. The flowing gown that Cinderella once wore was again a humble slip, and the ringing in of the midnight hour carried Cinderella far away with tears in her eyes, as the prince was left pondering over the sparkling slipper left on the staircase.
-From The Little Glass Slipper

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Ten Cubic Centimeters

I will be brief, because I am supposed to be studying right now, but I need to tell about my weekend before I do anything else. I realized the other day that my life is driven by stories. When I have a story to tell, I am happy. When I am listening to a good story being told, I am happy. When I have no story, I have nothing.
I will direct your attention to the syringe depicted above. This syringe is capable of drawing ten cubic centimeters (roughly 10 mL) of liquid into its barrel.

This past weekend/week was a rough one. I woke up Saturday morning with severe back pain. I could hardly breathe and any sort of movement was pained. I took a shower and laid on my back for a couple hours before pleading with my dad to prescribe me some pain killers and muscle relaxers. I drove to costco and waited in line while my prescription was filled. This was easy to do because the juice lady had set up her free-samples booth next to the pharmacy. I might just have moseyed over to the chocolate-covered raisin lady and chatted while swiping paper cup after paper cup of her morsels. My prescription was filled and I downed my pills like a character in some Lifetime channel movie.

Abscess(n) - a swollen area within body tissue, containing an accumulation of pus

I spent most of Sunday and Monday avoiding swallowing at all costs. My dad and brother spent a few phone calls diagnosing me, and finally hit the abscess on the head Monday night with the right diagnosis. I drove to the hospital Tuesday morning. The hospital is a weird place. All the things that are weird in normal life are normal in the hospital: being naked, talking like a looney person, urinating anywhere you want, telling people all about your nasty rashes, etc. The hospital was a place I liked. I got a CT scan and was told to call the ENT specialist and have the abscess in my throat drained.

I drove to the ENT with Kate and got a big dose of pain relief. This pain relief came in the form of a huge needle. He numbed my throat, tilted my head back, depressed my tongue, and harpooned my deep abscess with the needle. He drew the plunger of the syringe back and pulled out 10cc of pus. This is a lavish amount of pus.

I now have a lot of appreciation for people who suffer from chronic pain. This whole week as I choked down saliva through a burning throat, and as I staggered around the house in back pain, I kept thinking about Mark Harless. I haven't seen him in such a long time, but the image of him sitting straight-backed at the wheel in the morning as he laughed and drove us to seminary is forever in my memory. I was going looney after 3 days of constant pain. I teared up thinking about the pain he goes through daily, monthly, yearly, and that he still faces each day. Respect, Mark.

5 Days until Kate's missionary comes home. I can tell it's on her mind more and more, and I mostly just don't have anything intelligent to say concerning the matter. I trust that whatever is decided and whatever conclusion gets reached, it will be alright in the end, regardless. Each time I tell someone about my health predicament of the past few days, they get mad that I didn't call them and have them come down and help. I don't have the heart to tell them that I had Kate there, and that was all I really needed. I can't think of anyone else I'd rather have watching as 10cc of pus are siphoned off my body. She was overly excited at the chance to get to see it, I think. It turned out to be a sweet day together in the end, oddly enough. So, if I didn't call you to have you join me in my moment of plight, I apologize, but you get it, right?

It's been good to be sick again. Death is just around the corner, and that's all right. Life is pain. I used to think that all growth comes from struggle, and life has been so darn easy lately that nothing is growing anymore. Bring on the sickness and the pain and the struggle--because I'm primed to see and meet the struggle in a way that will help me plant my feet firmer in the ground and grow up toward God.

"All these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good." -d&c 121:7

Monday, January 24, 2011


"This subterranean fire has its altar in each man's breast, for in the coldest day, and on the bleakest hill, the traveller cherishes a warmer fire within the folds of his cloak than is kindled on any hearth. A healthy man, indeed, is the complement of the seasons, and in winter, summer is in his heart. There is the south. Thither have all birds and insects migrated, and around the warm springs in his breast are gathered the robin and the lark.

"In winter we lead a more inward life. Our hearts are warm and cheery, like cottages under drifts, whose windows and doors are half concealed, but from whose chimneys the smoke cheerfully ascends. The imprisoning drifts increase the sense of comfort which the house affords, and in the coldest days we are content to sit over the hearth and see the sky through the chimney top, enjoying the quiet and serene life that may be had in a warm corner by the chimney side."
-Thoreau, A Winter Walk

"My definition [of a philosopher] is of a man up in a balloon, with his family and friends holding the ropes which confine him to earth and trying to haul him down." -Louisa May Alcott

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

I Hope They Call Him on Another Mission

"Basically, I am grateful to be home. I am really grateful to God for blessing me. I am grateful for a good family. I don't think it will matter which transition we are asked to endure, if we meet them with a grateful heart, we will ever see the positive and the negative will drift away with prayerful hearts."

I wrote that a few weeks after coming home from my mission in my first blog entry. I've been thinking about missions a lot lately--my own, the missions that people will be departing to, and, if you know anything about my current predicament, the mission from which a certain person will soon be returning.

I decided to get involved with a girl who has a missionary returning home soon. It sounds enough like a common Mormon occurrence. I feel kind of like Penelope's suitors in the house of Odysseus. Know the story? Odysseus goes on a long journey to the ends of the known world after the Trojan war, is held captive a few different times and after 10 long years returns home to find his house filled with mischievous men trying to court his wife. I might as well be a mischievous man! Oh and do you remember what happens to Penelope's suitors? After failing to string the bow of Odysseus, the man (Odysseus) himself walks up to the bow, strings it with his demi-god strength, and slays methodically each suitor that defiled his house. *Slays methodically*.

So, with this metaphor for my life in mind, we return to the story. I returned home from a mission about 19 months ago to a fresh and stinging 'Dear John' phone call. I, the Odysseus of two years ago, obviously couldn't string the bow and slay the suitor. I guess I just feel hypocritical if I change roles so starkly.

"Every man alone is sincere. At the entrance of another person, hypocrisy begins." -Emerson

Whatever happens, an impacting transition is playing out slowly. I am reminded how hard and taxing emotion-filled relationships can be. But this whole situation has reminded me the power that comes in gratitude. Regardless of what we are asked to endure in life, be it rejection or hard decisions, if we meet it with a grateful heart, the negative will fade away and we will be left basking in the positive with prayerful hearts.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Shakespeare vs. Condoleezza

Well, do not swear: although I joy in thee,
I have no joy of this contract to-night:
It is too rash, too unadvised, too sudden;
Too like the lightning, which doth cease to be
Ere one can say 'It lightens.' Sweet, good night!
This bud of love, by summer's ripening breath,
May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.
Good night, good night! as sweet repose and rest
Come to thy heart as that within my breast!

O, wilt thou leave me so unsatisfied?

What satisfaction canst thou have to-night?

The exchange of thy love's faithful vow for mine!

I gave thee mine before thou didst request it:
And yet I would it were to give again.

Wouldst thou withdraw it? for what purpose, love?

But to be frank, and give it thee again.
And yet I wish but for the thing I have:
My bounty is as boundless as the sea,
My love as deep; the more I give to thee,
The more I have, for both are infinite.

I arrived this morning at the Marriott Center for a forum by Dr. Condoleezza Rice around 9:15am and took a seat close to the front. I read about amino acids until 10:55am (5 minutes before the forum was to begin) before I stood up, took my effects and left the building. I decided that reading Romeo and Juliet, Act II Scene II was much more important. Don't ask. If you haven't read, pondered, enjoyed, or been moved by Shakespeare lately, I suggest you put aside the Facebook updating, meal planning, biology studying, or forum attending and pick an Act and Scene. <--A Link to his works. "Go to your bosom: knock there, and ask your heart what it doth know." You may find a little refreshment in the connection.

I learned recently that people don't really like my blog unless it is filled with little absurdities or oddities and anecdotes about peculiar incidences that tend to happen upon me frequently. I apologize that such stories have been in scarcity lately. I will continue to place myself in awkward, dismayed situations and see what comes of it.