Thursday, December 29, 2011

Please, I insist you call me Count Pierre Bezukhov

I did it! I finished Tolstoy's War and Peace. It was a phenomenal read, and I recommend it to all those not of faint hearts (in literary situations). Tolstoy is a remarkable writer/historian and as the promotional paragraph on the back cover of the book states: he is a "master capable of portraying with equal power the clash of armies and the solitary anguish of heart."  Loved this book. However, I would have to say that my favorite characters were that of the little Countess Natasha Rostov and Count Pierre Bezukhov (Natasha and Pierre's Russian names are something like Natalya and Pyotr). SPOILER: It made it even better that these two end up married to each other. 

Tolstoy puts in a whole bunch of theoretical and philosophical insights, many of which I would have liked to blog about if I had not been in the mood to keep reading. However, since I'm finished, there was one chapter towards the end describing a change in Pierre's character that impressed me so much, I would like to talk about it. Seriously though. Read this book.

Pierre observing the battle
So, Pierre (a stout, plump fellow) has an interesting start as an adopted heir of his uncle's title and fortune (which is huge). Throughout the book he is searching for what really makes life pleasurable, and as you might expect, it takes him the whole book to find it. He tries philosophy, masonry, theology, and more and just can't seem to be content with life. Each new attempt proves desirable at first, but turns sour after a few weeks or months. He supplements this search of the meaning of life by experiencing all the facets of life that he can. For instance, War and Peace has somewhat of a historical story of the Napoleonic invasion of Russia woven throughout. Pierre, wanting to know what there is to be experienced, rushes to the battle and sits with the soldiers-and even fights some-just to know what it is like.

In any case, my favorite chapter (Chapter 13 of Part Four of Book IV, in case anyone wants to find it) describes Pierre best as a "kindhearted but unhappy man" and was "absentminded and seemed to be concerned not with what was before his eyes but with something exclusively his own."  I find myself fitting this mold many times as I reflect on my life. A "meaning of life" seeker, I've tried to find out really what makes life worth it and find my purpose. True, I have yet to rush to the battle lines and try drinking away my sorrows, as does Pierre at certain times, but I have tried to best explore my avenues and decide to follow a path that will truly bring me inner peace. However, there has always been something in the back of my mind that weighs on me, saying that I haven't got it right yet. I don't know what that "it" is, but I've felt that unpleasant unhappy weight in the back of my mind.

My favorite part is when the describe him as thinking always of "something of his own" rather that listening intently or observing what is in front of him. I do this ALL the TIME. People can talk to me and I am so engrossed in my own thoughts, that I just ignore them or feed their desires by vaguely participating in the conversation. I know this isn't the most thoughtful approach to relating to people, but I'm trying to change and the change that Pierre took in the book is the one I would like to accomplish.

Pierre, while frolicking around in Moscow with some vain goal to assassinate Napoleon, ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and becomes a prisoner of war in the French camp. During this time he meets quite the bubbly peasant gone soldier, Karatayev, who loves life because it is life. (This would be so much easier to explain if you had read the book.) Through their conversations, and being denied many of the basic necessities of life, Pierre finally finds the peace he was looking for. The satisfaction of needs are all that one "needs" to be happy. May I emphasize that these are legitimate needs that Pierre constitutes as necessary, not our perceived needs, which really are just wants. All we need is to be fed, watered, etc. He says "man is created for happiness, that happiness lies within him, in the satisfaction of natural, human needs, and that all unhappiness arises not from privation but from excess."

Oh how wonderful it would be to stop worrying about so much and just to enjoy life as it comes as I fulfill my needs. We take so much in preoccupying ourselves with items of such great unimportance, that by seriously reflecting on the people that we have become, it is somewhat sickening. How much did I hope that I would get an iPod Touch, but when I got it I realized that practically only added to the things on my list that I need to take care of. It did not augment my happiness, and I cannot say that it is making my life any easier. It does grant me with satisfaction (and mom and dad, I am very grateful for it and love it and you dearly), but honestly, it was not a need. I could say the same with having a car up at school. I thought that it would make life so much easier, and in many respects it has. However, at the same time it has also just increased my workload because I tend to accept more responsibility, believing that now I have the capability. But in no way has any accumulation of wealth or of "things" (besides maybe books) made my life any better. 

Well, this realization for Pierre changes his personality and the way he works with people completely. It is one that I would like to make and I wish it could come as instantaneously as did Pierre's.  This is the first paragraph of the chapter on his transformation:

"Outwardly Pierre had hardly changed at all. In appearance he was just the same as before. Also as before, he was absentminded and seemed to be concerned not with what was before his eyes but with something exclusively his own. The difference between his former and his present self was that in the past when he was oblivious of what was before him or what was said to him, he had ruefully furrowed his brow as if vainly seeking to distinguish something in the distance. Now he was just as unmindful of what was before him or said to him, but he looked with a scarcely perceptible, rather ironic smile at what was before his eyes and listened to what was said to him, though it was obvious that he saw and heard something quite different. Formerly he had appeared to be a kindhearted but unhappy man, and so people were inclined to shun him. Now a smile of the joy of life constantly played about his lips, and his eyes shone with sympathy for others and with the question: Were they as contented as he? And people liked being with him."

His search for happiness concluded, he started to change to searching for the happiness in others. He always wondered if others were content and pleased with their life. This is one of the reasons that everyone earlier in the book were so fascinated by Natasha, his soon-to-be wife. She loved living. She was always singing, dancing, and talking and every description of her carried the embodiment of what it meant to be alive. I feel that this is why Pierre was so drawn to her; she was one of the only people who actually knew the meaning of living.

Next, the transformation of Pierre is described as follows:

"[The new feature in Pierre's relations...with all the people he met now] was his recognition of the impossibility of changing a man's convictions by words, and his acknowledgment of the possibility of every man thinking, feeling, and seeing things in his own way. This legitimate individuality of every man's views, which formerly troubled or irritated Pierre, now became the basis of the sympathy he felt for other people and the interest that he took in them. The difference, sometimes the complete contradiction, between men's opinions and their lives, and between one man and another, pleased him and drew from him a gentle, ironic smile." 

Isn't that a great description of the thinking process of this man? I loved it and instantly knew that I needed to change the way I perceived other people. I remember that when I was young I had trouble understanding and believing that other people thought. I was sure that my thinking process was the only way to do it, and if everyone thought, then they would think like I would, and if everyone thought like I did, then the world would be awesome and it wasn't, so obviously, people didn't think. I concluded from that reasoning that I was a lone human among a sea of morally troubled robots. Don't ask me how this made sense in my mind, but for about an hour it did. I knew deep down that we each were creations of our Heavenly Father, but it didn't make sense.

Pierre made sense of it. He acknowledged that people think in their own way! They feel in their own way and perceive the world in their own way. We are not all of the same. I get irritated many times when people  don't understand me or the way I see the world, but that is because we are all raised differently and have many diverse life experiences that create a perception of the world. Pierre (and consequently Tolstoy) could appreciate and value the "individuality" of every person.  It even has become a source of ironic pleasure for Pierre as he sees when discrepancies arise, and I can just image him softly chuckling to himself.

I also love his realization that words cannot possibly change another man's way to think. There must be something more to it than that. I believe that there was a hint to the fact that we cannot change other people. We don't have the power to do it. Instead, people are 'agents unto themselves' and must bring about their own changes by acting on different possibilities of thought. They must act differently to begin to think differently. We can talk all about our different experiences all day, but your little children will never believe that the stove is hot until they touch it too.

Here is the last distinction of Pierre. Tolstoy is contrasting him with a man named Willarski who was a former Mason with Pierre and embodies the way of life Pierre used to live:

"During the whole period ... Pierre had experienced a feeling of freedom, life, and joy, but when on his journey he found himself out in the world and saw hundreds of new faces, his feeling became even more intense. Throughout the whole journey he felt like a schoolboy on holiday. Everyone-the stagecoach driver, the stationmaster or the posting station, the peasants on the road and in the villages-all had a new significance for him. The presence of Willarski, who was continually deploring the poverty and ignorance of Russia and its backwardness compared with Europe, only heightened Pierre's pleasure. Where Willarski saw deadness, Pierre saw an extraordinary vitality and the strength to endure-the strength which in that vast expanse and amid snows sustained the life of this whole, original, unique people. He did not contradict Willarski and even seemed to agree with him-ostensible agreement being the simplest way of avoiding discussions that could lead to nothing-and smiled happily as he listened to him."

I loved Pierre's reaction to Willarski's pessimism of the Russian nation: "smil[ing] happily as he listened to him." Why must we react angrily and bitterly against negative people. Pierre sympathized not with his views, but of him as someone who was missing the point. I can just see Pierre being everybody's best friend because he just enjoyed being with people and I wish I could see this scene of Pierre smiling his "gentle, ironic smile." 

Plus, Pierre has such a wonderful outlook on life that I so desire to formulate. I realize that too often I hold a negative view of others and I should be more prone to listen and appreciate all that this world has to offer. Let's not focus on the failures, but on the successes. Let's not talk about the problems, but of the solutions. We can make the world just as agreeable as Pierre saw it and I hope to start making the change within myself by acting as Pierre would think. You can't just leave it, you have to do something.

Wow, that was exceedingly long and I apologize, but imagine having deep conversations like this for 1300+ pages. That's how reading War and Peace was. Exceptionally fabulous if I do say so myself.

Friday, December 16, 2011

A New Way of Thinking...

I'm so glad that I love to read. Think o all the amazing things that I would miss out on if I was disillusioned on the fantastic-ness that is reading.

For my SOC 490 class, my professor wanted us students to read The Anatomy of Peace and suggested another book as a supplement, Leadership and Self-Deception. I had bought the latter a couple of months ago at Deseret Book and had only read about 70 pages (out of around 200), so I knew the basics of what it implied, but I didn't have all the material down. I decided to read Leadership before the other just so I can refresh what it was about and be more in the mindset to read Anatomy of Peace for class.

Well, let me tell you how completely awesome this book is. I suggest that everyone read it. I just looked on Amazon and you can buy it for 6.60 used. That's a really awesome price for such an amazing book. OR you can just borrow it from me. But really, this is a must-read.

What it talks about is fundamental for how people interact with each other. I felt that the way they did it was pretty cheesy, but the lessons they teach are too important to drop the book for a cliche plot. What it does is change the way that we react and think about other people. It makes us really look at them as people, rather than as objects.  I like this concept a lot because as a kid, it took me a really long time to recognize that everyone around me was a person. I had almost convinced myself that they could think, hope, or dream like I could. I almost was sure that they were all robots that were constructed to give me a semblance of life. That was pretty egoistic of me, thinking that over 6 billion people were placed on this earth so that I could grow up in this environment.

Yes, I'm pretty prideful.

Anyways, what it describes is how we start to blame people for our own unwillingness to do what is right. For example, if I feel that I should help my roommate clean the apartment, but I don't, I start to resent the fact that he is cleaning the apartment and start to blame him for my unwillingness to clean. Maybe I'll say that he doesn't clean enough and that I am so hard-working that I need a rest. Maybe I'll think that he is cleaning while I am there just to spite me and I'm going to stick it to him because I am better. Who knows, but the whole time we do it, we build up these false vices that other people have and foster our own deceitful virtues, that we don't really have or that are blown out of proportion.

If you think about it enough, you will see that you do it too. I recognized myself immediately, but unfortunately, I recognized that I do it in all spheres of life. I'm not just closed to those in my apartment, but I am this way towards everyone: co-workers, teachers, friends, people I date, etc. I have such a tendency to blame others for why I am unwilling to help them, that I have built up this false perception of myself. I am not as perfect as I claim to be.

Now, as I write that last bit, I can see my roommate roll his eyes and tell me that I'm fishing for compliments again, but I'm not. Really. I know that I have this problem and that I need to start working on tearing down these walls I put myself in and building up a more correct perception of myself and others.

What I felt the book emphasized to me, it may tell you something different, is two-fold: that we must always look at others as people rather than objects and that you must be willing to help others when that instinct comes up. I'd like to focus on the second one, just to show why that is so important. I know I touched on it a little bit, but I want to explore the implications more for my benefit than for yours (this is why I write the put my thoughts in a logical order, rather than the jumbled mess that they are in my head).

This morning as I was running some errands for my dad and returning home, I found outside a piece of paper blowing around our yard that I had noticed the day before. It was a pretty big sheet, but nothing major. I had a decision to make, and it is obvious what it was: pick it up, or let it sit. I actually fought myself to decide whether or not to go and get it. I figured that I don't live here much anymore, so it really isn't that much of my responsibility. I'm not the one who through the paper on the ground. The wind will probably blow it away in any case, so what's the use of me worrying about it? It will be someone else's problem soon. Then I asked myself, why don't I just go pick it up? Why not? It will take me all of 5 seconds to do. Why am I trying to justify something?

Then I realized: once you start justifying doing or not doing something, it means that you are in the wrong. Acts of goodwill need not be justified, because they are inherently good. They have the reasons embedded in their very "essence". However, acting or refusing to act in a manner contrary to this is void of all that makes you feel "warm and cuddly inside", and so you have to make yourself feel better by justifying. I didn't do it because.... I did it because...

I feel that lately I have been quite prone to choose the path of justification rather than just doing what is inherently good. But, now that I realize this, I have a warning sign that will help me pick the better path. The time I spend doing a good deed probably is about the same time I spend dwelling on not doing it and justifying my action, so I might as well do it. In doing something wrong, I spend more time than just doing it, but also in justifying it. This takes away double the amount of time in my day, which I am so desperately in need of, so why waste it?

JUSTIFICATION=WRONG.  Don't do it if you have to explain yourself. It's just wrong.

Anyways, this is my perception of the book Leadership and Self-Deception, but it does not do the book justice. You could probably read it in a day, but I hope that it will continue to be useful in my daily pursuits. I obviously won't be perfect at it at any time in my life, so don't judge me.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The end is in sight...

I have 3 finals down, 2 to go! And no, I don't want to study. I want to blog. More like I want to do anything but study. Last night and this morning I had to bust my brains over this ridiculous sociology class I was in. The whole class was memorization based, so I did what I needed to in order to stay sane: I didn't read, didn't really apply myself. Instead, I just memorized the couple of days before the test, threw up all that knowledge on the test, and then never looked back. I'm done!

Anyways, a couple of the other classes I loved! For example, in my theory sociology class, I actually sit there and think about what I'm learning and I can apply myself. The best part? My teacher asked me to TA the class next semester! Yes! I get to go to class everyday and learn from one of my favorite professors ever. I only fear that I will burn out from listening to him. On MWF I am taking the second part of the class next semester and on MW I'm taking his 490 class. Then, I TA for two of his classes on MW and 1 on F, so I will be in his class for about 4 1/2 hours every day.  Wow! That's a lot of thinking. But I'm super excited, especially since 2 1/2 hours of that I am getting paid.

So, my classes next semester:
SOC 307 - Data Analysis and Presentation - 3 cr
SOC 311 - Contemporary Sociological Theory - 3 cr
SOC 490 - Sociology of Suffering - 3 cr
PORT 101/102 - First-year Porteguese - 8 cr
MUS 321 - University Orchestra - 1 cr

Yes, that's 18 credits. But I got this. Yes? Hopefully. Let's just say I pay the same amount for tuition if I take 14 credits or 18, so I'm just getting the most out of my money...right? Sure.

I'm sorry that this blog is going to be so over the place: I just needed to get some thoughts out. Can I just tell you, though, that the best way to study and get pumped for finals in the morning is to turn on your Pandora Station to "Disney (Children) Songs". Best station I have.  It is seriously making my day. It might be awkward when I start singing along in the middle of the Cougareat.

So, I was thinking about this Winter Break, and there is a lot to do. William, my favoritist little bro is going on a mission on the 27th!!!! That gives me only 13 days with him once I get home. 13 days!!! AH! Then, my best friend, Cy, is getting married on the 28th. I'm going to be a wreck those two days. I'm "losing" my little brother and my best friend within two days. Ouch. But, then Charlie and Michael will be there for the wedding and staying for New Years! Halelujah! We are going to have an awesome time! Plus, there is all that stuff about Christmas before and on the 25th. Don't forget that!

(Sorry, I temporarily got distracted as "My Favorite Things" came on Pandora)

However, along with all that excitement, I have some goals I want to make for the break. I want to finish War and Peace. I have about 500 ish pages left. Maybe only 400, I can't remember. I haven't had any time to read it, and now I will. Yes. Also, my professor for 490 hinted that it would be a good idea to read the books Anatomy of Peace and Leadership and Self-Deception. So, I'll read those (which aren't that long). But, the biggest one is that with my TA job for my theory class, I will also be TAing a Doctrine and Covenants class, which of all the scriptures, I feel most ignorant. So....I want to start studying that. It will be awesome, and packed. I also have to finish all my presents for my family and get everything ready.

This is going to be an awesome finals week and an awesome Christmas vacation.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Gnomeo and Juliet ----- and Dating

I was working on my Christmas presents watching a cute little film, Gnomeo and Juliet, when I realized that some of what I needed for my family's presents is missing...So, what do I do? - Blog while finishing to watch the movie and then clean everything in order to find it. Ain't this gonna be fun?

While I was watching the movie, I started thinking how many unnecessary things actually do prevent perfectly acceptable love from forming. It doesn't even have to be families and friends that are the problem. We let so many things get in the way.

Of course, one is families and friends, and I unfortunately admit to be a culprit of this. Many times a friend or a roommate will start dating someone and I will give my opinion that ends up to be their determining factor that either encourages the end to the relationship or continuing on. Obviously, that may be good or bad, but sometimes we are pushing our own preferences instead of respecting those of the others. It is their relationship, so let them have it. If it is a terrible/abusive relationship, then there obviously should be somethings said. However, if you complain about someone's "interest" just because of something you don't like, shame on you.

Or, you could have the infamous 'list' of what your potential wife/husband has to comply to. Otherwise, they don't stand a chance. In meeting with a good friend of mine, we were talking about his courtship with his wife and he advised daters today to get rid of that list. Of course, their are essentials (temple worthy, etc.), the longer your list grows, the more shallow your pool becomes and the less chance you have of finding the person that could be perfect for you. After I ended one of my relationships, I started writing a list of everything I wanted in my future wife. I realized, however, that all I really did was try to make myself feel better for why the relationship ended. Really, it doesn't matter if my wife can play piano and has a certain major and a certain love for what I do. There are preferences, yes, but I think I will do just as well with a dance major as an elem-ed major. It really doesn't matter!

Lastly, I feel that we create an expectation of ourselves that we are unable to compete with. I, for one, have a really hard time feeling prepared for a relationship or marriage because of my imperfections. However, I need to put more trust in God's timing and accept when he knows that it is time. Will I ever be ready for this step? To make a decision that will impact the rest of my life and beyond? No. I don't think I'll ever be mature enough for that, but God is. And all I need to do is be ready to listen to Him and accept his will. If I do that for the rest of my life, He will prepare me for my part and then take care of the rest.

So, I don't know about you, but I'm going to start eliminating the capulets and montagues in my life so that I can "love freely". I hope that I can do it so that things will start working out in my relationships, because I always feel like I'm the one screwing it up. I think we all wish to some extent to turn back time, but all we can do is look forward.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Just a quickie

I needed to sort out my thoughts for a bit, so this is an interlude before the rest of my Thanksgiving weekend blog comes out.

Can I just say: I love my holiday instrumental station on Pandora. It is glorious.

Anyways, so I got an email from my SOC 310 professor today asking me to be his TA.

UM: THAT WOULD BE JUST AWESOME! Yes please!  Problem: I already accepted a TA position from another professor....Oh shoot, I have too many opportunities. I need to weigh the issue for a second:

For SOC 310: I adore this class. It is all theoretically based and discusses sociological and philosophical issues.  I love that.
For SOC 112: I adore this class. It is a review of sociology in general and got me excited to enter the major. Plus, the teacher is a hoot.

For SOC 310: It is 10-15 hours, so I won't get as much work time, but I would have more time for other things like studying, dating, etc.
For SOC 112: It is 20 hours a week, so I get the max I can work as a student, but I would be really busy (since I am taking 18 credits).

For SOC 310: He just barely asked me...It's a little late.
For SOC 112: She asked me last Winter semester and has asked me twice since. She loves me so much.

For SOC 310: He is a full-time professor who pulls a more weight in the department. He could write me a mean letter of recommendation. He has been a pseudo-mentor for me as I have been looking into being a professor.
For SOC 112: She is only a part-time professor but has been really helpful at getting my feet on the ground in the major. She has been a mentor for the major and going into what I want. She also has pretty sweet contacts.

I wonder if: could I ask my SOC 112 teacher to do only 10 hours a week instead of 20? Then I could do both of them :)  Hmmm....I think I'm going to go ask her right now. Or maybe an email? I'll walk over there. It isn't too far...OOh, now I'm excited! 2 TA jobs.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend


This past week (I guess it was a week, not a weekend since it started on Tuesday night ending on Sunday). Anyways, I got to spend almost all of it with my family, which was awesome!!!

Tuesday, I got back, unpacked, and helped my mom cook my favorite meal EVER: bratwurst, speatzle, and boiled red cabbage (with apples and bacon). It is seriously sooooo goood. In the image, just imagine the meat as bratwurst and you got it. I really cannot get enough of this dish. It was the first thing I asked to eat when I got off my mission and my mom knew that I would love it when I got home for thanksgiving.  The food started off perfectly.  Plus, it was just me, William and mom and dad. We got to catch up some and see family plans for the future :)  I love my family sooo much.

Well, just some background, Cy lives 3 houses down the street from me. Ever since we became good friends, so have our families. Almost every year we do a little double Thanksgiving. Wednesdays his family cooks and we have a huge Thanksgiving dinner at their house. They invite us and usually some friends over and they have soooo much yummy yummy food. I loove it. Then Thursday, we head over to my place and we do it all again, but this time, my family cooks. We invited our whole family except Elizabeth (and I was very sorry that she couldn't be there).

When we went to Cy's, we also played a whole lot of street soccer (by that I mean we played on the narrow driveway on the side of their house with one goal). It was the oldies (Cy, me, and his bro-in-law) against the youngin's (Cy's bro and two friends) with Cy's other younger brother as the all-time goalie (he was awesome). We played for at least an hour and we trashed the younger ones. I'm pretty sure they didn't even score once. Or maybe once, but I don't remember. I guess it might not have been too fair since we were so much older and bigger.

Thursday morning was AWESOME! On Tuesday, my family let me know that we were all signed up for a 5k run Thanksgiving morning. Problem 1: I have never run seriously for 3 miles before. Problem 2: I have not been training or even exercising. Problem 3: The night before I played soccer for an hour and ate a huge Thanksgiving dinner. Things weren't working in my favor.  But, I got ready and went with the family. It was an interesting start as we got there 30 minutes before it started and William and I were a little confused at what was going on. So, we jogged a bit, people watched a lot, jogged some more, and did some random stretches. Who knew what we were supposed to do before a 5k? We were long-race virgins.

About 5 minutes or so before we started, we decided to eat the 25% caffeinated energy gel that they gave us as part of the SWAG. Oh ....  my ..... hideous ..... death.  It was so disgusting. I wanted to throw up right then and there. It was sooooo gross. It felt like a medicinally tropical flavored slug that wouldn't go down my throat. It just sat there waiting for me to force it down with water. Nasty. Both William and I were a little disturbed by it, and more so that my mom liked it. Ew.  That is so wrong.

Well, we started the race. Unfortunately, William and I got separated by the crowd of 700 and I was left all by my lonesome with no music or anything. I was just running. I didn't know my pace, or have a goal, or have a watch, so I just picked someone that I thought was about my ability and followed them for a while until they took off or I fell behind. Mile 1.5 went GREAT. I felt like I was going to do so awesome. But then I got tired. The next mile was HELL. I didn't know how far I was, where the race was going, or anything. I was just running, tired, and it was going on forever. Finally I saw the mile marker for 2.5.  The last mile felt like ETERNITY. There were so many times that I felt like stopping and rationalized it for the rest of the race. I know, it was not the best psychological motivation, but I didn't know what was going on.

Finally, I was running and started hearing screams (they were fake once, produced by a loud stereo system) and I realized that in the distance I would find the end. I was still dead tired trying to find where the finish was over this Irish Guy who was running in front of me. I finally realized that the finish actually wasn't that far away. It was close enough that I felt I could push a little bit harder. That was a fail though. I went for like 15 seconds and got tired. Then, the Irish Guy finally realized that it was almost the end and he decided to push on too. Heck no. Somewhere inside me I got the energy, and totally thrashed him at the end. And guess what?

I was number 40 out of 730ish participants! Isn't that awesome!? I was also 9th in my age group. What the? Guess my three problems weren't so bad after all.

Anyways, I'll finish this up later. I got to finish cooking and then head off to FHE. After that, I'll have to end this procrastination and get to the library to finish all the work I put off during the week! :)

Monday, November 21, 2011

Faith: How to make your dreams come true.

Today at FHE (which, for those not familiar to my church's programs, is "Family Home Evening." Every Monday - or any night determined by the family - is set apart for family time) I had this thought on faith that I would like to share with you.

I think faith is one of the hardest concepts for our generation to conceptualize because of how abstract it is. As children we are taught that Faith is believing in something that you cannot see, whereas all throughout school we are taught that if you can't see it, then it isn't science and it isn't provable. More and more people are getting frustrated with religion because you can't prove it. Modern day science and technology leads them away from the only "proof" they will receive about the existence of God. Faith is the pathway to receiving the "signs" that testify that God exists.

Faith, as I understand it, is believing without seeing, but that is an incomplete definition. It is not just believing, but acting without knowing for sure. However, you hope that whatever you are working for will happen. For example, I think to some extent getting a degree is an act of faith both in the college that you attend and in the "power" of a degree. You go to school, you invest time, money, and work into it, for what? For the ability to say I did all this work and I have a piece of paper. You then hope that all that you learned and that little piece of paper can land you a job. That is faith. You completed that term project because you hoped that in the end, you will get a good grade, which will help you graduate, which will help you get a job. However, there is NO guarantee that the degree will get you a job (especially in this economy). You cannot be certain of the outcome, but you hope in a wonderful result.

This is faith and you use it everyday. You have faith that the country will protect you. You have faith that your credit card will still work and that the banks didn't close. You have faith every time you go to McDonald's that they will have the McRIB that the advertisements are glorifying. However, there is no guarantee and no way for you to know that they will be there. You hope for it, so you act and you find the result.

The same is the way with spiritual things. I hope in Jesus Christ who died for me and made it possible for me to live a better life. I hope in God who has a plan and purpose for my life and wants me to become good enough to return to Him. I hope in people that, while most of the time we seem just plain stupid, we are actually good-natured, divine beings that will ultimately put this world back on track. I hope in my friends and my family that if we work hard now, after this life we can all be together.  Because I hope for these things, I will act on them. I will follow what Christ has said to do to return to our Heavenly Father's presence. I will serve my neighbor with the hope of a better world. I will do my part to keep a loving family and strong friendships. That is faith. The action of what you hope for.

Otherwise, your hope is just a dream, and dreams do not come true without faith. You need to start it. How can you hope for something better without doing anything about it. It is time for you to act. What do you dream for and deeply and honestly desire? What are your greatest ambitions? There may be just a couple things you want in life, or you may want the world. Turn that hope into faith by getting started on your dreams today. Without moving your little bum to get started, you will lose hope of ever finishing.

Because faith is putting your hopes and dreams into action, it comes with a power. Once I finally started into my major classes of the subject that I finally found was my dream, I wanted to understand and really get involved with it. I put in the effort to really delve into sociology and I love it. Seriously, I feel a power every time that I study that drives me to learn and understand. It helps me continue despite it being hard and to love every minute of it. Faith is the power to make your dreams come true.

So don't just sit there this Thanksgiving. Work out what you really want in life and make it happen. This is our time. Let's not be a lame, hopeless generation. Turn your hope to faith and get what you want. I would that part of what you would all want is the truth about the purpose of life and the reason that you are here. I know that there is an answer to it. I believe to have found it, but it will be up to you to go on your own journey for the truth. However, keep searching. It is there, but you will need faith to find it.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

My Favorite Holiday: Thanksgiving!

In all honesty, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday EVER! People ask me: really??? What about Christmas? Halloween? Easter? Why Thanksgiving? All you do is eat! You do that every day...

Well, let me explain why I love Thanksgiving. Maybe this will explain why I resist the Christmas music until after the feast. Thanksgiving is the only holiday where nothing is expected. Halloween you have to get candy for everyone and dress to impress. Easter you have your "Easter Outfits" and you hope for something awesome in your Easter Eggs. Christmas has become too materialistic for me. Way too many times I get things for Christmas that I don't want/need. While I appreciate the gesture, it seems that the value of a certain Christmas has started to rely on what you get instead of what it means. 

However, with Thanksgiving there is nothing to expect or pretend. There is nothing special or exuberant about Thanksgiving. It has survived (for the most part) the commercialization that other holidays have succumbed to. It is a simple and wonderful holiday that you can spend with your family. Some people say there isn't anything special about thanksgiving, but for me it is special. It is a time to set apart from the rest of the world  and have fun with the family. It gives us time to reflect on what is really important in life and what you are grateful for. I feel that more time should be taken for appreciating Thanksgiving is really meant to be for: celebrating all of the things that God has given us and to appreciate the exploration of this country that has resulted in our United States of America.

 Let's take a little bit more time to love what there is to love and be grateful for everything that is around you.

So, for starters, I'm going to go corny on y'all and start doing some listing: Here is what I'm grateful for. I'll try to do this as often as I can throughout the week.
* I'm grateful for my family. I love them all sooo much. My parents are always there for me and have provided everything that I have ever needed. Rachel and I have had so much fun doing midnight shopping runs to Wal-Mart and watching Law and Order and Bones together. Jeremy always has the best jokes and we have a lot of fun playing xbox whenever I come home. Elizabeth always listens to my problems and we've always enjoyed playing music together. William is my buddy. We just understand each other and are able to talk about anything. Plus, our sax and cello duets are just epic.

* My roommates are just plain awesome. We are too cool for this school. Seriously, every Sunday we make this sick awesome dinner. Today we did a pre-Thanksgiving feast. It was seriously SOOOOOOOO good. We did the green bean casserole, the stuffing, the turkey, the mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, everything. It was great. Plus, Michael always makes this really, really good ice cream dessert. We always have good times and just enjoy being with each other. It is going to be weird when Cy isn't around anymore, but we'll deal.

So, I just wanted to say why I love Thanksgiving so much. I LOVE IT so much. Stay tuned.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Well, that was a fail.

So, I've been wondering something for a while. You know that person who always kills every single joke? The one who is never funny? I always wanted to know why they do that or what they do that kills the joke. Here are my ideas:

1. They just aren't funny people. That's sad.  These we call Conversation Killers:

2. They don't get sarcasm. For example, think of the HILARIOUS movie "Despicable Me". I was watching it with some friends when it got to the part where the youngest girl says at the carnival: "It's so fluffy, I'M GONNA DIE!" I had friend say: "She's not going to die. She needs to grow up."

Oh my goodness. She just killed it. Who does that? 

I mean really. It was a JOKE! Leave it alone. It was funny. I think she was the only one on EARTH who thought that. We all know that she wasn't going die, but the hyperbole made it hilarious!

3. When people try to be funny, but they don't know how. For this example, I pull from a book I read by Malcolm Gladwell called Blink. It is an amazing game and you, yes you, MUST read that. It is about the small unconscious decisions and thoughts that we make. He talked about how important it was to be able to think on your feet for improv actors. 
Wait...Was that a joke?

Bad Example:

Patient. I'm having trouble with my leg.
Doctor. I'm afraid I'll have to amputate.
Patient. You can't do that, Doctor.
Doctor. Why not?
Patient. Because I'm rather attached to it.
Doctor. (Losing heart) Come on, man.

That was not funny. The attached joke was a little punny, but all together, there wasn't anything that would make me laugh out loud. However, here is what they should have done.

Patient. Augh!
Doctor. Whatever is it, man?
P. It's my leg, Doctor.
D. This looks nasty. I shall have to amputate.
P. It's the one you amputated last time, Doctor.
D. You mean you've got a pain in your wooden leg?
P. Yes, Doctor.
D. You know what this means?
P. Not woodworm, Doctor!
D. Yes. We'll have to remove it before it spreads to the rest of you.
(P's chair collapses)
D. My Goodness! It's spreading to the furniture.

That's funny! Why? They kept going! He kept on being funny. However, many people end it. As a personal example, ME: "Oh my goodness. I failed a test. I'm just going to quit college and work at McDonald's." Friend: "Well, that's too bad. I'm sorry."  

Really. I was obviously making a joke because who ever knows me is going to know that I would never, ever go to work at McDonald's. Ever. However, they just kill it.  It would improve how funny they were immediately if they said, "That's cool. Do you think you could get me a discount?" or "Dude, McDonald's is so old school. Go for In N' Out or some place a little fancy."  Play the joke a little bit. Don't just downplay it and give up. 

This was just too good.
I think this is why when I make jokes, they sometimes go awkward. Not always because my sarcasm is a little awkward, but because people kill the joke. Then everything goes wrong. That is sooooo lame. So, people, get on the ball and just roll with it. Don't kill the joke, keep it rolling and you could be the next one on "Who's Line is it Anyway". 

Anyways, make life funny and peace out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Classroom Porn

If you clicked on this link hoping for porno: SHAME ON YOU! Now, back to the real post.

You are probably thinking: Say whaaat??? What is this weirdo writing about? I admit that the title "classroom porn" can give the imaginative mind too many possibilities, so I will tell you to what I am referring.

I am currently in a Marriage and Family Preparation course at BYU. I know. Super-stereotypical, right? But it is an awesome class. Also very academic. My longest papers so far this semester I have written for this class. Yet, it gives great insights into the world of dating, marriage preparation, and marriage itself.

Wait, Marriage Prep and classroom porn. What are you talking about?

Well, in this class that my friend and I currently attend, there are always these 2 couples in the class who are just ... awkward as. As what? you might ask. Just think of the most two awkward moments of your life and this will fit as number three. Probably.

So, my friend gets there everyday early to save seats. However, these awkward people tend to gravitate to wherever we are sitting. No joke. We can sit on any side of the room, front or back. They follow us. It is like they are trying to hate on us. Anyways, what do they do? Well, couple number 1, which are actually two normal human beings who make up an awkward relationship are married. They are the PDA champions of the class and they would be in the running for PDA champions of BYU if every couple at BYU wasn't already proclaimed champion. No joke though.

Every class period, they kiss at least once and at least once a week, that kiss is much longer than would ever be appropriate for a CLASS SETTING. Now, imagine this right in front of you....every class....and you are probably thinking: what the? Gross. But it is true. Our professor will say something like: You should be charitable. Girl says to Boy: "You are the most charitable person ever." Boy responds "No, you are" and they start to kiss. Gag. Who taught them classroom etiquette? On the way back from class, my friend and I were lamenting such disturbing woes when I finally concluded that they are: classroom porn. They are distracting and unappetizing. Exactly what porn is. At least they are married. 

Couple #2: Not married. These are two awkward people who make up an awkward relationship. Guy holds girls knew throughout the class. Doesn't his hand get tired? They lean on each other and cuddle.  Awkward. Then, we are getting up to leave. This couple doesn't move. They just sit there in class loving each other publicly while everyone is trying to crawl over them to leave, but without touching them so we don't get involved or infected in their classroom porn. Gag.

Why do they find it necessary to put their affections in front of everyone else? Shouldn't that be a private matter? I don't know. I feel that they are trying to tell the world: "Haha! We are engaged/married. YOU ARE SINGLE you scum! We are so much better than you." Um no. Because the way you are acting: gross. There is a reason that we have the phrase "get a room."

It is rude and unacceptable. I'm fine with holding hands or a lean of the head on the shoulder, but then you are done. That is it. You can't do anymore than that. There is a time and a place for everything, so just stop it. Please.  Thank you.

Peace and Blessings to all y'all.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

In the middle

So, last week at this same time I wrote a post that got me into quite a bit of trouble. Maybe I should stop being so critical of society...However, I fear complacency.

Anyways, I was sitting here and I was going to type up some notes for my Sociology class, but I got listening to Pandora and I decided I don't want to be typing notes. I also have been reading/listening about sociology since 9:30 and as much as I love it, I need a break. So, I'm writing. I like to write. I love it actually and I want to do some more.

There are just too many ideas going on in my mind that I can't afford to not write them down. First off: Can I just say how important it is to me to express my ideas. I'm thankful for people who are willing to listen to me and let me talk things through. (I'm sorry, but I'm not talking about you who is reading the blog, but about "real" people and "real" conversations.)  My home teachers came over and one of them asked Charlie and I what we did to find our major and as I started talking about how much I loved my major I realized really why I like it:

WE TALK! All the time. Sure, there is research involved and a lot of lectures where we have to just sit there and learn definitions, but most of the time we just reason out things. It is a theoretically based science and so every theory must be discussed and evaluated. I love that! I love giving my ideas and listening to others and working out the kinks. We learned about a prominent modernist thinker who thought that this kind of relationship with others (the exchanging of ideas) is how we will progress to becoming the perfect society. :)  He believed that as we keep mixing cultures and ideas then we will soon mesh all the ideas on the planet and we will have to bring out all of the truth/rationality in every one until we perfectly understand our universe.

Anyways, I think that is so true. I don't know if we will ever get to understanding our universe perfectly by just talking (I think some other things need to happen first), but I do strongly believe that whether religiously or in more secular subjects, we can understand the world better as we talk and exchange with each other. One thing I need to work on is listening more to what other people have to say. I don't want to be one of those guys who just thinks he knows everything. I want to grow and become, so I need to learn from everyone if I want to do that. I hope I'm becoming better.

However, I think in our society we are becoming less and less conversational. Things are getting too mechanical for me. Emails, letters, texting, etc. (Phones and Internet in general). It leaves out a lot of opportunity for two or more people to converse. I would wish that every blog that I write that someone would respond to it and give their two cents. However, few people have time or desire to write down a response. Unfortunately, fewer people will take time to sit down and talk with another person about ... anything. There is so much in the world to learn about and talk about! From the purpose of life to the reason we have politics to the life of a flower to how mathematics can help the world. How vast is our knowledge.

Usually when I go to the BYU Library I go to the bottom two floors. Today, as I was searching for a computer, I ventured up to the 5th floor. As I went, I realized that there are so many books and so many other resources here that range from anything we could talk about. There is so much knowledge in the thousands and thousands of books here. (I don't know how many, but that would be pretty awesome to find out). 5 floors of books! Isn't it great! And this isn't even the largest university library. And the largest university library isn't even the largest library! There is so much to read and learn! Can't get enough.

Anyways, thinking of that, I realized why I selected my major. I could have done Music, Business, or something else, but for me I need something that will let me learn through experience and reading. Already there has been so much experienced that it would be a shame if we didn't use it. I need something academic. So, instead of going to Communications or Business Management, I looked at the Sciences. The "Hard" sciences weren't going to do it for me because I can't imagine myself working out chemical or mathematical formulas the rest of my life. So, I started to look in the social sciences. What could get better than people and academia? Nothing. Sociology: the branch of the social sciences that I can most relate to. I love it. It is soooo me.

Now, I'm not saying that the other majors/careers are bad or lesser than mine. But that's it. They are not for me. Everyone needs to find their own niche, their own reading corner for their life's ambitions. Some people do love hashing out equations, and I thought I did. But, I moved on to something that works better for me! :)

Now that you know I don't hate the other majors, I wish the other majors would stop hating on me. So many people, even my family, asked why sociology? Do you want to be poor? It sounds boring? It's a "soft" science. Well, to you hard sciences, take this problem shown by one of my professors. He put up a differential equation and asked if anyone could solve it. There was a math major who said that if she had enough time she could do it. Then, he said he was going to put up a "soft science" question and see if anyone could solve it:

Solve Poverty.  

Who's the hard science now?

Anyways, I just thought that was funny because of all the beef I get about doing social science. Did you know that my career path is in the top 10 most financially affluent masters degrees? Eat that. Besides, even if it was not that lucrative, at least I love it! Apparently you don't get any happier in life when your salary is over 60,000$. Well, so there.

Anyways, I went from loving to write to defending my major choice and I got to go to class now. Peace y'all and don't be hating on the writers or the readers!