Thursday, December 26, 2013

Beliefs and Tolerance

Happy Holidays, everyone! I've been musing over topics like this for a while, but I finally have a moment to put this down on 'paper'. Also, I should say up front that while talking about faith and beliefs, what I'm about to say must be understood as such (as a belief/opinion). I invite discussion with differing opinions and alternative viewpoints. Also, when I make references to religion, I will generally refer to Christianity (especially Mormonism, with which I am most familiar).

As many know, Utah is currently undergoing its state fight for same-sex marriage. Following the supreme-court case on DOMA and California's laws, it seems the media has exploded over the issue. So, as this is an issue that touches many people's personal maxims on freedom of self or religious beliefs on responsibility and morality many friends and acquaintances have been posting their thoughts and opinions on the matter. While I generally consider this is a positive thing, I'm disheartened by those who post claiming that their viewpoints are "factual" or "reality" and discredit the opinions and beliefs of other people. This isn't a one-sided problem with the religious fanatics or the homosexual rights activists taking most of the blame, but I feel from strong believers and moderates on both sides we all need to work on our tolerance of opposing views.

I call for more tolerance on the basis that the arguments that we all make are based on beliefs rather than capital T "Truth". Traditional Christianity places some of its foundations in faith. Faith necessarily indicates belief and not knowledge. Personal progression is based upon acting on trust that God exists despite not being completely sure. The current Pope says: "The great leaders of God's, like Moses, always left room for doubt. We must always leave room for the Lord and not for our own certainties. We must be humble. Every true discernment includes an element of uncertainty open to receiving spiritual consolation." Hebrews 11:1 -(KJV) "Now faith is the substance of things hoped for"; Alma 32:21 - (from the Book of Mormon) "faith is not to have a knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true." While Alma still posits that there is truth and that faith must be based in true things, we do not have knowledge of the truth. Ultimately, we are choosing to believe in God and that Christ died for us, etc. I think like Pope Francis has said, we need to be humble in our understandings for it is a belief not an assurance of fact or Truth. I'll concede that there may be people who do have absolute truth (many ancient prophets "saw God" and I feel that could be interpreted as having a knowledge of Truth. However, the general populace must still believe in their claims to "know".).

Because of this uncertainty, many have left religion in search for something more concrete and verifiable. It seems modernity has turned to science as the means to develop Truth and upon which we can base our lives. Generally, people have begun to base their lives upon science claims feeling justified because science delivers facts. However, I have two qualms about this. First, science itself has a history of reorganizing itself revealing the problems of previous paradigms. Who is to say that this time science finally has it right? The methodologies by which science makes knowledge claims were developed by science itself. There is no way to test whether our scientific framework is the correct one - tomorrow we may see new developments that change science. Additionally, social science (where many sexuality truth claims are being made) hardly has roots to claim broad knowledge claims. The complexity of human life makes it extremely difficult to conclude much universal Truth about the world.

Second, our observations in the world, even if they are reflective of the reality of the world, still are subject to human interpretation on A) what the observation means and B) how we should act as a result. For example, with homosexuality, science is currently in the debate on whether sexuality is biologically triggered or socially constructed. So what does it mean if we are biologically determined (or have biological predispositions) in our attractions? Our reactions still take place in a moral sphere - science cannot tell us how to act on its evidence. Take feminism for example. Some sociologists argue that gender is 100% socially constructed. If we took that as fact, there are still many ways to react. Some would argue that we should break down all gender barriers and push for an a-gendered society. Others would argue that gender aids in social cohesion and dissolving it would create problems. So, while Truth of the world may give us understanding, it does not give answers on how to act.

If neither science nor religion can stake a stronger claim on Truth, maybe we all need to be a little more humble towards our approach of other people's viewpoints. I think that each side might gain more from speaking openly about their beliefs and should listen openly about others' beliefs -- especially if contradictory. We must acknowledge that even if other people are wrong, they don't believe they are wrong. We aren't a society of idiots who argue for positions that they believe are wrong. Yet, are their beliefs any less valid than our own? Are not our knowledge claims just as much beliefs as theirs?

 What if conservative religions such as the LDS church are legitimated in their resistance towards allowing gay marriage? What if...

What if the gay population is legitimated in pushing for greater rights and a recognized place in society. What if...

The philosophy of humans being "believing beings" is far from new, but I fear that it has been lost due to our society's insatiable desire for Truth, progress, control, and certainty. Maybe if we are all more humble in our claims to Truth, we can be more open to other people's beliefs--could some social strife be calmed if we were more understanding that our own beliefs are just that: beliefs and that they hold just as must weight as other people's? Unfortunately, I'm not able to perfectly express my views as I'm just quickly jotting this down and I hope everyone recognizes that this is just a statement of my beliefs. But, I do believe that this recognition could be beneficial to society.

Note: I'm not claiming there is no Truth, but that we do not know the truth because we are beings of belief. Whether by a happen-stance of nature or God's design I believe that we are creatures of belief.

Fun quotes on beliefs and truth:
There's a world of difference between truth and facts. Facts can obscure the truth. -- Maya Angelou

I believe in everything until it's disproved. So I believe in fairies, the myths, dragons. It all exists, even if it's in your mind. Who's to say that dreams and nightmares aren't as real as the here and now? -- John Lennon

Above all, don't lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love. -- Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

There are no facts, only interpretations. -- Friedrich Nietzsche

The forceps of our minds are clumsy forceps, and crush the truth a little in taking hold of it. -- H.G. Wells

And from one of my favorite books of all time:
"[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." -- Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace

I hope that we can learn from other people and come to understand their views as legitimate and be able to sympathize with their frameworks. Maybe we can work towards harmony rather than arguing over beliefs disguised as Truth.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Living in the Moment

In a conversation with one of my best friends we breached the topic of "living in the moment", which is something both of us have struggled with. From her perspective I seem a lot happier, and I would say to some extent I'm doing better at "living in the moment", and so she asked me: How do I do it? How does one properly live in the moment?

So, I've been thinking about this for a while now: what is the golden key to living in the moment? The first answer I received about this: there is no golden key. There is never "the solution" to any problem. I mean, if we all had to solve our issues in the same way, wouldn't we just end up as the same people? I think our culture is a little obsessed with finding a "universal" truth on how to "be happy", but I think that is a little misguided. Even within my religion, I feel that there isn't just "one way". Sure, there are boundaries, but we don't have to do things the same way.

In any case, here are some thoughts that I have had on how I have "lived in the moment":

1st: As the phrase suggests, "living" requires something more active than just "thinking". I did a quick Google search for "living in the moment" and the top answers on the first couple of solutions all dealt with thinking. Phrases such as: don't think too much, don't worry too much. Ok, well, stop thinking of a pink elephant! You can't. I find the advice to "not think so much" generally only makes someone more anxious about how they are thinking of thinking too much and this just evolves into a destructive anxiety attack. I think that there may be some mental aides that we can draw upon, but in the end, I don't believe you can live by thinking.

So, what are these mental aides that can help a person (since we are so set on using our brains to solve every problem)?

- Reevaluate Priorities: I remember that my most stressful periods of life was when I was working to achieve something. Yet, once I "arrived" at the something, I would become unsettled and anxiously look for a new something to work for. My work habits pushed me to live in future accomplishment rather than enjoy the here and now. So, after much work, I've realized that most of what I was working towards was not worthy of defining my self-worth. I don't obsess (as much) over grades, assignments, being the "best". Instead, I'm trying to redefine my goals to be actions: spending time with people, learning from assignments, developing relationships, sleeping (haha, that is a real goal).

- Accept Paradoxes in life: Sometimes things don't make sense. Good things happen to bad people and to good people. Bad things happen to good people and to bad people. We just usually focus on what isn't "just" to our minds. Well, news flash, rain doesn't choose who to fall on. The sun doesn't choose who to shine upon. It just happens. Best friends get cancer, Mormons can be gay, Wendy's is out of Frosties (heaven forbid). Instead of growing angry at an inability to control, how about we accept what happens and try to make the best of it. This may sound crass, but what is the point of anger when we can't change things? I recently had a good friend and support pass away from cancer. I started to get really upset because he was one of my favorite people in the world. But, what would that help? Instead, I decided to remember him. I listened to his music, I told stories of fun times we shared, and I plucked up the courage to go to his funeral (which is a big step for me because I hate funerals). Rather than grow angry, I built up a positive memory of the experience.

2nd: So, if we are supposed to be active instead of reflective to live in the moment, what does that mean? This might be situational: if you are involved in something you absolutely hate, it will be uncomfortable and probably a bad idea to "live in the moment". So, you should probably change moments! Live what you want to live. Obviously we all have to pass through unpleasantries: passing by someone you barely know while deciding to look at him/her and smile or ignore them; dealing with the tedious bureaucracy of any organization; traffic; in-laws; etc. However, we can fill our lives with activities that we do enjoy: pick a career you love, find people whose company you enjoy, eat more food you like (even healthy food can sometimes taste good). Although we need to accept when bad things happen or when paradoxes do arise, we can make the best of them by choosing where we go, who we love, what we do.

The rest of these are just tricks that help me to avoid thinking too much about life:

- If I catch myself obsessing or worrying over something during a party, while I'm trying to sleep, or during a time when worrying or planning is not conducive, I write down (or put it in my phone) what I'm worrying about as a reminder to address it in a more appropriate time. That calms my fears about not addressing it while allowing me to enjoy the time when I should not be thinking about it. There is a time for worrying. Don't let it ruin your sleep schedule or your dates.

- When you are stressed, do something that you LOVE. Go running, do a puzzle, call up your best friend or mother or grandpa, eat a crepe (always a good solution). Find a way to relax yourself before tackling your worries. Being uptight about it will only lead to extreme conclusions and drastic action.

- Make jokes about the hard parts of your life. When my dad went in for surgery for appendicitis, our family was on Facebook chat sending surgery and appendix jokes to one another. Although I was slightly uncomfortable about some of the jokes (but really), it definitely made the mood lighter and cheery. Same thing happened when I got my tonsils out: my sister started sending me hilarious tonsillitis memes that made me less anxious about what was about to happen.

- Watch fun Youtube videos. My recent favorite channels are Ellen and SoulPancake. For me, they just show how to enjoy life. Check them out.

- Check out this song by Jason Mraz:

Anyways, those are just some of my ideas. The real solution for you could be found in a multitude of ways. If you have fun ways to "live in the moment", feel free to leave a comment and share.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

What does obedience REALLY mean?

There is a common thought in the LDS religion and, to some extent, in society in general that I would like to offer an alternative viewpoint. I've heard often in church, and actually this last Sunday, that God is restricted by the laws of the universe. There are universal laws that govern what it means to be God and He must adhere to such restrictions or He ceases to be God. However, this always bothered me and I think I know why.

First, St John 1:1-3
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the
beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.

Verse three clearly delineates that all things were made by God, including the "laws". God and Christ (the Word) stood alone "at the beginning". (This idea is preserved in the JST of the text.)

In Doctrine and Covenants 130:20, it says "There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated". The law was given by God in heaven, it came forth from Him. He is not subservient to it, nor bound by it in the sense that the law is above God. Also, if you follow the footnotes of "law" you will arrive at D&C 82:10: "I the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." The law again is the Lord's word, not some morality that He is adhering to.

Now, people argue that the fact that He is 'bound' to us shows there is some morality, or that if He didn't follow through He would no longer be God because He is adhering to the laws. I believe, actually, that what makes God 'God', is that He is being true to us. The way He is being towards us is His Godliness. We are learning to be true and faithful, meaning we are learning to be like God or to someday become Gods. God isn't a divine being because He passed some tests and qualified to be God and as long as he doesn't break the rules, it's going to be okay. God is God because of how He treats and loves us.

In any case, what does this have to do with obedience. Well, just as God is not subservient to any moral law, I don't believe that we are subject to abstract, universal rules as well. I believe that we are to be obedient to God, not morality. As we know from hearing about the Pharisees and others like them, the law cannot save us. If it did, A) we would fail; and B) we would not need Christ. Instead, it is our relationship with Christ and God that will ultimately help us succeed in life. Brent Slife, a non-Mormon professor at BYU, argues that living with the idea of adhering to a morality rather than in respect to God is a form of idolatry: we set up the law higher than God and in essence worship that law over God. We discredit God's ability to save and look to the law. PS - That's not a good thing.

Here are some scriptural examples of being obedient to God rather than conforming to rules.

The Oath and Covenant of the Priesthood (Section 84 around versus 33-39) does not require "receiving" a law. Instead, it requires that we "receive" the Lord's servants, the Lord, and ultimately God. There is no mention of commandments.

Instead, if you look through the topical guide and index under commandments, you'll see more often than not the phrase "my commandments" or "God's commandments" rather than "the commandments". I feel that this means, rather than God establishing a set of ground rules that everyone in all times and places must live by, that God will speak to groups of people of the same time and in the same society and give them ways that they, in that context, can live true to Him. He can also dictate to a person individually how that person should live true to God.

D&C 25:15 - Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness shalt thou receive.
D&C 132:21 - Except ye abide in my law ye cannot attain to this glory.

I think we've come to a time when many people are confused about religion because it keeps many ideas that are archaic in nature and don't seem to fit today's society. And yet, whenever a religion changes it's practices to fit the times, they argue that the religion obviously cannot be true because it doesn't adhere to a strict, absolute morality.

However, with the understanding that obedience to God respects context and person, it makes sense that practices should change and that religions evolve (see the history of a "health code" from the times of Adam, Jews, etc. into the "Word of Wisdom" today as an example).

I think the question I'm going to ask myself from now on is not going to center around the commandments, but on what God wants me to do. This will probably adhere to many of the precepts that the LDS church expounds, but it may also require me to tweak something here and there based on my circumstances or may get more specific on my day to day actions. Only God can tell...

What do you think?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Hot Topic: Gay Marriage

Alright. I've been asked by a lot of people, due to my interest and activism in research in homosexuality and religion, where I stand on Gay Marriage. So, here's yet another blogger posting on such a hot controversial topic. Let it be known, before I start, that I am happy for those couples who have been waiting for this day to marry the person they love. Congratulations. I am excited that government will recognize you as married people and you get to share in that commitment. See any news site on their top stories, and you'll find the Supreme Courts decisions on Prop 8 in California and DOMA

However, I recently took a class on the Theoretical Foundations of the Family that opened my eyes to some issues on the marriage debate that do concern me. This worry does extend to marriage in general, but I'll center the issue around gay marriage. Now, I am still mulling this over, but as of yet, the following is the way that I see the world. I appreciate comments, debates, and the like.

Marriage is a bond and commitment that connects two other-interested people. Some might wonder what that means, other-interested, but I simply use it in contrast to self-interest. Economics, psychology, and many social sciences are basing scientific theory on the assumption that human beings are self-interested. However, that ignores a large amount of action and intention of moral goods that humans produce in direct concern for the other. The way I understand humanity draws much upon the works of Levinas (a great French philosopher) who argues that in meeting another person, we are called upon by that person to be for them or to do what we can to help them in any way--to provide for their needs. Even though we do not know what these needs are, we are still called to help people.

I've touched on this before, but an easy example of this is walking past people on the street. For many, it is an uncomfortable experience to look someone in the eye. I ask: why? One explanation could be this irrational "call" to fulfill some unknown needs to a complete stranger. So, what do we do? We ignore them and act like they don't exist. Some people, however, respond to this need by smiling and wishing the person a good day. I can guarantee that instead of feeling "awkward", they've responded to the 'call' and generally feel better for it. In any case, there are two ways of being that follow the call of responsibility towards another: being for the other (or true to one's nature) or being against the other (or false to one's nature).

Now, marriage is the most complete way to respond to another's needs. In the marriage commitment, you agree to take on the other's needs, wants, and dreams and live a future together despite what the future may be. No one knows the future, no one knows how their future spouse or even themselves will change. So, marriage is a complete giving of oneself to the other (to work, it obviously must be reciprocal). Only marriage (again, this is the way I see it) in this manner should stand and only marriage in which we are for the other rather than for ourselves (which is fundamentally against the other) can succeed in granting both spouses lasting and fulfilling lives.

Unfortunately, this commitment-type marriage has been degraded to the self-interested, individualist norms that permeate society. People no longer marry because they really love the other person and want to be for them. Instead, they love themselves in the relationship and what they are getting out of it. See the following news articles and research for examples on why people marry:
NY Times  - Social Status
Cosmopolitan - Sex, status, therapeutic needs (only lists one reason centered around the other person)
Helen Smith Book on Not Getting Married - again, all about the self
The Case for Marriage - Book on married people being happier and healthier

What worries me about gay marriage is that they have bought on to the myth of using marriage as a means to an end rather than marriage being a commitment to be for the other person. The arguments that I hear for gay marriage revolve around the self and legal issues: legal rights for finances, etc.; equality for everyone; financial stability; why can't I be happy, too?; etc. Obviously, just as in straight marriage there are many (if not most) cases where they fall into this framework, there are many gay couples who do desire commitment and being for the other. But I cannot in good conscience give my backing to a movement so totally devoted to self-fulfillment when I believe that it is ignoring humanity's essence.

This was obviously a much shortened version of what I believe about it, and it is very hard to take this position. I love everyone and hope that the gay community finds the ability to marry in the proper way through the Supreme Court decisions, but I would also hope that straight relationships can look at themselves and recognize whether or not they are loving the relationship with the other or their self in the relationship. Are you being for the other or are you being for the self?

For further reading on the topic, I recommend: Family Politics by Yenor. Yenor takes a stronger position on marriage, especially on the chapter about John Paul II's phenomenological debate on marriage, and argues against gay marriage completely on the basis that they cannot have children. He argues, similarly to what was explained, that this turns marriage into an instrumental relationship (what can I get out of it?) rather than the giving up of one's self to the other. I take issue with this and I want to develop a theoretical backing of homosexual marriage that combats Yenor's/JPII's argument's use of children as a reason to fight against gay marriage. But, that's for another post.

Peace y'all. Let's all be true to the other! I love talking about this, so if you have comments of any kind, let's hear them and discuss it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Gratitude and Frustration

So, it's a little after 4:30am and I still can't sleep. This is one of the worst nights ever, but I think that might only be because it is one of a string of terrible nights that started maybe two or three weeks ago. Those who know me will remember that I have rotten luck when it comes to physical health and for some reason I'm always sick with something. They'll also know that the 'some reason' is generally I stress myself out so much that my body literally breaks down. Joy.

So, most of my life I've lived with eczema (just look it up if you aren't familiar with it) and generally I have outbreaks at the beginning of summer and winter.Before now, the worst flare-up I had was on the mission when for some reason I lost the outer-layer of skin on both my hands and feet (and maybe more than one layer), had to quasi-bathe myself in almond oil, and walk around with white gloves (during summer) and socks full of prescription lotion. It was awful. I felt like some sort of creepy pedophile with a short-sleeve shirt and white gloves.  But, that lasted only a little while and I moved on. Ever since then it's only been a rash on my arms and legs, but something that is relatively normal and easy to work with.

But, recently I've had the worst flareup that I've ever had. I would take the pedophile gloves again to this because at least I'd be able to sleep (hut then again, the grass looks greener...right?). This time I have had such a reaction to stress or allergies or whatever that I'm in a constant state of distress and discomfort, and NOTHING I have can alleviate it. Lotion, steroid creams, you name it.  So, for the past couple of weeks I've laid in bed trying not to scratch and hoping that I would fall asleep sometime...well, I'm averaging 2-3 hours per night...and I'm miserable. The doctors put me on anti-biotics that I have to "try out" until next Thursday. I don't think they'll realize that I'll be dead before then. I even downloaded a pseudo-hypnotic-relaxation-sleep aid that my mom suggested....not working. This inability to sleep due to physical issues coupled with my increase in anxiety and stress has resulted in quite the painful (both mentally and physically) and stressful period for me. I even just banged my head against the wall just now jokingly hoping to be knocked out...

Through this time, I've found it quite easy to complain and be bitter towards God and life in general. However, during the last couple of days, I've found a really awesome blessing that God has given me that I've had throughout my life: my relationships with ot
her people. I always find myself in the company of some really awesome roommates who are the most helpful people imaginable for that semester or year. They seem to always fit with my struggles. Now, whether it is individual people who adapt to my situation or God's impeccable timing, I'll never know. But I truly am grateful for them.

My parents and family have always been understanding and supportive, and I wouldn't be very far without my parents' love, support, and the helpful medical advice that my dad offers. I think I've put them through a lot this past year, but they still stand by me and are there when I need them. I've also found some really awesome friends in my major who are always trying to understand, help, and always be available. It will be weird when we aren't all together next semester, but I'm grateful for the experiences we've shared and the lessons learned. Also, I've made some really awesome friends throughout the wards I've lived in. It's hard to keep in contact with so many people, but there are those special few (especially from freshman year and right after the mission) who really know how to show they care and want to be a part of my life and I appreciate that so much.

In any case, no matter how much I think have reason to complain about -insert issue here (perceived or real)- at least I know that I'll always have people there who support and care.

I love you all! :) Deuces.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Calming the Storm

(Just FYI - this was mainly for me to get some thoughts out about my anxiety that I've felt about life in general the last couple weeks. There may - or may not - be anything substantial here.)

Anxiety stinks. It's been a while since I've been so stressed and anxious that I've lost the ability to think and function, but that's happened to me a couple times this week. I remember as a kid, especially at night, I would get so wrapped up in worries and doubts and fears that it seemed the world was burying me and I couldn't breathe. However, I learned to be able to silence it, to avoid it, run away from the anxiety that threatened to suck me in.

Until recently. During this last week, the weight of all the choices, pressures, issues, stresses, etc. of my life finally mounted to the burial point and I had a couple of moments where I had to stop myself and remember what reality was and where I fit into it. I had to tell myself to stop worrying and thank goodness that my rationality was able to overcome my anxiety.

However, even if I was able to qualm the storm for an hour or two so that I could focus on a project or distract myself with a friend, the issues were always lingering in the back of my mind. My leg has been shaking nonstop for the past week: not that on-the-edge-of-a-cliff-and-terribly-nervous shake which I have every time I repel, but that I'm-just-sitting-in-class-and-I-don't-feel-comfortable-unless-I-shake-my-leg-even-if-I'm-annoying-everyone-else shake.

I'm going to try and make an analogy for what I'm experiencing: it feels as though all my worries are buckets of water that I'm trying to keep in a pressurized, bursting tank. The tank is slowly cracking as I perceive my life is falling apart. So, I'm running around trying to fix the little cracks and keeping my worries at bay. I've realized two important things about how I've reacted to my problems: 1 - generally I've felt that if you can't fix everything all at once, then nothing is going to get better. I keep searching for life solutions or for keys that will solve everything at once and lead me to this place where I'm "at peace". 2 - instead of letting my worries go, or draining them bit by bit (relating to problem 1), I'm just keeping them in a container and only adding to it. Then, I only patch up when the worries reveal themselves.

For example, for the last year I've been quite anxious about what I'm going to do after I graduate. Business School? Sociology doctorate program? Work? However, to fully concentrate myself on my schoolwork, I've just ignored it and put off the questions. Every so often when I have nothing to do, I remember every question, doubt, thing I need to do and my tank cracks a little bit as my worries spill out. So, I do as little as I can to solve the question (maybe talk to a teacher, research a school or two) or to repair the tank (for now). What am I left with? Thousands of haphazardly repaired cracks that do little to address the actual question. I keep doing this with all of my worries as I wait for the epic solution that will solve all my problems.

However, is this really going to happen? This skewed perception that I can only fix my problems all at once and my inconsistency in working out my worries has led me to an overflowing tank of worries with not enough energy to keep it all from spilling out. So, a couple of nights ago, I wrote down everything that I was stressing me, worrying me, or otherwise on my mind. Then I separated those that I could actually fix or do something about and I told myself to let the other things go (while that might be hard to do for now, the recognition that I need to let it go was quite a step).

So, finally I've given myself an agenda of things to do. I don't need to address everything at once. I've picked the two most important issues that are giving me the greatest grief and I'm working on those right now. I'm going to take charge of the tank rather than letting it split at random intervals on its own. I don't want my worries to dictate where I go and what I do, but I want to control my life, and that is only going to happen if I step up and start taking control of it.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Political Post: Musing about Gay Marriage

So, I generally stay away from politics: I'm just not the well-informed nor rhetorically trained to be able to compete with the political savvy. I generally shy away from political debates and stick to social norm evaluation. However, as we are in the midst of the Supreme Court Decision on gay marriage through it's ruling on California's Prop 8, I've started thinking about this a lot.

To begin with: I haven't decided my opinion yet on gay marriage. I don't know exactly where I am swayed, because so far I've been able to appreciate the arguments on both sides. I would appreciate more knowledge or better reasons than I have for why we should go one way or the other (or if there are alternatives), but I would appreciate that no bickering or fighting occur. Please, I'm sick of it.

So, today, I started seeing these little goodies pop up on my Facebook friend's profile pictures:

In support of Equal Marriage for hetero- and homosexuals.

In support of keeping a 'traditional' view of marriage defined as between men and women:

Sidenote: If I chose my side based on ingenuity and humor of these little profile pictures, the following wins:

If you don't get it, I'm ashamed.

In any case, I was a little annoyed by people getting very angry and threatening as they were establishing their opinions on Facebook. I'm okay if you have opinions and I approve of you sharing those opinions (for the most part. Some opinions are wrong: like enjoying asparagus. No one likes asparagus. If you do, you are wrong). However, I genuinely do not think you should be attacking the other side and telling them that "God hates fags", "You are stupid", or other baseless arguments that not only are inappropriate, but vary in all sorts of logical fallacies.

Here are some of my thoughts and I would appreciate comments that would help my understanding grow:

* I grew up in a religious household with a relatively strong religious peer group. All my life I had believed that gay marriage was wrong and to some extent morally destructive. I'm not saying that my religion, family, or peers had anything to do with this belief, but I remember having it and arguing it to friends (before I was aware of my gross inabilities to argue and my obvious ignorance). Until I was in high school: gay marriage = bad things.

* When I started my studies in sociology and other social sciences, I first changed my beliefs completely and regarded myself as a strict gay marriage advocate. Who am I to regulate the choices of others and how they are going to live? Isn't that restricting their ability to choose as well? 

* Then I read C.S. Lewis' book: Mere Christianity. I understood some more about those who are staking a moral claim in the debate. If you view homosexual behavior as immoral (note I said behavior and not homosexuality), then it makes sense about why you would argue against it. In Mere Christianity, Lewis makes the claim that we cannot allow people to do what they want on the argument that "it doesn't harm other people" because in the end, an immoral person will eventually disrupt society in some way. Ask me for the specific analogy, because I thought it was ingenious. 

* Politically speaking, this becomes more complicated. Should religious values play a part in politics? Is it possible to separate religion from politics? Should we? If we do separate it, I remember saying once that I was in favor of civil unions: same benefits, but at least we appease those religions who want to keep the definition of "marriage" as between a man and woman. However, a friend brought up the dilemma: is that just returning to "separate, but equal"? 

* My roommate brought up a point that was opposite of gay marriage in general: Should the courts have the right to repeal a decision that was made by the people? If California's state population decided to prohibit gay marriage, why is the Supreme Court have the right to challenge that. THE PEOPLE DECIDED. Shouldn't we allow the people to repeal it? Not a group of non-elected judges?

* In the research that I've done, it seems that the norm-less and moral-less perceptions that have been placed on homosexuals can be explained to some extent to the fact that they have no other option. Why try to have a relationship that is 'healthy' (determined by one's faithfulness to one specific other) when the relationship is not going to be approved politically or socially anyway. Why work towards an un-achievable goal. I would hypothesize, perhaps prematurely, that the establishment of gay marriage would allow for the solidification of more stable dating norms and relationship opportunities for gay people. And that this would tone down the promiscuity that others claim is rampant in gay society.

I think I'm leaning more towards allowing gay marriage because it seems, according to research on homosexual families and countries who have allowed gay marriage, there aren't significant social effects. Gay parents are not more likely to raise gay children. However, I'm not sure. I would appreciate enlightenment on either side. I wish we would talk about it more (civilly) in the open. 

My hope for now is that the Lord (whom I do believe exists) would guide the people of the Supreme Court to make an appropriate decision that would benefit mankind. I will not pretend to say that I know the Lord's opinion on the matter, nor that the Court will give a ruling in accordance with His will (although, I would hope so). I think that we can all pray that they make an informed and beneficial decision according to His divine plan (or, if we do not believe in a Supreme Being, that we hope for the best).

To America 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Not another one of those happiness posts...

It could have started from the ridiculous upsets in March Madness. (But seriously...who the heck is LaSalle anyways). It could have been that I just started a book called: Why We Hate Us. It could be that I started out this Friday night with nothing to do but play a couple rounds of N64 SuperSmash, read, and just lay around on my fat bum (figuratively speaking, because my bum is anything but fat).

However, I started thinking: why is there so much focus on the negativity of the world. Is it that prevalent? You look at the news and the political websites/social media pages and it is teeming with angry posts about how much the other side is doing. I have friends who still post thousands of anti-liberal/anti-Obama propaganda every single day.  Now, I don't mind knowing your opinions. I don't even mind you voicing what you think needs to change. However, when you constantly post negative and generally falsified information over and over...

I've read that the content of your daydreams or your mind-wanderings is actually quite telling of your person. So, I started paying attention to my own daydreams, if you can call it that. What I found was that I generally look back in time during my life to a choice I've made and wonder how life could have been if I had changed. I don't really do it as a I-wish-life-is-other-than-it-is, but more of a curiosity.

Let's do that right now. What if: news stations first aired stories about awesome people. I just looked up some stories: a mother of a child who attempted suicide because of bullying put on Facebook what her son was going through. He then received 7,000 letters and 10,000 Facebook messages of encouragement. That's awesome people. I love this. There was also a 50 year old man in Los Angeles who gave up his home to a homeless family and moved back in with his parents. He gave them free rent/utilities for a year. That's pretty epic. Why do I have to search for these stories?

What if: political campaigns were think-tanks on what we could do to make this country better? What if political and scientific surveys/studies were actually unbiased and not trying to promote a liberal or conservative agenda? What if people could actually choose a candidate who was not bashing on their opponent the whole time?

What is ironic about this campaign is that I'm complaining about our society's norm of negativity. Well, looks like I fit in well. However, I want to highlight a couple of events in my life that I feel deserve some recognition:

I have a roommate who's friend is struggling with her belief in God and he is sincerely interested in helping her understand His love. Then he told me that he has looked up articles on how to friend people have left the faith so that if she does choose that path, she'll at least have one friend who is on her side.

I've met a lot of people attracted to the same-sex who, instead of growing bitter and angry at social stigmas and confusing religious teachings, have instead made it a point to love their life and enjoy what blessings they have been given.

I see my friends struggle over huge life-choices and meager issues like dating woes and the rest of the group is always there to support, offer counsel, and be there for them. The day-to-day interactions keep us sane, protected, and comforted. While I'm in this group, I've never felt like an outcast or that I've never had someone who would be willing to listen to any of my problems.

I saw a student in the BYU parking lot give up the chance for a parking spot to another driver (and that is a BIG deal). I don't know why he did it, but I bet it made a big difference for the other driver's day.

In the sociology lab where I work, if you had a question on any data set or theoretical issue, the whole group is willing to pitch in to help answer your question. You could ask any person in that office and they will drop almost any assignment or work to help you out. That's pretty awesome and deserves attention.

Sure, none of these things will ever make the nightly news, but I think the day-to-day little acts of kindness are what could propel this nation into greatness. I think the more that we emphasize and bring them to light, the more that people will think about them and act on the little promptings to do the same. To quote a famous oldie song:

"You've got to accentuate the positive. Eliminate the negative. Latch on to the affirmative. But don't mess with Mr. Inbetween." 

Thursday, February 21, 2013


On my drive to school, I was thinking about why I love my major (Sociology) and in general why I am in love with learning. And I realized that I'm sick of being ignorant. Ignorance is one of the most uncomfortable ways of being.

I remember going to a party with a friend and she started talking to her friends about their major, a subject about which I know very little. As they were talking, I realized how much I didn't know about the world. I felt awkward (which, some friends would say this is a natural state for me). I was unable to contribute to the conversation except to ask "why?", "what does that mean?", or similar questions. We didn't have time for them to inform me enough where I could formulate an opinion, nor would they have appreciated ending their conversation solely to include me. So, I had to content myself by trying to follow their arguments and fill in the pieces without interrupting the flow of the discussion. My ignorance irritated me.

Yet, it is quite uncomfortable for those who are knowledgeable to be around those who don't understand what they are talking about. As a lot of you know, I am working on a project in which I'm interviewing religious people who are attracted to their same gender in understanding how they reconcile their religion and their attraction. I've learned loads from them, not only about homosexuality, but also general life lessons. But then, I go to class or talk to friends and family who talk about how 'homosexuality' is just a choice of a few rebellious people who are trying to make a statement.

Excuse me?

Or that any homosexual can be cured or their attraction can be quieted if they only exerted a little effort.

Well, no.

It really bothers me when people purport to understand other people that they've never met and that they try to group into general categories. Have they really never met someone attracted to their same gender? Just because they share the same attraction type does not mean that they go through the experience in the same way or that there is a "cure-all" or that they even want to be cured. Could it be that they are truly and sincerely fulfilled that way? Who are we to tell them how to live or to suggest that they even have a problem?

But, defending homosexuality is not the point of this post, although I'd do it at any time.What this post is essentially trying to say is that I feel education (both formal and informal) is not only helpful in building character and succeeding in this world, but it is a social responsibility. Think of all the discussions we could have, all the theories we could create, all of the problems we could work on if we all tried to expand our understanding of the world every day. 

What I'm attempting to do in Sociology is learn more about how the world works and how people understand their experiences. As this discipline is intimately connected with each one of us, it also connects to the whole world: every field is connected. From anthropology to physics, statistics to economics, art history to psychology. Ignorance in any one of these fields is ignorance in the rest. In order to truly make society grow and become a better place, it is our responsibility to grow, learn, and explore.

In short: I hate feeling awkward. So, I'm going to learn and I expect you to do the same.

The end.

Peace y'all.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

If the STENCH doesn't kill you....

Well, I had been writing quite an awesome, if I do say so myself, post about society until blogger decided to delete, now I'm writing about one of the funniest nights that I've had in a while. A couple of days ago, a really great friend and I were making dinner while he was house sitting. The family that owned the place told him that he could use anything in the house that we wanted because they were moving in a week anyways.

So, we scoured the kitchen for what food to see what we wanted to make and found some chicken and decided to make a creamy lemon chicken dish with mushrooms. We were excited because that just sounds great. We went to the store to everything else that we needed and return home to start cooking. I started thawing the chicken and I'm still not quite sure what my friend was doing. Sometimes he'd disappear or reappear and I never really understood what he was doing to help with the dinner. But, at one point he was around while I'm defrosting the chicken. I was also sneaking some of the mushrooms and dropped one on the bag of chicken. (Now if you know me, I'm not one to eat anything around raw meat. I hate the thought of it.) So, I was about to throw it away when my friend refuses to let me waste the food and has me give it to him. I'm telling him it will certainly lead to his death, but he eats it like a good kid. This guy can't throw anything away.

I finally decided that I had enough of defrosting the chicken after 15 minutes or so. I start opening the package when all of the sudden ...

What on EARTH was that STENCH!

Sidenote: I was looking up synonyms for the word 'stench' to see if there was a better word to describe the horror of what I was inhaling and I think my favorite word was 'mephitis' - a poisonous or foul-smelling gas emitted from the earth - from the medical dictionary: an offensive smell.  [Just FYI, a word with a more synonymous connotation would probably be 'fetor': an offensive stale or putrid odor.]

This smell was seriously poisonous. I didn't know where it was coming from, but I was sure that my life was ending and all the good in the world had ended. Nothing was happy anymore. I wanted to die because anything was better than what I just consumed nasally. I turned to my friend in absolute horror, with confusion and betrayal in my eyes: why, oh why would he do this to me? I don't care if we are two guys, you just don't do that in front of other people ESPECIALLY when it is toxic.

But then I noticed that the culpable wafts were coming from the other direction - - - the bag of chicken. Can I just remind you how awful this stench was? I gagged was so bad. It seriously reeked as if Death itself had decided to let loose a millennium of flatulence in one single bag. It was his new weapon to kill us all.

I'm ready to toss the chicken and go on to a new idea for dinner. There was NO WAY in heaven or hell that I would eat something that smelled as though it was crafted in the devil's own rear. Again, my friend decides to salvage anything and asks, with just a hint -- well, more than a hint -- of uncertainty, if we can still eat it. Would cooking the chicken cook the smell out?

I've always wanted to take on death in a challenge. Why not try it out. Remember what happened to the wizards of the Deathly Hallows that were trying to cheat death? We were on that same track. But, I bend to his wishes and plop the chicken in the hot butter. By this time, the situation had become slightly more humorous and I was laughing out of my amazement that I had just witnessed with one of my very own 5 senses the touch of Hell. I'm still trying to convince him that we should scratch the whole thing, but ... let's try it.

No. It doesn't get any better. Instead, the wretched fumes mixed with the butter to quite literally fill my lungs with death. Paula Deen was wrong: butter does not make everything taste better. The test that debunked this hypothesis? Rank chicken does not taste/smell better with butter. I couldn't take it anymore and he called his mom to see if it was alright to eat. After she fiercely affirmed that this was a bad idea, I dumped the chicken in the trash and had him take it out...immediately.

After rummaging some more, we found some pot-stickers and made those with a side of lemon-sauteed mushrooms with parmesan cheese. That was definitely the highlight of our night, food-wise. The mushrooms were delectable.Lies. The dessert was my favorite part: cheesecake brownies with almond touched-cherries. Yum. But, more to that later.

During and after dinner my friend starts getting a little loopy. Well, maybe not loopy, but he was messing up words, phasing out, just random stuff...I wasn't too concerned until once we got the dessert ready to eat, he walks over with his plate to the couch and somehow drops half his brownie/cherries all over himself and this family's couch and rug....all over. He looked down with a blank confusion not knowing exactly what happened. I'm pretty sure he was playing back the last 5 seconds in his mind over and over again trying to understand what happened. He looks at me with this face of utter confusion and shock, and I'm on the floor. dying. laughing.

He goes to set down the plate and pick up what fell, and as he does, he accidentally throws the fork (full of cherry juice and brownie bits) from the plate onto the other half of the couch section and back onto the rug. Again: blank face. Again: I'm suffering from hysterical fits. What was going on with him all of the sudden? And then we realized:

The mushroom that touched the bag. He ate the mushroom that made contact with Death's weapon.  He was dying. Nothing could live that consumed anything tainted by the stench. And so, we made that night a night to remember because it was his last night on earth. What did we do? Watch Mean Girls. What a better way to die than watch Lindsey Lohan relive her real life experiences of plasticity. There is no better way.

So beware next time you are cooking some stranger's expired chicken: if the stench doesn't kill you, the mushroom most definitely will.

In case you were all worried: he is alright and is really still alive. Don't fret.

But really, he must have lost at least a year of his life from eating the mushroom.

At least.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Refresh Button

One of the reasons that I love fast and testimony meetings is to count how many times people say "The last (insert varied amount of time here) have been pretty hard for me." And I'm just wondering how many of them are thinking about the rest of us. Do you realize that most people are going through a hard time as well? I don't remember the last period of my life when it wasn't hard, when I had no problems, or when the future seemed clear and straight-forward.  Never.

It made me think of when my family had the old dial-up internet connection (or even the internet at our current place) where it would take almost as much time to load my hotmail account as it is for me to know access gmail, googledrive, facebook, pandora, and maybe "". I can remember as a kid, and I'm sure many other people did it as well, clicking refresh every 30 seconds to see if the connection had become any better. Every time I refreshed, there was maybe another inch loaded in the browser (maybe). It was frustrating to say the least, but I remember a couple of times when I refreshed and I saw the whole page I would just sit back and enjoy the moment. A full internet page...loaded. Wow. Modern technology.

Usually I don't like little sayings like this,
 but this illustrates my point
I don't even know if this analogy will completely work, but it seems sometimes we need to refresh our life. Just a little click. Just take a step back from everything we think we know and gain some perspective. We probably won't get very far in understanding the grand plan, but we will hopefully gain a little glimpse of a greater purpose. Each refresh will give us the joy in knowing that there is something larger than what we are going through and an anticipation for a greater screenshot of our life.

Recently, I've taken the opportunity to refresh and gain just another couple centimeters of understanding my life. And you know what, things aren't always as bad as they seem. Despite my troubles and trials over the last couple of weeks, I've learned SO MUCH about who I am and what I want my life to look like. Mistakes can cost you a plethora of problems and guilt unless you take it in a positive way. There is no need to look on life with regrets as long as you are gaining a little more perspective along the way.

I mean, we make wrong value judgments all the time. Case study: We all hated Snape, even if we knew he was going to be a good guy, all along the road with Harry. And then during the last book, we all cried because his oh-so-tender heart: thank you J.K. Rowling for playing with our minds and giving us little refreshers along the way. Finally, at the end of the book: we loaded the whole page and everything worked out. (Well, not really for Snape. His life seemed kind of miserable.)

So, just some thoughts on what my refresh button has shown me and the little "goodies" that I've found in my life the last couple weeks and months: I am a people person. As much as I love writing on my computer to unknown faces and people, I love being with people. The days I am alone without being to others are the days that I make my biggest mistakes out of boredom and loneliness. I tend to carve my identity from being with them. Some people say I haven't "found" my identity yet. Well, I say: others are my personality and selfdom. It is just ingrained in who I am.

Next: I need to determine what makes me happy and live for it. Enough of this blind following of what people tell me to do, how to act, or secrets to success in life. I appreciate the advice and will gladly consider most of it, but I can no longer simply live my life the way others dictate. It is time for my choices to define my path. One of the things that I know makes me happy is ... being with people. So, since I'm such a people person, know I need a job where I am in the thick of ... people. Teaching seems like a good fit. Human Resources also is a great fit. Either way, I'm closer to understanding who I am and what will make me happy.

Last: I have good things going for me. I've met some awesome people recently who I have a lot of fun with. (Out of those: a special shout-out to my soc peeps: you guys make school a blast). I've got some great opportunities at work and school right now. I'm playing in the collegiate premier of Phantom of the Opera (I mean...woah. Right?). Why muddy it up with concerns of trials and hard times. Why complain of an inability to see the whole picture when what I've got is pretty sweet already.

And you know, even though I've realized this, the next refresh might show me a larger part of the puzzle that slightly modifies this. You never know.

So, take a step back, y'all. Look around and see what you have going for you. And don't fret about an inability to see the whole page. Just wait with a little anticipation for that day when you've discovered you. Try loading other pages as well a long the way to understand the world around you. Whenever you are discouraged, depressed, or confuddled: refresh. It will make more sense in a second.

Peace everyone. I hope the sappiness of this didn't show my true inner weaknesses. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Social Movements and the Church

Don't hate on what I'm about to say. I'm just giving some thoughts that I've found recently and I'd like to see your opinion on them. Yes, the big one is feminism. I'm sorry to beat this over the head, BUT, maybe the only other social movement that is pressuring the church as much is the push for homosexual rights.

Here's where the thought came from:

I was reading in the Doctrine and Covenants (Section 85) when they referenced an Old Testament story about Uzzah and his mistake in "steadying the ark". Read verses 6 and 7 of 2 Samuel 6 to get the text. Here's the background: the Ark of the Covenant was one of the most, if not the most, sacred objects to Ancient Israel. It held historical objects such as the 10 commandments, the rod of Aaron, and a pot of manna. In addition, it was also called "the Mercy Seat" with the belief that when Jehovah would visit His people, He would sit on the Ark of the Covenant, or the Mercy Seat. Because of this, it was prohibited that anyone touch it besides those who had been set apart and cleansed to do so, generally the great high priest or prophet. The institute manual says the following: "Only the high priest, a type of Christ, could approach it, and then only after going through an elaborate ritual of personal cleansing and propitiation for his sins." When they weren't travelling, the Ark was kept in the Holy of Holies in the back of the tabernacle where only the high priest would enter. It was a powerful symbol of the Lord and was not to be "tainted" by unclean hands.

Uzzah made a mistake, despite his good intentions. King David had just retrieved the Ark from the Palestine people who had stolen it. They had placed it on a wagon, pulled by oxen, to return it to the temple. On the way, the oxen "shook" it and it seemed as though it would tumble. So, Uzzah, probably somewhat instinctively, reached up and tried to "steady the ark". And then God killed him, just like that.

Now, you are probably thinking: say what? He was trying to save the ark. Good idea, right?

Wrong according to the Lord. In my understanding, Uzzah was not relying upon the grace of God to protect His symbol here on earth and instead, decided to take things into his own hands. Again quoting the Institute Manual: "However well-meaning Uzzah's intentions, he approached casually what could only be approached under the strictest conditions. He had no faith in God's power. He assumed that the ark was in danger, forgetting that it was the physical symbol of the God who has all power. We cannot presume to save God and His kingdom through our own efforts."

Then, in D&C 85, the Lord chastises one of his bishops because he wasn't strictly following the instructions regarding the law of consecration. He was trying to, in my mind, fit the commandments to the people instead of fit the people to the commandments. He tried to counsel the prophet in "better" ways to live communally, and then decided to follow his own intuition despite the prophet's decision to not follow that counsel.

Ok, so where am I going with social movements and what I've just talked about? The Institute manual briefly mentioned feminism as a movement that is trying to "steady the ark": "In modern revelation the Lord referred to this incident to teach the principle that the Lord does not need the help of men to defend his kingdom. Yet even today there are those who fear the ark is tottering and presume to steady its course. There are those who are sure women are not being treated fairly in the Church...or those who would change the established doctrines of the Church. These are ark-steadiers. The best intentions do not justify such interference with the Lord's plan."

It seems that sometimes people are stepping out of their boundaries in an attempt to improve upon the Lord's kingdom, but are they doing it in a way that is not consistent with the Lord? I feel that sometimes there is a lack of faith in the Lord's prophets and His gospel. To cite a recent event, the "Wear Pants to Church" initiative, the leaders of the movement published this paragraph to explain their reasons:

The creators of this event are feminists who recognize pants are a symbol of much larger issues that require addressing. This event is the first act of All Enlisted, a direct action group for Mormon women to advocate for equality within our faith. We do not seek to eradicate the differences between women and men, but we do want the LDS church and its members to acknowledge the similarities. We believe that much of the cultural, structural, and even doctrinal inequality that persists in the LDS church today stems from the church's reliance on – and enforcement of – rigid gender roles that bear no relationship to reality.

Doctrinal inequality??? Are you trying to say that the Lord, even Jesus Christ, came down to teach us that men and women are unequal? Have you read the scriptures? The doctrine of the Church is that Christ died for all, without respect to individual persons or groups of people. What is the doctrine you are claiming is perpetuating inequality?

In the essence of what is being explained by the Lord in 2 Samuel and the Doctrine and Covenants, this action against the Church's structural and doctrinal stance is "steadying the ark". It is a misunderstanding of the Lord's power to protect His kingdom and His people. I'm not going to pretend to be a an expert on LDS feminism, but could this be a flaw? Maybe LDS feminism isn't "steadying the ark", but I felt that this movement to "Wear Pants to Church" was definitely crossing that line. So, in terms of the broader picture: Could someone enlighten me on what the basic tenets and goals of LDS feminism is and how it is not steadying the ark?

In other situations, I think it is important that we look at our lives and see how much we are trying to correct the Lord's church where it is not within our authority or responsibility to do so. He has given us a stewardship over our callings, families, etc. But He does not expect, and it seems that He prohibits, that we take matters into our own hand to counsel others or change our own responsibilities despite our best-interests. Leave comments below, I'd like to hear some thoughts.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Mysterious Case of the Lost Wallet

Some of you may be familiar with my frustrations of the last weekend in dealing with my wallet. For those unfamiliar with the story, let me start from the beginning.

I know I look like this, but this really isn't me.
Last Friday, after my roommate and I worked out in the morning, I decided that I wanted to go get some equipment for our workouts that would be helpful. This was going to be perfect because I didn't have classes on Friday and could easily go to the store real quick without having to worry about being late. So, I start grabbing everything I need and realize: my wallet is not in my room. Anywhere. So, I'm hyperventilating a little bit, but then realize that I had taken it out of my pocket while I was in the car last night and maybe I just didn't put it back in. So, it would be in the car.

So, I go to the car, and if my terrible memory serves me correctly, I did find it on the seat and I put it in my pocket again. I drive, rather uneventfully, to Wal-Mart and go to the sports isle and start picking out what I need. After a couple of minutes, I had this feeling in my it was mysteriously too light. So, instinctively I check my pocket and I don't feel the wallet. Uh, what? I go deeper. Still not there.

Check the cart? Not there.

Check the floor? Nope.

Check the shelves of every item I looked at? Nada.

It wasn't there. So, I figure: oh, I just left it in my car. I go back to the car, almost positive that I put it in my pocket this morning. I get to the car...under the seat, on the seat, passenger seat, dashboard, under the passenger seat, driver's seat again for good measure, in the trunk?, back seat, floor of back seat, in between cushions....uh...nope. Ok, let's do it one more time.

Still not there.

I'm a little worried by now. And freezing. No one wants to search for a wallet in a car with the doors open and standing in slush. I finally decide that it is not in the car.

Well, then I must have dropped it. I'm pretty sure no one stole it, because it was before 8am and I would have noticed someone getting all fresh on me in a quite deserted Wal-Mart. So, I start retracing my steps. I go from the car, past the jewelry stand, past the notebooks and 5$ DVD's. I even stop to check, again, at the resistance bands at the start of the aisle where I discovered I had no wallet. Nothing. Well, why not walk back and try again. On my way back I'm checking under the pallets, on shelves, between isles, etc.

Nothing. I go all the way back to the car. One more car check. Zilch.

I'm trying really hard at this point not to completely HATE the world and the universe. So, I go to the Wal-Mart desk. Nothing has been turned in. Well, of course not. Only sketch people (like myself) shop here. Why would I expect a predominately Mormon population to turn in a lost wallet when I'm in one of the most lawless stores in America?

Good question.

I leave Wal-Mart after giving them my number so they can call me if they find it and I continue to demonize everything on my way home. This spiteful thought process is only broken once or twice with a vague hope that I may have not really put it in my pocket and it is really at home. But, who am I to discredit my own memory? I mean, really?

But what's the harm in searching my room one more time. So, I tear it apart. Clothes are flying, chairs are thrown, bedding shredded...well, no. But really, I demolished my room. Philosophically I'm thinking: for what? folded leather with plastic cards. We humans are stupid creatures! I should break from all this limiting bureaucracy! I don't need any of that! Then I start thinking realistically:


or in the words of a good friend:


Well, I call my mom, and she is quite calm and pretty much tells me what I already need to know: call the credit-card/debit-card companies and cancel everything. Then I needed to order new cards, license, etc. So, I call them up and ask if there is any way they can just block the card for a couple hours until I know for sure it wasn't stolen: nope. It is either cancelled or nothing. So, I cancelled them.

At this point, I have no money. I just sold a textbook for cash, so I have 40$. I have no license. I'm driving illegally everywhere. I hate my life. I'm angry at everyone. I email my students and tell them I'm not coming in for office hours today because I was not having a great day. So, what do I do when I'm stressed and can't think of a solution to the problem? I sleep. Took a 4 hour nap. It was awesome, but completely unproductive. Good thing this was on the first week of school.

Yeah, I feel ya.
Well, later that day I figure everything out. I order a new everything. License, credit card, debit card, etc. But due to balance issues, they said it might not be there for up to 10-14 days. WHAT THE FLIPPER?! So, 40$ ... for two weeks. Totes screwed.

Thank heavens I'm pleasantly surprised with a credit card on Saturday morning. It cost me almost 20$, but I thought I had money. I activated it, but found out it still didn't work on Sunday or Monday. Grr... I used some of the money on gas, then the rest on food on Tuesday. Tuesday I'm freaking out because the credit card isn't working and I have no more cash. Screwed. I had to mail in my rent money and since BYU's service is more reliable than our apartment, I take it to school. Oh wait, I have no money. And oh wait, I have no BYU ID. So I start rushing over to the ID office, oh wait. I didn't shave today. They won't give me one. Guess I can't mail rent. (They even emailed me hinting at eviction.)

I should have bought this book....
But, then I go to the bank and have them fix everything. I immediately go to the bookstore and buy myself a book to compensate myself for my troubles and to make sure the credit card works. It does! And I have a new book: Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes. Yes, I just bought that book. Leave me alone. I then shaved and got my BYU ID. Finally. I have something telling people who I am. That's fortunate.

Well, I've started to finally laugh off everything that is going on with the lost wallet. I even got a replacement wallet from my roommate. I had been complaining about how I feel naked and he comes up the stairs and says he wouldn't want me to feel uncomfortable and chucks a wallet at me....sweet. Now I just feel awkward because I only have a credit card and BYU ID in this huge wallet...but it's better than nothing.

This morning the adventure concluded. I go outside to find the most interesting snow I've seen in Provo falling on my car. I go to the backseat to find my snow brush/scrape. I randomly grab the tissue box to move it aside in hopes the scraper is behind it. I hear a funny sound. Like an uncharacteristically solid object is in my tissue box. So, I dig inside....

My flippin' wallet. Just sittin' there hiding from the cold in a tissue box.

What the heck?

What happened? Apparently, when I put the wallet in my pocket, I must have leaned over to the left and it forced it out of my right pocket. Then, my wallet decided to travel down the side of my seat, bounce off the middle section between the seats (where the e-brake and cup-holders are), and fall under the driver's seat and into the tissue box.

What sick trick was the cosmos trying to play on me!? I just left it there because I'm not talking to it. But I did take it out of the tissue box so that it would have to freeze in punishment. Next time it should probably think twice before exploring my car and hiding in sneaky spaces.  I'm going to teach this wallet.

So, there it is. Check the tissue box next time.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Restlessness and Relationships

This is awful. I went to bed at 10pm, took some Melatonin to try and help me get a good night's sleep since my sleeping habits over the break were not conducive to a school schedule. Plus my roommate and I are supposed to be up at 6a to start our first round of P90X. However, I wake up at 3am for no reason...and after an hour, I couldn't go back to sleep. So now it's 4am, and what am I to do?

At first I thought about what might be keeping me from sleeping. Was it school? The first day is tomorrow, so usually that is supposed to be somewhat nerve racking, right? But no, I've had so many first-days of college, it really doesn't bother me. Plus, I have friends in all of my classes and in some of my classes we are pretty much all friends. It's not too scary. Plus, I know most of my teachers too. School's not a problem.

Work? No, everything should be pretty straight forward. I'll talk with my teacher tomorrow and get everything straightened out for my duties, and then I just sit in an office and wait for people to ask questions. It's nothing terribly difficult.

So, what is it in a young, LDS kid's life that could possibly be keeping him awake at night? ........ Relationships. Gosh darn it. I don't think this is what initially woke me up, but since I was trying to identify a possible cause for my restlessness, I started thinking about this one and mulling it over in my head. Probably not a good idea as now I have to write them down or I won't be able to get them out and I'll never fall back asleep.

I think I've discovered something about myself: I'm a "pleaser". Especially for people I don't know so well, I try my best to "please" them or make their life easier and more enjoyable. Take my job, for instance. As a TA, my duties were to answer questions, grade papers, do review sessions, etc. It wasn't supposed to be too consuming. However, I found that the students that I was supposed to work with almost became my life. I would think about them constantly and what I could do to ensure that they all did well. I would email some of them when they would miss assignments to see what I could do to help them get it done. When they came with concerns about their grades or wanted to challenge something, I usually gave them the extra point. I don't feel I ever went over the top and was too easy, looking back at the grades, most of them probably got a just grade. However, I felt that I was too involved. It didn't matter who the person was or how much work they put into it. I just wanted to help them out.

In relationships, this can be more of a problem. Since I tend not to judge who I spend my time with or who I'm trying to "please", I can end up "pleasing" the wrong people. It's so hard for me to say "no", even if I'm uncomfortable with the situation. What makes me happiest in life is seeing other people being happy. I live off of the laughter of others and their enjoyment of life. While that probably isn't necessarily a bad thing-as I believe it is a strength-at the same time, I don't know what I want out of life or what I want in a relationship. Rereading that sentence, I just realized how selfish that sentence sounded, but a guy's got needs as well, right? This is where it gets to be a problem:

I don't know what my needs are! I sometimes come out of relationships a little unfulfilled because it wasn't what I wanted. BUT I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS! This isn't for lack of trying on the part of those who I have taken on dates or even dated. Some have even asked me what it is I look for in relationships, and due to my own confusion, I just repeat what I hear is "appropriate" to seek: someone nice, smart, funny, conversational, athletic, blah, blah, blah. Who doesn't want perfection, right? But how is someone supposed to feel like they are having a relationship when they can only receive. I mean, thinking about it, that would be pretty uncomfortable for me, to have someone dote on me all the time. Maybe for a day, but not forever....weird.

So, I don't know what I'm looking for. This drive to "please" has put me into a lot of sticky situations, where I'm sorry to say that what was "right" for the two of us was overpowered by what others wanted. This is also why it is so hard for me to break-up with people. If my sole desire is to please people, yet all they want is to be with me, and then I have this inclination to break up with them....holy internal conflict. It just doesn't quite work right.

I'm terrified of relationships. I can't seem to figure out what to do to make them work, and they all seem to fail for different reasons...all of them ending up with me. This confusion is all but preventing me from going on more dates and trying to get myself out there. How can I find someone that I want to spend the rest of my life with when I don't even know what I'm looking for. If it was just making someone happy, I'd be married. Obviously there is something more to what I "want" that I can't figure out. So, next time you have the inclination to ask why I'm not dating or not married I can save both of us the pain of that question: I don't know.

I could start a whole other post on how terrible "doubt" or "not-knowing" is, but I'll let you ponder that for a bit so that you can realize how frustrating this is right now. Summary of the post: sure, I'd like to be in a relationship. They are great. I like making people laugh. I don't know what I want in relationships, otherwise. I'm confused....

Really, I'm just a lost and troubled soul :p

Well, it's been 25 minutes of typing, and I should probably go to sleep. Peace y'all, and may you all know what you want in life.