Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Belief Continuum and Puddleglum's Defense

I have frequently heard people at church say that you can't have faith/hope and doubt/fear at the same time. I think this idea of mutual exclusivity to be the sad progeny of an incompletely formed thought that unfortunately went viral. I make this claim on the basis of my own experience. It has not been uncommon for me to be afraid and worry and even doubt if some particular thing (moving hundreds of miles without actually having somewhere to live yet) can work out in a positive manner and yet move forward none-the-less, sometimes desperately praying for relative miracles to occur. And somehow, they do.

You'd think with something of a pattern of seeing that God has not abandoned me so far would mean that I wouldn't be so anxious each time everything gets thrown up in the air. I can only repeat the idea I have been told many times - that we often see God in the same pattern that our earthly fathers created. In my case, this is patently unfair to God, but having been raised, ultimately, to the idea that I had no right to expect anything, I still find myself caught being afraid that God will be the same way. Usually when I am most stressed out and tired. It follows, then, that this phantom would rear its ugly head when life throws the curve-balls which require the needed faith.

Instead of the idea that only one can exist in a person at a time, either faith/hope OR doubt/fear, I have always seen it as a continuum.
The more you focus on one side, the less of the other you will have. It's kind of directional. Ultimately, so long as I have acted that there was a reason to hope, I have found that things ultimately work out regardless of how anxious I've been. Also, the more I focus on having hope, faith, the less I am distracted by how much there is to fear. But when my guard falls, I have trouble seeing all the reasons there are to hope and trust because everything gets cloudy, murky.

For science-types, I see it as quite similar to the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle. While I am by no means a quantum physicist, I understand it enough to be able to say that the more science tries to pin down certain elements for exact study and measurement, the less they are able to monitor or even register the counter-part measurement. Location verses direction of movement. Beyond that, it kinda loses me, but do you see the relation?

For more human-study-types, consider the idea of the self-fulfilling prophecy. I have heard a quote a number of times, apparently by Gandhi (though I don't know where or when he said it) that goes as follows:
Your beliefs become your thoughts, Your thoughts become your words, Your words become your actions, Your actions become your habits, Your habits become your values, Your values become your destiny.
Where you devote your energy and attention will determine what you give credence to. What you expect, anticipate, or hope for will direct this. If you expect nothing good can happen regardless of your efforts, you will ultimately find your willingness to devote energy to such a failed proposition to be pointless and will therefore relocate those energies. Therefore, through lack of any effort given, said proposition will ultimately prove a failure. Likewise, if you expect your energies have value, you will find the means to continue giving those energies.

In my case, no matter how hard I tried, my efforts to please my family and hopefully gain some measure of approval, if not love, really made no impact. I was not seen in that manner and what I did was simply that expected of a functioning fixture. Punishable for failure, expendable to the last drop possible, sometimes giving unexpected amusement, but of no true human value. Once I realized it wouldn't matter how hard I tried or how much I gave, or that I gave everything I could give, I had no energy left to try. I'd already given it all. But before I understood that, I literally did give everything I could to the point of giving too much. Now, because my understanding becomes my expectations, my efforts are likewise influenced.

This case study is a bit on the somber side and I would think does not express most people's norms. I do not mean it to. I merely give the example that ranks highest in my own mind. (To those of you who 'know' me, please forbear comments on it - there is much that many don't actually know.)

But what happens when the darkness of the doubts and fears hangs so heavy that you can't remember why you should hope? In this case I refer you, as I've referred myself, to C. S. Lewis' The Silver Chair, sixth book in The Chronicles of Narnia. In this book, a boy and girl have been brought to Narnia by Aslan to help rescue the old king's son. The boy has been there before and accepts the fantastical after his original, and irritating, smugly-superior disbelief. This time, the girl, new to Narnia, proves the counter-point to belief. With the children is a somewhat somber creature named Puddleglum. After a number of tangles where she starts to accept the altered reality, they find themselves in a strange underworld ruled by a seemingly magnanimous queen. They also find the prince there and he seems to be clueless to his birthright above.

Slowly, they recognize evidence of spell-work at hand but the 'queen' begins to muddy the waters. With her words and with some sort of befuddling scent in the air, she tries to convince them that they are simply being silly children imagining a world based on the simple, expanded to greater proportions in their daydreams. 'This sun is just the same idea as a lamp.' 'A lion just sounds a fancier, bigger sort of cat.' 'Anyone can be royalty in their dreams.' Between her pseudo-logic arguing away the reality they couldn't quite hold onto and the mind-numbing effects of her magic, she nearly had them convinced that everything they had thought true was not.

Enter what I call 'Puddleglum's Defense', found near the end of the twelfth chapter. After stepping in the fire, which pain and the smell of burnt skin, allowed him and them to clear their heads a bit, he gives this statement to the witch-queen.
"One word, Ma'am," he said, coming back from the fire; limping because of the pain. "One word. All you've been saying is quite right, I shouldn't wonder. I'm a chap who always liked to know the worst and then put the best face I can on it. So I won't deny any of what you said. But there's one thing more to be said, even so. Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things - trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself. Suppose we have. Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play-world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia. So, thanking you kindly for our supper, if these two gentlemen and the young lady are ready, we're leaving your court at once and setting out in the dark to spend our lives looking for the Overland. Not that our lives will be very long, I should think; but that's a small loss if the world's as dull a place as you say."
Sometimes things really do get muddled and confused and the truth that you thought you knew becomes hard to remember, to hold onto. But even if you can only 'desire to believe', that can be enough for you to hold on to until the fog burns off a bit. And if our beliefs can make such a difference, why not choose to believe in that which means more, that which ennobles and lifts and gives beautiful meaning? And when that fog clears and daylight is reached, we will find the evidence of what we fought so hard to believe, the evidence of our faith, our hope, our courage.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Writing from 2011 and today: Avoiding Responsibility

In Miss Congeniality, Sandra Bullock's character first mocks, then finally admits her own concurrence with the repetitive beauty queen wish for 'world peace'. While this is a most desirable sentiment, it seems too abstract to be of any functional value. Were I given a chance to give my own answer on national television, my answer would be a little different.

My desire would be that individuals would accept responsibilities for their choices and actions. This requires an integrity of character and would enable a clearer view of all difficulties and the courses needed to resolve them. (It would also cut out a lot of the bickering, blaming, and side-stepping ever present in the modern world.) And as a society and all parts of it are made up of individuals, this would influence families, schools, businesses, government, and how many other institutions?

For example, the "Pro-Choice" campaign is really just a calculated misnomer. They claim they're fighting for women's rights to decide the uses of their own bodies. Truthfully, though, they're actually campaigning for "No Consequences". Understandably excusing such cases as rape or when the mother's own life is endangered, abortion is just a mean of seeking to avoid the natural result of children coming from sex. It is known that contraceptives are not perfect, nor even invasive surgery, so that cannot even nullify an unexpected pregnancy. What is perhaps most disturbing is how accepting society is becoming towards destruction of innocent life to escape the consequences of choices they freely (even too freely) made in the first place.

I am reminded of something my mom once told me as a child. She quoted this rhyme I have remembered ever since: "Oh, what a tangled web we weave/ When first we practice to deceive." She taught me that when someone lies, they often have to keep lying to protect themselves from being caught in the first lie. Ultimately it grows bigger and stickier and they end up caught in a trap of their own making. Unfortunately, people tend to lie to avoid responsibility in the first place and are more likely to look for further escapes rather than coming clean.

This avoidance of responsibility is an alarming trend that has grown over the past generation. I just saw further evidence of it today on twitter. Simply put, our world keeps trying to claim freedom from self-responsibility and looking for more and more ways to avoid natural consequences. Apparently some CNN chic is using 'humans are just animals anyway' to excuse extra-marital wanderings. Deseret News has a nice rebuttal but this thinking is not limited to fidelity. It can be seen in the microcosm of the individual all the way up to international relations, global marketing, economics and even religious claims (most particularly by individuals on the extreme peripheries). It can be found throughout history books, too. Haven't we learned anything? Sadly, it seems history is more of play-book for ideas rather than a 'learn from your mistakes' resource.

What is ironic is that it is used merely as a tool of convenience. How often do the very people avoiding responsibility in one realm condemn others for failing in 'their responsibilities' in another? How many people are so focused on global warming or fighting for rights of convenience and yet are unwilling to take the simple but profound actions of saying, "I'm sorry. I was wrong. What do I need to do to make this right?" Instead, it tends to be, "You're wrong for doing this to me. Fix it!" Or, "Who are you to expect me to clean up my own messes?"

There are always exceptions to the rule, but it seems we live in a time when people are lobbying to make their exception the rule. Society cannot be expected to maintain healthy functioning under these conditions. And yet the solution is so simple, it's profound. I refuse to say it's too simple to be functional. Any claiming that clearly are trying to avoid the truth rather than put the effort in to change. What is this simple solution?

I said it at the beginning. It is merely to take responsibility for yourself. Teach your children that actions have consequences for both good and bad and if they can claim the choice then they better be willing to accept the consequence. As more people act on this simple principle, I believe it will inspire others to do so. And while it is unlikely that all will be inclined to adopt such integrity, the more who do, the smoother everything will run. I think we will also find that it will free up our energies, time, and attention to better address the rest of the world's concerns. As the most recent under-cover agent book I read said, "The less lies you tell, the less you have to remember." Correspondingly, the less time we spend avoiding natural consequences, the more freedom we have to focus on more important things.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Rudyard Kipling's "If"


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build again with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---you'll be a Man, my son! 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Constitutional Rights and Religious Reactions to DOMA

[Dear God, I've been fighting off a crash all day, but I have something to say and I really need to be able to concentrate because I think it's worth saying. So please help me do this quickly and clearly and then I promise I'll go lay down and rest and watch Stargate like a good little girl. Thank You, Me]

There are strong emotions all around after the Supreme Court ruled against the Defense of Marriage Act today. As I have freely admitted, I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For those not Mormons, please, keep reading. This is not a place of bashing, but I hope it is one where hurt or anxious feelings are soothed.

Particularly in California, Mormons are seen as the hated force behind Proposition 8, the vote where the majority agreed that marriage, by definition, is between a man and a woman. What has been clouded is the fact that Mormons were far from the majority in that effort. They have also been mis-represented as doing so to attack the LGBT portion of our society. For Mormons, mis-representation is hardly a new thing and one that our mature members recognize as almost routine. But that is hardly the point. Rather, it is a concern to protect our most sacred beliefs - that the family unit is crucial to fulfilling our Heavenly Father's plan on earth.

This is not only a mortal affair, but an eternal one. The family is meant to continue throughout forever. And to achieve these highest blessings possible, the promises must be made in the proper place (the temple) and by the proper authority (one with the legitimate priesthood of God who has been authorized to 'seal on earth and have it be sealed in heaven'. See :Matt. 16:19Hel. 10:7, and The Guide to the Scriptures - Seal, Sealing). I cannot and do not attempt to speak for God. I can only understand and follow His revealed word as best I can in my honest desires to be true to Him and the church I believe He has formed for His children to be able to have all parts necessary to return to Him. And the crowning point of those needed steps is to be married in God's temple for time and eternity, which marriage is between man and woman. His definition, not ours.

So what about those who chose a different lifestyle? Some will argue it is not actually a choice at all. I believe in some it is and they use the claim 'they were born that way' to side-step responsibility. Some I think are more naturally inclined towards a different way of life. This is the area where the discussion tends to get heated and people feeling attacked on both sides tend to say things that only intensify the antagonism. Again, this is not the place for that.

Religiously speaking, I feel sadness when I think of those living the alternate lifestyles as I see it ultimately having a negative impact on their eternal future and I would want everyone to have the best possible. I would also consider reminding those who claim that 'God made me this way' as an excuse that all people have their weaknesses, temptations, their thorns of the flesh to test and prove them as did Paul in 2 Corinthians 12 wherein God answered:
 And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.
Furthermore, in 1 Corinthians 10:13 we are promised:
There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
I cannot claim to know how God will succor those in this particular situation, but I can say that He helps me every day carry the burdens and sorrows of my own life. His power, His love is real and dependable to all who will steadfastly seek it.

There are, of course, those who will think being considered according to religious views which do not legitimize their positions as distasteful if not insulting. This is where today's title comes into play.

America was primarily peopled by those who sought a refuge where they could fully worship their God the way they believed they were supposed to. Our very first amendment in the Bill of Rights is supposed to guarantee the 'free exercise' of religion. To have the government make rulings on what is to us a religious matter is distressing in the least. To have a religious matter co-opted and secularized places it in the realm that leaves it open for further legal interference. Which directly counters first amendment rights. There is a reason the religious right gets anxious about this subject.

Unfortunately, I think the instinctive anxiety clouds the recognition of why there is so much concern. Admittedly, there is also a portion of the population who are narrow-minded bigots, but to apply that title to all who stand by man-woman marriage merely places the attacker in the same category. Sorry if it hurts to read it, but it is true none-the-less. Bigotry is simply intolerance of any other belief system outside your own and is used as an excuse to attack verbally, politically, physically any who do not comply. As I said, some fall into that category on the religious front, but some are merely seeking to participate in the conversation.

What I'm hoping is that considering what this means to us, both the religious and the alternative life-style people will recognize what our concern truly is. Maybe then there will be less reaction and more honest conversation.

I, personally, think all people should be treated with respect and love. Our scriptures teach that all are welcomed, that the gospel message of Christ and His sacrifice and offers of repentance and forgiveness are available to everyone. And everyone needs it. Each for their own personal situations, but everyone will need to apply the Atonement appropriately to survive this life and return cleansed and refreshed for whatever lies beyond mortality. And as the Declaration of Independence states, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." Religion should not stand in the way of civil rights just as those who do not believe should not be allowed to inhibit the 'free exercise' of religion. It goes both ways.

One final note for those who may still be inclined to condemn The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints for voicing our position regardless of public criticism. There are two Responses I would have you read closely - that to today's DOMA ruling and that on the Boy Scout policy regarding gay membership. If you pay attention, the concern expressed in the first is with the process of a government which ignores a legal, public vote rather than any railing attack. It also simply reaffirms our beliefs in man-woman marriage. In the second, you will see that our church welcomes the gay membership ruling under the same terms that we welcome gays in general. Those terms are simply that so long as one lives according to the commandments of God, their particular leanings are no basis for condemnation or exclusion. And those commandments are the same for them as they are for us - that sexual relations are to be shared only between a man and a woman lawfully married. Pre-marital sex is a no-no for everyone. So agrees the majority of religious moral standards. It is, therefore, no more of an inhibitor than any other would face.

I hope this is understandable and received in the spirit in which it was intended. Now, if you all don't mind (my years in Texas are threatening to show through...), I'm going to lay down and rest. My body does not function in certain normal manners and I happen to be having trouble of late. Until the doctors understand what they know happens but not exactly why, let alone what to do about it, that will kinda be the story of my life... With love and best wishes to all - Till next time. :)

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Seeing the Forest BY Seeing the Trees

Have you ever been accused of 'not being able to see the forest for the trees'? It seems to mean, in the mind of the speaker, that the person they are dismissing is so focused on a specific detail that they're missing 'the big picture'. My experience has usually been that the meaning of the picture changes if you recognize the very details the other person wants to ignore. Kinda like the difference a single letter can make.

The following example is a bit absurd, but for example: a friend's recent status update on Facebook reads, "Don't know what to say, except I'm so bored. Everyday. Guess I need a new hobby. " My comment reads as follows. "... for a second, my brain replaced the 'o' with a 'u'... my bad!" Had her final word been 'hubby' rather than 'hobby', the sentence would have taken on a completely different meaning. Obviously, in this case it wasn't but it is an innocuous example.

A more disturbing example would be the abuser or criminal no-one ever suspected. I only bring this part up because there is an element that can be seen that is missing in the more entertaining one above. When the truth of whatever situation comes out, people often look back and realize there were clues that they hadn't been able to see. Or rather, they saw them, but didn't recognize them for what they were. We all hear this most frequently in the cases of school shootings and terror attacks.

I was introduced to a Malcolm Gladwell book entitled Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking around the beginning of 2011 by a couple of friends. While the sub-title sounds a little hokey, it's a pop-science book about rapid-cognition. It's essentially the idea that the more familiar a person is with a subject, the quicker and better able they are to make almost instant assessments regarding that subject. And they do it so quickly that to the outsider, it seems spurious, an impossible, boastful claim with no true basis.

It is curious, therefore, that the book's very reception fits this very category. Being written for the common reader, it brings examples from science, culture, even sociology and presents them in ways easy to follow. A quick look on Wikipedia, however, will show that there are those in the sciences who look at his observations with that same dismissal and some definite annoyance that popular culture would actually listen to it. (It occurs that, just perhaps, if the sciences made their findings more accessible, there wouldn't be such a jealousy factor...)

So is there any legitimacy to Gladwell's idea? You tell me. His claim is that the person who becomes a master in his field of study does so by accumulating 10,000 hours practicing, studying, learning, applying the ins and outs (no, not burgers) and intricacies involved in said field. It becomes second nature to them, so much so that they don't have to be consciously thinking about it to perform the needed functions. Does that sound absurd to you? If you break the math down into a full-time work week, say 50 weeks a year, that comes to 5 years of full-time application.

In more simple terms, think of a piano student. I did not have piano lessons, but I did learn to read music in choir and was shown the respective keys on the piano. When I first tried to play, I had to keep stopping to count out the lines to tell what the note was supposed to be. The longer in choir, the easier it became. I'd also wander off to play hymns in the seminary building before class or at lunch time and became quite quick at reading the right hand. The left hand was still in the counting stages, though, until I took a music theory class. I recall very little from it except that having constant assignments where I had to deal with the bass clef as well ultimately meant that I can actually read the notes now without having to count. (My brain is still rather slow in combining the hands...)

Now think of someone who actually has skill, has lessons, and spends that much time working with music. They can listen to it and hear the key, the chord progressions, and even deduce who the composer was. How? If you ask them, they can go back and point to all the parts to prove it, but do they have to think about all the parts to come to the conclusion? Gladwell's point is that such things become so natural to the point that it actually frees up the brain to skip the steps in between. It is like my grade-school math where I hated it when teachers made you prove your work, every single step. Like geometry proofs. A > B. "Work, please." (Really?!?) A=12.8 centimeters. B=7.6 centimeters. 12.8>7.6. Therefore... DUH! So is the idea of rapid cognition absurd? I think not.

One of his examples, also noted in Wikipedia, is of a marriage counselor who could predict the stability of a couple's future marriage simply by listening to an hour's worth of conversation. (I have to admit, when I read this part of the book, my background of always being on guard in an abusive home meant that I saw the elements the Dr. and the author related after the snippet of conversation included before reaching that part of the text.) In maybe two minutes worth of talking there were a number of signifiers of a troubled relationship. To the average person (or the concrete, methodical teacher or scientist) the conversation would seem like no big deal. But when you realize that each time the husband tried to say anything and the wife disregarded it, dismissed it, or made a joke of it, you just might realize that something's up. Sure, the husband didn't put up a fuss, so why be bothered? Speaking from experience which I will not actually entail here, little things, the 'o' or the 'u' can hint at a very big deal. 'Are you sure?'

I actually like watching science, history kinds of shows. Imagine my delight when one of them gave a direct parallel to what I've been trying to say here, things I've been thinking for nearly ten years. You can watch it on, which is where I saw it. It's a Nova special entitled Hunting the Hidden Dimension, about fractal geometry. While the whole show is interesting and may be helpful in understanding what it all means, the applicable part is in the last ten minutes.

Fractal geometry is the math that shows a basic discovery: that nature follows the same patterns on the large scale as the same patterns found in smaller scales. (Again, please watch the show for further details.) The final example they began studying in the show was how one tree in the rain-forest actually was representative of the whole forest. They found that measuring the limbs of the single tree directly paralleled the measurements of the trees in general throughout the forest. As of the shows release in 2008, fractals fall under the category of recognized but not fully understood. The truth is, however, that they are there, and their influence in the field of technology alone is profound.

Do you follow my leaps between the sciences and the humanities? Can you see that a single piece can actually represent a much larger scenario? I hope so. For when an old, broken-down camel warns you about the straw and all you see is a dinky piece of hay and you're tempted to think the old fogie is senile, perhaps you might pause for a second and consider. Or when the child tries to tell you something is important, maybe you will see the actual forest by looking at the tree. It's possible they just might know what they're talking about.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Writings from 2011 and today: To Forgive

I must confess a great amount of distress upon the completion of Mockingjay, the last book of Suzanne Collin's Hunger Games series. For a people to over-turn its nation because of the barbarity of their control tactics and then turn around and condemn the children of those who committed the crimes to the same horrors is revenge - pure and simple.

Some people believe similar suffering of guilty parties will relieve their own. They believe it is their right as victims. They often blame every wrong in their lives on the one who wronged them. Some become obsessed with it. It festers into an ultimate grudge leading to horrible actions.

I've often heard the comparison that 'holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.' Clearly illogical and rather foolish. Remembering the hurts and all the dark circumstances can actually bring about good, depending on the purposes. A wound must be kept clean to prevent festering. But to keep the memories alive for the purposes of hate, of revenge, leads to becoming the very thing you condemn.

So... what? You just let it go? Pretend it never happened? Forgive?! It's funny, or rather, sad, how often that term, that idea, is found offensive to the wounded. That happens, I believe, because it is often mis-employed by both the well-meaning and by impatient, uninformed busybodies. (This second group, particularly, can become a great hamper on the healing process.)

The phrase 'forgive and forget' is so over-used that those who have not yet faced such deep harms have come to believe that forgiving is forgetting. They fail to understand that to actually forget would be unhealthy as that would require denying reality. And that could eventually lead to instability when the truth ultimately rears its head. Forgetting is also foolish. All things in life add to our experience - our knowledge of the world and of ourselves - and to deny that experience is to limit our ability to respond, to cope, and to make wise decisions.

So then we're stuck, right? We can't build our existence around the trauma without the risk of losing ourselves, and we can't live in denial or risk losing our grip on reality. Or is this where 'forgiveness' comes in? In a particular sense - yes.

Forgiveness is not pretending the offender never offended. That is focusing on the past. How? Because by spending your energy denying what was, you are ultimately feeding all your energy into what was. In the past. Forgiveness is about not letting the past continue to harm the future.

For me, this has always been easiest by understanding the position of the offender and by knowing that life is a process of learning. Since no-one is perfect, it follows that mistakes, misunderstandings, and various offenses will inevitably occur. And I don't hold myself on some pedestal expecting to be shielded from all such occurrences. Life happens. I'm undeniably part of life (my own, at least). I will, therefore, experience the 'ups and downs' of life like everyone else. By recognizing this, I often no longer even have to worry about forgiving as I no longer see it as an 'offense'.

But sometimes it's not so easy to find an excuse for the offenders. The information needed is just not available or else they have no valid excuse. Then what? That's usually when I start pleading with God because I just can't understand. This is particularly distressing to me as my whole life is building understandings of the world around me. It becomes the unanswered 'why' that distracts my attention and disrupts my peace.

This is where I, personally, have to employ forgiveness. To do so, I have to remind myself that God is Judge. My access to information is limited, as is my ability to understand all things. His is not. I may be unable to find the excuses I desire that normally allow me to put the effects of life in a context I understand. He doesn't have that problem.

It is around this point when I realize I've been leaving out one very important context: faith. God is the Judge. I don't have to worry about prosecuting. I don't have to be the defense attorney (my usual method). Even more, I don't even have to testify. I am free. Because Christ suffered all the Atonement allows us to forgive - to turn it all over to Him, and to move forward with our lives. And it lets us rebuild with His help.

Regardless of the state of the person I have to forgive, I am free. They can deal with God as they will. If they pose no danger, we can work on rebuilding our relationship. Remember, forgiveness and repentance do not automatically negate natural consequences: the person the drunk driver killed is still dead. However, sharing love with them can bring healing to both parties. At the same time, avoiding an unrepentant abuser is not only perfectly acceptable, it is wisdom, pure and simple.

But this brings us back to the hard part of forgiveness. How do we deal with it when we see that person still living in a threatening way? How do we forgive when the automatic response any thought of them brings is fear? How do we not keep getting mad that we have to deal with scars that no one should have to have? Scars that others who haven't been there themselves can't even comprehend.

Once again, the answer lies with God. Through Christs' Atonement, we have the proof that all things will be made right. In our own lives and our own futures. In those around us. And ultimately in the lives of those who may have put us in this position. We pray for them that they will make themselves right with God to receive of His mercy, but if not, we can know that try however they might wish to, they can't fool God. And God will make it right. And that means we don't have to. Which also means we won't get ourselves into trouble trying to and putting ourselves in the wrong as well.

Doctrine and Covenants 64:
 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
 10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
 11 And ye ought to say in your hearts—let God judge between me and thee, and reward thee according to thy deeds.
The Lord offers the forgiveness and healing of His Atonement to all who will repent and receive of it. So long as we do not stand in the way of others, we will find the peace and healing we need. And we will be free to move forward with hope of better things to come. All in all, I'd say forgiveness is a pretty darn good deal.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Writings from 2011: Considering the Constitution and Slavery

I have heard a number of people complain and condemn the Constitution of the United States for permitting and even safe-guarding the institution of slavery for the following 20 years. 'Surely this is proof that the Founding Fathers weren't nearly as great as people claim!' 'Of course they'd protect it - look how many were slave-owners themselves?!' I've often wondered if those people have ever actually given the situation any serious thought.

While I wonder if people recognize how many different forms slavery can take, it is true that the idea of slavery is hated by many in this modern day. There were even some who hated it back then. But slavery was also part of their culture just as it has been across cultures from the beginning of written histories. And it provided the basis of economy for the southern colonies.

Then consider that these colonies had temporarily joined forces with each other to fight off their mother country and claim their own freedom. Against all odds. It was not an easy fight. And war weakens all who participate. Some might even consider the colonies ripe for the picking.

The only way to ensure their hard won freedom would be maintainable was to band together and form an alliance of sorts. They created an early version of the united States and a simple authority system to direct any combined armies should it become necessary. But they ran into trouble pretty quickly. Because the states were, in essence, individual countries with their own right to rule, there was no legal means to gain funding for the simple allied government or military force.

The conventions met because some leaders from each state saw the problem and sought to fix it. Many of the states had little interest but those who did participate had two basic purposes. One - to determine if a better alliance, or union, was possible; two - to protect the interests of their nation-state if it was.

Perhaps it is becoming clearer what problems the situation of slavery presented. Every other element of the agreement we now call the Constitution was debated into the ground. Managing to hammer out every detail to the approval of such different governing bodies was a miracle in and of itself, especially as it was hand-crafted to try to prevent all the troubles they had faced as colonies and before. No government in their existence was like it. They were breaking completely new ground and their greatest minds were giving their all to try to make it work.

But had the issue of slavery been forced, it would have failed. It was too divisive. 80 years later it nearly tore our country in two. Moral or not, had that judgment been required then, there would have been no United States. Instead, the drafters of the Constitution tabled it for 20 years ensuring at least that much time to solidify the nation.

It was not an easy process getting the Constitution approved by the people of the separate states. Many approved of it only on condition that a bill of right be added. These amendments are, in essence, the post-script.

I do not speak to the roughly 60 years after 1808, before the Civil War, when slavery was legally addressable. Those for and against it were active during that time period. You are free to judge how you will. It is my belief, however, that the Founders recognized that their culture was not yet ready to handle that issue. Their own personal positions aside, they instead focused on what they could do, giving us a solid political foundation and framework. For that, I am grateful.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Q & Agency

So it happens that I am exploring the Star Trek conglomerate since it seems to be the primary source material for modern science fiction stories. I was quite surprised to discover a great delight in the Original series that I have not so far found in The Next Generation. Of course, it would naturally leave me with a bad first impression, despite the delightful Patrick Stewart. This is due to the baddie in the very first episode who later played a future Stargate SG-1 baddie (a rather despicable, slimy sort which, unfortunately for the actor, seems to be showing a pattern of type-casting).

The character of personal disgust seems to be named 'Q' and has just shown up again. And what to my wondering mind should appeal, but an insight on agency and this whole mortal deal. [Yeah... just as I don't care for writing, I also have an ironic dislike for poetry...] Anyway. Whoever this 'Q' is, he's clearly a being of power far greater than even the higher advancement of humans some 300 years hence. And he seems to think that all things should follow according to his will, his intentions. He also is free with kangaroo court judgment and generally allows his superior power to convince himself of his own general superiority. Rather 'might makes right' of him.

As a number of stories in our current era have explored, we fairly well recognize how bogus that claim is. Unfortunately, these stories exist precisely because there is a portion of people among us in this mortal realm who live as though it were true in hopes of forcing it to be true - that if they can become the powers that be, then by simply declaring it so: so it will be. It smells rather of megalomania and god-complex.

Which brings us round to the real God. So many wonder why, how He can allow bad things to happen, especially to good people, if He is a good god. If God were really just a Q, then the reactions of so many people to their 'unanswered' (simply because they have not yet heard it, not because there is no answer) question in turning away from such a being would make perfect sense. But God is not Q, and Q is a perfect example of why there is so much bad 'allowed' (allowed but not received with any level of pleasure).

In Romans 8, we read:
 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.
 15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.
 16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:
 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
In Mormon understanding, we are literally a combination of body and spirit and while our bodies have mortal parents, our spirits are also literally children of God. He is not only God, but Heavenly Father. Before mortality, we lived in heaven with an immense family of spiritual siblings. But like Wendy, it was time for us to leave the nursery. Wendy, of course went on an adventure to Neverland where she came to realize that to truly live, she had to face the hard unexpecteds of life; that as happy as Peter seems, such an eternity was really an eternal sentence of stagnation.

God, of course, wants more for His children. He gathered everyone together for a ginormous family council and laid out the plan: we go to earth, learn to balance both spirit and body, learn, grow, and do so with a sort of amnesia allowing us to discover what we ultimately, in the deepest, truest way possible, want for ourselves. Unfortunately, as most of you will admit, the learning curve includes making mistakes. Also, media has made it quite clear the propensity teenagers have for partying and getting into trouble when the parents are out of town, or rebelling simply to prove they can.

Now God is a perfect and pure being and His very nature means that anything impure entering His presence would ultimately be burned to a crisp, so to speak. But then how could He send us away knowing full well we could never return for the impurities mortal life would inevitably collect? Enter the Savior. One who lived perfectly could show the way that would help us overcome the impurities because He went through the crucible Himself. If we would turn to Him and follow His way, we can return both to our bodies at the resurrection, and to our Eternal Family and even our mortal families. This, like all things in our mortal life, is our choice - it is the agency which is central to God's plan. For He would not force anyone to heaven, however much it pained Him to be separated from His child. If they wished it, the Peters could ultimately choose Neverland over life.

Lucifer, however, had a different idea. He liked the idea that he could claim power and actually could 'force' everyone to heaven. How he imagined he could pull that off is up for debate. Also, since that would mean that he had managed to do what God would not, then clearly he would be the true power, even greater than God Himself.

Let's see. Claiming superior power. Claiming subsequent authority to force everyone else to act according to his will? Sound familiar at all? To anyone? Oh, yeah - Q! Megalomaniac extraordinaire. Good for us, Lucifer's posturing did not actually place him higher than God. But he did betray his motives and being unwilling to submit to God's decision that Christ should come and we all should be allowed to choose our own ways for ourselves, Lucifer defiance literally drove him from God's presence (remember the whole 'no impure thing can survive' part?).

So Lucifer was cast down with his other die-hard followers and they are rather hateful to mortals cause we moved on and got bodies when they declined. Rather like the spiteful, self-centered, immature temper-tantrum of one who thinks that no one else ought to be able to move on when they've clearly just orchestrated the 'biggest show-stopper ever!' So they like to distract and tempt and generally complicate and muddy and make it as impossible for anyone else to move on as they can.

That, combined with the natural troubles of life - health, adolescence, old age, employment, natural disasters, and learning to deal with others who are also trying to figure things out means that life's kind of a mess. Add the creepy mortal versions of Q who still try to imagine the failed plan can succeed and life can actually be downright scary.

Until you take into account the God knew that it'd be a mess from the beginning. You don't introduce toddlers to a toy room and expect them to leave everything in perfect order. Remember that He provided a Savior who could, and would, teach and lead the way to any and all who would listen, who would help us with our bumps and bruises, who would cheer us on and surprise us with His attentive gifts, and who will happily present us to the Father once we've made our way to that point on the path. And then we'll remember why we chose to come. For as Star Trek repeatedly proclaims - we are a curious people. We seek to learn, to grow, to explore. Ultimately, we seek to become.

3 Nephi 28
 10 And for this cause ye shall have fulness of joy; and ye shall sit down in the kingdom of my Father; yea, your joy shall be full, even as the Father hath given me fulness of joy; and ye shall be even as I am, and I am even as the Father; and the Father and I are one;

Writings from 2011: Balancing Haste With Procrastination

One of the verses in the Bible that often comes to mind during times of change is found in Isaiah 52:12.

"For ye shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight: for the Lord will go before you; and the God of Israel will be your rereward." (sic)

I include the second half because it helped me understand the first half. I'd always read it to mean, much in Treebeard's manner, "Don't be hasty." Take proper time to prepare and act without rushing about in a foolish frenzy as that can cause mistakes. I also saw it as a call for patience as I tend to get anxious if I can't get things accomplished soon after I realize it's needed. That verse helped me realize that things are in God's hands and to let myself have peace while waiting on His timetable.

Then, a year ago, I connected both parts. The second talks of the Lord preparing where you are going (what is 'before you') but also managing what is left behind. Tying up loose ends, so to speak. Seeing the duality of the last part, it finally registered that the first could also be talking of two things.

Instead of 'haste' and 'flight' being synonymous, both warning against impulsiveness in important situations, these words are also bookends. Where 'haste' could be seen as jumping the gun, could not 'flight' be the result of delay, of leaving yourself without enough time to act, to live?

While I am inclined to be hasty at times, I am not a procrastinator by nature. However, balancing these two elements is still difficult. It is much the same as balancing faith and action. You must employ faith to avoid a hasty over-reaction, and you must employ action to avoid the necessity of fleeing at the last minute in an unprepared frenzy. It is learning to keep this balance which gives a greater peace, and therefore fullness, to life.

In accepting that life happens at its own speed, we come to recognize that peace. By embracing change and our own responsibility to act and make choices for ourselves, we learn and grow. And if we will trust in a God of love and power who has our best interests at heart, we will find greater peace, strength, and wisdom than we ever could manage on our own.

[Stories with related elements: The prodigal son - impatient to receive his inheritance and pursuant troubles; Last Holiday with Queen Latifah - finally starts living after being told she only had one month left to live.]

Writings from 2011: He Knows

I have a particular enjoyment in fantasy and science fiction stories for they allow the explorations of 'what if?'s. This is most easily accomplished through scifi television shows, I have noticed. An older show, from the 90's, that I've been reviewing recently is called Sliders. For the first few seasons that I've seen, the main premise of the show is that the main characters got stuck sliding from one 'what-if' reality to another because they didn't know how to return home after their first experiment went awry.

The show explores such ideas as 'what if the Soviets had won the Cold War?' and 'what if America had not won its independence?' and 'what if penicillin had never been discovered?' And since the characters would arrive in the same general area in each alternate reality, they just might come in contact with their doubles.

The one I wish to write about supposed that time might progress more slowly at a different speed of rotation. This being the case, it was similar in effect to having gone back in time some 12 or so years. The band of four travelers arrived at the end of the Quin's (the main character) father's funeral.

In many episodes, the sliders had debated about whether interacting or interfering, especially with their doubles, was ethical. Yet, here, Quin would listen to no arguments from the others. He knew of the bullying his younger version would face the coming week and he intended to do something about it.

Acting the part of a friend of his father's, Quin made friends with the younger doubles of his mother and himself. When he helped break up the first of three fights he'd remembered being caught in, Quin also made friends with the grade-school teacher. He spent much energy working to convince mother and teacher that the bullying would only get worse if young Quin never stood up for himself. They didn't know it, but Quin, of course, was speaking from experience.

After the teacher broke up the second fight, they agreed to let the boy be taught basic boxing skills. Quin's companions were annoyed when he insisted on observing the third altercation and quite upset when they saw the boy with a bat. "How can you teach him that violence is the answer?" "You're just getting revenge on the bullying you went through!" "It's not fair to him to have to live with the consequences of your interference!"

Quin ignored then, bade them be quiet, and watched. The band of bullies started taunting the boy and as the first moved in to attack, the boy began to swing. But he checked himself. He knocked two of them flat, chased the others off, then continued to walk home. Quin was pleased; his companions stunned.

They learned the he had followed through with the swing because he'd had no other means of self-defense. The boy's knee had been busted so badly that he limped for the rest of his life. It was a huge burden of guilt for Quin that colored his self-perception and social interactions for years. It was a burden he could try to help a young boy avoid. A couple of bloody noses and self-confidence in place of a permanent injury and self-hatred.

As I watched this unfold, it put me in mind of the Atonement of Christ. He suffered all things for all men that He would know how to help them. Like Quin with his younger self, Christ has been there and knows the whole picture. If we are willing to accept it, His help and guidance can keep us from things we would regret terribly later. That help can come from the words of His scriptures, concerned friends and family and leaders, and individual guidance by His Holy Spirit. And it can come because He knows.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Writings from 2011: The Call of the Master

Being a Christian of the Latter-Day Saint variety, I have some comprehension of being in a religious majority and minority (especially considering a childhood spent in the Bible-belt). I am well aware that my system of beliefs are not held by all. At the same time, my beliefs are just as much a part of who I am and how I see the world as your beliefs influence you. It should be understandable, then, that some of my writings and observations are of a Christian nature.

Many years ago, I read a preview of a newly released film. The words painted a description of the first five minutes of the film which left quite an impression. So much so that I accepted a friend's invitation to see it with him, despite a migraine.

The movie, itself, is the third of its kind (and arguably the least favorite of the series), of a band of mastermind thieves. The movie was Oceans 13. I know, I know - how on earth did my mind find a Christian concept in a movie celebrating illegal activities?! I find it quite ironic and amusing myself and I remind you that the parallel occurred in the first five minutes.

The movie starts out showing an advanced robbery in progress, led by a member (Brad Pitt's character) of Danny Ocean's crew but not under his current employ. Just as this separate crew is finally breaking the vault, Pitt's character gets a call from Ocean saying he's reassembling the team. At the call of his leader, Pitt walks away from immediate treasure without a backward's glance.

Perhaps the parallel becomes more clear? A quick review of Peter's call to the discipleship would help. (See Matthew 4 and Luke 5.) A fisherman by trade, he'd had a rough night of it with no luck. Along comes a man, a teacher, the Messiah (though Peter did not know it yet). After borrowing use of his boat to preach, Jesus bade Peter to lower his nets. Despite having no success all night long, Peter did so and caught so many fish it threatened to capsize the boat. It was surely something of a small fortune to a laborer.

It was at that very moment that the Lord said unto Peter and his partners, James and John, "Come, follow me." "And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all (they straightway left their nets), and followed him." Luke 5:11 (Matt 4:20)

These demonstrations of loyalty to the Master, even when what you personally desire is at your fingertips, caused then and causes still a pondering of my own devotion to the Lord. Is my faith strong enough to forsake all, to leave my own desires behind in order to answer His call? Am I willing to walk away from my plans made to help someone else without resenting them for the need?

Odd as it is, such are the thoughts inspired every time I come across a reference to Oceans 13. And I am grateful for the lesson I found in the first five minutes.

Writings from 2011: Passing Judgment

It seems easy for people to pass quick judgment upon things they don't understand. I have just read two books recently which hit upon this concept. The first book described the situation in black and white. The second gave an example of something which I've seen from experience that few understand unless they've been there themselves.

In The Will of the Empress, by Tamora Pierce, a noblewoman finally returns to her mother's native land where she is cousin to the Empress. There, she finds the land has an old tradition where men are allowed to kidnap a woman to force her hand in marriage. You would think a female on the throne would stop this horrible custom but as the Empress had managed to escape two kidnappings, she had no sympathy.

I have read elsewhere that the strong do not understand the weak. In this story, I was pleased to find the author showed the foolishness of the Empress. It showed the same initial story of being kidnapped, but to women of different resources and abilities. While one woman had friends with power to find and rescue her, another one was left without help. That one was hidden away and starved and hurt until she finally gave in to make it end.

The sad part is that the Empress thought she knew what it was like. She was too proud to see that her position meant her captors would ensure comforts and safety to her person that others wouldn't receive. She wouldn't be tied up and stuck in a box. She couldn't see that it was only because her captors had to be careful not to offend their ruler that she was even able to escape.

And so she judged all other women who had no such protection as weak or secretly happy at the occurrence, as though it were flattering, of marriage by kidnapping.

Oddly, the applicable character in the other story is also royalty. In Brandon Sanderson's Warbreaker, two nations have been on the verge of war since the smaller one first claimed independence. To try to hold it off, one king promises his daughter to the other. When the time comes, however, he cannot part with the oldest so he sends the youngest in her stead.

The older princess, fearful for her sister and resenting her lost importance, follows to the threatening capital. There, she is taken in by those she believes are helping her. Months later she discovers that they had actually been using her, manipulating her, to their own ends and even holding her hostage without her even recognizing it.

Even after she knew the truth, her mind wanted to deny it and return to those she had thought were caring for her interests. She wanted to believe things were as they should have been rather than as they were. The moment she saw the truth and the events that came because of it changed who she was. And that changed what she wanted.

The story ends without expressing what effects her choice to leave her princess life behind would have on her or her small nation. I cannot help but imagine, though, that her father and many of her people would have trouble accepting her choice. They would not understand.

Perhaps she would prove a guide in helping them understand those they had judged so arrogantly. Perhaps she could moderate the disdain felt for those who could only find work in the enemy city. One thing is sure: she can no longer see herself as better than those who live in the slums because she understood, in part, their desperate survival.

Writings from 2011: "Invictus" and Nelson Mandela

I have a great appreciation for movies based on true stories. Most often these come in the form of inspiring athletics. Thus excited when I had a chance to watch Invictus, I was quite surprised to learn a dear friend had not enjoyed the show. Once I saw the movie for myself it was easy to recognize that her disappointment came from a much smaller focus on the rugby playing than had been expected.

Instead, I was fascinated by the brilliance of a new leader, himself oppressed for 27 years by the very nation he now led. Rather than letting the hatred continue in a power reversal (just consider how that went between the Hutus and the Tutsis in Rwanda), Nelson Mandela grasped the opportunity the Afrikaner's rugby team provided.

Now it must be understood that the native South Africans hated the Springboks, the national rugby team. Not only did they play terribly, they represented their oppressors during Apartheid. With their newly gained power, the people voted to remove this unpleasant reminder of their past. They reversed that decision after their respected President Mandela urged them to reconsider.

A leader worthy of the respect they are given can accomplish amazing things. His staff was often frustrated and confused by how much attention he paid to the rugby team when their nation was on the verge of economic collapse. They couldn't see what he could - that they would get nowhere if they couldn't cross the racial divide and become a unified country.

How did he do this? He used the national sports icon of the oppressors. Sounds crazy, huh? He sent, by Presidential Request, that team to give day camps all over the nation to the poor children. It is no surprise the children responded for the team was only seen as a symbol of the oppressors and not the oppressors themselves.

Now I ask you, how many of you can harbor and maintain dislike for a positive influence on your children? How many are so stubborn that they won't respond in kind when a child finds excitement and joy in a healthy opportunity? Indeed, there are some - usually those seeking control - but most people find delight in happy children.

This creation of good-will had its own softening effect upon boundaries within the rugby team. They began playing for not just their old patrons but for a united national pride. And they played well. Within one year they turned their game around and beat teams no one thought they'd ever beat.

The movie ends without saying how far they made it in the world standings that year. That wasn't the point. The point was that both sides of a long and bitter division came together to cheer on a common goal. And finding the ability to be so united once, in a non-threatening arena, they would be able to do so again. Their country had hope. Hurrah for the wisdom of their leader. Hurrah for Nelson Mandela.

Many 'Hello's

It turns out that not all of my ponderings can be concentrated into tweet size. As the topic of blogging has recurred many times of late, I figured it was likely my own dislike for writing that was preventing me from 'getting the clue'. And so I've opened up a new blog and shall endeavor to (relatively) consistently document the more complex of said ponderings. I had actually considered using that for my blog name, but I felt the 'Admonition of Paul' found in Philippians 4:8 rather better fit my intent.

Philippians 4:8  Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovelywhatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Also, I state up front that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, better known as 'Mormons'. Yes, we are Christians - just look at the name above... That said, I'm not going to pretend that my background does not influence my thoughts in order to make others who dislike my religion feel more comfortable. Be it known up-front that I also will not be saying whatever I end up writing about with the intent of forcing missionaries down the reader's throat. If a scripture or concept peculiar to Mormons has part in my thought processes they will be unapologetic-ally referenced and even explained. I hope the reader will recognize the difference. However, if there is any reader who would like to learn more, I will also happily refer them to more information.

Furthermore, whilst (that's a fun word, isn't it?) I am a member and I strive to have proper understanding and "Stand at a witness at all times, and in all things, and in all places", I do not actually speak for the church.

I read a blog post just this morning by a woman remarking as a Mormon on the current 'bikinis are immodest' issue claiming that modesty is all subjective and only men are responsible for their responses to higher levels of exposed female flesh. While it is true that women and girls need to learn to be at peace with their bodies, we all have a level of responsibility to help and 'sustain' those around us, leading them to do good. If we have a positive or negative influence on those around us, should we not consider ourselves and how we use it? For I believe we will ultimately be held accountable for even that.

This seems quite a tangent, but the reason I mark it here is in concern for the impression this lady, as a Mormon blogger, clearly had in view of the many comments posted. I do not believe her post, while mostly well-intended, actually represents our religion. If, somehow, I get distracted in some passionate response to something and stray from the mark, please recognize I claim my imperfections for myself and strive to correct them as I recognize them and please do not condemn the church in my place.

These points being made, I want to say many 'hello's to any and all who come across this blog. Some of these initial posts will actually be ponderings I wrote a couple years ago (some 15 or so of them - I stopped for my previously noted dislike of writing...). I do have many thoughts on a variety of subjects, but you will likely notice a preponderance of references to stories triggering thought processes. That just happens to be the main way I learn. Whatever I end up writing about, I hope I can promise you that they will all have some depth to them as I don't have much patience for shallow fluff. Hope you enjoy! :)