Thursday, December 31, 2015

Open Minded

"Don't be so open-minded that your brains fall out."

"You religious types are SO closed-minded!"


I have had this post stewing in the back of my mind for over a year. It's as though the various applicable pieces have arrived at various times and now I must figure out how to lay them out for your understanding. But perhaps you will understand, even if I just give you the pieces instead of trying to string them together.


By President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

As telescopes became more sophisticated—including telescopes that could be launched into space—astronomers began to grasp a spectacular, almost incomprehensible truth: the universe is mind-bogglingly bigger than anyone had previously believed, and the heavens are filled with numberless galaxies, unimaginably far away from us, each containing hundreds of billions of stars.3
In a very short period of time, our understanding of the universe changed forever.
Today we can see some of these distant galaxies.4
We know that they are there.
They have been there for a very long time.
But before mankind had instruments powerful enough to gather celestial light and bring these galaxies into visibility, we did not believe such a thing was possible.
The immensity of the universe didn’t suddenly change, but our ability to see and understand this truth changed dramatically. And with that greater light, mankind was introduced to glorious vistas we had never before imagined.

It Is Hard for Us to Believe What We Cannot See

Suppose you were able to travel back in time and have a conversation with people who lived a thousand or even a hundred years ago. Imagine trying to describe to them some of the modern technologies that you and I take for granted today. For example, what might these people think of us if we told them stories of jumbo jets, microwave ovens, handheld devices that contain vast digital libraries, and videos of our grandchildren that we instantly share with millions of people around the world?
Some might believe us. Most would ridicule, oppose, or perhaps even seek to silence or harm us. Some might attempt to apply logic, reason, and facts as they know them to show that we are misguided, foolish, or even dangerous. They might condemn us for attempting to mislead others.
But of course, these people would be completely mistaken. They might be well-meaning and sincere. They might feel absolutely positive of their opinion. But they simply would not be able to see clearly because they had not yet received the more complete light of truth.

The Things of the Spirit Can Be Understood Only by the Spirit

Scientists were struggling to understand the breadth of the universe until instruments became sophisticated enough to gather in greater light so they could understand a more complete truth.
The Apostle Paul taught a parallel principle regarding spiritual knowledge. “The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God,” he wrote to the Corinthians, “for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.”12
In other words, if you want to recognize spiritual truth, you have to use the right instruments. You can’t come to an understanding of spiritual truth with instruments that are unable to detect it.


Years ago, I worked with a couple kids fresh out of high school, neither religious, in a predominantly Mormon city. I often worked near them and we'd talk, and joke, and were friends as far as I was concerned, and as far as they were, too, I believe. But I was obviously Mormon which contained all their suppositions as ones who were not.

One day I came in to work and the girl told me she had just started studying palmistry. She wanted to look at my palm, because, according to her, the distance between the two main lines indicates 'open vs closed mindedness'. The wider, the more open, the closer, the more closed. She was certain that because I was clearly Mormon, there would be almost no space between the lines on my palms. So I showed her and she compared to her own, and her friend's hand as well. They were both a bit dumb-founded to find my lines were wider apart than either of theirs.


I've written before about my abstracted thinking patterns and how I am very spacial. One of my chosen mind metaphors is similar the Sherlock's noted mind palace, but my metaphor is not bound to memory and location. It is rather a sort of museum wherein new information either catalogs as part of existing exhibits or combines with previously disparate information to create a new exhibit. For me, learning is very much a sense of opening, of expansion.

On a similar note, the ideal of Mormon achievement in the eternities is not simply to sit on clouds in Heaven, playing harps and singing praises. (forever?) Rather, it is to continue learning and growing to be as our Father in Heaven. This concept excites me far more than harps do, though I imagine I'll learn that, too, at some point. There is not enough time in mortality to learn all that interests me.


Perhaps these vignettes help you understand why I find the liberal claim of ownership on 'open-minded' and the reactive conservative Christian warning to not be too open-minded all sorts of backwards. To my view, the secular 'scientific' perspective, which only allows what the five senses can duplicate, is an incomplete model. I have seen it said that the best theories are the ones that take in and use the fullest amount of information to build an understanding. How can you say that billions of people's experiences are null and void if you are not even willing to honestly test for them with the appropriate methodology? How can you claim to have superior understanding when you deny evidence to suit your own preferred interpretation?

This is a frustration, but a minor one, because my model of understanding says they'll figure it out eventually and I still get to aim for the thrill of learning all those skills mortality didn't allow for and finally understanding the answers to SO many questions!

What questions are you waiting to have answered?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

An Agricultural and Humanitarian View of the Word of Wisdom

It occurred to me sometime in the last year that there could be more than just the dietary view of the Word of Wisdom (WoW). It occurred that it could also indicate an issue of world-wide agriculture and the resulting effects on humanity. I have not yet sought the data proof for this idea, but I will lay the theory out in general here.

The concept occurred to me after a couple documentaries played within a week or so of each other. The first was about global disasters caused by changing weather patterns. It linked the 2009 drought in Russia caused by wind changes and then fires to the start, the final straw if you will, of the civil war in Syria, with the obvious current issue of the refugee crisis. After all of the internal troubles the Syrians had dealt with, the impossible rise in the price of bread (supply and demand where 60% of Russia's supply had perished) was simply too much. The people had had enough and war broke out.

The second (short) documentary I saw was about the economy in the area of Africa within view of Mount Kilimanjaro. (There is more than one country border in that area and Africa was the one section of geography I never quite mastered - and I simply have memory problems. I don't remember.) They showed how the economy actually was strong because the fertile lands were used for growing the coffee so many in Western culture is addicted to. (They also showed the local artistic style which I quite liked, but that's beside the point.)

After that second documentary, I was struck with the idea that the list of 'no's in the WoW - coffee, tea, alcohol, drugs,... - are all huge economic industries that use up lots of cropland to produce them. Land and water resources that could be used instead to grow food for the starving people in so many places around the world. The scriptures tell us there are enough resources in the world to sustain humanity if we will use them wisely. They do not say we might just be wasting a lot of those resources.

Consider, then, the injunction to use meat sparingly. By now, most 'first-world' students have heard that much ozone depletion occurs due to bovine flatulence. Whether that's even an issue is beyond my current understanding. But what about other things? What about how much water is needed to keep and feed the amount of animals required for such a carnivorous Western society? What about the living conditions those animals are forced to live in? How much healthier would humanity and animal-kind be if we stopped seeking meat at every meal? There are other sources of protein, and those living in temperate climates do have access to a broader diet than those in the Arctic reaches.  

What if the land used for supporting addictions and the people who thrive off supporting them went to actually growing healthful substances? How much would starvation go down? Especially since so much of that land is in the poorer countries where the baddies can take control more easily! Then the good food would be close to those who need it. Think how that could effect general health and overall well-being? How would that effect local economies, then education, then government and the sciences and the humanities? How many geniuses die with their incredible potential contributions because none of that was available? So not only are we wasting global physical resources, we end up wasting global human resources.

Like I said, I'm not getting into the dietary effect of the pattern recommended in the WoW. I do, however, hope that considering another potential layer of purpose to it might cause you to consider the world and the uses of it. Maybe you will even find some way to help better those uses.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Speak For Me

As much as I dislike the emotional hijackings of pretension I see too often in poetry, I've found myself writing in that form in spurts of collections over the years. The Junior High period (mostly church and people ponderings), the High School period (mostly assignments from creative writing), the Breaking from Home period (fighting my way through abuse to hope), and the Sporadic period (where I write less often, at random, of late). This post is to introduce my opening of a new blog to start sharing the Breaking from Home collection, which I titled Speak for Me.

I wrote these over a period of about four years, from mid 2005 to early 2009. This covers the period from shortly after my mom died, through moving, paternal re-marriage, moving away from home, breaking from home, and moving even farther away from home. It covers a lot of emotions as the ones I couldn't write out in my normal journals would crescendo until they came out in poetry form. They express frustrations, trying to hold on, feeling trapped, mad at feeling scared, and almost always work through till I can find a way to keep hoping for a better time.

Some of the poems have easily shareable themes. Just One Day is the first that comes to mind, and I've already shared that on this blog. They are all very personal and I've been conflicted between pulling it all into a presentable form and resisting actually presenting it. I'm still scared to open this up because a lot of people were oblivious to this part of me and even more people resent the idea that a person can be so extremely traumatized without the socially comprehended forms of physical and sexual abuse.

Sometimes I try to explain the effects of my experiences as brainwashing. Life was often an active battle to simply retain my identity, to not disappear into a mind-less, being-less, soulless slave. The Speak for Me collection is very much my active fighting to survive. PTSD is recognized as trauma that physically threatens ones life and thereby alters the body's reaction to stimulus which recalls the originating trauma. What I survived threatened to erase me, not just my physical body. I believe this kind of abuse is rampant. It is pernicious precisely because it isn't talked about and is ignored when outsiders catch a glimpse. "It's none of my business," is the usual thought response.

How often I wished someone had spoken up and told me I had a right to think what I think and feel what I feel. That what was happening was not ok and was not my fault. That an understanding haven would have been offered where I was wanted and welcome and understood. Instead, I hid in my car because I couldn't face going inside yet and had nowhere else to go. I had imaginary conversations with the closest things I had to friends to try to work through the craziness that was my life because everyone was too busy to want to be bothered by me. I hated looking in the mirror and seeing what I was taught was a disgusting person. I can face mirrors now. I can see me, now. But pictures still make me feel a bit sick. I was left alone, without family, with church as my only refuge, but resented and abandoned repeatedly by people who had no interest in slowing down enough to see that my unusual reactions had a terrible cause. Instead, they just saw them and me as unwanted irritation.

And so, even though I am nervous, I am sharing this because someone needs to start the conversation. Someone needs to say - these are the emotions. And those trapped in the nightmare I finally escaped need to know it can be done, even if no one else decides to notice, care, or try to help. I did it with God by my side, guiding my understanding until I was read to break from home and learn to feel safe in freedom. Speak for Me is my journey during this difficult time.

The scriptures that introduce each poem are almost all the very verses that helped me reach the poems' conclusions I needed to keep going. They were very much my life-line. The afterwords are reflections on the topic or the events which prompted the poems. The new blog can be found at:

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Parameters and Paradigms

I posted a tweet, recently, asking,

"Do your paradigms define your parameters,
or do your parameters define your paradigms?"

At some point during Jr High math, the concept of parameters was introduced which I found to be quite enlightening. I grew to see life and people in terms of individual parameters - that which defines boundaries of possible action such as values, circumstances, experience, personality, etc... While any number of possible actions could be a response to a given situation, an individual's parameters will identify which options are automatically excluded and which are most likely. (This is likely a large part of how I started noticing people's patterns and anticipating their responses.)

Paradigms are more like existing templates, usually of an external source. Politics, school of thought, nationality, ethnicity, science vs humanities, religion vs atheism, etc... This concept was brought to my attention in an anthropology class in which the liberal, feminist teacher liked to challenge and dismiss religion for its common sense of 'Tradition' (complete with singing and hands raised as known from Fiddle on the Roof). While I am not seeking to start a debate about which is 'right' - a ridiculous waste of energy, usually - I hope the evidence of the chosen paradigms is clear.

The point of my question is to consider whether your parameters are constricted to the boundaries of the paradigms you choose to accept or do you build your own boundaries, with what paradigm influences you choose, be they more or less evident?

Simple example.

American government has formed into a two party system. Other parties exist and people even run for office under those parties. But the strength of the democrat and republican parties is such that, without a major revolution of sorts, no other party will replace those two. The parties are the paradigms. To vote a person of a particular party means you ultimately vote for the whole party's platform. Does that mean you are obligated to therefore view the world and American issues according to that party's paradigm and only that paradigm? I sincerely hope not. 

Laying my thoughts out like this, it may well seem obvious, in the 'duh' kind of way, that people consciously would prefer to define their own parameters. In many ways, we all do. I would posit, however, that many are more rigid in their thought patterns than they might expect.

Wait, what do thought patterns have to do with this?

How do you think we define our parameters?

Food for thought.

On a side-note, if you can observe and discern another person's parameters - their motivations and principles, their character and so-forth - you can learn to anticipate the reactions and behaviors of those around you. This takes attention/observation and a certain level of active awareness. It also takes time, which may vary from person to person, influenced by many factors such as openness, self-awareness, how talkative they are, etc.

For example, one man I knew suggested at my speaking a need for help due to my illness that I should go back to the one he knew was my abuser rather than bothering people like him. Clearly troubling and upsetting. Months later, I heard him state his deep belief that under all the 'problems' a family might have, they are all actually good in the end. Suddenly, his dismissal (though still inappropriate) made much more sense.

I call it 'tipping the hand'. We all do it eventually. Some might feel threatened by that idea, but if you are introspective enough to be self-aware and honest about it, I think it would only feel threatening if you don't like what you find. If you know yourself, you might find that it makes things easier to simply be up front about things to begin with. Many don't understand why I am open and immediately so, but these very concepts are what help build my parameters.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

What is Misery?

She said I must be miserable.
I said I'm not a miserable kind of person.
She said maybe not always, but it can't be helped with such difficulties in my life.
I told her misery is a choice I chose not to make.
I think she did not hear me.

Some people think I should not be effected by my difficulties. That being effected means choosing misery.
I disagree.
Misery is having no hope of hope.
Misery is a house of lies because truth is misunderstood and downright ignored.
Misery is being convinced our existence is a shameful audacity and therefore punished for it.
Misery is the terror that lies in unbecoming.
Misery was the home that is no home. The home where misery is.

But misery did not last.

Because God is greater than misery.

He taught me He did not hate me like they did.
He taught me life is not constricted to the falseness that was home.
He taught me to respect myself even if the would not.
He taught me to imagine safety.
He taught me to imagine life and beauty and hope.
He taught me to recognize myself.
He taught me to enjoy and recognize value in my uniqueness.
He taught me to expect good things to come.

My body does not work as most do,
My life is not like the one I first imagined.
Sometimes the weariness brings forth tears of exhaustion and discouragement.
They pass.
I rest.
I still hope because I have been taught to by my Father.
This life of illness is hard, but it is not the hardest thing I have lived.

That life left scars that ache and disturb in stormy circumstances.
That is part of life.
It also complicates my life in ways confusing to many I have met.
But while it is a recurring reminder of horror and misery that was, it is also a reminder that the wounds are healing.

So I do not understand when people assume my life must be misery.
I did not choose that home.
I did choose to turn away, towards the loving, healing, comforting, patient embrace of God.
I chose hope.

Misery is not a failing body, a failing relationship, a failing career.
Dreams and hopes are not limited to mortality.
Misery is blinders that block the brightness of life, of joy, of pain endured and overcome, of growth, of love, of hope.
If you will let Him, God can take those blinders away.

(written 3/8/15)

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Confidence Doctor

Earlier this week I had a repeat of a conversation with a particular pretend mom that circled back to the ever present difficulty I have with feeling guilty at the drop of a hat. She said we needed to find a 'Guilt Doctor' so that we could schedule me for a 'guiltectomy'. My gut reaction was that I had already mastered guilt so a 'Guilt Doctor' would be of no help. Instead I would need a Doctor that focused on whatever the opposite of guilt might be. She laughed like it was an unexpected, clever comment and the conversation moved on to Hawaii. I did not think of it again until just a little bit ago, today.

I realized that my opposite focus assumption was a surprise because when we think of having heart problems, we go to a heart doctor. And so on and so forth. Her thinking followed that logic pattern. And it is logical. But my brain has a tendency to jump to alternative logic patterns that I then must determine how or why it did so. I just realized that I was thinking along the basis of emotional/spiritual principles which would indicate that if one has a problem with excess pride, one would then need to learn from another who understands humility. Procrastination from diligence, To overcome the excessive leanings in one direction, we must learn to restore the balance by strengthening the counter condition. It is not actually an opposite so much as the flip-side, but I think you get the idea.

Which brings me back to guilt. The first definition of guilt is that the person or entity IS in the wrong, but the next one is, "feelings of culpability especially for imagined offenses or from a sense of inadequacy." As I had been stressing and worrying that I am not inclined by nature to be effusive and that my chronic illness non-functioning on Christmas Day meant that I was guilty for not expressing hardly any emotional reaction to the gifts I had been given (I was truly barely functioning and therefore not really reacting to anything), you can see the pattern of my recurring guilt compulsion.

If you've followed this blog, you have a fair idea of the source of that compulsion. For me, it comes from a life being raised by a family that expected me to be responsible for anything they decided they weren't happy about. It comes from being held to a higher standard of expectations and demands and perfection yet condemned and criticized only. I was trained to feel guilty because that made it easier to control me. I've done much to overcome the years of abuse, but this part seems to still need healing.

Which is, of course, the desire she was conveying in wishing for a guiltectomy. Only we can't look to 'guilt' for the answer. I realized, when I started thinking about this, that a recent project had already given me the answer.

My latest set of scriptures is about ten years old and is well worn and marked, but even though I was gifted a fresh set years ago, I haven't been able to let go of this set. It got me through the nightmare years. It has all the markings and the personalized indexing of the thoughts, ideas, scriptures, encouragements, promises, commiserations, understandings, ... that I don't want to lose. Last week it occurred to me to start transferring them into the online scriptures account that can save and sync with any device logged onto that account. Which would actually make them even easier to search out and find and cross-reference. I have finished the Old Testament (admittedly has far fewer markings than the rest, but also some of the most profound) and haven't started on the New Testament yet, but I discovered that some of the non-indexed markings actually followed the theme of confidence - confidence in God, and therefore in the future and in myself.

It occurs to me that I've been slowly working toward this idea for the past year. Another conversation (with my Institute teacher friend) almost a year ago impressed me with the idea of posting notes around my place that says simple, 'Trust Yourself'. Bathroom, bedroom, kitchen, front door. Most of the time, I don't even consciously process it, but I'd noticed that consistently seeing a message on another occasion had helped me break through the barriers that made it hard for me to take it in. And so they are posted still as a sporadic reminder whenever I happen to notice them.

And that is the answer. I was trained to feel responsible for any possible negative emotion anyone had. I was also trained to not trust myself. Confidence, rather than guilt, is what must be strengthened. (Perhaps I need to add a sign that I am not responsible for how others feel.) Learning that I can have faith that doing whatever my best happens to be at any given moment is enough, even if it's not perfect, or even as good as I could do in better circumstances. And learning that some people really are patient and caring enough that they're not going to hold it against me when I can't manage ideal.

Likewise, I need to master consistency at allowing them the same grace. (I mostly do ok with it, but I tend to slip when I'm having trouble with the ptsd.) But this will also help me as I've long noticed that I'm more likely to allow myself patience and acceptance and various graces when I can readily see/allow its application to others. (It's far easier for me to excuse others than it is myself, so when I can easily excuse a trait in others that I hold, it becomes easier to withhold condemnation for myself.)

I'm sure it will take many checkups and adjustments, but knowing the right doctor to go to makes all the difference.