Sunday, 13-10-13 and Monday, 14-10-13

Have to swallow yesterday’s words, which is fine for two reasons:

1) There were few of them.

2) I’m glad I was wrong.

I learn a lot from being wrong and I’ve learned that admitting it is a lot quicker and more productive than not doing so.  Occasionally I’ll admit to being wrong and then I’ll find out I was right, but that’s probably the exception.

Walter Camp and football reform

Walter Camp and football reform

So, what I was wrong about yesterday was Imprimis.  It’s probably not smart to write my response to a first glance at something.  And it’s worse to write it late at night.

Jane Austen originally titled Pride and Prejudice First Impressions.  That’s an OK title, I suppose, but the former has more snap.

My first impression of Imprimis was that it was going to be boring–some stuff that was supposed to be good for me–dry, chock full of over-my-head information.  Hey, that’s it!  That was the problem.  I thought it was going to be over my head because of the free online Economics 101 course advertisement.  I found it intimidating.

My abysmal understanding of current events is something I’m not proud of.  I would like to be more informed, but I haven’t figured out how to become so.  It’s sort of like trying to embark on a musical education–trying to be up on what has happened and what’s still happening and what makes good music and how to perform it and all that.  In fact, I think I’d stand a better chance at trying to acquire such an education than at becoming informed.

“Being informed”–I as call it–is tricky because you don’t know who to trust and what to believe.  Everyone you agree with already sounds sensible.  If you, in the spirit of fair play, give audience to an opposing viewpoint you start to feel confused.  You know you are hearing what they want to tell you and maybe not all the facts.

You know what?  You are insecure.  Even people you love and trust can be cranky or opinionated and you may disagree.  The ocean of information is so vast that no one can possess all the facts at their fingertips and your questions (which may resemble baiting or may be honest what-ifs) may not be adequately addressed because the person was unprepared for them.  I know what’s that like.  I’m always reliving discussions–real and imagined.  I come up with really good responses, but if the other person was doing the same no doubt they’d be coming up with equally valid counter objections.

The trick is to not get riled.  That’s tough.  And because I know I’m vulnerable in that area I tend to avoid it.

Anyway, back to the Imprimis newsletter.  Turns out it was better than dry oatmeal, better than warm, moist oatmeal–even the maple kind which is my favorite.  What at first-glance (after wrestling it open which isn’t a good exercise for impatient people like me) appeared to be a tiny print,  multi-page, multi-articled, overly intellectual pamphlet was actually a one-article speech printout with a few Hillsdale environment-based advertisements (stuff like the online econ class and a cruise full of speakers–no sports mentioned).

The article was titled “Football and the American Character” (a speech by John J. Miller delivered at Hillsdale College 9-9-13).  I read it with the idea in mind that I may have been being manipulated.  Nevertheless I learned some good and interesting things.  Interesting things were about the history of football.  I kept asking myself, “Have I heard of Walter Camp?  Have I heard of Charles W. Eliot?”  I had heard of Knute Rockne at least.

Knute Rockne of Notre Dame college.

Knute Rockne of Notre Dame college.

One of the good things I learned is that sports are good.  I’m not a fanatic, but I found out last year (at a series of Education Week lectures taught by Mark Ogletree) that many of our church general authorities played sports and that information impressed me.  Many of them were talented athletes who played college sports on scholarship.  Most of them were athletes.  So, when the author of this article said, sports are good, I was willing to entertain the notion.

One of the important things I learned from the article is this:

“Many parents will point to the obvious fact that sports are good for health and fitness. They’ll also discuss the intangible benefits in terms of character building—sports teach kids to get up after falling down, to play through pain, to deal with failure, to work with teammates, to take direction from coaches, and so on.

“It turns out that there really is something to all of this. Empirical research shows that kids who play sports stay in school longer. As adults, they vote more often and earn more money. Explaining why this is true is trickier, but it probably has something to do with developing a competitive instinct and a desire for achievement.

“Roosevelt was surely correct in believing that sports influence the character of a nation. Americans are much more likely than Europeans to play sports. We’re also more likely to attribute economic success to hard work, as opposed to luck. It may be that sports are a manifestation—or possibly even a source—of American exceptionalism.”

I’m a fan of things that explain why America is an exceptional country because I believe that it is one (thanks to another series of Education Week lectures).  The apparent fact that Americans value their health and that such a value apparently leads to other impressive characteristics makes sports look like a good thing.

I also liked this observation: “although sports can be dangerous, they’re also good for us. They not only make us distinctively American, they make us better Americans.”

I’m probably all crammed with illogical thinking, but something else I noticed recently contributed to my belief that America is a great country because of the things we value.

Jane Eyre stars Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens

Jane Eyre stars Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens

I watched the interviews from the bonus features section of the version of Jane Eyre starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.  One of the women who worked on the film said something like this, “Some people still believe that romance should lead to marriage and family.”  That is not a direct quote, it’s my impression of what she said.  It took me a minute to absorb the import of her statement.  She seemed to imply that there was some other form of acceptable and lasting love other than marriage.  Or she may have been saying that no such thing exists in any form.  Whatever her exact meaning, I was alarmed as soon as I realized what she’d intimated.

Then I made the observation that when you abandon standards you have nothing to cling to.  And I had a clear impression of Nephi’s description of the Iron Rod vision come to mind.  When you let go of the truth and start trying to make your own, you are indeed lost.

“Gather ‘round the standard bearer.”  I think that must be the prophet, the representative of Jesus Christ on earth.

If we want to retain our true greatness as a country, Americans need to hang onto our standards.

serving suggestion:  add water

serving suggestion: add water

Ricky Nelson had it about right, I guess.  “You can’t please everyone, so you got to please yourself.”

One of my Facebook friends once thought I was cool because, after I referred to an Imprimis article, he assumed I was a reader.  I’d never heard of the publication before or even the college that publishes it, but I have now.  Eager to live up to my undeserved cool rep, I became a subscriber.  I received my first newsletter in the mail today.  Glancing through it I can see it’s going to be like eating one of those envelopes of Quaker Instant Oatmeal without adding water.

Not sure I want to be cool or informed after all, but I’ll give it a try.

I hope it’s the maple flavored kind.

flying

flying

This morning my niece Athena posted on Facebook that she’d had bad dreams again and they prevented her from getting a good night’s sleep.  This isn’t the first time she’s posted that kind of status.  Since bad dreams are also a problem for me, I commented thus:

“I may have said this before, but I’ll say it again–pray for good dreams every single night of your life.  And don’t forget to say thanks in the morning.  This is the best cure for bad dreams.  It works.  Also, I’ve learned that there are certain things that trigger my bad dreams–like movies (could be some scene or theme you weren’t expecting) or the news.  I pay special attention to my prayers on those occasions.  Try reading good stuff before you turn out the light.  And sing or listen to uplifting music.  I love it when I wake up with the Hallelujah chorus playing in my head.”

I wrote that shortly after having read the following classic thought (courtesy of David Kenison).

Classic thought for Friday 10/11/13 – Howard W. Hunter on the magic of thought:

“As a being of power, intelligence, and the master of his own thoughts, a man holds the key to every situation, to make his life what he chooses it to be. When he discovers the divine power within his soul, he can lead his life to a God-like nature. If one dreams lofty dreams, so shall he become. There is magic in the way one thinks. If we expect the worst, we will get the worst. If we expect the best, we will receive the best. If we train our minds to have faith in God and ourselves, we are using one of the great laws of life. If we think and live righteously, happiness will find its place in our lives. It is amazing when we expect the best how forces are set in motion which cause the best to materialize….
“Outward circumstances do not determine the course of our lives as much as the thoughts that habitually occupy our minds. These thoughts carve their impression on our faces, in our hearts, and on the tablet of our eternal souls.”
– Howard W. Hunter, “Thoughts Make Us What We Are,” Beneficial Life Insurance Company Convention, Victoria, British Columbia, 7 July 1983; see THWH 74

I don’t disagree with President Hunter, but it seems to me this is a borderline piece of information.  I’d be more willing to think I am wrong than that he is, so I want to ramble on this topic for awhile.

A good deal of my unhappiness seems to be the result of my thoughts.  (Maybe all of it.)  People often say things like the above and I am quick to object now whereas there was a time I would probably have agreed.  I was raised on: “I think I can.”  But I started to find that I couldn’t do the things I thought I could.  I’m willing to concede there are a good many things I don’t want badly enough to work harder for their success and maybe that’s the whole crux of my problem.

Thinking of President Heber J. Grant who is the classic example of TRYING, I’d have to say that I don’t try hard enough at everything.  I could try harder, but it also seems the harder I try at some things the harder The Forces Against Me try.  (Actually, I don’t think they try.  They are successful with a wave of the hand.)  If I decide to change my sleep habits I find myself unable to fall asleep or stay asleep or avoid bad dreams or the house floods during the night . . .  Whatever!  There is always opposition beyond my control to daunt me.  And I am easily daunted I guess because I don’t want it badly enough.

I don’t want most things badly enough, but it’s not because I’m lazy.  I’ve learned to not care vitally about worldly success (as defined by me, which is a bit different from what’s ordinarily regarded as worldly success) because it is so elusive.

Is it the case that I’ve found that the most important things come easily?  Or is that understanding my blessing, my gift?  What matters to me is peace and safety and–hokey though it may sound–a close relationship with God, having His approval.  I’ve had to learn to value those because the obstacles against everything else I’ve ever “wanted” are too overwhelming.

My emotional state is a preventative to getting the extras.  How much of that is within my control is a question that could consume every minute, every day.  I don’t want to think about it all the time, so I fold.  I say to myself, “Fine.  Take it.  You win.  I don’t want to fight anymore.  If you won’t let me fly, that’s OK.  How about we just read a book?”  Because I’m dealing with this condition all the time–facing the disappointment that I’ve survived the night each morning, dealing with the trauma of another day of life, and trying to persuade myself to function–I have little to give to my other interests.  My interest in my interests waxes and wanes.

I repeat this from the HWH quote above:  “Outward circumstances do not determine the course of our lives as much as the thoughts that habitually occupy our minds.”  Was I having thoughts my whole life that were eroding my temporal foundation–my dreams or aspirations?  And am I now (for the past 18 years) just waking up to their loss?

You know what?  I HAVE WHAT I WANT.  Most of it is or seems handed to me.  Home, Kerry, the gospel, peace.  That is all I know on earth and all I need to know.  (Thanks, Mr. Keats.)  I’ve never been much into decoration.

And, in large measure, I AM WHO I WANT TO BE.  I just need practice in a variety of similar conditions each day to operate consistently.  So I do my practicing by dallying in my dreams (not nightmares)–writing, art, used to be dancing.  I even have my Almaic wishes.  I believe in Elder Wirthlin’s promise of the law of compensation.  In fact I’m not sure I haven’t already been compensated.

Perhaps my life’s mission is to learn that.  Over and over and over.

ah, dreams

ah, dreams

I will conclude with a quote from Roald Dahl:  “Dreams is very mystical things,” the BFG said. “Human beans is not understanding them at all. Not even their brainiest prossefors is understanding them.”

I don’t claim to be a brainiest prossefor, just a regular human bean.

 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

a well-lit way

One thing I do each day (when I’m operating in Things I Do Every Day mode) is sing two hymns.  Every night Kerry and I sing a hymn before we read our chapter from the scriptures.  We use the hymnbook’s accompanying CDs and work our way straight through.  We’ve gotten pickier after so many times through.  We often skip long hymns or ones we sung that day in church or that we just heard in General Conference (as was the case last night).  After all, this is supposed to be enjoyable and worshipful, not a forced march.

So, this morning, as I’m trying to reinstate the Daily Grind (I don’t think of it as a grind, of course!), I started singing “Come Unto Jesus.”  (The third verse is my favorite.)  And I realized I was hardly paying attention.  I was swinging my foot in an anxious manner and was practically on the verge of standing up.  I love to sing the hymns, but I realized that I was feeling like I should be up and doing–moving on to the next thing before I had completed this one, and without enjoying it.  So I said to myself essentially, “Be here now,” which might sound trendy (old-trendy), but it works.

Thereafter, as I sat singing I felt some peace steal over me.  Spots of tension became obvious and I relaxed–you guessed it–my neck and shoulders.  Took deep breaths (as much as one can while singing).  And then other thoughts came which I thought were profound, so I stopped the song, wrote them down, then resumed singing.

This learning experience was similar to what I’d learned while praying.  I said to myself that I need to take time to really pray, to be guided in what I pray for.  I’d already written a mammoth list of all the stuff I wanted to do today (and it was merely an ice berg tip of what I wish I could accomplish) and it’s not that it seemed overwhelming, but I know from experience that it won’t get done–not all, not even half.  I’ll do a number of other things then add them to the list (like everyone sensible does) so I can then immediately cross them off.

So much of what I do is just rushing around “getting things done.”  I figure if it’s good, then it’s good–do it.  (Based on the “we’ll be judged on whether or not our actions are good, not amazing or important” principle.)  And I know this seems obvious, but I forget to remember it–I need to take a breath and think, or “pause.”

(Pausing is SO SO SO important–see the story of Mary and Gabriel as compared to Zacharias and Gabriel.  Also look at Joseph’s reaction to his dream.  Mary and Joseph paused before asking a crucial question or taking action.  Poor Mr. Z just doubted.)

Here’s what I need to think about:  “What does Heavenly Father want me to do?  What’s good, better, and best?  Do what’s good, but do the best good.”  Now that’s a delightful building block to add onto what I’ve been clinging to for a few years now.  Do the best good.

In general my perception of best will be the thing I do, but sometimes what I think isn’t as good as something else–or even what appears disastrous (like cleaning up a Polly mishap)–may turn out to be the best good after all.