Love and Belief

“There’s no ‘should’ or ‘should not’ when it comes to having feelings. They’re a part of who we are and their origins are beyond our control. When we can believe that, we may find it easier to make constructive choices about what to do with those feelings.”

–Fred Rogers

The same applies to beliefs generally. Feelings and beliefs are closely linked. Belief is something we find ourselves in the midst of, not something we freely chose among genuine options. Unbelief isn’t quite the same–it’s not that we stop believing in particular things per se but that prior beliefs are gradually or even sometimes suddenly replaced by new beliefs that aren’t compatible with the former beliefs. Continue reading

Together Forever: God, Suffering, and the Paradox of Heaven

The omnipotence paradox in the philosophy of religion is meant to be a logical exploration of what makes sense to say of a being who is all-powerful (a primary requisite of godhood for classical theism). Different versions of this are something like, “Can God create a stone so heavy God can’t lift it?” Or, “Can God create a burrito so hot that even God can’t eat it?” Continue reading

Carry On the Night

“Or if on joyful wing Cleaving the sky
Sun, moon, and stars forgot, Upward I fly…”
–Sarah F. Adams, “Nearer My God to Thee”

“Carry on, the night”
 
Carry on, the night
and without the stars
in this telestial blackened ruin.
But I will lie here and trace the constellations.
 
Carry on, the night
and without the moon
in this terrestrial lonely crater.
But I will sit here and pull the tides.
 
Carry on, the night
and without the sun
and the sure comfort of its gravity
Yet by casting shadows it decided
What I cannot and cannot see
 
No, I will stand here.
In the crushing darkness, full and mighty and without stars.
I will stand.
I will be the light.
Waiting for the Light.
So carry on, the night.
 

Bodies and Shoulders, Carry and Bear

We are experts at measuring the distance of fathers

And weighing the lightness of mothers.

When fathers quarter the distance

We clasp our hands in pride

Like seeing a baby walk a few steps

Without the aid of the sofa.

When they halve the distance we parade in the streets

Burden our shoulders with their heaviness

And declare the goodness of men.

Men are good, we dutifully remind ourselves

A necessary magical incantation

To keep civilization in perpetual motion.

“Good men–”

Say it as if your throat is clutching a rosary

Say it to keep the beasts away

And the darkness at bay.

But men ARE good

At least most of them some of the time

And some of them most of the time

Though a few of them none of the time

And none of them all of the time.

Indeed.

Little known fact: Atlas was a woman

A mother, to be precise, so it is assumed

Among those who know.

Only the earth did not rest upon her shoulders

The weight of the world on shoulders–

That’s a man-shaped burden.

No, the earth made contact with every cell of skin

An entire body to bear its endless spin.

But we demanded that any body

That touched the entire earth be light;

Without weight

Without taint

Bodies of light that are light

And God said let there be light

And so came the earth

Held up by light.

But how bodies of light that are light

Can bear mountains and oceans

And cities and wars and darkest night

And every depth and height

And every kind of heaviness and history

And that anonymously?

Unless such bodies are not light

Unless such beings are more and less than bodies

More and less than mothers

But we desire light.

And say with reverence and grave solemnity

Echoing the order of eternity

That, gloriously alone, a sacrifice of gods

Men will shoulder night.

And that’s the story

Of how women became mothers and bodies

And men became fathers and shoulders

Of how men carry

But women bear.

And if heaven is a true reflection

Of earthly versions of love and care

Then how can I not shake and tremble

If I’ve a Mother or Father there.

“There Is No Escape From the Eternal Family”

friedrich_nietzsche_1

“There Is No Escape From the Eternal Family”

By Elder Friedrich Nietzsche

Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

 

This past summer I was entrapped into spending a week with my family and extended relatives. I was informed that there would be poetry readings and plans to attend concerts and the theater. To my naive delight, my sister even told me we would take in a boxing match. As you know, I consider boxing to be the manliest of sports. One man, alone without aid in the ring of life, nakedly defiant, swinging his fists at an uncaring and unfeeling universe, represented in a human, all too human opponent. To stand over that opponent, his bloodshot eyes gazing up vacantly at you, his spirit crushed by your mutinous despair, his soul so haunted and broken that later you find it unremarkable that he took his own life at the first opportunity–there is no feeling that compares to such a moment of triumphant exultation, that feeling of not just destroying a life but annihilating Life itself.   Continue reading

We Thought Love Would Be Enough

We thought our faces would be enough

But these perfect masks never slip

and we never see each other’s eyes

We thought the law would be enough

But its infinite exceptions stripped it bare

leaving a people divided and broken

Relegating oneness to rote demonstrations of loyalty

We thought that doctrine would be enough

to take care of the exceptions the law could not bear

But instead it exiled grace to another world

We thought that time would be enough

We would wait until we evolved and could wash the clay out of our eyes

But the world around us changed and the unwashed clay hardened into masks

And cemeteries continue as the counting houses of our change

We thought that love would be enough

Surely love would be enough

Is not love the essence of everything we believe?

But we turned all things–all words, all actions, all

intentions, all hopes–into love and affirmed that it

was the greatest of all and could not fail

And at our clinical distance

When it failed we could see nothing but victory

Faces were not enough

The Law was not enough

Doctrine was not enough

Time was not enough

Love was not enough

Unless these are not our faces

Unless this is not the Law

Unless this is not our doctrine

Unless time has not run out

And this is not true love

Social Media Is An Empty Graveyard

I wouldn’t call it an addiction to social media, not exactly. Certainly there are senses in which addiction is accurate, but it’s not the whole picture. Social media isn’t giving me a high like it once did. It maxed itself out, used itself up. Now I’m sucking on its corpse, trying in vain to drain it of life fluids that are no longer there. It’s more that social media has me locked in a death grip downward spiral. Even when there’s nothing to see anymore I go back again and again. I have ADHD (whatever the hell that means) but it’s more than that. I go back because at one point it was a home to return to. Now it’s a familiar graveyard, an empty house at the end of the street, but I keep going back in a panic, full of anxiety that I’ll miss out on something, that my virtual “family” is doing something in my absence. And they are. Of course. They never stop. There’s always a brother or cousin or uncle having an adventure or getting arrested or posting vacation photos. I mean, the only way I know about anything in the world is through social media. I don’t have TV for anything other than Netflix, so when I turn off social media, I literally shut out the entire world. I’m dependent on it for nearly everything I know about the wider world.

I used to read a lot more than I do now. It’s hard to spend a consistently long amount of time on a piece of writing without feeling compelled to check my phone, see what happened when I was away for four and a half minutes. I’m now in various stages of progress with about 12 books, but I won’t finish any of them, I’ll just add more as my attention gets more stretched and taxed and interrupted. I think I’ve lost the capacity to savor the world around me, to listen, to hear things in the silences, to read and read and then write and write, to organize and plan and stick to the plan, enrich flesh and blood relationships, to just bloody think for longer than 10 seconds. I read somewhere that ridding ourselves of social media doesn’t seem wise; we should instead learn how to manage it better. That sounds wise, but for someone who so easily drowns himself in it, I’m becoming convinced that mature management isn’t possible. For some of us these are two different worlds and until we can figure out how to create a balance,  we’ll have to choose one of them.

I’ve never been so false as I have on social media (really, just Facebook).  Not lying per se, just hyper-curated. And so is everyone else. Everyone is there in this stream of illicit eliciting. It’s not even necessary to have genuine interactions (with avatars of people, not people, hard to remember/believe that). If your post gets a few dozen silent likes (or loves or hahas or wows) you find yourself satisfied for 5 seconds and then immediately wanting more. But you weren’t communicating, you were being adored. You were reveling in adoration and silent applause. Comments are good too, but they don’t pack the purity of likes. Comments are like diluted heroin. And negative comments? Forget about it. I want my saying to be agreed with, to impress and inspire and amaze. Here are my children, or photos from a recent social gathering (aren’t you jealous I was with so and so?) and this victory and this defeat (please show me how sad you are thank you that feels better) and this mountain of trivial annoyances I’ll complain about endlessly and you’ll agree with me, they’re damn annoying. I just saw the most recent movie of the moment, let me share my experience with you, share share share share everything, everything except for those large swaths of my life that are too ordinary or dark to share, which constitute most of my life, but here’s this sliver of life that will represent all of my life and here’s this impassioned plea for activism or this angry rant, and this isn’t about me though it’s on my wall under my name, this is about this cause or that person or this principle or that value and even though we’re all sick together in this traffic-heavy virtual village of eternally unsated egos, let’s pretend we’re okay and other people are sick, so come on let’s crush this person over here and form a mob against that one over there but we’re not murderers or destroyers, we’re Serious Doers of Justice and Justice will be Done on Social Media and we will feel triumphant and treat one another to another round of likes as a reward. And people will love us and we will feel relieved every time that blue page comes up, like a childhood home that comes into view after being away for a long time and what’s new, what can I like, what issue needs my street-wise expertise, how clever can I be today, just love my my avatar and I’ll love yours and we’ll promise to help one another believe being everything is okay as long as we’re  all here, and eventually everything we do will be an excuse to parade our avatars in front of other avatars (if it isn’t already) and the meaning of life will become whatever can be shared and especially whatever can accrue the most likes. Our biggest regret will be that we’ll never get to see all the sad emojis lavished on photos of our funerals.

And God Said Let There Be

And God said let there be

Let it all be

And so God let it go

Let it live

Let it alone

Let it move on

Let it take its place

Let it find itself

God gave it up

Gave it over

Gave it space

Gave it to itself

Though God stayed rooted to the spot

Planted in the desert and the deep

Fingers brushing over the wind-bent tares

Brow sweating, lungs heaving, shoulders trembling

As it went where it listed

Did as it willed

Loved as it loved

Hurt as it hurt

Let it go 

Let it go 

Let it be

There is God–a Sisyphus of stillness?

An Atlas of forbearance?

A Prometheus of self-restraint?

Not that God could direct its hunger

Or forge its path

Or carve its fate into the stone

God is not muscle 

God is no army

God is no hero

God knows that if God could have God would have

But leave it, clinging to itself?

Hollowed out by ravenous emptiness?

Abandoned it to its self-devouring?

A gift disavowed and discarded?

So God let herself be

And so loved the world

That God let himself go

A presence in every unspeakable moment

For Love is nothing but presence 

If God is love–

A terrifying “if” in any given moment on this 

Love-blasted rock–

Then if God is not here God is not anywhere

And here is to be rooted in the soil-less soil

A tree in the desert

An island in the deep 

In every terrible moment, deciding anew, again and again —

Let it be

Let it go 

Let there be light.

 

How Can We Be Sisters If We Are Not Yet Women?

Simone de Beauvoir

“How Can We Be Sisters If We Are Not Yet Women?”

By Simone de Beauvoir

Relief Society General President

Welcome one and all. As females we are gathered from all corners of the Earth to listen to what I hope will be a message of inspiration and wisdom. Though all of us are females, many of us have not yet become women. And still less can claim to be, in fact, sisters. My dear fellow vessels of the XX chromosome, one is not born a woman, and one does not take upon herself the title of “sister” without undertaking the requisite work that would legitimately grant such a title.

Continue reading