21 August 2006

Oops, I Bwoke It

A repost from the comments of the previous post, just in case none of you read it.

Yeah, so Blogger released Blogger Beta and I wanted to try some of the new features--tags, CSS-based layout, etc. (Incidentally, I've been feeling really unsatisfied with the look of my blog lately. As I've researched a bit, I've got some good ideas, but I'm too lazy to bring myself up to speed on CSS enough to do what I want. This seemed like a lazy-woman's way out.) In my over-zealousness, I merged my Blogger account with my Google account, assuming that my blog would carry over into the new account. So far, it hasn't. I'm desperately trying to get a response from someone at Blogger to fix this and get me control of my blog back. Luckily, I remembered that I enabled email posting, so hopefully this will post. If I can't get it up again in a few days, then I may resort to simply creating a new blog. But I really want to keep the old one because I like the address. Grr. Curse technology.

Meanwhile, it's nice to know that you people are actually reading my blog. Nothing like being gone to find out people miss you. :D So I've been using my blog time the past few days to work on a short story that's been rolling around in my head. Here's two paragraphs from near the middle to keep you entertained.

Excerpt from "Swan Song" by Liz Muir

As the guests mingled, the band slipped through the darkness onto the stage to test their equipment. Under the dimmed floodlights Jane could see the lead singer, a lanky man with hair too greasy and matted to be called flowing but too loose yet for dreadlocks. His eyes stared earnestly at the microphone he was adjusting. He always manages to look so surprised that they actually set up for him, as if he hasn't been doing this for years, she thought, watching as he tilted the mike back and forth on its stand with intense concentration. His wide-eyed expression contrasted with the scruff on his face, lending him the look of one who, having reached past the boundary of adolescence, had run from adulthood, striving to keep from acquiring the knowing expression that experience would mark him with.

He held his guitar like a father might hold his newborn son: loving, proud too, but still slightly uncertain how best to position this new extension of himself. Placing the shoulder-strap around his body, he slowly removed his right hand from under the body of the guitar, as though making certain the strap could bear weight. His now free hand reached down to adjust his grey striped running shorts—too short to seem natural on any man over thirty. His skinny legs poked out of them, whiter and hairier than would be considered desirable, but he was a seasoned singer, not a pop icon. Meant to be heard, not looked at.

15 August 2006

Nearly Everything

Speaking of stories, I've recently been reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. Within the pages of this book, I've finally found an answer to the question people always ask me about my majors (Chemistry and English if you didn't know), namely, how do those work together? Up till now, I usually stick with the tried and true "They don't" or an extended "Well. . . ." Sometimes I just laugh. But really, this book shows that there's not as much difference between the sciences and the humanities as modern education might lead you to believe.

Although the science in the book is a little below my level, I've nonetheless enjoyed the book because of the history it gives behind all of our modern knowledge. When you learn this stuff in science class, they sometimes throw a name at you, but that's about all you get. (Much like what I was talking about yesterday with politics.) But in A Short History, you get the entire wacky personalities of the scientists themselves, including personal quirks, grudges, and mishaps. Seriously, it's a wonder that we ever learned anything between geniuses who solve the mysteries of the universe but tell no one, scientific societies full of social climbers anxious to knock off anyone who actually does serious work, and feuding researchers taking away each other's funding. Plus, it makes fun of the French; what more could you want?

As I read this book, I realize that the majority of scientific discovery is not done in a lab, but in writing. New understanding comes through the stories we tell ourselves to explain our experiments, not through the experiments themselves. Each test gives definite results, but establishing what those results mean is quite another matter. It's a debate over truth almost every bit as subjective as what you might find in lit crit, including some really out-there theories. (Someone once proposed that the craters on the moon were caused by swarming insects.) In fact, this book oddly reminds me of nothing so much as Hesiod's Theogony, in that it's almost a religious text for our scientific non-religion. It is the story of how our modern world--and our beliefs about it--came into existence, including the quirky personalities and the ironic inescapability of fate. I mean, as I read the pages, I wait for all the classic Gods of science to step in--Newton, with his secretiveness and alchemy, Einstein with his brilliant start dwindling into a tragic backwater--along with the lesser gods--the Curies, Planck, Bohr. This is the stuff of myth, not science, of storytelling, not empiricism.

Which is why I'm excited to discover that one of the unfinished scientific stories in the book was finally concluded today. As of today, you may live in a universe of twelve planets, not nine. Finally, a definition of planets that makes sense! Very exciting to see science moving along. :D

14 August 2006

Story of Diplomacy

Reading this article in the NY Times today describing the negociations over the cease fire in Lebanon reminded me of what initially attracted me about history and politics: the story (of course). Usually, political articles speak in terms of ideals and generalities, and history textbooks talk about overall movements and large events. Both of these bore me as much as the next non-history buff. But when you get down to these primary accounts, the large scale events disappear into the people and personalities involved therein. There's such a sense that it's actually happening and that people just like you are really involved in changing the world.

It's what initially got me involved in Model United Nations--the opportunity to understand what time, effort, and personality go into the diplomatic dealings that get reduced to a single sentence in a textbook. And this article made me realize how similar MUN is to the real deal. I can't tell you have many times I've faced similar situations to those described in the article. An amazing compromise resolution grinds to a hault when the opposition absolutely will not agree. Then just when you think you have them, they bring up some minor wording or timing issue. Your resolution looks like it's going to fall apart, and your rivals have siezed the opportunity to create a brand new resolution. Just when all looks hopeless, you pull a late night caucus session and manage to come out with the last minute resolution that's the hit of the session. Ah, it's a beautiful feeling.

Oh man, I miss MUN. I wish I had the time to sign up for the BYU team or volunteer with RHSMUN again this year . . . .

Now I really want to go read Diplomacy by Henry Kissenger again. Nothing to make Cold War politics exciting like the first hand story from someone who was really there. Yes, I did just use "Cold War politics" and "exciting" in the same sentence. I didn't appreciate it enough when we had to read it in IB World History. Hurrah for Ms. Nicholas!

12 August 2006

After All We Can Do

Mormon culture is interesting: nowhere else could someone feel justified, and perhaps even comfortable, in speaking before a group of 100+ people with little or no preparation. Of course, when you believe in revelation, this becomes a little most understandable. Still, whenever I hear someone introduce their lack of preparation using the idea that the Spirit will guide them, my writer's heart groans inside and I hunker down for a disorganized mess of ideas. My qualm about the whole extemporaneous speaking thing is that people often skip over the condition upon which this blessing is predicated, as found in D&C 84:85:

Neither take ye thought beforehand what ye shall say; but treasure up in your minds continually the words of life, and it shall be given you in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man. (emphasis added)
I worry that people think this promise means that they don't have to prepare when they are speaking, resulting in some of the worst talks I've ever heard. Look, it's simple: if you are speaking to an audience, you need to prepare. Flaunting a lack of preparation is awful, since it implies you don't care enough about your topic or audience to bother. But really, speaking is a very transient form of communication, and if your thoughts aren't clearly organized, it's impossible for your audience to follow. Preparation is crucial.

My interpretation of this promise is that you don't necessarily need to write out your talk word for word--recited talks are responsible for the other half of really bad talks--but you need to study your subject as thoroughly as if you were. It's much like relying on the Spirit when you take a test. The Spirit will guide your ability to recall what you know and to organize your thoughts, but it will only rarely bring knowledge to your mind that you did not put in, and then only if you really strove in your preparation. You need to understand the material for your talk so thoroughly that it becomes part of who you are, and then and only then, after having put your best into the subject, rely on the Spirit to guide your delivery.

In fact, the more I think of it, the more I see this principle in the gospel. We are saved by grace, but only after all we can do. In prayer, we don't expect God to give us an answer unless we have studied the matter out in our minds. God will not help us unless we are willing to put our whole selves into the attempt. (For the most part. I recognize there are exceptions.)

As for my talk writing process, I usually start out by looking up my topic in the Bible Dictionary, True to the Faith, and the most recent Conference Ensigns. I look up the scriptures referenced in those, bringing in other stories and scriptures as I find them. Since writing helps me organize my thoughts and receive inspiration, I'll usually then write out some version of my talk. However, I rarely ever actually read the talk. I recondense my written thoughts back into an outline of ideas and references--the key here is to organize the principles I've learned so that it's more than a tangled mass of doctrine. When I speak, I just try to explain the concepts I've written out, allowing for elaborations and tangents as prompted by the Spirit.

Oh, and I pack lots of tissues, since I usually cry through the whole thing. :P

11 August 2006

Subtle Messages?

It seems like lately life has been conspiring to send me certain messages. Or maybe it's just that I'm more able to synthesize them because of the amount of writing I'm doing. Or possibly it has to do with my increasing training in lit crit, which has caused me to start seeing patterns and meaning in almost everything. Or maybe it's that I'm feeling a lot more in tune with the Spirit lately. Whatever combination of these it is, I certainly got one straight message in the past few days: don't waste your life simply enduring, waiting to do what you want to do.

Some of the factors leading up to this realization:

  • Our discussion Thursday at CS Lewis Society. Somehow, we got off on the topic of going and living in a primitive hunt in the planter box inside the HFAC, and maybe living off farming and fishing in the JFSB courtyard. You scoff, but the real point to me was that mankind always thinks that it wants to go back in time because it seems so much simpler, that there might be more time for real life in that era. But in reality, in almost all times, men have found ways to fill their lives with dull tasks that seem necessary but don't really mean anything. But there is also hope, because in all times, we can also find a way to get past all the unimportant things and feel in touch with God, ourselves, and joy. The key is not to go back in time, live in a hut in the HFAC, or to throw out your computer/TV: that only treats the symptom. The real problem is wasting time--letting it slide by us without caring how we've used it. The solution is simple. It's simply to think about how you are spending your time, and eliminate those things that don't bring you closer to the person you want to be. The key is to truly long to become what you should be--and then to do what you can to move yourself there. The very longing to become something, the passion that it stirs up within us, makes the road worth traveling, regardless of whether we reach its end.
  • Reading Joni's first blog entry. Welcome to the blogosphere dear Lilymaid. But really, her comment about realizing she wasn't a bookworm anymore really struck me. I had exactly the same realization at the beginning of this summer as I started reading Ben's blog. I looked at all the books he was reading and things he was doing, and I thought, what I am doing with my life? In elementary and middle school, I used to plow through two to three books a week. I loved reading and learning and doing. But since I let the busy-ness and pressure of high school and college take over, I hadn't made time for those things that I once enjoyed. Even worse, I had started to hate reading because it was so associated with the stress of classes. Which is why I've been so insistant on reading this summer, even during Spring term when I felt like I was going to collapse. I needed to remember why I used to love it. And now I do.
  • Seeing You Can't Take it With You at Hale. (Arg! Someone remind me whether play titles are supposed to be in quotes or italics.) In addition to a hilarious printer character who sort of reminded me of Ben, the message of the play was right on target. It's about a romance between the daughter of a family of eccentric, poor playwrights, dancers, and firework-makers and the son of a wealthy Wall Street banker. Predictably, when the two families collide chaos ensues. But the message was that even though the artistic family was poor, strange, and disorganized, at least they went out and did what they wanted to do, whereas the businessman spent six to eight hours a day doing things he found boring, just for the pursuit of money that he could spend in his one hour of free time. There was one especially moving part where the father of the eccentric family talked about the idealistic dreams and plans we all make in college, pointing out that only a few lucky ones get to say they did even half of what they planned. It made me so sad, to think of all the people out there wasting their lives working for "that which cannot satisfy."
  • A radio commercial. Yup. While driving home from the play, I heard a commercial for some auto repair place. The guy said, "I spend eight hours at the office fixing transmissions, and then I go home and do exactly the same thing. I work on cars in my garage. After [some-odd] years, my work and my hobby are still the same." That's the kind of life I want for me, and especially for my husband--I've seen the effect of a hated job on a man and consequently on his family. Everyone has something that they would love to do; why don't we all stop aspiring to be doctors and lawyers just because we will make money, and go out and do the thing we love?

I'm resolved to either start loving everything I do, or just getting rid of it. And that's really the thing: to be able to love everything you do, mundane, intellectual, or otherwise. Cooking, homework, reading, spending time with friends, cleaning your house--all should be things we bask and glory in. Down with the separation between work and leisure! I am determined to love it all.

09 August 2006

Choose to Celebrate

*insert soapbox here*

What's the deal with people making such a big deal about not making a big deal about their birthdays? Said in a less confusing way, people seem to go out of their way to avoid attention on their birthday, to the point of outright asking people not to do things for them, or avoiding letting people know about it in the first place. For example, Katherine, Ben, Nicole . . . . From what I can tell, the front seems to be some sort of humility thing--you don't want people to think you are so self-centered as to think the world should revolve around you, just because you were born on this day--along with a desire to avoid public attention. Maybe it's just leftover from my obsession with The Giver, but I feel very threatened by this desire to eliminate the specialness of birthdays.

Okay first, I see no reason that you should treat your birthday like any other day. There's nothing essentially conceited about celebrating your birthday--it's your own personal holiday; might as well make use of it. There's nothing wrong with a putting a little extra fun in your day. I mean, I personally look for all the excuses for celebration I can get. I go all out for St. Paddy's Day (March 17th), Saint Agnes' Eve (January 21), Pi Day (March 14--3.14), even National Waffle Day (August 24--coming up soon!). With so much to stress out about in our everyday lives, why shouldn't we seek out the little reasons to celebrate--be it your birthday or just Mole Day (October 23). No, it needn't be elaborate, but don't be so embarrassed about having a little fun for the arbitrary reason of your birth! There's almost nothing better than being joyous for no really good reason, being less hard to please and more eager to celebrate the beautiful joyous aspects of life. Try it some time.

Second and probably more important, choosing not to celebrate your birthday actually seems more self-centered to me. That's because celebrating your birthday is really not about you. What? Yeah, that's right. Here's the reason: your birthday exists so that your friends and family have the chance to show their love for you, not so that you have the opportunity to receive love from them. And by cancelling or diminishing your celebrations, you deny them an opportunity to express their feelings, serve you, and build charity. In fact, charity is a good way to understand what I'm talking about. Always being self-sufficient keeps you from the uncomfortable position of having to ask for service or the embarrassment of actually receiving it, but it also denies others the opportunity to serve you. If everyone avoided receiving service, then how could we build charity?

This is much like my opinion on wedding celebrations. First, no need to act casual and cool, like a wedding is no big deal, cause it is! Second, having a small little reception doesn't show that the bride and groom are more modest and humble than others; rather, it indicates to me that they are so self-centered--thinking the wedding is all about their comfort--that they deny well-wishers the opportunity to wish them well in their marriage. The wedding is about the guests and the relatives, not about the couple--they have the whole rest of the marriage to spend together. Sacrifice a little time and effort for the people who helped you get there.

So, try to think of people's birthdays as more like their own personal Mother's Day--you wouldn't possibly downplay that holiday, would you? Maybe yes--people seem to be more hesitant to celebrate in general these days, and it makes me feel sad. It's as if they don't want to be caught looking childishly excited about a holiday. But didn't Christ tells us to become as little children? And yes, I really think being eager to celebrate is part of that council. We should be full of joy and happiness, not shying away from celebrations because they might cause you to take some attention from others.

Or maybe it's just because I come from a party-throwing family.

*soapbox end*

08 August 2006

Musings on Fiction

Writers are mean. *pout*

I just finished reading OSC's Rachel and Leah. The strangeness of the Rachel/Leah/Jacob story always irked me in the Bible, and I'll admit I had my doubts that even the amazing OSC could pull it off convincingly. To my delight, the book is full of very believeable characters: the women are very distinct and yet each holds character traits that I see in myself. He strings a delicate path of influence between these women as they grow and change, and not in simple ways either. And I absolutely adore Leah's character, which is why the ending hit me so harshly. There was one brief moment of ecstacy, where I thought he had figured out a way to end the story happily, before it came horribly crashing down around me.

Well, at least he's not a "ruthless killer" like some authors I know. *coughJKRowlingcough* (Great interview, by the way. I always forget how hillarious that woman is.)

Ah, the power of stories never ceases to amaze me. It's the only thing that keeps me clinging on to the idea of becoming a fiction writer, though my grasp of characters and settings will probably never be good enough to suit the task. My characters are the sorts of cardboard cut-outs that horrify me in other's work--dare I say the women of Austen? No, too many of you love her. But I can't help the comparison in a novel as full of women as Rachel and Leah. Each of the women in Pride and Prejudice represents one, maybe two, important concepts and that's all. Their characters are almost perfectly resolved at the end of the plot. The characters who are bad you get to simply hate.

I'm constantly in awe of Card's ability to recreate believeable characters, who in addition to seeming real are recognizeable in the people around me. (With a little tweaking, I can see my sister and myself in Rachel and Leah. No, I won't tell you who's who, though I suppose it shouldn't be hard to guess. Especially if you know my sister.) As in Austen's work, the characters fulfill the purpose of the narrative, but they also take on a life of their own because you understand why they are doing what they are doing. Zilpah, who could have ended up becoming a Lydia-like character instead becomes sympathetic as I recognize her motives as some I have felt in my own heart (though clearly never taken to her extreme). Same goes for Bilhah, even though she goes from good to worse. And even the seemingly evil characters are not left completely hateable. In this way, Card's fiction is truly moral because he forces us to look at every character as someone sympathetic, worthwhile, redeemable, not a mere villian or silly girl.

As for settings, I never did have the patience to describe anything properly. I've got a short story in my head in which the setting is absolutely crucial, but doing it without creating the same drawn out descriptions which I hate in writers like Dickens and Tolkien is another matter. I can't stand reading pages of descriptions--you lose the reason why the setting was so important in the first place--and yet my reader would need to have an extremely good feel for the place. There must be a better way. Again, OSC could be a model for me in this, since his descriptions never bother me. (Does he have many? Maybe I should try to study them.)

But the heartless part of being a writer, I'm sure I could be great at that. Killing off characters is a piece of cake. :D

07 August 2006

Wiser than the Children of Light: Parables

Parables are interesting things. The way in which they convey their meanings is somewhat of a mystery, and yet they do it so effectively and consistently. Reading these simple stories brings all who read them to an understanding of very specific doctrines, so much so that the gospels rarely need to provide explanation outside of the story, other than the context in which Christ provided it. For a more eloquent explanation of the wonder of parables, I turn to the OSC:

It's no coincidence that so much of Christ's labor in this life was devoted to creating [parables]. . . . The Church he founded eventually failed him. His doctrines were distorted, forgotten, and lost. His followers were slain. The people he healed eventually died. But his stories, those deceptively simple parables, persisted. Where doctrines consisting of language can be and usually are reinterpreted into convenient new meanings, stories consisting of causal relationships between events are very hard to reinterpret without the audience noticing and crying "Foul!"

. . . If I tell you that the "so-called Good Samaritan" was really a clever businessman who acted as he did so as to impress the innkeeper in order to get a purchasing contract with him later, and if I tell you that Christ's message was that you must do good PR in order to succeed in business, you know I'm lying. (Orson Scott Card, "Art as an Act of Charity," A Storyteller in Zion, p. 112-113)
Generally, the meanings of the parables are just as obvious as that of the Good Samaritan. But in my scripture reading yesterday, I stumbled across the one parable that I view as an exception. And it's become one of my favorite parables not only because of it's meaning, but because it is not as obvious. (Maybe it's just the elitist in me.) For your reference, here it is, the Parable of the Unjust Servant from Luke 16:
1 And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had awasted his goods.
2 And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an aaccount of thy bstewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward.
3 Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed.
4 I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses.
5 So he called every one of his lord’s debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord?
6 And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty.
7 Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore.
8 And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the achildren of blight.
9 And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the amammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.
10 He that is afaithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.
11 If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your atrust the true briches?
12 And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?
A very strange parable indeed. Here are a few of the things I draw from it. First, we must be able to obey lesser commandments before receiving higher ones. If we cannot be trusted to keep the lesser law, how can God reveal more unto us? We must make better use of what we have. And rushing at the last minute like the unjust servant will not do. The gospel demands the "tranquil and steady dedication of the lifetime" (Elder Oaks, "The Dedication of Lifetime" --the half not on dating!). If not, when we are called to be accountable for our actions, we will be found short.

In that same vein, I believe that the master commends the unjust servant because, even though what he did was wrong, at least he went after what he wanted with zeal. He found himself in a dilemma, weighed his options, "resolved" what to do, and pursued it full-throttle. In this way, those who work evil are often better than those who are good: how many of us go after truth and righteousness with the same determination and single-mindedness that the unjust servant shows towards evil?

Not many, I think. Rather, we wonder and worry about not receiving a special witness that our course is right, and hestitate to act. I am as much guilty as the next person of faith. We want a voice from God to confirm our every action, when He has told us plainly that "it is not meet that I should command in all things" and men should "do many things of their own free will" (D&C 58:26-27). Thus "the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light." (Thanks to James Joyce for that bit of insight, even if it's the only thing I've ever gotten from him. Cursed Dubliners!)

The usually most troubling passage of this parable is "Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations." Is the Savior telling us to make friends with evil people? Perhaps yes. Perhaps not. I could see it either way. First, if we are friends with the unrighteous, then we can lift them up, and, in spite of our imperfections, they will testify of our goodness at the last day. Or, the Savior could merely be encouraging us to have many friends, for when our own situation or willpower fail us. If we lack the strength to bring of our salvation on our own, it is our friends who create the tide that we will drift along in.

I love thinking about this parable--so complex and so satisfying.

05 August 2006


This post is kind of like a Jeopardy category: three completely different things, tangentally related by the same word, coincidentally "category" itself in this case.

Heh, heh. Yes, it did take me this long to feel more awake. Between seeing Harry and the Potters and then a Relief Society sleepover yesterday. Anyway, H&tP were so funny. Their songs are, of course, mediocre to bad, but seeing them performed was hilarious! And I still have "Save Ginny Weasley (from Dean Thomas)" and "the Weasel" stuck in my head. But you didn't really care to know about that. The more interesting matter actually happened before the concert. There were several other bands playing that night, and since I was about 30 mins early, I got to listen to some of the other music from this really strange band. Very apocalyptic and creepy, not really my fare, though it gave me a great idea for a short story.

Mostly, I tried to block out the music and just spent the time watching people. Highly amusing watching a bunch of indie music fans mixing (or not) with Harry Potter fans, and seeing how some people manage to fit in both groups, but they still act differently in each mode. It's interesting how people self-sort into categories. Everyone's rebelling against something, but in rebelling, we find ourselves among a group of people exactly like ourselves, which runs us into complacency. I'm not sure if I think that's a good or bad thing. Rebelling and redefining yourself all the time takes a lot of energy, especially when gliding along with a certain group can get you the same effect, mostly. But then again, you've also got to remain alert enough to jump ship when the group starts heading somewhere you don't like . . . .

Speaking of categories, at the RS sleepover, we talked about the five love languages, which led me to wonder what my love languages are, and how I can improve on some of the ones I don't have. Being a writer, of course, I would have to say Words of Affirmation is my top language. Quality time I love, but pretty much suck at, only because my schedule doesn't coincide with other people's. I guess I should start making more of an effort to spend time with my friends and roomies, if they'll take me back. Gifts/Service aren't mine except on rare occasions, but I realized a year ago that this is my Dad's, and it has helped me understand him so much better. Touch . . . not so much. I tend to feel very uncomfortable around touchy-feely people. Don't get me wrong: touch is very important to me, but it's not something I do casually. It's almost a sacred thing, and I get very annoyed with people who do it casually. For me, only really with family and very, very close friends--people I really trust and am loyal to--are allowed. Though the Hug Video has helped with that a bit. :D (If you haven't seen it, ask me to show you.)

And finally, how about categorizing yourself? Where do you think you fit on the Five Kinds of Mormons? I'd hope to put myself in the CM category, though I may have some OM and LM tendencies. (Sorry for the random blog link, but there's no place with the official text. If you want this in book form, I recommend buying the Robert Kirby compilation Sunday of the Living Dead. Dirt Cheap and Pretty Dang Hilarious. Kirby is someone I would probably put in my personal cannon of good LDS lit, as a social critic, which we need more of. But more on why when I get to writing about LDS lit.)

04 August 2006

Short Lines: A Fib

these guys.
Very odd place,
good wizard rock: I bought the shirt.

(About Fibs - Math + Poetry? I'm there!)

Yes, truly, Voldemort can't stop the rock. If you are in SLC, go see Harry and the Potters tomorrow! I promise further elboration when I am less deaf and more awake.

02 August 2006

Life Suspended

I've been thinking a lot lately about what I want to do with the rest of my life. I mean in terms of a career. Assuming I have one.

And that's precisely the problem. I really dislike my position at this point in life because there isn't enough certainty to build any sort of plan on. Basically, I feel like I'm caught in a Murphy's-Law-like situation, with no way to avoid having my heart broken. If I base my dreams on a brilliant public career, I will probably be happily married and stay at home in obscurity. If I set my heart on marriage, I will become the sweet old maid Primary teacher of some family ward (Katherine, you know who I'm thinking of).

Of course, my preoccupation with this topic has a lot to do with my anxiety about myself not being marriageable material. I think I've wallowed in that trough of self-pity and what-if-ing enough to bore you readers--if you still exist--to death.

But a fear of being miserable in life is not really the problem right now. I have no (or little) doubt that, with Heavenly Father's guidance, I will end up in a situation that will make me happy. The problem is that the two possible natures of that situation leave no room for a certain course. And so in trying to cover all my bases and prepare for either possibility, I worry that I will pay too much attention to the wrong one, or fall in the cracks between. Basically, it's an issue of cosmic suspense--like being in the middle of a novel and just wanting to know how this one thing will turn out so that you can relax and enjoy the rest of the book. I just wish someone would tell me which way I should set my heart.

In Elder Oaks' famous Anti-Hanging-Out Talk, he says this to the single women:

If you are just marking time waiting for a marriage prospect, stop waiting. You may never have the opportunity for a suitable marriage in this life, so stop waiting and start moving. Prepare yourself for life—even a single life—by education, experience, and planning. Don’t wait for happiness to be thrust upon you. Seek it out in service and learning. Make a life for yourself. And trust in the Lord. Your dedication of a lifetime should follow King Benjamin’s advice to be “calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come” (Mosiah 4:11).
Good advice by any standard. Even most dating-tip books tell you to go out and be involved since that's inherently more interesting than sitting around and waiting. Good for either plan, right?

So I attempt to plan my future: Grad school in either English or Chemistry is out. Though I love each subject dearly, I couldn't take being steeped so thoroughly in the dogma of any one specific area--especially considering grad school requires specialization, which I tend to abhor. I adore and covet the idea of going to law school, but not because I would enjoy a career in law--I would probably hate it. I would go there just for the experience, and to learn to think more analytically. But could I really justify spending that much money just because I find it fascinating? (Especially if I did get married . . . .)

If I were to pursue a career, it would be probably be writing--everything and anything, fiction, non-fiction, articles, novels, everything. But if I did that, I couldn't settle for obscurity. I have an innate thirst for fame--I'm sort of ego-centric that way. I would want to be big. I would want to write things that would change the world. (Thus, I'm currently reading Writing to Change the World, and thoroughly anticipating the chapter on blogs. Great book thus far, though the attempt to hide Pipher's liberal bias is quite superficial . . . but a more thorough review later.)

But if I try to go for my dream, try to be famous, revolutionary, life-changing, at what point have I gone to far and ruined my chances of ever truly being satisfied with being quietly at home? And what if I wasn't done with school before my husband needed to go somewhere else for grad school or work? And would I still be able to pursue even higher education, for no other purpose than self-enlightenment and fulfillment? Could I really spend our time and money that way? And as much as I tell myself that I could still write if I got married, that I could do both, I'm not sure it would really happen. I would get so wrapped up in the joys of a family--and it would be joyous, probably more than any fame--that writing, real writing, would get pushed out of the way.

Guys don't have this problem. At least, not the way I see it. Correct me if I'm wrong, but the path to a fulfilling life looks exactly the same, whether you end up single or not. You will need a career you can enjoy, regardless. If you happen to get married, than all the better. If not, then you just keep working on it on the side. But for women it is different--marriage is a life-redirecting experience, for good or ill.

All I want is to know what avenue to throw my passion into, and then to be able to let that passion run full throttle, without the risk of crashing and burning when I attempt to turn.

But it's clearly too much to ask: Heavenly Father apparently writes great suspense novels.