28 November 2006

Why I Believe in Santa Claus

On our most recent black Friday shopping spree, my dad purchased a DVD-R machine. The subsequent Saturday and Sunday were spent figuring out how to make the darn thing work. After actually breaking down and reading the manual, things went along quite swimmingly, and we started transferring all of our old, recorded-from-TV Christmas specials from VHS to DVD. We got through "A Charlie Brown Christmas," "Mickey's Christmas Carol," "Frosty the Snowman," and "Little Drummer Boy" before arriving at what must be my favorite Christmas special of all time: "Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus." Sure, it's cheesy (and cheap) animation, but the story is absolutely thrilling. I still get chills when I hear the narrator read Francis Church's response to Virginia's letter:

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. [. . .]

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. [. . .]

No Santa Claus! Thank GOD! He lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
After reading those words, you might well imagine the shock I felt reading Ben's post on the Santa Myth. How could anyone believe encouraging belief in Santa Claus really be as dangerous as all that? Is Santa, in effect, the anti-Christ, in that he takes the place of the Savior in our holiday celebration?

Of course, you must have guessed my position on this issue by now, but humor me by allowing me to explicate further. No, I do not believe that encouraging children to believe in Santa Claus is wrong; on the contrary, my family is very strong about keeping up the Santa tradition. We hang signs that say, "This house believes," and threaten to take away presents from those who refuse to admit belief in Santa Claus. It's flat heresy to utter the words "Santa's not real" in our house.

In defence of this point of view, I would say these anti-Santa advocates have made one crucial mistake in their logic: they equate encouraging belief in the unreal with lying. I would argue that these are not the same at all, that while of course the second is wrong, the first is harmless, necessary, even healthy.

This willful suspension of disbelief is a wonderful and glorious part of our human experience. Besides Santa Claus, we see this technique commonly used with ghost stories and urban legends. A suspension of disbelief is necessary to maintaining these tales: who would enjoy listening to ghost stories without the narrator's insistance that they were real? The story cannot possibly have the same chilling effect if we know it is imaginary. Only when we are absolutely convinced that the story actually happened to someone's aunt's friend does it strike terror into our hearts.

The same way with Santa Claus: should we insist on asserting that Santa is completely fictional, the magical anticipation of Christmas morning would disappear. No child would anxiously look out the window, mistaking the blinking light of a satilite for the glow of Rudolph's nose, then dive into bed, furiously trying to sleep so she won't be caught awake when Santa comes. I look back on my true believing days with nostalgia and contentment. It is an experience that can be gained in no other way--to believe in something completely and utterly trivial. I maintain that it is a healthy and natural part of life, not to be disturbed because of rare and horrifying stories of children whose faith in Christ is damaged by Santa.

Of course, it is a pleasure that can be had only for a short while. When the dawn comes and the ghost-story teller reveals their craft, the magic is over. Once we first glimpse our Santa Claus presents in the storage closet, the opportunity for that magic in the world is gone. But simply because it cannot exist forever, should we shut down the experience entirely? No, no more than we would deny the beauty of a snowstorm or spring flowers because their presence was only temporary.

Additionally, this belief in Santa serves as a praticing ground for belief in Christ. If we can't believe in Santa Claus, who leaves us physical gifts every year, how can we find faith in Christ? It is essentially an exercise in what faith is--learning to believe without seeing. It's something that's difficult to gain experience in doing, and yet we must find a way to do it. Santa seems as good a method as any.

This aspect is, of course, what primarily concerns the anti-Santa league: isn't it wrong to have faith in something that doesn't exist? Aren't we setting kids up to believe that their faith in Christ will turn out the same way as their faith in Santa?

Obviously, I would argue no. We must develop faith in many things in this life which let us down--other people, for one. This practice faith is necessary. The world would be quite an awful place if we never trusted anyone. Of course we all recognize this faith should never supercede our faith in the one person who will never let us down, Christ. But when Christ told us not to trust in the arm of flesh, I much doubt that he meant we shouldn't trust other people. It's a warning of proportion, not absolutes.

As to the more general opposition of the materialistic and spiritual sides of Christmas, maybe I'm unique in that I've never had a problem with that. Even the materialistic gift-giving of Christmas was always redirected towards spiritual growth. For me, the search for the perfect gift--not just something that they want, but something that they need and that also says something about your special connection as family or friends--is as much an exercise in developing charity as any service project could be, perhaps more because it is undertaken not from necessity but from desire. When else will you spend hours in several different stores, thinking only of your friend and how much you love them?

And besides the gift-giving aspect, all of the other Christmas symbols, un-Christ-centered though they may be, serve to bind us together as a culture. We can laugh with almost anyone when we remember the terribly cheap animation of the Christmas specials or the tune of a familiar Christmas song. These things unify us across all other barriers--bridging social capital, if you will. And is not unity something Christ would have us develop? If we are not one, of course, we are not his.

That said, there's a very interesting Orson Scott Card Christmas short story called "Homeless in Hell," which is about the Santa issue. The message is one we can all agree on: the Santa tradition is a healthy and righteous thing, so long as it does not supercede Christ.

24 November 2006

Traa-di-shon! Tradition!

Yeah, I guess it’s been a while since I posted. Well, in case you didn’t catch it in the comments in Thursday’s post, my boyfriend and I broke up. So I’ve been trying to avoid doing too much thinking, which means a decrease in blog posts. Don’t worry, I’m feeling much better thanks to my amazing roommates, and of course there’s no cure for break-up blues like the holidays, so I’m back.

So about the holidays: I highly doubt if anyone could find a more tradition-bound family than mine at this time of year. Almost all of my mom’s siblings’ families live within an hour drive of my grandmother’s house in East Millcreek, so we get together a lot during the holidays. (More than usual—the extended family gets together at least twice a month as it is. I miss them when I’m stuck in Provo.) And the 30-40 of us can sure have a lot of fun. Who needs friends when you have family? Anyway, as a result of spending massive amounts of time together, traditions just seem to spring out of nowhere. Almost every single day of this season has its own special traditions.

The day before Thanksgiving is officially known as Pie Day in the Miller family. We fill the kitchen of my grandmother’s house with enough estrogen to scare away men for miles around. Large amounts of Chinese food are consumed as the pies are prepared for Thanksgiving and a Christmas movie plays in the background. This year we only needed sixteen pie crusts, a record low, I think. There was one year we made over 30 pies. In order to chill all the pie dough, we had to empty out the ice cube maker in the freezer. An unsuspecting uncle wandered in looking for a glass of water and ended up with a glass full of pie crust—in the Miller family, we have pie crust on tap!

Then Thanksgiving itself: we usually cook a couple turkeys in several different ways. My uncle Dennis, when he was alive, would always deep-fry a turkey. Holy cow is that good stuff! This year we had a brined turkey in addition to the normal roasted version. We usually have about 40 pounds of mashed potatoes—can’t risk running out. Lots of homemade rolls and cranberry sauce. But my favorite traditional food is rainbow jello. I made it this year—it takes about 3 hours—and it was really good.

After dinner, we laze around for a few hours. There’s usually a Christmas craft project—candy advent calendars this year—and football on the TV. Everyone continues snitching food, grazing as their stomachs settle down. In a few hours, we’ll clear everything off and set out the pies. Once we’ve all had pie, we officially open the Christmas season by singing along to “Sleigh Ride” by the Osmonds—not “Jingle Bells/Sleigh Ride,” the real “Sleigh Ride.” You can’t get it on CD. We had to get it transferred from the record. :D Anyway, we all sing at the top of our lungs, doing the air guitar and sliding up to high falsetto parts. It’s great! That song means Christmas and family in my mind. When I’m feeling homesick, I’ll turn it on, be it December or July. Then we draw names for the Christmas gift exchange.

My dad and I always do Black Friday shopping together. The last few hours of Thanksgiving day are spent perusing the newspaper ads, planning our attack strategy. This year we were up at 3:30 AM, outside Circuit City at 4, inside at 5, and out at 5:30. We did pretty well: I got a 1 GB SD memory card for $3, a 1 GB flash drive for $4, and a 7 megapixel digital camera for $130. We managed to also hit Target ($4 DVDs, newer releases too), FYE (the new Media Play—I picked up some new headphones and got to talk to a really interesting lady in the line. She works for the railroad.), and RC Willey (Marisa—we have a new DVD player! How much do you love me?). All in all, it was a pretty good year for the bargain hunters. To me, it’s like a game to plan the best strategy for dodging the crowds in the stores and to guess which items will go first. Yeah, it’s a little materialistic and, oh, insane, but then again, it’s way fun and I save a bunch of money.

The holidays are sort of a weird time for me. Usually, I value my alone time a lot. I'm quite "solitary as an oyster." (You better know where that's from.) But during Christmas, I can't get enough of people. I just want to be around them. We don't necessarily have to do anything; it's enough just to be. To quote a Christmas classic: "I’m crowded, but at least I’m loved."

18 November 2006

Job Satisfaction and Football

Today I went to the game with my dad, my grandma, and my brother, and the coolest thing happened. My brother and I were sitting the student section, and between plays, this guy five people down from us turns to me and says, "You work at the Writing Center, right?"

"Um, yeah. I thought I recognized you from somewhere."

"You helped me write a really awesome paper last semester. I totally got an A on it. You guys rock!"


"I just figured you'd like to know, since you guys probably don't get a lot of feedback on the results."

I love my job.

I've also decided I really enjoy football games. I don't know why, since my knowledge of the sport is limited to what a down is and that it's good to move forward and not back. I just like watching it. Football and basketball are the two sports I can actually stand to watch for their entire duration. If I wasn't such a cheapskate, I would probably buy the all-sports pass just for the football tickets. :D

And did anyone else think that all the fans waving little white towels sort of looked like they were doing the hosanna shout, like at a temple dedication? . . . Okay, maybe that's just me.

17 November 2006


Wow! I just found SnowDays, via a link from Orson Scott Card's column. This looks like a really good time waster. :D

Meditation on Christ through Art

For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee.
In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the LORD that hath mercy on thee.
- Isaiah 54:7-8,10
I've just come back from visiting to new "Beholding Salvation" exhibit at the MoA. It was such an amazing exhibit: my words are certainly inadequate to describe it, but I can't resist the attempt.

The experience was breathtaking. I have a certain fascination with Christian art. Something about the iconography of it all is so very attractive. I get chills just hearing the names of the typical scenes: the annunciation, the nativity, the adoration, the last supper, the stations of the cross, the passion, the pieta. Knowing the little details about the traditional symbols--enclosed gardens for Mary, keys for Peter, an eagle for John, nails for Thomas--makes them that more meaningful. The power of symbols, and art in general, cannot be overestimated. And seeing all these different ways of looking at the Savior is amazing.

I particularly liked the tomb and resurrection rooms at the end of the exhibit. The life-size dead Christ is harrowing. And I know I'll spend many hours the next few semesters contemplating "Jesus and Mary, After." Very haunting and powerful. And "Christ at the Pool of Bethesda" . . . something just clicks inside me when I see it. I also really like the two more abstract paintings--the one with the red and white cloth and three bowls and the one with two chairs--full of all sorts of meanings.

In the passion room, one of the little plaques defined the word "passion" as meaning to suffer or to submit, very interesting to consider in the context of our modern use of the word passion. When we have a passion for something, we suffer not only when it is gone, but also while we are with it. Love, as some have pointed out to me, is not something that's very pleasant to have. People in love are often miserable, especially when they are separated from their beloved. Love involves connecting your happiness to something outside and beyond your control. To love as Christ loves is to willingly submit to that pain and then rise triumphant again.

And you can feel that intense love in this exhibit. The second I walked in, I had a feeling of complete comfort and safety. It was as though even taking the time to be in a place where I could contemplate the Savior had afforded me the comfort and protection He promises us. In those paintings and sculptures, I truly felt enfolded in the arms of my Savior--safe from loneliness and fear. I longed to simply sit there for hours, feeling that warmth and contemplating the atonement in my life.

This exhibit caused me to remember something about the atonement that I tend to forget. The atonement is not only for our past: it is for now. It is not only for our sins, but also for our triumphs; not only for our sorrows, but also for our joys. Christ reaches out to us in so many ways to enfold our minds and our hearts, to lift us up not only out of sin but onto higher and better things. I feel His influence in my life in everything I do from the worshipful to the mundane, and because of it, everything I do expands out to become more than I intended, more than I could do on my own.

16 November 2006

Stability and Writing

As Katherine points out, the conversations we have during downtimes at the writing center are interesting, to say the least. Today, for instance, two of my coworkers and I covered in a single conversation topics ranging from psychologists (necessary, helpful, or evil?), the relationship of guilt and stress to achievement, the role of mothers and the problems therein, and whether insanity/instability is a necessary part of being a brilliant writer.

It's on this last point that I'm still sorting out my thoughts. The consensus seemed to be that you can be a good writer and a normal person, but most of the best writers will be tragically unstable and unhappy. Now, I acknowledge there's a definite correlation between an unhappy personal life and brilliant writing--look up the biography of the majority of canonical writers and you'll find a host of cruel families, unhappy love lives, suicidal tendencies, and anything else you'd care to imagine.

Yet I can't bring myself to believe there's necessarily a connection between the two. As anyone with a basic knowledge of statistics will note, a correlation between two variables says nothing about which causes which, or if a causal relationship even exists. The most current example would be the hilarious campaign revolving around the correlation between reduced amounts of piracy and increases in global temperatures. Clearly, it makes no logical sense to say one brings about the other, though the correlation is evident. If there’s any connection at all, they're probably both influenced by some hidden variable, say technological advances. So the fact that many great writers have been unstable is, at best, only anecdotal evidence of some connection between the two factors. (Granted, in the English department, anecdotal evidence is pretty much what we do. But indulge the science portion of my brain for a moment.)

Continuing the statistical analogy, I wonder if the relationship between brilliant writers and tortured writers comes by means of a hidden variable, namely, writers are always better when they have something essential to write about. No matter how eloquent your prose, if your topics are shallow or trivial, it's simply not going to become "great." Interesting and amusing, certainly, but great writing must inherently deal with the great matters of human existence. And a tortured personal life does certainly bring about a wealth of vital topics. All human beings, at one point or another, doubt their sanity, deal with failed relationships, and distrust the fairness of the universe, so these topics make the level of greatness more easily accessible. However, insanity or instability is by no means the only method of arriving at vitally important material. Religious devotion, scholarly study, and everyday observation can also bring about the consideration of humanity in all its forms.

In fact, writing driven by instability seems to me to be limiting rather than enabling. Writers motivated by personal angst are stuck within a realm of self, continually confronting the same issues of self-concept and depression in their writing, never able to move on to something of greater scope. Granted, there is infinity to explore within ourselves, but infinity also exists outside ourselves. Ought we to neglect one for the other? Introspection certainly has its place, but it’s not the only thing to write about. But I guess that’s my personal bias--I prefer considering the broad human condition rather than the local.

Another factor is the confusion of the esoteric with the brilliant. Just because something is hard to understand does not make it good writing. It's (relatively) easy to write something so esoteric that it seems profound because no one else can get it. It's a much more difficult and worthwhile task to write something so intensely clear and powerful that everyone knows exactly what you mean from the second they read it. And not something on low level, either. You must take an abstract, difficult concept and make it so obvious, clear, and simple without letting your audience know. (See, of course, CS Lewis.) In my opinion, this was the original function of poetry, and by extension literature: not to be obtuse and mysterious, but to be so dazzlingly clear as to appear prototypical. This is one problem I have in my own writing. It would be so easy to write something mysterious--pregant with general feeling but lacking a specific message. But I'd rather spend the time to make my meaning painfully specific and clear, clear enough to unite the minds of the writer and the reader for one moment. (I know this is a large enough heresy against the English department that it might take another post to fully justify, but work with me.)

But the most pressing reason that I reject this idea is that I simply don't believe that the goals of being a brilliant writer and a happy, fulfilled individual should be mutually exclusive. For me, creating art is a part of the gospel, one method of our pursuit of divine and eternal knowledge, creation on a small scale. I can’t believe that anything as good, true, and healthy as art could be incompatible with joy and happiness. It feels unnatural and untrue.

15 November 2006


Ah, humor is all around us. Check out this NPR interview with the guys who do the voice-overs for political attack ads. I really like their 'negative' readings of the nursery rhymes. :D Humpty Dumpty is indeed a waste of tax-payers' dollars.

And from the do-it-yourself page at Despair.com, some words of truth:


14 November 2006


Fine, fine. I'll follow the crowd, though I must admit to being mildly suprised . . . . I guess this explains why Not Too Pensive, Katherine, and I can't agree in an argument. But we'd make a great joke: A capitalist, a socialist, and a totalitarian walk into a blog . . . .

I guess I shouldn't be that surprised, since my group in Honors 201 decided that Christ would be totalitarian dictator. (Long story.)

You are a

Social Conservative
(26% permissive)

and an...

Economic Liberal
(38% permissive)

You are best described as a:


Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

13 November 2006

Audio Reviews

When I was in high school, I had a half-hour commute to school. I would always listen to KSL's news program in the morning and Sean Hannity in the afternoons. (Don't worry: I've since repented of my Sean Hannity addiction.) I really enjoyed it because it took no extra effort and I always felt highly informed. I really miss the news now that I walk to school instead of driving. It felt so . . . productive.

I've been trying to revive my audio addiction with podcasts. This would probably work better if I actually went out and bought an Mp3 player, or at least some memory for my cell phone's audio player. (Hey! Black Friday is coming. Maybe I'll buy some this year, if the sales are good enough and I don't sleep through my alarm.) But there's some pretty good stuff out there, even if it's hard to find. Here's a run down of my current must-listen list:

  • Ask a Ninja - Um, hello? Random advice from ninjas? Ninature golfing and ninterships? Okay, so it's not informative, but whatever. It's still hilarious and the video is fairly well done. :D I highly recommend the "Pirates 2" review--even if you haven't seen the movie.
  • BYU Recent Talks - For obvious reasons.
  • Grammar Girl - More like "Usage Girl" but I can see the need to go for the alliteration. Anyway, Grammar Girl covers all sorts of fun usage issues. This week it was whether "woman" can be used as an adjective, as in "Nancy Pelosi is the first woman speaker of the house." (Answer: No. You wouldn't say call someone a "man physician." Plus we have a perfectly good adjective for this already: female. I didn't used to care about this until I created my amazing handout on sexist language for ELang 322. Now I find it very interesting . . . .) The podcast is very well done, and she does her research on usage issues. I may not switch from using "that" to "who" because of it, but it's still interesting to know.
  • Mr. Manners - Run by the same people as Grammar Girl, and it's just as high quality. Very interesting perspectives on manners. Only two episodes so far. The first--on toasting--was academically interesting, although not very applicable, but I highly recommend the second episode, which is on (of all things) holding doors open! Mr. Manners expresses my view on the subject much more clearly than I was able to. He even discusses how to deal with "anti-chivalry doors!" (Apparently, don't bother, unless it's a date or the person is unable to open the door themselves. Then, don't rush for the second door; simply say, "Please, allow me," so that the person knows your intentions. Hyper-adorable!)
  • Pottercast - Yes, a 90-minute news program every week about Harry Potter. I bet you didn't know there was that much to say. Oh, there is. Plus, it has the inestimable John Noe. Horcri, indeed.
And in un-podcast-related media, check out Will It Blend. My uncle is representing this guy in a copyright lawsuit, and his videos are hilarious. I really like the golf balls one. :D

12 November 2006

Knocking on the Door

I had an interesting idea for a short story in Relief Society today. It's a sort of allegory using passing a course as a metaphor for faith, works, and the atonement. I know, it sounds cliche, but at least I'm writing about what I know. :D

Anyway, it's turning out fairly well, but this story has had the annoying complication of forcing me to work through my evasion of going to see professors. Basically, I hate asking for help or dealing with people who know more than me. Observe this only slightly fictionalized chain of thought that goes through my head when I go to see a professor:

Later that day, she pulled out her syllabus and found the location of the instructor’s office. She circled it determinately with her ballpoint pen and set forth to the office building. As she walked down the stern hallway, important professors rushed back and forth on their academic errands. Bulletin boards hung on the walls, explaining the research projects of various professors, but the language was so complicated that she didn’t understand a word of it. Even the jokes and comic strips—posted on various professors’ doors to make them more inviting—only confused her.

And then, suddenly, there it was: the instructor’s door. She reached out her hand to knock, but then paused. She felt so out of place. There weren’t any other students here, only the professors. They all knew so much more than her that it seemed hopeless that she should even attempt to reach their level. Too much had happened before she had even been born—eons and eons of history, of experiment, of thought—so much material and not enough time to learn it all. How could they possibly expect her to sort through all the knowledge of humanity and, in addition, create something new? Compared to the problems of the centuries, the instructor would think all of her questions and worries so small and insignificant. He probably couldn’t remember what it was like not to know these things, and it would be a waste of his time to teach her. If she couldn’t understand these little things, she was just a lost cause, not worth the training that it would take to get her to a higher level. Who actually visited the instructor anyway? She was in college. She was supposed to be old enough to do things on her own. It was her responsibility. Knocking on the door would mean admitting she couldn’t do it, that she was a failure, that she was not prepared.

Just as she was about to turn away, the door swung backward beneath her hand. Standing in the doorway was the instructor, with a knowing, but friendly, smile on his face.

“I’ve been waiting for someone to come,” he said, motioning her inside. Embarrassed to be caught in her hesitation, she slumped into the seat in front of the instructor’s desk. He sat back in the swivel chair behind the desk, leaning back with his hands in his lap. “You know, I sit in my office so many hours a day, and yet so few of my students seem to find their way up here.”

“I didn’t want you to know I couldn’t do it on my own.”

“You weren’t meant to do it on your own.”

Now, I do usually get the jokes on the professors' doors, but the rest is pretty much true. Sometimes I think it would have been so much easier to have been born in an earlier century, when there was less to learn and more to discover. And I know the professors are really there to help us learn, but I simply can't get it drilled into my mind. Going to see a professor always seems like an admission of failure on my part. It's like a bluffing game in which I finally have to admit I don't have all the right cards. And I hate it. I guess it's mostly pride, since I build my identity on knowing things. :D

Anyone else follow this train of thought? Any suggestions on asking for help?

10 November 2006

Middle Woman

Ah-Cheu was a woman of the great kingdom of Ch'in, a land of hills and valleys, a land of great wealth and dire poverty. But Ah-Cheu was a middle person, neither rich nor poor, neither old nor young, and her husband's farm was half in the valley and half on the hill. Ah-Cheu has a sister older than her, and a sister younger than her, and one lived thirty leagues to the north, and the other lived thirty leagues to the south. "I am a middle woman," Ah-Cheu boasted once, but her husband's mother rebuked her, saying, "Evil comes to the middle, and good goes out to the edges."
-"Middle Woman," Orson Scott Card
I guess the real thing I was getting at in my "Insecurities of a Jack" post is that lately I feel like a middle woman, moreso at this point in my life than at other times. I'm neither entirely ignorant nor astoundingly intellectual, neither committed science geek or philosophical humanities student, neither flamingly liberal or staunchly conservative. I don't read the cannon classics or the pulp fiction, but in between. I'm envious of those who can be obsessive fans of something, for I find myself on the borders between fandom and normality. I am a middle woman.

It's not that I don't have firm opinions, because I do. It's just that most of them happen to be firmly in the middle. Everything I've learned has lead me to believe that's where the truth is (see the Circle Theory). But to the people out on the edges, I appear wishy-washy and bland.

In theory, it's a great place to be. The middle is more objective, the middle can try anything, the middle can camoflage itself. But it feels so fake. I'm on the fringes of so many different communities, but part of none of them. Gamers, anime fans, science researchers, English researchers, high culture, low culture, political culture--I've got enough of each to understand what they are talking about, but I never really get out there and commit myself. I balance on the edges, watching and observing.

Which brings me to the excerpt from "Middle Woman." I love the story overall, but I've always wondered about that line: "Evil comes to the middle, and good goes out to the edges." It simply doesn't make sense to me. Good comes to all the edges, no matter how different they are, leaving out only the middle, which is a little like all of them?

And then I wonder if it has something to do with the parable of the unjust steward. Am I only in the middle because I lack the zeal or courage to settle on a direction and move out towards it? Does evil come to the middle because it is afraid?

09 November 2006


Hey, you! Yes, you. I know you're reading this blog. Or rather, I don't, and that's why I want some information out of you.

Basically, I spent an hour or two converting my blog over to Blogger-Beta. While doing so, I got to reread a lot of my old posts, and now I'm in the mood to move the furniture around in my metaphorical blogging room. I'm doing some brainstorming about the nature of this blog--reconsidering what it's all about--and I'm looking for some feedback from you, my presumably existant readers.

The main idea that I've been toying with is creating some sort of regular schedule of topics. For instance, Tuesdays have already informally become BYU devotional/forum days, when I comment on the BYU speech of the day. Literary essays and science/technology essays could fill another two days. Saturdays might be for serial long essays, including some of my dwindling essay series like "In Defense of the English Major" and "Thoughts on Homosexuality," along with some new topics I've been thinking about like "A Mormon Literature" and "Storyingtelling and Science."

But are you guys at all interested in hearing about more stuff like that? How about my more esoteric posts--the ones focused on my life rather than on idealistic issues? I sometimes wonder if anyone cares to read those or if you simply find them boring. Or maybe it's the other way around, and you'd rather hear more about me and less about my philosophies.

So, fire me off a comment. At the very least, just write a three word comment letting me know you're lurking out there. I recognize that the point of the internet is that I don't know if you read this or not, but the curiosity is overwhelming me. Do it 'cause you love me? Please? If you're feeling up to it, you could also let me know what you think of my blog:

  • What do you like best? What needs to change?
  • What do you think about a regular schedule of topics? Good? Boring?
  • What topics do you enjoy hearing about from me?
By the way, you don't have to be a Blogger user to comment. You can simply select the "other" option on the comment page. :D

Oh dear. Posts like this always seem so awkward. What if no one replies? X-(

On to the Beta

Hey, Blogger Beta finally decided to work! Now I can have tags! Hurray, hurray. Being the organization freak that I am, I feel the need to go back and add tags to old posts, so I apologize in advance to anyone subscribed to the feed. It may get a little repetitive this weekend. :D There's not too many posts--118--so it shouldn't take terribly long.

08 November 2006

Insecurities of a Jack

There are only two kinds of people who are really fascinating: people who know absolutely everything, and people who know absolutely nothing.
- Oscar Wilde
Ever since I was five years old, I've known what I wanted to do with my life. No, not in terms of a career or practical goals--if you've been reading this blog, you may have noticed I still have no idea what I want in that area. I'm talking about a bigger, more general picture. I have one of those: when I started school, I decided my goal was to know everything.

In the ensuing years, I've been confronted many times with the fact that this goal is not precisely realistic. But that hasn't stopped me from trying. Evidence: majoring in Chemistry and English, watching PBS all the time, surfing Wikipedia, and reading *gasp* non-fiction in my spare time.

And in general, I like my way of doing things--gathering random bits of knowledge and stringing them together so they catch the light of truth in new ways. I'm personally not in favor of our current system of education, wherein we teach people more and more about less and less. In the end, society ends up with a bunch of people who excel in their one little area, but are so entrenched in their dogma that they have difficultly seeing the connections and applications to other areas. And since the rest of us are equally busy in our little cells of knowledge, we can't learn from anything the others find. It seems to me to be a very inefficient method of discovering knowledge. (Yes, I realize there's some necessity for specialization in order to get in deep enough to really push the envelope, but I think we take it too far.)

Gathering knowledge from all these different areas has allowed me to think and learn in so many different ways. However, there's a definite problem with being a jack of all trades, and master of none. And that is that I feel very insecure about my knowledge. I know just enough in almost any area (excepting perhaps music) to know exactly how ignorant I actually am. I feel fine holding a conversation with someone who isn't familiar with the subject, but if I'm forced into a conversation in someone else's area of expertise--almost everything is--then I'm junk. I'm good at thinking about all sorts of problems, but I lack the well of facts necessary to match wits with someone who knows the territory. Sometimes I can get around this problem by drawing analogies to other areas of knowledge that they aren't as familiar with, but sometimes not.

It's quite disconcerting because I know I'm a knowledgeable, intelligent person, and yet so many times, I find myself stuck on the listening end of a rant because I lack the specialization to combat it. So irritating, yet I still feel no desire to specialize. Somewhere inside I'm absolutely convinced that I just need more time to gather more facts, that I'll eventually find an end to my quest for knowledge of everything.

But it seems an awfully long way away.

07 November 2006

Feeling Hypocritical

Oh man. I feel like such a hypocrite having to write this, but NaNoWriMo is all shot to hell. After all of my harassing people to do it with me, I've had to cut and run. I feel sort of lame about that, but I promise I have a good excuse. First, I've been sick all weekend, which killed the majority of my writing time. I'm so miserably far behind that I despair of catching up. And second, well, there's a boy. But that's all I'm going to say about that. Posting personal stuff on a blog is always odd, so if you want to know more, you'll just have to ask. Plus, he'll probably read this. :P

In a way, I'm sort of relieved about this. As I started writing a novel, I just didn't get the same sort of spark that I've been getting lately from essay writing. I kept looking wistfully at my blog, wanting to write some essays even though I'd sworn it off for NaNoWriMo. I guess it's my fate to be a non-fiction writer.

So to those of you still going on in NaNoWriMo, do good for me. Er, well. Do well. Darn usage class. I can't even use good as an adverb anymore.

On to a second reason I'm feeling hypocritical. I didn't vote today. Spare me the rotten tomatoes. It feels terribly hypocritical after my rant about voting in the primaries. The problem is that I'm still registered to vote at home in SLC. I was busy all day until 5 pm, and given current amounts of homework, there was no way I could justify spending two hours and a quarter tank of gas to get up there.

I guess I really should just register to vote down in Utah County, but that's my Salt Lake County pride showing through. Registering down here would be too much of an affront to my identity. I am not a Happy Valley person; I'm just not.

Well, now that I feel thoroughly despicable, I guess I can get on with writing those essays.

01 November 2006

NaNo Sentence of the Day #1

The opening sentence of my novel:

"The first thing that made Kira realize today would be different was the smell coming from the kitchen tents."

In good news, I totally had a brain storm in terms of plot, characters, and all that this morning during New Testament. Hurrah! I was getting a more than a little worried that I'd have nothing to write about! Move over, Necessity. Arbitrary deadlines are the new mother of invention.