28 February 2007

You Might be a Busy College Student if . . .

  • You're excited that you only have 30 pages left until you're done with your reading in David Copperfield . . . for last Monday.
  • The entire sum of groceries you've bought in the past two weeks consists of two packets of peppermint hot chocolate and a bag of black jelly beans. (Doesn't anyone else like those?)
  • You wake up in the morning and can't remember when you went to sleep.
  • Halfway through Organic Chemistry, you try to figure out if there's some discreet way you could sneak out and just take a nap.
  • You try to justify that fact that you're eating two meals at Taco Bell today because at least . . . okay, so you can't really justify that. But you do it anyway.
  • There's a knot in your back from falling asleep on top of David Copperfield. Curse Dickens and his large novels.
  • You're frantically searching your blog archives for some old creative writing piece that you could workshop for class today instead of trying to write something new.
  • You don't know how you're going to survive next week when you have a new class for second block. No more Productive Tuesdays.

23 February 2007

A Poem about Happiness

My mouth waters at
the trail of moist fudge brownies
already eaten

Editing Life

So, in the past 24 hours, I've had two people complain to me that I can't keep cheating by posting only Nibley homework assignments to my blog. Although I object to the distinction between my real life and my school life--the Nibleyesque musings are mostly things I would have written about anyway--I supposed I must submit to the will of the readers. I can't be angering all three of you and ending my promising blogging career, now can I?

I guess it's a fair evaluation that my blog has been consisting of mostly homework lately. Even the post on Japan was something I wrote on the discussion board for my study abroad class. I'm blaming the recent lack of blog posts on a recent increase in real life--the two seem to be in an equilibrium which is currently being driven towards life. In addition to the five blog posts in my head, I still have two draft posts languishing in the depths of blogger--"A Mormon Literature" (this one is from Christmas break!) and the final installment of "Problem of Perfection." But I'm busy. I've started a writing group with Ben, Joni, and Marisa. (The name Neo-Inklings still sounds too pretentious for me, but I guess it'll do for now.) I'm also working on a presentation for the Rocky Mountain Peer Tutoring Conference, expanding my essay on Mormon rhetoric for potential publication, and preparing to go to England this spring. (Darn, I still need to get my passport! I better do that today. I hear you need 6-8 weeks, and I don't want to pay the expedite fee.) Oh, and I'm spending several hours a day with George. (No emoticon is big enough for the smile this causes.)

So I came across this great post on zen habits this morning called "Editing Your Life." I saw that list of commitment categories and what did I do? Go out an make a spreadsheet of everything I'm doing right now. (Seriously, my obsession with Excel borders on totally creepy.) It's nice to see everything I'm doing in one place. No wonder I feel so disorganized though! With that many things going on, of course I'm going to drop the ball on a few of them. Lately, it's been the wrong ones though, and I need to rectify that--exercise needs to rise to the surface again, since I'm planning on surviving hiking all over England, and according to my journal, George and I have still only been on two dates. Not good.

I think I'd be able to get everything done if I didn't mind being completely busy all the time. Unfortunately, I believe downtime is super important. This is one of the major dichotomies of my life: I want to be militarily disciplined so I can accomplish everything, but I also value the serenity of taking time to just be. My whole life, I've envied people who are hyper-organized (like Ben, for example) who can, by regulating their time like a soup Nazi, accomplish everything and the kitchen sink. I have this perverse fascination with over-organization. Pathetically enough, I envy Harold Crick from Stranger than Fiction--to have the discipline to do the same things every day. (I've tried to create similar patterns for myself before. Thank goodness I'm too . . . me to stick to them.) I read Multiple Choice--a book on a girl with OCD--at least five times during high school, not to remind me that I shouldn't be obsessive, but to look for new tips on how to be more obsessive.

(Tangent: Great book, by the way. I still love the main gimmick of the book, which is introducing forced randomness into your life by making a multiple choice decision every day.

Example: What to wear to school:
A) A normal choice, one that you might do anyway. (Jeans and a tee)
B) Something just plain dumb. (Pajamas)
C) Mean, completely out of character. (Junior bridesmaid gown)
D) Charitable, sacrificial choice. (Old black pants-- will donate new ones to Salvation Army)

See? Doesn't that sound like fun? Okay, it's fun until the end of the book . . . which I won't spoil for you. Maybe it'll work out better if I figure out something to displace the mean choice.)

Something in my brain thinks that such order and control over my life would be a good thing. But then my heart tells me that life with that much order is hardly life.

There. You happy? As Marisa says, Miracle! Two posts in one day!

And I spent so long writing this post that I forgot to clock in for work. Priorities.

Come, Let us Reason Together: A Nibleyesque Musing

I have one thing to say for the readings this week: Nibley’s “Beyond Politics” is pure genius! I especially enjoyed Nibley’s elaboration on how God wants us to understand the plan of salvation—how, unlike Satan, He cares to negotiate with us until we understand. “God is willing to discuss things with men as an equal.” So often, the world sees living a religion as necessitating blind faith, willfully ignoring the conflicts we see in the world. But this is so backward from what is real that it’s ridiculous. It’s the philosophies of the world that tell us to accept things as they are, not to ask why, but to simply accept that it is. “That’s just life,” the world tells us. It points out the huge gaping dilemmas, cries how incomprehensible the world is, and retreats back into ignorance. Heavenly Father, on the other hand, wants us to ask why, forces us to look at the tough questions and demand answers.

I think the world sometimes avoids religion because we are, as C.S. Lewis said, afraid that if we actually look for God, we would actually find Him, which means a great deal of responsibility. I’ve had friends come up against problems with the Church that they see as irreconcilable—whether it be why women don’t have the priesthood, why their parents got divorced, or why their loved one had to suffer or die. To me, it seemed that the only reason the problems remained for them is because they refused to demand answers from the source. They continued to seek out worldly philosophies on the subject, which they hoped might explain the problem but which inevitably brought more and more questions into their lives. They had laid down their scriptures and their prayers, which is where they ought to have been seeking their answers all along. When I find seemingly unanswerable questions, it’s often because I’m not looking in the right place for the answers.

Another great corollary of this discussion is that deciding to live a righteous life does not mean that all discussion ceases. As Nibley points out, even in the beginning, there was a counsel in heaven. In the Church, we sometimes portray this key discussion as more of a gathering for a one-way dispensation from God, but I think it’s important to notice the collaborative nature of the word. Nibley casts an interesting light on this: “Satan was not cast out for disagreeing, but for attempting to resort to violence when he found himself outvoted.” I’m not sure that I quite buy it doctrinally, but it certain fits into Nibley’s picture of the universe as an essential collaboration between God and men. After all, we believe our intelligences to be equally eternal with God’s; He’s simply further ahead in the plan than we are. Why shouldn’t we all have had a say in how things work?

In contrast with the godly reasoning Nibley presents in “Beyond Politics,” the worldly philosophies exposed in “The Way of the ‘Intellectuals’” look like the pathetic counterfeits that they are. Rather than equality and plainness of God’s “come, let us reason together,” the figures Nibley describes from the Book of Mormon rely on power, charisma, and elitism to make their points. If you disagree with them, it’s merely your lack of judgment. There’s no room for disputation as there is in the kingdom of God. It’s amazing just how plain the difference is when you put these philosophies side-by-side. It’s one of the reasons I’m glad to be studying at BYU. The “open” liberalism espoused by other colleges is actually more confining than they think—no universal truths mean the stability must be made up by embracing current trends. At BYU, however, being united in the gospel gives us a firm foundation for exploring all areas of truth.

18 February 2007

The Problem of Perfection: Part III

So I figured out why I had a sudden influx of random people a few weeks ago: I was highlighted on The Archipelago Digest, an LDS blog review/digest cool-thing. Well, belated hello to you all (assuming some of you are still reading). I'm not sure I like the pressure of being classified as part of the Bloggernacle, although I guess I self-sorted anyway. I feel like I should be blogging about more church topics, when lately my blogging has been skewed towards writerly topics. I guess I don't like being confined to one subject area. Well, take me or leave me, I guess. :D

As a result of finding the Archipelago link, I've renewed my attempt at being more involved in the Bloggernacle. And when I say "involved" I mean "added a bunch of random feeds to my Google reader to see if I like them." (I'll post some sort of review in a few weeks.) One post on Zelophehad's Daughters caught my eye: Why I Hate Mormons. If that provocative title doesn't get you to read it, it's basically a discussion of dealing with the imperfection of Church members, and particularly Church leaders. Since I've been meaning to deal with this topic anyway (as part of my Problem of Perfection mini-series-whatever), I thought I'd post my discussion here. Mostly, I'm just wanting to organize my thoughts before treading into the comments section, where there is no edit button.

First off, although it's bad form, I'd like to start with a disclaimer. This is a big spherical chicken. Like, KFC family meal size. There are tons of situations where what I'm saying would need severe modification, especially in instances of abuse. But, as is usually the policy on this blog, try to ignore the exceptions and focus on the general philosophy instead. Good? Good. Moving on.

Okay, so I don't know anything about the author of the post--as I said I'm new to following this blog--but to me, the story sounds little lopsided and out of proportion. I try to be objective when I write, but I know that I color my actions a little, especially when I write rants against other people. It's natural to want to make ourselves out to be innocent--it makes for a better case. When I read this woman's story, I get the feeling that there's a definite amount of bias, probably because of the lack of admission of possible fault in the author. But, as I said, I don't know the details, so I can't really talk about the specific matter.

What I can talk about it this: I find it interesting that we (members of the church generally, and so-called liberal Mormons specifically) seem to think it's okay for us to condemn others for condemning us. The normal kinds of mistakes, we expect others to tolerate and be patient with, but the sin of intolerance is an automatic out. It's as if somehow intolerance is less important for us to forgive than more conventional faults like lying, cheating, and stealing. Which is clearly ridiculous. The atonement, and its corollary that we are required to forgive all men, covers both active sins and faults of character, like closed-mindedness and discrimination.

Just because you get called to be a bishop or Relief Society president doesn't make you perfectly capable. Theoretically, the further up the "chain of command" you go, the more nearly perfect the people are. But I would be cautious about saying even that much. Take Hugh Nibley's grandfather, Charles Nibley, who was the Presiding Bishop. Arguably, that's high up enough to hold him to a pretty high standard. Yet, on his death bed, he told Hugh if an angel came through the door, he would jump out the window because of the things he had done in order to be successful in business. Clearly, the Lord's standard for calling people is not ours. Of course it's not. It seems to me that this idea of a "minimum standard" of perfection for Church callings is largely illusory, or at least considerably lower than most of us set it.

And this difference in standards causes problems for us, because people in Church callings, even those of high authority, are far from perfect. This often causes pain. I'm not saying that it shouldn't. Imperfection hurts, especially when it comes from people we expect to be able to love or trust. The only place it hurts worse than in Church leadership is in our own families, as CS Lewis discusses in The Four Loves: because our families and our leaders theoretically love us and have stewardship over us, we grow to expect a sort of mind reading, unfair though it may be, and when we don't get it, we get hurt.

However, as I see it, there are two ways of looking at the imperfection of people in the Church, and for that matter in the world in general. Either you can say, as Lady Amalthea seems to have, "These people are wrong, ignorant, and stupid. They're hopeless, and if they are the best the church has to offer, it's unfortunate that I have to be a part of it. How can God allow these people to do these things as his representatives? Wouldn't it be much better to have the Gospel without the Church?" For me, this way seems extremely unhealthy, because it implies that idea of a "tolerable level" of perfection, when in fact, from God's perspective, even the best of us make very little progress in this life.

Here's my counter-statement to the above attitude. I can't claim to always apply it, but I try to remind myself of it whenever I am offended by someone's imperfection. "These people have probably never dealt with someone like me/a situation like this before, so I can see how it might be hard for them. Even though these people hold offices in the church, that doesn't mean they are perfect. God does believe in agency, after all: theirs and mine. He will call them, but He will also allow them to make the choices. I need to help them understand and communicate with me so that they can better deal with these situations, and I can better learn why they act this way. From this problem, we can all progress as children of God. "

In other words, we should look at the imperfection of the saints as a tool rather than a problem. Our intolerance of other's intolerance merely throws into relief our own intolerance. We need to bump up against these problems in order to grow in godly patience and love ourselves. The imperfection of the people in the Church is not an obstacle to the gospel. It is the gospel.

(For related thoughts, see Paradox of Tolerance, or posts tagged "tolerance.")

16 February 2007

Darkness and Lightness: A Nibleyesque Musing

“To Open the Last Dispensation: Moses Chapter 1” was a very different essay from what I’m used to reading. The comparison between Moses and other apocryphal accounts of confrontations with Satan was certainly interesting, but hard to follow because of the two-column format. It’s interesting to see that the Lord has spoken to men in the same pattern since the beginning of time: they receive a manifestation from God, are tempted by Satan, overcome him, and receive a vision of the eternities as a reward for their faithfulness.

I wonder how this model might be compared to Joseph Smith’s experiences with God. Clearly, the First Vision doesn’t quite fit into this pattern—Joseph is attacked by Satan before receiving a witness from God—but I sense there are some similarities. It really disappoints me when people in recounting the first vision avoid mentioning the evil spirit that nearly overpowered Joseph, as in the Church’s recently released video on the First Vision. For it seems to me that an encounter with evil is almost as important to becoming a prophet as a revelation from God because realizing the reality of Satan is important in being able to adequately warn the people of his tactics. As it says in the Book of Mormon, one of Satan’s greatest weapons in these days is to convince men that he is no devil, for there is none. There is a imminent danger in denying the reality of evil in the world.

Hugh Nibley’s humorous skit on BYU, “Shalamar,” was almost as hilarious today as I’m sure it was back then. The comments about the student’s dress—modest in name only—were dead on to attitudes I see sometimes on campus. I find it frankly amazing that people took themselves lightly enough in that day to be able to put up with Nibley’s cutting humor. Now at BYU, it seems as though we have to worry about everything offending someone; we take everything ten times more seriously than it was meant. One thinks of the recent disaster of the Cougarettes' dance to “Come Thou Fount” which sparked a contentious letter campaign in the reader’s forum of the Daily Universe. In fact, the editorials of the DU are a perfect example of what can happen when we take ourselves more seriously than the gospel. People are always becoming offended, accusing the other side of being the devil even on such non-issues as parking or rolling backpacks.

We all could learn from Nibley’s balance between taking the gospel seriously and laughing at gospel culture. I love watching the skit comedy group on campus, Divine Comedy, but several people I’ve taken to the show have been quite offended by their humor. Particularly, there was a skit about an overzealous return missionary going on a date with a girl which really offended my friend. In the skit, the missionary refused to drink Sprite (“don’t you know they’re owed by Coke?!”) and wanted to have a table facing east (“just in case”). My friend was certain that this was completely blasphemous, making fun of the Word of Wisdom and waiting for the Second Coming. I’m not so certain. These things aren’t doctrines, but cultural practices. One of my favorites is the skit making fun of Sacrament meeting talk clich├ęs and improving upon them. When I watch it, it doesn’t make me pay less attention in Sacrament meeting. Rather, it makes me think of all the conventions we have to keep us occupied, that perhaps prevent the inspiration of the Spirit from getting into our lives. Humor is a way of waking us up, saying, “is this really what you believe, or are you just doing it because everyone else is?” It separates the culture of Mormonism from the doctrines, which allows us to keep our focus on what really matters.

15 February 2007

Constant Change

Hey, I've been playing around with the blog a bit. New template, as you can see. But also I added links to the comment and post feeds on the side there under my profile. Hurray for figuring out how to get blogger to work better! Now you can more easily follow the spherical-chicken-ness of my blog. :D If you don't use a feed reader yet, try out Google Reader. I'm addicted.

Speaking of, I added the Google Reader widget to my sidebar which will keep you informed of interesting things that I'm reading.

13 February 2007

Orientalist Yearnings

Right now, John Bennion, the professor over my study abroad, is in Japan visiting his son, and he's posting journal entries to blackboard (BYU's classroom software) to keep us updated on his doing. Reading about his adventures in Japan is making me totally jealous. Especially that he gets to see the new (well, old to Japan apparently, but new to us) Miyazaki film, Whisper of the Heart. Miyazaki + John Denver = bliss! I absolutely adore Miyazaki, especially Princess Mononoke and Howl's Moving Castle. I really like the whole anime look, and also the Japanese style of storytelling--very indirect and subtle. Ha ha, anime and subtle in the same sentence. In most cases, not true, but for Miyazaki, definitely. :D I wonder if there are anime versions of any of the novels we are reading . . . .

Japan holds an interesting place in my mind. I don't know that much about it, yet I've fallen in love with the few over-romanticized scraps that I have. Memoirs of a Geisha has recently become one of my favorite movies. I watched it three times in one week before school started. Inaccurate as it may be, the beauty and the mystery just draw me in. It leaves me with this strange longing to abandon my English and chemistry programs and just fly out in my time machine to a Japan in the 1920's and wear beautiful kimonos

For those of you who don't know, I'm now officially dating George, who went on his mission to Japan, which doesn't help my Japanese obsession at all. We went out to eat at Tepanyaki, where I finally learned how to use chopsticks properly: absolute ecstasy! And the fact that the food was over-spiced to appeal to American tastebuds and the samurai swords out front were probably some cheap knock-offs didn't bother me at all. In fact, George tells me it's illegal to sell real samurai swords in Japan anymore. Interesting.

It's kind of like orientalism all over again, but I somehow don't feel guilty about it.

In summary, I'm totally jealous of John. He should bring us all back some Pocky or something. I can eat a whole box of pocky. No trouble.

12 February 2007

Looking at the Face of Evil

There's been a major shooting in downtown SLC. See KSL news for more and updates. A calm, cold-blooded shooting, apparently.

I'm glad this doesn't happen very often in SLC. As the KSL newscasters on my radio just reminded me, the last major shooting in SLC was the Triad Center shooting in 1999.

I know that some people would avoid listening to "bad" news like this. I'm pretty sure Kami's getting annoyed with my listening to the radio. Not very uplifting, as she says. I'm sort of a news junkie (not as much as some), and people often complain to me about the nature of the stuff that comes through on the news. You hear this complaint all over the place: there's nothing good on the news anymore.

And I totally agree with them. It's hard to hear. It's depressing. It's evil.

But I think it's also important. Joseph Smith said we must seek not only the uplifting, but also "contemplate the darkest abyss" in order to know truth. All that is required for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing. And we can't know what we should do unless we look the facts in the face. Good should not have to work from rumors and second hand information while evil unabashedly pursues gruesome reality. Yes, things are harsh, but we must not fear evil. We must be sober and quick to observe.

Also, to me, it's about being there with the people. It's a philosophy I gained from Louis Lowry's The Giver: terrible experiences become easier to bear when we share them with an entire community. The community in The Giver encapsulates all their painful memories into one person in order to keep their lives happy and carefree. When the painful memories are first released back into the community, it hurts. There's mass panic. But then there is discussion, there is comfort, there is calm. It is wrong to build walls around our mundane lives to keep out any word of hardship, tragedy, or evil. We are commanded by Christ to bear one another's burdens, and I for one believe listening to the news is part of that duty.

On Personality

In my reading of Wuthering Heights for my study abroad class, I've been thinking a lot about the nature of personality: what is it exactly, how much are you born into, and how much can you change? Quite a few of the characters in WH (Heathcliff and Catherine, in particular) seem to have decided that they would not fit in in heaven because their nature is inherently contrary to it. They've seen their society's vision of heaven (the Lintons), and they don't like it, so they aren't going to even try for it.

I see people in the Church sometimes making this mistake, apologizing for the fact that they don't fit the Molly Mormon/Peter Priesthood cast that they assume will be those going to heaven. Whether by virtue of their past experiences, their political party, or their hobbies, they set themselves up as outside those who can expect exaltation. Even worse is when we place others into these categories. We assume that in order to become like Christ, we must lose our individual nature, our personality.

A couple reasons why this is bad: First, it places a limitation on the Atonement which doesn't actually exist. Second, it denies the individual worth of each soul. God created us to be unique from each other. What would be the purpose of doing so if life was supposed to smash that uniqueness out of us? But more concerning than either of these, it implies that the gospel creates a bunch of cookie-cutter people, that you have to be a certain type of person to participate fully in the gospel. Of course, this is true to an extent. We have to do a lot of the same things--you must be keeping the commandments and doing your best to grow closer to God--but I personally believe there's a lot of room in the gospel for personality.

My conclusion about personality is an echo of Plato's allegory of the soul. Personality traits are neither good nor bad. They just are. Or rather, they are both, having both a good and evil aspect plus a will to direct or choose between them. The gospel is not about choosing between being yourself and being Christ. It's about choosing which version of yourself to be. This, to me, is the meaning of "making weak things become strong." Our weaknesses, our personality flaws, are not to be removed by the atonement, but transformed into what they were always intended to be. As CS Lewis says in The Great Divorce, in seeking for heaven, we find fully realized the spark that we thought was worth clinging to in hell. And again, in Matthew 16:25: if we are willing to let go of what we think of as ourselves, we find that we become more unique, more infinitely personal. But in clinging on to the shreds of our self, we lose virtue and uniqueness until at last we are dully all alike in the gray coating of vice.

09 February 2007

Academic Crisis

Depressing realization today: I need only three more classes to finish the English major (besides what I'm taking this semester and Spring term): Shakespeare, Diverse Traditions, and the Senior Course. And after this semester, I would officially have enough classes to be done with the chemistry minor. And I'm done with all my GE. Which means I could spend all of next year just taking fun and interesting classes that I've never gotten around to, like astronomy, art history, more editing, more rhetoric, philosophy, computers in the humanities, and maybe even some poli-sci. I could get a second minor. Or even two. It would be pure bliss.

Except for I'm not a chemistry minor. I'm a chemistry major.

What in the world is my problem? Why do I feel compelled to do a double major even though the thought of trying to pack the six remaining courses into one year makes me want to cry? Because I really don't care about doing the work for my science classes. I enjoy the knowledge, but I don't care too much about the classes. At all. It's drudgery weighing me down.

The main thing that keeps me from considering dropping the double major is that I wouldn't know what to do without it. I've kind of build this identity around being a double major, and I'm afraid to let it go. How would I introduce myself to people if I didn't have a double major? What kind of psycho does a major for the sake of identity? Me, apparently.

Now that that's out in the open, I also have to say that I creepily enjoyed my O-chem test last night. Bizarre.

Learning and the Spirit: A Nibleyesque Musing

“Zeal without Knowledge” is without a doubt one of my favorite essays ever. The replacement of true knowledge with blind trust in the Spirit is one of my main concerns for the modern Church. Too many times I have heard people deride the importance of preparing for teaching in the Church because they want to let the Spirit guide the lesson. I think this is not only foolish and lazy, but strictly against the way God and the Spirit work. Undoubtedly, listening to the whisperings of the Holy Ghost is an important part of our belief. We know that man cannot know everything, and that God has many designs for us which we may not anticipate. Thus we must rely on the guidance of the Spirit to lead us in the right paths. However, this does not mean we should rely on the Spirit for things we could and should do ourselves. Just as the Lord says “it is not meet that I should command in all things” (D&C 58:26), it is not meet that we should wait for him to teach us all things. In gathering and synthesizing knowledge, the Lord commands us to actively seek learning, not just to let it passively wash over us.

And though we are to “seek learning . . . also by faith” (D&C 109:7), I believe it will do us little good unless we have the learning sought by study to go along with it. In the process of learning, the Spirit is more of a director than a worker—we must put ourselves fully into the work of gathering and making knowledge, and only then can the Spirit direct us to the insights he would give us. As someone once said, the Lord won't move a parked car. The Lord waits for us to knock, but the process of knocking is not, as Oliver Cowdery found out in D&C 9, merely asking for wisdom and waiting for God to tell us what to do. It is throwing ourselves into the work, constantly listening for the promptings of the Spirit, but at the same time being “anxiously engaged in a good cause, [doing] many things of [our] own free will” (D&C 58:27).

Back to the idea of preparing for Church talks, would not the Spirit be better able to enlighten our minds to new truths if we sat down and put an intensive amount of effort into studying out a doctrine we think we already understand? I think that much of inspiration is lost because we assume we have already sufficiently “treasured up in [our] minds continually the words of life” (D&C 84:85), when in fact it is a process we can never finish. There is an infinite amount of knowledge to be learned out there, and we should not be complacent with the small portion we have obtained. Nibley’s own scholarship is testament to this principle: though he was extremely widely read, he never felt as though he knew sufficient to simply coast along by the Spirit. He continued to seek out more books to read, new ideas and new ways to say them. And throughout all of his study, he maintains the inspiration of the Spirit in his ideas. Just because he was synthesizing his own ideas did not mean he had shut out the ideas of the Spirit, as seems to be the common misconception.

Nibley has some interesting perspectives on man’s relationship to nature in “Subduing the Earth.” I’ve often wondered exactly what was meant by the command to “subdue the earth and have dominion over it.” I like Nibley’s picture of man as a gracious lord or host over the earth, responsible for ensuring the comfort and improvement of everything in it. I’m still not certain how I feel about his idea that respect for life means we shouldn’t eat meat. Since we believe all things were created spiritually before they were created physically, it seems an arbitrary distinction to draw the line between using plants but not animals. If animals can be said to be equally valuable with man, why not plants with animals? And then again, why use rocks and minerals, which also have a spiritual creation of a sort? I’m not sure that valuing and respecting life means ignoring its usefulness. It’s an issue I have still to work out in my own thoughts, and Nibley has certainly caused me to think about it more.

08 February 2007

Not a Post

I will put some words down in this little text box and format them like a post. That way, when people read them, they will think they are reading a post.

But they're not.

06 February 2007

Predictions I Need to Make for HP7

So I'm thinking it would be sweet to do some sort of coordinated weekly Harry Potter blog challenge to count down to HP7 being released, the idea being to force us all to put our predictions down in print so that we can laugh at ourselves later when JKR totally fools us all. And to participate in the greatest event in English literature in several decades. :D

Of course, there are more than 20 weeks until it comes out, so we'll need to find a lot of topics, or start it considerably later. Anyway, so here's my brainstorm. Please comment with anything else you'd like to see me ramble on/want to ramble on yourself. I'm trying to place them in order of increasing importance, so that the most hotly contested issues are near the release date.

  • Teachers - new DADA teacher? is Sluggy staying?
  • Percy - will he ever stop being a prat?
  • The Dursleys - what's their fitting end? does Dudley get a Wii or not?
  • Sirius - do we see him again? ever?
  • Weasleys - does one of them die? what about F&G's shop?
  • Minor Character Bonanza - Luna? Neville? Lav-Lav?
  • The 'Ships (general) - who gets together with whom in The Final Chapter (TFC)?
  • Ron/Hermione - what happens to/between them?
  • Harry/Ginny - is it Spiderman all over again? will they both be alive for TFC?
  • Horcruxes - what are the rest of them? how the heck will Harry find them?
  • Dumbledore - will/how will he make an appearance?
  • Snape - good/evil? live/die?
  • Harry - live/die? horcrux/not?
  • JKR - most brilliant woman ever. (not a question.)
Who wants to play with me?

05 February 2007

The Great Debate

Ha ha! Orson Scott Card is writing a chapter in The Great Snape Debate, an soon-to-be-released essay collection about whether Snape is good or evil. It's too good to be true. Someone keep me awake! Card puts up a good argument for Harry Potter as literary classic:

It is ironic that the litterati of the New York Times removed children's literature from their bestseller list for the sole purpose of getting the Harry Potter novels out of the number one, two, and three spots. Here we have the most significant event in English language literature in decades -- a book that turns nonreaders into readers! -- and they kick it out of their pages.

Well, they've been kicking real readers out of their pages for years anyway. The Harry Potter books will endure as Tolkien's Lord of the Rings has endured -- because the readers love it so much that they refuse to let it go away. That's what determines what will be studied in literature classes a hundred years from now -- not what's on the adult list in the New York Times, and not what academics of today think is respectable literature.

When The Great Snape Debate comes out, I hope you'll read it. Of course, I think my essay proves that my opinion is correct -- but I would, now, wouldn't I? The book itself, as a commercial enterprise, is a blatant attempt to capitalize on the success of Rowling's work. But I still can't think of what's wrong about that. Because what it really is is a public conversation about one of the most pivotal story points in the most significant work of literature of our day. I thought it was worth taking part in; I hope you'll think it's worth listening in on when the book comes out.
Here, here! When was the last time the public was this involved in a book, or even a story of any kind? Perhaps when they convinced Doyle to bring back Sherlock Holmes. Or when people sprayed "Frodo lives!" on the subway walls. Chalk one up for our favorite wizard.

Out

I hate being sick. It makes my brain all fuzzy. Maybe I've got a wrackspurt. I also hate the missing-of-class aspect, especially today, since we're discussing Nibley's "Zeal without Knowledge," which I really liked. I can't really think to write anything coherent, so here I am rambling along.

I bought a dress for the Bishop's Ball (our ward's formal dance) from my aunt's store. It's pale pink, and a lot more feminine than I usually would go for. I blame it on the sickness and the sinister influence of my aunt (who got all the family girliness instead of my mom). I'd put a picture up, but I can't find one online, and I'm too lazy to put it on again. They'll be some come Friday (when the Bishop's Ball is). But it looks pretty nice.

Checks are starting to come in the mail. No, not for writing, or covert sting operations. They're just rebates from my after-Thanksgiving spending spree. Still, it's like finding money you didn't know you had. :D

George introduced me to the visual thesaurus. Addictive, and free on campus. Useful for poetry.

Why doesn't Google Reader have a search feature like Gmail? How am I supposed to find things? What? Browse manually? Where the heck is that post on managing long sentences that I wanted to read? This is a paragraph of questions?

I'm growing to dislike my creative writing class. I mean, I like the force motivating me to write (good writing needs good deadlines), but they don't really say anything helpful. I brought in three poems the other day and all I got was, "Those are really good." Hello, I know that. But I want them to be better! I guess it's my fault for waiting until junior year to take a creative writing class and getting stuck with a bunch of clueless freshmen and non-English-majors. At least the teacher is one of the editors of Irreantum, which is cool.

(Speaking of said poems, anyone want to look over them? My brain is starving for feedback!)

I have no good tags to file this post under.

Maybe I'll call in sick to work and just sit here watching Breakfast at Tiffany's and knit. Or read My Name is Asher Lev, which I'm supposed to finish by Wednesday for creative writing. Unlikely, I think.

02 February 2007

New Perspectives: A Nibleyesque Musing

So, every Friday for my Hugh Nibley class, we're supposed to ramble for one page on what we thought of the readings. You know I'm all for stealing homework for blogposts, so you may see a few of these this semester. But hey, it's Hugh Nibley, so it's for your own good!

Some very interesting readings this week—“Treasures in the Heavens” was, of course, astounding. It was interesting to me to see how Nibley treats things I would normally think of as abstract philosophies as concrete facts. As an English major, I often wonder how important the abstract concepts we discuss in class are because they seem so detached from what constitutes the majority of our lives. But Nibley makes no apologies for the fact that his ideas are big and seemingly unconnected to the mundanities of day-to-day life. He’s not concerned with forcing you to realize why his theories are relevant to you—if you don’t understand the importance of them, then perhaps you aren’t ready to read Nibley.

The idea of heaven being more concrete and real than this life also matched up with what I’m reading in CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce. Heaven is not going to be less real than this life, but more. We are here to prepare to experience that level of reality and power that we could not have managed without a body. I guess the reason we think of heaven as so spiritual and insubstantial is because we have difficulty imagining anything more concrete than this reality.

I really liked Nibley’s “An Intellectual Autobiography” on a couple of different levels. First, it was just a great piece of creative non-fiction. As a writer, I admire Nibley’s style in this piece: he doesn’t allow us to get bogged down in the details of his life, giving us just enough to move us through his intellectual journey without confusion. He makes everything fresh and humorous. Second, I really enjoy the idea of giving an intellectual autobiography. Isn’t that the story we’d rather tell—the story of how we grew as a person—rather than the dates, facts, and figures that normally occupy so much of a biography?

Finally, one particular passage really struck me, the one where Nibley talks about working through the entire nine floors of the Berkeley stacks. The idea is so very appealing that I’ve begun to think about trying to do this myself with the BYU library. It’s definitely a crazy project, but it would be so rewarding. Think of how much you could learn about interests you didn’t know you had just by browsing through the stacks of an entire library! Not to mention the bragging rights . . . .

“Educating the Saints” was one of the Nibley articles that I had read before. However, I saw it in a new light this time. I just completed a paper on early Mormon ideas about rhetoric and education. The section where Nibley explains Brigham Young’s lack of eloquence was very relevant to the paper I was writing. The early saints really cared very little for ideas about formal education; they unabashedly shared the truth as they found it and sought more, not worrying about clever phraseology or the opinions of the intellectual elite.

I wonder if we could not use a lot more of that, even at BYU. Sometimes it feels like, even in the undergrad years, there’s such a push to get enough accomplishments to fill out a good resume (or, as Nibley says, stand at attention at the end of an obituary). When you ask people what they are learning at school, they inevitably list classes and activities rather than ideas, which strikes me as sad. The university is very display oriented, so much so that when I mentioned that I am “learning just to learn” to a classmate, he didn’t know what I meant and expressed an extreme distrust for any supposedly higher motive in education: “I’m in it to get the grade so I can get into grad school.” Learning seems to be lost on the learned.

Itemized Inventory

  • One (1) blue Jansport backpack
  • One (1) expanding file folder, mostly empty
  • One (1) $10 five subject notebook
  • Two (2) copies of my poems for creative writing class
  • One (1) Mead writing notebook for English novel class, redundant
  • Nibley on the Timely and Timeless
  • The Great Divorce (Library copy)
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone
  • Wuthering Heights
  • Language as Symbolic Action (Professor Boswell's copy)
  • One (1) personal writing notebook
  • Two (2) empty tupperware from lunch
  • One (1) wallet, mostly empty
  • One (1) package of tissues
  • One (1) contacts case
  • Glasses case (empty)
  • Various coupons and gift certificates from concerned family members
  • Assorted clutter
  • Cell phone (Cingular 2125)
  • One (1) pair headphones for cell phone
  • BYU ID card
  • One (1) set of ear plugs
  • Seven (7) blue Bic pens
  • Five (5) assorted mechanical pencils
  • Two (2) canisters of mechanical pencil lead, the wrong size for the pencils
  • One (1) highlighter
  • One (1) red pen
  • Two (2) tubes of chapstick
  • Not my keys
Hmm. Looks like I may not be going home this weekend. At least I have some books. :D

01 February 2007

IT'S COMING!!!

The Harry Potter 7 release date is out! July 21, 2007!!!!! Oh my gosh!

My concentration is shot for the rest of today.