28 January 2008

Roll Video Footage

Courtesy of my wonderful friend Marisa, a huge chapter of my life is now available on Google Video. All those whose hugging skills need improvement, weep no more! Witness the Hug Video in all of its tripartite glory:

The Hug Video: World of Contact
From the cheesy National Geographic music to the dictionary hug, this is an instant classic. Who's Joe, you might ask? Joe is the inspiration for the hug video, whose prolific dictionary hug skills led my roommates to offer him hugging lessons. Trust me: some people need them.

Hug Video 1 Bloopers
The birth of Marisa's child and some lovely background shots of me knitting my Quidditch socks.

The Hug Video Part Dos
You may remember that I spent most of finals week winter 2006 editing this video. It's not as crisp as the first one, but we love it none the less. The invalid hug is great.

Someday I'll get around to making our final movie--the Paint Date. 50 bouncy balls, several bottles of paint, and lots of plastic wrap meet a college kitchen.

12 January 2008

It's All in the Approach

It's amazing how touchy humanities people can be when you criticize their subject. The defense of the humanities is a battle still alive and raging, and one that seems vitally (in the sense of life-threateningly) important to those involved. In my advanced literary theory class, the professor spent half of the first class period frantically justifying why a literary education was superior, even though no one had asked such a question. He claimed literary study was superior to a basic technical education (the socialization of people to follow orders in low level jobs), or even a measley "professional" education (teaching people when to apply technical logic--doctors and lawyers, this apparently means you). The professor's point was that a real leadership consists of a liberal education, one that teaches people how to think but not what to think about. He pointed to the importance of a "classical" or liberal education, implying that the English department would give us this.

At this point, I laugh. How many people in an advanced theory course can really claim a liberal education? Hello, a liberal education is supposed to include the sciences as well as the humanities. I'd be willing to risk a pretty penny that barely 2 people in that class regard Biology 100 as anything less than an annoyance--me as a chemistry minor being one of them--much less have a enough working understanding of science to be regarded as scientifically literate. A liberal education is about being a Renaissance man, about being broad not deep--the antithesis of the current mode of university education. They aren't receiving anything like a liberal education, just an education in a discipline, as Stanley Fish says in his recent New York Times article.

Not that this is a bad thing--as Stanley Fish says, it's delightful to those who study it. They shouldn't feel the need to justify its use to other people. And if they do, they shouldn't attempt to do so through the guise of gaining "critical thinking," as if the humanities has a monopoly on that. The humanities will not save us.

The key to this realization: The kinds of virtues claimed through the humanities--"those intellectual and moral habits that together from [sic] the basis for living the best life one can" (Kronman qtd in Fish)--are not part of the subject material, but the approach. One could just as easily become critically and creatively minded in studying chemistry or politics or music as literature. These are not only in literature. In fact, if that were the reason we were studying literature, we would all be studying philosophy instead. What subject we choose to approach this critical knowledge is more of a hobby, as I've stated before. What's essential is the test, not the subject matter.

04 January 2008

Best Chocolate Ever

I figured I'd go for something a little lighter today, seeing as the blog is still reeling with comments on the last post. So, I am going to introduce you to the reason why George makes the best Santa Claus ever:

The Choxie Mint Cookie Crunch Bar! I swear, this is the chocolate bar of the GODS! Although it costs like $1.80 at Target, it is worth every cent: smooth truffley dark chocolate with tiny pieces of white mint candy. The candy pieces aren't hard and crunchy and annoying--I'd barely notice them except for the occasional divine flavor burst. It is perfect and subtle. I can barely type straight thinking about it. That said, I need to go buy a bunch. As soon as BYU lets go of my excess financial aid money. Grr.

(PS. Choxie is available only at Target. Just thought I'd make that clear. And apparently they don't have the bars for online order, although they do have all of the super cute looking gift packages.)

03 January 2008

A Heresy against Feminism

Why do I find myself unable to write about marriage?

I think this is the thing that killed my blog posting this semester. Although this semester was insane, it was no more insane than the others during which I did find time to blog. But something about being married has killed my ability to write candidly about my thoughts.

Sometimes I think it’s because I’m scared of bursting the bubble I’m in. Marriage has made me so insanely happy that it feels unreal. What if by analyzing it I burst that bubble and make things harder for myself? But that’s not really true—I’m not in some idealistic phase where I think my husband has no faults. He’s great and cute, but he has traits that drive me crazy. And yet they don’t drive me crazy. When I look from an objective perspective, they should bug the crap out of me, yet when I see them in him, they don’t seem as important. In fact, nothing seems as important as he does.

Another thought I’ve had is that it’s simply so new to me that I’d rather experience it than write about it. There are some experiences you just can’t write about when you're still close to them, no matter how amazing the insights you’ve gained through them. And that's okay. Because they’re so intensely personal, they are not meant to be shared. This was a huge temptation for me at the beginning of our marriage. At each discussion and resolution, I would think in my head, "This has emotional power! This would make an awesome essay!" (Seriously, this is how my life has always worked: I live in order to write about it.) I didn’t write about it though, not just because the experiences would be difficult to convey but because every time I tried to write them, or even think about writing them, I felt like I was betraying my husband, selling out my marriage for worldly gain, though nothing would have come of it. Perhaps there is no way to share these experiences vicariously. Perhaps they are like our most sacred communions with God, something that increases the understanding between us but that will be spoiled by the retelling of it.

But I think the most true reason is not that I hold myself back from talking about my life, but that there’s no one out there to hear it. Ironically enough, marriage appears to be a taboo topic in Utah County, otherwise known as the marriage capital of Mormondom. I can’t talk about my marriage experiences with my single friends, no matter how cordially they ask me “How’s married life?” Anything I say would sound either like bragging (that I’m married and they aren’t) or harassment that they should get married (look at how great it is!). Even if I could by some magic coincidence of tone and mutual understanding get past both of these barriers, what could we really talk about? They obviously have no experience with marriage, which is barely less than the one esoteric experience I have. It would be like two librarians discussing what it’s like to fly to the moon: profitless speculations and wild leaps of logic. And for what purpose would we talk about marriage? To establish what (in general) it is like and examine its purposes, characteristics, and flaws? A discussion too dispassionate and impersonal to be worth either of our times. To talk about the specific ins and outs of my own marriage? Of what usefulness could that be to them?

Perhaps I’m being too overdramatic. I suppose that discussion could be useful, for although marriage is the most intense relationship of my life, it is nonetheless a relationship, which means that no one is without some analog to relate to what is being discussed.

Maybe it’s not marriage as a subject but the attitudes of people at BYU about it that make it such a taboo topic. Perhaps the fact that it is so important to us causes heightened emotions and fear to discuss it. During my single years at BYU, I was desperate to get married. It’s extremely hard to admit, but I thought enough about it during those years to certainly qualify as obsessed. I knew it was important and much harder to do once you left college. I was absolutely frustrated by the fact that it was so unpredictable. You couldn’t tell if you were doing “well” on the road to marriage until you were actually married because before then, who knew what could happen?

But of course, there was no way I could admit to or discuss any of this. For one, there nothing less attractive in the world than a girl desperate to have someone, anyone, so she knows she is not a failure. So actually pursuing marriage was out of the question, because if you looked like you were looking for it, then it was certain that you would never get it. Secondly, I could not discuss the importance of marriage in my circle of friends. I was part of the intellectual crowd at BYU. We were supposed to be women who didn’t depend on men for fulfillment; getting married before graduating would be a sign of weakness to our liberated, feministic ideals.

Which I find an extremely interesting paradox: we learn and firmly believe at church that the way to happiness is not to follow worldly ideals of success, because in the end such things are illusory. But then what is the path of happiness? As soon as someone mentions family, you’re sure to have several liberated women in the room defy (at least inside their own minds, if not vocally) anyone who would “lock them up” in a house and forbid them to pursue self-fulfillment through a career.

I recently read a post on the bloggernacle responding to Sister Beck’s talk saying that they object to anyone who says that a woman’s fulfillment should come wholly or even primarily through raising children. Here’s a news flash for you: the Church doesn’t say that about women. It says that about everyone! Does the Church say that men should get a career for self-fulfillment? No, a career is clearly shown as necessary for the support of a family. Our leaders time and time again point out that men who focus on their career at the expense of their family will come out empty-handed. Why do women feel satisfied in saying they are an exception to this rule? Don't we want to be treated equally?

I guess this gets me right down to the reason I am afraid to write about marriage: I believe in it. Every last traditional gender role, anti-feminist part of it. I have come to receive a witness that the pattern of a father working and a mother running a household is not only a social necessity, but a divinely inspired pattern. This heretical thought came to me for the first time as I began going to the temple. I had read vague hints that many feminist women were less than satisfied with the temple, and when I arrived there myself, I could see why. My first time through the endowment, I noticed the gender differences with curiosity and wonder. In subsequent times, I could not keep myself so neutral: I felt a rise of resentment and questioning rise in me at those times during the ceremony. It poisoned my mind so I could not think of anything else through the whole two hours: why in such a progressive world did our church have to be so backward? Why couldn’t it just concede to the truths that were so obvious?

Then I came to wonder: why am I judging sacred things by the secular instead of the other way around? Why is the thought of the scholars of the world my standard for judging the gospel? If I really believe in God, shouldn’t I be able to trust His standards? I began to wonder if feminism—in the sense that women (and people in general) needed to seek fulfillment outside of the home and family—was merely one of the philosophies of men, one that I had been indoctrinated with since childhood, one guised under the mask of equality, but in reality having little to do with it. To me, it seemed that this movement was not so much about equity as it was about finding happiness. Women had forgotten how to find happiness. We saw the men in successful careers and said, “That is why we are not happy, because they don't let us have what they have.” Little did they realize that the men weren’t happy either. No one was happy because they weren’t looking in the places to find happiness.

And so I find myself at peace with the temple, but at odds with the world. How could I possibly justify or defend this position? It was so simple. I must be missing something critical if there were so many intelligent people who disagreed with me.

But maybe again that’s caring too much about what the world says. I for one agreed with the substance of Sister Beck’s talk, yet the only thing I could think during the whole thing was “Oh man, the girls over at Feminist Mormon Housewives are going to be livid about this.” And I felt guilty for agreeing with her. Guilty.

01 January 2008

So This is the New Year

New Year's was built for people like me. First of all, it's a completely arbitrary celebration. Those who have seen me on St. Patrick's Day know that these are my favorite kind of holidays. I love an excuse to be exuberantly happy for no apparent reason. Second, if the holiday does have a purpose, it's setting extravagant goals for becoming your ideal person with no intention of actually following through on them. Again, this is one of my favorite pastimes--I've been known to make New Year's resolutions four or five times a year, simply because I've given up on the old ones.

Hmm, this sounds a little more pessimistic than my last New Year's post. Perhaps that's because this year has spun in completely different (wonderfully different) directions than I expected and predicted. Last year I set only one solid New Year's goal--to get serious about my writing. And while I failed at the specific steps I set for myself (submitting something each month, keeping a writing notebook, writing for eight hours a week), surprisingly I have accomplished that goal anyway, just not in the ways I expected. The biggest contributor to this was my study abroad program--the year's worth of writing intensive courses have forced my to learn how to write honestly. I've learned how to inspire myself, how to approach required writing in such a way that something useful and interesting will come out. I'm coming to see the wonder of every day things around me, to write about what I know and am. And I've come out of the experience with a few rather nice pieces.

Obviously, the thing that threw off the plan for this year was George. Gosh, George! But, no, I wouldn't trade that minor inconvenience for anything. George's family has this set of ten axioms called the "Busby Bylaws," their family mottos and principles. We've been working on a set of "Muir Maxims" to go along with them, and one that came to me recently was this: "Don't let the schedule get in the way of the plan." What it means to me is that plan and scheme as we might, we never know all of the things that the Lord has in mind for us. When something comes along, we have to be willing to drop the plan and follow His will.

All in all, 2007 has been the best year yet.

In fact, I think that should be everyone's New Year's resolution: make 2008 the best year yet.

But for the sake of being more concrete: the list.

  1. Write for at 15 minutes a day. This will be a challenge during the next four months which constitute my last semester at BYU. (Yay!) After that, it should be easier.
  2. Post on the blog more regularly. Here is where I'd insert a count of the decrease of posts from this year to last year, but a) you can see the counts for yourself on the archive list, and b) my in-laws' firewall blocks my blog, so I can't actually see them. But suffice to say, I'd like to improve. Blogging has been a valuable exercise because it forces me to polish my thoughts into a presentable form, look at myself in a more objective way, obtain feedback, and of course keep in touch with friends. No, I'm not going to set a goal of posting every day, since I don't believe in posts for the sake of posts.
  3. Read at least 25 books, outside of assigned reading. I figure 2 books a month is fairly reasonable. Hopefully this will make a dent in my to-read list, which is getting entirely too long.
  4. Get published. I'm being less specific than last year, but I've got several essays that my professor thinks could get published, and I'd like to continue to write more things of that quality.
  5. Apply to grad school. I didn't make time to do it this fall (with all the insanity of being newly married and taking evil classes), but I really want to continue my education. And I don't want to just fall out of the loop because I'm taking a year off.
  6. Find a job. My biggest fear this next year is being stuck in a job I hate. The job hunt is problematic right now since I'll be in Seattle for three months after I graduate and who knows what will happen in fall, but hopefully things will work out.
  7. Do 100% of my visiting teaching. Okay, so I haven't done my visiting teaching for about a year and a half. It's high time that stopped. I know that it's important; I'm just lazy and worried about what people think. Don't ask what that means.
  8. Keep in better touch with my family. As George and I are moving to Seattle this summer (did I mention he has an internship with Microsoft to work on their search?), I'll be living away from my base in Utah for the longest period in my life. I'm really bad about calling people on the phone or writing personal (not business) emails because I take the people close to me for granted. If I don't see them, I forget they are there. I need to work on that.
  9. Figure out how spices work. I'm a fairly decent cook, but I really don't use spices because they scare me and I don't know how to do it without a recipe.
  10. Wake up early, and like it. My inner morning person got lost somewhere on the way between high school and college. I used to wake up easily (no snooze buttons!) at 5:30 am for my paper route, but now I whack my husband when he tries to wake me up at 6. I miss liking mornings.
Notice no exercising related goals--I'm letting George take care of the running this year. It's his problem if I get fat. (This is called reliance on others.)