Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Angry No More

"I don't wanna be angry no more
You know I could never stand for this."

 -Rob Thomas, "Lonely No More"

It's been a month since the Angry White Loner's last blog post. Did you miss him/me?

Life goes forward in cycles. The coming of the Christmas season is a reminder of this. So it goes for all of us. Including Angry White Loners.

This blog started out, admittedly, as an inside joke that only a few of you were part of. To this day, I still get questions as to what the title Angry White Loner refers to and why I would ever choose such a name for a blog.

I'm clearly none of those three things. Well, two of those three things.

Believe it or not, I wrote a blog post for the folks at LDS Living magazine recently, and they wondered the same thing. They, in fact, suggested I create a new blog with a different name were I to continue to write posts for them. Can you believe that?

Whatever your view(s) on the issue, I believe that this blog has been a very good thing for me, and hopefully it hasn't be torture for the many of you who have read it and have given your (mostly positive) feedback on it.

But it has also outlived its usefulness, I think. It's time. I don't want to be the Angry White Loner anymore.

Doctor Who fans, aka Whovians, of which the AWL has joined the ranks in the past year, know that the good Doctor regenerates from time to time. While he is still the same person inside, he is physically altered, and each regeneration brings out a different side of his personality. Or of the actor who plays him.

Think of this change as that sort or thing: a regeneration. The Angry White Loner will be back; possibly soon, possibly later on. Who can say for sure?

The Angry White Loner has actually been yours truly's third blog. In case you were unaware, you can read past posts/rants at:

http://theepistleofjon.blogspot.com/ (2008-2014)
http://angrywhiteloner.blogspot.com/ (2013-2014)
http://gobblewonker.blogspot.com/ (2014)

In fact, if you have a suggestion of a title for my fourth blog, please post it in the comments section. The suggestion with the most "likes" will become the title of my new blog.

Maybe.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Train in Vain

And now, a word about a very important issue:

Trains.

All other issues aside, I'll cast my vote tomorrow for whichever candidate will take a stand against the trains consistently blocking east-west traffic between Bountiful and West Bountiful, Woods Cross, and North Salt Lake. I've been living in North Salt Lake for the past few months, and I never cease to be amazed at how frequently this rampant abuse of power takes place.

Sometimes, the trains taunt you. You wait there for the train to pass either to the north or to the south, and then once it does, and you feel like the barriers are about to go up and let you through, it switches gears, and heads back the way it just came. Then, it changes directions again and shuffles back once more.

This charade continues on for several minutes, as people in their cars blare on their horns and unleash more curse words than in Reservoir Dogs and Trainspotting (see what I did there?) combined.

Not me, though!

Other times, the trains just sit there like Jabba the Hutt up on his dais, not moving an inch and also not caring that they're making everybody waiting in their cars even more late for trivial matters like whatever appointment they're headed to, or work, or just to get home to watch all of their DVR'd episodes of Weather Channel forecasts.

All more important things to do than sitting in an idling car, waiting for a train that will not budge.

Such was the case this morning, when I was trapped for a full 40 minutes in Woods Cross while the train sat there and did nothing. If Hollywood were to make a movie about it, it would be titled Unstartable.

In its defense, the train did, while just sitting there, accomplish far more good than the U.S. Congress has so far in the 21st century.

First-world problems, am I right?

Sadly, no candidate has yet taken a stand on this controversial issue. Maybe I'll just vote for the guy whose TV commercials air an estimated 11 times each night during "Jeopardy!", proclaiming "people before politics." He seems like a stand-up dude, even though he either conveniently forgot or doesn't want to tell anyone which political party he belongs to and doesn't want you to vote for his (allegedly) cat-murdering Republican opponent.

I'm the Angry White Loner, and I approve this message.

Monday, October 27, 2014

North Star: Choosing Happiness

"Love is like the Polar Star. In a changing world, it is a constant. It is of the very essence of the gospel. . . . Great beyond comprehension is the love of God."
 -Gordon B. Hinckley

A good friend, also one of my home teachers from my YSA ward days, invited me to attend a fireside last night for the North Star International group. I'm so glad I went.

As described on its Facebook page, North Star is "a place of community for Latter-day Saints dealing with issues surrounding homosexual attraction who desire to live in harmony with the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines and values of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." Another stated purpose is "to empower individuals to help educate themselves, their family, friends, and Church leaders as they strive to become integrated more fully and lovingly into the Church community."

I'm grateful to be one of those friends, and I proudly stand as one of their supporters. Also, as one of their admirers.

This fireside featured possibly the greatest display of congregational singing I have ever witnessed. They sang loudly, but they also sang with the voices of angels. As they sang, "So long thy pow'r hath blest me, sure it still will lead me on o'er moor and fen, o'er crag, and torrent, till the night is gone," and then, later, "O Savior, if thou wilt be my guide, tho dark and rugged the way, my voice shall echo the message sweet: I'll say what you want me to say," the words were not just words on a page but also a testimony of their very lives.

In addition, I was impressed by the number of hugs I saw people giving each other throughout the evening. I don't think I've seen that much hugging take place since the last time I was at sacrament meeting in Peru. Hugs are very much a part of their culture, too.

Truth be told, it's one of the things I miss most about that place and those people.

"There's so much love in this room," I overheard one person say. There was indeed.

Oh yeah. There were actual speakers at this fireside, too. The husband and wife (the husband has lived with same-gender attraction, though they've been married 9+ years now) who spoke talked of the most important commandment being that of loving God, and, in turn, He will love us back. It is the whole purpose for existing in the first place. All that seems unfair in life can be made right through the Atonement. We don't really know what we believe until we are tested. What you truly value and what you want out of life is far more important than seeking gratification. Purpose can be found in the service of others.

The wife spoke of an important lesson Eustace learns about being cleansed of his dragon scales by Aslan (i.e. the Lord) in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, which gave her an extra gold star in my book. (The Narnia series remains my favorite.) The husband also spoke extensively on Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning and reminded everyone of an important lesson: The last and most important of humanity's freedoms is the freedom to choose what our attitudes will be in any given set of circumstances. Whatever trial or challenge any of us faces, we always have a choice.

Frankl knew something about that because, well, he survived Auschwitz concentration camp.

Speaking of dealing with difficult circumstances, the world would tell the members of North Star that there's no possible way they could be happy following this path that they have chosen.

Well, it ain't necessarily so, folks. It's bubkes, actually.

Last night, I met some of the pleasantest, happiest, and friendliest new people I have met in a long time. There wasn't a frowny face in the bunch. They are proud to be disciples of Jesus Christ, and it is a choice that brings them true joy and gives them hope and purpose. It shows in the way they act, and it radiates in their countenances. They choose to love God by keeping His commandments (see John 14:15) and loving their fellow manin that orderand that is what makes all of the difference.

They know it, they live it, and they love it.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Minding Manners

I picked up some lunch today at McDonald's, just like the cool kids do. Say what you will about their menu, but you can get some decent foodeven saladsthere for not a whole lot of money (done in moderation, of course, as the film Super Size Me reminded us all).

McRib season is right around the corner!

Anyhoo, upon placing my order and telling the nice lady "thank you" for ringing me up, she stopped what she was doing and thanked me for thanking her.

"That's the first time a customer has said 'thank you' to me all afternoon," she beamed. She went on to say that many others were too busy talking or texting on their cell phones while ordering to give her their full attention or to even make eye contact, let alone to simply say "thanks."

Saying "please" and "thank you," and saying them often, I have found, go hand in hand. If my parents have taught me anything that has helped me to make friends and to get along with others, it has been instilling in me the value of using these two phrases frequently.

One of my favorite all-time writers is Dave Barry. He's written a lot of laugh-out loud funny things over the years, but one of my favorite statements of his is also one of his most profound:

"A person who is nice to you, but rude to the waiter, is not a nice person."

I have found this to be true both when I've been the customer and when I've been the person behind the counter or desk or on the phone trying to help someone.

Good manners, it seems, are still in style. Even at Mickey D's.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Life's a Country Song

"Everything is great
Everything is grand
I got the whole wide world in the palm of my hand
Everything is perfect
It's falling into place
I can't seem to wipe this smile off my face
Life's a happy song, when there's someone by my side to sing along
"
 -From "Life's a Happy Song," featured in The Muppets
 
As my friend the Modern-day Muse has written about on her blog, life can happen "all at once." There are periods of time during which "nothing much" seems to be the norm, and a string of days can feel like the movie Groundhog Day, and there are also other timeframes during which all sorts of things can turn your world upside-down in a hurry, for good or for ill.
 
Lately, it's been the latter for this Angry White Loner.

A girl I was dating, who insisted after months that she was never ready to be exclusive and that she was still dating other people, ultimately dropped me like a rock. "Like girlfriends always do." (That's a John Bytheway quote there, lest some of you ladies figuratively pick up the nearest rock with which to toss in my figurative direction.) One of my best friends, whom I've known for over 30 years, basically told me to "drop dead" and to leave him alone, to not to invite him to do anything social with him anymore (no worries; he won't read this). And my car, the Aluminum Falcon, died a slow, painful, ultimate death, as I mentioned before.
 
All of these events went down within a few short days of each other.
 
It's been pretty much the opposite of the aforementioned Muppets song. It's been somewhat more of a country song instead: losing your girl (who never really wanted to be your girl anyway), your friend, your truck (car), etc.
 
That's not to say, however, that the glass is half empty. Because it's certainly not. If you look around and count your blessings, you can see how truly blessed you are, in so many ways.
 
Fact: Life hands you disappointments. They can be tough blows to bear. And sometimes, they happen all at once. We all have them.
 
The question is: How will you respond when they occur? Will you become embittered and angry and cynical and blame others for your problems and let others' actions/inaction determine your happiness and retreat into self-loathing? Or will you consider it a lesson learned, forgive, take responsibility for your own happiness, and move on?
 
Will you raise the white flag in defeat, or will you bounce back and try again?
 
Once again, I'm going to go with the latter.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Nephew's Mite

Admittedly, my last post ended on a bit of a downer. But that's not to say the weekend was a total washout. For, no sooner had I finished my last post when I reached into one of my pockets and found: a treasure that was a crumpled-up dollar bill. And suddenly my perspective changed altogether.

I couldn't believe that, in my frustrations about my car, I had completely forgotten all about it and what it represented.

At the aforementioned family get-together, it was also a birthday party for all of those in the family with October birthdays, myself included. Two of my siblings and their families had each given me a copy of my favorite film of 2014, The LEGO Movie, on DVD.

Great minds think alike and all that.

My six-year-old nephew had, just before gift-giving time, collected a $1 bill from Grandpa for scoring a goal in Saturday's soccer game, which is a deal Grandpa has worked out with all of his grandkids. Some of them really take him to the cleaners on it, but the deal goes on nonetheless.

Back to gift-giving time: This same nephew gave me, as a gift, the same $1 bill that Grandpa had given him for scoring a goal. Now, a buck is not a whole lot of dough to us big kids, but to a six-year-old boy, well, it was all that he had.

It was a very humbling moment, and I was grateful for the gesture. Six-year-old nephew is like that. He'd shave your back for a nickel. He's my buddy.

In retrospect, it has made me think of the scripture in St. Mark 12:41-44:

"And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."
 
Six-year-old nephew has a heart and soul that big. I'm lucky to be his uncle and his friend.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Best of Times, the Worst of Times

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."
 -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Without any prior warning at all, Elder Christoffel Golden Jr. of the Seventy appeared on the stand at the Island of Misfit Toys today and ended up spending the entire block of meetings with us. It was a very unexpected but nevertheless a pleasant surprise. Accompanied by his wife, Diane, they instructed us over the course of a two-hour block that normally would have been taken up by Sunday School and then elders quorum/Relief Society meetings.

"Don't put this on your blog," Elder Golden instructed more than once. (He actually uttered those words three times, to my count.)

Well, no. I'm not sharing any of the three teachings he specifically instructed us not to share. But I will say that it was an uplifting, spiritual, unique experience that you just don't get every Sunday here in Utah. "Don't give up on yourselves," he taught us. "God will bless you according to your righteous desires." Also, "Once we are cleansed by the blood of Christ, our whole desire is to be merciful toward others."

In spite of what my friends in foreign countries believethat we regularly get visited by General Authorities here in our meetings in Utah—it just doesn't happen very often at all.

From that spiritual high, I got in my car and drove most of the way up to my brother's house in Layton for bimonthly family dinner. Passing through the final stoplight on the way up there, my car began to poop out, made several loud and unsettling noises, and moved very slowly in exactly the same way it had twice before—something which, I had been told, had been fixed twice before by my auto mechanic.

If I can just make it to my brother's, I thought, I'll be okay.

Then, a few blocks after that, my car stalled and died. Right there on the freeway. A man behind me angrily blared on his horn for me to turn before he realized that I physically couldn't move. At the same time, three good Samaritans got out of their car, right there on the highway, and pushed me to safety. They then walked back across the highway, got into their car, drove over to where I was, and offered me a ride to my destination to make sure I got there okay.

Thank heavens for the kindness of strangers. They could have been the Three Nephites, for all I know. Even so, the spiritual high I had been at just an hour earlier became a depressing, frustrating spiritual low. I felt like pushing the old bucket of bolts over a cliff or taking off the parking brake and letting it roll the rest of the way down the hill.

I finally made it to family dinner, and one of my siblings chided me for being late. Then I told them all the story. They understood.

The Aluminum Falcon's days, I fear, are numbered. The first and only car I have ever owned may soon be headed to the junkyard. I literally don't know what I'm going to do with it tomorrow. As I type this, it sits there on the side of that road, 16 or so miles from where I live.

The best of times, and the worst of times, indeed. Sometimes, they can happen within the same day, or within a very short time of each other. Such is our mortal journey. It's all part of the deal, I had to remind myself tonight.

Who knows? Tomorrow may be just a little bit better.