Saturday, June 29, 2013

Stand

I was in the parking lot at Target yesterday - you know, like you do - when I couldn't help but overhear a temper tantrum, which was already in progress. A seven- or eight-year-old girl kept screaming "I want it! I want it!" over and over again, much to the embarrassment of her mother, who remained surprisingly calm and patient throughout the ordeal (and who, I might add, adamantly refused to buy her daughter whatever it was she was demanding).

It was about that same moment that the irony hit me that another group of people, who have been throwing their own tantrum and demanding "I want it!" like a spoiled child, were finally given what they wanted earlier this week when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and refused to rule on California's Proposition 8, essentially making gay marriage legal in that state.

The AWL has recently addressed the issue of gay marriage, but I will offer one last opinion on it today.

The day before the Supreme Court issued its judgment, a friend of mine (and a member of the Church) posted an opinion on Facebook in support of gay marriage. He said something to this effect: "I want it absolutely clear as to where I stand on this issue, no matter what the court rules tomorrow."

To that effect, I want to make it absolutely clear where I stand on this issue. I sustain the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve Apostles as prophets, seers, and revelators. They are the 15 people designated to act on our Savior's behalf in this mortal sphere. That goes for both them and their revelations - including and especially the Proclamation on the Family, which states "that marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God." There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

I believe the Lord is less concerned with what the judgments of men can do, for they are imperfect, than how we react to them. He wants to know whom we stand with and, at some future day, where we stood while all of this was going on.

Elder Mark E. Petersen taught: "If we do know what is right, have we the courage to stand up for it, to defend virtue, to declare the validity of our faith, to oppose false teachings, and to fight the unpopular battle? . . . The time has come when we must take a far more firm and positive stand than ever before. . . . We must become vigorous and enthusiastic about living our religion, for God commands that we serve him with all our heart, with all our might, with all our strength, and with the very best of our intelligence. With him there can be no halfway measures. We must be fully for him or we may be classified with those who are against him" ("Where Do We Stand?", April 1980 general conference).

Like the child throwing the temper tantrum, we mortals can often lose sight of what we need to be truly and eternally happy and instead demand something lesser or counterfeit that we think we want or deserve. Nevertheless, our Heavenly Father knows what will make us happy, and neither He nor His servants will lead us astray.

That being said, I have friends who struggle with same-sex attraction, and I believe that their struggle is a genuine and a difficult one. I believe that it is always a good choice to love these people regardless of the choices they make and that we can disagree without becoming disagreeable when it comes to discussing matters such opposition to gay marriage. Tolerance is not acceptance, and tolerance is also a two-way street.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Decisions, Decisions

The other day, I took my nephew to dinner at the local Burger King - because that's just the kind of guy and uncle the AWL is.
 
After we had ordered our food, we made our way over to the soda pop dispenser to find that it had mysteriously been replaced with this strange, new object:
 
 
My reaction to it was none too different from the monkeys' reaction to the appearance of the monolith in the opening scenes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. And if you haven't seen 2001: A Space Odyssey, may I recommend it? It is a fine film-watching experience provided you happen to recently have had surgery and are taking either Oxycontin or Lortab for pain.
 
At any rate, we learned that this strange new device is the new, 21st-century version of the soda dispenser. Speaking of movies, the Hill Valley cafĂ© of the year 2015 probably had one of them in Back to the Future, Part II.
 
It turns out that it is quite an amazing machine. I've since discovered that the local Wendy's has one of them, too. By touching the screen, you not only get to choose the soda that you want to drink, but you can also choose a particular flavoring of that soda - Lime Coke (not that anyone would actually choose to drink Coke unless he/she had lost a bet), Strawberry Fanta, or Cherry Dr. Pepper, for instance.
 
I'm pretty easily entertained and amazed sometimes, and this machine did not fail to entertain nor amaze me. Its very existence also creates a rather difficult conundrum for me, as making important life decisions is not really my forte.
 
In my college days, for example, choosing my class schedule and then registering for those courses was a much-dreaded exercise and was pure mental torture.
 
So, how can I be expected to choose something as important as one of more than 100 combinations of soda? I ask, to no one in particular.
 
The world may never find out.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "A Bona Fide Mystery"

"A Bona Fide Mystery"

It's been said that love is a battlefield;
It can also be a bona fide mystery.
I'm no Sherlock Holmes, but I spend much of my time
Trying to deduce the workings of sister-y.

I'm checking the facts, gathering clues,
Trying to see what it all means.
Scouring the scene, leaving no stone unturned,
But so far, I've not come up with beans.

She hides her true feelings like the color of her hair;
Each new month is a different tint or shade.
And now she's thinking or making it blue,
Or green, pink, purple, or jade.

It's hard for me to know if I'm coming or going;
If the door to her heart is open or closed.
But I'll try to be patient as I am kept waiting -
However long it may take, I suppose.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

The Man of Aluminum and His Kryptonite

I just read online somewhere (source: somewhere) that the new Superman movie Man of Steel soared (ha ha! . . . get it?) to an incredible $113 million in box office earnings over the weekend. That's a lot of money! Putting it into figures we can all understand, it is the same as approximately .0066 percent of the current national debt.

Contributing $7 of my own to the cause, I caught the film yesterday along with a handful of family members. It was certainly a trip down memory lane for me, as once upon a time I was a strange, little kid who liked to dress up in my Superman costume nearly every day, often accompanying my poor, embarrassed mother to such public places at the grocery store and Primary activities while dressed in said outfit.

Now a strange, big kid, I must admit that I enjoyed the film immensely. Not to give away too much, but Dwight Schrute of "The Office" fame makes a cameo appearance as a childhood friend of Clark Kent's who grows up to become the manager of a Kansas IHOP. Also (and these are real spoilers now, so feel free to put your fingers in your ears and chant "Lah lah lah lah, I can't hear you!" until the end of this paragraph): There is surprisingly no mention in the film of either Lex Luthor or of kryptonite, two staples of the Superman universe.

True and seemingly unrelated, but bear with me, story: For Halloween a few years back, I created one of my favorite all-time costumes by tearing off a roll of aluminum foil, folding it around my head, and going to a Halloween party as one of the characters from M. Night Shyamalan's Signs - you know, the scene in which they create aluminum foil hats for themselves to keep the aliens from reading their minds? People at the party apparently had not seen Signs (their loss entirely, am I right?) and were utterly bewildered, thinking I was some sort of mutant Hershey's Kiss.

Ergo, if I were a superhero, I would not be the Man of Steel but the Man of Aluminum. And my one weakness, or kryptonite, as referenced in my previous post, would be: talking to women on the phone.

After all of these years of trying (and failing) to perfect the art of conversation over the phone, it's still no easier in my 30s than when I was 16 and was planning my first date. It can be a fine line trying to be funny/charming and coherent, while showing an earnest interest in her and what she has to say, and often I end up being none of the above.

One thing remains constant: I am a dweeb.

Sometimes, I stay awake at night wondering exactly how women feel about talking on the phone to someone who sounds very nervous doing so and is trying not to come across as, oh, say, Ted Bundy. Are they amused by it in a you're-such-a-moron fashion? Are they trying their hardest not to burst out into laughter? When they agree to go on a date, is it motivated by pity? I have even heard of a third school of thought: They actually see it as someone who is moving forward with a date request in spite of his fears and/or nervousness. I daresay, some are even impressed by it.

Whatever the answer may be, I can certainly understand why people find security in texting or e-mails or Facebook or what-have-you. It's a lot safer that way - especially if the girl declines the date request. That way, there's no awkward conversation that follows ("Well, will you be washing your hair on Thursday then?") and a can't-get-there-soon-enough hanging up of the phone.

Nevertheless, fellow males and Justice Leaguers, I admire the fortitude you show me in moving ahead in spite of your fears, for I believe that we all have them with regard to the opposite sex and also that this is the only real way to conquer our fears in the long run. I have accepted the phone call as a necessary evil in life and will need to keep phoning (preferably texting) women now and in the future.

Just don't expect a Man of Steel on the other end of the line.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

People Are More Important

The other day, I was working on my laptop at McDonald's - Mickey D's, in case you were not aware, not only has (arguably, I realize) good food but also free Wi-Fi - when I couldn't help but overhear a conversation between a rather frustrated father and his teenage son over on the table adjacent to me.

The situation was basically this: The boy was paying a lot more attention to his iPhone than to his father, to his meal, or to basically anything else going on around him. I don't know if he was texting or playing Angry Birds or what, but he was far more involved in the virtual world than in the real one. The father did not like this. He repeatedly asked his son to put the phone away. Finally, the father said, "People are more important than iPhones."

This is not the kind of wisdom one normally expects to hear at McDonald's or at most any other public place, for that matter. But I feel that it was a profound statement nonetheless.

In my own travels, it has not been uncommon to see a good number of people paying more attention to their iPhones, iPods, iPads, flux capacitors, or what-have-you than to other people, and it usually makes me feel sad for these folks. There are the more-obvious examples of this happening, such as people texting while driving their cars or a couple having a text conversation while sitting right next to each other. There are also the less-obvious examples, which include people sitting alone in a corner, away from the crowd at a social event, texting someone else and essentially giving out the message that "present company" is just not that important. I am also told that there are people who stay up into the wee hours of the morning texting their friends for hours on end.

Don't get me wrong; like Kip in Napoleon Dynamite, I love technology, and it has done a great deal to improve all of our lives and the way that we communicate. I'd rather have a text conversation with someone than no conversation at all, or I'd prefer to send out a mass text to, for example, my improv troupe when it would save me the effort of making 30 different phone calls. But texting is something like #15 on my list of preferred communication methods, and I'd much rather have face-to-face interaction with people. Also, the purpose behind texting, for the most part, is with the goal in mind of seeing that person or persons in a face-to-face setting later on.

But Angry White Loner, you say. You send me about as many texts as everyone else does.

To which the AWL replies: That's quite possibly true. How about we meet up face-to-face and discuss it over dinner sometime?  Your treat, of course. ("You," in this case, is a single woman that the AWL wants to get to know by sending random flirty texts.)

Admittedly, if he were Superman, the AWL's kryptonite would be talking to women on the phone; he doesn't deny it. (Speaking of which, the AWL has a ticket to see the new Superman reboot Man of Steel this Saturday, and he wants to get in on the hype. There may very well be a movie review forthcoming.)

At any rate, perhaps that's a topic for another blog post. And perhaps the wise McDonald's father's message was meant for me just as much as it was meant for everyone else. Speaking of whom, if we ever meet again, sir, it will be my privilege to buy you anything you want from the dollar menu.

Your treat, of course.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Allergies

Have you ever had an allergy test? I've now been through two of them. Each time, it has been no less than a supremely funky experience.

The other day, my arm looked like this (only not so tan and with many more freckles):


Okay, so, this wasn't exactly my real arm, but trust me; I did you a favor. The real thing looked far more gruesome than this.

As it turns out, I am allergic to a good number of things. Both cats and dogs, which I or members of my family have owned as pets for as long as I can remember? Yep, I'm allergic to both. Of the 32 things I was tested for, I am allergic to 26 of them.

While Spider-Man's only weakness is very small knives, mine is . . . well . . . you name it.

The protocol now is to begin a series of weekly allergy shots to build up my immunity. Either that, or I suppose I can go out in public in a hazmat suit or a plastic bubble for protection.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

People's Worst Moments

"If you're gonna get mad at me every time I do something stupid, then I guess I'll just have to stop doing stupid things." -Homer Simpson

Do you ever find words, be they oral or written, coming out of your mouth - you don't really know where they're coming from, or they wouldn't be spoken/written by someone like you if you just sat and thought about them rationally for a moment or two first - and find you're regretting them the instant they are uttered? Perhaps just as bad, do you find yourself not saying or doing the things that a trusted friend or colleague would expect you to do? To the friend, the feeling of letdown or betrayal is the same whether these are sins of commission or omission on your part.

I had this very flaw in my own character brought to my attention just last night. I was reprimanded by a friend, someone who trusted me, and the thing is that I deserved every word of it.

She was right, and I was wrong - 100 percent.

I've said it before: I'm a work in progress. I still have a ways to go. And yesterday I learned that the distance I need to travel is still a long ways off. Sometimes, there is just no excuse that isn't a total cop-out; an all-out apology is necessary.

I doubt whether any of us wants to be defined by his or her worst moment. I hope that this friend will not remember by my careless actions or, rather, lack of positive actions, but instead by the good moments we have shared together.

Do you find yourself recalling someone's worst moment(s) when that person's name is mentioned, or you run into that person at the grocery store 15 years later, or whatever the case may be? I have realized that I still do, as much as I try to let go of negative experiences from the past. I felt that way not long ago when one of my seventh-grade tormentors, several years after the fact, made a friend request on Facebook.

Consider the Apostle Thomas, largely referred to as "doubting Thomas" by members of the Christian faith. He is someone who, I think rather unfairly, is certainly remembered by his worst moment. Nevertheless, a wise institute teacher once pointed out a much lesser-known reference to Thomas in the Gospel of John.

Jesus had just learned that Lazarus had died, and He was preparing to return to Judea to see His beloved friend. Concerned that the Jews had recently tried to stone the Savior, however, most of the Apostles warned Him against making the trip. That's when Thomas spoke up and said:

"Let us also go, that we may die with him" (John 11:16).

It sure sounds like Thomas isn't so "doubting" at this point, does it? Like Thomas, we all have our bad moments. Hopefully, they do not outshine the bad ones.

I suppose this is all just to say "thank you" to all of my family members and friends who love and support me in spite of my errors and mistakes, who give me second and third and fourth chances and are patient with me as I work my way through "this vale of tears" (Hymns, no. 116). I don't always do the right thing, but I hope that, on occasion, I can. I hope to return the favor to you.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Love Poetry for Dummies: "The Grass Is Greener"

This poem is based on some experiences a friend of mine recently went through, and today seemed like a good day to finish it. Enjoy!

"The Grass Is Greener"

The grass grew green enough around here;
It was well weeded, and it was well mowed.
We ran through its sprinklers in the hot summer day,
And, at night, its cool blades soothed our toes.

It wasn't the best-looking yard on the block,
But we enjoyed what we had nonetheless.
Then another guy moved in to the house down the street,
And you made a quick change of address.

The grass sure looked a lot greener down there.
But you soon learned it was dead, dried, and brown.
You packed up and moved out for heaven-knows-where,
And you burned that yard down to the ground.
I'm left playing second fiddle once more,
And I'll do it while your Rome burns.
Yet in spite of the blaze, just one thought comes to mind:
Second fiddle's still far better than third.

Lonely and lost - are you still out on your own?
And who knows where you've hung your hat now?
Whatever the color, and wherever the yard,
I wish that you'd come back somehow.

Nobody's perfect, and I'm sure no saint.
But if you get tired of wandering,
I will still be here, tending our field,
And of those good memories be pondering.

For if you wandered a thousand times,
A thousand times I'd say, "Come back home!"
For there are sprinklers to run through, cool nights to enjoy,
And plenty of green fields still to roam.