Tuesday, December 31, 2013

An Angry White New Year's Eve

There's no fanfare or public relations work to do tonight. I'm not gonna even post a link to this one on Facebook. It may even be deleted by morning if I care enough to take a second look. I'm tired of defending myself against the world anyway and of having to answer all of the smart alecky devil's advocates, many of who should really know better anyway. I don't need to be the one to tell them.

Sometimes, you just need to get it out of your system.

If the Angry White Loner were truly angry and a loner, he might lament the fact that it's New Year's Eve. Again. There are parties to attend, but at this point, they feel only like an obligation. One is a Church dance for single adults of the younger set, from whom the AWL has been cast out as a leper and unclean, while another is for the old set, who have been assimilated by the Borg, and, I daresay, there are very few who have met each other more than once in a year's time. The third option is the marrieds party, which, you might guess, is for the married friends.

The AWL would just be a third wheel. Or fifth wheel. He forgets which one it's supposed to be. But you get the picture.

He also set a new personal "best," if you can call it that, this month, batting .000 in the dating department. That's 0-for-9. He tried to get a date nine times and was told no, thanks, nine times. One of the girls he asked out four times, four weeks in a row, before she finally remembered that she had a boyfriend. Or she made one up. Same effect, either way.

He tells himself to brush himself off and keep trying, but rejection still hurts. If you care even a little bit, it has to. Nothing risked, nothing gained. All of those slammed doors on the mission pale in comparison.

Not that he is bitter. Haha!

Ergo, he's in a room full of people, yet all alone at the same time. It's not from a lack of trying, he reminded himself more than once tonight. That one thought is a small consolation. The only consolation. There is that cute girl who wants to get to know him better on the online dating site, but she lives in Alaska. Nope, nobody in the immediate, 1,000-mile radius tonight.

Nobody cares. They go through the motions of caring, but they don't. None of the ones he cares for and wants to care for him in the same way, at any rate. That's the Catch-22 of it all. They all say they want a sense of humor and kindness and all of that gooey stuff, and end up picking the jerks anyway. Or, they pick no one. 'Cause there's only one Captain Moroni, and it certainly ain't you.

There are men out there on death row, for crying out loud, who have women madly in love with them. Convicted murderers, rapists, kidnappers, spousal abusers, child molesters, etc. Yes, the AWL is aware he has brought up this tidbit before. It never helps nor changes anything. But it still bothers him.

Another thing that bothers him: Angry White Close Relative and he had a conversation today. AWCR brought up the word that has crossed his mind several times before on sleepless nights but that no one has mentioned to him face to face until today: alone. That death knell of words. That's how you're going to end up, it was strongly implied. Maybe it was said right out loud. He doesn't really remember because he was stunned to hear it said out loud at long last. Either way, the message got across.

You had someone who cared about you not long ago, AWCR reminds him. She made you quite happy, didn't she? He can't believe he's doing it, but he cites Jane Austen.

"'Quite happy' is not enough. 'Quite happy' is not the ending I want to write for my story."

One in 500, he calculated not long ago. That's how many out there are still trying. Out of 30,000 people in this county alone, 29,000 seem to have given up. Completely. Either that, or they're hiding under some very large rocks out there somewhere. They fill up their lives with books and movies and Farmville and the badge of busyness and a thousand other things except for the most important thing they could be doing. As far as caring goes, they have declared themselves immune, exempt, and forfeit. He recognizes he feels passive-aggressive about it all, and though it's often been his defense mechanism, it's something he knows needs to work on in 2014. But he still notices it.

This is why people hate the holidays. This is why they get S.A.D. during this time of year.

Well, at least there's 101 Dalmatians on Netflix to keep him company. And that will have to be enough for tonight. Not the animated one; the live action one, with Dr. House and Mr. Weasley as the henchmen.

Yep, that's what the Angry White Loner would write only if he were truly angry and a loner. Which he clearly isn't.

Not in the least.

. . . Wait, the Lakers lost tonight?! And Disney's Robin Hood is on Netflix, too?! This day just got 10,000 percent better.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Everything Old Is New Again

The Angry White Loner's last post generated several more views than any other post he had previously made to that point. According to the view count, this particular post actually made it into triple digits, which is a rare thing for the AWL but still means more viewers than who, on average, tune into CNN or MSNBC programming.

In addition, I've received a lot of feedback about the post in my day-to-day conversations and on social media sites like Facebook. Most of it has been positive and civil, even from people who have disagreed with me, while some of it was less than civil and, unfortunately, has led to further debate and discussion.

In summary, if I may paraphrase Vizzini's assertion from The Princess Bride, the Three Classic Blunders must now be:

1) Never get involved in a land war in Asia.

2) Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.

3) Never get into a debate about religion or politics on an Internet discussion board.

That doesn't mean I intend to stop standing up for the things I believe in, nor does it mean I will stick my head in the sand like an ostrich when it comes to current events. But it does mean that I will try harder to both avoid casting "pearls before swine" and to avoid contention, because I think it's possible to do so in the process. With the New Year right around the corner, it's a resolution I am making and will try my darndest to stick to in 2014.

One overarching thought has occurred to me through it all, and it is simply this: Everything old is new again.

As a wise friend reminded me that, since the beginning of time and throughout the scriptures, people have ridiculed and discarded the counsel of the prophets of God in every dispensation of time, as well as in our own. That hasn't changed and, apparently, won't change anytime soon. It has happened before, and it shouldn't surprise us that it is happening again.

One less-than-courteous poster asked me bluntly, "Who are you to impose your religious dogma on other people and to deny them their Constitutional rights?" (There is no such "right" as gay marriage in the Constitution, but that is a discussion for another day, I suppose.) I must admit that it reminded me of King Noah responding to Abinadi's sermon in Mosiah 11:27:

"Who is Abinadi, that I and my people should be judged of him, or who is the Lord, that shall bring upon my people such great affliction?"

The flip side? Though the prophets have always been ridiculed and their counsel discarded, their words have always been fulfilled, and those who have ridiculed them and discarded their counsel have been destroyed, whether spiritually, morally, or physically.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Why It Matters

On Friday, a federal judge overturned Utah's Proposition 3, passed in 2004, which defined marriage, under Utah state law, as a contract entered into between only a man and a woman. I just read in tonight's paper that, in the three days since, more than 700 gay marriages have already taken place across the state.
This is all happening so fastmuch faster than I was prepared for. I didn't think we'd have to cross that bridge here in Utah for a few more years at the earliest.
And yet, here we are. "Tomorrow" has come. Some rejoice in that fact. I have been somewhat surprised to see more than a few of my LDS friends join in their jubilation.
As a result, many conversations have taken place, some more heated than others, over the past few days. Personally, I have engaged in discussions about the issue with family, friends, and even a few mere acquaintances, both in person and on Facebook discussion boards.
Earlier today, one friend posted a link on my wall that read, in part:
"Should a particular religion’s faith document (referencing the Proclamation on the Family) become law for everyone? Is the Bible the Constitution? Churches can still believe and practice what they want and not impose those beliefs on secular law. And do you really want to make legal or illegal everything the Bible endorses or opposes? Do you really want to go there?"
To paraphrase: "Why do you care, Angry White Loner, whether a man chooses to marry a man or a woman chooses to marry a woman? It's all about love, not hate. What does it matter to you whom another person chooses to love? How dare you impose your hateful, ignorant, outdated, homophobic religious beliefs on society."
I've pondered a great deal over both these questions and the possible answers over the course of the weekend. (Having strep throat tends to leave you with a lot of time to think about a lot of things.) And I've come up with two main points to sum up why this issue does matter a great deal to me personally and why it should matter to us all.
1) Two months ago, in the October 2013 general conference of the Church, Elder Russell M. Nelson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said:
"Each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny. One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family" (emphasis added).
Though the world may not care what I, personally, believe on the matter, and may discount my opinion as someone unqualified to opine, the Lord cares what each and every one of us thinks on the matter and whom or what ideals we choose to follow in this lifetime. The day will come when we will have to account for it, face to face. And His opinion of us matters. He will want to know where and with whom we stood when all of this was going on.
2) Because of my nieces and nephews, it matters. A lot.
That thought occurred to me yesterday while I got to spend some time with them (at arm's length, of course, because I'm currently under the weather) at our bi-monthly family dinner.
I care for all nine of them a great deal. Hopefully, more will join us in the next few years. If and when I have kids, I will feel the same way about them, too. Next to their parents, grandparents, siblings, and other aunts/uncles, I care for them more than anyone else on this Earth. I want them to be happy and healthy and to succeed and grow and to live up to their potential. I also worry about what the future may bring them, though it is with cautious optimism. I hear a lot of optimism from President Monson and the other General Authorities when they speak.
As a family, collectively speaking, we are teaching these children that "marriage between a man and a woman is essential to His eternal plan" and that "children are entitled to birth within the bonds of matrimony, and to be reared by a father and a mother." Following this teaching is the only pathway to true, lasting happiness and a fullness of joy, both in this life and in the eternities. The God we believe in is a God of pure, perfect love, not of hate, and one who wants us to return to live with Him—though we have to do our part.

Already, however, the world is telling these children, either directly or indirectly, that this doctrine, as it is found in the Proclamation and in the mouths of 15 modern-day prophets, seers, and revelators, is outdated, stupid, wrong, changeable, hateful, discriminatory, bigoted, and other, worse adjectives that I won't mention here.
I cringe at the thought of this happening, though I know, sadly, one day, it will. I want to protect them from these detractors who are, in reality, the hateful, spiteful ones. I will fight with everything I possess to prevent it from happening. I will try to be the best example I can be of someone who honors God's pattern for marriage and family. Never, however, will I resort to bullying, fear mongering, unkindness, shunning, or any other tactic unbecoming of a follower of Christ to do so.

On a different friend's wall, I read this other thought:

“Right is right even if no one is doing it; wrong is wrong even if everyone is doing it.”
― Augustine of Hippo
Family and friends, the wheat is being sifted from the tareseven within the membership of the Church itselfand the five wise virgins are filling their lamps with oil, while the five foolish ones are being "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine" (Ephesians 4:14). Nevertheless, the way to go is clear, if we will but hold to the rod and "not be deceived" (D&C 52:14) by false prophets, secret combinations, and other wolves in sheep's clothing.

Friday, December 20, 2013

I Should Be So Lucky

Luck . . .

It seems like it's never on my side. If I drop a piece of buttered toast, and this happens more often than I'd like to admit, it usually lands butter-side down. I also enter my fair share of contests, drawings, and games of chance but never win any.

Until Wednesday, that is. And it happened twice.

On Wednesday afternoon, I checked in for my usual bi-weekly plasma donation appointment, because that's just the kind of giving and chivalrous guy I am, to learn that I had won a random drawing for a $75 Visa gift card to spend on anything I wished.

Wednesday was also, coincidentally, my niece Kylee's 16th birthday, so I used part of the funds on the card to take her out to lunch and to buy her a gift card of her own at the mall. Like I said, giving and chivalrous guy and all that.

Later Wednesday night, some friends and I made our monthly visit to the Nickelmania arcade out in Midvale. I *ahem* used some of the funds from my aforementioned gift card to pay for my entrance fee, as well as a bag full of nickels to spend. Among other classic arcade favorites, I tackled The Simpsons Game as Homer, beating the game alone from start to finish.

Yes, sometimes, the Angry White Loner does things to remind himself about the loner part of his name.

Anyway, I finished off Mr. Burns at about 10:55 p.m., just five minutes prior to closing time at Nickelmania. And I still had a bag of nickels, more than half full, in my possession.

I then moved over to one of the games of chance at said location, one that requires three nickels per turn and which then allows you to push a button to drop a bouncy ball, which lands in one of several open holes and wins you a certain number of tickets. In four minutes' time, I managed to dispense of most of my remaining nickels and won forty or so tickets in the process.

Down to my final two nickels, and needing three nickels to take a final turn, I remembered that I still had an extra nickel in my wallet, and I played one final turn. At 10:59 p.m., just seconds before closing time, the ball bounced into the Monster Jackpot, giving me a whopping 1,260 additional tickets.

My good fortune gave me enough tickets to buy a safe piggy bank gift for my friend Modern-Day Muse, whose birthday also fell on Wednesday. Close to 1,000 other tickets were left over to save for my next visit to Nickelmania. 'Cause there ain't no swag like Nickelmania swag.

All told, I may have used up my decade's-worth quota for good luck in one 24-hour period. If that's the case, then so be it.

I'd rather be lucky than good.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Single All the Way

Single male, single male,
Single all the way!
Oh what fun it is to ride
In a one-horse open sleigh!

The Christmas season, in addition to the manger scenes and Santa Claus and the Grinch and all of that good stuff, is certainly also full of love, love, love everywhere, isn't it? From every Hallmark Channel movie to every song about getting hitched by a snowman named Parson Brown or staying indoors while it snows because "it's cold outside," you can't escape it.

Then there's the mistletoe, which contributes to a good deal of snogging and Eskimo kissing and I-don't-know-what-other gooiness between twitterpated folks each and every December. The Angry White Loner has never kissed or been kissed under a mistletoe, but it remains high atop his Bucket List (wink, wink).

For crying out loud, even the once-mean-and-nasty Grinch finds a woman friend in the live-action How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

My point, and I guess I have one, is that the Christmas holiday can be a good deal of fun for people in love but also acute torture for single folkssomething akin to either being strapped to a chair and forced to listen to a continuous loop of Rebecca Black's "Friday" or having your chest hairs plucked out with an old pair of pliers.

It's enough to make making out with the family dog, which is something my family's dog is more than willing to do, look like a good alternative to being all alone on Christmas Eve (or at midnight on New Year's, for that matter).

One of my friends, now married, had a good deal of fun his "family" Christmas card when he was still a single man. Usually, this "family" photo consisted of him sitting alone on a bench . . . and that's about it.

I want to be like him when I grow up.

So, my message is: If you've got someone to hold onto as it snows buckets outside during this holiday season, that's fantastic. More power to you! We all want to be where you are. But also: Be kind to your single friends. It's a tough time of year for them. It doesn't get any easier with Valentine's Day approaching in February, either. Don't rub their faces in it.

Also: I have mistletoe socks, and I'm not afraid to use them.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Giving and Receiving

I attended a very thought-provoking institute class last night. Our discussion revolved around the idea of giving vs. receiving. It's a timely topic because, well, I think it relates directly to the spirit of the Christmas season in which we now find ourselves.

For me, the pendulum has swung both ways on giving and receiving over the years. Hopefully, experience and time have taught me a few things about it.

When I was growing up, Christmas, to me, was all about receiving. I eagerly awaited the arrival of the JC Penney catalogue, devouring the pages of the toy section and wishing for the newest and most popular LEGO, He-Man, G.I. Joe, Voltron, and Transformers sets, then spending many sleepless nights and restless days each December, awaiting Santa's arrival and (admittedly) also trying to spy on my mom's secret cache of presents, usually hidden somewhere in the basement.

Fortunately, it was a phase I grew out of as the years passed. When I became an adultnotice that I do not use the phrase "grew up," as I may be in that process for many years yetChristmas shifted to being all about giving rather than receiving. My mission certainly helped a lot with that, as I had the blessing and the privilege of giving two years of my life to the full-time service of my fellow man. Since that time, it's certainly still nice and appreciated to get gifts from family members and friends, to be sure, but perhaps my favorite thing about the holiday now is observing the looks on my nieces' and nephews' faces as they open their gifts.

In a very real sense, the whole process has gone full circle.

As far as giving and receiving goes for all other kinds of gifts, our teacher correctly pointed out, I think, that it is both blessed to give and to receive. Who among us hasn't prayed about and sacrificed for and labored for a present that, to you, was a significant gesture of love from the bottom of your heart, only to be disappointed and heartbroken when the person the gift was intended for either didn't accept it or treated it as a thing of naught? I'm sure we all have at one point or another.

Many dating experiences certainly apply here. But that is a post for another day.

In other words, a gift both has to be given and received, and it is as much of a virtue to receive a gift as it is to give one. Such is the case with the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which cost the best blood of the history of humankindthe greatest gift ever given, along with the gift of life itself and the bestowal of free agency. Each of us has to make the individual decision whether or not to receive this gift.

At any rate, that's what I got out of it. Now, I must be off. I suddenly have a hankering to dig out my old Optimus Prime action figure.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Sacrament Meeting Sniper

One of the few podcasts I follow is a locally produced broadcast about LDS people and culture. It is called "The Cultural Hall." I first discovered this podcast a couple of years ago when I learned that my friend and Improvables colleague The Artist Formerly Known as the Anxious White Virgin was a regular contributor.

Each time guests are interviewed on "The Cultural Hall," they are asked, among other things, what their current callings are in their wards/branches and also what their ideal calling would beeven if they had to make up a calling that doesn't currently exist.

Not that I'd ever do anything noteworthy enough to be a guest on "The Cultural Hall," but I think today I figured out what my answer would be to the made-up calling question. I would be a sacrament meeting sniper.

Don't get me wrong; I'm fully aware of the whole "Thou shalt not kill" commandment, and I intend to keep it. I also wouldn't aim (see what I did there?) to maim or injure others in the process of carrying out my calling.

No, I would certainly not be the kind of sniper who would use any kind of deadly force. Instead, I would hide out in some sort of carved-out nook or cranny in the back of the gym and, using a silencer so as not to disrupt the meeting nor to distract others in any way, would carefully shoot tranquilizers only at those people who tend to inordinately monopolize others' attention or time. These tranquilizers would pack enough punch to render my victims unconscious for the remainder of the meeting but otherwise perfectly fine physically and mentally upon reawakening.

Anyone saying the opening or closing prayer and going on for longer than 30 seconds? Tranquilized. Any speaker saying anything like "I know that we're out of time, but I have just three more stories to share"? Shot in the neck, and I'm to blame. Any twitterpated young couple displaying their affection for one another in an inappropriately "laying on of hands" or "gift of tongues" manner? Tranquilized with multiple shots.

I also might go so far as to seek out this couple's car in the parking lot and set it on fire. That's what Orrin Porter Rockwell, the Sacrament Meeting Sniper of his day, would have done.

You know who else would get tranq'd? That one person in the wardyou know who he or she is, because every ward and/or ward choir has onewho thinks he/she needs to sing the hymns far more loudly than everyone else, usually employing what I call loco on vibrato, aka the Captain Caveman form of singing I referred to in another post here back in October.

At any rate, that's what I would do if I could make up a calling that doesn't currently exist. But I'm far too nice of a person to actually go out and do that.