Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Ex-Women: Days of Future Past

Some of my siblings and I went to a concert a couple of weeks ago, enjoying the music and new songs of a favorite band of ours that had just reunited for a new album and was touring again for the first time in seven years. One of the siblings' wives had traveled out of town unexpectedly the day before, so I got to attend in her place.

Not that I'm complaining about that. 'Cause I'm not.

Before introducing one of the songs, one of the band members asked those in the audience if they had ever dated a horrible or terrible person. Several hands went up, while others cheered or hollered. He then explained that the next song the band would play was taken from his "Bitter Box," and, though he had never dated someone he would call a "bad" person, the "Bitter Box" of music is his way of dealing with break-ups and relationships that did not go according to plan.

I really like the concept of the "Bitter Box." I'm not an Angry White Loner for no reason, after all.

At the same time, I also do not endorse bitterness as a way of life. Being "bitter," at times, is a normal, albeit "Natural Man," emotion, I think. I understand that. I have my own "Bitter Box" cache of music to help me get through break-upsnot as a means of pointing fingers or assigning blame to myself nor to anyone else but rather as a means of giving myself a few daysno more than a week at mostto sulk, to forgive, to heal, and then to "climb back on the horse" and begin dating again.

Like the writer/singer of that song, I can also claim that I have never dated a "bad" person, let alone a horrible or terrible person. In addition, I hope that no one who has dated me would ever think of me as a "bad" person, either, though I may have unwittingly given them a reason to do so. I'm a work in progress, and I make mistakes. Daily.

I've dated only good people who have made mistakes, too—and who are not at all "bad" but are, rather, "different." I've come to see a break-up as not a bad thing but as a good, necessary thing, though it sometimes is a pill that is nastier than cod liver oil to swallow. Nevertheless, I can choose to look at my dating experiences with bitterness, or I can choose to look at them as a learning experience, in which I have gained valuable insight into my own behavior, as well as lessons about women that will help me be better in my present and future opportunities.

Given the choice, I choose the latter.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Primary

At week #5 on the Island of Misfit Toys, we heard the counselors in the new bishopric speak. The bishop himself did not speak as he was out of town, visiting grandkids.

One of the bishopric members spoke on the theme "All I Really Need to Know I Learned on the Farm," based on the Robert Fulghum book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Both talks were great and got me to thinking, with all due to respect to both counselors and Mr. Fulghum, of a list of my own:

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Primary.

1. Nobody cares if you can't sing well; join in anyway. And if a song has actions that accompany it, such as "Popcorn Popping," you better darn well do them.

2. Speaking of which, you won't always sing soprano. Enjoy it while it lasts.

3. Be quiet and polite when others speak, just as you hope others will give you the same respect when you speak.

4. Respect and listen to your teacher. That may be your calling someday.

5. Speaking of which, be afraid of the Blazer B boys. Be very afraid. It's strange how karma works.

6. Even so, some bratty or misbehaving kids turn out to be fantastic, well-behaved adults. And vice versa.

7. Speaking of which, some girls I once thought of as "plain" grew up to be downright foxy. Just as flowers and trees need time to grow and blossom, so do people.

8. Drawing with crayons is still one of the best hobbies you can have in life.

9. Mom wrote me some pretty darn good talks.

10. Don't do rotten things to your friends just to fit in with "the crowd."

11. People make mistakes. Jesus taught us to love them anyway.

12. Pioneer children sang as they walked, and walked, and walked, and walked . . .

13. Sharing time is fun.

14. There is a time to sing and to play, and there is also a time to be reverent.

15. Say please and thank you often.

16. "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes" is pretty good exercise.

17. I am a child of God.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Warts and All

Week #4 on the Island of Misfit Toys was also our first high council Sunday as a ward.

The high councilman who spoke delivered a very interesting message, I must say. Included among his thoughtsand I'm paraphrasing here because I wasn't smart enough to write down his exact words when he said themwas the idea that the adversary tries to make us "strive for perfection rather than self-improvement."

I took statement that to mean something to akin a recent general conference address by Elder Dallin H. Oaks, in which he spoke about things that are "good,  better, and best." Ultimately, of course, perfection is our goal, though for many of us, that's thousands of years in the future. In my case, we may be talking five or six digits. Or more.

However, self-improvement is something that is attainable in this lifetimewhether it be on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. Self-improvement is a "good" or even a "better" goal that will, ultimately, take us to the "best" goal, which is that of perfection. We have to start with self-improvement and keep working at it throughout this lifetime before we can even begin to consider moving on to attaining something like perfection.

Still with me, Mouseketeers?

This concept, I believe, is also directly relatable to dating. So many of us may be looking for the "perfect" man or woman rather than one who is a genuinely good, dedicated, faithful Latter-day Saint who has flaws and challenges, warts and all, yet who also has goals and is striving to improve him/herself at all times.

It's something that affects both the women and the men. For each woman who wants a Captain Moroni or a Nephi, there's a man who wants a Rebekah or Rachel (whom Jacob served 14 years for because he was that much in love with her) or any number of exemplary women from the past or the present.

Were I to ever find the "perfect" woman, why would she want to date me? I am not the perfect man. "Intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence," and all of that, you know?

This is also not to say that it is a good idea to, then, "settle" for someone who does not inspire you to be better, who has no goals or ambitions, who has a nice-looking car and muscles but can't carry on a conversation with you for more than two minutes, nor for someone who sees how far he/she is from perfection and has given up trying altogether. Nor for jerks. Especially not jerks.

It's just to say that there are no perfect men nor women from which to choose in the dating pool.

But perfection? That is for another day and another time. Also, it's for Costco cheesecake.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Love Poetry for Dummies: "Not a DTR"

"Not a DTR"

This is not a DTR;
I wouldn't even call it close.
It just my way saying that
I really like you, I suppose.

I'm not infatuated, though
I often think of you at night;
I wonder if you think of me
As the one who'd hold you tight.

When we are together, I find
That the hours just disappear;
And when we're not together,
I count the hours until you're near.

It's not like I use four-letter words,
Like that "L" one that can be so scary;
But I find that I am falling in "like,"
And I choose not to leave it buried.

So, this is no "Somewhere Out There,"
And it's not "A Whole New World."
It's just one guy and his feelings,
Expressed awkwardly in these words.

If I had the words, like Keats or Browning,
Or in a ballad that I've been humming;
I'd say it in a better way;
Instead, I write poetry for dummies.

Monday, May 12, 2014

The Patience of Sarah

Week #3 on the Island of Misfit Toys, aka the new mid-singles ward, went very well yesterday. I got to help put the cups in the sacrament trays and then fill them up with water, which is something I hadn't done for years. Sacrament meeting itself was also good, as we had a chance to listen to three of the four wives of the new bishopric (one, regrettably, was home sick and couldn't be there) speak to us.

As a theme, they chose inspiring women of the Old Testament, profiling such people as Eve, Miriam, and Esther. All great choices.

For some reason, however, I found myself thinking a lot about Sarah, née Sarai, aka Abraham's wife, throughout the day. You know, the woman who had to wait until age 90 to have a child? This was partly due to the fact that I am currently reading Orson Scott Card's biography of Sarah.

The other part? Well, being a member of a ward in which there are several women who have not yet married, as well as some who are divorced and perhaps even a few who are widowed, and all are age 31 or oldermost of who (I can only surmise at this point) have not yet had the opportunity to experience the blessing of motherhoodyou don't have to be a genius to figure out the significance of Sarah's story.

As I have been reading Card's book, I grow only more impressed with Sarah's faith and with the enormous amount of patience she must have developed over the course of that 90-year wait for a promised blessing to be fulfilled.

I also realize that there were some sitting in my midst yesterday who, for one reason or another, will not get to experience that blessing during this lifetime. It's hard to see with our natural eyes, for the present, why things like this happen.

Or, rather, in this instance, don't happen. At least, not yet.

I don't pretend to know the answers. I don't even know a small percentage of the answers. But what I do know of a surety is that, in the end, all will be made right for those who, like Sarah, faithfully strive to keep their covenants and who seek the blessings available to all those who, by birth or by adoption, belong to the house of Abraham.

It's a pretty great family to belong to. And we have a pretty, great, pretty great mother.

Speaking of which, I'm glad I also had the opportunity to give my own earthly mother a hug yesterday and to tell her I love her and that I'm grateful for all of the many, many, many things that she has done for me. I also realize that not everyone had that opportunity, either.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Haters Gonna Hate

I recently wore my BYU hoodie, like the cool kids do, to a local institute class that I attend on Wednesday nights for singles over 31 years of age and for lepers, who are often lumped into the same category and, usually, for the same kind of the same reason.

"I HATE BYU!!!!!!!!!!!" shouted one girl I do not know when I neared the bench where she sat. She used 11 exclamation pointsI know because counted themat that exact volume just in case there happened to be anybody three blocks away who might have missed this expression of her opinion.

I was both somewhat taken aback and embarrassed by her statement that all I could think to respond with was, "Well, just keep on paying your tithing then." The look on her face afterward told me that my attempt to diffuse the situation with humor did not work as I had hoped it might, and so I moved over to talk to someone else.

For as long as it has gone on, I don't understand the hateon either side of the BYU/Utah rivalry. I really don't. It's one thing to dislike your school's rival and to root against them in, for example, sporting events in which both schools take part. I understand that. But the use of the word hate has some pretty strong connotations to it, and I suppose that's the part I just don't get.

I also don't understand how someone who identifies him/herself as a member of the LDS Church can "hate" the official school of that Church, whatever his/her reasons (sports or not) may be. I can't think of a Catholic who, for example, hates Notre Dame. Similarly, a supporter of the U. of U. might be annoyed or disturbed by my "just keep on paying your tithing" comeback or by a BYU supporter's assertion that it is "the Lord's university." I get that, and those are fair points.

Personally, I'm somewhat of an anomaly both in my family and in the rivalry. Unlike my two brothers who attended BYU and remain Cougar fans, and another brother who attended the U. and remains a Ute fan, I grew up a BYU fan but attended college at the U. I remain a Cougar fan to this day, but I also cheer for the Utes when they play other schools, and I want them to succeed and to do well. In the process, I've also been witness to a lot of embarrassing behavior on both sides.

It's rooted in pride, I guess. One of the most disturbing parts about it is that many who, unwittingly or not, join in on the rivalry identify themselves more as BYU or Utah haters than they identify themselves as Utah or BYU fans, respectively. It's not just hating the "other" school in the rivalry game; it's also wanting the other school to lose most if not all of its games to other teams, as well, and to hopefully be crushed and/or embarrassed in the process.

I once overheard a Ute fan, who did not know that I grew up a BYU fan, state that his favorite season of college basketball ever was the one 16 or so years ago, during which the Cougars won only one game and lost all of the rest. I repeat, his favorite year was not a year in which his school, the Utes, did well but a year in which the rival school lost all but one of its games.

Certainly, there are many things to take into account, and they affect people on both sides of this great and spacious rivalry we have built up here in our lovely Deseret. Many who feel animosity toward the "other" school have been treated very poorly at the other school's sporting arena and such. I've also heard many people admit, on both sides of the rivalry, that they have no problem whatsoever with the other school except for the other school's fans, who often act pompously, idiotically, scornfully, or—dare I use the Max Hall/c-word ?classlessly about something as petty as a sports rivalry. Fans of both sides should feel embarrassed about these kinds of things and should stand up and put a stop to them when/if they occur.

Not to sound too much like Rodney King, but can't we all just get along?

Monday, May 5, 2014

Movie Review: 47 Ronin

Over the weekend, I watched a little gem of a film called 47 Ronin, which arrived on DVD via Netflix. Rarely does a movie inspire the Angry White Loner to write a review of it here on his blog, but this was one of the select few that made the cut. Add to that the fact that I watched this one by myself, ergo there was no one else present to hear and chuckle at my various witty remarks.

So, here they are.

In a nutshell, 47 Ronin stars Keanu Reeves as one of 47 samurai seeking revenge for the death of their sensei. That is the plot summed up in one sentence.

I wanted to like this film. I did. But as soon as Gedde Watanabe, who also played Kuni in UHF, appeared, all I could hear was him telling Keanu "Stupid! You're so stupid!" over and over again in my head.

Among the other highlights:

 - The ronin sign a contract in blood using their thumbprints, which coincidentally is also the way by which you can exchange old DVDs or CDs at Graywhale store. True story.

 - The plot is actually somewhat parallel to The Princess Bride. Yes, *that* Princess Bride. Really. There's a wedding that the good guys try to stop, with the hero, once thought dead, trying to save his beloved from marrying a Humperdinck of a weasel of a bad guy. There's also magic and miracles and all of that stuff. Only it appears that 47 Ronin is the rejected first draft of that script and is set in Japan.

 - Ronin apparently both have choreographed dressing and undressing routines that they perform in unison. I did not know this.

 - The white dog/dragon from The Neverending Story apparently appears to help Keanu fight one of the baddies.

 - Not since Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones have special effects been wasted so needlessly to help a character eat something by lifting some food to one's mouth via the Force (or, in this case, hair, or magic).

A bunch of other stuff happens in between, but I fast-forwarded through all of that. Isn't technology amazing?

On a scale of 1 to 10, I give it a 47.