Monday, June 30, 2014

Weeping, Wailing, and Gnashing of Teeth

"There shall be weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth, and this because of their own iniquity" (Alma 40:13).

What an eventful week it has been. In case you spent the week stranded on a deserted island or have been out with the flu, one of the leaders of the Ordain Women movement was excommunicated from the LDS Church, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Judge Shelby's ruling overturning the gay marriage ban in Utah, and the United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of Hobby Lobby's challenge of the contraception mandate in Obamacare, among other things.

So many strong emotions about it all. So very many. And, sadly, a great deal of contention as a result.

Yesterday after church, I unfortunately found myself involved in a rather contentious conversation about one of these topics, and it was a horrible, ugly, empty feeling. It was not a situation I had sought out nor one I was happy to be a part of, and I'm embarrassed for both myself and my friend's sake that it ever occurred.

Your very own Angry White Loner has blogged about this friend before. He's one of those people who, as President Hinckley once said, has left the Church but cannot leave it alone. He also seemingly falls into the category, as one institute teacher of mine called it, of "toxic personalities"people who are impossible to please and who place the burden of their happiness on everyone and everything else around them. On everyone else, that is, but themselves.

After this conversation ended, I made the decision to unfriend this person from Facebook—that is, until I discovered that he had unfriended me first. Well, so be it.

This doesn't mean I will go out in public in disguise just to avoid this person, nor will I rev the engine of my car like Cruella DeVil should I see him crossing the street. In fact, I told him I hoped we could meet someday and that I could take him to lunch so that we could talk things over in person. I also told him I would be praying for him and that I would look for him at future social activities involving others of our age/married status.

Nevertheless, cutting ties with this person on social media, which is far too intertwined in all of our lives, was the right thing to do—for me, at least. Even the great Nephi reached a point that he had to move far away from his brothers Laman and Lemuel, because it had become dangerous for him to remain in their presence—both physically and spiritually. He still loved and forgave his brothers, yet he and his crew packed up and got the heck outta there.

At the same time, my heart breaks for this friend. The bitterness inside him has grown like a cancer, and he seems not to see it in himself. He has lost his testimony, has left the Church, and has replaced it with . . . apparently only vitriol, hatred, cynicism, blame, and, above all, misery.

What do you do with a friend like that? I don't know. But I'm going to figure it out, one day at a time.

In the meantime, I'm going to rededicate myself to accentuating the positive. Even an Angry White Loner can work at this. In spite of the whirlwind that the last week was, there is still goodness and beauty out there to be sought after, as we read about in the 13th Article of Faith. I'm glad to have you who are reading this as friends, because you more than likely wouldn't be reading it if you didn't consider yourself to be a friend of mine. Otherwise, I would just be some plumb loco quack philosophizing into the nameless void. And that, if it were true, would be utterly ridiculous.

I'm grateful to be surrounded by so many people who build up rather than tear down, which is what real friends do and is also, in its essence, what the gospel of Jesus Christ is all about. I'm grateful to have the opportunity to work on improving my own weaknesses and imperfections, some of which were made all too clear to me recently.

I'm a work in progress. We all are. How lucky I am to have such good friends along with me to enjoy the ups and downs of the ride.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Success

Week #10 on the Island of Misfit Toys: The wife of one of the counselors in our bishopric taught today's combined, fifth-Sunday lesson. Because, as we've all been hearing repeatedly for the past week, women have no real authority to teach and don't have a voice, nor can they really do anything at all significant in the Church.

No, seriously, I'm not going to get into that topic today.

This was an inspired lesson about "success" and the choices/behaviors/habits that will lead us to real, lasting success.

She began her lesson by passing out pieces of blank paper and asking us to write down specific actions or goals that would lead us to success. I began rather tongue-in-cheekily, jotting down a list that included:

- Getting 100 likes on a Facebook status

- The Jazz making a smart draft pick at #5

- USA winning the men's World Cup, or at very least not getting terribly, embarrassingly beaten by Belgium Tuesday

- Burning down the South and then doing baptisms for the dead

- Eating bacon

- Climbing atop the Rameumptom to thump your chest, and then shouting out to the world exactly why you and your kin and your entourage are better than everyone else. Use good grammar, and give specific examples.

- Having muscles and a jeep. Or a Mini Cooper. I won't judge.

- A six-figure salary. Or more!

- Owning your own mansion, fully staffed with a butler, maid, masseuse, personal trainer, jester, llamas, and other servants/pets (what's the difference, really?) you can apply the strap to mercilessly whenever you feel like it.

 - Beating everyone else at Mario Kart

By the world's standards, that's a pretty good list. Well, the world's standards, as usual, are wrong.

I also wrote a list of "real" reasons, which included:

- Keeping the commandments

- Being Christlike

 - Building up, rather than tearing down, others. True success is a win-win proposition whereas, according to the world, you must lose and I must win in order to be successful.

- Peace of conscience/mind

- Perspective

- Serving others

- Family

- Saying "please" and "thank you." A lot. Because some of the most miserable people I know are also some of the most ungrateful.

- Friends/being a friend, without regard to another's creed, religion, beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.

- Finding joy in the journey

- Magnifying my talents/callings

- Tender mercies of the Lord

I like the second list better. Also, I put "eating bacon" over on the second list.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Blah Blah Blah

Sometimes, you just sit there, staring at the blinking cursor. This goes on for a few seconds. Then, it has been a few minutes. Soon, minutes upon minutes have passed, and, before long, it's been an hour. By this point, the cursor is not only just sitting there, but it's also flat-out mocking you, you silly knucklehead who can't even put a few lousy words together.

Type something, for the love of bananas! it screams at you. Even Stephnie Meyer made a career out of this, writing about shirtless werewolves and sparkly vampires and teen angst and mustache dads and a crucial subplot involving the loch ness monster working as a welder by day while dreaming of being a dancer at night. Probably.

Writer's block. It happens to the best of us. It also happens to me.

The Angry White Loner does not only blog for "fun," because that's what this is (right?), but he actually also does a good deal of writing for his job. Yes, believe it or not, folks, I'm a professional.

Some people make a career out of using a lot of really swanky, cool-sounding words but, at the same time, don't actually "say" anything at all. They just babble, blather, bluster, cackle, cajole, chinwag, converse, discuss, double-talk, flibbertigibbet, gab, jaw, natter, parley, pontificate, quip, schmooze, whine, yak, yammer, and yap, over and over again. Some of them, in fact, even become *ahem* president of the United States.

It's almost like they have nothing better to do than to Google synonyms of the word talk.

Maybe I should have gone into politics. I wouldn't be the first Angry White Loner to do so, and I certainly wouldn't be the last.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Benefit of the Doubt

There's something about driving in the rain that makes people's IQs drop by 50 points, I remember thinking this past Thursday afternoon. I was frustrated because I was in a hurry to get somewhere, and what should have been the quickest route had become the most time-consuming one. A brief cloudburst of much-needed summertime rain, and everyone on the road I was driving on slowed to about 20 miles per hour in a 50 MPH zone.

To quote famous stand-up comedian George Carlin (aka Rufus in the Bill & Ted's movies):

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

I'm sure we're all tempted to feel this way at times. We have our eyes wide open when looking at others' perceived faults and have our eyes half-closed regarding our own.

No more than two minutes later, I turned a cornerand, in the process, I inadvertently cut off someone else, who likely had to press his brakes hard in order to not collide with me. Vertently or inadvertently, I had messed up.

This person, in fact, then changed lanes and pulled up parallel to me at the next stoplight. I turned over to look at him and saw that he was now making eye contact with me, and I mouthed the words, "I'm sorry." He then proceeded to roll down his window to say something back to me.

Dreading or fearing what lewd gesture or comment this person had in store, I was both surprised and relieve to hear him say, with a smile, "It's okay, dude!" He even gave me a thumbs-up sign and drove off as the light turned green.

Whoever you are, random, kind stranger, thank you for reminding me that we all make mistakes, and that forgiveness is always a good option. You didn't let me cutting you off ruin your day.

The next time someone cuts in front of me, fails to signal a turn, or commits any one of a number of "oopsies" in traffic, I would hope to give that person, as this stranger gave me, the benefit of the doubtthat said person is somewhat like me, a reasonably good and safe driver who happens to have just made an innocent mistake rather than some escaped mental patient on the loose, running over curbs and cats and small trees and driving the wrong way down one-way streets and committing other serious and/or scary traffic violations.

For that, we have celebrities.

Monday, June 9, 2014

God Is in the Details

Week #7 on the Island of Misfit Toys: The bishop gave his first talk involving "actual doctrine," to use his term for it. And it was unforgettable. It was, indeed, simply profound.

Like improv, you just had to be there.

I'm not one who normally takes notes during sacrament meeting, but this discourse was full of such insightful teachings that I ended up taking a few. His theme was a play on the old phrase "the devil is in the details," except he turned it around and told us that "God is in the details."

He talked about the fact that we all experience disappointment at times, and these moments are when we are inclined to just stay home, close the drapes, and not answer the dooreither literally or metaphorically, or both. The key to overcoming these moments in our lives is serving others. He added his belief that God has already prepared other people to answer prayers that we haven't even prayed yet.

"No one was foreordained to fail or be wicked," he said. I didn't write down many things word-for-word, but that statement was one of them.

"Don't goof up your orbit," he added, stating that our personal orbits have caused us collectively to meet in this ward at this place and at this time, and that it is for a special purpose. He concluded with the idea that the star of Bethlehem didn't just appear in the sky on the night of Christ's birth but that Heavenly Father sent it on its path billions of years prior.

Granted, that last statement may be speculation or from the Book of the Bishop, but he got his point across well.

Island of Misfit Toys? Yep, sure feels that way. And there's no other place I'd rather be right now.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

With Six Eyes, You Get Eggroll

Not to sound too much like a stand-up comedianthough I'm probably going to end up sounding like one anywaybut today's topic is sunglasses: What is the deal?

I've been trying to figure out why sunglasses trouble me so. Perhaps this has something to do with the fact that I already wear glasses and have had them since high school, and if I tried to put on yet another pair of lenses to keep the summer sun out of my already nearsighted eyes, then that would give would-be bullies an excuse to call me "six eyes" or something of that sort. That's why I prefer to wear hats.

I can already achieve the "Six Eyes" effect any time I go to a 3D movie. Additionally, that's also a lot of weight to be putting on your poor nose.

Other people wearing sunglasses also make me nervous. (Obviously, I'm not referring here to someone like, say, like Stevie Wonder.) Why? Mainly, it's the fact that I cannot see their eyeballs. I don't have any idea how they're looking at me when they're wearing those things. Like if they're rolling their eyes at me if I bring up something like Star Wars or "Weird Al" or any one of dozens of other topics.

And what's up with people who wear sunglasses indoors and on the tops of their heads all day long, nestled in their hair? Do they not have pockets or purses or a car to keep them in? Is this a fashion memo that I missed? Is it really comfortable to wear sunglasses on top of your head throughout the entire three-hour church block?

Perhaps strangest of all are those who wear sunglasses at night. Unless, of course, the point of this is to watch people when they weave and then breathe their story lines, or to keep track of the visions in their eyes. In that case, don't switch the blade on the guy in shades.

I'm jiggy with that.