Thursday, December 31, 2009
Looking back and comparing with others is often fruitless
Orson Scott Card, December 24, 2009
We take stock of our lives, from time to time. As some milestone approaches -- a birthday, a new year -- we look back and assess ourselves.
It's good to ask ourselves, "How am I doing?" But it's sad when we use such times to compare ourselves to other people.
Some people compare in order to gloat. Both David Merrick and Gore Vidal have been quoted as saying, more or less, "It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."
Some people compare in order to excuse themselves. They see other people's successes and say, "They got all the luck. I just can't catch a break." As if there were nothing they could do now to improve their place in life.
Some compare in order to beat themselves up. "Here I am, 30 years old, and look what other 30-year-olds have accomplished! I'm a failure."
I know very well an accomplished woman, keenly intelligent, who has influenced the lives of many for good -- but she has always felt like a failure because she had neither money nor a bachelor's degree.
Yet I know many women with wealth, with doctorates, who would regard her as the most fortunate of women and wish they had accomplished what she has.
All my life I've loved to sing, and over the years, without any formal training, I improved my voice to the point where, in my 40s, I was able to sing all the high parts in the chorus of "My Fair Lady." I sing in the Mormon ward choir and take pleasure in singing with family and friends.
Yet as I now age out of that high tenor range, I feel keenly the fact that I didn't do more with my voice. I compare myself to real singers and feel as if I failed.
Yet it's what I chose. I spent my effort on writing fiction, plays and screenplays. The singers I compare myself to practiced constantly. They took every opportunity to perform. They honed their skills.
I was once invited to take part as one of the soloists in a performance of "The Messiah." It was a moment when I really had to face the difference between my dreams and my achievements. I knew what I expected, as an audience member, from a "Messiah" soloist. I also knew that, if I worked hard for months, I could probably do it.
But I did not have the time to put in that work. I had writing deadlines to meet. I had speeches to give, meetings to travel to, friends to visit with, books to read in order to have something to write or say.
And at that moment I realized the difference between ambition and daydreaming. My degree of "success" at singing reflects exactly the amount of effort I put into it.
The gloaters, the excusers, the regretters all make the mistake of comparison, as if the achievements or failures of others erased our own. Yet God has no quota such that, when enough people have been saved, all the rest will be turned away.
The Savior said, in parable, that those who were hired in the morning for a penny have no call to resent those who were hired much later in the day, and receive the same penny for their work (Matthew 20: 1-16).
There is no life without missed opportunities which will never come again. What is the point of regretting that I chose this, when I might have chosen that, unless what I chose was sin? Then I must change.
But past sins cannot be undone. We must change ourselves so that from here on we will do right.
That is all that any of us can do: Choose the path we will follow from now on.
Fortunately, the path of righteousness is always only one step away. We have merely to take that step and begin to move forward on the right road, and our offering will be acceptable to the Lord.
If this is true of our choices between right and wrong, why should we waste even a moment regretting choices that have no moral component?
Perhaps you didn't get a college degree on the same schedule as others; perhaps you didn't marry when you might have, or have children at the age you now wish you had begun, or make less money than you might have in a different career.
Those years are gone, and you learned from them whatever you learned, and gave to others whatever you gave. No one else lived your life -- they lived their own. Comparisons are a waste of time.
Let us look at what is still possible for us in the future, find the best use of the time we have left and then eagerly pursue the good causes that are within our reach.
Don't look at others to compare, but rather to offer help, or ask for it.
Don't look backward with regret, but rather forward with hope.
I think of the greatest script of the 20th century, Robert Bolt's "A Man for All Seasons."
An ambitious, discontented young man, Richard Rich, comes to Thomas More to ask him to help advance his career. More, seeing that worldly success would destroy young Rich, offers him a teaching position.
More: "Why not be a teacher? You'd be a fine teacher; perhaps a great one."
Rich: "If I was, who would know it?"
More: "You; your pupils; your friends; God. Not a bad public, that."
All our comparisons with other people are really about ambition and fame. We judge ourselves as the world judges, instead of seeing ourselves through the eyes of Christ.
We must temper our ambition to fit within what is both possible and good. Only then will our remaining years of life, however long or short, be well and happily spent.
Only then will we be greeted by the Savior with the words, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant."
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Matt has a kind soul and gentle heart. He has blue eyes and curly light hair. He has strong arms and he tries hard at everything he does. He has no hair on his legs. One night after we were first married, I thought I was sleeping with a woman and that really freaked me out. Now I am used to it.
Matt loves all things German, all things with more than 8 cylinders, all things chocolate (especially dark). Matt likes eggs, italian food, and diet dr pepper with cherry.
Matt loves to read and to write and has developed amazing calligraphy skills in his 30th year.
Matt is a great foot massager. Matt also goes along with pretty much anything... I am not sure that it always makes him feel the best, but he is up for most anything.
Matt likes to tell stories about his experience and his parents' and grandparents' experience, and his siblings' experience. I think that means his family history and he has learned so much by and from your examples in his life.
I am thankful for you, Matt and hope that 31 is a good year for you.
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Monday, December 21, 2009
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Anyways, I just found this story about which state is the happiest. Apparently it's research based on self reported surveys. It's research, so it has to be right.
So Leslie and Alex must be the happiest. Florida came in at #3. Here's a rundown of the rest.
Louisiana came in at #1, go figure. New York was 51. Interestingly Utah is only 23rd. And of course, a bunch of liberal states came in at the bottom half of the list.
Here's the link: http://news.yahoo.com/s/livescience/20091217/sc_livescience/happieststatesrevealedbynewresearch
Some of the best I've personally ever heard.
Easterner: So, where are you from?
Easterner: Oh, Ohio?
Me: No, Idaho.
Easterner: You mean, Iowa?
Me: No, Idaho...Famous Potatoes...a big state in the west.
Easterner: Oh, I don't think I've ever been there.
Easterner: So, where are you from?
Easterner: Oh, I haven't spent much time in the mid-west.
Clueless in Costco- by Timothy Egan
For a native Westerner, the slights from the other end of the country start early, and build through a lifetime: national broadcasters on election night who cannot pronounce Oregon (it’s like gun) or Nevada (it’s not Nev-odda), or a toll-free clerk who thinks New Mexico is part of old Mexico.
“You’ll have to go through your own embassy,” a resident of Santa Fe was told when trying to order Olympic tickets for games on American soil.
Geographic illiteracy from the Eastern Time Zone is a given, especially among the well-educated. A New York book publisher, and Harvard grad at that, once asked me if I ever take the ferry up to Alaska for the afternoon. No, I replied: do you ever go to Greenland on a day trip?
Norman Maclean, the great Montana writer, had a worse experience. He complained that an editor turned down his masterpiece, “A River Runs Through It,” because it had too many trees in it.
A media titan, The Washington Post, recently announced they were calling home their remaining national correspondents, explaining that the paper was perfectly capable of covering the rest of the country from inside the Beltway. By that reasoning, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner can discern what’s happening in the capital from their home base near the Arctic Circle.
Sports is a grievance category all its own. If you Google “East Coast Bias,” up comes a long litany of stories about how the West never gets any respect from those great deciders in the East.
So, naturally, Toby Gerhart of Stanford didn’t receive this year’s Heisman Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s best college football player, despite leading elite colleges in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and points scored. Many of the voters were asleep, or Saturday-night-blotto, when Gerhart was dazzling the football world this fall. The voting map was a geography of bias.
These are all minor annoyances, mind you, in a world with daily reminders that an embittered, small-hearted senator from Connecticut can hold up health care for millions, or some people would rather read a “book” by Hulk Hogan than a short story by Sherman Alexie.
But every now and then those of us who reside on the sunset side of the 100th meridian get a chance to rub it in the other way.
Consider the fuss over Costco landing on the island of Manhattan last month. Costco is the nation’s third largest retailer, with more than 400 warehouse stores in the United States alone. Liberals love Costco because they pay their workers about 40 percent more than their big box rivals.
Conservatives love them because they sell Sarah Palin’s book by the pallet, next to the camo wear.
Costco is a brilliant retail concept, but it’s not news. It’s been around for, oh . . . a quarter-century or so. Some of the gushing posts on New York-based Web sites after Costco opened on East 117th Street have all the breathless urgency of a tourist who has discovered bagels in Boulder.
“It’s amazing how many things you can get for a fairly decent price!” One shopper wrote on Yelp New York, the online review site. Um, that’s the idea. And other observers have seemed befuddled in the big box, overwhelmed by the lure of tube sox and toilet paper to last a lifetime.
Most Westerners may not know schmear from schmaltz, but they can tell a sophisticated urban shopper to stick with the to-die-for olive oil, cold-pressed just a few weeks ago in Tuscany, and the $1.50 quarter-pound hot dog when under the high fluorescent sky of a Costco warehouse.
Speaking of my newspaper — please, it’s the holidays, a time for indulgence in all things — they recently discovered a newsworthy item from the Mountain West: Jews in Montana. Imagine!
One more bit of news on this front: the nation’s first elected Jewish governor was a Western man. And a Democrat. In Idaho. Moses Alexander governed the land of famous potatoes from 1915 to 1919.
As a longtime Western representative of The New York Times, which is well read in these provinces, I feel the rub of faux-rube pandering both ways. Here, people are amazed I can find Twitty, Texas, on a map, and — more surprising, can vouch for the peach cobbler. There, the wonder is that I know which side of the plate to keep the salad fork. Sort of.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Monday, December 14, 2009
But that is not my point. My point is... I have an AMAZING, wonderful friend, to talk about her and describe her would take much time and still not quite get across how selfless, kind, genuine and wonderful my friend is. She was my Faculty Secretary at Mary Baldwin. She had her first missionary discussion Friday and invited me to come. It was a wonderful discussion and she was clearly, and very touched by the recitation of the First Vision and she is very, very receptive. She has been doing some investigating of her own on the church and I have some things I would like to pose to you (she works and graduated from MBC, which is an all womens' "feminist" school).
How would you respond to these questions? In part or whole. Some of these things (like offering prayers at General conference and opening prayer of sacrament) I had NEVER EVER heard of. I am not even sure they are true.
1. Women are excluded from administering almost all ordinances in the LDS church. They are also barred from serving as official witnesses to ordinances. (ok with it)
2. Women are barred from almost all of the leadership positions which involve exercising stewardship over the spirituality of both adult men and women. They are primarily limited to exercising leadership over other women and children. (Really?)
3. Women don’t get honorific titles. That is, women General Auxiliary Presidents and their counselors are not referred to as “President Lastname,” (Really?!)
4. Women are discouraged from serving missions. President Hinckley stated that the age is held up to 21 to discourage young women from going. (really?)
5. Women are discouraged from working outside the home. The church does little to publicly encourage or acknowledge married women in careers. (well, I would love to have this option, I will be honest... am I a bad mormon for working?)
6. The church utilizes archaic translations and English versions of its Scriptures that make heavy use of gender-exclusive language.
7. Living women cannot be sealed to more than one man, in contrast to living men who can theoretically have unlimited sealings. (Really?)
8. There are very few female characters in the LDS canon and the temple ceremony drama. The few powerful female figures are found in the Bible and these are often ignored. (not sure, my favorite non-church reference for my Laurels is a book called "Clothed with the Sun" which is comprised of the women featured in the Old and New Testament).
9. The temple ceremony and the Family Proclamation subordinate women to men, wives to husbands. (I am ok with it as long as the husband assumed the role properly)
10. Women leaders are rarely cited in official teaching materials, even on issues for which they ought to be cited.
11. Women are discouraged from exercising the spiritual gifts of healing and prophecy. (I keep thinking about a scene from the movie "Legacy")
12. Almost all of the ecclesiastical offices mentioned in the Bible (prophet, apostle, elder/bishop, deacon, seventy[-two]) are restricted from women, even in the face of strong evidence from the Bible and the early church that these offices were available to women in at least some capacity. The only possible exceptions are teacher and evangelist (if we interpret “evangelist” to mean “missionary,” which seems reasonable). (no idea)
13. Women are restricted from offering prayers at general sessions of General Conference. There are a significant number of wards are restricting women from offering the opening prayer in sacrament meeting and only allowing them to offer the closing prayer. (heh? Really??)
14. Is it true that women are never invited as speakers in the priesthood session of General Conference, even though men are invited as speakers in the Relief Society and Young Women sessions? (I personally really dont care about it, but...)
So, how do you get in the spirit of Christmas when it's 85 degrees outside? I've never had this problem before! Even in California it got "cold"; it was usually in the 50s at night in December. In Florida it has not felt like Christmas at all.
Until...the Winterfest Christmas Boat Parade on Saturday. All along the eastern coast of Florida there are canals (where people usually keep their gynormous yachts). There are bridges that go up and down to allow people to get their second homes, aka boats, from their first homes to the ocean. Once a year the bridges go up for the Christmas parade.
The event is hosted by Hard Rock Cafe, and this year there were something like 100 participating boats. It was beautiful...and fun...and it rained that night. I pretended it was snow, and I'm finally starting to feel it!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
I heard this video has been so popular (understandable) that the mother is bringing in $4,000/month on advertising through YouTube. Hmmm, maybe some of my kids should catch that magical moment on camera and do something similar with their equally talented, profound, and honest children.
Saturday, December 5, 2009
Thursday, December 3, 2009
I was sitting here, in the Houston airport, next to a young couple. They were obviously mourning something. He had his arm around her, rubbing her arm trying to comfort her, but at the same time had big, silent tears running down his face. I desperately wanted to reach out and hug them or comfort them and tell them that it would be okay, whatever it was...eventually it would all be okay.
Those feelings were definitely instinctual, spiritually instinctual and real. I felt so grateful for them, grateful to be the child of a Father who loves his children and who has such great expectations that we learn to love as he does.
Anyway, I'm not sure where I'm going with this...I've been sitting in the airport for about 7 hours and had lots of time to do lots if things, including my own little anthropological study. So there you have it.
I do love you all and would do anything for you! And it's not because evolution made me this way!
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