Friday, December 22, 2006

Truth, Long Overdue

To find happiness is to prefer to believe that there is a reason for being happy. It is a leap of faith if you will, toward what we hope is an absolute, a movement toward what we wish to be an answer (and who is to say that it isn’t).

It may seem like the only option is to believe, but in what exactly? The existence of meaning? The possibility of transcending uncertainty? Do we make purpose out of ourselves, the ones we care about, altruism, strength of will, strength of reason? If a belief fails to serve its host, then that host will inevitably resume the search for a belief that it perceives to be more worthy, so does it matter where faith is vested so long as it serves the purposes of its host?

Perhaps dysphoria is just the influence of diminishing faith. The dysphoria remains until the belief is either fed or abandoned. Abandonment rewards us with euphoric freedom, while the former heads a path that can lead to blissful ignorance. If we choose to abandon a belief, desire will move us toward another belief, but desire is no less dubious than its purveyors.

I, myself, am a puppeteer, but there is no puppet. There is only what others perceive of me. They invent an illusory puppet. While I am merely testing the rules of the environment which I inhabit, they may try to see someone who is timid or someone who is boisterous, someone sane or someone delusional. Perhaps compartmentalizing others feeds a belief of theirs in some way, but hasty classification using unfit criteria tends to breed cognitive limitations.

I treat others with respect so that I might associate with them easily. I wish to associate with others easily because they might have some truth or tool for finding truth. I will play their games and learn from them. As a result, I may allow sentiments, both inborn and learned, to convolute my judgment. I may let altruism extend beyond its useful purposes to get the better of me, thus turning me into a martyr. Jealousy may rise out of a lingering sentiment that people should not behave arrogantly. An instinctive need for survival and pleasure may affect my responses to stimuli, turning the development of my cognition in unwanted directions.

The truth is, I don’t know.

And perhaps I will meet you one day in a bookstore, at school, or on a plane. If you can see me eye to eye on the message I am trying to convey and somehow communicate it, then perhaps we can share at least one tranquil moment of mutual appreciation for lucidity. Perhaps we can share more.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Sensations Experienced: Love

Love, if that’s the word for it, is what you feel when you want more than anything to open up and give of yourself. The feeling spreads throughout your entire body. It feels as though you truly comprehend the purpose of existence. You see and love the beauty in every facet of every living thing. You completely cherish the beauty in every imperfection. It feels like a deluge of energy from a never ending source. It fills your frame so fast and so much that you get choked up, your heart swells, and you begin to tremble. The feeling grows and grows as you want more and more to give the feeling to everyone and everything around you.

Tears begin to flow when the feeling grows stronger. You cry because the internal commotion is more potent than the sensation of realizing the perfect dream has come true. Every fantasy you have ever played out in your mind is overshadowed by a limitless source of true happiness. The longer you are overwhelmed, the more you feel like you could collapse, but you don’t. You can see through all the barriers of fear and hate that we as human beings put up.

It’s a feeling to live by. There’s nothing to lose because of what you gain in extending it to others. Now, if only we could learn to stop exploiting it, fearing it, and playing it like it’s a game.

Deus Ex Machina

In ancient Greek theatre, actors playing as gods were lowered onto a stage using a wooden crane. They would enter the plot as a way of fixing seemingly impossible problems. As a member of the church, I spent far too much time expecting the unexpected plot change. Maybe somebody would care enough to react to my apparent downward spiral, or maybe I would die tragically young in a terrible accident. Whatever it was, I was waiting. Waiting makes for a pitiful existence. It is reliance on miracles that causes people to lose hope. “Why, oh why can’t I have just this one miracle? Am I not entitled?”

Think about a time when you were the unexpected delivering force. You may have whisked an animal out of harms way and cradled it in your arms to comfort it. You may have stepped in and helped somebody in dire need. If you are recipient of such an unexpected arbitration, it can feel like a gift from some supernatural force. It’s no wonder that people say God is watching out for them.

Miracles are not indicative of a divine presence.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sensations Experienced: Tremors

Awake too late I tremble, my body unable to absorb the remedy. A book of fiction in my hands, that I might escape reality. My eyes tracing the width of the page, back and forth, but the only words I read are the words placed in my hands. A lamp is on, not to scare away the monsters. Out of a shattered trance I fade, losing its balmy embrace. The words bring no more comfort.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Information Control

Sometimes I wonder if nature planned for humanity to evolve into this. Give superior cognitive abilities, nimble appendages, and a well-equipped vocal system to a species, and before you know it, that species will form advanced societies, fabricate some bizarre beliefs about higher beings, and overpopulate and exhaust the planet in their names.

It’s taught that the advent of the printing press elicited one of the most pivotal turning points in human history. A more efficient means of distributing information and knowledge made the age of enlightenment and subsequent ages of advancement possible. It’s sad that, although centuries have passed, much of humanity is still living and thinking in the dark ages.

Until only a couple of decades ago, the church had a very tight control over what information its members could access. Now, the Internet allows devastating information to be dispersed further and faster than ever possible. It’s almost comical how the church doesn’t bother to widely and specifically address the “dangers” of criticism that is available on the Internet. The quorum of the twelve is busy naively warning members about Internet porn while the free flow of knowledge is undermining everything.

Information control is a key element of any cult’s power. The church is getting careless and losing its grip on that control. I guess that’s what happens when you give the dispensation of the fullness of times to a bunch of fogies. It must have something to do with technology and the generational gap.

I guess the church’s divine revelation as a means of getting information just doesn’t measure up to what the rest of humankind uses.

(This message was brought to you by net neutrality.)

Save the Net

Monday, July 10, 2006

Irreverence

“Irreverence is a most necessary ingredient of religion. Not to speak of its importance in philosophy. Irreverence is the only way left to us for testing our universe.”

Children of Dune -Frank Herbert

It felt so good when I finally began challenging the church. Remarks made against Mormonism and religion in general stuck with me because they made sense. Watching self-righteous members foolishly retaliate made me grin. (Well done, liberalism, you brought the free thinker out in me.) It’s amazing how much I didn’t question things before that—things with such a high cost that I should have probed them relentlessly and constantly. For all the sacrifices church members are compelled to make, nothing should be beyond questioning.

It is impossible for one to know if a thing is unworthy of reverence if one is not willing to stop revering it unconditionally. Complete reverence is, in truth, complete surrender. Few members have an absolute reverence, but the church does not ask its members to surrender everything. The church only steals what it needs. It takes money and manpower from members and, in return, deprives them of their full potential without their consent. The church gets away with it because members aren't allowed to question its legitimacy.

The church is capable of doing many benevolent things, but daring to question such an organization is not indicative of callousness. An ideally altruistic organization would never demand veneration, and would even understand the dangerous implications of absolute loyalty. It is in everyone’s best interest to question all individuals, organizations, and societies.

Reverence gives us a means to convey deep respect and admiration, but unconditional reverence is a thing for ancient empires and cults.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Human Rights

I like to think that I would have been on the liberal side of the civil rights movement of the 50s and 60s. However, if I was a Mormon then, I probably would have been as obtuse as the rest of the church’s population.

Even now, the church continues to instigate a world of bigotry. When I was a true believing Mormon, I was no better, unquestioningly accepting the church’s position on gender roles and homosexuality. It infuriates me to know that I was being used as a tool of discrimination and hate.

The first presidency has very recently made its current political stance very clear. The first presidency (and thus, the church) believes that gays and lesbians, even those outside of the church, should not have the same human rights that heterosexuals do.

Letter from First Presidency of the Church to Church Leaders in the United States

We are informed that the United States Senate will on June 6, 2006, vote on an amendment to the Federal constitution designed to protect the traditional institution of marriage.

We, as the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, have repeatedly set forth our position that the marriage of a man and a woman is the only acceptable marriage relationship.

In 1995 we issued a Proclamation to the World on this matter, and have repeatedly reaffirmed that position.

In that proclamation we said: "We call upon responsible citizens and officers of government everywhere to promote those measures designed to maintain and strengthen the family as the fundamental unit of society."

We urge our members to express themselves on this urgent matter to their elected representatives in the Senate.

I was under the impression that the church’s modern political stance was only to interfere with the rights and privileges of its members, not everyone. Gordon needs to get a grip and stop perpetuating intolerance. Why should the church consider civil marriages sacred if they don’t hold any value in the Mormon religion?

As a side note, I went to the gay pride festival in Boise last Saturday with my sister and her friend. I actually enjoyed it *gasp*. I saw a total of two protestors. Both had similar signs calling everyone to repentance in the name of Jesus. They were the most miserable looking people I had seen all day.

I now have a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m Straight, Not Narrow,” which I now display defiantly. Now that my mind is free to think critically, I can say with relative certainty that I will never become the equivalent of a civil rights era racist again.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Restlessness

Feeling markedly overwrought by the trap my family is in, I paced back and forth with a restless need to act. I was blown away by how drastically things have changed for me in such a short time span. I knew it was going to be one of those restless nights. The driving need to act I experienced that night was tormenting. What was I to do past midnight in a small town to satiate my desire for change?

Rather than stay in and accept defeat, I slipped on my shoes, pushed the front door open, and started walking. With no destination in mind, I paraded north. A block and a half later, I stopped at a well lit intersection. A road to the east led to the southern parking lot of my old middle school. Next to me, a street lamp illuminated big black letters on a yellow sign that read, “Dead End.” I laughed, how poetic. A handful of thoughts left my mind before I could linger on them. I won’t be traveling down that road anymore. I continued walking, wondering if I was the only one in town wandering its empty streets so late.

As I continued onward I found myself taking the same route I had taken countless times as a child to my old elementary school. It brought eerie feelings from a time when I was a powerless child, when many adults in the community were too concerned with the upkeep of their overbearing temperaments to positively impact our young lives. It was like walking through a time capsule. Everything was as it had been a decade ago, causing so many latent memories to emerge: a stretch of road that had no shade on hot days; an uneven sidewalk that made for first-rate bicycle ramps; a busy intersection that had seemed so perilous to us; the small old church we peeled paint off of; the place where an old acorn tree used to be (the same place where a friend stole my Silly Putty before pedaling away in nervousness); an old fence notorious for delivering splinters; and finally, childhood indoctrination ground zero.

The church building I had attended from age eight to seventeen was only a block away from my elementary school. As I approached it, the only words I could force out were, “There’s the lie.” I sat on the curb next to the building to take off my shoes and massage my feet. I sat baffled at how underrated my life had been because of the church.

As I got on my feet and circled the perimeter of the building, more memories surfaced: All of the silly Sunday school lessons about giant boats, floating cities, and Jesus’s magic tricks; waiting in the car each week while my mother gossiped; being the first member baptized in the new ward; mischievously playing with the equipment in the clerk’s office; all of the ridiculously dumbed down priesthood lessons; and all the members in my ward whom I shared nothing in common with.

Somehow, remembering all those things allowed me to stamp out a part of my past that was still oppressing me. By the time I got home, I was more restless than before, but for a different reason. I don’t know how else to explain it, but I had an urge to run through endless wild fields. After lying on the wet grass in the backyard and staring at the sky, I poised myself, grasped for a moment at the soggy earth below me, and dashed to the front sidewalk. In my mind I ran free for hours.

I welcome the restless nights to come.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Equilibrium

I watched Equilibrium for the first time since my disaffection. It’s a movie set in a post World War III future where feelings have been outlawed due to their volatile nature. The citizens of Libria inject Prozium, a drug that blocks human emotion, at regular intervals. Those that are guilty of “sense offense” are hunted down and executed by the Grammaton Cleric. At the root of it all is the Tetragrammaton, a government that maintains peace through propaganda and brutality.

John Preston, the main character of the story, is a key member of the Grammaton Cleric. He, like other citizens of Libria, isn’t capable of understanding how meaningless life is without emotion. Only when he stops taking his regular interval of Prozium does truly know.

Mormonism is like Prozium. It is a drug that stifles happiness and freedom, but unless you stop taking your intervals, you can’t possibly hope to understand how Mormonism is voiding your life. “Because you’ve never done it, it you can never know it.” If you stop dosing yourself, you risk the Grammaton Cleric revoking your eternal life.

Within the church, I spent far too much time waiting for a better day. Like the people of Libria I existed simply to continue my existence. I wasn’t really living my life, nor did I have command of it. When you live your life like that, “Breath is just a clock, ticking.”

There are so many striking parallels in the movie, but I don’t want to spoil it. I would rather you watch it yourself.