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200 Years For Three Generations

On Thursday of this week, people in my stake read the Book of Mormon’s little Book of Enos.  At the end of that short work, Enos says that as he approached the end of his life, “an hundred and seventy and nine years had passed away from the time that our father Lehi left Jerusalem.” (Enos 1:25)

That actually used to bug me–it seemed implausible that nearly 200 years could pass in the space of only three generations.  Any time I tried to make the math work, it just didn’t seem realistic.

But upon reading it again this week, I remembered this story from a couple of years ago: John Tyler, 10th president of the United States, who was born in 1790, has grandsons who are still alive.

Not great-great-great-grandsons, mind you.  Grandsons.

That’s well over 220 years covered by only three generations, more than 40 years longer than the time mentioned in the Book of Mormon.  If you figure that Lehi might have been about 40 when he “left Jerusalem,” the chronologies aren’t far off at all.  Indeed, the Book of Mormon says that Enos’s father Jacob was the next-to-youngest son of a large family (1 Nephi 18:7), and that his parents were quite old at the time (1 Nephi 18:17-18).  Enos may well have also been a youngest son of old age.

179 years from 1 Nephi 2 until the end of Enos is perfectly plausible.

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“My Grandfather Had a Life”

This essay will turn eight years old next week.  In the age of constant bombardment by media content, we’re lucky to remember anything specific from last week, but I think about this one essay all the time.  It is that important.

My title comes from this quote: “My grandfather was born in 1888 and he didn’t have a lifestyle. He didn’t need one: he had a life.”

Among the many other great parts:

I suspect that my grandfather’s life was real in a sense that my father’s life hasn’t quite been, and my life is not at all.
The crucial difference is my grandfather’s lack of self-consciousness, and that self-consciousness is a hallmark of the perpetual, infantilised adolescents we have all become, monsters of introspection hovering twitchily on the edge of self-obsession, occasionally aware that the life that exists only to be examined is barely manageable; barely, indeed, a life.

Note that the article ends with some very sane–and therefore radical–truths about adulthood.

Required reading.

King Lear Reimagined As a Band of Five

In my project of reading the complete works of Shakespeare this year (currently at 33 down, 5 to go), I read King Lear for a second time.  Something that struck me is just how complementary the five most sympathetic male characters are.  I was reminded of the Five Man Band trope, which shows itself in numerous stories and films.

I think a modern movie or TV series based on Lear’s five man band could be quite good.  Picture an ongoing series of conflicts in a large story arc, where their dynamic strengths and weaknesses both contribute to their success while often hindering them (not very original, that), could make for excellent episodic storytelling.

Consider these character notes:

Lear: Out of touch with reality from betrayal brought on by his own shallow pride when (he was younger, here).  When lucid, he’s brilliant and fierce, though wracked with remorse.  Often, though, he falls victim to fugues of emotional breakdown.  Fallen from a position of power before the story started.

Kent: Disguised, unknown to Lear: serves Lear despite Lear foolishly hurting him in an earlier wrath (years before, in our version), before insanity.  Wants to save the old man; doesn’t (consciously) blame him for the assault and subsequent bad fortune.  Loves Lear from empathy for the role fate has played in his fall, and from seeing him used and abused by those he loved and trusted.  Has to balance desire to protect and nurture this father-figure with occasionally dealing with repressed anger over the suffering he endured at his hands–though, again, he doesn’t hold Lear fully responsible for his actions.

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Examples of Benjamin Franklin’s Saucy Humor

Pretty soon I’ll be introducing my high school juniors to Benjamin Franklin, inventor, statesman, and sage.  Of course, there’s so much to his famously irreverent sense of humor that I can’t really get into with them.  Two of my favorites:

1. A list of more than 200 synonyms for “drunk.”

D
He’s Disguiz’d,
He’s got a Dish,
Kill’d his Dog,
Took his Drops,
It is a Dark Day with him,
He’s a Dead Man,
Has Dipp’d his Bill,
He’s Dagg’d,
He’s seen the Devil,

2. This letter, where he lists reasons why it’s better to have an affair with a mature woman than a young one.  Observe:

2. Because when Women cease to be handsome, they study to be good. To maintain their Influence over Men, they supply the Diminution of Beauty by an Augmentation of Utility. They learn to do a 1000 Services small and great, and are the most tender and useful of all Friends when you are sick. Thus they continue amiable. And hence there is hardly such a thing to be found as an old Woman who is not a good Woman.

3. Because there is no hazard of Children, which irregularly produc’d may be attended with much Inconvenience.

….

8thly and Lastly They are so grateful!!

Notes and Quotes: October 2014

ARTS

Looking back on Bill Murray in The Razor’s Edge

The definitive ranking of every Cosby Show credits sequence

HUMOR

25 great anti-jokes

The Little Rascals’ recreate movie poster 20 years after film was released

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Delightful approach to Shakespeare’s language

Why Homer Matters

The savage greatness of A Clockwork Orange

Hear all of Finnegans Wake out loud

LIVING WELL

40 portraits of four sisters over 40 years

Milky Way photography

National Geographic 2014 photo contest

Photo: Spirits of Westminster

Art from the collection of Ray Bradbury

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

“Many human behaviours, quirks, eccentricities and woes which in the past would have been seen as parts of the rich tapestry of life are now branded mental disorders.”

Reviewed: How To Be a Conservative

Generation Wuss,” by Bret Easton Ellis

Create a Book of Mormon Day

Please sign the petition and share!

http://wh.gov/i32vA

Here’s the text:

Create an annual Book of Mormon Day | We the People: Your Voice in Our Government

// //

Since being published in 1830, the Book of Mormon has had an enormous impact on American history and culture.

More than 150 million copies have been printed. It has appeared on multiple polls of the most influential books in people’s lives. It has appeared in both scholarly editions and a Penguin Classics version.

The Book of Mormon played a pivotal role in the settlement of the American West. More recently, it has even inspired an award-winning Broadway play of the same name.

It’s time to formally recognize the large contributions made to the United States, its history, and its people, by the Book of Mormon.

March 26–the day it was first published, in New York–should be declared a national Book of Mormon Day.

Late Summer 2014 Photos

Some of my favorites as I review the contents of my tablet from the last two months:

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

Sunset at North Las Vegas Stake Pioneer Day, Saturday, July 26, 2014

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows.  In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky.  Here, I also like the dark tone.

At Zion National Park, August 2014, approaching the Narrows. In canyons, I like the contrast between high stone walls and sky. Here, I also like the dark tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

And here I like the bright tone.

Great shade of blue in this one.

Great shade of blue in this one.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

I like this view of receding canyon walls, lapping like waves.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

It was a cloudy day, which created some nice contrasts, such as here, with darkness in the foreground and light farther off.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Preparing to splash around with the kids in the Virgin River.

Directly above the previous picture.

Directly above the previous picture.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014.  We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait--standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

At Spring Mountain Ranch, west of Las Vegas, August 29, 2014. We went to see a production of Shrek, and it was a ton of fun, but I always like the wait–standing out there just before sunset creates some excellent chances to see light streaming sideways through these mountains.

And into this nearby field.

And into this nearby field.

Going...going...

Going…going…

A small pool created by the setting sun.

A small pool created by the setting sun.

Sun's almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

Sun’s almost done for the day, and the light rays are stronger now.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

My favorite view of the Salt Lake Temple: Saturday, August 30, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

Sunrise on my way to work, Friday, September 5, 2014.

The horizon is giving birth  to a sun.

The horizon is giving birth to a sun.

Notes and Quotes: September 2014

EDUCATION

I’ve always said this: teachers don’t leave because of bad pay, they leave because of poor working conditions.

WSJ: Four Ways to Spot a Great Teacher.

 

HUMOR

I suspect I find this funny for reasons other than those the artist had:

shirt

 

LANGUAGE AND LITERATURE

Gioia’s intro to Finnegans Wake

WSJ: Shakespeare as a Life Coach.

14 Reasons to Read the Classics

Fight the Moral Madness: Read Charles Dickens to Your Kids

 

LIVING WELL

Fun parkour video.

I’m a sucker for great astronomy photography.

Beautiful photo of contrasts.

Sunset AND a castle?  Wow!

Here’s a chart I found online with some good productivity ideas:

how-to-be-productive_530adf38cc928_w1163

 

POLITICS AND SOCIETY

Ten Ways Mormons Can Celebrate Independence Day”  Good advice for all of us, for every day.

Great essay about defining conservatism–required reading for all poli-sci wonks.

On conservative literature–a good start.

The complicated politics of Shakespeare.

On ostensibly conservative college students being intellectually stunted:

“They cannot think with a conservative worldview because they have had limited exposure to conservative values. Children spend thirteen years in a school system which was founded upon progressive ideals about education and which increasingly promotes statism. For eighteen years the entertainment industry communicated to them an equally progressive worldview. From all sides children are taught to believe in the inherent goodness of humankind and to cherish the values of tolerance and diversity. There is no good and evil; there is just diversity. There is no justice and truth; there is only tolerance for other opinions. Democracy has become a good in its own right instead of being founded upon virtue. When democracy becomes its own end, any atrocity can be justified by a majority vote.”

Great comment on an Instapundit link about politically biased professors:

I noticed that back when I was in university: the liberal students were so used to everyone around them validating their opinions that they didn’t learn to make good arguments; the conservative students knew they needed good arguments, so they learned to make them,

The unfortunate part comes when these liberal students go through many years of schooling, get loads of validation for twittering about the talking point of the day, and then turn into incredulous, raging jerks when an adult conservative makes a point contrary to their ideology.

 

Two Great Temple Resources

1. This post at Jr. Ganymede makes some excellent observations gleaned from the temple. I especially like how the author uses his thoughts to draw spiritual lessons for appreciating the wisdom of our Heavenly Father.  

2. This video about symbology in LDS architecture, particularly in temples but also in regular meetinghouses, is fascinating. It made me look at my own Sunday church building differently, and more reverently.  

 

Emerson and Melville on Melancholy

Two great quotes I picked up on earlier this summer when I read Eric Wilson’s Against Happiness:

 

I compared notes with one of my friends who expects everything of the universe, and is disappointed when anything is less than best, and I found that I begin at the other extreme, expecting nothing, and am always full of thanks for moderate goods.

–Emerson, “Friendship”

So, therefore, that mortal man who hath more of joy than sorrow in him, that mortal man cannot be true—not true, or undeveloped. With books the same. The truest of all men was the Man of Sorrows, and the truest of all books is Solomon’s, and Ecclesiastes is the fine hammered steel of woe. ‘All is vanity.’ ALL. This wilful world hath not got hold of unchristian Solomon’s wisdom yet. But he who dodges hospitals and jails, and walks fast crossing graveyards, and would rather talk of operas than hell; calls Cowper, Young, Pascal, Rousseau, poor devils all of sick men; and throughout a care-free lifetime swears by Rabelais as passing wise, and therefore jolly;—not that man is fitted to sit down on tombstones, and break the green damp mould with unfathomably wondrous Solomon.              

But even Solomon, he says, ‘the man that wandereth out of the way of understanding shall remain’ (i.e. even while living) ‘in the congregation of the dead.’ Give not thyself up, then, to fire, lest it invert thee, deaden thee; as for the time it did me. There is a wisdom that is woe; but there is a woe that is madness. And there is a Catskill eagle in some souls that can alike dive down into the blackest gorges, and soar out of them again and become invisible in the sunny spaces. And even if he forever flies within the gorge, that gorge is in the mountains; so that even in his lowest swoop the mountain eagle is still higher than other birds upon the plain, even though they soar.

–Melville, Moby Dick, ch. XCVI

 

More of Mill on Living Well

From chapter 5 of the autobiography…

On happiness through ignoring yourself:

The enjoyments of life (such was now my theory) are sufficient to make it a pleasant thing, when they are taken en passant, without being made a principal object. Once make them so, and they are immediately felt to be insufficient. They will not bear a scrutinizing examination. Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so. The only chance is to treat, not happiness, but some end external to it, as the purpose of life. Let your self-consciousness, your scrutiny, your self-interrogation, exhaust themselves on that; and if otherwise fortunately circumstanced you will inhale happiness with the air you breathe, without dwelling on it or thinking about it, without either forestalling it in imagination, or putting it to flight by fatal questioning. This theory now became the basis of my philosophy of life. And I still hold to it as the best theory for all those who have but a moderate degree of sensibility and of capacity for enjoyment, that is, for the great majority of mankind.

 

On music:

The only one of the imaginative arts in which I had from childhood taken great pleasure, was music; the best effect of which (and in this it surpasses perhaps every other art) consists in exciting enthusiasm; in winding up to a high pitch those feelings of an elevated kind which are already in the character, but to which this excitement gives a glow and a fervour, which, though transitory at its utmost height, is precious for sustaining them at other times. This effect of music I had often experienced; but like all my pleasurable susceptibilities it was suspended during the gloomy period. I had sought relief again and again from this quarter, but found none. After the tide had turned, and I was in process of recovery, I had been helped forward by music, but in a much less elevated manner. I at this time first became acquainted with Weber’s Oberon, and the extreme pleasure which I drew from its delicious melodies did me good, by showing me a source of pleasure to which I was as susceptible as ever.

 

On finding enjoyment in simple things:

Relieved from my ever present sense of irremediable wretchedness, I gradually found that the ordinary incidents of life could again give me some pleasure; that I could again find enjoyment, not intense, but sufficient for cheerfulness, in sunshine and sky, in books, in conversation, in public affairs; and that there was, once more, excitement, though of a moderate kind, in exerting myself for my opinions, and for the public good.

 

On poetry (and mountains):

This state of my thoughts and feelings made the fact of my reading Wordsworth for the first time (in the autumn of 1828), an important event in my life….   
  In the first place, these poems addressed themselves powerfully to one of the strongest of my pleasurable susceptibilities, the love of rural objects and natural scenery; to which I had been indebted not only for much of the pleasure of my life, but quite recently for relief from one of my longest relapses into depression. In this power of rural beauty over me, there was a foundation laid for taking pleasure in Wordsworth’s, poetry. the more so, as his scenery lies mostly among mountains, which, owing to my early Pyrenean excursion, were my ideal of natural beauty. But Wordsworth would never have had any great effect on me, if he had merely placed before me beautiful pictures of natural scenery. Scott does this still better than Wordsworth, and a very second-rate landscape does it more effectually than any poet. What made Wordsworth’s poems a medicine for my state of mind, was that they expressed, not mere outward beauty, but states of feeling, and of thought coloured by feeling, under the excitement of beauty. They seemed to be the very culture of the feelings, which I was in quest of. In them I seemed to draw from a Source of inward joy, of sympathetic and imaginative pleasure, which could be shared in by all human beings; which had no connexion with struggle of imperfection, but would be made richer by every improvement in the physical or social condition of mankind. From them I seemed to learn what would be the perennial sources of happiness, when all the greater evils of life shall have been removed. And I felt myself at once better and happier as I came under their influence. There have certainly been, even in our own age, greater poets than Wordsworth; but poetry of deeper and loftier feeling could not have done for me at that time what his did. I needed to be made to feel that there was real, permanent happiness in tranquil contemplation. Wordsworth taught me this, not only without turning away from, but with a greatly increased interest in the common feelings and common destiny of human beings. And the delight which these poems gave me, proved that with culture of this sort, there was nothing to dread from the most confirmed habit of analysis.

John Stuart Mill on Good Writing

My love affair with Mill’s autobiography continues. This paragraph from chapter 4 reviews the effect that an editing job he held had on his own writing.

The middle struck me as a bit funny: he notes that some readers found someone else’s style too convoluted; this, in a sentence with eight commas and a colon. I actually love Mill’s constant subordination–it makes his prose exact, but he never overdoes it. Each sentence of his always has a perfect balance between precision and fluidity.

Also, I like the description of good writing elements at the end: the idea of fleshing out the bare bones of composition and creating something “lively and light.”

The time occupied in this editorial work was extremely well employed in respect to my own improvement. The “Rationale of judicial Evidence” is one of the richest in matter of all Bentham’s productions. The theory of evidence being in itself one of the most important of his subjects, and ramifying into most of the others, the book contains, very fully developed, a great proportion of all his best thoughts: while, among more special things, it comprises the most elaborate exposure of the vices and defects of English law, as it then was, which is to be found in his works; not confined to the law of evidence, but including, by way of illustrative episode, the entire procedure or practice of Westminster Hall. The direct knowledge, therefore, which I obtained from the book, and which was imprinted upon me much more thoroughly than it could have been by mere reading, was itself no small acquisition. But this occupation did for me what might seem less to be expected; it gave a great start to my powers of composition. Everything which I wrote subsequently to this editorial employment, was markedly superior to anything that I had written before it. Bentham’s later style, as the world knows, was heavy and cumbersome, from the excess of a good quality, the love of precision, which made him introduce clause within clause into the heart of every sentence, that the reader might receive into his mind all the modifications and qualifications simultaneously with the main proposition: and the habit grew on him until his sentences became, to those not accustomed to them, most laborious reading. But his earlier style, that of the Fragment on Government, Plan of a judicial Establishment, &c., is a model of liveliness and ease combined with fulness of matter, scarcely ever surpassed: and of this earlier style there were many striking specimens in the manuscripts on Evidence, all of which I endeavoured to preserve. So long a course of this admirable writing had a considerable effect upon my own; and I added to it by the assiduous reading of other writers, both French and English, who combined, in a remarkable degree, ease with force, such as Goldsmith, Fielding, Pascal, Voltaire, and Courier. Through these influences my writing lost the jejuneness of my early compositions; the bones and cartilages began to clothe themselves with flesh, and the style became, at times, lively and almost light.

57 Perfect Tens

I just read these two great posts about rereading favorite books.  I very rarely do that–I’m one of those who have so many new things I want to read that it’s hard to justify making time to go back to books I’ve already finished.

Still, this made me review the notes I’ve kept on my reading–a list of every book I’ve read since 2001.  From that record, I see that I’ve given exactly 57 books a perfect 10, not suggesting that they’re all masterpieces, but that reading them was pure, supreme joy for me.  If I were stranded on a desert island, this would be my library.

  1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey
  2. As You Like It, William Shakespeare
  3. A Man in Full, Tom Wolfe
  4. The Razor’s Edge, W. Somerset Maugham
  5. Doctrinal New Testament Commentary vol.1-3, Bruce R. McConkie
  6. Raising Up A Family to the Lord, Gene R. Cook
  7. Charles Kuralt’s America, Charles Kuralt
  8. The Know-It-All, A.J. Jacobs
  9. Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
  10. Beowulf, Seamus Heaney, trans.
  11. The Rule of Four, Ian Caldwell & Dustin Thomason
  12. Heroes of History, Will Durant
  13. The Eyre Affair, Jasper Fforde
  14. The Pilgrim’s Progress, John Bunyan
  15. Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand
  16. How Proust Can Change Your Life, Alain de Botton
  17. The Stranger, Albert Camus
  18. Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman
  19. America Alone, Mark Steyn
  20. The Tetherballs of Bougainville, Mark Leyner
  21. On Liberty, John Stuart Mill
  22. A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy Toole
  23. Code of the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse
  24. A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs
  25. Reading the OED, Ammon Shea
  26. An Instance of the Fingerpost, Iain Pears
  27. Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
  28. The Westing Game, Ellen Rankin
  29. The Road, Cormac McCarthy
  30. Rise To Rebellion, Jeff Shaara
  31. Sister Wendy’s 1000 Masterpieces, Wendy Beckett
  32. The Last American Man, Elizabeth Gilbert
  33. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, Kate DiCamillo
  34. The Federalist Papers, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, John Jay
  35. Dune, Frank Herbert
  36. No Country For Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
  37. World War Z, Max Brooks
  38. Richard II, William Shakespeare
  39. Bleak House, Charles Dickens
  40. Prometheus Bound, Aeschylus
  41. Henry IV, Part I, William Shakespeare
  42. A Game of Thrones, George R. R. Martin
  43. Carry On, Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
  44. The Secret Knowledge, David Mamet
  45. Noble House, James Clavell
  46. Flatland, Edwin Abbott
  47. Born to Run, Christopher McDougall
  48. Gilead, Marilynne Robinson
  49. Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurtry
  50. Paradise Lost, John Milton
  51. Elric of Melniboné, Michael Moorcock
  52. One For the Books, Joe Queenan
  53. Dubliners, James Joyce
  54. Childhood’s End, Arthur C. Clarke
  55. Odd Thomas, Dean Koontz
  56. Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy
  57. His Excellency: George Washington, Joseph J. Ellis

 

More of Mill on Education

From the middle of chapter 2 of John Stuart Mill’s autobiography, my thoughts exactly:

And I do not believe that boys can be induced to apply themselves with vigour, and what is so much more difficult, perseverance, to dry and irksome studies, by the sole force of persuasion and soft words. Much must be done, and much must be learnt, by children, for which rigid discipline, and known liability to punishment, are indispensable as means. It is, no doubt, a very laudable effort, in modern teaching, to render as much as possible of what the young are required to learn, easy and interesting to them. But when this principle is pushed to the length of not requiring them to learn anything but what has been made easy and interesting, one of the chief objects of education is sacrificed. I rejoice in the decline of the old brutal and tyrannical system of teaching, which, however, did succeed in enforcing habits of application; but the new, as it seems to me, is training up a race of men who will be incapable of doing anything which is disagreeable to them.

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