Took several of my children hiking at Red Rock Canyon this morning. My favorite pictures of the landscape are these two, showing mid-morning sunbeams streaming down over a lush desert vista, rolling out in layers. This view is facing southeast from the highest point of the Keystone Thrush Trail.
Of course, the whole family’s favorite view of the hike was this little critter. I’ve lived here my whole life, and this is actually the first tarantula I’ve seen out in the desert:
Finished the second volume in the Teachings of Presidents of the Church series: Brigham Young.
Here are my favorite quotes from volume 1: Joseph Smith.
These are the passages I marked from Brigham Young:
“Mormonism,” so-called, embraces every principle pertaining to life and salvation, for time and eternity. No matter who has it. If the infidel has got truth it belongs to “Mormonism.” The truth and sound doctrine possessed by the sectarian world, and they have a great deal, all belong to this Church. As for their morality, many of them are, morally, just as good as we are. All that is good, lovely, and praiseworthy belongs to this Church and Kingdom. “Mormonism” includes all truth. There is no truth but what belongs to the Gospel. It is life, eternal life; it is bliss; it is the fulness of all things in the gods and in the eternities of the gods (DBY, 3).
Chapter 2: The Gospel Defined
[mild language alert] Working at my desk during lunch today, I had the door open and overheard two girls sitting out in the hall talking about a third girl. One of them said, “She’s a really good dancer, and really pretty. AND she’s a really nice person. Ugh, I know, like, what the hell?”
I just read a student’s book report where one paragraph began: “This book is a classic because for one, it is an old book published in 1988.”
Another student, writing about the same book, agreed: “This book is really old, and there’s not much difference in the feelings that people had in 1988 vs. today.”
UPDATE 10/28/14: And today in another class a student gave a speech that included a reference to the Tom Hanks movie Big. “Now I know that’s a really old movie…” he said. Big, of course, came out in 1988. What’s with kids all thinking that’s ancient history now?
Alma 13:1-20 may be the most linguistically and theologically dense section of the entire Book of Mormon. The first half–about ordination to the high priesthood–has been considered in pieces such as this, and the second half–about Melchizedek–has been analyzed in works such as this.
I see these as part of a whole–a single sermon where Alma not only elucidates several tough ideas in a masterful lecture, but does so in a way that was appropriate for the context and powerfully motivates us to act on the implications of his teachings. This is actually part of a longer work I’m drafting about Alma’s standard teaching template, where his unique pedagogical paradigm in the Book of Mormon–establishing authority, delivering content, and inspiring with a challenge–is briefly repeated towards the end of each of his sermons.
The colors, italics, underlining, etc. in the chart given here are meant to connect the many words and phrases that are identical, or at least synonymous. Just glancing at this arrangement shows how dense the concepts are, especially in the first half of the pattern. We see priesthood, discipleship, and Atonement themes discussed here, and this colorful arrangement shows how they are entwined in Alma’s sermon.
As the punctuation was not part of the original translation, I’ve taken some liberties with it here, modifying it as needed to clarify the meaning of the passage.
I hope this helps demystify a difficult passage for Book of Mormon students.
A wonderful parody, posted here.
Today’s poem is by David Hernandez
We Real Nerds
We real nerds. We
Love words. We
Trim vines. We
Craft poems. We
Tall gnomes. We
Can’t dance. We
Hold stance. We
Wear tweed. We
Small herd. We
Got smarts. We
Fat hearts. We
Saw a license plate yesterday that said “PREYN4U.”
Is this a misspelled announcement that the driver’s pleading with God in our behalf, or is it an accurately spelled warning that the driver is hunting us down?
Last month as I was walking across the UNLV campus one afternoon, a former high school student of mine crossed my path and stopped to chat. She got excited and said she was happy to see me because she wanted to thank me.
For some amazing lesson we’d once had in class? No. That Spring I had been doing some decluttering, and had brought several boxes of old books to class. I told the students to just take what they wanted.
She took a few books and promptly forgot them in some hidden corner of her room. She found them over this last summer and read them. One in particular became her favorite book, an energizing window into a great new branch of literacy for her.
The book was W. Sommerset Maugham’s The Razor’s Edge, by the way. It’s one of my favorites, too, and we talked about it for a while.
Funny how often the biggest effects we have on people’s lives are from the little extra things we do.
I’m not a people person by nature. I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out. Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.
Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year. Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me. Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.
I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them. I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.
But then I read these verses:
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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 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!!
Looking back on Bill Murray in The Razor’s Edge
The definitive ranking of every Cosby Show credits sequence
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
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