"If you have an apple, and I have an apple and we exchange apples then we both still have one apple. If you have an idea, and I have an idea and we exchange ideas then we both have two ideas." George Bernard Shaw

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Fighting for a Just Cause

The last verse of The Star Spangled Banner says "conquer we must, when our cause it is just, and this be our motto: in God is our trust." I dislike confrontation, and much prefer peaceful coexistence. However, there are times when we must conquer others and their ideas. 

Recently I have gained an interest in an organization called Operation Underground Railroad. They rescue children from horrible people who sell them for sex. It is one of the most vile crimes I can imagine. On the other hand, those who save the children are some of my biggest heroes. 

This is a cause I believe to be just. This is a cause I can fight for. I know there's not much I can do, but I want to do what little I can. For me that means raising awareness and support for the jump teams that enter dangerous situations to rescue the children, as well as those who care for the children after they are rescued. 

I also want to fight against pornography. Every person who is involved with this heinous crime started on their path toward darkness with pornography. Of course not everyone who views pornography will become a seller or buyer of children for sex, but it is nevertheless as much a gateway drug as alcohol and tobacco. Except that the draw of pornography may be even stronger than many drugs. 

The world may have a lot of problems, but there are also many good things. And I at least am going to fight for them, trusting in almighty God to help me.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Sticking Your hand in a Blackhole

So I was doing an interesting thought experiment today that I wanted to share with you all. What would happen if you had a minature blackhole next to you and you decided to stick your hand into it? Would you be pulled in and disappear for ever? Would your hand be ripped off instantly? Or would something else happen? A similar situation is to have a space ship just outside a blackhole's event horizion and then extend a rod into the blackhole.

I think that your hand or the rod would be ripped off. As you know (or soon will) once an object or even light crosses a blackhole's event horizon it can never escape. An extremity extended past this point would be spagettified and ripped from your body or spaceship as gravity pulled one way and you pulled the other. If the extended object had a tensile strength great enough to endure the opposing forces then you would also be pulled in.

There would be no escape for the object thus extended. If the object's tensile strength was sufficient and did not break then you and the extension would act as a single body and once it reached the event horizon you would also have reached the event horizon and there you would meet your doom of being stretched into a chain of single molecules. If you were able to escape with the extension then you had not actually crossed the event horizon. There is no return from a blackhole.

This led me to question if the event horizon is really more of a continuum than a single border with snaller objects  able to escape with less energy having an event horizon that is closer than larger objects. Though perhaps the event horizon is simply the point beyond which nothing regardless of mass or energy expended can escape.

I think this experiment could be simulated using a very strong magnet and a magnetic material.

At any rate it was fun to think about.

Friday, July 31, 2015

Attuning our Lives to the Music

     Recently after my wife and I completed our scripture study together I found myself surfing the web on my phone. I glanced at my wife and noticed she was doing the same thing. Later that night we reflected on it, noting that although we had talked earlier about how much we just wanted to be home and with each other, we both chose to pursue activities that drew us away from the other.

     That same night I told my wife about a race of people in a book I was read, the Parshendi in The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. The Parshendi , meaning listeners in their tongue, are constantly in tune with music. Whether they are talking to others, thinking alone, fighting or any other activity they have a rhythm such as amusement, irritation and others. A Listener that s attuned to a given rhythm will be perfectly in rhythm and tune with any other Listener who is attuned to that particular rhythm. Their songs give depth to their lives, by helping to convey feeling when speaking, strengthening resolve, by attuning to the rhythm of resolve, mourn, by attuning to the rhythm of mourning, and much more.

     We may not have the superhuman ability of the Parshendi to inherently feel rythms in everything we do, but our lives can have so much more depth if we try to be in tune with what's going on around us. I have often wondered what experiences I, or others, miss by constantly distracting our selves with music, audio books, using our phones and computers, or in other ways preventing our selves from really living in the moment. How many times have missed an opportunity to feel the rhythm of friendship because we were so intent on listening to the cacophony of our phone screen? How many beautiful sights have we missed because we were just too busy to enjoy them, and experience the incredible rhythm of nature?

     I try not to think about it. Doing so makes me feel ashamed.

     Fortunately I have been blessed with a wife who loves nature. With her help I have begun to learn to appreciate the wonders of the earth. She helps me remember to slow down and take time to be still, and simply enjoy life. Being able to fully live in the moment and let the rhythm of the experience, whatever it may be, fully wash over us may take time and effort to do, but it is worth. We owe it to ourselves to do it.

     Why? Isn't it good to read the latest books and news articles? Isn't it fun to use social media and watch endless youtube videos? Sure. I'm not going to try and contest that those things have their place, but not when it stops other things from having theirs. If we are to reach our greatest potential as individuals, we must learn to feel all the rhythms of life, and not let any one of them become too strong.

     I am a practitioner of Shorinji Kenpo. It's very difficult for me to focus and practice if I am too busy listening to whatever my earbuds pump out. Only by removing distractions and giving myself the chance to feel the rhythm of practice, of resolve or of discipline can I hope to really get good.

     As the general conference address The Music of the Gospel explains, while we can go through the motions, for the gospel to really mean something we have to hear the music.

     Every aspect of our lives can be improved if we stop distracting our selves at every turn and learn to hear the music.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Money Doesn't Buy Happiness, But it Enables it

    There's a common adage that says that money can't buy happiness.  Earning large amounts of money won't bring happiness.  Saving large amounts of money, as Ebenezer Scrooge of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol did, won't bring happiness.  However if money is not used to enable happiness then it is really of very little value.
     There is of course money's usage to provide the necessities of life, but I don't think there is any real discussion there.  At least not one I'm interested in.  I'm more interested in how money can be used for good and to bring about happiness.  In the last year or so I've adopted a philosophy of "it's only money".  I have had opportunities to help others achieve happiness and the only real barrier to me was time and money.  By saying "it's only money" I mean that there was really no reason I shouldn't have used money at those times.  I am quite capable of getting more money.  As Charlie's grandfather says in Tim Burton's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory": "There's plenty of money in the world.  They print more of it everyday."
     One of those experiences occurred when I was faced with a choice of going home for a family event or staying in Logan where I lived.  I tried to justify to myself that I had recently been home and there was really no reason for me to go home again so soon.  After some thought I decided that family was more important and that it was worth sacrificing for.  I had the time and the money to do it, so I decided I should do it.
     Another experience was with a cousin of mine who was struggling a little financially.  I owed her gas money and when I found out that she really needed it because she was waiting for her paycheck to come and needed food I gave her the rest of the money in my wallet.  It wasn't much, but it helped her.  I reasoned that I had it and she needed it.  It felt good to be able to help her out.
     More recently I came across a game that my brother enjoys playing and so I went and bought it.  I enjoyed the game as well and thought that if it was something I could do with my brother and that he could do with the rest of our family, then it was more than worth it.
     In all of those cases money didn't buy happiness, but it enabled it.  When I made the trip home or when I played that game with my brother I created memories, and built relationships.  When I helped out my cousin, I was able to serve her, and as King Mosiah teaches: "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of you God"
     Money can mean many things to many people.  To some it is power.  To others it is stability. And to still others it is simply a means of providing necessities and sustaining life.  To me, money's greatest value comes when it is used in the service of others; in enabling happiness.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Rules? I Like Rules

     Yes I could be called one of those goody two shoes kind of guys.  Yes I have been accused of being a rule nazi (especially when it comes to my favorite games such as Settler of Catan).  I've been called old fashioned and just about every other name you can think of for someone who actually likes the rules and tries to follow them.  I've had arguments/discussions over rules with mission companions, coworkers, family, and old girlfriends.  And at the end of the day I choose to follow rules, to understand them, and to be grateful for them.
     Recently at my job I had an experience that made me especially grateful for a rule that was in place and the safety it represented.  I work on an assembly line and am required to wear safety glasses.  They are uncomfortable and sometimes get dirty making it hard to see.  Also no one looks good in safety glasses.  While placing a bolt and a nut using a wrench and a pneumatic drill I lost my grip on the wrench and the drill threw the wrench at my face.  It hurt, but not nearly as much as it could have had I not been wearing safety glasses.  At best I would have gotten a black eye and at worst I would have lost my eye entirely.  Either way I am grateful for the rule requiring me to wear safety glasses.
     A past girlfriend of mine really liked to break "minor" rules.  She hated when I would set rules for us, and we inevitably argued about them.  She would often ask if I trusted her to keep us out of trouble or if I trusted myself to do the same.  I would often reply that I didn't trust myself.
     I really do trust myself; I trust myself to make a smart choice before hand and not put myself in a position to get in trouble.  I trust myself to make guidelines for my behavior so my weaknesses are covered.  In this case not making out, because I knew it would become very difficult to not move on other things that I would sincerely regret.
     A soldier trusts his gun and his aim, but that doesn't mean he's going to walk behind enemy lines.  He's going to stay far away from danger and confront the enemy on his terms (really it's the terms of his commander who knows more than he does, but that's a topic for another day).
     In the case of my girlfriend I usually gave in to her and nothing good ever came of it.  I made some mistakes that I wish I could take back.  I often felt enormous amounts of guilt and self loathing because I knew I was better than that.  Eventually, with help (thanks Mom), I broke up with her.  It took a long time to overcome the depression that ensued because I wasn't true to myself and I didn't do what I knew was right.
     I like rules because they keep me safe.  They keep me from danger.  They keep me happy.  Some rules it's true, have no real purpose.  Rules made by evil people designed to enslave others should be fought against.  In general, however, rules have good reasons for existing.  They summarize knowledge and experience that has been passed on from one person to another.
     Safety rules at work protected me from serious harm.  Rules I had made or borrowed from my religious leaders would have kept me much happier.  Dieting rules keep a person healthy.
     If you don't like a rule, perhaps it is because you don't understand it.  If you don't like it or don't agree with it, question it.  Ask why it exists.  What purpose does it serve?  How can following this rule benefit me?  A smart person learns from his own mistakes, and a genius learns from the mistakes of others.  A genius would recognize that rules often arise from the mistakes of others, and by adhering to the rule, avoid similar mistakes.
     Sometimes rules simply provide order.  There is a rule (sadly on its way out) that says: "ladies first."  Have you ever tried walking through a door at the same time as another person?  Or awkwardly had a nonverbal argument about who goes first for something?  Allowing ladies first simplifies things.  The follow up that may have once followed this simple rule is: "elders first." (generally summed up in "respect your elders and betters)  Sometimes you won't know who is older and you still have problems, but if it helps at least the majority of the time I think it is worth following.  I heard it said once that rules are the grease of society.  They reduce friction and conflict.
     Next time you find yourself fighting against some rule, take a step back and try to understand it, rather than complain that it is a construct of some high-up paper pusher, male chauvinist pig, God, or whoever to constrain you and cramp your style.  Who knows, you may just like what you find.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Meaningful Intimacy on all Levels

     I heard once there were five different types of intimacy: spiritual, intellectual, emotional, social, and physical.  Hopefully none of these need much explanation, but maybe I'll write some posts about each one some day.  Today I want to talk about how understanding and balancing them can lead to greater happiness in our relationships.
     Disclaimer: I am a single guy and haven't actually been in too many relationships, but I want to share what I've learned from the few I've been in.
     In a past relationship my girlfriend and I focused too much on the physical side of things.  I don't think we would have stayed together even if we had done things differently, but perhaps there would have been fewer problems and heartache.
     After I broke up with her I thought a lot about what I wanted in a relationship.  For a while I didn't really care about the physical part of a relationship because things had gone so haywire.  As time went on I decided that I do want that, but I want it in proper balance with the other four areas.  It is my humble opinion that only when all five balance out can we find the greatest happiness in relationships.  How those balance out is between you and your significant other.  I won't even pretend to know how to help you find that balance, except in a general sense.  Not until I've done significantly more research and observation anyway.
       In general relationships will work better when both focus on the first four areas.  If all you care about is physical intimacy you can be satisfied with anyone.  Anyone can hold your hand or kiss and so forth.  But you want more than that.  You want physical intimacy to mean something.  If you are new in your relationship you don't want to feel awkward.
     Focus on the first four and whatever physical intimacy you have will come naturally.  You won't feel awkward and it will be much more meaningful.
     A wise man (a former bishop of mine actually) once told me that "romance was the icing on the cake or the seasoning of a meal."  Physical intimacy on any level is the seasoning, that while important won't sustain you.  You need to have a strong base to a relationship.  Learn to connect with your significant other on the other four levels.  Build your relationship on that base and when you get old and fat and ugly it won't matter.  The things that your relationship is built on will still be there.  When you look for someone to share life with, find someone that you connect with on those four levels.
     I'm still waiting to find someone to build that kind of relationship with, but I know that when I find her it will be well worth the wait.  And when I find her, the effort to strengthen that base will be worth the effort.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Move Quickly, Not Fast

     The idea for this post comes from The Book of Five Rings attributed to Musashi Miyamoto, a legendary 17th century swordsman of Japan. To those of you interested in Eastern philosophy it is an interesting read, and not very long either.
     So many people are in a rush to do everything.  It's a good idea to not waste time and to be efficient it's true, but there is a difference between moving fast and moving quickly to not waste time. Too often I think people worry about moving fast, rather than moving quickly.  I am generally not a fast person.  I mostly move slowly and steadily through whatever I am doing, not because I want to drag it out, but because I am simply not a fast person in general.  However I can be quick, moving from one task to another smoothly and efficiently. (I don't pretend that I always act quickly, but I can when I need to.)
     Moving fast isn't really something you can control. To a certain degree you can work to imrove your speed, but in general it is something you are born with. Moving quickly on the other hand is a matter of choice.
     Moving quickly means not wasting time between tasks and not deliberating over choices. When you make a choice go forth with resolve and accomplish whatever task you set yourself with. Don't waste time wondering what would happen if you went with a different route. I don't mean that you shouldn't take ample time to make a good choice, but once you decide upon a path go with it.
     On the other hand one can rush through everything, trying to get as much done as possible, but often making mistakes along the way. This is what I mean by not moving fast. Take care in accomplishing a tast and do it well. Once that task is done move on without wasting time in between one task and the next.