The spiritual highlight of my weekend was viewing the early access premiere of "The Chosen" Season Two. I'm not supposed to give any spoilers. Let's just say that it fully measures up to the standard of quality set by Season One. I do still intend to write up a post about this phenomenal series someday when I get around to it.
General Conference was good too. I was happy for all the focus on Easter in this morning's session. It seems that in the past whenever Easter coincided with General Conference, they just acknowledged that fact and moved on. Hearing so much about the message of Christ's resurrection and what that means for us all was nice. Also in that session, they went out of their way to have speakers and prayers and singing from various countries on every inhabited continent, blatantly pandering to my obsession with diversity that eclipses my attention to spiritual messages. I want this level of diversity to be the norm, not a one-time gimmick. Speaking of which, three black men (Thierry K. Mutombo, Ahmad Corbitt, and Edward Dube) spoke in this General Conference, blowing the previous record (one) out of the water. A man who looks like a black man (Taniela B. Wakolo) also spoke, but his skin color doesn't count as black because he's from Polynesia, not Africa or Europe or the Americas. I don't make the rules. I was happy to see that José A. Teixeira's face rash is gone.
Skin color aside, Brother Corbitt's message was most meaningful to me personally. I was moved by his reminder that I can overcome Satan because I've already done it once. Elder Cook's talk about how wonderful bishops are reminded me of my last bishop who was about as inspired as a potato and let me down at every opportunity. A lot of typical stuff ran through the conference about patience and trusting in the Lord amid the unfairness and tragedy of the world. Nothing new, and nothing I wanted to hear, but kind of an oasis to refill my stamina in the endurance test of life. The last few weeks have felt like a slow death of a thousand paper cuts. I continue to wait on the Lord to take His sweet time to fulfill His promises to me, and to ponder how destroyed I'll be if He decides not to keep them after all. The longer it takes, the higher the risk of faith seems to be. But it's not like I have anything better to do.
When President Oaks announced that he felt impressed to talk about the Constitution of the United States, I blanched at how tonedeaf and how counter to the "We're a global church" messaging that sounded, but I reserved judgement and gave it a chance. It was all right. He focused on the Constitution's broader significance to the history of the Church and the principles that people throughout the world can apply from it, instead of preaching the "The United States is God's favorite country" BS I hear all too often. I support the Constitution, but having distanced myself significantly in the past few years from many of the kinds of people who rave about it, the word sometimes rubs me the wrong way when it shouldn't. I believe in the principles the Constitution stands for. I don't believe it's perfect and I don't believe it contains a definitive list of every right that humans are entitled to. I don't believe this country deserves my blind veneration for consistently failing to live up to those principles.
And of course I was happy about President Nelson announcing twenty more dots for Rick Satterfield's temple map. This is a new record for the most temples announced at one time. Of course, it has little to do with recent church growth. I certainly hope nobody listening to these announcements was under the misconception that Norway, Belgium, and Austria have experienced recent surges in growth that have made these temples necessary. In fact, in 2017 Belgium had five of its sixteen congregations (31%) consolidated, including the only ones in a couple of major cities. California, another temple announcement location, has been in consistent membership decline and stake consolidation for several years as people flee in search of a place that doesn't tax them for breathing. And as one would expect under the circumstances, church growth took a nose dive last year to less than half of its usual flat rate. Mozambique has had the most impressive growth of any location on the list, but its actual members aren't exactly placing a strain on the nearest temple in South Africa.
So of course most of these announcements were not driven by numerical need but by a desire to increase convenience for members. President Nelson wants to get all members within two hours of a temple, and that means drastically different things in different parts of the world. I rejoice either way, but since I know that we as a people like to look at faith-promoting numbers and pat ourselves on the back for not doing anything and say "The Church is true because it's growing so fast", I wanted to point that out. The temples announced were:
To be honest, I would have expected the next European temple to be in Scotland, for both distance and numerical reasons. Smithfield is right in my neighborhood, of course, and I admit the numbers here could actually warrant that announcement. I assume they'll build that one as fast as possible so we don't trample Brigham City into the ground when the Logan Temple closes for renovation in the near future. And I've changed my perspective on having more temples in Utah. I used to be as unenthusiastic as anyone else, but now I love them because they make Salt Lake Tribune commenters angry, and I enjoy watching terrible people get angry. Insert unoriginal sarcastic comment about how Christlike I am here.
The senior missionaries who pushed me to get endowed almost two years ago gifted me an Easter lily. I kept it on the kitchen table for a couple days, and then I put it outside because my apartment is perfectly located to prevent any significant amount of sunlight from getting in, so it would probably have fully bloomed by now if I'd done that in the first place, but I didn't and it hasn't. I water it sometimes. I had a thought the other night that maybe, in lieu of a sentient pet or spouse to love and be loved by, I could find purpose in life by devoting myself to this plant's well-being. But then I realized that's too risky. I don't even know yet if I can keep it alive for a week, so I'm not going to invest that kind of emotion into it right off. Maybe later.
Last weekend, President Russell M. Nelson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints said, "In my video message, I invited all to join in fasting on Sunday, March 29, 2020. Many of you may have seen the video and joined in the fast. Some may have not. Now we still need help from heaven.
"So tonight, my dear brothers and sisters, in the spirit of the sons of Mosiah, who gave themselves to much fasting and prayer, and as part of our April 2020 general conference, I am calling for another worldwide fast. For all whose health may permit, let us fast, pray, and unite our faith once again. Let us prayerfully plead for relief from this global pandemic.
"I invite all, including those not of our faith, to fast and pray on Good Friday, April 10, that the present pandemic may be controlled, caregivers protected, the economy strengthened, and life normalized."
I'm not sure now why I didn't bother to mention that in my little recap of personal General Conference highlights. Fasting is whatever for me. I do it and I believe it enhances my pleas to heaven but I've rarely found it to be a super profound or uplifting experience. It drains me so much physically and mentally that I usually do little more than sit on the couch until I can eat. Sometimes I eat an hour or two early. I'm skinny, okay?
Certainly I gave no thought to the seemingly superfluous fact that this invitation had been extended to "those not of our faith". Of course they would be welcome to participate, just as they are always welcome to watch General Conference or attend the meetings and activities we used to have before the you-know-what, but I implicitly assumed that few would have cause to notice or care about this invitation, and that their participation in the fast, however welcome and appreciated, would be statistically insignificant.
Well, what do I know about anything? That very weekend a few missionaries made a Facebook group for the fast, which swelled to over half a million members by the time Good Friday rolled around, at least in my time zone which is the only one that matters anyway. It swelled to over half a million members despite Facebook's mindless algorithms freaking out over this rapid growth and blocking many if not most of us from adding our friends because something something spam. I tried to add people at least eight times with no success. That would have been impressive enough, but reading through the posts absolutely blew my mind. Post after post from people who stopped participating in the Church years ago, or actively disaffiliated from it, but now wanted to join with us in this fast. Post after post from people who had never been part of our church, including Catholics, various kinds of Protestants, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, pagans, and even atheists, who wanted to join with us in this fast.
I've never seen anything like it before. Interfaith cooperation, sure, but not on such a grassroots and global scale. I also noted that the contempt for Muslims and/or LGBT people which I've witnessed from scores of so-called Latter-day Saints elsewhere on Facebook was nowhere to be seen in this group when Muslims or LGBT people posted to identify themselves as Muslims or LGBT people. This group seems to have brought out the best in virtually everyone. I can't help thinking that if it were to serve as a model for the human race going forward, if the pandemic brought us all together and made us forget our petty differences and live as a harmonious global community, it would be a net positive for the human race by far. Of course that won't happen or won't last more than a couple months but it's a nice thought regardless. At least within this group I hope bridges that have been built that will last lifetimes, especially as it is now being transitioned to the more generic "Worldwide Inspiration".
Today my Easter celebration has consisted of joining a Zoom devotional with my old ward, hiking a couple hours out to a secluded spot to pray, and eating Cadbury eggs. I wish my religious community and society in general made as big a deal out of Easter as we do Christmas, but it is a little harder when it's observed on a different day every year because something something moon phases. Regardless, I believe that because of the hope embodied in the message of Easter, everything is going to be okay in the long term no matter how many people are killed by the you-know-what and whatever else. Each and every one of them will live again. And I'm not afraid to join their numbers. If it were up to me, I would much rather just get the you-know-what and take my chances than be stuck at home alone for God knows how long. But I don't want to cause more avoidable deaths either because that's still wrong even if they are temporary. So whatever. Happy Easter!
Last weekend would have been a nice little stake conference if not for just a couple things: the guy behind me who bumped or jiggled my chair at least eighty times, and the departure of President Fjeldsted (pronounced with a silent j and a silent d) from the Stake Presidency. So just like a sacrament meeting five years ago almost to the day when he stopped being my bishop, this stake conference left me sitting here like
Except without a beautiful princess who's secretly my sister to comfort me despite having recently experienced her own loss of colossally greater magnitude that hardly anybody seems to care about. My life is so empty.
I first met Brother Fjeldsted in September 2012 after a summer of insomnia-induced inactivity from church. My faith was never lost, but it wasn't strong enough to get me out of bed for nine a.m. church after five hours of sleep. When fall semester rolled around, though, I knew I needed the emotional anchor of regular church attendance back in my life, and I also realized that I was an idiot because I could have just gone to another congregation that met in the afternoon. So I did. I went to another ward and I met a couple of really nice people who made me feel much more comfortable than I did in either of my previous YSA wards, and I knew I was at home, and then I met with the bishop one evening and informed him that I wasn't technically part of his ward and he said I needed to go to my real ward because he had no priesthood jurisdiction over the block where I lived. He brought me to the stake presidency, who reiterated what he said and added, "If we let people ward-hop, everyone would just go wherever the cutest girls are."
The stake presidency brought me to my real bishop, Bishop Fjeldsted, who conveniently was just waiting in his office. I was not in a good mood. I thought this business of something as trivial as my address being the determining factor of where I belonged spiritually made little or no sense, but I kept that to myself. I figured I would just sit out this meeting with this guy and then go inactive again.
Since I was already not in a good mood, I put up walls before the conversation even started. I figured this guy would want to know why I hadn't been to church for a while and why, for that matter, I wasn't off somewhere else on a mission like I was supposed to be at nineteen, and I tried to forestall those unwelcome inquiries by somewhat petulantly explaining those things before he could ask. But Bishop Fjeldsted, a meek, unassuming man with a huge smile, didn't care about them. He disregarded them altogether and simply expressed his happiness and gratitude for me being here. Somehow by the end of the meeting I was willing to come back, at nine a.m. on Sunday.
Bishop Fjeldsted recommended I get to know Peter, the Elders Quorum president. I resisted that idea because I wasn't keen on being friends with someone who was assigned to be my friend. But Peter was so persistent that eventually his genuine goodness won me over. This post isn't about him. I should write a post about him at some point. Both of these great men, in any case, became people I could confide in. Peter was a peer, but Bishop Fjeldsted was the first "adult" figure in my life that I could share personal things with and not regret it. He turned out to be from New York and have an Aspie child, so in some ways he was probably better prepared to understand me than I could have dreamed of. I grew to love him and the 36th Ward almost immediately. Not bad for arbitrary geography.
(Since then, I became aware of others who attended my ward despite not living in its boundaries or, in the case of one 37-year-old woman, its targeted age demographic. Years later when I informed a high councillor that I was temporarily defecting to the 35th Ward, he said, quote, "Just go wherever the cutest girls are. That's what I would do." Close quote.)
Bishop Fjeldsted and Peter were there to support me through probably the worst period of my life, when I almost lost my faith, starved to death, got evicted, and/or killed myself on more than one occasion. They helped plenty with my temporal struggles in their church capacities, but also dispensed plenty of advice and priesthood blessings for the emotional ones that seemed even more hopeless. In particular, a couple of quotes from Bishop Fjeldsted will stick with me forever. In one sacrament meeting he said, "Pride has no intrinsic value, but we're willing to sacrifice everything for it." And that blew my freaking mind. On another occasion, as I cried in his office, he mused, "Our society gives women a free pass to lie for their convenience." And that little observation is why he'll never become a General Authority despite being fully qualified.
Of course I felt cheated when he was pulled into the stake presidency. I had built up this relationship with him over a year and a half, and now I was expected to just transfer it over to this new Bishop I'd never even met? It didn't work like that. I had to start over building a relationship from scratch with the new guy, until they replaced him too. I'm not crazy about this system. I'm sure bishops appreciate being let go after a few years, though. Except when they get immediately transferred into the stake presidency.
But as a member of the stake presidency, President Fjeldsted still said hi and asked how things were going whenever he saw me, not in the fake way that everyone else does, but as an actual question looking for an honest answer. I still sought his advice a couple times. When I was running myself ragged doing chores and errands almost every day for a friend with Lyme disease that hardly anyone seemed to care about, he told me that I shouldn't overexert myself because she wasn't my responsibility. At the time his advice seemed callous. Now, however, I wish I had internalized it and followed it when a "friend" from high school who hadn't spoken to me for nine years decided to start asking for my money, because if I had told her where she could go after the first couple times, I could have saved myself from months of hell. I'll never make that mistake again. Anyway.
So last weekend I said goodbye to him and his wife, and they reminisced about how long they've known me, and he said to stay in touch, and he said "I'm proud of how you've handled everything." And nobody's ever said that to me in my life. I thought I would have to wait until I pass to the other side and fall into Jesus' arms to hear that. Sometimes it feels like my mistakes and shortcomings are all that matter to anyone else. So that was cool.
Speaking of death, I dreamed the other night that I went back to New York and found my dog Milo living alone in the woods. I took him to the Kellers' place to play with their dogs, as I often did. But even before I woke up I realized I was dreaming because Milo has been dead for some time and that just took all the fun out of it. In my dream, I almost cried a couple times. I was never able to muster more than a couple tears for him in real life, though I tried. I wanted to experience the normal, healthy emotions of grief. But I had already resigned myself to the fact that he would die much too early and I would have to slog through God knows how many more years of this mortality crap before I can rejoin him. I had this exchange with Bracelets the other day, in fact, after she read through the acknowledgements and blurbs of my book draft that she promised to feedback:
I generally think about the hereafter it in terms of my dog because no humans who were particularly close to me have ever died. My church tends to emphasize the whole "eternal families" thing, but so far I'm much more interested in its additional teaching that animals also have spirits and will be resurrected into eternal bliss. And that makes sense because a heaven without dogs is a poor excuse for a heaven. Maybe I dreamed about Milo because Easter was approaching, or maybe it's just a coincidence, but I've decided to make it meaningful for me regardless.
Also, have a picture of me and him because it seems appropriate. This was taken in high school, so the better part of a decade ago. My grotesquely long arms are a little bit less grotesquely long now.
Not this past week but the week before USU did their "Mental Health is No Joke" week, which I always think has something to do with comedy because it reminds me of the time they invited a pair of comedians, one with a severe stutter and the other with Tourettes, whose routines largely consisted of poking fun at themselves. So you know, when I see this title I expect there to be some kind of mental health awareness comedy night that finishes up with "Seriously though, mental health is no joke." But the title really is to be taken at face value in this case. Although I'm not enrolled, I made time to attend one of the evening events after it was brought to my attention.
Called "Light the Night", its focal point was lighting sparklers, but this was preceded by a guest speaker who shared her experiences with mental illness and therapy. As soon as she started listing off her disorders, I knew depression would be on the list. I'm not sure if it's even possible to have any mental illness without depression attached as a free bonus. It seems that the slightest deviation in any way from neurotypicality automatically disrupts serotonin levels or something. She described depression as like being at the bottom of a pool with cinderblocks on your chest, which was apt. Anyway, she had a whole string of issues that I don't remember in entirety, and she shared her story about coming to recognize that she had them and going through hell and eventually getting the help she needed. Then there was a musical number by The Octaves and then we held a moment of silence in honor of everyone who has struggled with mental illness. Let me tell you, that really made me feel good. It felt almost as if everyone was kneeling in reverence at my feet, but without actually doing it, which would have been very uncomfortable.
The main purposes of USU's mental health events are to raise awareness of its counseling resources and to decrease the stigma against mental illness, which exists in the first place because a defining trait of being human is to seek out reasons to be prejudiced against other humans to feel better about yourself. In this enlightened age, most criteria for prejudice are no longer acceptable to use except for politics and religion, but this stigma persists despite lip service to the contrary. It is perpetuated by movies like "Madagascar 3" with one-dimensional villains whose sole motivation is being "crazy". It is perpetuated by anti-vaxxers who would rather have dead children than autistic ones. It is perpetuated by gun rights supporters who, approximately 2.7 seconds after every mass shooting, rush to blame anything except guns and often point fingers at mental illness even though mentally ill people are far more often the victims of violence than the perpetrators. It is perpetuated by people who pride themselves on tolerance and love for all but instinctively give a cold shoulder to anyone who manifests a socially unacceptable form of weirdness.
I don't look to be victimized and offended by every little thing. I'm not a spokesperson for all mentally ill people, of course, but I for one don't feel offended in the slightest when people call each other "crazy", "nuts", "mad", "insane", "crackpot", "loony", "loopy", "daft", "barmy", "troppo", "screwy", "cray-cray", "delusional", "demented", "deranged", "psychotic", "lunatic", etc. by way of insults, good-natured or otherwise. (I'm sure I've done it myself without a second thought.) As a writer I think mental illness is actually a great motivation for fictional villains, if they're portrayed as tragic characters and their rationales actually make sense from a certain point of view. And I don't at all mind characters like Crazy Dave in the fantastic game "Plants vs. Zombies". He's harmlessly eccentric and a great help to the player.
Now the rest of this post will be almost entirely about me because I'm somewhat more familiar with that topic than most. I have been very open online about some of my mental health issues (most notably here, here, and here), and apparently some well-meaning people have managed to be 180 degrees wrong about my intentions in doing so. My parents recently gave me an unsolicited spiel about how I'm putting limits on myself and victimizing myself and labeling myself and defining myself by my autism/Aspergers and broadcasting it to the world. Because you're not supposed to talk about mental illness, don'cha know. You're supposed to keep it to yourself and pretend that everything is fine and normal and peachy. Talk to a therapist, by all means, but no one else wants to hear about it ever. And mental issues, unlike physical ones, are just kind of vague and intangible and not really real unless you put labels on them. So don't put labels on them! Simple!
Look, with or without me saying anything, people will and do notice that I'm "different" and act accordingly. My default state (which they seem to be advocating for) was not knowing or caring that I was different, and as a result I was bullied from kindergarten to fifth grade until I learned to stay quiet. Thereafter I was the disproportionately frequent target of the friendly mockery that males bond with, and reactions ranging from amusement to incredulity at my social faux pas. I've had enough of being rejected and ignored and shunned and talked about behind my back to last five lifetimes. Don't get me wrong, the majority of people are nice or at least civil to me, but many of them speak to me like I'm a child. A few months ago some people called the cops on me because they thought I was acting weird and might need help as I was minding my own business and swinging in a public park on a Saturday afternoon. I go weeks at a time without being contacted by anyone for anything and if I had a nickel for every ignored text, email, and Facebook message sent by me, I could feed Africa for a year. And dating... don't get me started on dating. Let's skip that part.
I don't wish to complain or dwell on this stuff, or blow it out of proportion, but I bring it up all at once now merely as my response to the nonsense that people will just assume I'm normal until I announce otherwise. So my actual purpose for being so open about my mental illness is and always has been to reduce the stigma and ignorance around it and to offer comfort and hope to anyone with a similar condition. I only want to make life better for myself and other people. I'm sorry if that hasn't been as obvious as I thought it was. I don't know what impact, if any, my site has had in that regard thus far, but at my previous job I talked in person with two coworkers who had teenage Aspie sons and they both told me that I gave them relief and hope for those sons having decent futures. That was one of the few experiences that made that horrible job worth it. Also, I see no reason not to define myself by something that filters and/or molds my entire worldview and personality and every thought that ever enters into my mind.
My parents first tried to tell me that I'm not autistic because I didn't act the way they think autistic people should act. First of all, "[i]f you’ve met one person with autism, you’ve met one person with autism," said Dr. Stephen Shore. Second, I'm not the one who decided to reclassify Aspergers as "autism spectrum disorder". In fact, I rather resented it for a while because it brought an increase in stigma. If you have an objection bring it up with the people who did that. They then switched tacks and told me my case and other problems are mild, as if I've ever claimed or tried to insinuate that they're the worst. This was actually an issue both times in group therapy, where I felt guilty about even mentioning my problems after it became obvious that everyone else's were more severe. And after a while of me being silent they prodded me to open up, and I told them that, and they unanimously felt that it's not a contest and you don't need to have worse problems than everyone else before you're allowed to speak about them.
My parents' spiel concluded with an exhortation to stop holding myself back, because "There are people with no legs who run marathons!" Good for them. I have no desire to run a marathon and don't understand people who do. As far as the principle involved, though, I agree and it's too bad I'm not striving for any great ambitions of my own like becoming a bestselling author... oh wait. Besides which, though I'm not familiar with their methodology, I'm almost positive that people with no legs don't run marathons by ignoring the fact that they have no legs, or by hoping no one will notice. "Confidence" divorced from reality does not get them over the finish line. It's never gotten me any good results either. It just caused me to be blindsided when the bad results hit me.
I have a positive attitude though, I promise, and here it is: I wouldn't give up my mental illness because it's just the price I have to pay for having my eyes open. This may sound really narcissistic but I don't care because it's true. Lacking an instinctive understanding of social norms and cues, and having to examine them through logic and psychology and evolution instead of taking them for granted, makes it clear how very, very stupid society truly is, and how very, very stupid many of the things normal people do every day without thinking truly are. I don't mean the stupid mistakes during lapses of judgment that we all make, but the stupid things like saying "How are you?" when what you really mean is "Hi" and you're not interested in a real answer. Also, literally everything about modern dating; again, don't get me started. So in order to truly fit in and be comfortable, I would have to be blind, and I wouldn't know I was blind so I wouldn't mind it, but from this vantage point I have no desire to make that trade. Jiddu Krishnamurti taught, "It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society."
But that's not even the full extent of my positive attitude! I also believe that this makes me a much better writer than I otherwise would be. Because of the worldview I just mentioned, and because of the unique voice it gives me, and because I seek it out as an escape from this planet and an outlet for emotions that can't be expressed in other ways. (Of course, it took plenty of practice and experience to turn this into a strength instead of a weakness. As recently as my senior year of high school, the dialogue in my stories was so far from the way real people talk that Cleverbot probably wouldn't recognize it as English.) How many of history's great writers, or great artists of any genre for that matter, have had perfect lives and been perfectly comfortable in society and with their fellow humans? Probably zero. Whether this exchange turns out to be worth it, though, largely depends on whether I get anything out of it before I die.
Also, this meme - and this one definitely doesn't apply to me much of the time because I'm frequently inconsiderate, disrespectful and/or selfish, but I think it holds true in general given that society is mostly constructed and run by fake and shallow people, so this meme always makes me smile. Years ago I included it (uncensored) in my Powerpoint on Aspergers for Honors English 2010, and all my classmates got a kick out of it too.
Napoleon XIV - They're Coming to Take Me Away
Maybe sharing this song makes me a hypocrite, but I like dark humor. Not despite, but because of my own struggles with depression and suicide, for example, I find Marvin the Paranoid Android absolutely hilarious. While this song would be completely unacceptable if it were made in 2017, I can laugh it off as a relic of the Dark Ages - specifically, 1966. This portrayal of asylums and "treatment" of mentally ill people not so long ago is more accurate than we'd care to think, and the perpetuation of that image long after improvements started to be made has scared many people away from seeking help. So, to recap, this is satire, and it's in poor taste, but I think that's okay because it's old. Anyway, if you disagree don't watch it.
Don't forget that tomorrow is Easter! Celebrate with all the special people in your life! (That's a Lego Movie paraphrase)
Early Monday morning I was awakened by what I later realized must have been a snow plow, but in my sleep-fogged condition assumed to be the beginnings of an earthquake or a terrorist attack. After a second I figured the former was more likely. I thought, Maybe I should get out of bed and find somewhere safe...
Maybe I should say a prayer for all the people who will be affected...
Do I have food storage? Well, sure, that box of food that expired in 2012. That will have to do...
You never know when "the day before" is "the day before"...
Because "It won't happen to us" isn't an emergency plan.
I fell back asleep and woke up to a bunch of unwelcome snow. The previous day (Easter) had been nearly sixty degrees. And since I had woken up at that stupid hour, my stupid brain decided I would want to do so the next two nights, too, just because.
I spent last Easter alone, but the year before that and the year before that I got invited to dinner somewhere, and the year before that I don't remember, so I was curious what would happen this year. If I did receive an invitation, I didn't expect it to come at the hands of someone I had just met and barely knew, but that's what happened. Let's call her... I don't know... Mackenzie. I met her at Debbie's ward prayers, and overheard her friend teasing her about whatever, so I was just going to smile at her as I passed but then somehow I got caught in a tractor beam and ended up talking for ten minutes or so. She was much more interesting to talk to than most people are. I think I might have accidentally flirted with her, but if so it doesn't seem to have caused any problems.
I wish I could remember how we ended up discussing the psychology of serial killers. "I went on a date with this psychology major once," she said, "and we went to this park he found on Google Maps, and it turned out to be cemetery, so that was creepy – but anyway, he started telling me about serial killers and how their minds are just a total incomprehensible mess – but you disagree, though?” By this time, I was realizing much to my chagrin that my opinion on the psychology of serial killers and other “crazy” bad guys was informed not by actual knowledge but by what makes for compelling literature. It's no fun to write about a serial killer who's just so insane that no one can identify with him. You need to give a solid internal logic behind his motivations, so reasonable seeming that the reader questions their own sanity. But that might not be how it is in real life and I wouldn't know, so I tried to back down from the discussion.
Dinner was really good, and was captured for posterity. I brought those oranges. Nobody took one until afterward when I was packing them up and somebody took one out of pity. I didn't have a lot of options for "breakfast food" to bring since this had been sprung on me on such short notice and I don't shop on Sundays. All my bags of cereal were nearly empty and I couldn't bring milk because I drink straight from the jug. While waiting for dinner to start, I volunteered to help but there was nothing for me to do, so I was assigned to color in a coloring book. It was a Strawberry Shortcake coloring book and it got that theme song stuck in my head for the rest of the day - or rather, it got the two lines I remember stuck in my head for the rest of the day. "That girl's so sweet, just like her name! Straw-ba-baw-baw-ba-berry Shortcake!"
Mackenzie herself, in the lower left, was accidentally excluded from the photograph, an egregious oversight that prevented it from coming anywhere near its full potential. Top row, left to right: don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know. Middle row, left to right: me, don't know, Bob (not real name). Bottom row: Mackenzie (not real name)'s hair, don't know, don't know, don't know, don't know. Bottom outlier: Jenna (not real name).
Let's pretend that many readers have written in to accuse me of selfishness for wanting to become friends with Afton so that I could play with her dog. That wasn't the only reason, of course, but let me explain something to you imaginary people. Dogs are the best friends ever. Take care of a dog and be nice to it, and it will love you. It doesn't care one iota how much of a weirdo or loser you are by human standards. Their love and affection is conditional on a couple of reasonable things and nothing else. And I have been deprived of this for the better part of five years. I can't own a dog in my apartment and none of my peers can own dogs in their apartments. I have to take what I can get whenever I can get it. The prospect of one of my peers owning a dog that I could visit and pet and scratch and walk with and run with and feed and throw sticks and balls for and develop a close personal relationship with is beyond tantalizing. I miss my dog in New York more than I can say and I dread the thought that he's probably going to die a long time before I do. If I go to heaven, he'll be the first person I look for. "Hello, Jesus," I would say. "Where's Milo?"
Another Spiritual Lesson from Bionicle
The basic premise of Bionicle is that the heroes known as the Toa Mata have a quest to awaken the Great Spirit, Mata Nui, who was cast into a deep sleep by his jealous brother Makuta. Somewhere along the line it is discovered that Mata Nui is not merely asleep but is, in fact, dying. This would devastate the entire universe and basically be the worst possible thing ever, so the Toa Inika go on their own little quest to save his life. He ends up dying for a few moments but one of them sacrifices his own life energy to bring him back. In another story, however, Takanuva travels to an alternate universe where this hero hesitated a moment too long and failed to sacrifice himself, so that Mata Nui's death became permanent. The hero was disgraced, there were huge cataclysms all over the place and most of the islands were destroyed and a lot of people died.
But the survivors didn't give up. Previously warring races all came together and established a new society of peaceful coexistence on the one remaining island. They built onto it so there was more room for everyone. And though they faced a lot of challenges, they were still going strong a thousand years or so later when Takanuva stumbled onto them. The takeaway from all of this, which is probably a lot more poignant to someone actually familiar with the stories and not just my paltry attempt to summarize and articulate them here, is to keep moving forward even if the worst possible and most devastating and demoralizing thing happens, and that a tragedy with even the most unmistakable sense of finality doesn't have to be final as long as you're still breathing.
The Mormon Section
General Conference is going on today and tomorrow (duh). So I was watching it today, and during the sustaining vote the dissenters yelled out again, and everyone in the room was talking derisively about them, when Mackenzie spoke up, so quietly that maybe no one else heard her, and said "We can be nice to them even though we disagree. We don't need to call them fools. They just don't understand."
I was stupefied. Who are you? I thought. In a good way, I mean.
Anyway, I'll probably share my thoughts on the conference a week from today when everyone else has moved on with their lives. I hope there will be some temple announcements tomorrow. Did I ever mention that I missed the temple announcements a year ago, after eagerly waiting two years for them, because my computer was being stupid? And now it's dead. That'll teach it.
Shahrukh Khan - Maahi Ve
Two Easters ago Chelsea from Vermont invited me to Easter dinner, a much smaller and more intimate affair with only four of us, and I believe it was later that day that we were in her room listening to peaceful music as we made wedding decorations for someone or other. That was when she asked me, "Why did you like Jean so much?" and I was about to say "Because she's so nice" but before I could speak Chelsea continued, "She wasn't very nice to you." And that just blew my mind and I couldn't speak. Anyway, I introduced her to some new music and vice versa. I showed her the Bollywood song "Salaam-E-Ishq" that I once danced to in the campus Diwali festival, and then she showed me this one which, impossibly, is even better. In the unlikely event that I ever have a wedding reception, my only demand is that this song be a part of it, "cultural appropriation" be damned.
Daffy the Commando
It's always awkward when American World War II propaganda cartoons ended up being extremely racist. Fortunately, this is not one of those, unless you consider pseudo-German words and phrases to be racist, which I don't think most people would because racism has recently been redefined via circular logic so that it can only apply to non-white people. I have enjoyed this cartoon for years but only recently connected the dots between the date of its release and the cute little jab at Mussolini. Can you spot it?
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual. This blog is where he periodically rants about life, the universe, and/or everything.