Trigger Warning: Airplanes
My recent trip to Indiana for my sister Melanie's wedding was my first time setting foot on an airplane in nearly three and a half years. For a time, I didn't know if I would ever set foot on an airplane again after reading about the incident of Aloha Airlines Flight 243 on April 28, 1988, when explosive decompression tore off a big chunk of the roof and ejected flight attendant Clarabelle Lansing to God knows where. I can only imagine a fraction of the mindless terror that consumed her final moments. Okay, I thought after reading that, if I ever set foot on an airplane again, I'm staying seated with my seatbelt on at all times, even if it's a twelve-hour flight. But then I proceeded to read about the incident of United Airlines Flight 811 on February 24, 1989, when explosive decompression ejected nine passengers along with the seats where they were sitting with their seatbelts on. At least one had the good fortune of going straight into the engine and not being afraid for very long. Before learning this information, my biggest fear was the airplane itself falling out of the sky. It had never in my worst imaginings occurred to me that being launched into the stratosphere on my own was a possibility. Silly me.
It's no good telling me that airplane disasters are very rare. I know it. They still happen, and if one happens to me, I'm not going to derive much comfort from reflecting on how unlikely it was and what an unlucky s.o.b. I am. It's no good telling me how much safer airplanes are than cars. I know it. I'd rather be in a car crash than a plane crash any day. I've been in three car crashes and nothing happened to me. If I were in a plane crash with no physical injury, I would still relive it in nightmares for the rest of my life. So if anything at all goes wrong on an airplane where I'm a passenger, I want to die, as fast as possible. But as is usually the case after I learn yet another piece of horrible information about the world I live in, I became desensitized to these incidents with time, and returned to my previous default state of fear. I can get on an airplane but I just hate every second of takeoff and every moment that it shakes or jolts or turns slightly. On my first flight I noted the loud noise of the wind around my window, and that it intensified when I pressed against the wall. I wondered what would happen if the window popped out. I assumed it would suck my head out and break my neck.
Prior to these flights, I finally renewed my state ID that expired in 2017. It was already expired by a few months during my last airplane trip, and security told me to renew it but let me through both ways anyway. Since then I've also used it to sign up for utilities, sign a voters' referendum against state Republicans' proposed hike in grocery taxes, and visit a friend in prison. White privilege? In any case, there wasn't much incentive to renew it. But I figured airport security might be less lenient this time.
Indiana was much nicer this time of year than in December. Very warm, much green. I took some pictures that I'm too lazy to retrieve from my phone for the three people who will read this post. Melanie had a nest of robins right outside her window, and they fledged the same day she got married. She and another sister lived there with my parents, and then I arrived, and then my paternal grandmother arrived, and then my sister and brother-in-law and niece arrived, and then my maternal grandparents and uncle and aunt and six cousins arrived. Nineteen people, fifty gigabytes a month of craptacular rural Wi-Fi. Shudder. I got bounced around through four different sleeping arrangements.
Funny Quotes from My Cousins
After I toasted a marshmallow for cousin Hannah, she said to her sister Lucy, "Christopher is a kind soul! You are - a murderer."
*Playing a card game called "You Gotta Be Kitten Me"*
Uncle Russ: Is it wrong to call my son a loser?
Cousin Jaden: I learned from the best, or should I say the worst.
Uncle Russ: Don't talk about your mother like that.
*Playing "Apples to Apples"; the word is "Scrumptious"*
Cousin Lucy: I'll tell you who's scrumptious - this person in my class named Mason.
*Sister Sarah and I look at each other as if to verify that we both just heard what we think we just heard*
Uncle Russ: I don't have enough guns.
Melanie got married in the Indianapolis Indiana Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I guess it's kind of a cheap temple compared to the one I'm used to, because I could hear traffic outside while in the sealing room. I thought temples were supposed to be soundproofed. What if a fire truck had gone by during the special moment? Everyone also noticed some kind of loud drip-drip-drip from the vicinity of one portion of the ceiling, but it stopped before the ceremony. The sealer gave good and inoffensive counsel. At my previous sister's wedding, the sealer told her and her husband how lucky they both were to be getting married at twenty-three before they got too settled into their single lifestyles, which I found rather insensitive. This guy would have been justified in similarly telling Melanie and her husband how lucky they both were to be getting married at twenty-one long before their brains are fully developed, but he didn't.
My previous sister had kissed her husband long and hard with tears streaming down her face, prompting the sealer to opine, "I think they just had their first family prayer." This kiss was as quick as the one by which Natalie Hinton made me a True Aggie. After that, of course, the guests were to greet the newlyweds as we filed out onto the temple grounds for photo ops, and for some reason everyone made me go first even though I was on the opposite side of the room. I wished someone else had set the precedent because I didn't know what to do. I hugged my sister, of course, but then I didn't know what to do with her husband because I'd exchanged fewer than twenty words with him in my life. I whispered, "Should I hug you or just shake your hand?" He whispered back - but unlike me, in a normal volume that everyone could hear - "You can hug me." Cue giggles.
Brigham Young said, "Your endowment is, to receive all those ordinances in the house of the Lord, which are necessary for you, after you have departed this life, to enable you to walk back to the presence of the Father, passing the angels who stand as sentinels, being enabled to give them the key words, the signs and tokens, pertaining to the holy Priesthood, and gain your eternal exaltation in spite of earth and hell." I wrote a bit more about it already on this page, but not a lot more and nothing that I shouldn't have. There are aspects of the ceremony that are not to be shared with anyone outside the temple and I respect that and nobody better freak out about this post. I'll do my best not to be too opaque, but without getting ridiculously long this beginning portion will probably make little sense to people not of my religion and I'm sorry about that. Suffice to say that this is an important ceremony considered essential to get into the highest level of heaven.
Any qualified adult member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints can get endowed, but it's typically done before serving a mission or getting married. Since I didn't serve a mission, I was never going to do it unless I just went and did it without a special occasion in mind. At any given time after the age change in 2012 it seemed that virtually everyone in my ward was endowed and considered this ceremony synonymous with the temple. When people ask "Have you been to the temple?" they're asking if you've been endowed, not whether you do baptisms for the dead at the temple every week. I resented that more than a little bit. I felt like nobody cared about or indeed even remembered the sacred ordinance that I performed despite it being equally necessary and a prerequisite to endowments, and I felt like I was spiritually behind everyone else and it hurt. Did I overreact? Probably. Were my ward members and priesthood leaders a tad insensitive? Also probably.
I did do baptisms for the dead every week for a period, though, and there in the baptistry I felt appreciated. Technically I should have called ahead to make appointments, but the workers considered me to have a standing appointment and were always thrilled to see me. I made a decision to never turn around and leave when I saw how busy it was, and sometimes I had to wait upwards of an hour for massive groups of teenagers to go through, but it was worth it to leave feeling lightened like a coat that had gone through the wash and had all the dirt filtered out. I had at least one, maybe two experiences with the deceased people I was doing work for. So basically it was great. As time went on, though, I felt more awkward being in there with so many younger people. Most people who've gotten their own endowments don't do the baptisms that often. I stopped showing up and let my temple recommend expire for a couple years.
But I was in no hurry to progress. Despite knowing intellectually that I needed to do this at some point if I was serious about my faith, in practice I wasn't planning on it at all. I didn't want to wear temple garments almost 24/7 for the rest of my life, as endowed Latter-day Saints do to remember the covenants they made and receive spiritual protection, and I was afraid the ceremony would be freakishly weird and give me nightmares. Over the years, by accident, I probably heard and read a bit more about its various incarnations past and present than I was supposed to - more often than not from less than friendly perspectives - and I didn't like all of the things I heard and read. I knew that the vast majority of people who had the experience loved it, but some very much did not, and my trajectory seemed predestined for the latter group. So I addressed it like I do most of my problems: by trying to ignore it.
I still wouldn't have taken this step if not for the influence of the new senior missionary couple who got all excited when they learned that I hadn't. Long story short, they went through all the Temple Prep lessons with me and gave me stuff to read and I felt the Spirit making me comfortable with the idea. Mostly. I still occasionally worried. I had a few nightmares leading up to it. But then, I've had a lot of nightmares the last few months about all kinds of things. I don't know why. My crappy life hasn't been noticeably crappier than usual. The only one I enjoyed was the one where I was in a literal Jurassic Park movie getting chased by a T. rex. In that dream I experienced all the heart-rending terror of being moments away from those massive jaws and wet, putrid breath, and was forced to think for the first time about how those characters must have felt in the moments before they died, and how much it hurt before they lost consciousness. But even in the midst of feeling that, I recognized that it was totally awesome because I was being chased by a freaking T. rex. I'm not even joking when I call that a good nightmare.
Anyway, I had to do the usual worthiness interviews and I gained an appreciation for this concept of worthiness and perfection not being the same thing. I'm grateful, for instance, that the questions didn't include things like "Do you ever swear when the wi-fi stops working every day?" or "Do you still harbor hatred toward, to list a totally random hypothetical example, a parasite who owes you more than six thousand dollars but has paid back literally thirty cents in the last eight months?" I would not be temple worthy in this life time if I were required to rectify all of my massive personal defects. But I think I'm an okay person. The senior missionaries said the stake president told them he felt good about me going to the temple. That was good to hear. It would have been awkward if he'd said something like "I felt sick to my stomach the whole time, but I couldn't deny his recommend because he answered all the questions right."
I got endowed Tuesday evening. My verdict? At least three people now working in this area of the temple recognized me from the baptistry and were thrilled to see me, which made me feel good. In contrast, within seconds of putting on the temple garments for the first time, I could no longer feel them against my skin. I thought it would take at least a couple days to adjust. Most of the ceremony itself was almost disappointingly un-weird. The weirdest part was the clothes, but I had a thought at college graduation two days later, as I looked out at the robes and sashes and silly square hats with tassels, that this graduation clothing was every bit as weird as the temple clothing. All symbols are arbitrary, but the ones we grow up with seem normal while the ones we only know secondhand or later in life seem strange and exotic. We need to recognize this fact in order to avoid being stupid ethnocentric hypocrites. Here I am standing outside the temple with some people afterward.
Jen (in the picture), who helped prepare me for this by patiently addressing questions and concerns over the years, took me and whoever else was willing and able to dinner afterward. Audrey (also in the picture) made me cookies. Everyone else needs to step up their game. Kidding, kidding.
Speaking of graduation, that was also a thing that happened. I wrote previously about how I started school in 2011 and went through no small amount of suffering between then and now. If I had glimpsed, eight years ago on the threshold of adulthood, how much pain lay in store for me, I would have died on the spot. But here I am graduated and not dead, so yay for me. I know eight years isn't a record by any means, even among the small sample size in one of my English classes that I shared with three students in their early thirties, but it's a big freaking chunk of my life and it's a miracle I ever graduated at all. Under those circumstances, I suppose the commencement and convocation ceremonies would have been anticlimactic no matter what. But it would have been nice if I hadn't been too poor to get a cap and gown and actually participate, and if my sister hadn't absentmindedly scheduled her wedding for the same day.
That argument went down a couple months ago, and I told her straight up that while I would like to go to her wedding, if it came down to a choice between that and the ceremony I had earned and was entitled to, I would choose the latter. She moved her wedding later in the day so I could go to both and I let it go. But after actually going to my convocation and then skipping the luncheon and rushing off for the wedding, I got enraged all over again and spent the rest of the day very pissed off. A few people took a few seconds to ask how my graduation went, before wandering off to continue fawning over my sister and showering her with gifts and money. This was like the feeling of not being endowed while everyone else was, except much worse. It felt like the most important day of my life, the biggest achievement of my life, the event that should have been the glorious long-awaited culmination of everything I worked and suffered for, a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I'll never get to redo the right way, was hijacked by someone else with a more important accomplishment that made mine all but invisible. It hurt very much.
I'm not angry anymore, at least. I think I've processed that and moved on, so I won't rant about it for several more paragraphs like I originally assumed I would. But I think I'm entitled to be honest about the experience for posterity and not pretend it was awesome. I wish my sister much happiness. I barely know this guy and he's not at all the type I would have expected her to go for, but I guess he makes her happy so that's good.
There is one picture of me after graduation. As I wandered around greeting some of my friends who could afford caps and gowns and felt inclined to be a part of their ceremony, a high councillor's wife from church asked me to take a picture of their family because her daughter was graduating. She asked why I was there, and I mentioned why and then she made me be in a picture with her family too. I felt stupid standing there in a suit next to a bunch of people who didn't know me, and that's why I'm not sharing the picture here, but it was a very kind gesture and I appreciate it. I also appreciate that my other two sisters wanted to come but couldn't because they don't have their own vehicle(s) out here far from home. And I appreciate Uncle Russ and Aunt Amanda, who, the next day, straight-up asked if my graduation was a disappointment (yes) and got me pizza and ice cream and let me watch Star Wars at their house while hanging out with their adorable children who would have cried themselves to sleep if they didn't get to see me. At least the older four would have. The baby probably didn't care and probably cries herself to sleep anyway.
I want to give a shout-out to a couple people who left us this week.
First, of course, Peter Mayhew (74). I know very little about him and would feel pretentious trying to wax super eloquent about his passing, but because he brought to life one of the coolest Star Wars characters ever, he was all right by me. It seems like just yesterday that I discovered Chewbacca in a Millennium Falcon Lego set and noted with surprise that he had the same name as my cousin's cat. Mayhew liked to share the amusing anecdote of how he got the role just by standing up when George Lucas walked in, but he brought breadth to the role as well as height. His posture mattered, and the facial expressions he made with the limited mobility of the mask, and behind-the-scenes footage reveals that he actually spoke real contextually accurate dialogue before it was dubbed over with animal noises. Most people probably don't know what his voice sounded like or what he looked like, but he left his mark on the character and consequently on the world just the same. Dang it, now I feel pretentious.
Less known and tragically much younger, Rachel Held Evans (37) is also gone. She was a progressive evangelical pushing for greater inclusivity and intellectualism within the movement. I discovered her blog because of her posts on evolution, and they were very useful, and I quoted her on this page of mine but I'll repeat that quote here for the sake of convenience and flow. You're welcome.
"What we are searching for is a community of faith in which it is safe to ask tough questions, to think critically, and to be honest with ourselves. Unfortunately, a lot of young evangelicals grew up with the assumption that Christianity and evolution cannot mix, that we have to choose between our faith in Jesus and accepted science. I've watched in growing frustration as this false dichotomy has convinced my friends to leave the faith altogether when they examine the science and find it incompatible with a 6,000-year-old earth. Sensing that Christianity required abandoning their intellectual integrity, some of the best and brightest of the next generation made a choice they didn't have to make."
Though I belong to a different strain of Christianity, I hope to keep the spirit of her efforts alive in some capacity.
Okay, I'll give the blathering on about Star Wars a rest. A review of "The Last Jedi" will probably be forthcoming in a few weeks. I'll just say for now that I liked it much better the second time.
Visiting my family in Indiana required getting up at 6 am on Saturday morning. So like most people would do, I set an alarm. But additionally, my brain does this really helpful thing where it likes to wake me up at least an hour before my alarm goes off. And it did that. So after a bit of unpleasant half-sleeping delirium I came to my senses, such as they are, enough to figure that I should check how much time I had left. And the clock said... wait for it... 12:46. So I had probably been asleep for like two minutes. I said to my brain, I said, "Are you ----------------------------------- kidding me??"
I got back to sleep and, sure enough, woke up again. I checked again. Maybe it was almost time. Or maybe it was 2:59. It was 2:59.
"I hate being me," I told God. That was an overstatement, of course, but it was how I felt at the moment.
The third time, I wasn't optimistic, but it was 5:49 and that somehow came as a relief even though I felt like crap. I just wanted to put on a blindfold like Kanan Jarrus and never open my eyes again. How was it possible to be so hungry and so needing to throw up at the same time? Ironically, I felt worse than I did a week later in Indiana, yesterday, when I went to bed at 10, fell asleep sometime after 1:30, and was woken up at 5:24, aka 3:24 MST. Somehow I got so hot while being unable to sleep that twice I went outside in my underwear and stood with my bare feet in the snow and it felt like a cool spring day. But I digress.
I had to get up so early, in large part, so I could arrive at the airport two hours before my flight to make sure I would have plenty of time to get through security even though it's never taken me more than five minutes. But this time it did. This time it took an extra ten minutes. When my laptop didn't come out of the scanner with the rest of my stuff, I knew something was up. When the TSA guy carried it over to another station and asked "Whose laptop is this?" I knew something was up. When he gestured me over to him with a couple fingers and pointed to the external hard drive enclosure duct taped to the top of it and asked "What's that?" I knew something was up. He said that for future reference it looks suspicious to have something taped to a laptop in an airport and their explosives expert would have to look at it. That was fine with me, as I had nothing to hide, but I started to get a little worried that they would confiscate it anyway like they did my toothpaste one time, and then they may as well just shoot me too because it has my tens of thousands of songs that took years to accumulate.
It was nice of the people at both airports to let me through with my expired ID. There was an officer at one of them who looked like Will Smith. I wanted to get a picture of him, but I might have gotten in trouble. I traveled all day, had the usual delays, and got to Indiana around 9 pm EST. It was another hour to the house and then I was ready for bed. And right as I got out of the car I remembered the trains that pass like twenty feet from my parents' house several times day and night and always blow their horns. I used to like trains.
On a more positive note, the next morning it was once again nice to attend a congregation not completely full of white people. Don't get me wrong, most of my best friends are white, but it just gets stifling when that's all I'm ever surrounded by, you know? Because it was Christmas Eve, somebody thought it would be a good idea to sing like eight hymns. I opted out of all the extra ones because I was tired. The black Baptist convert behind us complained that we had ruined the tunes, and she wasn't wrong.
So, the fifty degrees of winter thing the previous and only time I'd visited Indiana turned out to be a fluke. It was very cold. One day I walked a couple miles from the house and on the return trip my fingers felt like they had been hacked off. I have gloves, I just don't know where they are. But it was sunny! I was asked to post some pictures and bring the sunshine back to Utah! So here are some pictures and I got a pocketful of sunshine which, as anyone in Logan can attest, is being put to good use. I hope I got enough pictures to satisfy the person who requested pictures.
Trains that were very hard to photograph through the trees
As Douglas Adams famously wrote in "Last Chance to See", here be chickens
My parents have the best kind of neighbors
A church we don't go to
Bustling city stuff
My scary friend Mackenzie is starting to sound even more like a mob boss
I knew what she meant the first time, of course, but I like messing with her. My advice to her and anyone else hiring someone to take me out is make sure you're not talking to an undercover cop by mistake. I saw that on TV once. It was real, filmed with a hidden camera in the cop's car, and this woman was hiring him to shoot her husband and he was playing Satan and trying to goad her into being more evil. He was like, "You know, sometimes when I shoot people, it takes them a long time to die and they suffer a lot. Does that bother you?" And she was like, "I don't care, I don't care, I just want him gone. Ohhh, I'm gonna sleep good tonight." You can spot undercover cops because they never actually drink the beer. Wait, wrong scenario. You're on your own then.
My parents have a few books
I took the time to read some of them and record my thoughts.
"Lost Race of Mars" by Robert Silverberg. Written in 1960, set in the distant future of 2017, where the colonists on Mars still use film cameras and paper mail. I'd trade digital cameras and email for a colony on Mars. We haven't even put a person on Mars, which is pathetic and inexcusable. We should have done it decades ago. Would we even be able to get emails on Mars? Could they set up the internet infrastructure between here and there? But hey, at least we have fidget spinners, amiright?
"Peanuts Classics" by Charles Schultz. This one is mine. I don't remember it having a broken binding and a brown stain all the way through. Let's see... oh, I know all these comics by heart even though I haven't read them in who knows how long. I read them so many times and yet I never really understood how great some of them are.
"From First Date to Chosen Hate" by Brenton G. Yorgason. Oh, "Mate". Right, I always read that wrong the first time. It's not the best font. Well, maybe I ought to read this famous book. Plot twist: it's for Australians wanting to escape the matezone. "Hooley dooley! So you've come the raw prawn with another true blue Sheila and she's dobbed she just wants to be mates? Do you just cop it sweet and hope she'll be apples, or bugger that for a joke? Fair suck o' the sav!" etc. 1977? Then it should be good for a few laughs. I'm sure it's very... dated. Hum de dum. Oh, so dating sucked even before millennials ruined it? So much for my... romanticizing the past. Creative date ideas - skip! Satan's deceptions - skip! Getting engaged - skip! Oh, look, it's available on archive.org and I just wasted my time reading the hard copy instead of something else! Well, it was very dated but it did have some good stuff. I recommend modern readers to supplement it with "Modern Romance" by Aziz Ansari and "Animal Behavior" by John Alcock.
"Happy Valley Patrol" by John "Blitz" Krieg, pseudonym for Robert Kirby. This book has seen better days. The binding is all but gone and at least a quarter of the pages are not connected to anything. I didn't do it, though I have read it many times. It's a collection of the eponymous newspaper column about Kirby's time as a police officer in Utah, and I love it because it makes fun of two things that I love making fun of: the human race and Provo. And it's just as hilarious this time around.
I also read through all my Tintin books that my sister is keeping safely for safekeeping. I hadn't read them since before I started college, and now I get more of the jokes and references. Hergé truly was a rare breed of genius, which would explain why most Americans don't appreciate him. If you haven't read Tintin, do so; you won't be sorry unless you have no taste. If you want to be thorough you can start from the actual beginning with the mediocre "Tintin in the Land of the Soviets" and the racist "Tintin in the Congo", but it's probably better to just start with the sanctioned volumes and come back to those for thoroughness after you're hooked.
The Mormon Section
A noble crusader against injustice has brought to light that in the last five years, twenty Holocaust victims were posthumously baptized by various Mormons in violation of LDS Church policy, sparking another round of complaints about baptizing dead people without consent. One should always obtain a dead person's consent before performing an ordinance that will either unlock their path to salvation or have no affect on them whatsoever. And it is, of course, incredibly selfish and thoughtless for Mormons to spend time baptizing people who will never be on the membership records, pay tithing, or help a church ball team. How would we feel if someone did it to us? I, for one, would be outraged if I were dead and a Muslim or a Hindu or a Rastafarian did something they thought would help me get into heaven. In fact, there's a website called "All Dead Mormons Are Now Gay" which purports to make that happen, and you can guess how much that upsets me by how many times in my life I've mentioned it. (This is the first time in my life I've mentioned it.) Why doesn't every religion just do this for everyone, and then we'll all have all our bases covered?
Several Jewish leaders take this practice personally because it reminds them of the long history of Jews being forced to convert to Christianity or die. That's understandable (even though, as people keep pretending to forget, Mormon teachings state that dead people are free to accept or reject the ordinance). The LDS Church is under no legal obligation to stop the baptizing of Holocaust victims, but does so as a gesture of good will. Most of the people feigning self-righteous indignation over the very few who slipped through the system are atheists who believe that Holocaust victims ceased to exist as soon as they were murdered. That in their lives, millions of lives, the Nazis permanently and irrevocably won. And these complaints about baptizing dead people without consent ring just a little hollow coming from them. And do they care one iota about Jewish religion or culture at any other time? A random teeny little hunch tells me probably not. Some people need to grow up.
The world has survived year one of Drumpf's presidency. True, he didn't accomplish much worthwhile, and he consistently refused to behave in an intelligent or dignified manner befitting a nation's leader (which comes as a surprise to no one), but he hasn't started a nuclear war yet despite his best efforts so I say we should count our blessings. I look forward to blogging for another year, and striving to please my loyal fans, unless of course I unexpectedly die and move beyond this vale of tears, which would be even better. I suppose it's also possible that Daesh will cut off my hands. That would really suck. I will surely face many challenges in this coming year, and just as surely God will bring me through them as He always has in the past, as undeserving as I am. I don't stress nearly as much about them now. So there's that.
George Harrison - Ding Dong
There aren't a lot of New Year's songs. That means there also aren't a lot of good ones. Enter George Harrison's "Ding Dong", which ought to be a lot more famous than it is, and might become a tradition with me since this is the second time I've shared it.
Having already grown accustomed to a place and culture where the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is barely a footnote, on the plane back to Utah I was surprised to hear someone utter the phrase "Mormon heaven". I wasn't sure of the context because there were many conversations going on and that was all I heard. But the next thing I heard him say was, "It's just like any other cult."
I don't know if it's a new policy or I just haven't flown with this airline before, but the folks at Southwest try really hard to be funny. First there was the TSA guy checking our IDs. He informed the guy ahead of me that the governor of his state had blacklisted him and that he was only allowed to drink milk during his vacation. Then, after checking my ID he said, "My friend, this doesn't look very much like you. But close enough for government work."
Then the actual people on the airplane had jokes and wisecracks seemingly every time they spoke. They probably wouldn't be nearly as funny if I listed them all here, so just go and fly with them yourself if you're that curious. My favorite part was when one of the stewardesses was demonstrating how to use the emergency oxygen masks. "Place the strap around your head, breathe normally - who are we kidding? You aren't going to be breathing normally." I think they were following a script for the most part but they also improvised. For example, the guy next to me fell asleep, so she stuck a napkin to the seat back in front of him with Band-Aids. On it she had written, "You sing in your sleep! :)" When we landed in Salt Lake, she announced, "We'd like to recognize a gentleman who's celebrating his eighty-sixth birthday today, and he's a first-time flyer!" All of the passengers applauded. She continued, "On your way out, make sure to wish the captain a happy birthday."
My parents like New Age music and have a bunch of it lying around the house in an antique format known as compact discs. I have fond memories of listening to it nearly every Sunday morning while getting ready for church, but somehow this tradition faded and the selection decreased until I was only familiar with a few albums. When I went through the collection and rediscovered other albums, though, they were as familiar as if I had listened to them the previous day. There was one particular song I wanted to find, though, because I was curious whether it would still depress me almost to tears like it did when I was little. Maybe it's just because I have issues, but a few of the songs my parents played really messed me up. The other most prominent example would be the Beatles' "Magical Mystery Tour". I was literally scared that these freaks were coming to take me away.
Anyway, this other song, the New Age one, provided me with my earliest memories of depression. It made me think of a little boy wandering along a vast beach all by himself, staring out at a vast ocean, and (around the 2:55 mark) finally breaking down and crying out to the vast sky. And being a masochist I wanted to find this song and listen to it again. Finally, during this last trip home I narrowed it down to one album I hadn't heard yet that it could possibly be on, and sure enough, among all the other songs that were as familiar as if I had heard them the day before, there it was. I was surprised to find that it's called "Symphony of the Forest". And while it didn't have nearly as drastic an effect on me this time around, I still think "Symphony of Loneliness and Futility" would have been a more appropriate title.
Kitaro - Symphony of the Forest
At the first church activity of the new semester, several people were still filling out their pink or blue information sheets to get their records transferred into the ward. One girl near me had taken a blue sheet and written at the top of it "I am a girl". I assumed the pink sheets had simply run out, but almost immediately noticed that there were still several right next to her. So I asked, "Why are you using a blue sheet?"
She looked at me as if I was the stupidest person in the world (insert your own quip about agreeing with her here) and said, "Because colors are not gendered. That's a societal thing. I like blue better."
I was stunned at how awesome she had instantly revealed herself to be, but, trying not to gush too much and sort of being at a loss for a words, I just said "That's cool" three times. The third time was prefaced with "Nah" and was a response to her apology for being weird. Then, as I violated her privacy by looking at the confidential stuff she had already written down, I noticed another awesome thing. "Hey," I said, "you have the exact same birthday as me!"
"Six twenty-three ninety-three?"
Um, yeah, that's what it says on the paper, right? "Yeah."
"What time were you born?"
"I don't remember," I said. "I was very young."
She looked confused for a second, and then broke into a grin. "Oh, stop it," she said, and promptly turned away to talk to someone else.
Finally I'm in a couple of the English classes that I've been trying to get into for three semesters. They have only twenty spaces each. Both of them are taught by the same professor, and both of them will require writing stuff and then sharing it with everyone else so they can politely and constructively tear it apart. Thus, today we had a discussion about vulnerability. We watched this amusing TED Talk.
Brené Brown - The Power of Vulnerability
Before this video and our discussion, I hated vulnerability. Now, after realizing how essential it is to feeling normal human emotions and having normal human relationships, I still hate vulnerability. It doesn't usually work out very well for me. I am put in mind of Evita Peron's fictional incarnation's words, "Time and time again I've said that I don't care, that I'm immune to gloom, that I'm hard through and through. But every time it matters, all my words desert me, so anyone can hurt me, and they do." When I look out at my classmates I see a bunch of people who will hurt me if given half a chance. A fair analysis? I hope not. We'll see.
For some reason we talked about what it takes to have an intimate relationship with someone. (Here I felt sorry for any Mormons in the class who may have wrongly been taught to use "intimacy" as a synonym for sex.) I didn't pursue writing so I could learn about intimate relationships, but whatever. We talked about the necessity to be yourself, to communicate, and all that jazz. But the elephant in the room was that you can do that all you want but you can't guarantee the other party will reciprocate. They can act like they're being all honest and open when in fact they're lying through their teeth. I am not speaking hypothetically. And that's why I only really trust like three people.
But if to love at all is to be vulnerable, then no one is more vulnerable than God. Have you ever thought of that?
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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.