I think from now on my default title whenever I can't think of one, such as in cases like this where I don't have a single overarching theme but am just cobbling together little tidbits of stuff, will be "Stuff". I can be creative at times but in this case the sheer effort no longer seems worth it. Of course, that might make people less likely to read the posts in question, but life is full of tradeoffs.
The first thing to announce, I suppose, even though Mormon readers will find it old news and non-Mormons may not find it particularly interesting, is that Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles died yesterday. It took me by surprise. It was only the day before that the Church announced his cancer was terminal, so I thought he had a few more months at least. He also acted more like a 72 year old than a 92 year old, and who knows how long he could have lived if he hadn't gotten cancer. But I think everyone would get cancer sooner or later if they lived long enough.
Unless my memory is very poor, which it is sometimes, the last time an Apostle died was nearly seven years ago. That was the same year the prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, died at the age of 97. That took weeks to sink in. Every time I thought about it I had to re-process it as if I was hearing the news for the first time. I've been fortunate in that no one particularly close to me in "real life" has ever died, but I know that won't last and I'm not looking forward to it. But anyway, I'm happy for Elder Perry having moved on to the next stage of the plan of salvation, and interested to see who will fill the vacancy he left.
I realized recently that after God has made the same promise four or five times, I should start believing it. How terrible is it that while my faith in God's existence is unshakable, my faith in His omniscience and total goodness wavers with some frequency. Sometimes I treat Him like just any other person who means well and tries to give good advice but doesn't know me like I know myself. Sometimes I feel like He enjoys watching me fail. In the case of this promise, that was definitely starting to seem like the most plausible explanation. But I've decided to start trusting Him more regardless of how hard it is, and see where that gets me. I know, I know, Captain Obvious stuff here. I'm a slow learner, okay?
Every once in a while, purely by accident, I have a modicum of success with a woman. A case in point happened a few days ago. I was walking home from work when a woman got out of her car and headed for her house, coming the opposite direction toward me. I glanced at her and then, because she appeared to be an African (probably Somalian) Muslim, which aren't exactly commonplace around here, I did a double take without even thinking. Our eyes met. She smiled. As we passed each other I thought, "Only one more thing is needed to complete this moment." So I looked back, meeting her eyes again, as she was at her door now and already looking back at me. I was like, "Bazinga!" Just in my head, of course. I can't do stuff like that on purpose. It doesn't work. So I just have to take these happy accidents, few and far between, when I can get them. I just cherish them for what they're worth and feel gratitude that I didn't ruin them by speaking.
If I want to communicate, I do it in writing, like I'm doing right now, though this isn't communicating so much as writing a journal type thing that anyone else is welcome to read if they happen to be that desperately bored. But I did make a new friend on Facebook the other day. There was a time when I had to worry about being kidnapped by strangers on the internet, and now strangers on the internet become closer friends than the people I know in person. This particular one is from Quebec, which is crazy because I grew up just south of there, and now I'm in Utah and she's in Alberta so she's still directly north of me, albeit farther away. I told her about how I love Canada and grew up watching Kids' CBC and the Red Green Show. And she was like, "I've never heard of the Red Green Show." And then apparently she Googled it and showed me the clip she had found, which I am including here because it's as good an excuse as any to share a Red Green Show clip.
Possum Lodge Word Game - "Love"
As I was thinking of more things to say later on, and it occurred to me, "Ah, she must be a Tintin fan."
I thought, "But she's Quebecois, not Belgian."
I retorted, "Doesn't matter. All French people are Tintin fans. Watch." I brought it up and, indeed, she loved Tintin and owned all the comic books and watched the old cartoon series whenever it aired on TV and was sad that there were no new adventures to read (because Hergé has been dead for over thirty years). So yes, she was a Tintin fan. Linguistic profiling for the win! Tintin is, inexplicably, less popular in the United States. If you're unfamiliar with him outside of the recent Steven Spielberg movie, decent though it was, then you owe it to yourself to check out the comic books. They're phenomenal.
I got into a debate with another friend recently about whether humans are animals. I say "debate" even though there really was nothing to debate. An animal is "a living organism that feeds on organic matter, typically having specialized sense organs and nervous system and able to respond rapidly to stimuli." So, unless you don't eat food, you're an animal. I hope that doesn't bother you but I honestly don't see why it should.
Of course, one could get around this by creating their own circular logic definition that adds "except for humans". Other attempts to drive a wedge between humans and other animals tend to fail sooner or later. Humans are the only animals that use tools? Nope. Humans are the only animals that create art? Nope. Humans are the only animals that plan for the future? Nope. Humans are the only animals with self-awareness? Nope. Humans are the only animals that communicate with language? Not by a long shot. I suppose you could say humans are the only animals that inflict suffering and death on their own kind just for pleasure. That one might never be proven wrong.
Spiritually, of course, humans are different. We are children of God. And even physically we have the distinction of being made in His image. So there is a religious difference which is just as valid even though it's not scientifically quantifiable. But in terms of genetics, physiology, evolution and what have you, humans are far more alike with other animals than they are different. And that's not a bad thing. Last time I checked animals are pretty freaking awesome.
Ah yes, I did get the opportunity to pay forward my friend Cece's generosity (see last week's post) by housecleaning for another friend who has some kind of disease that prevents her from standing up for very long. I had never heard of it before but I believe her because she's had health problems before and she has enough prescription pills and powders and liquids to open a mini-pharmacy. She also has enough clothes and shoes to supply a small African nation. Well, not quite, but almost.
In conclusion, it's way too hot here today and I miss the overcast/rainy days that we've been blessed with for so long. Oh well.
God the Declutterer: Or, Thank You for Loving Me Enough to Boss Me Around and Throw Away My Stuff
Those who have followed this blog at its previous location, or those who know me in person, or those who see me posting in AMSSA and other lesser Facebook groups, will find it difficult to imagine that I have flaws. I hate to shatter your misplaced celebrity worship, but I feel I should point out that everyone has flaws. And I am no exception. Here's one of my flaws, which will come as no surprise to my parents if they happen to read this: I'm a slob.
There are a couple reasons for this. First, 90% of the world I live in is my own mind. My own thoughts are my most constant companions and being jarred out of them throws me for a loop. At its worst, physical things like eating, sleeping and exercising become little more than unwelcome distractions. So when I'm done using something, I don't often think to put it away in a specific place, but just set it down wherever I happen to be and come back to it the next time I need it, if I remember where it is.
The other main reason is that I'm a hoarder with a debilitating environmental consciousness. Throwing away wrappers or chip bags or other obvious "garbage" items isn't too difficult. If it's recyclable than I recycle it. But if it looks to me like it should be recyclable, but isn't, then I can't bear to throw it away. And if food goes bad, I can't bear to throw it away, because throwing food away just tears my heart in two. I also hold on to most of the papers I get from school or anywhere else, because they might come in handy someday and might have some nostalgia attached. It's kind of ridiculous how nostalgic I am for being just under 22 years old.
I had spent hours attempting to clean my room, and afterward it looked worse than before. What I did was go through picking things up and thinking, "Can I throw this away? Do I have a place to put this?" If the answer to both questions was "no", then I put it back and moved on. I did throw some stuff away but it didn't make a noticeable improvement.
Fortunately, salvation was on its way.
I wanted to hang out with my good friend Cece. Strangely, my good friend Cece wanted to hang out with me. I thought I would just go to her place again. Strangely, she wanted to come to mine. I panicked a little because I don't really have anything to keep guests entertained. The TV doesn't even belong to me. But I figured, whatever, if she gets bored we can just go somewhere else. "But you can't come in my room," I said, "because it looks like a garage sale exploded in it."
"Okay," she said.
So as soon as she got here, what did she want to do? She wanted to look at my room. And she wouldn't be satisfied until she did. So I showed her, expecting her to run away screaming and no longer have any respect for me. She didn't. She just got real quiet and stared and said, "Wow."
"Yep," I said. "Well, you've seen it. Let's go."
"Christopher, we need to clean this," she said. "I'll help you clean this. I think that when it's all clean, you'll feel a lot better and you won't be as stressed all the time."
That actually made a lot of sense, and sounded wonderful, but I panicked a little because I wasn't entirely comfortable with her touching my stuff. After she failed to find any trash bags in the house, I convinced her to hold off until next week. Instead we got permission to use the TV and attempted to watch "The African Queen", which I had gotten from the library, but the disc had this weird problem I'd never seen before where it skipped like five scenes at a time, so we watched "A Goofy Movie" instead.
"That was beautiful," I said when it was over.
"Why?" she asked.
"Because it was just touching how he and his dad reconciled, and how he learned that it's okay to be kind of 'goofy', and she loved him just the way he was and he didn't have to change for her."
"Yeah," she agreed.
If only real life was like that, I thought. Cartoons are so silly.
So, the next time we hung out I wanted to watch the other movie I got from the library, "Romancing the Stone", which from the release year and cover art was clearly an Indiana Jones ripoff but could still be decent. She was only interested in cleaning my room, though. So interested that she showed up ten minutes early before I was emotionally prepared for it, knocking to announce her presence and then entering the house before I could get to the door. I was in the middle of listening to Sheryl Crow.
There were still no garbage bags, but this time there was no dissuading her, so we took a detour to the store and got some. She did find something useful under the sink. "I'm using Landon's gloves," she said, showing me the purple rubber gloves that said "Landon's Gloves" on them.
Ah, yes. Landon the leper. He wore those to keep his hands from falling off. It didn't work. I'm sure all his germs are gone from them by now.
Just kidding. I have no idea who Landon was. Anyway, we started cleaning. I was in charge of the music. We finished listening to Sheryl Crow, then did some Eurythmics ("Here Comes the Rain Again" was very appropriate to our current weather), "Weird Al" Yankovic ("This is a weird song," she said. "That's why they call him Weird Al", I explained), David Arkenstone, and Ace of Base, which she enjoyed a lot so I left it on. Next time, I think, will be non-stop Roxette, one of my other favorite Swedish groups.
It was clear from the start who was in charge of this operation. She worked on some stuff while delegating the rest to me, but I was distracted by keeping an eye on her part. "Don't throw away any puzzle pieces! Hey, I still want that! Hey, that's recyclable!"
She made a few things clear at the beginning. The world wasn't going to stop turning if something recyclable got put in with the trash, and she was going to throw away a lot of papers that I thought I needed but actually didn't.
"Don't be mad at me," she said. "I know it's hard, but I'm helping you."
I realized she was right, so I decided to grin and bear it. She did agree to put the papers in a box and make me go through them to find which ones were important, but now I had lowered my standard of importance to match hers because I knew she was right. But I just hope she never decides to use her influence for evil. If she ever tries to make me try meth, I'm not sure I could say no.
Anyway, after a couple hours it was looking a lot better. She stood up and stretched. "Christopher," she said, "I never want to do this again."
I was stunned. "But - I didn't ask you do to it. You volunteered."
"I know," she said, "and I'm happy to help you, but I just don't want to do it again."
"Fair enough," I said.
I didn't sleep better that night. I actually slept worse because I was stressed about the possibility of having lost something important, like my flash drive or the Amazon gift cards from my grandmother or one of the two notes from the only female who knew me outside of the Internet and admitted to having an interest in me. But I think that was just a transitional phase. As soon as I get the trash bags out of the dumpster and go through them to double check for anything important - still holding to her standard of importance - I'll be fine.
This experience made me think about what God does to us, if we let Him. All of our lives are a bit cluttered and messed up, aren't they? We have things in them that shouldn't be there, things that we can hardly bear to let go of even though it would be for our own good. And God wants to take those things. But we have to let Him. He isn't quite as pushy about it as my friend, but He will not alter the plan or make exceptions for our comfort no matter how we plead, because He knows best.
Being a slob is only one of my flaws. There are others, worse ones, that I hold onto as a matter of personal pride. I need to let them go. We all do. If only it was as easy as parting with literal, physical junk.
And in fact, maybe this is one of those flaws. Whether or not it's true that cleanliness is next to godliness, maybe God knew I couldn't fix this on my own and so He sent someone to help me. "God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other in the kingdom." - President Spencer W. Kimball
Well, I feel bad making the spiritual takeaway so much shorter than the story leading into it, but that's really all I have to say about that and dragging it on would just kill the moment. (Insert your own quip about me having done that several paragraphs ago here.)
Have a blessed day.
Testing, testing. Actually, I just want to make my feed link start working.
"Guys. Chris's blog is the stuff of legends. If you’re ever looking for a good read, check this out!"
- Amelia Whitlock
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About the Author
C. Randall Nicholson is a white cisgender Christian male, so you can hate him without guilt, but he's also autistic and asexual, 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.