My patriarchal blessing, received in 2008, told me in pretty unambiguous terms that I should pursue teaching as a career. And my father told me occasionally that he thought I would be a good teacher because I could relate to the kids who didn't fit in. But all I wanted to do was get rich writing and publishing fun science fiction adventures and selling the movie rights. I had little interest in the most underpaid, underappreciated job in America, and that was even before the current pandemic revealed the ugliness of millions of people who think teachers are expendable drones that exist to spare them the inconvenience of watching their own kids. I also have always hated talking in front of groups of people. But most of all, with memories still fresh in mind of always getting stuck in the loudest and worst-behaved class in every grade of elementary and middle school, I had not the slightest desire to put up with those little brats.
Since it took me over seven years to graduate from Utah State University with my bachelor's degree in English with a Creative Writing emphasis, I had plenty of time to procrastinate doing what I didn't really want to do but assumed I would do eventually. In my last semester, I finally asked a teacher friend (incidentally, one of the same people whose words I used without permission as a blurb on my little blog sidebar that you've probably never noticed if you only view this site on a mobile device because it's down toward the bottom) about the possible options for getting into that line of work. She said something about graduate school and it was an instant "nope" from me. With the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel drawing near after so long, I was not the least bit interested in further education.
A day or two later - I forget which day the weekly Sink Hollow USU English department newsletter staff meetings were held - Professor Charles stopped me after our weekly Sink Hollow USU English department newsletter staff meeting and asked, "Have you ever considered graduate school, or teaching?" He encouraged me to look into it because, he said, I had a lot of potential and he wanted to make sure it went somewhere. He would be happy, he said, to write me a letter of recommendation. He said he thought I would make a great teacher, and I could be a graduate instructor and teach the introductory English course, and I would get paid and have my tuition covered.
That weekend, the Sink Hollow USU English department newsletter staff had a little party at Professor Ballam's house, and her old graduate school mentor from another state was a guest speaker and he talked about graduate school. After he concluded and we were all mingling and eating together and other things that we used to be able to do, I very carefully avoided eye contact with him, but he still walked right over to me and engaged me in conversation about whether I'd considered graduate school. He took a break and just worked for a year between degrees, he said, and maybe I would need to do that, but graduate school was really great.
So at this point I acknowledged God's subtle nudges and decided to do graduate school.
Then because of personal issues and stresses coming up I didn't send in the application by the January 15, 2019 deadline. That in and of itself wasn't a disaster. They would still consider applications received after that date. But as soon as the deadline passed, I stopped rushing to get it finished and shifted my focus to all the other unwelcome crap going on. I let it go for a few weeks, then a few months, and then it was August and I came to the realization that this wasn't going to happen and I needed to just apply for next year instead. The decision wasn't hard to make at all. When you get to be as old as I am, one more year is nothing. If I knew I had only one more year to wait for any given blessing that I anticipate or hope for, I would be giddy with joy. I knew the time would zip by like a dream. And it did.
Crap happened and got in the way again. The deadline this year, in fact, was the day after the worst day of my life so far that both of my regular readers must be sick of hearing about. I got part of the application submitted and then tried to do the rest under less than ideal conditions such as being about as tired and suicidal as I've ever been, and also I had to wait on the letters of recommendation because I hadn't given those professors enough notice to quite get them in on time. But I didn't worry about the deadline and I didn't worry about doing the greatest job at fulfilling the requirements spelled out in pompous academic jargon which, in my mental state at the time, felt overwhelmingly complicated. I knew that as soon as the university saw my letters of recommendation and my writing sample they wouldn't be able to turn me down. My writing sample was the story "Lunatics", which, fittingly, I wrote for Charles' class. The praise it received from him and others, as well as the feedback and opportunity to revise, gave me great confidence in its merits even if it was just a fun science fiction adventure.
I didn't come right out and ask to be a graduate instructor. I figured God would make that happen regardless since He's the one who first told me to go into teaching. But I did name-drop Charles a couple times in the application, mentioning that he thought I would be good at it. A few weeks later the university accepted my application, and a few weeks after that they offered me the job. I had until April 15 to accept or decline. I waited a week so I wouldn't look desperate, and then of course I accepted. Something changed then. In January when the world's most apathetic social worker asked me if I had things to stay alive for, I gave her the answers she wanted to hear even though I could think of nothing in that category. But now I did have something - a contractual obligation to the university and my future students.
And after that, I got occasional emails about it but they told me almost nothing until this month. My official hire date, although it had been treated as set in stone long before then, was the seventeenth, and then this past week I had virtual orientation with the other new graduate instructors and finally learned what exactly I'm supposed to do. I kind of assumed, since I have almost zero experience and the training is so brief and they're putting me in charge of a class just like that, that they would tell me exactly what to teach and when to teach it all semester. Otherwise how could they trust me not to screw it up? But actually, they just told me the course objectives and the assignments and readings to give my students, and I basically get/have to plan every lesson around those things as I see fit. One of my courses is a practicum taught by Beth, who led the orientation, and through that she'll keep guiding and advising us throughout the semester. But still. So much trust. So much pressure. And I felt like I had made a terrible mistake and become a part of this scholarly intellectual group under false pretenses. The first four days of orientation were like
Actually, the course notes given to help us plan our lessons are a lot more structured than they would have been otherwise because of the unique nature of this semester (and I suppose I'll have to be trained all over again in a decade or so when things return to normal), so thank providence for small favors. Most of my new colleagues don't have teaching experience either. A couple of them don't even have bachelor's degrees in English. All of us share the same anxiety. So we've discussed and come to the realization that this anxiety is normal and we'll do fine. In my case, though, it messed up my sleep even worse than usual and gave me random nightmares about Elmyra torturing Sylvester and Tweety or a stranger sneaking into the basement of my childhood home, which in turn made it more difficult to focus during orientation or retain anything from the reading and I feared it would spiral out of control but it's fine now.
My overall feelings toward further education and teaching have totally changed. I'm excited for the opportunity to interact with these students and make a positive difference in their lives and warn them against all the mistakes I made as an undergrad and awaken their potential as writers and instill them with a love of writing and indoctrinate them with my political and social views. (I think I'll give extra credit for an essay on why the police suck.) Nah, that last part is a joke, although the English department is on a big anti-racism kick this semester and it's mostly a faculty thing but I'm curious if there will be any pushback from young Utahans who have never talked to a black person before and don't think racism still exists. One of my responsibilities in this position, they told me, is to help students from marginalized demographics succeed and be heard in an academic environment that was constructed around the preferences and norms of middle-class white people. Again, pressure, but I'll do my best.
Also, one of my new colleagues made me think, She's really cute, but why does she look so familiar? And then I realized that if she dyed her hair and wore blue-tinted glasses, she would be indistinguishable from my delusional ex-neighbor who caused me such suffering. I mean she literally has the same face. She must have stolen it. So I guess my ex-neighbor only has one face now.
So that's how I got to this point, and that's why in the near future I won't likely be able to continue writing such long and thoughtful blog posts as I have hitherto written. A great loss to the world, I know. But I will continue to post something every week, even if it's just "Look at one of my favorite cartoons."
Trigger Warning: sex
The August 2020 issue of the Ensign is one of the last issues of the Ensign that will ever be published, because beginning in January it will be renamed the Liahona, which is the name currently given to the magazine for all Latter-day Saints who don't speak English, though it's not quite equivalent to the current Ensign because it covers material for adults, teenagers, and children while English-speakers have three separate magazines for those categories. Beginning in January all three magazines will be available to everyone, though they will vary from language to language in frequency of publication and amount of content just like the Liahona already does. This change, like rebranding EFY as FSY and cutting ties with the Boy Scouts, removes a systemic difference between the Church in the United States and the Church everyone else. It's an important step toward actually being a global faith and not just trying to act like it.
The cover of this issue says "Talking about Sexuality from a Gospel Perspective" and several of the articles inside do exactly that. Now, I find it really pretentious and annoying in the mainstream society how people go on about their obsession with sex and sexuality and sex life and sexual orientation and sexual health and sexual this and sexual that and sex and sex and sex, pretending that the world revolves around their most primitive animal instinct and trying to make it all sophisticated and intellectual. But I concede that it's got to be talked about sometimes, and there are good ways to do that and bad ways to do that. This issue is obviously striving to promote the good ways to do that and get rid of the cultural stigma, discomfort, and wedding night confusion that plagues our church along with all Christian denominations (and probably other religions) that teach that sex is good within marriage and wicked in any other context. In fairness, sex education at my secular middle school in liberal New York sent mixed messages too. It was all like "Don't have sex, but if you do, use these free condoms."
For a while I've noticed the irony that while I think sex is disgusting beyond all reason, I'm far less squeamish about it than many who ostensibly believe it's beautiful and sacred at the right time. I don't believe that sex is beautiful and/or sacred, because I simply can't, but if you claim that you do, freaking act like it. Don't tell me sex is ordained of God and then treat it like a swear word. So this magazine is a breath of fresh air. It does refer to sex over and over again as "sexual intimacy", using seven syllables where one would do just fine, but that's still accurate and I can live with it. What really irks me is when people just call it "intimacy". As such, this passage from "Conversations about Intimacy and Sex That Can Prepare You for Marriage" was my favorite part of the whole issue:
"A lot of people use the word intimacy as a synonym for sex, but this can be incomplete and a little confusing. Intimacy refers to feelings of closeness created within emotional, intellectual, and physical areas of relationships. There are a few types of intimacy:
Saying "intimacy" because you're scared of the word "sex" is a slap in the face to everyone who's ever had a meaningful friendship. Elsewhere, Ty Mansfield has noted, "I’ve even known of men who questioned their sexuality simply because they developed a deep emotional love for another man. It seems our culture often has difficulty distinguishing deep love and intimacy from sexual or erotic desire, and it certainly doesn’t help when in conservative religious cultures we use terms like intimacy - a general human good and need that transcends sexuality - as a euphemism for sex."
On that note, I was happy to see an article by a gay Latter-day Saint on "My Experience Living the Law of Chastity with Same-Sex Attraction". It's the usual "I don't know why God did this to me but I trust Him and I have a really strong testimony" spiel that I would have expected, and I think the article's actual contents are less important than the fact of acknowledging and listening to our LGBTQ+ members in the first place. I'm actually far more interested in the author's Hasidic Jewish background. I think converts from Judaism are even rarer than gay converts, and he's both, and most of Judaism isn't really okay with homosexuality either. Did he know he was gay while he was Jewish? Did anyone else? What was that like? When he converted to the Church of Jesus Christ, which he mentions his Jewish community wasn't thrilled about, did they drop the gay thing and decide this was even worse? How, if at all, does this unique background inform his perspective on both LGBTQ+ and Christian topics?
This issue also contains what I believe is the first ever acknowledgement in any official Church source that asexual people exist. In "Bridling Your Passions: How to Align Sexual Thoughts and Feelings with the Lord's Expectations", we find this gem: "Most of us experience sexual feelings as part of our mortal experience." (emphasis added) Not much, obviously, but it's more than the absolute nothing that I've gotten up to this point. When no other article includes such a caveat, and two or three of them assert that these sexual feelings are a gift from God, I could perhaps be forgiven for wondering if God forgot about me, or deemed me unworthy of the gift, or simply ran out. After all, if the universe has a finite amount of eternally existing matter that God just arranges into planets and people and stuff instead of spawning them ex nihilo, He's got to start cutting corners eventually.
Naturally, there's a lot of focus on how to teach your kids about this stuff, but without going into any real detail. Two or three articles mention the importance of using proper names for body parts. Again, I don't believe these body parts are beautiful or sacred but they are entirely normal and healthy things to have so there's no point in demonizing them. They could have strengthened their point considerably by using those names themselves. It would have sent such a powerful message: "Look, if we can say 'penis' in a church magazine, you can say it to your kids." And I'm sure many readers would benefit from learning, as I did recently, that what they call a vagina is, in fact, a vulva, which consists of at least eleven parts with weird, often Latin names, and the vagina isn't even one of them. The vagina is, in fact, inside of this apparatus. (After reading the magazine, I looked this stuff up on Wikipedia in the hope that familiarizing myself with the not-vagina would help me be less viscerally disgusted by what I think looks like an aborted sarlacc fetus. It didn't work.)
Obviously the Ensign is only meant to be a jumping-off point for these discussions, and is not considered the place for going into a lot of actual detail. I would just like to add my two cents that these discussions should include more than the bare minumum of detail. It's true that my happiness in life has declined in inverse proportion to how much I know about sex, but I'm in the minority, and I don't think anyone particularly enjoys being clueless and taken by surprise on their wedding night. I first learned about sex from a book that described it as when a man inserts his erect penis into his wife's vagina, and pretty much left it at that. So I visualized it as something that took place in the bathroom standing up. (This is anatomically impossible because of how the vagina/vulva is positioned, but I didn't even know that much.) Fortunately the guys at my lunch table at school filled the gaps in my knowledge whether I liked it or not.
Because ten is a sacred number to humans, I feel inclined now to look back ten years.
Especially for Youth was an annual experience for some young Latter-day Saints. For me, it came once in a lifetime. After growing up in northern New York as one of five Latter-day Saints at my school, with my district renting a bus to take the youths on road trips to the temple twice a year, and carpooling four hours to dances and youth conferences in Albany where I was astonished that they had two congregations meeting in the same building, a week of activities and devotionals on the campus of BYU-Idaho with thousands of youths who for the most part shared my beliefs was just off the charts. I can't imagine the experience being nearly as special if I'd grown up in Utah or even Idaho and I kind of feel sorry for the majority of attendees who did. I'd already had a solid testimony for years, but this week for me was essentially a born-again moment that magnified it until it seemed it would burst. The Spirit filled me with almost evangelical zeal and such joy that my recurring depression went away for almost a year until I moved to Utah, which is another story.
Of course, it was a feel-good experience for everyone involved, even those who were in a position to take it for granted, and it was meant to be. Every minute of every day was calculated to produce a spiritual environment. And that worked great for me because my testimony was based on two things - the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, which was such a no-brainer for me once I actually took it seriously that I never bothered to pray about it like I was expected to, and feeling the Spirit in various times and places. My parents cautioned my sister and me going into it not to get too caught up in the atmosphere and develop "a testimony of EFY" and be like those people who just cry a lot and think that's being spiritual. Or something like that, I don't remember exactly. Nothing as derisive as I'm probably making it sound. Although they do make fun of the Tabernacle Choir for singing too slowly, so they are apostates in their own way.
The point being it was all quite manufactured, but that's all right. Dr. Patrick Mason opined, "Is religious feeling manufactured? To a large extent, yes — and that’s precisely the point. One of the roots for the word religion is religare, which means to bind together. Religion is communal. And what’s the point of gathering in religious community? I would say that the purpose is twofold: to encounter and worship God, and to form a community of care in which we learn to love one another. So we do all kinds of things in community which enhance our ability to encounter God. Songs, prayers, sermons, rituals, service — of course all those things are meant to manufacture spiritual experience and divine encounter. In a real way, I believe we can and do actually find God and Jesus in the bread and water of the sacrament, or in a Sunday School lesson, or in raking a widow’s leaves. It’s similar to the way that candles, flowers, low lighting, and chocolate are designed to manufacture romantic experience. Can I love my wife without all that stuff? Of course. But does it all help? Yep. And is the experience my wife and I have real, even with the aid of all those romantic accoutrements? Absolutely."
I also learned how to tie a tie. Previously, I had literally Googled how to tie a tie every Sunday before church, but now I had no internet access all week (not that I had a smartphone back then anyway). So I watched another guy real close, did what he did, and remembered it forever.
The last dance of the last dance on the last day was Owl City's "Fireflies", my first time hearing that song, so now that song fills me with soul-shredding nostalgia and wistfulness, but it's so beautiful that I still listen to it for sick masochistic pleasure. I became Facebook friends with most of the people in my group and now I'm not Facebook friends with most of them anymore probably because I showed my true colors on social media.
I got home and before long I had a new issue of Mental Floss magazine and it happened to have a few sample chapters from an upcoming book about influential people or something, and one of them happened to be about Joseph Smith. It got a few details wrong. Mostly little things, but most egregiously it claimed he had practiced polygamy. That was obviously wrong because polygamy started with Brigham Young. I mentioned this to my parents. They were like, "No, that's right, Joseph Smith practiced polygamy," like it was common knowledge and not a big deal at all. I was just a little peeved that they had been aware of this information and neither they nor anyone else had bothered to impart it to me, but I brushed it aside.
The article still had a few inaccuracies and I decided to write a letter to the magazine and correct them. But I wanted to make sure that I had my own facts entirely straight. So I went to Google and typed in "joseph smith". And before I hit enter, an intriguing suggestion popped up: "joseph smith false prophet". It was intriguing, not because I seriously entertained for a moment the possibility that Joseph Smith was, in fact, a false prophet, but because I wondered what hilariously stupid arguments people were coming up with to claim that he was. I imagined they were in a similar vein to "ThE bIbLe SaYs YoU'rE nOt SuPpOsEd To AdD tO iT." So I clicked on the suggestion and clicked on one of the results. What I actually found there was not very funny at all.
Though I've since been exposed to scores of others, I remember the specific claims on this website that disturbed me to my core: that Joseph Smith made several prophesies that failed to come true, that he edited the Doctrine & Covenants to cover some of them up, that he gave several accounts of his First Vision that evolved and grew more elaborate over time, that he was arrested in 1826 for being a con man and pretending he could find buried treasure with a magic rock, that his mother wrote in her autobiography about him entertaining the family with stories about ancient America and then Brigham Young ordered every copy of it destroyed, that DNA evidence proved Native Americans were not descended from Israelites, that archaeological evidence of the peoples in the Book of Mormon was nonexistent, and that the papyri Joseph Smith translated into the Book of Abraham had later been translated by actual Egyptologists into something completely different.
I had experienced a bit of cognitive dissonance prior to this point. I had assumed, and probably been told outright by multiple people, that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was the fastest-growing religion in the world and that this was proof of its divine origin. So I was a bit startled to learn that its growth had actually been linear since 1989 and that a solid majority of members worldwide not only didn't attend church but didn't even self-identify as Latter-day Saints notwithstanding they remained on the books. I had assumed that because we sustained all prophets and apostles as "prophets, seers and revelators", pretty much everything they said or wrote in any setting was the mind and will of the Lord. So I was a bit startled to learn that the only apostle who agreed with Ezra Taft Benson's political views was Ezra Taft Benson. But I assimilated this information into my fundamentalist worldview with as little adjustment as I could get away with.
I also experienced brief but substantial cognitive dissonance one day in ninth grade when I woke up fully expecting to find myself in my own bed, but instead found myself on a classroom floor with my classmates staring at me and Ms. Conger in my face frantically asking if I was okay. I knew simultaneously that this current state of events was impossible, and that it was nonetheless happening; that it had to be a dream, and that it wasn't. My confusion wasn't resolved until I looked up and saw the test on my desk. My memory came flooding back. We had been taking the test and then had a break to stand up and stretch. With that resolved, I moved on with my life, and when it happened again sometime later in Spanish class my memory came back much faster and it wasn't a big deal. I don't know why Señora Arquiette had to go to the bathroom to cry. The third time, I didn't even lose consciousness as I fell and split my face open on the living room woodstove. (Since I know you're worried, it was orthostatic hypotension and it never happened again as soon as the hospital diagnosed it.)
Now I felt the full force of cognitive dissonance that wouldn't go away so easily. If these claims were true, then the Church couldn't possibly be true, and yet the Spirit had so very recently told me that it was, and yet that didn't make these claims go away and my integrity wouldn't allow me to just pretend they didn't exist. Torn between emotion and intellect and unable to reject either, I knew there had to be a way to reconcile them, but how? And if these claims were nothing to worry about, why had I never ever heard of them from the Church? Why hadn't the Church been honest with me? The cognitive dissonance was tinged with a feeling of betrayal. I didn't have the first idea where to look for help because as far as I was concerned, it was brand new and unknown to almost anyone. It didn't occur to me as a serious possibility that anyone I knew could already be familiar with it. And I didn't want to ruin their testimonies by bringing it up. I had no idea what my future with regard to the Church would look like but I knew right from the start that if it made other people happy I wasn't going to try to ruin that for them.
Except I made an exception for my parents, I guess because they were my parents and I liked arguing with them. The feeling that the Church had lied to me put me in an argumentative mood. They were calm and made it pretty obvious that they weren't at all bothered by the things I showed them. They probably just wanted to strengthen my faith by showing how solid theirs was, but I interpreted it as they just didn't care about inconvenient facts. I don't say this to bash them at all but, because it may be pertinent for those trying to help in similar situations, some of the things they said were not helpful, like:
"Joseph Smith wasn't perfect."
What I thought: I don't care if he was perfect, I care if he was a liar.
"The Church has nothing to hide."
What I thought: Then why is it hiding things?
"How does this stuff make you feel?"
What I thought: I just learned that the religion I grew up in might be a lie. Of course I feel crappy. That doesn't mean the feeling is from Satan.
I asked them why the Church never talked about Joseph Smith translating the Book of Mormon by sticking his face in a hat, a detail that didn't upset my testimony on its own but which I was quite annoyed to learn at age seventeen from an anti-Mormon website. They straight-up said, "Probably because it's weird." And they didn't see a problem with that.
What did help was the video clip they showed me of Elder Jeffrey R. Holland's testimony in the October 2009 General Conference, where he stated in part, "As one of a thousand elements of my own testimony of the divinity of the Book of Mormon, I submit this as yet one more evidence of its truthfulness. In this their greatest - and last - hour of need, I ask you: would these men blaspheme before God by continuing to fix their lives, their honor, and their own search for eternal salvation on a book (and by implication a church and a ministry) they had fictitiously created out of whole cloth?
"Never mind that their wives are about to be widows and their children fatherless. Never mind that their little band of followers will yet be 'houseless, friendless and homeless' and that their children will leave footprints of blood across frozen rivers and an untamed prairie floor. Never mind that legions will die and other legions live declaring in the four quarters of this earth that they know the Book of Mormon and the Church which espouses it to be true. Disregard all of that, and tell me whether in this hour of death these two men would enter the presence of their Eternal Judge quoting from and finding solace in a book which, if not the very word of God, would brand them as imposters and charlatans until the end of time? They would not do that! They were willing to die rather than deny the divine origin and the eternal truthfulness of the Book of Mormon."
I couldn't argue with that, so I put my doubts on the proverbial shelf, went on ahead like normal, and got swept up in the excitement of the new "I'm a Mormon" ad campaign that apparently was a major victory for Satan. I never lost sight of my intent to resolve those doubts, but I decided not to let them get in my way in the meantime. A reflection on how the trajectory of my life over the last ten years has stemmed from that decision would probably interest nobody but me so I'll skip it. Suffice to say that this was a hinge point in my life and without the spiritual high of EFY still fresh in my memory I'm sure I wouldn't have made the decision so easily if at all.
I soon felt validated when, during a lull in my teacher's aide work during study hall, I skimmed through the old church magazines that Ms. Conger (yes, this was a couple years after I passed out in her class and yes, she was a church member) had brought in to be cut up for projects and read in the January 1995 Ensign, "Some people say it is best to leave alone materials that claim to 'expose' the Church and its teachings. What counsel has been given on this? How do we respond when a friend comes to us with questions found in such materials?"
The response said in part, "The restored gospel centers on teachings that save, strengthen, uplift, inspire, and bind individuals and families. The Church discourages teachings contrary to such goals. Because of their great concern for the membership, Church leaders have given guidance concerning anti-LDS material and have cautioned against those things designed to destroy belief and cause pain and suffering....
"Such advice must not be interpreted to mean that the Church is against honest scholarship or has anything to fear or hide. Nor does the Church ban literature, but Latter-day Saints should be wise in choosing what to read.
"This cautionary counsel should not be misconstrued to justify laziness on our part in seeking answers, or giving glib, superficial replies when someone sincerely wants to know the truth after being exposed to anti-LDS material. Church critics and enemies should not be permitted to make what Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve has sometimes called 'uncontested slam dunks.'...
"When members lack answers, they should learn what Church leaders and reputable scholars have said and written. There is probably no charge against the Church that has not been adequately refuted by someone. When members can’t find answers on their own, they can turn to home and visiting teachers, quorum leaders, bishops, and stake presidents. If necessary, stake presidents can take questions to area presidencies or other authorities....
"Those willing to take time to research anti-LDS claims can find answers. The Church is true and will continue to grow. Those who would reap great eternal rewards and joy must wisely use their time to study, ponder, love, and work so they can anchor their convictions in the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and his Church."
Shortly thereafter I started to find the answers, and more questions and more answers. Some of the things that had bothered me were distortions of the truth and others were entirely true but less worrisome with additional information and context. I learned that none of it was new and that all of it had been addressed well before the website I saw was created, but tens of thousands of people had left the Church over faith crises and feelings of betrayal similar to mine. On the other hand, many current members knew about all of it too and weren't bothered. Some of them were insufferable victim-blamers about it. "I've known about these things my whole life," they would say. "If you didn't, it's your own fault for not paying attention and not spending all your spare time studying church history. Look, the Ensign devoted an entire sentence to Joseph Smith's seer stone the year before you were born." Okay, that's a more honest paraphrase of the kinds of things they actually said. Many of them openly dismissed people who lost their testimonies as "weak", "chaff", "tares", and so on.
(I found myself in this position myself when some people were shocked and outraged a few years ago to learn that General Authorities receive a living stipend. I've known that for as long as I can remember and thought everyone else did too. I also thought it was common sense because they leave their often far more lucrative careers behind and do church work full time. I don't remember who told me about the stipends. I could point out President Gordon B. Hinckley mentioning them in General Conference but I know that's not how I knew about them. In any case, unlike some people, I chose to have empathy and not be a jerk to people who struggled over it.)
I started the original incarnation of my website on the awful hosting service Webs in November 2010, and one of my goals with it was to disseminate the "controversial" information and apologetics to innoculate others against their own faith crises. When I started out I felt like I was openly pushing back against the Church's own sanitized and dumbed-down version of its history. In the decade since, I've watched it make massive strides toward a more transparent, complete, and accurate version, with initiatives like the Joseph Smith Papers project, the Gospel Topics essays and the required institute classes that incorporate them, and the "Saints" book series. Church Historians Marlin K. Jensen and then Steven E. Snow publicly spoke about this change of approach (which was in the works well before my faith crisis, but of course that fact did me no good), while the "I've known about these things my whole life" crowd continued to pretend that there was no change because the Church had been candid about its history all along.
The excuses offered elsewhere for why it was not, in fact, candid about its history all along always rang hollow to me, and the feeling of betrayal lingered for a long time and if not for that I probably would have tried harder to serve a mission. But I'm at peace with it by now because whatever. I think the sanitized and dumbed-down version of its history was driven by two primary factors: simplifying and standardizing the curriculum for a rapidly expanding body of new converts in far-flung locations, and an institutional persecution complex stemming from actual persecution of the institution. Joseph Smith was murdered in 1844 and his great-nephew was President of the Church in 1972, so that memory certainly stayed fresh for a long time. Church leaders felt very defensive against outside criticism, which in the not-too-distant past had fatal consequences for several people, and clung to an older style of history writing that was more preoccupied with explaining why Joseph Smith and his friends were awesome than with being nuanced or balanced. But expectations have changed and the cost of such an approach now far outweighs the benefit.
As I got over my first faith crisis I refused to make any real paradigm shifts. In fact, I doubled down on my fundamentalism as finding answers to my concerns only reinforced my conviction that all criticisms of the Church were nonsense and the people making them were all liars. This was essentially putting a Band-Aid on the problem and left me vulnerable. I would go on to have another faith crisis over the sheer volume of real or perceived issues being thrown in my face by Facebook trolls (aka the "Big List" fallacy), and another faith crisis when I caught feelings for a lesbian and stopped believing that God loved either of us, and another faith crisis when I studied various world religions and found them all just as beautiful and compelling as mine even though logic dictated that they couldn't all be entirely true. Cognitive dissonance became a very familiar feeling as, no matter what the challenge to my testimony, I remained unable to reject my own spiritual experiences and knowledge and thus had to find a solution whether I liked it or not.
More than once I've wondered why I specifically had to put so much work into this faith thing. If God expected that from most people, the Church would be much smaller than it is. But He gave me my own special personalized path, didn't He? How thoughtful of Him.
That in essence is why today I'm a cynical snarky wannabe intellectual in religious matters, too thoughtful to be accepted by "conservative" Saints and too faithful to be accepted by "liberal" Saints. Sometimes I miss my simple, childish faith, but it was less accurate and less fulfilling than this one and it wouldn't be right to go back even if I could. I don't like the person I was back then even if he was sweeter. I want to burn that little zealot at the stake. He thought Obama was the literal anti-Christ, for zark's sake. I just wish the transition hadn't been so needlessly painful. And I wish I could get back some of the humility and the openness to spiritual things that I've lost. The perfect balance, the flawless paradigm, still eludes me.
And I never even finished writing that letter to Mental Floss.
This week I lost the worst neighbors I've ever had. I don't mean the worst human beings who have ever lived next door to me; that honor goes to someone else. I used to live in this weird house thing that was all under one roof but divided in half by an alleyway, and one half was divided into two apartments top to bottom and the other half was divided side by side. I lived in one side of one half and these people lived in the other, and when it was cold outside they sat on the steps at their end of the alleyway and filled the entire thing with carcinogenic smoke. They knew as well as I did that the couple living across from me had a little girl probably about three years old who played in the alleyway with her toys. That didn't stop them. I did get them to stop by leaving a passive-aggressive note and then by complaining to the landlord, but I feel like I shouldn't actually have to ask people not to poison children, or me for that matter. So they were the worst humans. But in terms of psychological scarring inflicted on me personally, the people who just moved out of the place where I am now were the worst to have next door.
I have, of course, already written about what "C and T" did to me in mind-numbing detail and subsequently referenced it at least eight times, along with my growing realization that they weren't accountable for their actions because one is delusional and the other is stupid, and nobody need feel obligated to continue reading what I'm only writing for myself and maybe my future children so they can learn about the adversity that almost prevented them from existing. I can't promise this will be my last time writing about it either. I managed to forgive and even love my neighbors some time ago and it no longer constantly weighs on me and sucks every ounce of happiness from my life like it did for a while, but it will continue to affect me for some time. A friend suggested I would need to treat it like a breakup. I don't know what a breakup feels like but to me this feels more like a car accident where the car rolls over several times and the person next to you dies. And then the paramedics show up and start screaming and spitting on you.
I didn't particularly want to speak to the pathological liar ever again, but I would have liked to reconcile and get some closure with the other who was as much a victim as me. But no. C only became even more awkward over time, not less. T, previously very obvious in her refusal to even look at me, started speaking to me a little bit when I went outside and was accosted by her little dog, no longer confined to a leash and obviously missing me as much as I missed her. The dog, by the way, was yet another victim, surely confused at why she never got to see me anymore. She was a nice little dog, not one of those awful little dogs that yips all the time or attacks people and doesn't get punished because her owner thinks it's cute. Sometimes when they left her home alone on Friday evenings she howled non-stop and it was annoying but I understood where she was coming from. Her cuteness actually backfires on me because she overdoes it and activates my "stop trying to manipulate my emotions" mental barrier, but even so, how could I not love one who loves me so unconditionally?
I was intrigued by the change in T and decided that if I had to reconcile with her first to reconcile with the other, I could live with that. But it never went anywhere. I thought she might at some point try to get back the book she loaned me in December, at which point I would have to tell her that I already burned it in May because I didn't want it in my home and she should have thought of that before she decided to bar me from returning it, but she didn't. I didn't much care how she would respond to that and wasn't worried. As they prepared to leave, though, I started to worry about another book, the one I gave C for her birthday. She loved it when I gave it to her. I want it to bring her joy for years to come and not be something that brings up bad memories whenever she sees it. For all I know, she threw it away months ago. But now it occurred to me that maybe she would give it back before she left and that would be even worse and I would break on the spot. That didn't happen either. I held onto a vain, foolish hope that at the last minute one of them would say in person or in writing something along the lines of "Sorry for being hellspawn". Of course they didn't.
In all seriousness, though, I wish the best for them. I feel genuinely bad for T because the brain damage inflicted on her by someone else's mistake has probably decimated whatever potential for success she had in this life. C is a teacher, so my concern for her is a large reason for my difficulty in mustering up a shred of Christian charity toward anti-maskers and people pushing to reopen schools long before it's safe just so someone they think is expendable will watch their children for them. I don't want her to die or have permanent health complications because of someone else's selfishness and stupidity. Fortunately Utah listened to the backlash and has implemented a few tweaks to its reopening strategy, like the brilliant maneuver of no longer allowing children to keep going to school immediately following prolonged exposure to known infected individuals. Yes, this was a thing that had to be changed. I'm not kidding. (I'm going to be a teacher too, but it's at the university level and all online so I'm not being treated like a disposable babysitter and I'm not outraged for myself.)
It just seems such a waste that this thing happened and created this permanent rift and now they're just gone. Was there any point to it? Could I not have gotten along just as well without ever meeting them? I think of the principle expressed by Elder Neal A. Maxwell: "Within each of our circles of friendship there lie so many unused opportunities to love, to serve, and to be taught. Indeed, one could apply the scriptural phrase about there being 'enough and to spare' (D&C 104:17). None of us ever fully utilizes the people-opportunities allocated to us within our circles of friendship. You and I may call these intersectings 'coincidence.' This word is understandable for mortals to use, but coincidence is not an appropriate word to describe the workings of an omniscient God. He does not do things by 'coincidence' but instead by 'divine design.'
"I am one who likes to know of happy ironies and happy intersectings. There are many intersectings, of course, that are not happy. I will mention an episode to you now of which you probably do not know, nor did I until recently.
"In 1855 Abraham Lincoln, then a lawyer in Illinois, was asked to participate in a patent infringement case involving McCormick, of reaper fame. Lincoln had been given a $400 retainer and was told he might actually argue the case, so he studied and went to Cincinnati for the trial. A lead lawyer in the case was a man named Edwin M. Stanton — a brilliant Pittsburgh lawyer — who said when Lincoln arrived, 'Why did you bring that . . . long armed Ape here . . . ; he does not know any thing and can do you no good' (David Herbert Donald, Lincoln [New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995], pp. 185–187). Lincoln stayed at the same hotel as Stanton and the other attorneys, but he was never even asked to eat or to confer with them. Lincoln went home feeling insulted and 'roughly handled by that man Stanton' (Donald, Lincoln, p. 187).
"The years tumbled on, and later Stanton was to join the cabinet of the newly elected president, Abraham Lincoln. There were differences of views, of course, but Stanton came to deeply admire Abraham Lincoln. After the shooting of Lincoln, a few, including Stanton, stood mournfully by his bed as Lincoln was in the process of dying. When Lincoln died, Stanton, who had once described Lincoln as 'an Ape,' paid tribute to his fallen chief:
"With a slow and measured movement, [Stanton’s] right arm fully extended as if in a salute, he raised his hat and placed it for an instant on his head and then in the same deliberate manner removed it. 'Now,' he said, 'he belongs to the ages.' [Donald, Lincoln, p. 599]
"Would that all rough relationships could have that kind of resolution and generous ending."
One hopes Stanton at least had the spine to apologize at some point instead of just pretending nothing had happened.
I suppose it was another of those damned learning experiences I didn't ask for. I learned all the positive, uplifting lessons you would expect, like don't love, don't hope, don't be yourself, don't trust, don't give mentally ill people the benefit of the doubt, don't face your fears, and don't step outside your comfort zone. I learned that Luna Lovegood, at least as portrayed in the movies, is not just charmingly eccentric but actually delusional. I always got the vibe that she wasn't really crazy but everyone just thought she was crazy because they were judgmental hypocrites. "No, Luna, I don't have time to listen to your stupid nonsense about invisible pixies. I have to go fly my broomstick and practice turning things into frogs with my magic wand." But after meeting someone with the exact same vibe, demeanor, soothing cadence and charming eccentricity who turned out to be delusional, I've realized that Evanna Lynch meant for her to be delusional. I'm not sure of J.K. Rowling's original intent with the character but she said some politically incorrect things on Twitter so who cares what she thinks anyway? I'm sure this knowledge will be of great use to me someday.
Sarcasm aside, the one remotely positive outcome I can see so far is that the experience instilled me with a profound contempt for the police, which I was able to channel constructively when we as a nation finally decided we'd had enough of their corruption, lying, and murder. I feel bad, but truth be told, I directly benefited from George Floyd's death because the catharsis I experienced at witnessing law enforcement be put in its place was exquisite. I'm sure I would have jumped on the bandwagon anyway but if I hadn't personally been traumatized by a mindless swaggering jackass in a blue uniform who was nothing but belligerent while I was nothing but cooperative, I wouldn't likely have had the same passion for the cause or the same determination to continue after its popularity has waned. Of course, the amount of actual influence I have on this issue or anything else is far from proportionate to the suffering I endured to get to this point, but who said life is fair?
Maybe the actual reason for everything, though, is found in the words of Paul, who recorded in 2 Corinthians 12:7 that "there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure."
In "A Link to the Present: Class Consciousness and the Need for Change in the Legend of Zelda", David Lasby argues, "Today the world is suffering more than any time in recent memory. COVID-19 has exacerbated the tensions already pulling societies apart. Economic inequality already reached record gaps even before the pandemic. Millennials and Generation Z held a deep skepticism of institutions long before the current crises, which has produced astonishing failings at the highest levels of power. The time has come to produce a Zelda game that reckons with these very issues facing humanity.... It is time for a Zelda game that evolves past bloodlines and sacred institutions and embraces the skepticism and class-consciousness of this moment.... The growing crisis of our time requires a new kind of hero, a transcendent storytelling. This threat also provides opportunity. Now is the moment to give us a Zelda game worthy to be called high art."
Responses to this pretentious crap have been overwhelmingly negative. "Good grief," said Stormcrow. "I get so sick of 'Its about time...' proposals that simply suggest the thing they're talking about look and sound like everything else in the culture right now. Class struggle? How original. How challenging. Yawn. I'd rather see people inspired to be a hero, than inspired to make sure everyone around them knows how oppressed they are."
In calling it pretentious crap, I don't mean that I'm against everything he says. I fully support the Legend of Zelda series trying out interesting new directions and breaking the old formula, as it did with "Breath of the Wild". As a writer myself I am inclined to prioritize the story over the gameplay, which is the opposite of Nintendo's approach since they are, after all, a game company. I would applaud more complexity and nuance. And like many, I really want to see the series namesake take on a more active role in her own games. I get that most countries don't want the heir to their throne running around having dangerous adventures, but there are ways around that. The much-maligned cartoon series got around it by making her father senile. "The Wind Waker" got around it by making her a pirate queen who didn't remember her real identity. And I had an idea years ago for a fan fiction called "The Z-Team" where she leads a band of guerilla fighters to retake her throne. It was going to have an epic tagline like "She wants her kingdom back, and she isn't asking nicely" or perhaps "When diplomacy fails, Triforce." The only reason I didn't write it is that I'm lazy.
But the series is, at its heart, a way to escape from the real world and have some fun for a little while. I enjoy it precisely because the boundless and unapologetically weird world it creates is not this one. And while I'm there, I'm perfectly willing to slip into a different mindset and accept ideas that would be repugnant in real life - that one race rules by divine birthright because the blood of a literal goddess flows in their veins, that certain people are predestined to sacrifice their own comfort and normal lives to be heroes for everyone else, and that it's okay for thirty-five year old men to dress up in green jumpsuits and think they're fairies. When I want more serious or unorthodox themes than what the games offer I can read fan fiction. In one fan fiction I particularly like (spoiler alert), Hyrule's three patron goddesses are revealed to be ordinary women who accidentally became immortal, used their free time to learn all about science and create the world, and set up the eternal cycle of good versus evil so they could bet on the outcome because they were bored. How's that for distrust of institutions? I love such a cynical deconstruction of Hyrule's theology, but I'm glad it's not canon.
The comment that got my attention the most was from one David Garcia Abril, who wrote, "Over the years, I've come to DESPISE the concept of high-art, since it's basically two things:
"- Just another form of tribalism.
"- A death cult.
"As for tribalism, because it basically divides people into groups in which one is considered inherently superior to another. People who enjoy "high-art" is considered intellectually, or even morally superior to the low scum who enjoy 'popular art', thus giving an excuse to believe they are entitled to see those people with condescension at best and disgust at worst.
"And a death cult, because it worships negative emotions (sadness, hate, depression, despair, etc) above everything else, while positive emotions are dismissed as 'just escapism', and are only allowed in 'high-art' when they are put to serve a contrast to negative emotions. Just to give an example: most actors and writers would tell you that making the audience to genuine laugh is far more difficult than to make them cry. And yet, tragedy is easily considered high-art, while comedy has to really struggle to get that status (and even when it does, more often than not, it's because it has dark elements to it). In other words, 'high-art' celebrates the emotions that remind our lizard brains of the constant presence of death, and then have the audacity of consider them inherently superior to the emotions that make life worth living. Just to clarify here, there should be place in art for both of those things. We still have to cope with negative emotions, and the catharsis we get from art can be a powerful thing. It's the inherent hierarchy in which those emotions are put what is completely messed up when you stop and think about it.
"So, yeah, f*** high-art."
I for one have never been particularly concerned about what anyone else thinks about art. Some of my favorite people are artists, and I mean no offense if any of them actually ever talk like that in real life, but I just like what I like and everyone else is welcome to like what they like, and we don't need to apologize or explain ourselves to anybody, and I think most of the fancy words some people use to explain why everyone else should like what they like are pretentious crap. If nothing else, they can take their sense of elitism and shove it. If I like what someone else considers "low art" I don't need to justify myself to them by calling it "a guilty pleasure". Granted, I may not be in a position to fairly evaluate the situation since I've mostly learned about it from "Calvin and Hobbes".
I found David Garcia Abril's comment interesting, though, not just for how it puts certain people in their place but also because I find myself one of the exceptions to his "most actors and writers". Mostly the writer part. I'm not an actor and there are no videos on YouTube of me trying to act, so don't waste your time looking for them. But in my case, I find comedy easier to work with than tragedy.
I know I can be funny because I often make people laugh, usually on purpose. In high school it was easy because everyone knew me as someone who rarely spoke, and when I did it took everyone by surprise and magnified even the slightest humor potential. Like one time my math teacher said she liked math more than history because it's not so violent. I said, "Except for when seven eight nine." There was an awkward silence as everyone processed the fact that I had spoken, and then they all laughed themselves to tears at the thing I said that I'll be the first to admit wasn't really that funny. And then I never consciously set out to try to become a funny person but over the years I've just sort of internalized certain skills and principles from witnessing other people be funny, and sometimes when I'm with people and they're talking my brain happens to work fast enough to craft something relevant that will make them laugh. Basically I'm saying that I'm smart. I don't know how to say that without sounding conceited so I'll just say it and move on.
I don't typically have the luxury of hearing whether anyone laughs when they read my writing, but I assume that's funny sometimes too because I draw on the same principles and in this case have the advantage of time to think about it, fine-tune it just right, and come back and edit it later if I think of something better. Of course I often write things that I think are brilliant and then become self-conscious and think they're terrible as soon as I hit "Post". I wasn't sure if my recent satire of creationism that I'd been all excited about was any good after all until a Christian biochemist that I admire went to the trouble of thinking up a comment that, while ostensibly criticizing my piece, totally played along with and expanded on the central joke. It was the most flattering thing I could have imagined, even more flattering than all the "Haha" reactions from Facebook combined.
I put a lot of thought into most of the jokes in that post, but at one point I also threw in a random line about God wanting to get the deposit back on the Garden of Eden, just kind of being like, Whatever, I'm not sure what the actual joke is here but maybe it's goofy enough to get a smile. And one of my friends said, "Oh my heck!! Not getting the deposit back on the garden of eden had me rolling." Conclude from that what you will.
In my experience getting an English degree, I indeed found myself somewhat unique in my propensity to gravitate toward humorous writing. Everyone else in my classes did more "serious" stuff and even if one or two of them was technically a better writer than me, I took comfort in knowing that I filled a different niche and we could coexist without fighting to the death. I gravitate toward humorous writing because it's the kind of thing I typically want to read, because these are, as David said, the emotions that make life worth living. That's just a personal preference and not a dig at my classmates. At least most of them didn't try to be too "deep" and come across as pretentious or condescending. "Deep" messages are all well and good but I think they should usually be imparted with a healthy dose of humor, without taking oneself too seriously (think Douglas Adams), because I'm not interested in being preached at by someone who thinks mankind's angst is such a big screaming deal. We're born on a microscopic dot in a microscopic dot, we make a lot of mistakes, and we die a very short time later having left no measurable impact on the universe, so let's have a bit of humility.
I think comedy is easy because there's so much leeway. You can come up with something legitimately brilliant and clever on multiple levels, or sometimes you can say something so stupid it's funny, and get people to play along and then the seriousness with which you all take this stupid joke becomes the joke, and then if it becomes a running gag or inside joke it gets funnier every time as long as you don't overdo it, but sometimes you can overdo it on purpose and make it funny again, like that one famous scene from "The Simpsons" where Sideshow Bob steps on nine rakes in a row. And not that you necessarily should, but as long as you wait long enough you can make almost any inappropriate and/or tragic topic into a joke. Humor is a mechanism of catharsis that helps us to cope with this hell we call reality. Making sad things funny is much, much easier than making funny things sad. I can't think of a single example of the latter off the top of my head. Of course I try to be a good Christian and draw the line a lot sooner than many would, but I enjoy dark humor very much.
Heck, even the wokest, most progressive people can do pretentious mental gymnastics to make themselves feel okay about laughing at things they know are wrong. Russell Marks: "Perhaps the cleverest thing about The Book of Mormon [musical] is the way it manages to keep actually-racist white people out of the theatres while using black actors who have no creative control to tell jokes written by non-racist white people about Africans that would be blatantly racist if there were actually-racist white people in the audience and if Parker and Stone had intended to be racist instead of satirical. This is quite a complicated manoeuvre, and it obviously takes quite a high level of sophistication to grasp it fully. Sophisticated critics clearly ‘get it’. The ‘parody’ of Africa is ‘far too close for comfort’, wrote Peter Craven in The Saturday Paper, but ‘the chief comfort of The Book of Mormon is that its fundamental structures, the foundation upon which it rests, is unspeakable bad taste’. Less sophisticated people might interpret that as another way of saying that racism is actually OK if you intend it in bad taste, but such an interpretation would presumably only betray their lack of sophistication."
Pulling off negative emotions well is much harder from my perspective, and I don't think a lot of people manage it, but this probably is more my personal problem than any shortcoming on their part. The experiences of my life have led me to construct a lot of barriers around my heart and try to avoid emotional vulnerability as much as possible. I also have to suppress a lot of my natural empathy so I'm not constantly miserable about all the suffering in the world that I can't do anything about. So when it's obvious to me that a writer or filmmaker or whomever is trying to elicit a certain emotional reaction from me with the phraseology or the music or whatever, when they're basically screaming "THIS IS SUPPOSED TO MAKE YOU SAD AND/OR INTROSPECTIVE", I put up the barriers and refuse to let them get away with it, unless I'm so invested in the characters and the setting that I still notice but don't care. The only movies I can think of right now that make me cry are "Revenge of the Sith", "Rogue One", "Return of the Jedi", "Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade", "Remember the Titans", "Temple Grandin", "The Cokeville Miracle", and some of the Pixar movies. I can't think of any books that make me cry.
The Zelda game "Ocarina of Time" doesn't pretend to be anything super deep but it does manage to make me cry. It deals with some simple but heart-wrenching themes and ends on a rather bittersweet note. As far as negative emotions go, though, I think "Majora's Mask" is the champion. It carries a very dark, unsettling and somber tone throughout, just unpleasant enough to be intriguing instead of actually, well, unpleasant. The world of Termina is full of Nightmare Fuel and at the start of the game is three days away from being crushed by the moon. "Final Hours", the melancholy tune that plays on the last day against the rumble of earthquakes and the clanging of the clock tower as the moon fills the sky, is one of the most underrated video game compositions in the history of ever. (But the silly and lighthearted moments balance things out!) Actually, "Majora's Mask" also anticipated twenty years ago some of the real-life subtext that David Lasby craves. I used to think, "It's ridiculous how the people of Clock Town start out so nonchalant and in denial that the freaking moon is going to kill them all when it's right there for everyone to see." But now with the current situation in the United States I think, "Oh."
In a review of the fan-made game "The Legend of Zelda: The Fallen Sage", someone with the screen name Asinine wrote, "Let's get to the very first problem and the reason for why I have a grudge against the man who wrote this lore: The 'making it more mature part'. This is a very noble thing to attempt, a more mature Zelda title is certain to appeal to quite a lot of people, but not enough for Nintendo to genuinely cater to. However, there is a difference between 'mature' and 'childish'. Mature is when you tackle interesting and controversial problems with a sense of dignity and purpose, I feel like I am experiencing something mature when I am playing around in The Path and I am slowly realizing the subtle commentary on modern-day parenting the game contains. What certainly doesn't qualify as mature is a never-ending flow of depressing events befalling on a cast of suicidal characters.
"Having depressive themes in your game is not bad by default, but when you are endlessly throwing in more excuses to make your characters sad, it loses it's mature intentions and it instead becomes sadistic. We are no longer exploring a world with genuine troubles, but rather the author's sadistic fantasies."
So I find tragedy a lot easier to get wrong than comedy. Of course I still dabble in them on this blog and in my works of fiction because they are a necessary ingredient most of the time, especially in a story that needs to have actual conflict and stakes and drama, but I feel very inadequate. I feel like any attempt to make my readers feel things is hamfisted and clumsy and even more obvious than most. That's one reason why I'm more likely to just be sarcastic even when dealing with dark topics like police brutality or mass shootings or being suicidal. I'm not trying to be funny as such, because like I said I place boundaries on my use of dark humor, but as a more jaded and detached way of getting the information across, and to direct righteous anger at the people who should be doing things but aren't as opposed to just trying to be sad about the things that aren't being done. I think this is one of my bigger weaknesses as a writer and maybe I'll be able to tackle it in graduate school.
Anyway, this is obviously just how things are for me and not meant to refute most actors and writers who find tragedy easier than comedy, but I found David Garcia Abril's comment thought-provoking and figured it was as good a jumping-off point for a blog post as any.
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- Amelia Whitlock
"I don't know how well you know Christopher Randall Nicholson, but... he's trolling. You should read his blog. It's delightful."
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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.