Look at me, persevering to bring to the world this post that nobody asked for even though my laptop battery is well and truly dead. I actually am impressed that my Asus Vivobook has lasted three and a quarter years, which is about two years longer than any of my previous laptops from three different brands, and that's even considering I spilled Tang on the keyboard in January 2018. And also, the motherboard or hard drive isn't even fried like in my last three laptops, so I should just be able to get a new battery and be good to go.
The first thing I did for Halloween was the annual North Logan Pumpkin Walk. It was a walk with a bunch of pumpkins.
Then I went to a meeting of USU's Asian Student Association where they talked about scary stories and urban legends from Asia. I saw it on Facebook and went for the scary stories and urban legends, not realizing it was a standard weekly meeting, but now I have to keep going back because they were all super nice and stuff. Okay, so the scary stories and urban legends are unsettling just to think about, which is obviously the point, but they're not real. But then we transitioned from just talking to watching YouTube videos, and then this adorable Vietnamese-American metalhead wanted to watch something about "the Hello Kitty murder", and she kind of neglected to explain that this was not an urban legend but a real life event. If you don't know what it was, I highly recommend not looking it up. It's the sort of thing that I was happier not knowing had ever happened to anyone anywhere at any time. But this girl kept a calm, pleasant smile on her face throughout the video. Sicko.
I didn't dare say this, and maybe it's a stupid thing to say now either, but I noticed right away that she looked virtually identical to the victim, at least as far as I could see from the little black and white photograph, and she's about the right age to maybe possibly have been conceived around the time the victim died, and as I said her interest in the story was a little unsettling... so I'm going to pretend I believe in reincarnation because that's cool.
Another real-life YouTube video we watched had to do with the haunting of the U.S.S. Forrestal after a horrific fire that killed 134 people. Personally, I have no problem accepting the many accounts at face value and believing that this haunting is legit. Ghosts and hauntings will probably never be scientifically verifiable but I don't think all the stories and eyewitness accounts throughout the world over the years can just be dismissed with a skeptical wave of the hand, and in this case, there are many such accounts. What makes it unsettling for me is not the persistence of life beyond the grave as such, which I accept as a basic tenet of my religion, but the way these spirits met their demise and how traumatized they must have been if they were still stuck haunting that ship for decades afterward. Burning alive or choking to death are horrible ways to die. Nowhere near as horrible as the Hello Kitty murder, which I highly recommend not looking up, but still not a joyride. And many of those sailors were probably draftees who didn't even want to be there.
Prior to the Logan Institute of Religion's "Scream Fling 2019", they solicited suggestions to update their stale music selections. The guidelines of acceptable suggestions specified no profanity, even though "Cha-Cha Slide", which has played at every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, has a swear word in it, at least according to American English and nowhere else (see a recent post on that topic). They also specified no references to immoral behavior, even though "Macarena", which has played at nearly every LDS dance I've been to since 2007, is almost entirely about immoral behavior. I suggested some songs, and then I had to go to the dance to see if they implemented any of my suggestions, which spoiler alert, they did not. They played a few of their old songs, a few fresh and catchy new songs, and a lot of forgettable crap.
For those who weren't around the last time I did so, allow me to once again list my favorite dance moves.
The "George McFly"
The "Salacious Crumb"
The "Clone Troopers"
The "Obscure Peanuts"
The "Aman Mathur"
The "Emo Phillips"
The "Wayne's World"
The "The Cheat"
The "Italian Schoolgirl"
The "Russian Riverdancer"
The "What is Love?"
Because most of the music was forgettable crap, though, and because yelling small talk at a stranger for three minutes isn't my idea of a good time, I ended up laying on a couch looking at my phone. There my friend Terrah and her sister and one of their guy friends found me and made me take a picture with them. Then we left and walked home, with Terrah's sister making judgmental comments about the slutty costumes of the girls going to the university Halloween party, and the guy friend making pervy comments about same. I hit on some guy in a bra as he passed by, and he invited me to his apartment later. But we went to Terrah's apartment and played "Truth or Dare", and then around 10:30 we decided to get food, spent about twenty minutes deciding where to eat, settled on Wendy's, and returned to Terrah's apartment, and about this time I was yawning and thinking how nice it would be to go to bed, but the consensus of everyone who wasn't me was that we should watch a horror movie, and I felt like I should stay up for that because social life. Yes, I regret it today but I'll be dead someday regardless.
I'm not really into horror movies. The only ones I've seen are "Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds", "Little Shop of Horrors", "Poltergeist", "Sleepy Hollow", "The Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein", "The Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman", and "The Star Wars Holiday Special". Perhaps it's because, as the Hello Kitty murder demonstrated, many horror movies are too realistic for comfort and not the sort of escapism I have in mind when I look for escapism. The movie we picked, "When a Stranger Calls", (2006 version), is a story that technically could have happened in real life even though it didn't. Serial killers exist, cell phones exist, and incompetent parents and law enforcement exist. Too realistic for comfort.
Yet I was pleasantly surprised to find it more unsettling than scary as such. I found myself viewing it through an objective, analytical lens as if I had seen a thousand of these movies. (Spoilers alert) Okay, so there's going to be a bunch of jump-scares that are actually false alarms, and Jill probably isn't going to die because then this movie would just be depressing and nobody would like it, and the killer is no longer scary when he reveals himself and gets angry because then you know he's no longer in control of the situation, and why are they acting like Rosa's body in the fish pond is a surprise when we all saw that coming forty-five minutes ago? Also, Hulu made us watch five to seven commercials every five to seven minutes, increasing the movie's runtime by at least fifty percent and effectively preventing the suspense from getting too suspenseful. Next time I will happily chip in three bucks to skip those.
Admittedly, it was a nice touch that the killer was literally just some random white male with no motive, backstory or name given. You only see his face briefly but you can tell he's pure evil because he has a scar. The most unsettling part by far is the very end when, despite an ostensibly happy ending, Jill is in a hospital bed with her parents and the doctors trying to calm her as she screams and thrashes around and hallucinates that he's after her again. Yay for our protagonist getting possibly lifelong PTSD. It's pretty unfair that teenage girls are always the victims in these movies. I mean, not that an adult would deserve it either, but at least with her fully developed brain she would have a better chance of processing the trauma. To say nothing of the kids, though at least they survived, unlike the original movie. But what Jill should have done is keep stabbing the guy with the fire poker once she had him down, until he was well and truly dead. Then she never would have made eye contact with him and she would probably have fewer hallucinations.
I know I keep saying "unsettled" or "unsettling". I'm not trying to be all macho by claiming that these things don't actually scare me as such. They don't, but plenty of other things do. I experience soul-crushing terror on at least a weekly basis. It's just usually instilled by more mundane things like seeing my crush at church or laying awake in bed at night and suddenly thinking in vivid detail about what it would feel like to fall out of an airplane. These other things unsettle me because they remind me how permanently uncomfortable I am living in this crapsack world of pain and injustice, but what can you do?
I want to give a completely unrelated shout-out to an old friend of mine and some guy I don't know, who recently started a podcast dedicated to Star Wars in general and Knights of the Old Republic in particular. Check out their first episode here:
USU's campus has a spot above the parking terrace where you can go and look out over a good-sized chunk of town and, if you time it right, the setting sun. Recently I was in the vicinity while the sky was turning orange, so I headed up to look. This spot is also right behind freshman housing and has a fire pit where several happened to be congregated at this time. I avoided eye contact and charted a course well around them. My being there was not problematic in itself, as this area is as public as any other part of campus and I've seen people old enough to be my grandparents come to take pictures of the sunset, but I wanted to avoid any appearances of trying to crash their party or steal their s'mores. I also had my earbuds in as usual. So it took me a minute to notice them calling out to me. As it turns out, they wanted to be my friends and offer me a s'more.
I apologetically explained that my music was really loud. (I hope to permanently damage my hearing just enough to no longer pick up the million annoying little sounds that my brain refuses to filter out like a normal person's.) They said that was fine and what was I listening to? I said Nightwish. They asked what is that? I said it's a Finnish metal band. They said take out your earbuds and let's hear it. I obliged, grateful that I had told the truth. The song, "Nemo", is an epic yet melancholy piece, as one can infer from the title, which of course is Latin for "little orange fish". It so impressed one of the freshmen that she pulled out her own phone and Shazam'd it. And in that moment I knew that notwithstanding how much of my time and potential I may have wasted that day, right here and now I had enriched someone's life in a very tangible way. Because of me she now knows that Nightwish exists. I'm not worthless after all.
And karma was swift to repay me. One of the guys asked if I had heard of a Swedish metal band called Sabaton. I hadn't, and I procrastinated looking it up for a few days because I get nervous about the unknown and my taste in music is generally superior to other people's, but I got around to it the other day and I would just like to say holy crap. It's epic. So far as I can tell, all of their songs are about World War I and/or II, and somehow despite being generations removed from those events this genre is completely appropriate for conveying the power of unprecedented war machines and the terror of ordinary soldiers going through hell. Its unrelenting speed, volume and intensity conveys a sense of all that without getting bogged down in history lessons or graphic details. And I'll just stop right there before I start to sound like I'm trying to sound like a music reviewer who knows what he's talking about, when all I'm really trying to is that I like Sabaton and my life has been enriched by the introduction. Favorite track: "Bismarck".
This past Friday a friend and occasional reader of this blog, and his wife whom I met for the first time but who already knew about me because of my blog, hosted the inaugural meeting of the Logan Music Society, "a place to listen to, present, and chat about music old and new, from far and near". For this meeting everyone was invited to "play" a song that has changed them and explain why. And since this guy is an actual musician type person, I thought maybe "play" meant "perform", and that almost dissuaded me from showing up. I can't play music, I can't read music, I can't sing without Autotune and I know very little about the official terminology and stuff. I just like listening to it and I know what I like. I did finally decide to show up to be supportive, and everyone just played their chosen songs from their phones so that was all right.
I still hesitated to share one in front of the group because me no very good speech the English extemporaneously. That's why I write. But I went for it because, you know, facing your fears and stuff, and I don't think I sounded like a complete idiot. People liked the song and somebody asked for the artist's name and wrote it down and said she was really excited. Another enriched life. Even so, I want to take this opportunity to compensate for the shortcomings of my presentation by redoing it with my superior writing skills.
Three contenders ran through my mind prior to the meeting: "Unwell" by Matchbox Twenty, "Last Man Standing" by Hammerfall, and "Dante's Prayer" by Loreena McKennitt. I nixed "Unwell" because I thought it would benefit the group more to share something they were less likely to be familiar with. Then, noting the general tone of prior selections and apparent musical leanings of the people who actually knew stuff about music, I opted for the remaining option that I thought they would like more. Of course it would have been perfectly acceptable to express my individuality and break the prevailing tone with metal, but since I didn't have a preference either way I nixed "Last Man Standing" and of course that left "Dante's Prayer".
"Dante's Prayer" is the final track off Loreena McKennitt's 1997 album "The Book of Secrets". She does Celtic New Age-y stuff and my parents were really into that, so they bought the album pretty much when it came out. I was four years old. And I absolutely adored some of the songs and I absolutely adored Loreena McKennitt herself, looking so radiant on the album cover. I decided I would marry her someday. As it turns out, she's still single, but only because her fiance died in a boating accident around the same time I was having these thoughts, which makes me feel terrible. Anyway, despite that, there was one song on the album I didn't care for, and that was this one. I remember where I was the first time I heard it. I was taking a bath when this low melancholy moaning sound unlike anything I'd heard before came over the stereo system, and I thought it was weird and creepy and unpleasant.
Obviously I don't think that anymore. The sound, as it turns out, is a Russian Orthodox chant called "Hallelujah", and even though the Russian Orthodox Church is being a jerk right now I absolutely love what they have to offer her. The sound is still weird, yes, but in such a good way. To me it's a sound that seems to freeze time itself. It's a sound that says, gently but inescapably, "Stop whatever you're doing right this instant and listen to this and become introspective." And I find myself wishing that its time-freezing power was literal and would last forever, because the time it brings me to is the time I was four years old sitting in the bathtub. When I was four years old I didn't know that life was as happy and simple as it was ever going to get. I didn't appreciate that my problems were all but nonexistent, but they were about to multiply like cockroaches. What I wouldn't give to reclaim that innocence! The bathtub part is just incidental.
Nostalgia is a double-edged sword, as depressing as it is uplifting, and I find that same tonal ambivalence in "Hallelujah" and then in the rest of the song as it segues into piano, cello (I think), violin (I think), and Loreena McKennitt's goddess voice. Granted, this may owe more to my own lack of emotional intelligence than authorial intent, but the way art works is that my interpretation is as valid as anyone else's. The lyrics speak of hope, of faith, of seeking after God when he seems the most distant, of grasping at tender mercies and persevering through the long dark night of the soul - depression, faith crisis, loss, whatever. In my favorite passage, she sings,
"I did not believe because I could not see
Though you came to me in the night
When the dawn seemed forever lost
You showed me your love in the light of the stars"
Yet I cannot bring myself to call this a cheerful song when it sounds like something to be played at a funeral. In this very same passage, Loreena/Dante laments her/his own foolishness and shortcomings, and this continues as (s)he asks God to strengthen her/his "clay feet" and "feeble heart" and "take these crumpled hopes, etched with tears". Near the end of life, perhaps, looking back with no small amount of regret and lingering heartache over the past, but acknowledging God's hand throughout, and humbly pleading with Him to remain nearby through the final stretch. Loreena's voice fades away as she repeats, as she begs, "Please remember me." She is altogether silent when the music segues flawlessly back into "Hallelujah", closing out this hymn of unparalleled beauty that simultaneously preaches hope, acknowledges pain, and diminishes neither. As I put it more simply the other night, "It makes me cry for multiple reasons." That's how I feel about it now that I don't hate it anymore.
I've just recently completed my third involuntary move this year, and it had fine well better be the last one for a good long while. It was the first time since 2012 that I had to call around to a bunch of apartments which, to recap, is slightly below "stabbing myself in the groin with an ice pick" on my list of favorite activities. So I'm very, very grateful to my friend Terrah for volunteering to make all the actual calls for me, helping me move, and giving me food after I had to spend most of the contents of my bank account on this contract. I feel as though I should grovel at her feet or follow her around like in those TV show episodes where Character A saves Character B's life and Character B tries to repay Character A by following them around and being a nuisance. She says, however, that my friendship is payment enough. Most peculiar.
I somehow ended up in a highly coveted spot that's pretty cheap but not a total craphole, in the same complex where I used to chill on the porch with the infamous Debbie. And her neighbor used to chill with us and we both liked her and were jealous of each other at the same time without knowing it, but she's long gone and he still lives here and we're friends and when I found this contract for sale, I thought that was really cool and snatched it right up without remembering to clarifiy once and for all that it was a private room. The complex has both shared and private rooms but I was specifically looking for a private room because I'd rather sleep in a dumpster than a shared room. So I got to stress about that for a couple weeks but I tried to relax and remember that whatever abuse God sees fit to subject me to is for my own good. Come to find out, it is a private room and I only have one roommate because there are only two bedrooms because the laundry room takes up the space where a third bedroom would otherwise be. I will praise and adore my God forever.
It's well worth the tradeoff of being able to hear every footstep my upstairs neighbors make, and having the view outside the living room and bedroom windows blocked by recycle and garbage bins, respectively. And I'm only a little bit upset that the second time I used the dryer, the coin slot got stuck so that I'm out fifty cents but neither I nor anyone else can actually dry clothes with it for the foreseeable future. And I do mean stuck. I mean I literally pulled on the slot with both hands while propping my feet up against the dryer door. My next thought was to whack it with a hammer, which would be therapeutic whether or not it worked, but I restrained myself. I'm only a little bit upset about that. If it never ever happens again I'll be fine.
I love this place, but it's bittersweet at the same time to leave the stake, let alone the ward, that I've been in for seven years. I wanted to leave but also I didn't want to leave. I have a lot of good memories and a lot of horrific memories associated with the Logan YSA 36th Ward and I guess what it comes down to is that I needed a change and a fresh start, for psychological reasons if nothing else. Everyone who was there when I showed up is long gone and now so am I. The vicinity I lived in was ideal for other reasons, and almost everywhere I go on a regular basis is a bit farther away now, but taking different routes to get there is nice. I've been walking to Utah State University's campus the same two ways for seven years. The first time I walked to it from this place was nothing short of exhilirating. That feeling alone convinced me, rationally or not, that better things are yet to come.
I'm even ridiculously excited about the new school year that I'm not a part of. I love the atmosphere on campus when it bustles with people and activity, and I've missed that over the summer. I like being able to go to campus when I want to be around people, and go home when I want to be alone. I'm excited for all the incoming freshmen with their whole lives ahead of them, and I hope they'll make better choices than I did and have a better experience than I did. And I love the campus itself, the trees and the grass and the buildings, even for all the painful memories I have with it and the changes it's undergone and the fact that it's not a living thing. I love it deeply just like I love this town. They've both become a part of me, and I'm sorry if I sound high or something but nostalgia really hits me hard. Maybe I do need a change and a fresh start, but there are worse places to be stuck.
Happy twentieth birthday to "The Phantom Menace" and eleventh birthday to "Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull", two much-maligned films that I used to love and still love and won't apologize for loving even though I'm now aware of their shortcomings. I feel pretty freaking old, though, since I remember both of their releases like they were yesterday. Yet Jar Jar Binks and CG gophers are timeless.
I am, of course, no fan of abortion or the absurdly stupid and/or scientifically illiterate arguments so often employed in its defense. However, I regard Alabama's new law with its lack of exemptions or nuance of any kind, and any mindset or legislation along similar lines, goes much too far and is morally wrong. I don't anyone thinking I support that sort of thing. (For that matter, these days I've stopped rooting for anti-abortion legislation altogether, as I think it's far more important to change hearts and minds and provide decent sex education, birth control, and scientific information.) However, I'm not getting super worked up about it because it's going to be struck down, and that's actually the point. The whole thing is a ploy to reach the Supreme Court in the hope of overturning Roe vs. Wade with the help of Trump's more or less conservative appointees. For some reason most people don't seem aware of that. While most of the outrage against this law and the men who passed it is justified, painting them as stupid and/or ignorant isn't. They know exactly what they're doing. I don't think it's justified and I think it will fail, but it's a bold and brilliant maneuver.
I know I'm not supposed to even have an opinion, but I do and there it is and now I'm done. Here's something positive that happened to me this week, not to make anybody jealous but just to prove that I am capable of noticing positive things. I ran into my ex-roommates' mom for the first time since January, and that was just a little nerve-wracking after what they did to me and the lies they probably spread to justify it (a story which will be explained in much greater detail in my upcoming memoir), and I thought maybe she'd be pissed, but she said she felt bad about how things happened and wanted to give me something, and the something turned out to be an envelope with eighty dollars in it. I guess she's been carrying it around for three months just in case. I wouldn't have run into her if I hadn't gone out to buy temple garments that afternoon, so I accepted that as a very welcome tender mercy.
I wrote recently about the movement to change aspects of BYU's Honor Code enforcement that are wrong and have put some students through unacceptable abuse. I'm told that others who actually want to rewrite or do away with the code altogether have piggybacked onto this movement, but what I've actually witnessed is self-righteous Latter-day Saints assuming that the wronged students' complaints are a disengenuous smokescreen and that they should have gone to a different school. Now, I don't believe BYU has ever asked random people to defend it from legitimate accusations, and I don't believe it's ever responded to such accusations by saying "If you don't like us, don't go here." So I'm honestly a little baffled by the sheer number of people who think it's their duty to defend BYU by victim-blaming its accusers and saying "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." It now comes as no surprise to anyone with a functioning brain that this week BYU changed its Honor Code enforcement policies.
The main idea behind these changes, which may not be the only ones, is to get rid of the culture of students being encouraged to tattle on other students for trivial violations that are none of their business. So, for example, students making accusations will no longer remain anonymous, and the students being accused will actually be allowed to face their accusers, except in a few vague circumstances. Why this wasn't the case all along is beyond my comprehension. The default anonymity policy was asinine and couldn't have reasonably been expected to foster anything positive, and it didn't. Let me be clear; while I don't like BYU and didn't go there, I believe most of its administrators act in good faith and that the current director of the Honor Code office is a swell guy and that these changes are at least as much a result of the goodness of his heart as the negative publicity. I applaud BYU for acknowledging some of its shortcomings and fixing them quickly instead of defending them.
And this isn't the first time. It's been considerably less than three years since BYU overhauled its policies to stop the Honor Code office from grilling sexual assault victims, compounding their suffering and expelling them if they were found to have violated it. Of course this was an unintended consequence, not the result of administrators deciding it would be fun to punish rape victims, but regardless of intent the approach was poorly thought out and wrong and catastrophically hurtful. During a crapload of national scrutiny and backlash in mid-2016 (which won the Salt Lake Tribune a Pulitzer prize the following year), many Latter-day Saints could be heard to opine, "If you don't like BYU, don't go there." Then an advisory council of the school's faculty recommended 23 policy changes. And then BYU, to its credit, adopted every single one of them. And then its self-appointed defenders completely failed to learn any lesson whatsoever and made complete idiots of themselves again this go-round.
Full disclosure: I am one of those who believes the substance of the Honor Code itself, not just enforcement, needs to change. The beard ban that arose to counter 1960s American hippy culture is desperately obsolete and accomplishes little more than making BYU weird for the wrong reasons. I, for one, have found shaving to be an enormous and unwelcome inconvenience. and the spinny blade things to be highly ineffective at their one purpose for existence, so I do it once a week and use the sideburn trimmer for my whole face. None of my fellow students or faculty at USU could have ever possibly cared less. In fact, some guys grow out their beards just to mock the BYU football team when it visits. So yes, I think that's a stupid policy and will support any protest movement against it, but obviously these things have to come on a priority basis. As in my previous mention, I acknowledge that the vast majority of BYU students have positive experiences. But with these policy changes and hopefully more to come, the minority who don't are being heard, and their future numbers should be much lower.
Oh, here's another positive thing. Please take two and a half minutes to watch it.
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.
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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.