Category Archives: Random Thoughts

Happy Halloween

Treat yourself to a healthful dose of horror flicks; apparently they’re good for burning off a chocolate bar or two.

 

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Filed under Random Thoughts, Science, Various and Sundry

Curious

You know how every post-debate analysis is incomplete without someone saying, “if you were listening to the debate on the radio…” and you wonder, “who listens to debates on the radio?” Well, I actually did.  Last night I listened to the vice-presidential debate while driving from Charlottesville to DC to visit my brother and his family.

When I pulled up to their Romney-clad home I was surprised to find out that they were not watching the debate. They weren’t missing much, I said. My layman’s analysis was that Biden was narrowly winning, and while Ryan scored some pretty good points, Biden spoke with his characteristic enthusiasm and passion. He was a little overbearing and disruptive at times, but not inordinately so.

My mildly political wife, on the other hand, witnessed the debate with less antediluvian technology and said Biden’s smirk and demeanor were bizarre and that he came across as abrasive and condescending.

This seems to sum up most of what’s being bandied about on the interweb.

Go figure.

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Filed under Politics, Random Thoughts

Real Magic

After someone recently tried to convince me that Harry Potter was as good an example of literature as anything, I turned, for the first time to the pages of Herman Melville for comparison.  There was none.  For all her superb story telling, J.K. Rowling doesn’t come close.  In the first few lines of Moby Dick you’re swept away to a salty reality that feels true in every sense.  You long to escape the tyranny of the shores and embrace a mortal challenge in a much more visceral way than you want to watch Harry escape the Dursley’s to attend magic school.

The port would fain give succor; the port is pitiful; in the port is safety, comfort, hearthstone, supper, warm blankets, friends, all that’s kind to our mortalities.  But in that gale, the port, the land, is that ship’s direst jeopardy; she must fly all hospitality; one touch of land, though it but graze the keel, would make her shudder through and through. …

All deep, earnest thinking is but the intrepid effort of the soul to keep the open independence of her sea; while the wildest winds of heaven and earth conspire to cast her on the treacherous, slavish shore.

 

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Filed under Random Thoughts, Reading List

Consecration and Renunciation

As rivers flow into the ocean but cannot make the vast ocean overflow, so flow the streams of the sense-world into the sea of peace that is the sage.  But it is not so with the desirer of desires.

They are forever free who renounce all selfish desires and break away from the ego-cage of “I,” “me,” and “mine” to be united with the Lord.  This is the supreme state.  Attain to this, and pass from death to immortality.

The Bhagavad Gita, The Illumined Man, 2:70-72

Those who achieve holy indifference will remain unchanged even by a flood of “wealth.”  He will not be spoiled who truly consecrates all his possessions to God.

PS: Any suggestions for a good translation of the Gita?  The version I have was fine when I was 14, but I find the clumsy language more distracting now than I did then.

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Filed under Quotes, Random Thoughts

Acts Against Entropy

Creation is about inflicting order on chaos.  It can involve assembling raw materials, formulating coherent thoughts, inventing characters, weaving novel melodies, or capturing emotions with paint, stone or film.  In small but meaningful ways creation combats the ever-present march towards oblivion.  In whatever from it takes, creation is an act of True Faith.

Of course, not all creations are created equal.  There’s enough chaos and destruction built into the cosmos to have it consume creative resources.  Good creation improves, inspires and enlightens.  It requires overcoming insurmountable obstacles…at least if you’re creating anything worthwhile.  In fact, the worth of creation is probably proportional to the effort required to produce it. By that standard, Twitter feeds have to be on the lowest end of the creative worth scale.  And on the opposite end, a notch above creating an empire…establishing a righteous family.

What greater act of creation could there be than to bring new beings into the world and raise them to be righteous, educated, well-adjusted contributors to civilization?  And what could be more difficult?  To sculpt such a family requires skills, patience, longsuffering, and love that far transcend the steady hands and imagination of marble workers.  Stone doesn’t talk back, have its own opinions, and is not endowed with a sovereign free will.

No work of art or business or political accomplishment can compare to a posterity that continues a legacy of virtue.  In a few short generations the influence of a mother and father trying their best, with the help of Heaven, will have legions of little ones making the world a better place.  You will not only have done something great for its own sake, but you will multiply your influence over the world in a way that Alexander the Great would envy.

Those of you with young children will also attest that there is no better practice at inflicting order on chaos than trying to keep a house clean while kids enjoy summer vacation.

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Filed under Random Thoughts, Uncategorized, Various and Sundry

Sunday’s Thoughts On Testimony, Conversion, and Being Born Again

Testimony, conversion, and being born again are distinct but related principles.  When we first come to suspect that there is a God, that He sent His Son to redeem mankind, the Holy Ghost begins to work within us.   As Alma taught in the Book of Mormon, the Word “begins to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves–it must be that the…word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it enlighteneth my understanding.”  This is testimony, the beginning of knowledge that the Word of God is good.  It’s not a perfect knowledge by any stretch, but it is enough to act on.

Testimony will lead to a mighty change of heart provided the Word falls not on stoney soil and we permit the Holy Ghost to work within us.  This mighty change of heart leads to a desire to shed the sins of our former lives and be born again.  But as the name implies, rebirth is the first not final act. We are still spiritually young.

Conversion is the transformation process where our fallen selves are literally converted into new creatures in Christ.  It is a process of becoming, of sanctification.  This conversion from sinner to saint can only occur by the power of the Gift of the Holy Ghost.  This is perhaps why the Lord, in His final hours, said to Peter, chief Apostle and witness to all of Christ’s ministry and miracles, “when thou art converted….”  Peter and the Apostles had not yet received the Gift of the Holy Ghost or partaken of its transformative power, though they had felt His influence.

Through the process of testimony, new birth, and conversion our natures are changed into a state of glory, a process completed not begun at resurrection.  Effort is required but powerless to purify.  That cleansing comes through the merits of Christ, and Him alone.

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Filed under Book of Mormon, Daily Bread, New Testament, Random Thoughts

Create!

When work gets slow, I get anxious.  While ebbs and flows are natural in my line of work and overall I’m a net asset to the company, I can’t help feeling guilty when not actively engaged in meaningful work.  I suppose it’s natural.  But for me the guilt often morphs into self-pity, boredom, and an unhealthy dose of wanderlust.  And it’s been a slow couple of weeks.  This time I resolved not to give in.  I made a choice.

To help snap out of the funk I went through a personal mini ritual.  Clear the desk of all clutter, pull out a pen and an empty piece of paper, then try to make my mind match the paper.  After several minutes entertain a single thought, the first thing that comes to mind.  On this occasion it was a question:  What’s missing?

When you start with a blank piece of paper the answer is everything, but this is only a trigger.  There are days when work is invigorating; what’s missing today?  When you think about a great day at work, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?  I could effortlessly imagine a half-dozen examples.

For a recent project I sat down in front of a blank computer screen and hammered out an elegant algorithm (in R) that cranked through a mountain of data and spit out meaningful information complete with fancy graphs.  What was it about this particular project that made it exhilarating?  It was an act of creation, bringing something into existence that did not exist before, something useful even.

Learning new things is great.  Supporting the business is fine, but acts of creation lead to incomparable satisfaction.  It is why I envy artists, musicians, directors, writers, even mediocre ones.  They create!

I then wrote two more questions on the sheet of paper:  1) What can I create today? and 2) What can I create to improve other people’s lives?  The questions more than the answers have already improved my days.

While the statistician in me understands that most days are average, there’s nothing written in the universe that says the average can’t rise.  If I go to bed tonight having brought something useful or beautiful into the world that didn’t exist when I woke up, then today really was better than average.

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Filed under Free Will, Random Thoughts, Various and Sundry