Monday, December 31, 2007



I'm further along in school, and I'm happy with my progress with my degree. I got good grades in my classes for spring semester. I enjoyed talking to favorite professors about things that really matter to me. I didn't slack off at work, and I felt helpful around the Writing Center.

I finished my freakin' huge reading list! Also, I finally got around to listening to all those music albums that I could never find the time for. I got into rap and country to see what I like there. I also know (somewhat) what the new U2 material sounds like, since their tour won't start till next year. In addition, I finally finished a couple of screenplays, and got to work on The Dam at Otter Creek.

I've made great new friends. I feel closer to all of them, especially my best friends, and I feel like I'm as worthwhile in each of their lives as they are in mine. I finally made some kind of peace with the friend I lost in 2007.

I've volunteered at an old folk's home, the MTC, and other places where I feel like I helped out and learned more about love.

I'm content with my life. I don't complain as much anymore. I don't need any darkness to help me, because I've learned how to use the light inside of me. I kicked my lifetime bad habits, and picked up some good ones...and some "good" bad ones, too. I've made peace with my past. I have forgiven myself. I can look at myself in the mirror in the eye everyday, say "I love you" ...and for the first time in my life, I can actually mean it.

I'm happy with my choice, and I'm happy with my companion, whom I'm with every day. I make responsible choices about where I go from now on. Those who judge me for my past and my choices are people who I've reluctantly but peacefully cut out of my life. I can honestly say I've never felt so happy.

The call was quiet, almost sudden; nobody saw it coming. By the time most people found out, there wasn't much room for me to become one of those "repentant saint" spectacles fortunate enough to be the ward/neighborhood gossip. I can say with honesty that I didn't go to impress, spite, or amuse a single person. I didn't go out of religous dogmatic duty or reckless peer pressure. I went, simply and plainly, because I wanted to have a good time. And I am having a blast.

I don't want to say, "I finally found what I was looking for." I want to be able to say, "I'm content with the answers I have found, and I'll never stop looking for the truth." The year 2007 was the year seeds were planted, and a year of painful epiphanies. 2007 was paradise lost. This year, 2008, was the year of growth and harvest, and a year of second chances. There was more change, and 2008 wasn't paradise regained--it was paradise found. A lot of my important memories are in 2007...a lot of my best memories are in 2008.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Looking Back On Today


I ran away from home just a few days into the new year. I received the Melchizedek Priesthood. I said goodbye to my best friend for four years. I got into poetry and philosophy. I got into my first real fight with a friend since I was fourteen. I took my little sister to her high school prom. I went to my first rock concert and met with the band in their tour bus. I saw my first R movies and started cussing. I lost one of my best friends, possibly forever. I was homeless for almost eight weeks, and in that time there were days I didn't eat anything, I didn't shave for a month, and I didn't shower for three weeks. I slept on the ground, on couches, and an air matress. I was chased by the police, in a car pulled over by police, got phone calls from the police, and rode in the back of a police car. I climbed a fifty-foot cliff and gotten in a street fight with a mountain ram. I met a famous movie star. I was connected to someone who made front page news. I held secret phone negotiations about five-hundred dollars, and was almost fired for helping someone. I inherited a longboard from a best friend, and the longboard became my first property to be stolen. I got involved with tarot cards. I could've been killed by a car that almost drove straight through a living room I was in. I suffered from creepy hallucinations for a couple weeks. I had a conversation with an oracle using three pennies. I befriended a diagnosed schizophrenic. I talked to radio DJ's about movies. I got involved with drugs - although I didn't use any. I finally mastered the back flip. My family went inactive. I was almost killed by a train for the second time in my life - and in order to save my life, I had to play chicken and run towards the train. I got my first crushes in years with two different people, then got to have them both as close friends.

And in fancy acrobatics, a rainstorm and hillside wildfires, and staring into a vision of my future by looking death in the eyes (literally)...I finally found the meaning of life.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The God I Believe In

Recent e-mail to my friend and co-worker, Whitney:

I finally figured something out the other day...

Even though I've had my doubts all my life on the LDS church, I've never been able to fully shake off the belief in some form of God, or that there is a Christ, and that belief is rooted in an experience I had when I was fourteen. You could definitely call it Pentecostal; I was in a young men's EFY group, and we were having a lesson on the Atonement, when one by one every guy started crying and speaking in powerful tones. Immediately, I felt this...I dunno, I can't describe it very well, it was like every blood cell in my body turned into light or something. It was just this incredible rush, like every part of me was saying "Yes! It's true, there is a Christ who did this for me." It was a sure knowledge, but it was also a weird feeling I couldn't understand at the time.

Now I'm two weeks from twenty, and I feel about as far away from God as ever. I have no idea what to think about the LDS church or Joseph Smith, and I'm confused/afraid for my future. But mostly I'm ashamed of my past and myself. For a long time now, I've been afraid to face God. But I've just realized that if nothing else, God has to be some form of whatever I felt that night when I was fourteen. And in that sense, I realized that that weird feeling I had was love - pure, unconditional love. And if that is what God is like, then why would I be afraid to face that love? So now I'm on a new journey: to find a life where I can have that love a lot more often. And regardless of the "Utah Valley Mormon God", I have decided that when I want to pray or worship, that God of love is the one I believe in.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Memories and the Devil vs. God and John Lennon

I. Hate. Snow.

It's wet, it gets everywhere (like socks, which is no fun) and it's most inconvenient. For example, take today. This morning was looking gray, but relatively pleasant. Then in the space of two hours, there was so much snow that I couldn't see the McKay Events Center outside the Liberal Arts building at Utah Valley University. A co-worker drove me to Barnes and Noble at the risk of her own life, since the car itself seemed horrified of making it up the snow-covered streets. This evening, I was supposed to see a play that I've been looking forward to all week, and the bus was not five, not ten, not fifteen, but almost twenty-five minutes late picking me up due to road hazards. By the time I got to the theater, all the doors were locked. All because of stupid snow.

Needless to say, I was feeling pretty ticked off and dejected by the time I got back to my apartment. And when I'm in a foul mood, certain habits and cravings that I've tried to stop cold are bound to surface; needless to say that I found myself struggling with some familiar demons about half an hour later. I tried concentrating on different things - reading, calling a friend, even the words of a Priesthood blessing I received a week ago. All to little avail. At long last, in the tempest of my subconcious, I recalled (for no apparent reason) the words to a song:

"Oh, I'll be a good boy, please make me well
I promise you anything - get me out of this hell
Cold turkey has got me on the run..."

John Lennon's voice coming to aid a poor, struggling soul fighting addictions on a cold and lonely night...and not just any night, but the twenty-seventh anniversary of his assassination. The irony is not lost on me.

I think that John Lennon's greatness, however, is lost on much of my generation. If I were to question someone my age about who imagined a world without heaven, hell, country, religion, and people living life in peace, the odds are they may scratch their head and reply, "Uh, that one guy who starved himself in China? Whatsisname....Guhndee? Gondee? Somethin' or other. Why does it matter, anyway? Hey, have you heard this new song by Avril Lavigne?" (Is the irony lost on you?) Similarly, the only question I could ask and hope to get an enlightened answer to is if I asked who, out of the Beatles, was the walrus. Of course, that would only be with a grateful culture nod to Ferris Buller's Day Off.

Some people my age are quick to snap at me: "Well, why the heck should I care? He's dead, and the Beatles suck, anyway." Responses like that make me scared about my generation's future. Because I think John Lennon's legacy has far more relevance than rescuing recovering addicts on his death's anniversary night.

There are some who believe that solo artists who break off from original bands are ultimately failures, and I'll admit I'm one of those people. Robert Plant and Jimmy Page were pretty decent when they were apart, and Thom Yorke is a shrug's "all right" on his own. But I think John Lennon's lyrics and music stands apart far from the Beatles in a good way. His lyrics are very simplistic, to be sure, and sometimes to the point of being cliche; you can almost predict what line will come next.

But in a way, that's what makes John Lennon a genius. His music and lyrics was able to communicate human emotion and thought in very subtle ways, ways that keep the power of the song's spirit and deliver it just as well in a shorter amount of time. It's language meant to touch any and every soul, not just those who can decode cryptic wording, or the philosophically minded. That's why I smile when people say that John Lennon and the Beatles get old after a while. That music was not meant for a casual listen on a playlist. It demands your attention; it wants you. And such selfish music is "so" last century.

In fact, a young man of this century will definitely connect to a young man of three decades ago through John Lennon. Whether it's "Give Peace a Chance" or "I Don't Wanna Be a Soldier, Mama" you can feel the emotions and beliefs of a man iconic to his era. I've heard the 70's labeled as something one would prefer not to remember. I think that it's important to remember the past, no matter what. John's voice has a lot of power in it, and a saturation of ego at times, but there's a lot of humanity as well. Listening to his music becomes a personable tour of a revolutionary epoch in the history of America, and of mankind. And all you need is songs like "God", "Instant Karma!", and the incredible "Imagine" to prove it.

So here's my meager cheer to you, John Lennon. From my post-modern electronics and twenty-first century machinations, I raise a proverbial glass to the walrus. Thanks for your freedom and your incredible sense of humanity, truth, and love. And if I sound simplistic or cliche, or you can predict what I'm gonna say next...then maybe that's the point.

Strawberry Fields forever, John.

Friday, December 7, 2007

秋 [Autumn]

The tanka is a Japanese poetic form similar to haiku. The format is 5-7-5-7-7 syllables per line. Here's one I did recently -

(In Japanese:)

Chiisai na
Bishonen wa toki ni
Suru happa de
Aki no kure de
Kango tomodachi no.

As a small,
Beautiful boy
Plays games in the leaves
During the autumn dusk,
I care for my friends.

Notes: The phrase "beautiful boy" (bishonen) is used in this instance for "baby-ish" boys with aesthetically pretty faces. Also, the phrase "care for" (kango) is the same usage for medics tending to the sick. Disclaimer: I'm not sure I'm 100% accurate.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Reply to Ranee

In an email forum I'm on, a young man named Ranee wrote that he was feeling hopeless and staring down the barrel of a gun. He felt that anyone and everyone he'd ever loved was left and leaving, and that the only choice left to him was suicide. This was my reply:

Ranee, please do not take your own life. You will undoubtedly hear many people tell you this. Let me share my personal experience with you: This summer was particularly difficult for me, and not a day went by that I didn't plan some detail about my suicide, or my "fantasy funeral". Many times I seriously considered it. Early one morning, I found myself on a bridge looking down into the water - staring into fate, as it were. I almost felt like jumping, and half-jokingly I asked God to stop me. As I stared and stared, and as the sun rose up into the sky at dawn, my thoughts became clearer and clearer, and so did my feelings. This is what I felt:

Everything is so meaningless, and yet all so meaningful. Regardless of whether you are Christian, Hindu, or atheist, there is one belief that mankind, through the centuries, has always carried at the forefront of human consciousness: This life is the only one you get. It only happens once. You've got one life you get to leave. And frankly, it shouldn't be our choice to end it whenever we want. What should be our choice is what we do with that one life, that one chance. Have you ever been in a situation where you had only one chance to do something, and the moment of it was just so exhilarating? The choice was "Either do it now, or forever wish you had!" Take this life, make it a moment in eternity, and pretend you are back in the premortal life.

In the Book of Job, Job feels he's questioned his life and suffering long enough to call on God and say "Appear before me! I want to take you to court. I want you to answer for why you've given me so much suffering in my life." God's answer is one that baffled Jewish rabbis for centuries: the voice of the Lord comes out of a whirlwind to say: "Job, remember when I laid down the foundations of the world? And all the angels shouted for joy? You were there, Job, shouting with them. You knew that there'd be suffering in mortal existence - you knew about this. In fact, you were pretty excited about it. And now you're questioning me about it? Where were you the day I went over that in class, my son?" (See Job 38.)

That is God's answer to us. Life on earth was just a moment when we were premortal spirits, looking forward to our futures. God was literally saying to us: "You've got once chance to change everything, my children. And this is a one-time offer. It's a one-way ticket to tears, smiles, heartbreak, laughter, misery, peace, and ultimately happiness. That's the end of the equation, and the only way to do it, so it's a one-time offer. Take it or leave it!" A third left, and the rest of us are here. God sent us into the world....and so it's only right that He gets to take us back. Ever see Bill Cosby? He said, "You are MY son. I brought you in this world--and I can take you out!"

What if an angel appeared to you one night and said, "Ranee, guess what? You get to live this same life over again when you die! Every moment you've ever experienced, every sorrow and every happiness, you get to re-live." Would you curse the day you were born and be miserable....or would you clap out of excitement and be filled with happiness? Some say that it's ideal to live a life with no regrets. I say that defeats the should regret times of your life...just as little as possible! Imagine you're standing in front of a mirror, with all your dark and loathsome past raging behind you like a great big cloud. What lies between you and the mirror? Nothing. A dark past follows you around - but there's nothing ahead of you, allowing you to create the future. Don't be afraid. I know you can do it! The courage lies within you. Reach out and take it! Because as it turns out, we are not here to be miserable all the time. As Nephi said: "Adam fell, that men might be. And men are, that they might have joy." You get to step through looking-glass and create the joy - no one can do it for you. And I know you can do it if you try!

That is what I found out that morning, looking at the water. THAT is the true meaning of life. The meaning of life is: there is NO meaning of life. Only the meaning we give it. And frankly, Ranee, I don't wanna be the guy who goes back to the spirit world saying, "I'm so glad to be back home, away from that dreadful place. I'm glad earth life is over." I wanna be the guy who flies in through those Pearly Gates with his hair on fire, his robes torn and tattered, a broken leg or two, screaming at the very top of my ethereal lungs: