Saturday, December 31, 2005

I'll see you at the top.

I commit to respect and love all of my brothers and sisters.

I lost sleep last night over Amberlynn's post about her parents, and the comments to respond to it.

It's difficult for me to read long posts, so I'll make mine as brief as possible:
I'd like to share a small fraction of my spiritual understanding:

Life is Eternity/Truth/Spirit/Soul/Heart/Universe/God/Creation. These are synonyms.
When I learn to be true to these things in every way I am one with God.

The moment Fear enters my Soul, I have detached myself once again from God, and reattached myself to Mortality. Most of the issues and fear I will ever face is because I am mortal.

The God I worship is not afraid.
The Truth I seek is not fragile.
The Eternity I sense is not limited.

For heaven's sake, leave the church Amberlynn.
For heaven's sake, don't leave the church Amberlynn's father.
And for God's sake, let's all shake off a little more mortality and believe in a little more Eternity.

I testify that a God-seeker will find God.
I testify that a Truth-seeker will find Truth.

In the meantime I am not afraid.
I don't cry for your soul. And don't cry for mine.
I believe in God way too much for that.
And I believe in the God in you way too much for that.

Man alive, do I have more to say...

Just one more thing:

If you believe you are on the right path and I'm on the wrong path (or vice versa), and that there is only one way to Truth, I challenge you to climb to the top of a mountain.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

What is Spiritual Discussion?

What is it's definition to you?

For me:

A place to SHARE (not debate) spiritual views and opinions, to expose myself to others possibly opposing viewpoints, and broaden my understanding.

This can be scary, and create huge vulnerabilities.

What will you do to keep it "safe" without denying yourself the opportunity to share?

I will:

Pledge to work for understanding, especially when I disagree. When I do disagree, and feel the need to comment on it, I will first explore why I disagree and try to understand further by asking questions. I will double check myself to ensure they my responses show support, are not argumentative, and do not invalidate others' views. I seek to explore, to understand, and to share. Simply, openly, honestly. (Honesty need never exclude kindness.)

Monday, December 26, 2005

The Concept of My Character

William H. Gass says, “Characters in fiction are mostly empty canvas. I have known many who have passed through their stories without noses, or heads to hold them; others have lacked bodies altogether, exercised no natural functions, possessed some thoughts, a few emotions, but no psychologies, and apparently made love without the necessary organs.” How do I, as a breathing person, feel that a character in a book is somehow life-like, that I can take them seriously and form attachments? One way these attachments of mine manifest themselves is through emotional reactions; for example, anger at Vronsky’s fluctuating love. How I can react to characters in fiction in ways similar to my reactions to people? How can I justify looking to understand my character by reading? I suspect the answer lies in how I perceive real embodied people. How much can we really know of a person? How many aspects do we explore? We get sensual experiences with a person, so we see and smell them. We talk with them, and hear some things that they say.

I had a disturbing experience a month ago when a couple of friends lectured me. Based on what they said, I felt like they had a skewed vision of me in their heads. I called my best friend and told her what they had said and what I thought the implications of those statements were. I explained the history of our interactions and how I understood why they would think that of me based on that history, but their conclusion was wrong because they didn’t know everything. And I was frustrated, because I wanted them to not come to conclusions about me and then correct the things they thought were lacking, but try to understand me. That is why I started talking to them that day in the first place. My best friend confirmed that they did, indeed, think these things about me, and that they were, indeed, wrong. And then she said something that I had never thought of before but was very obvious. These friends of mine are not invested in understanding me. They love me in a real but casual way. It took my best friend and me years to recognize the nuances in the other’s most emotional and frenzied outbursts. These friends have not expended and most likely do not have the energy and time to understand me. And, as an added bonus, my best friend told me that I did not have to try to understand them. It was a call to categorize the people in my life.

Several months ago, I had a dream about a lover. He was excited about another woman. He said, “She was scrawny, and she was beautiful.” I asked him to look at me, and he said he wasn’t interested in my pretty. “You are on the pretty side of regular.” I woke up hot and wet and unhappy.

It was frustrating to be tossed because of appearance. I have my physical flaws, but I am aware that physical beauty is not one of my weak points. (I am vain.) The fact that this dream was about physical beauty is essential to the basic symbolism of the dream. What was occurring in my dream was that the person from whom I desired and expected intimacy and understanding was not seeing me. On an evident level. I was being perceived and valued based on a small and baffling set of my characteristics. And the betrayal I felt in the dream was a betrayal to my perception of this man. I felt emotionally invested in him, and was completely taken aback by this distant behavior. The situation was painful precisely because both he and I were feeling based on shallow perceptions. Not shallow values (which my lover presumably had as well—scrawny???), but shallow perceptions. I only thought we had intimacy, and it suddenly became clear that we did not.

I told my sister that the struggle of my life is loneliness. In one I form or another, it is what I beat against. Her solution was God, that God could heal loneliness. There is a very real point there. The notion of the Christian God is amazing. God is someone who knows me, who presumably loves me in a way that is perfect. A perfect love, and it is mine. I remember being a little girl, three or four, and attempting to imagine nothing. Nothing meant blackness, and there would be a void of blackness that surrounded the pulsing nectarine pit that I imagined my brain, the me that I could never imagine away. I would be frustrated, lying on the carpet, never being able to get rid of the image that I understood as me, thinking, pulsing with my breath, always there. Existence was me. As long as I exist, there cannot be nothing. But if there is God, then there is something besides me.

While I find the ideas behind my sister’s solution so intriguing and beautiful, I didn’t want an answer. I want her to feel with me. I want us to co-feel. I want my friends to co-feel. I want my lover to co-feel. I want to feel with them, only perhaps not as much as I want them to feel with me, to see all my pieces. While God offers a promise to transcend my lonely single existence, I want it to be transcended with people. So it’s not just my experience, so it's not just me and God in the black. I want, somehow, to get beyond the barrier between people that is only being able to perceive portions of each other and really connect. I find my desires in the situation are futile; the idea of a lover with whom I have incredible intimacy and understanding is so much more satisfying to my loneliness than being made whole by God.

How to Love a Leaver

Most all of you are affiliated with the LDS church. Many of you have been very active at times, one of those times perhaps being now.

I previously shared with you my letter to my family explaining why I've had to take a break from the church. I must admit that the more I've been away from it (strictly in terms of CHURCH itself - I still believe in and live the high standards) the more I doubt I'll return.

I think I also shared with you the surprising outpouring of love I received from my siblings - and perhaps my struggles with my fathers' reply... that he missed my point entirely.

I was having the most wonderful Christmas I can remember, with my amazingly loving husband and his wonderful family. The gift I was most excited to receive was a draft life history that my mother sent us. I spent a lot of time Christmas Eve and Christmas Day reading the story of her life. I felt connected to her in a way I haven't before.

Then, I reached the section about her children's weddings. She went in order of when they got married, which meant I was last. It was fascinating to hear her account of who each of my siblings were as children - and what good wonderful people they were. She would then tell the story of how they met their future partner, and then the wedding. I was really looking forward to seeing what my mother would have to say about me as a child.
When I reached my paragraph I was given two lines: "We got a call from our daughter telling us she was marrying a man we'd never met before that Friday. We've learned we need to trust the Lord, despite our failings." I was terribly heart broken. I couldn't help myself, and emailed my mother - requesting a revision. I told her I wasn't asking her to lie, If I was her failure, let her keep that in, but at least say something about me. Who I was, and who I am.

She emailed back today and said she would write more about my wedding when she could, but she can't now.
My father also wrote. Here are some excerpts from his letter:
"Sorry you were a little disappointed to just about tears [it was beyond "just about," fyi] when you read your section of moms life history. It was most likely very hard for mom to write about something she feels she has lost for eternity and worked so hard to teach true principles of the Gospel to. ...But I guess you are in a sense no different than Laman and Lemuel who had all kinds of signs given to them and just decided that they knew best. Their parents tried in vain to teach them but they kept finding faults they felt their father had that caused their misery. The difference is that we are your parents, but most likely feel the same pain that their father felt.
Now, I know that if any of what I say pricks your heart, I know that you in the back of your mind still have those beliefs, if it doesn't, then, you have lost that testimony that we know you once had."

YES my heart is pricked, but not because "in the back of my mind I still have those beliefs." Again, the more I research - both my heart, MY history, and the church - the further from many of those beliefs I get, and the further I realize they have been. I'm pricked because being told by my father that I am evil and lost hurts.

Words like my father said to me "I know that if any of what I say pricks your heart" stem from what has been ingrained in him through his lifetime in the church. I've sat through many church discussions on why people leave, and how to "deal" with it. Now, from experiencing it first hand, I can say (at least in my case) that what was always discussed in church is way off base. Me, and the people I know who have "lost" their testimony in the church don't fit into the standard stock of people who leave, and the reasons for my/our heartache are nothing like what they talked about in church.

Some of these misconceptions for why people leave the church are: they've gotten lazy in developing their relationship with God, they've quit praying, they feel the standards are just too high, they've been offended by someone at church.
Some of the misdirected ideas of how to "deal" with these peole are: continue to "reach out" and bear your testimony to them, find out if they're reading the Book of Mormon, find out if they're still praying, pray that they will come back.
The most heartbreaking misconception for me personally, is that these people are sad because they've lost the spirit.

I've already written about why I began the steps of leaving. Although not a single person from my church has "reached out" to me in any way, or even attempted to contact me since I've left, those in my family continue to bear their testimony to me, and tell me they know I still believe and just have to hope that I'll come back.

The heartbreak, is that in a gospel supposedly centered on love and family, that love between others and family truly is taught to be conditional. If I have grown into differing beliefs than my parents - they can only love with the hope that I will return to what they've taught me - and live with the misunderstanding that I have "strayed." There was MUCH good and love in my upbringing, and I believe that I am still good, and worthy of complete love. I have not strayed from the love of family, love of scholarship, love of service, love of good health, and desire to improve that was instilled in me through my family. I have not lost the lessons of parents who taught by example love for each other and for us. There are countless other goods that my parents have taught me that I have infused in my being.

I had a thought early on that I was to be the one to teach my family how to love. I had no idea what that meant, but now I know. I am the trial of their faith. I too, must wait for them to come around - as they are waiting for me to come around. But we (both them and I) must all be careful to our perceptions of what "coming around" means. They will never change in their dedication to the church, and I do not want them to. I want to be loved for who I am. I want to be shown an attempt to understand me, not an attempt to guilt me into being who they think I need to be.

Have you had your love for others tested like this? How do you "deal with it?"

Merry Christmas!

So how did everyone enjoy Christmas? I decided not to go home to Utah, because it seems like I just got back from Thanksgiving, but I had a great time as the 1st counselor in the bishopric (or rather, his wife) invited over for Christmas dinner and a rousing game of trivial pursuit...

Plus, I got a great Christmas present, an invitation to attent Harvard Law School next year. I was pretty excited, and my little brother is likely going to attend MIT so we can get a place together. I have been quite blessed.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Marathon is on a Sunday

And I'm getting Mormon enough to care about that....


I can take the sacrament again, today would have been my first Sunday to do that, but I overslept and got to church late and missed it. And then the talks were on the importance of the sacrament.

The Seoul West(?) Mission President Pres. Ringwood spoke. I love how he speaks slowly and deliberately, he will pause and look at you, giving you a moment to process and feel what he has just said. He inspires me. I believe what he says. He reminds me of Bishop Croft.

Is it okay to lean on his testimony till I have one of my own?

I bore my testimony last week and talked of being in the flabby "before" photo of a testimony, and being excited about a firm fit "after" photo in a while.

I paid so much money in tithing settlement. It's really amazing and crazy the law of tithing, I can't believe it. Heavenly Father really challenges us and expects us to live up to much more potential than even idealistic me can see.

I'm challenged by life as a Latter-Day Saint. I think that is a good thing. It makes me wonder if I should grade harder as a Professor.

The Book of Mormon challenge deadline is looming, and I haven't finished 2 Nephi!
I'm still not thrilled with the Book of Mormon. I struggled to make it through the isaiah stuff in 2 Ne. Why is it there? It made me fall asleep.

I don't know what to do about friends like Mike's. A sweet affectionate EFY counselor man who is full of love and life and is Gay and Mormon.

Please tell me if I'm getting really narrowminded and judgemental as I get more and more back into church. I don't ever ever ever want to be those things.

I feel so happy lately, and I'm blaming it on church.

I love you all, and want to hear more from you on this blog!