Brave Knights and Heroic Courage

In thinking of some of the difficulties facing our society in our day I often wonder about the role of reading.  It was then I finally stumbled upon this talk.  Some of the most thought provoking comments I have copied here.
In the end of C. S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy assume their rightful thrones and Kings and Queens of Narnia.  Lewis dedicates only one sentence to describing how they governed during the Golden Age of Narnia, but it is interesting to hear his summary of their most important accomplishments.  Lewis tells us that they “made good laws and kept the peace and saved good trees from being cut down and liberated young dwarfs and young satyrs from being sent to school and generally stopped busybodies and interferers and encouraged ordinary people who wanted to live and let live.
It is interesting to note that the first item of business after keeping the peace and protecting the environment was abolishing school!  Narnia is thus the first kingdom where home-schooling is not only encouraged, it is required!  But I think Lewis was talking less about the institution of school and more about what was being taught there.  And when it came to what was being taught, Lewis thought that stories made all the difference.
Lewis begins The Voyage of the Dawn Treader with a memorable introduction of a new character: “There was once a boy named Eustace Clarence Scrubbs, and he almost deserved it.”  In introducing us to Eustace, Lewis believes the best way for the reader to understand him is to know the kinds of books he reads.  “He liked books if they were books of information and had pictures of grain elevators or of fat foreign children doing exercises in model schools.”  In other words, he didn’t have time for the types of stories that Lewis adored-stories about heroism, knights and talking animals.
As a result, Eustace is at a significant disadvantage when he first arrives in Narnia and finds himself in a dragon’s lair.  “Most of us know what we should expect to find in a dragon’s lair,” Lewis writes, “but, as I said before, Eustace had read only the wrong books.  They had a lot to say about exports and imports and governments and drains, but they were weak on dragons.”
The situation worsens when the dragon begins to stir: “Something was crawling.  Worse still, something was coming out of the cave.  Edmund or Lucy or you would have recognized it at once, but Eustace had read none of the right books.”
Clearly Lewis is telling us something about more than dragons and talking mice.  He is giving us a simple instruction: You are what you read.  We are shaped and influenced by the books that we read.  They prepare us for more than interesting conversations – they actually prepare us to face real crises that we encounter in life.  Few people would dispute this simple statement, so let’s ask the related question: What are we reading today?
The short answer is: not much.  A few years ago, the National Endowment for the Arts released a report entitled “Reading at Risk”  Many people here are probably familiar with its findings, but allow me to repeat the headline: For the first time in modern history, less than half of the adult population now reads literature.  The decline is across all races, all education levels, and all age groups…
The report went on to show that the decline in literary reading strongly correlates to a decline in cultural and civic participation.  Literary readers are more than twice as likely as non-literary readers to perform volunteer and charity work, nearly three times as likely to attend performing arts events, and nearly four times as likely to visit art museums.  Before you begin to think that this is limited to highbrow events, literary readers are even substantially more likely to attend sporting events than non-literary readers.  And before you begin to think that the group of people making up literary readers is a group of Luddites that has sworn off electronic media, the report found that literature readers still managed to watch close to three hours of television each day!…
The report concludes on a rather somber note: at the current rate of loss, literary reading as a leisure activity will virtually disappear in half a century.  This decline will not be reversed by any one solution.  In fact, it will require a number of innovative ones from a number of different groups…
… project opens up a fair debate about whether children should read books that have such frightening content.  C.S. Lewis tackled this issue head-on when and offered some good advice that informs how we select our projects: “Those who say that children must not be frightened may mean two things.  They may mean that we must not do anything likely to give the child those haunting, disabling, pathological fears against which ordinary courage is helpless: in fact, phobias.  His mind must, if possible, be kept clear of things he can’t bear to think of.  Or they may mean that we must try to keep out of his mind the knowledge that he is born into a world of death, violence, wounds, adventure, heroism and cowardice, good and evil.  If they mean the first I agree with them: but not if they mean the second.  The second would indeed be to give children a false impression and feed them on escapism in the bad sense.  There is something ludicrous in the idea of so educating a generation which is born to the…atomic bomb.  Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.  Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
(Micheal Flaherty, President of Walden Media, given at Hillsdale College 30 Jan 2007)

Universal Health Care

In the recent light of the Presidential politics starting a wave of conversation on Universal Health Care, I thought I would take an opportunity to share what an unwise idea that would be.  Other than my own experiences within the nightmare of a system I found in Britain, I refer to a talk by Neal A Maxwell given to the Rotary in 1978.  It pretty well sums up the issue.

Neal A. Maxwell, “The Prohibitive Costs of a Value-free Society,” Ensign, Oct 1978,  52–55

An address given to Salt Lake City Rotarians, 7 February 1978

One of Rotary’s criteria reads, “Is it the truth?” Note that this very question assumes the existence of a standard by which truth can be tested. Another Rotary standard “Is it fair?” assumes a standard of justice by which certain things can be measured. Not a standard, of course, like metric measurement or yards and feet, but a spiritual standard that is constant even though it may often be applied imperfectly by imperfect people.

Such values involve more than rhetoric. When men and women protest an injustice, they often fail to see either the assumptions or the implications in their protest. C. S. Lewis once wrote to a protesting near-believer as follows:

“You say the materialist universe is ‘ugly.’ I wonder how you discovered that! If you are really a product of a materialistic universe, how is it you don’t feel at home there? Do fish complain of the sea for being wet?” (From Sheldon Vanauken, A Severe Mercy, Harper and Row, 1977, p. 93.)

The Rotary motto of “Service above Self” assumes the presence of certain instinctive values attesting that man is more than an animal. It would be ludicrous to have such a standard if it were, in fact, out of our reach. Indeed, our very reaching and stretching tell us much about who we are. Also in your literature is a statement stating how, at one point in the early history of Rotary, it became clear that “camaraderie alone could not sustain the organization; soon service to the community became” your binding strength. You had rediscovered an old truth about human nature: It was said by the Scottish minister, George MacDonald, that love of one’s neighbor is “the only door out of the dungeon of self.” (George MacDonald Anthology, by C. S. Lewis, pub. by Geoffrey Bles, 1970, p. 39.)

I come to you today as one who accepts with most, if not all, of you the existence of certain absolute truths in the universe from which there has been a severe slipping away on the part of many. The slippage has occurred, I fear, without awareness on the part of many as to what happens when we move to a spiritually standardless society. Beliefs or the lack of them do affect behavior.

Lest any here be anxious about whether I will take a theological turn in my remarks today, let me simply say that many of the standards and values in the great religions of the world are held far more in common than some realize. Besides, we cannot fail to notice that we are at one of those hingepoints of history when, as Hermann Hesse said, “a whole generation is caught … between two ages, between two modes of life, and thus loses the feeling for itself, for the self-evident, for all morals, for being safe and innocent.” (Duncan Williams, Trousered Apes, Arlington House, 1971, p. 59.)

For today’s purposes, what I mean by “self-evident morals” and “basic values” are fundamental truths such as the Ten Commandments, which are so much a part of our Judeo-Christian heritage. These values resist rationalization and redefinition, and any amendments to the Ten Commandments would come from the same Source as did those original commandments. We are, of course, free to obey or not to obey those commandments. We are not free to try to amend them to read, for instance, “Thou shalt not commit adultery except between consenting adults.” We may, by legislation and regulation, vainly try to create a zone of private morality. But there is, ultimately, no such thing as private morality; there is not an indoor and an outdoor set of Ten Commandments. Neither is it useful to cite human shortfalls as an excuse to abandon all absolutes, because striving and falling short of accepted standards is very different from having no standards at all.

There is an ecology that pertains to human nature just as there is an interrelatedness pertaining to nature. This spiritual ecology embodies certain laws which, if violated, will produce certain consequences. These laws, though less acknowledged, are as irrevocable and active as the laws of nature. They do not cease to operate simply because we do not recognize them, any more than one is protected from the consequences of eating a poisonous toadstool just because he believes it to be a mushroom.

We had better want the consequences of what we believe or disbelieve, because the consequences will come!

The high costs, indeed the prohibitive costs, of living in a standardless society are also incurred in so many secondary ways. For instance, a society which is uncertain of its basic values will engage in endless and expensive experimentation of both a governmental and a personal variety. The Frenchman, La Rochefoucauld, could have been describing so many of our modern experiments when he said, “There goes another beautiful theory about to be murdered by a brutal gang of facts.”

Few such recent experiments in America have been more costly and counterproductive than some in our schools. Pupil test scores are declining, and the costs of education are increasing. The move to relevancy has produced a curriculum, some of which is irrelevant to such basic skills as reading and writing. Pass-fail courses and the inflating of grades are milder symptoms. Taxpayers are often paying at least twice to teach some pupils how to read, and in many cases, it is still not happening! Our schools and colleges must respond to genuine needs for changes, but there are times when to be fashionable is to fail one’s foremost constituents.

These things are not said simply to scold the schools, as if the failures were located there and there alone. Nonfunctioning families bear much of the blame. The fact is that basic values are interactive and so are the basic institutions which have rested upon these bedrock values. Alter the basic beliefs and you alter the chemistry of society.

In education or elsewhere it is difficult to say which came first—the reluctance to measure or the reluctance to be measured. But in the end the results are the same. In this connection, some have been too slow to see the implications in the conclusion which is reached by many, “If there is no divine reward or punishment related to my personal performance, why should there be any mortal concern with merit?” The assumptions underlying such a conclusion are in gross error, but the logic is relentless!

Functional illiteracy in America is high in certain age groups. This is in addition to a more massive economic illiteracy about how our system works, which is an even more ominous failure. Even though our governments are bigger and more powerful than ever, many in the rising generation know less and less about how we are governed.

Value-free experimentation is extremely costly—both in terms of money and of souls, and it creates what has been called the worst slum of all—the slum of the human spirit, for many students and citizens are starved for earned self-esteem. A standardless society will also find itself deaf to the costly lessons of history. Winston Churchill chose as a stern warning motto for his concluding volume of the history of World War II these words: “How the Great Democracies Triumphed, and so Were able to Resume the Follies Which Had so Nearly Cost Them Their Life.” (Triumph and Tragedy, Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1953.) A value-free society focuses upon things like “me” and “now”—it has little sense of history out of which to fashion the future. If nothing lies ahead of men, how vital is memory? A healthy regard for the past is usually accompanied by a healthy regard for the future; and a lack of one usually means the lack of the other.

But how can a society set priorities if there are no basic standards? Are we to make our calculations using only the arithmetic of appetite?

A society not based upon key values like loving our neighbor will inevitably subsidize selfishness and will place a premium upon an apostate form of individualism at the expense of community. Bear in mind, for instance, that if we do not see ourselves as more than temporary, biological brothers, our behavior changes. When we repudiate our traditional relationships with God and man, it is so much easier to repudiate not only debt but to repudiate relatives. If one really has no relatives, to whom do such people belong? Why, to that collective catch-all, society, of course! But as we generalize responsibility for relatives we particularize loneliness and misery.

Yet if self-interest is the final determinant, why should we be inconvenienced by the needs of others?

We have been used to speaking of our political system (as envisioned by the founding fathers) as one in which opinions collide constitutionally, wherein vested interests cancel each other out, or tame each other before a safe majority is formed, or, at least, in which vested interests are brought out into the light by the democratic process. Indeed, this system has served us well. Winners and losers have played out the drama almost always within constitutional constraints, as turns have been taken at the levers of power by different majorities. What was not allowed for fully, however, nor could it be, is what happened when government, instead of remaining a referee, first became a participant and then became a possibly permanent majority itself.

It remains to be seen whether or not our nation can tame big government. There is, frankly, no precedent for dismantling, even partially, a welfare state, especially in a peaceful and constitutional way. Such a Goliath will not go quietly to surgery.

One analyst of political things has observed that in addition to the happy consequences of democracy, the system tends to produce two unwanted side effects—bureaucracy and apathy. These are not inevitable side effects, but they are probable side effects. We are experiencing these symptoms in America. Yet, alas, Thomas Jefferson said our republic’s future rested on the assumption that our citizens would remain attentive and informed.

The shift in values has produced another shift in political point of view. George F. Will, the perceptive Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, noted just one example in the difference between the old liberalism and a new liberalism:

“The old liberalism delivered material advantages that were intended to enable people to live the lives they had chosen. The new liberalism, typified by forced busing and affirmative action and the explosive growth of regulation, administers ‘remedies’ to what society’s supervisors consider defects in the way people live.” (Newsweek, 23 Jan. 1978, p. 88; italics added.)

Decrease the belief in God, and you increase the numbers of those who wish to play at being God by being “society’s supervisors.” Such “supervisors” deny the existence of divine standards, but are very serious about imposing their own standards on society.

It is no accident that the lessening, or loss, of belief in certain absolute truths, such as the existence of God and the reality of immortality, has occurred at the same time there has been a sharp gain in the size and power of governments in many portions of the world.

Once we remove belief in God from the center of our lives, as the Source of truth and as a Determiner of justice, a tremendous vacuum is created into which selfishness surges, a condition which governments delight in managing. Trends become a theology. A religion of regulations emerges in which tens of thousands of regulations seek to replace the Ten Commandments.

And with this secular religion comes a frightening insistence on orthodoxy, enforced by the withdrawal and bestowal of benefits. Such governments inevitably tend to enlarge taxes and to stunt their citizens. John Stuart Mill observed:

“A State which dwarfs its men, in order that they may be more docile instruments in its hands even for beneficial purposes—will find that with small men no great thing can really be accomplished; and that the perfection of machinery to which it has sacrificed everything will in the end avail it nothing, for want of the vital power which, in order that the machine might work more smoothly, it has preferred to banish. (“On Liberty,” Great Books of the Western World, v. 43, p. 323.)

This dwarfing of the individual is one of the prohibitive costs of a value-free society! The state will never wither away in a spiritually standardless society. It will simply swell and become more strong, more ominous, and more serious. Maxwell Anderson had a line in one of his plays in which a discouraged character asks plaintively why governments can’t be “small and funny” any more.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a martyr in 1945 to a big and serious state, grown impatient with Bonhoeffer’s allegiance to God instead of to the Fuhrer. Of Bonhoeffer’s beliefs, G. Leibholz wrote: “If Christian teaching does not guide us in the use of freedom and God is denied, all obligations and responsibilities that are sacred and binding on man are undermined.” (The Cost of Discipleship.)

The costs of dictatorships are devastating. Even the garden variety versions of totalitarianism are expensive. When “God is denied” all sacred obligations and responsibilities “are undermined.”

Can we really afford a society in which we do not believe in the principle of work? Inflation has several causes, but any lasting cure must include increased productivity. Besides, work is a spiritual necessity, even if it is not an economic necessity, which it is.

Can we really afford a society in which the family, our most basic institution, is further diminished? Most of us revolt at the idea of having children raised by the state, but step by small step we are moving in that direction. If our society’s success depends on having a critical mass of citizens with a sense of fair play and justice, and with love and concern for others, where do citizens usually acquire those crucial virtues, if we acquire them at all? We usually acquire them first and best in the family. The family garden, as has been said, is still the best place to grow happy humans. Society already pays terrible costs for the products of tragically flawed families, but if our nation further undermines the average family, the costs will be catastrophic.

What we do with the family is going to determine what happens to our whole society. The wise Catholic writer, G. K. Chesterton, observed years ago that only men to whom the family is sacred will ever have a standard by which to criticize the State, because “they alone can appeal to something more holy than the gods of the city.” (Everlasting Man, Image Books, 1955, p. 143.)

The basic strands which have bound us together socially have begun to fray, and some of them have snapped. Even more pressure is then placed upon the remaining strands. The fact that the giving way is gradual will not prevent it from becoming total. For instance, schools which fail put even more pressure upon the institution of the family, and vice versa. A lowering of standards or discipline in the one means great difficulty in the maintenance of standards and discipline in the other.

Given the tremendous asset that the family is, we must do all we can within constitutional constraints to protect it from predatory things like homosexuality and pornography. Of pornography Ronald Butt wrote in the London Times:

“The history of the Roman arena instructs in how the appetite of a people can be created by what is fed to it—the upper classes of Rome were systematically addicted by their ruler to the frenzy and titillation of sadistic violence by a steady progression from less to more until the Roman character itself was conditioned to a coarse insensibility to suffering.” (Feb. 1976.)

We need to reflect on how many of our sad trends represent a “steady progression from less to more.”

If the family is not basic, however, and is not something of immense value, why worry about wrecking it?

Our whole republic rests upon the notion of “obedience to the unenforceable,” upon a tremendous emphasis on inner controls through self-discipline. The historians Will and Ariel Durant observed that “if liberty destroys order, the hunger for order will destroy liberty.” But keeping liberty and order in tension balance requires tremendous self-discipline in the citizenry of a nation.

Can we really afford the ultimate costs of governments which, in lieu of self-discipline, impose more and more outer controls?

But if liberty is not basic, why worry over such trends?

If we are immortal, however, we are immensely more important than a government which may only last a moment in the expanse of eternity.

But if there were no God and we were merely transients, then what would be wrong with governments pushing us around? Indeed, what would be really wrong about anything at all?

Our value crisis gathered some of its momentum because at first it produced an artificial sense of new freedom. Morris West warned:

“Without the Faith, one is free, and that is a pleasant feeling at first. There are no questions of conscience, no constraints. … It is only later that the terror comes. One is free—but free in chaos, in an unexplained and unexplainable world. One is free in a desert, from which there is no retreat but inward, toward the hollow core of oneself.” (The Devil’s Advocate, New York: William Morrow Co., 1959.)

Secularism also produced an artificial sense of security. A good example of this is what has happened to our Social Security system in America. Principles gave way to political promises, and the secular theology with its “cast your care upon Social Security” has now exposed its hollowness—like the billboard outside Chicago ten years ago that read, “Borrow enough from us to get completely out of debt.” Sad as it is to say it, the hard choices ahead for the nation regarding our Social Security system could pit the young against the old and the middle class against the poor. The system is scarcely “social” in such a setting; likewise, the financial unsoundness of the system scarcely deserves the word Security. What we have is thus neither social nor security. Ahead of us are additional days of reckoning besides the one noted many times in the Bible.

But those who do not believe in ultimate personal accountability are not as likely to be concerned with the forms of proximate accountability for each of us. Those who lack self-restraint will see little need, for example, for governments to discipline public spending.

We must not dismiss too quickly the importance of believing in the reality of immortality. A friend, Dick Hazelett, wrote perceptively about what happens when life is “continually dampened by the thought of its own continuous annihilation. Then only fleeting pleasures remain, unconnected in time. … When pleasures become disconnected, the intense ones stand out … like branches stripped of leaves. … Raw experience as such becomes the goal. Work becomes drudgery, nature becomes boring, … children are nuisances (which they then become), sympathy and affection are perceived as ‘sticky,’ … chastity is no longer worth the sacrifice, and freedom isn’t worth a fight.”

Different beliefs do make for different behaviors; what we think does affect our actions; concepts do have consequences. As Christopher Booker said:

“When men cease to aspire to the ideal, the good, to self-restraint—whether in their hearts or in their lives—they do not just stand still, but actually turn the other way, finding self-fulfillment in self-indulgence, and in … those three ultimate expressions of the totally self-centered life: sex, violence, and insanity.” (Trousered Apes, pp. 14–15.)

We must bear in mind that while there are obvious differences as to what all the basic truths and values are, having such tactical differences is very unlike the sad conclusion that there are no such basic truths at all. When these basic divine truths do not play a significant role in our lives, it creates much ambivalence over issues such as the relationship of personal property and political majorities. Few things are more frightening to see than envy when it is politicized.

If we are not committed to certain truths, ambiguity will replace absolutes, tentativeness will replace truth, regulations measured by the pound instead of by principles will replace liberty, a tenured bureacracy will replace democracy, and hesitancy will replace heroism.

Once society loses its capacity to declare that some things are wrong per se, then it finds itself forever building temporary defenses, revising rationales, drawing new lines—but forever falling back and losing its nerve. A society which permits anything will eventually lose everything!

Take away a consciousness of eternity and see how differently time is spent.

Take away an acknowledgment of divine design in the structure of life and then watch the mindless scurrying to redesign human systems to make life pain-free and pleasure-filled.

Take away regard for the divinity in one’s neighbor, and watch the drop in our regard for his property.

Take away basic moral standards and observe how quickly tolerance changes into permissiveness.

Take away the sacred sense of belonging to a family or community, and observe how quickly citizens cease to care for big cities.

Those of us who are business-oriented are quick to look for the bottom line in our endeavors. In the case of a value-free society, the bottom line is clear—the costs are prohibitive!

A value-free society eventually imprisons its inhabitants. It also ends up doing indirectly what most of its inhabitants would never have agreed to do directly—at least initially.

Can we turn such trends around? There is still a wealth of wisdom in the people of this good land, even though such wisdom is often mute and in search of leadership. People can often feel in their bones the wrongness of things, long before pollsters pick up such attitudes or before such attitudes are expressed in the ballot box. But it will take leadership and articulate assertion of basic values in all places and in personal behavior to back up such assertions.

Even then, time and the tides are against us, so that courage will be a key ingredient. It will take the same kind of spunk the Spartans displayed at Thermopylae when they tenaciously held a small mountain pass against overwhelming numbers of Persians. The Persians could not dislodge the Spartans and sent emissaries forward to threaten what would happen if the Spartans did not surrender. The Spartans were told that if they did not give up, the Persians had so many archers in their army that they would darken the skies with their arrows. The Spartans said simply: “So much the better, we will fight in the shade!”

Sordid thoughts on the lowly things

Here we are beginning another week.  I admit, I am torn in so many ways.  What to do?  Where to go?  These are questions that I suppose creep up in our lives when we are just not quite as sure of things as we would like.
My job has become just that.  I am not motivated by money and they keep trying to entice me with it.  Well, in the end, I find myself doing the same routine, with not much improvement.  Well, I lie.  Every week so far has been an improvement in my earnings.  This past week I made more than six hundred in a week, before taxes and all.  So I guess that is a good thing.  But that is not how I measure my effectiveness.  Never has been, never will be.  Why would I use Babylon’s measuring rod?  How many lives am I influencing?  Is my family the better for it?  Am I happy?  And then the answer comes in at a stark no.
I get to go around and meet a wide variety of people.  That is most definitely true.  However, while I do feel we have a valuable tool, and a good product for those who need supplemental insurance, I am finding many people who have this as their only insurance.  They are content to believe that this is going to cover their needs and that is not the truth.  I think most understand this is not major medical, but for the fact that these people are poor and paying for this bothers me.  Now for the craftsmen and heavy laborers who carry this, I most certainly think it is the best thing for them.  So I am touching these people’s lives, and getting to meet them.  But I am not convinced I am leaving them better off in the end.
It most certainly is a worthwhile time to visit and see all these places.  I have always been fascinated by geography and love to travel.  This job has catered to that desire.  I have been to the birthplace of Meriwether Lewis, William Clark, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.  I have been to the place where John Wilkes Booth was hiding, found, shot, and killed.  The historic Northern Neck of Virginia, while slightly penetrated, has been interesting.  But all this traveling takes time and money.  By which I travel and find the homes of these people, which are literally everywhere, so the byproduct is I learn the territory.  However, I am finding that running a household, a wife in school, and other costs take one’s funds.  In the end, I can afford the $100-$130 I am spending on fuel.  But I am worried that by breaking even, I am not saving to replace or add to the vehicle that is being required to drive the minimum of 1,000 miles a week.  With 183,000 miles plus on the car, I should be saving or paying for another vehicle rather than running into the ground the only means of income and transportation, for two, I currently have.  That just seems dumb to me.  In the end, it is not making enough money to pay for a car payment a month, nor to save up for a new car at a later point.
What about the next point?  What about my family?  Well, the last week, I certainly made the most of what I have made yet with the company.  But having said that, I am leaving at 9 in the morning, and returning at 9 or 10 at night.  If I was single, that would not be so much the issue.  I have a wife that is at home.  She can surely spend the time studying or whatever else without my interference.  When I finally get home though, I am exhausted.  I need to eat and go to bed.  She is kind enough to provide the food.  By the time we read our scriptures, pray, get ready for bed, and make it in, I am beyond my bedtime.  We have spent little or no social time, and other events are just a pain.  That is fine for a little while, but it really starts to add up in the long run, and I am not willing to make that type of a sacrifice.  The job is on the altar before the wife.
Lastly, am I happy.  Well, I surely enjoy the traveling and people.  It does grow wearisome at times though.  I love meeting people, I love seeing these new places.  However, the chances of my meeting these people again are slim.  It was not like spraying lawns at all!  Many of them gripe and moan they have to pay this again, and the rest are just a pain to track down.  It wears on me.  What wears the most is that I don’t have time to do things I wish to do.  I take the LSAT this weekend and I have no time to really practice for it.  That bothers me.  What is worse that when I do get time to myself, I use it for other things than studying.  I have other things I place more importance on and since I never get to do them, then the lesser things don’t come up.  So now what?  I am not going to postpone it again.  I should have just taken it in June.
So, after seeing this whole thing now play out, I am not impressed with the fruits.  I planted the seeds, I have lingered, waited, and prayed long enough.  The fruits appear to be bitter and if I allow the tree to continue to grow, it will only grow more wearisome and bitter.
I don’t even think it is so much Combined that I am having the issues with.  I wonder how much more effective I could be if I were to be trained in how to sell.  Would that little extra bit every day make it more worth it?  Would I be able to stop earlier from working knowing I had met the monetary needs?  Who knows.  Probably.  If I could spend less time working to make the same amount, that would be good.  If I could lay some aside for other purposes, that would be helpful.  All I know, something has to change, now.
Having said all that, I wonder about the other side.  Could there be something more I am missing?
What about those who say stick with it?  Grin and bear it?  It will all work out in the end.  I have thought quite a bit about Joseph of old.  He was in prison and a very unlikeable position.  But he bore through it with faith and came out on top.  My leaders at work keep wanting to put me into executive training.  In fact, if I would have agreed, I would be in Virginia Beach all week for it.  (But what of the LSAT then?  Being gone all week seems to only compound the problems.  Best part, they don’t even pay for your being gone so I would sacrifice a week for no pay!)  So, do I endure, make my way to management, and then what?  Well, I will be expected to train.  How in the world can I train on something I have yet to learn to do?  Nobody seems to be willing to train me and I obviously have not worked it out yet.  As Marc says, I am making what money I am by pure hard diligence and work.  That is noble and all, but he makes the same I do with only half the hours.  Yet getting him to train me is like pulling teeth.  Endure….where is the line where you simply throw your hands in the air and say I am moving on?
Much on the mind lately is the thought that perhaps I am meant to be here for some reason or another.  Marc has accepted an invitation to attend General Priesthood with me on Saturday Night.  That is great news.  I would like to endure enough to see him read the Book of Mormon and join the church.  However, should I gain one soul for the kingdom and give up everything for that one?  Honestly, I don’t see anything breaking down in my relationship with Amanda, but do I want to take that chance?  It is hard to be a nice person when I am not completely satisfied with my job.  Amanda takes some of the brunt of that.  There are two reasons why I have stuck with the job so far.  Simply because I need some income to provide for those things that are essentials (granted this house is more than we need, but it is still inexpensive compared to renting an apartment).  Secondly, in the hope that Marc will feel of the Spirit and be converted.  With my being away from the company the chances of his keeping his commitments and being converted are greatly reduced.  He has no one else to challenge and teach.  I told the missionaries about him coming on Saturday.  I sure hope we can get his address and a commitment to take the missionary discussions.  That will sure take a load off of me!
Yes, I believe it is time for a change.  But where to?  What shall I do?  Where shall I go?

Oh the nothingness

Here I write once again.  Sometimes life seems so full of everything, and other times as if this broad expanse of nothingness.  The variety of individuals I have the privilege of being with is amazing.  Their view, their outlook, the goals, their aspirations, their weaknesses all seem to vary so much.  The variety and style prompts me to proclaim how wonderful and amazing they are.  The intelligence that is so encompassing held by just a dozen people is staggering.  Yet, sometimes I wonder if they know one iota of anything concerning themselves and eternity.  People seem to be so good, wonderful, and helpful and in the same breath so greedy, selfish, and conceited.  What an education far beyond anything I could have ever imagined.
Sometimes I wonder about the words of C.S. Lewis about when one recognizes themselves, that becomes the basis of pride.  Yet, one star is greater than another, one is always greater than another.  Perhaps we can recognize our own individuality but should be highly cautious about setting ourselves up over other people.  That is what the world is teaching.  You are special, it doesn’t matter what anyone is or does, you are better than they are.  That is false.  We are special, we are individuals, but we are a part of the fabric and an essential player.  We cannot be independent of all others.  No man is an island.  To think we are to be our own man, independent of the God who created us, and the fellow citizens of the earth only creates a bunch of insufferable show offs.  It breeds relativism and more conflict in the world.
While I have no doubt of the place of America in the role of the world, I find it scary that we subscribe to the belief I just mentioned.  I remember in England when an American could not understand one with the local dialect, they met it characteristically with talking a little louder and asking a question a little slower.  It wasn’t them who had the problem, it ws the individual speaking!  We expect the world to revolve around us and pay us all the respect we believe is our due.  We claim the rest of the world has pride and arrogance, even ignorance; when I must admit I think we are the one guilty of the charge.  Is it any wonder the French have problems with us?  In their history individuals given power rather than a government has produced “The Terror”.  Why wouldn’t we expect them to react the way they did when we gave more over arching powers to the executive?  When the power of waging war and of going into battle was given in their country, it led to a man seeking to rule Europe.  Add that to their condition of their neighbors who have taken them over because of what they deemed as right.  Of course France is not supportive of our going into another country to further ideals of democracy.  We can see why they don’t like capital punishment, the guillotine is a national symbol still to them.  That is something they will forever buck at.  What is more, we hover and watch them and give them the cold shoulder.  Not as a brother in the world should do, but as a lesser creature.  Someone who is to not be associated with on the playground.  We act the bully, and then when they bristle or don’t fall in line, we scorn and mock them.  Try and turn our friends against them to persuade them to be with us.  Looking back, that bully did hold their power for time.  What ever happened to the bully.  I hope we became more mature, that we all become equal, but it isn’t true.  I know of three who bullied me in elementary and junior school, and sadly they find themselves on the lower of the totem pole in life today.  I do not know if this would be true generally or across the board, but it is in my life.  Sadly, I expect the same thing will happen eventually to us as a nation.
Then I look at other nations who are different.  Others with different goals and perspectives.  We eye them with caution and expect they must have questionable motives.  The uncertainty always creates fear doesn’t it?  “I have often thought to myself, what is to be done?”  Education is our only hope.  Just like Thomas Jefferson I find myself thinking that our only hope would be education and the constant expansion of our understanding.  It must be understood, retained, and constantly built upon.  Just like Joseph Smith taught of the need for increasing light and knowledge, Thomas Jefferson admonished, and Allan Bloom admonishes we must find and constantly be analyzing.  We find our beliefs, seek out further light, compare it to what we have, and throw away what doesn’t work.  Leave it behind, keeping a faithful record of where we have been.  Sadly, such a case does not seem to be on the books today.  Like I mentioned the case of relativism seems to be taking hold with all its disastrous underpinnings.  James Madison made it clear that without the moral compasses and moorings that come from religious principles, the looking out one for another, democracy would drift and fall.  Without morality democracy will pass as all the others have before our time.
Odd isn’t it.  We are so smart, yet we never counsel with history.  Is it any wonder we are so seriously admonished to remember.  Rather than condemning, let us seek.  Rather than finding our lines and demanding nobody to cross over, why don’t we step over them ourselves and act as more faithful pilgrims and wanderers?  The glory of God is intelligence isn’t it?  When slapped, turn your cheek and move on.  Service to your enemies and comfort to those who are weak.  Revenge is never the order of the day.
It all starts with the individual.  From there the example is powerful.  There is great hope in the world.  There is great possibility of potential.  Why are we focused on fear?  Why not look to the future?  Fear only cripples.
Inside the world, in my own personal life, there is much to look forward to.  I find in myself a growth and a bright outlook.  It all comes in the name of Amanda Hemsley for me.  Burton K Wheeler and Jared Diamond have been my meat recently.  Not to mention the studies of Iranian business deals and American history that have been my research.  There has been a constant barrage of information which have helped to temper me and my zeal.  Somehow though, the introduction of another who is to be considered as yourself changes things drastically.  My vision has expanded not only of the world from her eyes but the view from my own.  It tempers the excitement of youth even more, but gives more drive for the future.  Somehow the clutch of individualism is disengaged and one finds themselves propelled faster and further along the road of life.  I am not even married yet!  The walk continues, but it is taking on new vistas.  I leave the Rocky Mountains with dizzying height and glamor to the more humble and open expanse of the plains.  It is not that there is less to see, nor is there less to experience.  It is just different.  The ecosystem is just as open, but a new road.  The anticipation is great.  Where will it take us?  How far will it take us?  Shall we circle the earth or walk slowly to Blair, Nebraska?  Either one, I am content.
She is most beautiful, captivating, and sublime.  I have not potential to describe the connection in those eyes and how far the warmth of her body seems to penetrate.  This world is definitely beyond the physical.  We don’t even know all the aspects of the physical, but already many doors are open for emotional and spiritual travel.
I found one of her hairs today.  It glistened and somehow represented something so far away.  It was only a memento that was obviously manifesting of her presence.  Yet she is so far away.  This part is not even living, but yet it speaks of her.  How many hairs in the world do I see, yet lose their true significance.  I have eyes but do not see.
Life is more than just me.  I focus on myself so much, everything revolves around my life, because that is me.  It is unavoidable.  But the greatest joys come in the life of others.  Burton K Wheeler’s experiences are now a part of my own.  His personality has become a part of mine.  While the stories and the times may melt, I have been changed and can clearly link it to him.  The same with Cecil D Andrus’ life.  On and on and on.  Oh if I could implore more people to record their lives and write their stories!  What I would not give to read the same of my ancestors.  My grandmother’s journal was a portal into another’s life.  However, that life is an extension of me.  While Brother Wheeler is far more removed, he is still a part of the country I now life, and that is part of me as well.  I was so sure to go out and define the world and change it according to my view.  I am coming to find out that the world has created much of what I am.  It has changed me.  It used to be such a negative view.  I always knew what needed to change and what I was to do.  Now it is the opposite.  What can I learn from it to apply in life.  I seek more and more.  Dismissing those which are of lesser quality and holding to those which are more true.
Is it any wonder we are exhorted to seek out knowledge.  It is the only thing that will save us.  Especially that knowledge which is most important.
Amanda came to visit over last weekend.  All my time with her is something to be cherished.  We learn so much from each other.  I learn so much from her.  She amazes me.  She is so pure and wonderful.  She makes me wish I was better, glad I receive her love, and yet honoured.  I love her and hope we will forever build upon that.  We are both just humble enough to learn from each other and to walk the path together.  As we grow, how much more sweeter can it possibly become?
Oh the nothingness of man.  God rules the nations and the earth inasmuch as we let him.  He oversees all and knows all things.  May we learn of him rather than to pontificate to the world what they should know.  There is so much to learn.  May I always be learning and seeking?  Rather than the one giving instruction.  Reminds me of Socrates always asking the questions rather than giving the answers.  Good night.