Sunday, December 11, 2016

Looking Back to Look Ahead

It has been months. It feels wrong to say that. I haven't written and I don't know why. I feel like routine has run my life and I have become what I hate - people that live to work and not the other way around. What I do is not something I love either. It has a purpose and I do my best to help the best way I can. I want to make a difference but in the end, the work I do can feel mundane, rote, and that I am no longer challenged any more. These feelings are what have prompted me to make a move to a new role where I can share what I learned and again learn something new with a chance to reinvent myself. I am moving to California and with that process I was able to learn something.

In my life I have found value in remembering. It is powerful to take time to meditate and reflect and learn from what you have done and experienced. I often do it days or weeks after events that have passed while they are still fresh in my mind. This is a sharp contrast from time I have spent recently going through old papers and notes that I found scattered among my belongings. Purging can have the effect of finding lost memories which was definitely the case in this situation.

As I was sorting through my things, I found notes and pictures from past relationships. I found a small envelope of pictures of my ex-fiancé and handwritten notes that she had sent me. As I looked on those pictures, I saw the face of someone I loved so much yet felt nothing as the years had passed. And all it took was reading her words to have those walls I had built to come crashing down. I had told myself many different things over those years...

"She simply fell out of love with you. Distance killed your relationship. There was nothing you could have done."
"She never really loved you the same way that you loved her. You simply were someone God put in her path to help her overcome what she was going through."
"Forgive her. Forgive yourself. Forgive and forget them all. You will heal and the scars that are left will be filled with new and happier memories."
"Each relationship is different. You won't feel that way again and that isn't a bad thing. It will simply be a different kind of love."

After rereading what she had written, I realized that I simply had told myself what I needed to hear in order to survive as time passed. I could see that she truly had loved me for a time and the experiences that we shared when we were together were real. They simply were fleeting. I then found other notes that I had gotten in the ward I had moved to shortly after going through the ordeal of breaking off my engagement. Our congregation had a habit of coming together for a group prayer each Sunday and following that, socialize for a bit and write each other "nice notes." These were short little notes you could put onto a scrap of paper that were in turn hand delivered to each apartment. Immediately after this incredibly painful experience, I had turned to God and I had thrived through filling my time with service...

"Thank you for always striving to be a happy person who makes others happy too! I love that about you! Good luck with finals and know that you are welcome anytime!"
"I will never not think you are wonderful."
"Remember when we went to Macy's that one night and I had a laugh attack in your car? Let's do that again one day. Love you SO MUCH."

Remember. When did I become a cynic? When did I lose myself along the way? Remembering does a few different things: helps you count your blessings and see the things that you have overcome and faced along the way but it also helps you see what you wanted to become and re-center yourself. I used to be a REALLY good home teacher. I was more than that - I tried to become someone's friend. I found happiness in helping people and I felt like I genuinely was helping. What happened? I had passions and discovered shortly after what I wanted to do for a career. Now I am simply doing a 8-5 in a completely different and unrelated field. Again begs the question, what happened?

And what can I do differently? Rome wasn't built in a day and there are lots of great things happening in my life but if I really want to change things, what steps can I take to begin the process without tipping the boat too much. It will be interesting to see what happens in the next few months, if not in the next year! Dating? Living situation? Career? God knows but I will certainly be surprised.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Introverts - Not Shy, Simply Dialed-In

People are everywhere. We move together, around each other, through crowds and masses of people, and over time we see where our choices have brought us. If we aren't careful, we will see that our feet will have brought us to places not of our own design. Our present state is the summation of decisions that have brought us here and if we simply follow the flow of our lives, we will find the smooth edges and the paths that open below our feet.

When I walk into a room, I have the feeling to look around and survey my surroundings, to listen to the sounds, to feel the rhythm or pace, and to look at the people as they move around and interact. It takes a few moments for me to feel the underlying current before I take the full dive into the space. Some of these people feel like obstacles and others there is an immediate connection. Still, those connections are real and have an energy to them.

When we look for connection, we have to be willing to be open to all responses. We are feeling. It doesn't matter if it is pain, belonging, or anything in between. Extroverts thrive off the energy of a room itself or through creating that energy. It is the mass, size and quantity that fuels them rather than introverts, like myself, who thrive off listening, feeling out that energy, and having intimate and personal conversations. Crowds are sensory overloads for introverts - candles trying to stay lit in a storm of noise. And because I am an introvert doesn't mean that I am necessarily shy but simply dialed-in.

I feel like this is why I thrive off of personal connections - one-on-one conversations, small groups of people, and hearing what drives people's motivations, their passions, and their dreams. These are the types of things that bring meaning to life. It replaces bland routine with spice and with flavor. It is like our personal callings that fill our lives with a light that cannot be hid.

All you have to do is look and listen. There is beauty in every soul trying to express itself and escape the reality in which we cage ourselves. So what can an introvert do in a world that demands that they make a stand and speak loudly? We pick our battles. I demand brutal honesty. I ask for genuine vulnerability. I ask for personal expression. I want to know what you feel and why. In the meantime, I will be willing to say what others don't have the courage to say when they don't have a voice.

Other people can be afraid of what people might think when they will never know because they fail or forget to ask. Life is unbelievably short. It is fragile and fleeting at times. This is what makes our experiences so special and memorable. This is why it is hard to describe what our passions are or what love is. Those feelings are intimate in their very nature but that is the very reason they need to be expressed. Without realizing and knowing that you are loved or that someone has accepted you and your love, life can feel relatively meaningless.

When we think about our lives, we relive the past. We look through the lens of our memories and remember the things we saw, the people we met, but mostly how we felt. Why not live in that? Why not see our lives, see our selves and see everyone else as we might be? Why not look for that potential? Why did we stop dreaming to start living instead of the other way around? It gives a new perspective to the idea that we might all be giants.

What would happen if you started to believe in yourself and stopped measuring yourself? If you would stop holding yourself short and simply took the step, what is the worst that could happen - failure? No - failure happens when we quit. When we stop trying and believing, this is when we fail.

So how can we change the world? How can we push to make it better? It starts with belief. It grows with love. It burns brightly with passion. And it is made by individuals. Take joy in the journey because when you are willing to be authentic, the destination will take care of itself.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

What is a prophet?

Today was another interesting day at the congregation I go to in Boston. I showed up a little late and ended up arriving half way through Priesthood. The lesson was from the Teachings of the Prophets and when I arrived the discussion had drifted to how the prophets are just men and that they err just like we do and how they need to catch up with society. Whatever the prophetic teaching, I was sure the original lesson wasn't that.

Let me back up...

My ward is made up of Harvard and other Ivy League graduate students. These men and women are intellectual superpowers. They go to universities that sell that message and they themselves believe in it. They believe that they are better and smarter than anyone else. I saw it before at different conferences with my MBA program. I have seen it again in quorum at church. There is a perspective that there are different levels of individuals who are considered peers and those that do not understand. The reason for a separation between the different groups was the differing levels of understanding.

The sad thing is that no one really understands everything. It always feels like one big intellectual contest. In previous congregations I had gone to before, the contest was a physical one. Men would compete with other single men and they might as well as lived in caves and carried clubs. I don't care for either of these types of confrontations, especially since the reason I am going is to strengthen my faith in Christ.

It is a paradox because as much as these people claimed to know and understand in terms of their faith, they really only could define doctrine. Once they felt like they understood that they would want to dive into something deeper but they weren't prepared. We don't understand the basic principles of the gospel well enough, like faith, or even have any faith to be more honest. They only had fear. They were afraid that people may understand there were things that they did not know. They were afraid of their own doubts. In all reality, they understood very little.
"Faith is a house with many rooms."
"But no room for doubt?"
"Oh plenty, on every floor. Doubt is useful. It keeps faith a living thing. After all, you cannot know the strength of your faith until it is tested (Life of Pi)."
They simply did not understand that having questions is good thing... Wonderful in fact. The issue with the questions they had were that they were questioning God. Their pride had put them in a place were they not only felt that they were above their fellow man but above God himself. They shouldn't confuse themselves into believing that they knew more or better about how the world works than the being that created it. Society can believe whatever they want but for those of us that know better, for those of us that know there is a God and know that He lives... for us, I know that God sent His Son, Jesus Christ to not only fulfill the law of sacrifice and atone for the sins of the world, but as a loving Father in Heaven, He has given us prophets to guide us in our modern day.

As men, prophets are people. They form a quorum of disciples of differing opinions and beliefs. They even disagree from time to time on how to lead and guide the Church. The part that many people forget is that in all reality, they are not the ones to decide where the Church goes. They are simply the mouthpieces and the tools God uses because as His children, we simply don't have faith enough to walk with Him and be taught from Him directly. And even if we were able, He would still use prophets to direct His church as a whole because that is how He has always done things during our mortal experience.

Once prophets have completed meditating and pondering as we do in order to receive inspiration, they pray together after debating and deliberating what the Church should do in regards to any given subject. Once a prophet speaks in the office in which he is called to, they speak in unanimity as a quorum and they speak in behalf of God.

People always seem to become afraid because they are unwillingly to accept there are things that they do not understand. They rely on science as fact when in all reality true science continues to question itself all the time. Science is evolving and changing throughout time. What is an atom? What is it made of? Science has changed its mind on this time and time again as its perspective deepens and expands. Science is more like faith and religion than what most people are willing to admit. There are facts that have always been true. This is why faith is a form of courage. It is a form of strength.

When people question the prophets, they forget that they are questioning God, the one perfected being that knows all things in the universe. They forget the parables and the prophesies. They forget that it is because the Jews looked beyond the mark and lost their testimonies, forgot their covenants, and went the way of the world that they crucified their own Messiah. It is our pride that moves us in the Parable of the Ten Virgins from one of the prepared to one of the preoccupied. Remember who you are and remember that God has not forgotten you. He has prepared you and given you everything you need to become who you need to become. A prophet of God is one of those things that you need in order to reach your divine potential.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

What is Greed?

I was driving into work today and there was an interesting question that had been posed on a local radio station. They were talking about the large pay differential between CEOs and common laborers. One side was crying outrage! There should be more transparency in wages and more equality. The viewpoint was equally loud in saying that CEOs are indispensable. They provide direction, strategy, create the culture, etc. Without a solid leader the whole thing falls apart into anarchy. There is no "thing" without the workers to give it life. Both sides are correct but that doesn't end the conversation on what is right and what is wrong. How much can or should a CEO be paid?

Then a CEO called in from a small iron working corporation. He made a six-figure salary and the next highest paid individual only made 62.5% as much as he did. His strategy was to employ profit sharing. Everyone does get a base salary but profit sharing allows everyone to get paid more when the company performs better and the opposite is also true. It gives everyone skin in the game so to speak. It is a good way to approach the problem head on but then another caller voiced a question that readdressed what the real problem was entirely: "Wages aren't the real problem but a lack of accountability and mismanagement of funds by our government. Where do my taxes really go? Even if I get a better paying job, does that money really help anyone when it goes to taxes?"

Are our roads getting fixed? Why does my money go to welfare when welfare is being currently treated as a regular source of income when it was designed to be a transitional supplement that helps individuals to get by until they get back into the workforce? How much of the issue is the "1%"-ers versus our public representatives and public servants? Is the issue the system or is it human nature? And if it is human nature, how does one really define greed? Is it a bad thing or a good thing?

Morally, greed is a bad thing. Greed isn't necessarily all about money. It isn't defined as people who make x amount of money. There is no specific benchmark. So if it isn't inherently the money that is the issue, what is the issue? I believe that greed is bad because it is the inherently selfish motivation to accumulate resources of any kind. It is sole desire to need more. We need resources so we can have additional options or to increase our ability to choose. More resources allow for more freedoms. These resources include money, time, skills, etc. So are all CEOs greedy people? No. Is an inherent competitive desire to be better necessary to be a good CEO? Probably. Better than whom? Other people? Ourselves? Our past? Everyone? I feel like someone who is trying to provide for others, whether that is their family or their country or their employees, is someone who is the very opposite of greedy. Charity is about giving. Someone who honestly wants to help and serve people, regardless of their wealth, is not greedy.

Mathematically, greed can be defined in a way... Greed is exponential. It is about pursuing a maximum limit. It is about having more than anyone else. Greed is about gaining x without choosing to give away y. Charity is about choosing to give away y regardless of the value of x. Greed is selfish and charity is selfless. So what is the nature of our government? What is your nature? Who are you? What are you? It is something to think about because our desires are what guide our growth and our natures.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

The Science of Faith

I haven't been blogging for a while which has been unfortunate. I like writing but I have been distracted lately. I have been trying to focus on work. I have been starting and finishing a new blog about a hobby of mine. I have been trying to create some resemblance to a social life and hopefully dating life (unsuccessfully I might add). In short, I have been making myself busy. Even when these periods of my life tend to happen, I can always make time to appreciate things that are a priority to me, like my faith. The most recent conversation about it surprisingly wasn't at work but on social media and so I hoped to share it.

One of my friends recently had been going through similar struggles as myself in terms of dating. She had been really connecting with someone and then when they discussed her faith and her standards, that special someone disappeared. Frustrating - I know. So her friends responded to her post by asking two distinct questions:
  • Would you date people outside of your religion? If so, under what (if any) circumstances?
  • Don't you have to marry someone who shares your faith?
Great questions. So my friend responded to the first question of course and I decided to help her out and respond to the second question. I said:
"The keyword is 'should' simply because in marriage if you decide to have a family, it's easier to raise kids with a single standard or belief system instead of multiple. Also, you can get married in a LDS temple which is cool."
This is where my conversation started. One of her other friends (we all have that one friend that can't leave well enough alone...) continued to go back and forth about this subject with me and for simplicity sake I am simply going to copy and paste the dialogue, as follows:
"What about raising children who decide what it is they believe on their own? The stigma is more of Christianity in general, and even greater for the LDS church."
I respond...
"My parents did that and that's actually what our faith promotes us to do... We believe in personal revelation and fostering an individual relationship with both God and Christ. 
"My comment was more directed at the idea that beforehand it is helpful to have some kind of foundation or starting point. Socially, psychologically and religiously, I'd think that it's beneficial for anyone, but especially children, to start with some sort of foundation instead of simply pushing them into the deep end of the pool and saying figure it out by yourself because mommy and daddy don't know either - we disagree.

"I feel personally that doesn't inspire either faith or hope when I think there is an opportunity for a lot of both in this world."
 He rebuttles...
"But right there you mention Christ, and as a Jew, it is important for me that my children don't grow up with my input or parental input about Christ, or any other proclaimed deity, as a deity. I grew up in this way and have come to disagree. It took years to shake. All because I accepted it as truth because my mother told me it as the truth, when it is actually just a belief. It cannot be proven or disproven. Teaching a child that he should believe a certain way, and that Christ is most certainly God, is inherently wrong and destructive.
"But I respect that you believe that Jesus is Christ. Like I disagree but respect its you disagree with my helix but that's cool. But we have to respect each other's beliefs as beliefs and not as facts. Christian churches as have not developed a reputation of doing so."
 Back pedaling to avoid filling my friend's wall with a personal conversation... 
"Please don't misunderstand me. I didn't say that parents aught to tell their children they should believe or worship in a specific way and only that way is correct. I said that they aught to promote faith, hope, and that there is a higher power.

"I believe in God. I believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. My parents pointed me in a direction but they didn't force or push. They simply invited and then allowed me to explore. I feel that everyone has that right and in so doing has the right to disagree as well. For a family and in terms of dating with the hopes of marriage, shared beliefs simply make the process more smooth."
He responds...
"I agree with that. It makes it easier if parents share faith, but to me it's equal if parents agree on how to raise a child." 
I wasn't a huge fan of his "facts" comment so I responded...

"And what is a 'fact' really? Science is made up of 'facts' but facts change. Reality hasn't changed just the amount of information we now have or in the way our perspective or viewpoints have altered.

"For you, your perspective defines the 'facts' that make up your VIEW of reality... As do mine. Hence the reason, why political and religious conversations are so much fun.
"It's nighttime and that's a fact... Where I'm at. But somewhere else it is daytime. In either place, the sun still exists and burns as brightly but our perspectives alter our view of it."
He tries to come back at me one last time...
"Well a fact is true whether you believe it or not. It can be shown and observed through experience or record. Jesus simply lacks science. I have my own Personal view on the Bible, God, Jesus etc. Your helix is just as personal.
"Ya that's not really the same thing."
And I finish it up by simply bearing testimony...

"Facts and truth are not the same -science is a clear example of it actually.

"Through observation and experience, scientific facts pointed to a variety of different models for the structure of an atom or the nature of our solar system. It continues to change even today with new technology that is invented all the time that continue to expand our perspective and ability to see new things. So all those 'facts' and 'science' are actually theories or models of how we can rationalize or explain things until our vision can be further expanded.

"Interesting though that in that practical definition of science - a series of theories or models of how we can rationalize or explain things until our vision can be further expanded - sounds a lot more like religion than most people are willing to admit. Both allow greater insight as an individual continues to study it and question it. Blind belief does no one any good.

"I am a big believer in science. I have a background in mechanical and biomedical engineering. The human body and many other aspects of science do nothing more than deepen and strengthen my faith in my God, the more I study it and learn about how it works and functions. Divine design is all around you. The probability alone of all these interconnected parts that sustain life is miraculous in its very nature."

The point I am trying to make is that God is not new. God is truth. Whether you call Him by the name of Jehovah, Elohim, Allah, The All, or any other conception of a Supreme Being, there is a higher power. We have the opportunity to come to know Him. In fact, we have the ability to become like Him. He is our Father in Heaven so as we learn more about Him, we are also learning more about ourselves. Science is a little slow but it will eventually catch up to the truth.

Think about what an atheist is describing when they refer to the Big Bang Theory... All matter and all "creation" came from a single explosion or expansion of matter. It is simply another perspective on the same event we are describing during the Creation. All matter was organized during an event (or series of events) caused by a single force (or entity - which is God). We all use different lingo and fight over vernacular but in all reality, we are all talking about the same thing.

Faith and science are truly the same as they are the search for the ultimate truth.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Make Me Feel Okay

When we think of people, we can think of them as either aggregate groups or lots of individuals. I feel like we tend to identify a little of both. The personalities that stand out clearly become the individuals and everyone else fades to the background. Those groups are created around various titles or classifications. It is only natural because there is only so much data or information we can process at one time however, what are the implications of that choice?

I have been on both sides of this coin. I have been both hidden in the background as well as the individual. There is a specific role that straddles those at the same time and it is the validator. So who exactly is the validator? When people begin to question themselves, the way people view them, the classifications that are assigned to us, many times we want to be seen in a specific way and that doesn't always come across or isn't communicated effectively so the validator is the friend or person who helps you clearly identify who you are in the crowd time and time again.

I am friends with a girl who I have known for years. Throughout our relationship, she has dated many different men/boys. When things get rough, she knows she can count on me to validate who she is. Regardless of whatever her question is... How illogical or emotionally selfish or selfless she is acting... I am able to clearly provide a path that will help her with her problems and she will consistently choose to ignore it or even more commonly do the exact opposite. She clearly isn't listening and doesn't care about my advice so why talk with me at all?

It is because of how I make her feel.

Even when the men she dates treat her like scum, she can rely on me to pick her back up and brush her off and make her feel shiny and new. Why? Because she is relying on other people to make her feel wanted and to value her which influences her own sense of self-worth.

Is it healthy?


Am I constant?


So if I was to create a visual to personify the role of a validator it would be a warm blanket. The world has turned cold and you seem to have forgotten who you are. You pull the warm blanket out of the closet and wrap yourself up in it until you start to feel warm and then you put it aside. The validator makes the cold feel okay.

"It's okay... Don't worry. You are stronger than you know."

The problem is that if someone doesn't realize that they are the validator, this back and forth happens again and again. Eventually it stops. The person doesn't need the validator any more because they found the warmth they were seeking from someone else and the validator is forgotten. It is discarded. In simplest terms, it is no longer needed or necessary. Even if the validator surprises everyone and leaves, it only ever becomes necessary but never desired or wanted.

Someone wrote a description of this animation that fits perfectly. She said, "I think he's so in love with her but she's not his to have. That's why she's a sketch. When she finally loves him back to the extent he loves her, she becomes more than a sketch but he leaves because she's too late to realize how much he cared." Love, like all emotions, is a choice. People don't want to fall in love because there is no way to know if the other person is going to try. We don't want to get lost in our passion and emotions to find out it was only in our minds. True love is only given, never earned or bought. It is quite literally a gift.

The irony is that you simply can't choose who gives it to you or when.

It is sad how many people find themselves in this struggle because both feel the need to be loved and to love. There is only one place where we can always turn to find it but we have to learn how to feel it. It is through the Holy Spirit. It is God's perfect love. It validates who you are. It helps you feel that you are not alone or abandoned. It is constant. It is eternal. It is ours to find and only we can find it. No one can give it to us. You are perfect in God's eyes because He can see the perfection in the imperfection. He sees us not as we are but as who we can become. We simply need to pray for His sight and His strength.