Saturday, February 27, 2010

Working Hard Versus Listening to Your Internal Critic

I've been busy the past few days setting up a new computer and it has taken me away from any entries or much writing. Now, when I just tried to post a blog from Word I had difficulty setting up my blogger account to work with it, so I'll have to figure that out. So for now, I'll just post it the regular old way. Maybe I'll decide that's better anyway. I don't know; I'll have to figure it out.

The comedian, Robin Williams, said something like doing more work isn't the solution. Instead, he said the answer is that your internal critic should be telling you that you could do better.

I guess that is so, but I'm pretty sure Robin Williams probably works harder and longer than many others do in his line of work. So, at the same time that you're the one critic tell you to do better, you also have to work harder.

I don't know if I like that solution. Maybe he didn't like it either. Personally, I think you can work really hard but that you also need a break from working hard, too. And definitely you have to listen to the internal critic, and, from my perspective, you also have to listen to the external critics you think you can believe and trust.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Free Will Versus Infallible Foreknowledge

There is a long-standing debate about free will and God's foreknowledge.

Intuitively, the two notions seem mutually exclusive, at least they did to me some twenty-five or more years ago when I first considered the matter and started contemplating it.

The whole issue was so bothersome to me --- becoming an issue of study, prayer, and serious contemplation --- that I did something unusual for me then or even for me now. I went to the University Library looking for something that would clarify the matter. I didn't know exactly what I was looking for, however, I knew that I wanted to find something that addressed the issue. But I also wanted something that had arisen within a context of my faith . In other words, I wanted someone with a similar background to mine to address the issue with a delicate, spiritual balance of faith and intellect. I wasn't that interested at that time in what philosophy professors might say about the subject. I wanted, if I could find it, an LDS point of view. I could deal later, I thought, with what philosophy professors and intellectuals said relative to the issue.

What I stumbled onto that day was an article by an individual I had never heard of before, Blake Ostler, an attorney who also dabbled in philosophy, but who was also a practicing, and as far as I could determine a faithful Mormon.

It was an article in a scholarly journal on Mormonism, one I had heard of before but had not ever seen or read: Dialogue, A Journal of Mormon Thought. The article was entitled "The Mormon Concept of God".

I read the article, took the journal to the copy machine and copied it, took it home and kept it, and subscribed to the journal, which subscription I have kept since that time. I even made a special purchase of the volume that the article contained, since my subscription was prospective and the volumes I would receive in the future after I took out my subscription would not include the volume with the subject article .

Most Mormons I know and those at the top of the heap of Mormons who control the church and lead it, believe God has infallible foreknowledge. Yet they also believe in free will, that is, that individuals have the right to choose without compunction. They believe the two notions --- God having infallible foreknowledge and individuals having free will --- are compatible.

They are want, however, as far as I have determined, to explain how that works. They just don't know; they just believe it's so without questioning it or having to explain it further. In fact, most of them think the exercise in doing so is a waste of time or believe that contemplating it and exploring it or expressing chagrin over their take of it is a manifestation of lack of faith, a contentious exercise.

Most of them believe that life isn't so much a test administered and graded by God for Him to see if we will do what is right or not, but rather is a test for ourselves to show how wonderfully magnificent or how totally awful we will do --- including, of course, every possible intermediary position. God doesn't need us to do it for Him; he already knows. God does it for us so that we gain insight into ourselves that he has and, apparently, always has had. (I can't imagine living without discovery and surprise; it seems like it would be so boring and unfulfilling.)

I suppose some of these members' concerns could have to do with the notion that if God is or can be surprised, he isn't really in total control and isn't, perhaps, the kind of God they want to worship or put their faith and trust in. Ironically, they will almost uniformly agree that God is bound by the very necessity of preserving free will, admitting that if God didn't permit free will to exist he would cease to be God. On the other hand, given their perception that God knows the future without flaw, there is no such thing as free will.

My dictionary defines free will as follows: The power, attributed especially to human beings, of making free choices that are unconstrained by external circumstances or by an agency such as fate or divine will.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Review Once Was Lost

All I could think about every time I considered Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost was the completion of the line with 'but now am found.' That title set up an expectation that her book never quite fulfilled but hinted at. Maybe there will be a sequel with that title. Nonetheless, the book didn't leave me at all dissatisfied for not having fulfilled the "being found" part, because the book left me with the distinct impression that Sam could find her her way, whatever it might be, wherever it might take her.

The book is about young teenage Samara Taylor --- Sam --- during a time that she justifiably felt lost. Her mother is an alcoholic who is committed to a rehab facility. Sam misses her mother. Sam's father is a pastor who in some ways acts very pastorally and in other ways seems and is just as incapacitated and irresponsible as his committed wife, maybe even more so. On top of all of that, there is a crisis of major proportions in the community --- a young teenage girl goes missing --- that impacts Sam and her father, the pastor, and everybody else. This mystery also propels the story forward.

Zarr's writing is subtle and sensitive. I was very impressed with her ability to create believable and realistic characters that weren't extreme or caricatures.

I am a sixty-one-year-old man who doesn't typically read in this genre or books written for this audience. Yet I didn't feel lost or like an alien reading the story and learning to better understand the mindset of its young female protagonist teenager.

Great job, Sara Zarr.

Matt Kirby recommended this book. His first published book, The Clockwork Three, will be released October 1, 2010.

Making Expression Less Taxing: A Freelancer's Tax Resource

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Where is your focus? Is it on the extraordinary? Or is it on the mundane?

And what do we define as extraordinary anyway? Also, how do we define mundane? Those seem to be extremes, outer limits, or close to it.

Again, there is always a range, it seems to me, a continuum. Isn't there? Things are not black and white, generally. Even total black can be represented in varying lighter shades. The purity of white can also be slightly tainted with fill over a range, too.

It seems to me, to recognize this --- that there is a range or a continuum --- is a higher degree of wisdom and insight than seeing things only as extremes.

Friday, February 12, 2010


Just how important is memory in the total scheme of things? Some might say it's very important; others say it's a blessing not to have a good memory. I believe my memory is quite poor, but perhaps I exaggerate. It seems like I just knew so many other people who had better memories in comparison to me in life's experience that it made me feel inept sometimes. In fact, quite early on in my college education I decided not to pursue a degree in chemistry because others seemed to have a better memory than me and therefore had to devote less time and effort to studying and still aced the tests.

I'm not sure abandoning chemistry as an occupation was such a bad deal. I ended up, through happenstance, doing a job I really enjoyed. I couldn't have stumbled into something more conducive to my nature than I did. And the job didn't particularly require much of a long-term memory. What I didn't know, I quickly learned I could look up and research. Part of the job involved analysis and creativity.

Memory is always helpful. When I'm writing creatively, like working on a novel for instance, it is helpful to remember what has happened many pages ago, to remember your characters, the nature of a scene, or the characteristics of your antagonist.

Monday, February 8, 2010

How Heavy Are Your Thoughts

It's not as if we could ever be static. That's not even a possibility. Even when we die, the atoms and molecules of our body are teeming with activity. Even when we're totally dissembled by maggots and the dissolution that we undergo over time after we die, there is still movement and activity. When we suggest that something is static, having no motion, we error. It's as simple as that. If you think about it, nothing is at total rest.

The monitor there before you as you work on your computer, or read this blog entry, maybe seems like it is static, but it's not in any true sense. If it's turned on, and if you're reading this it must be, there's a mass of organized electronic activity within it. Even if it were turned off, nothing of a material nature is without motion down at the subatomic level. All of being is in motion, relatively speaking.

On the other hand, what about the intangible? First of all, is there such a thing as something intangible, like thoughts and ideas? Or are they simply an assemblage of the tangible in some inconceivable way that we don't comprehend or understand?

Heavy thoughts. --- note how we even make tangible our thoughts, calling them 'heavy.' No less heavy, though, than the idea that "in today walks tomorrow," as Samuel Taylor Coleridge said.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Fiction Is Absolutely True

I recently completed reading The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. Kudos to him.

I hope someday I can to some degree and in some small measure convey the nature of my culture and geography as well as I think he does in his book about a boy living on an Indian reservation but going off the reservation to go to school.

Sure, the story he tells of Junior is a fiction. In some measure all of life is fictitious, all caught up in our imagination and fantasy. Fiction or not, however, the truth seems to shine through the best works of literature.