Saturday, December 26, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

When on my day of life the night is falling,
And, in the winds from unsunned spaces blown,
I hear far voices out of darkness calling
My feet to paths unknown,

Thou who hast made my home of life so pleasant
Leave not its tenant when its walls decay;
O Love Divine, O Helper ever-present,
Be Thou my strength and stay!

Be near me when all else is from me drifting;
Earth, sky, home's pictures, days of shade and shine,
And kindly faces to my own uplifting
The love that answers mine.

I have but Thee, my Father! let Thy spirit
Be with me then to comfort and uphold;
No gate of pearl, no branch of palm I merit,
Nor street of shining gold.

Suffice it if -- my good and ill unreckoned,
And both forgiven through Thy abounding grace --
I find myself by hands familiar beckoned
Unto my fitting place.
... John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892)

President Marion G. Romney, who served as a counselor to President Spencer W. Kimball, is a wonderful example of someone who asks faithful questions. I particularly want to share an account of how President Romney responded when his wife, Ida, suffered a stroke in early 1967. She lay in the hospital for weeks giving no sign that she recognized President Romney when he visited.

During this period, following priesthood blessings, fasting, prayer and nevertheless a continued worsening of Ida's condition, President Romney's response was one of great reticence to counsel the Lord. If His will was to take her, President Romney did not want to pray for something else. And yet, he had said on numerous occasions about his wife "She is the best part of me. I could never carry on alone."

He searched the scriptures and fasted to develop his faith and learn how to demonstrate it to the Lord. He didn't directly ask the Lord to heal his wife, though this was never far from his heart. Rather, he worried whether he had the right to ask for this blessing. He observed that the Lord hadn't healed President McKay who was very ill. "He hasn't healed others who are in as great a need as I," he said. "Who am I to ask for a blessing? Why should the Lord answer my prayers?'" (p.140)

He struggled with this internal conflict for some time, continuing to read, to pray, and to fast. One evening, shortly after returning from a visit to Ida in the hospital where he had found her unchanged, he went to the Book of Mormon and began to read. He read in the Book of Helaman about the prophet Nephi who had been falsely condemned as he sought to teach the people. A particular passage in this account touched his heart more than he had ever felt before. The scripture read

"Blessed art thou, Nephi, for those things which thou hast done; for I have beheld how thou hast with unwearyingness declared the word, which I have given unto thee, unto this people. And thou hast not feared them, and hast not sought thine own life, but hast sought my will, and to keep my commandments.
And now, because thou hast done this with such unwearyingness, behold, I will bless thee forever; and I will make thee mighty in word and in deed, in faith and in works; yea, even that all things shall be done unto thee according to thy word, for thou shalt not ask that which is contrary to my will." (Hel. 10:4-5)

President Romney felt personal confirmation that the Lord accepted him. He felt that by "refusing to ask a special favor without first ascertaining the will of the Lord he had unknowingly demonstrated the quality of his faith." He knew that his faith had not been found wanting. Brother Howard writes: "With awe, [President Romney] fell to his knees. The scripture was the direct answer to many prayers. More than anything else he wanted to know the Lord's will for Ida. He was willing to let her go or if need be he would care for her in whatever condition the Lord wanted her to be in. As he concluded his prayer with the phrase 'thy will be done,' he seemed to feel or hear a voice which said "it is not contrary to my will that Ida be healed." (pp. 141-142)

Quickly he put on his coat and tie and went to the hospital. Arriving there at 3:00 am, he entered her room and placed his hands upon her head. Brother Howard records what happened next. "She didn't move or give any sign of recognition. He then invoked the power of the priesthood and pronounced a simple blessing upon her, uttering the incredible promise that she would recover her health and mental powers and yet perform a great mission upon the earth. Even though he did not doubt, [President Romney] was astonished to see Ida's eyes open as he concluded the blessing. He sat down on the bed and listened to her frail voice ask 'for goodness sakes Marion what are you doing here?' In total surprise he responded 'Ida how are you?' With a flash of humor which showed that she was not totally unaware of her circumstances, Ida Romney replied 'Compared to what Marion, compared to what?'" (p. 142) Thereafter, Ida recovered fully and miraculously.
--Marion G. Romney, His Life and Faith, Bookcraft, F. Burton Howard, 1988.

today's moments in history: the sepoy mutiny

I'll never forgive myself for the Sepoy Mutiny, whose cause ranks as the most insensitive act of cultural imperialism ever committed by the usual suspects, i.e., Anglo-Saxons. In 1857, the new Enfield rifles that England distributed to her native Indian troops (sepoys) required greased cartridges. The manufacturer was supposed to use mutton fat, but to save money had used instead the cheaper fat of cows and pigs. Since every sepoy soldier was either a Hindu or a Moslem, certain defilement awaited any man who so much as touched an ammo box. Do you wonder that I can't sleep?
--Florence King

Saturday, December 19, 2009

"Truth would quickly cease to be stranger than fiction, once we got as used to it."
--H.L. Mencken

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

It seems as if every week somebody comes up with a study that shows the number of people who will die from exposure to second-hand smoke, or from some obscure chemical present in vanishingly small amounts in the air or water, or from who knows what, unless the government imposes some tiresome measure they've dreamed up. I've often wondered how they manage to make those calculations and where their information comes from.

However, I don't have any problem at all believing that lower income causes you to die sooner. Numerous studies have shown that life span and mortality rates are directly correlated with average income levels. The higher the income, the longer people live, and vice versa. So it follows that any measure taken by the state that lowers income will shorten life spans and kill an undetermined number of people.

These days you have to file an environmental impact statement for just about any kind of project that involves breaking ground, estimating the environmental damage it will cause. Why not require the state to file an economic impact statement estimating the number of Americans a new tax or regulation will kill?
--David Wright


grade the speech

[H]ere we come to what was for me the most revolting part of [Obama's Nobel Peace Prize acceptance]speech. And perhaps the most significant too. All the cant about America's altruism and "enlightened self-interest" in killing millions of people...was just par for the rhetorical course. But I don't think an American president has so openly and directly traduced the work of Martin Luther King Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi before. (And to do it while accepting the Nobel Peace Prize, no less! Oh, that sublime brass....)His words about King and Gandhi drip with scorn and condescension.

"I make this statement [about the moral justification for war] mindful of what Martin Luther King said in this same ceremony years ago: 'Violence never brings permanent peace. It solves no social problem: It merely creates new and more complicated ones.' As someone who stands here as a direct consequence of Dr. King's life's work, I am living testimony to the moral force of non-violence. I know there is nothing weak, nothing passive, nothing naive in the creed and lives of Gandhi and King.

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is."

Here, Obama indulges in a trope that is pandemic among his apologists: the idea that he was somehow forced to become the head of a militarist state waging endless war around the world, that he has somehow woken up and found himself "the Commander-in-Chief of a nation in the midst of two wars." But of course he chose to pursue this kind of power in this kind of system--chose it, pursued it, fought like hell to win it. It's what he wanted.

He then goes on to give the lie to his previously stated admiration for Gandhi and King: "A nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies. Negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." Thus, King, Gandhi and any practitioner of non-violent resistance to evil are, ultimately, naive, ineffectual--weak.

Are the American people now threatened by Hitler's armies? Are al-Qaeda's paltry forces--less than 100 of them in Afghanistan, according to Obama's own war-wagers--the equal of Hitler's armies of millions of men?

But there is a deeper untruth beyond these cheap rhetorical tricks. For it is blatantly untrue to say that "a nonviolent movement could not have halted Hitler's armies." First of all, one cannot make that statement because this approach was never tried. Doubtless it would have cost millions of lives; but as Gandhi himself pointed out, the violent resistance to Hitler's armies also cost tens of millions of lives.

But Obama's formulation--a hackneyed one indeed--only deals with one view of non-violent resistance to Hitler: i.e., from the outside, resisting his armies as they poured across the borders. There is another way in which a non-violent resistance movement without any doubt could have "halted Hitler's armies": if it had taken root and spread throughout Germany itself, including among the armed forces and its supporting industries.

In the event, this did not happen. But it was not, and is not, an impossibility for humankind to pursue such an approach. Therefore it is fatuous and false to state what cannot possibly be known: whether non-violent resistance would have thwarted Nazism, and whether this would have been more or less costly than the way of violence.

Similarly, it is false to say that "negotiations cannot convince al-Qaeda's leaders to lay down their arms." The only response to this bald statement is: How do you know? Has anybody tried it? No. Therefore you cannot call it an impossibility--and then use this supposed, untested "impossibility" as your justification for laying waste to whole nations.

But of course this is precisely what Gandhi did: he sat down and negotiated with the representatives of an empire that had caused the deaths of millions of his own people. He negotiated with them in good faith, with good will, despite what they had done and were doing to his people--and despite the fact that many of his interlocutors, such as Winston Churchill, hated him with a blind, racist fury. And he was successful--although again, not without cost, both before and after the liberation. But Gandhi, and King, knew the costs of non-violence–because they were genuinely savvy, and genuinely realistic about the nature of evil.
--Chris Floyd

watch that face

Tony Blair, visiting lecturer at Yale Divinity School

As one of his illustrious countrymen once put it: "Murder, though it have no tongue, will speak with most miraculous organ."

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Letter to a Funeral Parlor

Dear Sir,

I am writing to you to object to the word cremains, which was used by your representative when he met with my mother and me two days after my father's death.

We had no objection to your representative, personally, who was respectful and friendly and dealt with us in a sensitive way. He did not try to sell us an expensive urn, for instance.

What startled and disturbed us was the word cremains. You in the business must have invented this word and you are used to it. We the public do not hear it very often. We don't lose a close friend or a family member very many times in our life, and years pass in between, if we are lucky. Even less often do we have to discuss what is to be done with a family member or close friend after their death.

We noticed that before the death of my father you and your representative used the words loved one to refer to him. That was comfortable for us, even if the ways in which we loved him were complicated.

Then we were sitting there in our chairs in the living room trying not to weep in front of your representative, who was opposite us on the sofa, and we were very tired first from sitting up with my father, and then from worrying about whether he was comfortable as he was dying, and then from worrying about where he might be now that he was dead, and your representative referred to him as "the cremains."

At first we did not even know what he meant. Then, when we realized, we were frankly upset. Cremains sounds like something invented as a milk substitute in coffee, like Cremora, or Coffee-mate. Or it sounds like some kind of a chipped beef dish.

As one who works with words for a living, I must say that any invented word, like Porta Potti or pooper-scooper, has a cheerful or even jovial ring to it that I don't think you really intended when you invented the word cremains. In fact, my father himself, who was a professor of English and is now being called the cremains, would have pointed out to you the alliteration in Porta Potti and the rhyme in pooper-scooper. Then he would have told you that cremains falls into the same category as brunch and is known as a portmanteau word.

There is nothing wrong with inventing words, especially in a business. But a grieving family is not prepared for this one. We are not even used to our loved one being gone. You could very well continue to employ the term ashes. We are used to it from the Bible, and are even comforted by it. We would not misunderstand. We would know that these ashes are not like the ashes in a fireplace.

Yours sincerely.

Lydia Davis

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

An episode from the life of William James captures the problem well. He had been given charge of a turtle's heart for a popular lecture on physiology by one of his Harvard Medical School professors. The lecturer was demonstrating that the heart would pulsate when certain of its nerves were stimulated, and the pulsations were projected onto a screen at Sanders Theatre. Halfway through the lecture, James realized the heart was not responding, so he took it upon himslef, in a sudden and almost automatic response to the emergency, to make the proper motions on the screen by manipulating his forefinger such that the audience would not fail to gain a true understanding of the heart's physiology. Writing many year later-in a final essay on psychical research that was centrally about the balance of fraud and faith in what we can know-James admits that such simulation could be disdained as shameless cheating. Had he acted otherwise, however, the audience would have been cheated of an understanding of physiology. His forefinger had performed humbug in the service of understanding.
--from John Durham, Speaking into the Air

Church News: LDS Youth Gets Brief Posthumous Brush with Celebrity

Church News caption: President Barack Obama, right, salutes as an Army carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Church member Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base, Del., on Oct. 29.

What's more, according to the News, "An Associated Press photo of Brother Griffin's flag-draped coffin being saluted by President Barack Obama at Dover Air Force Base was circulated by news agencies across the country."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

late (heart) breaking news

Bryant Gumbel to Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner in an interview during the 2000 presidential race: “In a macropolitical sense, do you think the Gore preoccupation with morality is a frightening turn for the [Democratic] party?”

Lot's Wife

And the just man trailed God's shining agent,
over a black mountain, in his giant track,
while a restless voice kept harrying his woman:
"It's not too late, you can still look back

at the red towers of your native Sodom,
the square where once you sang, the spinning-shed,
at the empty windows set in the tall house
where sons and daughters blessed your marriage-bed."

A single glance: a sudden dart of pain
stitching her eyes before she made a sound . . .
Her body flaked into transparent salt,
and her swift legs rooted to the ground.

Who will grieve for this woman? Does she not seem
too insignificant for our concern?
Yet in my heart I never will deny her,
who suffered death because she chose to turn.
--Anna Akhmatova

mistakes were made

Believe it or not, this phrase has its own entry in Wikipedia. Political consultant William Schneider suggested that this usage be referred to as the "past exonerative" tense.

The cause of much contemporary misery in Western countries - criminality, domestic violence, drug addiction, aggressive youths, hooliganism, broken families - is the nihilistic, decadent and/or self-destructive behaviour of people who do not know how to live. Both the smoothing over of this behaviour, and the medicalization of the problems that emerge as a corollary of this behaviour, are forms of indifference. Someone has to tell those people, patiently and with understanding for the particulars of the case, that they have to live differently.
--Anthony Daniels

No doubt a Soviet military conquest would have brought about a swifter and much more complete Sovietisation than did the crumbling of the Soviet Union; but there is no doubt that in the realm of practical reason the Soviet Union won the Cold War hands down, at least in Britain.
Who would have guessed that, within fewer than twenty years, the British would be more comprehensively surveyed as they went about their daily business than the poor Soviets ever were? That, once they stepped outside the confines of their house, almost all that they did would be photographically recorded? Attending murder trials as I do from time to time as an expert witness, I am astonished by how many of the movements of the accused (and of other witnesses) are recorded on video cameras, for production if necessary at some time in the future. We now live our public lives entirely on camera; every person in the country has his Boswell which is the surveillance camera.

Who would have thought, at the downfall of the Berlin Wall, that a British government would seriously consider recording all telephone calls and monitoring the use of the Internet by all citizens? Who would have thought that it would even dare propose that a centralised dossier on each and every child in the country should be kept? Who would have thought that it would likewise propose an identity card system that enabled the recording of untold information about each and every person, and what is more propose to charge the citizen for the privilege of being thus spied upon? Who would have thought it would have run advertising campaigns to ask citizens to denounce one another if they thought they were cheating on social security, thus introducing into Britain what might be called the Pavlik Morozov conception of truth-telling?

Not unconnected with this is the constantly-changing langue de bois, or Newspeak, used by the hierarchy of almost all public institutions, to disguise the reality of what is actually happening. Words no longer have any tolerably fixed meaning, but must always be construed in their dialectical sense. Experience has taught me, for example, that when the chief executive of an NHS institution says, ‘I am passionately committed to x’ he means, x is about to be disbanded or closed down, and about time too.
An atmosphere of fear now stalks the land: people are reluctant to speak their minds, even if what is in their minds is by no means outrageous. Whole subjects, some of them of great national importance, are now beyond the pale of acceptable discussion. In the public service, underlings are afraid that their superiors might get to hear anything that contradicts the latest ideological doctrine, or even that fails to use the latest accepted terminology, and that they might suffer accordingly. In Britain, careless talk costs careers.
--Salisbury Review

Friday, November 13, 2009

to those non-hat fetishists

not already famililar with "moses," the world's premier paper hat designer, said Hawaiian hatmaster created some 250 original chapeaux, using only paper bags during a creative burst in the 1980's. Below are a few samples. Many more can and should be seen at

Monday, November 9, 2009

The hand of Tyr

The only principles that seem to hold any sway anymore qua principles — whether they are held in a quest for power or in an intellectual confusion or in a lusty embrace of falsehood — are ones that have been articulated as ideals relatively recently in the West and are alien to its spirit: egalitarianism and pragmatism. Each of them has proved in one way or the other to be incompatible with the traditional culture of the West: egalitarianism has proved itself the enemy of justice and the supreme value and dignity of the individual; pragmatism has proved itself the enemy of honor, of far-sighted loyalty to principle, and of adherence to goodness. The West is being destroyed by Westerners who no longer love, indeed have come to hate, their achingly beautiful creations.

I am not speaking of a minority of Westerners, either. The ubiquity of rock anti-music savagery is ample evidence of that. That not one father in a thousand can affect the immodesty of his daughter's dress at the beach is more. That chastity's only role in modern society is as a sanctimonious, self-serving tool to embarrass and destroy one's political foes is yet more. And that what passes for justice is driven by passion (as in the first Simpson trial, the McVeigh trial, and most recently the British-nanny trial) should count as final proof.

Politically, Westerners have accepted completely and utterly the notion that the state is not merely an organization for defending them from predator nations — which is what the state has claimed to be whenever its legitimacy has been called into question. Rather, Westerners have accepted the notion that the state should be a predator nation and that financing its predations, getting in on its predations, and benefiting from its predations, especially against one's neighbors, is smart. That is, Westerners have allowed a notion of "the practical" to defeat their loyalty to principle.

Even in our mythology, we see the gods forever favoring "practical" solutions rather than remaining true to their ideals. In one of their worst missteps, they attempt to bind the Fenris wolf with a cord spun with magic. Fenrir, suspecting treachery and knowing full well that the gods are lying when they promise they will release him if he is unable to break the cord, demands that someone put a hand in his mouth during his attempt to break the cord. Only Tyr, the god of war, has courage enough to accede to the wolf's demand, but Fenrir insists that it be not Tyr's left hand, but his sword hand. The cord holds, and Tyr's hand is snapped off.

On Ragnarok, Fenrir will finally break the cord and join the battle against the gods. Tyr's hand, however, will still be gone, and he will be defeated and killed precisely because he cannot fight as effectively left-handed.

Justice is not just a quaint notion for us; once we place it in the mouth of Fenris tyranny, whatever temporary advantage we enjoy will be ... temporary. We cannot purchase our survival with it, because without it, it is not we who survive, but some degraded corruption of ourselves.
--the Last Ditch

We hold this duncery to be self-evident:

On November 5, addressing the crowd of anti-PelosiCare protesters, John Boehner, Republican minority leader in the House, whipped out an object he said was his copy of the Constitution. He began bloviating that he stood with the Founders, who wrote in the Preamble of the Constitution, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

We can't attribute this gaffe to a mere misspeaking on his part. After all, he held up a physical object. Did he not know what he was holding? And he explicitly referred to a "preamble."

So I say, Really? Can we really not expect of elected officials, who take an oath to protect the Constitution — an oath Boehner has had to take at least five times — to know the difference between it and the Declaration of Independence? Is it really too much to expect a crowd who say they love the Constitution not to laugh this constitutional illiterate to scorn and run him off the stage?

Further: Because of his position, this guy probably has the largest staff in the Republican caucus. Does he have no one on his staff — not even one functioning mind — who works on his speeches who is capable of recognizing one of these documents from the other? Just how many historically illiterate people helped prepare his comments?

Worse: How many people listening to him didn't even notice? How many actually know the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and are able to distinguish one text from the other?

I have sometimes wondered what good a Constitution is if it can be ignored at will. Now I have to wonder what good a Constitution can possibly be — what good reasonable, unasleep people can expect it to be — when neither those elected nor those who vote for them know what is in the miserable thing. [Ronn Neff]

Thursday, November 5, 2009

In Memoriam

wild rice

What gets you is the knowledge, that sometimes can fall on you in a clap, that the dead are gone absolutely from this world. As has been said around here over and over again, you are not going to see them here anymore, ever. Whatever was done or said before is done or said for good. Any questions you think you ought to’ve asked while you had a chance are never going to be answered. The dead know, and you don’t.

And yet their absence puts them with you in a way they never were before. You even maybe know them better than you did before. They stay with you, and in a way you go with them. They don’t live on in your heart, but your heart knows them. As your heart gets bigger on the inside, the world gets bigger on the outside. If the dead were alive only in this world, you would forget them, looks like, as soon as they die. But you remember them, because they always were living in the other, bigger world while they lived in this little one, and this one and the other one are the same. You can’t see this with your eyes looking straight ahead. It’s with your side vision, so to speak, that you see it. The longer I live, and the better acquainted I am among the dead, the better I see it. I am telling what I know.
--Wendell Berry, "Stand By Me"

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What is my point of view?

1. God is one of a number of superior intelligences who have learned-how we do not know exactly-to obtain glory and intelligence. They can create worlds and do much else.

2. These gods take us lesser intelligences, swimming about like fish in the sea, under their tutelage, saying they will teach us how to achieve intelligence and glory.

3. One of their great lessons is that we can do more acting together than we can standing (or swimming) alone. Thus, they bind us to them with multiple covenants.

4. We are not only to obey them; we are to join with our brothers and sisters in the order of the priesthood under God's direction. This priesthood goes back before the foundations of the earth and incldues all the gods who have gone before. They are bound into one God whose combined force and intelligence is the source of glory. We may even add to the glory by joining them-like computers strung in parallel, generating computing power. Hence the essential importance of unity.

5. In this sense, the priesthood is God. When joined together like the council of gods that organized the earth, it manifests its godly powers. At the same time, any one God can speak for the whole because they are unified. Adam can become the God of this earth under Christ's suzerainty.

6. We exist on the ragged edges of this holy order, but in subscribing to it we join the grand alliance that rules the godly universe.

7. Outside of this created order, only chaos reigns, but in the outer darkness are other intelligences such as Lucifer who have orders and priesthoods of their own, independent of and possibly in opposition to Elohim's.

8. Within the created order, the intelligences find their places, some as animals, some as stones perhaps, some as humans. The diversity of forms on the earth suggests the diversity of unorganized intelligences. Hence the detail in the temple account of creation of the many forms of life, each to fulfill the measure of its creation.

9. God is constantly recruiting intelligences to the godly path and the success of this operation depends on us. If we attract people to Christ, they get included; if someone doesn't reach them, these souls may slip to a lesser spot. God will not necessarily guarantee everyone the highest possible position for his or her intelligence. Some may fall to a lower rung because there was no one there to raise them up. It is scary, but it makes life real. What makes it less scary is that there are many way to grow in intelligence. The Mormons are not the only source of light. Christ radiates throughout the world, through many voices. We need only to listen to one to set our foot on the right path.

As I write, this doctrine tastes good to me. I believe it is the truth. All of it can be found in Joseph's teachings. But it is not being taught by the Church today. Jennifer Dobner, the AP reporter, told me that the Church chastised her for writing about doctrines of this kind, as if they felt they discredited the Church. President Hinckley has said he does not put much stock in such teachings. That may be the proper position for today when we are under attack from evangelical Christians. It would be a mistake, however, to discard them entirely. they are a precious cultural resource. It may be one function of my book [Rough Stone Rolling, a life of Joseph Smith] to sustain their life by explicating Joseph's thought as part of the campaign to preserve doctrine.
--Richard Bushman, On the Road with Joseph Smith

400 Members of Congress Not Suspected of Wrongdoing!

An online “security breach” yesterday disclosed a confidential House Ethics Committee document which revealed that dozens of members of Congress are under investigation for ethical lapses - i.e., being crooks, weasels, etc.

That means that more than 400 members are not being actively investigated by their peers for wrongdoing or all-round conniving.

This is the type of default that causes people to lose faith in the congressional ethics committee.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

"[Consider] the irrigated valleys of Utah. These were settled by comparatively poor men....They live on small farms. They enjoy economic independence by the simple method of producing the variety of things which they consume. They live chiefly in villages and so have social advantages not usually within reach of farming communities....I love to think of those green oases among the Utah mountains. If dark hours shall ever come to the Republic, the dwellers in those lovely valleys will know nothing of it except by hearsay."
--Thomas F. Walsh, 1920

One kind of fault that pastors and spiritual directors must address is what is called the "besetting sin." One spiritual director of my acquaintance calls it one's "favorite sin." This is the sin, or fault, that one falls into time after time. It shows up in nearly every examination of conscience. Those who seek forgiveness of their sins find themselves confessing it over and over. We marvel that we dare to seek forgiveness for it; we marvel even more greatly that forgiveness can be obtained.

The fault differs from man to man. For most, it takes a form that modern society is pleased to call an "addiction." But it is not just those common attachments. It may be an easy resort to anger and violence. It may be small vanities or an excessive delight in the praise of others. This list goes on and on. I trust I have said enough on this subject: the reader is perhaps ahead of me and has already identified the fault in himself that seems most resistant to correction.

I postulate that societies, that cultures, bear this resemblance to men: that they are prone to a kind of besetting fault. And that the besetting sin of the West is the resort to the organized use of force. We call this organization the state.
--Ronn Neff

Saturday, October 31, 2009

if you ever woke up and forgot what you dreamed about, this picture might help you to recall

of all flesh one people--today featuring: ethiopia

1°58′24.34″N 20°29′43.64″E


Z is the Zenith from which we decline,
While Y is your Yelp as you're twisting your spine.
X is for Xmas; the alternative
Is an X-ray that gives you just one year to live.
So three cheers for Santa, and onward to W.
W's Worry, but don't let it trouble you:
W easily might have been Worse.
V, unavoidably, has to be Verse.
U is Uncertainty. T is a Trial
At which every objection is met with denial.
S is a Sentence of "Guilty as Charged."
R is a Russian whose nose is enlarged
By inveterate drinking, while Q is the Quiet
That falls on a neighborhood after a riot.
P is a Pauper with nary a hope
Of lining his pockets or learning to cope.
O is an Organ transplanted in vain,
While N is the Number of "Enemies Slain":
Three thousand three hundred and seventy-three.
If no one else wants it, could M be for Me?
No, M is reserved for a mad Millionaire,
And L is his Likewise, and goes to his heir.
K is a Kick in the seat of your pants,
And J is the Jury whose gross ignorance
Guaranteed the debacle referred to above.
I's the Inevitability of
Continued inflation and runaway crime,
So draw out your savings and have a good time.
H is your Heart at the moment it breaks,
And G is the Guile it initially takes
To pretend to believe that it someday will heal.
F is the strange Fascination we feel
For whatever's Evil–Yes, Evil is E–
And D is our Dread at the sight of a C,
Which is Corpse, as you've surely foreseen. B is bone.
A could be anything. A is unknown.
--Tom Disch

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Hay for the Horses

He had driven half the night
From far down San Joaquin
Through Mariposa, up the
Dangerous Mountain roads,
And pulled in at eight a.m.
With his big truckload of hay
behind the barn.
With winch and ropes and hooks
We stacked the bales up clean
To splintery redwood rafters
High in the dark, flecks of alfalfa
Whirling through shingle-cracks of light,
Itch of haydust in the
sweaty shirt and shoes.
At lunchtime under Black oak
Out in the hot corral,
---The old mare nosing lunchpails,
Grasshoppers crackling in the weeds---
"I'm sixty-eight" he said,
"I first bucked hay when I was seventeen.
I thought, that day I started,
I sure would hate to do this all my life.
And dammit, that's just what
I've gone and done."
--Gary Snyder

Montana Koan

Mongolian fiancees

Two fillies on the plains-
was it their flowing manes
or was it the wind that flew?
The twisted sage maintains
It was the mind that blew.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

today's Mencken

“The fact is that the average man’s love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty–and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.”
— H.L. Mencken

There are two things which cannot be attacked in front: ignorance and narrow-mindedness. They can only be shaken by the simple development of the contrary qualities. They will not bear discussion
~ Lord Acton

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Sunday, October 11, 2009


As the risen Savior, He is this day and forever the Light of the World. It is He who invites us to come unto Him and serve Him, without delay. His encouragement to you and to me is this: “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.”

That is as true of a day as it is of a life. A morning prayer and an early search in the scriptures to know what we should do for the Lord can set the course of a day. We can know which task, of all those we might choose, matters most to God and therefore to us. I have learned such a prayer is always answered if we ask and ponder with childlike submission, ready to act without delay to perform even the most humble service.
* * * *
For those who are discouraged by their circumstances and are therefore tempted to feel they cannot serve the Lord this day, I make you two promises. Hard as things seem today, they will be better in the next day if you choose to serve the Lord this day with your whole heart. Your circumstances may not be improved in all the ways which you desire. But you will have been given new strength to carry your burdens and new confidence that when your burdens become too heavy, the Lord, whom you have served, will carry what you cannot. He knows how. He prepared long ago. He suffered your infirmities and your sorrows when He was in the flesh so that He would know how to succor you.

The other promise I make to you is that by choosing to serve Him this day, you will feel His love and grow to love Him more.
--Henry Eyring, Disciple

Back to the Constitution

Our legal affairs correspondent, Ms. Bethany Richards, asks a provocative question about our supreme law: "The Constitution requires a president to be a natural born citizen. But what makes a natural born citizen any more qualified than one born by C-section?"

what I learned at my funeral

Alfred Nobel was inspired to create an award for contributions to peace after reading his obituary prematurely published by a French newspaper in 1888, condemning him for his invention of dynamite. The obituary was entitled "The merchant of death is dead" and said in part, "Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday."

Nobel, not wanting to be remembered only as a man who was responible for causing death, stipulated in his will that the peace prize should go "to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity between the nations and the abolition or reduction of standing armies and the formation and spreading of peace congresses."

Moral: Explore your personal legacy before it's too late. Fortunately Irene's Mustache is here to help. For details and price information on your very own personal dry-run funeral, complete with obituary, contact:

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P.S. And speaking of explosions--How about our recent bombing of the moon? Man, did we kick the moon’s butt or whatt!! Chalk one up for the USA!

Friday, October 9, 2009

If it's not one thing, it's another.

--Roseann Rosannadanna

Thursday, October 8, 2009

a letter from Joseph

Upon returning from Jackson County in the Spring of 1832, Joseph's traveling companion, Newell K. Whitney, had his leg crushed when the team pulling their carriage ran away. Joseph was left for weeks in Greenville, Indiana, with not much to do as he waited for his companion to recover sufficiently to resume their journey home to Kirtland. From a letter written to Emma during that time:

My situation is a very unpleasant one although I will endeavor to be contented, the Lord assisting me. I have visited a grove which is just back of the town almost every day where I can be secluded from the eyes of any mortal and there give vent to all the feelings of my heart in meditation and prayer. I have called to mind all the past moments of my life and am left to mourn and shed tears of sorrow for my folly in suffering the adversary of my soul to have so much power over me as he has had in times past but God is merciful and has forgiven my sins and I rejoice that he sendeth forth the Comforter unto as many as believe and humbleth themselves before him. *** I will try to be contented with my lot knowing that God is my friend; in him I shall find comfort, I have given my life into his hands. I am prepared to go at his call. I desire to be with Christ. I count not my life dear to me only to do his will...

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Why should a sequence of words be anything but a pleasure?

--Gertrude Stein

Monday, September 21, 2009

Follow the prophet

Press reports have for some months indicated that a determined effort is in the making to establish in this country a compulsory universal military training designed to draw into military training and service the entire youth of the nation. [Although we dislike opposing any policy sponsored by the presidential administration], we are so persuaded of the rightfulness of our position, and we regard the policy so threatening to the true purposes for which this Government was set up...that we are constrained respectfully to invite your attention to the following considerations:

1. By taking our sons at the most impressionable age of their adolescence and putting them into army camps under rigorous military discipline, we shall seriously endanger their initiative....
4. We shall give opportunity to teach our sons not only the way to kill but also, in too many cases, the desire to kill....God said at Sinai, 'Thou shalt not kill.'
5. We them under a drastic discipline in an environment that is hostile to most of the finer and nobler things of home and of life.
6. We shall make our sons the victims of systematized allurements be selfish, idle, irresponsible save under restrain of force, to be common, coarse, and vulgar....
8. We shall put them where they may be indoctrinated with a wholly un-American view of the aims and purposes of their individual lives, and of the life of the whole people and nation, which are founded on the ways of peace, whereas they will be taught to believe in the ways of war.
10. We shall make possible their building into a military caste which from all human experience bodes ill for that equality and unity which must always characterize the citizenry of a republic.
13. By creating an immense standing army, we shall create to our liberties and free institutions a threat foreseen and condemned by the founders of the Republic...Great standing armies have always been the tools of ambitious dictators to the destruction of freedom.
14. By the creation of a great war machine, we shall invite and tempt the waging of war against foreign countries, upon little or no provocation; for the possession of great military power always breeds thirst for domination, for empire, and for a rule by might, not right.
15. By building a huge armed establishment, we shall belie our protestations of peace...and force other nations to a like course of militarism, so placing upon the peoples of the earth crushing burdens of taxation that...will hardly be bearable....
16. We shall make of the whole earth one great military camp whose separate armies, headed by war-minded officers, will never rest till they are at one another's throats in what will be the most terrible contest the world has ever seen.

[O]bedient to the divine message that heralded the birth of Jesus the Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the world,'...on earth peace, good will toward men,' and knowing that our Constitution and the government set up under it were inspired of God and should be preserved to the blessing not only of our own citizenry but, as an example, to the blessing of all the world, we...urge that you do your utmost to defeat any plan design to bring about the compulsory military service of our citizenry. Should it be urged that our complete armament is necessary for our safety, it may be confidently replied that a proper foreign policy, implemented by an effective diplomacy, can avert the dangers that are feared. What this country needs and what the world needs, is a will for peace, not war. God will help our efforts to bring this about.

[signed] Geo. Albert Smith, J. Reuben Clark, Jr., David O. McKay, First Presidency.
Dated:December 14, 1945, and subsequently reissued on June 28, 1946.

Fast forward to present:

It’s hard to overstate how aberrational — one might say “rogue” – the U.S. is when it comes to war. No other country sits around debating, as a routine and permanent feature of its political discussions, whether this country or that one should bombed next, or for how many more years conquered targets should be occupied. And none use war as a casual and continuous tool for advancing foreign policy interests, at least nowhere close to the way we do … . For the U.S., war is the opposite of a “last resort”: it’s the more or less permanent state of affairs, and few people who matter want it to be any different
--Glenn Greenwald at Salon

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Souviens-toi, mon enfant--extraordinary hymn from the French LDS hymnal

Remember, my child: Your divine parents
held you in their arms, not long ago.
Today, you are here, a marvelous present.
Your gaze still shines, reflecting the heavens.
Speak to me, my child, of the blessed places,
for the veil of forgetfulness is thin for you.

Remember, my child, the woods, the cities.
Can we here below (on earth) imagine them?
And the evening sky, is it rose or gray?
Does the sun await snow or rain?
Tell me, my child, the color of the meadows
and the song of the birds of a forgotten world.

Remember, my child: At the dawn of time,
we were friends playing in the wind.
Then one day, in joy we chose
to accept from the Lord the great plan of life.
That evening, my child, we promised
by love, by faith, to meet again.

(sung to familiar melody from Dvorak's New World Symphony)

Do you want to live by faith? Do you want to know Christ aright? Do you want to awake and arise and live, but do not know how?

I will tell you:

Get up, and do something the master tells you. The moment you do, you instantly make yourself his disciple.

Instead of asking yourself whether you believe or not, ask yourself whether you have this day done one single thing because he said, "Do it," or once abstained because he said, "Do not do it."

It is simply absurd to say you believe, or even want to believe in him, if you do not do anything he tells you. If you can think of nothing he ever said as having consciously influenced your doing or not doing, you have no ground to consider yourself his disciple.

Yet you can at once begin to be a disciple of the Living One--by obeying him in the first thing you can think of in which you are not obeying him.

Thus again comes the question: what have you done this day because it was the will of Christ? What have I done? If we chance to do his will because it falls in with our own designs, that may be a good thing. But it is not obedience. Obedience comes when, as a conscious act, we lay aside the appetite, the desire, the inclination of our flesh, our self, the tendency in which our human soul would go if left to itself, and instead do what he tells us, subduing our own will, mastering it, subjugating it, and bring it into submissin to his.

Have you or I today dismissed, even once, an anxious thought for tomorrow, because Jesus told us to?

Have you ministered to any needy soul or body, and kept your right hand from knowing what your left hand did, telling no one of your action?

Have you, this day, begun to leave all and follow him?

Did you set yourself not to criticize, talk against, or judge others?

Did you bring fair and righteous judment to your decisions?

Did you forgive your enemy and do him good or show him kindness?

Are you seeking the kingdom of God and his righteousness before all other things? Are you hungering and thirsting after righteousness?

Have you this day given, of money, of time, of possessions, of skill, or of compassion, to someone who asked of you?

Have you shown consideration, done good, returned kindness for a wrong done you, extended patience, been a servant, rejoiced in adversity, taken the role of humility before others, prayed for someone you don't like, trusted God to supply a pressing need? Have you done any of these things, suppressing your natural tendency to the contrary, and done them with rejoicing because Jesus said to do them?

Tell me something that you have done, are doing, or are trying to do because he told you. If you cannot, it is no wonder you have difficulty trusting him.
--George MacDonald