I am a thinker and a writer, and I study the universe.


The Paradox of Change and Stagnation

I have been thinking about change and why human beings are afraid of it. I suppose we must be afraid of the unknown, as if it could never turn out well, or as if it would turn out well for a moment before slipping away. It seems to me that we are afraid of both good change and bad change because we often cannot tell whether this change will be a good one. So we often prefer things to stay the same. But then again, we are also afraid of stagnation. We want to be constantly moving forward until there is no longer anything to move forward to. I suppose we are afraid of feeling un-alive, for we often equate being alive to being constantly changing. Indeed, it is often the case that somebody inflicts pain on him/herself just to feel like he or she is alive, often during a period of stagnation, of neither progression nor of retrogression.

This is the paradox: If human beings are afraid of both change and stagnation, what are they not afraid of? How can a human being’s situation ever give satisfaction to the creature when there is no way he or she could be in a state that is neither of change nor of stagnation?


Madness is Reason…

This might be a contradictory sentence, but I have never heard of a more perfect notion of madness than what we find in Foucault’s Madness and Civilization. In the fourth chapter, “Passion and Delirium,” Foucault argues that there is a kind of reason in madness. If a man is actually made of glass, and glass is easily shattered, of course he is going to have to be careful when he touches anything, right? That is a reasonable response. Thus, if a man believes himself to be made of glass, but he actually is not, then the most reasonable thing for him to do is to avoid touching anything that might shatter him. And yet we call him mad, unreasonable, irrational, because he really is not made of glass.

Madness, then, is not altogether in the image, which of itself is neither true nor false, neither reasonable nor mad; nor is it, further, in the reasoning which is mere form, revealing nothing but the indubitable figures of logic. And yet madness is in one and in the other: in a special version or figure of their relationship.

Madness and Civilization, p. 95, Vintage edition

Foucault argues that this relationship between madness and reason is that of a dazzled reason. In the dictionary, to be dazzled is to be blinded because of a sudden bright light. Foucault says that madness and reason both see the same light, but madness does not think it sees that particular light, but only the darkness and the things in its imagination. This is the ultimate difference between madness and reason. Madness is not a lack of reason, nor is reason a lack of madness; but they are one and the same, but respond differently to the same light.

My brother is schizophrenic. At one time, he was obsessed with the notion that to be shy is to be mean. Because he was a very shy guy, he believed that he must be very mean as well. When I ask him why he thought so, he lent me his dictionary that, under the word ‘shy’, led to another word, which led to another word, which led to another word that meant ‘mean.’ There is a definite logic to this. After all, if a synonym of ‘shy’ could lead to a synonym that meant ‘mean,’ that must mean he is mean, right? (I tried explaining to him that some words had different meanings, but I’m not sure if he understood what I said, though he doesn’t think about that anymore anyway.)

But I understand exactly what Foucault is getting at. There is a definite logic to the madman’s madness. If he sees a man that he believes is the Devil, and the man curses him, of course he is going to believe that he is cursed. If he believes that there is a bomb on his person that would explode if he moves, of course he would stop moving and stay as still as he possibly can. What’s scary about this all is that we all believe in things; the trick is to ask yourself if that belief is true or false.

Perhaps we are all mad in some way.

A Demon in the Mind

What if you met someone with whom you became fast friends? You like him, and he likes you. You have great conversations with each other. You learn a lot from each other. And thus, you trust him as a best friend. But what if he turns out to be the devil? Or worse, what if he turns out to be a figment of your imagination? But yet he feels so real to you! You cannot accept that he is not real…until he asks you to kill someone.

Until he asks you to kill your own family whom, though they have disowned you, you love anyway…

This is what happens to Thunam in the new story entitled “A Demon in the Mind.” This is the story of a man, that is trying to make his way in the world, slips into madness, at first resisting it until he finally succumbs to it, killing his own family in the process, which act drags him deeper and deeper into melancholy and delirium.

This is the tale of how a killer is born. Not every killer, of course, but a particular one. He is not a bloodthirsty man that is out for vengeance, nor does he hunger for sexual contact and the pleasure of a body. He is a desperate man who only wants to soothe his inner demons. Although he is doing the bidding of the demon in his mind, he is still fond of this demon because he remembers all of the good times he’s had with him. Within the heart of this killer, you will find humanity, love, desperation, and anger. But you will never find what most would think they would find in a killer: revenge, hatred, pride, bloodthirstiness.

For now, I will get the specifics of the story clear in my head. And then I will write it. Let me know how you would like the story to end:

(a) With the protagonist’s physical death
(b) With the protagonist mental death
(c) With the protagonist beating the demon down, and the demon never haunting him again
(d) With the protagonist being able to control this demon

If you have the heart and the motivation, please let me know which out of the four you think would be a good ending; you could even suggest an alternative ending too!

-A. R. Vapor

Quote of the Post:
“The animality that lends its face to madness in no way stipulates a determinist nature for its phenomenon. On the contrary, it locates madness in an area of unforeseeable freedom where frenzy is unchained.” -Michel Foucault, Madness and Civilization p. 76

We can know love by knowing hate (and vice versa)…

Does love exist? I look around and all I see is hate, darkness, despair. Yet if those things exist, then surely love does as well. After all, how can the realization of hate exist if there had not been the realization of love at one point? How can I know what hate is if I had not known love? But then again, perhaps I know neither thing, if I cannot know love without knowing hate first, if I cannot know hate without knowing love first. After all, most say that hate exists so that we can know love, and love exists so that we can know hate.

Perhaps nobody knows hate or love. Perhaps they are mere ideas that we have created. Perhaps neither love nor hate exists. Or if they do, nobody is capable of knowing them.

Becoming God

I began the outline of the book I will write for my senior thesis. The working title is “Becoming God.” I know this title sounds more appropriate for a piece of nonfiction than fiction, but this is a novel. (I am certain that when this is done, the title will have changed.) One of the basic premises for the story is this: we all have the desire to be God, and the way we choose to live our lives is what we believe to be the best path toward that goal. I began this endeavor by pondering fiction and how it is that we can feel such a connection to people that we know are not real. I recently finished all the books that have been written so far about Lukien the Bronze Knight, including, The Eyes of God, The Devil’s Armor, The Sword of Angels, and The Forever Knight, by John Marco. I loved each of them, and I felt all of the characters were so real. This is what good fiction does to us: it makes us believe that it’s all real while we are immersed in its world. But this is also the paradox of fiction: how can we have an emotional connection with fictional entities when we know with all our hearts that none of them is real?

This is exactly what one of the characters asks himself. But he eventually comes to the conclusion that there really is nothing unreal about fictional worlds and characters. They are all real, but in an entirely different ‘possible world.’ And eventually he believes that fictional stories are as real as our world. He argues to himself that the worlds and stories we currently have are all based on fictional stories that God has written. God is the Creator of our world. Thus, if we, as writers, created worlds, then we must also be God. Because this character has an insatiable desire to become God and is unafraid to admit it, he decides to leave everything behind in order to pursue this goal.

This is just one instance of a person emanating what he thinks God is through how he lives his life. There are many others, but there will only be four point of view characters. And yet even this seems like too many for a simple senior thesis. The story has become larger than I had intended, and I may need to split it into two or more books.

Anyhow, I am excited to begin this book. Tomorrow I will meet with one of my instructors about some ideas he had given me through email. And then I will let you all know what happens and when I begin my first draft.

Reasons to Live, through the eyes of Lukien the Bronze Knight

I just finished the book entitled ‘The Forever Knight,’ a follow-up, sort of, of the Bronze Knight trilogy by John Marco, which included ‘The Eyes of God,’ ‘The Devil’s Armor,’ and ‘The Sword of Angels.’ This story I found really striking, and I think it sums up a lot of what the book is about.

“I remember a story from when I was a boy, about a knight who spent his whole life protecting his city from a monster that lived in the hills. Every year, when the monster came to find a maiden, the knight would ride out from the city and fight the beast, and every year he would win his battle and send the monster back to the hills. Then, one year when the knight was very old, a little boy asked him why he never killed the monster and wouldn’t that make much more sense, instead of having to fight the monster every year.

“The next day, the knight rode out to the monster’s lair and killed it while it slept. When the city people heard the news, they rejoiced. The little boy asked the knight if he was happy now.

“‘No,’ the knight told the boy. ‘Now I have no reason to live.'”

-Lukien the Bronze Knight
#johnmarco #theforeverknight

My thoughts on the two potential excommunications

I have said thousands of things that the church might not like. For example, I believe that someday gays would be able to marry in the temple; I believe that physical gender is not as important as the gender one feels, and that it is the physical body that is wrong; women should at least have the option to hold the priesthood (after all, women are better fit to be leaders in many ways). I do not really publicly affirm this, though I am aware that I did just now, but this is also not my real name. Part of my hesitation of affirming these things publicly is that I may someday be excommunicated. People would look at me differently, as some outcast…that is not to say I had never felt like an outcast in the church. In fact, I have.

When I was in high school, I loved seminary. I believed in what it taught and what it stood for; it attempted to teach young Mormons about the love of Christ and of Heavenly Father, and that we were all children of God and thus divine, and therefore we should all treat each other as if we were all divine (because, in fact, we were). This is what I had always believed the church stood for, and, in truth, this is the church that I follow. I do not follow the church that cares more about policy than its individual members, and it seems that the church that I had come to love so much because of its messages on love is becoming more and more like a totalitarian government (you do and say what I tell you to do or say, or you’re out of here!).

It wasn’t until last year that I first learned about the September Six (I learned about it from an ex-Mormon). I was a toddler when it happened, when the church excommunicated six intellectuals in a single month. But this ex-Mormon believed that now, the way the church was going, it would not do anything like the September Six again. Mind you, threatening to excommunicate John Dehlin and Kate Kelly is nothing compared to excommunicating (or putting on probation) six individuals. (However, who knows? The month has just begun, so we might see more threats later…) I was a bit surprised when I heard about the threats today. Some of my friends on Facebook were telling me that it was really no surprise, but I never remembered the September Six. I had to learn about it from an ex-Mormon; it’s as if the church were trying to hide it from future generations. In fact, I would be surprised if somebody my age had already learned about the September Six by the time he/she was a teenager, unless he/she was already questioning.

Anyway, I joined North Star LDS (an organization for members of the LDS church that are LGBTQ but want to remain active) in about 2007. It was through these groups that I first heard the name John Dehlin. So I knew that he was an LGBTQ activist, but beyond that, I knew very little about him. In October of 2013, I learned about a movement that was going on in the church called the Ordain Women movement, and immediately I was looking through their website and reading the members’ stories. I also learned about what they were planning on doing: going to the conference center to see if they could be admitted to the Priesthood session of the conference. I desperately wanted to go, but I was also afraid and ashamed of myself. If the church were reading this, they would wonder why more activists couldn’t be like me. But I am thinking about this and wondering why I can’t be more like these activists. There have been so many things in the church that I have come to disagree with, especially concerning ‘policy’ and even some of its most fundamental teachings.

For example, I think that the sons of perdition (Lucifer and the 1/3 cast out of heaven during the war) are like Snape is in Harry Potter. That is, the sons of perdition had struck a deal with God the Father, agreeing to be hated and despised so that normal people like us will have something to tempt us. I also believe that the kingdoms of glory are only states of mind. Certain people will have more privileges, but it isn’t like those in the terrestrial kingdom will only live with others in that same kingdom. After all, those in the celestial kingdom will also all live apart from each other.*

For a long time, I have felt that I had needed to leave the church for my own wellbeing. I do not feel like I can relate to a lot of what is taught, and if I can’t voice my own opinion (which I haven’t done yet at church because I am afraid of the reaction of my fellow members), then why should I keep going? However, I have listened to numerous episodes on the Mormon Matters podcast and have loved and related to what Jim McLachlan said to a philosophy professor at UVU (from whom I have taken two courses, the same ex-Mormon I talked about above). McLachlan said that he stayed because of thinkers like this professor, and that Mormons with different viewpoints have a responsibility, or perhaps are just suggested, to stay to change views from intolerance to tolerance, from policy-based to individuals-based. And this was one of the main reasons I had decided to stay in the church, though my family is the top reason. Who knows, though; I might end up leaving anyway.

I believe the two potential excommunications are wrong, and that the church is going too far with it. What is wrong with giving Mormons a voice, giving them platforms for discussion and even work a change in the policies of the church? Yes, churches need policies, just as any organization does. Yes, they need order to be kept within its organization. And yes, sometimes you need to fire the people who are creating disorder and chaos. But wait…this sounds more like a company, a government, than a church. Isn’t a church supposed to provide places for people who want to worship to worship? The church I knew in high school is gone, and I want it back!!! But perhaps the church I knew was merely an illusion. Maybe what I perceived as the true nature of the church was flawed. Maybe the church has always been a totalitarian government, trying to control how much discussion a group of members can have, and kicking out those that don’t conform to the ‘rules.’ There should be no limit on how much discussion people can have, except until it gets to the point of doing physical harm to others. But none of these discussions have ever caused physical harm to others. They are merely meant to open the eyes of those that have turned their eyes away to different ways of thinking. Saying that one is no longer a part of the church because he wants others to be tolerant to gays is going too far. Saying that one is no longer a part of the church because she wants women to be able to serve in the same ways men serve is going too far.

I confess: I have also come to disagree with many of the fundamental truth-claims the church makes. Just read some of my post! And truthfully, I’m not sure if I consider myself a Mormon. It seems that the Mormons would say that I am not. But what does it mean to be a Mormon? Is it to believe in God, Christ’s Atonement, the Plan of Salvation, the divinity of the Book of Mormon and the prophets, and loving everybody beyond measure? If it is, then I am a Mormon. However, I am completely open to the idea that the Book of Mormon is not literally true, but has a different type of truth, and I believe that prophets are called of God, but couldn’t anybody be called of God? However, I know that they make mistakes, and that I don’t have to believe in everything they say. But if what it means to be Mormon means voting against gay marriage, making excuses for the ban on the priesthood which was lifted in 1978, ignoring many of the mistakes that the church has made such as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, or telling others proudly that you are completely against the Ordain Women movement, then I am not a Mormon. I think that pure religion is the comforting of the mourning, the healing of the sick, and basically the service of humanity, because that is what Christ did. I am a Christian, and I believe that Christ’s teachings must be at the core.

And Christ taught us to accept the sinner.

*This is the first time I am speaking of these beliefs. I may add some posts detailing why I believe such strange things.