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

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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

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It feels good to have a goal…

As some of you may know, I have had an extremely difficult time deciding a major; specifically, deciding what areas of emphasis I will have for my Integrated Studies degree. I am here to announce that I have chosen, and I have no intention of changing them anytime soon, if at all. Of course, I will stay with the Integrated Studies (IS) program because I love it. In this program, students have two areas of emphasis; some have more than two, but two are required. I have chosen three: English, Humanities, and Philosophy. And I plan on finally graduating with my Bachelors degree in Spring of 2016. Someday, I plan on going to graduate school, and I might wind up teaching college part-time. But in the end, I want to write.

I know I haven’t been writing much on this blog, and I had hoped to change that. But I will only write when I can. My other blog, iaataawaistu.wordpress.com, is also available to check out (this is the blog where I will write more philosophical posts).

Today, I spoke with the IS advisor about what I plan on doing for my senior thesis: a novel about becoming God. I know that that might sound a little bit strange, but once I get working on it, I will let you all know what exactly it’s about. I already have a general outline, but I hope not to reveal it yet. In fact, I’m not sure I would reveal it until I submit it for publication.

Thank you all for bearing with me! I am more excited than ever to finish my degree and finally begin my life! It’s been a long time coming, a long time…but it will come eventually. I know that I have a lot of growing up to do still. I grew up in a way in my teen years, but in the shallow way of growing up (learning to drive, cook, clean, etc.), I’m still working on it. But once I get this degree, it will be one major milestone in my life.

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.

Beyond Madness 2

I am currently an Integrated Studies major at Utah Valley University. But I have recently decided to change my areas of emphasis to Philosophy (of course!) and English. This is because, as you might know, that I have always loved writing (it was my first love, in fact) and have wanted to write for a living for a long time. In fact, people often tell me that I am a great writer, just like my Integrated Studies teacher when I gave him my short story for my project. It did not matter if I did English, I was thinking about doing a novel for my senior thesis. But now that it is going to be English, a novel would be extremely relevant.

Like I said in my last ‘Beyond Madness’ post, I like the concept of madness. (I am also very interested in psychology, but the psychology program here puts too much emphasis on empirical research and mathematics than what psychology is actually supposed to be about, that is, understanding human behavior, thoughts, etc.) Anyway, much of psychology is taken from philosophy, especially from such things as Stoicism (one should accept all the bad things that happen to them if there is no way for one to change them) and existentialism. The concepts of madness and death are important for continental philosophy, and particularly for existentialism. I won’t go into what existentialism is here, especially since there are so many ‘definitions’ of existentialism. But core of the field of inquiry is human existence. Anyway, I wanted to write about what I plan to do for my senior thesis.

The title of the post, with the exception of ‘2’, is exactly what I wanted to do. The series that I am more actively working on, the one about narolomy, has several volumes…possibly five. The one I wanted to write for my senior thesis is probably the second one, entitled ‘Beyond Madness,’ and it is about The Deal. In this case, to hopefully not give too much away (though you can read more about it in the ‘Beyond Madness’ post from last month), the protagonist is going to be making a deal with the devil, or the main antagonist, a deal that grants him his physical life but that in the end destroys his mental life. He goes mad after making the deal because of the guilt that he feels as a result of it. Now why would anybody want to make this deal…trade his physical life for his mental life? I asked myself this question, and I realized that it is because most people believe that their own nonexistence is more frightening than their own insanity. But the protagonist finds out the hard way that he would rather have died than experience all that he does. (Not only because becomes insane…in fact, the deal results in the loss of one of his family members, and the guilt that he feels is the cause of the madness.)

I feel like most people view nonexistence as the most terrible thing, the most frightening thing, in the world. But in fact, people are more afraid of madness, and especially their own madness. People are willing to talk about the idea that there is no afterlife, that once we die that’s it. They are willing to consider their own mortality and that someday they might cease to exist. Fewer are willing to talk about the idea that they are in the matrix or that all they see do not really exist. In fact, most people say that the question of whether we’re in the matrix (or whether they are mad) is irrelevant and stupid; all of the things we see are real to us, and that’s really all that matters. It is as if they are afraid to talk about it. In my own experience, I am more afraid of my own insanity as well. But most people say that they would rather live in a shattered reality, and know they are in a shattered reality, than cease to exist, or at least die. In this novel, I wanted to argue that humans in general are more prone to shun madness than nonexistence.

There will also be themes about good and evil, and how even the Devil himself was once an innocent child. It is also about love, forgiveness, and acceptance, as well as hate and rejection. Of course, I’ll have to provide a summary of the first book of the series in order for the reader to know what’s going on, of the events that preceded the deal, and what led to this specific deal. This will be an exciting novel, an exciting senior thesis! This year, there had also been a student doing a novel for his senior thesis, and he won an award for one of the best senior theses in the department. I’m not sure if my novel could win such an award, but I think this novel will be a masterpiece.

A Letter to a Cat Burglar

Dear Adrian (aka A. J. or Kitty),

I am writing to you as a token of appreciation. I am grateful to have found you yesterday doing what you do. You were trying to steal stuff from my house, and I just wanted to express my gratitude. Now I know this sounds too strange, but I have a wonderful explanation as to how you have made my life much better.

Before yesterday evening, I was a naive girl. My house had never been burglarized before, though I live in a poor part of the city, and so I never had any idea what it was like to be burglarized. My family and I took as many precautions as we could afford so that something like this would never happen, especially while on holiday. But yesterday evening, we found that somebody or something had ransacked our house. Little did we know, the cat burglar, Kitty, was still in there. I stepped through the doorway, and after a few seconds, you stepped out of the kitchen to face me and my family. You greeted me with a nervous smile, and I shouted, “Who are you??” You introduced yourself as A. J. and told us all that had happened, though much of it did not make any sense. You told me that you had stopped a fire that was about to start, that you had saw three older men running out of the house late one night a week ago (we were not gone that long), that you had called the police, who had decided to let it go since the three men had not taken anything, and that now you were protecting our stuff.

Kitty, you changed my life, perhaps for the worse…or perhaps for the better. I had been a naive girl back then. Funny how one’s naiveté can disappear in one moment. Funny how it is sometimes the worst people that help dissipate others’ naiveté. I am sure that you are not among the worst of people; in fact, my father was probably one of the worst, though even that is doubtful.

Anyway, Kitty, despite all of my questions, despite all you said and how much none of it made no sense, I believed you because you seemed sincere. But I suppose a lot of my faith in you depended on what I always thought about cat burglars. The standard cat burglar is dressed in black, sneaks into houses in the dead of night, and, most of all, scatter like a cockroach as soon as there is any indication that somebody has come into the house or woken up. This last one was my biggest belief, because I knew perfectly well that not all cat burglars dressed in black or do their thing in the dead of night. But I ‘knew’ perfectly well that all cat burglars scattered as soon as they detect any indication of life. However, Kitty, this was not your way.

Because of you, I now know that I have a right to be suspicious, and even attack you, if there is a stranger in my own house. Before this, I did not know that. Because of you, I now know that not all cat burglars are the sneakiest people, and that sometimes they pose as hired workers just to gain access to a house. Before this, I never knew that. Because of you, I now know that not all cat burglars scattered as soon as the owners of a house returned. Before this, I never knew that.

Cat burglars are often sneaky, stealthy, and convincing. You, Kitty, were certainly convincing, at least to me, though my mother was not as naive. But your other flaws betrayed your plans. You did not know the family thoroughly enough to know when we were going to return home. You decided that perhaps we would be gone for a long, long time, and that you would have all the time in the world to take your time to take our belongings. If it had not been for your flaws, you would not have landed in jail. This is a negative for you. However, because of your flaws, and your skills, you have taught me a life lesson. You have taught me that I have a right to be suspicious if there is a stranger in my house, no matter how convincing he is. You have taught me that everything happens for a reason, that God had wanted us to arrive home at precisely that time to catch you in the act.

For all of your flaws and for all of your strengths, there has been some good that had come out of this incident. This good is precisely that I am no longer going to be naive. I suppose I also have my naivete to thank for catching you. If I had been suspicious from the beginning, I would have completely shown it, more fiercely than ever. I would have pretended to be a monster and tried to frighten you; I would have growled, shown my teeth, and told you to leave or that I would kill you. You might have left immediately and nobody would have known where to find you, or perhaps something worse would have happened. But because I was naive, you did not feel threatened by us, and so you stuck around a bit longer…until I called 911. I listened as the officers arrested you. When my sister and I went outside, you were sitting in a police car, staring at us ever so neutrally. I glowered at you for a moment, expecting that you would react. But you did not. Instead, you stared at me as if at a complete stranger.

Yes, I was a naive girl. But now as a woman, I know that if a stranger is in my house without my permission, I have a right to be suspicious, even if he or she seems official.

Again, thank you, Kitty, for teaching me an important life lesson. This might not have been the ‘good’ you had wanted to get done in the world, but it was a good nonetheless. I hope you suffer in jail. Perhaps you might go to prison! My neighbors tell me that you have a record of burglary, terrorizing other families, many of which probably had children. And because of this, they may not let you out for a very long time. I hope you have a good time during your stay in jail. And I hope all of your many nightmares come true!

Thanks again, my little Kitty, my little Cat Burglar, Adrian (aka A. J.)!

Yours truly

Beyond Madness

The concept of madness has always fascinated me. There are so many connotations that go along with this term, and many people shudder when they even hear it. For some, madness is the act of doing something that is so out of character for human beings to do, such as repeating some ritual more times than is necessary, or robbing some innocent girl of her virginity, or robbing some other human being of his or her own life. For others, madness is a state of mind in which a human being can no longer recognize what is reality. This might include seeming to be speaking to somebody when there really is nobody else there, or fleeing a frightening animal when there is no animal around to be frightened about, or looking at a family member and no longer recognizing the face. But most of us believe that all of these acts can make a person be seen as mad. And madness is probably one of the most frightening things people are afraid of.

But what is beyond madness? What is it that can make people even more afraid of madness? According to Sovic Stort, the main villain in my series, that thing is death. But then again, is death an actual thing? What is it anyway? Stort answers this like so: “It is a path, or perhaps, a destination.” If it is a path, where does it lead? If it is a destination, of what does it consist?

My novels will explore themes about death, including murder and suicide, as well as the fear and anticipation of death, and madness, and torture, and all manner of dark things that force the human being to confront what it itself really is. There will also be all manner of light things, such as love, kindness, and life. I am quite excited to be writing these stories! I suppose the series could be called “Beyond Madness.” Or maybe not. Maybe that would just be one volume in that series… I’m not sure yet. One thing I haven’t anticipated, though: Sovic Stort, the villain, is much more philosophical than I had originally intended him to be. One of the last words he spoke in one of the books was when Tracot was pleading for him to let Durelin go, since he was only a child and did not know any better. Sovic Stort agrees reluctantly, since he was looking forward to killing both of them. And then his last words were, “Because, everybody was a child once, even me.”

Sorry I haven’t written much lately. I don’t have much time now. Thanks for reading! And when I finally finish these books, I hope you all enjoy them!

My teacher loved my story

In the Integrated Studies course I was taking this semester, we were required to do a term final project, which can be 10-15 page paper, a piece of artwork, a piece of music, a piece of literature, etc. For the first 2/3 of the semester, I had decided to do a term paper. However, as the semester went on, I was thirsting to get started on a story that had a lot of relevance to the class topic (which was Heidegger’s Thinking and Being, Indian thought, and Bohm’s account of quantum mechanics). This was partly because one of my friends had submitted the first novel in her book to Shadow Mountain earlier this semester. And I was thinking, “What are you doing not working on your writing?” So I decided that it was time to begin writing again. And although the semester was more than halfway done, I asked my instructor’s permission to do the story instead of the paper for my final project. He granted me permission, and I wrote the story.

The last time I met with him was the last week of April, and we discussed grades and assignments. I was surprised to hear that he loved my story and wanted to use it as an example in case future students wanted to do short stories in his classes. He asked me where I got the ideas for the story, and I told him all about it. The story has been in my head for about a year, and I always thought it was a unique idea. But I wasn’t sure how he would have taken it, so I was surprised when he loved it. He also encouraged me to do more with my writing, perhaps an IS emphasis in English or something similar. I already wanted to do writing as a profession, but thinking about Dan Wells’ advice to me (that he wished he had studied something else in college besides English because writers learn to write by writing, but they also need knowledge about the world), I was thinking about doing an IS emphasis in Humanities because that would give me background in many things related to human beings. But I am also thinking about doing English.

Of course, philosophy is going to have to be one of them. I love philosophy and always will. If I actually decided to write professionally, I would still want to go to graduate school to study philosophy. Perhaps not a PhD, since those are mainly for those who want to teach, but an MA. I think that would be very enjoyable.

I will probably post the story on this blog sometime in the future. To give you a heads up, it is about a young girl that has heard a call all her life, a call that she will follow in the story and discover something earth-shattering about the world. The thing that has been calling her has called her to be a prophetess to give humans its message. And people scorn her for this message, and she and her family need to go into hiding. About 20 years after this experience, she comes out again to publish a pamphlet that summarizes her experience for those who didn’t get to hear it firsthand, and this pamphlet was the story that I turned in.

I will turn this story in to the Writers of the Future contest (the next deadline is July 1) after editing, and I will use the name A. R. Vapor, of course. If I do become a professional writer, I might reveal my identity, but I’m not sure if I actually will. The people that know me, if they follow this blog, which I doubt they would, might be able to connect the dots; but then again, I don’t keep in touch with many people. So even if they did follow this blog, they would probably still not know who I am…

Anyway, look out for a post about the Writers of the Future contest in June…if I submit it before July 1. I’m glad my instructor loved my story.