So Some Friends Told Me A Story

It was about a certain stake and ward in Utah County. Not in Provo, but that town just north of Provo. It was one of those Young Single Adult Wards, which I have always thought are wonderful and have never harbored any complaints against. I love them so much.

These friends get ready to attend this ward. They might have been running a smidge late, but when they arrived, the congregation was singing the opening hymn. It wasn’t a crisis, by any means.

But the chapel was practically full, except for maybe the very front row of pews and the choir loft up on the podium. So my friends decided to hang out in the foyer instead of walking in front of everyone and disrupting the meeting.

Then came time for passing the sacrament. Bread and water. Symbols of the body and blood and Christ’s atonement.

Usually, one of the priesthood members comes out into the foyer to pass the sacrament to those who may have arrived late or had to leave the chapel for whatever reason.

No one came out.

My friends weren’t the only ones in the foyers.

After they passed the bread, they did the same with the water.

And the same thing happened with the water: the foyer people didn’t get any.

Which were maybe 20-30? I tend to want to exaggerate this number, but really, it was a sizable crowd.

Then after the sacrament was passed, a member of the bishopric asked if anyone didn’t get to partake of the sacrament.

I guess no one in the chapel raised their hands.

Then the bishop invited everyone sitting in the foyers to find a seat in the chapel.

He supervised the priesthood as they stayed inside the chapel, which means he saw them not passing the sacrament to the foyer people.

He knew that the foyer people didn’t receive the sacrament.

So, when people confronted the bishop after the meeting, he said that he was acting under the stake president’s directions.

It was important for the bishop to literally see the elders passing the sacrament.

But he also must have saw them not passing it to the crowd outside.

People were incredulous and sort of really angry.

Some people stormed off, declaring inactivity.

And the bishop said it was their choice.

So, what I’m trying to understand:

Does he mean to punish latecomers by depriving them of the sacrament?

How does he intend to fellowship and reactivate when he splits hairs with THE reason people come to sacrament meeting? How are people supposed to get married?

How can one be denied the sacrament? If someone in the congregation is sick and can’t physically make it to church, the priesthood can bring the sacrament to that person’s home.

Everyone should have that opportunity.

If someone can help me see benefits to the other side of this discussion, I’d greatly appreciate it.

Here Goes Today

I spent the day reading King Lear and listening to the Indigo Girls. Most of it at the same time. By the time I finished the Shakespeare, I thought I was going to die of a catharsis overdose.

Some versions have Edgar performing the last lines; others use Albany. There is significance in either character, but I like it better when Edgar speaks last; I feel a stronger sense of justice. I mean, there has to be something after nearly everyone dies. (NOT A SPOILER; IT’S A SHAKESPEARE TRAGEDY, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD.) Here are the lines:

The weight of this sad time we must obey,
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most. We that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long.

And, the Indigo Girls. I’ve been listening to their self-titled album from 1989, and I can’t get enough of their songwriting. All the time. While I like all songs from this album, “Love’s Recovery” stands out today. In my mind, King Lear and this song connect, but I can’t quite explain how, other than I decided to experience them together today. Plus, I just spent three hours at Borders looking at books, and it didn’t even feel like I was there for that long. It was great.

Indigo Girls – Love’s Recovery (ctrl + click to open in another window)

During the time of which I speak it was hard to turn the other cheek
To the blows of insecurity
Feeding the cancer of my intellect the blood of love soon neglected
Lay dying in the strength of its impurity
Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together
They’ve all gone and left each other in search of fairer weather
And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast
To the slim chance of love’s recovery.
There I am in younger days, star gazing,
Painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection
My compass, faith in love’s perfection
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen
Meanwhile our friends we thought were so together
Left each other one by one in search of fairer weather
And we sit here in our storm and drink a toast
To the slim chance of love’s recovery.
Rain soaked and voice choked like silent screaming in a dream
I search for our absolute distinction
Not content to bow and bent
To the whims of culture that swoop like vultures
Eating us away, eating us away
Eating us away to our extinction
Oh how I wish I were a trinity, so if I lost a part of me
I’d still have two of the same to live
But nobody gets a lifetime rehearsal, as specks of dust we’re universal
To let this love survive would be the greatest gift we could give
Tell all the friends who think they’re so together
That these are ghosts and mirages, these thoughts of fairer weather
Though it’s storming out I feel safe within the arms of love’s discovery

I Took A Nap This Weekend, and I Called It Sunday

I’m looking out my bedroom window, and a mountain is looking back at me. It’s green and rugged and I’m in a valley, and I’m not very green anymore, though maybe I’m still a bit rugged. I’d hardly call myself refined.

So, there were pioneers. Many of my friends have ancestors who crossed the plains in crazy weather conditions and under the order of God’s prophet, in addition to being run out of the Midwest by state governments.

And they settled in Utah.

This is the place.

Apparently some of my dad’s relatives came on that trek, I think. I would need for him to retell the story. He was born in Salt Lake City. His parents were LDS, and he has a stepmother who’s a member of the Reorganized LDS church.

My mother was born and raised Catholic, in the Philippines.

I was born in the Philippines, and my birth certificate says I have a Catholic mother from the Philippines and a Mormon father from Salt Lake City.

I talked aloud to one person today, my roommate. I told her I wouldn’t be going to church, so she didn’t have to worry about giving me a ride. Then I read and slept. And read and slept.

There are people in Africa who populate remote areas of continent. Why do they roam, where do they wander, and how do they decide to settle in certain areas?

And, why are other people stuck? Is it a matter of pride? Survival? Circumstance?

What are frontiers, anyway? What goes unexplored in realms physical and metaphysical?

Now, I’m thinking about Norway.

How do we understand what and where people are trying to explore?

Who are the pioneers, anyway? Do we always agree with or understand what they discover?

Cute Friends and Live Music and STOP CHANGING THE DANG RULES WITHOUT TELLING ME

So, Thursday night. Decemberists. And being outside. And enjoying Decemberists. And being outside.

These are my two homies from the Senegal study abroad. I don't know if you can tell, but these ladies are very happy to be in America. Also they have excellent taste in music. Which explains why we're all at this concert. Seriously, these girls SAVED MY LIFE in Africa. I owe them big time.
I don't know why I choose to surround myself with crazy people. I like them--I like them a lot. The two girls on the right are sisters. The girl on the left is a former classmate, and a friend of the sister in the middle, and a co-novelist with the girl in the sunglasses from the previous photo. Small world. These girls like the Decemberists, too. The sisters even have an accordion to prove it.
This pretty much sums up my view for most of the concert. We moved from sitting on a sheet off to the side to weaving our way through the crowd toward the center. It definitely sounded better from where we were, but I'm pretty much doomed to smell armpits for the rest of my concert-watching career.

It was around this time that I tweeted the following, and a friend replied:

I really have accepted my fate. Sometimes I still wish, though.
So, I pretty much coveted the guy in the cherry picker the whole time. Can you see how thrilled he looks? Maybe he needed to use the bathroom or something. Maybe he wanted to see his wife and kids. But I cannot comprehend his not wanting to be at a Decemberists' concert. He's clearly not watching the concert. He has the best view! I wish I had an explanation.
Okay, occasionally I would catch fun glimpses of the band members. I listened hard to the instruments, and often I wished I could have been able to see the fiddler or the bassist or guitars riffing with each other. The band seemed pretty cool. They made fun of crowd surfers and they bossed us around quite well. Huge crowds are hard to contain sometimes with all the free admission and beer and pot. But the band did a bang-up job.

Speaking of pot, I tweeted this observation. The same friend replied and further confirmed my luckiness that he’s my friend:

So I texted Francis, and asked what he did to his keyboard. He replied, "Tea. I did 'tea' to my keyboard." I visualized this, and it was a pretty vivid image, most likely because the contact high was SO FREAKING STRONG.

We met a guy named Dennis who came with a friend. He introduced himself and extended his hand to shake, but we sort of brushed him off.

After the concert, we went to Denny’s, where our waiter was named Moe, which was short for Mohammed, and he sounded a lot like Barack Obama. Coincidence? I think not. He was a one-man show. Not only did he wait tables, he also was the cashier and he might have done all the cooking, too. And we spent a fair amount of time doing Barack Obama impressions on the way home.

What we also did? Acted high. But mostly we weren’t acting. Except we had to tone it down in Denny’s because undercover cops were also at the restaurant. It wasn’t possible to stop giggling, and I think we managed to order all the breakfast items on the menu. And half a sampler platter. Poor Moe.

Okay, so that was fun.

Yet, I have a small complaint.

Go to this website, and scroll down to the rules about food and beverages. Is it clear on whether one can or can’t bring food into the park? It doesn’t say we can’t bring food into the park. I brought food, and when we got to the entrance, I found out that food wasn’t allowed. And maybe I yelled, like, LOUD, and maybe no one cared, but come on, people, at least provide a clear policy on such things. I can go to a concert in Central Park, NYC, and they’ll have similar rules: no coolers, no glass containers, no outside alcohol. I can bring outside food; EVERYONE can bring outside food. They encourage it. Yes, I know that Pioneer Park isn’t Central Park. But Pioneer Park also doesn’t have to worry about the kind of attendance Central Park does. Pioneer Park should be able to handle food. I stood in line for an hour last month waiting to see Yo-Yo Ma with a book, a plastic bottle of water, and a Chipotle burrito. Free concert, even. Everyone knows what the rules are.

So, Twilight Concert Series people, don’t make like you’re Stephenie Meyer or the writers of Lost and change the rules whenever you feel like it. Or if you want to change the rules, make sure such changes are also on the website. It’s not a lot to ask.

But, thank you for bringing the Decemberists to Salt Lake City. For free.

May’s Super-duper Song Review: “Baby” by Justin Bieber

I had heard of Justin Bieber over a year ago. I’d seen pictures, listened to soundbytes. I’m not one to predict the staying power of any 21st century artist or musician, especially if his testosterone switch hasn’t flipped on yet, but am I EVER SO GLAD to be living in the era of this phenomenon, the “fever.” How can you not love him, his angelic voice, his wispy hair? His smooth dance moves? All before puberty, ladies and gentlemen. Can you imagine what kind of magic will unleash once thicker fuzz appears on his face? Until nearly two months ago in Africa, I did not know the power of this man-boy until a throng of fellow female college students started singing his songs. What a mighty blessing that was. Now, I will never forget him.

One of his timeless classics is “Baby” featuring Ludacris. It is one of the most enigmatic, soul-transforming chef-d’oeuvres that has ever been created. EVER.

Let me show this to you in a fancy, new window.

First, this song is sad. BUT LISTEN TO THE SONG! It has a fast beat and the melodic phrases go up a short scale then back down the scale. It intends to stimulate brain activity, like Mozart. Think of the beginning of  “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” as the notes ascend then descend. The remarkable thing here is that Justin is not performing as a string section of a chamber orchestra. He’s doing everything WITH HIS VOICE, with much aplomb!

You know you love me, I know you care
Just shout whenever, and I’ll be there
You want my love, you want my heart
And we will never ever ever be apart

Can you feel the confidence? I would be beside myself, completely lovestruck, if someone told me what I know and what I want. Why, yes, I DO KNOW that I love you. And it’s great that you know I care, but I wonder if you know what I care ABOUT? YES, YOU. Well, of course I want your love and your heart. I was beginning to think the era of the mindless woman submitting to the domineering man was gone, but fortunately this song is restoring that mentality to full force.

WHENEVER! WHENEVER! WHENEVER!

Um, Justin, where are you? You said you’d come.  What am I supposed to think when I call for him and he doesn’t come? How does he distinguish between what I want and what I will get? HE DOESN’T. EVERYTHING IS SO SIMPLE: IT’S THE SAME FOR HIM. Is he setting conditions for eternal togetherness? I want his love and his heart, therefore, we will stay together forever. That’s all it takes. That’s what I’ve done wrong all these years. I should have wanted a beautiful 16-year-old boy’s love to ensure my life’s happiness.

Are we an item? Girl, quit playing
We’re just friends, what are you saying?
Say there’s another and look right in my eyes
My first love broke my heart for the first time
And I was like…

Uh, oh. Showing insecurity, are we? VERY INTERESTING PROGRESSION. I love how one can experience such a wide range emotions and experiences in this stanza. IT’S OKAY IF HE DOESN’T REALLY KNOW IF HE’S IN A RELATIONSHIP, BECAUSE NOBODY REALLY “KNOWS” THAT KIND OF THING, ANYWAY. Uncertainty, just-friendship, doubt; shock from finding out there’s another love interest; falling so hard for someone that he becomes the victim of a big-time high-school jilting. This perfectly captures the high-school adventure of crushes and heartache, but I can’t really feel sad, because the tune is so happy, at least within the half-octave range it provides.

Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

One of my favorite things in high school was when people called me “baby.” Nothing made me feel more like an adult or more accommodating of my desire to be independent. What I also appreciate here is the anguish I feel in the “oh”s and “no”s, like he’s going through a type of denial–an important part of grieving–in the loss of his very first love that he absolutely truly thought he would love and be together with forever and ever and never mind that he’s dancing like an elf and making weird faces, because THOSE are DEFINITELY NOT reasons to break up with somebody.

Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

Apparently, the suffering is so deep, this part of the chorus needs repeating.

Also, not a coincidence this video is shot in a bowling alley. It’s a place where lots of teenagers hang out, and it incorporates the metaphor of the strike. Which either could mean striking out or completely scoring. And whatever kind it means depends on individual situations. Way to integrate relativistic philosophy into a song. IMPRESSIVE.

I ALSO LOVE HOW MODESTLY DRESSED JUSTIN IS IN THIS VIDEO. I know he is sparing my eyes from his rippling muscles and he wants me to focus on his boy-choir voice and that army dog-tag necklace. Because he happens to know how much I respect the military and have a weakness for men in uniform, plus, since he’s engaging my mind with the composition of the song, his conscientious dress only serves to make me smarter. He’s freaking brilliant.

For you I would have done whatever
And I just can’t believe we ain’t together
And I wanna play it cool, but I’m losin’ you
I’ll buy you anything, I’ll buy you any ring
And I’m in pieces, baby fix me
And just shake me ’til you wake me from this bad dream
I’m going down, down, down, down
And I just can’t believe my first love won’t be around

May I take this moment to compliment Mr. Bieber’s lip-synching abilities. ALWAYS SO SMILEY!

What is the color of desperation? It’s called Justin Bieber. I LOVE how he encourages emotional awareness, despite his denial. He’s in pieces, and he needs the girl to put him back together. BUT she also wants him to shake him, which you would think defeats the purpose of the Humpty-Dumpty repair, but he’s having one of those falling-down dreams, which means he’s losing control, and he needs the girl to help him gain control. I LOVE how specific he gets with his promises: I can shout WHENEVER, for me he would do WHATEVER. His level of commitment completely blows my mind, especially when he expresses that he wants to buy me anything, ANY RING. I LOVE the idealism he has, and this definitely reveals my ignorance of Canadians, because it seems that they propose or betroth or declare everlasting love well before they graduate from high school. It is because of his idealism that he’s in disbelief.  BUT, he’s also really good at being able to tell what his love interest knows and wants. This song is TIGHT.

YET, this song does imply a little bit of optimism with “first” love. There will be others. And you’ll most likely be dumped by them, too. This song prepares people for reality!

And I’m like
Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

Has anyone ever considered the effect of using the word baby for nearly half the words of the refrain? It is a serious jolt to the brain. It establishes a certain expectation in the listener, a point of focus. I now turn my head whenever someone says “baby.” This song is a great conditioning tool if you ever want stop thinking your name is whatever people normally call you.

[Ludacris:]
Luda! When I was 13, I had my first love,
There was nobody that compared to my baby
and nobody came between us or could ever come above
She had me going crazy, oh, I was star-struck,
she woke me up daily, don’t need no Starbucks.
She made my heart pound, it skipped a beat when I see her in the street and
at school on the playground but I really wanna see her on the weekend.
She knows she got me dazing cause she was so amazing
and now my heart is breaking but I just keep on saying…

What I love about rappers’ interludes is how they introduce themselves. This particular section demonstrates the power of girls over boys. And, it’s sort of dirty if you try to connect certain ideas to teenage boys, so I will probably just skip this part. But yes, teenage boys are capable of feeling the drug-like effects that girls have on them. It’s fascinating how boys are really truly the victims throughout this song. Girls should really feel empowered and in not any way degraded by this song at all.

BUT the rapper and Justin Bieber have matching dogtags. Not the least bit ludicrous.

Ooh! Dance-off! These dance circles are universal, and it’s important that all the cool and able dances show off their moves in the center, and it’s especially important that somebody in the circle knows all the words to whatever song is playing at the time. BELIEVE ME: IT DOES HAPPEN. Just ask Africa.

Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

Baby, baby, baby oooh
Like baby, baby, baby nooo
Like baby, baby, baby oooh
I thought you’d always be mine (mine)

I’m gone (Yeah Yeah Yeah, Yeah Yeah Yeah)
 Now I’m all gone (Yeah Yeah Yeah, Yeah Yeah Yeah)
Now I’m all gone (Yeah Yeah Yeah, Yeah Yeah Yeah)
Now I’m all gone (gone, gone, gone…)
I’m gone

One of the last stages of grief is acceptance. Contrast the “no” with the “yeah”s at the very end of the song. Compare the agony of Justin Bieber in this song to that of T.S. Eliot’s in a couple of lines from the Waste Land:

No: “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” and Yeah: “these fragments I have shored against my ruins.” SO MUCH ALIKE! I’m pretty sure Justin got most of his inspiration from T.S. Eliot. That’s just one more reason to love this song with all my heart and soul.

Tragic. Awe-inspiring. All in such a happy little tune. I WANT TO FEEL SAD IN A DANCE-OFF ALL THE TIME AND GO BOWLING AND THROW STRIKES AS MANY TIMES AS POSSIBLE TO SCORE AND REEK OF DESPERATION WITH A SMILE–A FADING SMILE–UNTIL I AM GONE, GONE, GONE.

WHAT A SUPER-DUPER SONG! SMARTER NOW!
May’s rating scale:

SUPER DUPER!

More mediocrity!

Medially mediocre

Trying too hard!

DUPED.

I’m Supposed to Be Studying for a Midterm

I’ve been away from Africa for about the same amount of time I spent there. It’s weird. It’s just weird. You get used to seeing people every day for five weeks, and then all of a sudden, they’re not there anymore. Not to the same degree. I mean, the circumstances were unique: Senegal, close quarters, same exposures to culture and language and weather and disease. The same long hours on a bus or in a classroom or the same walk to and from the boulangerie or cybercafe. We all had the same cravings for familiar foods and cold drinks and English anything. A lot of American anything, for some of us. A lot of us came back with stronger convictions or different perspectives. I came back feeling indignant about a lot of things. It’s just weird. Pringles. The sprinkler systems at BYU. Small talk. Mental illness. Child abuse. I came back cussing more and wanting to argue more, about anything. I was on a date the other night, and I bit my tongue to keep from countering everything the guy said. And he was a nice guy, super nice, but I wanted him to stop saying wrong things. I still like talking about Africa to anyone who will listen. People who’ve been there with me, people who will probably never go. People who have maybe distanced from themselves the human parts of humanity. Who knows. I don’t know. I can’t let it go.

It seems silly, but I miss being able to walk into the hotel room next to me and plop myself on a bed and feel comfortable talking about anything. After a long day of long-day things, I miss that kind of decompression, the difference in what I cared about. What I think about. What I want to change.

Just weird. Seeing people out of that context is weird. Not that I’ve seen very many people, but I think about them all the time. All the time. I’ve tried to maintain the friendships I forged there. I’m grateful to have them, to be able to share, to have a way not to forget. I’m back to a school-work routine, but nothing is the same. I’ve wanted to hang on to so much from those five weeks. It’s constantly on my mind, all the stories and laughter and colossally hard times.

So much has happened in the last seven months. I’ve come to accept some pretty hard facts. I’ve learned to let some things go, and putting certain things on that list was not the easiest thing for me to do. Africa is not on that list. Other things are, and I’m finally okay with it. I’ve stopped arguing about those things. They pass; time fades them. It looks different, more manageable, like it’s supposed to be forgotten.

It’s becoming less weird.