A Book I’m Reading

I recently checked out an ebook called, Antifragile: Things That Gain from Disorder by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. It has some really interesting ideas about unpredictability and causality. The author expounds on his theories about the Black Swan phenomenon, which I won’t dwell on here.

A few days ago, this quote caught my attention:

“He who has never sinned is less reliable than he who has only sinned once. And someone who has made plenty of errors–though never the same error more than once–is more reliable than someone who has never made any.”

I don’t think the author’s calling Christ unreliable, at least if he knows Christ and sin the way Christ knows sin. I think Taleb statement works particularly well here because the Atonement accounts for all mistakes. Because Christ knows what it feels like to make them, he becomes the most reliable person that will ever exist.

Now if we separate Christ from the rest of mortality, I can understand being a little skeptical of a person who has never sinned. Taleb’s premise states that the fragilistas have little to gain because they fear making mistakes, and the ones they do make are huge and destructive and difficult to bounce back from. The antifragile don’t fear mistakes; they thrive on them, and the mistakes they make aren’t as big and they can make more of them. The more mistakes they make, the more they have to gain.

This is a little aspect of the book, but I like it not because it encourages me to make mistakes. It actually supports what I believe on a religious and spiritual basis: Even though I don’t go out of my way to make mistakes, I can rely on the Atonement when I do make them. He already knows all the lessons, and my sins can help me learn them. Taleb emphasizes that reliable people don’t make the same mistake more than once. This is repentance. If what I have to gain from the sins I commit is to become a better person and strengthen my relationship with Christ, that will in turn help me to become more reliable. However, because I won’t or can’t commit all the sins I can’t ever become as reliable as Christ. At least in my finite perspective. But that doesn’t mean I can’t be helpful to others. That doesn’t diminish any meaning or fulfillment my life should have.

Anyway, Antifragile presents some fun philosophy. I enjoy following the author’s thoughts as they wander. Antifragile is a good book because I can allow myself to disagree with some of the author’s ideas. While I haven’t formed full arguments yet, I quite enjoy the inner monologue. Certainly, this book offers a lot of unpredictability through its structure and ideas, and my quasi-formalistic mind can appreciate how the book’s form contributes to its function: As I stumble through ideas I haven’t thought about before, I find myself learning new things. Not necessarily because Taleb lays it all out in the open, but because what he does present helps me tinker the new things with what I already know. That experience alone holds a lot of potential.

That experience is so very easily practical, because we all know that we ought to try to make the best of what we can’t always predict. There’s only so much we can do to prepare. But if we can rely on true sources of strength and love and if we can thrive from volatile circumstances, then we phoenix our way out of any ambush, the ashes. Resurrect in more than one way.

Not sure why I’m reading a 500-page book to explain what I already know. Well, yes I do.

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”

Future Names

Sometimes Reilly and I like to think of names for our future children. Sometimes they’re not serious names. Sometimes we do this during church, and it’s not very reverent.

We’ve already decided to name two future dogs Albus and Chad.

Just to keep track of names we think of, I’ll list possible names of future children here. These are in no particular order. And again, some of these are not serious. We merely asked what if we had children with these names? You can also tell by the Puritan-sounding names that at least we were halfheartedly paying attention during church.

Acer
Dubious (Doobie)
Goodly
Prudence
Bliss
Padme
Mirth
Sobriety
Constance
Dalliance
Gumption
Compass
Ignominious (Minnie)
Ignoramus (Ramos)
Edifice (Oedipus)
Hosanna
Awe
Humble
Treat
Seeus Lewis
Shamus/Seamus (Shame)
Igneous (Iggy)
Fiery
Simplicity
Middleburg
Lapsy
Contemplation (Template)
Dionysus (Nice)
Twins: Sentiment and Sediment

Our church has so many children, and I wonder if I can learn all their names. But this weekend I have seen the tired eyes of  parents and wondered if they have had to answer the big questions that have come out of Friday’s elementary school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. I am so sad and angry, and my heart is heavy.

So many lost lives, so many grieving parents. How our hearts suffer.

I feel guilty sometimes at my anger. It has to be so hard to lose a child, someone so young with her whole life ahead of her. Someone whose curiosity and compassion were starting to unfold. I know parents miss their little ones; I know they are sorrowful. And this is by no means any consolation, but those 20 were spared. They don’t have to worry anymore about losing their lives to nature or someone’s bad decisions or other circumstances. Their families remain to suffer. The rest of us are left to deal with the conflict and the debate about mental health awareness and treatment as well as the conversation about gun control/regulation. We’re left to wonder why and struggle with our faith in God and humanity. We wail and cry ourselves to a shallow sleep, but those kids don’t have to struggle anymore.

At the same time, we realize in the substance of our struggles that those kids were also very much robbed of their lives, the opportunity to learn hard things, do fun things, and discover who they are. Their families were robbed of the chance to watch them grow up and find an added measure of joy through these young lives. I wish they were still here so they could be here to smile wit their families. They could have offered this world so much more innocence and purity and inspiration and love.

Of course we wouldn’t name our children Ignominious or Ignoramus or nickname them Shame. It’s a wonder that we even discuss the possibility of children on the very weekend of that dreadful, heartbreaking tragedy. I attribute that to hope. We talk about future names, but what is the name of our future? There is so much to look forward to and live for in this world. With sacred hope, we pray our children can experience those things. We hope for answers, happiness, and peace. With deep reverence, we hope our lives will heal from heartache. It keeps us alive. Without knowing what tomorrow may bring, it’s the best we can do.

Part of Why I Remember 9/11

There are definitely ways of coping with the events from ten years ago that are more crippling than reparative.

But remembering that loss helps me to acknowledge in a healthy way the time in my life when I was terrorized.

It’s not a patch I’ll ever sew on my sleeve. I don’t talk about it all the time. I was a kid. It was in the ’80s.

It happened. I can’t unhappen it.

But I also have chosen not to let it discourage me.

Through it, I have learned resolve and determination and forgiveness. I have exercised faith. It has taken a long time.

So, of course I see loss and sorrow, but I also see hope and trust that our country will recover.

We will heal.

Now (Again) I Can’t Sleep (Still)

KING LEAR
Be your tears wet? yes, ‘faith. I pray, weep not:
If you have poison for me, I will drink it.
I know you do not love me; for your sisters
Have, as I do remember, done me wrong:
You have some cause, they have not.

CORDELIA
No cause, no cause.

I worked on a final paper today for my Shakespeare class. While rereading certain parts of King Lear, I realized that I have lived this passage.

And tears surprised me.

So.

Dad.

Hosanna au grand Roi

I was flipping through the French hymnal, trying to figure out the tunes and to see if I could recognize the hymns along with the words, because sometimes the translations are a little bit different.

Given today’s holiday, maybe this hymn seemed especially appropriate. I have been humming it all day.

1. Hosanna au grand Roi! Adorez le Seigneur,
Objet de notre foi, Rendez-lui tous honneur!

2. Il règne à tout jamais Le Dieu de vérité.
Payant pour nos péchés, Sa vie il a donné.

3. Son royaume est parfait, C’est lui qui règne en tout.
Il a reçu les clés, Vainquant la mort pour nous.

Ouvrez vos coeurs, offrez vos voix, laissez éclater votre joie,
Ouvrez vos coeurs, offrez vos voix, laissez éclater votre joie.

Professor/Brother Marsh spoke to us today at a special stake conference. His message instilled hope and joy, he invited the spirit of Easter to the meeting, and it continues to abide.

He recounted the story of Elder Holland observing a family awaiting their son from his mission at an airport. He noticed the anxious and eager faces on the girlfriend and the parents. He saw how their faces lit up when the plane landed, and the father ran onto the tarmac and waited for his son to deplane. When the son stepped onto the ground, he saw his father, and the two of them walked up to each other and gave each other a big hug. It was all they could do; they couldn’t speak for several minutes because they were so happy to see each other.

Elder Holland wondered if the reunion between Christ and the Father was anything like this, when the Son was alone for those agonizing moments, and when He was able to finally ascend up to his Father. Would they have been able to speak, or would they embrace and weep and not feel like letting go?

Brother Marsh told a personal story of his best friend,  from his mission days. His friend would call him up, wanting to pay a visit, and each time the both of them would hike the Y and reminisce about old times. This last time, the friend called. He visited, but he said he didn’t want to climb the Y, but talk with Brother Marsh. In his office, the friend announced that he had cancer, and that the doctors said he only had six months to live. The friend said he didn’t though he was going to make it even that long, but he wanted his best friend to know. For the next two hours they talked and reminisced and enjoyed the closeness of their friendship. When it came time for the friend to leave, they stood up and hugged each other, and the friend told Brother Marsh that he forgave him. Knowing that there was never any contention between them in the course of their friendship, Brother Marsh understood that if there was anything that would hinder their eternal friendship, all would be forgiven.

The friend passed away just a few months later, after his birthday.

The Atonement continues to amaze me in the many ways it works in people’s lives. I’ll never fully understand it, but because it works in my life, I am grateful for it, and maybe that’s all I need.

Happy Easter.

A Couple of Discoveries

First, this video, which I can’t stop playing:

Next, this video, which makes me want to be a better person somehow:

Finally, this quote by me, during a chat with a friend. It sums up my attitude this past week, and it sort of makes me want to go back to hide under the covers because I was such an idiot:

moving forward is a bit awkward with my tail tucked so tightly between my legs

At least I do get to move forward.