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Showing posts from April, 2013

Reaching out

There are many things that happen in my life which humble me.  Today such a thing happened.  But before I describe the event, let me offer some background.

I have a student this semester who is brilliant in mathematics.  In many way, he reminds me of myself.  He is very outspoken in class, never afraid to give an answer, almost always right.  After the first day of class, he walked with me and we chatted for a bit.  He told me about how much he loved  math and all of the things he had learned in high school.  I was impressed.  And I felt that we would become good friends over the semester.
I actually felt many times that I should reach out to him.  He seemed to be very bored in class.   As far as I could tell, he already knew the material.  I thought about talking to him but I was never sure exactly what to say or how to reach out.  In hindsight, I suppose I could have offered something outside of class to challenge him more than he was being challenged in class, and to offer some mor…

Loving with porn

It is so easy to subscribe to black and white thinking.  To say that X is universally bad or Y is universally good.  To say that it is always immoral to masturbate or to have sex with a person who is not your spouse.  But such thinking is so often erroneous.  It dismisses entirely the complexity of the issue at hand.

The statement "porn kills love" is one such example of black and white thinking.  Certainly, the reasons why someone would conclude such a thing and why so many people think things along these lines of "porn is always bad" and "porn only destroys relationships" are apparent to me--at least many of the reasons are.  There are many cases where relationships go sour because one or both parties looks at porn and either that itself damages the relationship or the fact that the partner finds out about it and becomes angry damages the relationship.

However, I feel that there is so much more to the picture than simply whether one looks at porn or no…


My parents fed me.  They clothed me.  They gave me a place to live and a loving environment to be raised in.  If I had children, I would clothe them.  I would feed them.  I would provide shelter and love to them.  I believe this is the case with nearly all humans and social animals.  This is why I am a socialist.  I don't see a difference between my own biological offspring and the offspring of another fellow homo sapien.

I have the means to share with other people.  I can contribute to the provision of the necessities of life for members of society.  I wish to help other people.  To me, all humans are the same.  I want them to have the material things necessary to sustain life regardless of whether they are related to me within a generation of two of genealogy.  A child down the street is no less deserving of those necessities than my own child.  A man in Africa is no more rightfully restrained from food and water than my own brother.

I believe that all people are equal.  To me…

I'm not gay

"I'm not gay."  How many times did I say this to myself and to other people?  How many times did I wish it was true?  I don't know, but I can think of several examples.  In the diary that I kept as a Mormon missionary, one day I wrote about the son of a less active member that we went to visit.  These are my exact words "We met her son, who's 18 and HE LIKES MATH! I instantly fell in love with him when he told me that (now don't take that the wrong way--I'm a missionary and I'm not gay)."

Another occasion that sticks out in my mind involves my father-in-law.  When I was trying to overcome my addiction to pornography, I signed up for a net nanny service called Covenant Eyes, which I would suggest to anyone looking to overcome a porn addiction.  It would alert him any time that I looked at porn on my computer.  Well, one time I did look and the stuff I looked at was (obviously) gay porn.  I felt the need to email him and reassure him.  These…

Say that you love me

An unexpected thing happened during class yesterday.  A student asked a question, which was a bit of a tangent from the discussion at hand.  I began to answer the student with great enthusiasm, since it's something that I get really excited about.  While I was doing so, another student stopped me.  He said "I don't want to learn whatever you're teaching."  It was a very small thing, but it was very deflating.  It was rain on my parade.  It was hearing a child excitedly discuss all of the rides ey looks forward to riding at Disneyland and then telling em that ey's not really going after all.

I was shocked.  I was stunned.  This was unprecedented.  A student had never cut me off mid-stride like that before.  I was hurt.  I was furious.  Instantly, a dozen different ideas rushed into my mind.  I could tell him to leave the room.  I could reprimand him for his comment.  I could grade his upcoming test harshly.  I could simply ignore him and continue on.  For sev…


As a child, I remember reading The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.  I thought it was funny that people couldn't agree on how to eat toast (although, I also thought it was silly that anyone would insist that the butter be on the bottom as it was eaten).  And, the truth is, that that is a very silly thing to fight over.  Yet, it is the case in the real world that people fight over such silly things.  Obviously, it was commentary on the Cold War.  And many wars (actual wars, with fighting and invasion and everything) do arise because of silly disagreements.  For example, who has claim to the birthright of some particular plot of land.

But what I want to talk about today isn't so much the silliness or the content of the fight itself, but rather the concept of escalation.  Each side of the Butter Battle always tried to one-up the other side, just as the Eastern and Western Blocs tried to one-up each other.  As usual, I point out my own observations and not necessarily scientifica…


(As a side note, I have just passed 100k total views.  Thanks to all of my readers.)

One of the things that my mom taught me was that if I have a problem with one person, it may just be that other person, but if I have the same problem with many people, the problem is probably me.  I suppose an example to illustrate the idea is a person who marries many times.  When someone divorces and remarries, it may well be that the first spouse was abusive or unreasonable or something like that.  But if someone divorces and remarries 10 or more times, it may just be the case that that person is the one who is hard to get along with.

So, I have come to a perplexing spot.  I have had multiple people tell me that I have become an angry person--that I was once more pleasant to be with than I am now.  Since I have been told this by so many people, to be rational, I must assume that there is truth in this claim.  But the problem is that I don't feel like an angry person.

I don't think I'…

Who is your god?

The LDS church has an interesting caveat in its articles of faith.  It states "We believe the Bible to be the word of God, as far as it is translated correctly."  This was great reassurance to me while I was an active Mormon because I honestly had several issues with the Bible--particularly the Old Testament.  I'm actually quite glad to see so many Christians basically disavowing or dismissing the Old Testament altogether now.  However, it is still technically canon in every Christian religion I know of.  But, I would often tell people that I did not believe the Bible in its entirety, that I believed bits and pieces of it but couldn't accept it altogether.  I would usually think of an example like any passage from the Song of Solomon or some story about an assassin sticking a dagger in a king whose belly was so fat the hilt of the dagger got swallowed up in it.

Now that I am out of Mormonism, and Christianity altogether, I have thought about this concept much more t…

Life has a way of confusing us

I write today to raise awareness in general.  I write to people who may be looking for ways to be more sensitive to others.  I write to parents concerned about their own children feeling loved and wanting to have an open and honest relationship with them.  I write to people who may not understand why their family or friends find it so difficult to come out of the closet.

I think it's fairly obvious that belonging to a church which teaches that being gay is bad is a huge contributing factor in preventing someone from coming out.  So, I won't dwell on that too much.  What I want to focus on is the little things that people say which may make a closeted gay family member or friend feel extremely wary of coming out of the closet.

One time when I was in high school I colored my toenails with a marker, just for fun and really for no other reason.  My sister saw that and commented on it.  She said it was an abomination, and that men dressing as women and women dressing as men was sin…

Make me a rib

It's no wonder that the three big monotheistic religions are misogynistic when they all believe that the first woman was created not the same way as the first man, but actually from the first man's rib.  That her whole existence is to be a "helpmeet" for him.  That without him, she wouldn't even exist.
A huge first happened two days ago.  The LDS church has had a semi-annual conference ever since it was first formed in 1830.  From that time until October of last year, every prayer offered in every sessions of every conference was given by a man.  This past Saturday was the first exception.  For the first time in the history of General Conference, a woman prayed.  I have several liberal Mormon friends who were very excited about this.  It got me thinking.  Why is a woman praying in the year 2013 so exciting?  
The history of religion is dirtied with a litany of abuses against women.  Many churches, including the LDS church, currently teach that women should not en…

You are you

There are many voices in the world.  Many pressures.  Telling us that we need to fit into a mold, that we need to follow some script.  Go to school, get an education, get a job, support your family.  Major in engineering instead of math.  Be a doctor or a lawyer instead of an artist or a musician.  Love someone of the same sex rather than the opposite sex.  Get a 4.0 in school.  Keep your scholarship.  Don't be late.  Dress properly.

I think that sometimes we need to step back and think about the things we say and do.  I think that the world is colorful, and should be so.  I think that the wide variety of personalities and talents that arise within the people of the world are good and should be more fully appreciated.  Not everyone needs to attend college.  Not everyone needs to work a 40-hour-a-week job.  Not everyone needs to have a monogamous long-term relationship with someone of the opposite sex.  Some people are artistic.  Some people are naturally good at math.  Some are g…

I have been changed for good

Like a comet pulled from orbit As it passes a sun, Like a stream that meets a boulder Halfway through the wood. Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better? But because I knew you I have been changed for good.
I have listened to this song many times over the last couple years.  But as I was driving in the car yesterday with Conrad and listening to this, I thought of it in the context of the LDS church.  
I cannot say whether being a Mormon for the first 27 years of my life made me better--that cannot be truly known, and is quite subjective--but I can say that I have been molded by it, that I have been “changed for good”.  I would like to list several things that I have learned from the LDS church.  Some of these things are church doctrine, some I learned from positive examples I witnessed in the church, and some are negative examples (observing behavior exhibiting what not to do).
Love.  Love everyone.  Love your family.  Love your friends.  Love your enemies.  Love people who need it the …