Friday, October 30, 2009

Oh, Honestly

"I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said I don't know." --Mark Twain

It seems we live in a world where we feel we must know everything. Yes, we do live in the age of the Internet, Google, and the like. Yes, we do live in the age of podcasts, downloads, and automatic updates. In this setting, though, it is my claim that we miss the mark. Many are devastated at the fact of not being able to answer a question. Others probably could but do nothing about it. Still, others speak as if they know when they clearly do not.

Go with me to a house full of young adult males. Heck, come to my apartment. We have six of them between the ages of 20-24 barring any 30 year old outliers. Case in point: I was watching a basketball game the other night. My favorite team was playing. By favorite I mean FAVORITE. They are a team I have followed all my life. I have some knowledge about their history. However, they were losing the game. One of my roommates saw this. He quickly said, "This team (referring to my favorite team) sucks!"

He continued, "They don't have any good players and their coach is a fossil!"

I remained calm. I promise. I simply replied telling him that they have some of the NBA's top players and that the coach has one of the highest winning percentages in history--all with the same team. The conversation ended.

A second experience occurred the next day with the same roommate. He is exploring different education options. In his quest, he was asking me all kinds of things about Master degree programs, grad schools, and career possibilities in business. I did the best I could and answered him according to what I knew in the midst of my current undergrad status. My reply to the last three or four of his inquiries, however, was, "I don't know." His reply to this surprised me a little. He simply said, "Thanks for being honest instead of giving me some bull-crap answer."

I appreciated this remark because it taught me a lesson. The lesson is three-fold. First, if you don't know something, don't be afraid to admit it. Second, if you don't know something, go and find out about it! Third, if you don't know something, don't pretend that you do. There is no shame in saying, "I don't know."

Thus, in an information frenzied society we don't have to know it all. What would there be to learn if we did? Further, if we try to sound like we do, we will, indeed, be as a "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal" ever talking but never really saying anything (see 1 Cor 13:1, 2 Tim 3:7). Words, words, words.

In short, share what you know if others are seeking it; confess what you don't know. What is your take on it? Because I don't know.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Thanks Bud...

I walk everyday and it has become a common occurrence, on these walks of mine, to suddenly make unplanned eye contact with someone three hundred yards down the sidewalk. What happens next is quite the phenomenon (take note of this on your next walk). The eye contact never holds. Also, nine times out of ten a cell phone comes into view. Suddenly, the person needs to reply to a text message. It is most common for each party to drop their head as if they have not yet seen the person, focusing their eyes on the ground ahead of them, then, at the last possible moment, shoot up with uncanny timing and say, "Hey" with a staccato nod.

Going into a full analysis of why this happens would demand another entry independent of this one. I find it amusing to break the trend of this minimized sociality with the daily masses. For example, at the outset of the three hundred yard eye contact, throw out a hearty wave. You can even cheese it up with a "greetings and salutations, fine sir!" That's always fun. In other attempts, I have held eye contact, voiced a greeting along with the person's name, only to be met with another staccato nod. Worse yet, there was no verbal message returned. The culprit: the i-pod. In these moments, the fruits of my minimal social effort gets munched by digitized media packed into debilitating ear buds. At least take one out and give me a holler. As a bonus, this would allow you to hear the sweetness of the breeze. Mind you, there are plenty of breezes in Rexburg!

When I do get a reply, other phenomenons occur. Perhaps you have participated in exchanges such as this one:

" Hey John, how are you?"
"Good, Travis. How are you?"
"Good. How are you?"

Can you feel the power of the programmed response coupled with awkward redundancy? It makes me laugh. Putting further spin on the above, I love the slang phrases of these times (can you sense sarcasm?). For example, I'll pass by John who quickly says "What's up, man?" I usually mechanically reply, "Not much."
Honestly, to this day, I do not have the slightest ability to answer this question naturally. In reality my response could go many directions:

"Well, the sky is way up," or "Not the stock market," or "hopefully your cholesterol isn't." You could have a lot of fun with this one. However boring and two-dimensional it sounds, though, I'm sticking with "How are you" and "Great to see you."

As a finale, tonight as I was leaving the campus gym it came time to turn in my rental clothes and equipment. At the counter, I realized I had forgotten to bring the back the basketball I had borrowed. The student at the counter--who lacked every customer skill attainable by a rational human--curtly told me that I need to go and get it. He misheard a previous statement I made telling him that I, indeed, would go and get it. So, with the meekness of a frightened child I went to get the ball. I came back and all was well. The short-fused guy at the counter said, with all the kindness in his locker room heart, "Thanks, bud." I then journeyed home in the freshly canned memories of being twelve again waiting for puberty to strike. I felt as fulfilled as a youthful boy scout who just received the thirteen merit badges he earned at camp. Maybe, dad would buy me an ice cream cone for my achievements--especially that astronomy merit badge I earned amidst permanent scout camp rain clouds.
So, to that much bigger young man at the locker room counter I reply, "What's up, man?"

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened - LDS Newsroom

Apostle Says Religious Freedom Is Being Threatened - LDS Newsroom

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And It Begins...

I must say, I've always wanted a blog. There must be something to it--especially if I'm up this late at night tinkering with settings and layout options. My friends have blogs. How come I don't have one? Well...I do now. So, welcome. I'm thoughtful at times. Look out! Reader beware. When I write I'm talking directly to you. Don't be afraid to make eye contact or raise an eyebrow. It makes it all worth it.

In short, I believe in progress. Look at the title of this thing. Even in our folly we can see the urging hand of progress beckon us onward and upward. President Henry Eyring has said, "If we are on the right path, it will always be uphill." This came from the same man who believes in pursuing the steady upward course. Such is life and so be it!