28 May 2011

THT: What if this is it?

I remember shortly after coming out and while I was dating Brig I thought about Mormon "hell." See, Mormons really don't believe in hell. In fact, the belief is that the worst place you really have a chance at getting into is so wonderful, we could never even come close to imagining the greatness of it. And if we did, we'd do anything to get there. During that time I thought, "I could do this. I could live a happy life in a world just like this, even with all of its flaws and imperfections." I mean, there are difficult times... but there is so much to hope for and dream of. There are so many opportunities to learn and grow and progress. So many people to meet and love. And then to think that even if all my accusers were right, and I was going to Mormon hell, it would by a thousand times better.

Well, lately I have been contemplating another idea. What if this is it? No heaven. No hell. Just this life. 80 years on this planet. What then? Do I have a purpose still? I've been raised with the idea that my purpose in this life was to prepare for the next. It rested completely on the idea that there is a next life. If you take that away, what is left?

When I strip that idea away, here is my conclusion. I still want to learn all I can. I still want to do what I can to make this place I live in a better place. A better place for my family, yes, but also a better place for future generations of people. There are so many ways a person can contribute good to society. Some are giant leaps and others are barely noticed. But change is happening and we are able to drive that change by living lives of honesty and goodness. On my deathbed, if I can look back on my life and feel as if I have made positive change in the world (even if it is only small and personal) I will be satisfied and will feel fulfilled. What better feeling to die with than the assuring one telling you that you lived a meaningful life and that it somehow created some measure of positive change in the world, even if it was only within a single person.

When I look at that conclusion I came to, it becomes clear why we have myths and legends and religions and stories. Take away the literalness of everything that has been said about folklore or religion and what do you have? Stories that are basically trying to teach us that we have the power within us to do something good. To improve ourselves and gain strength, power, and knowledge. To be agents for change in the larger world around us and improve life, inspire, and heal. That together, we actually have godlike powers to create the world of tomorrow.

So maybe the world wasn't flooded. And maybe Noah didn't actually collect two of every kind of animal. But don't we find hope in fresh starts? For second chances? Don't we sometimes feel the need to clear our lives of the crap and start over with the basics? Doesn't that give us hope that we have the power to become better?

And even if you don't believe that Jesus raised people from the dead or healed them, have we not had faith in our ability find cures for disease? Have our doctors not literally brought people back to life? Are we not literally empowered to heal?

When we try to make myths and beliefs into science, it falls apart. We spend millions of dollars doing carbon dating and excavation and people spend their whole lives searching for solid evidence of this or that, and when it comes down to it, we've missed the point entirely. Just like the pharisees who counted steps on Sunday. All these schools of thought are just meant to try and help aide people in finding the power within themselves to live rich, meaningful, good lives.

So at the end of the day I feel like I am asking the wrong question. Who cares of this is it or not? The interesting question to me is, why do we as a human race believe in leaving a legacy? Why do we find fulfillment in doing good? Why do we strive for better even after our basic needs are met? What is in us that causes such a phenomenon?

22 May 2011

PE: Lessons From Hollister

So one of my jobs is managing a Hollister store. There are two lessons I feel I've learned from working there that are relevant to the discussions on this blog.

#1. If you say you "feel bad" about messing up a pristine folded pile of clothes, you shouldn't throw the shirt you just grabbed onto the presentation.

If you have ever been to an Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister, you probably are familiar with the kind of folding the company expects. It is basically folding perfection. It sounds ridiculous to talk about the rage that can overtake a person who has just spent 30 minutes of their life on a perfect pile when they see a careless shopper simply rip one out of the stack with no thought given to trying to preserve the other shirts (or whatever). But that rage is real. I sometimes think that shoppers think we just throw the clothes into some kind of folding machine. Do they realize that a person spent time making a pile look like that?

Anyway, every now and then someone will talk about how they "feel bad" for messing up a pile to their friend, yet they will discard their unwanted article of clothing as if it were a piece of trash and they were at a garage sale. And then you get those conscious shoppers who will fold (in some way) the piece of clothing they looked at and place it on top of the pile it came from. It doesn't really matter how they fold it, but the fact that they acknowledge that it is a nicely folded pile by putting a little effort in keeping it nice says a lot about their character.

What does this have to do with anything? I'll tell you. I can't number the amount of times I have heard people say, "I feel bad that you have to deal with being gay," or, "I imagine that would be so hard, and wouldn't wish that on anyone," or "Gosh, I can imagine how painful it would be not to be able to marry the person you love..." and then they end with "but..."

Tell me people, do you REALLY feel bad? Because if you REALLY feel bad, why do you vote to ban gay marriage? Why do you accept that gays shouldn't be given the same rights or standards as straights? Lip service does nothing. And why do you feel bad? Usually we only feel bad because we know what we are doing is messed up... or wrong. You know that pile was folded by a person who spent time making it perfect, and you know the extra work you are leaving them to do, and yet you simply throw the shirt in some random place. If you feel bad for me because "it just must be SO hard to be gay," then make it easier. It doesn't have to be hard.

#2 Our society is unbelievably homophobic. Still.

This is a lesson I learned from our new bags. They certainly cause a stir in Hollister stores across the nation:

Yep. Two dudes. First off, you need to realize that Abercrombie & Fitch sells sexy. Their bags and marketing is always a little provocative and it always has. Suddenly when there is no girl involved, however, the world gets crazy. Second, these guys are not even touching. They are laying on the beach. In fact, if you go to the beach today, chances are you could find a similar thing going on. Two guys on the sand next to each other. But let me tell you about the reactions I witness on a daily basis from people of all ages.

Some people will actually give the bag back after seeing it. Some make comments. They will take a look at the bag, and then with a look of disgust, comment about it to their fellow shopper. Some will comment right in front of you. "That's a fag bag, I don't want that." "Eww, why do they have to put dudes on this!" Others will be more discreet and they will crumple the bag in their hand so no one can make out what is on it. Some will complain and ask for a different bag.

So now, everyday I am reminded of the homophobia that is still very much alive. Especially when it comes to guys. If you replaced the two models with female models, there would be less of a problem. Better yet, make one female and one male and then they could be on top of each other without much controversy. Plus, you can't even tell there are two guys on it by looking at one side. That's all.

09 May 2011

PE: I worked on Sunday

This post actually has nothing to do with being gay. It does have to do with being Mormon. This Sunday, I worked. I don't normally work on Sundays, but this week, I did. I work downtown, just minutes away from temple square. On any given day, you will pass quite a few homeless people. Some are in groups. Some are taking a nap on the grass. Some hold signs hoping for some money. Others will just approach you and ask if you could get them a burger from mcdonalds. Some are old. Some are young. Some are mothers, and there are those that are just kids. Ever since I started working downtown, it bothered me. But Sunday it really bothered me.

I made it to work in my fastest time. As I drove out of the neighborhood I live in, cars were filing into church parking lots and families were entering the buildings all dressed up. Sunday is a good day to drive in Utah because everyone is at church. But while everyone was sitting in church, I was driving by the homeless that wander the streets around temple square. And maybe it was just my imagination, but there sure seemed to be a lot more out there on Sunday. It seems so backwards to me. Why are there homeless people in a state where so many Mormons live? But more than that, why are there masses of visibly homeless people surrounding temple square?

Meanwhile, the church is building the 3 billion dollar city creek center across the street from temple square. A massive project that includes luxury condos and an upscale mall with a retractable roof. I don't care were the money is coming from, no church should be putting money into an upscale shopping center before taking care of the homeless and needy that surround its very headquarters. In Jan. 2006, from the Church PR department, (Deseret News Publishing Company): Edgley said, “that since 1984, the LDS Church has donated nearly $750 million in cash and goods to people in need in more than 150 countries. I wouldn't have believed that the church would spend more money on a mall than on over 20 years of humanitarian aid.

Some will argue that it is only costing 1 billion dollars... my answer would be, only? And this IS the number the church initially reported... actually, it started at $800,000. However, take a look at this article from DESERET NEWS, and you will find that indeed, "City Creek Reserve is spending more than $1 million a day on construction, and the project ultimately will cost around $3 billion, said Chris Redgrave, a KSL executive who also chairs the Salt Lake Chamber's Can-Do Coalition." Mind you, this number was given in November 2009. Costs tend to rise on these things.

Sorry for venting. I just don't get it. Am I missing something here? The way the church is choosing to revitalize downtown is to provide another place to buy a new outfit? Should I not be worried about this? Someone please make sense of it for me.

05 May 2011

THT: I can't be unhappy

I put a lot of pressure on myself. Right now I am working a TON. Last week I went 48 hours without sleep to work. This is the reason I don't post much anymore. Obviously my life is off balance. Work has taken over. I'm not sure what the solution is yet, but it is definitely taking a toll. I am less happy and satisfied with my life. But this means a whole lot more than that when put into context of my situation.

You see, I have plenty of people expecting me to fail. They expect me to have a breakdown and to be unhappy. They expect it because I have chosen to live a life true to the person that I am. They expect it because I am living as a gay guy and thy think that any bit of unhappiness I may find in my life will be directly due to that.

The result is, I can't allow myself to be unhappy. I feel like I need it all. I need to be successful, I need a steady relationship, I need to volunteer and work for the benefit of others, I need to have a plan for my life and I need to be on the road to achieving that plan. I have to know what I want and go out and get it. If I don't, somehow I loose credibility. So when I don't have all those things (like right now where I have let work take over my life) I get down on myself. And then I get even more down on myself for being down at all. I feel like having a bad day or being unhappy is proof for others and evidence to myself that I am doing something wrong. Others will assume it is my being gay, and it is hard for me to keep that out of my mind.

But the truth of the matter is that gay people have bad days too. They are unhappy sometimes too. We don't always have everything figured out. I need a vacation.

Here is the first of a series of short skits I am producing for Robert's Arts and Crafts. There should be about 2 episodes a month through the end of the year. They are trying their hand at viral marketing and social media:

ARG: Isn't it funny

Isn't it funny how we will read scriptures that talk about men and apply them to women without question? Sometimes we even add that part in on our own...  men (and women). Yet we do not think it right to suppose that scriptures that refer to one relationship or one family could relate to another type. We can change the exclusive "man" to inclusive "people" but we can't change "wife" to " spouse" or "woman" to "man." When it comes down to it, are Christ's teachings really about specific gender couplings or are they about relationships between people? What if we focused on and applied what Christ was saying about relationships rather than on the specific one he references in a certain parable or teaching. Aren't we supposed to apply the scriptures to our own lives and our own situations?

This is the approach I take. Funny thing about my patriarchal blessing... it became more true and more relevant and more personal after coming to terms with being gay. The wording is even such that it fits much better with the life I have now chosen to live. Certain wording always confused me a little. But now, it actually makes more sense to me. The only thing that doesn't fit is the mention of a wife. It refers to my spouse as a "her." It would appear that i have two options. I either through my patriarchal blessing out, figuring it is all a bunch of bull, or accept that I have chosen a path I am not supposed to. However, there is another approach.

My patriarch was like 70 years old. While I believe he is inspired, I'm not sure that that inspiration is in the form of words. I believe that, like the way the holy ghost works, it is more direction by feeling. So when he felt inspired to talk about a significant other or spouse, his assumption, and even his experience tells him that this significant other will be a female. When we read the words of John the relevator, or Isaiah, how many times are we told that they use language that is familiar to them to describe things they may not understand or may not have had experience with? Could it not be the same with a patriarch?

Another question people sometimes have is that if I believe that my patriarchal blessing is inspired, I must believe everything. The Book of Mormon, the church, the leaders, the whole package. I used to think that too. I don't anymore because I think it is unhealthy. It is like meeting one person that is trustworthy and then assuming that everyone else must be trustworthy too. Then one day, when you find out that first person you met was a fraud, you loose faith in everyone because you trusted them based on the assumption that the first guy was good, even if some of them really are good, trustworthy, honest people.

No. I take principles and ideas one at a time. "Precept upon precept." While reading scriptures I will come upon a teaching or principle that really strikes home and rings true in my heart. That tells my that that idea is a good one. It doesn't mean everything ever written in that book is pure and unadulterated truth. When I say i believe my blessing was inspired, it doesn't mean that I believe that everything from polygamy to the blacks not holding the priesthood, to gays being damned is inspired. I take things one at a time.