Nothingness vs. Somethingness

First, I want to recognize for myself, regarding the title of my last post, that time is not to blame, we all have the same amount of time in a day and it boils down to priorities and how we choose to spend our time.  For now I would like to write again to capture some recent thoughts.

I attended a very interesting forum at work this week, the panel was three Ashoka Fellows: Molly Barker (founder of Girls on the Run), Kristen Hayden (founder of One World Now!) and Vishal Talrega (founder of Dream a Dream).  Even though religion was not discussed openly I thought they were making incredible statements about what it means to be human, what is the ultimate purpose of life, and what is good.  I was particularly fascinated by some of the words they used to describe their own experiences as their word choice resonated deeply with what I believe but which I have come to understand from a religious lens.  A few examples:

One theme that quickly emerged on the panel was the distinction between what they do and who they are, or action and being.  All three of them are incredibly successful entrepreneurs and all working with children in the realm of empowerment and all constantly traveling and talking about “what they do.”  However all three of them seemed to be bursting with the desire to express that what their vision was and the purpose of their work was not…running races, learning languages or educating street kids…but what kind of people they were creating, what the children they worked with were becoming.  Their language paralleled that of modern apostle Dallin Oaks in his speech “The Challenge to Become“.  Listening to both parties articulate a similar message I was struck by how much the Fellows struggled to articulate it and find the right words, all the while being lauded as insightful, innovative and revered for their wisdom while the speech of Dallin Oaks is build from ancient texts thousands of years old yet largely unread though beautifully poetic and even more poignant because of an answer to the question of ‘where does that drive or desire come from’.  Either way I share this sentiment, I am interested in what I become as a person not necessarily what I do or achieve.

Another phrase that dominated the conversation was the word “nothingness.”  All three panels expressed a point in their life in which the came to a fundamental crossroads or crux of experience in which “their mind was blown” and they finally saw clearly what they needed to do or had the courage to take big risks in their lives as social entrepreneurs.  Ms. Barker described her experience as entering into a state of ‘nothingness’, a washing away of all the frameworks and paradigms she had been taught, a pureness of thought and recognition of self.  Her word choice immediately made me think of King Benjamin’s speech in the Book of Mormon in which he challenges his listeners to be “awakened to a sense of your nothingness” which leads to humility and a recognition of God’s goodness and gifts and powers which results in “being filled with the love of God” and growth in “knowledge of that which is just and true.”  Ms. Barker went on to explain that she has found that space again and again and was even in that state of mind as she spoke.  I also confirm that I felt a difference in the room, the collective mood of all the participants, something was resonating or striking a chord with the participants.  Again as she was describing her feelings it was an immediate parallel to language I would be accustomed to hearing in an LDS church or meeting.  Mormons would credit such a moment to the Holy Spirit, the feeling of peace, the clarity of mind, the sudden strokes of ideas.  It reminded me of the following description of revelation by Joseph Smith,

“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when youfeel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; . . . those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ.”  (TPJS 151)

I would argue that there must be a somethingness behind that nothingness which Ms. Barker describes.  Particularly in regards to how she describes it as coming outside of herself, not being created or manipulated as a feeling, it simply came to her.  It is those experiences that causes me to believe in that somethingness which leads to light and understanding and desire to become.  I find it even more powerful that that something is a someone.

MIA, time to blame

Wow, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted in this forum, not due to the absence of thoughts nor to an end of seeking, let me assure you.  I’ve simply been struggling to find balance ever since starting a new job back in September.  My independent writing career, aka blogging and commenting, has taken a back seat these last couple months. I’m still searching for that balance, so expect my posts to continue to be a bit sporadic in the short term.

In light of searching for that balance my thought for today is an introspection into the use of time and its connection to happiness. We all have the same amount of time in a day and it is our decisions about how to use that time that really defines who we are and what we become. I have experienced a profound shift in time culture over the last year or so.  It seems like only yesterday I was in Africa sitting in a store called “No Hurry in Life Enterprise”, a virtue in their community but an oxymoron in the culture I find myself part of on the East Coast. Everyone is very dedicated and in my particular workplace we are all working for a very noble cause which might justify it more but sometimes I question whether the long hours are really the legacy I want to build and have to show for my time on earth. There is always a time and place for long hours/intense work, they are a component of nearly every great achievement, but a culture of work that over the long run cuts out family, recreation, time for contemplation, etc. is, I think, detrimental to the individual and society as a whole.

Can I have it both ways or will I need need to move to Africa… only time will tell.

Everyone is going to write about Poverty this Wednesday

Poverty and suffering are perhaps some of the most challenging thoughts for a religious seeker to confront and reconcile.  This Wednesday offers a good opportunity to flush out some of your thoughts as Blog Action Day 2008 is challenging all bloggers to discuss the issue of poverty to launch a worldwide conversation.  I am perhaps most fascinated and excited by this model of journalism, a kind of open source community effort focusing on a global issue.  I will posting my thoughts from a professional perspective over at my blog on MicroFranchising and if I can work in two posts in one day I would love to address the issue from a religious perspective in this forum.  If you plan on posting yourself go to the Blog Action Day website to register to help them show the impact of the day.

Blog Action Day 2008 Poverty from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Changing ‘truth’ in Science

Oldest Skeleton in the Americas

Oldest Skeleton in the Americas

Another interesting article out of National Geographic, this time finding the oldest human skeleton found on the American continent.  Early indications are that it will challenge the long held teaching that the earliest settlers of the Americas came from North Asia, this skeleton believed to be most similar to Southeast Asians.  The ethnic complexity of ancient America has been well documented despite the prevailing voice of Bering Strait landbridge theories.  The Book of Mormon of course has been telling us this all along, both in terms of ancient vogages across the sea and Lehi’s family finding others already in the Americas.

This find doesn’t change much in terms of what we already knew, if we truly acknowledged everything we knew and didn’t jump to conclusions, but the fact that many scholars and the lay consumers of their publications did jump to conclusions and absolutely dismissed alternative migration patterns should be a reminder that we should be cautious in our consumption of the current truth claims of science.  Scientific understanding, particularly in the more ‘interprative’ sciences (I’m thinking particularly of history and archeology but also things as ‘certain’ as DNA), should be accompanied by humility and any acknowledgement that what we do not know is more than what we do.  Such a stance would make one a better scientist in my opinion, always on the lookout for additional understanding.

Did Ether hide out in the Yucatan?

New Caves discovered in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  Could these explain the description of Ether hiding in a cavity of a rock?  Pure speculation but it is a curious description and these type of underground/underwater caves unique to the Yucatan Peninsula would aptly call for such a description.  The network of caves in the Yucatan is mind boggling, there was a great segment about them in Planet Earth.

Beautiful photo exhibition depicting the life of Christ

I was introduced to an exhibit produced by a photographer out of Arizona which depicts scenes from the life of Jesus Christ.  It is an absolutely beautiful collection of images.  I commend the artists and the producers for both the spirit they captured and art they produced.  I understand there are talks that will bring it to the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. as well as the LDS Visitor’s Center.  I look forward to seeing it in person.  Behind the scenes video about the production can be seen at reflectionsofchrist.org.

I turned into Tom Hanks

I had a rather surreal movie watching experience this weekend.  When I first saw the movie Big I would have only been slightly younger than the main character so, naturally, I saw the movie through the eyes of the boy and his friend.  I imagined it would all be so cool…to be big, to get to do all the grown up things, but other than that it was just a fun movie.  Twenty years later I find myself watching this movie and suddenly I’m the grown up version and living in the world of all the adults in the movie.  What the freak happened to me!

Honestly it was one of the most introspective movie-viewing experiences I have had in a very very long time.  The movie is incredibly insightful into the coming of age experience and the beauty of the different stages of our lives.  It stirred such a mixed bags of emotions: a nostalgic sadness for the loss of innocence and unlimited potential of childhood, a desire to be Continue reading →

Darfur, world citizenship, and the Sermon on the Mount

Tonight I watched a taped episode of Frontline about the history of the tragedy in Darfur. A couple points that caused reflection:

One interviewee stated, in essence, that the “gods of history” had given mankind another chance to step in and prevent genocide; another chance, referring to the failure of the international community to intervene in Rwanda. His language, of course, caused me to reflect about God, mass sufferings in history, and the test of this life. Who will have to answer for this in the day of Judgment? The Janjaweed? Sudanese leaders? The Chinese? The U.N.? U.S. Business? me?

The power of citizens. We are living in a pivotal moment in history. Citizen groups are becoming powerful enough to sway government, to speak louder than big business dollars, and to have impact at a level greater than the nation-state.  The citizen movement was the only thing keeping Darfur on the agenda, and no matter how disappointing the ultimate outcome the fact that citizens on one side of the are actively fighting for the well-being of citizens in a remote corner of the world is a welcome advancement.

When Christ spoke that core principle, “do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” how far does my personal responsibility expand?  Where should I put my limited time and resources?  I see bums every day walking to work but then I go into an office trying to support positive change all around the world.  Is one better than the other?

Everyone is a Changemaker in Zion

This weekend a constingency of us from Ashoka met with the folks at GOOD Magazine to brainstorm how we can inspire more people to become Changemakers for good.  A Changemaker is Ashoka’s language for describing someone who is self-actualized and views themselves with the power to change themselves, their families, their community, and ultimately the entire society of human kind.  We drew vin diagrams that blended idealism and pragmatism and talked about changing patterns in the last 50 years as a new trend in a large body of socially conscious citizens, etc.

As I listened to these discussions the expressions and language that I heard were, in essence, echoes of Zion.  These are elements that the Utopians have identified across the centuries.  The ways such a society are to be established have already been identified and successfully implemented for short periods of time.  Why short?  Because it is extremely hard work, it takes constant concentration, quick repentance, “prayer and fasting”, “meeting together oft” and the entire group must be fully committed.  But I say the more we can approach that ideal the better and it should be our endless goal, so I whole-heartedly endorse Ashoka’s vision of Everyone a Changemaker.  It is a matter of being and becoming.

Humans and our need to interact with the natural world

The other day after work I decided to walk through the National Zoo and I came away with a couple thoughts.  First, we humans are not the only ones with cognitive powers.  There was one orangutan that was completely working the crowd, luring everyone away from another ape and then, once he had their full attention, sending them all away in disgust to his own delight as he regurgitated a previous meal and slurped it back up again.  The thing is my nephew gets the same sense of pleasure from showing everyone his chewed up fish sticks.  A particular seal lion also resembled my nephew in his tactics for stalling to go to Continue reading →