Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My own "Theory of Everything"

I’ve been firmly on the fence about whether or not to see The Theory of Everything (the movie on the life of Stephen Hawking)…worried that this film might strike a little too close to home…worried that it might not strike close enough to home, etc. until today when Amy and I had lunch with three other ALS diagnoses, and I was reminded that, though we share a diagnosis, we are all having our own completely unique experience. I realized that I have nothing to fear from anyone else's story--no one’s story is MY story. So, I came home excited to see this show, rented the movie online, and watched it all by myself. I liked this movie. It did better than most at showing the complexity of a trial. It also touched on many of the topics I find myself thinking about every day: God, time, and family. I've decided to share my own "theory of everything" in the form of excerpts from a few recent email discussions I've had with close friends:

Context: after reading a verse found in Isaiah 53:10 (and repeated in the Book of Mormon), I sent out a group text to a number of friends asking whether any of them understood what "he shall prolong his days" means. A number of my friends responded, prompting me to write the following to one of them:

"I asked my original question not because I'm studying the prolonging of days, but because I want to truly understand repentance… Including understanding everything I can about what this verse seems to be talking about-- what the Savior experiences during our moment of repentance. Here is an old journal entry that summarizes my desire well:
' I've continued to ponder this theme of a changed heart, and have asked myself whether I have had this experience yet. I've read in the scriptures of the 'mighty change of heart' after which one has no more desire to commit sin or to even look upon sin without abhorrance. I think of Enos' experience in the woods, the mighty change of the Anti-Nephi-Lehi's, the sanctification of those in Alma 13 after which they 'entered into the rest of the Lord', the conversions of Alma the Younger, the sons of Mosiah, Zeezrom, Saul of Tarsus, and the people of Melchezidek, I think of the words of the Savior to Peter--"when though art converted....", wondering if I have yet been converted? I desire to receive, like Saul, "another heart" and to be forever freed from my 'natural' desires. I desire to be sanctified and enter into the rest of the Lord, dedicating myself without distraction to hiswork. I have felt and acted on the desire to repent many times and have felt the freedom of foregiveness, but wonder whether their isn't a greater and more enduring cleansing awaiting me if I fully embrace the Lord's plan. I give thanks for the perfect pland pray for this sanctification for me and my 'family'.'
Time, to me, is not uniform. Sometimes minutes, hours, or days go by in a flash. At other times we live seconds so intensely that they seem longer than days. In this way, our days can be "prolonged" in intensity or awareness or sensitivity. Whether this is what Isaiah means not, I like the idea that the effect of "making his soul an offering for sin" is that we have heightened sensitivity or awareness."

Context: while watching a soccer game, a good friend turned to me and asked about how I was approaching The Project.… Wondering what thoughts consumed at me most, etc. the game ended and we decided to continue the conversation over email.

"Regarding God's involvement and our trials…I think we as Mormons often emphasize the potential of mankind to become "like God", without giving equal airtime to the incomprehensible differences between God's state and our state. In our effort and desire to understand and live the gospel, we use words like perfection, omniscience, and eternal to describe God and then Somehow spend our time wondering what God's capabilities are???.… we are comfortable recognizing him as our Creator and the architect of the universe, but are somehow uncomfortable believing that he is truly unlimited in his ability to be involved in our development in ways that we lack of the ability to understand. I personally believe God operates on a higher plain… One on which time does not exist, past present and future are one, and the laboratory that you and I experience is it designed to give you and I experience and self awareness that we could not get any other way… A world filled with  "opposition in all things", both good and bad…"

Context: I received a happy birthday email from one of the better men that I know, continuing our old conversation about faith and empiricism.… Prompting me to write the following:

"I believe most arguments that directly or indirectly pit faith and religion against science and atheism rely on starkened semantics as a lever to eliminate shared belief. My experience is that the vast majority of people believe that they do not yet understand every force in our universe…with people's opinions ranging, and continually evolving, all along this spectrum from "I believe I understand almost everything," to "I've only begun to understand the universe." It is only when an author, usually with an ax to grind or name/dollar to be made, begins arguing as if there were no spectrum at all, but, instead, two camps named ATHEISM and RELIGION, that we take up sides and begin thinking of ourselves in one camp or the other even though our lives and actions bear ample evidence that we have remarkably similar beliefs."

Context: Dear friends are going through an amazingly deep trial and doing so with grace that I am personally inspired by. I wrote the following:

" I am convinced through my own experience that we really have no idea what others are experiencing at any given moment… We assume, but don't really have the ability to be in someone's head or emotions, or fears or relief…, some of what we assume about each other is just plain wrong. I've been caught off guard more than once when someone comes up to me in tears, assuming I am suffering and wanting to comfort me, and I think to myself, "Man, what can I tell this person? Thank you? That I haven't struggled with what they assume I am struggling with for years? That I think their struggles are comparable to mine? That, in reality, I'm quite content, or hungry, or in the mood to be distracted?" Sometimes, when I am tired, I simply don't want to receive any more empathy… I don't want to comfort anyone who is suffering on my behalf… I don't want to be the false high-standard for anyone's faith or anyone's inspiration. And then there are the times (usually after I've eaten and taken a nap :-)) when I feel like light pours in and I am able to go give and receive, to see the smallness of my fears, and the beauty of the empathy offered me”

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Our Biggest Year!

Hey y'all,  

At some point each day, I think to myself "MAN! I just learn something new, and I better write it down now or else I will lose it."… As you can see from the frequency of my entries, I have an incredible  ability to resist the temptation to do what I should :-) That said, it's the first day of 2015, and 2014 deserved more attention than I gave it. Here's to repentance!

I believe in premonitions…andthat my eyes are unevenly placed on my face. Both points were reconfirmed to me the other night when Amy pulled up a Facebook post from this time last year. 

Beside the Picasso-esque selfie, the caption reads: "Hey 2014, watch out. Seth just announced that we're going big this year. Whose with us?" What Amy's caption did not capture was that I said this less of a statement of determination, and more of a statement of a feeling. While I would like to say that 2014 went according to my master plan, looking back, there is NO WAY we could have planned last year… to be honest, not a single significant step was clear as we took the previous step, but each step was necessary to get to the next or next-next step. To illustrate:
  • Feb 9:   A wonderful, generous family makes an unsolicited offer on our Redmond home
  • Feb 14:  I have, after a priesthood blessing, a 180° change of heart, and feel strongly to accept
  • Feb 21: We accept the offer without knowing where to go...I'm ok with anywhere but Salt Lake
  • Mar 28: While on a weekend trip to Salt Lake, we walk through a home that feels like HOME
  • Apr 16: The wonderful, generous owners accept our unsolicited offer on their unlisted home
  • May 2:  While pulling it behind the U-Haul, my dad shows the Camaro to his auto body shop
  • May 5:  We arrive at our new home in Salt Lake City
  • Jun 6:    Over dinner with friends, ALS Crowd is born
  • Jun 7:    The Utah Auto Body Association choses the Camaro as their 2014 pro bono project
  • Jun 16:  We are invited to fill a June 18th cancellation at the UofU ALS Clinic
  • Jun 18:  KSL (our NBC affiliate) is at the clinic; their subject cancels; they ask permission to film
  • Jun 26:  ALS Crowd Radio does it first of nine 2014 episodes with KSL present and filming
  • Jun 30:  KSL films Sam working with the Utah Auto Body Association on the Camaro
  • Jul 2:     On Lou Gehrig's speech anniversary, KSL airs a piece about ALS and our projects
  • Jul-Aug: The Ice Bucket Challenge changes the trajectory of ALS forever  
  • Oct 4:    "Life's Miracles: The Project", a documentary about our family, airs October 4
  • Since:   We have been invited to lead national ALS projects, and are running to keep up
Even if these events had little significance for anyone outside our family, the significance of these events TO our family was monumental. It's hard not to be overwhelmed and emotional as I think of the moments listed above and the millions of seconds, impressions, and thoughts that came between them. I  think of our desires, look at the cadence of events, consider the events' impact on our family, and am blown away by how perfectly the cadence matches the impact and exceeds our desires…I  have no choice but to recognize A) the UTTER impossibility that there is no greater/higher power than me; and B) God's involvement in--or ability to be involved in--the intricacies of our lives. 

This is not to say that 2014 was easy… Fun, yes… Easy, no. 

Amy: I've begun, half jokingly, to tell people that we did our best to break Amy this year. Imagine, in the middle of a health ordeal, dealing with a husband who has refused to consider "moving home" for 13 years, and then, in one afternoon, changes his mind? Imagine keeping the above schedule and take care of all of us, while moving states… and somehow being energized by it rather than broken down?  Imagine allowing a camera crew into not only your half-moved-in home, but also into the most private areas of your life… All in the hopes that it will benefit others? How can she keep this up? There is simply no one like her.  Other highlights include:
  • Hawaii trips
  • Old & New friendships
  • 5:30 AM workouts
  • New portraits in her photography portfolio
  • Our new home
Sam: Despite his mother's concerns that we asked too much of a junior high age kid (to leave his friends,  home, and teams), I hope someday Sam will know what it is like when his 13-year-old son comes to him and says,  tearfully, "Dad, I feel like this move is the right thing to do… I've felt we have been frozen for a a while now ." I can tell him how he'll feel…his heart will well up to the point of breaking, and he'll feel hope that his boy has already mastered life lessons that the boy's father is just now learning. Highlights include:
  • Returning to Seattle to break his leg at Scout Camp
  • Stripping the Camaro
  • Visits from Seattle friends
  • Joining the mountain biking and wrestling team
  • Is currently in Rwanda Africa
Ellie: How do you keep moving ALL THE TIME? Who teaches themselves how to do an aerial? How can you be SO much like your mother? How can you, at 11 years old, have so much faith, be so good, and take care of everyone? Highlights include:
  • Finally has a trampoline
  • Required stitches only once
  • Reached the Washington state semifinals with her soccer team
  • Is currently in Rwanda Africa
Jayne: How can you be so dramatic and yet so selfless? How do you handle these teasing of your siblings and still adore them? How will you feel when your seven-year-old request something, like being baptized, by a dad who is currently more than a little wobbly? I will tell you… You will be proud and confident in your daughter's ability to choose what's right! Highlights include:
  • Was baptized by her dad (with helpers)
  • Has chosen basketball as her sport
  • Had her ears pierced
  • Has turned into a reader…She loves Laura Ingalls Wilder
Jacob: How can you be so intelligent at four years old? Complexity of thought and love for our family. Idolizes his brother. Highlights include:
  • Learned new things like- riding a bike, playing soccer, and going to a new school
  • Rides a jazzy like a race car driver
  • Loves cousin day (Monday) and being the triplet to the cousin twins
  • Love for the snow and hiking and camping
If "going big" refers to the comparative size of leaps made, the number of people met, the number of new experiences, or the potential to influence, this was our family's biggest year yet.