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”