Monday, March 2, 2015

What My Sucky iPhone 4s Taught Me About Faith

One of my friends fact checks literally everything I say. Here's a conversation we'll probably have after he reads this piece and realizes I'm talking about him.

Him: "I obviously don't fact check literally everything you say."

Me: "I mean, several dictionaries have changed the definition of literally to also mean figuratively, so it could be argued that, yes, you fact check literally everything I say."

Him: "I think a better interpretation of the changed definition would be: dictionaries added a caveat to merely expand the definition of 'literally' in an attempt to accommodate the intentional non-literal use of the word for both exaggerated and humorous effect. And here are 56 articles that prove my point."

Me: "I'm watching Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, so I can't read those right now."


I have a really smart iPhone 4s. My guess is it's smarter than probably 90% of the other 4s's out there.  I feel the need to stand up for it, because one time, a stranger asked if he could borrow my phone, and when I handed it to him, he responded with, "Haha. Never mind. You just have a sucky 4s." That really happened! I just counted how many cracks are on the front screen: 49. I actually feel pretty bad about that, because I spend probably more time looking at that screen than I do looking at actual human beings. You'd think I would take better care of my things--especially things that allow me to learn about pretty much anything in less than 8 seconds (I say 8, because, I'll admit, my OS speed isn't what it used to be). But I suppose this is the very reason why I still have a sucky iPhone 4s rather than, like, an iPhone 6: more screen surface area + my dependable drop constant = increased crack potential. #math


There is this really dark, dusty, cobwebbed corner of my mind where I store things like my memory of the time my dad decided to have a conversation about puberty with me when I was 19. (Bye, dad). It stores other memories too: the taste of sour milk, a number of awkward first kisses, wetting the bed once when I was a senior in high school, an event my mom attributed to "just being stressed," and life before smart phones. In fact, I barely even remember how I learned about things before smart phones. It just seems like a bad joke, or an episode of Punk'd. 

"Anyone know how many people live in the state of Alaska?"

"No, but I can look it up. Ah, here we are. The 1999 edition."

"But it's 2005."

"How much could the population have changed in the last 6 years?"

"I dunno. Let's look it up. I'll ask mom if we can use the phone line for a couple hours. Oh shoot. Internet explorer crashed again."

"Oh well. I guess we'll never know."

Seriously, Ashton. I know you're there. Come out.


For basically all of human existence, knowledge has been a privilege. The opportunity to learn about the philosophies of Immanuel Kant, or the Theory of Relativity, or the population of Alaska in 2005, was exactly that: an opportunity. People had to work like, pretty hard to receive an education. It wasn't even until 1972 that women were seen as "equal" to men in public educational institutions. But like most things, accessibility has damaged value. Knowledge isn't a privilege anymore. It doesn't take effort or desire to look up the population of Alaska in 2005 (666,946, by the way). Granted, the knowledge of state populations isn't the best example of educational privilege, but the fact remains: if we don't "know" about something, we can type it into  a fancy smart phone in less than 8 seconds and know the answer. In fact, we don't even have to type. We can literally tell our phone to search for something, and if a definite answer doesn't appear on the first page of google search results, we write off the question as unanswerable, or the problem as unsolvable. 


I remember watching I Am Legend alone once, late at night, and was all of a sudden SCARED OUT OF MY MIND. I'd seen that movie probably 15 times, but that night, it really got to me. I don't remember ever being that scared in my life. I finished the movie, walked to my room, and then proceeded to sit in my bed for almost an hour, wide awake, 100% convinced I was going to die because my house wasn't rigged with explosives. I was weak---a little baby, for all intents and purposes. And I was going to die. I hadn't watched the Bachelor in several years, but as I sat there, I remembered how a new season had just started up again. So I booted up the ole' laptop, and proceeded to watch the pilot episode of the season. It made me feel better because watching those girls, I realized mankind is no where near smart enough to come up with a virus like the one in I Am Legend. But there's something about watching 25 women complain about how much makeup the other 24 women are wearing that really got to me. And I've been a loyal fan ever since, I'll admit it. I recently heard that one of the Bachelor contestants dated Adam Levine before appearing on the Bachelor. After a simple google search involving both sets of names and the word "dated" procured no credible links, I simply found myself assuming no such relationship could have actually occurred. I mean, that's crazy, right? Because it wasn't on the internet, I actually found myself believing it wasn't true. 

Louis C.K. is generally a pretty funny guy. I like his stuff, mostly. He makes fun of the millennial generation a lot. I get it. We make for some pretty good jokes, mostly because I think we think we know everything. It's easy to target people who think they're never wrong. One particular Louis C.K. sketch I remember goes something like this (I'm paraphrasing):

"I'm not religious. I don't know if there is a God, and that's all I can say: I don't know. Some people think they know that there isn't, and I think that's a weird thing to think you can know.

'Yeah there's no God.'
'How do you know?'
'Well, cuz I didn't see him.'
'There's a vast universe. You can see for about 100 yards when there's not a building in the way. How can you possibly know? Did you look everywhere? Did you look in the downstairs bathroom? Where have you looked so far?'
'I mean I just haven't seen him yet.'
'I haven't seen 12 Years a Slave yet. Doesn't mean it doesn't exist.'"


Religion doesn't make sense to me, and belief in God seems so irrational in a lot of ways. I think part of the reason it doesn't make sense is because I've gotten so used to being able to type things that I don't know into my iPhone 4s, and then suddenly, I'm able to know them. I can read a Wikipedia page about Natalie Portman or the Theory of Relativity, or watch a 30 minute video on the science of Gorilla Glass (which is what I spent NYE 2014 doing). But I don't get to do that with religion, or God, or faith, or all those other things that "don't make sense." Telling your phone to google "proof that God is real" is most likely going to turn up a bunch of links that lead to some looney blogs full of stories that simply don't seem believable. God isn't a myth that can be busted by Jamie and Adam, and there aren't any documentaries out there that will prove the existence of God. So, why do so many people believe he is real? 

My fact-checking friend is someone I care a lot about. In fact, I love him. I've known him a lot of years, and his family is my family. We've been on road trips, had Lord of the Rings marathons, laughed, fought, written letters, camped--you name it. We've also talked a lot about life and love and God and faith. And I can't be sure, but at this moment, if my friend was in a burning building, I'm fairly certain I would risk my own life for the chance to save his. There aren't any facts to explain why I feel this way about him. I just do, you know? His sister had a cat whom she loved with all her heart, and that cat died last week. I don't even like cats, in fact, I'm pretty allergic, and I've never understood why people love them so much. But when I found out her cat had died, I experienced this strange immeasurable sadness. "It's a cat. I don't even like cats. I'm allergic," I thought to myself. If you google, "Why am I sad that my friend's cat just died," there isn't a single link on the first 3 pages that can give you an answer. 


"In this world, everyone is to walk by faith," Jeffrey R. Holland

Not just the jews. Or the the religious weirdos. Or your parents. Or your parents parents. Everyone.
Including you. 

Human beings know more about life right now, in 2015, than we've ever known before. We know that when a sperm fertilizes an egg, it can make another HUMAN BEING. We know there is another galaxy that can be seen with the naked eye on a really dark, clear night. It's called Andromeda (I didn't even google that; I read it in a book a while back). We know that there are about 8.7 million species on this planet, and estimations suggest that 80% of the earth's species are yet to be discovered (I googled that one). 4.6% of the known universe is comprised of atoms. (I learned about atoms in elementary school, I think. But most of what I know about atoms now comes from the boy I'm dating, who's like a human math and science google search engine). The remaining 95% of the universe is made up of stuff we know little to nothing about. Sure we have our theories. Sure we think we know. And we do. We know a lot about a lot of things. But what we know pales in comparison to what we don't know, so I think Louis C.K. is right. I think it's pretty remarkable that anyone can say with certainty that he/she knows there isn't a God. 


I don't claim to know much. I work with teenage boys and girls in the clinical therapy corner of the world. My job has allowed me the opportunity to learn a little bit about addiction, and how it affects peoples' lives, about codependent relationships, and how so many people are in them and don't even know. I think I like learning about human beings, because there isn't a lot of pressure to know anything. We can reasonably predict how people are going to behave, sure. But rational choice theory only takes us so far, because every once in a while, a perfectly rational, mentally healthy human being will do something like run into a burning building to save another human being, when everyone else is running out. It's nice to realize that in this world where there is so much pressure to know things, that maybe we don't have to. Maybe we can believe in things we don't see, or can't read a wikipedia article about. 

LOST is one of my favorite TV shows. There is this scene where two of the characters, Jack Shepherd and John Locke, are arguing about why John Locke is pushing a button every 108 minutes. John explains it's because someone told him pushing it would save the world. John asks Jack why he finds it so hard to believe that, and Jack yells, "Why do you find it so easy?!" to which John replies, "It's never been easy." 


I believe in God. I also believe in evolution. Some people think those two ideas are incompatible, but I don't think so, because in my mind, God can create things however he wants to. But evolution doesn't explain why I experience this crazy little thing called love. It doesn't explain why people choose to remain in relationships against their better judgement, or why Victor Frankl chose to remain in Auschwitz tending to his typhus patients, who were sure to die, when he had multiple opportunities to escape. This isn't a scientific paper arguing for the rationality of believing in God, in having faith. There are a lot of beautiful things in this world--sunsets, forests, oceans, canyons, childbirth (I mean, I'm told this is beautiful, though I'm not convinced). But why are these things "beautiful" to us? Science can't explain that. Science can't explain why some people think childbirth is beautiful and others don't. I guess what I'm saying is, if the people of the world spent more time admitting that there are things out there that human beings can't explain, and less time googling the answers, I think our sense of purpose would be greater, and our desire to love would be multiplied. 


There are so many times when I don't understand why I'm compelled to believe in something so seemingly unreasonable. I don't generally talk about my spiritual beliefs with people unless they ask. It often gets uncomfortable for me when people, whose minds and ideas I respect, ask me why I am one of those "crazy Mormons​." First of all, I have to laugh. I do think I'm one of those crazy Mormons, because believing in something you can't see doesn't seem very logical to me. Crazy, even. I understand that it doesn't make a lot of sense to simply "believe" in something just because it seems like a good idea.  "It's just not that simple," they say. And I think, "You're right. It isn't." But maybe it is.  Maybe something doesn't have to make sense to meaningful. There are things about my own faith that I don't understand, but for now, I'm learning that I don't have to. As one of those "crazy Mormons," I believe in this book: The Book of Mormon. It's another testament (like the Bible) of the Son of God. When I read it, I get a feeling I cannot google or read about or explain with some sort of scientific equation. It's just a simple feeling of love and light and happiness, and I've seen the joy and change it brings into the lives of people I love---into the lives of complete strangers. I think that if you read it with sincerity, it will bring those things into your life, too. 


So, I say, give it a try. Try simply just believing. Believe in a better world. Believe that people are good, that they're trying to love, that they can change. Believe that there is greater meaning in life than what the eye can see. Believe that light exists beyond the luminosity of your smart phone, and that you have more control over that light than simply turning the brightness up and down in the settings app. 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

"I wanted my life to be this clear in its lines, this simple it its priorities."

---Robert Macfarlane

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Thursday, June 6, 2013

"But why think about that when all the golden lands ahead of you and all kinds of unforeseen things wait lurking to surprise you and make you glad you're alive to see?"
--Jack Kerouac

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Monday, May 6, 2013

If you listen to this, your day will immediately be better,

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A simple reminder of how to be good.