Category Archives: essays

Music Moods and Alternate Views

As I was heading to get dinner after a community orchestra concert, I found myself pondering how I listen to different music depending on my mood, or the mood I want to be in:

Hard rock, usually performed by Australian bands, for when I’m agitated or want to be, or when I care too much, so I’m building a hard wall around my heart to keep me from feeling the pain, in an “I am a rock” way (and yes, I have my books and my poetry to protect me, in case you hadn’t noticed 😉 ).

Jazz for when I’m in a happy-go-lucky mood, or wish I was, or whatever I’m feeling, it’s like water off a duck’s back, and it’s not that I don’t care, but it’s all good, “everything is awesome, everything is cool when [you’ve got that swing]”.

Classical for when I’m at peace inside, or am trying to be, or when I am willing to let my heart feel those feelings that are flowing through me instead of building a levy out of back beats, distortion, and power chords to turn them away from my heart.

As I pondered, and decided on where to get my late dinner, I found myself driving to the place of my most serious accident. I didn’t do my annual pilgrimage on the date of the accident this year, so I figured, “why not?” I usually follow the path I rode my bicycle on, but tonight I came from the other direction. A whisper in my mind said, “Tonight you are the car.” I knew it wasn’t meaning I would hit someone, so I drove the path the car took. As I passed through what must have been the point of impact, I was hit with emotions (I was listening to classical, letting myself feel emotions) I hadn’t anticipated.
Auto-pedestrian accident

Grief, for how frightening the experience was for the driver. Relief, that to the driver, it appeared everything was fine, that despite the force of impact and despite my lack of a helmet, I was not unconscious, I was not comatose, and finally, that I was not dead.

I’ve always considered the miracle it is that I lived through that from my perspective (but of course). But now I realize there was a miracle performed for the driver as well! Tears escaped from my eyelids again, and I was glad I was taking the long way to Kneaders, so perhaps my eyes could merely be moist when I arrived at the counter.Sun shining over trees in park

© 2016 H.K. Longmore

Aside

For me, the problem with starting a poem on WordPress is that if I don’t get time to complete it then, in the heat of the emotion, while the words are rattling around in my head, bouncing off my skull … Continue reading

Is Suffering Really Necessary?

Suffering
Author’s note: I wrote this last week, in two cities and over hundreds of miles in the air, before Robin Williams left our sphere of existence. While that event and the subsequent news and social media flurry may color how you read this, and while some of it may even apply, to think I am making any statement about that would be incorrect.

This post showed up in my FB feed the other day stating:

It is interesting to realize I was taught to believe that suffering was healthy. Suffering isn’t healthy, nor necessary. Ever.

Someone commented on that post saying that pain is necessary, but suffering is not. This idea is not restricted to that post or its comments. Over at society6.com, Josh Lafayette has an art print expressing this idea. And there’s a picture incorrectly attributing the idea to Buddha (the tl;dr version of the article: “Imagine someone in Asia posting ‘Jesus quotes’ (which are actually AA slogans) under a picture of Santa Claus, and you’ll get a feel for what’s [wrong with this picture]”).

The problem with reading the dictionary when you’re doing your spelling assignments in second grade is that you can’t let people misuse their native language with impunity. So let’s take a look at the root word “suffer“, as defined by the descriptive linguists at Merriam-Webster:
You won’t believe what happens next! Oh, sorry, this isn’t bait. I’ll leave that stuff on buzzfeed.

What Profit?

“Rings and jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts. The only true gift is a portion of thyself.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson

I wanted to give a gift to someone. Nothing particularly fancy, but getting it involved a lot of personal effort, and finding something appropriate required a lot of thought. Having selected what I felt would be a good token, I waited for the right moment to give it. I had planned to give the gift without any wrapping paper or other covering, but on the spur of the moment, just seconds before giving it, I changed my mind and decided I wanted to cover it. I used what I knew I had available: a facial tissue paper. I probably would have been better off to stick with my original plan. The moment came that I presented my gift, with a customary greeting for the occasion.

Nothing in my history of giving gifts could have prepared me for what happened next. She looked at my poorly packaged gift and after a moment of silence said, “I don’t think I want your gift.” Hurt, enough that I could have cried had I not been in a relatively public place, I said, “Okay.” I thrust my extended hand into my pocket, dropped the gift in, and withdrew my hand. Calm as a balmy summer day, a trembling puppy frightened by thunder, I walked away. It took all the focus I had to not run, not cry, not look back. I turned a corner, and put on a façade of normalcy as I interacted with those in the vicinity. Returning the gift to the place it was obtained would be impossible, so I put it where it would be available but out of sight.

When I was in junior high, an object lesson was taught using a slice of cake to represent the gospel of Jesus Christ. The cake was shown to the class, and the question was asked, “Who would like a piece of cake?” Several hands went up; one was selected. The person selected went to the front of the class to get their slice of cake. However, before they were given the cake, it was mashed up until it looked like leftovers retrieved from the garbage. The analogy made was that you might have a wonderful gift, such as the good news of the atonement of Jesus Christ, but if you present it poorly, the person you are giving it to may reject it. Thus, you need to take care that your life and your presentation of the gift match the wondrous quality of the gift, to reduce the likelihood that the gift will be rejected. Perhaps she was rejecting my gift because of how poorly it was presented.

There is another possibility. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed upon him, and he receive not the gift? Behold, he rejoices not in that which is given unto him, neither rejoices in him who is the giver of the gift.” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:33) Did the presentation of the gift matter at all, or was she really rejecting me? If I was on the other end of such an exchange, I would at least receive the gift, and if I didn’t like it or didn’t want it, I’d throw or give it away. But I have forgiven the rejection and the rejector.

And now I think of all the times God offers His mercy to us, and we reject it, either by refusing to apply the atonement to our lives, or by choosing to apply it for a time only to backslide our way to rejection of the gift. I think of how sorrowful He must be at our rejection of Him. His hand is extended in mercy, ready to deliver us from all the chains that bind us captive; it is extended all the day long, and yet we do not listen. And unlike imperfect me, who ran from rejection of the gift or of me on account of emotional pain, He feels but stands as before, His outstretched hand yet offering the gift. His gift is no apology for a gift, but the truest gift of all: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” — John 15:13.

© 2014 H.K. Longmore

Serendipity, Karma, and Synchronicity

Serendipity

I headed to the mountains to go hiking by myself after work the other day.  I planned to hike to a waterfall along the Wasatch bench, but as I drove, it felt right to go instead to a canyon I had seen in a friend’s Facebook post.  I didn’t remember the canyon’s name, but I knew where it was and though I did not know for certain, I had a vague idea of how to get to the trail head.  After passing Big Cottonwood canyon, I just went by what felt right—what my inner voice was telling me to do.  A left here, up the hill, a left there, a right here, and—found it.  At the trail head, I was reminded of the canyon’s name: Ferguson.

A view of the Salt Lake Valley from the Ferguson Canyon trailFrom the first part of the trail there is a fabulous view of the Salt Lake Valley.  I’m sure it will be even better after a rainstorm.  There are also some large, steep rock formations up the canyon, some completely vertical. Up Ferguson Canyon I came upon some climbers and watched them for a bit.  According to RunKeeper, I had gone about one mile (my phone lost GPS signal at some point, so I think it was actually further), at which point I decided I should turn around so I could make it home in time to play Ultimate.  As I headed down, I encountered a local group of cub scouts heading up.  One of the leaders lives one street over from me.  We said hello and chatted a bit, then I was about to continue down, when another leader arrived from below.  He said, “He’s just going to wait there.”  They had with them a special needs young man who was ill-equipped for the steep, rocky, sandy terrain.  He thought he was going on a short, almost flat hike around Silver Lake near the Brighton ski resort.  Instead, he was facing this:

Ferguson Canyon Furgeson Canyon Elevation ProfileHe had basketball shoes on, no socks, and his shoes weren’t tied.  He kept slipping on the loose rocks on a particularly steep part of the trail, and he’d had enough.  I knew the young man; I’ve coached him in church basketball and given him rides home from basketball.  My neighbor suggested perhaps I could give him a ride home.

Karma

As the prophet Alma taught his wayward son Corianton, “that which ye do send out shall return unto you again, and be restored” (Alma 41:15 (12-15)) Having received so many rides when I did not have a driver license, I chose to give this young man a ride home, “sending out” that which I already received.  One of the leaders came partway down with me, the two of us helping this young man down, as he had lost his confidence from all the slipping.  This leader wanted to make sure I was okay with giving him a ride home, so I explained I am grateful that I am now in a position where I can pay those rides back.

Synchronicity

It turned out that there was not enough communication to get enough people out to play Ultimate.  Had I known there would be too few people to play while I was up Ferguson Canyon, I would have continued up the canyon, and thus not have been there to help.  This lack of communication, once I was in Ferguson Canyon, had a causal effect on me being there to help.  However, the fact that I was in Ferguson Canyon at the right time to help had three contributing factors: I wanted to go hiking, I got off work a bit early to do so, and I listened to “the still, small voice” within me regarding where to go.  The young man I helped commented, “It’s really lucky that you’re here to help me.”  I submit that it was serendipitous by the original definition, on account of me having the sagacity to listen to the still, small voice, though I was not seeking an opportunity to help others at the time.  I also submit that my desire and plan to play Ultimate, my desire and plan to go hiking after work, and my desire to help others came together in a fit of synchronicity making a meaningful relationship between my activities that afternoon and evening.  The Wikipedia article on synchronicity says “From the religious perspective, synchronicity shares similar characteristics of an ‘intervention of grace’.”  Indeed, for my young friend, there was an intervention of grace that day.

Why At-One-Ment Doesn’t Involve Time Travel

Have you ever longed to go back in time and change just one choice so a life event would turn out differently, or a relationship could be preserved or never started?  I have certainly had wistful thoughts along those lines.  No, I lie.  I do still have wistful thoughts like that from time to time.  I went hiking a couple of weeks ago with some of my family.  My sister had spent three summers working at a camp in the area, and took the lead.  We headed toward that camp, then down a dirt road toward the trail head.  We passed a small stream flowing down the mountain and she remarked that the old trail went up the stream, but people kept littering in the (watershed) stream, so the trail was moved, and the old trail blocked off.  A little further down the road, and she indicated for us to turn off the road and head up the hill.  In the winter, this hill is part of a ski trail; in summer, it is covered with wildflowers.  My sister pointed them out, acting the part of trail guide.  Up the hill we continued, until we reached a spot where there was a spur of trail running to the stream.  My sister was wishing we could go up the old trail, so I told the others I was going to explore the branch, no one had to follow, and I would come back and let them know what I found.  My sister said to make sure it went up and not over, because over would lead into the camp.

The branch lead me across the stream.  A short distance further I found another spur that lead up the hill.  I took it a short distance to see where it led, then returned and informed the others of what I had found.  We headed that way.  The spur going up took me back across the stream not far from where I initially crossed.  I waited there to help my nieces and nephews find the best path across if needed.  While we were crossing, my sister had gone a bit further from the spur and found yet another path that led up.  She instructed that we needed to go up that way, so we all headed over. Continue reading

Why My Next Vehicle Should Be a Street-legal Tank

A Photo Essay

Honda Civic Ex, TrunklessAt the end of January, 2004, I was rear-ended while waiting at the light on Bangerter and 7000 South by a driver who had fallen asleep at the wheel.  The driver fled the scene on foot as his car was badly damaged as well, but he was apprehended.  He did not have insurance.  My first car lost its trunk, and I lost it.  I was unconscious for at least 8 minutes as a result of this collision.

Rolled BuickOn 12 October, 2005, my dad picked me up from the airport returning from a business trip to Japan.  Southbound on Bangerter Highway, we were rear-ended while in motion by a driver trying to pass a third vehicle.  The driver made an attempt to make his vehicle fit into the space already occupied by ours, which propelled us across the median.  When we came up the other side, a torque moment was created due to the net weight difference between the passenger side and the driver side.  We rolled across the northbound lanes, at least three times. Some say it was less, but the first time was when my window broke, the second time was when I looked down out my broken window and saw the asphalt thinking, “If the car keeps rolling I’m going to die!”, and once more to land upright.  The position and orientation of the car made it look as though we had merely pulled off the road, but for the car.  The other driver fled in his car.  They had to use the jaws of life to get my dad out.  The mark of the jaws of life?  No doors.
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Hiking in Pioneer Park, St. George

I have gained new insight into Matthew 7:14: “Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.
People hiking a narrow passage
Take this narrows. If this were the way that leads to life, in the first place it is hard to find. If we had not been with someone who already knew it was there, we would not have seen it; nor is it likely that we would have found it if we had been looking for it.

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