Tuesday, November 27, 2007
Tour de Tucson
November 17, 2007
My plan for this year’s tour was to train minimally and efficiently for a platinum time. I did not care to set a personal best time but just to go with the flow of my training partners. Basically my training consisted of indoor intervals on Monday afternoons, solo medium long rides on Tuesday afternoons, fast group rides on Wednesdays mornings, rest on Thursdays, long group rides on Friday mornings, and miscellaneous recovery rides on Saturday’s (usually indoors). My program was to be about three months long (any longer would have produced mental burnout this year). Another thing that I tried to do was not think too much about cycling when I wasn’t training. Several of the key rides were low quality due to wind, rain, dental appointments, and whatever else but I adjusted my training to compensate somewhat.
My only preparation race was a climb up La Rumorosa in Mexicali three weeks before the Tour de Tucson. I felt okay the first half but great the second half. Each week I was getting stronger, then everything fell apart. On Tuesday, October 30, I skipped my workout and went to see Mom and Dad. Mom was dieing. She died on Friday morning. I was glad to be there. Her funeral service was Monday morning. The rest of the day was spent eating good food and visiting with family for hours; nobody wanted to say good bye. I was very happy with the quality of Mom’s funeral and all the words that were spoken. I went away thinking that the whole ordeal—the vigil, death, funeral preparations, funeral, familial socialization—was one of the great experiences of my life. In no way should the brevity of this account of Mom’s death and burial within this Tour de Tucson story be misunderstood as being of lesser importance than my training for Tucson.
On the Saturday after Mom died I went back to El Centro to get my family ready for the funeral. On the way I parked in Ocotillo and rode up the grade. It might seem a bit irreverent to ride a bicycle when I am supposed to be grieving but riding solo is psychologically relaxing. On the way up (near the bottom) I caught up to Larry Cowne. I was glad to see him because I really didn’t feel like riding the bike at all and I thought that a little companionship would distract my thoughts. I felt a bit euphoric when I told Larry, “My mother died yesterday.” He started to say a few compassionate words before I spared him the awkwardness by explaining that while I was feeling a little sadness I was mostly happy. Larry didn’t seem too talkative as we rode and after a couple times of his dropping off I decided to leave him to his thoughts and I climbed alone.
A week and a half before Tucson I joined the Wednesday morning group ride. Fred was not there because he was having back problems. Brian informed me that he would miss the Friday long ride because of more melanoma testing. I rode with the group but got dropped by Greg and Brian before the sprint. I couldn’t muster the strength to keep up. By Saturday I mentioned to Pam that I didn’t think I wanted to go to Tucson.
On Sunday I drove up with Dad, Matt, Pat and Emily to see where Mom was buried in Rose Hills. The freshly laid sod marked the spot. Perhaps it was morbid humor for me to ask Dad how he felt knowing that some day he was going to be buried right there, as I pointed to the grass next to where Mom lay. We stood around and talked, and looked at the grave markers of Trent, Grandpa Arland, Grandma Jean, Grandpa Layton, and Grandma Beryl. We went to the Soup Plantation before visiting Pat and Emily’s new house. It was another long but joyful day. When I got home I was exhausted. Monday was a holiday. I no longer wanted to go to Tucson so I spent the day pruning bushes. On Tuesday I cancelled the hotel reservations in Tucson. Fred called me after the Wednesday morning group ride (I did not ride) to wish me well in Tucson. I told him that I wasn’t going and he agreed that that was probably for the best. Pam and I were going to go on some make-shift date to take the place of the Tucson weekend.
After teaching my classes on Thursday I went home to prepare for the weekend when Pam persuaded me that we could still go to Tucson. I had no intention of going to Tucson but after several positive statements by Pam I started to entertain the idea again of going. I started to think what I could do to salvage my race. What should be my goal? Was I off the bike too much? Would I get over my cold by Saturday? Would it be worth it if I don’t get Platinum? I got on my bike and did a quick 20 mile ride to think it over. It was too late to train (only 36 hours before race time) but I needed to send a message to my legs that they should stop shutting down. After the ride Pam and I quickly packed up and drove to Tucson where we arrived late at night after loosing an hour.
We spent Friday at Bookman’s (used bookstore) and ate at Beyond Bread again. Sometime after 5:00 p.m. Pam and I sat in the third row and listened to Greg LeMond talk about drug use in professional cycling. It was an unanticipated treat to be so close to the guy that I have followed and admired since I first saw him on TV in the mid 80’s. The Platinum Meeting, 6:30 p.m., boring. I did not have any energy to spare on Friday but all the while my brain was preparing my body to give one big effort on Saturday morning.
On race morning I knew I was not at my best but I did have experience with this race and tried to race as smart as possible. The word that kept coming to my mind to describe the beginning of the race was “violence.” After the starting gun, pure violence! My heart raced. My legs filled with lactic acid as faster riders passed by me. I didn’t even try to count the riders that passed me or how many riders were ahead. I just rode my own pace without worrying about loosing positions. I was resigned to just give a steady effort but I was still flying to the first river crossing—last year at 25 mph but this year as much as 28 mph but I was still getting passed.
After about an hour my legs were starting to feel like they were on the verge of cramping. In my first Tour de Tucson I didn’t heed that feeling and I cramped so badly I had to stop. This time I went to the back of the large group that I was riding with and tried to ride a more steady pace. The group gapped me a little with each surge but I slowly pulled back without seriously loosing the draft. I had to balance my need to ride steady with my need to not loose the draft. I was successful. Down Houghton Avenue I recovered somewhat because the downhill was not too fast. At the bottom when we turned left I decided that if I had any ability to pass other riders that now was the most critical time to do it. So I tried as best as I could to work my way back up the group (about halfway up) before the bottleneck of the second river crossing. The second river crossing broke our group into several smaller groups. I rode steady up the steep climbs but had to use my granny gear. Up the long gentle hill of Oracle I found myself strong again. Going down Tangerine Avenue was a little odd this year because our pace seemed subdued compared to previous years. At the bottom of Tangerine Avenue (mile 85) we had a full two minute wait for a train. I had mixed emotions about loosing time but I knew at this point that I was on target to finish with a platinum time so I just enjoyed the break. I looked up Tangerine and saw about five cyclist that were going to catch us on account of the train. I took the opportunity of the stop to say to a rider next to me, “You represent the ‘big man’ well.” He thanked me for the compliment. He later told me that he weighed 225 pounds which is a lot for a cyclist. I weighed about 197 but I am a lot faster as I get closer to 190. In my dreams I weigh 180 and am finishing with the fastest riders.
With about 15 miles to go I started feeling fatigue in my bottom from sitting in the saddle. A little later someone was cheering on the side of the road, saying we only had 10 miles to go. I was really uncomfortable by this point. I could not find a comfortable way to sit and I could not stand up to relieve my bottom because my legs would cramp every time I tried. I was squirming on my bike as time seemed to slow. I drank six large bottles this year due to the heat. There was a very slight headwind on Silverbell Road but we maintained the fastest pace that I have ever done on this road (22.5mph). The last two miles were easy and I was happy to pick up the pace just to finish as soon as possible.
I finished with a platinum time again and I was very happy because of the unique challenge that this race presented. I had to dig deep to maintain the pace and for the last ten days since the race I have been coughing like I have emphysema. That can’t be good. The weather is getting cold and early morning group rides are not very alluring.
Pam was my support team and she knew from experience exactly where (and how) to park right next to the start/finish line, where to stand to take away my warm-up clothes before the start, and to take a picture at the end. Being a spectator at a bike race can’t be very exciting but Pam sees all the effort that goes into preparing for a platinum time and she is very supportive and somewhat amused.
I missed Fred and Brian (not to mention my mother) but at least I have a feeling of closure on this cycling season.
November 27, 2007
Friday, November 2, 2007
Shortly after my 17th birthday I left home and went to Bolivia for one year as a foreign exchange student. Soon thereafter I left home again to be a missionary in Chile. Mom wrote me a minimum of two letters per week the entire time. Neither one of us imagined what this unusual correspondence-relationship would become. I was surprised to discover a new dimension of my mother through her letters. I was strengthened by them and never at any other time in my life have I felt so close to her. Through her letters she artfully groomed me for adulthood in ways that she may never have achieved if I had stayed close under her wings.
The purpose of this post is to express gratitude for my mother and honor her by assisting her in spreading her gospel, or rather, the gospel in her words, her words of wisdom.
The following five pages contain excerpts from letters that Mom sent to me while I was in Bolivia and Chile. While the letters were originally written to me, the excerpts are relevant to all her posterity and are scripture to them.
I invite all her grand children to fold up these pages, put them in their scriptures, and read them every once in a while. Read these words to remember what was most important to Grandma Connie. Study them to discover truths that can be applied to your lives.
Excerpts From Letters to Todd in Bolivia
September 8, 1979
“My dear son, I’m wondering how you are today. The sun is out here. The same sun that is shining on you, only many miles away. One thing that is close—that’s our love. I feel it strong and distance has no part in that. Today I want you to know that I love my Heavenly Father and his son Jesus the Christ. I’m thankful that He loves and cares for me and that I can go to Him in prayer and know that if no one else understands or if I have a hard time explaining my thoughts or feelings, He can unscramble them and understand. There are no hidden meanings to be twisted around or held against me. I know that when I am in the pits I seem to listen for the answers more intently. I have had answers and revelations come to me as if I were talking to myself. They were not my idea. Twice I answered (that is, two different revelations) ‘Lord, you must be mistaken.’ And the message was repeated. There was no explanation telling me that He wasn’t mistaken but the message came exactly as before. Again I said, ‘Lord, you must be mistaken.” Again the message or instruction came--exact words--as before until I had been told three times. It didn’t dawn on me until about three years later what was really taking place those days. Here I was receiving revelation knowing it was from the Lord and telling Him he had made a mistake. Now tell me, does the Lord make mistakes? Who was I to say that to Him and yet as I look back it was a true reaction and now I get embarrassed about it. Judging the Lord is unreal. I also know He knows I genuinely was having a hard time really getting it in my mind. Fasting is another principle and privilege. It’s the time when you can train the weak flesh to conform to your mind and spirit. I say to myself sometimes, ‘Shut up body. I won’t let you run me. I am the master here,’ and as I do this my spiritual strength increases. I feel worthy to go to the Lord in Prayer. I feel He knows I’m serious and am not expecting Him to do it all but that I’ll do my part. In my next letter I’m going to tell you of an experience that I had that I have never told anyone except your Dad. I wouldn’t tell you but there is a lesson to be learned. [She never mentioned this subject in subsequent letters.] I love you with all my heart…I’m thankful for all my blessings especially for my family. Nothing else is eternal just the gospel and the family unit. Everything else turns to dust. Set Eternal goals my son and ask for your Father in Heaven’s help. I love you, Mother.”
Postmarked November 9, 1979
“Until then my sweet son learn discipline in all things and remember I love you dearly. I depend on you a lot. I’ll help you or give you anything in my power to give if you will seek first the Kingdom of God. God be with you always. Love, Mom”
Sunday Oct. 28 ? 
“…Dad cut the Elm tree yesterday. The trash man hates us…I am thankful for the gospel and the purpose it gives to my life. I see the unhappiness that comes into people’s lives in the Church when they go astray and do their own thing. Oh the misery they bring on themselves and loved ones. They try to excuse and blame their problems on everyone but themselves when actually not one of them has been forced, but has made such decisions of their own free will. They want their freedom to choose but they don’t want the result or reward of their own decisions. My son, if you want happiness, be close to your Father in Heaven because Satan teaches only misery and destruction and is so very clever as to deceive you. You are in my prayers forever. I love you deeply. Be strong and faithful. Love, Mother”
Postmarked November 21, 1979
“My dear son, I am writing you from Grandma Nellie’s house. This is Wed Nov 14 or 15 I don’t know. It is [?] pm. I have just broken my fast. I have been fasting 4 days. My Dad had surgery today…Our life ticks away everyday. Don’t waste time it’s perishable (opportunity is perishable). Seek righteous living every moment of every day. May our Father in Heaven look at your deeds every day and say, ‘Well done.’ God bless you. I send my love, Mother”
Postmarked November 27, 1979
“Hi honey, I got home from Dad & Nellie’s house Sat morning. On the way home after I left Susan’s house the blue Volkswagen caught fire on the freeway…My father is regaining his strength. The breathing tubes are out of his mouth and in a couple of days his throat will feel less sore and he will start to have food like jello, soup, liquids, milk, etc. His spirits are good as they can be. I pray for him. I love him so much. My father has never done an unkind thing to me and I have never been mad or angry at my dad in my entire life.”
Postmarked December 7, 1979
“Dearest (Down in no man’s land) Todd, I don’t know how much you have heard of world situations but the Shah of Iran has been dethroned…Oh this world is truly ripe and ready to explode. Wars and rumors of wars. If we only knew how close we are and barely hanging on that thin thread. My son, pray and repent if necessary and be worthy to be counted among the righteous. This is your only protection no matter where you are. The Lord needs leaders, men of great character, self starters, self motivated to save this Promised Land and prepare for the millennium. He needs pure and honorable men and women to marry and bring this last of the spirits of our Heavenly Father to this earth to complete their mission. God bless you always. We await your homecoming. xoxo Mom”
January 8, 1980
“We are in a gradually worsening world situation. We are afraid Russia will take over Iran next and thereby control the world’s oil…Our only protection is our armor of righteousness and each person stands alone and is accountable. It is certainly comforting to know the Lord is on your side and on anyone else’s that will repent and come unto Him.”
Excerpts From Letters to Todd in Chile
Postmarked September 30, 1981
“Have I ever told you what happens and the peace of mind that comes to a person who keeps the commandments and serves the Lord? The quality of their life does not compare with those who don’t. There is a scripture, ‘Obey those who have rank over you for they watch for you soul.’ If we were only always willing to accept correction and learn from the experiences of others, how much smoother our lives would be? How much pain and misery could we avoid? You can have hardships and problems and still have peace of mind. Be on the Lords side and you can find comfort in everything when He is your companion. I am in harmony with all the Lord taught. I try everyday to perfect my life. I love your Dad more everyday. He is a good and righteous man that loves his family as I do. We have one desire and that is to return to our Father in Heaven as a family. Everything we do each day is with this in mind.”
Postmarked January 2, 1982
“Connie’s baby is darling, a full head of very dark hair…What a joy it is to have your posterity grow. I feel like I started out as only one in a family but we are building a wonderful family with many grandchildren…I love them all. I can’t believe I haven’t seen Matt’s youngest, Marie Elizabeth, as yet…The stores here are packed and overflowing—produce so plentiful that it spoils before we can eat it. Yet people all over the world are starving. This is a land of plenty but it won’t always be. However, the Lord will bless and preserve us if we love him and obey his laws. I’m thankful for my testimony of Jesus Christ and I’m thankful for the privilege of living in the great land of America.”
Postmarked January 26, 1982
“It’s so exciting having all these grand children. My folks would have gone crazy and just loved all their great grand children. It was only my Dad’s health that kept him from enjoying the kids to the max.”
Postmarked February 4, 1982
“Everything has a price and it’s usually hard work and guts that make the difference. Discipline opens up a whole new world of opportunities for people and puts you in a class above. I love the term ‘High Achievers’ or the ‘Upward Reach.’ They all denote rising above and that means seeking perfection and becoming closer to out Heavenly Father.”
Postmarked March 3, 1982
“February is a great month. Everything is coming out new. The green grass in the field, the leaves on the trees, and flowers. It’s the sign of a new beginning, a fresh start, new life. This world was meant to be beautiful and shared by all with freedom from fear and hunger. I pray that I will live my life worthy of all these great blessings I enjoy. I’m thankful to have been raised in a home where I could hear the gospel and understand the true purpose of life—free from the mixed up to the insane traditions and customs of people of the world. My mind is clear and I do see and understand. It’s so simple…Each decision has its reward. So it’s up to us. If you want something bad enough you must pay the price. It’s up to us if we fail or succeed. It all depends on that one next step. So think and evaluate and put each step firm so you won’t slide back. I love you. I’m thankful you are my son. I’m crazy about your Dad. He’s the best husband and Dad. Your family is with you in thought. All the time you are in our conversations. Love & kisses and all that mushy stuff. Mom”
Postmarked March 20, 1982
“There is nothing wrong with trying new things but it can’t be because you tire easy when success doesn’t happen bang bang over night. Your Dad was telling an interesting story last night. His grandfather from Norway was a sea man—3rd from the top; I think he said, of the whole ship. Not a very big man but smart as heck. He came to America on a voyage and decided that this was where he wanted his family to live so he bought land and started to build a house and when he ran out of money to build he went back to Norway. He brought his wife to America every time she was to have a baby so that the children could have American citizenship. Then after the birth they would return to Norway. After about 12 years they had enough money and the house was done so the whole family moved to America. Now this took a long time, a lot of planning, a lot of day by day work—but when you stick to your goals you get the reward. Dad says that its plain old guts that makes the difference between success and failure, not just intelligence. But it’s the person with self discipline to see the job to the end that makes the difference.”
Postmarked April 15, 1982
“Dear Todd, I am in shock about Susan moving to Utah…I cannot stand to have my grand children away from me. I haven’t even seen Marie, and Garrit was just getting to know me. He hasn’t even called me grandma yet. But home is where the husbands are. I would go anywhere with Dad because he is my life. Anywhere except Baja that is.” [She just returned from a motor home trip to Baja.]
Postmarked May 26, 1982
“I love the scriptures. I love the word of God and I want to obey all the commandments. I miss your Dad. Oh do I miss him. I couldn’t face eternity without him. I hold his love precious to me.”
Postmarked July 16, 1982
“Dearest Todd, The beauty of this area [Washington] is breath taking, much more beautiful than Hawaii. The trees in every direction as far as you can see and the ferns that are all over the ground. It reminds me, every time I look out the window, of God’s goodness and all things of nature that he has done to beautify this world. This is summer but it rained about four or five times yesterday. A small price for such beauty. I’m so thankful that I live in this beautiful country and that I know and believe the true gospel of Jesus Christ. My life centers around his teachings. Any happiness I have had has been the result of keeping and obeying the principles that Christ has set. I really can do very little to help my children but the Holy Spirit can do everything. My desire is to help my children live their lives so they will be worthy to receive the witness of the Holy Ghost. Believe me, that alone is overwhelming to me.”
Postmarked July 16, 1982 (different letter)
“I am so thankful for my temple marriage and for my wonderful husband. He tries to perceive things the way I see them and visa versa and we try to work out our differences and actually he usually gives in to me more than visa versa. Women kind of love to be spoiled. I know he rules over big things but he lets me rule over little things and it makes me happy. However, he would never deliberately me unhappy. He is very forgiving and doesn’t pout or carry a grudge, etc. He has a short mad memory and not like the elephant memory of a woman. I think I’ll keep him.”
Excerpt From Miscellaneous Letter to Todd
“It’s too bad that teenage kids go through a certain stage that causes them to be brain dead. I can’t remember who said, ‘If only kids could learn from out mistakes and go on from there.’ I’ve thought of that many times in raising my children. Set the example. Pray always, and love them completely. In these things you do have control. Praise them, teach them, then praise them again with love, build confidence in them—positive teaching only. As a parent you can become discouraged many times. It’s not easy raising children with so many personalities...Speaking of gifts and blessings, I am so thankful for your Dad. Every year he becomes more perfect. He has taken the Priesthood lead in our family. He only uses his time in righteous endeavors. If the Lord called him he wouldn’t feel he had to hide himself for any reason. He is patient, thoughtful, kind, hard working and loving to me. I feel blessed to have him through eternity. We don’t agree on everything. It’s mostly boy and girl things. I like dolls, bows, dishes, things that aren’t broken. I could never be a pioneer. Those people weren’t human. I would be a lump on the ground on the side of the trail. But your Dad likes building forts, sweat running down his face, crawling in a dirty sleeping bag in the dirt, long bike rides with 27 flats. He would be in the lead wagon singing, ‘Come, Come Ye Saints.’ I am reading from this astrology booklet I got at Connie's. Read it if you get a minute. It makes you feel pretty small and unimportant. But if we are, then why could our Father in Heaven give up his only begotten son for me and you. I pray someday the mysteries of the heavens will be available to me. For now, I will try to do what is expected of me. Keep it simple, sincere, and do all things in love. Love, Mom”
Sunday, September 2, 2007
[Note to the reader: This post probably reads a little cryptic but some readers might appreciate the parallels between Socrates' asceticism and cosmological myth and the Mormon temple experience which most Latter-day Saints take to be literally true while a minority take it as metaphor. I fall in the latter group. Most readers will understandably overlook this post but this one is dear to my heart.]
My Relections of Phaedo
I recently read Plato’s Phaedo, an account of the dialogues between Socrates and his friends just before Socrates was executed. This story has stayed with me for days and has stirred many spiritual thoughts within me. What follows are a few of my reflections.
“For ‘many,’ as they say in the mysteries, ‘are the thyrsus-bearers, but few are the mystics,’—meaning, as I interpret the words, ‘the true philosophers.’”
I find it interesting that Socrates refers several times to the “mysteries” (see the Eleusinian, Orphic, Mithraic Mysteries, etc.) because I consider the LDS temple ceremony to be related to the traditions of such mysteries, at least somewhat in its style.
“Thyrsus-bearers” are scepter holders or, in LDS language, “priesthood holders.” The “mystics” are “true philosophers” who “care not for the “pleasures of eating, drinking,…love,… the acquisition of costly raiment(see Matt. 6:25),…or other adornments of the body…he is entirely concerned with the soul and not with the body…he would like, as far as he can, to get away from the body and to turn to the soul…the real philosopher has reason to be of good cheer when he is about to die, and that after death he may hope to obtain the greatest good in the other world.”
(It appears, at least from my 21st century perspective, that Platonic philosophy was the channel through which eastern asceticism exerted its influence in the western Judeo Christian religions as well as Islam.)
Now to restate Socrates more succinctly: “For many are the thyrsus-bearers, but few are the mystics.” In other words, “For many are the scepter-holders, but few the philosophers.” The concept can also be found in Hinduism, for many quest for moksha, but few find liberation from samsara and find nirvana. In Matthew 22:14, “For many are called, but few are chosen.”
Joseph Smith put it this way in D&C 121:34-35:
34 Behold, there are many called, but few are chosen. And why are they not chosen?
35 Because their hearts are set so much upon the things of this world, and aspire to the honors of men, that they do not learn this one lesson…”
36 That the rights of the priesthood are inseparably connected with the powers of heaven, and that the powers of heaven cannot be controlled nor handled only upon the principles of righteousness.
Joseph Smith’s version agrees with Plato but has a more Latter-day appeal.
In other paragraphs Socrates mentioned, the “spirit of prophecy,” “light of truth,” and seeing “through a glass darkly” (I Corinthians 13:12). All three of these terms should be familiar to scripture readers.
It appears that Socrates was influenced by eastern philosophy, that Matthew and Paul read Plato, and that Joseph Smith read Matthew.
Socrates points out that the “rest of the world are of the opinion that to him who has no sense of pleasure and no part in bodily pleasure, life is not worth having; and that he who is indifferent about them is as good as dead.” But the reason for such denial is to disentangle the body from the soul “because each pleasure and pain is a sort of nail which nails and rivets the soul to the body.” Therefore the nails of “fear or pleasure or pain” need to be purged by “temperance, and justice, and courage, and wisdom.” (Reminds me of Gnostic asceticism.)
Socrates makes reference again to the “founders of the mysteries” and regarding their rites “were not talking nonsense when they intimated in a figure long ago that he who passes unsanctified and uninitiated into the world below will lie in a slough, but that he who arrives there after initiation and purification will dwell with the gods.” (Reminds me of LDS endowment ceremony.)
Socrates called such “sanctification” and “initiation,” purification, “And what is purification but the separation of the soul from the body.” The souls who fail to completely disentangle themselves from their bodies take on a ghostly appearance and may haunt tombs. They are “compelled to wander about such places in payment of the penalty of their former evil way of life; and they continue to wander until through the craving after the corporeal which never leaves them, they are imprisoned finally in another body…” (Gnosticism, spirit prison, reincarnation)
The prisons are animal bodies such as asses, wolves, and hawks for the gluttonous, wanton, and drunkard. Better souls can hope for a relatively happy communal existence as a bee, wasp, ant, or human. (Think about the deemphasized doctrine of valiancy in the preexistence.)
“No one who has not studied philosophy and who is not entirely pure at the time of his departure is allowed to enter the company of the gods, but the lover of knowledge only. And this is the reason…why the true votaries of philosophy abstain from all fleshly lusts.” (Gods plural, Greek Pantheon of Gods)
Socrates believed the body to be mortal and the soul to be immortal although he could not prove to himself that the soul could never die. He worried that the soul might grow “weary in the labours of successive births, and may at last succumb in one of her deaths and utterly perish.”
Socrates looked forward to his death with rejoicing because he was anxious to attain that which has been the pursuit of his life. “And therefore I go on my way rejoicing, and not I only, but every other man who believes that his mind has been made ready and the he is in a manner purified.” (Evangelical zeal)
The story took a turn when Socrates started to recount a cosmological myth that enthralled his listeners and filled them with inexplicable joy and hope. On the bottom of eight pages I wrote, “WOW!!!” to describe my reaction to Socrates story. I was equally caught up, quite unexpectedly, by the grandeur of this myth. (Creation myth)
Socrates explained that he had something like a daydream wherein he imagined that he was speaking with Anaxagoras who had all the answers that Socrates desired to know. Socrates imagined that he would first ask Anaxagoras “whether the earth is flat or round.” Then Socrates would next ask about the nature of what is known today as biology, physics, geology, and astronomy. “These hopes [knowledge] I would not have sold for a large sum of money, and I seized the books and read them as fast as I could in my eagerness to know the better and the worse.” Socrates’ hunger for knowledge resonates with me and I reflect that much, but not all, of what Socrates desired to know is available to me in this modern age and I share Socrates’ desire to learn these same things and I have diligently pursued them, in my own way, my entire life.
Socrates described in captivating detail the four principal rivers that circulate oceans above and beneath the earth as they are pushed about by the winds that act like pumps in a manner similar to respiration. There are lakes where souls congregate. There are also lava flows and lava lakes. Souls journey about the underworld—some guided, some unguided. After death all souls who need to be reborn will need to make a journey to a particular lake that serves as a staging are for souls waiting to be reborn. The good souls need a guide to this lake because the path is not well trodden. The bad souls get no such guide and that is why it takes them longer to get back to the staging area.
Socrates calls this process of being “born again from the dead” an ancient doctrine. It is impossible not to see the similarities to the Hindu ideas of samsara, reincarnation, and karma. (Resurrection)
Imagine the stone silence of Socrates’ friends as they listened enthralled. Then Socrates broke the spell of the myth and bore humble testimony that even though the myth was not literally true, the truth had to be something like it. Socrates’ own words are worthy of being quoted at length but I realize that a person without my background may not get nearly the same impact from them. The following quotes really spoke to me:
“A man of sense ought not to say, nor will I be very confident, that the description which I have given of the soul and her mansions is exactly true. But I do say…that something of the kind is true. The venture is a glorious one, and he ought to comfort himself with words like these, which is the reason why I lengthen out the tale. Wherefore, I say, let a man be of good cheer about his soul.”
“In the number of the [true philosophers] whom, during my whole life, I have been seeking, according to my ability, to find a place:--whether I have sought in a right way or not, and whether I have succeeded or not, I shall truly know in a little while, if God will, when I myself arrive in the other world—such is my belief…for I believe that I shall equally find good masters and friends in another world.”
“…the soul is in the very likeness of the divine,…”
“…and for ever dwells, as they say of the initiated, in company with the gods.”
Then Socrates warns his intellectual followers about becoming cynical, although he couldn’t have used that word yet as the cynics hadn’t been established. I will quote Socrates again at length because his words resonate with me in ways that I have not yet been able to articulate adequately.
“…when a simple man who has no skill in dialectics believes an argument to be true which he afterwards imagines to be false, whether really false or not, and then another, and then another, he has not longer any faith left, and great disputers, as you know, come to think at last that they have grown to be the wisest of mankind; for they alone perceive the utter unsoundness and instability of all arguments, or indeed, of all things, which, like the currents in the Euripus, are going up and down in never-ceasing ebb and flow.”
…and how melancholy, if there be such a thing as truth or certainty or possibility of knowledge—that a man should have lighted upon some argument or other which at first seemed true and then turned out to be false, and instead of blaming himself and his own want of wit, because he is annoyed, should at last be too glad to transfer the blame from himself to arguments in general: and for ever afterwards should hate and revile them, and lose truth and the knowledge of realities.
“…but if there be nothing after death, still, during the short time that remains, I shall not distress my friends with lamentations, and my ignorance will not last, but will die with me, and therefore no harm will be done.
“…that I may not deceive you as well as myself in my enthusiasm, and like the bee, leave my sting in you before I die.”
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
[Kristina's hand.] Somewhere in my childhood I was taught to look forward to a temple marriage, a celestial marriage, a “marriage for time and all eternity.” I was taught to keep myself morally clean and faithful to my future wife throughout all the intervening years before I should ever meet her. Like all young people I suffered the struggles of loneliness and premature desire. I prayed to Heavenly Father and told Him that I wanted a good wife someday.
Pam and I got married
For our honeymoon we drove from
Now, some 20 plus years later, my older kids are entering the age of relationships which causes me to reflect on the hazards of young people—so uninformed, so naïve, so unrealistic, so foolish, so impulsive—looking for love and companionship. I see a large segment of society has lost hope in traditional marriage yet I think most people still root for a love story with a happy ending. Worse, I see the moral attitudes of young people to be self-destructive and not leading to lasting happiness. Letting sexual impulses rule one’s life seems to be no different than letting hard drugs rule one’s life. While on TV we sometimes see advertisements that send a warning message, “Just Say NO to Drugs,” society has not yet reached the point where it can articulate the downside of misguided sexuality.
Some months ago I was reading a philosophy book by Will Durant, an atheist. Towards the end of the book Durant wrote about youth and love. Much to my surprise his words resonated with me in a way that “churchy” voices rarely do any more. I felt moved as I read his words and I felt an inner confirmation that the path that I had chosen was correct and still the best path to teach to my children.
“Youth, if it were wise, would cherish love beyond all things else, keeping body and soul clean for its coming, lengthening its days with months of betrothal, sanctioning it with a marriage of solemn ritual, making all things subordinate to it resolutely. Wisdom, if it were young, would cherish love, nursing it with devotion, deepening it with sacrifice, vitalizing it with parentage, making all things subordinate to it till the end. Even though it consumes us in its service and overwhelms us with tragedy, even though it breaks us down with its passing and weighs us down with separations, let it be first.”
-Will Durant, The Pleasures of Philosophy, Page 401