Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Up First

I might get some flak for this, but . . . I think it's an obligation to keep up with current events and world news. I have several friends who ignore the news completely because it's depressing and/or difficult to keep up with, and while I understand their sentiment, I strongly disagree with it as a reason to be uninformed. We're living in a time when news it at our fingertips! It's so easy to follow at least the top stories! To be sure, it's not quite as easy to understand all of the top stories or to check the sources, but I think we should make an attempt––as we do for lots of difficult things in life, such as exercise, eating healthy, and flossing.

So with that, I want to share one of my favorite things of late: NPR's Up First. Every morning at 6am EST, Rachel Martin, David Greene, and Steve Inskeep talk about the top three news stories of the day, and they do it in 15 minutes or less. Fifteen minutes or less! Usually less! And you can subscribe to it on your phone's music app! And listen to it in the car on your way to work. Or while you're making breakfast. Or as you're getting dressed. Or flossing! It's so eeeeeeeasy.

Just try it for a while. It'll be good.

Thing I'm thankful for: Trustworthy journalists

Monday, April 24, 2017

A Mansion? No, thanks.

In Christian scripture, the reward for a life well-lived is often symbolized by a mansion in heaven. The Lord himself says, "In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you." (See John 14:2.)

That's all well and good as a metaphor. But even as a metaphor, it still doesn't fit my taste. I'd rather have a cottage with lots of trees and a lovely garden than a huge house built from cold marble. Just look at the image results for a Google search of "mansion." Here, I'll post the most disgustingly immodest homes:

To be sure, mansions are beautiful, but I wouldn't want to live in one. I'd rather have something much smaller and cozy, like these:

Granted, that last one is a bit large, but I love the porch! Porches are important to have around when it rains. And that bungalow (third image) is the most perfect little house! Good grief––I really did find some of the best houses on the internet. I have great taste.

So. If I am ever able to cash in on a reward in heaven, I'll be showing God these pictures . . .

Thing I'm thankful for: Sunday naps

Monday, March 06, 2017

Urgent Care

And so my sad little life continues . . . Last month, I got rear-ended in a snowstorm and got a concussion, which, by the way, is much worse than simply feeling like you have a headache. (With a concussion, it literally hurts to think. But more on that another time.) Then last week, I slammed my thumb in my car door, and it has been giving me hell for the last three days. When I left work this evening, it was looking swollen and definitely not getting better.

Sunday morning, as I was contemplating how to handle the severe throbbing in my thumb and my inability to pick anything up with my right hand, I googled, "What do I do about blood under my nail?" and a myriad of how-to videos returned in answer to my question. Over and over again, I watched people drill or burn holes into the nails of their crushed fingers to drain blood and relieve pressure. I thought, "I can't do that; I'm right-handed!" I imagined what they might say if I went to urgent care: "Really? You came to us with a crushed finger? Honey, we have work to do. Take a tip from those crazies on the Internet, and take care of this yourself!" Was it silly for me to go to urgent care? I already tried once on Saturday, and the doctor I saw that night unfeelingly told me to take extra-strength Tylenol. Did I dare go back? Or did I have the . . . err, cojones . . . to burn a hole through my own body?

I did not. After work, I promptly went to urgent care and hoped they'd be understanding and try to fix my pain this time. Please bless I get a better doctor, tonight . . .

And that's just what happened. An unassuming, affable doctor shook my hand when he said hello, got quiet for a minute while he examined my thumb, and said, "It looks like it could be infected. The only way to tell is to cut the skin back from the base of the nail." I must've looked nervous when he came back into the room with a razor-sharp syringe because he assured me, "Don't worry; you're gonna love me after this is over." I certainly was doubtful, but when he sliced the skin away, out flowed deep red blood, and I was never so happy to see blood in my life.* The pressure immediately lessened, and I felt lighter somehow. I told him he was right: I did love him. And I thanked him profusely as I tapped my thumb over and over again with my finger, feeling delighted that I could actually do that without wanting to cry in pain.

I am astonished at the curiosity of the human mind and so impressed that people have learned how to heal the body when it can't heal itself. With a tiny incision, my happiness level today went from about a 2 to a 10. I'm just so delighted to have a thumb that works again. And with that pain relief, the headache from my concussion is no longer masked. I'm aware of the sharp sting between my eyes once again, but I don't even care. I don't even care because I have a working opposable thumb on my right hand! God bless everyone!

Thing I'm thankful for: Besides thumbs? And doctors? Friends.

*If it had been an infection, pus would've oozed out.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Ways of Knowing, Or "How Can I Tell Whether Something is True?"

Let me start off by posting a couple of images.

First, we have this:

The combination of photo and caption suggests that Trump is a cold-hearted slimeball of a man because he left his wife to walk through the door of the Whitehouse all by herself.

Next, we have this:

The combination of photo and caption suggests that Obama is just as much of a slimeball––if not more––than Trump.

Both images are meant to indict these men––to paint them as awful human beings––and the thing about these images is that they both look real. But guess what? Neither of them give a complete picture. Here's what really happened:

But even then, we don't know what really happened because we weren't there ourselves.

People go on and on about how seeing is believing, and observing with our senses means that something is real. Empiricism is THE way to knowing in this day and time, and quite frankly, I'm tired of it.

Epistemology is the study of knowledge, justification, and belief. It allows us to examine how people know, and according to epistemologists, there are several ways of knowing. Here are some:
  • Rationalism–the theory that reason is the foundation for certainty in knowledge. Recall Rene Descartes, who said, "I think therefore I am." He didn't say, "I see myself and my surroundings, so I know I exist." He based reality on thought. In other words, "the mind comes pre-stocked with innate ideas." (Nagel 41)
  • Empiricism–the theory that sensory experience is the foundation for certainty in knowledge. Our minds are blank until "sensation begins to mark it." (Nagel 41)
  • Testimony–the theory that knowledge can come to us second-hand. While testimony involves both rationalism and empiricism in that past experience and reasoning (about a person's reliability) informs the validity of second-hand knowledge, it is seen by some philosophers as a distinct way of knowing because for example, "the way you think when you understand what someone says is different from the way you think when you see something with your own eyes, and different again from the way you think when you are engaged in reasoning or puzzle-solving." (Nagel 80)
I could go on and on about this, and truth be told, I don't understand all of it. (Most of my knowledge about the study of knowledge comes from my Intro. to Philosophy course in college.) I do know this, though: Seeing is not believing. Seeing is seeing, and believing is believing. And it's becoming more and more critical to use lots of different epistemological approaches to truth-finding. Those images at the beginning of this post––those look real. I can see with my eyes that Trump ignored his wife and Obama put his hand on Mrs. Trump's butt. But reason tells me that these images cannot be true!

Conversely, reason tells me that it's daytime right now because I'm wide awake and ready with energy to do something fun. But my senses tell me that it is 8:00pm!

Truth-finding is confusing these days. News is often misleading (from liberal and conservative sources), people are sometimes unreliable, our memories are imperfect, and Photoshop allows people to change what we see. It's critical to use lots of different ways of knowing. Some people pray, and some people read as much as they can. Some people keep updated with social media, and some people listen to podcasts. None of those, though, in my opinion are enough in and of themselves. We've got to work hard to synthesize all of these sources and ways of knowing in order to figure out what is true. To be sure, it's exhausting, but I think it's an obligation.

(Source: Nagel, Jennifer. Knowledge: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford, 2014.)

Thing I'm thankful for: modern medicine

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Shoveling Snow

I shoveled snow for the first time in my life today. I loved it.

I was a little bothered that a neighbor came to help me get the driveway cleared because I wanted to say I'd done it all by myself, but I think when someone offers to help shovel snow, you're supposed to accept. I mean, I haven't read any etiquette books lately, but I'm sure that's in there.

At any rate, I had fun. Snow in Utah is drier and lighter than snow in any other part of the country, so I imagine I'm sort of living a life of snow luxury. I'll enjoy it while I can.

Thing I'm thankful for: hugs and kisses from nieces and nephews

Wednesday, January 04, 2017


When it snows in Utah, I like to go for late-night walks. My neighborhood is largely composed of childless adults and elderly couples, so there is plenty of untouched snow to mess up. Tonight, I wandered through a couple of nearby parks and up to the state capitol, where the glow of street lamps made me feel like time had stopped. By the time I walked down to Temple Square, it was midnight, and it felt like only an hour had passed.

Snow is a funny thing. It makes me feel a range of emotions: excitement, loneliness, gratitude, romance, nostalgia, thoughtfulness, mindlessness, pride, and sadness. I think it's good, though. I think it's good to feel all of those feelings and examine them. I learn so much about myself during those quiet walks in the snow, and I sort of wish they would never end. I also recognize that Utah––a state that gives me so much grief––affords this opportunity of stillness and introspection. Utah is not without its wonders, not the least of which is the arrival of snow each Winter. It is my second favorite part about this place.

Thing I'm thankful for: snow boots and long johns

Monday, November 28, 2016

Post-Thanksgiving Confession

So this is the time of year when I'm supposed to say what I'm thankful for. To list all of the things that make me happy to be alive. And yet. It hasn't been an easy thing to do. Those of you who have kept up with my blog over the years have no doubt noticed two big things about it:
  1. I list something I'm thankful for at the end of each post.
  2. I blog regularly, rarely skipping whole months at a time.
This year has been different. Let me tell you why.

In June, I was diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder. It wasn't a surprise. I had been feeling worthless and hopeless and lonely for several months leading up to that point, and . . . What can I say, really, but the truth? There were plenty of times when I didn't want to be alive. When I daydreamed of scenarios in which I was rushed to the hospital, though everyone knew it was too late.

There's no way to describe the utter sadness that is depression. I thought I had an idea because I tend to be somewhat melancholy, but I didn't truly know how dark the world could seem under a cloud of depression. The darkness seems to come out of nowhere, too, and you think you're going crazy because one day you find yourself kneeling on the floor and sobbing your eyes out because again, you feel worthless and hopeless and lonely. Normally, you would "buck up" and go out with friends, pick up a forgotten hobby, or fill your life with busy-ness. Normally, you would have a strategy for finding a solution to the problem at hand. But this time––this time you don't want to see anyone, you lose interest in the parts of life you used to find joy in, and the most difficult part of the day is getting out of bed in the morning. This time, you find it nearly impossible to think clearly. For me, that meant no writing on my blog and no "Thing I am thankful for." It was hard enough just to be thankful for life.

Why am I saying all of this? Why am I admitting to this . . . awful thing? Because I've thought a lot about gratitude lately and what, exactly, I'm grateful for. Well, more than anything else––more than desserts and a home and a job and a car and clothes and family and religion––I'm grateful for people's attention. I'm grateful when someone asks me how I am and listens to the answer. I'm grateful when someone says, "How was your day?" I'm grateful when someone remembers something I mentioned a few weeks ago and follows up. I'm grateful when people take an interest.

Sometimes I tell people about my depression, and they say, "What can I do to help?" Here's what you can do––with me and with everyone, depressed or not:

Take an interest.

Take an interest in the lives of the people around you. Ask them questions and listen to the answers. Don't spend valuable listening time thinking of the next thing you can say. Just listen. Ask about people's hobbies and work. Ask them what they've been thinking about lately. Ask them if they've got any exciting vacation plans coming up. Ask them about their families and their lives.

The world is full of people who don't realize that the most important things in life aren't actually things––they're people. People who are closely connected to you, as well as people who are not.

I am grateful for people who take an interest in me and who make me feel like I am an important part of their lives. That if I vanished, they would notice.

Addendum: The point of this post was not to subtly request praise or words of love––though I do enjoy both of those things. ;) It was, however, a request that you pay attention to the people around you and take an interest in their lives. If a friend tells you he had a bad day, ask him about it. Pay attention to the people in your life, and make them feel loved by showing interest.