Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The SeaWorld Debate

I've been thinking about animals in captivity lately, and yeah, you can blame it on Blackfish.  I didn't actually see the documentary until about a month ago, but I did watch the trailer when it was released last July.  It was enough to make me stop and think.

And here's what:  I can't decide who's telling the truth.  (Isn't that how it often is?)  It's likely there are truths on both sides, but even if that's the case, I have to make a decision.  Do I continue to visit SeaWorld, zoos, and other places where animals live in captivity?*  It might not seem like a big deal now, but one day, I might have kids and they might want to go to the zoo.  Even now, I live in a city with a SeaWorld, and that's one of the first places visitors want to go.  (I've been twice now.)

The biggest benefit I see with zoos and aquariums is that they excite the mind of a child, and seeing God's creations up close stirs the soul and fills the mind with wonder.  There's no denying that.  But is it enough to justify animals in captivity?

Perhaps that's not the right question.  Maybe the question is, "How can we create better habitats for captivity?"  Or "Should this particular animal be captive?"  I obviously don't know the answer to that (and desperately want to have a long chat with a marine biologist), but here's some food for thought:  Jeremy saw killer whales in the wild, just off the Alaskan coast.  He's told me about it twice now, and each time, he practically gushes.  (Jeremy doesn't gush.)  He's even spent about ten minutes showing me picture after picture of the whales he saw.  (Jeremy doesn't talk about things that don't mean much to him.)

What's my point?  It's that maybe wild animals are meant to be seen in the wild.  Sure, it may be expensive, and that may mean most of us will never see some of God's creations up close.  But maybe that's okay?  Maybe that's why National Geographic exists -- to let explorers visit animals in their natural environments and then tell us about it.

I don't know.  I just don't know.  I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on this, though, especially if you're a marine biologist or zoologist.  Please, leave comments!  (And if you are a biologist or zoologist, leave your contact information!)

*I'm conflicted about zoos recently because I question the captivity of elephants, my favorite animal on earth.  Recent studies have shown that elephants in captivity develop physical and mental disorders, and because they are some of the most intelligent animals on the planet, it's really quite depressing to think about.  (Source: The Science is In: Elephants Are Even Smarter Than We Realized.)

Thing I'm thankful for: walks with dad

Monday, April 28, 2014

Sam Cooke

Everyone knows the best singing voice in the world belonged to Nat King Cole, but what everyone might not know is that the second best belonged to Sam Cooke.  If you don't know these songs, you should:

And now you can go back to your life, feeling relieved that whenever anyone asks you about the King of Soul, you'll know who it is.

Thing I'm thankful for: oldies. They certainly are golden.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Don't Tell Me What To Do!

Countless people have been giving me unsolicited advice lately.  The conversations always start with a genuine concern about how my life is going these days or how my job search is panning out, and I appreciate it. I really do.  What I don't appreciate, however, is the part when the conversations turn from concern to instruction. It's the part when the person is talking at me, rather than with me.

What are the indicators of at-me talking?
  • The same questions are asked repeatedly.
  • "If I were you" is a commonly-used phrase.
  •  No active listening is happening.
But I'm used to this.  I'm used to listening to people go on and on about the decisions they think I should make in life.  Several years ago, a co-worker came into my office and told me I was beautiful, but that I needed to dress sexier and that I should let her pick out new clothes for me. A middle-aged man sitting next to me on a plane once rattled off a list of ways I should change my personality, and that was only after about three minutes of conversation on my part. In an effort to help me with job interviews, a friend of a friend suggested that I use "I" more in conversation -- "I did this," and "I solved this."  These are just a few examples, but I could go on for days and days.*

Why does this happen to me?  Why do people tell me what to do?  I used to jokingly say that I must have a sign on my forehead that said just that: "Tell me what to do!"

And you know what?  I think I do have such a sign.  But it's not a sign on my forehead; it's a sign on my personality.  I'm quiet most of the time.  Sure, I can carry on a conversation with the best of them, but typically, I like to listen in conversation.  I am extremely opinionated about the nothings of life -- such as what flour to use in baking and what Motown singer has the best voice -- but when it comes to the precious and the delicate somethings, I tend to reserve my thoughts. And despite what some of my friends think, I do not lean heavily toward extraversion. Instead, I am slightly more introverted, preferring to study alone, recharge alone, and work in silence.

In a country that values noise, egoism, and extraversion, I just don't quite fit.** Quiet reserve is the sign that says to people, "Tell me what to do!" and I don't think that's right, especially when you care about someone and they have given you no reason to think they often make poor life choices.

But that's not really the point of my post.  The point of my post is to tell you that after all these moments of unsolicited advice -- or incorrect judgment -- I have realized the huge error in telling people what they should do, when they haven't actually asked me what I think they should do. I'll grant that there are exceptions, but generally, I go about life assuming people are at least as smart as me -- that they've considered multiple sides to a situation and that they've thought things through.

*For the record, I thought my co-worker dressed inappropriately for the office; the man on the plane was an obnoxious jerk; and the friend of a friend sounded a tad arrogant when he spoke about his own work experience.
**Susan Cain writes about some of this in her recent book Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.  (Watch her TED Talk, The Power of Introverts.)

Thing I'm thankful for: mom and pops.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Movie Review: Heaven Is For Real

Okay, so . . .  The title of the movie isn't great, but it's based on a book.  So the title of the book isn't great.  BUT!  Don't let that stop you from watching the movie!

Watch the trailer first, and then I'll tell you my thoughts:

It's pretty darn good.  Often, I'll say this about movies dealing with religious content:  "It was pretty good for a religious movie."  Not so with "Heaven Is For Real."  I really enjoyed it.  It isn't overly dramatic or sentimental, as many Christian movies are, and I think the reason is the acting.  Greg Kinnear plays a great dad and a down-to-earth pastor, and Kelly Reilly plays his smart and sometimes sassy wife.  Together, they make for a believable onscreen couple that kisses and argues.

The movie also isn't heavy-handed with gospel doctrine.  It's simply a story about a boy who experienced heaven.  That's it.  If you want to know what his experience was like, then you should watch it.

Note: Although the boy and his family don't belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I think this movie portrays a fairly accurate Mormon perspective on heaven.  It's a pretty good start, anyway.  Three things, in particular, stood out to me: 1) Christ has a resurrected, physical body of flesh and bone; 2) People have perfected bodies in heaven (i.e., no diseases or disorders); and 3) Heaven looks like Earth, but is more beautiful and more wonderful.

Things I'm thankful for: The two most important gifts and principles of the gospel: agency and the atonement of Jesus Christ.  Happy Easter, everybody!