Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Dad's Preparation

This post very much relates to yesterday's post, though I won't get into particulars. What I will say is that I think the most important lesson my dad taught me was how to prepare.

When I was in my twenties, I read articles about what to look for in relationships, romantic and friendly. I learned about red flags and personality traits that spelled disaster. One common sentiment went something like this: "Lying. I absolutely will not tolerate liars." Or "honesty is the most important quality in any relationship." I disagreed. I believed arrogance was the most egregious trait anyone could have and often insidiously dangerous.

I still mostly think that, but as I've learned to understand and appreciate nuance in my adulthood, I now believe that a lack––and even a disdain for––preparation goes hand-in-hand with arrogance. I'll share two anecdotes from my dad's life and one from mine to illustrate this:

  • Although many young men in The Church of Latter-day Saints serve a two-year mission, my dad did not. He instead opted for the Marine Corps. Naturally athletic, he excelled in basic training, and he loved the predictability and comfort of routine. However, as men his age came home from their missions, speaking foreign languages and well-versed in scripture, my dad felt inadequate. He later admitted to me that he regretted not serving a mission, but he also did something that I think few men would do to make up for it: He studied. He read The Book of Mormon from cover to cover nine times. He did the same with the Doctrine and Covenants three times; the Pearl of Great Price two times; the New Testament two times; and the Old Testament one time. I've seen his large set of scriptures, and he used up every inch of blank space––the cover pages, the publisher's blank pages, and the title pages. In these spaces, he taped various copies of things: a small copy of sections of the Church Handbook of Instructions; the words to the civil marriage ceremony; excerpts from Church educational manuals; poems; and patriarchal blessings. He also wrote proverbs, quotes, and definitions that meant something to him, and they were nuggets of wisdom from Catholic saints, Supreme Court Justices, psychologists, poets, writers, presidents, and religious leaders. He highlighted many verses in Proverbs and made significant notes in Isaiah, Revelation, and Matthew. He wrote marginal notes about geography, exact times, sizes of ancient tools, and definitions of archaic words. He also wrote notes at the beginning of most Old Testament books that explained who authored the book, who the author's contemporaries were, and what the name of the book meant.

    You get the picture. My point is, though, that he knew how important learning was. He knew how important curiosity and education was. And he didn't say much unless he knew at least a bit about the topic at hand. Mostly he listened.

  • He probably hated it, but as a psychologist and university professor, my dad was often asked to give speeches at public events, such as graduations, professional conferences, and even trial courts. As a religious leader, too, he was required to give speeches to large congregations of churchgoers. His speeches were phenomenal. He knew his material so well that he could lengthen or shorten his speech as necessary, depending on the amount of time he needed to fill. One Saturday, I unintentionally overheard my dad practicing a speech in front of a bathroom mirror. He practiced it over and over and over again. I never said anything to my dad about it, but the next day, a woman at church walked over to me and said, "Your dad is so good at speaking! He just has a natural gift!" Perhaps he did, but I remember thinking, "He also prepares a lot!"

  • Not many years after graduating from college, I was talking about the university experience to an acquaintance of mine. I can't remember anything from the conversation except that we happened to be talking about studying, and I mentioned that I practically lived at my college library. He said casually, "I pride myself on the fact that I never once went to my college library." I know he meant to sound cool, but I remember walking away from that conversation being completely flabbergasted.

    I don't have many conversations about college anymore, but there does seem to be an epidemic in recent years of people priding themselves in not picking up a book, reading about current events, or consulting with reliable sources and experts. And people who have no business weighing in on a topic seem to be the loudest and the rudest.
Even if you don't subscribe to Mormon philosophy, I think there's something from one of our books of scripture that applies to everyone in the world. It's found in the Doctrine and Covenants, chapter 9, verses 7–8. Oliver Cowdery, one of Joseph Smith's contemporaries, wants to translate ancient scripture but it turns out that he can't. The Lord tells him, "[...] You have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind [...]." The lesson here is that preparation is key to . . . well, to anything, really. In this context, preparation is key to translating ancient scripture through revelation, but I do think God's idea of preparation is broader. I think it extends to almost every facet of life: formal schooling, parenting, business success, physical success, and who knows what else.

When I was young, I somehow thought that arrogance was simply a personality trait, like being introverted or extraverted. Then I figured it was a consequence of ingratitude and a lack of humility. Now, looking back at my life and my dad's example, I think arrogance is the result of not preparing. When we prepare, whether it's by reading, listening, exercising, or repeating a task over and over and over again, we learn how to be grateful and humble and deferential. And as a bonus, we end up increasing our knowledge and abilities.

Thing I'm thankful for: my dad teaching me how to fold socks

Tuesday, August 02, 2022

Something to Say

For the last several months, I've wanted to write, but I don't quite know what to say. I have glimmers of ideas, but I just can't seem to get the words out. I used to publish a post once a week or so, and now, I think I'm at about 4 posts per year.

Why? I'm not really sure, but there are two things that have been especially difficult during the past year: 1) my dad's death, and 2) being a step mom. I can't seem to shake this sadness from myself. I have moments of lightness, but I'll see something that reminds me of my dad and grief flickers through my body. I'll see a mother surrounded by her biological children and wonder what that must feel like.

Life is so hard. It's beautiful and wonderful and bright and sparkling, and it's melancholy and sorrowful and dark and dull. I don't know how to express all of it at the same time, so I'll leave some recent musings here:

  • I wish I could go to Dairy Queen with my dad and get him a raspberry Blizzard with chunks of Heath and Butterfinger.
  • When I was a child, I didn't understand how much my dad worked for my family; it must be hard for fathers to be absent during the day.
  • Fathers deserve as much respect as mothers do, and they deserve to have healthy relationships with their kids.
  • I'm a good parent.
  • Sometimes people say and do cluelessly hurtful things.
  • Sometimes people are really mean to people they don't even know.
  • Starting a food business is exciting and overwhelming and invigorating and scary.
  • Making friends is one of life's greatest joys.

That's all for now. I'll try to write more soon.

Thing I'm thankful for: chocolate milk