Archive for the ‘General’ Category
There are spoilers here if you haven’t read or seen Harry Potter movies and books. But if you haven’t, why you’re wasting your time reading this instead of that I’ll never know.
Last week I went to scout camp.
I’m not the Scoutmaster, only the Assistant Scoutmaster. Ordinarily, the Scoutmaster is the one that takes the kids on the weeklong camp (with the Assistant and some parents pinch-hitting for a few days), but this time he couldn’t. The Scoutmaster’s name is Lynn Sorensen, and he’s dying.
About 16 months ago, Lynn was diagnosed with terminal cancer, and given three months to live. At about the three month mark last year, he was so far from dead that he took the scouts to Treasure Mountain in the Grand Tetons. I went for three days, and was swapped out by another leader at that point. Lynn was not quite his usual self, but pretty close. He made it the whole week, and his doctor said he was better physically afterward than he was before he went. This year, though, it became obvious a couple of months back that he wasn’t going to be able to go. I was given the opportunity to take the job, and I jumped at it. Yes, things are hard for us, but how often does one get a chance to carry a burden for such a man?
Because one must have two leaders at all times with the boys, I found another leader in my son Alexander, who is 19, and is largely just sitting there consuming resources (and waiting for his mission call – which came while we were at camp – to Buenos Aires). It was an irreplaceable opportunity for us to interact not so much as father and son, but as peers. For that alone, I would have been very grateful for the opportunity, but as it was, it came with a whole lot more. Lynn was on everyone’s mind pretty close to all the time. We missed him. The troop voted to rename itself “Lynn’s Boys” in his honor, and we honored our Lynn by bringing home every award there was in camp.
Going as we did with death on our minds, it seems a bit surreal that while we were there, a scout was struck by lightning during one of the most violent thunderstorms I’ve ever seen. He never regained consciousness and died on that hill, the same hill we were camping on. One of our scouts was at our campsite with Alexander and they were about 75 yards away from the strike. I was across the valley with the Camp Director, and we all knew something terrible was possible from that bolt. We all heard it. We knew which one it was.
The whole camp knew that something grim was happening, just from the reactions of the normally calm camp staff. They weren’t freaking out, but they got the same look I remember seeing on the faces of the airport guards in Rome when I was there during a terrorist attack in 1985. Serious. Tightly focused. There is a sort of squaring of the shoulders, a realization that what is coming will likely test them. That it will be painful, and also that it must be borne. It was clear long before the Life Flight ‘copter came over that the odds were not good of any happy outcome from the incident, and when the chopper stayed on the ground for almost an hour, we knew.
The unfortunate scout wasn’t screwing around. He wasn’t off by himself. He wasn’t playing golf, or even fishing, sticking a metal rod up in the air. And he wasn’t by any possible stretch the highest point in the area. Our campsite was higher than his by 75-100 feet, and we had metal pavilion poles sticking up out of it. So what happened was sheer, raw, uncomplicated bad luck.
We gathered the boys around later that night in the safety of the truck and were quite blunt with them. People die, we said. Everyone dies. It might take a year, or ten years, or a hundred years, but everyone’s jug of milk has an expiration date on it. You don’t know what that date is. You can make it fractionally less likely to be soon by doing certain things and avoiding others, but you can’t say for certain one way or the other when it will be, no matter who you are. Lynn Sorensen, one of the world’s most productive and positive people, is dying of cancer. David Rayborn, a twelve-year-old kid out at a scout camp doing what he’s supposed to be doing, gets hit by lightning and never goes home. I don’t think it’s actually random, but the Intelligence that is capable of predicting it is as far beyond ours as the sun is beyond a candle, so to us, it’s a toss of the dice. Hiding from this fact is a terrible waste. It has to be faced.
We were in a place to face it. So we did. We talked about it. The kids weren’t afraid – twelve- and thirteen-year-olds think they’re immortal – but they were somber. They understood that they had a choice, to live the time they had or to die without having lived at all. To be what they meant to be, all the time, so that they would never exit stage right with their lines unsaid or their part unplayed. Dedicate yourself to the things that matter. Kiss your mother and tell her you love her. Hug your Dad. Be kind to your brothers and sisters. Then square your shoulders and go.
The night we returned, my son and I, we went to see Harry Potter 7.2. We’re Potter fans, if not necessarily Rowling fans, and we had been looking forward to this last movie for quite a while. I don’t mind confessing that I wept openly at parts of it. There were, as you might imagine, a few things that seemed to bring the movie uncomfortably close to home. The theme, it seemed to me, was a familiar one. In fact, I thought I remembered hearing it (not quite so well said, or as dramatically) at our campfire on Wednesday night, and Thursday night, and Friday.
Now, I know there are parents out there that are not fans of Harry Potter. On the side of the political spectrum I inhabit, and especially on the religious edge I frequent, there are parents that think that exposing their children to witchcraft is a bad thing. And so it would be, if there were anything even remotely like real witchcraft in Harry Potter. The magical universe is a joke. Anything that creates Bertie Bott’s EveryFlavor Beans and Jumping Chocolate Frogs as an introduction to the culture is not serious. You could easily substitute ray guns for wands and the stories would make about the same amount of sense. There isn’t any serious magic ever performed. I absolutely flat-back guarantee you there are more kids that lost their way religiously because of the weird and silly Jedi cult than ever did because of Harry Potter.
On the contrary, what is actually taught in the Potter Saga is courage, selflessness, resourcefulness, and commitment. When has there ever been a tale that was more supportive of study and discipline? More encouraging of education and preparation? Less dismissive of the consequences of shoddy work and goofing off?
But it’s so much better than that. Look not at the characters, but what makes the characters. Draco Malfoy, warped and twisted because of his father’s ambition. Hermione Granger, who is the focal point of bullying and abuse because…her parents are muggles. Ron Weasley, who forms the rallying point for Harry and Hermione because…he has a family. A real one. And Harry himself, to whom the most important people in the world are his parents and his godfather. In every major character, Dumbledore, Snape, Sirius Black, even Voldemort himself, there are the potent effects of family and parents, for good and ill.
And in the end, it is the mothers that save the day. Molly Weasley blasts Bellatrix LeStrange. Narcissa Malfoy, out of love for her son, saves Harry’s life. And it is Harry’s mother, arguably the most important character in the entire series, that is the crux of the entire final episodal arc, and she’s never been alive for even a second of the entire 4000-page epic. Her love for Harry is shown to be the most powerful force in all the magical world. Where, I beg you, where is the message in this you do not want your children to hear?
C.S. Lewis once wrote, “Since it is so likely that they will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker. Nor do most of us find that violence and bloodshed, in a story, produce any haunting dread in the minds of children. As far as that goes, I side impenitently with the human race against the modern reformer. Let there be wicked kings and beheadings, battles and dungeons, giants and dragons, and let villains be soundly killed at the end of the book.” – Of Other Worlds
Soundly killed they may be, and are, and in the meantime the book and the movie look a lot like our lives. Here we have Sirius Black, killed by…well, we don’t know. He’s dead mostly because he loves Harry. Tonks and Remus Lupin, killed defending the children of Hogwarts. Fred Weasley is dead, too, alone of the Weasley family, and Bill is scarred for life. Good people that we care about and that didn’t do anything wrong. One here of this group and one there of that. No rhyme. No reason. But in the greater sense, in the largest possible sense, in the only perspective that works, it doesn’t matter.
Because I heard echoing through the theater the voice of Nevill Longbottom, my personal favorite, telling me and my scouts and those poor parents of that unlucky boy that the good do not die in vain. They live. They live because they do that which they came to do, they fight their fight, and they go, as Dumbledore said, “on”. Only Voldemort, the beast seeking for eternal life, would, even if he found it, have no life at all, for all his works were vanity. None would remember him, or mourn him, or make a song for him. His life would mean nothing, and his death less than nothing.
Not so with David Rayborn, and not with Lynn Sorensen. Not so with you, and not with me, this I swear.
Read the books. See the movies. Kiss your mother and hug your Dad.
And then square your shoulders and go.
Probably, you’re not following me on Twitter, so here’s what you’re missing:
CjLehi: #blessing 8,9,10,11,12 and 13: Valter Nassi’s incredible Tuscan
Promenade at the indescribable Cucina Toscana.
CjLehi: #blessing 7: wisdom enough to give no response under provocation.
More bad news, but I have not compounded it with foolishness. For once.
CjLehi: #blessing 6: German engineering. My first ride in a Mercedes over
any real distance. Holy. &%(&*$^.
CjLehi: #blessing 5: Computers. I write probably 8-10,000 words a week.
Cannot imagine having to do that on my IBM Selectric.
CjLehi: #blessing 4: The awesome Lehi Rotary Club. Congratulations to Ron
Foggin, new President, and welcome Glen Meigs to the past-president club.
CjLehi: #blessing 3: Jill Peterson, who is currently juggling my life so I
don’t have to.
CjLehi: #blessing 2: a father that really believes in me, no matter how
many times I have cried wolf.
CjLehi: #blessing 1: Ian Darke. It’s so nice to be able to watch a soccer
match in English, where the announcer is worth listening to.
CjLehi: Day 6 of the #blessing experiment. Lots of positive things to
CjLehi: #blessing 11: a new day to try again. Didn’t finish strong today.
Have to give day 5 a 6. Not really the day’s fault, tho.
CjLehi: #blessing 10: http://lockerz.com/s/117438298
CjLehi: #blessing 9: a son that respects the flag of his country enough to
retire it properly.
CjLehi: #blessing 8: salad from my own garden. Well, mostly from there.
CjLehi: A continuacion…: Day 5 is underway of the #blessing experiment on
Twitter (I don’t use my phone much on weekends… http://bit.ly/oBKTl2
CjLehi: #blessing 7: the entire Harmon clan, but today especially Jeff and
Neal, with a shout out to Theron. Great lunch, even better conversation.
CjLehi: #blessing 6: the hole-in-the-wall Neapolitan restaurant La Dolce
Vita in Provo. Authentic Italian.
CjLehi: #blessing 5: spare buttons for my shirt. That’s thoughtful design.
And 5a my lovely wife sewing the replacement on.
CjLehi: #blessing 4: an impossible six green lights in a row through the
busiest part of town.
CjLehi: #blessing 3: finding that my potential, inhumanly-successful
business partners are human after all. Since I certainly am.
CjLehi: #blessing 2: a four-hour wide-ranging conversation with Randy
Peterson. Learned a great deal.
CjLehi: #blessing 1: the lifted ban on aerial fireworks. Made yesterday
evening sound like a WWII movie.
CjLehi: Back after the excellent weekend to the #blessing experiment, day
CjLehi: Dan at his best. RT @mortgagereports: When Mortgage Rates Rise 1%,
Your Purchasing Power Falls By 10.75%. http://t.co/DjAxiY4
CjLehi: #blessing experiment day 4 is a wrap. I give today a 9.5, best day
in months. If the trend continues, tomorrow will be perfect.
CjLehi: #blessing 10 thru 1476: The Jimmy Rex firework show. I know some
cool people. http://lockerz.com/s/116137113
CjLehi: #blessing 9: it’s BYU’s independence day! #BYUDAY
CjLehi: @thebookmaven Reading Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Levin.
CjLehi: #blessing 8: finished the week and did not take the car to work.
Not once. I do love Lehi.
CjLehi: I’m using @TweetBackup by @backupify to archive my tweets
CjLehi: #blessing 6: my son ALexander has his papers in, at long, long
last. If you’re LDS, you know what that’s code for. If not, well, sorry.
CjLehi: #blessing 5 is a doozy. From White Collar, from “Where There’s a
Will”, the excellent joke of the Ark in the Nazi sub relics. So shiny!
CjLehi: #blessing 7: I feel good. I’m happy. It’s been a while. The
interesting thing is that my circumstances have not really improved. Even
CjLehi: #blessing 6: the orange chicken at the Thai House on Main in Lehi.
Oh, doctor. THAT’S lunch!
CjLehi: #blessing 5: ripe cherries. You get four weeks, max, and then it’s
over. I’ll be sick, but I won’t care.
CjLehi: Happy Birthday to You!: Last night, I completed my 43rd year on the
planet. I’m disgusted. No, I take that back…. http://bit.ly/mPsKgI
CjLehi: #blessing 3: Max. http://lockerz.com/s/115932814
CjLehi: #blessing 2: HDTV. I know that I used to watch tv before HD, I just
can’t remember why.
CjLehi: #blessing 1: humility. I love to play basketball, but I played my
age today. Sigh.
CjLehi: Day 4 of the #blessing experiment. More positive, and often
cryptic, tweets on the way.
Some really fascinating things are happening with this. It’s true that there has not been much change in the type of things that have been happening to me, but there has definitely been a change in my reaction to them. Even really negative things, I’m reacting to differently than I have before. So we’ll be continuing, no doubt about it. We’re one week of tweets in.
Day 5 is underway of the #blessing experiment on Twitter (I don’t use my phone much on weekends, so no tweets, really), and it’s continuing to have interesting effects. For those interested and tweet-able, I’m @cjlehi; follow me at your own risk.
One of the things that has occurred to me about this is that one acquires a certain reputation from doing it. The rep is that I am a positive guy. I tweet blessings. I’m constantly looking for blessings, for positive things to communicate to the world. I am doing this in what I lovingly call Channel Three, which is the most public of all the ways to communicate. I am globally declaring that I have blessings and that I notice those blessings. I am going to do this for two weeks, but the reality is that once I start doing this it is likely that I will continue, unless it absolutely does not work at all, and it’s already a bit late for that to be the case.
I will be encouraged to continue because I have staked out some ground here. Nobody else that I know is doing anything like this; at least, the #blessing hashtag is not what you’d call overused, and nobody else on earth is numbering them off every day to keep track (at least not on Twitter). I confess I would like to be known for being a positive person. Therefore the odds are that this will become my thing, my schtick, my modus operandi.
Today is every bit as good as day 4. It is officially a trend. Time will tell if it is a pattern, or possibly even a system. But I’m hopeful.
Last night, I completed my 43rd year on the planet.
No, I take that back. I’m moderately disappointed. I thought I’d be more than I am, after this long. To quote Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail, “I lead a small life – well, valuable, but small – and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven’t been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn’t it be the other way around?”
I still can’t watch the scene from that movie where she closes her little store without tears running down my face. I’ve had to do that, to kill something I loved because to keep it alive was to cause it suffering to no purpose. I’ve survived almost nine years in the mortgage industry, but our modest and occasional successes have not really filled in the holes left by the much more frequent times things were bad. We’ve done okay. I call it “moderately unsuccessful”. We have done good, quality work and helped a lot of people that wouldn’t otherwise have been served, but we’ve never managed to make a real success of it. Very recently, the good work I thought I was doing, in an area I thought I was good at, turned out not to be valued by people I consider my friends. That hurt a good deal, and still does.
Most everything else in my life is better than that, but again, I’m so far short of excellence in so many areas. The fact is that I haven’t even reached for excellence. I treat my wife well, and we love each other, but couldn’t I be better? I’m a good father to my many children, but every softball season I’m reminded that I haven’t had a catch with any of my kids…ever. In a thousand little ways, practically every day, I’ve put them second and third and eighteenth. I pray, but not as hard as I could. I read the scriptures every day, but they slide past my eyes without impression. I write, but I don’t dare to try doing it for money. What if I’m not as good as I think I am?
As I consider this, though, I’m reminded of a quote by C.S. Lewis, one of my favorites: The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forget about yourself altogether or see yourself as a small, dirty object. It is better to forget about yourself altogether.
Now, I find myself in the presence of God quite a lot. I invite Him here, and I try to welcome Him when He comes. My wife and children, and so many of my friends, are among His greatest warriors, and their presence invites His. So I see myself as a small, dirty object extremely often. But then, the truth of it is that if we are honest, we all do. We all know we’re not what we could be. We all know we could be doing better than we are.
The key for me today and all days is to forget myself altogether. Since I can’t stop myself from thinking – I’ve tried, and it only works when I’m watching Michael Bay movies – I had better get in the habit of thinking about you instead.
So happy birthday to you!
Here’s a compendium of the first three days’ tweets (reverse order, obviously). Analysis below.
CjLehi : Calling it a night. #blessing 9 is that it was a beautiful, beautiful day. Wrote some, played some, prayed some. I give it an 8.
CjLehi : #blessing 8: still have not been bitten by a single mosquito this summer.
CjLehi : #blessing 7: fruit season. Eating strawberries like Kaylie on Serenity. Man, I love this season.
2011-07-01 03:18:59 CjLehi: #blessing 6: my son Alexander has his papers in, at long, long last. If you’re LDS, you know what that’s code for. If not, well, sorry. 2011-07-01 02:26:19 CjLehi: #blessing 5 is a doozy. From White Collar, from “Where There’s a Will”, the excellent joke of the Ark in the Nazi sub relics. So shiny! 2011-06-30 21:47:34 CjLehi: #blessing 4: my laptop. Holy cats, I cannot remember what I used to do when I had to write on a typewriter. 2011-06-30 19:39:52 CjLehi: #blessing 2: that I have a temple close, and 3 that I have a beautiful wife that will go with me. 2011-06-30 19:38:57 CjLehi: #blessing 1: that my bike broke down on the way TO the office instead of on the way back home. Not nearly as heavy. 2011-06-30 14:56:10 CjLehi: Agreed. RT @simonsinek: Has Wal-Mart lost touch with its populist roots? I think so. http://t.co/5q5vuc8 2011-06-30 14:45:43 CjLehi: At his best! RT @cspenn: #the5: I got some stunning results using Facebook pre-filled forms in popups. See what I learned: http://ar.gy/ShG 2011-06-30 04:58:10 CjLehi: End of day 2 of the great #blessing experiment. I give this one a 5 out of 10. But I think I should get an 8. 2011-06-30 02:46:58 CjLehi: #blessing 11&12: my beautiful and very interesting daughters, Charlotte and Mira. 2011-06-29 23:56:48 CjLehi: #blessing 10: that I love what I do so much that even when I’m discouraged and defeated, I’m still at my desk working after 6. 2011-06-29 22:44:58 CjLehi: #blessing 9: enough wisdom to know when a “success” book is just flat wrong. This may also be a curse, or at least a scar. 2011-06-29 22:17:44 CjLehi: #blessing 8: www.staceykent.com Melt me down and use me for butter. 2011-06-29 21:42:36 CjLehi: #blessing 7: Sherri Russett’s sense of humor. @City1stMortgSvc is in good hands there. 2011-06-29 21:17:43 CjLehi: #blessing 6: or #miracle 1, Josh and Jenna Gubler had their baby today, 2 months after Josh’s mother’s death. And today is her birthday. 2011-06-29 21:09:00 CjLehi: #blessing 5: air conditioning. Actually two units thereof in my office. 2011-06-29 19:10:09 CjLehi: #blessing 4: a really excellent lunch from Anne Made. Custard to die for. 2011-06-29 18:03:14 CjLehi: #blessing 3: such a fantastically beautiful day. And a terrible speaker to get me to leave the conference room so I can enjoy it. 2011-06-29 16:29:00 CjLehi: #blessing 2: old friends like Jeremiah Maughan. Just showed up at a conference together. 2011-06-29 16:02:45 CjLehi: Numbers bleak but not quite pitch black at the UCAR housing summit. #UCARhs 2011-06-29 13:38:49 CjLehi: #blessing 1: I’m 43, and I can still play basketball three times a week. Occasionally without embarrassment. 2011-06-29 13:37:18 CjLehi: Day 2 of the #blessing experiment. Those unimpressed by positive tweets, beware. 2011-06-29 04:23:48 CjLehi: Day 1 down, and I give it a 4 out if 10. Very bad news late in the day. Inexplicable, pointless bad news. 2011-06-29 04:22:35 CjLehi: #blessing 12: saving the best for last, I’m grateful for my beautiful wife Jeanette. 2011-06-28 22:45:17 CjLehi: #blessing 11: two City Councilwomen that care enough to listen and think about how to help their city. From Provo, unbelievably. 2011-06-28 20:33:11 CjLehi: #blessing 10: a hard trial to see if I’m committed to this project. I am. But hard it is. 2011-06-28 20:27:14 CjLehi: #blessing 9: the DVR. I don’t think I need to elaborate on that, do I? 2011-06-28 17:59:21 CjLehi: #blessing 7: that little cloud that just passed in front of the sun. 2011-06-28 17:58:35 CjLehi: #blessing 6: a processor that can cover for me when I make an elementary, rookie mistake on a loan. 2011-06-28 17:30:12 CjLehi: #blessing 5: the inimitable @hawkpete, who doubles my effectiveness at networking events. 2011-06-28 16:58:54 CjLehi: #blessing 4: I have a son that is willing to watch soccer with me, and likes it as much as I do. 2011-06-28 16:27:23 CjLehi: Thought I’d Try Something: I’ve posted before on being positive, on being cheerful, even (although my tag cloud … http://bit.ly/mCodOw 2011-06-28 16:08:23 CjLehi: #blessing 3: my 5-year-old is vacuuming the tv room. Perhaps that should be #miracle instead. 2011-06-28 16:06:03 CjLehi: #blessing 2: I can ride my bike to work. And 2b, the weather is ridiculously great. 2011-06-28 15:41:11 CjLehi: #blessing 1: tack on my floor, right in front of my closet, for two weeks. Never saw it. Never stepped on it. 2011-06-28 15:40:10 CjLehi: Expect the volume of tweets to rise a bit over the next two weeks. In the interest of experimenting: http://t.co/yCF1tTT
The gaps are where I tweeted about something else non-germane.
Couple things are immediately obvious to me about the last three days. First, my average tweet volume is up about 400%. Really. I love Twitter, but I’m more of a consumer than a producer, so I tweet about .4 times per day. That’s up to 16x a day in the last three days. The vast majority of those tweets are hashtagged #blessing, and are part of the project. But my interaction with others increased as well, because…well, because.
Second, there is no correlation between the project and the things that happen to me. Those are pretty randomly scattered and all over the map as to whether I wanted them or not. Day 1 featured the death of a loan – the third consecutive loan that was approved and ready that was killed by events beyond any possibility of my control – and in our current financial situation that is really a nasty thing to have happen (blessing 10 from 6-28). It threw me, but didn’t stop me, and there is the chance that part of the reason is that I was involved in this project.
Today there were a couple more things that didn’t go the way I’d want them to, but today I can definitely confirm that this project has had a positive effect on my thinking. When my bike broke down as I was riding to work, I immediately reframed the event as a blessing. I mean, it was hot, and I had to carry the bike three blocks in the summer sunshine to my office before I could fix it. Not on my “want-to” list. But I was already reframing the event as a good thing, as a blessing, before I got there (blessing 1, 6-30). Under no circumstances would that have happened if I hadn’t been doing this.
My good friend Enoch (@dellojoio, and www.getenoch.com) has a system he calls Padiush, in which you measure your gratitude every day. He swears it works. I find it curious that the backbone of that system is 10 things every day that you’re grateful for, and I have averaged a bit over that, without having specific target, every day so far.
Noticing blessings, and reframing events so that they are seen as blessings, has not changed the bottom line of my bank account so far. But it certainly hasn’t worsened it, and as you see from my end-of-day tweets, there has been a steady improvement in how I rate each day. That might be a pattern, and it might be luck. The sample size is small. But it hasn’t hurt, and that’s not nothing.
One other thing. I know that some people are actively following those tweets every day, and more are waiting for the Facebook/blog recap. That also has a positive impact on my attitude. Having to do this in public, because I said I would, has been reinforcing. It’s increased the intensity of the project and made a difference for the better in my life. If you don’t care, that doesn’t happen. So thank you, all of you, for being today’s #blessing #10.