Friday, January 18, 2019

Pro-Protagonism

Despite the violence in much of the media I pursue, I'm not actually a big fan of antagonism. I understand that most stories need antagonists because the conflict between the protagonists and the antagonists helps drive the plot, but in the real world, focusing on one's enemies isn't always the best way to defeat them. And by "defeating" one's enemies, I don't mean eliminating them or destroying them. If that's what you want to do, by all means, focus on them, but I think there's a better way to win. We can "defeat" our antagonists by accomplishing our goals, despite their attempts to stop us. In other words, instead of being anti-antagonist, I would rather be pro-protagonist.

Let's take our battles with Satan for example. Satan is constantly trying to get us to commit sin. The sins he tempts us with differ from person to person, but they all have the goal of stopping us from reaching the Celestial Kingdom, which is our ultimate goal. Now, we could focus on fighting Satan and resisting temptation, but that won't be enough. Merely not sinning won't qualify us for the Celestial Kingdom. We have to become worthy. We have to keep the commandments. There are things that we need to do in order to receive Celestial glory. Merely repelling Satan (anti-antagonist) won't help us accomplish our goal (pro-protagonist).

Satan knows that. That's why he tries to make us feel weak and apathetic. Getting us to commit sin is part of his goal, but all he really wants from us is to not to good. Satan's best tactic against many of us is to get us to play endless, exhausting defense against his attacks, because, even if we win, we'll be too tired from the fighting to actually do good.

That's why, against Satan at least, the best defense is a good offense, and our target isn't actually Satan; it's the Celestial Kingdom. As long as Satan is trying to distract us, delay us, and, if possible, derail us, we should try to keep our eyes on the prize. We can't destroy Satan, so focusing our efforts on fighting him is fruitless. So, instead of fighting against our adversary, we should try to fight for our Redeemer. We should focus our efforts on trying to do good and be good. Doing good will not only help others; it will also help us have the Spirit with us, which will help us resist temptation.

Of course, it's foolish to ignore our enemy completely. We do need to be aware of what he's trying to do to us so we can effectively counter it. But when he's trying to distract us, the best response isn't to fight against him. The best response is to sidestep the distraction and keep our focus on our goal.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Unrestrained Anger

In his recent General Conference talk, Elder Holland shared a piece of wisdom that Krusk Bloodfist would do well to learn: "Anger, if not restrained, is frequently more [destructive] than the injury that provokes it."

Cases in point: By now, we're all familiar with the story of how Krusk walked in to find his wife in bed with someone else, whom Krusk then beat to death. Krusk's marriage could have survived his wife being raped. It probably could have survived his wife being unfaithful. Had Krusk restrained his anger and asked questions instead of throwing punches, his relationship with his wife might be intact right now.

Instead, Krusk came home to find the house empty. Evidently, it hadn't been lived in since he left. As he was leaving, two men approached him aggressively, and, venting a little frustration, Krusk picked a fight with them, fought a little too hard, and accidentally killed them, despite suspecting that they might know something about where his wife was. Now Krusk has no idea where his wife is, and he has few clues to follow, especially since his two best leads are now dead by his hands. Again, had Krusk been able to restrain his anger, he'd be in a much better position right now.

As a side note, Krusk is obviously a terrible person, but I love how his story is shaping out. The plot is very effectively taking advantage of his greatest character flaw, creating a tragedy that is almost entirely of his own making. I can't (but will have to) wait to see where his character arc goes from here.

Anyhow, I guess my main point is to not be like Krusk. It's natural to get angry from time to time, but it is dangerously foolish to unleash your anger or let it control you. We need to exercise self-control. If we don't, our unrestrained anger will probably only make the situation worse.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Foreseeable Future

I think it's weird that people use the phrase "the foreseeable future" to refer to the near future. On one hand, no one can really foresee the future. The future is unpredictable, hinging on countless minute, unknowable factors. Theoretically, if someone knew everything, they could predict the future, but if there is even one thing they don't know, the things they don't know will throw off their predictions, so only a person who is truly omniscient would be able to foresee the future. Since we are not omniscient, we can't foresee the future, not even the near future.

On the other hand, there is one Person who is omniscient and who can foresee the future: God. Yet, the phrase "the foreseeable future" doesn't mean "the near future" for Him, either. He can't just foresee the near future. He can foresee the whole future. He knows everything that will ever happen, even a near-infinite number of years from now, long after the end of the world.

So, "the foreseeable future" doesn't mean "the near future" for us because we can't foresee any of the future, and it doesn't mean "the near future" for God because He can foresee all of it. Whether "the foreseeable future" means all of it or none of it depends on who's doing the foreseeing, but it never, ever means "the near future."

Monday, January 14, 2019

Reloading Old Saves

Many computer and video games have a feature that lets the player save their progress save their game and then reload a previous save. This allows players to, essentially, turn back time to a specific point in time. From there, the player can do any number of things. The player can relive an experience they've played through previously. They can retry a challenge, now armed with additional knowledge about the challenge. They can make different choices and explore previous paths. Being able to reload a previous save file is an experience unique to gaming, and it's not even present in all games.

While probably most games have a feature that lets you save and reload your game, some games don't. When games lack this feature, that omission is a deliberate choice on the part of the game developers, usually intended to create an experience more akin to real life. In real life, we can't go back in time for any reason. We can't relive experiences, except through memories. We can't retry challenges, except on subsequent attempts. And we can't change the choices we've made; we can only make new choices moving forward. Many game developers try to capture these elements of life to makes their games more intense and to make their choices more meaningful.

In life, our choices are always meaningful, in part because we can never decide to go back in time and change our minds. Once we've made a decision and acted on it, that decision is set in stone and recorded in heaven. Repentance is always an option, but retries never are. That's partly why we need to be careful with our decisions. It's important to try not to do anything that we're later going to regret. Every choice we make becomes a permanent part of our past. We can't reload old saves and start fresh from there. As the previously ubiquitous phrase says, You Only Live Once. Life isn't like most video games. Life is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

How to Follow Christ

As it turned out, Lord, I Would Follow Thee wasn't the only song about following that was sung today. The opening song was Come, Follow Me, and the closing hymn was Teach Me to Walk in the Light. Naturally, these songs got me thinking about what it takes to be a follower of Christ. Of course, we cannot follow Him physically. He walked the Earth so long ago that it is now impossible to literally follow in His footsteps. However, speaking spiritually and figuratively, it is possible to follow Christ. We can follow Christ the same way we would follow any other religious or political leader. We obey His rules and follow His example. We can choose to act the way He acted and do the things He did. That is His invitation to us. That is how he wants us to follow Him.

Of course, it isn't easy. Following the Savior's path takes a great deal of effort and willpower. Often, we are willing to follow Him, but still find it difficult. Hence the prayer Lord, I Would Follow Thee. We want to follow Him, but it's not an easy road to walk. Sometimes it's difficult to even know what it is we're supposed to do, let alone know how we're supposed to do it. We need the Lord's guidance as well as His strength. Thus we ask the Lord to Teach [Us] to Walk in the Light. Christ is not only our exemplar and helper; He is also our guide. Without Him, we would be hopelessly lost and practically powerless to do anything about it.

But with His help, we can walk in His footsteps, at least figuratively and spiritually. He can tell us the next steps to take and He can give us the strength to take those steps. He can teach us what to do and give us the power to do it. Following Christ is not easy, and there's no way we could do it without His help, but with His help, we can do anything, even follow in the footsteps of the Son of God.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Lord, I Would Follow Thee

I'm not sure what we'll be discussing in church tomorrow. I've heard that it'll probably be based on a talk from the most recent General Conference, but I have no idea which talk. However, I do know one thing that will certainly come up tomorrow: the hymn Lord, I Would Follow Thee, which will be sung by the choir, including me.

This hymn is essentially a prayer pledging to follow Christ's example in various ways and asking for His help in doing so. I wouldn't list it as one of my top ten favorite hymns, but it is one of my favorite types of hymns. I love hymns whose lyrics can be used as prayers, expressing gratitude, awe, dedication, or a desire for any of those things. I love hymns because they help us connect with God, and prayer hymns are especially good at doing that.

My choir performance tomorrow will mostly consist of trying to sing the right words at the right pitch at the right time, and I'll be concentrating pretty hard on that, but I'll still try to put a little bit of heart into the words I sing. Lord, I Would Follow Thee is a good song, mostly because it is also a good prayer.

About the Shutdown

If I understand it correctly, right now, the government is in some kind of shutdown because Schumer and Pelosi refuse to pass a budget that includes a border wall and Trump refuses to propose a budge that doesn't. I'm of two minds about basically every part of this issue. Let me break it down point by point.

First, I'm not sure how I feel about the wall. It seems cold-hearted to deny people entry into the United States, especially since many of the people coming in are trying to escape violence, crime, and poverty. Under those circumstances, the fact that they're coming in illegally can almost be overlooked. But they're not the only ones who are and will be affected by their immigration. An influx of workers, especially undocumented, unskilled workers, can have a huge impact on the nation, both politically and economically. Sure, letting them stay in the country is what's best for them, and we certainly have to consider how our final decision will affect them, but we have to do what's best for everyone, and I'm not sure what that is. On this topic, my stance is generally to make legal immigration easier and illegal immigration harder. A border wall may help with that, as would countless other immigration reforms. We all know that the system is broken, but it's hard to know how to fix it.

Second, I'm not sure how I feel about the shutdown. I'm not a huge fan of the federal government. Personally, I think that state and local governments should be stronger and the federal government should be weaker. Better yet, I think people should be allowed to govern themselves. On one hand, the idea of the federal government shutting down and leaving everything to the state, local, and personal levels sounds pretty good to me. On the other hand, I'm sure that the federal government is essential for many things, especially since so many people have come to depend on it. Some amount of government is essential, so we need it to function, even if it would be better if it wasn't so essential and didn't exist.

Third, I'm not sure how to assign the blame. Having established that the shutdown is, at least to some people, a bad thing, it's hard to say who's at fault for the shutdown. As far as I know, either side could end the shutdown by giving into the demands of the other side, but neither side is willing to back down. I could blame the individuals for that, but more than that, I blame the two-party system and the gerrymandering that led to this extreme divisiveness that turns bi-partisan compromise into political suicide. Political activists are so polarized that any kind of cooperation is seen as a form of betrayal. The government can't function because vocal citizens forbid their representatives from working together or compromising.

So, this whole situation is a mess. Immigration is a sticky issue, there are no clear solutions, and even if there was a solution, we'd have a hard time getting enough government officials to agree on it. This shutdown is an example of multiple problems layered on top of each other, and I'm not entirely certain how I feel about any of them.