Eternal life is right now. Lately I’ve been pondering this subject. The line from Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory came to mind: “If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it.” At the time I was in my cluttered bedroom, which was anything but paradisaical. What you see is what you get. How many of us have made earth … heaven? Until we learn to do this, we may learn some day, to our horror, that heaven … is earth.
I remember being in a Gospel Principles class a few years ago, and we were discussing the subject of charity. I made the point that charity was in the little things, such as putting shopping carts away after using them at grocery stores, emphasizing that if everyone practices such decency, society would be a much better place. A woman in the class agreed with me though added that charity also requires not being quick to judge those who don’t put their carts away. Such a person could be a mother with her arms full of children who simply is not in a feasible position to do so. Though I held my peace, I thought hers was a weak argument.
Interestingly, this exact circumstance occurred to me at the grocery store today. For my third time, I found myself at Winco with a cart full of groceries before remembering that the place doesn’t except credit cards, and having lost my debit card, I had to go home to get Teresa’s. As I fanangled my way through the awful situation while juggling two kids (one throwing a tantrum, the other in a heavy car seat), I realized that I was simply unable to put my cart away … I, who for years had prided myself as the pinnacle of moral excellence when it comes to shopping carts. It was a difficult decision, but in the end, I had to swallow my pride and join the ranks of shopping cart litter bugs, once again learning the age-old lesson: “Judge not, that ye be not judged.”
For a while I sat here near the computer, pondering my life and the slippery nature of time, wondering what it all amounted to, about my place in the universe and my progress as a human spirit. Nothing intelligent came to mind. So I decided it’s time for actual enlightenment. I’m going upstairs to talk to my wife. Goodbye.
I think the battle of Gog and Magog and Armageddon and the Desolation of Abomination and all that end-of-the-world turmoil with the nations of the earth coming against Israel, etc. has already happened. Physically. Look at World War II. How can it not be the fulfillment of such prophecies? How could there be a more epic end-of-the-world conflict than the unspeakable horrors and genocides and mass debauchery of the twenthieth century? I certainly hope there won’t be more.
What if the prophecies have already been fulfilled, and we don’t even realize it? What if we’re entirely missing the mark by still looking for outward signs, when the true conflict and climax we face is primarily a spiritual battle?
Man, ever since I got my “real job”, it’s been hard not to view the world as a rat race. Suddenly knowing there’s a number attached to your annual worth, how can one not want up that number? And seeing one’s friends and family move on to higher education and more prestigious, intelligent, and exciting positions, how can one not want to compete? On one hand, the honors of men are worthless, you can’t take it with you, etc. But on the other hand, you can take your mind, your talents, and your experience, which is exactly what people pay you for. Hence it almost seems that the best way to prepare for the after life is to invest one’s self in an ambitious career path. I mean, what’s the purpose of life if not to improve one’s self? If one has locked himself into a position in which he’s no longer progressing, isn’t he more or less “damned” by the Mormon definition? Surely God wouldn’t settle for an entry-level position. He’s the most intelligent man in the universe. So why do we develop these damnable dogmas that it doesn’t matter what we do with our careers?
It’s not the money I covet, it’s the satisfaction of trailing ahead of my friends and watching them cough in my dust.
Tonight we made cookies and brought them to neighbors in response to our stake president asking us to perform acts of kindness for our neighbors, especially for the less active or non-members. It’s a little awkward that bringing cookies was all I could think of, as if such were the only socially-acceptable way to make contact with the foreigners next door. Technology has truly made us friends with people on the other side of the world and strangers with our next-door neighbors. But I guess you have to start somewhere. And it did work. We had a great conversation with our neighbors and learned a lot about them.
Sometimes being a Mormon can be painful. It requires us to do things we wouldn’t otherwise do. Like contacting our neighbors. Like being … (shudder) … sociable. I started out very shy in elementary school, but I soon learned that I wanted to be a funny kid, which required me to transcend my comfort zone. I grew to be okay at making friends and engaging in small talk, but it never came naturally. When I let nature get the best of me throughout my life, I degenerated into a recluse. I can recall social settings, even in college, where I was seen as the quiet one, the anti-social one. Even when I really tried to be sociable, in some settings, I just couldn’t small talk, let alone talk as a friend.
But that’s okay, right? That’s just who I am. Sociality isn’t one of my fortes. I don’t want to be the nagging elder who calls each month for your home teaching report. I don’t want to be that unnaturally friendly guy at church who always says hello and has stupid sunshine in his soul. I don’t want to be like Jesus and disregard all social barriers, making my primary concern in life the welfare of other people. I don’t want to love my neighbor, I just want to love myself.
Wouldn’t it be easier if we could find God by abandoning society and meditating in the woods? Perhaps we can. But Mormonism comes with this horribly inconvenient doctrine that it’s not enough just find God, we have to be like him.
I played the cello at a musical celebration of the Mormon pioneers put on by my stake.
Actually I do remember a talk from a high counsel man, who emphasized the duty of parents to not shirk from their responsibilities in order to avoid negative attitudes from their children. Parenting is not a popularity contest, and sometimes the only way to show love is to chastize. True love cannot support self-destructive behavior. I wonder if I’ve been guilty of stepping back and preaching tolerance when someone close to me needed a firm hand. There’s definitely a tough balance there. Let the Spirit guide.