Reasons to Be Positive

Just another run of the mill day. The sun was out for a season tease of warmer weather to come. As I type I can hear my kids jumping on the trampoline in the backyard. Their rambunctious sounds fill me with joy. With so much loss and suffering in the world during this crisis, it is the little things that are giving me delight the last several weeks.

Earlier in the day, I posed a question to my wife and children. What is a positive thing that you’ve learned or experienced during this stay at home lock-down the past 5 weeks?

As I reflected on this myself, a few thoughts came up. The main positive for me has been the quality of time that I have been able to spend with my wife and my children. I mentioned to my wife that I don’t think we have spent this much continuous time together in our seventeen year marriage since we were dating. I also remarked to my children, that this is the most time I’ve been able to spend with each of them since they were born. As tough as this situation has been, I am grateful for that. I never spent a complete month uninterrupted with my mother or father that I can remember, and it has been an unforgettable experience getting to know a little bit more about my wife and children.

I really love hearing about their concerns, dreams, aspirations, goals, anxieties, and just to feel their closeness. I know that not everyone is having the same experience and for some it is an utterly heartbreaking ordeal. That realization makes my time with my family all the more cherished.

Throughout all of this I have also contemplated on just how fragile life is and the indiscriminate nature of this virus. It doesn’t care if you are conservative or liberal, or if you think you’re healthy or not. One minute we can be fine and well, and the next we are gone. Love the people in your life and let them know you love them. Time is short. Time is fleeting. What is a hundred years in eternity? What is hundred years on earth? A speck of time and place in the vastness of the universe. Just enjoy it while you can, at least that is what I keep repeating and reminding myself.

I’ve also learned to better communicate with far away family members. My mother traveled back to a Haiti a few weeks before the coronavirus started in the U.S. and is now stuck there. The horrific news was coming from China and Europe and I advised her not to go during all of this. At first I was upset with her for such a foolish decision, especially since she is high risk due to her age. I’ve come to realize that the same way I let my kids learn from their decisions, I have to do the same with my mother, and respect her decisions, not matter what I think. I’ve been talking to her almost daily through Whatsapp and have really appreciated the in-depth discussions we’re having that probably never would’ve happened with my former busy/hectic schedule. I was always too busy for long phone calls, and now I cherish them and call too frequently. It’s sad that it took a pandemic for me to change.

Lastly, the other wonderful thing that I’ve learned is that I can do things that I always thought I couldn’t. I’ve always liked to write, but always made excuses for not taking the time to do so. Work, family, meetings, responsibilities, and excuse after excuse after excuse. It’s really a cathartic exercise and a way to express how I’m feeling. I think for a lot of people, they’ve looked at this pandemic and subsequent shutdown as an opportunity to reinvent themselves, try something new, or just simply start something that they have planned on doing for a long time. Before this I never had a blog of any sort.

Again, it took a pandemic to get me to do something that I have wanted to do for a long time. Despite the difficulty and the suffering all around us, there are rays of light, and reasons to be positive.

Are We Living In a Simulation?

I read and hear often in articles and podcasts that we might be living in a simulation. Really! Really? A simulation? This sounds like the ideas of someone who has been reading way too many sci-fi novels and watching way too many futuristic Matrix-like movies.

Then I think about it. Ponder it. And Ponder it some more. I go down the rabbit hole. If you think about it we all live in our own individual consciousness (whatever that means) which is basically our own simulation. Not to get too esoteric about this (already did), but this might be our “reality”. Look, what is reality? Who is to say what is stored up in your mind isn’t your reality. You’re collective experience, memory, mixed in with physiological, and genetic brain wiring give you this existence which is different than anyone else’s.

What exactly is a simulation and how is that different than reality for the person in it? Think about an ant in a forest living it’s life. To the ant the daily struggle living with other ants, insects, and animals against the elements is it’s reality. Then one day lets say you find that ant, pick it up, and place it in a jar to take to a lab and examine. Imagine how much that ant’s “reality” will have changed. If looking at it from that perspective, I suppose we could be in a simulation.

Will there one day be an inquisitive scientist picking us up from our habitat of “reality” for examination and experimentation? Full disclaimer, I’m a believer in a higher Deity, and a Christian. So for me the way I look at this is by noting that nothing is out of the realm of God. We are already on a strange rock with billions of other human creatures moving very fast through space. If anything God has a sense of humor and a deep curiosity and concern for our lives.

Life in and of itself is very strange to begin with and so I don’t discount other people’s beliefs or views, and I don’t hide the reality that my knowledge and understanding is lacking. Said otherwise, I know that there is a lot I don’t know.

Could we be in a simulation? Sure. It’s possible. How probable, I have no idea. One thing I do know, the universe never ceases to amaze and surprise me. We might all be in a petri dish one day wondering how we got here, or who knows, maybe we already are.

Nazis Hated Foerster and How His Writings Can Change Your Life

Nazis during World War II burned his books. They viewed the man and his ideas as a threat to their ideology. They revoked his German citizenship. He was one of them by blood, but he was a subversive because he felt differently in his heart and mind. He was among them, saw their bigoted and nationalistic politics. He vocally opposed them, and was persecuted by them. Friedrich Wilhem Foerster forewarned of the German’s increasing militarism well before others realized what was happening. He was a pacifist before it was trendy. He was a man firm and brave in his principles. He left us some of the greatest writing for self improvement that still apply today.

It’s not very often we are impressed. We have humanity’s collective knowledge at our fingertips, and can order anything we want to our doorsteps like an Emperor of old. It’s hard for us to be impressed anymore.

Then I read the writings of a man whose words resonate just as powerfully today as when he wrote them over 100 years ago. I’m genuinely impressed by the truths he speaks and I’m also impressed at his open defiance in his own life to a regime which was unforgiving to infidels.

In his book Marriage and The Sex Problem he has a whole chapter devoted to asceticism. In this chapter he discusses the benefits of asceticism, and why the world needs men of spiritual example to guide us forward. I agree that we want men, and women, of sound moral principles, and self-discipline as our leaders. We want them to lead families, communities, and our governments.

The Indispensability of the Ascetic Ideal

“The ascetic principle, in particular, is to-day in danger of being undervalued. Asceticism should be regarded, not as a negation of nature nor as an attempt to extirpate natural forces, but as practice in the art of self-discipline.”

Marriage & The Sex Problem, Dr. F.W. Foerster, pg 61.

Asceticism is not simply about negating or removing, as much as it is about doing with greater purpose and intention. It is about getting to the meat of things with no attention at all for trivial appetizers. Sort of like today’s movement towards minimalism. It’s not just the art of getting rid of but really asking do I really need this? Does it serve a purpose? Question everything.

Asceticism in our day is definitely undervalued. People want lives of excess. We show in our stuff-filled homes and our consumerism that we want lives that are more complicated and piled high with more materialism. We want nicer cars. We want larger homes. We want fancier vacations, and to let people know where we’ve been and how great we are. Before you think I’m a monk in cave. I need to give my disclaimer, that I love all of the above, maybe more than most. I recognize that all of the things I mentioned above have not brought me happiness, and actually sometimes add to my misery.

Over 20 years ago as a nineteen year old kid, I was really rough around the edges. What am I talking about? I still am. I can still see myself in my mind’s eye, sitting on a sand covered mattress (actually like a thin piece of foam), in a third world country in Africa. I was in a place with very little clean water, extreme poverty, and much need all around me. I was a missionary, and I had taken a vow of complete commitment to my God and Savior, to teach their message. Now, if you had seen me in the midst of those conditions you would have thought, that poor soul, what a difficult task. Yet, I remember vividly, in that time period having many miraculous and truly joy-filled moments that words can’t describe and explanations will never do justice. Yet that was a time in my life when I had the least material possessions. I had to live out of a suitcase for two years. There was no dating, and definitely no sex. I was not consuming any media. No television, no newspapers, no internet. No communication with anyone from home other than in handwritten letters, and occasional emails that were printed and given to me. I didn’t even have a cell phone. Yet, I was the happiest I had ever been up to that point.

In that experience, I really understood that the key to happiness is not found in more, more, more (how quickly I forgot). It’s found in service to God and his children. The Ascetic life is really undervalued but it is the key to our happiness.

“Its object should be to show humanity what the human will is capable of performing, to serve as an encouraging example of the conquest of the spirit over the animal self. The contempt which has been poured upon the idea of asceticism in recent times has contributed more than anything else towards effeminacy. Nothing could be more effective in bringing humanity back to the best traditions of manhood than a respect for the spiritual strength and conquest which is symbolised in ascetic lives.”

Marriage & The Sex Problem, Dr. F.W. Foerster, pg 61.

As technology advances and makes our lives better in some senses, and degenerative in others, we can see that mastering our will is more important than ever. Let me give you a personal example.

I am a highly distracted individual, probably more than most. I think it’s tied to my anxious disposition. Yesterday I logged into my computer to do work, and also to finish a list of about 5 tasks that I had created. I sat at my white desk, staring at my handwritten tasklist in my leather planner. Nothing complicated. I had a few simple tasks, .e.g., I had to contact a few people by phone, write some emails, and study a couple of topics related to problems I was trying to solve for a client. As I logged into my computer to work, I was distracted by my non-important emails, notification alerts, several unwanted phone calls, and internet surfing distractions, to the point that I didn’t finish even the simplest task on my list.

It’s easy to see in my example that technology, although a blessing, in many ways can also be a curse to our sense of discipline and productivity. Self-discipline, or discipline over the body, mind and spirit is what Foerster refers to. He wrote this over 100 years ago and so there is a little bit of the stereotypical gender vocabulary of his time, but the message applies to both men and women. A real man, or a real woman is one who can exert and display self discipline in life.

Asceticism is not to be confused with some type of extremism or self torture for the sake of torture. It is about controlling our bodies, appetites, and selfish desires for the betterment of our own lives and the lives of those around us. Think of practitioners of asceticism as Olympic athletes who train and prepare years for an event which might only last a few seconds or minutes in the future. They practice self-discipline in mind and body with the end result of showing us what humans are capable of doing through hard work and self-control. They give us a model, something to aspire to, but also subconsciously something new to believe in.

In that same sense, Foerester is helping us to understand we need to be Olympic models of virtuous principles to inspire ourselves and others around us. We tend to model others behaviors, primarily those around us, but how admirable is the man or woman who despite being in the world can model the behavior of virtue they want to emulate.

“Neither should the occasional excesses of individuals, or even the degenerate condition of whole epochs, prevent us from appreciating the educational value of the ascetic principle and the inspiration and encouragement which come from contemplating the lives of the great saints.”

Marriage & The Sex Problem, Dr. F.W. Foerster, pg 61.

I’m an optimist through and through. I think as a whole, civilization is getting better all the time. This is by far the best time to be alive in humanity’s history. Let me explain. There are more opportunities for upward mobility than ever before. You don’t have to be someones peasant in a feudal society. You can get an education and improve your skills. You also have more free time than ever before due to technological innovation. You are not spending all of your day tilling land by hand or washing clothes with your bare knuckles (although I acknowledge that both still happen). You have more leisure time than ever before to use as you please. We can indulge in every show and form of entertainment we want. In the past the best shows and theater were enjoyed only by the wealthy. Today anyone can watch anything in Bollywood, Hollywood, and in between. You can stream shows, movies, documentaries, and amateur videos from anywhere in the world. There is more entertainment at your fingertips than you can possibly watch in two lifetimes!

Now with all of the excess of time and ease of life come the excesses of immorality. It is better in some ways than the past, but worst in other ways. You are less likely to be raped today than say a thousand years ago, but there is a proliferation of pornography. You are less likely to be killed in a murderous act, but there is an increase in hateful speech because everyone has a loudspeaker on social media. You are less likely to die than ever before from polio, smallpox, measles, or malaria. Granted we are in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, but that being said it is still better to be alive now than one hundred or one thousand years ago. We have modern medicines, painkillers, and communication technology to find vaccines, ease your suffering, and let you know of updates and how and where coronavirus is spreading. Could you imagine this same pandemic a few hundred years ago? The devastation would have been much worse.

Despite all of the negativities of previous periods and our current,the principles of asceticism can help improve our lives. They are timeless and never go out of fashion. Eternal truths have no style. Man might bring them in and out of vogue, but they are in reality eternal. No beginning and no end. The truth is the same today, as it was yesterday, and as it will be until the end of time.

In the last few centuries mankind has increasingly occupied itself with the question of external freedom, and the personalities of the saints have largely passed into oblivion; but they will again come into the forefront of our consciousness when the most important of all the problems of freedom has again become a central question: “How shall I become free from myself?” This question may from time to time be drowned through the clash of outward interests, but just as the great pyramid of Cheops always majestically reappears, even if it be temporarily veiled by the sandstorms of the desert, so, too, this great question of inner freedom will ever again raise its head above the dust and storm of daily existence, leading man back from all external things to the great problems of his own nature.

Marriage & The Sex Problem, Dr. F.W. Foerster, pg 64.

I am constantly in a battle with myself. I’m at a point in my life where I don’t care so much about how I am perceived by others, but I care about how I perceive myself. Most days I get along fine with myself. But there are also days where I can’t live another minute with the man in the mirror. I’m disappointed by my weaknesses. Did I really need to eat that pizza? Why didn’t I go for a run first thing in the morning like I planned? Why can’t I do the things I need to get done in the time frame I plan on getting them done? My battles are probably similar to yours. We battle with our own lack of self discipline, our own lack of personal integrity, and accountability more than anything else. The answer doesn’t lie outwardly. It’s not going to be solved by new running shoes, or an app to help you meditate. It all begins internally.

This reminds me of a beautiful quote from Ezra Taft Benson.

“The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ would take the slums out of people, and then they would take themselves out of the slums.
The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature.”

Asceticism is a focus on improving the internal by ridding ourselves of the external distraction. It is a way to get rid of the superficial and shiny objects in our lives that deviate us from our true course. I’ve noticed in the last few years a greater societal interest in self-awareness, mindfulness, and leading an intentional, or purposeful life. They are all good things, but there is usually an external solution sought after even in these. For example, pay for my retreat and we will “solve” your (insert problem). Buy our app and we will help you meditate, sleep, and be more productive. The answer already lies within you. The solution is not in purchasing anything or having an external tool. We must learn to discipline or minds and bodies not through externals but though internal self control.

In the midst of our apparently healthy and productive development of economical and technical energy who cannot perceive on every hand the symptoms of hidden disease? Consider, for example, the increasing brutality with which we pursue an aimless and meaningless struggle for life, the disintegration of will-power through the ever-increasing multiplication of the demands upon it, the disturbance of nervous equilibrium as a result of the creation of artificial needs, and the stimulus of more and more urgent claims, the deadening of spiritual power caused by the breathless pace of our machine-like system of life, in which all the inner needs of man are reckoned as no more than sand in the bearings! One day we shall come to ourselves and ask: What is the object of all this perpetual strain, all this restless activity; what is the ultimate aim of this soul-destroying haste and competition? Is it so important that men should travel more and more rapidly from St. Petersburg to Paris, or that one nation should outdo another in the manufacture of the best motor-cars? All deeper life, all sacred peace and solemnity, all humanity’s higher goods, all quiet love, are sacrificed to the insatiable demands of our ever-increasing material needs. Every section of society is compelled to join in this acceleration of life and this restless multiplication of needs. Is it absolutely indispensable that the cultivation of the earth and the technical mastery of nature should be accompanied by this destruction of the deeper life of humanity?

Marriage & The Sex Problem, Dr. F.W. Foerster, pg 74.

This last quote gets to the point. What is the benefit of all of the technological advancements, and the ability to live longer and get from point A to point B faster, if it we are more miserable and destroying our souls?

This reminds me of Jesus Christ’s words in Mark chapter 8, “For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?”

We are running around in circles. There are days where I fly through a 12 hour work day, then to my kids sports in the evening, then sometimes to night time meetings, only to be back at my desk the next morning. Everything in my life becomes a blur. I hardly see my wife and kids and then ask myself what I am doing all of this for? Are all of the advancements worth the expense of sacrificing a simple and meaningful life?

The reality is that the more I do this, the less happy I am, and the more distant I am from my family, neighbors, and God. Only when I pray, read from spiritual texts in seeking truth, serve others, and practice stillness, do I find peace.

Jesus served multitudes during his ministry. He also would have periods of isolation where he would go off to the mountains to pray. He was always seeking guidance through prayer and fasting in order to commune with his father. It would’ve been easier for lesser men to get caught up in the fame from the multitudes, do tours, and get busier and busier. Jesus shunned the fame and found pleasure in a life of simplicity and modesty. He wasn’t a ruler of men, or owner of properties. He was a lowly carpenter who through sacrificing his life for others showed us what real asceticism looks like. It is not a scarcity mentality it is a mentality of great abundance, love and focusing on what is most important.

May we all learn from the words of Friedrich Wilhem Foerster written for us over 100 years ago. They are words of profound wisdom and timelessness. They are from a man who could identify trouble brewing in his nation’s morality long before most. He knew what was important in life and could see past the smoke and mirrors. A life of simplicity, practicing virtues and principles that are true and eternal, and that will stand the test of time. He believed in asceticism and practiced it himself, leaving us an example and legacy of a veritable ascetic to follow.

Can a Corona Crisis Clear a Path to Christ?

Is it possible that a severe biological disaster of worldwide proportions is what it takes for our global population to remember God? Or at the very least, is this a forceful reminder for mankind to be less self-centered, and an opportunity to serve the weakest among us, our elderly and our infirm? Recently, I read a Wall Street Journal article which asked if this crisis would lead to the next Great Awakening. In the article Mr. Robert Nicholson brought out some historical context which helped me understand that religious ups and downs are nothing new.

He writes, “three-quarters of a century has dimmed the memory of that gruesome conflict and its terrible consequences: tens of millions killed, great cities bombed to rubble, Europe and Asia stricken by hunger and poverty. Those who survived the war had to grapple with the kinds of profound questions that only arise in the aftermath of calamity. Gazing at the ruins from his window at Cambridge University, British historian Herbert Butterfield chose to make sense of it by turning to the Hebrew Bible.”

“The power of the Old Testament teaching on history—perhaps the point at which the ancient Jews were most original, breaking away from the religious thought of the other peoples around them—lay precisely in the region of truths which sprang from a reflection on catastrophe and cataclysm,” Butterfield wrote in “Christianity and History” (1949). “It is almost impossible properly to appreciate the higher developments in the historical reflection of the Old Testament except in another age which has experienced (or has found itself confronted with) colossal cataclysm.”

“Americans, chastened by the horrors of war, turned to faith in search of truth and meaning. In the late 1940s, Gallup surveys showed more than three-quarters of Americans were members of a house of worship, compared with about half today. Congress added the words “under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Some would later call this a Third Great Awakening.”

The concept that calamities can bring people to faith and houses of worship is an interesting topic to ponder. In looking at several charts, I found that faith and attendance in religious houses of worship increased in America after World War II. I also found that since the fifties the numbers have declined with the exception of protestant groups. As Mr. Nicholson stated so eloquently the horrors of such a traumatic event like war brought people to the throne of God searching for why. Since that time we have not had a great sacrifice of our own personal lives, at least not to that degree or magnitude. Have things become too easy, and have we become too comfortable?

Was it the fear or a search for meaning in the war that brought those in the 1940s seeking? Or was it the realization of the fragility of their mortality? While researching this I came across several recent Pew Research Center articles, and Gallup research articles with eye opening charts.

This first one, ties in well with our question about the Corona calamity. Countries with the shortest lifespan have the highest religious service attendance. We can extrapolate a lot of theories about why that is, but in my mind it is the correlation between the comfort of our lives and our lack of need for God’s help. This makes it harder to remember God, Christ, or any Deity. Nations with higher life expectancies tend to be nations with higher incomes per capita, as well as higher standards of living in general. We tend to think when all is well, why do I need God? I have my health and my wealth, what else could I need? But in times of distress we come back on our knees seeking help and answers. Before anyone says I am overgeneralizing, please note that I am simply examining my own personal experiences with God, and thousands of years of written scripture. The Bible as well as the Book of Mormon are prime examples of civilizations that go through a pride/humility, remembering/forgetting cycle with God. The Israelites turned to and remembered God mostly in times of pestilence, famine, and destruction from their enemies. Not always, but mostly.

Several other charts below also show a clear distinction of church attendance/religious affiliation based on age. It is clear by looking at this data that house of worship attendance is down in all age groups. It also makes sense that the older you are, the more you are confronted with your own mortality, the more you think about the next life and what that means. I use to joke with my mom that she was so religious because she was closer to seeing God than I was. Now as I’m older and have kids of my own, I can attest to that reality. When you’re young you’re hardly thinking about consequences and your future. At least I wasn’t.

Catholics' Church Attendance Resumes Downward Slide
U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades
Catholics' Church Attendance Resumes Downward Slide
U.S. Church Membership Down Sharply in Past Two Decades
Bar graph. 29% of millennials have no religious affiliation, more than any other generation.

As young people are now confronted with their own mortality, and the possible loss of parents and grandparents, does that lead to an increase in faith or even just spirituality? It’s too soon to tell, but in other research I’ve looked at there was a clear increase in church attendance after events like WWII. That increase was not just in the older, but actually and primarily in younger adults. In fact there were periods after the the second world war where house of worship attendance was just as high for younger adults as it was for the older.

Another point to make is that we see slight increases in attendance during recessions in general. I have a theory that the harder the trial, the more likely we are to have our own personal great awakenings. That can be different for everyone. For some it can be a return to or finding Christ for the first time. For others it can be an awareness of a higher power or the seeking of that power through prayer and meditation, or just a greater spirituality.

I’m not sure how this all plays out in the end from a spiritual and religious standpoint. As a Christian, and someone who recognizes his own personal weaknesses, I at least hope for an increase in my faith, and an increase in my love for my neighbors and fellowmen. Times of trial are opportunities for change. It is my prayer that in the end this leads to us looking outward and upward.

Can fear be a good thing?

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

“The enemy is fear. We think it is hate; but it is really fear.” – Gandhi

“Fear is an illusion.” – Everyone on the internet

I like quotes. I like pithy quotes. The pithier the better. I like the aforementioned quotes. Fear is an illusion. That is the title of every TED talk and every entrepreneur’s book. I still like the quote. These quotes are great reminders of what fear really is. It’s this abstract thing in our heads. Try saying that to someone in the middle of a panic attack. Let me give you some of my actual panic attack responses, “shut up, you’re making it worse”, “you’re not helping me at all”, and my favorite, “I think I’m dying, I am like literally dying”. My wife can attest to them all.

Anxiety

I’m an anxious person by nature. Let me paint a picture. I’m six years old, sitting on a plane that’s at the gate. I’m praying to God that we don’t all go down in a blaze of fire while sweating profusely. The plane hasn’t even taxied out of the gate yet. We haven’t even moved an inch. The plane eventually takes off, and my little six year old heart beat is beating like the Energizer bunny being chased by an eagle. Did I mention my dad was a commercial airline pilot, and my mom worked in the travel industry all her life? So I’m flying all the time. Always on a plane since I was a few months old. You would think at some point, on the umteenth flight, the fear would’ve left. Here I am now in full blown middle-aged adulthood, and Mr. “I meditate and visualize everyday”, and yet still can’t keep his childhood fears in check. I can be sitting in a casual meeting and all of a sudden I get an abnormally high rush of adrenaline. My initial thought is always to get up and run out of the room, not a good look. I’ve gotten to the point where I can mentally talk myself back to some semblance of normalcy. It’s kind of embarrassing. Which brings me to the next point.

Fear of Embarrassment

In several articles I’ve read that the fear of public speaking is one of the worst fears. I’ve never looked into this in detail but I would imagine the underlying fear isn’t just a fear of public speaking. I think the real fear when it involves other people is usually just the fear of looking like a fool and being embarrassed. A fear of saying or doing something in front of others that will embarrass you. I think that this fear of embarrassment also ties into a fear of failing, or a fear of starting a long held dream. We are worried what others will say or think if things don’t work out. We will be so embarrassed. That reminds me of another pithy quote. This is from Eleanor Roosevelt. She once said, “no one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” I think that applies perfectly to embarrassment, or even harmful guilt and shame. No one can make you feel anything. We do it to ourselves. Want to know a cool thing about that quote that has helped me for years? You can use it for almost anything.

Just change for the word “inferior” with any other word like this:

No one can make you feel embarrassed without your consent.

No one can make you ashamed without your consent.

No one can make you sad without your consent.

Fear of embarrassment or the way others perceive us is usually the root of any fear of interacting with others. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to just let go in many cases, not all. It’s just too exhausting to put up a facade and to be everything to everyone, or worry how people view me.

This is a problem I’ve seen described in scriptures. The circumstance is usually someone disobeys God because they fear more what others will think of them (don’t want to be embarrassed), as opposed to God’s consequences. In Latter Day Saint scripture, known as the Doctrine & Covenants, there is a verse that reads, “For, behold, you should not have feared man more than God.” Believe it or not, those few words compiled in that verse have gotten me over a number of fears, and over the worrying of what others will think of me. But as I already explained, sometimes, I still get embarrassed. Learn to do what is important to your own values regardless of what others think. You don’t want to compromise your values to fit in with others. You’ll regret it.

It’s Okay to Feel Fear.

It’s okay to feel fear. It’s built into our DNA. It’s our mechanism for sensing and avoiding danger. According to Wikipedia, citing this article, Fear and anxiety: Evolutionary, cognitive, and clinical perspectives, “Fear is closely related to the emotion anxiety, which occurs as the result of threats that are perceived to be uncontrollable or unavoidable.” It also states that “The fear response serves survival by engendering appropriate behavioral responses, so it has been preserved throughout evolution.”

Fear has its place. It engenders appropriate behavioral responses. Could you imagine if you had no physical fears? You’d be dead in a day. No emotional fears? You might ruin every relationship. No financial fear, you might go bankrupt quickly.

Look, I get it. In our current culture if you feel fear or let it influence you, you perceived as weak. I get it. It doesn’t look great to say fear is okay. It doesn’t sound like a great inspirational book or an Instagram post. But the reality is fear is a part of our mind and bodies. It’s part of our evolution and natural selection. That fear has allowed our species to outlive and outwit far physically stronger species. That fear even helped your ancestors outlive the more adventurous guy who got sliced up like chicken nuggets by a hungry bear.

From what I can tell, it seems like what we really have a problem with is people limiting their lives because of unwarranted or low probability fears. We might even scoff at someone who has let their fears impede their everyday life. The reality is that we all have fears. Even the bravest among us, and some of us are really good at overcoming our fears.

I would say that most highly successful people I know are regular everyday people who battle the same fears as you and I. They just don’t let those fears consume them, or get in the way of action. Look, I still love the no fear quotes. They sound great. The reality though is that you can’t live life without some fear. It’s okay to acknowledge when you’re afraid and when fear has a hold of you. Then you find a way, little by little, or maybe all at once, to get over that roadblock, that nagging fear.

Fear gets a bad rap. But it’s not all that bad. It has its place. Next time someone tells you that it’s all in your head and you need to get over it, let them know that it’s okay to feel fear. Remember the only reason you’re even here on this earth today is because your ancient ancestor listened to their instincts, trusted their internal feeling of fear, and avoided being a tiger appetizer.

My Experiments with Fasting

From a young age I have been consistently fasting. There is no boasting in that. It is simply the way I was raised by my angel mother who fasted frequently herself. I believe in and was raised in a faith that encourages its members to fast once a month with a purpose. That monthly fast has always been understood as abstaining from food and drink for 24 hours. We are encouraged to donate what we would have spent on our meals to a fast offering fund which is used to help the less fortunate or those in need.

Our Prophet asked us to fast this past Sunday for those suffering with the effects of COVID-19. It was a wonderful feeling to fast and let go of worldly desires for food, but also to cleanse my mind and my focus.

The term and concept of fasting has become trendy as of late, especially intermittent fasting. From what I can tell most of the benefits being touted are for health and aesthetics, not necessarily always increased spirituality or to seek divine guidance. There are definitely many healthy benefits to fasting that also help increase longevity.

For as long as I can remember I’ve always enjoyed fasting and the spiritual as well as the mental benefits that come with it. For me, I have particularly enjoyed praying and reading scriptures while fasting. Recently I’ve been reading about the Desert Fathers in Egypt who fasted for extraordinary periods of time. Something about their ascetic desert rituals really calls to me. These were men that devoted their lives to monastic service to God. What discipline! What focus! And what devotion! These were men of truth and character.

So that being said, I’m looking forward to using my Coronavirus isolation time to increase the frequency of my fasts. What comes with that is also an increase in prayer, meditation, and scripture study. There is something peaceful and cleansing about fasting. It brings me closer to God, and gives me greater compassion towards my fellow brothers and sisters.

In my recent thoughts about improving my fasts I’ve felt that I should take detailed notes about how I feel, inspiration I receive, and the purpose of my fasts. I’m looking forward to using this time away from the world to draw closer to God and to serve his children. One additional thing I plan on doing this evening, after I start my fast, is writing handwritten letters to my family, friends, and neighbors, to let them know how much I love them, and how much they mean to me. My hope is that we can all find some time to draw closer to God, and each other, through this time of trial. May we each do so in our own way, and in our own truth.

Faith and Remembrance

In the trying times that our world is under it is common and healthy to ask for a why. What is the purpose and what is the meaning to all of the fear, and suffering we are witnessing and some of us experiencing? We anguish at those we love who are worried and we see the news of hopelessness as many have lost jobs and are trying to figure out their next steps.

No one on this earth has a true grasp of the why. That is for our Creator to know and for us to maneuver through with faith. If we had a deep knowledge and fundamental understanding of the why it would impede our ability to place faith in him who is our Father.

In the same way that my young children put all of their trust and faith in me because they recognize subconsciously what they don’t know, and I am a source of wisdom and understanding, so it is with our Heavenly Father to us. But as children get older, usually in their teenage years, they come to the realization that they know everything about life and don’t need an old man’s wisdom. In fact they believe they know more than their Father.

Our Heavenly Father reminds who has all knowledge and power. It is important for us to remember. Remembrance is a part of faith. Remember the times when we felt the hand of the Divine intervening in our lives. Through this remembrance we can build our faith. Sometimes we forget God in the hustle and bustle of our daily grind.

God has a way of slowing things down and helping us to remember. He does it many ways but sometimes he can do it to everyone all at once and remind us who is in control, and in who we need to place our faith.