This is not a public journal. There is no theme, agenda, or overall purpose. I need a reason to write and it needs to be well informed. I consider myself an expert in only one subject, my own thoughts. I am reflecting my experiences onto the internet because this seems to make them more beautiful to me, especially when they are idealized and inaccurate. This is not a mirror for me to see myself looking back, nor is it a mirror that reflects a detailed image of myself to others. This page is but a jumble of letters, words, and ideas that will be interpreted differently for each person, including myself. There are no mirrors because these thoughts are directionless, inaccurate, and fuzzy; a vague, splotchy reflection of McKinley.

Friday, November 26, 2010

What Happened in Vegas Stayed With Me

At the top of the Stratosphere there is a ride called the “Big Shot.” It’s not just a clever name. It can give any faint hearted man a false sense of accomplishment. Conditions for ego-reinforcement were very favorable, being high above the Vegas skyline in near freezing temperatures while facing a strong wind. There weren’t many people in line, counting me we made two. Just myself and a Japanese guy who didn’t speak English. I obviously didn’t ask his name or have an actual conversation, but that didn’t limit his contribution to my Vegas experience. That man likely has no recollection of our interaction, but he is the reason my trip up and down through the sky hundreds of feet from the Vegas floor was memorable.

As we waited for the other big shots to come back down we made eye contact and laughed at the fact that we would shortly be launching ourselves into the sky. This man was really excited, he laughed a lot and seemed a little nervous. We sat in adjacent seats as we prepared for the ascent. There was no way to predict the timing of our takeoff, but we shared the anticipation. A nervously laughing Japanese man and a lonely American kid who didn’t even share a conversation actually had something in common for a brief moment.

As we flew up and back down in under a minute I tried to absorb the beauty of the Vegas lights. Though it was beautiful, the beauty of this interaction proved itself much more interesting. Too often we try to separate ourselves by what makes us different. We forget so quickly what makes us similar. Sometimes people just want to get shot into the sky, or look at bright lights, or dance to familiar music, or laugh with friends. Those desires don’t really change even when other differences are obvious. Even though I didn’t share a word, culture, or language with that man we enjoyed a moment laughing together in a simple way. This was the most basic interaction two people can have, we just looked at each other and laughed.

This experience reminded me of one of the simplest truths. People are simple, it doesn’t take much to make someone’s day. It’s almost like we don’t understand ourselves and we make everything complicated. We seek to impress others with false, pretentious behaviors. Expensive clothing, drugs, alcohol, and other things that differ with culture aren’t actually meant to impress ourselves. Nobody buys an expensive piece of jewelry or clothing to look at themselves, it’s for someone else. Here is a reminder, sometimes we just need to get shot into the sky to feel like a big shot, who needs all that other crap. Anything that makes us laugh is usually worth while, and we can laugh at just about anything. That means, in the simplest sense, nothing is a waste of time with a proper attitude.

As I walked through Las Vegas I saw casinos, cigarettes, pornography, diversity, excitement, and entertainment. But worst of all was seeing division. Aside from that quick moment with the Japanese man, I could not see people as equal and simple. Unfortunately, people don’t just want to go on a stupid ride to feed their ego. Stores like Gucci, Prada, and a bunch of others were another reminder; sometimes we want to feel like a big shot so badly that we create a worthless world of valuable things. I saw watches for 40,000 dollars, purses for 50,000, sculptures for over 1,000,000 dollars. I was told that these items are so highly priced because of name recognition and rarity. Unfortunately we don’t want to be like other people, we are constantly reminded of what makes us different. Most people just focus on what makes them better. Privilege separates us people because people aren’t rare in and of themselves, why would we want to be like everyone else?

My moment with the laughing, nameless Japanese man was indeed rare, a 50,000 dollar watch isn’t. It still only tells the time, that’s it, that’s all it does. That man however has a family, like me; he has a language, like me; he has ideas, like me; he laughs, like me; he likes stupid rides, like me. Just because he is like me, doesn’t mean he isn’t rare. The value of sharing a moment with that man means much more than setting myself apart as better. In the words of Connor Oberst, (to make this more credible among hipsters) “In this endless race for property and privilege to be won; we must run, we must run, we must run.”

Run, Run, Run, buy those expensive watches and clothes. Forget what makes you similar and think about how you can be better than the everyday person. That’s what you are supposed to think is important. Breathe in and let that go. See people for what they are worth, there is so much to experience that involves sharing moments with others. No more competing, we can simply enjoy another person regardless of their differences. Even if you don’t share a language, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, social class, gender, or interest you can always share laughter. That’s all that I shared with that nameless man, and that simple experience reminded me of what is truly important in human interaction, simplicity.

An inverted truth: Blessed are those that see God, for they shall be pure in heart.

In Christ’s Sermon on the Mount one particular verse stands out as reversible and interpretable with many deep possible meanings. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” As I have reflected on what it takes to live the gospel, I have realized that our perceptions and understanding are possibly the most important aspects to attaining eternal happiness (at the bottom of the page is a line-by-line description of how seeing makes us who we are). I don’t believe this scripture’s reference to sight to be literal. I also believe this verse to be reversible, which is what inspired the “Test for the Pure in Heart:” (found at the end of the document). The test measures whether or not we see God, or even see as God does. If we do, then we can consider ourselves pure in heart. I believe that the word “see” is very open to interpretation. There are countless examples in the New Testament in which the blind actually saw Christ better than many who were supposedly "seers" or interpreters of the law. Many blind men recognized Christ as the Son of God who healed them. Others with supposedly perfect vision of God and truth were actually blind to the very Christ that stood before them, causing them to kill the very God they professed to know so much about. All of this occurred because their perceptions were off by a little. It was simply an error of understanding that led them into the Devil's grasp, which could be Satan's most effective tool. People who thought they understood something about God crucified that very God they worshiped. They were blinded by what they saw to be understanding and knowledge. The Pharisees’ blindness caused them eternal damage, whereas a carefully applied blindness may actually be the answer to our eternal happiness.

The entirety of my analysis relies on variations of ways we can see God in all things and try our best to see as God does. The Test itself has many of my insights as to ways we can see God and your own interpretations on this type of sight are welcome. It is interesting to note that to see in this way may actually require us to be blind. The blind see as God does. He cannot judge on appearance yet recognizes others by alternative means. The purpose of my project is to help people open their eyes; this requires them to see as the blind do. To blindly see is paradoxical, yet very necessary for to our salvation. If we compare the words “blind” and “pure” they can be synonymous. Both imply a sort of blank slate, starting from nothing. Blind in this sense could mean non-judgmental, with no prior prejudice.

If we substitute the words in the verse its meaning changes very little. “Blessed are the blind-hearted, for they shall see God.” This opens many doors to ways of interpreting this verse. The Test itself represents many ways that I believe we can see God. Unfortunately my space is short and my explanation brief, I ask that you allow your mind to run freely as you imagine different ways your own perceptions could change to see more of our loving God in all things, and to see all as God does. I will provide below a few alternative ways that this verse could be worded that I believe emphasize certain aspects of this deep scripture. The remainder of this post will not be paragraphs but simply thoughts and interpretations that can open one’s mind to the importance of testing our ability to see God while blinding ourselves to judgment. One can explore the importance of understanding, or in the least perceiving and “seeing.” Though misunderstanding can be seen as one of the greatest tools of the adversary then the opposite must be true; genuine understanding and a clear vision of God and his purposes should lead us safely to his presence.

How seeing is being: The importance of perceptions.

Seeing deals with our perceptions

Our perceptions form our attitudes

Our attitudes cause our actions

Our actions make a us who we are

Seeing is being.

What is expected of those that “see God”

To see God, is to be God-like in our perceptions;

One who sees God is blind to circumstances and does not judge, but sees everyone's divine potential; 

One who sees God yearns to reach perfection, yet loves and appreciates the imperfections of others;

One who sees God is a seeker of truth, knowledge, light, and beauty;

One who sees God understands His plan, even if it isn't always convenient to understand;

One who sees God is devoted to other people's happiness;

Those who see God are servants to all and never feel above another;

If we see God in all things in this life, we can be sure that our hearts are pure;

And we will see him in the next.

Variations of the verse (there are many more possibilities)

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall be god-like in all they do"
"Blessed are those that see God, for they shall be pure in heart"

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God in all things"

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see as God does"

A Test for the Pure in Heart, Do you see God??

True or False

I can't help but smile around children, especially when they are throwing a tantrum

I find people's weaknesses beautiful

I love everyone I meet, even if expressing that love means correcting their behavior

I often find myself reflecting on nature's beauty

It is more important for me to get good grades and succeed in school than develop loving friendships

When I listen to music it is a learning experience

I love my family, especially when we don't get along

Homeless people have something to offer

I express my love for others, physically and verbally

Scripture study can be boring

I feel responsible for other people's happiness

I prefer walking over driving, it gives me time to enjoy the fresh air and be grateful for what I have

I plan on making money for mine and my families needs, once that is taken care of I will worry about others

I pray for things to go well in my life

I pray for things to go well in the lives of everyone I know, sometimes it takes a while and my knees get sore

I have witnessed my prayers being answered

I have witnessed my prayers for others being answered

I am scared of strangers

I understand God, I don't have a perfect knowledge of why things happen but I know that he loves me regardless

I am commonly impressed by how good people are

I avoid people that are different from me

My greatest desire is to share the gospel with everyone, it hurts deeply when people don't care about it

I can imagine facing God in my current state

I see every day as an opportunity for me to be better 

I see every day as an opportunity to help someone else be better

I am critical of others people's faults

I do service because I know that I have to

I frequently attend the temple, it is my favorite place on earth

I look forward to church on Sunday and when meetings end I want to stay longer

I literally see others as God's children, I feel the love he has for them

Sometimes it seems that children teach me the greatest lessons

There is nothing better than singing, or listening to, a well-sung hymn

The spirit prompts me daily to show God's love to others

I see people for who they are, not what they appear to be

Christianity and Capitalism Are Inconsistent, Yet Politically Linked

Political trends observed in exit polls (pew, christian adc) show that Christians are more likely to support conservative candidates, especially if they frequently attend church. Mormons stand out as “more Republican than any other religious tradition.” This is largely because most Christians feel represented by a conservative stance on issues such as abortion and gay marriage. Why then do many Christians and Mormons who are conservative for moral reasons consider part of their moral crusade a defense of free market capitalism, attacking welfare and health care reform? Free markets and capitalist ideals are rooted in conservative ideology, but they are not representative of Christianity. Not only are Christ and capitalism not associated, but free market capitalism is inconsistent with Christianity.

Partisan debates have become rather heated in dealing with Obama’s health care reform. A major bill in health care reform is the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Effective September 22, 2010, this bill eliminates an insurance company’s ability to deny coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions. An estimated 72,000 children who had previously been denied coverage due to pre-existing conditions (chronic illnesses, leukemia, etc) will be covered. Also included in the bill was the inability of insurance companies to drop sick, or “costly,” patients due to technical mistakes in their application or lifetime caps. The bill in its entirety can be found online through the New York Times.

Republican minority leader John Boehner objected to these reforms claiming that they will raise health care costs and increase the deficit. When it comes to health care a conservative’s greatest fear is federal over-expansion, increase in costs, and loss of profits and efficiency; all of which imply market failure. Why do many christian conservatives feel threatened by increased cost and lost profits? Profit can drive exploitation of children, profit can deny coverage to children and patients with chronic illnesses, profit can justify paying low wages to slaves or other low skill workers. Profit is in no way a christian motivation.

Somehow corporations and businesses have bought Christ’s approval for conservative economic policy through association to conservative ideals like opposing abortion and gay marriage. Conservative Christians should be just as alarmed at the exploitation of the poor and weak apparent with free market capitalism as they are when threatened on issues of gay marriage and abortion.

With all the partisan policy matters aside, Christians should not care how “costly” a person is, nor how much insurance company’s profits may suffer, all people (especially children) deserve coverage. What type of moral crusade are Christians on? One that denies health coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions? What we typically label “moral” issues in contemporary politics should deal with a whole slate of issues, not just abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research.

Jesus Christ was not a business man, nor a capitalist. He didn’t care about efficiency and profitability but encouraged all to give what they had, regardless of circumstance (Mosiah 4). Christ reminds us that we must love our neighbor as ourselves (Lev 19:18, Matt 19:19, Matt 22:39, Mark 12:31, Luke 10:27, James 2: 8). Why shouldn't we then value our neighbor's health care as much as our own regardless of their circumstance?

It is not wrong for Christians to be conservative in defense of moral issues like abortion and gay marriage. However, conservative Christians should question their opposition to health care reform and support of free market policies in the United States government. It is in no way a part of the same moral crusade. Conservative economic ideas are associated with conservative moral issues by party identification, yet there is no direct link between Christ and capitalism. Health care should not be an issue that divides conservative Christians and Christian liberals, it should unite Christian Americans in an effort to provide the best care for our fellow citizens, whom we are commanded to love as ourselves.

He shall be called Man...Kinley

"Oh, that's a cute name." This is what people call a compliment. "I'm going to name my daughter McKinley." "I have a niece, she is sooo cute! Her name is McKinley." Not once have I met another man named McKinley, usually people say it's a "cute" name. The best part is that they think they are giving me exciting, breaking news when they talk about all the little girls they know that share my name. Like we suddenly have so much in common. Wow we must be so much alike! The alternatives used by my mother are even "cuter" if you must know. Kimpies and Kimpers are among her favorites. It's unbelievable that you can actually wussify the name McKinley and make it cuter.

An Example
This fourth of July I was at a Rodeo in Oakley, UT (pretty far from anything familiar, near unto nowhere). Multiple times I kept looking back thinking the woman sitting behind me was saying my name. There was no way she knew me though because every time I looked back she didn't acknowledge me. Then I noticed a soft, tiny voice behind me. I decided to ask her, "is your name McKinley?" she shyly nodded her head. I gave her a high five and said "me too!" In this instance McKinley definitely was a cute name, this girl was adorable. But should that make me feel better? It's not so bad to have a girl's name after all, maybe it makes me less threatening. However, something inside me doesn't want to like "ohhhh, cute," as a reaction to my introduction. Secretly I love it, just a little. Maybe something like "whoa, nice name bro," or "dude bro, sick name" would be better or more satisfying to hear after introducing myself. Well, it probably would be a common reaction if McKinley weren't such a popular choice for six year old girls. Honestly I can live with "ohhh, cute" every time I meet somebody. It's definitely better than just "oh..."

I must reclaim the name McKinley for men. Sure both genders can share it, but there needs to be a masculine version that I can use in times of great need. Times when somebody needs a Man, not a McKinley.

Recent evidence
Below is a documentation of a phone call I received confirming a dentist appointment about a month ago.

"Hello, this is _______ from Dr. Woodbury's office calling to confirm McKinley's appointment tomorrow morning at 9am."
"Yep, sounds good! Thanks for the reminder." I answered
"Would you mind letting her know?" she asked
At this point I didn't want her to feel dumb so I just went along with it.
"Ya I can do that."
Then she set me up and I had no choice but to correct her.
"Actually, is there a better number that I could reach her at?" ... sorry lady you are about to regret that question
"Nope, probably not, because this is him, I'm actually a boy" I responded
"Oh... I'm so sorry! I should have checked" she worriedly looked for a good reason to have been confused. It's just the name, we all know it, it's fine lady.
"It's ok it happens all the time, no worries, I'll be there tomorrow."
That's how it ended. I definitely wasn't offended because by now I am definitely used to it. This is where someone responded "oh..." instead of "oh, cute!" and look how it turned out. I am really glad she made the mistake, in all honesty she probably was much more worried about it than she needed to be. This short phone call gave me something to laugh about. It also serves as evidence that I need to come up with a masculine version of my name.

A Solution
During Winter Semester of 2010, shortly after returning from my mission, my assigned group for psychology 110 was discussing an assignment. It was still a bit strange to refer to myself as McKinley, I was used to Withers or Elder. During our discussion an error was made. As neurons fired in one of my group-mate's brains and she attempted to say my name something went wrong. It is still unclear whether the error was made as the syllables came off of her tongue or if it was when the sound waves hit my ear drum. Somewhere in those hundredths of a second a great and unique sound was created. My ears perked up as I heard it. "ManKinley." Then and there my problem was solved. That error salvaged the name McKinley and reclaimed it for men. In times of great need, in times of great manliness I shall be called ManKinley. Not CuteKinley, just ManKinley.

There really is no need to change my name, I actually do like it. But when you need a Man, not just a McKinley, be sure and call me by my new official title, ManKinley.