Thursday, March 31, 2011

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Is Twilight Porn in Print?

I read an interesting review of the Twilight books that went to great lengths to explain why the books should be considered porn in print. The following was my response:

1) Pornography without sex is not pornography, in my opinion. Just as we should avoid restricting our definition of pornography in such a way that we allow soft core porn to go unlabeled, we also need to avoid the Victorian impulse to widen the definition to such a degree that it encompasses nearly everything that arouses sexually - including lingerie and erotic language and other things that are perfectly appropriate within a marriage. It's a fine line, but it's a line that can be as destructive on one side as on the other.

2) Why is "sexless romance" a bad thing for teenagers? These are teenagers! What's the proper alternative for those who feel they love each other?

To deny sexual attraction and tension in teenage relationships is very dangerous and ignorant. I know a young woman who grew up hearing that sex was dirty and horrible (and that "good girls" don't like sex before marriage). When she first felt aroused and realized how good it felt, she automatically labeled herself a bad girl and decided she might as well enjoy it. A teenage pregnancy later . . .

Again, why is sexless romance a bad thing? We live in a sexually arousing world. My teenagers are going to be sexually aroused - my boys AND my girls. Writing about sexual tension and desire that remains unconsummated is a bad thing? What should we do - write things that don't mention sexual desire or write about giving in to it? I only see those three options. Am I missing one?

3) I understand intellectually the concerns others have about the books, especially some of the messages it can send girls, but I like the message it sends to boys. Bella really loves Edward, and, like many young women, she is trusting and vulnerable - and it would be easy for Edward to take advantage of her. He doesn't. He respects her, literally rising above his nature in more ways than one to exercise self-control and help make the relationship work and flourish without sex. Yep, what a lousy example that is for teenagers. Girls certainly shouldn't fall in love with boys who have excellent self-control and don't try to have sex with them.

4) My daughters are huge fans, and they understand the issues everyone highlights. Their response to me when we discuss the books is the same one I hear from nearly all of their friends:

"We have a choice between books that glorify sex (or assume it's no big deal and unavoidable), sappy books that deny sexual attraction altogether or books that admit it up front and say it's OK to not give in - and that says boys are just as responsible for that as girls. Which option is the most realistic? Which one would you rather have us read?"

I understand what they are saying and, given many of the alternatives out there, I can't argue with it.

5) Plus, to reiterate for those of you who haven't read the books or seen the movie, Edward is not a "bad boy". He only looks like a bad boy to those who don't know him - who judge him based on his appearance. There is a huge difference, and it gets botched constantly in reviews by adults I read. Again, the alternative is to look at someone and judge them based on first visual impression. How is that a good thing?

Do I love the books? Not really. I just disagree strongly with many reviews, and calling them "porn" really, really bothers me.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Modern Prophets & Ancient Prophets - One Standard

Modern prophets probably should be held to the same standard that can be applied reasonably to Biblical prophets. If some of the actions of those prophets still allowed them to be considered prophets (think Samson and Moses) and some of their teachings are allowed to be considered products of their less enlightened cultures (think Paul and nearly the entire OT), I'm not sure exactly where the line should be drawn. 

I just know that many people now hold modern prophets to a standard that essentially would eliminate all former prophets from consideration - especially since we only have a very limited, subjective, carefully-constructed, airbrushed snapshot of those former prophets. Too often, people forget that basic fact.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Key to Receiving God's Image in Our Countenances

As I read the scriptures, it appears to me that Christ didn't accept His part of the Atonement because He wanted to get glory; He left the issue of reward in the hands of His father - no strings attached. He did it because He loved us - pure and simple. He showed that love by laying down His own life for us - by becoming a "minister" and a "preacher". He didn't do it for a personal reward; He did it for our reward. 

Frankly, I don't think we will gain an eternal reward by trying to earn an eternal reward. I think we will receive an eternal reward when we quit trying to earn it and focus instead on helping others in whatever way we can - when we end up forgetting about being rewarded and simply love and serve and obey for the sheer joy of doing so and seeing the results in the lives of others. We won't be "given" anything; rather, we will be changed into a condition acceptable to Him. In other words, we will become something - and that something will be Christ-like and godly.

I think we will not be perfect (complete, whole and fully developed) until we can act for our Savior in the "at-one-ment" of others (individually and as a community) - in the process of relieving their suffering, taking their pain and misery from them, bringing them joy and comfort, caring for them in a real and powerful and practical way, and empowering them to do so for others (individually and as a community).

In other words, I believe we receive His image in our countenances most fully by living and loving and serving as He did.  Sometimes we focus so much on his death and resurrection and "godhood" that we improperly devalue his life and "humanity" - but it is that life and humanity that we can emulate and that can engrave his image into our very being. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Condescending to Not Be Condescending

"Condescend" is a verb, but it also has a very different meaning as an adjective.

As a verb, "to condescend" means "to put aside one's dignity or superiority voluntarily and assume equality with one regarded as inferior". In that sense, Jesus condescended to assume equality with us - to become "as one of us", subject to all of our problems and suffering (include death).

As an adjective, "to be condescending" means "to deal with people in a patronizingly superior manner". It means making sure others know of one's higher status - that one is choosing to lower himself to deal with those who still are below him.

In other words, being condescending is the opposite of what is meant by Christ "condescending" to become as one of us. Christ lived as a servant - as the lowest and least important. He didn't claim his rightful privilege as our Lord during mortality, and he didn't "lord it over" those with whom he associated. He condescended to not be condescending, so to speak.

In my own words, he agreed to two manifestations of "at-one-ment" - first, by closing the gap that existed between us prior to his birth, and, second, by closing the gap that otherwise would have existed between us after our deaths.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Meaning and Purpose of Life

1) There is a difference between meaning and purpose, and I think the answers we normally hear about the meaning of life generally deal with purpose instead of meaning. My own answer to the PURPOSE of life would be "to perpetuate the species of 'God'" - or, on a personal level, "to become like God". I then would clarify that the purpose of this mortal life is to learn lessons toward that end which only can be learned in this type of setting - to experience things only this sort of world can provide. 

2) On the other hand, the MEANING of (eternal) life, I think, can be summed up similarly as something like, "a state of existence that allows for change and growth". Humanity simply is one of the manifestations of life - more advanced than intelligences and spirits and animals and plants, but less advanced than resurrected beings, ministering angels and exalted beings. The main distinction, therefore, in the "meaning" of life for mortal (wo)man, is our place in the evolutionary process of becoming godlike - that we literally are spirit children of God , whereas other forms of life observable to us are not. (Whether they ever will be is open to debate, since we know absolutely nothing about the actual process used to create spirit children other than that they are created from "intelligences", but in their current state they are not "children of God".)

3) I think the Mormon take on these questions is radically different than any other Christian take on them explicitly because our very view of "life" (including Godlike life) is so radically different. The Mormon perspective is much closer to the Buddhist concept of a reincarnative journey toward universal oneness than the isolated and stagnant condition taught elsewhere - and that fundamental disagreement makes our answers to these questions incomprehensible to most who view life itself in such starkly different terms.

4) I don't think Mormonism has a "four minute answer" to the question of the meaning and purpose of life. I think we have about a "four second answer". It's the explanation of the answer that takes exponentially longer, in my opinion, since the answer itself is so counter-intuitive and illogical to most people that they simply can't understand it in its simplicity.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Monday, March 21, 2011

Letting Go of Knowledge and Returning to Faith

Often what gets called “faith” is not “faith”. “Faith” is not a certainty; it is “the substance of things hoped for” - and when we divorce “faith” from “hope”, I believe we get a mutant version that can be very destructive

Fwiw, one of the biggest theological mutations in the current Church that I think needs to be fixed is the over-emphasis on knowledge almost to the exclusion of faith. (I think that’s probably why the brethren seem to be emphasizing grace more and more recently - to return to faith in Him over confidence in self.) If you remove faith from the equation, you remove hope from your perspective - which means that when the black-and-white certainty of supposed knowledge shatters, there generally is no foundation of faith left on which to fall - since “hope” has been removed from the equation. 

To be clear, I am not saying we can't seek for and find knowledge in some things; I just think we try to hard to know everything and forget too often the need to accept that faith can be enough - that it's OK for some things to remain unseen but believed.  Malleable faith and hope can grow and be molded into ever-changing shapes as new perspectives are encountered and adapted; calcified knowledge shatters when struck or dropped.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Receiving God's Image Doesn't Destroy Individuality

I saw a very profound, short statement on the wall of a high school I was visiting yesterday, and I thought how it applies to my New Year's Resolution for this month.  It said:

You were (created) as an original.  Don't become a copy.

First, I absolutely LOVE this quote in and of itself, regardless of its application to my New Year's Resolution.  I understand and accept the need for communal conformity to certain, minimal standards; I really do.  However, at the most fundamental level, I am a unique child of God - and that uniqueness is important to me. 

What struck me about this quote and my resolution is that too many people see Zion as total uniformity / unanimity / homogeneity.  They see "being united" as being indistinguishable from each other in any important way.  They see becoming "perfect" as becoming exactly alike in every way.  At least, that is how they appear to believe, based on how they act toward those who are different than they are.

I disagree. 

My favorite General Conference talk of all time (as my children will attest, while rolling their eyes and exclaiming, "I told you so!") is Elder Joseph Wirthlin's "Concern for the One" - and the part that resonates the most within me is the analogy of the multiple instruments and harmonies that are necessary to create a beautiful orshestral sound.  Everyone playing the same instrument all the time - or even different instruments but the exact same notes at the exact same time all the time - even when technically mistake-free and precisely is NOT beautiful music; at best, it is a beautiful melody.  (At worst, it is soul-less.)  All kinds of very different instruments playing intricate harmonies, counter-melodies and even varying rhythms in synch with each other and with passion and expression . . . now THAT is beautiful music. 

I am reminded of the description of the body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12 - where each and every part is said to be as important and critical as any other. 

Truly, there is a need for some kind of uniformity and communal standardization, but we were created as originals.  We can't allow ourselves to become copies.

Friday, March 18, 2011

I Don't Think of Tithing As Fire Insurance

I believe strongly that every single person on the planet should tithe to something, somehow - and that every member who can't afford to tithe should do so anyway and then receive assistance from the communal pot. In other words, I believe in the concept of tithing and fast offerings, and I think everyone should make a conscious choice to donate to the "cause" of their conscience. My tithing recipient is the Church, and my lifetime payment of tithing and fast offerings has been a big part of my willingness to accept and not feel bad about receiving church assistance when I was unemployed for far too long and had used up all of our savings. I've been on both sides, and I really believe in it.  

I believe in the principle, but I believe in it for the earthly benefits. I don't view it as fire insurance. I don't begrudge the need to tie it to an eternal reward, but I don't like to look at it that way. I prefer to see it as a way to bless the greater community in the here and now, rather than as a way to increase my chance for an eternal reward.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Mormonism and Reincarnation

Reincarnation is one of the most compelling aspects of Buddhism to me, and I see Mormonism's stages of existence as the closest thing to reincarnation that exists in all of Christianity. I kind of see Mormonism as an institutionalized, Christian version of Buddhism - or, more precisely, I see Buddhism's reincarnation as derivative of a more fundamental concept of eternal progression. I certainly think we are exponentially closer in theory and construct to Buddhism in regards to our eternal existence than to orthodox Christian theology.  

I'm not saying I believe in the classic Buddhist concept of reincarnation (especially the idea of coming back as animals), but I certainly am open to the idea that our current mortal lives aren't our only opportunity to learn and grow.  

I absolutely loved "What Dreams May Come" - a movie from years ago starring Robin Williams as a man who journeys to Hell to "save" his wife who committed suicide and who learns to see his life in a completely different way. It ends with a reincarnative scene, and I was moved deeply by many of the concepts explored in the film (most of which do NOT deal with reincarnation).

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

A Very Moving Story

My Mother, the Beggar - Stephan M [Stephen M (Ethesis)]

Check out the links in the post.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Book of Mormon Actually Supports the Latest DNA Findings

I look at the Book of Ether as reconciling the DNA issues of our day - once we move past the former assumptions of the early saints (including the leaders). The record states quite clearly that the Nephites were religious separatists by nature, so it's perfectly reasonable to assume that the Lamanites outnumbered them so heavily (despite disproportionate death in warfare) because the Lamanites assimilated some of the remnants of the Jaredite nation that didn't die in the great battle that destroyed the nation itself. That assimilation could even have been of a more numerous people (like the Nephites and the Mulekites), if the Jaredites lacked social cohesion and wanted social stability they had lost. In fact, I think that is the most logical conclusion, since even AFTER the Nephites assimilated the Mulekites the Lamanites STILL outnumbered them substantially.

There's no reason to demand that they all were wiped out in that battle (Coriantumr's claim notwithstanding) - that the Jaredites were any different than the Nephites (or any other hyperbolic historical description of total annihilation) in that regard. Many could have fled and refused to gather, joining a separate civilization instead. The Nephites certainly wouldn't have distinguished them as anything other than "Lamanites" in their records - since "Lamanites" meant "anybody not with us" right from the start.

Therefore, the "Lamanites" (as defined expansively by the Nephites themselves) not only would have outnumbered the Nephites, but they easily could have been primarily of Jaredite descent - and the description of the Jaredites leads me to believe they originated in the Upper East Asian steppes. (Hugh Nibley also reached this conclusion in "The World of the Jaredites".) If that is true, the "Lamanites" would have been primarily of Asian descent quite quickly in their existence, which the current DNA research indicates is the best possibility.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Songs of Redeeming Love: Please Contribute

Last week, I linked to one of my favorite hymns about redeeming love, "I Stand All Amazed".  Today, I want to link to three other songs I love.  I know the first one isn't about Jesus, directly, but I love the song and its message - and it's easy to listen to it in reference to the Redeemer of the World.

I hope you like and are moved by these songs as much as I am. 

"We All Need Saving" (Jon McLaughlin)

"Nearer, My God, to Thee" (Vocal Point)

"Oh, Holy Night" - David Archuleta

Please share your favorite songs of redeeming love - with a url or link, if possible.  At least, share the titles - and the lyrics, if you know them.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Exactly What Must Be 100% True or 100% False?

One of my biggest problems with human nature, in general, and the way that members, in particular, tend to interpret things is the tendency to read something applied to one thing or person and extrapolate it to everything or everyone else.

Let me give two examples to illustrate my point:

1) Oliver Cowdery was told how HE received a witness from the Spirit. HE felt a burning in HIS bosom, and HE experienced a stupor of thought in HIS mind. That passage says absolutely nothing whatsoever about how anyone else will or should recognize the influence of the Spirit in their own life - nothing, at all. However, members and missionaries alike tend to promise others that they will feel it in that exact same way. I rarely feel it that way, and I know others who rarely feel it that way, but thousands of people are being told that is how they can experience it. That really is a HUGE concern and pet peeve of mine.

2) Moroni 10:3-4 promises those who remember, read, ponder and pray that God will manifest the truth of the Book of Mormon unto them - but it says absolutely nothing about how that will be done - how any particular reader will experience that manifestation. It also does NOT say in those verses that everyone who reads will "know" it is true; all it says is that the truth will be manifest somehow. One person might feel it is true; another one might sense it is true; another might have a classic Cowdery burning; one might have a powerful dream; one simply might feel compelled to continue reading it and be drawn into it inescapably; one might experience it in a way that is unimaginable to you and me. Only one of these "manifestations" match Oliver Cowdery's method of manifestation, but each and every one is "real" to the person involved.

President Hinckley didn't say, "Every single thing taught in the Church either is 100% true or else the Church is a fraud," nor did he say, "The Church is never wrong or else it is not of God." What he said, in essence, included three foundational claims: 

1) Joseph spoke with God (somehow)

2) Moroni appeared to Joseph, who "translated" the Book of Mormon (somehow); and 

3) the Priesthood authority to perform eternal ordinances was restored (somehow)

Either those three things happened (again, somehow) or they didn't. Either heavenly personages appeared to Joseph (somehow), or he made it up. They either are "real" or "fraudulent". Joseph either believed in his visions, or he lied about them intentionally. He either was sincere, or he was a fraud. That's essentially all Pres. Hinckley said in the quote.

To me, the crux of his comment is that either Joseph was telling the truth about the biggest things (the heavenly manifestations), or he was a fraud. Either he believed it, or he faked it. I can accept that, since I couldn't remain faithful if I was convinced he lied about those foundation things. There are lots and lots and lots of things that I believe are totally open to ambiguity and mistakes; the heavenly visitations/visions aren't among them - even though I think there are multiple, legitimate ways that those visitations could have occurred without being fraudulent.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Beauty vs. Character - A Great Discussion Thread

The Perils of Beauty - Kevin Barney (By Common Consent)

The comments are fascinating.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Importance of Marriage: Cleave Unto Her and None Else - Including, Ultimately, God

In the movie, "What Dreams May Come", a man comes to realize that he would rather live in Hell with his wife than live in Heaven without her.  This post is about that idea - that we are meant to be with someone other than God eternally - that we must accept Him, His grace and the atonement, but that part of such an acceptance is a willingness to place our spouse ahead of Him ultimately.  

Please bear with me as I explain why I believe this. 

Genesis 3:12 says:

"And the man said, The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat."

I believe the straightforward meaning of this verse, strictly parsed into modern terms, would be something like:
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. She gave me the fruit, and I ate it."

Personally, to add a bit of the background story, I would fill it out thus - knowing that it is going beyond simple parsing, but confident that it is not wildly speculative or off-the-wall:
"You made this woman and commanded that she should remain with me. That was the first and greatest commandment you gave me. Therefore, when she gave me the fruit to eat, and I realized we would be separated as a result, I ate it also in order to remain with her - and fulfill the first and highest law you gave me. I had a choice to stay with you alone forever or be with her outside your presence, and I chose to remain with her rather than to remain alone with you."

I have read quite a few varying interpretations of this verse, but each of them requires that the interpreter make some core assumptions about the relationship between Adam and Eve - and, in almost all cases, those assumptions are a direct reflection of either our modern conception of relationships, an obvious argument for a particular political or gender-specific issue or a view that simply is not supported by the text itself. As someone who sees the story figuratively rather than literally, I understand differing interpretations, but the one I have outlined is the only one that makes sense to me - given the totality of the account and the initial command to "cleave unto her and none else". 

Consider carefully the following point: "None else" includes the Lord, Himself - so, in a very real way, Adam was making the choice we teach that all will have to make in the eternities (to "leave home" and the presence of the Father and Son and embark on our own eternal journey as a united couple - "God" to our own spirit children). Thus, I see figurative meaning in the Garden for both our mortal and immortal existences - and I see Adam's statement in Genesis 3:12 as his straightforward explanation of his choice to accept the Father's full plan, by placing life with his wife ahead of life alone with God.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I live with five females, none of whom I laughed at this

This link shall remain nameless, just so I don't give anything away. Read and enjoy!! (or at least laugh hysterically) -

Monday, March 7, 2011

Multiple Currents Within the Mainstream

In most ways, I am as mainstream as it gets - in the way I live and in the eyes of most members in my ward and stake. My politics and perspectives on quite a few topics are quite different than many of theirs, but I don't make a big deal out of it. I try to comment quietly and kindly and calmly, even when I am trying to "correct" something that has been said (and I almost always preface my comments with something like "I think ...") - so most people don't take what I say as "radical" or "non-mainstream". Honestly, probably almost half of what I say in Church is different than what others are saying, but since I'm not confrontational or subversive in any way it's cool. Everyone knows I am fully committed to the Church, so my opinions aren't viewed as threatening or argumentative or non-mainstream. 

I don't think I'm the exception as far as my actual views being slightly (or even significantly) different than others. I think there are lots of members who have widely varying views about lots of things - but most aren't as comfortable expressing those views as I am expressing mine.  However, I think there are many who don't want or need to try to construct their own puzzle. They are fine with taking the puzzle built by others and living within it - and most of them live righteous, productive, caring lives. I don't begrudge them their perspective, since it works for them. It just doesn't work for me - and many others.

Frankly, I think there are two basic currents within the "mainstream" (with various sub-groups within each):

1) The ones I've just described who really don't think much about the details swim in the middle of the stream - generally in a pretty tight bunch with life jackets firmly attached;

2) The ones who like to try to play around in the details swim on the sides of the stream - generally spread all over the place diving and snorkeling and splashing away - sometimes totally out of direct sight of the other group.

Neither of the groups is "right" or "wrong" - just as swimmers who use different strokes aren't "right" or "wrong". Each might look like they are on different journeys to some in the other group, but I think we're all in the same main stream. In other words, we sometimes think we are swimming in a local creek or tributary when, in reality, we all are swimming in the Mississippi River and just might not be able to see those in a different current all the time.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Song of Redeeming Love

My New Year's Resolution for this month is to "feel more deeply to sing the song of redeeming love" - taken from Alma 5:26.  This is a direct result, I believe, of recognizing what was the focus of my monthly resolutions thus far this year - that we are, in fact, loved enough to be redeemed.  Since I have focused on that foundational belief in those resolution posts, I have been contemplating how to approach this month's resolution in a specific manner that builds upon and adds to what I have written thus far.

As I thought about how to begin, I realized I want to make one simple, yet critical, point:

In order to feel to sing a song of redeeming love, it is necessary to feel redeemed.

As I stated last month, there is a fundamental difference between being "redeemed" (bought back, purchased, etc.) and being "saved" (kept from being sold / lost).  Mormon theology is crystal clear that all have been redeemed from the Fall and the influence eternally of evil - that the only people who are not redeemed are those who know they are being offered that redemption and consciously choose to reject it and embrace evil instead.  Everyone else, regardless of their actions in mortality, are redeemed and "rewarded" in some way. 

This recognition should bring a degree of joy and rejoicing to those who believe it - but, unfortunately, our focus on the "final reward" (salvation and exaltation) often gets in the way of a simple appreciation of the initial gift (redemption).  Too often, the obsession with the final reward blinds us to the obligation we should feel to "sing the song of redeeming love" - and that's a shame.

Therefore, my only plea at the beginning of this month is for anyone who reads this to consider the love of God that would motivate a God to promise redemption for all who agreed to come to this mortal sphere - to not let us be separated forever - to do whatever it took to purchase us from a fallen state and, subsequently, offer to keep us from falling again.

Salvation and exaltation are impossible without redemption occurring first - so we should feel the emotion expressed within a song with which I will end this post:

I Stand All Amazed 

(Click the circle next to "Words and Music" at the top, left of the page - then click the "Play" button above that spot.)

Friday, March 4, 2011

Parsing the Book of Mormon

Today, I want to illustrate what I said in a much earlier post about the Book of Mormon being misunderstood. I'm going to respond to a statement I read online recently:

I think it could be a historical record. It's possible. It just doesn't seem to be what I was raised to think it was. It might not be the historical record of the Native American Indians.

Answer: The book itself never makes that claim.  
I personally believed something similar to the limited geography model LONG before I ever heard that phrase, and I also believed that we have absolutely no idea where it occurred in the Americas. None whatsoever. (I think the research into the Old World location is compelling, but not the New World research as to any specific location.) I also believed that the "principle ancestors" phrase was wrong at a very early age, and I'm glad it was changed. (I think the Jaredites might be the Principle ancestors, and that they were Asiatic, so I believe the most recent DNA research actually comes close to validating the Book of Mormon [and I believed the Jaredite connection long before I knew of the DNA controversy] - but that is for another discussion.)

So, just because it isn't what members assumed it was doesn't mean it isn't what it actually claims to be.

Honestly, I have never encountered an actual claim within the pages themselves that I believe is demonstrably false. There are numerous assumptions of people on both sides of the validity debate that I think are incorrect, lame, ludicrous and even frightening - but there's no actual claim of the book itself that I have found to be indefensible or preposterous. Over the decades I have been reading it, on the other hand, there are numerous things that have snapped my head back and made me realize I had misunderstood it previously.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Advocating Extremes Is Easy; Real Life in the Middle Is Hard - but Worthwhile

I'm old enough to have "shifted" substantially on various issues over time. Much of the perception of my beliefs in the Bloggernacle is based on the fact that I don't like inconsistency and one-sided arguments - so I end up addressing comments that exhibit those traits. Those comments tend to be the most extreme on both sides. That means I end up on predominantly liberal sites being called too conservative, while I end up on predominantly conservative sites being called too liberal - all because I tend to believe the best solutions lie somewhere in the middle of the extremes in most cases. 

Frankly, and as bluntly as I can say this while still grinning from ear to ear, I have found that my current path is MUCH harder to walk and requires a complete lack of complacency - while advocating most extremes is incredibly easy. It's very difficult and taxing to read every single comment in a post before commenting, try to read very carefully every word everyone says, remember the gist and general content of every comment, go back and re-read former comments prior to responding to make sure I don't misinterpret, consider each word in a comment to which I respond and what it might mean, look for any ways to read others' comments charitably (seeing, for example, where a particular word used probably, based on overall context, means what a different word would have conveyed better), contemplate the best way to structure a response, re-read each response I construct, edit it at least once before submitting it, etc. Honestly, I go through that process almost every time I comment (and regret it almost every time I don't), and there is no complacency involved in it.  

I try to tackle every issue of every topic that same way - reading each and every comment for insight into how it can influence my own view of the topic. This approach has molded my view on many issues over the years, and those views have changed and continue to change. It's just that I tend to respond in public settings to the comments that are the most extreme (on both sides of whatever the issue is being discussed), so my comments on group blogs generally are more in response to others than passionate statements of my own beliefs. As I have spent more time in the Bloggernacle, I have written those (passionate statements of my own beliefs) in group settings more often, but they are nowhere near the majority of my comments. 

I expect others to be more passionate about some topics than I will be. It is more personal to them than to me, and it hits them much harder than it hits me. If that means I appear to be more “complacent” about those particular topics than some others are, perhaps that is a fair statement. It just doesn’t mean I am a complacent person. What it means is that I am trying my best to walk my own path in the way that is most consistent with the dictates of my own conscience - and, while that approach is harder than advocating extremes, it is MUCH more worthwhile, in my opinion. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2011