Thursday, February 14, 2013

Importance of Timing on Earth

The following is an excerpt between my roommate Jake and I while sitting in church. The speaker made reference to an oft quoted saying that our generation has been saved for this time on Earth, alluding to the idea that our generation of souls is somehow more special then others. Our question and response is as follows (slightly edited for clarity):

Me: Has everyone who has ever lived been foreordained to come to Earth when they do?

Jake: So you are asking if everyone was sent at a set time for a specific purpose, are we really special?

Me: Correct.  Personally, I don't think so. I feel it is rhetoric by some members of the church to make us feel better about living in such a time. But, for the sake of argument, let's suppose these people are correct. Does God then send a person to Earth at a specific time to do a specific work?

Jake: Yes. We have the examples of Joseph Smith, Jesus Christ, Moses, etc. They were sent at specific times to do a specific work. However, it is hard to see in such a seemingly non-consequential lives as ours such a thing happening. Just like a mission, I think that wherever or whenever you go, you can have a good experience. Some places and times just maybe are more beneficial than others.

Me: So you suppose all man has a reason for being here at their given time? Or is it just a crap-shoot for most when they arrive?

Jake: A specific reason? No. Not all men are sent for specific reasons. However, I would like to believe God sent us at times and to places that are most beneficial for us and mankind.

Me: So God is a consequentialist? Interesting. So essentially only a few individuals are foreordained for specific time periods to influence the whole of humanity? And the rest were sent at their time because they were best suited for that time?

Jake: That is correct.

Me: So these people were foreordained to do something in this time, but only because they fit it well? Is it then true that the marginal benefit of their placement on the Earth greater than anyone else? Or such that their marginal benefit is most in that position given that someone better went somewhere else because they had a higher marginal return? This keeps with the idea that God is a consequentialist.

Jake: Most of us could have been plugged in at any other time and done the duty necessary. We don't believe in a soulmate, but we do believe that many people would fit as a spouse for anyone person. I don't see why it would be any different for our placement on earth. In regards to the marginal benefit, I don't know, but I feel it varies from person to person.

Me: I agree, humanity is ultimately variable. So is there not a "hardest" time or a "most valiant" generation?

Jake: I believe that there is not.

Me: Do you then also believe that humanity falls into wickedness so easily because the majority of us are wicked? Or does God send people down into pockets where the disposition of the majority causes them to fall into wickedness? Is there a lack of valiant people there for a reason? Is God placing these people there because they were the least likely to succeed anyways, thus most beneficial to get them out of the way?

Jake: There is a lack of valiant people for a reason, but not because God made it that way. He works the best with the constraints he has (our own valiancy). I don't like to believe though that God packages the less valiant people together in certain times; however, it's somewhat hard to deny given historical precedence of apostasy, or even the groups of people who blatantly turned from God found in the scriptures. Why did those exist if not for the planned placement of souls?

Me: Exactly my thoughts. Now, if God plans the placements of souls in such a way, is He doing it to spare the righteous and to condemn the wicked? I think not, for that would imply a partial God, one who places some of His children in a no-win situation. I believe God doesn't actually put pockets of wicked souls on the earth, but rather allows like-minded souls to gather and then to propagate their wickedness. Do the children of these wicked men receive the same condemnation as the parents merely because they were taught to live that way? How much of our own wickedness is from our personal choices and how much comes from our upbringing?

Jake: So are you implying that possibly we chose to come down at a certain time with souls we associated with? You've tapped into the nature vs. nurture debate. I believe some comes from nature and some from nurture, but I don't dare attempt to define in what proportions. On an earlier question, if God does plan the placement of souls, maybe it's not to condemn the wicked but rather to spare them. Are they not better off sinning due to lack of knowledge and prophetic guidance than with it?

Me: That was what I was attempting to get at with my last question. If a wicked person sins in darkness of truth, how much is it accounted against him? Can/will the atonement bridge the gap of knowledge and light they have received to allow that weak/wicked soul a chance at full redemption?

Jake: If a wicked person sins in darkness of truth, they can't be held quite as accountable. I understand why certain information is withheld, but completely shunning someone from any gospel truth to merely lessen their punishment when they would have been more guilty if they had an "equal" right to knowledge as anyone else seems to be artificially inflating salvation. You can't deny that everyone is not given an equal chance in this life. That is because the Spirit World is in place to give everyone an overall equal chance. But couldn't this have been averted if everyone was given an equal chance in this life (not considering the fact that we are given resurrection)?

Me: Ignoring the fact that you are attributing something to the Spirit World that doesn't make sense in this context, you are essentially saying that everyone is given an equal chance to sin as all others, and, by extension, an equal chance to do good? By this logic, every destitute, poor, and starving person should behave like Valjean if they are to be saved.

Jake: In the grand scheme of things everyone is on equal footing, but not in this life.

Me: If this life is inherently unfair, then would God placing the weak in hard, unfair places to protect them against the full extent of the law really inflating salvation, or is it wisdom in God to maximize the number of souls who will return to Him?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Laughably Ignorant

Of the many things that I do not know, there aren't many that I am willing to admit that do not deal with relationships, women, or Pinterest. But there is one topic that I am most certainly among the most ignorant and uncultured human being to have appreciated its majesty in the past several millennia, and that is the unfathomable realm of dancing. Despite my ersthwile slender physique and refined gait, I have not yet captured or even begun to grasp the intricacies of this discipline.

Last night was the quintessential moment of my education in what I do not know. My dear friend Heidi is a member of the BYU Contemporary Dance Theater, and they had a performance that I attended with some mutual friends. Hours of practice and work had been poured into this performance, and the energy in the room was palatable as we took our seats in the second row of the theater. From this angle we could literally see up their noses (and we were close enough to actually do so had the desire lighted upon us). A small blues band on stage played some dulcet tones as we waited for the dancing to begin.

What I beheld over the next hour and a half is still much a blur to me. I remember lots of hands in the air, many a kick and a twirl, and a lot of exuberant smiles. At one point the dancers were acrobats, leaping and vaulting over bars, running down and around the aisles, twirling into the arms of other acrobats, and sliding gracefully from mark to mark. Transitional pieces included a wonderful animated short that captured the spirit of the art, creating a majestic hybrid of forms that rarely is seen in today's cinemas. The culmination of all the thematic expressions was summed nicely in the last number, which dance featured a delightful performance by Heidi, a treat that I did not expect.

Overall the details of the dance do not stick with me as I move away from the event. What really sticks with me is the feeling I had whilst watching the mesmerizing movements of so many slender and elegant forms parade around in unison on the stage. Feelings of remorse, joy, loss, and redemption somehow, inexplicably, crept into my mind as I took in the action. Though I have been told countless times that art has the power to move the deepest hollows of the soul, I was not prepared for those movements to take shape in my conscious mind. Indeed, it didn't even occur to me that I could actually come to embrace an idea through dance, as though each step reverberated with the truth of a thousand words.

What power does this thing called dancing hold? How was it able to actually make me consider the themes that ran so powerfully throughout the choreography, existing in the ethereal realms of communication that I am so woefully inept at accessing? Through what unguarded hole did these impressions creep, for I truly did not know that the dancing before me was actually founded upon these themes, embracing them at the very core of their motion.

To me the beauty of dance is ultimately twofold. It is at once so incredibly beyond my grasp and comprehension that I do not understand even the basics of how it is done. But on another, much more deep-seated level lies what I think attracts all mankind to this form of expression, and that is the ability to speak without vocalizing. Language is, at its best, a clunky medium through which the base emotions and desires are expressed. Then comes the non-verbal cues of speech that help fill in the gaps left by our inadequate words. And then there is dance, that full-bodied correspondence of the soul that leaves both parties with a sense of something expressed that runs deep within the veins of our existence.

Dance is, and always has been, and always will be, the elucidation of our individuality within our commonality. It is universally understood, and yet deeply unique in the individual who expresses, and individually powerful to the spirit who receives.