The Fault in Our Stars

So I finished Blindness last week right?  I enjoyed the reading experience (not necessarily the book in and of itself just because it is so bleak, but I love that I read it and would never unread it) and was ready to move on to my next book.  Unfortunately, since I finished my book and I read during lunch, I had nothing to do during lunch.  Thank goodness for TED talks.  This one came up by the author Chimamanda Ngoze Adichie and I enjoyed it immensely; feeling rather posh as I consumed my pbn n’ j (Nutella providing the second n) and listened to foreign authors.  It was interesting and I picked up her book Half of a Yellow Sun later on that day.  As I examined the book in the comfort of my apartment, I realized that it would not be light reading, but would weigh me down.  I had a gut feeling that I wasn’t going to be finishing it.

The next day I received an e-mail from the library announcing the arrival of my requested book, The Fault in Out Stars, by John Green.  I know there is a movie, but I’m mildly afraid of the movie now and maybe won’t see it (my Augustus will always be better).  **SPOILER ALERT** (not really) It’s a cancer book.  I expected it to end as cancer books do.  But until that point I was going to love this book passionately.  And it is gorgeous.  Augustus Waters is breath-taking.  And Hazel Grace too.  I love them.  But mostly him.  My mental casting is as follows: Hazel Grace is played by the person resulting of the fusion of Perks Emma Watson and Natalie Portman; Augustus Waters is played by soft spikes Dylan O’Brien mixed with That Guy in my New Testament Class.  Pretty sure we can all agree that soft spikes Dylan O’Brien is gorgeous (Having a bad day? Google image search: Dylan O’Brien.  Boom, your day is awesome), and then That Guy in my New Testament Class just has this air about him that is mildly mysterious and just makes you want to get to know him.  Not very well explained, but hopefully well enough to convey just how delicious Augustus is.  Maybe I have a little crush on him.  Not the first time I’ve fallen for a book character.

I. Hate. This. Book.  Mostly because it consumed me and then spat me back out a disheveled and slightly sopping mess.  I haven’t even finished it yet.  Some reading tips: Do NOT read page 205!  Then, stop abruptly on page 211.  Print and paste the following onto your page 212 and promptly fill the rest of the book with the results from the above Google search: “Hazel Grace and Augustus grow up to be happy, productive people in full remission. Always. Okay?  Isaac gets robot eyes and becomes rich and finds someone so much better than Monica.  Augustus and Hazel Grace get married and have beautiful children and nobody dies until everybody does so simultaneously when they are old and peacefully asleep and prepared and holding each other.  Okay.”  The end.  New book.  Time to move on.

I. Adore. This. Book.  For real though.  Despite having ripped me into so many pieces, I can’t. Stop. Reading. For now, it is unfinished.  Books like this deserve to be finished alone next to a fireplace in a dark room where nothing can disturb.  Like so:

Currently I’m at the beginning of chapter 21, about 70 pages from the end, riding the rollar coaster that only goes up, and I am waiting for just such a moment to finish.  I started ch. 21, but upon reading the first sentence I realized that was the point I needed to start from seated at the fire’s edge.  So that sentence was quickly unread and forgotten and is awaiting me somewhat patiently in the dark of a fire-lit room.

I didn’t even want to write about a book this week.  That was last week’s thing.  This week was going to be Utah SB100 or empathy or just something else.  But this book. I mean.  It has eaten me up in a way no book has done in a long time.  Nothing really.  Even non-booky things haven’t done this to me.  I just.  I can’t even.  Okay?

Okay.

**NOTE**  I have since finished the book.  The only addition I have is that I’m dribbling out of all sorts of face places.  I cannot express how much I love this book and hate it for destroying me.  But really I adore it.

-Daniel

Blindness

This week I finished Blindness  by José Saramago.  It is quite an interesting read.  José Saramago is a Nobel Prize winning author from Portugal.  I talked about reading another book by him earlier, Death with Interruptions.  When I was searching the Internet to find any analysis or critique of that book, I found a comment by someone contending that Blindness was his peak and Death with Interruptions was just a pathetic leftover from a previously brilliant author.  While I don’t necessarily agree, both books were fascinating; I found myself much more affected by Blindness than Death.

I don’t really know how to talk about this book.  It captured my attention while I read it.  Lunches never seemed to be long enough.  This is a very dark book.  The topics and events are not for the faint-hearted.  It was graphic at times.  Startling.  Painful.  It is worth the read if you get a chance, but don’t go in expecting a fairy-tale of lollipops and kittens.

“In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.” -old Portuguese saying

How blind am I?

-Daniel

The Pre-Mee

I had this goal when I started this thing up of getting a post in every Saturday.  Well, that was all good until I didn’t write for these past couple of weeks.  I’m trying again, starting new with that goal.  But also not beating myself up for not writing.  Since I write as a type of therapeutic outlet, if I don’t feel like writing, then I’m not going to write.

These past two weeks as I sat down to try to write I have just been unable to.  For a bit I felt myself slipping into something that wasn’t good for my head and got really scared of where it was going.  After playing with some pills it seems to have passed.  That also was a factor in my not writing.  I am still wildly tired (not helped by daylight savings last week) and unmotivated.  I’m convinced that getting some good sleep will fix things though.

I’ve realized in reviewing my past posts that my feelings towards the LDS Church are somewhat unclear.  I wanted to write a bit about my experiences in the church.

Three years ago I was about eighteen and a half years old and dreading the approach of my nineteenth birthday.  Back then, when young men in the LDS church turn nineteen (the age is now eighteen) it is assumed that they will leave to serve a two-year mission.  If they don’t, judgments and assumptions are often made about them by their fellow Mormons.  They wonder why he didn’t immediately leave and make up all sorts of reasons why that might be.

In my freshman Ward it seemed everyone was preparing for missions.  They were talking about how great it was going to be and how much they were looking forward to it.  I didn’t exactly feel that way,  but I didn’t want to seem out of place, so I mirrored that enthusiasm to go and made the proper preparations.

I had some serious doubts about the church, and there was no way that I was going to dedicate two years of my life to something that I really didn’t believe in.  I needed to know if I really believed that the gospel as taught by the LDS church was true.  I read a quote by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland saying that if anyone wanted to leave the church “it must be done by crawling over or under or around the Book of Mormon to make that exit (October 2009 General Conference Address, Safety for the Soul).”  I took that as a challenge.

I began reading the Book of Mormon with this goal in mind: reading it was not going to make me feel anything special.  I was going to be validated in my efforts to leave the church, find myself a cute boy and live happily ever after.  I was determined.

I was reading somewhere in 2 Nephi, trying with all my might to feel nothing and suddenly realize how false the book was, asking myself after each verse, “Could Joseph Smith have made this up?”  I answered myself each time, “Yes he could.  Yes he could.  Yes he could.”  I wanted out and I didn’t want to feel bad about it.  However, as hard as I tried to deny it, an unexplicable sense of knowing came over me.  Not a particular feeling, just knowing.  The book was true.

This didn’t change the way that I felt about being LGBT, but I knew that I was going on a mission.  I thought that maybe if I was a good enough missionary that the gay would be burned out of me or something.  So there was nothing that was going to stop me from going on a mission.  NOTHING.  No depression.  No boys.  No nothing.  And just like that my papers were submitted.

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Waiting for the call is one of the worst things ever.  I managed to get my papers in just before my parents and I went on a trip to the Kirtland and Palmyra area to visit some church history sites and spend some time together before I left.  We then spent a couple of nights with my Dad’s cousin in New York City.  One night we were eating at a small café and my Bishop called:

Last night I heard back from Salt Lake on your mission papers.  They want you to visit with a therapist at LDS Family Services before any decisions are made on your call.”

I was stunned.  All the work that I had put into ensuring that I left on a mission and now it seemed like it would never happen.  He gave me the number for the clinic and said good night.

I didn’t really know what to do.  What was I going to do with this therapist?  What was expected of me?  Was I going to be denied a mission?  When we returned from our vacation I made the appointment and went in.

“So on your papers you said that you experienced depression in the past,” he told me.  “Tell me more about that.”

“When I was younger I went in to see a therapist for some depression issues.  I’ve never been on any meds or anything.  Things were bad through middle school and sometimes in high school, but I think it’s better now,” I replied.

“Good, that’s good that things are better.  You also wrote that you also saw a counselor at BYU?”

“Yeah, I was having some issues with depression again in the Winter, but he gave me some advice on keeping a positive attitude and recommended that the best way to avoid further problems might be to be with people more.  Talk to them even when I don’t want to.  Kind of like a mission right?”

“Do you still have any of those feelings?”

“Nope,” I lied.  “I really feel a lot more confident and happy about everything now.”  A blatant lie.  But no therapist was keeping me from my gay-purifying mission.  I told him the truths that he wanted to hear to get that stamp of approval and that was it.  My papers were back in and I was waiting once again.

One week later my Mom came giddily into my room at 9:30 bearing a giant envelope.  I wasn’t quite awake yet and, bleary-eyed took the envelope from her:

Dear Elder Reed:

You are hereby called to serve as a missionary of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. You are assigned to labor in the California San Fernando Mission. It is anticipated that you will serve for a period of 24 months.

You should report to the Provo Missionary Training Center on Wednesday, September 14,2011. You will prepare to preach the gospel in the Spanish language. Your assignment may be modified according to the needs of the mission president.

You have been recommended as one worthy to represent the Lord as a minister of the restored gospel. You will be an official representative of the Church. As such, you will be expected to maintain the highest standards of conduct and appearance by keeping the commandments, living mission rules, and following the counsel of your mission president. As you devote your time and attention to serving the Lord, leaving behind all other personal affairs, the Lord will bless you with increased knowledge and testimony of the Restoration and of the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Your purpose will be to invite others to come unto Christ by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. As you serve with all your heart, might, and strength, the Lord will lead you to those who are prepared to be baptized.

The Lord will reward you for the goodness of your life. Greater blessings and more happiness than you have yet experienced await you as you humbly and prayerfully serve the Lord in this labor of love among His children. We place in you our confidence and pray that the Lord will help you become an effective missionary.

You will be set apart as a missionary by your stake president. Please send your written acceptance promptly, endorsed by your bishop.

Sincerely,
Thomas S. Monson
(President)

I fell back into my bed feeling overwhelmed.  I was going on a mission.

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