Friday, July 28, 2006

I can't say no...

Right now I'm at work, it's 1:15, and I have to leave in less than 3 hours to head down to St. George, UT. St. George is 260 miles south of Provo for those non-Provonians out there. I'll be singing for a wedding reception down there, then turning around (at an ungodly hour I'm sure) and driving back before morning - just in time to start a hike up Mt. Timpanogos at 4 in the morning. Really, I don't know what I was thinking.

I think that I have a problem of being too gracious and charitable. In speaking with my co-worker Danielle about this I realized that I did not even ask if this gig was a paying one until after I had firmly committed. Is it a paying gig, you might wonder? No, actually, it isn't. I'm doing this out of the charity of my heart.

Not that I'm bitter. I actually do find joy in helping people out, and these guys that I'm singing with tonight are extremely grateful and pleased that I can help them out. They had two members of their group drop out at the last moment, and they were floundering until I told them yes. Unfortunately for me, however, now I'm off on a 3.5 hour drive one way down there to perform for less than an hour, then back up again. Oh yeah, on my own as well. I hope that I can stay awake on the drive back.

This is where I pay my road-trip homage to the greatness and wonder that is the Amp energy drink. ;-)

Thursday, July 27, 2006

The confusing world of Modern Islam

One of the classes that I'm taking is a Western Civilization course (Hist 201), and my professor for that class is having us read a terrific book entitled The Ornament of the World: How Muslims, Jews, and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain. Ornament is very much a history book, but the history that it describes so poetically is one that I had heard of only once, in a passing moment by my Spanish professor about some architecture in medieval Spain. I am only 60-some-odd pages into the book, but I have been fascinated so far by it. I have never very much enjoyed the subject of history. I believe my dislike of the subject is due to the constant references to unknown names of people and places - it's very hard on the memory to keep those things straight. On top of the memory issue, the names of places change every dynasty or so! It can be a very confusing, frustrating venture.

This book, however, has not only captured my attention and my thirst for knowledge, but also has caused me to reflect and ponder on the plethora of problems that are plaguing the Middle East right now (how's that for alliteration?). The Wed. lecture of my History class covered the basics of Islam and the empire that rose from Muhammad. I admit, even though I understood that my opinion of Islam was a processed one that I had developed due to the media, I still felt a little biased against the religion as we began the class. I soon realized that what I understood to be Islam was something much different than what I was learning to be the true religion of the followers of Muhammad. Islam is meant to be a peace-making religion, one that promotes honesty, integrity, and morality. It was also a war-making religion and empire - but one cannot create peace without war. The peaceful side of Islam is plainly visible in the society of Al-Andalus (Medieval Iberian Spain) where Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived side by side underneath the Islamic polity of the time. The Christians and Jews were also not viewed as inferiors, as each religious body had members of their own serving in governmental and administrative positions. It was a harmonious blend of the three cultures (especially if you look past the eventual civil unrest between the Muslims themselves).

So now I wonder: why do the modern Muslims seek violence and domination in the name of Islam? Now, before anybody bristles too much, I understand that my statement is quite general and somewhat bigoted. I actually kind of meant it to be that way. But the question still holds much of its validity through the inherent bias: why do so many of the Middle Eastern world desire the domination of the Christian and/or Jewish world, in the name of Islam? I read today on that the Al-Qaeda second in command released another tape, urging Muslims around the world to fight for the dominance of the Islamic religion and to seek Islamic control "from Spain to Iraq," all in the name of jihad. I learned in lecture that "jihad" orginally meant "striving (in the path of God)" and only became associated with "holy war" during the Crusades! How have things strayed so much?

Dr. Cooper, my professor, was asked the same question that I posed at the beginning of the last paragraph. He stated that if he could answer that question, he would be the most popular and famous history professor in the world. Things have changed so much across the world in the past two millenia; how can we expect any kind of tradition (such as religion) to survive intact for so long? The version of Islam that is propagated by Al-Qaeda and other such peoples is far removed from the one set down by the Prophet Muhammad. A greater Muslim understanding of their own religion would no doubt curb much of the animosity they feel toward those of other faiths - but alas, truth is not to be found so easily in a culture such as theirs. Even ours (as Latter-day Saints) required the intervention God the Father and Jesus Christ themselves and a living Prophet to set things right. Perhaps patience and love are the best replies to modern Islam...or maybe a more assertive response is more appropriate? I suppose that depends on your own political-moral outlook. And that is just another source of confusion.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Farewell, Brendan

Last night I had the chance to hang out with a good friend of mine from this past school year, Brendan Owens. We sang in Concert Choir together, and his brother is a good friend of mine from some years past. Today he has just started probably the most influential period of his life. He entered the Missionary Training Center here in Provo, UT at 12:30 PM, for a three week training period.. He watched a short little movie with his family about the importance of missionary service, said goodbye, and then began the next two years of his life as a servant of the Lord. Wow, that sounds really poetic...and it kinda is.

Many (if not most) of the young men (and plenty of women)of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints serve a mission of two years somewhere away from home in order to spread the Gospel. This experience is not only good for the Church (200,000+ converts a year) but is also a major factor in shaping the character and integrity of the young man or woman. Granted, everyone gets out of the experience exactly what they put into if you put your all into it, you get all of it back and that much more. If you don't put anything into it, then you get nothing back at all. Many times you can tell just what kind of missionary somebody was by how he/she acts after the mission experience.

It's a difficult thing when others are going on their missions to not reflect heavily on your own experience. I miss it a lot! There's nothing quite like the feeling of dedication and focus that you have during that time: every day you do exactly the same thing, and you soon become quite good at it. It's hard at first to get into the swing of things, especially since we as a society are so used to so many sources of entertainment in our lives. Being a missionary, though, is all about getting in tune with the Spirit and keeping hold of that focus. Once you do that, you can be put through almost anything and still look back at it later and smile. :-D It's truly a miracle what the Lord does with these young people who give up so much of their lives to serve Him. There are many times when I wish that I could be out there again, knowing exactly what I can and should be doing. *sigh* I really feel a cheesy moment coming on, so I'll wrap this up.

Brendan is a terrific young man who's excited to share the Gospel with the people of Washington (Kennewick area). I know that he'll have a terrific time out there (missions are so much fun!!) and that he'll have the chance not only to grow immensely, but he will have the chance to help other people grow just as much. Good luck Brendan! And may God bless you in your efforts.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Pioneer Day Weekend

This three-day weekend was a well-needed break. This is the first time in my life that I'm working and going to school at the same time (thanks to my parents, who made sure that I did not kill myself earlier in life), and I'm finding it to be just a little stressful. Especially when I can't study much during my job that consists of sitting at a computer for 4 hours a day and scheduling appointments. I can study if it can be done on the computer, but that doesn't help with all the books that I have to read for my history class. So this three-day weekend was a godsend!

The highlight of my weekend was watching the movie "Lady in the Water." I thought the movie was incredible! I saw the movie on Friday night with my roommates and some friends, and we all thought the same about the movie. It was a little weird, and definitely different, but with all the movies that have been coming out lately that are either cliche or reveal the entire plot through the trailers, this one was a breath of fresh - if exotic - cinematic air. I will not reveal anything about the plot at all, but be aware that it will express every emotion inside of you until it is finished. I ended up seeing it again the next night as well. Just like any good book or movie, I saw so much more in the details of the movie the second time, and the second time was just as good as the first.

I also spent a good deal of time up in Salt Lake these past few days. I love Salt Lake! Provo is a great place and all, but there really isn't that much to do here that you haven't done before. Hmmm...the same is true for Salt Lake, but at least Salt Lake is a little more exotic to someone who lives his life in Provo. I went up on Saturday evening with my roommate and some friends, and we spent a bunch of time on Temple Square. Sounds kind of corny maybe, but it was a blast. I went up again yesterday to Salt Lake with my roommate again, but this time to simply be with him as a "companion" as he met with one of his converts and her mother about church things. That was pretty cool too, as we both kind of jumped into missionary mode again to help the mother understand more about the church and her daughter's decision to be a part of it. It's fun to be a missionary again. :-)

But now it's back to normality again. I don't have classes Tues or Thurs, but I do work from 1 to 5. Mon, Wed, and Fri are kind of tough, with classes straight from 8 to 12 and work from 1 to 5. It's like a real work day, except I have a ton of homework to do when I'm not at either school or work. I'm glad the break was as long as it was, but I'm also glad to be getting back into the swing of things and earning some money. I just hope that I can stay reasonably on top of things for the rest of the time this term.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Wow, it's been a while

Well, it's a good thing I don't get paid to keep this thing going, or else I would really be in the hole. I have a problem keeping a journal or something like that...and this is just one of those things. Anyway. I don't know if anybody actually reads this or not, but I think it's a good practice for me to keep a real journal. You know.

I got a job last week - FINALLY! I am now one of the Information Clerks in the College of Fine Arts and Communications Advisement Center at BYU. I'm glad to finally be working and making some money, even if it isn't that much. Now that I'm working and going to school I realize that I need a social life. Wow, I crave it now. It's kinda funny that now that I'm kinda busy, I see the need to fill my life with more. Hmmm...maybe with more of the things that matter?

Anyway, I'm at work right now, trying to fill up my time. My job consists of sitting at the desk at a computer, waiting for appointments to come in so I can mark them down and let the advisors know that they are there, or wait for the phone to ring so I can fight with my co-worker Danielle over who's going to answer it, or just surf the internet and do homework on my computer because it actually looks like I'm working to everybody else! But hey, at least I get paid. I actually am grateful for the job and the support that it gives me. I actually have spending money now!
Oh yeah, about the money thing: I have wound up with two half scholarships for next year, one academic scholarship and one vocal performance scholarship. Throw in the mix the native american scholarship that will be coming in as well, and I'll have tuition and a half paid for for the next year! Woo-hoo!! I'm way excited for that. It's always good to have more money. It's even better to be able to not be a burden on your parents who are paying for your schooling. At least now they certainly won't be paying for any of mine, because it's already covered! Man, that makes me happy. :-D