You’re walking. And you don’t always realize it,
but you’re always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling.
And then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling
at the same time.
# # #
“Peoples’ stories are fucking boring,” he said, sucking his spoon. “You know why? Because people telling stories is just a person trying to highlight how winning or funny or insightful or human they are.”
“I don’t see it like that,” she replied.
“Now that, right there. That’s interesting. An opinion. You know what never changes? A story. Oh sure, little details here and there, who was at the scene of the accident, the time of day, the color of the sky. Those change, sure, but does it matter? No, it’s always that same goddamned story. Same ending. Same beginning. Same point. And worst of all; same person. It’s always colored and tainted by the very person telling the story - ultimately what the story is about. An opinion though. An opinion-“
“Opinions are just people yelling about things. Nobody gets along. You never learn anything about anyone.”
“Exactly. An opinion is never what a person is. Opinions change like clothes. Taken off everyday for new ones or worn and battered over time. An opinion is paper-thin. It’s a mask. It’s a concept, an idea that someone else, a nation, has thought up and anybody can pick it up, try it on, yell through it, and then throw it away.”
“Ok, so if an opinion doesn’t explain a person, shouldn’t a story? Isn’t that important?”
“Well, a story tells you about someone. It tells you what they lie about, and doesn’t that reveal more about a person than an opinion?”
“Lord, a story is a dead limb Eva. It’s a dead arm or leg that people insist on lugging around to show other people. It’s embarrassing and meaningless. It’s no longer a part of them, it’s just something they seem to think identifies them. An opinion is beautiful because it’s the essence of humanity; ever-changing, never correct, and always reconcilable. And, if you live around someone long enough, then you get to know all the opinions they’ve worn and tossed away. You get to pick up their shed skin and stare through the compounded layers of past cares, causes, and worries. You get to see exactly what they’ve been trying to be all these years.”
# # #
I constantly feel ennui and revulsion when it comes to re-reading and reflecting on my own thoughts and writing. These two feelings also seem to be the prime components in Spectacle and so I revisit, somewhat often, my own thoughts and writing. It’s like staring at yourself in the mirror until your face gets patchy and old and horrifying. You know it’s vain and boring but it’s so gross you can’t stop. It’s so alienating and entrancing that you feel, somewhere deep down, that it’s the only way to truly speak with yourself.
# # #
I used to email Choire Sicha more often than I care to admit with ideas for essays I wanted him to publish. The theme of every single one was experienced expertise. The counter-point in every essay was how little I understood about anything at all and how gigantic this lack of understanding felt. It was a lot like the 14 year old boy I chastised at church once. When I told him he needed to stop bullying another boy in his age group and asked him if he actually felt as superior as he acted, he told me, Mondrian tears lining his face, that he didn’t know anything, he didn’t know anything and he wasn’t going to say he knew anything, he didn’t know anything. Something I used to say to protect myself when I got into arguments. The rank, metallic unfairness of certainty in the uncertain.
# # #
One time I wrote in an essay:
Choice. The issue is choice and the most confounding part about this patriarchal, misogynistic, male-dominated culture is the fact that, well, some of the time it’s not so patriarchal or misogynistic or male-dominated. In fact, the LDS faith is one of the few mainstream world religions with a stated belief in a divine, female entity. We also have the Relief Society, which is one of “the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world.” (http://mormon.org/faq/relief-society/) Brigham Young University is home to the Women’s Stats project which is the world’s largest and most comprehensive global database on the status of women (womenstats.org). Some of the most respected female scholars and specialists in the world are, secretly and insidiously, LDS.
When I finished my ethnography and looked at all of the information in front of me, I realized that I was completely overwhelmed. The issue of gender at BYU is so complex, so nuanced and individual, that I couldn’t step back quite far enough to grasp the whole of it. I just couldn’t figure out the facts from my biases. The most difficult aspect of this process of understanding has been the duality implicit within the learning process. The more I got to know the opinions of my peers, the more I would have guessed my reaction would have been, “This is not the place for me.” And yet, the more that I talked to them and listened to them, the more I just let them state their beliefs, learned their backgrounds and their future plans, the more I had to concede that if this place is not the place for me, then there is no place for me.
There is no perfect place on Earth; that much is obvious. The problem with obvious statements is that we forget the depth of the obvious. There is no perfect place on Earth. Likewise, there was no perfect place for me to be in 2008 as I watched everything I thought I understood about my faith fall apart. There was no perfect place for me to explore my social ineptitude. There is no place on Earth where women and men are treated fairly and equally. There is no place on Earth where rape and sexual assault aren’t an incredibly overwhelming problem. The more I got to know all of these obvious things, the more it became apparent that contradiction is par for the course. We contain vast quantities of truth; isn’t that what makes us most human?
In an interview I helped conduct with Valerie Hudson (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valerie_M._Hudson), we asked her what it was like to be a feminist at BYU. Her response was that while she’d never encountered anything but respect regarding her views, if we’d asked her what it was like to be a female at BYU we’d get a different answer. She said that the only people who had ever disrespected her were her students. Another professor stated that she felt the same way and added that young female professors regularly receive far lower student ratings than their male counterparts. These women are teaching equality to a student body that shows, every year, how much it needs that sort of education. I hate to be macabre or cruel, but I love that. It’s so apparent, so over-the-top, that I have to laugh at it. For years I wandered around snarling about how open-minded and loving I was and how much of a stupid piece of hypocritical shit everybody else around me was. I constantly espoused hatred all in the name of love. I think there’s a specific look that someone who’s just stumbled onto their biggest contradiction exhibits. Watching myself alienate and insult others, I learned that maybe at the root of all of this we simply just don’t know anything. And, somehow or another, the only way to understand that fact is to tell it to other people and wait for them to prove it to you. Zero plus zero plus zero equals a sum; don’t mistake substance for quality.
# # #
I am leaving to go on a mission for the LDS Church in June. For two years I’ll be representing the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the gospel of Jesus Christ. I will drink caffeine and say the “Fuck” word and be human. I will take upon myself a divine name. I will cut my hair short and yet my nails will still get dirty. I will say over and over again in prayer and in conversation that I do not know, I do not know, this is all I know, that I do not know.
# # #
I have my issues with the Church. I disagree with the Church’s opposition to the ERA and with its outward facing support of Prop8. Its incredibly depressing, inconsistent treatment of people of color over the years. Its cultural doctrines, its former practice of polygamy, its hierarchical, bureaucratic messiness.
# # #
I have a true belief in my heart that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is set up and guided by Christ and that it can lead one to eternal happiness.
# # #
“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all (wo)men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”
-Joseph Smith, 13th Article of Faith
# # #
“And also those to whom these commandments were given, might have power to lay the foundation of this church, and to bring it forth out of obscurity and out of darkness, the only true and living church upon the face of the whole earth, with which I, the Lord, am well pleased, speaking unto the church collectively and not individually—”
Doctrine and Covenants 1:30
# # #
“We claim that God’s inspiration is not limited to the Latter-day Saints.”
-Elder James E. Faust
# # #
What happens when we inhabit the spaces between polarities, when we pull up on the fabric of truth and reason and slip under those dense heavy areas of bothness? It is like velvet under here. It adheres to your body and yet it is rigid and empty. It is a hug from a father who no longer feels the love he has for you. What happens when we decide to animate those gaps suspended in absence? Do we become fullness? Do we become unbecome? Do we became? Or do we
# # #
The best poetry is poetry where the lines are broken up and continued on the next line so it’s difficult to even read correctly in your head, let alone outloud. The stuff that is supposed to be broken up and difficult to read correctly in your head, let alone outloud. We pound it out into long, truthful lines that we can process and digest but forget that in the two or four times it takes us to actually read and comprehend the words, it is the act of confused synthesis which brings ambient meaning.
# # #
It’s a horrible thing to think that God leaves us mysteries because we aren’t able to comprehend the real truth.
# # #
The lack of truth is the truth, and I don’t know I don’t know I don’t know becomes the prayer being prayed always.
# # #
One time I told the person I loved the most in the world that I didn’t believe in God. It was hard to hide the fact that in admitting that I didn’t think God existed, I was admitting that God existed. You always affirm that which you deny.
# # #
The times in my life in which I’ve felt most like curling up in a ball and falling asleep are times in which I’ve never wanted anything other than to never fall asleep again.
# # #
If you see a Mormon missionary riding their bike, realize that they are probably 19 years old and will excitedly recount, when they return home at the end of their mission, how the most important thing they learned was that other people can teach them things. Realize that, in a lot of ways, these kids are waiting for you to help them be better people.
Elder “Moleman” Christman, the Original Unpaid Intern