One Eternal Round

“Happy New Year” – once upon a time, we all waited for March 25th to say that. Before that, Christmas Day was used as a new year’s day. In England and its empire, it wasn’t until 1752 that New Year’s Day was fixed on January first by an act of Parliament. Should you travel to other parts of the world, you will see different days chosen for a New Year’s Day. But one thing is clear, we humans appreciate cycles of time, and that reveals our connection to Heavenly Father.

“The course of the Lord is one eternal round.” That phrase is unique to scriptures in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it occurs five times in our scriptures. The first record of it is in Doctrine and Covenants section 3, as Heavenly Father counseled Joseph after the loss of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation.

1 The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
2 For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

We next see it in 1 Nephi 10, as Nephi reckons with the prophecies of his father:

17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.

Alma has two references: Chapter 7, as Alma speaks to the righteous people of Gideon about the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior:

19 For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight.
20 I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.

In Alma 37, it appears in Alma’s counsel to his son Helaman, as he entrusts the sacred records to him. Alma asks the question, “why were these records preserved?” and answers with:

12 And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.

Our last reference came in December of 1830, in a revelation about how the work of the Lord was to be done:

1 Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever.
2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.

In the Book of Abraham, we read of the governing cycles of the stars, how one rules above the other until we come to the cycle of the star closest to Heavenly Father. And as we take in the vastness of the universe, we must also see the grand rotations and revolutions of things going around each other and spinning on their centers. The spiral arms of our galaxy make their ways around the great gravitational center – our own sun is part of that celestial procession. Planets orbit their stars, moons their planets, and with them, seasons and events occur with regularity.

And if we are to be one with the Father, that means making our course into one eternal round, making a straight, eternal path and not straying from it. We may think of a straight path as one that goes out forever in a certain direction, never to return. But the curves of time and space mean that the straight path will come back to its starting point at the end of time. And what then? It is the eternal round, so there is no stopping on the path: time begins again, and the cycles of the stars begin anew even as creation regenerates itself. Think on that – we are asked to be good people willing to do service for one another in order to prepare us for participating in those grand eternal rounds of creation. If we do not volunteer for service here, if we do not minister actively to each other here, if we do not let our hearts be moved with godly compassion here, of what use are we on the great eternal rounds of the Heavenly Family we aspire to join?

We dwell in untruth if we think that great changes in life are needed only for the demons and devils among us. Great changes are also needed among us, the average sinners that constitute the myriads of human people, the children of our Heavenly Father. He knows us, each of us, and knows when we are striving to be one with Him in doing His work and when we are making up frail excuses to simply watch the world go ’round as others build up the Kingdom of Zion. “Happy New Year” to us in this church is something of a commandment – to make the new year a happy one through our willingness not just to show up at church events, but to make the days of our lives religious events as we tend to the needs of ourselves and others in building faith, repenting, making covenants, keeping covenants, preaching the gospel, redeeming the dead, strengthening the saints, and to serve the poor and needy. Those are the works, designs, and purposes of God. As we do them, we are fulfilling the prophecy that they cannot be frustrated and cannot come to naught. As we do them, we come out of our crooked paths, and make straight our way. As we do them, we become one with Heavenly Father, and make our course one eternal round. Happy New Year, go forth and make it one!

And that brings us to the matter of resolutions. Resolutions are typically a matter of making one’s self better. Let me suggest adding a resolution to better the self by bettering the world around the self. Heavenly Father has one aim, His eternal round of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. What can we do to join him in that eternal round? Whatever it is, let us resolve to do it!

More important than using inanimate tools to acquire more inanimate things for ourselves would be to use our thoughts, prayers, words, and actions to reach out to, connect to, discuss with, work with living brothers and sisters in the spirit of what Jesus Christ taught us to do with his life and work. We should frame our resolutions in light of how accomplishing them helps us to build up the Kingdom of Zion, to put ourselves in the same order as the planets and the stars, proceeding forward in the eternal round of God’s work. If we resolve to be more fit – let it be that we might live longer to do more of God’s work, starting now. If we resolve to be more financially ordered – let it be that we might be more able to give of what we have to aiding the poor among us. Put a celestial aim at the end of each resolution, make it something greater than the self, and in pursuing the larger goal, the smaller one will fall into place.

Like babies learning how to walk, we often stumble as we try to follow in the footsteps of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But they do not scold us and tell us to give it up, to make way for someone with better talents. They tell us to get up, be proud of the progress we’ve made, and to keep trying, to never give up. This life is for us to learn how to live not by our own rules, but in harmony with the rules of love, compassion, peace, hope, faith, and charity. The commandments are not harsh rules made to set us up for failure. They are important instructions about how to survive, how to keep our souls intact, given to us by a loving heavenly parent who sees what future is in front of us. If we forget to keep them or willfully disobey, that same, loving, heavenly parent is ready to forgive us if we become truly sorry for what we did wrong so that we walk more carefully, that we turn neither to the left or the right, but keep the straight path of the eternal round.

The work and designs of God will not be frustrated – so let us move in harmony with them. When we diligently seek the path to follow, we will find it – so let us study prayerfully the way to go with our lives. The more we trust in Jesus Christ, the more sure our steps on His path. There is great wisdom in noting the cycles of time we exist in and in making them sacred. We sanctify our weeks with the Sabbath Day: we sanctify our hours with prayers. We can sanctify our months with tithing and acts of service and temple attendance. We can sanctify our years with righteous resolutions. We can sanctify our minutes and seconds with acts of service and words of kindness. We can sanctify our decades with steady friendships and long-lasting forgiveness. In doing all those, we hallow out our lives that we spend on a spinning globe with a moon going around it as we travel around a sun that proceeds around the center of the galaxy that itself is bound on a path ordered by Heavenly Father, whose course is one eternal round. The cycles of time remind us all of who we are, children of a Father who wants us one day to be able to do the same as He has done, so let us rejoice in knowing who we are and what we should do with our time in each new year that comes to us, by the grace of our loving Heavenly Father.

A Reflection Upon Some Reading I’ve Done

The actions of my past are part of me. Like sediment, they build over time. They may impact me in the present moment and influence my decisions for the future, but they are not a prison. They do not completely predestine me, though I cannot avoid consequences. I will always reap what I have sown, but what I choose to sow next is not forced upon me. It is always my choice.

My hopes for the future are part of me. Hopes, however, are easily twisted into fears should I become caught up in a worry that the universe might produce an unjust, unbearable outcome. But those fears, I come to learn, are unjustified. There is no promise of a terror-free existence. There is no guarantee of justice in this world. The absurdity of existence, whether I read of it in Camus or Ecclesiasties, is all there will be. Fearing what will be because it will not be what it is not is – that is irrational. Life is unbearable when I expect it to be other than what it is. When I come to accept that things happen to people regardless of the goodness or badness of things or people, and that I am a person to whom things happen, I find that my fear of the future subsides.

Does my hope remain? It cannot remain, not by itself. It is a psychotic vision to hope alone. Hope must rest upon a realization that my present state permits me a capability to choose. My hopes must help guide my choices, in context of my life thus far. I have no reason to fear or dread when I accept that I always have capacity to choose.

Camus said of Sisyphus that we must suppose him to be happy. That is to say, any of us can be supposed to be happy when we know our own absurd situation and persist in making choices and efforts. I may suppose to hope for a better tomorrow, but am I realistic if I do not acknowledge that tomorrow, I am one day closer to my eventual death? Tomorrow may actually be the day I die, but why should I fear that? My experience is that, on the whole, most days – if not all of them thus far – I have not died. So I am free to live my life with an assumption that the choices I make today are of value and that they will give me something to reap tomorrow from what I sow today.

And what of disasters that could befall me? They will happen. I don’t know when or what form they manifest themselves in, but they will happen, and I will adapt. I will cope. I will persevere. Sisyphus pushes his rock up the hill and, upon reaching the summit, the rock rolls back to the base of the hill. So what? Sisyphus simply walks down the hill to labor again. His work is futile only if we fear for a future that does not exist for him. His work may have no meaning, but it is only a punishment to him if he chooses to dwell upon his fate with dread. One could suppose a Sisyphus who, over time, accepts that his life is what it is. He accepts that there is nothing better and nothing worse ahead of him: existence for him is what it is. Why not accept the absurd, the wheel of fortune, the blur of life as a given and fear not?

Our ability to choose means the past is not a prison and that our future is not a trap. All things happen to all people, so why anguish over the absurd illogic of existence? Instead, let us accept that we exist, that we can do things that we choose to do, and that we, like Sisyphus, can be supposed to be happy when we find choices that develop a meaning for our lives that extends beyond the mortality of our earthly existence. Such a meaning is a matter for another discussion. But I can see a way in which Sisyphus, in his mind, is not being punished in a hell, but may have found a gateway to heaven.

The Parable of The Paradise of All Knowledge

The basic story goes like this: four people of great learning enter the paradise of all knowledge. As each takes in the totality, one dies, one goes mad, one rebels and fights to destroy the knowledge, and only one takes it all in and survives. That person then returns to the world of humanity to teach by word and by example.

In my reading of this story, I see a deep wisdom: I am one of those people, and I do not know which one I am. I suppose if I am not ready to leave behind the things of the world to teach peace and love by word and example, then I am one of the other three, incapable of handling the whole of knowledge and truth, incapable of being in the presence of G-d. I use the form G-d, as this story comes to me from Jewish tradition, and I wish to observe how some in that faith render that name so as to show it respect.

And while some beliefs allow me a clear pathway to heaven, not a one writes a guarantee that I am capable of being in the presence of G-d, to know as G-d knows, as an unprepared human being. Any belief that calls upon me to make that journey to the paradise of all knowledge does so with a caution that I have much to change in how I live and think and act in order to be ready for that ultimate revelation, that it not consume me. And then, once having attained that knowledge, I become even more different from the natural human I was at birth and through most of my life.

For I read the story to understand that those who die, who go mad, who rebel against truth, all them were unready to abandon the ends that they desired so that they could live only according to righteous means, even if it led to their worldly perishing. They were unwilling to be as compassionate as they needed to be. They did not welcome the ideals demanded of us when we understand the whole of the truth and knowledge of the universe.

All around me, I see people caught up in arguments about this or that, and at times I become caught up in them, as well. And, in the moment I argue, in the moment my hatred rises even a little bit, in that moment, I start to wonder if I am a dead man, a mad man, or a man who makes war against G-d. Because, in that moment of anger and contention, I am not a man who teaches peace and love by word and by example.

I am yet alive and I can yet re-think my ways, repent so that my reactions are different the next time I see a contention around me. If I want to be the kind of person who takes in all knowledge and survives to teach, then I must work at being a person who behaves as such a teacher even before I enter into that knowledge. It is not enough to show a checklist of things I never did and another list of things I no longer do. The lack of evil does not make us good. It must instead be a list of things I did where I made sacrifices in faith and love so that others would have better lives and hopefully themselves begin to prepare to become teachers themselves.

I have much yet to do with my life. May I draw breath and think clearly long enough to make as much preparation now for the knowledge that is to come. May I give thanks to my fellow humans of the Jewish faith, for they have been a light of wisdom unto the nations.

A Desire to Believe

Sometimes, people ask the question, “Do you have proof that there is a God?” My answer is yes, but it’s a personal proof. It’s not something I can trot out and point at and say, look, see, this is proof of God. It’s inside me, but is a result of an experiment I did before and frequently repeat.

The experiment is simple. I desire to believe and let my heart reach out in love for anything receptive. I feel the love coming to me from an unseen source and follow up on that with further faith, prayer, fasting, and study. Other things follow, and I have before me, in my heart and mind, the proof of a loving God that encompasses all of humanity, all of space, all of time.

COVID-19 in 2022

I came home from travel a few days ago. I was feeling pretty sick and though I had credited the sniffles I had to allergies, a slight fever I’d had the night before made me think it was possibly a bad cold, potentially the flu. But my wife told me to take a COVID test and it came back positive. So I got COVID-19 in 2022.

The strange thing is that this run of COVID is very much like a sickness I had back in March of 2020, but tested negative for COVID then. So did that test in 2020 have a false positive? Did I have a strain that the test then couldn’t detect? Was it all part of a massive government disinformation plot? Whoa, there… that last one is a bit of a jump, isn’t it? Probably a false positive or a strain we didn’t know how to check for.

As it was, the onset of my illness in March of 2020 was brutal. For me, it hit hardest in my GI system. After that, I had congestion develop and a shallow, dry, annoying cough if I spoke too much. I felt tired and had dizzyness.

September 2022 saw me with symptoms that came on much more mutedly – thankful for that – but still echo what I had in March of 2020. I had some GI trouble, but nothing as dramatic as March 2020. Everything else is pretty much the same.

I had no vaccinations in 2020. In 2022, I had had a full set of initial vaccinations plus two boosters, with the last one in April, about five months ago. But the vaccinations themselves aren’t as effective in preventing the current strains, although I’m happy to credit them for making those initial symptoms less severe. Very happy for that. I’ve got no shortness of breath or other indicators of something more severe happening, and I’m very thankful for that, as well.

There’s a line from a Marx Brothers movie in which Groucho plays a doctor. Someone questions his experience and Groucho declares he was involved in the influenza epidemic. When his detractor asked what he did, Groucho said, “I got the flu!” Well, along the same lines, I was involved in the COVID pandemic… I got COVID. 🙂 For me, it’s nothing serious in terms of symptoms, but it’s also something to keep an eye on. It’s a new disease and there is still much to learn about it. In my case, it’s mild enough to treat with OTC medications and I’m fine with that. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to go out and about some time next week. Until then, I keep an eye on my work email and the other eye on a game, YouTube, or a streamed show.

Flight Safety

I have to fly to and from my home office pretty regularly. Being a tall guy, I like seats with extra legroom so I don’t get crushed into tiny pieces. Those seats are either in the front of coach or on the exit row seats. I like to get aisle or window before I take a middle seat and overall, I favor the forward seats.

I also walk with a cane because I have balance issues on uneven ground or if I stand in an area for a long period of time, like over 15 minutes of standing in a go will be really hard on me. I can walk quickly and have no issues lifting or doing short bursts of high activity in a small space, such as if, oh I don’t know… had to assist in an exit row.

So one day, I’m going to sit in an exit row because the window seat was there and not further forward. The gate attendant notices that I’m in an exit row and I have a cane. He jumps to an assumption and questions if I can properly handle exit row duties. I assured him that I could, but he was still on the fence about it. He shrugged it off finally and left it a matter for the flight attendants to adjudicate.

That made me want to know more about how exit rows work.

That led to a search for any documentation on airplane evacuations and, surprisingly, there is hardly anything on the subject. What there is gave me a fascinating read:

Critical to exit row functionality is the ability to judge whether or not a running engine, fire, or debris makes the exit safe. Right up with that is the ability to follow instructions from the flight attendants on whether it is a debarkation – where all passengers leave via the front and rear exits – or an evacuation, where wing exits are involved. Flight attendants are also supposed to be in communication with the flight crew so that they can coordinate the safest debarkation or evacuation possible. Neither of these criteria are assessed or enforced. There was one incident, for example, where 5 of the 6 persons in an exit row were either too frail to operate the door – they were over 70 – and another three did not speak English well, which was the language the flight attendants were using to direct the evacuation.

Instead, the primary aim in filling those seats is monetary, for the airline. The seats cost more and those who buy them are placing their comfort above other concerns. I confess that I buy them with comfort in mind, but always with the intention to fully discharge my duties as an observant exit row passenger. Now that I’ve read the linked document, I feel even more prepared and committed to my future as a conscientious exit row passenger.

But there’s still that monetary matter. Seats have shrunk over the years and there have been little or no studies of the impact of tightly-packed seats and narrower aisles on safety. We have opinions from the NTSB and FAA OIG that studies are needed and that they suspect passengers and crew are less safe with denser seating in play. Safety tests on these planes we fly were often done long ago and with fewer occupants and wider arrangements than what we have now. We need to know if we are now less safe because of decisions made to change the plane configuration without testing it. I have to ask, where’s the priority, here, money or safety?

Flight crew safety is another matter – sometimes, those planes are being delayed because the captain and his crew are trying to get something to eat. First class eats better than the flight crew. They get worked to the maximum on their shifts and permitted rest breaks as law and regulation demand. I wish it was otherwise. Something in me wants a fresher, better rested crew in charge of putting me into the air and back on the ground safely.

Putting the money issue back into play, alcohol is freely served to exit row passengers. Some expect it because a complimentary alcoholic beverage goes with the seat class. There have been exit row passengers who consume enough alcohol to the impairment of their ability to clearly reason, and yet, there they are, with passenger safety in their hands. I’m not comfortable with that. Personally, I do not drink alcohol, so I feel even more strongly about my capability to function in an emergency as an exit row passenger.

Which means, next time a gate attendant looks at my cane and questions my exit row assignment, I’ll be able to plainly lay out my case. I won’t need to be difficult or preachy about it, just state my case plainly and honestly. Then I make the suggestion of having exit row passengers pledge to not consume alcohol and pass a limited language test in which they respond correctly to phrases such as “throw the door on the wing after you remove it.” If they’re really concerned with safety – and the man looking at my cane was concerned, and I commend him for that – they’ll add those to the visual scanning for physical capability. They’ll also add a verbal briefing from the flight crew on operating the exits, as that makes the exit row passengers better-off at handling emergencies. If they’re not concerned with safety, then there’s no need to apply any sort of discriminatory test to passengers in the economy plus seats that happen to be next to wing exits.

Myself, I can operate the exits better than ever before, now that I’ve read up on the topic. You want a passenger like me in your exit row, I can guarantee that.

On Toxic Workplaces

I just finished annual training that included a segment on how to not have an abusive workplace. Having worked in abusive workplaces before, it gave me pause to think.

The advocated response, “go to HR with your issues” is not one I’m 100% on board with. HR’s job is to protect the company, not you personally. Feel free to do so, but don’t expect it to save you from abuse.

You have a right to not be treated with abuse in your workplace, so when you find yourself in a toxic environment, don’t panic. Slow down your thinking and plan your exit. I have never seen anyone fired for being an abusive person: they are not going away, so you need to get moving to a new place where the abuser you know doesn’t work. Update your resume, start applying for new roles, and expect a few weeks to months of looking before you are free. In the meantime, you have power to take sick days, vacation, and to do the minimum for your job. Save your best efforts for a non-toxic environment that will appreciate them.

If you contact HR, let them know that you plan to leave because of the toxic environment. If they’re worried about legal blowback, they won’t fire you and they may very well transfer you to another group. If you get the transfer, you are lucky in that you now have a quieter place to work until you get the new job. You’re still a marked person at that firm and your career is at an end there.

DO NOT POST COMMENTS ABOUT YOUR EMPLOYER ON LINKEDIN. There are software tools that can flag comments for potential bad PR and that move will just make that toxic environment even more so. I don’t have my employment connected to my FB, so I’ll post here about that sort of thing. My current employer is great and I really love the culture there. I know of many other places to work that have a strong, supportive, and inviting culture where people really do work well together. I’ve seen the places and know they are out there. That’s the good news. If you’re not at one of those places yet, then keep looking, you’ll find one.

But if you’re currently at an abusive workplace, don’t blame yourself. Don’t believe in the myth of the personality conflict. It’s not up to you to make where you work a better place. It’s up to you to get out of the abuse and to a different place that has a chance of being better than the one you left.

Memorial Day 2022

Memorial Day.

Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who fell at home due to mental health issues. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who struggled with lost limbs, lost eyes, burned bodies, organ damage, and brain injuries the rest of their lives. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who were lynched because they were a different color and believed that wearing a uniform gave them some kind of equality in this nation. Let us remember the soldiers who did not fall in battle, but who struggled to fit back into civilian life after seeing what they had seen and doing what they had done.

Let us remember the soldiers whose spirit of civic duty of self-sacrifice to make the world better is a spirit we all should aspire to, that there may be no more war among us again. There is an ultimate hope in the calling of a soldier: a hope that, through one’s discharge of duty, there may come a day where we ask no more for soldiers, that service no longer consumes one’s life, whether on the battlefield or in the years that follow the battlefield.

Memorial Day.

The Right Time to Start Talking About Gun Control

Now is not the right time to start talking about gun control. The right time to talk about it was probably September 7th, 1949, after 13 died in the Camden, New Jersey shootings. So, if we’re late to the conversation, we should still have it.

The Second Amendment was created not for national defense or for personal defense, but to allow states to have their own militias to suppress slave rebellions, out of fear that a federal army made up of troops from states opposed to slavery would not assist in suppressing slave rebellions. Following the Civil War, the emphasis shifted to maintaining White control of economics and politics through exclusive access to firearms. Whenever Blacks or Hispanics defended themselves from White mobs with firearms, they were swiftly and surely prosecuted and punished by Whites for daring to disturb the White supremacy.

At its roots, the Second Amendment has always, always been about racial oppression and inequality. There is mythology and propaganda placed around it to obscure those roots, but let us deal in truth. It is a legacy of America’s slaveholding past. It continues to be a right that has a “Whites Only” ring to it all too often for it to be a truly universal right. The solution to America’s gun violence problem is to first acknowledge that we no longer have any danger of a slave rebellion and that we want all people to live in freedom, safety, and equality. Then we acknowledge that it is still possible to have personal weapon ownership, but with restrictions. There are dozens of examples around the world of democratic, peaceful nations that have both regulated personal weapon ownership and murder rates much lower than in the USA.

That’s not to say that murders and gun violence are non-existent in nations with regulations. It’s that the gun violence is at a much, much lower rate. Imagine what it would be like here if, instead of having 17 mass shootings in the last 10 days that took 33 lives and hospitalized 76, we had only one? I’d rather none, but one instead of 17 is a start. In the last 10 *years*, Germany has had only 21 killed and 65 hospitalized as a result of mass shootings, and they permit regulated personal weapon ownership.

When, in our nation, we have lost more in 10 days than another has lost in 10 years, we have to confront our present with a realization that we have built up walls of illusions about weapon ownership that prevent us from seeing the truth and the better place we can be if we begin to have the conversation that should have started 73 years ago… or even before that… but we need to have the conversation and we need to be willing to compromise from all-or-nothing stances to find a solution that will work for reducing America’s gun violence. We have to believe in and have hope that such a solution can be found, and that it can be lasting. We have to be ready to shed our idols and happy illusions so that we can be comfortable with the truth as our chief tool that will build the future we want to live in.

I don’t want to exclude anyone from the conversation: even if you’re a White Supremacist, it’s time to have the discussion about reasonable regulations on personal weapon ownership, along the lines of any of the dozens of other democratic nations that have implemented them with success. We can look to Australia, Germany, Canada, Norway, Switzerland, Israel, Japan, UK, France, Belgium, Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, and many others. When we make peace our path, a better world is our destination.