Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The man in the mirror

I am of the opinion that government-run welfare is inefficient, curtails financial freedom, encourages laziness, and sometimes has the effect of exacerbating the differences between socioeconomic classes. By allowing themselves to be taxed instead of giving themselves, people lose the opportunity to actually serve others (which is extremely beneficial to both parties). They also rely on underpaid government employees to make decisions about how to use resources instead of using the intelligence and good judgment of billions of people around the world to make those decisions independently and wisely.

But, at least for the moment, we're much better off with government welfare. There are far too many people with far too little and if we cut the government programs, they'll starve and go without other necessities. Yes, there are many people who cynically take advantage of the system. But there are many people who depend on welfare for good and sufficient reasons.

I have similar feelings about gun control. The Second Amendment doesn't exist so we can hunt. It exists to guarantee that the country's military power rests with the people and not with a central government. The more restrictions we have on gun control, the further we are from that ideal. I'd like to get rid of guns entirely, but committing absolutely to nonviolence in any form ensures that those who don't have the same scruples are guaranteed to win as long as they're willing to start a fight.

The fact that the military has access to weapons that citizens may not own scares me. On the other hand, I don't believe that we have the moral maturity as a culture to use such weapons wisely. We're too unwilling to hold ourselves and each other accountable for the use of our weapons. More subtly, we're too unwilling to hold ourselves accountable for our angry words and for our unrealistic expectations. We're unwilling to do inconvenient things to ensure our own safety and unwilling to pay for outsourced security. And we're unwilling to come up with a viable solution for the mental health problems that exist in our country.

For the time being making some kinds of guns inaccessible is a reasonable compromise. But it isn't good enough. We need access to guns, but we need to change ourselves first.

All of this reminds me of a piece that Seth Meyers did on Saturday Night Live. His joke about the Facebook Like button hits close to home. Apparently, many of us believe that we can support candidates who promise to change the country for us. But they can't. We are the country. If the country is going to change, we have to do it. Each one of us. We can't wait for our elected officials to do it for us because that's simply not something that people can do. We need to give until government welfare becomes redundant. We need to elevate the way that we interact with each other so that violence, with or without guns, becomes unacceptable. We need to make wise, intelligent decisions on our own. We need to become so good that our government doesn't matter.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Stand still

I have a confession to make, which may compromise my nerd cred. I don't particularly care for Legos and I never really have. I could cite several reasons that I never cared for them, but I'm going to focus on the one that's applicable to this article. I'm about setting and achieving goals, but Legos aren't about building according to the instructions. They're a creative exercise and that has never really appealed to me. So even as a kid, I was fairly incapable of just playing for the sake of play.

My name is Petey and I get stuff done.

In years past, the things I hoped to accomplish were simple tasks. I could think of a goal, plan to do it, and do it before losing interest. My attention span has grown a bit, but the length of time it takes to accomplish something worthwhile has grown much more.

What's more, many of the things I hope for now are at least partially out of my control. I can save up to buy a house, but I can't control when a house that I actually want to buy will be on the market. I can go on dates but my actions won't necessarily instill interest in me (although they could certainly dispel that interest). I can drive carefully but can't do much about the other drivers who don't. The list goes on and on.

Working towards goals that are outside of my control is nothing new to me; to some extent or another, the success of our endeavors always depends on circumstance. So I've contented myself with working as hard as I can to do what I can do to encourage circumstance to cooperate with me and simultaneously trusting God to provide whatever is necessary. I also choose to trust that when I don't get something I've tried to achieve that I'll be better off without it.

Usually, I can do both of these things at once. In fact, I've become dependent on my ability to work towards goals. Most of the divine intervention that I've seen as I've tried to achieve things has been subtle direction towards things I can try to get where I'm trying to go.

But I've had a very frustrating week. I was talking about it with a friend and realized that, for at least one of my goals, there may be nothing I can do at the moment. This is only a small step up from giving up, which is completely out of the question.

Please forgive me if I seem melodramatic. I'm currently trying to cope with the fact that my primary method of dealing with the world isn't effective.

Fortunately, the way ahead is clear. I just need more faith. The best summary I know is in the Doctrine and Covenants, which I accept as scripture: "let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed" (D&C 123:17).

For me, the current application seems clear. I have done, for the time being, all that I can do to achieve some of my goals. In these facets of my life, it is now time for me to stand still. Standing still doesn't mean that stop trying entirely; I still need to give God every chance to bless me that I can. But it does mean that I stop beating myself up about it. And it absolutely means that I need to trust Him. In the past, trusting Him has always meant that I did what I could and believed that He would bless me. But now, I need to trust Him without some of that effort. And with that effort, I must also sacrifice the illusion of control. I have to square with the fact that it is not my efforts or abilities or determination that will provide the outcomes I seek but that, to the extent that I get what I want, it is due to His goodness.

This is going to be a big transition.