Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Quilt I Won't Make

This last month, after spending sweat, tears and $14.00 in supplies to make a tiny jean picnic quilt, I realized that it's just not worth it. Which is a hard thing to realize when you consider that I've carefully saved, cut up, and moved my t-shirt squares to Texas on the hope that finally, finally I was going to make my sentimental college t-shirt quilt.

This is the face of my BYU physics professor. Someone in class did the art and collected quotes for the t-shirt.

Aw.....Divine Comedy t-shirt. The big pink one.

Turns out sentimentality is a pain. So I took pictures of the squares I cared about and then {wince, grimmace} threw them away. My great aunt Dona would maybe be disappointed, but probably not. I have a good job, I can buy blankets, and I get frustrated when they don't turn out, and even when they do turn out--they're just okay.

So there you have it. I don't have a t-shirt quilt. I just have the memories. What do you think? Is stuff just clutter? Do you remember better when you have physical evidence kicking around? What knickknacks do you let yourself keep and what do you toss?

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Famous People I Don't Know

Once I was crossing at the light and overheard a conversation ahead of me.

"Do you remember Sean Maher?"


"That hot guy from Firefly--the doctor."

"Oh yeah."

"I had such a crush on him and would totally be his girlfriend--but he's gay!"

"Oh no way! Dang it!"

I smiled to myself, but I really wanted to tell these girls: I don't think the thing keeping you from being Sean Maher's girlfriend is his sexual orientation. I'm not sure exactly which circles she runs in, but from the conversation, it doesn't sound like she is hanging out with Sean and his friends on the weekend, going to the fro-yo place, and playing Mario Kart in the dorm lobby. But then, we talk about celebrities, I think, as types.

  • Pink is the party girl with the heart of gold, the best friend from junior high you stick with even after you've become radically different people.

  • Kate Middleton is the bratty, but beautiful, old high school over-achiever that you kind of secretly hope will fail even while basking in her successes.
  • Britney's the hot-mess you stay hopeful for, the one who, every time something normal happens, you say, "She's just doing so well."

  • Lindsay Lohan is the hot-mess that you wish would have a talk with Britney Spears, who is descending into non-hotness, and who reminds you of trouble-cousins you keep away from the open bar at family celebrations.

  • Adele and Taylor Swift are both the girls you want to see settle into happiness, although their goodness and talent seem perceptually thwarted by bad luck and misturns.

These types become part of our conversation and our obsession because they are familiar to us. We can imagine how the types would react to certain situations, our sympathies extend to them according to our commitment to those types, and we can imagine ourselves as their girlfriends, friends, parents and siblings. In some ways, they work like the towering figures of the Trojan war: instead of repeat stories about Helen, Menalaus, Ajax and Odysseus, we tell repeat stories about Jennifer Afflack and Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise.

Now that's all very well and good for types, but what about actual celebrities? The ones who, as I write this on a Sunday morning, are asleep on the west coast, maybe snoring, maybe drolling, and on the the east coast maybe eating eggs, or flossing, or maybe flipping through the DVR. I know it's nothing new to say "Stars--they're just like us!" but they kind of are in a lot of basic ways. How odd that someone can be an archetype and a person at the same time.

Some people get weird when they meet a celebrity. I probably would if I knew they were a celebrity. But probably I wouldn't recognize them. If we were, like, on the bus together or they were walking down the street, I probably wouldn't go over and say hi because I don't say hi to random people on the bus or on the street. If we were, say, at a party standing by the punchbowl together, or in the grocery store trying to find out why the dried fruit section doesn't have cherries (answer: it's in the baking section), then I'd talk to them just like a regular person. Probably because I'm pretty face-blind and I can't connect someone out of context. I think my family may have this problem in general.

My sister worked in a resthome when she was in high school. One day, she was caring for a woman, when a man came in to visit his ex-mother-in-law.

"Oh, I'll be done in a minute," she said.

"Okay," he said.

"You looking really familiar," she said.

"I'm Robert Redford."

"No, that's not it," she said. "Did you ever teach at Provo High?"

"No, I'm Robert Redford."

She finished up and then went outside and recognized the name. Robert. Redford. Everyone in Provo has a Robert Redford story, but I don't know how many of them involve people denying him to his face.

So I don't think I could date or be friends with a celebrity as a celebrity. Maybe as a person. But in my mind, of course, the types of these celebrities are mirrored in many of the people around me.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Pig Man Coming Back

(I wrote a long email with friends about the Prodigal Son. It was so long that I'm repeating it here.)

Why are we talking like the prodigal son got shafted? He never got shafted; didn't his father tell him "Son, thou art ever with me and all that I have is thine"? This is huge because:
(1) "Son"--the Prodigal wanted to be a servant and was flummoxed that he got to be a son. Here the father reaffirms to the Other Brother that he is a Son; he's still got that honored role
(2) "thou art ever with me" There's a talk by Eld Eyring (I can't find it online, but it's in his "to draw closer to God" collection of discourses) where he talked about his mission companion. He had a companion who was, like, 70 years old, had been inactive for something like 50 of those. Little Eld Eyring was teaching a lesson on repentance and said something like, "you can repent and be just as good--isn't my companion just as good now that he's repented?" Anyway, later his companion said, "don't use me as an example. Yes, I know my soul is clean, but I lost a lot. I lost raising children in the church. I lost serving in many callings. I lost much revelation and comfort. So now I know I'm in good standing with God, but I'm not just as good as if I hadn't ever been inactive."
Same thing here, I think. The Prodigal had to endure many of the natural consequences of his sin, becoming destitute, lonely and hungry. We know he was homeless because he had to join himself as a lowest servant to have a chance at survival. We know he was friendless because "no man gave him." We know he was starving because he "would have" eaten husks, but even that he couldn't do (possibly because his master cared more for the pigs that for him). While the Father gives him a fatted calf and a party, he can't take away the years spent homeless, starving and lonely.

While I think the Other Brother is maybe exaggerating about never having had a kid with his friends, I'm pretty certain that his father (remember, who's so generous that he would give "bread enough and to spare" to his servants) never let the Other Brother starve. I'm pretty sure he enjoyed the bounty of the fruitful fields he was working, the safety of the house where the party was happening, and the constant support and company of the relations* and servants playing music and dancing inside. Most importantly, he enjoys the company of the Father being "ever with" him.
(3) "all that I have is thine" This is where the parable meaning and literal meaning part ways a little: in earthly inheritance, if you spent it, it's gone, and there's a set amount to go around; in heavenly economy, both sons can inherit "all that [the Father] hath." The Other Brother doesn't have to grudge his brother a fatted calf, because all the calves are his. And all the cows. And all the steers. And all the goats, pigs, parakeets, outhouses, tambourines, corkscrews, spare lumber, and abacuses (abaci?). He will become like his father, because he will be the owner of this great estate; the desire is that he will also become like his father because he will be generous and kind towards those who have erred and repented.

Even though I'm arguing that the parable promises more to the Other Brother than we think, I agree that Jon is absolutely right that this parable is really kicking the hypocrits to the curb, especially because we read that these parables about lost things all come after the Pharisees  criticize Christ for eating with alleged sinners. These are the ultimate tithes of mint and ignoring weightier matters inspirations. There's definitely a warning in how the story ends suddenly, as if Christ were saying, "Okay, here's what the Father says to the Other Brother--what are you guys going to say back to Him?"

*I'm betting there are plenty of sisters, cousins and in-laws implied in this story. Maybe the Other Brother even has a wife, or at least reputable options in the neighborhood.