Sunday, November 11, 2012

Thoughts from TED

Have you ever heard of TED? TED is a conference held a few times a year, as I understand with the worlds political and thought leaders, at least that's what they've claimed. :) Hundreds, if not thousands of fascinating talks have been compiled which include many of the world's most interesting people discussing topics they are passionate about. Professional comedians to PhD's take the stage at TED and it's all pretty cool and fascinating. Gill and I have wasted hours watching these talks.

We recently watched a TED talk by "Eat, Pray, Love" author Elizabeth Gilbert. I have not read her book yet, but found her talk quite fascinating. Watch it on a Sunday afternoon when you are more likely to have 20 minutes, unless you're the second counselor of a bishopric: Gilbert spoke on the topic of genius, how the ancient Greeks believed that someone who created or did something amazing was not inherently brilliant in and of themselves, rather their skill or lack their of was attributable to their genius, what they believed was an unseen whisperer of secret knowledge and inspiration. Gilbert then explained how over time, especially during the Renaissance, the world came to slowly replace this with the concept that a person succeeds or fails based on their own powers and talents.

Gilbert said that she believed that this new model was a mistake and that she felt there was more truth to the Greek model of genius. She based this opinion on her own experience in writing. Often, she felt that information was given by an outside source as she was struggling to solve a problem. Later, she began directly addressing this source and asked it to give her the information her creative work required. I have often felt the process of obtaining inspiration has been similar for me, and I see God as the knowledge giver.

As an example, I remember working on my capstone research project as a history student. My capstone class covered middle eastern studies and my class had only four people including myself, so unfortunately my professor afforded each of us a lot of personal attention and the lofty expectations. He expected that we would each produce a 25-50 page research paper. Yikes! To even begin such a daunting journey I had to have a research idea, and sadly I had just come down with "historian's block", a distant cousin to the ailment more commonly contracted by writers and other creative types. This wasn't just my diagnosis: my professor held no qualms about bluntly informing me that all my ideas stank. Day after day I wrestled with this problem until I found myself with absolutely nothing and my topic proposal was due the next morning. I went to bed and prayed for help with the kind of fervor that imagine comes only to those who know they will die tomorrow.

And my prayer was answered: I don't remember inspiration or an answer to prayer coming to me in quite this way before, but that night I dreamed of an amazing research idea. It was such a good idea that I remember thinking it couldn't have come from me. The dream was so vivid, (which is saying a lot since this was an answer to a research problem) and I saw every point I needed to include from start to finish. I then woke up at 7:00 am and began writing everything I dreamed down on paper. One hour later I had a topic proposal printed and ready for my meeting with my professor. I was shocked by my professor's reaction: it was the first time he had ever praised my work and he said it was apparent I had spent a lot of time developing my research topic. What he didn't know, and what I was too embarrassed to admit was that I had only put hand to keyboard less than an hour earlier. 

Unfortunately, I don't seek this kind of revelation often enough, but I was reminded again how much easier life would be if I had a constant flow of this kind of useful and relevant information. It turns out that I was laying in bed tonight and "my genius" began talking to me again telling me some really useful things--it was a nice reunion. (Uncle Mike would suggest I get my head examined, lay on his couch, or both.) 

As a side note  I'm definitely an internet addict, and I think this is due in part to the fact that I have come to believe, somewhat naively that the answers to all of life's questions can be found via Google. I have often sat here, at my desk, clicking and re-clicking my three favorite web links (Gmail, Slickdeals, GoogleNews . . . Gmail, Slickdeals, GoogleNews), hoping that something would penetrate my skull, inspire me, or motivate me. Sadly the internet is somewhat lacking when it comes to getting good, relevant information to the really tough questions. Strangely, we live in the "Information Age" but so much information is, in fact, misinformation and exhausting to sift through. Some of the best answers to my questions have come to my mind in the quiet of the night when I can't remember when I prayed for help, or even what I prayed for, but I realize that the information I'm receiving is something I need to remember and act on, so I write it down, and thank God for telling me.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

George's First Testimony

Hi Everyone,

I wanted to share a special experience about George. Today in the testimony portion of Sacrament meeting, after three people bore their testimonies George whispered to Gill, "I want to bear my testimony." Gill was a little nervous because George has a pretty strong vocabulary and sometimes has "interesting" ways of expressing himself. Consequently Gill asked George what he wanted to say.  After the person speaking sat down George shouted, "It's our turn!" and the congregation giggled. Gill reminded George that when we bear testimony we only say special things at the pulpit.

Gill brought George to the pulpit and nervously admitted to the congregation that this was a first for George. She held George and leaned forward bringing his mouth close to the microphone.

George said: "I love God . . . My mommy and daddy love me very much . . . The gospel is so cool . . . The gospel helps me to learn the right way . . . Amen!"

Between each phrase Gill encouraged George and asked if he had anything else to say.

Several people came up to George after church and commented how much they enjoyed his testimony. It was short, simple and sincere. Gill also mentioned that in the Bishop's lesson in Relief Society, he discussed George's testimony with the class and it was neat to hear how it helped many people feel the spirit.

We are proud of George for having the courage and desire to share his feelings with people he doesn't know.


George (The first time he bore his testimony) November 4th, 2012

I just wanted to add my feelings about this experience.  This morning we contemplated not attending church because George is showing some signs that he is getting sick...mostly the dreaded disaster know what I'm talking about.  We also had missed church last Sunday because on the whole we were not feeling well then either.  As we discussed our options we came to the conclusion that we were less worried the bishop would think we were going inactive and more concerned with not having our desperately needed spiritual weekly uplift, so for the first time in I can't even remember, we miraculously made it to church ON TIME and I must say, even looking clean and nice...did I mention it was miraculous?  We even made it early enough to sit in a cushioned pew...don't worry it was the last row.
As per usual all sound in the chapel was coming from our pew mostly in the form of Ollie gurgling and babbling much more than usual and the unwrapping of starbursts for George who was chanting about his desire for a snack.  (To give a little bit of perspective George is the oldest kid in our ward and often the only one in nursery).  I feel like Nate and I have grown accustomed to the background noise of our kids while trying to hear the sacrament talks and testimonies but most of the time George seems rather oblivious.  Normally I like to say things like "oh did you hear that?!" (with excitement) "they are talking about baptism..." (etc.)  Today however, as Nate mentioned above, George (upon being reminded that people were speaking at the pulpit) declared his intention to share his own testimony.  When George said this I had mixed emotions...we had not recently had a talk with him about getting up and bearing his testimony or anything, or how to do it, what is appropriate to say or anything.  I think the major lesson that George has gleaned from sacrament meeting is that the people speaking at the pulpit are saying something "really important"...mostly because that is my major tactic for getting him to listen, which by the way seems to rarely work.  I reminded George that we only say really special things at the pulpit, and George was confident that was what he would do.  I suppose my emotions were mixed because I did not want to tell him what to say, being eager myself to hear his testimony, but also worried something about farts or santa clause would be born into the microphone.  George and I walked hand in hand up the aisle as most turned and smiled at us and I whispered "here we goooo."  George of course then spoke confidently to the congregation of adults, his testimony.  It is hard to explain what I felt as George declared his love for heavenly father, that he knows his mommy and daddy love him very much, and that the gospel helps him to choose the right.  I of course had a few tears rolling down my face by the end and bore a testimony of my own.
In relief society the bishop taught the lesson and started it by asking everyone their thoughts on George's testimony and how it had brought a strong spirit to the meeting.  The bishop then went on to say how priceless George is to his mother and wanted to remind us that God loves us even more than that.  So often I think of my love for my boys and how powerful that feeling is and how imperfect I am.  I then compare it with God's love for us (his children) and how powerful and perfect that love is for us.  Thank you again to my boys for reminding me of this eternal truth.
Love, Gillian
George and Mommy after church on Fast Sunday (November 4th, 2012)