Sunday, April 24, 2016

Opposition.

In the Book of Mormon, a companion text to the Bible of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the prophet Lehi teaches his son,

"For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things."

I.
The concept of opposition in all things informs LDS doctrine and the LDS worldview. The typical reading of this phrase, as I have heard it used, is that we will be opposed in all we do, particularly the good things we try to accomplish. Life won't be easy. Things won't go your way. Opposition seems to mean dissent, resistance, adversity. Trials--another favorite word of Mormons.

I think this is a correct reading, to an extent. The first definition of opposition is "resistance or dissent, expressed in action or argument." We are taught and many, myself included, have experienced that the most difficult things happen to us when we are about to do things that will be for our greatest good. 

However, we seem to paint a one-sided picture of opposition. If there were this type of opposition in all things, it would sometimes thwart us in our bad choices as well as our good choices. Every time you were going to watch Netflix instead of doing your homework, for instance, the internet mysteriously stops working. If this does happen, as I'm sure it also does, we don't use the phrase opposition in all things to explain those situations. Situations that turn out "right" don't need to be explained.

Opposition in all things is what we say when things don't turn out. We all experience things we want not happening, at least some of the time. I submit that our cultural use of the doctrine of opposition in all things allows us to make sense of the unexpected and discouraging things that happen to us by assigning the "blame" for these events to opposition

II.
But there is another definition of opposition: "a contrast or antithesis."

For there must needs be, that there is an opposite to all things.

Opposites aren't inherently negative, as our reading of the word opposition is. An opposite of a purely virtuous principle or thing is evil, but regular opposites aren't. Like hot and cold or even and odd.

For everything, good or bad or in between, there is an opposite. Every thesis has an antithesis. For every reaction there is an equal and opposite reaction. This seems to be a law of the universe.

III.
So what does opposite really mean? "Having a position on the other or further side of something." Also, "diametrically different."

Diametrically is the adjectival form of the word diametric, which means "of, relating, or constituting a diameter."

A diameter is a line that connects any two points of a circle and also runs through the center point of the circle.


IV.
Let's put those pieces together. Across cultures, the circle is a symbol for totality, wholeness, perfection, and eternity. In line with this, let's let a circle represent Truth. That's capital-t Truth, the kind that in true throughout the known universe.

For any point on the Truth circle, there is a point directly opposite it that can be connected with a diameter that runs through the center. It runs through the center, or heart, of the Truth, linking the opposites, and making them opposites, instead of any two unrelated points on the circle.

So there is an opposition in all things. Literally. Because that's how circles work. You can't have a circle that doesn't have a diameter. That's also how Truth works. You can't discover Truth without considering and integrating opposites. The existence of the opposite does not break down the truth; rather that is what makes it Truth.

V.
If this reading of opposition in all things is workable, then it could have major effects on how we view God, political parties, ethical frameworks, and any scale or continuum which is considered to have two poles.

One example: in America, we are more polarized in our politics than previous generations were. Let's take helping the poor as an example. Liberals would generally like to help the poor at all costs, and advocate doing so by raising taxes and building large government programs. Conservatives would like the poor to be helped, but think that can occur best at the local level. Ideally, these people would learn to help themselves.

From a Christian perspective, both viewpoints can be supported. Jesus fed the 5000, but Paul later taught, "if any would not work, neither should he eat" (2 Thessalonians 3:10). Both points exist on the Truth circle; in fact, they are opposite each other.

How do we find the truth in any situation? Consider the opposites. Begin on one end and move across the diameter, through the center of Truth, to the other side. Once you have considered, integrated, and mastered the opposites, you have to power to implement the principle  of helping the poor in a way that is right for each individual situation. 


For more information on this topic, see "Opposition in All Things," Dallin H. Oaks, April 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

Fiction/Nonfiction.

One day in second grade, we were all sitting cross-legged on the carpet to review what we had been learning about fiction and nonfiction.

"Who thinks fiction is things that are true?" asked Miss Doughton.

I raised my hand confidently. I was the only one. Suckers, I thought.

"Who thinks fiction is things that aren't true?" asked Miss Doughton. 

Every other child raised their hand. I remember, in that moment, thinking about my poor peers' herd mentality. Lemmings, I thought.

"You're right, fiction is things that aren't true. Nonfiction is things that are true," Miss Doughton explained.

What? Not only was conscientious little me not used to being the only kid in second grade who was wrong, but also I had felt so confident!

See, my answer was the more logical. True things come first; made up things come second. Fiction is the basic term; nonfiction is defined in relation to it. True things should be called fiction, since they are the more basic. The fact that true things are characterized as not made up is absurd. Anyone without knowledge of the etymology of fiction would have come up with the same answer as me.

And you know what? I still stand by this. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

My Favorite Movie for Every Year I've Been Alive.

1991: Beauty & the Beast



Type of Favorite: My Favorite Disney
My birth year really gave me nothing to work with. But this always was one of my favorites Disneys growing up. You can still find me saying, "Flowers, chocolates, promises you don't intend to keep!" in a Cogsworth voice.
Runner Up: The Addams Family

1992: A River Runs through It


Type of Favorite: Former Obsession
Truth be told, I've never seen this movie all the way through, but I did have a temporary obsession with it sometime during my teen years  after it was on TV once. My romanticization of fly fishing still remains, probably.
Runner Up: Aladdin

1993: The Secret Garden

I for sure had a thing for Dickon as a child.

Type of Favorite: Lifetime Favorite
I've always loved this movie, from the opening scenes of exotic India to the shot of Dickon riding over the moor while the credits roll. Probably because the idea of building your own secret garden is right up my alley. Every time I hear the word black, I say, "Are you blind? They're all black!"
Runner Up: The Sandlot (A hard decision, for sure. The Sandlot has more cultural capital, but The Secret Garden means more to me.)

1994: Corrina, Corrina


Type of Favorite: Timeless
This movie is full of hilarious and touching details. And anything about midcentury America gives me heart eyes. I quote this nonstop, usually just to myself. "Please don't make me go to school, Corrina!"
Runner Up: Little Women

1995: Clueless




Type of Favorite: My Third Favorite Movie
This movie seems fluffy, but is actually genius. Just like Cher. I don't know how to put my love for Clueless into words, but I think I would watch it any time of the day or night. 
Runner Up: While You Were Sleeping

1996: The Crucible




Type of Favorite: My Favorite Favorite Movie
Betrayal, sin, honor, community, love, redemption. All with those grimy Puritan faces and those weird Puritan accents. If you had to read this in high school and hated it, give this movie another try. It's thrilling and moving.
Runner Up: Emma (Emma would have won, hands down, in almost any other year.)

1997: Seven Years in Tibet




Type of Favorite: If Me & My Sister Had a Movie, This Would Be It
I feel like I was always a little too young to watch this, but I did anyway. I still love Tibet to this day. My sister Katie makes us do this with our heads, even though I always get ticklish. It's our thing.
Runner Up: Selena


1998: You've Got Mail



Type of Favorite: World's Best Rom Com
It makes you glad the internet was invented, just so this movie could be made. Timeless. Chances are, if you say thank you to me, I will say, "Thank your, ladies and gentlemen." If the year 1960 comes up, I'll say, "Birdie was in love with Generalissimo Franco? It was probably around 1960!" And, like many women, everything I know about The Godfather is from this movie.
Runners Up: The Parent Trap, Ever After (This choice was excruciatingly difficult.)

1999: October Sky



Type of Favorite: Friday Night in with the Family
There's something so satisfying about watching the sophistication of their rockets progress through the movie. And what do I love more than the space race?
Runner Up: Toy Story 2

2000: Remember the Titans



Type of Favorite: Who Doesn't Like this Movie?
Let's talk about the perfect placement of the James Taylor song just before Gary's accident. Also, baby Ryan Gosling. And how often the phrases "I don't want to get to know him" and "Sheryl! Sheryl! I. Do. Not. Care." are applicable in real life.
Runner Up: Return to Me

2001: The Princess Diaries


Type of Favorite: My Inner 10-Year-Old Will Never Die
The Princess Diaries is a great girl power movie. Yes, a girl who says "Please don't crush my soy nuts" can be a princess just by being herself. Also, realizing that she's still herself even when she changes her hair. Anytime I'm wet, I'm like, "I am invisible, and I am wet." And any time a boy can play the guitar, it's, "He fixes cars, he plays guitar, and he can sing. He is so hot!"
Runner Up: Legally Blonde

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers


Type of Favorite: Only Action Movie on This List
The first one sets up the story; the third one wraps it up. The second one is the sweet spot. And I love the Anglo-Saxon character of Rohan. And I love Shadowfax.
Runner Up: A La Folie, Pas Du Tout

2003: Holes


Type of Favorite: The Perfect Movie for Any Mood
Just now, I was thinking, "Wait, there's a moral to this story, isn't there? Something about fate or treating people with kindness?" I honestly don't remember. I just love its absurdity. And the nicknames.
Runner Up: School of Rock (Such a hard choice for me.)

2004: A Cinderella Story


Type of Favorite: My Inner 13-Year-Old Will Never Die
In middle school, my best friend Jenn said she'd watch this movie on repeat and never get tired of it. In high school, I realized I felt the same way. My mom sent it to my my first year of college, and when I rewetted it, I was like, "This is the worst! I'm so embarrassed that I loved it." Now, I love it again. The circle of life.
Runner Up: The Village

2005: The New World


Type of Favorite: When You're Feeling Artsy & Mature
The world's slowest, most visually stunning film, which also happens to have the world's best soundtrack. The first shot of Christian Bale's face is halfway through through the movie, and you're like, "Finally, John Rolfe! Is it almost over?"
Runner Up: Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

2006: Glory Road


Type of Favorite: My Actual Favorite Inspirational Sports Movie
Maybe it's the setting in El Paso or the fact that black players and the white players don't just become friends, but they also win the championship by playing only the black players, but this one has always edged out Remember the Titans for me.
Runner Up: She's the Man

2007: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly



Type of Favorite: This Movie Will Restore Your Faith in Humanity!
I've only seen this movie once, but I didn't feel wrong picking it. A beautiful true story based on a beautiful true book. I wrote a blog post about it once. 
Runner Up: Freedom Writers

2008: Doubt



Type of Favorite: An Intellectual Exercise
I've only seen this once as well. It was a hard film to watch, to think through, to deal with afterward. Which is what made it so good.
Runner Up: None. (The other possibilities I had were 27 Dresses, Kung Fu Panda, and Twilight, none of which I can pick with clear conscience.)

2009: Fantastic Mr. Fox



Type of Favorite: Measuring Stick for People's Taste in Movies
I saw this in theaters with my aunts during Thanksgiving break my freshman year of college. I was dazzled by its joyful strangeness and the feeling that there was some great moral under the surface that I couldn't quite grasp. I often say to myself, "Who am I, Kylie? Why a fox? I'm saying this more as, like, existentialism, you know?"
Runner Up: He's Just Not That Into You

2010: The King's Speech



Type of Favorite: So Heartwarming I'm Not Even Mad That All Inspirational Historical Dramas Are the Same
Linguistics, friendship, and facing your fears. This movie combines my three favorite topics.
Runner Up: Megamind

2011: Geek Charming



Type of Favorite: Not-So-Guilty Pleasure
Yes, this is a Disney Channel Original Movie, but I'm not embarrassed. I love this movie in a nonironic way. It's based on the best teenage romance novel I ever read in high school. And Dylan's speech about friendship is legitimately inspiring: "It's not about being popular, or a geek. It's about having real friends who like you for you."
Runner Up: The Conspirator

2012: Lincoln



Type of Favorite: My Second Favorite Movie
My favorite actor playing my favorite man. I almost can't even. Also, Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is gold.
Runner Up: Pitch Perfect

2013: 42



Type of Favorite: Perfect for 4th of July Afternoon
Makes your heart swell for Jackie Robinson, and baseball, and America, and the goodness of good people, and the ability for bad people to become good people, or at least have good children who have good children. 
Runner Up: Safe Haven (The fact that this is a Nicholas Sparks movie says a lot about the quality of films produced in 2013. What can you expect when the #1 film was Frozen?)

2014: Interstellar



Type of Favorite: I Just Love Space Movies, Really
I waited so long to see this, and then I saw it in the middle of the afternoon in a nearly empty theater, which was perfect. I love dystopian futures and the stark, terrifying awe of space.
Runner Up: None. (Going to the movies is not my thing.)

2015: Love & Mercy



Type of Favorite: This Movie Was Made for Me
It was fate for me to see this. I stumbled across the trailer by accident and saw it in the dollar theater in its very last showing. The 60s, mental illness, love, music, John Cusack. Recipe for an instant classic.
Runner Up: McFarland, USA
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