Saturday, November 27, 2010

Dancing Through Life

A missionary in my ward, Elder Englund, had a t-shirt that he would wear to service projects. It had a picture of a big, square-jawed cartoon man on it, and the words “Bring Me the Horizon.” I asked him once what the square-jawed man was from. “I dunno, I just like what the shirt says!”

I played around with this phrase for a few months, and finally decided to adopt it as a sort of personal motto. I say it to myself whenever I run: Bring me the horizon. I will run far and fast and hard, and I will reach out and take it. (Don't ask me what “it” is. I don't know either).

One of the requirements for the old Duty to God program was to run 6 miles in an hour or less. When I attempted this I was woefully unprepared, and I powered through it on nothing but adrenaline and willpower—there was very little muscle involved in the process. Around the 4th mile I thought I was about to collapse, and I started a continuous pep talk to keep myself moving. Jason! Keep running! Go, don't stop, keep going, take that horizon, give it everything you have and then give it everything you don't, just don't stop running!

I made it. Fifty-one minutes four seconds. Kind of a pathetic time for a 10k, but it still makes me happy to think that I finished.

Right now I'm at college. Nowhere in BYU's “Requirements to Graduate” does it mention running; my challenges here are different. Here my training isn't for a six mile run but for a chemistry midterm. But still, as I walk into the testing center with a small stack of scratch paper in one hand and my trusty TI-84 in the other, my mindset is the same. Come on! bring it on! I'll take this test, I'll make it bow down and admit my mastery, I'll show it who's boss. Bring me the horizon!

And yet everything is not the same. When I see the small black numbers on the screen I feel not the giddy post-run euphoria I felt after running six miles, but an aching disappointment. That's it? That's my great achievement? That is the result of my weeks of work, preparation, endless effort?

One of my favorite songs (it's #1 on the “Top Ten List of Songs Jason Sings in the Shower,” if you were curious) is “Dancing Through Life,” from the musical Wicked. It is a fun song, with a catchy tune.

Fiyero, who later becomes the scarecrow, sings this song as he arrives at his new school. “Life is painless for the brainless,” he sings, trying to convince his classmates to lighten up and forget about schoolwork. Great message, right?

So while it is one of my favorite songs, I tend to laugh about it in the way I laugh about a dog chasing its tail or my 10 year old sister telling me she is taller than me.

When I was preparing my schedule for my first semester of classes in college, I asked my older sister's opinion as to what I should take. “Take a dance class,” she advised. “Social dance is a good one to start out with.” I added it to my schedule.

I guess I owe my sister a debt of gratitude, because it turns out that I absolutely love dancing. It is one of my passions, my joys, maybe even as much as singing is my passion and my joy. When I dance I feel happy, I feel smooth, I feel confident and accomplished and a little bit sexy. When I dance I feel right.

One day as I was singing Dancing Through Life, I thought about the dancing that I do—the elegant Foxtrot, the stately Waltz, the savvy Cha Cha. A thought came to me in the way thoughts often do, complete and powerful. Maybe... maybe there are other meanings to the phrase “Dancing Through Life.” Maybe for me it doesn't mean acting like nothing matters, it means moving through life with the grace, the control, and the flow that I feel when dancing.

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense. When I say “Bring me the horizon,” when I attack the world like a foe to be vanquished, I will most likely end up flat on my butt. The world has been here a lot longer than I have; it isn't going anywhere just because I start banging on it with my toy sword. But if I move through the world with grace and with control, with precise movements and exact steps, then I will actually do things, I will be able to accomplish what I desire and make lasting changes and...

Wait a second, I'm forgetting something—I'm not a very good dancer. I stumble. I trip over my own feet. I forget the steps, I lead the wrong way, I lose my focus and my cool and I fail. Is this the way I want to dance through life, stumbling and falling? No! But how can I do it any other? How can I become the person I want to be, how can I change the very world, if I trip over my own feet?

Then I remember. I was not the one sent to change the world, but to be an instrument in the hands of the one who was. There is a Master Dancer (to give Him another name), and He never trips, He never falls, He moves with perfect grace. If I fall, He can catch me. If I stumble, He can set my feet right.

And so I was wrong on two accounts: first I thought I must attack the world, I must conquer it, I must make it bow down to my will. Next I thought that I would dance through it expertly, gracefully, moving with the rhythm and music of the universe.

If I fight, I lose; if I try to dance on my own, I fall.

And so we go, not I alone, but we together. He and I. The Master Dancer and his pupil.  

Friday, November 26, 2010


That's a really un-cliche post title, isn't it? It's also a day late, but we didn't have internet at the barn.
Anyway, here 'tis. 

I am thankful for my family. For my mom, who is so insightful. My dad, who is wise (and both of them were willing to get up at 2 in the morning when I needed someone to talk to). My older sister, who is so amazing and helped bus me up to Idaho for Thanksgiving Break. My brother-in-law, who is to my sister what I want to one day be for my wife. My brother Josh, who is hilarious. My brother Jared, who is a cool dude. My sister Rachel, who is adventurous. My sister Jenna, who is creative. 
I am thankful for my friends. Friends I have now, and friends of the past. Hey, I'm thankful for future friends, too.
I am thankful for BYU, an amazing school with a great purpose and a strong spirit. 
I am thankful for books of all kinds.
I am thankful for cars, even though I don't have one right now. 
I am thankful for music, that I can make some of it and that I can listen to so much more.
I am thankful for tender mercies--things that don't have to happen, but do anyway. 
I am thankful for this incredibly beautiful world I live in.
I am thankful for wise teachers and mentors.
I am thankful for good food.
I am thankful for games, and for laughter.
Most of all, I am thankful for my Savior, who died that I might live. 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Note: the pictures have nothing to do with the subject of this post. I'm in a random mood. Don't judge.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It Will Far Surpass Anything We've Seen...

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

I am sitting in a bus right now, bound for Rexburg, Idaho. The roads look completely white, although it has stopped snowing—an hour ago there was so much snow coming down that people running from a gas station to the bus got here with a layer of snow in their hair half an inch thick. And to think, in North Carolina we consider it a good year if we get half an inch of snow over the entire year.

This afternoon at about 1 oclock, BYU sent out a message to all students with news of a major storm coming; a storm that “will far surpass anything we've seen, probably for the last several years.” My mom texted me anxiously: “There's a big storm coming. Make sure to pack a blanket and lots of water for the bus ride up.”

A blanket and water? For a bus ride? The only reason I can think of for needing more than a jacket would be if the bus was snowed to a stop and we spent some time sitting on the side of the road... in the middle of nowhere... Slightly nervous, I mentioned to my roommate and his sister that I was taking the Salt Lake Express up to Rexburg in a few hours.

My roommate's sister's response was blunt. “You're screwed!”

Getting quite nervous at this point, I ran to the creamery and bought a loaf of bread to make sandwiches and a bag of trail mix (the sandwiches were good. Haven't made it to the trail mix yet). I packed the blanket off my bed into my suitcase along with an extra bottle of water.

My greeting upon boarding the bus was encouraging. “Hey good, you're the last one here. There's a big one coming and all the roads are closing down, but we'll get you through somehow!”

And so we began. On to the airport. Past the airport to a gas station where they transferred us to another bus after we stocked up on more snacks and water. After sitting on the bus for a few minutes, the driver poked his head back in the door. “Change of plans! We're going back to the other bus, we have to go back to the airport to pick up some people and they won't all fit in here.”

We left the airport for the second time a few minutes ago. The roads are closed ahead of us, but we are going to “hope they open fast, because we're waiting until they do.” Estimates at our ETA are 10-14 hours.

I was talking to the girl sitting in front of me about how great a 14 hour bus ride would be. “Yep,” she said, “Just changed my Facebook status to 'the adventure begins'...”


The storm was kind of a dud.

Sure, there was a lot of snow, but we never had to wait for a road to open, and our only real delay was going back to the airport the second time. We got to Rexburg a little after 12; still 2 hours late, but not 6 hours late like I was expecting.

Truth be told, I'm kind of bummed! I was ready for this storm--it would have made a great story to tell my kids someday.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Of Video Games and Killing Fish.

"This morning when I woke up I decided I would do nothing but play video games all day. Nothing."
"So you played video games for 12 hours straight?"
"Oh, more than that, easy!"
I give him a high five. "That's pretty impressive!"
He mumbles over his shoulder as he walks away: "Yeah, it's hard work..."

"So, what do fishermen do?"
He answers, leaning nonchalantly against his seat. "Well, first they bait their hook, then they catch a fish, then they kill it. But we don't usually talk about that last part in the analogy with missionaries..."

(These are different He's, just fyi.)

"So... you laugh and use big words?"
I think my entire personality just got summed up in six words.

Life. I kinda love it.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Go Cougars?

Look at this and tell me--what do you see? BYU on their way to defeating New Mexico?

I see some really pretty clouds.
Maybe that's why I don't watch sports...

One of Those Weeks...

This is one of those weeks where so much is happening, and so much is on my mind, that I can't seem to get any of it written down to my satisfaction.

I'm not dead though. Or engaged. Just in case anyone was worrying.

Next week is Thanksgiving break, which I am going to spend up in Idaho with my amazing sister and brother-in-law. I'm planning on doing quite a bit of writing, some of which should translate into blog posts. Hopefully.

Here's some of what could be coming up next:

  • Dancing Through Life
  • Talking to God
  • Friendship
  • Why Mothers are like Eggshells

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thank You, Brother Aldrich

I had two thoughts while running barefoot around Provo in near-freezing weather (I had to wait to type this until life had bludgeoned its way back into my numb fingers).

1: Why am I so stupid???

2: It doesn't get any better than this.

Monday, November 1, 2010

God's Love in a Grand Piano

Today was just one of those days.

Last weekend was absolutely fantastic. Truly magical--I got to spend a lot of time with some really fantastic people, I dressed up like a scarecrow, I danced like no tomorrow.

And then came today. Maybe it was the fall after the weekend's rise, like the ebbing of the tide. Maybe life is just like that sometimes. Whatever the cause, today I felt down. Like meh. Like nothing was going quite right for me, and like I couldn't get anything right.

As my usual retreat in situations such as this is music, I decided to take a break from pretending I was doing calculus to sing. I like to sing in the Harris Fine Arts Center (HFAC), in one of the practice rooms in the basement. I especially like these practice rooms because each and every one comes equipped with a (well maintained and in tune) piano, and while I do spend most of my time singing, there is something very cathartic about playing 5 minutes of Klaus Badelt and Kenneth Cope. Even better, a few of the rooms have a grand piano!

Just one problem. I am not the only one who loves these practice rooms; they are often quite packed, sometimes completely filled. When they are full I am forced to descend another set of stairs in search of an empty organ practice room. Finding harpsichords in the organ practice rooms may have been awesome, but there is something fulfilling, something solid, about a piano's keys beneath my fingers.

With this in mind, I started my walk down the long hall, peering from door to door, looking for an empty room. As I started my walk, I began a silent prayer. Today was hard, but I know you love me anyway. Please... help me find an open practice room, one with a good piano. A Grand Piano, even! I started walking.

As I proceeded down the hall, seeing full practice room after full practice room, I said another prayer. I know you could make a grand piano appear here if you wanted to, but you don't need to. I will know you love me even without a grand piano, and I'll be ok eventually. I'll get over this slump. If all the practice rooms are full, I can go downstairs! It's fine, really it is.

I reached the end of the hall. I looked at the last door. It was open, and the room was dark. I stepped forward, turned on the light, and saw a grand piano.