Thursday, November 06, 2008

Ben Gunn, a manly manWho is this crazy cat who is wearing my wetsuit, and floundering through the icy depths of Echo and Keyhole Canyons ? He has such nice biceps, and some sweet pecks, but we'll need to work on that unruly hair...

Ben Gunn is a manly man
I dunno, maybe he's related to me or something, otherwise why the heck would he willingly step over the 100 meter ledge of Englestead Hollow and then come back for more?

Or why else would he drag his kids through the Northern Backcountry of Zion NP in the middle of January...Granted, the steamy swimming pool was so super afterwards, don't you think Ben?

Welcome to MBHC, Ben.

Thanks to Brendan Turner, here's a fun little snippet of me last winter...

Can anyone say "I wish I wasn't buried in law school craziness and had a season pass to snowbird!!" five times fast?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

A while ago I admitted to my friends at Ave Maria School of Law that I have a bad habit of assuming, wrongly, that everyone is a mormon. I thought I would expound on that a little. Its not that I think everyone believes specifically that the book of mormon is true, or has been baptized, or anything like that. Instead, my assumptions are on more of a fundamental, paradigm governing level. And even the mormons who read this post will quickly realize that most mormons themselves don't fall into my assumed personality. I want to apologize if I offend anyone...

Its like this: I assume that all physics geeks have at some point in their lives tried to wrap their head around the chronology of the big bang, or the nature of a photon, or the beauty of relativity, and have come up short. I assume that everyone has at one point flipped on a light switch and realized the incredible amount of trust they put in that simple mechanical device. I assume that in a time since past, every person has watched a sunrise and sensed how profound the constant motion of earth really is, and how much rain, blue sky, and daylight are taken for granted every day.

I assume that everyone has at some point doubted every single fundamental that they have ever known, and come out realizing that at the most fundamental level we ALL live by faith. For example, does 1 + 1 = 2 ? Here is a thought experiment to chew on, if I can make it clear:

Let's suppose that after the first week of Math 315 at BYU, you decide to count all of the numbers between 0 and 1 that can be written as a fraction, like 1/3, 1/8, or 3,456,345/67,585,608...You just learned in class that they are called "rational numbers." Your amazing professor, Christopher Grant, gives you a magic meter stick that has infinite precision so you can mark each number on the stick. Soon you get tired and realize that there is actually an infinite amount rational numbers between 0 and 1, because you can set up a series like 1/2, 2/3, 3/4, 4/5, 5/6, 6/7, 7/8, 8/9,... that will go on forever but will never reach 1. A minute later and you realize that there is an infinite amount of rational numbers between 0 and 1/2. Then the thought hits, there is an infinite amount between any two numbers you might pick, despite how close they are on your meter stick. Its kind of neat, but not that extraordinary. You also realize that taking out every other number from that series, making it 1/2, 3/4, 5/6, 7/8,... still leaves it infinite. In fact, leaving only every billionth number still gives you an infinite set of numbers between 0 and 1.

Then comes the wierdness... You are staring at the meter stick and you realize that this device has an actual application: determining distance. If something is twice as long as this stick, you would say it two meters long. In other words 1 + 1 = 2. Right?

Yet on the stick itself there are an infinite amount of numbers, even if you remove every other number leaving a space between them. If you you think that space is too tiny, then make it bigger by leaving only every trillionth number from your series, or every septendecillionth number, or every Skewe's number, or every Graham's number, it doesn't matter. There is still an infinite amount of numbers left over, and there is still space on your meter stick in between them. An infinite amount of anything finite, no matter how small, is infinite. As long as its not zero, if you infinitely keep adding something to your pile of septendecillimeters, you are going to end up with a length that stretches forever.

In other words, 1 + 1 = infinity + infinity = infinity.

But the meter stick doesn't look infinite, and you used to run the 400 meter in 54 seconds, so you know it is not impossible to cross this "infinite" distance. Something must be wrong with your magic meter stick.

Next week, after you've recovered somewhat, your professor shows you a switch on the back of the meter stick that shows all the numbers that can't be expressed as fractions, called irrational numbers, like Pi and the square root of 1/2, etc. He also assigns you a few proofs showing that there is an infinite amount of irrational numbers between any two rational numbers, no matter how close... So your meter stick just became infinitely longer than the rational infinity that it previously had. Calmly, you set the stick aside, and realize that the world is still turning, even though you don't know how that doesn't violate the fundamentals of math. You also remember that you have a date with your wife tonight. There are more important things, and one day you will return to the stick and realize the answer...

OK, if I lost anyone, I'm sorry. I take the blame, maybe I could explain it better in person, maybe not. Its not that conundrum-ish of a question, being weakly solved. I have an answer to that paradox, but it's not satisfying to the palate, and that's not the point of this post. Don't email me about any Max Planck length, trying to show me how to avoid the paradox, because that is definitely not the point. Its just a long-winded illustration.

The point is that I assume people's response to things like paradox is largely similar to my own, not avoidance or assumptive rebuttal, but acceptance by faith that one day all things will be made known from the rooftops, while for the moment I just don't know. To add to this ridiculousness (me assuming way too much), I assume that my own thought pattern is a good representation of what mormons think. Permission to be offended granted.

Of course I don't represent other people very well, and how could I? I am a weirdo from another planet among good, sane people. And how could I assume that I know how people think, or feel? I barely know them at all. My wife is the person I am closest to, and I still feel like everyday I am gaining more insight into her personality, and discovering who she really is. What about random strangers? nope, I've got noth'n.

The magic meter stick thought pattern exists for me everywhere, not just in math, or physics, or science. In different places it takes on different forms. I look at alot of things and am puzzled at the fundamentals behind them. I just assume that everyone else is too. I take such in stride, realizing at a pretty constant rate that I know barely anything, and definitely don't know everything. I assume that everyone else sees that about themselves as well. I look at the knowledge of others and take it all with a grain of salt, because while they may know more than I, they still don't know everything. I just assume that everyone else does the same.

I take nothing on this earth as infallible. Even the Bible, and even (que more mormon offense) the Book of Mormon, was translated by imperfect men, and handled by imperfect printers, etc. I assume that deep down, everyone not only does, but must see weakness in mortal things.

I treat spiritual things in a manner parallel to the scientific method. I gather evidence, form a hypothesis, test it, and draw a conclusion. Sure, I haven't tested every single possible hypothesis that exists out there, and I never will. But I have tested two pretty major ones: that God lives, or that he does not.

The fact is that I have never "seen" God, and probably would not "infallibly" believe it even if I had. Perhaps touching the prints of the nails, and feeling the wounds in His side would bring absolute knowledge, but I don't know because it has not happened. I don't mean to be light about that.

I have no "absolute" evidence one way or the other. But I have plenty of convincing evidence that God lives, and not vice versa. In fact, that evidence is stronger than any other evidence I have ever been given. I have seen all my life that Newton's laws are true, that gravity is real, that when I flip the light switch, the light will come on. But I know more unquestionably that God lives than I "know" any of those other things. There is not a doubt in my mind that the sun will rise tomorrow, but I am more firmly convinced that God lives. I know God lives, and I am less sure in my knowledge of all other things.

I have had too many prayers answered to even count. I have asked directly for an answer about things like the nature of God, the necessity of baptism, scripture, and my purpose in life, and have recieved powerful answers from the Spirit of God that, to me, are more convincing than anything I have seen, heard, or touched.

Also, I have had too many external manifestations of the Hand of God operatin in my life to ever deny. After a year of missionary service in Japan, I was diagnosed with Leukemia, despite my extended efforts to ignore it and continue working. The situation was such that my doctor was afraid that I may not survive the plane ride home. I reicieved a priesthood blessing from a righteous man properly ordained with the restored authority of God. I spent alot of time in the hospital, and had unique experiences. I survived, and gratefully went back to finish another year of missionary service. My body had been destroyed systematically on a cellular level in order to cure the disease, and yet I came out healthy. You can ask my doctor, Fred Ey, what he thinks. You can come run a marathon with me this coming summer if you want. You can come meet my two sons who came into this world against all probability and reason considering the chemotherapy I went through. I find much supporting evidence concerning the Hand of God in that experience.

That period only represents a small part of my life, but even based on that year and a half of illness alone, I must conclude that I know God lives! More than that, I know that he is my literal Father, and I know that I am created in his image. I know that he desires every one of his children to return to his presence as resurrected beings, united as familes for eternity. I know that He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to redeem mankind, and through a perfect Atonement, Christ removed the chains of death for all, and hell for all who come unto him. I know these things more than I know anything.

But let's say I did not have all this external evidence. Let's erase the profound, quite moments under the stars in the remote San Rafael desert. And let's remove the overwhelming infusions of humility recieved from the many times during my senior year of high school that I went surfing before the sun was up, watching a symphony of light start from almost nothing, gaining momuntem until a final blinding climax. Let's wipe away the vistas of the North Cascades that in reality unalterably shaped my teenage years. I feel strongly that even without those additional factors to help my decision of knowledge, I would still know God lives.

The fact is, the witness of the Spirit of God is more powerful than any earthly thing. It is stronger than mere emotion or physical sensation. It is irrefutable, and I hold that witness as the one infallable thing that all other knowledge can be based upon.

So you can see why assuming that everyone is similar might lead to a few confused people...

God lives, my friends.