On the Homestretch

Its been a while! I switched website providers and it took me much longer than I expected to figure how to switch everything over.

My business is officially up and running. Check it out:

www.achievement-rings.com

I launched the first ads on Saturday, so we’ll see how it goes. As of now, I’ve invested $89 so far to create everything.

Friday was our Spring Break, and I took advantage of the day off to watch Holiday Inn. Ok, just kidding. I’ll make it until at least the next official holiday before  I watch it.

Mitt Romney joining the Senate Race caused the jump in ticket price for the annual Utah County Republican Party Lincoln Day Dinner. My freshman year I attended and had a fantastic time, courtesy of a student priced ticket, at $10. This year, the students had a specially priced ticket of $32.50. Needless to say, I missed this one. However, I did receive (somewhat accidentally) a Mitt Romney for Utah t-shirt.

My last date before yesterday, was a few weeks ago, and I went to the soap factory again, and in honor of Texas Independence day made this:

I took a shower with my new soap, (having loaded it with fragrance) and the winter mint was amazing. I felt so clean, it was like taking a shower in Listerine.

I again participated in an Intercollegiate Studies (ISI) conference. This one was in Salt Lake City, and the theme was “The False Promise of Radical Politics.” I took the train up early Friday morning, visited the temple, ate at the Lion House then spent a few hours doing family history. I also visited the old tabernacle, listened to the organ performance at noon, and then went up to the organ.

 

I checked in to the hotel about 5, and spent the next two days there. BYU had the largest contingency of any college, with us totaling 5. My roommate was Ken, a junior at Auburn University and with the biggest alabama drawl I’ve ever had. He’s studying journalism, and it was fascinating to hear some of the projects he’s working on.

During our free time Saturday afternoon, we visited the Cathedral of the Madeline, Temple Square, and the museum of Modern Art.

 

 At the art museum

But my favorite stop was at the RootsTech conference. This is the largest Genealogy conference in the world, and is held annually in Salt Lake City. Saturday is their free day to visit. Unfortunately, we only caught the tail end, as it was an hour from ending for the year. Still, it was enough to confirm I’ll be back!

We left Sunday morning, navigating another snowstorm, to make it safely back. I again played the organ on this Sunday.

   McKenzie, the other BYU student had left the reception at this point.

It was at this conference, that I decided to start a school-wide journal about politics here at BYU. We’ve since received a grant, and I’ll be going to Indianapolis in a few weeks to participate in a “Start the Presses” workshop weekend. ISI has definitely been good to me. They hired a new area director and she visited BYU on Thursday and met us and bought lunch.

As hinted at, I went on a date yesterday. Again it was bowling. There were 4: cousin Abby (from Massachusetts) with James (from NY) and I went with Jennica (from New Hampshire). It was a very northeastern evening. To keep it short, after about four frames we put the bumpers on. Nevertheless, it was fun, and Abby actually whooped me the second game, with her score of 135.

Other news: I golfed  at Thanksgiving Point last Saturday. The course was a little worse off than I thought, bumpy and brown etc. with snow in the bunkers, but it was still wonderful to get out and play. This was my best shot below: A par 3, 215 yards, I hit it over the ravine onto the green a few shorts short of the flagstick.

  Admittedly this one went over the green

Last weekend was our stake conference, and we had Jorg Klebingat of the 70 presiding. Saturday night he conducted a Q+A for 2.5 hours. It was incredible! He told his courtship story with his wife, and it is one of the most inspiring, unusual ones I’ve ever heard! I was taught, and I was inspired. As the Holy Ghost is the real teacher, I won’t include many notes here. I will add though, that he emphasized the necessity of pondering. We have lost that art because of loudness, and always expecting fast turn around in everything. We need to reflect, to have stillness in our lives, for that is when the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost will touch us.

And finally, just a cool quote from George Orwell I found reading a book this week:

The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.

 

 

 

The Abundant Life

A Sunday letter! To keep to a reasonable length, I will address the happenings of this weekend, in my letter next week.

 

It began with the beating of the gong. A quiet stillness pervaded the room, making the room filled not with noise, but only with our thoughts.

“Take a moment to arrive, notice the silence, the room, the people around you. Notice the fullness of the moment. Try to do it with appreciation.”

Thus began my first official foray into oriental meditation. While always intrigued, I became enamored last semester with my world religions class, and have done it a few times on my own. I heard about an event happening in Provo, with a SLC group called “Lower Lights” a non-profit expanding to Provo. This was their first event, and it was led by Thomas McConkie, grandson of Bruce. He had left the church at 18 to travel the world, and after two walk-arounds the world, ended up in the Far East where he trained as a Buddhist monk for twenty years. Coming down from a mountain after seven days of silence, he knew, to quote Walt Whitman,

Now in a moment, I know what I’m for.”

“The goal tonight is not to know more, but to know more of yourself,” he continued. And then bells pealed. “Why are you here?” A smattering of answers were whispered in the musky room, musky not with smoke, or scent, but by character, and lit by christmas lights on the walls.

“Community”

“Togetherness”

“Sharing”

“A break from the grind”

And each abstract idea was answered by McConkie, “Gorgeous, beautiful, thank you.”

“Loss”

“wisdom”

“Searching for what feels right”

“Hope”

“Healing”

“Direction”

“progression”

I had arrived, running to make it on time, dressed in a neon jacket, and paying the suggested donation with presidential dollar coins, thinking I’d fit in better with my imagined crowd. But this wasn’t some group of young rebels. It was an eclectic mix of professionals and quiet middle-aged seekers.

“Breathe it in. If someone here is looking to recover from loss, we are all looking for loss, we all are here recovering from loss. Be a community! Create a collective experience…”

“Notice  your spirit, your presence, who you are….”

Our personal meditation continued, kneading out the lumps of our soul.

Time passed serenely, unnoticed. “Let’s have a one-word check in. How do you feel?” McConkie asked the assembly.

“Peace”

“Love”

“Sleepy”

“Nothing”

“Testimony of doing nothing”

“Contentment”

There was no wrong answer, no judging. We were a community.

We then proceeded with group activity, dividing the 80 or so people into groups of 4-5. “Enlightenment is intimacy with all things. Go around in a circle, and answer this question: Right now I’m aware of….” 

(And I encourage you to answer these questions as well.)

My group went around, and around, subcounsciously revealing our innermost thoughts to strangers, stopping only when the gong again sounded, and our time was up.

“The next question is: One thing you don’t know about me is….”

Again we shared ourselves.

“Last question: One way I hide in a relationship is….”

We are constantly negotiating our boundaries, deciding what to share with others and what to keep for ourselves. But for now, only space existed.

What did we feel at the end?

“Surprise”                          “Intrigue”                                          “Love”

“Closeness”                       “Deepening respect”                        “Softening”

“Tenderness”                    “Closeness”                                        “Divine Connection”

“Sameness”                       “Courage”                                          “abundance”

It was a memorable night, and I am glad I went. I made friends out of strangers, I examined my inner self, I saw new things, and I left refreshed.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, BYU had an unusual guest, Bill Martin, Prof. of Philosophy at DePaul University. He came to deliver a speech entitled, “Marxism and the Secular: from Plato to Badiou” I erroneously assumed he had studied communism to show its defects.  As part of Fidelio Society, I was invited to a luncheon the day of to meet and talk with him. I’ll take free lunch anytime, and it proved quite delicious. They even had Pao de Queijo which I haven’t had since leaving Brazil! Dr. Martin showed up, with long hair, a beard, and a jacket decorated with superhero pins. And nails painted. After making snap judgments, he then mentioned his wife, and the axiom to not judge the book by its cover came to mind. He discussed philosophical theories much beyond my present scope of knowledge, but having had done some prior research, I did engage him on the papers he wrote about chess and philosophy. And, again, lunch was good. And I shared it with a commie.

 I found this plaque in an elevator.

Four dates have occurred, with me going for ice cream with Danielle on Saturday and hosting a game night and inviting Aubrey on Sunday. The game night proved successful, having borrowed three board games from Tanner, and keeping the crowd to a total of 8. We had apple pie, conversed, and played games. It was a good night, and as host I graciously lost the games.

Tuesday, I again went out with Danielle, we went to a BYU Choir Concert. Danielle is from Alpine, Utah, studying consumer science education, and served a mission in Orlando, Florida, spanish speaking. Our list of hobbies is amazingly quite similar, and I’m still impressed by the fact she quilts regularly. However, it was mutually agreed by us both that their was simply no spark for either of us, after two dates, despite friends on both sides trying to help. Our favorite song sung was a new piece, written recently by Daniel McDavitt, and commissioned by BYU, entitled “Locus Iste”

The first two lines are “Locus Ister Deo factus ext,/ inaestimabile sacramentum.”

This place was made by God,

a priceless sacrament.

About the temple, the first part is in latin, but then switches to English, and was the result of a question, “the temple is_______,” posed to many LDS women. It was beautiful.

And on Friday night, I went out with Aubrey again. She actually asked me out, and we went to the BYU Philharmonic Symphony. And finally, there were no pieces composed by Russians. I went really wanting to hear “Also Sprach Zarathustra” and it exceeded expectations. Having been arranged somewhat last minute, we had no car, and Aubrey impressively opted to walk the two miles to get there, and the two miles to return. Thankfully the weather cooperated, and we had plenty of time to converse. She is from New Mexico, went to college at New Mexico State, studying Vocal Performance, before transferring to BYU-I, and majoring in History. She served a mission in Russia, and is currently working two jobs, applying to BYU’s master program.

Thursday I attended the second leg of the start-up competition. The five finalists for this event presented their companies, and I was quite impressed with the ideas, and the executions. And I was surprised by the hundreds of students who watched the event. Big things are happening here.

I left that, and headed to the Toqueville meeting, arriving late, to which a visiting professor would at the conclusion tell the group assembled, “I thought Ben Affleck was joining us for the night.” I mean, I’m missing the Hollywood paycheck, but I’ll take that. We  discussed the prison system in the US, and the idea of rehabilitation.

As always, its been busy. And life is good. I am thankful for the many opportunities that I have, and the learning experiences. However, as this weekend that has been filled with friends and families draws to a close, I am more certain than ever, of what Christ said

“I am come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” John 10:10

Nothing fills like the gospel and the family. I am so thankful for both, and because of them, can say I have an abundant life. May you be so blessed as well, and help others learn of Him.

The Finals Countdown

I apologize for not writing last week. I’ll include a brief synopsis of that as well. Interestingly, I wrote last about finding grace. Well, I found her, and we went out on Tuesday. Also interesting, I went to Salt Lake Saturday the 9th, (more on that later), and who should I meet? Recently returned from her mission, Lynsie. Flashback to freshman year. That was highly unexpected.

So, last Saturday I took the train up to Salt Lake City to go to the Family History Library. Getting there at 10:30, I watched the new 1st vision video in the church history museum, toured the Joseph Smith Building, and then made my way to the Family History Library. I went mainly to see some books on the Schenewark line that are not available online. After a couple hours, I visited the Lion House Pantry for lunch, and then returned, intent on achieving a breakthrough. I was able to eventually find some new ancestors, and continued adding some sources. Unfortunately, the hometown of the Schenewark line continues to elude me. Still lots of work to do. I also had planned my visit to coordinate with a ward temple trip, so at 5:30 I met the group and we went inside the Salt Lake Temple. It was a marvelous experience, and one I shall not forget, as I was able to complete work for some of the recently found family members. Then, as I was leaving, we ran into Lynsie.

After talking for a couple minutes we went our ways. As I debated about the next move, the next day I received a message from her asking to meet up. So we marked it for Friday the 16th.

In the meantime, on Sunday I was sustained to my new calling as ward Sunday School President. I’d be interested to see how Uncle Aaron will shake things up on his side. Our organization has been struggling and we are open to new ideas. Hit me up Funcle A. Our last two teachers both married and thus moved this last week, so we’re starting from nada (which I prefer).

Monday was our ward Christmas Party. We had catered BBQ (YES!) and an innovative white elephant gift exchange. In this version, we all put our presents in the middle, at the marked time, chose one, and returned to our seats, arranged in a circle. Then, as the narrator read a story, each time he said the word left, we would pass our present to the person on the left. With the word right, we passed to the right. And at across, we would exchange presents with someone across the room. At the end of the story, the present we were holding was the one we took home.

Tuesday, as aforementioned, I took Grace to the BYU Wind Symphony. She is from Pittsburgh, and recently returned from a mission in Poland. Majoring in German, her family joined the church when she was 7. Her mother was a pastor, and apparently worked those poor missionaries over, and then decided to join the church herself. We enjoyed the show, although they continue to play Russian composers over Germans with incredible prejudice.

Wednesday saw me finish all my school assignments for the semester, which was a seminal moment. Thursday I had my dance final. This saw me crush the Quickstep, and utterly fail on the waltz. My partner wasn’t there, and I danced with someone totally new. It was funny though as I struggled through the waltz, the teacher filming, repeatedly made comments about my elbow being too low. He apparently focused on that to such an extent that it was not until the very end that he said my footwork looked a little off. Hey, I’ll take it. I received a much higher grade than I thought I would, but no complaints.

I also interviewed to write for the BYU Political Review. Its a monthly journal that surveys the political landscape. I’ll find out Monday or Tuesday whether I made the cut. I joined a new club, called the Fidelio Society. It meets bi-weekly to talk about and debate matters dealing with faith and society as a whole.

Friday was my last day in work. They tried keeping me with an accounting internship, which I politely declined. Then, with plans to open up an office in Boston starting March 1st, I was told that my plans to take this semester off would be respected, but if I wanted, I had a gig there for the summer. Very kind of them.

Leaving the office for the last time. I may or may not have a bag of chicken nuggets behind my back

Friday happened to be our company christmas party with Santa. And Chick-fil-A. I actually had set up a lunch meeting with Russ, an entrepreneur out of Bountiful+Layton, so I went to that instead. But, the amount of leftovers was staggering and so I’ve been eating them all weekend. I’m glad they are finally gone. With Russ, we discussed my latest current venture. I received some good feedback, a couple suggestions, and have plans to move forward with this.

That night, Tanmarie kindly lent me their Chevy Prizm. I went to a BYU hockey game with Lynsie. We enjoyed watching BYU put a beatdown on UVU and basically just talked for two hours. It was a lot of fun. And I’d say it merits another one.

Saturday, I took my first two finals in the morning, both of which went very well, then met Sarah W. up at Cafe Zupas. Having already eaten an insane amount of Chick-fil-A, I opted to just talk and not eat. Its always nice to catch up with her and hear her latest plans.

Today, was a day of genuine rest. I taught Sunday School and then headed off with Tanner to hear Meghan’s farewell. She did a great job, and is ready for Nicaragua. With Tanner’s assistance, I made a Brazilian dish called Galinhada.

Porter, have you eaten this already? It turned out fairly good, and we finished that off with ice cream. To be authentic, I ate my galinhada on a plate, no bowl, used a knife and fork, and did not use pepper, only salt. After, I spent the next couple hours on their coach, wrapped up in a warm blanket, talking, and incandescently happy.

President Hinckley said at a BYU Devotional in 1998

“Tremendous is your opportunity to reach beyond the hoped for goal of wealth and worldly success….”

I’ve pondered that, and would love to hear any opinions. What goals do you have beyond wealth and worldly success? How do you measure success? I’ve thought about various careers and ask myself, would I be happy doing this? Would I feel successful? For now, the jury is still out as to lifelong plans.

And, in a somewhat similar vein, but from a different source, I bring to you a few lines from the book of Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad-Gita. 

“The man who sees inaction in action

and action in inaction

has understanding among men,

disciplined in all action he performs.”

I like this  as we can see everyday people who act, but to no purpose. They work, and achieve nothing. And, we must realize that perhaps there are times when to succeed, we should not act.

This Thursday, I’ll be driving down to Las Vegas with Tanmarie and Nora, and then its just a short flight before I’m home!

Just one more thought, at the meeting of the Fidelio Society on Thursday night, we discussed the historical aspect of Christmas along with its pagan roots. Don’t worry, in the end we all agreed that Christmas is fantastic regardless of its earlier counterparts. One person shared something that intrigued me. He mentioned how Germans have traditionally place lit candles on their trees. We had talked about many of the symbols of Christmas, (evergreen tree, star, candy canes, etc.) but he said that these christmas trees could be viewed as a burning bush. Knowing the story of Moses, we can think of the Christmas Tree as symbolizing the presence of Christ in our lives. Of course, we should not just place him figuratively in our houses once a year. We should always remember our Savior and His sacrifice, and have the Holy Ghost to be with us.

 

Finding Grace

 

Dates

This Sunday was the highly anticipated 1st Pres. Christmas Devotional. Kind Sarah W. set me up with a mission pal of hers, Ashley, and I hooked my friend Mark up with Rebecca. You could have filmed a movie scene. We drove up to Salt Lake City, the air was frosty, snow flakes were falling. We admired the beautiful Christmas lights, and heard a choir of angels sing. Not to mention we heard heartwarming talks. Our seats were spectacular, it was like you could reach out and shake the hand of someone on stage. Oh, and Mark’s mom sent him with a giant flask of hot chocolate which we all enjoyed afterwords. Everything went perfect.

The Man, the Myth, the Legend

No, I did not meet Scott Stirling. I did, however, meet Bruce C. Hafen. The ‘C’ in his name probably stands for Champion, because that’s just who he is. BYU hosted a week long seminar on grace, and he spoke on it Thursday night. I could say much, but I’ll simply leave a paraphrased quote from his talk:

“We cannot say, ‘Lord, give me experience, help me grow, help me become like thee!’ and then not expect to have grief, when that is what shaped Him, and made Him who He is. “

The next night I again went to the last address of the night. This time it was given by Sheri Dew. Again, another marvelous discourse on grace. My understanding of it grew, as well as my desire to understand it still better. She, being single, and obviously struggling with that challenge, shared so sincerely how grace has helped her. Her testimony was powerful. As with Elder Hafen, there was a Q+A after, and when someone asked how we can know if we are receiving grace, I liked how she said,

“Every spiritual privilege we have is a manifestation of His grace.”

 

Hometeaching

This has been a struggle. My companion is still MIA. Its been impossible to connect with three of those I’m visiting. The fourth I connected too well as she asked me out. So, I decided to mark a date, invite everybody over for pie, and see what happens. Remarkably, it was a success. Finally, two of them started responding to my messages, and I was able to meet one of them for the first time. Overall, three out of four showed. We bonded, my roommates extended the hands of friendship as well, and we all left filled. I’ve mentioned Mouli before, but to quickly restate, he is a PhD student in physics from India, having previously studied in Germany. While everyone else was talking, he stayed mostly quiet and very reserved. Towards the end, having shared a message about faith, we started talking about religion, just me and him. He said he was born Hindu, which I had reasoned. I then said, “Wait, I want to show you this book.” I returned carrying a book, and he said, “I knew, the Book of Mormon,” to which I responded, “No, its the Bhagavad Gita!” (which is basically Hindu scripture.) His eyes lit up, he responded to a couple of my questions, and for the first time, we connected. Developments to follow!

Market Analysis

I ended my bitcoin run. In just under a month, I netted $370 which isn’t going to ‘ put my on Forbes’ radar anytime soon, but for a college student, helps significantly. While I still believe in the idea, I would recommend staying away from bitcoin. Starting next week, it will become easy to short bitcoin, and i think this will cause some problems. While it was the trailblazer, I think it will be passed by better, more efficient blockchain using cryptocurrencies. The horse-and-buggy helped people tremendously, but it was the wrong market to invest in at the turn of the 20th century. It is often forgotten that until 1944 the British Pound was the reserve currency of the world, being then replaced by the US dollar. I see something similar happening to bitcoin, and while it will probably continue to rise for some time, I see more value in Monero, and IOTA, and am excited to see what happens in the future.

Better than….

I read recently an article, where the author listed some things that were more important than money. Later, I decided to come up with my own list. I won’t share that today, but I will share something similar. Pres. Faust, 60 some years ago, almost ready to head to his mission in Brasil, received some training from then apostle David O. McKay. Elder McKay walked to the chalkboard and simply wrote, “It is better to be trusted than to be loved.” The notion being, our Heavenly Father will always love us. Our parents will always love us. But can they trust us? We receive their love, but have to earn their trust, and that happens through our daily actions, as well as, I believe, our desire to love them back. And of course, to show our love, and to earn His trust, to become His friends, we must keep His commandments.

 

 

9/3/2017 Welcome to the Big Mingle!

We’ve all heard of the Big Apple, or the Big Easy, well, Provo,  is the Big Mingle. Its good to be back.

Arriving Tuesday night, I stayed at TanMarie’s house that night, before finally going to my new apartment Wednesday. Its spacious, its clean, its quiet…its expensive. While I do have a private bedroom, I share the actual apartment with three others- Jeremiah, Austin, and Derik. All three are currently students at UVU. A quick breakdown: Austin and Derik are longtime friends from the way out in the boondocks town of Filmore, Utah. Biggest attraction/ point of interest? The Maverick gas station. They both graduated in 2014 (same as me) with Derik doing one year of National Guard before serving a mission in Chicago, (returned one month ago) and Austin serving a mission in Washington before going to Snow College for one year, and now here. I haven’t gotten to know Jeremiah as well, he grew up mostly in Albuquerque, NM, before heading to the D.C. area. He’s been at UVU for a couple years now. They all have been friendly, and seem organized and clean. I’m calling it a win, and look forward to our year together.

Annemarie also took me shopping at Costco, which was a huge help. I think I’m stocked for this semester. Its going to be good. The non-perishables….

My first night there, I felt like a celebration was in order, so I decided to cook salmon (can’t do that often!) I might just move the coaches over to the kitchen table, they are COMFY! My packing was admittedly done without as much thought and preparation as usual, and I left a couple things sort of important (belt, bedsheets, camera, etc. ) so it was nice to remember I had a coaster (shout out to the Bach’s!) It’s nice to feel at home.

I’m waiting to hear back from a couple companies about ”real jobs” but Friday I was happy to be rehired working with BYU Special Events – and turned right around and worked that nights soccer game, which saw BYU go down in a fantastic game to #1 UCLA. For three hours, I stood on the bleachers telling students, ”no, no, you can’t sit there, those seats are reserved.” ”But they are empty?!!!?” ”Yes, but that’s because the people bought them so they don’t have to show up 2 hours early like y’all to get seats.” Attendance record was set, 5,700+ showing up, 700 being standing room only. It was a spirited, nail-biter of a game. After an early UCLA goal, BYU had a couple opportunities to tie it, the best coming with 10 minutes left, on a breakaway and with the goalie leaving the box, the BYU player kicked and the ball hit the crossbar. So close. A lot better than football on Saturday. One roommate from freshman year contacted me, and he took me first to Buffalo Wild Wings, where we decided not to wait three hours, and went to Texas Roadhouse. Nothing like a ribeye. Thanks Kevin! And then he dropped me off at Uncle Ben’s and Aunt Joy’s house where we (Hutchins family, Aunt Jenny, Stevie, TanMarie) enjoyed each others company and tried to ignore what LSU was doing to BYU.

First day of church today. Wrong time to be a clerk. We welcomed about 100 people into the ward. It has a good dynamic. Next week will be a regional conference at the Marriott Center, but after that, I should receive my calling……..

This is Porter’s bike he left. Left locked up with no key. I visited the campus police and they came out and cut the lock off. Our conversation was tough. Are you a freshman? No. But the bike is parked on the freshman dorms? Yes. Actually, on the women’s freshman dorms? Yes. School hasn’t even started, how did you lose the key already? Its complicated. Do you have ID to prove its yours? No. I tried explaining, and after a thorough interrogation, they decided to simply take my info down in case anybody reported a stolen blue bike, but as one officer said, ”If I was going to steal a bike, I wouldn’t steal this one.”

On my mission, I gained such a strong testimony of the prophets, and loved every single second of general conference. However, it was essentially relegated to that, as we read only from a the scriptures and a couple other books in the ‘missionary library.’ I’ve been patiently waiting to use BYU’s library, and during this laid back week have feasted on the word. Reading biographies of men  like L. Tom Perry, and Boyd K. Packer, it is obvious at once they have been prepared, chosen, and guided from on high. I am so thankful for living prophets. I know as we emulate them, we are emulating our Savior.

Ok, heading out, going to mingle in the Big Mingle. Have a great week!