16 February 2003

yesterday i walked into the canyon. the sun was shining and it was unseasonably warm for february. i had never been up rock canyon before, though i lived within miles of it for years. and i have loved it for years. it is where the day gives birth to sunshine, the light streaming through the canyon illuminating the rocks long before the sun crests the peaks.

at one point, i saw an old car upside down in the gully along the trail. its bottom was rusted, the tires missing, and plants and the earth have claimed it. the bumper was still chrome and the faded blue door had bullet holes in it. i don't know how it got there.

as i walked back out of the canyon i stopped and sat, my back to the sun, on an enormous rock. just listening to the wind. the wind in the mountains is unlike wind anywhere else. it speaks in a soulful but delightful voice of the secrets buried in the mountains. it caresses your cheek at one moment and in the next rages against your body.

before i left the canyon, i climbed up to a rock wall and leaned against it, absorbing the strength of the earth, its peace and its solidness. i kissed the rock and thanked the earth for being mine. and then i returned to my world happier.

13 February 2003

i feel strange in my world right now. i am emerging from the haze of doubt and confusion and sorrow i have been battling with my personal convictions, if not constantly at least consistently, for the last year and a half. this feels beautiful. i feel as if an incredible weight has lifted from my shoulders.

but my realization of how beautiful this world is stands in stark contrast to the ugliness i am seeing in the political climate. i am finding myself engulfed in a haze of rhetoric and intimidation and fear. i remember the day twelve years ago when the u.s. (i suppose it was really the u.n. but it seemed like the u.s. to me at the time) attacked iraq. i was so young and thoughtless. all i knew was that my great nation, which was of course right, had done something and i must support it out of patriotism. and i wondered why my sophomore english teacher wept while she talked about it. and now i find myself dazed at the thought that we may find ourselves doing the same thing twelve years later. except this time i do not have the excuse of youth and innocence to explain my lack of understanding. i have only the cloud of hazy rhetoric with which i have been bombarded for the last six months.

i do not object on principle to the idea of a military strike in iraq. perhaps it is necessary. i do not know. but i wish i could trust the leaders of my nation to act according to fact and truth and with integrity. i cannot. i have heard too much rhetoric. how can i believe that a government leader acts with integrity when he objects to the u.n. allowing a "rogue nation" (one of the horrible members of the "axis of evil") to not comply with its decisions but is willing to act in direct opposition to the u.n.'s decisions himself? in this scenario, might makes right and there is one nation who will rule the world, either through direct or indirect means. how can i believe that president bush actually agreed with the resolution to send inspectors into iraq in order to determine if they are or are not in compliance with u.n. requirements when, a brief four months later, he is willing to throw it all away in order to disarm saddam hussein? how can i see the u.s.'s agreement to the resolution in november as anything but one step among many necessary to achieve its end objective, which is not the disarmament of saddam hussein but rather the use of force to disarm saddam hussein. we are behaving as a child who has decided it knows exactly what it wants and will get it at any cost. or worse, as an adult who knows better, when they can be rational, than to bully those weaker than they into conceding but is doing just that even though they should and do know better.

i object to war on moral grounds. but i am enough of a pragmatist to know that moral grounds will not always solve problems; war is not always avoidable. but i object strenuously to fighting a war when every honorable effort to avoid it has not been made and when the rhetoric of fear is the primary tool for arguing for said war. and no amount of mis-named pragmatism will convince me that i am wrong.

i am afraid. not of terrorists or "evil" nations or the idea of war. rather, i am afraid of the lack of honor and integrity i see at the head of this nation. i am afraid of the thick darkness that comes with the use of rhetoric as a tool rather than the truth. i am afraid of the perversity that will spring from the rhetoric of fear.

09 February 2003

i read tonight the words of an apostle of the lord, declaring that god's love is conditional upon my obedience. every fiber of my being declared an emphatic NO! i can imagine no teaching more contrary to my belief in and idea of god. he loves me. it matters not what i do or think or say. it matters not how far from him i stray. his love remains. i acknowledge that his blessings are conditional. i acknowledge that eternal life is conditional. i acknowledge that inspiration and revelation are conditional. and i acknowledge that my ability to feel his love is conditional. but the existence of his love is not.

perhaps i split hairs. after all, what does it mean to love if that love cannot be expressed and made known? but i remain adamant; god loves every man, woman and child who has ever lived on this earth regardless of their errors and their sin. not in spite of or even though they have sins. he just loves them. because he sees the absolute beauty at their core. how can one help loving the pure beauty and power it is to be, to exist? and how can god, who sees perfectly and understands all of us, including our potentialities, help loving us? i insist upon this truth: my god loves all humankind. if he did not, he would cease to be god.

19 January 2003

tonight on this american life, the program was on names. it fascinated me. i have been thinking about names for weeks now, about what it means to be named something and to name yourself something. my name both explicates me and renders me somehow inaccessible. my names, the many names i have, explain who i am to someone who does not know me. they say something about me. i have parents who have been married for forty years. i am a member of a church that believes certain ideas and whose members live in certain ways. i have siblings and nephews and nieces. my names explain my background, my beliefs, and my identity. they allow a stranger to begin to understand me and to become my friend. but my names also build a fence around me--around the essence of who i am--and others stop at the fence, thinking they know me without having truly understood me. because i am mormon, i must necessarily think certain things and act in certain ways. at least i must in others' perceptions of who i am. names provide easy answers as to my being. i believe certain things, think certain things, do certain things. i don't think and don't do and don't believe other things. sometimes the limitations and explanations inherent in the connotation of my names are accurate. many times they are not. but i cannot escape them because others cannot forget them. the true litmus of friendship, of love, is whether a person can get behind my names, my surface identity and begin to understand me, rather than the names that have been assigned to me. this is when i can begin to be free with others. my names are not at my center; they are the periphery. seen from the outside they are one thing; seen from the inside they are another. and seen from the outside they cause problems because they delineate difference and exclusion. but seen from the inside they become beautiful and accepting. a name is a starting point; it provides a context for understanding my soul. but it can only be a starting point. one does not truly understand a name until they can see how it has been redefined by the essence of the named person. i make my names my own, though they may have been given to me by others. when you meet me, you encounter my names first. but then you move inward, towards the real me and when you get inside, you look back and realize that the definition of my names that you once possessed and believed in is not accurate. you begin to see that my names are other because on the inside, i have changed them, fitted them to the contours of my mind and my heart.

i am amelia. and in spite of history, i gave myself that name.

05 January 2003

today i have been thinking about god, about prayer. i think prayer is laughter, beautiful and raucous. sharing life with god. acknowledgement of all that is good in the world. an exclamation. and it is the sigh of contentment. the peace of living. sometimes it is wailing lamentation. mourning the uglinesses of humankind--so much uglier because it is capable of utter beauty. once in a while it is anger, lashing out in helplessness. but mostly it is laughing communion, making god your friend.

01 January 2003

i was home last week, in california. a chaotic place but oddly beautiful. so strange. in one yard a sugar maple's leaves are brilliant red, suspended somewhere between living and dead, half of them fallen and the other half obstinately clinging to the tree. around the corner the decorative fruit trees blossom in mad profusion. it is december. these transplants from other climes cannot make sense of the balmy weather, the lack of definition.

when i get on the freeway, i am struck by how confused the humans are, too. i accelerate until i match the pace of others. classical music bringing peaceful beauty into my car in counterpoint to the frantically frenetic pace i am keeping while trying to follow the wildly eratic lines on the freeway. such stark contrast--beautiful and dangerous. the world on the brink of spinning out of control. there is no order to the place. but its very chaos creates an ordering principle of its own, one that liberates so that one being exists independent from the next. one holds on tightly, lagging behind normal. the other dances crazily, absurdly ahead. both beautiful; neither right; but harmonious.