Monday, March 28, 2011

Some Things That Make Me Happy No Matter What

So lately I've had a few experiences that have made me really ponder on the existence and acquisition of true happiness. More often than not when I think about or discuss this subject I cite Abraham Lincoln's quote, "Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be," and after a brief discussion about deciding to be happy I'm satisfied and can continue on with my life. I definitely agree with Abe's statement, but not in the way I used to. I used to think that you could just make up your mind to be happy and that was all it took, but it's not. The daily decisions we make lead us to true happiness. That's the essence of agency, choosing those things that will make us truly happy. In Abe's words, as we make up our minds to do things that bring happiness, we'll be happy.

That's enough of my soapbox on happiness. Aside from the previous discussion on choosing things that bring deep and abiding happiness, there are little things in life that sprinkle glimpses of joy into my life no matter what. More often than not they aren't big paradigm-shifting decisions, just a little tasty life-spice now and then. Here follows a list (by no means comprehensive) of a few things that have this effect:

-Chasing thunderstorms in the summer time
-Being told that I look or act like my brother David
-Going down to the shore of Utah Lake at night and looking up at the stars. or out across the water, or at the stars reflected in the water, and contemplating life, the universe and everything
-Running to stand still
-Running to stand still
-Writing down choice bits of conversations that I overhear
-Smiling big at little kids in the MOA so that they go tell their parents about the tall, funny looking security guard and then looking all stern and serious when the parents look around at me
-Seeing the reaction when I tell someone I can fit 10 quarters up my nose
-Finishing a crossword puzzle
-Seeing the reaction when I put 10 quarters up my nose
-Daffodils, both the poem and the flower
-Looking up Ecuador on Google Earth
-Waking Ned Devine
-Michael O'Sullivan
-Being able to watch BYU lose and not get upset about it (I've been working hard on this one)
-Sitting in my Spanish class and chatting with Chad via email about how much we hate the class
-Playing the Wikipedia game
-Speed Scrabble
-Hiking mountains, especially early in the morning before the sun comes up
-Rice King
-This talk
-Reading my siblings' facebook statuses
-Waking up in the morning in my bed and realizing that I did in fact make it to my bed the night before
-Symphony No. 3 in C Minor, Op. 78 "Organ": IV. Maestoso - Allegro by Camille Saint-Saens
-Shooting hoops down by the train tracks late at night
-Mom's cherry pie (hands down best dessert in the world and yes I will fight you about that one)
-Validation that I made the right decision to drop Physics in favor of English
-My Name is Asher Lev, To Kill A Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Great Expectations, and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are

That's enough to be getting on with for now.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Thoughts on Life That Have Arisen In the Course of Doing a Crossword Puzzle While Procrastinating a Paper at 1:20 am

Sometimes I wish I'd gone to a fancy, blue-blooded private school where I could have learned to row and had a rowing coach.

What is sugarloaf? I'm imagining meatloaf, only with sugar.

If I could start over again, I might join the quill and sword club. Endless supply of stories to tell at parties.

Et tu, Brute, The Ural Mountains, Etta James, Ode on a Grecian Urn. Know these and crossword puzzle success is at your fingertips.

I've never used nutmeg.

I want to go read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society again.

I want to go to a baseball game and eat a hot dog.

Is the wrecking ball really a viable demolition tool anymore? Where do you go to school to learn to use a wrecking ball? Is it expensive? Could I do it over the summer?

I want a monk's habit to wear. Unless it's all woolly and itchy. In which case I want to make my own monk's habit out of the hides of slain of pillow pets.

Can you imagine doing calculus, or algebra for that matter, if we still used Roman Numerals?

I should really learn the Greek alphabet. I've been meaning to for years now.

I don't know the answer to 26 across, but I think "filthy milieu" is my favorite clue ever.

Anyway, back to work.

Saturday, March 12, 2011


I have previously, though briefly, discussed how social media (blogs, facebook, twitter, etc) allows us filter our lives so as to portray to those who "follow" us or are "friends" with us just exactly what we want them to see. We construct for them a reality of ourselves that is calculated and, to be candid, not always entirely honest.


Does little Sammy lie to us? Is he really not the sweet, quick-witted charmer that his gripping and humorously poignant prose would have us believe?

That's for you to decide for yourselves. But over the past week I've had the flu and have spent a good share of that time on the couch doing the following: watching TV (Sportscenter and House mostly), watching (sleeping through?) movies, reading Lake Wobegon Days, reading the good parts version of The Lightning Thief and, of course, spending copious amounts of time on the interwebs.

Being on "the net" so much has caused me to think in facebook status mode for a couple days now. I'm constantly coming up with new facebook statuses...stati. Many of them haven't made the cut. If I were an active twitterer tweeter songbird user of twitter I'd have just tweeted them and been done with it. But I'm not. So I didn't. Thus, in the interest of candor, I've decided in favor of full disclosure here on my blog. (I still hate that word.) Here follows a selection of the sediment from my facebook filter.

"Headed to the bathroom. Any book suggestions?"

"I love rice. rice rice rice."

"I want to live, I want to give, I've been a miner for a heart of gold."

"Sometimes I look at cheese and think, moldy milk. And then I want to throw up."

"I'm glad God invented basketball."

"You know I love you (P. Y. T.) pretty young thing."

"I feel like a steamy pile of horse caca steeped in horseradish sauce and sauerkraut juice."

"Send me on my way."

"I wanna be the King of Spain."

"I think the writers of House are full of malarkey."

"The word malarkey is used far too infrequently."

"Charles Barkley is full of malark...ley. nope."

Ok those last two are recent creations, but there you are, a cross-sectional view of the inner thoughts of an ill Samuel James Dunn, Esq. ranging from inane to musical plagiarism to excessive information. What does a view from the filter tell you about who I am?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Chalk Circle

So we've all heard the infamous chalk circle quote by Karl G. Maeser. Well I've recently had an experience that made me reevaluate where I stand on the issue and whether it needs to be strictly adhered to at all times. I know I sound like a heretic in questioning the immortal words of Karl G., but the conundrum which I now present is one that I can't answer easily.

Let's set the scene:

Tuesday evening. I had just gotten out of class which was directly preceded by 6 hours of work. I hadn't had time to eat breakfast and I'd forgotten to bring a lunch to work so it was 5:00 pm and all I'd eaten was a stale granola bar that I had in my locker at work and an apple that Marlee was kind enough to give me. That said, I was leaving class famished. As I thought about what food I might eat in the 30 minutes I had before I had to go back to work for another 4 hours I was hit with a sudden stroke of inspiration: It's Tuesday! Taco Tuesday. 3 tacos for $1.

With renewed enthusiasm for life I walked home, hopped in my car, and headed off to that taco haven Del Taco. (quick side note, I'm currently typing this post while studying in the library. Some dude is walking around whistling The Final Countdown. It's making me happy. now back to the action.) I was hungry. Really hungry. When I got to Del Taco I decided that no fewer than 15 tacos would suffice. By the time I got my tacos, though, I probably only had 10 minutes before I needed to be in my uniform and guarding art. I jumped in my car and began to consume while en route to the MOA. In the 3-4 minutes it took for me to drive to the MOA I downed 6 tacos and was going strong. As I changed my clothes I managed to pound another 4, but after 10 tacos in under 7 minutes I was starting to feel the dull, aching burden of all that fake cheese, old lettuce and grease-ridden fast food style hamburger meat. During the walk from the changing room to the control room I put away two more, but I'd lost quite a bit of steam by this point and I was contemplating leaving the last three for later. My stomach grumbled as though agreeing with that course of action. As I walked into the control room I was met by Kiana who was getting off of work. She saw the Del Taco bag and asked me what was for dinner. I told her that I'd bought 15 tacos but currently only had 3 left. She could see from the way I was walking that I was really feeling the effects of the 12 I'd already put away and so she had the audacity to tell me that there's no way I'd be able to finish off the last three before going out to the galleries. At this point I had maybe 2 minutes before I needed to be on the floor. Well, I've never been one to back down to a challenge when it comes to food consumption, so I blocked her from exiting the room and I proceeded to force down the last three tacos. Flushed with victory and with a glow about me, probably the light reflecting off of smeared taco grease on my face, I bowed Kiana out of the room and proceeded along my merry way...with one slight hiccup: I was not feeling merry. The tacos sat uneasily in my stomach and at the thought of my first position, the Jones-Boshard Gallery, I despaired a little.

In the Jones-Boshard gallery there is currently an exhibit of Dorothea Lange's photography entitled Three Mormon Towns. Just so we're on the same page here, Dorothea Lange took this photo that you all know. It's actually quite a nice exhibit. Several of the photographs in the exhibit are on loan to the MOA from the J. Paul Getty Museum who, as a part of the contract that they drew up outlining the conditions for the loan, demand that there be a security guard in the exhibit with their photographs at all times during operating hours. Which, in honor circle speak, means that the Getty has drawn a chalk line in front of the two entrances to the Three Mormon Towns exhibit and has had the MOA give their word of honor that no security guard will cross those lines unless there is another guard already in the exhibit.

Back to me in the control room. I was really regretting my decision to consume 15 tacos, but the time for concern was past because I was up. I grabbed a radio and a set of keys and headed off to Three Mormon Towns. I replaced Dusty, who upon being replaced all but ran to the bathroom, and began my circuit of the gallery. Unfortunately, the act of walking around disturbed the greasy mixture that was struggling to live peaceably with my stomach juices and I immediately felt ill. Thankfully there weren't any patrons in the gallery so I sat down to consider my miserable existence. As I was sitting down I began to wonder: what do I do if I have to puke?

I could feel the spit in my mouth beginning to pool, a tell-tale sign if ever there was one of an impending flow. My mind, quick as lightning began to consider the options. My first inclination was, of course, to just run to the nearest garbage can and expel the offending substance there. Looking wildly around the gallery I realized with further despair that there was no can. Enter Circle of Honor conundrum.

Now what? I was bound by honor, both mine and that of the MOA as a whole, to stay where I was and not cross the chalk line. Karl G. said that he would rather die than cross the chalk line. Would dying be better or worse than spewing 15 half-digested fast food tacos mixed with a sprinkling of stomach fluids across an exhibit of fine art? I didn't know. I considered the mission statement of the MOA:

“The Museum of Art is a place where the heart and mind are brought together to seek knowledge and values, self affirmation and spiritual understanding.”

“We hope your experience in the Museum will nurture a more reflective mind, a capacity for deeper inquiry, a stronger commitment to excellence and integrity, and heightened appreciation for others and their ideas.”

Now there ain't no way any of that is happening if there's a pile of puke in the gallery, let alone a security guard of all people adding to the pile. So naturally I did as I'd been taught since I was a child and asked, "What would Jesus do?" (You have no idea how tempted I was to write What would Jimmer do, but I felt that that crossed the line into the realm of sacrilege and so I made it a parenthetical note instead. That makes it okay right?) In thinking about this as a theological question I recalled 1 Nephi 4: 37 which, in recounting how Nephi and his brothers were set at ease concerning Zoram, says, "And it came to pass that when Zoram had made an oath unto us, our fears did cease concerning him." They trusted Zoram's oath so completely that their fears ceased. They ceased. Completely. Was my honor such that it could set Nephi's fears aside so completely? I would like to think so.

As I decided that I'd do the honorable thing and stay in the gallery, I began to look around for the most out of the way, discreet place to puke...that is if such a place can exist. I decided under the desk was probably the best place because, while nothing could be done about the stench, at least it would block visibility somewhat. It wasn't a pleasant thought, but it was the best I could come up with. Grimly resolved to do what I had to do, I glanced towards the entrance and saw a happy young family, complete with 4 kids under the age of 8, walk in.

My despair turned to exasperation as I looked at the father and realized it was one of my favorite professors that I've had here at BYU. He was playing the part of a good dad in bringing his family to the MOA. This threw my mind awhirl once again. It's one thing to vomit in a fine art museum with no one watching, but now there was an audience, an audience that knew who I was. Was I really going to puke in front of my professor and his 4 young impressionable children? Not only was there the embarrassment factor to consider, but what if his kids had just eaten and by my throwing up I started a vicious cycle that would result in the entire gallery, artworks included, being covered in vomit? What would the Getty think of my sense of honor then? I was at a loss. I had no direction as to what I should do. Honor or Decorum? Which is more important? As if 15 angry tacos weren't enough, now I had to deal with the nausea of indecision as well.

At that moment of despairing vacillation, at this the true test of my sense of honor when I was being given the chance to either prove my moral mettle or make a royal mess of everything, the need to vomit went away. It just left. Call it dumb luck, divine intervention, or whatever you will, but it went away.

While I was relieved to be spared facing the reality of the situation, the question of honor vs. decorum remained: What would I have done? What should I have done? Truly, I have no idea.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Ruminations on the Brandon Davies Debacle

First of all, I want to say that I agree with what Beky Beaton says on the subject.

Secondly, while this is a hit to the BYU basketball program and to the upcoming NCAA tournament hopes, I have to say that this isn't an entirely bad thing. There will always be detractors that bash on BYU and the honor code and nothing that anyone says or does will ever change their minds. But think of it this way. BYU is currently the number 3 ranked men's basketball team in the country. The play of Jimmer Fredette and the rest of the team has resulted in a veritable media maelstrom hovering over the BYU campus over the past month and a half. 4 out of 5 dentists agree that Jimmer has gotten more air time on ESPN than 99% of all professional the course of their entire careers. (Yes that is data that has been painstakingly researched and can be backed up by 6 or 7 trusted sources.) The most respected news sources in America, from the Wall Street Journal, to USA Today, to the New York Times have been running stories on BYU and their March Madness chances. And it has all climaxed this weekend with BYU's victory over San Diego State. What I'm trying to say is this: BYU is a staple in the current American cultural consciousness. They're talking about us. (Again with the ethereal they. Who are they?)

Enter the Brandon Davies debacle. (You can't help but to really feel for the kid. He's really got to be beating himself up here. Thank heavens for the doctrine of repentance.) The way I see it, this couldn't have come at a better time. BYU is now, as much as at any other time, on the forefront of public thought. So while everyone is thinking about BYU, the public is being told that BYU has willingly shot themselves in the foot with regards to postseason advancement by suspending one of the three best players on the team. And all that comes as a direct result of something called the honor code. I've found at least two different places on ESPN's website where BYU's honor code is laid out in full. People are asking themselves, "do BYU students really agree to that? more importantly to BYU athletic stars agree to that?" And behind all of it there is the underlying assumption that the Mormon church is the impetus for all of this.

I can't help but to think that some people who before had little or no interest in the church will be curious to know why 30,000+ students would willingly agree to such highly conservative and "unrealistic" ideals. They have to wonder why a school, in the midst of such success and positive press, would take such drastic action rather than just quietly brushing it under the rug or waiting until the off season to act. There have been and there surely will be those who lambaste BYU and the church for their actions, but I am just as sure that there will be a few honest seekers of truth who will take notice of this event and as such will be softened somewhat in their hearts with regards to BYU and the Mormons. As such, some time down the road when two young men knock on their doors and ask to share the message of the restored gospel, these people will be more easily entreated to learning about the doctrinal foundation behind what has happened these past couple of days.

Publicity for the moral standards of the church is and always will be a good thing. While in this instance it may perhaps come at the expense of "the season that might have been," it may serve a greater good. I just hope that Davies himself uses this as a learning rather than an embittering experience so that it might serve his own greater eternal good.