Quick thought on individualism and communitarianism in a Mormon context

Posted in Uncategorized on March 19, 2013 by Thomas Parkin

The individual project is to become like Christ, though Grace, in all ways. The community project is to become a Zion people, with all that entails.

These two projects are absolutely intertwined and interdependent. You cannot build Zion where individuals are not growing towards the desirable end. You cannot grow individually in a vacuum – and, indeed, the individual that is growing will engage in building Zion. The two projects are so inseparable that one could almost – almost! – think of them as the same project. However, they occupy different spheres, different moments in our lives, and are ultimately not the same thing. Conflating the two causes confusion among the projects by dimming our view of the one or the other.

Why I haven’t utilized this blog

Posted in Uncategorized on October 11, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

When I created this blog, something like a year ago, I had the idea that I could use it as a kind of brain dump.  I often read something that sends my brain out wandering. My initial idea was that I could unload some of that here, with a minimum of effort, and that it might be interesting to myself and/or others to watch. Immediately thereafter, however, I wrote those guest posts for BCC – a process that I did not particularly enjoy – and this left me with an idea that what I post should be complete, coherent, meaningful to someone, whatever. On many occasions an idea has passed through my transit and I have thought, well, I’ll write up a quick post on that. But that feeling that I’d need to round it out … I’ve either not had the time or not wanted to spend the  time.

Anyway, I’m going to try to go back to my original idea. What might appear here might be fragmentary, and might only be fleshed out over time, or might not be fleshed out, at all. I don’t mean to post what seems to me throwaway – that’s what facebook is for. But I am going to try to be less strict with myself.

Mormon morals, ethics, metaphysics

Posted in Uncategorized on June 26, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

(I wanted this on permanent record as an important element in the way I think, morally.)

“Mormonism doesn’t have a morality; it has an ethics?” Asked by Joe Spencer at Times and Seasons.

Many years ago, more than 25, I read a book, or it might even have been an essay, that presented a very simple model that helps me think about these things. I believe it was written by a professor at UC Santa Barbara, but I can’t recall.

The model is this: morals rest upon ethics which rest upon metaphysical assumptions. Morals can be summed up as rules and norms, ethics as assumptions about what is good, and metaphysics as assumptions about the nature of reality. That is to say, we derive our rules from our assumptions about what is good, and our assumptions about what is good from our assumptions about the nature of things. In this model, I would not only prefer to say we have a Mormon ethics than that we have Mormon morals, I would prefer to say that we have a Mormon metaphysics from which we derive those ethics. Continue reading

Zombies and Nazis and Men, Oh My!

Posted in Uncategorized on June 17, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

…and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. - Ezekiel 37:26

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. Only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” Patricia Graynamore, Joe vs. the Volcano

It is a known joke to say that our societies, our civilizations, are full of zombies, the walking dead. A Jungian might look at the many zombie movies made in recent years and surmise that we have a collective awareness of a deadness in the hearts of people, or perhaps that we are projecting out a deadness in our own hearts. Someone else will note the ubiquitous marketing, the festering neon-distraction (TOOL) that promises life in the form of products or vapid eye-catching entertainment. The omnipresence of porn, with its genuine dark power, is expanding the borders of the dead territory, turning sex, that most living thing, into so much dead and regrettable meat. What do the living dead – and here, and throughout, let’s assume that to some degree the living dead is us – what do they, what should they do? Some are ‘born-again.’ Thoreau went to the woods to “to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life.” E.M. Forster told us that we need “only connect.” But many wanting to feel alive, if only for a weekend, have found that ‘only’ difficult to come by. Continue reading

On being a yea-sayer

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

After one has looked at the host, menu lovingly planned, table lovingly set, and no guests arrived; and the tire burst along the night road and no help for it; and morning a long way off; and the lover in confusion at their lover, or the desolation and confusion of unrequited love; and the questioning eyes of the loved and suffering child, or the hard glance of the unloved child; and the abandonment and the misunderstandings, and the unexpected then lingering pains in the aging bodies; and the lies; and the adventurer frozen solid on the side of the beautiful mountain; and the merciless grind of injustice; and the endless list of disappointments and deprivations and sufferings; and the silent despair and the loneliness; and the weeping; and the desperate and unanswered prayer; and finally after one has looked at the constructed pile of skulls, and the gas chamber. And evil.

I do not mean passing glib acknowledgments of  ‘the vicissitudes of life.’ I don’t mean temporary rage passing into politics. I mean looking long and square, until the whole terror of it passes into one’s bloodstream, into one’s bones, takes up permanent lodging in one’s heart and mind.

Then, if one can say yes to life. Yes, it is worth it. Yes, it is beautiful. Yes, I embrace it.  Bring it on. Well, then, that is something, to me.

My family

Posted in Uncategorized on March 8, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

Hours before dawn, we would pack up a few things, pack them into the trunk of the car, leave straightaway and drive through to California from where we were living in the Rocky Mountains. My sister Corinne would sleep across the back seat, and Lori would sleep on my Mom’s lap. In those days, seat belts were not the law of the land. We had not yet been taught to fear. I would have a bed made for me behind the front seat, making as comfortable as possible the place where the drive shaft protruded upward. My head would be down close to the road, and I would listen to the sound of the tires on the road, or I would peak my head up and watch the moon and wonder that the moon was following us without any seeming of turning aside from us.

One way that I might describe my father would be to say that he was a man who would stop, in the cool darkness or in the morning or under a desert sun, just to have a look around and smell the air. One way I might describe my mother would be to note her joy at having my young sister sleeping on her lap.

Oh great blessing of life, I thank you and thank you.

A smattering of words on magical realism and the Scholar of Moab

Posted in Uncategorized on February 24, 2012 by Thomas Parkin

There is a great sequence in One Hundred Years of Solitude that demonstrates what is meant by the term “magical realism.” Remedios is the most beautiful woman ever born in Macando. So potent is her attractiveness that it can be smelled in the bones of men who have died for her sake. Though she has brought men to ruin and death, she is herself blissfully unconcerned with all that happens in the world, including love. Many people consider her a kind of imbecile. One day, while she is folding sheets in the garden with her mother, a wind rises up and carries both Remedios and the sheets into the sky, never to be seen again. Continue reading