Saturday, April 30, 2011

"I see trees of green..."

I see trees of green, red roses too.
I see them bloom, for me and you.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world.

I see skies of blue, and clouds of white;
The bright blessed day, dark sacred night.
And I think to myself,
What a wonderful world!

Louis Armstrong, "What a Wonderful World,"

This is just going to be a post where I think about all the good stuff that I've been given.  (It probably wouldn't include so much stuff on nature if I hadn't been born on the west coast, but I guess you'll have to deal.)

Just walking along, Elder Milstead at my side, going to an appointment, I started looking around a few days ago.  A cloud caught my eye, and I stopped just to look at it.  It looked like a cumulonimbus; the bottom was so dark it was almost black, but the top was about as blue as the sky at noon.  It really stood out, since it was evening; the bright blue of the top of the cloud contrasted pleasingly with the darkness of the sky.  It was very pretty, to sum it up.

I just started thinking about all the little things that we take for granted.  Have you ever just taken the time to go up to a tree and feel it's bark? To try to get a sense of all the things that this tree has seen? To be grateful that this tree exists, giving you shade and oxygen?  (Yeah, I know.  I'm a tree-hugger.  So sue me.)

Have you ever looked at a dandelion, and said, "Yeah, I know it's a weed.  Dang, that's a pretty good looking weed?"  Or gone up to a river and just sat there, appreciating the sounds?

Nature is wonderful.  Not just the plant or minerals, either; the sheer variety of animals on this little cosmic speck that we call home is astonishing.  Each continent and country has its own variety of animals, each suited to its environment.

Then, we turn to ourselves.  The more I know about our human body the more astonished I am.  I highly reccommend that you read a talk about the human body: (Click Here.)  

To demonstrate, I'm going to offer a contest.  I challenge anybody to make a robot that meets these requirements:
  • Must be able to 
    • see in three dimensions
    • heal itself
    • reproduce itself for a period of eighty+ years
    • see an object in motion, calculate the trajectory of that object, determine the best place to place itself in order to catch that object, move itself into that position, and catch the object, all in less time than it takes to read this sentence
    • be self aware.  In other words, it must be capable of realizing that it is a machine, and it must determine its own qualifications.
    • choose.  It should have certain dispositions, but it should be able to choose to ignore its own programming when it wants to.
    • improve itself.  (One of my friends once said that this itself was his best proof that there is a god. "After all, the longer you drive a car, the faster it dies.  The more you work a machine, the faster it wears out. Yet, the more we drive ourselves, the better we go.  The more we work, the longer we last."
    • Grow from two cells to a being of around 150 pounds, perhaps six feet tall.
    • have more than two means of moving itself from place to place.
    • create an object when it has no pattern, deciding how to make it
    • when in pairs of two, reproduce itself.
    • Love.  This robot must be able to love another being so much that it will allow itself to be destroyed so that the other being can live.
    • dedicate itself to a cause.
    • wonder.  This machine must be able to look at something, and think about it. Not just about the how or what of the thing, but the why.  Why does this thing exist? Why do I exist?
    • want.  It must be able to desire something, and then take action to achieve that desire.
    • ride a bicycle. The best computer in the world can't do that, but we clever apes can!
Our body is the best computer ever built.  The world has never seen the smart phone or anything else that can do as many things as well as the human body can.

People tell me that God doesn't exist.  The world came about by chance, they say.  Somewhere, a cosmic computer hiccuped, and the universe boomed into existence.  Maybe four billion years later, the earth is formed, and life forms from some great primordial soup.  I don't buy that.  This world is too complex to be chance.  It is a creation.  Where there is a creation, there is a creator.

I know that God exists.  All of these things could give the effect of an intellectual conviction that there is a god.  However, I know more than anything else that God exists because I speak to him.  I feel his presence when I pray.  I've felt his love, and I know that he feels this same love for all people who will diligently seek him.  We are all his children, and he wants the best for us.  I know this to be true.

PS: If you want to read something about evolution and why it doesn't make sense, read this: Why Evolution just doesn't add up.  Skip down to "Points to Ponder."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Who am I?

I'm nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there's a pair of us -- don't tell!
They'd banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

"I'm Nobody! Who Are You?", by Emily Dickenson

That's really the question, nowadays.  Who am I?  On the surface, the answer would seem simple.  I'm Elder Tryon.  I'm a gamer geek.  Really, I am a nobody.  From all appearances, I don't really do anything much to change people's lives. 

Yet, for all that, I must be doing something right; my mother got a message recently from one of the members of our congregation. She said that I was doing an awesome job, that she really appreciated all the work that I had been doing in Philadelphia.

It's good that someone thinks so.  Back in Philly, I was getting really down, to tell the truth.  Nobody seemed interested in anything I had to tell them.  Imagine that you're standing on a street corner trying to hand out hundred dollar bills while thousands of people pass by and ignore you.  I mean, this message that we bring can bless people so much, but they just don't seem to want to do anything.

It's just so hard to see where I come in here.  I am one of the Lord's missionaries, one of about 52000 spread about the world.  What exactly am I supposed to be doing here?  I was barely managing with real life, and now I'm supposed to move into the internet again.  I'll be honest, it's a little intimidating.  As one of his representatives, everything that I post, like, or comment on reflects on Him.

Sure, I guess I seem like a whiny, teenage emo kid.  I'm not, don't get me wrong.  I love life.  I just need to know where I fit in.  Who benefits from me being here?  I'm here, sitting in a library while my companion works on his Facebook account.  I'm a Facebook luddite, so I'm just trying to do what I can to share about myself my own way. (I've always preferred writing to social interaction anyway.)

It's really easy to get discouraged as a missionary.  I haven't surfed the internet for almost a year.  All of my previous internet experience was more webcomics and forums, things like that.  I'm more than a bit lost.  Most of the people who, a month ago, wanted to be baptized, have dropped off the face of the earth because they are unwilling to keep the commandments of God.  People who are able do not come to church, choosing instead to sleep in, play football, or get drunk.

The best thing that helps me understand and keep going is just to focus on what truly is important.  I know that I am a child of God.  He's put me here for a specific purpose.  Even if I don't know why exactly I'm here in Salisbury MD, I know that I am here to help the children of God come back to him.  That's worth any sacrifice.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Humility Hurts

Yesterday was really fun. In the morning, my companion and I destroyed Brother Swanson in one of his favorite games. This is two weeks in a row, where usually he wins almost every time.  As we drove away, we got a text from him: "Humility hurts."

It's true. Nobody in this world wants to be humble.  It's just not in our nature.  We are the center of the world, and we're very comfortable to have it stay that way.

That's one of my bigger problems, really.  I want to have it my way, and if that means someone else gets trampled, so be it.  It's hard to be humble, because that requires sacrifice.

"What, you mean that I shouldn't play soccer on Sunday because it's the Sabbath? But I want to, so I'm going to do it anyway."
"I have to obey this rule? But that's such a dumb rule! Besides, it's not really that important."

It all seems to point back to us. We put ourselves in competition with God and with our fellow man.

So what's the solution?  I don't know if I've found it yet.  I don't know if there is one great do-all-to-end-all pride.  However, I can point out a few things that I've found helpful.

Step Back
The first thing we need to do is step back.  Step back from the petty cares of the world.  Throw out any personal pronouns that are being used.  I've always found it helpful to think not so much about who's right as what's right.

Often, when I've been using the computer for a long time, I have to use the 20-20 rule. For every twenty minutes I spent basking in the light of the monitor, I spend twenty seconds looking at something far away.  If I don't do this, I get an excruciating headache.  It's the same thing with life. Occasionally, we have to step back from our perception of life--the few pixels that we see--to see things how God sees them--the whole world.  If we can just get away from ourselves, we can learn better who we are. Once that happens, we realize just how few things we can do without Jesus Christ.

Believe it or not, I am a very forgetful person.  I don't do names or faces, and I probably couldn't tell you what I was doing three days ago.  That's why I find it so helpful to use a little book where I write important information, spanish words I'm learning, appointments, people I need to call, etc.  If I don't have that, I cannot function.

As human beings, we are naturally forgetful.  (I'm not trying to excuse myself, I'm just saying what I'm seeing.) What child has never called home and told a fretful parent to please come quick, because the permission slip that they've had in their backpack for two weeks is now due, still unsigned?  When the parent asks why the child didn't ask them to sign the sheet, the child replies, "I forgot."  (That happened to me about a dozen times.   My mom must be a saint, because she always came.)

The only way that we're going to remember who we truly are is to dwell on it often. We do that through prayer, studying the scriptures, and going to church.  I cannot state how important that is.  If we do not remember, we do not do. And if we do not do, why are we here?

Be Patient
This is difficult part.  We know what we want, and we want it now.  (This is another manifestation of pride.)  If we just have faith in God, we know that everything else will come.  We're willing to wait on someone that we've never really seen.  We know that if we do our part, God will do his.

I'm still learning. I'm a novice, a n00b in internet terms.  I have a long road ahead of me, but I'm going to press forward with faith.  I hope this has helped you.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Of tree stumps and Dexter shoes

This monday might have been the most fun of my entire mission. We spent most of the morning at Brother Swanson's house, just having fun with him. Brother Swanson, much like myself, is a very competitive gamer. Like his wife told us, the only good thing about him is that if you do win, you can know that it was a fair win; he doesn't even let his grandma win. We played a few games, and we didn't do so well. I only won one game. Meanwhile, he only lost one of the games that we played with him.

Afterwards, we all went out and helped him clean his deck. We painted it for a while, get it ready for entertainment now that the weather has started to dry up. It was a lot of fun just playing around, getting work done. We chatted about a lot of things; about a website that Elder Milstead was involved it, the latest TV shows, Dexter, a whole bunch of stuff. Brother Swanson joked that at the rate I was using paint, maybe I ought to start mowing the lawn instead; I had used almost half of it with the roller to paint the floorboards.  I had gone so quickly, the roller had sent flecks of paint onto my tennis shoes. We all joked that it looked like they'd been worn during some kind of shooting, with blood spots all over them.  All in all, it was a lot of fun.

Later on that day, we got another chance to help people out. We were just walking on the streets, chatting, when we saw a guy with a shovel digging a hole in his front yard.  We didn't really see what he was doing, so we walked over and tried to give him a hand.  There were branches all over the front yard, and the guy told us that he was trying to get some trees out of his front yard because they were attracting bees.  He seemed kind of doubtful when we said we wanted to help him out. And why not? Here he is, and two guys in suits come up and ask to help him dig in his yard. He handed us a spare shovel, and we went to work anyway. It was a lot more satisfying than I thought it would be to just get down and dirty with a tree. The only problem came when we found out that one of the tree's root systems was tangled with his main water pipe. We got it out anyway. It's a lot of fun to help people out. I hope we're able to do more of it. After all, like Mosiah says, "When ye are in the service of your fellow man, ye are only in the service of your God."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Who I am

So, I guess the first place to start on the first post is to say just who I am. My name is Elder Eric Tryon. I am a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, commonly known as the LDS or Mormon Church. I am serving in the Philadelphia Pennsylvania Mission, teaching as many people as will listen about the word of God. This blog is not my soapbox. I have one of those for real life. Rather, I hope to help show that we're normal people. We don't bite, you know. We're able to have a good time. Believe it or not, Mormons are just like you.

I'm a city boy from Seattle, Washington. I was born in the church, the second of eight children. I'm the first to go on a mission, so that's a lot of pressure not to mess anything up. I haven't been on the internet for about a year now, so if I seem a bit awkward I ask you to be nice, and overlook it.

Let's see, about me...

I have a lot of fun, really. I enjoy most board games, have a lot of friends, and like enjoying myself. My personal theory is that if you're not enjoying yourself, you're probably doing something wrong. If I have to choose between laughing and crying, it's a lot more fun to laugh. Plus, tears taste all salty.

I like the internet. However, because as a rule of thumb most missionaries are not allowed to use the internet, I haven't really visited most of the sites that I liked. That's probably a good thing, because I wasted a whole bunch of time on stuff that really doesn't matter.

I like mostly old music. The Beatles, the Eagles, the BGs, Hewey Luis and the Newsboys, Queen... One of my friends recently told me that I was born in the wrong era.

I'm a geek and I'm not ashamed to admit it. I enjoy life, I love books, and I'm a Mormon and proud of it.