Thursday, December 15, 2011

To End a Dialogue

Dear Sentry,

I know that I promised you that we would continue our journey together. However, I feel that it is time to end this particular blog. Let's be honest, the title hasn't accurately depicted what this blog is about for a long time. I have enjoyed writing letters but I think it's time to try a new way of writing. I'll continue writing, Sentry, don't worry. But I want to make a new blog and write in a new format. If you want to follow and see where I go, Sentry, check out the new blog.

But if not, I wish you well, Sentry. Stay safe. Stay warm. Stay sane.

Your friend,

Monday, October 31, 2011

Beginnings and Endings

Dear Sentry,

Sometimes we must say goodbye. Sometimes we must allow what we have known to slip away from us. Push away from that shore of familiarity and drift into unknown and at times unsafe waters where there is no guide for you and no way of knowing what lies ahead. Sometimes you go it alone and sometimes you travel with others.

I have traveled with so many people along the way and lost so many people to the normal fluxes in time. Different places and different people call to each of us. Friends, so close and dear in the past, now are strangers to me. Their faces have familiarity but their eyes speak of experiences I cannot begin to know. For some there is hardness in their voice, of experiences bitter and cruel. For others there is relief and excitement as if those experiences have touched them in pleasant and positive ways. For others there is a distant tone as though they are lost somewhere, unable to return.

But in all, my friends have gone there separate ways. And now it is my time too.

I feel as though I have stayed in this town for as long as necessary. I feel as though I can at last say goodbye to a place that I never thought in all my childhood years I would ever live in. Utah was the last place on Earth I wanted to be in. But here I am, going on five years. The seasons I have seen, the people I have met, the things I have learned about the world and about myself.

Sentry, it is true that I will remain in Utah for a while longer. The place feels like...home. I feel as though I have found a place where I want to struggle in. These past five years have changed me. I am no longer as much the scared boy that was afraid of life and afraid of the future. I am no longer lost in some cocoon of self-loathing and self-disgust.

The journey is not beginning for me, Sentry. It began a long time ago in a different state. No, I have simply awakened to who I really am and have come to love myself. A new chapter is about to begin. One of my own design. One of my own making. I am saying goodbye to a place that has for so long given me the tools to forge and finally dismantle the chains of my own making.

I spoke with a friend of mine the other day and I agree with him, Sentry. We have stayed long enough in this valley. We have traveled for too long in this remote area of the world. Where we go next is, as always, up to us. We may travel down the road a little longer together or may go our separate ways. I know this path I am going on to some degree. I am attempting to figure out what I really want to do with my life. I am attempting to better understand this world I have come to find myself in.

This morning, this day, this night, is a time of reflection and of saying goodbye. Goodbye to what I have known for so long. It is time to set old things aside, box up old memories, and set out anew. Sentry, you have traveled with me for so long, why not continue with me for a bit longer? Our journey together isn't complete. Not nearly so.

Happy Halloween, Sentry.

Your friend,

Monday, October 17, 2011

Honesty and Glamour

Dear Sentry,

There was an article that I read earlier today that really touched me. Among the many things that I got from the article, there was a reminder to me that I need to be honest with myself. I cannot help but think back on certain things and wonder if I'm even close to being honest. I attend groups both at school and off campus that each have an implied idea of honesty within them. Each group suffers some kind of repression here in this Happy Valley.

What kind of honesty do we live in society, Sentry? What kind of honesty do we embrace when we are told by parents that in order to be hired by companies we must have a certain scrubbed clean appearance on our social media sites? What kind of honesty do we have when we are encouraged to tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth except when it is damaging, embarrassing, or just ill-fitting?

Now, Sentry, honesty is such a strange thing, right? We have a call for more honesty from our government yet we run and hide from it when we realize just how gruesome, dark, and pathetic those truths are. We are embarrassed by the ramblings, idiocies, and foolishness that truth reveals about us. Our deepest, darkest secrets, if revealed, are nothing more than the hungering for the taboo, vain wanting of things in life, and awkward thoughts that we possess about ourselves and others. Honesty is a strange and often-times uncomfortable thing.

We - as individuals, groups, families, communities, societies, and civilizations - do not want honesty. What we want is a controlled form of life. The comfort of believing that our shallow stereotypes of life are consistent and all that there is. For if we were to strip ourselves of these insecurities and see how human we all were, life would cease to contain this thin veneer of feigned decency.

Honesty, Sentry, is to be carefully locked away while celebrating it.

So, how am I being honest with myself? Am I being honest with myself or have I turned away from the hard facts, embarrassing moments, and just oddities that have populated my life over the years? Have I made a squeaky clean version of me and blocked, then, my ability to handle and deal with life? Do I ignore reality and opt for the politically, religiously, or socially correct view of life? Life is not glamorous or glitzy or even bedazzled with cheep thrills and shallow entertainment.

The answer, unfortunately, Sentry, is that I have not been honest. What I have invested in our the cheap thrills in life, the empty promises of happiness and fulfillment. I could say that I do not understand suffering, and that would be correct, but I think I honestly just don't know what it means to care for someone that has lost everything and cannot seem to find their way back in life. I do not know what it's like to face such unfiltered hatred because of something you are or live or believe in. I do not know what it's like to walk a mile in their shoes or see through their eyes.

I wish to be more honest. I wish to see more of my life and the world around me as it is. I don't want to dress it up in frills or put a positive or negative spin on it. I don't want to take a "Gospel" perspective on it or add the shadings of politics to it that so often distorts our reality. I simply want to see it as it is. I want to approach this with a healthy, realistic approach. Nothing more. Nothing less. I imagine it would take time to get into the habit of doing so, but I want to attempt to do so, Sentry.

Your friend,

Thursday, October 13, 2011


Dear Sentry,

It's been a while since we've talked. I admit that I've been trying to get used to the new situation my life has been found in. Sentry, I admit that despite the problems that I'm facing, I feel freer than I've ever been. I feel it in the air, I see it in what I do and how I live, and I feel it in my very being. It's this sense that I finally am free to make or break my life. It's definitely an intoxicating feeling.

But that's not entirely the point of this letter to you. Yes, yes, life is good, right? And it is. And yes, yes, once more I have my troubles but when do I not, right? But have you ever felt a sense of joy in life at where you stand? Where all before you has begun to slip away as though it were as tangible as air? I feel a cleansing effect coming over my mind and in that, Sentry, I at last know that I can take on the toxic things in my life.

I've allowed so much anger, bitterness, and frustration to enter and stay in my life. Now I want to let them fall away from me. I've been waiting for this period of time to approach. The time when I can at last face what is negative and remove them from my life.

So, Sentry, what is negative or toxic for you? Do you ever find yourself waiting for the right moment to let something go? Or do you such accept that corrosive element in your soul and let it continue its work because you're tough enough to deal with it?

Anyway, that's just been on my mind as of late.

Your friend,

Some videos that I liked:

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Seven Years...No, Seriously

Dear Sentry,

This past Wednesday marks the 7th anniversary of me entering the MTC. It was that decision that led me to a lot of where I'm at today in so many ways, both good and evil, for better and for worse. I remember that summer just after high school. I had no direction and no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had just finished public school and was feeling a sort of elation. I had just finally forgiven myself for ever liking this one guy almost two years before that. I no longer hated myself as I had felt during high school. My only biggest concern was feeling guilty over watching porn and masturbating.

I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. I had no idea where I was going. I had no firm conviction of what I wanted at all. I was adrift without purpose that summer. I believed in the Church, the prophet, and the Book of Mormon though I harbored doubts because I had never once felt any conviction that the Book of Mormon was from God.

It was a summer that should have been one of transition and adjustment but instead I did what I normally did and refused to change, refused to adjust to what life was offering me. I allowed myself to be talked into going on a mission. I went and spoke with the bishop and passed my interview but I harbored feelings of guilt over porn and masturbating. I thought I could beat it back and do what God had asked of me. I thought all sorts of things back then.

The dry, terribly hot summer continued on and I soon met with the Stake President. In the interview, I felt overcome with guilt and was frustrated and depressed. I confessed of my sins and was given time to think over it. I felt I needed to repent. My parents were alarmed by this. What would make their son not want to serve a mission? At first they gave me space, wanting to let me figure things out. But as the weeks dragged on, they finally confronted me. My mom suggested I pray about going on a mission. So I did so...or felt too guilty to bother God with such a question. I knew I needed to go. So I figured that was my answer and was soon called to serve in Colorado. I was to report to the MTC on the 29th of September in 2004. I tried to get ready, I tried to do all that I thought I should do. But I never could seem to do it.

Sentry, it's been seven years since that day. Seven years since I chose to serve a mission for the LDS Church. It's kind of funny now, looking back on that decision. I still can recall the desire to do what was right, or what I thought was right then. I can still recall the curiosity and desire to believe in visions, revelations, God, and the Holy Ghost. I can even recall the weight of despair that I felt whenever I tried to imagine I life without ever having a person I truly loved in it. I believed that I would be dead by twenty-five. So powerful was that idea that even after I shed my beliefs, I still harbored a nervous fear that such a view would come true in my twenty-fifth year of life. I'm twenty-six now, so I guess that was an unnecessary attitude to have.

Serving a mission and going to BYU were to decisions that have impacted my life. They have so powerfully and so completely altered my life that I can't even begin to fathom it now. I divide my life, when looking back, between before serving my mission, serving my mission, and after serving. How many times have you, Sentry, felt the same thing? Felt that realization that one particular decision has so powerfully impacted your life? It has created a whole new category to make decisions in.

What about you, Sentry? What decisions have you made that have impacted your life in huge ways?

Updates and Clips

Dear Sentry,

I was going to write you last night but a friend needed my help. It's been a while. I moved a month ago to a new place and getting adjusted has been my primary concern.

It's been interesting these past several weeks. For the first time in my life I have lived as an openly gay man. I haven't had to bow my head and hold my tongue like before. This doesn't mean that I'm walking around town with my very own glitter cannons and stuffing rainbow flags in every mailbox and mail slot I pass. It also doesn't mean that I have been living in such a way as to put my life at risk. I hate that people found it justifiable to attack and harm people just because of their sexual orientation. I simply live honestly and with hope and optimism.

I have learned a lot since the start of this journey two and a half years ago. Many wonderful things have occurred in my life and some not so great things. But I'd like to believe that it has all been for the best.

Sentry, it's pretty well known just how naive I am. I know that I am still ignorant of so much. Sometimes it's hilarious and sometimes it's embarrassing. I learned a strange thing about a friend of mine. It has reminded me once more how little you can know about a person. I don't mean that as in they are someone totally alien and horrible, but different and more complex. I constantly want to figure people out. I try to factor in the simple but overlooked fact that you cannot know everything about a person. You cannot place people in boxes and you cannot fix their destiny.

It seems that people are made up of opposites. I do not harbor and do not desire to believe in some kind of divine Being or Beings yet I have a deep fascination for religious music, artifacts, history, and myths. I believe me to be very kind. If you're ever in trouble, I'll be there to help you. I'll pretty much drop everything to do so, Sentry. You already know this. But I also have a knack for knowing just how to irritate you and get you upset with me. I know exactly what it takes to irritate a person. The list goes on.

So, Sentry, what opposites are you made of?

On a lighter note (though I think this letter has been optimistic), there is something addicting about Rumbi fries. Have you ever had sweet potato fries? Why? Why? Why? Why are they so addicting?

I will become fat because of them. Damn you, Rumbi Fries!!!

Your friend,

"Have anyone of you even seen a chicken?"

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Dreams of Jeremy

Dear Sentry,

No, I'm not being lazy. It's dreams week over at a shared blog that I write on on Wednesdays. I thought I'd copy what I wrote there and post it here:

What kinds of dreams do we have? I'd like to think we have fantastic dreams such as finding love, healing all pain, and having hilarious stories to tell in our old age to anyone that will listen to us. So, as befitting my habit of sharing videos with you. I will do so.

Do you have dreams of evil red heads with green skin attacking you? Favorite line in that scene? "However, there is one boy who does not have a fairy." Let us take a lesson from this dream: boys should have fairies with them at all times. But not the fairies in the game. Hot fairies.

(Can he be my Navi instead?)

All right, moving on. When I was a little boy, I used to dream of designing my own home, traveling the world, and marrying and having kids. I dreamed of all sorts of lavish things. Over the years those things have changed. I now dream of finding a career I can lose myself in, something that I can be passionate about. I dream of meeting some wonderful guy one day and marrying him. I dream of growing old together and traveling wherever we want in life. I dream of publishing my stories and of people actually liking them.

Those are dreams right now. I have ever expectation and hope that they will one day become realized. However, I do have some other strange and odd dreams that I wish to share with you...some might be naughty dreams:

1) I want to organize one of the largest capture the flag games on BYU campus and then watch the whole thing from the top of the Spencer W. Kimball Tower (I might laugh evilly during it).
2) I want one day for Hug a Lesbian Day (it's every day, fyi) to become so big that a sweet innocent gal will be running from a crowd of hetero men and women friends trying to hug her for that day.
3) I want to see every country on the planet
4) I want to date a hot Deaf boy (why am I lacking on this one?)
5) I want to one day be asked by a guy in his underwear (somewhere in Utah) why I'm wearing pants and have other people look at me funny too.
6) I want to do the dirty in every building of my college campus
7) I want to lead a parade
8) I want to be chased by a large crowd of straight people intent on hugging me
9) I want some random stranger to turn to me somewhere where we'll be sitting and go, "Wow, you have a sexy belt. May I touch it?"
10) I want to recreate scenes from Will and Grace.

What did you think? Oh and if you do number 9 to me, Sentry, I will promptly ignore you. All right, I'll probably giggle.

Your friend,

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Sin of Being a Jew

Dear Sentry,

I just finished reading the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. I will be watching the movie soon enough. The book was heart-wrenching to put it mildly. I highly recommend that you read it, Sentry, if you haven't already.

When I read such material, I am appalled and shocked that anyone or any people or any country or any area could logically, reasonably, or deliberately decide to exterminate another group of people. I feel like Bruno in his naivete to the hatred, cruelty, and absolute disregard for the humanity of those around me.

I fully admit to being naive. I admit to being blind to the understand of just how much hatred and inhumanity exists in this world. What are we, Sentry? It seems so sad, so pathetic that we - all of us, it seems - spend our time bickering and arguing over the dumbest things. Jews, blacks, Asians, Muslims, atheists, liberals, conservatives, Europeans, Democrats, Chinese, gays, Native Americans, lesbians, transgenders, Latinos, whites, Indians, Christians, Americans, and so on. Titles. Descriptions. Divisions. Does it really matter what I am? Does it really matter what you are?

Why does it have to matter? Why must we all insist on dividing us?

I am at a loss of words...

Your friend,

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Lucid But for a Moment

Dear Sentry,

I apologize for this somber letter to you in advance. How are you doing, though?

There are times when I wish I didn't feel. Dramatic right? The only sense of reason I can apply here is gratitude that I do not possess the power to eliminate emotions because I know it would be rash and just wrong.

Sunday night I learned at last that I do not know what it means to be "in love." I learned that the person that I did like far more than others...sigh...well, I was way more into it than he was. I realize it was silly of me to think as I did. Silly of me to want for something like that. I confess that it's just not easy to write this letter, Sentry. I feel as though my heart is in pain from this. Again, melodramatic, I know.

Look, I realize I'm also sorts of thing that make me utterly human. I'm not asking you, Sentry, to perceive me as superhuman or even above average human. Could you at least, though, deal out some pity to me? I know that in the weeks to come I'll be grateful for this epiphany, this understanding. But right now, it feels like daggers in my heart. This truth has been hard to swallow these past couple of days.

I know I deserve better. I do not say that arrogantly but honestly. I know it so I work to make my life better. To make my life the kind of good that I want others to share with me.

But today, this day, I feel weak and pathetic. I feel...well, human: vulnerable, pathetic, and weak. Tomorrow I will feel those things but enthusiasm, hope, and optimism. But that's tomorrow, Sentry. So, I know I'll heal. I know I'll recover. I know I'll make my life better and richer in experience and joy than it already is. This incident, this epiphany will become yet another force of strength in my life. But today it is an erosion of strength.

Forgive me, Sentry.

Your friend,

Monday, September 5, 2011

Character in a Story

Dear Sentry,

So, I write stories. But you might have known that. I don't actually remember. Forgive me for my bad memory on this. Anyway, I wanted to share something with you. To help me get into the mind of the character, I create a playlist with songs that remind me of some facet of what the character is feeling or some aspect of an event in the story. It's meant to help inspire me while I write.

I wanted to share one of these playlists. You tell me what you think. This particular playlist runs about an hour and twenty minutes or so. So, if you listen to it all, plan on having the music in the background while going about your day (or days).

This playlist focuses on the character Caleb Martin. He's this young twenties guy, fresh-faced, and naive as all get out. But he's sweet and kind and will help you out if your in a bind. Also, not surprisingly, he's gay and still Mormon. At the beginning of the story, his best friend has just committed suicide and he's struggling to find his place in the world. His family disowned him when he came out to them and he's not all that close to his other roommates. So he's feeling very vulnerable and alone. The playlist starts with when he first moves in with his new roommates (the other main characters) and goes until the end of the story. Enjoy! Or...get really bored, Sentry!

1. New Soul - Yael Naim

2. Goin' Home - Bill Ferguson (from the movie Shelter)

3. Je n'aime que toi (from the French musical Les Chansons d'Amour)

4. Safe in a Crazy World - Corrinne May

5. Pure Imagination (Glee Version)
6. Death Shall Not Destroy My Comfort - BYU Concert and Choir

7. Stillness of Mine (from the movie A Single Man)

8. Jesus, The Very Thought of Thee - Mindy Gledhill version

9. Mother Knows Best (from the movie Tangled)

10. Gentle - Marie Pearson

11. My Joy is Full (from the Seminary Book of Mormon Soundtrack)

12. More Than This - Shane Mack (from the movie Shelter)
13. I Want to Hold Your Hand - T.V. Carpio (from the movie Across the Universe)
14. Pon de Replay - Rihanna
15. Pyromania - Cascada
16. Hymn - Brooke Fraser
17. Mother Knows Best (Reprise) (from the movie Tangled)
18. Everytime - Britney Spears
19. Somewhere Only We Know (Glee version)
20. Jar of Hearts - Christina Perry
21. Firework - Katy Perry
22. You'll Always Be My Best Friend - Relient K
23. Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing - Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Your Friend,
I love this scene because it's pathetically adorable...sad! Ha ha!!!

Friday, September 2, 2011


Dear Sentry,

There are days where I want to run and run and run and never quit. Those are the days where I would break myself, crush myself, and end all that is me...if I could actually do that. These are night times where I am depressed but rather times where I feel the pent up desire to throw my world upside down and start over.

Except I can never succeed, it seems.

Then there are the days where I wish I could scream, shake my fist at the world, and walk away from everything. On these days, I'd give up everything and just say to the world "here's the middle finger. You know what that means." But I can't do that. I feel that I would regret it in an instant once I saw the bridges burning.

I want a day where I don't feel either of these feelings but something new. I can feel the familiar beginnings of these emotions developing in me again. It comes out of jealousy or envy. I feel trapped right now, Sentry. I feel trapped at the exact same moment I am beginning to feel like I can breathe and taste freedom. I can sense it deep in the core of my being. The world around me is shifting and out of fear of losing that world, I'm running with it and making a damn good effort at keeping up with it.

So why, then, Sentry, do I feel like I'm losing still? I know that I am at last being true to my self. I'm at last reaching goals and dreams and better understanding myself. So why do I feel stooped and anxious?

Honestly, I think that with all the change that is happening, it's not the change I'm seeking. There is still something amiss in my life. Something that some part of me tells me I should have. No, Sentry, it's not Jesus or any god or something like that.

I hate this feeling of restlessness. But I know that if I wish to better understand, I can't hate it.

I just wish I knew what I wanted.

Your friend,

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Stress...Why is There No Chocolate Coating for You?

Dear Sentry,

It's confessional time! I was going to write "confessional hour" but I really hope this letter doesn't take anywhere close to an hour to read! That would be where I'd encourage skimming of the letter or avoid reading it altogether! This is a letter meant to help me work through some of my thoughts that I've had recently. Some are connected to the last letter but mostly it's about stress.

Stress is that thing that you feel but don't want to deal with. You can't run from it and you can't fight it most times with your fists (or a swift kick to the nether regions). Stress is that feeling that you're facing a lot of hell and all you want to do is scream, rant, or laugh at it because you can't think of anything else sane. Well, Sentry, if you don't feel that way about stress, that's what I feel. Stress is something that I feel at the bottom of my stomach that creeps up my spine. It's a heaviness that I feel that sometimes makes me sick and sometimes just makes me not sure what to do. I wanna curl up in a ball and forget what I'm feeling but I know that I can't deal with it.

Stress or anxiety, the terms are interchangeable to me. When I feel panic or a panic that I can't remedy immediately, it takes the form of shallow breathing in my lungs. I feel scared to the point that I lose the ability to function. I just want to run. I've done this sometimes. My poor wife once had this happen to her. I ran from what was giving me tremendous anxiety and slept on her couch. Her roommate came home later, saw me on the couch and thought I was a rapist come to end their lives or something. Evidently, Sentry, when I sleep I look like a crazy man. But let's be real, I look no different from when I'm awake! Except that I don't rape. Ever. That was for clarification in case you think I'd do that.


A video to lighten the mood:

(Karen Walker, the answer is, "Yes!")

Returning to the letter:

My friends have seen this stress of mine in different forms: scatterbrained, confused, or denial of things. Suddenly information becomes locked away deep and I don't want to talk about it. It won't even make sense why I'm suddenly not willing to talk about it. At times this is cause I don't want to face whatever it is because on some deep level I'm terrified of it.

This past year, I've come to realize, has been about me finally confronting and recognizing stress. I am a dork and will cry over many things: babies, old and familiar religious music (some habits die hard), sad or poignant moments in movies, after laughing too hard, or if I get hurt. I cry or just curl up in the fetal position when I'm stressed. Sometimes I'll just sit where I'm at and stare at nothing for a while because anything else would be me facing that stress or anxiety and I just can't do that at the moment.

I don't write this, Sentry, to make you feel pity or want to help me feel better. I'll be on my feet and smiling and laughing in a few minutes anyway just do to my cheerful nature. I'm pretty cheerful around my friends most times. But then, when no one is around, I'll sit very still and just stop. It isn't always cause I'm relaxing. It's cause I'm hiding from that monster in my mind called stress.

I have a goal now. I want to face my stress, find coping techniques, medicine if I must, and gain information to better understand just what is happening in my brain.

Your friend,

Sunday, August 28, 2011


Dear Sentry,

You've seen it around you at one point or another: couples holding hands, tease-flirting with each other, having wild, raunchy eye flirts with each other. It happens. You can't dodge it, Sentry. Or perhaps in less uptight communities, you'll find couples or two random people making out, having a NCMO (non-committal make-out), or slapping their tongues together in an oral sword fight.

But it's more than that. Over the past year, much of my focus has been on just dealing with life. Dealing with it by coming to terms with some of the fears I've tried to hide from. It's a game I play: I tell myself I'm happy and I pretend I am until I can no longer avoid it, and then I work to fix things. Now, that's not saying that I'm not happy. I am happier than I've ever been in a long, long time. But there are still areas of my life that need that little fixer-upper kind of attitude. I am still in the process of doing that.

Suddenly many of my friends are casually dating or in relationships. And for the first time I am around more gay friends that fit into this category. It's a strange situation. My own roommate is dating a guy and I realize that I've never been around that before. So, Sentry, it has got my thinking recently: what do I think about relationships when it comes to me?

This is an area that fits what I described earlier as avoiding. It's a tangled area that I have tried to avoid over the past couple of years. And in all honesty I probably will still do that. But, allow me to explain the thought process behind this, Sentry (I'll try to keep it short).

I have struggled a lot with how I look at and interact with morals that I feel obligated to follow. I still am in the middle of figuring those things out. For that, it makes it difficult for me to want to develop any romantic feelings towards someone. I honestly think that's what I'm attracted to awkward and shy guys. It's a reflection of that attitude on my part. This weird fixation on rules and standards and morals, all abstract and superfluous, causes some kind of weird disconnect in my brain. Seriously, Sentry, my brain is weird. I have a cognitive dissonance where I'm fine with flirting and such but anything involving commitment makes me back off because I'm afraid I can't be totally honest or giving .

Finally, I know that I want to fall in love. I'm a total dork on that. The whole hopeless romantic runs through my veins. But I feel like my life is a mess with all this. I want to first figure things out before allowing myself to fall in love. Does that make sense, Sentry? I think relationships are a beautiful, crazy, goofy, odd, annoying, and complex thing. I just want to take care of things in my life. I don't believe I'm a catch right now or even worth noticing on that level. I don't mean that in some kind of self pity moment but rather as a way of saying, "Nothing to look at. Move on, please."

I brief list of things I'm working on: finishing school, figuring out my religious status and future, finances, assuming more control over my life, friendships, the "next step" plans, and such. Do I wish I were dating? Sure. Would it be wise to date? Hardly. So, friendships are all I need right now.

Does that make sense, Sentry?

Your friend,

Some songs and videos on relationships:

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

When Avoiding Politics Always Use The Macarena as Your Escape Route

Dear Sentry,

It's been a while since I wrote a letter. I confess I've been busy this past week or so. I just moved to a new place where the Internet is at times questionable on reliability. So I'm sitting in my favorite place, enjoying a delicious hot dark chocolate drink, and typing away on my computer. I've been busy with life on a number of levels and maybe some day I'll share that with you. But right now, I kind of wanted to talk about something that has been on my mind recently.

Politics is the subject that's avoided around dinner tables. It's the kind of topic that, when brought up, you politely find a quiet escape from it or the group you're with. Passions flare and ignorance rears its ugly head. Let's be honest, when you hear someone say, "President Obama is one of the worst/best presidents we've had in a long time" you're gonna react. You'll either agree, disagree, or run the hell away to avoid the topic. Honestly, I support avoiding the topic of politics in most situations.

Sentry, I take the view that politics is an necessary evil. Humanity will create politics no matter what. That's my view. In my limited exposure to Hobbes, Locke, Aristotle, Plato, Machiavelli, and such political philosophers, I have bought into the view that you can't escape politics.

I have my opinions. They are varied and sometimes take a while to explain. I don't like to discuss them with most people because I think there are better topics to have (like why Karen Walker is my god). I also just find it annoying to have to debate all the time. They're my opinions, however correct they are (just kidding!), and that's how I see it. You can argue some other time with me about the relevance (or sanity) of some comment Glenn Beck or whomever you think is brilliant said one time. I just want to watch my West Wing/American Dad/Family Guy/Will and Grace/Rome/whatever other show I like to watch and leave it at that.

I detest conversations where people say, "All they need to do..." No. Odds are that's not the case. Politics is complicated, nuanced, and damn well annoying. A short couple of sentences about how to fix the problem in Iraq/Iran/China/etc. will not work. It won't ever work. So stop. Also, I hate conversations about the perfection of America and the evil of China/Europe/Saudi Arabia/Syria/Egypt/Your Mom/Venezuela/Brazil/Vanuatu/or whatever country you dislike today. Seriously, I don't care.

I don't like when politics can be summed up in pithy phrases. It excuses the individual hearing this to turn off their brain and not think. Let's be real here for a second, Sentry, politics does affect you. That big ol' reality show called Congress does affect your life in potentially every way. So, yes, it will affect you and avoiding it won't change that. Skipping down the road with your best mates, chattering about the latest gossip from Pretty Little Liars is probably better than discussing American foreign policy in Iraq or Malta and certainly something to have fun with. I'll always be more willing to talk about that, but don't pretend that this conversation is relevant or better serving than discussing what your politicians are up to (or what little indiscretions they are trying to hide). But maybe I'm a snob, I don't know. Anyway, politics - love it, hate it - it's here to stay.

So let's just agree to disagree. All right, Sentry? Remember: I'm always right. You're always wrong. Don't worry about it, ha ha! Finally, I have only a few videos to end this letter with. Love ya, Sentry!

Your friend,

Yes, the last video was necessary.

Monday, August 15, 2011

An Observation in Time

Dear Sentry,

I have a friend named Honoria. She is someone that I care about deeply. But in all that I've observed I fear that she is ticking time bomb. If she ever goes kaboom in the foreseeable future, I fear for her. I want her to live many years. I think she will. I believe she has all that she needs to conquer the weaknesses in her. For that potential, she is commendable. But her obstacles are incredibly formidable, and, as always seems the case, she is her own worst enemy. She may believe religion or her parents or even men are her worst enemies but she need only look in the mirror to see the one that seeks her demise.

To illustrate my point, Sentry, if a person wanted to attack her verbally, all they would need to do to unravel her is to strike at her most vulnerable area: self-worth. Honoria is terribly weak in this regard and I am suspicious that she does not have that high of an opinion of herself. I have seen evidence for this in her calling herself fat (she is very healthy and skinny). Honoria has so many insecurities concerning her body. She masks it behind bravado and arrogance about it, but that mask is incredibly fractured. Spend a little time with her and sadly she will at some point discuss how she is fat. But it is a little bit more complex than that. I do not believe that Honoria sees herself as only fat. I think she fights an internal conflict over this. I think she sees herself as fat and also as skinny and healthy. I think her default view is that she is fat but she is trying desperately to believe otherwise. May her better side prevail on this.

This perception of her body should have, in my opinion, been somewhat altered in her adventures in the land of sex. Perhaps that was a bit naive on my part, Sentry. I am a firm believer in the ability of people to improve themselves. I honestly had hoped that her wanting to have sex and experimenting would help her see herself as not gross, fat, or unattractive. It appears that at this point I was wrong. She has created a dependency from sex. She needs sex in order to gain affirmation that she is wanted, needed, and loved. I have seen her deny this. Sex is fun, she will claim. I just want sex, is something that she'll tell me. I have come to the conclusion that she is in denial to herself. Oh, no doubt she just wants sex for its pleasurable potential but she also seeks sex to gain affirmation in her self worth. Yet I have witnessed her tear down her sexual partners if they do not meet her needs. I have seen her return to the same men that do not love her time and again. I have seen her hope that through sex she can gain their love. I have seen her express the desire to be someone's "first" in sex. I have no desire to take someone's virginity away. There's too much complex emotions, a lot of crying, and a lot of patience involved in that. But I think she wants it because it would be special and something new. Also, and perhaps just because, they would never forget her because she was their "first." Sadly, if a person wanted to strike at Honoria and cut deep they would have to belittle her skills and talents in bed. They could drive home the idea that no one even wants her through this. It is an idea that I believe she secretly harbors. A man could do this better than a woman as she still wants men more than women.

From body image to sex and now to dependency on others, Honoria has very little belief that she is worth-while. This is such a tragic attitude, Sentry. But I fear this is where things are most dangerous for her. Her dependency leaves her unstable as a person. Lacking self-worth ironically makes her very selfish, but not surprisingly. After all, how can she give love if she has little to no love for herself? In her defense, she can be a kind and loving person but I find that to be a "from time to time" thing more than a frequent one. She craves the attention of others. She hungers for their love and their desire to be around her. She wants to be the center of attention with others. Yet she sincerely fears that others don't like her or want her. That everyone will eventually abandon her. So she prepares for this by distancing herself and thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy. Her friends, as I have noticed (including me) are constantly rebuffed if they get to close. I know that she can love, Sentry. Yet she believes that expressions of love have distinct male/female responses. From what I have observed, she thinks that emotional expressions of love are masculine and therefore something she emulates (she does not believe that she acts like other women).

I would suggest, Sentry, that you see her as broken and playing defense. That would be the most accurate way of describing her, I believe. She clings desperately to her remarkable intelligence and hard work as a way to define herself. Relationships are weak around her because she has been taught by her parents that love is a cold and distant thing. Her parents, though, aren't fully to blame. There have been other moments in her life that have taught her this strange, twisted, and sad idea. Her dulled ability to express love and compassion is not fully her fault, she is but the product of her experiences. But I would suggest, Sentry, that you do not look upon her distant nature as being impregnable. Her distant nature is actually chaotic. Think of her as a castle with formidable walls to keep out outsiders or unwanted actions. But the problem with this castle is that there is a gaping hole in her defensible walls leaving her vulnerable to attacks by anyone and everyone. She may be able to put up a strong front in other places but she cannot truly hold out.

Another strange aspect about her (but not strange when we widen the scope to take in people in general) is her desire to be superior to others and yet act inferior. In this, I do not forgive as much as in other places. Honoria, though kind and nice, is arrogant. She uses her intelligence, preference for reading classical literature, choice of clothing, and atheistic nature to put herself above her peers. I honestly think this is due to how she was raised by her parents. I also think this is because she sincerely wants to believe she is better than others. Though gifted with intelligence, she is wrong to act this way. She has no issues with tearing another person down and then building herself up. It is the only area of her self-worth she can actively work on. Men become sexual objects for her (even though she craves romantic intimacy with them), gay men her playthings, lesbians are an exotic fantasy that she would go for but fears that rejection, and other women are a mystery to keep at bay and avoid at all costs. All exist to serve her, bow before her, or avoid her. This is not a perfect situation though (it is merely some subconscious fantasy on her part). Sentry, I do not enjoy being someone's plaything. I love Honoria but I cannot abide being that with her.

This arrogance that she possesses is unflattering in my opinion. I cannot be kind about it. I believe it to be the purest manifestation of her insecurity and lack of self-worth. The paradox of arrogance in her superiority and yet total disbelief in her ability to be anything more than pathetic to others is interesting, yes. It is also sad, Sentry. I fear that if she ends up alone or with few friends, it will be because of this paradox and not because of something else.

If there were anything I could suggest to her, I'd say love yourself. Accept yourself for all the good and bad that is inside you. Forgive others and let them have faults. Accept others as your equal and let yourself be their equal too. I have hope for her, Sentry. How could I not? I love her dearly as my friend. But I fear that ticking time bomb that is in her.

Your friend,

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Layers of an Onion and Monty Python

Dear Kiley,

It's been a few days or so since we last exchanged letters. You were completely spot on with your last post on Mormons and obedience. I thank you for that! So you shared this quote by M.L. Mencken, “[Religion’s] single function is to give man access to the powers which seem to control his destiny, and its single purpose is to induce those powers to be friendly to him… Nothing else is essential.” I just wanted to comment on it.

But first: Monty Python clips!

I love Mony Python, ha ha!

So, to break down his comments (for my sake), Mencken claims that religion's sole function is for the individual to gain favors whatever they believe by seducing the divine in that individual's favor. The second claim by Mencken is that this is all that is essential.

I will agree with Mencken that one of religion's functions is to assist the individual in gaining favor from whatever they believe that controls the destiny of mortals. Judaism has Abraham bartering with God on saving Sodom and Gomorrah, Gideon with the fleece, Jeremiah and the whale, and so on. Greeks have such characters too with their demigods, gods, powers, and mortals. Catholicism today as the Saints that intervene on behalf of mortals in God's plan, Bodhisattvas work the same in Mahayana Buddhism, and so on. Individuals do interact with the divine in such a way. It is a perfectly rational explanation for why the individual believer interacts with institutional religion.

However, to say this is the sole function of religion is, in my opinion, a bit overly simplistic. Religion is not only about what M.L. Mencken states. Religion is also about acquiring and maintaining power, creating a coherent (and even incoherent) explanation of the metaphysical and physical universe, and providing a cause for existing.

Religion, like so many complex and diverse organizations, have layers to them. The motives of the individual, lowly believer can and are quite different from leaders, groups, and the entirety of the organization. So, yes, religions are like an onion (a stinky one). In my opinion, religions exist independent of the beliefs and will of the believers. They may influence it and direct where it goes but that cannot compare to how much the religion pushes them to believe and do.

So, to keep this letter short, I just want to give an abbreviated history of religion when it comes to politics and religion.

History or Yesterday's Hip Trends

This whole notion of separation of Church and State is relatively new in the history of civilization. Theocracies are rather an old (albeit tired) idea of how governments should run. To use a Mormon example, it is quite likely the "political structure" implied in the Nephite civilization derived its laws from the Laws of Moses (making the story of Korihor and the judges a bit ironic from this lens). Jewish civilization derived its laws and political structure from "divine" sources. Egyptian Pharoahs, Japanese emperors, European monarchies, Sumerian kings, and even Roman emperors all either claimed a divine birth-right or maintained some kind of divinity during life and after death. You wanted to rule people? You had to give people a reason to follow you.

Rulers in the ancient world were pretty much the head of their state religions. You couldn't be a king unless the gods were on your side. Another example of this is the Mandate of Heaven with China. Emperors were only safe as long as the mythical Mandate of Heaven was in place. Natural disasters and stronger enemies were your worst nightmare as a king. And crop failure was a bitch!

Things changed in Western civilization with the dawn of the Reformation. Those annoying Protestants challenged Catholic (meaning universal) rule throughout Western Europe. They had the audacity to argue that the Pope was not the sole authority on scripture. Nationalism began with this, local leaders in the German lands took advantage of this by consolidating their power away from The Vatican. Independence always creates problems for your former rulers. King Henry VIII used the Supremacy Act to severe ties with the Pope. It gave rise to greater British nationalism.

From this point on, governments made their power and jealously guarded it. They didn't trust religion (with the exception of the Spanish, Italians, Portuguese, and to some extent the French). Protestants and the new governments that were being formulated during the Reformation and the centuries that followed employed the idea that government should start to separate the idea of government and religion. Under President Jefferson, he wrote his famous letter.

My point in bringing all this up is to point out that religion, especially authoritarian style religions, have had a long history of sharing power with government. The Islamic Shari'ah Law movement and the Christian Dominionism are both modern examples of this effort. These movements are efforts to impose a particular set of views upon entire societies. I would argue that some religions, especially ones that have authoritarian forms of structure, do seek for more power, particularly political power. The function of religion is to acquire and maintain power.

Your friend,
That Crazy MoFo

Friday, August 12, 2011

Family...Isn't It About...Love?

Dear Sentry,

I've been writing to Kiley recently about my opinions on Mormonism. The last letter I wrote to her was one that spoke of my anger and frustration at Mormons' hypocrisy. Kiley gave a great response to those sentiments, Sentry. Since writing that letter and reading her response as well as Jonathan's latest blogpost I have come to have some more thoughts on this subject. A group that gathers at BYU called USGA (Understanding Same-Gender Attraction) watched the movie "Prayers for Bobby." It's one of those movies that makes me cry. I also have been getting further in my reading of And the Band Played On, the tragic history of the early years of the AIDS epidemic.

Now, I wish to speak to you, Sentry, about family. Family is the thing that is supposedly central to all beliefs of my childhood faith. It is a believe meant to invoke joy and optimism. I loved the Disney movie "Lilo and Stitch" because it was about family.

I loved the movie "Shelter" for one of the themes on family. It was something that tugged at my heart and resonated far more than anything else in the story.

Yes, Sentry, I am a dork. No matter how much I may feud or be hurt by what my parents say, I still love the corny and lame jokes my father likes to say (And they are very corny...). I love my older brother's cynicism and sarcasm, his wife's cheerful optimism and curiosity. I love the fact that my mom will drop everything to help you when you need it. Family is a strange thing. I am angry and hurt at what happened a month ago but I love them still.

Families come in all shapes and sizes. If I were to list all the people that I considered would fill up pages. Family is what happens, in my opinion, when individuals' hearts become knit to each other in love (and not just romantic love). Dear friends are part of my family. That means that I would drop everything to help you. Your happiness is my desire. I want to see you fall in love with whomever you may love (male, female, gay, straight, bi). I want to see your life filled with laughter and smiles until your face is so wrinkled in your old age from smiling.

I want to meet the one you fall in love with. And when it takes several times before you discover the right one, I want to meet them all.
I want to rejoice when you're happy, cry when you're sad, yell with you when you're angry, and whatever else you may need from me.

Your friend,

(I had to share LDS videos for this. If there's one thing the Mormon Church instilled in me, it's the desire to marry and have a family. Too bad for those Mormons that I'll be marrying a guy, ha ha!)

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

French Bisexuality: A Musical

Dear Sentry,

I just finished a film called "Les Chansons d'Amour" (Love Songs). It was a story about a "throuple" (3 people in a relationship) and about the loss that the characters feel when tragedy strikes. The story continues on focusing on the main character, Ismael, and his trouble dealing with loss. The story's other main element is the focus on new love.

I liked the film for the the way they melded the speaking and singing parts. The characters were interesting and intriguing at parts. I had a hard time remembering names (this happens when it's foreign, lol). The way the movie ends...well, it has an ending, but it just felt sudden and left a lot more to the story that just never was answered. The movie focuses entirely on Ismael so many of the other characters do not develop as much. However, I did like the movie and would give it just shy of four out of five stars. Music was fun and the artistic lens of the camera was very fun!

Sorry, Sentry. I don't mean to get all technical and all opinionated or critiquing of a film. I admit that I have a weakness for French films. My favorite movies have two French films on the list (Amelie and East/West). I want to also watch Presque Rien. I will probably adding Les Chansons d'Amour to my list of movies that I'd watch again.

Anyway, things from the movie, Sentry.

So, yes. I do recommend watching the movie, Sentry. Kind of nice to have letters to read again, huh?

Your friend, Traveler

Monday, August 8, 2011

From Hypocrisy to Moby: Schadenfreude

Dear Kiley,

This is an angry letter, I confess. The central theme here is hypocrisy. I do not deny that I am guilty of being a hypocrite as well. It is, unfortunately, a part of human nature to be hypocritical at times. Our very existence as being mortal, fallible, and imperfect means that we travel with such companions as hypocrisy, frailty, and sorrow alongside happiness, vigor, and courage. No mere person can escape this, in my opinion. It is for us as individuals, as humans, to not focus so much on rising above our hypocrisies (that should be an indirect goal). Rather our focus should be to work through our concerns, problems, and insecurities while finding a way to live and tolerate the many hypocrisies in our lives.

I turn my anger towards Mormonism and Christianity and look upon them as being the same in this view of them. At the same time, I do not deny that such a labeling of "hypocrisy" can easily be applied to any religion, government, or organization that has ever existed, does exist, and will exist in the future. But for the purpose of this letter, I wish to direct the label of hypocrisy at Christianity and Mormonism.

I have been reading the book "And the Band Played On" by Randy Shilts these past several weeks. The book covers the truly tragic and pathetic history of the rise of the AIDS epidemic in the United States and Europe. I hate what I am reading, or rather I hate how the history of everything is playing out in this book. I cannot help but cry during it, grow angry, and become frustrated with the whole thing. It's like see the unfurling of a vast and interconnected web. I'm watching as the lines become revealed and see how they interconnect and become tangled. The entire time, I'm waiting to see where my line connects to this whole thing.

I've never met any of the people that I've read about so far. I already fear they are all dead, some twenty-five years after the last year that was covered in this book. It saddens me so much. The book has so far argued successfully that the ease in which the AIDS epidemic spread in those crucial early years in the United States was the result of an apathetic media, society, and government. They were apathetic because homosexuals contracted the disease. Those dirty gays got the disease so it's all right if they die. No one cares about them.

(Warning: rant about to occur. Flee now if you are allergic to rants)

Where is the Christianity that supposedly follows Christ? The Christianity that takes to heart the counsel that Christ gave in these questions "For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if he salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so (Matthew 5:46-47)?" Where is the heeding of the commandment to love thy neighbor as thyself? Or are those that are not your type of "Christian" or non-Christian not worth their time? This Christianity that supposedly is for peace and love, helping others...where is it? Where were they - when the children they cast out of their homes for being gay, ostracized them for daring to love what they are attracted to naturally, hated them for actually standing up for basic human rights and dignity, sought to gain influence so as to make their lives better - where were they when they began to die? Where were their mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers, grandmas and grandpas?

This short excerpt from the book is the most recent passage that made me cry. The person that is speaking has just lost two of his friends to the unnamed AIDS virus. After having read Stonewall, watched the Mormon Church's campaign for Proposition 8 in 2008, listened to the hate speeches of reverends and politicians, and just heard the typical hate rhetoric of so many average Mormons here in Utah, I can understand some of the pain that this man must have felt here:

"As a harsh rain beat down, Paul again pondered the familiar imponderables. Why is this happening to me, to all my friends? Hadn't they put up with enough shit for one lifetime? Why doesn't anybody seem to care? What a fucking nightmare" (Shilts 140).

So I cannot help but wonder when I see Mormonism and Christianity why I should ever bother to describe them as good or any word similar to that. I have heard such descriptions used to describe the Mormon community: they take care of their own. What about others? I don't recall Christ doing that when he spoke to the woman at the well, healed a blind man, healed lepers, healed a Centurion's servant, or brought Jairus' daughter back to life. I don't recall reading that Christ was ever arrogant during those acts. I don't recall him complaining or telling them how evil they were.

This is where I see hypocrisy. They laud their good gifts to each other and the world but continue to ignore all the evil around them. They defend such immoral acts under the banner of Goodness. They speak with such venom and oily smiles that it makes me sick. When I read of the AIDS epidemic and of the Religious Right's rise during that time, I see them as the foul, pathetic, and disgusting people they are. I read of the sorrow and loss of those that died from AIDS or those that lived to watch their friends and lovers die, the pain that came from not knowing what was destroying them, the feelings of being helpless by those few doctors that tried to stop what was happening, the abandonment of the gay community by society in their hour of need, and the the sorrow that comes from death.

Christianity and Mormonism, what are their fruits? Hypocrisy, abandonment, death, arrogance, and hatred. Where, if such a thing ever existed, did the Christianity and Mormonism go that supposedly existed in my readings of the scriptures?

Why does any of this matter? Humans are fallible and pathetic. Yes, yes. I know, I'm taking quite the Augustine of Hippo approach. Permit me, if you will. These religions that claim to have "The Truth" should show some evidence of this. Otherwise, how are they distinguishable from any of these other "man-made" organizations? Shouldn't these religions that claim they are "good" actually do good things more often than by accident?  Yeah, I know, I'm crazy for thinking that.

Your friend,
That Crazy MoFo

P.S. Some funny and beautiful videos to cheer you up :)