Monday, May 26, 2008

If you don't know the word Neurodiversity...

You should. Similarly if I call you a Neurotypological, you should probably know what that means too, though for very different reasons. I reserve the right to use big words :)

Bumped into an excellent article discussing the subject from another blog. A little winded, but is probably the best exploration of the complex issues involved as I've seen.

(disclaimer I didn't think it was gospel)

The self actualizing of almost any characteristic is so faddish these days its hard not to take it as just more positive self talk and general fluffiness. But when you've actually emerged from the darkness of self loathing with a social expectation of duty to self loath attached, its impossible to ignore diversity movements again. Not impossible to disagree with any particular stripe, but impossible to ignore. Identity exists in such an infuriating duality of the inherited and the malleable that a posture of assuming lightly is to crush broad swaths of the human spirit.

Or, to put it again more shortly, you should know the word neurodiversity.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Religious freedom in the Book of Mormon

Religious freedom is a concept that evolves considerably through the Book of Mormon. Early on, you sense society is so simple that the religious leaders and social leaders are almost always the same people. We aren't told much about how well this worked, other than that it only took a 4-5 generations for them to be driven out of their homeland and the main body of their people destroyed. In Jacob 7 Sharem is allowed full freedom to preach his views with no socially enforced punishment, so they seem off to an excellent start. Later, when Nehor attempts to enforce his religious opinions Mormon writes that in response that just before his execution for murder...

there he was caused, or rather did acknowledge, between the heavens and the earth, that what he had taught to the people was contrary to the word of God; and there he suffered an ignominious death.

Now, either he was caused to confess or he confessed spontaneously. It doesn't fit for the confession to be required because he wasn't officially executed for his preaching, only for attempting to enforce priestcraft. The linguistic pattern used grants a little light. "Or rather" is a sentence form unique to the Book of Mormon, with only 2 or 3 incidents outside it in scripture. Mormon almost always uses the first half of an "or rather" as a general or non specific and the secondary as clarification. One almost gets the sense that writing on the plates is so difficult that Mormon once in a while prefers leaving a word stand than to scatch them out and start over again. But this is the only case in which the first and the second items don't seem to fit together. My guess is a little bit of both is true. There was probably some controversy over forcing the confession or not and it left Nehor feeling coerced (even though nobody had officially decided he must) so he did anyways... or some other political confusion that wasn't worth recording the messy details on.

It would appear that just like early Christian history, a violent minority led to enforcement of "orthodox" thinking, just not going anywhere near as far as early Catholicism led.

What is more interesting is what happened afterwards. Both the Nehors and the church members persecuted each other so much that the church found it necessary to excommunicate a good number of people who refused to stop themselves and the people didn't settle down to righteousness again until a lot of trouble which cumulated in a war. The Book of Mormon records the Nehor's being very careful not to commit any crimes with any audacity, but as is stated

therefore they pretended to preach according to their belief; and now the law could have no power on any man for his belief.

There is some suggestion by the use of the word "pretended" that even if belief could not be punished by law insincerity was considered punishable.

That point aside, even if things seemed to have settled down some freedom of religion was still not firmly entrenched in their society. Alma being the first chief judge is not one you would expect to not use legal privelege or process to make it easier to preach, but when he reached Ammonihah:

Now when the people had said this, and withstood all his words, and reviled him, and spit upon him, and caused that he should be cast out of their city...

Being forced out of a city based on religious opinion isn't something that happens in a free government, but for some reason instead of going back to the chief judge and saying that mobs were attacking peaceful individuals and having this abuse of his person handled legally so he could preach in peace he just decides to go on to the next city.When he comes back for a second try he meets similar legal opposition that he takes no apparent action against:

32 And also because I said unto them that they were a lost and a fallen people they were angry with me, and sought to lay their hands upon me, that they might cast me into prison.

Later on the city's lawyers get involved:

13 Nevertheless, there were some among them who thought to question them, that by their cunning devices they might catch them in their words, that they might find witness against them, that they might deliver them to their judges that they might be judged according to the law, and that they might be slain or cast into prison, according to the crime which they could make appear or witness against them.

and again later:

16 And it came to pass that they began to question Amulek, that thereby they might make him cross his words, or contradict the words which he should speak.

It appears that under their system of law even though specific beliefs couldn't be legally persecuted, the logical consistency of those beliefs could be. This situation is extraordinary, since almost all religions at some point are based on a level in trust and things that are taken on faith or left to the next world to figure out. There will be a certain point where the logic is just impossible to keep consistent without extending fanciful propositions that are neither essential to the faith nor helpful to it, and the farther you go at it the more likely one is to come up against an absurd improbability. That isn't to say any particular religion is false on this basis, but legal judgments based on logical consistency could be used to attack any religion with success.

Ammonihah gets more disturbing as it goes along. The situation is just crawling with handles for legal disputes to get involved...massacring all the women and children, forced emigration, destruction and seizure of property... And almost all of these actions being sanctioned by the local government. And again, Alma was the first chief judge and should have been very familiar with their law but nothing is done from a legal perspective to right these wrongs. This suggests one of three things: first, that those actions were considered legal enough a even a chief judge could do nothing about it; second, that the newly formed democratic government had not centralized power so the local judges were getting away with murder; third, none of those wronged cared to take any legal action.

No matter what else, the second one was probably true. The first, that it was considered legal enough may very well have been true. Probably under some legal justification such as promoting sedition or what not. I only say that because otherwise why did the lawyers get involved in the first place if not to satisfy some legal requirement? Recorded complaints against them include lying to the people, religious inconsistency, reviling the judges, reviling the law, and saying the people are fallen. Under King Noah, similar legal justifications were required for executing Abinidi.

When Korihor takes to preaching his case also receives unsatisfactory treatment when freedom of religion is concerned. Its ironic because the Book of Mormon pauses to insist on how important freedom of religion was to them at the time:

Alma 30:7
7 Now there was no law against a man's belief; for it was strictly contrary to the commands of God that there should be a law which should bring men on to unequal grounds.
8 For thus saith the scripture: Choose ye this day, whom ye will serve.
9 Now if a man desired to serve God, it was his privilege; or rather, if he believed in God it was his privilege to serve him; but if he did not believe in him there was no law to punish him.

Now, if Korihor's belief was not judicable the first thing that should happen each time someone carries him before a judge is the for judge to let him go because the case simply isn't allowed before the law. But, we see a different pattern:

...for they took him, and bound him, and carried him before Ammon, who was a high priest over that people. [Freedom of religion is not well guarded if its first judged by the priests of an official religion] And it came to pass that he caused that he should be carried out of the land. [Government sanctioned banishmen] And he came over into the land of Gideon, and began to preach unto them also; and here he did not have much success, for he was taken and bound [arrested for religious opinions] and carried before the high priest, and also the chief judge over the land [showing that it wasn't just an overenthusiastic priest's quorem doing it, it went up to the very top.]

To make it worse that chief judge refers the case to THE chief judge instead of just rejecting it. Now I have nothing wrong with Alma and this guy having a debate on spiritual matters, but the only thing that goes right about his imprisonment and trial is that he is never sentenced by a government official. He is cursed instead and the government publicly announces that curse may be likely to fall on them too if they don't abandon Korihor's ideas [government favoritism of specific beliefs...]

One gets the sense freedom of religion was important to them but a concept they had a lot of trouble with getting down with much finesse. Its noticeably harder for them to handle after changing from king to popular elections. Instead of just one stupid King Noah there could be local tyrants all over the place. As Toqueville states free speech is easier in a kinship where it only matters if you anger the nobility, as opposed to democracies where public opinion forces you to obey before they vote to destroy you.

This isn't to suggest the Book of Mormon is against freedom of religion or that its material has only lip service. There are simply many examples of how damaging having religion controlled by government can be. If King Noah hadn't been in charge of appointing the priests it could have been much better. The same laws that would allow a crazy Korihor to preach wherever he wanted to would also have protected Alma and Amulek, and several kings in Ether managed to lead their people to repentence by enforcing religious freedom for unpopular preachers. Just before Christ's coming, the agreement to kill all the believers if the sign didn't appear could only have happened in a society with a weak sense of religious freedom.

So the Book of Mormon examples clearly are in favor of religious freedom, but show that through negative examples as much as anything else. It was an evolving and unsteady concept for them, kind of like how it is for us.

Plants, birthdays, farewells, and driving...

This weekend has been one for driving. From Cedar to Salt Lake, from Salt lake to the garden shop, to the garden shop to my nephew's birthday party (in Spanish Fork), birthday party to the shoe store and back again all in a very short period of time. Spent about 50$ in gas. The idea of spending just a little bit more on a car and buying a hybrid is looking more attractive all the time.

I'm excited about the plants. We bought tomato, rosemary, and basil. However, I'm starting to wonder if you really want to know what to do with gardening in pots if you must learn it yourself. The book I borrowed from the library on the subject was quite adamant that a tomato plant could be accompanied by several other plants in the same pot. The person over the phone at the plant catalog agreed. However, at the local plant store the worker seemed to think I was insane for even thinking of putting a indeterminate tomato vine in a pot, let along sharing the pot with several other plants. Then again, this was the same person who told me that his rosemary plant at home was 6 feet tall and tried to point out which variety it was he used and pointed to a dwarf variety that grows to 1 foot. I tried to tell them I was new at this and needed some help getting set up and the only help I could get was "tomatoes need a lot of water," "don't buy an indeterminate vine if you want it to stay small," and "make sure you fertilize." OK, I'm a smart person and read up on tomatoes before considering planting one in a pot. I already know all that stuff and more. Try to ask about potting soil and I expected to get a response like, "use this soil additive for your rosemary, it likes drier more acidic soil" or "this soil brand is better at retaining water and will work well for the tomato that likes being really wet."

Instead all I got was the fertilizer is that way and the dirt is that way. Half the point of planting things in pots is you can customize the soil for the plant, but I get the feeling none of these people have really tried doing that before. Either that or they think I'm not worth their attention. Its frustrating because I can check out books and visit websites talking about how wonderful it is to customize the soil for best results in different pots but none of them have a comprehensive guide on what types of soil or additives are best for what plants. I would probably need a gardening encyclopedia for that kind of information, but I figured I could get a basic run down from the people at the store. Guess not. Maybe they should hire me... I seem to know everything they told me.

To make up for all the driving we checked out a book on CD (Airborne by Kenneth Oppel) on the way out of town. That way we can listen for hours without Bonnie Jean's voice tiring out. It was nice, but I think 6 hours of listening was quite enough for now. Wonder what we'll do on the way back down...

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sunburn season

I got my first sunburn this year doing errand. I don't think I'll start doing grocery shopping at night though, it would be a mistake since its kind of hard to see. That would make me a night errant, and that wouldn't do.

(just try to conjure a mental image of me tilting at a wind powered electric generator on a bike laden with groceries. The power company would be soooo angry)

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Oh the joys of electronic effeciency

So the other day I decided to check and see if my leave request at work that will let me go to the family reunion was approved. Not too long ago they updated the entire leave process. It used to be you filled out a little piece of paper and somebody got back to you fairly quickly. Now there is an electronic form to fill out and if you dig deep enough you can even find separate policies for if you request medical leave to donate a kidney vs needing to you name it. In any case, this form is supposed to email my manager when its filled out so they know to make a decision.

I filled out the original electronic request in February. I kept asking my manager about it but she said don't worry your not planning on using this for a couple months so it doesn't matter if we take forever getting to it.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. The request sat in limbo for so long because nobody wanted to look at it it that it was finally declared "case closed" with "decision pending" because some genius who never asked me decided I had "submitted in error". I pointed this out to my manager, who all these months later still needed coaching from me on how to locate my request in the electronic system. Ok I admit the electronic system is stupid, you have to know the status of a request before you can find it first try which leads managers to think, "oh, it must not be here yet". If you don't know the status you just look everywhere and eventually find it.

So now at my managers instruction I've submitted another request and she said the site leader promised to approve it immediately. Been a couple days... and I continue to rejoice in the efficiency of the electronic era where they probably forgot about my last request because our email accounts automatically purge emails for being "too old".

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Taught in Sunday school today

Today I taught the Gospel Doctrine lesson, went very well. I was enjoying myself thoroughly. People afterwards seemed to think I did well. I was pleased.

I forgot to mention earlier Bonnie and I finally got a copy of the painting that I used as an excuse to meet her. Its the one of the Second Coming that is a mural on the inside of the Washington DC Temple. Still haven't hung it yet, but glad to have it, brings back good memories. I don't have anything really effective for reminding me how the roommate burst into the room swearing and cursing about work while I was proposing over the phone. But I'm ok with that, I guess. I could always print out the love poem I wrote her to propose and frame it. :)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Cream of Wheat

FYesterday morning Bonnie and I cooked up some whole wheat cream of wheat for breakfast. It will definitely fit into our long term use of wheat storage and turned out quite well, if a little watery. I didn't expect it to froth so much as I poured the coursely ground wheat into the water and it boiled over some, so not sure what caused that. Otherwise tasted just like I remember.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

In Salt Lake for the weekend

My sister in law went through the temple for her endowments yesterday so two days ago we ate a hurried dinner after work and rushed out the door to arrive at around 11PM on Friday night to attend the session at 8:30AM on Saturday. It was a lovely session and hanging out with the in laws was fun too.

Later on Saturday we hung out with my sister (not in law) and my nephew. We were all very impressed that he managed to restrain his love of knocking down towers of blocks long enough to play through 5-8 rounds of Jenga, his first time ever. Bonnie and I were very impressed with their parenting skills. A non verbal almost 3 year old is not an automatic easy ride but they almost make it look like one.

So this should be about the last trip of taking home my wife's stuff from her parents house. Now we just need to find a way to transport my rock collection from my parent's basement. In addition to retrieving the last of my wife's things we are also receiving a 60 pound bucket of wheat (surprisingly still good after being around unused for who knows how long) and a large supply of rhubarb. We ran out of the last supply a long time ago, I'm looking forward to cooking with it.