Saturday, June 23, 2012

Freedom & Opportunity

On my way to the cafeteria tonight, I was moseying along and stopped to observe one of the monuments outside my dorm. It was dedicated to Civil Servants and had a plaque at the front engraved with a passage on freedom.

Suffice it to say that it reiterated in me the importance and greatness of freedom. I felt to stand for it more boldly and appreciate it more contentiously. I walked away with my patriotic philosophical foundation sure.

When I arrived at the cafeteria, the doors were locked. It closed at 7:30 pm. I just assumed that because it was open until 9:30 pm the previous night that it would be open tonight. I hadn't eaten a thing since noon and was especially hungry because I was doing a live-foods fast today (fruits and vegetables, mostly). Disheartened, I sauntered back to my room.

As I passed the monument again I remembered my thoughts on freedom in the new light of my hunger. I was still just as free then to eat whatever I wanted as I was 10 minutes previously. However, being in the middle of nowhere I had no convenient opportunity to eat. Without such opportunity, freedom suddenly had less meaning to me. In fact, in that moment I would have given up my freedom to choose what I ate if it meant that I had the opportunity to eat.

In general, I consider my ideology to be somewhat moderate, especially when it pertains to conservatism and liberalism. I find it hard to believe that half the people got it right while the other half are idiots/evil. So I look for the good in each and I find that ultimately people want the same things, but place more emphasis on certain things.

It seems to me that folks on one side will emphasize the importance of freedom and protecting it—religious freedom and economic freedom, especially. Meanwhile, those on the other side are focused on opportunity—the chance to learn, to prosper, to succeed. Both are passionate and determined. While neither denies the importance of the other, both often focus on achieving one, sometimes at the expense of the other.

I venture to say that universally people would agree that we can and should have both. But can one exist without the other? Perhaps we must have both. Take away all of my opportunities and I can no longer exercise my freedom. Take away my freedom, and opportunity loses its meaning—becoming neither favorable nor unfavorable but rather inevitable. Yes, people assuredly would like neither one nor the other, but both.

I turned to the scriptures hoping to find spiritual insight on the subjects. In the index under the words freedom and opportunity, not a single reference is explicitly spiritual in nature. However, both words redirect to the same word—Liberty—which is used amply in the scriptures.

But aren't freedom and liberty the same thing? Interchangeable? Immediately I could recognize that liberty implied more than just freedom. Looking up the definition, I found:

Liberty [LIB-er-tee] Freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc. according to choice.

According to this definition FREEDOM + OPPORTUNITY = LIBERTY.

Even more interesting is that in the United States of America's Declaration of Independence the words freedom and opportunity are not used (and freedom only once in the constitution). Furthermore, not only is the word liberty used in both these documents, but it is used in the most well-known parts of them.

The Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness." (Bold and Italics added)

United States Constitution: "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." (Bold and Italics added)

Having recently visited Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the first time, the words of President Lincoln's laconic speech in 1863 were still fresh in my mind.

Gettysburg's Address: "Fourscore and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth upon this continent a new nation, conceived in Liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal" (Bold and Italics added)

Additionally, the famous words of Patrick Henry, "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death!"

Returning to the scriptures, there are many references to liberty in the New Testament. James teaches that "whoso looketh into the perfect law of Liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." (James 1:25, KJV).

The Book of Mormon contains its own references to liberty. One that is familiar to me is 2 Nephi 2:27, which reads, "Wherefore men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men." This is referring to our agency, freedom to choose, that God has given us. Even here, both freedom and opportunity are acknowledged, i.e. not only are we "free according to the flesh" but "all things are given [us] which are expedient unto man." In other words we have freedom and everything necessary (i.e. opportunity) to exercise that freedom.

So next time I hear two political opposites arguing, or read about the different visions of aspiring politicians, or just consider public policy in general, I will do so through a new lens that acknowledges the importance of both freedom and opportunity—LIBERTY.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Life Keeps on Going

Here are some updates and a current snapshot of our family.

Juevos Rancheros pizza style breakfast. Rachel can pop out amazing meals in no time.

Our new place has a park about a stone's throw away. It makes it so easy to go there often. Our upstairs neighbors from Taiwan have a 2 year old boy named Nathan that the kids get along with great. We have an open door policy with them: that is, either of our kids are welcome to go over to the other's house and play without big arrangements or feeling bad that the other is watching our kids.

Olive, Hannah, Nathan (neighbor) and Heber at Nellie's Cave Park

In other words, when our kids want to go to his house, they ask us and then let themselves out our front door, walk up the stairs and knock on their door and play for a period of time. And since we have stairs coming into our back porch he does the same thing through the back. I'd say he mostly comes to our house when he gets bored.

Kimball moved in Late May. Both of us chose different degrees (Civil Engineering and Geography) but have somehow chose similar careers (GIS applications in Civil Engineering, Planning, etc). Our skills are so similar, in fact, that last year he was able to live with us in Austin, TX working in the same office a few doors down from mine, often on the same projects. This year he is again working in my office for the summer, but now we are only a one or two feet from each other in side by side cubicles. Furthermore, we're both working on the Virginia Tech Hazard Mitigation Plan, him on Hurricane/Tornado hazards and me on Flood and Infrastructure damage/failure.

Like good brothers we either ride our bikes or the bus together to work. The Huckleberry Trail is a nice 15 minute stroll through the forest that is a great way to start and end the day.

In the evening, when we find the time, we like to play Heroes of Might and Magic (nerd alert!) just like the good ol' days growing up in Globe.

Rachel keeps busy with play group on Wednesdays; planning compassionate service for the many nearly full term pregnant women in our ward (There are so many at this time of year. Even for our ward where you'd expect that being full of young graduate student families like us.); Doing a mini-preschool on Fridays with Natasha and her sun Yegor (a Russian family that she met at the park); working on art projects (see below for two of her latest); And just being friends to everyone. I never realized what a great socializer she is. She's not necessarily extroverted and loud, but she is great at entertaining guests and friends we have over for dinner. People love hanging out with her, which means almost every day of the week she's at someone's house or them at ours. I can't say the same about myself.

Heber is our little man of the house. He likes to keep order by enforcing the rules on the girls when they get out of line. He'll clean up our whole house if it means he gets to watch Thomas the Train. He's got tougher skin than the girls, so when he misbehaves I can exile him up on the pull-up bar to think about what he's done without having an emotional breakdown like...

Heber's laughing/slightly nervous face

Hannah is our sweet and responsible oldest girl. She loves helping her mother make food and paint pictures/nails. She loves eating vegetables. In fact the other day Rachel went shopping with just Hannah. Out of the blue this large, black lady busted up laughing. Rachel turned and the lady asked her, "Is that your daughter?"

"Yes," Nervous shock goes through Rachel thinking what did she do now?

Laughing she responds, "She just pulled off a piece of lettuce and ate it. I've never seen a kid do that. That's good."

Her and Heber also love being told Heney and Habbah stories at night (make no mistake Heney and Habbah are a completely different set of twins from Hebey and Hannah. Any similarities are just coincidences.). She also insists on a Baby BamBam story at night which is definitely not about...

Olive is out precious little baby. She's definitely more spoiled than the others—doesn't like to eat her vegetables and demands to be held and snuggled. I think it's safe to say that she is a daddy's girl (as she quietly sits on my lap as I type.). She is starting to talk more and will be going to nursery in a month.

Olive in her hand-picked outfit

I'll be out of town all next week in Emittsburg, MD for some training and then again nearly the whole month of July for Air Force duties.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The 10+ lbs Pizza Challenge

It seemed doable, though never done. It looks like 2 large pizzas, though it's the size of four. The challenge is if you and a friend can finish the 10+ lbs pizza in 35 minutes, you get it for free. If you can't you pay the $40 cost. If you throw up, you pay a $25 fee for disturbing the customers.
My brother Kimball and I attempted but ultimately failed. Although we did better than the two other challengers. It was a lot thicker than it looked and had a lot more cheese. In fact, a feeling of sickness was more inhibiting than my stomach capacity. But even if we had an hour I don't think we could have done it.


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Botox for TMD, Part II

The office for my Botox was near DC. The office was the fanciest doctors office I have ever been in. Very designer, very lux. All the other patients seemed very snobby (to put it nice). As I was filling out paper work and waiting, one of the patients told the secretary, "My appointment was for 20 minutes ago and last time I had to wait 15 minutes. Is this how your office works? Late appointment?" The secretaries dealt with her graciously although she seemed rude to them.

I was also surprised to see two teenage girls there who seemed to hint that they weren't there for medical reasons like jaw surgery but more cosmetic reasons.

I really liked the doctor and nurse there. They were very skilled and familiar with my TMD (this was his area of expertise) and they were very friendly and kind. They seemed to really like me too. We went over a long detailed history of my jaw. The doctor examined it and told me that it was muscular related and not because my bones where out of place. He also discussed a lot of information with me on TMD. He told me to throw away my old night guard because the type I had was acting like a chew toy which was making the problem worse. He discussed how Botox would speed along the healing processes. Instead of making an extra appointment to perform the Botox he did it during my consultation visit.  I was kind of scared of the long skinny needles but they just talked to me during it and I was able to get through it ok. I had to flex and release my jaw as they injected the Botox. After it was done it just felt like popped pimples. But I felt a little strange for a day or two afterwards. I also noticed within hours that my jaw was already loosening.
PS Thank you Lindsay for that link.