Monday, December 3, 2018

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Declaration(s) of Independence

While there is some discussion as to which day The Declaration of Independence was actually signed, the important thing is that we have the opportunity to commemorate such an important document and its significance to the 13 original colonies, the United States of America as it is known today, and to us, her citizens.  In my opinion it is one of the most well-thought out and well-written documents.

It’s the kind of wording that if you saw some great actor with a commanding voice read it with the conviction as though he or she had personally written it, you couldn’t help but be overcome with emotion.  It amazes me that Thomas Jefferson, a man slightly older than myself at the time, penned such amazing words.  Those words have inspired people from that day all the way down to the present day…both here and abroad.  Its echo can be heard in the abolition of slavery, the women’s suffrage movement, and many causes that are still being pursue today.

When those men signed The Declaration of Independence they unanimously stated that,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

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.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

These men went on to ‘declare the causes which impelled them to the separation’ and as a final show of support relying on ‘the protection of divine Providence’ signed their names and pledged, ‘their Lives, their fortunes, and their sacred Honor.’

Since that day there have been countless numbers of young men and women willing to fight and in many instance die to advance that cause throughout the world.  I am humbled by such men and women and will be forever grateful for the sacrifices they have been willing to make.

I remember returning home from my mission and visiting the Salt Lake Temple.  While there I was stopped by the sister missionaries.  They asked me to share with them one of my favorite stories from the Book of Mormon.  I told them it came from the 46th Chapter of Alma when Moroni raises the Title of Liberty in which he wrote, ‘In memory of our God, our religion, and freedom, and our peace, our wives, and our children.’  They told me that they had really liked that story too and went on to say that the righteous cause of just men will never die as long as there are men and women still willing to fight for that.

As I have pondered the words of The Declaration of Independence I can’t help but think of the many similarities that they have to another ‘declaration of independence.’  As those sisters so eloquently stated, the righteous cause of just men will never die.  The truth is that the ideas and ideals stated in The Declaration of Independence had been around long before 1776. 

For too long men had been subjected to the Despotic rule of the adversary or, in the words of The Declaration of Independence, ‘a Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant,’ and ‘unfit to be the ruler of a free people.  It became imperative for them ‘dissolve the bands which connected them with another.’  However, they could not do it for themselves.

The author of the original declaration of independence would sign His name by laying down His own life in defense of their agency and to free them from the bonds of sin.  The Savior became the ‘Guard for their future security.’  But, as history has shown, it is not enough to say these things or to believe them.  We have to continually fight for them.  We cannot take the freedoms we enjoy, both temporally and spiritually, for granted.

I think it is fitting to end with the words of another inspired man, Winston Churchill as shared by Jeffrey R. Holland.  In his speech before the House of Commons when he was called to the post of Prime Minister he said:

"I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat."
We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all our strength that God can give us. . . .That is our policy. You ask, What is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory—victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror; victory, however long and hard the road may be

About a week later in a radio broadcast he said:
This is one of the most awe-striking periods in the long history of France and Britain. . . . Behind us . . . gather a group of shattered States and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Norwegians, the Danes, the Dutch, the Belgians—upon all of whom the long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must; as conquer we shall. [Churchill, p. 91]

Then a couple of weeks later before Parliament:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.

I hope that this day, and every day, we can remember to fight for the righteous cause of just men and to remember these self-evident truths!

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Rare Occurence

I always joke with people and tell them that I was born with a ping-pong paddle in my right-hand, chopsticks in my left, and a camera around my neck. I always love to have a camera with me BUT I usually only like to take pictures of inanimate objects or people in social settings. My forte is definitely not taking pictures of people...I choose to leave that to the professionals. On the rare occasion that I agree to do it there has to be an understanding that I will not get paid for doing it. There's too much pressure when someone is paying least this way if they are not satisfied I can say, 'you get what you pay for.'

Anyway, one of my friends was able to talk me into taking a few pictures for them for a Christmas card. Admittedly, because the lighting wasn't ideal we didn't get as many good shots as we had hoped. So, I think I was overpaid for my services when I was treated to a ranch-style breakfast before taking the pictures. With that said, here are a few of the shots that I liked:

I can't really take credit for these's hard to screw up when you have such photogenic subjects. Thanks Bells for the chance to dust off the old camera...!

Friday, January 6, 2012

I realized tonight that I’m a pretty sentimental person. Not the kind of sentimental that will land me on the next episode of Hoarders because I collect anything and everything that has any sort of significance…more like the kind of sentimental that makes me value lasting memories when I am reminded of someone. Up until today, I had an obvious daily reminder of my grandparents…it was a mountain scene that occupied one of the walls in my living room. In a lot of ways it is what made this house a home for me.

Anyone who has ever visited my house has had the privilege of seeing ‘the mural’ on the wall that I’m referring to. In fact, for as long as I have been coming to this house I have seen it every time I’ve walked in the front door and looked over my shoulder. The mural itself is older than most, if not all, of the grandkids in the family.

Some of my favorite memories of spending time with my grandparents were created in front of the mural. During Sunday visits we would sit on the couches in the living room while grandpa made chocolate shakes in the kitchen. As we each waited patiently for our own cup we would sit and talk about what was happening in each of our lives.

I was reluctant to remove it because I genuinely loved having it here but what surprised me more than anything is just how much it affected me once it was gone. After I had finished I found myself sitting in front of the white wall where the mural used to be and staring at it as if it were an abstract piece of art. However, in this case, it was not the blank canvas (wall) that was the art…it was absence of what was once there that held my attention for so long.

One of my favorite quotes is by Rose Kennedy, she said:

“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

As I pulled down the mural piece by piece I reminisced about the time I spent with my grandparents and it was great to have the ‘jabs of red hot memory’ come back. Among the memories that came to mind were the times I miss the most…the lunch-time talks around the kitchen table and the hugs each time I arrived and left when my grandmother would stand on a stair and wait with open arms for a hug and then smile each time she got one and tell us how much she loved us before sending us on our way. My grandparents and the mural may be gone but they have both left lasting memories that I will forever be grateful for.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Now and Then...

It's been an interesting day. I think I've had a lot of time to reflect on the past couple of years. On Saturday I found myself reluctantly taking pictures for a friend. I use the word reluctantly because I'll be the first to admit that when it comes to taking pictures of people it's something better left for the professionals. We agreed that the price that they would pay for my time was a nice home-cooked meal...those are hard to come by as a bachelor. I was quick to remind them that 'they get what they pay for.' Since I come cheap, they couldn't expect to much. I showed up early and received the home-cooked meal (one of my favorites) biscuits and gravy...ranch style. I think I came out ahead on that deal.

Well, I shot the majority of the images in RAW (NEF if you're a Nikon user). Anyway, I guess I like things in that format. I like my steak on the raw side, my sushi of course...raw, and sometimes my thoughts. There is something about a hand-written letter with scribbles through misspelled words, white out and ink over covered up phrases, etc. Unfortunately, you can't see those things in a blog post...unless of course I were to write it, scan it, and upload...but, let's be honest, I'm too lazy for that. However, I will keep this one as raw and unadulterated as possible. That's a long intro to this post...which is fine, this one is meant as more of a catharsis for me anyway.

The blog title for this post is 'Now and Then' refers to the past two years of my life. Today is the birthday of a girl that I used to date (I don't like the term ex-girlfriend because it sounds so negative). Two years ago today I was rushing home from a work party that she was unable to attend with me because she had to study for finals, so that I could wish her a Happy Birthday in person. I remember ordering a dessert at the restaurant (chocolate cake if memory serves me correctly) to take to her along with the roses (her favorite flower) that I had picked up earlier that day. I got to her house around 10 o'clock we shared the piece of cake and I sang to her in Portuguese before telling her goodnight so that she could get some sleep and be well rested for her exams the next day. After her finals were over I took her out to dinner and to the Nutcracker to officially celebrate and we ended the night with a quick trip to see the lights at Temple Square before we both left town.

Honestly, there's a part of me that would like to go back in time and relive those few nights BUT I realize that was then...and this is now. I know it's probably unhealthy (emotionally) but I've had allowed thoughts come and go throughout the day wondering just how she is spending this birthday...after all, this is her first birthday since she began her college career when she won't have to stress over final projects/exams. I can only hope that someone made it a special day for her and that the coming year is even better than the last.

She was my best friend and it doesn't feel right not to reach out on a special occasion like a birthday. I've even debated a couple of times today whether to send a text message, an email, or join the host of well-wishers on Facebook to tell her Happy Birthday but have decided against it. Instead, I'll use this post, that she will likely never come across, to wish her a Happy Birthday...Happy Birthday, Milo!