We Are Like Weeping Willows

Weeping WillowI love weeping willows. They’re my favorite of the willows—probably because of the memories I have of swinging in the branches of my grandma and grandpa’s giant weeping willow tree. So it was with great delight that I learned that willow branches of any kind are easy to root, even from the smallest cuttings. So I studied up and figured out what I needed to do, and then toured the neighborhood to scope out the local weeping willows.

The first one I found had dropped a 3 foot branch (keep in mind, three feet of weeping willow is a pretty thin wisp) in the road out several yards from the massive mother tree. So, trying to look as inconspicuous as possible, I picked up the branch and took it home.

Then I went to work, stripping off the leaves and cutting it down every 6-9 inches, and placed the sticks in a jar, like headless roses in a vase, and waited. And waited. And waited. By the time a month had passed, I had a whole crop of small weeping willows.

The next time there was a good wind in the neighborhood, I did another neighborhood run (I’d scoped out several other weeping willows in town by then), and picked up several (there were too many to take them all) 2-4 foot branches that had blown out into the road. Weeping willows are notorious for dropping branches, so when there’s a storm or rough winds in the neighborhood, it’s like weeping-willow-gardener Christmas.

Since then, I’ve started new trees from several more twigs, and I’m even “branching” out with some other kinds of willows. And while I do lose a good percentage of the sticks I try to root, there are enough succeeding that I can’t help be amazed by these wonderful little phenomena.

That got me thinking about people.

We’re all kind of like those old weeping willows. Beautiful, lush, often ignored or forgotten, waving long branches day after day. When the winds of life blow, or storms come, we break a little, and eventually recover. Most such stormy times have strengthened us to become the large willows we are today. And what happens to the branches broken off? Most the time they either end up in the trash or compost heap. But once in a while, and perhaps it takes an insightful passerby, but occasionally, the scattered fragments of our broken hearts are gathered, cleaned, divided, organized, and nourished, and left to grow. And the result? New life, new growth, and new opportunities for new trees.

It’s usually easy to see ourselves as old forgotten trees, doing our thing day after day, unnoticed by everyone. And when times are tough, it’s hard, but we’re strengthened. But it takes a deeper, humbler, and more determined examination to see the potential of our own influence on the lives of those around us.

Right now, I have probably 25 little weeping willow trees (those are just the ones that have been successful) growing from the cuttings of three medium-sized branches. Each, I hope, will go on to new homes to beautify and keep the company of someone, somewhere, who may have otherwise never had them. The tree didn’t shed its branch to create new opportunities and life for others. It shed it’s branch because it was forced to against its will. And yet, from that commonplace and uncomfortable situation, the tree influenced, if only in the distant future, dozens of other trees, homes, and people, without even knowing it.

Your life is like that. You have more influence than you think. You’re touching lives. You’re providing opportunities, and you’re creating new life, even when you feel like you’re doing nothing.

The trick—the whole reason for this post, is to draw your attention to a simple thing that none of those mother willow trees can do, but which you can. You, as a person, have the power to see, reflect, and rejoice in the influence you have. You won’t see all of it, of course, but if you pay attention, you can see much of the good you’re doing. If you look deep enough, you’ll find enough to provide a lifetime’s worth of rejoicing.

The other reason I share this idea is to say, don’t be afraid to shed your branches. Don’t be afraid to have an influence. Sure, most of your efforts will be thrown out, forgotten, or ignored, but the more influence you try to have, the more chance you’ll have to start new beginnings for someone else. And those new beginnings may grow, expand, and branch out to bless the lives of other new beginnings for other people forever.

Revolutionizing the Course of the Universe

This story took place a short time before Jenni and I were married.

Revolutionize

It was a very dull day at Deseret Book as I leaned against the counter, chin in hands, waiting for something to happen. One of my co-workers stood only a few feet away, bored as I was.

“So,” I said, trying to break the monotony, “What should I do to revolutionize the course of the world today?”

He thought a moment. “Got any bombs? You could always blow up an important building somewhere.”

“That’s true. But I don’t have any bombs. Besides, that’s a bad thing, and there are plenty of bad things going on all the time. I need to find something good to do.”

“That’s true,” he replied. Then we both fell back into silence.

I began thinking more about our conversation. What could one do to revolutionize the course of the world? What about the universe? Could one person effect the destiny of the universe?

There have been many people who have changed the course of life on this planet; Thomas Edison invented the light bulb. George Washington led a revolutionary war that led to the foundation of what might be considered the most powerful nation in world history. But did those things change the destiny of the universe?

It occurred to me that the person who best fit that description would have to be Jesus Christ. Not only did he save the destiny of every person who would ever live, but He provided a way for us to become like His Father.

Now there’s a new approach to the question. If I have potential to become like my Father in Heaven, then certainly I have power to effect the destiny of the universe.
So I guess the next question would have to be, what can I do today to best effect that progress? Of course, a response as broad as “live the gospel” wasn’t really a sufficient, since I had been striving to do that my whole life.

Then I realized that I was in the process of beginning one of the major aspects of the perfecting process. I was about to get married in the temple. I decided that maybe the best thing I could do to work toward that goal would be to strengthen my relationship with Jenni. How could I do that? That question is easy. I could be kind and loving to her.

I looked around the store. Everything was quiet, normal, ordinary. Customers came in and left. Employees straightened bookshelves or stood patiently waiting for something to happen. I had a date with Jenni scheduled for that night. I decided that tonight I would change the course of the universe – I would show love and kindness towards her.

Music and the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Music and the Knowledge of Good and Evil

Music, Art, and Media Series

Ezra Taft Benson:

We seek that which is praiseworthy, lovely, virtuous, and of good report; and we salute Beethoven, Shakespeare, Rembrandt, and Michelangelo. In due time, we will also have more of our own giants–particularly great father-patriarchs and noble companions and mothers of men. There is certain music heard and art seen and clothes worn on this campus [BYU] that must pass away–not because the styles change but because our standards will be Continue reading

Music for Its Own Sake: A Dangerous Philosophy

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Music for its Own Sake

talltabMusic has a powerful effect on the mind and heart.  It can change the entire mood of an environment in seconds.  While there may be different factors that determine what music effects people in what way – such as personal taste and style, music is a powerful influence.  This has always been the case.  And I am not only speaking of New Age or classical music.  I am speaking of all kinds of music – pop, country, classical, rock, hip-hop, alternative, rap, a capella, folk, hymns, chant, Jazz, oldies, choir, not to mention all the world music – Celtic, African, South American, Middle Eastern, Asian, Aboriginal, and so forth.

talltabMusic has power.

talltabBecause of this, I think it is very important that we recognize that music is not an end of itself.

talltabThere is a popular idea which toys with the idea of music for it’s own sake.  Or you might say, music as a contribution to the arts in general.  I can understand that, but I don’t like that idea.  I simply don’t.  I suppose that makes me a bit of an outlaw in the field of the arts, but if music is written for no intent at all, then what is it worth?

talltabWhy do I say this?  Mainly I am concerned that if we put too much emphasis on music for its own sake, we may praise it while overlooking its intended message.  Some call pornography an art.  I used to disagree with that, until I reminded that art is not necessarily good of itself.  Whether or not pornography is an art is irrelevant.  There is good, clean art, which portrays positive messages, and there is evil art, which carries poison that can destroy the soul.

talltabIf masterful music is put to a degrading message, can we really praise the music as being a positive influence on society?  I don’t believe so.  In fact, such music is more poisonous than if the message was put to a discordant, unpleasant sound.  Skill, talent, and power can be used for evil just as they can be used for good.

talltabSome use the beauty and talent of an artistic portrayal to justify it as a worthy influence.  But satan will use as much “light” as necessary to sneak in a dark message.  You may have an entire glass of fresh juice, but one drop of a strong poison will still kill – even if the poison doesn’t effect the flavor of the juice.

talltabBasically, there is music of God, and there is music of satan.  Art and music are not good or bad of themselves.  They are only as good or as bad as their message.

The Incrediblenet

The Incrediblenet

Isn’t the Internet amazing? From genealogy to gardening, from movies to email – the Internet has so many resources that it has made a great impact on our day to day living. While we must make necessary precautions to avoid the evil influences that can be found on this almost unlimited source of information, the good influences are more prevalent than ever before.

At least once a month, I discover a new website that absolutely impresses me. I’m sure many of you have the same experience. So let’s share what we’re finding. What are some websites or Internet resources that have really impressed you that other readers may not yet know about?

Here are two of mine:

Pandora.com
I don’t think I’ll ever go back to ordinary radio, so long as sites like Pandora exist. Pandora is an online radio station where you create your own stations (as many different stations as you want) from your favorite songs or artists. Once you type in a band or song, it will create a station based on that style, and then find other bands of the same style. As it plays songs, you can thumb up or thumb down the song to tell Pandora if you like it or not.
No matter what kind of music you listen to, it’s there. I have an LDS station, a contemporary rock station, a Celtic station, a piano solo station, an African traditional station, a country station, a soundtrack station, an oldies station, a native American station, an a cappella station, and about half a dozen other stations. I have friends with hip-hop stations, goth stations, and oh, I almost forgot, I even created a funny station. It’s really amazing. I can listen to it all day.

http://pandora.com/

Podcasting
I’ve known about the idea of the podcast for over a year now, but only in the past few months have I discovered that podcasting is its own entire realm of social media. You can find a podcast on any subject, and thanks to feed readers (such as Google Reader – which is built into every Gmail account), you can have a collection of dozens, even hundreds of regularly updated podcasts on your favorite subjects.
So why is this such a cool thing? Consider that you are interested in pottery. A rather obscure interest in terms of the Internet, don’t you think? Well there are a number of pottery podcasts. If you have a computer in your home, you can listen to your favorite pottery podcasts and hear interviews with some of the worlds greatest potters while you are doing the dishes or exercising.
If you have any kind of Internet handheld device, you can listen to your favorite podcasts while you drive, walk, or work. I listen to podcasts often at my job, because I sit at a computer for the majority of the time. My Google reader is automatically collecting podcasts on dozens of topics that I have chosen, such as the music business, gardening, humor, fiction stories, genealogy, writing, news, photography, science, and as of today, dogs. That’s probably only half of the topics I do, and in each topic, I have numerous podcasts.
If you don’t know where to start, either Google search “podcast directories” or simply “pottery podcast” or whatever topic interests you. Google is pretty good at finding stuff like that. While your at it, start your own podcast. How? Google the words “how to make your own podcast.” It’s really easy.

So how about you? Any sites or Internet resources that have really impressed you?

The Power of an Ordinary Day

Most days are ordinary days. Most often, when I come to the end of the day, I can’t think of anything that occurred during the day to distinguish this day from any other day in my life. It’s amazing how many times a day starts full of grand ideals and ideas, with motivation, determination, or anticipation, only to end up as an ordinary, useless day.

We all know how precious time is, yet it still passes. It passes as quickly and effortlessly as the clouds that come and go unnoticed.

Some would consider it a depressing idea that an individual could be born, live, and die in complete anonymity. But to me, it is fascinating, because that inconspicuous forgotten soul can still progress to immortal glory, worlds without end. When you see things from the perspective of eternity, the least of us has as much potential as the greatest of us.

So what about time? Can a seemingly meaningless day be worth the value of endless days? Can my pointless day hold as much meaning as what another might experience in a million years of life?

I believe it can. Perhaps today was the day I thought of the idea of getting a book from the library to identify a tree in my yard. Days later I act on that thought, and check out the book, which leads me to take greater interest. Perhaps my simple thought may lead me to one day become a professional botanist or herbologist. Perhaps today I thought of the idea of emailing an old friend – or a new friend, which eventually leads to a lifetime friendship.

Have you ever wondered when Leonardo Davinci got the first thought, the first idea, to try doing something with art. Was he a child? Was it on an ordinary day? Did he even act on the thought for a few days? I’d be surprised if the very first inclination to try something creative didn’t come on an ordinary, boring, and meaningless day.

Most people meet their future spouses on ordinary days. Most people’s first exposure to their genius came on days that seemed to Continue reading