Saturday, March 22, 2008

Good Friday

I have a confession to make: before this year, I had never heard of the holiday 'Good Friday.' In fact, I hadn't heard of Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday or Holy Saturday either. I'm particularly amazed that I had never heard of Good Friday considering how huge it is in mainstream Christianity. Many students and workers throughout the world get the day off. I grew up in an predominately Mormon community which doesn't celebrate this holiday, but shouldn't I have at least heard of it? I mean the stock market isn't even open on this day.
R invited me to a church's Good Friday service in West Newton. It was almost surreal being inside the chapel. Not only did the church have that old look to it, there were candles and the stained glass windows that added to the effect. Walking to the pews, soft music filled my ears. In the dimly lit chapel, I could make out 3 cellos, an oboe, a flute, and a harpsichord. The service was entitled Jeremiah's Lamentations and a man and a woman traded off singing in a foreign language that I thought was either German or Latin. The music was absolutely beautiful. In between songs, the pastor would get up and speak to the congregation. I would like to include some of what he read taken from the book of Isaiah, chapter 53. Pay special attention to the wording as it is not King James Version.

He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by men,
a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering.
Like one from whom men hide their faces
he was despised, and we esteemed him not.
Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed.
We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
each of us has turned to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.
He was oppressed and afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
and as a sheep before her shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
And who can speak of his descendants?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
for the transgression of my people he was stricken.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
nor was any deceit in his mouth.
Yet it was the LORD's will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
After the suffering of his soul,
he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
and he will bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will give him a portion among the great,
and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

The question crossed my mind, 'Why don't we as Mormons join with mainstream Christianity in honoring and revering this special day?' I'm familiar with some of the standard answers. First off, there are a lot of false traditions that detract from coming to Christ. I've heard of weird reenactments of Christ's crucifixion and also overly focusing on Christ's death. But in the United Church of Christ, there was nothing morbid or unpleasant. In fact, it gave me more of an appreciation for what Christ did for humankind.
The second reason we Mormons don't celebrate Good Friday is probably because we like to instead focus on the happy part - the resurrection. While I see the logic in this, I also see several weaknesses: First off, by implying that we don't celebrate all the other holidays in Holy Week in favor of the climactic holiday, Easter, you would think that there would be a climactic celebration. However, my experience is that Easter is just like any other Sunday. So if we are going to say that we don't celebrate Good Friday in favor of celebrating Easter, then when Easter rolls around, we should really celebrate it. Secondly, I think the more often you can be touched by Christ, the better you are. I feel like we wouldn't be worse off as a church if we spent more time thinking about Christ and what He did for us. Thirdly, remembering the death does not mean we have to become too preoccupied with it. Indeed, it can make celebrating the resurrection that much sweeter when we realize that there was a Friday that was necessary for Sunday to come. Leo Tolstoy made the distinction in his later years how one can know if a work of literature is Christian. Whether it be happy or sad, if the work brings you closer Christ, it is Christian. I feel this standard applies to all art. I felt like this service definitely drew me closer to God as I thought about and pondered Christ. Fourthly, overlooking this holiday (and not even knowing what the flipping holiday is) makes us appear less-Christian to others.
In conclusion, I think it would be good to celebrate Good Friday in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The church has been making a push lately to stress that it is Christian. Wouldn't celebrating Holy Week help in this regard? Also, wouldn't it help us think about what Christ did for us? I think so.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Mastermind - A Powerful Concept

In the book Law of Success, Napoleon Hill talks about the concept of creating a 'Master Mind'. Allow Napoleon to explain what a Master Mind is. "A Master Mind may be created through the bringing together or blending, in a spirit of perfect harmony, of two or more minds. Out of this harmonious blending, the chemistry of the mind creates a third mind which may be appropriated and used by one or all of the individual minds." He then focuses the remainder of the book in showing how a Master Mind approach can help achieve goals-whatever they may be. He supports this conclusion mostly with examples from business successes in the early 20th century. But lately I have found that this concept applies in the 21st century as well. My cousin came to visit me from DC, and we actually started talking about John the Baptist around 11:30 PM. This topic quickly turned into how to better pray, study the scriptures, and keep the commandments. I did not expect to be so spiritually uplifted on a Saturday night. But it reinforced the Master Mind concept that when two or more minds come together, something greater than the individual minds is possible. Anyone up for creating a Master Mind?

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Daytime cellphone use is down

I have 7 days left in my cellphone billing month and I've used 24 minutes. That means that on average, I use (21/24 = 0.875) less than a minute a day. Ha! That's kind of funny. Well, don't be fooled that I never talk on the phone. My free minutes start at 7 PM and by being on the east coast, you can get a lot done with such a plan. I'd try and use my phone more during the day, but Sprint = crummy reception at work. 9/10 when people call me it goes straight to my voicemail, and I'm pretty close to a window. You'd think that the reception would be better. Well, my cell phone contract is about to expire and I'm open for suggestions.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

I've got that loving feeling

Today, I made a realization - I realized how much I love the Boston area. It is something that I've been thinking about recently, but now I think I have a better idea of why my love for this area is so strong. Today at work, I realized how much progress I have made in understanding what I do. I knew nothing about mass spectrometry, very little about proteomics, and was an infant in web programming. It is SO exciting to see how much progress I have made. What does this have to do with Boston? I have been surrounded by some of the brightest minds in the country in the field of mass spectrometry. It has been the opportunity of a lifetime to work where I work.

At lunch, we had a pizza talk with Dr. Shoelson from the Joslin Diabetics Center speaking. His presentation focused on a drug that is currently in its first clinical trials that may revolutionize obesity and diabetes in America. I have always been skeptical about quick fixes to big problems, but the data he showed were pretty impressive. I love opportunities of being on the forefront of technology!

On my way to my class at the Harvard extension school, I began observing the students. As I made my way to class, I thought about how some of the world's greatest minds are/have been/will be here. In a minuscule way I am a part of them, I thought. In case I haven't told you about the class I'm taking, it's called Internet and Society: Politics of Change. As you can imagine, we talk about how the internet is changing our society. The professors are top-notch and provide interesting and mind-stimulating conversation. In today's class, we not only talked about the Orange Revolution which happened a few years ago in Ukraine, but also a guest from Ukraine came and spoke about some of his experiences in helping to lead the revolution. He was a member of the alternate news website Maidan, and helped use internet and SMS services to topple the existing and corrupt government. As my class came to a close, I marveled at what a cool class I have. Then I started thinking to myself that there is probably no place like Harvard. I fully acknowledge that there are probably other great establishments out there, I am simply a little biased. I also acknowledge that some of the people here are caught up in themselves, but the opportunity of being in their midst is truly worth it. Is everyone in Boston oozing with intelligence? No, but it is definitely nice to run into smarties moreso than I'm used to.

In conclusion, when I moved out here 10 months ago I had no expectation of what kind of experience I would have. Now I love Boston in a really deep kind of way. That's all I have to say.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A More Spiritual Topic

Because it's Sunday, I feel like I should blog about a spiritual topic. Before I begin such a topic, allow me to discuss one thing about myself: I love explaining things. Here are some examples that I have entertained recently:
  • I feel alert because I went for a run.

  • I like Person X because she is optimistic.

  • I feel sleepy because I ate tons of sugar.

The world tends to focus on explaining things too.

  • Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primaries because she cried.

  • The economy is heading downhill as a result of the subprime lending.

  • Men are attracted to women because of symmetrical facial features and a .7 hip-to-waist ratio.

  • Person X is homosexual because of biological factors.

Clearly, the world does not factor into its explanations the spiritual aspect. But I marvel at how much I focus my thoughts on the material, tangible world without thinking about the spiritual. I may make the conclusion that prayer is useful because it helps to clear my mind, and fuel my desires. But if this is all prayer is good for, I might as well pray to a brick. The more complete truth is that prayer invites the Spirit of the Lord into my life. There is no material explanation for this. Nor is there a way to explain today how wonderful today was.

I think back to the car ride to church. We were running late and I was feeling bogged down with an overwhelming array of things that I needed to get done. In a word, I felt CRAPPY. But by the end of the meetings, there was a complete change in me. I could try and explain it a number of ways: I had meaningful interactions with friends, I met up with an old friend, etc. But all the explanations that I could possibly come up with from a purely worldly sense fall short. The missing explanation is that I had the Spirit with me. And with the Spirit, I am a different person.

I feel like the world is very confusing. I am impressed with the intellect of brilliant minds tackling complex issues, and I even want to follow them in their noble pursuit of knowledge. But I am also going to try and recognize the role of God (the Holy Ghost being His manifestation to us) in everyday life.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008


I couldn't help but spread this link around:
. I hope you will enjoy its ever-expanding list of broad generalizations of what white people like.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

As I was walking to work this morning in the 50° weather, with the sun out in all its glory, there was only one song that summed up what I was feeling:

Monday, March 03, 2008

An interesting new feature

I have had a Gmail account for a long time. Back when I signed up, you needed to have an existing member invite you. My first email sent was in Sept. of 2004 and I have never looked back to other email accounts. One thing about Gmail, as with many other services that Google puts its name on, is that it constantly gets better and better. The newest feature of Gmail is the invisible status feature and I absolutely love it. If you haven't heard of it, let me explain. Imagine that you love chatting through your email page. However, every once in a while it may be the case that you have contacts you would rather not know that you are online. The reasons could be manifold: a contact you recently went on an awkward date with, a time-consuming chatter when you're really busy, a contact you struggle to love, etc. We all have these kind of moments, don't we? The red busy signal doesn't do the job either. It is overused by some, makes your name look evil, and is frankly intimidating even when someone needs to communicate with you. Well, if you want to spend time inside your email your only other option was to sign out of chat completely. (See options under the pull-down menu by your name) But now there is the invisibility feature. Under such a status, you appear offline to everyone, but you can see all of your contacts who are online. What's even better, you can start conversations with them. In this way you can selectively choose who you want to communicate with, without worrying about GChat drama. The fun part is that the way Google set this feature up, someone can initiate a chat with a contact who is invisible, its just a matter of guessing if they are invisible or truly offline. Obviously it would not be proper chat etiquette to constantly be invisible, but as I've been using it for the past couple days, it feels good to be under the radar.