An old friend was telling me today about how he is reading a book that talks about how patterns make things that are seemingly meaningless have meaning. All of a sudden, I recalled a tiny fragment of my crazy math professor from my Freshman year of college who took time out to teach us about fractals.

What are fractals? Well, I’ll tell you.

You see, fractals are tiny patterns that make identical larger patterns. More sophistically put, fractals are complex shapes which look more or less the same at a wide variety of scale factor whether they are big or small. There are many examples of fractals all around us. When I learned about them, we discussed cauliflower. Have you ever looked at it closely? Each piece, no matter how small, resembles and makes up the larger piece. And it doesn’t start and end with something as simple as cauliflower. Even coastlines, veins, and countless other things that we see on a regular basis are fractals.

So, I propose, to some degree, that in a way, each human being is a fractal. So, you could go all cynical on me and say, “Well, Amber, people are all different, no two people are alike, blah blah blah,” and you’d be right. Each of us is a delicate snowflake with individuality oozing from our personalities.

However, we do come together to make up a whole. That whole is the human race. We have so much to give in this world we live in, and while it may seem like we are insignificant, the truth is, there would be a hole where we were supposed to be if we never existed, or if we tried to act like we were meant to be someone else.

I believe that we were placed on this earth to be who we were at birth, and we bring something very important to the table. That is ourselves. Nobody else could take that job and have it fit the way it does. Other people could probably try to mimic what we are supposed to do on this earth, but it wouldn’t be exactly the same. The tapestry would have a little snag in it where you were supposed to be.

Anyway, back to fractals. They go on for infinity. There never seems to be an end to where the molecular structure breaks down to the point where the pattern is no longer present. I suggest that this means there is no end to matter, and there is no beginning. This means that the possibility of there being something greater than we could ever imagine is not completely out of the question. There could be countless dimensions, beings, creations that we can’t see or understand. The vastness to this little time we have on earth is so far beyond our capacity for understanding, but it is beautiful, isn’t it?

It is better to have your head in the clouds, and know where you are… than to breathe the clearer atmosphere below them, and think that you are in paradise.

Henry David Thoreau


Eyes Wide Open

The more I’ve grown in my education, the more old fashioned I find myself to be. I have a friend, Christine, who loves this Mormon feminist blog, and she shares things on there sometimes. The reason why I love Christine, and why I love reading this blog (that I hardly ever agree with, mind you), is because they really remind me how differently I think than do most people in the world around me, and how there are so many other views out there that make everyone so unique.

As I learn and grow, I realize how important it is to understand the way others view things for two reasons. One, I may learn something new that really applies to me. Two, there will probably be a time in my life where I’ll just need to be able to put myself in someone else’s shoes and try to understand what they are dealing with from their point of view. If I live in a tiny bubble my whole life, I’ll never help anyone or learn anything.

This doesn’t mean I have to accept everything they believe. It doesn’t mean that I have to prove them right or wrong. But it does give me the chance to see something from a different position, and to really benefit from seeing that position.

Anyway, today, Christine posted something from there, I thought it was amazing, so I really wanted to steal it. It’s from Emma Lou Thayne’s book, A Place of Knowing: A Spiritual Autobiography. So, please do read, and enjoy.

“Many years into my adulthood,
when asked by a Jewish poet friend why I stay in my Mormonism, I
explained it with a story, the details recounted by my mother. It is my
mother’s story transposed into an allegory about my believing.

When I was a little girl, my father took me to hear Helen Keller
in the Tabernacle. I must have been about eight or nine and I’d read
about Helen Keller in school, and my mother had told me her story.
I remember sitting in the balcony at the back of that huge domed
building that was supposed to have the best acoustics in the world.
Helen—everybody called her that—walked in from behind a curtain
under the choir seats with her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Helen spoke
at the pulpit—without a microphone—but we could hear perfectly,
her guttural, slow, heavily pronounced speech. She spoke about her
life and her beliefs. Her eyes were closed and when it came time for
questions from the audience, she put her fingers on her teacher’s lips
and then repeated for us what the question had been. She answered
questions about being deaf and blind and learning to read and to
type and, of course, to talk. Hearing that voice making words was like
hearing words for the first time, as if language had only come into
being—into my being at least—that moment.

Someone asked her, “Do you feel colors?”

I’ll never forget her answer, the exact sound of it—“Some-times
. . . I feel . . . blue.” Her voice went up slightly at the end, which
meant she was smiling. The audience didn’t know whether to laugh
or cry.

After quite a lot of questions, she said, “I would . . . like to ask
. . . a fa-vor of you.” Of course, the audience was all alert. “Is your
Mormon prophet here?” she asked. There was a flurry of getting up
from the front row, and President Grant walked up the stairs to the
stand. She reached out her hand and he took it. All I could think was,
“Oh, I wish I were taking pictures of that.”

“I . . . would like . . . ,” she said, “to hear your organ . . . play . . .
your fa-mous song—about your pio-neers. I . . . would like . . . to
re-mem-ber hear-ing it here.” All the time she was speaking she was
holding his hand he had given her to shake. I liked them together,
very much.

I remember thinking, “I am only a little girl (probably others
know) but how in the world will she hear the organ?” But she turned
toward President Grant and he motioned to Alexander Schreiner, the
Tabernacle organist who was sitting near the loft. At the same time,
President Grant led her up a few steps to the back of the enormous
organ—with its five manuals and eight thousand pipes. We were all
spellbound. He placed her hand on the grained oak of the console,
and she stood all alone facing us in her long, black velvet dress with
her right arm extended, leaning slightly forward and touching the
organ, with her head bowed.

Brother Schreiner played “Come, Come, Ye Saints,” each verse
a different arrangement, the organ pealing and throbbing—the bass
pedals like foghorns—as only he could make happen. Helen Keller
stood there—hearing through her hand and sobbing.

Probably a lot more than just me—probably lots of us in the
audience were mouthing the words to ourselves—“Gird up your
loins; fresh courage take. / Our God will never us forsake; / And soon
we’ll have this tale to tell— / All is well! / All is well!” I could see
my great-grandparents, converts from England, Wales, France, and
Denmark, in that circle of their covered wagons, singing over their
fires in the cold nights crossing the plains. Three of them had babies
die; my great-grandmother was buried in Wyoming. “And should we
die before our journey’s through, / Happy day! / All is well! / We then
are free from toil and sorrow, too; / With the just we shall dwell! / But
if our lives are spared again / To see the Saints their rest obtain, / Oh,
how we’ll make this chorus swell— / All is well! / All is well!”

So then—that tabernacle, that singing, my ancestors welling in
me, my father beside me, that magnificent woman, all combined with
the organ and the man who played it and the man who had led her to
it—whatever passed between the organ and her passed on to me.

I believed. I believed it all—the seeing without seeing, the hearing
without hearing, the going by feel toward something holy, something
that could make her cry, something that could move me, alter
me, something as unexplainable as a vision or a mystic connection,
something entering the pulse of a little girl, something that no matter
what would never go away. What it had to do with Joseph Smith or
his vision or his gospel I never would really understand—all I know
to this day is that I believe.”

What an absolutely fantastic story that pushed me to put myself into Sister Thayne’s shoes.

And so, sometimes looking at something from someone else’s eyes may more fully validate the feelings in your heart and give you an ever greater conviction to the truths that you know.

Heber J. Grant giving Helen Keller a Book of Mormon in Braille

Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.

Helen Keller