You coulda fooled me!

31 01 2011

I need to preface this post by saying I don’t 100% agree with the sentiment expressed within.  I do, however like the way I expressed it and think there’s some food for thought here.  It’s easy to be hyper-sensitive at times and perceive things that are not actually taking place.

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“He who takes offense when no offense is intended is a fool, and he who takes offense when offense is intended is a greater fool.”
— Brigham Young

Tonight I went to a dance.  It was weird, but I was there.  It was a dance in downtown SLC at a Masonic lodge put on by some people who throw parties and dances for single people over the age of thirty five.  So I went with a friend for something to do, to hang out, dance a little, mingle, munch on some snacks, say hi to some friends and call it a night.

It was good for the most part, but I do have one big complaint.  And I hate to complain.  I used to like to complain a lot.  I used to have a good old time blogging and criticizing people, complaining about all sorts of crazy and unimportant things I found irritating in my life.  That was back when I was basically miserable inside; happy on the outside but tormented on the inside.  Now I’m what you see is what you get.

So I wandered down to the area where all the people I know are dancing and they’re laughing, having a good time and dancing.  Now, the deal here is that all the guys want the women to like them and they’re all trying to impress all the women.  And all the women want to look good enough to be accepted by the other women and to be liked by all the guys.  So there’s this dynamic going on of human mating rituals, showing off, trying to impress each other and all sorts of one-upsmanship and I’m just there to hang out.  I could give two shits about impressing anyone or making a love connection.

what's your perspective?These are people I know, I’ve associated with in the past; not people I’d put on my Christmas list or to whose funerals I would be invited, but they are people I’ve shared the social spotlight with and we have common friends.  When I go to these dances I don’t get all excited and immediately run out on the dance floor and start cutting a groove to China.  I like to stand back for a while, watch everyone, see who is around, watch what’s happening, have some snacks, meet a person or two and then maybe dance a little bit.  I think because I approach it this way that some people think I’m being a snob or anti-social.  It’s not that at all; I just like to soak things in.  I’m different from most people and I don’t feel like I have to jump into the fray to avoid missing some critical moment in social evolution.  OK, that was a snobbish comment; maybe I should take it back.  It doesn’t apply to everyone but I know it applies to some.

When I finally got down to the group I started dancing with my friend and I said hello to a few of the people there from across the room; talked to one or two of them a little bit.  There were some casual hellos given with a little courteous wave of the hand but it was mostly insincere, formal gesturing.

When the whole shebang was through the house lights came up and all the glad handing and hugging commenced and people started saying their goodbyes.  This is where it was really apparent that I was not part of the pack.  Eye contact was avoided with me by people I’ve had lengthy intimate conversations with in the past and except for a few of them who are genuinely cool people, nobody had any time or interest in my being there.  I only bring this up because I know why it happened like this.  It’s because of my past; because I spent some time in jail and that I have a reputation for associating with more rough-around-the-edges sorts of crowds.  In short, it’s a result of the choices I’ve made in the past.

Now, it does bother me on some level but I really want to say it doesn’t bother me at all, and tomorrow it isn’t going to bother me one bit and I’m going to feel like I shouldn’t have made this blog post at all; but like I said in the preface, I think there’s some food for thought in here.

Truly, it doesn’t really bother me other than just on the surface.  I mean I could take them or leave them, except that they’re my brothers and sisters and I do care for them and love them, but they’re just people, regular people who have regular lives.  They come and go; they’re not a critical part of my life.

But this sort of thing has never happened to me before although I have witnessed it happening to others in this very same circle.  I have seen people come and go from this social circle because they become offended and feel ostracized by the indifference of others.

I like to talk to people.  I like to say hello to strangers and make conversation with people I don’t know.  I like to make someone I don’t know laugh and try to make an impression on them to help them feel like there’s somebody out there who found them interesting enough to give their attention to.  That’s what uplifting our brothers and sisters is about.  And it’s not about doing it just to get it done, it’s about being sincerely interested in another person.

This sort of snubbing I see going on with people of this age only happens in Utah and in the LDS social circles.  It’s sad but true.  I certainly hate to be critical of my people; and they are my people because of my ancestry, my culture and the group I primarily identify myself with.

The core of our religious beliefs is Jesus Christ and love, compassion and service.  The purpose of our very lives is to help up build the kingdom of God on the earth and welcome all of our brothers and sisters into the fold; especially those who have been lost and wandering; not to shun them because they have habits or tendencies toward things that go against the teachings of our gospel.  Because to be completely honest, all of us are guilty of that very thing.  If that were not true none of us would need repentance.  It’s just that many people have bad habits that are easy to hide, that don’t outwardly offend others or make others out-rightly uncomfortable.

don't do it!Say there’s one guy who shows up reeking of cigarette smoke, wearing a Headbanger’s Ball t-shirt and another guy shows up who has just spent the past three hours watching hard-core pornography in the privacy of his own home.  How easy is it to pass judgment in a case like that?  The outward appearance is important, but the truth is more important.

Sometimes I wonder if the feeling is that if they associate with me they will somehow be categorized by their peers as being sympathetic to whatever behavior or experience in my past opposes their values.  I have a checkered past and it surely rubs some people the wrong way.  And there are others who look right past it and know me as the person I am; not for the light that shines on me but for the light that shines from me.

Often times, people close themselves off and huddle together in their social groups like Jr. High School kids.  I know they don’t do this on purpose and I know they have bigger hearts than I’m making it sound like, but their actions certainly mean something.  I know they do good things and give service, are good parents, good friends and good, honest citizens.  I tried to socialize with them, I tried to be a part of the crowd, tried to be friendly, tried to open up but there’s something going on, something about me that threatens or otherwise makes them feel uneasy.

Somebody is going to read this blog post and word is going to spread and then they’ll know how I feel, then they will feel justified in ignoring me because they can point to the attitude expressed in this blog post and say it’s because of my own behavior I feel this way.  But I didn’t feel this way until tonight.

Look up!So I got this off my chest, it’s just a rant and it’s probably an overblown misunderstanding but the essence of what I’m saying is surely going to resonate with some people who understand exactly where I’m coming from.  Then there will be the defensive group who won’t have a clue what I’m talking about and think I’m just being a jerk.  Then there might be a couple who are exceptions, who were actually very cool to me and who don’t belong as part of this rant, but who mistakenly think I still mean them too.

You can’t make everyone happy all of the time.  There’s no use in trying, so I just tell the truth, call it like I see it, speak my mind, say what I’m feeling and let the cards fall where they may.  This makes some people uncomfortable but I live life with a clean conscious knowing that I’m honest and truthful.  People don’t have to guess what I’m thinking or wonder how I feel.  Despite all of this ranting, I have nothing against any of these good people and I admire all of them in many different ways.

It’s just unfortunate that some of them feel uncomfortable.  Is it my fault or is it their problem? I don’t know.  I don’t think it really matters anyway.  I think what matters is that the future holds good things and that everything is going to be just fine and that I have no reason to bitch about anything.

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The temperature is relative!

28 01 2011

I remember when I came home from south America after being there for just under a year and a half.  I spent some time in the country of Paraguay and visited western Brazil a little bit.  It was a tropical rain forest, humid, hot, extremely muggy and the weather was oppressive to say the least.  But all that weather created some of the most natural beauty the mind can possibly imagine and gave me an opportunity to partake in an experience few will ever understand.

The interesting thing is that I come from a place in the United States that contains the last natural rain forest in the country, the Pacific Northwest and found myself in another one of the few rain forest regions in of the world.  In south America the rain forests are tropical and full of exotic life.  I witnessed flocks of parrots flying in nature, monkeys running through the trees in the city with orange, grapefruit and banana trees growing wild all around us.

But what I’m getting at here is the temperature.  Not to mention the humidity!  When it got to be above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and often times it climbed above 110 degrees, there was no escaping the sweltering heat.  I literally felt like we were living in a sauna and we just got used to it.  Our bodies acclimated to the conditions and while they weren’t comfortable, they were survivable and we made the best of our surroundings.  There was no central air or even decent air flow; and the places we lived were made from brick which literally acted like ovens, trapping the heat in the summer time and cooking us while we remained indoors.

But still, being indoors was nothing compared to being in that direct sunlight outside where our exposed skin would immediately feel like we were being placed in a convection oven for baking.  And not more than thirty seconds after that the sweat would begin to pour.  Our bodies would react immediately to the environment and rivers of sweat would begin pouring down our arms, running down our hands like the blood veins you can see in thinner peoples’ skin and drip to the ground off of our fingertips.  This would be a daily experience, and the reason we drank gallons of fluids.

When I returned home from this red and green hotbox of clay and trees it was springtime in the Northwest and the temperatures were around 68 degrees.  Everyone in the town was thrilled with the sun being out and the rising temperatures and broke out the shorts and t-shirts to enjoy the improving weather.

When I got there I found myself needing a jacket and long sleeves.  That’s the thing I found funny.  Nobody could understand how I could be feeling cold, but my core was so used to that oven that I felt as if I were now in a refrigerated environment. It took me a little while to get used to it but I eventually did, although I could never get used to the  dismal rain of the Northwest, the green is lovely.

What made me think of this today is that I am sitting in the local library on the WiFi and it’s a little warm in here.  It’s the middle of winter and we’ve been having some big snow storms and bitter cold.  It’s been below 20 degrees quite often in the last month or so.  I took a break to walk outside without my jacket, into the 40  degree temperature and found it to be refreshing and quite pleasant.  I thought for a moment about moving my workstation outside to enjoy the fresh air and beautiful weather.  Then I remembered that it’s all relative!

Enjoy your environment, it’s all beautiful!





Photographic beauty of rusting Steele

25 01 2011

I took this shot as I walked across the Steele bridge in Portland, OR last spring. This is an old and rusty drawbridge; a railroad bridge and a narrow two lane bridge for cars. It’s called the Steele bridge not because of its construction material but because Steele is the name of the street that runs across the bridge.





Photography and Art of Vaughn Hocksworth Brown

24 01 2011

This is an image I created using a photograph of my friend Cydney‘s eye.  She has the most alluring and beautiful blue eyes.  They are as captivating as she is.  I overlayed an image of a drawing I did back in college.  I call this image The Eyes Have It.  A dumb title but fitting.

I shot this at Yellowstone back in the summer of 2006.  My friend Lance and I saw The Red Hot Chili Peppers at the Delta Center and drove all night to Yellowstone right after the show for a week of getaway and soul finding with nature.  What an experience that was.  Yellowstone captured my heart that week and I captured this picture.

My bro, Kajol.  His name is Aaron but we all call him Kajol, and he has a son he named Kajol for real.  He sings for a band called Alias Code and used to sing for Separation of Self before the breakup.  We did this photo shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats, one of my favorite spots on the planet.  Kajol cut his dreads after 14 years.  He’s now a handsome respectable looking fellow who is having a slight identity crisis with the new, clean cut image.

I took this picture downtown Portland, Oregon in a parking garage.  The orange wall was a brilliant color with the black sign and stark white lettering.  Nothing special about the photo itself but I love the  lines and  color.

My friend, Leah.  She was dancing at a barn party when I snapped this pic.  She wasn’t posing, it just came out so nicely.   A nice seductive and accidental pose, I love it.  She’s a beautiful and statuesque woman, complex and wonderful.  I’d love to do a photo shoot with her.  Maybe I should ask!

A shot I took at the Art Walk in northeast Portland in the spring of 2010.  Brass Armonica was performing their musical and visual style of expression.  It was something I can dig but not something I could get into myself without large doses of mind altering chemicals.  They made for great photography subjects though!

This is the road that leads to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  It seems there is always a storm brewing in the distance while this long and lonesome road leads to the beautiful purity of the snow white plains that are the salt flats.  It is a spectacular thing to behold.

This is a silly picture but I like the colors and lighting.  Back in 2007 I was invited to the wedding of a sorority sister of my then girlfriend.  She was given the task of choosing the shoes for the bridesmaids.  I took this picture to show all the bridesmaids the subtle differences between the two pairs of shoes.  That woman taught me an appreciation for womenfolk’s shoes.





Give because it’s the right thing to do

14 01 2011

Sometimes you have something to say to someone that they need to hear. It’s the answer they are looking for, but it’s not the answer they want and it’s not scratching the itch they’re feeling at the moment. So you offer it up and it’s not received in the way you hope it will be received.

What do you do? Do you get angry, frustrated, begin to point out how this person is missing the picture or missing your point? No, that doesn’t help anything. You’ve set out to try to uplift someone and if they don’t absorb what your offering, certainly don’t respond by tearing them down and giving them a dose of, “Well if you don’t take what I’m giving then I’ll put you in your place, mister!”

You’ve put it out there and it’s out there. It got to them the best it could and it will come back at a time when it’s able to fit into position within them, to settle in and be of value to them. It can’t be forced if there’s no holding place for it to settle into. Time needs to pass and experience needs to create that holding place for your words to comfortably settle in and and take their place to have meaning and fortify their being.

I once offered a homeless man a cup of hot chocolate I bought for him, specifically for him. My son Spencer, eight years old at the time told me to give a homeless man a cup of hot chocolate as a gift of compassion while we were out that day. I thought that was an amazing request and was so happy that he had been learning good things at such a young age. As his dad I was going to take the opportunity to follow through and solidify in his young and developing character the value of giving, service and compassion.

So we walked into Starbucks and I bought hot chocolate for the three kids and an extra for the sign-holder and went down to the street level and I held out the cup of hot chocolate to the man who is holding a cardboard sign, which is telling us, “anything helps.” It was winter and it was cold. He was bundled up with gloves and a hat to cover his ears and head and he was huddling up to keep warm. I thought it was a nice gesture. I said, “here’s some hot chocolate, we got it just for you.”

He just looked at me and said, “I can’t hold it.”

I repeated and said, “I just bought it for you, it’s fresh warm, and it’s good.”

He said again, “I can’t hold it.”

So, what was I supposed to do? Get upset and react in anger? Being turned down is something you don’t hope for, but it happens and it’s OK. The point is that my little guy had the heart to make this offering of compassion to someone he saw in need, and he did it without worrying about what others around him might think. He was only concerned for this man who was holding out his hand.

So we took the hot chocolate and were going to offer it to someone else but there was nobody else around to give it to. We shared it and it was good, and we talked about this experience and we were able to see that sometimes people who are in need don’t want what you have to give and that it’s OK. The important thing is to offer, and to love them. Their reaction or response is their responsibility. Our responsibility is to be kind and to give what we can. If it is not understood that is OK. Sometime in the future that guy will remember the group of people who offered that hot chocolate to him and that memory will have some meaning and value. That day it didn’t, but that doesn’t mean that the experience was meaningless. It was important on many levels, and a selfish reaction of anger or contempt because of the rejection by the beggar would have turned that opportunity into something ugly and nasty.

Let’s all rise above ourselves and make the best out of every situation, and when we are rejected or surprised by the reactions of others, let’s be grateful for the opportunity we had to make any sort of offering whether it was accepted or not.

The moral to this story is to be bold, but not overbearing.  Be compassionate, but not forceful in giving.  Do things for the benefit of others, to make the future better, to make the world a better place.  Remember that your influence is like a seed being planted.  At the moment you plant it, it is unseen, buried and goes unnoticed.  But in time it grows and nobody remembers who planted it or where it came from, but the tree is there to offer fruit and shade and beauty to countless people who find themselves in its way.  To be noticed for your efforts is not the reward.  To bring comfort to the lives of others is.




This guy’s take on ‘bury the hatchet’

12 01 2011

I was thinking about making peace the other day with someone for whom I have created a bit of anxiety over the years; justified for the most part, but not cool and not necessary at all. In light of everything that’s gone on in my life over the past twelve months, and this amazing change of heart I’ve been experiencing (when it starts you think you’ve changed, but it keeps getting more profound), I decided to extend the olive branch or, in words I like better, bury the hatchet.

Then I started thinking about the phrase and where it originated. Obviously it has roots in Native American lore. So I did a little research and found some anecdotal evidence that some time prior to the arrival of Columbus, the Iroquois leaders Deganawidah and Hiawatha had convinced the five major tribes to stop fighting and form a confederacy, and as a sign of peace or a treaty of peace, to bury their weapons of war beneath the roots of a white pine. This tradition was carried on through history with tribes and with settlers from the east and the phrase ‘bury the hatchet’ that we use today eventually sprang from this demonstration of peace for settling disputes and conflict.

And I thought about it a little more. Just because this is one of history’s earliest recorded events of burying the hatchet it certainly wasn’t the first. Then it dawned on me that burying the hatchet is a peace keeping maneuver I’ve been taught about all my life through the scriptures in my church.

Yeah, I’m a Mormon. Throw out the word Mormon and you get all sorts of responses. The name itself evokes a myriad of images in the mind depending on your exposure to Mormonism or what you’ve heard. Ideas of polygamy, secret ceremonies, no coffee, no alcohol, for some it means family, charity, doing unto others. To me Mormonism is a culture. It’s more than a religion. It’s a way of life. But it’s far from a kooky cult or some brainwashing society of patriarchal overlords. And the Mormons have the Book of Mormon.

Now, this blog post isn’t going to be an exposition on the origins of the Book of Mormon or why I believe it is a companion to the Bible and another testament of Jesus Christ (had to get that in there), I just want to refer to a section of the book where we can read about our Native American ancestors first burying the hatchet as a covenant of peacekeeping. I said I wouldn’t give an exposition on the history or origins of the Book of Mormon but it’s important in this context to at least understand the setting I’m about to discuss, so I’ll give a very brief synopsis of the contextual setting of the Book of Mormon story.

About 600 years BC a group of Israelites, around the time of the destruction of Jerusalem during the 8th or 9th year of the reign of king Zedekiah (Old Testament book of Jeremiah 37-39), fled Jerusalem and built boats that sailed to the western hemisphere. They took with them ancient records of scripture, the books of Moses, writings of Isaiah, Jeremiah and other ancient, Old Testament prophets up to that time written on plates of brass. During their travails they experienced many things, prosperity, divisions, wars, etc. and they kept records. These records were kept and handed down from the beginning by those who had left Jerusalem and guarded as sacred, recording the dealings of God with men and the patterns of righteousness and sin so that they could come forth in the latter days to demonstrate God’s goodness and mercy in preserving his people and showing his arm is outstretched all the daylong to any of His children who desire to come unto him.

So, without going into all the detail and getting into the history of Mormonism and the idea that God didn’t just reveal Himself to the people of Jerusalem and that Christ taught that there are other sheep which were not of the fold at Jerusalem, I’ll just leave it at that. The Book of Mormon is an ancient record of scripture about the dealings of the family of men on the western hemisphere during the same time the bible was being recorded in the so called old world.

So there’s this people in the Book of Mormon, a tribe who has been uber rebellious and has committed heinous crimes and murders on the more righteous people of the land, and by the teachings of the judges and prophets in the lands round about these areas they come to the knowledge of God and find common ground with their enemies. When this happens they have incredible remorse for their murders and for all the bloodshed and destruction they have brought upon the people of the land. So they decide to make a covenant of peace with God and with the people and bury their weapons of war; or as they are referred to in the Book of Mormon account, ‘their weapons of rebellion’.

So this tribe buries their weapons deep in the ground to show that they no longer desire to shed blood and they covenant that they will never again take up arms against their brothers. And when the enemy comes upon them to fight they bow down before them in prayer to God while the enemy fell upon them and began to destroy them. At first their enemies thought they were bowing down in submission for fear but soon realized that they were giving praises to God and freely giving their lives rather than to fight and destroy. They wouldn’t take up their arms in their defense because of the horrendous atrocities and bloodshed they had committed previously. And some were slaughtered, but this demonstration of humility softened the hearts of their enemies so that they stopped destroying them as they saw that these people would not rise up in battle.

And in perspective, as the lesson of the story teaches us, those who were lost by giving up their lives were received into the presence of God and saved by their repentance, by their sacrifice to not commit any more destruction and bloodshed and by their demonstration of peace and change of heart. This seems quite extreme but in retrospect it is a priceless lesson we can learn from; the sacrifice of these dedicated people who had a clear understanding of the purpose of life, that there is so much more beyond what we can see in this mortal coil. This people did not only sacrifice their lives for their own salvation, but their demonstration carries endlessly forward to those of us who have the perspective to learn from their great sacrifice to be grateful to God for His mercies, for the gift we have of being able to truly change and be made clean after being some of the vilest of sinners.

So to me bury the hatchet doesn’t just mean to put our differences behind us, it means to put our differences behind us and to move forward with a commitment or covenant of peacekeeping. To never again take up arms, whether they are physical arms, mere words, thoughts or intentions against our brothers and work every day to create peace and harmony through compassionate service. Compassionate service, meaning to serve without regard for reward, to do it for the good of those we are serving and for no other reason, to uplift our brothers and to make the world a better place.

Of course it is extreme to think that we shouldn’t defend our lives in the face of certain destruction, but these stories serve as lessons, taken in context as they are told, to our lives that we can incorporate into who we are and who we wish to become. Once we have committed certain atrocities and have found true change of heart and forgiveness, it is critical that we don’t go back in any way, shape or form to that old behavior. To bury the hatchet means to put our old lives away, to bury them in the ground and to take upon ourselves newness, a new life, to be born again and become beings of light and goodness.

That sounds like new age, fruit pie, mumbo-jumbo especially in this day and age of the hustle and bustle of me-me-me, gimme-gimme-gimme, now-now-now, but it’s what I really believe. And it all starts with Christ, who is love and salvation, and creation, re-creation into newness of life, healing, being reborn into something great, to achieve our full potential as children of God. There are too many misunderstandings about who Christ is and what He expects of us, too much fear, too much of the fire and brimstone and not enough of the compassion and love of what He truly is and what He wants for us, and why He created this whole mortal plan for us. But once we begin to understand real, pure truth, the essence of what is real; we begin to understand who we really are and what purpose we serve in this world; that we are all one in Him and that to be healed and to be whole is to be in harmony with what science calls ‘The Field’ and what spiritualists call the powers of the universe and what I call God, my Father in Heaven, and what He calls the family of man.

There is much we don’t understand, because it’s not time for us to get it all, but it’s time for us to search. And if we search we will find, and as we begin to understand and incorporate that knowledge into our beings, into who we are, to help the world move forward into greater consciousness, greater things will be unfolded to our minds until we can comprehend all things.

Knowledge may be power, but raw power can be destructive. It matters what we do with that knowledge, how we harness it and how we transfer it into constructive creation of life and healing for progress toward the good of all mankind, never to control and subject others to our will. As we keep our minds set on things greater than ourselves, we are able to act as conduits for others in achieving greatness within themselves.

We will make mistakes. Others will make mistakes. But if we can bury the hatchet then we can love one another, and that’s when we start living.





We’re getting closer…

7 01 2011

That BIG event is upon us, it’s just around the corner.  Whatever you want to call it.  I call it the Second Coming, we’re in the tribulation part from what I can tell.  Most people agree that something is going down.  For convenience a lot of people are looking to the end of the Mayan calendar, something tangible they can look forward to.  But when their set date comes and goes I wonder what the speculation will turn into. Whatever it is, the signs are here and there ain’t no denying all the turmoil this world is going through.

The latest is all the bird and fish deaths.  It’s crazy, random, out of the blue, fish washing up on the shores and birds literally dropping from the sky by the thousands.  Scientists are going to put a cause on and and it will be explained, but that certainly doesn’t take away from the fact that these weird things are precursors to coming Apocalyptic events.

Buckle up everyone.  I hope you have been preparing, it’s going to get bumpy for a while, and it’s going to be a learning experience for every person alive.

Here’s what has been recorded around the world in the last two weeks.

  • 8,000 turtle doves fall dead in Italy with strange blue stain on their beaks
  • 450 red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, grackles and starlings found littering a highway in Baton Rouge, Louisiana
  • 3,000 blackbirds on roofs and roads in the small town of Beebe, Arkansas
  • Thousands of ‘devil crabs’ washed up along the Kent coast near Thanet
  • Thousands of drum fish washed along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River
  • Two million small fish in Chesapeake Bay, Maryland
  • Thousands of dead fish found floating in warm Florida creek
  • Hundreds of snapper fish found dead in New Zealand
  • Scores of American Coots found dead on Texas highway bridge







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