For those of you only interested in my space stuff, I wanted to write about other topics today. Partially because this is Sunday, and I try not to do work or goofing-off on Sundays, and partially because I’ve been thinking about some other things recently.
Tomorrow’s is my birthday, and I will be officially one-quarter century old. I simultaneously feel ancient, and yet still very young and wet behind the ears. Tomorrow is also the three year anniversary of my return from a two year proseletyzing mission in the Philippines. About this time three years ago, I was probably getting on the plane in Manilla. It was the longest birthday I’ve ever had–lasted for about 30 something hours in two spurts–and it also was the only birthday I’ve ever had twice, once in the Philippines, and the other time starting over the international date line.
It’s kind of ironic. Before I went, I had a friend of mine ask me why I didn’t just set up a church related web page, and send out email to everyone about the gospel. I knew it was a kind of silly idea then, but it seems even more silly now. After I got home, and after I had reestablished my school webpage, I started a kind of protoblog, and listed religion as one of the topics I wanted to write about. I think I also said something to the effect on my first post on this blog. I never actually got around to writing a single post. Not because it isn’t important to me, not because I was too afraid of others’ opinions, but mostly because I couldn’t find a good way to express my thoughts and feelings that seemed appropriate for the subject matter. The internet medium is just not particularly well adapted for such topics.
Anyone who actually knows me on a personal level knows that my religious beliefs are such a core part of who I actually am, that you can’t really even begin to understand me at all without knowing what I believe. It’s not that I merely allow religion to “color my politics”, or that I wear it out on my sleeve so to speak. It’s more that my understanding about God and his relationship to us is the fundamental lens through which I view everything in life, even if I don’t go out of my way on the internet to let people know that is the case.
I learned a lot while serving in that beautiful Island nation. Maybe in the future I’ll put up a few pictures and a few stories about things that happened while I was there. I learned much about the power of faith, about the importance of humility, about the dangers of pride, and about the ability to love even those who hate you in return. I learned how to serve, how to keep going long past when you thought that you couldn’t go on. I learned a little about effective leadership. I learned how difficult, but how important, patience can be. I learned a lot about my own personal weaknesses, incompetencies, and character flaws. I learned the vital importance of having empathy, compassion, and understanding for others. If you don’t even try to understand why other people think and act the way they do, if you never try to put yourself in their position and see through their eyes, you can never make much more than an accidental difference in anyone’s life. Well, or at least it will be very, very difficult. Our world could really use a dose of empathy, humility, patience, love, and tolerance.
I learned the power of the gospel to truly and completely change people. I saw drunkards clean up their lives and become leaders. I saw families and marriages heal themselves and become truly happy. I saw truly amazing changes as people accepted the gospel into their lives, repented, and served others. I also saw the destroying power of pride, arrogance, unwillingness to communicate, unwillingness to forgive, inability to allow others to repent and change.
I gained a lasting testimony of the reality of God, and that he does act in our lives. I gained a testimony of personal revelation and inspiration, and the reality that God does still talk to man in our days. A very good friend of mine often likes to voice his agnosticism about the existence of God with the phrase “I don’t know, and neither do you!” It’s cute, but he’s wrong. I do know. I can empathize with those who don’t yet know, and I don’t look down my nose at others who express doubt or uncertainty. Those feelings are natural, and had I not experienced what I have experienced in my life and on my mission, I would probably be doubtful too. Having been through what I have however, I could no more easily deny what I know than to deny gravity, or claim that the Sun, Moon, and Stars didn’t exist…
I think that’s probably all I ought to say on that topic today.
Moving back to topics that many readers here might feel more comfortable with, I have another anniversary that just past, and one that is coming up. Two mondays ago was the first anniversary of my starting paid work for Masten Space Systems. I started by doing work remotely at Brigham Young University while I tried to finish my thesis up. It’s kind of nice to know that after a year worth of effort, off and on, we finally have a test qualified igniter that is consistently and reliably creating a very robust and roudy flame. We aren’t where I had hoped we would be by this point, but I’ve learned a huge amount about the difference between theory and practice over the last several months. While making a liquid rocket engine test stand has been far more involved than I ever imagined, I’m also more confident than ever that we will soon have a truly safe, high quality, and useful test stand that will allow us to do all of the testing we need to do for a while. It was a tough project, but one that I think is just about there, and at a much higher quality level than I had originally expected.
It’s kind of sad to see though that my thesis has barely budged an inch since then. I’ve actually been temporarily dropped from the program for the time being since I haven’t been enrolled in classes for over a year now. I can be readded before I defend my thesis, but that’s an extra reminder that I have unfinished business.
Which reminds me of my last anniversary coming up. This Saturday will be the 6th anniversary of my graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Manufacturing Engineering at BYU. I’m not sure, but I think at that summer graduation that I was the youngest person graduating out of a graduating class of about 5000. This goes back to my statement about simultaneously feeling ancient, and yet still young and depressingly wet behind the ears. I’m probably way too tough on myself from time to time, particularly when faced with a problem that is in an area that wasn’t covered so well by my undergraduate work. I’ve still got a long way to go, but I guess I’ve already come pretty far for someone at my age.
Anyhow, that’s all the ramblings I want to share today. I hope that I haven’t offended anyone, and I hope I’ve allowed a little bit of a window into who I am for those of you who don’t know me so well. Thanks.