Sincere

Dr. Benjamin Martinez shared the following example that illustrates this dichotomy:

“Of all the kinds and colors of marble, the milky white Carrara is the rarest and most costly.  Sculptors who lived during the Golden Age of Tuscan Sculpture claimed that it was the purest substance God ever created, and they longed for the feel of it beneath their hands.  Any sculptor who was commissioned by a wealthy patron of the arts to create a statue of Carrara marble felt himself to be highly favored.

“Sculpting in marble was neither fast nor easy.  In addition to innate talent, it required both careful analysis and tedious, backbreaking work.  The artist would have to study the block of marble to determine its essential nature.  He would then need to discover the direction of the grain and ascertain the presence of any flaws.  He had to make careful and precise plans and drawings that were in accord with the structure of the marble itself.  Then, with consummate care, he would begin to chip off the superfluous marble, layer by layer, until he revealed the form he had envisioned.

“Any mistake could be disastrous.  If the sculptor went against the grain he could crack the marble; if he struck with a blow with too much force he could mash the crystals beneath the surface, creating holes and ruining the sculpture.  This seldom happened with the greatest of sculptors, who labored with infinite care and supreme sensitivity.  Those with lesser talent and little patience, however, would occasionally be confronted with such a disaster.  Rather than admit their blunder and lose their commission, some would resort to subterfuge.

“Soft, white wax, skillfully applied, could usually disguise the damage.  In outward appearance the sculpture appeared to be flawless and the defect was seldom discovered until well after the work had been accepted and the commission paid.  As the practice became more common, patrons of the arts became more discerning.  They refused to accept a piece of marble statuary until after a careful examination had been made to ensure that it was undamaged and contained no wax-covered flaws.  The highest standard of excellence for works of white Carrara marble came to include the distinction, sine cere, meaning without wax.

“Eventually these two words merged to become a single word, in Spanish “sincera” or in English “sincere” meaning pure, unadulterated, whole, intact, and uninjured.”  When the word was used to refer to marble works of art, the emphasis was on the fundamental wholeness of the statue, not just on its superficial appearance or outward appearance.  The statue was expected to be good, not just to look good.”

From

Establishing a Standard of Excellence for Building a Life of Happiness, Fulfillment, and Spiritual Growth

Elder Richard G. Maynes

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

November 11, 2008

Names

The historical instances of changing names is quite interesting. From the aspiring musician Gordon Sumner, who because of his propensity to wear black and yellow attire was given the moniker of Sting. To the young USC football player from Iowa named Marion Morrison, who was asked to take on a more manly name, John Wayne. Few of us readily recognize Norma Jean Mortenson (Marilyn Monroe), or Samuel L. Clements (Mark Twain). Yet in the technology world of today, many of us have monikers or aliases, but do we really know the reasons?

Origins of names can come from a variety of sources. Gratefully, not all parents take the approach of Ron Howard, naming children based on the location of conception. My name comes from an interesting mix of factors, I am told. The cowboy component coming from the great saddle bronc rider Casey Tibbs. The courage of Casey Jones, the train engineer who gave his life for his job (and was named after his birthplace, Cayce, Kentucky). And the athletic reference and cool charisma to the pre-strike out form of Casey at the bat.

Each spring after all of the calves and lambs are born, my kids join me for the annual branding. The scene takes place across ranches throughout the west, just has it has for hundreds of years. Supposedly this dates back to the Spanish conquistadores who marked their animals with three crosses for identification purposes. It’s not a pleasant sight, or smell, as the branding iron is heated and our HP brand is seared on the left hip of the calves for permanent identification.

No, we don’t have a sponsorship with Hewlett Packard. Our brand goes back to Hans Peterson, a convert to the LDS church from Vile, Fyuen, Denmark. He was called to settle the town of Fillmore, Utah and worked hard to support his family on 50 acres of land, a molasses mill, and occasional work as a tinsmith and clothing tailor. I like to think that he left a legacy of faith, hard work, eating, technical skill, and nice clothing for future Petersons. He also was on the city council, the school board, the city recorder, and the town violinist. I am proud of the example, heritage, and Peterson name that he passed to me. And it seems fitting each year that I put his initials on the cows that I am using as a tool to build the same principles of faith and work in my children.

My kids spend time each day feeding and caring for their animals. They seldom ask for money to pay for their needs. From the sale of their animals, they each have bank accounts and investments. They also have meals that come from organic meats that they raised, eggs that they gather, and produce that they grow in our garden and orchard. Fixing fence, digging thistles, and moving animals (which can include watching me get bucked off horses) can be hard work. At least I hope it’s hard work. It has successfully stunted their interest in video games, TV, and other common activities. However, I’m not trying to revert them to the 1800’s agrarian lifestyle in Fillmore. I recognize the same qualities required of Hans Peterson are required of them today, and I hope they feel a connection to those principles that are inherent in their names. I also hope that I leave a legacy with my name that can span generations, distances, and changes. Each of our names has a meaning, do we appreciate it?

Linked Parents, the Chain Conundrum

I grew up on a very large cattle ranch among a most colorful group of cowboys. I quickly became familiar with their ability to communicate in different types of metaphors, mixed metaphors, and mixed up metaphors. I’ll let you decide which type relates to the lesson of the chain.

The story is told of an old cowboy who pulls up to the local hardware store in his beat-up pickup truck, and determinedly marches into the store as fast as his bowed legs can carry him. “Give me the strongest chain you’ve got” he demands to the store clerk. The clerk politely inquires the length, and then measures, cuts, and delivers the chain to the impatient buckaroo. Within the hour, the quiet of the store is broken and filled with the rumble of the old truck, the clicking of run down boot heels on the sidewalk, and a loud rattling sound as the chain is angrily tossed back on the counter. “This chain don’t work” states the old cowboy. “I hooked on with it, and no matter how hard I pushed, it wouldn’t move a thing. It’s not stronger than my rope I tried to push with this morning.”

The chain metaphor and analogy was used to remind me in many situations of the difference between “pushing” and “leading.” When pushed, individual links of a chain go different directions, acting independently, and lacking a common purpose, they serve little use. Yet when pulled by a common purpose, each link lends individual strength that collectively fortifies the chain as a whole. Several times in my life I have found myself pushing, not leading.

Last night, I found myself once again reflecting on the lesson of the chain. I was standing in the corner of the gym at my sons basketball game. You see, I prefer standing near the corner, away from parents who are exerting their own “chain” powers. Some by pushing and shouting at their kids, the referees, and the coaches. Others by quietly complaining and comparing abilities of said kids, referees, and coaches. I’ve determined no one in the stands seems to be happy, and the swell of chain pushers inevitably spills ugly frustrations out on the court to a group of emotional, changing, somewhat insecure teenagers who are trying to figure out how to function as a pulled chain, linking their individual abilities in a cohesive athletic effort. So I choose to stand apart where I have to deal with my own emotions, independent of the commotion in the stands.

Down by 2 points with six seconds to go, my son drove to the basket with a look I’ve seen many times, in various sports from him. He loves last second opportunities. Yet, two players converged, slaps on arms could be heard from across the gym, yet the only whistle was when the ball went out of bounds. Immediately my mind began to fill with thoughts of “Why didn’t he go up stronger? Why didn’t he split the double team better? Could he have pulled up sooner, or jumped a little higher? We’ve been working on the hook shot, why didn’t he use it?” He was despondent, feeling like he had let his coach and team down. You see, Chad is a pleaser. He cares very little what his peers think of him, but he cares tremendously what his coaches, parents, and leaders think of him. He often takes the weight of the world on his skinny shoulders believing because he’s out there, because the ball is in his hands, that he’s responsible for the hopes and ambitions for everyone. I saw his agonizing look first at his coach, who trusted him to be out there. Then to me, his personal rebounder who spends every morning at 5:30 dutifully rebounding shots for him. I realized the links of his chain were being pushed in different directions in his head, and as a parent, the chain was in my hands.

I rushed Chad home to meet his quorum for a temple trip, and the time he was gone helped me really reflect on my actions . I remember being 15, being filled with new found athletic ability, yet feeling new and confusing emotions. I remember trying so hard, yet coaches telling me to “slow down” and hustle. The oxymoron perplexed me and frustrated me. Yet gradually, the game did slow down for me, and the accolades of all-state, all region, academic all state, etc. validated and healed my earlier struggles. It then hit me, like a chain to the side of my head, I was comparing my son to what I’d become, not gently guiding him to discover the strength that lies in the links of his life.

One of my doctoral professors at BYU, Cliff Mayes, teaches that a role is not a “prescribed list of behaviors but rather a repertoire of possibilities upon which one can draw as he finds himself positioned in various situations.” As a slowly learning parent, I am learning I can recognize the individual links in my children, and help position them in the direction that pulls us together in strength and unity. If I try to push towards a prescribed list of behaviors, I find myself facing the same frustration as the old cowboy pushing his chain.

It’s about TIME!

U.C.L.A. basketball coach John Wooden, at the first squad meeting each season, had his players practice putting their socks on. He demonstrated just how to do it: he carefully rolled each sock over his toes, up his foot, around the heel, and pulled it up snug, then went back to his toes and smoothed out the material along the sock’s length, making sure there were no wrinkles or creases. He had two purposes in doing this. First, wrinkles cause blisters. Blisters cost games. Second, he wanted his players to learn how crucial seemingly trivial details could be. “Details create success” was the creed of a coach who won ten N.C.A.A. men’s basketball championships. Other coaches worked on timed drills, incremental success, and measured improvement. Coach Wooden focused on the quality of every detail, not the quantity of work.

Each one of us can rattle off a list of activities that results in how “busy” we are. For me, I have a full time job, 5 very active children whose “busy” schedules are transposed onto my wife and I’s schedules, a time consuming ecclesiastical calling, a family farm to oversee, a doctoral program I am trying to finish, my 4-H club leader responsibilities, maintaining a very large garden and orchard, coaching sports, a regular workout regimen, and rental properties to manage. Not included in this list are things I’d like to do more including spending time with my wonderful wife outside of a gym, an auditorium, or a parents meeting for our kids, attending the temple more, doing family history work, and helping my widowed mother more. My neighbors include one elderly lady, one divorced lady, and a lady suffering with cancer. I’d love to help them all out more. Scout leaders, youth coaches, and city volunteers all could use my help more. I wish I had more time to do more. I’ve thought long and hard what I can do to fit more into my schedule of limited time.

Without you even thinking about it your heart beats one hundred times a minute. You take a breath every four seconds. And every two seconds your eyes blink. Your body manufactures new skin every few months and other parts of your body are constantly being renewed according to some timed pattern, because cells have a clockwork of their own. Our bodies have a very specific schedule. Nature, animals, and plants all have schedules that they run on.

But of all our Heavenly Father’s earth creatures, only man purposely records the passage of time. Early man saw the shadow cast by a stick poking out of the ground change positions as the sun moved across the sky. When the sun was gone at night he watched the positions of the moon and stars change as the night passed.

Later, the Egyptians built a primitive sundial using an obelisk. This tall, upright stone pillar tapers to a triangular point at the top and casts a shadow just like the stick stuck in the ground. But the positions of its shadow were marked on either the ground or wall of a nearby building to tell how much time had gone by. The 365-day year was also an invention of the Egyptians, as was the 24-hour day.

The Greeks measured smaller amounts of time with a clepsydra (water thief), which was handy because it was portable. This water clock consisted of two jars about the same size that were set one above the other. The top one had a tiny hole in its bottom that trickled water into the one below it. The inside walls of one jar were marked to measure the changing water level and the time it took for the water to either drip in or out. However, the clepsydra had some problems. In winter the water froze and cracked the jars and it was also hard to regulate.

In ancient China dampened ropes were knotted at equal intervals and then ignited. As the fire smoldered past each knot a unit of time was counted off.

In the ninth century King Alfred the Great of England used a candle clock to tell how long he had worked. He had candles made that lasted for four hours each with three markings per hour on them. As soon as one candle burned out, his priests lit another one. Other people used larger candles that burned more slowly and that could measure up to twelve hours.

Sundials, which are still found in all parts of the world, were first used in Babylon. They are mentioned in the Old Testament and it isn’t impossible that the prophet Abraham used one.

Clocks as we know them have had a remarkable history. Large, early ones had no hands, but bells or gongs were sounded on the hour as determined from the time measured on the sundial. Later clocks were powered by water or weights. In 1335 the first reliably recorded clock was set up in a church in Milan, Italy. Some clocks included little mechanical people or soldiers that would come from inside the clock to hit gongs or ring bells every hour.

I have not mentioned the extremely accurate calendar stones of the Mayan people or the calendars of the Sumerians, Egyptians, and Greeks. Some of the stones remaining at 3,500-year-old Stonehenge in England also formed part of a calendar and weighed up to a hundred tons each. Many were hauled from as far away as 140 miles.

There is still much about measuring time that mystifies men, but one thing we know for sure is that it never stops—with the exception of two accounts in the Bible. In the first, the sun and the moon stand still until Joshua and his people “avenge themselves upon their enemies” (Josh. 10:12–13). In the second account the shadow goes backwards on the sundial as a sign to the faithful Hezekiah that he will be healed (2 Kgs. 20:1–11).

And so as I began my day this morning with a tightly regimented schedule, and a robust list of activities/tasks/responsibilities to accomplish, I reflected back on the lesson of John Wooden. It’s not the quantity of time that is important in my life, I’ll never have enough time. But it’s the quality of time that makes a difference in my relationships, my happiness, and my success in life. I need to make every interaction more meaningful realizing it’s the amount of concern, not the amount of time. I need to make every listening moment about understanding, not length. Effective teaching depends on the content and delivery, not how much can be packed into a measured time. Instead of worrying how to mathematically fit everything into a schedule, I need to worry about how much of myself I invest into my life. It’s about time for me to do better.

Less is More

I recently read about the Mabaan tribe, who live in the southern area of Sudan, near the border with Ethopia. This is an area of extreme quiet, which has led to a remarkable ability of the people to hear on an astonishingly acute level. Reportedly the Mabaan can hear a fellow tribesman whispering from across a wide field.

At the recent temple dedication of the Brigham City Temple, a contrast was explained when talking about church members in New York City. It was explained that with the frenetic sounds of Manhattan, people become accustomed so much, that when they enter the temple, experiencing peace and quiet is striking for them.

At birth, our ears can discern more than 300,000 sounds, but after years of exposure to loud noises, the hair cells on the cochlea flatten and become less sensitive. Our brains process sounds a thousand times faster than images we see, and so noise affects everything from our concentration to our health. Too much noise can raise blood pressure, and even make us sick, hence the word noise originates from the Latin word nausea (scientific insight on the term from parents “I’m sick of your music). Yet positive noise, like uplifting music, can accelerate learning, improve moods, and uplift the mind and spirit. I watch in amazement as my wife teaches children music classes, and how the power of music physically, cognitively, and emotionally transforms kids.

Acoustics are especially interesting for me. After the death of my father when I was four years old, I temporarily lost my hearing. I remember the feelings of confusion in trying to communicate, and the helplessness of others in knowing how to talk to me and treat me.   However, though I lacked auditory senses, I began to discover other senses that had perhaps been precluded by noise. When I did regain my hearing, we moved to a large cattle ranch and I was quickly shown the opposite end of the sound spectrum. Moving large herds of cattle, often numbering over 1000 at a time, generated all kinds of sounds. The cows all begin mooing to find their calves, with calves also mooing to locate their separated mothers. I was taught to yell loudly over the din of the cattle to keep them moving, but also to know the proximity to other cowboys, whose location often couldn’t be seen through the haze of the churned dust or the thickness of brush and trees.   My young lungs weren’t big enough to generate much force, so I had to shout my very loudest at the cattle. I thought the force made a difference in getting them going, though looking back I’m sure they felt more amusement than fear.

Because of the habit of yelling at cows all day, often cowboy communication continued in the same decibel ranges in human interactions. I was confused to have teachers in school call me by the last name of Peterson, but have that transformed somehow on the ranch to other names that were less respectful. Perhaps it was good preparation for sports, where the force, terminology, and lingo were strikingly similar.

Often it was explained to me that swearing and yelling were acceptable when working with animals because “it’s the only language they understand.” In sports, in order to communicate over distances and the noises of the crowd, yelling and swear words seemed to emphasize certain points. However, I always hated them for the force with which they were used, and the ugly contempt that they carried. I heard the quote at a very young age that “swearing is the weak attempt of a feeble mind to express itself forcefully.” It resonated with me, and I’ve found by avoiding swearing, my communication is much more clear and clean.

However, I haven’t avoided yelling as well as I’ve avoided swearing. Now those who know me may be shocked to hear that, I’m not a loud person generally and seldom yell. However, when working with animals or sports, I’ve felt the tendency to do so and occasionally stretched out my cowboy lungs (though on a deeper note now). As I learn and grow though, I’ve found the Mabaan secret, that less is more. The less I speak and yell, the more I am heard. Remarkably with that lesson, the less I speak and yell, the more I feel and sense. A gentle conversation with one of my kids or players often results in a clarifying question, as opposed to a heightened look of fear or confusion if I yell the same point. I’m sure it’s what people in the New York Temple experience when they remove the auditory chaos, that their spiritual senses are allowed to be heard.

Looking back, in the confusion and noise of cattle drives, I could still hear from among the herd a calf that had been hurt, or was separated from the rest. I could sense from an ear movement or the change of pace of my horse when something was wrong, perhaps a snake, a hole, or another danger. We all have capabilities to decipher other senses in our lives, regardless of the noise. But I’m learning the biggest noise that impairs my other senses, is the noise I make myself. By being a little less loud, a little more clear, and never coarse in my language, I realize I am opening my senses, and helping others to hear more by hearing less of me.