Words, words, words

Language is not only a key instrument of memory (in addition to visual, auditory, muscular, and other forms of memory), it is essential to the characterization and comprehension of the world around us. In a very real sense, we come to understand a subject only when we have learned the vocabulary, the language that describes it. This is true not only with mundane subjects like math, mechanics, or physics, but also complex matters of the heart and spirit. Understanding then leads to application. Right words have great power to help us focus our thinking, our minds, our lives, even our faith. The following recent talk is inspiring and well worth reading:

https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/mckay-christensen_lay-hold-upon-word/

 

Best Wishes.

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Remember

One of the key tools the Lord has given us to be able to return to Him is memory. We are encouraged over and over again in the scriptures to remember the blessings of the Lord, the commandments, our covenants, and so forth. One of the most moving such admonitions was given in the Book of Mormon by the prophet Helaman to his sons shortly before his death:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.    (Helaman 5:12)

Seeing what great importance God places on our ability to remember, it behooves us to take steps to improve and preserve memory whenever we can. That is one of the great functions of pictorial art and photography and even writing itself–preserving memory. Learning to focus, to concentrate on that which we wish to remember is also very important for our individual memory, as indicated in the following research:

https://journal.thriveglobal.com/what-all-that-multi-tasking-is-doing-to-your-brain-and-memory-ed55b0848027

Indeed, as we learned back in medical school, the brain really can do only one thing at a time. Trying to do many things at once requires rapid switching of neural networks, which become fatigued and sometimes confused and result in weakened memory. Better to do one good thing at a time, do it well, and have a clear memory of it. Let’s all make good memories, and remember the things that are important.

 

Best Wishes.

What We’re Doing When We Think We’re Doing Nothing

What We’re Doing When We Think We’re Doing Nothing

Tim Miller has written a very nice, insightful discussion that relates to the overall purpose of life as a time to learn, to grow, to become more than we were before.

“As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”

Or to paraphrase David O. McKay, it is what you are thinking about (and I would add, doing) when nobody is watching that reveals who and what you really are (and determines what you will become).

word and silence

I’ve always liked it that the actor Richard Burton could admit in his diaries: “I am fascinated by the idea of something but its execution bores me.” And this from the guy who played Hamlet (and whoever else) a million times.

But there’s something to it for those of us who’ll never play Hamlet, or ever publish a novel, since even those who have seem to have an inkling of a different kind of fulfillment. In our especially “results driven” time where so much can be quantified with disturbing exactness, the idea that it’s the process that matters and not the outcome is pretty staggering, even to the point of not caring if there’s an outcome at all.

In this way it’s wonderful to think of Burton preparing to play Hamlet, and doing everything from imagining how to put himself in the mind of the Dane; or being aware of…

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A Bit of Doggerel

Writing radiology reports all day and realizing that some poor fellow out there will have to read them, one can’t help but want to simplify things. That should mean shorter, more direct and specific words as well as shorter sentences, even fragments. But linguistic habits are hard to break. I find one phrase and word particularly annoying, namely, “osseous structures” and “osseous”, meaning “bones” or “bony” respectively.

 

Osseous Structures

 

My colleagues like the Latin word osseous,

Which I think sounds too ostentateous.

It seems quite preposeous to use that word osseous;

It makes me feel downright pomposseous.

 

I prefer the Germanic word bony,

Which sounds to my ear much less phony.

 

But diction is a sensitive matter,

We all prefer to hear flatter,

Pet words fill heads hegemoniously,

And criticism’s heard acrimoniously.

So this rhyme is meant only gently,

To suggest an edit more aptly,

Suited for reading more simply.

 

I persuaded me, and now perhaps thee,

But how to convince all and each crony?

 

 

Best Wishes.

 

“All the world’s a Stage,” but some stages are better than others: Returning to Shakespeare in Utah

Lisa and I first attended the Utah Shakespeare Festival in Cedar City, Utah, in 2003 on the recommendation of a friend. (It was called The Utah Shakespearean Festival in those days. I am glad they dropped the –an, which always bothered me. I usually dropped it myself anyway.) We were pleased at the consistently high level of professional theater we found there and promptly became area representatives for the Festival, those local people who talk it up when they can and distribute brochures with schedules and so forth. We went every year for a time, but the last few years work schedules prevented us until this past week: Ah! What a delight to be back!

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Again for logistical reasons, our playlist consisted only of comedies this year (we skipped Julius Caesar and Henry V) namely: Murder For Two, a wonderful production consisting of only two highly talented and versatile actors, one of whom in his time plays many parts; Mary Poppins, featuring excellent music and two remarkable 9 year olds playing the Banks children, and yes, Mary does a fine job of flying; The Three Musketeers, a well condensed edition of the swashbuckling novel; The Cocoanuts, a recent revival of the hilarious Marx Brothers/Irving Berlin musical filled with sight gags and puns (Aristotle notwithstanding, they are very funny); and Much Ado About Nothing, a perennial favorite, very well done and always a joy. Though quite different, the performances were uniformly excellent.

This is the inaugural year of the new Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, which houses the Utah Shakespeare Festival on the edge of Southern Utah University campus. It includes the Anes Studio Theatre, an intimate venue for theater in the round and experimental productions; the Jones Theatre, equipped with all the tools any stage manager and director could desire; and the Engelstad Shakespeare Theatre, recreating the feel of the 17th century without the smells. The latter replaces the Adams Memorial Shakespeare Theater, the future of which is unclear. Dear to our hearts, we walked around the old theater and recalled the happy and inspiring times we experienced there, one of which was meeting Fred Adams, the founder of the Festival whose vision led audiences from a temporary wooden platform on the grass in 1962 to the Adams Theater in the 1970s and now to the Sorenson Center. Well done Professor Adams!

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One regret. We missed seeing The Odd Couple, a Neil Simon play starring two of our favorites, David Ivers and Brian Vaughn. It will run September 14-October 22. They are artistic directors now, but we first saw them as actors in 2003 when both played in Much Ado About Nothing. We were immediately taken with their talent. In The Odd Couple they will alternate between the roles of sloppy Oscar and neat Felix, one night playing one, the next night the other. Hmm. Perhaps we will have to find a way to make a run to Cedar in the Fall. For at least two nights.

This is the 400th anniversary of cousin Will’s death. We are grateful his spiritual descendants are alive and well. For more information on the Utah Shakespeare Festival, go to http://www.bard.org/

 

Best Wishes.

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Book Review in the Association For Mormon Letters

The following review of my book recently appeared in the Association for Mormon Letters:


Title: All Enlisted: A Mormon Missionary in Austria During the Vietnam Era
Author: Roderick Saxey, MD
Publisher: Haus Sachse Enterprises
Genre: LDS biography, LDS missionary
Year Published: 2013
Number of pages: 308
Binding: Paperback
ISBN-10: n/a
ISBN-13: 9-780615-882185
Price: $17.95

Reviewed by Roy Schmidt for the Association for Mormon Letters

“All Enlisted” is a book that emotionally involved me from the start. I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in January, 1969. Roderick Saxey began his service as a missionary for that church in August of that year. As might well be imagined, the time during which Saxey was serving was a critical time for me as I was learning what it means to be a member of the church, and to become familiar with its doctrines and practices. I was aided by both missionaries and members. During this same time, Elder Saxey was teaching these same doctrines and principles to people like me thousands of miles away in Austria.

Saxey uses his missionary journals, letters to and from family members as well as those to and from missionary companions, members, friends, and others as basic source materials. He nicely fleshes these out and puts them into historical perspective with additional narrative, which results in a very clean story line. He includes a helpful glossary of German words and phrases that allows those readers not familiar with that language to more fully understand the thoughts expressed in the letters. A selection of photographs enriches the text.

Serving a mission in Austria was both difficult and rewarding. Elder Saxey had just one baptism during his service, and that was of his own mother just prior to his entering the mission home. Some may conclude such a mission was not very productive, but I disagree. There is a saying that you can count the number of seeds in an apple, but you cannot count the number of apples in a seed. This is so true in missionary work where so much of the time is spent in planting seeds and leaving the harvest to others.

Many Austrians were still feeling the effects of World War II when Saxey was in the country. Many were discouraged, depressed and had turned away from God. They instead embraced naturalism and philosophy. The state religion, Catholicism, left many of them cold. Some would talk to the missionaries because they were American, while others cursed them for the same reason. As I said, the trauma from the war was very evident.

Elder Saxey had three main areas in which he worked. His first assignment was in the city of Wels, a town of some 40,000 located not too far from Linz. He had lodgings with an elderly woman who was a member of the LDS Church. The house had no central heating, but there was a coal stove in the kitchen. As it happened, the winter of 1969 – 1970 was very severe, and the elders found it tough going. His other cities were Bad Reichenhall, a spa city in Germany in the Berchtesgadner Land district in Upper Bavaria, not far from Salzburg., and lastly Braunau, the city of Hitler’s birth.

Missionaries often have unusual experiences, and Elder Saxey is no exception. While serving in Wels, he and his missionary companion decided to get a drink in a restaurant. The waitress was a young blonde woman who flirted with the customers. She was talking to a “disreputable looking fellow by the cash register.” The elders heard a noise and looked up from the catalogs they were examining, and could only see the top of the man’s head above the counter. Thinking the fellow had knocked the waitress down and was robbing her, the missionaries went to investigate. When they got there the waitress stood up red faced and putting on her skirt. I doubt there was anything in the missionary handbook addressing this sort of situation.

Saxey enjoyed the various conferences he attended while serving. This was particularly true when a general authority was present. The two authorities visiting during his mission were Hartman Rector, Jr. and Thomas S. Monson. Elder Rector’s daughter lived in our ward, so Sister Rector and he would visit frequently. They were both outstanding people, and it was fun when they came. The daughter taught the Gospel Doctrine class in Sunday School. I remember her saying if she had questions regarding the gospel, she would always call her mother. Elder Rector got quite a kick out of that. Elder Monson was, I believe, the junior apostle at the time. While Elder Saxey was impressed with his visit, he made special note of “Brother Monson’s beautiful sixteen year old daughter.” Oh well, boys will be boys even when serving missions.

Roderick Saxey’s mission ended early when he developed a serious liver ailment, and had to return to the United States for treatment. It was very difficult for him, in part because he was so close to his release day when he was sent home. Besides he loved the work he was doing, and formed strong attachments to his fellow missionaries and mission leaders. My heart ached for him as I read that part of his account.

While Saxey was serving his mission, his brother, Edward, was serving in the United States Navy. As might be imagined, Edward’s military service was both a source of pride and joy as well as concern for the Saxey family. Edward was married, and his wife’s career allowed her to travel and visit with Edward often when his ship was in port. Fortunately, Edward Saxey survived the war in good shape. The letters he wrote his brother, along with those of his parents, added depth to my reading experience.

The only drawback to this work for me were the political overtones. I am a left wing bleeding heart liberal, and Saxey is an Ezra Taft Benson, W. Cleon Skousen, John Birch Society-type conservative. I admit to having cringed at Saxey’s praise of Richard Nixon and his handling of the Vietnam War. I cringed even more when I remembered my own support of Nixon at the time. That said, I appreciate the author’s candor in this area.

“All Enlisted” is a good book, and I recommend it. The years of Roderick Saxey’s mission defined not only his life, but a generation of Americans. Those who read this work will find their time well spent.

http://forums.mormonletters.org/yaf_postsm2825_Saxey-All-Enlisted-A-Mormon-Missionary-in-Austria-During-the-Vietnam-Era-reviewed-by-Roy-Schmidt.aspx#2825

Our Motto

The motto at the top of the page is one of our family mottoes, bene qui pacifice, which means, “He lives well who dwells peacefully.” Another could be great grandfather Raile’s, “Be useful for good.” But perhaps the most appropriate for a blog would be my favorite quote from Peanuts’ Lucy, “Everyone is entitled to my opinion.”