24 July 2012

Majority Rules

It's been a while.  What with performing one play, beginning rehearsals for another, planning my first real vacation in about three years and working more or less full time. . . I've been busy.

I've also been doing a lot of thinking.  As is normal for me.  Those thoughts are somewhat rambly and twisted.  As is normal for me.  Hopefully you can make sense of it all.

I've started reading To Kill a Mockingbird again.  It is a book that, admittedly, I hated the first time I read it.  I don't blame Atticus or my 9th Grade English teacher (whose name I can't remember, but I do remember liking her class) - I blame my Harry Potter induced, fantasy obsessed, 14 year old mind.  I have since repented.  I wish that I could get that decade or so of not liking Mockingbird back so that I could read it again and again and again.  I always learn something new.

One of my favorite Atticus quotes is when he counsels his daughter, Scout, that "the one thing that doesn't abide my majority rule is a person's conscience."  It's an important motto for Atticus, who spends the entirety of the book in the minority.  He raises his daughter in a way that allows her to wear overalls instead of dresses and to experiment with swearing and disobeying her teacher.  (Heck, he encourages the disobeying of the teacher, but that's because the teacher was trying to get Scout to stop reading, so that's pretty fair in context if you ask me.)  People don't understand why he lets Scout experiment, but he's alright with that.  He most notably goes to court on behalf of an innocent black man who stands no chance of winning his case, and though many people admire Atticus for doing what no one else will, it doesn't change the fact that no one else will.

I've also been thinking about the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden and the LDS view on what we call the Plan of Salvation - or, put more simply, God's plan for how we can return to live with Him.  The way Mormons understand this story, Adam and Eve are sent to the Garden and given an impossible task: have children, and don't take any fruit from the tree of knowledge.  The way we understand it, it's impossible because until they had knowledge, they wouldn't know how to . . . well, do it.  They were like children themselves, ignorant of the impropriety of nakedness.  So why set them up for failure?  Well, because God knew that everything we do would have to be a choice.  Eden is essentially an extension of heaven.  We all had the choice to come or not to come.  They had the choice to leave or not to leave.  But it had to be a choice.  If it wasn't a choice, it would throw off the whole plan.

And then we are, in some ways paradoxically, told that the path back to the Lord is "straight and narrow".  Which is great and true and I believe that - except that phrase doesn't mean "straight, narrow, and identical for everyone."  Which makes things relatively confusing if you start looking at someone else's life and go "Well, wait a second, that is a wrong decision the moron", or "What am I doing so wrong that my life isn't like that."

(Confession.  I am guilty of both.  Often.)

((Confession two: I have felt the burden of both.  Often.))

Sometimes I think the greatest tool Satan has against me is doubt in my own instincts.  To doubt that I am even anywhere near the straight and narrow path simply by comparing myself to others, or by doubting my ability to act on inspiration I receive.  It's such a mess for such a little problem.  I've been on this earth for a while now.  Long enough to have a pretty good grasp of making more or less right decisions most of the time.  Decisions that are right for me at any rate, even if they aren't right for everyone.  And most of the time, even the majority of the time, my intentions and heart are in the right place.  I want to do what the Lord wants me to do, so even when I mess up, He has a way of getting me back on track.  My track.

But then I look at someone else's life and suddenly I'm not so sure.  "What if staying home to grade papers tonight destroys the only chance I have of ever getting married!!!" I'll think rather irrationally, and then feel guilty the rest of the evening for not being more social.  Or I'll talk to someone who doesn't seem to understand me or has led a life quite different to mine and I'm not sure again.  Or I'll feel nervous telling friends or family members about something that's making me really happy for fear that it won't be good enough or appear "right" enough on the outside.  Suddenly my prayers and questions and relationship to the Lord is called into doubt.  The confidence I felt in quiet moments of study and prayer seem feeble in the light of day and safer in my head.

So thank goodness for the wisdom of Atticus in reminding me that, when it comes down to it, majority rule doesn't apply to my conscience.  Now, this is not to completely discount the majority.  Sometimes (most of the time) I need the perspective and wisdom of people on the outside to give me a different view on decisions I make, especially the big ones, so that I have a clear mind.  Heck, this is why I read the scriptures and have my parents on speed dial.  But when it comes down to it - it's me and Him.  And that . . . that is liberating.  Because He is certainly smarter than the majority.  And me.