Expensive Passports, Stomach Flu and Chickens and Eggs in the Garden of Eden

[Taken from a family email]


Yep. My passport expired in March, ten years after our trip to Europe in 2000. (I still remember seeing “2000” writ large on the Eiffel Tower.) Furthermore, it has to be good for at least 6 months past the time I enter Canada for it to work.

I found several online services that charge a few hundred dollars to get a passport renewed in as quickly as one day. Thankfully I could use a local place in Murray that, with 2 to 3 days turn around, only charged double the usual $170. And, the best part is, BYU will pay for as much of it as I want. I told my adviser I should probably pay for the $170, since it will be my own passport for 10 years. But I will gladly let them pay for the rest of the cost because it was BYU Travel who told me that I only needed a photo ID to fly to Canada, which is why I didn’t think to get a passport until two days ago.

I’m not sure which is the chicken and which is the egg, but last night, exactly one day after getting stressed out about this unexpected passport cost, I finally came down with stomach flu. This was also just over 48 hours after I was re-exposed to my family after they came home from Farmington. (They say that symptoms develop between 24 and 48 hours of exposure.) My family were pretty much over the flu by that time, but apparently they still carried the virus. Again thankfully, I went the whole night last night without actually throwing up – except in one dream in which I ate a small handful of ice chips and then threw up. :-)

It’s mostly just body aches now.

Also thankfully, yesterday I got a program to work on my netbook so I can now sit on my couch at home and work on writing my dissertation proposal in relative comfort.

There’s a slightly interesting story about getting that program installed, if you will allow me to wade you through some nerdy details. The program is a free Windows program called TeXnicCenter for running the academic standard type-setting system called LaTeX (pronounced “la tech”) which is pretty much a requirement for me to use in my discipline instead of MS Word. It does have some powerful self-publishing features, but it can be complicated: you essentially have to write a document in a type-setting programming language and actually “compile” your document with a compiler program in order to view it as a PDF. (It's roughly similar to writing a blog post in raw HTML.)

Long story short, during installation of this Windows Latex program, I had to select several options and settings. For one of these options, I had the distinct impression that if such a low-budget program had any bugs, then this option would be the one with problems. I’m really not sure why I would think such a thing about that particular option. But that was the feeling I had: If I wanted to be safe, I would choose the option that said “install missing modules without prompting me first”. But I told myself, this program should be stable enough, I’d rather choose the option that I want to choose (that is, “prompt me before installing missing modules” because I like to know what’s going on). And besides, why would it be missing any modules?

I went on and finished the installation. I loaded my dissertation proposal document into the program and tried compiling it, and it would not work. It gave me an obscure error message about some part of the compilation system not working. (There was no prompt asking me to install any missing modules.)

Okay, short story shorter, I Googled for that error message ("pdflatex.exe gui framework cannot be initialized") and the online discussion I found said it was a bug with the very installation option that I had wondered about. After I figured out how to change that option to the safe one (which took about an hour in total), it worked.

Before I figured it out, I was pretty frustrated. Probably contributed to my getting sick. Or was I so easily frustrated because I was already getting sick. :-) Chickens and eggs.

It seems we get little experiences like that to teach us how to listen to the Spirit. At first I wondered why the Spirit would tell me to do something without also telling me it was the Spirit who was telling me to do it. Then I would be sure to choose the right option. But that’s just not the way it works. We have to learn what the Spirit feels like for ourselves. Usually it just feels like our conscience reminding us what we already should have known. It simply points out to us the option we already knew to be the safest.

To really learn what it feels like, I believe we have to choose the wrong once in a while, at least in small things and when we are young when the consequences are not as great. I don’t mean we have to come out in open rebellion against God and choose what we really know to be wrong. Rather, before we really learn right from wrong, we will necessarily choose the wrong. Choosing wrong is the default path through life because of temptations. Then we can look back and realize the Still Small Voice had warned us about something real. We feel the pain and start to learn how to connect the pain with taking the road contrary to our Conscience.

This is one reason the children of Adam and Eve were given a probationary time in which to learn. It takes time and multiple attempts to learn this.

I’ve written before how D&C 29 interprets the story of the Garden of Eden in such a way that we understand this pattern for learning:

  1. we are commanded to not do something (by our conscience)
  2. we disobey or transgress innocently and ignorantly
  3. we feel the pain of the consequences of transgression
  4. we learn good from evil thereby becoming accountable
  5. we must then repent
  6. if we repent, our conscience and joy is strengthened
  7. etc.

Which comes first, our conscience or our actions? More chickens and eggs.

D&C 29:

39. And it must needs be that the devil should tempt the children of men, or they could not be agents unto themselves; for if they never should have bitter they could not know the sweet—

40. Wherefore, it came to pass that the devil tempted Adam, and he partook of the forbidden fruit and transgressed the commandment, wherein he became subject to the will of the devil, because he yielded unto temptation.

46. But behold, I say unto you, that little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten;

47. Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me;

Notice the distinction between sin and transgression. I’m sure you’re all familiar with that. Also notice how little children become accountable gradually. This is a scripture I use to explain why children are supposed to repent before being baptized. I’ll write about that later.

Time to get back to writing in LaTeX.