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What does it mean to be human?



Asking the Great Questions I

t’s always interesting to look back on something—a project, piece of writing, or a life—and see how it came together. From the vantage of completion, it’s easy to see the small points of decision along the way that flavored the entire, completed whole. As you’ve probably guessed, I’m using this not-so-subtle metaphor to look back on how this particular issue of Insight came together. When the members of our staff set out to write an article, they are encouraged to focus on The Great Questions. I can’t list all of them here (the designers said I didn’t have enough space), but in the end, every great question has its roots in an even greater question—What does it mean to be human? I wish I could say this issue has an answer for you: The Answer. But it doesn’t. However, by writing and thinking about the offspring of this one great question, I think our authors can help you find a piece of the answer you seek.

SE L EC TI O N S FR O M I N SI G H T P HOTO CO N TE ST E N TR AN TS Left: Sarah Smith Bottom: Stephanie Chambers Above: Marlee Mason

We designed this issue of Insight around a central section of articles we feel lend some profound answers to our sometimes enigmatic human experiences. The question at the heart of these articles concerns The Ideal and how it is created and measured in society. When it came time to name the section, we were stymied. For the duration of our writing and designing we simply called it “The Mosaic” because, though the stories are distinct and separate, we felt a connection between them. As some of you may know, this is the last edition of Insight in its present form. Though the magazine is coming to an end, we hope that your search for answers, and maybe more importantly your search for questions, will never stop. From the entire staff of Insight, happy reading!


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Table of Contents DE PA R TM E N T S 02 06 60

Asking the Great Questions Off the Shelf: Future Classics Edition Reflections: A Confession





Introduction Leuven: Provo’s Guerilla Artist A Thin, Spray Painted Line Beyond Definition: Empathy Through Mental Illness Of the Same Atonement: One Girl’s Struggle with Addiction Amy Chapman: Portrait of an Athlete

H O N O RI N G FA I T H 40 48


Maple St. & Fifth Dr Nielson2: My Life as the Daughter of Two Professor Parents An Experiment in Solitude

AS S OCIATE EDITORS Madelyn Ketchum (‘14) Morgan Reber (‘15) Felicity Warren (‘15) AS S IS TANT EDITORS Jason Gardiner (‘19) Maren McInnes (‘17) Sarah Schulzke (‘19) Alicia Shumway (‘14)


INS IGHT WRITING S TAF F Doridé Uvaldo (‘15) Catie Nielson (‘15) Sarah Kay Brimhall (‘15) Daniella Subieta (‘14) Brittan Laidlaw (‘14) Michael Whittle (‘14) INS IGHT AD TEAM Allie Rae Treharne (‘15) Peter Inouye (‘15) PUBLIS HER John David Bell Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Douglas Parry Honors Program Director and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Front and back cover photographs by Jordan Rands


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CREATIV E DIRECTOR Jessy Agle Child (‘15)

S ENIOR EDITORS Ryan Brown (‘14) Jessie Riddle (‘15) Chelsea Hurst (‘14)

Columbus Uncharted: Revelations of an (In)famous Enigma

A Real Indiana Jones Alone, Cold, and Writing About It

MANAGING EDITORS Cheri Pray Earl Lisa Bernotski Johnson

AS S IS TANT WEBMAS TER Shailee Sorenson (‘15)

H O N O RI N G ACA DE M I CS 08 34

WEBMAS TERS Graziella Beckstrom (‘15) Ethan Mackey (‘13)


350 MAE SE R BUIL D ING PR OVO, UT 84602-260 0

ART DIRECTOR Olivia Maude Whittle (‘16)

Common Light The Fabric of Sisterhood

H O N O RI N G E XP E RI E N CE S 47 54




Off the Shelf









The Trouble With Poetry By Billy Collins (2005)

The Light Between Oceans By M.L. Stedman (2005)

Gilead By Marilynne Robinson (2004)

Guns, Germs, and Steel By Jared Diamond (1997)

HOW THE STORY GOES: Collins, who was

HOW THE STORY GOES: After years spent

HOW THE STORY GOES: The novel is the

HOW THE STORY GOES: In this trans-


What a world it would be if we could see into the future. We’d all make millions on the stock market, and we’d never stub our toes in the dark. But what else would be different? If you could walk through a library and point to the books that would still be read in 100, 150, or 200 years, would you read anything that wasn’t going to last? Would you pick up a political thriller knowing that in 100 years no one would even know it existed? No one can see into the future to know which books will last and which will fade, but it can be rewarding to try to guess. We asked professors to help make our guesses a little more educated, and they responded with a surprising variety of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Here are their picks for the classics of tomorrow.

United States Poet Laureate from 2001 to 2003, put together this collection of fortytwo poems with a title taken from one of the poems itself. The trouble with poetry is, according to Collins, that it sparks the writing of more poetry. HOW IT’S A CLASSIC: “Most of Billy Collins’s




poems mirror for me the juxtaposition between the simplicity of life (most people share the same basic values: they want to be happy, live peacefully, raise their kids to be successful, contribute to the world) and the complexity of existence (people struggle to face personal faults, random violence, uncertainty, disaster, rejection). “I chose The Trouble with Poetry, but I could have chosen any of his books of poetry. The language is so accessible and unpretentious, and he uses a lot of humor without being trivial.”

fictional autobiography of Reverend John Ames, a Congregationalist minister in the small town of Gilead, Iowa, who is suffering from a heart condition. Reverend Ames recounts his personal history in a letter to his seven-year-old son, knowing his son will have few memories of him after his passing. HOW IT’S A CLASSIC: “Gilead is not unlike

takes a lot of detail and the crux of the story lies at the end, but the book is visual. You can easily feel the desolation and the desperation of the solitude. And that’s representative of the longings felt by the characters. As a reader you can see the ‘rightness’ of each character, even when they are in direct conflict with one another. Both of their desires cannot happen. That anguish is palpable.”

books that have been written before, but to my mind it’s much like the best novels we have. The book is measured and earnest and thought-provoking, but it never stoops to clever literary tricks. The entire novel takes the form of an open letter from a dying father to his very young son, and the story that emerges is part confessional and part Biblical exegesis. The book is unhurried at a time when many books feel rushed, and it’s ruminative and thoughtful at a time when much of our literature struggles to find meaning.”

HOW IT’S TIMELESS: “The longings and

HOW IT’S TIMELESS: “It’s timeless in the

HOW IT’S A CLASSIC: “Setting up the story

desires—whether for a baby, or to be married, or for a perfect job—are real. A classic book is one that’s applicable to multiple situations, and I think it’s timeless to have regrets that eat you up for choices you made. I don’t think that’s bound by time, culture, or space.”

sense that we are always interested in our own personal histories, and how the stories we tell draw heavily from generations of storytelling. Gilead manages to be both personal and multigenerational.”

disciplinary nonfiction work, Jared Diamond attempts to explain the dominance and wealth of European nations through history. Diamond argues against the idea of inherent moral, intellectual, or genetic superiority, and suggests that the underlying cause of European superiority lay, as the title suggests, in guns, germs, and steel. In utilizing elite weapons, devastating diseases, and powerful military organization, European nations have both colonized and decimated regions of the world throughout history. HOW IT’S A CLASSIC: “Guns, Germs, and

Steel is historical in nature, but it reflects how the modern world became the way it is: why European culture is so dominant, why English is the language of the world. The book draws on biology, geography, and history, and it probably has the greatest impact because it connects numerous disciplines.” HOW IT’S TIMELESS: “Diamond’s thesis

wasn’t original. Social scientists have known about the basic idea for a long time. But he was the one who pulled together the examples and had the personal experiences through his research to be able to write such a landmark book. It’s the story of human society, and how one society came to dominate all others.” n


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Natalie Soper is entering her senior year in the illustration major at BYU. She is originally from Park City, Utah, and she enjoys skiing, thinking about social issues, being around people, and, of course, art. Within the large umbrella of art Natalie focuses her work around lines and line work, patterns, design, and faces.

poems are of a length that you can squeeze into a busy life, so it encourages reading, even for those less likely to pick up a novel. A classic work of literature should be read again and again, and I read his poems often and listen to his readings on CDs.”

fighting on the Western Front, Thomas Sherbourne returns to Australia, where he moves his young wife to Janus Rock to become a lighthouse keeper. The couple deal with the hardships of infertility and miscarriages, until they discover a boat carrying a dead man and a live baby. They decide to claim the baby as their own, but their actions eventually lead to a tension that threatens to break the minds of these two people.





he figure that most people think of when they hear the word archaeology is inevitably Indiana Jones. Many of us archaeologists unabashedly claim the whip-wielding hero as our poster child. Intelligent, dauntless, chiseled—why wouldn’t we want to be compared to such an iconic figure? But we know that Dr. Jones is a fictionalized stereotype of the way archaeology was carried out in the early twentieth century: acquiring ancient relics as trophies or curiosities, which were then collected by museums that wanted bragging rights for the most impressive artifacts. Archaeologists today study ancient cultures in the larger context of solving contemporary problems such as global warming, overpopulation, urban sprawl, and political despotism. To work outside of the United States, we have to consider realities such as procuring grants and gaining the trust and cooperation of the people whose land we explore. And while we aren’t being chased constantly by Nazis or falling into pits of snakes, that doesn’t mean we don’t have what I like to call “Indiana Jones Moments”—those risks implicit in our fieldwork that can make us question our profession. Though the methods and goals of modern-day archaeology have changed significantly over the last century, I have realized one thing that has remained constant in our discipline: the drive to make incredible discoveries while embarking on adventures that take us far from the office or laboratory. My own passion for archaeology began shortly after finishing my bachelor’s degree in journalism in 2000. I was hired by a post-production studio in Dallas to edit TV commercials, corporate training videos, and movie trailers. While the job paid the bills, I was more interested in telling stories through documentary films. My friend, Winston Scott, and I decided to document the unique ceremonies that accompanied the yearly planting of maize among the Q’eqchi’ Maya in the remote mountain villages of Guatemala. During our week-long trip to do initial research and filming in March 2001, we found ourselves at the center of a large local uprising. It was rumored that a man accused of kidnapping a girl was set free after bribing a high-ranking official. After the criminal fled, the mob directed their anger at the judge. Over several hours on a hot, humid night, we witnessed the vicious lynching of the judge that took place just beneath the window of our hotel room. My mind couldn’t stop questioning what I had seen: What if the murdered judge or the accused criminal were really innocent? Why was this mob so incensed? After studying the history of the brutal Guatemalan civil war that lasted from the 1960s to the 1990 1990s, I realized that a history of racial oppression directed at the Maya was partly to blame. They wanted justice and knew that to get it they had to take matters into their own hands. These nagging questions led me to quit my job as a video editor and pursue a degree in anthropology. In the years since that horrific incident, I have found that people are who they are today in part because of the events and decisions linked to their ancestors. Each culture



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“ While we aren’t being chased constantly by Nazis or falling into pits of snakes, that doesn’t mean we don’t have what I like to call ‘Indiana Jones Moments.’” is a modern manifestation of a historical tapestry woven through time, and I have dedicated my life to tracing those threads into the past. Most of the archaeology profession spend their time in the office or laboratory, analyzing and interpreting finds. But the pursuit of discovery thrives on active fieldwork, and that’s where the real thrill is. For the last seven years I’ve made the trek to Mexico to work among the ruins of a lost people in the Chihuahuan Desert. The opening in the steel-and-concrete fence that intermittently scribbles along the US-Mexico border still provokes anxiety in me as I drive through. Gun battles occasionally spark between drug cartels and the Mexican military, but in the last five years there has been a marked decrease in violence in these border towns. Now when I travel, I find the reality of border guards and frequent car checks less harrowing but just as inconvenient. After paying the obligatory fees and filling out the copious paperwork at the border—realities you won’t see acted out in Raiders of the Lost Ark—the landscape transforms from manicured lawns and franchise signs to plastered façades with loud and vibrant colors; the summer heat borders on the obscene, averaging 105˚F. As cars pass through the dusty streets, the smells of authentic street food and diesel fuel remind me that I am back in the land of the original cowboy and siestas. Driving farther south, I watch the city give way to desolate basin and rangeland as I move deeper into the heart of Chihuahua. One hundred and twenty-five miles south of the US border, I approach Paquimé, the largest pre-Columbian archaeological city ever discovered in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. Exploring Paquimé is an exciting opportunity for archaeologists studying the cultural evolution of Mexico. Its adobe walls, effigy mounds, and Mesoamerican-style ball courts reflect a pinnacle of cultural development during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In spite of this, the archaeology surrounding Paquimé has long been neglected by archaeologists in favor of the grandiose temples and sprawling metropolitan ruins of the Olmec, Aztec, Zapotec, and Maya civilizations farther south. Thus the city holds the promise of untold discoveries. Even more exciting, the history of these ancient people


In the movies, the Indiana Jones character always seems to have clear direction. Perhaps he has a map where X marks the spot, or maybe he can rely on his own boundless experience and wisdom to guide him. But when actual archaeologists find themselves scanning a wide, remote desert landscape looking for dwellings hidden under the ground, having limited time, money, and little to no data, they must rely on meticulous searching and indigenous knowledge. The dwellings of the people we study are particularly elusive. These ancient farmers lived in inconspicuous pit houses dug about three feet into the ground and covered with wood and adobe plastered roofs. Today the dwellings are marked only by shallow depressions filled with dirt from erosion and are often hidden upon the natural surface of the surrounding landscape. One of the best ways to


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is enshrouded in mystery. We know that generations of farmers eked out a living in this desert environment for over five hundred years, leading rather simple lives, until an unknown catalyst provoked a drastic change in cultural traditions in the early 1200s. As a result, the people of Paquimé advanced very quickly and built an impressive city around an equally impressive society. Several decades of archaeologists have focused their attention on this apogee that occurred between AD 1200 and 1400, also known as the Medio period. But what remains a mystery is who lived in this region before Paquimé was built. What caused a smattering of rural, simplistic communities to establish one of the most impressive prehistoric cities in the Southwest? To undergo a Renaissance of ideas, structures, and symbolism? Spurred by these questions, I embarked on an adventure in the summer of 2013 with my good friend and colleague, Dr. Todd Pitezel, Assistant Curator of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum. He has worked in the region twice as long as I have, and his experience and calm demeanor put me at ease. For three weeks, we and a small team of college graduates surveyed the desert outside Paquimé and spoke to landowners about the presence of artifacts on their land. We hoped to find sites where these ancestors lived so we could learn more about their lives—and fill some gaps in our understanding of Mexican history.



identify ancient pit houses is a pedestrian survey: we form a human chain and slowly walk the sunbaked landscape in a long line, scrutinizing the dirt beneath our feet for any signs of pottery, discarded trash, or depressions in the earth from collapsed pithouses. It looks very much like a manhunt. Any promising finds are collected and analyzed. Most of our findings are due to second parties who recognize the value of our research. The Mexican government offers a type of freedom that we wouldn’t ordinarily have in the United States. In the United States, private property is king. Even if the property is archaeologically important, sites are not always protected unless they lie on federal or state-owned property. But Mexico is much more stringent in protecting prehistoric sites and artifacts. Investigators are able to gain legal access to private property as well as power to protect artifacts and dwellings from private landowners. Many Mexican nationals, certainly within the quaint town of Casas Grandes, have a pride in their cultural patrimony that is often not seen in the United States. Whatever represents the indigenous past of Mexico belongs to the people, and thus, is protected by the government. Our interest in the prehistory of northern Mexico is often met with interest and friendly collaboration from the locals, in part due to their respect for their cultural heritage. Some landowners will speak to us about the artifacts they have found on their properties. Other locals help us jump through political and municipal hoops to gain permits, meet important leaders, and navigate political roadblocks. Julian Hernandez, a preparatory school principal and politician, has spent countless hours helping us negotiate parking tickets, employ laborers, and gain access to municipal leaders, many of whom were former students of his when they were younger. He also invited traditional Norteño musicians to our house to perform so our students

could have an authentic Mexican experience in Chihuahua. We’ve also received aid from the unlikeliest of sources. One family we visited had discovered a site of archaeological significance on their land while making adobe bricks in their yard. During our conversation with the son, a lanky man around thirty, we quickly deduced that he was actually a looter. Looters are commonly loathed by archaeologists for their indiscriminate pilfering of artifacts and destruction of valuable data at archaeological sites. Were this a movie, this man would be our nemesis. Instead, his local knowledge of the area was invaluable. Our new friend agreed to collaborate with us, and upon our return, he led us to five Viejo sites previously unknown to archaeologists. When we offered him money for his services, he refused. He demonstrated a depth of character and possibly some national pride in heritage we had not expected to find.


Originally from Memphis, Dr. Michael Searcy is an assistant professor and new addition to the Anthropology Department at Brigham Young University. He received his BA in journalism from North Texas University (2000) and became a post-production editor crafting TV commercials and movie trailers. He later moved to Utah and earned his MA in anthropology at BYU (2005) and his PhD in anthropology from the University of Oklahoma (2010). His research includes the Casas Grandes culture, Fremont archeology, long-distance interaction, and ethnoarchaeology. In 2011 he published The Life-Giving Stone, a book that explores the material culture of the modern Maya of Guatemala. He is currently collaborating on a project titled Discovering the Roots of Casas Grandes with Dr. Todd Pitezel, Assistant Curator of Archaeology at the Arizona State Museum. Dr. Searcy lives with his family in Orem.


The excitement of being an archaeologist is as much about exploring the spirit and heritage of a region as it is about experiencing its Indiana Jones moments. The prospect of discovery in such a complex and uncharted landscape surrounding the prehistoric city of Paquimé is what drives me to return year after year to conduct fieldwork, even knowing that the Mexican government or our sponsors can pull the plug on our research at any time. I feel as though the unwritten history of the early people of Chihuahua could answer why these people are such a resilient society that is still thriving in the unforgiving desert. Will they continue to adapt? History has been said to repeat itself, unless we commit to learn from it. In a twist of this adage Mark Twain has been attributed as saying, “History doesn’t repeat itself, but it tends to rhyme.” By learning about those who lived in the past, we often find that their experiences resonate with ours. While this resonance can teach valuable lessons relevant to our times, it can also teach us about ourselves, our resilience, and our ability to solve difficult problems with ingenuity and resolve. I believe these qualities, inherent to the human race, should drive us to improve our lives. As we direct our attention to the past, we can move more confidently forward into the future. n


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“As we direct our attention to the past, we can move more confidently forward into the future.”





’ll just go ahead and say it: Christopher Columbus did not discover the Americas. The Norse, or Vikings, probably did hundreds of years earlier. And if you want to get technical, it probably wasn’t them either; it was the Eastern Siberians. But we celebrate Columbus because he did establish permanent communication between Europe and the American continent. As Professor Kendall Brown of the BYU History Department says, “Global history begins with his arrival.”1 For that, Columbus is hailed as a navigational hero. And in a church that gratefully recognizes any figure who helped bring about the United States as a land of religious freedom, he is more than that: Latter-day Saints hail Columbus for being cognizant of the Spirit’s navigational inspiration to find the New World that would yield a republic of religious freedom.2 Yet, Columbus is seen by some as a wicked, Euro-centric tyrant for having personally directed the abuse of the nonviolent native people he encountered. Both spiritual and tyrannical, inspired and authoritarian, despite all his fame, Columbus remains an enigma. Were his vices and virtues as real, as extreme, and as incompatible as they seem? Who was Columbus really? Columbus was first a seaman. He made four voyages to the New World between 1492 and 1504, during which he “discovered” the Canary Islands, Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Jamaica, Honduras, and Nicaragua.3 But Columbus saw himself as not just a seaman but as a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies that a servant of Christ would help prepare the earth for the Second Coming by bringing light to yet unknown nations.4

Columbus’s belief in his divine calling came from visions and other spiritual experiences he claimed to have; for instance, he “told Ferdinand and Isabella that when he was a young man, the Holy Spirit appeared in a vision and told him that ‘God . . . will cause your name to be wonderfully proclaimed throughout the world . . . and will give you the keys of the gates to the ocean which are closed with strong chains.’ ”5 As a result, “[f ]rom the beginning of his enterprise of the Indies, [Columbus] fervently believed that his voyages would lead to the conversion of Asia, the liberation of the Holy Land, and the advent of the millennium.”6 Upon reaching the New World, however, Columbus’s claim to divine guidance seemed at odds, even to some of his contemporaries, with his treatment of the natives.7 The peaceful Taino people Columbus first encountered on Haiti “attempted to adjust as much as they could to Spanish demands . . . [But] the Europeans . . . would settle for nothing less than complete subjugation.”8 The subjugating Spanish settlers followed Columbus’s and the Spanish Crown’s instructions. They initiated the repartimiento, forcing the Taino to live only on certain lands, as well as the encomienda system, which enforced permanent slave labor.9 As governor, Columbus also demanded that the overworked natives mine for gold. Bartolomé de Las Casas, one of the few fifteenth century critics of Columbus’s maltreatment of the Taino people, recorded that “husbands and wives were together only once every eight or ten months and when they met they were so exhausted and depressed . . . they ceased to procreate. As for the newly born, they died early

because their mothers, overworked and famished, had no milk to nurse them.”10 Killings, rapings, and kidnappings of the natives was standard practice. When the Taino finally resisted Spanish rule, using sticks as weapons, Columbus ordered their massacre. Columbus fought the Taino with foot soldiers, cavalry, and dogs that were “turned loose and immediately tore the Indians apart." 11As a result of these widespread atrocities as well as the diseases spread from the Spaniards to the native tribes, the Taino, numbering around three million in 1492, were driven to near extinction by 1550.12 Understanding Columbus in these scenes as a man without the mythology that typically surrounds him requires historical context. The Spain that Columbus sailed from had roiled in violence for seven hundred years. During this Reconquista, the Spanish fought the Moors for the Iberian Peninsula. By 1492, “[w]ar with another race, on behalf of Christ, had become a way of life.”13 The Spanish Crown, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, had already employed the New Testament admonition to “teach all nations, baptizing them”14 as justification for their violent physical and cultural domination of other peoples; it would be no different in the New World.15 Emissaries for the Spanish Crown, including Columbus and other explorers like Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, were influenced by this rationale as they replicated European methods of domination in the Americas. With such hateful treatment of the indigenous people, regardless of Columbus’s motives or the enabling political system, could Columbus really have been an inspired tool in the hands of an all-loving Christian God? BYU History professor Jenny Pulsipher suggests that “as an imperfect human, Columbus made good choices and bad ones at different times of his life.”16 Arnold K. Garr, former chair of the Department of Church History and Doctrine at BYU, echoes this idea: “[T]here is little evidence in the [years following Columbus’s arrival in the New World] that he received the same kind of divine guidance and inspiration that he had been so blessed with earlier in his life. During the years he served as governor [on Haiti] he appeared to be walking by his own light and stumbled along the way.”17 It is possible for a person to be inspired and lose that light, as evidenced by our own LDS Church history. The story of Cyrus, King of Persia, who restored the Jews to their homeland sometime after 536 AD also illustrates that a person can be a tool in divine hands without being a pure vessel.18 Maybe this was the case with Columbus. Though the LDS Church has no official stance on whether or not it was Columbus who fulfilled the Book

of Mormon prophecy, he does fit Nephi’s description of the man wrought upon by the Spirit of God who “went forth upon the many waters, even unto the seed of my brethren.”19 And prophets and apostles from Joseph Smith to Ezra Taft Benson have supported this idea, asserting Columbus’s inspired sailing. George Q. Cannon, a nineteenth century apostle of the Church, summed up the role of divine intervention in Columbus’s life by saying, “Columbus was inspired to penetrate the ocean and discover this Western continent . . . and the consequences which God desired to follow its discovery have taken place—a free government has been established on it.”20 Brigham Young also illuminated how “the Almighty . . . moved upon Columbus to launch forth upon the trackless deep to discover the American Continent.”21 According to modern prophets, one of Columbus’s virtues certainly was obedience to the inspiration he received. In an interconnected, global culture, not everyone sees Columbus as God’s vessel in the New World, and that’s okay. Columbus remains an enigma, not because of a lack of extant details about his life, but because those details are so far removed from our modern paradigms of rightness and fairness. In the end, examining his life causes us to ask more questions than we answer—especially about his underlying motivations and spirituality. Maybe it’s this uncertainty that draws us back time and again to revisit Columbus and his role in history. The fact that he is a man of contradictions, some deeply disturbing and others beautifully grandiose, adds to the complex nature of this imperfect man and forces us to confront our own imperfections and our role in the human saga. If there’s one conclusion we can come to, it’s that history can’t be tied with a neat bow, and Columbus’s life is no exception. n 1 Kendall Brown, personal interview by Graziella Beckstrom, September 2013. 2 Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus: A Latter-day Saint Perspective (Provo: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1992), /archived/christopher-columbuslatter-day-saint-perspective/appendix-statements-modern-day-prophets-a. 3 Valerie I. J. Flint, "Christopher Columbus," Encyclopædia Britannica Online, accessed February 2014, 4 Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus. See Isaiah’s prophecies in Isaiah 42:1-4 and 55:5. 5 Jayme A. Sokolow, The Great Encounter: Native Peoples and European Settlers in the Americas, 14921800 (Armonk, New York: M.E. Sharpe, 2003), 61. 6 Ibid. 7 Valerie I. J. Flint, "Christopher Columbus." 8 Julian Granberry, The Americas That Might Have Been: Native American Social Systems Through Time (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2005), 129. 9 Ibid., 128. 10 Howard Zinn, A People’s History of the United States: 1492–Present, (2001) online excerpt, http:// 11 James W. Loewen, Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong (New York: The New Press, 1995), 52. 12 The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica, “Taino,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online, accessed February 2014, 13 Thomas R. Berger, A Long and Terrible Shadow: White Values, Native Rights in the Americas, 1492–1992 (Vancouver: Douglas & McIntyre Ltd., 1991), 2. 14 Matt. 28: 19 KJV. 15 Jayme A. Sokolow, The Great Encounter, 38. 16 Jenny Pulsipher, personal interview by Graziella Beckstrom, October 2013. 17 Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus. 18 “The Persian Empire, the Return of the Jews, and the Diaspora,” Old Testament Student Manual Kings-Malachi, 3rd ed. (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1982), 311–16. 19 The Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 13:12. 20 Arnold K. Garr, Christopher Columbus. 21 Ibid.


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“In an interconnected, global culture, not everyone sees Columbus as God’s vessel in the New World, and that’s okay.”



Leuven: Provo’s Guerilla Artist BY CHELSEA HURST



A Thin, Spray Painted Line BY DANIELL A SUB IETA

Beyond Definition: Empathy Through Mental Ilness BY JESSIE RIDDLE

Of the Same Atonement: The Story of One Girl’s Struggle With Addiction BY MORGAN REB ER

Amy Chapman: Portrait of an Athlete


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18 18


“ By acknowledging that we are all human beings striving to be our best selves and struggling against our physical, emotional, and mental obstacles to achieve that, we can begin to offer each other acceptance for judgement, compassion for meanness, beauty for ashes.”

ABO UT TH E PH OTO G RAPH E R Jordan Rands is a senior studying psychology with a minor in Spanish. He is an NBA enthusiast who is finally beginning to enjoy the complexities of a good cheeseburger. After graduating in April 2014, Jordan will be doing Teach for America in Chicago after which he will pursue a PhD in clinical psychology. He focuses his work on street photography and portraiture.



uring periods of personal pain and difficulty, we tend to feel like slaves to our imperfections or even condemned by them. We may believe that problems come only when we or those around us deviate from the approved script, the cultural standard of what is normal or accepted. But if physical, emotional, or mental detours are the reality of life, our current standard for normal is, well, off. Perhaps it’s time to reconsider our measuring stick. The question is . . . who decides the standard?

nor.mal \ ‘n \ adj [L normalis, fr. norma](ca. 1696) 1: perpendicular; esp : perpendicular to a tangent at a point of tangency 2 a: according with, constituting, or not deviating from a norm, rule or principle b: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.1 In writing about disability and the body, Lennard J. Davis explored the definition of the word normal and the construction of normalcy in his book titled Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the Body.2 He defines normal as “constituting, conforming to, not deviating or differing

5 Ibid., 29

Leuven: Provo’s Guerrilla Artist WRIT TEN BY CHELSEA HURST


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from, the common type or standard, regular, TIME TO REEVALUATE NORMAL usual.”3 Davis focuses on the human body So what happens when the ideal is interpreted for his exploration of normalcy, but his as the norm—the ideal body, family, career, discussion is also relevant to the social body job, life? One side effect of setting a statistical of which we are all members. norm within societies is that populations and According to Davis, words such as normal, individuals are compared and divided into abnormal, average, and normalcy as we standard and non-standard; what is normal understand them today did not actually enter and what is not are quantified and soon the English language until the 1840s to 1860s, become absolute. when statistics emerged as a field of study. Perhaps it’s time to reevaluate how we Statistics began as “political arithmetic,” or a define normal, and we can start by asking a way to collect data about the current status of better question: “How do we define human?” a state.4 When the bell curve on a statistics Abandoning the ideal as our standard for graph shows that a particular majority of normal does not mean we also abandon our people fall under a certain range, those who hope to someday achieve an ideal; rather, it fall on the extremities of the curve are outliers means accepting the humanity, and therefore known as deviators. With the evolution of limitations, of ourselves and others. By statistics, normalcy became intermixed with acknowledging that we are all human beings the term ideal. Davis carefully distinguishes striving to be our best selves and struggling the norm from the ideal in statistics by against our physical, emotional, and mental clarifying that “the concept of a norm, unlike obstacles to achieve that, we can begin to that of an ideal, implies that the majority offer each other acceptance for judgment, of the population must or should somehow compassion for meanness, beauty for ashes. be part of the norm.”5 In truth few people 1 “Normal.” Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition. live or possess the ideal life, which means the 2 Lennard J. Davis, Enforcing Normalcy: Disability, Deafness, and the imperfect and different must be the more Body (London: Verso, 1995). 3 Ibid., 24 common reality. 4 Ibid., 26



as artistic work; neither acknowledges the possibility of it being a positive influence. To city officials, it is about destruction of property; to the artist, it is about expression and freedom. Can art exist outside museum walls? Can respectable art exist outside the law? While Leuven breaks the law every time he pastes, he has gathered a sizeable following. Leuven admirers send messages through email and Facebook asking for more, and close friends of the artist offer support. They have even assisted him with assembling pieces, risking steep fines for their involvement.

“ To city officials, it is about destruction of property; to the artist, it is about expression and freedom.”

re you ever scared?” I had to ask, knowing he could be arrested for what he does. My email-based interview serves as a protective barrier between me and the artist’s identity—to keep him hidden, to keep him safe.1 Leuven responds, “I want to paste something so much more than I’m worried about getting caught.” Before he takes a step outside, he plans and designs his piece, meticulously coloring in lines with a Sharpie. Then, protected by the Cimmerian shade of night, Leuven goes to work doing what he loves; he is driven by his desire for visual variety. Leuven continues, “I want to see art where I live; I want to bring it to the walls around me.” Vacant spaces on abandoned buildings, sides of neighborhood mailboxes, slanted walls of apartment complex parking garages, exposed plain white fences: these are the preferred canvases of the guerilla street artist who calls himself Leuven. Shrouded by his unique handle, the artist has worked to beautify everyday spaces, breaking up the visual uniformity of the streets of Provo. For the past couple of years Leuven’s work has peppered downtown Provo and the area south of byu campus. Street art like Leuven’s runs afoul of the law wherever it is found, but it has a particularly tough opponent in Provo’s city government. It is not surprising that a large urban center like New York City would not only have anti-graffiti legislation but also an anti-graffiti task force in an effort to subdue rampant vandalism. However, it is surprising that a much smaller, suburban community like Provo, a conservative hub of apparently law-abiding lds members, would feel the need to revamp its Graffiti Ordinance to state that graffiti, no matter the medium or subject matter, is a “blight” that negatively impacts the city. Neither of these cities’ ordinances defines graffiti




am walking through byu’s Museum of Art in the exhibit A Remarkable Gift: Minerva Teichert’s Western Scenes. I am admiring a painting’s golden tumbleweeds and arching animal movement, bright hues and complex faces made with simple lines. I stand in front of single images for several minutes, mulling over one work for longer than I ponder most scriptures. But Teichert’s paintings are only one art form, the obvious kind: framed, hanging on a wall in a museum, mulled over by admirers for years. But what about Leuven, Provo’s most well-known street artist? What about illegal artistic creations like graffiti—are they considered art? How do we know if an artistic work deserves acclaim? ILLEGAL ≠ ILLEGITIMATE

Art is defined in part by public reception. Banksy is an international, UK-based street artist who demonstrates this. He creates graffiti works in unexpected places— slapped on skyscrapers’ cement sides and stenciled on alleyway walls. His work is often political, anti-capitalist, humanitarian. He prefers spray paint on cement walls over pastel-painted canvases. He adds his own work to art museums—without being invited. And yet, his work is immensely popular, selling for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Banksys are now displayed in multiple art galleries.1 At one time his work was thoughtlessly whitewashed; now a global public accepts and adores Banksy’s art, despite the controversy surrounding him. Banksy’s motivation behind his work also classifies it as art rather than abhorrent graffiti. One set of scholars has said that graffiti can be “both art and crime,”2 depending on “the motivations of various writers [graffiti artists] and public reactions to certain images.”3 Another group of scholars has supported this argument, suggesting that one person’s desire to make art earns his graffiti the designation of art while another’s desire to mark territory with gang graffiti or tagging makes his graffiti vandalism.4 Banksy’s desire to provoke thought in a larger audience

While Banksy’s work might not carry the negative connotation of most illegal graffiti, can it really be considered art? German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel theorized that art can never be clearly defined because the “beauty of art presents itself to sense, to feeling, to perception, to imagination; its sphere is not that of thought. . . . Moreover, what we enjoy in the beauty of art is precisely the freedom of its productive and plastic energy.”7 If art is not definable, it is also not measurable. Pierre Bourdieu, another well-known philosopher, argued that artistic value is culturally-based. He said that “a work of art has meaning and interest only for someone who possesses the cultural competence, that is, the code, into which it is encoded.”8 Whether we can appreciate Renoir, Picasso, Banksy, or the local graffitist depends on our cultural capital; in this sense, artistic tastes are “markers of ‘class,’”9 and what a society or community defines as artistic suggests something about its predominant class values. THE COMMUNITY EFFECTS TEST

The battle in Salt Lake City, Utah, between the growing number of graffiti painters and anti-graffiti city officials and property owners shows the ongoing struggle between differing artistic tastes. But the struggle goes beyond taste and class. The effects of graffiti, ranging from private property damage to wasted taxpayers dollars, suggest that part of what distinguishes art from non-art is whether a creation has a positive or negative effect on the surrounding society and individuals. Private property owner Faye (name has been changed), who owns almost a dozen historic buildings in Salt Lake City, said that graffiti has not just cost her money to clean up but also emotional energy. “I consider my buildings and my tenants an extension of me,” she said. “Most properties were not in very good shape when I got them, and now they’re showplaces. If I were making a list of accomplishments, there would be buildings that would make the list.” Faye has resorted to painting over some of the graffiti because it would ruin the historical properties to remove it. “I live in fear of the brickwork I’ve restored being graffitied,” she said. Now Faye makes it a goal to report graffiti she sees in order to improve the community.10 Graffiti in Salt Lake City has cost the community nearly $400,000 per year to clean up, and the cost continues to increase as graffiti has more than tripled in the city in the past decade.11 To delay cleanup only


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However, there is a palpable dichotomy of public reactions to Leuven’s work. Despite the encouragement of friends and well-wishers, some of Leuven’s artwork is torn down by people who challenge its role in their community. “There have been several pieces that I have put up one night, only to find a blank wall the next day. There was one piece that was pretty much torn down only a few hours after I put it up. At first it was a little disappointing, but after a while I got used to it—I accepted that it happens. Almost all of my pieces last long enough for me to at least snap a picture of them. I am used to it; I expect it. That way I am surprised when pieces remain for so long.” So Leuven continues to paste; he continues to put up his art where he thinks the natural environment calls for it, nevermind the community’s mixed reviews. One night, while working on a piece, Leuven was caught pasting by the police—an encounter that resulted in a $1,000 fine. This adverse run-in with the law temporarily halted the artist’s work, but only temporarily. He paid the fine, then went back to work pasting street art. In fact, it wasn’t until after this arrest that the artist started using the handle Leuven to distance his true identity from his inherently controversial hobby. Armed with this new pseudonym, he continues to display his craft using a unique papiermâché-like medium, wheat paste. The first time Leuven made street art, he was testing out wheat paste. “I instantly fell in love with wheatpasting. I drew a little robot with the words I love you written somewhere on the design. I slathered the paste on the drawing then slapped it on an apartment complex wall. When I went back to check on the piece, I was amazed by how well it had dried and stuck. The paper seemed to conform to the shape of the wall—every bump and crack.” Other than one notable piece—a cheeky dig at the Provo police department’s well-known logo—Leuven works to create mostly fun, light-hearted images like giant nes controllers. He seemingly has no political

A Thin, Spray Painted Line

carries his work beyond vandalism, and although his legal dubiousness might at times distract from his message, it also adds to it. 5 As another international street artist, Joel Bergner, explained, “Illegal work . . . makes a statement that the streets belong to everyone; it is a rejection of mainstream society’s belief that only the wealthy and powerful should have the right to decide what our urban environment should look like and feel like.”6



encourages more graffiti. Lieutenant Arnold Lemmon from the byu Police Department explained that “graffiti feeds on itself, so to discourage graffiti, we get it removed as soon as we can.”12 Although some might say Banksy also takes away from the community by violating property rights and social rules of space, in an interview with The Smithsonian Magazine, Banksy explained that he, like certain other street artists, in reality gives back to the community by lowering barriers of entry to “the essentially bourgeois world of art.”13

“ At one time his work was thoughtlessly whitewashed; now a global public accepts and adores Banksy’s art, despite the controversy surrounding him.”

1 Will Ellsworth-Jones, “The Story Behind Banksy,” The Smithsonian Magazine, February 2013, 2 Mark Halsey and Alison Young, “The Meanings of Graffiti and Municipal Administration,” Australian & New Zealand Journal of Criminology 35, no. 2 (2002): 165. 3 Ibid., 168. 4 Maria A. Gómez, “The Writing on our Walls: Finding Solutions through Distinguishing Graffiti Art from Graffiti Vandalism,” University of Michigan Journal of Law Reform 26, (1993): 634–635. 5 Bob Bednar, “Banksy: Graffiti is Art (History),” Southwestern University, accessed March 2013, 6 Sarah Kerr, WITNESS Blog, “Street Art, Video and Social Change: Joel Bergner Visits WITNESS,” August 29, 2013, 7 Bernard Bosanquet and George Wilhem Friedrich Hegel, The Introduction to Hegel’s Philosophy of Fine Art, trans. Bernard Bosanquet (London: Kegan Paul Trench & Co., 1886), 8 Pierre Bourdieu, Introduction from Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste, trans. Richard Nice (New York: Queens College, City University of New York, 1984), 9 Ibid. 10 Anonymous, phone interview with author, January 2014. 11 Haley Smith, “Graffiti cleanup costs taxpayers $400K a year,”, May 1, 2013, 12 Arnold Lemmon, personal interview with author, December 10, 2013. 13 Ellsworth-Jones, “The Story Behind Banksy.”


Oscar Wilde (1854–1900) Although Wilde is more commonly known for his literary work than for his role in art, his voice was a driving force within the Aesthetic Movement, supporting “art for art’s sake.” Up through the late nineteenth century, patronage was necessary for most writers and artists to continue their work. But as artists became financially independent, they ceased to create art that pleased others. The Aesthetic Movement sought to reform art in the same way that technological and social advances of the time reformed society. Although he criticized belief in the separation of art and life, Wilde remained open in his support of “art for art’s sake.” The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art’s aim. . . . Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things mean only beauty. —Oscar Wilde, “Preface” from The Picture of Dorian Gray

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the character of the city. I don’t, however, associate street art with vandalism. I think vandalism is a malicious destruction of property. Some may view street art as vandalism—it’s subjective. When I paste up my art, I try to choose locations where people would see street art as a way of decorating the city rather than destroying it.” No matter where he pastes, promoting biking, global awareness, and the acceptance of graffiti art is what drives Leuven—what drives him in spite of Provo City’s graffiti laws. The fear of getting caught, of punishment, has never prevented Leuven from pasting his art. Even after being caught and fined, Leuven continues to present people with interesting, provocative images. “My excitement about the art outweighs the fear of punishment,” he explains. “Street art engages pedestrians in art where they would not expect to find any—it makes life more interesting.”

Leuven wants Provo to be open to seeing unique art on city walls, art that is void of subversive implications, art that motivates feeling, meaning, and power. Leuven creates fascinating art free from the boundaries of museum walls. “Street art is a free expression of art. While in other art forms you might be restricted by what clients, bosses, or teachers say, with street art you are free to create whatever you want. The public will choose to like it or not like it, but you, the artist, decide where to display the art. I like having that freedom.” n 1 Leuven, email message to author, November 2013. 2 Mother Nature Network: Global Graffiti: “Eight Powerful Street Artists.” November 29, 2013. 3 The Provo City Code: Chapter 7.05: “Prevention and Removal of Graffiti.” http://www.


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This bourgeois art world and the realm of street art are not as different as they seem, however. Teichert’s western scenes, for example, are not just about the American West, like Banksy’s works are not just about vandalism—the two types of art are perhaps really about transcendence, purity in motivation, self-expression, and the desire to liberate other human beings. The difference in medium, location, and price tag are at some level inconsequential. And despite all the definitions and controversies about what art is, what is said about it is less than what cannot be said—and maybe that’s what art is for, to say what words alone cannot. n

agenda beyond promoting biking and a stronger sense of community. “I think a bike-friendly community is not only easier on the environment, it encourages people to be healthier and helps create a better sense of community. A good bike infrastructure allows people to socialize and interact better.” Though Leuven found ample monetary success when he turned his famous bike logo into a T-shirt, he hopes the design will do more: Leuven wants to inspire the city—the people and the government—to replace four wheels with two, to exchange smoke-emitting engines for active, pedaling legs, to trade air bags and car wrecks for bike helmets and skinned knees. Leuven has also done pieces somber in nature, reverent visual odes to people who have influenced millions because of their courage. After hearing the story of young Pakistani activist, Malala Yousafzai, whose peaceful yet fervent activism was met with violence, Leuven wanted to paste images of her all over Provo. He decided to put her next to his recently completed Anne Frank piece. “I thought they should share a wall together because they are both such brave young girls.” In these works Leuven strives to illustrate courage in a way that is accessible. Passersby confront his images of heroism while on their way to school or work, without having to leave the sidewalk; populations who lack access to museums and other mediums of disclosure find thought-provoking images on their daily commute. These pieces also exemplify a certain global awareness. Even the artist’s moniker reflects this awareness— Leuven is a large university city in Belgium in which the main source of transportation is biking. The artist chose the name to encourage comparisons between Leuven and Provo and to promote the European city’s ideals of health and open-mindedness. Leuven, the artist, draws inspiration and motivation from the rich fount of American and European street artists. “The [French] street artist JR is a big inspiration to me. His street art sends powerful messages and can have practical uses as well. He uses the images of Kenyan women’s faces and prints them on vinyl which are then pasted on rooftops to help protect the community from rain.” Though graffiti laws are still enforced throughout Europe, citizens of countries like Sweden, the UK, France, and Russia seem to largely view street art as a way to establish accessible art in public places, enabling vibrant street art cultures that feature highly respected artists such Banksy, David Choe, Blek le Rat, and Retna (aka Marquis Lewis).2 People in these countries endeavor to distinguish between street art and graffiti; however, the Provo City Graffiti Ordinance defines graffiti as any visual marking put on buildings or public structures without permission and declares that graffiti is detrimental to the city.3 The word graffiti in America is widely understood as visual scarring; it denotes hasty, thoughtless ways to deface property. Leuven disagrees. “Graffiti definitely has negative connotations,” he says, “but to me it is not a negative word. Street art and graffiti can be one the same. I love the paint scribblings in New York—they add to



Beyond Definition: Empathy Through Mental Illness WRI T T E N BY J E S S I E R I D DL E



Although Ethan’s anxiety and depression were evident from childhood, his symptoms increased during his service as an lds missionary. “I’d wake up every morning feeling like I didn’t get a wink of sleep,” he explains. “It felt like there was a bag of bricks lying on my face. Also, I was worried every second about being productive. If we had thirty minutes without something planned, I would fret and worry.” He discussed his struggles with a friend and

fellow missionary who shared his own experience with medication and suggested that Ethan visit a counselor. For Ethan, both counseling and medication were useful tools: “The counselors will tell you to try to disown your anxiety and your depression, and not to identify with it: to say that this is a part of me but it is not me.” Although medication normally takes effect after several weeks, he responded almost immediately: “The difference was really night and day. I didn’t have anxiety attacks, at least not nearly as much as I used to. If I had free time, I didn’t stress out too much; I could take a break or just go talk to people.” Ethan describes the impact of anxiety and depression on his relationships with other people as a double-edged sword: “Sometimes I get really impatient with people. But I can pick up when people have anxiety; I can see the jitteriness and the worrying about things that are out of their control.” His familiarity with anxiety allows him to see that one of the girls in his classes is exhibiting symptoms of anxiety: “My experiences help me to be more sympathetic, because I realize that she’s got her strengths, even though she says she doesn’t.” Ethan has also found the sometimes overwhelmingly rapid thought process associated with anxiety to be an asset in school: “As I’m reading a book, I can think of four or five ideas of what a text might mean, and I make a lot of abstract connections.” Having so many thoughts at once can be distracting, but Ethan uses this multi-level thinking to his advantage. “When I write poetry, jumping from idea to idea is really helpful. I’ve got multiple ideas of what I want to do with each line of poetry.” KARISSA:

“My default is happy. It’s just that when I start being sad it doesn’t stop,” Karissa explains. “Without my medication, if I start to get depressed it goes into a spiral.”4 Karissa was nineteen when the boy she was dating suggested that she might have depression. It wasn’t until two years later when she had a serious depressive episode that she decided to see a counselor and was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression. “I didn’t know why I was miserable all the time,” she says. “There were definitely some hard things going on in my life at the time, but everything felt harder than it should.”

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Sylvia Plath (1932–1963) After the sudden death of her father, eight-year-old Sylvia Plath was left emotionally shaken. She went on to study English with a full-ride scholarship to Smith College and earned her master’s at Cambridge University. On the surface Plath was the poster child for intelligence and success, but less visibly she suffered from bipolar mood disorder. Despite her personal trials, Plath was able to produce innovative poems filled with raw emotion and feminist expression. Her autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar, gives Plath’s honest and critical perspective of mental illness. Can you understand? Someone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that—I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much—so very much to learn. —Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath


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ow have depression and anxiety changed the way you look at the world?” I can see I’ve asked the wrong question. Ethan frowns, and I instinctively start to backpedal before he says, “I can’t answer that question because it’s like asking someone who’s blind, ‘What does a tree look like?’ You’re asking somebody who’s depressed to say what it’s like not being depressed.”1 Before I can gather my embarrassed thoughts, he continues: “Depression and anxiety are not completely negative. I mean, it’s terrible. It stinks. I’d much rather not be anxious and depressed. But there are some good things about it.” Ethan, a recent graduate from Brigham Young University, was diagnosed with severe anxiety and moderate depression in his early twenties. While studying English at byu, he was among the 3,000 to 4,000 students—10 percent of the student body—that visit the counseling center on campus each year.2 Mental health is an increasingly prevalent topic of discussion on university campuses. In 2013, 31 percent of college students said they had felt so depressed that they could not function at least once within the last year; 20 percent reported that anxiety had affected their academic performance.3 However, mental illness is inherently a deeply personal and, therefore, often lonely struggle. Ethan joins other byu students and professors in sharing his experiences and understanding of mental illness for this article. Their stories resist easy definition— they’re not just about being alone, and they’re not just about being sad. However, they share a common theme: living with mental illness can result in unique skills, particularly the ability to recognize and empathize with the struggles of other people.



Having depression was difficult to accept, says Karissa, because “I wanted to be tough. I didn’t want to think of myself as being broken, as having something wrong with me. I had seen so many people who had it so much worse, so I felt like, ‘Who am I to need help?’ Sometimes I still feel like that.” Karissa’s journey to accept and live with her own diagnosis has changed the way she interacts with other people. Although she emphasizes that she is not a perfectly non judgmental person, she is less likely to jump to conclusions about friends or family with mental illness. “I don’t always know what to say to help them,” Karissa says, “but I feel like I can relate a little bit better.” The private battles she has fought with depression have taught her that many people’s struggles are not visible from the surface. Karissa has also become more willing to openly discuss the difficult issues surrounding mental illness. “There’s

a lot of stigma surrounding mental health issues that people are afraid to talk about, and I think that hurts a lot of people because they don’t seek treatment,” she explains. “The more we talk about these issues in a normalizing way the closer we get to eradicating that kind of stigma. I’ve realized that not talking about hard things doesn’t do anyone any favors.” LARESA:

Laresa is a humanities professor whose lifelong battle with mental health issues has increased her love for herself and everyone around her. “Mental illness makes you feel weak, like you failed,” she says, “but I didn’t fail. I was just sick like everybody else gets sick.”5 Laresa was diagnosed with anxiety while she was still in high school. By the time she was a year into graduate school, she’d been diagnosed with ocd, depression, and bipolar disorder. Despite the coping mechanisms she has

developed and her personal and professional victories in her work as a professor, every day is a new challenge. “Some days everything just collapses,” she says. “I scrape by and I get through, but it’s not on my own power; it’s by the power of the Atonement.” Being diagnosed was one of the most difficult ordeals of Laresa’s life. “For me it was just a nightmare. I couldn’t believe the diagnosis; it was like being broken. It was like, ‘I’ll never be right . . . my life is over, everything I’ve planned and dreamed about is gone.’” For Laresa, the first step in accepting mental illness was not letting it define her. “You have to keep on living,” she says. “Life doesn’t stop because of a diagnosis.” While learning to live with her ocd, anxiety, and bipolar disorder has taken Laresa a long time, she says it has also helped her as a teacher and a person: “It has given me a lot of empathy for my students. I suppose I should be more strict, but I can’t do it because you look at some students’ lives and think, ‘How are you doing what you’re doing?’” The empathy Laresa feels for her students has changed how she looks at weakness and her purpose as a teacher. “I’m able to understand something of the struggles that they have because of the struggles I’ve had. I pray for charity more than anything so I can use my empathy for good. I listen and I try to help where I can. I hope that even though I have these weaknesses, I can help lift others.” DR. DIANNE NIELSEN:

Dr. Dianne Nielsen, a counselor for the BYU Counseling Center, believes there is a connection between empathy and mental illness. “I believe any challenge, setback, or heartache has the potential to attune our hearts to another person with that struggle.” 6 Dr. Nielsen says that this “tuning” of the heart allows her clients to recognize and empathize with those who have a similar diagnosis. “Depressed or formerly depressed clients say they are quicker to notice signs of depression in a roommate,” she explains. “One of my clients with insomnia told me she could recognize other insomniacs when she heard about their late-night TV viewing habits.”

Although it is difficult for many people to recognize and accept their own mental illness, she says, one person’s positive experience can result in others: “One brave person who speaks up about their experience with mental health helps everybody.”7 Ultimately, Dr. Nielsen suggests, individual traits— even those viewed as problematic—may actually allow people to work together. “I believe there are advantages and disadvantages to each tendency,” she explains, “and that they’re meant to be complementary.” CONCLUSION:

At the end of my freshman year at byu, a kind professor asked me if I had considered that I might be dealing with depression. I was indignant that my professor would suggest that there was something “wrong,” with me, but I began visiting with a counselor. I was never diagnosed with clinical depression, but counseling has continued to be invaluable for me as I face periods of growth and change. One night several months after I started counseling, I found myself alone in a cathedral in Argentina. I quietly thanked God for the experiences he had given me and was overwhelmed by the conviction that we are individuals but also intrinsically part of a larger whole. I do not know why one of the most difficult parts of my life ended in the strongest spiritual experience I’ve ever had, but I do know that I was grateful to be able to see one aspect of how we are all connected. I realized after that night in Argentina and again conducting these interviews that hardships remove the superficial layers we use to categorize ourselves and other people. When these layers are removed, we feel vulnerable and alone. However, it is this vulnerability that makes our essential humanity visible and connects us to one another. n 1 Ethan, personal interview with author, November 22, 2013. 2 Dr. Dianne Nielsen, email message to author, February 6, 2014. 3 “Undergraduate Students: Spring 2013 Reference Group Executive Summary.” American College Health Association: National College Health Assessment II, 2013, 4 Karissa, personal interview with author, December 2, 2013. 5 Laresa, personal interview with Daniella Subieta, October 2013. 6 Dr. Dianne Nielsen, email message to author, February 6, 2014. 7 Dr. Dianne Nielsen, personal interview with author, October 10, 2013.


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“The more we talk about these issues in a normalizing way the closer we get to eradicating that kind of stigma. I’ve realized that not talking about hard things doesn’t do anyone any favors.” —Karissa






I looked at my friend and could not imagine a more typical Young-Womanhood-medallion-wearing, scripture-reading, girls-camp-song-singing byu student. Even knowing what I do about her now, I still can’t see her as anything but virtuous. Flawed, yes—like any other person—but yearning to do good. “It was really difficult when I decided to see my bishop because he had been my bishop since I was eight and was there when I got baptized. It was good, though. He said it was a really common problem in the Church, even for women. That was the first time it occurred to me that it wasn’t normal for a woman to have this problem. He said, ‘even women.’ Then I realized I had never had a lesson in Young Women on pornography. I felt so guilty and thought ‘Oh, my gosh, they don’t even feel like they need to mention it.’” For additional fortification, she said she decided to join an addiction recovery support group. “There’s only one addiction recovery meeting offered to women through lds Family Services that’s close enough for me to walk to. It’s men and women, general addiction, drugs and alcohol, eating disorders. I love it! But I wish the Church offered a pasg (Pornography Addiction Support

“ We are taught that truth is good, but truth can be uncomfortable.” Group) meeting for women in Provo. They have a men’s pasg meeting two, three, four times a day around Provo and Orem. And I can’t go because it says, ‘Men only.’ There are only two women’s pasg meetings offered and they are both too far away for me to attend. It’s just so frustrating—I know that there are more women at byu who struggle with this addiction!” After attending several general addiction recovery meetings and completing the assignments her bishop had given her, she thought she would be able to overcome the addiction. “But I couldn’t. It was really frustrating to me because I had been praying and repenting since I was thirteen. I read my scriptures every single day to try to compensate and overcome temptation. I was convinced that if I would do that I would be able to get over it. But I didn’t. I felt betrayed that it didn’t work. I was tempted to feel like I wouldn’t ever get over it, and that nothing was going to work because it wasn’t working right now. “I remember one experience I had my sophomore year in college. I had messed up again for the millionth time, and I was so frustrated with myself. I was praying and yelling, ‘Heavenly Father, how can you forgive me? I keep


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Her bedroom was an exhibit of byu cliché: Disney and British TV posters papered the walls, her ukulele was propped up on the desk, and her scripture quad was placed neatly on the nightstand. We sat on the floor and chin-wagged for a few minutes, catching up over stories of school and boys, clumsily dancing around the all-too-obvious elephant in the room.

y cell phone rested between us, voice recorder set on pause, reminding us that we couldn’t avoid the reason for my visit forever. I looked at my good, sweet, and brave friend—a friend I had known for years yet knew so little about— wondering if she realized what she had gotten herself into. Her face reflected my own uncertainties of what I would dig up when I started asking questions, but there was a determination in her eyes to tell her story. “When did you realize that you had an addiction?” I cringed, the abruptness of my question sounding like the screech of an untuned violin. Tactless. Great start, Morgan. Thinking back, I wonder if I cringed for the same reason we use euphemisms and keep a polite distance. We are taught that truth is good, but truth can be uncomfortable. Confusing. Naked. She took a deep breath and tried to smile. “The first encounter I had was the summer after seventh grade. It was just on YouTube. It wasn’t super explicit or anything, but it kind of escalated like all addictions will do. It took me a while to see it, but over time I realized that the problem was bigger than me and I needed outside help.” “What was your family’s response?” I asked. “My mom always responded with love and never acted disgusted. She put locks on the computer and started checking up on me, but she always asked me, ‘Do you think this will help you?’ I think she kind of understands because she was a convert to the Church as a teenager, so she’s more realistic when it comes to things in the world. “One of my brothers was the first person I told. He was always supportive and loving. My other siblings don’t know; I still don’t feel comfortable telling them. My mom and brother never negated any other good thing I was doing, even though that was my natural instinct—to feel that any good thing I could do was counteracted by the bad things I did. I always felt really guilty, like I was a liar. Youth leaders would always tell me how great I was, but I felt like they wouldn’t say that if they knew everything about me. Everything they said was invalid because of a secret I kept.” Even when it came to friends, she felt as though she had to safeguard her secret for fear of being judged, stereotyped, or even villainized. “It’s difficult because people say things like, ‘Porn addicts are so disgusting. If I’m around them, they’re probably looking at me all weird.’” Her voice rose, the years of hurt evident in her eyes. “They don’t understand that they are talking about real people. It’s been a long journey for me to realize that if people knew me they wouldn’t say things like that. Satan tells you, ‘If people say that they love you, they’re lying to you. You’ve heard your friends say that they would never marry a porn addict. You’ve heard guys say that they want a girl who is virtuous, but you’re not.’ ”



Malala Yousafzai (1997–) A young Pakistani girl, Malala Yousafzai, recently came into the spotlight for her candid and anonymous blog about her experience under Taliban rule. Malala began to write for the BBC in 2009 at the age of eleven. During this time the Taliban barred all girls from attending school and monitored the lives and activities of all citizens; nevertheless, Malala agreed to speak out against Taliban oppression. As Malala’s popularity increased, she received death threats from the Taliban, and in October 2012 she was shot. The bullet went through her head and neck and ended at her shoulder. Malala recovered after intensive treatment. I raise up my voice—not so that I can shout, but so that those without a voice can be heard. —Malala Yousafzai, “Address to the United Nations Youth Assembly”

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doing this, then I keep apologizing, but I keep doing it and then apologizing. Why do you keep buying it? I’m not even buying it anymore!’ “I got this overwhelming impression that said, ‘Stop pretending you understand how much I love you or how I can forgive you, because you never will be able to. Just trust that I can. That’s all you need to know.’ ” Her breath caught in her chest and a tear trailed down her cheek. She smiled and wiped it away. “It just hit me that we try to project our own understanding on God. We think that because we keep messing up He should stop trusting us, but that’s not how God sees it. He sees our potential and our desires, as well as things we don’t even know about ourselves yet. Obviously He has a different perspective on our mistakes than we do because He’s God. That’s still something I’m working on every single day, something I have to tell myself over and over again. I’ve come to believe that failure in one area of your life isn’t going to take away

Read the full interview at Note: Since the interview, there is now a women-only pornography addiction recovery group that meets on byu campus. For additional information, see

Amy Chapman: Portrait of an Athlete WRIT TEN BY MAREN M c INNES


he answers the questions—again. She smiles and explains her story—again. Even though Amy Chapman has been asked many times about her life and how she overcame her challenges, she showed nothing but enthusiasm towards me when I asked to hear her story too.1 Amy is a freshman at byu with plans to major in special education, and she looks like an athlete. When we meet for the first time in the library, she is waiting for me, standing with confidence by the security sensors. We walk to a room to talk. She sits down, crossing one leg over the other, and after laughing over the most recent books we have read, classes we’ve registered for, and general life as freshmen, Amy tells me her story with a smile. “I am a bilateral amputee,” she states. “It just means I’m missing both of my legs below the knee.” She has her answers down pat. “I was born without most of the bones in my lower leg. I had my amputation when I was one year old so I could fit into prosthetics better. I’ve had prosthetic legs ever since and have done everything my brothers and sister have done.” Throughout the interview, Amy put the emphasis on her abilities. “I have really good balance for someone with prosthetics,” she says. Amy started gymnastics when she was only four to help improve her balance, which it did. “That’s

what happens when you walk across a fourinch beam.” When she was ten, her family moved. She was watching the local swim team practice one day, and she told her mom that she wanted to try out. Amy has been swimming competitively since. Currently, she is training with byu’s swim team. She does dry-land workouts daily with the team for an hour and then swims for two hours during swim classes taught by the assistant coaches. Although she is registered for one of the classes, she usually does her own workouts to train. She isn’t preparing for the next big meet against another university. Amy is training for the Rio 2016 Paralympics. “The Paralympics are the second largest sports competition behind the Olympics. They take place in the same place as the Olympics two weeks later.” Amy is excited when she talks about the Paralympics. The best disabled athletes from around the world compete there, she adds. In the London games, over 4,000 athletes competed. There are a total of 28 sports in the Paralympics, more events than the Olympics because the athletes are split up based on their abilities. “They really try to put you in a classification where you are racing against people who have the same abilities that you do,” Amy explains. There are five different classifications: amputee / dwarfish / other,


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“ I’ve come to believe that failure in one area of your life isn’t going to take away from all the good things that you do.”

from all the good things that you do.” We sat quietly for a moment; I let my brain soak in everything she had said. I thought of the mistakes I’ve made in my own life, my own failures and shortcomings and disappointments, and how sometimes it’s so hard to feel worthy of God’s love, so hard to know where I stand with Him, with my community, with myself. “Sometimes I ask myself who I’d be if I didn’t have this addiction,” she said thoughtfully. “But you can’t look back and ask, ‘What if ?’ It comes down to using those experiences to become who you want to become and not letting them lead you to a place you don’t want to go. Because of my struggles, I’ve chosen to become more understanding and empathetic. I’m able to help other people who struggle. When I think that my addiction defines me, I get discouraged. When I pretend it doesn’t exist, I become frustrated. You have to find that balance and say, ‘I’m a daughter of God. I have an addiction. I’m not defined by just one thing.’ “Just as God has a plan for our lives, He also has a plan for our mistakes. He knows us so well, and He knows what will make us the people we need to become. Our mistakes are part of that plan. Christ doesn’t just erase them—He takes them and uses them to make you into a stronger person. Because of this, I know without a doubt in my mind that Christ lives and that He atoned for my sins and that repentance is real. Because of this, I know Christ. When I’m down on my knees, in the pit of desperation, He’s the one that comes to me. You have to allow Christ to be there for you. “Instead of focusing on sin, we need to focus on how great the Atonement is. Focusing on how bad sin is isn’t going to help anyone—it leads to despair, hopelessness, and isolation. The most important thing is to remember that the Atonement covers all sins. Luckily for us, we don’t have to deal with the darkness of sin if we choose to focus on the light of the Atonement.” When I recently caught up with my friend on the phone, we discussed the progress she’s made in overcoming her addiction. I didn’t even need to see her to know that she was glowing. She has forever changed and illuminated my testimony of the Atonement. Reading the interview now, months after it actually occurred, I realize that this story doesn’t solely belong to my friend—it belongs to you. It belongs to me. It belongs to all of us. Our weaknesses, our failings, our dents and bumps and bruises clothe us all in the common uniform of mortality. No matter what our personal struggles are, we each play the same role: we are all beggars, all lepers, all partakers of the same Atonement. We are all washed clean and reborn of the same hope. n



blind / visually impaired, spinal cord injury / paralyzed / wheelchair user, traumatic brain injury / cerebral palsy / stroke, or intellectual impairment. Many of the sports are the same, but there are a few that have been altered for the athletes. Some of these altered sports include sitting volleyball and sled hockey, as well as dancing, basketball, curling, fencing, rugby, and tennis all performed while in wheelchairs. Only two years after joining her first swim team, twelve-year-old Amy almost made the minimal qualifying times to be considered for the team that went to the 2008 Beijing Paralympics. In 2012, she tried again for London and made the times to be considered but barely missed making the team in the second group of qualifying times. Although she hasn’t made it to the Paralympics yet, Amy has participated in other international events over the past few years swimming with Team USA. She was invited as one of six to compete in the Canada Cup in 2011. This meet was combined with an able-body meet, which, according to Amy, is rare. She also swam in the 2011 Parapan American Games. She spent two weeks living in the athlete village in Guadalajara, Mexico, where she trained and met other

athletes who were competing. The Parapan American Games occur every four years and are like a smaller version of the Paralympics for just the Western Hemisphere. Now her sights are set on Rio. “I am very competitive,” she says. Sometimes people have misconceptions about her and her abilities, as if disability defines her. “They kind of limit me with, ‘Oh, that’s cool, she swims,’ ” Amy says. Other disabled athletes are very competitive too. “We have disabled competitors who are top in the world,” she says. As a top disabled swimmer who has competed internationally, Amy understandably has had a lot of media attention. But she would rather have the spotlight move from her to the Paralympics. “The Paralympics is something bigger than just athletes competing on a really high level. Our athletes have overcome so much, and other people know so little about it. That’s what I want everyone to know. There is so much more that people with disabilities can do. They have just as many opportunities and can have the same opportunities as everyone else, especially in sports.” The International Paralympic Committee wants to empower athletes and “inspire and

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For more information about the Paralympics— stories, photos, videos, and ways to be involved— visit 1Amy Chapman, interview with author, October 18 and 30, 2013. 2 “The IPC—Who we are,” The International Paralympic Committee, accessed March 2013,

Helen Keller (1880–1968) At nineteen months old, Helen Keller fell ill with what her family doctor called “brain fever.” She was left blind and deaf for the rest of her life. Keller struggled to communicate with those around her, and many encouraged her parents to institutionalize her. With the help of Annie Sullivan, a gifted teacher, Keller was able to graduate from college, write an autobiography, and help found the American Civil Liberties Union. For, after all, every one who wishes to gain true knowledge must climb the Hill Difficulty alone, and since there is no royal road to the summit, I must zigzag it in my own way. I slip back many times, I fall, I stand still, I run against the edge of hidden obstacles, I lose my temper and find it again and keep it better, I trudge on, I gain a little, I feel encouraged, I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory. One more effort and I reach the luminous cloud, the blue depths of the sky, the uplands of my desire. —Helen Keller, The Story of My Life


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“Amy has had a lot of media attention. But she would rather have the spotlight move from her to the Paralympics.”

excite” people around the world to promote equality. The Paralympic values are courage, determination, inspiration, and equality.2 Some people with disabilities think they cannot do sports, Amy explains. “They don’t think they can be on the same level as other athletes, but they really can. That’s a part of the Paralympic movement—trying to reach out to these young kids who don’t know what’s next and who are trying to figure out what to do with their lives. This is an outlet that they can have.” On overcoming challenges, Amy gives this advice: “A lot of it is just taking it day by day. A lot of times you focus on what you can’t do rather than what you can do,” she says. “Focus on what you can do, and make that better. Don’t sell yourself short,” she insists. “You can do so much more than you think you can. I’ve seen that in the Paralympics. That’s one of the main reasons I’m in it.” Amy is optimistic and confident. She reminds me that in life challenges happen to everyone, so you can’t let your challenges slow you down or stop you. Amy Chapman is more than a disabled swimmer. Her disability does not define her. She is a top world competitor. She has goals to compete in Rio, become a special education teacher, and serve a mission for the lds Church. Most importantly, Amy is a person who doesn’t let her disability inhibit her. Instead, she focuses on her abilities and wants to help others do the same. n




tall brunette stands at the head of the classroom. Calming the chatter, she pulls a book from her sidesatchel and says, “What does it mean to think like a mountain? You have eleven minutes to respond.” I am caught off guard by the exercise but join in. I am a mountain . . . uh . . . I repeat the prompt again, then scan the room and watch the students writing feverishly on tiny, plastic desks arranged in a large circle. Professor John Bennion and his co-teacher, Liz Knight, participate in the writing frenzy. I am a mountain . . . I am a mountain? Time is up. The students share their responses with each other and then discuss the class readings. Soon a fluid discussion unfolds; Professor Bennion offers his opinions. The students are confident, curious, and comfortable as they share their ideas—a result of open discussions like this one. Sometimes their focus wanders, but the topic always seems to lead back to their experiences with crosscountry skiing, snow cave building, strenuous backpacking, or canyoneering. In addition to outdoor writing exercises and prompts that encourage self-reflection, the Wilderness Writing course at byu helps students approach self-actualization. A hike under a dark night sky speckled with stars is a perfect backdrop for meditative writing, but activities like building


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“The physical and mental challenges involved in a semester of meditative writing and outdoor activity help students stretch themselves and explore uncertainties.�




snow caves in below-freezing weather also challenge students to learn fundamental survival skills. Writing about these experiences allows students to explore who they are as individuals and who they are in a community; they not only discover themselves in extreme natural environments but also in cultural, emotional, and spiritual contexts. “The process of stepping outside of yourself is painful,” one student wrote, “but it makes visible some truly beautiful patterns in your own life.” She describes a cross-country skiing practice in which she repeatedly fell over. “I was so angry with myself.” Rather than continue the struggle, she stopped trying. Later, as she wrote about her experience, she was reminded of the goals of the course—to learn more about herself. “I realized that when I feel self-conscious or think I’ve made a mistake I withdraw,” she concluded. “Recognizing that pattern has helped me build stronger relationships and learn from my mistakes.” The physical and mental challenges involved in a semester of meditative writing and outdoor activity help students stretch themselves and explore uncertainties. For some this might happen while cross-country skiing or hiking on a starry night. Whatever the location, however, the simple act of considering their own weaknesses gives students a chance to increase their self-awareness. Whether that happens in the wilderness or at home, the introspective writing encouraged by the Wilderness Writing course is an opportunity to find and create meaning from life experiences. n


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“A hike under a dark night sky speckled with stars is a perfect backdrop for meditative writing.”

Logan is always up to something. Whether visiting India for a month or driving down to St. George for the weekend, Logan Havens makes the most of every moment. He specializes in travel photography and portraiture, often combining the two by taking photos of locals wherever he visits. Earthy colors and rich textures become extremely expressive in Logan’s tonal photography. Through his work he captures unique beauty and inspires respect for the earth. Logan plans to graduate with a BFA in photography this April, unless he studies abroad to Ireland this spring.





e’s in our magazines, in our manuals, and some thirty times in our general conference talks. C. S. Lewis (1898–1963), the prolific Christian apologist, novelist, scholar, broadcaster, amateur theologian, and devout Anglican, is often termed—perhaps only half-jokingly—our “thirteenth apostle.” The way Church members talk affectionately about him (we all know someone who’s done his temple work), it seems almost like his calling and election have been made sure. Lewis’s faith, which he shares using his vivid imagination and inclusive theology, helps Latter-day Saints to relate to other faiths as well as reflect on our own. BIOGRAPHY

Born in Belfast, Ireland, Clive Staples Lewis grew up with a rather distant relationship to Christianity. His parents took him to church every Sunday, but he felt no real attachment to religion. Lewis considered himself atheist before gradually converting to theism and then to Christianity in September 1931. After graduating from Oxford with three degrees (Greek and Latin literature, classical philosophy, and English language and literature), Lewis was eventually granted a fellowship at Magdalen College at Oxford. He went on to become a beloved Christian writer of essays, broadcasts, and fantasy novels. Mere Christianity, arguably his most popular apologetic work, began as a series of radio broadcasts that were later published as a book in 1952. He also wrote Surprised by Joy, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, and other works.1

AB O U T THE P HOTO GR AP HE R A senior in the bfa photography program, Heather Hackney has chosen to focus her studies on travel and lifestyle photography. Her work covers a wide range of subjects: from homemade pumpkin soups to old brick buildings scattered through Europe, Heather sets a quiet and sophisticated tone in her photography. Heather also loves to paint, cook, and learn languages. She has visited several foreign countries, including France, England, and Sweden.

I encountered Professor Dan DeWitt, a Baptist pastor and the dean of Boyce College in Kentucky, through his blog, “Theolatte.” He writes, “C. S. Lewis is given rockstar status among American evangelicals today.”2 It would appear that Latter-day Saints are not alone in their Lewis-mania. So why are so many Christians obsessed with Lewis? It could be the mere in Mere Christianity: in his writing, Lewis focuses more on living a Christian life than he does on ceremony and denomination-specific doctrines. It could also be the romanticism of his fantasy books or his dramatic conversion from atheism to Christianity. His change of heart was a result of a latenight discussion with his friends Hugo Dyson and J. R. R. Tolkien followed a few days later by a trip to the Whipsnade Zoo. “When we set out [for the zoo] I did not


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believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and when we reached the zoo I did . . . . It was . . . like when a man, after a long sleep, still lying motionless in bed, becomes aware that he is now awake.”3 Another possibility for his wide appeal is his apparent amiability—he answered almost all of the fan mail that he received. Professor Bruce Young, who teaches a class on C. S. Lewis at BYU, says that “Lewis’s mind is engaging” and that his writing is accessible to casual readers because of his conversational style.4 Lewis was known for using logic in his theological writing, which likely appeals especially to modern audiences who would otherwise not approach theology. In fact, Lewis has grown much more popular after his death than he ever was during his life. Professor Robert Millet, who is in the Department of Ancient Scripture at BYU, says that Lewis had an uncanny knack for breaking down difficult ideas with analogies.5 For example, he once described the complete change a person must undergo to become a Christian using terms of grass and wheat: no matter how you groom the grass, you cannot grow wheat without uprooting the grass and planting wheat. Analogies such as this, along with his informal writing style, give Lewis’s writing appeal for audiences beyond religious scholars. Young also attributes Lewis’s popularity to his imaginative works of fiction such as the Chronicles of Narnia series. These books, filled with fantasy and adventure, are popular with young and old readers alike. Deeper than that, Lewis’s fantasy works convey religious truths, further demonstrating Lewis’s ability to break down large ideas with analogies. Aslan’s sacrifice and resurrection in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, for example, correlate in many ways to the Atonement. In a Deseret News article, James Jardine writes, “Lewis said it was primarily his imagination that laid the foundation of his faith.”6 Since his imagination led him to his faith, it seems natural that he would turn to

fantasy as a way to express it. As Young puts it, “His fiction works are just vividly imaginative. They are filled with a certain kind of religious feeling that is very appealing, that makes spiritual things seem very real. That sort of feeling also comes into his nonfiction work.” DeWitt also writes of the timeless appeal of Lewis’s imaginative works.7 They provide another avenue for Christians who would be less likely to pick up one of Lewis’s more scholarly texts. AN INCLUSIVE THEOLOGY

Latter-day Saints, who often struggle with being labeled non-Christian, are attracted to Lewis’s inclusive theology. In his books, Lewis boils Christianity down to its most simple components so there is little to no denominational bias in his teachings. In Mere Christianity, he begins with a rational argument for the existence of a universal moral law. Later in the book he discusses the divinity of Christ and explains Christian virtues like prudence, fortitude, humility, charity, faith, and several others. He finishes with a defense of the Trinity doctrine.8 He hoped his books would help Christian readers discover the common ground between their different religions.9 This common ground encourages understanding, if not agreement, between the various denominations. For example, one of the common themes of Lewis’s theological writings is theosis, the concept that humans have the potential to become like God. Mormons who read his books will find they share this same belief with Lewis fans from the Eastern Orthodox faith. One reason for Lewis’s interdenominational appeal could be his definition of what it means to be a Christian. Lewis believed that since no one can see into anyone else’s mind or heart, we shouldn’t try to say who is or is not a Christian. In Millet’s introduction to C. S. Lewis: The Man and His Message, he describes “this breadth, this inclusiveness, this freshness and distinctiveness . . . which endear Lewis to many Latter-day Saints.”10 In other

“Lewis helps us to think through some of our beliefs more clearly. He helps us to understand them more deeply.” ­—Bruce Young


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“ He hoped his books would help Christian readers discover the common ground that exists between their different religions.” whether or not a person is a Christian is based more on what is in his or her heart rather than on specific points of doctrine. Some Latter-day Saints complain that we stretch Lewis to make him Mormon. Some of the ideas Lewis argues, such as ex nihilo creation, do not remotely coincide with LDS beliefs. Even our beliefs on theosis don’t quite coincide in a way we might like. “Did he believe theosis the way we do?” says Millet. “Probably not. But in general, he believed it was something that Christians ought to take seriously.” Critics have found certain themes in Lewis’s books that are distasteful to both Christians and non-Christians. Philip Pullman, author of the His Dark Materials trilogy, dismisses the Narnia books as racist and sexist. Commenting on gender roles in Narnia, he says, “It is monumentally disparaging of girls and women.” He refers to Susan Pevensie, who is figuratively “sent to hell because she was getting interested in clothes and boys.”11 To this point, Young notes that some have defended Lewis against the charges of sexism, and that “the charge that Lewis is ‘monumentally disparaging of girls and women’ is not widely accepted among those who know Lewis’s works well.”12 Pullman also calls the light versus dark theme in the series “blatantly racist.”13 Kyrie O’Connor of the Houston Chronicle points out that the descriptions of the Calormenes in The Horse and His Boy sound like a negative portrayal of Arabs:14 they wear “long, dirty robes, and wooden shoes turned up at the toe, and turbans on their heads, and beards,” and they talk “very slowly about things that sounded dull.”15 J. K. Rowling has voiced complaints too. When she read the books as a child, she “got so caught up I didn’t think C. S. Lewis was especially preachy. Reading them now I find that his subliminal message isn’t very subliminal at all.”16 How should we feel about an allegedly racist, sexist man being quoted in general conference? It is helpful to understand that to some extent, Lewis was a product of his time, as we all are. We do not have to agree with every one of his beliefs and prejudices in order to appreciate truth in his writing. BRIDGE BETWEEN DENOMINATIONS

Although Lewis was Anglican, many of his most ardent supporters are not. Young attributes this to the simplicity of Lewis’s message: his fervent belief in and love of Christ.


Using Lewis as a bridge between different Christian religions opens up another debate: Why do Latter-day Saints seek for truth outside of their own faith if we have access to divine revelation? What does that say about our scriptures and other revelation? And if there is so much


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In the preface to Mere Christianity, Lewis says that he does not want the book to create an entirely new denomination with his ideas. Rather, “it is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms. If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted. But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.”17 Young has witnessed how a shared appreciation of Lewis encourages inter-religious dialogue, mutual understanding, and lasting friendships. He recalls one experience when a group of evangelical Christians visited BYU from Biola University. “None of us converted each other, but it was kind of nice to know that we all liked C. S. Lewis.” On another occasion at a C. S. Lewis conference at Oxford University, he encountered an evangelical Christian who was skeptical of LDS beliefs. In an effort to find common ground, Young compared the situation to that of Emeth in Lewis’s The Last Battle. Emeth, though technically an enemy of Aslan, is saved at the end of the series because his heart is in the right place. “Lewis presents the idea in The Last Battle of Emeth, the good Calormene, who even though his theology is mistaken, his heart is really in touch with the truth,” Young says. The two certainly did not see eye to eye on many issues, just as Emeth did not believe in all of Aslan’s teachings. But regardless of who was right and who was wrong, “he [the evangelical] could accept me as a fellow believer in Christ.” Millet had an almost identical experience at a C. S. Lewis conference in Illinois in 1998. At that conference he presented a paper entitled “The Theology of C. S. Lewis: A Latter-day Saint Perspective.” Since his audience was largely non-LDS, he admits being surprised that he was asked to present at the conference, but from his associations with Christians of other denominations, he ended up developing friendships through a mutual love of Lewis that have only grown stronger since the conference. DeWitt says almost the same thing in slightly different words—we have Christ in common, to put his ideas simply. I thought it poignant, given this common ground, that he closed one of his emails to me with “your Baptist friend.”18




My mom is dying of breast cancer and I’m waiting for something spectacular to happen. Maybe she will get better. Maybe fall will come early. Maybe I will write my first song. Maybe I will have something to write about. I feel ridiculous. I feel like that woodpecker on the tree I play by. He pecks, he pecks, he pecks, as if his life’s purpose is to slam his head against the tree. Writer’s block. DAY 2

commonality between religions, should that change how we feel about our own? Not only that, but what does it mean to learn truth from a fantasy writer? Young says, “Lewis helps us to think through some of our beliefs more clearly. He helps us to understand them more deeply.” We learn absolute truth from revelation, Young explains, but it by no means follows that we have an absolute understanding of that truth. Latter-day Saints are able to discern and understand truth when they seek “words of wisdom” out of “the best books.”19 The works of C. S. Lewis, with their logical approach to doctrine and simple testimony of Christ, could qualify as “words of wisdom.” Jardine comments on Lewis’s effect on young people especially: “Lewis’s description of his Christian faith— clear and compelling—has enriched the faith of many young Latter-day Saints as their education intersected with and sometimes challenged their beliefs.”20 Judging by the number of C. S. Lewis courses at universities across the country (DeWitt’s, Young’s, and many others), this is not a Latter-day Saint phenomenon either. As Millet puts it, “We ought to be open to truth wherever it’s found,” and Lewis presents truth to Christians of every camp and of every age. He brings to light the common threads that unite all Christians and brings a fascination to theology that likely is a result of his dramatic conversion

and his rich imagination. And, of course, as Young points out, Lewis is just “dang enjoyable” for Latter-day Saints, for evangelicals, for Orthodox Christians, and for every Christian in between. As Lewis notes, each Christian has a preferred room, but all of us are in the same hallway. n

1 “C. S. Lewis,”, last modified August 6, 2009, christianity/people/cslewis_1.shtml. 2 Dan DeWitt, “An Old Typewriter & a Good Reminder,” Theolatte (blog), July 24, 2013, http://www. 3 C. S. Lewis, Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life (New York: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1955), 237. 4 Bruce Young, personal interview with the author, October 9, 2013. 5 Robert Millet, personal interview with the author, October 30, 2013. 6 James Jardine, “C. S. Lewis’ writings have profound effect on Latter-day Saints,” Deseret News, November 22, 2013, 7 Dan DeWitt, e-mail message to the author, October 18, 2013. 8 Tim Chambers, “Notes on Mere Christianity,”, last modified April 25, 1996, http://home. 9 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan, 1952), xi. 10 Robert L. Millet, introduction to C. S. Lewis: The Man and His Message, ed. Andrew C. Skinner and Robert L. Millet (Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1999), 4. 11 John Ezard, “Narnia books attacked as racist and sexist,” The Guardian, June 3, 2002, http://www. 12 Bruce Young, e-mail message to the author, March 5, 2014. 13 John Ezard, “Narnia books attacked as racist and sexist,” The Guardian, June 3, 2002, http://www. 14 Kyrie O’Connor, “Lewis’ prejudices tarnish fifth ‘Narnia’ book,” Seattle Pi, December 2, 2005, http:// 15 C. S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), 4. 16 Jennie Renton, “The story behind the Potter legend: J.K. Rowling talks about how she created the Harry Potter books and the magic of Harry Potter’s world,”, October 28, 2001, http:// 17 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, xi. 18 Dan DeWitt, e-mail message to the author, October 17, 2013. 19 D&C 88:118 20 James Jardine, “C. S. Lewis' Writings.”


I sat by a tree for forty minutes playing the same two chords—G, C, G, C. Thinking that if I kept on doing it, I would be able to weasel my way into being a musician. It turns out that weasels are only meant to be hunted—they don’t write songs. DAY 4

If I were a song I would write myself; then again, I’m not. But what if songs are not much different than humans? What if they say, “Hi, how are you, Honeydoo?” just like my mom used to? Can songs live forever? Do songs heal or make things harder? What if life imitates songs? We walk to rhythms, the air conditioner hums to bass lines, and I think in melody. Nobody really sings though. We all just grumble instead. I still feel like that woodpecker. DAY 5

Today the first line to my song is “The woodpecker has no friends.” I want to sing life and not grumble it. It feels right to write about writing, to write about my constant writer’s block as embodied by a woodpecker. Maybe this will be the second: “He pecks, and he pecks, and he pecks. / It’s enough to make the old wood hum.” “Hum.” What a word. You say it and you never want to open your mouth. Almost as if you are meditating like Gandhi. He never opened his mouth. Even as they beat


I have the first few verses down, but I am scared people won’t get it. The meaning is ________________. I know the meaning, but my meaning is mine. I will protect it like how that momma raccoon almost bit me for getting too close to her babies. Her nest is by the tree I play at. If you want to know my meaning I will bite you. Go have your own raccoon babies. DAY 7

I walked over to my spot by the third-hole fairway of Peter Jane’s Golf Course. I sat down by the hollowed willow tree and looked inside to see if I could make amends with the momma raccoon. She was dead. I cried. I cried because I was angry. Because I knew that it was disease that beat her. Disease doesn’t feel. I cried because disease is that woodpecker that pecks till you give up. I cried because I saw the little raccoon babies alive and clueless. DAY 8

The song’s done. I didn’t realize that it was done until today. I wrote the other lyrics based on what I wrote in my journal. I wrote them about the momma raccoon, Gandhi, and weasels. My friends told me to go play my song downtown, so I did. Not because my friends told me to but because I wanted to know what it felt like. I found a bench. It is autumn, so I had an orchestra of wind-blown leaves to back me up. Much better than a woodpecker. I played my song. As I hummed like Gandhi, an older lady with a scarf wrapped around her head, like she was hiding something, came and sat on the bench next to me. I was scared because she reminded me of the momma raccoon, but I kept my mouth closed because the humming felt so good. I felt like my mom was telling me, “How do you do, Honeydoo?” and I couldn’t stop humming. The lady with the scarfed head smiled and nodded in my direction, then walked down Fifth Avenue. n


INSIGHT experience honors

“As Lewis notes, each Christian has a preferred room, but all of us are in the same hallway.”

I looked for a good spot today to write. I came home tired. Spots are overrated.

him. He didn’t even open his mouth for food. Didn’t he say, “Nobody can hurt me without my permission”? The idea could find its way into my chorus.


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The Fabric of Sisterhood


AB O U T THE P HOTO GR AP HE R Melanie Bunker is studying exercise and wellness at byu with a goal to be a pediatric occupational therapist. Though she’s originally from Arizona, Melanie also grew up in Bangkok, Thailand, and she has visited Bhutan, Laos, Israel, Turkey, and Egypt. Besides taking beautiful landscape shots, her favorite photos are unplanned, split-second pictures of everyday people going about their lives.


INSIGHT experience honors

I stand still and watch the small heads in black scarves bob up and down, as though in time to music. Some women are chatting, keeping an eye on each other’s children. Other women stand in brighter garb; some are methodically making their way to the Wall. To my right is a small circle of young women, many of them soldiers wearing khaki and combat boots, arms around each other, singing and dancing. I hold the English and Hebrew prayer book I was handed upon entering the plaza, wondering if I should open it, if it would help me blend in.




Israel with her husband, Joe Brodie, a rabbi of forty-seven years. The Kotel is one of many gathering places within Judaism; Erica expresses the sense of kinship she feels when she visits a shiva house (a house in mourning), and at other cultural or religious gatherings. “Go to a Jewish wedding,” she says. “Every mother is happy for the mother of the bride or groom who is marrying off a child. It’s written on their faces.” Gatherings like these kindle sisterhood. I dismount from my white plastic chair, now unsure of how to proceed. Although the diversity of dress among the women here helps me, a non-Jew and a tourist, feel more assimilated, I don’t know how to act. The girls I came with who also live with me in the Jerusalem Center, are traversing the holy ground in small groups, either in an attempt to share the experience with friends or because they feel it is better not to be uncomfortable and alone. Some Jerusalem Center girls have joined the circles of singing twenty-somethings and are trying their best to follow along with the prayers. I decide to weave my way towards the Western Wall itself, through strollers and worshippers. I take care to avoid the many women who are retreating backwards from the Wall, so as not to turn their backs to it. As I near the Wall, almost every woman there is rocking back and forth, some in quick, bowing motions, others bending at the waist and rotating in small circles. They create a harmony with their bodies, every tempo unique, the rhythm entrancing. Their faces are pressed against the pages of their prayer books so they cannot read the print. The unity I sense at the Kotel feels real, but those diverse, syncopated rhythms are indicative of the divisions Jewish women have experienced in recent years. The Women of the Wall (WoW) women move fiercely, their cadence quick and confident. In April 2013, they won the right for women





“An almost tangible energy exists here, created by the unity of women worshipping together in earnest.”


INSIGHT experience honors


t’s Friday night in Jerusalem, and hundreds of Jews from all sects have come to the Western Wall, or Kotel, the only remaining wall of the Temple Mount, to welcome in the Shabbat. Although all sects worship together, all sexes do not. When I entered the Kotel plaza, I was directed to the one-fourth of the Wall that constitutes the women’s side. A woven wooden divider stands seven feet high between the men and women, lined by white plastic chairs. Girls and old ladies are taking turns standing on the chairs, steadying each other, peering over into the men’s side to catch a glimpse of their festivities. When I finally clamber up onto a chair of my own, I see an ocean of celebration. Right next to the Wall itself, fathers and sons are violently rocking back and forth on their heels, their heads covered by small kippot, furry shtreimlech, or the dazzling white and stark blue of tallitot. Farther from the Western Wall, men are leaping, shouting prayers to the heavens, surrounded by family and strangers. When Jews gather at the Kotel every Friday, they are united by the ritual prayers, singing, dancing, and general ecstasy that accompanies their gathering. As Ashley Brocious, former Jerusalem Center student, noted, “There is something about community, just physically being next to people.”1 The Kotel creates this community by being a gathering place, a place where people come together physically and leave bound together emotionally and spiritually. The Kotel is also a gathering place for Jewish women of diverse lifestyles, but despite the disparity of their beliefs, an almost tangible energy exists here, created by the unity of women worshipping together in earnest. “There is great power to prayer in numbers,” Erica Goldman-Brodie tells me.2 Erica is a sixty-eight-year-old Jewish woman from New York City who spends two months every summer in



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to don prayer shawls, tallitot, and other prayer adornments, tefillin,3 at the Western Wall. This behavior is opposed by orthodox Jews, the Haredi.4 Barbara Sofer, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, proclaims that WoW marches to a beat of freedom for women from orthodox oppression, blowing in a wind of change.5 Ronit Peskin and the Women for the Wall movement claim that WoW does not seek honest prayer, but “political provocation.”6 Their rhythm is too harsh, too overpowering. Peskin says, “[Orthodoxy] was a path I chose. . . . Implying that I’m doing what I do merely because I’m subjugated by men is insulting to me, insulting to my intelligence, insulting to the men I love, and insulting to the entire population of [Haredi] women. . . . I don’t need you to rescue me.”7 Her rhythm, perhaps steadier but no less assertive, pushes back against WoW’s, creating cacophony rather than the harmony of bodies I witnessed at the Kotel. These wrenching divisions cause women like Jerusalem-based editor Deena Nataf to plead with WoW: “Dear sisters, discontinue your insistence on praying your way at the Kotel . . . for the sake of Jewish unity.”8 Whether women believe in the religious sincerity of the WoW movement or not, these varied opinions do not help stitch together the fabric of Jewish sisterhood, already ripped from the stress. Ashley Brocious thinks that what most often stands between people is their unwillingness to take each other’s concerns seriously. It is when women start to compete and compare, to feel threatened by the choices and questions of others, that sisterhood begins to crumble and the power of unity to wane. At the Kotel, I am packed together in this small section of the plaza with many women, and we are all forced to rub shoulders and wait quietly for our turn to pray, our hands or foreheads pressed against the Western Wall; we put our written prayers in a crack already overflowing with the supplications of others. The women I pass or stand next to, those who are not praying, give me small, knowing smiles. I wonder if they laugh at how obviously out of place I am, but there is more welcome than mockery in their gazes. When Erica Goldman-Brodie visits the Kotel, she pays attention to the women there. She notices the “sincerity and eagerness of their supplications” and asks God to


“answer a particular woman’s prayers because she seems so sincere and distraught.”9 Being physically next to someone forces you to confront their reality and either ignore it or internalize it. Erica notices the women around her and recognizes herself and her own desires in them. “I often look at a woman and wonder what it is she’s praying for.” For me, sisterhood is a feeling, but it is also a choice, a choice to expand my family circle in a lasting way. To stitch together the sisterhood I feel a part of, I have had to choose to love the women around me. By focusing on our similarities instead of our differences, we risk our individuality but gain the power of unity. There is power in numbers and in sisterhood, the same power recorded in the Bible with the stories of Naomi and Ruth, Mary and Elizabeth. I feel this power on the women’s side of the Kotel; even if I do not know these women or share their beliefs, and even if I seem out of place, I am connected to them by a sacred, shared moment. Here we are all sisters; together, we worship our Father whom we call God. At the Western Wall, a grandmother prays, head in her prayer book, rocking back and forth in her white plastic chair. Her trembling fingers accidentally let the book fall, but small, smooth hands retrieve the book from the dirty, sacred ground. The young girl kisses the cover before she returns it to the wrinkled hands. They exchange smiles as another generation is woven into the eternal fabric of sisterhood. n Ashley Brocious, personal interview with author, September 29, 2013. Erica Goldman-Brodie, email message to author, September 30, 2013. 3 Leather strips and small boxes that hold pieces of scripture against the wearer’s arm and forehead. 4 Jeffery Sharon. “Historic victory in court for Women of the Wall.” The Jerusalem Post ( Jerusalem), April 25, 2013. 5 Barbara Sofer. “The Human Spirit: Religious times are a-changin’.” The Jerusalem Post ( Jerusalem), May 23, 2013. 6 Ronit Peskin. “What’s wrong with the Women of the Wall?” The Jerusalem Post ( Jerusalem), August 5, 2013. Whats-wrong-with-Women-of-the-Wall-322125. 7 Jonathan Rosenblum. “The feminist story the media missed at the Kotel.” The Jerusalem Post ( Jerusalem), May 16, 2013. The-feminist-story-the-media-missed-at-the-Kotel-313369. 8 Deena Nataf. “The other Women of the Wall.” The Jerusalem Post ( Jerusalem), May 13, 2013. 9 Erica Goldman-Brodie, email message to author, September 30, 2013. 1



INSIGHT experience honors

“Even if I do not know these women or share their beliefs, and even if I seem out of place, I am connected to them by a sacred, shared moment.”




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AT TH E B E ACH I N O U T E R B A NK S, NC, 2 00 1




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D I EG O, CA 19 9 5

have always lived my life by semesters. The Christmas tree never goes up until after finals week. In high school, spring break usually consisted of going down to southern Utah for the weekend because my parents had to teach the rest of the week. When a voice on the phone asked, “Is Dr. Nielson there?” I would reply, “Which one?” And when my parents say their marriage is all about politics and chemistry, it’s not a figure of speech. My mom, Jennifer Nielson, is a chemistry professor; my dad, Daniel Nielson, is a political science professor. Both teach at BYU. When other students discover I am the daughter of two professors, they sometimes ask if I get a full scholarship to BYU. I don’t—just half, like students with one professor parent. I often joke that I’ve made my own mac-n-cheese enough times to warrant the other half of the scholarship, but the truth is, I do not have absentee parents. My parents, thanks to the flexibility of their departments, have been able to plan their teaching schedules and office hours so that someone is always home for the children. They attend as many of our cross-country meets, band performances, and singing gigs as possible. When I was living at home, I would protest, “I know you’re busy; you don’t have to come.” My parents felt it was important for them to support my activities and passions, and even though I didn’t know it at the time, I felt the same way. Mom says their academic lifestyle has lent itself to family life. But my parents’ way of life has not succeeded without effort. Mom says that when she started teaching again after a five-year hiatus, she put sticky notes on the dashboard of our van to remind her to really listen to her children and be with us. She also had a rear-view mirror pendant of the DreamWorks character Gumby to remind her to always be flexible. Dad made time for a nightly round of either Worldwide Wrestling Dad or Dr. Kisses and Mr. Tickles. I was born when my parents were both in graduate school. First Mom took off three months of school to care for me, then Dad did. When they finally graduated, they let their three-and-a-half-year-old daughter (me) take a picture of them with their dissertations. Looking at the



“ Often, dinner table conversations ended with Dad launching into yet another lecture, complete with citations for the studies he was referencing.”

picture now, I’m sure the smiles on their faces reflect their triumph over six years of sacrifice and sleepless nights, but I’ll never know—the picture only captures them from the neck down. My parents view each other as equals in every arena, not just parenthood. “We’re intellectual equals,” Dad points out. Then he laughs and shakes his head. “No, your mom’s always been smarter than me.” Mom says Dad has a mindset focused on growth and noted this as a major reason why their marriage is very much an open forum. “Dad’s not threatened by a smart woman. He wants to learn from everyone—from his undergrads to the best in his and others’ fields.” Dad said he and Mom were initially attracted to each other by a mutual love of ideas, a love that has

been consistent throughout their twenty-five years of marriage. I remember walking into Mom and Dad’s bedroom for a goodnight kiss; I would often find them sitting up in bed with glasses on, reading by the light of their bedside table lamps, holding hands between page turns. I would come home from cross-country practice to the two of them sitting at their corner of the kitchen table, faces pensive, alternating typing and reading. Dad says it’s easier to coordinate when you work at the same corner of the kitchen table. Sometimes, in order to get his attention when he’s sitting next to her, Mom emails Dad the message, “Hey, can we talk?” It was at the family dinner table, with a stack of organic chemistry tests looming at one end, that my sister, brother, and I were most immersed in my parents’ life of ideas. Often, dinner table conversations ended with Dad launching into yet another lecture, complete with citations for the studies he was referencing. We have heard some of them so many times, my siblings and I can almost quote them: the Ketchup lecture, the Deliberate Practice lecture, the Flow lecture. When my friends came to dinner, I was embarrassed and exasperated by Dad’s dominance in the conversation. But, more often than not, I would find myself using the same citations in my own conversations throughout the week. My parents encourage their children to carry out their own research and experiments. Once, when my brother was about two years old, my mom discovered him conducting an experiment on the living room carpet. He had assembled different dry drink mixes (hot chocolate, Gatorade, horchata) into little piles and was methodically pouring various liquids (apple juice, milk, Sprite) onto each of them in turn. Seemingly unfazed by the damage, Mom picked up her grubby baby and cooed, “My little scientist.” Throughout my years of college, my parents have encouraged me to earnestly seek education and explore new ideas. Because of the path my mom took, with all its flexing and compromise, I have never doubted my ability to pursue a major in science or a career as a neuroscience professor. The hard part about being the child of two professors, the example of a couple who has done it all, is imagining that my life dreams may not work out as well as theirs have. Dad says that being married to Mom means “we get to review unknown parts of our ignorance together. It’s like taking a vacation, but to a new spot in the world of ideas.” Both Honors graduates, they’ve always wanted to teach an Honors class together on famous couples in intellectual history and how those couples accomplished more because they worked together. Seems pretty appropriate to me. n


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INSIGHT experience honors




An Experiment in Solitude


of Social Behavior, solitude is the act of disengaging from social inhibitions and routines. A new situation and a lack of external stimuli allow for more creative thought processes, increased spirituality, and an enhanced ability to form intimate relationships.2 What this meant for me was that sandwiching thirty minutes of solitude in as I walked to class didn’t quite cut it: not because it’s impossible to think while you walk, but because if you’re aware of the people you pass on the street you are disengaging from social communication rather than social inhibition. Disengagement from society makes solitude possible, but it also allows for loneliness. Because solitary experiences and lonely experiences are physically identical, the difference seems to lie within the person having the experience. A recent study found that among Canadian university students, the most significant factor in decreasing loneliness was whether or not students believed that other people supported them.3 Believing that others would support them benefited those students whether or not those supportive relationships were physically there. In this sense, solitude requires an ability to be confidently alone; a belief that you are alone by choice. Making the choice to be alone can seem impossible as a college student, but sometimes involuntary loneliness

Solitude by the Numbers:






OF WAKING TIME SP E N T ALONE BY ADULT HUMANS 1 Anthony Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self (New York: Free Press, 1988), 32–35. 2 Christopher R. Long and James R. Averill, “Solitude: An Exploration of Benefits of Being Alone,” Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour 33, no. 1 (2003): 23, accessed February 24, 2014, doi: 10.1111/1468-5914.00204. 3 Stephanie Bernardon et al., “Loneliness, Attachment, and the Perception and Use of Social Support in University Students,” Canadian Journal of Behavioural Science 43, no. 1 (2011): 48–49, doi: 10.1037/a0021199. 4 Storr, Solitude: A Return to the Self, 198-199. 5 “Paul Tillich quotes,”, accessed December 17, 2013, author/Paul+Tillich. 6 Helen Bales, “The Meaning of Solitude in the Lives of Creative Writers,” (PhD diss., University of Tennessee, Knoxville, 1998), 91. 7 Ibid., 106.


INSIGHT INSIGHT experience honors


’ve been sitting alone at my desk for fifteen minutes when I realize that no one can see me. No one knows or cares what I do. So I take my shoes off. I pull my hair down. Then I lean back into my chair and breathe deeply. Reaching down into the tangled conglomeration of my thoughts, I start to pull out one question at a time and feel my way towards an answer. As a college student, being alone can seem not just impossible but undesirable. But in 1988, psychologist Anthony Storr’s landmark book Solitude: A Return to the Self challenged popular opinion and dominant theories in the field of psychology by arguing that solitude is not only an important part of creativity but of being happy.1 Psychologists have traditionally linked time spent alone with loneliness, pain, and depression. Solitude, in contrast, has been associated with creativity, self-awareness, and emotional healing. I wanted to understand the difference between loneliness and solitude because I wanted to find a refuge within myself, and I wanted to be happy. So I decided to try solitude out: for thirty minutes every day I would turn off my phone, put away my books and my laptop, and be completely alone. Solitude, however, is more than just being alone. According to a 2003 study from the Journal for the Theory

can precede a decision to experience solitude. Several years ago, long before I knew anything about Anthony Storr or Canadian university students, I sat on some steps outside an apartment in a different country. Then, too, I felt loneliness gnaw on the back of my mind and a sort of desperate sadness permeate my thoughts. But it was how alone I felt in that country that gave me the space I needed to grow confident in my ability to be alone, and thereby discover and trust my own answers to some of the biggest questions of my life. In my experience, solitude both requires and enables us to come to know ourselves. Storr explains this concept in Solitude by describing the habit of “active imagination,” a state in which thoughts are allowed to flow freely but judgment is suspended. According to Storr, this allowed his patients to become acquainted with their own innermost thoughts. He writes that taking the time to come to know themselves allowed his patients to discern which thoughts were not helpful, change those thoughts, and heal. This healing made further solitary experiences possible, but it was also part of an “inner change of attitude” that led to spiritual peace.4 The theologian Paul Tillich wrote, “Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.”5 However, according to psychologist Helen Bales, loneliness and solitude are not mutually exclusive. In her 1998 study, Bales found that authors confronted fears brought by loneliness before accessing a deeper level of creativity.6 While researchers recognize the potentially destructive effects of loneliness, the pain of being alone may also be an essential part of a growing process that allows us to enjoy the creative and emotional benefits of solitude. As I practiced solitude, I found that I could not do it every day: I was busy, and the bright light of selfexamination was exhausting. However, when I made the choice to sit alone and let my fears and insecurities pass through me, it became very quiet in my head, and I was able to distinguish the thoughts that mattered. I came to the same conclusion as Helen Bales: “solitude is a way of being in the world, not simply being in the presence or absence of others or the lack of communication. A person in solitude communicates with herself.” 7 A week and a half after my experiment, I went alone to sit in the middle of Rock Canyon to try to quiet my mind and listen to the vibration of dry weeds in the wind. With my hands pinched beneath me on the small hard rocks and my face cold from the widening blue sky, I remembered that questions are just as valuable as answers, and it is when I am alone that I am most certain that everything is connected. n




I used to tell my friends what would happen when my family was rich. Along the side of a baked asphalt road we’d walk, and as we walked, we’d pull long, brown grasses up by the stems and twirl them in our fingers, and I would explain that my family was going to go to Europe, or buy a boat, or have a bigger house—when we were rich. he only thing that set me apart from any other daydreaming kid was that I didn’t think I was daydreaming at all. Unlike my cousins, who lived in the green-grass, small-trees, lawn-edging city of Fairview, I had never been rich. My father was a professor while I was growing up. Well, my father is a lot of things. Sometimes he’s angry, especially when it’s 10:30 at night and the two girls are still playing with Fashion Polly in the bathroom sink. A lot of the time, he’s funny. He always gets a sparkle in his eye whenever he thinks of something especially inappropriate to say. Most of the time, he’s pulling your leg. My father can deadpan like nobody’s business. But I digress. My father was a professor, and though professors make a lot of things, one of those things is not money. My family lived on a combination of low means and credit cards. If that meant I had never been to Disneyland even though I’d lived in California, or if it meant we had to drive a turquoise ’94 Ford Taurus, or if I had to shop at Target and not at the mall—that was okay. We could get by. When I was ten, my dad was abruptly no longer a professor. I knew he hadn’t gotten fired—that was for sure—and, therefore, he had decided to quit, and if he had decided to quit, that must have meant everything was

under control. Of all the things my dad was, the most important was always right. It turned out my dad had decided to start a business with his younger brother. Called musiqlink, it was based on the premise that music is more than an auditory experience. My dad and his brother would traipse around to different music festivals, shooting live, interviewing musicians, and getting personal performances. They had a large focus on Americana and bluegrass. Once they got an armchair performance from the writer of the 1978 Don Williams chart-topper “Tulsa Time.” Together, the two brothers had big plans to revolutionize the music industry. Right now, our family had to live off less so we could hit it rich in the near future. So that was what I told my Fairview-bred cousin while we lingered in the shade of a row of poplar trees. Above our head, blue sky and white sun poured down. “And the thing is, I actually mean when we’re rich,” I clarified. “Cause it’s either that or we’re screwed at this point.” Melissa did not reply. She just listened. At the same time, I was reentering school. It had been two years since I encountered school lunch; two years since I experienced those Styrofoam plates with the little trays


INSIGHT experience honors




that really want to keep your food separate, but can’t stop the beans from running into the cake and the wilted veggies from falling on the mashed potatoes; two years since I stood in the long line out and down the hall, read my name to the plump lady with the homedyed bob, and pulled the cold chocolate milk, slightly soggy, out of the black plastic carton. After homeschooling, everything seemed sort of magical. I even ate the cardboard rolls—the ones with the little things sprinkled over the top that look like oats or seeds but are probably just sawdust. So when my mom announced we could no longer afford school lunch and started sending me to school with peanut butter sandwiches on homemade bread—the same one every day—it was hard to feign indifference. I’d never been indifferent, actually. I was passionate about musiqlink, about my dad’s genius and our glittering future that waited around the corner—or the next corner—or the next. As I reached the end of elementary school, my vision of junior high was embellished by the fact that, by the eighth grade, I would be rich. I would be friends with all the popular kids. I would wear Aeropostale t-shirts and sweats, I would dye my hair blond, and I would make funny faces to the camera and play church volleyball with Leah Romero. Around the time I was swallowed up by the currents of middle school, musiqlink faded from existence. My dad and his brother had a new, better idea: Spark. It would be like Facebook, or a glorified Twitter. It was the new big thing in online media. My dad spent hours designing logos and webpages, developing concepts, and pitching the idea to potential investors. We were all very supportive. “What do you think of this logo?” my dad would ask. Looking up from my homework, which lay spread across the guest bed, I would slide to the floor and lean over his shoulder. “Which one do you prefer? I feel like the triangle here indicates a sort of movement.”

He gestured with his hands. “As if it’s sparking the flame. I think it visually enhances the metaphor. Can you see that?” “Yeah, I can see that,” I said, trying to sound positive. Staying positive was becoming more difficult. It wasn’t so much that I minded being poor—getting food from the bishop’s storehouse was actually kind of fun, and helping out there was even more so. Anyway, they had good jam. And the “service presents” we gave each other for Christmas were almost better than normal gifts. Some things were harder to adjust to, though, like waking up one December morning to find neatly wrapped packages on our front porch. The worst part was opening them and realizing this anonymous family didn’t really even know us. My sister, a little girl who would rather play with mud than dolls, got a Barbie. I could just picture those glowing little faces, beaming with excitement as they ran back to their parents, who waited in the warm car to congratulate their selfless giving and then drive them home for some hot cocoa. I wanted to take that stupid Barbie doll and throw it at them. Or there were times when people talked about what they did that summer, or what they got for Christmas. I remember sitting in Mrs. Griffith’s class, hovering on the edge of my seat as I waited to tell the exciting news—I had gotten a cell phone! Sure, it was a fivebuck Virgin Mobile from Walmart, but it was still a phone. “Did you get anything cool?” I asked Cassie, after making my announcement. With an indifferent shrug, she said, “I got a Razr”—as if the Razr weren’t the most hip cell phone of my generation. I wasn’t sure whether to feel disgusted or deflated. Then a year or so later, in Mrs. Casey’s German class, Katy Becker babbled on about her cruise to the Bahamas, and I locked my eyes on the desk. Katy’s dad was a lawyer. She didn’t know about hand-me-downs or

storehouse canned soup or scrounging under the aisle for the coins you just dropped so you can afford Thanksgiving. Her dad probably wasn’t a genius, though. Yes—I still had faith in mine. With our sleeping bags spread out across the basement floor, I told my cousins all the reasons why the world needed Spark. Amy didn’t get it, and she told me so. Whatever, I thought. It’s just Amy. She’s born rude. This is going to be big. I was sure of that, even after my older brother started muttering things under his breath and shooting my father derisive looks. I was sure of it even after the fights, when my dad shouted, “You’re getting nothing! None of our inheritance money is going to you!” and Nathan replied, “It’s not like there’s gonna be any money to inherit.” In fact, it was only when my mom showed signs of caving that I began to wonder if we’d ever be rich at all. My mom is stoic. She is the spot of sanity that keeps our family from disintegrating into chaos. She is so sane and collected that, in those rare moments when she acts a little tense or wacky, we all commence with either judging or feeling very, very scared.

One weekday afternoon, after I’d gotten home from school, she let me know about her ultimatum. “I told him in three months, he either has to have a job, or Spark has to have produced some revenue.” Then I started finding books around the house with titles like How to File for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy. I learned that we still had a house because of church welfare, miracles, and checks from my dad’s brother. Speaking of miracles—once, I was four feet away from the car when my mom was rear-ended by someone going 30 miles per hour in a school driveway. I remember seeing our parked car move forward several feet. There’s still a dent. We lived off the chunk of money from that driver’s insurance for a good year. I don’t remember a specific moment when my thinking changed. By the time I was in high school, I know I would stay silent when Nathan called my dad lazy. Sometimes my mom and I would be talking, and something about musiqlink or Spark would come up, and we would exchange a kind of knowing sigh or a laugh—one of those laugh-or-cry laughs. I mostly remember that when I was a kid, I

used to tell people we’d be rich one day. Now, I tell people that my dad had a midlife crisis. And I explain that I cannot throw away the smashed and gooey remnants of yesterday’s peanut butter sandwich, because it’s still food. These days, my dad has a relatively stable job, but we’re not rich. My mom teaches piano for supplement money. I pay my own way through college, and sometimes—I’ll muster the courage to confess—sometimes I still dream. Maybe just a little. And even if I don’t care what kind of car I drive, or how big my house is, or whether my future husband is a doctor; well, I still have detailed plans about my future, and they’re not much more realistic. I have talent, I have intelligence, I have potential, and I don’t want to waste it behind a desk or a kitchen sink. It’s then I realize I have more of my dad in me than I sometimes think. n

CO N TE ST WI N N E R S “A Confession” by Sarah Carman won third place for Narrative in the 2013 English Department’s Writing 150 Contest; “Quaking Aspens” by Robert Munk won the Insight Fall 2013 photography contest, and “A Misty Morning on the Lake” by Emily-Jane Proudfoot won the Insight Winter 2014 photography contest.


INSIGHT experience honors

“ Some things were harder to adjust to, though, like waking up one December morning to find neatly wrapped packages on our front porch.”

INSIGHT experience honors



Insight 2014