creativity genius character reflection ideas curiosity innovation light
and mentoring us; this issue builds on his framework. Thanks to all of the creative individuals who contributed. —M & SK
THANKS TO ALL THE STUDENTS of the Insight staff, as well as Cheri and Lisa. In particular, we’d like to thank Craig for inspiring
highlighting the work of talented artists. We hope you enjoy reading this issue as much as we’ve enjoyed creating it for you!
itself, is all about exploring creative and innovative endeavors. Inspired by our love for art and design, we initally envisioned an issue
NOW, TWO YEARS LATER, we, as the art and design team, get to introduce YOU to this year’s issue of Insight, which, like the class
needless to say, it was a party. We couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to the Honors way of learning through this.
RT DIRECTOR AND
classmates. In class, ideas for articles were tossed around the room, students gathered in groups to brainstorm and collaborate—
class, we thought: “What are we getting ourselves into?” Soon, we loved being a part of Insight, a community of lively, enthusiastic
REMINISCE WITH US FOR A MOMENT: Two years ago we joined the Insight staff, bright-eyed and ready to learn. After the first
OTE FROM THE
ERE IS THE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
honoring creativity SPECIAL SECTION:
14 Disappearing Beauty: Spiral Jetty 18 Old Art, New Vision: Ukiyo-e Heroes 20 The Transformative Power of Light: Photography of Val Brinkerhoff 26 From Cursed to Acclaimed: Mr. Bellpond Film Project 30 Leaving a Trace: A Photo Essay
Insight A PUBLICATION OF
BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY HONORS PROGRAM 350 MAESER BUILDING PROVO, UT 84602-2600 Managing Editors CHERI PRAY EARL LISA BERNOTSKI JOHNSON Creative Director SARAH KAY BRIMHALL (’15) Art Director OLIVIA MAUDE LEE (’15) Design Consultant CRAIG MANGUM (’14) Webmaster LAUREN FINE (’14) Web Editor CARMEN DUNFORD BAILEY (’13) Photographer JOEY NELSON (’15) Senior Editors CHELSEA ADAMS (’13) AMY VANDENBRINK (’13) Associate Editors RYAN BROWN (’14) DANIELLA SUBIETTA (’14) Assistant Editors SIÂN-AMY BALDOCK (’13) FELICITY WARREN (’15) MICKELL SUMMERHAYS (’13)
Insight Style Guide Staff JONATHAN BOWEN, Designer (‘16) MICKELL SUMMERHAYS (’13) AND KATIE PIKE (’15), editors Writing Staff JONATHAN BOWEN (’15) KATIE PIKE (’15) SARAH DECKER (‘14) KAREN SULLIVAN (’13) CRAIG MANGUM (’14)
54 DEPARTMENTS 02 Note From the Art Director and Creative Director 06 Off the Shelf: Professor Edition 38 A Conversation with the Dean 60 Reflections: On Chess
HONORING FAITH 08 The Conflicted Saint: William E. McLellin and His Papers 32 Giving God a Voice: A Theistic Approach to Psychology
HONORING EXPERIENCES 40 Finding Character: Casting and Courage in The Phantom of the Opera
HONORING PEOPLE 10 Reflections from Yad Vashem: A Tribute to the Children of the Holocaust 43 Standing on the Promises: Margaret Young and Darius Gray 46 The Genius of Madness
HONORING ACADEMICS 52 The Hardest Test You’ll (Probably) Never Take 54 Creating Something Worthwhile: A Look at Recent Honors Theses
Publisher JOSEPH DOUGLAS PARRY Honors Program Director and Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education Honors Faculty Council (HFC) JOEL GRIFFITTS, Microbiology and Molecular Biology KEITH LAWRENCE, English SCOTT STEFFENSEN, Psychology SEAN WARNICK, Computer Science Front and back cover photographs by Julie Ransom.
OFF THE SHELF
CAROL LYNCH WILLIAMS
Creative Writing, Poetry
CREATIVE PUBLICATION: Scholar of Moab, Torrey House Press
CREATIVE PUBLICATION: Genius Loci, Tampa up (2013)—
CREATIVE PUBLICATION: Waiting, Simon & Schuster (2012)—a novel
Bottom of the Ninth, app for iPad (2012)— first animated comic book that combines a traditional comic book layout with 2d and 3d animation AWARDS: Best Entertainment App of 2012 by Apps magazine
(2011)—a novel AWARDS: Best 2011 Novel from the Association of Mormon Letters PREMISE: “Hyrum Thane, a high-school dropout, has an inspira-
tion that he’s supposed to be a scholar.” MOTIVATION: “I’ve always liked writing—at night, just to relax, I write.” INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS: Kurt Vonnegut, Ray Bradbury, George Eliot HARDEST PART OF WRITING: “Editing. I do it because I have to, but I hate it.” FAVORITE PART OF WRITING: “The character of the conjoined twins. One day they just rode up and demanded to be written into the story.” “Some writing blogs talk about outlining the plot and the characters. I’ve never written like that. I just go. Sometimes I don’t know where the story’s going, and I’m surprised where it ends up. All of my writing comes out of my reading. To be a writer, you have to be a reader. That’s the secret.” CREATIVE WRITING PHILOSOPHY:
Off the Shelf PROFESSOR EDITION
hile it might not surprise you that byu’s faculty includes several award-winning creative writers, these creative writers might not be quite what you would expect. In the past two years, professors from the English, visual arts, and biology departments have published critically acclaimed creative works of poetry and fiction, as well as an animated comic book—the first of its kind. Despite the wide variety in these authors’ scholarly and creative interests, they have one thing in common: the stories they tell, and how they tell them, have caught the attention of readers and critics nationwide.
a collection of poems AWARDS: 2007 nea Literature Fellowship: Poetry, Poet Laureate of Utah
“This collection has a bit of everything: snakes, insomnia, de Chirico, water witching, duende, apocalyptic weather.” MOTIVATION: “I wrote it out of curiosity, a book that asks questions while celebrating place.” INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS: Emily Dickinson, Elaine Equi HARDEST PART OF WRITING: “I love the rush of beginning a poem and the satisfaction of final tinkering. It’s . . . the middle I find difficult.” FAVORITE PART OF WRITING: “In revising ‘Morning Salvage,’ I lopped off nearly half the poem in one sitting, which left just ten lines—true pleasure.” PREMISE:
“I like fooling around with words. Each morning is like a canyon of untracked powder. And if nothing comes of it, there’s tomorrow or next week. As Samuel Beckett says, ‘Try again. Fail again. Fail better’. ” CREATIVE WRITING PHILOSOPHY:
Creative Writing, Adolescent Novel
pen/Phyllis Naylor Working Writer Fellowship, ala Quick Picks for Reluctant ya Readers AWARDS:
PREMISE: London Castle struggles to find peace after her
brother’s suicide. MOTIVATION: “I was carrying all this grief [because of death in my life], and I didn’t know what to do so I just started writing.” INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS: John Steinbeck, Ann Dee Ellis HARDEST PART OF WRITING (THIS BOOK): “It was just sad the whole time.” FAVORITE PART OF WRITING: “When it was done.” The most important thing a writer can do is keep learning. “As soon as you stop learning, your writing isn’t so good anymore. You have to read like crazy and be willing to learn from what you read. As writers, we have to be true to ourselves, especially as Latter-day Saints. True to you, true to your character, and true to your story. Always tell the whole truth . . . from your character’s point of view.”
Baseball is just the setting. The comic book is really about a father-daughter relationship. MOTIVATION: “I’ve thought about something like an animated comic book ever since I was a kid. It was basically fulfilling a childhood dream.” INFLUENTIAL ARTISTS: My mentor at Warner Brothers, Michel Gagne HARDEST PART OF WRITING: “Putting a control on the ideas.” FAVORITE PART OF WRITING: “The exhilarating process of creation.” PREMISE:
CREATIVE WRITING PHILOSOPHY:
“In order to be truly creative, there’s a level of sensitivity you have to have. If you keep yourself pure, you can feel the stories; you’ll be able to write or animate in a way that’s coming from deep inside, not just a reaction from what other movies have done.” █ CREATIVE WRITING PHILOSOPHY:
As soon as you stop learning, your writing isn’t so good anymore. You have to read like crazy and be willing to learn from what you read.
THE CONFLICTED SAINT
“McLellin stopped believing in Joseph Smith’s prophetic ability, but he still believed in the Book of Mormon, a conflict he attempted to rectify by editing his own manuscript.”
W I L L I A M E . M C L E L L I N A N D H I S PA P E R S
Amy Vanden Brink
n the seclusion of some Jackson County, Missouri woods in 1833, three men hid for their lives from a mob. At that moment, William E. McLellin turned to the two men hiding with him and said, “Brethren, I have never seen an open vision in my life, but you men say you have, and therefore you positively know. Now you know that our lives are in danger every hour, if the mob can only catch us. In the fear of God, is that Book of Mormon true?”
With “solemnity depicted in his face,” McLellin’s companion, Oliver Cowdery, answered, “Brother William, God sent his holy angel to declare the truth of the translation of it to us, and therefore we know. And though the mob kill us, yet we must die declaring its truth.” David Whitmer, the third man, stepped in. “Oliver has told you the solemn truth, for we could not be deceived. I most truly declare its truth!” Convinced, McLellin responded, “Boys, I believe you.”1 Almost five decades after that moment in the woods, McLellin recorded the event in his notebook under “Testimonies of Men,” claiming that he still believed those two witnesses just as he did that day. But McLellin’s belief in the Church during those forty-plus years was not as steadfast as his belief in the Book of Mormon. His is a story of stubbornness, excommunications, humility, repentance, and sheets upon sheets of his personal writings that reveal his conflicted soul and his struggle to solidify his beliefs on paper. Because of the manuscripts he left behind, McLellin’s story stands out among other apostates of the early Church because
we have a written record that traces his deteriorating belief in certain aspects of the Church and the mental conflict that accompanied it. In 2012, the last manuscript of William McLellin was published, completing the collection of his writings that has become the research focus for lds scholars like Steven Harper, a historian for the lds Church who teaches part-time in the religion department at byu. He and many others have become fascinated with this paradoxical apostate apostle whom they have come to know through his personal writings. A brief sketch of McLellin’s tumultuous life in the Church includes baptism in 1831 and a mission call the same year. The revelation for that mission call is recorded as section 66 in the Doctrine and Covenants. McLellin returned early from that mission, however, and the Lord rebukes him in section 75. He began a second mission and again returned early. For this and several other reasons, he was excommunicated in 1832. He repented and returned to serve another mission the next year and was called as an apostle in 1835. That, too, ended when he was excommunicated in 1838, after which he did not come back to the Church. But as Harper writes in his introduction to the last manuscript, it is not so much the events of McLellin’s life that capture interest. Those hard facts are the bare bones. But “what is not certain . . . is the meaning McLellin found in the events he witnessed. . . . The intriguing aspect of McLellin’s history is how he interpreted and reinterpreted the same evidence.”2 Thomas G. Alexander, another scholar who wrote about McLellin, said that his most striking insight into McLellin’s writing is the apparent “human tendency to interpret the past selectively.”3
McLellin’s most recently discovered manuscript is full of that selective interpretation. In 264 pages, he takes the reader through topics such as the millennium, the two priesthoods, revelation, and other subjects of lds doctrine, each time reinterpreting them to fit his own conflicted beliefs. His writings show him wrestling between what he still knows to be true, like the Book of Mormon, and other doctrines he can no longer accept as true. Somewhere along the way, McLellin stopped believing in Joseph Smith’s prophetic ability. But because McLellin believed in the Book of Mormon, he became conflicted, finding it difficult to believe in one without believing in the other. So his manuscript shows how he resolves that conflict. He writes contradictory passages like, “[Joseph Smith] translated the Book of Mormon truly,” then on the same page compares Joseph to Saul of Israel saying “[Joseph Smith] was once inspired of God . . . yet he turned his heart away from his God, run into wickedness, and dies ‘as a fool dieth.’”4 But that explanation didn’t seem to be enough. Later, throughout the entire manuscript, edits appear after the fact in McLellin’s own handwriting. For example: “[Joseph Smith] found the plates from which he translated the Book of Mormon <was translated>.”5 “Joseph Smith was called, qualified, and appointed to <read off the> translat<ion> <of> the Book of Mormon.” Joseph Smith was a great “Prophet <Translator> of the Lord.”6 And so the messy edits continue, showing a shifting and conflicted character wrestling with his past and present beliefs. McLellin’s edits, and his essays reinterpreting lds doctrine, provide a telling journey of how his views of the Church changed with time. And they
Portrait of William E. McLellin, overlayed with images of his journal writings. Manuscript image courtesy of Brent Ashworth.
make his story stand out among others with a similar fate. The story of the mob and hiding in the woods in 1833, for instance, is fascinating because of the path Whitmer, Cowdery, and McLellin later take. Each of them held on to the testimonies they bore, yet all left the Church, as did many other saints at the time. However, McLellin is more than simply an apostate; because of the writings he left behind, he is remembered as a deep and conflicted human being who grappled with his belief and disbelief by editing and rewriting Church doctrines until they fit his shifting paradigm. Steven Harper reminds us, though, that McLellin “was both an apostle and an apostate, deserving at times of both titles, and it wasn’t his testimony that failed. It was his choices not to do what he knew was right that hurt him so much.” █ NOTES
1 Mitchell K Shaefer. “‘The Testimony of Men’: William E. McLellin and the Book of Mormon Witnesses,” BYU Studies 50:3 (2011):109. 2 Steven Harper. “Introduction” William McLellin’s Lost Manuscript, xiv. 3 Thomas G. Alexander “The Past as Decline from a Golden Age” The William E. McLellin Papers, 49. 4 Lost Manuscript, 54. 5 Ibid., 61. 6 Ibid., 146.
Reflections from Yad Vashem A TRIBUTE TO THE CHILDREN OF THE HOLOCAUST
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY OF
The Yad Vashem Digital Photo Archive
.descending hallway led to a subterranean . chamber made of glass. Inside sat three continuously lit candles. Their light bounced thousands of times off the glass walls until the room was filled with, as Dr. Daniel J. Hall tells me, “a dusting of reflections.” In the background, voices read the names of children who died in the Holocaust. A gentle breeze seemed to travel through the rooms. To Dr. Hall, then a byu singer on tour, the room “felt like starlight—like you were floating around in space. It’s hard to remember what was real and what was not.”
Now a choral professor and composer, Dr. Hall still describes this 1999 experience reverently. The exhibit, called the Children’s Memorial, is only one part of the campus-like complex in Jerusalem called the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum, built to honor and research one of the world’s darkest times. “[The staff of Yad Vashem] doesn’t want anyone to forget,” Dr. Hall says, who felt something more than a tourist’s interest in the Children’s Memorial. “Some other Holocaust museums give off feelings of darkness, angst, and suffering. The Children’s Memorial was peaceful and beautiful.” He wanted to find a way to replicate and share his experience, but he knew he could never express his poignant feelings from Yad Vashem in words. Which is why, eleven years after visiting the museum, he composed a song—a song that I had the opportunity to sing. THE LYRICS
To Dr. Hall, the Children’s Memorial sounded like the perfect inspiration for a choral piece. “I knew immediately that I wanted to write something, but [Yad Vashem] was just a place; it needed words.” Then in 2010, Phillip A. Swan of Lawrence University commissioned Dr. Hall (by then a professor at West Texas a&m University) to write a
piece for Cantala, the women’s choir at Lawrence. The plan was for the choir to sing Dr. Hall’s piece at the 2011 American Choral Directors Association (acda) national conference. So Dr. Hall went to work on the piece he’d been dreaming about since 1999. He decided to write his own lyrics for the piece, appropriately named “Reflections from Yad Vashem.” “I’d sit down and pen some words that describe my memory of [Yad Vashem], but that wasn’t enough,” he tells me. The enormity of his goal was humbling: how could he possibly capture the magnitude of so much suffering? Then he found a database on the museum’s website with the names of Holocaust victims. “My wife asked me, ‘Why don’t you use the names?’” At first, Dr. Hall was hesitant to take his piece to such an individual level. “It felt so presumptuous at first—these were actual human beings. Their names felt like sacred ground. But it felt like it was the right thing to do.” So he read through thousands of children’s names and chose a few of the most musical-sounding to use in his piece. The rest of the lyrics came more easily. Dr. Hall used Old Testament verses from Genesis; “Adonai, Ro’i, lo echsar,” the Hebrew translation of “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want,” and words from a Hebrew lullaby, “Numi, numi, Yaldati,
“I could picture the children as I sang. When we sang with that emotion, we sounded even better than before.” Numi, numi, nim,” which translates to “Sleep, sleep, my little girl, sleep, sleep.” He hoped these lines would preserve the feelings of peace and compassion he’d felt in Yad Vashem. But the main event of Dr. Hall’s piece was the theme of light. The candles in the museum had been important to him—he’d understood the reflections from their light to represent the children of the Holocaust. “I kept thinking about Abraham and ‘the stars of the sky’ and ‘the sands on the seashore.’” I, too, remembered these words from the Abrahamic Covenant, where the Lord promises Abraham innumerable posterity. Dr. Hall used the words from the covenant to remind listeners of the blessings promised to all of Israel.
CAPTIONS: A Name: Lodz, Poland, A photograph of Bela Eisen, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Isarali Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/25. Album Number: FA251/25. B Name: Lodz, Poland, A photograph of Edia Berg, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Isarali Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/74. Album Number: FA251/74. C Name: Lodz, Poland, A photograph of Bela Finkelstein, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Isarali Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/101. Album Number: FA251/101. D Photo Courtesy of Phogel via Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/derfokel/2062138135/sizes/l/in/photostream/ Inside of the Yad Vashem Memorial. E Name: Lodz, Poland, A photograph of Bot Ludmila, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Isarali Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/43. Album Number: FA251/43.
“Some other Holocaust museums give off feelings of darkness, angst, and suffering. The Children’s Memorial was peaceful and beautiful.” THE PREMIERE
Because of the time constraints enforced in the acda conference, Dr. Hall had to cut out portions of “Reflections” to make it work for Phillip Swan and Cantala. Unfortunately, Cantala didn’t end up performing it at the conference after all, and instead performed the shortened version of “Reflections” that Dr. Hall had written for them at their 2011 Spring Concert. Dr. Hall admits that though he was very happy with the skill of the choir, he wasn’t satisfied with the shortened version. “I wanted to get a full-length performance,” he says. Then, in 2011, Dr. Hall met Jean Applonie, director of the byu Women’s Chorus, at a music conference. Dr. Hall discussed “Reflections” with Sister Applonie, and she was interested in having byu’s Women’s Chorus sing it. After some collaboration on the piece—making slight changes to its musical flow—they felt it was ready for the Women’s Chorus to rehearse. As a member of the choir, I remember at first being intimidated by the piece’s tricky harmonies
and foreign names. But after perfecting these things in rehearsals, Applonie changed the choir’s focus. She asked us to recite the names of the children in the piece on our own; to let our facial expressions reflect the hope of the piece as we sang; to think of a person in our lives, living or deceased, to dedicate our performance to. As we did these things, we began to experience “Reflections” instead of just sing it. “I could picture the children as I sang,” remembers Lauren Fine, one Women’s Chorus member. “When we sang with that emotion, we sounded even better than before.” Dr. Hall agreed. The week of our Spring Concert, he visited our class in person. He told us the story of “Reflections” and how it had come about. When we performed the piece for him, he felt a power in it that he hadn’t anticipated. “You have really made this your piece,” he told us. “I couldn’t be happier with it.” On March 30, 2012, Dr. Hall entered the de Jong Concert Hall to hear the premiere of the full version of his piece, the centerpiece of our concert.
Several choir members had prepared a slideshow of pictures of children from the Holocaust to play just before “Reflections”; some also read quotes about their experiences with “Reflections” between songs. We’d done all this to prepare the audience for the piece itself. When they did hear it, the audience responded with unrestrained tears and applause. EPILOGUE
The byu Women’s Chorus performance only began the success of “Reflections.” It will go to print in 2013, and the recording of the full-length version will be the one used as the piece’s sampler online. The staff of the Yad Vashem museum itself has even asked to hear “Reflections.” Dr. Hall hopes that they will be pleased with the piece and maybe even consider using it at the museum. Overall, Dr. Hall describes his experience with “Reflections from Yad Vashem” as unique. He admits to me that he composes many of his other pieces with the publisher’s preferences in mind to make the pieces more marketable—to find a happy medium between his desires and the publisher’s. “With [“Reflections”], I just had to worry about doing what I wanted to do—what I felt inspired to do. God really moved me on this one.” Maybe that’s why I was moved, too. █
CAPTIONS: F Name: Lodz, Poland, A photograph of Henya Bornstein, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Israeli Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/107. Album Number: FA251/107. G Name: Lodz, Poland, Children at play, 1947. Belongs to collection: Yad Vashem Photo Archive. Additional Information: Children of Kibbutz Lodz after the war. The album depicts daily life, religious life, the children and their counselors. The album was presented as a gift to William Bein, by the staff of the Joint Distribution Committee. Places: LODZ,POLAND. Credit: Yad Vashem. Name of submitter: Isarali Embassy, Warsaw. Archival Signature: 3899/36. Album Number: FA251/36. The photos in this article are attributed to the Yad Vashem Digital Photo Archive which can be found at: http://www.yadvashem.org/ Photo Copyright © 2013 Yad Vashem The Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority.
honoring creative minds While the Honors Program has the practical trappings of classes, lectures, and requirements, the program’s true nature lies in the paradigm and spirit of inquisitiveness. Einstein must have envisioned this spirit of inquiry when he said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”1 Honors students seek to question, push for new questions and newer answers. As this issue of Insight began to take shape, we saw a trend emerge that mirrors the larger Honors lens: creation, innovation, expression. █ 1 Miller, William, “Old Man’s Advice to Youth: ‘Never Lose a Holy Curiosity.’” Life magazine. (May 1955): 281.
HONORING CREATIVITY 14
A GLIMPSE INTO EARTHWORK HISTORY
he white barren land gives way to a sharp blue sky. Only the occasional wisp of cloud breaks up the endless blue. Below, rosy pink water, colored by salt-tolerant bacteria and algae, reaches out to the horizon. The Spiral Jetty, carved by time, feels like an extension of the shoreline. The only noise in the area is the wind blowing through the sparse brush, the waves washing up on the shoreline, and the occasional traveler wading through the water. Speaking seems forbidden here. Sunflowers, scattered among the black boulders on the hillside, are the only familiar sight. The air smells slightly sulfuric because of the nearby salt marshes. This is a completely new experience, like stepping into a science fiction novel. That’s just what Robert Smithson had in mind when he created his Spiral Jetty; he wanted visitors to feel connected with the cosmos when they journeyed to and walked on the spiral. Smithson became obsessed with the connection between the cosmos, nature, and art when he visited southwestern Ohio in
the late 1960s. He went to see the Great Serpent Mound, the largest known serpent carving ever discovered. After a thousand years, it looks like something nature-made. To this day, anthropologists can only theorize why the work was created. Smithson, as one of the founders of the art form known as Earthworks, looked at this great snake and saw more than the remains of a long-lost ancient culture. He saw a spiraling connection between the earth and history. He saw a spiral serpent—winding through the trees on a large cliff into which time has embedded it—and he was inspired to create his most famous earthwork, the Spiral Jetty. A jetty is an earth structure that strives to protect the shoreline from nature’s storms. It is a creation meant to control nature, yet over time, storms erode it until the jetty starts to look like part of the nature it strove to control. Julie Ransom, a humanities professor at byu who takes her students to the Spiral Jetty each year, believes that Smithson had this in mind when he decided to create the Spiral Jetty. “He had some very deep ideas in his own mind about the nature of entropy and the relationships between history and place,” she says. Smithson was obsessed with the idea of entropy: that all things will progress through cycles of deterioration and re-creation, a cycle from order to chaos that will eventually result in equilibrium.
HONORING CREATIVITY 16
“The spiral is a timeless reminder of how life rarely sends us in a straight direction. If we’re smart, we get wiser with each revolution.”
“I suspect he’d be thrilled with the way the jetty has changed over time,” Ransom says. Each revolution of the Spiral Jetty is at a different stage of erosion, and it adds to the dynamics of the piece. Some revolutions are completely submerged, and others are completely exposed. Ransom isn’t surprised that Smithson chose to make his jetty a spiral. She says the spiral can be found everywhere in nature, history, and art, which fits in perfectly with his idea that all things are connected with each other, and that they change together over time. Smithson used the spiral to show that art could be part of nature instead of forced on it, and that art, carved into the land, could become a part of history. He found the spot for his spiral masterpiece at the north end of the Great Salt Lake among the ruins of a pier surrounded by junk and wreckage. Some unused oil rigs from a failed oil-drilling attempt lie in stark contrast to the polar ice cap landscape that surrounds them; the thick layer of salt that encrusts the land makes it look like perpetual winter. The jetty, snaking out of the salted land, turns this wasteland into an alien-like scene. “There’s no place like it anywhere,” Ransom says. “We would never in a million years go all the way out there unless there was this crazy spiral dumped into the water to draw us there.” The 1,500-foot long counterclockwise spiral took a lot of hard work to create. In 1970, Smithson hired Parson’s Construction, a company in Ogden, Utah, to haul the black basalt rock he would need into the lake. Two dump trucks, a tractor, a front loader, and 6,550 tons of rock later, he had the materials he needed. But Smithson, choosy about where he wanted each rock placed, spent
his time maneuvering around in a front loader until he was convinced each rock was in the right spot. When he was done, the mud and salt crystals from the Great Salt Lake began to wash over the rock and soon encrusted it with a white film. Nature provided something even Smithson couldn’t have foreseen—the salt crystals are made up of miniature spirals, an extension of his vision of the Spiral Jetty. Yet while the salt serves as an extension of the work, the water serves entropy. A few short years after Smithson built the Spiral Jetty, the water submerged it, rapidly eroding the masterpiece and encasing it in the salty sand. Like the Great Serpent Mound, the jetty is beginning to look like an extension of the land. The Spiral Jetty emerges from the water periodically when there is a drought, and people come from all over to get a glimpse of Smithson’s greatest earthwork before entropy finishes its course. Everyone that visits is certain of one thing: it is only a matter of time before Smithson’s landscape artwork disappears altogether. Still, as the Spiral Jetty fades out of existence, the spiral shape will remain embedded in nature. “The spiral is a timeless reminder of how life rarely sends us in a straight direction,” Ransom tells her class before they head out to the jetty. “We tend to circle around and around the same lessons or experiences. If we’re smart, we get wiser with each revolution.” █
NOTES Collier, Ric and Jim Edwards. “Spiral Jetty: The ReEmergence.” Sculpture Magazine Vol. 23 No. 6. July/ August 2004. “The Great Serpent Mound.” http://greatserpentmound.com/ James Cohan Gallery. Robert Smithson. vaga, Inc. http://www.robertsmithson.com/index_.html Logan, Burt. “Serpent Mound.” Ohio Historical Society. http://www.ohiohistory.org/museums-and-historic-sites/ museum--historic-sites-by-name/serpent-mound/history
HONORING PEOPLE HONORING CREATIVITY
OLD ART, NEW VISION: UKIYO-E HEROES REVITALIZING AN ANCIENT ART
WRITTEN AND PHOTOGRAPHED BY
Olivia Maude Lee
J Jed took his favorite childhood video games and redesigned them in the style of a beautiful ancient Japanese art.
ed Henry, a byu illustration alumni, chuckles about the beginnings of his most recent project, Ukiyo-e Heroes, which was funded by the online fundraising site, Kickstarter. He describes how hundreds of hours spent playing video games as a kid paid off. Jed says, “I would come home and do my homework, run around outside for a while and then play video games. Every day. A lot. Probably too much.”
A Star Fox (2012) by Jed Henry B, C Tanei, Jed, Mei and Nohea Henry in their home.
The characters from his favorite childhood video games are now beautifully redesigned in the style of the ancient Japanese art, Ukiyo-e, a type of woodblock printing. During the late sixteenth century, the process of woodblock printing became a tool for artists who innovated the Ukiyo-e style to depict entertainers of their day. The Japanese word, ukiyo-e directly translates to “floating worlds.” Jed researched the art, and his Japanophile nature and passion for gaming led him to a traditional woodblock print artist living in Japan, Dave Bull. Jed met with Dave, who has lived in Japan for the past twenty-five years, to explore his vision for the project. Dave immediately got to work on one of Jed’s character designs and agreed to help Jed revitalize the art of Ukiyo-e, but with a modern twist. Once word spread about the project, an enormous cult following of gamers and artists helped Jed reach above and beyond his fundraising goal—and Ukiyo-e Heroes was born. The care and attention Jed takes in marrying old-world traditions and new artistic media have combined to create a new subgenre in the art and gaming worlds. █ See Ukiyo-e Heroes prints at: www.ukiyoeheroes.com
HONORING CREATIVITY 20
Light THE TRANSFORMATIVE POWER OF
Cliff face, Poncho house ruins in Southern Utah. This is one of the largest Anasazi structures in Utah, here bathed with the warm light of the setting sun.
he ruins are quiet, peaceful places,” says Val Brinkerhoff. “I’d be alone, a big backpack filled with all my equipment, camping gear, and food. I’d get up early and wait for the sunrise. Early in the morning, there’s less stress, less noise, and more time to contemplate, think, relax, and enjoy. There are times when you want to put your camera down and just watch nature bathe the earth with soft, warm light. It can be so beautiful and impressive. In photography, you don’t have emotion unless the light is right.”
Image left and far right: Watchtower, Hovenweep National Monument, SE Utah. Lit by warm sunlight going through a thin cloud at sunset, this tower has plenty of detail and form. Behind it are colorful clouds. All is gentle and quiet because of the “quiet light.”
When Brinkerhoff first came to byu as a young associate professor in 1995, he photographed numerous Native American ruins in the Four Corners area. “The first year and a half, I drove nearly a hundred thousand miles, and I would hike into ruin sites almost every week,” says Brinkerhoff. Backpack and equipment in hand, Brinkerhoff hiked through the sites, often waking early in the morning and working deep into the night to capture the best images. “One of the few things
that separates a really good photographer from a run-of-the-mill, average one, is how he or she uses light,” says Brinkerhoff. “I teach my students that there are five essential characteristics of light that convey emotion: type, contrast, color, direction, and intensity of the light.” He emphasizes that “light is a transformative property; a tool for the photographer. It can draw attention and completely change the emotional ties with which we view the same content.” █
HONORING CREATIVITY 22
Native American circle of stones near Moab, Utah. Such remote sites often feature grand vistas which instill a sense of peace and gratitude.
“There are times when you want to put your camera down and just watch nature bathe the earth with soft, warm light.”
Native American circle of stones with overlook in Canyonlands National Park, Utah. High atop solitary mountains and other secluded settings, some Native Americans attempted to make contact with the Creator through days of fasting and prayer. Thus, these sites are referred to as “prayer circles.”
Cliff face, Poncho house ruins in Southern Utah.
HONORING CREATIVITY 24
Small ruin, Natural Bridges National Monument, Utah. A lantern was placed in both sides of this structure and then double exposed in the camera with light reflected off nearby canyon walls. This was done to re-create the look of fire used to supply warmth, light, and cooking ability for the ancient Americans.
Hovenweep castle and startrails, Hovenweep National Monument, in SE Utah. This photograph features an exposure of eight hours, the camera and wide angle lens are pointed directly toward Polaris. Note the many 120 degree circular arcs or “startrails” forming what appears to be circles of light in the heavens. There was no moon this night, allowing for a very long exposure.
“One of the few things that separates a really good photographer from a run-ofthe-mill, average one is how they use light.”
Another Native American circle of stones near Moab, Utah.
HONORING CREATIVITY 27
FROM CURSED TO ACCLAIMED THE MR. BELLPOND FILM PROJECT
PHOTOS COURTESY OF
n a dusty Victorian parlor, musical genius Mr. Quentin O. Bellpond picks up his pen to write a masterpiece. As he composes, his graying head aches (a bobbing arrow appears near his temples). The floating time stamp at his side counts down the days and minutes he has left until his deadline. Will he finish his play before the month is out? Could the blackmailer be telling the truth? Hope tugs at his cynical heart—after all these years of pain and insecurity, could his wife really be alive?
“Transporting this short but hilarious story to the screen turned out to be one massive undertaking.”
A Geoff Hansen as Mr. Bellpond B Director A. Todd Smith, on set. B
And so the stage is set for the comical misfortunes of the titular character in A. Todd Smith’s short film, Mr. Bellpond. The main character, a once-notable playwright and composer, isolates himself in his home after his wife, Yuridia, disappears—until an anonymous letter arrives twenty-three years later. In exchange for information about Yuridia, the letter reads, Mr. Bellpond must compose a masterpiece for his blackmailer. Unfortunately, Mr. Bellpond’s creative process is bogged down by absurd physical maladies and the “misbehavior” of his fictional characters. While Mr. Bellpond’s misadventures are fun to watch, transporting this short but
hilarious story to the screen turned out to be one massive and hellish undertaking, only made possible by the tremendous commitment and ingenuity of the cast and crew. Three years before the film debuted in spring 2012, A. Todd Smith, a senior in theatre media arts at byu, had just been informed that he needed to budget, cast, and promote a twelve-minute film in order to graduate. Though this wasn’t his first time directing a film, Smith confesses that he was completely unprepared for the ordeal this film turned out to be. Smith went through several story ideas by different writers, but he couldn’t find a story that engaged him. Finally, Tom Russell,
an associate professor of media arts at byu, gave the frustrated Smith some advice: “You got to write it yourself, man. The reason you aren’t connecting to anything . . . is because you have a unique set of life experiences that many other students haven’t lived through.” Russell referred to Smith’s father taking his own life in 2006. With the help of his then-fiancée, Amy Leah Nelson, Smith drew inspiration from his father’s passing to write a film about the paralyzing effects of grief as well the healing effects of humor and hope. Once the project was cleared by the byu media arts faculty in November 2010, Smith and his film producer, Bree Evans, sought
HONORING CREATIVITY 28
C C Bellpond brainstorms on his blackboard. D A behind the scenes look at the Bellpond crew. E The equipment and crew who pulled it all together.
out a set location. They got permission for an enchanting Victorian home in Ogden. But it had been gutted for renovation, and building contractors would be working during the filming. Accepting this noise challenge, Smith’s team spent all of January 2011 decorating the set, then Smith sent photos of the set to the faculty overseeing the project. The faculty responded that the set was inadequate, and the project was briefly cancelled. To save the film, Smith suggested bringing Amy Leah Nelson, a visual arts major, onto the project to take over set design. They were given three days to fix the set. Smith and Nelson quickly pulled together their production crew, and coaxed their mutual friend and media arts studies major, Nick Dixon, onto the project to help redecorate the set. When their small team arrived at the set in Ogden, Dixon was shocked at how stark the inside of the house looked despite the previous month’s set dressing. “We didn’t have a set,” he says. “We had a skeleton.” To cover the naked beams, the crew draped them with paper that had been stenciled to look like antique wallpaper. Bookshelves had to be carefully balanced so they wouldn’t lean against or break through the paper walls. Nelson worked as a set design fairy godmother, borrowing hundreds of library books to populate the shelves and renting 1800s furniture and props from the byu prop shop. The final product, brought together by a volunteer crew and several all-nighters, was phenomenal. “It looked so good,” says Dixon. “I never would’ve guessed we weren’t filming in a museum.” The faculty agreed.
Production began in April 2011, combining the artistic and technical talents of eighty byu students. The 160-mile round-trip commute from Provo to the set in Ogden, Utah, gobbled up almost three hours each day for filming. Still, the team got as much as they could from their six production days. On at least two nights, the cast and crew chose to spend the night in Ogden at local crew members’ family homes so they could get to work early in the morning. Smith’s tentative goal for Mr. Bellpond was to enter the 2012 College Television Awards competition, otherwise known as the student Emmys, a national competition for college students who produce digital, video, and film work. But true to form, the months before the deadline were filled with never-ending complications. During one of their precious production days, the crew was scheduled to film in an office in the Velour Live Music Gallery. They had been forbidden to touch anything in the office; they couldn’t even close the blinds to block out light bouncing off passing cars. As the crew mulled over how to deal with the problem of the flashing lights, the cinematographer suggested they pretend the scene was taking place on a train and the lights were from passing scenery. In mock somberness, the actors jiggled back and forth in their seats to imitate the motion of a train. Several of the takes for this scene ended in laughter.“It was a lot of those last-minute decisions that made the film turn out for the better,” says Smith. Laughter ultimately proved to be the saving grace for Mr. Bellpond. It lessened the stress of making the film, particularly
“Laughter ultimately proved to be the saving grace for Mr. Bellpond. It lessened the stress of making the film, particularly when key players were suddenly called away or left the project entirely.”
when key players were suddenly called away or left the project entirely. Todd Smith traveled to Cambodia for a previous commitment, and Bree Evans prepared to leave on a mission and needed someone to replace her as producer. Nick Dixon took over, despite having no experience as a producer, and stayed in contact with Smith while learning on the job. Keeping team members committed to the project proved to be difficult with so many delays and the director a world away. “The thing about working on a student film,” says Smith, “is that everyone is working for free, which is a good thing and a bad thing. People who are reliable and come through really rise to the top. Those kinds of people save the day.” By the time Smith returned from Cambodia, the competition deadline was just two weeks away, and a hulking number of unfinished tasks still remained.
Smith and Dixon discovered that all of the “human noises” (e.g. breathing, wheezing, and whimpering) in the otherwise speechless film were muffled by the hammering and sawing of the on-going renovations. So Smith spent twenty-four hours recreating and recording all the sound effects himself. Nelson helped tackle graphics and animation. Dixon took two weeks off his day job so that he and Josh Gibson, another visual arts specialist, could tighten up edits and wipe production errors from the film. In early 2012, Smith sent in the final product to the College Television Awards— late, rushed, unfinished, and almost ten minutes too long. A few months later, the film team grinned giddily as Smith and Dixon ascended a lit stage in Hollywood to accept the Best Comedy and Best Directing awards. The film was acclaimed for its originality, production set, and—much to Smith and Dixon’s amusement—sound.
Smith and Dixon shared the stage with two other byu student film teams that night, so with five student-Emmys, byu managed to sweep the competition in the film-making category. “We’re technically not [even] a film school,” Dixon says. “So, go Cougars!” “The student-Emmy awards were certainly an incredible compliment,” Smith says, “which validated the hell we went through.” But ultimately his deep commitment to the project, which had overcome both the project’s first cancellation and his own months-long absence from the film, stemmed from the character whose story he told. “Mr. Bellpond, a character who is so close to my heart . . . relates to me. He relates to my father. And for that reason alone, I could never give up. As a filmmaker, you [say], ‘I’m going to do this, no matter what. Even if it turns out terrible, who cares? I’m going to do it anyway.’ ” █
HONORING CREATIVITY 30
Joey Nelson DESIGN BY
Olivia Maude Lee TEXT BY
Ryan Brown Everything’s a wheel. Turning and turning, never stopping. The frogs is part of it, and the bugs, and the fish . . . and people. But never the same ones. Always coming in new, always growing and changing, and always moving on. —angus tuck Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt
A A Waffle Love Truck: Allyx Alexander, Scott West, and Adam Terry (not pictured), Owner/Creator B Echo Theater: Matt Boulter, Jeff and Jules Blake, Owners C Station 22: Richard Gregory and Jason Talcott, Owners D Awkward Girls Fashion Blog awkwardgirls.blogspot.com: Madison Shiflet and Lauren Nielsen E Drew Danbury Barber Shop: Drew Danbury, Owner D
A PHOTO ESSAY BY JOEY NELSON
The local Provo community ebbs and flows with incoming students and departing graduates. College is seen as a stage of transience—a period of change and growth before real, adult life begins. Some residents of Provo come and go, hardly leaving a trace before moving on to other opportunities. Others, though, come and find a home, then set about making a lasting impact. █
Giving God a Voice A THEISTIC APPROACH TO PSYCHOLOGY
have persuaded her, little by little, one problem after another, to understand every part of her life as though God did not matter. This gradual persuasion is precisely how psychology works in our culture: little by little, we are provided with an understanding of ourselves and others that has nothing to do with God. Psychologists indirectly teach this understanding not only during counseling and therapy but also in parenting books, marriage pamphlets, and their latest psychological research (Slife & Reber, 2009). COULD GOD BE ALLOWED?
Brent D. Slife
FINE ART BY
Molly Robertson Neves
ne of the more striking aspects of the discipline of psychology, especially for a religious person, is the absence of any mention of God. In fact, as a counselor and scholar in the field of psychology, I was taught to explain myself and others in ways that excluded the role of the transcendent. Since my training, I have wondered whether my discipline could explore an approach that is more inclusive of God. Of course, I realize that not everyone who seeks therapy or counseling believes in God, and as a therapist I want to be appropriately sensitive to these clients. Still, the reverse is more often the case: many clients of psychologists are Christians who are subjected to non-Christian approaches. Perhaps the most poignant example of this occurred when I was first training to become a psychologist. I still remember one of my supervisors laughing at a video of me working with one of my clients. This client was a good Christian woman from Indiana who honestly felt that her unhappiness stemmed from her spiritual struggles. My supervisor was perfectly clear: “Help her get out of that religious claptrap,” he said. “Her sadness has nothing to do with some God; it has solely to do with a lack of reinforcements or pleasures in her life.” As a doctoral student anxious to please, I carried my supervisor’s message back to this Christian woman. In fact, I was so good at selling his message that she eventually learned not to think of her happiness in relation to God at all. She learned to think of herself and her relationships as though God had nothing to do with her emotions and the relevant events of her life. “After all,” I recall her saying, “what you’re saying has to be right because science has proven it!”
This experience is just one example of what many well-meaning psychological counselors do: they provide explanations and understandings of the world that stem from their training, and God is nowhere to be found in them (Slife, Stevenson, & Wendt, 2010). They provide secular humanism, not Christianity. Some psychologists might say, “Just add on your God, if you have one.” But is this really so easy to do? Is the Christian God really an “add-on” God, or is He a God who permeates our very being, including our psychology? When my client and I were finished, she no longer saw God as the source of her emotional healing. She no longer considered even the possibility that her spiritual struggles could be intertwined with her emotional struggles. At least for this part of her life, she became a Christian atheist—a Christian in other aspects of her life, but an atheist in her understanding of her emotions. I do not doubt that she continued to believe in God. I do think, however, that if she had continued her therapy with my supervisor and me, I would
This type of godless approach to understanding human behavior is the reason that some of my colleagues and I have initiated a movement to include theistic approaches to therapy (e.g., Richards & Bergin, 2004; O’Grady, 2012; Slife, Mitchell, & Whoolery, 2004; Slife, Stevenson, & Wendt, 2010; York, 2009). Our approaches not only call on God for healing in prayer but also invite God to help us make sense of the human problems we are faced with as therapists. In the case of my Indiana client, for instance, what would a theistic approach have allowed me to do? What would I, as a therapist who believes in the current relevance of God, have done differently? First, I could have affirmed her spiritual life, not talked her out of it as I did. This affirmation would have meant that my questions and our discussions would have been vastly different. Did her spiritual struggles indicate a broken relationship with God? If God truly exists and cares, then our relationship
with Him is pivotal to our emotional health. Depression often stems from broken relationships. Had she experienced spiritual promptings that indicated a need to reconcile with someone? Did she need to forgive someone? Second, I would have recommended to her and facilitated all the considerable resources of Christianity, including prayer, scriptures, spiritual promptings, and her Christian community. Religious people consistently report being comforted and even healed with a pertinent scriptural passage, prayer, the fellowship of the Holy Ghost, or the love of a Christian brother or sister. And third, my client would not have been the only one to use these Christian resources. Prayer, God’s word, spiritual promptings, and the Christian community would also have been available to support me as her therapist. Indeed, I believe that any real insight I have ever had into a client’s problems has ultimately originated from the Divine, either from spiritual promptings or scriptural teachings.
When my client and I were finished, she no longer saw God as the source of her emotional healing. She no longer considered even the possibility that her spiritual struggles could be intertwined with her emotional struggles. At least for this part of her life, she became a Christian atheist.
PSYCHOLOGY’S RESISTANCE TO GOD
Most Christians would probably view these “therapeutic” methods as a kind of religious common sense. Yet psychologists have been notoriously resistant to them, much as my supervisor was (Nelson & Thomason, 2012; Reber & Slife, in press). For some psychologists, this resistance is an active, perhaps even an arrogant resistance. They might say, “You apparently need a defense mechanism—the crutch of religion—to cope with your life.” Most psychologists, however, are not actively or arrogantly resistant. Indeed, many of them are Christians themselves. But the absence of the Divine in therapy or research does not alarm them because the discipline is considered secular, after all. What “secular” means with regard to psychology, however, is not always clear. Some consider it to mean the automatic outlawing of religion, while others assume that a secular discipline implies an objective and unbiased discipline. In other words, if a supreme being were taken seriously in psychology, then a religious bias would be introduced and psychology’s research findings would become distorted (Reber & Slife, in press). Theistic notions, in this sense, would keep psychology from conducting truly objective research. To investigate these assumptions, my colleagues and I assembled a research team of faculty and students to explore their merit and validity. Our first task was to think through the secular status of psychology. Does “secular” really mean, as so many believe, that any discussion of God in a person’s psychology is forbidden? Perhaps more importantly, would allowing for God in our work mean that
psychology was biased in favor of religion and the religious? To address the first question, we looked into the history of secularism. We found, to our surprise, that secularism was never intended to prohibit religious voices (Pannenberg, 1996; Reber, 2006). As Pannenberg (1996) notes, “No break with Christianity was intended by those who based public culture on conceptions of [secularism] rather than religion.” The formulators of secularism envisioned that it would embrace all reasonable voices, including theistic ones. We moved next to our second and bigger question: would the inclusion of God change psychology from an objective, value-free, and unbiased discipline to a religious, value-laden, and prejudiced discipline? In addressing this question, we realized that our discipline had never been an objective, value-free discipline. It had operated with certain values and biases from its very inception (Slife & Williams, 1995; Slife, 2008). One of these values holds that psychologists should focus exclusively on natural rather than supernatural events. We recognized this value as a clear bias because it says that psychological truth can only be found in natural events, as if supernatural events could never be important to a person’s psychology (Slife & Reber, 2009). As we continued to learn, we realized that the exclusive focus on natural events was not the result of scientific investigation; it was an assumption of such investigation (Slife, 2004). In other words, this bias had never itself been investigated, which led us to wonder if psychologists should rule out the importance of supernatural events before even studying them.
Some assume that if a supreme being were taken seriously in psychology, then a religious bias would be introduced and psychology’s research findings would become distorted.
I believe that any real insight I have ever had into a client’s problems has ultimately originated from the Divine, either from spiritual promptings or scriptural teachings.
At this point, we questioned whether psychologists might be missing something by restricting their investigations to natural events, especially when so many people reported the importance of God in their daily lives. If God-oriented or supernatural activities are, in fact, involved in human relationships, behavior, and emotions, then an exclusive focus on the natural would be, at best, incomplete and, at worst, misleading. Why not investigate theism rather than presume its irrelevance? Wouldn’t such investigation ultimately be more scientific? A THEISTIC APPROACH TO PSYCHOLOGY
In conjunction with several other scholars, my research team and I formulated what is sometimes known as a theistic approach to psychology (Slife, Reber, & Lefevor, 2012). The term “theistic” in this context means belief in the continuing relevance of God. This approach does not try to study or track God per se, but rather it hypothesizes how God might influence the practical world, especially our psychological world, and then it subjects those hypotheses to scientific testing. Before we even tried this approach, however, many psychologists told us it was impossible; science and religion simply cannot co-exist.
Still, we wondered if their belief was born of the actual impossibility of such research or of psychology’s historic avoidance of anything related to God. We eventually argued the latter (Slife, Reber, & Lefevor, 2012; Slife & Whoolery, 2006). We found that even when psychologists investigated religious people and religious topics, they often failed to take religious people and their beliefs seriously (e.g., Nelson & Thomason, 2012; Slife & Reber, 2012). Even research on religious topics is conducted as if God could not matter. Consider, for example, how psychological researchers have investigated the way we form our image of God. Why is it that some people see God as exclusively loving and charitable, while others consider Him to be wrathful or the Great Punisher? To answer this question, psychological researchers have quite reasonably investigated how important authority figures—parents, teachers, and coaches—influence perceptions of God. When asked to discern what factors have influenced their image of God, participants in these kinds of studies are asked all sorts of questions relating to their experiences with earthly authority figures. Yet, they are never asked about their experiences with divine authority figures (O’Grady & Richards, 2008). Couldn’t God, potentially at least, be a factor in our image of Him?
What if, as many theists would attest, the existence, relevance, and activity of God are true? We do not aim to “take over” psychology with this approach; we merely want to have a voice in the discipline, among other voices.
We recognized immediately that our experiences with God are rarely observable, a typical requirement of psychological researchers, but they are experienced. We also realized that experiences with earthly authority figures are not really observable. In both instances, earthly and divine, participants are required to report the nature of their experiences, so the same kind of investigation of earthly experiences could be conducted with divine experiences. Some psychologists might contend that earthly authority figures are at least observable in comparison to God, but these authority figures are not really the object of study. The person’s experience with authority figures is the object of study. In this same sense, a theistic psychologist does not study or track God, but instead investigates and takes seriously how people experience God (Slife & Reber, 2012). To illustrate, we conducted a study using a standard survey about how people form their images of God, but we altered the survey to reflect a theistic approach to psychology (Reber, Slife, & Downs, 2012). Our data clearly supported the claim that experiences with God
play a major role in participants’ image of God. However, researchers who study a person’s image of God do not even consider this possibility, which is a strong testament to the biases of psychological researchers, even researchers of religious topics. When we discovered these sorts of blatant prejudices against theism, we asked if they could also be inherent in the teaching and training of psychologists. We wondered whether psychologists subtly persuade even theistically oriented students to move away from their beliefs, often without realizing they are doing so. After all, psychologists most likely encourage students to explain themselves and others in “psychological” or secular terms. For example, students who considered God to be necessary to their happiness when they first came to college tend to exclude God in their analysis of happiness after their education in psychology. This hypothesis about a possible shift in beliefs is precisely what led us to conduct an investigation among byu psychology students (Reber, Slife, & Downs, 2012). It confirmed our hypothesis,
indicating that the more psychological education these students received, the more they turned toward secular and psychological explanations that did not involve God. This shift was in direct contrast to their biases in favor of theism at the beginning of their education in psychology. CONCLUSION
One important implication of our studies is, quite simply, that sound research can be conducted on the influence of God in human behavior. Recall that the traditional boundary between religion and science led many psychologists to deny this possibility. Yet the studies I’ve mentioned demonstrate that a theistic psychological theory can lead to productive and perhaps even significant investigations and findings. For example, if our preliminary findings are correct, then instructors of psychology are unwittingly “converting” many students away from their theism. Much as I persuaded my Indiana client with “psychological science,” the students of psychology are not just accepting a collection of scientific facts; they’re accepting a hidden philosophy that helps them understand themselves and others without the need of a God. This kind of subtle persuasion is surely important for prospective clients and students to recognize. As significant as my team’s research might be, however, it pales in comparison to the potential of theism to transform the discipline of psychology as a whole. What if, as many theists would attest, the existence, relevance, and activity of God are true? The implication of these truths is that the discipline of psychology is generally enhanced with a theistic approach. We do not aim to “take over” psychology with this approach; we merely want it to have a voice in the discipline, among other voices. As helpful as psychology currently is, its effectiveness and validity could potentially be increased if this truth is allowed to guide some of its investigations and practices. █
ABOUT THE AUTHOR Dr. Slife is a clinical psychologist and professor of psychology at Brigham Young University. He has been honored recently with several awards for his scholarship and teaching, including the Presidential Citation from the American Psychological Association for his contribution to psychology and the Eliza R. Snow Award for research on the interface of science and religion. He has authored or co-authored over 200 articles and seven books. Dr. Slife also continues his psychotherapy practice of over thirty years, where he specializes in marital and family therapies. ABOUT THE ARTIST Molly Robertson Neves is from Salt Lake City, Utah. She graduated from byu with a BFA in printmaking and a BA in art education. She is currently in her fourth year of teaching art with the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Arts Learning Program as an elementary art specialist at Summit Academy in Draper. Neves returned to byu in 2011 to pursue a masters in art education. Along with working on co-constructed projects with her students, Neves continues her studies by conducting research on teaching practice in the classroom. She loves working with a wide variety of students on a weekly basis and feels lucky to have found herself in this field.
Nelson, J.M., & Thomason, C. (2012). Theistic psychology: A patristic perspective. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 95–120. O’Grady, K.A. (2012). Theistic practice and community intervention. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion. O’Grady, K., & Richards, P.S. (2008). Theistic psychotherapy and the God image. In G. Moriarty & L. Hoffman (eds.), God image handbook for spiritual counseling and psychotherapy: Research, theory, and practice. Binghamton, NY: Haworth Pastoral Press. Pannenberg, W. (1996). How to think about secularism. First Things, 64, 27–32. Reber, J.S. (2006). Secular psychology: What’s the problem? Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 193–204. Reber, J.S., & Slife, B.D. (in press). Theistic psychology and the relation of worldviews: A reply to critics. Edification: The Transdisciplinary Journal of Christian Psychology. Reber, J. S., Slife, B.D., & Downs, S. (2012). A tale of two theistic studies: Illustrations and evaluation of a potential program of theistic psychological research. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 191–212. Slife, B.D. (2004). Theoretical challenges to therapy practice and research: The constraint of naturalism. In M. Lambert (Ed.) Handbook of psychotherapy and behavior change. pp. 44–83. New York: Wiley Slife, B.D. (2008). A primer of the values implicit in counseling research. Counseling and Values, 53 (1), 8–21. Slife, B.D., Mitchell, L.J., & Whoolery, M. (2004). A theistic approach to therapeutic community: Non-naturalism and the Alldredge Academy. In S. Richards & A. Bergin (Eds.), Casebook for a spiritual strategy in counseling and psychotherapy. pp. 35–54. Washington, D.C.: APA Books. Slife, B.D., & Reber, J.S. (2009). Is there a pervasive implicit bias against theism in psychology? Journal of Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology. Vol. 29, No. 2, 63–79. Slife, B.D., & Reber, J. S. (2012). Conceptualizing religious practices in psychological research: Problems and prospects. Pastoral Psychology, 61 (5), 735–746. Slife, B.D., Reber, J. S., & Lefevor, G.T. (2012). When God truly matters: A theistic approach to psychology. Research in the Social Scientific Study of Religion, 23, 213–237. Slife, B.D., Stevenson, T., & Wendt, D. (2010). Including God in psychotherapy: Weak vs. strong theism. Journal of Psychology and Theology, 38, 163–174. Slife, B.D., & Whoolery, M. (2006). Are psychology’s main methods biased against the worldview of many religious people? Journal of Psychology and Theology, 34, 217–231. Slife, B.D., & Williams, R.N. (1995). What’s behind the research? Discovering hidden assumptions in the behavioral sciences. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications. York, R.H. (2009). A Christian spirituality and psychotherapy. Eugene, OR: Resource Publications.
A CONVERSATION WITH THE DEAN
ONE MAN’S PHILOSOPHY A C O N V E R S A T I O N W I T H D E A N J O S E P H PA R R Y
ur limitations don’t keep us from who we really are; they are the conditions in which we are who we are.” Those words sound like the wise words of a philosopher. And though they are the words of a philosopher, they aren’t from Aristotle, Descartes, or Locke; they’re from Joseph Parry, the Honors Program director and the Associate Dean of University Education. During our interview, he described himself as a philosopher at heart, and as we talked I soon discovered that it’s true—philosophical questions pervade his family life, his hobbies, his thinking, his teaching, and even his vision for the Honors Program.
Parry’s quote about our limitations is inspired by his eighteen-year-old son, Will, a high functioning autistic and, according to his dad, “a very good boy.” Raising Will has helped Parry understand how we learn to accept ourselves, who we are, and who we are not. “Part of our existence has to be that willingness to accept who we are,” he says, “and the conditions that have determined who we are that were beyond our control, and not invent a simplistic notion that we can be anything we want. But at the same time we also cannot at any point say, ‘I can do nothing to be better.’ ” Deep thoughts from a devoted father, I thought—life changing, in fact, and almost as compelling as his philosophy on dating and courtship, which made me laugh when he first explained it—but only at first. He says that when he first pursued and fell in love with his wife, Catherine Corman Parry, Dean Parry believed that intellectual thinking must be a part of dating—“You can’t just sit in a dark room and watch a movie.” He advises his students to embrace a similar dating philosophy. “If you’re going to learn how to care about someone, the best thing to do is to find out what they care about.” So, finding out what Catherine cared about was important to him. He told me that when he first got to know her, Catherine was a professor of English at byu, and he was a graduate student in humanities at byu. Needless to say, they found numerous
opportunities to get to know one another intellectually and philosophically. Parry has taken his philosophy of caring about people beyond dating, though. “I have an obligation to every other human being to love and to care about them,” he says, “and, therefore, what matters to me is actually trying to understand what is true and important to individuals, and then watching what happens when I use that understanding to relate to people.” For Parry, the most important philosophy concerns people and relationships. I noticed that he tries to understand people “by finding out what is important to them.” I began to see what is most important to Dean Parry as we talked: his family, his faith—he served as an lds bishop for almost seven years—and education. He’s passionate about teaching. But his teaching philosophy extends well beyond the classroom and beyond his responsibilities as a professor of humanities. “The result I’m looking
for is how [students] will go on and live their lives with respect to the humanities. I won’t necessarily know the outcome, but if they respect it more than they did coming in, then I’m happy.” Parry has no problem approaching difficult subjects with his students and trying to help them. He says that “at byu, in the context of faith and love, couldn’t this be the place where we take a look at hard questions? Not out of fear, but out of trust that even if we don’t know the answers, the basic features of our convictions and testimonies remain true.” He wants his students to think deeply and consider the core questions that exist in every discipline. “I think if you understand the deeper intellectual, philosophical underpinnings of what it is we’re studying, it will stay with you longer than the kind of knowledge and information that we sometimes associate with learning.” At the heart of Parry’s philosophies and desires for the Honors Program is a genuine concern for
“I want students to get to know the philosophy of their own discipline and then engage with other disciplines through the Honors Program.”
students and their learning. “I want to bring a certain kind of philosophical attitude to Honors,” he says. He feels that the biggest difference between him and his predecessors is his level of interest in philosophical ideas. But he isn’t interested in them just for himself; he wants to expand these philosophies to Honors students. “I want students to get to know the philosophy of their own discipline and then engage with other disciplines through the Honors Program at that level. English majors could all use a little more exposure to chemistry, and chemistry to English.” Dean Parry lives what he preaches, too. He earned his degrees—BA, MA, and PhD—in English, teaches comparative literature, and loves the Renaissance, but he doesn’t spend all his time reading novels as some might suppose. So what is he doing when he has a little down time? “I’ve
just rediscovered philosophy,” he says, “and I can’t get enough of it.” This came as no surprise to me by this time in our interview, and though it’s true that he loves opera, U2, reading, and ethnic food, as of late, philosophy is his first go-to. “That’s how I’ve been spending my time,” he says, “reading philosophy.” █
FINDING CHARACTER CASTING AND COURAGE IN THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
“As you develop a character, you look for hints in the script as to what kind of person this is—what quirks they have.”
Michael G. Handley
am Bostwick sat at his kitchen table, staring at his phone and waiting for it to ring. He was one of the 150 students who had auditioned for a part in Brigham Young University’s much anticipated production of The Phantom of the Opera. Sam had prepared sixteen measures of “The Music of the Night” and a one-minute monologue, then was given just three minutes to impress the director, Tim Threlfall. The stakes were high; only forty-four students would receive good news.
A The musical’s main characters, the Phantom, played by Preston Yates and Christine Daaé, played by DeLaney Westfall B Ubaldo Piangi played by Brandon Killgo C Ensemble Members
As a musical theatre student, Sam has been involved with many theatre projects at byu. Each time he auditions he thinks, “I’m a leading man. I’m going to define myself as one.” So in early March 2012, he auditioned for the lead roles of the Phantom and Raoul. Sam said, “There was no sense in trying out for anything else, because I’m identifying myself as the kind of actor I want to be.” It was all or nothing; as an actor supporting a wife and baby, Sam’s every accreditation is vital to both his family and his career. The days went by, but his phone never rang. Although securing a part in a minor role in the chorus would be a privilege, it was not what he imagined would set him apart as a potential leading man. Sam thought all seemed lost when he was told he was not cast as the Phantom or Raoul. But disappointment immediately turned to relief when Tim Threlfall had another character in mind for him—Monsieur Firmin, one of the theatre managers. Sam was accustomed to the ups
and downs of the acting world, but this was an unexpected turn of events. The new role became his challenge to branch out and produce a performance worthy of a leading man. So Sam was determined to tap into his creativity as an actor and interpret his character in a way that would transform the role of Monsieur Firmin from a second choice to an incredible opportunity to experiment as an artist. Many adaptations of The Phantom of the Opera depict the two theatre managers in the play, Monsieur Firmin and Monsieur André, as a single entity. Yet, the early make-up and costume designs for byu’s production illustrated two separate and distinct characters. Monsieur André, for example, was to have an angular appearance, whereas Monsieur Firmin was to appear softer and rounder. Slowly Sam adapted his character into someone unique on the inside as well. “As you develop a character, you look for hints in the script as to what kind of person
this is—what quirks they have,” he says. “There’s a line at the beginning of the show where Monsieur Firmin says, ‘André this is doing nothing for my nerves!’ I thought, his nerves? Does he have a nerve issue? As I thought about that, I asked the dramaturge, Christine Tanner, what medicine might be taken to treat nerves during [the late 1800s]. [She said] gelsemium might have been used to treat hot flashes, dizzy spells, and nerves. So I thought, ‘If I’m taking this medicine and those are my symptoms, how would it affect my character?’” With this newfound insight into his character, Sam understood Monsieur Firmin well enough to predict how he would respond to each moment of tension in the play. For instance, by act 2, the characters are terrified of the Phantom, and they use the Don Juan opera to ensnare him, locking the theatre doors and hiding several policemen inside to catch him. To disguise his location, the Phantom uses his talent as a ventriloquist to “throw” his voice around the theatre, which does indeed test Monsieur Firmin’s nerves. Sam found many other opportunities in the play to portray his character as nervous and high-strung. “Monsieur Firmin’s motivation was his nerves,” he says. “I just took the idea and ran with it.” Sam’s dedication to his character and to Phantom did not come without sacrifice, however, especially before the production opened. The rehearsals ran for five hours at a time, three days a week throughout Fall Semester 2012. The final rehearsal week prior to the opening in early January 2013 demanded a rehearsal Monday to Friday for six to seven hours. These rehearsals left Sam exhausted, unable to take a job, and left his wife, Kendra, home alone with their new baby. As a fulltime student, Sam was also forced to make difficult compromises in his academic life. “Doing readings for classes or studying for mid-terms was hard. I ended up putting off a lot of things,” he says. But
D Left, Monsieur Firmin played by Sam Bostwick; right, Monsieur André played by Brad Robins
he remained committed to the project despite the months of strain, and on January 16, 2013, the spectacle that was The Phantom of the Opera opened for the general public. At six o’clock in the evening on opening night, Sam ventured down to the depths of the Harris Fine Arts Center, knowing later that night Kendra would be in the audience. He fastened the buttons of his white undershirt and then made his way to the stage for a microphone test. After “testing, testing,” he hurried to the makeup room where he left his old self at the door. Sam sat down on the spinning chair, and surrounded by mirrors framed in bright white bulbs, he began his transformation into Monsieur Firmin, sweeping gel through his hair then weaving the microphone through. He sponged on the white foundation, penciled on wrinkles around his eyes and mouth, rouged his lips, shaded in a cleft chin, and rounded his eyebrow arches. He sat, unmoving, while an assistant curled his hair into golden rings, then sprayed them silver, adding age to his rounded face. An hour later, the dressing room buzzed with anticipation; clothing racks rolled along the floor in search of characters; flowing gowns, petticoats, bodices, elegant vests, and tailored jackets of sequins encircled Sam. He fastened his bow tie, buttoned up his waistcoat, and slid into his jacket. The whispers of excitement were hushed by a few words from the director and the stage manager, followed by a prayer. The final call came. The Phantom of the Opera entices its audiences as a visual and musical masterpiece. To Sam, the production represents a potential entrance into the musical theatre industry and an experience few college students are given. Tim Threlfall calls the accreditation of Phantom an anomaly on Sam’s resume since the musical was released to colleges and high schools so recently. Consequently, Phantom has become a springboard to the industry for Sam and his fellow cast members. “Well over 21,000 people experienced the production, including prominent members of the Utah arts community,” Threlfall recalls. The play allowed
STANDING ON THE PROMISES THE COLLABORATIVE GENIUS OF MARGARET BLAIR YOUNG AND DARIUS GRAY D
“Phantom’s long run gives the students a sense of what it would be like to do the usual eight shows per week that Broadway contracts demand. The competition for roles, schedule of performances, and caliber of talent provide a rich legacy for the arts at byu.”
the cast and crew to reveal what they are capable of producing, and introduced them to future opportunities on new stages outside the university. The Phantom of the Opera played for seventeen performances at byu, and Threlfall suggests that the length of the run “gives the students a sense of what it would be like to . . . do the usual eight shows per week that Broadway contracts demand.” The competition for roles, schedule of performances, and caliber of talent provide a rich legacy for the arts at byu. But perhaps more importantly, Sam and his fellow actors have entered to learn on the great training stage of byu, and by masking
themselves as characters they have learned to find their identities as actors. Now The Phantom of the Opera allows them to go forth and serve on the professional stages of New York or Los Angeles. Back on stage, a spotlight followed the Phantom as he fell onto his throne in anguish at the loss of Christine, cradling his figurine and softly singing, “Hide your face so the world will never find you.” Bright torches lit the stage as the mob weaved its way down to his damp labyrinth, too late. The great magician had vanished once more, but his white mask lay on the throne. The lights faded, and the curtain fell to wild applause. █
hen people know that you’re a writer,” Margaret Young tells me with a conspiratorial smile, “they send you the manuscripts of novels and plays they’ve written and say, ‘Will you read this for me? I think you’ll really like it!’ I always want to ask them, ‘Do you have any idea what my schedule is like?’ ”
A Children with Lucinda Flake Stevens, the daughter of Green Flake, a “colored servant” who came with the first pioneer company to enter Utah. B Jane Manning James. C A young Darius Gray. Photo courtesy of Gene Heath.
I squirm a little in my chair as I sit in Margaret’s office; I myself had given her some poems of mine to critique when she’d been my creative writing professor. “So when I met Darius and he said, ‘Let’s write a book,’ I felt like saying, ‘Another one?’” One More River to Cross, Margaret’s book-inprogress, destined to become the first book in the Standing on the Promises trilogy, was about black Mormon pioneers. Darius Gray, a black lds Church member, had heard about Margaret’s work and felt he could provide her the history and vernacular she would need. But Darius saw Margaret’s reluctance to work with him on the book and backed off.
“I’d already written a hundred pages of the first book [One More River to Cross] by then,” Margaret says. “But soon I started to understand: ‘I can’t do this. I don’t know this.’ ” So Margaret approached Darius and asked for his help, but Margaret’s initial rebuff had put him off, so he told her no. “I said I’d take his answer the next day, after he’d prayed about it. He did pray. The next day, he said yes and we got started.” A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON MARGARET
Graduating with a master’s degree in creative writing from byu, Margaret had always been a writer. In the past, she’d written mostly short stories and personal essays. But 1998 brought something different. “I was trying to find something really worthwhile to write about.” That’s when she discovered stories of black Mormon
“He would give me the kinds of phrases he’d learned from his mother and grandmother, so that blacks reading the books could say, ‘Yes, this is us.’”
pioneers but could find nothing written about them. She was especially drawn to the stories of Elijah Abel and Jane Manning James. Elijah had been born a slave but would become one of the only blacks to receive the priesthood—from Joseph Smith himself—before the restriction was put in place under Brigham Young. Jane and her family had walked over 800 miles to join the Saints in Nauvoo, and she even lived in the homes of both Joseph Smith and Brigham Young for a time. The lives of these two black pioneers became the basis for Margaret’s first novel. While Margaret is a skilled writer and researcher, she didn’t think she could replicate the conversation and culture of nineteenth-century black communities. When Darius Gray read through the first hundred pages of Margaret’s manuscript, he told her, “I can help you. This is the language of my childhood.” A LITTLE BACKGROUND ON DARIUS
Darius converted to the lds Church in 1964. The night before his baptism, he learned about the priesthood restriction and decided not to join after all. However, when he prayed that same night, he recalled that “it was made very clear . . . that this is
the restored gospel.” Darius was baptized as scheduled and became a member of the Church; at the time, he was one of only 300 to 400 black members. By 1971, the civil rights movement highlighted the racial issues within the Church, particularly the priesthood restriction. Large percentages of black young men were leaving the Church, frustrated at having to watch their friends of other races receive the priesthood without the hope of receiving it themselves. Darius and other black men in the Church asked themselves, “How do we keep our families together in the Church?” Darius and two of his black member friends, Ruffin Bridgeforth and Eugene Orr, met to discuss and pray about the problem. They felt inspired to approach President Joseph Fielding Smith, who, in turn, assigned three junior apostles to meet with the three men. On June 8, 1971—seven years to the day before the 1978 revelation on the priesthood— Darius, Ruffin, and Eugene met with Gordon B. Hinckley, Thomas S. Monson, and Boyd K. Packer to discuss how the Church could give more support to its black members. The result was an organization known as the Genesis Group, established as an auxiliary unit of the Church about four months later. The group still holds a fireside each Sunday in Salt Lake City and otherwise reaches out
F D Nettie James Leggroan was the granddaughter of Jane Manning James. E Green Flake was a “colored servant” in the first pioneer company to enter Utah. F Darius with the Genesis presidency and the first black general authority, Helvecio Martins. Photo courtesy of Margaret Young.
to black Church members, whether they’re new converts or descendants of the black pioneers that Margaret and Darius would eventually write about. THE STANDING ON THE PROMISES TRILOGY
Once they had finalized their decision to collaborate on Standing on the Promises in 1998, Margaret and Darius’s work began in earnest. Margaret handled most of the writing, though the process didn’t go quite as expected. “I had intended on fictionalizing much more than we did,” she tells me. But the books—especially the last one, which centers on the forming of the Genesis Group— became more history than fiction. Margaret’s research and Darius’s own extensive personal knowledge gave the pair enough solid history to work with, so most content in the series was based on documented facts. But facts—even when taken from documents as personal as journal entries and letters—didn’t always bring an authentic voice to the books. That became Darius’s primary job. As Margaret tells me twice in as many minutes, “He was the soul of the books.” Darius and Margaret would sit in the office at his house, Margaret at the computer and Darius with a hard copy of the manuscript. Darius would read aloud, changing the characters’ phrasing naturally as he went while Margaret made changes in her manuscript. “He would give me the kinds of phrases he’d learned from his mother and grandmother, so that blacks reading the books could say, ‘Yes, this is us.’ ” Of course, the process didn’t always go smoothly. I lean forward in my seat as Margaret candidly tells me of the two biggest disagreements between her and Darius. It surprises me to hear that neither of the arguments had anything to do with the writing. Instead, they involved the racial issues born of the unlikely partnership between a black man and a white woman. “It was an odd combination, but a good one,” Darius tells me over Margaret’s office phone. “Part of the process was learning to work together.” Margaret and Darius did learn to work together, and the Standing on the Promises books were published in quick succession: One More River to Cross in 2000, Bound for Canaan in 2002, and The Last Mile of the Way in 2003. “We were published by the Church press,” Margaret says, referring to Deseret Book. “That gave us recognition.” And the series’s success wasn’t limited to the number of copies sold—readers responded through blog posts, emails, and letters by sharing their testimony-building experiences with Standing on the Promises.
G Sam and Amanda Chambers from Mississippi. Sam was baptized as a slave. His first wife was sold off and he married Amanda. They came to Utah after the Civil War. H Louis Duffy, Margaret Young and Darius Gray at the Jane Janning James monument in the Salt Lake City Cemetery. Photo Courtesy of Margaret Young. G
When I ask Margaret to tell me the most important thing she gained from her work on Standing on the Promises and her collaboration with Darius, her smile grows. “The sense that I have been so beautifully welcomed into the black community.” At first, she says, she met resistance; black members who learned about Margaret’s work would say, “We don’t need a white person to tell us our history.” But eventually she formed friendships and Margaret continues to attend Genesis meetings to this day. Darius, too, sees more significance in his and Margaret’s work than just good books. “The reality is,” he tells me, “I think Margaret and I both recognize that this was done with divine help. I think we had both been prepared by our life experiences and by God to be able to undertake these assignments, and we do consider them assignments.” And what would they have us learn from their work? “God is no respecter of persons,” Margaret says, “and anyone who says anything else is flat wrong.” █
THE GENIUS OF
MADNESS WRITTEN BY
pock wouldn’t make a good poet. He just doesn’t reflect upon emotional meaning as often as a person who is in deep distress or euphoria.” Dr. Marleen Williams, a psychologist at the byu Counseling Center who also teaches the Honors class “Madness and the Media,” is explaining a pattern noted even in ancient Greece: that the madness of deep distress and euphoria is somehow connected to art-making. The reason behind this connection remains a mystery. “One of the hypotheses,” Williams says, “is [concerned with] the depth of [the artists’] feeling. It is the predisposition to the intensity of lows and intensity of highs . . . that gives them more to write about.” Williams lists examples. “Beethoven wrote his beautiful Appassionata sonata after a deep depression. Rachmaninoff wrote one of his great symphonies following a depression. So experiencing an intensity and a depth of feeling may open a person up to more self-reflection and reflection about the nature and meaning of life.”
These kinds of reflections have immortalized creators such as Vincent Van Gogh and Virginia Woolf as great artists. Many of them are on the Honors Program’s Great Works list. While posthumous diagnosis of their mental illness is impossible, the experiences, not pathology, of these artists are what inspire us. The question is not so much whether these artists were mentally ill or what madness is but rather how we as humans react to the supernatural— whether encountered during a spiritual experience, in a great piece of art, or within our own minds.
he waves of acute suffering and giddiness Virginia Woolf (1882–1941) experienced supplied her with ample writing material but drove her to her death, blurring the line dividing disturbingly ill from beautifully creative. Writing was in Virginia’s blood. Her father and grandfather were writers, and as a child she was privy to conversations between her father and Henry James, T.S. Eliot, and other well-known writers of her time. Virginia was working on her literary talents when at age thirteen, her mother died. Understandably depressed, Virginia nearly stopped eating and sleeping. Her two greatest passions, writing and reading, dwindled as well, foreshadowing the link between Virginia’s genius and what would develop into a condition similar to bipolar disorder.1 The episodic highs and lows of the illness came and went, torturing Virginia, but leaving her with new ideas. At age twenty-two, for example, while Virginia was mildly depressed but not so debilitated that she had stopped reading and writing, the outline of her fourth and probably most famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway, flashed before her as she walked by the sea.2 Virginia also found new ideas
while lying in bed on doctor’s order, waiting out “the nerves.” “[O]ne visits such remote, strange places lying in bed,” she said.3 The idea for The Waves came during another deep depression, but the accompanying writer’s block made her stumble as she wrote it. “Six weeks in bed now would make a masterpiece,” she wrote in her journal.4 The depression brought the ideas, stable states allowed Virginia to write and craft them, and hypomania, when Virginia was driven to write, supercharged them.5 Even the emotional up-and-down motion of the illness inspired her. “If I never felt these extraordinary pervasive strains—of unrest, or rest, or happiness, or discomfort—I should float down into acquiescence,” she said, gratefully acknowledging the debt she owed to the roller coaster of emotions.6 This roller coaster, however, drove Virginia into a final depression that she felt would never end. On March 28, 1941, not long after finishing her final novel, Between the Acts, Virginia drowned herself by filling her pockets with rocks and walking out into the River Ouse.
Virginia Woolf, Photo Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
“As an experience, madness is terrific . . . in its lava I still find most of the things I write about.”7
“We mathematicians are all a bit crazy.”8
Paul Erdos in Poznan 1989, Photo Courtesy of G Csicsery © Zala Films
aul Erdös (1913–1996) was the most prolific mathematician since the eighteenth century and one of the most influential thinkers in twentieth century mathematics, but his brilliance kept him from having a home, steady job, traditional family, or conventional lifestyle.9 Without the burden of material encumbrances, Erdös’s life could revolve around proving mathematical theorems: he ate, breathed, thought, and dreamed math.10 Erdös’s obsession meant that rather than deal with the nuisance of property, he lived in the homes of friends and collaborators. Rather than waste time cleaning, cooking, or washing clothes, Erdös had his friends act as his
SPEAK ERDÖS bosses = women slaves = men epsilons = children captured = married someone having died = stopped practicing math
chauffeurs, laundry-maids, and cooks. With the time he saved, Erdös finished 1,500 mathematical publications and created a unique methodology now used in theoretical and practical areas of mathematics.11 Erdös claimed that an inherent abnormality set him apart from others. “I have a basic character that I always wanted to be different from other people,” he said. “It’s very, very much ingrained. From a very early age I automatically resisted pressure to be like others.”12 And he succeeded in being different, meanwhile endearing himself to his colleagues. Erdös’s longtime friend Andrew Vázsonyi recalls Erdös’s funny abnormality,
Erdös developed his own vocabulary that betrays the endearing but neurotic negativism with which he saw the world.17 liberated = divorced noise = music poison = alcohol preaching = giving mathematical lecture the supreme fascist = God
saying that his friend “always moved fast. And he developed this thing about running up to a wall, suddenly stopping short, turning around abruptly, and running back. Once he didn’t stop in time. He smashed into the wall and hurt himself.”13 Another endearing Erdösian quirk was his reckless, child-like generosity. Despite not having a permanent job, the money he made from lecturing, honoraria, and prizes went to help others. When Erdös won the $50,000 Wolf prize in 1984, he gave all of it away for an endowment and charity, keeping only $720 for himself.14 Erdös also gave generously of his time to mentor young mathematicians and to play with the children of his colleagues. The love Erdös had for math and mathematicians proved damaging when he refused to have a cataract operation because of the time it would take away from collaborating with other mathematicians.15 Eventually, persuaded by his friends, Erdös did receive the operation, but he spent much of his adult life partially blind because of his obsession with math. Erdös’s obsessions and neuroses paid off. As one colleague explained after Erdös’s death: “His enormous talents and energies were given entirely to the Temple of Mathematics. . . . To see his faith is to be given faith.”16 This faith in mathematical truth is at least part of why he allowed his obsessions and neuroses to drive his lifestyle, permitting him to significantly contribute to modern mathematical understanding.
obert Schumann (1810–1856), composer of famous Romantic-era pieces like Carnaval and Kinderszenen, died in a mental hospital after attempting suicide at age forty-three. Schumann has long been touted as an obviously mentally ill composer, not only because he attempted suicide but also because of the records he and his doctors kept of his hallucinations and mood swings. However, a new biography by John Worthen released in 2011 makes the case that Schumann was merely afflicted with syphilis and an emotional temperament, not mental illness, casting doubt on the purported link between his genius and his madness. Most psychiatrists and psychologists still argue that regardless of their cause, Schumann’s mood swings and his creative output were highly correlated, and that he composed less when he was depressed and more when he was in an elevated mood state.18 His depressions were characterized by indecisiveness, lack of concentration, and sleeplessness, as well as hallucinations and selfdestructive behavior. He would often complain of “such sadness that when my heart fills up it wants to overflow and to cry and to smile and cry some more,” at which times he longed for the feel of music but seemed incapable of writing it down.19 Despite the darkness of these times, Schumann, like many artists, would emerge from these pockets of depression into stable states with new insights that he could then channel into composing. Other times, however, Schumann would swing from a depressive state into a happy, hypomanic one in which he heard endless music that inspired his writings and inspired him to make goals and plans grander than his ability to reach them.20 He
could be reckless and do things he later regretted, but he also tended to be at his most productive during these stages. Schumann was a successful composer because of and in spite of his illness. As psychologist William James, a contemporary of Schumann, explained, “When a superior intellect and a psychopathic temperament coalesce . . . in the same individual, we have the best possible condition of the kind of effective genius. . . . Their ideas possess them, they inflict them, for better or worse, upon the companions of their age.”21 James is referencing the ancient myth of the mad genius here, but even modern studies show that mental illness rates are higher in artists like writers than in other segments of the population.22 Somehow, Schumann had brilliant ideas because of his “psychopathic temperament.” And yet at the same time, this temperament is what diminished the quality of Schumann’s work later in life (so much so that his wife burned his later compositions), kept him from composing at times, and drove him to his death.
Schumann, like many artists, would emerge from . . . depression into stable states with new insights that he could then channel into composing.
SCHUMANN “I have been all the week at the piano . . . composing, writing, laughing, and crying all at once.”23
Sketched Portrait of Robert Schumann
When Van Gogh maintained a stable mood, he could produce multiple masterpieces in a short amount of time.
THOMAS LANIER “TENNESSEE”
WILLIAMS “I was only interested in working. I didn’t know if I wanted to live or not.”
V Van Gogh’s self-portrait with bandaged ear.
incent Van Gogh (1853–1890), history’s favorite mad artist, translated his volatile mood shifts into an “art of derangement”24 that soothed his angst but couldn’t prevent his suicide. Whether it was schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, epilepsy, or another illness that plagued him, the symptoms were clearly intertwined with his artistic production. When Van Gogh felt his blood slow with the lethargy of depression, for example, he immersed himself in painting so as “to suffer not too much mentally.”25 By focusing on a solid reality when painting—a landscape, model, or a room—he distracted himself from the storms of his soul, which revolved around financial and social stress.26 The “vertiginous associations”27 his brain made, common in bipolar disorder, could then juxtapose seemingly unrelated ideas in a masterful way, leading to creations like La Berceuse.28 By painting, Van Gogh escaped from his unstable, black moods and depicted ideals like hope, simultaneously expressing the sadness and extreme loneliness he felt.29 When Van Gogh maintained a stable mood, he could produce multiple masterpieces in a short amount of time. These periods resulted in paintings like The Sower and The Roulin Family.
However, this stability would eventually give way to wild agitation, either in the form of anxiety or mania.30 During these manic periods of increased energy, talkativeness, and occasional delusions and hallucinations, Van Gogh was “frank, open, alive to possibilities, with a certain humorous edge of malice,” and his painting production would increase.31 Nearer the end of his life, Van Gogh was in and out of the hospital as the episodes of mania and depression came and went with increasing frequency. After leaving the hospital for the last time in 1890, Van Gogh shocked his family and friends by producing seventy-six pictures, mostly paintings, in a two-month period. His doctor thought him finally cured.32 Immediately after that two-month period, however, Van Gogh plunged into a debilitating depression, following the pattern of cyclical highs and lows characteristic of bipolar disorder. He shot himself in the chest on a summer Sunday evening, saying to his brother Theo as he died, “You could not imagine there was so much sorrow in life.”33 He was convinced his suffering would go on forever, despite his recent happiness, and was finally happy only to die.
VAN GOGH “. . . and if we are a bit mad, what of it?”34
he deep depressions that intermittently bogged down Tennessee Williams (1911– 1983) since age sixteen also motivated him to write. Yet, ironically, he was incapable of producing any salient work when severely depressed. It was only once those dark moments had passed that his fierce pen shaped his “mad” experiences and emotions into some of the best plays of the twentieth century. Williams first discovered the link between his writing and madness when he toured Europe as a teenager. As he walked alone down a Parisian street, it occurred to him that the process of thought could not be stopped—he couldn’t stop thinking, and what was worse, he couldn’t stop thinking about thinking. At that moment, he was converted into an observer of his own life; he couldn’t escape the never-ending complexity of it. This idea of his continuous, unstoppable thoughts morphed into a phobia that left him only when he knelt to pray in a gothic cathedral and felt that “the hand of our Lord Jesus . . . exorcised from [him] the phobia that was driving [him] into madness.”35 Though Williams thought his madness had left, it returned later one night in Amsterdam. He was terrified once more, feeling he was trapped in NOTES
1 Peter Dally, Virginia Woolf: The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (London: Robson Books, 1999), 42. 2 Ibid., 50. 3 Ibid., 186. 4 Ibid., 142. 5 Ibid., x. 6 Ibid., 142. 7 Virginia Woolf quoted in Kay Redfield Jamison, Touched with Fire: Manic-Depressive Illness and the Artistic Temperament (New York: The Free Press,
1993), 226. 8 Bruce Schechter, My Brain is Open: The Mathematical Journeys of Paul Erdös (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998), 64. 9 László Babai, “Paul Erdös Just Left Town,” Notices of the American Mathematical Society 45, no. 1 (1998): 66. 10 Schechter, 14. 11 Joel Spencer, “Uncle Paul,” Notices of the American Mathematical Society 45, no. 1 (1998): 65. 12 Schechter, 68.
Tennessee Williams, Photo Courtesy of New York World-Telegram & Sun Collection donated to the Library of Congress
his own brain. Walking down a street in the city that night, he found relief “to lift the terror away. [Relief] occurred through my composition of a little poem.”36 His madness was again temporarily cured, this time by writing through it. Throughout his life, Tennessee Williams continued to write out of what he called “an intense personal need.”37 Writing was an escape from the depression that made him “a zombie except for . . . at work.” Work at least provided the distraction he needed from his hopelessness: “I was only interested in working. I didn’t know if I wanted to live or not.”38 Williams’ work habits and moods were interrelated. Sometimes he wrote to escape the dark moods, and other times the blackness was so intense it kept him from writing.39 After the death of his partner, Frank Merlo, during what Williams called his stoned age, Williams went into
13 Paul Hoffman, The Man Who Loved Only Numbers: The Story of Paul Erdös and the Search for Mathematical Truth (New York: Hyperion, 1998), 60. 14 Schechter, 17. 15 Hoffman, 16. 16 Spencer, “Uncle Paul,” 65. 17 Hoffman, 8. 18 “Musical creativity and mood bipolarity in Robert Schumann: A tribute on the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth,” Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 65 (2011):
112, doi: 10.1111/j.14401819.2010.02173.x. 19 Peter Ostwald, Schumann: The Inner Voices of a Musical Genius (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985), 49. 20 Ibid., 71. 21 Jamison, 55. 22 “Creativity and mental illness: prevalence rates in writers and their first degree relatives,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, 144 (1987): 1288-1292. 23 Robert Schumann, letter to his wife Clara
a deep depression that he could hardly describe even in hindsight. He saw various psychiatrists but was never diagnosed with a specific disorder, only prescribed a number of sleeping medications and psychostimulants like Ritalin.40 Both because of and despite these challenges, Williams produced award-winning works and received the Pulitzer Prize for drama twice, once in 1947 for A Streetcar Named Desire and then in 1955 for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, leaving the legacy like so many artists before him of the mad genius whose madness was both his greatest strength and his ultimate downfall. Williams died in his hotel suite in New York, allegedly by choking on the plastic cap to an eye drop bottle that had been mixed among the many pills he took to treat— unsuccessfully—his madness.41 █
Wieck, quoted in Joseph Bennett, “The Great Composers,” The Musical Times 29 (1888): 526. 24 Blake Gopnik, “The Art of Insanity,” Newsweek 159, no. 6 (2012): 56. 25 Van Gogh, quoted in Gayford, 44. 26 Ibid., 313. 27 Ibid., 321. 28 Ibid., 313. 29 Melissa McQuillan, Van Gogh (New York: Thames and Hudson Inc., 1997), 202. 30 Gayford, 208. 31 Ibid., 154. 32 Ibid., 304
33 Ibid., 305. 34 Vincent Van Gogh quoted in Martin Gayford, The Yellow House: Van Gogh, Gauguin, and Nine Turbulent Weeks in Arles, U.S. ed. (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2006), 293. 35 Tennessee Williams, Memoirs (New York: New Directions Publishing, 1975), 21. 36 Ibid., 22. 37 “Tennessee Williams Interview with Bill Boggs,” YouTube video, 2:50, posted
by “BillBoggsTV,” December 1, 2011, http://www. youtube.com/ watch?v=FScWlr5qZUY 38 Williams, 210. 39 Harold Bloom, Bloom’s Biocritiques: Tennessee Williams (New York: Infobase Publishing, 2003), 39. 40 Williams, 206-207, 239. 41 Rader, 339.
The hardest test you’ll (probably) never take U N L E S S Y O U ’ R E M E A N D Y O U ’ R E W E I R D.
Ryan Brown An infinite number of players, n, are seated around a table and each has a single penny. Player 1 passes a penny to Player 2, who then passes two pennies to Player 3. Player 3 then passes one penny to Player 4, who passes two pennies to Player 5, and so on until a player runs out of pennies and is out. Find an infinite set of numbers, n, for which some player ends up with all n pennies.
t’s the first Saturday in December, and I’m on campus taking a test. Crammed into the desks beside me are about twenty others, and we’re all banging our heads against some wicked-hard math problems. Only the test doesn’t count for class credit, it takes six hours, and the average student scores a zero. Nope, no typo. Also, I’m an English major with no particular propensity for math. MY QUESTIONS:
1. What is this hard-bordering-on-insane math test? 2. Why would anyone willingly do such a thing to their mind? 3. You’re a Humanities student. Why are you taking this? ANSWER KEY:
1. It’s the Putnam exam. 2. You get incalculable glory. 3. I’m a sucker for weird experiences. The William Lowell Putnam Mathematical Competition dates back to 1938. Chances are, unless you’re deeply entrenched in the math department, you’ve never heard of it. At its most basic level, the Putnam exam is an annual, intercollegiate mathematics competition that grades individuals and college teams on their answers to twelve questions over two consecutive, three-hour testing periods. Mr. Putnam, a Harvard man and a lover of science, so much enjoyed his experiences in math competitions among his fellow students that he wanted to create an intercollegiate competition that would foster rivalries between universities in Canada and the United States. But he died before he could see his dream come to
fruition. Staying true to her husband’s desires, Mrs. Putnam established the William Lowell Putnam Intercollegiate Memorial Fund which began to award prizes regularly in 1938. And we’re talking about some major prizes. Prizes are awarded according to team and individual scores. The top team brings in $25,000 for their math department and $1,000 for each team member. The top five individual contestants are each awarded a cash prize of $2,500, a chance at full Harvard tuition, and a $12,000 stipend. byu’s Putnam team typically fares pretty well in the intercollegiate match-ups, but just like any difficult skill, succeeding at the Putnam takes a lot of practice. Team members meet two hours a week and work on what James Pringle (Honors-Mathematics ’12) called “the craziest, hardest, most difficult math problems I’ve ever seen.” Working with a faculty advisor on solving problems and Putnam strategies, they spend their time working out problems and sometimes looking at an answer and wondering how someone came up with that. Pringle recalls, “We worked on problems that had solutions and even the teacher didn’t know how to solve a few. The hardest part is knowing how to start a question. Once you have the answer you can usually figure out how to solve the problem. But without the answer it can be really hard.” Which is why, bringing the story back to me, I’m sitting at a desk in the Talmage building staring at a series of problems that use terms like “an
uncountable collection of non-empty subsets,” and “a non-negative continuous function.” Contrary to James’ testimonial, even if I had the answers I don’t think they could help me much. I have just the barest inkling of how to start one of the problems, but that’s as far as I get. I use some of the remain-
“If you have the answer you can usually figure out how to solve the problem. But without knowing the general sort of answer you’re looking for, it can be really hard to even know where to begin.” ing space to write English-flavored gibberish about the Keatsian dichotomy of real numbers, but I know I’m fighting a long, uphill battle—we’re talking to the top of Everest. At the end of the day, it’s not about the grade, though. It’s about being able to brag to my fellow math-challenged friends that I took the hardest intercollegiate math test— and scored the average. █
HONORING ACADEMICS PEOPLE INSIGHT INSIGHT 2013 2013
CREATING SOMETHING WORTHWHILE A LOOK AT RECENT HONORS THESES
Amy Vanden Brink
ERIKA CRAVATH (’12) MAJOR: Dance Education k–12
helves upon shelves of blue hardbound books in the library and Honors Reading Room stand as proof that the Honors thesis is possible. But for students who want to graduate with Honors, the thesis is the most intimidating requirement standing between them and graduation. Instead of looking at the thesis as something to grin and bear, many students choose to make their thesis a significant experience in their life. The following pages tell the stories of six recent Honors students and their projects.
Educational Movement: Connecting Dance and the Elementary School Classroom. THESIS:
DAVID BOWMAN (’15)
Graphic Design Human/Nature: Looking for the Line between Man and his Environment. MAJOR:
DAVID SESSIONS (’11) MAJOR:
THESIS: Homeless in Provo: A History and
Ethnographic Essay of Homelessness in Provo. The idea for David Sessions’s thesis came as he met homeless people all over Provo at grocery stores and in the library. Meeting these individuals and discovering Provo’s large number of homeless people in the city inspired David’s two-part thesis. The first part is a research paper on the history of how Provo handled its population of homeless from 1980 to 2008. To write the second part, David spent about nine months volunteering and conducting an ethnographic study at the Food and Care Coalition every Friday.
The first seven and a half months, David served food at the Food and Care Coalition while getting to know the people who came through his line. Eventually he waited by the door as people left and asked them if they wanted to participate in his study. Eight people agreed to talk with him, which gave him the opportunity to meet some wonderful and humble people. One of them, Robert, showed up one day when David was volunteering, and stayed for only three weeks. That was enough time for David to learn about
Robert’s hard life and the painful circumstances that led to his homelessness. But he told David, “I gotta tell you, when the sun’s out that is what makes my life the most enjoyable.” David says all the people he interviewed commented that the hardest part about being homeless is the weather. His thesis was a time-intensive project, but spending all those Fridays at the Food and Care Coalition was David’s favorite part. It was his way of breaking out of the narrow world of student life and learning how other people live their lives.
The photography for this article is the basis of David Bowman’s thesis-in-progress. Inspired by the New Topographic movement in photography, David’s photos focus on the relationship between man and the environment by including man-made objects in landscapes. And just like man has altered the landscapes through building, David has altered the landscapes further through digital processes. By compiling several images into one, stripping buildings of ornamentation, and changing the color, David has created eerie landscapes that feel familiar, yet do not look like real places we can think of. It tests what we consider to be landscape, and emphasizes our impact on landscapes.
Erika’s thesis focused on bringing dance to every subject in elementary school. Working through byu Arts Bridge program, Erika visited classrooms a couple of hours a week to help teachers use dance as a teaching tool in subjects like math, science, and writing. Through dance, she inspired students to make shapes with their bodies based on prepositions and showed them how energy qualities in their movement help make sense of the water cycle. The students loved it. Erika’s favorite experience was with a boy with special needs. She said, “He was behind his peers in many ways. But one lesson on rhythm clearly touched him in a profound way.” When the students created their own dances, “all his awkwardness was gone, and he was just dancing, in the moment, with incredible rhythm and style.” Watching him, Erika thought, “Well, if I didn’t make an impact on anyone else, I know that lesson and experience was worth it to him.” Besides teaching in actual classrooms, Erika also wrote a lesson manual with twenty-one lessons covering areas like math, music, social studies, and science, each with accompanying videos of her teaching. By putting it up online, Erika made it so any teacher can have a resource to inspire them if they want to use dance to help their students learn. Erika’s lesson plans and teaching videos can be found at goo.gl/Tdgbb
MAX OGLES (’11) MAJOR: English
THESIS: Washing the Dishes: A Collection of
Max Ogles describes his thesis as a narration of “personal experiences, observations, and secular knowledge to make sense of some theme.” When Max was researching what to do for a thesis, he realized he could write a collection of personal essays. It would be a daunting project, but his background in writing made it an interesting challenge. Four essays make up Max’s collection, each relying upon memories from his life to explore larger themes like anticipation, owning second-hand things, the nature of essays, and personal relationships. His essay “Anticipare” flows back and forth between a narration of him and his wife expecting their first child and reflections on the word “anticipation.” “Anticipare” went on to win first place for nonfiction in byu’s 2011 Vera Mayhew Essay Contest. Another one of Max’s essays, “Wordsworth, the Essayist,” reflects on essays. It won first place in Ohio Northern University’s annual nonfiction contest. Later it was published in their Polaris Journal of Undergraduate Literature. The title “Washing Dishes” comes from a scene in “Anticipare,” a moment when Max’s wife is vomiting in the bathroom from morning sickness while he stands helplessly at the sink washing dishes. Max wanted to include that moment in the larger theme of his collection because of its emotion. “Washing Dishes” also echoes an idea in “Wordsworth, the Essayist” when Max writes that essays are like water. They can’t be limited to a simple definition, “as if the only use for pure, crisp water was to wash spaghetti sauce from our dishes.” Instead, essays are much more endless in their possibilities. Their charm depends “on the charm of the essayist, which means that the essay takes on as many forms as there are human personalities.”
“Essays are like water. They can’t be limited to a simple definition, as if the only use for pure, crisp water is to wash spaghetti sauce from our dishes.”
MARK WILLIAMS (’11) MAJOR: Communications
I Am Not My Body: Overcoming Challenges and Achieving Personal Greatness. THESIS:
Mark Williams spent eighteen months bonding with a Cannon t2i, film editing equipment, and a thirteen-year-old boy by the name of Marius Woodward. Doing this creative project let Mark combine some requirements for both his thesis and his senior capstone project. That project ended up being a fifty-minute documentary exploring how severe burn victims handle life physically and emotionally after their traumatic event, with Marius as the subject of the narrative. As a child living in Romania, Marius was burned over seventy-five percent of his body from a house fire that killed his parents. He now lives in the United States with an adopted family, and everyone around him falls in love with him. Getting the idea for the story from “a friend of a friend of a friend,” Mark contacted Marius’s adopted family and began collecting information and interviews from the people involved in his
story. Mark traveled over much of the United States finding and interviewing people, and even flew to Romania to complete the story. When the film was finally edited with graphics and music, Mark submitted the final project to the College Television Award competition, and despite competing against almost a thousand films made by entire teams of students and advisors, the film won the 2011 College Television Award. Mark admits that making a film sounds much easier than it actually was, and in reality, it greatly exceeded the hour requirement for the capstone and the thesis. But the project took on its own life and Mark learned you simply need to try things. “Think big and just go for it; you never know what will happen.” For more information about Marius’s story, visit goo.gl/vMHhl
HONORING 2013 HONORING PEOPLE ACADEMICSINSIGHT INSIGHT 2013 58
TAYLOR SMITH (’12) MAJOR: Civil Engineering
Educating the Engineer of the Twenty-First Century: Making the Case for Broadening Engineering Education.
“They spent part of their journey to India riding in luggage bags strapped to the roof of a bus to avoid the attention of the Chinese police.”
MEGAN TYLER (’12) MAJOR: Geography
THESIS: A Nation of Survivors: A Narrative
of Tibetan Refugees in Exile.
Megan Tyler focused her thesis on international development through a field study in India. She lived in a settlement for Tibetan refugees and researched what life was like for those who had escaped China-ruled Tibet. After the Chinese Liberation Army occupied Tibet in 1959, the prime minister of India allowed the Tibetans to create settlements in India, where the Tibetan government now functions in exile. Megan’s thesis focuses on how the Tibetan government in India is fostering Tibetan nationalism through its support of incoming refugees. Megan interviewed refugees and government workers at the settlement, where she learned the stories of these Tibetans. A group of monks told her—with the help of an interpreter—how they spent part of their journey to India riding in luggage bags strapped to the roof of a bus to avoid the attention of the Chinese police.
Besides interviewing, Megan also shadowed the director of the transition school and volunteered at the school. She participated in conversation classes helping monks and former political prisoners learn English. The people she met showed a strong determination and resilience even though they were exiled from China-ruled Tibet. “Tibetans are probably the nicest people in the world,” she says. “All I had to do was participate, and they adopted me into their community.” After coming home, Megan enrolled in the “Writing the Honors Thesis” class, where Professor Greg Taggart encouraged her to make her experiences into a narrative. A Nation of Survivors weaves in and out of first and third person as Megan recounts the history of China, Tibet, and the settlement in India; the biographies of refugees and workers in the settlement; and the impressions she came away with.
At first, Taylor was unsure about being an Honors student because of all the art requirements. Being an engineering student, he made no qualms about avoiding anything to do with art. But he stayed, and Honors exposed Taylor to a world of liberal arts, which he later realized supplemented his more technical degree. For his thesis, Taylor looked at the two parts of his education, liberal learning from general education and Honors, and technical learning from civil engineering, and felt like they were so segregated he couldn’t integrate them into one educational experience. Inspiring lectures repeatedly taught him and his fellow engineers the importance of leadership and skills beyond the technical, but Taylor felt the current structure of the curriculum didn’t provide adequate opportunities to actually develop these skills. He especially felt that engineers were not learning how to be comfortable with ambiguity, something that happens in the real world of their career. So Taylor wrote his thesis to propose restructuring the civil engineering curriculum at byu. This new structure focuses on embedding more liberal topics into classes. For example, rather than just learning the technicalities behind bridge collapses in a steel design class, students would also study the history of collapses and write a reflection paper. Taylor’s plan encourages engineers to meld their liberal arts thinking with their technical skills so the two types of education are not so separated. Taylor says his thesis was a reflection of his whole education. He had some sleepless nights, but looking back, the whole experience of Honors and creating a thesis was one of his greatest. █
On Chess WRITTEN BY
n Chess” is an essay from an Honors Thesis essay collection written by Max Ogles, featured in this Insight issue’s article “Creating Something Worthwhile: A Look at Recent Honors Theses.” “On Chess” was previously published in Paradigm, an online journal.
By the time I reached kindergarten, my dad had taught me how to play chess. We sat at the kitchen table, and he showed me where to place the pieces on the board. Everything made sense in my sixyear-old mind; there were castles and horseys and bishops, like at church—and there were ponds. Dad explained that in chess, castles are called rooks, horseys are called knights, and yes, they’re bishops like at church. But he didn’t explain that the ponds were actually pawns because he didn’t know I was confused and neither did I. Only later, around the age of ten, did I realize that ponds were actually pawns, and the childhood discrepancy was settled. My dad taught me chess tactics, too. He advised: Always get your knights and bishops out early, control the center of the board, and castle as soon as you can. He showed me how to win a game with only two pieces, a king and a rook. He showed me how to win a game with only four moves, start to finish. He taught me to love chess, like he does, like his father did. Now, so many checkmates later, chess isn’t so much a game that I play as it is a memory linking together the family generations. My grandpa died three years ago, my dad only plays chess occasionally, and I’m married in college with a life that yields little mention of chess at all. But I still love it. I love a game I rarely play because
the places and people connected to the game last longer than the pieces and moves and games themselves. When I first learned to play, Dad was a chess fanatic. He played at home, across the table from me, or one of his close friends, or anyone who had the slightest interest in chess. Dad played at picnics, church socials, and official chess tournaments. He played chess online (three or four nights a week) against people from all over the world. For a while, he even played chess by mail. Books of chess strategy lined a shelf on the bookcase in his office. A new edition of Chess Life magazine arrived each month, and we were members of the US Chess Federation. At one point, Dad built his own chessboards. He made two of them, one to keep and the other to give to Grandpa. He cut each block separately and then glued the alternating dark and light wooden pieces together. He sanded the checkered boards to a sliding smooth finish and stained them so they shined. Some of the squares were uneven, and I think one side of the board might have been longer than the others, but my dad’s not a carpenter—he just loves chess. Whenever I played chess against Dad, he’d give up one of his pieces before the game even started. “Choose any one of my pieces,” he’d say, “and I’ll play without it.” I picked the queen every time— the tall, elegant, merciless queen, invaluable for her versatility—but even with this handicap, my dad always won. I can easily see why my dad loves chess, because bishops and rooks crisscross through the memories I have of my grandpa. I grew up in Ohio, and Grandpa lived in Utah, so I only saw him for a week or so every other year. My dad says Grandpa played a lot of chess as a twenty-year-old merchant marine, especially when he was stuck in the hospital with tuberculosis. Move after move, the games piled up because the hospital staff wouldn’t let Grandpa out of bed to do anything else. Fifty
years, nine kids, and thirty grandkids later, he was still playing. When the aunts, uncles, and grandkids filled his house during the holidays or summer break, Grandpa played with anyone who could sit at the table and reach the pieces. “Anyone up for a game of chess?” he’d ask the crowd. Grandpa used a favorite set of small wooden pieces and the shiny smooth board that my dad had given him. Whenever I played with Grandpa, he would go easy on me; he’d say, “Now are you sure about that move? I’ll let you take it back if you want.” But even with the help, I still never beat him. Grandpa had taught my dad to play chess, and Dad told me his own chess life story—he learned from Grandpa, then joined the chess club in high school, and played and played, and read and studied all those strategy books, until finally he beat Grandpa. And Grandpa used to tell me the same story, except slower and with a bigger smile. He explained how Dad joined the chess club in high school, and played and played, and read and studied all those strategy books, until my dad finally beat my grandpa. The way Grandpa told me the story, I could tell he was proud of my dad. I love chess because my dad loves chess and because my Grandpa loved chess. Now just a few years after Grandpa’s death, I’ve learned more about him. I know that his favorite nighttime snack was bread with milk. I know that when he had an old car, he usually didn’t sell it—he just gave it away. I know that my grandma and my aunts asked for a dented coffin when Grandpa died because Grandpa was as thrifty as they come. My grandma cried when she gave me the favorite set of chess pieces and the solid smooth board that belonged to Grandpa. And that seems right, because most of what I know about Grandpa, passed on by my dad, is chess—moves and schemes shifting and twisting into beautiful synchronous sense. █
“Now, so many checkmates later, chess isn’t so much a game that I play as it is a memory linking together the family generations.”
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student to enroll. For more information, contact us at email@example.com
and designers. Insight is an Honors magazine class, but you donâ€™t have to be an Honors
We are now accepting applications for student writers, editors, photographers, illustrators,
HONRS 301R SEC 001
WRITE. TYPE. EDIT. DESIGN. 63
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BRIGHAM YOUNG UNIVERSITY HONORS PROGRAM