Keep in Check your Cherished Opinions, then . . .

the-answer

Check Your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

On the eve of the 2016 election, I am at rest. No more campaigning. No more snappy rejoinders on Facebook. No more snark. And while I believe there is a time to play the game of electoral politics–as bloody as it can get–it’s time now to put down the sword.

I’m not proud of all of my public communications–and by that I mean my expressions in newspapers, conversations and social media. I am guilty of baiting at times. I am too-easily triggered: flooded with emotions that touch on my cherished opinions.

What do I mean by “cherished opinions”? They are opinions that are no longer scrutinized, examined, or re-evaluated. As with most if not all people, I have my fair share of cherished opinions. A brief sampling right now:

  • All Republicans are misinformed at best and dangerous at worst;
  • Religious fundamentalists should not be given any kind of public platform (or tax breaks);
  • Aspirin every day is going to keep me from having a heart attack.

Actually, that last item is a good example of how cherished opinions are formed. I don’t remember what article it was on the internet. I think it was multiple medical opinions over the course of several years. But at one point, I read one particular article that suggested that an aspirin a day was going to help me avoid heart trouble later.

To me, taking one pill a day as quick as you please was a no-brainer, especially consdering that it was going to help me by such and such a percentage. So forming that opinion was great, because it required a dang easy behavior. But what has happened since that notable time, other than the fact that I’ve bought and consumed a LOT of aspirin, is that I don’t think about the truth behind the claim anymore. I just do it.

Well, guess what? Nothing . . . nothing is so simple as a cherished opinion, including aspirin as a pancea for heart trouble. In fact, taking aspirin every day has its downside. And, more pernicious than that, I’m the kind of guy (lazy) that might very quickly use my quotidian dosage of aspirin as an excuse not to do anything else for my heart, even though statistically (and congenitally) I’m prone to suffer if not die from it.

Me: I don’t have to worry about my drinking and lack of exercise.

The Universe: Why is that?

Me: I take aspirin!

My call to action here at the end of the 2016 electoral cycle and all of the knuckleheadery that’s been going on is this:

Check your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

About three weeks out from Nov. 8, 2016, when the fatigue from campaign anxiety was setting in (what David Plouffe calls “bed-wetting“), my wife Cheryl and I posted a blog on Medium to try to get people to talk, in a non-partisan way, about what it means to vote one’s conscience:  “how do we distinguish the inspired voice of conscience from the prejudicial voice of our cherished but perhaps unsupported opinions?”

We got very few responses. One in fact, as of Nov. 7, 2016 . . . a very thoughtful one, I might add. But most people seemed to be finished with all of the craziness of email scandals and Trump rallies. They didn’t want to think or comment on any of it. Not in an abstract, philosophical way. We were all too busy swinging our swords.

So, to suggest something about opinion-making and opinion-checking, morality is a philosophy of equality. Therefore, to vote one’s conscience is to cast a vote for the good of one’s self and everyone else. No one should tell you not to vote your conscience. It’s not only the right thing to do but, for moral individuals, it’s the only thing you can do when you enter the voting booth. That includes strategically voting (I’m going to vote for this guy, even though I despise him, so that that candidate over there has less of a chance of winning.)

That said, here’s another claim: Conscience evolves with greater understanding. Cheryl and I used the example of slavery in America and how, arguably, the consicence of Americans did indeed evolve, which led to emancipation. And we conclude with this: “The voice of cherished opinion is a smug one. But the voice of conscience is arguably a very uncomfortable one. Conscience at work has an overwhelming tendency, it seems, to undermine certainty and to require courage.”

That’s what I mean by keeping in check one’s cherished opinions.

 

Stand Up and Be Counted

I used to teach public speaking at Westminer College in Salt Lake City, and I taught it as a civics course for a couple of reasons: first, speeches (i.e., communications or presentations) that we are familiar with as a collective tend to be based on issues of political and social concern; and, second, it doesn’t seem that we even teach civics anymore in high school or college.

My agenda with my students was this: in a democracy, not only do you have the right to express your opinion, you have the obligation to express it. For the good of The Republic. We need everyone’s voice. But we also need conscientious warrants for the arguments we make, along with a sense of the ebb and flow, the dialectic, to reference Aristotle, the author of The Rhetoric, (“the art of persuasion”) and arguably the father of communication studies.

As an aside, with the raucous surge of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump voters this year, it has occurred to me that the election cycle has been especially turbulent because there are so many newcomers to the game. The learning curve of making democracy is hard-wired, I believe, but there is a learning curve. Not that everyone who supports either of these sample candidates are neophytes, or are “uninitiated,” but many, I posit, were / are. We need to welcome them, but we also need mentor what it means to form rather than adopt opinions, especially when there’s so much at stake, as in an election.

I don’t believe it is in our best interests to eliminate any of the voices of the American people, even when they are pointed and harsh. As a country, we have our laws. For example, “fighting words” are not allowed. And our free speech tradition will always err on the side of a big tent approach to public discourse. Rightly so.

To conclude this section: we need everyone’s voice to make democracy–as messy as it is–work.

So stand up . . . and be counted. Vote.

 

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

If we believe that we can be blinded by our own cherished opinions, and if we believe that we have (along with everyone else) not only the right but the obligation to speak our mind, then we are more likely to see compromise, not as a four-letter word, but as the way things actually work in our world . . . arguably, the only way that things work sustainably in our world.

Our expressions of opinion, the reasons and warrants we give for those opinions, the data or “facts” that we present to support why we have come to a conclusion–the candidate we endorse and campaign for–they become a moral act. And a moral act is a sustainable act, a communal act, and social act in the best sense of the word “social.”

In this scenario of forming opinions consicously, our conscience, as evolving as it is, remains intact. We may disagree with each other, but we understand again, using the dialectical model of Aristotle, that real world behaviors–behaviors that take place in commerce, in family arrangements, in law and in politics–they are a product and a glorification if you will, of communicative acts.

This back-and-forth dynamic is how a good conversation happens, if you think about it. You and your friend get together over coffee or drinks, or a small family group gathers over dinner, and you discuss, you explore, you laugh and you ponder. You express and you hold back. You counter. You add more information, hopefully truthful information, inflected by your good will for those with whom you are communicating.

When a decision is required, you make that decision, but you do it together. You can’t do it alone. You can’t do it by edict. (I mean you can, but eventually those you’ve imposed your edict on are going to, rightly, rebel. Then we really do have a revolution, and another problem since people get hurt pretty badly in a revolution.)

So this is what I’ve been thinking of late, in between taking my aspirin every day; finding out that red wine is good for me . . . but wait . . . now it’s not; that free trade is essential to “lifting all boats” and being a bridge to the new century . . . but, wait a minute, not when it categorically risks decimating our work force; that war is always regrettable, but sometimes will happen, particularly in defense of the homeland (but not for the purposes of exploitative globalization, or getting more oil).

I’ve been thinking about this and I realize that after tomorrow–whoever wins the presidency, the Senate, the House . . . the school board, we have our work cut out for us. And you know what? It will actually be work that is gratifying. So that the next time the election season cycles back in, we’ll be more prepared for it. We’ll be more humane. We’ll be more helpful. And we will better thrive.

Check your Cherished Opinions

Stand Up and Be Counted

Compromise for the Benefit of the Collective

crisis

 

 

Reading & Signing in Zion Canyon, March 21, 2016

zion canyon

Zion National Park is one of the most stunning and one of the most visited National Parks in the American Southwest. Zarts has invited me to read from and sign copies of Dream House on Golan Drive on Monday, March 21, 2016. I hope you can join me as it’s not far from St. George, Kanab and other populated areas of the Mormon Corridor . . . even Las Vegas.

And even if you’re not Mormon, I hope you’ll come as Dream House is really about what someone from a tight-knit religious community does when he finally figures out he doesn’t fit in. Jewish, protestant, Catholic or Muslim . . . I really think you’ll be able to identify with the main character. And . . . (how’s the sales pitch thus far?), if you’ve grown up “gentile” (meaning “non-Mormon,” offensive as that word is) in Utah or the Mountain West, you’ll be able to “get” much of what the book is saying about the civilizing force that religion has played in this region.

I’m especially grateful to Zarts for promoting literature in the St. George / Zions Park area. Culturally, there’s a lot going on here, including Emmy Award Winning Red Rock Rondo‘s Zion Canyon Song Cycle, Hal Cannon (also of Red Rock Rondo) with his new desert music group 3HatTrio, which recently partnered with Repertory Dance Theatre where I work full-time in Salt Lake City on a new work. (Ever hear of western folk music tinged with reggae? That’s 3HatTrio).

It’s also home to Teresa Jordan (Hals’ significant other) whose most recent book A Year of Living Dangerously (Weekends Off), is a recent winner of the 2015 Utah Book Award. The collection of essays, many of which stem from her blog of the same title, is a wonderful meditation on virtue as it applies (or doesn’t) to contemporary life . . . a life worth examining.

Hope to see you in red rock country on March 21!

7:00 PM
Canyon Community Center
Springdale, UT
(
Turn on Lion Blvd., go past Town Hall)

ZArts_Logonarrows

Reading at Artisans Gallery in Cedar City, March 22, 2016

Artisans SUU I’m thrilled to be invited by Southern Utah University (SUU) to read from and sign copies of Dream House on Golan Drive in Cedar City. The event takes place at 5:00 pm at Artisans Gallery on Center St. (You’ll still be able to make it to your caucus meetings by 6!)

Cedar City is “Festival City,” the home not only of SUU but of the Tony-Award Winning and world-renowned Utah Shakespeare Festival.
USF

As a former theater critic, I have many, many fond memories of the Festival and Cedar City, in fact they both appear as a setting in Dream House, including when Riley borrows his friend’s Edsel, an antique car with a tortured history, and takes his soon-to-be-wife Dina to an outdoor production of Twelfth Night. They get engaged almost immediately afterward. Cedar is also the site of where Lucy, the important friend and mentor to Riley, is visited by “Zed,” the narrator of Dream House and one of the ancients from Book of Mormon lore.

Another memory is being invited as a high school student to the first annual High School Shakespeare competition back in the 70s. I played Oberon, King of the Faeries from A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a scene with Martha Nibley (now Martha Beck) who would later write a devastating memoir of her experience growing up in Provo titled Leaving the Saints. (I reviewed her book, much to the consternation of some, in the now defunct Irreantum [scroll to pg. 82]) where I was a sections editor for 5 years. Beck is now a columnist for O Magazine.

I’m fortunate to have friends in Cedar and SUU, including Darrell Spencer, the brilliant short story writer and professor who blurbed Dream House, and Danielle Beazer Dubrasky, a friend from my BYU days, now an SUU professor herself and a fabulous poet whose most recent chapbook is titled Ruin and Light. You can read a review by fellow Utah poet Jennifer Tonge of Dani’s collection here.

I’d love to have you join us in Cedar City on March 22!

READING: Feb. 25, 2016 (Logan, UT)

Logan_Library

Helicon West Reading Series
February 25, 7:00 PM
255 North Main Street
Logan, UT

Poet Nancy Takacs and David Pace will read and sign their latest books.

Nancy TakacsD Pace

Helicon West provides a regularly-scheduled place and time for members of the writing community to give their work a public voice, with no restrictions on levels of skill and no censorship of ideas or craft. Publication of readers’ work is a main goal.

We work with downtown merchants to find venues with easy accessibility (for parking and public transportation) and an intimate, homey atmosphere, where attendees can purchase drinks and/or books to make our events worthwhile to the business owners.

 We seek a reciprocal relationship among university students and faculty, the non-academic community, and the rural and business communities, to give the literary arts more exposure and accessibility and to promote diversity and democracy in the valley.

 

Frank’s Buick: Personal Essay (Alligator Juniper)

buick

This essay was first published in the literary journal Alligator JuniperIt was later republished in the debut batch of Phone Fiction, an online platform for reading short fiction (and literary essays) on your mobile device. (Very cool).

Frank is my late father-in-law who died in 1997. I inherited his car. It wasn’t easy…at first.

“I’m not sure when my late father-in-law’s town car became our car. It wasn’t when we wrested it from Mom, who we decided couldn’t safely operate it anymore. It wasn’t when we changed the title to my name. For even after that, I saw it as Frank’s Buick, a.k.a. the Batmobile, so named because of its dual automatic “ComforTemp” controls in the front seats (leather), its “Twilight Sentinel” feature that turns the headlights onand off depending on how light it is outside, the heated windshield, the cruise control with automatic reset, the illuminated entry system around door locks, the electric radio antennae that telescopes into hiding every time you turn off the radio.

“The sexy stereo system. …”

More

 

Alligator

WHAT IS AN ETHNIC MORMON?: Huffington Post

 

o-OCEAN-EXPLORATION-facebook Huffington

This conversation with blogger Mette Ivie Harrison appeared on Huffington Post Dec. 1, 2015. At the time, the LDS (Mormon) Church had made a policy change that the children of cohabiting (conjugal) gay parents–now considered “apostate”–would not be allowed to be blessed, or baptized into the Church or otherwise be officially considered a church member. 

As some Mormons decided to resign their membership in protest over this announcement, the question of what’s left after leaving the institution again came up. Thus, this conversation about “ethnic Mormonism,” which is something I have long advocated for.

Mette is a regular contributor to HuffPost, and she invited me to share my ideas with her in a conversational format. Mette is LDS and a best-selling author, most recently of The Bishop’s Wife and the sequel His Right Hand, two mysteries set in Draper, Utah. She was also kind enough to blurb my book Dream House on Golan Drive, which is how we met.

“Today, a conversation with author David Pace about the growing numbers of ‘ethnic Mormons,’ those who grow up Mormon, but for various reasons leave the church, and how Mormons may need to make a bigger tent to include them.

“Q:  When I first started to articulate some of my doubts about Mormonism with non-Mormon friends, they asked me why I didn’t create my own church. Take what I loved about Mormonism and move on. Or find a splinter group that matched my own ideas better. It’s a very Protestant view of religion, and I struggled to explain to them that the choices in terms of splinter groups were slim and grim pickings. As for creating my own church, growing up as Mormon meant that I had an abhorrence of “priestcraft,” quite apart from my introverism and general disinterest in organizing large groups in any form.

“David, what are your thoughts on this?” More

The Kingdom of Tom Green (Essay)

In this essay I talk about the persistence of polygamy (plural marriage) in the faith of my childhood and the tradition of my choice: Mormonism.

Polygamy reigned on both sides of my family during the 19th Century when founding prophet Joseph Smith Jr. instigated the practice in the Mississippi River town of Nauvoo, Illinois. Despite multiple efforts to divorce itself from the practice, the LDS Church is still haunted by the hold of polygamy which continues among those in the Mormon movement.

So does “lying for the Lord,” the imperative that my ancestors were given to hide this peculiar practice of “spiritual wifery” from the law of the land. My argument in this essay is that this kind of mendacity continues in the current LDS population which regularly protects the institutional church above all else–even (and especially) if they have to lie to themselves.

Tom Green, Polygamist

Tom Green, Polygamist

“IN 1988, I wasn’t sure I liked having a
wife, and I hardly wanted another one.
So I don’t think it was because I lusted
after more conjugal living that, during a
stand-off that year between law-enforcement officials and Utah polygamists, I found myself quietly rooting for the guy with more than one wife.”

Download the PDF of Sunstone and read the essay beginning on pg. 8.

Polygamy

 

Interview: Access Utah (UPR)

UPR

Tom Williams

Tom Williams

Our guest for the hour today is Utah author David G. Pace whose debut novel Dream House on Golan Drive is published by Signature Books. It is the year 1972, and Riley Hartley finds that he, his family, community, and his faith are entirely indistinguishable from each other. He is eleven. A young woman named Lucy claims God has revealed to her that she is to live with Riley’s family.

Her quirks are strangely disarming, her relentless questioning of their lives incendiary and sometimes comical. Her way of taking religious practice to its logical conclusion leaves a strong impact on her hosts and propels Riley outside his observable universe and toward a trajectory of self discovery.

Set in Provo and New York City during the seventies and eighties, the story encapsulates the normal expectations of a Mormon experience and turns them on their head.

Listen to full UPR podcast here.

DESPERATELY SEEKING SPIRIT: Review of Martha Beck’s “Leaving the Saints”

Beck
Martha Beck’s Leaving the Saints is valuable . . .  .Why? Because in my view the book is so very Mormon. There are rich and telling descriptions of the Church and of Mormon culture, particularly as it configures in Utah Valley,more precisely at church-owned Brigham Young University. Many of us are apt to resonate with Beck’s account of the young Latter-day Saint leaving Zion, then returning home with not only religious questions but an invigorating sense of the expanding context in which Mormonism and the LDS Church nest. Her account of the disturbinconfluence of family, faith, and culture triggered by exposure to the world opens up the question of why many Latter-day Saints—surely one of the great globetrotting groups of the world—can remain so cloistered, so inoculated from the world outside themselves. Read the entire review here, beginning on pg. 82.
The response to this book was outrageous. Even the godfather of self-help books, the late Stephen R. Covey (of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People fame), went insane when he heard about the publication of the book which includes sexual abuse claims by Beck about her Mormon celebrity father, Hugh Nibley. (Covey, a friend of Oprah Winfrey’s, actually tried to derail the publication of the book and to discredit it wholesale since Beck was, by then, a columnist at Winfrey’s O Magazine.) The lunacy of it all was palpable.
This review was originally my comments on the book’s publication as a panelist at the Sunstone Symposium, the year the book was published by Random House’s Crown imprint. I worked those comments into a book review which later appeared in Irreantum, a Mormon literary journal (now defunct), published by the Association for Mormon Letters where I was the sections editor for 5 years. I took some heat for this review, but in the passive-aggressive way that I often experience as “the Mormon way.” Even so, I stand by my review which doesn’t let Beck off the hook for her savagery. This is one of the best nonfiction descriptions of life in the Mormon hothouse that has yet to see the light of day on a national level.
Hugh Nibley, 1983 Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU

Hugh Nibley, 1983
Photo by Mark Philbrick/BYU

Author Martha Beck

Author Martha Beck