Thursday, December 19, 2013

No One is Watching

If there's one thing that online games are known for, it's that they're home to the absolute worst kinds of people. In the virtual world, social norms and courtesy can be disregarded with wonton glee. In Eve, I've been lied to, backstabbed, blown up, robbed, and blown up again just for good measure. Confused bystanders would ask why anyone in their right mind would want to play such a game where complete strangers regularly betraying you is a normal aspect of gameplay. I've yet to come up with a good response for why I keep going back for more. 

Pictured: A complete stranger that wants to ruin your life for no reason. 

Just like in real life, examples of pure charity and christian behavior in Eve are as eye grabbing as an armed robbery, it's a rare occurence and usually quite spectacular when it does happen. 

One day, our target on a hunt was a lonely Nidhoggur Carrier who was relaying through the Aridia system. The 'man on deck' with me at the time was Gunny, a formidable German fellow with a hearty laugh and a lust for killing anything bigger than a cruiser. Our scout observed a Nidhoggur Carrier jump into the Afrah system at a planet, after which he jumped to the station in Yiratal system. 

Since we also monitored the local market carefully for clues, we noted that the Carrier pilot had quickly purchased 300 units of liquid ozone next door and returned to his spot on the planet. Clearly, after his business was done in Yiratal, this mean the Nidhoggur would likely jump back through Afrah system. 

In preparation for this, I positioned my own ship close by where his would turn up, at the same planet. The plan was simple: on his return trip, we'd tackle him and then drop our own capital ships to kill him. it seemed the easiest and cleanest of kills.

"HE'S UNDOCKING!" roared Gunny, who had docked at the same station in Yiratal.

But instead of a massive capital ship, the fellow appeared instead in a Rookie ship, a small frigate known as a reaper. 

To our surprise, this reaper then jumped to our own home system in Fihrneh. Once there, we monitored him buying Hydrogen Isotopes (The fuel for his carrier) at the market. Then, he undocked again and flew back to Yiratal, where his Nidhoggur was docked.  

"Now it comes!" enthused Gunny. But again it was the reaper, and not the carrier, which appeared. 

We waited. Clearly this man, whom we now dubbed The Ferryman, was intent on moving a lot of fuel for some grand journey. He also appeared to have no intention at all of simply dropping into the station and putting it all into his carrier at once. No, he was happy enough to fervently fly back and forth, hauling it piecemeal in the under-endowed cargo of a rookie ship. 

In Eve, good things often come to those who wait. So we sat and watched. As we imagined the isotopes piling up and the carrier getting ever closer to its fateful departure, we decided that there was something inherently moribund about the sight of a man so methodically crafting his own doom.

Even his anointed name became strangely apt. The scent of death followed our ferryman as closely as it would his namesake scurrying across the banks of the River Styx.

And still we waited. And still the ferrying went on. 

Then, with our patience wearing thin, we devised a plan to give fate a helping hand.

During one of his stops in Fihrneh, we piloted a Hoarder (an industrial ship) to the system of Edilkam, which lay between the fuel haven of Fihrneh and his carrier's location in Yiratal.  

While he was busy loading up another round of fuel and undocking, the pilot ejected from the Hoarder and left it floating in space. Although unboarded, the hauler was far form empty. We'd laden it to the brim with Hydrogen Isotopes.

The Ferryman's rookie ship soon arrived. We watched with baited breath as he aligned toward Yiratal. Would he ignore this offering? Suddenly, to our Malignant delight, he began approaching the Hoarder and boarded it. After a long pause, he warped it toward Yiratal.

"We have him now." exclaimed Gunny. 

Dreadnoughts were primed and final checks were made on the drone bays of our own hungry carriers. Surely it would b only moments until he warped into our trap.

Suddenly, Gunny erupted again on the comms. "It can't be!" 

The Ferryman had returned to Edilkam and he was still flying the Hoarder. We watched in shock as he carefully positioned the cargo sip back into the same spot over the gate where he'd found it. Then he boarded his rookie ship again and continued his work.

During one of his stops in Yiratal we checked the Hoarder. It's cargo was completely untouched. 

In Eve, the phrase 'Honor tanked' is often reserved for the dark art of hull tanking. (taking direct fire to the hull of your ship, rather than the armor or shields) And yet, it would never have been more applicable than for the incorruptible Ferryman.

When he finally did jump out, it was much as we expected. He warped to the exact planet and spot where our own pilots were waiting. Our tackler remained resolutely cloaked and we could only offer a silent salute as he jumped on to whatever adventures awaited him in New Eden.

Integrity means thinking and doing what is right at all times, no matter what the consequences. when we have integrity, we are willing to live by our standards and beliefs even when no one is watching. Choose to live so that your thoughts and behavior are always in harmony with the gospel. 

True integrity is a rare thing these days in society. Just like the virtual world, there always seems to be someone lurking around the corner just waiting to cheat you in some way or another. I think we all know at least one person that cheated his way through high school. Ditto steroid use in sports. There's an awful lot of pressure for us to do well in life and there seem to be just as many short cuts to achieve what we think will make us successful. But there always seems to be a catch. 

It never pays off to take the easy route through something. One way or another, it'll come back to bite us in the rear. The above account with the Ferryman provides a stark contrast for that. Had he done what we assumed he'd do, he would've taken the fuel for his carrier and then warped into his doom as we sprang the trap. Another Carrier would have become scrap metal floating in space. 

So what will you do the next time the opportunity presents itself and you believe no on else is watching? Will you take the shortcut or follow the path you know to be right? I can promise you that the we'll always know the difference between the two and when we make the correct choice, sometimes at great sacrifice, that we'll be recompensed for our effort. That's the joy of living the commandments. We're able to receive the help that we need from a loving heavenly father who knows our needs and is ever anxious to bless us. 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Active Faith vs. Active Belief

There is a common annoyance for me as a missionary serving in the south. You see, I meet a great deal of people who say that they believe in God and have faith in him. However, when it comes to getting them to actually act on the faith that they claim to have by inviting them to read scriptures or go to church, you might as well be kicking a two week old seal carcass into action. I think a lot of people, especially the church going variety, tend to misunderstand what it means to believe in something vs. to actually have faith in something. The difference being that faith requires action in order to be faith. Otherwise it is simply belief, and in today's society of constant turmoil, simple belief isn't good enough. 

Pictured: Active Belief

It is easy enough to say that you believe in something. There's not a doubt in my mind that anyone who says they believe in God really does believe in him. (If you're in the south, that's just about everybody.) They'll spend all day telling you how their belief in God has helped them become better people and how they know that he's watching out for them. Granted, you'll never see these people set foot in a church on Sunday, but gosh darn it they BELIEVE! In the end, however, these people lack real faith. Belief is the prerequisite of faith and without belief it impossible for anyone to have faith. Again we're brought to the conclusion that in order for belief to become faith, it requires action because it is through our actions that we are able to qualify for the blessings of Christ's Atonement. 

How is it that our actions can help us receive blessings from God, you ask? Let's take a look at the concept of repentance for example. By definition it is an effort to turn from things we do that are contrary to the laws of God and make a commitment to follow his laws more fully in the future. In return for our effort, we are blessed with greater sensitivity to the spirit and freedom from guilt over past mistakes as we receive a remission of our sins. It's that simple. Repentance isn't repentance unless you make the required effort to change your heathen ways and make changes in life in order to not go to hell. The heretic remains a heretic if he sits on his tucas all day and believes that he'll be saved because Christ suffered for his sins. Compared to the sinner that becomes a saint who exercises his faith in the atonement by changing his sinful ways, because he believes that Christ suffered for his sins. 

It's a simple fact that God will not do for man what man is perfectly capable of doing for himself. I imagine that's the goal of any parent; their kids learn to do things on their own, to solve problems on their own, to become agents for themselves. The kids that don't learn this tend to be the ones that cause their parents to exclaim in desperation "Get out of the house, you're thirty years old!" They are generally known as lazy folks and are a burden on everyone they come in contact with. 

Little wonder, then, that the greatest blessings that we seek often take the most effort. For every sacrifice we make, God promises to make up the difference, but first we have to make the sacrifice. He loves us, he really does, but I also imagine that he gets terribly frustrated with those of his children that expect hand-outs and then bewail and curse everything when their every whim isn't met. Kinda like the new dad that watches his two year old writhe on the floor in a screaming fit because the kid can't have cookies any time he wishes. 

In the end, we all must believe. It's where everyone must start out on the road to salvation. However, in order for it to become faith and in order to strengthen the faith that we already have, me must, as Nike puts it: Just do it. We do what it takes to maintain the faith by getting up and doing what God has asked us to do. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Don't Worry, Be Happy

There's a song called Don't Worry Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin which, aside from being the anthem of every stoner ever, is also the motto that God wants all of his children to follow. It's a simple fact that contrary to popular belief, God does in fact want us to be happy in this life. Hard to believe at times isn't it? Your car payment is late, you don't have the funds to pay for it, and you just found out that you have some sort of super rare form of larynx cancer... Okay, so maybe that's a bit extreme, but you get the idea. In life, we're constantly facing some looming problem or another. Others build up amid the constant swarm of annoyances that we face as human beings and someone dares write a song titled Don't Worry Be Happy?

The sad truth, or rather, the joyful truth is that God has actually commanded us to "Be of good cheer." In fact, the word "Gospel" literally means: The Good News. I've also noticed that those who have the Gospel in their lives are inexplicably happier than those around them who do not. As a missionary, I've been able to experience this 'joy for no reason' as well. 

My companions and I would stumble through the front door at the end of a long day, exhausted as could be. We'd be disappointed because appointments fell through, people cursed us and at us, investigators refuse to progress, etc. There was always a tsunami of worries that we had to deal with. Yet, I noticed that I was happy and the more that I thought about it, the more I realized that I was pretty much happy for no reason. What reason did I have to be happy? In one day, all of our teaching appointments fell through, I got charged by a pit-bull, random guys swore at us and told us to go to hell, our dinner fell through, and to finish it all off, my bike tire popped. Yet, at the end of the day, I was still at peace with myself because I had given my all for God. 

Contrast this with the lengths that people go to for personal happiness through material wealth or otherwise. Billions of dollars are spent every year on chocolates, toys, and mind altering drugs to make one happy. People indulge in every little fantasy and dream they could possibly have, as if the new iPhone 4SG PS4 or a fleet of porches could bring lasting happiness. We invest in material things with the subliminal hopes that they'll make us happy and perhaps they do, But the happiness that a new Kawasaki R3 brings in only temporary. (Because the engine tends to wear out after a good 15,000 miles) 

For me, it's a question on priorities and what's really going to make you happy in life that brings... well... happiness. To focus more on what's going to bring the happiness that lasts throughout this life and into the eternities. Bullet bikes come and go, but things like family and marriage can last lifetimes. God only expects us to obey his commandments and not to worry about the rest. We can put the troubles that we face in his hands and then forget about them. Then as long as we hold out strong until the very end, we will be guaranteed happiness in this life and the life to come.