Wednesday, January 30

Montaigne, Death, and Passions

I found a passage in my reading for English 677R that I wanted to share. Yeah, I’m sort of a writing nerd. Whatever.

The culprit at hand was Of Practice – Montaigne’s work on how to die. I don’t remember the exact context of the assignment to read, but I vaguely get the feeling that my creative writing teacher thinks that he, along with Philip Lopate and some Englishman whose name I can’t remember (and whose writing I abstained from commenting on during that period… I remember that he wrote about New Year’s Eve, but, other than that and the fact that his essay ended in a long, currently archaic poem, everything else is gone), are some of the great essayists of time. Or something like that.

Either way, I read Montaigne and found a passage that made me almost want to ask him to write a guest post on (Gay) Mormon Guy. Because I assume that, being Montaigne, his philosophizing would carry weight that my experiential writing doesn’t. Except that he died a couple centuries ago, and if I’m going to talk with angels, I’ll ask for someone other than Montaigne. So I’ll just include the section and let the words speak for themselves.

Every man knows by experience that there are parts that often move, stand up, and lie down, without his leave. Now these passions which touch only the rind of us cannot be called ours. To make them ours, the whole man must be involved; and the pains which the foot or the hand feel while we are asleep are not ours. (Of Practice, Montaigne)

I’ll leave the first sentence to explain itself because I can’t think of any way to put it without feeling awkward, except that you can’t control your attractions – to men or women. But I think it’s crazy that, 500 years ago, a French philosopher and writer wrote about a concept that is core to social debates today. Who are we? What defines us? I think it’s telling that philosophers, for centuries, have taken for granted that we’re defined not by the passions which move us, but by the actions we take in that regard. Simply put, being attracted to men doesn’t mean that I – the core essence of who I am, beyond everything else in the world – am gay… because passions which simply move my mind and body, without my leave, “cannot be called [mine].” To make them mine, the whole man must be involved. And that, ultimately, is my choice.

Sunday, January 27

The Paradox of Touch

My little sister brought friends home after Church today, and watching them made me wonder. As we all talked she, her roommate, and two boys they knew sat on our sectional, switching positions, playing with each others' hair, tickling, holding hands, sprawling, fighting over pillows, cuddling...

I just watched. It wasn't an awkward "watching them make out on the couch" type of thing... just noticing what happened as time went on and we talked. There wasn't a girl (or guy) for me anyway.

I guess I haven't really had the opportunity to watch many teenage boys & girls interact. I don't think my sister or her roommate has a crush on the boys, but physicality was there anyway. One guy's leg was stretched across the couch, or my sister had her head laid back against his chest... Everyone was always touching.

And that's completely foreign to me.

I have an inner repulsion that would have to be calmed before I could join a couch of girls engaged in cuddling. And, according to what little I know about unwritten societal rules, it would pretty much never be okay for me to sprawl on a couch full of guys, or to lean my head on another guy's chest. Even putting my arm above a guy on the back of a chair or couch seems like it's pushing the envelope. Intertwining fingers to hold hands doesn't seem like it would work.

I don't feel like almost anything they did would be acceptable between guys. Between girls? Yeah. But between guys... no.


I feel like modern society has sexualized touch to the point that the only contact men have with each other is a handshake or high-five. It's like doing anything else would be inciting homosexual feelings... or something absurd along those lines. Shaking hands with people at Church doesn't really fill my needs for touch. Why is guy-girl touch affirmative, girl-girl touch is accepted, but guy-guy touch is often interpreted as potentially sexual?

I feel like this - the societal construct that dictates that men don't touch one other - makes homosexuality a hundred times harder to deal with. If non-sexual touch between guys existed, then there would be an out. I need physicality, and then I could find healthy, spiritually safe, non-sexual ways to meet it. As it is, though, currently, putting my arm on the pew at Church next to another guy seems to be in the same category as making out with him: totally inappropriate.

I wonder how it happened. Who made it happen? What cultural artifacts made such a dramatic change possible? It's only been maybe a few years, a few decades, that touch has been hyper-sexualized in its nature by American society. That the phrase, "I love you, man" included the caveat "no homo." That the ideal man became distant, insensitive, and completely self-sufficient - especially from other men. It feels like it's as much a geographic artifact as it is chronological. In Italy they still give bacci - kisses - when saying hello or goodbye to friends, strangers, and colleagues.

So men who realize that they need affirmation from other men (guys like me), find themselves between a rock and a hard place. Try to find close friendship, emotional intimacy, or physicality with hetero guys, and hit a wall. Society has trained men well to avoid unnecessary contact, and since hetero guys can meet whatever needs for intimacy they have by following societal rules, they're happy to oblige. So where to turn?

Hence the draw of spending time with other guys with SSA. They get it. They understand. They know what it's like to sit in a crowd and feel alone - to need someone to give me a hug and feel how awkward it is to even ask for one, let alone get rejected. They know what it's like to have to dull my feelings when they flare beyond my control... and they know what it means when I say that feelings don't dull selectively. They're willing to talk, to listen, to look into my eyes and be there.

But those same situations are dangerous. It's like alcoholics being forced to drink in a bar because it's the only place that sells clean water. That's when same-sex attraction turns from a trial to a temptation... and mutual attraction turns innocent sitting on the couch into something beyond the boundaries that God has set.

I just wish that there was some way to change our society. To allow men to meet the needs they have, safely and within the context of normalcy. To align the boundaries of touch and physicality with the actual boundaries God has set.

But I have no idea how that will ever change.

Thursday, January 24

Let Me Be Blunt with You, David

Dan Schwartz called me this morning. He's a professor at Stanford, doing research on the intersection of cognitive psychology and learning, using technology as a resource to help people learn beyond their ability otherwise. He's one of the professors I want to work with there, and one I listed on my application.

He had a few questions about me. He asked a dozen questions... but it all revolved around one that he didn't ask. Together, it was this: "You've wanted to do everything, David, and you've done everything. You have an MBA. You write. You started a business. Do you really know what a PhD is like? Are you interested in doing research? Is this the right life for you? How can I be sure that getting a PhD isn't just another check on your list, or that you'll get bored/frustrated when year three rolls around and quit?"

The questions didn't catch me off guard this time. I knew what they'd be. They're the same questions that he asked my professor yesterday. But it's one thing to respond and vouch for someone you know is in it for the long run. But how do you respond to that for yourself? How can you convince someone that everything you've done in life up to this point is all pointing to the decision in his hand... especially when you look like no one else they've ever seen?

I'm graduating with an MBA. I student taught. Worked at a private school. Wrote curriculum. Published books. Did professional musical theater & opera. Started a business. Worked for a business consulting firm. Did research into best practices in student learning. Wrote a thesis on creating and modifying games for use in education. Worked as an educational game designer.

In my mind, they all point in one direction. They're all tied directly to understanding education at its core - communication. Communication in the business world - in marketing and HR. Communication in the classroom. In written texts - both creative and technical. In visual art and media. In consumer relationships. Internal communication and its impact. The use of technology in communication.

Doesn't it make sense that I would want a PhD? I've wanted to be a teacher for forever. I've paid my dues everywhere else, and now I can go back to the things I love most... right? The MBA has been a good experience, but every day I sit in a classroom as a student I wish I were a teacher. Running a business has taught me useful skills in understanding people, but the thing that makes me tick is teaching people - understanding how learning really happens.

Did you know that smells are linked to memories? If you close your eyes and smell a bottle of clove or cinnamon oil, your mind jumps in a thousand different directions, causing an emotional heave that ultimately ends depending on your past experiences. If you have good memories of baking in the kitchen, making gingerbread with your mother at 14, that may be the vision that appears in your mind.


Why are smells so deeply connected with memories? And how do they play a part? Are the memories piled on top of one another, each one getting buried deeper and deeper, or are they replaced? How many are there? How are they stored within the brain? Which specific chemical or chemical cocktail in the essential oil is the causal agent... and are memories associated with more than one set of stimuli? Is each stimuli associated with more than one memory, or are there only multiple based on the reality that smells are usually complex interrelated reactions with thousands of different receptors? And can they be used to improve cognitive skills and help people recall in the future... and if so, how?

I have a gazillion questions about learning. Things that I want to know. That I need to know. That I will learn, no matter what roads I have to cross or where I need to go or what I need to do.

That I made it this far - to a phone call on the day of decision - means that I'm in the running. That maybe the Stanford Graduate School of Education will be my future for the next part of a decade.

But it also means that he has misgivings... feelings somewhere in his gut that a stellar resume, perfect test scores, beautiful essay, and glowing recommendations won't be able to dissolve.

And that scares me... just as much as it brings me peace.

I don't know how I fared. I'm miserable at interviews. Being autistic comes with a high price... and while people will immediately mark me as charismatic, confident, and thoughtful, the more important pieces get left out. I'm miserable at catching cues and clues that I should. Miserable at knowing what to say. Miserable at everything.

He also asked me where else I applied. I didn't apply anywhere else, because I had an amazing experience at Stanford... and because I didn't want to take too much time from the people who were recommending me. It takes time to write, and I have a really hard time asking others for things that aren't absolutely necessary. Application to one school? Definitely. Applications to a dozen others, when I have no desire to go anywhere else? No. The difference between my experiences with Stanford and everywhere else were like night and day. But how do you explain having a series of profound spiritual experiences over the phone to someone that you don't even know?

I know the answers to his questions. I know that this has been the direction of my life and isn't just a passing fancy... that once I make a commitment, I don't ever renege. But does he?

It'll work out.

I'm just scared.

Wednesday, January 23

Stanford in the Balance

Stanford is the only place I applied to for PhD school. And today will decide whether or not I get in.

I began the application process with a broad swath of schools in mind, most of them suggested by my mentors and research advisors over the last 6 years. They suggested University of Michigan, Penn State, Indiana... so I looked. I read articles. I found lab reports and research results and anecdotal stories from students who loved and hated their schools. When I took the GRE, I sent my score report to as many schools as there were spaces.

And then I fell in love.

I went to Stanford campus in October of last year, skipping school to attend the official on-campus info session for prospective graduate school candidates. I tried to set up meetings with professors while I was there, but their schedules didn't have room... and I had probably used the wrong greeting when writing to them in the first place. But, even without meeting the professors I wanted to do research with, there was an underlying theme that made me feel right about Stanford. So right that I almost bought school apparel at the bookstore. I scouted out housing and wards, even looked at the exercise and workout facilities, extracurricular opportunities, clubs, and choirs available to students. Found the best places to eat vegan food on campus. And I have told everyone I know that Stanford is my plan.


So I have a lot riding on this.

Early this morning, one of my MBA professors (who wrote me a letter of recommendation), sent me an email letting me know that he had received an email from a professor at Stanford who had questions about my application. The email from Stanford came around midnight, and mentioned that final decisions were due tomorrow. He asked me to call him as soon as possible. I did. We talked about my goals, desires, dreams, and a few of the gazillion reasons that Stanford is the only place I want to spend my life for the next 5 years, and he's planning to call the professor at Stanford to answer the questions he had.

From that moment, my adrenaline started to race. My creative nonfiction class was a blur, and my attempts to read in preparation for my PhD research course lasted for moments at a time. One day. One committee. My life and dreams and hopes and research opportunities hang in the balance of right now. Could I do other things? Of course. But this - going to Stanford and getting a PhD - has been my goal for years - since I began my undergraduate thesis in educational game design and read Situated Learning by Lave & Wenger. It colored my classes, extracurricular activities, clubs, and even my free time. It's the reason why even this semester I have a class exclusively on the development of middle-range theories for academic research and another on writing compelling nonfiction.

Sorry. That sounds like an excerpt from an overly sappy statement of purpose.

The reality is that a group of professors in California are standing in judgment on my future life, with only a few pages of text that describe who I am.

I know that, whatever happens, it will all work out for the best end result in my life. God is guiding my life.

But my prayers are that they let me in.

Monday, January 21


I had dreams last night where I found myself in compromising situations with guys who were actively gay. They were attracted to me, my body was attracted to each of them, and we both knew it. So it wasn't a huge surprise when all three times, the guy tried to initiate sexual contact.

I don't have dreams like that often.

My dreams feel like an extension of waking life - many of the habits I've developed have been practiced in dreams. And since I'm a lucid dreamer, and usually have full control over my actions within the context of the dream (even if I don't know I'm dreaming), I feel like dreams are just as real as day. The decisions I make in dreams give me a window into who I am and help me see the places I still need to improve.

I turned the guys down each time... and woke up from each dream at that moment, still able to see the disbelief on their faces, along with all the other churning images and feelings burning in my mind.

"That's not who I am."

After the last dream, I just lay there in my bed, wondering why I had just had that experience. Wondering about things like the reality of dreams vs real life - sins and successes and choices and decisions - and hoping that I would never relive the experience in the flesh.

Then my younger sister's voice appeared out of the darkness, softly asking if I would give my other sister, who's been really sick, a blessing. The dreams and my life flashed before my eyes, and I felt like I was worthy to help. As I walked to her room, suddenly it all made sense. I may not be anywhere near perfect, but, if dreams are any indication of reality (and I believe they are), at least I'm on the right path. And that knowledge meant that I could give my sister a blessing and know that God would make good on His promises.

Sunday, January 20

Look into My Eyes

I learned that I was supposed to look into people's eyes when I was a teenager. Someone, somewhere, mentioned in passing that looking at people shows respect, intimacy, care, and love. Short introspection revealed that I rarely looked at people when I talked with them, and it was around that time that I wanted to show care and love to people... so I began looking into their eyes.

Whoever clued me in to gazing into the windows of the soul didn't explain exceptions to the rule that apply to people I don't know well, people who have low self-esteem, or the vast majority of humanity - people who are only comfortable with a maximum of about 85% eye contact without beginning to squirm... Those nuances took another decade to learn.

Social nuance aside, I feel like there is something almost holy about looking into someone's eyes. Maybe it's because the other person has to be looking back at me... into my own eyes. Maybe it's because it's in those moments - looking at someone honestly and without judgment - that God teaches me who they are and I can feel His love for them. Maybe it's because the connection there is different from anything else. It's an intimacy that doesn't need physical or social or even emotional contact. Or maybe it's because it doesn't happen very often.

In today's culture, we don't really make a lot of eye contact with others. We talk on the phone, hold meetings via email or text... and even in the "next best thing" - videoconferencing - the camera location keeps people from making eye contact. The camera would have to be embedded behind the eyes of the person I'm talking to... and that doesn't happen. Even in one-on-one conversations, we look away at the ten thousand distractions that modern society offers... instead of simply watching, looking, listening with our eyes and our hearts. Looking at my date, or even a total stranger, too intensely can belie deep interest at best, "creepiness" at worst (and of any epithet, "creep" is in my determination the worst that can be applied to me. That, and "liar"). I catch someone's eyes, and the immediate impulse seems to be to turn away... as if society has ruled that eyes can never meet.

I'm pretty sure that optical avoidance is a learned skill. Adults and teenagers squirm, but babies are willing to lock eyes with me forever. Smile, laugh, look away for a few seconds, chatter, but still turn and look again. I can be in a kitchen surrounded by noise and commotion, twelve inches away from my newest cousin, looking into her eyes, watching her, and she just looks back.

And then there's the temple. Somehow in the temple the norms of society lose their vice grip on mortality. The precepts the world teaches don't reach as deeply. And when all those factors are put together, working at the temple gives me the chance to stand two feet from a guy, one-on-one, look into his eyes... and he looks back at me. There's no question about intention - we're supposed to be looking at each other, and we're in the temple. And we both know the eye contact will last at most 15 seconds. But 15 seconds and I feel my need to connect with guys being filled... without words or touch or emotional interchange.

It's ironic that, in those short, structured moments, I feel a connection deeper than seems possible and that evades me in my everyday.

The eyes are the windows to the soul, right? I go through life wishing I could make real connections with the people around me. I do everything I can to break down barriers and transcend the arbitrary norms that upgrade my social difficulty into impossibility. It's fitting that the one place it always happens is in the temple.

Sunday, January 13

This is Peace.

Sometimes my mind goes quiet. Totally silent. The world keeps going, racing along its quickening track to somewhere bigger and brighter and somehow different, and I stop because the constant chatter of my mind has dulled to nothing. And I close my eyes and listen. To the wind blow through the trees or the snow fall. To cars as they pass by.

After a few moments, I hear what my soul was listening for... the reason why my mind went silent... more a feeling than a word... and far softer and quieter than the thoughts that try to take its place.


And in a breath everything makes sense.

Life seems brighter. People feel better. Light somehow looks more pure. Music plays in my heart - a song I've never heard but that somehow sounds more familiar than anything I've heard before - rushing through me like the wind through Autumn leaves. All the pain and sorrow and despair is gone.

Right now, I know completely that God has a Plan for me. That I'm going in the right direction. And while I still have a long way to go, I can find peace and happiness along the way. This is what happiness feels like. This is the feeling that I spend my life cultivating. When life loses its complexity and becomes a thousand times simpler. Keep the commandments. Trust in God. And everything will work out.

This is why I love the gospel. The feeling that makes everything worthwhile. The gift I wish I could give to people who are struggling with their faith. The glimpse of hope and peace and love that fills every need and makes me into a better man... and colors my every dream. The inspiration behind the poems I've written for a decade, trying to capture the essence of a moment, the light through the trees, the brilliance of a magnificent sunset through a smog-stained sky.

I know that tomorrow will bring another set of storm clouds into life. That the next few weeks will push me and the next few months may try my faith. The truest calms of nature come only before the greatest storms. But, today, before I descend into the valley to walk beside God, He gives me the chance to stand on the mountaintop. To see beyond my imperfections and simply be a son of God.

This is the gospel. This is life.

This is peace.

Tuesday, January 8

You've Never Really Tried

My siblings watched a movie about a cappella music tonight, and I joined for segments while trying to revive my phone from a recent restore.

And it made me think.

Of all the things on my bucket list, performing with an a cappella group (outside of Madrigals) is one that has never happened. I've tried to start a group a dozen times - with family, friends, random strangers who sing... I took years of dance in a dozen styles... I've sung in musicals, opera, and done group recordings... And yet I've never really jumped all the way in. I've never really tried. Partly because the opportunities I've had conflicted with the pathway I felt I needed to take. This performance or that practice schedule didn't fit with other things that I needed to do in life. Partly because I am miserable at leveraging anything within the social sphere... and music has about as much drama and politics as people can imagine.

And partly because I'm afraid. Not of failure or success in music, but in making connections with people. I don't want to join a group and make the implicit commitment to be all in only to realize that I feel like I'm on the outside... and unable to be a central part of the team. Especially if someone else wanted the spot, and had the ability to mesh more than me.

So I've never really tried.

Part of me feels like there's room opening up in my life to try. Partly because I have plenty of fallbacks now, and partly because I feel like I'm finally finishing pieces of the divine to-do list that has pushed me along. This is my last semester in the MBA. My brother is getting better. (Gay) Mormon Guy is in a good place. Our business is growing.

I wonder if I should be afraid, because this feels like the calm before the storm...

And I'm not sure if I have the courage to even try. That sounds awful. But it's real.

Hopefully I'll change that.

Monday, January 7

Trying to Re-Figure Out Dating

I have a confession to make. I haven't really dated since November, when I shared my identity here on (Gay) Mormon Guy.

There are plenty of excuses I could come up with - finals and final projects, stress, my brother's cancer, sickness, family gatherings, PhD application to Stanford, my business, church callings...

But at the core of it, I find myself shying away from dating because it seems even more stressful than it did before. Relationships seem way more complicated now because there's yet another variable I have to analyze. Now, not only do I have to find someone to date, I have to figure out if she knows about my blog, and, if not, I have to tell her. And what are the rules? Guidelines? I know at least some of the rules around dating... and have often broken them. But what are the expectations when a guy who's openly attracted to men asks a girl out?

Maybe I'll just ask some people out and ask them to give me pointers. That wouldn't be okay if they were interested in me and there was a chance I could be interested in them... but adding in impossibility on my side makes it okay to break the fourth wall, right?

I am so clueless.

Sunday, January 6

Love. Hate. School.

I really love school. Part of it is probably because I have an obsession with educational methodologies (sort of like some people do with Star Wars or Dyson vacuums) and love to learn in the first place. I think I am the only person alive who geeked out while reading Lave & Wenger's Situated Learning. But much of my love for school (and this gets highlighted in the wake of the holidays) is because it gives my life some of the structure I need to thrive.

I mean, I can be a "self-starter" and "my own boss" - proof enough for that is hopefully in publishing books, blogging, and running my own company. My bosses in super-flexible jobs have written me great recommendations. But while I love the creative license that comes with flexibility, creating the structure myself is actually really hard for me. I guess that's a good thing - hard things make me learn. But I spend so much time in my life trying to create structure out of the chaos inside my head that it's really, really nice to have a school schedule that can guide the rest of my day.

Part of me wonders if this is the autism speaking. If the clinical reports of "people on the spectrum often have trouble finding and keeping employment" are going to jump on me and doom me to a life of endless job seeking. If I'm choosing my profession just because it's so much easier to imagine than anywhere else my talents could take me.

Or maybe they just happen to line up. My passion for teaching with my passion for learning and the tenuous relationship with structure it provides. I don't know.

What I do know is that, of the five classes I'm taking this semester in the MBA, four of them will hopefully give me the good feeling to make it through the fifth. Training & Development, Social Media Marketing (my missionary work class - I'll tell my teacher about GMG on day one and use it as a test case), PhD prep, and Educational Psychology (which is in a different department, but whatever).

Class 5 - Power, Influence, and Negotiations, has already given me nightmares. There are lots of people who don't like negotiations, but... I had to confront an internal paradox while selling cub scout popcorn when I was 7 years old - before I was even a cub scout! I'm probably not being rational - once I solved the dilemma I won a national sales competition. But people scare me because I know I don't understand them nearly as much as I should. And the thought of having to negotiate anything makes me want to just curl up in a ball.

Which is why I took the class in the first place.

Love. Hate. School.

Saturday, January 5

Warriors of Light

My dreams last night were painful. They switched so sharply and quickly between scenes and context that it felt someone was flashing bright lights into my eyes, and eventually I woke up at 4, exhausted and with a sore throat. I got out of bed and instantly felt freezing cold. Not a good sign - my house is usually somewhat cold, but the heaters are still on from when my family was here visiting. And either way, I am only cold when I'm sick. Another bad sign.

On my way upstairs to get some essential oils (I get sick so rarely, and give my set away so frequently that they're never by my bedside) I started shivering uncontrollably. I thought about turning on a fireplace, but that felt like too much effort. So I grabbed my swim trunks and walked across the street to the gym, hoping to find warmth in the steam room.

I've been in steam rooms that are cold, just right, and oppressive (the latter usually comes when someone walks in and nonchalantly pretends to spray the wall and sprays the temperature gauge. Not cool). But as I walked in this time I felt like I was being ever so slightly scalded.

No. I felt like I was being scalded, and it was more than slight. I thought maybe I was just really sensitive to the heat since I was so cold, so tried to sit down. Within a minute or two, my throat was burning, my arms and legs were burning... so I stood up and again and felt like I was walking through water just hot enough that you'd take your finger out and yell. I walked out to splotchy redness all over my exposed skin. I was definitely warm enough. Had I stayed any longer, I think the result would have been a more lasting burn.

I came home, got our respiratory blend and put a diffuser on a shelf above my bed. But I'm not sure if I want to go back to sleep. Part of me wants to suck it up and go to the temple for my shift, but having a brother with leukemia has made me cognizant of the need to not spread illness. I can't go be around people who are serving God and potentially make them sick... especially when we've been asked not to. School is a different story - you're expected to go unless you're bedridden. But the temple...

The other issue is the dreams. The last time I remember being so dramatically affected by a dream was a long time ago - and that dream was crazy strange. I felt like sharing it, so I will.

I was fighting a battle in almost complete darkness. The weapons, were striking... in my right hand I held a high-powered directional flashlight. In my left, a mirror. Each of my comrades had something that generated light as well for their own weapons. You shine the light on an enemy, and after enough exposure, he completely disappears. But the other side also had the same types of weapons - lasers, flashlights, massive flood lamps. Hence the mirror was my shield, shining the light back into the fray.

Amid the intense emotional rush of the battlefield, there was another powerful feeling of urgency. I didn't know why we were fighting, but I knew what would happen if we lost. The sun was going to rise sometime soon, and all of us knew somehow that if we hadn't won the battle by that time, the rising sun would obliterate everyone. Winning was the only option. Hence we fought as best we knew how - some trying to create stronger sources of light, some, like me, fighting hand-to-hand.

I heard a scream and turned to my left. There was a group of enemies who had grabbed someone and were dragging her toward a massive box. They opened the door, tossed her inside, there was a brilliant flash of light that burst from the seams... and she was instantly gone. Instantly. Not in minutes or hours or seconds. Instantly. We had nothing like that, and from the intermittent flashes I could see along the front it was apparent that they had plenty of them. Another scream, this time much closer, and a guy standing close by was being dragged up the hill to another box. I ran to help.

And then, in the beam of my flashlight, I saw a face. Unlike the unknown masses of snarling enemies, this was a girl I knew. Her look of fear was the last thing I saw before she completely disappeared in the light from my hand.

I pulled the guy I had been following from the fray and went back behind our lines, shaken. What had just happened? A battle that felt like it had gone on forever, and suddenly I knew someone on the other side? Who were these people?

This hadn't been a bad person that I saw. She was a good person. A really good one. In a moment, I realized that the people on the other side must have the same goal that we did. That's why they were fighting. But who was right? And what was happening?

I sat on a rock and looked at the horizon. The midnight blue was lightening, proof that sometime soon the sun would rise. And then something inside me told me something that I will always remember. It told me to turn the light I held in my hand - the light I had used as a weapon and a shield only a moment before - onto myself. But that would kill me, right? But even as I tried to shake it, the feeling wouldn't go away, and an impression came so that I knew that it was from God. So I turned the flashlight toward my own face, and switched it on.

The brightness hurt. But it didn't burn like light usually did. And within moments, I could tell that something within me was changing. Even with a beam in my face, I could see my arms and hands beginning to glow. I stopped and stared. What was happening here?

I ran back to the battle and realized instantly that my faint glow made me an easy target in the night. But the unblocked laser beams and flash lamps didn't burn, either. At least not at first. After a little while, the glow dulled and I was back to normal.

And then it hit me.

We were fighting a war with darkness. But our enemy wasn't the group of people across the battle front. It was the darkness itself... and whatever had caused the rift between us as a people in the first place. Even if we won the battle and obliterated every opponent, we would be burned when the sun rose unless we turned our lights within... and became our own light. And every burned opponent wasn't an opponent. It was a burned friend. We were on the same side. I could almost hear the devil laughing as I watched good people on both sides engaged in what they saw as a holy battle, burning their brothers with light.

It hit me what I needed to do. First I needed to turn my own light on, and leave it on myself... and then, somehow, I needed to convince both sides of a battlefield that stretched beyond what I could even imagine to do the same. I wasn't a leader. It would have to be one by one. But the consequences of failure would be catastrophic... Everyone would be burned alive. The dream ended as I felt the call inside me to help others turn their light within, so that we could all survive the rising sun.

In the time since that dream years ago, a thousand different potential interpretations have come to mind. Different meanings for the pieces and players that apply to my life. But one thing has stuck with me. No matter where I am or what I'm doing, the most important part of my own battle is my own battle with darkness. And that can only happen when I turn my light within.