Sunday, November 13, 2016

Locating the Lost Tribes by Praying Over a Beach Ball: And You Thought Your Family Was Psycho

This is much like what my cousin does except that he is the only one allowed to touch the ball. The beach ball sits in the middle of the living room, and all the children know they are never to touch it.

I really needed this weekend. I did have to do grand rounds at the hospital early this morning, but they weren't all that grand, plus I spent time that I had trouble sleeping on wednesday night studying up on cases, and I did the same last night. I was well-prepared with all the correct answers when most of my peers stood there slack-jawed. I probably didn't make many friends this morning, but some days are like that. I didn't wave my hand in the air wildly like Arnold Horshak, saying, "Ooh! Ooh! Mr. Kotter! " (actually a pretty funny if dated show), but waited each time until I was asked point blank. At that point, what was I supposed to do? Deliberately give incorrect answers and make myself look like a fool? Alexis does not do "foolish" on purpose. There are enough times when I unintentionally appear quite foolish that I don't need to manufacture artificial instances of idiocy. 

I made a mental note of who was there today. I'll go out of my way to do something kind for each of them in the next week or so, hopefully to let them know that I wasn't being, despite my nickname, a classic cutthroat bitch in pulling for them to screw up. I even whispered an answer once and wrote another one on my clipboard hoping a peer would see it, which she did. I don't think the attending or resident caught on either time. I feel that I can stand on my own two feet. I don't need them to f**k up to make myself appear better by comparison. Furthermore, any one of them may someday be charged with treating either me or someone about whom I care deeply in a life-or-death situation. It behooves me for them as well as for me to be as well-trained and prepared as possible. We're all in this together. 

This is especially true in that I personally believe that everyone still standing with the possible exception of a single cohort member will make it through and will pass Step 2 of the USMLE, which we take next year, and will graduate and go on to an internship or residency program. Any one of these people could potentially be your doctor or mine. All of us want to finish in high standing in the class. I've essentially written off the idea of graduating #1 in the class because of the bad luck of the draw I've encountered in being in the middle of a sexual harassment case and the situation that exposed me to HIV. Finishing numero uno is still not out of the question, but odds are stacked against me a bit, plus it's probably the very last thing with which I should be concerning myself right now. If I finish in the top ten, I'll be satisfied. If I finish in the top five, I'll be happy. If I finish in the top three, I'll be ecstatic, as everyone who matters -- the gate-keepers of residency programs included -- understands that within the top three, the placement is essentially arbitrary. With a slightly altered mood of a single attending or resident on a given day or even a given moment, #3 could have been #1 and vice versa. I'm cooperating (i.e. competing) with some incredibly intelligent people here. Other than when I'm with my dad and my Uncle Michael, I've never been in the midst of such brilliance as when I'm with my elite study group, and that includes the interview panels for the respective medical school programs with which I interviewed. Sometimes I have to push my brain to its limits to avoid appearing stupid within the group.

Perhaps I need to take myself out of the business of setting goals for Matthew, but the essentially conjoined placentae or whatever it was that connected the two of us in utero still binds us ever so slightly. I cannot quite leave him to his own devices yet. My goal for him is to finish in the top third of the cohort. He is not in the top third in raw intelligence within this group, though he was intelligent enough to be admitted to this program, but his work ethic is superior to all but a very few of us. I understand that I portray him in a most unflattering light on a regular basis, as common sense has been very slow to come to him, but he has the ability to absorb complex material and the willingness to work however hard he has to work to master it. And he did very well (not freakishly well, as I did, but he came through with a strong performance) on Step 1 of the USMLE. And he has amazing social skills and interview skills. Sometimes all he has to do is smile  to get whatever (or whomever) it is he desires. With his calm temperament, neurosurgery (his dream specialty) may not be an unattainable stretch for him. Time alone will tell. Regardless, it will be good for us to spread our wings and each to fly on his or her own. Perhaps his common sense will develop a bit faster for him without me standing by to solve the logistical angles to all his problems. And perhaps my social skills will improve at a more rapid rate without him needing to smooth things over for me on too many occasions.

On a totally unrelated note, and I was reminded of this in a brief conversation with Judge Ferrer, I've been hit up for money by a cousin eight years older than I. My Uncle Steve heard that this cousin was calling the younger generation because the aunts and uncles have grown weary of his rather dubious venture. Those of you who have a biblical background (Old Testament in particular) probably know that Jacob, who later changed his name to Israel, had twelve sons, named Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Dan, Naphtali, Gad , Asher, Issachar, Zebulon, Joseph, and Benjamin. (Off-topic, but he had them with different women, to whom he was married simultaneously. I'm not a staunch supporter of polygamy, but those who decry the practice on religious principle despite Old Testament precedence based on irrelevance in modern society while clinging to the religious correctness of other Old Testament principles [i.e. the iniquity of homosexuality] are indeed on shaky ground. One can look at the Old Testament as essentially a loosely based and perhaps even partly mythological history and literature text with a few great truths embedded in the massive amount of print, or one can claim that the Old Testament is the word of God as dictated by Jehovah himself to the prophets and scribes, in which case polygamy is kosher. Anything much in between is hypocrisy.) The New Testament is a different matter, and while I still think it was written too long after the fact, what was included and what was omitted was too arbitrary, and it was, as would be any testament  written now, too much a product of the times in which it was written to be taken entirely literally. I can, nevertheless, get behind most of the words attributed to Jesus himself.

Getting back to the subject at hand, Jacob, later known as Israel, spawned twelve sons. Their progeny came to be known as the "Twelve Tribes of Israel." Things were changed up a bit. I believe Levi's progeny were removed as a tribe, because they were to serve as the rabbis or priests. Joseph's tribe was split, with his sons Ephraim and Manasseh having a tribe named for them. Otherwise, the tribes correspond with the sons of Jacob.

The progeny of Judah and Benjamin are considered to be the Hebrews or ethnic Jews of today. The remaining ten tribes are "lost."  They supposedly went somewhere to the far north and are in hiding. If I took any of this to be literal, I would think they were probably the people occupying the northernmost regions of the Earth. These people might include the northern Inuits, Scandinavians, or even just the Laplanders of the Scandinavian region, or something quasi-sensible. Mormons think they may have hiked up to the north pole and found a comfortable spot in the center of the Earth, or perhaps even settled another planet, or have dispersed all over the globe, or some combination of the aforementioned theories.

The cousin of and to whom I spoke believes that it is his mission in life to locate these people. He holds an inflatable beach ball globe (he used to use a standard globe, but it was too difficult for his pointing to be random with the structure of a standard globe)in his hands and turns it randomly while praying with his eyes closed. When he's finished praying, he places his right index finger on a spot. The hot spot he fingered may be the location of one of the lost tribes, or it may be the adversary at work. He fasts for a few days, then, if things are still looking like it's not the work of Satan trying to set him up, as soon as he can come up with the money, he travels to the region. Sometimes it's a bit complicated, as multiple ethnicities may be located in a single region. There may be Kurds as well as Serbs, or God knows who else. There he prays and receives confirmation one way or another.

If he wanted to do this in his spare time and on his own dime while holding down a reasonable job to support his ever-expanding brood, even though I feel that there is some major self-delusion going on, I'd still say more power to him. He doesn't want to do that, though. He went to BYU and obtained a degree that would qualify him to teach LDS seminary or institute classes, which ended up being a big fat waste of money because  he doesn't want to work a steady job; it keeps him from his true work, which is locating the lost ten tribes. The non-LDS contingent of the family (my parents, Uncle Steve and Aunt Heather, and Cristelle and her husband Mendel) consider this to be ridiculous in every sense. My mom sent him money a few times because she was concerned about how thin his children appeared. She now just sends food.

The rest send him nothing. His own parents, Marthalene and Mahonri, have run out of money to give him. Uncle Michael and Aunt Joanne and the other five practicing Mormon aunts and their spouses have each come to their own conclusion that if this was something so religiously urgent that he should be freed from the constraints of a day job in order to pursue it, the Big Boys in SLC would have sanctioned it and would be giving him a stipend to support his family. Hence, he's run out of sources of income from within that generation of the family. 

My grandparents have only sent holiday and birthday money from the very beginning, and are greatly embarrassed by his actions. It's not how the Mormon Church works. In the LDS church, an individual doesn't just decide he's called to perform some bizarre work, then ask others to support him financially. The Big Boys in SLC are supposed to call him to do this marvelous work and wonder. Then they either tell him it's a part-time calling, and he is to keep his day job, or they tell him he'll be stipended.  They're likely subsidizing nonsense every bit as ludicrous as this madness in which my cousin is engaged, but they want to be the ones to decide who takes on which crazy pursuits. So far they've shown no inclination to "call" my cousin to perform this work. My grandfather refuses to use any influence he may have to push anything through for my cousin. The whole thing is mortifying to him. My grandmother has threatened my cousin with a cut-off of Christmas and birthday checks if he does not cease and desist with requests and communications to the Big Boys in SLC.

Hence the contact with the next generation. Even though about 3/8 of my cousins are older than I, most married very young and began popping out babies before either party in their respective marriages had completed educations, so they're not in great positions to help this guy, and most of their parents are discouraging them from doing so. Mahonri and Marthalene are encouraging their offspring and the rest of us to support their son's cause, but they are voices in the wilderness. It's known by Mahonri and Marthalene that I have more disposable income than do any of my other cousins on that side of the family. (I don't know if the wife's extended family is contributing to this lunacy or not.)

Uncle Steve called me in advance to tell me I would soon hear from this cousin. He told me what I already know, which is that my money is mine, and that I'm free to use it as I choose, but that this would be an especially fool-hardy way of spending it. 

I said something in yesterday's blog about both the importance of generosity and of how a problem really isn't a problem if a person can throw a bit of money at it and have it disappear. Neither of those pearls of wisdom apply in this case. First, generosity is one thing, and donating money to a cause that ultimately allows a person to avoid facing reality is quite another. Yes, the children look underfed and probably are not receiving proper health care. If such is indeed the case, it may be time for someone in the family to pick up the phone and call social services. This man and his wife are free to behave as erratically as they choose as long as they are harming no one else. Once innocent children begin to bear the burden, perhaps outside intervention is indicated. I shall talk to my parents and the more rational aunts and uncles about this. Second and finally, throwing money at a problem to make it disappear is fine as long as the problem belongs to me or to someone close to me. This is NOT my problem. I didn't create it, contribute to it, or in any way perpetuate it. This problem belongs to my crazy cousin and his wife. They must choose to be responsible or possibly face interference from social services. I'm comfortable with such being the case. 

Doesn't this sound vaguely like a Lifetime movie?

Image result for lifetime movie
Wouldn't my cousin's story fit right in this genre?


  1. As for your brother you may be his harshest critic and best supporter. I a like that with my brother. I call it love.
    Your extended family is indeed strange and bizarre. I doubt if there are many who can hold a candle to it. Good for laughs, though.

    1. I think you're right that I'm Matthew's harshest critic and staunchest supporter, and I agree that my extended family could easily win a "weirdest relatives" contest.

  2. Please keep us posted. It is such a hoot hearing about your crazy Mormon family. I recall the many oddballs I encountered in the years when I was forced to interact with Mormons. I don't know if it was better or worse that I grew up in a city and nation where Mormons are an extremely minor minority, generally regarded as just too kooky to discuss further. Thank goodness that after a couple of decades of "apostasy" I can now hear people's tales of their encounters with annoying Mormons and not feel embarrassed, and no one knows I was ever affiliated with them.

    I hope Matthew(and you,of course,) finds his niche. I work in a neurosurgical capacity- long story-. If he has the interest and the abilities anything is possible.

    1. With Matthew and neurosurgery, i think he has a shot at it.

      I'm glad others enjoy my Mormon relatives' weirdness as much as I do.