As I was writing yet another blog post in my head this evening, I was going to use a source and ideas that many might think of as “new-agey” or dismiss as nonsense to explain the point I was making. I even found myself coming up with something to the effect of, “Even if you don’t believe this, look how it, as an even just a metaphor, fits with what I am trying to say.”

It was likely prompted a bit by something I read earlier in the night, but I realized this was not an isolated instance for me. It’s something I’ve done several times before in my blog. And, even, all through out my life. I have apologized when using stories and ideas from my faith and its scriptures. I have apologized when the source of what I was sharing was so different from my church and that of many who might read it. I have even apologized when I used examples from calculus and physics to explain my ideas.

Why do I do this? I know that it is something I have done and felt the need for my entire life. It started within my (extended in particular) family I was born into and has continued in most situations and circumstances all through out my life. But, yes, I have been indeed blessed with the love of and for so many people who are different from myself. But, somehow, this has resulted in a belief I’m working on overcoming that no one else is like me and those parts of me that are most different from whoever I am with or talking to need to be suppressed or hidden or apologized for.


LDS Standard Works

I have many wonderful friends that do not share my religious views and may even sharply disagree with them. I have many wonderful friends that have no religious belief at all.

But my belief in God and my understanding of Him and how to “worship … according to the dictates of [my] own conscience” (Article of Faith 11), are simply that — my beliefs. When I talk of God or share quotes from the Book of Mormon or leaders of the church, I am not attacking anyone who might not believe in those things. I’m just explaining the world from my perspective.


I, of course, have many wonderful friends and family members that do share my religion and my church. Many of them seek for their spiritual understanding of the world solely from the teachings of the church, because that is what speaks to them.

But, I will often refer to teachings from a Buddhist teacher or some philosopher or even fiction. Likely, they may be uncomfortable with or question me in some way when I quote these things. But, again, that is me. I know that God  ” speaketh unto [us] according to [our] language, unto [our] understanding.” (2 Nephi 31:3). And, for me, my language and my understanding would be incomplete if it didn’t include truth and wisdom “out of the best books” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:118) of all types. So, no need to apologize.  This is me.


[First principles of differentiation]

I realize a large number of my friends and family that read what I write either haven’t studied or don’t remember or understand mathematics and physics.

But, I see and describe the world through the lenses of math and science. They are the most basic ways to describe the world and the universe around us. And, just as I would do with the other examples mentioned, I consider my audience. But I still follow my mind and heart and use these things, as long as I am able to give enough context that my audience can understand the idea I am sharing. Again, no reason to apologize for using what I know and expresses things in my language.


Part of the impetus behind these thoughts belongs to a quote I read tonight. It was quoted in a technical blog entry entirely unrelated to what I’m writing about here. But it struck me:

when you don’t create things, you become defined by your tastes rather than ability. your tastes only narrow & exclude people. so create.

It may seem like above I am defending and defining myself by my tastes. But, in many ways, I see what I have done to this point as defining myself by my tastes more than ever. My tastes, preferences, and beliefs have defined how I act. And, in turn, I have allowed them and my feeling of “different” to hinder what I create. Whether it be in my relationships. Or the things that I write. Or just how I present myself to the world. My journals sometimes are vastly different from what anyone else sees on the outside. I don’t share most of those parts with even with my family. And, so, instead of writing or creating to teach and uplift and please the world, I keep those things hidden. I never create. I exclude certain groups or even the world from knowing what is in me. The view the world has of me is narrow. My shame over my tastes has defined me.


My name, though not chosen for this intention, has some deep and telling meaning. Being fascinated by words and language, I like to study word origins and meanings. I’ve discovered that Travis shares the same root as the word “traverse”, which is the Latin word “transversum”. The meaning of the Latin root is “laying across/from side to side; flanking/oblique; moving across/at right angle”. I once found Travis in a list of name meanings, and the one that stuck with me is “At the Crossroads”. The related word “traverse” has a meaning of “a route or way across or over”. It is these two meanings with each day become more and more significant to me.


A crossroad is where two paths meet; you are not on either one but not really on both either. Before you lies a choice of which way to follow. In so many ways, I have felt at the crossroads in my life. Different from one group, but not quite another. Sitting there at the crossroads, I have views of the different paths. Those of my religion and those not. Those that grok mathematics and physics (and grok, too) and those that don’t. Those disabled and those who are not. Those who have had a healthy life and those seriously ill and looking at their mortality.  Those that use Emacs and those that use vim.  Those that use Ubuntu and those that use Fedora.  I could go on.

I stand at the crossroads. A person would not apologize to someone they meet in the crossroads for having a different destination. They will freely share their destination is different. Why, then, shouldn’t I? Over and over in recent years it seems to be my role in life to be challenged by or to challenge others to look at things in another’s shoes and from a different perspective. Since I had thought about the Latin roots of my name, I had a friend who has studied Latin help me come up with a motto that you see as the tagline of my blog:

provoco et non transverto

Roughly, “I challenge and do not turn away.” It may not be entirely accurate in translation and grammar, but it’s the meaning I ascribe.

I am trying not to make it more and more a challenge not of confrontation and fight. I have brought myself to that point many times in my life, in feeling the need to defend my tastes and views. I think part of the fight comes from the shame I have felt that has lead me to apologize or suppress. So, in fact, by being more willing to be open about what I hold dear and use those things freely to inspire and bring creation into my life, I think I will fight less. I will be able to share and learn the differences in the world with the world.

If my creations challenge others to think about their own views and understanding of the world and truth and beauty and I continue to create and not turn away from what is in me, I will be including all the world. So, I challenge you here, and I do not turn away. How do you let your tastes or perceived tastes of the world define what you create and the love you bring into the world? Can you let go of exclusion and narrowness? Can you see all the people in the world for their good and let them see yours?

I am trying to do this better each day.

Even though it had been a part of and possibility in my life at the beginning, I don’t think I was consciously aware of the concepts of pain and my own death until I was nearly 8. And the brief moments that taught me this I cannot ever forget.

It was in the last week of 1984 and I was still in the hospital recovering from my first surgery on my ankles. We didn’t have an entire room to ourselves. I remember the door to our room being open, letting in a little light and giving room for the nurses to peek in on their young patients. There were 4 or 6 beds in the room, each granted privacy only by some hanging curtains.

And those curtains were not enough to keep me from hearing what kept me awake that night. I remember lying awake in my bed. Whether I was woke by what comes next or was already awake, I don’t remember. But what I remember so clearly still sends chills up my spine and confusion to my soul.

“I want you to just shoot me, Mom! I want to die! It hurts too much! It isn’t working! Just get a gun and shoot me, Mom!”

This came from a boy across the room and to the right of me. He was a few years older than me, perhaps 10. He was suffering from brain cancer. The treatments and chemotherapy had not brought the desired relief. Despite all efforts, they just had not worked. The doctors were asking his parents to consider one more round.

Those details may be fuzzy, but I do remember so clearly his words and the pain and anguish I heard in his voice. I remember also the heaviness of heart and confusion of soul that I felt as I lay there awake thinking about what I had heard. Twenty-seven years later, I still feel his words.

In that time, I have had my share of physical pain. And, perhaps I have not come so close to the face of death as my young friend, but at times I have felt his gaze.

Maybe it’s a difference between youth and experience. Or the degree of physical pain felt all at once. But my physical pain alone has not brought me to the agony of soul that this young boy felt, enough to plead for my death.

But, in truth, I have found myself exclaiming and expressing the desire that he said so clearly. Wouldn’t it be better if my mortal journey ended? Wouldn’t the pain of body and soul finally be over? Could this not quickly come?

But what brought me here, to express such pain? The story of Alma the Younger in the Book of Mormon is one of the clearest expressions of the emotional side of this pain that I know of. He and his friends had actively been working against the work of the church. As they were going about this, an angel of God appeared to them. When the angel commanded them to cease what they were doing, Alma woke up to the reality of the things that he had been doing. He finally saw how his actions had harmed others. He saw how his actions would keep him from God. He began to feel great pain and shame in his heart over these things. He looked forward to the future, and having to deal with the consequences of these actions. He wished to be “banished both body and soul” so he wouldn’t have to feel that pain now or the pain to come.

As I have dealt with the pains of surgery and disease, I also have walked a road in which I found myself made starkly aware of my own mistakes. I have seen the ways in which they have hurt other people. My weakness, in body and soul, has become so clear.

And at times, the combined pain of body and soul I felt has been overwhelming. The dark robes of death seemed to loom over me at times. I, too, have laid in a hospital bed at night, pleading with a Parent to just let it end. I wanted to just be released from the pain that I felt. I have looked forward, just as Alma, to the road I will have to take.

And, on that road, I only see more pain. Just as the young cancer patient was frustrated and tired, agonizing that his treatments were not working, I have seen the same. I can only see dialysis and another transplant in the eventual future on my road ahead. My physiology and the immunosuppressants I take make it nigh impossible to be without infection. And that infection continues to take its toll. And, with another transplant, it will likely take its toll there as well. It may not happen this month or this year, but I know I will one day be faced with this question, sooner than many.

Will another round of my treatment help? Or will it just prolong things? With the pain I continue to feel over my weakness and the consequences of my mistakes added upon, I wonder — do I continue? Do I have the strength in body and soul and mind to continue this road? Have I fulfilled my purpose here on earth?

I don’t know what happened to my fellow patient. Perhaps he soon passed and received the relief of body and soul he sought so desperately in the night. But the feeling and consequence of his words continue with me to this day, and connect me to my own questions, as I ask, “do I want to try again?” I’m just glad I was not faced with those questions back when I was nearly 8. The weight of just hearing another ask them was soul-searing enough.

Time served on the earth doesn’t mean you grow in mind

- Creed, Signs, Weathered

I want to dedicate today to the four loves of my life:

  • to the one whose love brought me life and held onto it

  • to the one whose love brought me a second life

  • to the one who, when I looked in her eyes, taught me love makes the man

  • finally, to my puppy love, whose love is pure.

Thirty-five years ago, a spirit and a body came together, the creation of a new soul. But the body wasn’t quite ready for the spirit. In the order of the universe, though, this soul had to spring forth at that time.

The body, with its first gasp of air, with its first cry, began to seek and yearn only for what every other body desires — survival. But, instead of just breathing in and out and taking in the gifts the world has given, the soul needed more. From that very second, the soul knew it had to fight. It had to survive. And so, it began.

Where was this fight coming from? What was inside this child that was the spark to light this flame? Oh, how this boy wished he could just tell the world what he needed. But, alas, this new body could not. And so the fight began and it needed to get out.

Yet, in reality, the fight was because something inside this body could get out. The boy’s bladder was blocked. He could not get the toxins and waste out of his body. And he could not tell anyone.

It continued. The pain increased. The need for survival grew greater. And the fight within him grew as this did. The world around him seemed only interested on the surface, on what was on his outside. But the truth, the need, the real definition of that pure infant was written. And so, like a wild animal fighting for its very life (indeed, wasn’t that what was happening here?), his fight intensified.

When what was accumulating inside of him was finally understood and was noticed, it was released. He was given relief. At least for now, the body could rest, it could heal.

But not the spirit. Unlike the body that was granted release, the boy did not let go of all that had gathered in the soul. In fact, the survival instinct made him fight and hold on even tighter. What could he not let go of? What did his entire being cling tightly to, as the only thing it had known?

It was fear. Fear that more would not notice what was inside. Fear that he might not live. And the fear fueled that fight. Even as he grew older and the memories of that time faded and consciousness grew, deep within the fight and fear were held close.

The battles that occur in the deep, silent chambers of the soul aren’t seen on the surface. At least, not initially. But, every now and again, the fear broke through and manifested at the surface. Pain. Confusion. Desperation. Sadness.

A little over thirty years passed from the birth of that new soul. Little did he know that his body and spirit had continued to fight. What had lingered in his body in his first few weeks of his life had taken its toll. And, the fight that his spirit held on to so tightly began to erupt. His body began to fail. And the spirit, still clinging so tightly to all it had known deep inside, fought for its life. But in so doing, it lost almost all that the soul had grown to hold dear.

And so, here I stand, thirty-five years from that day. My body and soul, still with fight within. But it is taking its toll.

I’m rusted and weathered, barely holdin’ together
I’m covered w/ skin that peels & it just won’t heal
…No, it just won’t heal, no, no, no

The sun shines and I can’t avoid the light
I think I’m holdin’ on to life too tight…
Ashes to ashes, and dust to dust
Sometimes I feel like giving up… yeah, I said,
Sometimes I feel like giving up… ’cause I’m,

…It just won’t heal, no

‘Cause one day it ends – One day we die
Believe what you will – That is your right
But I choose to win – I choose to fight…
To fight… ‘Cause I’m,

…Covered with skin that peels & it just won’t heal

– Creed, Weathered

I don’t know so much what “winning” means any more. Where does my story continue? The infections never leave my body. The very things that are keeping me alive — the immunosupression and the catheterization — are also the things that are keeping what is killing me inside my body. The infections will not leave.

No matter what I try, my spirit and soul will not let go of the fighting, the pain, and the hurt of a lifetime. The fight is all my soul knows. But my head knows that it is no longer what I need, holding onto it will not bring me joy and happiness.

Here I am, thirty-five years later. Who would have ever thought this is where I’d be today?

And the soul is so exposed.

It’s no secret that I have had and am having great personal struggles in many areas of my life. As I fight to make sense of my life and where I am, I have many conversations seeking the wisdom of those I trust. Last week, in one of these conversations, I was reminded once again of a principle I learned a while ago from a different wise friend. I believe I need to write it down and attempt to explain this principle so it sticks this time. I know that truth, the kind of truth that has power to change life, can come from many sources and in unexpected ways.

To explain it, I ask you to hearken back to college or high school calculus, or at least algebra and I’ll attempt to explain enough for the principle to come across. It shouldn’t be much of a surprise that I would get understanding by using calculus as a metaphor for personal growth principles — a few months ago I used some concepts from physics to explain why certain things stick with me.

The Graph of Personal Growth

Let’s imagine you have a graph of some curve. (I apologize I don’t currently have any diagrams to help you visualize this, it was a lot easier to just get the concepts out than figure out how to get adequate images to describe it.) The X axis represents time: the further to the right you get, the later it is. The Y axis can represent anything we are measuring, something we want to improve. To make it something everyone can relate to, let’s picture the Y axis as being the amount of money we have saved. The higher up on the Y axis, the more money we have saved. But, this can be applied to most anything that we measure, just search for “quantified self” for examples of what many people are using to measure growth in their life.

So, if you are like me and many others in this difficult economy, I can imagine that looking at this graph would be somewhat discouraging. The point at the current point in time isn’t as high on the Y axis as you would like. Looking at this graph with that perspective would very easily make you want to give up on your goals of saving. So, let’s bring the principle that was brought back to my attention last week into the picture to help shift this perspective. It wasn’t explained exactly in these terms this time, but the idea very easily concisely mapped to calculus.

Simply stated, this shift in perspective should be this: the most important thing in personal development and growth is actually the sign of the derivative of the magnitude of some measurement versus time. Restated in the context of our example: the most important thing in reaching our savings goals is the sign of the derivative of amount of money over time. Let me explain this fundamental building block of calculus so this makes sense. Those that understand and remember calculus can skip this next section.

What is a derivative?

As we study graphs and curves in algebra, an important part of describing them is the slope of the line. Slope has always been described to me as the rise over run. Compare two points on the graph that have a straight line between them. The rise is the vertical distance between the points. The run is the horizontal distance. All in all, slope is an easy concept, as we can map it to things we are familiar with, like a ramp or the slant of a roof.

Unfortunately, most graphs are not like those clean straight lines we studied in algebra. But, the same principles apply. Pick two points and the slope between them is also the rise over run. The difference is this won’t exactly match the curve like in our simpler examples. It will essentially be the average of the curve. With another example that we all understand, think of a plot of position over time. What is the slope of that line? Essentially, it’s the speed you are traveling. That slope is the average speed you were driving between those two positions. But what if you wanted to know how fast you are going at a precise moment in time? This is where the derivative is useful. (It is interesting to note that Newton came up with the concepts of calculus to describe the laws of motion, so this example is very apropos.)

To get an accurate speed at a point in time, you want the slope line to pass through that exact point. To estimate this, just pick two points on the curve on each side of that point. To get a more accurate estimation for that point, you would move those points closer to the point of measurement. Imagine if you brought those points in so close the slope line only passed through that exact point of measurement. In mathematical jargon, this is the limit as the length of the slope line between those two points approaches zero.

Why the sign of the derivative?

Notice when I introduced the concept, I said the important part was the sign of the derivative. Why is this the important part of the perspective shift? Going back to the example of saving money, the derivative is the rate at which you are saving; “I’m saving $100 per week”. If you are adding money to your account, the slope line is angled upward. If you are withdrawing from the savings, the line is angled downward.

If you were talking to me about your savings, what if I asked you merely, “Are you progressing toward your savings goal?” I didn’t ask how much you are saving every month, just “are you getting closer to your goal”. To give me the answer, you would just need to know if the derivative of your savings balance at a given time is positive or negative. If positive, yes, you are improving! Yes, you are progressing toward the goal.

The Power of Now

I’ve recently been begun re-reading “The Power of Now” on suggestion of another wise person in my life. To summarize the ideas of this book and other similar things I’ve read, the key to happiness and peace in life is being in the present moment. The past is gone. The future hasn’t yet happened. All you have is this exact moment. So which direction are you pointed in, at this exact moment? Again, isn’t this the sign of the derivative of the curve, by the limit definition? If the past is gone and the future is not yet, and they are not to be considered for your happiness, a measurement that is a numeric magnitude doesn’t make sense. You can only assign a magnitude in comparison to something else. So, for your happiness, you only need the sign of this derivative.

The other nice thing about this perspective is that you can then also ignore how high on the Y axis you are at this given moment. You may be at the lowest point you have been in a long while. Or, you may be higher than you’ve ever been. But, if you only care about the sign of the derivative, it doesn’t matter*. It only matters if you are headed upwards or downwards.

A very personal example and application of this principle is found in the heuristics my nephrologist and I use to determine how I am doing. I have chronic kidney disease and renal failure, and had a kidney transplant two and a half years ago. To monitor how well my kidneys are doing, I have regular blood tests, one of which measures the amount of creatinine in my blood. It is a by-product of the muscles and primarily filtered by the kidneys, and the larger amount you have in your blood indicates the less effectively your kidneys are working.

Now, if we merely went by the magnitude of the creatinine levels as an indicator of my health, it would be discouraging and would probably precipitate treatments I don’t necessarily yet need. Additionally, we’re not even sure if we can use the normal guidelines used for adults, as creatinine is relative to muscle mass and mine is definitely different in proportion and amount due to my dwarfism. So how do we interpret my health? Put in these mathematical terms: what is the sign of derivative of my creatinine levels over time? (Okay, this is slightly confusing, as a higher creatinine level means lower kidney function. Pretend that the curve is just inverted so the positive/negative will work.) If that derivative is positive or 0, I’m getting better or holding steady. IF it is negative, my kidney function is deteriorating.

Though I’m at times discouraged by my current levels as they are a reflection of my health, I consistently have to remind myself that what we seek is this derivative to be positive or 0. Holding steady or improving? Good.

What’s the sign of your derivative of personal growth? Or, how do I make sure it is positive?

This, of course, is a whole other blog entry in itself. But as I bring all things back to the spiritual in my life, as my understanding becomes the synthesis of the truth found in all pursuits, in math and science, in philosophy and religion of all persuasions, and even in the arts, I have leave with some quotes that come to mind. One, from among the most significant music of my life. And the other from stories and words of the sacred books of my faith:

“Life can hold you down,
When you’re not looking up”

  • Creed, “Inside Us All”

When Moses and the Israelites were in the wilderness, they face a plague of fiery serpents. God gives Moses instructions on how those that were bit would find relief:

And the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.

And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived.

Numbers 21:8-9

The Israelites had to merely lift their gaze to the serpent on the pole, and they were healed.

To tie it all together, then, to what do I strive to look to, so that my personal growth derivative is positive?

Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not.

Behold the wounds which pierced my side, and also the prints of the nails in my hands and feet; be faithful, keep my commandments, and ye shall inherit the kingdom of heaven. Amen.

I hope you can find the source to which you look up in your own life, whatever it may be for you, so that your personal growth derivative may be positive. I hope you can make this shift in perspective in your life, as I am striving to do so in mine.

Tonight while praying and pondering the life I desire, the words to a children’s hymn came to mind. The song is “Love is Spoken Here”, and is sung in two parts, one verse by the girls, another by the boys. A particular phrase I said as I was praying brought the boy’s verse to mind. I had to go look up the words, as it has been perhaps decades since I have sung it myself.

Yet again, my heart broke, as I read those lyrics. Breaking because of what I lack; and words in many ways embody all that I hope and desire for in this life. It also describes a life I don’t understand, one that I have only caught a few tiny moments of, and a few glimpses in observing others. But I wonder, is it all just — as I’ve often said – “a Mormon fairy tale”? Is this life of father and mother kneeling to pray, and together leading the way, and a home filled with love something that can be obtained? I’m not talking about a life free of problems, a marriage completely harmonious, a family where there is no conflict or occasional chaos. But the way I’ve always felt when singing or hearing that song, the way I’ve felt when I’ve been in those homes when I’ve caught that glimpse of heaven, I wonder — is this a potential reality for me?

Mine is a home where ev’ry hour is blessed by the strength of priesthood power

With father and mother leading the way

Teaching me how to trust and obey

This isn’t a life of some patriarchal dominance that it could be seen, when you read “strength of priesthood power”. This is a home of a loving, righteous father and mother, with a worthy father leading the way, taking care of the family in all ways — but only with his wife and partner right by his side. The strength that comes from the integrity of that man in his home, with the partnership of his wife, is what guides the home. Together, they teach their children, in love, how to make the choices to live a life of goodness and love.

To me, this leads me to question. Right now, with my life’s circumstances, I’m struggling to even take care of just myself — physically, emotionally, financially. I’ve seen the quiet, loving responsibility, focus, and care of many of my male friends and family around my age, as they with their spouses raise their families, I am daunted. I wonder how they do it. My heart caves under the thoughts of that responsibility. But as I see the tenderness of my brother, my cousin, or some of my good friends with their child, or as I hear the care, and the love, and the emotion when they talk about their sons and their daughters, it truly is all my heart desires.

This becomes even more so daunting, as I think of the wonderful relationships they have with their spouses. The kindness, love, honor, and service they give these wonderful women in their lives. As my relationship with my wife and partner has ended, my heart grows heavy as I think of the depth of these feelings and these desires we once had. Again, I question, is life of “father and mother leading the way” even a possibility for me?

And the things they speak are crystal clear.

When love is spoken here

In a home, where love is taught, but also demonstrated and lived, the lessons of life and goodness are crystal clear. There is no confusion. No hypocrisy or duality. When this is what you’ve lived, seen, and felt; love is part of who you are. But when you’ve lost hope, are scared and confused, when you let the negativity of the world pound at your door — it all falls apart. You lose the ability to keep that love. When that love, peace, and crystal clear truth are part of your life, you move forward. But when that clarity is lost, and the pain enters, this becomes all just a fairy tale.

I think of some close friends of mine. When I visit their parents’ home, I am more comfortable and at peace than I have been almost anywhere. Sure, their lives are not perfect. My friends haven’t had smooth, perfect lives. But to see the lives they are living now, to see what they have carried on to their own homes, and on to their own families, I am overwhelmed and in awe. But I believe because of the strength of the love and the goodness of their parents, the examples of their home, it has lead to some of what I most think of when I speak of the “fairy tale”.

But I think, is it real? Can this quiet, hand-in-hand partnership exist? Can it last and weather the storms of life? And, ultimately, can I live the life of love, and together with my partner raise a family of joy and love? I ache and pine for this and wonder, can I become and live this in the circumstances and time I may have left? Or is it lost to me, as I grew overwhelmed in life, in death, and in love?