Jack & Lucky Chapter 10
Jack’s new companion, Elder Ballard, arrived at 8:00 AM the day after Elder Will left. For Jack it was as easy as changing a pair of shoes; he had the benefit of continuity by staying in Bari. This simple fact seemed to heal Jack’s spirits and he approached his mission with a positive attitude once again.
If working with Elder Will can be characterized as depressive, then working with Elder Ballard will be viewed as manic. Elder Ballard’s luggage was a pandora’s box that released a whole new set of sensational challenges for Jack.
Even though it was Saturday, Jack had some appointments scheduled and the two taught several lessons before they had a chance to talk or plan. One meeting was with a young student, Rinaldo, who came to their apartment once a week for lessons. In between teaching they picked up a bike for Elder Ballard, shopped for food and got his luggage from the train station.
After Sunday School the next day, they returned home to cook lunch and discussed their intentions as they snacked on the balcony.
“It seems like forever since we were together in Brescia.” Jack looked far out above the surrounding buildings.
Elder Ballard seemed depressed. “Time goes by slowly for me. I watch every minute and every hour.”
“It’s been slow going here too. Al Will had many other things on his mind so it was hard keeping his interest on teaching. We can change all that if you want.” Jack could have easily described his own condition with the same words but it was convenient to blame Al Will.
“That’s why I’m here, I guess. I slowed down where I was and I just kept falling into a pattern of diversion instead of work. I finally gave up and asked to be a junior companion again.” Elder Ballard was still down on himself hard.
“Have you tried to figure what is causing you to be distracted?”
“I don’t know. I suppose it’s a combination of things.”
“What about you’re nocturnal emissions and erotic dreams? Do you still have that activity as often?”
“Geese, do you remember all that?”
“Some things you just remember.”
“It comes and goes. Not as much as I did at first.”
“Preoccupation with women can be a distraction. But it gets worse if you force the issue and let yourself chase skirts. You just have to control your own environment, then it’s easier to control your attitude. Treat women like they were nuns or untouchable, which of course they are.”
“That’s easier said than done.”
Jack spoke with justified confidence. “You can’t look at women as something desirable to have, like a possession to own or play with. You have to have more respect, just like you would for another man and just see them as personalities rather than sex objects. It isn’t their fault you might be attracted, it’s your fault to want to be attracted and then let that get the best of you.”
“It’s just…I never had any real success with women, so I never learned to deal with them in a normal way. I always wanted more than I ever got.”
“That’s more normal than you think. Maybe because I had older sisters and young nieces around all the time, that I learned how to relate to girls. I can see where not having “success” could be a problem but only if you think you’re different than anyone else. But really it’s just a symptom of a problem with your own attitude. And not just your attitude but with the ideas of many men. It might have something to do with a cultural expectation. Boys are taught to be sexually active and dominant when sex is such a small part of what it takes to make a successful marriage let alone a successful life.”
“I just get so hungry for sex. I act stupid and get all queazy around an attractive women.”
“I suspected that was part of Elder Baldwin’s problem, remember in Brescia? He had more self-confidence–too much maybe–enough to get himself into trouble. He was really looking for it if you ask me. Being attracted and letting yourself be distracted are too different things.”
“Knowing why doesn’t always help. I think about self-control but it doesn’t help the situation.”
“That’s true, but we have to at least agree on the fundamental problem in order to develop a solution.”
“What can we do?”
“I think it would be useful for you to tell me your feelings whenever you see yourself in a difficult situation. And I’ll tell you my reactions. Maybe just learning to handle those situations by example is the best way.”
“I guess we don’t have anything to loose. I’m interested in working and proving to myself that I can succeed. But I guess I need help of some kind.”
“We all need help. You can help me strengthen my testimony too. We can learn by teaching and working hard.”
By now the two were done eating and were relaxing with their legs up against the rail.
“You want some more fruit punch?”
“I’ll get some for both of us.” Jack left to refill their glasses.
Early Monday they set about their work and began tracting. Later Jack purchased materials to rebuild his street meeting board and made improvements.
The new street board has a red background with pictures. It’s long and narrow and I carry it under my arm on my bike.
They went out during the long day-light of the evening.
We had some success. I talked for three hours straight, until 10:30. We had many good conversations. This was my first real effort where we had such a good response with 20 and even 30 people around at one time. There were a few hecklers. I’m beginning to use them to make my points.
It is no coincidence that Jack’s return to serious work is what most missionaries saw as a bold approach. His spirit travels between the extremes of sensational commitment and complete indifference. If that miracle of discovering a willing convert was going to happen, he was going to do everything possible to make it possible.
Elder Ballard had been with Jack the first time street meetings were used in Italy in Brescia. He had continued street meetings intermittently because he agreed with the purity of this approach. He circulated and collected names and addresses of those interested while Jack repeated the Joseph Smith story and the message of the restored Gospel.
Elder Ballard took some pictures of the largest group with Jack near the picture board preaching. This was Jack’s natural element. He could really let himself go and think on his feet. The words just came, even in Italian, of course he was extemporizing from a memorized text. Each time he started the story over it got a little smoother and easier to deliver. The team of Ballard and Lincoln continued to project their presence on the streets of Bari and became conspicuous and well recognized after several weeks.
There were no restrictions from the officials in Bari. This gave them an open schedule and they filled their days with work and teaching. Once the pictures of the street meetings were developed, Jack wrote a news article for the mission paper giving some details and impressions. He was still designated European Information Service Correspondent, whatever that meant. He continued to write mild propaganda about the progress of the missionary work.
Working late seemed to be most effective in meeting people. Many Italians enjoy going out after dinner for a walk in the cool of the evening. That’s when they have time to stop and talk. The elders moved around to different parts of the city and landed wherever they saw a corner of a park that looked promising.
We have been holding street meetings almost every day for three hours or so, usually in the evenings or early afternoon… My comp and I are trying hard to get 60 hours of work each week, but we didn’t work hard enough on Friday.
The missionaries recorded their hours on weekly reports of course. Their goal of working 60 hours is a long week, especially in the business of teaching and tracting and street meetings.
Tuesday, June 8th, the student, Rinaldo, came early to the apartment with disturbing news.
This morning the student to whom I had loaned my Doctrine and Covenants stopped by and showed the book to us, all torn up. His father was angry at him for all the Mormon books he had. He said he’d get it fixed. I gave him another copy of The Book of Mormon to replace the one which had been destroyed. Battle scars on my D&C will make it more valuable.
In an angry rage the over-protective father tore and destroyed Rinaldo’s books, some beyond repair.
Rinaldo had been coming to the apartment for over a month and now it was easy to understand why. His father was jealous of his own control. Two days latter he came again in a seriously distressed mood.
Jack started the conversation: “How do you feel about The Book of Mormon?”
“I’m confused by it a little.”
“It is like The Bible, except it is the scriptural record of the people who lived in the American continent. Do you remember the description about how the people left their homes and traveled on boats to a promised land?”
“Yes, I understood that. But why is that scripture?”
Elder Ballard took that question. “The book describes their life and the lessons they learned from Prophets chosen by God to lead them. In the end they turned away from God and His teachings and there was a great civil war that destroyed most of the people. That’s when Moroni deposited the gold plates which was this sacred historical record.”
The discussion diverged quickly into a more theoretical level. Jack may have prompted the diversion by giving a broad outline. He could tell from the distress in Rinaldo’s voice that he wanted to have a very thorough explanation. He decided to probe further to find Rinaldo’s true feelings.
“The Mormon religion teaches about the meaning of life, about the scope of the Universe and how people relate to the Universe. It goes further and describes how people should relate to their environment and how they ought to relate to each other. It is important to learn how we need to relate to these aspects of our lives. That’s what I would like to share with you as we go along,” Jack said.
Rinaldo showed a strong interest in these ideas which went beyond the surface of the pages. “That’s what I’ve been trying to learn. The answers the Catholic Church gives just don’t satisfy me. I’m trying to develop my own theories.”
Jack could see his own shadow in Rinaldo. “When you set about that, it’s important to share ideas and think slowly and go through the subjects very meticulously because it’s so easy to get simply lost. So would you like to start the discussion by describing the religious ideas you accept?”
“Where should I start? Basically, the whole plan of what I’m trying to express is that everything is not… that the Universe or reality is not an infinite number of finite things. Like an infinite number of trees and grass and everything combined are not separate individual entities but that these are actually all the same, One, connected, eternal, creation or being or whatever. That…they’re all just different reflections, different images, different ways of saying One thing which is “I love God!” That’s the whole expression of life, and that’s what I’m trying to realize. Like I’m trying to realize and know, not with just my mind, but know this for a fact with my own self, and see how I am an image of God and how I reflect that force… and just to KNOW that.”
“Did you say that you are an image of God, or in the image of God?”
“That I am a reflection of or that I am… that my whole being is totally linked and totally connected… totally One with the Cosmos with God. And that I just don’t know that. Like I’m kinda like I’m asleep, in a vail of ignorance that I’m working to break out of.”
“What difference would you have in your mind if you “know” it? As opposed to simply believing it?” Jack was challenging this idea as much for his own use as for educational purposes.
“You have to use some other senses or some other capacity aside from the mind itself.”
“Is that because the mind doesn’t have the capability to give the understanding that you want?”
“Will this change your reality? I mean the tree isn’t going to change. The world, the Universe won’t change. It’s your relationship and appreciation of that world, is that what you’re searching for?”
Rinaldo was becoming putty in Jack’s hands. “Right. And my…what my purpose is in it.”
“Now let’s talk about that a minute. What do you think your purpose is now?”
“My purpose…that’s a good question. I would say that my purpose is many-fold. I think that everybody… at the bottom line is asking themselves constantly, “What am…I?” What am I really? How do I really belong?”
“Do you think animals ask that of themselves?”
“It’s not in a way of them thinking about it, it’s just surviving and about how they deal with the communities around them. That’s how they’re asking the question. That’s how they are trying to learn who they are, via the experience of the world.”
“So if people are asking themselves…let’s just talk about the case of people… If they’re asking themselves all the time this question about “Who am I?” How would you expect to ever be any different than that? Why would you want to be any different? Don’t you feel like you’re a part of that Oneness. At this point you don’t seem to have a firm knowledge of it?”
“Intellectual understanding doesn’t give you the realization, the internal realization, or knowing with your full consciousness. And believing it and seeing it as true and fact and experiencing it constantly that way. That’s what I want.”
“So you’re looking for a different source of knowledge. The knowledge that you want is not the every day kind of knowledge of science or of experience or of touching things and knowing that they’re there. When you see the fire you aren’t tempted to touch it to make sure it’s there are you?” Jack was leading up to something.
Rinaldo paused: “No I…”
“If you did touch it, would that convince you to any other degree of knowledge? Could you be more convinced that the fire is real by having a spiritual experience about the fire?”
“It’s not that the fire isn’t real, so much as… I can understand the fire is hot, it has heat, it’s a chemical reaction between Oxygen and Carbon. But what I what to know is …I don’t want to have to sit next to the fire and experience the fire via the heat it gives off. What I want is I want to be the fire. At the same time experience myself and experience myself as fire as the house the tree the sky, constantly and eternally experience myself as One with these.”
“It strikes me that you’ve already said that you are One with these…”
“But now you say that you don’t know that?”
“Well it’s because I can… again I can see it with the mind. But the mind is not the ultimate goal. It’s not the ultimate height of understanding.”
“It’s never going to change, is it? You’re mental capacity is never going to change or improve?”
“So are you searching for something that you can’t have? Are you searching for something that is paradoxical? That can’t exist?”
“Maybe, just a sense of security in my knowledge.”
Jack wanted to turn back before moving on. “What’s you’re reaction to the statement that I’ve made before. When I’ve told you that I agree with you that Humanity is part of the Universe and that we are One with all of nature, all of the creations of the Universe, and all that exists, and that I don’t deny it. Not only that, I believe it and I accept it, I feel that I have attained that level of understanding and that God has a purpose for you. What’s your reaction to that?”
“Okay. “Nature” is a good word for it.”
“The relationship that you have with nature is unchangeable, immutable, cannot change. But do you feel a personal relationship with God?”
“But our realization of it can change. The sense we have of it can be different at different times. Would you not agree though that what we’re talking about now is very abstract?”
“No, I think it’s very concrete. I think it’s essentially the simplest thing there is in the world. We can find our purpose by looking around us, by reading the Scriptures and the teachings of a Prophet.”
“But can you accept the full meaning of what that is? Can you understand that full meaning?”
“We’re dealing with infinite concepts and that will never change. Nothing will ever change that human limitation and the limitation of language. But we can still live and we should seek the guidance of the best teachers.”
“Because the mind is not infinite. We can only understand ideas and we make guesses.”
“But what does that suggest about nature?” Jack was getting closer.
“That suggests to me that the mind is not the way of fully understanding everything. That the mind goes so far but does not, cannot go all the way.”
“Well the point is, you are already part of that One. You share your life inevitably with God. So you should listen for His teachings.”
“Yes. But I… it’s like…”
“So you can’t be anything other than part of it. You can’t take yourself out of it.”
“But it’s like being in a dark room and saying… `Oh ya…I know the world’s out there. I know that there are trees…’ But I’m still in a dark room by myself. I feel blind. I feel limited. I feel totally separated…”
“You feel isolated then?”
“But don’t you see? You’re denying the instinct that you have to be part of a community? To accept teachings that make sense. You’re struggling to touch infinity and you can’t. You can only understand reality and accept instructions and try to help other people.”
“My fear is that I actually am… separate. That I am not part of everything.”
“How could you deny that you are? How can you possibly deny… It’s nonsense to deny that you are part of anything so simple as life.”
“See it’s two things. I can understand mentally, intellectually one thing. And at the bottom of my being see it another way. We are not totally what we think. We are much more than our mind.”
“Our mind is just a mode of experiencing the outer world. A mode of experiencing what is around us and a way of dealing with it. It does not mean that is HOW we experience…we don’t use the mind to experience everything that goes on inside us. Many things are irrational. Many happenings are irrational inside of us… they are not based on rational thinking. They’re not based on thinking at all,” Rinaldo asserted.
“Yes. Based on prior experience, conditioning, socialization…even inspiration. In religion we call that revelation and that’s what the scriptures are made of and that’s why they are so important.”
“Can I expect to understand that fully in this life?”
“What I’m looking for… to believe at my core that I do… that this is the purpose I’m going for and this is what is true. See I’m full of internal contradictions, I… one part says yes that’s the way… the other part says no… that’s not it… Well, those contradictions paralyze. They immobilize.” Jack heard his own echo now.
“Basically your mind is cramped. You’re in a mental cramp. You’re searching for one brief glimpse of eternity and you can’t obtain that at any one point.”
“No, I don’t think so. Ultimately what I’m looking for is Peace from opposition and confrontation of two sides not agreeing.” This was a form of the dialectic Jack had encountered before, and would encounter again.
“Peace from having conflict in your own mind?”
“Right. Unity in myself… hence if I am One with everything then that would create a unity on the outside. Or I would perceive a Unity on the outside if I had it in my own self.”
“You’re looking for relief. How long have you had this problem of polarities in yourself?”
“All my life.” Rinaldo seemed saddened.
“Evaluate your life a little bit. What do you see about the way your life has progressed and changed over the years? Have you demonstrated any sensational talent or even aptitude for living according to the way that you would want to live?”
“Well I can tell how I have made progress, I guess. I can’t really evaluate my life from the inside, there is so much more that goes on underneath, that people can’t see even in their own lives. I’ve done a reasoning process of my own. I came up with a way of seeing the world that had three parts. One was about God: What is God? and actually if God exists or not. And I determined there was no way of using reason or logic to fully take it as a fact that God exists or doesn’t exist. And there was no way that we can do it through the mind.”
“Okay.” Jack encouraged him to continue.
“Pursuing that line of reasoning there is no way to prove it or disprove it. So I used it as an answerless question. So that it’s there, okay… that I have accepted it, that was a point that there was no information available on, hence the question was constantly open until the answer finally shows up. The second point was, you know, existence before life and life after death. Are we in existence before we are born? And are we in existence after we are born?”
“Have you answered that?” Jack pressed the issue.
“Again the information on that… any information would be through our senses, our thoughts,… again it leads me to say, yes, that is very probable…”
“Do you feel like you have an answer? Do you feel like you have to know that with certainty and you can make decisions based on that in order to function? You can almost reach out and touch it but it’s not quite there?”
“No, not yet. I don’t think I’m that close.”
“That’s part of what we can help you with. What’s the third concept?”
“The third one is, how you live your life through morals and ethics?
“So the first one is about God?”
“Which is unknowable…”
“The second one is about before and after life? The third one is about life itself. In other words, the progress of life?”
“Right. And that is the one… that is the question at the human level. That is the level we are on every day, experiencing constantly. That is how we live our life. The other two are points that are not able to be validated… or are not validated through this physical life experience. So those points we can set aside and say that they’re just open questions and that if the answer ever comes along that they will be… you know… so that the key is how you live your life.”
“This is the way I used to think… this is the way I developed my own philosophy with these three points and the third point was the most important one. Because, if God exists or doesn’t exist, if it has no effect in my life, then it’s not important.
“Did the teachings of the Catholic Church change that?”
“That Church says the same thing, except that it says all three of the points are the same point. That how you live your life is exactly the same… that ethics or morals… the answer to that is exactly the same as the second one and the first one.”
Jack asked a leading question: “Can you accept an answer that integrates all that into a sensible life plan?”
“It seems like I would be just accepting what I might want. This is what it tells me: It tells me that you have come to a point of being satisfied with the answers that you have found.”
“Right. Okay. But for good reason.”
Rinaldo spoke with a tone of frustration: “Well, I’m not satisfied with the answers that I’ve found.”
Elder Ballard inserted: “Are you satisfied with the questions that you have?”
“I have one big question that incorporates all the little ones.”
Jack interrupted: “But it has to do with infinity? So the answer you are looking for will never be there. You have to stop and accept an explanation that relies on logic and inspiration together and makes sense. That’s what the Mormon Church brings. I think people have the natural ability to contact with infinity. To glimpse… and to understand enough about it that they become equipped to live. That’s where personal revelation comes into it and that’s where scriptures give us a guide. A little like the inspiration we can get from the best poetry.” Jack was closing in on the end of a lengthy argument to convince both himself and Rinaldo.
Jack would have done well to remember this advice for his own life. He continued: “I think that is what equips people. And I think a lot of people have had success in achieving their dreams. That’s what equips you to understand that you are part of everything. That gives you an analogy, gives you something you can relate to.”
“That’s right. That’s what I’m looking for. Some special confidence.” Rinaldo seemed to brighten.
“And I think that’s a very safe conclusion. It’s a correct conclusion. I’ve reached that conclusion but I didn’t have to learn it the hard way. You haven’t had to learn it the hard way either. Through some terrible suffering. But you can learn it by studying and praying.”
“I hope so.”
Elder Ballard had been listening and trying to follow the thread of the discussion. He tried to make some concluding remarks. Jack was relieved for the help. “God is all knowing. I can agree with that concept. But I don’t agree that the actions of humans are determined in any way, or have anything to do with any control from God. God lets us be free to make choices and make mistakes. That is an essential principle. That is the beginning point of controlling and perfecting our own characters.” That is more profound than it seems on the surface.
Ballard continued: “I’m saying that human activity is necessarily related to God and that God gives us all the information we need to live happy productive lives. But we have to decide to accept it. We have to find our own way using His guidance.” Elder Ballard was giving himself advice at the same time.
Jack joined again: “You don’t know what you’re going to do tomorrow, for example? And how you’re going to act and..?”
Rinaldo answered: “I have a small idea…but…”
“Do you have control of yourself? Would you say that?”
“No. I just live in a search mode. I don’t want to infringe on other people’s freedom. Freedom of how they want to feel, how they want to act, how they want to think. But for myself, I’m still confused and uncertain.”
“It’s a huge advantage in life to have some solid belief and certainty. Already you have a head start. You relate to people well. You are naturally considerate. You have a tremendous capability, and a tremendous talent in that respect. You are naturally sensitive and better prepared for life than most people we find. You just have to give yourself a chance.”
“That’s probably what I’m trying to do.” Rinaldo was less self-assured again.
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