Here Comes the Sun at the Pompidou Center

In 1993, I was a Mormon missionary, wandering the streets of Paris, France, to spread the Good News. A favorite place to go for a break when knocking doors wasn’t working (which was most of the time) was Place Georges Pompidou, an open concrete square in front of a modern art museum where street performers, hawkers, caricature artists, pickpockets, and tourists gather.

The sights and sounds of this place are sticky in my otherwise-faded memory. A fat Portuguese caveman breathed fire and let you throw darts at his stomach for 20 francs. A drummer rocked out on a spare-parts set that featured a dangling banana – every so often he would scream “BANANA!” and hit it with his drumstick, flinging fruit flesh into the audience. We didn’t listen to much popular music as missionaries and it was a guilty pleasure to hear bands covering pagan tunes by The Smiths and The Beatles on guitars, violins, clarinets, and the occasional didgeridoo.

One rainy day, probably in May, only the die-hards were out performing. We stood under umbrellas and listened to this guy sing Creedence Clearwater Revival’s Have You Ever Seen the Rain? His accent was strong – “I waaaNOOO ha-ye-evah seen da rain?” Sticking with the weather theme, he moved next to The Beatles’ Here Comes The Sun. The small audience laughed and gasped as the sun really did come out on the chorus! I don’t think I was particularly down at the time, but the coincidence brightened my day and has stuck in my aging brain all these 22 years.

“Here Comes the Sun”

In 2008, 15 years after my mission days, I had a business trip in Paris and scheduled some tourist time to visit a few of my old haunts. I went to the Pompidou Center and guess who was performing.

I learned from another YouTube video that his name is Yama Nico. I hope he’s there next time I visit. We need to talk.

Pompidou street musician – Yama Nico

Zermatt Mountaineers Cemetery

In Zermatt, Switzerland – the ski town from which you can see the Matterhorn in the distance – there’s a fascinating and moving little cemetery behind the St. Mauritius Catholic Church. It memorializes those who died climbing (or descending) nearby mountains.

See also:
http://www.zermatt.ch/en/Media/Attractions/Mountaineers-cemetery

The Matterhorn - The Most Dangerous Mountain: A Live Adventure

Quotes related to the Book of Job

Some quotes I collected while preparing a Sunday School lesson on the Book of Job in the Old Testament.

Fiddler on the Roof
“Lord who made the lion and the lamb,
You decreed I should be what I am.
Would it spoil some vast eternal plan?
If I were a wealthy man.”

Brigham Young
We talk about our trials and troubles here in this life; but suppose that you could see yourselves thousands and millions of years after you have proved faithful to your religion during the few short years in this time, and have obtained eternal salvation and a crown of glory in the presence of God? Then look back upon your lives here, and see the losses, crosses, and disappointments, the sorrows … ; you would be constrained to exclaim, “but what of all that? Those things were but for a moment, and we are now here. We have been faithful during a few moments in our mortality, and now we enjoy eternal life and glory, with power to progress in all the boundless knowledge and through the countless stages of progression, enjoying the smiles and approbation of our Father and God, and of Jesus Christ our elder brother” (DNW, 9 Nov. 1859, 1).
https://www.lds.org/manual/teachings-brigham-young/chapter-25?lang=eng

Elder Orson F. Whitney
“No pain that we suffer, no trial that we experience is wasted. It ministers to our education, to the development of such qualities as patience, faith, fortitude and humility. All that we suffer and all that we endure, especially when we endure it patiently, builds up our characters, purifies our hearts, expands our souls, and makes us more tender and charitable, more worthy to be called the children of God … and it is through sorrow and suffering, toil and tribulation, that we gain the education that we come here to acquire and which will make us more like our Father and Mother in heaven” (quoted in Spencer W. Kimball, Faith Precedes the Miracle, 98).

Joseph Smith
“I am like a huge, rough stone rolling down from a high mountain; and the only polishing I get is when some corner gets rubbed off by coming in contact with something else, … knocking off a corner here and a corner there. Thus I will become a smooth and polished shaft in the quiver of the Almighty” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 304).

Richard G. Scott
“When you face adversity, you can be led to ask many questions. Some serve a useful purpose; others do not. To ask, Why does this have to happen to me? Why do I have to suffer this now? What have I done to cause this? will lead you into blind alleys. It really does no good to ask questions that reflect opposition to the will of God. Rather ask, What am I to do? What am I to learn from this experience? What am I to change? Whom am I to help? How can I remember my many blessings in times of trial?” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1995, 18; or Ensign, Nov. 1995, 17).

Spencer W. Kimball
“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure, and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the premortal past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in proper perspective.“… Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

“If all the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith” (Faith Precedes the Miracle [1975], 97).

Neal A. Maxwell on Patience
“Patience is a willingness, in a sense, to watch the unfolding purposes of God with a sense of wonder and awe, rather than pacing up and down within the cell of our circumstance. Put another way, too much anxious opening of the oven door and the cake falls instead of rising. So it is with us. If we are always selfishly taking our temperature to see if we are happy, we will not be.”
http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=621

Russian book for tourists in America, on Optimism
http://mentalfloss.com/article/54461/4-russian-travel-tips-visiting-america

“Americans and Russians say different things when faced with the same situation. Seeing the man who had fallen in the street, an American asks, ‘Are you all right?’ Russians will inquire: ‘Are you ill?’ We see a victim of the incident; they see survivors.Survivors are perceived as heroes. Where we ‘aren’t sick,’ they ‘stay well.’  We discuss the problem. They discuss issues and items on the agenda.”  (Американский речевой этикет)

“US etiquette requires that you smile in each and every situation. If you want to travel to America, be prepared to give a smile not only to friends and acquaintances, but also to all passers-by, in shops, to the staff at the hotel, police on the streets, etc.

“US etiquette also forbids lamenting the troubles of life, or sharing your problems with others. Sharing in this country can only be positive emotions—sorrows and frustrations are impermissible. In the US you only complain to acquaintances in the most extreme cases. Serious problems are for close friends and relatives only.
“However, it would be wrong to believe that the Americans with their smiles only create the illusion of well-being and that their smiles are stretched with false joy. This is not so. Americans: they are a nation that truly feels happy. These people get used to smiling from the cradle onwards, so they do not pretend to be cheerful. The desire for a successful happy life is inculcated from childhood.” (Этикет США)

President Hunter – nothing can ever go permanently wrong
“I am aware that life presents many challenges, but with the help of the Lord, we need not fear. If our lives and our faith are centered on Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong.” – Howard W. Hunter

The Atonement
“All that is unfair about life can be made right through the Atonement of Jesus Christ.” – Proclaim My Gospel

Jeffrey R. Holland (quoting C. S. Lewis) on needing to correct course
I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A [mathematical] sum [incorrectly worked] can be put right; but only by going back till you find the error and then working it fresh from that point. [It will] never [be corrected] by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot “develop” into good, [worlds without end]. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound. [C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: Macmillan Co., 1973), p. 6]
From a devotional by Jeffrey R. Holland in 1974 – Borne Upon Eagles’ Wings — http://speeches.byu.edu/reader/reader.php?id=6053

Neal A. Maxwell on authenticity of individual trials
Our individual experiences may not always be unique, but they are always authentic. God will even take into account our perceptions of, as well as our responses to, our trials. For those of us who do not, for instance, find claustrophobia a challenge, it is difficult to measure the terror that comes to those for whom it is such a challenge. Thus, a friend may seem to struggle unnecessarily long before finally prevailing with regard to a particular principle of the gospel. But for that individual, the struggle was real enough! We need, particularly, to understand with kindness those who are asked to go out to do battle again on a familiar field—on the very battleground where they have already suffered defeat several times. Yet some of our most difficult victories will occur on new terrain—like Joseph’s in Egypt—when we do not have the equivalent of a “home court” advantage.We must remember that, while the Lord reminded the Prophet Joseph Smith that he had not yet suffered as Job, only the Lord can compare crosses!
http://speeches.byu.edu/?act=viewitem&id=907

It Is Well With My Soul
When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Refrain:
It is well, (it is well),
With my soul, (with my soul)
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

My sin — oh, the bliss of this glorious thought! —
My sin — not in part but the whole, —
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
If Jordan above me shall roll,
No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life,
Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

But Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul.

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul!

This hymn was written after traumatic events in Spafford’s life. The first was the death of their only son from Scarlet Fever in 1870. Second was the 1871 Great Chicago Fire which ruined him financially (he had been a successful lawyer and had invested significantly in property in the area of Chicago which was decimated by the great fire). His business interests were further hit by the economic downturn of 1873 at which time he had planned to travel to Europe with his family on the SS Ville du Havre. In a late change of plan, he sent the family ahead while he was delayed on business concerning zoning problems following the Great Chicago Fire. While crossing the Atlantic, the ship sank rapidly after a collision with a sea vessel, the Loch Earn, and all four of Spafford’s daughters died. His wife Anna survived and sent him the now famous telegram, “Saved alone …”. Shortly afterwards, as Spafford traveled to meet his grieving wife, he was inspired to write these words as his ship passed near where his daughters had died.

President Eyring on how to comfort
Once I was at the hospital bedside of my father as he seemed near death. I heard a commotion among the nurses in the hallway. Suddenly, President Spencer W. Kimball walked into the room and sat in a chair on the opposite side of the bed from me. I thought to myself, “Now here is my chance to watch and listen to a master at going to those in pain and suffering.”President Kimball said a few words of greeting, asked my father if he had received a priesthood blessing, and then, when Dad said that he had, the prophet sat back in his chair.I waited for a demonstration of the comforting skills I felt I lacked and so much needed. After perhaps five minutes of watching the two of them simply smiling silently at each other, I saw President Kimball rise and say, “Henry, I think I’ll go before we tire you.”I thought I had missed the lesson, but it came later. In a quiet moment with Dad after he recovered enough to go home, our conversation turned to the visit by President Kimball. Dad said quietly, “Of all the visits I had, that visit I had from him lifted my spirits the most.”

President Kimball didn’t speak many words of comfort, at least that I could hear, but he went with the Spirit of the Lord as his companion to give the comfort. I realize now that he was demonstrating the lesson President Monson taught: “How does one magnify a calling? Simply by performing the service that pertains to it.”
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2010/10/serve-with-the-spirit?lang=eng

Richard G. Scott on maintaining perspective
No matter how difficult something you or a loved one faces, it should not take over your life and be the center of all your interest. Challenges are growth experiences, temporary scenes to be played out on the background of a pleasant life. Don’t become so absorbed in a single event that you can’t think of anything else or care for yourself or for those who depend upon you. Remember, much like the mending of the body, the healing of some spiritual and emotional challenges takes time.
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1996/04/finding-joy-in-life?lang=eng

President Uchtdorf – Continue in Patience
Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness.
https://www.lds.org/ensign/2010/05/continue-in-patience

C.S. Lewis on God building a palace
“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace.” – Mere Christianity

Marvin J. Ashton – If Thou Endure It Well
Sometimes we spend so much time trying to determine what we did wrong in the past to deserve the unpleasant happenings of the moment that we fail to resolve the challenges of the present. Og Mandino wrote in his book The Greatest Miracle in the World, “If we lock ourselves in a prison of failure and self-pity, we are the only jailers … we have the only key to our freedom.” (New York: Frederick Fell Publishers, 1975, p. 61.)

Sometimes as children we were told everything would be all right. But life is not like that. No matter who you are, you will have problems. Tragedy and frustration are the unexpected intruders on life’s plans. Someone has said, “Life is what happens to you while you are making other plans.” It is important that we not look upon our afflictions as a punishment from God. True, our own actions may cause some of our problems, but often there is no evident misconduct that has caused our trials. Just the normal journey through life teaches us that nothing worthwhile comes easy.
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/1984/10/if-thou-endure-it-well?lang=eng

Abraham Lincoln
Elizabeth Keckley, Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker, once told of watching the president drag himself into the room where she was fitting the First Lady. “His step was slow and heavy, and his face sad,” Keckley recalled. “Like a tired child he threw himself upon a sofa, and shaded his eyes with his hands. He was a complete picture of dejection.” He had just returned from the War Department, he said, where the news was “dark, dark everywhere.” Lincoln then took a small Bible from a stand near the sofa and began to read. “A quarter of an hour passed,” Keckley remembered, “and on glancing at the sofa the face of the president seemed more cheerful. The dejected look was gone; in fact, the countenance was lighted up with new resolution and hope.” Wanting to see what he was reading, Keckley pretended she had dropped something and went behind where Lincoln was sitting so that she could look over his shoulder. It was the Book of Job.
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/10/lincolns-great-depression/304247/5/

President Uchtdorf – Grateful in Any Circumstances
Perhaps focusing on what we are grateful for is the wrong approach. It is difficult to develop a spirit of gratitude if our thankfulness is only proportional to the number of blessings we can count. True, it is important to frequently “count our blessings”—and anyone who has tried this knows there are many—but I don’t believe the Lord expects us to be less thankful in times of trial than in times of abundance and ease. In fact, most of the scriptural references do not speak of gratitude for things but rather suggest an overall spirit or attitude of gratitude.It is easy to be grateful for things when life seems to be going our way. But what then of those times when what we wish for seems to be far out of reach?

Could I suggest that we see gratitude as a disposition, a way of life that stands independent of our current situation? In other words, I’m suggesting that instead of being thankful for things, we focus on being thankful in our circumstances—whatever they may be.
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng

President Uchtdorf – Grateful in Any Circumstances – On Endings
In light of what we know about our eternal destiny, is it any wonder that whenever we face the bitter endings of life, they seem unacceptable to us? There seems to be something inside of us that resists endings.Why is this? Because we are made of the stuff of eternity. We are eternal beings, children of the Almighty God, whose name is Endless and who promises eternal blessings without number. Endings are not our destiny.

The more we learn about the gospel of Jesus Christ, the more we realize that endings here in mortality are not endings at all. They are merely interruptions—temporary pauses that one day will seem small compared to the eternal joy awaiting the faithful.How grateful I am to my Heavenly Father that in His plan there are no true endings, only everlasting beginnings.
https://www.lds.org/general-conference/2014/04/grateful-in-any-circumstances?lang=eng

James Stockdale
U.S. Navy Pilot – shot down during Vietnam War and spent 7 years(!) in the “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, enduring unspeakable torture.

Jim Collins, author of the influential study of US businesses, ‘Good to Great’, interviewed Stockdale during his research for the book. How had he found the courage to survive those long, dark years.“I never lost faith in the end of the story,” replied Stockdale. “I never doubted not only that I would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining moment of my life, which in retrospect, I would not trade.”Collins was silent for a few minutes. The two men walked along, Stockdale with a heavy limp, swinging a stiff leg that had never properly recovered from repeated torture.Finally, Collins went on to ask another question. Who didn’t make it out ?

“Oh, that’s easy,” replied Stockdale. “The optimists.”

Collins was confused.

“The optimists. Oh, they were the ones who said, ‘We’re going to be out by Christmas.’ And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. Then they’d say, ‘We’re going to be out by Easter.’

And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving. And then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.” As the two men walked slowly onward, Stockdale turned to Collins. “This is a very important lesson. You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end – which you can never afford to lose – with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”
http://growthfinancial.net/2014/08/economic-lessons-from-hanoi-hilton-experience/

Alexander Pope – Essay on Man
Presumptuous man! the reason wouldst thou find,
Why form’d so weak, so little, and so blind?
First, if thou canst, the harder reason guess,
Why form’d no weaker, blinder, and no less!

Go, wiser thou! and, in thy scale of sense
Weigh thy opinion against Providence;
Call imperfection what thou fanciest such,
Say, here he gives too little, there too much:
Destroy all creatures for thy sport or gust,
Yet cry, if man’s unhappy, God’s unjust;
If man alone engross not Heav’n’s high care,
Alone made perfect here, immortal there:
Snatch from his hand the balance and the rod,
Rejudge his justice, be the God of God.

Sparknotes
The interaction between Job and his friends illustrates the painful irony of his situation. Our knowledge that Job’s punishment is the result of a contest between God and Satan contrasts with Job’s confusion and his friends’ lecturing, as they try to understand why Job is being punished. The premise of the friends’ argument is that misfortune only follows from evil deeds. Bildad instructs Job, “if you are pure and upright, / surely then [God] will rouse himself / for you” and he later goads Job to be a “blameless person” (8:6, 8:20). The language in these passages is ironic, since, unbeknownst to Job or Job’s friends, God and Satan do in fact view Job as “blameless and upright.” This contrast shows the folly of the three friends who ignore Job’s pain while purporting to encourage him. The interaction also shows the folly of trying to understand God’s ways. The three friends and Job have a serious theological conversation about a situation that actually is simply a game between God and Satan. The fault of Job and his friends lies in trying to explain the nature of God with only the limited information available to human knowledge, as God himself notes when he roars from the whirlwind, “Who is this that darkness counsel / by words without / knowledge?” (38:2).

One of the chief virtues of the poetry in Job is its rhetoric. The book’s rhetorical language seeks to produce an effect in the listener rather than communicate a literal idea. God’s onslaught of rhetorical questions to Job, asking if Job can perform the same things he can do, overwhelms both Job and the reader with the sense of God’s extensive power as well as his pride. Sarcasm is also a frequent rhetorical tool for Job and his friends in their conversation. After Bildad lectures Job about human wisdom, Job sneers, “How you have helped one / who has no power! / How you have assisted the arm / that has no strength!” (26:2). Job is saying that he already knows what Bildad has just explained about wisdom. The self-deprecating tone and sarcastic response are rare elements in ancient verse. Such irony not only heightens the playfulness of the text but suggests the characters are actively responding to each other, thus connecting their seemingly disparate speeches together. The poetry in Job is a true dialogue, for the characters develop ideas and unique personalities throughout the course of their responses.
http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/oldtestament/section11.rhtml

Cruesli au Chocolat

The best breakfast cereal in the world is Chocolate Cruesli.

The slogan in French is “le plaisir croustillant”, which is roughly “crunchy pleasure” or maybe “pleasure that crunches”. It’s nothing like Cocoa Krispies or those other fake chocolate cereals – it has real pieces of chocolate in it. Just holding the box, you can tell by its weight that this is no ordinary cereal.

And – one of life’s great injustices – you can’t get it in North America.

I’ve checked everywhere: dozens of U.S. grocery stores, numerous Google sessions (could only find a Dutch store that will ship it for an arm and a leg), international food markets, Trader Joe’s (see below for a decent alternative) — I even made my family wait while I ran down the aisles of a Canadian grocery store during a brief visit to Toronto.

I don’t get it. It’s made by Quaker, which is an American company (owned by PepsiCo). There’s got to be a market for it. My family’s Cruesli consumption alone could keep a grocery store or two in the black. I even write Quaker an impassioned annual letter. No reply.

So, I have to resort to stockpiling. And begging friends and family to send or bring some from Europe. Two of my brothers were missionaries in France and I would send them $20 to ship me some on occasion. One of the young men from my old ward was a missionary in Paris and sent me a couple of boxes. I got some in Barcelona. And in Amsterdam and Paris on business trips, much to the confusion of my co-workers.

Here are a few photos of my relationship with Cruesli au chocolat over the years:

1993 – It’s too small to see, but many of the boxes on the top shelf are Cruesli

 

1994 – Elder Tobler shows off his cereal collection

 

2005 – Cruesli collection in our crummy but memorable room in Barcelona

 

2008 – My suitcase in a Paris hotel

 

2011 – 4 very expensive boxes (after factoring in train fare) gathered during a 4-hour layover in Paris. Every grocery store in the area was closed except this one, so I was stuck with generic. Still delicious.

 

2015 – Speed Tour of Paris with a stop at Carrefour for 5 boxes.

Alternatives

1. You can try mixing 50% Trader Joe’s Just the Clusters chocolate almond cereal and 50% Quaker Simply Granola cereal. It’s not the same, but can help with withdrawal symptoms.

2. A friend in Germany sent me some “Vitalis Knusper” cereal, Dr. Oetker brand. It tastes great! And it’s easier to find online. The “Double Chocolate” version is available at Germandeli.com. The regular version (not double chocolate) isn’t an exact match for taste, but it’s good in a pinch.

Warning: do not get the Vitalis cereal called simply “Schoko Musli”. It tastes like dirt. I spent $40 on a few boxes before realizing my horrible mistake. Fortunately, it’s pretty good added to no-bake cookies, so it wasn’t a total loss.

 

Speed Tour of Paris

On the way back from India last week, I had a 7.5-hour layover at the Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris. I arrived at 6am and then rushed through passport control to the train station (which is conveniently attached to the airport). I took a train to Gare du Nord and walked to Sacré Coeur to take a quick tour and snap some pictures. I had planned to make this my only stop, wandering around Montmartre a bit until I found a grocery store where I could get a stash of Cruesli au Chocolat cereal. But before long it turned into a challenge to see how many sights I could see before I needed to head back to the airport. I didn’t want to spend more money on a subway pass, so this was all on foot and took about three hours. I mapped it out on mappedometer.com and it looks like it was about 5 1/2 miles.

 

I was already kind of cutting it close to get back to the airport by the time I heard this band performing in the Chatelet train station, but I had to stop and get a quick video. I tracked down the band name later, which is Les Musiciens de Lviv, a Ukrainian band that has been playing Paris metro stations for years.