Follow up on Doubt ing

Picking up few threads from the comments on Doubt:

  1. What happens when Doubt is a Thing?  Like, I can assume everyone means the same thing when I read or hear that word?  And so, I can write a dictionary definition of “it” (and of its itness)…List its attributes, and contrast with another thingified word, like Faith, create flow charts, and so on…Am I really getting at thing I haven’t really created?  And then…
  2. What happens when Doubt is not only a Thing, but an Agentive Thing?  Like, it comes upon me (like a spirit!), and yet is also something I “have,” similar to, say, a disease?
  3. Do prescriptions for socially imagined, discursively created Agent-Things really work?  If not (and they don’t), then what?  Can we doubt everything said about doubts, faith, and so on, from a position that is other than “because I really feel it is so”?  Can we speak more than this?
  4. Step back from what you think Doubt and Faith “really mean,” stop looking for the heart of the matter; pause for a minute reciting some voice on their meaning, their goodness and wickedness, and look at how these words partially create You.  What do you mean to say, for instance, “I have faith” and “I have doubts”?  And don’t give me another voice as your reply.  I want to hear the voice of the being represented by these Big Words, reflecting upon actual, recalled usage.
  5. Now, please comment on how You see yourself, given the above questions that steer the discussion on Doubt toward the discourses on doubts, and their effects…Please.


I am giving a FREE presentation at Utah Valley University in a few weeks, as part of an ongoing series of talks on Mormonism.  My talk will discuss Doubt.

What is it, anyway?  A state of mind?  Why then do we speak of it as something that comes upon us, that we fall into, that we have?  Or does doubt-as-mental-state reveal something about mind that is not like the ordinary sense of mind as something “in here,” and subject to me?

Why are there prescriptions given by authorities for alleviating it, for avoiding it, and so on?  How is it that one can do unto it, whatever it is?

Has doubt become essential to what is now called “faith,” so that I can “exercise faith” by participating in Mormon religion, despite having doubts?  Is this what a “mature” faith looks like?

If so, we can ask, “faith in what, exactly?”  Is Doubt here to stay, and so we ought to make a permanent habitation for it; or must we toss out traditions, histories, scriptures, rituals, and so on, which are now subject to doubting, in order to save The Church itself?

I probably won’t answer all these questions, and I’m not going to approach the topic of Doubt in a manner similar to discussions offered by any other Mormon.

I’m also soliciting honest reflections on doubt, provided by you guys.  I may use some or all of what you write in that talk, although no names will be attached to whatever you happen to write.  So, if you’d like to be subject potentially to anthropological analysis, please comment on Doubt below.



KeyJeeBoard Flip / Cloak

We added two really cool features to the KeyJeeBoard: Flip and Cloak


Flip your text upside down, with the press of a button.  The “flip” button.

Why would you want to invert your text message?  Why not?  It also makes computer snooping a bit more difficult.

Snooping: we’ve also added a “cloaking” l33t speak conversion, also at the press of a key.  The “l33t” key.

Why would you want to cloak your t3>t m3$$@ge or e^^@il?  So computers cannot snoop it, sell your information to marketers or to the N$@, and so on.  And why not?

Parable of The Games

A certain man played basketball on Sunday, and many other games throughout the week.  So long as he played, he found himself improving at basketball, and got a little exercise as well.  On other days of the week, he played other games, and sometimes tried to bring skills, rules, and strategies learned elsewhere to the basketball games he played on Sunday.  And vice versa.  The court was at the center of an ancient ritual complex, for some reason, like you’d find among the ancient Maya.

Anyway, there were Sundays when this man would take his place on the bench, and allow others to play basketball.  Then he would hear teammates, and appointed coaches talking about basketball.  How strange!  Sometimes officials emerged, and blew their whistles, stopping the game, imposing penalties on players.  The more these spectators spoke about the game–how it should be played, who gets to play, how to measure victories, what scores and stats ought to be recorded, compensation, tales about the game’s history, and so on–the sorts of comments broadcasters often make, he found himself doubting.


Now, does it make sense to say one doubts basketball?  Of course not.  One only doubts comments made about basketball.  Does it make sense to “know basketball is true”?  Not really.  Unless by “true” one means, “good,” and the sort of knowing really is a sort of “playing for a team I like and trust.”  Only when the man stops playing the game does he wonder about the game, and begin to doubt his place on the team and the wisdom of his teammates and coaches concerning their understanding of the game.   You might say that because of a multitude of tv timeouts, halftimes, and injury delays, the man came to be a spectator to a sport.

Yet he does not doubt the game itself, for that makes mischief of the meaning of the word “doubt.”  He may find, however, that he no longer enjoys playing according to regularly updated coaching methods, schedules, and often arbitrarily altered officiating.  Sometimes he finds the game being played merely as a form of exercise, as though conducted on behalf of some other unspoken purpose like losing weight; and yet it is played sluggishly nonetheless.  Should he rally his team to play harder, or to join another league, or to practice more often, more vigorously?  Maybe take the best players and start his own team?

What is this man to do?  Stop playing basketball entirely?  Take up the easy aphorisms of the broadcaster?  Join another sport, and insist that the coaches, teammates, league officials, and so on are running things in some manner that is better than the league or sport he plays on Sundays?  Only so long as he plays their games, does he feel this way, it seems.  He has become a skeptic of commentary, and sees games everywhere played.  Should he listen while on the sidelines, he may come to doubt many things about every game, and yet not doubt the games themselves.


One day, the man agrees with a fuzzy, wise old mascot who tells him, “no one doubts games they play.  The play itself is beyond convincing or doubt, because it is play.  The play is the thing.”  So, he thought: just because someone does not doubt, does not make the claims made about that thing any more or less accurate or true.  And so we cannot rely on post-game or half-time interviews, either, to get the player’s point of view.  That view is not found in words, the man thinks; and understands why words uttered by spectators are seldom other than cheering and booing.

And yet, once a spectator, the man found it impossible to play basketball without also observing the game, even while on the court.  His perspective has split.  The man has introduced spectatorship onto the court, and that is not part of the game, he realizes.  So he stands on the sideline, literally on the line itself.  How long can he stand here?


It is the talk about the game, by spectators not playing the game, which brings in awareness of the game itself, as a game (with rules, officials, coaches, marketers, ticket-takers, cheerleaders, and so on).  Only then–when it’s known as a game–can the game be paused so one might rest on the bench, taking part in the game as a spectator, rather than as a player of the game.

Spectating is a new form of play. It requires players.  Children don’t spectate, for instance.  Adults do.  And only then does one come to doubt the game: as a spectator.  But the man is not doubting the game itself.  He doubts what is said by spectators.  Those who play, whose hearts are fully in the game, do not doubt.  They know the game from the inside, as children.  And yet that cannot be said about spectators who are playing another sort of game: commenting, directing, instructing, coaching, and so on.  That game can be played upon every other sport; but we can all agree that broadcasters, cheerleaders, officials, marketers, and even coaches are different from players.

The man sees that the spectator’s game is far more widespread and lucrative than the game they claim to see and talk about.  He does not confuse their game for the basketball game itself, which must be played to be known.  The question that confronts the man, once he moves beyond the simple world of parables: how to tell who is playing basketball, and who is playing the other sort of game?