I Am A Mormon

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I Am A Mormon

woody-allen

 Imagine if Woody Allen complained about being a Jew.

 John-Wayne-9525664-1-402

Imagine if John Wayne spent his time loathing the fact that he was raised Catholic.

stevejobs

 Imagine Steve Jobs bemoaning his own Arabic ancestry.

Do you think any of these men would become the powerful creators that they were, had they put any energy into such grievances?

Here’s what I’ve realized this week.

There’s something about arguing against MY own heritage that has made me less of a person.
As you probably know, the past several years have seen me angst-ridden over my relationship to the LDS Church.  The past year has brought many fascinating people, experiences, and epiphanies to me that have brought me a new kind of peace.

A few nights ago, I was shooting the Deseret Book Women’s Conference at BYU. During the program, they showed a trailer for a film that has just been made about my Great, Great, Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks:

I descend from some truly extraordinary people who did unbelievably heroic things in the name of Mormonism.  It’s in my DNA. It’s the fabric of my family culture, and therefore, it’s part of my vocabulary. It doesn’t define me, but I’m also not immune to it.

Corporate Jesus

Jesus is awesome. He looks quite handsome in a suit, too.

Everyone has a different heritage. Eskimos descend from a different set of circumstances. Their ancestors dealt with and thought about different things than my ancestors did. Going back further, my ancestors, from both my mother and father’s side, are Danish.  My ancestry has marinated in a Christ consciousness for hundreds, almost thousands, of years. The ethos of Christ, his teachings, his intentions, all resonate deeply with me, without any branding from any institution.  It’s in my DNA. It’s who I am.

I accept who I am.

I honor it.

I give gratitude for it.

I am honored to be the offspring of a man who had such power powers of manifestation as did Ephraim K Hanks. These days, things like “The Secret” and “The Law Of Attraction” are popular buzz words. These are laws of human nature that have existed from the very beginning. Throughout the ages, and throughout phases in individual people’s lives, awareness of these powers ebbs and flows.  Ephraim understood these principles and used them to manifest healing, food, and life in the lives of people who would have otherwise died.

I know that one of my prime purposes in life is to re-acquaint myself with these powers, to exercise them in my own life, and to then be an example to others so that they, too, may become saviors of men. This is nothing special to me.  It’s your job, too, to align with these powers, exercise them, and then become an example to those around you.  The ubiquity of this call does not diminish from it’s grandeur.

I am humbled at the size of the task at hand. It feels so much larger than me, but I also know that there are powers in the Universe that I can align myself with that will magnify me – make me larger than I really am, so long as I am in correct alignment.

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Paul Duane – ethnic Mormon

I know what a lot of you are thinking. “WHAT?  Is Paul going back to church?”  Relax. You probably won’t see me in sacrament meeting or at the Temple.

But like Jesus said, any time two or more are gathered in his name, He is in their presence. That’s sufficient for me. And to that end, I go to “church” all the time… and I love it.

One aspect of Mormonism that has always resonated with me is the 13th Article of Faith:  [quote ]We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.[/quote]

The pursuit of excellence is a part of Mormon culture. One thing I’ve learned from doing a few photography jobs for the Church is this:  When it comes to giving a shit, the Mormons might just own the patent on it. When they do something, they do it RIGHT.  Go walk through any building they own. Watch any film they have produced.  Put your theology aside and just observe the craftsmanship – it is superb, every time. My Grandfather once said,  and it stuck with me, “If something is worth doing, it’s worth doing right”.  This pursuit of excellence is a tradition that resonates deeply with me.  I mess up all the time. I’m almost devastatingly aware of my shortcomings… but this is where my sights are always set, and I’m grateful to those who taught me this tradition.

I am A Mormon.  It’s my ethnicity.  I’m not fighting it anymore. I like myself,  and if I’m going to feel that way about myself, I’ve also got to completely accept my heritage. Not just tolerate it – but honor it.  For some reason it’s been easier to honor the heritage of other people more than it has been to honor my own.  I believe that 2013 is a gateway year for me, as I move into this new place of honor for everything that makes me who I am. I believe that in more fully honoring my heritage, I will more fully tap into the powers of Manifestation and Creation that my Great, Great Grandfather, Ephraim K Hanks was a master of.

That’s the experiment that’s on the table right now. As always, I’ll keep you posted.

Much love-

Paul Duane

* Admittedly, one of my wish list items is to establish residency in California, get my medical marijuana card AND my Temple Recommend back. I’d like to attend the temple a couple of times HIGH AS A KITE.  It’s not that I miss the Temple, it’s just that I’m curious how my mind would experience the symbols of the Temple while in a more enlightened state.  This is probably already happening in California. If you know any members of the Church who attend worship services of any kind while blazed on “medical marijuana”, I’d like to hear their experiences.  Imagine hot boxing in your car, in the church or temple parking lot with some friends before going in to the Temple or Elder’s Quorum…. I think that the eventual and inevitable nationwide legalization of pot may be a necessary catalyst in refining the human family (and thus, the church), and making it more Christ-like.

cheech-and-chong-up-in-smoke

I’d like to introduce you to your new home teachers, Brother Cheech and Brother Chong.

Go ahead, get stoned. You’ll find those commandments and beatitudes easier than ever to abide by.

 

 

 

Defending Your Life

Is this what happens after death?

In the comedy “Defending Your Life,”  the main character, Daniel, finds himself in the afterlife after getting hit by a bus. In this scene, he’s having a meeting with the person who will be representing him, essentially his attorney, as his life is put on “trial” to determine if he’ll be allowed to progress to the next realm or not.

“Being from Earth, as you are; and using as little of your brain as you do, your life has pretty much been devoted to dealing with fear… Everybody on earth deals with fear. That’s what ‘little brains’ do…  Fear is like a giant fog, it sits on your brain, blocks everything. Real feelings, true happiness, real joy… they can’t get through that fog.  But you lift it, and buddy, you’re in for the ride of your life!”  – Bob Diamond

It’s interesting to note which voices around us are trying to teach us this lesson. Occasionally people arrive on the earth that seem to understand this concept very clearly, and they try to teach us how to move forward, as Bob Diamond explained.   Here are a few that come to my mind:

One of my heroes, the late comedian Bill Hicks, had something very similar to say:

“The world is like a ride in an amusement park, and when you choose to go on it you think it’s real because that’s how powerful our minds are. The ride goes up and down, around and around, it has thrills and chills, and it’s very brightly colored, and it’s very loud, and it’s fun for a while. Many people have been on the ride a long time, and they begin to wonder, “Hey, is this real, or is this just a ride?” And other people have remembered, and they come back to us and say, “Hey, don’t worry; don’t be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride.” And we … kill those people. “Shut him up! I’ve got a lot invested in this ride, shut him up! Look at my furrows of worry, look at my big bank account, and my family. This has to be real.” It’s just a ride. But we always kill the good guys who try and tell us that, you ever notice that? And let the demons run amok … But it doesn’t matter, because it’s just a ride. And we can change it any time we want. It’s only a choice. No effort, no work, no job, no savings of money. Just a simple choice, right now, between fear and love. The eyes of fear want you to put bigger locks on your doors, buy guns, close yourself off. The eyes of love instead see all of us as one. Here’s what we can do to change the world, right now, to a better ride. Take all that money we spend on weapons and defenses each year and instead spend it feeding and clothing and educating the poor of the world, which it would pay for many times over, not one human being excluded, and we could explore space, together, both inner and outer, forever, in peace.”  – Bill Hicks

Author Marianne Williamson said it like this:

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

The Christians are taught the same thing:

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.”  1 John 4:18

George Lucas, via Yoda:

“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” –  Yoda

Franklin D Roosevelt in his inaugural address, discussing the American people and the Great Depression:

“…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. In every dark hour of our national life a leadership of frankness and vigor has met with that understanding and support of the people themselves which is essential to victory.”

After watching “Defending Your Life”, some things start to become very obvious.  As children, we are imprinted with certain fears from our environment.  The script of the film suggests that we are here to work out fears that we failed to conquer in our previous life time, but that’s not a critical, actionable point.  What IS important is to realize that our life’s work is actually very simple:  To identify the fears we came into the world with as children, to identify how those childhood fears are still guiding us as adults, and to conquer them.  I believe that we can make a whole host of missteps throughout life, but if in the final analysis of things, we leave this life different than we were when we came into it – something brilliant will await us.

All human behavior comes down to one of two motives: fear or love: and if it was a “failure”, you certainly were being guided by fear. What were you afraid of?  What’s the common thread throughout all of your “failure” experiences?  Look around you and see what’s supporting your current fears:  Certain relatives? Friends? Your job? Your current lover / partner?  Your church? The TV shows you watch?  The news?

Now is the time to kindly cut those things and people cleanly out of your life.  If you are afraid to do that, too… that’s the first fear you must confront before worrying about any of the others.

The sooner we can conquer our fears, the better, because as Marianne Williamson eloquently puts it, “As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”  ….and THAT, I believe, is the hallmark trait of someone who is prepared to advance forward in the next realm.

Godspeed, my friends.

 

 

 

 

Open Apology

If you’ve read my blog before, you know I have a longstanding tradition of ranting about the LDS church, religion, and many people who are somehow connected to it. I believe that I’ve gone too far at times. I’ve ridiculed the private and profound struggles of many. I have failed to respect the altars of others. I have failed to give reverence to the paths of my fellow travelers.  

I am very sorry.

I’ve been carrying around anger, resentment, and hurt about

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wrestlers, winos, and wisdom

Is there a spiritual realm that we can tap into, and gain wisdom & direction that is beyond our own capacity?

Joe Rogan recently interviewed Maynard James Keenan on his podcast, The Joe Rogan Experience.  Maynard recounts being awakened in the middle of the night by a strange dream and a strange sensation. Later on, the moment of his awakening turned out to collaborate with the exact moment of Bill Hick’s death.  Though they were friends, MJK did not know Bill was sick.  His dream revealed to him the cause of Hicks’s death (pancreatic cancer)  before it was ever actually told to him.   The discussion turned to psychic phenomena and the ability to obtain information from a spiritual realm. It should come as no surprise that in discussing this great man, the following wisdom came pouring from their mouths:

JR: Is there a dimension, a next door neighbor, that you can tap into? 

MJK: “I do firmly believe that

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The Seeker

This is a self portrait I took in the chapel of the church I grew up in.  As I tried to find a way to explain what I was feeling as I created this portrait, the words of a song came to mind:

Paul Duane's self portrait in the Logan 2nd Ward LDS chapel

Visiting with the ghosts of my mormon past.

The Seeker

“I’ve looked under chairs,  I’ve looked under tables /  I’ve tried to find the key to fifty million fables /  They call me The Seeker,  I’ve been searching low and high /  I won’t get to get what I’m after ’till the day I die /  I asked Bobby Dylan / I asked The Beatles /  I asked Timothy Leary, but he couldn’t help me either /  People tend to hate me ’cause I never smile / As I ransack their homes, they want to shake my hand / Focusing on nowhere / Investigating miles /I’m a seeker,  I’m a really desperate man / I won’t get to get what I’m after  ’till the day I die / I learned how to raise my voice in anger / Yeah, but look at my face, ain’t this a smile? / I’m happy when life’s good,  And when it’s bad I cry / I’ve got values but I don’t know how or why / I’m looking for me, You’re looking for you / We’re looking in at each other,  And we don’t know what to do  They call me The Seeker,  I’ve been searching low and high / I won’t get to get what I’m after ’till the day I die”

– Pete Townshend

Victory Lap

Hugh Hefner is on his victory lDI want to be a bad ass. I know it's the most un-bad ass thing to say, but I'm not gonna lie to you.

Do you ever wonder about those people who just seem to be larger than life? I do.  I want to be one of them. I’m not gonna risk looking pretentious to you and pretentiously claim that I don’t want to be a bad ass.

We all know of one of these kind of people:  They emerged from the womb winning. They are more intelligent, artistic, healthy, attractive, philosophical, patriotic, athletic, eloquent, and affluent than everyone else, without even trying. And when they DO try… whoah.  They become rock stars virtually overnight.

I’m starting to think reincarnation is real.  I have this theory:  Once you’ve lived many times and mastered all of life’s lessons, and are about to transcend to Godhood / nirvana / heaven / whatever, God gives you one more incarnation on earth:  a victory lap.

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Unsuspecting Charletains

Last night I was invited to photograph a seminar that was given to a group of local musicians and artists. The featured speaker is a life / career coach, and has helped many people see huge gains in their lives. One of my good friends hired him for some coaching, and saw his income triple over the next few months. My curiosity was piqued and hopes where high.

During the presentation, the speaker relied a lot on gently nudging up against the mormon sensibilities by “almost swearing”, which would elicit laughs from people.  He took a very long time to finally get to one of his main points:As an artist, we have to learn to be honest with ourselves – and in doing so, we can then be honest with others through our art.

This is all fine and well, except for:

By virtue of the ilk of the event organizers, this seminar series has a very mormon flavor to it.  By virtue of THAT, there is an undertone of “be sure to tell the truth, as long as it doesn’t contradict with the LDS church’s views”.

I wanted to scream. I wanted to get up there and shout, “You idiot!  These people must be free to reject any and every idea they were brought up with.  They must be prepared for the truth to completely alter who they are, should they discover it!  Anything less than a 100% commitment to that principle will ass fuck every creative endeavor and turn it into mediocre pig slop”.

There is nothing darker and more unintentionally deceptive than a religious person – a dogmatic person – urging other p

 

Porn, Pie, and St. Paul

I just had a dialogue on Facebook with a friend, and I ended up blurting out some things that I feel are probably worth sharing in a state less transient than a Facebook status update. Here it is:

Status update: Whoah!! So I’m hanging out w my girls at my moms house. Flipping through the channels, and found Dane Cook doing a routine where he is imitating a woman masturbating, rather explicitly. Damn…. I had no idea stuff like that was on regular TV. No bueno.

Paul Duane: I mean, I’m all for women masturbating… but I think it should happen in a place that requires you to be 21 to see it, or to pay, or after a fun evening together with her, or something like that… but NOT on TV where my kids can get to it. Seriously.

Jessica Schultz Lemon:
Not entirely surprising. I remember babysitting and flipping through the channels and seeing some “racy” stuff. And that was back then! When pornography was circulating the bus of my kids’ elementary school, we decided to create an open dia…log with them. We decided that since we can’t always protect them from it, we should prepare them for the times when they do see it. Since they have a plan, it’s easier to stay away. They all talk to us about it when they have a concern, and vice-versa. Of course, we still do our due diligence, keeping internet filters, checking their phones, ipods, etc from time to time. It’s nice that they talk to us about just about every subject. I totally believe in explaining the “why” behind the “do’s and do not’s”.

Paul Duane:  Totally agree, Jessica. Trying to keep kids from it is preposterous, it’s just so pervasive. I think all you can do is be super frank about it and keep a really open conversation going. Shrouding things like porn in shame and secrecy is a fantastic way to foster an addiction to it.

Jessica Schultz Lemon: Exactly. I wish our society was more open about the addiction. The people who struggle with it are not bad people, just like alcoholics are not bad people. Recovering alcoholics are respected for their strength much more than those addicted to porn. And a porn addiction is so strong. It would also help the spouses. As it is, they can’t get a good support either.

Paul Duane: Here’s the ironic thing that I experienced in my life. All growing up, and during my marriage, I struggled immensely with “porn temptations”, shall we say. Once I had the spiritual experience that inspired me to let go of organized religion, I found that my desire for porn pretty much went away. I mean, I absolutely love seeing a beautiful woman… but it’s different now. For instance, I went to lunch with a gorgeous woman yesterday. I got far more pleasure out of just being around her and enjoying her beauty, than I ever do from looking at a Playboy.

I believe that the porn “problem” has a few aspects to it, and I think it’s worth outlining them:

1. Whatever you do… DO NOT think of a BLACK CAT right now. What? You thought of a black cat? I told you not to. I think that one reason I could never stop thinking about porn is that I was constantly bombarded with reminders of it at church. They never shut up about it! Geez!

2. A great number of people in our culture are suffering from cognitive dissonance. They know that they are not living in a way that is 100% congruent with what their inner compass tells them. There are a lot of people that agree with 90% of what the church teaches, but feel like the other 10% is not true. I’m one of those people. There is very little difference between me and 98% of the active membership of the church. People who suffer from cognitive dissonance develop depression and anxiety. People deal with cognitive dissonance / anxiety / depression deal with it by medicating themselves. Some people use apple pie. Some use Xanax. Some use Prozac. Some use chemicals that are identical to what they could get from the pharmacist, but choose to get them from people who produce them in home laboratories. Some people bury themselves in self sacrifice, overburdening themselves with church callings, to create feelings of self importance or to otherwise distract themselves from their dull pains. Very related to using applie pie, some use their genitals to create changes in brain chemistry to temporarily relieve the suffering.

3. A change of heart: It has been my experience that Paul, in the New Testament, was really onto something when he talked about becoming “born again” and becoming a “new creature” and losing the desire to do evil. I believe in this process. I believe that people are amiss when they presume that this human experience is limited to the context of Christianity. I assure you that a great many people in Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Agnosticism, and a hundred other traditions, have experienced this change of heart. This is a human experience that happens between you and your Source. None of us really comprehend the full and true nature of our Source, but, we all can connect to it and realize our true relationship to it. That relationship transcends description, it defies language, and truly is something that cannot be spoken. I believe this is what is being referred to when various spiritual texts refer to spiritual truths that “cannot be spoken”. The problem is… that they then proceed to do JUST THAT! As the Tao Te Ching says, “The Tao that is named is not the true Tao”. I believe that in most cases, organized religion keeps people from connecting to their inner compass, because organized religion institutionalizes that compass and tries to impress it upon the hearts of it’s constituents. The message is essentially, “Listen to the still small voice… as long as it agrees with us”. There are few more spiritually destructive concepts in this world than that. HENCE…. the cognitive dissonance and self medication.

Paul Duane These have been my experiences and observations. I’m not sold on an objective reality and accept that other people have experienced life differently.

“The Uttermost Farthing”

The Uttermost Farthing by Paul Duane

“The Uttermost Farthing” by Paul Duane

In this photograph, I explore themes of mercy, forgiveness, repentance, and ultimately, self crucifixion in the christian soul.

This piece is offered in the following sizes:

  • 12×12 print only, $24.00
  • 20×20 print only, $59.00
  • 16×16 framed (slim black wood frame) $295
  • 24×24 framed (slim black wood frame) $395

Your photograph will be printed, framed, and shipped directly to your home. Order yours today:


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Another preview to “The Uttermost Farthing”

This is a shot that I took as we were getting ready to leave.  This was not planned, but was completely serendipitous, as if mother nature and the Gods knew the whole of what I wanted to express that evening.  Again, I cannot thank Abi and Omeid enough for perfectly expressing my vision.  More to come soon….