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New Harmony: We sometimes pay dearly for phony baloney

Published: Tuesday, July 8 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

In this Sept. 9, 2011 photo, a reveler runs away from 'Raton' the bull in Sueca, near Valencia, Spain.

Alberto Saiz, Associated Press

Enlarge photo»

I’ve seen the stories.

You’ve seen the stories.

Folks are replacing religion in their lives with other activities.

Young people are fleeing the faith of their fathers.

The human race, we’re told, is moving beyond superstition and folktale.

But if there's one thing experience has taught me it is that even baloney can be tasty.

When I was young and impulsive — not old and stodgy as I am now — I took a shine to the “sport” of bullfighting.

I followed it like a religion.

Looking back, I think I was trying to be like Ernest Hemingway. But, motives aside, I relished bullfighting history, admired its heroes and attended events. On Sunday afternoons, I felt delivered from the world.

It was similar to the feeling I had at church as a young member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Bullfighting, I thought, embodied the scope and range of the human spirit. It was spectacle and dance. It was athletic and theatrical. It had ancient roots. It grappled with life and death.

That’s what I thought, anyway.

But, in time, I realized it really only offered with death. And, in time, I came to see the sport for what it was: a cruel ritual that caters to our blood lust.

Looking back now — 40 years later — that seems so obvious.

But at the time, the glories of the bull ring seemed obvious to me as well.

I mention this because my short foray into the world of “toros” taught me a great lesson: Sometimes the most life-draining things can look a lot like the most life-giving things.

And seeing the difference isn’t as simple as it seems.

When we say there must be “opposition in all things” our minds see those “things” as polar opposites. We think “sickness” and “health,” “ancient” and “modern.”

The choices seem clear — “black” and “white.”

But that’s not where real choices are made. Choices in life are made in the trenches, in the crease where opposites meet. And that’s where “helpful” and “hurtful” are hard to distinguish. One can look like the other.

Few people set out to purposely ruin their lives. They make choices that — to them — point toward fulfillment. Only later, do they see that what they thought was uplifting — like my old passion for bullfighting — was actually numbing and draining.

The bad in life often mimics the good. And like the cashier who holds a $20 bill up to the light before accepting it, I’ve learned to hold my choices up to the light.

I try to spot the tell-tale signs of a counterfeit.

Oh, I still get fooled from time to time. I still make bad choices. As my sainted mother would say, “The adversary is crafty enough to make even damnation look attractive.”

But my vision is getting better. So, from the lofty perch of old age, I offer these suggestions to the new generation of seekers.

Sift your options carefully.

Don’t rush in — or rush out.

When you think you’ve found true perspective in life, when you think you've outgrown the thinking of those around you, that’s the time to be wary.

What you see as a better way, I’ve learned, can quickly turn out to be just so much “bull.”

Email: jerjohn@deseretnews.com

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