A Small and Simple Quote

As I’ve been studying the “Come, Follow Me” material lately and talking about it with family, I’ve had a quote from Michael Crichton’s book Jurassic Park come to mind a few times.  There are a few statements in this section of Alma that have brought it to mind.

The first is found in Amulek’s words to the Zoramites.  He tells them to not delay repentance because: “Behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God’ yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors” (Alma 34:32).  While I’ve discussed before that there are a few ways of viewing our ability to labor and repent in the afterlife, I feel like there is still a sense of urgency to actively shape our destiny and to learn and grow during this mortal life rather than letting too much of our time and energy slip away, thinking that there will always be more time.  As President Lorenzo Snow put it: “Though we may now neglect to improve our time, to brighten up our intellectual faculties, we shall be obliged to improve them sometime. We have got so much ground to walk over, and if we fail to travel to-day, we shall have so much more to travel to-morrow.”[1]  There do seem to be certain things that are best learned and experienced during this mortal life as we work to “brighten up our intellectual faculties,” making it an important time to prepare to meet God.

The second statement is found in Alma’s words to his sons.  As he tells Helaman: “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.  And the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord doth confound the wise and bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:6-7).  In the section, he is talking about the sacred records, and later on, Alma returns to the idea in a slightly different way, recalling the story of Lehi’s family crossing the sea. He notes that even though the Lord guided and helped them through miraculous means, “because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works. They were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey” (Alma 37:41). Keeping mind that punctuation was added later on in the process of preparing the Book of Mormon for publication, the statement could alternatively read that: “Because those miracles were worked by small means (it did show unto them marvelous works), they were slothful, and forgot to exercise their faith and diligence and then those marvelous works ceased, and they did not progress in their journey.”  What he seems to be getting at, if we read it this way, is that by following the small and simple things in the “words of Christ,” they will “carry us beyond this vale of sorrow into a far better land of promise” (Alma 37:45). Yet, there is also a warning that we can sometimes lose sight of the things of God because we fail to see the small and simple ways in which He interacts with us in our lives and this, in turn, leads to forgetting and failing to observe the words of Christ.

Bringing these two thoughts together, we finally come to the quote I’ve had in mind.  While the movie of Jurassic Park is a classic thriller, the book also engages in some interesting philosophical and scientific discussions that weren’t included in the film, including a discussion about fractals.  A fractal is a repeating pattern that displays at every scale—a phenomenon that occurs in nature as well as mathematical sets.  Think, for example, of using four triangles (three pointing up, one in the center pointing down) to create a larger triangle (something like the Triforce symbol from Nintendo’s Legend of Zelda series), and then imagine that the smaller triangles are, in turn, composed of other triangles in similar fashion down to the microscopic level. This sort of thing does happen, for example, in snowflakes and other crystals (hence the mention of them in Disney’s Frozen when Elsa creates her ice palace).  Anyway, the commentary that stood out in Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was the statement that:

A day is like a whole life. You start out doing one thing, but end up doing something else, plan to run an errand, but never get there… And at the end of your life, your whole existence has that same haphazard quality, too. Your whole life has the same shape as a single day.[2]

Each day is important for us to “prepare to meet God” or “improve our time” because our life is, ultimately, built out of those individual days and takes the shape of how we use those days.

Now, I’ve probably only managed to put on display how much of a nerd I am rather than stated anything profound or particularly useful to everyone else, but it is a quote that has shaped how I view life.  While I lose sight of it from time to time, the idea of a day being a smaller part of the fractal of life does motivate me to try to make the most of each day and to include things that keep my eyes open to the small and simple things God does for me and that help me remember the words of Christ as I prepare to meet God.

 

Footnotes:

[1] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2012), https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/manual/teachings-of-presidents-of-the-church-lorenzo-snow/chapter-1-learning-by-faith?lang=eng.

[2] Michael Crichton, Jurassic Park, (New York: Ballantine Books, 1990), 170-171

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