The Novels

Economics 101, a Novel (Rough Draft) -- My first sustained attempt at a novel, two-thirds finished in rough draft, and heading a little too far south.
What would you do if you and your study partner, with whom you had been seriously discussing marriage, suddenly found yourselves all alone together on a desert island? Study economics?
Sociology 500, a Romance (Second Draft) -- The first book in the Economics 101 Trilogy.(On hold.)
Karel and Dan, former American football teammates and now graduate students, meet fellow graduate students Kristie and Bobbie, and the four form a steady study group.

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Sociology 500, a Romance, ch 1 pt 1 -- Introducing Bobbie

TOC Well, let's meet Roberta Whitmer. Bobbie entered the anthropology department office and looked around. Near the receptionis...

Friday, February 10, 2017

Sociology 500, a Novel, ch 3 pt 1 -- Metaphors, Study Groups, and Religion


Now that you've gotten this far into the story here, I have a confession.

Even though I personally think the story of how Karel and Bobbie and Dan and Kristie met is interesting in-and-of itself, I really only tell it to set up the second and third parts of the trilogy.

Well, that is as it may be.

The characters in this story sometimes do not behave in ideal ways. They do some things that don't make sense.

But does any human always behave sensibly?

If our four friends always behaved sensibly, the second part of this trilogy would be very abbreviated, and the third part would not exist.

Of course we can say the same about any trilogy, or about any novel, really. Novels are interesting precisely because they allow us to watch metaphors of people solving analogues of our own problems.

(Is "math" a four-letter word? heh. I'm an applied mathematician, a software engineer. In my world, yes, metaphors can solve problems.)

Metaphors of people. My college technical writing teacher is whispering, metaphorically, in my ear, that I should say it something like this:
Fiction lets us watch the author solve problems in metaphor.
No, that's ambiguous.
Fiction allows us to observe the author using metaphors to present solutions to problems.
No, that's so obvious that you miss what I'm trying to say. Let's try this:
Fiction is basically computer games or simulations that run in the mind. The characters in novels are metaphors, or proxies, for ourselves, and for our neighbors and friends. In reading fiction, we observe ourselves, our friends, and our neighbors performing simulated solutions to simulated problems, through the proxy, or metaphor, of the characters.
Oh, I give up. Anyway, fiction can help us think through the problems we are trying to solve.

If we want to think through the solutions properly, we have to understand the characters in the story.

Our four protagonists are religious. That means that we can't properly see them if we refuse to look at things religious.

Without discussing religion and certain other non-politically-correct topics, the whole trilogy would quickly become a tangle of random romance. And the tangle of randomness in my mind is not nearly as entertaining as that in, say, Joanne Rowling's or George Lucas's minds.

And the novel wouldn't serve any real purpose. That is, it wouldn't be the novel I want to write.

So I hope you'll bear with bits of topics religious and discussions moral from here on out. And some boring details of Church organization, too. And some wandering into metaphysics and ethics, and the ethics of metaphysics and vice versa, probably. Boring, boring, boring stuff, without which, we will have no idea whatsoever how Bobbie and Karel could end up on a desert island all alone together, not married to each other, in the second part of the trilogy when they have finished their fieldwork.

Woops. I just let a spoiler slip. Partial spoiler. Sorry.

Well, let's find out a little more about what university life is like for single E-P-ists at their Church-run university. And find out a little more about Karel and Bobbie and Dan and Kristie.

It was before a Tuesday study session, when only the four of them were gathered in the library, that Kristie started talking about missions.

They were talking about different ways to get teaching experience.

"Does church teaching count for teaching experience?" Kristie asked.

"Of course!" was Dan's reply.

"Well, yeah." Karel thought more needed to be said. "It counts as informal experience. What you learn from the experience can be useful in the non-church classroom and in discussing teaching methods, but you can't use it to fill degree requirements. In church, we don't keep the kinds of records that schools and school districts and management can refer to."

"No grades?" Kristie postulated.

"That would be one of the problems."

"Grades in Sunday School. That sounds terrible." Bobbie was not happy with the thought.

Karel continued. "That's the dichotomy. The value of what we do for God often can't be directly transferred to the world around us, as value. That's part of the sacrifice we make when we engage in church service."

"Even missions?" Kristie was thinking about this. "I've been told it's okay to put our missions in our curriculum vitae."

Dan took a more enthusiastic view. "We can definitely tell people about what we have done in church. Whether they accept it as meaningful to them or not is up to them, but we should not be ashamed of it."

"Right." Karel concurred.

Bobbie was not satisfied with leaving things at that. "We definitely shouldn't hide our missions or our church service. Jesus Himself said, 'Let your light so shine.'"

I guess I have to explain why I translate the name of their ancient prophet as "Eternal-Progression" (abbreviated "E-P") but still translate the name of Messiah or Christ as "Jesus".

I could have used "Joshua" or "Immanuel", perhaps, but why? If I intend for it to be meaningful, it's the same name.

Translating the name they invoke for the Anointed Messiah, or Christ, basically returns us to "Jesus", or one of the cognates of that name, because of the meaning: "God is with us," or "God is our help," and the intended lack of restriction or limit on who "we" are.

Karel replied, "I didn't say anything about hiding anything. We just shouldn't expect that teaching Sunday School will fill student teaching requirements or things like that."

"It'd be nice if it  did." Kristie said wistfully, and everyone nodded in agreement and went back to studying.

Then Kristie remembered something else she wanted to ask. "Say, Dan, you said you went to the Swiss-Austrian Mission, right?"

Well there was, in fact, a continental area similar to Europe, and a country like Switzerland within that area, that tried to stay neutral during wars. And there was a country similar to Austria nearby. And the mission at the time we refer to here was named after those two countries because there was a higher concentration of E-P-ists in those two countries.

And the languages spoken were from a country similar to France and another similar to Germany. And there was a country similar to Spain, nearby, as well. So I will use French, German, and Spanish as proxies for the languages he had used on his mission.


"So you spoke French and German?"

"Y también español."

Again, drawing on the parallels for the words, rather than the actual words they used.

"¿Es Verdad?"

"Si, si."

And Dan and Kristie started talking in Spanish about their missions.

Karel complained, "¡Yo no hablo español!"

Everyone laughed.

"So, Kristie went to the Spanish-American mission, but how do you speak Spanish, Dan?" Bobbie asked.

"I took some in high school, and the Swiss-Austrian Mission pretty much was called on for all parts of Europe that didn't have Church organizations. So they asked me to prepare to teach in Spanish as well as French and German."

"So you speak three languages besides English."

Well, we have to call the language they spoke something here. The parallels are there, we might as well call it English even if it would not sound like English to us.


Kristie said, "I only speak Spanish and English." She paused for a moment, and then she asked, "Do you guys still feel like you have a testimony?"

This "testimony" thing that Kristie is asking about is basically a conviction or a strong belief. It is also often called a "witness", as well. It is not a mathematical or scientific proof.

Outside the religious sphere, what we call a testimony here might be compared to a mathematician's conviction that the concept of a unit vector has fundamental meaning. Less abstractly, it's similar to the confidence that we all have that one plus one is two most of the time.

We may not be fully able to define the contexts in which adding one and one gives two, and we may not be ready to fully understand the concept of a unit vector, but we know that those contexts are important to us in our day-to-day lives.

Without some sort of conviction, or without even a hunch, a mathematician will have a hard time choosing where to start working on a problem or a proof. Without a start, no math gets done.

These convictions get discussed, examined, agreed upon, and formally described as axioms. Axioms become the foundation of theorems, proofs, and, well, everything useful in mathematics.

A testimony is the kind of belief that gives people the confidence to do things in the religious sphere, and especially to keep going when things get hard. It's what religious faith is based on.

Dan said, "Well, yeah!"

Karel asserted, "I haven't changed my mind."

Bobbie thought a moment. "I definitely have a testimony now, but it isn't the same one I had when I was a missionary."


"When I first went out, I wasn't sure the atonement and the redemption would do me any good. I just went to be a nurse where they needed nurses."

"Well, those are good reasons." Dan didn't see anything wrong with that.

Karel nodded in agreement. "Important reasons. Reasons that help you help others. Anyway, how did you feel when you returned?" he asked.

"I finally began to believe I could also be saved. That's part of the reason I started saving up to work on the PhD."

Both Dan and Karel wanted to ask more, but they both felt impressed to leave it alone until Bobbie volunteered more.

"So your testimony is stronger now?" asked Kristie.

"I think so. How about you?"

"I'm not sure. I saw a lot of things that I didn't expect when I was a missionary."

Dan guessed at her thoughts. "So, were you disappointed in people who weren't perfect?"

"Yeah. I guess so. I just thought things would be so simple. Some of the elders behaved pretty badly."

Simplifying things a little too much -- the men who serve as missionaries are generally called "elders" -- even the young men.

On the other hand, women who serve as missionaries are called "sister missionaries" or just "sisters".

But members of the Church in general, in the consideration that they are all part of God's big family, are called brothers and sisters, no matter what their other callings are.

Dan looked down at the pencil in his hand. "I made a few mistakes when I was a missionary, too." Then he looked up at Kristie. "Don't hold it against them. Some of them will have changed their ways, anyway."

And Bobbie and Karel concurred. Karel said, "I know if I'd had to be perfect, I wouldn't be here now."

"Thanks. I tried not to judge them, but it's hard."

"Hey," said Bobbie. "I find that, when I go to the temple, it's easier to forgive people. I've set a goal to go to the temple at least once a month during school. How about you guys?"

Just so you know, in the time frame in our world corresponding to the time frame of this novel, the nearest temple would have been an hour drive to the north of BYU. The Provo temple would not be built until some ten or more years later.

In this novel, however, the temple on the hill above the OHU campus has already been built, so a visit to the temple is only fifteen minutes or so from campus by foot. So you see that OHU is not just a proxy for BYU.

Kristie didn't think she was as ready as the others. "I don't have any names to do work for. I guess I haven't been doing my genealogy research."

Dan replied, "I don't either, but the temple usually has a lot of people on file. Or maybe Bobbie or Karel has some names of ancestors to do work for?"

Bobbie said she hadn't.

And Karel said, "Me neither. I'll call the temple to check, but I'm sure they'll have names in the temple files."

Kristie being thus satisfied, they were all agreed. None of them had classes the next Friday morning, so they decided to go together then. As other students in their group came, they talked about it, and some of them decided to join in on Friday.

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[Previous versions of this part are backed up here:]

[The original of this chapter can be found in this chapter of the first draft:]

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