I’ve been practicing a kind of Mormon maximalism for a long time now.
This impulse toward maximalism is itself religious in spirit.
More, the impulse is aesthetic. It’s driven by a kind of wild hunger for the feel (literally, the aesthesis) of words, facts, theories, things, and people.
I’m roaming the earth, eating everything in sight.
I’m stuffing myself like a frog because “frogs eat everything whole, stuffing prey into their mouths with their thumbs. People have seen frogs with their wide jaws so full of live dragonflies they couldn’t close them.”
That’s me. I look ridiculous. I eat everything whole. I stuff it all in. No chewing.
Plato, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, Dogen, Tolstoy, Bruce R. McConkie, the Pratts, Jane Austen, Talmage, B.H. Roberts, Jacque Derrida, Joseph Fielding Smith, David Foster Wallace, Augustine, Genesis, Gilgamesh, the Buddha, Paul, Jewish mysticism, Boyd K. Packer, Knausgaard, Eliza R. Snow, Rumi, Emerson, Ira Glass, John Bytheway, primers on set theory, Darwin, etc., etc.
It all goes in. I keep it all. I refuse to sort my book shelves. Read it and stack it. One top of the other.
Grace for grace. From grace to grace. One grace on top of another. Graces piled so high on my desk they keep falling to the floor.
Something’s starting to come into view.
I give up the idea of ever having a real day job. I slum it in academia. I take out student loans. I accept any job I’m offered. Now I just read and write and talk and write and teach and write incessantly. I write post after post, paper after paper, chapter after chapter, book after book.
(I’m told a guy in Iceland once read one of books. It doesn’t matter. Whatever. I’m in the middle of writing three more.)
Gather it all. Put it all in one tent. God will sort it.
My Mormonism keeps getting bigger and bigger, fatter and fatter, weepier and weepier, jollier and jollier, smarter and smarter, fuzzier and fuzzier—everything all at once.
I go to church and take the sacrament and feel like I won’t be able to eat again for days.
I take a loaf of bread to a family I home teach and they send me home with three more.
This is me swallowing Mormonism whole. (My non-Mormon friends shake their heads: “He’ll believe anything!”)
This is Mormonism swallowing me and the earth and the sun itself.
We’re a church full of frogs, every one of us still and reverent in a pew, grinning from ear to ear, our mouths stuffed with so many live dragon flies we’ll never be able to eat them all.
Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (HarperPerennial, 1988), 6.