Friday, 14 December 2012

I Want

Oh, I want to feel things.
Would you please playfully pluck at my heartstrings
With frenzied, feather-light fervour?
I humbly beseech you to make me sing
A serenade of soft, sweet sounds
That assemble into songs I've never sung before.

Oh, if you could, I'd beg for more!
You'd have me on my knees -
Tantalized by your reprise -
Imploring that you never cease
Building me up to a blissful release
Before permitting me to collapse in rapturous reprieval.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Appeal to Readers

Okay, I've said this before, but I read my site stats daily.  Besides numbers, they tell me fun things like what posts you're reading, how long you're sitting on a page, what posts you're clicking on and from what page, etc...

I know you're reading.  I like that I don't know who all of you are, but I would like to request that you comment.  From the monotonously banal to the extreme opposite, all comments are welcome. I've made it as easy as possible - all commenting restrictions are disabled.  You can do it anonymously, without providing a valid email address, and without having to prove you're human.

Now go! Make your presence known.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Inconsistencies

All of you read my blog with tunnel-vision, not catching the gaping holes in the stories that comprise my life. (Or maybe you don't and I just don't hear about it.)  I imagine part of it is the layout that I use. The rest is ignorance and indifference.  

It is no accident on my part: I do not want it to be easy to string together the events of my life.  What ties us together - you, the reader to me, the writer - are the emotions, the ideas and the sweeping generalizations that I make. The details of my life are of little consequence... to you.  To me, they are everything.  I do not write frivolously. There was inspiration behind each post.  I just never share it.


***

At my most trying time, when I sat impatiently in the bubble into which I had been forced while I awaited  judgement, I had no control over the outcome.  With every bit of energy I could muster, I did the only thing I could do: I fought what I thought was a losing battle because it was the single most honest thing I could do.

***
(Rewind to a couple of weeks ago.)

"Carolyn, I want you to know that I never thought less of you," he said to me across the table. We hadn't spoken in about two years, even though I'd seen him one year ago - when it all ended. The words came unsolicited, unprompted, and unexpectedly.

I had spent the last two years letting go of every aspect of the battle that was out of my control: what other people thought and what other people did.  I spent the last year trying to find peace and joy in knowing that it was all over.  I tried to find pride in that I had endured.  I had learned to quiet the voice inside my head that yearned for vindication. That need only fueled my anger and strengthened my discontentment with the world.  It made me want the things I could not control.  However, hearing these words mad me burst into tears.

I had once declared publicly that I did not need to explicitly hear one's reasons for abandoning me, but I was wrong. I soaked up the words the way the roots of a drying flower would water after a drought. It was overwhelming and revitalizing.

"I thought I was alone."

"You weren't."

***
(Rewind back to early 2011)  

"What are you going to do if you return?"  She looked at me earnestly, expecting an answer.  I didn't know why she was asking.  She kept asking me such wasteful questions.

I won't be returning, I thought. Period. Not a single person in their right mind believes it is a possibility.  Why should I entertain it?  The focus should be on what I'm supposed to do when all of this wraps up; when the inevitable happens and I have to sign papers forcing me to pretend the last few years of my life didn't happen and I have to start anew, ten steps back, with a gaping hole in my life that was filled with whatever filler I was legally advised to regurgitate when asked.

"I will never go back."

"You're going to walk away from every plan you've set up for yourself, from the entire life and experience you've built, as if none of it ever happened?  You're not going to fight for it?"

"Fight for what?!  To be in a world that could do this to me?  That would deem me guilty without so much as a fair trial?  Without an opportunity to speak?  I have been censored into silence. The truth has been twisted and I have been crippled, unable to defend myself.  All I can do is await the inevitable. No, I will not go back. I will find a place where things like this can't happen."

***

Except, places like that don't exist.  I was also wrong about what was inevitable.  When the ordeal concluded, I neither won nor lost.  It felt as though a gag was removed, my hands were untied, the lights were turned on and when I had the courage to look around I found that no one was there.  I was left standing alone, stripped of energy and confidence, unsure of how to proceed.

I wondered how I would rebuild but I realize now that I did not have to. Not all was lost. I was never alone.

December 2012. Remember this time, everyone. This is when I showed the world what I was made of.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Sweet Caroline

This was from my helium balloon karaoke 30th birthday party.  You can't miss my grand entrance in the second verse.  The night was filled with fun, friends, and great memories. Thank you to everyone who came.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

True Story.

ID Cards, Photo Albums, and Games


Just after my father's funeral, a small group of us went out to dinner.  When we got to the restaurant, my mom and my sister walked in first, a close friend and I next, and the rest of the group came in behind us.

There was a sign posted indicating that seniors are entitled to a discount, so Marlene pointed it out to mom. "Mom, get your senior's card out."

Flustered while hurriedly sifting through her purse, she responded, "I don't have it!  You have it.  You took it last time..."

"No, I didn't!" Marlene interrupted, but you could tell she wasn't certain by how she reached for her purse.

"Oh..." my mom smiled. She had found it. She pulled it out, and handed it to Marlene who offered it to the host who politely declined to view it.  "You will just need to show it to your server.  Come with me.  I will show you to your table."

Marlene nodded in acknowledgement, slid the card into her back pocket, and followed the host.  My friend and I trailed just behind.  I looked at my friend, pointed to Marlene's pocket, and said, "Remember that. That will be important."

Marlene and my mom were seated opposite each other at one end of table, and my friend and I were seated at the other.  Fast-forward to the middle of dinner..  

"You have it!"  "No, you have it!"  They pointed and yelled at each other so loudly that we could hear them from our side of the table ... over all of the people between us ... over all of the noise in the crowded restaurant.  They were each completely convinced that the other was wrong, yet both were searching their purses.

My friend whispered to me, "Are you going to.."  I waived him off.  "No, no.  Not just yet.  Five more minutes. Let's see if they can sort this out."

***

As far back as I could remember, my dad kept all of his private documents in his favourite leather briefcase. It had a combination lock on it.  We all knew the code, but it was his personal briefcase, so we never touched it.  He would smile when he would say, "These are my very important documents."

***

I moved out way back when.  I couldn't be there.  It was hard for me.  When I left, I told my dad I had to do it.  I told him that I wished I could help him, that I knew he was getting older, that I knew he needed me, but that I had to do it from a distance.  I had to take care of myself first. I knew that then. And .. I did what I had to do.  I needed space; a place for myself that could remain untouched by everyone around me.  I just felt like I was constantly following up on everyone else, making sure everything was in order, and I wanted to stop.  So I left.  I visited occasionally, but I admittedly disappeared for months at a time.  

It was shortly after I left that my mom and dad's wedding album disappeared.  I would come over, and Marlene would blame my mom, my mom would blame my Marlene, and my dad just sat back, only to occasionally intervene to quiet them.  It was never a particularly pressing issue.  Neither of them could wholeheartedly confirm that they were not the culprit, but they each still blamed the other.  All they knew for certain was that the album was not to be found, and each considered the other responsible. 

***

As the executor, after my father passed away, I had to go through all of his final expenses, and close up his accounts, etc...  To do this, I needed his personal documents, so, naturally, I looked to his briefcase.

I set it down in front of me, and paused.  I looked at it.  I teared up just touching it.  My dad wasn't secretive about its contents.  He was just protective of it.  It was one spot that remained untouched by the chaos that surrounded it all of these years.  "He needed that," I thought, "if I were anything like him."  I thought about all of the times I had popped it open in the past.  It was as a young child.  I found his old university report cards.  I found some letters from family.  He had certificates and awards.  He had cards.  It was all entertaining stuff to read.

I loved my dad, and I loved to learn about who he was.  After age six or seven, I was past the briefcase. I was on to listening to stories he told me about his life.  I got older, and I moved on to interrogating him about it.  I got even older, and he began sharing the inspiration to the wise words he'd spoken to me all me life.  We talked about his youth, his family, his education, his romances, his social life, his travels, and what he wanted me to take from all of it.

I rested my hands over the lock, and turned each piece to fit the correct sequence, and popped open his briefcase for the first time in about twenty years.  What I found, to my surprise, sitting well-kept, and safely preserved inside was the missing wedding photo album.  

I was taken aback.  All these years, he watched them bicker when he knew.  "Oh, dad."  I found the documents that I needed.  "When I thought it was over, and you were gone, I was wrong.  You saved me this."

***

(...back to the dinner)   I continued to eat my dinner while I listened to the sound of their voices escalate, and when I decided it was time, I walked over.

Standing by the end of their table, I asked calmly, "When do you each last remember seeing it?"

I realized that I didn't know why I was asking.  They never appreciated it when I lectured them.  I pulled it out of Marlene's pocket (it was sticking out), put it on the table, and smiled.  I walked back to my seat, and they went on as if nothing had happened.

It's who they are.  It's who people are: they vary. They are not all like me.  I can't expect them to be.  I was never good at that.  My dad knew it, and lived with it, carving out a space that no one touched, not because they couldn't, but because they all loved him enough to know what it meant to him.  I think it's my time to do the same.

Monday, 26 November 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

On my drive in to work this morning, I thought about my father.  I thought about how I had to explain to my mother that we had to agree to the DNR.  I thought about how I had to organize the funeral.  I thought about all of the final decisions that I had to make.  I thought about all of the hard conversations I had to have.  I remembered it.  I didn't hesitate.  I looked at each situation, made a decision, closed my eyes, inhaled, and ...

Friday, 23 November 2012

Telephone and Urban Legends

I first began participating in public speaking competitions when I was in the fourth grade.  It was a surprise to everyone - my peers and teachers, alike - that I would be able to do it.  I was shy and introverted, but I was very well-received by my peers and they consistently unanimously voted me in to represent them at the annual Legion public speaking competitions.

In the eighth grade, I delivered a speech that was more like a 5-minute comedy act about dating.  I discussed what it meant to date at the age of 13: what it felt like to have a crush, to ask the object of your interest out on a date, the awkward talk with the parents for permission and dealing with rumours about your crush.

Oh, what I would do for a copy of that speech.  Actually, if I tried, I could probably recount most of it. I do remember incorporating a bit about the 'telephone' game.  It was about rumours, how quickly they spread and how they mutate. My more liberal elementary school administrators appreciated my candour.  The Legion did not.

It was what happened after the competition that remains most memorable.  One of the judges stopped to hand me a ribbon for my participation and pose with with.  She plastered on a tightly held smile, and with her gaze on the cameras, she leaned in close to me and condescendingly whispered Watch out for those rumours!  The smile was wiped off my face.  All I could think was that I was just telling the truth the of matter.  Why is that an issue?

So the other day, when a true story in which I played one of the main characters came back around to me as a rumour:
(1) two years after the fact;
(2) from the most unexpected source;
(3) through what had to have been at least 20 "telephones"; and
(4) grossly inaccurately to the point where my character had been morphed into an unrecognizable form, namely a young male (which happens to be fortunate because it could then never actually be tied to me),

it was the recollection of reciting my speech on dating that came to mind. It didn't matter how old I was when I wrote it.  It didn't matter what the story was.  It was the idea that with each transmission, the story underwent a transformation.  It was understanding that no one cared for the truth, even though that was what they claimed they were interested in. It was that I knew all of that even as a naive 13-year-old. Experience has only ever reconfirmed this for me.

How does a story change over time?  In what ways and why?  It isn't always unguided.  Some transformations are the crafty handiwork of unconscionable people.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Soul-Searching

I am finished with the task of searching for myself.  I no longer investigate the question of who I am, and what my purpose is.  I am quite pleased with the evolution over time of the one, and the wondrous arbitrariness of the other.

"Soul-searching" was never a journey upon which I ever meant to embark.  Quite the opposite. It was early in my life that I considered it a fruitless pursuit.  My reasoning as a child was simple: you cannot search for who you are.  You can only develop a greater sense of self-awareness by living, and reflecting on what you've done.  This cannot be done by standing still.  To stop would be to do nothing; to learn nothing about myself; to stop growing. 

It was then frightening to me that I would unwittingly wind up engaged in activity that can be characterized as "searching for my soul" after high school, and even more so that I found I couldn't stop.  I jumped almost mindlessly from one job to the next ("almost" because there were technically always reasonable grounds for the moves, but "mindlessly" because they were never based on criteria that contributed to my happiness).  My consolation was always that I was at least "doing" things: pushing personal boundaries,  meeting a lot of people, and learning new hard skills.  But was I learning about myself?  Did I discover anything I didn't already know? Was I challenged? Did I grow?

I grew, in the broadest sense of the term, as inevitably as our forward passage through time (or apparent forward passage through time in everyday experience; whatever.)  Looking back, I didn't wind up exactly on the "soul-searching journey" that I criticized as a child, but there is no denying that in spite of all of the activity, with regard to a formulation of an answer to the question of who I am, all I was really doing was standing still.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Evolution ... Devolution

The other day, as I sat perfectly still while getting railroaded, I wondered to myself, "How did I get here where clearly incompetent people can take credit for my work?"  I felt defeated.  In the course of the last 11 years, I went from being admitted to Trinity College on a scholarship, mobilizing 30,000 people in leagues and events and running world renowned programs to developing and launching pittily little events under the portfolio of someone who has no idea of the value of my contributions.  What happened to my career?

I feel like Finn on Glee: someone who was always told he would do great things, but whose confidence was lost in the rush to find out what they were.

I was told every day of my life that I was "meant to do great things".  Oh, I am still told this to this day.  It actually stings a little.  I can't figure out what those things are.  But this is said to me in such good spirit, I can never reproach a person for it.  And why would I?  I don't disagree.  I still think it's true.

In the distant past, I tried to deal with it by seeing my ventures as biding time: getting ready to pounce, dipping my feet in different waters only to accumulate an evermore rich history of experience.

In the more recent past, I tried to accept that maybe this is my life - that I'm a drifter, a tumbleweed - but this analogy fails to account for one very important quality I have: my commitment to delivering my best and my desire for recognition of my contributions.  These are my constants.

I don't think that the "great things" I will do in this lifetime will come from sitting still. I also don't think I will ever have some grand epiphany about what I am meant to do or to be.  I aim to excel in all that I do. I just need to keep doing that ... and walk away when I don't.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

What is it?

I don't want a "boyfriend".  I don't check-in with anyone before I do something.  I like this freedom.  I like the opportunity to say yes.  

I need trust, respect, loyalty and honesty.  I also know what I am incapable of: I can't rearrange my life for anyone.  I can't play housewife.  I can't be a man's date for every event he attends.  I do what I please.  But is it so unfair of me to ask of the rare man to submit to some form of "commitment" - in the vaguest sense of the term - to me, and vice versa, amidst the freedom that I want and would give?  Could we not share intellectual interests, but not participate in all of the rest of the garbage - the obligatory, unnecessary, meaningless actions that typically define a relationship - that I abhor?  Could that alone not make me a "girlfriend"?

I would like for it to be enough.  I really would like to be that kind of girlfriend.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Mashup 1.0

came up to meet you, to tell you I'm sorry. You don't know how lovely you are. I had to find you, tell you I need you. Tell you I set you apart.

Believe me - I'm sorry I told you lies. I should've shown you better nights, better times, better days.

We said things, did things that we didn't mean.

I never wanted anything so much than to drown in your love and not feel your rain.

When you cried, I'd wipe away all of your tears. When you'd scream, I'd fight away all of your fears.

I cannot believe there's nothing left to save.

But these wounds won't seem to heal.  There's just too much that time cannot erase.

I found the remedy. I had to set you free ... to see ... the way that love could be when you are not with me. I had to leave. I have to live. I had to lead.

Nobody said it was easy, but no one ever said it would be this hard.

Time will bring the real end of our trial. One day there'll be no remnants, no trace, no residual feelings.

In another year, the pain will disappear, and I will look back on this life as if it were a scene.

One day you won't remember me.

I'm learning to live without you now, but I miss you sometimes. The more I know, the less I understand.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Imagery: a coin-sorter

I've always likened myself to a coin-sorter.  Coins of all sizes are indiscriminately dumped in.  The contraption need only be shaken lightly, and the coins fall into place.

Trouble arises when any reasonable combination of the following happens:

(1) too many coins are dumped in at once,
(2) the contraption is shaken too quickly as to slow down the sorting,
(3) we encounter coins of different currencies that are of varying value, but similarly sized,
(4) when foreign objects that are not currency are introduced into the system, and finally
(5) when no shaking occurs.

I am a simple contraption. All I want is to function optimally.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Learned Helplessness

Wikipedia - Learned Helplessness Experiment

Summary

In the learned helplessness experiment an animal is repeatedly hurt by an adverse stimulus which it cannot escape.

Eventually the animal will stop trying to avoid the pain and behave as if it is utterly helpless to change the situation.

Finally, when opportunities to escape are presented, this learned helplessness prevents any action. The only coping mechanism the animal uses is to be stoical and put up with the discomfort, not expending energy getting worked up about the adverse stimulus.

***

I fear I've grown comfortable in my dysfunction.



Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Bleeding Hearts

There's someone whom I recently met that, when speaking with him, what comes to mind is the curious image of a comedic cartoon gentleman - comedic for no other reason than to lighten up the image - whose chest is open, and bleeding.  His heart is fully exposed, there is a string neatly tied around it with a bow, and he goes about his day as if there were nothing the matter.  The other end of the string isn't visible.  It extends far out into the distance, disappearing into grey clouds, but I know it's out there.  I have the distinct impression that there is someone, miles away, tugging on it, preventing the wound from healing.  (The puppetry is unmistakable.)

He's dying.  If I could cut the string, I would.

I wonder, sometimes, as people read my blog, if my readers think the same of me.

Monday, 24 September 2012

It occurred to me

...the other night, as I exited the Department at 8pm alone after a late meeting at the office, and I walked up St. George Street while the campus streets were abuzz with the activities of a new school year, that I'm a student before I'm an employee. It occurred to me that I'm a member before I'm an organizer. I'm a participant.  I can age, and grow, and change, but I when I step foot on campus, I can feel as alive as I did that first day that I ever did as long as I participate in the activities here.

But in this grand epiphany, I had to concede that something yet was amiss.  That in spite of this renewed excitement to be here, something was different.

When I started University, it felt like a sacrifice of billable hours.  Back then, it was an inconvenience.  Today, it had further occurred to me, that it's a pleasure.  Education is no longer obligatory.  It is no longer a means to an end.  It is the end.  I preached this for seven years, but only now do I fully believe it.  I faked it, and now, I made it.

I'm more free now than when I was eighteen, in spite of my constraints.  Dare I say it?  I dare!  I am better off now than I was 11 years ago.  I knew this, but I feel it.  I could see it. I no longer feel like I am trying to swim with cinder blocks.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Well-restedness

I ran away to Baltimore to deal with the overwhelming pressure of everything that was going on at home.  No other reason.  I just couldn't be here.  I did everything a relaxation textbook might tell me to, but I couldn't keep myself from being stressed out to the point of depression.  I ran away in hopes that the physical separation from everything familiar might help me look at my life with a clear head.  It did.

Recall that I had then been sleepless for months.  I couldn't close my eyes without painful memories - thoughts that I was then yet unable to deal with - creeping into my head.  To remember was either to feel disgust, self-loathing, and utter remorse, or deeply-seated, uncontrollable, anger, but in either scenario, it was all-consuming.  The worst part was that I had to remember.  I was required to remember... legally.  To adequately defend myself - that is, to have any chance of saving my future - I needed to recount a million and one things that I didn't want to ever think about again.  Yet, I didn't have the luxury of time to let the wounds heal first.  So, I didn't.  I 'faked it so I could make it'.

I carefully thought about everything I needed to think about, made notes on it, read every commentary on it from the lawyers, and studied it the way I would have a history text.  To endure it was to separate myself from it.  This wasn't a conscious move.  It was the only move.  I just recounted the events of my life as if it were a movie, and I a film student: with an analytic mind, and heightened attention, I studied the series of events that comprised my life as though they were scenes I had watched, and not ones in which I had participated.  When my then-therapist pointed this out to me (that is, when she voiced her concern for how I spoke of my life without any emotion), I stared at her blankly, just unsure and unaware of what the problem was with doing so.

I went sleepless.  I kept busy, or otherwise intoxicated - impaired enough so I couldn't feel.  Eventually, though, the substances wear off, and we all sober up.  Eventually, after we push ourselves to the point of severe exhaustion, our bodies give out and we have to sleep.  Even more inevitably, after our slumber, we will awaken.  We will awaken rested, and sober - clear-headed.  When the time came that I did, I cried.  I cried about my father.  I cried about Daniel.  I cried about my job.  I cried about my mom.  I cried about my sister.  I cried about school.  I cried.  I cried about the world.  I cried about life.  I cried.  ..until I could cry no more.

I laid alone in bed, sober, and well-rested, miles away from home - miles away from anyone who really loved me - and I cried.

***
I was tired today.  I had been for weeks.  Tiredness clouds judgement.  I thought I knew the reasons why I was so tired (i.e. a miserably long string of social engagements that spanned weeks), but I don't know any such thing for certain.  (I am wont to doubt myself in these matters.)  I just know that by 8pm, I was in bed ready to pass out from exhaustion.

I was dreaming rather vividly that I had just moved into an apartment, and Daniel was with me. It was a very plausible scenario. We didn't say a word to each other. He looked as generally discontent as he always did. 

We cleared some scrap cardboard from the place.  He was tired, and lay down on the couch.  He still failed to look at me.  "Now that we're back together...," he started, sweetly.  He had written these words to me, desperately seeking my attention, in one of our last email exchanges after we officially parted ways.  I was in Baltimore, and he was in Kitchener, and he proceeded with a string of plans for the two of us.  In my dream, however, I didn't recall the email.  In my dream, he was saying this to me  the way I had always imagined he would if I hadn't been hundreds of miles away when he wrote it: playfully, knowing just what to say to make me laugh and fall into his arms. In reality, I ignored his email, but in my dream, I did something I never would have done in the past: with a heavy heart, I walked over to him, knelt down beside the couch, ran my fingers through his soft brown hair, held his tired-looking face in my hands, gazed deeply into his sad but optimistic eyes, and I fell to tears as I interrupted him in a sorrowful tone, "Why, when you hate me so much?"  


For years, I had felt this impermeable remorse for not having read his mind when he needed me most, for having instead been selfish, only considering my own stressors, and feeling as though the failure of the relationship was in our lack of emotional support: that he and I had each been under too much pressure, and that neither of us had enough external support.  I used to wish desperately that I had been a better support to him when he was crumbling, and that I had had the compassion to notice that he wasn't doing so well.  However, tonight, in my well-restedness, I could see what I never seemed to see before: I'm not a mind-reader, I never was one in spite of how attentive to him I used to be, and he never shared his feelings.  It was a communication failure, and it was not I who broke the lines that ran between us.  It was I who persistently tried to mend them with unskilled hands, flimsy tools, and no reciprocity.

I'm an artist, and I express my thoughts and feelings through word, song, and the visual arts, and when my self-expression was persistently met with so much contempt, after several years, with Daniel, I stopped.  I began to reciprocate his brick wall, a wall which only ever instilled in me an unrelenting feeling of guilt, as if I had been the one to stack the bricks, but I hadn't, and there existed no combination of well-articulated explanations that could ever appear to prove that to him.  I looked elsewhere for emotional support; I looked to Daniel for intellectual stimulation and entertainment.

I miss Daniel the way I miss a pocket mirror: a shiny surface that reflected my image back onto me and accompanied me at all times.  This becomes problematic when you begin to loathe yourself.  In thinking about Daniel, I cannot remember his feelings.  I thought I knew his thoughts, but only because I attribute to him my own.  I don't really know who Daniel is.  It is very possible that the only Daniel I ever knew was the Daniel I created in my mind.

Nonetheless, in my vivid dream, in that moment that I cried, I felt something I hadn't felt in so long: overwhelming, and unmitigated emotion.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

21st

Almost a decade ago today, I was twenty going on twenty-one.  I had then just started dating the best friend for the second time, moved out to live in the Beaches near my then-current office, reduced my hours to part-time so I could study [technically] full-time, and I had begun my second year of University as a math and physics specialist after the year I took off following my first year.

I felt like I was on top of the world, but all that would change in the two months that followed. ..the two months leading up to my 21st birthday.

Monday, 20 August 2012

When tasks pile up

...successful completion of those tasks feels impossible.  In contrast, when there are no urgent tasks, nothing gets done.

Something is urgent to us when we consider it so.  We consider something urgent if we prioritize it as such.

We prioritize based on our personal values, personal interests, and personal goals.  However, we are often required to prioritize based on an organization's goals, and an organization's interests and agenda.

Ay. There's the rub.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Kismet

Last week, I had a seat at a bar at BOS while I waited for my flight home.  I was accompanied by a bunch of suits who were also killing time.  They had their leather notebooks, and laptops.

The bartender remarked that that week would be his last; that he had just gotten the job of his dreams and that he was outta there!  The suits at the bar - one by one - began to recount their tales of how bartending saved their mortgages when they were laid off and looking for their next jobs.  They gave him kudos and drank to his future.

This ... got me thinking.

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

It ain't over till it's over...

...but that's not true.  It's that sort of thinking that gets us wasting time.

Waiting for an official, unambiguous statement when it was implied is pointless.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Meaning

Meaning in life. It's subjective. It varies as greatly as there are combinations in infinite sets. Well, theoretically.  In practice, I doubt that it does.  If we graph it the way we do tag clouds, we would be able to see clearly how common some answers are (eg. God, family, to contribute to "society" or a "greater good" or some other similarly-vague-something-or-other).

I'm probably not alone in not having defined mine.  In fact, I'd bet I'm in the majority.  It's just that the decision always seemed arbitrary, and those who had arrived at a meaning did so by circumstance.  And for an atheist, how else could I have arrived at one?  It was certainly not ordained by a God. If I had one, it would have been predetermined by my circumstances, and for some reason besides that it was destined, and in spite of this, it would be able to bring focus and happiness to my life with the one condition of my blind compliance...  (Accordingly, I'm quite content without one.)

So, I do the only thing I can do: I let ideology guide me.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Failed Audition Video Attempt

A while back, my sister sent me this link: http://tfckat.com/. It's for some Filipino singing contest. I hate these sort of things, and given that I have to probably do a tonsillectomy this year, next week, I will start wearing an oral appliance 'round-the-clock for my TMD, and after that, get orthodontics, I didn't think now was the time. To boot, I spent the week prior to the submission deadline immobilized with migraines. In any event, at 10 pm last night - 2 hours prior to the submission deadline - I decided to just give it a shot. We walked over to Eglinton GO Station to record. (I find the waiting booths at track level to have excellent acoustics.) And with one take, we were (sorta) done. I thought 2 hours would be more than enough time to troubleshoot any technical issues... Suffice it to say, it's 17 hours later and I can't get the video converted to a smaller filesize and I can't get the original mp4 rotated to view properly in WMP. Whatever. Here's the video for your listening pleasure (and sadly not for any competition):




*Edit*: My dear friend Michelle very kindly was able to make the appropriate edits and submit my video on my behalf.  I love you, Michelle!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Good Fork

This restaurant is just by Jane subway. I had the croissant-French Toast. It was very decadent.

The service was okay.  Our server couldn't keep our coffee refreshed, there was a bit of a wait to get service when there were no lineups to get in, serving times were a tad long, and when I mentioned to my server that my friend and I were going to be sharing the plates, she looked at me and said "Okay..." with no idea why I would be telling her any such thing.  Actually, that last thing really upset me. But the place had a good atmosphere, nice clientele, lots of dining space, and nice spacious single-person washrooms (which I always like).

The omelet was okay, but I would be back for that French toast!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

My Silver 2004 Nissan Altima 2.5S

I totalled my car last Fall.  It was a nice way to wrap up her brief existence.  The last time I saw her was when she was towed away from the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania to somewhere further into the middle of nowhere in Pennsylvania.  I was headed home to Toronto for a job interview, totalled the car, got the job, and well, the rest is history.

For years, that car was my only 'home'.  It was the only stable thing in my life.  Furniture came and went; as did houses, lofts, and apartments.   But that car didn't.  It was the one thing that was mine, that didn't suck me dry with unexpected expenses, that didn't leave me sleepless with noisy neighbours, and insane landlords.  In fact, it did the opposite of all of those things.  It symbolized opportunity for me: so long as I had it (and gas and parking money), I could go anywhere.  It was the 'vehicle to my freedom', both literally and figuratively.

Now, I was raised a commuter.  We didn't consistently have a car growing up, and living in a city like Toronto, I didn't feel like it was in any way practical to have one.  The way I saw it, it was a huge expense for just a little bit of comfort and convenience.

But some things are just impossible without a car.  When I first got that car, I had intended to use her only for weekends and trips, and otherwise take transit to work.  Then you work out the numbers, and realize that being a transit user/car owner isn't cost effective.  It felt like I had to go with one or the other.  ...and since I already had the car, I just scrapped my train passes in favour of parking ones.

I'm older now.  I've learned to share, can find cheap car rentals, and know better than to equate owning a car with freedom.  If I need one, I know I can arrange for one.  In fact, and perhaps not surprisingly, I have felt ever so slightly more liberated without having my own car than when I did when I had one.  It was like the biggest piece of baggage I owned; the child whose whereabouts I had to constantly be conscious of.  I loved her.. but..

Times change, and with them, perspectives.  I used to see not having my own car as a disadvantage.  Now I see that it is a choice.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Growing Up Poor

Whenever it comes up, and I mention to someone that I was "poor" growing up, no one ever really understands what I mean.  They think I mean "poor" as in "not rich", and tell me that they were, too.

But I don't mean "poor", as in "I couldn't afford a car when I was a teenager".  No, I mean "poor", as in "I was so poor we couldn't afford socks".  We were so poor, consignment clothing was too expensive for us.  We were so poor, we went weeks without eating because it was a choice between eating or paying rent.  Often, I walked the 4 km to, and 4 km back from school because we couldn't afford bus fare.  In winter, we couldn't afford heat and toughed it out in warm clothing.  We were so poor, my elementary and high school wouldn't accept even a $10 cheque from my parents.  The administrator would call me down to the office to ask me if I could bring in cash because she didn't want to have to deal with a bounced cheque.  I've lived without furniture; I didn't have a real bed to sleep on.  I slept on an air mattress that got punctured, so I slept on a pile of sheets.  We were so poor, we were evicted I don't even know how many times; so poor that my sister and I did all of the heavy lifting when were children because we couldn't afford movers, my parents' friends deserted us, and my parents were sickly and in and out of hospitals. The longest place we lived in was filled with rats and roaches - it was over a restaurant that blasted music until 4am while I tried to sleep.  So, I would sleep in the library at school during my spare and then I'd get accused of partying too much.  Heh.

When that landlord was going to raise rent, we made a bargain with him: give us a good reference so we can at least get into a Co-Op and we'll leave without trouble.  After a few years of waiting, we got into one, thinking it would help because of the rent-geared-to-income, but even that didn't work out.  If it weren't for tenant laws, we would have been homeless: we fell half a year behind on rent, and they took us to court.  There was always something; constant damage control.  Someone died; someone in the hospital; social assistance denied/cancelled; unexpected bills.  Something.

I was poor, and not only do people not quite comprehend what I mean when I say this, they don't believe me.  But I understand.  The numbers were against us.  The likelihood of getting any education, and moving outside of those extreme poverty levels was very low.  Social systems weren't developed in a way that made it possible for someone living in extreme poverty to escape it.  They were developed to sustain it.  Example: when I started University, my dad's social worker cancelled his Disability funding (he was severely disabled from his work in a factory) because she contended that I was an able-bodied member of the family who should be contributing to the living costs, and their healthcare.  My scholarship and OSAP barely covered my school expenses, let alone familial ones with elderly, sickly parents.  I tried moving out so that my student existence would not affect their funding, but that didn't help.  I just .. did what I had to do.  I did the only thing that could be done; the thing they basically told me to do.

Anyway, well, I assure you it's all true.  So, that my sister and I are content with our financial statuses, it's because we're miles ahead of where we are coming from.  When we say that we could give away everything we have and live with nothing, it's because we have had nothing.

We're not upset, or even disappointed with life.  Just .. frustrated when it comes to telling people ... when I say poor, I mean poor...

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Greed

Defensive drivers get into more accidents than aggressive ones.  A friend who  deals daily with people in auto-collisions just told me so.  He explained that aggressive drivers cause accidents, but that defensive drivers get into them.  I found this distressing.  He said that he toggles between both manners of driving depending on his needs.  I asked if I should switch, and he said "Nah, don't.  You're better off driving defensively."  But...

Anyway, this brought to mind an article I read a few months ago that was entitled "Upper class more likely to be scofflaws".  It was about a research study at Rotman.  "The increased unethical tendencies of upper-class individuals are driven, in part, by their more favorable attitudes towards greed," said Paul Piff, a doctoral student in psychology at UC Berkeley and lead author of the paper, published Feb. 27 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The first field study in this project was about aggressive drivers.  Upper class folk tended to be aggressive, and do things such as cut people off at 4-way stops.  These 'greedy' people also did other fun things like fail to report observed unethical actions, take more candy than their poor counterparts, withheld pertinent position information when negotiating salaries with new employees, etc...

What happens when you cut people off at an intersection?  You get to your destination faster.  When you take more candy?  You get more candy for free.  Withhold information when negotiating salaries?  You win.  That's taught in any negotiations class.  Not reporting unethical behaviour?  Well, here's the thing...  What is it to be greedy?  Is it really just greed?

Every situation above should be viewed within a game theoretical framework.  It seems silly to describe a greedy/not greedy tactic as either unethical or ethical.  If that's the case, then ... it isn't about being greedy/not, unethical/not.  It's tactical.  It's beyond good/evil; right/ wrong.  It actually becomes the educated best response, and not the intuitively incorrect one.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Hopes and Dreams

I was out of the office sick for all of last week, and spent some time chatting with an old friend to keep myself occupied.  (It gets really boring being home when you'd normally be at work.)  She told me about how she had recently run into a former peer of hers from her elementary school.  It had been about 20 years since she'd last seen him.  She remarked on how surprised she was when he told her that they used to talk all of the time, and hang out together.  She didn't remember any of that.  All she remembers distinctly were the "friends" that were emotionally abusive, and girls that made fun of her, and threw apples at her in the park.  Sadly, memories of the kind young boy with whom she spent a lot of time faded away.  ...why?

It is a fun exercise to think about everyone we do remember, and why.  It's very telling.

If you were to ask me about what my elementary school years were like, I'd tell a heroic tale of a severely under-privileged female visible-minority that fought bullies, and stood up for those who were bullied; how when I was in gr. 4, I scored higher than all the gr. 8's on diagnostic math and language skills testing; how I was unanimously voted in for Class President every year; how I never compromised my nerdiness for popularity; how I eagerly gave everything 100% effort in everything I did.  Maybe there were people who bullied me, or disliked me.  Maybe I was not as kind as I think I was.  Maybe.  But off-hand, and until someone shatters my self-image, this is how I like to remember young-Carolyn.

Every year, I fancied a different career path.  One year, it was volcanology; the next it was archaelogy.  Then I grew older, and the path to survive conflicted heavily with the path to personal interest.  I reached an impasse, and years later, I wound up ... here.

All I ever really wanted was to just travel - dive into cultures, not just visit.  Maybe this portion of my childhood-ever-shifting-dreams is still salvageable.

Friday, 20 April 2012

The Resignation Letter

An evening out with the girls always turns into a rant about the office.  We each have our qualms.

One told the story of how she resigned.  When the day came that she was ready to quit, she drafted her letter of resignation, but she didn't just hand it in..  Every day that followed, she reprinted the letter with the current date, put it into a new envelope, and held onto it.  She sat ready for just the right moment  ...because, of course, when you're fed up with a workplace, you can't just hand in your letter of resignation without provocation.  Where would the fun be in that?

Oh, she waited .. and waited .. and without fail, when her abusive Director took what would turn out to be her final stab at her, my friend replied, "..just one moment, I need to get something from my desk."

This is how you stifle any concern that you were perhaps being erratic, or hasty.  How so?  Because you will be too busy riding the high from finally 'stabbing back'.  After a decade of taking a beating from your selfish, demanding, unreasonable boss, she doesn't expect you to leave.  She expects you to do what you always did: bend over and take it.

Now, what's the problem with leaving without provocation?  Well, you leave with doubt: the question of whether or not you are doing the right thing nags at you.  You wonder if perhaps you didn't try hard enough to improve the abusive situation.  You leave thinking you could have been wrong.  But what my friend did was brilliant.  It's professional, but empowering.

Not all abusive relationships are between boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife, parent/child, friend/friend etc...  Some are employer/employee, supervisor/assistant.  But when it's outside the personal life, we think somehow it's different.  Somehow the relationship that we're financially bound to has a special status.  After all, it's business, not personal, right?

When I wrote Dearest, it was a poem about an abusive relationship.  What I didn't expect was the number of friends who would tell me that they related to it through their relationships with their jobs.

I'd poke fun, but it's a reality.  I'd express astonishment, but I can relate.  I'd be disappointed, but that'll get me nowhere.  I'd do something about it, but I don't know where to start.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Did you know...

...that I started taking pictures of the meals that I enjoy? I post them publicly on my Google* account, but now you can also view them from my blog.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Updates

I said I didn't want those around me to fear that I may blog about them.
I said I didn't want to get into the habit of overblogging, and turn into a Twitter-shitter.
I said I didn't want the information that I shared publicly to be redundant across platforms.  That is, I wanted to thoughtfully coordinate between all of my Social Media accounts.
I said I wanted to use Social Media, but that I also wanted to preserve a degree of privacy.

But I do want to capture a lot of what I see and hear and experience everyday.  I have travelled a lot this past year, dined in some very memorable places, taken a lot of pictures, met a lot of interesting people, experienced a lot of interesting things.  I don't want to forget them.  But it's more than that - I want to remember them, share them, get insight, and I want all of that to be easy.  It is getting tiring trying to think of which social media tool to use, and how to set my privacy settings.

And now with my Samsung Galaxy Sii, I don't think it'll get much easier to streamline the use of my Social Media. (Take this from someone who has had every major Smartphone since the launch of the Palm Treo 600.)

So, it begins...  For ease-of-use, I went with Facebook authentication.  I couldn't get rid of authentication altogether because it makes managing spam impossible, but this should make things somewhat easier.  If you don't have a Facebook account, well, you don't need one...

To minimize redundancy, I've done several things: (1) comments Posted on Facebook under any of my posts will be imported to appear on my blog, (2) I will post almost exclusively on my blog, and minimally elsewhere, (3) I have posted links to my other social media accounts from my blog.  My blog, with assistance from Facebook, will be where I now centralize my Social Media activity.

Questions that spring to mind:

1) Shall I continue to post my dining experiences exclusively to Google+?
2) Shall my Foursquare conquests be exclusively shared through Twitter?  or even remain my sole check-in medium?
3) What will become of my Youtube account?  my LinkedIn?  my MySpace?

Only time will tell.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

WordPress App

I vowed to not turn this blog into a place where I publicly wrote about my day-to-day.

That being the case, I didn't bother with the WordPress Apps.  My posts were never the sort of posts that needed to be posted with urgency. They are thoughtful reflections of times long past, but not long forgotten.

But times are changing, and with them are my goals.  Accordingly, my actions must follow suit.

I hope you have enjoyed the first post from Hermes.  If you didn't know, I named my Samsung Galaxy Sii Hermes.. because in Greek mythology, he was the messenger of the gods .. and well, then it seemed perfectly fitting...

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Did you know...

...that I had always planned to write a book about my life?  By "always", I mean since I was about 8. And as far as timelines go, it was not something I anticipated working on any time soon. It was something I planned to do after I turned 60.. ya know.. after I'd experienced a lot of things and lived.

I also always imagined the twilight of my working life as an elementary school teacher, influencing impressionable children who would grow up to be the leaders of tomorrow.  I imagined my senior years working on an autobiography, capturing the curiosity that had been my life.   And finally I imagined everything that came beforehand to be a wild adventure...

Seems on track.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Themes

Okay, so a great many things went "wrong" in the last two years, and in an attempt to find meaning in the disarray, I abandoned all of my "best practices" and "goals" in hopes of finding new ones. I realize how erratic that game plan was. It was more like a misguided twist on Einstein's idea that "insanity" is "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results".

I know I didn't have to throw it all away and start fresh. I know I didn't even need to throw pieces out. But the whole plan felt like a network of ideas strongly interwoven over time that when one (or two or three or whatever) didn't fit, I felt like I needed to just create a new quilt.

In any event, amidst the changes, I adopted the plan of saying "yes" to "everything". Well, I'm exhausted, and I think it's time that I take a break, and just start saying "no".

There are some things that just don't benefit me in any way. I know what I need to do. It's time to stop feeling like "it's now or never".

Thursday, 8 March 2012

Year Two

I reread posts from two years ago.  It was aweful - I was miserable.

I don't know what's worse:

That I ever felt that way or that I've documented it publicly.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Why Fefe Went For A Ride

I just need to get out.  The words ring in my ears.  They're all too familiar.  I was so desperate to mute the thoughts that ran through my mind that I did anything to keep myself busy.  So,  if it wasn't work or school, I called any friend I could think of and ask if they could hang out for a while because I just needed to get out.

It got me thinking: when did it stop?  When did I stop needing to just get out?  When did I start to feel so comfortable staying put and not moving? not muting my thoughts? Why? How? How did it stop?  How did I become so comfortable? so confident? ... so happy?  But I see that the more important question is why did it ever start?  

A parable for you:

Imagine enjoying a beautiful, warm, sunny day walking on the boardwalk, and running into a friend on rollerblades.  He grabs your hand, and you begin to run alongside him to keep up.

Maybe in the future, I could plan in advance to have rollerblades.  And I know that running at that speed is a good thing after practice and when I'm ready.  BUT! right now, it's killing me.  And if I didn't see it before, I sure as hell see now that I was never going to survive keeping pace with speeding rollerbladers while on foot.  When you're not ready, you're just doing damage.

Maybe I'll move at that speed one day, but I'm surely not going to do it because someone tugged me along when I was neither ready nor equipped.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Carolyn's Cat

"How did it come to this?"

I have asked myself this question consistently persistently over the last year, where "it" is all of my hopes and dreams and "this" is everything I am today.  Now then, how?

Naturally, to find the answer I begin by retracing the steps.  I review my notes.  Next, I wonder if any positive account of my actions that I've drawn up for myself is revisionist.  Accordingly, I review my account, and "logically", I revise it.  Logically...

It's hard to come to terms with the fact that the dream image of my future has somewhat deteriorated into the present - a not-so-displeasing present but it isn't quite the "present" that I had envisioned for myself at the dawn of my adulthood.  I feel like the probability cloud collapsed and I determined conclusively that the cat was dead (or I was in the world with the dead cat)!  Further, out of some humanly affection for the playful, curious, furry creatures, I experienced remorse in the discovery - a result that is reasonable but unforeseen given its irrelevance to the purpose of the experiment.

Alright, so probability clouds are collapsing every second and what had once been infinite trees of possibilities in my future have since turned into concrete stories in my past.  I'm finding solace in the indeterminacy of what's left to come. There may yet be many branches to break off.  However, with every move forward through time, I change. Things happened.  Damage was done leaving scars even after healing, like time-stamps dating me back to the day I was born.

We can never go back.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Dearest

(Originally published October 22, 2011)

I shared with you everything I had; I'd have died for you.
I poured out my heart and my soul and I cried for you.

I ended friendships and said good-byes for you.
And with tireless hope did I try for you.

And all this could have worked if true love were one-sided,
Or if you had tried similarly to how I did.

I suggested, then whispered; I spoke till I screamed!
While trying to be everything that you dreamed.


But you belittled, berated, provoked then ignored me.
Then you made me feel like you did all that for me.

Like I was unable to succeed without you.
And I was too weak to speak out or doubt you.

That I vented, reflected, gave up.  Then I grew
Out of the constraints that I felt loving you.

Love is more than self-sacrifice, and not necessarily life-long.
Love enables, enlightens and makes you feel strong.

So, I will greet the world with hellos; not deny it.
I will embrace every new opportunity before trying it.

I am going to live for love; not die for it.
I'm going to feel free; not cry for it.

And I guess I'm reiterating what we already knew:
That it's time I accept that I stopped loving you.

Monday, 30 January 2012

Definitions of Comedy and Serendipity

com·e·dy/ˈkämədē/


"Lending" out a $64 Kindle ebook that I only need for a paper due tomorrow to a student in my class that didn't have a copy of the book only to discover that (1) "lending" an Amazon Kindle ebook revokes your own access to the ebook during the full loan period, (2) that access is still revoked even if the lendee did not yet "accept" the loan, (3) that Amazon Kindle does not have a "Cancel" feature for sent book loans (confirmed with Amazon rep over the telephone), and that the book will be unavailable to me until the sooner of the "return" the book from the lendee, or the expiration of the two week loan period, (4) only the lendee can "cancel" an ebook loan, (5) loan offers cannot be resent, and so finally (6) if the lendee does not receive the email (for whatever reason), there is no way to cancel a loan.  That is, even though my kind peer would like to help me out and give me back access to my $64 ebook that I only need for the next day by "returning" it to me, he can't because he never received the original email.

ser·en·dip·i·ty/ˌserənˈdipitē/


Having typed out the book to myself while reading it a couple nights ago so as to ensure that I would pay attention while reading. (Thank you, mom, for teaching me how to type so well when I was so little.  This has become a very handy skill!)

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Lost Books

I was unpacking my books today.  I love my book collection.  It consists of excellent references for my papers.  What's startling is what's missing.  I can't find some of my faves, or rather, some books I was planning on referencing for some papers.  Now, it's true that I've mostly also purchased ebook versions for them for convenience, but ... I .. love . my . books.

Where did my copy of Stillman Drake's Discoveries and Opinions of Galileo go?  Bertrand Russell's Science and Religion? or his Unpopular Essays?  his Problems of Philosophy?  etc... etc... etc... GAHHHHHHH!

As well, my copies of Peter Kosso's Appearance and Reality: Intro to Phil of Physics and Peter Godfrey-Smith's Appearance and Reality have gone missing.  The former was a recommendation by one of my favourite Philosophy of Science profs.  I found the latter by searching to see what other high profile universities used as introductory texts. Amazing books.

I am so disappointed and upset about this. I cite them regularly and I can't find them!

I understand that moving has its frustrations.  This is one of them, and it will probably keep me upset for days.

Friday, 27 January 2012

Nightmare

I had a dream I was born floating on water that was only one foot deep, and during a bright sunny day.  I liked the warmth of the sun, the feeling of floating, the coolness of the water, and the feeling of happiness.

When I learned that I could touch the sea bottom, I became fascinated by the security.  It was steady.  It didn't move.  I desired to know more about it.  I set out to see more of it: I carved out a dry spot for myself.  I put up barriers, and with cups, I tossed  out the water.

However, no matter how deeply I planted the barriers, water would always eventually come to moisten the sand beneath me.  Tirelessly I would carve out my dry spot, desperate to keep the water out, and to enlarge it.

As tides made the water levels rise and fall, I just made my barriers taller when they were higher, and my circumference wider when they were low.  That is, I took advantage of the low tides as opportunities to prepare, and weathered the storms by building my walls as it became necessary.

But one day, the tide just kept rising.  I kept building higher, but not fast enough to match the rate.  I could no longer broaden my space.

At some point, it rose at such a speed that I could not keep up.  To keep the water out, I had to close the top.

However, even after enclosed, the tide rose, and the pressure with it.  I reinforced my barriers by making my space smaller, taking bits from other places to do so ... until my space got so small, I could barely move ... until the pressure rose so high that in spite of all of my reinforcements, a drop yet managed to fall into my dry spot.  It was then that I knew it was over.

It was time to either move to shore .. or become amphibious.

Question was: were either even possibilities?

Maybe I was destined to drown.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

An Existentialist's Homework Assignment

What does Nietzsche mean by the phrase “God is dead” as announced by his character of the “Madman” (PN pp.95-6)? (15 points)

Nietzsche’s madman as described as someone walking through the “market place” with a lantern looking for God is an allusion to Diogenes of Sinope (412-332BC). Diogenes was the founder of the School of Cynicism, and is famous for searching for a virtuous man in the market place, and espousing ascetic ideals. The God that Nietzsche refers to is the Christian notion of God because of the prevalence of this religion during his time (and location). Around this God were built meaning in life, and morality. Influential Christian thinkers espoused the idea that pursuing truth would lead to knowledge of God.

By the phrase that “God is dead”, Nietzsche is saying that “the belief in the Christian God has ceased to be believable” [The Portable Nietzsche, Pg. 447]. This statement is spoken from the madman, who is an allusion to Diogenes – a cynic ascetic who persistently, but without success searched for a virtuous man in the marketplace – who symbolized Christian ideals (he personified the ascetic ideal). The symbolism of the madman suggests that Christian ideals can’t find God anymore.

Recall that with the assumption that God existed, a meaning in life and basis for morality were built. Christian morality gave meaning to the ascetic ideal as a means to purify oneself. However, Christian ideals also led followers to pursue truth – truth and reason being the basis of the development of science. Since science undermines the existence of God, but the pursuit of science led one to search for truth, then one can say that God has thrown man into nihilism – the idea that we can't find value in morality that does not lie in God. New meaning for asceticism or any actions taken on a moral basis must be found.

What was the cause of God’s “death”? (10 points)

At base, the reason for God’s death is “Christian truthfulness”. Nietzsche is saying that from the quest for truth and ability to reason, a body of science developed that could explain the nature of reality without requiring [the Christian] God as the causa prima/causa efficiens/causa sui: “the belief in the Christian God has ceased to be believable” [The Portable Nietzsche, Pg. 447]. Religion killed the God around which it was built.

Put differently, considering the dominance of Christianity in his time (and location), “God” was posited as an explanatory metaphysical principle – an inference to the best explanation to the nature of reality. With the rise and development of exact sciences that decreasingly required invocations of the “God” concept with increasingly more reasonable explanations for the nature of reality, Nietzsche is saying that the concept of “God” as a necessity for explanation became superfluous (even if it is more accurate to say that the concept of “God” was only becoming decreasingly valuable). “We have killed him--you and I” [The Gay Science (section 125)], and in Nietzsche’s words:

““Christian morality itself, the concept of truthfulness taken more and more strictly, the confessional subtlety of the Christian conscience translated and sublimated into the scientific conscience, into intellectual cleanliness at any price.” … All great things bring about their own destruction through an act of self-overcoming. … After Christian truthfulness has drawn one inference after another, it must end by drawing its most striking inference, its inference against itself.” Genealogy of Morals, Pg. 160-161, #27

Why does Nietzsche say that “We have killed him [God] – you and I” (PN p.95); i.e., how, or in what sense, did “we” do this? (5 points)

Taking “we” as a reference to the European society within which he lived, by “We have killed him—you and I”, Nietzsche is saying that the culture turned in on itself: what drove the culture to search for truth (belief in God) was what eventually led them to the devaluation of the reason (God) that the search was first pursued.

Influential Christian thinkers found that "God" explained the nature of reality. Consider:

"Faith (in God) seeks, and understanding (reason) finds" St. Thomas Aquinas

St. Thomas Aquinas said that God gave us a sense of him, and we use the reason he gave us to find who/what God is - attempt to provide proofs of the existence and nature of God. But Nietzsche is saying that it is this “Christian conscience” (of finding truth to understand God) that “sublimated into the scientific conscience”. It is ironic: in attempting to “find” God, we killed it. (Again, it is still controversial whether the current state of science can disprove the existence of God, let alone the state of science in Nietzsche’s time. We can say with certainty that science calls into doubt the religious view of reality.) In short: we killed God by constructing science, reason, empirical measurement. Reason once led us to the ontotheological idea of God, but now undermines belief in God.

Why does Nietzsche have his Madman announce God’s “death” to atheists (i.e., “to those who do not believe in God”)? (10 points)

Nietzsche announces God’s “death” to atheists to illustrate fully the discord in society: God is abandoned and that is accepted (as there are atheists), but all that had been built around belief in God, all of the consequences of assuming God’s existence are seemingly intact:

“In the main, however, this may be said: the event itself is much too great, too distant, too far from the comprehension of the many even for the tidings of it to be thought of as having arrived yet, not to speak of the nothing that many people might know what has really happened here, and what must collapse now that this belief has been undermined-all that was built upon it, leaned on it, grew into it; for example, our whole European morality…” The Portable Nietzsche, Pg 447.

Through the use of atheists, he is pointing out that time is required before society realizes that their moral centre is gone, and that a new basis for morality and meaning of life is required. In particular, that the hand by which we killed God (i.e. science) cannot replace it as it only provides the answers to “how”, but not “why”. (Although, in Dawkins’ The Selfish Gene, game theory as used in a model of explanation for altruistic behaviour at the organism-level seems sufficient to me for understanding why society wouldn’t fall into absolute chaos without a moral compass in God, even if absolute good/evil is still abandoned.) His presumption is that science doesn’t have a say in what is right/wrong, and doesn’t provide an answer to why we exist.

What is the connection between Nietzsche’s idea that “God is dead” and his idea of “nihilism”? (10 points)

Starting from the assumption that God existed, European society built (1) a meaning of life, and (2) morality. Christianity posited a heaven and a hell, and propounded values that gave meaning to (3) Ascetic ideals.

Since science undermines presumption of existence of god, all that relied on that assumption (1, 2, 3 above) is also thrown out. (That is, if they are to be retained, then it would need to be for different reasons, and on a different basis.) If nihilism is Idea that we can't find value in morality that does not lie in God, then science has thrown society into nihilism. The “highest values” are at once devaluated: god, Truth, Morality, and Divine Justice.

Nietzsche is saying that since it was the concept of God that led to the development of science, then it was God that threw society into nihilism (both active and passive forms).

Saturday, 7 January 2012

The 2011-12 Toronto Raptors

It is 100% a new roster as compared with the team I first fell in love with back in the 2001-02 season, but the charm is still there.

New faces mean new hope, right?

It's ugly, we know, but even when I said I did, I never gave up hope.

It's rebuilding time.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Dear Mr. Hitchens,

Some people got caught up in your atheism, or your pro-Iraq War sentiments, that they didn't want to hear what you had to say.  They deprived themselves of their right to understand why you thought what you thought.  They missed the message.  They didn't need a censor - they censored themselves.

It's tragic.

I never repost on my blog.  However, given the magnitude of the message, I've done so below.

Carolyn

 

//

From http://howtoplayalone.wordpress.com/hitchens-on-free-speech/. The transcript of a speech by Christopher Hitchens from a debate at Hart House, University of Toronto, 15 November 2006. “Be It Resolved: Freedom of Speech Includes the Freedom to Hate.”

"FIRE!!! Fire… fire… fire. Now you’ve heard it. Not shouted in a crowded theatre, admittedly, as I realise I seem now to have shouted it in the Hogwarts dining room. But the point is made. Everyone knows the fatuous verdict of the greatly over-praised Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who, asked for an actual example of when it would be proper to limit speech or define it as an action, gave that of shouting “fire” in a crowded theatre.

It’s very often forgotten what he was doing in that case was sending to prison a group of Yiddish speaking socialists, whose literature was printed in a language most Americans couldn’t read, opposing President Wilson’s participation in the First World War and the dragging of the United States into this sanguinary conflict, which the Yiddish speaking socialists had fled from Russia to escape.

In fact it could be just as plausibly argued that the Yiddish speaking socialists, who were jailed by the excellent and over-praised Judge Oliver Wendell Holmes, were the real fire fighters, were the ones shouting “fire” when there really was a fire in a very crowded theatre indeed.

And who is to decide? Well, keep that question if you would – ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, I hope I may say comrades and friends – before your minds.

I exempt myself from the speaker’s kind offer of protection that was so generously proffered at the opening of this evening. Anyone who wants to say anything abusive about or to me is quite free to do so, and welcome in fact, at their own risk.

But before they do that they must have taken, as I’m sure we all should, a short refresher course on the classic texts on this matter. Which are John Milton’s Areopagitica, “Areopagitica” being the great hill of Athens for discussion and free expression. Thomas Paine’s introduction to The Age of Reason. And I would say John Stuart Mill’s essay On Liberty in which it is variously said – I’ll be very daring and summarize all three of these great gentlemen of the great tradition of, especially, English liberty, in one go.

What they say is it’s not just the right of the person who speaks to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen, and to hear. And every time you silence someone you make yourself a prisoner of your own action because you deny yourself the right to hear something. In other words, your own right to hear and be exposed is as much involved in all these cases as is the right of the other to voice his or her view.

Indeed, as John Stuart Mill said, if all in society were agreed on the truth and beauty and value of one proposition, all except one person, it would be most important, in fact it would become even more important, that that one heretic be heard, because we would still benefit from his perhaps outrageous or appalling view.

In more modern times this has been put, I think, best by a personal heroine of mine, Rosa Luxembourg, who said freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of the person who thinks differently.

My great friend John O’ Sullivan, former editor of the National Review, and I think probably my most conservative and reactionary Catholic friend, once said – it’s a tiny thought experiment – he says, if you hear the Pope saying he believes in God, you think, well, the Pope is doing his job again today. If you hear the Pope saying he’s really begun to doubt the existence of God, you begin to think he might be on to something.

Well, if everybody in North America is forced to attend, at school, training in sensitivity on Holocaust awareness and is taught to study the Final Solution, about which nothing was actually done by this country, or North America, or by the United Kingdom while it was going on, but let’s say as if in compensation for that everyone is made to swallow an official and unalterable story of it now, and it’s taught as the great moral exemplar, the moral equivalent of the morally lacking elements of the Second World War, a way of distilling our uneasy conscience about that combat. If that’s the case with everybody, as it more or less is, and one person gets up and says, “You know what, this Holocaust, I’m not sure it even happened. In fact, I’m pretty certain it didn’t. Indeed, I begin to wonder if the only thing is that the Jews brought a little bit of violence on themselves.” That person doesn’t just have a right to speak, that person’s right to speak must be given extra protection. Because what he has to say must have taken him some effort to come up with, might contain a grain of historical truth, might in any case get people to think about why do they know what they already think they know. How do I know that I know this, except that I’ve always been taught this and never heard anything else?

It’s always worth establishing first principle. It’s always worth saying what would you do if you met a Flat Earth Society member? Come to think of it, how can I prove the earth is round? Am I sure about the theory of evolution? I know it’s supposed to be true. Here’s someone who says there’s no such thing; it’s all intelligent design. How sure am I of my own views? Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus, and the feeling that whatever you think you’re bound to be OK, because you’re in the safely moral majority.

One of the proudest moments of my life, that’s to say, in the recent past, has been defending the British historian David Irving who is now in prison in Austria for nothing more than the potential of uttering an unwelcome thought on Austrian soil. He didn’t actually say anything in Austria. He wasn’t even accused of saying anything. He was accused of perhaps planning to say something that violated an Austrian law that says only one version of the history of the Second World War may be taught in our brave little Tyrolean republic.

The republic that gave us Kurt Waldheim as Secretary General of the United Nations, a man wanted in several countries for war crimes. You know the country that has Jorge Haider the leader of its own fascist party in the cabinet that sent David Irving to jail.

You know the two things that have made Austria famous and given it its reputation by any chance? Just while I’ve got you. I hope there are some Austrians here to be upset by it. Well, a pity if not, but the two great achievements of Austria are to have convinced the world that Hitler was German and that Beethoven was Viennese.

Now to this proud record they can add, they have the courage finally to face their past and lock up a British historian who has committed no crime except that of thought in writing. And that’s a scandal. I can’t find a seconder usually when I propose this but I don’t care. I don’t need a seconder. My own opinion is enough for me and I claim the right to have it defended against any consensus, any majority, anywhere, any place, any time. And anyone who disagrees with this can pick a number, get in line, and kiss my ass.

Now, I don’t know how many of you, don’t feel you’re grown up enough to decide for yourselves and think you need to be protected from David Irving’s edition of the Goebbels Diaries for example, out of which I learned more about the Third Reich than I had from studying Hugh Trevor-Roper and A. J. B. Taylor combined when I was at Oxford. But for those of you who do, I’d recommend another short course of revision.

Go again and see not just the film and the play but read the text of Robert Bolt’s wonderful play A Man For All Seasons – some of you most have seen it. Where Sir Thomas More decides that he would rather die than lie or betray his faith. And one moment More is arguing with the particularly vicious witch-hunting prosecutor. A servant of the king and a hungry and ambitious man.

And More says to this man, “You’d break the law to punish the devil, wouldn’t you?”

And the prosecutor, the witch-hunter, says, “Break it?” he said, “I’d cut down, I’d cut down every law in England if I could do that, if I could capture him!”

“Yes you would, wouldn’t you? And then when you would have cornered the devil and the devil would turn around to meet you, where would you run for protection? All the laws of England having been cut down and flattened? Who would protect you then?”

Bear in mind, ladies and gentleman, that every time you violate – or propose the violate – the right to free speech of someone else, you in potentia you’re making a rod for your own back. Because the other question raised by Justice Oliver Wendall Holmes is simply this: who’s going to decide, to whom do you award the right to decide which speech is harmful, or who is the harmful speaker? Or to determine in advance what are the harmful consequences going to be that we know enough about in advance to prevent? To whom would you give this job? To whom you’re going to award the task of being the censor?

Isn’t a famous old story that the man who has to read all the pornography, in order to decide what’s fit to be passed and what is fit not to be, is the man most likely to become debauched?

Did you hear any speaker in the opposition to this motion, eloquent as one of them was, to whom you would delegate the task of deciding for you what you could read? To whom you would give the job to decide for you? Relieve you of the responsibility of hearing what you might have to hear? Do you know any one? Hands up. Do you know any one to whom you’d give this job? Does anyone have a nominee?

You mean there is no one in Canada who is good enough to decide what I can read? Or hear? I had no idea… But there’s a law that says there must be such a person – or some piddling sub-section of a law – that says it. Well to hell with that law. It is inviting you to be liars and hypocrites and to deny what you evidently already know already.

About this censorious instinct: we basically know already what we need to know, and we’ve known it for a long time, it comes from an old story about another great Englishman – sorry to sound particular about that this evening – Dr Samuel Johnson, the great lexicographer, complier of the first great dictionary of the English language. When it was complete Dr Johnson was waited upon by various delegations of people to congratulate him. Of the nobility, of equality, of the Common, of the Lords and also by a delegation of respectable ladies of London who attended on him in his Fleet Street lodgings and congratulated him.

“Dr Johnson”, they said, “We are delighted to find that you’ve not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.”

“Ladies”, said Dr Johnson, “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.”

Anyone who can understand that joke – and I’m pleased to see that about 10 per cent of you can! – gets the point about censorship, especially prior restraint as it is known in the United States, where it is banned by the First Amendment to the Constitution. It may not be determined in advance what words are apt or inapt. No one has the knowledge that would be required to make that call and – more to the point – one has to suspect the motives of those who do so. In particular those who are determined to be offended, of those who will go through a treasure house of English – like Dr Johnson’s first lexicon – in search of filthy words, to satisfy themselves, and some instinct about which I dare not speculate…

Now, I am absolutely convinced that the main source of hatred in the world is religion, and organized religion. Absolutely convinced of it. And I am glad that you applaud, because it’s a very great problem for those who oppose this motion. How are they going to ban religion? How are they going to stop the expression of religious loathing, hatred and bigotry?

I speak as someone who is a very regular target of this, and not just in rhetorical form. I have been the target of many death threats, I know within a short distance of where I am currently living in Washington, I can name two or three people whose names you probably know people who can’t go anywhere now without a security detail because of the criticisms they’ve made on one monotheism in particular. And this is in the capital city of the United States.

So I know what I’m talking about, and I also have to notice, that the sort of people who ring me up and say they know where my children go to school, and they certainly know what my home number is and where I live, and what they are going to do to them and to my wife, and to me and who I have to take seriously because they already have done it to people I know, are just the people who are going to seek the protection of the hate speech law, if I say what I think about their religion, which I am now going to do.

Because I don’t have any what you might call ethnic bias, I have no grudge of that sort, I can rub along with pretty much anyone of any – as it were – origin or sexual orientation, or language group – except people from Yorkshire of course, who are completely untakable – and I’m beginning to resent the confusion that’s being imposed on us now – and there was some of it this evening – between religious belief, blasphemy, ethnicity, profanity and what one might call “multicultural etiquette”.

It’s quite common these days for people now to use the expression – for example – “anti-Islamic racism”, as if an attack on a religion was an attack on an ethnic group. The word Islamophobia in fact is beginning to acquire the opprobrium that was once reserved for racial prejudice. This is a subtle and very nasty insinuation that needs to be met head on.

Who said “what if Falwell says he hates fags? What if people act upon that?” The Bible says you have to hate fags. If Falwell says he is saying it because the Bible says so, he’s right. Yes, it might make people go out and use violence. What are you going to do about that? You’re up against a group of people who will say “you put your hands on our Bible and we’ll call the hate speech police”. Now what are you going to do when you’ve dug that trap for yourself?

Somebody said that the anti-Semitism and Kristallnacht in Germany was the result of ten years of Jew-baiting. Ten years?! You must be joking! It’s the result of 2,000 years of Christianity, based on one verse of one chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which led to a pogrom after every Easter sermon every year for hundreds of years. Because it claims that the Jews demanded the blood of Christ be on the heads of themselves and all their children to the remotest generation. That’s the warrant and license for and incitement to anti-Jewish pogroms. What are you going to do about that? Where is your piddling sub-section now?! Does it say St. John’s Gospel must be censored?!

Do I, who have read Freud and know what the future of an illusion really is and know that religious belief is ineradicable as long as we remain a stupid, poorly evolved mammalian species, think that some Canadian law is going to solve this problem? Please!

No our problem is this: our prefrontal lobes are too small. And our adrenaline glands are too big. And our thumb/ finger opposition isn’t all that it might be. And we’re afraid of the dark, and we’re afraid to die, and we believe in the truths of holy books that are so stupid and so fabricated that a child can – and all children do, as you can tell by their questions – actually see through them. And I think it should be – religion – treated with ridicule, and hatred and contempt. And I claim that right.

Now let’s not dance around, not all monotheisms are exactly the same – at the moment. They’re all based on the same illusion, they’re all plagiarisms of each other, but there is one in particular that at the moment is proposing a serious menace not just to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, but to quite a lot of other freedoms too. And this is the religion that exhibits the horrible trio of self-hatred, self-righteousness and self-pity. I am talking about militant Islam.

Globally it’s a gigantic power. It controls an enormous amount of oil wealth, several large countries and states with an enormous fortune, it’s pumping the ideology of Wahhabism and Salafism around the world, poisoning societies where it goes, ruining the minds of children, stultifying the young and its madrases, training people in violence, making a culture death and suicide and murder. That’s what it does globally, it’s quite strong.

In our society it poses as a cringing minority, who’s faith you might offend, which deserves all the protection that a small and vulnerable group might need.

Now, it makes quite large claims for itself, doesn’t it? It says it’s the final revelation. It says that god spoke to one illiterate businessman in the Arabian Peninsula three times through an archangel, and the resulting material – which as you can see when you read it – was largely plagiarized from the Old and the New Testament. Almost all of it actually plagiarised, ineptly – from the Old and the New Testament – is to be accepted as a divine revelation and as the final and unalterable one and those who do not accept this revelation are fit to be treated as cattle, infidels, potential chattel, slaves and victims.

Well I tell you what, I don’t think Mohammad ever heard those voices. I don’t believe it. And the likelihood that I’m right, as opposed to the likelihood that a businessman who couldn’t read, had bits of the Old and New Testament re-dictated to him by an archangel, I think puts me much more near the position of being objectively correct.

But who is the one under threat? The person who propagates this and says “I’d better listen because if I don’t I’m in danger”, or me who says “No, I think this is so silly you could even publish a cartoon about it”?

And up go the placards and up go the yells and the howls and the screams, “Behead those…” – this is in London, this is in Toronto and this is in New York, it is right in our midst now – “Behead those…” “Behead those who cartoon Islam”.

Do they get arrested for hate speech? No. Might I get in trouble for saying what I’ve just said about the prophet Mohammad? Yes, I might. Where are your priorities ladies and gentlemen? You’re giving away what’s most precious in your own society, and you’re giving it away without a fight and you’re even praising the people who want to deny you the right to resist it. Shame on you while you do this. Make the best use of the time you’ve got left. This is really serious.

Now, if you look anywhere you like – because we had invocations of a rather drivelling and sickly kind tonight of our sympathy – what about the poor fags, what about the poor Jews, the wretched women who can’t take the abuse and the slaves and their descendants and the tribes who didn’t make it, and where told that land was forfeit…

Look anywhere you like in the world for slavery, for the subjection of women as chattel, for the burning and flogging of homosexuals, for ethnic cleansing, for anti-Semitism, for all of this, you look no further than a famous book that’s on every pulpit in this city, and in every synagogue and in every mosque.

And then just see whether you can square the fact that the force of the main source of hatred is also the main caller for censorship. And when you’ve realized that you’re therefore this evening faced with a gigantic false antithesis, I hope that still won’t stop you from giving the motion before you the resounding endorsement that it deserves. Thanks awfully.

Night, night.

Stay cool."
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