14. May 2006

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Journaling

A Pen and a Path by Sarah StocktonAbout 12 years ago, someone suggested that I keep a journal. Since then, and in widely different contexts, several others have made the same recommendation. At first, I didn’t know where to begin. A blank page can be daunting. Should I fill it — like a daytimer — with the trivial details of my day-to-day living? Or should I gush with the intimate cares of my heart? Or should I give abstract consideration to political and philosophical matters? Journaling is not a guy thing. When my daughter was first learning to read, several different people bought her diaries — the kind with a lock and key — but no one thought to give one to my son. Generally, it doesn’t occur to us to cultivate in boys the art of setting things down in writing.

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2. May 2006

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She could see from my face that I was fucking high

on sunday, my daughter (the lovely girl doing her trampoline thing in the picture) had her first confirmation class. the minister, to his credit, asked the kids to bring along a song — whatever they happened to be listening to — so that he could get a feel for where they are in their lives. so my daughter asked if i could burn “you’re beautiful” to a cd for her. i’ve heard the song on the radio; maybe you have too. james blunt sings about love and heartache and sounds like one of those sensitive guys — you know the ones — the guys all the girls fawn over — the guys parents would love their daughters to go out with. then i listened to the song. wait a second. did i just hear the word “fuck?” i looked up the lyrics and discovered that there is a radio (i.e. sanitized) cover & a cd cover. i pointed this out to my daughter and she confessed that she doesn’t really listen to the lyrics, but just likes the feel of the song and hadn’t really noticed before. ok, i said; i just wanted to be sure she knew. so she took her song with the word “fuck” to church.

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10. April 2006

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What does an author think

There are 11 more days until my last paper is due, and then I’ll have put to bed another year of studies. I’ve just completed a smaller paper for another course and thought I would post it here even though I haven’t handed it in yet. Why post it? Two reasons come to mind.

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15. March 2006

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What does it mean to be in good health

Health and EverythingToday, we had a guest speaker in our “Health, Spirituality and the Christian Life” course — Sholom Glouberman. Among other things, Glouberman is philosopher-in-residence at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. What is a philosopher-in-residence, you ask? And what possible use could anybody have for a philosopher-in-residence? So far as Glouberman is aware, he is the only person to hold such a position.

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9. February 2006

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What is a Memoir Supposed to Remember

A Million Little Pieces by James FreyWhen I first heard that Oprah Windy was going to interview James Frey, author of the memoir, A Million Little Pieces, that she was angry and felt betrayed because Mr. Frey’s account appeared to deviate significantly from the truth, that she was going to haul him onto the carpet and call him to account in a million little living rooms across america — when I heard all this righteous indignation rising up from the south — I chalked it up to another instance of maudlin-sappy-slightly-self-indulgent-Oprah-strutting. Immediately, a million little reasons came to mind why her indignation should go ignored. But with time for reflection, I found myself reluctantly agreeing. However, instead of calling Mr. Frey to account for a lapse of honesty, I would prefer to question his lapse of authenticity. First, check out a nice summary of the Frey scandal on the Voice of America web site. Mr. Frey’s mendacious tendencies first came to light on The Smoking Gun web site. This has attracted considerable vilification. For example, the blog, The Real Ugly American calls him a “liar fraud and scumbag.”

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1. February 2006

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An Anthropologist on Mars

I’m not sure that RC’s would appreciate me comparing their theological ground to Mars, but Oliver Sacks‘ phrase pretty much describes how I felt last Friday when I went to Regis College to listen as Professor John Dadosky presented a paper: “Towards a Fundamental RE-Interpretation of Vatican II.” He is proposing a new model which the Roman Catholic church can use in its dealings with the Other. As a member of the Other, I thought I should listen in, find out what was being said about me. Suddenly, I found myself thrust into a different culture with a different set of “code words” to indicate what really counts for members of that culture. For example, I know next to nothing about Vatican II, and I know even less about what Vatican II means to the average catholic. I have no measuring stick to gauge how large a shadow the Other casts in the catholic world. In fact, during the discussion that followed, it became apparent that catholics do not all agree on the matter of who belongs to the Other. Some do not think of protestant denominations as Other at all.

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20. January 2006

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©opywrite ©oming to ©anada

As election day in Canada approaches (Jan. 23rd), voters have had their sensibilities assaulted by the usual carping that comes from candidates who have nothing substantive to work with. The current liberal government has stumbled — and will probably fall — not because it took a stand on an important issue (since that would be an honourable defeat) but because of corruption. And it will probably be replaced by a conservative minority government which promises to function with about as much compassion as a cold wind in January. There has not been much of interest to weigh upon the minds of voters. Although the media portray the election as hotly contested, I doubt voter turnout will top 60%. There you have my predictions.

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10. January 2006

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Runaway by Alice Munro

Runaway, by Alice MunroSo there I was, two weeks ago, lounging by the side of a pool in Punta Cana, reading Runaway, Alice Munro’s latest collection of short stories, when a woman in a bikini stopped at the foot of my chair and said: “I’ve started reading that, too. Just finished the first story. So what’s with the goat? Did the husband really kill the goat?” Ahhh … what a sad moment in my life! To learn that the only way I can attract the attention of a woman wearing a bikini is to sit by the side of a pool while reading a book by Alice Munro. Afterward, my sister-in-law — who had overheard our conversation from a distance — wondered what I had said to the woman. Because my sister-in-law sometimes teases me about the vocabulary I nurture, I said: “I told the woman I thought Munro’s treatment of the goat was a postmodern commentary on Eliot’s objective correlative.”

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6. January 2006

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The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. Frank

The Wounded Storyteller by Arthur W. FrankThe Wounded Storyteller: Body, Illness, & Ethics, by Arthur W. Frank (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1995)

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6. January 2006

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A New Year, New Words

Another year greets us. As a family, we marked the change in calendar by trying (unsuccessfully) to watch all 6 of the Star Wars movies without a break. This was my daughter’s whim. Some time after midnight, half way through episode IV, I looked over and saw my daughter asleep on the couch. My son had left to chat with friends online, and my wife had disappeared for bed. And so I woke my daughter and sent her to bed, switched off the TV, and joined my wife. Sounds boring, doesn’t it? I must be maturing, or just growing dull at the edges.

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16. December 2005

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You Want Fries With That

Swiss Chalet garbageSometimes, when we find ourselves busy, maybe running the kids one place or another, or rushing to an event, we resort to fast food. Last night, while most of us had eaten a proper meal, our son had missed out because he went directly to the trampoline club without stopping at home. So later in the evening, after he was done, we ordered him a quarter chicken dinner from Swiss Chalet — take out. At right is a photo of all the plastic, Styrofoam and cardboard packaging which accompanied a single quarter chicken dinner. I was astonished. We have resolved not to order another meal from Swiss Chalet until it finds a way to reduce significantly the waste its product creates.

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14. December 2005

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Taming my Inner Esther

Foyer at Emmanuel College TorontoAnother term at Emmanuel College has drawn to a close; exams written, papers submitted. Wrapped everything up with a Greek exam yesterday. Throughout the term I’ve been averaging about 100% give or take 1%. I expect that my performance on yesterday’s exam matches my performance during the term. So why did I leave the exam feeling so blue? I think it has to do with my expectations. I have no interest in learning Greek simply to satisfy the requirements of a school’s curriculum. My goals are private, and only I can say how far I have progressed in attaining them. My goal is to attain a sense of something I was on the cusp of attaining with Latin — and lost because I moved on to other pursuits. It was a kind of conversion experience, an internalization of the language, a sudden recognition that I no longer had to shift back and forth from text to lexicon, or from text to my memorized paradigms.

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7. December 2005

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Should it Stay or Should it Go

Thomas JeffersonLast Sunday, perhaps prompted by a recent article in Harper’s, Gretta Vosper opened her sermon with an account of Thomas Jefferson’s Bible. Jefferson offers a model of independent believing which is attractive in more radical circles of Christianity. Jefferson was of the view that Jesus was an exemplary man who lived a life of integrity and taught a powerful philosophy; but nothing more. Jefferson thought that other influences had corrupted these original teachings by drawing over them a patina of supernatural nonsense, and so he sought to recover the teachings of the “real” Jesus by scraping away what he perceived to be later accretions. The result was, understandably, a much smaller text which retained the biographical details of Jesus and his teachings and parables, but excluded the virgin birth, angels, miracles and resurrection.

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30. November 2005

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Ave Maria Join a Gang

rosaryOn November 15th, a troubling item made the front page of the Toronto Star — an extreme case of bullying in which 16 students were arrested and charged with offenses including criminal harassment and sexual assault. See the CBC web site for details. The offenses are alleged to have been committed over an 18 month period by both male and female students at James Cardinal McGuigan high school in Toronto’s west end. As I neared the end of this disturbing article, something else caught my attention, equally disturbing for the apparent nonchalance with which it was stated. A trustee for the Catholic School Board, Sal Piccininni, is quoted as saying: “I’m not surprised at this coming out of any school in the northwest quadrant (of the board). When I walk into a school and see a kid wearing a rosary I understand what that means,” he said, referring to the coloured rosaries worn by gang members.

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14. November 2005

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Madness, Religion and Aldous Huxley

The Devils of Loudun, by Aldous HuxleyI first read Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun while riding a bus to Ithaca, N.Y. during a high school music trip when I was 15. Returning to the book more than 25 years later, I have made several discoveries. The first, and least important, is that I must have been such a nerd to read books like this in plain view of my peers! The second, and not surprising, is how much of it I did not understand. Huxley dips into the deep end of the pool, letting his account of a minor incident in a 17th century Ursuline convent unfold against a backdrop of broader political, religious and intellectual movements.

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