Sunday, April 22, 2012

Moving forward

There are many times in our lives when we just want everything to stop. To halt for one moment whilst we figure out how to proceed. Yet life never seems to listen to us, does it?

It just proceeds as if it has no cares in the world. As if we do, in fact, just have to keep on living. And keeping asking questions. And keep waiting on responses. And keep on living until something eventually happens.

Life can be quite scary though - think of how constantly we are forced to change up what we're doing, where we are, who we're closest to. And change is frightening - and good. All at the same time.

What would we learn if we remained exactly as we are? No, we need to be shaken up a bit every now and then - it teaches us about who we are, about our strengths, about our weakness, about the people who really matter in our life.

Perhaps, you might even say, it teaches us to take chances. To realize that life is a never-ending course of change. First, we're living with our parents, then off at one school, then at the next, then we move to this job, then we move to take a new one, then eventually, we're left in a retirement home or if we're lucky, back with our own sons and daughters. Well I certainly can't pretend to know the turbulence of life yet, for I've only got 21 years under my belt, I can predict that in spite of the turbulence, it's taking chances that will make the journey worthwhile.

There's always going to be difficulties in life, whether it be worries about making new friends after a move, moving away from a support network of family (or adopted family), continuing a long-distance relationship, or simply trying to plant roots in a place and make it your home. I think the most we can do is to live in the moment. And live both well and fully.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I am

In response to a Times inquiry on “what’s wrong with the world,” G. K. Chesterton wrote, “I am.”

Succinct – yet its truth rings clear. We each have a role, however big or small this may be. There are many problems in this world: Poverty, disease, war, misogyny, racism, homophobia, climate change, homelessness, slavery, fear. Our role in creating, perpetuating, or ending them begins and finishes with us.

This world is designed to be competitive. The majority of us are taught this from day one to be sportier, stronger, smarter, popular, charismatic “We are ‘rational, self-interested’ beings,” says the economist. “Survival of the fittest,” says the evolutionary biologist. I don’t need to tell you where this comes from – one blames white males. Another blames capitalism. Another blames simple scientific biology that states we have a competitive nature, built into us to survive.

But maybe not. Let’s take a look, for example, at my family. As a baby, my parents did not compete with me for my food, my housing, or my clothes. I was a crying, pooping, runt of a creature, but they loved me. They provided for me. We ‘cooperated’ to survive.

Kropotkin suggested that human society was able to thrive and evolve because of a tendency towards cooperation, towards love and compassion for one another. We can look to food banks, women’s shelters, Big Brother programs, breakfast programs, NGOs, peace and healing circles, not for profit hospitals, community gardens, and rehabilitation centers. There is a need to recognize the human capacity for good in this world. To recognize that there is, indeed, hope. That we need not always ‘compete’ for ‘success’ – whatever that even means – and instead, cooperate towards a society that we can all feel proud to live in.

They say that money is the root of all evil. I think we all realize that this is wrong – to an extent. The person living in destitute poverty, whose children are starving, cannot afford decent healthcare, or access to housing in a good neighbourhood will very likely realize that money is, in fact, quite a good thing. But once these needs are filled, and you’re left in a life of excess, then what are we doing with this money? Buying exotic artwork? Filling the house with trinkets, gold pottery, fancy furniture, wearing your fortune on your necks or your wrists? Cooperation with society does not thrive in such environments. And, indeed, this money is serving only to isolate you more and more from humanity, and increasingly in yourself. Until you’re left alone.

Many of us compete for ‘distinctions’, recognitions that state our ‘success’ in the world. Great! But make sure that you don’t fill your head with the idea that this is the only the result of you – this is the result of your teachers, your parents, your friends, and everyone else who has given you the knowledge, the questions, the attitudes, the discipline, and the encouragement to succeed. Recognize that one’s success is the result of the whole working together – and try to give back accordingly.

At the end of my life, when it comes to answer the question, “what is wrong with this world?”, my answer will surely be “I am.” But I hope, that in some minute way, that when asked what is right with this world, I can answer “We are.”

Sunday, April 15, 2012

On introversion. And proving Mr. Cooper wrong.

I still remember when I was eleven years old, and the principal called me and another student down to the office to meet with him. He told us that he wanted to start up a school newspaper, and had called upon us bright chipper young chaps to try and start up the paper. Without much more detail, he paused. And, not really knowing what to say, I kind of just looked at him.

Well, that didn't go over so well. "Why aren't you asking any questions?" he said. "Real journalists ask all kinds of questions. You're not looking like very good material here."

So I just kind of shrunk back and decided that if that's what he thought, well, I'm not going to work for someone who doesn't believe in me anyways. And I just pretty much stopped talking and left the office. Done deal - little to say that I never got to be part of the school paper. Not that I really cared. I hadn't even known why I was going into the office in the first place. And then here he was. Telling me what to do, how I was to do it, and expecting me to just be okay with it. I was eleven for peats sake! Give me a little slack sir - I don't function well when people criticize me before even giving me a chance. And I don't think I was the only child who felt that way.

Well sorry Mr. Cooper. But I'm doing a Masters in Journalism. So HA!

Sorry about that - getting the anger out. phew. Okay, all this to say that people cannot just look at someone and then decide who they are. I'm an introvert. I'm not a 'rah-rah' individual. I don't charge into a room and command everyone's attention. I will not be the first person to respond in a group conversation. I don't function well in big group settings by myself. I won't jump in and ask a bunch of questions. But that doesn't make me a bad journalist. It makes me a thinker - slow to act, quick to listen. And such is how I prefer conversations, how I've always preferred conversations. They're much more real when you grow to understand who the other person is before you jump down their necks with questions. And generally better prepared if you take time to think through an interview before you begin it.

I work for the student newspaper now, and they gave me the award "The Venus Fly Trap," because they said I was sweet, and kind, and quiet, but when I go into my interviews, I bite if you don't give me the answer that I need. I know when someone's lying, or when they're just trying to cop out, and I'll call them on it.

So voila. This is how I function - you don't know what I'm capable of until you give me a chance.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I went for a walk the other night after 10 with the intention of being home in 15 minutes. I ended up going for an hour-long walk, barely even noticing the time pass. It was beautiful - the air was fresh, it was the perfect temperature, and there's was very little snow on the ground to cause me to do the usual trip and slip on the frozen ice. But what hypnotized me, what drew me to keep walking, was the silence. The lack of screaming students, endless conversations, music blaring, etc. brought out all these sounds I'm so rarely aware of. I could hear every time a leaf scuttled across the road, every time a breeze came by and shook the trees, the distant sound of a dog barking, and another dog answering him in return, I could hear the wind, the buzzing of the lights, and my own steps on the ground. Crazy how very comforting it was. As if I was finally aware of my own thoughts. As if my walk was one of an observer of this beautiful scene, rather than a participant. Which was a little bit wonderful. We're so often overwhelmed with 'living.' There's always something going on, we're running around from here to there, doing this and that, that we're never 'present' in the moment. We're unaware of what's going on 'around' us, and only aware of what's going on with 'us'. It's important to spend time in silence. To think. To spend time in silence. To listen for... something. Someone. Let's find the silence and spend time in contemplation.