Monday, August 24, 2020


Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. --- I Corinthians

Wednesday, August 19, 2020


When the rains come

The rains that have come in the last few days have been sky water downpours feeding the thirst of a pitiable earth. It has taken much nurturing to coax the gardens here in the hills into fruition but the taste of handmade summer vegetables is sweet with the memory of its labour and love. Some of us have returned to work in the city and fight the morning traffic. Most are working from home funnelling a certain freedom of small simple choices into their days—when to have a coffee or a tea or sit in the sun on the deck or watch the far river as they work. Many are found with children and the struggle and sometimes joy that entails. Most are worried. Sometimes that is a huge worry and sometimes just a nagging in the background. A certain numbness has set in, as happens when in trauma. For the world when we look at it can traumatize the strongest of us. This too, however, will pass. In time.

Someone said being Canadian is like living in an apartment above a meth lab. The Americans have gone dangerously insane to put it mildly. We Canadians have our scandals and political brouhaha but they pale in comparison. Watching American anything puts a person into a state of constant cognitive dissonance because we are told one thing and see another. And it doesn’t much matter which side of the political divide you may find yourself on, it’s all deliberately confusing. It is the first casualty of war as they say. The truth is hardly discernible as long as we’re living in 1984. War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength—as long as we’re living in Animal Farm where all animals are equal but some are more equal than others. To live in this time and place is to be witness to a cultural revolution of epic proportions. We could perhaps have seen it coming but we weren’t much paying attention. And since we weren’t paying much attention it all seems rather overwhelming right now. Intense even. At least in the United States.

It is the brave human being that wades into the propaganda there. This is because cognitive dissonance is an uncomfortable place to sit for any length of time and the social pressure to conform hasn’t been this relentless since the McCarthy era. It was once the greatest crime in the United States to be accused of communism. Now, a form of socialism is not just trendy but demanded. It is demanded by our universities, our institutions, our businesses, our governments. The rights of the individual now relegated to much maligned privilege. The freedom of the individual now subjected to group identity. A person’s unique life now only the subject to its place inside the collective struggle for power. 

It reminds me uncomfortably of Nietzsche’s “will to power” which is another one of those cognitive dissonance things. How can a movement that purports to be a remedy for the downtrodden and discriminated against seem to be so harsh to another thereby creating yet a different class of downtrodden and discriminated against? How can a socialist movement that calls for equality for all humans be authoritarian? But it is. Ask any of those subjected to what is called the “cancel culture.” Conform or else. Do the oppressed only learn to oppress? Whatever happened to dialogue? Whatever happened to negotiations? Whatever happened to compassion and forgiveness? Whatever happened to freedom of speech? What happened to objective reality? 

It is that last question that is the thinking person’s nightmare. That’s why most of us, when at all possible, choose not to think. As Canadians, to a certain degree, we have that luxury. As an American however this luxury rarely exists. Americans, long the bastion of the concept of “freedom” have no freedom. Certainly they seem to have no freedom of the press. Their mainstream press, in desperation have turned into tools of propaganda all relentlessly pursuing the outcome of an upcoming election. The divide stronger than ever and growing stronger. It does not matter which side you might choose to support, it will all lead to civil war likely.  History teaches us that tearing down history (by eliminating statues e.g.), burning books (by censoring the internet) and oppressing freedom of speech (you are a racist if you disagree) are cardinal signs of a socialist revolution well underway. All of this preceded by the loss of reason where literally 2 plus 2 no longer equals 4 and reason has given way to socially constructed reality. Science, ironically in the middle of a pandemic, is a symbol of white privilege; Logic condemned as patriarchy. All a certain recipe for chaos and revolution. The revolution does not however seem to be unfolding as it has been hoped by those who want change. That’s the way revolutions happen. Eventually the groundswell becomes its own force.

I had decided to watch the Portland protest one late night. The federal building under attack was surrounded by a tall wire fence barricade about 15 to 20 feet away and seemed virtually impassable. Inside the building the federal troops were ensconced and were seen rarely outside the building if at all. In the no-mans land between the fence and the building the protestors were throwing all sorts of junk for fires, fireworks and generalized mayhem. Outside the fence an angry mob chanted. Into this, Portland’s mayor arrived. That’s when the sad reality hit… The man in the midst of the screaming crowd was bewildered. He had come to support his people in revolution but instead was surrounded by hatred and catcalls and at one point felt seriously threatened. He retreated and later called the protest a riot and brought in the police. That to me was the pivotal moment: reality is not constructed at all. It has guns.

The next day, not one main stream media outlet reported what I witnessed on live feed the night before. The rioters were labelled peaceful demonstrators. The blame was laid at the hands of the feds for having been there protecting the federal building and the mayor was unavailable for comment. Meanwhile, in Seattle, the mayor asked the police to stand down until the “protestors” came to her house. She then called the police.

I write this piece in sadness. A lamentation for what could have been a better world. You do not build a better world when founded on hatred. You just build a different world. One that is not necessarily better than the one that went before. If you want to tear it all down then be certain of what it is you want when you rebuild it. That small piece of the puzzle seems to be missing. Change is sometimes good. It is opportunity. But to whom do we give that opportunity? To those that are filled with hate and anger? To those that seek to control? To those that take any kind of pleasure in the suffering of others, particularly those you disagree with? And what architect do you ask to rebuild a world when 2 plus 2 does not equal 4? There is a place for reason. There will be the ones who seek to profit who know this full well. 

As with the gardens that we grew and nurtured, the harvest is arriving. Do we harvest hate or do we harvest compassion?

If ever there was a time to embrace the concept of being in the world but not of it, this would be it. This too shall pass. Eventually. One day at a time. Kindness one to another. That is all.

"Liberalism is a pluralistic conflict resolution system. Its central feature is the understanding that people have the freedom to hold a wide range of beliefs and values, to express them without fear of punishment and to apply them to their own lives, provided that doing so doesn’t impinge on anybody else trying to do the same. The ideal liberal society, therefore, contains people with many religious, political, philosophical and ethical positions and an expectation that they will tolerate each other, respect each others’ freedoms, bring ideas together, work co-operatively as needed and perhaps even be friends!” H. Pluckrose

Sunday, July 26, 2020


Here in the Gatineau Hills, we temper our days to the weather—the simmering heat, the torrential rains, the rare temperate days. We do this because we live here in greenery that reminds us always of our small part inside a natural world. It is much harder to find this in the city. On weekends now, huge crowds of people venture our way from the city’s cement grey streets in search of rivers and lakes and trees. They feel like an invasion and our little municipalities scramble to find rules and regulations and parking lots while residents, although somewhat used to this in the past, are shocked at the numbers of visitors now. Human beings in times of trouble seek the familiar, the fun, the meaningful. Those of us who get to live it everyday sometimes forget or are lucky never to have known what it is like to hear sirens instead of songbirds in the morning. It is a revelation and a rebellion to touch a tree and not a traffic pole.

How long now have we been in this strange new world? We lose track of time. Has it been four months or five? Does it matter? Mostly we want to know when it will all end. And there are no promises there. And so, for us, so used to predictability and freedom and positive thinking and achievable goals and controlling every little thing, all of this wears on us. We are not used to this. We can be angry, frustrated, anxious, worried, bored, cranky and sometimes deeply peevish. We’ve all been there. It’s just important not to stay there. Which is much easier said than done. It is about finding the stillness inside the noise. And there is and will be a lot of noise. Nobody said it would be easy. Cultural revolutions rarely are. 

And that is where we are.

And when you’re in a revolution, reason hardly matters. In fact, it is reason that can be your enemy. Reason and revolution are hardly compatible. Inside revolutions, the truth is never known until all is said and done. In a world where every argument has a counter argument, every fact has an alternate fact, every known an unknown, and everybody has an opinion, reason will drive you mad. Some would say this is deliberate. Perhaps. It does not matter. This is when you hold on to being “in” the world but not “of” it. Our role is not to take sides but to be still inside the noise until the noise is done. Our role is to find kindness one to another even when we want to rage and argue and judge and shame. At the end of the day it is all most of us can do. One day at a time. One kindness given. One forgiveness sought. One gentle word. One small act of love. We do what needs to be done. We take care of our families, ourselves, our community. We put our faith in love and not hate. It is the wise that understand that choice. It is the brave that understand that sometimes you have to fight for love. And the wisest of all understand that love unites and does not divide. 

It is fortunate for us that love and the fight for it is very quiet. It is so quiet you’d hardly notice it was there. It does not tell you what to think, what to own, what to believe, what to argue, what group to join, what political party to vote for, what gun to buy, what everyone should do, what to believe. It does, however, tell us what action to take. In the smallest of things sometimes. The choice for love, for kindness is always there—in every issue. In every small act.

It’s the masks. 

If ever there was galvanized in one issue all the choices we face in an unpredictable world, it would be the masks. We want to rely on reason alone and that is where reason fails. It is also where faith in institutions fails. Do you believe in the WHO, Health Canada, scientists, experts, your neighbour? The virus is a hoax, the virus is real, the masks work, the masks don’t work, the statistics are made up to be worse than they are, the statistics are worse than we are given, it’s a conspiracy by the elite, it’s an experiment for artificial facial recognition, it’s a communist plot, a way for aliens to live freely among us without recognition, a means to make us all scared so we have to get a vaccine so the rich get richer or the evil empire can put in a microchip or because they want us to be controlled and in our homes so that when the asteroid hits, a way to recognize who is selfish and who isn’t…. Reason fails. Reason divides here. We want to rely on common sense and that is where we realize that sense these days is not common at all. Everyone will have a well-researched reason pro or con. It can easily be said however there is one commonality: nobody wants to wear them.

And here in Quebec it is now mandated.  We have to wear them. Well that great divisive thing was settled wasn’t it? And yes, in a democracy when people can’t agree to be tolerant of other’s choices, that’s how it goes. It was a way to err on the side of caution when people are getting sick and dying. And now we have to live with it—all those who wanted masks are vindicated and all those who didn’t want them are not. And that can lead to trouble. There are a lot of angry people wearing masks they don’t want to and a lot of vindicated people who are ruthlessly and righteously on guard for those who don’t. The fervour on both sides is palpable. For some, the wearing or not wearing of masks is the red-line in the sand. It is where they take their stand. Even though it is all very early in this game of what will happen. So be still. Breathe. One day at a time.

When you come across someone who isn’t wearing a mask you have four choices: 1) You stay away from them and do your own thing, 2) You ask them kindly why they aren’t wearing a mask and hope to learn from each other 3) You scream, argue and shame them. 4) You report them. Which choice does love and kindness give you?

Love may not be reason, but love is reasonable. We need to listen to each other and stay on guard that we do not become the monsters we fight. Be kind.