Archive for February, 2016

Singles, foreigners and citizenship policies

Sunday, February 28th, 2016

Our society still likes the idea of couples and citizens.  We are not always so happy with immigrants and singles.

Marriage laws abound, with varied types of regulation, but the overall principle is that one is the loneliest number, so more than one is an acceptable state in which to live – and the more the merrier – you can add to that family biologically or adoptively. 

Immigration is practiced with vigilance as citizens attempt to monitor who will join them in celebrating their nation.  Laws emphasize the deep gulf between who we like and who we don’t like.

A nation often needs to examine the realm of citizenship.  All societies are exclusive.  The problem is that additional exclusion clauses, added over the decades, sometimes violate the original intent.

About 700 years BCE, a Jewish prophet, Isaiah (Chapter 56 in his book), strongly criticizes the Jewish nation for abandoning an inclusive approach.  They were excluding, as true citizens, two classes of people.  A eunuch was someone who could not have children, a man who had been rendered unable to provide life-giving semen.  A foreigner was someone who was not a natural progeny of the nation’s fathers and mothers. 

The Jews of that era were not always the most accepting of “these people” – the foreigner and the eunuch.  Nor were “these people” expecting that they would be accepted, by the people or by God. 

Isaiah challenges this perspective. 

Parents might say their name was carried on through their children – that their legacy was guaranteed by blood.  As long as the bloodline lasted.  The eunuch was guaranteed a legacy because in God’s house a plaque of remembrance (a name plate that was constantly before God’s open eyes) was permanently attached to the wall.

Citizens might say their practices and rituals provided them with a window of access to God.  But their hearts, God’s conversation organ with the human, could be deaf to God.  Foreigners who committed to God and would follow in obedience, were guaranteed a place by God in God’s talking room.  The house of prayer (where divine discussion happened with mortals) was for all nations.

For us today, the most unlikely candidate for citizenship may be the poster child of the true heart of a nation.

Awakening

Friday, February 26th, 2016

Arising on sunlit mornings brings joy to the heart.

Sun - Feb 26, 2016

The sun shines brightly to start a day.  A little earlier than last week.  A little later than next week.  Unless clouds have slept the night and awakened with the sun to their back.  Then light and heat are diminished.

The sun has been a symbol of awakening for centuries.  Cultures and religions extol the virtues of sunny days and sunny rays.  Sesame street tunes ring in our ear.  Ancient scribe pen tunes of thanksgiving.

Our bodies enjoy the nourishment of vitamins and the emotional lift of a sunlit day.  Neighbours talk to each other, BBQ season is enhanced by the setting of the sun.

We cannot look directly without some protection.  We cannot tame the heat, but merely contain the heat.  The sun light examines dark corners sweeping them with bold colours.

Sun worship is understandable. 

Worship of the sun’s creator . . .

Forgiveness is too weak a word

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

I wonder if we realize what we mean when we say we forgive someone.

For most of us, that is a way of tolerating the current situation.  Things will not change so we will “let go” of bitterness and that gut wrenching offence that keeps us in chains.  We call that forgiveness.

For some of us, this involves an active thrust towards reintegrating the offender into our world.  We overlook the offense.  We attempt to find ways to paint our lives in bright colors with the offender standing hand in hand with us.  We call that forgiveness.

For a very few of us, the offender actively seeks us out and sincerely atones for the wrong they have done.  We are drawn into their world.  We see the perspective that has led to this heart change.  We are released.  We call this forgiveness.

But one thing remains. 

The offense.

Never removed, never erased, always present.

What if the greatest offenses committed could be removed, erased and forgotten?

What if the smallest offense, pictured in our memories, could be removed, erased, forgotten?

What if God could forget?

The lines in the sand

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

Our visit to Vegas included a stop at the Valley of Fire.

Valley of Fire - 2016

The park mirrors the beauty of nature. 

  • Variations of color. 
  • Undulations of rock and sand. 
  • Vegetation suited to the surroundings.

Our winter adventure in the park meant the temperatures were merely in the 20 degree Celsius range. 

Of particular note in this park?

The direct sunlight in summer months necessitates the closing of the marked pathways.  As the temperatures rise, the rocks begin to heat.  This parcel of land becomes a literal oven as the mid-day sun shines down.

Where the sun’s rays are direct and scorching, the rocks begin to cook.  Scanning the horizon you see blackened rock.  Small clusters of gravel have been turned the colour of charcoal briquettes.  The soles of you feet would be no match for the burning floor.

A dream destination and a danger trove all wrapped in one.

50%–30%–10%

Wednesday, February 24th, 2016

I do the grocery shopping.

I enjoy the rush of bargains.  Who says adrenaline is not involved in the daily pursuit of the bread of life.

Of course, for the sake of balance (bank balance), I also recognize that the brain must be employed.

But it’s those red stickers and huge posters that invite my attention.  Every once in a while (OK, maybe a bit more often), I just have to pick up that bargain. 

If the tag says 50%, my reasons for buying are easily justified.  If only 10%, then the whole grocery basket had better be included. 

Now, don’t tell me that you aren’t tempted as well.

A quick solution?  I haven’t really come up with one. 

The longer approach?  Keep constant track of the inventory of product that you usually use at home.  Know the best before dates on the inventory you have.  Become aware of regular pricing of items.  Find out the dates when the freshest produce and most product arrives in store.  Set a general monthly budget and stick to it. 

OK – but 50% off?  I feel the magnetic pull!!!

Back from Vegas

Tuesday, February 23rd, 2016

Visiting relatives. 

That’s what I told people. 

Quite literally, visiting relatives who live in Vegas.

This was my first time to Vegas.  The overblown, the understated and the cutting edge.

I’m still processing all that I saw.  And all that I heard.  The heart pounding rhythms of Cirque de Soleil shows.  The sun drenching heat of desert lands.

Vegas is bigger than life.  A tower, or two or five or ten reaching far into the sky.  Death defying trapeze acts.  Casino bells and whistles amidst studious faces attempting to defy the odds.

My thoughts are summed up in a phrase that I heard constantly playing in my ears – “This is Vegas.”

Vegas is a core, a strip of urban property literally called the Vegas Strip.  That property is surrounded by the normal, the hum drum, the sub-urb.  The daily life of the suburbs seldom touches the Strip.  But the Strip seems to flow underneath the floating connections of each day. 

I wonder. . .

Is this desert oasis a crafted mirage or a portent of the future?

A new wave in publishing

Friday, February 12th, 2016

Book publishing is changing.

We used to enjoy the feel of paper, the smell of ink and the portability of the printed page. 

Now we feel the plastic, smell the electronics and carry our page on a screen.

With the advent of new technology and a new perspective on reading, more and more books are being distributed free.

With that reality in front of authors, a number of writers are going to patronage or sponsorship in writing books.

Patronage – an  investor chooses to pay you to write on a topic of their choice, or allows you to write on topics you suggest with which they agree.

Sponsorship – an investor receives a prospectus of what you will write and decides this is a worthwhile venture.

Both models dispense with royalties.  You receive your payment upfront.  Then the book is released free of charge.

Advantage – if you self publish, you are not stuck with bills and books when your work of art does not sell. 

Disadvantage – if you have a run away best-seller, you don’t get additional monies after the act of publication.

A new model? 

In one sense, this has been around for centuries.  Patrons of the arts allowed artists to freely create art.  They would be commissioned for a work of art, paid on salary, or convinced by an artist of the worth of their art.

With “gofundme” campaigns and other avenues of fundraising, we may be headed back to the future.

The new angle? 

The works of art are freely distributed for the widest public – using ebook formats as well as printed copies (although these are optional).  Once they leave the artist’s hands they are gone, not to the retailer, or the publisher, or to the patron, or to the sponsor, but to the public.

Three days, a trip and the economy

Thursday, February 11th, 2016

Just a few days ago I was about to venture out.

Out to Calgary and Saskatoon, with the elbow of the trip being Kindersley.

First I headed to Calgary for a meeting.  Then back to Kindersley.  The next day to Saskatoon and back to Kindersley.

I realize some sales people and world travellers move across that much dirt in mere hours. 

I’m not one to do a lot of travelling.  Most days I head out just a few kilometers to the Post Office.  Not much more to the grocery store.  And coffee breaks  happen in between those two destinations.

So, with more than a few kilometers covered in the last three days, I was pleasantly surprized with the cost of the trip.

Oil prices have gone down substantially. 

But, the downturn in oil prices means our town is affected adversely.  Belts have been tightened and spending is slowing. 

At the same time, with gas prices going down, I could afford to hit the road.

While our belts are being tightened, our gas tanks are being filled.

I’m not sure if I should laugh or cry.

Those niggling memories

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

In grade school, I remember reading a story.

I’m not sure why the title stayed in my mind.  Perhaps it was the words of the title that were a little bigger than the usual “Tom, Dick and Harry” story.

“CIRCUMSTANCES ALTER CARLA”

After many decades the title is as fresh as ever.  However, the story is not.

So I headed out on a search for the story. 

I’m so thankful for the age of technology.  In a search engine I typed in the title of the story.  After scrolling through a number of irrelevant search items, I came to the words I was looking for.

The story was contained in a book called “All Sails Set.”  The description of the book mentioned that “All Sails Set” was a Grade Six reader written in 1948 and used throughout the 1950’s and into the 1960’s.  The content of the book was said to contain “higher moral values”.

Supposedly there are very few original copies available, although I would think with all the schools that used the reader, there would be more.  One enterprising book seller listed the volume at $5,000 for a pristine copy.

I was not about to pay $5,000.  All I wanted was the text to the story I had read as a kid. 

I checked out information on the publisher. 

Copp Clark is now a financial firm – their publishing now deals with their current concerns and they are no longer a general book publisher. 

In the midst of my search I did find that the old archives of Copp Clark  (when they were a general book publisher) are housed at McMaster University.  I contacted the archives and am now, hopefully, in the last part of my search.

Stay tuned.

What we’ve taught them

Monday, February 8th, 2016

IMG_20151107_205323

How do I learn?

That was my evening-sleep cogitation (which just means I was distilling my thoughts overnight, trying to figure this one out).

I started in a school atmosphere that taught the times table – memorized still to this day.  By my high school graduation a change was happening.  In some of our classes, we were sitting around distilling the truth by sharing our informed ignorance in teacher facilitated discussions.

My generation rebelled against a style of learning that was systematized and doctrinaire.  We were free thinkers.  We wanted life long learning that was propelled by our desires.  We wanted daily learning that was driven by our feelings.  We wanted to be the first person to learn something that no one else knew.

Now we have come to our senior years.  And we realize that we have great holes in our learning.  We realize that what we felt wasn’t always what was true.  We realize that we have to build on others’ knowledge.

And we realize that we passed on the extremes of our search for truth to our children and grandchildren.  Some days, I am saddened by our example.

A younger generation may miss the big truths of life, the guidance of others and the foundation of the ages.