March 30, 2011

Nothing prepares you for the unmentionable. A boy, a former student, died today. Crushed by his car as he was working on it. The jack slipped. I don’t know how people (his family, friends) deal with such sad and horrifying experiences in life. There is nothing to say. No painting. No poem. Expresses the horror. There is a sigh in one’s voice. And the limits of one’s imagination.

Are left handed. 50+%. I learned this in the New York Times. 10% of the population are left handed. One of my 3 kids is left handed. 30%. Two of my friends are left handed. If I only had two friends that would make 100%. Wait a minute. I’ll check it on my calculator. Yes. That’s right. They say if you want to feel the touch of a stranger, use your left hand. That wasn’t mentioned in the article in the New York Times. But it must have been said by a right handed person. Which probably means that 100% of right handed people are creepy.

INFO is one of the new buzz words. Its being touted as the cause of the Arab Spring. There are those that argue that everything can be broken down into a series of ‘1’s and ‘0’s. This sounds like the Pythagoreans. For them everything had a number. And all of us have stared with glassy eyes at the Atomic/Periodic Table. In affect, materialism. There are those that would say (theists) that everything is not material. That we cannot assign a number to every object, that all things cannot be reduced to a series of ‘1’s and ‘0’s. That whats left over is the spiritual. Perhaps is God (God not being able to be reduced to a series of numbers). But how do you know that? If not material/matter, maybe it is something else altogether.


My son has tourettes. It is a disorder of the nervous system. He also has Attention Deficit Disorder. He is not hyper active. We had him tested with all kinds of doctors when he was young. He is very intelligent. In intelligent tests he scored in the top 5% of the population. He is a talented artist. But he is disorganized, untidy, and when under stress he can be very intense. He worked for my wife’s company, a large accounting firm in Toronto. He worked in their mail room for four years. And then he was fired. For being so intense. They had a policy in the mailroom of not talking to our son. Our son thought it might have been because he was a visual minority. He got along fine with most of the people he worked with but they were afraid to talk to him lest they be centred out as well. (We learned this from one of the girls who worked in the mailroom.) Our son’s boss did not like his attitude, his intensity. She was put off by all the symptoms (though minor) of his tourettes. They sent our son to an anger management interview. The psychiatrist who spoke to him (over several interviews) told him that he didn’t have anger problems. Nevertheless, our son lost his job. At this same time this accounting firm was running a campaign to support the investigation and education of the public on tourette syndrome. A couple of weeks after our son left the company, the woman that fired him asked my wife for a donation to the tourette program. She was in charge of the campaign for the company. This is the way big corporations work.



My mother wants to die.

March 18, 2011

My mother wants to die. She is a very religious person. But she’s had enough. She’s going to be 90 years old this month. And she doesn’t feel useful. And she is no dummy. You cannot persuade her that because she is loved she is useful. Most of her friends are dead. The world has passed her by.  My mother feels that if she cannot help people, if she is not doing something meaningful, than there is no meaning to her life.  I have felt the same most of my life. The difference is that I have never alligned ‘utility’ with ‘the meaning of life’. My mother needs to serve. I need to observe.

In Plato’s analogy of the cave, people watch life. Or at least they watch the shadows of reality. We are all like that. We watch the shadows on the wall of the cave. And we are the shadows on the wall of the cave for others. Philosophers, artists, thinking people want to find the source of the shadows. The fire. Some call it God. Some call it ‘meaning’. But Plato goes one step further. He says that the fire is a pale reflection/image of the real source. The sun. And this is what has plagued me ever since I read this analogy. The sun. What is behind the idea of meaning? What is behind the idea of God?


In my home town we live in three worlds. One is the polyanna world of advertising where everyone is chipper, living in up-scale homes, healthy and attractive, 2 parents (with white teeth). The second world is the world of catastrophe. We see the sea carrying off homes. And we know that there are people inside. Screaming their last screams. The third world is our day to day existence. Mostly mundane. Small treasures and tragedies. And then there are the arts. Who hardly know which world they belong. Paralyzed (intellectually) it seems to me, the chattel of the market place. Wanting so much to be labelled artist/poet/author. Wanting to be studied rather than read. Wanting to be hung in galleries rather than homes.

Joyce Carol Oates

March 13, 2011

Ms. Oates has a new book out. About her experience as a widow. I’ve read 2 reviews on the book. One called it courageous. The other was not so kind. I went to university when Ms. Oates and Mr. Smith were teaching at the University of Windsor. They had a rather strange mystique about them. Dr. Smith was perceived as the supportive quiet husband (reminding me of Mrs. Thatcher’s husband Denis). I don’t remember much else about Dr. Smith except that he seemed like an other professor moving anonymously through the campus on the way to the University Centre. You almost never saw Ms. Oates. She was like some exotic literary bird, fluttering about, but mostly nestling down in her office. At the time, her literary reputation was built on her book ‘Them’. I read it. Can’t remember being impressed. There was a lot of attention being paid to a new type of fiction(?) being written by Norman Mailer. Personal journalism. Mailer was always referring to himself in the 3rd person. He seemed to harvest his emotions, as if that was the purpose of the writer. The result of these emotional pluckings were insights into the common human psyche. Oates’s work was like that. She was a kind of martyr of art. (She had disciples amongst the students but this was not uncommon. Many professors had their small fiefdom’s of undergraduates.) Ms. Oates organized a series of lectures by different people around the work of Doris Lessing. Especially the Golden Notebook. It was a fabulous series and I became a big fan of Lessing’s work. I never saw Ms. Oates being in the same class as Doris Lessing. But I had little respect for most of the staff in the English department. (One of my philosopher profs called English ‘Grade B Philosophy’.) Will I read Ms. Oates widow book? No. But I am curious about her book on Marilyn Monroe.

You know my name

March 13, 2011

Look up the number. But I can’t remember. People know who I am. But I have no perception of who I am. I am like a vampire. I can’t see myself in the mirror. But I know what I am. And this sense of myself is reaffirmed in disasters. Not personal disasters. But the news of disaster. Like the recent terrible events in Japan. One feels a crushing identity with the victims and the survivors. It is almost too much. Empathy seems too weak a word for the emotion. It is a strong force in the universe. We need to feel it. (Which is probably the attraction of horror fiction/movies, car accidents, hospital TV shows.) This affinity is our identity. But if this empathy is too strong, we can lose ourselves in the horror. (Perhaps this is what is identified as ‘battle fatigue’. )


Except for me

March 12, 2011

With a short attention span, and short term memory loss, the net is becoming the domain of the elderly, the infirmed, and the very young. Except for me. I think.

I hate telephones. What a backward step for mankind. The loss of privacy. People are chained to their jobs. And the chains are wireless. That’s progress.

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